FAQ | Menomonie, WI | Brakken Veterinary Clinic Inc. | 715-235-8404

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Pet-owner FAQs

Here are the top 12 questions we get asked from pet owners. Please read the following answers and call us if you would like more information or have any other questions or concerns.

I just adopted a puppy or kitten. What should I do now?

Bring your puppy or kitten to us for his initial exam. We hand out the following linked guidelines at that exam to answer your questions. Feel free to ask more, and be sure to bring a fresh fecal sample (less than 24 hours, not frozen) and any veterinary documents regarding treatments and vaccinations.

How do I potty-train my puppy?

Housetraining is an essential first step in forming a positive and respectful bond between you and your puppy. Keep in mind that puppies don't have full bladder and bowel control until at least 6 months of age. Also, animals don't speak our language which means that we need to guide their actions with consistent training methods. Imagine you and your friend are on a scavenger hunt and your friend gets praised for every move in the right direction while you are only told “no” for every move in the wrong direction - who do you think will reach the prize first?

This same philosophy works with positive dog training. For these reasons, DO NOT punish your puppy for accidents by scolding, hitting, or rubbing his nose in the mess but DO set him up for success with the following training steps. For more in-depth articles on housetraining and other behavior questions please visit the Behavior section on our Resources page.

Feed your puppy on a consistent schedule 2-3 times a day, removing food after 15 minutes if he doesn't finish everything. Allow free access to water at all times. Take your puppy outside on a leash on a consistent basis using the same door of the home and same area of the yard.

Puppies should be taken outside every hour to reinforce good behavior but particularly first thing in the morning, last thing in the evening, and shortly after any naps, meals, and playtime. In-between potty-breaks keep a very close eye on your puppy by confining him to a small room or crate (after properly crate training, of course) or tether him to you with a short 6-foot leash. Watch him carefully to learn any signs (pacing, circling, leaving the room, whining, sniffing, etc.) that he may show before peeing or pooping so that you can intervene early and bring him outside to the right spot.

As housetraining continues and no accidents occur, you can gradually increase your puppy's freedom. Walk your puppy outside and stay with him calmly until he relieves himself in the desired location. Reward your puppy every time he pees or poops outside to reinforce good behavior. Depending on your puppy's motivation, rewards can include small treats (or even regular puppy food), praise, or playtime with a highly-prized toy.

If you catch your puppy in the act of peeing or pooping inside the house, clap your hands to distract him and take him outside immediately where you can then reward him for finishing the act. If you find a mess in the house but don't catch your puppy in the act, DO NOT punish him because his mind isn't able to connect the punishment with the earlier action; however, he can associate a sense of fear with an angry owner. Clean all messes with an enzymatic cleaner (not ammonia-based) as soon as possible to remove odors.

Try to learn from the mistake and figure out what you can do to better teach your pet with a consistent and positively-reinforced training method. Accidents will happen so don't set your goals too high too early. Instead, focus on forming a strong and respectful bond between you and your puppy.

How long should my dog be on heartworm/flea/tick preventative?

Heartworm preventatives (such as Heartgard Plus and Iverhart Max) prevent the development of adult heartworms in dogs that may have been bitten by an infected mosquito. These products will kill any immature heartworms transmitted to the dog in the last 30 days. For this reason, you should give heartworm preventative at least from May through December when living in northern climates like ours.Giving the preventative all year-round is even better since it improves compliance (makes it easier not to forget a dose) and helps control the most common intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, and possibly tapeworms). Flea and tick preventatives (such as Frontline Plus and Vectra 3D) work by preventing infestations for 30 days after application. In our area, we usually see the first wave of ticks by mid-March when the snow starts to melt and a second wave in mid-September when the weather starts to cool off. Ticks will then last until the snow stays on the ground, usually in December.

Fleas are typically worst during the fall but can be found year-round, especially if a flea infestation has formed on one of your pets. For these reasons, we recommend flea and tick preventative at least from April through November. The season may be longer depending on how warm the weather is each year and whether or not your pet has a risk of contact with fleas.

If you have questions on which preventative to use or any other concerns, we would be glad to help so give us a call.

Why spay or neuter?

Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized (put to sleep) every year simply due to lack of homes. Rather than bringing more puppies and kittens into the world, help the ones that are already here by spaying or neutering your pet.

Did you know that a dog and cat can get pregnant as young as 6 months of age? We recommend spaying and neutering between the ages of 4-6 months so that we can prevent any unwanted pregnancies before they have a chance to occur. Also, performing the surgery at this age is typically quicker with fewer complications because the animals are leaner (less fat to hide blood vessels) and their internal organs are less developed (such as vessels and ligaments).

Spaying permanently removes the female's uterus and ovaries while neutering permanently removes the male's testicles. With these body parts gone, your pet will have one less organ that could become infected or cancerous. Research has shown that spaying your dog at a young age dramatically decreases her risk of getting cancer later on in life.

In fact, female dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle have nearly zero risk of developing mammary gland cancer while dogs spayed after their first heat cycle have a 7% risk and dogs spayed after their second heat cycle have a 25% risk (meaning 1 in 4 dogs will develop a tumor in their mammary glands). Not only will spaying and neutering decrease the pet overpopulation, it will also decrease some common behavioral issues such as roaming, territorial fighting, and other aggressive behaviors. Overall, spaying or neutering your pet will help them become the best pet they can be for you. Do yourself and your pet a favor and schedule the surgery today.

For more information please visit the following website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=584"&HYPERLINK http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=584"A=584

Why is my cat peeing outside of the litterbox?

This is one of the most common questions we get asked and is also one of the hardest to find an answer in many cases. Cats may pee outside of the litter box for a variety of reasons, either medical causes that warrant treatment or behavioral causes that warrant a change in their environment. As much as the media loves to portray felines as vindictive creatures with personal agendas who are out to rule the world, they are not.

They are simply animals who rely on us to take care of them and can't tell us what's going on. So, if your cat is peeing (or pooping) outside of the litter box please listen to their cry for help and make an effort to understand them. The first and most critical step in the problem-solving process is to bring your cat to the veterinarian. Medical causes need to be addressed so that appropriate treatment can be given and behavioral adjustments, if needed, can be successful.

Some of the most common medical causes that we find for inappropriate urination include the following:

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Bladder Stones
  • Kidney Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Intact (not spayed or neutered yet)

We can rule-in or rule-out these issues through a series of simple tests such as physical examination, blood work, urinalysis, urine culture, and x-rays or ultrasound. Don't worry about bringing in a urine sample from your cat, we can often collect a sample in the clinic on the same day as your appointment. If you can restrict your cat's access to the litter box by crating them for a few hours before your appointment, that will help us collect urine sample better. If a thorough medical assessment has been performed to rule out possible medical causes then a thorough behavioral assessment should be performed to identify the cause of the problem.

Here are some of the top behavioral reasons why your cat may be avoiding the litter box:

Most cats prefer large and uncovered litter boxes. The box should be at least 1.5 times the length of your cat so that they can move around easily. For cats with arthritis we often recommend low sides or cutting a U-shaped opening into a large plastic storage container for easier access. Covered boxes can not only trap dusts and odors but they can also make cats feel trapped and vulnerable to other animals in the household.

In addition, the number of boxes in the household is also important. The well-known rule is to provide one box per cat plus one more located throughout the house (for instance, you should have 4 boxes if you have 3 cats).

Texture, granularity, and coarseness affect your cat's preference to the type of litter you choose. Most cats prefer finely-textured clay litter without fragrances or excessive dustiness. If your cat is peeing on items such as towels, bedding, or clothing you may wish to try a softer litter that your cat is telling you it prefers. Once you find a type of litter that your cat likes, try to stick with that brand and formula.

Choosing the litter box location is one of the most important aspects to consider not only for your convenience but also to ensure that your cat will feel comfortable and willing to consistently use the box there. Avoid high-traffic, noisy, or damp areas such as near the sump pump, furnace, or washing machine. These locations may startle your cat and create a desire to avoid the litter box altogether. Also, pay attention to how easily your cat can access the litter box and get away from it.

You should provide easy access in a way that prevents other dogs or cats from pestering or attacking the cat or even just guarding the box. Providing separate locations for multiple boxes often improves litter box issues in multi-cat households.

Cats are fastidious creatures and rely on us to provide a clean box for them to do their business and perform natural behaviors like turning around and covering their mess. Imagine if you didn't flush your toilet for a week and didn't clean the bowl for months at a time, how willing would you be to use that toilet? Maintaining a litterbox using clumping litter involves scooping messes out on a daily basis and thoroughly cleaning the box every 2-4 weeks.

Cleaning the box involves discarding all of the used litter, disinfecting with routine household cleaners, thoroughly rinsing the box with hot water, drying completely, and replacing the box with 2-3 inches of fresh litter. You also need to thoroughly clean any areas of the house that animals have urinated or defecated on in order to discourage animals from repeatedly soiling those areas. Products should be non-ammonia based and formulated to enzymatically degrade pet odors and stains.

Use an ample amount of product to work out the mess and try to clean it up as soon as possible. Other methods of deterring inappropriate elimination behaviors are to deny access (close a door or move furniture), supply a favorable resource (water bowl or scratching post), provide a negative association (double-stick tape, upside-down chair mat, or motion-detector alarm), or simply place a litter box in that preferred location.

Other Animals:
Animals outside or inside the home can cause distress to your cat and result in messes outside of the litter box. For instance, you may have a new stray cat hanging around outside and your cat views it as a threat whenever he sees it through the window. Deter wildlife and other animals from your yard and cover the windows (at least temporarily) to prevent your cat from seeing them.

Conflicts among cats and other pets within the household can also cause distress, whether or not it is directly related to the litter box at all. Make sure you have plenty of litter boxes as well as other prized resources like food bowls, scratching posts, and climbing towers located throughout the house. This will help each animal in the home feel more secure. Adding vertical territory in the form of shelves and tall cat trees can dramatically enhance your cat's living quarters and overall enrichment.

Lastly, we often recommend a feline pheromone diffuser that we carry to help ease the environmental tension in situations like these so please ask us for more information on that product. While this explanation may not cover every aspect of inappropriate elimination, we hope that it at least helps you understand your cat's behavior better. We would gladly examine your cat and discuss medical and behavioral options with you if you would like to make an appointment.

For more information on this topic and other behavioral issues please visit the Resources page through our website.

How do I brush my pet’s teeth?

Oral care is an important aspect of your pet's healthcare since infected and broken teeth can be a source of chronic pain and infection. Brushing teeth regularly provides the best protection against oral disease. Options such as rawhides, dental treats, and water additives are available to pet owners who aren't able to handle their pet's mouth or make the time commitment to brushing.

Just like our teeth, daily teeth brushing is the gold standard of pet care. If daily brushing just isn't possible, then you should at least brush the teeth 2-3 times each week in order to make an impact on tartar build-up. Pet sized toothbrushes are designed to fit better inside their mouths while pet-friendly toothpastes are formulated to be safe when swallowed and flavored more to their liking.

Your pet should not dread having his teeth brushed, rather he should view it as a fun activity between the two of you. This involves a patient and gradual training process over the course of several weeks in which your pet will be conditioned to associate a reward with having his teeth brushed. Immediately after your pet has some toothpaste or has his teeth brushed, give him a reward such as a favorite treat or toy so that your pet learns to love the activity. A small piece of gauze wrapped around your finger can also work nicely in place of a toothbrush by gently abrading the plaque away from the tooth while you rub it across the teeth.

Here's a brief summary of the patient training technique you should use to get your pet accustomed to brushing its teeth:
Week 1) Let your pet freely lick the toothpaste off your finger to view it as a treat.
Week 2) Use your finger to place a small amount of toothpaste on the outside of their teeth.
Week 3) Encourage your pet to lick the toothpaste off of the toothbrush (while not allowing them to chew on the brush).
Week 4) Use the toothbrush and toothpaste to clean only the outer surfaces of the teeth by lifting up the lips and lightly brushing along the gumline.

If, while brushing your pet's teeth, he or she displays any signs of discomfort or you see blood in the mouth please discontinue and call us to make an appointment for an examination.

For more in-depth information please visit the following websites:

Emergency Veterinary Medicine | Menomonie, WI | Brakken Veterinary Clinic Inc. | 715-235-8404

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My dog has diarrhea or is vomiting. What should I do?

The first thing you should do is assess their overall attitude and well-being to determine if a visit to the veterinarian is necessary. Signs that warrant an examination include lethargy, pain, pale gums, and bloody vomit or stool. If your dog is acting normally or just a little under the weather, you can safely try managing the issue at home first. For these dogs, one of our first lines of therapy is to withhold food and then start feeding a bland diet. Food and all treats should be taken away for 24 hours in order to completely empty the digestive tract. A 12-18-hour fast may be performed on young puppies or small dogs (less than 7 lbs.) who are more at risk of developing low blood sugar. Please keep water available in small amounts at all times to encourage adequate hydration. After fasting for 24 hours, feed your dog a bland diet until the stools are formed and they are no longer vomiting, which typically takes about 3-5 days for most dogs. The bland diet should be offered in small amounts 3-4 times each day to reduce strain on the digestive tract and lessen the chances of vomiting. We sell a couple varieties of formulated canned or dry food that are easy to digest, otherwise you can also provide a homemade bland diet. If your dog has a known medical condition (such as diabetes), has possibly ingested any harmful substances, or is not responding to this therapy, please call us for more recommendations.

What do I do about fleas?

Fleas are small, brown, wingless, blood-sucking insects and are one of our most common complaints among dog and cat owners. Pets can become infested through contact with other dogs, cats, or wildlife such as rabbits, raccoons, and rodents. Fleas aren't only a nuisance causing itchiness and hair loss but they can also spread serious diseases such as secondary skin infections, allergic reactions, tapeworms, and anemia.

Most infestations aren't even identified until live fleas are found on the pet or jumping off of it. By this time, thousands of eggs and larvae have dropped onto your carpet, bedding, and other areas of the home. In fact, adult fleas only comprise 1% of all the different flea stages that are in your environment. The life cycle of the flea is 3 weeks long while eggs and larvae can survive in the environment for months in the appropriate conditions.

For these reasons, flea control involves an integrated approach with two areas of focus: the animals and the environment. The most important aspect of controlling a flea infestation is to treat all animals in the household (at the same time) with safe and effective products for a minimum of 3 consecutive months. There are many different products on the market for flea control.

Some of the major differences between them are their level of effectiveness and likelihood for adverse reactions. It is very important to only use products as their label is written since some products can have fatal consequences if applied incorrectly or to the wrong animal (cats, in particular, are very sensitive). We recommend products supplied by your veterinarian because they are safer with lower risks of side effects and have proven to be more effective.

Products that we carry are applied to one area of the skin where they will spread to protect the entire body. Protection lasts for a month even through frequent baths or swimming. More importantly, these formulas provide rapid killing of adult fleas as well as long-term interference with the development of other flea life stages. Not all over-the-counter products work this well so investing in a good product at the start will save you months of hassle and money in the end.

Treating the environment involves weekly sweeping, vacuuming (make sure you discard the vacuum bag afterward since fleas can crawl out and back into your home otherwise), and washing of bedding. Over-the-counter insecticides can also be applied every 2-3 weeks to “hot-spots” in the environment such as entry-ways, under beds, dog houses, and shaded areas of the yard your pet loves to visit (fleas don't survive long in open sunny areas of the yard). As an alternative to chemical treatments, we also sell a safe and effective borate-based product that kill fleas in the environment by physically drying them out. Professional exterminators can also be used for severe or long-standing and unresponsive infestations.

For more information on fleas and our recommended products, please view the attached handout and visit the following websites:
Flea Handout

Why is my dog so itchy?

Signs of itchiness in dogs can include licking, chewing, scratching, or even rubbing and scooting. Some itchiness is normal for dogs but a problem may exist if your dog is obsessing over a certain area or developing skin sores such as hair loss, redness, bumps, scabs, or open wounds. The areas that are itchy are important to note because the ears, butt, feet, or body often involve different treatments.

-In regards to ears, a mild amount of waxy ear discharge is normal in dogs and routine maintenance with an ear cleaner typically provides enough protection against an infection. However, specific signs of an ear infection include redness, swelling, excessive discharge, or pain with handling and if these are found then you should schedule an appointment for us to determine the appropriate medication.

-If your dog is scooting its butt on the ground or licking excessively at its hind end, the most common cause is an impacted anal gland but other reasons are possible as well. You should look at the area for any possible organic matter that may be stuck to the anus, which you can gently remove with a damp washcloth. Parasites are a rare, yet possible, cause of anal itchiness in dogs so performing a fecal examination may be advised in some cases. If your dog is uncomfortable or you find redness or swelling near the anus, please schedule an appointment as soon as possible for us to examine and express the anal glands. Anal glands that aren't treated in an appropriate time frame may rupture or become infected and require additional treatments such as antibiotics. For dogs whose anal glands are a recurring issue, we would be happy to show you how to express them yourself if you're interested.

-For generalized itchiness such as on the feet or body, you can first look for evidence of parasites (such as ticks, fleas, or flea dirt) although not all skin parasites are visible to the naked eye. Also, you can try to determine whether there is a seasonal pattern to the itchiness or if your dog's food has changed within the past few months. These clues may help us identify the cause of your pet's itchiness and ultimately help us determine an effective treatment.

Itchiness can be caused by primary factors such as allergies (environmental or food), fleas, mites, or even contact irritants (cleaning products, detergents, etc). If fleas or mites are found during an examination then specific parasitic treatments will be prescribed. Even if evidence of skin parasites aren't found, we may suggest treating your pet with a broad-spectrum medication just in case we weren't able to find any during the exam.

On the other hand, if the history and examination lead us to believe that allergies are causing the itchiness then additional diagnostics or therapeutic trials will be recommended. Sometimes all it takes to improve your dog's comfort is a weekly bath with an oatmeal-based shampoo or a two-week trial of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine). However, keep in mind that increased skin moisture and irritation can also exacerbate the problem and may create a secondary bacterial or yeast infection on the skin.

For these situations, control of the secondary factors will first need to be addressed (through the use of antibiotics, for instance) before identifying and treating the possible primary factors. If your dog has an oozy and crusty area on the skin that looks irritated and infected, you can get a jump-start on treatment by clipping the hair around the area and cleaning the scabs away with a washcloth and lukewarm water.

Please call us for more information or visit the following link for a short article on some treatment options for your itchy dog:

My pet has an open wound. What can I do at home?

Signs that indicate you should immediately call a veterinarian include: difficulty breathing, pale gums, excessive bleeding from the wound, or a large/deep wound that needs stitches. If your pet is otherwise acting normally and doesn’t need immediate medical attention, here is a brief summary of general wound care:

  • Apply pressure with towels or blankets to stop any bleeding from the site. Avoid looking at the area too frequently in order to allow the blood to clot, so try to maintain pressure for at least 3-5 minutes at a time.
  • Once bleeding has stopped, assess the wound to determine if stitches or other veterinary care is needed. Deep puncture wounds into the chest or abdomen should have X-rays performed to look for internal bleeding. Large wounds (usually more than 2-3 inches in length) or wounds with hanging tissue should have stitches placed to ensure quicker healing and avoid further damage.
  • Clean any dirt, hair, or other contaminants inside and around the wound with lukewarm water or saline solution. Hydrotherapy involves running water through the wound for 5-10 minutes using gentle pressure with a faucet sprayer, stream of water, or a syringe. This will gently and thoroughly clean the wound as well as increase blood flow to the area to promote healing. If possible, clip the hair around the skin lesion before cleaning to prevent your pet’s fur from contacting the open wound. Avoid irritating products such as alcohol and hydrogen peroxide as they can cause pain and damage to healthy tissues.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry throughout the healing process by repeating hydrotherapy 2-3 times each day or lightly covering the area with a bandage (be careful not to wrap any bandage too tightly to obstruct blood flow). Our goal is to keep the wound open to allow any infection and contamination to drain out of the body so moisten and pick scabs off the area while the skin is healing.
  • Pets with bite wounds or other heavily contaminated wounds should receive oral antibiotics to prevent an infection from developing so please call us for further recommendations in those situations.

Do I have to get rid of my cat because I’m pregnant?

No. A common misconception exists for cats and pregnant women regarding a disease called toxoplasmosis. The disease is rare and healthy people generally develop no signs or only mild signs of illness. However, women who contract the disease while pregnant may suffer a miscarriage. People can become infected with Toxoplasma gondii by eating undercooked meat or accidentally ingesting infected soil or feces. Cats may become infected through birth or hunting with disease typically affecting only young kittens and causing respiratory, ocular, or neurologic signs. Cats only shed the organism for 1-2 weeks while they are sick and the organism needs to sit in the environment for 1-5 days before becoming infectious.

For these reasons, you can take simple precautions to protect yourself and don't need to get rid of your cat during your pregnancy:

  • First, don't adopt any new cats or kittens, especially stray cats, throughout your pregnancy.
  • Second, keep your cat indoors to avoid hunting behaviors and the risk of acquiring parasites.
  • Third, don't handle or feed your cat raw or undercooked meat that may potentially be infected.
  • And fourth, maintain a sanitary litterbox for your cat by asking someone else to clean it. If you can't find someone else to clean the box for you, then you should clean it on a daily basis wearing gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

For more information on animal-transmitted diseases click here.

How do I know when it’s time to euthanize my pet?

The decision to put your beloved pet to sleep is never an easy one to make. As your pet's caretaker, you know his or her personality and quality of life the best out of everyone. With some illnesses, your pet's quality of life may deteriorate very gradually making it difficult for you to determine when it's time for euthanasia.

You can start by asking yourself a series of questions in order to try and objectively assess your pet's quality of life. Is my pet able to live independently such as eat, drink, move around, and relieve itself on its own? Is my pet still interested in its favorite activities such as going for walks, playing with toys, or greeting me at the door? You can ask yourself these questions and keep a journal or a log on the calendar to keep track of your pet's good and bad days.

Another important aspect is to assess your own quality of life during your pet's illness. For instance, what are your financial responsibilities and other obligations that may affect your time and level of energy that you're able to spend with your pet? These objective records may help you overcome your emotional attachments and feel comfortable with the decision to humanely put your pet to rest when the time is right.
We are available for phone consultations and examinations if you think your pet may be in pain or wish to discuss other alternative therapies. We have also listed websites on our Resources page related to pet loss that may be helpful during your decision or to help you through the grieving process.

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