September is Happy Healthy Cat Month

Healthy Cat Month
 
One of every three households in the United States includes a cat. When you consider their playful, affectionate, and independent natures, it’s easy to see why. Cats have a way of making us laugh with their crazy antics and can dramatically increase our sense of well-being. In return, they depend on their human family for health and happiness. The CATalyst Council sponsors Happy Healthy Cat Month each September to raise awareness of how people can give their cats the best possible life.
 
Tips to Ensure Your Cat’s Health and Happiness
Cats sometimes seem to have a logic all their own. The CATalyst Council came up with these tips to help you understand and provide a comfortable environment for your pet:

Hiding places: Cats need a place to retreat when they feel stress and just enjoy having new places to curl up and take a nap. They also desire privacy at times. Cat furniture with built-in hiding places can help to meet this need. 

Mental stimulation and physical activity: A bored cat can become overweight and depressed, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on cat toys. Waving a piece of string in front of your cat or tossing a toy mouse helps get him moving and makes him solve problems as well. It also gives you the chance to interact with your cat and deepen your bond.
 
Scratching opportunities: Your cat isn’t trying to destroy your furniture when she scratches on it. She is simply releasing her natural instinct to scratch. You can protect your furniture by placing several scratching pads around the house and redirecting your cat there when she starts to scratch. If the scratching gets out of hand, try placing soft claws over your cat’s claws to protect your furniture and other items.
 
Nutritious foods: Learn to read pet food labels so you understand whether the product offers quality nutrition or mostly fillers. It’s also important to limit treats and not give your cat food meant for humans.
 
Consider an indoor only policy: Cats who remain indoors avoid fights with other cats, picking up various diseases, and getting hit by a car. Creating an enriching indoor environment will help decrease your cat’s interest in going outside. If you do let your cat outside, make sure you supervise him and keep him contained in a fenced-in area. Since even indoor cats can sneak out, we recommend getting microchip identification for all cats.
Schedule Regular Preventive Care Exams
 
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, veterinary visits for cats decrease substantially after the first year of life. However, adult cats need regular check-ups just as much as kittens do. Cats between one and seven years old should come in at least once a year and older cats should visit us bi-annually. These appointments are just one more way you can ensure that your cat remains happy and healthy. To schedule an appointment, contact Grantsburg Animal Hospital at 715-463-2536 or Wild River Veterinary Clinic at 320-629-7474. 
 
Photo Credit: Olezzo / Getty Images
 

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It's National Disaster Preparedness Month

National Disaster Preparedness Month
 
The recent images from the Texas and Florida floods and the Montana wildfires are heartbreaking. Streets overflowing with water, burning forests, entire families displaced, and rescued pets sent to shelters in other states are hard for us to grasp so far away. At a time like this, it seems only fitting that the Centers for Disease Control sponsors National Disaster Preparedness Month every September. The organization urges all Americans to pre-plan for natural disasters caused by severe weather, acts of terrorism, and other causes. This requires a bit of extra effort for pet owners.
 
What to Include in an Animal Disaster Kit
While you might view yourself as calm and collected, it’s hard to think of gathering supplies for your pet with a disaster on its way. That’s why the CDC recommends preparing a disaster kit before you need to use it. For pets, it should include the following:
 
  • Your pet’s regular food placed in airtight container
  • Bottled drinking water
  • Bags for waste
  • Extra litterbox and litter for cats
  • Grooming supplies
  • Your pet’s regular medications
  • A carrier for each pet
  • A leash and/or harness
  • Your pet’s favorite pillow, blanket, or other bedding
  • A few toys
  • Your pet’s vaccination records
  • Written care instructions that direct others how to care for your pet if you become separated
Other Disaster Planning Tips to Keep in Mind
If you have put off getting a microchip for your pet, consider how handy it would be in a natural disaster. Your dog or cat could lose his tag and collar easily amidst all the stress and chaos. If he has a microchip, anyone who finds him can take him to the nearest animal shelter or veterinary clinic to scan for your contact information. It’s also important to label the carrier for each pet with his name, your name, and a telephone number.
 
The extreme stress of a natural disaster can cause some pets to run towards danger instead of away from it. Even a normally obedient dog or cat could take off the other direction when you call her. The best way to avoid this is to keep a harness or leash by each exit in your home. This keep your pet with you and under your control.
 
Listing where you would seek shelter in a disaster is also an important part of planning. It makes it easier to evacuate quickly when you know where you’re going. Pet owners should also include the names and addresses of animal shelters where they can bring their pets temporarily if they’re unable to stay together. If the disaster is not so severe that you must leave home, create a safe space for your pet in one area until things get back to normal.

Natural Disasters Are Breeding Grounds for Disease
When disaster strikes, people only think about escaping it. They’re not necessarily considering how quickly disease can spread due to things like stagnant water and exposure to hundreds of other people and animals. 
 
If your pet is behind on vaccines, we urge you to contact Grantsburg Animal Hospital at 715-463-2536 or Wild River Veterinary Clinic at 320-629-7474 to schedule an appointment. It’s also essential for your pet’s well-being to get regular preventive care exams. Both of these make it much more likely your dog or cat won’t become seriously ill in the aftermath of a disaster. 
 
Photo Credit: Jetvic / Getty Images

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Feline Calicivirus: The Human Equivalent of the Common Cold

Feline Calicivirus
 
Feline calicivirus is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection (URI) that unvaccinated cats can easily transmit to one another. If you’re bringing home a new kitten and you already have cats in the house, it’s important to isolate them from each other until the kitten receive a calicivirus vaccination. You may need to keep them apart for as long as one week for each cat’s protection.
 
The symptoms of calicivirus range from mild to severe. Very young kittens and cats with a compromised immune system are more likely to develop severe symptoms. Although calicivirus can be serious in some situations, your cat can’t transfer it to humans.
 
How This URI Spreads
Calicivirus is most common in crowded living conditions such as an animal shelter or boarding facility. For this reason, catteries require all cats to have a calicivirus vaccine. In fact, it’s part of a series of core vaccines for cats due to how easily it spreads. Unsanitary conditions can also create a breeding grounds for the spread of calicivirus. Yet another way this virus spreads is when an infected cat exchanges bodily fluid with a non-infected cat. Typically, this occurs due to contact with eye discharge or sneeze droplets.
 
Common Symptoms of Calicivirus
Nasal discharge, eye discharge, and frequent sneezing are the most obvious signs that your cat is unwell. Other indications of this virus include:
  • Lack of appetite
  • Low energy
  • Squinting
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing food completely
  • Pink eye
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Breathing difficulty, including noisy breathing
This URI can make your cat feel miserable, so be sure to provide prompt treatment. Fortunately, death from feline calicivirus is extremely rare. 
 
How to Help Your Cat Feel Better
Just like the common cold in humans, no cure exists to eliminate calicivirus once the symptoms have started. You can help your cat feel more comfortable by doing the following:
  • Gently wipe discharge from the eyes with a damp towel
  • Minimize stress in the household while your cat recovers
  • Bring your cat into the bathroom and turn on the shower so he can breathe in the hot steam. You should not bring him into the shower, however.
  • Make sure that your cat continues to eat. Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell and may show no interest in eating when nasal discharge prevents them from smelling. You may have to temporarily feed your cat foods with a stronger odor or speak to our veterinarian about prescription cat food.
Be sure to keep your cat indoors while she’s recovering from calicivirus because she can easily spread it to other cats. The good news with calicivirus is that it responds well to supportive care. If your cat doesn’t seem to be recovering at home, contact us for an evaluation. 
 
Moderate to severe cases of this URI may require medications and treatment such as IV fluids or eye drops. As with all illnesses, prevention is the best treatment. If your cat never received a calicivirus vaccine or it has been more than a year since the last one, check with us to see when the next one is due.
 
Photo Credit: zlyka2008 / Getty Images

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How to Protect Your Pet from Getting Into Your Medication

Prevent Your Pet
 
The Pet Poison Helpline reports that approximately half the calls it receives each month are from a frantic pet owner whose dog, cat, or other animal got into medication meant for people. This includes both prescription and non-prescription drugs. To help curb the number of emergencies, the organization came up with several useful tips for pet parents.
 
It’s hard to see your beloved pet in pain, which may tempt you to reach for your own medication to help him feel better. However, animals should never take any medication that our veterinarians haven’t cleared and should not take human medication at all. While you want your pet to feel better, giving him an unapproved drug could aggravate the situation even more. It’s better to call us for an immediate appointment if your pet seems to be in a lot of pain. 
 
Keep All Medications Out of Your Pet’s Reach
A common mistake pet owners make is to place their pills into a plastic bag for convenience and then leave them in a place their pet can find them. Dogs and cats are naturally curious and will stiff, tear, and claw at the bag until it opens. The pills seem like a treat to them, which means that just saying “no” might not be enough. Some pets simply have no resistance around something they perceive as a treat.
 
The Pet Poison Helpline also recommends storing medication for the human and animal members of your family in separate locations. With several pill bottles, it’s easy to mix up who should get what. Not only could your pet get a pill meant for humans, you could take something intended for animals. If you use a pill organizer, keep it on a high shelf and in an area that your pet can’t smell it and let her curiosity get the best of her.
 
Purses and backpacks should not be left lying around the house where your pet can get into them, whether there’s medication inside or not. Your pet could easily find and swallow the contents. Anything with a strong smell, such as breath mints, are especially attractive to your dog or cat. If you have pill bottles inside, it wouldn’t take much for your pet to chew holes in them.
 
Most Common Human Medications Consumed by Companion Animals
The Pet Poison Helpline reports that pets chew or swallow these human medications most often:
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Acetaminophen, including Tylenol
  • Anti-depressants
  • Medications to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders
  • Anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids
  • Birth control pills
  • Blood pressure pills
  • Beta-blockers
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Cholesterol lowering agents
No matter what type of medication your pet consumed, it’s essential to act promptly. You can reach Grantsburg Animal Hospital at 715-463-2536 or Wild River Veterinary Clinic at 320-629-7474 during regular office hours. You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline 24 hours a day at 1-855-764-7661. The organization charges a fee of $59 per incident. After hours, you can take your pet to  Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Service at 11850 Aberdeen Street NE in Blaine, MN or contact them at 763-754-5000.

 

Photo Credit: Fantasista / Getty Images

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