6 Tips For Your Pet Health Spring Checklist
The sun is peeking through the clouds, temperatures are rising and the flowers are starting to show their heads; spring has finally sprung! For you, this means dusting off the sunscreen and sandals, but springtime can also be a good time to go through a “Spring Pet Health Check”. Here are some things to be mindful of in order to keep your dog and cat fit and happy this season:
1. Start heartworm preventives
If your pet isn’t on heartworm preventatives year round, it’s time to start up again! Heartworm disease is a potentially devastating disease that can cause heart failure and potentially death if left untreated. Treatment is costly and can be difficult. Prevention is the key in heartworm disease. If you have never had your pet on a preventative before, your veterinarian will likely want to run a quick blood test to ensure your pet is heartworm negative prior to prescribing any medications.
2. Start a flea and tick preventive
Our area of the nation require year round prevention of external parasites, but if you stop during the cold winter months, now is the time to start back up. Ticks can carry many diseases, some of which can be dangerous, such as Lyme Disease. Flea infestations in your home can be very costly to treat and often require an exterminator. By preventing fleas and ticks, your pet and your home will be healthier.
3. A trip to the groomer
Warmer temperatures can translate to shedding! Dogs and cats naturally like to be clean, but sometimes they need a little help. Grooming can be done at home, or with a professional groomer. In the winter you may have had less outside time with your dog, which can mean their nails didn’t wear down like they do in the summer. Be sure to keep nails trimmed in order to prevent splitting and breaking.
4. Update vaccines
There is a good chance warmer weather will mean more excursions to places where dogs are welcome. If you and your furry best friend frequent the dog park or other public places, be sure they are up to date on all required vaccinations and deworming.
5. Limit exposure to spring toxins
Spring is a common time to fertilize your lawn. Be sure to use pet safe products, and still keep your pet off the grass for the entire time recommended. Spring blooms can be pretty, but some plants and flowers are toxic to pets. Easter often brings lily flowers; these are EXTREMELY toxic to cats, less so to dogs, but exposure should still be avoided. Because accidents and illness can happen at any time, even with the most careful of pet owners, it’s a good idea to consider pet insurance for our pets.
6. Ease into activity
If you and your pet have been inactive all winter, ease slowly into activity. Start with leashed walks, and shorter play sessions and gradually work up to maximum activity. Starting all at once can lead to injuries and sore muscles.
Everyone knows of the lazy cat stereotype, but in reality cats aren’t supposed to lie around all the time. In fact, cats who live strictly indoors are often far too sedentary.
“We’ve come to realize that cats kept exclusively indoors often don’t get enough mental or physical stimulation,” says Dr. Terri A. Derr, founder of Veterinary Behavior Options. “Unowned cats, especially those not part of a feeding colony, have to hunt prey to eat. They must also avoid predators. Indoor cats don’t do either of those things.” Keeping your cat indoors is safer than letting him roam. So, it’s up to you to make your home as stimulating as possible for your kitty and to encourage your cat to exercise.
“When cats lose the ability to perform their natural hunt, catch, play, eat cycle they can become depressed,” says Dr. Liz Bales. “As cats age, they play less, and if we don’t engage in active play with them, they may not play much at all.” Exercise is good for your cat’s body, too. “It decreases the risk of diabetes, urinary tract problems, matted hair and joint-related disease."
How do you get your cat to be more active?
Exercise some of the following options:
Help your cat exercise with play.
Aim for at least two five- to 15-minute play sessions every day.
“My cats’ favorite is their fishing pole toys,” says Dr. Bales, founder of Doc and Phoebe’s Cat Company. “This is great for your relationship and to get them to move. Don’t forget to allow them to catch their prey and then give them a small treat. This hunt, catch, play cycle allows them to relax instead of staying in hunting mode.”
Dr. Bales also points out that some cats really enjoy a running wheel, which is like a giant hamster wheel for cats. “This can be a great outlet if your cat will use it,” she says.
Why is kitty so lazy?
Lots of things can make a cat less active in addition to being overweight, including boredom, lack of environmental stimuli and pain related to osteoarthritis. It's recommended bringing your cat in for regular checkups with your veterinarian to rule out a medical reason for his inactivity.
“Addressing any back or hip pain can greatly improve a cat’s quality of life and result in them being more active again,” says Dr. Sawyer, who recently examined a 3-year-old cat brought in because she was sleeping more and had an increased breathing rate. “It turns out that she had heart disease,” she says. “Once we started her on medication, she was feeling so much better, running around and playing with her housemate.”
What you should feed a less active cat:
To prevent weight gain, less-active cats may benefit from eating certain types of foods with fewer calories. Avoid anything that is labeled for ‘all life stages’ as this has enough calories to support young growing kittens and lactating mothers (queens), this often causes excessive weight gain in our indoor-only, less active adult cats. It is worth having a discussion with your vet for your cat’s specific needs.”
Your veterinarian might recommend a food that’s labeled for adult maintenance or one of the many foods intended for less-active cats, such as those labeled for indoor-only cats or weight management.
The type of food is less important than the overall calories; the average indoor cat who isn’t overweight needs about 250 calories per day. A weight management diet will have the nutrients adjusted for this decreased overall volume and calorie limit.
Tips to motivate cat exercise with play:
• Toss a ball or mouse to chase. Swing a feather or toy attached to a cat fishing pole toy.
• Shine the laser pointer on the ground or furniture (just never in the eyes) or use a toy with flashing lights for kitty to pounce on.
• Get your cat a feline running wheel.
• Get your cat exercise with climbing
• Cats who roam outdoors love to climb trees and scale walls for a good vantage point. You can also give your indoor cat opportunities to climb. Adding vertical spaces in the house such as a cat tree with multiple cat levels, or an outdoor play space “catio,” encourages exploration and jumping to different heights.
Tips to motivate your cat to climb:
• Get kitty a vertical climbing cat tree.
• Place cat stairs or ramps in front of beds or windowsills.
• Add cat shelves or catwalks to the upper spaces of your house.
Help your cat get more exercise by encouraging exploring:
Cats are wired to explore, but if your home is always the same, your cat won’t express this natural active behavior. Indoor cats become intimately familiar with their environment and find little stimulation in exploring it, if we don’t make a special effort to introduce new things on a regular basis, cats simply become bored.”
Tips to motivate your cat to explore:
• Rotate toys and place them in different areas throughout the house.
• Bring home new scratchers or towers and/or move existing ones to new places.
• Hide low-calorie treats, cat grass or catnip in different rooms for your cat to search out.
• Build a catio to include safe, outdoor space.
• Train your cat to use a harness and take him outside to explore or take him along in a cat-friendly back pack or stroller for some mental stimulation.
Have your cat hunt:
In the wild, cats would expend a good deal of energy hunting for their food, but pet cats need only saunter over to the food dish to eat their fill (and then some). We must recreate ways for a cat to be a cat. Ditch the bowl and get your cat hunting for its food. Put small amounts of food in multiple hunting feeders and hide them around your house giving [your cats] back their natural drive to move. Food-dispensing toys and creating games around feeding time to encourage exercise. Find a food toy so that when the cat bats the toy around, small amounts of food come out. Anything that makes a cat work or think for their food is a great idea.
Tips to motivate your cat to hunt:
• Don’t feed out of the same old bowl. Use an enrichment/puzzle bowl or food tree.
• Hide dry food in different places throughout the house so your cat has to hunt for it. You can also do this with cat grass or catnip.
• Place kibble or treats in a food-dispensing toy where the cat needs to bat it around to get the food out.
If you implement these tips and find that your cat is still a couch potato, he might just be that way by nature. Some activity level is determined by personality, laid-back cats are likely to respond differently than tightly wound cats. But there is always something you can do to help your cat exercise.
It may take persistence and experimentation, but in the end your cat will appreciate it.
Dog eye discharge — whether in the form of dog eye boogers, green eye discharge or something else — can be completely normal... or not. Here's what to know:
Have you ever wondered if your dog’s eye boogers are normal or not? A dog’s eyes can leak and tear for many reasons, some of which are normal and some of which are not. Tear stains are unsightly, but more importantly, dog eye discharge might indicate a problem that requires vet attention.
According to Beth Kimmitt, DVM, resident of ophthalmology at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, a dog’s eye is always producing tears, and these tears typically drain at the corners of the eye. “Technically, a normal eye should not have any ocular discharge, but a small amount of clear discharge may be OK,” she tells us. Clear dog eye discharge might look brown and slightly crusty when it dries.
That said, some dog eye discharge is not normal. Read on to find out what’s normal and what needs a vet exam when it comes to dog eye discharge:
This type of dog eye discharge means it’s time to visit the vet.
If your dog has colored green eye discharge, yellow eye discharge or another colored eye discharge, schedule a vet appointment immediately. Other signs of problematic dog eye discharge include squinting, a red-looking eye, or if your dog is rubbing or pawing at his eye. If you think something is wrong with your dog’s eye, don’t wait too long to make that vet appointment — his eyesight could be at risk.
Abnormal eye leakage might signal a dog eye infection or other issues.
A vet exam and tests can pinpoint the cause of your dog’s abnormal eye discharge.
Certain breeds are prone to dog eye discharge.
Brachycephalic dog breeds like Pugs and Boxers might have slightly more eye leakage than other breeds due to the combination of a short nose and large, round eyes. In these breeds, some dog eye discharge might be normal, especially if it’s clear, but abnormal dog eye boogers deserve a vet visit.
Poodles and Cocker Spaniels are more prone to blocked tear ducts, too. Usually, these ducts drain the tears from your dog’s eyes out through the nose and back of the throat. With the tear ducts blocked, there’s nowhere for the tears to drain, so they spill over the eye rims and run down the face.
If you see brown tear stains, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Dogs with white hair coats (like Maltese, Poodles, etc.) might show the discharge easier than other colors. You can help minimize dog tear stains by wiping the under-eye area frequently and keeping it as dry as possible. You can also try one of the whitening products sold specifically to help with tear stains.
It’s important to keep your dog’s eye area clean.
A soft, wet cloth can be used to gently wipe away the discharge. You can also use a veterinary eye cleaning product to combat dog eye discharge — just make sure it doesn’t contain any alcohol.