Featured Care Guides

A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

Brushing Your Cat's Teeth

Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most cats before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your cat’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it.

Canine Heartworm Testing

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza virus (CIV) was first detected in 2004 in racing greyhounds in Florida. Investigators learned that this new canine influenza developed when an equine influenza virus adapted to infect dogs. This was the first time that an equine influenza virus had been found to “jump” from horses to dogs. According to Dr. Cynda Crawford of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, canine influenza does not infect people, and there is no documentation that cats have become infected by exposure to dogs with CIV.

Canine Nutrition

A high-quality, complete and balanced diet is important for the health and longevity of your dog. Among other benefits, a proper diet helps build strong bones, promotes healthy gums and teeth, protects immune function, and results in a lustrous haircoat. Unlike cats, which are carnivores (meaning that they must eat meat), dogs are omnivores, meaning that they can eat meat and plants as their primary food sources.

Canine Obesity

Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. According to estimates, 40% to 50% of dogs are overweight and 25% of dogs are obese. Obesity is more common in older, less active pets. Dogs that are fed homemade meals, table scraps, and snacks are more likely to be overweight than dogs that are fed only a commercial pet food.

Caring for Orphaned Kittens

Orphaned kittens should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can give you advice on caring for kittens and might be able to provide you with contact information for animal rescue groups. During the first few weeks of life, kittens need proper nourishment, warmth, socialization, and help with urinating and defecating.

Caring for Your New Kitten

During the first 8 to 10 weeks of life, kittens have specific needs for nourishment, warmth, socialization, and excretion. If you find orphaned kittens younger than 8 to 10 weeks of age, take them to a veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can give you advice on caring for them and might be able to give you contact information for animal rescue groups. For more information, see the Care Guide titled “Caring for Orphaned Kittens.”

Caring for Your New Puppy

During the first 7 to 8 weeks of life, puppies have specific needs for nourishment, warmth, socialization, and excretion.

Caring for Your Pet After Surgery

The type of surgery that your pet undergoes determines the in-hospital recovery time and when you will be able to pick up your pet. Because the period immediately following surgery is when most complications occur, it is important to follow your veterinarian’s suggestion for when to pick up your pet. If you would like to visit your pet in the hospital, ask your veterinarian if that would be okay.

Dental Care

Bad breath in pets may be a sign of periodontal disease that could lead to other health problems. Periodontal disease starts when plaque (a bacterial film) coats the tooth. Plaque hardens (calcifies) into tartar, a thick yellow or brown layer on the teeth. Tartar can irritate the gums, creating an environment where bacteria thrive. As the disease progresses, the gums become tender, red, and swollen and the bacteria continue to multiply. Eventually, the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that trap more bacteria and food particles. The gums bleed, the roots of the teeth may become exposed, teeth may become loose, and your pet may feel pain when eating. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can create problems for organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Dental Cleaning

It’s estimated that 85% of all pets have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years of age. Periodontal disease is a progressive disease of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth and the main cause of early tooth loss.

Dental Exam

The term dental disease in dogs and cats is very broadly used to describe gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (inflammation of the bone and other support structures around the tooth). Another term commonly used to collectively describe these two conditions is periodontal disease.

Diabetes Insipidus in Cats

When most of us think about diabetes, we think of a condition called diabetes mellitus. This is a disease in which the body doesn’t make an adequate amount of the hormone insulin or the body is unable to use its available insulin effectively. The result is an inability to regulate the body’s blood sugar level.

Diarrhea

A pet with diarrhea has looser or more watery feces than normal and sometimes more frequent stools as well.

Examination and Rabies Vaccine

Regular physical examinations are essential to maintaining your pet’s health. A thorough examination checks every major body organ and system.

Exercising Your Cat

Cats are notorious for preferring sleep to exercise. However, regular exercise is important to your cat’s health because it burns calories, reduces appetite, maintains muscle tone, and increases metabolism (the rate at which calories are burned).

Exercising Your Dog

Exercise can have many health benefits for your dog. Regular exercise burns calories, reduces appetite, improves muscle tone, increases metabolism, and improves temperature regulation. It can be a valuable contributor to weight loss and maintenance. Exercise can also help stimulate your dog’s mind, thereby preventing boredom and destructive behaviors.

Explaining Pet Loss to Children

Our companion animals are often treasured members of the family, and we mourn for them when they die or are euthanized. It is important to recognize your feelings of loss and grief and to express them in your own way. In addition, when your child is attached to a pet that dies or is euthanized, it is important to recognize his or her feelings of loss and help your child express those feelings.

Feeding Your New Kitten

Proper nutrition is especially important for kittens, which need two to three times as many calories and nutrients as adult cats. A mother cat’s milk provides all of a kitten’s nutritional needs during the first 4 weeks of life. A newborn kitten may nurse every 1 to 2 hours.

Feline Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is an illness caused by the body’s inability to either make or use insulin, which is a hormone produced and released by specialized cells in the pancreas. Insulin permits the body’s cells to take sugar (glucose) from the blood and use it for their metabolism and other functions. Diabetes mellitus develops when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or when the body’s cells are unable to use available insulin to take glucose from the blood.

Feline Distemper and Feline Leukemia

Feline distemper is the common name for the feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), also called feline parvovirus. Despite the name feline distemper, this contagious disease does not affect a cat’s temperament. Rather, FPV causes serious disease in infected cats and can be fatal.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is also contagious among cats. Unlike many other viruses that enter specific cells in the body and destroy them, FeLV enters certain cells in a cat’s body and changes the cells’ genetic characteristics. This permits FeLV to continue reproducing within the cat each time infected cells divide. This allows FeLV to become dormant (inactive) in some cats, making disease transmission and prognosis (outlook) difficult to predict.

Feline Distemper and Rabies

Feline distemper is the common name for the feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), which is sometimes called feline parvovirus. Despite the name feline distemper virus, infection with this virus does not affect a cat’s temperament. Rather, FPV causes serious disease in infected cats and can be fatal.  

Rabies is a dangerous virus that infects animals and humans worldwide. The virus is generally fatal in all species, and any warmblooded animal can become infected. Foxes, skunks, coyotes, and certain rodents are implicated in many cases of exposure. Surprisingly, cats are more commonly involved in transmission of rabies than dogs. In fact, cats are the number-one domestic animal carrier of rabies in the United States. 

Feline Obesity

Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. One of the biggest problems in cats is overfeeding, which can lead to serious problems, including obesity, heart disease, and arthritis, resulting in a shortened life span. Your veterinarian can recommend a proper type and amount of food to maintain your cat’s ideal weight.

First Aid and Your Pet

Dealing with an injured pet can be scary and frustrating. In many cases, you don’t know how bad the injury is, and your pet may not be acting normally. If your pet is injured, the first thing you need to do is try to remain calm. If possible, try to determine how severe the injury is, but remember that caution is extremely important when approaching an injured animal. Any pet, no matter how calm or friendly he or she may usually be, can bite or scratch when in pain.

Food Allergy

Food allergy (also called food hypersensitivity) refers to a type of physical reaction to food. Food reactions are classified into two categories: those that are the result of immune system stimulation and those that are not. Food allergy occurs when the immune system begins to overreact to ingredients that the pet has eaten with no problems in the past. Food intolerance occurs when what is eaten has a direct, negative effect on the stomach and/or intestines, such as spoiled meat, chewed up toys, food additives, and abrupt changes in diet. Food intolerance is not an immune reaction.

Grooming Your Dog

Grooming does more than make your dog look good. Regular brushing, bathing, and—if necessary—trimming can help keep your dog’s skin and haircoat healthy, and if you can teach your dog to enjoy these activities, grooming can be another way to strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Hookworms

Hookworms are internal parasites that generally live in the small intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. These worms attach to the intestinal tissue and suck blood and other nutrients from their hosts.

How to Administer Ear Medication to Your Dog

Many eye conditions in dogs require medicine to be put directly into the eye. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your dog becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your dog, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer Eye Medication to Your Dog

Many eye conditions in dogs require medicine to be put directly into the eye. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your dog becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your dog, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer a Topical Medication to Your Dog

Many conditions in dogs require medicine to be applied to the skin. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your pet becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your pet, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Give Your Dog a Pill

Medicines in pill or capsule form are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, but many dogs dislike taking pills. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid or a powder for easier administration. Some medicines for dogs come in a chewable “treat” form. If you have trouble giving your dog pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible or a treat form is available for specific medicines.

How to Tell if Your Dog Is Sick

Despite the adage about a dog’s nose being warm, cold, wet, or dry, any of those signs may, in fact, be normal. Many other signs can give you a better indication of illness in a dog. For example, any changes such as decreases in energy level (e.g., sleeping more), decreased appetite, or weight gain/loss may signal that your dog is not feeling well.

Keeping Your Pet at a Healthy Weight

Pet obesity has become a very common problem. Studies indicate that nearly 50% of adult dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and that percentage increases among older pets. Obesity increases the risk for other serious health problems, including osteoarthritis, diabetes (in cats), heart and respiratory diseases, and many types of cancers. Overweight pets are also at increased risk for complications during anesthesia if they need to undergo surgery or other procedures. And if a pet already has a health condition, obesity makes the problem that much harder to manage. Being overweight can also lower your pet’s energy level and hamper his or her ability to enjoy an active lifestyle with you and your family.

Kitten or Adult Cat: Which Is Right for You?

Adopting a cat or a kitten is an important decision that can affect the next 15 to 20 years of your life. Adequate time should be taken to decide whether a cat or a kitten is right for you and your lifestyle. A new cat should be obtained from either a reputable breeder or an adoption shelter. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on breeders or shelters in your area. 

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a potentially serious disease caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. It affects dogs but can also infect a wide variety of domestic and wild animals and humans. The bacteria can survive for long periods of time in water and are frequently found in swamps, streams, lakes, and standing water. The bacteria also survive well in mud and moist soil, and localized outbreaks can occur after flooding. Infected animals can continue to shed the bacteria in their urine for months or even years after recovery. Carriers of the bacteria include raccoons, opossums, rodents, skunks, and dogs. The disease is transmitted to dogs when they have contact with urine or contaminated water or soil.

Lyme Disease Tests and Vaccine

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick and can affect many species, including dogs and humans.

Malassezia Dermatitis

Malassezia dermatitis (MD) is a yeast infection of the skin caused by the organism Malassezia pachydermatis. Malassezia pachydermatis is a yeast organism that normally lives in small numbers in the ears and on the skin. The infection occurs when this organism grows in large numbers. In its most severe form, the infection can cause a thickening of the skin (lichenification), making it resemble an elephant’s skin (hence the name pachydermatis).

Neutering

Neutering, also known as castration, is a surgical procedure that involves removal of the testicles. It is a common surgical procedure performed on male dogs and cats to eliminate the ability to impregnate females. Neutering is also used to treat certain medical conditions, such as testicular cancer, anal tumors, and some forms of prostate disease.

Obesity in Pets: Tipping the Scale in Your Favor

Currently, studies estimate that approximately half of the pets in the United States are either overweight or obese. The health consequences of obesity in pets include increased risk for joint disease, heart and respiratory problems, and diabetes. Some researchers also have redefined obesity as a chronic inflammatory condition that can have other harmful effects in the body. Being overweight is not cute and it is not just a nuisance; it is now being recognized as a medical problem that should be managed long-term to reduce associated health risks.

Pet Health Insurance: What's Right for Your Pet?

Pet insurance can help you budget for unforeseen medical expenses for your pet. Generally, the premium cost for a good policy is low compared with the relative peace of mind and financial help it can offer. Sorting through the various plan choices and options, however, can be daunting. Here are some tips to help you make sense of the process.

Pet Sitter Instructions

The best way to develop a good relationship with your pet sitter is through open, honest communication. To help ensure that your pet is properly cared for, give your pet sitter detailed written instructions, and discuss them with the sitter. Ask the sitter whether he or she has any questions regarding the instructions. Give the sitter the written instructions before your trip and leave a copy in plain view in your house.

Pet Toy Safety

Pet toys, whether homemade or purchased, can pose hazards to your pet, so it’s important to know what the hazards are and how to avoid them. When possible, supervise your pet while he or she plays with a toy. In addition, help keep your pet safe by following these toy safety tips.

Physical Examination and Feline Infectious Peritonitis Vaccine

A thorough physical examination is an important part of routine wellness care for all cats. Cats are very good at hiding their illnesses, so a physical examination may be the only way to determine if your cat is as healthy as he or she seems to be. Even if your cat seems fine and has no evidence of problems, routine physical examinations are important for establishing “normal” values for you cat. For example, subtle changes in weight may only be noticed by comparing your cat’s current weight with readings recorded during previous examinations.

Pregnancy in Dogs

Pregnancy is the time between conception and birth when puppies develop and grow inside the mother’s uterus. By day 40, the fetus has eyelids, claws, and hair, and the gender is apparent. While toy breeds tend to have smaller litters of one to four puppies, larger breeds may carry as many as eight to 12 puppies. After 56 and 70 days, or about 2 months, puppies are ready to be born.

Preventing Heartworms and Fleas

Heartworm disease is serious and potentially fatal. It affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of mammals. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. Heartworms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. All warm-blooded animals, including wild animals, dogs, cats, and humans, are susceptible to it. Once clinical signs appear, rabies is generally fatal. However, the disease is also generally preventable through vaccination.

Roundworms

Roundworms are extremely common parasites that spend their adult lives in the intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. There are several species of roundworms. Some can grow to about seven inches in length and cause severe illness, especially in younger pets.

Seizures and Epilepsy

A seizure (convulsion) is the sudden transmission of nerve impulses from the brain that causes involuntary muscle activity. The seizure may affect just one part of the body, such as the face, or the entire body. When the whole body is affected, it is called a grand mal seizure. A seizure may be a one-time event, but if seizures occur repeatedly over the course of weeks or months, they are categorized as epilepsy. Epilepsy is common in dogs but relatively rare in cats.

Selecting a New Puppy

While a puppy can tug at anyone’s heartstrings, choosing a puppy should be more than an emotional decision. All too often, the cute and cuddly puppy that is purchased on impulse is relinquished to a shelter because it grew up to be a large, rambunctious dog. That’s why it pays to do your homework before you even look at a puppy.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a behavior problem in which a dog panics after (and sometimes before) being left alone. Dogs with this problem may vocalize, pace, urinate, defecate, and/or engage in destructive behavior before and/or after their owner leaves. Escape attempts by affected dogs can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around windows and doors.

Spay Surgery

A spay, also known as an ovariohysterectomy (ovario – hyster – ectomy) is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on female dogs and cats. This surgery removes the entire uterus and both ovaries. The primary reason for performing a spay is to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, the procedure has other uses, including treatment for uterine cancer and uterine infection.

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures used to remove the reproductive organs of dogs and cats. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries of a female dog or cat. Neutering is the removal of a male dog’s or cat’s testicles. These procedures are also sometimes referred to as “sterilizing” or “fixing” pets.

The Wellness Examination

A wellness examination is a complete physical examination along with diagnostic testingthat may include bloodwork, urinalysis, and checking a stool sample for parasites. In many cases, a wellness examination can help detect the early stages of disease. Often, your veterinarian will schedule this exam when your pet is due for vaccinations.

Ticks and Your Cat

Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don’t fly, and they can’t jump (unlike fleas). In fact, ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to “insects” like fleas. Of the hundreds of tick species, approximately 80 are found in the United States. Ticks can feed on a variety of hosts, including cats, birds, dogs, and people.

Training Your Dog

Obviously, if a dog will be working as a search and rescue dog or service assistance dog, proper training is extremely important. But what if you’re just looking for a dog to share your life and be a couch potato with you? In truth, even companion dogs, large and small breeds alike, need training to learn proper behavior among people and other dogs.

Traveling With Your Cat

Our pets share so much of our lives that many of us don’t want to consider traveling without them. Whether you are flying, driving a car, or RVing, sharing a trip with a pet can add richness to the experience. Proper planning can make the travel experience better and less stressful for you and for your pet.

Traveling With Your Dog

Our pets share so much of our lives that many of us don’t want to consider traveling without them. Whether you are flying, driving a car, or RVing, sharing a trip with a pet can add richness to the experience. Proper planning can make the travel experience better and less stressful for you and for your pet.

Understanding Pet Food Labels

Pet owners can be passionate about choosing the best food for their pets, but with thousands of pet food products on the market, how do pet owners make the best choice? Pet food labels are a good place to start. Understanding the label information can help pet owners make informed decisions about the food they feed their pets.

Urinalysis and Early Kidney Disease Detection

Kidney disease is a broad term meaning that the kidneys are not functioning properly. Acute kidney disease occurs quickly, often over the course of a few days, and is caused by a lack of oxygen to the kidneys or exposure to toxins such as antifreeze, pesticides, and some medications. If treated promptly, acute kidney disease may be reversible. Chronic kidney disease occurs over the course of months to years and is usually progressive, meaning that it worsens over time. Early detection and treatment of chronic renal disease can slow the progression of the disease and help keep your pet more comfortable.

Urinary Tract Disease in Cats

The urinary tract consists of four parts:

  1. Two kidneys, which produce urine
  2. The ureters, tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  3. The urinary bladder, where urine is stored
  4. The urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the outside

Any part of the urinary tract can be affected by disease.

Weight Check

When checking your pet’s weight, your veterinarian will not only weigh your pet on a scale but also assess the appearance of your pet’s body condition. Body condition is usually evaluated on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being too thin, 9 being obese, and 5 representing the ideal weight. A similar body condition scoring system uses a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being too thin, 3 being ideal, and 5 indicating obesity.

Why Do I Need To Vaccinate My Pet?

Companion animals today have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives than ever before, in part due to the availability of vaccines that can protect pets from deadly infectious diseases. Over the past several decades, the widespread use of vaccines against diseases like rabies has saved the lives of millions of pets and driven some diseases into relative obscurity. Unfortunately, infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to dogs and cats that are unvaccinated; therefore, although vaccine programs have been highly successful, pet owners and veterinarians cannot afford to be complacent about the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Your Pet's Prescribed Diet

If your pet is on a prescribed diet, keeping him or her on that diet is essential for the best possible health and quality of life. Your veterinarian has carefully selected your pet’s prescribed diet based on his or her specific needs, so this food should not be changed.

All Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

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10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.

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A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

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ACTH Stimulation Test

Glucocorticoids (primarily cortisol) and mineralocorticoids are two important types of hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids help regulate numerous complex processes in the body and participate in critically important functions.

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Abdominal Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography. Radiography is a very useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians because it can help obtain information about almost any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, as well as the bones.

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