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Are Guinea Pigs Good Pets?

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In a word… YES!!! Guinea pigs can be great pets, especially for kids. This article will explore why you might want to consider a guinea pig, and how to properly care for them.

 

WHY ARE GUINEA PIGS GREAT?

Guinea pigs are social and very well mannered. Their inquisitive nature makes them friendly, and their beautiful coats make them cute and cuddly. Even hairless guinea pigs are cute (they look like tiny pigs).

Just like pigs on a farm, females are called “sows” and males are called “boars”. For the most part guinea pigs are quiet, but they do chirp and purr. Insiders tip; when a guinea pig purrs, it usually means they’re hungry.

 

WHAT DO GUINEA PIGS EAT?

As with all pets, nutrition is extremely important. Guinea Pigs actually eat a lot throughout the day, much of it being Timothy Hay. Hay helps to keep their teeth ground down, otherwise their molars can become overgrown. It’s also important for your guinea pig to get plenty of Vitamin C each day. This can come from fresh vegetables in their daily diet, or from a vitamin C tablet. Keep in mind, while vegetables are great for your guinea pig, iceberg and other similar lettuces aren’t recommended because of their high-water content which can cause diarrhoea.

Speaking of water, most guinea pigs prefer drinking out of a bottle. There are some out there though, that will only drink from a bowl. If you find this is the case with your new pet, choose a heavy bowl that isn’t easily knocked over. It should also be big enough to ensure she never runs out.

 

GROOMING

For the most part, guinea pigs groom themselves. They will need your help, however, keeping their nails trimmed. If left on their own a guinea pigs nails can grow incredibly long, eventually curling around themselves. Just like dogs and cats, their nails should be trimmed monthly, and you want to be sure to avoid the quick. This is the blood vessel in the nail, which can be very painful if snipped.

If you’re not sure how to trim your guinea pig’s nails, your vet or veterinary technician can help you find the spot safely, and demonstrate how to best hold your new pet while trimming.

 

PROPER HANDLING

While friendly, guinea pigs can also be a little skittish. After some quality time with their new owners, however, they become their happy playful selves. Since they’re social creatures, they will enjoy playing with you and they should be played with at least once a day.

To help your new pet get used to being held, pick her up gently by placing a hand under their chest and your other hand under their bottom. Hold her closely to your chest, while still cupping her safely. This will prevent her from jumping.

HOW TO BUILD A HAPPY HOME
A long and wide cage is best for your guinea pig, they need plenty of floor space. The cage doesn’t need to be too tall, since they’re not big jumpers, but it should be at least 10 inches high to prevent her from escaping.

The best bedding options for your guinea pig are shredded paper, pellets, or certain wood shavings (avoid using cedar or pine shavings, their aromatic oils can lead to skin or respiratory problems).

 

DOES A GUINEA PIG REQUIRE REGULAR CHECK UPS?

No, regular check-ups aren’t necessary, however, there are times that you may want to bring your guinea pig in to be looked at. One of the best ways to spot that your pet isn’t well, is a reduction in appetite. Guinea pigs have a unique digestive system that makes them eat all the time. If they suddenly stop eating, it’s usually a medical emergency.

Guinea pigs can also develop many of the same issues that cats and dogs do. You may notice blood in the urine or a runny nose. These are other signs that your guinea pig isn’t well.

Fortunately keeping your new pet healthy and happy is easy. Their cage should be cleaned out (at least) every other day. A continuous supply of fresh food and water is also essential.

Why Your Weight Loss Resolution Could be Dangerous for Your Pet

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Most people will benefit when they reduce their sugar intake, but their pets sometimes pay the price. With more and more households cutting sugar out, there are more people using sugar substitutes such as xylitol.

HOW BIG IS THE PROBLEM?

Many sugar substitutes are dangerous for cats and dogs. Xylitol is one of the most dangerous for pets, because it’s very common. It’s a low-calorie substitute with a low glycaemic index. Xylitol is also preferred by people because it comes from nature including corn, mushrooms, lettuce, berries, plums, oats and other plants. You’ll find xylitol in everything from gum, to candy, to peanut butter, even toothpaste.

Toxicology experts at PetPoisonHelpline.com have confirmed; an increase in xylitol poisonings does correspond with the rise in xylitol products in our homes. Phone calls concerning xylitol poisonings increased 105% between 2015 and 2020.  In fact, xylitol poisonings are now the second most popular reason the Poison Helpline gets calls, with chocolate overdoses remaining their biggest concern.

Another source of the problem is rooted in the legalization of marijuana. While the number of poisonings increased over 100% in five years, the largest spike was from 2018 to 2019, when xylitol poisonings increased 47.2%. Experts believe that correlates with the sudden demand in THC infused edibles. Many edibles, be it brownies or candies contain xylitol. If it’s a chocolate edible with xylitol and THC, that’s a triple threat.

WHAT PETS ARE AFFECTED?

Both dogs and cats can get very sick, even die. Dogs, however, are affected the worst. At best your dog will experience a drop in blood sugar, but for many dogs that quick drop leads to unconsciousness and seizures. In high doses it will take just a few hours for liver failure to begin.

WHY DON’T THEY BAN XYLITOL?

As far as sugar substitutes go, xylitol is one of the healthier options for humans. Since it occurs in many natural food sources, it’s not harmful to us. There are even some benefits; research is showing xylitol leads to better dental health, has antioxidant properties, and can prevent ear infections.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR PET SAFE

Most pet owners know that candies aren’t safe for their fur kids and keep them out of reach. However, one of the biggest sources of xylitol that dogs can consume is peanut butter. Many brands of peanut butter, especially diet varieties are sweetened with xylitol. If you share peanut butter with your pup, be sure to check the ingredients.

Some pets, dogs in particular, really enjoy chewing gum… we’ve heard many stories about pets finding their way into their owner’s purse or pocket, because they were lured by the smell of the gum. Like candy, gum can contain xylitol, regardless though, it should be kept away from your pets. It becomes a choking hazard when they’re chewing the gum and the wrapper at the same time.

If you suspect your pet may have ingested a poisonous substance or food, please call the ASPCA Poison Control Centre in Canada at 1-888-426-4435.

Is Your Cat at Risk for Diabetes?

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The rate of diabetes in cats has increased significantly in recent years. If diagnosed and managed successfully though, your cat can continue to live a happy, normal life. This article explores feline diabetes, including how to recognize its symptoms, how to manage treatment, and how to prevent it.

 

WHAT IS FELINE DIABETES?

Diabetes Mellitus is the inability to produce enough insulin to properly manage glucose or blood sugar levels. Cats that are older, or overweight are more at risk for developing diabetes. The true incidence rate is hard to estimate because it’s likely to be under-diagnosed, but it’s believed to be around 1%-2% of the feline population.

 

RISK FACTORS

If your cat relates to more than one of these common risk factors, then they could be more likely to develop diabetes:

  • Male and neutered.
  • Seven years or older.
  • Additional medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, renal issues, or an infection.
  • Relying on medications, especially corticosteroids.

 

SYMPTOMS

It can be very tricky to spot feline diabetes. Many pet owners aren’t aware that their cat may  be at risk for diabetes in the first place. Veterinarians are often the first to notice a problem, during an annual check-up. Things to look out for if you are concerned about your cat having diabetes include:

  • Needing more water than usual or drinking from unusual places.
  • Dramatic weight loss.
  • Increased appetite or begging for food.
  • Walking on their heels (avoiding toes).
  • Urine that is sticky or hard to clean.
  • Decreased energy or activity.

 

DIAGNOSIS

If you or your veterinarian are concerned that your cat has diabetes, blood and urine tests will be done. The tests will look for repeated levels of hyperglycaemia (high levels of blood glucose). The tests will also rule out any other possible conditions that could be causing the symptoms.

 

TREATMENT

Once diagnosed, you’ll work with your vet to try different treatment options. During this, it’s important you’re honest with your vet about how much time you have and your ability to monitor your cat. Regardless of the treatment, the goals are usually the same:

  • To stabilize and regulate blood glucose levels.
  • To reduce your cat to a more appropriate body weight.
  • To reach potential remission (which may not be possible for all cats).

 

There are two common treatments for feline diabetes:

 

  1. DIET CHANGES

To help control your cat’s diabetes, and to prevent further damage, your vet will likely start with changes to its diet. Just like humans, cats need a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. For some cat’s, changing the diet is all that’s needed. For many though, this is done in addition to other treatment options.

 

Your vet will help you find an ideal weight for your cat and the best ways to get there. Less food overall, as well as a low-carb diet, are often recommended.

 

  1. INSULIN THERAPY

There are several insulin options available to your cat, your vet may recommend trying a couple for best results. Insulin is typically delivered by injection. If this is the case for your cat, your veterinarian will show you how. You’ll also learn how to administer glucose level tests. Many cat owners find after administering insulin a few times it becomes easier for them and their cat.

 

MONITORING & MANAGING FELINE DIABETES

 

When insulin therapy is first started, monitoring your cat’s response to therapy by periodic blood glucose determinations is important. Ideally, this involves serial blood glucose measurements in the form of a glucose curve.

 

Serum fructosamine levels can be used to help diagnose and further evaluate your cat’s response to insulin therapy. Fructosamine is measured from a single blood sample. No special preparation (e.g., fasting) is required before fructosamine testing. Serum fructosamine levels are proportional to the average blood glucose concentration that your cat has achieved over the past 7 – 14 days. Therefore, it can be used in long-term monitoring of diabetic cats.

 

At home, other important things you can do for your cat include monitoring her appetite, water consumption (if increasing or decreasing), energy level, grooming habits (unkempt greasy haircoat can indicate lack of diabetic control), and urine output. If you notice any of these changes, please inform your vet because these changes may signify the need for additional testing and/or adjustments in the insulin dosage. It is very important that you do not make adjustments in insulin dosage without first consulting your veterinarian!  By working together, you are your vet can continue to provide a healthy and happy lifestyle for your cat.

 

PREVENTING FELINE DIABETES

We know obesity is a huge risk factor in cats with diabetes. There are also some breeds that are more prone to diabetes than others. Unfortunately, though, enough studies haven’t been done to confirm techniques to prevent diabetes in cats. A low-carb diet has been shown to help manage diabetes, but there is no confirmation that such a diet will prevent diabetes in the first place.

 

Weighing your cat regularly and maintaining consistent yearly physical examinations with your veterinarian is currently the best way to stay ahead of any potential diabetes diagnoses.

 

 

Resources: Life Learn

Does Your Pet Have a UTI?

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When you notice your pet needing to go outside more often, or urinating in spots they’re not supposed to and straining to urinate, it could be a sign of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Both dogs and cats are able to develop UTIs, they are, however, more common in dogs, and in females as well. This article explores UTIs including how to recognize when your pet has one, and your treatment options.

 

WHAT IS A UTI?

When bacteria travel from a source outside of the body, up the urethra, and into the bladder it causes an infection in (what should be) a sterile place. Dogs are more prone to UTIs than cats because they pee outside (an uncontrolled environment) often. Females are more likely to experience UTIs than males in most mammals because the urethra is much shorter and wider in females, so bacteria can travel up quickly and easily.

 

SYMPTOMS OF A UTI

The symptoms for a UTI are very similar in dogs and cats, because of their lifestyle and behavioural differences, however, pet owners need to be on the lookout for different signs.

 

  • CATS: Will start urinating in places other than their litter box and urinating more frequently. You may also see signs of blood in their urine.
  • DOGS: Will be going outside to pee more often. There may be blood in their urine, but it can be harder for dog owners to spot, unless the dog ends up needing to pee inside.

 

Both female cats and dogs may lick their vulva more often than normal while experiencing a UTI, but not all pets fall into this behaviour. If the UTI persists and a kidney infection has developed, symptoms extend into drinking more water than usual, not eating, and vomiting.

 

HOW IS A UTI DIAGNOSED?

UTI’s are very painful for dogs and cats, it can also turn into a much bigger infection very quickly. That means you’ll want to bring your pet to your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will perform a urinalysis to confirm a UTI diagnosis. The culture and sensitivity of the urine will be tested as well. The culture will likely be obtained by inserting a syringe directly into the bladder.  This is the quickest, and least painful method on your pet, who is already experiencing significant discomfort.

 

Testing the sensitivity portion and the culture will help your veterinarian decide which antibiotic is best to use. This is why it’s important to bring your pet to the vet for every possible UTI, because the antibiotic needed may be different each time.

 

If a kidney infection is suspected, your vet will perform additional bloodwork and/or recommend an abdominal ultrasound.

 

WHAT IS THE BEST TREATMENT FOR A UTI?

Antibiotics are the only way to fight a urinary tract infection. Most treatments are 10-14 days long. Your dog or cat should be feeling better within the first five days though. Even if there are signs of improvement, it’s important to continue giving your pet the antibiotics, as the infection often lives on for a week after symptoms disappear.

 

Be sure to provide your pet with plenty of water during this time, and to keep an eye on their peeing habits, as well as their eating. If symptoms persist or worsen then your vet will likely want to examine your pet again, testing for a kidney infection. These infections are usually much longer to treat, averaging six to eight weeks. A serious kidney infection may require your dog or cat receiving intravenous fluid therapy and be monitored for a few days.

 

CAN UTIs BE PREVENTED?

There are no preventive measures to take to avoid occasional UTI’s. Ensuring your dog or cat always has access to fresh water is your best bet. If your pet is experiencing recurrent UTIs, then your veterinarian can recommend supplements to make such infections less likely to occur or strengthen the immune system.   Further diagnostics may also be needed, such as x-rays and ultrasound of the abdomen, to rule out bladder stones.