Category Archives: Blog

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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Feline Asthma: Signs & Symptoms 101

Did you know that cats can have asthma too?  According to an article published by Cornell University, there are roughly 80 million cats living in American homes today, and of those, about 800,000 are living with feline asthma.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this uncomfortable condition.  However, for cats who are living with feline asthma, identifying the signs and symptoms of the disease is the first step toward a happier and healthier life.  Here’s a brief overview for signs that your beloved kitty may be suffering from feline asthma:

  • Coughing and wheezing (oftentimes, this is the most obvious and persistent symptom of feline asthma)
  • Open mouth breathing, which may occur during times of rest, heightened stress, or increased activity
  • Blue lips and gums during the aforementioned times of labored breathing

There are other signs that may suggest that your pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian for feline asthma, but these are the most common symptoms that you should look for if you suspect that your cat may have this condition.  Of course, whether or not asthma is the underlying cause, any signs that your pet is having difficulty breathing should be reported to his or her vet immediately.

Just as it is with humans, we are not entirely certain of the causes of feline asthma.  However, years of clinical and anecdotal evidence has taught us that there are certain risk factors and triggers that may exacerbate the condition.  For example, severely obese cats are more likely to be asthmatic than cats of a healthy weight.  Extreme and constant stress has also been identified as a risk factor for triggering attacks, as well as frequent exposure to inhaled allergens (such as perfumes, dust from cat litter, molds, tree pollen, smoke, etc).

Statistically speaking, female cats tend to have a higher occurrence of asthma than males, and there is also a pattern that may be seen in certain breeds.  For example, Himalayan cats seem to be diagnosed with asthma more frequently than most other breeds.

Signs of feline asthma often become most noticeable in cats around age 2 or 3, but in some cases, first onset has been seen as late as 8 or 9 years of age.

The only way to know if your cat has feline asthma is to speak with your veterinarian about his or her symptoms.  The doctor will want to know about the nature of the symptoms, including their frequency, so be sure that you make notes about everything that your cat is experiencing.  Your veterinarian will suggest appropriate tests and procedure, and if it is found that your cat does have feline asthma, he or she will make recommendations for the best approach to treating and managing the disease.

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National Wildlife Week

March 9-15 is National Wildlife Week.  In our opinion, there’s no better way to raise awareness for the even than to offer a few fun and interesting wildlife facts!  Enjoy!

Myth #1: If you touch a baby bird, it will be rejected by its mother.

False.  This is a long-standing myth, which is pretty far from the truth.  It’s also worth mentioning that birds have a relatively poor sense of smell.  They’re actually not very likely to smell leftover human scent on their babies.

Myth #2: Dolphins swim while sleeping.

True.  Dolphins may float or swim slowly when they sleep, and they’re able to do this because of their unusual way of sleeping.  It’s called “unihemispheric slow-wave sleep”, which means that only one half of their brain sleeps at a time.  They also sleep with only one eye closed at a time.

Myth #3: When a nocturnal animal is seen out during the day, it’s safe to assume that the animal has rabies.

False.  This rumor has been applied mostly to raccoons, and there’s no real evidence to support this belief.  Raccoons, like many other nocturnal animals, will come out when food is most plentiful.  Given the opportunity to choose between food and sleep, these animals will skip the sleep for a tasty meal.

Myth #4:  Flamingos get their bright color from their diet.

True.  Flamingos have a highly-selective diet that consists of organisms (such as shrimp) that are very high in carotenoids.  These carotenoids are the same compound that cause shrimp to turn pink after they are cooked.

As a side note, it’s fun to know that flamingos can only eat when their heads are upside down.

Myth #5: When a domestic cat plays with small wildlife prey animals, it is not actually harming the animal.

False.  When your cat plays with wildlife, he is very likely to cause internal injuries and hemorrhage.  Cats are also natural carriers of a harmful bacteria that can cause serious infection in any prey that gets away alive.  Most importantly, however, is the fact that your beloved companion is also possibly being exposed to disease when playing with wildlife.

Featured Photo Credit: Saparevo via Compfight cc

 

AVMA Game Teaches Pet Owners and Students About Veterinary Medicine!

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a veterinarian or work in a veterinary hospital, now is your chance!  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in collaboration with Game Gurus, has created a great video game that allows you to test your skills and learn about veterinary medicine.

In the game, titled AVMA Animal Hospital, you start out as a new veterinarian.  As you make your way through the game’s various challenges, you work your way up to Chief Veterinarian of AVMA Animal Hospital.  Challenges include diagnosing and treating sick or injured animals, and the quicker you work, the more points you earn.

Throughout the duration of the game, players have the opportunity to learn about various ailments that are faced by our animal companions (including dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs and turtles), as well as the tests that are used to diagnose them.  You’ll also learn the about the different treatment options that are available.  It’s great information for every pet owner to have, and the game offers a fun platform for learning.

In addition to pet owners, the game is useful for students who wish to learn more about science and veterinary medicine.  In fact, the AVMA has even prepared a teacher’s guide with student activities, which invites teachers to bring this game and its supplementary activities into the classroom.  Examples of some of the guide’s enrichment exercises include graphing bloodwork data, interviewing pet owners to gather subjective information, and matching a list of symptoms with the appropriate diagnostic options.

To get an idea of what you can expect from the game, check out the introductory video below:

If you’re ready to play AVMA Animal Hospital online now, click HERE to access the web-based version.

For anyone who wishes to download the game, it’s available for download on iPad and Android Tablets.

Featured Image Credit: Brad Flickinger via Flickr CC

AVMA Game Teaches Pet Owners and Students About Veterinary Medicine!

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a veterinarian or work in a veterinary hospital, now is your chance!  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in collaboration with Game Gurus, has created a great video game that allows you to test your skills and learn about veterinary medicine.

In the game, titled AVMA Animal Hospital, you start out as a new veterinarian.  As you make your way through the game’s various challenges, you work your way up to Chief Veterinarian of AVMA Animal Hospital.  Challenges include diagnosing and treating sick or injured animals, and the quicker you work, the more points you earn.

Throughout the duration of the game, players have the opportunity to learn about various ailments that are faced by our animal companions (including dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs and turtles), as well as the tests that are used to diagnose them.  You’ll also learn the about the different treatment options that are available.  It’s great information for every pet owner to have, and the game offers a fun platform for learning.

In addition to pet owners, the game is useful for students who wish to learn more about science and veterinary medicine.  In fact, the AVMA has even prepared a teacher’s guide with student activities, which invites teachers to bring this game and its supplementary activities into the classroom.  Examples of some of the guide’s enrichment exercises include graphing bloodwork data, interviewing pet owners to gather subjective information, and matching a list of symptoms with the appropriate diagnostic options.

To get an idea of what you can expect from the game, check out the introductory video below:

If you’re ready to play AVMA Animal Hospital online now, click HERE to access the web-based version.

For anyone who wishes to download the game, it’s available for download on iPad and Android Tablets.

Featured Image Credit: Brad Flickinger via Flickr CC

What’s With All the Rules?

Do you ever wonder about the “rules” that have been set forth by your family veterinarian’s office?  Veterinarians, like all other medical professionals, undergo a rigorous training process in order to earn that title, and they are required to meet a rather lengthy list of ethical, educational, and professional requirements throughout the duration of their careers.  Most importantly, veterinary medicine is, by nature, an altruistic profession.  Your pet’s vet has worked so hard to enter this industry because he or she, first and foremost, wants to help and care for companion animals.  So, while those “rules” may sometimes be frustrating for well-meaning pet owners who only wish to give their pets the very best of everything, it’s important to remember that every veterinary practice has guidelines and restrictions in place for good reason.  Let’s review some of those reasons.

Why does my veterinarian’s office require me to come in for regular visits?

Every state has its own set of requirements regarding the frequency of your pet’s visits, but you should know that this is not your veterinarian’s rule.  This falls under the ethical requirement known as the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR), which essentially refers to how well your vet knows your pet’s current health status.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “If a VCPR is established but your veterinarian does not regularly see your pet afterward, the VCPR is no longer valid and it would be illegal and unethical for your veterinarian to dispense or prescribe medications or recommend treatment without recently examining your pet.

As a pet owner, it helps to familiarize yourself with these guidelines.  Some states require visits once every 6 months, while others require that your veterinarian only sees your pet once every 12 or 24 months.

Why can’t I return my pet’s medication for a refund?

According to the FDA Compliance Policy Guideline 7132.09 and the Board of Pharmacy, veterinarians are not permitted to accept returns on prescription medications.  It makes sense, right?  You would not want your veterinarian to prescribe returned or “recycled” medications to your pet, would you?

These rules exist for the sole purpose of promoting excellent medical care for all pets, including yours.

In cases where there was an actual problem with the medication, the manufacturer will almost always issue a refund, and the contact information for those manufacturers is readily available online (and sometimes on the medication’s packaging).

Why does my pet need to be current on vaccines for something as simple as boarding or grooming?

A veterinary practice serves a multitude of purposes, including providing a safe boarding facility for when you travel, offering routine healthcare, and of course, providing care for pets when they are either sick or injured.  Vaccine policies are in place so that your pet and the others visiting the practice are protected.

The other important thing to note is that rabies vaccines protect not only companion animals and wildlife, but humans, as well.

These are only a few of the many questions that are asked of veterinary professionals.  We want you to understand the reasons behind the rules, and more than anything, we want to help you make the best possible decisions for your pet’s overall health and wellness.

So, if there’s anything else you would like to know, just ask!  Your family veterinarian is always happy to hear from you.

 

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