The Vet Corner
The Vet Corner
Filters & Contacts

Essential Tips for Choosing the Right Pet for You and Your Family

Picking the right pet for your family is more important than you may think. It can be the difference between a seamless fit or a mismatch with your lifestyle and expectations. Unfortunately, shelters are full of pets that ended up in there because they were a poor fit for the family or the they underestimated the level of responsibility or financial impact of having a pet.  Dogs The decision to get a dog should not be taken lightly. Though dogs make wonderful companions, they are a significant investment of time, money and emotions. Before you decide to get a dog, you need to ask yourself these questions: Do you have time for a dog? Do you have enough space for a dog? Can you afford to properly care for them? Are you prepared to take on this responsibility for the life of the dog, which could be 10 to 14 years? Do you have someone to watch your pet when you work or travel? If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you meet the bare minimum requirements to be a responsible dog parent, but you still have to decide which type of dog is best for you. To find the right dog for you, you need to consider how their size, coat, grooming needs, level of activity, ease of training, temperament, and breed-specific health issues match your lifestyles. For example, a high-energy Visla would get bored and destructive if they don’t get enough daily exercise, which is a recipe for disaster. However, the same high-energy Visla would be the perfect pet for an avid runner who wants a running buddy to join him on his daily runs. There is no perfect breed of dog or mixed-breed, but if you do your research, you can find the perfect dog for you and your lifestyle.  Cats While cats may be easier to care for than dogs, they still require a sizable commitment. Even though you don’t have to walk your cat, your cat needs a litter box which requires regular maintenance. Are you prepared to scoop poop every day? Another difference between cats and dogs is that cats can get onto just about anything. No counter is safe and they seem to have a knack for finding the most expensive things to knock over! Like dogs and humans, cats also need regular check-ups, immunizations and parasite control. While cats are generally clean and self-groom, long-haired cats, like Perisans and Ragdolls, require daily brushing to avoid mats. If you aren’t willing to brush your cat everyday, consider getting a short-haired cat. It’s not about a beauty preference, it’s about being realistic about the grooming demands of having a long-haired cat. Even short-haried cats have grooming needs. Short-haired cats shed more than you would expect and brushing them on a regular basis keeps the shedding at a manageable level. Since cats can live 20 years if you are lucky, picking the right cat is an important decision with lasting consequences.  Small Animal Pets Not ready to commit to a dog or cat? Guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice also make great pets. I know because I have had them all! As a veterinary student, I even had a hedgehog. Though small pets are less demanding for attention and require less maintenance than cats and dogs, they still need proper care. You need to clean their habitats, change their bedding, and give them fresh water and food daily. And though these pets have an independent streak, they still enjoy spending quality time with you. Just remember that their diminutive size makes them vulnerable to falls and injuries. Be extra careful if you have small kids as a fall can be fatal. To avoid falls, have your kids sit on the floor and have them hold their pet on their laps. And always remember to supervise your kids around small pets. If scared, small pets can bite over eager little fingers.    Choosing your next pet is an important decision with lasting implications. Although all pets require care and attention, some pets have greater needs. Ultimately the joy and love they give back makes it all worth it. To avoid disappointment, just remember to do your homework and pick the right pet to match your lifestyle and expectations.  
Read More

Top Rabbit Ailments and How to Prevent Them

Did you know that February is Adopt-a-Rabbit Month? While rabbits make great pets, many people do not realize the commitment of being a rabbit parent. Rabbits can live 8 to 12 years. To make sure that your bunny has a long and healthy life, you will need to provide a nutritious diet, proper housing, and become familiar with their health issues. Here are some of their most common health problems.   Overgrown teeth Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously. Unfortunately, this means that if they do not wear them down, their teeth can become sharp and overgrown. This can cause trauma to the cheeks and tongue and be painful. In severe cases, the front incisors can get so long that they curl around and prevent a rabbit from closing their mouth and even eating. So how do you know if your rabbit’s teeth are too long? Rabbits with dental problems often stop eating. If you notice your rabbit’s face is wet or they aren’t eating like they used to, be sure to check their teeth or see your veterinarian. The best way to prevent your rabbit from having overgrown teeth is by making sure your rabbit always has access to fresh hay, like carefresh Timothy Hay from chewy, and toys to gnaw on. Chewing hay, or gnawing on toys, helps wear down teeth and prevents them from getting too long.       Upper Respiratory Illnesses Respiratory infections are common in rabbits, especially when rabbits are housed in crowded stressful conditions. Likewise, rabbits kept in dirty enclosures with inadequate ventilation are more susceptible to these types of infections.  Pasteurellosis is the most common causes of bacterial upper respiratory infections in domestic rabbits and its often referred to as “snuffles.” It is highly contagious and spread through sneezing, coughing and direct contact. It causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes and lungs and left untreated can lead to pneumonia. The typical signs of an upper respiratory infection in rabbits are: runny nose, nasal or eye discharge, sneezing and coughing, and decreased appetite. Rabbits wipe their noses with their front feet, so sometimes people will notice their bunny has wet matted fu on their front legs. Infected rabbits require treatment with antibiotics and supportive care.   Gastrointestinal Stasis For many years, it was believed that rabbits stopped eating due to intestinal blockage caused by hairballs from excessive grooming. This condition was often referred to as “wool block.” However, we now know that it is normal for rabbits to have some amount of hair in their stomach since they are fastidious groomers. When rabbits stop eating, it is usually caused by gastrointestinal (GI) stasis rather than true blockage. GI stasis refers to slowing of the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Veterinarians now believe that GI stasis in rabbits is caused by a change in the intestinal bacterial, also known as gut microbiome. These bacteria are beneficial and help a rabbit digest its food. When rabbits develop GI stasis, they stop eating, stop passing stool, become bloated, and can die if untreated. Treatment involves IV fluids, syringe feeding if the rabbit is not eating, antibiotics if there is an infection, and drugs to speed up gut motility. The risk of GI stasis can be reduced by feeding your rabbit hay and a high-fiber diet and by exercise your rabbit to stimulate gut motility.     Ear Mites Ear mites are a common parasite seen in rabbits. Rabbits with ear mites shake and scratch at their ears. In addition, affected animals usually have thick, dry, brownish crusty discharge in one or both ears. Ear mites are highly contagious from rabbit to rabbit and can lead to a head tilt if left untreated. Treatment is simple and involves an injection or topical medication.   Ulcerative Pododermatitis Ulcerative pododermatitis, commonly called “sore hocks,” is an infection of the soles of the rear feet. It occurs when rabbits develop pressure sores on their rear feet that then become infected. This occurs more frequently in overweight rabbits that are housed on wire-floor cages. Urine-soaked droppings and dirty bedding create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that can colonize irritated and inflamed skin leading to infection. Signs of ulcerative pododermatitis include: abnormal walking, limping, and sitting in a peculiar position with weight shifted off the rear feet. Treatment involves moving affected animals to a clean cage with a solid floor and soft bedding. Topical and oral antibiotics are used to treat the infection.    Myxomatosis Myxomatosis, often called “big head disease,” is a deadly viral disease seen in domestic rabbits. It is caused by the myxoma virus, which is a type of pox virus and is transmitted by mosquitos, biting flies, ticks, fleas and direct contact. Rabbits with myxomatosis often have nasal and eye discharge, nasal swelling, fevers and lethargy. Unfortunately, there is no treatment and the disease is usually fatal. The best way to prevent this horrible disease is to protect them from the insects that transmit the disease. Talk to your veterinarian about the best parasite control measures for your rabbit.   When to call your veterinarian Like people, rabbits can become sick, but unlike us, they can’t tell you when they don’t feel well. In addition, they are very good at hiding signs of illness, a trait that was necessary for their wild rabbit cousins. So how do you know when your bunny is sick? Common signs of illness in rabbits include: nasal discharge, congestion, eye discharge, lethargy, poor appetite, diarrhea or reduced stool. If you notice any of these signs, notify your veterinarian right away.   Prevention So how can you keep your rabbit healthy? Make sure they are fed a nutritious diet that includes fresh hay daily. For more information about what to feed your rabbit, check-out this article. Rabbits also need to kept in a well-ventilated clean habitat with proper bedding and a litter box, using carefresh® bedding or litter. Soiled bedding should be removed daily and entire habitats should be cleaned weekly. Just like dogs and cats, rabbits should be spayed and neutered and have annual veterinary check-ups to ensure they are healthy and up-to-date on preventatives.  >>> Learn more about rabbit care, bonding and playtime    By feeding your rabbit a nutritious diet, housing them in a clean and tidy habitat, looking-out for common health problems, and taking them to the veterinarian regularly, you can give your rabbit the best chance to live a long healthy life.            
Read More

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.      
Read More