5 Retroviral Misconceptions

May 18th, 2018 by Niskayuna Staff

There are multiple retroviruses that can infect cats. While many cat guardians are not familiar with the classification of retrovirus, others may be well aware of these two:

FeLV and FIV are generally fatal infectious diseases in felines; while less common than they were in the past, they are still all-too-frequently reported. 

There are several misconceptions about these diseases and resulting confusion about risk factors, symptoms, prognosis and management of the diseases. Simply put, it’s easy to mistakenly believe that your cat is protected from FeLV or FIV. By reading the five questions and answers I’ve included here, you’ll better understand how retroviruses sneak up on your cat and how you can prevent them.

1. My cat’s never had any infections before; can I assume she has a higher resistance?
No, just because your cat has always appeared healthy doesn’t mean she’s protected. Age is a significant risk factor of FeLV and FIV. Because retroviruses can be spread “vertically” (from mother to offspring) kittens can be infected very early. The virus can reproduce very rapidly in kittens and cause severe disease among young cats. Some infected cats manage to suppress the virus for a time. Both viruses can have long periods before the actual onset of symptoms. Similarly both viruses can result in chronic carrier states where the cat may be free of clinical signs – in other words, appear outwardly healthy, but is shedding infective virus.

2. All cats have the same risk of infection right?
Not true, sexually intact males are at greater risk of infection than females. This may well be due to the fact that intact males are prone to fighting, and the exchange of bodily fluids is one of the ways these viruses are spread. Not surprisingly, outdoor cats have a greater risk of infection also2; again, because they interact with and fight with cats that are infected.

3. I just got a new kitten, is she protected because she’s young?
No, all cats are potentially at risk for FeLV and FIV. Newly acquired cats especially should be tested regardless of age.

4. My cat seems perfectly healthy, I would see symptoms if she was sick right?
Not necessarily, guardians are frequently surprised when their seemingly healthy cat tests positive for FeLV or FIV. These viruses both infect otherwise healthy cats and, according to the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases, clinical signs can be extremely variable. In fact some cats persistently infected with FIV and FeLV never develop symptoms and appear to be healthy.

5. Healthy looking cats can’t spread the disease, right?
I’m sorry to say that they can. Infected cats may appear normal for years. However, shedding and transmission need not involve disease at all, just the presence of the virus. For that reason positive tests should be rechecked and negative tests should be checked yearly in at risk cats.

Make sure you learn about potential risk factors in your furry friend, both cats and dogs, to ensure they live their healthiest life possible. If you have any more questions about FeLV, FIV, or any other potential viruses, feel free to visit or call us at 518-785-9731.

Feel free to check out other information about pet springtime hazards and other information in our May newsletter. If you aren’t yet on the listserve, let us know! 

9 Spring-Time Pet Hazards

April 20th, 2018 by Niskayuna Staff

After a long winter, we’re sure that you’re ready to get outside with your furry family. While we couldn’t agree more, don’t overlook these 9 hazards of the season, and here’s to hoping the temperature only climbs from here!


1. Ticks and Tick-borne Disease

Ticks are more than just creepy; they can spread a number of different diseases that affect both pets and people: Lyme diseaseehrlichiosisRocky Mountain spotted feveranaplasmosis, tularemia, and babesiosis. The best way to protect your pet is with preventative treatment. Ask us for advice and click here to learn more about ticks and the diseases they spread.

Also check out this article: New Study Shows Link Between Ticks and Kidney Disease


2. Antifreeze

Antifreeze is extremely dangerous to pets because most types have a sweet smell and taste—dogs tend to dive right in and lap it up. Because of this, antifreeze poisoning is one of the most common forms of poisoning in pets. Fortunately, “pet-safer” types of antifreeze that are not as attractive to pets are available. Beware, antifreeze is not the only garage hazard.


3. Heartworm

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is a serious disease that primarily affects the heart and lungs, but can also affect the liver, kidney, eyes, and central nervous system; if left untreated, it can cause death. Fortunately, effective preventatives are available.


4. Fertilizers and Mulch

According to the PetPoisonHelpline, most fertilizers contain a wide assortment of potentially toxic substances including iron and nitrogen. They could also have pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. Even if the chemicals don’t poison your furry friend, large amounts of fertilizer could result in gastrointestinal or pancreatic problems.


5. Metaldehyde (Slug Bait)

Snail bait represents a major risk for dogs and cats and is a more common source of poisoning than you may expect. Snail and slug bait products typically contain the poison metaldehyde, and they taste sweet to pets. It’s important that you know the symptoms of metaldehyde poisoning in case your pet is exposed.


6. Bee Stings

Like people, some dogs can have an allergic reaction to bee stings, especially if stung by multiple bees. Ask us how you can keep your pup safe from bee stings, and what to do if your dog is stung.


7. Snakes

There are 20 species of venomous snakes in North America, and they are found in every state except Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine. A rattlesnake can bite your dog even if the meeting is not face-to-face. Rattlesnakes can strike as far as half of their own body length. Although they usually warn before striking by rattling their tail, they don’t always. Learn more about venomous snakes here.


8. Thawing Ponds

Your dog may be accustomed to taking walks over ice covered lakes, rivers and ponds. As the ice begins to thaw, the new dangers presented by exposed water are likely not going to be apparent to him. By keeping your dog on a leash you can protect him from falling through the thin ice.


9. Ivermectin

Horse dewormers often contain ivermectin; it’s also used in small doses to kill parasites in dogs. Toxicity can occur if a dog is given an excessive dose of the medication. To prevent ivermectin toxicity keep horse products out of his reach and only administer the prescribed amount of heartworm medication as instructed.


If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us at 518-785-9731. Here’s to a happy spring and healthy spring for you and your furry family!

Heartworm Disease Prevention in Furry Friends

February 28th, 2018 by Niskayuna Staff

Heartworm disease is caused by a mosquito transmitted parasite. If left untreated, it can be a debilitating disease and sometimes prove fatal. Pets infected with heartworms can be found in all states, in spite of the fact that very effective heartworm prevention products are available. Pet heartworm prevention is extremely important for your furry friend. Unfortunately, most of the time you’re not going to see any symptoms, and here’s why:


Early signs of heartworm disease in dogs
The development of heartworm disease is insidious until the overt clinical signs occur, and by then the disease has already affected your dog’s heart and lungs. Your dog could appear 100% healthy while the parasites are quietly making themselves right at home.

Later signs of heartworm disease

  • Fatigue
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Weight loss
  • Cough
  • Sudden death

While none of these symptoms are exclusive to heartworm disease, a dog with heartworm and these symptoms has progressed to the later stage. Heartworm at this stage will require aggressive and expensive treatment.


Is my dog at risk for heartworm disease? 
Yes. Unless your dog lives in a vacuum, they are at risk. Many carrier mosquitoes can survive in a variety of climates and are a year round threat (even in winter) in much of the country. In all likelihood, your dog is bitten by more mosquitos than you.


How can I protect my dog from heartworm disease?
Protection is simple. There are highly effective preventives that stop the development of heartworms in pets. By administering a preventive year-round, the risk of infection is greatly reduced. You can also try to avoid exposure to mosquitoes by keeping dogs indoors, particularly during twilight hours, when mosquitoes are feeding.


Can I test my dog for heartworm disease?
Absolutely, and we encourage testing every year. A negative test result in a dog on year-round heartworm prevention is good news and means the preventive measures are working. However, should your dog test positive, they are infected and will need to be treated.




Black kitten on couchCat yawning


Although dogs are the more natural host for heartworm disease, cats are also susceptible to heartworm infection. It is estimated by the American Heartworm Society that, in any given community, the incidence of heartworm infection in cats is approximately 5% to 15% percent that of dogs who are not on preventive medication.

While the canine and feline versions of heartworm disease share some similarities, there are some striking differences, discussed below within the five feline facts pertaining to heartworm disease.


1. The disease targets the lungs
Most dogs with heartworm disease involve many worms and the heart and lungs are the prime targets for damage. In contrast, only one or two worms are typically present in an affected cat, and the disease takes its primary toll on the lungs. The cat’s immune system goes into overdrive in response to immature heartworms located within the lungs and/or fragments of dying, adult heartworms that flow through blood vessels feeding into the lungs. The result of this immune system activity is a whole lot of inflammation that can wreak havoc within the lungs. The acronym HARD (heartworm associated respiratory distress) is used to describe feline lung disease caused by heartworms.


2. Common symptoms of heartworm disease
Common symptoms of heartworm disease include:

  • Coughing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss

In rare cases, more severe symptoms and even sudden death can occur. One of the most surprising symptoms that occurs in cats with heartworm disease, but not in dogs, is intermittent vomiting that is unrelated to eating.

Not all cats with heartworm disease show symptoms. For those cats who test positive for the disease on routine screening but are free of symptoms, careful monitoring over the course of two to three years (the lifespan of the adult worms) is recommended.


3. Diagnosing heartworm disease
The most reliable screening test for heartworm infection in dogs is called an antigen test. Performed on a blood sample, it detects microscopic particles (antigen) produced by adult, female heartworms. In cats, it’s not unusual to have a male only population, given that often only one to two worms are present. Additionally, many cats develop symptoms and are therefore tested when the worms are immature. For these reasons, cats with active heartworm disease often have negative antigen test results. However, if the antigen test is positive, this is proof of heartworm disease.

Because antigen tests could be negative in cats with heartworm disease, it is very important to pair the antigen test with a blood antibody test in those cats showing symptoms. The presence of antibodies means that the cat’s immune system has been exposed to the heartworm parasite. A negative antibody test is good evidence that a cat has not been infected. On the other hand, a positive antibody test can mean that either there is an active infection, or the cat experienced heartworm infection in the past. Antibody levels can remain elevated long after the heartworms have died.

The American Heartworm Society recommends that initial screening for feline heartworm disease includes both antigen and antibody testing. If results support the possibility or probability of heartworm disease, ultrasound of the heart and X-rays of the chest to evaluate the lungs are recommended to confirm or deny the diagnosis.


4. There is no treatment to get rid of feline heartworms
Unlike the canine version of this disease, feline heartworm infection is not specifically treatable. Melarsomine, the drug of choice to kill adult heartworms in dogs, is toxic for cats. For this reason, feline heartworm disease is considered to be manageable rather than treatable. Corticosteroids such as prednisone are commonly used for their potent anti-inflammatory effects. Treatment often continues until the adult worms have died and are cleared from the lungs (a two to three year process).


5. Prevention of heartworm disease
Disease prevention is the best strategy, particularly in areas where mosquitoes proliferate. The American Heartworm Society recommends orally administered, once a month preventive medication, beginning at eight weeks of age for all cats in heartworm-endemic areas. Talk with your veterinarian about heartworm in your area. Depending on the weather in a particular region, preventive medication may be recommended seasonally or year-round.

An indoor feline lifestyle is not a guarantee against heartworm infection. In fact, one in four cases of heartworm disease occur in cats that live exclusively indoors.


Feel free to ask us any other heartworm health questions, and together we will work to prevent heartworm contraction in all of your furry friends!

Healthier Dog Smiles for Pet Dental Health Month!

February 5th, 2018 by Niskayuna Staff



Dogs have 42 smile generators. Keeping those 42 teeth strong, healthy, and happy is essential to preventing illness, pain, and may extend longevity. Each February, U.S. veterinarians celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the dangers of oral diseases such as gingivitis, tooth abscesses, and mouth tumors. Here are five tips for a healthier dog smile!

1. Daily brushing
The foundation of a good oral care regimen for your dog is daily brushing. It can seem like a lot to brush your pet’s teeth daily, but daily brushing removes the biofilm and plaque created by mouth bacteria and helps avoid most oral diseases. That’s why we spend two to three minutes twice a day brushing our own pearly whites; we fear the dentist’s drill and the threat of cavities. Once you train your pooch to sit still for a couple of minutes while you clean their teeth, you’ll discover how fast and easy it is. Here are 7 simple steps to teaching your dog to tolerate the toothbrush:

  • Start by touching and rubbing the face, lips and muzzle. Do this for a few days prior to moving to the next step.
  • Next, rub the teeth and gums with your fingers for a few days.
  • Begin rubbing and brushing your pet’s face and lips with a veterinarian-approved toothbrush.
  • Let your pet “taste test” pet-safe toothpaste on the toothbrush.
  • Gently brush the front teeth by lifting the lips.
  • Slowly work your way to the back teeth over several sessions. Concentrate on the outside of the teeth.
  • Make it fun! Reward your pet with praise and a crunchy veggie treat after each session.

2. Beyond the brush 
No matter what, some pet parents simply can’t brush their dog’s teeth. If you fall into that category, think beyond the brush. Daily oral swishes and rinses, chew treats containing anti-plaque ingredients, and specialized teeth-cleaning diets are easy options. We understand that cleaning teeth can be a struggle, so ask us for alternatives to tooth brushing. While a substitute won’t be equivalent, anything is better than no oral care at all.

3. Monthly mouth check
In addition to daily oral care, mark your calendar for a monthly peek inside your pet’s mouth. Look for reddened or puffy gums, cracked or broken teeth, and unusual color changes, growths or swellings. Any bleeding, pus, or discharges from teeth and gums should be reported immediately. While you’re checking the teeth, be sure to feel the throat for swollen lymph nodes, the eyes for cloudiness or changes in coloration, and the tummy for tenderness or masses. Identifying subtle changes early can help prevent significant diseases later.

4. Yearly vet check
No discussion of oral health would be complete without mentioning the importance of annual veterinary checkups. We will carefully examine your pet’s oral cavity for any problems difficult to notice at home, and suggest ways to get a healthier dog smile. Oral health may impact your dog’s entire body: infection in the mouth is reported to cause infection in the heart, kidneys, and elsewhere. A complete annual exam with basic blood work and complete urinalysis for adult dogs is typical. The exam should be every 6 to 12 months for older canines as this can help with early disease diagnosis and optimize outcomes.

5. Veterinary dental cleaning    
Just as humans need go to the dentist every year, there’s no substitute for regular dental cleanings at the vet. Every one to three years, your pet will likely need to have their teeth professionally cleaned. In addition to producing a healthier dog smile, the most important work occurs out of sight, beneath your dog’s gum line. We will carefully clean every tooth surface and remove plaque and tartar from hard-to-reach recesses below the gums and between teeth. Unchecked and uncleaned, pathogenic bacteria will eventually cause significant gum recession, resulting in oral pain and tooth loss. Tooth abscesses have been linked to heart valve infections and other serious medical conditions. The next time your pet has a dental cleaning, remember the procedure is much more than cleaning teeth; it’s about preventing disease.

There are many, many reasons to keep your dog’s smile healthy. Good health begins in the mouth. A healthy smile suggests a healthy pet. Try these five tips and ask us if you’re looking for even more suggestions, and don’t forget similar rules can apply to cats. Together we can help our pets live the longest, highest quality of life possible. Keep brushing and keep smiling. To a healthier dog smile (and cats too!) in 2018.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us at 518-785-9731 — our job is to ensure the health and well-being of your pets. Happy February!

New Years Don’ts of 2018

January 3rd, 2018 by Niskayuna Staff

Each New Year we create resolutions, make promises to ourselves, and then promptly forget it ever happened by February. This year we’re taking the opposite approach: here are the things you definitely don’t want to do, purchase or aspire to be more like. It’s time for our New Year’s Don’ts for your pets.


1. Don’t buy junk food treats.

Those tiny calorie grenades are killing your pet. This year, feed fresh crunchy veggies or treats with simple ingredients such as sweet potatoes.


2. Don’t ignore pet food labels.

If you can’t comprehend what’s in your pet’s food, imagine how your pet must feel. The most important decision you make for your pets each day is what you feed. Choose wisely. Their health depends on it.


3. Don’t make excuses to skip walks. 

You both need to walk more. Buy a coat, umbrella or even a pair of galoshes, but don’t miss your daily walks. You’ll both live longer and be healthier because of it.

[Watch What Happens When These Dogs Hear the Word “Walk”]


4. Don’t avoid the animal shelter.

Go visit your local animal shelter so you can see for yourself what’s working and what needs to be fixed. How can we make something better when we don’t know what’s wrong? We know it’s painful and you want to take all the animals home with you, but you’ve got to do it. If you’re truly concerned about the state of stray animals in your hometown, go visit, talk to shelter employees and decide how you can help.

[5 Ways to Help Your Local Shelter]


5. Don’t put off your pet’s exam. 

Money may be tight but that little lumpcough or limp may be the start of something more serious. Waiting too long may leave too little time to help an ill patient. So many cases can be prevented if caught six months earlier.

Add to this, don’t go to the vet only when your pet is sick. A veterinarian’s job is to preserve health and prevent illness. Going to the vet or physician should be an opportunity to learn how to stay healthier longer. You should leave each appointment with advice on how to improve your or your pet’s life. If not, ask for it. If you don’t get it, find it elsewhere. Life is for living, not recovering. Learn how to help you pet live an optimal life by working closely with your veterinarian on a regular basis.

[My pet’s perfectly healthy! Why should I see my veterinarian?]


6. Don’t forget your dog or cat’s heartworm preventive.

Heartworm disease is fatal to dogs and cats. There is no treatment for cats and the medication used to treat dogs is costly, takes months to work, and carries potential health risks. Think your indoor cat isn’t at risk? Not according to research. Never gamble with your dog or cat’s heartworm protection. The stakes are too high and often end in death or serious damage.

[What You Need To Know About Heartworm Disease]


7. Don’t ignore that pesky behavior.

Little behavior problems turn into big troubles, quickly. If your dog is barking at passing cars, lunging on the leash, or jumping up on guests, talk to your vet (that’s our job). If you intervene with behavior problems early, you can often correct them easily. Wait until your dog is biting the delivery man, and it may take a while.


8. Don’t forget to hug your pet each day. 

And be thankful for all you have this year. Take time each day to reflect on one thing you have, that you’re grateful for. We are so fortunate to share our days with such wonderful, caring creatures.


If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us at 518-785-9731. Happy New Year from all of us at the Animal Hospital of Niskayuna, and feel free to follow up with us about any of our New Year’s Don’ts for your pets.

Cold Weather Tips for Dogs

December 4th, 2017 by Niskayuna Staff

Despite the popular misconception, fur alone is not enough to protect dogs from the elements. The fact is that dogs have varying degrees of tolerance when it comes to temperature extremes. Even the hardiest breeds are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. Pets can die from hypothermia and those that suffer from frostbite will deal with pain and may lose affected body parts. Luckily, hypothermia and frostbite can be easy to avoid by taking a few precautions:

Talk to your vet about cold weather protection
Some medical conditions will worsen when it gets colder out, particularly arthritis. Arthritis might worsen in the cold months due to increased stiffness, and because the cold frequently brings icy/slippery streets and sidewalks. Before it gets to be wintertime your dog should have a checkup. Having your dog can help ensure that problems don’t worsen when the temperature drops. This visit is also your best opportunity to ask us about winter care.

[My Pet’s Perfectly Healthy! Why Should I See My Veterinarian?]

Know your dog’s cold tolerance
Although all dogs are at risk in the cold weather, some are better equipped to handle it than others. Huskies and other breeds from cold climates are certainly going to be more comfortable than other dogs, such as the Italian Greyhounds, when wading through a winter wonderland. Also consider that old, young, wet dogs or dogs with thinner coats are at a greater risk of getting hypothermia and/or frostbite.

[Learn More About Your Breed]

Take shorter walks with your dogs
Winter is a great time to get closer to your pets. They want to be inside with you where it’s warm. Short, frequent walks are preferable to extended walks during this time of year. After that, it should be right back inside to clean the snow and ice from between their toes. This isn’t to say that you should stop exercising your dog when it gets cold outside. The winter is the perfect time to enter your dog into daycare so that he can burn off excess energy in a safe and social place. Don’t forget about playtime at home either. Most dogs would love to chase a plush toy through the hallways.

[Finding the Right Dog Daycare.]

Dog on a leash playing in the snow 

Beware poisons
Antifreeze is a common cold weather poison but not the only one to be aware of: road salt and rodent poisons are also used with greater frequency during this time of year. Even if you don’t use any of those products, an unsupervised pet could easily wonder into a neighbor’s yard and find them.

Dogs may also lick their paws after a walk. Every time you come inside with your dog you should dry his feet thoroughly with a towel to be sure he has not tracked in any dangerous chemicals. Also check him over for any injuries to the paws: cracks, cuts, or scrapes. These kinds of injuries can cause pain and lameness. Use pet friendly deicing products on steps, walkways and driveways.

Keep your dog on a leash
Because dogs rely heavily on a strong sense of smell to figure out where they are, they can easily be lost during winter storms. Snow covering the ground will make their surroundings less familiar. Keeping your dog on a leash at all times – especially during winter storms – can help stop your dog from becoming lost. You may also ask your veterinarian about microchipping, just in case.

[That Microchip Just Might Save Your Pet’s Life!]

Try clothing layers for warmth
For small dogs in particular, sweaters are not a joke, they’re actually very important during the cold weather. Small dogs have a larger surface area for their body weight and benefit greatly not only from a warm shirt but also from booties. If you do get booties for your dog, make sure they’re well-fitted and have good grip to prevent causing slips and falls.

[Dogs In Sweaters: Don’t Laugh!]

Don’t leave your dog inside of a parked car
This rule is also important during the summer; a parked car can quickly amplify the affects of extreme weather. During the winter it can act as an icebox and trap cold air inside.

Groom cautiously
It’s important to walk a fine line when grooming your dog during the winter. Taking too much hair off will mean he has less to keep him warm; leaving too much on will make brushing more difficult and could lead to matted hair. Ask your veterinarian how often he recommends grooming based on your breed of dog.

[More Grooming Tips!]

Be sure your dog has choices when it comes time to go to bed
He should have comfortable spots in both hotter and cooler regions of the house. This will allow him to move around at night if he’s uncomfortable.

Dogs should always have access to water, even when outside
Never use a metal water dish outside in cold weather because your dog’s tongue can get stuck! (Think of the flag pole when you were a kid.) You can also consider purchasing a heated water dish (normally used for feral cats) so that your dog doesn’t have to drink frigid water or be challenged to get enough to drink from a frozen water source.

Your dog will also need to eat more during the winter because it takes more energy to keep warm; however, don’t make the mistake of feeding too much. Obesity carries health concerns of its own.

[5 Reasons Why Pet Obesity Is a Serious Problem]

[More cold weather tips]

By following these precautions, you can give your dog a safe and happy winter season.

If you have any questions or concerns, call us at 518-785-8457. Happy holidays from all of us at the Animal Hospital of Niskayuna!

Preparing Your Dog for Holiday Guests

November 21st, 2017 by Niskayuna Staff

2 Dogs at Door

With the holidays coming up, your home is likely to be experiencing more activity and guests. Depending on your dog’s personality and habits, preparing your dog with some simple training can make this a more pleasant experience for everyone.


Training before the holidays

If you haven’t taught your dog any basic manners or behaviors, now’s the time to start! Even if you’re short on time, you can easily work in short training sessions a few times a day and see results quickly. Work the training into your daily life as much as you can, such as training “stays” while you are cooking in the kitchen, or asking the dog for “sits” and “downs” while you’re on the couch watching TV. The more you ask for behaviors as part of your routine, the more your dog will develop using them as a regular habit. Some of the behaviors that can be most useful during the holidays are:

  • Sit/Stay – Sit (and stay) is an extremely versatile behavior. You can use it to teach the dog not to jump on visitors at the door, to sit and allow people to greet him, to stay in one place comfortably while you move about the house, and much more. Train your dog to sit and stay in the places he’s most likely to jump up, such as just inside and outside of the front door, in and out of the car, by your kitchen, living room area, or by the back door. Once your dog is doing well, invite friends and neighbors over to practice his sit/stay so he’ll be sitting like a champ when your guests arrive for Thanksgiving dinner!
  • Go to your place – This is also a wonderful command for dogs that are more boisterous or bother guests at the dinner table or in the living room. Give your dog a place that is “his.” This can be a dog bed, mat, or crate. Bring your dog to the mat, bed or crate and reward him for being there and laying down/going inside; pair it with a word such as “place” or “crate.” As with the sit/stay, move up to practicing this one with friends and neighbors so the dog has the behavior solid by the time guests will be arriving. Since you want this to be a good experience for your dog, you can give him a nice treat to chew on while he lies on the bed or in their crate. Examples might include a food stuffed toy, a chew stick or something else that your dog loves and can quietly enjoy.
  • Leave it – Leave it is an indispensable behavior during the holidays. Not only can you use it if the dog decides to go for a delectable human treat on the dining room table, you can also use it on things that dogs are attracted to, such as shiny holiday decorations, holiday plants, and wrapped gifts. Leave it can be generalized to anything once you’ve taught it with food and can help you to tell the dog to move away from something even if you’re at a distance. Another behavior that is often paired with leave it is “drop it” which basically tells the dog to drop an item in their mouths, which is helpful if the dog has grabbed something before you had a chance to use leave it.
  • Tricks – Tricks can be a great thing to teach your dog because it gives him something to do. If you have guests coming over who may be a bit nervous about your dog, even if he is friendly, tricks can be a great way to “break the ice.” A dog seems less intimidating when he can shake, high five, spin, roll over or do something equally adorable. If your guests include children, they will most likely be delighted by these behaviors and may even want to teach the dog some themselves, which can be a fun holiday activity (with adult supervision, of course!)


Management during the holidays

The second part of an effective set up for your dog during the holidays is good management.

  • Keep your dog comfortable— If you know your dog doesn’t care for guests, have a crate ready for him in a quiet spot, such as bedroom with a closed door. Alternatively, keep him in a place where he can feel comfortable and not interact with guests, such as a bedroom, laundry room or other area that is closed off with a door or baby gate. Never allow people to interact with your dog if the dog isn’t comfortable, as this can increase the anxiety he is feeling.
  • Provide distractions— Have a variety of items ready for your dog, to occupy his time, while you visit with your guests. This can include food stuffed toys or puzzles, bones, chews, chew sticks and toys. Always give your dog an item such as this in a safe place and supervise any interaction if children will be visiting.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise— You cannot exercise your dog enough during these busy times. As the saying goes, “A good dog is a tired dog.” The more physical exercise your dog gets, the less rambunctious when people come to visit, and there’s a good chance after greeting guests he’ll be more than happy to crawl up on his bed or crate and take a nap.

Preparing your dog for the holidays is an important part of holiday prep. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can visit us or call at 518-785-9731.

We wish you a great holiday season filled with family and pet fun!

5 Reasons to Test Your Cat for Feline Diabetes

October 27th, 2017 by Niskayuna Staff

Feline diabetes is always important to be aware of for two reasons:

1) It’s largely preventable and unnecessary

2) It’s a real challenge to treat for many owners


Fortunately, diabetes is also one of those diseases that benefits from early detection. Here are five reasons you need to test your cat early and often for diabetes:

1. Diabetic remission
One of the most interesting aspects of feline diabetes is its potential reversibility or remission, especially when diagnosed in the earliest stages. Research has shown up to 60% of cats will experience diabetic remission within the first few months of treatment, reports Alice Huang (VMD, DACVIM) from Purdue University. Combining strict blood sugar regulation with precise insulin therapy, changes in diet and weight loss are a recipe for reversing diabetes in many cats. Some cats will remain diabetes-free for many months to years. It’s a good idea to have blood work and urinalysis performed yearly, twice yearly if you have a flabby feline.

Cat covering his face


2. It’s more than high blood sugar
Many cat owners focus solely on blood sugar levels. That’s good, but too often we forget the continuous and severe damage hyperglycemia is causing throughout the body. The longer diabetes goes unchecked, the more potentially irreversible damage occurs. Prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy that typically causes weakness in the rear legs), chronic infections (especially urinary tract and skin), and loss of lean muscle mass resulting in weakness and wasting. It’s well recognized that untreated diabetes may cause a life-threatening emergency condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis. The sad reality is that too many cat owners fail to recognize diabetes until their cat has lost a tremendous amount of weight. Early diagnosis can preserve precious vital tissues and prolong health.

Kitten resting on couch

3. The litter box connection
Let’s face it, most cat owners rarely see their cat drinking water. That’s perfectly normal because, well, cats don’t drink that much in the first place. This means looking out for the classic diabetic symptom of “excessive thirst” in cats is harder. A better sign to look for is more frequent urination and wetter, heavier litter. If you suddenly notice you have to change the litter box more frequently, get your cat checked out immediately. While we’re talking about urination, if your cat suffers from chronic urinary tract infections, be sure to ask your veterinarian about screening for diabetes. One final “pee-note:” diabetes should always be ruled-out in cases of inappropriate elimination such as “accidents” on the bed or rugs.

Cat by the litter box


4. The risk of excess fat
There is a definitive link between excess fat and diabetes in cats, as shown in the AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. The fact is that fat cats are at a much higher risk of developing diabetes than a lean cat. Diabetes is a disease commonly created at the food bowl. If your cat is overweight or obese, have him screened for diabetes twice a year. Blood tests are best, but even a simple urinalysis can reveal diabetes. The great news is that when diagnosed early and weight loss programs are implemented, many cats will undergo diabetic remission – if identified early.

Overweight cat on his back


5. Longer, better life
The real reason to test your cat early and often for diabetes is to prolong a high quality of life. The American Association of Feline Practitioners warns that cats being diagnosed with diabetes are increasing. Don’t delay seeing your veterinarian if your cat is drinking or urinating more, has “accidents” in the house, suddenly changes eating habits, or inexplicably loses weight.

Kitten sleeping on a pillow


The only way to identify diabetes promptly is through regular screening at least once or twice a year. It’s up to you. Together we can help your cat live a long, healthy, and happy life.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us at 518-785-9731.

Dog Safety Halloween Tricks

October 16th, 2017 by Niskayuna Staff

When we celebrate the holidays, we often want to make our dogs a part of the festivities, and Halloween is no exception. For all the fun that may come along with this time of year, it’s not always a positive experience for dogs. Here are five dog safety Halloween tricks, so you make sure your pet’s Halloween involves nothing but treats.


1. Dogs are not accustomed to the excitement of Halloween.

The noise and excitement of a party, or even a door opening to reveal a frightening visage, can be just as frightening to a dog as the noise on Fourth of July (consider taking the same precautions you would for firework safety).

Your dog should have a safe place to escape if he needs to. If you do answer the door with your dog, it’s a good idea to keep him on a leash. This will prevent a fearful dog from unexpectedly darting out the door or even becoming aggressive toward the screaming creature they are confronted with.


2. Sweet treats are harmful for dogs.

We all know that “Trick or Treat” snacks are a big part of Halloween. In the case of dogs, some of the more common treats can be very dangerous. Chocolate, in even relatively small amounts, can be toxic. So can xylitol, a sweetener used to flavor any number of candies. Even raisins (from that one neighbor) can be poisonous. The best approach is to keep your dog from eating any human treats, and make sure the kids know the rule too.


3. Be careful with costumes.

Costumes for dogs are a growing trend, but watch for any signs that your dog might be uncomfortable in a costume before joining in (growling, running, hiding). (But if they are the patient type, check out these cute dogs and cats that are willing to don costumes with adorable results.) If you are going to subject your dog to a costume, remember that the same rules for kids often apply: Make sure the costume is easily seen when your dog is outdoors by using things like reflective strips or glow sticks.


4. Keep your dog away from candles.

One traditional decoration for the evening is candles (either in a pumpkin or on a table). A curious dog can tip over these candles with potentially devastating consequences. Make sure there is no way your dogs can tip a candle and start a fire or harm themselves.


5. Keep your dog away from pranks.

In recent years, pranks like “spider dog” have gained a lot of attention. These pranks usually involve using your dog to get a good scare out of friends or even strangers. This is actually very dangerous, and if the prank is successful it could result in injury to your dog.


If you maintain these dog safety Halloween tricks, we hope you experience nothing but treats this Halloween! As always, contact us with any comments, questions, or concerns at 518-785-9731.

Happy fall and Halloween!

Disaster Planning for Pets

August 30th, 2017 by Niskayuna Staff

Disaster Planning for Pets

With Hurricane Harvey still underway, it’s important to remember how quickly our environment can change, and to have disaster planning for pets in place to prepare for the worst. Floods and mudslides—generally the result of heavy rain and snow—are very unpredictable, but far from the only natural disasters that put our pets at great risk.

  • Earthquakes— Earthquakes, which are not weather related, could strike during any season—while other natural disasters are more seasonal.
  • Hurricanes— According to the National Hurricane Center, “Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th.”
  • Tornados— In the U.S. tornado season tends to move northward from late winter to mid-summer. According to mnn.com, “In Southern states, tornado season is typically from March to May. In the Southern Plains, it lasts from May to early June. On the Gulf Coast, tornadoes occur most often during the spring. And in the Northern Plains, Northern states, and upper Midwest, peak season is in June or July.” The two regions with a disproportionately higher incidence of tornadoes are Florida and Tornado Alley. Florida’s high tornado frequency is credited to their almost daily thunderstorms, as well as the many tropical storms and hurricanes that affect the Florida peninsula.
  • Forest and grass fires— Fires may threaten pets anytime the air is dry.

All of these natural events can be locally and personally devastating. Fortunately, proper disaster planning for pets can minimize the loss of property and life—both human and animal.

How can I keep my pet safe during a natural disaster?
While some disasters, such as hurricanes, may give you a little time to prepare, most give no warning, and unless preparations have been made, the loss of human and animal life and separation from family members may dwarf the physical destruction. So just how do you, as a pet owner, make preparations for a disaster?

  • Microchipping your pet will help you reunite. One of the most heart-wrenching results of a disaster is the separation and loss of a pet. In a time of fear even the most loyal and obedient pets may instinctively run away from the terror, and you could be forced to evacuate and leave them behind. They might be rescued by someone or wind up in a shelter but possibly miles away from home. Following a major disaster it is common for animal welfare agencies to be overwhelmed by homeless pets with inadequate or absent identification—making it nearly impossible to reunite them with their owners. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and identification tag so they can be rapidly identified and reunited with you. Even better, make sure that every pet is identified using a permanent microchip implant.
  • Make sure that cats and small dogs have a carrier or cage that will hold them comfortably. Make sure larger dogs have a leash and perhaps their own cage. There is a distinct possibility that your pet and you will have to be evacuated to a shelter or kennel and this will be greatly facilitated by a carrier/cage.
  • In an emergency your pet will need fresh food and water. It may be that your local water supply will be disrupted and also that your local market will be closed or simply out of food. Be prepared with a few sealed gallons of water and a sealed container of food. You can pre-fill water bottles with tap water now and save them should disaster ever strike.
  • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are current; remember their exposure risk may be much greater after a disaster.
  • Many pets have medication needs as well. Always have a 5 day supply of medications ready.
  • A disaster can cause great anxiety for our pets. Have a blanket or favorite toy handy to help your pet feel more comfortable.

Take disaster planning for pets steps now to protect your family pets. We never know when a crisis will occur, but we can prepare for the possibility.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us at 518-785-9731 — our greatest concern is the well-being of your pets.


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