Thursday, March 01, 2018

Cat Grass Grazing

We want our kitties to enjoy their time at home while we are gone.  We make them as comfortable as possible with soft beds, interactive toys to play with, and maybe a kitty climbing treewith multiple levels by a sunny windowbut what about the cat grass we see at many retail stores?  Does my kitty need greens in her diet?  What is the reason cats like to eat grass?

We asked Dr. Ku for her insight on cat grass.  

Dr. Ku replied, "There are a variety of explanations that have been posed for why cats (and dogs) seem to eat grass.  Some believe that it is a sign if gastrointestinal problems and one way to initiate vomiting.  This could include anything for mild indigestion, inflammatory bowel problems, or a way to reduce heavy intestinal parasite loads in the “wild.”   Others believe it could be they just like grass, despite not really needing it nutritionally.  My own observation of my own cats/dogs has been that they seem to really like fresh grass at certain times of the year, especially early Spring when it is fresh and green, and likely soft.  ..perhaps it’s a sign of Spring and they are celebrating? 😉 Regardless, it is clearly a thing, because pet stores actually sell grass you can buy to grow for your indoor pet.  A few things to keep in mind if you want to indulge your cat’s wishes to eat grass.  First of all, it is important to avoid letting them eat grass that has been treated with fertilizer or herbicide.  Secondly, be prepared because often cats that eat grass will then vomit afterwards.  If this is ok with you, then growing your own indoor, untreated grass that is young and fresh for them is probably a good way to go.  As far as “Does your kitty need greens in her diet?” The answer is, “No.”  Also, be sure your kitty is not one with gastrointestinal problems that should be addressed in other ways.  Typically, it is not normal for cats to vomit too often.  Once every 2-3 weeks is probably as often as I would consider normal.  More than that is probably too often, and may be symptomatic of a health issue that could worsen if not addressed."

Check out these cat grass garden tips from The Humane Society website:

Garden of Eatin'

Tips to keep your kitty garden thriving

• For best results, grow cat grasses from seeds, available at a pet supply store or online. Choose a heavy, shallow container that your cats are unlikely to knock over and fill it about three quarters full with loose potting soil, using a spray bottle to dampen the soil as you add it. Place the container on a saucer or tray.

• Sprinkle seeds evenly over the surface. Cover lightly with about a quarter inch of soil.

• Cover the container very loosely with plastic wrap. Keep at room temperature and away from direct sunlight (and out of reach of curious pets). Make sure the soil doesn't dry out.
• Sprouts should appear in a few days. Remove the covering and move the pot to a sunny spot.

• Water the sprouts when the soil begins to feel dry to the touch. Don't let excess water sit in the container.

• Offer your cats the grass when it's 3 to 4 inches tall. 

• When the grass wilts after a few weeks, pull out the shoots and plant more seeds. For a steady supply, plant several pots a week or two apart. Monitor your cats for signs of over-consumption, such as vomiting or diarrhea, and limit access to the plants if necessary.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

You’re taking me to the Vet?! Noooo!!!

Co-written by Dr. Gloria Ku and vet assistant, Danielle
For many cats and dogs, coming to the vet can be a horrifying experience. I can often relate to pets that are terrified when they step into the hospital or drive into the parking lot.  For some of us humans, our blood pressure skyrockets when we go to our hospitals. I know that when I step into a waiting area at my hospital, my heart starts to race and by the time I’m in the exam room, my nerves are on edge.  If the location makes a person feel fear, pain or sadness, it can affect their view of the situation. Unfortunately, for pets, it can be the same. Pets can feel our stress or anxiety and it’s common for most pet owners to feel anxious when they take their pet to the veterinary office.  Owners may be extra worried because don’t know why their pet is sick, or they are worried about the financial struggles and vet bills that they know are coming.  For some sensitive pets, when Mom or Dad is upset, the pet may start to go into “fight or flight” mode to try to escape from the staff examining them. Our staff works diligently to be patient with scared pets, and to read the signals that animals give us. We sometimes have to use distraction (like treats) or medication (such as anti-anxiety drugs) to help ease their anxiety, but there are a few simple things you can do to help your furry friend make their veterinary experience less stressful.
Cats like quiet spaces and to hide.  When choosing a cat travel carrier, consider using a carrier that makes the cat feel secure. The wire kennels that people use for puppy crate training can make them feel exposed compared to a hard-sided carrier. Also, consider getting a carrier that has a top-loading option.  It is sometimes easier to put a cat in a carrier that also opens from the top versus only having the option to go in and out through the front door.  Sometimes, when a cat is scared, it’s easier for the veterinary staff to take apart the carrier to get to the patient. A carrier that can be easily dismantled instead of needing tools to take apart helps both the cat and the vet staff in that situation.
A few days before your cat’s appointment, we recommend that you have the carrier placed in your home with the carrier door opened for your cat to investigate. Place a nice blanket or towel in the carrier (something that can be easily washed if needed). You can even use Feliway, a feline stress-reducing pheromone, spray or wipes in the carrier or on the bedding too.
Feliway is an over-the-counter product, click here to visit their website:
Once your furry feline friend is on their way to the vet, you may also consider using a blanket or towel to lightly cover the carrier in the car, while waiting in the lobby or while in the exam room. When you arrive to the office, if you know your cat is sensitive to loud noises or dogs, consider calling the office from the car or briefly coming in to check-in for your appointment then go back to the car and wait with your cat. Most vet offices understand that their waiting area can be loud and hectic. We have had some patients stay in their owner’s car until a room is ready for them.  And just a reminder, if it is warm outside, please turn on the car’s AC for your pet while they are waiting.
Just like cats, dogs sometimes need help when adjusting to visiting the vet too. Most dogs love car rides as it means they are going to the park to play or going on an adventure…however, some dogs also know the direction of the vet office and may start getting anxious right away when they realize you are driving that route.  We’ve seen dogs that were so excited to see our staff—happily pulling on their leash and running up to greet people and the Doctors. We’ve also seen dogs that were terrified as soon as they come in—hiding under chairs, maybe showing signs of submission by peeing when touched, or growling/snapping at staff when we get too close.  We aren’t surprised by these reactions. Honestly, if you couldn’t understand what was being said around you, the smells are very different when compared to home, new people are touching you in odd places and poking you with needles, and especially if you feel sick already, it would make a lot of sense for you to become fearful of this different environment.  Most pets see their veterinarian once a year for vaccines or more often when they are ill. Why not come in to visit the staff when your pet is not sick? Most vet hospitals will understand if you call ahead of time to see when it is a good time for your pet to come in for some socialization. Come in, have your dog step on the scale for a weight, and get a treat from a friendly staff member! The goal is to teach your dog that the hospital is not a scary place every time they come to visit.  Bring special treats with you that you know your dog will love—special treats they only get when coming to the vet.  Also, if possible, taking a nice, long walk with your dog is a great stress-reducer for both you and your dog before the visit.  This is especially true if your dog tends to have a lot of energy that needs to be released before they encounter a new situation. 
When walking into the hospital, consider using a shortened, non-retractable leash. The long retractable leashes can get tangled up around chairs, around your legs, or even wrapped up around another person’s leash.  A shortened leash allows your pet to not wander away from you—even if your dog is very friendly, the next dog that comes into the hospital may not be.  Do you have a little dog that needs to feel safe?  Use a covered carrier to help make them feel more secure.  If your dog is fearful of people, other pets, and noises, consider having him/her stay in the car until a room is ready.  Just like cats, their stress levels can elevate while sitting in the waiting area before their appointment.  Just notify the front staff that you and your pet will be outside and to have someone come get you once a room is prepared for your appointment.  Does your pet need to be muzzled for their exam for the safety of others? Consider practicing putting on a muzzle at home and giving treats/praise for when your dog allows you to put on their muzzle.  Often, once a pet has some practice at home with a muzzle, they aren’t as fearful about it on their face during their exam. 
We asked Dr. Gloria Ku, “Do you have any advice for helping cats and dogs feel more comfortable when going to see their vet?”
"I really like the idea of preparing your pet for their visit in advance.  Even if it is just having an actual talk to explain what is going to happen, your pet will understand your intention, feel calmer because they are not taken by surprise, and even if they don’t know the exact meaning of your words, they can sense that you are preparing for this event as well.  Try to focus on the positive aspects of why you are visiting us.  It is to help with a problem and/or keep your pet healthy.  That’s a good thing!
For cats, avoiding a larger meal prior to coming can make the car ride less nauseating (for some dogs too), as they tend not to be as accustomed to car rides.  Also picking a time of day that is less hectic for you, is also less hectic for your pet.  As was mentioned earlier, our pets pick up on our stress and incorporate it with their own!
Exercising your dog before coming in can make a huge difference for both happy and nervous dogs.  The walk usually helps them calm down and release pent up energy, and helps them and owners to be focused and present.  Often the anticipation is the driver of anxiety, not the actual event. 

Lastly, please let us know if you or your pet is especially anxious, and what your concerns are when making your appointment.   We will do our best to help relieve that anxiety, and offer specific tips for the visit to help it go as smoothly as possible.  Sometimes it can be as simple as scheduling during a specific time of day that will be the least stressful for your pet.  Our goal is to make each visit as stress free as possible.  Happy and Healthy is good for everyone!"
 -Dr. Gloria Ku

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Hey, Do You Want This Ham Bone For Your Dog?

Co-written by Dr. Gloria Ku & Vet Assistant, Danielle

There is the smell of meat roasting in the oven…then a delicious feast on the table…all the while, a dog’s nose is as close to the dining table as possible in excitement for any scraps that may come his way.  His brown eyes stare straight into yours, begging for a taste. But you know that table scraps are not good for him.

Your friend sitting with you at the table asks, “Do you save the bone for Buddy? I’ve heard somewhere that certain bones are okay to give to dogs.”

You then start thinking, ‘I have seen dried bones at the pet store…maybe I can make my own for Buddy! He’d love that!’

Before you start looking on Pinterest for ideas on how to recycle your meat bones into DIY dog chews, consider some of the issues that can arise.  Bones, even the ones sold at pet stores, can not only become an obstruction problem, but they can chip the teeth and also wear down the enamel that protects the teeth. If the bone happens to get stuck internally, it can cause damage that may involve major surgery and treatments following the procedure.

We asked Dr. Ku, “If bones can be harmful to our dogs, why do they sell them in pet stores and what are better options available?”

Dr. Ku replied,

"A dog with a bone has been a long standing picture we all have in our mind bringing up an emotion of a happy dog!  But where did that come from?  That is an image from days past when food was not always plentiful, and the scraps to the dog (or the pig) were what was affordable.  The bone, being inedible by humans generally, often went to the dog and lasted longer than meat (digestible) parts and therefore the “dog with a bone” image holds.  Not to say that many dogs don’t really enjoy chewing or gnawing on surfaces.  And in fact when they are young, for many it creates a teething activity and exercises masseter muscles (jaw muscles) that lead to stronger jaws.  But there is no doubt that bones can be dangerous.  If not gnawed slowly, they can splinter and cause intestinal perforations, occasionally blockages, or with spoiling after a day not being preserved adequately, they can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal disorders.  Even treated bones can do this, and gastroenteritis following having had a bone is very very common! 

More often treating a dog’s anxiety and boredom with exercise and attention other than food rewards is healthier and more lasting.  A 20 minute walk will be as exciting, and the dangers of needing to see your veterinarian after that are significantly less!  Remember that chew toys and treats are not a substitute for exercise and attention.

For young dogs that are teething, or very oral young dogs, appropriate chew toys like Kong toys, or Boomer Balls ( are options.  Given the age, breed, and oral aggressiveness of your dog, you should consult with your veterinarian for appropriate chew toys.  Doing a lot of dental work in my practice, I see fractured teeth in many dogs that have to be extracted because of biting or gnawing on chew toys that are too rigid.  “Young” teeth are more forgiving than “older” teeth, and that transition can happen earlier than you think. 

Lastly, the dog has an incredibly sophisticated nose and all of the aromas of cooking are fascinating to them too.  Especially meals that are less common emit smells that are new and interesting.  The dog may be gathering information as much as, if not more so, than asking for treats.  Often we interpret their interest as wanting the food item, when in fact they really want to investigate it.  That may include tasting it if they are so inclined, but if you indulge them, you can expect them to consider this permission to expect more, and depending on your own degree of discipline, overindulgence and gastroenteritis are common in dogs that are allowed to partake in rich meals that they are not used to having.  They can even develop pancreatitis which is a much more serious problem that can result in extended hospitalization and care.  Staying up with a dog with diarrhea or cleaning up after they have an “accident” is on you, not the dog. 

So enjoy cooking and if you must share, be sure to avoid fatty sauces, trimmings, and bones.  If you are interested in some safe recipes for dogs, we have a good bone broth recipe I like that is good for a “topper” in moderation."