All posts by James

What to Know About Grain-Free Dog Food

You’ve probably heard about grain-free or gluten-free products over the past few years. They’ve gained a lot of popularity recently, and grain-free products have found their way into the pet food world, too. But is a grain-free diet right for your dog? Let’s take a closer look at what grain-free means and whether or not it’s the right choice for your pet. 

What is grain-free dog food? 

Grain-free dog food is just what it sounds like: food made without the common grains used in dog food, like wheat, barley, rye, corn, rice, oats, and soy. Grain-free foods usually substitute other sources of carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes or lentils, in place of those grains. 

Are grain-free and gluten-free the same thing? 

No, grain-free and gluten-free aren’t quite the same thing. Gluten-free foods don’t have grains that contain gluten, like wheat, barley, and rye, but they could be made with other types of grains (corn, soy, etc.). So, a grain-free diet could be gluten-free, but a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be entirely grain-free.

Is there a connection between grain-free food and heart disease?

You may have heard about grain-free dog foods in the news recently. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration opened an investigation into possible linkages between grain-free diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (heart disease). The study is ongoing, so it’s difficult to point to any concrete conclusions. It seems that other factors besides grain-free food could contribute to heart disease, and pets in the study that didn’t eat grain-free food developed heart disease as well. Here’s the bottom line: a direct link between grain-free food and heart disease has not been proven, so your best choice is to speak with your vet about the issue. 

Should my dog be fed a grain-free diet?

It’s always a good idea to ask your vet before feeding your dog a grain-free diet. Because whole grains provide important nutrients for your pup—fiber, magnesium, selenium, carbohydrates, and others—you don’t want to remove those ingredients unless it’s warranted. Grain-free foods may be helpful for dogs with particular allergies to grain sources, but this kind of diet isn’t necessary for most dogs. The best course of action is to work closely with your veterinarian when it comes to Fido’s dietary and nutritional needs. 

Would you like to learn more about grain-free dog food? Contact your local pet clinic to speak with the professionals. 

Caring for a Baby Snake

Are you considering raising a snake? There are some advantages to raising your pet from the start. People often find it easier to bond with animals they have raised themselves. A captive-born snake will also be more docile than a wild one. Plus, they tend to be healthier, as they haven’t been exposed to the hazards, diseases, and parasites that wild snakes face. However, baby snakes are quite fragile. You’ll need to do lots of research to learn how to help your tiny buddy thrive. A vet offers a few tips on this below.

Temperature

As with any snake, keeping your reptilian pal warm is very important. While exact temperature parameters may vary a little from snake to snake, most tropical snakes need a temperature range that is between 75 and 90°F. Snakes that can survive in cooler climates need a range of 75 to 85°F. Keep the heat source outside the cage, so your little scaled pal doesn’t get burned. We don’t recommend heating rocks, as they could scald your pet.

Tank

Make sure you have everything ready before you bring your snake home! When your snake is all grown up, he may need a fairly large habitat. For now, keep him in something smaller. Otherwise, it could be hard for him to find his dinner. Glass aquariums with screen tops are fine. You can also get tanks made of plastic or fiberglass. Just make sure it offers proper ventilation. For substrate, you can use newspaper, gravel and sand, or aspen or pine shavings. If you use sand, monitor your tiny reptile carefully, and make sure he doesn’t get any caught in his mouth. If he does, switch to another substrate. Your little buddy will also require a hide box and fresh water. Don’t forget to add some decorations, such as branches, bark, logs, or basking rocks!

Eating

You may find that getting your new reptilian buddy to eat is your biggest challenge. This isn’t unusual. Do not try to force feed your snake, unless your vet specifically advises it. This should only happen as a last resort. There are a few other things you can try. Just be warned: these options are not for the squeamish. Ask your vet for more information.

Please reach out to us with any questions or concerns about raising a baby snake. We are always here to help!

Help! My Dog Won’t Stop Sneezing

Just like you, your dog sneezes sometimes. Most often, it’s simply because small particles of dust, dirt, grass, or other materials make their way into the nasal passages—your dog uses their nose to explore the world, after all. But what happens if your dog sneezes frequently, or won’t stop sneezing?

Here are some of the most common reasons that dogs sneeze: 

Play Sneezing

Did you know that most dogs sneeze when they’re playing? Whether your dog is playing with another canine or with a human, you’ll probably see them sneeze a few times. Experts believe this is your dog’s way of showing other dogs that their play is good-natured, rather than threatening. Watch out for the play-sneeze the next time your pooch gets riled up! 

Allergies

Another common reason that dogs sneeze is because of allergies. Environmental allergens are the usual culprit. Things like pollen, dander, mold, dust and dust mites, dirt, and much more can cause symptoms like a runny nose, watery eyes, and—you guessed it—excessive sneezing. And even food allergies can cause sneezing, so your dog could be reacting to the protein source or things like soy or dairy in their diet. 

Talk to your vet if you think your dog might be suffering from allergies. Allergy medication might be necessary for your pup to feel better. 

Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS)

Brachycephalic dogs (those with squashed faces and bulging eyes like the Pekingese, French and English Bulldog, boxers, pugs, and the Boston terrier) are prone to breathing trouble thanks to their narrow nasal passages and unique airway structures. Symptoms of Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome include wheezing, snorting, and sneezing. If you have a Brachycephalic dog, ask your vet what you can do to help your pet stay comfortable.  

Reverse Sneezing

In addition to normal sneezes, dogs also “reverse sneeze” on occasion. This happens when a dog snorts air into their nose quickly, which sounds almost like a sneeze. It can be alarming, but it’s perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. It’s most common in smaller dogs, including Brachycephalic breeds. 

Medical Issues

Of course, it’s possible that medical problems like kennel cough, respiratory infections, nasal mites, and much more could be the root cause of Fido’s sneezing. If you can’t determine another cause of your dog’s behavior, set up an appointment with your vet clinic. 

Contact your local vet clinic for more information on your dog’s sneezing. 

4 Steps to Protect Your Pet Against Rabies

Just the word “rabies” tends to conjure up some frightening images in the mind’s eye. And because rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted from animals to humans, it’s particularly dangerous. Luckily, rabies has been all but eliminated in the United States and many other parts of the world thanks to modern vaccination and wild animal control measures. Still, you’ll want to take the proper precautions to make sure your pet stays safe. Here’s how: 

Vaccinate your pet.

Your pet’s core vaccination group should include the rabies vaccine. This is his or her first line of defense against the rabies virus. Puppies and kittens as young as three months old or so can receive the rabies vaccination, and they’ll probably need a few follow-up booster shots before receiving additional rabies vaccines every three years or so. 

If your pet is in need of the rabies vaccination, or if you’re unsure whether or not your pet has already received this vaccine, call your vet’s office for help. 

Supervise while outdoors.

The rabies virus is spread through the bite of another infected animal. So, it’s important to keep a close eye on your pet outdoors in order to stop them from encountering any wild animals, like raccoons or opossums. Keep your pet on a leash when you go on walks, and don’t let them stray too far. If you live in a wooded area or anywhere that wild animals may pass through, don’t let your pet outside unsupervised. 

Spay and neuter.

You may be surprised to learn that having your pet spayed or neutered is a good way to prevent the risk of the rabies virus. That’s because spaying and neutering reduces your pet’s urge to wander in order to find a mate. Not only will you avoid the hassle and heartache of a lost pet, you don’t have to worry about them coming in contact with a wild animal that could potentially be rabid. 

Watch for signs of illness. 

Symptoms of rabies include lethargy, loss of appetite, light and touch sensitivity, fever, and uncharacteristic aggressive behavior. Seizures and paralysis can occur if the disease progresses. Tell your veterinary professional immediately if you see these signs. 

All things considered, the risk of rabies is very low for your pet. But make sure to take the right steps to keep it that way. Call your vet’s office for help! 

Choosing the Right Collar for Your Dog

If you’ve recently adopted a new dog, one of the first things you’ll need to purchase for your pet is a collar. Every dog needs a good collar, and it’s up to you to find the right one. The question is, how do you know what to choose? There are certainly a lot of options out there. Read on to find out more about choosing the right collar for your canine companion. 

The Importance of the Collar

Your dog’s collar is important for their safety. First of all, it’s what attaches the leash to your dog, giving you control over your pooch’s movements and preventing them from darting away from you, perhaps into the street or toward another animal. Even the most well-trained dogs should wear a collar and leash while going on walks outdoors, just to be safe.

Collars also provide a place to house your dog’s ID tags. These small items are crucial for getting your pet returned to you in case they run away or get lost. Most vets recommend using collar tags and a microchip implant in tandem for maximum identification potential. 

Types of Collars

There are all sorts of different collar types out there. Most common is the standard flat collar, which is usually made of nylon but could also be crafted from leather or other materials. There are also Martingale collars, also known as limited-slip collars, which are useful for dogs with slender necks like Greyhounds and Whippets. Martingale collars tighten if your dog gets too close to slipping out of their collar. 

There are also various types of training collars, which might be needed depending on your dog’s behavior. There are choke collars, prong collars, spray collars, shock collars, and more. Be sure to check with your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer before using a collar of this type on your dog. 

Sizing and Fit

Here’s the general rule of thumb to follow: you should easily be able to fit two fingers between your dog’s collar and their neck. If you can’t, it’s too tight! Remember that a collar that fits a puppy will be too small by the time they’ve grown larger. Be sure to check the fit of your dog’s collar frequently to make sure they’re comfortable.

You’re not alone in the search for the perfect collar. Contact your vet’s office for advice on the best choice for your dog. 

Understanding the Puppy Teething Process

Aside from protecting the sofa legs from your puppy’s incessant chewing, there’s not a whole lot to do while your new pet is going through the teething process. Knowing the details of teething is a good idea, though. That way, you know what your puppy is going through and when, and you can let your vet know right away if something seems amiss. 

Newborn Puppies

Just like human babies, puppies are born with no teeth. They don’t need them at this stage, after all—your puppy will suckle milk from their mother if the mother is around, or they’ll need to be hand-fed from a bottle if the mother isn’t available. 

2-3 Weeks of Age

Around two or three weeks of age, your puppy’s first baby teeth will start coming out of the gums. The smaller front teeth, called the incisors, are usually the first to appear. The canine teeth will follow—these are the four long fangs. Your puppy’s premolars are the last to appear, and they come in behind the canines near the back of the mouth. When it’s all said and done, your puppy will have 28 baby teeth, which are known medically as the deciduous teeth and are often referred to as the “milk teeth.” 

6 Weeks of Age

By the time your puppy is about six weeks old, all 28 baby teeth will probably have come in. Around this time, your pup will be in the process of getting weaned off of the mother’s milk or formula, and they’ll begin eating solid puppy food. 

3-4 Months of Age

Around the 12- to 16-week mark, your puppy’s baby teeth will start falling out. The adult teeth come in and simply push the deciduous teeth out of the way, so you may occasionally see a baby tooth on the floor or by your puppy’s water or food bowls. Most often, though, your pup simply swallows the baby teeth as they come out, which is perfectly normal. 

6 Months and Older

By the time your dog is six months old, all 28 baby teeth will likely be gone, replaced by 42 adult teeth. Your puppy will now have molars in addition to premolars, which are the largest teeth at the back of the mouth that help with chewing and mashing food. 

Do you have questions about your puppy’s teething? We’re here to help. Call your vet clinic today.

Spotlight on Skijoring

Do you enjoy skiing? Is your canine buddy super active and athletic? If so, you may be able to take him out on the trail with you. No, we’re not suggesting strapping skis on Fido. Instead, you may want to train him in skiijouring.  A local vet offers some tips on this below.

Basics

Skijoring originated in Scandinavia. The word itself actually translates into ‘ski driving’ in Norwegian. Though it’s now mostly practiced as a sport, it originated as a means of transportation. Basically, the skier skis, providing much of his momentum. His (or her) canine companion runs in front of him, wearing a sled dog harness, which is connected to the skier’s harness .

Racing

If you discover that you and your furry friend really love this sport, you may want to consider racing. Skijoring races are much shorter than most sledding competitions, and are rarely longer than about 15 miles. You will need to build up Fido’s endurance, but not to the extent an Alaskan sled race would require.

Doggy Requirements

Needless to say, skijoring isn’t going to be a good option for a Chihuahua. However, it’s fine for many dogs that are over about 40 pounds. Some of the pooches that enjoy this winter doggy sport include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Border Collies, and, of course, snow dog breeds, like huskies. Of course, you’ll need to consider your pet’s temperament. If you plan to race, it’s important that he get along with other dogs. This activity is best suited for obedient, active pups that absolutely love to run. Fido also needs to stop running on command. (This one may take a few pooches out of the picture.)

Gear

You’ll need to pick up a few things, but your shopping list won’t be too extensive. You can likely get decent harnesses and collars you need for under $100. You’ll need skis and a harness for yourself, and a harness for Fido. You may also need some basic winter gear, like warm gloves and clothes, as well as cross-country skis and poles.

Training

Skijoring comes naturally to many of our canine pals, as many dogs naturally like to run and pull things. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right for every pooch. Consult your vet before getting started.

Please reach out with any questions or concerns about your dog’s health or care. We are always happy to help!

Is Your Cat Licking Herself Too Much?

If you own a cat, you’ll notice that she licks herself frequently. Cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves by licking, so this behavior in and of itself isn’t abnormal. But it’s possible for a cat to lick herself too much—this is known in the veterinary world as overgrooming. Read on to find out more from your local veterinarian. 

What Counts as Overgrooming?

Since cats spend somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of their day grooming themselves, it’s often hard to tell what might be considered overgrooming. That’s why it’s important to look for additional signs of a problem aside from the licking itself. 

You might notice Fluffy licking and chewing intently at a particular area, or you may spot significant hair loss or even bald patches around the body. If you’ve noticed these signs plus more hairballs and loose fur lying around your home recently, you could have a case of overgrooming on your hands. It’s time to check in with your vet.

What’s the Cause?

There are many possible causes of overgrooming in cats. Cases are generally categorized into one of two camps: medical or behavioral. Medical cases are caused by some kind of underlying medical problem—allergies, parasitic infestation, skin infection, physical injury, or even neurological conditions could be to blame. 

A behavioral-based case of overgrooming is caused by something like stress and anxiety. That’s right, your feline friend could be stressed at home and taking her anxieties out on her own fur. It’s hard to believe considering your cat’s pampered life, we know, but it’s not uncommon!

How is Overgrooming Treated?

If a medical issue is found to be the cause of your cat’s excessive licking, it must be dealt with before the overgrooming behavior will stop. In the case of a skin infection, for example, antibiotics can be prescribed. Work closely with your veterinarian to get your cat back to full health so the overgrooming ceases.

When a cat is overgrooming because of a behavioral problem like anxiety, it’s helpful to determine the cause. Fluffy might be stressed because of a recent move, a change in the household like a new pet, or even a dirty litter box. The help of a professional feline behaviorist might be needed, and pheromones and anxiety medications can be prescribed if necessary.  

Learn more about overgrooming in cats by contacting your vet’s office. We’re here for you!

Why Do Cats Like to Sleep So Much?

Cats come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and personalities, but they share one thing in common: they love sleeping. In fact, cats sleep on average around 15 hours per day, and can even sleep up to 20 hours in a single 24-hour period. That’s a lot of slumber for your feline friend! You might wonder why your cat rests so much—read on to find out more about your cat’s sleeping habits.

Why Cats Sleep So Much

Your cat’s physiology has evolved from the great feline predators of the wild, like lions and panthers. This means that stalking and hunting instincts are hardwired into your domesticated feline, and it’s these instincts that are the root cause of your cat’s excessive sleep needs.

The act of hunting takes a tremendous amount of energy for your cat, and she sleeps so much in order to conserve energy for the hunt. That’s why domesticated house cats and giant cats in the wild both tend to sleep a lot, especially during the day—they’re saving up their energy for the coming hunt, whether they’re chasing antelope or just stalking a cat toy under the dining room table.

Fluffy’s Sleeping Cycle

It turns out that cats go back and forth between a dozing state and a deep sleep while they’re sleeping. The dozing period lasts anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour, and your cat remains semi-alert during this time and tends to position herself so that she can easily hop up and move quickly if necessary. The deep sleep portion of the cycle, on the other hand, lasts only about five minutes or so before your cat re-enters the dozing period. This back-and-forth continues the entire time your cat is resting. 

Your Cat’s Schedule

Cats are classified as crepuscular, which is a term in zoology referring to animals (or insects) that are most active between dusk and dawn. This explains why Fluffy tends to get more active in the evening hours and in the early morning hours. Yes, it’s annoying to have your cat’s antics wake you up at five in the morning, but it’s simply built into your pet’s biology! Throughout the middle part of the day, of course, you’ll usually find your cat napping peacefully. 

Do you want to learn more about your cat’s sleeping habits? Do you think Fluffy’s sleep schedule seems off? Contact us to learn more.

All About Your Cat’s Whiskers

Cats come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but whiskers are one thing that every cat has in common. They’re much more than decorative long hairs sprouting from Fluffy’s snout, too—your pet’s whiskers are essential for all sorts of daily functions. Read on as your local veterinarian tells you more about these important sensory tools.  

Whiskers Help Your Cat Navigate Her Environment

Your cat’s whiskers are rooted more deeply into the skin than her normal hairs, and there is a follicle full of nerves at the base of each one. This makes them extremely sensitive. You might be surprised to learn that whiskers are found on more areas of the body than the snout. They also sprout from the chin, ears, eyebrow area, and even the forelegs.

Your cat uses her whiskers to determine the location, size, and texture of objects in her environment, and she can use them to detect changes in air currents. All of this sensory information helps to paint a clear picture of your cat’s surroundings, even if it’s pitch black. Fluffy also uses this information to determine whether or not she can fit into tight spaces, as the whiskers along the nose are about the length of her body’s width.

Whiskers Can Clue You In on Fluffy’s Mood

Did you know that your cat’s whiskers can give you some insight into how she’s feeling? When the whiskers are pulled back tightly across the face, your cat is feeling alarmed or threatened. (This whisker position might be accompanied by wide eyes, raised ears, and a puffed tail.) When the whiskers are relaxed and pointing sideways away from the face area, as they are most of the time, it means your cat is content.

Try to get a good look at your pet’s whiskers the next time she hears a strange sound or the bark of a neighbor’s dog. They’ll probably be adjusted a bit from their normal position.

Whiskers Should Never Be Trimmed

Cats do shed whiskers occasionally, but you should never attempt to cut or trim them yourself. If you do, you’re removing crucial sensory information that your cat needs, and she could experience dizziness, confusion, and disorientation. It would be like suddenly removing your sense of touch or sight—you wouldn’t like it, either.

Does your cat need veterinary care? That’s where we come in. Make an appointment at the office today.