New Help For Old Painful Pets

 

Animal Family Veterinary Care Center is excited to offer our  clients Companion Laser Therapy. Laser therapy provides a non-invasive, pain-free, surgery-free, drug-free treatment which is used to treat a variety of conditions and can be performed in conjunction with existing treatment protocols.  Relief and/or improvement is often noticed within hours depending on the condition and your pet’s unique health status. Whether your pet is rehabilitating from trauma or injury, healing from wounds, or simply aging, your companion can benefit from this innovative approach to treating pain.

 

Applications for laser therapy include:

  • Treatment of arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or hip dysplasia

  • General pain management (sprains, strains, and stiffness)

  • Post-surgery pain (spays, neuters, declaws, and other surgeries)

  • Skin problems (hot spots, lick granulomas, infections)

  • Dental procedures

  • Fractures and wounds (bites, abrasions, burns, and lesions)

  • Ear infections

 

How Does Laser Therapy Really Work? 

Click on this link to watch an animation of laser therapy in action: 

 Therapy Laser Animation

Animals in the Service

 

 

 

In honor of all the military related festivities in the month of November, like the USMC 238th Birthday and Veteran’s Day, I felt it only appropriate to discuss some of the unique ways animals have also helped to preserve our nation’s freedom. We are all familiar with many a battle on horseback in our nation’s history, but did you know horses and canines are not the only animals who help our brave men and women?  Listed below are some of their unique roles today.

Dolphins and the U.S. Navy

Dolphins have been serving in the U.S. Navy for more than 40 years as part of the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, and they were used during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. These highly intelligent animals are trained to detect, locate and mark mines — not to mention suspicious swimmers and divers.

What happens if a dolphin finds an intruder? The dolphin touches a sensor on a boat to alert its handler, and the handler then places a strobe light or noisemaker on the dolphin’s nose. The dolphin is trained to swim to the intruder, bump him or her from behind to knock the device off its nose and swim away while military personnel take over.

Sea Lions

Trained sea lions, another part of the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, locate and tag mines just like dolphins, but that’s not all these “Navy Seals” do — they also cuff underwater intruders. The sea lions carry a spring clamp in their mouths that can be attached to a swimmer or diver by simply pressing it against the person’s leg. In fact, the sea lions are so fast that the clamp is on before the swimmer is even aware of it. Once a person is clamped, sailors aboard ships can pull the swimmer out of the water by the rope attached to the clamp.

These specially trained sea lions, part of the Navy’s Shallow Water Intruder Detection System, patrol Navy bases and were even deployed to protect ships from terrorists in the Persian Gulf.

Honeybees

Honeybees are natural-born sniffers with antennae able to sense pollen in the wind and track it down to specific flowers, so bees are now being trained to recognize the scents of bomb ingredients. When the bees pick up a suspicious odor with their antennae, they flick their proboscises — a tubular feeding organ than extends from their mouths.  Watch them in action at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T7d0bze4kM

A honeybee bomb-detection unit would look like a simple box stationed outside airport security. Inside the box, bees would be strapped into tubes and exposed to puffs of air where they could constantly check for the faint scent of a bomb. A video camera linked to pattern-recognition software would alert authorities when the bees started waving their proboscises in unison.

Pigeons

Homing pigeons were widely used by both American and British forces during World War II. The U.S. Army had an entire Pigeon Breeding and Training Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where the pigeons were trained to carry small capsules containing messages, maps, photographs and cameras. Military historians claim that more than 90 percent of all pigeon-carried messages sent by the U.S. Army during the war were received.

The birds even participated in the D-Day invasion because troops operated under radio silence. The pigeons sent information about German positions on Normandy beaches and reported back on the success of the mission. In fact, homing pigeons played such an important military role that 32 were awarded the Dickin Medal, Britain’s highest award for animal valor. Recipients of the medal include the U.S. Army Pigeon Service’s bird, G.I. Joe, and the Irish pigeon known as Paddy.

As you can see, a wide variety of creatures have participated in military efforts and are active in service today.  My sincerest thanks and gratitude to all the brave men, women, and animals who selflessly protect our nation’s freedom.

Majority of information for blog came from https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/10-ways-animals-have-served-the-military/in-the-army-now

 

 

Trick Or Treat, Smell My Feet… please don’t let Scruffy steal chocolate treats! (and a few other Halloween safety tips)

 

  Halloween is one of my favorite holidays BY FAR! Who doesn’t love an excuse to slightly over indulge on lovely chocolate and sweet treats, especially anything with peanut butter (Reese’s are my true weakness)!  As much fun as the chocolate can be for us, it is extremely dangerous for our pets and the calls to animal poison control centers increase for chocolate ingestion now more than any other time of year!  Listed below are several other potential dangers for your pets during All Hallows Eve. If we become more informed about all of the potential issues, this can save major headaches (and cash money) over the holiday season.

Pick Your Poison:

Chocolate.   Everybody’s favorite, and the one that typically leads to the most calls to veterinarians this time of year. As many of you know, chocolate is problematic to cats and dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic, and the smaller the quantity necessary to see effects. For pets with pre-existing heart disease or seizure conditions, the concern is even higher, as these are two of the big ‘target organs’ for the toxic effects of chocolate.

Raisin toxicity. Known to be a problem for some dogs (and possibly some cats), raisins may be found in your child’s candy bag as part of certain chocolate bars, or on their own from well-intentioned neighbors trying to provide healthier Halloween treats. We don’t know which pets will be sensitive to the toxic effects of raisins, nor the number of raisins that must be ingested before problems are seen. It’s best to play it safe and take the necessary precautions to prevent all of your pets from ingesting any quantity of raisins. (Grapes and currants have the same toxic potential as raisins, and so should be similarly avoided.)

The actual treats in your kid’s Halloween bounty aren’t the only potential problem for your pets either. Candy wrappers that are eaten by your pet can also lead to digestive system inflammation and/or obstruction, resulting in episodes of vomiting and/or diarrhea, as well as an unplanned trip to the veterinarian, and possibly the surgery table. Keep candy well out of reach of all your pets. Hang your children’s candy bag high-up on a wall hook or coat rack, and don’t leave the trick-or-treat candy you are planning on distributing sitting out on the coffee table while waiting for the neighborhood kids to start arriving.

It’s bird, it’s a plane…it’s UNDERDOG!:

I don’t know about you all, but I love any chance for an embarrassing photo opportunity for my pet. Case in point…my little Underdog and her look of disgust below.  When it comes to costumes for our furry friends, keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid loose pieces of fabric and dangling small objects (such as bells). Pets may be tempted to chew off such objects. And if swallowed, you could be looking at a veterinary bill in excess of $1,500 to have it removed from their stomach or intestines since many of these objects will not pass on their own.
  • Avoid masks on pets. Masks can obstruct your pet’s vision and/or their ability to breathe. If your pet can’t see well they’re at greater risk of traumatic injuries – such as broken bones from stepping in holes or falling off curbs, as well as from being struck by a passing car. Broken bones require expensive surgeries to repair, and hit-by-car injuries can result in prolonged intensive care hospital stays and/or death.
  • If you plan on taking your pet with you around the neighborhood for your night of Halloween fun, be sure to include some reflective or self-illuminating material on your pet’s costume. The earlier it gets dark out, the less visibility cars have overall so anything you can do to increase your pet’s visibility to passing cars will help to ensure that they won’t wind up getting hit by one of them. Also consider putting a flashing light on their collar for nighttime walks, at Halloween and throughout the year.

Leashes save lives!

While we’re on the topic of trick or treating, for pets that will join you around the neighborhood, keep them on a leash the whole time. A leash will not only keep your pet from darting in front of a passing car, but it will also help you prevent them from eating dropped candy which could be potentially toxic.  Leashes also prevent dog fights and keep spooked dogs from running off. Little children in costumes can set up a potentially terrifying situation for some of our more anxious pets. Importantly, don’t let a young child be the only one holding on to your pet’s leash during the walk. This is good advice throughout the year, but even more so on Halloween when passing trick-or-treaters are an additional factor that can cause pets to slip their collars or pull away from their leash.

Keep your cats inside on and around Halloween. Aside from all the normal dangers that outdoor cats face daily, Halloween (and the even more dangerous ‘Mischief Night’ that precedes it) potentially carries with it the additional dangers of twisted kids (and sadly, adults too) intentionally traumatizing, mutilating, or otherwise torturing cats on these nights, especially black cats. Though such incidences sadly occur throughout the year, there may be an increased risk associated with this holiday. Don’t take the chance – keep ‘em inside.

The constantly opening doors associated with gobs of tiny trick-or-treaters also pose a significant danger to pets. Pets with access to opening doors may take advantage of the opportunity to bolt out of the house, not only putting them in danger of the typical outdoor hazards unrestrained pets face, but also of having a paw, tail, or other part of their body caught in the door as they make their escape. Such traumatic events can cause injuries significant enough to warrant an expensive orthopedic surgery or a prolonged hospital stay. Confine your pets to a ‘safe area’ of the house to prevent their access to open doors. Use pet crates, baby gates, or closed doors to do so. Providing them with food, water, litter boxes, and anything else that will be necessary to minimize their stress (perhaps an interactive food toy or a turned on television or radio) will also help to decrease the likelihood of destructive behaviors or loud barking.

With a little effort, our pets have the potential to have just as much fun as their people this Halloween season. As long as we take the necessary precautions to keep our pets safe, there’s no reason we all

 have a HOWLING good time!  Happy Haunting everyone!

 

Pumpkin!

 

 

Hello Fall!

 I don’t know about you, but fall is my favorite season: The changing leaves, the cool, crisp breeze at night which is a perfect excuse for bonfires and s’mores, and most of all, PUMPKIN!!!  I’m sure I’m not the only one who waits for Pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING to hit the shelves, but did you know that pumpkin can actually have some great health benefits for our pets? 

Fiber

 Pumpkin contains nearly three grams of fiber per one cup serving. Fiber promotes a sense of fullness and can potentially enhance weight loss by reducing the urge.   Additionally, fiber can help with feline constipation. As cats mature into their adult and geriatric years, constipation is a serious problem. The primary emphasis of treatment is placed on diet. Increasing fiber levels helps increase motility through the colon by creating a bulkier amount of stool, which stimulates the colon wall to contract thereby helping your pet eliminate waste appropriate.

 Increased dietary fiber can also help pets suffering from diarrhea (opposite of constipation). Both cats and dogs are prone to different forms of diarrhea, but most often the primary offender is changes in diet or eating something the animal is not supposed (dietary indiscretion, aka our garbage lovers).

 Diarrhea is can be classified as large or small bowel diarrhea, depending on a number of characteristics of the patient and their feces. Large bowel diarrhea comes from the colon and is also known as colitis. The nature of large bowel diarrhea appears vastly different from its small bowel counterpart and may have one or all the following characteristics: mucus, blood, urgency to defecate, flatulence, and large or small volume.  Small bowel diarrhea relates to the small intestine, which is the part of the digestive tract that connects the stomach to the large intestine (colon). Small bowel diarrhea often takes on a pale appearance, lacks urgency in its production, and has a mushy consistency.

 Moisture

 Pumpkin can add a healthy amount of moisture (water content) to any cat or dog diet, but especially those that consume highly processed and dehydrated kibble. According to the University of Illinois Extension’s article, Pumpkin Facts, this healthful fruit (yes, it’s a fruit and not a vegetable) is composed of 90% water. Adding pumpkin to each meal or serving it separately as a snack can promote a pet’s improved state of hydration and reduce heat in the body.

 Miscellaneous, Healthful Benefits of Pumpkin

 

Pumpkin provides a natural source of many beneficial substances involved in the day to day cellular functions, especially potassium. Pumpkin even has more potassium content than a banana!  Potassium is an electrolyte essential for muscular contraction and recovery from activity. Pumpkin is also rich in Vitamin C, as one cup contains at least 11mg. Vitamin C is a substance vital for its antioxidant and immune system supporting effects. Additionally, pumpkin is a great, whole-food source of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene.

If you don’t want to go through the efforts of carving, cooking, and pureeing/mashing your pumpkin, then purchase the canned or glass bottled version to give your pet. Avoid pumpkin pie filling due to fat, sugar, and other ingredients (spices, flavorings, or other preservatives) that could cause digestive tract upset. Below is an easy, fun fall dog treat recipe involving pumpkin that you can try out for your furry friend!!!

Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Treats

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

2 eggs

½ cup canned pumpkin (NOT PUMPKIN PIE MIX)

2 tablespoons peanut butter

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Whisk together flour, eggs, pumpkin, peanut butter, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add water as needed to make the dough workable, but the dough should be dry and stiff.
  3. Roll dough into a ½ inch thick roll. Cut into shapes or ½ inch pieces.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until hard, about 40 minutes.

 

Here’s a link for healthy pumpkin treats for people.

 

Much of this information was compiled from an article written by Dr. Patrick Mahaney.

Reptile Husbandry Series

 

As much as we love our four legged, furry friends, sometimes it’s fun to go off the beaten path in our pet ownership journey. You’re heading to the pet store to pick up some food for Fido when you run into the Herps/Reptiles section and see this adorable pile of bearded dragons or the cutest little snake in the corner (yes…snakes can be cute).  You think to yourself, “How freakin’ awesome would it be to have a little dinosaur of my own? How hard can it be…they just hang out in their cage and bask on rocks!” While I’m in full agreement with the dinosaur love, it’s also important to know what you’re getting yourself into! As a new reptile owner (proud new owner of an adorable ball python named Kreacher), I began to delve into the depths of reptile husbandry and realized that information isn’t as easy to find as one may think. I decided for the next few blog entries to give some us scale lovin’ folks some direction. 

Let’s start out with one of my favorite, docile, legless friends, the ball python.

Natural history: Ball pythons (Python regius) can be found in the forests of Central and Western Africa, on the ground or in the trees. Typically they are active at dawn and dusk (Crepuscular). They earned their name from their tendency to curl themselves up into a tight coil when they’re nervous, hiding their heads in the center of the coil. There are several different morphs or color patterns, but you may need to find a reputable breeder if you’re looking for a very specific type!

The facts and stats:

  • Body length: 36-48 inches
  • Body weight: Variable with length, age
  • Maximum life span: 50 years
  • Average captive life span: 20-30 years
  • Daytime temperature: 80-85 F
  • Nighttime temperature: 75 F minimum
  • Humidity: 60-80%
  • Hot spot (basking area): 90 F

Unique features:  Pythons (and boas) are equipped with anal spurs near the cloaca. These are said to be remnants of hind limbs that snakes lost during their evolution from lizards. The cloaca is a common exit of the urinary, digestive, and reproductive tract. In the wild, ball pythons consume a variety of prey including amphibians, lizards, other snakes, birds, and small mammals. Young ball pythons will typically grow a foot during the first there years. Snakes only have 3 chambers in their heart (us humans have 4) and one main functional lung (the other lung is present, but doesn’t work as hard as its partner!).

Husbandry: What do I need and why?

  • Smaller, young snakes tend to do well house in 10 or 20 gallon aquariums. As your snake grows, he/she may need an upgrade to a larger enclosure. Many owners custom build enclosures as their snake gets larger. Pet stores tend to have example set ups for you to see, or you can come in and visit our corn snake, Checkers, to check out her enclosure!
  • Bedding material should be easy to clean and nontoxic to your snake. Newspaper, butcher paper, paper towels, or Astroturf are recommended. When using Astroturf, buy 2 pieces and cut to fit in the bottom of the cage, this way you’ll always have a clean piece to change out.  Clean soiled areas with soap and water or other mild cleaners (ask your veterinarian for cleaning advice!).   AVOID SAND, GRAVEL, WOOD SHAVINGS (CEDAR, ASPEN, PINE).  These can be ingested when your snake is going to feed and CEDAR shavings are toxic to reptiles!
  • Young ball pythons enjoy climbing and exploring, so natural branches can be a great addition to the cage. Ideally, the branch should slope from the bottom of the enclosure to the top and allow the snake an area to bask if it chooses.
  • Hiding places are necessary for many reptiles and should be readily available. There are many logs, rocks, or even plastic pet bowls that work well for hiding spots in the cage.
  • A heat source is necessary for the majority of reptiles, which are ectothermic (cold blooded) and need a range of environmental temperatures to regulate their internal body temperature. Ideally, you want to create a gradient in the cage with one end being warmer than the other, this way your snake has a choice for their personal temperature regulation. It is important to place your heat source outside the cage so the snake doesn’t burn itself. Hot rocks should be avoided for this reason. At night, heat isn’t necessary as long as temperatures remain 65-70 F. You can use lamps or heating pads for your heat source. There are a wide variety of heat sources available and you can consult with your veterinarian about which may work best for you.
  • UV light is constant topic of debate for snake owners since they consume whole prey for their diet, making it more nutritionally balanced. It won’t hurt to add this lighting to your enclosure, but it may not be necessary
  • Some of these little guys are stronger than you think, so securing your top screen with cage clips is a must, especially if your husband is worried the snake is going to get out and eat the dog like my husband is! (My ball python is 73 grams and my dogs are 80 pounds PLUS just for some perspective…)

Wait….you said WHOLE PREY!??!?

That’s right. You now own a predator! Snakes eat whole prey items including mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters. Larger snakes are capable of eating whole rabbits! Since snakes eat entire prey items, this makes things much simpler for the owner and can help decrease the likelyhood of dietary related diseases that we can commonly see in other reptiles. Ideally, your snake should be provided a thawed (previously frozen) prey item or a freshly killed one. It isn’t recommended to feed live prey to snakes for several reasons. Prey knows it’s prey unless killed and eaten immediately, so you’ll be stressing out your feeder animal in the process if not previously killed! Amazingly, even a small mouse can cause major injury to the snake itself if the snake isn’t hungry! For humane reasons, strongly consider feeding previously killed prey.

How often you feed your snake totally depends on the age and size of the pet. Smaller snakes usually eat twice a week and larger snakes eat once every week to every few weeks. Ask your veterinarian for guidelines and feeding advice! Although snakes can go a long time without feeding, too long can be a sign of serious disease and you may want to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

WATER!

Fresh water in a crock or bowl that won’t easily tip over should be available at all times. Snakes will not only drink from the water bowl but will often bathe in it as well. Make sure the water stays clean since many snakes feel this is their personal toilet!

Coming up next…

I think I’ve given you all a great place to start if you’re interested in our legless friends!  Next blog we’ll be discussing common diseases of pet snakes so get your learning eyes and ears in gear!  And don’t forget, if you have any questions or would like some one-on-one advice before you go snake hunting, feel free to stop in and visit Dr. Kathy or Dr. Lauren!

10 Questions for Dr. Lauren Hughes

 

 

1. How old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?

Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to become a veterinarian ever since I was a little kid, around 5 years old. It was the idea of what a veterinarian actually was that changed for me over the years. When I was in high school, I got to job shadow through the Interact program and Key Club and got a much better idea of what the job entailed and I fell in love with the career. My work as a zoo keeper at Niabi Zoo solidified my want to work with wildlife and exotic species.

2. What is the best part of your job?

As much as I love the work with the variety of species I see on a daily basis, what I love most about the job is giving back to the community and working with the owners of all these pets. Establishing a relationship with my clients and their family and getting to know them is a lot of fun.

3. What’s the most interesting case you’ve ever had?

During my last year of vet school, a large male Rottweiler came into the clinic with a swollen abdomen and we took x-rays, thinking the dog had a twisted stomach. When we began surgery, there was nothing wrong with the stomach at all and everything appear normal within the abdomen. During surgery, the dog’s right hind leg began to swell and he did not recover well from surgery. We ended up having to keep him in the ICU and do several more surgeries and through diagnostic testing and bacterial culture, we discovered that he had flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, and was unfortunately unable to recover. I will probably never see a case like that again in my lifetime.

4. What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Humane euthanasia is always the most difficult part for me. It is such an emotional time for the owners and I’m a crier anyway, so it doesn’t help the situation. The blessing of working with animals is that we have the ability to alleviate their suffering in cases of severe, incurable disease or when it’s time for them to cross that rainbow bridge, but it’s never a happy experience and doesn’t get any easier.     

 

5. Why become a vet when you could have gone into human medicine and made more money?

Because of the variety of species I work with, every day brings something new and challenging. With the exotic animals that I see, as well as the animals from Niabi Zoo, the database of knowledge in some of these critters is extremely limited and brings about my “MacGyver” skills, trying to find new ways to treat patients that have never been done before as well as diagnose their diseases. More money would be nice, but I think I would get bored. I love what I do, so the money really isn’t a factor to me.

6. We know you have to like animals for this job but what are the other unique requirements?

Communication skills, creative thinking, and flexibility. Not every patient presents the same way, even if they have the same disease and not every owner has the same budget so approach do disease treatment and animal management is always different.

7. How has veterinary medicine changed since your parent’s time?

The view of animals in the home has changed significantly over the years. Pets are now much more part of the family than ever before, so the care for them has definitely changed and improved.

8. Even though both jobs require the same amount of education; how does veterinary medicine differ from human medicine beyond the obvious question of species?

Many veterinarians “do everything” still, even though we have specialists. There are so many general practitioners in the veterinary world that act as surgeon, dentist, nutritionist, physical therapist, Chiropractor (wink, wink Dr. Meredith), radiologist, and many more. Your role changes so frequently based on your patient and it’s needs. This is much different than practitioners in the human world.

9. What do you think the new horizons for veterinary medicine will be?

Holistic medicine is becoming more prominent, as well as animal nutrition. Owners are becoming much more aware of the nutritional needs of their pets and asking a lot more information about appropriate diets.

10. If someone gave you a magic wand and you could go back and do it over again, would you still become a vet?

Yes, but I’d never want to do vet school again!

The Importance of Socializing Your Pet

 

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 classThere 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.

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Strategies for Pet Weight Loss

 

Once you have determined that your pet is overweight what is the next step? First you need to determine what weight your pet should be. We can help with that at the clinic. There is an actual measuring system that will provide an accurate result.

  • Decrease caloric intake
    • For real weight loss to occur, your pet must eat at least 30% fewer calories than what it would take to maintain their ideal weight not their current weight.
    • Keep your pet out of the kitchen and away from the dining table.  This will decrease begging and you will be less likely to cave in to big, sad eyes.
    • If your household has more than one pet be sure to feed them separately.
    • Meal feed.  Don’t leave food down all the time.  There is no way to keep track of intake
    • If your pet seems hungry in between meals, divide the same amount into smaller portions and feed more frequent smaller meals.  Just remember begging is simply a learned response to getting, not requiring food.
  • Feed a diet that is formulated for weight loss.  Diets have become much more advanced and feeding the right diet can be a huge help. Science Diet recently added Metabolic Diet to their line of weight loss foods.  Our clients who have tried it have been pretty happy with the results so far.
  • Increase Activity
    • Take your dog for a walk.  It’s good for both of you!  Don’t just stay on the street. Try varying the surfaces.  Use sand, water or even snow, in the winter, for resistance.  Add some obstacles like logs, hills or ditches.
    • Try introducing fetch, fly ball or agility to your routine.  It’s fun, great exercise and a wonderful new way to bond with your dog. 
    • If you have access to water, try swimming.  However, please be careful with the strong current in the local rivers.  Stick to areas that are safe for both of you.
    • Don’t forget Day Camp.  This provides plenty of activity for your pet while you are at work.  It’s the best cure for working owner’s couch potatoes we have come up with in a long time.
  • What about cats? 
    • Cats are problematic.  Most are indoors and many also very thrifty when it comes to calories. 
    • Pay attention to what you feed.  Yes, cats can be meal fed and they generally don’t require near as much food as you think. Again we have had very good results with Hill’s Metabolic Diet.
    • Cats do better with canned food.  It is generally higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than most dry kibble.
    • But…stay away from canned foods with gravy. They are almost always higher in calories.
    • Use a food specifically formulated for weight loss in cats.
    • Never, ever starve your cat to induce weight loss.  They are particularly susceptible to fatty liver disease and not eating for more than 24 hours or too rapid of weight loss can cause this syndrome in cats. 1% or 0.2 to 0.4 pounds per week is plenty for a 20 pound cat.
    • Weight loss and cats is tough and cats are way harder to induce into activity.  It may be that the best exercise for a cat is simply adding another cat.
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Pet Obesity-Are We Loving Our Pets to Death?

 

Has the U.S. become the nation of too much?  When it comes to weight, yes we have!   Pet obesity has become a huge, no pun intended, health issue for both dogs and cats in this country.

How to Tell if Your Pet is Over Weight

1)    Run your hands down the side of your pet with medium pressure.  You should be able to feel ribs under a thin layer of subcutaneous fat.  If you can’t your pet is probably too heavy.

2)    If you feel your pet is too heavy bring them in for a more precise body measurement.  This set of measurements can determine exactly how over weight your pet is and what a good target weight is.

Causes of Obesity

1)    Sometimes obesity is just a matter of too much food and too little activity. 

2)    However, obesity can also be rooted in other issues. 

  •      Hypothyroidism
  •      Cushing’s Disease
  •      Diabetes:  Diabetes can be caused by too much weight but can also be the                 cause of weight gain if an animal develops non-insulin dependent diabetes.  Confusing but ultimately weight loss will help both.
  •     Any disease process that affects the hypothalamus or pituitary gland:  The hypothalamus regulates appetite and the pituitary gland regulates most hormone production in the body.
  •   Breed:  Beagles, Labs, Bassets, Cattle dogs, Cockers, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers and most cats to name a few.
  •   Age: Just like us as pets age their metabolic rate slows and the tendency to become over weight increases.
  • Neutering and Spaying: When they are not hormone driven animals will put on weight more easily.  That said the benefits of altering your pet far outweigh the negatives.
  •  Activity level:  Too many pets spend all their time inside with too little activity.  This is a particular challenge for cat owners.
  • Food quality:  The quality of food we feed has improved.  Pets need less to stay fit and healthy.  Conversely if you have a finicky pet who has trained you to only feed them high caloric “junk food” they will quickly become overweight.
  •     Medications:  Glucocorticoids, Anti-seizure drugs and  tranquilizers can all contribute to weight gain.

 Health risks associated with obesity

1)    Diabetes:   When food intake and body mass out strip the body’s ability to make insulin, Diabetes Mellitus develops.

2)     Heart and blood pressure disease:  The heart has to work much harder in overweight pets.  That leads directly to high blood pressure and heart disease.

3)    Bone/Joint damage:  Extra weight leads to increased stress on bones and ligaments. Almost all of our cruciate repairs could use a little weight loss.

4)    Respiratory problems:  Too much fat makes for a greater work load and puts extra pressure on the lungs and trachea. If you own a dog or cat with a shortened, also known as brachycephalic, facial structure this can cause serious health problems.  Likewise, many of our collapsing trachea dogs show improvement with weight loss.

5)    Increased anesthetic risk:  What happens if you have a lot of fat and your anesthetic is fat soluble?  You wake up more slowly.  How much harder is it to perform surgery in an abdomen that is full of fat?  A lot harder.  Has obesity been shown to decrease resistance to bacteria?  Yes.

6)    Decreased lifespan and quality of life:  Everything mentioned above will shorten your pets’ life.  It will also seriously impinge on their ability to enjoy the life they have.

On the next blog we will talk about strategies for weight loss.

How to Make Sense of Pet Food Labeling

 

Pet foods have undergone enormous changes in the last 10 years.  There are more choices than ever before.  Some companies cater to the size, life stage and even the breed of our pets.  At the other end of the spectrum are those who claim their food is appropriate for all life stages.  It’s confusing and when you add in the scares caused by the constant stream of recalls.  So how can we decide what is best for our pet?

Pet food standards are set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).  Using these guidelines the nutritional adequacy of pet food is determined by either

Formulation: With this method, the diet is not actually fed to animals so there is no guarantee of pet acceptance or the bioavailability of nutrients.

or

 Feeding Trial: This method substantiates that a given food used as the sole source of nutrition provides a complete and balanced diet for the life stage of that animal.

Let’s look at a few other definitions.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Not so when it comes to pet food labels. If the label says:

  • Chicken, beef, seafood and there are no other modifying terms like entrée etc…it must contain at least 95% of that ingredient.
  • When dinner, entrée, platter are added it need only contain 25% of that ingredient
  • If the label says “with” chicken etc… it need only contain 3% of that ingredient
  • If it simply says flavor it doesn’t even have to have a % it just needs to disclose the source of the flavor.

There has been an explosion pet food labeled as natural, organic or holistic.  Let’s look at exactly what that means.

  • Organic:  Grown with only animal or vegetable fertilizers, such as bone meal, compost, manure etc…  Only pet foods which meet these requirements may be labeled as such.  However, keep in mind that this does not stop a company from putting the term organic in the name or making a big deal out of using one or two organic ingredients without having a wholly organic food.  Look for the USDA organic label.  That means that at least 95% of the food is organic.  A diet labeled made with organic must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. 
  • Natural:  According to AFFCO (American Feed Control Officials) this label applies to food that consists of all natural (what is found in nature) without any chemical alterations. 
  • Holistic:  Who knows?  This term has no legal definition and any manufacturer can label their food holistic regardless of the ingredients.

By-Products are not all created equal.  We have a tendency to see the term By-Products as bad. A by-product is really just an ingredient that is produced while making something else.  Vegetable oils, liver, beet pulp and Vitamin E are all by-products.  Both animals and humans include by-products in their diet.  The key is quality.

Preservatives can be natural such as vitamin E, spice extracts or citric acid or synthetic such as BHA and BHT.  Both types of preservatives are found in human and animal foods.  They help keep food from spoiling as fast.

Guaranteed Analysis:  This number gives the maximum and minimum amount of each an item such as protein.  Protein is simply measured as a % of Nitrates.  This does not tell us what the actual nutrient content of protein really is.  Make sure you know the difference.  The manufacturer is not required to put the actual nutrient content on the bag.  You should be able to get this by calling and asking for that information.  Just be sure that is what you actually are given.

Ingredient Statement:  This is a list of ingredients by weight.  Again, it does not tell you anything about the quality of those ingredients.

Ash:  Ash is not really ash.  It is a combination of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium sodium and other minerals that remain after a food has been processed.  Ash content can affect urinary health in cats.

Dry Matter Basis:  Comparing dry and canned foods can be very difficult if we look at only the “as fed” numbers.  This is because canned food can contain up to 75% or more in moisture.  Learn to compare all diets on a dry matter basis.  To do this you will need to do a little math.

  • Subtract the moisture content from 100% 
  • X diet has 75% moisture:  subtract 75% from 100% = 25% dry matter basis
  • If the label states the diet contains 10% protein “as fed”
  •  Divide 10% by 25= 40% dry matter basis.

Finally who’s a carnivore?  Not your dog.  In spite of all the colorful ads on TV which hint otherwise and in spite of our desire to see the wolf in our dog. When it comes to food dogs are omnivores just like us and coyotes. Cats are true carnivores in the house.

  • Much of the information for this blog was derived from the Nutrition Manual published by Hills Science Diet.