Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Take Your Dog Camping

Camping with your dog can be lots of fun. Here are some tips to help you avoid any disastrous situations that may come up.

  • Know the local wildlife. In Massachusetts, animals like bears, porcupines, coyotes, and even rattle snakes can pose potential dangers to your dog- especially if you allow the dog off leash. 
  • Be aware of the rules. Some campgrounds do not allow dogs, and most only allow leashed dogs. Bring a few different leashes with you, and if your dog is crate trained, you may want to bring a crate as well.
  • Don't forget to pack a doggy bag! Bring enough of your dog's own food for the time you will be camping. Remember you will also need food and water bowls, pet waste bags, and any medications that they regularly take. 
  • Make sure all vaccinations and flea and tick medications are up to date before you leave.
  • Check your dog's collar. Make sure rabies and identification tags are current. If your dog should get lost during the trip, this will make it easier for you to be reunited again.
  • Before you leave, look up numbers to local veterinary offices, just in case.
  • Don't expect too much from your dog. If he or she is not used to hiking for miles in the woods don't push too hard. Also, if your dog is anxious in new situations, camping might not be the best idea.
As long as you are prepared a camping trip with your canine buddy can be a great fall excursion.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teach Your Cat to Use the Toilet

With time and patience most cats can be trained to use the toilet instead of a litter box. The most important thing to remember is to go slow with each step of the training. Don't move on to the next step until your cat is totally comfortable with the current step. An extra toilet that won't be used by people during the training process will be helpful, but isn't absolutely necessary. If everyone in the house will be sharing the same toilet, the two-legged family members will have to remove the training apparatus from the toilet and replace it when they are done. Do not attempt to toilet train a very young or very old cat, or any cat that may have balance issues. Make sure to give your cat plenty of treats after each successful attempt, and remember to be patient. Forcing your cat into any of the steps will only make the whole process more difficult for you and your cat.
  • First, move your cat's litter box close to the toilet you will be training him to use. Leave it there until your cat is used to the new bathroom spot.
  • The next step is to gradually raise the litter box by placing books underneath it. Add one book each day until the box is the same height as the toilet seat. Make sure that the box won't move around as the cat is jumping into and out of it- if your cat knocks the box over, it could be a big setback in the training process. Each day, remove a small amount of litter from the box.
  • Once your cat is comfortable using the box at toilet height, move it over onto the toilet seat an inch or two each day, until it is sitting completely on the toilet. Again, you may need to secure the box to the toilet so it doesn't move when your cat jumps into it.
  • Keep removing litter from the box until there is only about 3/4 of an inch left. Change the litter more often at this point- many cats will avoid a dirty box, and with just a small amount of litter, your cat will consider the box dirty after each use.
  • At this point, as long as your cat is regularly using the box on top of the toilet seat, you can replace the regular litter box with a toilet training box. There are many commercially available toilet training systems, such as CitiKitty, Litter Kwitter, and The Toilet Trained Cat. If you don't wish to buy a training box, you can place a heavy piece of cardboard covered in waxed paper, or an aluminum bowl or pan under the seat, and then close the seat on top of it. Make sure that whatever you use will support your cat's weight if he steps on it. Add a thin layer of flushable litter and make sure to change the litter after each use.
  • The next step is to get your cat to gradually progress to using just the toilet. If you are using a homemade training device, cut a 1 inch hole in the middle. Gradually increase the size of the hole every day or 2 until the training device is gone. If you are using a device that you purchased, remove 1 ring each day or 2. For both methods, gradually remove litter so the cat will get used to eliminating into the water.
  • Check the toilet several times a day, and flush for your cat when necessary. It is possible to teach your cat to flush the toilet, but this is not recommended because many cats will make this into a water wasting game.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teach Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

Many cat owners choose to keep their cats indoors to protect them from things like cars, coyotes, or other cats. Indoor cats can safely experience the outside world if they are trained to wear a harness and walk on a leash.
As you can see from the video below, cats may take time to get used to wearing a harness.

If you are interested in training your cat to walk on a leash, the first step is to buy an appropriate sized harness. Measure your cat's chest behind the front legs. This measurement will help you choose the right size at the pet store. A cat should not be walked on collar, as this can cause neck injuries or strangulation if the cat bolts quickly while you are holding the leash. A lightweight leash is also important. If your pet store doesn't carry a leash made specifically for cats, choose one made for a small dog.
The next step is to get your cat used to wearing the harness. Put it on the cat just before meal time so she will associate it with something positive. If your cat really doesn't like the harness, this might be a good time to give some special treats.
Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness you can attach the leash. The great outdoors can be a scary place for a cat who has lived its whole life inside, so don't bring your cat outside until she is comfortably wearing the harness with the leash attached.
When you do venture outside together, hold onto your cat's leash- loud noises, dogs, or even other people may be frightening to your cat. Even if you are only going outside for a few minutes at a time, be sure your cat is up to date on all vaccinations and flea control.
With a little patience and some positive reinforcement, you'll be walking your cat in no time!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Max Laid an Egg!

One of the first things you'll notice when you come to VACC is our mascot, Max.  She is a blue and gold macaw and last week she was not acting quite right.  Dr. Burns ordered some x-rays, and this is what we saw:

Max has a history of egg binding, a condition where the bird is unable to pass the egg.  Egg binding is serious and often fatal, so we watched Max closely for symptoms. We suspected that she may have an egg because she was shredding the paper at the bottom of her cage more than usual.  In addition to this normal nesting behavior an egg bound bird may exhibit labored breathing, straining, ruffled-looking feathers, abdominal swelling, constipation, and sitting on the floor of the cage.  Any bird showing these symptoms should immediately see a veterinarian.
Fortunately, Max was not egg bound this time. A few hours after the above x-ray was taken, she passed the egg with no problems and a second egg came 3 days later!