My New Arrival

So it’s been awhile since I’ve been on here, but I plan on slowly making my way back. However, anyone with kids will tell you that plans hardly ever go well. I am very happy to announce that Alexander Kai was born October 7, 2016. He was born a week early, but was 20 in. long and 7 lbs 7 oz. He is my wonderful miracle and every day I feel blessed that he’s in my life, even when I get little sleep or spend all day comforting him through his crying and gassiness. Now, without further ado, I’m pleased to present my baby boy:

Alexander Kai

Hectic Life

In a couple weeks my life will be changing with a new baby. I hope to continue blogging as much as possible, but I will also be busy trying to get things together & adjusting to this new adventure. Once things settle down a bit I will get back to my normal schedule & look forward to sharing more with everyone!

Puppy Mill Awareness Day

stop-puppy-mills

Photo credit: Petful.com via Foter.com / CC BY

To this day there are thousands of puppy mills across the US. These puppy mills are selling puppies both online and in your local pet stores. Most of these puppy mills never have any form of government inspection and the dogs and puppies in them rarely ever receive any form of veterinary care.

These dogs are crammed into small cages with several other dogs and substandard housing, food, and water. The females are bred constantly until they can no longer breed and are then either killed or abandoned. Puppies who are sick or have any sort of disability are also usually killed or abandoned. Many of these animals have health issues such as heartworm, parvo, or parasites. Vaccines, when done, may be done by the breeder with improperly stored or out of date vaccines. Genetic disorders, such as hip dysplasia, are also common in puppy mill dogs. Puppy mill dogs also suffer from grooming issues as well. Nails cutting into the pads, severe matting, and feces matted into the fur are common issues.

Along with physical health problems, puppy mill dogs often suffer from mental and emotional damage as well. These dogs usually get little to no human interaction and often show fear, aggression, or high anxiety around people. The emotional scars inflicted on these dogs lasts a lifetime and some never get better.

Unfortunately, the laws surrounding puppy mills are lacking and not very well enforced. Many states either have no laws or have minimal laws regulating these “commercial breeders.” The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires breeders selling to pet stores to be licensed and inspected. However, the conditions that have to be met are considered inhumane to most people (dogs can be housed in wire cages stacked on top of each other). Also, the laws in place only cover the known puppy mills, which is thought to be only a small percentage of how many there really are.

So what can you do? As always, you can donate time or money to shelters, humane societies, and organizations trying to change and increase legislation against puppy mills. You could also become an advocate for these animals by getting involved in the legislation process yourself. I will always encourage adoption over buying, there are even breed specific rescues where you can find purebred dogs in need of a home. However, if you are set on buying a pet, do thorough research on the person or place you are buying from. A responsible breeder will let you see the parents of a puppy along with the current housing. Never buy from someone who refuses to let you on site. Responsible breeders will also have papers showing proper registration and veterinary care, including routine exams and any shots the puppy has received. They also should want to do their own research to ensure you will be a responsible pet owner. I also recommend NEVER buying an animal online. Remember, a breeder can be licensed and still run a puppy mill.

Declawing and Alternatives

What is declawing?

Declawing is the surgical removal of a cat’s claws, usually just the front claws. Declawing is an elective and very painful procedure that requires the removal of the last bone of each toe along with the claw. This basically means that a cat getting declawed is actually having part of each toe amputated. The most common reason for having a cat declawed is due to inappropriate scratching. “Fun” fact – declawing is actually considered inhumane in Europe and is illegal in some countries.

kisa-and-her-softpaws
Kisa showing off her lovely SoftPaws!

My Stance

I am adamantly against the declawing of cats of any age. Declawed cats can experience severe pain and lameness for several days after surgery and possibly even longer. There are also many risks to the procedure that go further than the typical surgery and anesthesia risks such as nerve damage and even claw regrowth! Normal cat litter cannot be used while the cat is healing and there are cases where cats start inappropriately eliminating outside of the litter box. Some declawed cats have also been found to begin biting their owners more. Older, obese, and immune compromised cats should not be declawed due to the increased chance of complications. Like ear cropping and tail docking, I believe declawing to be majorly an owner convenient cosmetic surgery with no benefits to the animal. Even the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) suggests declawing only be performed if all other options have been exhausted.

Declawing Alternatives

So how can you stop your cat from scratching up the house? This is a question I have also had to ask. The first option is always to provide your cat with scratching posts or boards. The earlier you teach your cat that these are the acceptable places to scratch, the better. Whenever your cat uses the posts or boards give him/her rewards. You can also use aversion training such as using a spray bottle of water whenever your cat scratches the floor or furniture or putting double sided tape up where he/she typically tries to scratch. Putting a scratching post nearby where your cat typically scratches may also be a useful tool to stopping unwanted scratching. Nail care is also an important step to preventing unwanted scratching. While nail trimming on its own may not stop the behavior, a trim every couple weeks can reduce the amount of damage done.

My absolute favorite alternative is SoftPaws. SoftPaws are simple nail caps that go over your cats nails and can be put on the front and back paws. You simply trim the nails, put the glue in the cap and stick the cap on the nail. The caps come in hundreds of different colors, making them cute and stylish, and can be bought anywhere online or at most pet stores. If you have trouble doing it yourself, many groomers and vet clinics are willing to help you put them on your cat. As the nail grows, the caps eventually fall off and do need to be replaced. Also, making sure you get the correct size is important. They have kitten, small, medium, and large sizes based on weight. If you’re cat is overweight, make sure to use the ideal weight of your cat when determining what size to get. One problem I had was the glue drying up too fast. You can make the glue last longer by storing it in the fridge. You can also order more glue and applicator tips online at the SoftPaws website. When appropriately used, SoftPaws can help prevent destruction of carpet and furniture. They have even developed SoftPaws for dogs!

Common Spay and Neuter Myths and Concerns

In my previous posts I have discussed the when, what, why, and where of spay and neuter surgery. Now I would like to clear up some common myths and concerns I have been asked about countless times. These myths and concerns include spaying while in heat or pregnant, the pets weight after surgery, and changes to personality.

question-and-answer

Can my pet be spayed while she is in heat?

Answer: Yes

It is possible and safe to spay your pet while she is in heat. In fact, your female cat is more likely to be in heat than not when she is spayed. The surgery on a pet in heat does require more time and care when being performed. This is due to the engorged blood vessels in the tissue and the increased chance of tearing. Some veterinary clinics will charge more if your pet is in heat because of the extra time and care needed. Special Note: When a pet is spayed while in heat it is important to remember that she may still attract male partners. It is absolutely necessary to make sure she can not come into contact with any intact (not neutered) males. If a male were to try and mate with her, the results can be severe and deadly. We suggested to keep females separated for the full two weeks of recovery.

What if my pet is pregnant?

Answer: Yes

I am a huge advocate of spaying, even if your pet is already pregnant. The most common reasons people usually have for spaying while pregnant are unplanned litters or unable to afford care for a litter.However, I also believe in spaying while pregnant because the quality of life for the puppies and kittens can not be guaranteed unless you plan on keeping them. You can research potential adopters of the puppies/kittens all you want, but they can still end up homeless and in an already overcrowded shelter. I have also seen cases where a pet was pregnant or thought to be pregnant and ended up having a pyometra (a serious and deadly bacterial infection of the uterus). In cases such as these, spay surgery is the safest and most effective treatment. As with the surgery for females in heat, pregnant females are more prone to bleeding due to the extra blood in the organs and require more time and care during the surgery. This is why veterinary clinics will sometimes charge more for a spay surgery on a pregnant female.

Will my pet become overweight after the surgery?

Answer: Not necessarily

Many factors contribute to a pet becoming overweight and studies can lean one way or the other on if spay/neuter surgery is a definite factor. However, your pet is less likely to become overweight if kept active and given a proper diet. For 2 weeks after surgery you will need to keep your pet as calm as possible to reduce the chance of complications during recovery. After those 2 weeks, your pet can go back to his or her normal activity level and I encourage you to make sure your pet continues to be active. Talk to your veterinarian about a diet plan that is right for your individual pet. The most important step in making sure your pet does not become overweight is to schedule meals. Please do not free feed your pet. Free feeding is giving your pet access to food all day long with no portion control. Pets have been known to eat even when they are not hungry. Pets who have been fixed are more likely to overeat for reasons not yet known. This overeating increases your pet’s chance at becoming overweight.

Will my pet’s personality change?

Answer: Depends on what type of changes you are asking about

As far as your pet’s natural personality traits, getting your pet fixed will not change his/her personality. He/she will not stop wanting to cuddle or play with you just because of the surgery. I have had many men ask me about their male pet being “less of a man” and no, he will not notice that he is short two testicles. On the same note, female pets will not be depressed about no longer being able to have litters. Sex and reproduction are purely instinct driven in cats and dogs. Removing the sex organs reduces or completely stops this instinctual need to reproduce. The only personality changes you may see in your pet are sex related behaviors such as inappropriate urination or spraying, roaming, and humping. There is the possibility of reducing aggression in male pets towards other males or people. Male cats are highly likely to stop or have reduced aggression towards other male cats after being neutered. The effect may also be seen in male dogs, also, but the chances are lower and may depend on other factors. Many dogs may still need other behavior modification training tools to help reduce their aggressive behaviors.

I hope this has helped you understand more about the effects of spay and neuter surgery. If you have any questions please comment below!

Low Cost Spay and Neuter

Spay and neuter is a topic I know a lot about after working in a spay/neuter clinic for the humane society for nearly a year. I highly encourage everyone to spay or neuter their pets. However, I can agree that the prices at some veterinary clinics are a bit high. I don’t hold this against the clinics. After all, they have to pay for the equipment they use and make money in the process. However, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money or don’t have a lot to spend, there are still options for you.

Banfield

I wouldn’t necessarily say Banfield is a low cost option, but I think they are worth mentioning. I just really love the payment plans they offer for pets! I used them for awhile before I started working with the humane society. The plans were affordable and actually encouraged me to take my pets to the vet more often than I usually did. The payment plans helped me afford getting heartworm prevention for Audri along with teeth cleanings for both Audri and Kisa. I mention them here because you can get the spay/neuter surgery included in the plan and pay monthly rather than pay all at once. The downside is that starting your plan can be a little expensive. However, it is only a one time fee and I found the monthly costs to be pretty affordable while being on a budget.

Humane Societies and Other Low Cost Clinics

Humane societies offer low cost spay/neuter surgery in an effort to help reduce the number of homeless animals they see. Some humane societies are able to get grants that allow them to lower the cost of surgery even more. There are also local low cost clinics to help families who otherwise can’t afford to have the surgery done. I don’t have much experience with low cost clinics outside of humane societies, but their prices are comparable to, and sometimes cheaper than, humane society prices.Both also offer discounts and aid to low income families, such as those living off of disability or that need government assistance. Another positive to these options is the other services offered. Vaccinations, heartworm and FIV/Feline leukemia testing, microchips, and nail trims are just some services offered at a cheaper price than the typical veterinary clinic. Some places even offer low cost teeth cleanings!

The one downside to low cost clinics is that most places do not do pre-anesthetic testing. In many cases these tests aren’t completely necessary. As I stated in my previous post, concern mostly lies with the older, very young, or sick pets. However, there are cases where an animal can appear to be perfectly healthy and still have complications (there is always a certain degree of risk when an animal goes into surgery).

If you are interested in finding a low cost clinic near you; visit the ASPCA website here!

Also, if you live in the Oklahoma City area I recommend checking out the Central OK Humane Spay/Neuter Clinic. The people that work there are dedicated and hardworking individuals who give a little extra love to every pet that enters their doors!

Finding the Right Place for You and Your Pet

Make sure you do your research before you decide on where to have your pet’s spay/neuter surgery done. I suggest visiting the clinic’s website if they have one, give them a call, or even visit the clinic. Make sure to ask any and all questions you may have. Many people worry about how long their pet will be under anesthesia or what kind of after care their pet will need. The team should be willing to answer every question and more and make you feel safe about leaving your pet with them.

Spay and Neuter: What You Need To Know

What Is Spay and Neuter?

Fixing pets through spay and neuter surgeries is the most common surgery most veterinarians perform. Spay, also called an ovariohysterectomy, is a surgery to completely remove the uterus and both ovaries of a female animal. A neuter (castration or orchidectomy) is a surgery to remove both testicles from a male animal. Spay/neuter surgery is typically done around 6 months of age and after your puppy or kitten has received its core vaccine shots (for more about vaccinations see my post here). However, the surgery can be done as early as 8 weeks and as small as 2 pounds. Shelter animals are often fixed early in order for the animals to be fixed before adoption.

Stray Kitten

Reasons to Spay/Neuter

Millions of cats and dogs are euthanized every year due to shelters being overcrowded with unwanted pets. These pets are usually abandoned due to behavior issues and unwanted litters. One solution to this problem is encouraging pet owners to get their pets fixed. This cuts down on the number of kittens and puppies in need of homes. To give you an idea on how much getting just one cat fixed can help population control, I’ll give you some numbers. Cats can typically reproduce as young as 5 months old and can go into heat every couple of months. One female cat can have 2-3 litters in just 12 months. Each of these litters can contain up to 5 or 6 kittens. By the end of 12 months all of these kittens have reached sexual maturity and can bring more kittens into the world. In just 12 months you could potentially have over 100 cats running around your house.

As I mentioned earlier, many of the animals surrendered to the shelter are given up due to behavior issues. One of the most common issues is problems with aggressive behaviors. Studies have shown that pets fixed before they become sexually mature are less likely to show these aggressive behaviors due to the low levels of sex hormones the body produces with the removal of the sex organs. Neutering your male pets can also reduce the chances of them roaming in search of females in heat or fighting with other male cats or dogs over territory or a female. Male cats are also less likely to spray your furniture if they have been fixed. Spaying your female pets also cuts the chances of them wandering off in search of males and all the headaches that are associated with a typical heat cycle (yowling in cats, frequent urination, and the potential blood getting on your carpet and furniture).

Your pet’s health can also be improved by getting him/her fixed. A fixed pet usually has a longer life span over pets that have not been fixed. They also have a reduced chance of getting tumors and cancers related to the reproductive system. The earlier your pet is fixed, the lower the chances of having any of these issues.

Risks of Spay/Neuter

As with all surgeries, there will always be some degree of risk. Complications are possible during and after surgery. Young and healthy pets have a low chance of having any complications and typically recover quickly. Smaller kittens and puppies as well as older pets and those with health conditions have an increased risk of complications. Most veterinarians will offer to do tests prior to surgery to check for any previously unknown conditions. However, it is important to remember that some diseases, like kidney failure in cats, are hard to diagnose until severe. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician will be happy to discuss all of the possible risks and the best options that are specific to your pet.

Recently, I have also discovered some newer research that shows early spay and neuter surgery in certain dog breeds can actually increase the risks of some health problems. For example, German Shepherds have a genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia and a recent study of German Shepherds has shown that spay/neuter surgery in the first year could potentially increase the risk of getting hip dysplasia. While these studies are relatively new and have not been conclusively proven, I encourage you to talk to your veterinary team about any concerns you may have.

Thank you for reading and, as always, I hope the information has been helpful! Please comment below with any questions or opinions you may have!

Heartworm Disease and Prevention

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a dangerous and potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease that can infect cats and dogs among other mammals. Knowing the life cycle of heartworms is important to understanding the disease and prevention. Adult heartworms typically live in the blood of mammals such as dogs, foxes, and coyotes. The female heartworms produce microfilariae, early larval stage, that travel through the blood of the infected animal. The larvae can then be ingested by mosquitoes that bite the infected animal. Once ingested, the larvae will mature and eventually be released onto another animal where they enter the body, burrow through the tissues, and eventually reach the heart and mature into adult heartworms to begin the process again.

Effects of Heartworm Disease and Treatment

Milder symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, vomiting, difficulty breathing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, and a decreased appetite. If no treatment is given, these signs can progress and become more serious. More severe symptoms include fluid accumulation in the abdomen, lung damage, heart complications, and death.

There is no treatment of heartworm disease in cats. Treatment is based on keeping your cat stabilized and can include hospitalization and constant monitoring.

Treatment for heartworm disease in dogs is very costly and lengthy. You’ll be required to restrict your dog’s exercise, which typically includes kennel rest and leashed walks only. Your dog may be started on preventative with an antibiotic and will also need several injections and possibly temporary hospitalization for observation. These measures will be discussed with you by your veterinarian.

Prevention and How To Get It

Prevention is always the best “treatment” of any disease. Heartworm prevention comes in pill, topical, and an injectable form. Some brands of heartworm prevention can also help control other internal parasites. For example, I always recommend Revolution for felines. Revolution is a topical heartworm prevention that also helps control hookworms, roundworms, fleas, and ear mites in cats.

Heartworm prevention must be prescribed by your veterinarian. Puppies and kittens under 6 months can be immediately started on heartworm prevention. Cats and dogs 6 months and older require a heartworm test to be done. These tests are quick and simple and only require a couple drops of blood from your pet. Once the test comes back negative, you can discuss your options with your veterinarian. Pill and topical preventions can be given to you to take home and give to your pet. These must be given every 30 days to be effective. Your vet can also give your pet an injectable preventative which lasts for 6 months.

Even with prevention your pet needs to be tested every 12 months. Why? First, topical medications can be applied incorrectly and pets can potentially spit out some of the pill without you realizing. Also, there is the potential of human error with forgetting to give the prevention in a timely manner (I’m bad about this at times). The other reason is that it can take 6 months after being infected for a test to be positive.

For more information visit the American Heartworm Society or talk to your veterinarian.

Common Myths I Have Heard

Cats can’t get heartworms. FALSE

Cats are just as susceptible to heartworm disease as dogs. Heartworms can live in cats for up to 3 years and cause serious and deadly damage. The worst part is there is no treatment for heartworms in cats. This is why it is extremely important for your cat to be on prevention.

My pet stays indoors most of the time and doesn’t need to be on prevention. FALSE

It only takes one bite from one infected mosquito for your pet to get heartworms. If your pet ever steps foot outdoors, even if it is just in your own backyard, your pet is at risk. Even a completely indoor cat is at risk due to the potential of mosquitoes getting into your house.

I don’t have to worry about prevention during the winter. FALSE

Mosquitos live year round and can infect your pet year round. While they are less active in the cold, it only takes one day of warm weather for the mosquitoes to come out and infect your pet.

I don’t have to worry about heartworm disease where I live. FALSE

While heartworm disease is more prevalent in the south, heartworm disease has been found in every state of the US. Warmer temperatures and the movement of infected dogs into other states also increases the chance of heartworm disease being spread.

Puppy

Please comment with any questions you may have!

Vaccinations for Dogs and Cats

One of the biggest topics people have asked me about was vaccinations. What vaccinations do cats and dogs need? How often does my pet need to be vaccinated? How many boosters does my puppy or kitten need? This post is to help you understand the major vaccines you may be offered, if your pet needs them, and what type of schedule is recommended for each vaccine.

Disclaimer: This information is not to replace information from your own veterinarian. Every pet is different and may require its own unique vaccine schedule.

Major Dog Vaccines and What They Protect Against

Rabies: Rabies is a state required vaccination that can be given as early as 16 weeks. After the initial vaccination, boosters can be given either annually or every 3 years depending on state regulations. California, Connecticut, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin allow 3 year boosters. There may be other states, but I am not certain about other states. Make sure to check with your vet about your states laws and which booster they offer.

DHPP or DA2PP: This vaccine is most commonly called the distemper or distemper/parvo vaccine. I have also heard it called the all-in-one shot. The initials stand for Distemper, Hepatitis or Adenovirus Type 2, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. DHPP is first given around 8 weeks of age and followed by 2 boosters spaced 3-4 weeks apart. After the series of 3 shots, your puppy will require another booster in 1 year that gives protection for 1 year. A 3 year booster can be given after the 1 year booster depending on your veterinarian and your pet’s risk. This is considered a core vaccine, recommended for all dogs, to protect against highly contagious diseases.

Bordetella: Bordetella, more commonly known as kennel cough, is a highly contagious airborne disease. This means it can be spread through direct contact or simply by being in the same room with an infected animal. This vaccine is required by most boarding facilities, but I also highly recommend it be given to any dog that will have contact with other animals. This includes dogs taken to pet stores, dog parks, and any type of obedience class. Bordetella can be given as an injection or intranasally, in the nose. There are also new products that can be given by mouth. The vaccine can be given as young as 8 weeks and requires yearly boosters.

Leptosporosis: Leptosporosis is a bacterial infection that can be spread through water, soil, or bodily fluids of infected animals. This disease can be found in wild animals and can be transferred to humans. I usually recommend this vaccine for dogs used for hunting or that live near or play in standing bodies of water. Talk to your veterinarian about the prevalence of leptosporosis in your area and their recommendation on if the vaccine is necessary for your dog. The vaccine can be given as early as 12 weeks and requires 2 boosters spaced 2-4 weeks apart. Afterwards, the vaccine needs a yearly booster. Leptosporosis can be given separately or combined with the DHPP vaccine.

Lyme: Lyme disease is caused by tick bites and is highly prevalent in the northeast and upper midwest states in America. I have not worked with this vaccine myself, but it is highly recommended to give to all puppies and dogs in these regions. The vaccine can be given as early as 14-16 weeks and must have a booster 2-4 weeks later. Afterwards, the lyme vaccine is given yearly. Using flea/tick prevention is also key to reducing your dog’s chances of acquiring this disease. As always, talk to your veterinarian about the prevalence of lyme disease in your area and their recommendation for getting the vaccine.

Major Cat Vaccines and What They Protect Against

Rabies: see above paragraph

FVRCP: This vaccine is most commonly called the feline distemper or 3-in-1 vaccine. FVRCP is to protect against Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, and feline Panleukopenia. Rhinotracheitis and Calcivirus are both upper respiratory diseases. Panleukopenia is caused by a parvovirus and is highly contagious. All three are commonly found in the environment and among cat populations. This is considered a core vaccine for all cats. Like the dog distemper vaccine, FVRCP is given around 8 weeks of age with 2 boosters spaced 3-4 weeks apart. Afterwards, the vaccine is given at 1 year and can be given every 3 years afterwards.

Feline Leukemia: Feline leukemia is a viral disease spread between cats through bodily fluids. This disease can be spread through grooming, bowl sharing, biting, or from mother to kittens while pregnant or nursing. I recommend this for any cat that spends time outdoors or living with a cat that has leukemia. This is also a good vaccine to give your personally owned cats if you often foster as the status of these cats is often unknown. Your vet will want to test your cat for leukemia first. This test just requires a very small blood sample and should only take a few minutes to run. Once the test comes back negative, your cat will be able to get the vaccine. The feline leukemia vaccine can be given as young as 8 weeks and requires a booster after 3-4 weeks and then yearly.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: This virus is spread through blood and saliva. The most common way of being spread is through fighting injuries, which is why male cats with access to the outdoors are most commonly infected. Therefore, it is generally recommended for cats that spend time outdoors or live with an FIV positive cat. A negative FIV test is required before getting this vaccine. The FIV vaccine can be given as early as 8 weeks and requires 2 boosters spaced 3-4 weeks apart. Afterwards, a booster can be given yearly for protection. One important thing to remember is that your cat will test positive on FIV tests after getting the vaccine. This is because most test will test for antibodies to the virus and don’t differentiate between antibodies produced in response to the vaccine as opposed to antibodies produced in response to the disease. I would recommend making sure your cat is microchipped when giving this vaccine. A microchip generally ensures that your cat will be returned to you if lost rather than euthanized due to a false FIV positive test. Talk to your veterinarian to see if the FIV vaccine is right for your cat.

Special Circumstances

The schedule I have described for each vaccine is the general rule for a typical vaccination schedule. However, special circumstances can always arise. Bottle fed kittens and puppies, those that do not nurse from mom, can get vaccines as early as 6 weeks due to not getting the necessary antibodies from mom. If your pet is sick or immune compromised, you should delay giving vaccines until your pet is better. Make sure you talk to your vet about when it is safe to resume vaccinations. Some veterinarians also recommend against vaccinating pregnant cats or dogs.

I hope this list has been informative and helpful. If you have any questions or comments please leave a comment below!