Q: Do you have any advice about Easter chicks or ducklings?

A: Each year many area children get Easter chicks or ducklings as gifts. Many of these little birds live only a few short weeks or months due to improper care and neglect. My primary advice is to buy only chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks and lollipop ducklings this Easter.

Because they are so cute and fluffy, many people do not realize the potential risk in handling these baby animals. Young birds often carry the harmful bacteria Salmonella. Each spring children are infected by Easter chicks or ducklings.

It’s important to note that birds that carry Salmonella frequently show no signs of illness. The harmful bacteria populate the bird’s intestines and eventually coat their entire bodies. Children are exposed by kissing, cuddling, or simply holding the birds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following safety steps:

» Do NOT purchase live animals as Easter gifts. Give toy stuffed animals instead.

» Do not let children under 5 years of age handle baby chicks or other young birds. Keep them from coming into contact with packages in which chicks or ducklings arrive.

» If anyone touches the chicks or ducklings or their environment, make sure that they wash their hands immediately afterwards. Pacifiers, toys, bottles or other objects should not touch the baby birds or their enclosures. If these objects do become contaminated, wash them with warm soapy water.

» Do not allow anyone to eat or drink while interacting with birds or their environment. Keep the bird area separate from areas where food and drink are prepared or consumed. Do not allow chicks or ducklings on table surfaces or places where food will be prepared or eaten.

» Talk to your veterinarian, nurse or doctor about other possible risk factors.

Q: Why won’t my veterinarian dispense more antibiotics without examining my cat? She has the same skin infection that she had in the spring and the medication worked then. I would rather try the medication first before spending the time or money for a repeat visit.

A: Proper antibiotic selection and use is a very important topic. These medications are legally restricted to prescription use for good reasons. Among them is antibiotic resistance. When bacteria become resistant to an antibiotic it becomes more dangerous to your pet and your family. Veterinarians and physicians can attest that antibiotic resistance is becoming quite common. A major cause of this phenomenon is the improper use of medications.

Sometimes an antibiotic will improve a condition without curing it. Other times, it will appear that the condition has been cured, but it will return. In both these cases the risk for antibiotic resistance is increased. Your veterinarian needs to accurately diagnose your pet’s condition before prescribing the proper treatment. Once the proper medication is chosen, it is important to finish the entire course.

Please do not start antibiotic therapy, or any medical therapy, without speaking with your veterinarian first. It is frustrating to have symptoms obscured and necessary tests invalidated by a well-meaning pet owner who starts medication before calling the doctor. Frequently medications given by pet owners limit the ability of veterinarians to prescribe the best possible medication due to drug interactions. This situation causes needless suffering for pets, potentially leads to drug resistance, and often causes medical bills to be higher than they should have been.

Most veterinarians offer phone consultations free of charge to regular clients. Some offer this service 24 hours a day. Please pick up the phone before giving your pet a medication, even if you think you are dealing with the same condition for which a drug was previously recommended. Your veterinarian may recommend a refill of a previous prescription or administration of an over-the-counter therapy. Other times, an examination may be requested. If so, you have probably chosen a very competent and concerned doctor who wants to do the best thing for your pet.

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Dr. Watts is a companion animal general practitioner and owner of Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care. He can be reached at 540/428-1000.I

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