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Frequently Asked Questions

How should I care for my pets’ teeth?

The best way to properly care for your pet’s oral hygiene is to brush their teeth daily. Just like us, our pets develop plaque on their teeth which, if not removed, can lead to oral health problems. There are bones and special treats that can help promote oral health, but the best way to clean your pet’s teeth is by brushing them. It may take some time for your dog or cat to get used to the idea of having their teeth brushed, but they can be eased into it. You can start by letting them taste the toothpaste from your finger. There are special veterinary toothpastes made in flavors like chicken that appeal to animals. Once they get used to the toothpaste you can begin by brushing 1-2 teeth to introduce them to the sensation. After a few cleanings your pet will probably start to enjoy the brushing and will be happy to let you do it. Along with the special toothpaste a special toothbrush should be used with soft bristles and a long handle so you can reach the teeth in the back of your pet’s mouth.

What are some common dental problems in pets?

A high percentage of cats and dogs will experience periodontal disease during their lives, and the risk increases as they get older. Periodontal disease affects the gum and supporting structures of the teeth. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and bone loss in the jaw. Periodontal disease is also related to other health issues, such as heart disease. It is important to have regularly scheduled teeth and gum cleanings for your pet.

What causes my pet’s bad breath?

Many people think that it is normal for a dog to have bad breath, but that is not the case. Bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth that create byproducts that contain sulfur. Regular home cleanings accompanied with scheduled professional cleanings will help to prevent bad breath and the bacteria that cause it.

What are heartworms and how can they be prevented?

Heartworms are a parasite that attacks your pet’s heart. They are usually transmitted by a bite from an insect that is carrying the parasite. If heartworms are left untreated they can cause serious heart problems. There are preventative medicines available, like Heartgard, to keep your pet from being infected with heartworms. Your pet should start taking this medication at around 2 months old.

We are going away on vacation and the kennel requires that our dog has a kennel cough vaccine. What is that?

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection caused by either bacteria or a virus. It can cause a harsh dry cough in your dog that can last for a few weeks. It is very contagious and is commonly transmitted in environments where there are many dogs in one place, like a kennel. Most kennels require that your dog is vaccinated for their safety and the safety of the other dogs.

When should my pet be spayed or neutered?

We recommend talking to one of our veterinarians about when the best time to spay and neuter your pet is based off their specific breed and health concerns.

Why does my pet need yearly bloodwork?

Yearly blood workups should be performed to check for any infections or diseases. It is an easy test to perform and can be done at the same time we do the routine heartworm check. This will help ensure that your pet is healthy, or catch any problems at an early stage so they can be treated effectively.

How often does my pet need a rabies vaccine?

The first rabies shot your dog or cat receives is good for one year, and each booster shot will last 3 years.

How do I know if my pet is in pain?

Obviously our pets can’t tell us where they hurt, but there are some signs to look for. If you notice a change in your pet’s behavior (fatigue, depression, change in appetite, increased aggression, etc.) your pet might be in pain or have another physical problem. Your pet may also favor a certain part of their body or limp if they are injured. You should consult your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs so that they can determine the source of your pet’s pain.

My new kitten hasn’t used the litter box yet, should I be worried?

Your kitten is probably just adjusting to their new surroundings. They can hold their urine and bowel movements for about 3-4 days when they are nervous or unfamiliar with their surroundings. If they exceed 3-4 days without relieving themselves, or display other abnormal behavior, you should consult your vet to see if there is a deeper health problem.

Can my cat drink milk?

We have all seen cats lapping up milk in cartoons or old TV shows, but this is not healthy for them. Milk cannot be properly digested by most cats and it can lead to diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems. If your cat accidentally drinks some milk there is no need to worry, but you should not regularly give your cat milk to drink.


Helpful Resources


Kitten Information

New Kitten Information

Congratulations! You are about to embark on a fun and rewarding journey of raising a kitten! Whether you are experienced with cats or a first-time cat owner, this packet will supply you with the most current information and advice about how to raise your new friend. If you have any questions during or after your visit, please feel free to ask one of our doctors or nurses. We are here to help! 


VACCINES CORE VACCINES: These vaccines are strongly recommended for your feline friend. 

  • FVRCP Vaccine (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR), Calici Virus, and Panleukopenia): 

Panleukopenia is a highly contagious virus that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and low white blood cell count. Since there is no cure for the disease, treatment involves supportive care that is costly and does not guarantee survival. Due to the seriousness of this disease and the rate of contagion, it is included in the “Core Vaccines” that are necessary for all cats whether they are indoor only or go outside. Calici Virus and Rhinotracheitis cause most upper respiratory infections, and are extremely contagious to other cats. Some chronic nasal and oral diseases can also be attributed to the infections. Typically, vaccination starts at 8 weeks of age and continues every 3-4 weeks, until your kitten is over 16 weeks old, followed by a booster one year later. Adults with previous vaccination need revaccination every 3 years. 


  • Rabies Vaccine: Rabies virus can be transmitted to mammals including humans usually through bite wounds from an infected animal. Most commonly infected animals in Nebraska are skunks and bats. Nebraska law requires vaccination of cats since it is one of the few deadly diseases pets can transmit to humans. If an unvaccinated pet bites or is bitten, serious consequences may occur including quarantine of your pet at your expense and/or euthanasia. Kittens will need this vaccine after 12 weeks of age, followed by a booster a year later. Adults with previous vaccination need revaccination every 3 years.


NON-CORE VACCINES: Your veterinarian will assess your pet’s risk contracting one of these diseases and help you decide whether your pet is a candidate for receiving any of these vaccines. 

  • FeLV Vaccine (Feline Leukemia Virus): Cats who are exposed to cats with unknown disease and vaccine status are more at risk for contracting Feline Leukemia. The disease can occur by itself, or in combination with the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), a deadly AIDS-like virus. Feline leukemia is transmitted through nasal secretions and saliva or bite wounds from infected cats and has no cure. Infected queens can transmit the disease to their offspring through the placenta prior to birth or through the milk during lactation. As a result, even newborn kittens can test positive for this disease. For other cats, close contact is required for effective transmission. We recommend this vaccine for cats leading an indoor/outdoor lifestyle, former stray cats that have recently be introduced into the home, or cats that are prone to escaping. We recommend an initial series of two vaccines spaced 3-4 weeks apart for all kittens given between 12-16 weeks old.  Once given, yearly booster vaccines are needed to keep immunity at a proper level. 


FeLV/FIV TESTING 

Feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are serious viruses that can be transferred from mother to kitten and via bite wounds. We recommend that all kittens be tested for these diseases. Both of these diseases can be in the body and not cause any sickness for months to years and then suddenly make your cat very sick. If you cat is infected but not sick it could potentially infect other cats especially if it goes outside and gets into a fight.

FeLV and FIV both cause problems with the immune system that lead to immune suppression. When the immune system is not working properly it makes your cat susceptible to all types of infectious diseases and even cancer.


FLEA & TICK PREVENTION 

Fortunately, today we have very effective flea and tick preventatives that have a wide margin of safety and are easy to administer. According to your cat’s lifestyle, we recommend the use of monthly topical treatments such as Advantage, Frontline or Revolution. Flea collars, sprays, baths and flea-bombs are generally ineffective and employ harsh chemicals that are irritating and even toxic to your cats. 

INTESTINAL PARASITES 

Many kittens are born with intestinal parasites from an infected mother in utero, or via milk or feces ingestion. The only way to diagnose them is by microscopic examination of your kitten’s feces for the eggs shed by the adult worms. In very large infestations, some adult worms can be observed in your kitten’s bowel movements or after he/she vomits. Dewormers can be given orally, but first we need to diagnose which parasites your kitten has. We recommend dropping off a fecal sample for analysis of parasites upon acquisition of your new kitten. 

HEARTWORM DISEASE

    Any cat that spends time outside (or in an outdoor enclosure) that is exposed to mosquitoes is recommended to use heartworm prevention. If you live in a heavy mosquito-infested area, even indoor cats are at-risk of contracting it since mosquitoes can fly indoors and bite your pet. Revolution is an easily applied medication that protects cats against heartworm disease but other products are available. More information can be found at: https://www.heartwormsociety.org/heartworms-in-cats

SPAYING & NEUTERING 

Spay Your Female Cats. Aside from the very real pet overpopulation problem, there are some valid health reasons for spaying female cats. Spaying your cat will not change her personality, and there is no benefit to letting a cat “have just one litter”. Additionally, it is a myth that spaying your cat will cause her to gain weight. There are numerous benefits to spaying your cat including: 

  • Eliminates Chances of Pyometritis. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus that is fatal if emergency surgery is not performed immediately. This is a life-threatening condition and creates a great financial expense to the owner. 
  • Decreased Risk of Mammary Cancer. Ideally, to give a female cat protection against mammary cancer, she should be spayed prior to her first heat. Each subsequent heat brings a greater chance of mammary cancer at a later time. 
  • Eliminates Risk of Ovarian or Uterine Cancer. Spaying a cat involves the removal of the uterus and ovaries. No organs: no cancer; simple as that. 

Neuter Your Male Cat. 

This is the most proactive step. Neutering is a relatively simple surgery with a quick recovery period. Besides preventing unwanted pregnancies, neutering a male will help mitigate certain problem behavior found in unneutered males, and it will help prevent certain medical conditions too. It will not take away his personality or his “manhood.” 

  • Neutered cats are less likely to spray strong urine. 
  • Neutered cats will lose the urge to fight. 
  • Neutered cats will be less likely to try to escape. 
  • Neutered cats will be less likely to contract diseases such as FeLV and FIV. 
  • Neutered cats will not be subjected to testicular cancer. 
  • Neutered cats will not likely develop “stud tail,” caused by overactive glands in the tail. 
  • Neutered cats have a decreased risk of mammary cancer. 
  • Neutered cats are less allergenic. 

MICROCHIPPING 

Even the most experienced and diligent pet owner is at risk for losing their cat. While collars and tags are important and certainly beneficial when worn by your pet, they subject to breaking, fading, becoming scratched, and even falling off. If this occurs, there is no way to determine to whom your cat belongs. Microchipping is a permanent means of identification, and the best possible way of bringing your lost or stolen friend back to you. A microchip is a rice-grain sized electronic chip enclosed in a glass case that is injected under the skin of your cat using a hypodermic needle. If your cat is ever lost and brought to a veterinary hospital or shelter, one of the first procedures performed is to scan for a microchip. Though no one wants to suffer the heartbreak of losing a pet, microchipping helps to create a happy reunion. 

LITTERBOX TRAINING

  • Litter boxes: It’s a good idea to have one more litter box than the number of cats who will be using them, so if this is your first cat, you’ll want to start with two. Place them in areas that are easy to get to while offering privacy. If they’re too exposed, your kitty might not feel safe enough to use them.
  • Kitty litter: You’ll find a lot of options, ranging from inexpensive non-clumping clay litter to high-end, eco-friendly options made from materials such as pine pellets, recycled newspaper and even wheat. While many cats aren’t very picky about what type of litter you use, some cats are very particular and won’t use litter if they object to the texture or smell. Your best bet is to start with a standard, unscented clumping litter, and then if you want to use something else you can experiment once your kitty’s fully litter trained.
  • Treats and toys: When you see your furry bundle of joy using her box, reward him/her with a cat treat or a piece of her dry cat food. You can also use toys and praise to help create positive associations with using the litter box. Eventually, you’ll need to wean him/her off of expecting a food-related treat every time he/she uses the box.

Follow these steps for how to litter train a kitten:

  • Show him/her the boxes as soon as he/she arrives by setting her in them and letting him/her sniff and examine them. Be sure not to move the boxes once you’ve shown them to him/her, to avoid confusing him/her.
  • Set your cat in one of the boxes immediately following meals and after he/she wakes up from naps. If you notice him/her behaving like she needs to go, which might look like sniffing or crouching in a particular area, pick her up and put him/her in her litter box.
  • Reward him/her whenever you notice her using it. Praise him/her and give him/her a treat or a toy.


https://www.hillspet.com/cat-care/training/how-to-litter-box-train-a-kitten

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/litter-box-problems


DIET RECOMMENDATIONS:

Here are the diets that we as a clinic feed our own pets:

Royal Canin, Science Diet, Purina ProPlan, iVet

We recommend feeding kitten food up to a year of age.


Additional resources:

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cats-and-babies

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare

https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics

Kitten Schedule
8 Weeks

Feline Distemper (1 of 3)

  • FeLV/FIV test
  • Fecal Sample/deworming
  • Start monthly 
12 Weeks
  • Feline Distemper (2 of 3)
  • Feline Leukemia (1 of 2)
  • Fecal/deworming
  • Revolution
16 Weeks
  • Feline Distemper (3 of 3)
  • Feline Leukemia (2 of 2)
  • Rabies
  • Revolution 
    • continue once monthly
After the kitten vaccine series is completed FeLV vaccine is only recommended for cats that will be going outside or exposed to other cats

6 months

  • Spay or neuter


Managing Your Kitten’s Rough Play

Play-motivated aggressive behaviors are common in young, active cats less than two years of age, and in cats that live in one-cat households. When cats play they incorporate a variety of behaviors into their play, such as exploratory, investigative and predatory behaviors. Play provides young cats with opportunities to practice skills they would normally need for survival. Kittens like to explore new areas and investigate anything that moves, and may bat at, pounce on, and bite objects that resemble prey. Kittens learn how to inhibit their bite from their littermates and their mother. A kitten that is separated from her family too early may play more roughly than a kitten that has had more valuable family time. In addition, if humans play with a young kitten using their hands and/or feet instead of toys, the kitten is liable to learn that rough play with people is okay. In most cases, it’s possible to teach your kitten or young adult cat that rough play isn’t acceptable behavior. 

Encourage Acceptable Behavior 

Redirect your kitten’s aggressive behavior onto acceptable objects like toys. Drag a toy along the floor to encourage your kitten to pounce on it or throw a toy away from your kitten to give her even more exercise chasing the toy down. Some kittens will even bring the toy back to be thrown again! Another good toy is one that your kitten can wrestle with, like a soft stuffed toy that’s about the size of your kitten, so they can grab it with both front feet, bite it, and kick it with her back feet. This is one of the ways kittens play with each other, especially when they’re young. It’s also one of the ways they try to play with human feet and hands, so it’s important to provide this type of alternative play target. Encourage play with a “wrestling toy” by rubbing it against your kitten’s belly when they want to play roughly – be sure to get your hand out of the way as soon as they accept the toy. Since kittens need a lot of playtime, try to set up three or four consistent times during the day to initiate play with your kitten. This will help her understand that they don’t have to be the one to initiate play by pouncing on you. 

Discourage Unacceptable Behavior 

You need to set the rules for your kitten’s behavior, and every person your cat comes in contact with should reinforce these rules. Your kitten can’t be expected to learn that it’s okay to play rough with Dad, but not with the baby. 

  • Use aversives to discourage your kitten from nipping. You can either use a squirt bottle filled with water and a small amount of vinegar or a can of pressurized air to squirt your kitten with when they becomes too rough. To use this technique effectively, you’ll always need to have the spray bottle or can handy. You can either place one in each room, or carry one with you as you move around the house. In some cases, you may want to apply taste aversives to your hands. If you have sensitive skin you may want to wear gloves and put the aversive on the gloves. The possible disadvantage to this method is that your kitten may learn that “hands with gloves taste bad and those without gloves don’t.” For more information on aversives, see our handout: “Aversives for Cats.” Remember that aversives will work only if you offer your kitten acceptable alternatives. 
  • Redirect the behavior after using the aversive. After you startle your kitten with the aversive, IMMEDIATELY offer her a toy to wrestle with or to chase. This will encourage her to direct her rough play onto a toy instead of a person. We recommend that you keep a stash of toys hidden in each room specifically for this purpose. 
  • Withdraw attention when your kitten starts to play too roughly. If the distraction and redirection techniques don’t seem to be working, the most drastic thing you can do to discourage your cat from her rough play is to withdraw all attention when they start playing too roughly. They want to play with you, so eventually they’ll figure out how far they can go if you keep this limit consistent. The best way to withdraw your attention is to walk away to another room, and close the door long enough for her to calm down. If you pick them up to put her in another room, then you’re rewarding them by touching them. You should be the one to leave the room. Please Note: None of these methods will be very effective unless you also give your kitten acceptable outlets for her energy, by playing with her regularly using appropriate toys. 

What Not To Do 

  • Attempts to tap, flick or hit your kitten for rough play are almost guaranteed to backfire. Your kitten could become afraid of your hands, or they could interpret those flicks as playful moves by you and play even more roughly as a result. 
  • Picking up your kitten to put it into a “timeout” could reinforce it’s behavior because it probably enjoys the physical contact of being picked up. By the time you get it to the timeout room and close the door, it has probably already forgotten what it did to be put in that situation.

Aggression

Kittens can bite or scratch through the skin. In these cases it’s best to seek help from a behavior specialist to work with your kitten’s behavior. Be sure to keep your kitten confined until you can get professional help. Also, be sure to thoroughly clean all bites and scratches and consult your physician, as cat scratches and bites can easily become infected.

Prevent Accidental Poisonings

Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you think your pet has ingested a toxin.

  • Have you taken inventory of your medicine cabinets lately? Are you properly storing lawn and garden pesticide containers? When you tidy up around the house, do you put food, liquor, and tobacco products safely out of harm’s way? These precautions are second nature to households with children, but homes with animals must be just as secure. Never assume that a human drug is applicable to an animal unless a veterinarian instructs you to use it. 

Aspirin and other pain relievers are in almost every home, and these poisonings can be severe. When aspirin is prescribed for animals, the dosage must be strictly followed. Too much aspirin can lead to anemia and bleeding stomach ulcers. Ibuprofen and naproxen will cause painful gastrointestinal problems. 

Never give acetaminophen (Tylenol) to a cat. The drug affects cat’s oxygen carriage in the blood and it produces severe depression. If not quickly eliminated from the body, just two extrastrength tablets in 24 hours will mostly likely kill a small pet. Clinical signs in cats develop within one to two hours and include excessive salivation, paw and facial swelling, depression, and ash-grey gums. High doses are usually fatal. 

Neurological poisons can also be present in lawn and garden pesticides, insecticidal aerosols, dips and shampoo products. Signs of toxicity include apprehension, excessive salivation, urination, defecation, vomiting and diarrhea, tremors, seizures, hyper-excitability or depression and pinpoint pupils. If an animal has absorbed enough of any enough of any neurological toxin, sudden death may be the only sign. 

Coumarins/Coumadins, most recognizable as D-Con, a rat and mouse poison, affect the ability of the blood to clot. Mice that consume the poisoned grain essentially bleed to death. Your pets will be affected the same way, and the severity of the symptoms often depends on the amount ingested. Cats that eat poisoned mice can also become ill if the levels of poison are high enough. If you find an empty box of rat poison bring your pet into the veterinarian immediately. Tell them about the recent exposure so they can implement the proper monitoring protocols. Additionally, if you see labored breathing, anorexia, nosebleeds, bloody urine or feces and pinpoint hemorrhages on the gums, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. 

Garbage, though often not regarded as poisonous, contains toxins that are produced by bacteria fermenting the garbage. Rapid and severe signs include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, painful abdominal distention, shivering, shock, and collapse. How should pets be protected from these poisons? Some very simple rules to follow are: 

Properly dispose of and store all pesticide containers up and out of sight of your pets. Make sure the lids are tight and the containers are undamaged. 

    • Use cords or locking lids for garbage cans. Put them in a heavy frame to prevent knock-down. 
    • Keep pets off lawns sprayed with chemicals. Consult with the lawn care company for proper information on drying time and compounds used. Wash pets’ feet with mild soap and water if exposed. 
    • Keep your pets out of vegetable and flower gardens. 
    • Encase compost piles or use commercially made containers. 

What is poisonous? Here is a quick reference guide to the more common house and garden plants and foods that are toxic to most all animals and children. If you have these plants or foods, you need not dispose of them—just keep them away from pets and children. (*Substances are especially dangerous and can be fatal.) If you suspect your animal may have ingested any of the substances on this list or if your pet shows any abnormal behavior (vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, etc), you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Take a sample of the suspected toxin and its packaging with you to the veterinarian.