Monthly Newsletter

Duluth Animal Hospital Newsletter

Duluth Animal HospitalThe veterinarians and staff at the Duluth Animal Hospital 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 Duluth Animal Hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

How to Help Your Children Cope with Pet Loss

Breaking the news to a child that his or her pet has died is never easy. How you go about this will depend on your child's age and maturity. Generally, your child's questions will best help guide just how much information you should divulge. It is not recommended that you use the term "put to sleep" or lie by saying the cat or dog simply ran away or left home to be somewhere else. You don't have to have all of the answers – there's a lot we don't know about death. Being honest with your child is what matters most.

Helping Your Child Heal

Children are at a different developmental stage than adults and thus will mourn differently. Although they may seem happy and be playing one minute, they can be sad the next. Their grief comes in spurts and it's important to allow them to work through grieving in their own ways. Being honest about your own feelings and sadness (no need to hide your tears) is completely healthy and sets the example that feeling your emotions is not a bad thing. Your child will come to model the behavior you display.



"Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death."

-Dr. Erik Erikson

Your child will begin healing through remembering his or her pet. You can assist with this by:

• Planning a memorial service together to pay tribute to the pet

• Planting a flower or tree in remembrance

• Creating a personalized marker or stone

• Creating a photo album or scrapbook together

An excellent online resource for young children is the "I Miss My Pet: A Workbook for Children About Pet Loss."

Is An Exotic Pet Right for You?

There are roughly 44 million nontraditional, or "exotic," pets in the United States. Each year, that number increases. Presently, this number almost equals the number of cats registered as pets in the U.S.

There are several reasons suggested as to why exotic pets have become popular in recent years. The first reason is simply a physical problem or an impossibility of keeping dogs and cats in an urban environment. Urban or city dwellers want to have a pet, so they consider a smaller nontraditional pet like a reptile, rodent, or bird. Secondly, people have just become more interested in exotic pets. Dogs and cats are wonderful, but there's something a little unusual and imaginative about exotic animals.

People should realize, however, that out-of-the-ordinary pets require out-of-the-ordinary care. Nontraditional pets often require precise diets and living conditions that are more difficult to provide than the average pet owner may realize. The most common problems encountered in exotic animal medicine are not related to infectious diseases, but rather management and nutritional related diseases. This is due to the fact that most people who purchase exotics know very little or nothing about them.



When it comes to sickness and disease, exotic animals are usually very adept at concealing their problems. Sick animals in the wild are often singled out as easy prey. Because of this, owners may not recognize symptoms of illness until the animal is very sick or in a near-death situation.

Helping injured exotic pets can be difficult. The actual surgical procedures and medical treatments are very similar in most mammals; however, unexpected complications may result. One such complication is keeping the animal rested or immobile during the post surgery recovery period. This is particularly difficult for an animal recovering from fracture surgery where the convalescent period is extremely long (weeks or months). Another problem associated with keeping certain non-domestic animals as pets is that certain animals are not used to interacting with humans. A wolf or a wolf hybrid is not a dog, and the owners should never forget that fact. At times, this animal may not react the way you expect a normal animal to react. The same is true for other wild animals.

There are also legal issues associated with owning exotic pets. Local and federal laws prohibit taking, keeping, and confining native animals without a special license.

Before purchasing or obtaining an exotic pet, it's important to talk to your veterinarian and several people who have similar pets. These animals should not be purchased as a gift or on a whim without some serious research. Specific articles and books on caring for exotic pets can be found in libraries, book stores, pet shops, online pet supply websites, and from your veterinarian or your veterinarian's website.

Beat the Heat: Summer Care Tips for Cats

The summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather, but you may want to leave Kitty indoors while you frolic in the sun. While it's easy for you to keep cool when temperatures rise, cats have a much more difficult time when it comes to beating the heat. Here are some tips to keep your feline family members nice and cool in the summer.

Cats generally handle warmer temperatures better than dogs, but owners should remain vigilant about Kitty during the summer months. The easiest way to keep your cat cool in the summer is to keep him or her indoors during the hottest parts of the day. If you do let your cat venture outside, do so early in the morning or at dusk when the temperature is cooler and there is more shade from the sun. While your cat is inside, keep plenty of fresh, cool water available throughout the house. If the weather is extremely hot, consider wrapping your cat in a cool, damp towel or placing a plastic bag full of ice under their bed.

Keep your cat cool during the summer months

When the weather is extremely hot and humid, cats can be prone to heat stroke. Very old cats, as well as obese cats and those with existing health problems are especially susceptible to heath stroke. Owners should also be aware of signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. A cat's normal body temperature should be between 100.5 degrees F and 101.5 degrees F. Any temperature higher than 102 degrees F is dangerous, and immediate action should be taken to lower the cat's temperature. If a cat's temperature increases to 107 degrees F, he or she is possibly suffering the effects of heat stroke.

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Panting
  • Staring
  • Anxious expression
  • Warm, dry skin
  • High fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse

If your cat begins exhibiting any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately. To cool your cat down, remove him or her from the area and apply towels soaked in cool water to your cat's skin. Immersion in a cool water bath for 30 minutes may also help lower your cat's temperature. While on the way to the veterinarian's office, place ice packs around your cat's head and body. No matter how you cool your cat off, you must bring him or her to a veterinarian as intravenous fluids may be required. Heat stroke can be fatal if left untreated.

Keep your cat cool during the summer months

Even though Kitty is covered in a fine coat of fur, she is just as susceptible to sunburn as you. Cats with white coats or white ears and faces are particularly prone to feeling the effects of the sun's rays. And while sunburn is discomforting for your cat in the short term, it can also have long term effects. Extended exposure to direct sunlight can lead to squamous cell carcinoma, a form of cancer that usually appears at the tips of the ears and on the nose. Signs of squamous cell carcinoma include sores that bleed excessively or do not heal. The best way to protect your cat is to keep him or her out of direct sunlight in the summer time. If your cat is going outdoors, you can protect his or her skin with an application of sunscreen; however, be sure only to use a sunscreen formulated for cats. Sunscreen not designed for cats can result in drooling, lethargy, diarrhea and excessive thirst. Ask your veterinarian about sunscreens that are right for your cat.

Your cat may also face other, non-weather-related problems in the summertime. Cats outdoors for a roam may be tempted to take a taste of antifreeze puddles they find in streets and driveways. Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets—it only takes one to two teaspoons of antifreeze to poison a cat. Symptoms include vomiting, excessive thirst/urination, depression and a wobbly gait. If you suspect your cat has ingested antifreeze, get him or her to a veterinarian immediately. Owners should also make sure there are no open, unscreened windows in their homes. Adventurous cats may jump or accidentally fall out of open windows, leading to broken bones and other injuries.

Summer can be a carefree, easy time for you and your pet, so long as you both play it safe and keep cool. Ask your veterinarian if you have any questions about beating the heat this summer.

Did You Know? 8 Veterinary Facts

• Avian Blood Sexing- A blood test can answer the simple question, "Is it a boy or a girl?"

• Dentistry- If your pet has bad breath, drools a lot, paws at his face, or is showing a preference for soft food, he may be experiencing tooth problems.

• Deworming- All kittens and puppies should be routinely dewormed. A negative fecal sample does not necessarily indicate absence of parasites; eggs are shed intermittently.

• Endoscopy- Some foreign bodies, if detected in a timely fashion, may be removed via endoscopy, avoiding possible abdominal surgery.

• Lead/Zinc Testing- Lead and zinc toxicity is very common in birds. Symptoms may include weakness, bloody droppings, regurgitation, seizures or other strange behavior.

• Psittacosis Testing- Birds can harbor a disease called Psittacosis, which is contagious to humans, especially if the person is immunosuppressed.

• Rabbit Spay- If not spayed, 90 percent of female rabbits will develop uterine cancer. We highly recommend spaying your rabbit.

• Urinary Obstructions- Male cats that appear unable to urinate should be seen immediately. They may have a urinary blockage, which if left untreated can be fatal.

Aggressive Behavior Between Dogs at the Dog Park

By Mike Herstik

For those of us who frequent parks, we are not unfamiliar with dogfights. The aggression that we witness can occur between two dogs that have never seen each other or between two dogs that have had prior contact.

The reasons why dogs become aggressive at parks are due to dominance and prey aggression. Both types of aggressive behavior can easily get out of control. Correcting the aggressive dog (at the appropriate time) can prevent a disaster from occurring.

Dominance aggression is very common and is usually seen in non-neutered male dogs or dogs approaching puberty. Since dogs are pack animals and packs need leaders, it is not uncommon for a dog to assert himself. A hierarchy of individuals is formed as pack members challenge each other for positions of authority. Though this kind of aggression does occur among females, it is most prevalent among unaltered mature males or those approaching maturity.

One of the ways that a dog asserts its dominance is to assume a physically superior position over a subordinate. Mounting is the most obvious dominant position. Many owners mistake mounting for sexual behavior. Unless the animal being mounted is a female in heat, the mounting is probably a display of dominance. Some owners find this behavior humorous. By tolerating it, the behavior is encouraged. The dog views this as confirmation of its dominant status.

Dogs do commonly warn each other off with snaps or growls. These gestures are not intended as combat, especially when females react toward males. Although most of the time dogs usually work out hierarchy without resorting to actual physical combat, owners do need to recognize situations that can lead to disaster. Certain challenging postures (such as standing very erect, holding the head over another's back, direct staring eye contact and mounting) need to be corrected immediately by the owner.

If these postures continue to persist, owners should keep an eye out to make sure that a fight is not ready to erupt. Make clear to your dog that this behavior is not desired. Remember that gentle crooning does not dissuade undesirable behavior, but rather encourages it. Keep in mind that once dogs learn to fight they may form a pattern that is sometimes difficult to unlearn.

Prey aggression takes a form that is often misunderstood by pet owners and even professional obedience trainers. Prey aggression is not actually dog fighting, but is rather the psychological drive inherent in some dogs to chase, capture and seize prey. It generally occurs between medium and larger size dogs that show an exceptional fascination with smaller, weaker dogs.

The scenario often starts with the larger dog playing roughly with, or chasing the smaller dog. If the smaller dog begins to exhibit fear, this may stimulate the prey drive in the larger dog, causing him to play even more roughly. At this point, the larger dog should be controlled, otherwise the situation can get out of hand. The smaller dog or puppy may scream, and it is not rare for a larger dog to become so stimulated that it will grasp the smaller dog in a "killing" prey grip.

The specific actions described here in both dominance and prey aggression can vary, though most aggressive situations that occur in a place like a dog park generally fall into one of the two categories.

If your dog does get into a fight, try to remain calm and use whatever measured force is necessary to break it up. Be careful: breaking up dogfights can be dangerous. Consider your own safety first. In most cases, injuries sustained by intervening owners are far worse than the dogs suffer. Avoid reacting hysterically and screaming at the dogs and the other people. This just serves to add fuel to the fire. Do not insert a hand or foot between the two rival dogs because their natural reaction may be to redirect the attack to you.

Most dogfights occur between dogs that are owned by nice people who don't intend for their dogs to get into a fight. But you should know that ultimately you are responsible for your dog's actions.

Dogs may be our best friends, but their thought process differs from ours. Understand your dog as a dog. It doesn't mean you have to love him any less.

Is it aggression or playfulness?

Mike Herstik (International K-9), is a consultant to law enforcement, military and government agencies. A professional dog trainer for more than 20 years, Herstik is the dog trainer for the LAPD Bomb Squad.

Fireworks Are Dangerous to Your Pet

If you thought it would be harmless to mix pets and fireworks, think again. All fireworks should be kept at a safe distance from curious and unsuspecting pets. Anything from small smoke bombs and sparklers to large aerial displays has the potential to cause severe burns. The face, mouth and paws are the most common places pets get burned by fireworks. Furthermore, fireworks can also contain heavy metals that are used as coloring agents and may cause poisoning if ingested. Symptoms of heavy metal/fireworks poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, jaundice, tremors and seizures.


If your pet may have ingested fireworks, immediate examination by a veterinarian is recommended. Do not induce vomiting at home as it can cause severe burns, especially in the mouth and upper gastrointestinal tract. While the prognosis is good in many cases involving the ingestion of small fireworks and minor burns, that is often not the case when the pet has ingested several fireworks. This is due to liver and nerve damage.

As you enjoy your holiday, remember to use common sense, and always put safety first for all family members.

How to Keep Your Dog Cool This Summer

People usually prepare themselves for the dangers of increased temperatures. But as the dog days of summer approach, our trusted companions also need special attention to insure that they don’t get burned. Like for us, the summer months bring an increased danger of heat exhaustion and heat stroke for dogs.

People naturally regulate their body temperature by sweating. Dogs mainly cool themselves by panting or breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. The process of panting directs air over the mucous membranes (moist surface) of the tongue, throat and trachea (windpipe). The air that is flowing over these organs causes evaporation, thus cooling the animal. Another mechanisms that helps remove heat includes dilation of blood vessels in the skin of the face, ears and feet. Dilated blood vessels located on the surface of the body cause the blood to loose heat to the outside air.

A dog’s normal body temperature is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Like people, dogs can become overheated. If it rises to 105 or 106 degrees, the dog is at risk for developing heat exhaustion. If the body temperature rises to 107 degrees, the dog has entered the danger zone of heat stroke. With heat stroke, damage to the body can be irreversible. Organs begin to shut down, and veterinary care is immediately needed.



Fortunately, if owners recognize heat exhaustion, they can prevent the dog from entering heat stroke. People can easily recognize when the heat gets to them because they become lightheaded and fail to sweat. For dogs, early signs of heat exhaustion may include failure to salivate and a dry mouth. Heat exhaustion may also include a dog lying down and looking tired, losing its appetite and becoming unresponsive to owners.

If heat exhaustion progresses into heat stroke, the dog becomes very warm to touch and may have seizures. Internal mechanisms roll into effect that may cause blood clotting and organ damage. If you are near a phone and think that heat stroke is a possibility, call your veterinarian immediately. If a veterinarian is not within reach, or while waiting for a veterinarian, get the dog out of the sun and cool him or her down with cool water baths (cool—not cold). Provide a fan, especially if you wet the dog down, and encourage him or her to drink water.

While these steps may help a dog, the best treatment is prevention. In order to prevent overheating, some owners may shave their dogs or trim their fur excessively. This isn’t always a good idea. The hair coat may appear to be a burden for a dog; however, it can also keep the animal comfortable by trapping cool air next to the skin, reducing the amount of heat transferred from the hot outside air to the body of the dog.

Dogs with long or thick coats that have problems with matted hair are often good candidates for clipping. Matted hair can cause skin irritation and is undesirable. Owners that do not have time to adequately remove mats and debris from their dog’s coat may prefer to have the coat clipped short. After a short clipping, and if the dog is outdoors, owners need to be careful of sunburn. Sunscreen may be applied to the dog’s skin; however, it is necessary to consult a veterinarian to find out which ones are safe.

Here are some other tips for keeping your dog cool this summer:

  • Keep dogs indoors in air conditioning on very hot days.
  • Do not leave dogs in a car during the summer. Even with the windows down, temperatures inside a car can quickly rise to above 120 degrees. Make sure outdoor dogs have plenty of shade.
  • Keep fresh water available at all times.
  • On very hot days, exercise dogs early in the morning or late in the evening. If this is not possible, exercise in an air conditioned environment.
  • Provide your dog with a sprinkler or wading pool on very warm days.
  • If you take the dog to a lake, make sure it has plenty of time to drink and get wet. Most dogs can drink lake water without adverse effects.
  • If your dog has a light coat or exposed skin, take precautions against sunburn.
  • Dogs can acclimate to warm temperatures and have no trouble staying outdoors in the heat. However, dogs that are used to cool climates or air conditioning should not be left outside on hot days.
  • Acclimating your dog gradually is the key.

If you have questions about caring for your dog during the summer months, please give your veterinarian a call.

Veterinary Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is part of an ancient Chinese method of diagnosis and treatment called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is a comprehensive approach to health which views the patient as an organism with interrelated energetic parts rather than breaking the individual down into separate systems and symptoms.

TCM uses acupuncture and herbs along with some other techniques to correct imbalances in the body and allow a patient to heal.

Acupuncture works by correcting imbalances in the flow of Qi (sometimes translated as “vital energy”) within the body. The Qi moves throughout the body via a system of channels, called meridians, which are connected to internal organs. The Qi can be accessed by points along the meridians into which needles are inserted. Sometimes these points are stimulated by the use of mild electric current, warmed with herbs (moxa) or application of a low-intensity laser.

When is acupuncture an appropriate treatment?

Although often sought for pain relief, acupuncture is known to have effects on all major physiological systems. While not appropriate for major emergencies (broken bones, overwhelming infections) acupuncture is a great alternative to allopathic (western) medicine for chronic conditions and diseases for which the conventional treatments have unwanted side-effects. Acupuncture is often used for pain, arthritis, intervertebral disc (spinal) disease, muscle spasm, epilepsy, auto-immune disorders, allergies, chronic infections, incontinence and behavioral disorders (to name a few).

Acupuncture can be combined with western medicines, although the use of certain medications may slow a patient’s initial response to treatment.

Is acupuncture safe?

As with most holistic therapies, acupuncture can cause a transient worsening of symptoms, due to the body adjusting to a new level of energy balance. It can be used for cancer patients to mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy and improve quality of life, but certain techniques are employed to keep from stimulating growth of the tumor itself.

In general, acupuncture is very safe.

What can I expect from the treatments?

The acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points and left in for 10 to 20 minutes. Most animals react very little to the placement of the needles and many get relaxed or even fall asleep during the treatment. If acupuncture is going to help a patient, it can take up to eight treatments before results are seen. Most patients respond within the first four visits, so owners should commit to at least four treatments, initially. It is normal for some patients to be sleepy for several hours after a treatment. With most patients, herbs, vitamins, supplements or dietary changes are discussed.

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