Back-to-school is around the corner. Backpacks, pencils, notebooks - check. Bus schedule - check. Dog training in place - what??
Summer is winding down and routines are going to change for many of us. Start now to give your pets a smooth transition - and hopefully avoid unpleasant chewed-up surprises and trips to the emergency vet.
Here's your back-to-school list for your dog:
Start the routine early - with shorter away times
Exercise solves so many problems
Keep transitions short and smooth
Distraction is your friend
Keep it positive
So enough about the cicadas - what about our pets?
Dogs and less fastidious cats will try to snack on the cicadas and their shells.
Eating one or two cicadas is highly unlikely to cause any harm, unless your pet happens be allergic (very rare, but possible, just like some people are allergic to bee stings).
Supervise your pet outside, since the hard insect exoskeleton could cause choking.
Eating a lot of cicadas can lead to GI problems:
The bottom line - don't let your pets eat a lot of the cicadas, but don't panic if they grab a small snack. Now is a great time to teach the "drop it" command if you haven't already - you'll have lots of chances to practice it in the weeks ahead! No time to teach a command? Spend 5 minutes a day getting your dog used to wearing a basket muzzle - they're roomy enough that your pooch can eat treats, drink water, and pant while wearing one, but won't be able to pick cicadas up off the ground.
Fresh greens are a good source of water and micronutrients for your rabbit. They are the second-most important component of your rabbit’s diet after hay. In general, the darker the green, the more nutritious. Avoid iceberg lettuce as it is extremely low in nutrients. Feed a variety (at least 3 types) of greens every day for a balanced diet. Feed up to one packed cup of greens per 2lbs of rabbit per day.
Suggested greens: baby greens (salad mix counts as one type), beet tops, bok choy, basil, broccoli (top and leaves), Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red, green, Chinese), carrot tops, celery leaves, chickory, collard greens, dandelion leaves and flower, dock, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, radicchio, rainbow or Swiss chard, water cress
Fruits and vegetables
A small amount of fresh fruits and vegetables (1-2 tbsp) can be a good treat for your rabbit. It's also a good way to check on your rabbit's health. If a favorite treat is getting ignored, please call your veterinarian. Avoid sugary and starchy foods like corn, peas, nuts, seeds, or sugary treats.
Suggested treats: apple, banana, bell pepper, berries (including strawberry tops), carrot, flowers (only if organic and from your garden: nasturtiums, pansies, roses, and snap dragons), grapes, kiwi, mango, melon, peach, pear, pineapple, squash
What about pellets or rabbit food?
A rabbit eating a balanced diet of hay and greens does NOT actually need pellets. They are very dense in calories, don't wear down the teeth properly, and frequently lead to obesity. But many rabbits love them, so you can offer them as a treat for training or in a pinch if hay or greens are unavailable. Rabbits less than 5lbs should be offered no more than 2 tbsp pellets per day, and up to 1/4 cup of pellets in a day for larger rabbits.
Spring brings warm weather, flowers, and allergies, and it's not just us humans who can be affected. Dogs and cats can have allergies to pollen, grasses, trees, food ingredients, and even to pet dander. So what can we do to help?
How to treat allergies:
Unfortunately, allergies aren't usually curable. They can be managed, but your itchy pet will likely need some help every time they get exposed to their trigger.
First step - reduce exposure
Is cure ever possible?
Certain pets can actually be cured of their allergies through a process called allergy immunotherapy. Skin testing is the most accurate way to find out what triggers your pet's allergies. Blood testing is becoming more accurate every year. Once the allergens are known, injections are prepared with increasing amounts of those triggers to gradually desensitize your pet. The process takes about a year.
Pets with food sensitivities (about a quarter of all allergic pets) can usually be controlled by limiting what they eat and avoiding the trigger food once we find out what it is. While not actually cured, these pets get to be comfortable without medications most of the time.
2. Can pets spread Covid? Maybe.
In laboratory settings, certain animals have spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others of the same species housed together. Cats, ferrets, and hamsters infected with the virus should be considered contagious to other cats, ferrets, and hamsters. Dogs do not seem to spread the virus to other dogs.
Most importantly, pets do NOT seem to be able to spread the virus back to people. No pet to person transmission has been documented at this time.
3. What should pet owners do?
Thankfully, you can protect your pet the same way you are protecting everyone else in your family. Follow CDC guidelines by wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, and continuing to social distance to decrease your risk of catching Covid-19.
Testing pets for Covid is only available with approval from the State Veterinarian or through university research studies. If someone in your household has Covid and your pet is showing respiratory signs, please call us.
If you have Covid:
If your pet tests positive for Covid:
We love our dogs and want to do what's best for them. But when those big brown eyes come begging, can we splurge for them? Here's a rough guide to how much to feed your dog, and how to tell if your dog is underweight, overweight, or just right.
First, make sure to start with the right food.
Every bag or can of food has an AAFCO statement in tiny print under the ingredient list that says who the food is designed to feed and how the recipe was analyzed. Start here.
1: How old is your pup?
Growing puppies need food labeled for growth. Small breeds (up to 35lbs) should eat puppy foods until they are 6 months old. Medium breeds (35-50lbs) should eat puppy diets until they are 9 months old, and large breed dogs should eat puppy food until they are close to a year old. Once your pet is spayed or neutered, switch to adult food (even if they're younger than the ages above) because their metabolism will slow slightly and we want to prevent excess weight gain. Pregnant and nursing mothers need growth food to keep up with the demands from their puppies.
Adult and senior dogs should eat food labeled for adult maintenance only. If the food is labeled "for all life stages" it is too rich for all but the most active adults because it's actually meeting the needs of growing or nursing dogs.
2. How is the food tested?
The AAFCO statement will tell you whether the food is formulated to meet the needs of... or if feeding trials were conducted to test the food. Feeding trials are usually preferable to formulation since they prove that none of the ingredients were toxic. Computer analyses can sometimes be manipulated to meet the nutritional requirements without being healthy for our pets.
Ok, now that we have the right food for your pet's age and it's been correctly tested by the manufacturer, it's time to look at your dog. The best part is that you get to pet him or her all over!
Is your dog underweight, ideal, or overweight?
An ideal weight dog will have a waist when seen from above and the belly will be tucked up when seen from the side.
Most of all, remember that weight will change over time. Make a habit of feeling your pup's body condition regularly, and adjust the amount of food and treats accordingly. Small changes make a huge difference when started early. My labrador retriever gains weight easily, so sometimes her meals need to be cut from 1 and 3/4 cups to 1 and 1/2 cups for a few weeks.
So, how much food do I give?
Most important - your pet needs less food than the label on the bag says.
A very general rule of thumb:
There is an easy to use calorie calculator from the Pet Nutrition Alliance. You can put in your dog's current weight, whether they are underweight, ideal, or overweight, and even search for your exact flavor of food. It even gives an allotment of calories from treats!
If your dog is overweight, we need to feed less to bring that body weight back in line. Please talk to your veterinarian for specifics, especially if your pet has a medical condition.
If your dog is underweight and you are already feeding the recommended number of calories, please talk to your veterinarian. There may be a medical condition preventing your pet from absorbing the nutrition he or she is eating.
If your dog is ideal, great job! Keep up your monitoring and stay that way!
Are there real holiday hazards?
However, there are some truly toxic plants that can cause more severe illness in our curious dogs and cats.
Traditional holiday plants to keep out of reach:
Beware that some decorations can be dangerous:
While we're enjoying some extra treats this month, keep the following ingredients out of your pets' reach to avoid a trip to the vet:
If you have any concerns about what your pet just got into, call ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435
No one likes coming home to find a mess - whether that's an object torn to shreds, furniture damaged, or pee or poop to clean up. But chances are, your dog (or, very rarely, cat) isn't actually out to get you. He or she is more likely to be scared or nervous, and the mess is the symptom of that anxiety.
It's normal for pets to be unhappy when their owners leave. But most pets can settle down to nap while their owners are away.
So what is separation anxiety? Separation anxiety is a medical condition where your dog experiences distress when left alone. These pets may cause harm to themselves or their environment in their need to escape or their drive to comfort themselves.
Signs of separation anxiety include:
What triggers separation anxiety?
Any change in routine can trigger anxious behavior. This can include absence of a family member, like a new work or school schedule or a trip. The absence doesn't have to be long, and some pets will start to show anxious behaviors before the person even leaves. Moving is another stressful even that can trigger anxious behavior. Puppies can show anxiety when separated from their littermates, and senior dogs can develop anxiety in their old age.
How do you treat separation anxiety?
The first thing to do is consult your veterinarian. Your pet may have a medical condition that is causing the behavior change, and treating the problem may fix the behavior. Some examples include pets who are uncomfortable from arthritis, drinking, urinating, and panting more than usual because of Cushing's disease, or are hyperactive or aggressive from an overactive thyroid (cats).
Once medical issues are ruled out, training starts. Many pets will also benefit from calming supplements and/or medications to allow their anxiety to subside enough that learning can occur.
The first step in training is to provide your pet with proper exercise. A bored pet is more likely to get into trouble. A tired pet is more likely to rest until you come home. Make sure to stimulate your pet's mind as well as body with new games and activities.
Now, start training your pet to "settle". This is a command that you train, just like "sit" or "stay". It means your pet goes to a designated spot like a bed or a crate and relaxes in place. At first, your pet will settle for a very short time. Gradually increase the length of time and the distance you move away before releasing your pet from the command. Use treats and positive reinforcement to keep teaching this command stress-free. Be patient! Once you can leave the room for a short time and return without your pet moving from their settle, you are ready to leave the house for a short time. When you come home, great your pet with the release word and a calm demeanor.
Severely affected pets need additional help beyond training.
Solliquin or Zylkene are calming supplements that decrease the fight-or-flight response and allow learning to occur. Some pets will also respond well to hemp-based supplements - but be careful to avoid any THC, which is extremely toxic to dogs and cats.
Anti-depressants like fluoxetine or clomipramine are also very helpful to get the process started for some pets. Start with an appointment with your veterinarian to get your pet the help they need.
It's blazing hot outside, so it's time to take a moment to make sure our four-legged friends are safe and comfortable. A new study of almost a million dogs in Britain confirmed what veterinarians have long suspected - older dogs, overweight dogs, and certain breeds are at increased risk of heat-related illness.
Which breeds are at most risk?
Working dogs can also succumb to heat stroke because they are so eager to please. They will often continue running to the point of collapse rather than stopping to take the break they need.
Older dogs can be more susceptible because of underlying lung or heart conditions that may be mild or asymptomatic during temperate weather and only show up in hot weather.
Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheating because their airways are narrowed by the excess fat and the excess weight acts like a marine mammal's blubber, trapping body heat inside.
Rabbits are also very susceptible to the heat. They can tolerate cold temperatures much more easily. Rabbits kept outdoors should have a shaded hutch, a fan to move air and open hutch sides to allow a breeze, and a frozen water bottle to lay on in addition to fresh drinking water.
So how do you prevent heat exhaustion?
If you have a dog or cat who is at risk of heat-related illness, avoidance is the key.
Notice the signs of heat exhaustion early:
If you think your pet is too hot:
When is a mosquito bite more than just an itchy annoyance for your dog, cat, or ferret? When that mosquito is carrying a parasite called heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis). Found in all 50 states but most prevalent in the South and Midwest, heartworms are transmitted from one pet to the next by a mosquito.
Heartworms start as tiny microfilaria that can only be seen under a microscope. Over the next 6 months they lodge in the vessels of the heart and lungs and grow to be over a foot long. Adult heartworms can live in your pet for up to 7 years, and create thousands of baby heartworms that will be transmitted to other pets through new mosquitoes.
Heartworm disease is the syndrome caused by these worms living inside your pet. At the beginning, your dog will not show any signs of illness. Early signs of illness can include decreased activity, decreased appetite, weight loss, and/or mild cough. Over time, the heartworms can cause heart failure, kidney failure, or sudden death. Cats and ferrets can get severe disease from just a couple worms, and unfortunately there is no treatment for heartworm in these pets.
Dogs can be treated for heartworms with a medication called immiticide. This kills the adult heartworms and then your dog's immune system will gradually break down the worms. Treating heartworm is a very time-consuming and expensive process. It must be done gradually, because the dead worms can cause potentially fatal clots. Your dog is absolutely NOT allowed to run during the months of treatment because exercise can dislodge a worm and cause sudden death. In order to decrease this risk, we start with a month of an antibiotic to weaken the worms prior to the immiticide and steroids to decrease the inflammation in the lungs following the American Heartworm Society Guidelines.
So, that's all the bad news. What's the good news?
The good news is that heartworm disease is completely preventable. There are many preventive medications available that stop the baby heartworms from developing into adult disease-causing worms. Adding in mosquito repellent provides another layer of protection.