Low-Stress Vet Visits

A routine visit to the vet can create the exact opposite of a routine day for owners and pets alike. Many owners report that their pets do not like coming to the vet. The preventative care your pet receives throughout its life is extremely important. Our goal at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital is make it easier for you.  Here are a few things to help your pet feel more comfortable during their vet visit:

Pet Owner Relaxation:  Ever notice that you pets can take on your emotions? Using your usual voice, and not rushing the process of getting there is very beneficial in reducing apprehension.  Keep them hungry: Unless there is a medical reason, pet owners should bring hungry pets to appointments; this allows them to be fed treats by the staff and reduce the risk of an upset stomach on the trip in

Car Rides:  For many pets, car rides symbolize a trip to the veterinarian, or some other unwelcome change. Adding some enjoyable car rides between veterinary visits will make the trip feel more normal.  Try a car ride to visit a favorite place, a park, a friend and reward them for good behavior on the ride.  Also be sure to make the car comfortable for them.  Suit them with a harness (pet safety belt) and provide them with a soft place to lie on during the ride. Speak normally, and playing soft music encourages their sense of well being.

Pet Carrier Issues:  Much like car rides, pets also associate their carriers with vet visits. Clients should use pet carriers as cozy dog and cat retreats at home, which helps them associate it with a safe place to be.

Pheromones:  There are wipes and sprays available that can be used to promote a sense of well being in your pet. For example, Adaptil (also known as DAP) for canines or Feliway for felines can be used on carriers, bedding or blankets. Simply spray or wipe 30 minutes or so before you place them in the carrier.

Use ThunderShirts:  With the calming effects of consistent, gentle pressure, many dogs and about 50% of cats will respond well to wearing a Thundershirt while visiting their veterinarian.  The effect is similar to a tightly swaddled newborn baby.

Don’t Forget Training:  You have likely worked hard on training your pet for various situations whether you know it or not.  If you revert back to training and basic commands, it gives your pet something to focus on while in the waiting room.

Reward your Pet:  Throughout and after a successful pet visit, be sure to reward your pet.  Give them play time, a treat, bring them to their favorite place or provide a new toy.   This way, their experience is reinforced as a positive one.

Source: petwellnessnetwork.com

What is feline distemper?

Feline distemper or feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease of kittens and adult cats caused by the feline parvovirus. It is also called panleukopenia as it affects the bone marrow and causes low white blood cell counts. It is relatively common in unvaccinated cats and is often fatal, especially in young kittens. It has been referred to as Feline Distemper, but in fact, it is a different virus than canine distemper and causes different symptoms.

Early symptoms of feline distemper infection are lethargy and loss of appetite then rapid progression to severe, sometimes bloody diarrhea and vomiting.  These signs are very similar to other diseases, some serious, some not so serious. Therefore, if any abnormal behaviors or signs of illness are observed, it is important to have your veterinarian examine your pet as soon as possible.  A diagnosis of distemper is presumed if vomiting and diarrhea are present along with a low white blood cell count.  A diagnosis of distemper is confirmed when the virus is detected in blood or feces.

There is no medication to kill the virus. Hospitalization with IV fluid therapy and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection are necessary to support the cat’s health while its own body is fighting the infection. Not all will survive.

Preventing the infection through vaccination is better rather than treating an infected cat. Today’s vaccines are very effective in helping your pet protect itself from infection. A series of kitten vaccinations followed by adult boosters stimulate the cat’s immune system to produce protective antibodies. Should the cat come into contact with the virus, these same antibodies will help your cat successfully fight off the infection.

Consult with your veterinarian for advice on a vaccination schedule appropriate for your pet.  The vaccine is available at our hospital in a combination vaccine with viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.

Feline Rhinotracheitis virus
A viral infectious respiratory disease caused by feline herpesvirus type 1. This virus is an extremely common cause of respiratory disease and often results in chronic, often life-long, infection with intermittent recurrences causing respiratory and sometimes eye disease. It is spread easily through airborne respiratory secretions and direct contact with a carrier cat or contaminated objects. Unvaccinated cats are most susceptible as well as the very young and the very old.

A common viral infectious respiratory disease, can also cause mouth sores resulting in severe oral pain. Spread by direct contact with an infected cat or by contact with contaminated objects. The virus is very resistant to disinfectants and persists in the environment. Unvaccinated and inadequately vaccinated cats of all ages are at risk.

Source: sterlinganimalclinic.com & nutmegclinic.org

Housetraining Your Adult Dog

No matter what age your adopted dog is, you should assume they are not housebroken. Dogs in a shelter environment often are not able to get outdoors when they need to eliminate so even if they were trained in their last home, they may have lost that behavior prior to adoption. Your house may also have odors of other animals that can lead to marking as your dog gets used to its new home.

Dogs need some time to get used to their new environment, so carefully watch them in the first few weeks to prevent accidents and learn their elimination cues.

If your dog was previously housetrained, you will have an easier time getting it used to using the restroom outdoors. You should assume, however, that your dog is not housebroken so you can prevent any lapses in training. It will take some time for your dog to get used to signaling you when it needs to eliminate. It will also take time for you to read this cues. Follow these suggestions to make the housebreaking process easy on you and your dog.

Housetraining Made Easy

  • Establish a routine. Try to get your dog on a set schedule of elimination. Take it out first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Dogs don’t know that you want to sleep in on the weekend so make sure you are taking it out at the same time every day.
  • Feed your dog on a set schedule, preferably twice a day. This will make its need to eliminate more consistent. Feeding high quality dry dog food will cut down on the amount of stool and limit digestive distress. When changing foods, gradually mix the foods over a week to ten days to get their stomachs used to the change.
  • At bathroom time, try to take your pet out the same door every time. This will make it easier for your dog to signal when he needs to go out.
  • Establish a specific area for your dog to eliminate. Make sure it is not too far from the door. Keep the dog on a leash and walk it to the same spot whenever it goes out. It only gets to play or go for a walk after it eliminates. Your dog will not be allowed to have free run of the house until it eliminates outside.
  • Use a command to get the dog to go on cue. Once you take the dog to the bathroom spot, say “go potty” and praise it when they does eliminate. You need to make a big deal out of it eliminating outside. Praise it and give it a small food treat. This will make it more likely that it will eliminate outdoors.
  • Do not let the dog practice going to the bathroom indoors. When it is in the house do not let it have free run until you are certain they have eliminated outdoors. When your dog is in the house, keep it tethered to you so you can watch for its elimination cues. If you are unable to watch it, keep it confined in a crate or a small area where it won’t eliminate.


  • Most housebreaking errors are caused by human error. You are responsible for making sure your dog makes the right decisions. However accidents do occasionally occur. Just start over with your housebreaking routine and your dog will be back on track in no time.
  • After an accident, make sure you thoroughly clean the area. Use a high quality enzymatic cleaner available at pet stores. Typical household cleaners will not work. Keep the dog away from the area until it has thoroughly dried.
  • If you catch your dog beginning to eliminate indoors, quickly say “outside” and take it to their elimination spot. Try not to yell at it or scare it. This will only make the dog fear urinating in front of you and will begin to hide to eliminate. Praise it when it’s finish using the bathroom outdoors.
  • Do not punish your dog if it does have an accident. The dog is just not used to the rules of the house. Try to be patient and consistent.

Other Housetraining Problems…

If you have been consistent with your housetraining and your dog is still having problems several months later, you might want to consider other extenuating circumstances.

  • Medical Problems: physical problems will make housetraining impossible. Have your dog checked out by a veterinarian to rule out a urinary tract infection, age related incontinence or parasites.
  • Submissive Urination: some dogs, especially young ones, temporarily lose control of their bladder when they become excited or feel threatened. This usually occurs during greeting, play or when they are being punished.
  • Territorial Marking: dogs sometime deposit small amounts of urine to mark their home area. This tells other dogs that there is a dog already living here. Dogs are more susceptible to this practice if they are not neutered or if there are other pets in the house. Make sure to thoroughly clean your carpet and furnishings before a new dog enters a home with resident pets.
  • Separation Anxiety: dogs from a shelter environment sometimes suffer from an irrational fear of being left alone. In their owner’s absence, they may become destructive and also lose control of their bladders or have a bowel movement in the house. Never punish a dog for this behavior.
  • Fears or Phobias: like separation anxiety, dogs have emotional problems like humans. Phobic dogs may have housetraining lapses during monsoon season because of the lightning and thunder.

Some dogs simply do not like to go outside during a rainstorm. Talk to a behaviorist or your veterinarian to get help with phobias.

While housetraining may take some time, try to be patient and consistent with your new family member. Your dog is getting used to you as you are getting used to it. The easiest way to train the dog is to keep it from having any accidents in the home in the first place. Also, rewarding the dog for the correct behavior will make the behavior more likely to occur in the future. Have fun with your new pet and good luck!

Feisty Kittens with an Attitude!

Young cats and kittens can be quite serious when it comes to play.  For felines, play prepares them to become great hunters and helps develop social skills with other cats.  But this behavior is not fun when the pet treats us like big mice or when its playful pounces puncture our skin.  Although play bites are usually inhibited, and swatting is often done with retracted claws, sharp teeth and nails can damage our clothing or inadvertently cause injury.  The danger of serious injury increases when the behavior is directed toward the face, a family member with fragile skin, or toward someone with an immune deficiency disorder.

Play attack problems typically involve young cats that are alone during the day.  The attacks escalate when they are reinforced by someone who thinks the behavior is cute and encourages it.  Besides exploration and investigation, kitten play typically involves elements of predation such as stalking, chasing, attacking, catching, and biting.  Most kittens engage their peers in rough-and-tumble play.  When another feline playmate is not available, a nearby family member becomes the next-best target.  Although you may be an appealing target for play, you don’t have the fur, defenses, or mobility of another cat, which increases the likelihood of injuries.

Avoid training a kitty to be a terrorist.  Teasing a small kitten with your fingers and toes may seem like fun, but this will quickly change as the pet grows older and the bites become harder.  If you want to be more to your cat than a big toy, take an early stand.  While some of these little guys can become quite bloodthirsty and relentless, their behavior can be controlled.

Controlling the little beast

Since play is a normal behavior, it is important that the cat has an acceptable outlet for it.  Providing a feline playmate of the same age and temperament will usually draw the attack behavior away from you and toward the new buddy.  Only consider this option if you are prepared to take on the extra care that a second pet warrants.  If adding another pet to the home is out of the question, then you must shoulder the responsibility for providing the proper type of play and shaping your pet’s behavior.

Play interaction with the cat should involve tossing or dangling toys for it to chase and catch.  This directs the attacks away from you.  The more vigorous the interaction, the better.  Keep your kitten so busy and worn out that it doesn’t even think about going after you.  Check out your local pet store and stock up on all types of fun, tempting cat toys.  Or provide inexpensive toys such as ping pong balls or unshelled walnuts for swatting.  Adding catnip to the toy or stuffing or coating it with food can sometimes increase its appeal.  A short fishing rod is great for casting small rubber or feather toys, and provides entertainment for you and your cat.  Always maintain control at playtime.  Play that is initiated by the cat should be ignored or interrupted; you should start all play.

To swat or not to swat

Physical punishment, such as swatting the pet or thumping it on the nose to stop rough play, should be avoided.  It may cause your cat to either fear you or encourage even rougher play.  A blast of air from a compressed air can, a squirt from a water gun, or an audible alarm are safe ways to discourage the behavior.  This approach is only likely to work when you can anticipate an attack and are prepared to interrupt your kitten as it begins its assault.  This is not always an easy task.  Attacks are most likely to occur when you’re making some interesting movement, such as dusting, making the bed, reading a newspaper, or walking down the stairs.  Vigilance is a necessary ingredient for being consistent in teaching your kitten not to attack.

Up all night

Nighttime attacks are more difficult to handle and, in most cases, the only simple solution is to keep the cat out of the bedroom when you sleep at night.  Often, this behavior will decrease and finally stop as the pet grows older.  If the attacks are not so bad, but the kitten has the annoying habit of waking you up by sucking on earlobes or elbows as you sleep, try applying a light coat of underarm deodorant to those areas to discourage it.  Or keep a can of compressed air nearby to deter those surprise attacks.

Family feuds

Problems with other cats in the home can occur when the play target is another cat that is weak, fearful, or old, and cannot tolerate the young cat’s playful behavior.  The pets should be kept separate unless supervised.  A water gun can discourage exuberant play, and appropriate toys can keep the rambunctious cat occupied.  Sometimes, the cat bearing the brunt of play attacks can become so stressed that additional help may be needed.  Medication may reduce its anxiety – discuss this option with your veterinarian.

Nail trimming – an ounce of prevention

Since young kittens tend to use their paws a lot in play, it’s a good idea to keep those nails trimmed to prevent them from snagging sensitive skin.  It’s easy to condition your cat to accept nail trimming, but you must have patience and pick the right time.  The very worst time to attempt nail trimming is when the pet is alert and active.  (It may seem this is always the case, but all kittens occasionally nap.) Handle the paw very gently, use a sharp pair of trimmers, and quickly take off the tip of one nail.  If the pet continues to snooze, take the tip off another nail or two.  If your cat stirs, pet it gently and give it a small treat.  Another, tip is to touch the paws often so your kitten will become accustomed its paws handled, making the nail trimming process easier on both you and your pet.