Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore – When You Should Go to the Vet

Many pet owners struggle to determine when it is necessary to take their pet in to see the vet and when it is not. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if what they’re experiencing is anything serious or if they’re just not feeling well. Going to the vet is not always cheap, and unfortunately, sometimes it can be a bit pricey to take your beloved furry friends in to get checked out. This can tend to make owners try to avoid taking their pets in to see the veterinarian. But, please, take care to not ignore some very important signs of your pet’s health. Really, if you ever see any troublesome or out of the ordinary behavior from your pet, the best bet is to take them in to be examined. But we’ve also compiled a list of few very dangerous signs that your pet could show if they’re sick or unwell.

Loss of Appetite:

Appetite can vary pet by pet, but if you see a sudden change in food interest, it’s important not to ignore it. If your pet looks otherwise normal, keep an eye on him for 24 hours to see if his appetite returns. If not, take him in to be seen right away. He could be suffering from some digestive distress or something even more serious. Underlying illnesses can often cause dogs and cats to lose interest in eating. If your pet also begins to appear to be feeling ill or very sick, take it as a very serious sign and get him to the vet as soon as possible.

Sudden Thirst:

Sudden thirst is often a sign that some serious things are going on inside your pet’s body. If you notice that they’re drinking a lot more water and asking to go outside or go to the litter box more frequently, they should definitely be seen by a vet. There are various conditions that could be causing this, like liver, kidney, or bladder issues. This can also sometimes occur after they’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with them or they’ve come in contact with something poisonous.

Diarrhea or Vomiting:

Just as this can be serious for humans, this could mean something serious for your pet as well. If it goes on for more than a day, it’s probably a good idea to take them in and have them looked at. It could have been that something they ate simply upset their stomach, and your vet can help get everything back on track. Keep in mind, if your dog or cat is throwing up and having diarrhea often, such as multiple times an hour, it could be an emergency and they should be taken to the vet immediately. Fluid loss can get ugly quickly, so don’t take any chances.

Changes in Breathing:

Take any changes in breathing seriously. It is often a sign that something is not right. The respiratory systems of pets are delicate and things go south very quickly. If you notice any changes in the way they breathe, or they appear to be struggling, take them in right away. Time is of the essence.

 

 

Protect Your Pets During Independence Day Celebrations

While the Fourth of July brings fond traditions like picnics, barbecues, concerts, and fireworks, it isn’t such a fun holiday for the four-legged members of the family.

Photo from Friends of the GCARC via Facebook

Many animals are extremely frightened by the noise from firecrackers and can even be stressed by the sight of fireworks. This leads to a 30-60% increase in lost pets every year between July 4 and July 6. July 5th is typically the busiest day of the year in humane societies and shelters across the country as people try to find their lost and scared pets. But don’t forget that fireworks and firecrackers don’t just happen on July 4th. They are already happening as people build up to the big celebration.

So what can you do to make things less stressful for your pets?

  • Make a safe space for them in your home where they can retreat and hide but where they can’t easily escape. Even the most mild-mannered dog might panic and claw their way out of a crate or run through a glass window or a fence in their panicked state and can run away and be lost or hit by cars.
  • Playing calming music in the area can help block out some of the noise from outside and keeping curtains closed helps block out the flashes of light from fireworks.
  • If your dog or cat is pacing, cowering, hiding, or displaying nervous behavior, try to distract them with a favorite bone or toy but don’t distress them further.
  • Consider skipping leaving home to go to the big celebration and stay home with your pets to protect and comfort them during this traumatic time.
  • Above all else, make sure that if something does happen you have the best shot of getting your pet returned to you by following these suggestions:
    • Make sure your pets are wearing their collars and that they are secure and have up-to-date ID tags on them with your name and contact info readable.
    • Add a GPS tracker to your pet’s collar to make it easier to track and reunite with your pet if they should escape.
    • For extra security, get your pet microchipped. Pets are little magicians and can get out of their collars on the best of days much less when they are panicked or stressed by the sights and sounds of fireworks. Getting your pet microchipped gives an added layer of protection that if they escape and make it to a shelter, they can be scanned and reunited with you. Make sure your contact information for the microchip registration is up to date.

There’s a reason that July is considered “Pet Loss Prevention Month” and by using a few common sense tips you can keep your pets happier and safer during this and other holidays.

Tips for Grooming Your Cat at Home

Cats are known for being low maintenance and pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways – grooming included! A lot of feline owners love the fact that they don’t usually have to groom cats as often as dogs. But, that doesn’t mean that every now and again you won’t have to give your cat a little extra TLC, especially if they’re of the long-haired variety. Just like dogs, making sure her coat is cared for keeps her fur and skin nice and healthy. Grooming also helps reduce hairballs and overall shedding around your house. Here are a few tips for keeping your cat looking and feeling like a million bucks.

It’s always a good idea to start as early as you can. If you have a kitten, it’s the perfect time to begin getting him or her accustomed to being brushed regularly. But even if you adopt your kitty as an adult, it’s still okay to work with them to get them used to being brushed. Start off slow, and don’t rush. Give them a little brush every now and then and soon they’ll start getting used to the sensation. Hopefully, it’ll become a bonding experience between you!

The type of brush you’ll need depends on how long kitty’s fur is. A short haired cat could use just about any pet brush or a rubber grooming mitt. Brushing can be done 1-2 times per week. Not only does it help remove dirt and debris from her fur, but it also helps stimulate blood flow to the skin, encourages a healthy coat, and minimizes shedding. If your cat has a longer coat, multiple brushings per week may be necessary to keep their fur free from tangles and debris that gets stuck in it. Find a wide tooth comb that’s made for long cat hair. The longer you wait between brushings, the more tangled, dirty, and matted their fur is likely to be, so try to do it regularly.

Nails and paws are also an important part of the grooming process. This step might be a little more tricky as most cats do not enjoy getting their nails clipped, but with most cats, it is possible to do this at home. A good way to get started is to get your cat used to having his feet touched. Gently play with your kitty’s toes as much as possible during times when the two of you are just hanging out together. If he’s taking a nap on your lap, touch his feet. Get him used to that so that he doesn’t automatically associate it with something unpleasant. When you’re ready to try clipping his nails, try holding him on your lap, keeping your arm wrapped around his middle, and be confident and sure in your movements to make him feel more at ease. If your cat is just not having it, try wrapping a big towel around him with only his head sticking out, keeping only one paw at a time exposed during the clipping process. This will not only restrict his movements but will also help with anxiety by keeping him more secure. Of course, there are some cats that just simply will not allow their owners to clip their nails. If you feel this is your cat, you can always take them to a professional groomer or your vet to have them do it for you.

Finally, don’t forget the ears! Every time you groom your cat, take a few extra minutes to examine their ears to make sure they look healthy and free of redness or excess wax build up. Regularly grooming your cat will not only help keep his skin and coat healthy but will also reinforce the bond between the two of you!

Creating a Pet-Safe Garden This Summer

It’s that time of year again to get the yard and garden ready for summer! Warm weather is coming, and soon you and your pooch or kitty will be able to frolic together outside. Nothing is better than getting to hang out and be outside in the fresh air, and if you’re like me, you absolutely love adding beautiful plants to your yard! But before you begin planting this year, it’s very important to ensure that you’re not planting anything that could pose a danger to your pets. There are many plants that may look beautiful but are poisonous to our four-legged friends. So, we’ve compiled a list of some popular plants that are not healthy for pets to come in contact with.

Unsafe plants for cats and dogs:

-Amaryllis

-Autumn Crocus

-Azaleas and Rhododendrons

-Castor Bean

-Chrysanthemum

-Convallaria majalis

-Cyclamen

-Daffodils

-Dieffenbachia

-English Ivy

-Kalanchoe

-Lilies

-Marijuana

-Oleander

-Peace Lily

-Pothos

-Sago Palm

-Spanish thyme

-Tulip and Narcissus bulbs

-Yew

Thankfully, there are also a lot of wonderful plants that you can add to your yard and garden that are not only safe for your pets, but that your pets will love! Here are some ideas:

-Barley grass is safe and may even help an upset stomach.

-Catnip. Although your cat may love it because it’s a stimulant for them, it actually does the opposite for Fido. Catnip makes dogs feel very relaxed, but it’s not harmful to them.

-Chamomile is calming.

-Lavender is a calming and soothing choice as well.

-Mint provides something fun and interesting for your dog to sniff, and they may even enjoy munching on it.

-Rosemary is energizing.

But don’t forget:

Basil

Carrots

Catmint

Cilantro

Flowering Currant

Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, etc)

Marigolds

Radishes

Rosemary

Raspberries

Sage

Thyme

Zucchini

And remember to add some pet safe ornamentals to your outdoor haven! We’ve got some great ideas for you:

African violets

Alyssum

Aster

Black Eyed Susan

Hibiscus

Impatiens

Magnolia Bush

Pansies

Petunias

Snapdragons

Sweet Potato Vine

Zinnia

So, enjoy the outdoors this summer and don’t be afraid to share with your furry loved ones! There are so many wonderful plants to choose from that are perfectly safe for your pets and that they will thoroughly enjoy. Creating an environment that provides stimulation and interest for your dogs and cats is always fantastic. Experiment with different plants to see which ones your pets really enjoy. Just like people, pets also have favorites, so have fun with it!

And lastly, please don’t forget to check the labels of everything that you put in your yard and garden. Not all gardening products are pet safe, so be sure to always read those labels.

Have fun and enjoy the outdoors this summer!

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day – (Second Saturday of May)

How to Create an Emergency Plan for your Pet

It’s not always pleasant to think about having to go through a natural disaster or an evacuation order. In fact, it’s downright scary to even consider it! But, it’s never a bad idea to have a plan in place for your family just in case a natural disaster were to strike – but does your plan include your pets? Sometimes we forget to include our furry family members in our natural disaster plans and so we’ve compiled a list of important things to have in order for your fur babies!

Keep updated pictures handy. Take regular pictures (Well, hello! Of course!) and keep them in various locations. Keep them on your phone, keep some in your car. And if you have a bug out bag (more about this later!), stash a few in there as well. Should your little guy or gal go missing, having updated pictures of them is so incredibly important and will help you get reunited with them as soon as possible.

Get them microchipped. Just in case you get separated from your pet, having them microchipped is extremely helpful in them getting identified and back to you sooner. It’s a very easy procedure that your vet can do at your next visit and takes almost no time at all.

Have a bug out bag packed. Alright, about those bug out bags. What are they? They are basically handy bags packed with all the supplies you might need in an emergency. There are a lot of supplies you can pack ahead of time, like food bowls, leashes, blankets, bottled water, and freeze-dried food. Another important item is a good first aid kit, one that contains not only things for wound care, but also electrolyte powers, flea and tick treatment and repellent, and antihistamine. Don’t forget an extra collar that has ID tags on it.

Take your pets with you. If you ever suspect you might be needing to evacuate, take your pets with you when you leave. Even if you’re not positive, don’t count on being able to come back for them. Put them in your car, grab as many supplies as you can, and get out of there. If it’s too dangerous for you to stay, it’s certainly too dangerous for your pets to stay.

If you stay, make it as safe as possible. Just as you feel stressed during a disaster, your pets are surely going to be feeling very fearful. Pets are known for running away when they feel frightened, so it is vitally important that you keep your home as secure as possible to ensure they cannot escape. Loud noises, big storms, and the like might make your pooch want to bolt, so be sure to keep a close eye on him and make sure there is no way he can get out. Keep them on a leash and keep food and water close by. And if you’re instructed to barricade yourself against something like a tornado, keep your pets right by your side. If needed, put them in a crate with a warm blanket and their favorite toy to keep them calm. And remember, even when the storm is over, pets are likely to be on edge for a while, so be sure to keep them leashed and close to you.

Should You Make Your Own Cat Food?

There are actually a lot of great reasons to make your cat’s food at home! A lot of us have had that unsettling moment in the middle of the cat food aisle, reading label after label, trying to decipher what’s on the ingredient list and deciding whether you want to feed it to Socks or not. It can be confusing and sometimes you just can’t be certain which brands truly have the best ingredients. Taking the guesswork out by creating the meals at home is an excellent way to ensure that your kitty is getting all the essential nutrients and the best quality possible.

There is a debate amongst cat foodies about whether or not you should cook the food. Many people believe that cats are designed, of course, for consuming raw meat and that cooking it, will hinder the essential nutrients. But, if your cat has been accustomed to eating kibble her whole life, it wouldn’t hurt to slowly transition her to raw meat, if that’s your goal – that way it gives her tummy a little time to get used to the new kind of food. Still, some people still prefer to slightly heat the food, just enough to kill off bacteria, yet not thoroughly cook it through. Either way you go, your kitty is sure to love you for it.

The cost of making cat food at home can vary significantly depending on the foods you choose. If you’re choosing expensive meats like filet mignon or lamb, the costs might be quite a bit more than if you went with chicken. However, variety is always a great choice and you’ll likely be able to keep the costs down by purchasing certain meats when they’re on sale.

Cats are carnivores. This means that they need meat to survive. One problem with store-bought cat food is that some companies will fudge by saying they’re “high in protein” but their protein sources are from things like legumes. This simply isn’t sufficient or right for a cat. They absolutely require meat in their diet to be healthy. Meat contains specific nutrients like the amino acid taurine that must come from her diet, as her body cannot produce it on its own. In the wild, cats would also gnaw or even consume bone material as well which provides calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. Animal fat is another crucial nutrient that is derived from animal products. Omega 6 is essential for cats and will be used for energy; Omega 3 is an important fat that is found in foods like salmon and sardines. Beef and pork also contain fat so a variety of foods will give her everything she needs.

Recipes don’t have to be complicated. A lot of times you can probably just wing it, see what’s available and throw whatever you have together. But we’ve compiled a few example recipes just to get you started on the right track. And remember, it’s always a good idea to talk with your vet before feeding your cat new food or giving her any supplements.

Easy Raw Chicken Meal

3 lbs. raw chicken – includes meat, organs, skin, and bones.

2 whole eggs (or just the yolks is preferred)

1 cooked carrot

1 cup water

Put everything in a blender powerful enough to deal with the bones or a meat grinder. Grind it all up until it’s nice and smooth. Be sure to freeze any extra you have that won’t be consumed within a couple days so that it will stay fresh.

Seafood Delight

1 can salmon or sardines or mackerel

⅓ cup cooked old fashioned oatmeal

1 tablespoon cooked peas

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

Hope this helps get you started on your journey to homemade cat food! Enjoy!

 

 

February is National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month

February is not only the time of year where you shower your human loved ones with affection, but also the four-legged members of your family. And there’s no better way to show Fido or Mr. Whiskers how much you love them than by being a responsible pet owner and making sure they are spayed or neutered. The overpopulation of pets is a big issue all over the country. Shelters across the nation are packed to capacity with dogs and cats that are in desperate need of a forever home, and sadly, over half of these precious animals are euthanized. Although a portion of the puppies and kittens dropped off at shelters come from strays, a lot are actually a result of unintentional breeding of beloved family pets.

But there is one surefire way to ensure that you don’t end up with unintended offspring – spay or neuter your pet. It is truly the only 100% effective form of birth control and it’s one of the very best things you can do for your kitty or pooch. And the process is probably even easier and cheaper than you think. Because getting your pets fixed is so important, most veterinary offices and animals shelters offer the service for a reasonable price, and some even offer special programs for lower income families. They work to make it as affordable as possible for all pet owners. Make sure to ask what options are available for you.

Not only is fixing your pet a smart decision for preventing unwanted pregnancies, but it also helps them to live longer and healthier lives than their counterparts. The changes that come with spaying and neutering helps reduce their urge to roam which could lead to their getting lost or injured as pets that wander away from their home are more likely to be hit by cars or attacked by wild animals. Spaying and neutering also lessens their chance of getting certain types of cancers and typically reduces behavioral issues such as aggression or desire to seek out a mate.

A lot of people worry about putting their beloved furry friends through a painful and traumatic experience. But rest assured, it’s a simple and easy procedure, and often you’ll be able to take your pet home the very same day. It’s a quick surgery, usually lasting less than 30 minutes, after which your pet will spend a few hours recovering from the anesthesia before being ready to go home. After your pet comes home, you’ll just need to keep them safe and comfortable while they recover. They’ll probably be feeling groggy and not themselves for a little while, but have no fear, after some rest, they’ll be back to normal in no time. Most times, even by the next day they’ll start feeling much better.

It truly is one of the most responsible and loving things you can do for your pet. So, if you have questions or are feeling unsure about this important decision, please talk to your vet today!

7 Simple Ways to Keep Your Pet Healthy

  1. Keep your pet active. No matter if you’ve got a brand new pup who is full of energy to burn, or you’ve got an older dog that’s slowing down, exercise is vital for a healthy animal. Even a little walk around the block is an excellent way to keep them active and happy. And exercise isn’t just for dogs! Take a little time each day to play with your cats and other indoor fur babies!
  2. Spay or neuter. We just cannot stress this one enough. Getting your pet fixed is one of the best things you can do! Getting this simple procedure done can help avoid serious health issues in the future, such as uterine infections and breast tumors in female dogs, and prostate problems and testicular tumors in male dogs. But it’s also an incredibly responsible thing to do as a pet owner! Getting your pet spayed or neutered makes you part of the solution for the overpopulation problem and overcrowding of shelters.
  3. Take your pet to the vet regularly. Making sure your pet gets their regular checkup is vital for their health and well-being. Vets are specially trained to evaluate your pet’s health, make sure they’re healthy and detect problems early on.
  4. Feed your pets a healthy and balanced diet. Now, Fido may look cuter than cute batting those big brown eyes at you as you’re finishing your meal, but that doesn’t mean you should always share! Giving your pet a treat every now and again is probably okay, but it’s important to make sure they’re getting a well-balanced diet to keep their bodies in tip-top shape.
  5. Get your pets vaccinated. One of the best ways to help your pet avoid terrible illnesses is to get them vaccinated. Vaccinations help protect against disease like parvo, distemper, and rabies. Talk to your vet about what you need to do to keep your pet up to date on their vaccinations.
  6. Keep your pet’s weight healthy. Just like it’s not too healthy for humans to be overweight, it’s not healthy for your pet, either. All that extra weight is hard on their joints and organs and slows them down overall. Help them stay healthy and full of energy by monitoring what and how much they eat and keep them active. Talk to your vet to get started.
  7. Start a supplement routine. Dogs and cats can benefit from supplements just like people do! There are countless numbers of different types available on the market, so you’ll be able to find just the right ones for your pet. Multivitamins offer a great foundation, but there are also other supplements available like fish oil, which is great for their coats and joints.

Community Cats Need Our Help

Misinformation costs millions of community cats (also known as feral cats) their lives every year. When a person sees a cat living outdoors, the urge is to assume that it needs our help, and that help often comes in the form of delivering said cat to the overcrowded local shelters. Sadly, because feral cats are not socialized to humans, this well-meant action is most likely to be a death sentence for a cat who could otherwise have lived a natural life outdoors.

Cats living outdoors is a hard pill to swallow for many animal lovers, especially since we are told over and over that it is so much safer for our pet cats to live indoors. This information is real and good, considering that an outdoor cat is more likely to be hit by a car, contract a disease, or get into a fight – but it doesn’t apply to community cats quite the same way. Why? Because feral cats are closer to wild animals than pet cats. They, like millions upon millions of cats who came before them over many thousands of years, were born and have made their homes outside, in nature – just like squirrels and rabbits. Contrary to popular belief, feral cats can live long and healthy lives in the wild. While we might want to “save” them, most feral cats typically avoid contact with humans, are even frightened of them, and would be unhappy if made to live in a human home.

Alley Cat Allies is an organization that helps educate the public about community cats, and combat the misinformation that leads to the deaths of so many of them. Among many efforts, they work with officials to create T-N-R (Trap, Neuter, Release) programs for community cats that help to combat overpopulation, while allowing cats to continue living where they are happy and thriving. Humanely controlling the feral cat population in this way, as well as working to inform the public as to the nature and needs of community cats, also helps to save the lives of stray or pet cats – overcrowded shelters all too often result in their deaths, as well.

It may be difficult for a concerned cat lover to tell the difference between a stray cat who might need help and a community cat who just needs to be left alone. Alley Cat Allies has an amazing guide to help us figure this out. We urge you to peruse their website, which contains a wealth of information to help the average animal advocate to learn how to help their own community cats, including what to do when we find feral kittens, how to help educate others on the truths about feral cats (are they really bad for wildlife?), and how to get involved in T-N-R.

Like us, we know you want to do what you can to help your neighborhood cats. For Global Cat Day, we hope you use this information and these resources to kick off a community cat education initiative in your own neighborhood.

Happiness is Vital to Your Cat’s Health

We do everything we can to make sure our cats are healthy. We feed them good quality food, we take them to their annual checkups, brush them, scratch them behind the ears, and love them. Cats have a reputation for being the low-maintenance pet – meet their basic needs, and they will live long healthy lives. But do we spend enough time thinking about our cats’ mental and emotional well-being?

It turns out that, like most creatures, happiness has a deep connection to your cat’s health. While good food and vet visits are clearly important, we also need to consider what our cats need to meet their instinctive requirements as a cat.

First, let’s look at the most prominent threat to a cat’s happiness: stress. Like in humans, stress, especially over prolonged periods, has a detrimental effect on cat health. Stress hormones that are perfectly designed to help cats in nature (the good old “fight or flight” response) were not meant to be released over and over again all day long. Continuous exposure to these hormones causes damage to organ systems by elevating heart rate and blood pressure and raising blood sugar.

But what on earth does a pampered domestic cat have to be stressed about, you may wonder? The answer is a lot of things. Things like boredom, conflicts with other household cats over territory, food or resources, changes in routine, loss or addition of household members and pets, tension in the home, medical problems, and so much more, can cause systemic stress in your cat.

So what can we do about all of this? We have to remember that cats are not very far removed from their wild relatives, and their needs are still very similar to that of their cousins. Cats are hunters, and also prey animals. They need to have their own territory and resources. In short, cats need to feel like cats. You can help keep your cat happy and healthy by:

Protecting Food Resources

This doesn’t just mean feeding them on time. When you feed them, make sure they are not threatened by other animals in the house – that might mean separating them from other cats at feeding time, elevating their feeding area to be safe from dogs in the house, or simply moving their dish away from the wall so that they can face the room while they eat.

Give them Ownership of Scent and Vantage Resources

Make sure that all of the cats in your house have access to climbing, perching and burrowing resources. In nature, cats might sit in a tree to view their surroundings for hunting or hiding purposes, or they might prefer to shelter in a bush. Approximating these with plenty of cat trees, perches, caves and beds will help to assure that each cat has their own space without any conflict. Likewise, there should be cat scratchers aplenty around the house – cats need them to maintain claw health and to leave their scent, thus securing their zone.

Keep Things Clean

In nature, cats bury their waste, and would not wish to relieve themselves in a dirty place. The same is true for your cat. Keeping the litter box clean by scooping or emptying a minimum of once per day is key if you want your cat to maintain good bathroom habits. You should also have more than one litter box – ideally, one for every cat in your house, plus one – distributed in different parts of your home, to avoid litter box conflicts.

Provide Mental Stimulation

We want to keep our cats indoors to keep them safe, but we also must ensure that their needs as a natural hunter are being met. Play with your cats daily by encouraging them to chase toys that resemble prey animals, laser dots, etc. Give them window perches so that they can watch birds outside. And if you want to go all out, you can build your cats a catio – an enclosed outdoor space that allows them to experience a taste of the outside world without the dangers of outdoor-cat life.

In reality, it just takes a few simple changes to put some focus on your cat’s mental well-being, and you will be paving the way for a cat who is healthy in both body and spirit.