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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Make Sure Your Backyard Barbeque is Safe for Your Pet

Backyard Barbeque'
Summer and backyard barbeques go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you haven’t grilled out yet this summer or received an invitation to someone else’s barbeque, there’s a good chance you will before the end of the warm weather season. For dogs and cats, the smell of forbidden food and the excitement of having different people around can make them behave in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. That means careful supervision on your part if your pet will be anywhere near the food or grill.
Hot Grills and Pets Are Not a Good Combination
A backyard grill, like an oven, can quickly reach a temperature of several hundred degrees. It only takes a second for your dog or cat to sniff at the food, lose her footing, and end up with a severe burn. Grilling tools like spatulas and meat thermometers can be a problem as well since they present a choking hazard. It’s best to keep your pet far away from the grill while it’s in use to avoid a serious injury. Also, make sure the grill master puts equipment away afterwards and that the grill is no longer hot before allowing your pet near it.

Make Sure No One Else Feeds Your Pet
You have worked hard to thwart your pet’s begging behavior, so the last thing you need is for someone else to give into the sad eyes performance. If you think it might be a problem, don’t be shy about asking people before the grilling gets started not to give your pet any food. Onions, garlic, and dairy products like cheese can be especially toxic for dogs and cats and are typical condiments for barbequed food.
Meat is generally safe, but only if it doesn’t contain bones that could cause your pet to choke. You should be the only one to give your pet meat. If you choose to do so, be sure to cut it into smaller pieces and give it to your dog or cat away from everyone else. This lets her know that begging just won’t work.
Beware of the Garbage Can
Your pet can still smell leftover food and bones in the garbage, so make sure that he can’t gain access to them. One way to do this is to place food scraps and bones in a sealed bag before putting them in a trash receptacle. You can also put a lock on the lid to ensure that he can’t knock the can down and eat what’s inside. Consuming food or bones from the garbage could cause stomach upset, an airway obstruction, tooth fracture, and several other problems.

Be Mindful of Sun Exposure
Cats and dogs can’t eliminate heat from their bodies the same way that people do. They lack the ability to sweat and only release heat through their paw pads and by panting. To avoid heatstroke, make sure your pet has constant access to clean, cool drinking water and doesn’t spend too long in direct sunlight. You should plan to keep your pet inside your air-conditioned home or at least let him in periodically if you’re the host. If you’re a guest at someone else’s home, ask him or her to point out the shady areas and have your pet stay there.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us in an emergency. Our answering service takes calls after hours and will direct you to immediate help.
Photo Credit: wip-studiolublin / Getty Images

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Don't Let Your Pet Become a Fire Statistic

Become a Fire Statistic

The statistics on pets and fires are heartbreaking. Every year, approximately 1,000 pets accidentally start a fire in the home. Whether it’s knocking over a space heater or bumping a knob on a stove, these incidents happen more often than they should. Even more troubling, 40,000 pets succumb to injuries from a fire and more than 500,000 receive serious injuries every year. This is what prompted the American Kennel Club (AKC) and ADT Security Services to come together to create National Pet Fire Safety Day. It takes place annually on July 15, which falls on a Saturday this year.

Prevent Fires and Burn Injuries to Keep Your Pet Safe
Part of being a responsible pet owner is eliminating unnecessary risks, including the possibility of a house fire or your pet getting burned some other way. If you don’t have a smoke detector or only have one, be sure to install one on each floor of your home. Test the batteries often and change them before they have no power left at all. 
When it comes to preventing fires and burn injuries, you need to think like a dog or cat and pet-proof your home accordingly. That mean you need to look up from the floor and not down from your usual perspective. 
Stoves are a common area for pets to start fires, especially dogs. This is easy to understand when you consider that dogs have a strong sense of smell and just want to see what they’re missing. Unfortunately, they can bump a knob in the process with no one noticing until it’s too late. Pet-proofing also involves keeping hot items, like a clothes iron, out of your pet’s reach and putting them away immediately when you’re done with them.
If you have a fireplace in your home, never allow your pet near it unsupervised. This is true whether you’re currently burning logs or not, since your pet could injure herself on equipment you use for the fireplace. Additionally, keep your pet away from burning candles and blow them out before leaving the room. 
Placing your pets near the front of your home when you leave makes it easier for firefighters to find them. You may also want to consider placing a notification on your front door letting emergency responders know the types of animals you have and how many. This alerts them to look for pets when responding to an emergency. Lastly, make sure that you do a quick check for fire hazards whenever you leave your pet home alone. 
Develop a Fire Escape Plan That Includes Your Pet 
Every second counts when it comes to fires. You don’t want to waste precious time searching for your pet’s belongings when trying to get out of the house. We recommend placing food, medication, fresh bottled water, bedding, and toys into a sturdy bag and keeping it near the front door. If you have a large pet or you think he might run the other way in the stress of an emergency, place a collar and leash at the front of the house as well. It’s also a good idea to get a microchip for your pet ahead of time in case you do become separated in the chaos of a fire. 
Photo Credit: A Dog's Life Photo / Getty Images

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