It’s National Pet Week: Let’s Celebrate!

petsThis week is National Pet Week in the US: a whole week to celebrate our furry, feathered, and scaly friends! The goals of National Pet Week are to promote responsible pet ownership, celebrate the human-animal bond, and promote public awareness of veterinary medicine.

Responsible pet ownership is a term that we hear often, but it may not always be clear what it entails. The AVMA has outlined 6 things that you can do to be a responsible pet owner:

  1. Commit
    • Avoid impulsive decisions when selecting a pet.
    • Select a pet that’s suited to your home and lifestyle. If selecting a dog, make sure the breed is suited to your lifestyle.
    • Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.
    • Commit to the relationship for the life of your pet(s).
    • Provide appropriate exercise and mental stimulation.
    • Properly socialize and train your pet.
  2. Invest
    • Recognize that pet ownership requires an investment of time and money.
    • Make sure your pet receives preventive health care (vaccinations, parasite control, etc.), as well as care for any illnesses or injuries.
    • Budget for potential emergencies.
  3. Obey
    • Clean up after your pet.
    • Obey all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements and noise control.
    • Don’t allow your pet to stray or become feral.
  4. Identify
    • Make sure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips, or tattoos) and keep its registration up-to-date.
  5. Limit
    • Don’t contribute to our nation’s pet overpopulation problem: limit your pet’s reproduction through spay/neuter, containment or managed breeding.
  6. Prepare
    • Prepare for an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit.
    • Make alternate arrangements if you can no longer provide care for your pet.
    • Recognize any decline in your pet’s quality of life and make timely decisions in consultation with a veterinarian.

Lyme Disease: What you need to know

dog on lawnIt is no coincidence that April is National Lyme Disease Prevention Month.  Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks, and the nasty little parasites are at their height during the spring months.  Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick.  The disease is most common in the northeastern, upper Midwestern, and West Coast states, however the area of concern appears to be spreading in recent years.

Infected animals may not develop any symptoms at all.  Some will develop fever, lameness, swollen joints, depression, and/or loss of appetite.  If the infection persists kidney failure and permanent lameness can ensue.  If Lyme disease is suspected, we may suggest running a blood test to confirm infection.  Luckily most pets with Lyme disease respond well to antibiotic therapy.

In endemic areas (like ours), vaccination of dogs for Lyme disease is recommended.  Disease can also be prevented by using tick preventative products recommended by your veterinarian and by removing ticks promptly before disease transmission can occur.  Avoiding tick infested areas and keeping shrubbery and grass closely trimmed can also lessen the likelihood of exposure.  If your dog is at risk for contracting Lyme disease, so are you!  Use care in areas with a heavy tick population.

Call us if you have any questions, or if your dog is showing symptoms.

Hold your hounds! Leash etiquette for your pooch.

Dog Pulling at LeashWe have all experienced it:  You are minding your own business, walking your dog quietly when a friendly, over-excited (or not-so-friendly, borderline aggressive) dog pulling an owner at the end of a leash comes barreling into your personal space.

Worst case scenario, your dog is not so thrilled at the sight of the other dog, or the other dog is not as thrilled as its owner perceives and chaos ensues.  Best case scenario, one or both dogs, although friendly, develop bad habits regarding interactions with other humans and dogs.  Keep the following cardinal rules of leash etiquette in mind when taking your dog in public:

  1. Not all dogs are friendly.  Even if your dog is, be sure to give other pets plenty of “personal” space unless you ask the owner’s permission to approach.
  2. Not all people like all dogs.  Another dog walker may be terrified of your dog.  Don’t allow your pet to jump on or rush at others.
  3. Consider ditching the flexi-lead.  While it’s convenient to let your dog roam, it is impossible to maintain control of your pet while on a flexi-lead.  They are also much less sturdy and more likely to break in times of need.
  4. If you do use a flexi-lead, keep it locked at 6 feet when other people or dogs are around.
  5. Train your pup!  Exuberant, friendly dogs and cautious, fearful dogs alike benefit from training sessions.

Contact us if you’d like some recommendations for local trainers.

Heartworm Disease: How Much Do You Know

Dog and CatHeartworm disease is no joke.  It is a very serious problem for pets that, with a little effort, is almost completely preventable.  Here are a few facts regarding heartworm disease so that you can better understand how to protect your pet:

  • Heartworms grow inside the heart, lungs, and associated vessels.
  • Heartworm disease is transmitted by female mosquitoes.
  • Both dogs and cats can become infected.
  • Heartworm disease has been found in ALL 50 states.
  • Pets that are infected may not exhibit any signs until serious problems and even death occur.
  • There is a treatment for heartworm disease in dogs, although the treatment is expensive and can have a high risk of complications.  No treatment is currently available for cats.

Contact us and we can help you to decide what the best preventative plan is for your pet.  By educating yourself you can protect your dog or cat from this scary disease.

Prudent Planning: A health insurance primer

A dog with a wrap around its earsYou may have found yourself thinking as you whip out your credit card to pay for Fido or Fluffy’s vet visit, “Boy, they should have insurance for this!”  Well, it turns out, they do.  There are several companies out there who are willing to insure your pet for everything from routine vaccinations to cancer treatment.  Here are a few things to think about if you are considering pet insurance:

  • Most pet insurances require you to pay the veterinarian at the time of service out of pocket and then reimburse you directly based on your policy.  Some plans will reimburse you based on the actual bill and others based on a predetermined amount depending on the services provided.  Find out what you are getting before you buy.
  • Pre-existing conditions and breed specific diseases are often not covered, although this may vary from policy to policy.
  • Weigh the costs.  You can buy coverage that will pay for routine costs or one that just covers major medical expenses.  Decide what you are better off paying out of pocket for and where insurance coverage would be helpful.
  • Shop around.  You may find a better deal for similar coverage with another carrier.   A few to check out include Purina CareTrupanion Pet InsuranceVPI Pet InsurancePet’s Best InsurancePetCare Pet InsuranceASPCA Pet Health Insurance, and PetFirst Healthcare.

For some situations, pet insurance makes a lot of sense.  Many times it helps owners afford care that they otherwise might have to forgo.  Do your research and find out if pet insurance might be a good investment for your furry family. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Arm Yourself for Flea and Tick Season!

A husky scratching itselfWith flea and tick season on the horizon, don’t forget that the best defense is a good offense!  Advances in parasite prevention options and a little knowledge can go a long way towards defeating these nasty little buggers.  Don’t forget the following important aspects of protecting your pet:

  • Choose your weapons wisely:  Use safe, effective, high quality preventative products.  Some products work better than others.  Don’t waste your money on something that isn’t going to work.  We can help you analyze your specific needs and pinpoint the best product for your situation.
  • Be punctual: Treat your pet every 30 days or as directed.  Many products loose efficacy toward the end of the treatment cycle.
  • Bathe with caution: When using spot-on products, be sure to avoid bathing your pet 48 hours before AND after application.
  • Every pet, every month: All pets in the household should be treated with flea prevention.  Should the rogue flea get into the house, even that old indoor kitty can become a virtual breeding ground for the little varmints. Be sure to consult with us before using spot treatments on your cat, though — some of them are canine only.
  • Don’t give up hope: If you have a bad infestation, things may look worse before it looks better.  Continue utilizing the products recommended as instructed.

If you need refills on any of your flea & tick prevention or would like to talk to us about some options, give us a call or just stop in!

MICROCHIPS: WHY YOUR PET SHOULDN’T BE WITHOUT ONE

Microchips for petsWe all know someone who has lost a pet.  It’s hard to imagine the sadness you might feel if your favorite friend were somehow separated from you.  Many people think that their pet never would stray from home, however every year animals and owners are parted during natural disasters, accidents, and even theft.  The best you can do is to give your pet every chance of finding their way home.  This means making sure they are fitted with a collar with current identification and are sporting a registered microchip.

Microchips are implanted under the pet’s skin (usually between the shoulders) and contain a passive radiofrequency that emits a unique identifying number.  These chips are about the size of a grain of rice and should last your pet’s lifetime.  They do not give off GPS signals, but rather need to be read with a special scanning device possessed by most veterinarians and shelters.  The unique number can then be traced into a database where your contact information can be found, provided you have kept your information current.

Microchips are not perfect, as they require the finder of the animal to have the pet scanned and the owner to register and keep the database up-to-date.  By utilizing this technology, however, you give your pet one more avenue to make it home if you should ever become separated.

If you’d like to discuss a microchip for your pet, please contact us.

Litterbox Training Tips

Kitten in LitterboxFortunately for cat owners, most kittens have a natural predilection for using a litter box to eliminate.  As with most things in life, however, there are exceptions.  If you have a stubborn kitten, you may have to backpedal and be sure your feline friend knows what you want it to do.  Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Be sure the litter box is the right size for your kitten!  Young kittens may have a hard time climbing over the side of a full-size box.  You might consider using a cake pan or something similar until he/she gets the hang of it.
  • Make sure the litter boxes are accessible.  Long distances or stairs might be difficult for a little kitty to get there in time.  Make sure there is a box on every floor and in the areas where your kitten spends the most time.
  • Show them the way.  Make a point to periodically place your kitten in the litter box, especially after meals.  Encourage them to dig.
  • Play with the litter.  Some cats prefer a certain type of litter.  Try clumping vs. nonclumping, scented or non-scented, or alternative types such as recycled newspaper or pine.
  • Make sure the box isn’t too scary.  Many times we inadvertently put litter boxes in out-of-the-way areas where scary monsters lurk.  Noisy washing machines, refrigerators, furnaces, nosy dogs, and loud children can all be deterrents for your kitten.

By following these tips, your new kitty should be well on its way to being a litter box pro in no time at all!

Food Allergies in Pets: What to Look For

Dog with Food AllergiesFood allergies are one of the top three allergies in dogs and cats.  Pets can be allergic to any type of food, but the most common offenders include proteins or carbohydrates such as beef, chicken, fish, corn, wheat, or soy.  Minor ingredients such as preservatives or dyes are also potential allergens.  Despite common misconception, pets can develop food allergies even if they have “eaten the same food their entire life”.  If your pet exhibits any of the following signs, he/she may have a food allergy that should be discussed with your veterinarian.

  • Allergy symptoms (usually itching) that persist all year round.
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Repeated problems with the anal sacs.
  • Allergy symptoms starting later in life (after the age of 5)
  • Allergy symptoms which are only minimally responsive to steroids.

Food allergies are most often diagnosed by conducting a food trial during which the animal is fed only a hypoallergenic diet.  This diet is carried out for 10-14 weeks.  If symptoms resolve the pet is challenged with the old diet to see if symptoms return.   Most food allergies are manageable simply by avoiding the offending food.

If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, bring him in to see us and we can discuss it.

Idle Hands: Why Mental Stimulation is Important for your Pet

Bored BeagleWe’ve all heard the saying:  Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.  This not only applies to humans, but to our pets as well.  It is estimated that most dogs need at least 6 hours of mental activity a day.  Boredom can result in all sorts of behavioral problems, including destructive and obsessive behaviors.

Exercise is a great outlet, however many pets benefit from mental stimulation as well.  Mental exercise is not hard to accomplish- try hiding treats around the house, playing hide-and-go-seek, teaching a new trick, or making a play date with another pet.  For dogs, try doggie daycare to keep them occupied while you’re away. You may just see a change in your pet’s behavior for the better.  And you will have a happy dog or kitty to boot!

If you have any questions or would like to discuss some suggestions for your pet, contact us!