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



In our daily lives as veterinarians we spend much of our time trying to prevent illness, treat infection, diagnose and cure disease, palliate pain, and make the lives of our pets better. However, a small but significant part of our job is also helping our pets pass away quickly and peacefully when their time has come, and counseling people in their struggle to make that decision for their pets that are older or struggling with chronic disease.

The first step in trying to make a decision about euthanasia is to evaluate your pet’s current quality of life. Quality of life has many factors, but the tangible ones include:

·        Mobility – the ability to get around in a basic fashion, without excessive pain.

·        Nutrition and hydration – the ability and willingness to eat and drink comfortably.

·        Social interaction/attitude – the willingness to interact socially in a rewarding way.

·        Basic health functions – the ability to breathe, urinate, and defecate without pain or distress.

For some people, it is most helpful to be able to give their pet an objective score or number to help them assess their pet’s quality of life. The following are links to several of these types of assessments that can help guide you through that process:

·        Lap of Love - Quality of Life 1

·        Lap of Love - Quality of Life 2

·        Villalobos Quality of Life Scale

For others, it is more helpful to think in more subjective terms. What are three things that your pet has always loved to do? Eat? Play with the ball? Chew on a bone? Rub their back in the grass in the sun? Can they still do those things? Do they still want to? If you notice that your pet no longer enjoys their usual activities, be sure you check with your veterinarian to see if pain relief, physical therapy, acupuncture, or other palliative care could make a difference in your pet’s quality of life. When two out of three things that used to make your pet happy are no longer possible or comfortable, it may be time to start thinking about euthanasia. When all three of their favorite things are things of the past, it may be time to let go.

Don’t ever be afraid to talk to your veterinarian about euthanasia. We are here to help and to guide you through the process of making this very difficult decision.

Photo credit: MarinaMariya | iStock

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Many people wonder how much it is safe to exercise their puppies, especially structured exercise such as jogging, running next to a bike, or playing fetch. Traditionally, very restricted exercise has been recommended until adulthood, especially for large and giant breed dogs, due to concerns about hip and elbow dysplasia and the effect of repetitive stress on growth plates and growing joints. A few studies have looked at the association between weight, exercise, and other factors in the development of arthritis in large breed dogs:

In one Swedish study, they found that feeding patterns (free feeding as much as desired) and some types of exercise (running after balls and sticks but not regular walks) as well as weight (heavier weight) are significant risk factors in hip dysplasia and/or elbow arthritis for Labrador Retrievers. (J Nutr July 2006 vol 136). In another study (Am J Vet Res. November 1992;53(11):2119-24), high dietary calcium, playing with other dogs, and drinking well water (rather than city water) were associated with increased risk of osteochondritis dissecans (a developmental cartilage abnormality that causes lameness). In a 2012 Norwegian study, access to off-leash exercise at age 12 months for large breed dogs actually decreased the risk of hip related disease, and the risk of disease varied with litter (Prev Vet Med.2012 Feb 1;103(2-3):219-27).

Unfortunately, there are no studies (but many opinions!) on what we really want to know – how much exercise is okay for my puppy? Therefore, we must use common sense to guide us. Most experts recommend that puppies under one year of age be exercised no more than they would on their own, given the opportunity, and on soft surfaces if possible. Jogging, running, or playing fetch with your puppy are situations in which they may not know how to self regulate, so ensure that you build up endurance slowly, use soft surfaces (grass running or trail running) as much as possible, and stop while they are still eager to do more. A puppy can go for a short jog (1-2 miles) if he is thrilled to keep up, but reserve longer distances for when they have reached their adult size – 1-2 years for most breeds.

For giant breeds such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, etc., it may be best to simply allow free play on soft surfaces such as grass and go for walks, limiting more structured exercise to when they are older. There is no controversy about heavier weight being a risk factor – it is! Ask your veterinarian about your dog’s ideal weight and how much you should be feeding to keep them slender and athletic.

Photo credit: Damedeeso | iStock

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As many of you may know by now, Ceva Animal Health is temporarily ceasing the production and supply of the NEW Feliway and Adaptil brand diffusers and refills that came out earlier this summer. This was due to a packaging defect that in some rare cases will cause the pheromone solution to leak.

There are no health or safety concerns with the diffusers or refills. Because the leakage is a rare occurrence, it is OK to continue to use whatever discontinued product you may have. Ceva is resuming production of the original LEGACY diffusers and refills which should be available soon.

Please visit http://diffusers.cevaconnect.com/ for more information about the discontinuation and product availability. On this site you can also submit a request for a replacement LEGACY diffuser(s) at no charge that will be shipped directly to you once they are available. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
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by Dr. Ireland

Dog in SnowDog Enjoying The Snow

Winter has arrived in force!  At this time of year, we often get asked why we recommend year-round heartworm preventative for our pets. Clearly, there are no mosquitoes in the near-zero temps to transmit heartworm disease!   The answer to this is hidden in our common usage of the term “heartworm preventative” for these medications.  More accurately, these medications would be called parasite preventatives.  The product we use and recommend, Sentinel, prevents heartworm infection, but also treats pets for three intestinal parasites they might acquire (roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm). All of these parasites are transmitted through the fecal-oral route.  This means an infected animal outside (a dog, a raccoon, etc.) passes eggs in the stool.  Then one of our pets comes along investigating the new scents, and takes a sniff, lick, or chomp of that sample with eggs.  Now our pet has the high likelihood of getting the infection too.   But with once-a-month parasite prevention, we know they are getting a medication to treat any infection that was picked up.

These parasite eggs can be hardy even in our Minnesota winters, and survive outside long enough to make their way into the next animal.  Therefore, we recommend using parasite preventatives year-round!

In addition to ensuring our pets are not infected, parasite prevention keeps our families healthy too. The first parasite mentioned above, roundworm, is a well-known zoonotic disease (which means it can be transmitted from animals to people).   This happens most frequently in young children since they are much more likely to place contaminated hands or objects in their mouths.

When roundworms infect humans, the worms do not act normally since they are not in their natural host.  They often migrate outside of the gastrointestinal tract.  Occasionally, the worm migrates to the eye, which is then called Ocular Larval Migrans.  This condition causes irreversible blindness in the eye and is a devastating infection in children, because it is so preventable.

This public health reason is one of the factors behind our recommendation for year-round parasite prevention.  You can learn more about pets and parasites at the website for Companion Animal Parasite Control.  http://www.petsandparasites.org/ They are an independent council of veterinarians, veterinary pathologists, and other animal health care professionals that create guidelines for the optimal control of parasites that threaten the health of pets and people.  Their article about protecting your human family members and including their top 10 tips is at http://www.petsandparasites.org/parasites-and-your-family/your-pets-your-children-your-future.


  Photo Credit:  Stas Perov | photos.com
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It has become quite apparent in our country that obesity is the number one health epidemic of the 21st century. Unfortunately, this epidemic is also affecting our canine and feline patients. We have seen an increase in the number of patients entering our clinic who are morbidly obese. In the US, it is estimated that 40-50% of the cats ages 5-12 are overweight! One problem is that this weight issue is not seen as a major health issue…often times the cats (and dogs) are seen as “cute” and “extra-fluffy”. It really bothers me when I see pictures on the internet of people showing off their overweight cats like it’s funny. These cats are at risk for serious health consequences secondary to their obesity!

The problem with our feline patients is that the majority of cats are indoors only, which is better overall for their health and safety, but dramatically limits the amount of activity they receive. Many of these cats then consume too much food given their lack of activity…and hence the extra pounds ensue. One amazing statistic I came across is that a 8 pound cat consuming an extra 10 calories (Kcal) a day will gain about 12% of its body weight in 1 year…that’s only 10 extra kibbles a day!  It’s no surprise that our cats are gaining weight.

The first step with any problem is to recognize that the problem exists. To evaluate whether a cat is overweight, we utilize what is called the body condition score or BCS. The BCS system that we utilize at the Animal Wellness Center assigns a pet a BCS score out of 9, with 5 considered ideal. For a cat with an ideal body weight, you can easily feel the ribs but not necessarily see them and has a clear waistline. A cat that is an ideal weight should not have a fat pad! Any degree of a pooch with fat accumulation is an indication of obesity. Here is a link to the Purina BCS guide that we use (http://www.projectpetslimdown.com/Home/Obesity). Take a look to see if you can grade your cats BCS.

If we have determined that your kitty is overweight, then our next step is to determine what the ideal weight should be and how many calories per day your cat should consume. We also want to track what your cat is consuming each day…similar to Weight Watchers. Every little item that they eat has calories – including treats, milk, human food, etc. One of the veterinarians at the Animal Wellness Center will do the calculations and put together a weight loss plan for your cat, including the goal weight and how much to feed each day. We will also likely discuss switching to a diet that is lower in fat and higher in protein, as this is more ideal for weight loss. In general, we simply cannot just feed the cat less of its normal diet. The cat will likely be hungry and the entire nutrient quantities will be reduced because diets are balanced based on energy content. By switching to a diet specific for weight loss, we can guarantee that the nutrients are still appropriately balanced.

The other big component, that is especially difficult for our kitties, is increasing their daily activity.  Just like with us, restricting our daily calorie intake is often not enough…we need to exercise too. While we may not be able to walk our cats like dogs, there are other methods that can be used to increase activity. Because cats are natural hunters, you can utilize this desire by using a laser or other interactive cat toy (I personally recommend the “Da Bird” toy) to increase movement. Food can also be placed around the house in muffin liners to create a “treasure hunt” for the cat. This also plays on the natural nature of cats to eat multiple small meals throughout the day. There are also several commercial products available to help enrich mealtime.

With a combination of diet restriction and increased activity, hopefully we can help your kitty lose weight over a period of time. Weight loss is a process and will not happen overnight.  We want to work with you as a team to help get your kitty back on the road to health!

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