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Nine Ways to Include Your Pet in the Holiday Fun

Happy Holidays from the veterinarians and staff at BluePearl Veterinary Partners! While you are decking the halls and spreading the holiday cheer, don’t forget to include your four-legged family members. Here are nine ways to help your dogs and cats enjoy the holiday fun while also avoiding potential dangers. Homemade Treats Humans tend to indulge in sweet treats and scrumptious family meals around the holidays. Making homemade pet treats is an easy and fun way to include your pets. You can find many healthy treat recipes online. Find a recipe with your pet’s favorite flavors, but be mindful of toxic ingredients that could cause a medical emergency. You can even use peanut butter and yogurt as “icing” to decorate dog treats to look just like Christmas cookies. For healthy treat recipes and ideas, check out BluePearl’s DIY Homemade Pet Treats Pinterest board. Presents for Pets Gifts are an exciting and special part of the holiday season. Celebrate your pet by picking out a gift or two just for him. Luckily, pets are easy to shop for; most would be ecstatic with a new toy or some tasty treats.  The experts at BluePearl developed a list of safe gift ideas that

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Pearl’s Pupdates: How to Housetrain Your Puppy

House training is an essential part of integrating your new puppy into a home. Luckily, with help from Dr. Jill Sackman and her family, Pearl, the 12-week-old rat terrier puppy, is becoming quite the expert. For Pearl’s first pupdate, she and Dr. Sackman help explain everything you need to know about puppy house training and preventing accidents in the home. Pearl is learning that the key to successful house training is scheduling. Because puppies are still growing and developing their organs, their bladders have minimal capacity for holding urine. At 12 weeks old, Pearl’s bladder is likely only about the size of a walnut, so as you can imagine, she needs to relieve herself often. Because a puppy’s urinary and digestive systems are not fully developed, it is important to implement a strict food and water schedule to help prevent accidents in the home. Make food and water available only during set times, then let your puppy outside 10-30 minutes after each time she eats or drinks. The time frame between eating a meal and needing a potty break is different for each puppy, so it is important to pay attention to your puppy’s needs through close supervision. Puppies need

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Eleven holiday gift ideas for pets and pet owners

You might already have started the holiday shopping for your family. But once again, Fluffy and Fido have failed to give you a wish list.  No worries! Take a look at these 11 ideas, and we’re pretty sure purring and tail-wagging will soon follow. A wellness backpack. Here’s a neat idea for pet owners, suggested by Dr. Sonja Olson, a senior emergency clinician for BluePearl Veterinary Partners. Get a small backpack with room for at least two water bottles, a water dish, dog treats, human treats and other items. It’s really a wellness gift for both of you. You’re going to wear this backpack, not your dog. Use it as an incentive to get out on hikes and outings with your dog. Of course, make sure to follow safety guidelines and avoid taking your pet on expeditions when it’s too cold or too hot. A pet tracking device, such as Whistle. These devices attach to your dog’s collar and provide a GPS signal so you never have to worry about losing your dog again. Snow boots and a sweater. This might seem silly if you live in Florida or south Texas, but not if you’re anyplace where it snows regularly.

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Pet411: Asking difficult questions after a pet dies

Saying good-bye to a beloved pet is heart-wrenching. It’s particularly difficult when the death comes as a surprise. Once the shock wears off, it’s natural for pet parents to question their decisions and to wonder if they really took all the necessary steps to help their pets. I was really touched by a letter I received from Joan Smith, who lost her 8-year-old Sheltie, Zelda, after a fight with hepatitis. Although Zelda had been having health problems for a while, Joan said she was caught off guard by her dog’s death because her liver enzymes had been normal just four months ago.  Zelda also seemed so vibrantly alive – how could she have declined so quickly? Joan asked, “Why or what didn’t I see beforehand?” and wondered if she should have been getting regular ultrasounds for Zelda. First of all, I want to express my heartfelt condolences. It’s clear from Joan’s letter that she loved Zelda very much and arranged for her to have excellent veterinary care. Sometimes, despite our very best efforts, things don’t turn out the way we want them to. At a time like this, please remember all of the wonderful things you have done for your

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Introduction to Pearl’s Pupdates

The first year of a puppy’s life is a critical time. That’s when the foundation is set, from how your puppy will interact with other dogs, to the way she’ll behave in your house – even her relationship with you and the other members of the family. Meet Pearl. She’s a pretty typical little pup who spends her days playing, learning about the world and bonding with her loving family, the MacNaughtons. But Pearl has an advantage not many other puppies have – a special relationship with Dr. Jill Sackman, a BluePearl veterinarian, medical director and resident of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists with extensive experience in veterinary behavioral medicine and dog training. Pearl met Dr. Sackman in our BluePearl Grand Rapids hospital and the two immediately formed a friendship with puppy training as the focus. Now Pearl and Dr. Sackman want to share their knowledge with you. BluePearl’s newest blog series, Pearl’s Pupdates, will follow Dr. Sackman and Pearl through their puppy behavioral health and training sessions. Each month you’ll get an insider’s look at important lessons such as house training, socialization and basic commands. You’ll also get to see Pearl’s training diary, written with the help of

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What should I expect at my first veterinary oncology visit?

Learning that your pet has cancer can be very frightening. It is normal to feel nervous and overwhelmed before your first visit with a veterinary oncologist, but learning how to properly prepare and what to expect may help ease your mind.  Dr. Brooke Britton, a board-certified veterinary oncologist in our BluePearl New York hospitals, answers some frequently asked questions about your first visit with a BluePearl oncologist. In general – what happens at my first veterinary oncology appointment? The main goal of your first oncology meeting is to exchange all of the information necessary to make the best decisions for your pet. Each individual patient is unique, so your medical team will work closely with you to develop the most effective, custom treatment plan for your pet’s needs. Your oncologist will give you all of the information you need to know about your pet’s specific cancer and the array of treatment options available. Between the information you provide about your pet’s lifestyle and circumstances leading up to his/her diagnosis, as well as the knowledge you gain from this initial visit regarding treatment options and prognosis, you and your pet’s medical team can begin to develop a tailored treatment path for

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Can my pet be a vegetarian?

Many humans adopt vegetarian diets for a variety of reasons. With these diets growing in popularity, some pet owners are asking – can my pet also be a vegetarian? BluePearl’s board-certified veterinary nutritionist Dr. Susan Wynn provides us with the answers. Because cats and dogs have unique nutritional needs, it is important to examine the possibility of a vegetarian diet separately for both pets. Let’s begin with dogs. In comparison with humans, it may surprise you to learn that dogs have higher protein and other nutrient requirements. There are over 40 nutrients required in a complete and balanced diet for dogs. Dogs typically receive these nutritional elements through both meats and non-meat foods such as vegetables, fruits and grains, as well as though supplements in complete and balanced diets. However, if done correctly, it is safe to feed your dog a vegetarian diet. The first step in transitioning your dog to a vegetarian diet is to speak with your family veterinarian. During this discussion, your veterinarian will be able to properly advise you on how to change your dog’s diet and ensure he is still getting the nutrition he needs. The meat in a dog’s diet supplies essential nutrients such

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Lifelong Health: Dental care for pets

Maintaining excellent dental health is extremely important for cats and dogs. Similar to humans, cats and dogs require regular dental maintenance to avoid diseases and ensure a lifetime of strong teeth and handsome smiles. Dr. Donnell Hansen, a board-certified veterinary dentist at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, explains the basics of lifelong dental care for pets: Brushing your pet’s teeth is the most important step in lifelong dental health. As humans, we brush our teeth to remove plaque before it turns to tartar, freshen our breath and keep our teeth and gums strong and healthy. You may not realize that your pet has very similar needs. To learn how to brush your pet’s teeth, contact your primary veterinarian or a veterinary dentist. A lifetime of excellent dental health begins when your pet is very young. Even though kittens and puppies lose their baby teeth, it is important to start brushing their teeth and feeling their teeth with your fingers at a young age to help acclimate them to routine dental care.  You want to make brushing a positive experience, so reward your pet with healthy treats after every home brushing session. Dental visits with your family veterinarian should begin when your pet

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Five ways to safely include your dog in the Halloween Fun

From pumpkins to costumes, Halloween is a festive holiday that should be enjoyed by your whole family, including your dog. Here are a few ways to safely include your dog in the fun this October 31: Make some delicious and easy pumpkin “candy” treats for your pup Halloween is famous for its sweet treats. Humans can indulge on chocolates and candies, however, most of these goodies are extremely dangerous for pets. Just because you can’t share your candy collection with your dog, that doesn’t mean he has to miss out on all the fun. Pumpkin, which is perhaps the most well-known symbol of Halloween, is nutritious and safe for dogs to eat. Consider whipping up some pumpkin goodies for your pup to enjoy alongside your family. Try making some cool, frosty pumpkin treats or maybe these healthy pumpkin carrot bites. Dress up your pet in a spooky – or silly – costume Dressing up in a costume is an enjoyable part of the Halloween experience. Let your dog get in on the fun by dressing up, too. Most pet stores carry costumes for dogs before Halloween, or if you are feeling crafty, you can create your own. Just be make

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Pet 411: Providing the proper care for a guinea pig

When many people think of pets, they automatically picture a cat or a dog. But there are a variety of other domesticated animals who can make terrific companions. I was reminded of this after receiving an email from a reader who recently acquired a guinea pig. His name is Cosmo, and apparently he’s quite the character. Cosmo loves pushing a ball with his nose and will even come when his owner, Phyllis, snaps her fingers. Phyllis was concerned because Cosmo wouldn’t eat the fruit or veggies she was offering, sticking exclusively to his guinea pig pellets. She also wanted to know if she should be taking him to the veterinarian for regular vaccinations. While I love animals of all shapes and sizes, I’m not really an expert on guinea pig care. But thankfully I work with someone who is. Dr. Peter Helmer is the head of BluePearl’s exotic animal medicine service in Florida. He provides expert care for a wide variety of animals, including birds, rabbits, snakes and, yes, guinea pigs. Dr. Helmer’s first piece of advice to Phyllis is to be sure Cosmo is eating plenty of hay. In fact, hay should be the primary element in a guinea

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Pet411: Helping your pet cope with pancreatitis

It can be so frustrating to be a pet owner sometimes. It may be obvious that your dog or cat is not feeling well, but finding the source of the problem can occasionally prove difficult. That’s especially true for pancreatitis, which can be serious if left untreated but can be tricky to diagnose. I’ve heard from a couple of different Pet411 readers who have pets struggling with pancreatitis, so I wanted to do what I could to shed some light on this troubling condition. In a nutshell, pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that helps pets (and people) digest their food properly. Once inflamed, the pancreas no longer functions properly and the digestive enzymes  become overactive. These enzymes will still do what they are designed to do which is break down fats and proteins. But in addition to digesting food, they’re now digesting the actual pancreas. If it isn’t caught, the disease can ultimately result in severe organ damage and even death. So how will you know if your dog or cat has pancreatitis? As I said earlier, it can be really difficult to know, which is why you should err on the side of caution and

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Lifelong Health: Nutrition for your pets

Just like with humans, proper nutritional diet is a foundation for excellent health in pets. BluePearl nutritionist Dr. Susan Wynn explains the most important things to know about lifelong nutrition for cats and dogs: Above all, make sure your pet doesn’t get overweight. Obese dogs and cats are more likely to become ill and have shorter life spans, so it is essential to keep your pets trim. The best way is to feed your pets complete and balanced diets and speak to your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist if you have any concerns. For a detailed guideline on maintaining a healthy weight for all breeds of dogs, please download the WSAVA body condition score graphic. Choosing the right food for your pet is also very important. It may surprise you to learn the list of ingredients is not necessarily the most valuable information on your pet’s food label. Pet food labels include an AAFCO statement, which informs pet owners on the intended use for the food. If this statement contains language such as “intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only,” the product does NOT contain a complete and balanced diet. If a label contains phrases such as “complete and balanced

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Pet 411: How do I help my overweight dog shed pounds?

Obesity is the most common problem facing pets in the United States today. Did you know that more than 50 percent of all dogs and cats in this country are obese? That’s why my heart really went out to Louise Eversman from Kansas City, who wrote to me because her sweet 5-year-old bichon/poodle mix is about five pounds overweight. She feeds her dog ¼ cup of high quality kibble and a tablespoon of chopped chicken twice a day. Snacks are restricted to four small carrot slices or a couple of small pieces of meat from when the family is eating dinner. To make matters worse, the pup won’t walk on a leash for more than a few feet before planting his paws and refusing to move, which limits their exercise options. And, according to Louise, he could win an Academy Award for playing a starving orphan. How can they help him lose weight without making him feel deprived? Believe me, I know how hard it is to resist those puppy dog eyes. But helping your pet lose weight is ultimately one of the best things you can do to prolong a life and to improve the quality of those years.

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What Should I Feed My Parrot?

Intelligent and affectionate, parrots are cherished pets in many households across the U.S. Just like cats, dogs and humans, these colorful birds have specific and complex dietary needs that extend far beyond a diet of only seeds. Dr. Peter Helmer, a board-certified avian veterinarian who heads the avian and exotics department of our BluePearl Florida hospitals, explains avian nutrition. Contrary to common belief, bird seed is not a healthy or balanced diet for your parrot. Bird seed is essentially “fast food” in the world of avian food, as it is low in nutrition, fattening and often imbalanced. A diet that consists primarily of bird seed can lead to obesity and other medical complications in your parrot. In the wild, birds rarely have access to an abundance of seeds, so their diets have adapted to include a variety of foods, and therefore, a diversity of nutritional components. Many pet food companies have developed formulated diets, which offer complete and balanced nutrition similar to a parrot’s diet in the wild. These nutritious pellets promote a longer, healthier life for parrots. Formulated diets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. It is a myth that birds (and most animals) will

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Therapy dog who was hours from death back on the job after surgery

ANN ARBOR, Mich. –  Sable the therapy dog suffered a ruptured splenic mass and was hours away from death when she was brought to the BluePearl Veterinary Partners emergency room in Ann Arbor. But now, thanks to emergency surgery and top-notch care from Dr. Noah Bander and his team at BluePearl, as well as her oncologist, Sable is back at work doing the job she loves best. She visits nursing home residents, hospital patients and schoolchildren, leaving smiles all around the Central Michigan city of Chelsea. “She brings a lot of comfort to a lot of people,” said Barbara Marshall, who owns Sable with her husband Paul. She takes Sable out three or four times a week to work as a therapy dog.  Schoolchildren read to Sable, knowing she won’t criticize their diction.  Nursing home residents say “there’s my dog,” and come up to pet her. Patients at a medical clinic gather round and “they forget their pain for that hour that we’re there,” says Marshall. Sable, 11, an 80-pound black Labrador, threw up one day in March and then had trouble walking. “We thought she was having a stroke,” Marshall said. The Marshalls took Sable to their primary care

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Pets Saving Pets: BluePearl Blood Banks

In human medicine, donated blood is often an essential component in saving a life or treating a serious injury. Many people are not aware that blood donations are also in high demand in the veterinary world. BluePearl Veterinary Partners, a national provider of emergency and specialty pet care, currently hosts thriving pet blood banks in Seattle, Houston and Tampa. Hundreds of active donor pets help save thousands of lives every year, but cat and dog blood is still in very high demand in pet hospitals across the United States. BluePearl emergency clinician and Tampa blood bank program founder Dr. Dee Ann Dugger explains everything you need to know about signing your pet up for this life-saving program: What impact could my pet have by signing up as a donor? With one single donation, up to three pet lives can be saved. Every new donor helps combat nationwide blood shortages. In many cases, blood donated at BluePearl is used directly for emergencies within our own hospitals. This eliminates the need to order blood from external sources, so pets get medical care much faster. In one case, a dying German shepherd puppy was brought to the hospital in desperate need of a

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Pet 411: Summer heat can be bad news for your dog’s paws

It’s summer and the temperatures are scorching. As difficult as these hot, muggy days can be for us, they can be even more troublesome for our four-legged friends – specifically, their paws. That was the focus of an email I received from a reader last month. She said she knew all about the damage snow and salt can cause to her dog’s paws in the winter, but what about the summer? Could the hot concrete pose a danger? The answer to her question is a resounding yes. Concrete and asphalt can get very hot and burn your dog’s paws. A good test? Put the back of your hand on the pavement. If you can’t keep it there for between 5-10 seconds, it’s too hot for your pup’s feet. You’d be surprised how many people just aren’t aware of how the heat might affect their dog. One of the worst cases I’ve seen involved a person who went rollerblading with his dog in the middle of the day here in blazing hot Florida, where I’m based. The dog’s paws were so badly burned that the skin had sloughed off his pads, putting him at risk for infection. He was also suffering

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Dog Beach Dangers

Dog beaches are great places for your furry friends to cool off and have fun during the hot months of summer. Spending time in the water can provide great exercise and mental stimulation for dogs, but be  aware of potential dangers of going to beaches, even beaches that are specially designated for use with dogs.  Dr. Brittany Jaeger, a veterinarian in the critical care service of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, explained some of those dangers: Salt water intake – Dog owners should be aware of salt water poisoning, which occurs when dogs drink  too much salt water. Dogs often will swallow a small amount of salt water while playing on the beach, so it is normal to notice minor diarrhea or frequent urination. But  if your dog vomits, refuses meals, becomes lethargic or displays neurological issues, your dog is most likely suffering from salt water poisoning, the result of dangerously high levels of sodium in the bloodstream. Seek immediate veterinary care If you notice these signs. To avoid salt water poisoning, make sure your dog always has plenty of freshwater nearby. Overheating – Your dog’s body does not relieve itself of heat as efficiently as a human body does, so overheating

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A cat named Elvis stars in a new video about specialty veterinary care

We’re happy that an organization of specialty veterinarians recently prepared a heartwarming video about Elvis, a cat who got some very sophisticated, life-saving care from BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Minnesota. Elvis was in serious trouble because of a sarcoma in his right hind leg and one in his intestines. But Elvis also had a lot of other things going for him, including a very committed owner, a skilled primary care veterinarian, and the specialized expertise of Dr. Andrew H. Jackson, a board-certified veterinary surgeon with BluePearl, and Dr. Brian Husbands, a board-certified veterinary oncologist from BluePearl who is now at the University of Minnesota.

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What to do if you find a wild baby animal

Nothing is more surprising than finding a baby bird or squirrel in a place you don’t expect it. While most baby animals stay close to their mothers in the beginning of their lives, it is not uncommon to find a baby on its own. Dr. Peter Helmer, who is board-certified in avian veterinary medicine and who heads BluePearl’s exotic veterinary service in Florida, explains what to do if you find a lost or injured baby animal in the wild: It is human instinct to help a baby in need, but in most cases, human intervention is not necessary. If you find baby animals by themselves, there is a great chance that the mother knows where they are and will return shortly. It may surprise you to learn that many animal parents, such as mother rabbits, do not stay with their babies 24/7. Many animal mothers venture off to search for food throughout the day, leaving their babies unattended. If you find babies that are in a safe place, like a tree or a nest, there is no need to handle them. However, if the babies are in a dangerous environment, like the street or an area with high sun exposure,

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