Dr. D Recommends: Catification

 

“Dr. D Recommends…” is a sporadic presentation of something I love (or just like a lot) that pertains to pets and/or veterinary-type stuff.  Something I think you might also like or find useful.

 

Or it might be silly.  That happens around here sometimes.

 

Catification

Catification. 

 

It’s a made-up word that means “making small changes to your living environment that benefit the cats you reside with”.  It was coined by the wonderful Jackson Galaxy, a cat-whisperer who got his start in Boulder, CO.

 

If you’ve seen any of Jackson’s popular Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell”, you know that he has an uncanny ability to understand cats and their specific environmental needs. In the book Catification, Jackson explains how to give your cat opportunities to practice their natural instinctive behaviors to climb, scratch, and rest safely in your home, while still maintaining a stylish and comfortable home for the humans who live there.  His ideas range from simple DIY to fancy store-bought, and everything in between.

 

If you have a cat, you have probably heard me talk about environmental enrichment for their mental well-being. Cats have very specific and instinctive needs that we can accommodate fairly easily in our homes.  Without opportunities to climb, scratch, play, rest and own their space, cats will develop behavioral and medical problems.

 

I love this book, and here’s why:

  1. Jackson explains the most common personalities of cats, including my personal favorites – the tree-dwellers vs the bush-dwellers.
  2. He helps cat people determine what, if any, issue is plaguing their feline roommates, and how to remedy most situations with easy solutions.
  3. He empowers and encourages cat people to live freely with their felines, embracing what we love most about them and improving the human to cat bond.
  4. There are so many amazing ideas that are quick and easy to implement, right now!  In fact, right after I read this book, I immediately gave my kitties a couple new beds (which I made myself) and some new toys.  My home is in a constant state of improvement for the kitties’ benefit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

If you have a cat, go pick up this book from your library or purchase it for your future reference! Also, this would be a perfect gift for the cat-lover or veterinarian in your life… just sayin’.

 

 

Do you have a cat with behavioral and/or medical issues, and you are ready for some professional help?  Give Dr. D a call – she does in-home consultations!

 

Things You Should Know: Xylitol can kill your dog.

 

Easter-Dog

 

With another candy-filled holiday approaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to educate you about XYLITOL.

Do you know about Xylitol?  Have you heard of this chemical before?

It’s not necessarily a new thing; in fact, veterinarians have been doing their best to educate their clients about the dangers associated with Xylitol.  However, I am still finding plenty of people who don’t know why it’s an issue.  Enough people to warrant a blog article.   😉

 

Products containing Xylitol

So what is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a type of artificial sweetener found in many food and health products.  Typically we think of things like gum and candy containing xylitol, however it can now be found in prescription and non-prescription medications, mouthwash, and even some types of peanut butter.

 

From the Pet Poison Hotline:

Some of the places we have seen xylitol include chewable vitamins, gummy vitamins, lozenges/cough drops, sublingual supplements and medications (over the counter and prescription), liquid medications (over the counter and prescription), breath sprays, medication/supplement sprays, toothpastes, nasal sprays, mouth rinses/washes, essential oil products, cosmetics, and many sugar-free foods and baking ingredients.

 

That’s a long list, and it’s getting longer!  Xylitol may be very safe for humans, but it can be deadly if ingested by your dog.

(The jury is still out on whether it affects cats the same way.  We think they may be sensitive to xylitol, but they are too smart to eat gum, so there’s not a lot of research.)

 

Why is Xylitol toxic for my dog?

Without going into a bunch of technical jargon regarding pharmacokinetics (big fancy word alert!), suffice it to say that even a very small amount of xylitol causes severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver damage in a very short period of time after ingestion.  In as little as 24 hours liver failure can occur.

It might be a little shocking, but I want you to check out this graphic depicting the significance of the small amount of xylitol it would take to kill a dog, compared to chocolate:

 

Xylitol Toxicity Image

 

Did you see that a dog the size of a Border Collie would die if they eat ONE pack of gum containing xylitol??

As you can see, the ingestion of anything containing xylitol is not something to overlook or “wait and see”.

 

What should I do if I think my dog has ingested something containing xylitol?

Initial signs of xylitol toxicity can occur in as little as 10 minutes.  Some of the signs you may see include:

  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • ataxia (incoordination)
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • increased respiratory rate

If you see any of these signs, and you suspect your pet has chewed or ingested something containing xylitol, take the packaging, any remaining product, and your pet, and GET THEE TO THE VET.

 

Is there any good news?

The good news is that there is treatment available for your pet if they ingest xylitol!  It will likely involve hospitalization, but pets that are treated early typically recover well.  Yay!

 

I hope you feel educated and empowered by this information, rather than scared witless!  🙂

Prevention is key here.  Keep anything that is not dog food, treats, or toys far out of reach of your pooch.

If they can’t reach it, they can’t eat it. 

 

Did you know this information, or was it news to you?  I bet you have a friend with dogs who needs this… Will you share this and help me save more doggies?

How to Give Your Cat Liquid Medicine

 

this-is-spunkys-medicine

 

Your veterinarian has prescribed medication for your cat.  And how, you might ask, should I get said medication down kitty’s gullet without stressing us both out completely?

Again, Dr. D is here to help!  I have created two videos, just for you, to show how I give liquid medication to a cat.  These are my kitties – one is super compliant, and the other one… not so much.

 

Video the First:

 

Main takeaways from this video:

  • Let your cat sit comfortably in a normal position, without cranking their head backwards.  They will swallow easier and be less stressed.
  • Gently place the tip of the syringe or dropper right behind the canine tooth, between the lips, and give a very small amount of liquid at a time.  No kitty likes to feel like they are drowning while something pokes them in the gums.
  • Take it sloooooooooooow.
  • Give really yummy treats when you’re done (and even during, if needed)!

 

And now, are you ready for a giggle?  Watch on…

Video the Second:

 

When using the towel-wrapping method that I so gracefully demonstrated for you:

  • Have your cat lay down fully on the towel before starting to wrap them.  Less space between their body and the towel ensures a secure burrito.
  • Make sure you use a towel that is large enough to cover your cat’s bum.  That way they can’t back out.
  • Wrap the front corner of the towel around the neck and above the feet. Hold the corner tight as you continue.
  • After the first layer goes over, tuck it under their belly.  This gives the towel more holding power once you wrap the second side over.
  • Wrap the second side over top, pulling the front edge around the cat’s neck and above the feet.  Do not wrap loosely, or your cat will scootch out the front.
  • Swaddle the kitty like you are securely swaddling a newborn.  This way, your bunny-kicking kitty won’t escape from the towel burrito.

 

I hope this was helpful!  I know it can be a challenge to medicate your cat, but with some patience, practice, and really yummy treats, you CAN be successful!

And isn’t it nice to know that even the professionals have some trouble every once in a while?  😉

 

If you’d like your kitty to have a low-stress veterinary experience, call me – Dr. D!

 

Don’t Let Anesthesia Fears Delay Your Pet’s Teeth Cleaning

 

I have many senior patients in my practice, most of which are in need of dental work.  With good reason, the owners of these pets have concerns about anesthesia and the risks involved for elderly pets.

I spend a good amount of time talking with my clients about benefits vs. risks, and all the precautions and monitoring that go into anesthesia for pets (young and old).

Dr. Marty Becker wrote a great article that addresses most of the talking points I cover with my clients. I thought it would be helpful to share this with you on the blog.  Click the graphic to read it!

Don't let your fear of anesthesia delay your pet's dental cleaning.

 

The most important points I’d like you to know are these:

  • There is a risk involved with every single medical procedure and treatment that your pet has experienced, not just anesthesia.  But if your vet is recommending something, they have already determined that the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Your veterinarian will take every possible precaution, choose anesthetic drugs specific to your pet, and will monitor them throughout the procedure and during recovery.  Just like in human medicine.
  • You will be amazed at how much better your pet feels after those yucky, uncomfortable teeth are cared for.

 

What other questions or concerns do you have about anesthesia for your pet?  Send them to me or write them in the comments – I’ll answer every one!

 

Does your pet have “dog breath” or “tuna breath”?  Let Dr. D take a look!  You can find all the contact information on the Small Things website.

Don’t Believe The Marketing: “Dental” Products Dogs Shouldn’t Chew

During the month of February, we are discussing important information regarding your pet’s dental health.  In the previous article on keeping your pet’s mouth healthy, I alluded to “dental products your dog shouldn’t chew”…

 

I know you want to purchase the right things to help your pet have a healthy mouth, and to help them with their instinctive need to chew things!  There is a lot of marketing hype out there.  It seems like every diet, treat, and toy package is screaming benefits for your dog’s teeth.  But many are actually unsafe!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I know it’s hard to believe that something that is supposed to be helpful could actually be harmful – leading to fractured teeth, intestinal blockage (gastrointestinal obstruction), and/or tummy upset (gastroenteritis) – but these are things that veterinarians see regularly in practice.

I’m here to give you the low-down!

 

First, a few guidelines:

  1. For aggressive chewers, don’t give your pet any chew toy that’s hard enough that you wouldn’t want it to hit you in the knee.
  2. Always supervise your pet while they are chewing, since they may swallow large pieces (this could lead to problems!).
  3. Avoid products with abrasive surfaces, such as tennis balls.  These have a sandpaper effect on the teeth, wearing them down to the sensitive parts.
  4. Give a dental chew or treat every day for the best results.

 

 

No Rawhides

And now, I am going to tell you which commonly purchased products are not recommended by your veterinarian!

 

Bones (cooked, uncooked, butcher shop bones)

These are hard as a rock and slinter-prone.  Not a good idea for the teeth OR intestines.

 Antlers

Lots of tooth fractures with these. Beware!

 Cow hooves

Commonly cause tooth fractures, gastroenteritis, and pancreatitis!

Rawhides

Generally speaking, most dogs do okay with rawhides.  However, please exercise caution!  Your dog has to actually chew them for them to be effective, not swallow them whole (which commonly causes intestinal obstruction).

If you must give your pooch a rawhide, supervise them while they are chewing and take it away once it gets small enough to swallow whole.

Also, these treats have a ton of calories.  Not the best idea if your pet is overweight!

Pig’s ears

I have seen many dogs develop gastroenteritis and/or pancreatitis after eating these.  They are also very high in calories and fat.  And they can be swallowed whole.

Overall, not a good idea.

 

 

So what can I give my dog to chew?

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Here are the treats and chews I most commonly recommend for both dogs and cats:

  1.  Greenies
  2.  C.E.T. Chews (rawhide-like)
  3.  Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d  – You can feed this as your pet’s regular diet, or buy the small bag and use the kibble as treats!

 

You do have an advocate (other than me, of course)! The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is a trusted resource for choosing an appropriate dental health product for your pet, and has approved several products for dogs and cats.  Look for their seal of approval on the packaging when choosing a treat or toy for your pet.

VOHC_Accepted_Seal

 

I hope this helps clear up some confusion for you!

If you have questions about specific products, or dental health, let me know in the comments below.  I will answer every question!

 

Dr. D’s Tips: Keeping Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy

 

Okay, I know you get tired of hearing it.  Every time you see the veterinarian she tells you that you should be brushing your pet’s teeth.  But, seriously.  Doesn’t the vet know that I find it difficult to follow my own dentist’s recommendations for MY teeth every day, let alone my pet’s teeth?

I get it.  Truly I do.

I still have to tell you how to care for your pet’s teeth… because if I don’t tell you how to prevent dental disease, you’re going to be upset with me when you have a very expensive bill for tooth extractions later in your pet’s life.  Not to mention the possibility of heart, liver, and kidney disease that is associated with severe dental disease.

So, humor me, just one more time.  I’m going to try to make this easy!

 

The GOOD, BETTER, and BEST of pet dental health goes like this:

 

Dog::Essential Healthymouth water additive

GOOD:  Water additives and dental gels

 

These products are relatively new to the pet-product scene, and so there aren’t many that get the veterinary seal of approval.  One water additive, Dog::Essential Healthymouth, is approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) which is a group of leading board certified veterinary dentists from around the world.

It works just like you’d think it does – you add the liquid to your pet’s water daily, and it helps slow the accumulation of dental plaque.  It helps a bit in pets with otherwise healthy mouths, but isn’t going to do much if your pet already has significant dental disease.

 

 

Greenies Products

 

BETTER:  Dental chews and treats

 

You’ve seen them in the pet store.  It seems like every treat, toy, and food is screaming at you that it’s Great For Your Pet’s TeethFreshens breathEliminates Dental Tartar!

The marketing is fabulous.  I would love to believe it, too!

Unfortunately, no treat or toy is going to magically make your pet’s dental disease disappear.  Certain chews and treats, however, can minimize the build-up of dental plaque, thereby slowing the progression of dental disease.

Not all treats and chews are created equal.  Look again for the VOHC seal of approval!  I personally prefer Greenies and C.E.T. chews for this category.  One per day is enough, and make sure to purchase the right size for your pet.

(By the way, be on the lookout for a future blog post about “dental health” products your dog shouldn’t chew on!)

 

 

Dog Toothbrush

 

BEST:  Brush your pet’s teeth!

 

If you really want to earn a chocolate chip cookie from your veterinarian, brush your pet’s teeth a minimum of 3 times a week.  No really.  You’ll be my favorite client EVER.

Brushing your pet’s teeth (I like this kit) is the only surefire way to keep your pet from developing serious dental disease. Use a pet-specific toothpaste (they have fun flavors!), a soft-bristled toothbrush, and lots of positive reinforcement!

I’m sorry to say that once a month isn’t going to do the trick.  The veterinary dental specialists have spoken, and they say that brushing every day is the gold standard.

But 3 times a week is acceptable.

Once a week or less?  You might as well start saving for that dental cleaning next year.  🙂

 

Added bonus:  Here’s the video I made, just for you, to show you how to brush your dog’s teeth.

 

 

 

Great Indoor Games to Play With Your Dog

The weather outside is frightful…  but my dog is going crazy!

 

When you can’t get outside with your pooch, here are some ideas for great indoor games that will give your dog some mental and physical exercise.  Feel free to involve your kids as well if they are big enough!

 

Play Hide and Seek

Give each family member a handful of treats and have them take turns hiding somewhere in the home.  The hiding person calls the dog to them and then rewards them with treats.  When the treats are gone, tell your dog “all done!”, and then go hide again.  Repeat ad nauseum!

 

Tug and Fetch

Playing tug and fetch are great physical games that can be played anywhere!  A long hallway or stairs can add extra exercise to a game of fetch for a young and healthy dog.

 

Find It!

This game involves sniffing and eating, two of your dog’s favorite things!  You can use your dog’s regular meal or some low calorie treats for this game.  Show your dog a treat or piece of kibble; say “find it!” then toss the morsel onto the floor.  If your dog doesn’t quite get the point, start by dropping the food right in front of her, and gradually toss the food farther and farther away.

You can make it even more difficult for good sniffers by asking your dog to “stay” while you hide the food somewhere, then release them to go find it!

 

The Muffin Tin Game

I love this game for its simplicity and mental enrichment!

Place a treat (or piece of kibble) in each cup of a muffin tin, and place a tennis ball on top of the treats in about half of the cups (not all of them).  Put the muffin tin on the floor for your dog.  Once they find all the uncovered treats, it won’t take them long to figure out that they can find more treats by knocking out the tennis balls!

 

Training Manners and Having Fun

Using your stuck-indoors time to reinforce your dog’s obedience training can be an excellent way to exercise his brain and tire him out!

You can test and treat your dog on the “Basic Five” – sit, stay, come, down, and heel.

Or, you can teach your dog some new tricks, like spin around, roll over, shake a paw, or close a cabinet.  Let your imagination run wild, and have fun!

(By the way, there are some excellent training videos online to learn from…  just make sure that you are only using positive rewards during your training so you and your dog are both having fun!)

 

Schedule A Doggie Playdate

Does your dog have a best friend?  Invite them over for a playdate!  This is a great way to wear your dog out.

Just make sure you clear some space of breakables… we all know how crazy dog play can get!

 

Stuff A Kong

Are you worn out from all this play, but your dog is still full of it?  While you sit with your cuppa tea or coffee and a good book, give your pup a stuffed Kong to occupy his time!

You can stuff a durable Kong toy with peanut butter and kibble, or freeze it full of peanut butter or broth.  I love this article from Puppy Leaks with some excellent Kong-stuffing ideas!

 

If you use these or any other ideas for your indoor play, I’d love to hear about it!  Leave me a comment below with your favorite indoor games!

 

Dr. D’s Tips: How to safely walk your dog in the cold

Okay, so this is an old article…  but it’s still relevant!  If you’re getting outside with your dog this winter, check out the following tips to make sure you both have a great time!

 

In Colorado, we don’t let a little winter get in the way of our outdoorsy-ness  (is that a word?).

Our dogs go with us, most of the time.  How can you keep your furry friend safe while they are participating in winter activities?

Here are Dr. D’s top tips for keeping your woof safe and happy while you’re out in the fresh winter air:

1.  Make sure your pet is properly dressed.

Just as you wouldn’t go out in the elements without the right clothing, your dog may need a jacket or sweater to wear, too!  Just because they come equipped with a fur coat, doesn’t mean they’re warm enough to be outside for long periods of time.  Unless they are a Husky or other thick-coated breed of dog, they need to wear some extra protection.

2.  Protect those paws!

You wear shoes outside in the winter, right?  Let your dog wear some fancy kicks, too.  Most dogs don’t have a protective layer of fur over their paws, so they need some protection from the, literally, freezing sidewalks, snow, and ice.  A set of booties won’t set you back too much, and it’s certainly cheaper than treating your dog’s paws for frostbite.

3.  Use a solid leash, not the retractable leash-of-death.

Seriously, I would outlaw those retractable leashes if I could.  A jogger’s leash, which attaches around your waist and is hands-free, could be a great alternative for you and your pet.

4.  Use a front-clip harness or Gentle Leader to reduce pulling.

If your pup hasn’t quite mastered the idea of walking gently while on the leash, these are fantastic tools to help keep you safe from a slip and fall on the ice when Rufus tries to pull like a sled dog.  You also might consider taking this opportunity to teach Rufus to walk nicely.  Just sayin’.

5.  Make sure your pet stays dry.

We Coloradans know there’s nothing worse, or more dangerous, than a wet and cold base layer.  It’s no different for Fido.  If he gets wet, head home.

6.  Stay away from frozen lakes and ponds.

Your dog can easily fall through thin ice.  Then you’d have to jump in after him to save his dog-gone life.  And that would be unpleasant.

7.  Towel off those tootsies!

When you get home or back to your car, dry off your pet’s paws (all four, now).  Be sure to get between the toes.  This is done in order to get the ice melt and/or ice off your pet’s feet.  Ice melt can cause major irritation to the paws, and if they lick it off… well, that causes a whole other problem (can you say toxin?).

As always after exercise, be sure to give your doggie some fresh water!

And one more Bonus Tip:

If your pooch is shaking, trembling, or pulling toward home… take that little warm-blooded creature home!  It’s just too cold for them outside.  There are some other great indoor games you can play until it warms up a bit.

Did you enjoy this article?  Fantastic!  Now see those little buttons down there?  Click Like or Share!  It only takes a second.
Also remember, Dr. D is always here for you and your pets!  Go HERE to find all the ways to contact her.

DIY Cat Scratching Platform (that actually works) for less than $10!

 

I have a cat who loves to scratch.  He is also a horizontal scratcher, which means he likes to get his claws into my carpets.  As you can imagine, over time, my kitty is completely capable of destroying a rug.

Here’s the other dilemma:  Commercial cat scratch platforms are too small.  For a cat to get all the good endorphin release from scratching, he needs a few things:

  1.  He needs to be able to streeeeeeeeeeeetch the full length of his body.
  2.  The platform cannot move when he is scratching violently, or he will be too scared to use it.
  3.  It has to be the perfect substrate, which is different for every cat. (great…)
  4.  It has to show wear over time, because otherwise, how will he show everyone that this is HIS territory??

Because I love my kitty, and I couldn’t find a commercial cat scratch platform that was suitable, I decided to do it myself.  And I want to share it with all of you!

 

Supplies Needed:

 

Supplies needed for Cat Scratch Platform

Sisal rug from IKEA (or something similar), the size of a welcome mat

Scrap piece of plywood, cut a little smaller than the rug

Felt floor protectors (the kind you get for the bottom of furniture legs)

Hammer

Nails (with heads)

 

How to DIY:

This is truly the simplest DIY I think I’ve ever done!  It only took about 15 minutes to complete.

I actually trimmed the plywood myself, but if you have a small scrap you can make it work without cutting it.

Lay the sisal rug over the top of the plywood, lining up the edges.  It’s okay if the rug hangs over the edges a little (like an inch or less).

Use the nails with heads to attach the rug to the plywood, spacing them evenly around the edge of the rug.  Also attach the center area of the rug with a few evenly spaced nails to keep the rug from lifting too much when kitty scratches it.  (Choose nails that are short enough that they won’t go all the way through the plywood and scratch your floor!).

 

Cat Scratch Platform (2)

Flip the whole thing over, and attach the felt floor protectors to the bottom of the plywood.  This will keep the plywood from scratching your flooring when it moves around a little.

Place platform in your kitty’s favorite spot, and let him go at it!  You can entice your cat to scratch on the platform by sprinkling it with catnip or treats, and/or spraying the surface with feline pheromones (such as Feliway).

 

Goose on his cat scratcher

 

I hope your kitty enjoys this DIY project as much as mine does.  Please share pictures of your projects with me; I’d love to see them!

 

Does my pet need insurance?

Q&A: Does my pet need insurance?

Is pet insurance a scam?  Or is it worth every penny?  How can a pet owner decide if insurance is worth the cost for their cat or dog?

 

I was going to write a blog post answering this question, and then someone else beat me to it.  And to be honest, she does a fabulous job of addressing this controversial topic – better than I could have!

 

So, if you are questioning the idea of pet insurance, I wholeheartedly recommend this article.

 

I used to think pet insurance was a ripoff.

 

Go check it out, and then let me know if you have any questions about pet insurance!