Cuteness Overload: Sugar Glider Care 101

The care and keeping of exotic pets has long fascinated humans, and the practice has grown in popularity in recent years. Sugar gliders are popular exotic pets, beloved for their small size, huge eyes, social nature, and affectionate attachment to their handlers.

Although they look like a cross between a squirrel and a mouse, sugar gliders are actually marsupials that are native to Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, and Papua-New Guinea. The name “sugar glider” comes from their love of sweet foods and their gliding membrane (much like a flying squirrel).

As with all exotic pets, sugar gliders require specific conditions in order to survive and thrive. Our guide to the basics of sugar glider care will help you get started on your journey as an exotic pet owner!

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Things Dogs Eat: The Problem With Pica in Pets

Has your pet ever eaten anything you don’t consider to be edible? Those of us with dogs, and some cats, can attest to this activity. And most of the time, our reaction is one of dismay, bewilderment, or even disgust. Unfortunately our pets just don’t seem to mind our protests, no matter how vehement!

Pica is the consumption of non-food substances. Coprophagy, the technical term for the eating of feces, is one of the most common forms of pica in dogs. Both coprophagia and pica in general can cause problems for pets, and sometimes are the result of an underlying medical condition.

West Park Animal Hospital gets questions about pica in pets often, so we thought we’d dig in (ahem) to this topic.

The Pica Problem

With pica, a pet eats inedible objects such as toys, rocks, grass, and sticks. Cats are more likely to consume kitty litter, string, dental floss, and clothing.

The problem with pica is that the itmes consumed can cause serious blockage in the digestive tract. These items may either get tangled in the sensitive intestine, or be unable to pass, resulting in major illness followed by emergency surgery or endoscopy.

Signs that your pet may be experiencing a GI blockage include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining to pass stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy

What Causes Pica in Pets?

Most cases of pica in pets are behavioral in nature. Still, it’s important to rule out any medical conditions such as malnutrition, liver disease, anemia, and parasites. Once we know your pet is eating non food items for behavioral reasons, we can start to look at causes and prevention.

Common behavioral reasons for pica include:

  • Boredom
  • Learned behavior
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Fear of punishment (in the case of stool eating, eliminating the evidence of an accident in the house may help the dog avoid being punished)

In most cases, pica does not go away on it’s own. It’s often a compulsive behavior, regardless of how it started or the reasons for it.

Treatment and Prevention of Pica

If there isn’t an underlying medical condition, the following measures can be taken to help prevent pica and treat the behavioral issue.

  • Make sure your pet is getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Ask us about your dog’s breed, age, and lifestyle for recommendations. Most dogs need at least 60 minutes of exercise per day – hunting and sporting breeds need much more.
  • Consider environmental enrichment such as food puzzles, games, and a dog walker if you are away from home a lot to decrease boredom
  • Eliminate access to objects that your dog may eat
  • Consider training your dog to wear a basket muzzle, if she eats objects in the yard. Never leave a muzzled dog unattended.
  • Leash walk your dog and distract him from eating objects or poop with treats and praise. Teach him the “leave it” command.
  • Try covering the objects with a bitter apple spray or cayenne pepper.
  • Provide lots of safe toys and chewing objects that your pet can’t swallow.
  • If your pet continues to eat foreign objects, consider a referral to a veterinary behaviorist who can help you get to the root of your pet’s behavior

In most cases, the treatment and prevention of pica will be an ongoing project. Follow up visits may be necessary. However, prevention is certainly preferable compared with life-threatening illness and emergency surgery (and recovery) to remove foreign material from your pet’s digestive tract.

If you have questions about your pet eating foreign objects or want to discuss their behavior, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. West Park Animal Hospital is here for you!

Hot Diggity Dog: Why Dogs Dig (and What to do About It!)

Most of the time, dogs do things that amaze us, but our canine companions can also be really exasperating at times. Some pets have especially challenging habits, and when dogs dig holes all over the backyard, owners may find themselves being tested beyond measure.

So, what’s up with this canine behavior, and what can you do about it?

It’s Natural

Digging is a completely normal behavior, but the reasons why dogs dig may vary by breed, personality, and mental state. It’s crucial to remember that digging is an instinct that may be difficult for some dogs to curb. The good news is that owners can put strategies in place to better understand and manage this behavior.

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Snork, Honk, Wheeze: Is Reverse Sneezing in Pets Normal?

Our pets do so many adorable and endearing things, it would take forever to list them all. Occasionally, however, they surprise or even frighten us with a behavior that comes from seemingly nowhere.

One such phenomenon is the honking, gagging, wheezing sound, known as “reverse sneezing,” which is surprisingly common among dogs and cats (to a lesser degree).

While mostly safe, reverse sneezing in pets can produce an unpleasant and distressing sound. To know when this is normal and when it may indicate a health concern, it’s important that all pet owners learn more about this peculiar behavior.

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Small Dog Aggression: Is it Real?

If you’re the proud owner of a small dog, you know that big personalities often come in the tiniest packages. There are plenty of memes, YouTube videos, and other anecdotal evidence that shows tiny dogs bossing around bigger dogs, cats, and people.

However, while this may be funny to watch online, small dog aggression can cause real problems for both pets and their owners.

The team at West Park Animal Hospital wants all dogs to live in harmony with their families, regardless of size. That’s why we’re tackling the issue of small dog aggression head-on!

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Sneezy, Wheezy, and Snorey: Feline Asthma and Other Cat Breathing Noises

If your cat is suddenly making noise while breathing that you aren’t used to hearing, you may be understandably concerned. While the occasional kitty sneeze or sniffle can be adorable, many times changes in breathing noises can indicate a problem.

So how is a pet owner to know whether a cat-sized wheeze is just a one-off or something more serious like feline asthma? Thankfully, you aren’t expected to have all the answers. This is where your friends at West Park Animal Hospital come in.

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Tips and Tricks for Pet Ear Cleaning

The special anatomy of cat and dog ears can create certain challenges. Infection and inflammation are common ailments that affect multiple parts of the ear, but injury can also occur. All problems in and around the ear have the potential for intense discomfort and should be properly addressed. Pet ear cleaning is just one way to promote overall health of this part of the body, and we’ve got some tips to help you get started!

A Closer Look

The outer ear is called the pinna. Dog breeds with long, floppy ears, those with a lot of hair around the ear, and swimmers are more prone to suffering ear infections. The pinna is also susceptible to bites, scratches, or abrasions.

The middle ear contains the fragile eardrum (tympanic membrane), small bones, an air-filled cavity, and a thin tube that leads to the back of the mouth.

The inner ear contains nerves and is comprised of the centers for hearing and balance. It also connects to the brain.

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Beneath the Surface: Common Skin Conditions in Dogs

Just like in humans, a dog’s skin is their largest organ, and it plays an incredible role in their overall health. Whether it’s regulating body temperature, creating vitamin D, or providing a critical line of defense against pathogens, the skin is truly an amazing thing!

That’s why when the skin is impacted by health issues, major problems can arise. According to Nationwide Pet Insurance, skin conditions in dogs are among the top reasons they’re seen by a veterinarian, so it’s important to take the health of your pet’s skin seriously. After all, when the skin suffers, your dog suffers, too!

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Artificial Sweeteners and Pets

By now, pet owners are well aware that chocolate is bad for pets. The dangers of allowing pets to consume xylitol (a sugar substitute) is also becoming more widely known – and for good reason. Xylitol, which is commonly found in sugar-free candy, baked goods, gum, and other products, can lead to a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and kidney failure in dogs.

Sugar is in practically everything we eat, but the popularity of low-carb and keto diets has led many people to seek out sugar alternatives. Sugar alcohols, like erythritol and plant-based sweeteners such as stevia, have exploded onto the market, and they can be purchased almost anywhere.

Here at West Park Animal Hospital, we’re always on the lookout for potential new pet toxins, and considering artificial sweeteners and pets is an important part of our ongoing research.

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Happy Tail Syndrome in Dogs

A dog’s tail is their “stamp” on the world. It can communicate joy, fear, uncertainty, or confidence. It is part of their identity.

So what’s a pet to do when their tail is hurt? Tail injuries can be difficult and frustrating to manage. West Park Animal Hospital is happy to help fix tails whenever we can, but happy tail syndrome in dogs can be quite the conundrum.

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