Pet Library

Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitoes: A Year-Round Threat

Don’t get sucked into believing that falling temperatures also mean a fall in flea, tick, and mosquito populations. While it’s true that some of these blood-suckers die off over the winter, they’re often highly active during autumn—especially ticks. Here are five ways to help battle fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, even during the fall:

#1: Don’t give up on grooming

As winter approaches, with its frigid temperatures and frosty precipitation, you may cut back on your pet’s grooming. Short summer cuts designed to keep your furry friend cool are a thing of the past until next spring. In addition, thick undercoats shed less as pets gear up for winter, so grooming sessions tend to occur less frequently. But, fleas and ticks may take advantage of fewer comb-throughs and set up shop on your pet, where they are much harder to see than when they are scurrying through your pet’s short fur or latched onto her skin when you are brushing her daily or weekly. 

As the hot season fades into fall and your pet’s fur grows out, detecting fleas and ticks is more challenging. Your pet may seem to require less upkeep, but continue the grooming sessions, because frequent brushing will help you catch fleas, ticks, and any abnormalities. Pay particular attention to your pet’s tail base, ears, groin, armpits, and under the collar, as fleas and ticks like to lurk in these spots. 

#2: Load up leaf litter

Kids and pets love to jump and play in huge leaf piles, but have you ever considered what’s lurking within? If you think it’s cool enough to skip parasite prevention, your pet may be unarmed in her pile of fun. Fleas, ticks, and many other insects make their home in decaying leaf litter, which provides warmth, shelter, and occasionally sustenance, and they may attack your pet’s warm body when disturbed. 

Removing leaf piles from your yard is preferable, but if you can’t resist the sight of your kids and pet frolicking in autumn leaves, ensure you administer parasite prevention year-round and check thoroughly for fleas and ticks after their outdoor fun. 

#3: Learn about the life cycle

Many people think insects die off over the winter. While some insects thankfully perish with falling temperatures, many more use their strong survival skills to make it through the winter. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can slip into your warm home or heated garage and ride out the cooler weather. Fleas are exceptionally hardy and can survive inhospitable climates easily. A flea in its pupal form can hang out for months—or as long as a year—inside its protective cocoon, and burst forth as an adult when temperatures rise, ready to make a meal out of your pet. Knowing how your enemy lives can help prevent any parasites from gaining a foothold in your home and on your pet. 

#4: Search for defective screens 

Opening the windows to allow a burst of fresh fall air into your home is wonderful, but first, check your screens carefully. Are they still in the correct place with no visible holes, tears, or gashes? If your open windows are letting in more than the smells of bonfires and falling leaves, you may need to keep them shut tight. Insects can easily slip through tiny tears in your screens, seeking the warmth of your home and your pet. 

#5: Don’t fall for falling temperatures

Winters, and even fall conditions, can turn downright frigid in Illinois, but that’s no reason to stop giving your pet her flea, tick, and heartworm preventive. Our weather can turn 180 degrees with little warning, turning from summer to winter over several hours. The opposite can also happen, and if the temperature rises above 35 degrees, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes will be on the prowl for a meal. Since our weather patterns are so unpredictable, why gamble on your pet remaining parasite-free throughout the cooler months?

Stick to your normal schedule of flea-, tick-, and heartworm-preventive administration to ensure your pet is protected year-round. It’s easy to fall off track when you skip a month or two, thinking it will be chilly enough to prevent insect movement, but then you may forget to start back up again when the weather is nicer. Stay safe with our recommended prevention products, and stock up by stopping in at one of our locations.

The Costly Truth About Free Puppies

We’ve all seen them: adorable, wiggly puppies in a box, being given away for free in a parking lot or in front of a store. These days, you can also find free puppies and dogs all over the internet on social media and sites like Craigslist.

But the truth is that while a “free puppy” may cost you nothing up front, taking care of a dog for life is an expensive commitment. There are always many costs associated with pet ownership, including:

  • Food
  • Vaccinations (rabies is mandated by law)
  • Licensing (may be required by law where you live)
  • Toys
  • Bedding
  • Veterinary care (worming, flea prevention, etc.)
  • Leash/collar/harness

A puppy will depend on you for everything and those needs will come with a price—not just in money, but also in time, effort and patience. Training, socialization, bathing/grooming, housebreaking and regular exercise are all part of adding a dog to the family.

The fact is that any puppy given away for free probably hasn’t been cared for properly, and so you may end up with immediate costs such as worming, vaccinations and bathing just to make sure the pup is healthy. Owning a dog is usually a 10-15-year commitment that could potentially run you hundreds or thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

Sometimes what motivates people to seek out free puppies is the idea that a mixed-breed puppy is somehow less valuable than a purebred or the idea that adopting a puppy “who will bond with you” or “grow up with the kids” is a better experience. Neither of these assumptions are true, and in fact, the millions of people who adopt rescue pets every year can attest to that.

How much is that puppy in the FREE box?

A recent study done by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is a great eye-opener about the actual financial costs of dog ownership, and definitely worth a read if you’re considering looking for a “free” puppy.  The bottom line? That free dog is going to cost you an average of $3085 the first year alone. Over a lifetime, the tab for dog ownership averages $23, 410.

Those estimates, by the way, include food, bedding, just the basics in vet care and the cost of one serious illness per year. Toys, training, boarding and grooming were not factored in to the costs.

So as you can see, “free” puppies aren’t exactly low-cost pets.

Finders keepers—for life

The truth is you can always find free or affordable puppies and dogs, especially if you’re not particular about breed. However, you should do some research, because not all canines are a good fit for all families. For example, intelligent, high-energy herding breeds are not going to work for a busy family that leaves the dog alone in the yard all day while they’re working or at school. A smaller, more delicate breed of dog might not be the best choice for a home with active, rough-n-tumble kids.

The most responsible way to acquire a dog or puppy is to check regularly at your local shelters and rescues. Many times, they’ll hold low- and no-cost adoption days. These animals usually come with most of their shots and have been (or will be) spayed or neutered at no charge to you. A great place to start is Petfinder, where you can put in your location and other specifics about what you’re looking for in a pet. The search engine will then pull up a list of adoptable animals near you that meet your specifications.

You can also ask your friends and coworkers to be on the lookout for puppies or young dogs needing homes, as word of mouth is often a great way to find a dog in need of a home. Make sure to ask lots of questions before adopting, however. Sadly, many families are often so desperate to rid themselves of a pet they may not be completely honest about the dog’s needs and personality.

And a word about Craigslist: be very careful when researching free or low-cost puppies online at this site or on social media. Again, read the listing in full and ask as many questions as possible. Why are they giving the dog away? Is it spayed, neutered, or vaccinated? What is the dog’s history and are there vet records you can have or access?

Most importantly, before you adopt, ask yourself: am I prepared to take care of this dog for life, even if I move or finances become difficult?

There is an alternative

If your family is thinking about adopting but want to take a test-run of adding a dog to the family, there are some other options.

  • Be a foster family: Work with a local shelter or rescue to take in a puppy or dog that needs a place to stay on a temporary basis until it is adopted or until there’s space at the shelter. This will give you a taste of the pet-owner life without the commitment.
  • Volunteer at a dog shelter or rescue: These organizations are always in need of people to walk, play with, and care for dogs. Several organizations are even breed-specific, so if there’s a breed you’re particularly interested in, you can learn more about it through volunteering.

Adding a dog to the family can be a truly rewarding experience if you make sure that you’re prepared. Remember, there’s no such thing as “free”— especially when it comes to pets.

Kitten Care 101

If you’ve recently welcomed a new kitten to your home, congratulations! Raising a cat is a fun and rewarding experience that will be beneficial to both of you for many years to come. But it’s important to remember that with great power comes great responsibility—your new feline friend will be very dependent on you; therefore, we’ve created a convenient guide that will help you take care of your kitty cat.

The first few months you have with your kitten will be very important and will lay the foundation for your feline’s future health and behavior. If you follow the below guidelines, you can ensure a happy and healthy life for your kitten.

Verify Your Kitten’s Age

Age is more than just a number, and for kittens, this is especially crucial. Baby cats have specific developmental needs during their first 10 weeks of life, which include attention to their socialization, nourishment, warmth and potty training.

Because of this, a lot of shelters and breeders will often wait until kittens are of age, but if by chance you do find yourself with a kitten under 10 weeks old, please consult your vet for specific instructions.

Take Your Kitten to the Vet Immediately

Once you acquire your baby kitty, bring them to us for an exam. This benefits you and the animal, as this time lets you ask questions and advice regarding kitten care and litterbox training. We also will test for health issues including parasites, birth defects and feline leukemia to make sure your new best friend is in tip-top shape.

During this visit, we will discuss:

  • Food recommendations, scheduling and portion sizes
  • Internal and external parasite control
  • Socialization, especially if you have other household pets
  • Sings of illness to be aware of during their first few months
  • Scheduling of future visits and a discussion of preventive health

Give Your Fur Baby Quality Food

There’s more to pet feeding than grabbing a bag of food at the grocer. For kittens, they need as much as three times more nutrients and calories than adult cats—so you definitely need to find a high-quality food that is designed specifically for kittens. And don’t forget to look for a statement from the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which should be somewhere on the packaging. This ensures that the food is nutritionally complete.

Let Your Kitten Be Social

Once we’ve cleared your kitten of parasites and disease, you can safely let them explore their new surroundings and other animal roommates if applicable. Also, make sure to emotionally bond with your cat at least once a day by handling and playing with them.

Prepare Your Kitten’s Space

Do plan to have a quiet, safe area for your kitten before you bring them home. Place things like food and water bowls, a litterbox and cozy bedding. If possible, put their food away from their litterbox, as cats don’t like that, and you don’t want a grumpy cat.

Have These Essentials

  • Good quality food
  • Litterbox and kitty litter
  • Cat carrier
  • Food and water bowls
  • Bedding
  • Collar and ID tags
  • Scratching post
  • Kitten-safe toys without small pieces they could swallow
  • Cat toothbrush and toothpaste (try to get them started on a young age)

Be Aware of Early Signs of Illness

Contact us immediately if your kitten shows any of these symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor weight gain
  • Vomiting
  • Painful abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Breathing problems
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Pale gums
  • Eye discharge or swollen, red eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Inability to pass stools or urine

Questions?

At PAVG, we are always committed to making sure your pet stays happy and healthy. If you have any additional questions about kitten care 101, please give us a call at our following locations:

Chillicothe: 309-273-1909

Dunlap: 309-439-9522

Dunlap II: 309-413-0527

Puppy Care 101

Who doesn’t love an adorable, curious, playful and sweet little puppy? As some of the cutest things ever made, puppies are a source of love, joy and companionship—but it’s not all fun and games. It’s important to remember that with great power comes great responsibility—your new doggie friend will be very dependent on you; therefore, we’ve created a convenient guide that will help you take care of your puppy.

The first few months you have with your puppy will be very important and will lay the foundation for your canine’s future health and behavior. A puppy is a major lifestyle adjustment, and you can expect many accident cleanups to counterbalance the joy of a baby doggie. However, if you follow the below guidelines, you can ensure a happy and healthy life for your pup.

Take Your Puppy to the Vet Immediately

During this vet visit, ask any and all questions you may have. Your vet will also make sure to:

  • Set up a vaccination plan for your dog
  • Go over internal and external parasite control options
  • Discuss signs of illness to look out for during your puppy’s first few months
  • Talk about spaying and neutering

Shop for High-Quality Food

Your puppy’s body will grow and grow, therefore you’ll need to select a food that’s made specifically for puppies instead of one made for adult dogs. Check any potential food packaging for a statement from the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which should be visible somewhere. This ensures that the food is nutritionally complete.

Depending on your dog’s breed and size, they will have different schedules which we will discuss during your visit. You should however always make sure your puppy has plenty of fresh and clean water available to them at all times.

Establish a Potty Routine Early

Housetraining your pup is very important early on. You’ll need positive reinforcement, patience and planning to be successful, not to mention plenty of cleaning supplies because accidents will unfortunately happen.

Until your puppy has had all of their vaccinations, you need to find a place that is outdoors and inaccessible to other animals to help reduce the spread of viruses and diseases. Positive reinforcement goes a long way, so whenever your pup does their business outside, praise them—just as important though, is to refrain from punishing them for indoor accidents.

Some common times to take your pup out include:
  • When you wake up
  • Right before they go to bed
  • Immediately after they eat or drink a lot of water
  • When they wake up from a nap
  • During and after physical activity

Be Aware of Early Signs of Illness

During your puppy’s first few months on this earth, they are more susceptible to sudden illnesses that can turn very serious if not treated early. Contact the vet immediately if you notice these symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Poor weight gain
  • Vomiting
  • Painful or swollen abdomen
  • Pale gums
  • Eye discharge or swollen, red eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Inability to pass stools or urine
  • Breathing difficulty

Obedience Training

Puppies will be puppies, but teaching your baby dog good manners early on will set them up for a successful life of positive social interactions. Training them will also forge a strong bond between you and your pup.

Essential commands such as sit, stay, down and come will be beneficial in many scenarios. There are also obedience classes available to puppies, which usually accept pets from around age four to six months old. While training your dog, remember to use positive reinforcement which is much more effective than punishment.

Socialization

Along with obedience training, socialization during puppyhood is imperative to a successful, well-behaved dog. When puppies are around two to four months of age, they begin to accept other animals, places, people and experiences. Socialization with other dogs, cats and situations will enhance their worldview and make them less excited and anxious in their everyday life.

Questions?

At PAVG, we are always committed to making sure your pet stays happy and healthy. If you have any additional questions about puppy care 101, please give us a call at our following locations:

Chillicothe: 309-273-1909

Dunlap: 309-439-9522

Dunlap II: 309-413-0527