Today | Pet Care
Springtime Pet Care
by Meghan Vos
Spring is finally here! The warmer temps are welcomed, but they can come with some potential hazards for our pets. Read on to find out how you can prep your pet for a healthy spring and summer.
With warmer temperatures comes the perfect environment for various parasites to surface. Mosquitoes will be out in force which carry a risk of transmitting heartworm disease to dogs and cats. While heartworm disease has previously been thought of as a strictly Southern disease, it has unfortunately become very common in the colder climate of the Midwest, as well. The life cycle of the heartworm makes it easily transmissible to our pets. If a mosquito bites an infected dog, they ingest the larva called microfilaria. The mosquito is then able to transmit infective larva to other animals through a simple bite, injecting it into the animal’s bloodstream. It will take about six months for the larva to mature into adult heartworms, which reside in the heart and lungs. Animals with heartworm disease will suffer with respiratory problems, fatigue, heart failure, and eventually death. Treatment is available, but it is costly and difficult, with some animals not tolerating it. Luckily for our pets, there are a myriad of available preventatives ranging from monthly chewables to injectables that last for an entire year. Many of these products offer the bonus of covering intestinal parasites, as well.
As the weather improves, so does our desire to be outside exercising with our pets. It is important to ease into increased activity to avoid injury. It is known throughout veterinary circles that springtime brings increased cases of soft-tissue injury and even torn cruciate ligaments, which require surgery to repair. Start with walks on even terrain and pay attention to your pet’s weight. Overweight or obese animals are more prone to injury and will take longer to get in shape for rigorous hiking or running. Check your dog’s toenails before walks to be sure they are not overly long, which can cause abnormal gait and pain.
Follow these tips and have an enjoyable springtime with your pet!
New Year, New Pet Fitness Goals
by Meghan Vos
Winter can be tough for all of us. Between the frigid temperatures, seemingly endless snow, and shorter days, it is easy to cuddle up with our pets and watch TV at night instead of crushing our fitness goals. But keeping your pet fit is important and can reduce the risk of many health conditions such as diabetes, certain types of cancer, hypertension, and heart disease. Read on for some fun indoor fitness ideas for your pet.
Walking your dog is certainly a great activity for mental and physical fitness but our snowy Wisconsin winters don’t always allow that. Scent-based activities are great for working your dog’s body and mind. Playing hide-and-seek is a fun game that will get your dog moving and will require him to search you out using scent. You can also use cardboard boxes to hide healthy treats or pieces of kibble and place them throughout the house for your pet to find. This activity should be supervised, as we all know a dog or two that would end up eating the box along with the treats.
If you want to add some fun training to your pet’s routine, look online for wobble boards, inflatable balance discs and pods, or even foam rollers. Training your pet to stand and sit on these simple and affordable items for just a few minutes a day will not only strengthen their core and build muscle, but it will also strengthen your bond. A quick internet search for “canine fitness training” will bring you to an array of videos to help you get started.
We can’t forget our feline friends! Cats are meant to do much more than just loaf around on the sofa all day. Use a laser pointer, feather teaser toy, or glitter ball to bring out your cat’s natural play/chase instinct and get them moving. Cats are nocturnal, so timing is important. They will usually be most playful at night. Cat trees and “gyms” harness the natural instinct to climb, which will build muscle and help transform their shape from loaf to tiger.
Healthy Holidays for Your Pets
by Dr. Seth Oberschlake
Winter holiday seasons are often filled with wonderful memories with family, friends and pets alike. There isn’t much better than dressing up my dog in an elf costume, but that’s just me. To make sure it’s a season to remember, let us go over some things to avoid this winter season. This will by no means be an exhaustive list, but I will try to highlight some of the more important hazards to avoid.
The top holiday food item to avoid giving pets, of course, is chocolate. The higher the cocoa percentage, the worse it is for pets. For dogs especially, avoid anything with xylitol. This sweetener can be particularly dangerous, causing rapid low blood sugar and liver failure. High-fat foods, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, grapes/raisins, and rising bread dough are also things to avoid. As much as dogs love them, I would avoid offering leftover bones as they can potentially cause obstructions and fractured teeth.
Many holiday plants could cause gastrointestinal upset, but one in particular is critical to avoid for our feline friends. Some members of the Lily (Liliaceae) family have the potential to be fatal with ingestion of as little as one leaf. Kidney failure is associated with Easter, tiger, Japanese show, rubrum, day and numerous lily hybrids.
Just like we do, cats and dogs love playing with new toys. Make sure they are appropriate for them and are used under supervision. Tinsel, string, ribbon, and other linear objects can be particularly troublesome if ingested. Watch out for chewing on batteries, salt dough ornaments, and unattended candles. Limit access to wires and string lights especially for pets that love to chew. Many essential oils can also be toxic. Cats are generally more sensitive than dogs.
If something happens, when in doubt, call your veterinary clinic, referral center and/or animal poison control. Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435 are available 24/7/365!
Have a blessed, happy, and safe holiday season!
More Pets – Less Vets
by Meghan Vos
Most pet owners have likely noticed a change in the way their veterinary clinic operates over the past year and a half. Appointment availability is scarce, and curbside appointments became the norm. We have all been learning as we go, trying to do what is best for our patients and their owners.
It is estimated that 12.6 million households added a pet to their family during the pandemic. The American Veterinary Medical Association shows that there are 120,652 veterinarians in the U.S., and only a fraction of these care for small animals such as dogs and cats. That fraction of small animal veterinarians is responsible for an estimated 107 million dogs and cats. Along with these staggering statistics, there is also a nationwide shortage of veterinary technicians, assistants, and receptionists.
Less staff + more pets = our current situation. Clinics are doing their best to triage patients so that critically ill pets are seen first. Your veterinary team wants nothing more than to provide the high-quality care that your pet deserves, and for owners to feel confident in the care that their beloved pet has received.
How can we work together to make this better?
- Many clinics are booking out weeks or even months in advance for routine appointments and surgeries. Plan ahead for exam/vaccine appointments, spay/neuter surgeries, and dental cleanings.
- Phone in your pet’s medication or prescription diet refill 24-48 hours in advance. Like in human medicine, the veterinary community is experiencing shortages of some medications, and this will allow time to find an alternative if needed.
- If your pet becomes ill, call for an appointment when you first notice symptoms. If your pet improves and you need to cancel, do so as soon as possible so the appointment is available for another sick pet.
Know that we want to care for every pet possible, and we love our patients as our own pets. Together we can ensure your pet receives the best care. Please be kind and patient with your veterinary staff as we navigate these challenging times.
Stress Free Veterinary Visits
by Meghan Vos
Visits to the vet can be stressful for pets and owners alike. This can lead to skipped wellness exams and overdue vaccines. The way we practice veterinary medicine has changed drastically over the recent years. Your pet’s mental health is important, and we have moved away from the idea of “wrangling” pets in favor of a lower stress style.
One of the biggest challenges for most pets is being handled in ways that they are not accustomed to. You can help your pet by conditioning them to handling at home, especially their feet and ears. Dogs and cats commonly dislike nail trims or even having their feet touched. If they are properly conditioned and realize no harm will come from this type of handling, it will greatly reduce the stress of the veterinary examination. Ears can be another touchy area, particularly if the pet has had a painful ear infection. Practice handling these areas daily while giving treats to make it a positive experience.
If transportation is stressful, work on conditioning your pet to the car or carrier to ease their fears. It is safest to transport your cat in a carrier so leave the carrier out in your home for a few days with some treats inside to make it a happy place. Consider crating your dog while in the vehicle to make them feel safe and secure.
Something that many pet owners don’t realize is the effect that their emotional state has on their pets. If you are nervous, your pet will become nervous. Carry yourself with a confident and calm demeanor. Your pet will pick up on these calming signals and become less anxious. Consider using an OTC pheromone spray to help induce a sense of calm in your pet.
Some pets, even with consistent work, will still dread going to the vet. If your best efforts don’t seem to be working, reach out to your veterinarian to discuss the possibility of using a prescription anti-anxiety medication prior to appointments. These medications are frequently used to help pets have positive and stress-free visits.