Tips of How to Exercise Your Cat

Tips on How to Exercise Your Cat
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

When we think about exercising a dog, it is really not that hard. They love to exercise and get out that energy. There are tons of ways to get their much needed exercise in – such as tossing a ball or taking a walk or run. However, with cats it is a little more difficult, but since most of the cats that we see are overweight and heading towards health issues, such as heart and lung problems, arthritis, diabetes, etc., it is even more important to keep them at a healthy weight. To get your cat to exercise you need to be much more creative than when it comes to your dogs!

Keep in mind that it is totally worth the extra effort since we know that by keeping your cat active and at a healthy weight we can avoid a multitude of health issues and even add years to their lives. Also, encouraging and maintaining mobility not only helps keep a pet’s weight in check, but it also provides mental stimulation which can help avoid behavior issues.

A few different exercise ideas for your cat include having a feather or mouse on a stick or laser pointers on hand for your cat to chase. For those of us with crazy busy schedules, they even sell laser pointers that you can set up in your house to have the laser go in random directions to keep your cat entertained and mobile while you are gone. There are also cats that will play fetch – they tend to prefer balled up paper that they can easily pick up and bring back to you. When you are first starting an exercise routine, you may only hold their attention for five minutes per day, but they really need at least two to three play session of twenty minutes. Depending on your cat’s attention span you can try to have the total of fourty to sixty minutes in those twenty minute sessions, but with some cats you will need to spread it out throughout the day. Cats are nocturnal so they tend to be more active at night, so you may want to start with evening sessions and then see if you can get them moving at different times during the day.

Cats are also used to hunting for their food and eating several small meals throughout the day. When feral cat colonies were studied it was noted that they tend to eat nine to ten mice spread out through the day. That does not mean it is a good idea to leave food out for your cat all the time since they are generally just lounging around the house and certainly do not have to forage for their food if it is in a single bowl left out all day. You may want to try taking your cat’s daily food portion and divide it into several bowls placed around the house so that they will have to go from room to room to find the food. Keep in mind you still want to measure out the entire amount so you are not overfeeding. We also strongly recommend Hill’s M/D, which is the best diet for them since it is based on the make-up of a mouse and is not just a dog food with higher protein content. You may also place food dishes on elevated platforms that will require them to work a little harder to get to the food and help stimulate them mentally as they figure out the best way to get to the food. There are also a number of toys where you can put your cats daily allotted food amount in, but your cat has to engage in the toy in order to get the kibble to come out – again, getting them moving and keeping them on their toes. If these tips do not work for your cat after you have given it a couple months to allow them to adjust, you can at least toss each kibble across the floor to force your cat to get up and get mobile in order to eat each kibble.

Always encourage your cat to play by keeping toys available and make sure to change them up to keep it exciting. This doesn’t have to be expensive; I’ve seen a cat spend hours chasing around the ring that comes off of your milk container! Also, be sure to have a cat tree or other apparatus to climb up to help your cat strengthen her muscles. This is also helpful because cats tend to feel safer when at a more elevated height, so it can provide both exercise and a full, more relaxing place to spend time. If your kitty is an only child, you may want to consider getting another cat so they can play with each other and burn more calories. It is always best to foster first to be sure that your cat gets along with other cats or be prepared if they do not get along to have to deal with the stress of having to adjust the living situation in the house so each cat has their own space and is not stressed or getting beat up all the time.

Most cats these days are overweight and it is so critical to get both a good feeding plan (including the best type of food and the amount the cat should eat per day) and a good exercise plan together. However, it is critical to get the whole household on board. Helping your cat lose weight is a process that takes time and dedication from the entire family and if someone is sneaking treats or table food or more cat food to your cat, it undermines the entire plan and the people following the program are likely to get frustrated since they are not seeing the results they would like or expect.

Not only will these changes help your kitty both physically and mentally, but will also allow you to form a tighter bond with your cat. Be sure to go into this process with realistic expectation because it is a life-long commitment to the health of your baby and results do not happen overnight. Be sure to stay positive and be patient. A general rule of thumb is that you want to see at least a ten percent weight loss over the first six months. Regular weigh-ins with your veterinary team will help you see your progress and help you to adjust as needed. Remember, we are all here to help too!

Top 5 Tips For Teething Puppies!

Top 5 Tips For Teething Puppies!
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

Teething can be a very tricky time for new pet owners to find good outlets for puppies to be able to teeth, but not be destructive. Puppies have discomfort associated with their baby teeth coming in and when the adult teeth start to erupt. Adult teeth start to come in around three months of age and start to come in first in the center of the mouth and work their way to the back. You often will not see the baby teeth as they are lost since most puppies end up swallowing the teeth while they are eating or teething on something, but swallowing the teeth does not pose any danger to your baby. We want to offer you some simple suggestions to keep your puppy properly occupied and not destroying all of your favorite shoes or house!

1. Offer frozen low-sodium broth in dixie cups or as home-made ice cubes. This cool option allows them to chew and eventually consume something that also helps to numb the gingiva (gums) which helps ease any discomfort.

2. Offering cold carrots (either baby carrots or sliced or shaved larger carrots) may also help relieve discomfort and they offer vitamins and minerals in a low-calorie treat option. This is also something that can be done throughout your pet’s life as a good alternative to higher calorie treats, so it is good to introduce them early in your pet’s life. Veggies are always a good way to reduce the amount of calories fed and feel free to try different kinds – just avoid onions, avocados, garlic, and chives.

3. You can also try frozen fruit, such as strawberries or bits of banana – really any fruits are also good low-calorie options (just like veggies), but be sure to avoid grapes and raisins. These home-made cold packs may help relieve oral discomfort and the fruit is edible (although it may get a little messy). You do not want to overdo it on the fruits since they can be high in sugar and keep in mind that if the fruit is high in water in can sometimes cause loose stools.

4. Another easy to do teething option can be made by wetting a dishrag or towel, twisting it into a rope-like shape and freezing it. This can also be done to a store-bought rope toy by wetting it and then freezing it. The cold helps relieve oral discomfort, and the chewiness of the towel helps encourage proper biting behavior. This is especially important if your pet is exhibiting inappropriate biting behavior (such as chewing on people’s fingers and toes). You want to stop the behavior right away, say no, then offer a proper chew toy and praise your dog for chewing on it. This is also why you never want to play with your pet by having them chase your fingers or toes – it will teach them that these are appropriate play items and they won’t understand why they shouldn’t bite.

5. There are also puppy-specific toys, such as Chilly Bones, Nylabones or Kongs, that are great for chewing. Kongs can also be filled with water or low-sodium broth and frozen (just tape the ends when you first fill it up).

Winter Worries Concerning Your Dogs

Emily Hoppmann, DVM

The weather is getting colder and so there are certain things that you need to keep in mind concerning your dogs based on the change of seasons. It is definitely ideal to keep your pets inside to keep them as safe and comfortable as possible. However, there are things to consider when your dog is outside during this cold weather. Not only are there concerns strictly based on the temperature, but also dangers associated with actions humans take to combat winter weather. We want to be sure that our pets are as protected as possible from the cold temperatures and also from the more hidden dangers of winter.

No pet should be left outside when it is below freezing, but especially not smaller and/or short-coated pets. The cold affects smaller animals and animals with shorter coats more because they have a harder time maintaining their body temperature. When they do need to go outside, it is best to provide them with some extra warmth through dressing them in clothes. Just keep in mind that you need to be sure the clothes fit properly, are comfortable, and do not have any pieces that can be easily chewed off. You also want to ensure that your pet’s vision, hearing, breathing, movement, and ability to open his/her mouth are not affected. It is best to not leave your pet unattended while wearing these clothes. If your dog has longer hair to help keep him/her warm, you want to keep the coat brushed out and clean during the winter to avoid matting, but not shaved totally down.

If your pet is going to be left outside, there are a few modifications that need to be made to ensure his/her safety. The biggest resource that you need to provide for your pet is shelter. A sturdy doghouse with a blanket or tarp added to cover the entrance to block the wind is a good start. You also want to provide plenty of blankets (fleece blankets work great) inside the house that your pet can burrow in. It is best to have a house big enough that you can put the water bowl inside to avoid it getting too cold where your pet will not want to drink it or freezing where your pet will be unable to drink it. Again, ideally no dog should be left outside below freezing.

Colder temperatures can also affect some medical conditions – especially in older animals. Just like humans, arthritis tends to be more painful in the winter. If you notice your pet having trouble getting up from a laying or seated position, having trouble with inclines, or just slowing down in general it is important to have your veterinarian do an examination and see if medications are needed to help manage to discomfort of joint disease. The air tends to be drier outside during the winter and the heat in our homes is also drier than the air condition in the summer. This dry air can result in your pet having more dry, flakey, and itchy skin. This is also something that you can consult your veterinarian about and so you can take the necessary steps to help keep your pet’s skin more hydrated from the inside out! Parasites are a problem year-round for our pets and it is important to remember that it does not get cold enough to kill ticks, fleas, or mosquitoes (that can infect your pet with heartworms). This means that it is imperative to keep your pet on parasite prevention year-round.

In the winter there are also some hidden dangers people often do not think about that can have serious, if not fatal, consequences. For example, people are more likely to have anti-freeze for their vehicles around and this sweet tasting liquid is fatal to pets (even in very small portions). Be sure to keep your anti-freeze in a place your pets cannot get to and to be sure your vehicles are not leaking anti-freeze onto the ground. If you do have a leak or spill, it is best to cover it with cat litter to absorb as much as possible and then scoop the litter and soil into a bag to be disposed of. If it is on a solid surface, you want to scoop the litter and then spray off the area with hot water and Dawn dish soap. If it does happen to snow or there is a good bit of ice and salt is put down as a result this can negatively affect your pet if they ingest it or walk on it. You should be sure your pet does not come into contact with the salt and wears booties when going for a walk where salt has been put down. One last thing to remember is that it is typically darker in the winter when you go for walks, so it is important to have reflective collars and lights on your pet and that you carry a flash light and also have a reflective jacket, vest, etc. on so that cars can see you and your pet more easily.

Winter is upon us and these colder temperatures are going to be around for a while, so please keep these things in mind to make it a safe and healthy season for your pets!

Pet Behavior Tips For Households with Children

Pet Behavior Tips For Households with Children
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

As sad as it is to say, becoming a parent is one of the top reasons that pets are relinquished to shelters, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Everyone knows how hectic life becomes once you become a parent and tending to both your two-legged and four-legged family members can feel overwhelming at times. However, there are some behaviors you can work on with your pets to make life a little easier to manage! It is best to start teaching your pet these behaviors from a young age, but the old saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is far from true; so never feel like it is too late to start working with your fur babies! Below are some key behaviors to teach your dog to help things run as smoothly as possible.

1. Teach your pet to remain calm and quiet when you come home. It is best to never make a big deal out of leaving or returning home (because this can also cause issues with separation anxiety), but when you are a parent this can be even more important. You want to eliminate excited and loud greetings at the door. You may be trying to keep a baby asleep, carrying a ton of your child’s stuff in your arms or juggling getting your screaming toddler safely inside without dropping any groceries, so frantic jumping is not desired. Practice withholding attention and interaction with your pet until they are calm. Work on teaching them to sit quietly in a certain spot when the doorbell rings when you are home – rewarding them with petting or attention for good job!

2. It is helpful to teach your pet a “go to spot” not only when someone is at the door, but also to use for a variety of purposes (such as keeping them from being under foot when you are cooking or out of the area where you are eating to avoid having your pet eat unhealthy people food your child may accidentally drop). With practice, asking them to go somewhere they associate with reward will be easy and can be a lifesaver! The goal is essentially to provide your pet with a command that results in a positive action that makes it impossible for them to continue their old actions which caused issues. Have a clear place, like a towel or bed, for your pet to associate as their “go to spot”. Clicker training works well when teaching this behavior; you will want to click first for approach of the spot, then for one paw on the spot, then for two or more paws on the spot, and finally cuing them to sit or lie down as part of the new command.

3. You can use the idea of providing your pet with a new positive behavior that eliminates the problem behavior for many problems – diaper changing, feeding time, bath time, bedtime, etc. If your pet usually jumps on your lap when you sit down on the couch or is always right next to you (often underfoot), you want to find something different that they can do during these activities that will allow you to complete the things you need to complete. For example, teach your pet to sit and stay next to you for diaper changing, with treats stored on the changing table for ease of reward delivery. Provide your pet with food enrichment toys to occupy them for nap time and bed time so they will have a good quiet distraction while you are trying to get everyone to sleep.

4. Another behavior that is good for all pets to know is how to have good manners on walks and know how to heal without pulling you down the street! It is still important to be able to spend time with your dog and allow him/her the proper exercise and getting outside for a walk is great for you and your family as well. If pets are well-behaved for walks, it doesn’t have to be a choice to spend time taking a walk with just your dog or being able to involve your children. Be sure to develop a low-stress routine for beginning your walk. Any excessive behavior, such as jumping or barking, is met with the consequence of waiting to go for a walk until they are calm. Being consistent with this allows your pet to learn that impulse control will get them more quickly on their walk. It is a good idea to start walking with a stroller even before the baby comes so that you can figure out which side you will want your pet to be on. If children are not in the immediate future and you do not have a stroller, just be sure to be consistent as to what side you walk your dog on for every walk. They will learn to stay on that side, which will make incorporating a stroller or holding a child’s hand easier when the time comes. Also work on teaching them to stop and sit as an automatic behavior when you stop. It is best to teach your dog to heal at the level of your leg and not allow them in front of you, where you may end up feeling like you are being dragged behind them. The best way to accomplish this is to reward them when they are at the correct level and immediately stop walking and have them sit if they start to walk in front of you. Again, you are teaching them that they will get what they want (a nice walk) faster by obeying your commands. For dogs that tend to pull, investing in a harness or a Gentle Leader can help you have better control when they do start to pull.

5. Always remember to be respectful of your pet’s fears. While children themselves can startle your pet with their actions, sometimes it’s simply their toys or gear that can cause the problem. Teach your children never to startle a sleeping pet and keep kids away from your pet while he/she is eating if they are food aggressive. If there is a particular toy or item that causes anxiety to your pet, try to pair food or playtime with your pet while that trigger is also in the area to help your pet develop a more positive association. You always want the trigger to be far enough away when you start the desensitization that is does not elicit any anxiety in your pet and then slowly move it closer at a pace that allows your pet to adjust without stress.

Hopefully these helpful hints will make your life much easier as your family grows, but always remember that safety comes first. Since pets are not able to vocalize their feelings, they may resort to using their mouth to serve as a warning and possibly injury someone. Never ever put yourself or a family member in danger and if you are dealing with issues of aggression, it is best to seek professional advice from a trainer. The goal is a happy household for everyone, but safety first is a must!

Information About Growling

Information About Growling
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

Many people think that if a dog growls aggressively then you should show him who’s boss and punish him. However, this could not be further from the truth. Punishing a dog for showing aggression, including growling, can have many negative effects on your dog and your relationship with your pet. We all know that it can be frustrating and embarrassing when your dog growls, whether he’s reacting to a new person in your home or someone walking down the street. Most people’s gut reaction is to jerk on the dog’s collar or manhandle him into a controlled position, but that does not help fix the problem and can actually make things worse by turning a dog who growls when in a state of fear or anxiety into a dog that bites without warning when faced with the same situation if he learns that growling will result in punishment.

There are many reasons why you should not punish your dog for bad behavior, but instead work to find the cause and use positive training tips to eliminate the unwanted behavior. When you use force and fear- based tactics it is extremely dangerous both for you and your dog, because it can worsen your dog’s behavioral problems and increase aggression and fear-based behavior (which can result in you being bitten by your dog). While punishment may temporarily inhibit the aggression response, such as stifling a growl, over time using punishment often intensifies a dog’s reaction and escalates his aggression or anxiety. Punishment also damages your relationship of trust with your dog, as your interactions become less predictable because your dog may go from showing signs he is in a situation he does not want to be in to hiding his signals that he is about to become aggression and simply bite without warning.

Most forms of aggression are rooted in fear and when you punish your dog for aggressive displays, the punishment doesn’t change your dog’s emotional state to a positive one. Punishment simply suppresses your dog’s way of releasing his anxiety and expressing his unease at a particular situation. Punishment temporarily masks the symptoms of the underlying issue, such as fear of the stimulus that causes his barking and growling, when the goal of training is to identify the underlying issue and work towards it not causing an unpleasant response in your dog. Again, with the use of punishment the symptoms may temporarily fade, but the emotion and the real issue, remain. In many cases, the aggression intensifies with punishment because it may heighten you dog’s negative association with the situation. Punishment increases tension in your dog because your dog anticipates you may be upset and may punish the growling. As a result of this negative association, your dog’s ability to communicate how he is feeling is inhibited and in turn he will decrease his warning signals before a bite. The biggest thing to remember is that dogs that have been punished for growling, or other aggressive warning signals, may progress faster into a bite response and they may display fewer warning signs – which turns them into more dangerous and unpredictable pets.

In many cases, a dog that seemingly becomes aggressive and bites without warning has a history of having been punished for aggressive warnings, like growling or barking. If you pay close attention, even dogs that seem to bite without warning usually still show subtle signs before escalating, such as a freeze, flattening their ears, or tucking their tails. These subtle signs are often less noticeable and harder to read for an owner, so it seems like the bite is coming out of nowhere. Though dogs speak in many ways through body language and other vocalizations, a growl is one way dogs communicate the loudest about their discomfort. When a dog communicates how he feels, such as growling at another person or dog, this is their way of letting you know that something isn’t right and is triggering an unpleasant response. It is much better for you and for your dog when you respect a growl as a warning and immediately try to identify what is causing the distress in your dog and leave that situation. When a dog growls or is an aroused state, this is not the time to try to work towards fixing the underlying issue. This is due to the fact that there is a high risk for a bite from the dog’s over aroused emotional state and dogs can only learn a better response to the trigger (the situation that is causing the dog to growl) when he/she is in a non-reactive state and is at ease. You want to start reinforcing a positive feeling about the situation when your dog is not reacting to the stimulus. Often times this will involve removing your pet from the trigger situation and teaching him/her to have a positive experience by redirecting the dog to do another behavior, like going to their bed or looking at you in a calm state, and rewarding that behavior. In situations when you are dealing with aggression, it is often beneficial to consult a professional trainer who uses positive reinforcement (being rewarded for good behavior instead of punished for poor behavior) to help your dog learn to react differently in particular situations. Growling and other aggressive displays are merely a symptom of a deeper underlying issue, such as fear or anxiety. By identifying and addressing the actual issue and changing a dog’s emotion of fear into happy anticipation in the same scenario, the growl and other aggressive displays fade on their own as you change your dog’s emotional state.

What To Do If Your Pet Has Been Infested By Fleas

What To Do If Your Pet Has Been Infested By Fleas
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

If you notice that your pet has fleas, don’t panic – we can help advise you on how to handle a dreaded flea infestation. Once you start to notice adult fleas, it will take at least three months of all animals being treated with a veterinary flea product before you will stop seeing adult fleas. Also, it is also a good idea (especially if you just started using flea medications after you discovered a flea infestation), to treat your house and the pet’s environment with a veterinary approved product that can be safely used inside. This is because fleas can live for several months in your house and yard, and flea eggs can survive in your carpet, cushions, and drapes for years. You also want to be sure to treat the environment because people can get irritating flea bites too. Keep in mind that you do have to be patient though because ridding your home of these pests takes time and a concerted approach.

In order to get rid of housebound fleas, use veterinary approved flea products in each room and be sure to spray even in those hard-to-reach spots (which may mean moving some furniture around). You can also help clean the flea eggs out of your house by vacuuming daily, taping the vacuum bag shut, and throwing the bag away each time. If you have a vacuum with a bag system it can also help to add a flea collar to the bag (that is the only good use for a flea collar; they can be very dangerous to put on your pets). Also be sure to wash any blankets or beds in very hot water several times a week.
If your dog spends time outdoors in a kennel, be sure to wash the bedding or discard old hay or cedar chips if you use anything like that in the kennel area. You will also want to spray dog houses and kennels with a veterinary approved outdoor flea spray, and let all treated areas dry before you let your pet outside. It is also best to treat your yard as well using a veterinary approved professional concentrated yard sprays for the outdoor fight. We carry all of these types of sprays and the outdoor spray we carry attaches easily to the end of a garden hose for application. It’s especially important to spray moist and shaded areas of your yard and areas that have wood piles or pine straw since fleas (and ticks) love areas like this. Just be sure not to use any environmental treatments directly on your pet and to allow them to dry completely before allowing your pet back outside. Ridding your pet and his or her environment of these hardy pests is a tough job, but you will rest easier knowing that your dog does not have to endure the maddening itching and scratching or the secondary skin infections or diseases these parasites can cause.

Getting rid of fleas is difficult and so having a flea problem is every pet owner’s worst nightmare; especially since these blood-sucking bugs can wreak havoc on your beloved pet and home. When getting rid of fleas it is all about understanding the life cycle of a flea. One adult female flea lays up to 50 eggs a day, which hatch and reproduce exponentially in a short time. Within the next two weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae, very small caterpillar-like creatures. The immature flea can remain in this stage for several days to weeks. The larvae then spin a cocoon and enter the pupae stage. Adults usually emerge from the pupae stage, within their cozy covering, within 14 days but can survive in the cocoon for several months to years until vibration, pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide jolts them from their deep sleep. Once they emerge from the cocoon, adult fleas must find warm-blooded host within a few days or they will die. Once a flea finds your pet, it will live out its life happily feeding off your four-legged friend and, in no time, these hungry parasites can become a persistent, itchy and dangerous problem.

Fleas usually are more annoying than lethal, but they can spread tapeworms to your pet and other family members. You may notice small, white worms in the environment or small dried up worms (that resemble sesame seeds) in the fur around the rectum. Pets will need to be treated with a special medication to get rid of these tapeworms. Very small or young pets can develop anemia (loss of red blood cells), a potentially life- threatening condition, because of blood loss from flea infestation. That is why it is so important to call your veterinarian immediately if you find fleas on a puppy or kitten less than 12 weeks old or if your adult pet suddenly acts lethargic.

Intermittent flea exposure increases your pet’s risk for developing an allergic reaction to the flea exposure called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Studies show that about 80 percent of dogs that have other allergies also will have or develop flea allergy dermatitis. The best thing to avoid this and to avoid having to deal with fleas altogether is to keep all animals on a veterinary approved flea prevention every month!

All pets are at risk for a flea infestation, but pets that spend time outdoors are particularly susceptible. This is due to the face that many adult fleas live outside and on wildlife hosts until they find a happy home on your pet. Many people do not think that indoor dogs are at risk, but this is not the case at all. This is because pets can pick up fleas when they go outside to exercise or relieve themselves and fleas can come inside as hitchhikers on pets or on people. If you suspect your pet has fleas, it’s important to act right away.

Signs of flea infestation include:
• Flea feces, or pepper-like flecks, in your pet’s coat or on his bedding (you can check if the dark colored flecks are flea feces by placing them on a white paper towel and applying water – you will notice the dark color becoming a shade or red or rust since the feces are mostly made up of blood from feeding on your pet)

• Flea eggs, or light colored specks, in your pet’s coat or on his or her bedding

• Itchy skin (scratching or biting– especially on the back, rear legs or tail area of dogs; cats can have itchy skin everywhere from fleas) or patchy hair loss, especially near the tail base or along the tail, the inside of the back legs, or neck (cats may have more issues around the neck, including hair loss and scabs)

• Lethargy (especially in severe cases due to blood loss or secondary infection or disease)

• Tiny, dark brown insects scurrying around on your pet (which can be hard to see – sometimes you will catch them on the more thinly haired belly or you can use a flea comb)

Itchy Dog – Things to Pay Attention to at Home

Itchy Dog – Things to Pay Attention to at Home

By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

It is miserable for everyone in the family if you have an itchy dog with irritated skin and it can be a very frustrating disease that leaves you feeling helpless. However, there are some things you can pay attention to at home that will help us figure out what might be going on! In order to help determine the underlying reason for skin symptoms, history is everything so this paper touches on some things to pay attention to at home so that we can discuss it to help with the diagnostic process at your veterinary visit.

The Symptoms: Where on your pet’s body does the most scratching/licking/biting occur? Have you noticed hair loss, increased redness, scaliness, spots or bumps, crusty scabby patches, or open sores? Are your pet’s eyes irritated? Does your pet sneeze/cough or sound wheezy? Have you seen fleas on your pet?

Travel History: Has your pet been out of the state in the past several years? Has his environment changed in the past six months? Did your pet react differently to different environments (such as, was he more or less itchy or irritated when you were living or visiting a different state?)

Diet History: Have you changed your pet’s food in the last year? What types of snacks or treats does he eat on a regular basis? Have you ever noticed a difference in symptoms, coat quality, or bathroom habits with different foods? It is helpful to bring a list of the brand names and types of food and treats your pet has been eating.

Medication History: The medication history includes monthly flea and heartworm preventions, any supplements or over the counter medications, any shampoos or topical products, and any medications prescribed by a veterinarian. What type of flea and heartworm prevention do you use, and has it changed or stayed consistent over the last year? Do you ever miss doses? Do you notice that your pet is itchier around the time it is almost time for the next dose? Have you noticed any changes using certain shampoos or topical products? How often do you bathe your pet? If your pet has been prescribed medication previously by a veterinarian – what was it, how long was it used, and how did your pet respond?

Seasonal History: Does your pet’s itchy, irritated skin occur only at certain times of the year or are you seeing these symptoms all year? Are some seasons better than others? Does it seem like your personal allergies flare up around the same time as your pet becomes itchier?
Whole Body History: There can be multiple organs involved with allergies, including the ears and eyes and anal glands. When the skin symptoms are bad, do you also notice your pet shaking his head, pawing at his eyes, and/or scooting on his rear? Have you noticed other bodily changes, like weight loss/gain, personality, appetite, or urinary changes? Is your pet up to date on vaccines?

What To Do If Your Cats Are Not Getting Along

What To Do If Your Cats Are Not Getting Along
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

Most cats live in multi-cat households and, whether it is introducing a new cat or a new issue that has started between old friends, there are times when our cats do not get along as well as we would like. We all want a happy, peaceful household so these are just some quick tips on how to deal with the situation when you have cats that are fighting with each other.

The first step is to separate your cats into different rooms for several days or weeks, with separate beds, bowls and litter boxes. This way they can hear and smell each other but do not have to interact. It is important to always remember the rule that you should have multiple areas that your cats can retreat to in order to relax and to always have one more litter box and water bowl than you do cats to avoid issues over territory to begin with. Cats need to be able to spend time alone and never should feel like they are fighting over resources, so developing these areas from day one is important. If you do not have your house set up this way and fighting begins, you need to immediately address this.

While you have your cats separated, place each cat’s food bowl on opposite sides of the closed door. This will encourage them to be close together while they’re doing something that makes them feel good and remind them that they do not have to fight for resources. Also, each day of separation, have the cats switch rooms so they both experience some variation and are exposed to each other’s scents. It can also be helpful to use the same cloth to pet each cat so they are getting love from you while being exposed to each other’s smell and be reminded that there is enough of you to go around!

After some time has passed and both cats appear to be more relaxed, crack the door open one inch and if they remain calm, open the door a bit more each day. If the cats remain relaxed, they may be ready to be together again. However, if they react with any signs of aggressive behavior (such as growling/spitting, hissing, swatting, etc.) go back to having the door only open enough that they are not aggressive or unusually stimulated. The goal is to have a gradual reintroduction that does not cause any negativity.

This process takes patience and a willingness to take one step forward and two steps back if that is what is needed. However, any time you try to move forward too quickly and the cats have a negative experience with each other it delays the process or can cause you to have to start over again. Again, it is all about the positive! If this is a new issue that has come up in your household, it is important to take a good look around your environment and be sure that your cats have multiple places in the home that they can claim as their own and that they do not feel like they are forced to interact if they do not want to. You may also pay attention to what is happening outside of your home – a new outside cat in the area may be taunting your pets through the window and so they are attaching each other (called displaced aggression). You may also need to be sure to be spending enough one-on-one time with each cat, interacting and playing, each day. The general rule of thumb is every cat needs at least 20 minutes a day of interaction with you – the use of a laser or playing fetch or chasing a mouse or feather on a string can be a great way for them to get out some of their energy.

Information About Hearing Loss in Pets

Information About Hearing Loss in Pets
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

The good news for all pet owners worried that their pet is having trouble hearing is that pets suffering from hearing loss can still live good quality, happy lives. We just want to help you learn more about hearing loss and how you can help your hard-of-hearing baby if he/she is affected. Hearing loss or totally deafness is very hard to definitively diagnose without going to see a neurologist who can use specific testing that shows specifically how the brain responds to different sound. However, most owners know their pets so well that they can pick up on when they seem to be having trouble hearing. Hearing loss is a more common complaint from dog owners than cat owners and is seen more in senior dogs or dogs that have a history of chronic ear issues (such as infections). The most common cause of hearing loss is an age-related change called otosclerosis. This process makes the tiny components of the inner ear less pliable and unable to function as they should and because the precise function of the ear is to transmit sound waves, the suppleness of the inner structure is critical to function.

As stated before, a pet that has suffered from chronic recurrent otitis (inflammation and/or infection of the ear) is even more likely to suffer from brittleness of these tiny structures because of scar tissue and swelling. One of the reasons that there are more issues in dogs than cats is that dogs tend to have more issues with environmental allergies than cats and at least 80% of dogs with allergies will suffer from chronic ear issues. Other causes that can impact hearing can include ototoxicity (adverse effects to the ear from certain drugs, which is more commonly seen in cats) and effects from exposure to loud noises (most commonly seen in hunting dogs). The three bones that are most critical to hearing are the tiniest bones in the body and there small size means that even the smallest injury to one of them can have huge effects on how well a patient can hear.

If you think that your pet suffers from hearing loss the first thing to do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure that there is no infection, inflammation, ruptured eardrum, or other concern present. Again, to be able to know exactly how a pet’s brain is reacting to sound you would have to see a veterinary neurologist. Sometimes, what is perceived as hearing loss is actually Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (where it is more that changes in the brain cause an animal to react differently to situations, including commands and/or sounds). However, Otosclerosis, the most common cause for actual hearing loss, also occurs more frequently in older patients, and these diseases can occur in at the same time and each disease needs to addressed differently to improve best improve quality of life.

There are things you can do to make hearing impaired pet’s life easier and these include teaching your pet visual cues from an early age so that the impact of the hearing defect is minimized in daily life if it does occur. It is never too late to start training your pet with visual cues paired with the verbal cues they already know. Senior pets can learn to respond to hand signals for rewards and time spent teaching the new cues is a great investment in your relationship. If your pet does have hearing loss, you can also look into the use of vibration collars designed for pets with hearing loss to rouse and interest your pet the way sounds used to. Hearing loss can make the rituals enjoyed by both you and your pet (like greetings) different and impact your bond. Vibration collars are remote controlled and you can train your pet that the vibration means you are home, so he/she can meet you at the door.

By teaching your pet appropriate responses to visual cues or a vibration collar allows him/her to feel secure even without being able to hear. Pets love consistency and knowing the response you want, makes for a calm and confident pet. Hearing loss does not mean your pet can’t lead a full and happy life, but you should be mindful of your pet’s new challenges and ask your veterinarian about any concerns you have with your hard-of-hearing pet.

Understanding Your Pet’s Fears and How We Handle Them

Understanding Your Pet’s Fears and How We Handle Them
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

Elgin Veterinary Hospital is committed to low-stress handling techniques to ensure your pet has the best experience with us. It is very important to do everything possible to help reduce a patient’s stress and there are ways that you can help once you understand the fears he or she may have. Anytime your pet feels threatened, whether that threat is real or imagined, changes occur immediately within his or her body to prepare for fight or flight. These changes occur because your pet’s nervous system releases a variety of stress hormones that have profound effects across many different systems in the body.

The release of these stress hormones results in the immediate availability of energy and oxygen intake and decreases blood flow to areas not critical for movement. This can also inhibit digestion, growth, immune function, reproduction and pain perception. When your pet is under stress, the memories of any events occurring during that time will be very powerful, and how your pet is handled during veterinary visits may have long-standing consequences for our future ability to handle him or her. This is why we choose lower stress handling and also recommend some patients be sedated for visits. We want everything to be pleasant and safe for our family members!

When stressors are unremitting and the stress response continues, virtually every system within the body can be pathologically affected to varying degrees – cardiovascular, metabolic, reproductive, gastrointestinal, immune and integumentary (skin). The results can include myopathy (muscle disorders,) fatigue, hypertension, decreased growth rates, gastrointestinal distress and suppressed immune function, with subsequent impaired disease resistance. Chronic stress can even lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, and when extreme conditions persist, permanent damage can result. This is also why we recommend some anxious pets go on long-term anti-anxiety medications. The dangers of the hormonal response to fear or stress can be severe and we do not ever want our pets to have to live with increased anxiety when there is something we can do to help.

At times we may stop a visit ask you to return later, after giving sedation prior to the visit. This is due to the fact that when pets show subtle signs of fear or anxiety during a veterinary visit, if we proceed without attempting to ameliorate the stress, we may not change the pet’s behavior at that time, but the animal will learn from the experience and will likely behave in a more fractious (aggressive) or stressed manner at the next visit. Anything we do to relieve the stress of a visit will pay off in future visits by being less scary or difficult for your pet. Remember that frequent, distressing experiences can negatively impact an animal’s overall health and well-being. Also, by continuing with a procedure when an animal is showing signs of anxiety, we are teaching the animal that the normal means of communication that the pet is using are meaningless. If we do that, what recourse might that animal have but to develop other less tolerable means of communicating its discomfort, such as becoming aggressive? To avoid this scenario, as soon as we identify signs of fear – especially during elective procedures or visits – we may stop the visit and ask you to return at a later time after your pet has received “happy pills” or sedatives/anti-anxiety medications. We always want our family members to have good experiences!