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The veterinarians and staff at the Shawnee Animal Clinic are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

A Cat's Tongue

A feeling of rough sandpaper as you are licked by your cat is a reminder that its long, muscular tongue serves many functions, including grooming.

A Grooming Tool and More

A cat's ability to groom itself is the result of numerous knobs, called papillae, on the surface of a cat's tongue. Located at the tongue's center, the papillae form backward-facing hooks containing large amounts of keratin, the same material found in human fingernails. These hooks provide the abrasiveness a cat needs for self-grooming. The strength of these hooks also helps a cat hold food or struggle with prey.

Although the abrasiveness of a cat's tongue helps it to clean itself and untangle its hair, your help is needed through regular grooming. As you groom your cat, you are removing loose and dead hair. Otherwise, a cat may ingest this hair and hair balls can form, which can cause vomiting and may cause impaction in the gastrointestinal tract. Long-haired cats need daily grooming; short-haired cats should be groomed at least once a week.

When Cats Lap it Up

A cat's tongue becomes spoon-shaped to enable it to lap liquids. Notice how its tongue laps under water in much the same manner as an elephant uses its trunk. It flicks its tongue quickly in and out of the water, swallowing after every third or fourth lap.

A cat's water intake will vary depending on the season of the year, activity and type of diet being fed. Cats consuming canned cat food diets will not drink as much water as those fed dry food. If, for some reason, a cat does not appear to be drinking enough water, more water can be added to the food Always keep fresh drinking water in a clean bowl available to your cat. Water is an essential ingredient and is involved in virtually every function of a cat's body.

A Matter of Taste

Studies show that the cat's sense of taste is keener than that of the dog. This acute sense of taste is the result of two sets of taste buds. Mushroom-shaped papillae at the tip and sides of the tongue hold some of the largest taste buds. A set of cup-shaped papillae are located at the back of the tongue. In addition to flavor, a cat's tongue reacts to the texture or "mouth-feel" of a particular food. This is one of the reasons dry cat foods come in a variety of shapes. The cat's tongue also reacts to temperature and shows a preference for foods at room temperature.

Contributing To A Cat's Sense of Taste

Cats also have a highly developed sense of smell and they notice changes in their food. Some researchers suggest that this sense may stimulate their appetite or cause them to refuse to eat. A cat's appetite may be affected by many factors including noise, strange people, changes in routine and even feeding dishes washed with a strong detergent and not carefully rinsed.

However, if a cat refuses to eat for a period of two to three days, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. This continued food refusal may be a sign of illness.

VIDEO - In the Exam Room: Preventive Care Visits

Preventive care visits are an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy. But what does a veterinarian do during a wellness check-up? Dr. Julia Georgesen takes us into the exam room and shows us what to expect when we take a pet to the veterinarian for a preventive care exam.

Eliminating Dog Odor

Aside from an accumulation of dirt, a persistent and unpleasant doggie odor could be caused by many factors. Some of these factors include dental disease, ear infections and oily skin. A closer look at your dog may help you find the problem.

• Look in your dog's mouth. Are the teeth discolored? Do you smell more than the usual "doggie breath?" If so, a visit to the veterinarian for a dental checkup and treatment may be in order. During your visit, your veterinarian may explain how you can clean your dog's teeth, in order to help protect against future dental disease.

• Ear infections are frequently the cause of an offensive odor, especially among long-eared and floppy-eared dogs. The inside of the ear becomes moist and hot, providing the perfect environment for infections. Take a close look inside your dog's ears. Is the skin red and sore? Does the dog cry out in pain as you try to examine the ears? Does the ear canal have a bad odor? Any of these may be warning signs of an ear infection which should be treated by a veterinarian.

• Do you feel a slight greasiness on your hands after you pet your dog? This may be an indication of seborrhea, a common skin disorder in dogs. These dogs have excess production of sebum, a normal product of the skin glands. The result can be flaky dandruff or an oily, waxy feel to the hair coat and a strong odor. Seborrhea may also dispose a dog to skin and ear infections. Frequent bathing with a medicated shampoo recommended by your veterinarian can help prevent much of the odor.

• One other possibility for your dog's odor may be its rear end. Infection or improper emptying of the anal glands can cause odor and discomfort to the dog, and a trip to the veterinarian may be in order. Long-haired dogs sometimes have a soiled rear from defecating. Without daily brushing, the rear can become matted and smelly. Monthly clipping around the rear end helps, as does daily brushing and grooming.

Once you have investigated the cause of your dog's odor you can begin to help control it. Enlist the aid of your veterinarian in identifying the problem, treating it if necessary, and controlling it in the future. Never forget the importance of grooming on a regular basis. It is essential to keep a hair coat healthy by removing scale, dirt and dead hair; distributing the natural oils throughout the coat and preventing mats and tangles in long hair.

VIDEO - Choosing Between a Kitten and an Adult Cat

Cute, cuddly kittens are hard to resist. But an older cat may need a home more desperately--and may be a better fit for your lifestyle. Consider the factors outlined in this video before you make your final choice.

22 Feline Facts

• Tylenol, Advil and chocolate are poisonous to cats.

• The ancestor of all domestic cats is the African Wild Cat which still exists today.

• In ancient Egypt, killing a cat was a crime punishable by death.

• In ancient Egypt, cats were preserved as mummies and embalmed mice were placed with them in their tombs. In one ancient city, over 300,000 cat mummies were found.

• The first cat show was in 1871 at the Crystal Palace in London.

• Today there are about 100 distinct breeds of the domestic cat.

• Genetic mutation created the domestic cat, which is tame from birth.

• Like birds, cats have a homing ability that uses its biological clock, the angle of the sun, and the earth's magnetic field.

• Hunting is not instinctive for cats. Kittens born to non-hunting mothers may never learn to hunt.

• Cats bury their feces to cover their trails from predators.

• Mother cats teach their kittens to use the litter box.

• Among other tasks, cats can be taught to use a toilet, come, sit, beg, eat with their paws, heel, jump through a hoop, play a piano, play dead, roll over, open a door, hide food in boxes, shake, and fetch.

• Cats sleep 16 to 18 hours per day. When cats are asleep, they are still alert to incoming stimuli. If you poke the tail of a sleeping cat, it will respond accordingly.

• In Great Britain, black cats are thought to bring good luck.

• Besides smelling with their nose, cats can smell with an additional organ called the Jacobson's organ, located in the upper surface of the mouth.

• Cats can't taste sweets.

• The chlorine in fresh tap water irritates sensitive parts of the cat's nose. Let tap water sit for 24 hours before giving it to a cat.

• The average cat food meal is the equivalent to about five mice.

• The catgut formerly used as strings in tennis rackets and musical instruments does not come from cats. Catgut actually comes from sheep, hogs, and horses.

• A large majority of white cats with blue eyes are deaf. White cats with only one blue eye are deaf only in the ear closest to the blue eye. White cats with orange eyes do not have this disability.

• Neutering a cat extends its life span by two or three years.

• Ten human years translate to about 60 cat years. A one year old cat is similar in age to an 18 year old human.

Training Your Dog - The Heel Command

The most important thing you will want to keep in mind with this command is you have to make yourself more interesting than anything else around you during your walks. Give your dog a reason to stay with you, talk to him, give him a "sit" command, stop, make him lie down for one second—make it an interesting walk. The most common reason for dogs forging ahead of their owner is they become bored, or their owner allows them to smell at everything along the way, so before you know it "Rover" is pulling you along wherever he wishes to go. Without realizing it, the owner is also allowing "Rover" to be in charge of his own destiny. You should begin your walk by telling your dog "Heel"; use his name first to get his attention and be very enthusiastic as you give the command. Now, do not forget to talk to him so he pays attention to you, praise him when he is in the correct heel position: the dog on your left, his right shoulder should be in line with your left hip. If he forges ahead, stop, make him sit, resume your walk and repeat the "sit" as needed.


Training Tip
If your dog insists on pulling ahead, work with him in small counter-clockwise circles. This will encourage him to pay attention to you as you are walking. Do not let him smell the ground as you walk—this will encourage him to not pay any attention to you. Play with him in your backyard and allow him to burn off some excess energy before you try to take him out for a controlled walk (somewhat like allowing children recess at school before class). Another bad habit to allow while walking your dog is eliminating wherever he chooses. You should only allow him to eliminate in a specific area of your backyard. By allowing him to just eliminate anywhere, some dogs will turn this into a "marking" behavior, therefore claiming the entire neighborhood. Your dog’s new job is to mark everywhere he can pick up the scent of a strange dog. This type of behavior is also known as a "leader" behavior, which allows him to have that feeling of being in charge, and could also lead to territorial behavior.

Ferret Hairball Facts

As the daylight hours increase or decrease (during the fall and spring) pet ferrets naturally begin shedding their fur. Like cats, these sleek little animals spend quite a bit of time grooming themselves, thus ingesting quite a bit of their own fur.

Due to the ingestion of fur, hairballs can be a significant problem for pet ferrets - even to the point of being fatal. The ingested fur can accumulate in the animal's intestine causing intestinal impaction and blockage. Symptoms of a blocked intestine include lack of bowel movements, decreased activity, lack of appetite and vomiting.

Since ferrets enjoy grooming themselves, it's important to be aware of the potential for hairballs. By regularly administering a laxative, hairballs can be prevented. There are several brands of petroleum-based laxatives considered safe for ferrets. Usually the little furry animal enjoys the taste, so the laxative can be licked off a finger, a spoon or directly from the tube. During shedding season, a little bit should be given every day. Outside shedding season, the laxative should be administered weekly.

Feather Picking in Birds

One of the most frustrating conditions of caged birds is feather picking. When a bird begins to pick, pull out, or mutilate its feathers, its physical appearance is greatly decreased. A bird owner's frustration results from a lack of understanding of what motivates the bird to behave in this destructive manner and what can be done to stop it. Feather disorders rank as some of the most difficult and challenging conditions to diagnose. Luckily, bird owners frequently scrutinize their pets, so feather problems are usually quickly detected. It should be noted that normal preening is normal behavior and must be distinguished from feather-picking and feather mutilation.

Feather picking is an obsessive, destructive behavior pattern of birds during which all or part of their feathers are methodically pulled out or in some way damaged. This behavior often prevents normal feather growth and is not difficult to diagnose. Affected birds look very much the same. Regardless of the pattern of feather loss, the skin below the neck is bare and exposed. The feathers of the head are generally normal and untouched. This is, of course, because the bird cannot reach its head feathers. The one notable exception to this is the bird whose feathers are picked by a cage mate. In these cases, the head feathers of the "victim" are not spared.

Causes of Feather Picking

There are both medical and non-medical reasons for feather picking. The major medical causes include changes in hormone levels, external and internal parasites, malnutrition, internal disease, and bacterial or fungal infections of the skin and/or feather follicles. Contrary to popular opinion, external parasites (mites in particular) are extremely rare among caged birds. Non-medical causes are psychological and/or stress related.

Feather picking is generally a problem of birds in captivity. Wild birds do not pick their feathers because they are too preoccupied with their own survival and with reproduction. Captive birds (pet birds and those in zoos) endure stress not experienced by their wild counterparts. Captivity, malnutrition, solitary living, absence of a mate with which to fulfill courtship rituals and mating needs cause significant stress. The presence of a dog or a cat or even a noisy house can cause stress in a pet bird. The groups of birds most notorious for engaging in this vice include African gray and Timneh parrots, cockatoos, macaws, conures, gray-cheeked parakeets, and cockatiels. Interestingly, feather-picking budgies or Amazon parrots are rarely seen.

Tips for Treating & Preventing Feather Picking

• There are no quick and/or easy solutions for psychological or stress-induced feather picking

• Collars can create an artificial barrier, but can cause more problems

• Consider changing the location of the bird's cage and/or perch

• Provide a larger cage or a more spacious living environment

• Spend more time with your bird

• Feed your bird foods that require some time and effort to eat

• Provide stimulating toys

Seek to treat the cause, not the symptom!

Some cases of severe chronic feather picking may not respond to any kind of treatment. Damage to or destruction of the feather follicles from repeated trauma to the skin may result in permanent feather loss or growth of abnormal feathers. These pet birds also tend to be unmanageable and very difficult to handle.