August is National Immunization Awareness Month

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Every August, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) hosts National Immunization Awareness Month. This campaign is primarily aimed at parents of young children to educate them about the importance of timely vaccines to prevent serious diseases. The veterinary world can learn a few things from this campaign as well. At Grantsburg Animal Hospital, we feel that getting your dog or cat’s vaccines on schedule may be your most important responsibility as a pet owner. Vaccines prevent serious and deadly diseases that can shorten your pet’s lifespan as well as reduce his quality of life. 
 
Some pet owners, particularly those with cats, think they can skip vaccines if their pet remains indoors most of the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Your pet only has to inhale a virus in the air to become infected with it. This could happen by doing something as seemingly innocent as sitting underneath a window that you have partially opened to let in a cool breeze. 

Just as people depend on herd immunity to keep them protected when some choose not to vaccinate, it’s important to offer your pet the same protection. Dog parks and other places where many pets gather at the same time can attract both vaccinated and non-vaccinated pets. Since you can’t control what other pet owners do, take it upon yourself to ensure that your own pet’s vaccines are up-to-date. 

Which Vaccines Do Dogs and Cats Need? 

Veterinary vaccines fall into two different categories, core and non-core. Core vaccines are those that are required by law or that we recommend to prevent the spread of highly contagious diseases. The canine distemper shot (DHPP) prevents parvovirus, parainfluenza, hepatitis, and distemper. The feline distemper shot (FVRCP) prevents calicivirus, feline viral rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia. Most states also have mandatory rabies shots requirements, including Wisconsin. 

Non-core vaccines are those that you may choose to get for your dog or cat based on her breed, activity level, and specific risk factors. Dr. Palmquist will advise you if he thinks your dog should get a vaccine for canine virus, canine influenza, bordetella, or Lyme disease. Wisconsin actually has one of the highest Lyme disease rates for dogs in the entire country. 
 
The non-core vaccines to consider for cats include bordetella, chlamydia, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and feline leukemia. An honest assessment of your pet’s lifestyle and consideration of your own concerns is the best way to determine which of these vaccines would be the most valuable. 

Dr. Palmquist normally recommends that puppies and kittens start their DHPP or FVRCP before they are two months old. After receiving the initial shot, your growing pet will need regular boosters to build his immunity. If you adopted your pet later in life or if you weren’t aware of these requirements when your pet was younger, he will work with you to get your pet caught up. 
 
Please let us know if you have questions about the recommended vaccine schedule for your dog or cat. Feel free to schedule an appointment if a shot is due or you have any other concerns about your pet’s health. 

Photo Credit: Cynoclub / Getty Images

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July is UV Safety Month

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Did you know that July is officially UV Safety Month? While this awareness event started with humans in mind, pet owners should understand how to keep them safe from the ultraviolet rays of the run as well. Prolonged exposure to the sun can be just as harmful for your dog or cat as it is for you.
 
Avoid Shaving Dogs with Long Coats in the Summer
You might think it a kindness to get rid of excess fur to keep your dog cooler, but it actually acts as a barrier against the ultraviolet rays of the sun. When you shave the fur, it leaves your dog at higher risk of sunburn. It's better to thin your dog's fur with an undercoat rake or a specialty product applied directly to the fur for this purpose.
 
Limit Outdoor Time When the Sun is at Its Peak
The sun's rays are most intense between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., which means that it can do the most damage to skin during these hours. If your pet must be outside in the late morning to early afternoon, limit it to bathroom breaks and brief walks if possible. With daylight lasting until nearly 10:00 p.m. during the summer, it's best to save exercise sessions until later in the evening for maximum sun safety. Additionally, don't allow your pet to roll over on his back with his underside pointed to the sun as this could lead to sunburn.
 
Consider Sunscreen and Special Clothing
Sunscreen made especially for dogs and cats offers additional protection from sunburn and other common problems caused by sun exposure. It is especially important to protect pets with allergies and those undergoing chemotherapy due to hair loss.
 
When choosing a sunscreen, avoid any product with zinc oxide. Although this is a typical sunscreen ingredient, it can be toxic to pets if they lick their skin. Be sure to test a small area of your pet's skin first to ensure that she's not allergic to the sunscreen. You only have to apply the sunscreen to areas directly exposed to the sun. If your dog is allergic to sunscreen or you just don't want to use it, lightweight clothing is another alternative for UV protection.
 
Treating Your Pet's Sunburn
If your pet did sustain a sunburn in spite of your best efforts, you can help her feel better with a cool bath. Use a gentle, soap-free product and lather it up on her skin. Allow the lather to sit for a few minutes before rinsing with water. We can also recommend sunburn protection and treatment products here at Grantsburg Animal Hospital. Please stay sun-safe yourself and enjoy the rest of the summer. 

Photo Credit: Damedeeso / Getty Images

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Celebrate Parks and Recreation Month with Your Dog

National Parks and Recreation Month

What better time to head to the park with your dog than National Parks and Recreation Month? This event, which started to encourage people to be more active outdoors, is the perfect excuse to head to the park with your best friend. You can even look for a local dog park to find other canine playmates.
 
Try these Games on for Size
Dogs love any interaction with their human family, especially one that allows them to burn off excess energy. If your dog stays in the kennel all day while you're at work, she's especially anxious to get out there to have some fun. However, don't expect her to automatically know what to do when you toss a baseball or Frisbee. You may have to physically walk to the item and place it in your dog's mouth before she gets the hang of it. Once she does, you could ask her to fetch dozens of times in a row and she won't get tired of it. Throwing a stick into a local lake is another variation of fetch that most dogs love.
 
Tug of war is another good way to exercise your dog as long as you teach him not to play too rough. If he growls at you or tries to bite, firmly tell him no and stop the game. He will soon understand that he has to follow the rules for you to continue to engage with him. If you're up to the task, getting down on the ground for a gentle wrestling session is another way to help your dog get exercise. Although your local park provides more room for play, your backyard works just as well.
 
If You Go to the Dog Park
Dog parks continue to grow in popularity across the country, and it's easy to see why. They give dogs the opportunity to run off-leash and socialize with other dogs while their owners meet new people as well. You can find a dog park near you by clicking here. Dogs who are aggressive and not well-socialized should remain at home to avoid possible injuries to others. Some other etiquette rules include: 
  • Don't take your puppy to a dog park until he is fully immunized.
  • Be certain to supervise your dog at all times and call her to you if she starts to play rough.
  • If your dog tends to be timid, visit the park during off-peak hours. Dog parks are busiest from approximately 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Your dog should be spayed or neutered.
  • Make sure your dog remains on a leash until you reach the off-leash area.
 
Don't Overdo It
Although exercise is essential for dogs, they can also develop heatstroke quickly in the summer. Make sure that you provide plenty of water and don't push your dog beyond his normal endurance. It's especially important to keep exercise sessions short during peak daytime hours when the sun's rays are at their strongest. If your dog becomes lethargic, vomits, or has pale gums, contact us at Grantsburg Animal Hospital right away. These are just some of the signs of heatstroke. You can learn more about the prevention and treatment of heatstroke in this blog post

Photo Credit: Rosanna-Parvez / Getty Images

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Keep Your Dog Safe Around Water This Summer

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When it comes to water, dog owners often assume that their dog is safe because he automatically knows how to swim. This is dangerously untrue. While many dogs enjoy water, others hate it. It's also important to remember that not all breeds are meant to swim. According to Pet Health Network, dogs fall into three categories: dogs who are natural swimmers, those who can be taught to swim, and those who aren't built to survive in water. Those with short muzzles and a large chest to hindquarters ratio are especially inept in the water. The bulldog is a prime example.

Your Dog Depends On You
When you decide to take your dog for a swim, she can't say no, put on her own life jacket, or take lessons in advance. She must rely on you to keep her safe. The best way to ensure your dog's water safety this summer and beyond is to start small. Accompany your dog into water that is no more than a few feet deep and observe how well she handles it. If she automatically starts paddling, that is a good sign. However, you should not be more than an arm's length away in case she does start sinking.

You can gradually increase the time in the water and distance away from your dog, but don't take your eyes off him. Even when you feel comfortable that your dog knows how to swim, never leave him unattended in or near the water. He could become overstimulated by the sight of a bird or by the noise of children and literally get in over his head. Teach him to obey your commands when you say that it's time to get out of the water and go home. He also should not enter the water unless you have given him the okay to do so.

Boating Safety
Many dogs love to join their families for a boat ride. Unfortunately, the myth that dogs can always swim causes some people to forget to put a life jacket on their pet. To get your dog accustomed to wearing a safety vest, be sure to put it on before you even reach the dock or board the boat. That way she will come to accept it as part of the normal routine. In the rare event that your dog goes overboard, use a floatation device to pull her back in rather than jumping in the water yourself.

Microchipping your pet is always a good idea, but it's especially important if you plan to do a lot of swimming. This increases the chances of reuniting with your dog if he does get away from you. Lastly, plan ahead for seasickness and bathroom issues aboard the boat. You will probably have to train your dog in advance that it is okay to relieve himself in an area of the boat that you determine. Putting down a piece of astro turf or a section of sod works well for many people who are both dog and boat owners.

The staff of both Grantsburg Animal Hospital and Wild River Veterinary Clinic hope you and your dog have a safe and fun summer. Please schedule an appointment to see us if you have any concerns about your dog's health this summer. If you experience an after-hours emergency, please call 1-800-924-0588.

Photo Credit: Pavle Marjanovic / iStock Photo

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