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Q&A: Kids Ask Pet Questions

Thanks to Dr. Danna for answering these questions!

Q: What is the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? (Question submitted by Olivia, age 4)

Maggots!! Maggot infested wounds on a pet that was barely alive after wandering off for three days and getting his ear hair stuck in a thorny bush. His entire head was covered in maggots down to his skull. Both ears were full of maggots. He was barely alive and we had to remove each maggot, one at a time. It took five hours to remove all the larvae and save the dog’s life with supportive IV fluids and medications.

Q: How do you know how old a cat is by looking at the teeth? (Question submitted by Zandir, age 9)

If a pet is younger than 6 months of age, we can be pretty exact up to the week on how old a cat is! Begin counting from the middle of the top row of teeth, the incisors.  The two front incisors baby teeth fall out and the new adult incisors erupt and begin to grow in at 3 months of age (12 weeks old), the next incisors erupt and begin to grow at 4 months (16 weeks old), the next incisors at 5 months. The baby canine teeth fall out and adult canine teeth (the long fangs) erupt and begin to come down at 5 months of age (20 weeks old) and are fully in place by 6 months (24 weeks old). If the canine teeth are adult teeth and are fully in place, then it is an educated guess. We look at how much plaque and calculus are on the teeth and give our best educated guess with our experience. It is easier when you see thousands of cat mouths over many years of practice.

Q: Why do some cats and dogs need to have surgery to have kittens/puppies? (Zandir, age 9)

Many kittens and puppies have surgery so they don’t have babies. Kittens and puppies start to be “able” to have babies around 6 months-12 months of age. Once they are mature, then they can have babies, but they are not usually babies themselves anymore. On the occasion that a cat or dog is pregnant and has to have surgery to be able to give birth, it is usually because the mom is too small and the babies inside her are too large. Usually due to large HEADS! If their skulls, heads, are too large, then we have to perform a C-section to remove the babies out directly from the mom’s belly. Sometimes, the momma dog or cat has a few babies on their own, but then get too tired to continue, so we have to help them out with medicine or with surgery for the rest. Our furry friends don’t just have one or two babies, but sometimes 10 or more! Could you imagine giving birth to 10 + babies?? How tired would you be?? Sometimes, surgery is just easier for the mom. Some breeds, like Bull Dogs, have a scheduled C-section, because this breed ALWAYS have HUGE heads and many puppies don’t survive natural birth in this breed, so we schedule surgery for specific breeds due to known birthing complications depending on the breed of dog.

Q: I know my gecko is nocturnal, but is it okay for me to wake him to play with him during the day?  Because that’s when I’m awake.  (Kostek, age 9)

It is best NOT to play with nocturnal animals in the middle of the day. Try to play with them in early morning or late evenings, when they become active. Disturbing their sleep makes them grumpy. It can even make them sick if you wake them everyday for long periods of time. Imagine if someone woke you up every night and kept you awake for 1 or 2 hours. How would you be the next day? Grumpy. Eventually you would get sick due to poor sleep. Sleep is our time to heal our bodies. If that sleep is constantly disrupted it could cause stress and eventually early death. It is best to pick social critters for more hand on play. I like Bearded Dragons, they are active in the day, are usually very social, and don’t seem to mind being held! They are an ideal reptile for kids because they are small and easy to take care of compared to other reptiles.

Q: What’s the weirdest thing a dog has swallowed/eaten? (Emily, age 12)

I saw a dog that ate a puppet. It was made from hard plastic in its head and arms but had a soft body. You could see the “face” of the puppet on the x-rays! When we removed it, it was partially intact, just chewed up a little. Amazing that the dog swallowed it down whole!! Funny that you could make out a face on the x-rays!

Q: Do mosquitoes bite dogs? (Leo, age 5)

Yes they do! Dogs get mosquito bites that itch just like us but even worse, dogs are the definitive host for heartworms, which are baby worms that live inside the mosquito and when the mosquito bites the dog, to feed on its blood, it injects the baby worm into your dog’s bloodstream. Then if not treated with monthly medication, the baby worm grows up in the heart and lungs of your dog causing the heart to get really big and stop working. If left untreated could cause your dog to die. It is a very serious disease but fortunately is very easy to prevent!

Q: Do people really have pet monkeys?  I really want a pet monkey and my mom won’t let me.  Do pets get car sick?  Do pet monkeys get car sick? (Leo, 5)

Well, I don’t have much experience with pet monkeys because I choose not to work on them. Monkeys are very closely related to people, which means that we can catch many diseases from them or vice versa, give them many of our illnesses. Some diseases that affect monkeys don’t make them sick but makes people very sick. Your mom is a smart lady for not allowing you to have a pet monkey! I knew a classmate in veterinary school who had spider monkeys and they were cute as babies but when they grew up they became very mean. They bit the owner a lot and if anyone they didn’t know tried to touch them, they would scream and attack them. They also threw feces at people from their cage. They were horrible little creatures, in my opinion. You have to be very experienced to own a pet monkey so you take the appropriate precautions to not get sick and not expose your pet monkeys to your illnesses. A common cold that we get could kill a monkey! In some states, you have to have special permits to even own a monkey. Monkeys are cute, but they are not a snuggly puppy or kitten. They require special knowledge, special cages, lots of time, and special veterinarians who know how to treat them. I trained, in a veterinary hospital, in Chicago, years ago when I was senior veterinary student performing my clerkship training. They saw monkeys there. Every monkey had to be anesthetized for every exam. They were not allowed to be awake during those exams. The staff had to wear protective eye goggles, protective special masks, and gowns. It was a big deal when a monkey came into the hospital sick! It was also very expensive, so a pet monkey is not an ideal pet for any child or adult, in my opinion. Yes…pets get car sick. I would imagine monkeys do too, since people get motion sickness too.

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