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Puppy Care Insights

Lawndale Veterinary Hospital’s 4th Annual Puppy Care Fair is fast approaching! Have you registered for an evening full of information, giveaways, and fun? If you either have a new puppy, or are considering adding one to your family, then Lawndale Veterinary Hospital invites you to join us on Tuesday evening, March 13th from 6:00 to 7:30 PM (RSVP by giving us a call or signing up here).

Adopting a puppy is always a very exciting time for pet owners. It is also a time ripe with opportunities for owners to help puppies develop and mature into healthy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved companions. Did you know that if you can establish routines such as potty training, crate training, dental care, and grooming (to name a few) with your puppy early on, this can set your puppy up for a lifetime of success with these habits? Furthermore, puppy socialization during the prime socialization window can help your puppy be more tolerant and less fearful of new or different circumstances. Working on basic behavior commands with your puppy will help your puppy be more obedient. This obedience will come in handy in so many different ways throughout life - and, your puppy will love the interaction time with you! Staying on top of puppy wellness visits will give you a regular opportunity to talk with our doctors about your questions or concerns. Importantly, these wellness visits will also help keep your puppy healthy and protected (through vaccinations and parasite prevention).

Lawndale Veterinary Hospital is always striving to help owners understand all the ins and outs of raising puppies. In addition to our puppy wellness exam visits and our annual puppy care fair, we have also put together our ‘Paws to Protect: Puppies’ section on our website. We hope that providing you with these resources and tools will help empower you, as your puppy’s care giver, to fully understand all the ways you can best care for your puppy. And even more than that, we want you to know that Lawndale Veterinary Hospital is here to partner with you every step of the way during your puppy’s growth, development, and maturity!

Click on any of the links below to take you to our ‘Paws to Protect: Puppies’ page:

Are you considering joining us for the Puppy Care Fair? All puppies (and their owners!) are invited! We will have information on topics such as wellness care, puppy training, parasite prevention, vaccinations, first aid, nutrition, microchips, pet insurance, and the importance of spaying and neutering. This is a chance to not only learn important puppy care information, but also ask your own questions! So don’t miss out on an opportunity to not only learn helpful puppy information, but also receive free puppy goodies, free food (for humans!), a discount towards your puppy’s spay or neuter procedure, and the chance to win a free microchip.

We look forward to meeting your puppy and seeing you at our 4th Annual Puppy Care Fair!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

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Raw Diets For Pets Are Risky

If you keep up with the news, you may have seen that there have been multiple recalls for raw pet food diets recently. These recalls raise awareness around the risk of feeding pets raw diets, so we thought this would be a good time to talk about those risks. It’s no surprise that pet owners are offered seemingly endless choices when selecting a pet food type and brand.  While many diets may be excellent choices, when it comes to raw diets, owners should be fully aware of the safety risks of feeding raw diets.

Recall Information:

Did you know that the AVMA maintains an up-to-date list of animal food recalls and alerts? You can check here to see what foods have been recalled. Relevant to this blog, pet owners should be aware of the recent recalls for Northwest Naturals Raw Diet for Dogs, (Chicken & Salmon Recipe); ZooLogics Duck with vegetable and ZooLogics Chicken with vegetable meals for dogs; Raws for Paws Ground Turkey Dog and Cat foods, and Darwin's Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Meals for dogs and Natural Selections Meals for cats, all for possible Salmonella risk.

Usatoday.com reported recently about four pet food companies recalling products due to concerns for Salmonella contamination. Six animal deaths or illnesses from Salmonella were reportedly connected to consumption of Darwin’s Natural and ZooLogics pet foods. Two human illnesses apparently resulted from contact with Raws for Paws Ground Turkey Pet Food in Minnesota.

So what is a raw diet?

Raw diets are composed of foods that have not been cooked prior to feeding. This can mean muscle meat, bone, organs, some types of fruits and vegetables, eggs, or even unpasteurized dairy products.

What are the pet health risks of feeding pets raw food diets?

It should be no surprise that raw meat has the potential to be contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella sp., Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter species. The bacteria have the potential to make pets sick with gastrointestinal signs, fever, or even more severe systemic consequences from the bacterial infection.

Pets who ingest bones are at risk for gastrointestinal obstruction from those bones, or even gastrointestinal perforation from the splintering that can occur when the pet chews the bone into pieces.

A recent study by Martinez-Anton et.al. also reported a link between dogs who consumed raw chicken and the development of a neurological condition called acute polyradioculoneuritis (APN). APN is a paralyzing condition that shares similarities with the Guillain-Barre syndrome in humans. The study examined the role that the bacteria Campylobacter could play in triggering APN. The study concluded that “raw chicken consumption is a risk factor in dogs for the development of APN, which potentially is mediated by infection with Campylobacter spp.”

What are the public health risks of feeding pets raw food diets?

When pets become sickened with bacteria from raw meat, it is easy to see how they can contaminate the environment through vomiting and diarrhea. But it’s also possible for pets to be carriers of the harmful bacteria, without actually developing signs of illness. Since the bacteria in the raw meat can also make humans sick, this means there is the potential for the animal to spread the infection to humans.

What are the purported benefits of raw diets?

It should be noted that although there is a list of anecdotal benefits, it is difficult to find any scientific studies to back these claims. These anecdotal reports include things like improved weight management, improved oral health, improved immune function, healthier coat and skin, and improved allergies. Advocates of raw food diets also contend that the raw diet more closely resembles what the feline and canine ancestors’ ate. However, it is important to realize that with domestication, dogs and cats have also gone through evolutionary and dietary changes over the last 10,000 to 15,000 years making them different from their ancestors.

In conclusion, raw diets come with risks – for pets, as well as humans. Furthermore, without solid scientific data backing up the reported benefits of feeding pets raw food diets, it’s unclear whether these diets even hold true benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on their website “You may be considering a raw food diet for your pets because you have heard that it is healthier. But raw food diets can make you and your pet sick, and for that reason CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets.”

Do you have questions about your pet’s diet? Are you looking for dietary suggestions for your pet? Then talk to our team – we are ready to help you pick the best diet for your pet’s individual needs!

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

References:

  1. AVMA Animal Food Recalls and Alerts
  2. CDC Pet Food Safety Information
  3. Larsen, L. 2018. Two Pet Food Products Recalled for Possible Salmonella Contamination. https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2018/two-pet-food-products-recalled-possible-salmonella-contamination/
  4. Martinez-Anton, L., Marena, M., Firestone, S.M., Bushell, R.N., Child, G., Hamilton, A.I., Long, S.N. and M.A.R. Le Chevoir. 2018. Investigation of the role of Campylobacter infection in suspected acute polyradiculoneuritis in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 32 (1): 352-360.
  5. Meyer, Z. 2018. 4 dog food companies issue recall over salmonella fears. usatoday.com https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/02/14/pet-deaths-prompt-recalls-due-possible-salmonella-tainted-food/336405002/
  6. News Desk. 2018. Two MN Children Sickened with Salmonella infections after Raws for Paws Pet food fed to their pets. https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2018/two-mn-children-salmonella-reading-infections-raws-for-paws-pet-food/
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February 20th is Love Your Pet Day!

Today, February 20th, is Love Your Pet Day. Pets are just so easy to love. They bring joy, excitement, laughter, and enrichment into our lives. Sure, they might give us some trouble sometimes when they do something like have an accident in the house or chew something up, but their unconditional love and unending supply of silly moments can more than make up for it.

Many pet owners would probably agree that the love we share with our pets just makes everyone feel good! But did you realize that pets can impact our lives in a variety of healthy ways? 

Take a look at some of the research results that have been reported by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI):

Animals can positively impact child health and development:

  • For patients with autism spectrum disorder, interactions with therapy dogs can help the individuals develop better social and emotional connections as well as increase levels of beneficial hormones.
  • Childhood (early) exposure to pets may help reduce the risk of developing allergies and asthma.
  • Pet ownership and animal therapy can improve reading and cognition, emotional development, and social skills during childhood.

Animals can positively impact mental health and wellness:

  • Patients with PTSD have shown many positive results with the use of animal-assisted intervention.
  • Patients with a history of trauma have also experienced positive results through animal-assisted therapy.
  • Anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness can be reduced through animal-human interactions.
  • Pets can also help create opportunities for friendships and social support networks.
  • Animal companionship can positively influence quality of life and well-being

Pets can help with healthy aging:

  • Interacting with pets can help facilitate healthy aging through decreasing depression, loneliness, tension, and confusion.
  • With human-animal interactions, a reduction of cardiovascular risk factors can occur (e.g., lack of exercise, obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, stress, depression).
  • Positive interactions with animals can help cancer patients by possibly decreasing cancer therapy discomfort, improving depression, and even helping to promote a sense of wanting to improve.
  • Dogs are being researched for their potential ability to detect cancer.
  • The human-animal bond can improve quality of life in Alzheimer's patients as well as their caregivers.

The potential economic impact of the human-animal bond is impressive:

  • When the health of humans improves through pet ownership, an economic benefit results.
  • According to a 2015 report from HABRI, pet ownership saves $11.7 billion in health care costs!

Pet companionship is truly amazing in the benefits it provides. Who knows what new research findings we will be able to share as more human-animal bond research is performed? For today, go ahead and take a little extra time to show your pet(s) how much you love them – everyone will benefit!

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

References:

  • Clower, T.L. and T.T. Leaves. 2015. The health care cost savings of pet ownership. Prepared for the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). Pp. 1-12.
  • Research. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) website. Accessed Jan. 25, 2018.
  • Takashima, G.K. and M.J. Day. 2014. Setting the One Health agenda and the human-companion animal bond. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 11(11): 11110-11120.
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Responsible Pet Ownership - What Does That Really Mean?

February is Responsible Pet Owners Month. Having a month dedicated to the idea of responsible pet ownership helps emphasize the importance of your role as a pet owner. While you are, of course, the provider of all your pet’s daily basic needs, you also do so much more as a responsible pet owner!

Pets depend on their owners for all aspects of their care. This of course means nutritious food, fresh water, and adequate shelter and protection from the elements. But have you also considered other aspects of your pet's routine? Daily exercise is an important component to build into your pet’s schedule. Your pet will enjoy the activity and stimulation, and exercise is an important step in helping pets maintain or achieve a healthy weight. Exercising your pet is also a fun way to deepen the bond you have with your pet.

Did you know that pets can get bored? This is why environmental enrichment is critical for all pets. Offer your pet opportunities to play with toys during the day, and rotate the toys often. You can play with your pet (you'll have fun too!), or you can use toys that encourage self-directed play (e.g., food puzzles). Find ways to provide visual stimulation. This could be as simple as placing a cat perch by a window that has a bird feeder outside – so get creative!

As pet owners, we are fortunate to have so many ways available to protect our pets from things such as heartworms, fleas, ticks, rabies, and the list goes on. It can perhaps feel overwhelming to try and understand all the things pet owners can do to help prevent problems with their pets. That’s why Lawndale Veterinary Hospital has created our ‘Paws to Protect’ section on our website. This section is devoted to covering all the ways that pet owners can be proactive in preventing and recognizing problems in their pets. Visit this section whenever you have a general question about your pet's wellness and preventive care!

Are you considering adopting a new pet? One of the most important aspects of responsible pet ownership actually starts before you even own the pet. Pet owners can have much more success with their new pet if they take the time to research and decide which pet is best for their particular lifestyle. Do you live in a small apartment with no yard? Then a giant breed dog may not be the right fit for you. Do you want a dog with high energy? Then perhaps you would enjoy a Jack Russell Terrier. Maybe you can’t imagine taking a dog for a walk multiple times a day, but snuggling up with a furry kitty sounds enticing? Then a fantastic feline just might be your next best friend! Pets are a big commitment and they do come with responsibility. So allow yourself to take the time to think about what you or your family are hoping for in a pet, and also consider what you can (or cannot) provide for the pet in terms of time, energy, care, enrichment, and commitment. Our veterinary team can be a great resource as well! 

Finally, if you are a pet owner who would enjoy sharing the importance of responsible pet ownership with children, then there is a program you may want to check out. The Guilford County Pet Responsibility Program is a local program that teaches fourth grade students about responsible pet ownership. You can visit their website, or read our previous blog to learn more!

Thank you to all of our pet owners for everything you do to show your pets how much you love and care for them. We love having you as part of our Lawndale Veterinary Hospital family! Happy Valentine's Day!

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

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10 Reasons Why You Should Care About Your Pet’s Teeth

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. The fact that an entire month has been devoted to pet dental health should be a clue that the veterinary profession considers dental health a high priority. Are you interested in learning how much you really know about your pet’s dental health? Then take the American Veterinary Medical Association's quiz here.

Lawndale Veterinary Hospital certainly considers dental health as an essential part of your pet’s wellness care. We have a variety of dental health resources available on our ‘Paws to Protect: Dental Health’ page. Furthermore, if it’s time for your pet to receive a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia, then February is a great time to schedule since we are discounting dental cleanings by 20% during the entire month!

Maybe you are someone who already focuses on maintaining your pet’s dental health through daily tooth brushing, prescription dental diets, dental chews with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, oral hygiene rinses, and/or professional dental cleanings under anesthesia. That’s fantastic – and we encourage you to visit our ‘Paws to Protect: Dental Health’ section if you need some new ideas for dental care!

Or, perhaps you have a young dog or cat with healthy teeth, so you think dental health is something you can worry about later. Well, it’s never too soon to start with home dental care! Getting your young pet to tolerate tooth-brushing can set you up for lifelong daily brushing success. Or, finding dental diets, chews, or treats that work for your individual pet early will get you in the habit of using them regularly.

If you are a pet owner who still needs some convincing that proper dental care is essential for your pet’s well-being, then we have put together 10 reasons why we think all pet owners should care about their pet’s teeth.

  1. Dental disease can cause discomfort and pain. As plaque and tartar accumulation progress, inflammation can set in, causing periodontal disease. The inflammatory process of periodontal disease can lead to gingivitis, oral bleeding, infections, and damage to the surrounding soft tissue and bone structures – all of which are painful.
  2. Bacteria associated with dental disease can cause infections in the mouth, tooth roots, or other surrounding structures.
  3. Bacteria associated with dental disease can enter the bloodstream and potentially affect other parts of the body such as the heart and kidneys.
  4. Pets may have problems chewing food, or may even not want to eat, when they have dental disease.
  5. Owners may notice behavioral changes in pets with dental disease.
  6. Taking dental care seriously means your pet’s breath will smell better!
  7. If you are proactive with home dental care, you can help your pet simply avoid many dental health issues.
  8. What you see on the tooth surface is not necessarily the whole picture. Changes can be occurring under the gum line – causing pain and problems for your pet.
  9. You have options! Caring for your pet’s teeth has never been easier with so many products and ideas available.
  10. Dental disease is not going to go away unless you help do something about it.

So if you are doing a great job with your pet’s dental health – then keep it up! If you haven’t yet embraced the idea of keeping your pet’s mouth healthy, then make 2018 the year! Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s dental health, or if you would like to schedule a dental cleaning.

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

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What Are Your Cat's Environmental Needs?

Understanding what your pet cat needs in the environment is essential for optimal wellness. Did you know that when you strive to meet a cat’s environmental needs, you are providing enrichment for your cat’s daily life? Additionally, you may be helping to avoid environmental stressors that could ultimately cause certain unwanted behaviors or medical concerns.

Let’s talk about the natural tendencies of cats – because if we think about these, then ideas for how to keep our cats happy start to flow easily.

Hunting: Cats have a natural predatory tendency, which means they have a drive to hunt. Cats need to be able to express this natural behavior. If left with no other outlet, some cats may try and pounce on feet and ankles as they walk by! So how can we address this drive?

  • Provide play opportunities that mimic hunting. Dragging toy items across the floor or through the air can encourage the predatory chase and pounce. Tossing the toys, or using a wand that dangles the toy from a string, will keep your arms and hands safe from playful paws. Remember to let your cat “catch” the toy every so often to avoid frustration.
  • Use food puzzles and food balls at meal or treat time. These items can also put your cat in a hunting mindset and mimic a more natural feeding behavior.
  • It is important to rotate these toys to prevent boredom!

Protection from perceived dangers: As solitary hunters, cats have a tendency to also protect themselves from perceived dangers. As a territorial species, cats can feel threatened if their territory is disturbed. Cats who feel threatened may hide and exhibit anti-social behaviors, or they may become unexpectedly aggressive. They can also display undesirable behaviors such as scratching inappropriate surfaces or marking or eliminating outside the litter box. So how do we help our cats feel safe?

  • Offer cats multiple options for retreat. This could mean a high perch, or an enclosed area (such as cardboard box, carrier) that fits only one cat. Ideally the space should have multiple sides for entry and exit. Your cat may use these areas for safety if he or she feels threatened (by a loud noise, unfamiliar visitors, etc.), or if he or she just wants a place to get away and rest.
  • Help children and house guests understand that the cat needs to initiate and control how much interaction he or she has with humans. Interactions should never be forced as this can increase your cat’s anxiety and possibly lead to someone being bitten or scratched.
  • Pay attention to what might be happening inside (or even outside) of the house to decide if your cat may need some additional environmental interventions.  For example, home renovations, loud noises or installations, and repair workers could increase your cat's anxiety and feelings of being unsafe. Or, if a neighborhood outdoor cat is visible, or even tries to engage in behavioral displays through the window, this could cause your cat to develop anxiety or displaced behaviors.

Cats need key resources, including food, water, scratching surfaces, play areas, resting areas, and somewhere to eliminate. For multiple cat households, these resources may need to be separated to some degree to minimize competition.

  • Of course cats need to eat and drink, but keep in mind that they also need to be able to do these things without threat from housemates. Always ensure cats are able to access these resources without fear or competition. Older cats, especially those with arthritis, may have difficulty jumping up on surfaces to access food and water bowls. Keeping items lower or providing steps up to the surface can be helpful in these situations. 
  • Litter boxes should be scooped at least daily. Be sure to provide your cat(s) with enough litter boxes to cover different areas of the home, and allow cats living in multiple pet households to be able to access the box without being disturbed.
  • Scratching surfaces are not only used for sharpening claws and maintaining claw motion. Scratching also aids in visual and olfactory communication. Providing cats with multiple scratching substrates, and making sure the cat can stretch it’s entire body while scratching, will minimize damage to household items.

Cats can hear and smell really well! This means that noises and smells that may not affect or bother us can cause stress in our cats. How can we be respectful of their exquisite hearing and sense of smell?

  • First, recognize that cats mark their scent on things by rubbing their face and body against items. When they do this, the cat’s natural pheromones are deposited on the surface. This is your cat’s way of marking a territory in which he or she feels safe. Whenever possible, avoid removing their scent with cleaners, especially if a new cat or some other stressful event is going on in the home.
  • You can help supplement your cat’s natural pheromones with synthetic pheromone products such as Feliway.
  • Keep in mind your cat may not enjoy your cleaners or scented sprays/ plug-ins, etc. Sometimes the stress from threatening or unfamiliar smells can lead your cat to eliminate inappropriately, scratch undesirable items, or even develop stress-related illness. Of course if your cat develops signs of illness, you should have him or her examined by a veterinarian.

Cats are individuals and have their own unique personalities.

  • If you have a kitten, remember that the biggest socialization window is between about 2 and 9 weeks – so do everything you can during that time to introduce your kitten to a variety of people and experiences.
  • During play time, remember to give each cat some one-on-one time if you have multiple cats!
  • Individual cats will have individual preferences regarding human interaction. Work to understand your cat’s cues about how much and how often they enjoy petting, grooming, play time, handling, or sitting on laps.

Do you have a question about your cat's environmental needs? Then give us a call today! Or is it time to schedule your cat's next veterinary appointment? Then ask us about our feline-focused appointment times!

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

Reference/ Additional Resource:

Your Cat's Environmental Needs. Pet Owner Brochure from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

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Kittens!

For the month of January, Lawndale Veterinary Hospital decided to make kittens our major ‘Paws to Protect’ focus. If you are a kitten owner, or if you are considering adopting a kitten, or if you just love kittens, then you should check out our brand new ‘Paws to Protect’ section on kittens!

It’s no surprise that having a kitten around can supply owners with an abundance of smiles and laughs. A kitten can turn pretty much anything into a toy: rubber bands, pencils, the tail of a dog or cat housemate, children’s toys, an owner’s long hair dangling in front of them, a leaf floating by outside the window, a crumpled piece of paper, bottle caps, the plastic around the lid of a milk jug, etc. Kittens also provide us with a lot of memorable moments! Some of our team members shared a few favorite kitten memories:

   

  • Julie says her friend gave Julie’s cat the name Tucker – because the kitten fell asleep standing up one time when she was all ‘tuckered’ out! (And the name stuck!)
  • Dr. Burnett shared a memorable picture from when a client brought a litter of kittens into the clinic in a clear plastic container and they were all snuggled up closely.
  • As a kitten, Alice’s cat Dennis liked to help Alice's husband Ed work by sitting on Ed's shoulders.
  • Jamina remembered a time when her kitten got into a bag of bells and strings. The bag somehow got attached to her tail, so the kitty made quite a scene as she ran off!
  • Morgan adopted her cat Nadja two years ago as a kitten. At the time, she also had a big adult male kitty name Cornelius. Nadja would try and nurse off of Cornelius sometimes, and he never got mad at her.

Some would say that adopting and training a kitten could be easier than adopting and training a puppy. Sure, you don’t have to take them outside multiple times a day to use the bathroom, and they usually pick up on litter box training quickly. So in some ways it can be easier to raise a kitten. BUT, there is still a lot that pet owners can learn about kitten care to help those kitties grow up to be happy, healthy, and well-behaved adults! For example:

Carrier Acceptance: Teaching your kitten to accept and use the carrier will minimize anxiety when the carrier is needed to transport your kitten.

Play Biting and Scratching: Redirecting your kitten’s play biting and scratching into other acceptable behaviors can work to minimize this behavior becoming a problem in your adult cat.

Declawing Alternatives: Exploring alternatives to declawing can help you find other ways to keep your cat from scratching and ruining household items.

Safety: Learning to “kitten proof’ your house can prevent many accidents and emergencies.

Prevention: Early wellness and preventive care can keep your kitten healthy and protected.

Socialization: Early socialization can help your kitten accept and tolerate a variety of situations, people, and animals (which can mean less anxiety, less behavioral problems, and a better adjusted adult cat!)

Environmental Enrichment: Providing your kitten with environmental enrichment can minimize behavioral problems, keep your kitten happier, and keep you entertained!

Nutrition & Healthy Weight: Feeding premium kitten food in appropriate amounts can contribute to life-long optimal nutrition and a healthy weight. Overweight cats can have reduced life spans, and they can be at risk for health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and joint disease.

Litter Box Training: Utilizing the appropriate number of litter boxes, placing them correctly, and scooping them at least daily can help minimize future problems with inappropriate urination.

Spaying and Neutering: Spaying or neutering your kitten in a timely manner can help prevent several medical and behavioral problems, and you will be doing your part to help stop pet overpopulation in our area!

If you have questions about your kitten, don't hesitate to contact us today. We want to help you be successful in raising a happy and healthy kitten!

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

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Do You Struggle With Medicating Your Cat?

Administering oral medications to cats can be difficult for many pet owners. Whether it is a pill, capsule, or liquid, most cats will give at least some degree of resistance whenever anyone tries to put the medication into the cats’ mouths. Understanding how to medicate your cat successfully is important, because the effectiveness of the treatment depends on that medication getting in your cat’s system! If you have a cat who is difficult to medicate, do not despair. Read below for our suggestions on how to get your cat to take the medication more easily. 

First – prepare ahead of time! If you have a kitten, then right from the beginning, train your kitten to allow you to gently handle the head, face, and mouth. This could simply involve rubbing the head and cheeks while offering praise for acceptance. Additionally, if you start brushing your kitten’s teeth early and keep up the routine, you are also training him or her to accept you working around the face and mouth. If your kitten is resistant to face and mouth handling, then go slowly and use lots of praise and treats to reward the desired behavior. These steps are helpful for the future should you ever need to give your cat an oral medication. Since your cat will be accustomed to handling around the head and mouth, he or she could be more tolerant to taking oral medications.

Another way to prepare your cat is to feed meals instead of allowing free-choice feeding. Training your cat to expect a meal twice daily will mean you have some things on your side if the time ever comes that your cat needs to take an oral medication:

1. Many medications should be given with a meal. If your cat eats throughout the day, it could be more difficult to ensure the cat takes a full meal at the time the medication is administered. However, if the cat is instead on a meal schedule, you can be sure your cat ate the meal when the medication was given.

2. Food can be used to your advantage for medicating your cat! We will talk more about this below.

Now, if or when the time comes for you to administer an oral medication, your success will increase if you can find a way for your cat to take the medication on his or her own. This typically means using food to your advantage. One of the best ways to time the administration of oral medications is to give the medication at the beginning of mealtime, before you put the entire meal out. Your cat will be more likely to be hungry, and therefore he or she could readily accept food or treats offered. Some cats are so food motivated they will take treats that have pills hidden inside. There are specially formulated treats that are soft and have a hole in the middle to insert the pill. Once inserted, you simply scrunch or smooth the treat around the pill and then offer the treat to your cat. You can also try hiding the pill in a small amount of a very tasty canned food, deli chicken, tuna, or salmon wrapped around the pill, or a small portion of something like cream cheese, yogurt, etc. If your cat has special dietary restrictions or needs, be sure to talk with your veterinarian about other super tasty treat ideas that would work for your individual cat. Some liquid medications can also successfully be administered by mixing them with a small amount of a tasty item. The key for any oral medication is that you put the tasty item with the medication out first – while your cat is hungry – so he or she is more likely to eat it without realizing the medication was inside. If you hide the medication in the entire meal, your cat is more likely to eat around the medication. 

Sometimes, the food may not work to mask the medication. In that case, here are some other strategies to consider:

1. Administer the pill directly: You may have to try a few positions to see what works best for your cat. Placing the cat on a raised surface with a corner wall behind them can keep them from backing away as you come from the front to open their mouth. Some cats do well in their owner’s lap, but others may scratch your legs trying to get away. Wrapping your cat in a towel with only the head exposed can also help hold them still briefly. Use your non-dominant hand to lift the head gently and open the mouth from the top. Use your dominant hand to quickly place the pill at the very back of the tongue. This method certainly comes with the risk of being bitten. Furthermore, you want to “get it right” the first time if at all possible by putting the pill as far back on the tongue as you can so the swallowing reflex is triggered. Otherwise, that pill will come right back out! While this is disappointing because it means you have to try again, it also makes your cat even more wary about what is about to happen – which could increase their anger or defensive mechanisms.

2. Utilize a pilling device: These can be purchased online or from pet stores. They are helpful because they keep your fingers out of the cat’s mouth. They can be cumbersome to use sometimes, especially if the pill keeps falling out of the pilling device. 

*Note that if you are administering the pill directly (either with your hand or a pilling device), it is always best to wash the medication down so it does not get stuck in the esophagus. You can either encourage your cat to eat something immediately after administration, or you can use a syringe and administer a few milliliters of water to your cat.

3. Liquids: Often owners have success with placing the syringe or dropper at the corner of the mouth and squirting the medication into the mouth. Depending on the volume of liquid, you may need to find a pace of administration that is quick enough for your cat to tolerate, but still long enough to allow your cat time to swallow and not just spit it out. Also, use caution and don’t squirt it all at the back of the throat – this could cause your cat to cough or even inhale some of the medication.

4. Different Formulation: Ask your veterinarian if there is a different formulation of the medication that you could try. For example, if you are unsuccessful with a pill, is there a liquid, injectable, or transdermal formulation available? Or is there a formulation with a different flavor?

5. Ask Us For Help: Our veterinary team is also available to assist if needed. You can schedule an appointment to bring your cat in for medication administration if all of these other tactics fail.

Once you have administered the medication to your cat (either in food, or directly), it is also very important to watch and make sure your cat does not spit the pill out. Remember, if your cat has been prescribed an oral medication, then your cat’s veterinarian feels it is important. We want you to have success in getting the medication into your cat! If you have any problems, questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact our team for help!

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

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Declawing Alternatives

Are you considering whether you should have your kitten or cat declawed? There are several alternatives to this elective procedure that you can also consider instead! Before we get into the alternatives, let’s talk about what it really means to declaw a cat, and how the declawing will impact your cat.

When owners look into declawing their cat, it is usually to prevent the potential damage that can be created by cat claws. It is important to realize, though, that scratching is a normal feline behavior. Scratching helps maintain the claw motion needed for climbing and hunting, claw sharpness, and it aids in visual and olfactory communication.

Onychectomy is the medical term for declawing. Since the cat’s claw is actually part of the last bone (phalanx) in the toe, declawing is a surgical procedure that involves amputation of the third phalanx (P3). So in order to remove the claw, the bone and associated nerves and tissues around that P3 bone are also removed.

Older cats tend to have a harder time than kittens after declawing, and owners should be aware of possible complications for all age cats. Post-surgical problems could include pain, bleeding, swelling, infection, and nerve trauma. Importantly, some cats could develop long-term complications such as limping, changes in stance, behavioral problems, chronic pain, chronic draining tracts, or possible claw regrowth if a portion of P3 is left behind.

Alternatives to declawing do exist. Some take a little more patience and work, but many cats can be directed to scratch in acceptable locations. We encourage cat owners to consider any or all of the following options:

Nail Caps: These plastic coverings are glued on the claws, and they will need to be replaced periodically.

Regular Nail Trimming: If you start working with your young kitten’s feet and teaching them to allow nail trimming early, they will likely accept and allow this grooming behavior. Start slowly - you don't have to get all the nails at one time. Remember to use positive reinforcement with special food or treats during and after the process. Even adult cats who resist nail trims can learn that nail trims mean food rewards!

Provide Appropriate Scratching Materials: Try multiple textures, and be sure the scratching post is high enough to allow the cat to stretch tall. Adding catnip to the post can be an additional incentive for those cats who enjoy catnip.

Synthetic Pheromones: Utilizing synthetic feline pheromones, such as FeliScratch by Feliway, can decrease any anxiety that could be contributing to the behavior.

Distraction and Redirection: Whenever you catch your cat scratching on an undesired item, distract and then redirect him or her to an appropriate item for scratching. Once your cat scratched the appropriate item, reward them with praise or a treat.

Prevention: If your cat has a favorite area that he or she has already been scratching, then try covering the item with aluminum foil or sticky tape. These textures could help discourage the behavior in the future.

Do you have questions or concerns about your own cat's scratching behavior? Give us a call today so that our team can help!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

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Thank You to Our Pet Owners and Patients!

It is the end of another year - a time where many pause to reflect on the past, and start planning for the future. At Lawndale Veterinary Hospital, we don’t think 2017 would be complete without telling our owners how much we appreciate you (and your pets!) being a part of the Lawndale family. We would also love to hear your thoughts on how we can serve you even better (fill out our survey here).

So, we want to send a heartfelt thank you to….

Our amazing pet owners, who:

  • Love your pets unconditionally
  • Strive to provide your pets with enriched lives
  • Give your pets the daily necessities of excellent nutrition, water, comfortable places to sleep, and exercise
  • Play with your pets and see the joy it brings to your pets, and you!
  • Advocate for your pet when you see there is something they need
  • Recognize the importance of preventive care
  • Trust our team with the care of your beloved pet

And also, our wonderful patients, who:

  • Bring excitement and fun into our clinic
  • Offer snuggles and hugs that are always appreciated
  • Are courageous when going outside the house to the clinic might seem scary
  • Make us laugh with the funny things they do
  • Show us that we can find joy even when we are having a bad day
  • Trust us to give them the best veterinary care possible
  • Warm our hearts in a way that is truly unique and special

Time and again, our staff points out that working at Lawndale Veterinary Hospital feels like a big family environment. Between working with a fantastic group of team members, and having such amazing pet owners and patients, coming to work each day at Lawndale is a rewarding and enjoyable experience for everyone. Our clinic is filled with people who care deeply about each and every patient that comes through our doors. THANK YOU all for making Lawndale Veterinary Hospital such a special place.

We are looking forward to another great year in 2018! We have new ideas and plans for how to better serve our clients and patients. You can help us make these ideas and plans even better by taking just a moment to fill in our survey here. And, you can earn $5 towards a nail trim for your pet just by filling out our survey!

We wish you all a truly Happy New Year, and we look forward to seeing you in 2018!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

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