CRITTER CHAT: Preparing your pet for general anesthesia

by Dr. Phil

Surgery or any procedure that requires general anesthesia for your dog or cat is a big deal, but by taking a few basic steps to prepare both before and after, you will help reduce some of your anxiety as well as increase the comfort of your pet.  Of course, it is most important that you follow your veterinarian’s pre- and post-surgical instructions.

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Our Top 5 Favorite Feline Pet Essentials Products

Red kitten lying on a clean towel

Some of you may already know this, but 21st Century Animal HealthCare is the provider of a trusted product line called 21st Century Essential Pet Products. These dog and cat health care products are exclusively available at PetSmart stores nationwide. You can find them online or in the isles. On our Paw Print blog, we like to write fun and helpful posts that include tips about weather, holidays, giveaways and more. Once in a while we like to tell you a little bit about our trusted pet care products, too. Do you have a dog or cat? Visit our website to learn more about 21st Century Animal HealthCare.

Here are a few of our favorite Essential Pet Feline Products:   

  1. HAIRBALL CONTROL: Got hairballs? Essential Pet has a product for that! Cats are natural self-groomers. In this self-grooming process, they ingest hair which can build up and cause hairballs. While cat’s have a natural ability to expel this ingested hair, hand brushing and supplementation with 21st Century Essential Pet Hairball Soft Chews may help support this process.
  1. SKIN & COAT: Who doesn’t love soft and smooth fur? You can help support your cat’s skin and coat with the yummy chicken taste found in 21st Century’s Skin & Coat Soft Chews. Your feline will purr for it.
  1. CALMING SUPPORT: Do you have a nervous cat? 21st Century Essential Pet Soft Chews are a great way to offer calming support to your furry feline. Great for use while traveling and when you’re away. These soft chews are delicious, palatable and contain natural ingredients.
  1. EYE CARE: Get rid of tear stains. Remove tough tear stains from your cuddly feline with Essential Pet Tear Stain Remover Pads. These pads are gentle, effective and will restore luster to your cat’s coat. This product is a favorite among many pet owners!
  1. WOUND CARE: Support for minor skin infections. 21st Century Wound Spray is a soothing antimicrobial for topical bacteria, ringworm, various viruses and for soothing minor cuts and scratches. This is a great product to have on hand in case something does happen. Pick it up online or in stores today!

For a full list of our canine and feline health care products, visit us online at Do you have a question about our products? Message us Facebook or Twitter. We are more than happy to help!

Meet our NEW Pet Celebrities: Simon and Sparky

21st Century Animal HealthCare is excited to introduce you to two very important furry friends of ours: Simon and Sparky.

Simon (#MEOW) and Sparky (#WOOF) are what we like to call our “Pet Celebrities”. They’ve recently joined us as spokes-pets to add fun, knowledge and adventure to our social media communities. Both Simon and Sparky will be blogging and posting directly to our blog, Facebook and Twitter pages as themselves.

Meet SimonSIMON is a beautiful, furry feline that knows her stuff. She is recognized for being a smarty-cat and is frequently sought after for advice and expertise in many fields. Simon enjoys observing her surrounds, loves a good challenge and tries to learn something new each day. It’s not uncommon to see Simon relaxing in the windowsill with the hot sun upon her back. She loves sweet treats (cat-nip, of course) and the holidays. Simon grew up in a wonderful household and now lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She thinks she came from France originally and likes to be called SIMONE (pronounced C moan) but we just call her Simon since she really acts like Simon Says all the time. It’s her way or the high way, as we are sure other cat owners will understand.

– Simon’s Favorite Essential Pet Product: Hairball Chews because no cat likes hairballs and this stuff really works!



Meet SparkySPARKY is a 6-year-old mixed breed adventurous canine with a wealth of street and pound smarts. Sparky is friendly, sociable, handsome and well-traveled. He enjoys sports and likes to take walks as often as possible. Sparky can be found frequently enjoying treats, wagging his tail and socializing with friends. He makes friends easily and wants to spend his days enjoying life and making people smile.

– Sparky’s Favorite Essential Pet Product: Sparky loves the Dry Ear Powder for Dogs. He suffers from dry ear, itching and discharge. He’s had a lot of luck with this product!


Stay tuned for introductory posts from Simon and Sparky! They’re excited to share their stories with us.

8 Products to Keep in Your First Aid Kit

As the weather gets colder and driving around in snow (or ice) becomes more likely, be prepared for potential health-related issue with 21st Century Essential Pet Care products. Essential Pet has multiple products to support your dog’s and cat’s health needs. Below is a short list of a few common health issues that our products can help you with. Stock up on our PetSmart exclusive products and be prepared for anything!

This month we are featuring 8 Essential Pet products to have readily available in your home. It could save you time, money and stress.

8 products

  1. Diarrhea – Did your dog eat something he shouldn’t have and now he’s feeling it? Essential Pet has a product that offers fast relief for an upset stomach. We offer digestion products for dogs and cats. Give your pet soothing relief with our trusted, veterinarian formulated products.
  2. Fever – Do you know if your pet’s temperature is normal? Is your pet acting strangely? It might be a good idea to have a thermometer on hand, just in case. You’ll get accurate readings in as little as 10 seconds with this digital thermometer.
  3. Gas – A dog with a lot of gas is no fun for anyone. Excessive gas can be uncomfortable for your pets and holiday visitors! Offer support for the reduction of pet gas with Gas Be Gone™ for Dogs.
  4. Liquid Bandage – Don’t forget to have liquid bandage in your first aid kit. It’s easy to use and waterproof. Cuts and scrapes happen. Be prepared with this fast-acting spray-on formula.
  5. Minor Cuts – Can you tell that your dog is in pain? Don’t let your pooch suffer through the agony. Essential Pet has a product for that! Canine Aspirin is used for temporary pain relief. It is available in dosages for both small and large breed dogs.
  6. Sore Skin – Is your pet itching and scratching? Hot Spot Spray for Cats is used for fast relief from itching, scratching and raw, sore skin. Add this to your cat’s first aid kit and be ready when sore skin occurs.
  7. Stress and Nervous behavior – We’ve covered this topic in more detail once or twice, but it’s always a nice reminder for pet owners. There is calming support for your nervous dog or cat!
  8. Wax Build-Up – Got wax? Keep your dog’s ears clean with this reliable product: Essential Pet Clean Ear Cleansing Liquid. Use it on a routine basis to dissolve wax and keep ears clean.


21st Century Animal HealthCare has several pet health products to keep in your pet’s first aid kit. Pet health is what we do, and luckily it’s easy to find our products at PetSmart stores nationwide!

What’s with whiskers? For cats, they’re pretty important

Cats possess many qualities that give them their astounding flexibility and athletic prowess, and one of the most prominent features all cats share that enables this are whiskers. But why exactly do cats have whiskers?

What is a Whisker
A common mistake most people make is making the assumption that cat whiskers and human hair are alike. The whiskers, unlike human hair, are actually touch receptors. These longer, stiffer hairs — also called vibrissae — are embedded more deeply in the cat’s body than the shorter top-fur coat. The vibrissae are connected securely to the sensitive muscular and nervous systems, sending information about the surroundings directly to the cat’s sensory nerves. This gives the animal a heightened sense of awareness and sensation, helping the cat to detect and respond to changes in its surroundings.

A cat’s tactile hairs may be the most prominent on either side of its nose and upper facial lip. You may be also able to see shorter whiskers above each of the eyes (kind of like eyebrows). But did you know that cats also have whiskers on their jaw line and on the back of their front legs?

Thou Shall Not Cut Your Cat’s Whiskers!
Another common mistake is presuming that cat whiskers should be trimmed. Some cats, like the Devon Rex, even have curly facial whiskers, so you might think that it wouldn’t be harmful to straighten them out with a little trim. You’d be wrong!

Grooming, trimming or cutting off a cat’s whiskers is a BIG no-no. Without their tactile hairs, cats become very disoriented and frightened. In short, whiskers enable cats to gauge and make sense of their environment. Whiskers do grow back, but cats need their whiskers to remain intact in the same way you and I need our touch senses to get around. That is, cats use their whiskers in the same way that we use the touch receptors in our fingertips to feel our way around in the darkness, and to alert us to potentially painful situations. Cat whiskers shed and grow back naturally, and should be left alone.

Feeling Their Way Around — Even in the Dark
Cats have a sensory organ at the end of their whiskers called a proprioceptor, which sends tactile signals to the brain and nervous system. The proprioceptor is related to the position of the body and limbs, an important part of knowing where every part of the body is so that decisions can be made for the next immediate movement. This organ makes the cat’s whiskers very sensitive to even the smallest change in the cat’s environment. A cat’s whiskers not only help it to gauge whether it can fit into a tight space (without even being able to see it), they can even respond to vibrations in the air, such as when the cat is chasing prey.

Whiskers also serve as a way for cats to visually measure distance, which is why they are able to leap so quickly and gracefully onto a narrow ledge or out of harm’s way.

Whisker “Radar”
Perhaps when playing “chase the toy” with a cat, you’ll notice its whiskers are pointing forward. This is probably its “game face,” a sign that your cat is in hunting mode.

Whiskers are a vital part of a cat’s mobility and sense of security. Without whiskers, cats would not be able to achieve the great acrobatic feats that are so awe-inspiring, or protect themselves from dangerous situations. (pet md)

Does your pet have tangled or matted fur? Here are some reasons to do something about it.

Dreading the next brushing session with your dog or cat? Many owners of dog and cats with long fur struggle with tangles and knots that create mats, and sometimes it feels like an unending job.  Essentially it is, if you’ve chosen a long furred friend, but the effort is worth it.  Constantly matted fur can create great pain for your pet and can lead to other health and behavior issues.

When an animal’s coat is matted down to the level of the skin, each time a dog or cat scratches, the nail catches the matted hair or fur and tears at the skin. This creates discomfort and often pain as the scratching pulls the tangled knots away from the skin and may even lead to actual rips in skin that require stitches and antibiotics after the animal is completely shaved down by a professional. Eyes, ears, mouths, paw pads and sterile areas are increasingly prone to serious infection with an improperly managed coat.

Aside from developing open wounds, dirt and bugs and feces can be enveloped into the matted mess and cause infestation or infection within a short period of time, as well as skin rashes and other complications. Aside from the physical effects, an animal’s behavior can change drastically due to the pain and discomfort they experience with a matted coat. Dogs can tend to get very snappy and bite without provocation and cats may disappear in their occasional hiding spots for days on end and even stop cleaning themselves.

Underlying Conditions
A matted coat on a cat can also mean that they are severely nervous or not being treated properly by their owner and have stopped grooming themselves. Usually, a strong comb out is required, rather than a shave down and also a serious look at the factors and environment contributing to the cat no longer cleaning himself or herself, as was the case with Coco who was a special needs (fearful) case adopted by a woman who never took the time to introduce her into the household gradually or develop a one-on-one relationship as instructed (and supposedly understood) at the time of adoption. After a period of time, Coco had to be removed from the home and the adoption rescinded. Coco has a new mom and is doing wonderfully because the owner took the time to develop the relationship and introduce her to the new environment properly. She sleeps and snuggles and greets mom when she comes home from work and cares for her beautiful coat with no more matted fur!

It’s recommended that anyone considering adopting that fluffy little ball of fur in the window to please educate themselves on all aspects of a breed, and the cost and time of proper grooming, before choosing a pet. Additionally, be sure to find a professional groomer that has a solid reputation and has extensive experience or specializes in the particular breed or coat of your pet. Check out this LINK for more information on preventing matting in your animal’s coat.

Who can resist a Persian cat? Hardly anyone.

The Persian cat is probably the most popular of all cat breeds.Purebred Persians are common all over the world as pets, and are prominent participants in every cat show. In Britain, these cats are called Longhairs, and each coat color is classed as a different breed. Accordingly, a cat that is considered to be a Black Longhair in Great Britain is simply a black Persian in the United States.

Breed History
As the dusty desert caravans wound their way westward from Persia and Iran, it is supposed that secreted among the rare spices and jewels on the basket-laden camels was an even more precious cargo, an occasional longhair cat. They were called Persian for their “country of origin,” but hieroglyphic references as early as 1684 B.C. shroud forever their exact beginnings

Breed Description
Persian cats have a short and broad body type, often referred to as “cobby.” The body should be powerfully built and well balanced, with a massive short neck and thick legs. The head should also be of a heavy broad type. All Persians share large round eyes, short broad noses, and small rounded ears. However, there is a distinction between two face types:

• The modern flat-faced Persian (the cat commonly seen in shows)
• The traditional doll-faced Persian, which has a more proportioned face, with the mouth and nose located well in front of the eyes, while retaining the basic broad, round, and flat look.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Persian cat is its full, long coat. This unique look is created by a combination of long undercoat and long topcoat. Persians come in many coat colors. The variety of possible colors and the fact that so many Persian cats participate in cat shows have led to the creation of seven color categories for Persians: Solid Color, Silver and Golden (silvers are also known as Chinchillas), Shaded and Smoke, Tabby, Particolor (tortoiseshell varieties), Bicolor, and Himalayan (also known as Colorpoint Longhair).

Persians are very affectionate, but relatively quiet. They are more inclined to a sedate lifestyle and feel most comfortable in calm, quiet surroundings.

Special Needs
The long, beautiful coat demands constant grooming. Persians need daily brushing and regular baths (preferably monthly). If you fail to provide the necessary grooming, the coat is likely to mat and tangle, and professional help may be required.

If you plan to show a Persian cat, seek advice from an experienced breeder who can teach you the tricks of the trade. Alternatively, buy one of the many professional books on the breed (seen to the right of this article).

Adopting a Persian
It’s hard to believe, but there are Persians out there who do not have a loving home. Even this beautiful, distinctive cat sometimes finds itself in need of adoption for one reason or another and there are rescue centers scattered throughout the country that have Persians available for adoption. If you think you might be a loving adoptive parent to one of these beautiful animals, contact your nearest Persian cat shelter and find out if you’re a good fit for one of these exotic creatures.

Fashion or function? Choosing the right dog collar.

When you go to the pet store to purchase a collar for your dog the selection can be overwhelming. Friends, family, and neighbors, as well as the clerk at the store you shop in, may have advice as to what type of collar and leash may work best. But in the end it’s up to you to make the right choice for you and your dog. There are certainly many colors, materials, and styles available to select from, so finding the safest and best dog collar should be easy if you stop to consider a few factors before you buy. And that starts with measuring the diameter of your dog’s neck before you head out to collar shop.

The four most desirable features when shopping for a dog collar are size, ability to clean, durability and safety. Depending on the size of your dog, especially if your dog is a puppy, you may need a collar that adjusts easily as he grows, or you might choose one for him as a puppy and another for him at his adult size. Look for dog collars that can include your pet’s name and your contact number just in case he is lost or gets away from you. Consider reflective materials if you plan to walk your dog at night.

The ideal fit should allow for one to three fingers to fit between your dog’s neck and the collar, depending on the size of your dog:
• If your dog is very small, (under 20 pounds), leave only one finger’s width between the collar and his neck.
• If you have an average, medium-sized dog, go for a two-finger fit.
• If your dog is very large, a three-finger fit may be better.

Dog Collar Styles
“Slip” or “choke” style dog collars consist of a length of leather, nylon or chain link, with rings on each end. They are used as training collars, and the concept is to snap the collar to “correct” the dog. Choke collars work on the principle of punishment, and many trainers now recommend a purely “reward-based” training. They are NOT to be used as everyday collars. Choke collars should NEVER be used on toy dogs or dogs weighting less than 20 pounds.

“Pinch” or ”prong-training” dog collars are appointed with blunt prongs that face the dog’s neck. They are controversial because they dig into the dog’s flesh, although some experienced trainers find them useful in dealing with large, powerful dogs. NEVER use a pinch or prong collar as an everyday collar or put one on your dog because you think it makes your dog look mean or tough.

Electric “shock collars” are NOT recommended for puppies. While useful in specialized training environments, such as field training of gun dogs by experienced handlers, shock collars should NEVER be used by inexperienced or impatient pet owners as a substitute for proper training, discipline, or socialization. Improperly used, they can do more harm than good.

Head halters and body harnesses are similar to what you’d find used on a horse. Head halters wrap around the dog’s mouth just in front of his eyes like a muzzle. However, the dog is still able to drink water, bark, and bite; it doesn’t keep his mouth closed. Body harnesses wrap around the body rather than the neck. Some people consider this to be a more humane dog collar, however, you should consider how well it will work in helping you to train your particular dog. Body harnesses are ideal for small or toy dogs.

The traditional body harness fits across the dog’s chest and the leash hooks on his back between the shoulder blades. This type of harness stops the dog from coughing and choking because it takes the pressure off of his trachea, but the pressure is still felt at the dog’s chest and that reflexive instinct is still there. With the pressure distributed across the chest most dogs pull harder. The body harness that works best is a front-clip harness. This harness easily slips over the dog’s head and buckles behind the front legs, the difference is that the leash hooks on the front of the dog, at the middle of the chest. This simple change in design changes the pressure from the front of the dog to the side of the dog removing the natural feeling for the dog to lean into the pressure.

Leather is a good choice for a dog collar; however, many dogs are dedicated leather-chewers. If your dog spends a lot of time around other canines, check the collar frequently for signs of chewing damage and replace right away if necessary.

If you choose the right collar or harness for your dog walking him will be more fun for you both. Now go get that leash, put your new collar on your dog, and enjoy a walk with your pet!

Got kitty fever? Be sure to do your research before you bring home that cute ball of fur.

Are you hoping to bring a new kitty into your life? Getting a new cat, whether it’s your first kitty, an addition to the family, or a rescue, it makes sense to do a little research so that you don’t regret your decision later.

Choosing a Cat
Should I get a cat from a shelter or a breeder? Choosing the right cat for you is the smartest way to choose a cat. Many of us believe that by choosing a cat from a specific breed we will be assured of a cat with specific personality type. Although it is true that most cat breeds are known to have certain traits, cats are very much individuals and a cat of a breed noted for its independence could be in fact very dependent.

Modern Siamese cats, for example are known to be very vocal, but that does not mean they all are and the feline that you select may be very quiet. Ragdolls are known as the gentle giants of the cat world and generally they are, but the odd one may be far from amiable. A cat’s personality does not depend just on the breed but also upon the personalities of the parents and the social order it was introduced to as a kitten. However, many people choose a pedigree kitten because they know what size, weight, coat pattern and appearance the cat is likely to have as an adult.

Choosing a Cat – Non Pedigree
The vast majority of cats are not purebred, pedigree cats but non-pedigree domestic cats often referred to as moggies. Non-pedigree cats may not have a verifiable lineage, but can be very lovable cats, as can any pedigree, and every bit as beautiful as well. Non-pedigree cats and kittens are almost always available from animal shelters, and these may be the best places from which to choose the right cat for you. Not only are they likely to have a selection of fabulous kittens but adult cats too. Choosing a cat from an animal rescue center (shelter) makes the best sense because sadly, far too many good healthy cats are destroyed each year due to overpopulation

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cats in animal shelters were given up by their owners because they were bad pets. In the main, these cats are there through changed circumstances of their owners, a family tragedy perhaps or the owner took on the cat without understanding the responsibility and care a pet needs. The cats are not there because they themselves are defective. Many animal shelters go to a lot of trouble to match you up with the right cat for your family. They will often follow up with you after you have chosen your cat to ensure that all is well with you and your new pet.

Kitten or Adult?
Kittens are irresistibly cute, no doubt about that, but are not always the best choice for adoption. Kittens demand a lot of attention, time and care. A kitten will need litter box training and will require feeding several times a day. Kitties are full of curiosity and into everything, they learn about life by investigating things. Be prepared for a little damage to your treasured possessions during these investigations. An adult cat on the other hand will often settle in right away and prefer to observe his or her new domain from their favorite spot.

Children love kittens and love to play with them. Kittens love playing too, but don’t know yet how to control their sharp claws and teeth. Also children can unknowingly be a little rough with a kitten and may cause it harm. Adult cats that have been used to family life will often be unruffled by youngsters and will just slink away when play gets out of hand.

Choosing a Cat: Decision Time
You have an idea of the sort of cat that you want, you have decided between an adult cat or a kitten, and you have arranged for a viewing at your local animal shelter. Ask the staff for help with choosing the right cat for you. They will be pleased to tell you about the behavior of individual cats and kittens. Remember that a kitten that is shy of humans will likely make an aloof cat. Likewise a cat that is eager to greet you will most probably always be demanding for attention.

You may have a preference for a particular coat pattern. You may have your thoughts on a flaming orange cat, or maybe a mysterious black cat. But you just may be shown a captivating tiger tabby that steals your heart clean away. Cats may have a little say in choosing us as well as us choosing them.