If you are a regular at Guthrie Pet Hospital, then you have more than likely met our resident clinic cats, Silvie and Felicia. Both cats live full time at the clinic; it is their home. Occasionally someone will ask why they must live there, or why they don’t get to go home in the evenings, or isn’t it mean to make them live there. Rest assured, if they were not happy there, we would not make them stay! But the truth is, living at the clinic is an incredibly rich environment that provides them with both attention and stimulation that many cats who live in normal households do not.
Greeting the peasants at Guthrie Pet Hosptial:
Every single day, people stop by Guthrie Pet Hospital to say hello to the cats, showering them with pets and praises. They get chin scratches and head rubs and told how beautiful they look. The girls remain suitably aloof (except for Felicia, she still hasn’t mastered aloof) and will occasionally reward the petter with a slight head bop or a slow blink. Some days they get so much attention they leave the reception area and go upstairs to the office for some peace and quiet. Those are the days I must constantly reassure their fans that all is well, and to check back later to see if they are receiving guests. The cats also get their quiet time with the employees, snuggling under the desk while we work or watching the techs fiddle with the equipment in the back. Silvie has even been known to watch Stefani groom the occasional dog, but that doesn’t seem to hold her attention.
I’m watching my shows:
If you want to hold Silvie’s attention, you need an iPad. This cat loves to watch her shows! After her morning routine of medication and breakfast, Silvie will head up front to the reception desk and her bed and wait for the presentation to begin. Sometimes she watches the bird channel, which is just a camera capturing the action at a bird feeder, and other times she likes to watch cartoons, like the old Garfield cartoons. She thoroughly enjoys watching NatGeo shows, but I can only watch so many gazelles being taken down by lions before I must shut it off. She will watch for a good solid hour, then curl up for a nap.
How much is that kitty in the window?
Felicia doesn’t seem to be interested in the shows, but then she is quite a bit younger. Silvie is getting ready to turn 16, while Felicia is less than 4. Felicia came to us from a campground in western Oklahoma. Dr. Coffin found her at an RV Park with no owner in sight. She had at some point been through a spay and neuter program but had no microchip and had been at the campground alone for quite some time. We like to think of her as the clinic cat in training. Felicia spends her days in the front window, napping, chasing flies, and freaking people out when she suddenly wakes up, and they realize she is real. She gets to experience the world through 8-foot windows and constant foot traffic outside. It has been amazing to watch her learn from Silvie how to react and not react to other animals in her space. She will still get a little puffy or hissy, but only when she is confronted with younger kittens. It is almost like she has been with us just long enough to be confident, but not confident enough to be completely certain of her security. We hope that she comes to trust her place in the clinic, but without knowing her history and her experiences before coming to us we will have to continue to work with her and hope for the best. (She is quite comfortable with us; she wants to appear as a tough kid-she is still practicing that whole “aloof” thing!)
The daily grind:
Both cats can experience people and animals and music and light. Felicia is fascinated by rain, and Silvie loves to people watch. Both have their relationship with Dante, the bird. They are well-fed and have meticulous health care, which has become especially important with Silvie over the last few years. As you may have noticed, she has lost a bit of weight and slowed down a bit. She is being treated for a thyroid condition as well as her chronic upper respiratory issues, but she is doing well for an old gal. Silvie occasionally has sleepovers at the B&B when out of town friends come to stay, but for the most part, is ready for her quiet time at the end of a busy day.
If you are out and about, stop by Guthrie Pet Hospital and say hello to the girls. If you come by in the morning, you can watch a few minutes of cat TV with Silvie, and if you stop in around 11 am you can catch Felicia with her morning workout routine of throwing toys all over the reception area and rug surfing. Silvie naps after lunch followed by a patrol of the clinic. Felicia hasn’t started making rounds with her yet, but probably will eventually. Finally, it’s dinner time before closing, which leads to an evening of people watching in the window. The girls seem pretty content and think it is sweet of you to worry about them, but they want you to know they are fine and living their best life with hundreds of friends, not to mention followers on Facebook! As Silvie says on her internet posts, “Take time for your furries, and you’ll always have a friend. Toodles!”
Canine cognitive dysfunction is a behavioral condition that occurs in older patients and is like Alzheimer’s in people. A recent study done at the University of California showed that this syndrome affected 32% of 11-year-old dogs and 100% of dogs over 16 years of age. The disease has a gradual onset, and most people fail to recognize early signs and chalk it up to the normal aging process.
Canine cognitive dysfunction symptoms:
- excessive vocalization
- accidents in the house
- decreased interaction with family members
- wake-sleep cycle disturbances
Like Alzheimer’s patients, canine cognitive dysfunction occurs due to a buildup of a specific type of protein called amyloid in the brain.
Several treatment options are available. Since we are unable to reverse the amyloid deposits already present it is important to start treatment early to prevent further deposition of this protein. We can’t make the amyloid deposits go away, but we can help prevent more buildup which will help decrease the symptoms.
- Purina Bright Minds is a diet that helps promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs over 7 years old. I recommend this as the first line of defense, especially when symptoms are mild.
- Purina Neurocare is a prescription diet that was developed to support cognitive support in dogs.
- A drug by the name of Anipryl (selegiline) is FDA approved for the treatment of this disease.
- There are a variety of dietary supplements such as antioxidants and fatty acids that can help.
- You can teach your old dog new tricks! If he can’t hear then teach him hand signals and if he can’t see, then teach him by touch or smell.
A two-year study showed the combined effect of a special diet and enriched environment provided the greatest improvement in learning ability when compared to the dogs that did not have either dietary or environmental enrichment.
If your pet is showing symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction contact Guthrie Pet Hospital for a full physical and diagnostic testing to determine the cause.
Puppy potty training is probably the most difficult aspect of getting a new puppy, and all puppies are not created equal. Some breeds are known for being easy to potty train while others are more difficult. Be sure to do a little research before deciding what breed is right for you and your family. If you don’t want to mess with potty training at all adopt or buy an older puppy or an adult dog that is already potty trained.
Here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when puppy potty training: most puppies can hold their urine for how many months old they are plus one (i.e., a two-month-old puppy should be able to hold his urine for 3 hours). Using the example above, I would recommend taking this two-month-old puppy outside every 1 ½ to 2 hours. Most puppies will need to defecate 30-45 minutes after eating. It takes time to potty train a puppy, so the most important thing is to be patient and consistent.
Two Keys to Successful puppy potty training:
Key #1: Crate confinement
The primary key to potty training is crating or confining your puppy when you can’t watch him. Crate training your dog is not cruel. Crate training works because most animals don’t like sleeping or eating where they go to the bathroom, and it protects your puppy from injuring itself and your property. Restrict the puppy’s access to tile or easily washable flooring. While potty training, it’s also important to stick to a schedule by feeding at the same time every day and getting up and going to bed around the same time each day.
Key #2: Keep your puppy on a leash
I recommend taking your puppy outside on a leash to the same spot to potty. Taking your puppy on a leash is the second most important aspect of potty training. By using a leash, you are controlling where your puppy is going and what your puppy is doing. Without the leash, your puppy will wander off to play and forget the real reason why they are outside. By taking your puppy to the same spot each time, they will smell the urine or stool that helps to stimulate them to go potty. Potty pads work because they have a scent impregnated into them that does this very same thing. If your puppy is using the same spot in your house each time so make sure that you are using a cleaning product that says it neutralizes urine and fecal odor. You can also use a key phrase like “hurry up” or “go potty” which will help once your dog is trained.
Most puppies will signal when they need to go potty by circling, sniffing and arching their back. When you see this behavior, immediately pick them up and take them outside. Never yell or punish your puppy for accidents and don’t rub his nose in it. If you find the accident after the fact, clean it up and scold yourself. Call Guthrie Pet Hospital for all your puppy behavioral and medical needs.
When I tell people I teach dog obedience, they usually say something like, “Oh! I need you to teach my dog how to behave!” While I love to think of myself as a miracle worker who can teach behaviors and troubleshoot problems with your dog, the truth is that I can’t do it without you. My actual job is to teach owners and caretakers how to communicate with their dogs. I know it sounds all new-age, cable tv show, touchy-feely. It’s a fact, though. You and your dog will have better results and a better relationship if I teach you, then you teach them.
Three tips for better dog obedience results:
Always Reward Good Behaviors
Our dogs, like ourselves, are much more likely to repeat a behavior that they find rewarding. The problem is that we end up inadvertently rewarding undesirable behaviors. When our dog barks and we yell at them to stop, we’re rewarding their noise by yelling right along with them. If my dog jumps up and I respond by pushing him off of me, I’m rewarding his annoying behavior by giving him physical contact and attention. Some behaviors are even self-rewarding—meaning that the act itself gives the dog pleasure (think counter-surfing or garbage eating).
For us to teach our dogs to make better choices, we have to make those desirable choices pay. Reward your dog with a pet or a treat for sitting or lying down calmly. Reward your dog when he’s quiet. Reward him when he doesn’t put his feet up on the counter. The more a behavior is rewarded, the more your dog will perform that behavior.
When you’re training your dog, think of it as teaching English as a second language. You want to say things the same way each time to avoid confusion. Did you take Spanish in school? I did. I was pretty awful at it. The worst part was when I thought I finally got something, and then I learned that there was a similar word that meant something completely different. Our dogs can become frustrated, too. Set them (and yourself) up for success by being consistent in your language, tone, and reward timing.
Make Time To Practice
To master any skill, it takes practice. Just because our dogs get a behavior right one time doesn’t mean that they will automatically get it right every time. Regular practice is necessary to perfect the skills that we are teaching them. You don’t have to spend hours a day on obedience—but 2 or 3 10-minute sessions each day will make a huge difference in how quickly you and your dog will master each behavior. Think of it like playing the piano. Even if you know your scales, that doesn’t mean you can play a Mozart piece without practicing it first, and you have to practice those scales first to have the foundation in place to tackle songs in different keys.
To keep dog obedience practice from feeling like a chore, you can make an appointment with me to learn some great obedience games to play with your dog! From “Hide & Seek” to “ Puppy in the Middle,” there are some really fun ways to help your dog want to learn.
I think Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ He was saying that it’s better to try and avoid problems in the first place, rather than trying to fix them once they arise. What exactly does this have to do with veterinary medicine? Everything! Preventative medicine is the foundation of staying healthy for you and your furry friends. Pet immunization is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pet immunization is an important aspect of preventative medicine. All puppies and kittens should have three series of vaccines typically at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. The mother’s milk provides antibodies to protect puppies and kittens from contagious disease. These antibodies start to decrease between 8 to 12 weeks of age, and that’s why we start to vaccinate during this time frame. We are trying to stimulate the animal’s immune system to develop protection on their own before the mother’s protection is completely gone and most importantly, before they get exposed to the real disease. After this initial series of pet immunization, adult animals need yearly vaccinations.
But it’s not just all about the “shots.” The physical exam is the most important aspect of the visit. A comprehensive physical exam involves checking every aspect of the animal from head to tail. During puppy/kitten exams, your veterinarian is primarily looking for congenital birth defects and parasites. Animals age faster than we do, so an annual exam to them is like you going to the doctor every seven years. Annual examinations help us to detect and treat diseases early before your pet starts showing symptoms.
In animals, parasite prevention is as important as vaccinations. 34% of dogs in the United States are infected with intestinal parasites. 1-3 million people are infected with hookworms from their pets each year. The CDC recommends at least once a year deworming for intestinal parasites. It’s also important to keep the environment free from all fecal material to prevent infection from you and your pet. Heartworms, a blood parasite, are easily prevented with monthly medication that is only available through a veterinarian. There are 244,000 dogs diagnosed with heartworms every year in the United States. Heartworm prevention cost an average of $6.00/month. Heartworm treatment can cost $500-$1000 and left untreated heartworms can be fatal.
The jingling of tags on a collar. The low whistling whines. The inevitable sound of “lick, lick, lick” that brings you out of a dead sleep and is the pet owner equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. “STOP!” Silence. You lay back down, settle into your pillow, and then- “lick, lick, lick.” This is the song of an itchy pet.
Just reading that probably raised your anxiety level by a good four notches. Your dog is not doing that to drive you crazy, nor does he likely have a severe neurosis or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Odds are your dog is dealing with the same thing a considerable part of the human population is currently, which is seasonal allergies. Like humans, dogs and cats can have allergic reactions to pollens, mold, chemicals, and food.
Where we humans tend to go for the more dramatic reaction like sneezing and puffy red eyes, dogs and cats often present with skin issues and even gastrointestinal issues, which are not the first thing you generally associate with allergies. Pollens can settle on the pet’s skin and cause irritation, which creates an itchy pet, which can result in hair loss or skin scrapes or cuts. Open wounds can become infected, causing even more discomfort and irritation, which leads to increased scratching, and soon, you have a miserable dog or cat that needs serious medical attention.
Fleas are often blamed for itching and scratching, and rightfully so, but sometimes the pet has an allergic reaction to the flea saliva. In these cases, it is imperative that you stay ahead of the flea infestation.
How to relieve your itchy pet:
So, what can you do to make your dog or cat more comfortable so you both can get a good night’s sleep? First, make sure you don’t have a flea issue, and if you do, treat all the pets in the home and the environment. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best flea treatment for your pet, but you will also need to maintain efforts at home to keep them in check. Inside you will want to vacuum frequently around your pet’s bedding and areas they lay or sleep. Wash their bedding and blankets often. Treat outside areas with safe pet products to control fleas and ticks and keep the grass trimmed.
In the early spring and fall when pollen seems to hang in the air, try putting a light fabric shirt on your dog to keep the pollens off his skin. Bathing your itchy pet weekly in a cool bath with an oatmeal shampoo will remove the pollens and soothe the skin. Regular brushing will disperse natural oils throughout the coat to create a barrier for pollens and irritants. You might also consider paw socks or boots for extended outdoor time to keep allergens off their feet.
Letting your dog hang his head out of a car window is never a good idea, and doubly so when the air is full of things just waiting to make him sneeze. Roll those windows UP!
If despite your best efforts your pet is still scratching or chewing or sneezing or bumpy, don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are many pharmaceutical solutions your vet can prescribe, starting with simple antihistamines and progressing up to prescription medication in severe cases. Your itchy pet doesn’t have to suffer, and neither do you. The next time you are awakened by the “lick, lick, lick” take a moment to check your pet over. If you don’t see signs of fleas, it is probably time for a quick trip to the vet for a bit of allergy relief. You will both sleep better for it!
The last few weeks, I’ve seen several cases of inappropriate elimination in cats. Spraying or avoiding the litter box is the number one sited reason cats are surrendered to animal shelters. Hopefully, the knowledge you gain from this article can reduce the chance of litter box problems.
The most common reason a cat will use the bathroom outside of its litter box is that it’s not clean. Let’s face it- when we go to a public restroom and find a dirty toilet, we go to the next stall; if it stinks, we will find another bathroom somewhere else. Why do you think it’s any different for your cat?
How to prevent inappropriate elimination in cats:
- Use unscented litter.
- Scoop the litter box every day
- Clean the litter box once a week with mild soap and water
- Don’t use ammonia or citrus scents
- If the box begins to smell like urine, use an odor neutralizer or replace the box with a new one.
The number of litter boxes needed depends on the number of cats in your household. The general rule of thumb to follow is the number of cats you have in your household plus one (example: 2 cats = 3 litter boxes). I would also recommend providing different types of litter box and varying the size of each of the boxes. We have similar choices: home vs. public restroom, inside vs. outside, and handicap vs. regular stall. It’s nice to have a choice.
If you have inappropriate elimination in cats and you have tried the above suggestions, your cat may have a medical or behavioral condition. Contact your veterinarian for an exam and diagnostics in order to resolve the issue early. Never punish your cat for going outside the litter box, as this may cause other behavioral problems. Some individuals think the cat is trying to be vindictive, when in fact, there is a legitimate reason why the cat is not using the litter box. Try thinking about the problem from your cat’s point of view. Ask yourself if you were presented with the same problem, what would you do?
It’s me, Mani. I haven’t written in a while because this summer has been really busy. I turned nine this year. Mama Stef says that’s almost old but not quite actually, really old.
So anyway… I was supposed to have surgery in June to take some lumps off my leg, tummy, chest, neck, and chin. I had to go to work with Mama Stef at the pet hospital. She made me skip breakfast and wouldn’t even give me a sip of water! It made me sad. When I got there, they took some of my blood with a needle so they could make sure all of my organs were working. Guess what. They found out my kidneys are old and tired! Then, they checked my blood pressure and said it was too high. Dr. Coffin said I couldn’t have surgery yet.
Mama Stef got worried, but Dr. Coffin said I just have to eat special food to help my kidneys and take one pill every day to make my blood pressure settle down. Now, I get special food that none of the other dogs get to eat. That’s pretty cool. It’s made by a company called Royal Canin, and it’s called Hydrolyzed Protein Renal. It’s made just for dogs who have kidney problems and food allergies. It tastes REALLY good, so I don’t mind that I had to switch from my old food.
The medicine for my blood pressure works so well; I had to—I mean, I GOT to—go back and have my surgery. Dr. Coffin used a special kind of anesthesia to make it easier for my kidneys to handle it. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, my lumps were all gone, and I had stitches. Mama Stef is making me wear a silly blow-up donut collar so I can’t lick or chew at them. I’m not allowed to run or play rough with the other dogs until I get my stitches out in 2 weeks. I’m getting a lot of extra love and attention, so I don’t feel left out when the other dogs wrestle.
So, as I said—it’s been a really busy summer. I hope this fall is less exciting.
Last week at our weekly staff meeting, I was discussing some data that I had just received showing that only 50% of our canine patients are on heartworm prevention. This started a conversation about why this number is so low. I believe it’s because many people don’t understand the difference between heartworms and intestinal parasites. I decided to get the word out!
Intestinal parasites are exactly what the name implies; they are worms that live in the intestinal tract (heartworms are worms that live in the heart). Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasites in our geographical area.
Roundworms and hookworms are very common in puppies and kittens as they are transmitted from their mother while they are in the uterus or through the mother’s milk. The adult worms live in the intestinal tract most of their lives and produce microscopic eggs that pass in the feces. Did you know that one female roundworm can produce more than 100,000 eggs per day? Only under severe infestation or after deworming will you see adult worms passed in the stool. These two parasites can also be transmitted to people, especially children, as they are often less careful about hygiene, more likely to put their hands in their mouths and commonly play in potentially contaminated soil. A recent study revealed that 14% of the human population is infected with these parasites.
Tapeworms got their name because they are thin and flat, like strips of tape. A tapeworms body is made of jointed segments which detach and are seen around the pet’s rectum or in their stool and they look like rice segments. These segments cannot infect other cats or dogs. The only way that dogs and cats become infected is by eating an infected flea or rodent. Therefore, a flea eradication program is important to prevent further infestation.
There are many oral and some topical medications used to treat intestinal parasites. A few of these products are available over the counter and unfortunately, don’t work very well. Now to the main point of this entire article: I believe that many people go to the store and get dewormer for their pets and believe that they are also treating their pet for heartworms. Heartworm prevention is a prescription only medication, which means you must get it from your veterinarian. Heartworm prevention and medication to treat intestinal parasites are relatively inexpensive and prevent transmission to other animals and, most importantly, humans. Ask your veterinarian about the products that they recommend.
“It’s too expensive.” “They should be allowed to have at least one litter.” “I can make money selling the puppies.” These are just a few of the reasons we hear for why people haven’t spayed or neutered their pet, with the cost being the most frequently heard reason. People still believe that it just costs too much to get their pet spayed or neutered. What they fail to realize is the enormous cost of not getting their pet fixed. Unfortunately, we see it nearly every day, especially in the spring.
It usually starts out with a very pregnant momma cat or dog. The owner calls and says she has been in labor for three days and still no pups/kittens. After an exam and testing the momma dog is rushed into surgery with an infected uterus (Pyometra,) a condition that can be fatal if untreated. Surgery and antibiotics can cost hundreds of dollars to treat a condition that could be avoided with a simple spay.
We also see female cats that have been attacked by intact toms hoping to either abort the unborn kittens or destroy a new litter of kittens to bring the female back into a heat cycle. Not only do we then have to contend with the physical wounds and injuries of these fights, but there becomes a real concern about the spread of diseases such as distemper, feline leukemia, feline aids, or even rabies.
We get panicked phone calls from owners of small dogs who have bred with much larger dogs, and the owners have waited until the mom dog is in mid-delivery to worry about if the pups might be too big for her to deliver naturally. Trying to find a vet who can perform a C-section on short notice can be costly and near impossible in some communities. All because someone thought their female should be allowed to experience motherhood at least once.
Pure breed puppies can be wildly expensive, especially if you don’t educate yourself on both the breed and the breeder. Dogs seen as money makers will be overbred, causing harm to both the moms and the pups. Without informed and careful attention to health conditions, breeders can create weakened bloodlines that result in litter after litter of pups with chronic conditions such as skin allergies, kidney disease, behavior issues, and heart conditions. People who buy these pups are entering a lifetime of chronic illness and facing the financial responsibility of treating these issues for the lifetime of their dog.
Dogs and cats that are not spayed or neutered can ultimately have hundreds of offspring, all of which are likely to contract some illness while living on the streets. Puppies can go from fun-loving and healthy to full-blown Parvo in no time, which can be fatal if left untreated. Having a pup contract Parvo while living with you can also be a death sentence to future pups, as the virus can live for up to a year in the soil in your yard. Treating Parvo requires a dedicated and attentive vet staff providing hospitalization and hourly attention, often for several days, all of which is an expensive endeavor.
Every spring, we see waves of kittens come through the clinic, foundlings that have lost their moms. Upper respiratory infections are almost a given, which can progress to lung infections, neurological issues, and ultimately, death. Kittens that survive to be weaned and become members of feral colonies can contract and spread numerous diseases, including bobcat fever, a nearly 100% fatal infection contracted through a tick bite.
Every year we see puppies, and kittens suffer needlessly. Spayed and neutered pet’s mean not only preventing an increase in the feral population but preventing the spread of illness and disease. It means keeping your existing pets healthier. It means less worry about pets developing conditions and cancers later in life.
There are numerous programs out there to offset, if not completely absorb the cost of spaying and neutering your pet. Don’t get caught up in the notion that every animal deserves to be a mom at least once, or that there aren’t real concerns for the future health issues an intact pet may face. Being a responsible pet owner starts at the very beginning. Test your newly adopted cat for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia and your newly adopted dog for heartworms and tick-transmitted diseases. Schedule your vaccines as recommended get your pet spayed and neutered when they are old enough. Investing in that first year of pet ownership can help ensure a long and healthy life with your new family member, and that can be priceless in the long run.