Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Test Your Pet Health IQ

Pet Column for the week of May 16, 2011

Related information:

Related site - Pet U : Learning to Care for Pets

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Debra Domal
Information Specialist

When it comes to sorting fact from fiction about pet health, are you at the head of the class, or do you need some additional tutoring? Take this quick quiz to find out.

The questions cover information presented at "Pet U," a monthly series of animal-owner education sessions offered both through the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the CARE Center in Urbana and through the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine and its primary care clinic, Furnetic.

True or False:
1. A cold, moist nose is a good indication that your dog is healthy.

2. If a pet food uses the words "dinner," "supper," "platter," "entree," "formula," or "recipe" in relation to a given ingredient (e.g., chicken), you can be sure this ingredient accounts for at least 25% of the product.

3. An estimated 52% of U.S. dogs and cats are overweight, and 15% of them are obese.

4. Giving a small dog bone to a 10-pound dog is roughly equivalent to giving a donut to an average-size person.

5. As your pet enters its senior years, checkups with the veterinarian should be more frequent.

6. A cat's hearing sensitivity is about the same as that of a human.

1. False. Surprised by this answer? Veterinarian Jason Doukas at Furnetic in Chicago explains that "many times the temperature and wetness of the nose have nothing to do with sickness. Instead, it is a just a reaction to the temperature and humidity in the ambient air." However, he also notes that nasal discharge could provide an indication that your pet is sick.

2. True. Dr. Kelly Swanson, an animal nutrition expert who lectures at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, offers these additional keys to decoding pet food labels. When an ingredient appears directly in the product name (e.g., "Chicken and Liver Dog Food"), at least 95% of the product is composed of that ingredient. The word "with" (e.g., "Cat Food with Tuna") indicates that at least 3% of the product is composed of the ingredient.

3. Sadly, this is true. And what's worse is that overweight pets are at a higher risk for Type II diabetes, respiratory disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, and inter-abdominal cancer. What can you do? Melissa Minelli, a certified veterinary technician at Furnetic in Chicago advises asking your veterinarian to assess your pet's body condition score.

4. False. Take that donut damage and double it. Minelli recommends finding out your pet's optimal daily caloric intake and sticking to it. And don't forget to count those treats.

5. True. Dr. Thomas Graves, director of the Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, says that "healthy geriatric pets should be seen at least every six months." Geriatric cats with known conditions or illnesses should be seen more often. You can promote wellness in your pets' senior years by ensuring that they maintain optimum body condition, by preventing and treating dental disease, by feeding age-appropriate diets, and by monitoring medical disorders associated with aging.

6. False. These perceptive pets boast a sense of hearing four times more sensitive than ours. Factor this in with their keen sense of smell and extreme sensitivity to movement, and it becomes easy to see why cats are susceptible to stress and anxiety. According to primary care veterinarian Dr. Kandi Norrell at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, stress can trigger behavioral problems and lead to a reduced immune response, obesity, anorexia, and a variety of skin conditions. She recommends trying to identify and eliminate the stressors that most affect your cat.

The next series of Pet U sessions begins in the fall. Suggestions for session topics are always welcome. Send your ideas to and visit for more information about Pet U.