News & Events

What is Heartworm?

Heartworm is a serious illness that can cause heart failure, lung disease, organ damage and even death in dogs, cats and ferrets. Heartworm is most prevalent in pets living along the Atlantic Gulf coasts from New Jersey to the Gulf of Mexico, and in those living alongside the Mississippi and its main tributaries. However it has been found in pets in all of the US States.
 

What causes Heartworm?

Heartworm is caused by parasitic worm larvae that lives inside mosquitoes. When the mosquito bites an animal it transfers some worm larvae into it where the larvae then matures, mates and produces offspring inside its living host. The offspring produced by female adult heartworms is known as microfilariae and lives in the host animals’ blood stream. When a mosquito then bites an infected animal it draws microfilariae into its body where it turns it into infective larvae, beginning the cycle again.

Once an animal has been infected it takes time for the larvae to mature into adults that are capable of reproduction. In dogs this period is usually 6-7 months and in cats and ferrets around 8 months. Adult heartworms look like cooked spaghetti and can range in size from 4-6 inches in males and 10-12 inches in females. The number of worms found in a pet is known as its ‘worm burden’ and this can vary depending on the species of animal and the severity of the infection.
 

Heartworm in Dogs

The lifespan of heartworms within an infected dog is between 5 and 7 years and the average worm burden is 15. However dogs have been seen with worm burdens ranging from 1 to 250.
 

Symptoms of Heartworm in Dogs

The severity of the symptoms of heartworm in dogs is dependent on the worm burden of the animal, how long they have been infected and how well their body can cope with the disease. However it is usually broken down into four stages.
Class 1: no visible symptoms or very mild symptoms such as an intermittent cough or wheeze.
Class 2: mild to more moderate symptoms including intermittent coughing and lethargy or breathlessness after light to moderate exercise. At this time some heart and lung changes may be seen on x-rays.
Class 3: symptoms will include frequent or persistent coughing, lethargy and breathlessness after mild activity. Heart and lung changes will definitely be visible on x-rays.
Class 4: this stage is otherwise known as Caval Syndrome and is reached when an infected animal has been left untreated for an extended period of time. At this stage the animal experiences restricted blood flow to the heart caused by a blockage of worms. Heart failure is imminent and emergency surgery to remove the worms is the only course of action. However this comes with its own risks and most dogs with Caval Syndrome do not survive.

We are constantly being told that obesity levels are increasing and we should act now to ensure our long term health. However this problem does not just affect humans. A shocking statistic from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that an estimated 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese.
(Source: Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 2015)

Just like humans, pets who are overweight are at increased risk of a number of health problems including but not limited to:

  • Cranial cruciate ligament injury

  • Decreased life expectancy by up to 2.5 years

  • Heart and respiratory disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Varying forms of cancer

Keeping your pet safe is the most important part of keeping both you and your pet happy. When you first adopt a pet or new breed of pet — or even better, before you adopt them — be sure to research the basics of your pet. When you finally select a pet, talk to the shelter staff about things you might need to worry about or watch out for. Of course, you can always stop by with your pet to discuss behaviors, concerns, or anything else.

Below we've got some general notes on basic safety tips, whether indoors or outdoors. Remember that traveling —that's more than a quick jog to the park or a ride across town for a play date— may require some extra steps based on the species of your pet. Traveling at any distance can give some pets anxiety, and there's other physical safety factors to consider. Come by and talk to us about what you may need, especially if you're about to travel abroad!

A new pet can be very exciting! But do you know where to find the pet that's right for you? Choosing which pet you'd like can be hard, and not just because you have to choose between one kitten or puppy and another.

We've got the tips to help you make the right decision — for you, and for the animal.
 

Things to keep in mind

Deciding to adopt a new animal is a big decision and one that shouldn't be made impulsively. Pets need to be cared for and loved like any other member of the family, and that takes time, effort, and money. Do you have a yard large enough for a goat to live comfortably? Do you have time more than once per day every single day to walk your dog? Do you have enough money to buy fresh litter for your cat regularly?

Only adopt an animal if you feel confident in your ability to care for them. This includes being able to care for animals you buy for your kids. By their nature, children will want to participate in all the fun parts and have trouble consistently remembering or even wanting to do the dirty work. If you won't be able to care for the animal when your kids can't, that leaves the pet as the one that's hurt or neglected.

But we understand that sometimes things change! If you can no longer care for your animal, contact the shelter or organization you adopted the animal from, or feel free to come in and talk to us about potential options. Please, never abandon your pet!

With the World Canine Organization recognizing over 300 different breeds of dog across the globe, it can be extremely difficult to know which is right for you and your lifestyle. When making the decision to bring a puppy into your home you are making a commitment to usually at least ten years of love, care and attention and so ensuring that you select the right dog for you is absolutely crucial.

With this in mind, we have put together this article to look at the physical and behavioral characteristics of a few popular breeds when they are fully matured.
 

American Bulldog

Height (males): 22-28 inches Weight (males): 70-120lbs
Height (females): 20-26 inches Weight (females): 60-100lbs
Life expectancy: up to 16 years

Physical characteristics: muscular, powerful and sturdy animals they are also surprisingly athletic. Its strong jaws and muzzle can mean it can look ‘mean’. The tail is low set, thick at the base and tapers to a point. The coat is short and smooth and comes in an array of colors.

Temperament: American bulldogs make extremely loyal pets which display strong protective instincts towards their families. Highly alert and great with children, they are sociable animals that need to know their place in the family hierarchy. A firm pack leader, good socialization from a young age and obedience training will make them easier to handle.


Exercise: They are relatively inactive when indoors, but need at least an average sized yard and a long daily walk.

Health: The breed is prone to hip dysplasia.
 

Alaskan Mamalute

Height (males): 24-26 inches Weight (males): 80-95lbs
Height (females): 22-24 inches Weight (females): 70-85lbs
Life expectancy: 12-16 years

Physical characteristics: The largest of the arctic dogs, the Alaskan Mamalute is a well built animal that strongly resembles a wolf. It has a plumed tail, large thick feet with tough pads and a dense coarse coat up to three inches in length and in an array of colors. The muzzle and legs are almost always white.

Temperament: These dogs are sociable, loyal and bright. They are better suited to older children and love to please their human family. However because they are so friendly they would be more likely to welcome intruders than scare them so do not make very good guard dogs! They have strong prey instincts so should not be around smaller animals. Strong leadership, obedience training and proper socialization are critical as without them they can become destructive.

Exercise: Alaskan Mamalutes are very active and love the outdoors so are best suited to homes with large yards and an owner who can commit to long daily walks. High fences and buried fence bases are a must as they like to try and roam. They struggle with hot climates so will need less exercise and plenty of cool water and shade.

Health: this breed is prone to hip dysplasia, bloating and dwarfism.
 

Bichon Frise

Height (males): 9-12 inches Weight (males): 7-12lbs
Height (females): 9-11 inches Weight (females): 7-10lbs
Life expectancy: around 15 years

Physical characteristics: A small and sturdy dog, the Bichon Frise has a short muzzle and dropped ears covered in hair. It has a thick tail that is carried over the back and a double coat of up to four inches in length that is usually a shade of white, cream, apricot or grey.

Temperament: These extremely sociable animals make ideal companions as they adore human company and love to please their owners. They are excellent with all ages of humans and other dogs, and are affectionate and intelligent. As with all small dogs there is a risk of developing small dog syndrome where the animal feels that he is the pack leader to humans. This can cause them to develop a number of behavioral problems, so ensure that steps are taken to prevent small dog syndrome from setting in by asserting yourself firmly as the pack leader.

Exercise: The Bichon Frise can happily live in an apartment provided they are given regular exercise through daily walks and play.

Health: This breed can be sensitive to flea bites, and prone to cataracts, skin and ear ailments, epilepsy and dislocated kneecaps.
 

Boston Terrier

Height: 15-17 inches Weight: 10-25lbs
Life expectancy: approximately 15 years

Physical characteristics: compact, square-bodied dogs with good muscle tone and erect ears; the Boston Terrier is a handsome animal. The legs are quite wide set, tail kept short, and the coat is short and fine.

Temperament: These are intelligent creatures that are easy to train and affectionate with their family. They are good with people of all ages and love to be sociable. Also at risk of developing small dog syndrome so the proper authority and obedience training is necessary to ensure that they know their place.

Exercise: Boston Terriers are suited to apartments as well as houses with yards, so long as they get regular walks and play. They are sensitive to extreme changes in weather.

Health: Their prominent eyes can be prone to injury, as well as a multitude of eye-related health problems including glaucoma, ulcers and cataracts. Deafness, tumors, and breathing difficulties when exerted or dealing with hot weather are also concerns.

Just like humans pets can have days where they feel a little lethargic and under the weather, but it is the natural instinct of an animal to try and disguise any signs of illness. They do this in the wild as showing weakness leaves them vulnerable to predators and open to attack. Unfortunately this can make it tricky to determine if your pet is feeling a little unwell or if they are suffering from a more serious illness.

There are a number of symptoms and changes in your pets’ appearance, behavior and physical condition that you can look out for. These include but are not limited to:

  • Abnormal vocal noises

  • Bloating of the abdomen

  • Blood in the stools or urine

  • Decreased energy or activity levels

  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting

  • Discharge from the nose or eyes

  • Excessive scratching or licking of the body

  • Foul odor from ears, mouth or skin

  • Increased shedding or bald patches

  • Limping

  • Lumps or tumors

  • Persistent hiding

  • Reluctance to use stairs

  • Seizures

  • Straining or an inability to pass urine or stools

Any of the above symptoms should be checked out by a veterinarian within 24/48 hours.

Symptoms that require immediate veterinary treatment include:

  • Bloated or hardened abdomen

  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea

  • Inability to stand up or urinate

  • Seizures


Whilst a sick pet may require inpatient treatment in care in your veterinary surgery for days or even weeks, you will need to continue providing them with care and compassion to aid their recovery when they come home. This can include administering medication, supporting physical rehabilitation, emotional care, and fulfilling any special dietary requirements.

Regular vaccinations and examinations will help keep your pet healthy and happy. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you of the frequency that your pet should be examined, but most recommend either annual or six-monthly visits. This is because pets age an average of 7 times faster than humans and so by the time they reach 6/7 years old they are considered middle-aged. Larger breeds of dogs are often considered to be seniors by the time they reach 8.

Typical components of a wellness examination include:

  • Checking the central nervous center

  • Checking and cleaning the ears, treating if required

  • Checking joints and mobility

  • Checking skin and condition of coat

  • Checking urinary and reproductive systems

  • Dental examination

  • Eye examination

  • Listen to the heart

  • Listen to the lungs

  • Observation of alertness and response

  • Palpate the abdomen checking for painful areas and/or growths or tumors

  • Physical examination of the rest of the body for unusual lumps

  • Weight check

Other tests that your pet may be given include:

  • Heartworm testing (otherwise known as blood parasite screening)

  • Fecal testing. This allows the veterinarian to check for the presence of internal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.

  • Blood work. Blood tests screen for infection or disease that may not otherwise be detected through a physical examination. Blood work also allows a veterinarian a comprehensive assessment of your pets’ health.

Saving Your Pet from an Itchy Problem: Fleas

 

Every parent to a furry pet knows how much of a nuisance fleas can be. At best your pets become itchy and skittish, at worst they become miserable and lethargic. And just like ticks, fleas can be a vector for disease for your pets, or even for you! Fleas can be partly responsible for roundworms or flatworms, and can be responsible for infections including typhus, spotted fever, cat-scratch fever, or more rarely, the plague.

So what can we do? The best first step is prevention, but if that fails, there are ways to spot the beginnings of a flea infestation as well as ways to stop it in its tracks.
 

Preventing an infestation

Stop an infestation before it can start! When winter turns to spring and the weather starts to get warm, don't wait until you can notice fleas on your pets or their playmates. You'll have a much happier home if you follow these easy steps:

  • Keep your home clean. Vacuum your house regularly, especially if you have deep pile rugs, and make sure your pet's favorite spaces are regularly cleaned/washed, aired out, and preferably getting plenty of sunlight.

  • Clean yards fend off more than ticks. Keeping a clean yard, including mowed lawns and trimmed foliage, will drastically reduce the potential population of fleas in your outdoors. Keeping any trash, especially foods, carefully sealed for disposal will help keep away other animals that are likely to harbor fleas

  • Use flea treatments. There's a number of options for flea treatments available based on the type of pet and their age, including spot-on treatments and flea collars. Always read the instructions carefully to avoid harming your cat instead of helping them. And of course, always feel free to come in and talk to our staff about what treatments are best for your pet.

  • Consider professional pest control. This option isn't always in a pet owner's budget, and it should always be considered carefully to ensure the best health for your pets, plants, and fish. This can also help prevent other potentially nasty bugs from biting you and your animals, including mosquitoes.
     

Catching an infestation early

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, fleas find their way into our homes and onto us and our animals. Maybe it's because you live in an apartment, and they hitch a ride on your neighbor's dog. Or perhaps your selected flea treatment didn't last as long as you expected it to, or wasn't even affective at all.

No matter the reason, we've got a few tips on how to identify a flea infestation as early as possible. The earlier you identify it, the earlier you can get it under control!

  • Comb your pet regularly. You can monitor your pet's fur for fleas at multiple stages and check their skin for irritations, bite marks, or other signs of fleas, such as eggs or detritus (blackish-red "flea dirt"). You want to pay close attention to favored locations, such as the back of the head and around the ears, the armpits, or the rump. Remember: fleas will jump on and off of you and your pet, so finding signs of fleas is important, even if you do not find fleas themselves.

  • Fleas love to jump, and jump. Fleas are tiny and quick, but they usually appear in groups once the infestation has started. You'll probably be able to feel them jumping on and off of you, especially your feet and lower legs. Your pet's skin will probably also "jump," as they twitch from the movement of fleas (as opposed to being bitten).

  • Keep an eye on your pet's behavior. Are they scratching more than usual? Are they pulling their fur out? Do they have dermatitis? Are they biting at the same area over and over? These are all potential signs that fleas are present. Note: If this behavior is present but you cannot find any other signs of fleas, bring your pet in to be checked by us. We can ensure there's not other health problems!

  • White brings fleas to light. Sometimes it can be hard to determine if the evidence you're finding is of fleas, instead of just plain dirt, especially if your pet spends a lot of time outside. Put down white paper towels when you comb your pet with the flea comb. You can check the detritus that falls off the pet onto the paper towel or is stuck on the comb to see if it's like dried blood, or if it looks like the earth around your home. Also, if you wear white socks, you'll be able to see the fleas jumping on and off of you.

  • Fleas don't just jump on you. In fact, individually they don't even spend most of their time on you or your pet. Check your pet's favorite places — the dog bed where they love to flop out, the spot on the overstuffed chair where your cat loves to sun itself, or even the places in the house where they play the most. Fleas will leave behind similar detritus on your surroundings as they do on your pet.

  • Check all of your pets. If one pet is exhibiting signs of fleas, but your other pet's behavior hasn't changed and they don't scratch themselves much, that doesn't mean the fleas only want to eat one pet. There is a good likelihood you'll find evidence of fleas on both! The reason is that not all animals are allergic to flea bites.

  • Anemia is a concern. Be sure to keep an eye on your pets during regular care and grooming. Lethargy, weakness, and even pale gums can be signs that they're anemic, i.e., that a high number of fleas are sucking their blood. Be sure to come see us so we can get your pet well!

Our pets are a beloved part of our family and sometimes this means that they have to travel with us when we undertake long journeys. As a general rule cats seriously dislike traveling and are almost always better off at home in their own environment. Dogs are more amenable to traveling, but there are still a number of considerations to make to ensure that the journey is both safe and comfortable for your pet.


Traveling by Car

The most important thing to remember is to ensure that your pet is not free to roam around the vehicle. Not only could this be distracting for the driver, but your pet will not be protected in the event of a crash. You may have seen dog seat belts being sold in some pet stores. Whilst they have been approved for sale, there is no reliable evidence proving them to be effective in accidents. Instead you should secure your pet in a crate that has been tethered to the car by a seatbelt or other secure method. Ensure that crate is big enough for your pet to change position if they become uncomfortable.

  • Do not put animals in the front passenger seat of your vehicle. If the airbag deploys then there is a chance that your pet could be seriously injured.

  • Do not ever leave your pet alone in the car. Animal thieves frequent parking lots and service stations looking for unattended pets to steal. Also leaving an animal alone in a warm car can be fatal. On a day where the outside temperature is 85F, the temperature inside your vehicle can reach 120F in just 10 minutes putting your pet at serious risk.

  • Do not allow your pet to stick his head outside a moving vehicle. Doing so risks injury or sickness by fast-moving air forcing itself into your pets’ lungs.

  • Never transport your pet in the back of an open pick-up truck.

  • Make plenty of bathroom breaks. This will also allow your pet to stretch their legs and have a drink.

  • As a general rule, if you wouldn’t allow your child to do it then do not allow your pet to do it either!

When a person or animal is unwell, external symptoms and blood test results may only tell a small part of the story. Advances in medical technology mean that it is now possible to see what is actually happening inside you, and one of these procedures is known as an endoscopy.

An endoscopy can be used to view and analyze many parts of a horse including the upper respiratory tract, and parts of the gastrointestinal, reproductive and urinary tracts. This helps veterinarians to make an accurate diagnosis and recommendation for treatment for a wide range of health problems.
 

Types of endoscopy

There are two main types of endoscopy available in the equine veterinary field. These are:


Fiberoptic Endoscope

This is the most common type of endoscope used for investigative surgery in horses. The endoscope is made up of a bunch of optical fibers that are enclosed within a waterproof rubber tube. The tube is passed into the horse’s body either through a natural body cavity or a surgical incision. The area is illuminated by a light source that passes through the fiber optics and then examined using an eyepiece that is attached to the external end of the fiber-optic cable.
 

Video Endoscope

This more advanced version of the endoscope has a tiny microchip video camera on the end of the scope which relays live feedback to a television screen in the room. This means that multiple people can view the feed, and it can be recorded and played back at a later time.

What are Ticks?

Ticks are arachnids that belong to the same family as spiders and mites. They are parasitic and feed on the blood of host animals. They are visible to the naked eye, but start of around the size of a pin head before swelling with blood as they feast. 

Animals living in the Southern States or near heavily wooded areas will have increased exposure to ticks which like to live in thick long grass, as it allows them to attach to host animals as they walk by. They are most active during the late spring and summer months and they are not fussy which breeds of animals they feed on. However animals that spend a lot of time outdoors will be more susceptible to ticks.


Symptoms of Ticks

Animals with few ticks can present with little or no symptoms and it is often not until there is a larger infestation or infection from the bites that signs become apparent. If and when symptoms do materialize they can include itching, scratching and visible red or inflamed irritations on the skin. 

Ticks can transmit a number of diseases including Babesia, Cytauxzoonosis, Lyme disease and Mycoplasma. Some animals can also have allergic reactions to tick bites which result in infections. Symptoms from these reactions or diseases can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and pain and can last for several days or several weeks. If you are concerned that your pet has developed illness from a tick bite, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

When it comes to bringing a new pet into your home, preparation is crucial in order for them to make a successful transition. It can take days, weeks or even several months for your pet to consider your home its new home. Here are our top tips for helping your new pet settle in.


Supplies and equipment

Ensure that you have all of the supplies and equipment that your new pet will need. This includes fundamental items such as a bed, water bowl and food, as well as toys and other items to stimulate their cognitive development and keep them entertained. Remember that your pets’ emotional wellbeing and mental stimulation is just as important as their physical needs.


Prepare any other pets in the home

Ensure that any other pets in the home are up to date with their vaccinations. Whilst shelters do their best to treat any viruses, occasionally re-homed pets do bring new diseases with them that could be transmitted to existing pets in the household. You may also have to introduce existing pets to your new pet gradually until they get used to one another.


Register with a Veterinarian

As soon as you bring your pet home you should register with a veterinarian and make an appointment for your pet to have a thorough health check. Ideally this should be done within a week of their arrival. They can advise on the correct vaccination protocol for your pet and ensure that there are no underlying illnesses or concerns.

You should also speak to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your pet. There are thousands of animals in shelters across the country that are desperate for loving homes. Limiting population growth further by having your pet spayed or neutered is a responsible course of action for any owner.


Establish rules and guidelines in advance

Establishing some basic house rules ahead of your pets’ arrival can help create a routine that your pet will quickly adopt as his own. Knowing what to expect will also help him settle in much faster. Assigning specific responsibilities to family members can help them bond with your pet and take ownership of their commitment as a pet owner.

Being consistent with rules for your pet will make training them much easier. For example do not start off by letting your pet sleep on the sofas if this is not a behavior you want to continue in the future.

What is Canine Parvovirus?

Also known as CPV, Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that can be debilitating and even fatal. It has two main forms, the more common intestinal variety and the less common cardiac variety. Puppies aged between 6 weeks and 6 months old are most commonly affected, but early vaccinations can significantly reduce the risk of contracting CPV.

CPV is resistant to the majority of cleaning products and household bleach is the only known way to eradicate it.

 

What causes CPV?

The CPV virus is mainly transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal, or indirectly through contact with the stools of an infected dog which contain a heavy concentration of the virus. This contact can include inhalation as well as touch. The virus can also live in the ground for up to a year where it can be brought into contact with a dog by way of shoes.

Certain breeds of dog are more susceptible to CPV. These are: Alaskan Sled Dogs, Dobermans Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Pitbulls and Rottweilers. Dogs that take immunosuppressant medication or have not had adequate vaccinations are also more likely to contract CPV.

As with most contagious diseases, animal shelters and kennels are much more likely to be contaminated.

 

Symptoms of CPV

The intestinal variety of CPV affects an animals’ ability to absorb nutrients from their food. This means that an infected dog will rapidly become dehydrated and weak.
The primary symptoms of intestinal CPV include but are not limited to:

  • Anorexia / severe weight loss

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Coughing

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Pain, particularly if the abdomen is touched

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Vomiting

  • Wet tissue of eyes and mouth becomes red and inflamed

In rare cases of CPV a dog may exhibit symptoms consistent with hypothermia rather than a high fever. Cardiac CPV is extremely rare and usually only seen in very young puppies where it attacks their heart muscles. Cardiac CPV almost always results in death.

Don't ignore your pet's bad breath! Dental hygiene is often the cause of stinky breath, and it may indicate other important problems with your pet's health. We understand how easy it is to miss - many of the problems that stem from poor hygiene occur where you can't see them, below your pet's gum line.
The first line of defense is always home care. But while some animals (especially dogs) tolerate their owners handling their mouths and brushing their teeth, most (especially cats) will struggle or act out. That can always make oral care difficult at best, and ineffective at worst.

The best way to ensure your pet's oral health is to have regular cleanings at our office. Discuss how often you ought to come in as well as a home hygiene regimen with your vet. This will also prevent dental issues from progressing to larger (and potentially deadly) internal issues, such as dysfunction or disease in the heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs.

In the wild, hiding pain, illness, or other weaknesses are survival instincts; many times your pet will have the same instincts, even in the safety and comfort of your loving home, so always keep an eye on your pet's eating habits and behaviors. Recognizing the difference between normal changes in mood and red flags can be difficult sometimes. What you interpret as a persistent grumpiness may actually be a sign that your pet is in pain. New irritability, shying away from being touched (especially on the face and around the mouth or throat), sluggishness, loss of appetite or difficulty eating, and lethargy are all behavioral signs which may indicate illness.

However, if you note any of the following physical changes, contact your vet immediately:

  • Red and swollen gums

  • Bleeding gums, especially when eating or when having teeth brushed

  • Swelling around the mouth

  • Oral abscesses

  • Abnormal chewing

  • Loose or missing teeth

  • Discolored teeth

  • Crusted build up at the edge of the gums

  • Persistent bad or fetid breath

  • Excessive drooling

  • Weight loss

Remember, preventing oral infections and disease will help your pet live a longer, healthier life. Furthermore, caring for your pet with regular cleanings now will save you money later. In 2013, VPI Pet Insurance priced the cost of treatment for dental diseases at more than $530 on average. Our prices for regular cleanings are much less than that!

A healthy and balanced diet is essential for a healthy and happy pet. Not only will it provide your pet with enough energy for his day to day activities, but it is also vital for proper brain function. An adequate diet is also particularly important for animals in the early stages of their development.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to feeding your pet is to feed them by ‘life-stage’. Different animals, and in particular cats and dogs, require different nutrition at different stages of their life. For example, puppies around 12 weeks of age will require around 3 meals a day and it is not until they reach around 6 months of age that this amount should be reduced. That said, your animal may prefer smaller and more frequent meals. They key to feeding your pet properly is understanding what works best for them.
 

Methods of Feeding

A popular method of feeding is known as ‘free-feeding’. This is where a bowl of food is left out so that a pet can eat as much or as little and as frequently as they prefer. This works best for dry foods since they do not spoil as quickly as the wet variety. Some studies show that this method results in over-eating and subsequent pet obesity. However it may be the best option for you if you cannot stick to a feeding schedule.

Scheduled portioned feeding requires a strict routine that you need to be able to guarantee to stick to. Your pet will know when meal times are and ensure that they are ready for them, with cats coming indoors specifically at these times. This method limits the amount that your pet eats either by portion size or by time as some pet owners prefer to give their animals a specific time frame in which they must eat. This method also works well if you have pets that required medication to be mixed with their food, or have an animal on a calorie-controlled diet.

If you are unsure which method is right for your pet, consult with your veterinarian who will be more than happy to provide advice.
 

General Feeding Advice

Do NOT offer home cooked meals. These may not meet the complex nutritional needs of your pet. Instead stick to especially formulated pet foods.

With thousands of unwanted dogs living in shelters and desperately looking for new homes, we highly recommend that you at least consider adopting a puppy or adult dog. You will be able to find details of your local shelters and rescue centers online. However, if your heart is set on a purebred puppy then the very first thing you should do is find a reputable breeder.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who view breeding purely as a source of income and they have very little concern for either the current or future welfare of their puppies. However, by asking the right questions and making some careful observations, it is possible to distinguish between them and knowledgeable and professional breeders. Here is our guide to helping you find a reputable breeder for your pet.

One of the most important parts of responsible equine ownership is caring for their teeth and ensuring they are strong, clean and healthy. This is because oral health can have a significant impact on the overall wellbeing of your animal. Left untreated, dental problems can cause problems with the function of the nervous system, muscular balance, cardiovascular health, imbalance of chemicals in the body, digestive system and the structural stability of the head, neck, and tongue. Most equine dental problems begin as mild and treatable occurrences. However, they can rapidly increase in severity if left untreated. Regular check-ups by an experienced and qualified equine dentist are vital.

Symptoms of equine dental problems

One of the reasons that regularly scheduled check-ups are important is because many horses don’t display any clear symptoms of dental issues until they develop into major problems or begin to cause them pain. However, many responsible equine owners can tell when their horse isn’t feeling quite right. If they are unable to establish what is wrong, then there is a good chance that dental problems may be to blame.
Some of the signs and symptoms of equine dental problems that you can look out for include:

  • Tilting the head when not eating

  • Head tossing or shaking

  • Excessive saliva

  • Nasal discharge

  • Facial swelling

  • Foul breath

  • Dropping food

  • Stiffness on one side

  • Napping, bucking or rearing

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Grass packing in cheeks

  • Slow to eat or dips feed or hay in drinking water

  • Nervousness or a dislike of being handled

In some cases, behavior changes can also be a sign of dental problems. These could be mouthing or chewing the bit, unexplained subtle lameness, resisting bridling or even rearing or bolting.

Equine castration is the most common surgical procedure performed on horses. Not only does it prevent unwanted breeding, but it can also dramatically improve the behavior and management of your horse.


When should equine castration take place?

Equine castration usually takes place in either the spring or autumn months in order to avoid bacteria-carrying flies in the summer and the mud of winter. Traditionally, castration is carried out in a horse’s yearling year, but there is no reason why the procedure cannot be undertaken at other times. However, both testicles must have descended into the scrotum before the castration takes place. If one testicle is undescended, then waiting to castrate is usually the most viable option. However, it is possible to carry out a full castration via laparoscopy to find the retained testicle, although this requires much more surgical intervention and therefore a longer recovery period.

Your equine veterinarian will obtain the medical history and conduct a thorough examination of your horse before performing castration, to ensure that he is in good condition, has been wormed regularly, his vaccinations are up to date and he has not suffered any recent respiratory infection.

Lameness is one of the most prevalent problems presented to equine veterinarians. The term is used to describe an abnormal gait or stance due to the animal feeling pain or experiencing a restriction in the normal range of movement caused by underlying mechanical or neurological problems. The pain or restriction can originate from any part of the body such as the hoof, the leg or neck. The degree of severity can vary from a mild change in gait to completely preventing the horse from using or bearing weight on the affected limb. Unfortunately, lameness is the primary reason that older horses are put down.
Why might my horse be lame?


There are many reasons why a horse can become lame, but some of the most common reasons include:

  • Abscesses or bruises in the hoof

  • Back and neck problems

  • Degenerative joint diseases

  • Fractures

  • Laminitis – inflammation of the soft tissue structures which attach the pedal bone to the hoof wall

  • Ligament injuries

  • Tendon damage

Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a State with relatively consistent weather and temperatures. Just as humans change their behavior and diet with fluctuations in temperature, so do most animals. Here are our guidelines for seasonal care for your pets.


Winter

If temperatures plummet and your pet usually likes to spend most of its time outdoors try and persuade them to stay indoors in the warm instead. If circumstances mean that your pet has to be kept outdoors then take steps to ensure that they are as warm and comfortable as possible. This means providing them with a dry and draft-free shelter with plenty of extra blankets. You should also regularly check their water supply to ensure that it hasn’t frozen.

If the ground is covered with snow, ice or just extremely cold then you may want to consider animal booties. These are widely available from most pet stores.

Be prepared to see a change in your pets eating habits. Outdoor pets tend to require extra food. They burn this extra food to help keep them warm. Indoor pets are likely to eat far less as they conserve energy by sleeping more.

Keep your pets away from antifreeze. Unfortunately, it smells and tastes delicious to dogs and cats, but even the smallest sip can be deadly. Keep pets out of garages and outbuildings and clean up any spillages as soon as they happen. Speak to your neighbors about the dangers and ask them to ensure that any antifreeze they have is securely stored and that they too clean up any spillages that may occur. If your pet acts as if they are drunk or begins to convulse then take them to a vet immediately.

Check under the hood of your car before starting the engine. Many cats like to sneak under the hood of a vehicle once you have gone inside so that they can curl up against the warm engine. If you are unable to open the hood then a firm tap on it should be sufficient to wake any sleeping cat.

Ensure that rabbit hutches are brought inside. If this isn’t possible then ensure that you put extra newspaper in for insulation. Again, check their water source to ensure that it isn’t frozen.

While for many people the concept of grooming your pet conjures up notions of brushes and bows, it is in fact a vital element to their overall health and wellbeing. Regularly grooming your animal allows you to catch any underlying diseases or conditions early, meaning that they will be able to be treated quicker and more efficiently and will therefore be less likely to have any lasting effect on your pet.

However not all animals enjoy the grooming process and many owners find that it is easier to send their pet to a professional groomer on a regular basis instead. If you have a puppy or a kitten then training them to ensure the grooming process is an important part of their learning and will be beneficial to them as they reach maturity. This is especially true of nail clipping and ear cleaning which require them sitting completely still for the process. Good breeders will often begin grooming their litters as soon as they are old enough to help get them used to the process. Even if you do opt to use a professional pet groomer, there are still a number of regular grooming techniques that you can do at home with your pet to strengthen your bond.
Here are some of the important benefits of pet grooming.

Once your pet has settled into your home it is a good idea to think about training. Training your pet can help ensure that the behaviors that they exhibit are primarily desirable ones. Dogs in particular like to please their owners and doing so will help retain a lifelong bond between you.


Training your Dog

Whilst dogs have earned a reputation as ‘man’s best friend’ thanks to their loyal and affectionate nature, just like their human counterparts they can sometimes possess annoying habits or personality traits that make them difficult to live with.

Training your dog will be hugely beneficial to your dog learning to live harmoniously alongside his human family. It will strengthen the bond between you and ensure his safety when out and about. Many dogs also find training to be a fun activity.

What is the best method to train my dog?
There are many different schools of thought as to how best to train a dog. Some owners prefer strict training with punishments for non-compliance, whilst others prefer to praise positive behavior and ignore undesirable reactions. Studies have shown that as a general rule the latter method works best, but however you decide to train your dog, in order to do so effectively you need to consistently control the consequences of your dogs’ behavior.

Dogs cannot relate events that are separated by time and so the consequences to behavior need to be immediate. You cannot praise your dog several minutes after returning to you when called as he will not understand why he is receiving it. The easiest way to train a dog is to reward the behaviors that you like and not reward those that you don’t.

  • If your dog likes the consequence you give them they will be more likely to repeat that behavior so they get the consequence again i.e. love, attention and praise.

  • If they dislike the consequences then they will do the behavior less often.


It really is that simple, but being consistent is vital otherwise you will send mixed messages to your pet. For example, if you do not want your pet to jump up at you (which they do to get your attention) then ignore them until they calm down. Praise and make a fuss of them as soon as they have returned to calm behavior. They will then learn that this is the way that you prefer them to behave. It may take several days or weeks of doing this, but your dog will soon learn the correct behavior to exhibit.

If you have decided that a cat is the right pet for you then you may think that the decision making process is complete, but in fact you are still at the very beginning. Cats, like humans, are all very different and selecting one to suit your needs and lifestyle is vitally important as it will require the commitment of your love, care and attention for anything upwards of 10 years. Here is our guide to helping you pick your perfect cat.
Kitten or adult cat?

Many people instinctively choose kittens over adult cats and this is largely due to their childlike cuteness, curiosity and playful behavior. However they may not realize that they need a great deal of supervision, patience, attention and training. Leave unsupervised kittens in your sitting room for any period of time and you could be faced with a surprising level of destruction! It is also difficult to know exactly what personality they may develop once they outgrow their kitten traits. She may become a docile companion or she may continue to be a mischievous and energetic ball of fur.

It is also important to remember that if you are bringing a kitten into a home with very young children you will need to provide an added amount of supervision. This is because your child may be exhibiting the same curiosity and mischievous behavior as your kittens and will be unlikely to give them the gentle touch that they require.
By comparison, older cats may have outgrown some of that initial cuteness, but the typical behaviors that they exhibit after around the age of one will be a reliable indicator of their regular temperament.
Short vs long hair

Responsible pet owners always make sure that their pets are well groomed and in the case of longer hair animals this can prove to be a considerable commitment. Long fur will need to be brushed at least once per day to prevent matting and so if you opt for a long haired cat then you will need to ensure that you have sufficient time to dedicate to daily grooming.

Not all cats like bring groomed and if your cat doesn’t then you may have to enlist the services of a professional groomer. However if your cat is one that loves to be pampered then she will come running as soon as she sees her brush!
Personality and pure breed vs mixed breed

While pure breed cats tend to conform to what is known as a ‘breed standard’, meaning that you can predict their expected physical and behavioral characteristics based on breed type, each animal is still unique. Many people believe that purchasing a pure breed will not only guarantee its temperament, but will also ensure it has good health, but sadly this is not the case. Many pure breed animals suffer with genetic health problems due to inter-breeding.

It is also possible to estimate the physical and behavioral traits of mixed breed cats based upon the combination of breeds used to create it. For example combining two short haired, highly active breeds will be extremely likely to produce another short-haired highly active cat.
As we have said, whether pure or mixed breed, each cat is unique and will require handling to suit their personality. Some are sedentary, some are active, some love to be stroked and handled and others will only come to you for petting when it suits them. If you are looking for a companion cat then you would ideally be looking for a sedentary and tactile cat, whereas if you are looking for a cat to play with children then you should aim for an active breed.

What is Feline Distemper?

Also known as FPV and Feline Panleukopenia, Feline Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that can be debilitating and even fatal. Kittens aged between 2 and 6 months are the most vulnerable to the disease, followed by pregnant and immune-compromised cats. Surviving FPV comes with immunity to any further infections by the virus.
 

What causes FPV?

The FPV virus is mainly transmitted through direct contact with the blood, feces or urine of an infected cat. It can also be spread by fleas that have been feeding on a contaminated cat. Humans can inadvertently pass FPV after handling the equipment used by contaminated cats if they do not follow proper hand washing protocols. The virus can live on surfaces for up to a year and is resistant to the majority of cleaning products except household bleach.

FPV attacks the blood cells of an infected cat and in particular those in the bone marrow and intestinal tract. If the infected cat is pregnant the virus will also attack the stem cells of the unborn kitten. Additionally, FPV makes your pet more vulnerable to other viral and bacterial diseases.
 

Symptoms of FPV

The primary symptoms of FPV include but are not limited to:

  • Anaemia

  • Dehydration

  • Depression

  • Diarrhea (may be blood-stained)

  • High temperature

  • Loss of appetite

  • Rough coat

  • Vomiting

Other symptoms include lack of co-ordination, hiding away from owners, tucking feet away or resting chin on the floor for prolonged periods.

What is Canine Distemper?

Also known as CDV, Canine Distemper is a highly contagious viral illness that can be debilitating and even fatal. It not only affects dogs but can also be seen in certain species of wildlife including foxes, skunks and wolves. Puppies and non-immunized dogs are most commonly affected, but pets on immune-suppressants may also be vulnerable.

CDV is resistant to the majority of cleaning products and household bleach is the only known way to eradicate it.
 

What causes CDV?

The CDV virus is mainly transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal via bodily fluids such as saliva from coughs or sneezes. Inhalation is the most common way it enters a new dogs system. It attacks the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system.

The virus does not live long once outside the body so indirect contact is extremely rare.
As with most contagious diseases, animal shelters and kennels are much more likely to be contaminated.
 

Symptoms of CDV

The primary symptoms of CDV include but are not limited to:

  • Coughing

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Nasal discharge

  • Reduced appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Watery or pus-like discharge from the eyes

Once the virus reaches the central nervous system (CNS) it can cause twitching, seizures and partial or total paralysis. This causes irreparable damage to a dog’s nervous system, resulting in death.

Our pets are beloved members of our family and it can be heartbreaking to see them unwell. Unfortunately, there are some illnesses that pets are unable to recover from. In the case of terminal illness and/or debilitating pain or suffering, one of the kindest things that we can do for them is to relieve them of that burden by making the difficult decision to put them to sleep.
 

How do I know if it is the right time to consider euthanasia?

Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you when it is time to consider euthanizing your pet. However there are also some signs and symptoms that your pet is no longer experiencing good quality of life, and if you notice these then it would be advisable to contact your veterinarian to determine if euthanasia would be the most humane course of action. These signs include:

  • Chronic labored breathing, breathlessness and/or coughing

  • Chronic pain that cannot be controlled by medication (your veterinarian can advise if this is the case)

  • Frequent diarrhea and/or vomiting that leads to dehydration or severe weight loss

  • Inability to stand or move around

  • Disinterest in food or eating

  • Incontinent to the stage where they are frequently soiling themselves

  • No interest in communication with family members, treats, games or other previously enjoyed activity

  • Zest for life is non-existent

Euthanasia has the small benefit of allowing family members the time to say their final goodbyes to your pet. This is an emotional time and giving them the opportunity for final displays of love and affection with their pet will help ease them into the grieving process. It is especially important to prepare young children as this may be their first experience of bereavement.

Many veterinarians will allow you to be present during the euthanasia procedure so that you can comfort your pet as they enter their final journey. This is a personal decision, but it is recommended that young children are not present during this time.

As Spring warms up into Summer and the humidity and heat start to really set in, it's good to remember that, like every other member in your family, you need to take extra care with your pet. You can become dehydrated and dangerously hot, which can result in falling unconscious at best, vital organ damage, or at its very worst, death. The same is true for your pets!

We tend to think of animals as hardier than humans, but the truth is, dogs and cats begin to experience heatstroke (hyperthermia, medically speaking) at the same internal body temperature as humans do — 104° F. Severe heatstroke begins at 105° to 106° F internally, as well. It might be more difficult for you to gauge temperature with smaller pets such as hamsters, but there's one rule of thumb to keep in mind. Always watch the heat index. Meteorologist uses the heat index value to discuss what the temperature is once humidity is applied; it's this balance of heat and humidity that are dangerous to the health of your pet and you.

If the heat index is 90° F, you need to be sure to take precautions to protect your pets. They won't be able to ask you to turn on the air conditioning or ask you for extra water, or even to tell you they're starting to feel ill. Your pets depend on you to responsibly monitor the weather and give them what they need to stay healthy and comfortable.

Letting children, especially young children, and pets, especially new ones, play can be a little nerve wracking. The foremost worry is for the safety of the children, of course — it's more likely that an animal would physically hurt a child than the other way around. Unfortunately, kids can hurt pets too, and what's more, they can antagonize a pet to the point the animal will act out.

This is mostly due to two factors. First, children are still growing, learning, and testing boundaries, coupled with still learning how to verbalize their thoughts and needs. Second, pets can't verbalize at all, making it more difficult for them to communicate when they don't like something, want certain behaviors to stop, or are hurting. As a parent, you need to step in and fill this fundamental gap and help them understand each other.


Ensure new pets like kids

Keep in mind that some animals simply aren't comfortable around children, and that's okay. When adopting a new pet, especially if it's older, make sure to talk to the shelter or rescue organization staff to make sure the animal is safe to live with kids. Similarly, if you already have kids and kid-friendly pets but are ready to adopt a new pet, make sure to ask if the animal is also comfortable with other animals. Bringing a pet into a home where it's uncomfortable will only make them more and more stressed, and thus more likely to hurt someone.