We know that when it comes to being a pet parent, there are a lot of unexpected questions that arise – and are often best answered by a professional. We reached out to our resident vet, Dr. Katy Nelson, and asked her to her share answers to the top questions she gets from her pet parents.
Grooming and general care
Q: My pet’s toenails seem really long but they won’t let me cut them – what should I do?
A: If you’re not able to cut your pet’s nails yourself, take them to the vet's office or to a groomer. A professional knows how to properly restrain your animal, how short to cut the nails, and most importantly, they have all the equipment needed for a fast and pain-free pedicure.
Q: My pet sheds SO much – is anything I can do to help with the shedding?
A: Shedding is normal for cats and dogs, but certain breeds definitely shed more – especially at certain times of the year. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to keep shedding to a minimum. Start by ensuring your pet is on a fresh, healthy diet, like Freshpet
, that supplies needed protein and fatty acids to keep the skin and coat healthy. Flea and tick preventives can also be applied regularly and don’t be afraid to bathe your pet when needed. Finally, regular brushing can help to decrease the mess associated with shedding.
Q: I feel like my pet gets stinky really often – why is that?
A: The answer to this question depends on what your pet smells like:
- Is it a metallic or fishy smell? Have their anal glands checked.
- Is it a bready or sweet smell? It could be a yeast infection in their ears or on their skin.
- Is it their breath? Have your veterinarian assess your pet’s dental health.
- Is it a urine or poop smell? Maybe they just stepped in something and need a bath.
Regular bathing, ear cleaning, teeth brushing and, in some pets, anal gland expression can help to keep your pet smelling fresh.
Q: How often should I bathe my pet?
A: The frequency at which you bathe your pet will vary based on breed, lifestyle, and skin conditions. In general, most pets do not need to be bathed more than once a month as bathing more frequently can strip the skin of necessary oils, leading to dry skin and a poor quality coat. If you need to apply a topical flea, tick, or heartworm preventative, plan your pet’s baths accordingly. These medications require a healthy lipid layer to spread and work effectively, so it’s best to wait 24-48 hours after bathing to apply them.
My pet’s breath stinks! What can I do to make it better?
A: The first thing you should do is have your pet seen by your veterinarian. During this appointment, they will do a full dental exam and determine whether professional cleaning is needed. If this is the recommendation, your pet will be put under general anesthesia and a thorough oral exam performed, as well as x-rays and an ultrasonic scaling and polishing. Once this is done your pet will have a clean palate, so you can move forward with preventive care like brushing and dental chews to maintain a mouth that is healthy and smelling fresh.
Q: Why does my dog eat its own poop?
A: There is usually no medical reason for coprophagia (eating poop). While there are numerous options on the market for food additives that may discourage the behavior, there is truly only one solution: Deny their access to it. Whether you’re at home or on a walk, pick up poop immediately and discard it to keep it away from your dog.
Q: My cat keeps missing the litter-box – help!
A: Inappropriate urination is one of the most common reasons that cats are brought to a veterinarian. During your visit, your vet will start by ruling out any medical issue, such as urinary crystals and stone, a urinary tract infection, or arthritis making it difficult for cats to get into the litter-box. This will likely involve running some tests on your cat’s urine and may include a recommendation for blood-work, x-rays or an ultrasound of their bladder.
If no medical reason is found, your vet will then move on to possible environmental factors, such as the type of litter boxes you have, the number of boxes in the house, the box locations, the type of litter you’re using, and whether or not your other cats are “bullying” near the box. Once they have a better idea of your cat’s litter-box environment, they will be able to recommend changes you can make.
Your veterinarian can also recommend an enzymatic cleaner that can get deep down into carpets and soft materials to break down the urine proteins that we can’t smell, but your cats can – this is important in stopping your cat from continuing to urinate in the same spots.
Food and Eating Habits
Q: What type of pet food is best for my pet?
A: Given the huge market for pet food, it’s not hard to find one that’s perfect for your pet’s unique needs. Dogs are omnivores and should be fed a diet made of fresh lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits & grains, so I prefer diets that keep the proteins and carb sources intact with minimal processing and preservatives, like Freshpet
. Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores and should be fed a low-carb diet composed primarily of meat – similar to the Atkins diet for people. Cats do not effectively process carbs and tend to get very overweight with higher carb options.
Q: I notice that my dog tries to eat grass a lot – is this bad?
A: Believe it or not, eating grass is normal behavior for dogs. Many dogs simply like the taste of it, but it’s not highly digestible so they may end up regurgitating it later. However, there are two instances where grass consumption can be dangerous for your pet. Firstly, if they eat too much of it they rick it becoming impacted inside their digestive system. Secondly, if you use pesticides or fertilizers on your lawn, consuming this grass means your pet is ingesting these toxic chemicals, which can be deadly.
Q: My pet has bad allergies – can I give them Benadryl?
A: Before you run to your medicine cabinet in search of your own allergy medicine, talk to your veterinarian. There are numerous anti-histamines available for pets and they will be able to determine if they’re necessary for their specific allergy and symptoms, as well as to recommend dosage and frequency.
Q: My pet is always scratching no matter what I seem to do to help them stop – any advice on how to manage this?
A: If your pet is continuously scratching, have them seen by your veterinarian. They will evaluate the skin and determine if there is an underlying issue causing the itching. There are numerous reasons for itchy pets including endocrine issues, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, as well as ectoparasites, allergies, nerve disorders, or skin infections. Once your veterinarian determines the cause of the itching, they’ll be able to give your pet the relief they deserve.
From grooming and general care to allergies and bathroom habits, we hope Dr. Katy was able to answer some of your questions. If there’s still something you’re wondering about, schedule an appointment with your vet. Their team will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your pet and how to best care for them.