“Dedicated to providing gentle, compassionate care for companion animals”


Animal Wellness Center of Maple Grove

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VCA Animal Wellness Center of Maple Grove is proud of our affiliation with the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and our designation as a Gold Status Cat Friendly Practice. We are pleased to announce that AAFP has launched a new resource for cat parents called The Cat Community. You can find The Cat Community at the website catfriendly.com

As a cat caregiver, you can learn about the innate behavior of cats, why routine veterinary care is so important, and tips on how to take the best possible care of your feline friend. Some of the topics available for research on the website include:

  • Cat Care at Home: Settling into a routine with your new cat doesn’t just happen overnight. You need information about nutrition, grooming, litter box use, play, life stages, medication, how to make your cat feel secure, and much more. Just click on the tab for each sub-heading to learn more about the topic.
  • Keep Your Cat Healthy: This section provides resources about choosing a veterinarian, what to expect at a visit, parasite prevention, vaccines, the importance of choosing a Cat Friendly Practice, and other general health-related issues.
  • Diseases: It’s heartbreaking when your cat isn’t feeling good and you don’t know why. In this section, you can find signs and symptoms of common diseases as well as detailed information about diabetes, feline leukemia, rabies, hyperthyroidism, and other more serious diseases that afflict cats. You will also learn more about prevention and treatment options that you can discuss with your cat’s veterinarian at VCA Animal Wellness Center.
  • Why Does My Cat Do That?: Behavior that makes perfect sense to a cat is often puzzling to their human family members. If you’re struggling to understand why your cat hisses, stalks, stays up all night, won’t use the litterbox, or another common issue, then this is the section for you. You will gain a better understanding of your cat’s behavior as well as find possible solutions to frustrating problems.
  • Be a Cat Friendly Caregiver: Certain things, such as traveling, taking your cat to the vet, and even petting your cat are easier when you understand how the feline mind operates. This section offers several resources for making life as comfortable and stress-free as possible for your cat, including the importance of choosing a Cat Friendly Practice.
  • The Toy Box: Here you will find checklists, polls, quizzes, adorable photos of cats, and much more. When it comes to caring for your cat, you can never have too much knowledge.
We hope you enjoy this new resource from the AAFP. Be sure to join the mailing list so you’re updated when AAFP adds new information to the site. To schedule an appointment for your cat at our Certified Cat Friendly Practice, please call 763-420-7958. If you’re traveling and need care for your cat, we offer an exclusive feline retreat designed with all the features cats love. You may call the same telephone number to make your reservation.
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Inara is an almost 5 year old long-hair Calico mix.  Amber had wanted a cat after graduating college and having a stable home for one.  When she saw Inara on a local Twin Cities humane society page, she knew right away that she was going to be her cat.  Upon meeting Inara, Amber saw that she was very sociable and playful with a loving personality.  Inara likes to knock everything over on tables, greet EVERYBODY that walks in the front door, and curl up in her favorite spot on the couch.

One of our favorite stories about Inara is when we were cleaning out our bathroom closet, we left the closet unattended for a short period of time, came back and put things away, closing the door.  A few hours later, we heard meowing but couldn't figure out where it was coming from.  We searched for ten minutes to find the source, only to find that it had come from the closet, where Inara had snuck into when we were not watching (she knows she is not supposed to be in the bathroom!)

River is a 6 year old tabby.  She was adopted at the same time as Inara from the same humane society.  When Amber was working on paperwork for Inara, Tim had mentioned that there was a "one cat adoption fee, get a second cat free" and how that was a "financially responsible way" to go about getting two cats.  Amber looked around the cats, and was drawn to the quietest and one of the smallest cats at the shelter.  Amber took her to a visiting room, and found out that she was also one of the sweetest.  River is a mommy's girl through and through - whenever she hears Amber's voice she comes running.  She is very shy and quiet still, but Inara and River quickly formed a very strong friendship.  River loves to cuddle with Amber and watch the birds out of the windows during the warm months.  Our favorite story about River was when Amber was doing laundry downstairs, and when she was finished came upstairs and couldn't find River.  She looked everywhere for River but could not find her.  She went downstairs to see if she had snuck down there, and when Amber got down there she heard meowing coming from the basement ceiling!  River had accessed the drop ceiling through a storage room, and there was no other way to access her.  Amber was afraid and called Tim, and as Tim ran home from work early to save River, River came out on her own, and looked at Amber as if nothing had happened and everything was alright.  Thankfully she was unharmed, but it made for a fun story (and a new policy to always leave that door shut).

Dax is a 7 year old Siamese-Snowshoe mix.  He was adopted from a local Twin Cities rescue group where he had been in a foster home for the last six months.  Tim was feeling left out as the cats gravitated towards Amber, and Tim wanted a cat of his own.  Tim found Dax through the shelter's website, and his "grumpy cat persona" immediately drew him in.  When Tim met him at the shelter, Dax was drawn to him too.  He was not happy about the kitty carrier, and went straight to Tim for help!  Dax was the final "missing piece" of our family puzzle.  Dax is the rambunctious one, who is always looking for a playmate in his two sisters, whether they want one or not.  Dax also loves catnip and can be content with a fresh toy for hours.  There is never a dull moment with Dax, and some of our favorite moments with him have been finding him in unusually high places where we can't figure out how he got up there on his own!  From the cabinet above the fridge to the tallest furniture or shelves, no obstacle is too high for Dax!

While the cats do not much enjoy being put in a crate or the car ride to AWC, the staff and in particular Dr. Ambrose always make them feel safe and at ease.  Dax loves going in the blanket-sack and Inara loves all the additional attention, while River is along for the ride. Thank you AWC for being so kind and caring towards all three of them - we know they are in good hands with you!

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Hi everyone!  Mali here.  I’m a 6-year old fawn boxer that Mommy says is going to live forever, because she and Daddy can’t imagine a life without me.  I am so honored to have been chosen as a featured puppy of the month! 

Mommy says I have the best life.  I go to work every day with her and Dad.  We own a company that provides transportation to the elderly and disabled humans who live all over the Twin Cities.  There are even puppies who ride our buses to help some of the humans who have disabilities!  I do more “office work” than those puppies, though.  In fact, my official title is “Chief Stress Reliever,” and my bio is finally on our company website!  I make sure that the whole office staff is greeted every morning, and my keen intuition tells me when someone needs a “Mali snuggle” during a stressful day. I go to the bank with Daddy every day, too.  I know when he says “bank,” that nap time is over, and he needs my help!  Sometimes I lie out in the middle of the hallway – belly up – and just wait until one of Mommy and Daddy’s employees comes by with a belly rub.  I need some stress relief sometimes, too!

Outside of my professional career, I love long walks, lying in the sun, helping Mommy in the kitchen as her “taste-tester” and travelling with Mommy and Daddy.  The best trip we’ve taken was to Big Sky, Montana this summer!  We hiked in the real mountains, I got to play in the mountain streams and we even saw a bear in our backyard!  I couldn’t stop crying at it!  I also love being as close to my pack as possible at all times – sleeping in Mommy’s legs at night and napping ON Daddy on the weekends.  I think my proudest moment was when I walked down the aisle as Mommy’s Maid of Honor.  I was so excited, that I barked just once in the middle of the ceremony, because I just couldn’t contain my excitement about us all getting married! Oh, and I’m a foodie just like Mom and Dad.  My favorites are pumpkin, sweet potatoes, filet mignon, fresh salmon and sushi.  Daddy says I have champagne taste on a kibble budget.

Needless to say, I lucked out when Mommy and Daddy came to see me and my brothers and sisters at my birth mom’s house.  When they walked in, I knew two suckers when I saw them.  I walked away from my pack as they romped around together, and headed straight over to my future furever Mommy.  I just sat down and looked up at her with the sweetest face I could make (trying to minimize my cone head as much as possible).  She immediately picked me up and I knew I had a “fish on!”  I sealed the deal when she gave me to my future Daddy. I looked up at him, gave him one lick right on his nose and snuggled right into his chest.  At that moment, these two were toast…and the rest is history. 

My Mommy, Daddy and I owe a lot to our friends at the AWC.  Besides going to “school” when I was just a puppy (Jenny taught me everything I know in puppy kindergarten and obedience class!) and taking agility one summer with Daddy, I had a pretty rough start.  When I was little, I had food allergies, ear infections and skin infections.  Then came my environmental allergies and a few minor injuries.  Then the tough stuff started with my first mast cell tumor.  My Mommy was very upset and cried a lot, but that Dr. Ambrose, with her compassion, confidence and hugs got us all through it!  We went through two more mast cell tumors and three more surgeries all in the course of a year. We constantly felt the love from everyone from Alyssa and Janet at the front desk to Katie’s behind the scenes snuggles, kisses and boxer love!  Dr. Moyer played a part in getting me back to my silly self, too! Mommy says my scars give me street cred! 

Without Dr. Ambrose, Katie and company, I wouldn’t be the healthy boxer that I am today…thank you, AWC!  WE LOVE YOU!

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Dr. Carolyn Apker, owner of the Animal Wellness Center of Maple Grove


What does “Fear Free” mean?

It means: Every staff member of the Animal Wellness Center is devoted to the physical AND psychological welfare of every patient.

We want to put every pet under our care at ease so that they are not experiencing fear or anxiety. It is a well documented fact that calm and comfortable patients (dog, cat and human) recover more quickly and completely than their nervous counterparts. Your pet deserves the best every step of the way.

What can you expect from the AWC team as a result of our commitment?

We will handle all patients gently and in a way that reassures them we are on their side.

We will be constantly attentive to your pet’s mental and psychological state and will respond to their fear or anxiety with gentle reassurance and patience until they are calm. If we need to schedule the events of an appointment over several short, happy visits we are happy to do so. If your pet needs a small dose of medication prior to their visit… we know what works.

We will meet their need for mental and physical comfort and be ready to adjust our handling and treatments accordingly.

You can absolutely expect every member of our staff to treat your beloved pet as their own. Being afraid is not okay. Physical force and coercion are not okay. And yes, we know this commitment will require extra time for the doctor, staff and the pet owner. That is okay, because they are worth it!

When will these changes take place?

We have been implementing them for almost two years. AWC is one the nation’s first hospitals to make this paradigm shift and to be actively working on Hospital Certification in Low Stress Handling. Dr. Apker has been sitting on the Advisory Board for the Fear Free Practice Movement for over two years. She has been actively working with a team of Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists, is a committee chair for the American Veterinary Animal Behavior Society and AWC is very proud to already be Gold Level Certified as a Feline Friendly Practice.

My pet has always been afraid at the veterinary hospital; can you really help her at her age?

Absolutely! We have the knowledge and the skill to meet every patient at their level of need. Sometimes this is a series of happy visits to the hospital to get praise, petting and their favorite treats. Then, home they go! The purpose is to replace their apprehension of the hospital with the expectation that really great things happen for them when they come to visit.

If that sounds too good to be true, think about waiting for your next procedure at your medical clinic. You may feel a little nervous, time drags by and you see other patients come out in various stages of distress. Your pulse and blood pressure creep up. You feel some butterflies and your head jerks up every time the medical assistant calls the next patient back. In between are long silences and old magazines. Then they call your name and lead you into the back room for who knows what procedure. Augh!

How would that experience change for you if the music was calming, the other patients appeared happy, some lovely staff member would appear randomly with ten dollar bills for you (okay, in your pet’s case, they would be dispensing your absolute over-the-top, all- time favorite treat or toy)? How would that impact your feelings toward your health care provider?

Some pets have more severe anxieties and by the time they are at the hospital they have reached a panic stage. We can help alleviate their level of arousal with a small, very safe, quick acting, anxiety reducing medication. The medication is best given at home with a yummy treat and the pet is left alone for the next 1-2 hours in a dimly lighted, quiet environment to relax before you pick up your keys. This approach is win-win for your furry family member, you and the hospital staff. Why? Because a truly terrified individual cannot learn a different emotional response to their situation. Fear and survival instincts crowd out the brain’s ability to process information. The gentle medication gives them the opportunity to learn that they are still safe and coming to see the veterinarian can be a happy event.

What about when I need to leave my pet at the hospital for intensive care or to see a specialist while I go back to work?

This is a really loving question. You love your pet so dearly that you are concerned about his emotional welfare when he is left in our care. Asking it makes you a wonderful pet owner because it shows you have a deep bond with your pet. We are all pet owners too who adore our furry babies and never want them to experience negative emotions.

Your pet will be continually assessed for signs of stress or distress. We make adjustments in our patient care/handling on an ongoing basis to find the cause for their discomfort and change what is needed so that we are providing humane care for their mental and physical well being at all times. Sometimes they feel isolated and want more companionship or the reverse could be true. Sometimes using soft lighting and music is comforting. Some love to watch the action of staff and pets moving through the treatment room, for others that’s too much visual stimulation and they are happier in a quiet spot snuggling with just one staff person.

Our goal, our duty is to meet each pet at their point of need and to truly make their visits to the veterinarian less stressful and fear free!

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Theo is an indoor cat. I’ve never let him outside because it is too dangerous. He spends hours on his hammock in the window of our living room. We even put a bird feeder outside so he can watch the birds and squirrels. One evening a couple of weeks ago I heard him screaming and yowling. It sounded like he was being killed. When I got to the living room, I could see him standing on his window perch, back arched and hair on end. He was staring through the window at another cat and still screaming. I ran to pick him up to get him out of there and get him to calm down. As soon as I picked him up he bit me twice really hard. His eyes looked like he was looking right through me. Theo dug his back claws into my arm and launched off running down the hall. I was just trying to help, why did he attack me?

Theo wasn’t attacking you; in fact, he didn’t even realize it was you who picked him up. However, at the time you were scratched and bleeding and I am sure it felt pretty personal. You were reaching for bandages and feeling crushed that the kitty you were trying to comfort turned on you. Having been on the receiving end of this situation myself, I truly feel for you. What happened?

The term feline behavior specialists use for this is Redirected or Displaced Aggression. When a cat is confronted with a perceived threat in close proximity to itself, in this case the cat outside the window, it experiences an overwhelming sense of fear. Pupils dilate, the pulse races, breathing speeds up, and the muscles become supercharged with blood all to prepare the body for a fight or flight response. In this highly aroused state a cat doesn’t have the mental space to decide who is friend and who is foe. They will instinctively attack anything that is close to them. Enter you, rushing to his rescue, but for all he knew you were the monster trying to kill him.

This is deeply imbedded, instinctual behavior and you will not be able to change it. These cats are in an “auto-pilot survival” mode. The best thing you can do is to try to minimize the opportunities for this to happen again. If there are free roaming cats around your home, try motion-activated sprinklers or lights to discourage their visits. If you do see the same scenario in the future, do not put yourself in harm’s way. Do not try to touch him. Close the curtains and go out to shoo the other kitty away from the house. Chances are that cat will see you coming and take off before you ever see them. Back indoors, try to get your cat to move out of the room and close the door. He will likely run to his favorite safe spot and hunker down for several hours. He needs time and space for the adrenaline and the other stress hormones to wear off. Cats may go from zero to sixty in a fraction of a second but they need considerably longer to come back to a resting state.

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