Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog
Pet Wellness Month was started by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2004 to bring awareness to pet owners on what they could do to increase longevity and quality of life for their pets. One misconception that people have is that a pet is fine as long as he isn’t sick. Just as with people, true wellness for domestic pets involves several different factors. We encourage you to consider the following:
Learn which vaccines your pet needs and then make sure she gets them on schedule. Vaccines prevent serious illnesses and protect other pets who may be more vulnerable to picking up viruses. Our staff will let you know which vaccines are essential and which are optional depending on your pet’s species, age, lifestyle, and other individual factors.
Make sure that you schedule an annual preventive care exam for your pet. Dogs and cats over age seven, along with puppies and kittens, need more frequent veterinary visits to ensure their good health. Annual check-ups make it possible to spot and monitor health issues as early as possible. They also give you the chance to bring up any concerns, such as behavioral issues, diet, and sleep habits.
Your pet needs a regular oral hygiene routine just as you do. You might be surprised at how cooperative your dog or cat will be with tooth brushing if you introduce it early and make it a consistent habit. Good oral hygiene also reduces the risk of diabetes as well as problems with the heart, joints, and kidneys.
Spaying or neutering your pet prevents unwanted litters of puppies and kittens that may never find a loving home. Additionally, altering your pet eliminates aggressive behavior related to the mating ritual. It can even reduce the risk of your pet developing health issues such as tumors of the mammary glands.
Minnesota is the land of tornadoes, floods, blizzards, and other weather emergencies. A fire can break out in your home as well. You’re naturally stressed and not thinking clearly when an emergency arises, so make sure that you prepare for one in advance. Gathering your pet’s supplies in a bag that you can grab quickly and knowing how to evacuate with your pet increases the likelihood of him surviving a disaster.
Your pet needs nutritious food specific to his species in order to thrive. It’s up to you to read food labels carefully and avoid buying anything with artificial fillers that don’t add any nutritional value. While the occasional treat is fine, your pet should have to earn it. Daily exercise is just as essential as nutritious food for your pet’s overall well-being.
It is important to protect your pet from parasites all year long. We are happy to recommend a specific product for heartworm, fleas, ticks, and other common internal and external parasites.
The staff at Minnesota Veterinary Hospital appreciates the opportunity to work with you to ensure a happy and healthy life for your pet. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with additional questions about your pet’s wellness.
Photo Credit: Hybrid Images / Getty Images
One of the biggest misconceptions about the feline leukemia virus, also called FeLV, is that it only causes the type of cancer known as leukemia. Unfortunately, FeLV can cause a host of other health conditions as well. Some of the most common include eye diseases, gastrointestinal distress, immune deficiency, blood platelet issues, reproductive problems, and low body weight. The virus spreads from cat-to-cat contact and is more common in kittens than adult cats. Humans and other species of animals cannot acquire FeLV.
Transmission, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of FeLV
Kittens are more susceptible to this virus because they can easily contract it in utero or when nursing from their mother after birth. Adult cats typically pick up FeLV from sharing litter boxes, food dishes, or bedding with a cat who already has the virus. Other common methods of transmission include mutual grooming, contact with feces or urine, and being bitten by an infected cat. Those with the highest risk of acquiring FeLV are cats who live in communal living situations, a multi-cat household, or who spend unsupervised time outdoors.
FeLV can be difficult to diagnose because it presents with vague symptoms that could indicate a different health condition. Unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, and general weakness are often the first indications of the virus. If you suspect that your cat has picked up the feline leukemia virus, contact Minnesota Veterinary Hospital to request a blood test.
One of three things will happen when a cat or kitten is exposed to the FeLV virus. Cats with a strong immune system and limited exposure will not go on to develop any complications of the condition. A second category of infected cats will fight off some effects of the virus but not others. This is called latent infection. Persistent infection is another possible outcome. In this case, the infected cat has progressive symptoms that usually cause serious illness within a few years of infection. Adult cats who have had other immunizations are better able to fight off FeLV than kittens with untested immune systems.
Preventing and Treating FeLV
We highly recommend getting the FeLV vaccine if your cat meets any of the risk factors mentioned above. It is also important to test for FeLV anytime your cat is ill, before adding a new cat to the household, when another cat in the home already has FeLV, or when your cat has faced specific risks such as being bitten by another cat.
If your cat is diagnosed as FeLV-positive, he or she needs to be kept strictly indoors. This protects your own cat as well as any others he or she comes into contact with in the neighborhood. Try to keep life as stress-free as possible for your cat with FeLV and be certain to keep all regularly scheduled preventive care exams. Should you move out of our service area, your new vet needs to know about your cat’s FeLV status.
Photo Credit: vvvita / Getty Imae
Cats are a part of the family in one of every three American households and it’s easy to see why. They’re affectionate, independent, playful, and can make us laugh with their zany antics. While cats can have a dramatic effect on our well-being, they depend on us to keep them happy and healthy. That is why the CATalyst Council decided that September should be Happy Healthy Cat Month. Here are several things you can do increase your cat’s health, happiness, and longevity:
• Cats love to find new hidey-holes to curl up in for a nap and to claim as their private space. Although your cat’s life might seem cushy to you, he does experience stress occasionally and needs a place to retreat. With this in mind, be sure to provide cat furniture that allows your cat to hide as well as places in your home that are accessible for this purpose.
• Make sure that your cat has proper identification in case she wanders away from home. Sadly, only two percent of cats without a tag and collar or microchip are ever reunited with their owners. If your cat must go outside, be sure to supervise her at all times or provide a fenced-in yard where she can explore.
• Provide your cat with quality nutritious food and limit treats to special occasions. You can encourage exercise by placing your cat’s food or treats inside of a toy. This also allows your cat the opportunity to use his natural hunting instincts.
• Cats need a variety of different toys for mental stimulation and physical activity. However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on them. A piece of string, a cardboard box, or a $2 toy mouse will provide just as much activity for your cat as the more expensive toys. Playing with your cat gives you the opportunity to bond with him as well.
• Cats aren’t trying to be naughty when they scratch your furniture because scratching is a natural instinct for them. Placing a scratching post in different areas of your home is ideal to provide your cat with an outlet for the need to sharpen her claws. You can also invest in a soft claw product that goes over each one of your cat’s claws if the scratching does become destructive.
Don’t Forget to Schedule an Annual Preventive Care Exam
The American Association of Feline Practitioners states that people are generally good about bringing their kitten in for vaccinations and other essential care before they are a year old. Unfortunately, routine veterinary visits drop off considerably after that. Whether it’s a struggle to get a cat in the car, lack of funds, or another reason, fewer than half of all cats get a preventive care exam after their first birthday.
These appointments are just as important for cats as they are for dogs. During Happy Healthy Cat Month, we encourage you to schedule an annual appointment so we can accurately gauge your cat’s health and well-being.
Photo Credit: Jessica Holden Photography / Getty Images