The veterinarians and staff at the Irving Pet Hospital 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

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Dental care is vital to your pet's health. If you've already established a dental care program for your pet, you're off to a great start. But if your pet hasn't received a dental exam from your veterinarian, it's time to get started. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, the perfect time to schedule a dental exam for your pet and develop a home dental care regimen for your best friend.

Why is dental care so important for your pet? Periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed problem in pets. By the age of two, more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease in one form or another. The buildup of plaque and tartar on your pet's teeth leads to bacterial infections that can enter the bloodstream and infect other parts of your pet's body. Periodontal disease has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, osteoporosis and other problems.

The good news is that periodontal disease is easily prevented. Regular dental cleanings and a home dental care regimen can eliminate the plaque and tartar that lead to gum disease and oral infections. During a dental cleaning, your veterinarian also performs a complete oral examination of your pet. This includes screening for oral cancer, broken teeth and cavities. Spotting these problems early makes them easier to treat and improves your pet's overall oral health.

Your pet's dental cleaning is more involved than the same process you go through at your dentist's office. Anesthesia is required to keep your pet still and comfortable during the procedure. Because of this, your pet undergoes a thorough physical examination before each dental cleaning. Laboratory blood tests, as well as other diagnostic procedures are also used to screen for potential problems and risks before anesthesia is administered. Using these results, your veterinarian develops a safe anesthetic protocol specifically for your pet.

A Cat's Teeth Before and After a Dental Cleaning

During a dental cleaning, tartar is removed from your pet's teeth with a hand scaler. Next, a periodontal probe is used to check for pockets under the gumline - where periodontal disease and bad breath start. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean above the gumline and a curette is used to clean the teeth under the gumline and in the crevices. Finally, the teeth are polished and an anti-bacterial solution is applied to help delay future tartar build-up.

Dental care doesn't end in your veterinarian's office. Brushing your pet's teeth at home is an added level of protection against gum disease. In order to be most effective, brushing must be done at least three times a week; however, daily brushing is ideal. Brushing your pet's teeth can be supplemented with antiseptic rinses. Some pet foods and treats are also effective in preventing plaque and tartar buildup. However, there is no substitute for regular brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Call your veterinary hospital to schedule a dental examination and cleaning for your pet today. Your best friend will thank you!

Help, My Cat Keeps Me up All Night

You love your purring, furry companion, but when they're up and about during the night, making noise throughout your home that you begin to see them less of a friend and more of an enemy. Say goodbye to the night reign of the fur monster with these tips.

Cats are considered crepuscular, meaning they’re most active from dawn to dusk, which might not exactly synchronize with your sleeping schedule. The good news is that you don’t have to give up sleep forever. You can help your cat adjust to a new schedule over time, but first it’s important that your cat is not waking you up because they’re ill. Be sure to take your cat for yearly wellness exams.

Sure, you might swear your cat sleeps all day (and chances are they mostly do) but when they’re awake, they want food and stimulation. Playing with your cat will help them not only feel better, but will help make them feel more socialized. When it’s time for bed, create a routine for your cat as well. Start by brushing or spending some quiet time with your cat. This should help calm them and help them fall asleep.

Once asleep, don’t give in to your cat’s attempts for attention. We’ve all been there when they start walking over your head and licking your face because they want more food, but giving in only reinforces their bad behavior. Eventually a cat's persistence will stop, and if you continue to ignore their late-night badgering, they'll develop their own schedule that doesn’t include waking you up all the time.

10 Tips To Keep Your Pet Warm and Safe this Winter

Winter is coming—and with it, snow, ice and those nasty whirling gusts of freezing air.

Don't be left out in the cold on how to properly care for your pets during the winter months. Just like with the warmer temperatures in summer, cold weather poses potential health and safety risks to animals. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help keep your pets warm and safe this winter:

1. In summer, a car's temperature can climb quickly and be deadly to a pet locked inside. The same goes for a cold car in the winter. Never leave your pet alone in a cold car.

2. Save a warm spot off the floor and away from drafts for your pet to sleep at night, and keep a warm blanket or pillow handy for them to cozy up with. For kittens and older cats, try a heated pad or bed.

3. Dogs who are small, short-haired, young or old, are particularly intolerant of colder weather and should be watched carefully by their owners. When taking pets on a walk, keep them warm with a sweater or a doggy coat, and consider using booties to prevent sand, salt or chemicals from irritating paw pads. Spending long hours in below freezing temperatures is never recommended as pets as just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as people. Consult with your veterinarian if you're unsure of their cold tolerance, and avoid exposing them to long periods of outdoor time.

Dog in the snow

4. Adjust your animal’s food intake based on the amount of exercise he or she is getting in the winter. While pets may burn extra energy to try to keep warm during the winter, it's not encouraged to allow animals to gain extra weight because of added health risks. Fresh water should also be provided to help keep your pet hydrated and their skin from becoming too dry.

5. Matted fur won’t protect your dog or cat from the cold, so keep their coats well groomed. After taking your dog for a walk, wipe down their feet, legs and stomach area to prevent ingestion of salt or dangerous chemicals. Also check paws for cracks or redness between toes. Using petroleum jelly or another paw protectant is advised if taking your pet for a walk and not using pet booties.

6. Never let dogs off leash on snow or ice.

7. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that attracts animals, but is a deadly poison. Wipe up any antifreeze spills immediately, or better yet, use pet-friendly antifreeze and ice melt products for your own home.

8. Outdoor cats often nap on or around car engines to keep warm in colder months. If there are outdoor cats in your neighborhood, honk the horn before starting your car to make sure any cats hiding next to your tires or under the hood get out safely.

9. If your dog is let out in your yard, make sure snow drifts near your fence haven’t made it easy for your dog to escape. While it's not recommended to keep pets outside during the winter (especially in harsh conditions and freezing temperatures), be sure to provide a warm shelter with plenty of bedding and supply pets with fresh, non-frozen water.

10. Like humans, pets are sensitive to the dry air of winter. The change from coming in from the cold and into a heated house can lead to flaky and itchy skin. Consider using a humidifier to help ease the irritation of dry air. Remove snow or ice balls from between your pet's foot pads. Limit baths to prevent the loss of essential oils in your pet's coat and on their skin. If they're in need of a bath, consult with your veterinarian about a moisturizing products to use.

Socializing Your Puppy

Genetics and experience are some of the most important factors that determine a dog's behavior. There's not much you can do about genetic influences except try to select a dog or breed that fits your lifestyle and comes from a good, healthy lineage. Once a pup has been born, he is on a certain path determined to a large extent by his genetics. Of course, a puppy's experiences early in life also contribute greatly to his underlying behavior and disposition. The contribution of genetics and experience is thought to be about equal, with early negative experiences probably accounting for a large number of temperamentally flawed adult dogs. Faulty raising practices are common and, unfortunately, are very common. That is why it is important to understand the basics of socializing your puppy.

Socialization needs to begin at home when a dog is young and should continue throughout his life. It is always better to deal with a potential behavior problem sooner rather than later.

Puppies trust everyone and everything when they are young. At this time, they should be exposed to people and various animals under pleasant circumstances with positive consequences. In socializing young pups, your goal should be preventing negative experiences from occurring. Friends should visit your house and interact with your pup - pick him up, feed him, play with him and talk to him soothingly. These are all good experiences for your puppy. The window of rapid acceptance begins to close toward the 8th to 10th week of life. If a negative experience is associated with a particular situation, this situation may be regarded as negative for the rest of the dog's life.

Attempting to socialize puppies after this sensitive period of learning is much less effective. Investing time and effort in socializing your puppy at an early age pays off later in life, both in terms of confidence and the puppy's ability to fit in with society.

"Puppy parties" can be helpful for teaching your dog confidence and help him accept other people and their pets. Before puppies start interacting, they need to be vaccinated and in good health. Play groups allow the puppies to learn acceptable non-threatening dog behavior.

A "sink or swim" attitude is never good when attempting to socialize a puppy. For example, taking your dog to a supermarket parking lot to meet different people does not achieve socialization. A situation like this can be overwhelming to your puppy. This is especially true if your dog is not used to being around a lot of people at once. Take it slow. Introduce people individually or in small, non-threatening groups. As with any behavior training, it is always a good idea to take small steps toward your desired goal.

Ultimately, teaching your puppy good social skills is your responsibility. Dogs often pick up cues from their owners without the owner even realizing it. Maintain a non-threatening environment and make it clear to your puppy what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

If Your Cat Picks A Fight, Stay Out Of It

When cats encounter other cats, their meetings are often quite unpleasant. Here are some tips on how best to deal with these unpleasant encounters as a pet owner:

• Sit out the minor battles - When cats meet, there will be a certain amount of hissing and posturing. In most case, this is their way of getting to know each other. If they do start arguing, chances are it will settle down in a few minutes.

• Don't get in the middle of a fight - If the cats really do start to fight, stay out of it. In the heat of battle, they don't care what they bite or scratch, and that bite could well be you.

• Interrupt Correctly - If you see a fight brewing, try to stop it before it gets to a heated pitch. Interrupt the action with the deepest and loudest "NO" you can muster. Cats associate a low-pitched voice with a threatening growl and will take it far more seriously than a "Don't do that, Whiskers."

• Use Water - If you are lucky enough to have the fight occur near a water source, give them a blast with the hose. Even a pitcher of water, spray bottle or water pistol can do the trick.

• Think ahead - If you do want two cats, try to get them at the same time, and as kittens if possible. Cats that grow up together are less likely to squabble.

• Provide an escape route - Make sure that when two cats meet for the first time that they have an easy way out. If they don't feel trapped, they will be less likely to fight.

• Indoors vs. Outdoors - The safest place for your cat is inside where there is no chance of territorial fights. The average life span for an indoor cat is 12 to 20 years, for an outdoor cat it is 2 to 5 years.

• Neuter your cat young - Cats that are neutered before they are 6 months old, may never develop the tendency to fight. Aggression is greatly reduced in males and even spayed females display a less quarrelsome disposition.

Keeping Your Dog Healthy

Maintaining your dog in top physical shape and optimum health is the goal of every responsible dog owner. It is also your veterinarian's goal, and together, you can ensure that your pet stays healthy for years to come. Crucial to maintaining your dog's good health is the routine physical examination that your veterinarian performs on your pet.

Check-ups are important because they provide an opportunity to prevent diseases or even avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, many pet owners tend to underestimate the value of these visits because their pets appear to be healthy. However, this may be deceiving, since many diseases are often not evident in the early stages.

What Happens During A Wellness Examination?

Before the physical examination begins, your veterinarian asks you questions concerning your dog's state of health. This is very important for determining whether or not there are problem areas that need to be addressed. After obtaining a history, your veterinarian performs a physical examination on your dog. Starting at the head, your veterinarian examines the eyes, ears, face, and mouth. Examining the teeth is especially important since up to 85% of all dogs and cats over four years of age have some degree of periodontal disease! Early detection of periodontal disease is important, not only for effective treatment but also future prevention.

Health & Behavioral Risks to Consider

• Heartworm- Heartworm disease is a serious threat that causes cardiovascular weakness and lung incapacity. Caused by Dirofilaria immitis, these worms plug up blood vessels, which places an increased workload on the heart, along with restricted blood flow to the lungs, kidneys, and liver. This can eventually lead to multiple organ failure, including heart failure and death. Visible signs of the disease often do not appear before the infection has caused significant and irreversible internal damage. As part of an annual physical examination, your veterinarian can perform a simple test to detect heartworm disease and prescribe an easy-to-use preventive.

• Obesity- Your veterinarian can also determine whether or not your dog has an obesity problem. Obesity affects almost one out of every three pets, making it the most common nutritional disease among dogs and cats. Through visual assessment and palpation, your veterinarian can advise on whether or not your dog could benefit from a weight-reduction program.

• Diet- Diet is one of the most important considerations in health maintenance. Its importance lies not only in optimizing a pet's health, but also in the prevention and management of many diseases. Nutritional counseling is an essential part of the veterinarian's checkup and many owners use the opportunity to gain valuable advice on what to feed their pets.

• Obedience- Training is important for your pet's health because behavioral problems account for more deaths in dogs than any known disease. In fact, a well-trained and obedient dog is more likely to live to a ripe old age than a poorly trained one. Obedience-trained dogs are less likely to be involved in car accidents and dogfights, tend to be happier, and are less likely to have behavioral problems. The checkup provides an opportunity to discuss training techniques and behavior concerns with your veterinarian.

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