NewsletterThe veterinarians and staff at the Dover Veterinary 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

How To Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season

Holiday season adornments are attractive to all creatures. The ornaments, foods, gifts, wrappings, ribbons, lights and plants are all curiosities for pets. Pets investigate new items by sniffing, tossing, chasing and finally by tasting. A few precautions are necessary to avoid the holiday crowds at the veterinary hospital.

Behold! Everything Looks Delicious

The most common problems this time of year are stomach or intestinal disturbances caused by pets eating the holiday feast or other novelties. Scraps from the table can cause gastrointestinal upset and even predispose pets to life-threatening pancreatitis. Bones can get stuck in the mouth or perforate the intestines and should be avoided. Chocolate is poisonous to cats, dogs and birds. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil (coated with good-tasting juices) are enticing but can cause intestinal damage and even blockage if eaten by your pet.

Other sweet treats like gum and hard candies can also make your pet ill. Sugar-free candies and gum are made with xylitol, a sugar substitute that can cause a drop in blood sugar, depression, loss of coordination and seizures in your pet. Xylitol is also linked to liver failure in dogs. Be sure to keep all candies, chocolate and other sweets out of your pet's reach. If you believe your pet may have ingested chocolate or candy, call your veterinarian immediately.

Be sure to properly dispose of leftovers and wrappers. Feed pets their usual diet. Treats formulated similarly to the pet's regular diet are generally healthy and safe. Also keep in mind while cooking that pets may not know about hot stoves or to stay out from underfoot. Keep pets away from the stove so they don't get burned or have hot foods spilled on them.

Holiday Plants and Decorations

Several decorative plants are poisonous. Mistletoe and holly can cause stomach upset with vomiting and diarrhea. The berries of these plants are attractive, easily swallowed and potentially fatal if consumed. Poinsettias, like the leaves of most any plant, can also cause stomach upset. Use artificial mistletoe and holly, and keep other plants out of your pet's reach.

Make sure Christmas trees are secured so pets can't pull them over. Omit preservatives from the tree-stand water and cover the tree well so pets don't drink from it. Don't spray fake snow on the tree unless it is labeled safe for pet consumption. Angel hair is spun glass and is irritating to both the inside and outside of your pet. Even glass ornaments and ornament hooks have been chewed and swallowed. These objects can cause problems from stomach upset to damaged intestines. Low-hanging ornaments are a real temptation, as are tinsel and electric lights. Decorative lights and electrical wiring can cause shock or burns when chewed, so remember to unplug holiday lights when pets are left unattended.

The Hustle and Bustle of Goings-On

Holidays have lots of activity. Be sure doors are not left open as guests come and go. Indoor pets inadvertently left outside could be injured by frostbite, cars or other animals. Ice-melting chemicals and salt on sidewalks and roads can severely burn foot pads and should be washed off right away. Also, watch that guests don't leave interesting objects such as chocolate, ribbons, stocking stuffers or other illicit treats, within your pet's reach.

If your pet does get sick, consult your veterinarian before giving any medications. Many of the over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, Excedrin and ibuprofin), Advil and Motrin, are toxic for animals even though they are safe for us. Don't wait to see if your pet gets better. If your pet is acting sick, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Keeping Your Dog Anxiety Free On New Year's Eve

Celebrating the new year is an exciting time for many people. Unfortunately, your dog might not share the same enthusiasm you do. There are numerous ways your dog might be put on edge this December 31. Whether it's loud neighbors celebrating loudly or fireworks exploding overhead, as a dog owner you must be conscientious of your dog's fears.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your dog feel more safe as we move into the new year. Here are just a few pointers to keep your dog happy and healthy into the new year and beyond.

Give your dog plenty of exercise before the celebrations begin. Take him or her to the dog park, go on a long walk or jog, play fetch until your dog's tongue is down to the floor. The point is that the more you tire them out during the day, the likelier they are to sleep through a noisy night.
Create a relaxing environment for them. Lavender oil (Lavendula augustifolia or Lavendula officinalis) can be used either on the skin or by letting your dog smell it, and has been found to reduce anxiety. It's also a good idea to play calming music, like classical or light jazz, that's turned up just high enough to wash out external noise.
Ask your veterinarian about medications that may help. Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe your dog anti-anxiety medication that will help calm them throughout the night. These same types of medications can be used for other anxiety-producing scenarios like thunderstorms or car rides.

Above all, remember to have a fun and safe New Year's Eve for both yourself and your dog!

Allergy Testing in Pets

The goal of allergy testing is to identify the specific allergen(s) to which your pet has an allergy. Allergy testing is done either with a blood test (sometimes also called 'ELISA' or 'RAST testing') or with intradermal testing (sometimes also called 'skin testing'). Following the identification of the allergen(s), your pet usually begins a series of injections of a dilute solution of the allergens, with the idea of desensitizing his or her immune system to future allergen exposure. This is called immunotherapy. The exact schedule of injections is tailored to each individual case, but often begins as a once a week injection. The injections are usually carried out over the course of several months to years, and most patients require the injections for life.

Skin problems (particularly itching) and ear problems are two of the most common reasons why veterinarians see pets. Unlike humans who react to allergens with nasal symptoms, dogs react with skin conditions. These problems may range from poor coat texture or length, to itching and chewing, to hot spots and eventually self-mutilation. Allergies may also play a part in chronic ear infections. To make matters more difficult to diagnose and treat, thyroid disease may add to the problem as well.

Many times, severe skin itching and inflammation is caused by allergies to fleas, foods or environmental substances. If we can determine exactly what your pet is allergic to, it will allow us to provide more effective treatment. For pollen and dust allergies, it allows for the possibility of treatment with allergy shots (also called immunotherapy or hypo sensitization), which help to decrease the immune system's exaggerated response to these substances. Knowing exactly what the allergies are may also allow you to avoid things to which your pet is very sensitive to, such as fleas.

There are basically two types of allergy tests performed by veterinarians. The goal of allergy testing is to identify specific substances that are causing the allergic reaction, so that avoidance (if possible) and/or desensitization through allergy shots may be attempted.

As mentioned previously, allergy testing is done either by blood testing or by intradermal skin testing. The intradermal test involves clipping the fur from the side of the animal's chest and injecting very small amounts of pollen from trees and grasses, molds and insect extracts, into the superficial layers of the skin. Often, the test is administered under a light sedative/analgesic so that the pet feels no discomfort. If the animal is allergic, a hive-shaped mound forms at the site of one or more injections. This type of testing is more traditional, more involved and more expensive than blood testing, but has very few false positive reactions.

For the blood test, a small amount of blood is taken and sent to a special laboratory. Generally, the test results come back in about three weeks. This type of testing is newer and less expensive however, interpretation is more difficult. Although serum allergy testing can give meaningful results, intradermal skin testing is considered to be more accurate and is the preferred method of allergy testing.

If you have questions regarding your pet's skin problem or potential allergies, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian for more information.

VIDEO - What Are Heartworms?

Why are heartworms a threat to your dog? This short video explains.

10 Simple Ways To Build a Solid Bond with Your Cat

Cats can be wonderful companions but sometimes things don't work out exactly the way you thought they would. Maybe your new cat would rather rest on the chair at the other end of the room than lie down on the sofa next to you. Or perhaps your cat has even hissed at or scratched you when you tried to pick them up. Often, when people don't live happily with their cats, it's because the pet owners didn't establish a good bond when they first brought the kitty home.

Bonding creates a personal relationship between you and your pet. This includes mutual respect, trust and love. You are a special person to your cat, and your cat should be special to you. It's easiest to bond with a new kitten, but even if your cat is an adult and you've had them for several months or even years, it's still possible to strengthen the bond you if you are willing to work at it.

Touch your cat with affection.

Here are 10 suggestions for building a solid bond with your feline friend:

• Include your cat in your daily activities. Invite your cat to be with you while you clean house, watch television, sort through the mail, work at the computer or read the newspaper. The more activities your cat observes you doing, the more he will trust you in all situations.

• Talk often to your cat. Verbal communication is one of the most important aspects of bonding. Don't feel silly sitting down and talking to your cat. They may not understand the words you use, but they can understand a warm, friendly tone of voice. Use your cat's name often. This will grab their attention and establish a personal relationship between the two of you.

• Get to know your cat's individual personality. Every cat is different; some are shy and independent, while others are outgoing and crave attention. Adapt your lifestyle to the particular personality of your cat. Try different behaviors on your cat and see what fits. If you want your cat to be affectionate, you have to determine what you can do to make them act that way.

• Provide a consistent daily routine. Cats don't like surprises. They feel safe and secure with a routine. Establish an acceptable daily schedule with your cat early in the relationship. Let them know how often and when to expect meals, walks on the leash and play sessions. You also should be consistent with the behaviors you allow and don't allow. Don't yell "no" when they jump on the counter today and let it slide tomorrow. If you are inconsistent in how you interact with your cat, you will confuse them and create a lack of trust.

• Give a new cat plenty of privacy. When you bring a new cat into your home, you should give them a room of their own for two to four weeks. Sit in the room for an hour a day, reading or just relaxing, but don't force the cat to interact with you. Make yourself available, but let your cat be the one to make the first move. If your cat starts walking toward you, put some catnip or other treat around your chair. This encourages the cat to move toward you. Never reach out to grab a frightened cat nor drag a cat out from under a chair. It's important that you respect your cat's fears and inhibitions. Remind yourself that they are in a new environment. Go especially slow with an older, adopted cat who may have been a stray. Give your cat time to see you're not a threat and eventually they will develop a relationship with you.

• Avoid harsh corrections. If your cat misbehaves, do not hit, holler or punish. You can say "no," but do so only to stop unacceptable behavior. Don't yell or scream. You can use a squirt bottle or air horn to stop your cat from scratching your furniture or drapes, but be careful not to link yourself with the correction. Hide the squirt bottle as you spray. You want your cat to think the drapes have a life of their own, that the drapes did the squirting. If the cat thinks you did it, it may be harder to foster a strong bond.

• Provide frequent play and exercise. Play with your cat several times each day using tossed toys, fishing pole toys, rolled balls or other interactive cat toys. By playing with your cat, you build a bond because the cat is thinking, 'when mom or dad is home, I have more fun.' This causes the cat to welcome you that much more. Avoid tug-of-war and other games that encourage aggressive behavior. Resist the temptation to roll your cat onto their back and rub his or her tummy. When you do that, you encourage the cat to use their claws and teeth on your hands. It seems like that's a lot of fun, but cats get overexcited and can become quite aggressive as a result.

• Touch with affection. Show your cat you care - stroke their fur, pat his head, scratch behind his ears, even gently squeeze his paws. Physical contact is a wonderful way to make your cat feel loved. However, avoid quick, jerky movements that might startle him.

• Hold your cat securely. Pick up your cat firmly, but gently, supporting their entire body. If you let their limbs dangle, your cat will resist and may struggle or bite you. Hold your cat by sliding your right hand between his front legs and around his upper body. Put your left hand under his rear end and around the outside of his body, pulling him into you so he feels secure. You want your cat to trust you; not as though you're going to drop them.

• Give your cat time. Some people buy a cat and want a best friend immediately. Bonding is not automatic. It may take a couple of weeks to bond with a kitten and several months to bond with an older cat. Go slowly and don't expect too much too fast.

You will have both good and bad days with your cat. Like people, now and then cats get grumpy, be patient and understanding. Treat your cat as a good friend and sooner than later, they be one.

Exotic Pets You Can Call Your Own

The following is a list of nontraditional pets for those who want something other than a cat or dog. Remember, exotic pets are not for everyone. Contact your veterinarian and/or a local zoo before purchasing any exotic species.

  • Domesticated rodents like guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, mice and rats
  • Domesticated rabbits
  • Captive-reared birds like budgies (parakeets), cockatiels, small parrots, canaries, finches and domesticated doves
  • Pigeons, ducks and geese
  • Captive-bred exotic birds like large parrots
  • Tropical fish
  • Ferrets
  • Hedgehogs
  • Selected species of reptiles (preferably captive-reared), avoiding large constrictors, poisonous species and members of: the crocodilian family; selective captive-reared amphibians and selected species of invertebrates.

Most other wild or exotic species should not be considered as pets.