Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fire Safety

Home fires happen more often than we'd like to admit. Do you know what do to with your pet if there was a fire in your home? Here are some great tips to keep your entire family - including your beloved four-legged members - safe from fires:

1. Always make sure you have a “pet alert window cling” in your window. This should be located in a window in the front of your house. The “pet alert window cling” will help rescuers know what kind of animal they are looking for and will make it easier to locate your pet. Ask your local fire department for a window cling, or get a free one by filling out this form on the ASPCA website.

2. Consider using monitored smoke detectors in your home. These smoke alarms connect to a monitoring center and allow emergency responders to be contacted even when you are not home, providing an added protection to your pets than a battery operated smoke alarm.

3. Make sure your pets are away from potential fire starting hazards when you are away from home. For example you can use crates or even a baby gate and keep them in secure areas. You should also place your pets near a door so if anything were to happen they can be easily reached.

4. Ideally, you should remove stove knobs because pets can accidentally turn them on while jumping up. Also, remember to blow out any candles before you leave your home. Pets don’t mean to, but they can easily knock over a candle and start a fire.

5. If you are trying to escape a house fire, remember to leave your door open. That way, your animals can find their way out of the house if you are unable to get to them during an emergency.

6. Never use glass water or food bowls on a wooden deck. The glass will magnify the sun's rays and can cause a fire on wooden surfaces.

7. If you have a puppy or a pet that likes to chew on wires, make sure when you leave either block off the pet from that area or fix the wires so they cannot reach them.

8. Try to put your pet’s collar on or near the door knob so if emergency services come in, they will know that an animal is living in the house.

9. Always place a metal or tempered glass screen in front of any fireplace to keep pets away from open flames.

10. Know your animals' favorite hideaways when they panic or when they are scared. Your pets may go to these spots if there is ever a fire.

11. Try to keep a go-bag near the door for emergencies containing items like leashes, food, and other emergency supplies. This bag should be hung up right beside your door so it could be grabbed easily.

With an estimated 500,000 pets affected in home fires each year, it’s very important that pet owners and family members keep these tips in mind and have an emergency plan in place...just in case. Fires are very scary, but you can make a difference starting in your home :)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Feline House Soiling Behaviors

72% of cats surrendered to animal shelters are euthanized.
Many of are surrendered because of house-soiling issues. 
Feline house-soiling and marking behaviors are some of the most common complaints of modern cat owners. In fact, 66% of owners feel their cats are soiling out of spite. The reasons why a cat may choose to not use the litter box are numerous, which makes tackling the issue seem daunting, but the solution is out there! 

Here are the steps your vet will take to help pinpoint and solve the issue:
AAFP and ISFM Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling Behavior in Cats
  1. Take a Patient history. By getting the full history and a timeline of when the issue started we can begin to determine whether there is a medical or behavioral basis for the behavior. We will ask you questions like when the soiling started, where the accidents are occurring, how often it happens, if your cat is using the litter box at all, and if anything changed in your household dynamics or habits.  Noting the ratio between cats and litterboxes, where litterboxes are kept, and where the house-soiling occurs is also helpful. 
  2. Thorough physical exam to look for medical causes.
  3.  Additional testing or procedures based on history and exam findings.  Your vet will likely run tests to rule out common medical causes for these behaviors, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and arthritis.
  4. Make a Diagnosis. If any abnormalities show up in the labwork, those will be considered first as potential causes. If everything medically checks out, however, a diagnosis of marking behavior can be made.  Cats may mark for various reasons including anxiety, stress, or simply feeling the need to make a “calling card” for other cats.  At this point we consider household interactions and other cats along with any changes in litter boxes or litter, which can cause problems.
  5. Treatment - Treatment involves addressing the underlying medical issues as well as tackling the behavioral component. One major consideration is determining your cat's optimal litter box scenario (number, location, size, covered/open, litter, how often the box is cleaned).  According to the AAFP there are five pillars of a healthy feline environment: (1) a safe hideaway place; (2) separate environments for resources (i.e. food,water, play, rest); (3) opportunity for play and predatory behavior; (4) positive and consistent human-cat social interaction; and (5) an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell.  Your veterinarian may suggest some of the following: synthetic pheromones, removing negative triggers, using positive reinforcement, or adding medications/nutraceuticals.  It is important to make sure the number of litter boxes is appropriate as well, and that access to the litter box is safe (providing both visual security and separation from other cats).  It is also important to clean any marked areas frequently and thoroughly to discourage remarking.
  6. Follow-up - Make sure that the treatment plan is appropriate with regular followup and reevaluation for progress. 
  7. Monitor treatment plan and adjust as needed. Sometimes plans have to be altered several times to find the best solution for everyone involved. If all of the above options fail, direct rehoming may be considered (rather than a shelter).

By working with your vet and going through a process of elimination (no pun intended!), it is possible to discover why your cat is acting inappropriately and fix the issue before rehoming becomes a serious consideration. 

For more information visit PetsMatter blog