A checklist of important health information for your pet: caring for your pet, routine pet health, vaccinations, neutering, diet, heartworms & de-worming, dental care, preventative care.
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Caring For Your Pet
We pride ourselves on sharing our knowledge of animals with the surrounding community. It is important for any pet owner to understand the medical needs of their pets. Below is some information on commonly discussed areas of preventative medicine.
Routine Pet Health
Regular examinations of your pet are important for the early diagnosis and prevention of disease. Often these examinations are performed at the time of the pet’s annual vaccination. Commonly, we will discover problems in need of attention, such as ear and dental infections, arthritis, heart conditions and even tumors. This is also an opportunity to discuss your pet’s diet, weight, and behavior with the doctor.
Heartworm & De-worming
Dogs are susceptible to round, hook and tape worms. Whip worms are a major problem in older dogs. They may acquire heartworms from infected mosquitoes and should be kept on a preventative all year. Round worms are common in humans too, especially to young children, so a good worming program is very important.
Warm summers and centrally heated winters mean fleas are now a problem all year, resulting in a dry, itchy coat or even a “hotspot”. Treatment can be frustrating with the wrong products. We can recommend the most effective products for you.
Ticks can be picked up in long grasses and shrubbery at any time of year. They can carry a number of dangerous diseases including Lyme disease. Ticks should not be removed with fingers, but instead use tweezers or “Tick-off” devices. Products like frontline, K9-Advantix and scalibor collars will kill ticks and may even repel them from biting.
Preventative Lab Tests
As dogs and cats grow to middle age, we recommend yearly chemistry screening to ensure that internal illness aren’t ‘creeping up’ without our noticing. With early detection of chronic liver, thyroid or kidney disease, we can start a program of special foods, supplements and medicines to help reduce the damage and improve their quality of life- time span.
Ideally, cats over the age of 10 should have a yearly blood screening test for heart muscle disease. This is estimated to affect 15% of cats. There may be no symptoms at all until they suddenly go into failure. Early warning can enable us to reduce the stress load on the heart.
Dogs on Long Island should have a heartworm blood test yearly. Our in-house test also checks for Lyme, and other tick borne diseases.
New Puppy & Kitten
As the proud parents of a puppy or kitten, you have taken on some big responsibilities. The puppy or kitten will be entirely dependant on you for food, water, shelter, training, good hygiene, good health, plus lots of love and attention.
They will need bedding, brushes, collars and leashes. For dogs, it is best to have a crate so that they can be house trained. Cats should have a cat carrier for safe traveling. And, of course, toys for mental stimulation, learning what its allowed to chew on, and playing. Pet proof your house- there should be nowhere they can crawl into that you can’t reach to extract them from. Keep electrical cords out of reach, chemicals locked away and garbage pails securely closed. For, the first 2 or 3 months of life, they should not be going outside except puppies for house training, under strict supervision. Kittens should quickly adapt to using a litter box.
Still a work in progress, puppies and kittens have a lot of bone and soft tissue to construct, and require a high level of protein in the diet to provide the “raw materials”. They also have a whole big world to explore, with a lot of running, jumping and playing, so they need a high energy concentration in the diet to provide the fuel. There are many quality brands of puppy and kitten food available to meet these needs. Chose a convenient spot to feed your puppy or kitten and use it consistently. Be sure to clean the dishes after each feeding and offer water with each meal. Puppies and kittens can be fed 4 times daily until 12 weeks of age, and then 3 times daily until 6 months old. After that, twice daily feeding should be enough, and large dogs after a year may be fed once. Frequent feeding will reduce the risk of hypoglycemia in small breed puppies. Unfinished food should be removed when they walk away from it. Regular meal times will help to regulate their bowels and make house training easier to coordinate. Cats are unlikely to become overweight if they get used to twice daily feeding with no food left down in-between meal times.
Puppies of large breed dogs provide a special consideration because of the tendency some of them have to develop “hip dysplasia”. This is a condition, partly hereditary, where the hips fail to form properly over the first 8 months of life. Instead of forming deep “ball and socket” joints, the joint is shallow and flattened, and arthritis will develop over time. With any given hereditary background, the deformity will be worse in puppies that are encouraged to grow rapidly and undertake strenuous exercise during their first year of life. I recommend that after large breed puppies reach 3 months of age, they be switched to a lower protein, “adult maintenance” formula food, to slow their growth rate. I also recommend supplementing their diet with Cornucopia Phyto- & Super-food, which will provide all the vitamins, antioxidants and chelated minerals they need to form healthy bones and joints.
Puppies need a lot of exercise to grow up healthy, but it should be structured and supervised. After 3 months of age they can begin to spend time outside, but it should be on a leash, and be part of their training sessions. Walks of 15-20 minutes a few times per week can be exceeded once you are confident the puppy can handle more. Walking and running helps strengthen the heart, lungs, and muscles, while games of fetch challenge puppies mentally. Running with an older puppy is alright, but be sure to monitor the amount of time and energy spent so the puppy is not exhausted. Running with someone on a bicycle is never a good idea.
Kittens will usually have sprints of intense activity, running and jumping all around the house. Be sure there is nothing the kitten is likely to fall from or knock over that could cause an injury.
There are a number if infectious diseases to which puppies and kittens are susceptible for which we recommend vaccination. Puppies are given a series of 3 types of vaccine. One protects against Distemper, Parvo virus, Parinfluenza, and Hepatitis. It is given every 3 weeks until they are at least 15 weeks old. They should spend a minimal amount of time outdoors, just “to go to the bathroom”, until they have had 2 or 3 of these vaccines.
The 2nd protects against 4 stains of a bacterium called leptospirosis, which is carried in the urine of wild animals and causes very serious liver and kidney disease, also transmittable to people. The vaccine is given twice, 3 weeks apart. We usually give it in the weeks in-between the “distemper shot”.
The third vaccine is the rabies shot, which is required by law, We give that vaccine in a week when they aren’t due for either of the other 2. By splitting up the vaccines this way, and by giving a “premed” injection of Benadryl, we keep the risk of vaccine reactions to a minimum.
Kittens are given 3 or 4 kinds of vaccine also. From 6 weeks on, they need a vaccine to protect against Feline Distemper and upper respitory virus (i.e. Herpes). This is repeated in 3 weeks, and a Rabies shot is usually given at that time. Kittens are also susceptible to a disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). A vaccine to protect against this disease is given by nose drops and can be given with the distemper shot. Kittens who may be exposed to feline leukemia (such as those that will be going outside) should be protected with 2 doses of leukemia vaccine, three weeks apart. First, they should be blood tested to ensure they don’t have the disease already, and we may also test for a disease called Bartonella (carried by fleas, and notorious as the cause of “cat scratch fever” in people) at this time.
Neutering (Spaying and Altering)
Both male and female dogs may be neutered after 6 months of age, females usually before their first “heat”, or estrus. Unspayed bitches are prone to false pregnancies, mammary cancers and pyometra, an infection of the womb. The latter is common, may be fatal and requires emergency ovohysterectomy (not always safe when the dog is old or gravely ill). Male dogs are usually castrated to stop unwelcome behaviors such as vagrancy, excessive libido or aggression, or, later in life, to treat prostate enlargement. Both male and female cats are routinely neutered at 6 months of age. Otherwise, females will start going into heat frequently, becoming pregnant if they go outside. If they don’t go through pregnancy, they are prone to pyometra and mammary tumors. Un-Neutered male cats spray urine and become territorial, getting into fights, resulting in abscesses and disease such as leukemia and immunodeficiency virus. For these reasons, we strongly recommend any pet not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered at the appropriate time.
Crate training for your puppy
A crate is a home within a home, sort of a dog’s bedroom. It’s similar to a den in which they would be raised in the wild. The crate will provide the following benefits;
Somewhere to stay when no one is home, so that they can’t get into mischief.
Most puppies are reluctant to soil their own space, so this helps them to learn house training.
When in the wild their mother senses danger, she will gather the puppies and put them in their den. Thus, they will learn not to stray beyond their boundaries.
When puppies are playing too aggressively or misbehaving in any way, the crate (AKA Den) instinctively provides a place for them to take a “time out”, and helps them learn to avoid that behavior.
House training for your puppy
To teach puppies not to defecate in the house, we take advantage of their instinct not to soil in their crate, together with a reflex that encourages them to defecate about 15 minutes after eating. To ensure regularity, feed the puppy 4 times daily (up until the age of 3 months, then reduce to 3 times daily) and feed the puppy at the same time every day. Then, 15 minutes later, take the puppy outside to the designated area to go to the bathroom and praise the puppy for using it. Do not take puppies outside for any other reason. For one thing, they are not fully vaccinated yet, and besides, if they learn that outside is a fun place to play, they will forget the reason you brought them there. If the puppy does not defecate when brought outside, bring him or her inside, place in the crate for 5 minutes, and then return outside to the designated potty area. Repeat steps as needed until the bowel movement has occurred and then lavish with praise.
Older Pets Need a Thorough Yearly Veterinary Examination.
It is no surprise, that with age, most animals undergo a variety of degenerative changes. Commonly, this results in a decline in performance, sometimes in conjunction with discomfort or disease. As your pet may not complain and the changes can be outwardly subtle, it is easy to underestimate their significance. However, through the miracles of modern medicine, the wellness of ageing cats and dogs can often be greatly improved. The process begins with a visit to the veterinarian for a thorough examination.
For a comprehensive explanation of the Lindenhurst Veterinary Hospital examination process, please refer to “Annual Exam” under Services.
Diabetic Blood & Urine Glucose Monitoring
Blood Glucose Monitoring
Home Blood Glucose Monitoring for Diabetic Cats & Dogs using a Glucometer:
Measuring blood glucose levels at home is an important step in the successful management of the diabetic patient. Blood glucose levels enable a tight control of the sugar level, more so then by measurement of urine glucose. Glucometer kits are now available online that enable measurement to be made at the convenience of home, and without the stress of bringing your pet to the vet. The stress involved with the travel to the hospital can cause significant false elevations of blood glucose.
To obtain an at home glucometer kit, I recommend going to the AlphaTrak website. The kit includes 25 days worth of test strips, and lancets for use in obtaining the blood sample. Familiarize yourself with the glucometer. When switched on, a code number will appear. It should be adjusted to match the code indicated on the test- strips container for either cat or dog.
Obtaining the Blood Sample:
Preferred sites for obtaining the drop of blood, using the lancet provided, include the pisiform pad (the one in back of the “wrist” that they don’t walk on), and the marginal ear vein. The outside of the ear flap is better to use in cats, while the inside of the ear flap is best for dogs with floppy ears. The buccal mucosa (gums right above the cheek teeth) is optimal for large or medium sized dogs with a good temperament. The lateral elbow callus (bald rough spot on the elbow) can also be used in dogs. Small dogs and those who might otherwise bite can be sampled from the redundant skin fold at the dorsal base of their tails (where the tail meets the top of their back), a small area of which can be kept shaved for that purpose.
Capillary Ear Prick Sampling Technique: Hold warm cloth against the ear to increase circulation.
Use a lancet to prick the ear margin.
Protect your finger on the other side of the ear flap.
Allow a drop of blood to form, or massage the ear if necessary
Apply the top of the test strip , already inserted into the glucometer, directly to the drop of blood.
When to Test:
Blood glucose should be measured first thing in the morning, prior to any food or insulin, and 12 hours later, before the next dose of insulin. This enables us to be sure that the patient is in need of its full twice a day dose, before the insulin is given. In general, the glucose should not be higher than 300, or lower than 80 (mg/dl- some glucometers measure slightly different). It is important not to give insulin to a patient whose blood glucose is 150 or less.
Obtaining a Blood Glucose Curve (BGC):
In order to learn the duration of effect of the insulin in an individual, and to make sure that glucose levels are stable during the day, a series of measurements (the BGC) should be formed soon after starting therapy with insulin, and then every 2-4 weeks until the patient is stable. If the initial daily reading is at 7am, then it should be repeated at 10am, 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm. The results should be reported to the veterinarian the next day.
Water consumption- should return to normal and remain normal soon after starting insulin
Urine production- Same as above. Cats should no longer flood their litter boxes.
Weight- patients who have lost weight should regain it.
Urine glucose- can be monitored every 1-2 weeks with a dip stick (ketodiastix). Most well regulated patients will show a slight positive for urine glucose. If cats are negative for 48 hours in a row, they may have gone into remission.
Blood Fructosamine Testing: Unlike the blood glucose, which gives a “snap-shot” of what the sugar levels is at that time, this test enables the veterinarian to tell how well controlled (tightly regulated) the patient has been for the past 3 weeks. This test should be preformed 1 month after starting treatment and every 3-6 months when the patient is stable.
Adjusting the Insulin Dose:
Normally dogs and cats start their insulin therapy at a dose of ½ of a unit per lb of body weight, which is often adjusted upwards or downwards over the first few weeks, based on the BGC and other factors. The twice daily blood glucose reading should be in the range of 200-250 (mg/dl), in which case, the patient should continue to receive the same dose of insulin. If the insulin level is higher than 300 mg/dl, do not adjust the dose until you have consulted your veterinarian. Never adjust the dose more than once per week. However, if the insulin level is lower than 200 mg/dl do not exceed the following dose levels, assuming the dose was originally higher:
||Insulin dose (units)
||% of previous dose
|150 - 170
|171 - 185
|186 - 200
For pets that have eaten less than ½ their normal food, give ½ the amount.
For dogs, give a percentage of the previous dose based on the blood glucose level as indicated by the table above. Be sure to contact your pet’s veterinarian as soon as possible after having to correct your pet’s insulin dose in this way.
If possible, perform a BGC on your pet that day, taking care to note any hypoglycemia (blood sugar below 80 mg/dl). Should this occur, offer food and be prepared to administer Karo syrup if necessary.
If a value under 60mg/dl is obtained, give Karo syrup and recheck every 30 minutes, then see your veterinarian as soon as possible. In the event of weakness or seizures, bring straight to the emergency center.
Cats and dogs should be fed about ½ hour after they get their twice daily injection of insulin. Cats should preferably be fed a high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate canned food, such as prescription DM (found at your veterinarian). These foods are also available as dry for cats that refuse canned. Some cats diagnosed with diabetes will loose their insulin requirement within a month once they start a prescription diet. Dogs should be fed a high fiber diet such as prescription weight management formulas, in order to slow the absorption of sugars and avoid a spike of high blood sugar after eating. Dogs should be exercised twice daily after feeding to help reduce the glucose spike. Strenuous & sporadic exercise can cause severe hypoglycemia and should be avoided.
Urine Glucose Monitoring
Instructions for Twice Daily Insulin Administration Based on Urine Collection
Give your pet its accurate dose of insulin under the skin at the same time each morning and evening. Should some injections “miss”, do not attempt to repeat the injection. Give your pet half its daily amount of food at this time.
Attempt to collect urine for glucose determination using the Keto-Diastix. This should be done daily until you pet has been stabilized, then weekly after that.
To use the Keto-Diastix: immerse the colored squares in the urine & time accurately. After 15 seconds, the Ketone square should read Negative. After 30 seconds, the Glucose square should show slight Positive, from 1/10th to 1+. It should not read Negative.
During the first 2 weeks of treatment, several consultations will be required before your pet becomes stable. Do not expose to stressful situations. Keep your pet fully indoors. Monitor thirst, which may indicate insufficient insulin. Ditto a flood of urine in the litter box. A poor appetite may mean too much.
Tremor, shaking, wobbly gait, depression, & poor appetite indicate low blood-sugar and may follow refusal to eat, vigorous exercise, vomiting a meal or insulin overdose. Give a teaspoon of karo syrup every few minutes until recovered. Call the veterinarian immediately.
If urine glucose is negative in the evening, decrease the next dose of insulin by 1 unit the next morning and in the evening. If the urine glucose is 2+ for 3 consecutive readings, increase the insulin dosage by 1 unit twice daily. If it becomes necessary to change the dose of insulin several times, call the doctor for an appointment.
As dogs and cats grow older it is common for them to develop chronic ear infections. Often only one ear is involved, with a history of problems in the past. To keep their ears healthy, pets need regular ear exams at home.
Dogs, especially floppy eared dogs, need their ears cleaned weekly with a proprietary cleansing solution. Veterinary attention is necessary if ears appeared waxy, smelly, or if pets shake their heads or scratch their ears a lot.
Lindenhurst Veterinary Hospital Online Pharmacy
Anatomy is the key to understanding the problem. The ear is divided into external, middle, and inner components. The external ear includes the ear flap or pinna & the ear canal. The middle ear, inside the drum is enclosed within a bony chamber, the tympanic bulla. It connects with the throat via the Eustachian tube & connects to the inner ear by 2 small membranous windows. The middle ear is traversed by three small bones that connect the ear drum to one of these windows. The inner ear consists of a fluid filled coil and three semi-circular sound and balance organs.
The chronic ear infection involves disease of the ear canal that is not readily observed without an otoscope. Over time, the ear canal lining responds to infection by thickening and becoming rough. These changes are irreversible & cause narrowing of the canal, sometimes almost obliterating it. In cats, chronic ear infections may be associated with polyps within the ear canal.
Ear infections should not be confused with hematoma formation where a burst blood vessel fills the ear up with blood. This is a sudden, acute problem and if untreated may progress to a chronic infection. Treatment of hematoma involves surgery to the ear flap, or pinna. Surgery for chronic ear infections involves the ear canal.
When treating a dog for an ear infection, the aim is to get a complete cure, so that there is no persistent irritation and no progression to chronic change. There are 3 parts to the treatment and they are all equally important. First, Dr. Lugten will thoroughly clean all the discharge out of the ear. This may require sedation in some cases. Secondly, topical ear ointments to kill bacteria and yeast are dispensed for the owner to use twice a day at home for the next 10 days. Thirdly, it is important to keep the recheck appointment in 10 days so that the result of the treatment can be assessed and all residual wax and discharge can be removed. We then use an ear cleaning solution on a weekly basis to minimize the risk of re-infection. Careful attention to your pet’s ears will reduce the risk that it will need surgery later for chronic disease.
Before considering surgery for chronic ears, we evaluate the results of medical therapy. In conditions limited to the external ear, vigorous therapy with powerful ear medications and repeated veterinary exams can be successful. However, in the case of treatment failure or relapse or middle ear infection, surgery is indicated. A middle ear infection can be recognized as, in addition to all the other chronic signs, there may be a head tilt. In cats, polyp formation may originate in the middle ear and grow out through the ear drum or in through the Eustachian Tube. X-rays are used to diagnose middle ear infection.
The basic principle of surgery is to open up the confined space of the ear canal to permit effective drainage. In two procedures knows as Lateral Canal Resection and Vertical canal Ablation, the parts of the ear canal that are chronically thickened and heavily folded are cut away to leave a more accessible opening for a healthy ear canal. In the Lateral Canal Resection, we cut away the outer wall of the ear canal in such a way that it can be folded downwards, so that instead of being a barrier to drainage of the ear, it becomes more like a draining board. In Vertical Canal Ablation the entire vertical canal is removed so the horizontal canal opens as a small hole right under the ear-flap. These surgeries are free of complications other than minor problems with structure breakdown. I strongly recommend a Lateral procedure for any dog that suffers ear infections 3x a year or more. When the entire ear canal plus the middle ear are badly infected, a more radical surgery is required. Results are usually successful in eliminating recurrent ear infections. It s important to correctly match the type of surgery to the severity of the condition. For pets accustomed to long-standing pain, surgery is expected to bring relief.
Behavior modification is just as important as drug therapy when you are trying to help your clients keep their cats. Implementing both can help you foster odor – and aggression-free households.
Cats that avoid using their litter box are usually responding to some form of stress. In the wild, cats prefer to be solitary, and will mark off a territory of about an acre that they will defend from intruders. When several cats live in one house, even if they all appear to get along, or when a cat wants to go out but isn’t allowed to, a degree of stress is involved that may trigger urine marking. A thorough history will generally reveal a pattern of elimination involving a specific cause. Withdrawal of free access to food, the addition or subtraction of human residents in the house, or dramatic changes in the arrangement of furnishings are all possible stressors to some cats. Treatment directed at resolving the diagnosed problem has environmental, behavioral, and pharmacologic components. When all three of these components are addressed, problems usually resolve.
To treat feline elimination disorders, follow the same steps used for treating any other behavior problem. First, rule out or treat any underlying medical cause of the problem. While not generally implicated as a primary cause of problem elimination in cats, any potential underlying medical problem must be addressed. Medical problems that can be associated with problem elimination behavior or may complicate its treatment include gastrointestinal disease, endoparasites, bacterial disease, inflammatory disease, anatomical abnormalities, partial or complete obstructions, nutritional disorders such as maldigestion and malabsorption syndromes, metabolic disease, food allergies, or debilitating conditions that preclude easy access to appropriate elimination areas, such as arthritis. Only after other potential causes have been ruled out should you proceed with the premise that an elimination disorder is rooted in behavior. Generally, this step can be quickly and effectively completed.
The second step to treating any marking situation or substrate or location aversion or preference is to remove the odor. All affected areas and layers must be cleaned with a good odor eliminator. This means that, for example, the wall-to-wall carpeting, the pad underneath it, and subfloor all need to be cleaned or replaced. If this is not possible, the client can seal the connecting areas with either physical moisture barriers (e.g. heavy plastic) or chemical moisture barriers ( e.g. epoxy paints) that can be painted on the subfloor. In some cases, floorboards or tiles will need to be replaced. Odor eliminators that have been relatively successful include The Equalizer (EVSCO), K.O.E. (Kennel Odor Eliminator) (Thornell), Elimin-odor (Pfizer), and Anti-Icky Poo (AIP) (Bug-a-Boo Chemical). No odor eliminator can be expected to undo years of repeated assaults. Accordingly, the importance of early treatment for elimination disorders.
After they are cleaned, affected areas should be covered with heavy plastic to change the tactile sensation for the cat and to prevent penetration in the event of further elimination. While floors are being cleaned and sealed, it would be preferable to isolate the cat to an area where controlled tests with litter boxes and different substrates can be conducted. It is critical that the cat can no longer smell where it has been eliminating.
Multiple litter boxes should be placed whenever possible, generally one more than there are cats, unless the clients are inundated with cats. Large numbers of cats may make it impossible to prevent the cats from responding to olfactory stimuli. Because litter boxes can be implicated as turf in social conflicts, it is critical to allot the litter box turf in a manner that will convince the cats to use the boxes appropriately. Litter boxes should be placed in several locations and should be offered in a variety of styles (open, covered, deep, shallow, big, small). Litter needs to be scooped every day, and most litter should be dumped every other day. This is good advice for owners of cats without elimination problems, too, because the cats may be tolerating a litter without liking it. It is unknown if such behavior is a risk factor for developing future elimination problems. Exceptions are with the clumping litters and the litter boxes that have stones and pads that absorb moisture. In the latter case, the pad is discarded daily and the stones are washed weekly. With the clumping litters, the soiled litter clumps can be easily removed while the remaining litter is relatively uncontaminated. Clumping litters need to be dumped every week to every few weeks. Without exception, boxes should be washed weekly. Boxes that are so permeated with sand or scratched that cleaning will not eliminate odor should be discarded.
A variety of litters should be offered in a variety of boxes. Use litters that resemble the inappropriate substances the cat has chose to use. If the cat is using soft substrates such as bedding, towels, or laundry, consider softer litters. No. 3 blasting sand and fine-grade playground sand are inexpensive and soft to the touch. They do not absorb moisture or odor as well as some commercial litters, but they can be dumped multiple times a day at very little expense. Shredded newspaper or paper towels are also relatively inexpensive and soft but do not absorb moisture or scent as well as traditional litters. Yesterday’s News (Canbrands International) is a litter made from recycled newspapers that is formulated to absorb moisture as well but is not as good at absorbing odors as some other litters. Many cats that are very fussy about using soft substrates will use this litter in absence of any others.
Sawdust or wood chips that do not originate from strong-smelling trees (e.g.. Cedar) can be useful additives in litter boxes. Some of the newer clay litters have pine chips added to provide softening. The most successful results appear to be obtained by using recyclable, clumping litters. Clients need to be observant and creative to determine which litter is preferred.
If the problem involves a location preference or aversion, a litter box with a litter that the cat likes can be placed where the cat is eliminating. If the cat starts to use the box, you know you are dealing with a location preference or aversion. If the cat does not use it, the client must go through the sampling procedure outlined here.
Counterconditioning can work for some disorders involving locations. Food dishes can be placed in the affected area. Generally, cats will not eliminate where they are fed. If there are several inappropriate locations, this will not work, but if this is the case a location preference is probably not the problem. Clients can rearrange furniture or move a large plant so that the cat’s favorite spot is covered. Sometimes the cat then shifts its spot. This can indicate that the location wasn’t sufficiently altered, or it can suggest a mixed substrate-location preference.
A cat with a elimination problem can be encouraged to make positive associations with the litter box. This can be done by taking the cat to the litter box frequently and waiting with the cat. If is uses the box, it should be praised. Associate the appropriate elimination behaviors, such as scratching in the box, with giving the cat a food treat or anything that encourages the cat to use its litter box. Cats should not be disturbed or frightened while they are in the litter box. A proprietary powder is available, “Cat Attract”, which, added to the litter box, is supposed to attract cats to use the litter.
Owners will learn to recognize behaviors that precede elimination, such as facial expressions in some cats. If the cat is seen squatting outside the box, the owner should startle the cat so that it stops the appropriate behavior and place it in a situation where an appropriate behavior can be encouraged. If startled within the first 30 to 60 seconds of the complete behavioral sequence (sniffing, turning, and scratching), the cat will be able to learn from the startle. If the cat has already eliminated and is digging, it is fruitless to startle or correct the cat.
Pheromones have also been successfully used to reduce the cat’s urge for territorial marking. These compounds are scents released by cats to communicate with other cats, and only cats can smell them. By artificially supplying the cat with a constant whiff of pheromone, it will feel that its “territory” is already well marked, and not in need of refreshing. Maternal pheromone calms and reassures nursing kittens, and cats recognize these scents throughout life. They help reduce stresses associated with multi-cat interactions, or other stressors such as not being allowed outside. Pheromones are available in products such as Feliway (Ceva) sprays & “plug- in” diffusers, or “natureCalm” (Meridian) pheromone collars.
Cats who have not responded to environmental stimuli are best treated medically with human anti- anxiety medications. These alleviate stress that is making the cat unhappy and uncomfortable. Only once this has been achieved will the cat be able to learn (or re-learn) to use the litter box consistently. Drugs such as amitriptylline, buspirone & Prozac are usually used for a limited time of several months, with or without crate (or “cat-condo”) confinement. It is usually possible to withdraw the medicine gradually after a few months. The drugs rarely have any adverse effects, are not sedative and do not change the cat’s personality.
A cat that is spraying is a frustrating problem to its servants (I mean owners) but it is also a frustrated and unhappy cat in itself. Therefore correcting the problem using behavioral techniques, pheromones, or drugs when necessary is important not only for the sake of getting rid of the smell, but also for the sake of having a happy, well- adjusted cat.
This article is based on an article by Dr Karen Overall, Dip ACVB, published in Veterinary Medicine
Getting Your Cat to the Hospital
How to use a cat carrier:
Taking your cat back and forth to the veterinarian doesn’t have to be stressful. Using your cat carrier the right way can make the trip easier for you and for your cat. The following tips from veterinarians and cat behavioral experts were adapted from American Association of Feline Practitioners’ “Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian”.
The best type of carrier, and acclimatizing your cat to accept the carrier:
The best carriers are inexpensive, hard-sided carriers that open from the top and front, and can also be taken apart in the middle. An easily removable top allows a cat that is fearful, anxious or in pain to stay in the bottom half of the carrier for exams. Your veterinarian can often do the exam in the bottom of a well-designed carrier.
To help your cat become comfortable with the carrier:
Make the carrier a familiar place at home by leaving it in a room where your cat spends a lot of time.
Place familiar, soft bedding inside the carrier. Bedding or clothing with your scent can make cats feel more secure.
Place treats, catnip or toys inside the carrier to encourage the cat to enter at home.
It may take days or weeks before your cat starts to trust the carrier. Remain calm and patient, and reward desired behaviors.
Getting an Unwilling Cat into the Carrier
If your cat needs to go to the veterinarian right away and is not yet accustomed to the carrier, the following may help:
Start by putting the carrier in a small room with few hiding places. Bring the cat into the room and close the door. Move slowly and calmly. Do not chase the cat to get it into the carrier. Encourage the cat with treats or toys to walk into the carrier.
If your cat will not walk into the carrier, and your carrier has an opening on the top, gently cradle your cat and lower it into the carrier. Another option is to remove the top half of your carrier while getting the cat to go into the bottom half, and then calmly replace the top.
Use familiar bedding inside the carrier. Consider use of synthetic feline facial pheromone analog spray in the carrier at least 30 minutes before transport to help calm the cat.
Carriers should be seat-belted in the car to keep your cat safer and to reduce the bumpiness of the ride.
Some cats like to see out, whereas others are less anxious when the carrier is covered with a blanket or towel.
Coming home & keeping peace in a multi-cat household:
Cats are very sensitive to smells, and unfamiliar smells can result in one cat no longer recognizing another. Aggressive behavior can occur when one cat senses another as a stranger.
Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how all of your cats react.
If all cats appear calm and peaceful, let the returning cat out of the carrier.
If you sense tension between the cats, or if previous homecomings have resulted in conflict, keep the cat in the carrier and take it to a separate room to avoid potential injury from an upset cat. Provide food, water and a litter box for a minimum of 24 hours while it regains the more familiar smell of home.
If there is still stress after this time, contact your veterinarian for more advice on a slower introduction process.
A synthetic feline pheromone can help provide the sense of familiarity, reducing levels of tension.
Traveling with Pets in Cars
Whether it is just to ride to the vet, or going on vacation, there are some important considerations when traveling with pets in cars.
Take your pet on short trips first if not accustomed to travel. Some pets have issues with motion sickness & may benefit from premedication, so seek veterinary advice. For long trips, be sure to bring pet ID + contact information, a health certificate, leash & collar, poop bags, a towel/ blanket, treats, toys, any medicines & bottled water.
Don’t feed your pet within 3 hours of the trip. Offer water up to an hour before. There should be access to water in a spill- resistant container for long trips, or, alternatively, ice-cubes.
Never leave a pet unattended in a vehicle on a hot day, not even with the window cracked open. Even on a cool day, a car parked in direct summer sun with opened windows can heat to 120 degrees inside 10 minutes.
When making stops, turn off the ignition & put on the dog’s leash before getting out of the car. Then look around to insure there are no dogs off-leash that might pose a threat. As you open the pet’s door, use the command “Sit, Stay”. Hold the leash securely before allowing the exit. Never let a dog run off- leash in unfamiliar surroundings. Even well- trained dogs may bolt. It is very important that a dog that is expected to travel a lot should be obedient and should always come when called in case it gets away.
Cats and dogs traveling in cars must be restrained so that they cannot distract or interfere with the driver of the vehicle, and in such a way that they will be safe in the event of a sudden stop. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey included “Pet in Vehicle “ as a type of distraction that was found to be present in a significant proportion of crashes. In the event of a crash, an unrestrained pet can ricochet through the cabin creating severe impacts. At 44mph, research has shown, a 44lb dog can hit the seatback with ½ a ton of force. In the case of S. Dakota v. 15 Impounded Cats, the court found that police had acted lawfully in seizing 15 unrestrained cats from a car due to their presenting an “open and obvious safety hazard”. Pet seat belts, car seats & harnesses are available commercially at a variety of sites on line or at pet stores. These are the best way to secure your pet for car travel. In the absence of a purpose – designed restraint, I suggest the following. Cats should always be transported in a cat carrier. The carrier can be strapped into the front seat with the seat belt, or placed on the floor below the dash-board, depending on its size. If possible, dogs also should be transported in a well secured crate. The crate or carrier should be labeled with the pet’s ID & contact information. Dogs for which a crate is impractical should be leashed and made to sit down on the floor in front of the front passenger seat. The leash can then be looped outside the door and the door closed on the leash in such a way that the dog is restrained from jumping up onto the seat. On no account whatsoever should dogs be allowed to travel in the car with their head outside the window, or unrestrained on the flat-bed of a pick-up truck.
Air Travel With Your Pet
Regulations state that dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5 days before flying. Current Health and rabies vaccines certificates will be required. The pet must be examined by a veterinarian and the Health Certificate issued within 10 days of the flight. During this exam, any concerns about the pet’s health, diet, parasite control, and fitness for travel will be addressed. The pet can be brought up to date with its vaccinations. Older pets should have a full blood work-up. Pets should wear collars with complete identification and a license and rabies tag. Microchipping is advisable and also required for certain destinations.
Some foreign countries have specific requirements concerning rabies vaccination, testing, flea & tick control, and veterinary certification. Certification by a veterinarian accredited by the Department of Agriculture may be required in addition to a Health Certificate. Contact the consulate of the destination country preferably at least several weeks before the anticipated travel. Likewise for travel to Hawai’i, where arriving dogs must be quarantined in addition to having had all their shots.
Travelers should contact the airline in advance to check regulations and services to make reservations. At this time, determine whether your pet can accompany you in the cabin, or whether it will have to go below with the cargo. The cargo holds are typically pressurized, but not temperature controlled. Any pet small enough to fit should travel with you in the cabin, or else book a different flight. The airline will request that only well-behaved dogs ride in the cabin – no constant barkers or dogs that smell offensively. They will not be allowed out of the crate. Some airlines do not allow cabin travel on overseas flights.
The ASPCA warns of the danger of flying dogs in the cargo hold: they may overheat in the summer, or freeze in winter, especially if the plane is delayed on the runway for a long time. Suffocation i.e. fumes from other cargo like dry ice, mishandling, or getting loose & lost are other dangers associated with the cargo hold. If unavoidable, a direct midweek flight or one with minimum stops is strongly advised. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends during the summer, traveling with your pet in the evening or early morning. Short snouted dogs, such as boxers and English bulldogs, are particularly sensitive to heat. Early morning or late evening flights should be selected for them.
Some airlines will not ship dogs between May 15- September 15, when temperatures can be extreme, or if temperatures drop below 45 degrees, or exceed 85 at the destination. More stringent restrictions may be applied to short- nosed breeds such as pugs, boxers, bull dogs & shih-tzus. Some airlines may also embargo “scary” dogs such as adult Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans.
Airlines maintain that they follow all the requirements of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act, and that out of approximately 500,000 animals flown each year, 99% arrive without incident, with the remainder mostly being not allowed to fly.
An appropriate travel crate is essential. The proper cage, available from most airlines or pet shops, should have the following features:
Large enough to let the animal stand up turn around and lay down.
Strong, free of interior protrusions, with handles or grips.
Leak-proof bottom covered with plenty of absorbent material or towels.
Ventilation on opposite sides, with exterior rims or knobs to prevent blocked air flow.
It must fasten securely but do not lock it.
Label “LIVE ANIMALS” with arrows indicating upright position, and the owners name, address, and phone number.
Freeze water in a bowl so it will not spill during loading but will soon melt for drinking.
For cabin travel, the carrier must be big enough for your pet to stand in, but must fit under the seat in front of you. A maximum size of 23 x 14 x 9 inches would be appropriate for a 20lb dog or cat.
On the day of travel, the pet should be exercised, & placed in the crate by the owner. Don’t forget to pack some favorite toys, bowl, leash and regular diet.
Do not tranquilize your dog or cat for the flight. This can interfere with breathing and with thermoregulation and is associated with an increased mortality.
Airlines do not allow pets to be checked in at curbside, and advise allowing extra time for check-in. Homeland Security will also insist on removing your pet from its crate so that the crate can be inspected.
Be a pest! Tell every airline employee you meet how concerned you are about your pet, especially dogs travelling in cargo. Ask to be able to watch your dog being loaded onboard. Ask that if there are extended layovers or delays, that your dog be taken off the plane or tarmac.
Finally, owners should consider whether the pet is comfortable with traveling. Some animals do not function well in unfamiliar surroundings, and an unhappy pet can make a trip miserable for everyone. Some ill or physically impaired dogs and cats cannot withstand the rigors of travel. If this is the case, veterinarians advise pet owners to leave pets with a friend or relative or at a clean, well-run boarding kennel
Canine & Feline Weight Loss
Healthy, happy pets love to eat, they love to beg, and it is very tempting to give them more food than is good for them, even to the point where it interferes with their health and happiness. Fact: in the lifespan feeding trials of two groups of similar dogs, the group fed 25% fewer calories lived 2 years longer. In dogs, obesity can result in cardiovascular disease, breathing difficulties, poor coat condition, and, of course, arthritis and lameness. In cats, obesity is also linked to diabetes, liver disease, and urinary tract disease or obstruction. Some cats get so fat that they can no longer defecate, and need enemas every week!
We do not want this to happen. We recommend for people to feed less food, to switch to low calorie formulas, to not leave food down all day, to give fewer treats and table foods, and to exercise their pets more. But often, when we next see these pets, they weigh the same or even more. So we recommend the Purina OM weight management program. The Purina OM program starts with a personalized computer print-out explaining how many Kilocalories your pet is allowed, and how many cups or cans of Purina OM diet this translates into, plus or minus treats. The OM diet is a low fat, low calorie, high fiber and high protein: calorie ration that promotes loss of body fat but not lean body mass, and reduces oxidative stress that can lead to weight rebound. We give you a measuring cup, and you just follow the instructions. Each month, we reweigh your pet, enter the new weight in the computer, and give you your updated instructions.
Medical Management of Obesity
The thyroid gland Sometimes dogs will not lose weight no matter how little you feed them; it may even seem that they are not interested in eating. This may be due to a thyroid complaint; – hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid dogs may have other symptoms such as a general lethargy, and a pattern of hair loss (without being itchy) involving both flanks. A blood test may reveal a low level of thyroid hormones. These dogs usually respond to a daily administration of a thyroid supplement, which needs to be given life-long.
Weight loss with SLENTROL (Dirlotapide-Pfizer) Introduced in 2007, this medication for dogs only is able to assist in weight loss. It is a Microsomal Triglyceride Transfer Protein (MTP) inhibitor. It is able to block fat absorption by the cells lining the small intestine; meanwhile, it tricks these same cells into releasing a hormone (Peptide YY), that tells the brain that the meal has been digested, and to feel full. SLENTROL is not for use in people. It is only safe in dogs. Once the initial dose is calculated, it is given for 2 weeks. The dog must then be reweighed every 4 weeks, and a new dose calculated. It is used until the desired weight is being maintained, or for up to one year.