Bird Care

Bird Care Sheet (pdf)



Cage: Ask your veterinarian as different birds need different cages. Here are some must-haves:

-The cage must be big enough for your bird to stretch his/her wings and fly
-The cage must be made from nontoxic (nonpoisonous) material
-The cage base must be so hard that your bird can’t ruin it by chewing

Cage location:

-Make sure the cage can’t be knocked over or fall
-Put the cage in an area like a family room, so your pet can be around everyone – birds are very social
-Avoid drafts and kitchens. Kitchen fumes like burnt Teflon from a cooking pan can kill a bird.
-Use non-colored newspapers with soy ink, paper towels, or brown paper
-PerchesGet both fat and thin perches – like manzanita branches. This helps birds exercise their feet and prevents pressure sores.
-Never use sandpaper perches, they will hurt your pet’s feet.
-Large birds like Amazons or African Grey Birds need a freestanding perch outside the cage.


-Get both fat and thin perches – like manzanita branches. This helps birds exercise their feet and prevents pressure sores.
-Never use sandpaper perches, they will hurt your pet’s feet.
-Large birds like Amazons or African Grey Birds need a freestanding perch outside the cage.

Food dishes

Must be attached, so they can’t be tipped over


Birds like mirrors and other toys. Make sure all toys are made from nontoxic material.



-When you get your pet, take it to a veterinarian for a check-up. Choose one that specializes in birds, called an accredited avian veterinarian.
-Your pet should see a veterinarian at least once a year and when you think it might be sick
-Have your veterinarian show you how to trim your bird’s wings. If you do it wrong, you could clip a “blood feather” and hurt or even kill your bird.




-Birds need a balanced diet — with food from all the major food groups
-Birds are one type of pet that benefits from eating many “people foods”
-Birds must have fresh fruit and vegetables daily


-Never feed your bird a “seed-only” diet
-Never feed your bird houseplants, avocado, cherry pits, rhubarb, apple seeds or raw milk products



Many common household items can hurt or even kill your bird. These include:

-Overheated Teflon cookware
-Tobacco smoke
-Lead paints
-Scented candles or incense
-Chemical cleaners
-Aerosol products
-Some houseplants


Regular care


-Clean cage of any droppings
-Change water once or more if needed
-Provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and remove food after a couple hours
-If your bird is hand-tamed, take him/her out to play for at least an hour each day


-Breakdown and clean cage with mild soap and make sure you rinse off all the soap.


-Ask your veterinarian to recommend a disinfectant cleaner that you can use to clean the cage each month.


-Birds, like all pets, should see their veterinarian each year.


Information about taking care of your bird provided by Dan Jordan, DVM, Animal Avian Hospital of the Village, Houston, Texas.

Box Turtle Care

Box turtles are one of the most common reptile pets in the United States. With proper care they are long-lived, with life spans of 30 to 40 years and perhaps much longer. Unfortunately, they are among the most neglected reptiles in captivity because most people do not know how to care for them properly.


Housing. Twenty-gallon aquariums are the minimum size for box turtles. Consider larger aquariums, make larger cases out of plywood, or use concrete mixing containers available at most hardware stores. The bigger the enclosure, the better. The bottom of the cage should be filled with a humid substrate (bedding material), such as medium to large wood chips mixed with peat moss or a sand and soil mixture. Drier substrates promote skin cracking and poor health. Substrates need to be scooped out on a weekly basis. A hide box that the turtle can get under and out of sight is important. Many turtles prefer to keep in them. Loose leaf litter can be spread in the cage as well.


Temperature. The indoor care should get no colder than 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) at night and gradually warm to 21 to 27 degrees Celsius (70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day. A 75- to 100-watt incandescent bulb with reflector can provide a warm basking area at one end of the cage between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius (80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Lights should be turned off during the night, so supplemental heat from heat tape or heating pads also should be provided under one-half of the cage if temperatures drop below 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Hot rocks do not work well for turtles.


Water. An easy-to-clean, shallow water dish, big enough for the turtle to get into, should always be available. Water should be no deeper than the turtle’s chin when its head is partially retracted. Turtles prefer to defecate in their water bowl, so it should be cleaned several times per week. Juvenile box turtles are often much more aquatic than adults. Box turtles drown in deep water, such as a swimming pool.


Feeding. In captivity, chronic nutritional problems are typical for most box turtles. Nutritional diseases can be avoided by feeding a well-balanced diet that is continually varied. The following is one recommended diet; items listed in bold print are box turtle favorites and often entice finicky turtles to eat. Keep in mind that different species have different dietary preferences.

50 percent animal or high-protein foods Examples include: earthworms, crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas, slugs, snails, whole-skinned chopped mice, baby mice (pinkies). Other protein options include vitamin fortified chows, but they should be limited to less than five percent of the total diet because of the high vitamin, fat, and protein content. All dry chows should be soaked in water for 30 minutes to soften them. Avoid cat food, however, because it is too high in fat and protein for reptiles. Do not add multivitamins to foods that are already vitamin fortified. Feed a wide variety of animal and high-protein foods, not just a few of these items. Insects are calcium deficient and should be fed enriched diets dusted with powdered calcium carbonate, lactate, citrate, or gluconate just before offering them to the turtle.

50 percent plants: 25 percent fruits and 75 percent vegetables
25 percent fruits Fruits are tasty but mineral deficient, so they must be limited. Turtles are fond of tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, apples, grapes, cherries, peaches, pears, plumbs, oranges, nectarines, figs, melons (remove seeds), bananas, mangoes, and grapefruit.

75 percent vegetables Varied vegetables include dark leafy greens, kale, cabbage, spinach, red leaf or romaine lettuce, dandelions (leaves, stems, and flowers), bok choy, pak choi, broccoli rabe, squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots (shaved not chopped), mushrooms.
Wash fruits and vegetables and chop or shave all items into bite-sized pieces. Some species, such as ornate and Gulf Coast box turtles, are not fond of vegetables. Mixing vegetables well with other foods will often encourage consumption.


Box turtles have a continuous need for foods rich in vitamin A. Liver (in whole mice) is an excellent source of vitamin A, as well as rich yellow or dark orange vegetables and dark leafy greens. Steaming (not boiling) hard squashes makes them much more palatable and easier to chop.

Adults should be fed three or more times per week in the morning and juveniles daily. Every feeding to every other feeding, lightly dust food with calcium carbonate, lactate, citrate, or gluconate. Every two to four weeks, dust food lightly with multivitamins if vitamin-fortified foods are not eaten. Oversupplication with multivitamins is not healthy. Feed as much variety as possible to ensure a healthy balanced diet.

For finicky eaters, try some of their favorite foods and keep in mind that box turtles are particularly attracted to red, yellow, and orange foods. Live, moving food will often stimulate feeding as well.

Box turtles are most active in the early morning or late afternoon, when it is not too hot, so these are good times to try to feed them. Rainstorms often increase activity; thus spraying the cage with water can stimulate appetite.

When you find something they really like, mix it heavily into the salad and then gradually decrease it over a period of weeks. Bad dietary habits can be difficult to overcome and often require months to correct. Continue to offer foods even if they are not eaten initially. As the turtle adjusts to a varied salad, it will gradually increase dietary diversity.


(Excerpted from Essentials of Reptiles: A Guide for Practitioners by Dr. Thomas Huntington Boyer, 1998 AAHA Press.)

Rabbit Care

Rabbit Care Sheet (pdf)


-A solid-bottom cage. Don’t get a wood cage, because rabbits chew wood.
-Small to medium rabbits need a cage that’s at least four feet wide, two feet deep and two feet tall. Double the size for a large rabbit.
-Ceramic or metal food bowl only. Bunnies chew plastic.
-A water bottle that attaches to the cage. These are cleaner than water bowls.
-Chew toys like wood blocks or lava rocks. Bunnies’ teeth never stop growing. They need to chew daily.
-Timothy hay only. Never use alfalfa or wood chips (especially cedar!). These cause serious health problems.
-A digging area filled with Timothy hay. Rabbits love to dig!
-A pet carrier
-Pelleted rabbit diet
-Soft grooming brush
-A litter box – if you want to train your bunny. It’s pretty easy to do!


-A veterinarian that treats “exotic pets” will be more comfortable with rabbits
-When you get your pet, take it to a veterinarian for a check-up
-To prevent health problems, females should be spayed and males should be neutered when they are at least four months old.
-Your pet should see a veterinarian once a year and when you think it might be sick
-You know your rabbit best. If he/she seems to be acting strangely, call your veterinarian.


4 steps to litter box training

1. Place a litter box in one corner of the cage
2. Fill the box with litter
3. When your bunny pees or poops, move the soaked hay or poop to the litter box
4. The smell will cause your pet to use the litter box


-Rabbits under six months: can eat all the pellets and vegetables they want
-Rabbits six months and older: 1/8 to 1/4 cup of pellets per day per five pounds of body weight, and two cups of vegetables per six pounds of rabbit
-All rabbits: can eat unlimited timothy hay


Never let your pet eat:
-Salty food
-Alfalfa hay
-Cedar chips
-House plants


Handling rabbits
Rabbits get hurt easily. Pick your pet up carefully and support his/her hindquarters. Your parents should always be around when you hold or play with your bunny. When you take your rabbit out of his/her cage, always watch him/her. If left alone, rabbits will chew and destroy anything.


It’s best to keep your rabbit indoors. Your pet wants to be around you and your family. They could also be harmed by predators like coyotes if left outdoors. Rabbits are very sensitive to heat. They should be kept in temperatures less than 80 degrees F. You may want to move them down to a cool basement in the summer if it’s too hot.


More than one rabbit?
Avoid adopting two males. Males usually fight. If you decide to adopt more than one bunny, get two females or a neutered male and a female.

Regular care


-Feed your bunny pelleted rabbit food, timothy hay, dark green and orange vegetables (see below for guide)

-Take your bunny out and play with him/her no more than 20 minutes a day
-Remove any uneaten vegetables or fruit


-Clean the cage and litter box using bleach. Mix one part bleach to ten parts water and rinse thoroughly.
-Brush your bunny twice a week. Brush daily during “shedding season” in the spring and summer.


-Take your bunny to the veterinarian for a check-up
-When your bunny turns six years old, he/she should go twice a year to the veterinarian


Information about taking care of your rabbit provided Monique Weldon, DVM of accredited Coal Creek Veterinary Hospital, Centennial, Colo.

Caring for Your Gerbil

-Aquariums are better than cages because cages might have bars that gerbil feet can get caught in and break. A well-ventilated aquarium with a top that seals so your gerbil can’t push up on it and escape is best.
-Line the aquarium/cage with shredded paper (newspaper or paper towels) or recycled paper bedding (no shavings of any kind), with a mound in a corner – gerbils love to burrow!
-Gerbil/rodent pellets
-A wheel that is smooth-sided to prevent its feet or tail from getting caught and broken
-A water bottle that attaches to the side of the aquarium
-A tip-proof (weighted) bowl for food
-A safe wooden chew toy made specifically for gerbils
-Exercise ball


Finding the right veterinarian
-A veterinarian that treats “exotic pets” will be more comfortable with gerbils
-When you first get your pet, have your parent or guardian take it to a veterinarian for a check-up
-Your pet should see a veterinarian at least once a year and when you think it might be sick


Dangerous foods
-High-sodium food
-High-sugar food
-High-carbohydrate food
-House plants
-Leaves or grass from your yard
-Food off your plate
-Do not add vitamins to their water
-Avoid too much dried fruit (it can lead to intestinal issues)
-Too much fruit or vegetables can lead to diarrhea in gerbils (water in, water out…)
-Yogurt drops and other advertised “treats” actually aren’t appropriate


Gerbils thrive at room temperature, normally whatever is comfortable to humans. Gerbils are prone to overheating, so in a home without air conditioning, at least have fans blowing to circulate the air. If it’s extremely hot, surround the aquarium/cage with ice packs (or purchase a temperature-controlled one).


Handling your gerbil
It is very important that you never hold your gerbil by its tail, as it will break off. Gerbils can bite, so be careful to not surprise them – approach slowly and let them hear you coming. Cup them in the palm of your hand. The more you hold them, the more comfortable they will be with being held.

Gerbils are fast and small – you don’t want to lose them in your house! Be sure if you remove them from their aquarium/cage that it is in a secure room or an exercise ball and never leave him/her alone.

*Gerbils aren’t appropriate for small children because they can carry diseases like ringworm and will bite if handled roughly. Be sure to wash your hands after handling.


Multiple gerbils?
Gerbils are social in the wild. Since it can be dangerous to spay or neuter them because of their small size, select same sex gerbils and purchase them at the same time – introducing a new gerbil to one who has already become accustomed to their home will create problems. Females tend to be less aggressive than males. Note: the more animals that share an aquarium/cage, the more frequently it will need to be cleaned.


Routine care
-Feed your gerbil a pellet diet as directed by the label. Note: a seed and nut diet is not a complete diet; only a pellet diet is complete.
-Supplement the diet with fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, lettuce, spinach or carrots (avoid high sugar fruit)
-Clean up leftovers before they spoil
-Be sure their water bottle is filled with fresh water
-Scoop up soiled bedding each day
-IMPORTANT NOTE: Gerbils have high metabolisms and can become hypoglycemic if they do not eat every day. If your gerbil appears lethargic or isn’t eating well, go to your veterinarian immediately.


-Completely clean the aquarium/cage once a week with hot, soapy water.
-Take your gerbil to your veterinarian at least once a year, though twice a year is preferable because their life spans aren’t very long. Your veterinarian can also cut their nails at that time for you if you aren’t comfortable doing it.


Tip: Let your child know that gerbils may only live for a few years so that they aren’t overly shocked when their pet dies.


Information on caring for your pet gerbil provided by Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian), owner of Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics in Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Zoonotic Diseases

In 64 million American households pets are a source of joy and perhaps even the key to longer, healthier lives. However, pet-owning households with young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems need to be aware that their animals can play host to disease-causing microorganisms.

Humans are not likely to catch a disease through their pets, but in very rare cases it can happen. Fortunately, most of these diseases rarely occur in healthy individuals, are mild and can be easily treated. Others, like toxoplasmosis, can be far more serious. Diseases transmitted from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases usually live out their complex life cycles in animals, but sometimes cross into human bodies. Usually contracting a pet-borne disease requires very close contact with animals or their excretions, so zoonotic diseases can be avoided with common sense, cleanliness and regular pet examinations and vaccinations.

Children often put their hands in their mouths, providing an easy route for bacteria to travel into their bodies. For example, children who eat dirt are more susceptible to contracting zoonotic diseases. Children also are more susceptible to pet-borne illness because they carry fewer antibodies than adults do. The same holds true for puppies and kittens, making them more likely to carry disease than older dogs and cats.

Although the chances of getting a zoonotic disease from your pet are slim, these are some common pet-borne illnesses that can make people sick:


This bacteria generally makes its way into human bodies through contaminated food. The bacteria can be passed through animal feces and may cause symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea and exhaustion.


Roundworm eggs and microscopic adult worms can be excreted in the feces of dogs and cats infected by the worms. Children may be at a higher risk for contracting roundworms because they play near pets or touch infected feces and put their hands into their mouths. Because of the risk to children, all cats and dogs should be taken to their veterinarians for regular fecal examinations. Also remember to cover all sandboxes when not in use to prevent children from contacting contaminated feces. Symptoms can include fever, cough, loss of appetite, weakness and lung congestion.


Cat Scratch Fever

This bacteria is usually transmitted from cats to humans through scratches. The bacteria is found on nails or claws and can cause high fever, loss of appetite, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. In otherwise healthy people, Cat Scratch Fever is usually mild and resolves itself. However, the bacteria caused by Cat Scratch Fever can be extremely dangerous or even fatal if left untreated in immune-compromised individuals. It’s important for these pet owners to tell their doctors they own a cat. Young children should be sure to wash scratches thoroughly with soap and water.


Strep Throat
Though your pet is probably not the culprit bringing strep into your household each year, the possibility does exist. Recently, researchers have found that it’s more likely that people are infecting their pets. In any case, keep your children from kissing, licking or exchanging food by mouth with their pets.


A fungal infection of the skin, hair or nails, ringworm starts as a rapidly spreading hairless, circular lesion. Humans can be infected through use of contaminated objects like hair brushes, towels or clothing or by contact with infected animals like cats, dogs, mice, rats and guinea pigs.


Also called sarcoptic mange, scabies is a skin disease caused by itch mites which burrow under the skin. Scabies cause intense itching and scratching that can result in severe eczema. Humans can be infected through contact with infected animals.

The most effective way to prevent zoonotic diseases and ensure your good health is to ensure good health for your pets. This means taking your pet to the veterinarian for regular exams and vaccinations. Most pet owners find that by following their veterinarian’s nutritional and health recommendations, their pets will lead happy, healthy lives with little risk of zoonotic infections.


For original article Click Here

When is it an emergency?

Most pet owners have been in a situation like this: Buster slipped on the way down the stairs and now he’s walking with a limp. It’s 11:00 at night – should you call your veterinarian, or are you just being a worrywart?


You’re never wrong to call
If you’re concerned about your pet, you should never feel embarrassed about calling a veterinarian. Veterinarians are used to emergencies and they prepare for them. Most veterinary hospitals have doctors on-call or provide referrals to emergency pet hospitals, so don’t worry about waking your veterinarian out of a sound sleep. In fact, all AAHA-accredited hospitals are required to provide 24-hour access to emergency care, either in their own facility or through referral to another hospital. (To find an AAHA-accredited animal hospital near you, visit the Hospital Locator)

Remember, you know your pet better than anyone else. If you notice your pet behaving in a way that’s unusual for her, or if something just doesn’t seem right, you may have picked up on a subtle sign of a real problem. To find out, you can call your veterinary hospital, or an emergency animal hospital near you. By asking a few questions over the phone, an emergency veterinarian should be able to tell you whether you should bring your pet in right away, or whether she can wait for an examination during your hospital’s normal office hours. Even if you find out nothing’s wrong, you’ll be glad to have your mind at ease.


Definite emergencies
There are some times, however, when you won’t need to call first. If you notice any of the following problems, bring your pet in immediately for emergency care.

-Your pet has been experienced some kind of trauma, such as being hit by a car or a blunt object or falling more than a few feet.Your pet isn’t breathing or you can’t feel a heartbeat.
-Your pet is unconscious and won’t wake up.
-Your pet has been vomiting or has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours, or she is vomiting blood.
-You suspect any broken bones.
-Your pet is having trouble breathing or has something stuck in her throat.
-Your pet has had or is having a seizure.
-Your pet is bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth, or there is blood in her urine or feces.
-You think your pet might have ingested something toxic, such as antifreeze, rat poison, any kind of medication that wasn’t prescribed to her, or household cleansers.
-Your pet, particularly your male cat, is straining to urinate, or is unable to.
-Your pet shows signs of extreme pain, such as whining, shaking, and refusing to socialize.
-Your pet collapses or suddenly can’t stand up.
-Your pet begins bumping into things or suddenly becomes disoriented.
-You can see irritation or injury to your pet’s eyes, or she suddenly seems to become blind.
-Your pet’s abdomen is swollen and hard to the touch, and/or she’s gagging and trying to vomit.
-You see symptoms of heatstroke.
-Your pregnant dog or cat has gone more than three to four hours between delivering puppies or kittens.


What to do if it’s an emergency
If you notice any of the symptoms above or you suspect a serious problem, try to get directly in touch with a veterinary professional. Don’t leave a voicemail or use the Internet or email.

Your first step is to call your veterinarian. AAHA-accredited hospitals will either have someone answering the phone 24-hours a day or will have a recorded message referring you to another hospital in case of an emergency. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, use the AAHA hospital locator tool to locate an accredited hospital near you. TheAmerican Red Cross also has a pet first aid app available to help you locate a veterinarian in case of emergencies.

Once you decide to bring your pet in for emergency treatment, make sure you know where you’re going and how to get your pet there safely. If you have any questions about directions or how to move your ill or injured pet, call the hospital and ask


Be prepared
The best way to deal with pet emergencies is to prepare for them, just in case. The next time you bring your pet in for a checkup, ask your veterinarian what you should do in case of emergency. Find out whether your animal hospital is open 24 hours, or whether they refer emergency cases on evenings and weekends. If they refer, get the name, address, and phone number of the emergency facility they refer to.

Keep your veterinarian’s name and number on an emergency sheet near the phone, right next to the numbers for your doctor, fire department, and poison-control hotline. If your veterinarian refers evening and weekend emergencies to another hospital, write down that hospital’s name and number too, as well as what hours your doctor refers cases there. This way, if an emergency catches you off guard, you won’t have to file through drawers or folders looking for business cards. You may also want to have a list of pet first aid tips easily accessible, along with guidelines for human first aid.

If you’re taking your pet along on a trip, you can find AAHA-accredited hospitals in the area you’ll be visiting by using the hospital locator.

Most important, remember to trust your instincts. You know and love your pet, and you have the right to be worried if something seems wrong. Emergency veterinary professionals are there for you, never hesitate to call.


For original article Click Here

What’s in your pet’s food?

When you are choosing a can or bag of pet food, you have dozens of choices. In addition to the normal “tuna delights” and “beef dinners,” there are many specialty foods on the shelves that are designed to control weight, combat renal (kidney) disease, and control allergies—plus there are foods for all-around nutrition.

Have you ever wondered how these specialty diets are formulated and what goes into their development?


         Tip! Your veterinarian may recommend or stock foods that are proven to help maintain your pet’s wellness through special diets or all-around   good nutrition. Be sure to follow recommendations to keep your pet healthy.


First, it is important to understand some of the rules about labeling pet foods. Pet food labeling is regulated at the state and federal levels. On the federal level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has standards for all types of animal feed. These standards require proper identification of the product, net quantity statement, the manufacturer’s address, and proper listing of ingredients.

On the state level, the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) has its own set of regulations, which many states use. AAFCO labeling guidelines cover aspects such as product naming standards (for example, “beef food,” “beef dinner,” and “dog food with beef” will all contain different percentages of actual beef—95%, 25%, and 3%, respectively); guaranteed analysis (minimum percentages of protein and fat and maximum percentages of fiber and moisture); and nutritional adequacy.

The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) states that “an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement is one of the most important aspects of a dog or cat food label.”

In order for a pet food to be considered “complete and balanced,” or “100% nutritional,” it should carry an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement. There are two main ways that AAFCO substantiates claims of nutritional adequacy in a food.

[Pet Food] Chemical analysis. The food contains ingredients that AAFCO has determined provide the proper amount of nutrients for a particular animal. The statement will say: “ABC Dog/Cat Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog/Cat Food Nutrient Profiles.”

Feeding test. The food has been tested on animals under AAFCO’s strict feeding protocols and was found to provide proper nutrition. The statement on this type of food will say: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that ABC Dog/Cat Food provides complete and balanced nutrition.”

The statement will also say for what stage of life the food is appropriate; for example, “for maintenance,” for growth,” or “for all life stages.”

If there is no AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement and the food claims to be “complete,” then the food may not have been tested and could be unsafe. The exception to this rule is a “therapeutic” food.

Several companies, such as Hill’s. Iams, Purina  and Royal Canin, produce therapeutic pet foods. These foods have specific ingredients designed to treat certain conditions such as obesity or kidney problems.

“Most therapeutic diets do not have AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements and carry language to the effect of ‘use under direct supervision of a veterinarian,’” says Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN], professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “This allows companies to continually ’tweak’ the formulas based on newer research.”

Bartges explains that therapeutic foods do not have actual drugs in them, but rather are comprised of ingredients that have been developed and tested by researchers employed by the pet food companies.

“Some of the research is cell culture and some is whole animal,” Bartges says.  “Most therapeutic diets are not based on clinical trials. Much of the research now is done by evaluating individual ingredients in animals with spontaneous disease.”

Amy Thompson, a spokesperson for Hill’s Pet Nutrition, says Hill’s food formulas are developed using specific ingredients based on key nutritional factors (KNFs). KNFs are the nutrients that are important for each life stage or special need of an animal.

“Examples might include: addition of fish oil as source of DHA to enhance healthy development of puppies and kittens; addition of vitamin E at levels that enhance the immune system; developing formulas that allow the pet to have a urine pH that helps prevent formation of certain urinary crystals and stones; providing a natural fiber source in the food to help control formation of hairballs; providing high levels of specific fatty acids (EPA) that are clinically proven to reduce pain in dogs with arthritis,” Thompson says.

Mark Roos, PhD,  director of product development at Nestle Purina PetCare, explains that once a specific therapeutic need is identified in a dog or cat, Nestle Purina scientists try to come up with nutritional solutions.

“Appropriate studies in human and other species are reviewed and assessed to evaluate if that work may be considered for transfer into a dog or cat,” Roos states. “With these prospective solutions, initial dog or cat testing is conducted to determine if the particular nutrient is efficacious or not. If efficacious, then the nutrient in a respective ingredient and the particular formula undergoes a 30-point checklist to take it from an idea to a final product that can be marketed.”

Roos says that a recent example of ingredients identified as having beneficial properties were soy germ meal and colostrum.

According to Nestle Purina, colostrum (milk from a mammal immediately after it gives birth) boosts immunity and has intestinal health benefits. It also serves to stabilize intestinal microflora and reduces the risk of stress-related diarrhea.

Soy germ meal is a source of soy isoflavones, Roos says, which are beneficial in weight management and have been shown to increase metabolism and reduce weight gain.

Thompson, of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, said another example of a food additive is L-Carnitine.

“Carnitine is a water soluble, vitamin-like nutrient that plays a key role in burning fat and maintaining muscle by helping convert fatty acids into energy,” Thompson says. “It supports healthy liver function, a strong heart and lean muscles.”

With the vast number of options available in the pet food aisle, it is important to make the best choice for your particular pet. Pet food labels can give you a good idea of how the product you are buying was tested and formulated, and what it can do for your best friend. And, of course, if you have concerns about a particular type of food, always ask your veterinarian.

This article originally appeared in PetsMatter May/June 09 – Volume 4 Issue 3, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.



There are few people who claim they have a favorite tick, but Susan Little, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM from the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University knows hers.

“The lone star tick is beautiful, ecologically successful, aggressive, and an extraordinary transmitter of diseases,” shares Little.

Although only Ixodes, a genus of ticks, transmit the agent of Lyme disease (LD), lone star ticks can transmit other disease-causing organisms to pets and people.

“Ticks can transmit an amazing array of life-threatening disease agents to dogs, cats and humans,” notes Little.

Just because you don’t have a favorite tick doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn what a tick looks like, where they live, and how to avoid tick-borne illnesses like LD.


Where the wild ticks are

Active dogs and owners who enjoy hiking are at a higher risk of LD. Before traveling, camping, or hiking, research your travel destination. “Tick maps” are readily available, including one created by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).

“These maps show which states’ dogs are most likely to be infected with the agent of LD and other tick-borne diseases, and the website provides a calculator to help owners determine what their dog’s risk of contracting LD is,” says Little.

But don’t completely rely on the maps, because ticks are on the move.

Little explains, “We are seeing locally acquired cases of LD in dogs and people in places like the mid-Atlantic coast and around the Great Lakes. Just because LD hasn’t been in your area historically doesn’t mean it won’t be there in the future.”


How to Remove a Tick From Your Pet

Stay calm. Don’t rush. Moving too fast could cause even more problems when it comes to the removal of a tick from your pet, according to the ASPCA. The humane organization offers step-by-step tick removal instructions:


Paranoia pays

“Ticks really pose a remarkable risk to our patients,” Little warns. To minimize the chances of LD, conduct periodic “tick hunts.” Wearing gloves (humans are also susceptible to tick-borne illnesses), scour the groin, armpits, around the ears, and between the toes where ticks like to hide. Although ticks’ appearances vary markedly, they typically have eight legs, a flat body with an oval shape (unless they have recently had a blood meal), and a small head.

The CAPC recommends protecting pets year-round against ticks with monthly spot-on medications. Some dogs may also benefit from vaccination. The LD vaccine is “non-core,” meaning it is given (following consultation with your veterinarian) on a case-by-case basis based on risk of exposure.


Identifying and Treating LD

If you find a tick on your dog, discuss testing and treatment options with your veterinarian. Without a history of a tick bite, diagnosing LD can be challenging because of the variety of signs that infected dogs can have. The most common signs of LD include lameness, fever, anorexia and lethargy. The bacterial infection can also damage the kidneys, heart and nervous system.


Fast Facts About Lyme Disease (LD)
-LD, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is transferred to mammals when a tick bites.
-The tick needs to be attached for around 36 hours before the bacterium can be transmitted.
-LD is most common in the Northeastern and North Central United States and the Pacific coast.
-Ticks most likely to transmit LD are the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and the Western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus)—both often called  deer ticks.


For additional information on LD, identifying ticks, and other tick-borne illnesses, please visit the CAPC, the American Lyme Disease Association, and


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Nutrients and nutraceuticals: What does your pet need?

Nutritional supplements make up one of the fastest growing segments of the pet product industry. It’s estimated that almost one in five pet owners give some kind of nonprescription supplement to their dog or cat.

Are they right for your pet?

“That really depends on your pet’s base diet and medical history,” says Jennifer Bones Larsen, DVM, MS, assistant professor of clinical nutrition for the University of California Davis. “Most commercial pet foods are formulated to be complete and balanced, meaning they provide all the essential nutrients the animal needs.

“So if you’re feeding your dog or cat a commercial pet food, additional vitamins and minerals probably aren’t necessary and, in some cases, could be harmful.”

For example, too much calcium can cause problems with skeletal development in puppies, or zinc deficiencies, according to research cited in a paper published by Larsen.

But if you feed your pet a homemade diet, Larsen says extra nutrients are a must.

“The challenge is to determine what essential vitamins and minerals are missing from the diet and to use a supplement to fill the gap. And for the average consumer, this is hard to figure out just by looking at the label.”

That’s why she suggests you consult with your veterinarian before providing any supplements to your pet.

“Most over-the-counter multivitamins or multinutrients are designed to be safe when added onto a complete and balanced pet food. But we’ve seen some cases of toxicity, so you may be giving your pet ‘too much of a good thing.”

Unlike nutrient supplements, nutraceuticals are extracts from foods, which some claim provide health benefits.

“The most common nutraceuticals are glucosamine and chondroitin which are given for joint health,” Larsen says. “And omega-3 fatty acids are becoming incredibly popular because there’s been so much discussion about them on the human nutrition side.”

Nutraceuticals are not considered drugs, so they don’t have to be proven effective or safe by the FDA. Neither nutraceuticals nor nutrient supplements are regulated by any official agency.

“Glucosamine and chondroitin are pretty safe and there’s some data to suggest they can be helpful. Any adverse side effects are pretty mild, such as diarrhea. This can be remedied by simply backing off the dosage. And omega threes have a wide range of proposed benefits,” Dr. Bones Larsen said.

When buying supplement products that include nutraceuticals, Larsen suggests checking the label to see if the manufacturer is a member of theNational Animal Supplement Council or NASC.

“The NASC has set up guidelines to assure quality control and contaminant control,” she says. “Their focus is on safety, which is good. But whether these products do what they say they’ll do is a whole other question.”

What exactly is a nutraceutical?

Occupying a space somewhere between essential nutrients (those nutrients critical to normal health, such as vitamins) and drugs with defined impacts on specific diseases, nutraceuticals are bioactive chemicals derived from foods but taken as supplements at much higher concentrations than diet alone could provide. Thomas Hayden, “Getting to Know Nutraceuticals,” Scientific American (January 2008).

This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 3 Issue 4, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.


A microchip for your pet can mean the difference between lost and found. Although tags and collars are important, they can tear or slip off. With microchipping, a veterinarian injects a tiny computer chip—about the size of a grain of rice—just under your pet’s skin, between the shoulder blades. The microchip number is entered into an international database, which can be read by a microchip scanner if your pet is lost and picked up by a veterinary hospital or humane society. If your contact information is up-to-date, the hospital or humane society that found your pet can contact you and reunite you with your pet.

A microchip is your pet’s ticket home. Does your pet have his?


Microchipping myth #1:
It’s going to hurt my pet to get the chip implanted.

The truth:
The procedure is simple, routine, and painless, and does not require anesthesia. Your pet simply gets an injection just under the loose skin between the shoulder blades, much like getting vaccinated. Most animals don’t react at all.


Microchipping myth #2:
My cat never goes outside. He doesn’t need to have a microchip.

The truth:
It’s wonderful that you’re keeping your pet safe inside, but a guest or a repair person could easily leave the door hanging open, or a screen could come loose from an open window. No matter how closely you watch your pet, there’s always a chance he could get out, and if he doesn’t have a microchip, chances for recovery are slim.


Microchipping myth #3:
Eventually, the microchip will wear out and I’ll have to have it replaced.

The truth:
Since there’s no battery and no moving parts, there’s nothing to wear out or replace. The microchip will last throughout your pet’s lifetime. However, you need to update the chip every time your contact information changes so that whoever finds your pet has your updated contact information.


Microchipping myth #4:
The implantation procedure is too expensive.

The truth:
While the price can vary, it is generally a one-time fee of $25 – $40. There may be a fee, generally under $20, to enter your pet’s ID number in a database, and there may be a small fee for changing your address, phone number, or other contact information in the database. Ask your veterinarian for more information.


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