The whole family should enjoy celebrating the holiday season, including your furry, feathered, or scaled friends. However, as you browse pet stores or search online, you might wonder what to give your pets this year to help them ring in the season. Below, you'll find a handful of creative holiday gift ideas to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Holiday Gift Ideas for Pets
1. Puzzle Feeders
Keeping food out in bowls throughout the day may cause dogs and cats to overeat and become overweight. Luckily, you can slow them down and make meals more fun by providing them with puzzle feeders. These devices hold food in various compartments and require animals to manipulate them in certain ways to release kibble. In addition to making meals last longer, this can provide pets with extra exercise, as they must work to solve puzzles before eating. Puzzle feeders hidden around the house give cats the chance to use their natural hunting and foraging skills, leaving you with a more interactive content cat. They also have the advantage of separating you from being the only source of food so your hungry kitty is more likely to search the house for nibbles at 4am rather than wake you up. Got a pet bird? Hiding food in paper boxes, dried pasta, or stuck into cork can provide them some fun mental stimulation and keep them active.
2. New Beds
If your pet has sensitive joints or arthritis, it might be difficult or painful for them to lie on the floor. Instead, a new bed can make your dogs and cats feel more comfortable while resting and taking naps. If your furry friend enjoys sleeping in warm areas, a heated bed can match their body temperature and ensure they remain cozy. On the other hand, if your pet likes to sleep in cooler spaces, an elevated bed with a steel frame can create a breezy effect that prevents the bedding from becoming too warm.
3. Interactive Toys
Most pets enjoy playtime and the opportunity to spend time with their owners. As such, giving your pets interactive toys for the holidays can help them get the most out of playtime, while also getting extra exercise to maintain a healthy weight. These toys may also provide mental stimulation to improve cognition and prevent boredom while you're away from home for the holidays. For cats, you might choose products that simulate the hunting experience by popping toy "prey" out of various compartments, prompting your feline to chase and pounce on them. For dogs, digging toys featuring fabric flaps under which you can hide their favorite toys and treats will let them have fun foraging and retrieving them.
4. The gift of good health!
We are an animal hospital, after all - the most important gift on our list is a checkup! We can catch your friend up on any needed preventive care and look for any minor ailments that may have creeped up over the past few months. Itchy or dry skin, slowing down, drinking more - all of these can be helped with the right diagnosis and a plan that fits your busy schedule.
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.
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.
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.
It's hard to concentrate in the midst of a global pandemic, but spring is bringing back all the usual pests and our pets need protection. So to keep your pets safe from disease-carrying fleas and ticks, here's what you need to know - we've put it into the mnemonic that's top of mind these days.
So by following the tips above you can keep your pets free of fleas and ticks this year - and give yourself one less thing to stress over. Questions about your particular pet? Just give us a call at 513-791-7912 and we'll be happy to discuss the best product for your individual situation.
Old age can cause challenges whether you have 2 legs or 4. Here are some simple steps you can take to make your older pet's daily life more comfortable and maximize the enjoyable moments.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being over- or under-weight can both be a problem for the senior pet. Work with us to adjust your pets' feeding schedule so that we can optimize lean muscle mass, decrease the stress of obesity on joints, and make sure your pet has the reserves he or she needs to fight illness.
Show us your best dog or cat grin - are those teeth pearly white? Is that breath fresh? The answer should be yes to both!
You can't have a healthy body without a healthy mouth. Rotten teeth cause pain in our pets, even though they won't show it. Very few animals will stop eating due to oral pain. They will mostly just slow down, or perhaps change the amount of time they spend with toys.
First step: a comprehensive oral exam and treatment. Because our patients won't open wide and say 'aah', this must be done under sedation. Just like a fear-free human dentist uses medications to relax those of us who are dental-phobes, a light anesthesia relaxes your pet so they aren't stressed and don't experience any pain during the procedure. As an AAHA-accredited practice, you can be sure that we have your pet's safety top of mind at all times. Each patient is continuously monitored by a dedicated team member from the moment of induction through to recovery.
What will we find?
We like to find healthy teeth under a small amount of tartar, with healthy gums that are pink and sharp-edged. Dental xrays will show us healthy roots and bone. These procedures are the shortest and least invasive, and our pets wake refreshed with healthy mouths and fresh breath. An optional dental sealant provides up to 6 months of extra protection against periodontal disease.
What else can we find? Unfortunately, most of our dental procedures reveal disease of some kind.
After we've done our job, it's up to you. Daily home care will keep your pet's mouth healthy.
What are your New Year's resolutions for 2020? Are you still on track? According to the American Medical Association, roughly half of all Americans make resolutions, but less than a quarter are still committed by the end of January. But what about focusing on your pet? Small goals are easier to achieve than lofty ones, and having a buddy to care for can be more motivating than focusing on yourself.
Resolution #2: Feed to your pet's calorie needs
You'll need a measuring cup and 5 minutes to start this one. I hate to break it to you, but those labels on the back of the food bags usually overestimate the amount of food your pet needs. A basic rule of thumb is that a healthy weight spayed or neutered indoor cat or small dog needs roughly 20 calories per pound. Talk to us about your pet's specific needs, because our pets are individuals and the estimates are only starting points. Overweight sedentary pets may need significantly fewer calories while active pets will need more. Carefully monitor weight and body condition after changing the diet to ensure that your pet is fed properly. Check out the Pet Nutrional Alliance calculators or look at the tables by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association for dogs or cats to get the number of calories to start with. Your pet's food should have a calories per cup or can somewhere on the bag, usually near the ingredients. Then you can do the math. If you like giving treats, here's permission: 10% of the calories can come from treats. For example:
These resolutions aren't big by themselves, but they can add up to a better relationship with your pet and a healthier, longer life over time. Here's your chance to start the new decade with some small goals, and beat the odds of making them stick. Your pet will thank you.