Newsletter

Veterinary Care of Ithaca, New York Newsletter The veterinarians and staff at Veterinary Care of Ithaca 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

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.