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Frequently Asked Questions

Crating the Adult Dog

Many common behavior problems of older puppies (over 6 months) and adult dogs are caused by separation anxiety, lack of feeling secure when left alone.  Crates can be very helpful or very harmful in solving these problems.  Crates must be introduced gradually , making every  association with the crate as positive and pleasant as possible.  Crates will not work for frequent, long hour usage and lack of proper exercise.


Put the crate in an area where the dog feels part of the human activity but has some privacy.  Secure the door open so it can't shut unexpectedly and frighten the dog.  Do not use bedding to start, simple linings of cardboard or newspaper or even the plastic lining are fine.  Encourage the dog to investigate the crate willingly by tossing special training tidbits (cheese, liver, hot dog, something much more tempting than dog food) inside and praising for entering and exiting the crate.  Once the dog confidently enters and exits the crate, trying placing some bedding inside like a towel or recently worn clothing (tshirt, sweater), as long as the dog won't chew or ingest it.  Ask the dog to down inside the crate, sitting nearby and petting or talking for short periods.  Once the dog is again more comfortable, try closing the door while sitting nearby.  Do not fold to complaints or praise the dog for anxious or complaining behaviors while in the crate,  just sit nearby.  Once the dog is calm, open the door and let it out.  Continue and repeat these trainings, eventually moving around the room, then later becoming briefly not visable but still audible. 



Crating the Puppy

A young puppy (8-16 weeks) should have no problem accepting the crate as his own room, bed, den.  Any complaining is generally caused not directly by the crate, but by his learning to accept controls in a new and unfamiliar environment and wanting to be with the family.


The crate should be big enough to stand, lie down and turn around in, but NO bigger.  Too much room reduces the positive impact on the puppy's learning and behavior.  If the crate has been purchased with the adult size in mind, make sure to reduce the space available with a safe partition of wire, wood or other material or place a large cardboard box in the back to an area large enough to stand, lie and turn around, but no bigger.  Place the crate in a part of the home that is frequented most by the family- family room, kitchen, home office or den depending on how you use your home.  It should be a spot free of drafts and not too close to heating vents, curtains or shades.  You can have a second crate in your bedroom or move the single crate up for nighttimes, if needed.  Be cautious of bedding initially until you know your puppy.  Ingestible bedding can cause major medical issues.  Start with cardboard or black and white newsprint for bedding.  An old towel, blanket or freshly worn, unlaundered clothing (tshirt, sweater) makes great bedding, once you have observed the puppy long enough to know it will not ingest these soft bedding items. Food and water do not need to be available in the crate, but that becomes a matter of personal preference. 

The crate is the only area in the home that the puppy owns.  Make it clear, especially to children, that this is the puppy's area and needs to be respected.  No one should bang on the crate, stick items into the crate or crawl into the crate with the puppy.  If a puppy or dog voluntarily retires to the crate, they are telling you something!  They may be tired and ready for bed, or tired and need to get away from company!

Establish a daily routine utilizing the crate.  Close the puppy in at regular 1-2 hour intervals during the day, using his own chosen nap times to guide you.  Close the puppy in when it can't be closely supervised by a responsible person, like when you need to cook a meal or take a shower.  And close it in when you must leave the puppy alone for 3-4 hours for work or to run errands.  Never leave the puppy in the crate longer than you can reasonably expect it to hold its eliminations.  One guide to knowing how long this is is how long the puppy can hold eliminations overnight.  Many young puppies cannot hold their eliminations overnight, and the first 1-2 months someone will need to be available to take the puppy out once in the middle of the night.  If your puppy can hold eliminations from 10 pm to 2 am, then goes 2 am to 6 am before needing to bathroom, then it can probably hold it 4 hours during the day.  DO NOT FEED the puppy immediately on getting up in the morning!  You may unconsciously teach the puppy to get you up early in the morning to eat!  And remember, USE the crate everyday on a predictable and repeatable schedule.

Things may not go smoothly at first, don't worry and don't weaken.  Be consistent.  Be firm.  Be your puppy's leader.  You are doing your puppy a very real favor by preventing it from getting into trouble while left alone and training it to feel safe and secure when left alone.

As the puppy grows, increase the available space inside the crate so the puppy remains comfortable.  Plan on using the crate until the puppy is housebroken and past teething, usually at least 5-6 months old.  You can test the puppy's readiness to be without a crate by leaving the door open at night or when someone is home during the day  (while in shower or napping) or briefly when left alone.  Once the puppy has proven he is ready over two weeks of multiple tests, try removing the crate but leaving the bedding in the same place.  Should any problem behaviors return, return to using the crate immediately.   Most crate trained dogs will readily accept a crate again if needed for travel, illness, behavior, even after a long period without the crate.



Crating a Dog- Cruelty or Kindness?

Dog crates have been used by dog owners, breeders, trainers, groomers and veterinarians for a long time.  But many pet owners hate the idea of using a crate fearing it to be unfair or harmful to their new dog friend.  Are dog crates cruel? or kind?


Most pet owners see the crate as a jail cell.  Human beings value their freedom and generally feel safe in open spaces.  You assume your dog feels the same way and fear being mean or cruel to your friend.  But you are not a DOG.  Most dogs are happy to have a safe, secure, den-like environment where they can hide out from the stresses of the unpredictable world, especially when they are alone. 

A crate has many advantages for you.  In the puppy years, using a crate generally shortens the time it takes to train a puppy to be housebroken and limits the accidents to an area that can be relatively easily cleaned. In the young dog, the crate protects your house from destruction and protects the dog from ingesting problematic items or chewing electric cords.  Crates keep your dog out from underfoot during hectic times like parties, meals, workmen, big projects or a visitor that is dog fearful.  A traveling with a crate trained dog means his "home" comes with him, so he can feel safer in the car, hotel or home of a friend or relative.

A crate also has many advantages for your dog.  They have their own room to retreat to when tired, ill,  or stressed.  The dog generally trains easier and has a better relationship with you because they are not concerned that on your return home you will be unhappy with him because of behavior expressed while you are away.  While in a crate, they are generally still able to feel part of the group because they are not restricted to a basement or garage.  They get to travel more, being taken on more trips and outings because they can be safely controlled in new environments.  While you want to enjoy your pet and be pleased with his behavior there is almost nothing else your dog wants to do than please you.  A crate helps make that relationship much easier to establish between the two of you.

BUT, don't abuse the crate!  You got the dog and the crate to build a relationship!  Puppies cannot be crated for hours on end, and should only be left for blocks of time that you know the puppy can successfully hold the urine or stool. Any grown dog left in a crate for the working day, MUST BE WELL EXERCISED, both before and after the work day with lots of personal attention and freedom in the morning and evening before and after work.  The crate must be large enough that the dog can lie down, stand up and turn around in the crate.  Remember, crating a dog for the majority of it's lifetime is little different than tying it to a tree outside.  And underexercised dogs, whether using a crate or not, are destructive dogs.

Crate choices come down to collapsible wire mesh crates (variety of sizes available, lightweight, portable, good ventilation, allow the dog to still be part of the local action), plastic airline crates (cheap, lightweight, portable, more restrictive of vision so dog feels more hidden- good for the shy, anxious or fearful dog), or home built.  The crate should be in a people area, so the dog can be confined without being banished.  While the crate is not a beautiful piece of decor, it does help protect the areas that still are!

Remember, crates do not work for EVERY dog.  If properly introduced with gentle leadership and positive conditioning, most dogs come to love their crate.  But for frantic or miserable dogs, especially those that attempt to chew their way out, forcing them to use the crate is inhumane AND will be unsuccesful.



Airplane Travel

Many of us are very used to travel by airplane, but not so used to traveling with our pets.  Here are some common concerns and recommendations for those high flying pets.


Cats generally fly in an airline-approved carrier under the seat in front of their owner.  Please line the carrier with several layers of newpaper.  This allows you to reach in and roll up the top layer in case of accidents, without removing the cat.  When traveling it is best to not take the cat out of the carrier, because many cats will bolt and flee when scared and be impossible to recatch.  For high strung cats, it is best to not even reach in, because they may bite unexpectedly when stressed.  Cats should be healthy and vaccinated against Rabies and FVRCP for travel.  A health exam for traveling may be required, dependent on the airline and the destination, so please check this out in advance of traveling.  It is better for the cat to fly on an empty stomach, leaving less chance of vomiting or defecation during the trip. Cats who feel hidden, like in a crate under a seat, feel safer than cats that feel exposed or out in the open.  Some cats even prefer the carrier to be covered in a blanket or sheet, to feel more hidden. It is generally recommended that your cat travel drug-free for the safest travel, but if you have concerns about anxiety or constant meowing during the flight, please discuss this with your veterinarian.

Dogs can fly in an airline-approved carrier under the seat in the airplane, but if they won't fit there they fly in cargo with the suitcases.  Recommendations for flying on the plane under the seat are the same as for the cat, except have a leash, poop bags and handiwipes with you.  Some airports have specific bathroom stop areas for dogs and others will require you keep the dog crated until you are out of the airport.  So, again, travel on an empty stomach with preplanned bathroom stops are helpful to your pet.

Dogs flying in cargo are exposed to many more stresses than dogs flying in the plane, including it is hotter, colder, louder and they are alone.  The airlines should be following stringent rules about the length of time your pet can be exposed to extremes of cold and hot, so you may find the airline cancelling your dog's flight to Phoenix in July or Anchorage in January, out of safety concerns.  Drug-free travel is the safest way to travel, but if you are concerned about anxiety, stress, or self-damage with trying to escape from the crate, please discuss this with your veterinarian well in advance of your travel plans.

Dogs that are flying should be used to being crated (crate trained).  No dogs should be subjected to flying that are not used to being crated.

International flights require special paperwork and sometimes require the dog to be closed in the crate by a state veterinarian with a seal indicating appropriate paperwork and testing is done.  Travel to Rabies free areas like Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Hawaii, Japan require Rabies titering and layers of paperwork that  take a minimum of 6 months before traveling, so please plan accordingly!

Our veterinarians are specially accredited to assist in the appropriate travel paperwork.



Veterinary Glossary

words that may be unfamiliar to humans but are used by veterinarians


Abscess- a painful, warm pocket of infection (pus); often found on cats after penetrating wounds (fights)

Anal Glands (anal sacs)- both dogs and cats have these scent glands at their anus; can become infected or swollen and painful, shown but fanny dragging, licking, tail down, etc.

Bloat (distended abdomen)- a specific surgical emergency of large breed or deep chested dogs where the stomach fills with gas, liquid or ingesta and twists on itself: often the dog is having repeated vomiting or dry heaves suddenly

Colitis- inflammation of the colon often resulting in a mucoid or even bloody stool with straining and frequent attempts to defecate

Declaw- the surgical procedure of removing a cat's claws

Dewclaw- the small toe, high and inside the foot of the dog, that doesn't touch the ground

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus/ sugar diabetes)- a lack of insulin causing high blood sugar and resulting in increased thirst and urinations, often with weight loss: deadly if untreated; found often in overweight pets

Ear Mites- small, white, spider-like mite found in the ear canals of dogs and cats; causes itching of ears and infection; often found in kittens

Heartworm- a worm found in the heart of dogs (primarily), spread by mosquito bite; left untreated it is often deadly over 2-3 years of infection

IM or Intramuscular- into the muscle

Inflammation- hot, red, swollen; can be internal or external; can be due to infection or not

Intranasal- into the nasal passages

Kennel Cough- a honking, long lasting cough often spread wherever dogs congregate

Leptospirosis- a serious bacterial infection, often of kidneys or liver, that dog's can contract from outside drinking sources; can be contagious to humans

Lyme Disease- a bacterial infection contracted after being bitten by a tick

Mass- any tumor or lump

Neuter- to remove sex glands( testicles or ovaries); most  commonly used to indicate removal of male sex glands

Ocular- pertaining to the eyes

Otic- pertaining to the ears

Pancreatitis- a painful condition of dogs and cats associated with lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea resulting from inflammation of the pancreas

Pyometra-an infected, pus-filled uterus that can rupture and cause death

Queening- a female cat delivering her kittens

Rabies- a deadly viral infection spread to cats and dogs most commonly by the bite of other animals; always deadly and can be spread to humans

Ringworm- a fungal infection of the skin that is itchy and often causes hair loss; contagious to humans; common in cats, particularly young cats

Roundworm- a spaghetti like worm found common in young dogs and cats and potentially contagious to humans

SubQ (SQ)- subcuticular or under the skin

Spay- to remove the uterus and ovaries of a female

Tapeworm- a flat worm, individually looks like a piece of rice but can be connected into a long strand; often found at the anal area of cats or dogs and needs a specific deworming medicine to be treated

Whelping- a female dog delivering her puppies

 

 



Car Trips with a Pet

Summer time is vacation time.  Whether traveling across country or just a couple hours to a camp ground or lake, here are some hints for traveling with your dog or cat.


Many dogs make great travelers but there are always potential obstacles.  Car travel can lead to car sickness in many dogs.  For some dogs, this is less when they travel in their crate with a towel or blanket over the openings so they don't see the movement. Never fully feed or let your dog fill up with water right  before the trip.  You are best to start trip day with no breakfast or only a light breakfast more than an hour before leaving.  Simple over the counter products like antihistamines can be used to lessen vomiting. For the seriously ill, talk to your veterinarian about Cerenia to stop the car sickness.  Make sure you have a leash and poop bags for bathroom breaks and a clean up kit of premoistened wipes to clean up mud, drool or other messy leavings.  Keep a small bowl available for water during bathroom breaks. 

Some dogs become seriously fearful during travel.  For these anxious pets, talk to your veterinarian for advice on sedating medications like Acepromazine or anxiety relieving medicines like alprazolam.  Some training progams can also be put into place to lessen trip anxiety for these travelers.

Most cats hate car travel, mostly because they don't get to drive!  They take up "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" and insist on singing all the way to your destination.  Again, they feel most secure in a crate, often with a towel or sheet over the top so they feel hidden.  Make sure they don't overheat under there!  Again, reducing food intake prior to the trip reduces vomiting.  Line the crate with newpaper, so if an inadvertant bathroom break occurs, you can reach in and roll up the top layer and remove, while leaving the cat inside the carrier.  Papertowels, handiwipes and even a small garbage bag help with clean up.  Long trips of over 8 hours deserve a water break and litter box stop for your feline passenger.  This means you have to be prepared with litter box, litter and a way to get your cat in and out of the crate without opening your car doors to prevent roadside escape. 

While there are no antimotion sickness drugs for cats, some owners choose to use antianxiety drugs during travel like alprazolam or diazepram.

For dogs: Benedryl (diphenhydramine) 1mg per pound body weight, ie. 50lb dog gets 50mg benedryl every 8 hours

                  Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) 4-8mg/kg every 8 hours



How to administer eye drops or ointment to a cat or dog

Administering eye drops to most cats and dogs is not very difficult, although there are a select few pets that fight administration.


The first time or two you will be most successful if you have a helper.  Once you feel comfortable, often you can administer eye medications singlehandedly.  One person should keep the pet from walking away, and often having them up on a counter, table or other high surface helps with this for small sized pets.  For large dogs, it is easiest to stand over them with them clasped between your legs or sitting on your feet.  Have the medicine at hand with the top off.  Then control the pet's head, usually by controlling their nose.  Rest your dominant hand that is holding the medicine along the face, so your hand moves if their head moves.  Using your free hand, keep the eyelid open and apply a drop if liquid or strip if ointment. Be careful not to touch the surface of the eye with the dropper or tube end.

Please feel free to ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician for pointers.  Please see our video links for an example.



What do new kittens need?

Boy, those cute, hilarious balls of fur are fun to watch and cuddle! But what do they need?


#1 Kitten food. Picking a food is a more complex decision with wide ranges of options and varying nutritional advice. A good place to start is to continue using the same kitten food they were previously eating, if you know what that is, but often you don't! The next decision is dry or canned or both? Dry provides easy, clean and economical feeding choices but it often linked to overeating/obesity and is less desirable in cats with certain disease conditions (kidney, bladder).  Canned food is more palatable and preferred with certain disease conditions because of the water content but is less economical, produces more garbage and smells worse. Maybe the best thing is to feed them both, with dry food being the main food while they are healthy and of good weight and canned food offered as a treat once a day to several times a week. By offering canned food early, you are establishing a feeding experience they recognize, so later in life if you have to feed them canned food because of disease conditions, they are not likely to refuse the canned food. Generally, it is best to pick foods with a recognizable name brand, that are easy enough to find that you won't run out and a AAFCO (complete and balanced) guarentee.

#2 Bowls.  You probably have many acceptable options in your kitchen.  Small bowls, saucers or small flat plates can be used for food, while a bowl is needed for water.  Ceramic, stainless steel and plastic all are reasonable surfaces that are easy to clean.

#3 Litter box.  There are many decisions with litter control.  For the more adventurous, there are self-cleaning litterboxes and toilet based litter training solutions!  But for most of us the standard litter box and scooping system works fine.  Litter boxes should be large and easy to enter and exit.  The typical recommendation is have one more litter boxes than the number of cats.  With multiple cats, it is best to offer a variety of litter box styles (high sided, hooded and open sided) in various locations to increase compliance.  Most litter box options seem limited, so consider shopping for your next litter box in the storage bin area.  Large storage tote options (think Rubbermaid) can work as a litter box.  The large flat under bed storage boxes for clothing work great for a litter box , not using the lid.  High sided clear storage totes can have a U shaped opening cut in the end or side to make an easy to enter litter box that prevents litter scatter by the cat that scratches vigourously in the box.

#4 Litter. Again, a variety of choice makes this a harder decision.  Clumping litter is a popular choice as it makes scooping easier.  Many ecologically friendly choices like pelletted recycled newspaper are available.  Old style clay litter is cheap and easy to find, but very heavy to carry back and forth.  Most young cats will get used to using whatever you choose, but older cats are often unwilling to use new or foreign litter types.

#5 Toys.  Kittens love to play and many toys can be made using simple at home objects.  For safety's sake, make sure the toy is not ingested, with long strands like string, yarn or ribbon being particularly dangerous if ingested.  Laser pointers or even flash lights make great toys for kittens.  Small, light balls are a fun and can be store bought or fashioned at home from squashed paper, tin foil, felt, or fabric. Ping pong balls and even golf balls work well.  The fishing pole toy is a favorite and is made of a light, flexible rod with attached string/ribbon or yarn often with feathers or  fur-like material to stimulate hunting instincts. Pet stores have great toys where a ball in trapped in a plastic circle.  Many kittens love to play with an old shoe box with holes cut in it and a hidden ball or treat inside.

#6 Perches and Hiding Places.  Happy indoor cats need options for perches (high areas) and hiding places throughout the house.  While many will naturally use a large windowsill or high shelf for a perch, you can offer other options like cat trees and securely attached box shelves.  Pinterest and other online sources show many ingenious ideas for cat perches.  Hiding places are often under beds and in closets but other options like cardboard boxes, baskets under a table and opened paper bags are often appreciated.

#7 Scratching Post. Cats with nails need a scratching post.  The best scratching post is a surface that is NOT found on furnishings or the floor.  Kittens get used to scratching a typical surface, say upholstery, and are loathe to switch to a new surface.  So get your kitten used to scratching cardboard or rope or bark surfaces, because you are unlikely to have a cardboard, rope or bark couch!  Scratching posts should have vertical (up and down) plus horizontal (flat) options.  Vertical scratching posts should have a steady base or be secured to a wall so they don't fall down and scare the cat away from using the scratching post.



What do new puppies need?

Having a new puppy is somewhat like having a new baby- wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.  And a quick trip to the pet store makes you wobble in your shoes!  Many come out wondering, how much of this stuff do I really need? Let us share with you what we consider we might need when bringing a new puppy home.


# 1 Puppy Food.  Simple, right? Not so! And asking for opinions or researching online often only adds to the confusion.  There are many options and many opinions on what makes a "good" food.  Generally, if your puppy is healthy and already eating puppy food, then best puppy food is the one they are already on. Changing diets is a common cause of diarrhea, inappetance or vomiting in newly acquired puppies. However, if your puppy is underweight, malnourished, parasitized or already has diarrhea, switching and try multiple new foods is also NOT a good idea and likely to exacerbate the problem. For problems puppies, try to keep them on the same food until you can consult your veterinarian as to the best feeding options for the sick puppy.

#2 Bowls for food and water. You may already have appropriate bowls at home. Ceramic and stainless steel are great for bowls. Plastic bowls can be okay but they are more likely to be chewed to bits or cause allergic irritation of the muzzle.

#3 Collar with Identification. Start with a collar that fits, don't have a puppy dragging around a large, loose collar to grow into. Large, loose collars are a choking hazard.  And be aware, as puppies grow their collars need to be enlarged and even a new one purchased, otherwise they can cause encircling wounds as the puppy outgrows the collar.  There are many options for collars, from the stylish to the practical. Leather always wears well, stands up to weather and is stylish. Web collars are practical and inexpensive and often your phone number can be stitched into the webbing for built in identification. Identification can be the standard tag that dangles or for no dangle noise use a tag that is riveted flat onto the collar or stitching into the webbing.  Collars made with reflective materials are good for dogs that will be out at night or near night hours.

#4 Leash. Best leashes are 5-8 foot long and made of easy to hold material that feels good to your hand.  PLEASE do NOT buy retractable leashes. Retractable leashes are easy to misuse and hard to untangle.  If they pull out of your hand they retract to and "chase" the dog, sometimes scaring or injuring them.  One of my favorite leashes is a slip on leash made of soft round rope with a rubberized hand hold.  The slip on leash means no collar is needed to use the leash. NO RETRACTABLE LEASHES!

#5 Toys. Puppies don't need a ton of toys, but there are a few that are very helpful to have. A must is the Kong or similar hard rubber beehive shaped toy.  The inside can be smeared with a taste of peanut butter or cream cheese for hours of licking and chewing fun. You can freeze diluted chicken broth in the Kong upside down in the freezer for a frozen toy treat that can soothe teething mouths. Small bits of food can be placed inside loose, or again frozen inside, to increase the chewing behavior.  Having toys with a variety of mouth-feels helps encourage the teething puppy to chew and lets you see what your puppy prefers. Another good toy is the Flossie, otherwise known as a braided cotton rope toy.  Dogs with softer mouths often like chewing on this toy that is believed to actually floss the teeth and keep the mouth cleaner.  Balls are great, and the inexpensive tube of tennis balls gives alot of enjoyment to many puppies.

#6 Crate.  A crate is a great training tool, helpful during travel and helps protect your home from your young, enthusiastic, energetic, curious puppy.  Crate training will be discussed at length during your puppy's well visits.  Consider if you will be using the crate when your puppy is an adult and buy the crate that will fit the adult dog. 

Now, you have the basics you will need! Rest assured that at your first puppy visit the veterinarian will spend much time discussing puppy behavior and training as well as more general well care issues. Be ready with any questions you may have!



Canine Influenza

April 14, 2015

The canine influenza outbreak afflicting more than 1,000 dogs in Chicago and other parts of the Midwest is caused by a different strain of the virus that was earlier assumed, according to laboratory scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin.  Researchers at Cornell say results from additional testing indicate that the outbreak is being caused by a virus closely related to Asian strains of influenza A H3N2 viruses, currently in wide circulation in southern Chinese and South Korean dog populations since being identified in 2006. The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about H3N2. The answers are based on what we know to date.


Does H3N2 pose a risk to humans?  Is there any chance it will jump to cats or other small pets?

At this time there are no known cases of this influenza virus infecting humans, though authorities such as the CDC are monitoring the situation closely.

This subtype of the virus was found to be the cause of disease in a number of cats in South Korea in 2010.  At this time no cats in the US have been diagnosed with H3N2.  For now, similar precautions for dogs should be followed.  There is no vaccine available for cats.

 

Will the vaccine developed for H3N8 protect against H3N2?

Although both the H3 viruses, H3N2 is antigenically different from the H3N8 virus strain, so it is likely to be seen differently by the immune system.  While the H3N8 vaccine may offer some protection against the H3N2 virus, how much protection - if any - remains unknown.

 

How can owners protect their pets?

Owners should check with their veterinarian to find out if the influenza virus has been a problem in their area.  If the dog is deemed to be at increased risk, it may be prudent to keep the dog out of situations where contact with other dogs can occur.

Care should be taken when handling a dog that has respiratory disease.  Contaminated objects such as leashes and toys can spread the virus from one dog to another, as can people who have touched an infected dog.

 

What kinds of dogs are most at risk for H3N2?

As with H3N8, dogs at most risk are those that have contact with other dogs, particularly those that are having symptoms of a respiratory infection.

Situations that pose risk include boarding kennels, grooming salons, canine daycare, dog parks, animal shelters, and any other locations where dogs can interact.

As with other infectious diseases, extra precautions may be necessary with puppies, elderly dogs and dogs that are immunocompromised for any reason.  Especially severe disease has been seen in some groups of greyhounds.

 

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are respiratory in nature and can vary from dog to dog.  Some have no symptoms while others become severely ill.  Most dogs are only mildly affected with a fever, runny nose, and a cough.  Others can suffer from life-threatening pneumonia.



Environmental Enrichment for a Happier Cat

Many indoor cats live in relative boredom and loneliness, contributing to stress that results in behavior disorders such as house soiling, urine marking, intercat aggression, owner directed aggression, and behaviorial overgrooming. Proper enrichment of the indoor environment gives the cat a more novel and complex life that encourages the cat to continue more typical species behavior leading to less behavior problems.


Things to consider about your indoor cats environment:

RESTING AND HIDING PLACES:

A normal cat uses a resting place as a place to observe the world via sight, sound and smell. For indoor cats, there is no diversity in the environment except for what can be observed through a window. Each room of your home should have a resting place for the cat, that if not by a window, is changed periodically in some way. Perhaps sometimes a TV or radio can be left on, even very quietly, for the cat to contemplate. The surface can be changed in some way. Catnip or food treats can be hidden in these resting places to be discovered by the exploring cat. A scented toy or cat safe spray can be sprayed there to be discovered. Again, this is not every day to every resting place, but randomly and surprisingly to change the cat's experience as it observes and explores its home territory each day.

Cats use hiding places to cope or nap. A hiding place is a more den-like resting place where the cat can "retire" from everyday stresses. Cats need options for tall hiding places, like cat trees or shelves, and small hiding places like paper bags, cardboard boxes or niches under beds or in closets. Again, hiding places can be made more enticing through occasionally hiding a food treat or catnip there.

OLFACTORY ENVIRONMENT:

Scent signals are an important part of cat communication and exploration. Cats exposed to new odors are more active and exploratory. Catnip, cat grasses, safe houseplants, herbs (cinnamon, cardamom), toys with owner's scent and pheromones such as Feliway all help encourage exploration and play. Again, switching the scents up and presenting them randomly add surprise and delight to the cat's daily exploration. Facial marking or bunting and rubbing are healthy and happy cat behaviors and can be facilitated by the owner but also by rubbing targets such as the Catit Cat Spa, made to be affixed to corners of walls as a bunting target.

A word of warning for owners of cats that are predisposed to urine marking. Adding new scents to the cat's territory may worsen marking behavior in cats prone to this behavior.

SCRATCHING ENVIRONMENT:

Scratching both vertical and horizontal surfaces is a normal cat behavior that leaves visual and scent signals and keeps the nails healthy. Cats should be habituated to scratching posts made of materials not normally found in the home like cardboard, rope or bark. Rug covered posts are not recommended becaue they encourage the cat to scratch fabric or material surfaces found other places in the home. Scratching posts should be in socially active areas, NOT just the basement. Playing with your cat at the scratching post or presenting occasional treats or catnip on the scratching post are ways to encourage healthy and appropriate scratching behavior. As cats age, some can no longer scratch and then need periodic nail trimming to keep their nails healthy and not ingrown.

LITTERBOX ENVIRONMENT:

In general, it is a good idea to have one more litterboxes than the number of cats in the household. Litterboxes should be in quiet, even private, but easily accessible locations. Most cats clearly prefer large (33 X15 inches), uncovered boxes with clumping litter of a sand-like texture. And at least 50% of all cat misurination problems start because the litterbox is not clean enough to be acceptable to the cat. Because the plastic eventually absorbs the smell of waste products, old litterboxes should be exchanged for new one every 1-2 years.

SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT:

Cats are social animals, but many are happy as single cats with the human as their social contact. Cats will also be social with dogs and other cats. But they need their space! When housing multiple cats it is ideal to have 107 square feet or at least 2 rooms per cat. Male cat may need more space, up to 4-5 rooms. Remember to increase the number of food bowls, water bowls, resting areas and litterboxes with each added cat.

HUNTING, PLAYING and EATING REQUIREMENTS:

In well adjusted cats, hunting behaviors take up 3.6 hours of their day, just above the 3.5 hours they spend grooming themselves. So if you see your cat cleaning themselves all the time and never "playing", they need more time hunting! Predatory behavior can be simulated in an indoor cat by dividing their daily food quantity and feeding at different food bowls in different areas of the house randomly. Feeding from food toys (IQ Treat Ball, Kitty Kong) and hiding portions of their meals at resting places, under furniture and rugs can simulate hunting. Cats have a need to chew that can be fulfilled with jerky treats and cat-safe grass.

Toys and playing with your cat will also simulate hunting behavior. Keep a wide variety of toys on hand and rotate them so there are 3 new toys per day per cat. Smaller toys and mobile toys with complex surfaces increase play behavior in cats. Many good cat toys are inexpensive or even free! Cats like to play with: ping pong ball in a bathtub, toys on wands, toys on stands, egg cartons with treats hidden inside, laser pointers or toys (frolicat.com), plastic rings from milk cartons, balled up pieces of paper, catnip mice or balls, golf balls, balls with bells, large fabric hair ties or hair bands, aquariums stocked with fish. Daily play time with your cat is a must, just like the daily walk for the pet dog!

Training sessions of 3 minutes or less, held before feeding, benefits the cat mentally and with owner bonding. Cats should be trained individually and using high value treats like Temptations. Clicker training can be very helpful (clickertraining.com). Cats enjoy learning entertaining tricks such as high 5, fist bumps, standing up or turning for treats.

Normal feline daily activity includes:

9.5 hours sleeping

5.3 hours resting

3.6 hours hunting (playing, training)

3.5 hours grooming

0.6 hours traveling

0.55 hours eating

0.33 hours other activities like scratching, smelling, etc



Warning about Adopting from Rescue Groups dealing with Foreign Countries

Adopting a rescue pet may just be the best decision you have ever made. You may find you have saved and enriched the life of a needy, unwanted dog or cat all while saving and enriching your life and that of your family. But there are some very scary loopholes in the rescuing community that may end up causing significant worries for an unwary adopter.


Human nature propels many of us to save the saddest or most needy case. The internet has proven very effective at allowing the adopter to see the wide and varied population of needy pets. No longer are we limited to the sad and needy cute pets at our local shelter, but we have access to saving the even sadder and needier cute pets from the next county, state or even country.

Upstate New Yorkers have proven themselves to make very responsible dog owners overall. Currently, while upstate shelters still have a great need to place unwanted adult dogs, they have to ship in young dogs and puppies to meet our demand for this age group. We should celebrate our success at population control for dogs! Many of the puppies you met at the shelters come from southern states or even Puerto Rico. While there may be problems with these dogs coming in with heavy internal parasites loads (worms), this is a treatable and reversible to healthy problem. Less commonly, these dogs may come up North carrying heartworm disease. While heartworm disease is more costly and complex to treat, many of these also can be cured and returned to full health.

More recently we have come across dogs shipped into the United States to be adopted through various rescue groups that are imported from foreign countries like Spain. Some of these dogs are coming here because they are not considered adoptable in their home country and are being saved by big hearted rescue groups that know these dogs are slated to be euthanized. However, they are not considered adoptable in their home countries because they have or are carriers of serious diseases. It happens that some of these diseases are foreign to our country (not here on a routine basis). These diseases are contagious to other animals, or even people, often through biting insects. We have plenty of biting insects, mosquitos, flies, fleas and ticks, here!

My worry, as a veterinarian, is that there will be both an individual and local/regional price to pay for this generosity of heart. These diseases are often not only costly to treat, many cannot be cured, and if transmitted to other animals and people may result in outbreaks of diseases we have not had to manage before.

Please investigate the background of the dog you have fallen in love with before making the adoption. We discourage anyone from adopting dogs brought in from a foreign country. We have plenty of needy, loving pets without having to go to foreign countries to get them.



What is Canine Influenza? How worried should I be?

Canine Influenza (CID) is a recently recognized viral upper respiratory infection of dogs that causes licking of lips, reverse sneezing, sneezing, coughing, fever and lethargy. It is contagious through saliva and nasal discharge directly or indirectly through the air or left on objects. Symptoms often occur 2-4 days after exposure.


As of the start of 2014, Canine Influenza was endemic (regularly occuring) in Florida and New York City, with many parts of the rest of the country only reporting occasional outbreaks. A Canine Influenza vaccine is available, and is mostly used in shelters or other places that large numbers of dogs are brought together.

Like Human Influenza, Canine Influenza is highly contagious (easy to catch when exposed to a sick patient). And like Human Influenza, primary treatment is supportive care. Antibiotics would not be warrented unless there is evidence of secondary bacterial infection. Also like Human Influenza, Canine Influenza is most dangerous to the young (under 1 year of age) or the elderly (over 9 years of age) or to patients with concurrent respiratory or cardiac disease (chronic bronchitis, emphysema, collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, congestive heart failure).

What can you do to protect your dog? During a reported outbreak, the best thing to do is to reduce contact with other dogs or places where other dogs congregate (kennels, groomers, obedience schools, veterinary hospitals, petstores, dog parks). Avoid face to face contact with other dogs on the street or through the fence. If you have exposure to animals, wash your hands and change your clothing before returning home to your own dog. During a reported outbreak, we would keep you updated through this website or our Facebook account as to other measures that may be helpful.

If your dog is showing symptoms, call your veterinarian for help! Specific testing is available to diagnose Canine Influenza and separate it from the more common place Kennel Cough Disease.



Budgeted Wellness Care

Budgeted Wellness Care is a new program that allows the dedicated pet owner to divide the annual preventative care package for their pet into affordable monthly chunks.


When you arrive for your pet's annual wellness exam (not a sick visit), you will get more information about this program. Your veterinarian will decide on the preventative care needed for your pet and go over the list of suggested services and products for the following year. That total is divided by 12 months and the monthly budget is set. If you wish, we will establish you as a PaymentBanc client for $25 and that monthly budget will be deducted from the account of your choice (check/ savings/debit card/credit card MC/Visa/Discover) over the next 12 months. When you return next year your pet's care is prepaid at this year's prices!

While it is $25 to use this service, we expect that cost to be offset by the fact that you are getting services at the current years pricing. If, at any time and for any reason prior to the pet's next annual visit, you decide you want that money back it can be returned to you IN FULL except for the $25 PaymentBanc charge.

THIS IS NOT PET INSURANCE.

NOR DOES THIS COVER ANY MEDICATIONS, SICK CARE, SURGERY or ANY other charges not listed in the veterinarian's recommended preventative care schedule provided to you at the sign up.



Bones- The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Giving bones to your dog remains controversial. And that is because, like many things in life, they can be helpful and they can cause problems.


The good: Bones provide good chewing stimulation for the busy or anxious dog, often with relatively low calories associated with the hours of chewing pleasure. They are often easily available and relatively low in price.

The bad: Bones are a choking hazard and a dog with a bone should be supervised. Certain bones, like turkey neck bones and chicken wing bones, can splinter and provide a choking hazard. Hard bones, like cooked shin bones, are hard enough to cause painful tooth fractures (slab fractures). Particularly pointy bones, like pork, can actually perforate the dog's stomach or intestines causing peritonitis (dangerous, potentially deadly circumstance requiring surgery). Other bones get wedged on the roof of the mouth or over the lower canines and mandible, causing the dog to panic and work at their mouth, requiring an emergency trip to the veterinarian to remove them.

The ugly: Older dogs that have eaten bones all their life may overindulge or just have a geriatric slow down of digestion, causing the bone particles to compact in their rectum and cause a bone impaction. Certain bones are rich in marrow or associated skin (chicken carcass) causing profuse, watery diarrhea.

So you decide, and monitor your pet. Bones may work for you, or you may find easier, safer ways to allow your dog some chewing pleasure.



So why should I get my indoor cat vaccinated against other diseases?

Being an indoor cat provides protection from many traumas, misadventures, parasites and diseases. But that protection isn't complete!


Lets consider FVRCP vaccination. FVRCP stands for feline viral rhinotracheitis (a cat herpes virus), calici and panleukopenia virus. In our practice we also call this the feline distemper vaccine. This is a vaccine that provides protection against 3 severe diseases that can all have the symptoms of a cold (runny eyes, runny nose, sneezing) AND other symptoms. Panleukopenia will kill kittens and is so contagious it has been known to shut down shelters. Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (herpes virus) can kill but also often becomes latent, causing recurring bouts of sickness throughout the cats life. These viruses can be spread by indirect contact- meaning on shoes, clothing, hands, cat carriers, windowsills, cat toys. So your cat does not need direct contact with the sick cat to become ill. These disease affect the youngest and oldest cats most severely. It is very common to have a family adopt a young cat as the established cat gets older, only to have the adult cat get the symptoms once the new cat is in the household. It also happens when cats go to the cat sitter, boarding facility or you have a cat as a guest.

Anyone who has loved a cat with herpes virus infections of the eye (chronic, recurring, painful eye condition) would strongly recommend you vaccinate your indoor cat! Going through that preventable trauma does not seem worth skipping the vaccine!

Anyone who has lived with a cat with recurrent bouts of sneezing and snotting due to the stress reoccurences of herpes virus would strongly recommend you vaccinate your indoor cat! Going through that preventable mess does not seem worth skipping the vaccine!

Now lets consider Feline Leukemia virus and vaccination. Feline Leukemia virus is a retrovirus, like the Human AIDS virus. It is a sneaky virus that gets into the system by bite wounds or shared grooming/ bowls, often undetected and early, then slowly ruins the immune system so the cat gets more and more sickly or picks up strange cancers. Leukemia is not a common cancer for cats, unless they have been infected with this virus. Cats under 6 and especially kittens under 1 year of age are particularly SUSCEPTIBLE to this virus. Many of us get a kitten and plan to make it an indoor (only) cat only to have the kitten have other plans of escape or adventure! It is often wise to vaccinate the kitten or young cat for the first year, and be in the position to discontinue vaccination when it is clear the cat is going to live the indoor only, closed household lifestyle. This vaccine is often discontinued in the older cat, even when it spends much time outdoors, because it is very rare for the older cat to become infected late in life.



Why do I need to vaccinate my indoor cat against Rabies?

Indoor cats do need some vaccines, even against Rabies! Their indoor status does mean they will be less likely to be exposed to some diseases, but that is not the same as protecting them.

Let's talk about Rabies first, because Rabies is a uniformly fatal disease that has no treatment and is transmitted to people by their pets. Rabies virus is transmitted generally by saliva to blood contact, most commonly by a bite wound. The virus enters the body and travels up nerves to infect the brain, effectively poking holes in the brain of the patient and causing death by encephalitis over 4-10 days.  Rabies can be expressed in the dumb form- blankness, drooling, lack of expression or the mad form- drooling and blindly attacking/biting. The incubation time (from bite to sickness) can be days to months after the bite.


Why should you protect your indoor cat? Very simply, because it is required by law. But there are many other reasons it makes sense.

If your pet bites or scratches someone and you cannot prove they are Rabies vaccinated you can be sued (liability issues) or more alarming, the law can require your pet be tested for Rabies. Currently Rabies testing can only be done by biopsing the brain, requiring that your pet be euthanized (humanly killed) to be tested.

Are you sure your cat will never go outside? Never wander or accidently get out? How about if you find a bat in your home? Bats carry Rabies, and having a bat indoors is a common exposure for the indoor only cat. Keep in mind that rabid animals act abnormally, so having a rabid raccoon or skunk get into your garage or basement has been known to happen. The other problem with bats in the house is we often do not recognize that a bat has gotten into the house until after the fact. The bat gets in, the cat hunts it down and plays with it or eats it. We may never see it, yet the cat was exposed. Unknown exposure to a rabid animal is even more dangerous than known exposure.

From the veterinarian's perspective, the ability to rule out Rabies is a good reason to Rabies vaccinate the cat. Diagnosing neurologic diseases is difficult, even more difficult when the patient cannot speak to you. If a cat has neurologic symptoms and is not protected by Rabies vaccination, the veterinarian cannot take Rabies off the list of potential causes for those symptoms. That makes diagnosing and treating that cat's disease even more difficult and costly. When we know the cat is protected by Rabies vaccination, we can immediately look for other diseases and ignore the possibility of Rabies.

Please make sure your indoor pet is Rabies vaccinated!



Litter Box Use… and Disuse!

Cats are typically fastidious creatures that learn to use the litterbox quickly and well! But through the cat's lifetime there are many ways they can get out of the habit of using the litterbox correctly, causing many problems for themselves and their owners.


In most cases, kittens quickly learn to get in and out of the litterbox and use it correctly as a bathroom. The major obstacles for kittens are can it find the litterbox quickly and get in it easily. Once those problems are solved, many kittens use the litterbox as a playground as well as a bathroom. Never try to scare or discourage the kitten playing in the box, you may inadvertantly discourage the kitten from using the box as a bathroom! When the kitten is playing in the litter and making a mess, do your best to kitten proof the area surrounding the litterbox for quick clean up. Most kittens quickly grow out of playing in the litterbox and move on to better play areas.

Most adult cats reliably use the litterbox.. When an adult cat is having occasional misurinations outside the box, there are many possible reasons. It is best to pay attention to this at the onset rather than let the misuse become an ingrained habit!



How do I administer ear medications to my pet?

Most ear medications are a watery, oily or creamy liquid.  They are meant to be placed at the top of the ear canal, into the ear opening we can see, and will run down into the ear canal.  The vial should indicate a number of drops but this is not meant to fill the ear with medication, just get enough in to coat the ear canal when the pet shakes its head or gravity carries the liquid down into the ear.  If the ear flap or side of your pet's head is getting greasy,  unless you are not getting the applicator tip near the top of the ear canal,  you are overapplying the medication, you may use less and still have good results.


It is best to have control of your pet to administer ear medications. That means one person holds the dog's collar and nose while the other lifts the ear flap and gently puts the tip of the medication applicator into the ear canal opening and deposits the medication. Very gentle and trusting dogs may allow one person to do this alone, but most dogs will wiggle away if you don't have help!

It is a very similiar procedure for cats. While cats have very sensitive ears, they are more likely to allow a single person to apply the drops calmly, gently and confidently. If the cat is fighting the procedure, abort and restart later once the cat has calmed down. Forcing a cat into submission typically results in everyone being unhappy.

Please keep in mind, most ears that need medication are already PAINFUL. Try to make the procedure gentle and swift and follow up with a food treat or petting to reward the patient.

Sometime ear medications are meant to be "packed" into the ear. This means the medication is specially formulated into a thick oil (like Vaseline) that fills the ear, holding medication against the inside of the ear. This medication is applied once a week, requiring a gentle cleaning of the ear canal before the next application of packing medicine. The veterinarian will describe and administer the first dose in the exam room, so you can feel comfortable with the procedure at home. These medications are often used only in ear infections that are chronic or resistant to treatment or extremely painful.



How do I administer oral medication to my %*7#& cat?

Administering oral medication to a cat MIGHT be one of the most challenging aspects of being a cat owner.  Most cats are extremely resistant to voluntarily taking medication, either because they are too smart to eat the medicine in a treat of some form or because they are agile and reluctant to cooperate in forceful pilling of the medication.


Most cats will not eat medicated food or medication mixed into liquids. One product that overcomes this is Pill Pockets or any of the copy cat products. These are attractive cat food treats that are shaped into a pocket and are the consistency of Play-doh. You place the capsule or tablet in the pocket, squeeze the end shut and let the cat eat it's medication. For some cats this truely works like a charm. To keep this working, make sure you occasionally give the cat empty pill pockets. Not so often the cat becomes bored with the treat, but often enough that the cat doesn't suspect every Pill Pocket contains medication. If you need to give your cat pills, ideally you have given the occasional Pill Pocket ahead of time so you know the cat will eat them and the cat is not suspicious of them containing medication.

If this doesn't work, you may have to try to give the medication by hand. This is almost always a 2 person per cat job. One person gently but firmly holds the cat in a sitting or lying down position by the cat's elbows with the cat's fanny tucked near the person's body or armpit. On a tabletop or counter works the best. The person administering the pill has in in their dominant hand between the forefinger and thumb. That person uses their non-dominant hand to cover the cat's eyes with their palm, forefinger at one edge of the mouth and thumb at the opposite side, and pinky/ring finger behind the head/between the ears. With their hand firmly gripping the cat's head, turn the cat's nose directly overhead. The cat will naturally loosen their jaw, allowing the hand with the pill to fully open the mouth and quickly and confidently place the pill over the back of the tongue and poke it down with the forefinger. This can be very difficult to successfully administer if the piller or holder are inexperienced or the cat is uncooperative. Please see our links page for video of this procedure outlined on the Cornell Feline Health Center website. Liquid medication can be given by holding the cat's head with nose turned up and gently squirting the liquid in the lip pouch or between the clenched teeth onto the tongue in a gentle but swift manner.

With experience, this pilling procedure is typically successful for most cats. If you are not having success, please ask the veterinarian for a short review of the process or ask for other medicating options.

We are lucky to have two compounding pharmacies in the Capital District that can modify medication into flavored liquids or even transdermal gels for the most reluctant of patients. Keep in mind, typically the basic pill is the most inexpensive version of the medication, so any compounding may mean the medication costs more per month than the pills or tablets. However, compounded medications are fairly priced and can save you and your pet alot of stress!



How do I administer oral medication to my dog?

Most commonly, dogs are sent home with tablets, pills or capsules that have to be administered by mouth. There are two basic ways to administer these medications, voluntarily and involuntarily.


Voluntary administration means we get the dog to eat the medication. How hard this is varies based on the dog's willingness to eat! Some dogs will take a pill out of your hand and swallow it just because it is offered to them! Other dogs will take a pill hidden in a tasty treat, like a piece of cheese or the center of a slice of bread rolled into a doughy consistency. For the ready eaters, you can often put this treat right on top of the dog food in their bowl and put the bowl down at mealtime and they will come over and gladly eat it all. Other dogs need the pill hidden in a sticky treat that cannot be separated from the pill. A ball of peanut butter or cream cheese works well for those. Dogs that may be suspicious of medicated treats can often be enticed by the trick of 3. This is where you have 3 pieces of something terribly attractive to eat, like pieces of hot dog or cheese, and put the pill in the middle piece. Then give the first treat, making sure they know there is more. When they have eaten that and are excited for more, give the second, medicated treat and follow quickly with the third, unmedicated treat.

Involuntary administration is when we hold the pill in a pincher grip in our dominant hand and place our nondominant hand over the top of the dogs nose and lift up. As the dog's nose goes up, use the fingers holding the pill to open the jaw fully and deposit the pill at the very back of the throat over the base of the tongue in a confident, swift and gentle manner. Keep your fingers in a cone shape to prevent being bitten by the large, crushing teeth on the side of the mouth. If you feel the pill has been left too far forward on the tongue, hold the dog's mouth closed and gently stroke the throat or blow on the nose to encourage swallowing. When you release the dog, watch for the dog to swallow or spit out the pill. Depending on the size and temperment of the dog, you may have to have an assistant to keep the dog from walking away while you give the pill. Also, having smaller dogs at your waist level, on a table or counter top, may make your job easier.

Sometimes liquids are sent home. These can be administered into a up turned, closed dog mouth by stretching out the cheek pouch and depositing the liquid in this spacious area. Or directly into an open mouth works too, just make sure not to squirt so enthusiastically that it goes in one side and out the other!

More rarely powders are used. These are best administered in a treat pouch or pocket. Take part of a slice of bread without crust, and place the powder on the bread, then fold the bread in half. You now have a treat pocket and can feed the powder without the dog tasting it. For very particular dogs, you can spread a touch of butter or peanut butter on the outside of the bread pocket to make it more pallitable.

If you are still having problems, call your veterinarian at 439-9361 or look on the Cornell Small Animal website (see the links area) for a video demonstration.



Raisin and Grape Toxicity

Raisins and grapes have been, in rare instances, found to be toxic to dog kidneys.  It is currently believed that it is not the raisin or grape itself that is the problem, but a type of fungus that is known to grow on them that damages the kidneys.


So don't panic if your dog just ate an oatmeal raisin cookie or a grape that rolled onto the floor!

While we would not promote feeding raisins or grapes on purpose, because of this rare toxicity problem, we also don't want you to worry about every raisin or grape you dog accidently gets. Don't worry about making your dog vomit up the raisin or grape, just watch over 4-7 days for normal eating, drinking and bathroom habits. If your dog does stop eating or starts vomiting or is drinking excessively, it is worth an exam and discussion with the veterinarian.



Xylitol- Sugar-less Sweetener VERY Toxic to Dogs

Xylitol is a sugar-less sweetener that is very useful for human diabetics and in sweetening products for a healthy mouth, but is very dangerous to dogs.  Relatively small ingestions, like a piece of gum, can result in significant hypoglycemia and potentially life threatening liver damage to dogs.  Please be aware of products containing this sweetener.  If you must have it, keep it out of reach of the playful or curious or hungry dog and keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control number (888) 426-4435 nearby.


Products KNOWN to contain Xylitol include:

Trident gum

Ice Breakers gum

Richochet Fruit Sours and other Richochet products

Dr. John's (diabetic) Lollipops and candies

SparX, Xlear, Zapp!, BFresh and Epic gums and toothpastes/mouthwashes

Lucky or Swanson Vitamins

USA Birch (diabetic) products

This list is not complete. READ the candy/gum/baked goods/toothpaste/mouthwash packaging for the complete picture.



The Tick Life Cycle

The tick life cycle is complex.  Ticks are not truly insects, but are more closely related to spiders. They are more resistant to our common pesticides and repellents. Typically, one tick is believed to live over a two year period.  It starts out as an egg, often laid near the entrance to small rodent (white-footed mouse) dens. It hatches into a tiny larva. Maybe 5-7 larva could fit on the head of a straight pin. These larva typically get on the mouse or nearby rodent, take a blood meal, then fall to the ground to wait to molt into the next stage.


If the weather or nearby feeding opportunities are not right, the tick will wait in this stage until it has a better chance of survival. It then shows up as a nymph, where it looks like a miniature adult tick. Again, the nymph waits to attach to a rodent, rabbit, human or pet to take a blood meal then fall to the ground to wait in molt until opportunities are right. It then emerges as an adult tick, still small but more easily visible than the previous 2 stages. The adult tick crawls about up a foot grass, shrubs or other plant growth to wait for a passing animal (pet, human, deer, almost anything!) to attach to and gain a blood meal. An adult tick will take 3-5 days to fill with its blood meal, typically changing from about the size of the eraser on a pencil to a small grape as it fills. While only the adult female takes a blood meal, the smaller male may be found attached to her underside, ready to inseminate her. Once she is full, she falls off, lays her eggs and dies.

While it is possible for ticks to establish indoor life cycles, it is uncommon in Northeastern homes and most common in Southwestern kennels.

Locally, we see ticks on pets EVERY MONTH OF THE YEAR. Ticks are not killed by cold weather! However, snow cover typically is believed to cover them and keep them inactive underneath. The less snow, the more tick activity is noted in the winter time (December, January, February). The most tick activity on pets is noted spring and fall (March, April and May and again in September, October and November). Mostly adult ticks are found on pets taking their blood meal or soon thereafter, dropped on the floor of the home. However, during summertime (June, July and August), nymphal ticks can be found mostly on hunting cats and often around the eyelids, nose, mouth and ear tips. Adult tick activity is also noted in the summertime.

Ticks transmit Lyme disease by feeding on us or our pets. They need to feed over 24 hours to successfully move the Lyme spirochete (similiar to a bacteria) from their gut to their mouth and then into the body they are feeding on. So early removal means less chance of Lyme disease. And if you remove and dispose of an unattached tick, there is no chance of transmission of Lyme disease from that tick. And you cannot get Lyme disease from your pet, ONLY by being bitten by a tick.

Most topical tick preventions, like Vectra, Frontline, or Preventic collars, take HOURS to kill the tick. So even if you find an attached tick, it doesn't mean they are not working! Look closely at the removed tick. Moving legs mean they are not dead yet but you may remove a tick that is still and unmoving and actually already dead. Even though these products may take hours to kill the tick, they are generally believed to be working faster than the tick can transmit Lyme disease. And ticks that are exposed to these products, but brushed off the pet and left in the home, are going to die in a matter of hours.

Some topical tick preventions, like Vectra provide some repellant effect, so fewer ticks will get on your pet.

REVOLUTION and FRONTLINE are the ONLY TICK PREVENTION THAT IS SAFE FOR USE ON CATS! Dogs have more options for tick control.



The Flea Life Cycle

Understanding the flea life cycle helps in planning appropriate environmental controls.

Fleas are living outside in upstate New York during the non-frost, growing season.  Typically this period is mid-May to late October, but can vary depending on the weather for that year!  Warmer parts of the country may have a year-long flea season, like Florida.  Any pet that goes outside is going to attract the fleas while outside and potentially carry them to indoor areas. Clearly, some neighborhoods have heavy local loads (see fleas every year) and others have light local loads (may not see fleas every year).  But if you have pets, at sometime you are going to have fleas.


Prevention controls include using topical preventions (Vectra, Frontline, or other flea killing products) monthly to kill the fleas that jump on the pet thereby protecting the pet and keeping the fleas from establishing an indoor population. Other prevention products, like Capstar, work by giving daily medication but we consider them less effective than the topicals. Older preventions, like collars and baths, are very ineffective (you would have to bath the pet every 2 or so days for them to work- not humanly possible!).

Fleas are small, brown, oval, fast moving insects that bite the pet to feed on blood, and lay eggs in the environment. Fleas can jump on and off multiple feeding sources (pets, owners, wildlife) for multiple bites during its lifespan. The eggs are virtually invisible, but roll into corners, cracks and can persist for long periods of time until hatching. They hatch into TINY larvae (worms/caterpillars) that can sometimes be seen on pet bedding or sleeping areas if present in large numbers. These larvae spin a cocoon and live as a pupa in the environment. In this protected sac, fleas can survive in environments for months, waiting for the right time to hatch into fleas. It is common for mass hatchings to occur when an unoccupied indoor space (apartment, home) is suddenly reoccupied (after new rental, after vacation).

Controlling an infestation is POSSIBLE. It will take work and weeks or months to fully control the infestation, depending on the level of infestation and the number of pets and the type of control. Washing bedding and thorough vacuuming quickly and safely remove 50-70% of the flea population, but other treatments are needed to fully remove the flea population from the home environment.

Lower pesticide infestation control takes longer to regain control and is potentially more expensive, dependent on the number of pets involved. The pesticides are used only on the pet, and not in the home. The monthly topicals, Vectra, Frontline, have to be applied consistently and well for 6-12 months to clean the environment by killing the fleas after they have gotten on the pet. They have to be applied during the winter as well, since the fleas have established a foothold in the home environment.

Higher pesticide infestation control is quicker and potentially less expensive, but requires pesticide use in the home environment. Monthly topical pesticides, Vectra, Frontline, still have to be applied to the pets until control is regained. Appropriate sprays like Siphotrol, pesticide and hormonal insect controls, are used in the home for quick removal of environmental fleas, eggs and larvae. Siphotrol can be purchased from your veterinarian or reception staff. One container treats 2,000 square feet of home environment and costs less than $30. Professionals like Orkin and Cat's Eye can also help reestablish control of infestations using very similar products.

How do you tell the infestation is gone? You will want to not see fleas on the pets (or people) for extended periods of time before you celebrate! A flea comb is your best indicator of control.

Once you have successfully obliterated a flea infestation, you can breathe a sigh of relief. But be aware, fleas may still thrive outside with consecutive days that have above freezing temperatures. At this point, prevention controls (Vectra, Frontline,) are going to be worth consistent year-round use!



I don’t think my current topical flea/tick product is working- How soon can I reapply?

There is no single answer for this frequently asked question.

The known safe answer is to wait the period of time the product is supposed to work, typically 30 days, before reapplying.


An alternative is to bathe the pet in a detergent shampoo (meant to strip off skin oils) and reapply after 24 hours.

If you are having severe flea or tick infestation problems, it may be worth seeing the veterinarian to establish a control program. We can often tailor a program to your specific needs and the needs of the pets. Or stop by the front desk, our friendly office staff can offer general advice.

And remember, continuing to see fleas or ticks doesn't always equal failure of a product, but signals the population of the pest is continuous!

When dealing with fleas or ticks, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!



How do I tell if my pet has worms or parasites?

There are many ways to look for parasites (worms) but not all of them are foolproof.

Most puppies and kittens come with some degree of parasitism.  Parasites have found many ways to be introduced to new hosts, and from dam to  immunologically naive offspring is a very successful route. Many breeder, petshops and shelters work hard to provide parasite protection by early deworming. Indicators that your puppy or kitten may have parasites include soft, smelly or abnormal stool, a potbellied look, poor haircoat, lethargy or no outward indicators.  That is why an early fecal flotation test will help us determine the level of parasitism and appropriate therapy.  Successful deworming may require three appropriately timed deworming medications to successfully eradicate the parasite.


Lucky for us and our pets, many modern heartworm preventions also provide monthly deworming for common types of parasites (but not all). So pets on heartworm prevention are much less likely to become parasitized than non-protected pets.

Pets not on heartworm prevention can benefit from strategic deworming. Strategic deworming is a plan made with your veterinarian during an annual exam based on your pet's exposure level and risk factors. Strategic deworming is meant to prevent parasites from overwhelming your pets system, but may not be meant to keep your pet "parasite-free".

We want to check a stool sample for parasites anytime you suspect parasites, your pet has an unusually itchy anus, or diarrhea or significant gas that cannot be explained. A stool sample is mixed with zinc sulfate solution and centrifuged, allowing the eggs of the parasites in the stool to rise to the surface and be found and identified by microscopic examination. Once identified, a deworming therapy plan can be initiated. This may include deworming the pet 1-3 times or rechecking the stool at some future interval.



If one has worms do I have to treat them all?

If you find one pet has worms, others may as well.  That is because they share the same environment and therefore the same risk factors.  Some worms are more likely to be shared than others.


Roundworms- contagious through dam to offspring (in utero or lactional), fecal contact or intermediate host (like a mouse)

Whipworms- contagious through fecal contact and soil innoculation

Hookworms- contagious though fecal contact, soil innoculation and contact of skin with innoculated soil

Tapeworms- contagious through shared prey sources (small rodents, rabbits) or shared flea populations or under or uncooked meat sources

Other sources of less common parasites include eating beetles, cockroaches, snakes, frogs/toads, uncooked fish, snails/slugs, crustaceans (lobster, crawdads), uncooked game (moose, rabbit, etc), or impure water sources.

It is always safest to test all household pet members for parasites (fecal or stool sample) OR treat all household pet members as if they are infected. Treatment may be in the form of liquid, pill, powder or topical medication. Medication choices ususally involve considerations of cost, convenience and chance of getting the medication in the pet, as well as size and age of the pet, so actual medication used may vary from pet to pet. You may approach the reception staff or veterinarian for instructions specific to your household and environment.

In the case of Tapeworms, if one cat is indoors and non-hunting and the other is outdoors and a known hunter, the indoor cat is unlikely to need treatment because they are not sharing the same risk factors.



How To Catch Urine from a DOG

Get a clean container (old Tupperware, paper cup, pie plate, etc).  Make sure the container is rinsed thoroughly of soap residue, and dried.  Put your dog on a short leash (NOT the retractable kind).  Take the dog for a walk.  Be prepared for how your dog urinates.  Most females will squat and you need to get your catch container underneath her.  Most males will lift a leg and you will have to catch from the stream.

Put a lid on the container or put the container or liquid in a sealed Ziploc bag.  Sufficient sample sizes are from about a teaspoon to a tablespoon in volume.  Fresh samples yield the most reliable results, so please get the sample to the animal hospital within 2 hours and protect from heat or sunlight.




How To Catch Urine from a CAT

Multiple methods for collecting urine from a cat will be reviewed here.


The most consistent method involves leaving the cat in the animal hospital for 8-24 hours to catch urine.

If the cat is misurinating on hard surfaces (bathtub, tile floor), a new misurination can be collected with a Speci-Porter that you have gotten from us.  This involves using the sterile Speci-Porter sponge to soak up the urine and returning it to us.  A common problem involves not having enough urine to sufficiently wet the Speci-Porter sponge.

Alternatively, if the cat is misurinating on the same surface (bed, pile of laundry, bathtub), you can try putting plastic wrap in that location and hoping the cat leaves enough urine on the plastic wrap that you can carefully fold up the plastic wrap and bring us a sample of about a teaspoon in volume.

In multiple cat households it becomes important to isolate cats long enough to be sure who is the misurinator.  This will mean limiting one cat to a bathroom, laundry room, or other space long enough to prove he is the culprit or clear him.  The isolation space is preferably a small room with hard floors, no rugs, and food, water and a litter provided.  Also, report the type of misurination.  Is it a puddle on the floor, drips of urine outside the box, or urine sprayed on a wall and dripping down to the floor.

While the cat is in isolation, it is a good time to catch a urine sample.  In a thoroughly cleaned litter box, put in foam packing peanuts or plastic, non-absorbent litter, or nothing.  When the cat urinates in the box, the urine sample can be poured into a Ziploc or other container.  (Throw away the foam or plastic litter.)  If the cat refuses to use the abnormal litter and urinates on a hard surface, you may use the previously described Speci-Porter technique.

Kit for Kat is an inpermiable litter product you can purchase from us in single use size to catch urine. When used in a litterbox as the litter, the cat urine will pool on top where it can be collected instead of being absorbed.

Another major issue is any urine sample should be collected and tested while fresh, typically within 2 hours of being produced. This means nights and weekends are NOT good times to try to catch a urine, because it will not be fresh when tested. Refrigeration helps keep a sample fresh, but even with extended refrigeration, a urine will change and no longer be helpful for accurate diagnosis.



Microchipping Your Pet

Microchipping is the procedure of implanting, by injection, a microchip capsule under the skin of the shoulders of your pet.  They capsule contains a small microchip, a tool that will permanently and uniquely identify that pet.


When that information is stored in a database associated with a 1-800 number, your lost pet is identifiable and reunitable with you by people all over the world 24 hours a day.

Home Again and AVID are two common brands of microchip used worldwide.  There are multiple brands that read at different frequencies.  Luckily, universal scanners or “readers” are available to check for all brands.

There are multiple databases for storage and reunification purposes.  Many companies, like Home Again, provide both the chip and the information storage system.  All should be available by phone or online 24/7.

By microchipping your pet, you are making sure that pet is uniquely identifiable as your pet.  This gives your pet the best chance of being reunited with you if lost!  Dog control officers (ACOs), shelters, and veterinarians all routinely scan to check for microchips in lost or stray animals.

Delmar Animal Hospital uses Home Again microchips, and we encourage enrollment in the Home Again system.  We also have a scanner for use if an animal is found. Please visit Home Again for the enrollment level that suits your needs.  Call us to set up an appointment to have your pet microchipped, or it can be done in any routine appointment.  It will be worth your peace of mind, for well under $100.

AAHA has a universal microchip lookup website.  It can identify the data base associated with the microchip.  http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/



Exercising Your Pet

Click HERE for more information about the type of exercise your pets should be getting.




Xylitol and Chocolate

Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener found in many sugarless gums and candies and is TOXIC to dogs.


Xylitol has also been found in mouthwashes, chewable vitamins, children’s medication, over-the-counter herbal remedies, and food products, particularly those aimed for diabetics.

Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs in sufficient quantities.

A toxic dose is as follows:
One ounce per pound of body weight for milk chocolate
One ounce per three pounds of body weight for baker’s chocolate
For example, 2 oz. of baker’s chocolate can cause great risk to a 15 lb. dog, yet 2 oz. of milk chocolate usually will only cause digestive problems.

THE DARKER THE CHOCOLATE THE MORE DANGEROUS IT IS TO YOUR DOG!!

Please keep these products out of your pet’s reach!



Why does my pet have bad breath?

Chances are, if you didn’t brush your teeth for years, you would have bad breath too.


When food particles remain on your pet’s teeth, bacteria multiply and produce odor-causing plaque and tartar. Over time, this material builds up and causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). The small pieces of bone which hold the teeth in the jaw are broken down, then the teeth get loose and fall out. The bacteria in the mouth are a source of infection for the rest of the body, especially the heart.

Bad breath generally indicates dental disease. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily may help prevent plaque build-up, but once tartar forms or the tooth is loose, your pet needs a thorough dental cleaning under anesthesia. Small breeds dogs seem to have more problems with their teeth than large breed dogs. This may be because the smaller spaces between their teeth trap more food.



What shots does my puppy need?

Puppies should receive their first vaccination at 8 weeks of age. Vaccinations are repeated at 3-4 week intervals until the puppy is 12-16 weeks old.


The vaccinations are given to protect your dog against the following infectious diseases.
Link to Vaccination Schedule

Distemper – a highly contagious viral disease that spreads through air-borne secretions and causes respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological problems and can be fatal.

Hepatitis – a serious viral infection of the liver and blood vessels.

Leptospirosis – a bacterial infection of the kidneys spread through contact with urine, saliva or nasal secretions. (This vaccination may or may not be used based on various risk factors.)

Parvovirus – a potentially fatal virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. This is a highly contagious disease of young dogs.

Rabies – a fatal viral infection of the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. It is spread through the saliva of a rabid animal. In our area, bats and raccoons are the most common carriers of rabies. Rabies vaccinations are given at 3 months of age and are legally required in Albany County.

Note: There are no vaccinations that give life long protection. We recommend boosters one year after the initial vaccination and every three years thereafter.

Kennel Cough (Bordetella) – vaccination is recommended for dogs with frequent contact with dogs from varied sources (e.g. kennels, dog shows). This vaccine can be administered as nose drops.

Lyme - A tick borne infection causing arthritis, fever and possibly kidney, heart or neurological disease. The first Lyme vaccine is given in a two shot series, two to three weeks apart. The vaccine is then administered once per year.



What shots does my kitten need?

Kittens should receive their first vaccination at 8-10 weeks of age. Vaccinations are repeated at 3-4 week intervals until the kitten is 12-16 weeks old.


The vaccinations are given to protect your cat against the following infectious diseases:
Link to Vaccination Schedule

Distemper (Panleukopenia) – a highly contagious viral disease that spreads through air or contact with infected body secretions and causes vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and can be fatal.

Upper Respiratory Disease (calicivirus, herpesvirus) – a number of highly contagious viral respiratory infections causing “cold” symptoms – sneezing, coughing, discharge from nose and eyes.

Rabies – a fatal viral infection of the central nervous system of mammals including humans. It is spread through the saliva of a rabid animal. In our area, bats and raccoons are the most common carriers of rabies. Rabies vaccinations are given at 3 months of age and are legally required in Albany County.

Feline Leukemia – a viral disease that causes immunosuppression, anemia, and tumors of any body system. It is spread through contact with infected saliva and other body fluids. Immunization against leukemia is recommended if your cat goes outdoors and has contact with other cats.

Note: There are no vaccinations that give life long protection. We recommend boosters one year after the initial vaccination and every three years thereafter.



Dry Eye or KCS (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Dry eye is a painful eye disease that causes squinting, redness and discharge from the eye.


It requires careful and LIFELONG treatment because it may progress to pigmentary keratitis (blackening of the clear window of the cornea), infection or blindness.

Dry eye is a common problem. Certain breeds with large, protruding eyeballs (Shih Tzu, Pekenese, Boston Terrier, Pug, many others) are predisposed because of anatomy. Other dogs are predisposed because of previous eye problems ( Cherry Eye) or autoimmune disorders (Cocker Spaniels).

Eye medications containing cyclosporine are very helpful in controlling this disorder because they encourage the eye to make its own natural tears. Supplemental treatment with eye lubricants may still be needed if the eye is not properly moisturized. More rarely, surgical corrections may assist in the treatment of dry eye.

The Schirmer Tear Test is an in-office test that is used to diagnosis and evaluate the treatment of Dry Eye. Please follow the veterinarian’s instructions for treatment and reevaluations.

Any red, squinty or discharging eye should be rechecked, even if the disorder had been successfully controlled for months or years.



About Worms—Digestive Types

What are worms? YUCK! How does my pet get them? Can I get them too?! GROSS!


Some basic knowledge goes a long way in protecting you and your pets from the hundreds of parasites (worms) your pet may potentially get.  Luckily, there are only a few common types to be concerned about and most are easily treated.

Keep in mind puppies and kittens are the most common victims of worms. Hunting animals and animals that eat unknown, outdoor, uncooked foods are also at risk. Animals recently adopted, particularly those that travel to us from warmer climates, are also more likely to be harboring parasites.  Fleas are also a source of transmission of worms to your pet. And just walking on ground contaminated by the stool of a parasitized animal may potentially transmit parasites to your pet.

Parasitized pets my have poor haircoats, diarrhea with or without blood, gas, weight loss or poor weight gain or may appear perfectly healthy! Diagnosis of parasites is generally based on the fecal floatation (stool check). Please understand, one negative stool sample does not guarantee a pet that is totally free of parasites!  Pets are generally infected with worms from their dam (mother), prey sources or previously infected grass/soil.  People get worms from their pet by fecal-oral contact (accidentally getting pet stool on your hand and bringing your hand to your mouth) but also may get certain types of worms through infected grass/soil. 

To keep your human family safe:

Always practice good hygiene- wash your hands before eating and after petting or bathing your pet, working outside, cleaning the litter box or taking out the garbage. Teach your children to do the same.

Keep your lawn free of pet stool.  Pick up droppings as soon as possible, ideally in less than 24 hours.

Check new pets for parasites and treat appropriately, then take preventative measures and strategically deworm your pets.

Use appropriate flea prevention products for your pet.

Clean all indoor accidents by wearing gloves, disposing of the stool appropriately (garbage or sewer), then disinfecting the area.

To keep your pet family safe:

Check new pets for parasites and treat appropriately, then take preventative measures and strategically deworm you pets.

Use appropriate flea prevention products for you pet.

Keep your lawn free of pet stool.  Pick up droppings as soon as possible, ideally in less than 24 hours.

Strategic deworming involves the use of Heartworm preventions (like Heartgard) for dogs and periodic deworming of outdoor, hunting cats. Strategic deworming is used to keep parasite loads low to nonexistent in at risk animals.

Most Common Digestive System Parasites:

Roundworms (Ascarids) – very common in puppies and kittens, typical “sand box” worm

Tapeworms – very common in hunting animals or animals exposed to fleas

Whipworms – less common but causes a vile, sustained diarrhea and can contaminate soils for years

Hookworms – less common but can cause serious disease and can cause exposure through skin contact with ground



Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a general term for an infectious cough of dogs.


The infecting agent can be bacterial, as in Bordatella infections, or viral, as in Adenovirus and Parainfluenza infections. A dog with kennel cough has a harsh, honking, hard, and often persistant cough that may be associated with gagging up phlegm or even vomiting. Most cases of kennel cough are very mild and many do not require treatment. However, kennel cough can cause significant illness , hospitalization or even death especially in very young puppies, geriatric pets, or dogs with preexisting cardiopulmonary disease such as heart murmurs, chronic bronchitis, COPD, or congestive heart failure.

Boarding facilities, groomers and dog trainers frequently request or require that dogs attending their facilities be vaccinated against Kennel Cough. This is a wise and reasonable request that has significantly cut down on the transmission of this annoying cough at places where dogs gather.

Kennel Cough vaccines can be given as an injection or nose drops.  Generally it needs to be repeated annually, although in some high exposure situations it may be given more frequently. Dogs with preexisting cardiopulmonary disease and dogs with multiple exposures to other dogs are the most important to get vaccinated.  The vaccine is very helpful from a population standpoint but can fail to protect individuals in certain situations on occasion. These failures may be the result of poor timing of the vaccination, a strain of infection passing around that is not covered by the vaccine or immune system problems of the individual.

Kennel Cough is not the same as Canine Influenza or CIRD, which are much rarer, but potentially much more serious causes of cough or cold symptoms in dogs.



A Word on Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a growing business and may help pet owners to be able to provide optimum medical care to their cherished friend, especially in a time of need.  However, buying pet insurance can be confusing and complicated.


If you are interested in the benefits of pet insurance, it is important to do careful research. Make sure you clearly understand what is and is not covered, if coverage is full or partial and if a deductible must be met.  Understand what paperwork will be needed and how you will be paid.  Do your homework and get any and all information about the insurance company.  There are many unproven, upstarts that do not provide the same customer care as some of the longer standing companies.  Prioritize your insurance needs. 

In most cases, what pet owners really want and need is some sort of “major medical” coverage.  This coverage is meant to kick in during a catastrophic injury or illness, and generally won’t be in effect for minor, simple or uncomplicated medical treatment or routine care such as vaccinations, spaying/neutering and dental cleanings.  Having this type of plan allows you, the owner, to focus on the medical care at any critical moment rather than the cost of the medical care.

The best advice for owners of new puppies, kittens or any new pet is to start a self insurance fund.  To accomplish this, you put the money that would have been spent on a pet health insurance premium into a savings account for the pet.  Most pet health insurance premiums are $50 - $70 per month, so put that money in the bank!  In a year you will have $600 to $840 to draw on for any unexpected pet medical bills that may arise.  In two years you will have $1,200 – $1,680!  The down side of this plan is there is no money available right away and you have to be disciplined to pay yourself!  If you are starting out with a new pet, plan on starting your fund by matching the initial cost of the pet with a contribution to the self insured fund.  This overcomes the initial availability problem.  The benefits of this plan are that you cannot be turned down by an outside insurance company, you are in control of when and where the money is spent, and, in the end, the money is still yours.

So be ready. Get “major medical” coverage or start and stick with a self insurance plan.  Your pet will thank you and you too will be thankful that you planned ahead.

Pets Most Likely To Need Emergency or Costly Care:
Dogs over 55 lbs.
Dogs that eat anything and everything
Outdoor/free roaming pets

Decide if you need pet insurance and get comparisons of different plans at www.pet-insurance-university.com



I just found a tick on my dog/cat…What should I do?

First, make sure it is a tick and not a small growth.


Wet down the fur around the tick and look close to the skin.  You should be able to see the tick’s legs. Once you have positively identified the tick, it is time to remove it. Grasp the tick with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, and gently pull backwards until it comes free of the skin. Sometimes all or part of the tick’s head will remain embedded in the skin. Leave it alone! Trying to remove it will just increase irritation at the site. Your pet’s immune system will take care of it. Expect a bump to be present after the bite for 7-14 days. If you are finding ticks on your pet, contact us for recommendations on tick control.



Is my pet too fat?

Obesity can increase your pet’s chances of developing a number of diseases (i.e. diabetes) and can worsen others (i.e. arthritis).


To determine if your pet is overweight, run your hands over their chest and abdomen. You should be able to feel each rib with only a small amount of flesh over them and there should be a recognizable waistline. If you can no longer easily feel the ribs, your pet is overweight. If you can stand back and see your pet’s ribs, they are too thin.

If you need help putting your pet on a weight loss program, contact our office.



Why should I have my female dog/cat spayed?

We recommend that all mixed breed pets be spayed. Purebred animals that are not being used for breeding or for show should also be spayed. Spaying a female dog or cat involves the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. The primary benefit to spaying your pet is to eliminate their ability to have puppies or kittens, and to prevent heat cycles.


Other benefits include prevention or elimination of the following diseases:

- Pyometra – Infection of the uterus that can occur at any age and is often life threatening.

- Mammary (breast) cancer – spaying a dog prior to her first heat decreases her risk of cancer by 90% or more.

We recommend spaying dogs and cats at 6 months of age. However, if you have an older pet, it is still a good idea to get her spayed to prevent pyometra and other reproductive tract diseases.



Why should I have my male dog/cat neutered?

We recommend that all mixed breed pets be neutered. Purebred animals that are not being used for breeding or for show should also be neutered. Neutering a male dog or cat involves surgical removal of the testicles. The primary benefit of neutering your pet is to eliminate their ability to get a female dog or cat pregnant.


There are also medical and behavioral benefits including:

- Roaming – Males will often wander off looking for or chasing after females in heat. While neutering your male pet may not completely eliminate this behavior, it will remove the hormonal urges to roam.

- Fighting/aggression – Testosterone, the male sex hormone, increases a pet’s tendency to fight with other animals and show other forms of aggression. Most of the testosterone is formed in the testes, so having your pet neutered will greatly decrease circulating levels of testosterone. Unfortunately, not all aggressive behavior is due to testosterone, but neutering often helps decrease the incidence.

- Anal adenomas - Older, uncastrated male dogs often develop these tumors near the anus. These tumors are stimulated to form by testosterone.

- Prostatic disease – Older, uncastrated male dogs often develop an enlarged prostate. As the prostate enlarges, it often puts pressure on the colon and rectum, causing straining and difficulty during defecation. An enlarged prostate also predisposes dogs to develop prostatic infections. Prostatitis leads to bloody urine and difficult or painful urination.

Neutering your dog at a young age will prevent prostatic enlargement and anal adenomas. The good news is that even if your dog has already developed an enlarged prostate, neutering will cause the prostate to shrink and can prevent reoccurrence of anal adenomas.

- Feline urine spraying – Uncastrated male cats will almost always start spraying urine as they reach sexual maturity (8-10 mos. old). Neutering a male cat prior to the start of spraying behavior should keep them from developing the habit of spraying.  Neutering will not always make them stop. Unfortunately, there are other causes of feline urine spraying, but this is the easiest one to prevent.