Cold Weather Pet Safety


Cold weather tips

Protect your pet from hypothermia.  Shivering is the fist sign that your pet is too cold.  Signs of hypothermia can include weakness and lethargy.  The gums may be pale or bluish.  Contact your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital immediately if your suspect hypothermia.

Avoid cold-related hazards that can seriously affect your pet

  • Provide and insulated, dry shelter with blankets or pads on the floor where your pet can get out of the cold and wind. Elevate your pet’s bed off the ground or cold floor.
  • Do not leave your pet outside for long periods of time on cold days and keep your pet inside when the weather conditions are severe. Pay attention to the wind chill factor.
  • Pets are susceptible to frostbite. Remove ice and frozen mud from your pet.  Can your veterinarian for advice if your pet’s skin is painful, turns reddish, white or gray or is sloughing.
  • Do not leave a pet in a parked vehicle at any time. The temperature in a vehicle can dip too low.  If you engine is left running, your pet could be in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Cats have been known to seek shelter under warm car hoods. Be sure to check before starting your car.  Honk your horn to scare off any animals that may be in there.
  • Supplemental heat sources can seriously burn your pet or cause a fire if knocked over by a pet. Be sure your pets do not have access to portable heaters and fireplaces.
  • Provide your outdoor pet with shelter from storms.
  • Provide additional calories for your pet if it spends a lot of time outdoors. More calories are burned because of the extra energy required to keep warm in cold weather.  Talk to your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital for nutritional advice.
  • Be sure your pet has access to plenty of fresh, clean water.

Prevent poisoning

  • Pets can be attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze, but even a small amount can be deadly. Clean up spills and store where pets can’t get it.
  • Products used to melt snow and ice on walkways and roadways have varying levels of toxicity can irritate your pet’s feet and skin. Avoid it when possible or wash and dry your pet after contact with these products.
  • Rodent killers are commonly used in cold weather months. Be sure to place them where your pet can’t get at them.

Holiday tips

Holidays can be stressful for pets.  Try to keep your pets routine as normal as possible.  Avoid changes in your pet’s diet.  Provide a quiet space for your pets to get away from holiday activities and guests.

Why Does My Pet Need A Blood Pressure Check?


Has your veterinarian recommended a blood pressure check for your dog or cat?  Maybe you have wondered exactly why this test was suggested.  Is your pet a senior (over 7 years old)?  Does he have a heart murmur?  Is there an illness that affects the whole body, such as kidney disease or diabetes?

High blood pressure is more common in older pets or in younger pets with several illnesses.  Blood pressure checks are important because untreated high blood pressure will lead to serious problems such as blindness, stroke, blood clots, headaches, or heart problems.

Just as in people, we cannot tell about blood pressure just by looking; we must test for this problem.  Plus, our dogs and cats cannot tell us if they have constant headaches or other symptoms.  We need to check!

Testing a pet’s blood pressure is simple, and abnormal blood pressure is easily treated with medicine.  Doing so will also extend the lifespan of your pet.  Testing is not painful or invasive.  We put a blood pressure cuff on your pet’s rear limb or tail and measure the pressure in the same way as a human blood pressure check.  Veterinarians have special blood pressure machines designed to fit pets.  Usually the test is done more than once because pets have a much harder time sitting still!

Treatment for high blood pressure is usually medicine given for the rest of your pet’s life.  Once controlled, the levels should be checked every six months.  Often, testing is done prior to any surgery because high blood pressure (hypertension) is an anesthesia risk.  Additionally, low blood pressure under anesthesia can prevent proper blood circulation.

So, next time your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital suggest a blood pressure check, say “yes!” to be sure your pet has a healthy heart as well as a wagging tail.


Source: Pet Lover’s Companion and VCA


Heart Disease in Cats & Dogs


Our beloved pets deserve optimal health and well-being.  Heart disease in pets in both common, and many times, well-hidden.  If your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital suspects heart disease, a timely visit to a veterinary cardiologist could save your pet’s life.

How will I know if my pet has a heart problem?  Most often, the only sign is a heart murmur found on a wellness exam by your veterinarian.  Some dog and cats may exhibit symptoms such as coughing, fainting, developing weakness, or a swollen belly.  Tragically, there may be no outward signs until the disease is fairly advanced.

What is a board certified veterinary cardiologist?  Just as in human medicine, veterinarians specialize in a field by completing four years of additional training after veterinary school and passing two sets of rigorous examinations.  Seeing a board certified cardiologist means you are giving your pet the highest level of care through accurate diagnosis and ideal treatment.

What is my veterinarian’s role?  As your pet’s primary care provider, your veterinarian works closely with the cardiologist to ensure your pet received the best treatment tailored to the needs of your family.  In human medicine, having a specialist and primary care provider significantly improved outcomes and quality of life for patients.  This is also true in veterinary medicine.

When should I see a cardiologist?  Any pet with signs of heart disease should be fully evaluated before having anesthesia, for procedures such as dental cleanings, spay, neuter, or growth removal.  Seeing a cardiologist at the earliest sign of heart disease ensures that your pet will have a longer, healthier life through early and accurate diagnosis.

How is heart disease diagnosed?  Heart disease is diagnosed by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist via non-invasive echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.  A veterinary radiologist or the doctor interprets the images to determine the best course of treatment.

What kind of heart disease do pets get?  Dogs and cats rarely have “heart attacks.”  Instead, they get diseases of the valves or heart muscle.  Some of these develop over time, and others are present at birth.

How is heart disease treated?  The vast majority of heart disease in pets is managed with medications.  Some heart defects are correctable with surgery.  Proper treatment and follow-up care can significantly improve the length and quality of life is most patients.  With early intervention and proper care, many pets with heart disease live long healthy lives as much loved members of your family.

Source: Pet Lover’s Companion & Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates

Is My Pet Overweight?

Did you know that pet obesity doesn’t just increase your pet’s odds of developing Type 2 Diabetes, it also increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, respiratory issues, and a host of other diseases and conditions that impact quality of life?

The bad news is that more than 53% of pet dogs and more than 58% of domestic cats are considered overweight (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention).

Unfortunately, what’s disconcerting is that most pet guardians don’t know their pets are overweight… and why it is SO important to stick with your pet’s suggested wellness exam schedules. Rita Ranch Pet Hospital will help recommend the optimal diet and exercise schedule for your pet during his or her wellness exam, as an important part of your pet’s lifelong veterinary care.

According to a Purina Lifespan Study, obesity can take two years off of a dog’s lifespan, which is a significant portion of the average dog’s longevity.

Here are some things you can do to get those years back!

  • Avoid feeding your pet human foods.  People food presents so many types of risks, including pet poisoning, and is one of the key offenders in pet obesity.
  • Look for alternative forms of reward in lieu of treats, such as verbal praise. Sometimes we get carried away in handing out treats, since they’re often deceptively small. If you feel you must use treats, try baby carrots instead of biscuits, your pet will love them!
  • Follow the recommended daily meal plan.  Discussing your pet’s nutritional guidelines and diet with your veterinarian helps keep your pet’s diet in alignment with his overall health and wellness plan, and will take into consideration his or her medical conditions, allergies, food sensitivities, and special dietary needs.
  • Give your pet plenty of exercise and fresh air!  Along with a healthy diet, your pet needs to be active, especially our canines. While you may not be able to take your cat on a walk (although it is possible), there are a number of ‘Cat Dancer’ type toys and activities to keep your feline fit, too.
  • Maintaining wellness examinations and screenings is the most critical.  Exams provide the time and attention to discuss any issues your pet might have with weight management, as well as offer insight into his or her current state of health to be used as a baseline (should any health issues arise).

While diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease are all scary, a focus on prevention is truly the most important facet of maintaining your pet’s weight and ensuring good health. If you have any questions about ways to encourage a balanced diet for your best friend, please give Rita Ranch Pet Hospital a call.

Source: Madison Animal Care Hospital

Safe Travel with Your Pet

  1. Ask yourself if taking your pet with you is the right thing to do (for your pet and your family). If the answer is “no,” then make suitable arrangements (pet sitter, boarding kennel, etc.) for your pet. If the answer is “yes,” then plan, plan, plan!
  2. Make sure your pet will be welcome where you’re heading – this includes any stops you may make along the way, as well as your final destination.
  3. If you’re crossing state lines during your travel, you need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (also called a health certificate). You’ll need to get it within 10 days of when you plan to travel. Your veterinarian will examine your pet to make sure it doesn’t have any signs of infectious disease and that it has the appropriate vaccinations (e.g., rabies). This certificate can’t be legally issued without a veterinary exam, so please don’t ask your veterinarian to break the law.
  4. Make sure you know how you can find a veterinarian quickly if there’s an emergency on the way to or after you’ve reached your destination. The AVMA’s site allows you to search for a veterinary practice by zip code or city/state, even in an emergency.
  5. Prior to travel, make sure your pet is properly identified in case they become lost. Your pet should be wearing a collar with an ID tag (with accurate information!). Microchips provide permanent identification and improve your chances of getting your pet returned to you, but make sure you keep your registration information up to date.
  6. Properly restrain your pet with an appropriately-fitted harness or in a carrier of the appropriate size. “Appropriate size” means that they can lay down, stand up and turn around, but it’s not so big that they will be thrown around inside the carrier in case of a sudden stop or a collision. No heads or bodies hanging out the windows, please, and certainly no pets in laps! That’s dangerous…for everyone.
  7. Make sure your pet is accustomed to whatever restraint you plan to use BEFORE your trip. Remember that road trips can be a little stressful on your pet. If your pet isn’t already used to the harness or carrier, that’s an added stress.
  8. When traveling with your dog(s), make frequent stops to allow it/them to go to the bathroom, stretch their legs and get some mental stimulation from sniffing around and checking things out.
  9. Take adequate food and water for the trip. Offer your pet water at each stop, and try to keep your pet’s feeding schedule as close to normal as possible.
  10. When traveling, keep a current picture of your pet with you so you can easily make “lost” posters and/or use the picture to help identify your pet if it becomes lost.
  11. Make sure you take your pet’s medications with you, including any preventives (heartworm, flea and tick) that might be due while you’re traveling.