How much food should you give your pet? Here's a hint: it's a lot less than what's printed on the bag!
First thing to do: use your eyes and hands to find out your dog or cat's body condition score. Use the picture below to compare your pet's body shape.
Now, is your pet underweight, ideal, or overweight? We'll be happy to assess for you if you're unsure. While highly athletic pets can be healthy at underweight, very thin pets are ill and need to be checked out as soon as possible. All overweight and obese pets need to be helped to lose the excess weight - you will lengthen their life by as much as 2 years for a large dog and decrease painful arthritis.
Your next step is to grab a measuring cup. Find out how much food you are currently giving in a day, and then find the calories/cup on the label. Some foods contain around 300 cal/cup, but others can be as high as 600! Next add in all the treats and snacks your pet receives. It can take some work to find out how many calories are in each treat, but the manufacturer can tell you if you call them (and if they can't, you probably shouldn't be feeding it to your pet). For example, a small milkbone has 20 calories, and a large one has 125.
Your individual pet may need more or less depending on activity level, but here's a rough guideline to calorie needs:
Approximate Daily Caloric Needs for Indoor Pets
Treats should total no more than 10% of your pet's daily calories. The secret to success is portion control - choose the tiny size milkbones (7 calories), or break larger treats into tiny portions. Green beans and baby carrots (3 calories) make great treat alternatives.
If your pet is overweight, a good starting point is to decrease the amount of food and treats by 25%, and then reassess in 2 weeks. For example, if you currently feed 1 cup of food per day, you would go to 3/4 cup per day. You can add green beans and carrots as healthy fiber if your dog seems hungry.
For weight loss, your pet will need to consume fewer calories than he or she is using. Increased exercise in combination with decreased food and treats will be the most effective. The best tool for cats are food-dispensing toys. Portion the day's kibble into several toys and let your cat chase them around the house. Meals will take longer so your cat will be more satisfied, and he will be exercising while he eats. No more food bowl required!
If you have more questions about what and how much to feed, give us a call. We can talk about your specific pet's needs and come up with a plan together.
Wellness - to keep your pet healthy for the next year:
Lastly, if the primary caregiver is not the one coming to the appointment, a written list of questions, diet, and medications is very helpful and avoids extra office visits for missed concerns. Be your furry friends' advocate and help us give your pet the care he or she deserves!
Nothing is more frustrating than finding smelly cat urine on your furniture. Here are 3 tips to keep your feline friend peeing and pooping in the litterbox.
1. Rule out medical problems
2. Make it available
3. Keep it clean
Following these tips and treating any medical problems can greatly decrease the chance of your cat peeing or pooping outside the box - and make your home a happy place for both you and your cat!
Dog owners be aware: there's a new outbreak of canine flu slowly spreading towards our area. We were last hit with the H3N2 canine influenza in the summer of 2015, and many dogs were sickened with severe breathing problems.
What it does:
Flu can cause a lengthy illness that can vary from mild coughing and sneezing to full blown pneumonia requiring hospitalization and oxygen therapy. Most dogs initially get very lethargic with little appetite, then the coughing and sneezing show up a day or two later.
How it spreads:
The virus is highly contagious dog-to-dog, and cats are susceptible as well. We can accidentally bring the virus home to our pets through our hands, clothing, and shoes. Dogs can shed the virus for several days BEFORE they show any signs of illness, so it's impossible for even the most responsible owners to prevent contact. Once the dog becomes ill, they will shed the virus intermittently for the next 3-4 weeks and are contagious during that time.
How to protect your pet:
The good news - there is a new vaccine available to protect your pooch. 2 summers ago we had to use the older vaccine (against a different strain of the flu) and hope for some cross-protection, but not anymore. Ask your vet if your dog has received the H3N2 flu vaccine (or better yet, the bivalent vaccine that gets both strains). Your pet needs 2 immunizations 2-4 weeks apart for first-time protection, then a yearly booster.
Aside from vaccination, decrease contact with other dogs or areas where flu has been found. This may mean avoiding dog parks during an outbreak.
What to do if your pet is ill:
If your pet shows signs of respiratory disease or is sluggish with decreased appetite, give us a call. Mild cases only require supportive care at home, but severely affected dogs can need to be hospitalized. Keep your pet away from all other animals for 4 weeks to limit the spread of the flu, and decrease activity to give those lungs a rest during the recovery period. Expect the coughing to last several weeks, though it should improve steadily after the first 3-5 days. If at any point your pet's breathing is labored or they are taking more than 40 breaths per minute at rest, seek veterinary care without delay.
2017 is a banner year for ticks here in Cincinnati after our very mild winter. We've seen two dogs living right here in the Kenwood area come in with ticks on them this week alone! So here's what you need to know to protect your pets:
1. Ticks can be tiny. Check out these deer ticks lined up on a finger - and then imagine trying to find that poppyseed-sized nymph tick in your pet's fur.
2. Ticks carry diseases. Sure, there's the pain of the bite and the 'ick' factor, but far more dangerous are the bacteria ticks can inject. Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis are just a few of the possible consequences of a tick bite. We have them here in Hamilton County, and the surrounding areas are at risk too.
How to protect your pet:
Every cat and dog that goes outside needs protection. It can be topical or oral (for dogs).
The oral options for dogs are monthly Simparica and Nexgard, or Bravecto given every 12 weeks. These are a relatively new class of medication that are extremely safe, kill fleas and ticks, and also kill the mites that cause mange.
Good topical options for dogs include Frontline, Advantix, and Vectra 3D. Beware of the generic "just like Frontline" that are available in many pet stores - while they often contain the same insecticide, they usually lack the special molecules needs to ensure that they are absorbed into your pets' skin and then re-secreted every day for the full month.
The Seresto tick collar is another effective product as long as it is applied tightly enough to be in contact with your pets' skin. Again, beware of the imitation products here.
For cats, monthly Frontline or topical cat Bravecto every 12 weeks protects your cat from ticks as well as fleas. Most cats groom themselves fastidiously and will rarely allow ticks to attach and transmit disease, so topical Revolution is a good option to protect against fleas, heartworm, and intestinal parasites even though it lacks the tick protection.
We'd be happy to discuss which exact product is right for your family by phone (513) 791-7912.
If you do find a tick on your pet, DON'T reach for the rubbing alcohol or matches. Simply use tweezers to grasp it firmly as close to the skin as possible and pull straight backwards to dislodge it. Then save the tick for later identification.
I'm speaking from personal experience here - my own dog has gotten into the pantry and tried to poison himself - twice - with raisins. Each time I've had to make him vomit with hydrogen peroxide, take him to the clinic, and give him activated charcoal and lots of extra fluids. Thankfully he's fine, but learn from my mistakes: keep all these items well away from your pets!
1. Chocolate (and coffee) - the darker the bar, the more toxic. Chocolate can cause vomiting/diarrhea, agitation, and seizures. It becomes most dangerous in large quantities, so smaller dogs are most at risk for the toxic effects (or large dogs who eat entire bars).
2. Raisins/Grapes/Currants - not all dogs and not all raisins, but they can cause fatal kidney damage so need quick treatment. We don't know exactly what the toxic compound is and we can't predict which dogs will be affected, so the safest course is to decontaminate as quickly as possible and support the kidneys with fluids.
3. Onions - cause damage to the liver and red blood cells. Avoid both cooked or raw onions.
4. Xylitol (found in sugar-free gum, baked goods, and some peanut butter) - causes our pets' blood sugar to drop dangerously low because they release a flood of insulin in response to the xylitol. It can lead to coma and even death. Exposure often requires hospitalization and IV dextrose support until the blood sugar returns to normal.
So, what to do in case of exposure?
If you know your pet has eaten any of these items recently, induce vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide (ask us for a dose before this happens so you know what to do in an emergency). Then call us so we can get your pet the treatment needed as soon as possible to hopefully prevent serious injury. Remember - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - keep these away from your pets!
We adore our pets, and want to keep them healthy and happy - and spoil them rotten sometimes. So we need to make sure that the food we give every day is nutritious and safe. The pet food market has exploded in recent years, and there are excellent foods available. But how to separate the truly great from the great marketing?
First, look for the teeny tiny letters "AAFCO" somewhere on the bag. Every bag of food must have an AAFCO statement by law.
Here are the 3 questions you MUST ask your pet food manufacturer. You won't find the answers on that beautiful glossy bag - look for the company's contact information and call their 1-800 number. The best answers according to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association nutrition committee are given.
1. Who formulates the food, and what are their credentials?
If you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, continue feeding with confidence. If you have any doubts after your call, switch brands. For example, the Hills (Science Diet) customer service representative was extraordinarily helpful and open about all the credentials of their employees and the extensive research and testing that goes into their foods. I had two horrible phone calls with a different brand whose reps refused to answer the questions and told me that "normal" pet parents don't ask these questions. So I encourage each and every one of you to hold your pet's food company accountable. Your pet deserves it.
1 in 3 cats will develop kidney disease in her lifetime, so now's the time to learn about this insidious process and how to slow it down.
Signs of kidney disease:
Increased thirst and increased urine production are the hallmarks of kidney disease. In this stage, as long as your cat drinks enough water to keep herself hydrated she probably doesn't feel ill at all. As the disease progresses, however, the toxins that the kidney normally clears will build up in her bloodstream and make her feel sick. She can experience decreased appetite, weight loss, muscle loss, lethargy, vomiting, and sores in her mouth.
Early diagnosis is the key to your cat living a long and healthy life. Bring your cat in for yearly exams (and twice-yearly if 10 years old or older) so that we can help catch this process before she feels sick. A physical exam allows us to feel for changes in her kidneys, urinalysis looks for protein loss or dilute urine, and bloodwork checks for markers of kidney function. We recommend the new SDMA test for every cat over 7 years old as part of the annual bloodwork because it's the earliest indicator that something is changing in those kidneys. If we do find abnormalities in the lab work, we may recommend x-rays of her abdomen or an ultrasound to look for other possible causes that need different treatment.
What can I do?
Unfortunately, there's no proven way to prevent kidney disease in cats, and the loss of kidney function is often irreversible once it occurs. Offering canned food and encouraging water consumption with water fountains or faucets will help keep our cat companions hydrated, decreasing the stress on the kidneys throughout their lives.
Once we start to see changes in the kidney function the most important intervention is diet change. We need to feed the right amount of high quality protein to protect her muscles but not so much that it taxes her kidneys. There are several brands of prescription foods available, so we let the cat pick the one she likes best. Depending on the amount of protein being lost through her kidneys, we may also add in daily medication at this early stage. Later in the disease we supplement fluids to keep her hydrated, and use appetite stimulants and antacids to decrease the nausea.
With proper management, cats with kidney disease can live happy lives often for years after their first diagnosis. With this knowledge and the right interventions you can help slow down the progression of the kidney disease and give your cat far more time before she even knows she's ill.
February is Pet Dental Health Month, so this month we'll focus on your pet's smile. Pets need daily dental care just like we do in order to avoid painful disease and tooth loss. While our pets are naturally more resistant to cavities than we are, they frequently suffer from infected tooth roots and painful periodontal disease. So here are the 5 steps to prevent disease (and say goodbye to bad breath):
1) Brush those teeth
Daily brushing with an enzymatic pet toothpaste is the single best way to prevent dental disease and avoid costly treatments. Check out our video for an easy step-by-step guide to getting started. We promise that if you take it slowly (days to weeks) and keep it positive with lots of treats and praise, this will even become enjoyable! The key here is daily - plaque hardens to tartar in just 24 hours, so brushing at monthly grooming appointments won't do much to slow dental disease.
2) Use treats or rinses
Ok, you're still in the training phase or you just don't have time one day to brush those pearly whites. What can you do? Give your pet a VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) approved dental treat, use a dental rinse or water additive, or feed prescription dental diet if appropriate for your pet. Chat with us and be honest - while none of these is as good as brushing, they're all better than no home dental care at all. We can find a strategy for your individual needs.
3) Check the mouth monthly
Lift up your pet's lips and look at the teeth and gums at least once a month. If you notice any odor, cracked or missing teeth, red or swollen gums, or new lumps call us right away. The sooner we catch and address a dental problem the better! You can also feel for the lymph nodes and salivary glands under the skin where the jaw meets the throat. If they're larger than normal or asymmetrical, call us.
4) Get a professional opinion
We will thoroughly examine your pet's mouth during their annual (and biannual for seniors) exams. We look for gingivitis (gum redness, rolling, or swelling), loss of gum attachment, broken or missing teeth, oral masses, odor, and pain. We will of course also examine your entire pet from nose to tail, and perform laboratory tests as needed to look for any subtle changes.
5) Schedule a full cleaning
Most pets will need several (if not yearly) full dental evaluations under anesthesia during their lifetime. During the procedure the teeth are cleaned both below and above the gum line, the entire oral cavity is assessed, radiographs are taken to evaluate the tooth roots, extractions are performed as needed, and sealant can be applied to delay the recurrence of tartar buildup in the future.
Dental disease is linked to heart valve and kidney infections, which are much more difficult to treat than the mouth. Good oral hygiene can prevent these serious consequences, allowing your pet to live a longer and dental pain-free life.
Winter temperatures, snow, and ice can pose hazards for our pets. But with a few easy steps you can keep your furry (or feathered, or scaly) friends safe and comfortable and still get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
1. Provide shelter
A snug house with straw, heated beds, and heated water bowls provide shelter from the elements to outdoor animals, whether cat, dog, rabbit, or chicken. Check any electric components daily to make sure they're functioning and decrease risk of electrical fire. Short-coated indoor animals may appreciate a coat when going outside to play or eliminate. Avoid shaving your long-haired pet during the colder months of the year. Instead, let their fur grow to allow them to stay warm in a natural way. Lastly, winter is a good time to evaluate your reptile's habitat - make sure humidity and temperature labels are appropriate for the species and your pet's winter needs.
2. Wash Those Pads
During the winter, sidewalks, parking lots, and the streets are often covered in road salt and other chemicals to melt snow. These can irritate the skin of the paws, or cause nausea and mouth sores if licked off. Dog shoes can protect their paws, but your pet might not find them very comfortable. Instead, wipe off their paws with a wet washcloth once you come back inside. You can apply petroleum jelly to your pet’s pawpads if they become dry or cracked.
3. Avoid Antifreeze
Antifreeze has a sweet taste and is very tempting to dogs and cats - but extremely poisonous. It causes kidney failure and death if not treated quickly. Keep pets away from stored antifreeze and avoid any contact with leaked antifreeze until the area is properly cleaned. If you think your pet may have been exposed to antifreeze, seek veterinary care immediately. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include: drunken behavior, wobbling or falling over, lethargy, vomiting, change to urination (too much and then later too little), diarrhea, and depression.
By doing what you can to keep your animals warm, protect their feet, and avoid toxins, you can make sure winter is just as enjoyable for your pets as it is for you.
Photos Maja Dumat and M C Morgan www.flickr.com