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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

May is National Chip Your Pet Month. Here's Why You Should Microchip Your Pet.

Each year, millions of dogs and cats are lost; in fact, this disaster strikes 1/3 of all pet-owning families. Of the millions of cats and dogs that are lost, only 10% are ever identified and returned to their owners. More pets lives are lost because owners did not identify them than from all infectious diseases combined.

All pets should wear traditional collars with identification and rabies vaccination tags. A traditional collar, however, is not enough. These collars are often worn loosely and are easily removed. Cat collars are designed to break off if the animal is caught in a tree branch. When the traditional collar is lost, removed, or breaks off, nothing is left to identify the pet...unless, of course, the pet has a microchip.

Microchips are rapidly becoming a very popular method for identifying pets. Once the microchip is inserted, the pet is identified for life. Microchips are safe, unalterable and permanent identification for pets. The microchip is a tiny computer chip or transponder about the size of a grain of rice. The chip is inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades of a cat or dog, in much the same way that a vaccine is administered. The microchip is coded with a unique 10-digit code. Each microchip that is inserted contains a unique code, specific to the individual pet.

Inserting the microchip is simple and causes minimal or no discomfort. The microchip comes pre-loaded in a syringe, ready for insertion. The entire procedure takes less than 10 seconds. Post-injection reactions are very rare and the encapsulated microchip remains in place permanently.

The scanner is a hand-held device used to detect the message encoded in the microchip. The scanner is passed over the animal, paying particular attention to the area between the shoulder blades. If a microchip is present, the 10-digit number (encoded in the capsule) is read by the scanner. Scanners are provided to animal control, humane shelters and other rescue organizations so that all stray pets are scanned and those with microchips are reunited with their owners. Veterinarians can also purchase scanners for use in their hospital.

The veterinary hospital where the microchip is implanted records the pet’s information and its unique microchip identification number. When a lost pet is found and scanned, the veterinary hospital is immediately contacted. Since most veterinary hospitals are not open 24 hours a day, it may take some time before you are notified. In addition to this standard registration, you can register your pet in your own name for a charge of $15-20. By doing this, as soon as your pet is found, you are notified.

Along with the additional registration fee, we recommend that you update your personal information with the microchip database on a regular basis. It is also advisable to have your veterinarian test the microchip on an annual basis in order to make sure that it is properly transmitting data.

Cat Aggression Toward People: Part II (Playful & Fearful)

Play Aggression is usually observed in young cats who live in single-cat households. These cats are very active and generally less than 2 years old. This behavior provides kittens and cats the opportunity to practice the skills they would normally need to have in order to survive in the wild. Play incorporates a variety of behaviors, such as exploratory (explore new areas), investigative (investigate anything that moves) and predatory (bat at, pounce on, and bite objects that resemble prey).

Playful aggression often occurs when an unsuspecting owner comes down the stairs, rounds a corner, or even moves under the bedcovers while sleeping. These playful attacks may result in scratches and bites which usually don't break the skin. People sometimes inadvertently initiate aggressive behavior by encouraging their cat to chase or bite at their hands and feet during play. The body postures seen during play aggression resemble the postures a cat would normally show when searching for or catching prey. A cat may freeze in a low crouch before pouncing, twitch her tail, flick her ears back and forth, and/or wrap her front feet around a person's hands or feet while biting. These are all normal cat behaviors, whether they're seen during play or are part of an actual predatory sequence. Most play aggression can be successfully redirected to appropriate targets; however, it may still result in injury.

In order to correct this behavior, you need to redirect your kitten's aggressive behavior onto acceptable objects. Drag a toy along the floor to encourage your kitten to pounce on it, or throw a toy away from your kitten to give her even more exercise by chasing the toy down. Another good toy is one that your kitten can wrestle with, like a soft stuffed toy that's about the size of your kitten. She can grab this toy with both front feet, bite it, and kick it with her back feet. This resembles the way young kittens play with each other. Encourage play with a "wrestling toy" by rubbing it against your kitten's belly when she wants to play rough. Be careful and get your hand out of the way as soon as she accepts the toy.

Since kittens need quite a bit of playtime, try to set up three or four consistent times during the day to play with your kitten. This will help her understand that she doesn't have to be the one to initiate play by pouncing on you.

Fearful/defensive aggression involves cats that may display body postures which appear to be similar to canine submissive postures - crouching on the floor, ears back, tail tucked, and possibly rolling slightly to the side. Cats in this posture are not submissive, they are fearful and defensive. They may attack if touched.

In order to figure out the reason for the fearful behavior, you need to closely observe your cat to determine the trigger for this behavior. Keep in mind that just because you know that the person or animal approaching your cat has good intentions, this does not mean that your cat feel safe. The trigger for her fearful behavior could be anything. Some common triggers are:

  • A stranger
  • Another animal
  • A particular person
  • Loud noises
  • A child

To help eliminate the fearful behavior, you need to desensitize your cat to the fear stimulus. Determine what distance your cat can be from the fear stimulus without responding fearfully. Introduce the fear stimulus at this distance while you're praising her and feeding her a favorite treat. Slowly move the fear stimulus closer as you continue to praise your cat and offer her treats.

If at any time during this process your cat shows fearful behavior, you've proceeded too quickly and need to start over from the beginning. Working too quickly is the most common mistake and short frequent adaptation sessions work the best. If you are not having much success with the desensitization process, you may need help from a professional animal behavior specialist.

How to Care for Your New Puppy or Kitten: Veterinary Visits

Congratulations on your new family member! If you are new to pet ownership or a seasoned veteran, it is important to stay up to date on proper care for your new puppy or kitten.

Vaccination Schedule

Vaccinations (Immunizations) are essential to the health of your pet. The most important vaccines for a pup or kitten are the series of vaccines that he or she receives post-weaning. It is critical to establish and maintain a firm vaccination schedule in order to maximize immunity against a host of debilitating and possibly deadly viruses and bacteria. When you bring your new pet in for its initial examination, a vaccination schedule is planned. For your pet's protection, it is necessary to follow this schedule rigorously. In general, puppies and kittens should be seen several times for examinations and vaccinations, completing the series at about four months of age. During this time, your pet should be provided with de-worming medication and have several fecal examinations in order to ensure that it is free from intestinal parasites. While your puppy or kitten is undergoing its initial series of vaccines, you should try to avoid exposing him or her to other dogs or cats. You should also avoid high traffic areas (streets, parks, and levees) until the vaccination series is complete. Even though your pet may have begun its series of vaccinations, he or she is still susceptible to diseases until all the vaccinations are completed.

Heartworm Preventative

Heartworm Infection is a very serious problem in both dogs and cats. Heartworms are blood parasites that are transmitted by mosquito bites. Once an animal is infected with heartworm, serious damage to the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys can result. The damage caused by heartworm can easily be fatal. If diagnosed early, heartworm disease can be treated. Though there is a treatment for heartworm, the treatment itself can be very difficult for some pets to handle. Fortunately, there are very reliable medications that prevent heartworm infection. Dogs and cats should be kept on a monthly heartworm preventative medication. These medications are not only safe and effective, but several are combined with medications to prevent intestinal parasites and fleas.

Spaying or Neutering

Unless your pet is going to be used for responsible breeding, having it spayed or neutered by six months of age is highly recommended. This helps to avoid the inconvenience of heat cycles in females and provides health and social benefits to both males and females.


A permanent microchip is the most effective way to ensure proper identification of your pet. It is also extremely helpful in the recovery of lost pets. Ask your veterinarian about microchipping your pet.

You Know A Dog When You See One, But Does Your Dog?

An afternoon drive can quickly turn to chaos when Fido (who’s riding shotgun of course) spots another dog in the distance. His ears perk up, his eyes widen and his stance becomes alert and eager. Often, this is followed by a barrage of barking and tail wagging. The same may happen when relaxing on the couch and a dog appears on television. Can it be true that canines have an uncanny ability to recognize fellow members of their species just by sight?

A team of French researchers published a study, titled “Visual discrimination of species in dogs,” which concluded dogs can in fact recognize other dogs by appearance.

The Study

The Canis familiaris (or domestic dog) family tree is the most diverse among domestic mammals. With so many different shapes, sizes, coat types, colors and patterns, how can one breed of dog know all others by sight alone? Surely a few sniffs would help a Great Dane discern a Chihuahua from a cat, or a Chihuahua rule out an equine lineage for a Great Dane, but this study focused solely on visual discrimination.

To prepare for the experiment, nine dogs of mixed breeds and appearances were trained to respond to images of each other. The dogs were presented with a series of two options – a screen with a face of one of the other dogs or a colored or cow-faced screen. Walking toward the image of another dog was met with a reward. Once the dogs were able to identify other dogs 10 out of 12 times, they proceeded to the next phase.

In part two, the dogs were presented with images of a variety of dogs they had never seen before, as well as other animals and people. Again, the dogs were all able to choose their dog cousins over other animals at least 10 out of 12 times.

How Do They Do It?

For this study, only photos of dog heads were used - shot from the side (profile), head-on (facial), and slightly angled (3/4 frontal). Dogs can identify other dogs by headshot alone, but how they do it remains unknown. Determining which features dogs gauge “dogness” by will be the next line of study for researchers.

Source: Scientific American

VIDEO - Why Parasite Control Really Matters

Dr. Mike Paul, former head of the Companion Animal Parasite Council, discusses why parasite control really matters.

At Risk: Health Concerns Facing Your Chinchilla

Many pet owners fail to consider the health risks facing caged pets and may never or rarely take them to see a veterinarian who is skilled at treating exotic and pocket pets. This can significantly shorten your chinchilla’s life, because, just like any creature, they can become ill or injured. Below are several common health risks to be mindful of when owning a chinchilla.

1. Heatstroke - As chinchillas have heavy fur coats and aren’t able to sweat, overheating can lead to heatstroke and even death! Symptoms include: rapid breathing, lying stretched out, drooling, protruding veins in the ear, or reddened ears and eyes. To combat heatstroke, you can place your pet in a shallow bath of cool water – do not submerge his or her head.

2. Dental Problems - As their teeth never stop growing, chinchillas can sometimes suffer from overgrown, crooked, or unevenly worn teeth. In these situations, the teeth can even grow into the soft tissue within the mouth and be very painful. Symptoms include: not eating, trouble swallowing, protruding teeth, bad breath, weight loss, or drooling. Chew toys can prevent these issues from developing.

3. Hairballs - With all that fluffy fur, hairballs can form in the stomach following repeated grooming. Symptoms include: lack of appetite, lethargy, pain, and depression.

4. Bloat - Another stomach related concern, bloat occurs when you change your chinchilla’s diet too suddenly or when he or she eats “gassy foods,” or has an infection or obstruction in the intestines. Symptoms include: Pain, a gurgling stomach, rolling, or laying down/not wanting to move.

5. Constipation - Similarly, your pet can get backed up if you aren’t providing enough roughage in the diet. Symptoms include: straining to poop and hard, dry, or bloody feces.

6. Choking - Chinchillas are actually unable to vomit or regurgitate, so choking is a real danger when food becomes lodged in the windpipe. Symptoms include: retching, difficulty breathing, and drooling. Without fast action, your pet could suffocate!

7. Wavy Fur - If you notice your chinchilla has developed a new, wavy coat, it is actually weak and caused by a diet lacking in protein. The fur will strengthen and smooth over time once a well-balanced diet is introduced.

8. Respiratory Infection - If you failed to realize your pet’s cage is in a drafty or humid spot or is poorly ventilated or overcrowded, your chinchilla could develop a respiratory infection. Symptoms include: eye and nose discharge, fever, sneezing, shivering, and difficulty breathing. Antibiotics may be necessary for recovery and relief.

Whoa there! A Look at Startled Horses

A study titled "Responses of horses to sudden object and sudden noise in relation to direction and distance of the stimulus," found that horses don’t really care what direction a sudden noise or falling object comes from or how close it is to them. If it startles them, it startles them.

For the study, 43 horses from the Belgian mounted police force were led individually into an arena and turned loose to get familiar with the surroundings for a few minutes. Then, the researchers had their fun. An open umbrella was dropped from the ceiling, either in front, behind, or to either side of each horse, and from varying distances away. After dropping the umbrella, the researchers also jerked it back up suddenly.

For the second aspect of the study, the researchers used a noise as a stimulus. From either side of the arena (and varying distances from the horses), they projected a loud recording of a firing machine gun. Little difference was seen in the horses reactions in either test. The intensity of their responses were gauged by locomotion (standing, walking, trotting, or cantering), bucking, rolling, and whinnying. They generally responded similarly to either stimulus, regardless of which direction it came from or how close they were to it.

The horses had an average eight years of experience and all were trained with "emphasis on habituation." Could their reactions be true of all horses? To find out, the research team suggests the tests be replicated on horses with different training backgrounds and in different environments. However, this study was done specifically as part of research into candidate horses for the Belgian police force.