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Granite City Pet Hospital
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Here are some cute update pictures of our staff and patients! :)
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As we celebrate Senior Pet Month, let’s take a moment to appreciate all the joys of living with pets who are in their golden years. Older pets bring many benefits to their owners – besides the obvious love and companionship, they tend to be calmer than young animals and require less work and training. Enjoying our older pets, or adopting an older pet, can be extremely rewarding. However, there are also challenges involved with caring for an aging pet. Senior pets often require more medical attention as they begin to experience the health problems that come with age, and it can be difficult to watch a loving companion experience the discomfort that accompanies many of these issues. So what can we do to give our senior pets the best quality of life possible? Here are several strategies that can help: 

1. Regular veterinary visits. Having senior pets checked out with an exam and bloodwork every 6 months allows us to catch any health issues early, which typically leads to a better treatment outcome if concerns do arise. 

2. Maintain a healthy weight. Many pets, young and old, are overweight or obese. This is a problem for any pet, but even more so for senior pets, as it increases the stress on their joints and can lead to arthritis and other joint concerns. Maintain senior pets at a healthy weight by feeding appropriate amounts, feeding a senior food, and providing regular exercise. Starting a joint supplement can also help with mobility issues.  

3. Environmental considerations. As pets get older, they tend to have more trouble with stairs and jumping up onto furniture. Sometimes hardwood floors become difficult to walk on because they are too slippery. Being aware of these changes can help you modify the environment as needed – for example, adding area rugs to hardwood floors.

4. Pay close attention.  Often the signs of a health problem begin as very subtle changes in behavior and attitude. Aging pets can also experience mental changes. Watching your pets closely can help catch any signs early.  
Our senior pets add so much to our lives with their love and companionship – they deserve the best golden years that we can give them.    


Sources cited: AVMA, adoptaseniorpet.com     
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Low Stress Handling 

At Granite City Pet Hospital, we know that a pet’s behavioral health is just as important to their well-being as their physical health. That’s why we focus on Low Stress Handling with every visit. Low Stress Handling is a program that was developed by veterinary behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin. Our technician Sarah became certified in Low Stress Handling this summer and has been sharing this knowledge with the rest of the staff since then, and many of the techniques have become incorporated into our daily practices. 

Low Stress Handling is important to an animal’s behavioral health because negative experiences can lead to fear and anxiety-based behavior problems. Scary experiences can also lead to a negative association with the clinic setting, making it more difficult for pets to get the care they need. It’s our goal to give pets a positive experience at each visit so that they learn that the clinic is a great place to be and ideally leave feeling happy.  

There are a number of specific ways that we use Low Stress Handling in the clinic. Watching pets’ body language closely for signs of fear and anxiety helps us figure out which techniques will work best with each individual pet. We use different strategies depending on how each pets reacts. Some of the most common ways we keep pets in a positive mental state are using treats, gentle handling techniques, calming pheromones, and tools such as towels and non-slip mats. We can also work on desensitizing and counter-conditioning pets to various handling procedures to make them less stressful, and can teach owners how to work on counter-conditioning at home as needed.     

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding Low Stress Handling. It is our goal to make every visit a positive experience - for you and your pet!              
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It is already well known that obesity leads to a variety of health problems in pets, such as osteoarthritis, Diabetes, and overall shortened lifespans. But research reveals another side effect of obesity that may come as a surprise: chronic, low-grade inflammation.

Experts believe that this chronic state of low-grade, continual inflammation caused by obesity leads to orthopedic, respiratory, cardiovascular, pancreatic, and renal diseases. It’s more than simply having extra weight to carry around. The changes that occur in the body are due to the additional adipose tissue which acts as an endocrine organ, secreting hormones, proteins, and growth factors. These substances that are produced by the adipose tissue are collectively called adipokines. High levels of adipokines are associated with chronic inflammation, which leads to the variety of conditions discussed above. Unfortunately, they also lead to increased weight gain, and the cycle of obesity continues.

Weight loss helps pets to not only have better mobility and less pain, but also reduces their risk of many diseases associated with chronic inflammation, making weight loss even more important than previously known.
So what can we do as pet owners to help our pets lose weight? There are a few simple steps we can take. Measuring out the amount of food your pet gets through the day is a great place to start. Increasing their activity and exercise is also helpful. In addition, feeding in creative ways can be very effective in helping pets lose weight. Having pets work for their food also has the added benefit of increasing their mental stimulation and enrichment. Toys such as food balls allow your pet to “hunt” for the kibbles while getting exercise playing with the food ball. You can also use their daily allotment of food as training rewards instead of feeding from a dish. This has multiple benefits of training your pet using positive reinforcement (which leads to better behavior and a better relationship), while not giving any additional calories in the form of treats.  

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding obesity, chronic inflammation, or weight loss strategies. Together we can help your pet maintain a healthy weight and a happy life!   
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Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy nature, including the many beautiful lakes in our area. However, there’s a good reason to look at the water closely before jumping right in – it may contain a dangerous substance called blue-green algae. These algae are common in our area, and are extremely toxic to pets.    

 

What is blue-green algae? The Wisconsin DNR states that “blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, are a group of photosynthetic bacteria that many people refer to as "pond scum." Blue-green algae are most often blue-green in color, but can also be blue, green, reddish-purple, or brown. Blue-green algae generally grow in lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams when the water is warm and enriched with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen. When environmental conditions are just right, blue-green algae can grow very quickly in number. Most species are buoyant and will float to the surface, where they form scum layers or floating mats. When this happens, we call this a "blue-green algae bloom." Blue-green algae blooms generally occur between mid-June and late September, although in rare instances, blooms have been observed in winter, even under the ice.” 

 

Blue-green algae produce toxins that are harmful to people and pets. During certain times of the year, more toxins are released. However, it is impossible to know when the algae are producing the toxins without testing the water, so it’s safest to assume that any algae you see is toxic. The Pet Poison Helpline states that the toxins are extremely dangerous to pets - even very small exposures, such a few mouthfuls of algae-contaminated water, may result in fatal poisoning. The toxins can cause liver damage if ingested. Clinical signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, blood in stool or black, tarry stool, weakness, pale mucous membranes, jaundice, seizures, disorientation, coma, and shock. Death generally follows within days as a result of liver failure. Aggressive, immediate treatment is necessary to help treat this quick-acting, potentially fatal poison.  

 

Our veterinarians recommend checking water for surface algae before swimming and do not allow your dog to swim if you notice any signs of algae in the water. It’s also a good idea to monitor pets closely for any concerns after swimming, even if you did not see algae. Let us know right away if you see any of the concerns listed above. 

  

Please call us if you have any questions or concerns. Together we can keep your pets safe and healthy so you can enjoy all that summer has to offer!    
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Summer is finally here, and we are all ready to get out and enjoy our many lakes! For dog owners, this probably means bringing your furry friend along for a day on the water. Here are a few tips to make sure the boat ride is safe and fun for everyone:

1.      Safety first! Think about the potential hazards of boating for your dog. Going overboard, slippery surfaces, heat stroke, and dehydration are some of the main concerns. Be sure to invest in and bring along a life jacket that fits your dog properly, a first aid kit, a water dish and water bottle, and sunscreen. Lighter colored dogs are in danger of being sunburned. The areas that are most at-risk for sunburn are dogs’ noses and top of their muzzle, and any other areas with thin hair. You can use a light, unscented SPF 15 sunscreen on these areas.  
 
2.      Plan ahead. Talk with your family and friends about a plan for if your dog goes overboard. What will each person do? Someone should stop the motor, another person call to the dog, and several people to lift the dog back into the boat. Walk through the plan beforehand if possible. This will help everyone stay calm if an incident occurs.
 
3.      Give your dog time to adjust. Especially if your dog hasn’t spent much time on a boat, you’ll want your dog to become comfortable and make their boating experience a positive one. Give your dog several opportunities to get used to everything from wearing the life jacket to the motion of the boat in the water before the actual trip. Have your dog wear the life jacket at home for brief sessions, and take your dog out on the boat for short periods of time before the trip. Make the first several trips on the boat with your dog shorter. If your dog acts fearful, give lots of treats and progress slowly in gradual steps.
 
Please let us know if you have any questions about boating with your dog! Have a safe and happy start to the season of summer fun!

Warmer weather is finally here! While everyone is getting outside and enjoying the nice days, we wanted to share a few tips on how to keep your furry friends safe and healthy as summer approaches: 

1. Don’t leave pets in the car. Even on moderately warm days, the interior of a vehicle can heat up to life-threatening temperatures in just a few minutes, even when the windows are cracked open. It’s best to leave pets at home if you know you will need to make a stop. 

2. Don’t let dogs ride loose in the back of a pickup truck. It’s safer to keep them in the cab with you. If they need to ride in the back, make sure they are in kennels which are securely tied down so they cannot shift or move during the ride. 

3. Don’t let your dog hang their head out the car window. We know it’s cute, but it can also be dangerous. Dust, dirt, and other small objects can fly into your pet’s face and eyes, causing ocular foreign bodies and other injuries.

4. Gradually get back into shape. If you and your pet have been less active over the winter months, it’s tempting to jump right back into full-force exercise. However, this can be dangerous for pets who are not used to it. Especially on warmer days, they can be more susceptible to heat stroke and exhaustion. It’s best to take a gradual approach and slowly increase the intensity.  

Please let us know if you have any questions about these or other warm weather considerations. Together we can keep your pets healthy and safe as we all get into the swing of summer! 

Many pets get nervous and stressed at the vet. Our goal is to give your pet a positive experience at our clinic. We do our best to make nervous pets relaxed and comfortable while they are here. There are also several steps you can take before your visit to help keep your pet as relaxed as possible:

 

1.       Bring your pet hungry. Skip their morning meal or take their food away the morning of the visit. This will allow us to use treats to reverse your pet’s fear and create a happy mindset. If your pet is on a special diet, or if you would rather they eat their regular kibble instead of treats, feel free to bring their skipped meal along and we can use that as treats during the visit.

 

2.       Teach your cat to love the carrier. Leave the carrier out permanently and make it comfortable with a soft blanket. It helps if you can feed your cat their daily meals in the carrier (always leaving the door open) to help them form a positive association with the carrier.  That way, when they need to travel, they will not be stressed by being in the carrier. Instead they will have their own safe, comfortable hiding place with them wherever they go.

 

3.       Bring your dogs to the clinic for happy visits. It’s free and easy! Stop in any time and give your pet some tasty treats in the lobby. If your pet is especially stressed, start by giving treats in the parking lot and each visit gradually work up to giving treats in the building. When it comes time for a veterinary visit, your pet will be excited to come back to a place they now see as positive and fun.

 

Please let us know if you have any questions about these procedures. Together we can make your pet’s visits relaxed and comfortable. We hope that your pet will love seeing us as much as we love seeing them! 

Hooray for spring!  It is finally here and brings with it wonderful things: the birds are singing, the days are longer, the kids are playing t-ball in the park.  And the dog is itching.  The cat's eyes are red and watery. 

 

Allergies are a very common problem for our pets, and many of them get much worse in the spring.  Animals can be allergic to many of the same allergens as people.  Outdoor allergens such as grasses and pollens will frequently cause a seasonal problem for pets.  Indoor allergens and food allergies are more likely to cause year-round symptoms.  They range from the minor annoyance of some mild feet chewing or an annual ear infection to being almost debilitating with chronic, painful skin infections and non-stop itching.  They can be costly and time consuming to treat, the allergic pet will never be completely "cured," and they get worse with age.  That's the bad news. 

 

The good news is there are many effective treatment options available.  From topical treatments such as ear cleaners, shampoos, and sprays to more aggressive treatments like allergen injections and medications to suppress the overactive immune system.  It is beneficial to begin treatments when symptoms are relatively mild instead of waiting until the pet is miserable or the skin is infected.  It is important to be honest when talking with your veterinarian about treatment options.  If you are physically unable to bathe your dog frequently or administer pills to your cat, please let the doctor know this so an alternative treatment plan can be decided on.  

 

In some cases, your veterinarian will recommend a food trial to determine if a food allergy could be contributing to your pet's symptoms.  The idea behind a food trial is that you are feeding your pet a diet containing ingredients his body has never seen before, making it unlikely that his immune system will be hypersensitized to them.  I cannot stress this enough: a therapeutic diet trial must be a diet that your veterinarian approves, and strictly adhered to for a minimum of 8-10 weeks.  This means no table scraps, treats, or sneaking out of the other dog's food dish.  Be cautious with over-the-counter diets that make claims of being "hypoallergenic" or "limited ingredient" as there is frequently cross-contamination of ingredients leading to failed diet trials.  

 

Symptoms to watch for that might indicate an allergic pet:

itchy, smelly, or painful ears
red, watery eyes
chewing or licking at feet
scooting their rear end
skin rash
hair loss
generalized itching
 

If you are seeing these symptoms in your pet, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.  We can decide on a plan to bring relief so that everyone can enjoy this beautiful season together.

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