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Our Newly Redesigned Site!

I hope you enjoy our newly redesigned site!  Let us know if you have any article suggestions or questions you’d like answered in this blog area.  Questions about animal health or behavior?  Something you’ve always been wondering?  We’d love to pen some articles to help you understand your furry family member better!

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Problem Scratching in Cats

Scratching Behavior in Cats

What do you do if your adult cat is scratching up your furniture?  There are many possible ways to help curb this behavior.

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Simon, showing off his new post

 

First, you should clip your cat’s nails every other week.  This keeps them blunt and makes it less likely that your cat will damage items.  Cat nails are not hard to clip.  Here’s a great video that will help you learn how to do this, and if you are still having trouble, ask one of the doctors or technicians to demonstrate how to clip nails at your next wellness visit.

Second, get some scratching posts.  A variety of posts is best.  Some cats prefer the cardboard scratchers that are available at most pet stores.  Other cats like sisal posts, as pictured above, and others prefer carpet.  Scratchers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials and positions.  Some cats prefer to scratch by stretching upward and others prefer to scratch on a flat surface.  You should be able to help determine what your cat’s preferences are by how he’s scratching now.  If he, like Simon above, likes to scratch vertically, you will find that he scratches on things like walls, couch sides, etc.  Choose a post that mimicks his scratching preferences, and ideally, offer more than one post in different positions and types.    Place the post within close proximity to the area that he’s unfavorably scratching.  Scent your scratching post with catnip, if he likes it.  Make the area he’s currently scratching unfavorable by putting double-sided sticky tape on it, or covering it with an object or blocking his access to it.

If you are still having trouble after trying these things, you can come in and ask for one of the technicians to help you apply Soft Paws to your cat’s nails.  Not all cats will leave them on, but if they will, they do help decrease destructive scratching by capping the sharp nail with a blunt artificial one.

Other generally good things to do to help minimize problem scratching are to keep your cat amused by playing with him at least 10 minutes daily, giving him things to look at (bird feeders, cat TV) and by giving him amusing toys or even food puzzles like the Slim Cat Ball.

Feel free to call the office if you have any questions about your cat’s scratching.

More information and a great video on the subject is here:

Managing Destructive Scratching

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Breeding your dog?

SO YOU WANT TO BREED YOUR DOG?
O. Denise McGinnis

Although breeding your pet and raising puppies (or kittens) can be a fun and rewarding experience, it is also expensive, time consuming, and a great deal of work.  Here is a short summary of things you should be aware of if you are thinking of breeding your dog.

It is very important that your dog is properly vaccinated and de-wormed before coming into heat and that you get adequate prenatal checkups before the actual delivery day.  We recommend that only pets with good personalities (i.e. NO aggressive/dominant, shy tendencies) and who are healthy be bred.  If you are not sure that your pet meets these criteria please make an appointment to have your pet evaluated by one of our veterinarians.  Certain breeds should have their hips and/or elbows checked at two years of age, prior to breeding, so as not to pass on genetic traits that can make life miserable for future generations.  There are additional health clearances that many breeds should pass, as well.  Some of these include thyroid testing, CERF (eye) checks by a veterinary ophthalmologist, BAER (hearing) tests, etc.  You should know what genetic problems are seen in your breed, so that you can have the appropriate tests performed at the appropriate time.

It has been shown in numerous studies that a dog does not have to breed or come into heat to live a happy, healthy life.  On the contrary, it is well proven that for females, the more heat cycles they go through the higher the chance of having breast cancer later in life.  Dogs who have had 3 or more heats are 26% more likely to get breast cancer.  It is therefore recommended to have them spayed as early as possible (4-6 months of age) or at least before their second heat.  Spaying before the first heat significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer, and some protective benefit is still conferred if the dog is spayed before the second heat.  Also, female dogs that are not spayed are at high risk of getting a life-threatening uterine infection (pyometra) which requires them to be spayed under emergency conditions.  This is far more costly and dangerous than spaying at a young age.

For male dogs, when they are no longer breeding, we suggest that you neuter them to decrease their chances of prostate & testicular problems.  Generally, spayed and neutered dogs are usually more content, happier, and make better household pets.

In order to know when your dog conceives, and hence the due date of your litter, it is imperative that you know exactly when she is ovulating during her “heat” cycle.  The only two ways to get this information is to either do serial vaginal cytologies once you notice that she is in heat, or to do blood tests to check her progesterone levels, or both.  Any other method makes it more difficult to monitor her for potential complications.

When your dog is in her sixth week of pregnancy we strongly suggest that you take her rectal temperature twice daily and graph it.  When the temperature drops by 1-2 degrees and stays down, you should expect delivery within 24 hours.  Not all dogs have a drop in temperature, however, which is why it is important to have their exact date of ovulation and hence the due date.  The last week before delivery we suggest a radiograph (X-ray) of the dog to determine the number of puppies.  This will tell us how many to expect and if we should prepare for possible problems with the puppies being too large to be delivered naturally.

Once she reaches week 7 (the third trimester) of her 9-week pregnancy it is important to change her diet to a high protein/high calcium diet.  We suggest a high quality puppy food (Science Diet, Nutro, Iams, Eukanuba, or Purina ProPlan).  Calcium is another important nutrient that pregnant dogs need to help them with their contractions and production of milk.

While most dogs will deliver normally and nurse their puppies without a hitch there are quite a few animals that do go through some complications, ranging from simple to serious and life threatening problems.  We strongly advise that you plan in advance for such emergencies.  The times to seek a veterinarian’s help are:  if the temperature drops and 24 hours later there is no sign of delivery, if the dog has delivered one or more puppies and two hours later the other puppies haven’t been delivered, if the bitch is in distress or there is copious amount of vaginal discharge, if a puppy is born dead, if the bitch starts to seizure or anything else that seems unusual.  Some animals may need an emergency C-section and the sooner this is determined the better the chances of delivering live puppies and with fewer complications for the mother.  C-sections can be costly and you should budget for one in case the need should arise.

Puppies should be kept with their “family” until they are at least 8 weeks old so that they can be socialized with their littermates.  We recommend that puppies start their vaccination series and de-worming between the ages of 6-8 weeks.

Letting your pet have a litter may not be in her best interest and the decision to breed should be seriously considered.  If you do decide to breed your dog we strongly encourage you to seek further information by contacting a breeder to mentor you and reading books on the subject.

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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety is the second-most common problem that canine behaviorists address.  The signs include destructiveness, vocalization, salivation, urination or defecation while the owner is gone and not at other times.  Some dogs are so severely affected that they can hurt themselves attempting to get out of a crate or out of the house after their owner has left.
The initial treatment of separation anxiety involves various changes to a dog’s routine and management.  Dogs with separation anxiety should NOT:
•    Sleep on the bed or in the bedroom
•    Be greeted exuberantly after the family has been gone
•    Be given more attention, especially when they are anxious
•    Be punished for their destructiveness or “bad” behavior while the owner is away
•    Be chained or fenced in the yard
•    Have another dog added to the household for company

You should try to help your dog relax and be less attached and dependent upon you.  Before you leave for the day, you should give your dog exercise and feed him if he does not defecate while you are gone.  For the last 20-60 minutes before you leave, you should ignore him.  Put him in the crate (if he is crate trained) about 20 minutes before you go and give him something like a T-shirt or towel with your scent on it.  You can leave a radio playing or a tape of your voice.  You should also put a special toy that he ONLY gets when you are gone in the crate with him.  Some examples are a Kong toy with peanut butter or cheese inside, a Buster cube (food puzzle that you put some of his breakfast in), or rawhide if he can safely chew it without choking.
While you are gone, keep the room dimmed to help soothe him.  Your crate should be a closed “airline” type crate (hard plastic) and not a wire one.  The closed-type crates help a dog to relax because they create a den-like environment.  If your dog is not crate trained, you should crate train him (please ask us for more reference material about this topic).  You can also practice your departure several times a day without leaving.  This will help desensitize the dog to your routine and will help keep him from building up anxiety as you go about your morning routine.  To do this, go to the door first and keep repeating this behavior until the dog does not react anxiously.  The next step is to open the door up several times and repeat until the dog does not react.  You will gradually build up until you can leave for a few minutes without the dog reacting.  Eventually, the goal would be to be able to leave for a longer amount of time and have the dog be relaxed while you are gone.

When you come back home, do not greet the dog until he is calm.  Once he is calm, release him from the crate, and ask him to sit, and then pet him and give him attention.  Your dog should have good basic obedience skills, and if he does not, you should work about 10 minutes twice daily on basic commands like sit and stay.  Dogs with separation anxiety should not be allowed on the furniture at home and should not be rewarded for attention-seeking behavior.  If he comes and asks for attention, you should ignore him.  A few minutes later, ask him to sit or do another command, and then give him attention as a reward after he does the command that you have asked of him.  Dogs with separation anxiety also respond to being rewarded for relaxed behavior.  As your dog relaxes, you reward him (with petting or treats) once he reaches the relaxed state and not while he’s still very excited and anxious.
There are some anti-anxiety drugs labeled for use with separation anxiety in dogs but they will not work without also changing the dog’s routines and trying the above-mentioned behavioral modifications.  In severe cases, if these suggestions do not work, there is an excellent behaviorist available at Cornell and we can help you with a referral.

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Oh no, a SKUNK!

Skunk Odor Removal Recipe

UH OH, Charlie’s been fighting with one of those cute striped “cats” again!

skunk

 

Image Source: Erwin C. Nielsen/Painet Inc., Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

 

SKUNK-OFF RECIPE

1 Quart        3% Hydrogen Peroxide
¼ cup         Baking Soda
1 tsp        Liquid Soap

Mix ingredients together just before using.  (It cannot be stored in a closed container.)
Wet the dog thoroughly with the mixture.
Be careful not to get in its eyes.  Sponge the solution on those areas of the head.
Leave on for 10 minutes and rinse.