Q: Are there health and safety concerns for pets with weather getting cooler and maybe actually getting cold one day soon?
A: We don’t see that many freezing animals here so it’s not a big danger, but it is a comfort issue once temperatures get around 40 degrees or below. Even below freezing they can survive most Georgia winters but you do have to make sure outdoor pets and livestock have access to water that’s not frozen over.
Q: So there aren’t extra precautions to worry about?
A: Just use common sense. In the winter, if they’re outdoor animals, a dog’s coat gets thicker and keeps them warm. In fact, some breeds really welcome winter just like some people do. Malamutes and Huskies — breeds like these love winter, and the real danger for them is in summer from heat stroke. For others it’s a comfort. They should have a way to stay out of the wind and rain like a doghouse with bedding. If they do get wet and cold there could be problems.
Q: You mentioned livestock, larger animals. Does Houston County have much of a farm animal demographic?
A: Not much at all. Here we see about 75 percent dogs, 20 percent cats and five percent other. That five percent includes a few exotic animals, reptiles and larger animals like horses, cows, goats and some llamas.
Q: What are dangers pets face that owners should be aware of?
A: Dogs and cats being hit by cars is the biggest danger. Antifreeze is a problem for cats and dogs, but especially cats. Just an ounce can kill a cat or even a small dog. Other than that, animals fighting is a danger. The big dog-little dog syndrome or dogs versus cats. The answer is to see they have appropriate supervision. Oh, another thing is that in September and October we do see a lot more snake bites to pets than other times of the year.
Q: Is there anything going on pet health wise that’s of unusual concern?
A: Not this year. Last year there was a respiratory thing going around, mycoplasma, but we’re not seeing much of anything thing like that this year. There are flare-ups of respiratory diseases, but not like last year. Cold weather isn’t a sign of cold or flu season for animals like it is for humans. In fact, pests such as fleas are less active in cold weather so animals may get a break from skin problems.
Q: What are the common things you see pets for?
A: There’s a list that pretty well reflects what we see dogs for. Allergic skin disease is one thing and others are flea and allergy dermatitis, then ear problems and parasitism such as heartworm and intestinal worms. We see a lot of that and skin tumors, cancers and ailments like lameness and osteoarthritis. Of course we try to stress prevention.
Q: What preventative measures?
A: Vaccinations. Of course for rabies but also for heartworm and intestinal worms.
Q: What’s the number one thing pet owners can do for their pets?
A: Give them good supervision and help them stay free of the parasites — heartworm, intestinal worms and then fleas and ticks.
Q: With weather and hurricane threats like we’ve seen, do you see many animals that are being evacuated?
A: Not a lot. We see a few but not a lot. And we don’t have a large capacity for extra animals for boarding in situations like this. During evacuations most hotels become more pet friendly to help alleviate that concern.
Q: What size staff is there at Town & Country?
A: We have three full-time veterinarians and two part time. We have about 14 other staff: licensed veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and office staff.
Q: What advice do you have for young people wanting to be veterinarians?
A: We get asked that a lot. For one thing, make good grades so you can get in vet school. Plus get some experience. Some vet schools require experience. We invite young people to come by and spend a few hours to see what it’s really like being a veterinarian, They see treatments and watch a few surgeries to see what they think. We have some students — and a student from Veterans High School is with us now — that take part in a professional interest program to explore future careers. Experience goes a long way.
Q: Any other comments concerning pet health and safety?
A: Obesity is an issue among pets just as it is among people. Like humans, being overweight or obese puts pets at greater risk for diabetes, arthritis, cancer, respiratory problems and various skin and liver diseases. I’d also like to put in a plug for microchipping. Microchips are a good thing and can help us identify animals that may have been found injured by the side of the road or who were just lost. Collars with appropriate information is first, but microchipping is a good thing, too.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q&A with Dr. Daniel Gentry
Residence: Warner Robins
Occupation: Owner-operator Town & Country Animal Clinic