The Vet Corner
The Vet Corner
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Bigger is Better for Your Small Pets

Many people are drawn to smaller pets like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs due to space constraints. But the fact is even though these pets are small, when it comes to caring for them,  bigger is better. Small pets do better with larger habitats, more bedding, ample hay, and lots of exercise and socialization.  Large Habitat They may be little but even small pets need elbow room. A larger habitat allows pets room for exercise and more space to sleep, eat and play. There is a body of literature supporting the health benefits of a larger cage size. These studies show benefits with reproduction, lifespan activity, and other positive effects.  Since you can’t take your gerbil on a walk, their habitat needs to be larger enough to accommodate exercise wheels and space to run around.  More Bedding Likewise providing ample bedding is preferred as it allows pets to dig, tunnel and forage for treats. Having plenty of bedding also helps keeps their enclosure clean and dry. Soiled bedding not only smells bad but can lead to medical problems. In particular it can lead to pododermatitis, more commonly known as bumblefoot, which is an inflammation of the skin of the paws and feet. Bumblefoot is common in rodents and small animals that are housed on abrasive surfaces, (like wire) and those that have prolonged contact with wet or soiled bedding. Bumblefoot causes red, swollen, painful feet and lameness. Left untreated it can lead to severe infections, arthritis, and chronic inflammation of the tendons. To prevent health issues like pododermatitis, be sure your pets always have plenty of soft absorbent bedding like carefresh, spot clean as needed, and change bedding regularly. Avoid using cedar chips or pine materials which may be toxic to some animals.   Ample Hay Fresh grass hay is a vital component of a small pet’s diet and has many health benefits. Hay provides essential fiber. Dietary fiber stimulates gut motility and helps promote normal healthy stools. Dietary fiber also helps reduce the risk of obesity. Certain small animals, like rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs, need hay for their dental health. Their teeth grow continuously, and hay satisfies their natural need to chew and helps wear down their teeth so that they do not become overgrown. Finally, hay keeps small pets busy and helps prevent boredom. Be sure your small pet has ample high-quality grass at all times. Speak with your veterinarian to learn which type of hay is best for your pet. Exercise & Socialization Just like us, small pets need exercise and socialization. The more the better. Provide your pet exercise wheels, tubes and/or play structures that allow them to climb, explore and run. Don’t forget you can take your little critters out of their cage for exercise too. Hamster balls are great fun for hamsters, humans and even entertainment for curious cats. Larger animals like, guinea Pigs and rabbits enjoy exercising in exercise pens that can be set up inside or outside (always be sure to supervise them especially if they are outside). In addition to exercise all pets need companionship and socialization. Be sure to give your pets lots of love, cuddles and pets. The more love the better.   Exception to the rule In the case of food and fruits and veggies, more is not better. Too much fruit can lead to obesity and gastrointestinal problems. Likewise, too much commercial food like pellets can also lead to an overweight pet. The best way to prevent over feeding or intestinal upset is to follow feeding guidelines for your particular pet’s species. Wee Companions is a great resource for information about small pet husbandry, care and nutrition and don’t forget you can also ask your veterinarian for advice.  Conclusion These pint size pets may be small, but they give lots of love. Be sure you provide them with the space, bedding, hay and exercise they deserve. And remember, in this case bigger is better.  
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Vet Tips on Caring for Your Senior Cat

Thanks to advances in technology, medicine and nutrition, our pets, like people, are now living longer healthier lives. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)’s pet owners survey, the number of geriatric animals has dramatically increased in the last several years. Senior cats have unique healthcare needs and caring for an aging cat population poses special considerations for pet parents and veterinarians.  Like their human counterparts, geriatric animals suffer from many of the same age-related diseases. Diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, periodontal disease, hypertension, and cancer are all more prevalent in older cats. While we can’t stop aging, there are things you and your veterinarian can do to ensure that your pet stays healthy as long as possible.   Pets seven and older are considered senior pets and should have comprehensive examinations every six months. Regular examinations enable your veterinarian to do a full physical looking for early signs of disease. During the examination, your veterinarian may suggest blood and urine tests. These allow them to screen for diseases that may not be evident on examination. Studies have shown that 17% of senior cats and 22% of senior dogs that appear healthy on examination have been shown to have clinical disease.  Since our pets can’t talk, many diseases often go unnoticed until an animal is very ill. Routine examinations and diagnostic tests help veterinarians uncover diseases early, and many can be prevented, controlled or completely cured if diagnosed early. Waiting until our animals become ill and show symptoms of these diseases means their condition is more advanced, making it harder and more costly to treat. What else can you do? You should become familiar with senior health issues so you can recognize the signs and symptoms of disease. Look for increased urination, increased thirst, change in appetite, weight loss, change in energy or activity level, drooling, trouble eating or weight loss. Cats are very good at hiding illnesses and at times the only indication you have that something is wrong is that they have lost weight. Notify your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms, detect weight loss, or if you discover any new bumps or lumps. Remember you and your veterinarian are on the same team, by working together you will be able to diagnose diseases earlier. Getting old is an inevitable part of life. Though we cannot halt the passage of time, we can take steps to meet the unique needs of our senior cats. Routine examinations and screenings can help up detect diseases earlier before many of the complications of advanced disease have developed. By working with your veterinarian, you can ensure that your senior cats age gracefully. What cat litter should you use for your senior cat?  If your senior cat has sensitive paws, ökocat® Super Soft or Featherweight litters make a great choice because of their soft texture. However, the most important thing is to use a natural litter that has little dust for their sensitive respiratory systems and one that traps urine and odor on contact to help prevent urinary tract infections.      
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Vet Tips for the Best Guinea Pig Care

Guinea pigs make great pets, especially for first time pet owners. They are friendly, hardy, relatively easy to take care for, and have adorable personalities. If you are thinking about getting a guinea pig, what will you need to have? Guinea pigs need: housing, pet supplies, food, toys and of course, lots of love and attention.   Housing First and foremost, your piggy will need a place to call home. When picking a habitat for your pig, the most important consideration is getting the right size for the enclosure. Unlike smaller rodents, guinea pigs need more space. According to the Humane Society, the minimum size for one guinea pig is 7.5 square feet (30” x 36”), but bigger is better. The minimum size for two guinea pigs is also 7.5 square feet, but 10.5 square feet is preferred (30” x 50”).  Guinea pigs should also be housed in a home with a solid bottom. Avoid cages with wire bottoms as these can harm their feet. Ideally choose a habitat made for guinea pigs as these often have ramps and second levels made especially for guinea pigs. The cage needs to be large enough to have a hut for your piggy to hide and sleep in. You can buy plastic guinea pig huts or use a small upside-down cardboard box as well. You also want room for tunnels and other play toys, and of course, your sturdy ceramic food and water bowls. Most cages made for guinea pigs have removable bottom trays that allow for easy cleaning.  Midwest makes a good size guinea pig habitat and you can add on more for additional space.  In addition to the habitat, you will need bedding to cover the floor. You can use recycled paper products, aspen chips, and wood pulp products, such as carefresh®. carefresh® is ideal for guinea pigs because it is twice more absorbent than shavings, can suppress odors for up to 10 days, is 99% dust-free, and is soft and comfortable. Newspaper is not ideal since it is not very absorbent and needs to be changed frequently. Cedar and pine shavings are not recommended because they can cause respiratory problems. Corn cob products are also not recommended as they can be ingested leading to obstructions. No matter which bedding you ultimately chose, the bedding needs to be changed regularly to keep the cage clean and odor-free.  Finally, your guinea pig needs an “igloo” or hut to hide or sleep in. Guinea pigs like to have a hiding place where they can feel secure. Can you blame them for wanting some privacy?    Food Guinea pigs need three food essentials: guinea pig pellets, hay and fresh fruits and veggies. Pick a high-quality guinea pig pellet and make sure it is always accessible to your piggy. While pellets are a major part of their diet, they also need to have fresh hay every day. You can choose from Timothy Hay, alfalfa, or other grass hay varieties made for guinea pigs. Hay is necessary for their intestinal health and to help prevent their teeth from overgrowing. Guinea pigs also need fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Guinea pigs require a dietary source of vitamin C as they lack the enzyme required to synthesize Vitamin C. Without a daily source of vitamin C, they can develop scurvy from vitamin C deficiency. Foods such as parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, broccoli, and peppers, beet greens and tomatoes contain high levels of vitamin C. While fruits are also a good source of vitamin C, they should be offered only in small quantities as treats due to their high sugar levels. Vitamin C can also be added to your guinea pig’s water. Finally, don’t forget to provide clean water in a either a bowl or water bottle. Water bottles are preferred since they stay cleaner longer and can hold a lot of water.   Toys Like other animals, guinea pigs like to play with toys. Guinea pigs like to play with balls, bells, and stuffed animals, but chew toys are by far their favorite. There are a number of different wooden chew toys you can clip to their cage. Guinea pigs also like cardboard tunnels. Not only are they fun to chew, but they also provide a hiding place and are fun to push around. Consider getting an exercise pen so your guinea pig can get some exercise and safely explore outside of their cage. Make sure to avoid exercise wheels and balls. Guinea pigs’ have different anatomy than smaller rodents and their spines are unable to bend backwards. Exercise wheels and balls can cause severely back injuries. Remember, guinea pigs are social animals and they simply enjoy your company and being petted. You can tell they are happy by the cute sounds they make when they are being loved.  Pet Care Like other rodents, guinea pigs have teeth that grow continuously. In order to prevent their teeth from becoming overgrown, they have to wear down their teeth. This can usually be accomplished by providing them with hay at all times, chew toys, and cardboard tunnels. If their teeth become overgrown, they may be unable to eat and will need to see a veterinarian. In addition to their teeth, guinea pigs need to have their nails trimmed every few weeks. Without regular nail trims, their nails can get overgrown and become painful. If your guinea pig is of the long-haired variety, it will need to be brushed regularly to prevent matting.  Guinea pigs are social animals and generally do well with other guinea pigs. If you decide to get more than one guinea pig, make sure they are of the same sex. Otherwise you will end up with a household full of guinea pigs. Finally, although guinea pigs are relatively hardy, they are curious and can get themselves in trouble. Keep an eye on your guinea pig and make sure that they don’t chew on electrical cords, eat something they shouldn’t, or fall and injury themselves.    Lastly just like cats and dogs, it is ideal for guinea pigs to have annual check-ups. If you don’t already have a veterinarian be sure you choose one that sees guinea pigs and make an appointment to bring your new piggy in for a wellness check right away.   If you’ve decided to get a guinea pig, keep these suggestions in mind and buy the supplies you need to welcome your new guinea pigs home.      
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6 Ways to Keep Your Cats Healthy

Don’t Skip Check-ups Annual examinations are the best way to detect medical problems early and to ensure your cat is protected against preventable diseases. We take our kids to the pediatrician for wellness visits, so why should our cats be any different? Cats get sick too. They suffer from many of the same illnesses we do, like obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease, and kidney disease. And cats can’t talk and tell us when they are sick. To make matters worse, they are masters at hiding illnesses. You may not notice any signs or symptoms until the disease is very advanced. That’s why routine physical examinations are so important. They allow your veterinarian to check your cat from head to tail for subtle signs of illness. Your vet can also utilize screening tests to detect diseases early and to start treatment promptly. The fact is bringing your cat to the vet at least once a year for a check-up is the best way to be ensure your cat lives the healthiest, happiest life possible.    Keep Vaccines Up to Date Cats can be exposed to a number of different infectious diseases, even if they live indoors. Upper respiratory infections can be carried on your clothes or shoes or can spread through an open window or screen door. Not to mention that even indoor cats can sneak out. Although strictly indoor only cats may require less vaccines than outdoor cats, the fact remains that indoor cats may benefit from vaccines that protect against the upper respiratory viruses: feline rhinotracheitits, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia. In addition, some states require cats to be vaccinated against rabies. Speak with your veterinarian to find out what vaccines are appropriate for your particular cat based on their age, lifestyle and risks.     Don’t Forget About Parasite Control Unfortunately, even indoor cats aren’t immune to parasites. Pesky bugs like fleas can be brought into your home by your dog or rodents. You can even move into a house with an existing flea problem. Fleas in the pupa stage can remain dormant for months. In addition, mosquitos transmit heartworm disease and we all know how easy it is for them to get inside. Just because your cat doesn’t go outside don’t assume they are safe from parasites. Be on the look out for parasites and speak your veterinarian about parasitic screening tests and preventative medications that might be appropriate for your cat.   Microchips Are a Must All pets, even strictly indoor cats, should have microchips and ideally collars and ID tags. What happens when your cat sneaks out an open door or window, or worse yet, gets lost during an earthquake, hurricane or tornado? They become an outdoor cat with no identification! Collars and tags allow a neighbor to return your cat directly to you, but unfortunately, collars can break or fall off.  Microchips provide a more reliable means of identification. Of course, for them to work, make sure you register and keep your contact information up-to-date. The fact is accidents happen and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Being sure your pet has proper identification (collar, tag and microchips) is the best way to improve the odds that your pet will be returned home if they ever get lost.    Get Your Cats Moving All animals, even cats, benefit from exercise. Exercise is the best way to keep your cat trim and healthy. Like us, cats can suffer from obesity and the problems associated with being overweight such as arthritis and diabetes. You can keep your cat active by playing with a laser pointer. Most cats love to chase a laser pointer (and most humans find this entertaining too). Some cats can also learn to play fetch. The goal is to find the toy or activity that gets your pet moving. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian for ideas and help getting your lazy cat off the couch.   Keep Cats Indoors The decision to keep your cat indoors is probably the single most important action you can take to promote the health and longevity of your feline friend. The average lifespan for an outdoor cat is just 3 to 5 years, while indoor cats average 12. This huge difference in life expectancy should be a compelling enough reason for all cat parents to keep their feline friends indoors. Outdoor cats are at risk for getting hit by a car; being attacked by a dog or coyote, getting into a fight with another cat; ingesting poisonous chemicals such as rodenticides, insecticides, snail bait, or antifreeze, and are more likely to get parasites and infectious diseases like feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). The fact is once your cat is outdoors, there is no way to protect them from all of these dangers. See also >>> Clean & healthy litter that stops odor   As pet parents, besides loving our pets, our responsibility is to care for them and protect them from harm. What can you do to insure your cat lives out his nine lives? Make sure your cat has regular veterinary check-ups, stays up-to-date on their immunizations and parasite control, gets regular exercise and stays safely indoors.                
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6 Tips for Welcoming a New Cat into Your Home

We can all use a dose of good news during these times. One silver lining of the COVID pandemic has been its effect on animal shelters. With more people abiding with stay-at-home orders, the number of pet adoptions has soared, and many shelters are literally empty. If you are planning to open your home and heart to a new cat, there are a few things you need to do to welcome your new feline to your family.  Essentials. Always start with the essentials. You will need food, bowls, litter, a litter box, a bed, and a few fun items, like toys, to help your new feline friend feel at home.  Food. It’s best to feed your new cat the same food they were previously eating. Once your new cat becomes accustomed to their new home, you can gradually change their food to the food of your choice by slowly mixing it in. Speak with your veterinarian to find out which diet is best suited for your cat based on their age, health, and level of activity.  Litter. It’s the part of being a cat parent that no one likes, especially since most cats haven’t learned to use the toilet and simply flush the problem away. However, there are steps you can take to keep your household free of potty odors. Choose a superior, plant-based natural litter, like ökocat® that is made entirely from sustainably sourced wood that absorbs liquid on contact and stops the creation of ammonia and odor before it starts. And unlike traditional clay litter, ökocat® is 99% dust-free, contains no artificial fragrances, no synthetic chemicals, toxic dyes or GMOs, making it a cleaner and healthier choice for your cat, your family, and your home. Plus, it’s better for our planet too.  Cat-proofing. Cats are curious by nature so make sure your home is safe and cat-proof. Keep any poisonous plants, toxic household cleaners or chemicals out of your cat’s reach. Even innocuous items like string and ribbons can be dangerous to cats and should be stored out of reach. To find out more about household dangers, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website.  Vet Check. Take your new cat to the veterinarian for a complete check-up. Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination to ensure your cat is healthy and free of parasites and infectious diseases. They will also determine which vaccines your cat needs to stay healthy.  Transitions. If you have other pets, initially keep them in separate rooms. This allows them to get used to each other’s presence and can prevent a mini epidemic. Once they seem accustomed to each other and your veterinarian has given your new cat a clean bill of health, they can be gradually introduced to each other. By making the transition gradual, it keeps the levels of stress lower for everyone, including yourself.  Adopting a pet during these difficult times can break-up the solitude of stay-at-home orders and bring you much needed joy. By following these simple steps, you can ensure a smooth transition as you welcome your cat to their new home.
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