Rabies can Kill - Protect your Cat
I never really knew how important it was to get a young puppy out and about meeting and greeting before the age of 16 weeks until I studied animal behavior. Unfortunately, past teachings in veterinary medicine emphasized the need to keep a pup away from others until all the vaccinations were finished. This prevented a puppy from having a chance to experience all the great things in the wide wide world during the open learning period between 6 to 14 weeks (approx). After 16 weeks, puppies enter a fear period where they are often timid of many things. Waiting to get this pup out and about makes it more difficult for this pup to learn fun things. They can still learn, but they now have to get over an initial timidness then accept treats or rewards. I was pretty lucky that I could take my dog to work. Walking them to work at 8 weeks, they were seeing cars, trains, bikes and other people. I was socializing them without really knowing it.
Take your pup to a puppy class that is focused on learning to play nice with other dogs, meet and greet people and how to not be afraid of loud noises. We have these classes at Okaw Veterinary Clinic whenever we can gather a couple of puppies together. The focus of a puppy class is to learn how to be calmly curious and happy to see new things. We also teach the first commands of come and sit. There is also some time spent answering questions on house training, accepting grooming or other new puppy concerns. The puppy classes are not about obedience, but about being a calm, well socialized dog. The dogs that miss these classes often have problems later in life with fear of strangers, loud noises, or riding in the car. They did not get that exposure as a young happy pup. They can learn as an older dog but it is often perplexing to the owner why this cute puppy backs away from friends and family. If you have an older puppy, still take them to a class. Don't be surprised if they may be the more shy one. They can learn to open up and it will save a lot of problems.
Think of holding back on socializing your puppy like holding a young child back from the playground or preschool. Like children, our puppies need to get out and socialize. Lack of knowing all the good and scary things that life can offer makes for a very timid dog. From this fear, aggression can unfold. Then the aggressive dog is often given up to a shelter or worse, euthanized. Socializing a puppy is a life saver. If you are getting a puppy the 3 things I feel are most important are supervised playtime with other pups, handling by and meeting unknown people, and lots of fun around loud noises. Ask who ever is leading the class exactly what will be done. If these components are not included keep looking.
One of the leading reasons for dogs to be given up to shelters is due to a variety of bad behaviors, many of which could be prevented with socialization at an early age in the puppy. I attended the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior's annual meeting in St. Louis in July, and there were a number of sessions focusing on the reasons for pets being surrendered to shelters. Contrary to what many think, the shelters fill up with dogs over 6 months of age that are aggressive, over active, fight with other dogs, or are fearful of people. Cats are primarily given up due to house soiling problems and fighting with other cats in the home.
The fundamental reason that these behaviors happen is that the pet is not used to lots of different experiences at a very young age. For both dogs and cats there is a time period where everything is wonderful, fun to explore and there is no fear. Getting a kitten or puppy out and about to meet people, ride in cars, meet other dogs or kittens, hear the vacuum cleaner, motorcycles and young children in this developmental stage is very important. This open age for the puppy is 3 weeks to approx. 14 weeks of age. For kittens it is about 3 weeks to 8 weeks old.
Many people get a new puppy or kitten and enjoy the pet at home, but do not get that pet in for a veterinary exam or check up often for a few weeks. That first puppy or kitten visit is not just about shots, but most importantly about feeding, training and socialization. Just visiting the veterinary office for a "hi" is very helpful for your pet to be used to riding in the car, getting a leash on or in a carrier, and smelling new smells. The puppy or kitten kit your veterinarian hands out to you is full of great information about socializing your pet as well as health care.
In the past, veterinarians were educated to tell clients to not allow the puppies or kittens to get out and about until the vaccination series was over. Now new research had pointed that there is not any increased risk of a pup or kitten picking up disease while during the young ages as they are going through the vaccination series. Actually, meeting and greeting other people, places and pets helps to strengthen their immunity to disease. If you have a new puppy, the best thing is to take a bag of 100 kibble of food, and have 100 new people give your pup a kibble over the next 2 months. It sounds like a lot but that is one person new per day. Get that pup out of your yard for walks, to the bank, the mechanic, outside the school or park!
The most important life saver is that pets that get to the veterinarian for first care and guidance for socialization are the least likely to end up at a shelter homeless. People get frustrated with that list for dogs because the dog has not been able to learn how to not be afraid of many common things because they did not get to meet and greet so the dog turns to aggression. The cat may be very stressed about the addition of children or moving because they did not get times to go to different places so they mark the house with urine. So, early socialization can save the lives of millions of pets each year, as well as the heartache and frustration to families. Puppy kindergarten classes are very helpful for pups and owners alike. If you have a pup, get them in a class that is focused on socialization, meeting people, other pets and nice play. Okaw Veterinary Clinic holds puppy kindergarten classes periodically. Call or check our website for the next series.
Cases of Rabies in animals and humans have decreased dramatically because we have a vaccine to protect animals and people. However we still see cases of Rabies. So it is important to keep your pet vaccinated and protected against Rabies. Rabies is still such an important and deadly disease, that World Rabies Day was created to help raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent it. September 28th is World Rabies Day.
We had 117 cases of Rabies reported in Illinois during 2010. Two cases were local, one from Champaign and one from Coles County. The map to the right shows the counties that reported cases of Rabies in 2010. As of July 28, 2011, we have had 21 reported cases of Rabies in Illinois. In 2007 7,259 cases of Rabies were reported in the United States. Of these cases, 274 were cats, 93 were dogs and 1 was a person. Over 55,000 people die world-wide from Rabies every year.
Dogs in the state of Illinois are required by law to be vaccinated for Rabies. Cats vaccination requirement varies depending on what county you live in. Champaign County requires cats to be vaccinated. Douglas County does not require cats to be vaccinated. We highly recommend having cats vaccinated for Rabies. Cats who go outside are exposed to Rabies, just like dogs. Even cats who live indoor only should be vaccinated. Mice and bats can come inside the house and bite your cat. Inside cats can can also sneak out of the house, without anyone knowing, and be exposed to Rabies. Dogs and cats are given their first Rabies vaccine when they are four months old. The vaccine is boostered every one to three years, depending on the type of vaccine given. It is important for your pet to have an exam prior to receiving any vaccination. If your pet is ill, the vaccine can make them sicker. Giving a vaccine to an ill pet can also cause the vaccine to not be effective at preventing the disease.
Rabies is disease caused by a virus that is almost always fatal. Infected dogs, cats, skunks, foxes, bats, raccoons and other animals can spread the disease. The virus can be transmitted through saliva, blood and nerve tissues (brain, spine, nerves). So, for example, your neighbor has a dog Fluffy and does not keep Fluffy up to date on her Rabies vaccine. Fluffy is in the back yard playing and an infected skunk wanders into their yard. Fluffy doesn't like this intruder so she attacks the skunk. During the fight, the skunk bites Fluffy. The skunk's saliva and the Rabies virus enters Fluffy's body through the bite wounds. In a few days Fluffy may start to behave differently (hide and act nervous), snap at her owners, wonder around the house, stumble as she walks and drool. Fluffy will die from her Rabies infection. If Fluffy had her vaccine, she would have been protected. We do not have a cure for rabies and it is almost always fatal. This is why vaccinating for Rabies is so important.
If your pet has been bitten by any animal, bring him or her to the vet. We will wash out the wounds and prescribe medication. Tell us what happened to your pet (what animal bit yours, was the animal acting strange). If the other animal may be rabid, and your pet has been vaccinated, we will vaccinate your pet again and send him or her home for confinement. If your pet has not been vaccinated, we will send him or her home for confinement for up to six months and vaccinate your pet. Unvaccinated pets will usually die if they have been bitten by a rabid animal.
If you have been bitten by an animal, you should go to the doctor. The doctor's office can treat your wound and may prescribe medication. Tell your doctor what happened and, if you were bitten by a dog, they need to contact Animal Control. You can reach the Douglas County Animal Control at 253-4921. Animal Control will issue a quarantine notice for the dog. The dog can be quarantined for 10 days at a vet clinic or in the owner's home, depending on if the dog has been vaccinated.
Some of the symptoms an animal with Rabies show include a change in attitude, difficulty swallowing, trouble walking, drooling, paralysis and restlessness. Wild animals will often lose their fear of humans and may wander into your yard. Never approach a wild animal that is acting friendly or is hurt. Contact your local Animal Controld Department or the Department of Natural Resources at (217) 345-2420 if you see a wild animal that is hurt or acting strangely.
You can protect your pet against Rabies. The most important thing you can do is to have your pet vaccinated against Rabies. Encourage your neighbors to have their pets vaccinated too. Always take your pet out on leash, so you can keep an eye on your pet.
For more information about Rabies, visit the Center for Disease Control's website. For more information about the number of cases of Rabies reported in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.
Parvo is Still Around - Protect your Dog
There has been an outbreak of Parvo virus in Champaign County and Douglas County. Fortunately there has not yet been a severe epidemic but it could be possible if dog owners do not help limit the spread of this serious disease. Parvo is one of the core vaccinations all dogs need to receive at appropriate times throughout their life. Vaccination has helped to prevent and limit the spread of Parvo in our pet dogs. If you have not had your dog to the veterinarian for booster vaccination, it is very important for you to get your dog checked up and discuss vaccination with your veterinarian. If you do not have a veterinarian, most veterinarians in the area will gladly fit your pet in for exam and vaccination.
Parvo virus is spread by the stool or vomit of an infected animal. Dogs are the primary pet infected, but other wild canids such as coyotes can carry the virus. Squirrels may carry the infection from one yard to another when they run through infected soil and carry it on their feet. Parvo can live for a short while outside of the body. Free roaming dogs, or dogs that are just "let out" to go in the yard are at the most risk of exposure.
Puppies, older dogs or dogs with other health problems are at the highest risk of infection. Puppies do not have all the protection from vaccines and often have worms that complicate Parvo virus infection. Older dogs have a less protective immune system, and may also have other health problems that make it harder to fight off infection.
Parvo infection signs typically include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, lethargy and dehydration. The disease spreads rapidly through the body so it is important that you do not wait to get to the veterinarian. Survival depends on the age of the dog, if it has ever been vaccinated, if there are worms also present, or other concurrent disease.
Protect your dog by keeping up with wellness exams, vaccinations and parasite prevention. Walk your dog on leash to prevent spreading any possible disease, and know where your pet has been. Not all sick dogs have Parvo so it is important to get veterinary care early to be sure of the diagnosis.
You can read more about Parvo under our pet library.
Cats have been our companions since the times of the Pharohs of Ancient Egypt. During those times, cats were fed, but received little other health care. Today we have the ability to care for our feline friends much better. Lets take a look at three ways to keep our feline companions happy and healthy.
First, a happy healthy cat is a cat who is mentally stimulated. Cats may look like they just eat and sleep, but they do enjoy many activities. Cats enjoy watching birds and other wildlife. Purchase a bird feeder and place it in your yard so your cat can see it through a window. Your cat will get many hours of entertainment watching the birds fly around and eat at the feeder. Cats enjoy playing with toys. Many different types of toys are available at pet stores. Toys, such mice and balls, can be batted around. Other toys have batteries and make noises or move. Rotate the toys you have out every few days so your cat always has "new" toys to play with. Another way to keep your cat happy is to take him or her on a walk. Yes, you can take your cat for a walk. Walking allows your cat to explore to outdoors, check out the sights and smells. You need a special cat harnesses, treats, a leash and time to teach your cat to walk on a leash. Check out this article in one of our previous newsletters for more information about teaching cats to walk on a leash. You can also train your cat to sit, come and do other tricks. Training keeps you cat's mind active. Dr. Sophia Yin has written a couple articles about training your cat - "A Super Simple Method for Training Cat Tricks" and "Release Your Inner Kitty Through Tricks and Training."
Second, a happy healthy cat is a cat who is kept physically healthy. Cats need a well balanced food for their age. Kittens should eat kitten food. Cats ages one to seven years old should eat an adult food. Cats over eight should eat a senior food. Your cat needs protected from fleas, even if he or she never goes outside. Fleas can come in on your pants and start living on your pets if they are not protected. Revolution and Frontline are a couple products that will protect your cat from fleas. Revolution will also protect against ear mites, heartworm and several intestinal worms. Cats need to see a veterinarian every year for a yearly exam and vaccines. Many cats don't like to go to the vet for a variety of reasons, they are leaving their home territory, maybe they had a bad experience in the past, they don't like the car ride, etc. If your cat doesn't like to come to the vet, check out our article about helping cats to like coming to the vet. Take treats or a favorite toy to the vet office to try and make the visit a little more pleasant for your cat.
Third, a happy healthy cat is a cat who has a cat friendly environment. Cats like to perch on high places, they feel safe and secure. Clean off a shelf you already have on your wall and dedicate it to your cat. The refrigerator will also work nicely as a perch. Perches and cat trees can be purchased at pet stores. If you are handy, you can make your own perch or cat tree. Several internet sites have instructions on building your own cat creation. Check out the Cats' House and what they have created for their cats. Cats enjoy having a clean litterbox. Purchase a box that is 1 1/2 times as long as your cat so he or she has plenty of room to move around. If you have an older cat, purchase a shallow box or a plastic tub and cut down the edge. Older cats usually have some degree of arthritis and using a shallow entry box is less painful for their joints. If you have a multicat house hold, you need multiple boxes placed in different rooms. Take the number of cats you have then add one, this is the number of boxes you need for your house. Scoop the box daily. If you are having trouble with your cat peeing or pooping, give us a call. The longer the cat pees or poops out of the box the longer it takes to get him or her to start using the box again.