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7 Ways to Care for Your Pet Without Breaking the Bank

How can you provide the best care for your pets while keeping costs reasonable? By taking steps to reduce the chances your pet will require expensive, unplanned medical care and expenses.

Here are some ideas to help:

1.  Get Regular Wellness Checkups

Prevention is always better (and less expensive) than a cure. Pets’ metabolism hums along at a rate 7-10 times faster than our own, so disease processes move faster too. Pets often hide illnesses and your “seems healthy to me” pet may not be as well as you think.

Action Step: Make sure your adult pets (age 1-7 years) are seen by their veterinarian for a complete wellness physical at least once a year, and senior pets (age 8+ years) are seen at least twice a year.

Keep up with the vet’s preventive care recommendations, such as routine vaccinations, internal and external parasite prevention, screening lab tests, and dental care.

2.  Keep Your Pet at A Healthy Weight

So many diseases in humans and pets can trace their origin to being overweight or obese. We see increased rates of arthritis, cancer, and diabetes in overweight pets, as well as more skin problems and urinary tract infections. Overweight pets die at a younger age.

Action Step: Some pet owners don’t recognize that their pet is overweight – ask us about some simple tools we can provide to help determine if your pet’s weight is healthy and be sure to discuss slimming strategies with our doctors if your pet needs help.

3.  Take Care of Your Pet’s Teeth

Dental health is an extremely important part of keeping pets (and people) healthy. Dental disease can lead to tooth loss and oral cancer.  Infection, inflammation, and pain in the mouth contributes to inflammation and infection in other parts of the body, such as internal organs and joints.

Pets with good dental health throughout their life can live 2-4 years longer – that’s often a 25% increase in lifespan!

7 Ways to Care for Your Pet Without Breaking the Bank | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

4.  Regularly Exercise Your Pet

Moderate daily exercise is imperative for cats and dogs to keep your muscles and joints healthy, as well as their minds. No need to run 10 miles, but twice a day walks for dogs (even senior dogs) and daily active play time for cats immensely improves their quality of life, keeping their muscles strong, joints limber, and brains sharp. And it’s good for you too!

5.  Pet-Proof Your Home and Yard

6.  Budget For Well Pet Care & Emergencies

Wellness plans and pet insurance are two products to consider to help avoid unwelcome spikes in your family budget when your pet needs care, whether preventive care or medical care for an illness or injury.

Knowing the difference between a wellness plan and insurance is important.

Wellness plans spread the cost of routine preventive care (routine exams, vaccines, lab work, and procedures such as dental cleanings) you were planning to purchase any way over 12 months. They often include modest perks such as discounts, free nail trims, etc., making routine care a line item in a family budget.

Pet insurance, on the other hand, is useful in the case of unplanned illness or injury, helping to pay for surgery, non-routine laboratory tests, hospitalization – a product that you’re glad to have if your pet needs it, but are actually hoping that he or she doesn’t.

Alternatively, you can “self-insure” and be prepared for an emergency with a pet emergency health savings account by putting away funds each month in a special account reserved just for your pet and having room on a credit card if an emergency comes up before your savings account reaches a sizable balance.

7.  Spay or Neuter Your Pet

While recommendations for the timing of spaying and neutering is evolving with new evidence, the fact remains that unaltered pets are considerably more likely to get lost, develop undesirable behaviors, have an increased risk of certain health problems, and contribute to the pet over-population problem with an unplanned mating. If your pet is not spayed or neutered yet, please discuss this with our doctors.

How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling

How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling | atlanticvetseattle.comMany Seattle-area students are doing a combination of distance learning, hybrid learning, and homeschooling.

Incorporating your dog or cat into your child’s at-home education is a fun way to enhance your child’s learning.

  • Pets can be the focus of a unit of study.
  • Pets can motivate your student to problem-solve, practice responsibility, and become a proficient reader.

Let’s explore the many ways your furry family members provide built-in opportunities for learning.

Pet Care

How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling | atlanticvetseattle.com

Caring for a pet not only teaches your child to be responsible, it also helps them practice empathy, creative thinking, organizational and time-management skills.

Caring for a pet means understanding and meeting their basic needs, such as daily feeding, changing their water, grooming, cleaning up after them, and keeping the home environment as clean as possible.

It also means learning:

  • How to handle and treat a pet appropriately
  • Which foods are nutritious and which are dangerous for your pet
  • Why pets require regular veterinary check-ups and vaccines
  • How to provide comfortable and safe play and sleep areas. This might involve planning or constructing a dog house or a cat playground or obstacle course.

An important part of pet care for dog owners is taking them on daily walks. Exercise is great for both your child and your dog, and the need for a walk is the perfect excuse to take mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks to burn off energy.

“Recess” is also the perfect time to have active play sessions with your cat or dog.

Emotional Support

How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling | atlanticvetseattle.com

Adjusting to the “new normal” isn’t easy. Adults and children alike are experiencing heightened anxiety and stress. Doggy kisses and kitty snuggles are surefire ways to boost morale and provide the companionship we crave.

Social Skills

If your child is accustomed to being around other students and teachers all day in a school setting, the absence of in-person interaction can be disconcerting. While pets aren’t great at carrying on conversations, they are good listeners. Your child can practice their reading skills by reading aloud to a pet.

They can boost their confidence in speaking to the teacher during Zoom sessions by practicing a presentation to an audience of dogs and cats.

Lesson Plans that Include Pets

You can also include pets as an integral part of the curriculum. Here are some subject-area ideas to try:

Language Arts

How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling | atlanticvetseattle.com
  • Write a story about your pet.
  • Write a story or essay from your pet’s point-of-view.
  • Illustrate your story and bind it into a handmade book.
  • Read the completed story to your pet.
  • Learn to pronounce and spell the names of dog and cat breeds (Dachshund, Rottweiler, Lhasa Apso, Sokoke, Khaomanee, and Siamese are challenging).


How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling | atlanticvetseattle.com
  • Measure and weigh your pet’s food.
  • Create a chart, spreadsheet or budget that shows the weekly cost of food, toys, and veterinary care for your pet.
  • When learning addition, multiplication, or even calculus, your child can create story problems that include your pet.
  • Compare and contrast the impact of adding a new pet to your household.


  • Study different breeds of cats and dogs and identify the unique traits of each breed.
  • Study animal behavior.
  • Learn about animal organ systems: respiratory, circulatory, skeletal, nervous, digestive, and reproductive.
  • Discover why cats typically sleep 13-14 hours per day, or 70% of their lives (this can also be a math lesson).

History and Geography

  • Read books and watch documentaries about when and where certain breeds of dogs originated, and the purposes for which they were bred (herding, hunting, racing, retrieving, guarding).
  • Learn the history of domesticated cats.
  • Study the role of cats in ancient Egypt.
  • Learn about animal rights, animal preservation, and endangered species.


How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling | atlanticvetseattle.com
  • As your child teaches their dog to shake hands or fetch, discuss the effects of positive and negative reinforcement.
  • Build a maze and study whether your pet can make their way through it to find their favorite treat.
  • Discover why cats narrow their eyes, do a “slow blink,” or purr.
  • Compare normal pet behavior with behaviors that develop when a pet is ill or anxious.

Pets as a Career

How to Incorporate Pets into Homeschooling | atlanticvetseattle.com
  • Join 4H or Scouts to learn about raising and training many types of animals.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter.
  • Visit a therapy dog training program.
  • Learn about the types of jobs that allow you to work with cats and dogs: veterinary technician, veterinary nurse, pet psychologist, veterinarian, veterinary epidemiologist, veterinary radiologist, veterinary nutritionist, groomer, pet sitter, service dog trainer, and many more!

You’ll find hands-on activities, lesson plans, and book studies at American Kennel Club Educator Resources.

Why Dogs Chew Stuff, and How to Encourage Appropriate Chewing

Dog chewing shoeUh oh. Last week it was the couch cushions. This week another shoe got destroyed by your dog.

What is it with dogs and chewing?

Chewing = Touching

People touch things with their hands to learn about an object’s texture. Dogs use their mouths to feel an object. What appears to be chewing may be, in fact, “mouthing.”

5 Reasons Dogs Chew Stuff

  1. Teething – Puppies aged 3-to-6 months chew on everything they can sink their baby teeth into.
  2. Playing – When dogs play, they love to bite and carry objects.
  3. Boredom – Dogs who don’t get enough physical or mental stimulation chew to release pent-up energy.
  4. Hunger – Dogs on a calorie-restricted diet may chew or gnaw because they’re searching for something to eat.
  5. Separation Anxiety – Destructive chewing can be a result of a dog getting distressed or agitated when pet parents leave home.

Why Dogs Chew Stuff, and How to Encourage Appropriate Chewing | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

How to Deal With Inappropriate Chewing

Chewing is a normal dog behavior, and if you exercise your dog daily and give him plenty of playtime, social stimulation, and appropriate chew toys, excessive chewing will often disappear.

However, chewing can sometimes be associated with a behavioral problem. If you notice excessive or destructive chewing, start a “chew journal.” For one week, note and/or videotape times of day your dog chews, what he chews, and what’s going on in his environment that could be causing the chewing.

Make an appointment with your veterinarian and bring your chew journal, which will help us determine what may be triggering the inappropriate chewing.

Dogs can’t tell the difference between old socks and new socks! Don’t give your dog old socks or shoes to chew, as that will train him to chew all socks and shoes.

To help prevent temptation, dog-proof your home by storing items you don’t want him to chew out of reach. When you’re away from home, crate your dog or confine him in a safe area.

Don’t reward your dog for inappropriate chewing. It sounds like a no-brainer, but some pet parents who catch their dog gnawing a table leg scold the dog and then give him a doggie treat. When you do this, you’re rewarding and encouraging the behavior. Instead, get your dog’s attention, and then redirect him to his favorite chew toy. Praise him when he begins playing with the toy.

Dogs don’t have a sense of time like humans do, so when you come home and discover that your pup has destroyed your favorite pair of jeans, don’t yell, spank, swat, or punish him. Your dog will have no idea what he’s being reprimanded for.

Your veterinarian will acquaint you with behavior modification training and other products that will help you safely deter destructive chewing.

Supervise your dog closely. When you spot your dog chewing an approved chew toy, praise him. This teaches him that it’s not wrong to chew, and trains him about the types of things he is encouraged to chew.

Chew Toys to Avoid

It’s important NOT to give your dog a chew toy that is harder than his teeth, as carnivore teeth are not designed to chew bones or other objects harder than the teeth. These objects can break your dog’s teeth and cause the gums to become infected.

Never give your dog cooked or uncooked bones, antlers, hard and thick rawhides, plastic or nylon bones, or large ice cubes.

Flatter, softer rawhide chews are safer for your dog’s teeth and can be effective in reducing plaque accumulation.

Also avoid giving him tennis balls, Frisbees, and other objects with abrasive surfaces, as they have a sandpaper-like effect on your dog’s teeth.

Why Dogs Chew Stuff, and How to Encourage Appropriate Chewing | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

How Hard is Too Hard?

Here are some ways you can quickly determine whether a toy is too hard for your dog to chew.

  • Tap the chew toy against your knee. If it hurts, it’s too hard for your dog.
  • Test the chew toy as a hammer. If you can use it to drive a nail into something, it’s too hard for your dog.
  • Use your fingernail to indent the surface of the toy. The surface needs to have some “give.”
  • Flex or break the chew toy with your bare hands (after buying it, of course). If you can’t flex it or break it, it’s too hard for your dog.

Puppy with chew toy

Appropriate Chew Toys for Your Dog

Provide lots of chew toys, particularly if you have a teething puppy. Try a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and odors and your dog will find a favorite.

KONG and West Paw both make a wide variety of chew toys, including balls, flying discs, squishy, squeaky, floppy, knotted, plush, durable bones, dental, teething, tug-of-war, fetch-and-retrieve, and more.

KONG organizes chewing styles into four categories:

  1. Teething chewer
  2. Average chewer
  3. Power chewer
  4. Aging chewer

They also provide a handy size guide that matches chew toys to a dog’s weight.

West Paw organizes toys according to three chewing and play levels:

  1. Tough chewers 
  2. Moderate chewers 
  3. Gentle chewers

Treat-Filled Chew Toys

Many chew toys can be stuffed with tasty treats to encourage chewing as needed. You can coat or fill a chew toy with peanut butter, cheese spread, canned dog food, and/or dog kibble. You can feed a portion of your dog’s regular diet from a chew toy. If your dog is removing the food too quickly, you can place the filled toy in the freezer before offering.

Click this link for chew toy filler recipes.

Here’s a recipe called Fido’s Farmhouse Feast.

Three important things to remember:

  1. Make sure all rawhide chews and chew toys are an appropriate size for your dog’s weight.
  2. Monitor your dog when he’s chewing to prevent ingestion of the toys (or of large pieces of a rawhide chew).
  3. Rotate chew toys every few days to add variety.

Download this handy list of chew toys approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). You’ll find rawhide chews, dental care chews, and edible chew treats in various flavors.

Why Your Dog is the Perfect Workout Buddy

Why Your Dog is the Perfect Workout Buddy | atlanticvetseattle.comMany of us now work from home – perhaps permanently. One of the drawbacks of working from home is the allure of the cushy couch or recliner.

The “power nap” that becomes a full-blown two-hour sleepfest.

The ever-present tempting snacks.

These work-from-home “benefits” add up to a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to related health problems.

Humans benefit from regular movement, and so do our furry friends. You and your pet can mutually improve your health by developing an exercise routine you can do together.

Whether you’re looking to make a lifestyle change or need an activity you can do with your pet during lunch breaks, include your pet in the fun!

Why Your Dog is the Perfect Workout Buddy | atlanticvetseattle.com

The benefits of daily walks

People and dogs burn energy at close to the same rate when walking. This energy (calorie) burn will help you and your pet maintain healthy weight. Your dog will enjoy joining you as a companion for a walk or run in the fresh air.

A daily walk with your pet will help you both develop overall fitness, which reduces the risk of diseases that affect quality of life.

Exercise and fresh air also improve quality of sleep—for both of you.

Dogs and people have similar walking speeds when focused.

Keeping up with your dog’s steady, undistracted, walking pace will provide both of you with an adequate aerobic workout.

Pay attention to your pet’s tolerance of exercise, and consult your veterinarian if you have questions.

Our pets are our companions, but we (and they) still need a change of scenery. It’s good to go outdoors and experience the neighborhood. This environmental stimulation is healthy for both of you, and may improve your pet’s behavior once you return home. In addition, you and your pet may meet and interact with others on your walk.

Why Your Dog is the Perfect Workout Buddy | atlanticvetseattle.com

You and your pet can motivate each other to exercise.

People and dogs are creatures of habit, and you’ll both find satisfaction in the routine. Your pet’s enjoyment of the exercise will help you enjoy it more, and vice versa.

A walk and/or outdoor playtime provides the perfect opportunity for quality interaction with your pet—which is what you both need. These experiences result in more than physical health; they contribute to overall well-being.

Why Your Dog is the Perfect Workout Buddy | atlanticvetseattle.com

Preparing to exercise with your pet

Consider your pet’s abilities and temperament when deciding how to exercise. Some pets love to run. Others will do better with a steady walking pace. Intervals of walking and jogging might provide extra intensity for you and beneficial “rest breaks” for your pet.

Keep your pet in mind when choosing a walking/running route. With the same route every day, you will know what to expect and become familiar with turns and surface nuances.

Varying the route, however, provides new sensory experiences for you and your pet. This might be more important in a neighborhood than in a natural setting. Each day the same path in nature can still provide new delights.

Spring and early summer is a great time to begin a new exercise routine with your favorite pet. Enjoy the sunshine together—along with many other benefits!

Related articles:

Why Grain-Free, Boutique, and BEG Diets May Be Harming Your Pet

Why Grain-Free & BEG Diets May Be Harming Your Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Veterinary cardiologists have noticed sharp increase in a very serious heart condition in dogs the past 5 years. This condition, called dilated cardiomyopathy, seems to have an association with diets that are considered boutique, exotic, or grain-free, the so-called BEG Diets.

Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is a type of heart disease in which the heart becomes enlarged, the heart muscle becomes flabby, and it does not beat or contract effectively.

DCM can be a silent killer, resulting in the sudden death of a dog that appears normal. DCM can cause heart failure. Early signs of heart failure include weakness, coughing, slowing down, and fainting.

What is a BEG Diet?

  • Boutique:
    Small pet food producer without the resources or size to run their own research studies or employ a veterinary nutritionist.
  • Exotic:
    Protein and plant sources in diets that are considered unstudied, unconventional, and previously rare in the pet food market such as kangaroo, lentils, peas, fava beans, buffalo, tapioca, barley, bison, venison, and chickpeas.
  • Grain-Free:
    A diet that does not use grain-based products like wheat, oatmeal, corn or rice, usually substituting grains with other carbohydrate choices like potatoes, peas, lentils, taro root, or tapioca. Most raw diets are grain-free.

cat eating

Taurine, Diet, and DCM

In cats, a diet deficient of taurine — an amino acid important in the metabolism of fats — has been associated with DCM.

Research linking taurine to heart disease in cats has been well-documented since the late 1980s; therefore, it is now a required component of all cat foods and cat diets. Tufts University is also studying the effect of BEG diets on cats and a potential link to DCM.

Dogs can typically synthesize or make their own taurine. However, ingredient factors like fiber type, carbohydrate and protein sources, cooking methods, and individual dog characteristics can affect how well their bodies make and use taurine. Until recently, dogs fed a commercial diet rarely had taurine deficiencies.

Some of the newly-diagnosed dogs with DCM cases were tested and had low levels of taurine. With taurine supplementation, some were able to restore their heart function close to normal.

More commonly, however, most dogs with DCM did not test low for taurine, but still responded to taurine supplementation and diet change. Some cases even responded with diet change alone. Sadly, however, the majority of dogs with DCM are diagnosed too late.

The FDA, veterinary nutritionists at Tufts University and University of California-Davis, and veterinary cardiologists are working to determine what specific components of BEG diets might be contributing to DCM. In the meantime, they recommend avoiding grain-free and other BEG diets. Visit NBCNews.com and taurinedcm.org for more information.

bowls of pet food

Grains in Pet Foods

Contrary to popular marketing the past 10 years, whole grains are NOT fillers in pet food. They add important proteins, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and fiber to pet diets.

Allergies to grain are very rare in dogs and there is no proof or reliable evidence that grain-free diets are better for our pets. In fact, grain-free diets have not been studied long-term.

Gluten intolerance in pets is even rarer than grain allergies. Gluten- or grain-free diets are considered marketing concepts to address pet owner demands, parallel to the increase in low-carbohydrate diets popular with humans.

Certain dogs may need very specific diets, so when considering a boutique, exotic or grain-free food, please ask us the pros and cons of a particular diet for your pet.

There are times when we may need to prescribe a food with an exotic protein or carbohydrate source to help rule-out or manage food allergies, but we will prescribe a diet from an established company with veterinary nutritionists on staff that conduct proper research.

While this increase in DCM cases is being studied, if you are feeding a BEG diet to your dog, we recommend transitioning diet to a grain-inclusive diet.

Guidelines for Choosing the Manufacture of Your Dog’s Diet

The WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) has guidelines to consider when selecting pet foods. The guidelines alert pet parents to questions we should be asking as we evaluate pet food options:

  • Does the pet food company have a board-certified veterinary nutritionist on staff?
  • What nutritional research studies have been conducted on a food?
  • Who develops the recipes?
  • Is the diet complete? (Does it include the required ingredients to meet the nutritional requirements of the cat or dog?)
  • What is the quality control process?
  • Does the label specify caloric content?

Only four companies in the US meet these standards at this time: Royal Canin, Purina, Hill’s Science Diet, and Eukanuba.

Picking Your Pet’s Food

Here are additional resources for information on choosing a pet food from reputable sources:

When switching pets to a new food, always do so gradually over the course of 1-2 weeks to avoid causing gastrointestinal upset.

10 Tips for Adopting a Cat

Tips for adopting a cat | atlanticvetseattle.com

Warmer temps and sunnier days mean the start of kitten season. Momma cats can have two litters a year, and their first litter often has litters of their own within those 12 months. It’s a situation that repeats itself every year.

While kittens are adorable, not all of them will find loving homes and many will be euthanized. Sadly, hordes of kittens land at the humane society, cat rescue, animal shelter, Craig’s list, and coyote dinner plate.

Bless the families that adopt kittens and adult cats and provide love and appropriate care – good nutrition, training, parasite prevention, vaccines, and spay or neuter surgery.

Make a difference for cats. Today.

Make sure your kitten is spayed or neutered before age 6 months so he or she doesn’t contribute to the overpopulation problem. Altered cats live longer, healthier lives.

Consider adopting an adult cat (even more likely to be euthanized to make room for a “more adoptable” kitten).

This video speaks for itself.

Cat Adoption Checklist

Here are 10 tips for adopting a cat. For the full checklist, visit AmericanHumane.org.

  1. Adopt two cats. Cats need exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other. Visit petfinder.com to find cats and dogs in your area who are available for adoption.
  2. Make a cat-human personality match. Cats have BIG personalities! In general, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easygoing than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair, who are typically more active.
  3. Schedule a visit with Atlantic Veterinary Hospital immediately following the adoption. On your first visit, bring any medical records you received from the adoption center. Bring your cat, too, of course!
  4. Prepare your other family members (including other pets) for your new cat. Visit the adoption facility together, and discuss ways to make everyone feel welcome and comforted.
  5. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat. Becoming a pet parent is a big responsibility, both emotionally and financially. While many shelter cats may have already received spaying or neutering, initial vaccines, and a microchip, you’ll need to be prepared to care for your new family member throughout its life.
  6. Stock up on supplies. Before you bring your cat home, get a litter box, cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and nail clippers.
  7. Cat-proof your home. You don’t want your cat jumping on the counter or chewing on random items. Put (human and cat) food away when you’re not using it, and stow loose items your cat might chew on (including electric cords).
  8. Gradually socialize your cat. Give your cat several weeks to get used to new surroundings. Consider devoting a room in which you’ll put the following items until your cat gets acclimated: litter box, food and water, toys, and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside.
  9. Add your cat to your family’s emergency plan. To your “in-case-of-emergency” call list, add the phone numbers for your veterinarian and the closest 24-hour animal hospital.
  10. If you’re giving the cat as a gift, ask the recipient to participate in the adoption. Adopting a cat isn’t like purchasing a household appliance. Cats are living, breathing, emotional beings who need to feel connected to the people who will become their family.

6 Steps to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog

“Our dog needs a friend!”

Someone in your family is convinced a second dog would be the perfect companion for your current dog.

6 Steps to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog | atlanticvetseattle.com

The thought stays with you as teasing, conflicting thoughts chase each other…

Aren’t you your dog’s “best friend?” He doesn’t need a companion. On the other hand, you can’t always spend as much time playing with your dog as you would like. Perhaps she’d like a puppy to nurture.

Your yard is large enough; two dogs could play together. Or, your yard barely supports the energy of one dog; two is out of the question.

You could take two dogs to the park as easily as one, but only if two carriers will fit in your vehicle.

The internal debate nearly drives you crazy, as family members plead for a puppy, or assert that a certain breed would be So. Much. Fun.

Before adding a second dog to your family, it’s good to look at as many factors as possible before making a commitment. To lessen the stress on everyone, follow these steps.

6 Steps to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog | atlanticvetseattle.com

Step 1:
Consider your current dog’s temperament and prepare him for a new arrival

While some dogs may enjoy a playmate, other factors may make adding a second furry friend a negative experience, rather than a positive one. For example, if your current dog is shy, fearful, or anxious, he may not accept another animal in the household.

According to Kathy Santo, in a blog post for the American Kennel Club, “sometimes dogs can ‘pass’ their fear on to another dog, so then you could have two fearful dogs.”

A second dog will also not necessarily help socialize an aggressive dog.

Tip: Assess how well your dog interacts with other dogs in general. One way to do this is to take him to an off-leash dog park and observe how easily he makes friends.

Step 2:
Prepare yourself by thinking it through

Based on your current dog’s age, consider the ideal age for a second pet. Some people prefer their dogs to be similar ages, expecting the dogs to be playmates.

Dogs have different health needs at different stages of life, which is also a consideration. Depending on the age(s) of the dogs, expect to see behaviors in which an older dog is teaching a younger puppy social skills. Even if the dogs are the same age, one will have been with your family longer, and the other will be the “newcomer.”

Be aware of the financial aspect. Two dogs require more investment in food, supplies, and health care than one dog. Work with family members to plan and budget for a second dog.

Review information about dogs’ body language to better understand your dog’s reaction to the new arrival. Remember to verbally praise your current dog for good behavior, especially during the introduction period.

Tip: Create a simple chart listing the pros and cons of bringing a second dog into your household situation.

6 Steps to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog | atlanticvetseattle.comStep 3:
Prepare your home before the new dog arrives

You’ll want to train a new dog to fit in with your family and lifestyle. Make sure you have supplies and areas ready to train your new pet in house manners and obedience. It may be easier to wait until your current dog is fully trained.

Tip: Consider your present situation in life. Are you willing and able to take the time and responsibility to train a second dog?

Step 4:
Prepare your family for a new pet

It also takes time to help a second dog acclimate and become part of your family. In the same way adding another person to a group of people changes the dynamic, the presence of another pet changes the dynamic of a household.

Tip: Make sure everyone in your family agrees with the idea. It’s especially important to realize the person who wants the dog may not take final responsibility for it. Consider creating a backup plan describing who will take responsibility if circumstances change.

Step 5:
Introduce your new dog gradually

Gradually introduce your dog to a “new puppy scent” by taking a piece of cloth when you meet your new dog before bringing her home. Allow your dog to smell any “new dog” scents from the cloth or your hands.

Set up a place for each dog to call its own (e.g., a pen or crate), and plan to use these areas in staggered rotation to help the dogs get used to each other. This may be done without the dogs seeing each other by strategically placing their private spaces and rotating which animal is with you or in their personal “safe” space. You may then wish to use a gate or screen to introduce the dogs face-to-face, allowing them to turn away after a brief meeting.

Respect and protect each dog’s needs. Arrange separate feeding areas to start, and allow each pet to have personal play time with you and other family members.

Tip: If possible, provide opportunities for each dog to become familiar with the other’s scent before or after bringing the new dog home.

6 Steps to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog | atlanticvetseattle.comStep 6:
Continue the introduction process

Have someone help you introduce the dogs to each other “in person.” You might choose to take the dogs for a walk, each animal on a short, loose leash.

You can offer supervised play separately with each person, and then closer together as the dogs tolerate and accept each other.

Tip: Observe each dog’s behavioral clues, recalling the body language signals you reviewed earlier. Be ready to praise verbally and offer special attention to each dog at appropriate times.

The overall process will take time, so be patient. Be prepared to separate the dogs as needed, but keep working to gradually foster peaceful co-existence. If, over time, the relationship doesn’t improve, contact Atlantic Veterinary Hospital and ask about next steps you can take.

Remembering your pets’ temperaments and behavior signals will help you work with them for successful integration with your family.

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What You Need to Know About Fleas, Ticks and Parasite Preventives

More than an itchy nuisance, fleas are blood-sucking, disease-spreading insects.

What You Need to Know About Fleas, Ticks and Parasite Preventives | atlanticvetseattle.com

Flea bite anemia

When cats get infested with fleas, they can get flea bite anemia due to losing so much blood. Those suckers (literally) drain so much blood that a cat’s body is unable to function normally.

Cats particularly susceptible to flea bite anemia include:

  • kittens
  • small cats
  • elderly cats
  • cats with weakened immune systems
  • cats who have lost blood due to an injury
  • cats who have recently undergone surgery and required a blood transfusion

Cat scratch fever

Fleas also cause cat scratch fever, a mild-to-severe bacterial infection that cats can pass along to humans. Humans can get cat scratch fever when a cat infected with Bartonella henselae (a bacteria cats contract when scratching or biting at infected fleas) bites or scratches a human or licks an open wound on a human’s skin.

Cat scratch fever (also called cat scratch disease) in humans is most prevalent in the southern part of the U.S. and most common among teenagers and children aged 5-9. However, anyone who owns or interacts with a cat is at risk of contracting the disease.

Not-so-fun flea facts

Although tiny and flightless, fleas can jump 7-13 inches and show no respect for property lines and door sills.

April Showers Bring May Flowers – Fleas & Ticks Aren’t Far Behind | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Female fleas can lay over 5,000 eggs in their lifetime and live up to 18 months.

A single pregnant flea can cause a population explosion of fleas on your pet and in your home.

Fleas have been around for millions of years, causing itchy misery and spreading diseases like tapeworms and life-threatening bacteria and viruses affecting animals and people. For example, fleas spread the bacteria that causes The Plague, a disease that killed thousands in Europe in the Dark Ages and is still found today in places as near as Eastern Oregon.

Get a flea preventive NOW!

We have amazing new parasite preventives that came out in the past two years. These preventives are better than anything you can buy over-the-counter. (They prevent ticks, too.)

Call Atlantic Veterinary Hospital at 206-323-4433 and ask about our flea and tick preventives. (Continue reading for more on flea and tick preventives.)

Ticks…A Growing Concern in the Pacific Northwest and Worldwide

What you need to know about ticks | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids – not insects – and are implicated in the spread of a number of life-threatening diseases that affect humans and animals. They can harbor bacteria, viruses, and protozoal parasites, sometimes more than one at a time.

Slow-moving and unable to jump, they lay in wait on grass or leaves until their prey walks by, then grab on for the ride.

Ticks can transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, and erlichiosis, to name a few.

Unfortunately, one of the many side effects of warmer temperatures is that ticks are increasing in abundance and geographical range throughout the world. Once a realm of warmer, humid southern areas of the US, ticks and tick-borne diseases have spread north and occur in all 50 states and Canada.

A similar phenomenon has occurred in Europe. Tick migration mostly occurs through the movement of animals upon which ticks feed. Small mammals can transport ticks short distances, but migrating deer and, especially, birds can carry the intrepid hitchhikers into new territories where they once did not exist.

Our Western Washington “Emerald Isle” has more ticks.

New Products Make Flea & Tick Prevention Easier for Pets

Fortunately, defense for pets against fleas and ticks continues to improve since the introduction of fipronil (Frontline) in 1995, a safe-but-messy topical that helped prevent fleas and ticks in cats and dogs.

Today, better products help prevent these parasites. Our favorites are the new oral chews that have come on the market in the past two years that quickly kill fleas and ticks.

No more messy topical medication or stinky collar, just a tasty “treat” that safely and effectively prevents fleas and ticks from 30-90 days, depending on the product.

Additionally, new laboratory tests help us spot tick-borne diseases faster, sometimes before they even cause disease symptoms.

You know the 4DX lab test we recommend for your dog every year? Well, test #1 screens for heartworm disease, but #2-4 are screens for tick-borne illnesses – Lyme disease, erlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.

Hey ticks, we’re watching.

Better Lyme disease vaccines are now available for dogs traveling to Lyme disease endemic areas – the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Florida.

We recommend your dog begins the Lyme vaccine series 7-8 weeks prior to your trip back East, in addition to using one of the newer tick prevention products and taking precautions, such as keeping your dog out of tall grass or wooded areas if possible, and doing a daily tick inspection of yourself and your dog.

Foxtail Seeds Cause Painful Infections in Dogs and Cats

During the past week, we’ve seen eight dogs with foxtail awns lodged between their toes. The seeds act like a large splinter that a body considers “foreign,” causing a very painful and infected abscess. Dogs come to see us limping, licking their feet, with a swollen, painful foot that’s often draining a bit of pus.

Not only do these prickly seeds cause pain when they enter the skin between toes, they’re also potentially dangerous to dogs and cats and can cause infection, chronic illness, and even death.

Identifying Foxtail

“Foxtail” refers to several species of tall, wild grasses common along the West Coast. They weren’t overly common in Seattle until the last two-to-three years, but we’re seeing a spike in patients presenting with them lodged in their bodies.

Foxtails commonly grow along roadsides, trails, and in grassland areas. In summer, as the plant begins to dry out, the seed heads become brittle and fall off the plant. Awns are shaped like arrowheads.

Foxtail: Little Seeds that Cause BIG Problems | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Each awn has a sharp point and several long bristles. Each bristle is covered with loads of microscopic barbs that act similar to a porcupine quill or fishhook, only allowing the seed to advance but not back up. When a dog or cat brushes by dry foxtail, or sniffs it, steps on it, or rolls on it, the barbs catch on the animal’s fur, feet, nose, or ears.

When a dog steps on foxtail, those nasty barbs embed themselves deep into the webbing between the toes, causing an abscess. The barbs can dig themselves into a patch of skin and then travel through tissue. Because these tough seeds can’t be absorbed by the body or digested, they cause pain and inflammation as they migrate through the body.

Foxtail barbs can also go up a nose, into an ear, behind an eyeball, and into the genitals.

  • An awn lodged in a pet’s nasal passage can travel into the brain and cause seizures, and even death. Bring your pet in immediately if you notice frequent and intense sneezing or discharge from the nose.
  • An awn in an ear can rupture the eardrum and cause chronic ear infections. If your pet is incessantly shaking its head, tilting it to one side, or scratching an ear, it could be a sign of foxtail embedded deep within the ear canal.
  • An awn in an eye can lead to blindness. Seek veterinary care if you notice squinting, redness, swelling, discharge, or pawing at the eye.
  • An awn in the genitals can be excruciatingly painful. Contact us if you notice your pet persistently licking its genitals.
  • When a dog or cat inhales foxtail, the result can be a perforated lung or infections that require major surgery.

Minimizing Foxtail Risks

Obviously, the best way to minimize the risk of foxtail invasion is to avoid areas where foxtail grows. That’s not always easy to do in our area, where the weed grows like a… well… weed. When walking your dog, keep him on a leash and on the trail, to lessen the chances of our pet sniffing around foxtails.

If you have foxtails in your yard, dig them up by hand and dispose of them in the trash (not in yard waste or the compost heap, where the seeds may be spread to other yards).

After walking your pet, brush its coat and thoroughly examine between each toe, underneath the feet, in ears, armpit, groin, and anal area.

When to Seek Veterinary Care… and What to Expect

If you notice any suspicious lumps, swelling, excessive licking, head-shaking, or sneezing, contact us immediately. If we suspect a wound is caused by a foxtail awn, we will try to remove it by flushing and exploring the wound (this can be painful, and usually requires sedation).

Often we’re successful in finding the seed, which allows the body to heal. Sometimes the seed has traveled a good distance from where it entered the body (such as several inches up a leg from the toes where it entered).

Other times, we are not successful at finding the seed. In these situations, we may need to refer a pet to a veterinary surgeon who can use advanced imaging to try to find the seed’s track through the body so it can be removed.

As global warming changes our environment, threats to our pets are changing, from different species of parasites (dog ticks, deer ticks, Lyme disease, heart worms) to different species of plants (foxtails) and fungal infections.

We stay abreast of these changes and update our recommendations. Stay tuned here for timely updates as new information arrives.

The G-I-F-T: How to Write a Loving Tribute to Your Pet

Part 5 in our 5-part series on pet loss

By Denise Lee Branco, guest author

To lose a beloved pet is excruciating. It doesn’t matter whether it happened suddenly or if preparation for the hardest day was in motion. It hurts. Really hurts. The pain bleeds deep into our soul.

But what if we could turn heartache into heart joy?

What if we could find a way to thank our pet for all that they’ve done to enhance our lives each and every day? What if our healing begins with a gift?

I personally know that putting my innermost thoughts and feelings in writing helps me cope with devastating loss. Writing allows me to express gratitude and not leave anything unsaid. It is an outlet that helps me preserve memories onto paper so those memories will never fade.

I’d like to offer you a G-I-F-T that will help you begin your own journey toward healing. These ideas will aid in creating a treasured keepsake for you and your family.

G – Gather photos of your pet or special items that’ll bring back memories of your life together.

Photos such as from the day you first met, places visited, funny moments, favorite toys, playtime, all lend themselves to being great subject matter.

I – Imagine scenes based on the photos and items that you gathered.

They will serve as story prompts for your writing. Start by creating a chronological list of those ideas and allow your writing to free flow. Just get it down on paper or in a Word document. You can always add and organize later.

If you’re more comfortable with having structure, prepare a detailed outline of key areas that you want to write about and the order in which you envision your project unfolding.

F – Find lessons and reasons.

I’m a firm believer that every one of our pets arrives in our lives precisely at the right time. We may not realize it at that moment, but they are always chosen specifically for us.

As you’re writing and expressing gratitude for the unconditional love your pet gave and cherished moments shared, think about lessons learned.

  • What did your pet teach you?
  • Is there something in life that you couldn’t have gotten through without the love of a pet?
  • Do you have regrets? Those are lessons, too. They’re how we grow as pet parents. Your pet doesn’t fault you at all. He loved you and knew that you did your very best to give him a great life.

T – Treasured keepsake.

Your writing is completed, and now, you will decide how you’d like to preserve your tribute. Will it be in gratitude or love letter form only?

Another option would be to take a three-ring binder or photo album, cut and paste your words next to the associated photo, and personalize with adornments from a craft store.

You could even turn your work into a book. Why not? Books are something tangible that you can hold and share special stories about your beloved pet.

Every life has meaning. The highest honor we can give our pets is to tell their story. By doing so, we see that our life was enriched forever by a precious soul with fur and four legs.

Isn’t that the greatest gift of all?

Denise Lee Branco is an award-winning author, inspirational speaker, animal advocate, and certified pet loss grief specialist-individual. She lives in Northern California and loves leisure biking, foods with melted cheese, and spoiling her three rescued felines. Visit her at DeniseInspiresYou.com

Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Seattle serves the following neighborhoods: Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Seward Park, Capitol Hill, Leschi, Central District, Madison Valley, International District, and Georgetown.