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Animals Play Vital Roles In Mississippi Families
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- In many Mississippi homes, pets are more than animals; they're part of the family.
About 47 percent of Mississippi's households own pets, according to a 1997 survey by Mississippi State University's Social Science Research Center. The survey, sponsored by the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association, found that 39 percent of the homes had dogs and 22 percent owned cats.
While these loving creatures provide companionship and enjoyment for their owners, the owners have a responsibility to provide essential care for the pet's health and happiness.
Dr. Thomas Lenarduzzi, associate clinical professor at MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, said there are three essential ways to show appreciation and love for a pet. These are vaccinating and deworming the pets, providing nutritional food and adequate water, and spaying or neutering those not intended for breeding.
"Dogs and cats need to see a veterinarian as early as 3 weeks of age for deworming and at 6 to 8 weeks of age for the first in a series of puppy or kitten vaccinations," Lenarduzzi said. "After the puppy or kitten series, they should continue seeing a veterinarian on an annual basis for a check-up and booster shots."
Vaccinate all dogs for the six most common and serious diseases. Canine distemper, canine infectious hepatitis, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies are all preventable.
Lenarduzzi said cats are becoming more important nationally and are exceeding dog ownership for the first time. Cats appeal to an increasing urban population because they require less space than many dogs.
"Feline leukemia virus a cause of serious illness and death in cats and feline immunodeficiency virus are serious health hazards for domestic cats," Lenarduzzi said. "Vaccines are available to reduce the risk of feline leukemia in healthy cats, but there are no vaccines or cures for the feline immunodeficiency virus."
Horses are a popular pet in Mississippi. Foals should be examined within a day of their birth by a veterinarian and be evaluated for "failure of passive transfer" which occurs when foals fail to receive adequate colostrum, or first milk. Failure of passive transfer is readily correctable, but untreated foals often succumb to overwhelming infections.
Vaccinations for horses prevent serious illnesses such as influenza and deadly diseases such as equine encephalomyelitis and tetanus. Flu and Rhino virus shots are necessary every three months for show horses and horses who encounter other horses frequently.
Dr. Ann Rashmir, MSU associate professor in equine surgery and medicine, said to deworm horses every six to eight weeks. Use Ivermectin or Quest for the majority of dewormings with a double dose of Strongid given once a year for tapeworms.
Rashmir said Strongid C, the once-a-day dewormer, can be fed and is currently the premium method of deworming. Once-a-year Ivermectin or Quest should still be given for bots.
"Keeping a horse free of worms will help prevent colic, anemia and generally poor health that will weaken the horse's immune system," Rashmir said. "Consult a veterinarian for directions on treating a horse once a year for tapeworms."
Planned Parenthood For Pets:
"If the owner does not intend to breed a pet, spaying or neutering is a responsible way to prevent unwanted pregnancies," Lenarduzzi said. "Thousands of unwanted animals are put to sleep each year, and large numbers die from neglect. Spaying at an early age has proven beneficial as a way to decrease mammary tumors and uterine infections in female dogs."
Rashmir recommended a veterinary consultation for pregnant mares. Specialized vaccination programs will minimize abortions from infectious diseases. During pregnancy, mares need shots to prevent miscarriages and ensure a healthy foal.
Lenarduzzi said quality, brand-name pet foods are the best nutritional plan for animals. Reputable companies perform extensive research to formulate nutritionally balanced foods. The best ration for a pet will depend on age, breed and the activity level of that pet. Consult the pet's veterinarian for help in choosing the right ration.
"Obesity is a common problem in dogs and cats," Lenarduzzi said. "Obesity in animals is caused by overeating and lack of exercise. Pets gaining weight after being spayed gain because they are fed too much, not because of the surgical procedure."
Rashmir said horses have sensitive digestive systems and therefore need consistent diets with clean, quality food to prevent potentially serious health problems such as colic.
"Good, green, Mississippi pastures can contribute to founder, or laminitis, in horses," Rashmir said. "Keeping horses from becoming overweight and gradually introducing them to pastures will help prevent laminitis complications."
Contact: Drs. Thomas Lenarduzzi or Ann Rashmir, (662) 325-3432