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2935 South 2nd Street

St. Cloud, Minnesota 56301

Telephone: (320) 252-0277
 Fax: (320)252-5901

National Nutrition Month


Happy Spring, everyone! We hope you are all enjoying the
warmer weather! Since March is National Nutrition Month, we thought we would
share some facts and delve into some common myths about pet nutrition.


People often ask what brands of pet food are the best. While
we don’t typically recommend a specific brand, it is important to make sure
whatever brand you buy has an AAFCO statement on the bag. It should say,
“Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (brand of food)
provides complete and balanced nutrition for (life stage).” This statement
ensures that the food both meets certain standards of nutrient content and that
company has done sufficient testing and feeding trials. There are different
life stages that a food can be formulated for, including gestation and
lactation, growth, maintenance, and complete for all life stages. If it is
labeled for all life stages, it will have enough nutrients for the most
demanding life stage, growth. It may contain levels that are too high for adult
or senior pets.


In addition to commercial foods, homemade diets are another
option. They require extra time and thorough research to be prepared correctly,
but they can be successfully created to be complete and balanced. There are
many resources available to help people create homemade diets that are
nutritionally complete, including several books dedicated to the subject.
Please ask us for more information if you are interested in homemade diets.           


In addition to regular wellness foods, many medical
conditions can be helped by specially formulated prescription diets. We
commonly prescribe dietary changes for a wide variety of medical issues,
including urinary stones, cystitis, kidney and liver disease, allergies, and
irritable bowel issues. Prescription foods are only available through
veterinarians. They may not all be suitable for other pets that do not have the
same medical condition.          


Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. Cats are
obligate carnivores, while dogs are omnivores by nature. Thus, cats cannot
thrive on dog food, and vice versa. Cats require several essential animo acids
that they must get from their food, including Taurine and Arginine. Cat foods
are formulated to include appropriate levels of these amino acids. Without
them, cats can develop serious medical concerns, including heart and eye


There are several common myths regarding pet foods. One of
the most common is that all animal by-products are bad. However, the truth is
that by-products are not necessarily bad, and can actually be a good source of
protein and other nutrients. By-products may include intestines, udders,
stomachs, and brains – all of which carry nutritional value. They do not
include horns, teeth, hooves, or hair (except small amounts that are
unavoidable during processing). Another common misconception is that grain-free
foods are better. Corn is actually a good source of protein and carbohydrates
for dogs, and very few are allergic to it. For cats, meat or meat-by products
should ideally be the first ingredient, since they are carnivores. They are able
to easily digest grains, however, so they should not necessarily be avoided


There are some foods to avoid at all times, as they can be
toxic to animals. Here is a list of toxic foods and the harm they can


-Avocado – large amounts can be toxic to dogs

-Alcohol – affects brain and liver   

-Onion and Garlic – destroy red blood cells, causing anemia

-Coffee, Tea, and Caffeine – can be fatal in large amounts

-Grapes and Raisins – can cause kidney failure in dogs

-Dairy – animals are lactose intolerant, and diary products
cause GI upset

-Macadamia nuts – as few as 6 can make a dog sick, more can
be fatal

-Candy and Gum – the sweetener Xylitol can cause liver
failure, and sugar can lead to diabetes, dental problems, and obesity  

-Chocolate – can cause GI upset, abnormal heart rhythm,
seizures, and death

-Raw eggs – contain Salmonella or E. Coli

-Fat trimmings and bones – can cause pancreatitis, GI obstruction,
GI lacerations

-Raw meat and fish – parasites, bacterial food

-Salt – excessive thirst, tremors, depression, hyperthermia,
and larger amounts can cause death 

-Yeast Dough – can rise in the stomach, causing bloat or
alcohol poisoning

-Baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and other spices – can
be toxic  

-Human medications – many are toxic to animals, including
Ibuprofen and Tylenol (Acetaminophen) which can be deadly in small amounts  


If you have any additional questions about your pet’s
nutrition, please don’t hesitate to ask us. Happy Nutrition Month from all of
us at Granite City


New year


Happy New Year! This is the time of year when many people commit to New Year’s Resolutions. Common goals include getting in shape, eating healthier, and losing weight. Have you thought about implementing a similar resolution for your pet? Many pets are overweight or obese, which can lead to some serious health concerns. This year, make it a goal to get fit with your furry friend!     


Common causes of obesity include over-feeding and not enough exercise. Feeding table scraps and treats adds extra calories that can add up quickly. Other factors, such as the type of food, the individual pet’s metabolism, diseases, and genetic conditions can also play a role. Obesity can lead to a host of dangerous health concerns in dogs and cats, including arthritis, Diabetes, Hepatic Lipidosis, respiratory compromise, and increased surgical/anesthetic risk. Many of these conditions require life-long management; some are more severe, or even life-threatening. Extra weight also leads to an overall shorter lifespan. A recent study done by Purina found that dogs with an ideal body condition lived an average of 2.5 years longer than overweight dogs. Imagine adding years to your pet’s life, just by keeping them at a healthy body weight.   


What can you do to help keep your pet at an ideal weight? Diet and exercise are important factors to keep in mind. Each pet’s lifestyle is different, and activity levels can vary throughout the year. Feeding more when they are able to get more exercise and cutting back on food volumes at less active times can help to maintain an ideal body condition. To increase exercise, gradually increase the length and frequency of walks and the amount of daily playtime. Interactive toys such as feather toys and laser pointers can help indoor cats become more active. As far as dietary management, meal feeding is ideal, as free feeding can encourage pets to over-eat. It’s important to keep in mind that different brands of food contain different amounts of calories. The guidelines on the back of the bag are a good place to start, but beware that they are often too generous. There are also specially-formulated prescription diet foods that can help with weight management, available through veterinarians. Cutting back on treats is also a good way to encourage weight loss. Giving treats can be a positive experience, and luckily there is a way to keep both the cost and the calories low - try keeping some of your pet’s regular kibble in a separate jar and using that as treats instead of buying the higher calorie treats. In addition to diet and exercise, it’s a good idea to rule out any health issues that can cause obesity, such as thyroid issues and Cushing’s disease. Regular bloodwork can reveal many of the underlying conditions that could contribute to weight gain.     


Checking your pet’s weight regularly can be helpful. The best way to keep track of your pet’s body condition, however, is not necessarily by weight alone. Body condition scoring is a more reliable indicator of a healthy size. Feeling the ribs is the best way to judge body condition. Ideally, the ribs should be easily felt and should feel like the back of your hand. If you have to push through a layer of fat to feel the ribs, this indicates that there is extra weight. If ribs cannot be felt at all, the pet may be considered obese. When looking at the body’s appearance, the waist should appear narrower than the chest. Please see the body condition chart below for images of underweight, ideal, and overweight pets.   




Getting to an ideal weight (#3 on the body condition chart) will help your pet live a healthier and longer life. Please let us know if you have any questions about weight management, and have a safe and happy start to 2014!        


Happy Holidays!


It's Ashley and Sarah here at GCPH, with some information about how to 
keep your pets safe and happy this holiday season. We all enjoy the holidays 
and all the food, family, and friends that accompany this time of year. But the 
festivities can also be dangerous for our furry friends. Pet-proofing your home 
is an important part of keeping them safe this holiday season. Here are a few 
tips to keep in mind: 

-Avoid dangerous and toxic items. Decorations such as mistletoe, 
poinsettias, holly, lilies, yarn, ribbons, and tinsel can be dangerous to pets. 
It's best to avoid these items all together. Your home doesn't have to lack 
holiday cheer, however! There are safe alternatives to many of these items. 
As an alternative to tinsel, silver paper ornaments can be used. Or tinsel can 
be placed inside a clear bulb. It's also a good idea to keep all holiday 
decorations out of your pets' reach. Try elevating the Chistmas tree off of the 
ground to keep low-hanging ornaments away from cats. Electric strings of 
lights can be deadly if chewed on. Cover all electrical cords with duct tape or 
use battery-powered strings of lights instead. Imported snow globes have also 
been found to contain anti-freeze, which is extremely toxic to animals, so be 
sure to keep these far out of pets' reach. 

-The holidays are full of delicious treats, but some of these can also be 
dangerous to your pets. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. Alcohol is also 
toxic to animals and should NEVER be given. Bread dough containing yeast 
can be deadly, as it can expand in a pet's stomach. Raisins, grapes, onions, 
and garlic are also toxic to pets. Sugar-free sweets such as gum and candy 
containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol are also poisonous. Leftover food, 
especially fatty meat scraps, can produce severe inflammation of the 
pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting, and bloody 
diarrheaÂ… and no one wants that! 

-Living in Minnesota, we have some serious cold weather to contend with. 
There are a few important things to keep in mind to make sure your pet stays 
comfortable on even the chilliest days. Contrary to popular belief, our pets' fur 
alone cannot adequately protect them from the elements. Bringing pets 
indoors is ideal on cold days and nights. If that is not an option, they should 
have a well-insulated shelter just large enough for them to curl up inside to 
maintain their body heat. Heating pads or blankets can help keep the shelter 
warm enough. It is also essential to have a heated water bowl that will not 
allow the water to freeze. When taking your pets outside for walks and potty 
breaks, it's a good idea to put a coat or sweater on short-haired or naturally 
lean breeds. As silly as it may seem, it will keep your furry friend toasty 
warm! It's also a good idea to wipe their paws after being outside so they 
cannot ingest any de-icing salts, which can be toxic. 

-All the company that comes and goes during the holidays may be fun for us, 
but it can be stressful for our pets. Make sure your pet has a safe place 
where they can go to escape the commotion. There are also pheromone 
sprays available that can help to naturally calm pets. These include Feliway 
for cats and DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) and come in sprays, collars, 
and a diffuser. These products can also be helpful when traveling with pets. If 
you plan bring pets along when you travel, remember to keep them safe in a 
carrier or kennel, and keep in mind that some state and most airlines require 
a health certificate for travel. 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call us anytime. We wish 
you and your pets a safe and happy holiday season from our entire staff at 
Granite City Pet Hospital! 


Hunting Conditioning


If you have a hunting dog, it’s time to start conditioning them for the upcoming hunting season.   Just like you would not go out and run a marathon without training beforehand, you should not start the hunting season without preparing your dog.  Also, even if you have been active with your dog, keep in mind the types of surfaces they have been on.  Tall grassy areas are a lot different terrain than smooth streets or trails.  Also, if your dog has not been very active, their pads may not be very tough and calloused, so keep an eye on them for excessive wearing, or put boots on your dog, if tolerated.  If you are able to get your dog out on the types of areas they will be hunting in, this would be ideal.  At this time of year, there are no restrictions on public lands for dog training.  Also, county parks or trails are available, but follow rules and restrictions (they may need to be on a leash).  If you have a treadmill at home, this is another option. 

Please keep in mind the warmer temperatures, keep water handy and stop when your dog appears to be tiring.  Injuries are a higher probability when dogs are tired.  

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.


It’s a common misconception that pets are like children and cry or whine when they don’t feel well or are painful. Dogs and cats are designed to survive in the wild and to do so, they cannot show weakness. Unfortunately, because of this, we often times miss the signs that our pet is ill or in pain until it becomes too unbearable for them to hide. After a surgical procedure, no matter how minor or extensive, your pet will feel pain. Your veterinarian is trained to understand the extent of pain and discomfort your pet will feel after a procedure, so it is very important to give the medications prescribed as directed and for the full duration prescribed. Too often, pet owners stop giving medications sooner than directed because they do not understand that just because your pet appears to be feeling well, doesn’t mean they do not have discomfort. Many medications offer more than just pain relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDs), for example, offer anti-inflammatory relief as well as pain relief, which is a very important part of the healing process.

After an injury, pets often show pain by limping or holding up their injured leg. Even though they are not vocalizing, this is a very big sign that your pet is painful. The fact that they do not want to use a leg or paw normally is enough to indicate an increased amount of discomfort. This is a situation where your pet needs to see your veterinarian for a physical exam to determine the source or cause of the pain and how best to treat it.

The most common type of pain or discomfort that gets overlooked is arthritis. Many pet owners confuse the signs of arthritis with the simple fact that their pet is getting older. Age is not a disease! As pets age, they are more prone to certain diseases and arthritic changes, but this does not mean it isn’t manageable. Just like people, your pets’ joints get stiff and sore the older they get, and just like people, there are many different types of treatments available to manage this pain and make them feel more comfortable. Joint discomfort and arthritic changes can appear as many things such as: loss of energy, slower to move around, slow to stand from a laying or sitting position, stiffness when walking or just standing, odd or unusual gait, limping, or shifting weight from limb to limb. If your pet is showing one or more of these signs, they could be in pain. So, what do you do if you determine that your pet is showing any of these signs? The first, and most important step, is a physical exam with your veterinarian. On exam, the doctor will do a full head to toe exam that will involve palpating, flexing, and extending all the joints from their neck and back to all of their legs! This provides the doctor with a lot of valuable information; it tells them where your pet has the most discomfort and the extent of that discomfort. With this information they can best determine what type of treatment(s) will work best for your pet. There are a wide range of options for pain relief including: glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory pain relievers, acupuncture, muscle relaxants, laser therapy and more! Sometimes only one of these options is enough to make a huge difference in your pets comfort, other times they need a combination of treatments. Often times, pet owners say they didn’t even realize their pet was in pain until they tried treatment and saw a huge difference in their pet’s activity and attitude. Every pet needs and deserves to be evaluated for pain, after all, they give us unconditional love and affection free of any judgments, it is the least we can do for them!


Allergies in Pets




Hooray for spring!  It is finally here and brings with it wonderful things: the birds are singing, the days are longer, the kids are playing t-ball in the park.  And the dog is itching.  The cat's eyes are red and watery. 


Allergies are a very common problem for our pets, and many of them get much worse in the spring.  Animals can be allergic to many of the same allergens as people.  Outdoor allergens such as grasses and pollens will frequently cause a seasonal problem for pets.  Indoor allergens and food allergies are more likely to cause year-round symptoms.  They range from the minor annoyance of some mild feet chewing or an annual ear infection to being almost debilitating with chronic, painful skin infections and non-stop itching.  They can be costly and time consuming to treat, the allergic pet will never be completely "cured," and they get worse with age.  That's the bad news. 


The good news is there are many effective treatment options available.  From topical treatments such as ear cleaners, shampoos, and sprays to more aggressive treatments like allergen injections and medications to suppress the overactive immune system.  It is beneficial to begin treatments when symptoms are relatively mild instead of waiting until the pet is miserable or the skin is infected.  It is important to be honest when talking with your veterinarian about treatment options.  If you are physically unable to bathe your dog frequently or administer pills to your cat, please let the doctor know this so an alternative treatment plan can be decided on.  


In some cases, your veterinarian will recommend a food trial to determine if a food allergy could be contributing to your pet's symptoms.  The idea behind a food trial is that you are feeding your pet a diet containing ingredients his body has never seen before, making it unlikely that his immune system will be hypersensitized to them.  I cannot stress this enough: a therapeutic diet trial must be a diet that your veterinarian approves, and strictly adhered to for a minimum of 8-10 weeks.  This means no table scraps, treats, or sneaking out of the other dog's food dish.  Be cautious with over-the-counter diets that make claims of being "hypoallergenic" or "limited ingredient" as there is frequently cross-contamination of ingredients leading to failed diet trials.  


Symptoms to watch for that might indicate an allergic pet:

  • itchy, smelly, or painful ears
  • red, watery eyes
  • chewing or licking at feet
  • scooting their rear end
  • skin rash
  • hair loss
  • generalized itching


If you are seeing these symptoms in your pet, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.  We can decide on a plan to bring relief so that everyone can enjoy this beautiful season together.


Like Peanut Butter and Jelly


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a preschool and speak to the children about veterinary medicine.  I love doing these school visits because the children are always so excited and they say the cutest things.  My furry sidekick, Ripken, also enjoys these visits because she thrives on excessive amounts of attention.  

With the older kids, I talked about a typical day in the life of a veterinarian, showed a few interesting x-rays, and invited them to "gown up" like a surgeon and touch some surgical instruments.  They took turns listening to Ripken's heart and watched in awe as she got a vaccine and did not even cry.  

When speaking with the younger kids, I decided to focus on safety around dogs.  We talked about how to greet a new dog, what to do if a dog is making you feel nervous, and how to treat your family dog with respect.  They were very receptive to what I had to say about how to act around other people's dogs.  They agreed, nodded their heads, and practiced the techniques.  They started to question my logic, however, when I talked about how to act around their own beloved family member.  "My dog likes when I hug him."  "I always kiss my dog on top of her head and she doesn't bite me."  "My dad says it's ok to climb on my dog's back."  

These are the scary statistics:

  • 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs every year
  • Children are by far the most common victims and typically sustain more severe injuries
  • 50% of all children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday
  • 800,000 bite victims require medical attention annually
  • The majority of dog bites to children occur from a familiar dog

Many of us have idyllic pictures in our minds of the bonds formed between our children and their canine companions.  We remember with warmth the dogs from our childhood.  I believe that a child that has a great dog in their life will be better off because of it.  But we need to educate our kids to respect their dogs and to become fluent in doggy body language.  

Some things to remember:
  • A dog that is uncomfortable will turn his head away, lick his lips, or yawn.  Watch for this!
  • Many dogs will tolerate being hugged or kissed on the head, but they do not enjoy it.  
  • Even a dog that respects your authority might guard his resources (food, toy, resting place).  This is normaldog behavior.
  • Do not allow your child to do to your dog what you would not allow him to do to his baby sister.  Teach respect.  

So I reviewed the dog rules with the preschoolers and encouraged them to bring the reading material home to their moms and dads.  I am hoping they will take a moment to read through it together.  

Kids and dogs do go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Sandwiched between attentive parents and a large amount of mutual understanding.   

Please check out these resources for more information:

A Healthy New Year


Happy New Year!
I absolutely love this time of year because I get very excited about New Year's resolutions.  It is a chance to reflect, a chance to start over, a chance to put the past behind you and make some changes.  Isn't there always room for improvement?

My resolutions probably look pretty similar to everyone else's: health, finances, time management, etc.  My list of resolutions often includes a focus on taking better care of the ones I love.  

If you are reading this blog, I'm guessing the "ones you love" include someone with fur and four paws, too.  Let us not forget our pets' health and wellness in our list of resolutions this year.  For me, this means starting acupuncture treatments on our 12-year-old border collie, Ripken, who is beginning to show her age.  What does it mean for you and your pets?  Here are some ideas to get you started:

1) Schedule routine preventative physical exams for your pets every six months.  Just twice this year, let's get together to discuss your pet's health and make sure everything is on track.  

2)  Get outside everyday to play with your pet.  I know it is so cold out, but even 15 minutes of outside play can improve health and wellness.   

3)  Brush those teeth!  Teeth brushing is such an effective way to prevent dental tartar, pain, tooth loss, and bad breath.  Aim to brush your pet's teeth every day.  Does your pet already have dental disease?  Then....

4) Schedule a dental scaling.  February is dental health month - to make this resolution easy to keep, we'll even give you a discount if you schedule your cleaning for January or February.  

5) Feed your dog more veggies!  Cut back on unhealthy snacks and replace them instead with raw vegetables.  Your dog doesn't like raw veggies?  Try steaming them. Still not interested?  Using fruit as treats is healthy, too!  (*Always avoid grapes, raisins, onion, and garlic*)

6)  Feed Kitty canned food every day.  A cat's body functions better on canned food than dry food.    

7)  Remember your monthly heartworm and parasite prevention...every month.  Write it on the calendar!

8) Keep up with routine grooming.  Maintaining clean and healthy coats helps our pets stay warm during these cold months.  Trim the toenails before they become too long.  Our groomers do an excellent job and can help you keep this resolution. 

You might be doing all of these things already.  If so, I'd love to hear from you about your pet-related resolutions.  Or you might not be doing any of them.  That's ok!  Start with a few changes and ask us for help when needed.  Let's all work at being the best pet owners we can be in 2013! 


Acupuncture for your Pets


Snowball came in to our clinic this afternoon for her fourth acupuncture treatment.  She purred as the needles were placed and relaxed throughout her 20 minute session, occasionally batting playfully at the equipment with her paws.  Snowball was diagnosed with a painful ruptured cruciate ligament in her knee about a month ago and her owners elected to try an alternative method of treatment.  Her leg has improved significantly since beginning her acupuncture treatments and she is able to run around the house again.

Acupuncture has been used to treat a variety of conditions for thousands of years.  As more and more research is being done on this ancient form of medicine, it is easier for us to understand how acupuncture has these effects.  Acupuncture points are in areas of increased nerve endings and blood supply, often where muscles begin or meet.  Stimulating an acupuncture point increases blood flow and releases natural opioids, endorphins, and serotonin, leading to pain relief and healing.  The points are connected along pathways, or meridians, so that stimulation of a distant point can have effects on other areas of the meridian.  Acupuncture relieves stagnation along the meridians and allows the chi (energy) to flow. 

Acupuncture can be used to treat many disease including arthritis and other causes of pain, seizures, incontinence, and gastrointestinal problems.   By integrating acupuncture into your pet's health care, we can take advantage of the body's own healing and pain relief capabilities without worrying about the side effects sometimes associated with medications.  We typically recommend beginning with 4 acupuncture sessions, about a week apart.  When the condition has been successfully managed, we can extend the time between treatment sessions.

Could acupuncture be right for your pet?  Please call us to set up a consultation. 


Fun with Guinea Pigs!


Our household, like that of many families, is a very busy one.  So when my aunt recently asked me if we could adopt a guinea pig that was in need of a home, I firmly answered "no."  Within 24 hours, we were excited to welcome the CUTEST little piglet, Symbol, to the family.  

Like any responsible pet owner, we started doing some research.  We quickly realized guinea pigs do best in bunches, not solo. Because we have three kids, it seemed only reasonable to find two more guinea pigs in search of a new home.  It was not long before Flower and Sally joined the family, too.  

The three little piggies hit it off right away with minimal disagreements (turns out they each want their own hiding house, not just a couple big ones).  They happily share one large, 2-story cage in my son's room.  We take them out into their "pig pen" in the grass for exercise and fresh air.  Each child has their very own pig to play with and snuggle.  The kids pick carrots from the garden to feed them.  Sometimes they even help clean the cage.  The brunt of the work, of course, goes to Mom and Dad.      

I have always been a huge fan of guinea pigs....what's not to love?  The adorable face, the gentle and playful personality, the wide array of noises (wheek, rumble, purr....).  I have been pleasantly surprised at how well they have adapted to being handled by chldren, spending long periods of time contentedly watching Dora or Backyardigans on the lap of their child.  And so... I am adding "guinea pig owner" to my list of credentials.  Thank you, Aunt Kathy, for giving me the nudge.  We are quite enjoying our little furry companions.  



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