Cats and Hairballs

Have you ever wondered what a hairball is exactly? Is it just a bunch of undigested hair? What causes them and should you worry when your cat coughs one up? Keep reading for answers to common questions about cat hairballs.

What is a hairball?

Hairballs are caused exactly how you think they are. When cats groom themselves, small pieces of hair will attach to their tongue and get swallowed. Most of the hair that is swallowed gets digested, but some of it stays in the stomach to form a hairball. Hairballs can cause hacking, vomiting, lack of appetite, constipation and diarrhea. It’s not fun hacking up one of those gross hairballs! They can also be caused by a moisture-deficient diet or a problem in the GI tract. If you see that your pet is having excessive hairballs, a visit to the veterinarian might be in order.

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Ways to Show Appreciation to Animal Shelters

girl in animal shelterDo you have a favorite animal shelter in your area? Did you get your best friend from a local animal shelter and want to show your support? There are many ways to show your appreciation for the animal shelter you love. Take a moment to read these tips for ideas that might strike up unique ways to offer gratitude.

Some people might think that the only way to show appreciation is by giving money. However, there are other ways to give back – there really are. Of course most animal shelters run off of donations and need the monetary offerings, but other ideas can lead to this type of donation in the end. Everything you do is a step in the right direction. If you can’t give money at this time, take a few of these ideas below into consideration.

5 Ways to Show Your Appreciation to Animal Shelters

  1. Use social media to spread the word – Social media and the internet is a powerful thing! Have you liked your favorite animal shelter’s Facebook page yet? If yes, take it a step further and start to share and comment on their posts so all your Facebook friends can see that you are a fan. Many companies (for profit or non-profit) spend money on Facebook advertising to reach people in their areas. You can actually save them money by sharing their important posts for others to see. This is called organic reach. It will also help them get their name and cause out into the community. This is a great way to give back without spending money. Give it a try!
  1. Become a volunteer – A lot of animal shelters run on the help and work of volunteers in the community. Some shelters state that they couldn’t run without their volunteers. Become a volunteer today. Start off slow and decide the best days and times that work for your schedule. Don’t take it too fast and burn yourself out. The experience that you take with you might fuel other people to give back in this important way.
  1. Write a review – Another excellent way to show appreciation is to share your story online with a company review. Many people read reviews before considering adopting a pet or supporting a shelter. They might read several online reviews before even entering the location. By sharing your positive story, it could encourage others to visit. It will also help future donors feel positive about supporting this particular shelter. You can find review options on most Facebook pages, company websites and even Yelp!.
  1. Talk about it with friends – Share you story with friends and family as often as you can. When someone expresses their love for your pet, tell them where you got him or her. Share your experience and it could have positive results. How many times has someone talked about how great your cat is? Have you told that person that you wouldn’t have her without the help of ZYX Animal Rescue? It’s time to spark up that conversation!
  1. Attend their events and fundraisers – Many animal shelters will have an annual fundraiser or community event to celebrate their existence and to raise funds. By attending, telling your friends and just being there, you are offering a huge amount of support. The last thing an animal shelter wants is to put time and effort into an event just to have low attendance. Follow them on social media and you can stay abreast of what is going on there. You can also set up post notification from that particular page. This way you’ll never miss anything they have going on.

Thank you for taking the time to show your love and support of an animal shelter. Pets are beautiful creatures, aren’t they? It’s wonderful that there is a place where pets can go when they have not other option. Show your support today. Keep the conversation going!

Cats are Great, but Dogs are Better

National-Dog-Day-2by Sparky the dog

Hello Friends and Furiends. So, Simon wrote a post on the Paw Print blog stating that international cat day should be every day of the year. So what about us dogs? Are we just chopped liver? I think not!

August 26th is “National Dog Day” and I think it’s well earned. Don’t you? I have full intentions of taking advantage of this upcoming holiday. Us dogs work hard to be great, upstanding petazins. We greet our owners with the wag of the tail and cuddles galore. We offer love and affection that some humans or fellow pets wouldn’t get otherwise. I think that entitles us to at least one dog appreciation day a year. Sorry cats, we’re stepping in!

The title of this blog post might be a bit misleading. I don’t particularly think that dogs are better than cats, we just sometimes offer more. Take Simon, for instance. Simon is smart, yes, but she’s always sitting around on the windowsill or out being curious about something. When a human comes along she doesn’t get as excited as I do. Humans appreciate my excitement! I know! I can tell! I show that human (or fellow pet) that I love and care for them. Some cats just don’t do that as good as dogs. It’s a fact. But perhaps I’m a little bias (being a smart canine myself).

I have a few suggestions on how you can celebrate this wonderful holiday that’s all about dogs. Right, Simon?

First, treats are always a good idea. Dogs love treats. We love food. That’s all I have to say about that.

Secondly, give us some extra attention on this special day. I recommend a long walk so we can sniff around. A nice game of fetch or just some extra long cuddles. You should also let us sleep on your bed. At least for one night. It’s so cozy and we like to lick your toes.

Lastly, consider taking us to a store and getting us a new toy or a healthcare item we’ve been needing. It’s just so much fun to shop with you!

It’s not a bad idea to spoil all dogs on this day with extra yummy treats, love and toys. It’s all a good idea. Any additional attention or love you can show us on this day and any day is highly recommended.

I also love to get a nice grooming in for my special day, so that I can look my best and Essential Pet Salmon oil products help my coat to really shine on a daily basis.

As a final note: I would like to personally thank the 21st Century Animal Healthcare team. Thank you for the love you’ve shown me over the last year. I’m excited to be a part of this team. I hope that many of our blog readers will continue to follow me on the Paw Print Blog. If you ever have any questions for me or my co-working pet friend, Simon, just let us know. We would love to help.

Happy National Dog Day on August 26, 2016!

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.

Is your pet chewing and scratching all the time? Maybe it’s fleas.

If you have a pet, at some time or another you’ve probably had to deal with fleas. And now that the weather is warming up,  flea season is in full swing. Arming yourself with knowledge about fleas, can help you make your life, and your pet’s, much more pleasant.

Pets become infested with fleas when they live in an area that is conducive to the flea life cycle and appropriate flea preventative steps are not taken. Fleas thrive in warm, damp climates. An average temperature in the range of 70° to 85°F, in a moist environment, is optimal for these parasites. From a flea’s perspective, the hotter and damper, the better. Accordingly, dogs living in hot, humid areas tend to develop more severe complications from flea infestation than do dogs living in cold, dry climates. Dogs and cats can also get fleas by coming into contact with other animals that have a flea problem.

Fleas only spend a small part of their lives on the skin of a host animal. Adult fleas mate after they eat a large blood meal. Females lay their eggs within 1 to 2 days; they can produce upwards of 2000 eggs during their short 4-month lifespan. Fleas tend to like deep pile and shag carpeting, floor cracks, furniture and bedding.

Behavioral Signs
In severe infestations, it’s easy to spot fleas jumping and moving on and off your dog’s body. In less obvious situations, you may notice that your pet is restless and is scratching, licking, or chewing more than normal on certain areas of her body. Shaking the head often and scratching at the ears is another indication of a possible flea infestation in your dog.

Check the Skin and Haircoat
In order to see actual fleas on your pet, you may have to look fast. Fleas can jump very fast and very high, and even at their adult size they are very small (1/16-1/8 in.). They are flat-bodied and dark brown, almost black, in color. The more blood they ingest the lighter in color they may appear.

To inspect your pet, turn her onto her back and check the areas that allow fleas to hide best. The armpits and groin are two areas that tend to be warm and protected, making them preferred spots for large flea populations. Check the ears carefully for signs of scratching, redness, blood, or dirt. These can all be signs of fleas. The skin on the belly, groin, or base of the tail may appear red and bumpy, especially if your pet is doing a lot of scratching. Hair loss may occur in certain areas that are being scratched excessively, and there may be black spots on the skin along with scabbing.

Get a flea comb (a specially-made comb with closely set teeth) and run it through the hair on your pet’s back and legs. The comb’s teeth are designed to catch and pull fleas out from under the haircoat where they are hiding. Make sure you get close to the skin when running the comb through the hair so you have a greater chance of getting to where the fleas are hiding out. Have a bowl of soapy water on hand to throw any live fleas into as you comb.

One trick that may help you if the fleas are hard to see is to place a white piece of paper (or paper towel) on the floor next to or beneath your pet while combing through her hair. Flea dirt (flea feces) will fall off of the your dog or cat’s skin and land on the paper.

Check the Environment
Fleas don’t just stay on your your pet. They can also be found all through your house, and especially in areas where your dog spends a lot of her time. Closely examine your pet’s feeding area, bedding, and her favorite locations for signs of flea dirt (black specks), or for the fleas themselves.

Get a Veterinarian’s Advice
If you can’t find any signs of actual fleas on your pet or in your living environment, or if you have done the full flea eradication treatment on your pet and home but your pet is still scratching excessively, it’s time to ask your veterinarian for advice. He or she will help you determine the cause of your pet’s discomfort and suggest treatment options. For more information on checking your dog or cat for fleas, visit this link:

Do dogs have thumbs? What those dewclaws are for

Does your pet have a small toe that is a few inches higher than the rest of their paw? If so, you may have wondered what those extra toes are for.  While the extra toe may seem useless now, it used to be important to how animals lived thousands of years ago.

Before dogs and cats were kept as pets they had to fend for themselves, looking for their own food and shelter. To help move around better, they had five toes on their paws. As the terrain changed and years passed, the need for the fifth toe, now known as the dewclaw, was unnecessary. Over time it moved up and out of the way of the four important toes.

The dewclaw no longer serves any purpose for household pets, though it provides interesting evidence of how animals have developed over time. This phenomenon has also occurred in other animals such as pigs and horses – horses used to have five separate toes and now they have just one, the hoof.

Because the dewclaw is no longer of use to a dog or cat, some owners may be wondering whether it may actually be harmful to their animal now. Some breeders will get the dewclaws of their litters removed when the pups are only a few days old, while other owners may opt to have them removed when their dogs get neutered or spayed, especially if they have specific jobs in mind for their canines.

For example, many veterinarians may recommend that owners who are training their dogs for hunting get their dewclaws removed. This is because the dewclaws can easily get caught up on branches or brush and the pain from an injury to it can be excruciating for the animal – think hangnail, but worse.

If your dog’s dewclaw gets snagged or otherwise injured, you’ll need to bring the dog to the veterinarian’s office right away. A vet can clean the injury properly and may also prescribe antibiotic pet meds or a pain relief medication. Stick the medication in a pill pocket, a product developed solely for  meds, when you give it to your dog to ensure the dog ingests the whole pill.

The dewclaw does not touch the ground so it does not wear off like the other toenails and therefore must be trimmed more often. If this is not done there is a danger of the nail actually growing around in a complete circle and penetrating the skin near the origin. Of course, this is completely preventable if you just pay attention to your dog’s feet and nails. Owners can help keep their pets dewclaws in good shape by trimming them like the rest of the dogs’ nails. Use pet scissor trimmers and make sure not to trim too close to the dog’s quick. Visit this link for more information on pet nail trimming.

If you elect to have the dewclaws removed from your adult dog, there will be general anesthesia and a post-op recovery period. Although very minor, there are risks with any surgery. If your dog is not an active outdoor dog that would be at higher risk for dew claw injury, then you would be putting your dog through all of this solely for a cosmetic result.

Got Catsomnia? What to do when your cat keeps you up at night.

This is dedicated to everyone who’s been awakened at the crack of dawn by their cat! The fact is that it may not be hunger that drives your cat to rouse you. It’s because cats are crepuscular—a great word that describes an activity that takes place at twilight, i.e. at dawn and dusk. Prey animals tend to be active during these times, so cats have naturally evolved to take advantage of Mr. Mouse’s social hours. If anyone tells you cats are creatures of the night, that’s not technically true. Cats have superb night vision, but even they can’t see in pitch-black darkness, so cats tend to sleep when it’s dark/night.

So, what can you do if your cat’s crepuscular peak hours don’t coincide with yours?
It goes without saying: don’t allow your cat to share your bed/bedroom. And it may be best to shut your cats in a room at night as far away from the bedroom as possible so that you don’t hear them scratching the door in the morning. If your cats are your bed companions, try installing blackout curtains to shut out the early-morning sun. That might buy you a bit of time, but don’t count on it. You could wear earplugs to block out their crepuscular cries, however this does little good when the cat decides to walk on your face, or knead your chest. Or, you could try keeping your cat awake during the day so it sleeps longer at night. Apparently, cats sleep up to 16 hours a day!

What To Do If Your Cat Wakes You During the Night to Play
Some cats need to be locked out of the bedroom because they may nip at your toes moving or swat at your eyelids twitching while you sleep. If your cat cries and scratches at the door, you can discourage him by placing something he dislikes in front of the door, such as vinyl carpet-runner (placed upside-down to expose the knobby side) or double-sided sticky tape. If your typically well-behaved cat suddenly starts wandering restlessly at night crying or needing to eat more, there may be an underlying medical concern, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) that is easily controlled with medication. Have him checked out by your veterinarian. Excessive nocturnal crying can also be due to age-related deficits, such as a loss of hearing, vision, or sense of smell. Try moving your cat’s food and water dish near his bed and put his litter box along an easily followed path. Letting the cat sleep near you may be comforting to you both.

Do you have a lucky money cat? Facts and trivia about the calico cat.

It may be surprising to learn that a calico cat is not a breed of cat, it is simply a term used to describe a particular pattern and color of the cat’s coat. A calico, known by some as a tricolor cat, is usually a predominantly white cat with orange and black patches on their fur. Calicoes are often confused with Tortoiseshell cats, another common coat color and pattern. The difference between the two is quite simple. Tortoiseshell cats have black and orange fur, sometimes with an occasional patch of white. Calicoes have white fur, with the occasional patch of black and orange.

The calico coat pattern is found in many different breeds of cats including the Manx Cat, American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs, Persians, Japanese Bobtails, and Exotic Shorthairs. Calico coats are also very popular among the most common cats—the mixed or multi-breed domestic shorthairs and domestic longhairs.

One of the most interesting things about calico cats is that they are almost always female. Mammals have two sex chromosomes, X and Y. Females have two Xs, and males have an X and a Y. In cats, certain coat colors are carried in the X chromosome. For a cat to have both black and orange in their coat, they need to have two X chromosomes to carry them. Therefore, males cannot have a calico coat. There is a rare condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome which can cause a male cat to be born with two X chromosomes, which sometimes results in a calico  male. Male calico cats are always sterile.

Calico coats are seen as lucky in many cultures. The Japanese Maneki-Neko or “Lucky Cat” is always depicted as a calico, some in the US refer to calico cats as “Money Cats.”

Creepy Crawly Ticks! Learn How to Protect Your Pet from These Nasties

If you’ve ever found a feeding tick on your pet you know how creepy they are and how difficult they can be to remove. There are a lot of them out there, more than 650 species of hard ticks, just waiting to have a sip of your pet.

Ticks are relatively large (compared to fleas and mites), with soft rounded bodies. The adult tick has eight legs and mouthparts that attach and suck blood from the host animal until the tick is completely filled with blood. This blood meal allows the female to produce eggs and continue the life cycle of the tick. Most ticks attach to their host and feed for as long as 12 to 24 hours before they fall off. Young ticks (nymphs) may feed on one host, drop off, and then feed on a different host as adults. Most ticks spend about 10% of their lifetime attached to their hosts.

Individual tick bites can cause local reactions, including skin damage, irritation, inflammation, and hypersensitivity. A large number of tick bites can cause anemia. Some ticks secrete toxic saliva that can cause paralysis. All ticks can carry and transmit disease.

Ticks find their hosts by climbing up onto blades of grass or tall weeds in order to grab onto a passing animal or human. This is called “questing.” They then find a suitable location on the animal to attach and feed for several hours, or even several days. Ticks are not only unsightly and disturbing to find on one’s body or one’s dog or cat, they can also carry some serious diseases that can be transmitted to you and your pet. Here we will discuss some of the most common tick species affecting dogs and cats.


Also known as the blacklegged tick, the deer tick will feed on several different hosts, including dogs, cats, and people. These ticks are most commonly found in wooded areas and prefer to feed on deer. They are very small, reddish brown in color, and turn a darker brown when filled with blood. The scientific name for this species of tick is Ixodes scapularis. This species can transmit diseases such as ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and Lyme disease.

American Dog Tick
The scientific name for the American dog tick (or wood tick) is Dermacentor variabilis. This species of tick prefers to feed from dogs and humans. They are brown in color with white specks on the back. When fully engorged, they turn grayish and resemble a small bean or grape. You will encounter these types of ticks closer to water and in humid locations. Diseases transmitted to pets by the American dog tick include Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

Lone Star Tick
Adult Lone Star ticks also live in wooded areas near water, such as along rivers and creeks. These small brown/tan colored ticks have a distinctive white spot on the middle of their backs (females) and are sometimes mistaken for deer ticks. Lone Star ticks will usually select cats, dogs, and humans as hosts. This species of tick can carry diseases such as ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia.

Brown Dog Tick
Also known as a house tick or kennel tick, the brown dog tick prefers dogs as its host. This species of tick rarely bites humans. The brown dog tick can survive indoors in houses and kennel environments, and complete its life cycle there. Because of this, these ticks are even found in colder climates all over the world, places inhospitable to most other species of ticks. While other species of ticks might be carried inside with pets and humans, they are not able to establish themselves in a household and cause an infestation like the brown dog tick can. This particular tick is not known to transmit any diseases to humans, but it can carry the organisms responsible for ehrlichiosis and a form of anaplasmosis in dogs and cats.

Tick Removal
Because ticks are carriers of serious diseases for your pets, it pays to use flea and tick prevention medications and check your pets frequently for any ticks that might be present. Removal should be done quickly and carefully to limit exposure to potential problems. If pet owners find a tick on their dog or cat, they should remove it by grasping the tick with fine-pointed tweezers and gently pulling it free. The more quickly the tick is removed, the lower the risk of disease transmission to the pet.

Preventive Tick Control
Preventative control of ticks is difficult. Acaricidal collars (e.g., Preventic®) and topical acaricides (e.g., Frontline®) are among the most common devices used. Acaracides are pesticides that kill ticks and mites. If you live in a region where wood ticks are present and your pets are outdoor animals, it’s a good idea to closely inspect your pets every couple of days when grooming or brushing them. Treating the pet’s environment usually requires a professional exterminator.

Check out this link for an informative video on properly removing ticks from your pet:

When Should You Have Your Pet Spayed or Neutered?

When to have a dog or cat spayed or neutered is a subject of debate in the veterinary and rescue fields, but all tend to agree that it is a healthy and positive choice for pets. Indeed, some medical complications (for example, mammary tumors) can be avoided by altering pets  when they are less than six months of age. Other studies suggest that  other disorders, such as  noise phobias, may be reduced by spaying or neutering after six months of age. Some owners or breeders delay the surgery as they feel that the full growth potential will not be met if the spay or neuter occurs before one year.

Though many veterinarians and shelters sterilize when the animals are three to four months old or even younger, most veterinarians will recommend spaying and neutering dogs and cats at six months of age. At this time, they should have sufficient growth and development, without yet having gone through a heat cycle.

The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Pet
The most common surgeries performed in small animal veterinary medicine are the spays and neuters. Traditionally, dogs, cats, and pocket pets were sterilized to assist in population control. While the Humane Society of the United States reports about 6-8 million animals are admitted annually into shelters across the country, it also estimates 3-4 million of these animals are euthanized each year. This astounding number does not account for stray animals living and dying alone “on the streets.”

But, health concerns and extending the quality of pets’ lives have also become a major incentive to altering our pets. Many serious health risks can be minimized or prevented altogether with spaying and neutering – especially if done at an early age.

Personality does not dramatically change after surgical altering, but, territorial urine marking should considerably lessen especially when neutered at an early age. The intensity of a male dog trying to reach a female in heat will also be significantly lowered. Many intact males have been tragically hit by a car as they carelessly raced across the road in lust of a female dog in heat.

Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
Many serious health risks can be minimized or prevented all together with spaying and neutering — especially if done at an earlier age.

Veterinarians are now beginning to use newer techniques using laparoscopes (long surgical tubes with cameras and lights at the end), making only two or three tiny incisions. This approach to spaying causes much less trauma to the body wall. Post-operative pain is lessened and recovery is faster. At this time, this technique can only be done in dogs. It is also generally associated with higher costs and, though gaining popularity, only a small percentage of veterinary clinics are trained in and have purchased the expensive equipment.

Again, population-control perspective set aside, spaying your pet does have great advantages in long term health issues. Perhaps the most common health risk avoided by spaying is the pyometra, or, infection of the uterus. Pyometra in a dog or cat causes serious illness and can become rapidly life-threatening if not treated. Attempts at caring for these patients with antibiotics and a prostaglandin enzyme are risky, painful, and, too often, not effective. The treatment of choice is emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries as soon as possible.

Spaying and Neutering Procedures
Of course, any surgical procedure carries with it inherent risks: continued hemorrhaging from a blood vessel, anesthetic complications, incisional dehiscence (breaking open of the sutured site) and/or infection. With current anesthetic and surgical precautions, along with appropriate aftercare by the pet-owners, however, the potential for these complications are minimized – especially compared to the risks of NOT spaying your pet.

Certainly problems can arise from spaying and neutering as well. Obesity is one of the most common complaints in altered animals. Pet owners need to be aware that neutering and aging causes a decrease in metabolic rate and activity level of their pets. Overfeeding, a sedentary lifestyle, breed predisposition and indoor housing all contribute to pet obesity.  Consult with your veterinarian about the proper feeding and exercise following your pet’s spay or neuter.

Discuss with your veterinarian your pet and his or her specific needs. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you as to what is best for your pet.