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NewsletterNewsletter

The veterinarians and staff at the Webster Groves Animal Hospital & Urgent Care Center are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Summer Exacerbates Your Pet’s Breathing Problems


Summer Pet Tips


With summer in the air, it’s getting particularly hard for some animals to breath. This is especially the case for short-nosed – or flat-faced dogs such as the Pekingese, pug, bulldog, boxer, shih tzu and chihuahua. However, these airway problems, which are typically due to narrow nostrils, a long soft palate or collapsed voice box, can also affect our feline friends, such as Himalayans and exotic shorthairs. This condition (known as the Brachycephalic airway syndrome) is largely due to the dog or cat’s unique head shape, so there isn’t much you can do to entirely avoid it.

However, there are certain factors that can increase the risk and further complicate their breathing condition. These include:

  1. Allergies
  2. Obesity
  3. Over-excitement
  4. Exercise: Panting may also naturally increase in the summer months as the weather gets hotter and more humid.

Treatment options largely depend on the symptoms exhibited by your dog or cat. In some cases, surgical procedures may be your pet’s best option. So don’t let the summer heat waves stop your pet from getting a breath of fresh air. For more information about symptoms and treatments, talk to your local veterinarian.

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month - Here's How to Find the Right Purring Companion

You may have heard the saying, "You own a dog, but you feed a cat." It is true that cats value their independence a bit more than their canine counterparts. But, if you've ever been around cats, you already know they crave and require love and companionship. Cats make wonderful pets and most easily adjust to a variety of lifestyles and living spaces. Every cat is a true individual though, so it's important to take the time to choose a four-footed friend who's right for you. A cat's personality, age and appearance, as well as the kinds of pets you already have at home, are all things you should keep in mind when making your selection.

If you've ever been to a shelter, you have probably noticed that some cats meow and head butt the cage door while others simply lie back and gaze at you with a look of total ambiguity. There are as many different personalities of cats as there are cats in the shelter. Which disposition is best for you? YOU have to decide.

Regardless of individual personality, look for a cat that is playful, active, alert and comfortable while being held. At the shelter, ask an adoption counselor for assistance when you wish to spend some time with individual cats. Because they are in an unfamiliar environment, some cats that are usually quite social may be frightened or passive while in the shelter.

As a general rule, kittens are curious, playful and full of energy, while adult cats are more relaxed and less mischievous. Kittens also require more time to train and feed. Cats are only kittens for a few months, though, so the age of the cat you adopt should really depend on the level of maturity you are looking for. Young children usually don't have the maturity to handle kittens responsibly, so a cat that is at least 4 months old is probably the best choice for homes with young children.


Adopt Your Pet Today!

They All May Be Cute, But Which Is Right For You?

Though dogs also have differences in coat, choosing the length of coat on a cat is a little different. Because the hair is generally finer and cats generally shed more, hair length can be an important part of your decision. Cats can have long, fluffy coats or short, dense fur and the choice between the two is chiefly a matter of preference, availability and your willingness to devote time to regular grooming. Short-haired cats are generally easier to come by since they're the most popular and the most common. Keep in mind that long-haired cats require frequent grooming to remain mat-free. Felines with short coats also require brushing, though less frequently. Most cats enjoy a regular brushing and look forward to this daily ritual.

If you already own a cat or dog, you're probably wondering how easy it is to add a cat to the family. The good news is that cats can get along with other cats, and despite the common stereotype, most dogs can get along with cats too. Unfortunately, introducing a new cat to a home with other pets can be time consuming and require patience on your part.

The best way to handle adding a new cat to the home is to provide time for a period of adjustment. You can do this effectively by isolating your new feline in a room of his own for a while, something that is a good idea for a new cat anyway. After several days, supervise meetings between the animals for periods of increasing length. Most cats will soon learn to accept each other. Some dogs simply won't tolerate the presence of a cat, but by carefully introducing them, most problems can be solved.


No matter which kind of cat you choose, remember that you're making a commitment to love and care for your new feline friend for his or her lifetime. That could mean 10, 15 or even 20 years. So choose you new companion carefully and be a responsible pet owner. In no time at all, you'll know how wonderful sharing your home with a cat can be.

For more information about Adopt-A-Cat month, please visit the American Humane Association's website.

Proper Care of Older Cats

Cats grow old gracefully. As they grow older, they have a tendency to sleep more. An elderly cat generally spends most of his or her time sleeping on a couch, a comfortable chair or on a blanket close to a heat source. In general, they live longer than dogs. The average life span of a housecat is about 12 to 15 years. Some cats are extremely healthy, living well into their 20s.

Older cats are less active and less playful than kittens and young cats. They are also more irritable. As cats get older, their organs function less efficiently. Degeneration of the kidneys, thyroid glands, pancreas and adrenal glands occurs, resulting in kidney failure, hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Their senses (sight, smell and hearing) have a tendency to deteriorate as well.


Health and Hygiene Concerns Facing Older Cats

• Hyperthyroidism- Hyperthyroidism is due to an overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid glands (two glands, one gland on each side of the throat). Symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism include drastic weight loss, hyperactivity and increased appetite. This disease can be treated medically, surgically or with radiation therapy.

• Kidney failure- This occurs when 70 percent of the kidney's functions are lost. Early symptoms of kidney failure include weight loss, increased thirst, increased urination (frequency and amount), decreased appetite and occasional vomiting. Symptoms of kidney failure result from the buildup of toxins in the body, which are normally removed by healthy kidneys. Specially formulated foods are available for cats that are diagnosed with kidney failure. These foods may be purchased through your veterinarian.

• Heart problems- The most common heart disease is cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a primary heart disease, though it can develop secondary to kidney disease and hyperthyroidism.

• Cancer- The virus is transmitted from an infected cat to a healthy cat through intimate "nose-to-nose" contact with infected saliva. There are no specific symptoms for feline leukemia virus infection; however, tumors of the lymph nodes, kidneys and intestines are quite common. Other symptoms include weight loss, anemia (decrease in red blood cells), poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.

• Diabetes mellitus- Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and increased urination. Animals with diabetes mellitus often have ravenous appetites. Insulin is usually necessary for controlling diabetes mellitus in older cats.

• Digestion- The ability to digest and assimilate fat declines with age. Olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) senses are diminished. Food may need to be warmed (not hot) in order to entice an older cat to eat. It is not recommended to give food directly from the refrigerator. Fresh clean water should be available at all times and filled at least once a day.

• Constipation- It is often the result of a decrease in gastrointestinal tract motility. Hairballs can also cause constipation and very often they lead to intestinal impaction. Surgery is occasionally necessary in order to remove obstructive hairballs. Since hairballs are not easily regurgitated, preventative medication such as laxatives should be administered once a week. The use of a laxative is recommended for the prevention of intestinal obstruction, however if the laxative is given too frequently, it can interfere with intestinal absorption of vitamins and minerals.

• Tartar build-up- Tartar causes bad breath and can lead to dental problems — gum disease and tooth loss. Cats may tolerate a bit of home dentistry like brushing, but they must be taken to a veterinary hospital for treatment. Treatment generally consists of cleaning and polishing the teeth.

• Grooming- As cats get older, they groom themselves less and less effectively. Long-haired cats are particularly bothered by coat problems. Their coats are often matted, causing severe skin irritations. If an elderly cat is unable to keep up with his or her grooming, human intervention may be necessary. Long-haired cats and short-haired cats that do not groom themselves effectively should be brushed or combed twice a week.


Routine veterinary check-ups, along with blood and urine tests, are important for detecting medical problems before they become emergency situations. Discuss an examination schedule specific to your cat with your veterinarian.

Hedgehogs As Pets

Although a bit prickly if placed in your pocket, the hedgehog has become a popular pocket pet in recent years. Their rise in popularity may be due to millennials who grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog or simply the need for a greater variety of smaller, apartment-friendly pets as Americans continue their urban migration. Either way, these quill-covered cuties can make excellent companions if provided the proper care. It should be noted that hedgehog ownership is illegal in some states, and commercial breeding requires a license.

Overview

Hedgehogs can be suitable pets for apartment dwellers as they make little noise, don’t require much human interaction or exercise, don’t need expansive cages and aren’t as smelly as other small pets. They do, however, require careful handling, out-of-cage time and aren’t always bathroom trainable – so they may go whenever and wherever the need strikes. As they are nocturnal, they are best suited for night-owls or individuals who are home in the evenings.

The most common pet hedgehog, the African pygmy, is about the size of a guinea pig at half a pound to one-and-a-quarter pounds. Their average lifespan is 4 to 6 years, but some have lived as long as a decade.



Diet

In the wild, hedgehogs will eat whatever is available: insects, worms, frogs, eggs, small snakes and fruit. In captivity, their diets are inexpensive and straightforward, but must provide enough protein. A well-balanced diet will include:

• Dry Cat or Hedgehog Food

• Canned Cat, Dog or Hedgehog Food

• Fruits and Vegetables

• Water

Cage

Although hedgehogs are fairly small creatures, they require cages that complement their active lifestyles. A suitable cage is about 2-feet wide by 4-feet long, but bigger is always better. Multi-levels are great, but wire-floored cages should be avoided as they can hurt your hedgehog's tiny feet. The cage should be placed in an area where the temperature remains between 75 to 80 degrees. Hedgehogs also need to experience light and dark each day even though they are nocturnal. Cages should include:

• Bedding

• A Hiding Area

• A Litter Box with Litter

• Water Bottle and Food Bowls

• Toys and An Exercise Wheel

Pet Behavior: Aggressive Cats and Dogs

Aside from a discussion about euthanasia, aggressive behavior in animals is one of the most difficult pet topics to discuss. However, according to veterinarians and humane societies, the number one reason animals are euthanized is for behavior problems. We think of euthanasia as a merciful relief from suffering for an incurably ill or old animal. But the majority of pets are euthanized because of behavior problems.

Aggressive behavior in pets must be addressed without delay. The longer it continues, the harder it is to change. Don't wait until someone is injured to seek help with this problem.

Some behavioral problems result from medical problems. A thorough physical examination by a veterinarian may reveal an underlying medical condition. A dog may be aggressive due to an injury or a congenital defect. Hip dysplasia and car accident injuries account for many episodes of canine aggressive behavior. Dental problems as well as chronic skin conditions can make a pet uncomfortable, leading to a low level of tolerance, resulting in aggression.



Pet behavior is a new and growing field. Your veterinarian may have some suggestions on curbing aggressive behavior. However, veterinarians often don't feel qualified to give such advice because their training is in medicine and surgery rather than behavior.

If the pet is healthy and initial efforts to curb the behavior don't work, then it is wise to contact a board-certified behaviorist. This is a veterinarian who specializes in animal behavior. Since mishandled aggressive behavior is potentially dangerous, most specialists will want to see the pet and the owner in person.

A pet dog or cat is a 15-year emotional, physical and monetary commitment. A little advance planning can help make it a rewarding experience. Prospective owners can reduce the chance that they will end up with an aggressive pet by educating themselves. There are many good books and pamphlets on pet behavior and there is much information regarding each individual breed. It is strongly recommended to read several books about general pet care and about handling and raising a puppy or kitten.

When picking out a puppy or kitten, don't choose the most aggressive or the shiest one in the litter. Pick out a friendly, happy animal that comes to you. Then, while the kitten or puppy is young, allow him or her to experience a variety of different situations, people and other animals. Early socialization is very important for the development of the pet, particularly how he or she deals with the surrounding world.

If you are considering adopting an adult animal that is known to be aggressive, be realistic about your expectations. Even if the problem was the result of the previous environment, rehabilitating an aggressive animal is a big project. To believe the animal needs only tender loving care is a mistake. Animals can change, but it takes love, persistence and lots of time. An aggressive pet is a tremendous liability, especially if there are young children around. If a pet shows signs of aggression, the most important thing is to get help right away. Whatever you do, don't delay.