Where’s it going to sleep…and who’s going to feed it?

Kathy Shaw, DVM – Capital Vets
Various locations  

How do you know if your pet has health issues?  Are there any new technologies in vet medicine?
The most important thing you can do to ensure your pet doesn’t have health issues is make sure you bring it to your veterinarian once a year for a wellness exam. Even indoor-only pets (such as many cats) can have disease that may not be obvious to you: heart disease, dental disease, thyroid disease and more.  A thorough physical exam by your veterinarian can help detect these. At home, watch for increases or decreases in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, itching, or generally anything that doesn’t seem normal for your pet.  They rarely cry out if they are in pain; instead they may not move a lot, sleep more or hide. If you are unsure of a symptom your pet is exhibiting, call your veterinarian to see if it is a problem.

Some of the new technological advances in the field include kidney transplants, stem cell therapy and non-surgical procedures (utilizing drugs) for veterinarians to sterilize a male dog.

Dr.Vicky Rafter

What are some of the unusual pets you have treated?
One of the more unusual animals brought in was a wild mouse.  The mouse had been caught in a sticky trap and then extricated from it and the owner had kept it for about two years when he brought it in for an issue with dermatitis.  The doctors had to find a way to hold the wriggly creature and were actually successful at administering some medication and the animal’s dermatitis improved.

Dr. Michael Casler,  Guilderland Animal Hospital
4963 Western Turnpike, Altamont; 355.0260

What should I do if I see signs of a mean dog as a puppy.  Do you recommend training?
All puppies at some time may exhibit signs of aggression or "mean behavior".  This is often a pack survival instinct and may be triggered by rough play, disturbing the dog while eating, playing with toys or sleeping. There is no place for a mean dog in any household, especially a household with children. Responsibilities of pet ownership include proper food and housing, healthcare, grooming and training. Unfortunately, the training is often overlooked or neglected to the detriment of the pet and family. Every puppy needs basic obedience training.  Submissive and gentle mannered breeds may train quickly.  High-strung, energetic dogs with alpha personalities can be quite challenging to train and are best trained with professional assistance.  Veterinarians can refer clients to the trainers best suited for the needs of their particular pet.

Is there a specific breed of dog or cat that is best around small children?  Is there another pet that should be considered?
Cats are not small dogs and behave much differently than dogs. They do have the ability to run away from children and avoid negative confrontation by doing so. Young kittens can be overly playful at times and may not be a good mix with a toddler.  However, a quiet, calm kitten would be fine. Older cats are less playful and may be a better option for children.

Dogs and children can be a deadly combination.  According to the CDC, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year; 88,500 required medical attention (half were children) and 27,000 required reconstructive surgery.  There were 38 dog bite fatalities in 2012, half adults and half children, the majority of children being under the age of two.  Pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 68% of deaths according to

Bringing a new dog into a household with young children should not be done on a whim. Research what type of dog would be best suited for the household lifestyle. If purchasing from a breeder, visit the breeder and interact with the other dogs, especially the parents of the puppy.  Consult your veterinarian for suggestions as to breed and also training. There are multiple lists of "best family dogs" – some on the list are: English Bulldog, Beagle, Collie (think of Lassie), Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and mixed breeds.  High energy hunting and working dogs and toy breeds should be avoided with small children. For additional information on dog bite prevention, visit the American Humane Association, CDC and AVMA websites.

If my dog or cat is a little overweight, how do I safely put them on a diet?
The majority of dogs and cats in the US are overweight.  The estimate ranges from 60-70% of pets.  Overfeeding, lack of exercise and feeding human food scraps are contributing factors.

Cats are not small dogs!  Cats are obligate carnivores…they eat meat!  Unfortunately, most household cats eat dry cat foods which are grain-based (think “carbs”). Excess carbohydrates are metabolized to sugar and then to fat. Type 2 diabetes is common in fat cats. Canned foods are lower in carbs and more likely approximate the natural feline carnivore diet.  For cats, SLOWLY decrease the amount of dry food fed and SLOWLY transition to a combination of dry and canned food.  Obese cats should not be placed on crash diets. Rapid mobilization and breakdown of fat in these cats can lead to hepatic lipidosis or "fatty liver", a potentially fatal condition.  Lack of exercise can be addressed in cats by having more play time with cat teasers and lasers.  Consult your vet for diet recommendations for extremely obese cats.  

Dogs are overweight from lack of exercise, too much dog food and dog treats and table scraps.  Many dogs are now being fed “premium dog foods”which are caloric dense.  Elimination of table scraps, excessive treats and measurement of food at each meal are the steps to be taken for a dog “diet”.  I usually recommend measuring everything given to the dog daily and decrease by 25 percent to start.  Another diet option is to transition to a lower calorie food or prescription diet food.  Major pet food companies such as Iams, Hills Science Diet, Purina and Royal Canin have both feline and canine prescription diets available from veterinarians.  Increase exercise by longer walks and playtime in the back yard or at the local dog park.

For both dogs and cats: measure the food, transition slowly, increase exercise and always consult your veterinarian before starting a diet program.  

Just Cats Veterinary Clinic, PC
2073 Western Avenue, Guilderland

Is there a recommended way to train /discipline a kitten or cat?
Cats are very independent and tend to do what they want, when they want.  Consistently correcting undesirable behavior can pay off.  A loud startling noise (can with coins) or a spray bottle of water can be used to train the cat.  It should happen as a reaction to their action and it’s important to not let the cat know the “noise or spray” was done by the owner or they will learn to do that behavior when the owner is not around.  Rewarding good behavior is just as important, such as every time your cat uses the scratching post, give her verbal praise, “good kitty” and pet her. Consistency in correcting the bad behavior as well as praising good behavior is the key to successful training. Cats CAN be trained.

Do you recommend more than one cat in order to keep each other company?
Understanding the natural biology of the feline species helps us to understand their unique life style.  According to Susan Little, DVM, cats do not necessarily need a feline companion.  Being the only cat in a home is often the least stressful form of existence.  Free-living cats can form social groups, usually based on female kinship (queens and their offspring).  Keeping this in mind, when an owner desires more than one cat, selecting a queen and her kitten or adopting siblings may be more successful then introducing unrelated cats.  Boredom can be a cause of stress, but the boredom is usually caused because you took a highly intelligent and competent animal and removed its need to “work” by making it a house cat.  This is why environmental enrichment has become a well-recognized component of treatment for boredom.  

My cat seems to be scratching himself a lot, what could the problem be and what can I do to help?
First you want to check the cat for the obvious…FLEAS.  A flea comb is best for checking as is a quick visit to your vet.  If it is flea related, ask your vet for the best treatment.  If no fleas or flea dirt is found, it may be dry skin related.  With the colder months comes dryer coats and skin.  Omega fatty acid supplements or a home humidifier can help.  Stress can be another cause of excessive scratching.  Cats can also develop food allergies.  Your veterinarian can help determine what may be causing the itching and correct it before it becomes a serious skin issue.

Should cats be on a heartworm preventative?
Absolutely! Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes. So during mosquito season (warm months May-November) it is recommended to have your cat, indoor or outdoor, on heartworm prevention.  Prevention is key because there is currently no treatment for heartworm disease in cats, which is deadly. There are oral and topical treatments available; talk to your veterinarian about the best prevention option for your cat.

Milton Manor
612 Route 29, Saratoga; 587.6673

How does one prepare their pet for an overnight stay at your spa, especially if this is their first time?
Make sure your pet feels like they are going on their own vacation.  They can sense if you are anxious or worried, which in turn can make them nervous of their first stay.  We always recommend bringing your pet’s normal food from home to avoid stomach upset from changes in diet.  Also, some personal belongings or even a t-shirt mom or dad has worn to bed for a few nights can be very comforting and make their stay less stressful.  We want it to be an enjoyable experience.

Upon picking our pet up, is there a transition period at home that we should be aware of?
Your pet will undoubtedly be happy to see you after your trip. Following a few simple steps will help ease the transition back to home life.

  • Overexcitement may cause a dog to pant a lot and act thirsty. He is probably not really thirsty and had plenty of water available at the facility. Give him a few ice cubes to tide him over until he settles down.  If he is given too much water right away he is likely to over-indulge.
  •  Food intake should be monitored as well. Be aware that excessive drinking and eating may lead to digestive upsets and bloating. Do not feed your pet for at least three hours after coming home from any pet care facility and then limit the food and water you provide until he has settled back into home life.
  • Walk your pet upon arrival or allow access to a yard area. Excitement may also cause a change in urination or bowel movements outside his normal schedule.
  • Give your pet some personalized attention — some play time or sitting and petting or brushing him will help him get through the excitement stage and calm down.
  • A stay at a pet care facility can be very exciting and some dogs charge around barking at other dogs and have a wonderful time. These dogs often leave the facility exhausted but happy, and sleep a lot for the first couple of days they are home.
  • Re-establish home patterns by following a normal schedule. Pets love following a schedule — it makes them feel safe and secure.
  • After you pick kitty up from the facility, be sure to keep him in the house for a few days before allowing him to go outside. Just as he had to adjust to the facility, so will he have to adjust to being home again. Allow him to find that “at home” feeling again before letting him out of the house.

Pets in need
Helping organizations that provide relief to pets during natural disasters. When natural disasters strike, the stories of families displaced from their homes are often heart-wrenching. While the media typically focuses on people, there are other survivors of storms, wildfires and other forces of nature who also need our help.

Helping one pet at a time
The PetSmart Charities’ Emergency Waggin’ program began in 2007 and has provided grant funding and supplies to assist pets affected by large-scale disasters, as well as puppy mills and pet hoarding situations. Often, PetSmart Charities will fill up the Emergency Waggin’ vehicles with critical items such as pet food, crates and leashes on a moment’s notice and travel across the country to provide aid.
For more information on this and other PetSmart Charities programs, visit

Easy ways to make a difference
Beyond emergency relief, there are many other ways to help pets in your community. Here are a few options you can pursue to help those who are unable to help themselves.

  • Save a life through adoption: There are so many deserving pets in shelters looking for forever homes. If you have the means to love and care for a pet, consider adoption. Not only will you find a forever companion, but you’ll save a life at the same time.
  • Donate time and talents: Volunteer at local animal shelters in your area. Opportunities include much more than cleaning cages or walking dogs. If you’re a photographer, consider donating pictures of pets to be posted on adoption websites. If you’re a writer, consider writing stories about pets for adoption websites. The possibilities are endless.
  • Fundraise with family and friends: Raise money with those you know who are also passionate about animal welfare. These fundraising opportunities can include a car wash, silent auction, benefit concert or even a garage sale. Proceeds can go to local shelters or national animal welfare organizations working to end pet homelessness.  

If a disaster situation should hit your hometown, it’s good to know there are others looking out for people and pets in need. With effort, you can also be a part of the solution through acts of kindness in your community.
 – Family Features

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