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Why Does My Dog Chew?

Why Does My Dog Chew? | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Dogs use their mouths a lot like humans use their hands. Their sense of touch is experienced through their mouths; they love to chew on toys, treats, clothing, shoes, furniture, sticks, bones, etc.

Some chewing is natural, such as when puppies are teething or dogs are playing “fetch.”

Some chewing is destructive. And some is darn dangerous and can lead to broken teeth, lacerations, foreign bodies, electrical shock, etc.

Learn more about why dogs chew, how to analyze whether your dog has a chewing problem, and when to intervene if you suspect excessive or destructive chewing.

Should I Keep My Cat Indoors or Allow Him to Roam Outdoors?

Letting cats roam outdoors is a hot topic, for sure.

Should I Keep My Cat Indoors or Allow Him to Roam Outdoors? | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

For years, bird lovers and cat lovers have clashed over whether cats, not native to the U.S., should be allowed to roam. Cats that live in the wild or indoor pets allowed to roam outdoors kill from 1.4 -3.7 billion birds in the continental U.S. each year. Wow!

Outdoor cats are also exposed to significant dangers – cars, coyotes, raccoons, dogs, parasites, poisons – and tend to die at an earlier age. The average lifespan for an outdoor cat is 3 to 5 years.

Indoor cats live longer (13-17 years, on average), but face more issues with boredom and obesity, which can lead to behavioral and medical issues.

It’s important to make an informed decision about whether to keep your cat indoors or outdoors. This article at Pet Health Network helps you weigh the pros and cons.

Catios and Cat Yards

If your cat wants to go outdoors but you want to keep kitty safe, consider a catio or cat yard.

An abundance of alternative designs abound for homeowners, renters, and apartment dwellers, from do-it-yourself designs to kits from companies like Purrfect Fence. These ingeneous enclosures allow cats to enjoy sunshine and fresh air, work out their wiggles with exercise, and keep their hunter minds sharp – without putting them or wildlife at risk.

Here are some ideas, and here are a few more.

5 Ways to Give Your Dog Mental Exercise

Proper physical exercise for dogs is important to their overall physical and mental well-being.

5 Ways to Give Your Dog Mental Exercise | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Environmental enrichment, or “mental exercise,” is often overlooked, but just as important! In fact, at the Seattle Zoo, making sure animals have fun is serious business. Animals that are bored, with little mental and environmental stimulation, develop mild-to-severe behavioral problems.

Providing your dog with “mental exercise” is easy and fun. Our friends at Pet Health Network share five great ways you can challenge your dog’s mind. Click here to read the full article.

  1. Behavior training
  2. “Outside the box” training classes
  3. Sensory walks
  4. Games, toys, and puzzles
  5. Running errands

How the Solar Eclipse May Affect Your Pet

The Great American Eclipse is August 21, 2017. During the total solar eclipse, the moon will pass between the sun and Earth and block the sun entirely.

How the Solar Eclipse May Affect Your Pet | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

In the Puget Sound region, we’ll see it as a partial solar eclipse, beginning at 9:08 a.m. and ending at 11:38 a.m., with the maximum sun coverage at 10:20 a.m.

How will pets and other animals react?

Total darkness only lasts a few minutes at most, and an eclipse itself is silent, causing none of the noise that typically scares pets during storms and fireworks.

However, dogs and cats may be confused or frightened by the sudden midday darkness. It’s generally a good idea to keep cats indoors and dogs leashed if they’re outdoors with you during the eclipse.

Learn more about possible the effects of the eclipse on animals at Mother Nature Network.


A Day in the Life of Bogey, a Typical Older Dog

The sun has been shining through the blinds for at least an hour now and the family has been busy getting ready for work and school.

Bogey’s hips are sore from sleeping in one position all night and he knows getting up will be difficult, but Nature’s call finally wins out. He rises very slowly to his feet from his bed, then over-corrects and almost takes a header because he’s a bit unsteady.

A Day in the Life of Bogey, a Typical Older Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.com


What happened to the days when he’d wake everyone up with the sun, jumping on the beds and giving a lick to the face before the alarm went off?

Bogey shuffles to the back door in short, choppy steps, hoping he makes it in time. His long nails scratch a slow cadence on the wood floors that seems like an ice rink. The discomfort and stiffness in his hips and lower back make progress slow, but he never complains.

A brief “woof” at the door, and someone opens the slider so he can go out. The cool air feels good, but the slippery steps down the porch, while only three, cause him to hesitate for several minutes while he contemplates which is worse – having an accident on the porch or falling down the steps.

After a slow amble around the perimeter of the backyard, he’s ready to come back in. Thank goodness no squirrels appeared to taunt his slow progress. This time, finding the strength to go up those three steps gives him pause. He heaves himself up and makes it up the first two, but slips on the wet porch at the third and lands on his left shoulder, torquing his neck. Warm, kind hands help him up and steady him as he makes his way back into the house. The stiff hips have loosened a bit, but his shoulder hurts from the fall.

Breakfast is in his dish and he’s hungry. Eating would be easier if the dish was raised off the floor, and he lies down in front of it to finish his breakfast. Everyone is about to leave for the day, so after a few welcome pats on the head, he heads in the direction of the front window and wags his tail as they hail their goodbyes.

A Day in the Life of Bogey, a Typical Older Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.comThe house is quiet now. Bogey still takes his duty as guard dog quite seriously. His chin just fits on the window sill in the living room, and he stares dreamily out onto the front lawn and walk.

Suddenly, a German Shepard with a human attached appears in his line of sight and proceeds to relieve himself on the bush by the gate, turning his head to give a defiant look to Bogey in the window.

Bogey woofs loudly in protest and tries to make himself taller, but only manages to bounce his front feet off the floor a few inches a couple of times. He decides to let this transgressor pass.

The excitement is tiring and he heads towards his bed for a morning nap. The bed used to be upstairs, where he spent his nights guarding the family, but the stairs are too steep now and he’s too big to be carried. He had to settle for the move to the family room, but it’s lonely at night.

Try as he might to shift the bed’s soft padding with his front paws and turn three times for luck to find the softest spot, the ungraceful plop down onto the cushion sends waves of pain through his hips and back. He pants loudly for several minutes to keep from crying while the pain slowly subsides.

In what seemed like only a few moments, the front door bursts open and the family is home. Bogey realizes he’s slept the day away when a glance out the window shows long shadows are falling across the lawn.

Nature is calling again, and loudly, and he makes his way to the back door. This time, welcome hands help him down the steps, guarding him from falling, and he ventures further around the yard to the front, in no hurry to return to the house.

A leash is snapped on his collar and the front gate opens. Bogey does his best to cover the mark on the bush made by the offending German Shepard, but lifting one leg to stand on three is a wobbly challenge and he almost soils himself in the attempt.

Moving down the uneven sidewalk requires his full concentration, yet the feel of the breeze on his face and the attention of his human make his heart sing. He remembers the days when he used to fly down this street, pulling a kid on skateboard.

Bogey makes it to the end of the block, and though his heart is willing, his backend protests and he sits down, letting his human know that this is as far as he can go today. Maybe tomorrow he can go further. They return to the house and warm hands help him up the steps.

The walk rejuvenates his spirits and he visits everyone in the family while dinner is made and homework completed, resting his head on a lap here and nuzzling a knee for an ear scratch there.

Food appears in his dish again, but this time the dish is raised up on several books and he’s able to eat while standing. His tummy full, he makes his way back to his bed again, intending to listen in on the conversations at the dinner table, but his eyes grow heavy.

The next thing he knows, the house is dark and quiet again, and everyone else is upstairs. He tries to accept the loneliness of being apart from his “pack” while they sleep upstairs, but the separation never feels natural. The discomfort in his hips is singing a loud song tonight, and he pants again to deal with the pain. It finally subsides, and he lays his head down on the edge of his bed, listening, waiting, and remembering.

Osteoarthritis in older dogs and cats

The most common cause of mobility issues and discomfort in older dogs and cats is osteoarthritis. Older pets, large and small, suffer to some extent from osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease.

Time, conformational differences, and excess weight can wear down the slippery cushions on the ends of bones, called cartilage. With cartilage wear, bones start rubbing against each other, causing pain and inflammation.

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but is most common in hips, spine, shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the pain can be managed through a combination of traditional and alternative veterinary care, moderate regular exercise, weight control, special anti-inflammatory diets, and environmental adaptation.

What In The World Is Going On In Veterinary Care?

Every year, despite our efforts to remain as affordable as possible, costs for providing outstanding veterinary care increase.

Pharmaceutical companies, pet food companies, and reference laboratories annually mark up their prices 8% or more (even during the last recession). Veterinary practices’ overhead costs for insurance, utilities, taxes, and the like increase.

What In The World Is Going On In Veterinary Care? | AtlanticVetSeattle.comAnd to keep the same familiar, educated, and experienced smiling faces caring for your pets, staff wage costs rise as well, including the Seattle new minimum wage increase and rising health insurance costs.

Mars, Inc. Owns 15-20% of America’s Veterinary Hospitals

It’s a rapidly changing world out there. Small, family-owned veterinary clinics compete with huge corporations for purchasing power.

One corporation now owns 15 to 20 percent of America’s 26,000 pet hospitals — candy maker Mars, Inc. A $35 billion global business who makes the likes of M&Ms, Snickers, Milky Way, Skittles, Twix, and Wrigley’s, Mars now wants to provide your pet’s health care.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Mars has been buying up veterinary practices at break-neck pace over the past two years, and its pet-related holdings now include:

  • Blue Pearl
  • Banfield
  • Seattle Veterinary Services
  • VCA veterinary hospitals

Plus, they own pet food brands Pedigree, Whiskas, and Royal Canin; one of the two largest veterinary diagnostic reference laboratories (we use the other one); and Seattle-based Sound Technologies, a digital medical equipment company.

Three Ways To Support Neighborhood Pet Clinics

What can you do to help provide excellent care for your pet without breaking the bank or handing your pet’s care over to a multibillion-dollar corporation?

First, take measures to keep your pet healthy in the first place (See our article, 7 Ways to Care for Your Pet Without Breaking the Bank).

Second, contemplate whether our affordable wellness plans and pet insurance are right for you.

Third, carefully consider your online and big box store pet purchases – and choose to buy local instead.

Supporting your neighborhood, family-owned businesses with your purchases helps keep the focus on your pet, keeps the overall cost of pet care down, and keeps your money in Seattle, instead of the accounts of corporate stockholders.

Be Prepared for Pet Medical Emergencies – Is Pet Insurance Right for You?

We’re all familiar with the mess going on in human health insurance. Even before the arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act, health insurance for humans was a hot topic, rife with accusations of care being over-priced, inefficient, and sometimes denied when needed.

Be Prepared for Pet Medical Emergencies – Is Pet Insurance Right for You? | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Insurance companies were often accused of taking the control of medical decisions away from patients and their doctors. I used to tell pet owners that if veterinary medicine went the way of human medicine (meaning the issues with health insurance for humans), that I was going to drive a truck instead – and I wasn’t kidding.

How Pet Insurance Differs from Human Insurance

Fortunately, I learned more about health insurance for pets and was happy to discover that it currently works differently than health insurance for humans.

It functions a lot more like dental and eye insurance for humans – the medical decisions are left in the hands of the pet owner and veterinarian, and the company reimburses the pet owner a portion of the cost of care, based on its own formulas for a particular condition.

The veterinarian is completely out of the payment picture; in other words, it’s not third-party-pay like health insurance for humans.

Be Prepared for Pet Medical Emergencies

Learning this, and after experiencing several very sad situations where pet owners were unprepared for a pet medical emergency (such as an advanced surgical procedure with a veterinary specialist), I’ve changed my tune to become an advocate for pet health insurance instead.

When pet owners make the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize their pets instead of seeking medical care for serious, yet very treatable, medical conditions, a beautiful life is cut short and hearts are broken.

While most family-owned veterinary practices have payment plans and small charity funds, they don’t stretch far enough to cover every pet in need, and as a small business, we’re unable to provide the care free-of-charge.

As our pets have become valued members of the family, advances in medicine have also influenced the quality of care we provide our pets, many consider pet health insurance an increasingly integral part of responsible pet ownership.

Not all pet insurance companies work the same way, and it’s worth your time to research and carefully read the fine print.

Some Employers Offer Pet Insurance Benefits

While pet insurance is growing in popularity in the United States and some employers even offer it as part of their benefit package, less than 1% of dogs and cats in the US are covered by health insurance. Contrast that to Europe, where more than 25% of pets have health insurance.

Alternative to Pet Health Insurance

For the disciplined saver, an alternative to pet health insurance is a self-administered pet health savings account.

Setting aside a regular monthly contribution in special savings account designated for pet emergencies until you reach a cushion (say, $5000 – $10,000) and having a room on a credit card to cover until you reach your goal sum, is another way to prepare for an pet health emergency so you aren’t faced with a difficult decision of choosing to pay rent over medical care for your pet. And, you get to keep the “premiums” with interest if no emergency occurs.

Keeping Cats Safe Outdoors

Bubba the Cat | Atlantic Veterinary Hospital, SeattleBy Bubba the Cat
Public Relations Officer

Allowing us cats to roam outdoors is a decision that requires careful consideration.

There are camps on both sides of the issue, passionate about their opinions regarding whether we cats should to be allowed to roam, as we’re not a native species to North America and there are dangers out there.

Recent research has shown owned cats roam an average territory of 5 acres, considerably larger than most people’s backyards (feral cats have even larger territories). I used to be one of those guys, wandering the streets of Lynnwood looking for the lady cats.

Beyond neutering, vaccinations, parasite prevention medications, a microchip, safety collar, and ID tag, what can be done to keep our outdoor feline colleagues safe and healthy? And what about our impact on the outside world?

The benefits of allowing a cat to roam

How to keep your cat safe outdoors | AtlanticVetSeattle.comOn the one hand, kitties allowed outdoor access tend to exhibit fewer behaviors you humans find objectionable, like destructive clawing and urine marking – a stimulated mind is a healthier mind.

My kitty counterparts allowed outdoors are more likely to maintain their body weight in a healthy range and refrain from excessive grooming because they get more exercise and don’t eat out of boredom.

The drawbacks of allowing a cat to roam

On the other hand, cats allowed outdoors face considerable danger—including death—from cars and urban predators (raccoon, coyote, eagle, and big dogs).

They often get into fights with other cats over territory boundaries, risking dangers ranging from bite wounds and abscesses, to life-threatening viral infections like feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline infectious viremia (FIV).

They frequently are exposed to internal and external parasites (intestinal worms, fleas, mites, ticks), which they can pass to their human families.

Ornithologists (those scientific types who study birds) blame them for dramatic declines in wild bird populations.

And some cats just plain get lost and never find their way back home.

A better alternative: Cat yards

But there’s a compromise I’d like you to consider that’s gaining popularity: outdoor cat yards. In the 10+ years of providing house calls for cats throughout the Seattle area, our doctors have seen an amazing variety of cat yards exhibiting cat families’ creativity and love for their furry friend(s).

Using a  wide variety of configurations and materials, folks have constructed outdoor spaces for their cats to play, lounge, and explore that keep the cats (and birds, for the most part) safe while providing exercise, mental stimulation, fresh air, and a place to catch a sunbeam in warmer weather.

Some of these enclosures resemble three-season porches; others enclosed a portion of the backyard, keeping a kitty contained and other animals out; still others were an enclosure attached to the side of a house with a cat door in a window, providing easy access. I’m secretly jealous and have been promised a cat yard “someday” when we remodel. Sigh…

Ideas for configuring an outdoor cat space

There are companies, like Purrfect Fence, that specialize in helping cat people configure the outdoor space they have available into a pleasing (from both the humans’ and cats’ perspectives) outdoor play space.

However, more than half the cat yards our docs have seen were constructed from scratch with re-purposed materials by ingenious owners who didn’t have a large budgets.

  • One owner created a Japanese-themed garden in his side yard with cat fencing hidden in a non-invasive bamboo hedge.
  • Another created what she called an underground “chunnel” connecting the only space available for a cat yard located 10 feet away from the side of her house.
  • Others were built underneath a back deck or overhang using deer fencing purchased at a hardware store, providing access through a sliding glass door beneath the deck.
  • Some used aviary netting on an existing cedar fence to enclose the entire backyard. Each of these enclosures featured with homemade climbing things, scratch-able surfaces, and shelves for lounging.

See why I’m jealous?

If you’re interested in outdoor enclosures for your kitty, I’ve heard there are lots of ideas and pictures on the internet.  Just do an image search for “cat yards” or “cat enclosures.”

And please remember my feline colleagues in outdoor enclosures still need parasite prevention.

Please send me pictures if you build an enclosure for your lucky kitty!

February is National Pet Dental Health Month!

“Pets Need Dental Care Too” is a theme that has gained momentum over the past two decades as we’ve recognized that our furry family members need the same kind of attention to their dental health we do to ours.

Benefits of Oral Health

Besides improving their breath, caring for pets’ oral health is an important part of maintaining their overall health and quality of life. Poor oral health can affect a pet’s entire body, including their ability to eat, as well as their immune system and internal organs.

Abscessed or broken teeth and severe gingivitis hurt, yet many pets hide their pain. Pet owners often don’t recognize the changes they are seeing in their pet’s behavior, thinking the pet is “just getting old” when in fact the pet is dealing with constant pain. Some pets completely mask their pain.

Chronic inflammation in the mouth can also lead to oral cancer, a very serious, life-threatening situation that may be treatable if detected early.

Non-Anesthetic Teeth Cleaning

Besides traditional dental care services and digital dental x-ray, Atlantic Veterinary Hospital is one of the handful of veterinary hospitals in Seattle offering the very popular non-anesthetic teeth cleaning (dental prophylaxis) for carefully screened pets with early dental disease.

Pets with mild tartar and gingivitis may be good candidates for the procedure, which is done with an awake pet lying across the lap of the veterinary dental hygienist. The hygienist carefully charts each tooth; cleans the teeth and under the gums; then polishes the teeth – just like the procedure we have done at our dentist’s office.

If any problems are found, they are brought to the attention of one of our supervising doctors, who develops an alternate treatment plan.

Related Article:

Dog Flu Outbreak in Seattle: Call Us Today to Schedule a Vaccination

Dog Flu Outbreak in Seattle: Get your dog vaccinated at Atlantic Veterinary Hospital, SeattleYou may have heard about the recent outbreak in the Seattle area of a new type of “dog flu” affecting pets across the country. This highly contagious and potentially very serious respiratory infection is caused by canine influenza virus H3N2.

Chances are, if your dog is exposed to H3N2, he or she may become infected.

Dogs that are in contact with other dogs may be at high risk of infection with H3N2. This includes dogs that are boarded, enrolled in day care or training classes, go to groomers, or visit our local dog parks.

Dogs can spread the virus even if they don’t appear sick.

The virus can be spread dog-to-dog or through objects, including dog toys, bowls, and human hands, clothing, and shoes.

Severity of symptoms vary from a mild cough and runny nose, to a high fever, decreased appetite, severe pneumonia, and extreme lethargy. Symptoms can persist for weeks.

If you have a puppy, elderly, or pregnant dog, or a dog that has a chronic illness, you should take extra precautions.

The best prevention is vaccination.

The good news: our office now has vaccines available to help control illness associated with H3N2.

We also have a second vaccine for another type of canine influenza, H3N8, which is likewise capable of causing severe respiratory disease in dogs (but to date has not been reported in Seattle).

Vaccination against both types of canine flu helps to ensure maximum protection. This is particularly important if you plan to board your dog in the near future or send him or her to a grooming or daycare facility.

We are now requiring all dogs that stay with us for boarding, grooming, or bathing to be vaccinated for both canine flu viruses H3N2 and H3N8.

We are offering a new Canine Upper Respiratory Package that includes both initial flu vaccines, plus the 3-week boosters.

If your dog is a current patient and up-to-date on his or her other vaccinations, the flu vaccines can be given during a brief complimentary nurse appointment.

For the time being, we are discontinuing day admission (drop-off) exams for sick dogs.

These are still available for cats and well dogs.

If your dog develops a cough, nasal discharge, or fever, please call us right away.

We are developing infectious disease protocols to help protect all our patients, and will advise you regarding how to bring your dog to our office to minimize the risk of infecting other patients.

If your dog becomes ill after hours, please call Seattle Veterinary Specialty Center on Capitol Hill at 206-624-9111.

More Information:

Downloadable PDF fact sheets:

Visit these helpful websites:

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.