Traveling With Your Pet

Tag: general

Our pets are a beloved part of our family and sometimes this means that they have to travel with us when we undertake long journeys. As a general rule cats seriously dislike traveling and are almost always better off at home in their own environment. Dogs are more amenable to traveling, but there are still a number of considerations to make to ensure that the journey is both safe and comfortable for your pet.


Traveling by Car

The most important thing to remember is to ensure that your pet is not free to roam around the vehicle. Not only could this be distracting for the driver, but your pet will not be protected in the event of a crash. You may have seen dog seat belts being sold in some pet stores. Whilst they have been approved for sale, there is no reliable evidence proving them to be effective in accidents. Instead you should secure your pet in a crate that has been tethered to the car by a seatbelt or other secure method. Ensure that crate is big enough for your pet to change position if they become uncomfortable.

  • Do not put animals in the front passenger seat of your vehicle. If the airbag deploys then there is a chance that your pet could be seriously injured.

  • Do not ever leave your pet alone in the car. Animal thieves frequent parking lots and service stations looking for unattended pets to steal. Also leaving an animal alone in a warm car can be fatal. On a day where the outside temperature is 85F, the temperature inside your vehicle can reach 120F in just 10 minutes putting your pet at serious risk.

  • Do not allow your pet to stick his head outside a moving vehicle. Doing so risks injury or sickness by fast-moving air forcing itself into your pets’ lungs.

  • Never transport your pet in the back of an open pick-up truck.

  • Make plenty of bathroom breaks. This will also allow your pet to stretch their legs and have a drink.

  • As a general rule, if you wouldn’t allow your child to do it then do not allow your pet to do it either!

 Traveling With Your Pet

Pet Obesity

Tag: health and wellness

We are constantly being told that obesity levels are increasing and we should act now to ensure our long term health. However this problem does not just affect humans. A shocking statistic from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that an estimated 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese.
(Source: Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 2015)

Just like humans, pets who are overweight are at increased risk of a number of health problems including but not limited to:

  • Cranial cruciate ligament injury

  • Decreased life expectancy by up to 2.5 years

  • Heart and respiratory disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Varying forms of cancer

 Pet Obesity

General Pet Safety

Tag: health and wellness

Keeping your pet safe is the most important part of keeping both you and your pet happy. When you first adopt a pet or new breed of pet — or even better, before you adopt them — be sure to research the basics of your pet. When you finally select a pet, talk to the shelter staff about things you might need to worry about or watch out for. Of course, you can always stop by with your pet to discuss behaviors, concerns, or anything else.

Below we've got some general notes on basic safety tips, whether indoors or outdoors. Remember that traveling —that's more than a quick jog to the park or a ride across town for a play date— may require some extra steps based on the species of your pet. Traveling at any distance can give some pets anxiety, and there's other physical safety factors to consider. Come by and talk to us about what you may need, especially if you're about to travel abroad!

General Pet Safety

Heartworm

Tag: health and wellness

What is Heartworm?

Heartworm is a serious illness that can cause heart failure, lung disease, organ damage and even death in dogs, cats and ferrets. Heartworm is most prevalent in pets living along the Atlantic Gulf coasts from New Jersey to the Gulf of Mexico, and in those living alongside the Mississippi and its main tributaries. However it has been found in pets in all of the US States.
 

What causes Heartworm?

Heartworm is caused by parasitic worm larvae that lives inside mosquitoes. When the mosquito bites an animal it transfers some worm larvae into it where the larvae then matures, mates and produces offspring inside its living host. The offspring produced by female adult heartworms is known as microfilariae and lives in the host animals’ blood stream. When a mosquito then bites an infected animal it draws microfilariae into its body where it turns it into infective larvae, beginning the cycle again.

Once an animal has been infected it takes time for the larvae to mature into adults that are capable of reproduction. In dogs this period is usually 6-7 months and in cats and ferrets around 8 months. Adult heartworms look like cooked spaghetti and can range in size from 4-6 inches in males and 10-12 inches in females. The number of worms found in a pet is known as its ‘worm burden’ and this can vary depending on the species of animal and the severity of the infection.
 

Heartworm in Dogs

The lifespan of heartworms within an infected dog is between 5 and 7 years and the average worm burden is 15. However dogs have been seen with worm burdens ranging from 1 to 250.
 

Symptoms of Heartworm in Dogs

The severity of the symptoms of heartworm in dogs is dependent on the worm burden of the animal, how long they have been infected and how well their body can cope with the disease. However it is usually broken down into four stages.
Class 1: no visible symptoms or very mild symptoms such as an intermittent cough or wheeze.
Class 2: mild to more moderate symptoms including intermittent coughing and lethargy or breathlessness after light to moderate exercise. At this time some heart and lung changes may be seen on x-rays.
Class 3: symptoms will include frequent or persistent coughing, lethargy and breathlessness after mild activity. Heart and lung changes will definitely be visible on x-rays.
Class 4: this stage is otherwise known as Caval Syndrome and is reached when an infected animal has been left untreated for an extended period of time. At this stage the animal experiences restricted blood flow to the heart caused by a blockage of worms. Heart failure is imminent and emergency surgery to remove the worms is the only course of action. However this comes with its own risks and most dogs with Caval Syndrome do not survive.

Heartworm

The Importance of Pet Grooming

Tag: health and wellness

While for many people the concept of grooming your pet conjures up notions of brushes and bows, it is in fact a vital element to their overall health and wellbeing. Regularly grooming your animal allows you to catch any underlying diseases or conditions early, meaning that they will be able to be treated quicker and more efficiently and will therefore be less likely to have any lasting effect on your pet.

However not all animals enjoy the grooming process and many owners find that it is easier to send their pet to a professional groomer on a regular basis instead. If you have a puppy or a kitten then training them to ensure the grooming process is an important part of their learning and will be beneficial to them as they reach maturity. This is especially true of nail clipping and ear cleaning which require them sitting completely still for the process. Good breeders will often begin grooming their litters as soon as they are old enough to help get them used to the process. Even if you do opt to use a professional pet groomer, there are still a number of regular grooming techniques that you can do at home with your pet to strengthen your bond.
Here are some of the important benefits of pet grooming.

The Importance of Pet Grooming

Heatstroke and Your Pet

Tag: health and wellness

As Spring warms up into Summer and the humidity and heat start to really set in, it's good to remember that, like every other member in your family, you need to take extra care with your pet. You can become dehydrated and dangerously hot, which can result in falling unconscious at best, vital organ damage, or at its very worst, death. The same is true for your pets!

We tend to think of animals as hardier than humans, but the truth is, dogs and cats begin to experience heatstroke (hyperthermia, medically speaking) at the same internal body temperature as humans do — 104° F. Severe heatstroke begins at 105° to 106° F internally, as well. It might be more difficult for you to gauge temperature with smaller pets such as hamsters, but there's one rule of thumb to keep in mind. Always watch the heat index. Meteorologist uses the heat index value to discuss what the temperature is once humidity is applied; it's this balance of heat and humidity that are dangerous to the health of your pet and you.

If the heat index is 90° F, you need to be sure to take precautions to protect your pets. They won't be able to ask you to turn on the air conditioning or ask you for extra water, or even to tell you they're starting to feel ill. Your pets depend on you to responsibly monitor the weather and give them what they need to stay healthy and comfortable.

Heatstroke and Your Pet

Euthanasia

Tag: health and wellness

Our pets are beloved members of our family and it can be heartbreaking to see them unwell. Unfortunately, there are some illnesses that pets are unable to recover from. In the case of terminal illness and/or debilitating pain or suffering, one of the kindest things that we can do for them is to relieve them of that burden by making the difficult decision to put them to sleep.
 

How do I know if it is the right time to consider euthanasia?

Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you when it is time to consider euthanizing your pet. However there are also some signs and symptoms that your pet is no longer experiencing a good quality of life, and if you notice these then it would be advisable to contact your veterinarian to determine if euthanasia would be the most humane course of action. These signs include:

  • Chronic labored breathing, breathlessness and/or coughing

  • Chronic pain that cannot be controlled by medication (your veterinarian can advise if this is the case)

  • Frequent diarrhea and/or vomiting that leads to dehydration or severe weight loss

  • Inability to stand or move around

  • Disinterest in food or eating

  • Incontinent to the stage where they are frequently soiling themselves

  • No interest in communication with family members, treats, games, or other previously enjoyed activity

  • Zest for life is non-existent

Euthanasia has the small benefit of allowing family members the time to say their final goodbyes to your pet. This is an emotional time and giving them the opportunity for final displays of love and affection with their pet will help ease them into the grieving process. It is especially important to prepare young children as this may be their first experience of bereavement.

Many veterinarians will allow you to be present during the euthanasia procedure so that you can comfort your pet as they enter their final journey. This is a personal decision, but it is recommended that young children are not present during this time.

Euthanasia

Ticks

Tag: health and wellness

What are Ticks?

Ticks are arachnids that belong to the same family as spiders and mites. They are parasitic and feed on the blood of host animals. They are visible to the naked eye, but start of around the size of a pin head before swelling with blood as they feast. 

Animals living in the Southern States or near heavily wooded areas will have increased exposure to ticks which like to live in thick long grass, as it allows them to attach to host animals as they walk by. They are most active during the late spring and summer months and they are not fussy which breeds of animals they feed on. However animals that spend a lot of time outdoors will be more susceptible to ticks.


Symptoms of Ticks

Animals with few ticks can present with little or no symptoms and it is often not until there is a larger infestation or infection from the bites that signs become apparent. If and when symptoms do materialize they can include itching, scratching and visible red or inflamed irritations on the skin. 

Ticks can transmit a number of diseases including Babesia, Cytauxzoonosis, Lyme disease and Mycoplasma. Some animals can also have allergic reactions to tick bites which result in infections. Symptoms from these reactions or diseases can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and pain and can last for several days or several weeks. If you are concerned that your pet has developed illness from a tick bite, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Ticks

Feeding Your Pet

Tag: health and wellness

A healthy and balanced diet is essential for a healthy and happy pet. Not only will it provide your pet with enough energy for his day to day activities, but it is also vital for proper brain function. An adequate diet is also particularly important for animals in the early stages of their development.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to feeding your pet is to feed them by ‘life-stage’. Different animals, and in particular cats and dogs, require different nutrition at different stages of their life. For example, puppies around 12 weeks of age will require around 3 meals a day and it is not until they reach around 6 months of age that this amount should be reduced. That said, your animal may prefer smaller and more frequent meals. They key to feeding your pet properly is understanding what works best for them.
 

Methods of Feeding

A popular method of feeding is known as ‘free-feeding’. This is where a bowl of food is left out so that a pet can eat as much or as little and as frequently as they prefer. This works best for dry foods since they do not spoil as quickly as the wet variety. Some studies show that this method results in over-eating and subsequent pet obesity. However it may be the best option for you if you cannot stick to a feeding schedule.

Scheduled portioned feeding requires a strict routine that you need to be able to guarantee to stick to. Your pet will know when meal times are and ensure that they are ready for them, with cats coming indoors specifically at these times. This method limits the amount that your pet eats either by portion size or by time as some pet owners prefer to give their animals a specific time frame in which they must eat. This method also works well if you have pets that require medication to be mixed with their food, or have an animal on a calorie-controlled diet.

If you are unsure which method is right for your pet, consult with your veterinarian who will be more than happy to provide advice.
 

General Feeding Advice

Do NOT offer home cooked meals. These may not meet the complex nutritional needs of your pet. Instead stick to especially formulated pet foods.

Feeding Your Pet

Dental Hygiene and Oral Care

Tag: Health and wellness

Don't ignore your pet's bad breath! Dental hygiene is often the cause of stinky breath, and it may indicate other important problems with your pet's health. We understand how easy it is to miss. Many of the problems that stem from poor hygiene occur where you can't see them - below your pet's gum line.
The first line of defense is always home care. But while some animals (especially dogs) tolerate their owners handling their mouths and brushing their teeth, most (especially cats) will struggle or act out. That can always make oral care difficult at best, and ineffective at worst.

The best way to ensure your pet's oral health is to have regular cleanings at our office. Discuss how often you ought to come in as well as a home hygiene regimen with your vet. This will also prevent dental issues from progressing to larger (and potentially deadly) internal issues, such as dysfunction or disease in the heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs.

In the wild, hiding pain, illness, or other weaknesses are survival instincts. Many times, your pet will have the same instincts, even in the safety and comfort of your loving home, so always keep an eye on your pet's eating habits and behaviors. Recognizing the difference between normal changes in mood and red flags can be difficult sometimes. What you interpret as a persistent grumpiness may actually be a sign that your pet is in pain. New irritability, shying away from being touched (especially on the face and around the mouth or throat), sluggishness, loss of appetite or difficulty eating, and lethargy are all behavioral signs which may indicate illness.

However, if you note any of the following physical changes, contact your vet immediately:

  • Red and swollen gums

  • Bleeding gums, especially when eating or when having teeth brushed

  • Swelling around the mouth

  • Oral abscesses

  • Abnormal chewing

  • Loose or missing teeth

  • Discolored teeth

  • Crusted build up at the edge of the gums

  • Persistent bad or fetid breath

  • Excessive drooling

  • Weight loss

Remember, preventing oral infections and disease will help your pet live a longer, healthier life. Furthermore, caring for your pet with regular cleanings now will save you money later. In 2013, VPI Pet Insurance priced the cost of treatment for dental diseases at more than $530 on average. Our prices for regular cleanings are much less than that!

 Dental Hygiene and Oral Care