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Three Great Reasons to Avoid Giving Your Dog Table Scraps

Most pet owners have an opinion about giving dogs table scraps: they either love the idea, or they hate it. For some pet owners, it makes practical sense to give the family pets whatever food is left over after dinner.  It’s better than simply throwing it in the garbage, right?  Well, the answer to that question is not always as straightforward as you would think.  Sure, your pooch goes absolutely wild for whatever remains on your plate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she should really be eating it.

Regardless of your feelings on the topic, there are a few undeniable consequences of feeding your dog from the human table.  We’ll just list a few of them for you here and let you decide what works best for your household.

Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced to meet your pet’s dietary needs. 

You absolutely should not rely on table scraps to provide 100% of your pet’s daily nutrition.  We can guarantee that your leftovers simply do provide everything that your pet needs, in terms of vitamins, minerals, and macromolecules (such as lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates).  If you absolutely must give your pet table scraps, it is recommended that this should not exceed 10% of your pet’s total daily intake.

Feeding your pet human leftovers commonly reinforces bad behaviors.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  We’ve all met one, from time to time: the dog who wouldn’t break a rule to save his life.  You could wave freshly-cooked bacon in front of this pup, and he wouldn’t bat an eyelash. If that description applies to your pooch, you can disregard our concerns for his impending behavioral issues.

For the rest of us, feeding a dog from the table means that your beloved sidekick turns into a dinnertime nuisance… begging and whining and making it virtually impossible to invite company over for a meal.  Feeding table scraps has also been associated with food aggression and the lovely habit of digging in the trash can.  Our advice is to do yourself a favor and commit to a “no table scraps” policy while your dog is still young.

Sometimes, the things you love the most can cause the most harm.

In your pet’s case, we’re talking about the health concerns that go along with eating foods that are not meant to be consumed by domesticated animals. Those fat trimmings from the delicious steak you just ate… Your vet sees those as a raging case of pancreatitis waiting to happen. The salty snacks that you and your pet love to share can cause an electrolyte imbalance for your dog. The list goes on: everything from avocados to onions to grapes, and more.

The risks of feeding your pet from the human table are simply not worth it.  If your veterinarian has prescribed a balanced home-cooked diet either on a short or long term basis, you can rest assured that your pup will do fine.  However, if you’re simply dropping leftovers for your dog to clean up, we want to encourage you to think again.  There are better ways to treat your pet to something nice.

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June is Adopt-a-Cat Month!

It makes sense that America’s favorite time of year for cat adoption falls during the month of June.  Each spring, thousands of newborn kittens are surrendered to the care of animal shelters across the country. By the time June rolls around, those newborns are bright, energetic, and ready to go out into the world.  This is what is known by veterinary professionals as “kitten season”.

Unfortunately, kitten season does not result in a happy ending for every kitten.  It’s not uncommon for the population of adoptable cats to exceed the number of households willing to adopt them, and well… you already know how that ends.

So, of course, if you’re in the market for a new cat or kitten, we want to encourage you to remember the following:

  • When you adopt one pet, you save his/her life, as well as the lives of those who enter the shelter in his/her place. You’re creating a domino effect that has a huge positive impact.
  • One unaltered animal can result in thousands of offspring in a relatively short amount of time. Spaying or neutering your pet is a wise choice for a variety of other reasons, as well.
  • If it’s feasible for your personal situation, many shelters encourage families to adopt kittens in pairs. They’re not simply trying to “clean house”.  It’s a fact that cats crave (and need) plenty of exercise and attention, and they are very good at providing these things for each other.
  • If this is your first pet, you should have a veterinarian in mind before adopting the cat or kitten. If you’re new to the area or have no idea where to start, ask the shelter for recommendations for a veterinarian who is close to your home and has office hours that work for your schedule.
  • Avoid giving adopted pets as a gift to friends or family members. If this is something that you absolutely insist on doing, don’t make it a surprise.  Offer the gift beforehand and include the recipient in picking out the pet.  This goes for all species and breeds, of course.

The decision to adopt a cat (or any other animal) is huge, and it requires careful planning ahead of time. Once you’re ready though, head to shelter and save a life a two.  You can be sure that they will have a variety of feline companions to choose from, especially this time of year!

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Bufo Toads are Everywhere This Time of Year, and They Shouldn’t Be Ignored

These toxic toads have special glands that release poison when they feel threatened, which is a very effective defense mechanism; they have been known to kill household pets in minutes. It’s especially troubling for outdoors pets or those who take their meals outside, because the toad is attracted to dog water dishes.  (For bathing and soaking, of course). Once the Bufo’s toxins have come in contact with your dog’s gums or any other mucous membranes, it won’t be long before you begin to see the effects.

Also sometimes referred to as the “Cane Toad”, this particular group of toads was imported into Florida in the 1930’s as a natural means of controlling sugar can pests, the “white worm”.  This experiment came about after a similar experiment had been successful in Hawaii.  However, that was obviously not a well-thought-out plan.  They all quickly died.  Of course, the sugar industry wasn’t quite ready to give up.  They followed up with a few more attempts, one in Glades County and one in Dade County, both of which failed.  Nothing changed for the species until the 1950’s when a large shipment of toads broke free from their shipping container while on the tarmac at Miami airport. This time, they were able to establish themselves, and through an interesting series of events, were able to migrate through the canal systems found throughout South Florida.

Since their introduction in the early-to-mid 1900’s, they have proliferated at alarming rates, particularly in the southern states.  The Bufo Toad is the largest species of toad in the world.  In fact, it has been known to grow as large as 1 foot wide and weigh as much as 5 pounds!  They also love to eat, and they will quickly swallow up any smaller creatures that the encounter.

So, while your pet doesn’t necessarily need to worry about being swallowed by a toad, the toxins that they produce are of significant concern, especially during the warm rainy months.  It’s extremely important to monitor your yard for signs of the Bufo Toad.  If you see them in your yard, speak with an expert about how you can safely remove them.  (Do not try to touch the toad, because their toxins have also been known to cause skin irritation in humans.)  When taking your pet outdoors, be sure that he is she is closely supervised.  If you have seen the toads in your yard, leash walking your pet is best until you know that they are no longer a problem.

The potential harm that is caused by the Bufo Toad is not something that you should talk lightly. If your pet has been exposed, immediately wash his or her face and mouth, and contact your veterinarian immediately.

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Hot Weather and Pets: A Dangerous Combination

During the summer months, it’s common to hear of pets becoming overheated.  Surely, you’ve seen the warning signs posted in shopping centers and online about the dangers of leaving your beloved pet in a hot car during these warmer times of year.  It’s a common misconception, though, that a hot car is the only potential source of overheating in pets.  In fact, your pet can become overheated pretty quickly just doing normal activities, such as walks or a quick bathroom break in the backyard.

An overheated pet should be considered an emergency, and as with any other critical condition in pets, immediate treatment is necessary to give your pet the best chances at a successful recovery.  So, it helps to know the warning signs.

Here are some of the “red flags” that your pet may be overheating:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive salivation, lip-smacking, or other signs of nausea
  • Weakness or sudden lethargy

With these very obvious symptoms and a bit of common sense (it’s hot outside, right?), it’s relatively easy to know when the heat has gotten to be too much for your furry sidekick.  If this is the case, your first step should be to call your veterinarian’s office to let them know that you’re on the way.  Next, you should work to keep your pet comfortable until he or she can be seen by the doctor.

  • If you’re pet has been hanging out in direct sunlight, move him or her into a shaded area or even better, bring your best friend indoors.
  • Of course you’ll want to offer plenty of water to drink. While you’re at it, get your pet a little bit wet. Avoid using water that is too cold, because this can “shock” your pet.  Instead, opt for cool to room temperature.
  • Allow your pet to lay on a cool surface, such as tile or hardwood. As much as you know he loves his favorite blanket, avoid snuggling him in an effort to comfort him.  Give him room to cool down.
  • If you have rubbing alcohol handy, you can lightly dab it on your pet’s paw pads as a means of temporarily cooling him or her down. This method is widely used by veterinary professionals, and it is very safe and effective.

Remember that no animal is safe from the harmful effects of the summer heat.  If your pet has a thick coat or is very overweight, he or she is at an even higher risk.  Moreover, even if your pet never truly experiences the effects of overheating, it simply is not kind to leave your best friend outdoors on a scorching day.  Take the opportunity to spend more quality time indoors if you think that the heat may be too much for your pet.  Limit long walks to early morning and late evening hours, and keep bathroom breaks short and to the point.

Your pet, just like you, deserves to be comfortable.

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Pets and Snake Bites

For most people, the very sight of a snake is enough to make their skin crawl.  The thought of being bitten by one is even worse.  Fortunately, most of us will carry on through life without having to go through this excruciating experience, but did you know that it’s a pretty common occurrence for pets?

Snake bites, especially among dogs, are one of those seasonal problems that tend to happen more during the summer than other times of year.  It makes sense, right?  You’re out enjoying this beautiful weather, and your dog is loving it, too.  Well, the snake tends to agree with you there.  They love to be out and about during warmer seasons, so during this time of year, veterinarians see plenty of snake-bitten pets coming through the door.

Pets who have been bitten by a snake will quickly develop obvious swelling around the bite.  For most pets, the bite will occur on the snout (…for sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, Fido!).  To give you an idea, below is a photo of a dog who has been bitten by a snake:

Photo Credit: avickiv via Compfight cc

 

Some pets will develop far worse swelling than you see there, but hopefully, you will be able to have your furry friend treated before too much time has passed.  Other signs include moderate to severe pain, lethargy, and sometimes vomiting.  Even if you are unsure about whether or not your pet has been bitten, these are all symptoms that require the immediate attention of a veterinarian.  Swelling of the face and neck, especially, should be treated right away in order to reduce the risk of airway obstruction.

Once you arrive at the veterinary hospital, your doctor will likely order a series of tests.  Among them, you will hear of something called “clotting times”, because the venom of certain types of snakes can cause bleeding disorders.  Other tests may include a CBC, chemistry panel, a urinalysis, blood pressure, and/or an EKG.  Ask your pet’s doctor what all of these tests are checking for and how they work; he or she will be happy to explain.

Fortunately, most snake bites are treatable with just a day or two of hospitalization.  The most common treatments include pain medications, intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and steroids, but your veterinarian will recommend the best course of action based on your pet’s test results.

As with most injuries and illnesses, the quicker your pet receives treatment, the better.  So, if you suspect that your pet has had a run-in with a snake, do your best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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Adopting a Special Needs Pet

The term “special needs” is a pretty broad description, and it may refer to any number of conditions in our companion animals.  Special needs pets are those who require the kind of above-and-beyond attention that only a very patient and compassionate person can give.  Qualifying conditions may include a history of severe injury, chronic illness, or behavioral issues, and if you’re considering adopting a special needs animal, you should familiarize yourself with all of the details of the pet’s condition and ongoing treatment protocol.  Of course, if you have the time and financial capacity to care for one of these extraordinary animals, it can be an extremely rewarding experience.

This can be said for every pet, but it’s especially true for special needs animals:  knowing the responsibility that comes along with accepting one of these guys into your family is absolutely critical to a long, happy, healthy relationship.  Here are some things to consider before adopting a pet with special needs:

There will be a financial burden that is well above the standard costs of pet ownership.  This is the number one thing to consider before adoption a special needs pet.  In a perfect world, your love would be more than enough to give your new family member the perfect life, but is, unfortunately, not always the case.  You should research the cost of any long-term medications that the pet is taking, and be sure that this cost fits comfortably into your family’s budget.  Also, pets with behavioral issues may require special training sessions, in addition to any medications that they may be taking.  If the pet is heartworm-positive, speak with your veterinarian about the cost of treatment before you undertake the adoption process.  Finally, if the pet has any sort of physical disability, look into the cost of any special equipment or accommodations that may be required to keep the animal comfortable.

Special needs pets will require more of your time and physical strength.  These guys are likely to require more frequent visits to the family veterinarian, so you’ll need to be able to squeeze those appointments into your schedule.  They will sometimes also require you to physically accompany them outside for bathroom breaks, rather than simply being let out.  You should also be prepared to assist your pet with standing and walking, if there is an injury or disability.  It’s important that you’re prepared for all of these demands, and many others that have not been mentioned here.

Your entire household should be informed, included in the decision process, and prepared for anything that might happen.  Try to consider every aspect of your family’s daily life.  If you have small children, a pet who has problems with fear or aggression is probably not right for you.  It’s also important to speak with all members of the family about what this new pet will require, and ask every to pitch in.  While you’re speaking with them, you should have the more difficult discussions, as well.  Make sure that everyone understands that while this special needs pet is sure to return all of your love and attention ten-fold, he or she is also likely to have a short life expectancy.  Prepare your family for what lies ahead, and make sure that they are on board.

We’ve said it before, but it bears mentioning a hundred times: special needs pets are worth every bit of the cost, time, and energy, if you have all of those things to give.  However, as with any pet, you have to know what you’re getting into if you’re going to honor the commitment that you’re making through adoption.

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National Hairball Awareness Day 2015

According to Dr. Debbie Davenport of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, some 50-80% of domestic cats experience hairballs at least once per month.  In fact, hairballs are the number one reported health concern among cat owners, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is such a thing as National Hairball Awareness Day.

If this problem has ever happened in your home, you know that it can be extremely unpleasant, and it’s certainly no fun to clean up.  However, in most cases, it’s entirely normal.  Hairballs are a result of the meticulous grooming behaviors that you see in your beloved feline friend.  The ingested hairs are irritating to the gastrointestinal lining, which causes the gagging and vomiting that you see when your cat is trying to expel a hairball.

While it’s pretty challenging to avoid hairballs altogether, it’s possible for you to reduce the frequency or severity of the incidents.  For example, if you have a long-hair cat, you may find that regular visits to a groomer will mitigate your hairball problem a bit.  If that’s not an option, try making regular daily brushing part of your cat’s home routine.

Changing your cat’s diet may also help with your hairball problem.  Today, just about every cat food manufacturer offers some form of hairball control diet, and you can find a variety of flavors.  Of course, you never want to switch your pet’s food suddenly, but if the hairballs are a significant problem in your home, it’s worth asking your veterinarian how you can make a safe and gradual switch.

While you’re speaking with your vet about diet, be sure to speak with him or her about the frequency and general nature of your cat’s hairballs.  In rare cases, frequent hairballs and excessive vomiting can be indicators of a deeper problem, so you want to give your veterinarian all of the information they need to make the distinction between what is normal and what might require additional diagnostics.

The idea that there is a National Hairball Awareness Day may sound funny, but raising awareness about hairball management is a great way for the veterinary community and pet owners to come together and give cats what they need to live happily and comfortably.

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The Importance of Understanding Body Language

Recently, a video of a silverback gorilla at the Omaha Zoo went viral, and it spurred a lot of discussion about animal instincts and body language.  The video documents one family’s terrifying moment when a male gorilla charges the glass window of his enclosure after being inadvertently taunted by one of the family’s children.

In case you missed it, the video can be seen below:

Of course, the child could not have known that the male gorilla would react this way.  She was simply imitating what she has seen in movies and in the media.  We’ve all seen that chest-beating behavior, and we rarely give it a second thought.  However, this incident brings to light an important point: the way we use our body language has a profound effect on animals, regardless of whether we are talking about wild creatures or our household companions.

In fact, animals are so aware of your body language that they can (and do) detect even the subtlest changes in your posture, gait, facial expressions, and even how fast you’re walking.  They pick up on these cues and respond accordingly.  Unfortunately, sometimes that response is not so pleasant, as seen in the case of the silverback gorilla at the Omaha Zoo.

We should work to be equally aware of the body language of animals.  In most cases, if an animal is about to have a negative reaction to your presence or something that you are doing, they will offer plenty of warning signs before an actual attack.  Knowing the warning signs of fear or aggression is a great way to protect your family from unfamiliar dogs or cats, and even some wildlife.

Here are some behaviors to look out for in dogs who are exhibiting “warning” signs that they may soon bite or attack:

  • Hiding, quivering, or other obvious displays of fear
  • He or she becomes suddenly very still. The pet’s eyes may follow you, but he or she is otherwise very rigid.
  • A bark that is different from his typical bark. This sound will be more guttural and intentionally threatening.
  • Lunging (or other quick movements) toward a person without contact. Again, this is an attempt at threatening the human.

In cats, signs of oncoming aggression are a bit different and may include:

  • Crouching, tucking of tail, curling the tail around his/her body, “bottle brush” tail, “hackles” up, hiding, and other obvious displays of fear
  • Hissing or spitting at the reason for his/her fear
  • Wide eyes with partially or fully dilated pupils; the cat will often stare directly into the eyes of the person who is threatening him/her, as well.
  • Swatting with his or her front paws

If you see any of these behaviors in your own pets or others, it’s best to walk away and give the animal his or her space.  Whether or not you did anything to cause it, the pet is obviously feeling very nervous about your presence.  By giving the animal adequate space, you are doing your part to soothe the animal, as well as saving yourself from a potential animal attack.

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Your Pet’s Vaccines: Prevention is Always the Best Choice

If you spend any time at all on social media, you’re probably well aware that there is quite a bit of controversy in human medicine about whether or not vaccines are a wise choice.   As it turns out, we’ve also started to see a smattering of those same questions among pet owners.  It’s important to understand why your veterinary recommends vaccines for your dog or cat: your pet’s life may depend on it.

This type of preventative medicine has been developed as a result of countless years of research, and vaccines have long been considered one of the easiest and most affordable ways to ensure the health of your best friend.  They are designed to prepare your pet’s immune system to fight off potentially fatal diseases, and could mean the difference between life and death for your pet (in the event that he or she is exposed to one of these diseases).  Moreover, some vaccines, such as the rabies vaccines (which is contagious to a variety of species), also protect wildlife and human life.

In addition to the rabies vaccine, which is mandated by each state’s individual laws, there are certain vaccines that are considered to be part of the very basic care requirements of every pet.  These are often referred to as “core vaccines”.

Core vaccines for cats include:

  • feline distemper (panleukopenia)
  • feline calici virus
  • feline herpes virus type I (rhinotracheitis)
  • rabies

Core vaccines for dogs include:

  • parvovirus
  • distemper
  • hepatitis
  • rabies

In addition to the core vaccines, “non-core” vaccines may also be given, depending on your pet’s lifestyle, medical history, and your own particular concerns.  If your dog or cat is a good candidate for these vaccines, your veterinarian will recommend them during your routine wellness visits.

Puppies and kittens begin receiving their first set of vaccines at around six to eight weeks of age, but prevention is not complete once you’ve finished the “puppy/kitten series” at around 16 weeks.  Your pet will need periodic boosters, which will adhere to a schedule that has been recommended by your veterinarian.

If you’re on the fence about vaccines or don’t see the importance in annual or semi-annual wellness visits, your pet’s risk of exposure to a deadly disease should be your biggest concern.  The threat is real, and cases of these illnesses are still seen today.  Anyone who feels unsure about whether or not they should vaccinate their pet should speak with their veterinarian in detail about the pros and cons.  Prevention really is the best choice for your pet and your community.

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Lilies are Toxic. Protect Your Pets!

Thanks to spring and holidays like Easter, this is the colorful time of year when lilies can be found just about anywhere you go.  They’re such beautiful flowers, and they smell wonderful, but did you know that they’re harmful (potentially fatal) to cats?  It’s such a severe toxin for our feline friends that we couldn’t let the Easter holiday pass without warning you of the dangers associated with keeping lilies inside of your cat-loving home.

All lilies are not created equally, in terms of just how toxic they are for cats.  Fortunately, there are some varieties that just taste terrible and contain certain compounds that cause minor irritation of the mouth and throat.  There are some species, however, that pose a risk of severe illness and even death.  These lilies include such popular forms as:

  • Tiger Lilies
  • Day Lilies
  • Easter Lilies
  • Stargazer Lilies

There are also other less common species that are potentially fatal to cats, including the Asiatic hybrid lily, Japanese show lily, rubrum, Western lilies, and wood lilies.

If you suspect that your cat has ingested any part of a lily, it’s imperative that you contact your veterinarian immediately.  If it happens after hours, we suggest that you find the nearest emergency veterinarian or call the pet poison helpline at 855-764-7661.  Remember that the sooner your cat is treated, the better his chances are of making a full recovery.

Signs that your cat may be experiencing the negative effects of lily exposure can be moderate to severe, including lethargy (and unusual decrease in activity and demeanor), vomiting, diarrhea, unusually frequent urination, excessive thirst, and even seizures.  It’s also important to note that all of these symptoms warrant a trip to the vet, whether or not your cat has gotten into your lilies.  So, if you see some or all of these signs in your pet, make the call.

 

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