Thyroid Disease in Cats and Dogs

Is your dog gaining weight even though his activity level and appetite remain the same? Have you noticed that your cat always seems ravenous for food but is losing weight? If so, your pet may have a thyroid issue.

Hypothyroidism is a syndrome that occurs most often in middle-aged dogs due to decreased thyroid hormone in the blood and is most commonly caused by atrophy of the thyroid gland. Common signs your dog may exhibit include weight gain, lethargy, exercise intolerance or weakness, and hair loss sometimes associated with skin infections. Other uncommon signs include a change in bark, incoordination, and neurologic signs such as facial paralysis.

Clinical signs in combination with a decreased level of thyroid hormone, as well as other supporting abnormalities on bloodwork, is often diagnostic. Hypothyroidism can often be well managed by daily oral thyroid hormone replacement; however, this medication must be given lifelong. Thyroid levels should ideally be tested every 6 months to be sure they are maintained within normal limits. Increased activity levels and elimination of clinical signs are typically seen within 2-4 weeks.

Hyperthyroidism is a syndrome that occurs most often in older cats and is caused by increased secretion of thyroid hormone often due to an excess of thyroid tissue. Signs often include increased drinking, eating, and urinating, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or lethargy, and can be associated with cardiac changes such as murmurs, arrythmias, and high blood pressure. Hyperthyroidism can often be diagnosed by checking thyroid levels on bloodwork, and is treated in one of three ways:

  1. Daily antithyroid medication that suppress thyroid hormone production
  2. Surgical removal of part of the thyroid gland
  3. Radioactive iodine therapy, which makes the excess thyroid tissue nonfunctional

Ideally, hyperthyroid cats should be on an iodine restricted diet to help decrease thyroid hormone production. Some cats that are treated for hyperthyroidism will become hypothyroid, so monitoring bloodwork at least every 6 months is recommended to avoid complications. This disease can sometimes mask kidney disease, so treating the thyroid issue can unveil elevated kidney levels. The goal of therapy is to restore serum thyroid concentrations to within normal limits and eliminate clinical signs.

If you think your pet may be struggling with a thyroid issue, please call Norwalk Animal Hospital or your primary veterinarian today to schedule an appointment.  

You’ve Cat to Be Kitten Me Right Meow: Feline Wellness Visits

Mark your calendars because August 22nd is “National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day!” Although, most pet cats are indoor-only, it is extremely important to have them evaluated by a veterinarian annually. During these wellness visits, they will have their weight taken, a full head-to-toe physical examination, and be given any vaccinations that may be due. These vaccinations protect them from viruses that can be obtained from their housemates or if they happen to accidentally slip outside.

Annual exams and vaccinations are even more important for cats that are indoor/outdoor or primarily outdoor. Legally, it is required that ALL dogs and cats remain up to date on rabies vaccinations. Interactions with feral cats or wild animals pose the risk of causing rabies, and if wounds are noted, a rabies booster needs to be given to your pet as soon as possible. Feline leukemia (FelV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) can also be spread by interacting with infected cats. Monitoring weight yearly uncovers loss or gain that may not have been noticed and can allow veterinarians to gauge whether there may be an underlying issue causing it. Wellness bloodwork is also recommended in order to evaluate blood cell levels and organ function. This allows us to compare values if the patient were to get sick in the future and can aid in diagnosis.

Other reasons to bring your cat to the vet include:

  1. Inappropriate or Abnormal Urination (urinating outside of the litterbox, straining to urinate, urinating small amounts or abnormally large amounts, bloody urine)
  2. Vomiting or Diarrhea
  3. Foreign Body Ingestion (history of eating string, chicken bones, etc)
  4. Seizures or Incoordination
  5. Weight Loss
  6. Inappetence (lack of appetite)
  7. Increased Drinking
  8. Wounds or Open Sores
  9. Lumps or Bumps
  10. Abnormal Behavior

Some owners prefer to avoid annual vet visits due to the fact that their cat is very fearful and becomes anxious or aggressive when at the clinic. However, there are medications available to decrease anxiety and help them become more amenable to being in a carrier and in a strange place. This can often make appointments safer for everyone involved. Please call Norwalk Animal Hospital or your primary veterinarian to discuss pre-visit anxiety medication for your cat.

Other ways to make your cat’s check-up a stress-free experience is to get them used to their carrier. Keeping their carrier available to them at all times allows cats to get used to it and avoids having them associate it with travel.  Most cats will even enjoy going into their carrier to sleep and play when this procedure is enforced. Rewarding your cat with treats when they approach or step into the carrier is also encouraged in order to help them develop good associations. Feliway is a calming pheromone product that has sprays and plug-ins that can also be used around and inside the carrier and may help it become more welcoming.

Please call Norwalk Animal Hospital to schedule a wellness visit for your cat today!

“AH-CHEW!” Managing Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Allergies are no fun!

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to chew at their feet, or scratch at their ears more often when Spring comes around? Some of the most common appointments I see include pets suffering from ear infections, skin issues, ocular discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive itching. What do all these symptoms have in common? They can be due to allergies!

Pets who suffer from allergic disease, often react to one or more of the following:

  1. Diet
  2. Environment
  3. Fleas/Parasites

Allergic disease is often seen in pets greater than 1 year old and can cause them to be extremely itchy and uncomfortable, damaging the skin barrier as they scratch. This can lead to secondary bacterial skin infections, such as “hotspots,” that often require veterinary attention.

Unfortunately, allergic disease is something that can only be managed, not cured. Food allergies are often associated with a specific protein that had been fed previously, such as chicken, beef, etc. If your pet is partially or primarily dealing with a food allergy, a food trial is often one of the first steps to confirm that is the issue. A food trial involves placing your pet on a diet that consists of a single protein and carbohydrate source that they have never been exposed to (past food, treats, etc.). They must be kept on this diet for at least 8 weeks and it often takes that long to see a decrease in itch and discomfort. It is imperative to avoid feeding anything else other than the prescribed food to the pet because this could negatively affect results. After the 8 week trial, it is recommended to reintroduce the pet’s old diet as a “challenge,” and if they become itchy once again, this confirms that they are allergic to something in their food. There are many veterinary prescribed diets available that are ideal for food trials, so consult with your primary veterinarian to see which would be right for your pet.

You may notice that your pet itches more in the summer when compared to the winter or tends to develop ear or skin infections in the warmer months. This may be due to environmental allergies. However, animals that are allergic to something in the environment that is present year round may always have the same level of discomfort.

Multiple medications are labeled to help manage “atopic dermatitis,” or environmental allergies in dogs and can decrease the “itchy” feeling caused by other allergies as well. These include Apoquel, which is an oral tablet, and Cytopoint, which is an injection that lasts between 4 and 8 weeks in dogs. Other options are available to help manage the itch caused by allergies in cats, including steroids. Allergy testing is also available if your pet has trouble being managed on food or medication.

It is important to keep your pet on flea and tick preventatives to avoid the possibility of flea allergy. Most animals will have some aspect of discomfort when infected with fleas, however, some develop an extreme reaction in response to the parasites’ saliva. For those animals that are on a food trial, topical preventatives are recommended since oral versions are often flavored and may interfere with results.

Please make an appointment with your primary veterinarian or contact Norwalk Animal Hospital if you think your animal is struggling with allergies.

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to chew at their feet, or scratch at their ears more often when Spring comes around? Some of the most common appointments I see include pets suffering from ear infections, skin issues, ocular discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive itching. What do all these symptoms have in common? They can be due to allergies!

Pets who suffer from allergic disease, often react to one or more of the following:

  1. Diet
  2. Environment
  3. Fleas/Parasites

Allergic disease is often seen in pets greater than 1 year old and can cause them to be extremely itchy and uncomfortable, damaging the skin barrier as they scratch. This can lead to secondary bacterial skin infections, such as “hotspots,” that often require veterinary attention.

Unfortunately, allergic disease is something that can only be managed, not cured. Food allergies are often associated with a specific protein that had been fed previously, such as chicken, beef, etc. If your pet is partially or primarily dealing with a food allergy, a food trial is often one of the first steps to confirm that is the issue. A food trial involves placing your pet on a diet that consists of a single protein and carbohydrate source that they have never been exposed to (past food, treats, etc.). They must be kept on this diet for at least 8 weeks and it often takes that long to see a decrease in itch and discomfort. It is imperative to avoid feeding anything else other than the prescribed food to the pet because this could negatively affect results. After the 8 week trial, it is recommended to reintroduce the pet’s old diet as a “challenge,” and if they become itchy once again, this confirms that they are allergic to something in their food. There are many veterinary prescribed diets available that are ideal for food trials, so consult with your primary veterinarian to see which would be right for your pet.

You may notice that your pet itches more in the summer when compared to the winter or tends to develop ear or skin infections in the warmer months. This may be due to environmental allergies. However, animals that are allergic to something in the environment that is present year round may always have the same level of discomfort.

Multiple medications are labeled to help manage “atopic dermatitis,” or environmental allergies in dogs and can decrease the “itchy” feeling caused by other allergies as well. These include Apoquel, which is an oral tablet, and Cytopoint, which is an injection that lasts between 4 and 8 weeks in dogs. Other options are available to help manage the itch caused by allergies in cats, including steroids. Allergy testing is also available if your pet has trouble being managed on food or medication.

It is important to keep your pet on flea and tick preventatives to avoid the possibility of flea allergy. Most animals will have some aspect of discomfort when infected with fleas, however, some develop an extreme reaction in response to the parasites’ saliva. For those animals that are on a food trial, topical preventatives are recommended since oral versions are often flavored and may interfere with results.

Please make an appointment with your primary veterinarian or contact Norwalk Animal Hospital if you think your animal is struggling with allergies.

“Your Dog Ate WHAT?!: Common Household Toxins and Items to Avoid”

How many times have you found yourself taking inedible items out of your new puppy or kitten’s mouth? When I first adopted my dog, Timber, that answer was COUNTLESS. If any scrap of food or piece of paper happened to make it to the floor during a meal, Timber was there to vacuum it right up. Puppies and kittens love to eat things they aren’t supposed to, however, certain foods, even in small amounts, can be harmful and if pets are noted to have consumed them, require veterinary attention.

Please contact your veterinarian if your pet has eaten any of the following items:

Human Food

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee or any caffeinated products
  • Raisins or Grapes
  • Alcohol
  • Avocados
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Sugar free products containing xylitol, such as gum
  • Macadamia Nuts, Walnuts, Pistachios, Pecans
  • Bones, Skin, or Fat drippings
  • Corn Cobs

Miscellaneous

  • Lilies or other plants
  • Batteries
  • Rodenticide, Bait Traps, Insecticides
  • Fertilizers
  • Drugs (over the counter, prescription, recreational, etc.)
  • Drain or Pool cleaners
  • Lead (paint chips or dust)
  • Zinc (pennies made after 1982)
  • Foreign Items (Clothing, String, etc)

Many of the above items contain ingredients that animals cannot metabolize and can cause liver or kidney failure. Others have the potential to get stuck along their gastrointestinal tract and cause a blockage or rupture, often requiring emergency surgery. If your pet is a non-discriminate eater, keeping them contained to a small room or crate can help avoid incidents and keep them safe when you are not around to supervise their activity.

Do not attempt to make your pet vomit at home before contacting your primary veterinarian or emergency clinic because, depending on what they ingested, this may cause more harm than good.

If ingestion occurs after hours, Norwalk Animal Hospital now offers a FREE “Guardian Vets” phone service that will put you in contact with a veterinary professional that will help you determine whether your pet should be seen immediately by an emergency clinic or if they can wait for an appointment.

Please talk to your primary veterinarian or call Norwalk Animal Hospital today if you have any questions about household toxins or if you think your pet has been in contact with them.

Heartworm and Fleas and Ticks…OH MY!

Now that it is getting warmer out, it is very important to keep your pet up to date on heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives. Although they are less prevalent during the winter, parasites are still found, so ideally preventatives should be administered year-round. It is also important to have heartworm and tick-borne disease screening done annually, especially if the pet has not been receiving preventatives on a regular basis. This blood test allows diseases to be diagnosed early, even when the pet isn’t showing any symptoms and provides us with useful information on their long-term health.  

Ticks can be found on grass and leaves and will crawl onto pets that pass nearby. They then feed on blood from their host and once engorged, eventually drop off. Ticks are not species specific and will feed on humans as well. They have the ability to transfer diseases such as lyme disease, anaplasma, ehrlichia, and others that can make you and your pet ill. 

Pets often contract fleas by interacting with other infected animals. However, humans can also unknowingly transport these parasites. Flea eggs are extremely sticky and can stick to the bottom of shoes and paws, making them easy to accidentally bring home. Flea eggs can remain viable in the environment for up to 2 weeks. Once fully grown, adult fleas will find a host to live on and feed on their blood. Fleas can also be found in the environment after dropping off infected animals, as well as at more immature life stages. They are extremely difficult to rid from the environment and often require the help of an exterminator. Severe flea infestation can lead to anemia in pets. Some fleas also carry tapeworm and can transfer it to their hosts if ingested, causing weight loss and GI upset.

Heartworm disease, although often seen in Southern states, is slowly becoming more prevalent towards the East Coast. The parasite that causes heartworm disease, Dirofilaria immitis, is passed on by infected mosquitos when taking a blood meal. The parasite then moves from the injected site to the pet’s bloodstream and heart, growing along the way. Symptoms of heartworm disease include persistent cough, exercise intolerance, lethargy, and possibly heart failure, however, pets may be asymptomatic until it is too late. Treating heartworm disease can be very hard on animals and can be fatal, which is why preventing it is the kinder and safer way to go.

There are several heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives available, whether you prefer oral or topical administration and Norwalk Animal Hospital can help you decide which may be best for your pet. Purchasing these products from your primary veterinarian is recommended to ensure that you are receiving safe and reliable products straight from the manufacturers. Please call Norwalk Animal Hospital to purchase your preventatives today!

Time To Play…Name That Lump!

You are relaxing with your pet and notice that you feel something unusual while caressing them. Have you felt that lump before? Do not be alarmed, but it is always a good idea to have lumps and bumps (aka. masses) evaluated by a veterinarian.

Although they appear more commonly in older animals, and the majority are benign, it is impossible to know definitively what a “mass” is without having your veterinarian take a sample and evaluate it. This is a painless procedure that can be done at any veterinary visit. If the mass is ulcerated, an impression smear would be taken by pressing a glass slide onto the area to obtain some cells. The sample is then dried, stained, and looked at under a microscope during your visit or sent out to a pathologist to evaluate. If this procedure cannot be done, a needle biopsy, or fine needle aspirate, can be taken, which consists of vacuuming cells into a sterile needle, propelling them onto a glass slide, and looking at any cells that are obtained under a microscope. There are some situations where masses don’t “exfoliate well,” which means that not enough cells were shed to obtain a good sample. At that point, a biopsy may be recommended if the mass seems worrisome. This requires removing a piece of or the entire mass under sedation or general anesthesia to send out to a veterinary pathologist for evaluation.

Common masses seen on animals include:

  1. Sebaceous cysts, which are blocked oil glands. These are not considered harmful unless they rupture externally and become secondarily infected, after which removal is often recommended.
  2. Warts, are benign smooth or cauliflower-like growths that often appear on the skin of aging dogs. These are sometimes surgically removed because they can become a source of chronic irritation and infection when located in an area that the pet continues to lick and chew at.
  3. Lipomas, or fatty tumors, are a benign build-up of fat that do not metastasize. These masses can get quite large and uncomfortable, so some owners elect to have them removed to improve quality of life.
  4. Abscesses are a build-up of pus under the skin, often caused by a bite or puncture wound. These need to be drained and treated with antibiotics to avoid persistent systemic infection.
  5. Mast cell tumors are the most common skin cancer in dogs and can look very similar to the above masses. This demonstrates the importance of having masses assessed. These tumors are malignant and have the ability to metastasize, however, surgical removal is curative for some stages.

It is important to monitor masses for change in size, shape, or color and to report them to your vet if noticed. If specific masses have been tested and confirmed to be benign, it is important to retest them if extensive change or growth has been observed.

Ultimately, if the mass seems to be bothering your pet or is in a place where it inhibits movement, it is recommended to have it removed and biopsied. This is done under general anesthesia and can be combined with other procedures such as dentals to avoid additional anesthetic episodes in the future. Further steps will be recommended based on biopsy results.

Call Norwalk Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment to have your pet’s lumps checked today!

Cognitive Dysfunction and Aging in Dogs

Nobody likes seeing their pets get older. You may find that they sleep more, are less active, and have more difficulty walking up the stairs. They may also have trouble sleeping at night, which most of the time means, that you, as an owner, are ALSO not getting a good night’s sleep. If occurring long-term, this issue can be very distressing and can affect the bond between you and your pet.

As pets get older, it is a good idea to have twice yearly check-ups in order to ensure that they are happy and healthy. At Norwalk Animal Hospital, we offer a “Senior Profile” work-up which includes an exam, basic bloodwork (complete blood count and chemistry), a thyroid test, and a urinalysis. This will evaluate your pet’s blood cells, electrolytes, and organ function. If requested, this can be combined with abdominal and chest x-rays and/or an abdominal ultrasound in order to increase the likelihood that possible issues are caught early.

With advanced age, dogs can develop cognitive dysfunction, which is a slowly progressive disorder similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Symptoms can include restlessness, changes in sleeping habits, anxiety, disorientation, and/or incontinence. It is always important to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out possible medical reasons for symptoms such as these. If nothing medical or behavioral can be found, often managing the symptoms with medication and diet change is enough to keep pets comfortable.

Goals of treatment are to slow the progression and improve cognitive function as well as to relieve any pain and stress that may be associated. Treatment options include:

  • Avoiding events that may cause your pet distress.
  • Avoiding punishment when your pet does something unfavorable and rewarding them for good elimination behavior.
  • Keeping your pet contained to a small room or area of the house without stairs so that they cannot injure themselves.
  • Placing them on a regular feeding schedule and a diet high in antioxidants and fatty acids, such as Purina Pro Plan “Bright Mind” or Hills b/d to promote cognitive health.
  • With the assistance of your primary veterinarian, adding melatonin or anti-anxiety medication to your pet’s routine can help improve their sleep cycle and quality of life.
  • Encouraging mentally stimulating activities, such as treat balls, puzzles, and interactive exercises can help slow progression.

If diet change is contraindicated for your pet, the addition of supplements and antioxidants, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may have a protective effect and improve behavioral function. If pets are maintained on medications long-term, it is important to have them checked at least twice a year to be sure liver and kidney function is not being compromised.

If you believe your pet may be struggling with cognitive dysfunction, please consult your primary veterinarian or make an appointment with Norwalk Animal Hospital today to learn what you can do to help them.

Help! One of My “K9s” is Loose!

Dental Health MonthFebruary is dental month! Have you been considering having your pet’s teeth cleaned but are hesitant to schedule it? Well this happens to be the best month to do so because every dental procedure (including extractions) done at Norwalk Animal Hospital this month will have a 10% discount applied!

**This discount also applies throughout the year if a dental procedure is scheduled within one month of recommendation. **

Periodontal disease, although a very common finding on most physical examinations, is often more prevalent in smaller dogs, cats, and older animals. Since animals can’t brush their teeth daily like humans, calculus builds up over the years, entraps bacteria, and causes inflammation of the gum tissue, or gingivitis. Typically, the smaller the animal, the more crowded the oral cavity and the more likely they are to develop dental disease; however, it can be seen in animals of all ages and sizes.

Periodontal disease can be difficult to assess in your own pets since many animals are not amenable to having their mouths opened, especially if they are uncomfortable. The first thing you may notice is a bad smell coming from their mouths, drooling, or decreased appetite. Teaching animals to enjoy having their teeth brushed (especially at a young age) is an important step to preventing dental disease and being able to evaluate your pet’s mouth regularly. Finding a specific toothpaste flavor that your animal enjoys can make them think of daily brushing as a treat! Pet-friendly toothpaste and brushes are available at Norwalk Animal Hospital.

Here are some tips for teaching your pet to enjoy having their teeth brushed. Be sure to give them plenty of praise during each step!

  1. Place some pet-friendly toothpaste on your finger and have your pet lick it off to make sure they enjoy the flavor.
  2. Using a finger, get your pet used to the sensation of having the toothpaste rubbed on their gums.
  3. Place some toothpaste on a finger brush or toothbrush and allow your pet to lick the paste off it.
  4. Introduce the brush into your pet’s mouth while moving it in a circular motion against their teeth.
  5. Teaching your pet a command, such as “Brush,” before doing the deed can help increase responsiveness and make it more exciting for the pet.

Dogs are often more willing to having their teeth brushed when compared to cats. Do not be discouraged if this cannot be done at home or if it causes too much stress for your pet.

Dental procedures must be completed under general anesthesia to be done accurately and allows us to better evaluate the extent of periodontal disease and treat it accordingly. At Norwalk Animal Hospital, every animal is closely monitored by trained veterinary technicians during procedures that require sedation or anesthesia.

When teeth are broken, the center of the tooth, or “pulp,” is often exposed which promotes bacteria to build-up and that tooth to die. Discoloration can sometimes, but not always, be a sign that a tooth is dead as well. Unassessed periodontal disease can sometimes lead to abscess formation of tooth roots and increased discomfort for the animal. Dental x-rays are routinely taken of mobile and fractured teeth to help evaluate the jaw bone and allows us to decide whether the tooth needs to be removed to promote future oral health.

Cats tend to develop resorptive lesions, which means that their body tries to absorb teeth. The gingiva, or gum tissue, surrounding the tooth is typically very red and irritated and is often very painful when probed. It is unclear what causes these lesions but tooth extraction, or crown amputation (removing the part of the tooth above the gum line) is curative. However, cats that present with these lesions at one point in their life will often develop more in the future. Dogs can develop these lesions as well, however, it occurs much less often.

Please contact Norwalk Animal Hospital today to schedule your pet’s dental procedure!

Getting Fit for the PAWsome New Year

Happy New Year! January is the month of new beginnings and my resolution is to eat healthier and exercise more often. Nutrition and exercise play an important role in keeping humans healthy, however, the same goes for our pets. In this day and age, it is very common to have an animal that is a little too “fluffy” for their own good. We have all struggled with having to resist constantly rewarding those cute faces with treats. However, obesity can predispose pets to a multitude of health issues that may shorten their life span, including arthritis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Obesity occurs when calorie intake exceeds daily calorie requirements. Recommendations listed on the back of food bags are not always accurate to determine how much to feed your animal, especially if they are overweight. The amount of food fed daily should be based on the animal’s resting energy requirement which is defined as the amount of calories needed for the body to function during rest, as well as how active they are, age, and whether they are neutered (fixed) or intact. Naturally, very active animals require more calories daily, compared to those that would rather be napping on the couch. We at Norwalk Animal Hospital can easily calculate how many calories your pet should be eating in a day based on your animal’s lifestyle and body condition score, or BCS.

Typically, if requested during an exam, a veterinarian can assign your pet a body condition score on a scale of one through nine, with one being severely thin and nine being very overweight. A BCS is assessed based on how easily ribs are felt, amount of fat present over the lumbar area and base of the tail, abdominal distension, and whether they have an abdominal tuck (waist). An ideal body condition score lies between four and five. See the attached BCS charts to determine where your pet lies (http://files.dvm360.com/alfresco_images/DVM360//2013/11/11/e6de1dfa-3e57-4b1d-bd43-b9ebbdd9bf86/article-716837.pdf).

Have a pet that is overweight? Not to fear! Cutting out treats from a dog’s diet and increasing their exercise can often help. Your vet may even recommend cutting down on the amount of food fed by 25% if the pet is not typically very active. There are also low fat dog food options available to help get them into fighting shape. Offering vegetables (carrots, green beans, cucumbers, or broccoli), or pieces of kibble as treats are also good low calorie options when done in moderation. That way, we can reward our pets without negatively impacting their progress. These recommendations may not be appropriate for all animals so be sure to consult with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet. When transitioning to a new diet, it is recommended to do so slowly (over about 7 days) to avoid gastrointestinal upset. At Norwalk Animal Hospital we offer a variety of well-balanced prescription diets to make it more convenient for our clients.

Do you find it hard to get your pet up and moving when they would rather lounge on the couch? Let us do the work for you! Norwalk Animal Hospital offers underwater treadmill sessions, often used for rehabilitation post-surgery, but can also be suggested to help patients lose weight and build muscle. If interested, we would be happy to set up an exercise plan for your pet at times convenient for you!

Have you tried everything to help your dog lose weight without any luck? Your pet may have hypothyroidism, which means that their thyroid is underactive making it difficult for them to maintain a healthy body weight. Once diagnosed via blood test, this disease can often be managed with thyroid supplementation. If you think your pet may be struggling with this issue, we at Norwalk Animal Hospital would be happy to help you figure it out. A healthy pet is a happy pet!

“Why is that gift box barking?!”- Preparing for a New Furry Family Member

With Christmas right around the corner, the insanity that is holiday shopping has commenced. Kids have their Christmas lists ready to be sent to Santa, and the first item that is noted at the top of the list: A PUPPY. Is the family ready for a new dog or cat? Keep reading to help you decide!

Pets are a huge responsibility for everyone involved, especially the parents who inevitably end up cleaning up after them and taking them to the bathroom when they cry at 3am. However, animals also bring joy, laughter, and companionship into the home and can be an excellent addition to any family.

Two of the biggest things to ask yourself before considering bringing an animal into your family are:

  1. Do I have the time and energy to dedicate to training, playing with, and exercising a dog/cat?
  2. Do I have the funds needed to bring an animal to the vet and keep them healthy?

Environmental Preparation and New Beginnings: Before getting your animal, be sure you are prepared with the appropriate food, a crate (if crate training) or pen, toys to provide enrichment, collar and ID tag, and leash or litter box (if applicable). Before bringing your new pet home, “baby-proofing” the house by moving potentially harmful items out of reach is helpful to avoid incidents. It may take a few days for a pet to acclimate to their new forever home, so isolating them to a small part of the house or apartment can help them become more comfortable with their surroundings. Once they are acclimated, slowly allowing them more freedom to explore their home is encouraged.

Some may think crate training is cruel, however, animals often end up thinking of their crate as a safe haven. Young animals can’t often be trusted to be unsupervised and so when you are at work, running errands, or sleeping, having them in the crate gives you peace of mind that they are safely contained and cannot get into something they aren’t supposed to. When you are available to supervise them, have the crate door open so they have the choice to walk into it if they desire.

It is important to remember that new puppies can’t hold their urine longer than a few hours and require several bathroom breaks throughout the day, so be sure to take them out often and use lots of praise and treats. This positive reinforcement will help them associate the outside grass or pee pads with going to the bathroom and make potty training quicker and easier. Kittens do not often need any encouragement to go to the bathroom in the litterbox, but if inappropriate urination is an issue, products like “Cat Attract” can be used to help attract them to the right spot.

If you already have animals at home, a slow controlled introduction over several days is recommended so they can get used to each other. Having dogs meet for the first time while leashed on a walk can prevent unnecessary conflict. Placing a baby gate, crate, or door between the animals so they can smell each other but not fully interact while in the house is a safe next step. This can then be increased to supervised interaction time and then to free range. The process is similar and extremely important for cats who tend to need more time to adjust.

Vaccinations: Routinely, puppies require three DHPP (aka. Distemper, 4-in-1) boosters 3-4 weeks apart which are typically done at 8, 12, and 16 weeks old. This vaccination is protective against distemper, hepatitis (canine adenovirus), parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Kittens require three FVRCP boosters 3-4 weeks apart, which are typically done at the same ages as the DHPP in puppies. This vaccination is protective against viral rhinotracheitis (herpes virus), calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Also, required by law is the rabies vaccination which is often given at 12 weeks old. Those are known as “core” vaccinations, however, there are several other vaccines available based on lifestyle (Lyme, Lepto, Bordetella, Influenza, etc.). No vaccine is 100% protective, and they are often given to decrease the severity of diseases that puppies and kittens may be exposed to.

Typical new puppy/kitten visits can end up costing several hundreds of dollars based on what is done at the time, so it is important to have money saved for these events and for the unfortunate occasion that your animal develops an illness. Pet insurance is a great investment to cover any unforeseen illnesses animals may develop and it is encouraged to research several companies before making the decision on which one is right for you. Some breeds of dogs and cats are more prone to issues than others so be sure to ask your vet about what breed may be right for you and your family.

Elective Procedures: As your animal gets older and you put aside any thought of breeding them, the time comes to talk about spaying or neutering. Male dogs are often neutered at 6 months old, but some people elect to wait until 1 year old or later in large breed dogs. Ideally, it is recommended that female dogs are spayed at 6 months old, regardless of what breed they are, to decrease risk of developing uterine or mammary cancer when they get older. A common myth is that spaying and neutering animals “calm” them down, however, this is often patient dependent and may not be true. Both of these procedures require animals to be placed under general anesthesia and often cost several hundred dollars due to the monitoring and high standard of care that revolves around it. At Norwalk Animal Hospital, you can be sure that your animal will be well taken care of and we are always happy to offer pricing before procedures are done.

Having your pet microchipped is encouraged and can be done at any office visit or during any procedure. This provides additional security and peace of mind needed in the unfortunate circumstance that your animal gets lost without identification.

If you have any questions or concerns before purchasing a new animal, please do not hesitate to ask your primary veterinarian or call Norwalk Animal Hospital. Whether adopting from a rescue, breeder, or pet store, animals can be a great addition to any family ready for the responsibility.