Hairball facts and prevention tips
If dogs are man’s best friend what does that make cats? Some say cats are woman’s best friend. Male or female, people love cats more and more. While cat adoptions through rescues and shelters are always far fewer then dogs, many of us have beloved felines at home. As cat owners, most of us have had the experience where we are going about our day and we hear “hack hack hack.” You discover the source of the strange sound is your kitty throwing up something on your floor or wherever they were perched. If the present your cat left for you is not food, it is most likely a hairball. So what exactly is a hairball?
A hairball is a collection of hair that is swallowed when your cat grooms itself. Most of the hairs pass through the digestive track but some stay behind within the stomach. The hairs that are left in the stomach accumulate, and the only way for them to exit the body is through the act of vomiting. Because the hairball passes through the esophagus they usually have a tubular shape. In short, hairballs are a result of your cat’s grooming routine. Regular grooming is a sign of a healthy cat. When your cat is bathing, tiny hooks on their tongue catch loose and dead hairs which are then swallowed. Please see the Wikipedia for more details on what hairballs are. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairball)
Long-haired breeds, such as Persians and Maine Coons, are more likely to have hairballs. Cats that compulsively groom or shed a lot tend to swallow more fur and thus tend to have more hairballs. Kittens and senior cats tend to have less hairballs because they are often more lax with their grooming.
Symptoms of hairballs include hacking, vomiting, retching, gagging, lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation and/or diarrhea. Not sure if your cat is sick or having hairball issues? Consult your veterinarian and schedule a visit. There can be other reasons for your cat to be lethargic or vomiting that are more serious then hairballs and having a veterinarian examine your furry friend is the best way to find out.
There are many things a pet owner can do to decrease the frequency of hairballs. Brushing your cat regularly or having them professionally groomed can decrease the amount of hair they consume. There are many food brands that offer a hairball formula or indoor formula to help with the digestion of hair. These specialized foods support healthy skin and coat to reduce shedding and fiber to aid in digestion. There are also hairball lubricants that help increase the passage of hair through the digestive system. You can read about Laxatone, the brand we carry, at the following link: http://www.drugs.com/vet/laxatone-for-cats.html.
With daily brushing and an indoor or hairball formulated food, many owners can get their cat’s hairballs under control. Contact your primary veterinarian if you have any questions regarding hairballs and how you should treat your cat for them.
Training tips and helpful hints for dogs
Training has several benefits. It enhances your pet’s life, bonds the two of you, and can assure their safety. Dogs are eager to please and want to learn. Communication and consistency are crucial. Proper training can also prevent unwanted behavior from your pet. Dogs by nature have the tendency to jump up, bark, and beg. Good training can often eliminate these sometimes annoying canine habits.
How do I start?
If your pooch is a puppy, look for basic classes offered in your community. Often these classes are once a week and are held with a group of other puppy owners. In most classes for puppies, there are basic commands that will be reviewed. You are not just training your dog; you are training yourself to be the teacher. Basic starting commands include sit, stay, down, come, and walking on a loose leash. The other wonderful benefit is it allows for early socialization. Your pup should be fully vaccinated prior to being around other dogs. We recommend you check with your veterinarian.
If your dog is older, there are still classes available in the community. People that adopt an older dog also need a training routine. In this case depending on the dog a beginner obedience class is also very helpful.
Is my dog too old to start training?
While there is research stating that dogs pick up things better at a young age, it is never too late to start. You can teach old dogs new tricks.
Things you should do at home:
Reward behaviors you like. Again, dogs want to please you! Let them know when they are doing something well. Make sure behaviors you don’t like are not rewarded. Many people think a reward is just a treat. In reality even acknowledging them or touching them while behaving badly can be perceived as a reward. Your dog may think “Oh if I bark non-stop mommy will come over and cuddle with me or give me a bone to chew on.” Start with basics. Ask your veterinarian who they recommend as a trainer. Talk to friends, co-workers and neighbors. Often other pet owners have very helpful information to share.
Every pet’s needs are different. Whether they just need some basic training or are having problematic behaviors, there are many options available. Be consistent with your training routine and work at it every day for short periods of time. Most training fails when people lives and routine get in the way. They don’t have time to work with their pet every day or get lax about being consistent.
If you currently have a puppy and want some helpful information on potty training here is a nice link to read. http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/housebreaking/Housebreaking
Assistive training items for your pooch:
We love the gentle leader system. This training tool slides over your pup’s head and muzzle and gives you better control. It helps manage dogs who like to pull when walking. We sell them at our hospital and have found our clients to have great success with them. Follow this link for more information on the gentle leader. http://www.petsafe.net/media/manuals/gl-gentle-leader-headcollar-manual.pdf.
If you are working with a trainer, they may have their own system they prefer to use. No method is wrong. The key is to understand how your dog learns and use something that will work for him or her.
Ludwigs Corner Veterinarian offers puppy/beginner obedience training classes at our office every Thursday night. For more information please contact us at 610-458-8567.
January is National Walk Your Dog month
Whether you already walk your dog(s) regularly or are just starting, here are some reasons why it is so good for them. Dogs are full of energy! The amount of energy a dog has can be different based on breed, age, health and personality. They all need an outlet for this energy and what better way than a walk. If your pet doesn’t have a healthy outlet for his or her energy, they can show undesirable behavior. Boredom can lead to chewing on things they shouldn’t, being too rowdy with children and even exhibiting separation anxiety. Walking can also help you train your dog. Expending energy results in a calmer more submissive dog, and then they listen better to commands. Using time on walks for training is also great for bonding. In addition they get to explore. Give them time to stop and smell the roses or snow piles. Dogs are curious and enjoy opportunities to see and smell things outside of the house. This also allows for physical and mental stimulation. The stimulation for the walks can leave you with a more relaxed and fulfilled dog once you are home. If you have more than one dog, while it may not be easy, walking them together can be a good thing. Walking in pairs or groups can increase the bond between the dogs and decrease problem behaviors between them. Likewise, if you only have one dog, taking them out for walks can be wonderful for socialization. Taking them out in the community or to dog parks allows them to be around other dogs. Dogs like people don’t like everyone they meet. Be sure to read your dog’s body language and the other dogs to make sure it will be a safe and friendly meeting. Also ask the owner of the other dog if it is ok to approach. For more tips and information on dogs meeting other dogs follow the link: (http://www.pet360.com/dog/behavior-and-training/how-to-meet-and-greet-strange-dogs/AymEMAbzb0CHgwoMHIz4ug).
Most importantly regular walking can lengthen your pet’s life and improve quality of life. Not only is it good for them, it is good for you too. So while it may be cold outside, make an effort to maintain or start a walking program with your pooch. Check out this ASPCA link about dogs and exercise.
Winter Safety Tips
In our area and many others, winters can bring very cold temperatures and dampness. Pet owners should take extra precautions during the cold weather to keep pets safe and healthy. Below we have some useful information and helpful tips.
Has your pet had a preventative care exam? Cold weather can worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Now is as good a time as any to have your pet examined to see if he or she is as healthy as possible for the winter season. Contact your veterinarian to make an appointment.
As temperatures drop and winter storms roll in, it is best to keep pets indoors as much as possible. For short haired pets, very young pets, and senior pets it is recommended to supervise them while outside. Since exercise is important, short-haired pets will feel more comfortable and protected by wearing a coat or sweater while strolling through the neighborhood.
No matter the temperature outside, wind chills can be a threat to animals. Pets can be at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. The exposed skin on your pet’s nose, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage. While many pets won’t tolerate booties, they can be very beneficial along with other protective outer wear. Check out Amazon for winter gear for your furry family members..
What if your dog or cat spends most of its time outside? If your pet is outside for much of the day be sure to provide shelter. The best shelter for pets should be large enough for them to stand and lay down but also small enough to keep in their body heat. Elevating the shelter a few inches off the ground is also advised to keep out moisture. Insulation such as straw and cedar shavings is often used. It is ideal to have the entrance of the shelter covered with burlap or heavy plastic to keep wind and snow out as much as possible. There are also heated water units for outdoor shelters that prevent drinking water from freezing. These are very helpful as your pet should have access to water at all times. Pets also require more calories to keep warm; thus if your pet is outside many hours during winter days provide food in their shelter as well. Follow this link for a helpful video on how to build a winter shelter for cats outside. .
Snow and salt can be damaging to your pet’s skin and paws. When your furry friends come in from doing their business, be sure to immediately remove any snow or salt from their paws. Frostbitten skin can be red or gray and may slough. Apply warm, moist compresses to thaw out frostbitten areas slowly until skin is flushed. If you see signs of frost bite, you should contact your veterinarian right away.
Snow removal products should always be kept in a safe place away from pets’ access. Many products are toxic to animals. It is advised to get pet safe salt which is available on the market. This type of ice melter contains no salt, it is environmentally and pet friendly.
The best advice is to keep your pets indoors with you during harsh or cold weather. Happy dogs are taken out regularly for exercise and fresh air but should be inside the rest of the time.
What you should know about pet insurance
In this article we will address several things regarding pet insurance. Should I have pet insurance for my pet? How does pet insurance work? Is it worth it financially? How to choose the right provider for pet insurance? What kinds of things are covered by pet insurance? Pet insurance is still in its infancy in the United States. Many pet owners are unsure about it or have not even considered it. At Ludwigs Corner Veterinary Hospital and Coventry Animal Hospital we feel every pet should have coverage. We have seen it make a difference in our practices and thought we might share some helpful and useful information.
Should I have pet insurance for my pet?
If you ask any of the staff at Ludwigs Corner Veterinary Hospital or Coventry Animal Hospital the answer is “yes.” Have you ever brought your pet in for a check-up and they needed significant dental work? Have you ever had to take your dog or cat to the veterinarian for vomiting or diarrhea? These are just examples of when pet insurance comes in handy. As veterinary medicine becomes more advanced, and offers medical/surgical treatment options comparable to human medicine, the cost of care has increased. It is impossible to provide optimal care to your pets at minimal cost. Costs in the veterinary field are growing as a result of increased costs of medications, laboratory testing, diagnostic studies, medical equipment, facility requirements and training. Pet insurance helps by supporting some of the financial burden of top notch care. For the client who wishes to be able to provide optimal care and/or to seek veterinary care whenever an issue arises, pet insurance can definitely relieve worry about costs.
How does pet insurance work?
Although there are many different companies and policies to choose from, they all work in generally the same fashion. Pet insurance is a reimbursement system. You pay your veterinarian in full at the time of service. You then submit your invoice and summary of the issue to the insurance company for review. Based on your pet’s policy, you will then receive a reimbursement amount. It is similar to car insurance in that you are paying monthly to have coverage in the event an illness or accident occurs. Few if any insurances cover wellness or preventative care services. Everyone hopes they are never in a car accident and everyone hopes their pet never gets ill, but if it happens you have your insurance to back you and your wallet up.
Is pet insurance a financial benefit? Is it worth it financially?
Many say it depends on the animal’s general health and how the owners feel about what kind of care they want to provide. There are many folks who feel they will spend whatever it takes to give their pet the best medical care possible. However this doesn’t mean they have the financial means to do so. At the current level of technology in veterinary medicine many pets not only have a general veterinarian but also have an Ophthalmologist, Cardiologist, Dermatologist, or Neurologist that they see for specialized care. In today’s world bringing your pet in for an upset stomach, limping, lethargy and/or not eating can be a couple hundred dollars per visit depending on your geographical area and what care is needed at the time. This is when pet insurance can be greatly beneficial. While companies and policies vary, they generally pay a certain percentage after the office visit fee. This means that medications, laboratory testing, and other diagnostics would be reimbursed to you. Again, everyone hopes they never need to use their insurance, but if something does happen you will be glad you have it. As pets get older medical needs increase. The key to making your pet insurance worth it is getting a policy early. Many companies will raise your premium if your pet has “pre existing” conditions. See this link for information on pre-existing conditions as defined by healthy paws http://www.healthypawspetinsurance.com/Frequent-Question/Pet-Insurance/What-is-a-pre-existing-condition. Insure your pet while they are healthy, and any condition moving forward will be covered. There are many times in the veterinary field where an animal can be cured or treated for something but due to cost the owners elect to euthanize. Our goal is for this situation to be decreased, if not eliminated, by clients utilizing and having insurance coverage for their four-legged family members.
How do I choose a pet insurance provider?
While the pet insurance industry is new in the United States, there are still many options for providers. An insurance provider should be chosen based on your needs, your budget, and those things that you would like covered. Some of the largest and best known companies are Trupanion, VPI Petplan, Healthy paws and Embrace. We recommend that you shop around or ask your veterinarian who they recommend. Things to consider include: 1. Does the carrier provide a clear explanation of the policy details? These details should include any limitations and exclusions. 2. Does your pet’s premium change or increase as they age or if you relocate? 3. Are there add-on options for specific things such as travel coverage and/or dental coverage? 4. How do they handle pre-existing conditions? 5. Are there any breed limitations? Some groups consider certain breeds to be high risk and will not offer them coverage. 6. Are there any discounts for multiple pets? Remember to read the exclusions carefully so that if your claim is rejected you won’t be surprised.
What kinds of things are covered by pet insurance?
While providers and polices can range, the general reasons for pet insurance are for accidents and illnesses, not for annual or preventative care visits. Coverage typically includes medications, diagnostics including radiographs and lab work, surgical treatments, emergency care and hospitalization. Some of the most expensive conditions paid for include but are not limited to torn knee ligament/cartilage, foreign body ingestion surgery, stomach torsion/bloat, broken leg, and laryngeal paralysis. Look at each provider’s guidelines and services covered before picking a plan that is right for you. If you have questions regarding service or what things you might need under your coverage, consult your veterinarian.
By Theresa Klales
Did you know that Turkey is toxic to dogs and cats?
Thanksgiving is all about sharing, and of course a large delicious meal. Many pet owners do not realize that the vast majority of veterinarian and emergency visits during the holiday revolve around turkey. So while the holiday is all about eating and sharing, you should not indulge your pets with holiday foods. Turkey and other holiday foods can be hazardous to your pet’s digestive system. Even a small slice of turkey can cause pancreatitis. Don't risk it! Abstain from giving pets anything from the table during the holidays. You can end up with a large veterinary bill or even worse at an emergency center. While even a little bit to “Fido” can be fine, it is not worth it. You could end up with a very sick pet. If you see any vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy you should call your veterinarian right away. Even if you did not see them ingest something, it is possible they helped themselves while you weren't looking or a guest was too liberal with sharing some left overs. For more information on canine pancreatits visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_pancreatitis.
Also be mindful to withhold bones. Cooked animal bones can splinter and get stuck in your animal’s throat or digestive tract causing damage. The carcass can also create dangers as it may harbor salmonella, an organism that lives in the turkey’s intestinal tract. The cooking process usually kills all of the bacteria, but occasionally the center of the turkey may be undercooked, especially if it’s large or full of stuffing. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, listlessness, fever, and loss of appetite. Be sure to take all of the bones and waste from your meal outside of the home so your pet does not raid the trash can.
See the link for information on why bones can be bad for your dog. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2010/05/19/caution-bones-can-kill-your-dog-find-out-which-ones-are-safe.aspx
Heartworm Prevention Guidelines For Dogs
Cardiology - General Practice & Preventative Medicine
Canine heartworm disease is a serious parasitic disease caused by a long, thin worm that lives in the blood vessels and heart of infected dogs. The disease is spread from dog to dog (and to cat) by mosquitoes. The mosquito bites a dog with heartworm infection, collects some of the microscopic heartworm offspring and then, after a couple of weeks,passes these on to another dog or cat.
Inside the dog, the microscopic heartworm can grow into a parasite exceeding a foot in length. The life cycle is somewhat complicated. The important thing is to prevent worm development using safe and effective preventative drugs.
Heartworms are present (endemic) in most parts of the United States and in many parts of North America. Mosquitoes are the key – without them the disease cannot spread. The highest rates of infections are found in subtropical climates like those of the southeastern United States, the Gulf states and Hawaii. However, heartworms are also found throughout the central and eastern United States, particularly near oceans, lakes and rivers. Heartworm disease injures the lungs, the arteries of the lungs and the heart. Symptoms include tiring, coughing, weight loss and heart failure. Heartworm infection in dogs is usually diagnosed by a blood test.
Prevention of heartworm disease is simple. In most cases, a once-monthly prescription treatment is all that is needed to effectively protect your pet. These preventatives are only available from your veterinarian, who must first make certain that your dog is not heartworm positive. These"preventatives" kill microscopic larvae that are left behind by mosquitoes when they bite a dog.
Before beginning heartworm prevention, any dog over 7 months of age should first have a heartworm test. Preventatives in heartworm positive dogs can cause severe reactions. Repeated heartworm blood testing every year is recommended even for dogs taking heartworm preventative year round.Previous recommendations were for every 1 – 3 year testing but this changed with the 2005 American Heartworm Society (AHS) recommendations to yearly testing. This is due to concern with breaks of pets on preventatives that still contracted heartworms. Annual testing will ensure that an infection is caught in plenty of time to effectively manage it. Testing is also recommended when a pet owner switches between preventative medications.
The AHS recommends that all dogs in areas endemic for heartworms should take a year-round preventative. If you are not certain about the danger of heartworms in your area, call your veterinarian. Most veterinarians follow the guidelines published by the American Heartworm Society, a group of concerned veterinarians and scientists. As noted above, dogs over 7 months of age should first have a heartworm test. Speak to your veterinarian about administration guidelines.
Some heartworm preventatives also control intestinal or external parasites. The wide range of excellent and safe heartworm prescription products can be explained by your veterinarian.
For more information about the most recent recommendations on heartworm prevention, visit the guidelines posted on the Society's web site at www.heartwormsociety.org