How responsible of a dog owner are you?

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relaxing with the dogSeptember is Responsible Pet Ownership Month. Sounds boring, right? But it’s important!

It’s easy to think of your furry friend as part of the family, one of the kids, (a holy terror… ), but it’s also easy to forget that they are totally dependent on you. For everything. So make the most of it and go above and beyond for Fido! Here are some of the topics of our fact sheets for pet owners that can help you keep on top of things.

Dog Licensing – As they say, it’s not just bling, it’s the law! All dogs three months or older must be licensed by January 1 of each year. If you’ve ever walked or driven your neighborhood calling out your lost dog’s name with the hope you’ll see him running toward you or visited your local animal shelter and registered your pet as missing, you know the importance of a dog license.

Dog Bite Prevention –  Nothing goes better together than kids and dogs but unfortunately, kids are also more likely to get bitten. Often it’s just a matter of not understanding how to interact safely with a dog, especially one that isn’t yours.
We have to be able to read body language and understand nuances that tell us what the dog might be thinking.

Preventive Care – Think your dog only needs to go to the vet when something is wrong? Think again. Prevent it from happening in the first place by scheduling regular annual appointments. Regular check ups can prevent bigger problems later which could be much more expensive.

Dental Health – Dog breath? It could be the sign of something more serious. Periodontal disease in our pets is the most common health problem that veterinarians see, yet many pet owners are still in the dark about preventing it or treating it. Don’t think that because your pet isn’t showing signs of oral discomfort that everything is fine. Untreated oral disease can be dangerous to your pet’s health and much more expensive to correct down the road than paying for preventive measures now.

Canine Influenza – Like many viruses, canine influenza is spread through respiratory secretions and contaminated surfaces of everything from food and water bowls to leashes to toys. What’s more, it can stay alive up to 48 hours on surfaces, 24 hours on clothing, and up to 12 hours on hands. If a dog comes in contact with the virus, it can be 2-4 days before it exhibits signs of feeling ill, and the dog is also most contagious during this time.

And there are many more, so check out our fact sheets for yourself and see how else you can keep your dogs happy and healthy.

Now, go ahead. Put your feet up and do a little relaxing with Rover.

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A Day in the Life of Dr. Casey Kurtz: Toe Nail Trims are the Bomb!

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Toe nail trims can bring out the worst in any dog.

Toe nail trims can bring out the worst in any dog.

In my opinion, toe nail trims (TNT, for short, and yes, the acronym should be the first hint) are one of the most common and most annoying services we offer. It takes a lot more skill and patience than anyone would think. Consider how many people say, “My dog will let me do anything, except clip his nails.” Another one of my favorites remains, “Barney is so well behaved, but he doesn’t like his feet touched.” Another quick example of TNT aversion is, “Bingo has never bitten anyone, except when they tried to touch his feet.”

I have personally witnessed several frightening and surprising transformations over the years. A kind and docile Lab suddenly becomes a ferocious, semi-feral canine from the wild. A sweet and gentle Pomeranian magically obtains the strength of Samson and treats those clippers as if we were about to cut his enchanted locks. A sedate and quiet Retriever quickly flips out and gator rolls all the way to the door.

Not to discriminate, our feline patients are also subject to the transformative power of the nail clip. Just recently, we had the cutest, most adorable kitten brought in for an appointment. Everything went well, until the nail trim. She screeched and howled and hissed so loudly that I felt the need to make a disclaimer to the people in the waiting room that we were not abusing any animals in the treatment area.

Now, I am a results-driven person. I have no qualms about sweeping the floor, holding an animal, taking x-rays, or even filling medications if that needs to be done, but the one job I avoid (like cold coffee or meatloaf – I really hate meatloaf) is clipping nails. I consider myself the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. There has never been a nail trim where I didn’t cause bloodshed.

I don’t even clip my own dogs’ nails. I once made the mistake of agreeing to help my parents clip Bella’s (their dog) nails. After my mother explicitly told me she was holding Bella, my mom then let go of her and Bella bit me. Immediately following that brief act of violence (my dad now holding her), I clipped four of five nails on the first paw. Of course, on the fourth nail, I nicked a quick, and Bella went ballistic. Has anyone pricked a finger or seen a nail bleed? It’s quite a large amount of blood. Just ask my dad. He started hysterically yelling, “The blood! There is so much blood! What do we do?” He rivaled Chicken Little with the falling sky.

I learned three valuable lessons that day.  Firstly, I cannot trust my family to competently help with veterinary-related issues.  Secondly, always have some QuickStop (that powder that stops bleeding) on hand, and thirdly, even the family dogs are not immune to the TNT transformation.

I tell this story as a reminder and warning for all.  A simple toe nail trim is not so simple, and cherish those groomers and technicians who hold the mystical secrets and power of the nail trim.

Dr. Casey Kurtz, Associate Veterinarian
French Creek Veterinary Hospital
www.frenchcreekvet.com

September is Happy Cat Month!

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Tabby kittenNo grumpy cats here!

September is happy cat month, and the CATalyst Council has some great tips for keeping your cat smiling all year long.

Go to the vet! It’s no secret that cats receive significantly less veterinary care than other pets, in part because it can be such an ordeal to get them there. Cat-friendly practices can share tips with you on making the trip less stressful for you and your cat. See if there is one near you here.

Preventive care. Even cats that stay inside can wind up with parasites that are carried in accidentally by other family members. Work with your veterinarian to come up with a treatment plan.

Get them microchipped. If your cat would get lost, there’s no better way to make sure they get returned to you than to have them microchipped. It’s important to remember to register the microchip with the tracking company once it’s implanted, and be sure to keep your information up to date if you move or your phone number or email address change.

Play! A cat with toys is a happy cat, plus it can help keep them out of trouble. Try more than one type of toy to see which kinds are their favorites.

Get to work. Training your cat basic commands or even a few tricks can be fun and stimulating for your cat, plus your getting to spend some quality time together.

Don’t overfeed. Feline obesity is a growing problem (no pun intended), and having an overweight cat can cause health problems. Consider toys that release small bits of food as the cat plays with it, or moving their food dish so they have to use their hunting instincts to locate it.

Keep the cat carrier out. If your cat only sees the cat carrier when it’s time to go to the veterinarian, they might not look upon it fondly. Keep it out with the door open where the cat can access it at any time. Put a blanket and toys inside to encourage them to spend time in there at their leisure. Hopefully with repeated access, it won’t be so scary when it’s time to travel.

Get some fresh air. Whether you let them roam the yard while you supervise or you invest in a harness and leash for a walk, any cat will benefit from a little fresh air and exercise.

Get a scratching post. Scratch the post, not your furniture! Stretching and scratching are normal behaviors – definitely provide an appropriate place for them to do it.

Get some company. Consider going to a local shelter and adopting a buddy for your cat. Having a playmate can help keep them happy and occupied during the day, and can encouragev exercise if they like to romp around together.

There are lots of great resources available for cat owners. Here are a few that we like.

It’s National Pet Week!

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11Historically, the first week of May is National Pet Week. This week was designed to create awareness about responsible pet ownership. Having a pet is really like having a furry (or scaly, or whatever) child, and the responsibilities are many. It’s a true commitment and if you’re not sure you’re up to the challenge, you’re probably not. Here are some things to think about. Responsible pet ownership means:

  • providing proper food, water, shelter, and exercise
  • providing adequate veterinary care, including preventive care and regular check-ups
  • not giving an animal as a gift to someone who doesn’t want a longterm pet or who can’t handle the responsibility or afford the costs associated with a pet

Here at PVMA, we run an annual photo contest in the spirit of National Pet Week. Open to all Pennsylvania schoolkids, this year’s theme is “A Moment in Time: Loving and Caring for Our Pets.” The contest is open until May 31, so if you know a kid who love animals, have them take a photo and send it in before May 31 to lraver@pavma.org. You can check out the photos we’ve already received here.

For a heartwarming story of responsible pet ownership, read this photo essay on the rescue of a golden retriever named Bran.

A Day in the Life: Dr. Casey Kurtz

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What’s in a name?

milkbonesWhen you stop to think about it, the lengths dogs will go to for a Milkbone are amazing. Sit, stay, lie down, paw, speak, dance, stand, laugh at all my jokes…the list goes on.  And all for a 4.5 cm long x 1 cm deep x 2.8 cm at the widest part, hard, tan-colored, bone-shaped, card-board smelling piece of food. (I recently examined a Milkbone, and the Shroud of Turin has nothing on it after my investigation)

The package information gives no clue to the power a single biscuit holds. Sure, there are Snausages and Pupperoni, I get this, they’re fragrant and greasy, and yet, the Milkbone remains the most recognized and widely used treat. “Treat,” even that euphemism underlies the Milkbone’s role in training and reward.

If only people could be moved by so little. If only, we could be “trained” with such a small incentive. I can see it now; open the door for someone, grab a Milkbone, how about calmly waiting in line, what, another Milkbone, and sitting in rush-hour traffic, here’s a Milkbone. The possibilities loom infinite. What couldn’t be settled over a Milkbone? (Congress would definitely be able to balance a budget…)

What I love about dogs is that eventually, after all the training and Milkbones, (and blood, sweat, and tears…ours, of course) they learn! They will perform without the obligatory treat every time. Eventually, making us happy, and thus, the “good dog” is the reward. (I still recommend a Milkbone from time to time to help keep it real) Perhaps, we should take a page from our dogs. Why can’t we do things just because it makes others happy? Are we too focused on ourselves? Do all of our actions have to benefit us?

As I was thinking these grandiose thoughts of kindness and brotherhood, a car not only swerved in front of me and almost hit me, but the driver also proceeded to flash me a vulgar gesture when I honked my horn as a warning. As I clenched the steering wheel and muttered a few well-chosen phrases, I could only think … Milkbone anyone?

Dr. Casey Kurtz is a staff veterinarian at French Creek Veterinary Hospital in Pottstown, PA
www.frenchcreekvet.com

Because they love animals

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Smart Leonard

Smart Leonard

Here at PVMA, it’s that time of year where we honor some of our best and brightest with a PVMA member award. They come with many names – distinguished veterinary service, veterinarian of the year, lifetime achievement – but it all boils down to the same thing: honoring someone who went above and beyond the call of duty. Historically, the job of veterinarian has been ranked as one of the most respected and trusted in the country. Lately, with the evolution of big box stores and online alternatives, that seems to be changing. To counteract this, I thought I’d mention a few of the reasons I think we should – literally or figuratively – thank a veterinarian.

A lot of times, the perception can be that veterinarians are doctors, therefore they must charge too much and they make lots of money. It’s true, they are doctors, but their extensive education to learn about many species, not just one, comes at a price. Most veterinarians graduate with upwards of $300,000 in education loans, and jobs in the field pay nothing like jobs do in human medicine. It’s like having a mortgage without a house. Why do they do it? They love animals.

Taking your pet to the veterinarian’s office can be stressful if your dog or cat isn’t too happy (or way too happy!) to see the other animals in the waiting room, let alone the staff. You see the waiting room and the exam rooms filled with other pet parents and their offspring getting check ups, vaccinations, and other routine items. But what about the animals who don’t have a family? The ones that get hit by a car or are found in the bushes, sick or injured, and are brought to a veterinarian. They treat those animals too, often without payment. They won’t tell you that. They don’t get credit for that. Why do they do it? They love animals.

Our member awards make me think not only of our 2013 recipients but of recipients from years past whose deeds are still relevant and noteworthy. I think of the veterinary practice who not only treated a K9 officer injured in the line of duty but gave his owner free veterinary care for life after his police partner passed away. I think of the veterinarian who mentored a neighborhood kid in his practice. They started out cleaning kennels, but he infused in them such a love for the profession and each animal that they went on to graduate from veterinary school.

NAVSThen there’s the doctor who went to a fundraiser in his own town to benefit Native Americans and casually inquired about what type of access to veterinary care Native Americans had who live on reservations. Upon hearing the answer ‘little to none,’ he started his own program of volunteers which still travels twice a year to multiple Native American reservations to provide veterinary care for free.

I’m reminded of the veterinary student who was so moved by the poor veterinary standards in Haiti that – as a student – she began a volunteer group to educate locals and provide veterinary care to those who live on the island.

So despite the white coat, veterinarians are people just like you and me. Owning a pet is very rewarding but can come with its share of hassles. Veterinary check ups, purchasing licenses, pet food, flea and tick prevention, etc. But next time your veterinarian recommends something to you or challenges your way of thinking, just listen. They do what they do because they love animals.