Environmental Enrichment – A Necessity for Indoor Cats!

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Indoor cats tend to live longer lives then cats that are allowed to roam outdoors.  The many benefits of keeping your cat indoors include decreasing the risk of trauma from motor vehicles, exposure to infectious diseases and toxins, and being attacked by other aggressive animals.  The likelihood of an indoor cat becoming lost is also greatly reduced.

While keeping your cat indoor is better for their safety, it is vital to enrich your cat’s environment.  Creating a stimulating indoor environment is vital to your cat’s health and well-being as indoor cats tend to become bored and restless.  More specifically, cats not able to engage in natural tendencies present with more behavioral problems, anxieties, illnesses, and obesity.

How to create an enriched environment

Luckily, there are many things that you can do to create an environment that gives your cat the opportunity to experience and take part in innate behaviors that are crucial to their happiness.

  • Toys: There are many different types of toys available including self-play and interactive toys. Cats like to play and providing toys and the opportunity to play is essential. Spending time each day interacting with your cat is very important and most cats love to chase laser pointers or play with the fishing-pole type toys. Food-dispensing toys are a great way to get your cat to play, especially when your cat is home alone.  These toys encourage your cat to pounce, hunt, and chase, while providing crucial exercise.
  • Cat Trees and Perches: Cats enjoy climbing, and cat trees and perches provide a great way for them to climb safely. Placing them near windows will not only satisfy their climbing needs but will also allow your cat to see the outside world.
  • Scratching posts: Cats scratch not only to sharpen their claws and remove the outer covering, but also to mark their territory. It is important to provide scratching posts so your cat has the opportunity to exercise this natural behavior in a way that doesn’t damage your property. Even declawed cats go through the act of scratching and providing them with a post is beneficial.
  • Feeding: Avoid feeding your cat free-choice as this promotes obesity and doesn’t provide opportunity for predaceous behavior. Placing food in different locations throughout the house and/or using food-dispensing toys provides your cat the opportunity to search and work for food. Also, many cats prefer to drink from running water, as this is more similar to a natural water source.  Providing a fountain or turning on the faucet may be pleasing to your cat.
  • Visual stimulation: Placing a bird feeder or bath outside a window and/or purchasing a fish tank will provide visual stimulation and keep your cat content. There are dvds made specifically for cats.  A lot of cats find these dvds fascinating and will enjoy watching them.

Flea Prevention and Control

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The arrival of spring brings longer days, sunny skies, beautiful flowers, and, unfortunately, fleas!!  Fleas are small, blood sucking, external parasites that commonly affect pets.  In addition to causing discomfort, fleas have the potential to cause serious medical problems; therefore an effective flea prevention program is essential.

Fleas have specialized mouth parts tailored for penetrating skin and sucking the host’s blood.  When a flea bites your pet, it inserts a tiny amount of its saliva into the skin.  Some pets are allergic to this saliva which results in severe itching and inflammation.  This leads to excessive scratching and chewing by the pet which damages the skin causing hair loss, redness, and bacterial infections.

Besides causing dermatitis, fleas act as the intermediate host in the transmission of tapeworms.  If your pet ingests an adult flea that is infected with tapeworm larvae, he/she will likely develop a tapeworm infection and you will notice tapeworm segments in the stool.

Life Cycle of Fleas

The flea has four stages to their life cycle; egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  Their life span varies from weeks to months depending on the environment in which they are living.  Understanding the life cycle of the flea is imperative for successful prevention and control.

  • Egg: Adult fleas lay eggs soon after taking a blood meal and produce about 50 eggs a day. Eggs laid on the animal will fall off into the environment and hatch within a few days.
  • Larva: Larva emerges from the egg and goes through three larval stages. Once mature, the larva spins a cocoon and enters the pupa stage. The larva survives by feeding on adult flea feces, dead skin, dander, hair, and other organic material.
  • Pupa: The pupa develops into an adult flea within the cocoon that was spun in the larval stage. Under ideal conditions, the flea will emerge within a few weeks; however pupa can remain dormant in the environment for many months.
  • Adult: An adult flea emerges from its cocoon when the conditions are appropriate and they sense a host. The flea will jump on a host immediately and begin feeding on a blood meal.  Within a couple days, a female flea will begin laying eggs thus restarting the life cycle.

Identifying Fleas

If you notice your pet scratching or biting at his/her skin, it is a good idea to inspect your pet for fleas.  The best way to look for adult fleas is to comb your pet with a flea comb and inspect the hair collected for both adult fleas and flea dirt.

Flea dirt is the fecal material that adult fleas produce and appears as blackish specks in the fur.  To verify the presence of flea dirt, place the black specks on a paper towel and add a few drops of water.  If the material dissolves and turns red then it is flea dirt.

Preventing and Controlling Fleas

Implementing a year round flea prevention program is the best way to protect your pet, as well as save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation from flea infestation. There are many products available to treat and control fleas but it is best to use a high-quality, safe, and effective product.

Keysville Mobile Vet will now be carrying a new product called Credelio. Credelio is a monthly chewable medication that acts fast to protect against fleas and ticks. It starts to kill fleas 4 hours after administration and 100% of fleas are killed in 12 hours throughout the month.

For cats, we will continue to carry Bravecto which is a topical spot-on every three month treatment that is safe and effective for cats.

 

Puppy Socialization – The Sooner the Better!

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Why socialization is important

Getting a new puppy is, as it should be, an exciting event.  Raising a puppy to be a well-behaved adult dog, however, requires a commitment of time and effort.  One of the most important aspects of training is socialization.

A properly socialized dog is secure, confident, and comfortable when encountering new situations, people, and animals.  An unsocialized dog is fearful and unreliable thus more likely to be aggressive.

Getting started with socialization

The sensitive socialization period for puppies is 4- 12 weeks of age.  During this critical time the puppy’s personality is most malleable, so it is crucial to introduce the puppy to a variety of different situations.

Puppies should be introduced to different people, places, objects, and other pets in order to help the puppy learn how to interact and respond properly to new situations.

  • Invite neighbors and friends of different ages to stop by and meet your new puppy.
  • Introduce your puppy to the mail and delivery persons.
  • Introduce your puppy to people wearing hats, carrying umbrellas, and wearing costumes.
  • Introduce your puppy to someone riding a bike, rollerblading, riding in a wheel chair, and pushing a baby stroller.
  • Invite friendly, vaccinated dogs to come over and play with your puppy. Visit these animals at their houses too.
  • Introduce your puppy to new sounds like the vacuum cleaner, garbage disposal, etc.
  • Take your puppy (once vaccinated) to shopping centers, parks, and playgrounds and walk him/her on a leash in a crowd.
  • Enroll in puppy obedience classes as this provides a great opportunity to be around other dogs.

Although the socialization period is most sensitive before 12 weeks of age, your puppy can still learn after this time, but it may take longer and be more difficult.

A key concept in socialization is to make sure that each experience is enjoyable and not frightening. Threatening experiences may cause setbacks.

Make the experiences positive by praising, touching, offering treats, and engaging in play.  If your puppy seems fearful it is best to ignore the behavior and avoid comforting or coddling as your puppy may interpret this as praise and increase the fearful behavior.

Take your time with socialization

While it is important to socialize the puppy to as many situations as possible, it is also important to go slow and not overwhelm the puppy with too much at one time.

Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, only expose your puppy to safe and controlled environments.  Avoid dog parks and do not expose your puppy to unvaccinated or unhealthy dogs.

Having a well-adjusted, happy, friendly adult dog is accomplished by taking the time to introduce your puppy to new people, places, objects, and animals as early as possible.