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Balanced Diet – Feeding Guinea Pigs and Rabbits

As popular as these pets are, understanding the proper diet of our guinea pigs and rabbits is often cause for confusion, especially in first time owners. I thought it would be beneficial to compose a break down of the foods required of guinea pigs and rabbits for the overall health of these fuzzy little eating machines!

Hays and Grasses

Pellets used to be the main (if not the only) food offered to guinea pigs and rabbits. Studies have shown however, that feeding only pellets can affect the health of the animal. Rabbits and guinea pigs are grazing animals that spend a lot of their day eating. So why aren’t they all round as watermelons? The grasses and shrubs that these animals feed on in the wild are very low in nutrition, so they must eat a lot of them to obtain the amount of nutrients needed each day. Since this grazing behavior is instinctive, our furry friends from the pet store continue to eat all day long just like their wild cousins, except captive animals are eating nutrient-concentrated pellets that can cause obesity if consumed in large amounts. This is why the main diet of any guinea pig or rabbit should be hay, primarily Timothy Hay, which is closest to what they would be feeding on in the wild. Large handfuls of hay every day will help keep your pet in grazing mode which will aid in alleviating boredom, wearing down teeth, and keeping the weight off. You can also occasionally offer Brome, Orchard Grass, Meadow Mix, and Alfalfa to mix things up. Fresh grasses from the yard are also OK (in small amounts) as long as the grass is collected from an area free of pesticides, runoff and pet waste. Be sure the picked grasses do not contain wild mushrooms or berries, and rinse it thoroughly before giving to your pets. Read More »

Barks and Bites – Pets and Snake Encounters

I love being outdoors. Walking, hiking, gardening, exploring, I do it all and it’s usually with at least one dog to accompany me. My pets and I can become pretty oblivious as we meander through grassy meadows and majestic forests as we try to take it all in. But, as we wander, it’s important to keep potential dangers to pets (and to yourself) in mind to avoid what could be a fatal encounter – particularly encounters with one of the various venomous snakes native to North America. I don’t believe that snakes are malicious or evil creatures, and I know that they won’t seek me or my dog out to attack, but the thought of a chance meeting in a remote field or woodland can be a distinct possibility when you explore the wild. In such a situation it pays to be informed. Read More »

Flea and Tick Treatments – Use Caution

Spring has (finally) arrived and fleas have returned along with it. You may have heard recently in the news that there has been an increase of the number of adverse reactions to over-the-counter “spot on” flea and tick treatments. The EPA has taken notice and they are starting to take action.

What was the problem?

Flea and tick preventative maintenance is an important part of your pet’s health. Small dogs and cats were the most likely to be affected by spot-on flea treatmentsIt’s important to safe guard your pet against pests that can carry deadly diseases like Lyme disease. However, it is also important to remember that these medications are still pesticides and should be handled with care. The EPA found that some dogs, usually smaller breeds, and cats could have potentially harmful reactions to spot-on flea and tick treatments. Reactions ranged from skin irritation to more severe medical conditions like seizures, and in a few cases, even death.  Most of the reactions were caused by “overdose” or using too much of the topical product for the size of the pet. Reactions in cats were typically the result of exposure to a dog- specific formula, either accidentally or through incorrect usage of the product.  While the EPA mainly investigated “spot-on” flea and tick treatments, they recommend using caution with all flea and tick products, including shampoos, collars, and sprays/powders.

What are they going to do to solve it?

To reduce the number of reactions and eliminate misuse of the products, the EPA is now enforcing tighter restrictions on ingredients and pursuing labeling changes and guidelines. The most significant change they are suggesting is making more dose sizes available. Instead of 3 different sizes of the medication, there might be 5, introducing a narrower pet weight range per medication.  They are also pushing to make the packaging vastly different on dog and cat products to eliminate confusion, and other labeling changes to eliminate confusion. The EPA is also going to start requiring clinical trials and observations on new formulas.

What can I do to ensure my pets’ safety?

Consult your vet. Find out which brand they recommend for your pets and situation. This is extremely Look for alternative methods of flea and tick erradicationimportant if your pet is weak, elderly, sick, on medication, pregnant or nursing. You should also carefully read all instructions before applying flea and tick treatments, especially if you have not used the product before. When purchasing a flea and tick treatments be sure to know the current weight of your pets to select the correct product.

There are some precautions you can take to help control your pet’s exposure to fleas and ticks, too. Vacuuming regularly and washing both you and your pet’s bedding regularly can help to prevent populations from establishing in your house. You can alter your yard to be less tick-friendly and discourage deer from visiting.

See the EPA’s article on taking care of fleas and ticks on your pet for more information on safety and what to do if you suspect your pet is having a reaction to flea and tick medication.

My Dog, My Pin-Cushion and My Visit to the Emergency Vet

I put off writing this article for a long because I feared that people would judge me as a bad pet parent. I finally decided to write it when I heard countless other “my dog ate” stories and came to terms with the fact that accidents do happen.

“You think your dog ate what?” Those are the words I heard from my vet over the phone when I was trying to explain I thought my shepherd mix Gatsby may have eaten some pins from a pin cushion.

Let’s back up to the beginning. I got home from work around 6 and started on dinner. Something shiny on the kitchen floor caught my eye. It was a pin. I didn’t think much of it at first, thinking it may have fallen off of some clothing I had recently purchased. Fast forward a few hours. We were returning from our evening walk when I spotted a toy I didn’t recognize in Gatsby’s crate. I picked it up and my heart stopped. It was the pin cushion from the sewing box.

To be honest, my first reaction was “There’s no way he ate any, they appear to all still be on the cushion.” Despite my denial I checked his mouth and peered down hisGatsby’s pre-surgery x-ray throat. No blood, no needles, nothing abnormal. He was also acting normally. I suddenly remembered the pin in the kitchen and started searching for more pins. Immediately I knew that there was going to be a problem. I was finding pins left and right. Some were broken and some were bent. Even thought my denial still persisted (who eats pins, right?) I called my vet. She instructed me to go to the emergency pet hospital for x-rays.

At this point I was still calm, steadfastly denying to myself that either of the dogs had actually eaten any of the pins, but better safe than sorry. They took the dogs back for x-rays and then the vet came to speak with me. She gave me the good news first: Barret was free and clear, no pins in his belly. On the other hand, Gatsby had eaten enough pins for the both of them. From there almost everything else is a blur. The x-ray image was frightening. A cluster of what I later learned to be 11 pins were sitting in his stomach. One had already made its way toward the intestines.

Because of the sheer number of pins he had ingested surgery was his best option. If we took the “wait and see what passes” approach the damage could have been irreversible. I was told when a dog has ingests pins, and it is less than 3, they will generally pass without an issue with monitoring. I was astounded to learn that this wasn’t the first pin-extraction my vet had performed! I would do anything for my “kids” so I signed the papers, sent him into surgery and went home to wait.

Gatbsy’s x-rays post op It was about 2 AM when the vet called to let me know he was out of surgery and waking up. They were only able to find and remove 9 pins despite multiple x-rays taken during surgery.  I was to pick him up from the hospital and take him to my regular vet in the morning. He was released later in the day with strict dietary restrictions, medications, and instructions. I was also charged with the unpleasant task of dissecting any bowel movements to be sure the last 2 pins made it out safely.

The next few days we were still really worried about him. He had no interest in food and wasn’t going to the bathroom. After about a week I finally was able to find a food (scrambled eggs) that he would eat. We breathed a sigh of relief when we found the last pin in his stool a few days later. Despite the fact that he was still vomiting and was losing weight, the vet assured me that he would get back to normal soon, having endured a pretty invasive surgery it would just take time.  After a few vet office visits and several different medications he was on the mend.

Gatsby in a cone The experience has taught me a few lessons, mainly that some dogs really can (and will) eat anything if given the opportunity. I was always very careful about leaving things out or leaving doors open before, but (lesson #2) dogs can be very sneaky. Finally, I learned that both my dogs are integral parts of my life and that when it comes down to the wire I would do anything to make their lives long, healthy, and happy.

So ends my tale of the canine pin cushion. If you have one, please feel free to share your own “my dog ate” story in our comments section.

A Drink to Your Pets’ Health – The Importance of Water in Your Pets’ Diet

Water is essential to your pets' health It’s no secret that your pets need fresh clean drinking water every day for optimum health. It’s also no secret that cats and some dogs are very finicky about, well, pretty much everything! With the warmer weather approaching I want to talk about your pet’s drinking habits.

Water is an essential ingredient to life. All animals need it to help flush out toxins and to keep organs hydrated. Cats especially need to take in an adequate amount of water to prevent kidney problems, most notably kidney stones and kidney failure.

The amount of water that your pet needs to drink daily depends on his or her weight, activity level, and diet. Dogs are generally pretty good about regulating their water intake. As long as fresh, clean water is provided they will usually drink the amount their body requires. Keep in mind that with the warmer temperatures around the corner, your dog should also be drinking more to stay fully hydrated.

Cats get most of their water intake from their food. In the wild this is not much of an issue since raw meat contains up to 70% water. Dry food, on the other hand, only contains about 10% moisture. Some cats will supplement their food with extra drinking water and others are a little pickier.

Zen Fountain by PetSafeIf you are having trouble getting your cat interested in water there are a few things you can try.  Change the type of pet bowl or the location of the bowl. Some cats prefer ceramic (lead-free glazed, of course) over metal bowls and vice versa. Other cats may be picky about the location of their water dish. Be sure it is far from the litter box and out of direct sunlight. You might also try a pet fountain. Clean, fresh, running water might be more interesting for your cat, while others will appreciate the water being filtered (thus tastier) and kept cooler. Finally, consider adding a wet food to your cat’s diet, or add water to your cats’ dry food. Wet cat foods usually contain around 80% water. Just be sure to adjust your portions of dry food to ensure you aren’t over feeding your cat.

Any sudden change in behavior can be cause for concern. Contact your vet if your pets’ drinking habits change suddenly; if they starting drinking an excessive amount of water, or stop drinking it altogether it could be a sign of a serious illness.

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