Toot Doodle Bug
BEWARE OF SNAKES!
Our local Rattlesnake Roundup is coming up soon and is a good time to be reminded that rattlesnakes (as well as water moccasins and copperheads) are part of our lives! We share our environment with them uneventfully, for the most part. But, occasionally, in their efforts to protect themselves and their territory, a snake may bite. That creates a medical emergency for people, pets, and livestock. There is a very good antivenin that can be given when a snake bit occurs, but it’s expensive. There are other medications that can and should also be given, even if the cost of the antivenin is out of budget. Antihistamines, antibiotics, tetanus, pain medications, and diuretics can all help with comfort and healing, and greatly up the chances of survival and recovery from a snake bite.
There is a Rattlesnake vaccine for dogs that will help minimize the reaction and risk from rattlesnake bites. It is much more economical that the antivenin. Ask your vet about it.
Amputation- Not as Bad as You May Think!
Amputation” always sounds like a scary option, but sometimes it’s the best one. Severe traumas, nerve damage, and some cancers may be best treated by removing a limb. Surprisingly, most dogs and cats heal quickly and do fabulously well with three good legs. View the
State ’s Vet school’s videos of pets that had gone through the procedure at: www.CSUanimalcancercenter.org/amputation. The majority of healing after an amputation occurs within the first 10 days, and is normally complete within 30 days. If a bone is shattered, or the wound is badly infected, other repair options may be more costly, and involve more pain and much longer healing time. Even then, there are no guarantees of a functional, pain free limb.
Your vet will consider the degree of damage, likelihood of successful repair, and costs either way. If it looks like amputation will be the best option, don’t hesitate to go ahead with it. Check out Jack on our Facebook page and at http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/Dog-Loses-Leg-After-Being-Shot--Abandoned-Now-Looking-For-New-Home-229930041.html?ref=041. He’s doing great!
Your Medications and Your Pet
Be careful, careful, careful with your own medications! Our pets are much like little kids when it comes to putting things in their mouths. If you drop or spill some of yours, your dog or cat may be curious enough to check it out and that can cause problems! If that happens, and you cannot get the meds out of your pet’s mouth right away, call your vet or poison control immediately. The ASPCA Poison Control number is (888) 426-4435. That’s a good number to keep handy, along with your vet’s number.
Some medications may be deadly to pets, and some may not be a problem. The majority are somewhere in the middle. You’ll need to have the name of the drug plus the milligram strength handy when you call so the experts can determine what needs to be done.
An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound (or more!) of cure. Keep meds secure and out of reach.
Horses suffer from many internal parasites that can cause weight loss, colic, anemia, and possibly death, and you may not even know they’re there. Silent but deadly can be said, appropriately. How heavy the parasite load is depends a lot on your pasture situation and feeding routines. Their life cycles may make us squeamish, but it's important to know how your horse gets exposed.
Strongyles (blood worms) and roundworms cycle from the horse’s digestive tract, to the ground, and then back to the horse’s GI tract when horses graze or nibble in areas where they have pooped. One pile can have thousands of eggs, just waiting to hatch into infective larva and start the cycle all over again. Bots are spread by a particular fly that lays eggs on your horse's haircoat. The horse licks its own hair, and ingests the larva, which attach to the stomach. Their larva look like grubs and impair digestion. Yuck. Pinworms can irritate your horse’s bottom, driving him to rub and rub.
Fortunately, there are lots of safe, easy and effective treatments available. Ask your vet what your horse needs most. You can do a LOT of good by keeping your horse dewormed as needed. Feed the horse, not the worms!
KEEP THE CANDY OUT OF REACH! Most pets are like toddlers when it comes to putting interesting things in their mouths! Changes in diet, or too much of anything can give them an upset stomach. Chocolate can be very dangerous! (poor them). Wrappers may go down right along with the goodies, and can cause obstructions or ulcers. They don't know any better; it's up to us to protect them.
Your dog may consider it his mission in life to guard his family, and may feel threatened or become overly excited by kids in costumes. Give your dog a break from guard duty by keeping him in a quiet, secure area. Black cats may be targeted by certain cruel people, so keep them in, too.
Our pets don't have a clue what Halloween is about, but if your pet has the right temperament for dressing up and making the rounds, be sure you keep his comfort in mind. Don't put anything on him that might be harmful if he licks or chews on it when you're not looking.
Have fun! Keep it safe for all.
What’s new with heartworms? Two things, actually. Treatment protocols have changed some as research continues in this very important medical care field. Premedications and scheduling stages of the treatment over a longer period of time minimizes the risk of adverse reactions in dogs. Although this adds some to the cost and number of trips to the vet required, the benefit to the patient makes these costs worthwhile.
Unfortunately, there is some evidence of parasite resistance to our heartworm preventatives in certain geographical areas of the country. There is a genetically different heartworm strain that may be causing problems. Research is ongoing to determine the extent of this issue, so keep your ears open to new developments. In the meantime, be vigilant and keep your dogs and cats on preventatives, as recommended by your vet, year-round without fail. That is the best you can do to protect them from these dangerous parasites. Have your dog tested AT LEAST once yearly (twice is better), so that an infection can be detected and treated before it causes heart disease. Periodic testing is also the best way we have to monitor whether our medications are effective, and whether heartworm resistance is becoming a problem in our area.
This isn't new, but it is very important. Heartworm prevention is safe, easy, and a good value. Dogs can be given an injectable form that lasts six months, or a monthly oral medication. Cats can have a topical preventative applied monthly. Whatever you do, do it regularly and you shouldn't have to worry about these parasites harming the health of your dear pet.
Need to Re-Home Your Pet?
If it happens that you must find a new home for your pet (for whatever the reason), please do it carefully so that your pet can have the best chance possible of finding a caring home.
The best thing to do is ask friends and family who know your pet if they could give them a new home, or if they know of someone who might. Let your vet know your situation. Sometimes they can help solve a problem, or know of someone who is seeking a new pet.
Check with area rescue groups or humane societies. Even if they are full, sometimes they have foster homes that can keep your pet until a permanent home can be found. County and city animal shelters also provide safe housing while hoping to match pets with new owners.
Don’t post an ad saying: “Free Dog/Cat/Horse”. This may attract people with throw-away attitudes, or possibly worse. Unfortunately, there are people who scout classifieds for free animals and acquire them for purposes like dog fighting or using them for bait.
The worst thing you could do would be to drop your pet off and hope for the best. Abandonment is against the law and cruel. In most cases, these animals get hit by a car, starve, succumb to parasites or disease, or are attacked by other animals. Ask for help if you need it. There are lots of resources available.
Why Do I Need to Take My Cat to the Vets?
My cat looks fine- why do I have to take it to the vets? Good question.
Just like with humans, many health issues cannot be detected with just a visual appraisal. Even if your kitty looks OK to you, there could be unseen problems that may be causing her discomfort or shorten her lifespan and you won't even know it. A physical exam and possibly bloodtests and other diagnostics may reveal serious yet treatable issues with your cat. Finding and treating these problems early can add years to your feline friend’s life.
In fact, a recent research project was done on 100 cats over six years old. All were in apparent good health, according to their owners. In this group, 72% of the cats had gingivitis, 41% had crystals in their urine, 29% had elevated kidney tests, 25% had high blood sugar, 14% had FIV virus, and 11% had heart murmurs. Other less common issues were also found. In addition, over half the cats’ body weights were not ideal, which can lead to other health problems.
Kitties need preventative medical care even if she's your only cat and stays inside. You never know when a stray kitten may turn up and melt you with its sad eyes. If you bring another cat into your home, you may be exposing your cat to all kinds of bad stuff. Also, your cat may get injured or become ill and need to stay at a veterinary hospital at some point in their life. Keeping your pet up to date on vaccinations and parasite control will protect her whatever circumstances come along, and give you one less worry.
Veterinarians are trained to help safeguard your pet’s health; make good use of them!
LUMPS and BUMPS
Lumps and bumps on your pet- what are they? The possibilities are many and varied. Most masses and swellings on pets are not life threatening, but only your vet can say for sure. Factors to consider include the size, appearance, how quickly the bump appeared, whether or not it is inflamed or painful, or if there are any signs of trauma. Puncture wounds (especially bite wounds) are prone to infection and can abscess. They may need opening and draining; they will surely need antibiotics to treat infection. Growths may be malignant or benign, just like with humans. Appearance and history will give your vet a great deal of helpful information, but sometimes a biopsy is needed for diagnosis. Treatment will depend on what the mass is- some can be monitored; others need to be removed. If that is the case, the sooner the better, both in terms of ease of removal, and prognosis for recovery. "When in doubt, cut it out" is often the best approach. Ask your vet for help.
HOOVES, CLAWS AND NAILS Why is it important to pay attention to your pet’s nails? Read on: In nature, animals hunt, travel, and have to protect themselves. Their nails serve important roles in each of these functions. But, because the lifestyle of domesticated dogs, cats, and horses isn’t as demanding as their ancestors’, the nails may grow faster than they wear down. Overgrowth can be uncomfortable- much like wearing a shoe that has a very long toe! If the nail on a dog breaks on its own, it may break back too close and damage the quick. It may bleed, and be quite painful.
Horses need hoof care as well, to keep their feet healthy and balanced. Some need shoes, if their hooves are prone to split or break off too short. Farriers are hoof care experts, and all horses need their own farrier.
There are glue-on synthetic nail caps available for dogs and cats. They keep the nails from doing harm to furniture, flooring, and people! The caps do need to be replaced as nails grow out, so they are rather high maintenance.
Declawing is a permanent solution for cats who are destructive, but there is some debate on whether or not the procedure should be done. Ask about pros and cons; we can help you decide what's best for you and your cat.
Most cats will make use of a scratching post and take care of their own nails. Dogs, however, may need occasional trims to keep them at a proper and comfortable length. If you want to do this yourself, be careful to trim just up to but not into the quick. This can be difficult, especially with black nails, so you may want to have a professional do it for you. Your dog will appreciate it!
Skunks are not uncommon in our area. Outdoor pets may encounter a skunk and curiosity may compel them to check out these interesting creatures. The results may be disastrous! The musk that a skunk sprays in self-defense (up to 15 feet!) is a chemically complex mix that smells like a combination of rotten eggs, garlic, and burnt rubber. Horrible and memorable. It can irritate eyes and airways, and can damage red blood cells as well.
Ordinary soap and water will not remove the smell from your pet. Here’s a recipe that will:
Mix 1 qt. 3% hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup baking soda and 1-2 tsp. dish washing liquid detergent. Work deep into the fur and allow to set for 5 minutes. Repeat if needed. Bathing with tomato juice can also cut the smell.
If your pet may have been bitten by the skunk, ask your vet about rabies. Skunks are often carriers of this fatal virus.
DOG BITE PREVENTION WEEK
May 19-25th is Dog Bite Prevention Week. Why? Because, although there are over 70 million good dogs, any dog can bite. Over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs yearly in the US, most of them children. They are more likely to be severely injured.
Help prevent bite injuries in children by teaching them to:
*Avoid unfamiliar dogs.
*Always ask an owner’s permission before petting their dog.
*Quietly walk away if they are confronted with an aggressive dog.
*Stand still if a dog goes after them, and “act like a tree” by standing quietly with their hands low and clasped in front of them and keep their head down as if looking at their feet.
*If they are knocked down, cover their head and neck with their arms and curl into a ball.
*Don’t yell, run, hit, or make sudden movements toward the dog.
*Don’t bother a dog while it’s sleeping or eating.
*Be gentle and respect when they don’t want to play.
*Do not tease dogs by taking their food or toys, or pretend to hit or kick the dog.
A DOG'S WILL
“Before humans die, they write their last will and testament, and give their home and all they have to those they leave behind. If I could do the same, this is what I would ask:
To a poor and lonely stray, I’d give my happy home, my bowl, my cozy bed, and toys; the lap I loved and the hand that stroked me. I’d will to the sad, scared shelter dog the place I had in my human’s loving heart. So, when I die, please don’t say “I’ll never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more difficult than I can stand’. Instead, go find an unloved dog, and give my place to him. This is the only thing I can give; the love I left behind.”
As hard as it is to lose a pet, please don't let the pain of loss overwhelm the memories of the years of companionship and unconditional love that your pet gave you during your time together. There are millions of unwanted dogs and cats that also would love to share your heart and home. Get in touch with your local shelter or pet rescue group and share the love!
ALCOHOL AND YOUR PET
No alcohol for pets! As cute or funny as it might seem to share your drink with your furry friend, please don’t. Animals are much like children in that they don’t know what’s good or bad for them. Some alcoholic drinks may taste attractive to pets, but they don’t have the awareness of consequences that humans (are supposed to) have! It’s no better to offer them a beer than it would be to offer a kindergartener one. Excess alcohol can be fatal in pets, also. Instead, find treats that are enjoyable and safe for your pet. Chew toys, frozen peas, carrots, and ice chips are good ideas. There are a zillion commercial treats for sale in pet stores; look for something made by a reputable
US company. Avoid high fat treats if your pet has problems with weight control. Also avoid treats with lots of preservatives (like pig ears). The chemicals needed to keep them from decaying on store shelves can cause blow-out upset stomachs in some animals and that’s no fun for anyone. Don’t expect your pet to have a good sense of judgment when it comes to what they eat. That’s your job.
Are your pet’s ears smelly? Tender? Does he shake his head and rub at his ears often? These are all signs of a possible ear infection. Your pet can’t talk, so you have to be able to read other signals. Any sign of discomfort means there’s a problem. Infections are usually a mix of germs (bacteria, fungal, or yeast), or parasites called ear mites. You’ll need to find out what’s causing the infection to treat it effectively; ask your vet for help. Treating with the wrong medication will waste your time and money and prolong your pet’s discomfort. Whatever you do, DON”T treat your pet’s ears with hydrogen peroxide! It can blow out an ear drum when it foams and expands inside the ear canal. Most ear infections respond well to simple treatments. If not, your vet may need to culture the ear or do deep flushes under sedation. Whatever it takes, your pet will appreciate having a painful issue taken care of.
“Ewww! My dog is passing little crawly worms and it’s really gross”. If you’ve had this experience with your dog or your cat, what you likely saw were tapeworms. Don’t worry; just get some help from a vet. Tapeworms are parasites that pets acquire from fleas or from eating raw meat.
The tapeworm larva that is ingested travels to the GI tract and grows in the intestines by adding segments to its body. These segments are egg packets that break away, and pass in the stool. They may be seen around the pet’s bottom or on the stool itself. The segments appear to be crawling when freshly passed. After they dry up, they look like a piece of rice. If you see tapeworms, take your pet to your vet. The doctor will need your pet’s weight to correctly prescribe medication, and it’s good to check for other worms at the same time.
Treatment is a simple oral prescription medication. (You can’t buy it over the counter). Flea control and not allowing access to raw meat will prevent reinfection.
TOXIN ALERT- Bromethalin
Bromethalin causes brain swelling, which leads to CNS stimulation or depression, abnormal behavior, incoordination, seizures and coma. Without a lab test to confirm the cause of symptoms, it is harder for a doctor to know that poisoning could be the cause if these symptoms are seen in a pet. The only treatment options are detoxification (inducing vomiting, and use of activated charcoal to bind the poison) and supportive care. Treatment must begin within hours to be effective.
EPA decided to prohibit the use of anticoagulants for residential use. New rat poisons may contain a different ingredient called bromethalin, which was intended to be safer. The intentions behind this change were good, however, the consequences can be frightening. There is no lab test to detect bromethalin, symptoms progress rapidly, and there is no antidote. At least the anticoagulants were more easily detected and treated.
BE CAREFUL what you put within reach of your pets and children! Curious little ones can get into more than you may realize. Read labels! If you suspect poisoning, call poison control and take your pet to a vet right away. Knowing what ingredients are present is essential, so take the container that held the suspected toxin with you. It will help your vet do the best job possible for your pet.
NUTRITION AND YOUR PET
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to pet foods, and proper nutrition is so very important for our pets! A growing puppy or kittenâ€™s needs are very different from a mature, adult animal, and these needs change yet again as pets age into senior status. Kidney problems, food allergies, and other medical issues benefit from prescription formula diets.
Read labels! Look at:
The relative percentages of protein, fats, carbs, and minerals. The life stage of your pet determines what is ideal in each category. Needs change with age, and the nutrition experts have created tables that list the requirements for each component, as your pet grows from a puppy or kitten to an adult, and eventually a senior.
The SOURCE of the protein needs to be highly digestible, and is even more important than the percentage. Itâ€™s been said that grinding up a leather shoe will give a seemingly good percent protein! But, itâ€™s poorly digested and of little use to your pet. Remember- dogs and cats are carnivores and need meat. Vegetables also provide other needed nutrients, and are good in the proper amounts; look for a good balance of both.
HOW MUCH of the food you will need to feed to maintain your pet, daily. Foods with a lot of filler may be less costly, but if you have to feed more of it, your cost per day may be the same (or even more) as feeding a high quality food. Not a good value.
This can get rather complicated, so it pays to buy a top quality ration from a company that has spent a lot of time researching, formulating for different life stages and special needs, and buying the best ingredients. Cheaper is not better. Buy from a source you trust.
Why does my dog scoot his bottom on my carpet? It’s really bad manners and it grosses me out”. There can be several causes for this unpleasant behavior. Tapeworms release segments of egg packets inside a dog’s intestine, and when they pass, they can cause irritation around a dog’s bottom. Tapeworms come from fleas or from eating raw meat. Treatment is simple; ask your vet.
Also, dogs (and cats) have troublesome body parts called anal glands that can get impacted with debris and cause discomfort. Scooting may be your pet’s way of trying to relieve the pressure. Sometimes it works (and you will smell an awful odor!), but sometimes they need help. A pet health care expert can assist you if needed.
Fleas also can prompt a dog to scratch, anywhere, including their bottoms, so be sure to keep your pet on an effective flea control product. Next time your pet is doing the scoot, don’t fuss at him. Get help with finding and treating the reason and you (and your carpet) will all be better off!
Dogs will be dogs (and, cats will be cats for that matter), and that often includes fighting behaviors. Intact males and pets that roam are the most likely to get in fights, but any animal could be attacked by another if the situation permits.
Bite wounds can range from superficial scratches to life threatening deep wounds. Punctures can look insignificant, but are often more troublesome than open cuts. Bacteria, dirt and hair may become trapped under the skin when a small wound closes. Infection and abscesses result, and need to be opened and drained. Crushing injuries are often life threatening, and can be difficult to assess if bruising is delayed or hidden under fur.
If your pet has been in a fight, please seek medical care. And, be sure to keep your pets up to date on their Rabies vaccinations at all times. If not, you may have to quarantine your pet for six months and that is not fun for anyone.
The Holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with special meals, decorations, and activities! Much of what we have in our home this time of year is attractive to our pets, so it's very important to keep an eye on them and prevent problems. According to Veterinary Pet Insurance Company, policy holders spend more than $22.8 million treating medical conditions commonly associated with the holidays.
Most of the illnesses and injuries reported for claims are related to upset stomachs from eating “people food” and scraps, especially fatty foods like roasts, gravy, egg nog, etc., or holiday plants (lilies, hollies, and mistletoe), or drinking Christmas tree water. Costs to treat averaged over $200 per pet.
Foreign body ingestion may require surgery, and the average cost was $2400/pet. Be sure to keep household decorations, small gifts, and bones out of reach! Likewise, don’t allow your pet to eat chocolate or other caffeinated products.
Muuuuch easier to prevent than treat problems!
Keep a close eye (always!) and enjoy a New Year filled with fun and good health for you and your family, including the furry ones!
HOLIDAY TREAT RECIPES FOR YOUR PETS
Want to make your pet some tasty treats for the holidays? Some human foods aren’t good for our pets, but this recipe is great- Peanut Butter Pumpkin Treats
2 ½ cups of whole-wheat flour
2 eggs 2/3 cup fresh or canned unsweetened pumpkin
2/3 cup peanut butter
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk flour, eggs, pumpkin, peanut butter, cinnamon and salt together. Add up to ½ cup water as needed to make dough workable. Roll dough out ½ inch thick. Cut out with holiday cookie cutters.
Bake until hard, about 35-40 minutes. Store in refrigerator or freezer.
FISH AND CHICKEN COOKIES
1/2 cup cooked chopped chicken
5 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. cod liver oil
1 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup soy flour
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Combine chicken, cheese, water, egg and oils. Stir in flours.
Roll dough into 1/4-inch thick. Cut out with small holiday cookie cutters.
Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
SAFE HOUSEHOLD PLANTS
Many houseplants are toxic to pets. So what can you have indoors to safely provide your curious pet (especially cats) with greenery? Here is the ASPCA's "Safe List":
*African violet *Basil *Begonia *Chives *Coriander *Dill *Forget-Me-Not *Impatiens *Mint *Oregano *Pansy *Peppermint *Sage *Spider plant *Thyme *Zinnia
Taking your pet on a vacation? A little preparation will help make your trip trouble-free.
Be sure that the places you are staying are pet friendly. Hotels normally make this information easily available. If you're staying with friends or family, it's courteous to ask beforehand. Some people have allergies; some may have bought new carpet recently, or, have any other number of reasons to ask that you make other arrangements. Best to know ahead of time! And, don't be offended. Unfortunately (but realistically) not everyone loves our pets like we do.
Be sure to pack your pet's regular diet and treats. No one wants to have to deal with an upset stomach, and sometimes changes in diet can trigger problems. Of course, if your pet is on medication, bring all that you will need for your trip, and some to spare just-in-case. Having a copy of your pet's vaccination records is required in many circumstances, and always a good idea regardless. Some veterinary clinics offer Pet ID cards, similar to a driver's license, with your pet's photo, shot records, and special notes. Very handy. Have your vet's contact info. with you as well in case you wind up at another vet's office and they need more detailed medical history.
If your pet isn't already microchipped, have that done before you go. It will help insure that you get your beloved pal back, if you happen to become separated. A name tag with your contact info. on it will also help if the need arises.
Familiar bowls, leashes, toys, and bedding will help your pet feel "at home", wherever you go. Pack them, too. Keep your pet in a crate or on a leash.
Be sure your pet is flea and tick free! You want to be welcomed back again! Keep up the parasite protection so that you don't be carrying unwelcomed bugs.
Good manners will serve you and your pet well. Teach basic social skills, like being QUIET, walking at heel, and sitting on command.
Safe, fun travels!
MOST POPULAR DOGS
The stats are in for Most Popular Dogs in the U.S., according to AKC, the nation's leading registrar of purebred dogs. Labrador Retrievers remain in the Number One spot, and German Shepherds remain number 2, compared to the previous year. Beagles booted out Yorkies for the #3 position, Golden Retrievers are #4, Yorkies are now #5, Bulldogs are #6, Boxers #7, Poodles #8, Dachshunds #9, and Rottweillers are #10. Keep in mind this only represents dogs that were registered with AKC. There are lots more mutts around than all the purebreds combined, but they are harder to tabulate.
So which dog is your favorite? Which would you choose to share your home with? Do your research before getting your next dog. An adoption is meant to last a lifetime, and everyone will be happier if the dog you choose is a good match for your lifestyle and family. Knowing the purpose for which each breed was developed will tell you a lot about their personalities and needs. For example, terriers were bred to chase vermin; they are high energy dogs! Get advice from dog experts; they are always ready to help you make a good choice. Don’t forget shelters and rescue groups- many, many great pets there need homes and will give you their hearts.
PET SAFETY FOR A DOLLAR
What can save your pet's life, and may cost less than a dollar? A leash.
Letting pets run free puts them at risk of being injured by cars, among other things. Dogs and cats have no concept of the danger of approaching traffic. They are much like toddlers in this respect, and it's up to us to keep them from harm.
Roaming pets may encounter aggressive or territorial animals, and get beat up, or have to flee and get lost. Also, there are people out there who do not appreciate other people's pets in their yards, and they may do unfriendly things to trespassers.
Keeping your pet indoors, on a leash while exercising, or in a safe fenced enclosure can truly prolong his life.
SPRING TIME AND POPULATION BOOMS
Spring will soon be here, and with it will come a wave of new litters of puppies and kittens. As much as we love them, the reality is that there are just not enough loving homes for all. What happens to those who don't get caring families of their own? Unfortunately, many are abandoned, or neglected, and wind up dying of disease, trauma, or starvation. Those who make it to animal shelters will at least be fed and housed until they are either adopted (the lucky few); most will be given a humane death.
Doom and gloom? Yes. Reality? Sadly, yes. What can you do? NEUTER YOUR PETS! This relatively simple surgery is a one-time investment in your pet's well-being, and every pet owner's responsibility. Please do your part to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens.
Overpopulation is as much a problem for our horses as for dogs and cats. There are just too many! Economic hardships and feed shortages have put many equines in dire straits. They are innocent.
There are many rescue groups who do excellent jobs of saving horses from inhumane situations. Most of them operate on shoe-string budgets and depend on donations to fund their efforts. If you know of horses that are starving, get in touch with someone who can help. If you can donate, please do.
If you are a horse owner, GELD your colts BEFORE they can reproduce! Keep your mares in secure fences, and do not even consider breeding them unless you have a ready market for the foal, or are willing to commit to a lifetime of care.
DOG TRAINING TIPS & FUN
Teaching your dog to sit is more important than you may think! For one thing, a dog that’s sitting cannot get into mischief! Can’t chase the mailman and sit at the same time.
Also, having your dog sit nicely for you before feeding her or giving treats and affection establishes you as your dog’s leader. Your role as leader is vital for a healthy dog/owner relationship.
An easy way to teach a dog to sit is to hold a piece of her favorite treat between your fingers. Get your dog’s attention by calling her name. When she focuses on the treat, hold it a few inches over the top of her head, and move it slowly toward her rear end. Almost always, a dog will fall into a sitting position as she looks up at the treat passing overhead. As soon as she sits, give her the treat and praise her with “GOOD SIT!”. She’ll learn the word as you pair the command with her behavior, and give her the treat.
Need some ways to exercise your dog indoors? Here are some fun games that will focus that energy: Hide the Treat: Put your dog in a sit/stay and let him watch. Place 3-4 tubs upside down, and put a treat or toy under one of them. Then say “Where’s the treat?” and encourage him to smell the buckets. When he signals that he’s found the treat, uncover it so he can claim his reward. When this gets too easy, try moving the buckets around or pretending to put treats under multiple buckets. High energy dog? Try throwing his favorite toy to the top of the stairs, and tell him to fetch. Call him back to you, and have him “drop it”. Repeat until tired! Got dog toys all over your house? Teach “Clean up” after playtime. Have your dog pick up a toy. Hold the toy box up to him and tell him to “drop it”. GOOD DOG!!! Repeat until he gets the idea, then put the toy box on the floor and guide him to it. Say “drop it”, and praise the behaviors you want.
WISDOM FOR DOG LOVERS
An anonymous but wise person wrote this, and it's worth sharing:
"It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are."
Remember- Never stop playing. Wag more, growl less. Be loyal and faithful. Be quick to forgive, and love unconditionally.
Sound like anyone you know? Save a life- adopt a pet.
MORE WISDOM FOR PET LOVERS...
Be brave, no matter your size. Take a nap. Hide your favorite snack.
Make your own fun. Have a mind of your own. Unleash your talents.
Learn new tricks, no matter what your age. Dig life. Make new friends.
Sniff out opportunities. Chase after your dreams. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Cat Wisdom: Don't do anything you don't want to do.
SLEEPING WITH YOUR PET
Lots of people enjoy sleeping with their pets, and it's a great way to enjoy their companionship (and warmth on a chilly night!). But, you will want to be sure that your pet does not have any skin issues or external parasites that could pass to you or your family.
Most common are fleas. Although they prefer a dog or cat, they may also bite humans and cause an itchy rash and discomfort. This will surely make you more sympathetic toward your pet, and hopefully motivate you to get her on a good flea control program, for both your sakes! As uncomfortable as it is to consider this, you also need to know that you can also get tapeworms, if a flea happens to wind up in your mouth and gets swallowed.
Sarcoptic mange mites cause extreme itchiness in both pets and humans. The condition in humans is called Scabies. Ringworm (a fungus) also can be spread from pets to humans with close contact.
Have your pet checked and treated by a vet so you can both sleep safe and sound.
GETTING A NEW PET?
Looking for a new puppy or kitten? Congratulations in advance!
The good thing about love is that it multiplies!
Ideally, go somewhere that you can see how the puppy or kitten was raised, and see both parents. Those will be your best indicators of how your pet will turn out. Look for a home or kennel that is CLEAN, and has provided lots of handling and socializing, especially with kids.
We are ALWAYS grateful to people who will make the effort to save a life by adopting from a shelter. Although you sacrifice knowing the background on the animal, you can usually get some information from shelter staff on the nature of the dog or cat. Look for one that is curious and happy. They usually make the best pets.
Buying from a pet store can be tempting, but you will be paying extra for their overhead, and won't have the benefit of knowing your pet's parents. As with shelters, dogs and cats who have mixed with a large number of others are at higher risk of exposure to viruses, fleas, and other contagions.
Whereever you get your new pet, be sure to take it to a vet right away. Problems caught early can usually be treated easily. If a problem is found that makes your acquisition a deal-breaker, the sooner you know, the better your chances of getting an exchange or refund.
Let an expert help with your selection and care. A good choice will add joy to your life! Several associations of cat experts have put together a list of adoption tips to help make your selection easier, and help you find a companion for many years to come. These recommendations can be adapted to apply to puppies as well.
*Consider more than one cat. Cats need exercise and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other. This is an especially good idea if you are away from home a lot. Bringing the newbies home at the same time also makes the getting-to-know-each-other process a little easier, since neither has the home turf advantage yet.
*Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours. Generally, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies tend to be more easygoing. Cats with narrow heads, lean bodies, and short hair tend to be more active. Adoption counselors can help you find a good match.
*Schedule a visit to the vets within the first few days of adoption. Take any health records that are available. Your vet will make sure there are no underlying illnesses or injuries. Together you can develop a plan to help your new pet live the happiest, healthiest, longest life possible.
*Cat-proof your home. A new cat will quickly teach you not to leave things lying out! Food left on the kitchen counter will teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, (especially electrical cords), and pick up random items like paper clips or sewing supplies. Kittens may find them especially tempting.
*When adopting a new cat to join your existing pets, discuss with the adoption facility or your vet how to make proper introductions. Everyone will be doing some adjusting to new sights, smells, and routines.
*Budget for both short-term and long-term costs. A cat adopted from a shelter may be a bargain, considering that many shelters provide spaying or neutering, initial vaccines, and microchipping. But, your cat will need routine checkups, immunizations, and parasite control for its lifetime. Be prepared for the routine expenses you will incur throughout the cat's life.
*Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Try to create a homelike enviornment for your new cat right away. You'll need a litter box, litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush, and nail clippers.
*Make sure everyone in the house is prepared for a new cat. Visiting the shelter should be a family affair. Everyone needs to be involved in the matching process.
Enjoy your new companion! The company, entertainment, and love they provide will make your efforts worthwhile.
OBESITY IN PETS COSTS MONEY!
Fat pets cost owners millions, according to the National Pet Obesity Awareness study. Their data shows that over half the dogs and cats (52 and 51% respectively) are overweight or obese (greater than 30% over normal body weight).
These pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney and heart disease. Each of these diseases is costly to diagnose and treat, and takes years off the lives of our pets. So, you're not really doing your begging pet any favors by giving in and over-feeding or over-treating them!
There are lots of strategies to keeping your pet at a healthy weight. But, no short cuts. The goal is to feed to meet his or her caloric needs. Any excess is converted to fat. Feed a good quality, high fiber/low fat diet, and encourage exercise at every opportunity. Walk your dog! Throw a Frisbee! Find toys your cat will chase, like peacock feathers or lazer lights.
If your pet begs, be strong!!! Put them in another room while you eat, or resolve to only give them lo cal treats. Ice chips are excellent for this purpose; zero calories. Frozen peas or baby carrots also can be fun for your pet without adding to a weight problem. They can only eat what we give them; it's all up to you.
LYME DISEASE AWARENESS
There were over 500 cases of Lyme disease reported in dogs in Georgia between 2001 and 2009. Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete bacteria with the scary name of Borrelia burgdorferi. It's transmitted by ticks, and can also affect humans, dogs, horses, and, rarely, other species as well.
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose since the majority of infected dogs don't show distinct symptoms. The characteristic "bullseye" lesion that occurs in people is not commonly seen in dogs. It may cause fever, lameness, and lethargy in the early stages, and then go on and cause kidney damage and failure as the germs cycle in the host's body.
There is a fairly simple bloodtest available for dogs. Antibiotics can control symptoms, but most dogs can never be 100% cleared of the infection. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that is protective if given in advance of exposure. Following routine guidelines for avoiding exposure to ticks (use repellents and topicals!) is always a smart thing to do. If you do find a tick on your pet, remove promptly and properly. Avoid contact with your own skin; grasp the tick close to the skin and remove intact. Ask your vet about this potentially dangerous disease.
WARM WEATHER/HEARTWORM REMINDER
As warmer weather approaches, it's a good time to be reminded about the threat of heartworms, and what you can do to keep your dog and cat safe from these potentially deadly parasites. What does warm weather have to do with it? Well, even though heartworms are a threat yearround, they are spread by mosquitoes. As the mosquito population booms, so does the danger of heartworms.
Good news: there are 3 ways you can keep your dog protected. Monthly heartworm tablets are an easy option if your pet is good about taking medications orally. Most are flavored to taste like treats, and that's enough encouragement for most dogs. If you don't want to deal with getting medication down your dog's throat, there are topicals that penetrate skin and are effective when applied monthly. Have trouble remembering to do ANYthing on schedule? You're in good company. Never fear. There is an injectable preventative called ProHeart 6 that protects dogs for 6 months at a time.
Cat's also need to be protected, and there are topicals and tablets for them as well. Get with your vet to see what will work best for you. Keep 'em safe and heartworm free!
PET TAX BILLS (March, 2011)
Pets and politics- what do they have to do with each other? Plenty. There are bills before the Georgia legislature right now (House Bills 385-388) that will tax medical services for your pets if they pass. No other professional services (human medical doctors, dentists, accountants, etc.) are being considered for taxation; only veterinary medical services. If passed, 7-8% sales tax will be added every time pet owners seek medical care.
The economy has been dismal for several years. Increasing the costs of visits to the vet when many people can barely afford present fees will mean that far too many pets will do without. Some will be neglected, some will be surrendered to shelters; some will be abandoned, placing further burdens on already-underfunded shelters.
We do not have the option of voting on this tax. Our legislators will be doing that for us. PLEASE contact your representatives and tell them to vote NO on House Bills 385-388, and find a more equitable way to meet Georgia's financial goals. Go to http://www.legis.ga.gov
to get contact information on your lawmakers. Ask your vet for more details on this proposed tax.
News: the Pet Tax was defeated! Hooray, and thanks to all who helped.
HOMEMADE LIVER TREAT RECIPE
Want to have some fun with your pet? How about making some healthy treats at home? Here's a recipe your pet might like:
Crispy Liver Morsels
1/2 cup cooked chicken livers
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cooked carrot, mashed
1 Tbsp soft margerine
Preheat oven to 325. Blend livers with water. Mix flour and margerine in a different bowl. Add the liver mix and carrots. Knead dough into a ball, roll out to 1/4" thick and cut into 1" sized pieces. Place on greased cookie sheet and back for 10 minutes.
RATTLESNAKES AND VACCINATION
Our recent Rattlesnake Roundup here has brought attention to these reptiles and what they can mean to your pet. If you have an outdoor pet that is bold, or curious, or just plain in the wrong place at the wrong time, it could be bitten. Snake bites are painful and swell quickly. The venom damages blood vessels (which causes the swelling). If major vessels rupture, the resulting shock & hemorrage can be fatal. Effects may show up days or even weeks after the initial bite, so it's VERY important that the dog be kept confined and quiet longterm.
Antivenin is available, and will help minimize the damage from the venom. But, it's very expensive and multiple doses may be needed. In addition to antivenin, antihistamines are very helpful in treating snakebites; pain medications are also indicated, as well as antibiotics, tetanus antitoxin, and diuretics to help reduce swelling. If the antivenin is not affordable, you should still get treatment. These additional medications can provide relief and supportive care. Do NOT cut into the bite wound! Do NOT place a tourniquet. DO proceed, as quickly as possible, to the nearest animal hospital!
Rattlesnake vaccine is available also and can be very beneficial if given before the bite occurs. This is a good time of year to have your dog immunized. Plan ahead; it may save a life.
INTERESTING CASE: Parasites in puppies & kittens
We are often asked to care for orphaned puppies and kittens, or help find homes for homeless pets. We can't take in all the strays, but we do the best we can for a special few!
Last week we were given a litter of 4 beautiful puppies (black and white bulldogs) that looked fat and healthy. We dewormed them, as we routinely do, and an ASTOUNDING number of worms were passed over the next 24 hours. It was truly hard to believe that a puppy that small could be carrying that volume of parasites inside and not show obvious problems on the outside. It was a powerful reminder that no matter how good your puppy or kitten looks, they still need treatment for parasites that can be lurking inside and draining your pet of nutrients. No doubt these puppies would have developed problems soon. Things can happen quickly with the little guys; they don't have much reserve. We were glad to be able to prevent issues like anemia, dehydration and emaciation before they happened.
We still have two happy, bouncy puppies that need Forever Homes! Call if you would like to see them. (229) 377-2060.
HOLIDAY WEIGHT PROBLEMS?
Ate too much over the holidays? Too much sitting and not enough exercise lately? If you're feeling a few extra pounds, your pet may be, also. So make the best resolution possible and get out and walk your dog! He will love the time with you, as well as all the interesting scents and sights.
If your cat is carrying too much poundage, you'll have to be a little more imaginative. Most cats simply won't walk on a leash. If you want to encourage your cat to move around more, try buying a laser light toy. Many cats are intriguied by the red dot, and will chase it joyfully. If your cat's not impressed with that, try putting the food bowl in different areas of the house on different days. Make her hunt for it a bit. If your plump kitty can jump even just a little, put her food bowl up some place where she'll have to work a bit to get to it.
Don't forget all the excellent high fiber/low fat diets and treats that are now available. They are an easy way to let your pet eat and feel full, while consuming fewer calories.
Obesity is just as bad for our pets as it is for us, so find a way to shed a few pounds that best suits the both of you. You'll feel much better!
HOW OLD IS MY PET IN "PEOPLE" YEARS?
We are often asked this question. A long-held formula for dogs & cats was 1 dog/cat year = 7 human years. This is pretty close, but since dogs and cats mature and can reproduce very quickly, their first year really counts for a lot more than 7 human years. Plus, with dogs, the smaller the breed (generally speaking), the longer the life expectancy. Which is really sad for giant breeds. Some don't survive it much beyond 7-8 years.
Here are some specific and accurate formulas for figuring your companion's age in "people years": (don't be afraid of the math!)
Dogs: Age of dog X [(0.024 X weight of dog) + 5.4]
Cats: (age of cat + 1) X 5
Horses: age of horse X 3.5
Care for your pet all the years that you share, and you will be amply rewarded.
Hurricane season is here, and it is important to be prepared for your pet's needs (as well as your own) ahead of time. Have a plan! And, a Plan B! And, Plan C! No two disasters are the same.
For your pet, be sure to have ample food for at LEAST 3 days; two weeks is even better. If your pet eats canned food, keep a manual can opener handy. Have at least 2 weeks of prescription medications if your pet is on any. For water, figure a person needs 2-3 gal/day; a dog- 1-3 gallons, and horses need 20-30 gallons per day.
Have copies of health records (in plastic sleeves) in case you have to board your pet someplace other than at your regular vet's office. Have photos of your pets as well, in case you get separated. Microchip your pet ahead of time!!! Be sure ID tags with your phone numbers are on collars, and collars are on the pets. You can have dog ID tags made and attached to horse halters as well. Have crates, leashes, and halters handy and ready to use. A first aid kit with bandage supplies is a very good idea.
Have several places in mind where you can keep your pets if you have to evacuate, including horses.
Be prepared! Stay safe.
Losing a beloved pet can be a very, very hard thing to do. But when a chronic illness causes bad days to outnumber good days, or when a severe injury or illness has no foreseeable good outcome, sometimes letting go is the kindest thing you can do for your pet.
The grief that can follow is very real, and may be more than you feel you can deal with on your own. If so, there are many resources that you can draw on for help. Your veterinarian is your first line for medical care and advice on what can be done to prolong your pet's comfortable time, and how to make the decision when that time is nearing its end. Likewise, there are trained Pet Loss counselors that your vet can refer you to if you need another shoulder. The Web has opened up tons of additional resources as well. WWW.veterinarywisdomforpetparents.com is one of many sites that can give you support when you most need it. WWW.griefhealing.com is another. Try to keep in mind that the grief of loss is the price we pay for loving our pets. Eventually, it will take perspective alongside the good times that you enjoyed during your pet's lifetime. Don't hesitate to ask for help with this process if you need it. There are lots of people who care.
Itchy dog? Itchy cat? Driving you nuts? Imagine how they feel!
There are lots of reasons why pets scratch. Fleas & allergies are at the top of the list, as well as dry skin and environmental irritants (like insulation, etc.). It can take some detective work to figure out why your furry friend is scratching. Fleas are easy to diagnose and treat. Allergies- not so easy. Pets can be allergic to nearly any foreign proteins, whether they be from dietary sources or the environment. Pets are often allergic to a multitude of things, even things (including foods) that they were not sensitive to when younger.
It's important to figure what is causing the problem. Your vet can often make a diagnosis from an exam- patterns of itchiness can indicate various types of allergies. Allergy testing is also available, and very valuable. If you can remove the things that trigger the allergies, you can provide huge relief. Food allergies respond well to special diets. There are other options for other types of allergies.. Ask your vet to help you and your pet; it's what we do!
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
The Number One New Year's Resolution is to lose weight- why not do it in a fun and energizing way by spending some time every day walking your dog? It has been shown that dog walkers tend to stay with a weight reduction program and lose weight more consistently than people who try dieting alone. Not only is it good for you, it's good for your dog, too. And, the benefits aren't limited to just the physical exercise. Keeping your dog active and stimulated will make him a happier pet, and even improve his behavior at home, not to mention the bonding you will both enjoy by spending time together.
Just as it does for you, regular exercise will impact your dog's health in many ways, benefitting his muscles, bones, digestion, heart and lungs, and general attitude. If you've both been couch potatoes, it's important to start slow and add more time and distance as you both become conditioned. Try changing your pace and direction occasionally to keep things interesting.
Be sure to keep your dog on a leash. If your dog doesn't walk on a leash yet, consider getting some training; it will pay off in many ways!
GRASS EATING IN PETS
Why do pets eat grass? An extensive survey was done to find the answer to this frequently asked question. Possible reasons that have been suggested are dietary deficiency, curiosity, illness, or to induce vomiting. This survey, which included vet students and over 3000 pet owners, showed that most dogs eat grass or other plants on a daily or weekly basis. Only a small percent of these dogs (8%) had any signs of illness beforehand, or vomited after eating the plants. The researchers concluded that grass eating is a common behavior in normal dogs unrelated to illness and that dogs do not regularly vomit afterward. Vomiting seems to be incidental to, rather than caused by, plant eating.
What about cats? Cats don't seem to eat plants or grass as often as dogs do. Typically, they are not ill beforehand, nor do they regularly vomit afterward. The conclusion regarding plant eating as a normal behavior seems to apply equally to cats.
Our pets eat formulated diets that should meet all their nutritional needs, but their ancestors ate a variety of foods in the wild. Likely, the behavior is a carry over from these ingrained behaviors.
So, don't worry if your pet grazes occasionally. Just be sure they do not consume plants that have been chemically treated, or are toxic.
COOL WEATHER AND DRY SKIN
Finally, cooler weather! Heaters are on, and the air is dryer. The lower humidity can bring out a problem with dry skin that may not be evident during warmer weather. Or, if skin is already dry, it gets worse this time of year.
Dry skin usually means itchy skin. If the itchiness is bad enough, your pet may even traumatize herself by scratching excessively. So if you notice flakes (like dandruff) or see your pet scratching (and you've eliminated the possibility of fleas), then there are some simple things you can do to help. Treat from the outside with moisturizing shampoos and sprays. (Most flea shampoos are heavy on detergent and can be drying, so be sure to get a shampoo formulated for dry skin).
Additionally, there are several vitamin/fatty acid supplements that will improve the health of your pet's skin from the inside out. Look for products that have omega fatty acids and zinc in particular. They come in both tablet and liquid forms and most dogs and cats like the flavors. There are also diets formulated for sensitive skin; most have extra fats and oils built into their recipe.
Smelly cat? Stinky dog? Your pet doesn't understand when we push them away because they smell bad! It important to find the source of any bad odors. Each potential source has it's own remedy. If you can't find the cause yourself, take your pet to your vet and ask for an exam.
Ear infections can be particularly smelly, and are painful, too. They definitely need appropriate medical treatment.
A mouth full of gum disease or decayed teeth can also create a terrible smell. Dental care will make a big difference; not just to help with odors, but for the health of your pet. Oral infections can spread internally and cause other, serious problems. There may be a foreign bodies stuck in your pet's mouth. Sticks can become wedged in the roof of the mouth and will create an AWFUL smell.
House soiling odors can be troublesome, too. Be sure to clean thoroughly, and use an enzymatic odor neutralizer for lasting effects.
Having pets does not mean having to give up fresh & clean! Ask for help if you need it.
What the heck are zoonotic diseases? It may be an odd name, but they are very important to know about. Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can affect both animals and humans. Of particular interest are parasites that can pass from our pets to us, but there are also many zoonotic bacterial and viral diseases as well.
Roundworms and hookworms are very common in our pets (especially puppies and kittens), and will cause sickness and possibly death if not treated. When a pet is infected, the worms pass eggs by the thousands in the pet's stool, which contaminate the environment. The larva from these eggs can migrate through the skin and the body, causing blindness, cysts in various organs, or skin lesions. Children are especially prone to exposure, since they often play in areas where pets may have eliminated, and children do not always wash their hands well!
To minimize your family's risk of disease from zoonotic parasites, be sure to have your pets tested and treated appropriately and often. Keep your yard clean, and always wash hands before putting anything in your mouth.
Giardia is another zoonotic disease. This organism likes to live in standing water, such as puddles that accumulate around drains. Humans and animals can be infected when they drink contaminated water, or when they put something in the mouth that has come in contact with stool containing Giardia. Diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea can result. Not fun.
If your pet develops these symptoms, your veterinarian will need to run tests to determine the cause, since a multitude of things can cause upset stomachs. If Giardia is the culprit, it is fairly easy to treat, with the right medication.
As always, prevention is far better than enduring illness and making a trip to the vets! (or to your doctor if you think you may be affected). Be careful what goes in the mouth; don't let pets drink from stagnant water, and wash your hands!
Toxoplasmosis is another parasite that can affect both humans and animals. Cats are the main host, and may have a variety of symptoms, depending on which organs are affected, or they may show no symptoms at all. Cats become infected by eating raw or undercooked meat. Hunters are especially at risk.
An infected cat can shed eggs from the Toxoplasmosis parasite in its stool. These eggs are infectious to humans as well as other animals. If a pregnant woman is exposed, this parasite can cause brain damage, blindness, or death in the unborn child. Healthy adults who become exposed may have flu-like sypmtoms that pass with time, but if the person is immune suppressed (such as an AIDS patient) they can become very ill.
Prevention: don't eat or let you cat eat raw meat in the first place. Use good hygience by washing hands and food before eating. Cover children's sand boxes so cats cannot use them to eliminate. Clean litter boxes daily (eggs require at least 24 hours before they become infectious), use gloves, and don't let pregnant women clean litterboxes at all.
Summer's a great time to travel and get outdoors with your pet. A few things to be vigilant of, as the weather gets hotter, are sun exposure and the possibility of overheating.
You may not think about it, but many pets are prone to sunburn and the risk of skin cancer just like people. Particularly, pets with white or pink skin in areas that do not have a lot of hair. For example, the ears on white cats, pink noses on dogs, and even horses who have white faces (especially around the eyes). It's hard to be consistent with applying sunscreen, but a good idea to try, at least on days when you expect to have your pet in bright sun for prolonged periods. There are trendy goggles and visors made for pets that are both cute and helpful with preventing sun exposure to sensitive areas. Fly masks are made for horses and they also screen out bright sunshine at the same time. Keeping your pet in the shade during the middle of the day is best.
It's been said many times, but worth saying again- do NOT leave your pet enclosed in your car in hot (or even warm) weather!!! Even if you will "only be gone a minute"! A car's interior heats quickly, and your pet cannot let itself out, or turn on the A/C! Leave your pet at home when running errands.
Costs of everything, including maintaining a horse, seem to keep going up, yet many people's economic situation is declining. The result is that there are more and more horses being sadly neglected, and even starving. So what happens to these horses? That's a good question with no good answer.
NOBODY wants to think about horses being slaughtered! Americans consider horses beautiful animals, our companions, and part of our heritage! But reality can be hard and difficult to deal with. Most unwanted horses go to sales. In the past, many eventually wound up at meat processing plants, which were under the watchful eye of the USDA. But two years ago, laws were passed that closed all the processing plants in the US. Now, horses are being shipped by the thousands to Mexico and Canada, where we have no control.
So what can we do? As always, preventing a problem is far better than trying to clean up a problem, especially one like this. Breeding horses should be limited to only breeding the best to the best, which will produce foals with a ready market. Everyone with a backyard mare and a stud horse down the road should NOT breed!!! Geld those colts and keep fences secure so that breeding accidents won't happen. Don't acquire more horses than you can care for, longterm. If you do have extra room and resources, make it known to people who do rescue work; they can always use help, and there are many, many horses in need of caring homes.
FEEDING BONES TO YOUR PET
Many people want to feed bones to their pets. It would seem to make sense that if their ancestors hunted and ate their prey (bones and all), feeding bones to pets shouldn't be a problem. But, in fact, it can be a big problem. The bones most people feed their pets are leftovers, and have been cooked. Cooking makes bones more brittle, and some are very prone to break into sharp pieces when chewed. Anything like this that your pet ingests can puncture the tissue of their digestive tract and cause peritonitis, which is almost always fatal. Like any foreign body, bones can also get stuck and cause obstructions, which can also be life-threatening.
If you find that your dog or cat has eaten a bone or anything sharp before you could intervene, there are a few things you can do to help prevent an emergency. Feeding something that can coat the bone and help it pass through the GI tract smoothly will help. The best trick is to soak cotton balls in flavorful juice or canned food- when the dog swallows the cotton/food mix, the fibers will (hopefully) wrap around the bone and cushion its passage. Feeding raw biscuit dough can help in the same way. If you have ANY doubt about your pet's safety, see your vet right away.
SMOKING AND YOUR PET
OK; no lectures about the harm you are doing to yourself if you smoke. But you need to know what it can also be doing to your pets. A study at Colorado State University showed that second hand smoke can cause cancer in your pet's respiratory tract. Interestingly, dogs with long noses were twice as likely to develop cancer in their sinuses, and dogs with medium or shorter noses were more likely to get cancer in their lungs. Both forms are BAD.
A necropsy done here, on a magnificent dog who seemed healthy but died suddenly, revealed heavy carbon buildup in his lungs. He belonged to a man who smoked, and often took the dog with him in his car. The repeated exposure to smoke caused serious disease in this wonderful dog and caused his demise.
A University of Minnesota study showed that cats who live with smokers have nicotine and other toxins in their urine. Another vet school study showed a connection between secondhand smoke and a form of invasive mouth cancer in cats, called squamous cell carcinoma. Likewise, cats who are exposed to smoke are twice as likely to develop lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes.
You choose whether or not to smoke, but your pet cannot choose whether or not he or she has to breathe your smoky air. We owe it to our pets to care for them, and above all, do no harm.
PET BEHAVIOR MYTHS
Behavior problems continue to be the number one reason people give up pets. Most of the pets surrendered to shelters are later euthanized. We love pets, and we want you to enjoy a long and happy lifetime with yours! So, I can't overstate the need to understand pet behavior and how to prevent and correct problems. This can literally be a life-or-death issue.
There are many MYTHS about animal behaviors and training. Here are 10 of the most common:
1. "Puppies shouldn't go to puppy classes until they have had all their vaccinations or they will get sick". Puppy vaccinations are critical to protecting your puppy from harmful diseases, but don't miss out on an opportunity to begin training and socializing your puppy while getting the immunization series. This is a critical, formative age, both health- and behaviorwise. Stay on schedule with shots, and go to a reputable place for class, where all participants have to be up-to-date.
2. "Crazy owners have crazy pets". It's true that an owner's personality will influence a pet's behavior, but it is seldom the sole cause of a behavior problem. Almost any caring owner, no matter how "eccentric", can learn to care for a pet well. In fact, many people with personality challenges can benefit hugely from the calming influence of the right pet.
3. "My dog is fearful/aggressive/shy because she was abused as a puppy". Surely, if a dog has an unknown history, abuse is a possibility. However, this is a personality type that is highly heritable and more likely genetically based. Blaming the behaviors on a possible incident that may or may not have happened may excuse the behaviors rather than help correct them. There are many ways to assist this type of dog in becoming more confident and social. Consult an expert and follow the recommendations.
4. "There is a medication that will treat your pet's behavioral problem". There are lots of new drugs that really can help treat certain problem behaviors, in both dogs and cats, but they are only tools and never meant to be used as the sole treatment. They must be paired with various behavior modification protocols (such as desensitization and counterconditioning) to get the best, lasting results.
5. "Dogs that are aggressive are acting dominant". "Dominant aggressive" is probably the most over-used, mis-used term in the dog world these days. The majority of dogs who act aggressive are more often acting this way due to fear or anxiety than dominance, and these situations require different management techniques than true dominance. By establishing yourself as a calm, consisitent leader early in your relationship, most of these behaviors can be avoided entirely. Talk with an expert or take an Obedience class with your dog to learn how.
6. "See how guilty he looks? He knows what he did was wrong". You come home. The dog has gotten into the trash and made a mess. You get angry. Your dog reads your body language, and responds with lowered head, tucked ears and tail, and avoidance behaviors. What looks like "guilt" to a human is actually appeasement posture in a dog. By looking submissive, your dog is trying to turn off the anger he sees. Your dog cannot reason and link your anger to something he did more than a few seconds earlier. To be effective, corrections must be immediate, consistent, and appropriate (not abusive). Clean up the mess quietly and figure out how to prevent a repeat.
7. "If you use treats to train a dog, they'll always be needed to get your dog to obey a command". Actually, by linking a treat to a behavior early in the training process, your dog can learn a new command. However, once the behavior is established, it is more effective to give the reward intermittently. Just like people who keep putting quarters in slot machines, your pet will keep doing what you ask in hopes that this time, he'll get that treat! It works.
8. "Dogs chase their tails because they are bored". Repetitive behaviors such as tail chasing, or compulsive grooming or licking may be due to a complicated mix of medical, environmental, or learned factors. Have your pet examined to rule out (or treat) any medical condition that may be causing an odd behavior. Ask yourself if you are rewarding the pet with any form of attention when he exhibits the behavior. If "no" to both, then a behaviorist can be called in to help with other issues.
9. "Any trainer can handle all behavior problems". Anyone can call themselves a trainer, but not everyone is qualified. Each will have different levels of education and experience, and different attitudes about training. It's wise to check references and watch how a trainer handles other dogs. Do they use reward-based methods, and calm leadership skills (good!) or harsh punishment (bad!)? Sending your pet to the wrong trainer can do more harm than good. Find a good one who will work with YOU.
10. "I don't have time to work with my pet". Training your pet does not have to be arduous or time consuming, but it does certainly require some dedication and time. Anything worth doing does!!! Most techniques are simple, quick, and effective when used consistently and appropriately. Most problem behaviors can be avoided entirely by starting your pet off well when it's young. Resources for help are endless and include your veterinarian, and websites such as www.animalbehavior.org.
URINE MARKING IN CATS
Urine marking in cats may not sound interesting, but if it's your cat and your carpet, it can become very important!
Urine "marking" is different than medical issues such as urinary tract infections or age-related incontinence, so you will need to have your pet checked to sort these out. When medical problems are ruled out, turn your attention to environmental reasons for the problem.
Any cat can begin urine marking, but it's most common in males in multi-cat households. If they feel compelled to mark their territory (like kids spray painting their names on walls!) that's how cats do it. In other cases, an individual cat just may not want to use a messy litterbox or one that has been used by other cats.
Treatment options include adding more litterboxes (one more than the number of cats present), cleaning them OFTEN, and making sure they are in a quiet area of the house. If cats feel overcrowded, be sure there are plenty of food and water bowls also, as well as perches and hiding areas. Using pheromones for 4 weeks can also diminish urine marking. If anxiety is playing a role, there are several medications that your vet can prescribe that can be of benefit as well.
THANKSGIVING AND YOUR PET
As Americans, we have much to be thankful for. And, this season is a good time to remember our blessings. Among the most important are friends and family, which can certainly include your four-legged friends as well.
As you gather to celebrate, be sure to protect your pet from overeating! As far as your family goes, they're probably on their own in that regard! But our pets depend on us for their welfare, which includes making sure they don't eat anything harmful, or even too much of a good thing.
Most store-bought turkeys are treated with tenderizers that don't cause a problem for people but can really upset a pet's digestive system. So it's best to avoid feeding turkey. Likewise, any desserts or snacks with chocolate can cause problems, from mild to severe. Onions, grapes and raisins as well can cause problems in dogs and cats. So, find different, safe treats for your buddies.
Please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and don't forget to count your blessings.
FLEAS & COOLER WEATHER
Finally, some cooler weather! But if you think that you can slack off on your pet's flea protection, better think again.
Although freezing weather may kill flea eggs, it will not affect the fleas that are on your pet and all warm and cozy! Viable eggs hatch into larva, and larva morph into pupa. The pupa have a protective shell, so they easily survive even cold or dry weather. The pupa hatch into adults when the weather warms up, and the life cycle begins again. Besides, most pets spend time indoors or in protected areas that are as comfortable for the fleas as they are for your pet.
If you're a hunter, and you don't want flea topicals to affect the scent of your dog, you may want to try the new monthly flea tablets. Since they are taken internally, they won't leave a telltale odor on your dog.
The newest generation of flea control products actually target the chemicals that are in the flea's nervous system, which are different than those in mammals. These products are much safer than the older organophosphates. The technology that developed these products was quite sophisticated, so they cost more than the old stuff. The increased safety margin is a valuable tradeoff. Ask your pet care professional for guidance.
HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS
Halloween can be a dangerous holiday for pets, so please follow these simple tips.
1. Bring your pets indoors, particularly black cats who may be targeted by crazies with malicious ideas. Even if your pets are normally friendly, they may be afraid of the little ghouls and goblins that will be running around and could react defensively. Face masks are especially scary for pets. It's best, too, to keep your pets in a separate room, away from the front door.
2. Be a calm leader for you dog. Overdoing any reassurance or attention may communicate to your dog that there is something to worry about.
3. Let your dog see and sniff your costumes and get used to them on their own, a few days ahead of time.
4. Be sure your pet's collar and ID tag are on, just in case.
5. Keep candy out of reach. Chocolate, or too much of anything different, can cause problems.
6. Some dogs tolerate being dressed up; some even seem to like it! But if your pet resists being in a costume, don't do it.
Have a safe and fun Halloween!
Hopefully the storm season is over for this year! But it never hurts to remind you of some tips for managing your pets when there is bad weather on its way. We do have a lot of power outages, and for some homes, this means you have no water, either. Be sure to have enough bottled water on hand for you and your pets. Big dogs can drink a lot! Ditto on the pet food (and a manual can opener if you feed canned food). Also, be sure you have enough prescription medications for at least a week.
Be sure your pet has an ID tag on its collar, and that the collar is ON. Better still, plan ahead and have your pet microchipped beforehand. With proper ID, your pet is much more likely to get back to you if you become separated. For horses, you can have dog ID tags made and put them on their halters. Although it's not normally a good to leave halters on horses, if there is liklihood of a tree downing a fence line and horses getting out, this is a good time to do so. Have lead ropes, leashes, or pet taxis handy in case you need to leave home with your pets. Your pet will probably be anxious in a new environment, especially when everyone is stressed!
If your freezer or refrigerator goes out and food becomes spoiled, don't be tempted to feed it to your pets. They can get upset stomachs, too, and it's not worth adding another problem to your day!
A well-behaved dog is a pleasure to have as a companion. So how does your dog stack up? Here are 8 out of 15 characteristics that the American Veterinary Medical Assocaition considers important in Behaviorally Healthy dogs.
1. Friendly toward people, including well-behaved children.
2. Friendly toward other friendly dogs.
3. Does not become anxious if left alone for a reasonable period.
4. Eliminates appropriately.
5. Readily gives up control of food, toys, and other objects to owner
6. Relaxed during normal handling and touching
7. Calms down quickly after being startled or excited
8. Not overly fearful of normal events
9. Barks when appropriate, but not excessively
10. Plays well with people without becoming too rough
11. Plays well with other dogs
12. Plays with his own toys and doesn't damage owner's possessions often
13. Affectionate without being needy
14. Adapts to change with minimal problems
15. Usually responds to owner's requests or commands, such as sit, stay, or come.
If your dog is lacking in any of these skills, especially if his behaviors are ever dangerous to people or other dogs, seek the help of animal behavior experts. There are lots of them around, and they are happy to help.
Is it driving you crazy to see your pet itching and scratching from fleas? Imagine how they feel having bugs crawling about, biting them and feeding on their blood.
I've often thought we would do a much better job of controlling fleas on our pets if they also affected us! Fortunately for humans, fleas prefer dogs and cats. In fact, you may not even know that you have a flea problem on your pet unless you look closely at his coat and skin. If fleas get desperate enough, they will hop onto people, but they won't normally do so as long as there is a dog or cat around.
The only good thing about fleas is that they are easily controlled. A host of new products are available that either kill or sterilize fleas. There are topicals that are applied monthly, and now a once-a-month flea pill as well. Some are formulated with additional products that also protect your pet from other parasites such as heartworms, hookworms, ear mites, and more. Ask your vet for advice on which product best fits your pet's needs. And, enjoy a flea-free life!
You've probably heard the yowling of cats fighting, usually at night. Sounds terrible! And it is! Four paws with claws can send a lot of fur flying!
We see LOTS of cats that have been in fights and get abscesses. The small puncture wounds close quickly, trapping bacteria under the skin. These bacteria multiply and cause the cat to run a fever, feel bad, and develop a swollen area where the infection is pocketed. This abscess needs to be opened up to drain (best done under anesthesia so the kitty feels no discomfort). Flushing the wounds and antibiotics afterwards will aid healing.
In addition to the obvious wounds, cat fights can result in the spread of very dangerous viruses from one cat to another. Feline Leukemia and FIV viruses are much like the AIDS virus in humans. There is no cure once these viruses take hold. They are preventable if you vaccinate ahead of time, so please do!
How to prevent fights: Spay and neuter your cats! Hormones are the number one cause of fighting. If at all possible, keep your cats indoors. Preventing a fight is much healthier than treating injuries and battling infections.
MEDICATING YOUR PET
Veterinary medical care gets better & better all the time. But, appropriate medication won't do your pet any good if it doesn't go down and stay down!
Most pets don't like to have pills pushed down their throat, so try to find something to hide the tablet in and make it a treat. We have the best success using cheese (especially the canned cheese); most dogs and cats love it. But, some are too smart for their own good and eat the cheese and leave the pill! You can also try hiding pills in flavored Pill Pockets, bread, peanut butter, marshmallows, or hot dogs. There are certain pharmacies that can custom compound many medications into liquids or topical creams.
Cats can be especially fussy about taking pills, and are notorious for spitting a pill up, even if it looks like they swallowed it. Have a syringe with a spoonful or so of water handy, and give that immediately after the pill to be sure it goes all the way down. Pet pillers are rubber tipped devices that can help you get the pill past teeth, and to the back of the mouth. Ask your vet for help if you need it. We want treatments to be successful!
WEANING PUPPIES & KITTENS
Puppies and kittens are best left with their mothers for at least 6-7 weeks; 8 is even better. There are certain developmental changes that happen early in life, and if the little guys are separated too soon, it can have lasting effects.
Nutritionally, mother's milk is best. Around 4 weeks or so, start offering soft foods to puppies or kittens. This will help take some burden off mother. To start, add milk to either canned or dry puppy or kitten food, so the flavor is familiar. Put it in a shallow pan, and expect a messy crew as they figure things out! Over a few weeks time, use less milk (water instead). By the time they are ready to leave home, they should be well adjusted to their new diets and it will lessen the stress of leaving home.
Equally important are the social skills that puppies and kittens learn during this critical time. They are learning how to be dogs and cats! How to play appropriately, and read each other's body language. Little ones that are weaned too soon often have problems relating to others of their own kind, such as aggression or timidness. Also, the very young may not be strong enough to handle the stress of separation and a new environment.
Don't be in a hurry to remove puppies and kittens too soon. Time spent with Mama and littermates is time well spent.
WHY DOES MY PET NEED SO MANY SHOTS?
Good question! Puppies and kittens need a series of vaccinations, beginning around 6 weeks of age. For puppies, the most important are parvo and distemper immunizations, which come in combination with other less common but equally important components. For kittens, we vaccinate for upper respiratory viruses, distemper, Feline Leukemia and FIV viruses (which are in the same family as the human AIDS virus). Rabies vaccinations are required by law for all cats & dogs. The range of symptoms for these diseases is anywhere from discomfort, to sickness, to death.
Just like infants and toddlers, puppies' and kittens' immune systems develop over time. Boosters are given every 2-3 weeks to ensure that they are covered during this fragile period. As adults, boosters are given once yearly. Why as often as that? Because our pets age much more quickly than we do, including their immune systems. Antibody levels drop over time, and a pet can be left vulnerable if boosters are not provided.
We're really quite fortunate that research has provided us with vaccinations that are safe, effective, and readily available. The effort and investment you make to protect your pet from preventable diseases is one of the best things you can do for your friend.
FLEAS, MOSQUITOES & TICKS, OH MY!
Here in the South, we never really get a break from parasites, like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. They can go from bad to worse as the weather warms up. So, brace yourself! And, prepare.
Each pest can carry important diseases in addition to causing discomfort and blood loss from the bite itself. Mosquitoes carry heartworms to dogs & cats, and several very dangerous viruses to horses (West Nile and Encephalomyelitis, or "sleeping sickness"). Georgia is having an outbreak of West Nile presently.
We can stay indoors, wear protective clothing, etc., but our livestock cannot and so are continually exposed. Sprays can help repel mosquitoes; keeping your environment as mosquito-unfriendly as possible will also help. Minimize standing water by eliminating any containers that can hold rain water and provide breeding areas for the pests. Try to create good drainage for puddle-prone areas. As for fleas & ticks, there are a multitude of products that will help keep your pet parasite-free. Topicals and tablets for daily or monthly use will have your pet singing "There aint no bugs on me!"
Who hasn't known that awful feeling, when your pet leaves home and does not return? Knowing your pet may be injured (being hit by a car is the most frequent injury we treat), in a fight with another animal, or fall victim to any number of other hazards can be scary.
Dogs roam because of hormones (if not neutered), curiosity (what's around the corner? what's that interesting smell?), hunting instincts, hunger, or just boredom. For whatever the reason, they are in danger when running loose. So what can you do? Leashes work great, but you have to use them EVERY time your pet goes out of the house. There are all kinds of fences available that make safe and secure enclosures, and they will also keep other dogs out of your yard. If you have a large area, or don't want to invest in regular fencing, an underground fence system will be more economical, and is an effective way to keep your pet at home.
If the worst happens, and your dog is gone for a day or more, give your nearby veterinary hospitals and animal shelter a description and photo of your dog, along with your phone number. Microchipping your pet ahead of time will also help get him back home to you if lost. Keep an ID tag on his or her collar all the time, too. If only your furry friend knew "there's no place like home".
HEARTWORMS IN CATS
Most people know about heartworms in dogs, but did you know that cats are also affected by these life-threatening parasites? It's true. A mosquito carries heartworm larvae from one animal to another as it feeds. Outdoor cats are at greater risk, but indoor cats can be infected, also. It only takes one mosquito, and who hasn't been bothered by a mosquito in their house?
As the larva migrate and mature in the cat, they cause a great deal of inflamation, especially in the lungs. "HARD", or Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease is the result, and is no fun for the kitty. Coughing and asthma-like symptoms are often the result, and some cats will die from the disease. Diagnostic testing is different than in the dog, and so is treatment. But, as with dogs, giving a monthly preventative is a safe and effective way to protect your pet from these nasty worms. See your vet for more information and help. Keep your kitty heartworm free!
FEEDING YOUR PET
Pet foods. There are a million choices. Canned or dry? Brand name or economy? Vegetarian or meat-based? Don't get overwhelmed; just keep a few simple points in mind and you'll be able to make good choices for your pet.
Canned vs. dry. Each has advantages & disadvantages. And, each pet may have its own preferences. In general, dry foods are more convenient since they do not spoil as quickly when left out. Also, they give your pet an opportunity to crunch on something, and that's good for healthy teeth & gums. But, canned or moist foods tend to be more enticing, so if your pet is finicky, you may need to buy these. There's nothing wrong with that, but your pet will need its teeth cleaned more often.
Keep in mind that dogs and cats are carnivores by nature. Their systems are geared to digest primarily meat diets. A vegetarian diet might be healthy for other animals, but not dogs & cats. Some vegetables can be good; they just shouldn't make up the majority of the diet. By the same account, many foods we can eat can be dangerous for pets. Don't feed chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, or foods high in fats (french fries, chicken skins...) to pets.
Feeding raw meats likewise is not a good idea. Bacteria multiply quickly in raw meat, and parasites may also be present and infect your pet. Cooking the food kills the germs and worms and makes for a healthier diet.
Cheaper pet foods are cheaper for a reason. Generally, these manufacturers use more vegetable sources and bulky fillers as ingredients, or lower quality ingredients. You get what you pay for. If you want to promote your pet's health, it's very worthwhile to pay a little more for quality food. Often, higher priced foods are actually a better value since they use less filler, therefore, you don't have to feed as much yet your pet still gets what he needs. Eating less means pooping less, too, so that makes clean-up duties easier.
So, now that you know what to feed your pet, how much should you feed? Most bags of food have a weight chart that will give you guidelines on how much to feed, according to the size of your dog or cat. This is a starting point. Since each individual has different needs and metabolic rates, you'll need to adjust this amount of food up or down, according to your pet's weight. You should be able to feel your pets' ribs, but not see them.
We all know the dangers of obesity in humans; it's the same for pets. Have a designated measuring cup and make sure everyone in the family who feeds the pets is consistent with how much they give. Limit treats and snacks; don't even start feeding from the table.
Puppies need to be fed several times a day; all he or she will clean up in 10 minutes is a good place to start. By the time he's an adult, once daily is just right for dogs. Cats, on the other hand, are nibblers and eat small amounts often. Free choice works well as long as they don't have a weight problem.
Feeding the right food, in the proper amount, will go a long way toward keeping your pet happy & healthy!
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
How 'bout those New Year resolutions? If your pet could talk, what do you think he would ask you to change? He would probably ask for more time with you, most likely. Dogs are social creatures by nature, and crave the company of other dogs and/or people. Vigorous walking is a great way to keep the bond with your dog strong, and you'll both get all the benefits of exercising. Weight loss, better all around health, fresh air (they LOVE all those interesting smells!), and opportunities to socialize with others are just some of the payoffs. And, who didn't eat too much this holiday season?
How about Obedience Class? Here's another good way to spend quality time with your pet. An hour's worth of instruction and meeting with a group, and a little time each day to practice new skills during the week, and before you know it, you have a Champion! Or at least an even better good buddy. A new class is getting together starting Saturday, January 5th, at Animal Medical Center. Call if you'd like more information. In the meantime, spend a few more minutes a day with someone who will love you for it!
Ringworm may not be at the top of your list of Interesting Topics, but if you or your pet get a case of it, you'll appreciate knowing what's going on.
Despite the name, ringworm is not actually a worm. It is a fungus, like athlete's foot, that grows on the surface of the skin. As the fungus spreads out from its starting point, the active edge becomes inflamed, and looks like a ring. It may or may not be itchy. Scratching or even just contact may spread the germs to other areas, or other people or pets. If anyone in the household develops ringworm, it's wise to check everyone, and treat as needed.
There are several treatment options. Often topical salves are adequate. However, since pets often lick their coats, salves don't always do the job. Several medicated whole-body dips may work better. If, despite this, the ringworm does not disappear, or spreads, there are oral medications that are quite effective. However, they require at least 30-60 days to work, and do have some risk of liver toxicity.
Check your pets often; treat quickly, and you shouldn't have to worry much about this nuisance.
But, please remember- puppies and kittens are not stocking stuffers! Adding a pet to your family requires much forethought. There is a lot of responsibility tied to this addition, and when the "new" wears off, there will still be clean up duties, food & supplies to buy, medical care to provide, etc.
If you're considering giving a pet for Christmas, please sacrifice the fun of surprising the recipient and ask first! If the person is not ready for a lifetime of commitment, consider a different gift. If all systems are go, try to choose a pet appropriate for the home & family. Consider size, temperament, time available for the pet, and level of care required. For someone who's away a lot, a cat may be a better choice than a dog, as they are more independent.
Remember too that Christmas decorating and celebrating may bring some things into your home that could cause your pet some danger given the right (or wrong...) circumstances.
A beautiful tree decorated with lights and sparkly, dangly things may be very attractive to curious, playful cats and puppes, especially. They may chew on wires and get shocked, or play with and ingest ornaments. Tinsel is especially hazardous because once they get it in their mouth they may swallow, and once it starts down, the whole piece follows. It can cause serious GI problems. Don't leave pets unsupervised when these hazards are present.
Chocolate is an ESSENTIAL for us (in my opinion), but toxic to pets. Keep out of their reach! (Which means more for us). Poinsettias are beautiful, but also toxic. Mistletoe likewise can make an animal very sick if ingested. You know what they say about cats and curiosity.
So, remember the reason we celebrate this special season, keep your pets safe, and enjoy!
SELECTING A PUPPY
Adding a puppy to your family can be a fun experience. To help your new addition fit into your home, it's worthwhile to put some forethought into the process.
Do you have room for a big dog? Labs are almost always good family dogs, with lots of play drive and desire to please. But, they do tend to be destructive indoors, so crate training and a fenced yard are musts. Do you like high energy? Terrier breeds like Jack Russells can be lots of fun as long as you provide a good outlet for all that energy! Want something that makes you look good? The long-haired breeds can be quite elegant, if you keep them groomed nicely. Ask an expert what breed they think would best fit your lifestyle.
Don't want to go through house training & teething? Maybe an adult dog would suit you better. Many animal shelters have dogs in foster homes, and their foster families can tell you a lot about the dogs in their care.
Have a favorite breed? There are countless breed rescue groups on-line. It's not hard to find lots of dogs that are in need of new homes.
If you don't have to have a purebred, visit your local animal shelter and save a life. There are lots of puppies and adult dogs in need of homes. How do you choose the right one? It can be so hard, with all those sad eyes looking at you! But, a good choice made now will pay off with many years of companionship and love.
Ask the people at the shelter about individuals you're interested in. They have worked with many animals, and can usually tell you something about the temperament of ones they have. Maybe you can even learn something about how and why the animal landed there. Often times adult dogs wind up at shelters due to behavioral problems. Some problems you may be able to work with, some may be more than you can handle. The more you know, the better.
Try to choose a healthy puppy. One that comes forward to greet you, eagerly, with tail wagging and happy, clear eyes. Fearful puppies may tug at your heart, but often need special care and training to help overcome socialization issues. Ask to take the one you like best aside. See if it follows you readily, and how it responds to being handled and restrained. A dog that makes good eye contact, and seems eager to have your attention will usually be easier to train and adjust to your family. When you make your choice, welcome your new pet into your home and your life! You've just become much richer.
INTRODUCING A NEW PET
So you've found a new pet, and will be taking it home for the first time. To make the transition as easy as possible, remember that your new dog or cat is going through a lot of stress and changes and will need some TLC and time to adjust. Introduce it to it's food and water bowl area, sleeping crate, and exit door right away.
If you have other pets at home already, have someone else leash them, or put them in a place where they can see and meet the newbie without risk of someone getting injured if a rumble erupts. There can be some issues of territoriality when a new pet, especially a cat, enters and established social structure. Time and controlled introductions usually will overcome any of this, so don't rush things. With cats, it's good to keep a closed door between them. The gap underneath is enough room so that they can peek at and smell each other, and get used to each other bit by bit.
Try not to overdo with too many new things right away. A quiet day or two is a good thing, so wait before bringing friends and family all around to meet the newcomer, especially if he or she is a little anxious. Supervise small children, especially, when introducing new animals. Some pets may not be used to the differences in the ways little kids move (quickly!) or sound. Almost always, with patience and care, a new pet will fit right in in no time!
HOW "OLD" IS MY PET?
Pets are living longer these days, with better health care and excellent nutrition available to all. Cats especially have shown an increase in their life expectancy. Since 1930, the average life span has risen from eight to 16 years. The oldest cat on record, at least in modern days, died in 1939 at age 36! The oldest cat we have seen at my office passed away peacefully at the age of 25.
Everyone asks how old their pets are in "dog years" or "cat years". Since both dogs & cats can reproduce before they are a year old, their first year of life is equal to about 15 human years. Each year thereafter is about 5 years for cats. For dogs, however, the "years" depend a lot on the breed of dog. Larger breeds tend to have shorter life spans. No one is sure just why. So, the range is more or less 4-8 "human years" for each "dog year". There are charts that factor in your dog's size and real age, and give you an idea of how old they are compared to us.
Taking good care of your pets can add many years to their lives. Vets and other pet care experts are happy to partner with you to help find ways to keep your furry friend healthy and happy.
PET LOSS & GRIEVING
The loss of a pet can be just like losing a family member. The grief that follows can be very real and quite painful. Support from friends and family can help a grieving person through the difficult days. Time will eventually heal the wound of loss, but nothing can make time pass more quickly. When all the normal stages of grief (sometimes including anger, denial, placing blame) have been worked through in a healthy way, acceptance will follow. Fond memories of when the beloved was alive and well can help put the sorrow in perspective. Saving a lock of hair, or planting a tree in memorium can help.
If someone is having a very difficult time grieving the loss of a pet, there are specially trained grief counselors who can help. Many are veterinary students and their mentors, who have a special heart for caring. Ask your vet if you need help during the difficult times. And, try to remember the good. No matter how long your pet was part of your life, it gave the unique gift of its loyalty and love, and that's priceless.
HOT WEATHER TIPS
Hot, dry weather can really take a toll on outdoor animals. Livestock needs a consistent supply of fresh water. Relying on ponds can become a problem when ponds dry up or become stagnant. Excessive dust can create respiratory problems. Sprinkling heavy traffic areas will help. Horse hooves can become brittle & crack easily if some extra moisture is not provided. Letting your water trough overflow a little, and painting hooves with moisturizers will help.
For dogs kept outdoors, be sure to have a water supply that cannot be accidentally tipped over. A kiddie pool (the hard plastic kind) can provide relief from the hot sun. If natural shade is not available, set up a roof or tarp.
If we ever do get any rain, expect mosquitoes! They can carry heartworms to dogs & cats, and several dangerous viruses to horses, so be ready with some insect repellent & use as needed. Fans in barns can help keep biting insects away, also. Keep outdoor dogs & cats on heartworm preventative, and keep horses vaccinated.
Dogs don't speak English, but they can learn simple words & phrases if you do it right. The keys to successful training are consistency- use the same command every time. Practice, practice, practice. Make commands short & simple- "sit", versus "would you please sit down?". Keep the command positive- "sit" versus "don't jump up on me". Praise and reward your pet for doing well, and either correct or ignore misbehaviors, depending on the nature of the transgression. (Any aggressive or dangerous behaviors must be corrected immediately). Keep practice sessions short & fun.
If you & your pet enjoy the basic obedience work, you can move up to agility training, search & rescue work, or do pet therapy in hospitals or nursing homes. Whether you go further with training or not, your pet and all the people she interacts with will benefit from her good manners.
OBESITY IN PETS
Obesity in pets causes the same kinds of problems that it causes for people- arthritis, more burden on the heart and other vital organs, inactivity (which leads to more obesity...), etc. The cause of obesity is as simple as taking in more calories than are expended. These excess calories are stored by the body as fat. Unfortunately, the solution, although simple (use up more calories than you take in!), is not always easy!!! To burn up calories, exercise your pet. Use common sense; start off slowly and build up gradually. To take in less calories, feed less, and/or feed lower calorie foods.
Our pets cannot go to the store and buy food! They can't open a can! WE control how much our pets eat, so if a pet is overweight, it's the owner's fault. So, tighten up and learn to limit their intake. Give low calorie treats (try ice chips). Switch to a Lite diet, most of which are higher in fiber. This helps your pet feel full. Put them in another room when you eat to avoid caving in to those sad, begging eyes. Also, there is a new medication to help control appetite in dogs, called Selentrol. This may be helpful for those dogs who act hungry ALL the time. Ask your vet about it.
Anything you can do to help your pet achieve & maintain its ideal weight will add healthful years to his life.
Does your pet become overly anxious when you leave her home alone? Tear up furniture? Poop and pee on the floor? If so, your pet may have Separation Anxiety. It's truly a problem, because they feel abandoned and that's scary. Fear can bring out these destructive behaviors, which can make an owner upset. This only adds to the pet's anxiety, especially if it is punished as soon as the owner comes home.
This problem can truly be life threatening, as behavior problems are the number One reason pets are turned into animal shelters, and most of those animals end up euthanized. Fortunately, in most cases, the problem can be treated. Two things, used together, are effective in about 75% of the dogs treated. With behavior modification (both yours and your pet's behaviors), anti-anxiety medication, patience, and time, your pet can learn how to be less fearful and more independent when you have to be away. Ask an animal care expert for help, and keep your pet with you for life!
TRAVELING WITH YOUR PET
When it's time to hit the road, think about taking your pet with you. They might appreciate seeing some new sights, too! Whether you're going by car, plane, or otherwise, be sure your pet is healthy enough to travel, and is comfortable if confined for long periods. Make sure in advance that all your stops along the way and your destination are pet-friendly.
Be sure your pet is properly identified with a current tag and microchip. A travel tag should also be on your pet, with information on where you will be staying while away from home. Grooming (bathing, nail trimming, etc.) before a trip, plus having its favorite food, toys & dishes will make your pet more comfortable while in new surroundings. Fleas are not welcome anywhere! Be sure there are none on your pet. Have proof of rabies vaccination and a current healath certificate with you when crossing state or international borders. Keep a photo of your pet with you to help with identification in case your pet is lost.
If your travel plans include a plane trip, there are special things to do. Each airline has its own regulations, and these are revised from time to time, so be sure to check with them ahead of time. Most require a health certificate, issued by a vet, within 10 days of your flight. Cats and small dogs can usually travel in the cabin with you, in a carrier that will fit under your seat. Larger pets will need to travel in cargo, and will need a sturdy, safe, leak-proof, well-labeled crate of adequate size. Let your pet get used to the crate at home well before your trip. Try to book non-stop flights, and avoid busy holidays if possible. Feed lightly, if at all.
Federal regultions require that pets be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5 days before flying. There are also regulations regarding the weather and prevailing temperatures that are important for the comfort and safety of your pet. Check with your airline and the weather service.
If your pet isn't used to car travel, take it for a few short rides before your trip so it will feel confident that a car outing does not necessarily mean a trip to the vet! If car sickness is an issue, ask your vet to recommend medication that will help.
Cats should always travel in a pet carrier, so they feel secure and they can't crawl under your feet or into a tight place in your vehicle. Dogs can be kept in crates, or in a seat with a special harness designed to work like a seat belt, but never in a seat with airbags. If your dog has to ride in the bed of a truck, be sure it's in a secure crate, or tied short enough that it cannot jump out and injure itself. Be sure your dog is protected from the sun, heat, rain, or cold. Your trip is supposed to be fun for everyone!
Stop every few hours for a potty break and leg stretching. Bringing a jug of water from home is a good idea as the taste of water can vary in different areas, and you want your pet to remain well hydrated at all times.
If you and your pet are both the adventuresome types, taking him camping can be lots of fun. But, there will be some unique challenges. Skunks, raccoons, snakes, and other wildlife can bite or otherwise injure your pet. Keep him within your sight and on a leash. Have the number of an emergency hospital near your destination handy just in case.
Be sure your pet is on flea and tick and heartworm protection before you leave. Vaccinations for Lyme disease and rattlesnake bite may be recommended by your vet.
Take a first aid kit with you. It should include assorted bandaging supplies, antiseptic cream, gauze squares, an anti-diarrheal and an anti-histamine safe for pets (ask your vet). Happy trails!
NAMING YOUR PET
Pets can be an important and fun part of our families. Each deserves care, attention, and its own special name! Choosing just the right name can be a challenge. Try to pick one that's easy to say, sounds distinctly different than anyone else in the family, and one that just sticks! You'll know it when you hear it. Since most commands (sit, come, stay) are one syllable, it will help your pet learn easier if you make his name two syllables.
Here are the top 20 names people are choosing for their dogs & cats this year, in order of popularity: Max, Molly, Maggie, Jake, Buddy, Bailey, Shadow, Sadie, Sam, Lucy, Daisy, Bear, Lady, Buster, Casey, Ginger, Lucky, Pepper, Rocky & Cody. Some of the most unusual we have heard at our office are Diddybite-ya, Herkimer, and Shyster. Whatever you choose, use it often when talking to your pet. Call her name, and give her a treat when you have her attention. She'll learn her name quickly.
HEARTWORMS IN CATS
Heartworms in cats? Yes, indeed, and they are a real threat to your kitty. As few as one or two adult heartworms can cause sudden death in cats.
In the past, diagnosis has been difficult, but new tests make detection simpler & economical. Unfortunately, treating heartworms in cats is much riskier than treating dogs, as cats are VERY sensitive to the medication that kills the adult heartworms. Your vet would need to discuss the pros and cons of treatment if the diagnosis is positive.
The good news is that feline heartworm disease is easy to prevent, either with a topical called Revolution or tablets given monthly. The cost is reasonable, and the benefit to your kitty is great.
TOO MANY HOMELESS
Too many puppies and kittens, as well as adult strays, wind up in animal shelters or roam loose. Some of these strays become dangerous to the public. Sadly, most live tragic lives shadowed by neglect. Parasites, malnutrition, diseases, and injuries are common. Many get hit by cars and suffer.
This bad situation is the result of animals being allowed to breed and reproduce. There just aren't enough caring homes for all of them. What's the answer? It's really quite simple. SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS! Accidents do happen when hormones kick in. Having your pet sterilized prevents not only the problem of homeless animals, it also has many health benefits for your pet. And, makes him or her much better companion.
Halloween is a fun time for kids- the best of all is the CANDY! But, just like your kids, your pets can suffer if they eat too much, or eat the wrong thing. Be careful to keep all candy, especially chocolate, out of the reach of pets, both before and after the Big Night.
It's also a good idea to keep your pets inside during the Trick or Treat time. Lots of people out at night, in all those costumes, can be quite unnerving for dogs & cats. Some could get "spooked" and run off; others may feel they need to protect their families from the monsters & aliens, and could become aggressive.
Sadly, I've heard of some hard-core Halloweeners who really get into the Dark Side, with real witchcraft & devil worship. Hopefully there isn't a lot of that going on in our small town, but I have heard of black cats being special targets of these crazies at Halloween. So, be especially careful to keep your black cats inside & safe!
Lots of people like to dress up their pets, and have great fun doing it. The pets seem to like it, too! Please be sure to use safe and comfortable materials, and don't make your pet wear something he or she is not happy about!
DOGS & PEOPLE
Dogs and people. Ordinarily, a wonderful combination that can provide mutual companionship & protection, health benefits, and unquestioning love. As most pet owners know, having a pet to share your life with is usually a very GOOD thing. Doctors have recognized many health benefits of pet ownership in their patients.
But, sometimes pets create problems for people. Vicious dogs, particularly, are a special group that need special handling. Protecting the public will require several things. First, a clear and fair definition of a "vicious" dog. To lump all members of one breed as vicious & ignore other problem dogs of a different breed is easy, but foolish. There needs to be a standard that considers the dog's individual history, temperament, and liklihood of biting unprovoked. Owners of these dogs must comply with whatever rules are necessary to protect others.
Better still is owner education. Having a vicious dog is not a sign of machisimo. If you want to be a tough guy, put on the boxing gloves yourself. Needing to have a vicious dog to boost an ego, or provoking dogs to fight each other for human entertainment is a poor reflection on the mentality of our species.
TIME FOR A VACATION!!!!!
With everyone taking summer vacations, this is a good time to share some advice on what to do with your pet when you travel. Best case scenario- take him or her with you, if they are good travelers! You'll have to check ahead to find pet-friendly places. Take a crate & toys with you, so that your pet feels secure and you don't have to worry about destructive behaviors when traveling or unattended. It's ideal to use the crate at home beforehand, so your pet is familiar with it and comfortable staying inside. Pets are much more sensitive to flavors and smells than we are, and sometimes will not drink water away from home, so you may want to take a supply he or she is used to.
Consider having your pet microchipped, if not already done. It's important for everyone, but especially important for pets who leave home to travel or board. It is not unusual for a pet to slip out of a vehicle unnoticed. A microchip will help get your pet back home to you.
If taking your pet with you isn't an option, you may be able to find a pet sitter to come to your home and care for your pal. Check references; be sure to leave instructions on feeding, any medications, special needs, and phone numbers to call in case of emergency (yours and your vet's). Be sure the pet sitter will be at your home AT LEAST twice a day for dogs; more if your pet cannot let itself outside when needed. Coming once a day is usually enough for cats. Taking your pet to someone else's home, where everything is strange and fencing may not be adequate is a bad idea. We know of many instances when pets were left at someone else's home, and got loose and ran away. Sometimes they remain lost; sometimes they are injured while running free. Very scary.
If neither of the above options are workable, another choice you have is boarding. Shop around well before your trip, so you can make a good decision on where your pet would be most comfortable and safe. Places where pets are allowed to co-mingle, or have nose-to-nose contact through fences with other pets invite the spread of contagious diseases & parasites. Good boarding facilities have barriers between each animal, and require that ALL pets be current on vaccinations for contagious illnesses. This just makes sense. Be sure the boarding facility is clean, hazard-free, and climate controlled. Ask if you can bring your pet's own bedding and special bowls or toys; this will help them feel at home.
Enjoy your vacation- you earned it! Don't waste time & energy worrying about your pet while you are away. A little planning ahead will insure a pleasant time for all.
Broken bones are a fairly common & serious injury in pets, especially those who roam and can get hit by a car. A fracture requires professional care, so get help if your pet has been hurt.
Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a change in the size, shape or length of a limb, the sound of bones rubbing together when moving, or the inability to bear weight are all signs of probable fractures. A leg that appears to be dangling is certainly broken. There will likely be other injuries present at the same time, and shock is a common and life-threatening after-effect.
A fracture may exist even if you can't feel a break. "Greenstick" fractures are incomplete breaks. A "simple" fracture is a complete break, with the skin intact. "Communuted" fractures are more complicated and involve multiple fracture lines and pieces of bone. A "compound" fracture is one where the bone has broken through the skin. This is quite serious, as there will be more bleeding, and much greater risk of infection.
So, if your pet has been injured, and you suspect a broken bone, what do you do next? First of all, make sure that you do not get hurt yourself while helping your pet. Painful injuries can cause confusion in any animal, and they may bite at anything within reach. A simple muzzle can be made with any kind of rope, sash, leash or whatever that is at least 3 feet long. Make one loop in the center of the rope. Hold one end of the rope in each hand, and guide the loop over the dog's muzzle. Quickly snug the rope, so the loop tightens, and then bring the two ends down and underneath the muzzle. Cross them, then bring them behind the neck and tie securely. It's good to practice on your pet beforehand, so you are ready if the need arises.
If there is severe bleeding, find something clean (washcloth, baby diaper...) and place it over the wound & apply direct pressure. Bandage snugly if possible.
Next, find a way to move your pet. A flat board is ideal, but if there isn't one available, a sheet or blanket can make a pretty good stretcher. With small pets, it's often good to bundle them in a big blanket to move. Transport your pet to the nearest available vet, and give all the information you can about its injury.
The doctor will treat for shock first if needed, clean the wounds, and do radiographs. What comes next will depend on the type & extent of the injuries.
As always, do your best to prevent harm by keeping your pet in a safe place.
CHEAP MEDICINE OR GOOD MEDICINE?
I'm often asked why we charge "so much" for our spay and neuter surgeries, when there are places that offer the same surgery for discounted prices. It's a good question, and I respect everyone's need to be careful with their hard-earned dollars. Here are some things that you need to consider when choosing a place to have your pet's medical needs taken care of.
Not every hospital is the same. Some offer quality, personalized care, and others offer services for low prices. As with most everything in life, you can't have both, and you almost always get what you pay for. Questions you need to ask are things like- will my pet be checked by a doctor before going under anesthesia? Will he be monitored while asleep? Will someone be checking while he recovers? Will he be kept in a clean, dry place, separate from other dogs or cats that could have infectious diseases (like parvo, kennel cough, or distemper)? Do they require that all pets be up-to-date on their vaccinations? If the answer to any of these questions is "No", you have to weigh whether or not your pet is worth the little bit extra cost of having services done in a place where these practices are standard.
Another good "measuring stick" of care is whether or not pre-anesthetic bloodwork is available and recommended for pets having surgery. It's just good medicine to know your pet's health status prior to surgery, and a great deal can be learned from blood testing.
So- assembly line surgery, or personal care? The difference in price is almost always worth the difference in care, especially when you consider the many years of love and companionship that your pet gives you. A good thought is "Good Medicine is not Cheap, and Cheap Medicine is not Good". As true for our pets as for ourselves.
MYTHS SURROUNDING SPAYING & NEUTERING
We can't say often enough how important it is to spay and neuter pets, both for their benefit and to help with the animal population problem. Often we get responses from owners that reflect misunderstandings about the procedure and the benefits neutering. Such as:
"She should have one litter first to settle her down". Pregnancy, delivery, and raising puppies & kittens do use up a lot of energy, but there are much healthier ways to do this! Regular exercise and behavior training are much better for your pet. Most pets settle down as they mature, regardless of whether or not they have raised litters.
"I want my children to see the miracle of birth". Chances are, your pet will have its puppies or kittens in a secretive area, or at a time when children are asleep or at school. Birth truly is a miracle; buy a video or DVD, or watch Animal Planet instead!
"Spaying & neutering makes pets fat & lazy". Surgery doesn't make pets fat; feeding too much and not exercising enough makes pets fat. It's true that the activities that come with seeking a mate, breeding & raising babies uses up a lot of calories. After surgery, you simply need to adjust your pet's calorie intake to match its needs, based on its weight.
"I hate to take my male's 'manhood" away, or deny my female the right to have her own family". Pets do not have the same bonding or emotional complexities that humans have. Reproducing is hormone driven, without the pet understanding the consequences of its behaviors. Almost never do litters stay together as families.
"Spaying & neutering costs to much". Actually, these surgeries are priced very reasonably. Consider that similar surgeries in humans cost thousands of dollars; in pets, it's a fraction of that. In the long run, you will save money because there will be less risk of injuries associated with roaming, less risk of certain cancers, and of course, no expense for raising puppies & kittens.
"My pet could die during surgery". As with any surgery, there are risks. But, spaying & neutering are the most commonly done surgeries in any vet hospital, so the doctors are certain to have plenty of expertise! Advances in medications and equipment make this a very, very low risk for your pet. Less risk than pregnancy.
If you have any other concerns or questions about having your pet neutered, please get in touch and we will be happy to help you. We truly believe in the importance & value of this surgery.
Last time, we gave five important tips to help you take good care of your special companion. There’s lots to know! Here are five more nuggets of advice that will help keep your buddy happy and healthy.
- All pets need some exercise. How much will depend on its age and physical condition. Most pets need at least 15 to 20 minutes of exercise a day. Even couch potato kitties need to get up and move around a little!
- Spend time EVERY day with your pet. This will strengthen your bond, and ensure that your pet learns social skills. Lots of human contact will develop good manners.
- Training starts early with any pet, with basic house training and discipline. “No” is the most important first word any pet can learn! With dogs, obedience training extends these good manners into some other important skills. The “work” part of training needs to be balanced with lots of rewards and fun time, too.
4. Ask your vet what to watch for so you can recognize early signs of illness, and when a problem is an emergency. Call your vet promptly when a problem arises, and follow directions carefully.
5. Work with your vet to establish and maintain your pet’s health program. Your pet can suffer from ailments also common to people, such as cancer, heart, kidney and eye problems. Through proper life care, your pet can enjoy a longer & happier life.
Top Five Tips for Pet Ownership
1. Develop a partnership with a veterinarian and practice staff, including discussing details of pet ownership before you get a new pet.
2. Select your pet wisely, based on your lifestyle, schedule & budget, as well as the animal’s expected physical and behavioral characteristics. Long-haired breeds will have grooming needs also.
3. Ask your vet about developing a complete plan for your pet’s total life care. This will include regular physical exams, proper vaccinations tailored to your pet’s particular needs, parasite control, yearround housing, nutritional needs, and reproductive options. Your vet is happy to provide additional information to help you better understand your pet and its needs; just ask.
4. Provide the right food (choose a good brand name). Consider your pet’s age, nutritional needs, and any special health requirements. Remember, table scraps put unnecessary weight on a pet, can make it sick, and often spoil the pet so he or she does not eat a balanced diet.
5. Provide your pet with fresh water at all times. Clean and change the bowl daily.
CHRISTMAS TIME TIPS
With all the Holiday cheer, this is a good time to remind everyone of some ways to keep this joyous occasion safe for your pets. Many of our traditional holiday treats and decorations can be quite harmful to pets, so please keep them in mind no matter how busy things get!
Chocolate (vitamin C in my book!) contains some compounds that can be harmful to pets. The caffeine-like ingredients can cause a dog's heart to speed up or the rhythm to become abnormal. The darker the chocolate, the more concentrated these ingredients are. One square of Bakers Chocolate can be fatal to a small dog.
Mistletoe and Poinsettias are also toxic if chewed or swallowed. Keep them out of reach!
Holiday feasts can be the best part of the season, but overeating can be as bad for animals as it is for us!
Christmas trees, with all the decorations and lights are also an attractive hazard for pets. Avoid tinsel; if it becomes a toy for a curious cat, it may be swallowed inadvertantly and cause a serious GI problem. You may want to leave the bottom part of the tree bare, and keep the ornaments out of reach if you have small, curious pets. Your dog or cat may think you brought this tree in just for them! And, try to climb it or do what animals often do to trees outdoors! Beware. Also make sure that any electrical wires are covered to avoid a shocking experience.
A few simple precautions, and your entire family should have a happy and safe holiday.
Merry Christmas to all!
We have a client who had reason to ask that we pass along this information on antifreeze poisoning. Unfortunately, this fairly common household compound is highly toxic. At the same time, it has an attractive, sweet smell that makes it doubly dangerous. It only takes a teaspoon to kill a cat or small dog.
The ethylene glycol in most antifreeze formulas damages the kidneys, and death can result when they are damaged severely. Symptoms can be hard to interpret, but could include lethargy, vomiting, drinking excessive amounts of water yet being dehydrated, eventually coma and possibly death. Early treatment can save a life, if the cause of the pet's illness is known or diagnosed soon enough, and if the damage is not already beyond repair.
So, to protect your pet from this risk, keep this and all dangerous chemicals stored safely. Check often for any signs of radiator leakage from your vehicle, and clean up any spills right away. Be vigilant when servicing your car, and do not leave antifreeze where pets can get to it. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, take him or her to your vet right away, with the container that the antifreeze came in. This will help the doctor with treatment, and give your pet the best chances for recovery. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth MORE than a pound of cure.
It's been said many times, but is worth repeating- do NOT leave pets (or children!) in cars when the sun is bright, even if you crack open the windows or park in the shade. The inside temperature sky-rockets quickly, and these guys can't let themselves out or call for help! Make other plans for your pet while you are shopping or running errands. Also, be sure that outdoor pets always have access to shade and clean water. I keep the hose running slowly in our outdoor water bucket so the water is always fresh and cool.
Parvo- the very word strikes fear in the heart of many pet owners. It is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and bloody diarrhea in dogs. It is often fatal, especially in puppies. We recently saw a bulldog puppy, not even 6 weeks old, bought at a flea market in Albany. Sadly, the puppy had gotten sick soon after her new owners brought her home, and parvo was the cause. For one thing, puppies this age should be with their littermates and mother. It's important that they learn canine social skills at this age, and have the benefit of their mother's milk. Seven weeks old is the youngest they should be weaned, and 8 weeks is even better. Premature weaning can cause stress and other problems. Florida regulates the sale of puppies, and requires health papers; Georgia does not. It's up to a buyer to be careful. Another problem this puppy had was that someone had cropped her ears at least a week earlier! This someone was not a veterinarian, and the surgery was sloppy to say the least. The blood loss sustained was yet another stress that may have made her more suseptible to infections. Surgery of this kind without anesthesia or sutures is cruel and abusive.
Because this puppy was ill at 5 1/2 weeks old, it's safe to say that it's mother was not current on her own vaccinations. If she were, she would have given protection to the puppy that would have carried her through this critical time. This puppy was totally vulnerable at the time she was exposed, and, sadly, the owners could not afford the intensive care often needed to save patients from this dangerous disease.
Sorry this is such a downer of a case, but some valuable points need to be made. First, don't support breeders who wean puppies too early! Also, please, please report anything you see that appears to be animal abuse or neglect. There are people who care, who will do their best to stop these practices. Our pets cannot speak for themselves; it is our responsibility to see that they are cared for. Also, prevent diseases like Parvo by vaccinating your pets. Your veterinarian is trained and equipped to help you provide the best of care for your friend.
ALLERGIES IN PETS
It's been said that we live in the "Allergy Capital" of the world, and from what I see among our patients, it seems that it may be true! Pets can have allergies just like we do, but they respond primarily with itchy skin. The pattern of itchiness can reveal a lot about what the patient is allergic to.
Pets can be allergic to an almost endless list of things- any ingredient in their diet, environmental allergens (like pollens and molds), fleas, contact irritants, and even humans!!! Multiple allergies are common.
There are two approaches to allergy control- treating symptoms, or treating the cause. A simple blood test can be done to determine the sources of your pet's allergies. If you can eliminate at least a few problem allergens, you can do much to relieve your pet's misery because often they can cope with a fewer number of allergens. There are usually some that you can't eliminate entirely (like pine trees or such). You can do your pal a huge favor by finding out just what is causing the allergies and making some changes.
Antigen shots can be formulated for your particular pet's needs, and given on a schedule, just like with humans, to reduce the effects of the allergen. This takes some dedication, but is fairly simple to learn if you're game.
Symptoms can sometimes be controlled with antihistamines. If not, cortisone is effective, but does carry some side effects that need careful consideration.
So, if your pet is driving you nuts by licking, chewing & scratching non-stop, imagine how he feels! They can't tell us how uncomfortable they are, but they sure can say Thank You when we get them relief!
COLD WEATHER TIPS
Many animals can adapt to the cold, but most of our pets cannot handle sub-freezing temperatures without some help! Best of all, keep them indoors, especially at night. For those pets who cannot come in, it is essential to provide them with a warm, dry shelter. Heating pads and heat lamps are great, but can pose a fire or electrical hazard, so be very careful to cover exposed cords and keep flamables far away. Heavy bedding is important, and so is a barrier from wind and wet. Lots of "clothes" for pets are available, and can be fun fashion statements. If you don't have time to shop for your pet, you can improvise with tube socks (cut 4 holes for legs!) on the little guys, and even an appropriately sized sweatshirt on bigger guys. A sweatshirt sleeve also works well for small dogs. The cuff makes a sporty turtleneck. They will appreciate it!
When adding antifreeze to your vehicle, be absolutely sure to clean up any spills. Just a spoonful can be deadly to curious pets who lick it up.
Horses do quite well in the cold, as long as they don't get wet and chilled. Their special needs include shelter from wind and rain, and a source of water that does not ice over. Horses seem more prone to colic during cold snaps, in part because they do not drink as much as they normally would, and also because they are transitioning from green grass to dry, more fibrous hay. Impactions are common, and can be both painful & dangerous. Heaters are available that will float in your water trough. Also, maintaining body heat burns up additional calories, so be sure to up the rations accordingly.
Many of our Christmas decorations can be hazardous for curious pets. Especially chocolate- Fido has just as hard a time leaving them alone as I do! But chocolate can be toxic to pets, so keep it out of reach. Poinsettias and mistletoe are toxic if eaten, so out-of-reach with them, too. Our Christmas lights are tempting electrical hazards, so be careful there, also! Keep things safe; sit back and enjoy family & friends of all species.
We hope you all have a safe and joyous Holiday Season!
RABIES VIRUS AND PREVENTION
At the risk of being repetitious, I need to remind everyone of the importance of Rabies vaccinations in their pets. It is required by law, for dogs and cats, and is simply common sense. Not many diseases can go from animals to humans with a 100% mortality rate (that means DEATH), but rabies is one of them. A simple vaccine is protective, if given prior to exposure.
We recently had a call from a woman who had wanted to befriend a stray cat. Unfortunately, the cat bit her when she tried to pick it up. Even more unfortunately, the cat's body was "disposed of" and could not be recovered. The woman was left with little choice but to go through the series of multiple shots required to protect her, in case the cat had rabies. The post-exposure treatment protocol is no fun, and costly. (A total of 6 shots, one of which is large, costing $1300-1400). Had she not called and gotten advice from us and Animal Control, she may have been at risk of death.
The morals of this story are to have your own pets vaccinated, and report any neighborhood animals who have not been immunized. Animal Control will take it from there. Do not force your attentions on a stray animal; better still, avoid contact. Also, in the event of a bite from an animal whose medical history is unknown, seek medical care for yourself, and find a way to contain that animal so that Animal Control can have it tested. Brain tissue is needed, so if your only means to prevent the animal's escape is to shoot it, do not shoot it in the head.
I appreciate people who want to help animals, believe me. But you have to use some discretion on which ones and how you go about helping. Your own safety is a priority. Call for advice or assistance if you want to aid an animal in need.
Roaming dogs can threaten your pet's life. It's natural for them to fight over territory or food, and hormones certainly complicate things! What can you do about it? Well, your part would be to provide a safe place for your pet, where strays cannot get to it. Indoors is best if possible. Leashes when outdoors can be lifesavers! A secure fence that keeps your dog in and others out is an excellent investment. Report any strays to Animal Control at 377-3070, and they can come pick them up for you. Spaying or neutering your own pet also diminishes its motivation to stray and get involved in, shall we say, unhealthy activities.
DEATH OF A PET
The death of a pet can be a very traumatic time, and the sadness surrounding the event can make it hard to deal with decisions that arise. It's good to think ahead, even if it's a little uncomfortable to do so. One decision that must be addressed is what to do with the pet's body after death. If you have a place to do so at home, burial is an option. At the hospital here, we have two acres and can bury pets in an unmarked grave. Cremation is also available, and ashes can be returned if you wish to have a reminder of your beloved pet close by. I hope that by explaining these options now will help soften the time of grief.
MICROCHIPS FOR ID
While the Coalition for Uniting Pets & Families sorts out the dilemma of European microchips being used in America, where our scanners do not read them, we recommend the use of AVID brand microchips. Our scanner, as well as the one at Animal Control, reads them and the alternate American chip (Home Again). Both American microchip systems are good, and can well mean the difference between getting your pet back again, or having it sit (or even worse...) at an animal shelter.
We see lots and lots of precious puppies and kittens who have recently become new members of various families. Our well-patient visits include a physical exam, deworming, and vaccinations. Often problems are found (anything from ear mites to heart murmurs to fleas, and even behavioral problems) that need attention and will benefit from care.
The vaccinations we give provide protection from many dangerous (some fatal) diseases. Deworming can literally save lives as many puppies & kittens are so burdened that they succumb from anemia and GI problems if overwhelmed by parasites. So what's so interesting about this? you may ask. What continues to amaze me is how much good we can do for a pet with these relatively simple procedures. Decades of research and tons of money have been invested in the pursuit of these new, safe, and effective vaccines and medications that improve the quality of your pets' lives, and yours at the same time. The cost of this care is a great value for protecting your furry friend. "Saving" money by skipping health care during this critical time often means paying more to correct a serious (& preventable) problem later, or, worse still, possibly losing your pet to illness. We're here to help.
Pet breeding is a lot of work, but can be fun if you have purebred, healthy animals. Be sure there are enough people who want your puppies and will give them good homes BEFORE you breed. Otherwise, spaying and neutering are definitely the way to go. If you decide to breed your dog, choose its mate carefully. Temperament, conformation (build), and many medical problems are hereditary. Registration papers are your guarantee that a dog is purebred, and will help foretell how its puppies will turn out as adults.
Make sure you reach an agreement with the owner of the male as to stud fee vs. pick-of-the-litter, when payment is due, and what happens if the female does not produce a litter, or only has one or two puppies. A contract is a very good idea, and can prevent hard feelings & misunderstandings down the road.
Prior to breeding, make sure your dog is in the best of health. Immunizations need to be current, and will provide protection for the puppies during their early, critical weeks. Any parasite problems need to be resolved before breeding. A good quality diet and prenatal vitamins will help insure the healthiest litter possible.
A female dog is in heat for about two weeks. She is ready to breed and is fertile during the second week. It’s usually best to take the female to the male’s home environment, if possible. Males are usually more territorial, and distracted by new sights & smells, so being at home will help him focus on the job at hand!
If all goes well, there should be a happy, healthy litter in about 63 days.
SEVERE WEATHER TIPS
Severe weather is on it’s way! Heavy rain, high winds, and possibly power outages can affect our pets as well as us. Sooner or later, we will probably have a hurricane pass through. In addition to the things you do to prepare your home and family, you will also need to consider your pets. Outdoor pets will need to come inside, or be taken to a boarding facility if that is not possible. Be sure to have enough fresh water available for them as well as yourself. Also, make sure they have their ID tags on, in case they get separated from you. If they are on any prescription medications, check your supply and refill if you may be short anytime soon. If your pet eats canned foods, be sure you have a manually operated can opener.
I don’t normally recommend keeping halters on horses, but if yours are kept in pastures with vulnerable fences, it would be a good idea. Falling trees often land on fences, and can allow livestock to escape. Having a halter on will make their return home easier. I also have dog ID tags (with my phone number) made for the horses, and attached to the halters just in case
HOT WEATHER TIPS
It's still hot! It's still muggy! Our furry friends still need relief from the heat this time of year. Another idea I can add to our previous tips for outdoor pets is to leave the hose running very slowly in a water bucket that your pet can access. The running water will be relatively cooler, and lots of dogs like to play in the overflow. Just be sure to put in where the excess water will not be a problem.
During times when you have your pet with you, and cannot avoid an errand where you have to leave him or her in the car (better to leave him at home, if possible) another idea is to leave the vehicle running, with the A/C on. This will only help for a limited time, so don't do this if you will be gone for over 10 minutes or so. Of course, you will have to have another key so you can lock the doors and still get back in again yourself! You must NOT do this if there is any way your pet could reach and possibly bump the gear shift. "Clean up on Aisle 5- an SUV just came thru the building..." would make for a very bad day.
MORE ON SUMMER HEAT
This summer heat can be as hard on our pets as ourselves. It's worth reminding everyone NEVER to leave their pets in closed cars; temperatures can skyrocket and cause heat stroke and death within a matter of minutes. Plan your errands accordingly. "This will just take a minute..." are sometimes the last words that pets hear.
Outside pets need to have plenty of clean, fresh water available at all times. Be sure water dishes are stable or secured so that they cannot be tipped over accidentally. Shade is essential. A fan, if it can be plugged in safely, would be much appreciated by many pets! My horses love theirs. A kiddie pool is also a great way for dogs to chill out. The rigid plastic kind are inexpensive and will last several summers. For a pet with a heavy coat, a summer haircut is a great way to keep cooler and look sporty at the same time.