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Ypsilanti veterinary news The veterinarians and staff at the Ypsilanti Animal Clinic 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 our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Dental care is vital to your pet's health. If you've already established a dental care program for your pet, you're off to a great start. But if your pet hasn't received a dental exam from your veterinarian, it's time to get started. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, the perfect time to schedule a dental exam for your pet and develop a home dental care regimen for your best friend.

Why is dental care so important for your pet? Periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed problem in pets. By the age of two, more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease in one form or another. The buildup of plaque and tartar on your pet's teeth leads to bacterial infections that can enter the bloodstream and infect other parts of your pet's body. Periodontal disease has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, osteoporosis and other problems.

The good news is that periodontal disease is easily prevented. Regular dental cleanings and a home dental care regimen can eliminate the plaque and tartar that lead to gum disease and oral infections. During a dental cleaning, your veterinarian also performs a complete oral examination of your pet. This includes screening for oral cancer, broken teeth and cavities. Spotting these problems early makes them easier to treat and improves your pet's overall oral health.

Your pet's dental cleaning is more involved than the same process you go through at your dentist's office. Anesthesia is required to keep your pet still and comfortable during the procedure. Because of this, your pet undergoes a thorough physical examination before each dental cleaning. Laboratory blood tests, as well as other diagnostic procedures are also used to screen for potential problems and risks before anesthesia is administered. Using these results, your veterinarian develops a safe anesthetic protocol specifically for your pet.

A Cat's Teeth Before and After a Dental Cleaning

During a dental cleaning, tartar is removed from your pet's teeth with a hand scaler. Next, a periodontal probe is used to check for pockets under the gumline - where periodontal disease and bad breath start. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean above the gumline and a curette is used to clean the teeth under the gumline and in the crevices. Finally, the teeth are polished and an anti-bacterial solution is applied to help delay future tartar build-up.

Dental care doesn't end in your veterinarian's office. Brushing your pet's teeth at home is an added level of protection against gum disease. In order to be most effective, brushing must be done at least three times a week; however, daily brushing is ideal. Brushing your pet's teeth can be supplemented with antiseptic rinses. Some pet foods and treats are also effective in preventing plaque and tartar buildup. However, there is no substitute for regular brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Call your veterinary hospital to schedule a dental examination and cleaning for your pet today. Your best friend will thank you!

Cat Communication: How to Read a Cat's Tail

Cats have a reputation for being aloof and non-communicative, but reading their emotions may be a matter of looking at body language. Cats express emotion with their tails.

• All Wrapped Up

Even when the cat is asleep, her tail reveals her mood and level of comfort. When she is all "tucked in" with her tail wrapped closely around her body, she is feeling content but wants to keep to herself at the moment. Just as humans wrap in a blanket to sleep, a cat uses its tail for warmth and comfort.

• Swishing

You know when a dog wags his tail, he is excited and happy. It is just the opposite for the cat. A tail swishing rapidly from side to side is a sign that the cat is anxious and may become aggressive. It's best to leave the cat alone and let her relax before interacting. You can toss her a toy to distract her, but don't attempt to pet the cat until she calms down.

If the side-to-side motion of the tail is slower and more fluid, take a look at what is holding the cat's attention. There may be a bird on the windowsill or a squirrel in the yard. A slow swish of the tail indicates mild excitement or interest.

• Puffed Up

When cats feel threatened, they puff their fur along the spine and down the tail. This is called "pilorection." A frightened cat resembles the Halloween cat in pictures: the back is arched, the tail looks fat and fur is bristled all over the cat's body. It may be an attempt to look larger and more intimidating. Often the cat's ears will flatten against her head.

• Straight Up and Quivering

When a cat holds her tail straight up, it's usually a sign that she is relaxed and happy. A slight curl at the end of the tail and a quiver means the cat is feeling friendly and may be excited to see you. If an unneutered male cat holds a quivering tail upright against objects, it may be preparing to mark its territory. A spray of urine is satisfying for the territorial tom cat, but not pleasant for the human caretaker.

Experienced cat owners can often tell what a cat is "saying" by the tone and volume of the cat's meow. It's easy to tell when a cat wants to be fed or let out, or when the cat's tail is accidentally stepped on. For deeper insight into more subtle feline emotions, look to the tail.

Basic Dog Obedience Training

So you have a cute furry companion who loves to play fetch and go to the dog park. But are they well-behaved? It really doesn't matter whether your canine is a four-pound Chihuahua or a 104-pound Rottweiler. An untrained dog is an invitation to disaster. And a dog that won't come when called is always in danger.

As a pet owner, you should be committed to training your dog. So if your adorable companion has the tendency to bark to get your attention or to run away when you call for them, it's time to do something about ending that poor behavior.

Now for the good news: dogs are easily trained. That's probably the reason why dogs have long been America's favorite pet. Despite the fact that they train relatively easily, however, you still have to do the job. One way to make training simple is to get a breed that readily adapts to your lifestyle and that corresponds to what you want in a canine companion. Serious breeders can help you with this decision. They should tell you about their breed's inherent trainability—advice you should heed before making your final decision.

Rest assured that training does not strip a dog of natural instincts or "joie de vivre." After all, these are the things that attract people to dogs in the first place. We want you to celebrate the canine spirit, not abuse it.

What training does, however, is structure the dog's responses, giving you a good companion. Training gives you an animal you can trust, rely on, even flaunt. In fact, it establishes a channel of communication between you and your dog that significantly enhances your mutual respect and friendship.

Every civilized dog should know at least five basic commands: heel, sit, down, stay and come. These commands form the core of the exercises required for a Companion Dog degree in an American Kennel Club Novice Obedience competition. Even if you don't take your dog beyond these beginning lessons, they are absolutely essential in making every dog a true companion.

Incidentally, you train your dog to understand its name in much the same way you train it to do anything—by simple, repetitive action. As far as the name goes, make sure everyone in the household is using the same name. And, you can teach an older dog a new name, if you must.

Kitten Play and Behavior

When cats play, they incorporate a variety of behaviors into their play. Aggressive play behavior is particularly common in young cats and in cats that live in one-cat households. Play provides young cats with opportunities to practice skills they would normally need for survival such as pouncing, stalking, biting, scratching and clawing. If humans play with a young kitten using their hands and/or feet instead of toys, the kitten is liable to learn that practicing these skills while playing with people is okay. In most cases, it is possible to teach your kitten or young adult cat that rough play is not acceptable behavior.

Since young cats and kittens need a lot of playtime, it is important to set up three or four consistent times during the day to initiate play with your cat. This helps her understand that she is not the one responsible for initiating play. This also helps to avoid unwanted pouncing at inappropriate or inconvenient times.

One way kittens play is by grabbing each other with both front feet, biting each other and kicking with their back feet. This is also a way kittens try to play with hands and feet if being waved in front of them. It is very important to avoid using any part of your body, like fingers or toes. Redirect your cat's aggressive play behavior onto acceptable objects like toys. It may take some trial and error to find the toy that works best with your kitten so make sure you try a variety.

Often, discouraging unacceptable behavior is the only avenue that is available. You need to set the rules for your kitten's behavior and your family and friends should reinforce these rules. Your kitten can't be expected to learn to differentiate between people in terms of when it's okay for rough play and when it is not.

• Use aversion techniques to discourage your kitten from nipping or biting- You can either use a squirt bottle filled with water or a can of pressurized air to squirt your kitten when she becomes rough. To use this technique effectively, you always need to have the spray bottle or can of air handy. Remember that aversion techniques only works if you offer your kitten an acceptable alternative.

• Redirect the behavior- After you startle your kitten with the air or water, IMMEDIATELY offer her a toy to wrestle with or to chase. This will encourage her to direct her rough play onto a toy instead of a person. It is recommended that you keep a stash of toys hidden in each room specifically for this purpose.

• Withdraw attention when your kitten starts to play too rough- If the distraction and redirection techniques don't seem to be working, the most drastic thing you can do to discourage your cat from rough play is to withdraw all attention. Since she wants to play with you, she is going to figure out how far she can go; however, you keep this limit consistent. The best way to withdraw your attention is to walk into another room and close the door long enough for her to calm down. If you pick her up to put her in another room, you're rewarding her by touching her. You should be the one to leave the room.

If you find that none of these suggestions work and your kitten's play increases in aggression or becomes unpredictable, it can be best to seek help from a behavior specialist. Kittens can bite or scratch through the skin, and abuse by your cat is not conducive to a caring and mutually beneficial relationship.

Adopting A Pet

You see a cute tiger-striped kitten with white paws and green eyes, just begging for your attention. Or maybe it's a handsome, tail-wagging Labrador mix who couldn't be more friendly and has those irresistible puppy eyes.

If you're like most of us, falling in love with a pet is easy. And no wonder! Sharing your home with a four-legged friend can be one of life's greatest joys. Dogs, cats and other pets give us unconditional loyalty and acceptance, provide constant companionship, and even help relieve stress after a hard day's work.

Adopting a pet, however, is a big decision. Dogs and cats are living beings who require lots of time, money and commitment - over 15 years' worth in many cases. Pet ownership can be rewarding, but only if you think through your decision before you adopt a companion.

Things to Consider

The fact that you're thinking about adopting a pet from an animal shelter, rescue league or humane society means you're a responsible and caring person. But before you make that final decision to bring a furry friend into your life, take a moment to think about these questions:

Why do you want a pet?

It's amazing how many people fail to ask themselves this simple question before they get a pet. Adopting a pet just because the kids have been asking for a puppy usually ends up being a big mistake. Don't forget that pets may be with you even after your children leave home.

Do you have time for a pet?

Dogs, cats and other animal companions cannot be ignored just because you're tired or busy. They require food, water, exercise, care and companionship every day of every year. Many animals have been given up because their owners didn't realize how much time it took to properly care for them.

Can you afford a pet?

The monetary costs of pet ownership can be quite high. Licenses, training classes, veterinary care, grooming, toys, food, kitty litter and other expenses add up quickly.

Are you prepared to deal with special problems that only a pet can cause?

Fleas, scratched-up furniture and accidents from animals who aren't yet housetrained are just a few of the inconveniences that you will face.

Can you have a pet where you live?

Many rental communities don't allow pets, others have restrictions. Make the necessary inquiries before you bring a pet home.

Is it a good time for you to adopt a pet?

If you're a student, in the military, or travel frequently as part of your work, waiting until you settle down may be the wiser choice.

Are your living arrangements suitable for the animal you have in mind?

Adopting an energetic dog or a breed that is unsuitable to share your small apartment (a Border collie for example), is not a good idea. Choose an animal who will be comfortable in your surroundings.

Who will care for your pet if you go on vacation?

You'll need either reliable friends and neighbors, or money to pay for a boarding kennel or pet-sitting service.

Will you be a responsible pet owner?

Having your pet spayed or neutered, obeying community leash and licensing laws and keeping identification tags on your pets are all part of being a responsible pet owner. Of course, giving your pet love, companionship, exercise, a healthy diet and regular veterinary care are other essentials.

Are you prepared to keep and care for the pet for his or her entire lifetime?

When you adopt a pet, you are making a commitment to care for the animal for his or her lifetime.

Get an Animal for Life

Sure, it's a long list of questions. But a quick stroll through the animal shelter will help you understand why answering them before you adopt a pet is so important.

Please, think before you adopt. Sharing your life with a companion animal can bring incredible rewards, but only if you're willing to make the necessary commitments of time, money, responsibility and love for the life of the pet.

Much of the information for this article was contributed by the Humane Society of the U.S.

Flea Control for Your Cat

The summer is made for lazing about in the sun and spending time outdoors, two activities cats love. But when the weather is warm, fleas are never far behind. As temperatures rise, it becomes increasingly important to protect your feline friend from hungry fleas.

Keeping fleas off your pet and out of your home is about more than just stopping your pet's constant scratching. Aside from itchy, irritating bites, fleas can cause the skin disease flea allergy dermatitis in both cats and dogs, as well as miliary dermatitis in cats. A single flea bite can trigger flea allergy dermatitis, which can lead to excessive scratching, hair loss and, potentially, a secondary bacterial infection. Miliary dermatitis consists of small bumps, called papules that eventually develop into crusts. Fleas can also transmit Dipylidium caninum, or double-pore tapeworm, a common tapeworm found in dogs and cats, as well as a number of other diseases.

Even if fleas aren't on your pet right now, they may be living in your home. There are four stages in a flea's life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. It is only during the adult stage that the flea actually lives on an animal. During the other three stages, the flea lives in the surround environment. Immature fleas usually account for about 90 to 95 percent of the total flea population in a home. A good rule of thumb is that for every flea you find on your pet, there are about 100 more immature fleas living in the surrounding environment.

The average flea can live for anywhere between 12 days and 180 days, though the typical lifespan of a flea lasts three to six weeks. But even in that short amount of time, an adult female can lay more than 1,000 eggs, which means that even only one tiny flea can result in big problems.

How can you tell if fleas have invaded your home and latched on to your dog? Scratching is the first sign. During feeding, fleas inject saliva into the skin of the animal. This saliva contains proteins that cause allergic skin reactions, which leads to bouts of rubbing and scratching. Fleas are most commonly found on cats around the base of the tail and on the head, neck and ears. If you suspect your cat has fleas but cannot see them, check for "flea dirt." This is the excrement of the flea and consists of a mix of feces and dried blood. To find flea dirt, have your pet lay on the ground and place a piece of white paper underneath him or her. Brush your pet and let the paper collect any dirt or debris. Next, add a few drops of water to the dirt on the paper; if dried blood is present, the water will take on a reddish color, indicating the presence of flea dirt.

During the last several years, significant improvements have been made to flea control products. Oral and topical medications containing insect growth regulators (IGR) and insect development inhibitors (IDI) disrupt the flea's maturation process and stop infestations before they begin. These treatments are less toxic for pets and the environment and more effective in controlling fleas.

Topical treatments are more effective than past products because they remain on the surface of the pet's skin, where they are toxic only to fleas, rather than absorbed into the pet's bloodstream. The safest and most effective flea control products are available through your veterinarian. Flea control products designed for dogs should never be used on cats. Products containing pyrethrin- or pyrethroid-based chemicals can be dangerous and possibly fatal for your cat. You should keep dogs and cats separate immediately after applying flea control products.