Davenport IA Veterinary Clinic Explains How Socializing Your Pet Makes Them Better Citizens

All dogs can bite.  We like to think that we can avoid any difficulties with our pets by simply choosing the “right” breed; not so.  Although you may not actually cause behavior problems in your pet, you can unknowingly reward them.  Since we know that it is always easier to prevent rather than change an established behavior: developing ways to make your pet a good family member and citizen should be an important part of pet ownership.

Biting is not the only thing we complain about.  Barking, jumping up, digging, house soiling, chewing on inappropriate items, food aggression and fear of strangers are just some of the things we don’t like.  Can these behaviors be prevented?  Of course they can.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of management.  Others require an active effort on your part to train and socialize your pet. Here are some ideas for keeping making your pet a good citizen.

  1. Teach your dog to sit.  This should be the first thing a puppy learns.  Any pup old enough to go to a new home is capable of learning to sit.  It’s OK to teach the command by using a treat.  The ASPCA has a great site that will show you how to teach a sit.  The importance of this command in your relationship with your pet is that sitting quietly is a prerequisite before any kind of interaction with you. That means that you don’t unthinkingly pet your dog should they bump or rub against your hand. Believe it or not if you are consistent about requiring a quiet sit first and socializing second, it will set a solid base from which to build your relationship with your new dog. 
  2. Better yet, try an obedience class.  There are very few dogs that won’t benefit from obedience training.  It doesn’t have to be a competitive obedience class and it doesn’t have to involve harsh methods.  Look for something that will help you with basic commands and routine maintenance such as nail trimming, tooth brushing and socialization with other pets and people. The key is to establish good communication with your pet from the beginning.
  3. Get your pet out in the world.  You can’t expect your dog to comfortable in the world if they never get beyond your backyard.  Once your pet is properly immunized, wormed and protected from fleas, get them out to parks, for car rides and long walks.  If your schedule is extra busy, consider putting them in doggie daycare but please don’t just lock them in the backyard.
  4. Spay or neuter your pet.  This can’t be said often enough.  The reasons for keeping a dog intact are very few indeed.  Hormones will always get in the way of training. Worse, they can cause dog to dog aggression and lead to health problems later in life.
  5. Children and dogs should always be supervised.  Obviously this is not only important for the safety of the child but for the pet as well. Children can’t read animal body language.  They are often at eye level with a pet and may be seen as lower in social ranking than adults.  Children need to be taught to how handle their pet gently yet assertively.   Even when pet and child are both trained, they never be left alone together.
  6. Take your pet to the vet for something other than vaccines.  If you happen to be driving by the vet’s office, stop in.  Bring the dog inside for some treats.  Let the staff pet them and then go home.  You will be surprised how much more relaxed your pet will be if you do this a few times. 
  7. If you run into a problem you can’t handle, call a professional.  There is nothing wrong with asking someone more experienced to help you with your pet. The key is to go for help before a problem gets out of hand.

This is only meant to get you started thinking in the right direction.  Talk to your veterinarian about trainers in your area if you’re unsure where to go.  Just remember to have fun and always keep your pet social.

Ways to Recognise Illness in Your Cat From Davenport, Iowa Veterinarian

The decrease in feline veterinary visits has us worried.   We love our cats but do not provide them with the same level of care that we do our dogs.  It’s true that cats are great at masking illness.  However,  by putting off a veterinary visit until your cat is seriously ill,  we  only make for greater expense for us and stress for our pet.  We all need to learn how to better recognise the signs of illness in cats, so this week we have decided to reprint a great article  from Pet Docs on Call covering  just this subject.


By Dr. Jen Mathis, Certified Veterinary Journalist and member of the Veterinary News Network received veterinary care in the past year.hadn’t”There are 82 million pet cats in the U.S., compared with 72 million dogs, making cats the most popular pet.  Yet studies show the number of feline veterinary visits is declining steadily each year. A 2007 industry survey revealed that compared with dogs, almost three times as many cats

Though there are many myths about cat health, the truth is, cats need regular veterinary care, including annual exams and vaccinations, just like dogs do. More importantly, because they are naturally adept at hiding signs of illness, annual exams can result in early diagnosis of health problems. Early diagnosis often results in longer quality life at less cost.

Boehringer Ingelheim is trying to help cat health by teaching about the 10 subtle signs of sickness in cats:

1. INAPPROPRIATE URINATION – At least 80% of the time this is a medical problem often associated with conditions ranging from kidney disease to arthritis. Behavior is the least likely cause.

2. CHANGES IN INTERACTION – Cats are social animals. Changes in their interaction often signal pain or anxiety.

3. CHANGES IN ACTIVITY – Medical conditions such as arthritis can produce a decrease in activity while an increase can signal a condition such as hyperthyroidism.

4. CHANGES IN SLEEPING HABITS – While cats sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, they usually should be quick to respond to someone walking into a room. Difficulty lying or rising is also a problem.

5. CHANGES IN FOOD AND WATER CONSUMPTION – Eating or drinking more or less can be signs of a range of underlying medical conditions.

6. WEIGHT LOSS OR GAIN – Weight changes in cats often go unnoticed because of their thick coats. It is not an expected part of aging, but rather a medical problem.

7. CHANGES IN GROOMING – A poor hair coat is a common sign of many medical conditions in cats.

8. SIGNS OF STRESS – Sudden lifestyle changes can cause stress in cats, resulting in symptoms such as decreased grooming to eating more frequently. These are also signs of illness, so sickness should be ruled out before stress issues are addressed.

9. CHANGES IN VOCALIZATION – An increase in crying or howling is common with older cats and can be caused by high blood pressure (leading cause of blindness), kidney problems, thyroid issues, stress or pain.

10. BAD BREATH– 70 percent of cats have gum disease as early as age 3. Pets are not supposed to have bad breath as it usually means infection. Since 2/3 of the tooth is under the gum-line, many cats have problems that can’t be seen without x rays. Dental problems cause kidney problems.

“Have we seen your cat lately?” If not, an exam may be just what your cat needs to help live a longer quality life! For more information, please check with your veterinarian!”

Davenport, Iowa veterinarian Reaches Out to Cat Owners

Have We Seen Your Cat Lately?

We love our cats in the United States.  Unfortunately that doesn’t always translate into appropriate veterinary care. Yes there are plenty of owners who do everything for their cats – exams, vaccines, spay/neuter and dental care – whatever they need.  However they may not be in the majority. Too many neglect health issues until their cat becomes seriously ill.

One scenario may be for a feline patient to come in for kitten vaccines, spay or neuter surgery and then not be seen again until they are sick. Other owners will keep up on rabies vaccines but little else.  Too many of us don’t provide our cats with the same level of care that we do their canine counterparts.

Cats can be difficult to transport.  They don’t like their carriers. They don’t like the clinic. Then again, many think because their cat is indoors, no vaccines are required. We tell ourselves cats are hardy survivors. They don’t need as much veterinary care.

Wrong.  Cats need all the same care that other animals do.  According to Scott Bernick at Animal Family, “This has been a disturbing trend in veterinary medicine.  Unfortunately we are seeing more cats come in with severe illness, leaving the owners with fewer options and increased expenses.”

Cats need to be vaccinated just as much as other pets.  Core vaccines are those recommended for all cats. These are diseases that are commonly found in the environment. That means there is a realistic risk of exposure, infection and development of a disease.  This is particularly the case with kittens.  In the case of Rabies, it is mandated by law for the protection of public as well as animal health.

The following vaccines are considered core:

  • Feline Panleukopenia:      All kittens should receive this vaccine as early as 6 weeks and then at 3-4 week intervals until 16 weeks of age.  All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3-4 weeks apart.  Annual vaccination is not recommended in all adult cats.  At Animal Family we vaccinate every 2 years.
  • Feline Rhinotracheitis:     All kittens should receive this vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age and then in 3-4 week intervals until 16 weeks of age.  All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3- weeks apart.  Annual vaccination is not recommended in all adult cats.  At Animal Family we vaccinate every 2 years
  • Feline Calicivirus:  All kittens should receive this vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age and then in 3-4 week intervals until 16 weeks of age.  All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3-4 weeks apart.  Annual vaccination is not recommended in adult cats.  At Animal Family we vaccinate every 2 years
  • Rabies:         State statutes determine how often Rabies vaccines are administered. In Iowa a single dose is required as early as 12 weeks of age. All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults receive 1 vaccine and a booster 12 months later.  Thereafter adults can receive Rabies vaccination in 3 year intervals provided it is given on schedule.  Otherwise another 1 year booster will be required.

The following vaccines are considered noncore:

  • Feline Leukemia:    Feline Leukemia testing and vaccination is strongly recommended for all kittens and for individuals whose health is compromised.  Kittens test negative for the virus prior to vaccination.  Two doses are administered as early as 8 weeks of age and 3-4 weeks later.  Only cats that are at risk (such as those who go outdoors) should be vaccinated at yearly intervals thereafter.           
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus:            This vaccine is only recommended for only for cats with high risk of exposure.  Because the vaccination  itself can cause a positive result on antibody testing, there is some controversy surrounding its use


  • FIP:    Generally not recommended due to concern about whether the vaccine is effective or not.
  • Feline Chlamydophila and Bordatella are only recommended when the diseases are present in multi-cat environments.

We are participating in a nationwide National awareness program aimed at reminding people of the importance of regular veterinary care for their cats.  During the months of April, May and June   Animal Family will provide dental exams, weight checks and body assessment scores free of charge.  It would be a great time to update vaccines and get a wellness check up for your cat as well.

Davenport Veterinarian’s Guide to Pocket Pets, Part 2

Last post, we covered some general information on pocket pets.  This week we are introducing you to some of the small but mighty critters we see at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center.  Of course, this is just an introduction, so, if you’re interested,  feel free to facebook us with any questions you may have at Animal Family

Each type of pocket pet has its own requirements.  Hamsters are nocturnal and sleep through much of the daylight hours.  In addition, many don’t get along well with others of their kind and will need to be housed separately. Hamsters will bite if frightened.  Our experience at the clinic has been that the larger Teddy Bear hamsters are generally much easier to handle. Most hamsters live 2 – 3 years.   Like all rodents, hamsters can be prone to respiratory and GI troubles.  All rodents have teeth which grow continually which causes dental problems when malocclusion is present. Rodents with malocclusions will eventually stop eating if their teeth are not cared for.

Gerbils and mice are both a little friendlier than hamsters although again, in our experience, both will bite if frightened.  They are small, fast and agile and can easily slip through your fingers making them a poor choice for small children.  They are susceptible to the same health issues as hamsters and have about the same life span.  All of the pocket pets which were originally bred to be used as lab animals are especially prone to tumors as well

Rats are extremely smart, gentle and social.  Most can be taught to perform tricks and can become quite attached to their owner.  Rats generally get along great with each other as well but it is a good idea to house same sex pairs unless you want a lot more rats.  Sadly, rats are more prone to develop tumors than any other pocket pet. We don’t see as many dental problems with rats but they can be susceptible to respiratory infections.  The average rat lives to 2-3 years of age.

Guinea Pigs make wonderful pets.  Nonaggressive and social, they will quickly become accustomed to handling. Unlike other rodents, guinea pigs must receive supplementation of Vitamin C on a daily basis or they become ill.  Even though most foods formulated for guinea pigs contain added vitamin C you need to make certain it is fresh or the Vitamin C will degrade.   Guinea Pig’s larger size means that they require more room to move around. However, unlike mice and gerbils, guinea pigs are not climbers.  They come in a large variety of different coat types and colors.  On the down side, guinea pigs have very small lungs for their size and will become quite sick if they contract any respiratory disease.  In general guinea pigs live 5 – 6 years.

Rabbits, like guinea pigs also make wonderful pets.  Rabbits are not rodents but lagomorphs.  They come in a huge number of varieties, coat colors and sizes.  Most housetrain easily and will use a cat litter box.  In general, females tend to be the most cantankerous but are better behaved if spayed.  Unaltered females housed together will fight.  In addition, females can develop mammary tumors and reproductive tract disease if left intact.  Unaltered males will spray urine to mark territory.  They do well on a diet with large amounts of timothy hay and small amounts of rabbit pellets and veggies.  They are susceptible to respiratory and dental problems and generally live 5 – 8 years or more.

Ferrets are a Mustelids and the clowns of the pocket pet world.  Smart, active, agile and a little stinky, ferrets are endlessly entertaining.  They require lots of exercise but can get into trouble if left out unsupervised.  Of the small mammals, ferrets are the guys we see the most often for foreign bodies. Unlike the other small pets discussed so far, ferrets need to be vaccinated for distemper and rabies.  Not everybody loves ferrets.  They are banned in some states while others require that they be registered.  Ferrets can be taught to use a litter box and will learn to walk on a leash and halter.   They are true carnivores and unable to handle fiber.  Fortunately there are several commercial ferret diets available.  Although they have a lifespan of 5 -8 years, ferrets are prone to developing adrenal tumors and insulinomas as they mature.

Chinchillas were once used for the fur trade but have recently become popular as pets.  They are considered nocturnal but can be active during the daytime.  They prefer a diet of hay and pellets with small amounts of fruit, nuts and veggies added in. They are active but enjoy being cuddled and rarely bite.  Their housing requirements are similar to a rabbit but their optimal temperature is 50 – 60 degrees.  They are very susceptible to heat stroke, and don’t do well in high humidity.  They also require access to a dust bath 2 -3 times a week.  Common chinchilla problems include dental malocclusions, respiratory and GI disease. They can live 9 -17 years.

Hedgehogs are insectivores.  We generally see the African Pygmy Hedgehog in practice.  There a few commercial diets available for hedgehogs. They require a diet that is high in protein and low in fat.  Dog and cat foods alone are not adequate and will need to be supplemented with mealworms, crickets, fruits and veggies. Don’t feed too much or leave food out all the time or your hedgehog can become obese.  Although cute, hedgehogs are solitary and generally not too happy with being held.  They require a 20 gallon or larger aquarium or other smooth sided enclosure and 75 – 85 F temperature year round. They don’t like toys but will use exercise wheels if one is provided. Hedgehogs will develop tartar and gingivitis if you don’t take care of their teeth.  We also see them for obesity, tumors and fatty liver syndrome.

Sugar Gliders are marsupials.  They are nocturnal, highly social animals.  Please don’t keep one all by itself.  If handled from a young age they can develop a bond with their owners.  They are primarily insect eaters but also consume tree sap in the wild.  They do not eat foliage or fruit in the wild. A good diet is composed of 50% commercial insectivore diet and 50% “Leadbeaters mixture “(your veterinarian can provide you with the recipe). Diced fruits, worms and crickets can be acceptable treats in captivity. Sugar gliders can be hard to keep healthy in captivity.  They suffer from stress related disorders and one of their main health problems is malnutrition.   Because they glide they are also susceptible to trauma. Pneumonia, diarrhea and blindness are other problem seen in captive sugar gliders.

One final reminder; just like your dogs and cats, pockets pets need to checked annually for parasites. It is also a good idea to bring them in yearly for an overall health check.  Since most exotic pets mask illness, this is one way to help us diagnose any medical problems early enough to treat them. Our aim is to keep them healthier and you happier.

Remember, this is just a quick overview of the world of pocket pets.  If you are considering adding one of these charmers to your home, please do your research first.  Shelters are already seeing an increase in the number of little critters that are thoughtlessly acquired then just as thoughtlessly discarded.  Please don’t add to the problem.

Hunter’s Story

Here is a letter from one of Animal Family Veterinary Care Center’s clients. This is an amazing story of one woman’s journey through veterinary medicine in her quest to save her beloved dog, Hunter. Thanks to Debbie for sharing her story with us:

October 10, 2010

Dearest Friends,

It has been almost 10 months since that devastating day that my precious Lab, Hunter, was diagnosed with a rare form of immune mediated non-regenerative anemia, red cell aplasia. He was diagnosed on Christmas Eve, and on January 5th the veterinarian who had seen him since he was a puppy told me to take him home and love him. There was nothing more that could be done, my beloved Hunter was dying. We might have 2 weeks left.

Hunter the Dog & Animal Family Veterinary Care Staff

Hunter the Dog & Animal Family Veterinary Care Staff

I could not accept that my 6 year old Lab, who had been my baby since I brought him home at 6 weeks of age, was dying. I KNEW it was NOT his time. I’d had surgery on my right foot on December 21st, and my foot was in a cast, so I could not drive, but I got on the phone that night and called Iowa Veterinary Specialties in Des Moines, IA to set up an appointment for Hunter with Dr. Derek Nestor as soon as possible.

They could see Hunter on Thursday morning. It was Tuesday night. And a blizzard was coming our way from the west (the direction we needed to go to get to Des Moines). In the meantime, I also talked on the phone with 2 other specialists that very night. Dr. Linda Aronson has been on the faculty at Tufts in Boston.

She put me in touch with Dr. Jean Dodds of California, a veterinary specialist in diseases of the blood in animals.

I also spoke with another specialist in this area, Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM.

I wasn’t going to let my Hunter die.

Teresa Azure, a dear friend and a Foster Team Leader for K9 Kindness had taken Hunter to that very first vet appointment in December for me. And she was with me the night our veterinarian gave Hunter his death sentence. She never thought twice when I asked her to drive us to Des Moines that Wednesday of the blizzard. Another dear friend, Karlene Kentner, in Winterset, IA dropped everything, too, to meet us in Newton, IA that afternoon to take Hunter and me to IVS. She then put us up for the next 2 days, and she and her significant other, Mike Fletcher, drove on black ice to get us where we needed to be, when we needed to be there.

I was praying, reading the Bible and begging everyone for their prayers. Emails went out. People set up prayer chains and prayed for Hunter. Tuesday night when I first contacted Dr. Dodds, she told me then that Hunter was not going to die. And on Thursday morning after Dr. Nestor saw Hunter, he said the same thing. All I could do was thank God. But we had a long and difficult road ahead of us.

Only days later, Hunter needed his first blood transfusion. His PCV was 12%. It was a Sunday. Teresa drove us to the Animal Emergency Center where I had to leave my boy for the transfusion. An anonymous donation that day paid almost the entire bill for Hunter’s transfusion!

The staff at Animal Emergency Center came to know Hunter and me very well. It wasn’t even 2 weeks later, and Hunter had to have another transfusion. He was on 150 mg of Prednisone (he weighed about 95 lbs), and 50 mg of Azathiaprine. He was taking Soloxine for thyroid, and sucralfate and misoprostal for his stomach. Also Marin and Pet Tinic to help build his blood back up (as per Dr. Dodds). I had a sheet on the kitchen counter with his dose and times for each one, with his food and medications all labeled. We had a regular pharmacy going!

About this time, we also found a new veterinarian. I was no longer comfortable with my former veterinarian. I’d heard good things about North Brady Animal Hospital (now called Animal Family Veterinary Care Center).

Dr. Rob Garro was the veterinarian who took on Hunter’s case. And he was totally devoted to getting my big guy well. He knew of Dr. Dodds and kept in touch with her and Dr. Nestor at IVS on a regular basis. He put together the treatment plan for Hunter, taking in their sound advice. At one point (because of the high dosage of Prednisone), Hunter could not empty his bladder completely and needed to be catheterized. Dr. Rob came in on days he had off, just to do this for Hunter. He started Hunter on medication for this, and it started to work just as everyone was ready to teach me how to insert the catheter.

Then Hunter lost most of his muscle tone. His head looked like it had caved in and that the skin was just stretched over the bones. He panted all night, and I would stay awake and worry. AEC visits showed that his heart and lungs were fine, but I needed the reassurance. He could no longer get on my bed, or even get in the car. We had to lift him. He could not tolerate rolling over for his

much loved tummy rubs. Sometimes he had accidents in the house (and Hunter NEVER had accidents before this). It was cold outside and he was weak. I prayed and kept asking for prayers.

Then Hunter couldn’t blink his eyes. He needed eye drops to do that. The left side of his face was partially paralyzed. He drooled incessantly. His nose dried up and became brittle, so we used hemorrhoid medication to keep it moist. He limped. But his blood count was going UP!

Hunter’s fur never grew back from the shaving they did at IVS in January. He wore a sweatshirt that had been mine to keep him warm outside. But gradually we were able to wean him down from all the medications. His facial paralysis disappeared and he could blink on his own again! He was getting stronger day by day, too!

In July, he and I went back to Des Moines to see Dr. Nestor. He told us that he believed the DHPP booster that Hunter received in November, 2009 had caused Hunter to become ill, (Dr. Dodds had also said this) and that Hunter should not have any other vaccinations again, except for rabies (as required by law). He felt that if Hunter’s illness ever returned, it could be quickly managed with the Azathiaprine alone, and Hunter’s recovery would be much quicker than this time. He suggested that if Hunter’s blood count was good, in a month, we should eliminate all medications. And in a month, IT WAS GOOD!

Hunter has been off all his medications (except the Soloxine, which he will take the rest of his life) now for almost 2 months. His blood work is good and his PCV has remained around 45%. He shed terribly after he went off the Prednisone, but that has stopped and he has finally grown back the fur where he was shaved in January. He can even jump on the bed! He runs and loves to fetch again. And most of all, he is Hunter. He turned 7 in April.

It was not Hunter’s time to leave me yet. Someday it will be. But not yet. All the donations, the prayers, the people who helped me (and you all know who you are!), made all the difference. I will never be able to thank Dr. Rob, and Animal Family or Dr. Nestor at IVS or Dr. Dodds enough. The staff at AEC was incredible, too. The love, caring and support to both Hunter and me was incredible. A very special thanks goes to Teresa Azure for taking Hunter and me to the vet during the time I couldn’t drive, and for being there, day or night on call if we needed her. Also to Karlene Kentner, for taking care of us in Des Moines during that blizzard while we were trying to get Hunter seen at IVS. And to Ann Jevyak, who drove us part way home from Des Moines in January. Her on beloved Charlie, (who she adopted from K9 Kindness) had just passed away a week before.

And a very, very special thanks to my dear friend, Barb Schine, in Roanoke Rapids, NC. She had been through this with one of her dogs years ago. She is the person that put me in touch with Dr. Aronson and Dr. Breitschwerdt (who had saved her dog). She was on the phone with me all hours of the day and night to reassure me, give me advice, cry with me, and listen to me. I don’t know what I would have done without her or any of you! (Jan Erceg, you are an angel, too!!!!)

The ride to get here today was hard, but worth every mile we traveled. I learned so much, and found incredible friends and support. I learned that if you truly believe that the mountain will be moved, and do not waiver in your faith, the mountain will move. We moved a mountain for Hunter!

God bless every one of you.

With our love and gratitude,

Debbie and Hunter

How does your pet help you cope?

We’ve known for a while – forever? – that pets can be a real help to people when it comes to dealing with trauma and working out emotional problems, getting through sad times, and so on. This fact has spurred a real expansion of different kinds of pet-therapy programs in a variety of different, from mental-health clinics to prisons.

Theresa Slayton, a licensed clinical social worker from Lafayette, Indiana, provides therapy and counseling to both kids and  adults who are coping with stressful emotional issues. “I’ve had adults, as well as children, who project their feelings on to the dog. Shelly [her dog] can sense that someone will be struggling and will walk over and lay her paw on the person’s lap.”

For more information about animal-assisted therapy, call Theresa Slayton at (765) 449-1759, or visit the Caring Paws website at http://caring-paws.org.

Cats and Collars?

About three out of four cats seem to be okay with wearing collars, according to the results of a recent Ohio State University study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In the six-month study, almost 60% of feline tolerance of collars exceeded owners’ expectations that their cat would keep the collar on without much trouble. The authors of the study also advised pet owners that proper fitting, with room for two fingers between the neck and the collar, is critical…and that microchipping cats remains a useful backup identification method.

Convincing cat owners that their pets, even indoor-only cats, need identification is “a tremendous uphill battle,” the study’s lead author said. But “a collar with an ID tag is probably a cat’s greatest chance of ever being re-homed or brought back if it is lost.”

New Lymphoma Treatment Shows Promise In Dogs

This is really exciting news. Lymphoma is a problem in many species. Any gain is good for us all. Researchers at the University of Illinois have identified a new target for the treatment of lymphoma and are testing a potential new drug in pet dogs afflicted with the disease. At low doses, the compound, called S-PAC-1, arrested the growth of tumors in three of six dogs tested and induced partial remission in a fourth.
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