Beating the Heat With Your Kitten This Summer

July 8th, 2018 by Niskayuna Staff

Summer is a great season for enjoying the weather, but we all know how hot it can get! While our feline friends tend to tolerate the heat a little better than dogs, and even prefer it (we’ve all seen a cat stretched out on a sunny windowsill), that doesn’t mean that you should forget about feline heat risks this summer.

 

1. Never leave your kitty in the car
This may apply more to the canines, but if you have a vet appointment for your furry feline and decide to make a quick stop at the supermarket – think again! It can take minutes – yes, MINUTES – for a pet to develop heat stroke and suffocate in a car. Most people don’t realize how hot it gets in parked cars. On a 78 degree day, for instance, temperatures in a car can reach 90 degrees in the shade and top 160 degrees if parked directly in the sun (Check out Dr. Ernie Ward’s video to see for yourself)! Your best bet is to leave your pet home on warm days.

 

2. Keep your cat’s water cool and fresh
Our cats get much thirstier than we do when they get hot, and other than drinking, they really have no way to cool themselves down, so be sure their water is always fresh. You can keep it cool by adding a couple of ice cubes as well.

To learn more about creative ways to get your cat to drink more water, click here.

 

3. Try whipping up some ‘catsicles’!
Some what-sicles? CAT-sicles- popsicles for cats! What you’ll need:

  • 10-ounce plastic cups
  • 5.5 ounce can of your cat’s favorite wet food (smooth)
  • Catnip and/or soft treats (optional)
  • 1 small square of Saran Wrap

Once you have everything ready, start mixing your ingredients (if you decided to use treats as well, the mixture should look a lot of like cookie-dough). After you’ve mixed everything, fill the plastic cups about 1/4-1/2 an inch and flatten the mixture by stacking the cups. Place Saran Wrap over the top cup to avoid freezer burn and freeze overnight. The next morning, run the bottom cup under warm water until you can pull it off of the stack and pop out the mixture which should now be a nice, round catsicle! Place it in a deep bowl (to avoid messes) and let it stand until the outside starts to “sweat”. Finally give the cool treat to your feline friend! Watch the video below to see how my crazy kitties enjoyed them!

 

4. Make sure they have a cool place to sit
While indoor cats have plenty of shade options, they love to sunbathe and direct sunlight can overheat them and cause heat stroke. Another idea is to give them a cool place to sit, kind of like a reverse heating pad. Freeze a water bottle, wrap it up (so it doesn’t stick to their hair/skin), and place it under a lightweight blanket or towel in one of their favorite places to sit.

 

5. Open up some windows
Knowing cats love windowsills, always make sure your screens are fully secured before opening a window. You may want your house to be ventilated, but you definitely do not want your kitty to fall out!

 

6. Believe it or not, cats can sunburn!
Just like for people, sunburns can be painful for a cat and overexposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer. Most cats have hair that protects them from sun damage. However, hairless cats, like the Sphynx, are highly susceptible to sunburns, especially in areas like the ears, nose, lips, eyelids and belly. Talk to us about sunscreens for your feline friend (don’t assume a sunscreen for people is appropriate for your cat).

 

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us at 518-785-9731 so we can ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Treating Your Dog's Itch

June 7th, 2018 by Niskayuna Staff

Dog rolling and scratching

Is your dog constantly licking and scratching? If so, you’re not alone. Many dogs lick and scratch as result of itching (also called pruritis). The itching may be minimal or extreme, and can even cause injury. Itching is a characteristic of many possible skin conditions and, treating an itch effectively requires determining the underlying cause. This is not a road you want to go down alone. Finding the cause of an itch requires testing, but together we can determine how to treat your dog’s itch moving forward.

 

What might make my dog itchy?
It is important to remember that itching is not a disease, or a cause of disease, but rather the result of a disease process. Effectively treating itching requires treating its cause. If your dog is frequently itchy, you may first suspect a problem with fleas. It’s a common assumption, but fleas are far from the only cause of skin irritations and itches. That said, your dog should absolutely be on year-round flea and tick preventative.

The most common broad causes of itching are:

  • External Parasites
  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Skin disease
  • Skin cancer (less common)

Some diseases only start to itch when a dog develops secondary bacterial or yeast infections. Whatever the cause, it’s understandable that intense itching is a serious source of distress for your dog.

 

Dog allergies
Exposure to allergens may occur any number of ways:

  • Inhalation
  • Topical exposure
  • Ingestion

All may result in a cascade of inflammatory chemicals from cells in the skin. A dog may show allergic signs like itching when his immune systems begins to recognize everyday substances (allergens) as dangerous. Allergic conditions will also be considered by your veterinarian and efforts made to identify the causative agent, as well as attempt to block the allergic reactions.

Atopic or allergic dermatitis is associated with inhaled or even topical materials that enter the body and trigger an excessive release of inflammatory secretions that result in itch.

Interpreting allergy tests requires experience and you may even need a specialist.

There are recent developments in the treatment of allergies and allergic reaction. Ask us what can be done and your options if your dog ever needs treatment.

 

Diagnosing an itchy dog
Determining the cause begins with your veterinarian taking a detailed medical and chronological history:

  • What have you seen and when did you first see it?
  • How has it progressed?
  • Are other pets affected? Are you?
  • Next is a thorough physical examination, focusing on— but not limited to— the skin. Parasites and infectious conditions should be considered. They are relatively common, and generally respond to appropriate treatments very well. They may or may not be the main cause of itching.

Dry skin can also cause itching, but it is almost never the only reason your dog itches. A thorough physical exam by your veterinarian can help uncover the underlying cause of your dog’s discomfort.

Because some metabolic and systemic illnesses can cause itching, blood tests may be advised to evaluate the health of organ systems other than the skin.

One important thing to remember is that while you may be annoyed by treating your dog’s itch, they are genuinely suffering and need to be diagnosed and treated without delay.

 

If you have any questions or concerns, visit or call us at 518-785-9731. We want to make sure your pets are living their best and healthiest lives possible!

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

https://www.google.com/search?q=smiling+dog&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwioudLl4o_ZAhXjUN8KHWB0C8oQ_AUICigB&biw=1208&bih=612#imgrc=BtiWHotII685IM:

 

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.