February is National Pet Dental Health Month

National Pet Dental Health Month
 
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) started National Pet Dental Health Month several years ago as an initiative for pet owners to follow an at-home oral healthcare routine. It also hoped to underscore the importance of bringing companion animals to the veterinarian for a regular check-up and professional cleaning. 
 
The AMVA started this awareness campaign in response to the startling statistic that up to 80 percent of cats and dogs have at least a mild form of gum disease by age three. This causes bacteria to attack the gum tissue and can lead to tooth loss, infection, and numerous other serious health conditions. Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, starts when food debris and bacteria build up on tooth surfaces and eventually get underneath the gum tissues. If bacteria reach the bloodstream, it can cause problems with your pet’s kidneys, liver, or heart.
 
Most Common Signs of Periodontal Disease in Cats and Dogs
Persistent bad breath is one of the first signs that your pet could have an oral healthcare issue. Although this problem is extremely common, many pet owners don’t realize they should have their pet evaluated by a veterinarian because of it. We also encourage you to schedule an appointment at Grantsburg Animal Hospital or Wild River Veterinary Clinic if you notice loose or discolored teeth, reluctance to eat, difficulty chewing, or excess drooling.
 
You’re in good company if Dr. Palmquist diagnoses periodontal disease in your pet. According to the AVMA, it’s the most frequently diagnosed health condition among cats and dogs. He will work with you to find solutions for reversing your pet’s gum disease, such as daily toothbrushing, feeding your pet nutritious food, and returning to one of our clinics for regular follow-up appointments.
 
The Importance of a Consistent Oral Healthcare Routine at Home
Dental exams and cleanings performed by a veterinarian are important, but they can’t replace the care your pet receives at home. We find that many people avoid brushing their dog or cat’s teeth because they’re afraid of their pet becoming aggressive. While your fear is understandable, keep in mind that pets love to please their owners and should eventually come to accept toothbrushing if you remain consistent in your approach and expectations.
 
If you have never brushed your pet’s teeth before, it’s important to start small. Try placing a small amount of toothpaste on a treat and allow him to lick it off to experience the taste. If that goes okay, approach your pet when he’s calm and massage his jaws to get him to open his mouth. Place the toothbrush in his mouth, but don’t start brushing yet. That can wait until he tolerates you placing something in his mouth. Start by doing just the front teeth and then work your way up to brushing all the teeth for a full two minutes.
 
Be sure to give your pet lots of praise and affection for any amount of cooperation. However, don’t reward her with treats beyond the first session. Giving her a treat each time will defeat the purpose of daily toothbrushing in the first place. Please let us know if you have additional questions or would like a demonstration of toothbrushing at your pet’s next preventive care exam.
 
Photo Credit: photodeti / Getty Images

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Preventive Care Exams for Dogs and Cats

Preventive Care Exams 
 
You wouldn’t go years without going to the doctor for a check-up, yet many pet owners only visit a veterinarian when their dog or cat requires immediate treatment for an illness or injury. Lack of time, money, the stress of transporting a pet, and not understanding the benefits of preventive care are the most common reasons for this. While understandable, routine veterinary care plays an essential role in your pet’s health and longevity. 
 
If you don’t already do so, we encourage you to schedule a preventive care exam at least once a year for your adult pets. Senior pets over age seven should come in bi-annually while puppies and kittens need several appointments during their first year to get started with vaccines. Dr. Palmquist assesses older dogs and cats for issues such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and kidney disease that are more common as pets age. This is just part of a routine preventive care exam at Grantsburg Animal Hospital or Wild River Veterinary Clinic. 
 
A Typical Check-Up for Dogs and Cats
Your pet must receive a series of core vaccinations to comply with local laws. Dogs need distemper, rabies, parvovirus, and adenovirus while cats require calicivirus, rabies, panleukopenia, and rhinotracheitis. In addition to these core vaccines, Dr. Palmquist will speak to you about non-core vaccines that might be appropriate for your pet based on her unique risk factors. For example, many pet owners choose to get a Lyme disease vaccination because the condition is more common here in the Midwest. After giving your pet a vaccine, Dr. Palmquist establishes a schedule for her to get boosters.
 
Parasite control is equally important to vaccinations. Left untreated, some parasites can kill your pet. Heartworm is a prime example of this. Dr. Palmquist will check your pet for parasites and ask what you use for prevention. We offer heartworm and flea and tick medication in our online store if you need a product recommendation. 
 
We encourage you to bring up any concerns you have about your pet’s behavior, diet, activity level, sleeping habits, or health problems at this visit. Dr. Palmquist will provide you with resources and suggestions for resolving the issue that you might not have considered. He will also complete a full-body inspection on your pet. This includes checking his teeth, ears, nose, eyes, skin, legs, paws, reproductive organs, and stomach for abnormalities.
 
Follow-Up Expectations
Dr. Palmquist orders bloodwork, X-rays, or additional tests if he finds any areas of concern during your pet’s exam. He will contact you within a few days after receiving the results of the tests. Some situations only require careful observation while others require your pet to receive additional treatment. Preventive care exams allow him to find health issues that might have gone undetected otherwise.

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Welcome to National Cat Health Month

National Cat Health Month

It’s a new month and a new year. It’s also National Cat Health Month. As a cat mom or dad, you already do so much to give your fuzzy friend a great quality of life. Despite the unfair reputation cats have as being aloof and self-centered, they are amazing companions who entertain us, snuggle with us, and provide us with unconditional love. Your cat may even try to groom you, which means he really thinks you’re the cat’s meow. In recognition of this month-long awareness event, we would like to offer you the following cat care tips:

• Cats have an inborn need to scratch and aren’t trying to be naughty when they claw up the furniture. You can save your skin, furniture, and sanity by redirecting your cat to several scratching posts placed around the house. If destructive scratching becomes a major problem, resist the urge to declaw your cat. We are happy to recommend alternatives to this major surgery.
• Make sure that your cat has several places throughout the home to hide and sleep. Part of the reason people misunderstand cats as aloof is that they need their privacy and alone time. Hiding spots also come in handy when your cat feels fearful or stressed and prefers to retreat from the situation.
• More than half of American housecats are overweight or obese. Although remaining indoors is better for their health, it also eliminates much of the activity that can help them maintain a stable weight. Be sure to provide an enriching indoor environment for your cat that includes several toys. Cats often like simple, inexpensive toys the best such as a piece of string or pretend mouse. A cat perch satisfies the natural desire to climb and look outdoors.
• Spend several minutes every day interacting with your cat by petting her and talking to her. This helps deepen your bond.
• Check the labels on your cat’s food to ensure that you make a nutritious selection. Avoid foods with artificial fillers since they add no nutritional value. The occasional treat is fine, but your cat should have to earn it. Try hiding the treat close by so she can smell it or place it inside a toy. This provides your cat with exercise and satisfies her hunting instinct.
• Consider getting your cat microchipped, even if he remains indoors. He could slip outside when the door is open and lose his collar and tag, making it unlikely you will ever be reunited.

Bring Your Cat to See Us for Regular Check-Ups
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, more than 50 percent of cats don’t see a veterinarian consistently. The study indicates that three out of four cats see a vet before their first birthday but the visits drop off dramatically after that. Cat owners tend to reserve veterinary visits for injuries or severe illness, possibly due to their pet’s behavior when it’s time for an appointment. 
 
At Grantsburg Animal Hospital and Wild River Veterinary Clinic, we encourage you to bring adult cats in for an annual preventive care exam. Kittens need several visits their first year to get off on the right paw.

 

Photo Credit: Leoba / Free Digital Images

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Did You Know That January is National Train Your Dog Month?

National Dog Training Month
 
The companionship of a dog can bring years of enjoyment and a deep love for an animal you probably didn’t realize was possible. However, few dogs are ideal house pets without a major investment in training. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dog owners report the following issues as being most problematic: 
 
Excessive barking 
Jumping up on people 
Pulling on the leash while walking 
Aggression 
Digging up the yard 
Eliminating in the house 

Before you give up on your dog, you may want to consider professional training. This is an especially good time since January is National Train Your Dog Month sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Some people realize too late that dealing with these behaviors are more than they bargained for when getting a dog. They quickly become frustrated and surrender their pet. Unfortunately, this makes things even more challenging for the dog’s next owner if she is lucky enough to find one. During National Train Your Dog Month, sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, we urge you not to give up on your dog and to make an investment in professional training if necessary.

What Causes Problem Behavior in Dogs?
What looks like deliberate misbehavior to you can make perfect sense to a dog. Take aggression, for example. Your dog barks and lunges at other dogs to protect his turf and human family. Often, a problem behavior is the only way your dog knows how to cope with the stress in his life. You should never take your dog’s actions personally. Animals don’t act out of revenge or spite as people can because their behavior is instinctual. Working with a professional trainer can help you understand the motivations for your dog’s problem behaviors and devise a plan to modify them.

Dog Training with Operant and Classical Conditioning
Operant and classical conditioning are two tools that professional dog trainers use to modify behavior. The first type involves using positive reinforcement as well as non-physical punishment when necessary. Trainers never punish a dog for reflexive behaviors outside of her control.

With operant conditioning, your dog gets a reward each time he displays a desired behavior. Over time, you decrease the rewards so your dog only gets recognized for the best behavior. This strategy, called intermittent reinforcement, encourages him to keep trying to please you to get a reward. Negative reinforcement may include taking something away that your dog enjoys, such as a favorite toy. Eventually he gets the message that engaging in a certain behavior makes the toy disappear.

Dog trainers who use classical conditioning also refer to it as associated learning. As an example, dogs learn early in life that their owner grabbing a leash and heading towards the door means it’s time to go for a walk. It takes consistency to teach your dog that one action equals another action.

Check Our Canine Library or Ask for a Referral

If your dog isn’t at the point of needing professional intervention, we encourage you to check out the resources available in our canine library. We have teamed up with Veterinary Partners to bring you this valuable information. You simply look up the topic you’re interested in to find articles with more details on dog training. Another option is to go directly to the website for the American Association of Dog Trainers. 

We wish you success in your dog training efforts and know that you can do it. Nothing beats the reward of living with a well-trained dog. 

Photo Credit: TransientEternal  / Getty Images

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