4 Tips for Traveling with Your Pet

4 Tips for Traveling with Your Pet

Summer is a wonderful time to pack a bag and set out on an adventure by yourself or with a loved one. For many people, their go-to travel buddy is their dog, cat, or other beloved pet. Whether you’re flying or taking a road trip to a fun destination with your furry friend, planning a trip involving your pet requires research and preparation to ensure your animal gets the care it needs during your vacation. Continue reading to learn four tips for traveling with your pet.

A brown dog in a carrier on a train with his owner

Secure Your Pet

If traveling with your pet conjures up images of them riding shotgun with their head hanging out the window and ears flapping in the wind, you might want to rethink that idea. One of the most important aspects of traveling with your pet is making sure they are safely secured in a carrier or on a special harness, depending on their size.

Securing your pet will keep both of you safe by preventing driver distraction, injuries, and the chance of escape if an accident occurs. Also, make sure that your pet has a collar and ID tag with your name and phone number so people can contact you in case they are temporarily separated from you during the vacation.

Make Frequent Stops

Traveling requires intermittent stops to use the bathroom, stretch your legs, and drink water, and the same goes for your pet. Before you leave for your vacation, map out pet-friendly rest stops with lots of space for your pet to burn off extra energy, and be sure to bring along some food, a water bowl, and a waste scoop. If you have a dog, pack extra doggy bags in case there are not any available at the rest stop to keep the area clean for other guests.

Most importantly, never leave your pet alone in the car – even for a few minutes with the window open. Your car can overheat or freeze faster than you think and endanger your pet’s life. If you are traveling alone with your pet, plan out locations that allow your pet to come with you.

Follow the Rules

Airlines, trains, hotels, and other travel accommodations have special rules regarding pets, so it’s important to do your research beforehand so you know what equipment and documents to bring, if applicable. For example, if you plan on flying with your pet, you may have to pre-arrange your travel with the airline, as they typically regulate how many and what size pets can travel in the cabin.

You may also have to show a health certificate and proof of vaccinations and potentially purchase a pet carrier in a specific size with soft sides. Check with your airline or hotel for the exact rules and potential pet fees.

A veterinarian and vet assistant examine a white Boxer dog in a pet clinic

Keep Pets Relaxed and Protected

Travel can be stressful for some pets, especially if they associate car rides with trips to the vet. This may require calming medications to keep them calm and comfortable if they suffer from travel anxiety and carsickness. You may also want to schedule an appointment with our team to assess your pet’s needs and determine what medications they should take, if any. We can also confirm that they are up to date on their vaccinations and heartworm, flea, and tick medications.

If you will be traveling with your pet soon, we would be happy to help you with any questions to ensure your vacation is enjoyable for everyone involved! Contact us today at 701-757-3500.

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Pet Pain – Why Animals Hide It and What You Can Do to Help

Pet Pain – Why Animals Hide It and What You Can Do to Help

Would you know if your pet was in pain? Most of us would like to think so, but sometimes pets are exceptionally good at hiding their discomfort. Apparent signs of illness such as bloody stool, seizures or extreme weight loss are more obvious, but some are so subtle they can be unnoticed by their human counterpart.

While annual wellness visits help vets detect physical abnormalities or potential health risks, we must rely heavily on our patient’s owners when it comes to behavioral changes that could indicate your pet is experiencing pain.

Additionally, if you notice something is off with your pet, time is of the essence. This is especially true for small pocket pets such as guinea pigs, mice and rabbits whose illnesses can progress extremely fast.

Cat laying down in pain

Why do pets hide pain?

Even though they sense and process pain similarly to humans, hiding pain is a behavior animals developed long ago in the evolutionary process. This was necessary to protect themselves from predators during times of injury or sickness. Even though they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years, this adaptive advantage has remained ingrained in our pets to this day.

Plus, pets love to please their humans. Dogs have been known to fracture their pelvis and still get up eagerly to greet their owner with loving affection, making it hard for us to tell whether or not they are actually in pain.

Why it’s important to treat:

Despite the obvious reason of not wanting your pet to be in pain, it’s extremely important that their pain is managed and treated in order to improve their recovery process, whether it’s from illness, surgery or injury. Treating your pet’s pain will relieve them of stress, increasing their well-being, and help them live a longer, healthier life.

How can I tell if my pet is in pain?

When our pets are in pain, the signs they show tend to be very subtle and more behavior-related. This requires owners to be very observant of their pet’s daily activities and to monitor any changes to discuss with their vet.

Bird hanging head down in discomfort

Here are some common signs to look for:

  • Decreased Activity – Much like humans, when pets experience pain, they tend to decrease their level of activity and overall zest for life or play. This goes for all pets of all sizes, from cats and dogs to birds and gerbils.
  • Decreased Appetite – ­also true for pets of all shapes and sizes, if eating is significantly decreased or stopped altogether, you should visit your vet. Chronic mouth pain or dental disease in pets can be a cause of this.
  • Difficulty Standing After Lying Down – If your pet is slower to get up from a nap or cuddle session, this could be an early sign of osteoarthritis, which can be painful for dogs and cats.
  • Not Going Up or Down Stairs – Used to seeing your pet hop up the stairs with no problem? If you notice a change in the way they climb stairs, or lack thereof, this could be a sign they are experiencing joint pain or have an existing injury keeping them from their usual spryness.
  • Grooming and Appearance – Notice your pet excessively grooming a particular area? This could be a sign of referred pain, which is pain they feel in a part of their body that is actually different from its true source. Coats, feathers and skin can also show subtle signs indicating illness. Birds’ feathers get ruffled, pets like hamsters and rats experience a coarser coat and reptiles’ skin can become dull.
  • Posture and Stance – Smaller pets like birds and rabbits will frequently tilt or hang their head when they are sick. Additionally, birds tend to hang out at the bottom of their cage or on lower perches or stand in a huddled position when they are not feeling well.
  • Reluctant to Jump Up onto Surfaces – Especially true for cats who tend to like being higher up, the reluctance to jump up on their usual surfaces could be a sign that they are experiencing pain.
Beagle laying down because of pain

Every Pet is Different

An important piece to remember is that every animal is different. From cats and dogs to different breeds and circumstances, each pet’s body and potential pain experiences are unique. The best way to decipher if your pet may be in pain is the keen observation of signs or symptoms, and detailed tracking of any behavioral changes.

If your pet is acting differently or you suspect they are in pain, set up an appointment with your vet right away to discuss your concerns. For more information on pet pain and what you can do to care for your animal, give us a call today at 701.757.3500.


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Feline Wellness Protocol: Cat Vaccinations and Schedule

Feline Wellness Protocol: Cat Vaccinations and Schedule

Whether you’re a first-time kitten owner or a seasoned pet owner, staying on top of your vaccination and wellness routines can be challenging but is extremely important. We’re here to help make it as easy as possible for you and your pet.

Keeping your pet healthy is our priority at Grand Valley Animal Hospital. The feline vaccination and wellness protocol we recommend helps to prevent life-threatening illnesses and provide the care needed to monitor your pet’s health throughout their lifetime.

In this blog, we will review core and non-core vaccines – how they differ, which ones your pet needs and when.

Kitten standing on white counter looking up.

Feline Core & Non-core Vaccines

Animal vaccinations are divided into two categories, core and non-core. Let’s start by reviewing the difference between the two and which are included in our standard feline wellness protocol.

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are vaccinations that all cats should receive to prevent life-threatening illness, regardless if they are indoor, outdoor or what their lifestyle is like.


What is it and why does my cat need it?

Feline FVRCP is a three-in-one vaccination that combines the following vaccines into one single shot to prevent these diseases, making administration by your vet more efficient and therefore less stressful for your pet:

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR): Can lead to serious upper respiratory disease and include symptoms such as oral ulcers and pneumonia.

Feline Calicivirus (C): Also causes upper respiratory disease as well as chronic stomatitis, pneumonia and lameness.

Feline Panleukopenia (P): Also known as feline parvovirus, this highly infectious virus can cause vomiting, severe diarrhea, fever and anorexia in your cat.

When will my cat need it?

First given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, the Feline FVRCP vaccine will need to be boosted initially after 1 year and then will be effective for 3 years.


What is it and why does my cat need it?

One of the leading causes of death in cats is the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Infected felines experience a suppressed immune system which predisposes them to infections and causes a plethora of symptoms such as yellow color in fever, diarrhea, mouth and eyes, bladder, skin or upper respiratory infections, weight loss, progressive weakness and lethargy and more.

When will my cat need it?

The FeLV vaccine is first given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age and will then need to be boosted on an annual basis.


What is it and why does my cat need it?

Rabies in animals is a dangerous and mostly fatal disease that is transmitted by infected animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes through bites, scratches, abrasions or open wounds. Even if your cat stays indoors, they can still be at risk for contracting the disease and are required to be vaccinated for rabies by law.

When will my cat need it?

First given at 16 weeks of age, the Feline Rabies vaccine will need to be boosted initially after 1 year and then will be effective for 3 years.

Woman’s and and cat’s paw giving a high five.
Tabby cat sits outside on wooden fence with eyes closed.

Non-Core Vaccines

Non-core vaccines are what we call ‘lifestyle’ vaccines. Depending on the lifestyle of your pet, you and your vet can work together to determine if they are necessary for your cat to keep them healthy.

Chlamydophila felis

What is it and why does my cat need it?

Although cats of all ages can be infected, Chlamydophilia felis is a type of bacteria most commonly found in young kittens. The bacteria can cause cats to develop chronic conjunctivitis, an infection and inflammation of the mucus membranes that cover the front of the eye and lines the inside of eyelids, and can also cause symptoms of sneezing, discharge, fever, lethargy and lack of appetite.

When will my cat need it?

The initial vaccine must be boosted after 4 weeks, and then will be given annually thereafter.

Cat Vaccination Schedule
8 Weeks
12 Weeks
16 Weeks
1- & 3-Year*
Chlamydophila felis
Chlamydophila felis
Chlamydophila felis

* Vaccine will need to be initially boosted after 1 year, and then every 3 years.

In addition to vaccination protocols, we also highly recommend a routine of preventatives to ensure optimal health in your feline companion. Important for our region is flea and tick prevention medication as well as your regular annual screenings which include:

Wellness Exams: comprehensive physical exams each year

Fecal Screening: annual inspection of fecal matter to check for internal parasites

To learn more about your cat’s recommended vaccination protocol and overall wellness routine, visit our resources page for additional info or give us a call to discuss and set up your necessary appointments at 701.757.3500.

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5 Fun Ways to Keep Your Cat Fit

5 Fun Ways to Keep Your Cat Fit

In addition to vaccinations, annual wellness exams, and regular dental care, an important part of keeping your feline friend healthy is daily exercise.

Did you know cats sleep for 70% of their lives? This tendency to lounge is very common among the cat community but is only a part of the reason that nearly 60% of cats are obese. Food and feeding habits are a big culprit, but so is a lack of dedicated playtime.

Cat laying on floor playing with mouse toy.

Cats need to jump, chase, climb and run to stay healthy and fit. Some of the key reasons these types of exercise are vital for your cat include:

  • Maintaining healthy body weight
  • Toning and strengthening muscles
  • Keeping their mind active
  • Creating a bond between cat and owner

Exercise and playtime around 10-15 minutes once or twice a day is recommended, but remember, cats are committed to their sleep time, so if they get 10 minutes of playtime in each day, that’s great!

Here are five great ways to get your cat fit, healthy, and more active.

1. Indoor hunting

Hiding bits of kibble around the house for a little indoor scavenger hunt is a great way to get your kitty on the prowl and prevent them from eating too quickly, while also turning mealtime into an exercise that activates their mind.

2. Toys

Toys are an excellent way to engage your cat, and they come in tons of options from laser pointers, bird-like feather floor and wand designs to furry fake mice, electronics, and the classic string. Every cat is a little different, so if your pet doesn’t love one toy, try something different to see what piques their interest.

Keep in mind that cats are hunters, so when you are playing with them and their toys, try to mimic the animal they may be hunting. A mouse toy should scamper across the floor, while a wand toy with feathers at the end should fly, land and take off much like a bird. Your cat will be more interested in chasing the potential prey – so make it fun!

Kitten playing with ribbon.

3. Agility training

Most people think agility training is just for dogs, but some cats enjoy agility training too! Check out this video for some ideas on how to use agility training to get your cat moving:

4. Try out the leash

Another great option to try for exercise and stimulation is training your cat to walk on a leash. When it comes to the leash, cats are very different than dogs. Some cats do great on a leash and others take a little more time to adapt. Don’t expect your cat to “take a walk” the way a dog might; they prefer to do more exploration. But leash training provides mental stimulation and a safe time outdoors, as well as getting a little exercise.


5. Schedule bonding playtime

Some of these activities require your assistance while others can be a solitary exercise for your cat, but there is nothing that can replace the bonding time you and your cat can get from dedicated playtime between the two of you. Scheduling once or twice a day to get down on the floor and genuinely play with your cat can create a strong connection that benefits both of you.

Cat reaching for brush as owner holds it overhead.

Bringing it all together

Incorporating these fun activities into your cat’s daily routine can greatly improve their health and help them live a longer, happier life. It’s important to remember that while exercising is vital, it is only one part of a well-rounded pet wellness plan. If your cat is not eating right, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle, so make sure they have the proper feeding schedule and nutrition they need to maintain a healthy weight.

Our team of pet professionals at Grand Valley Animal Hospital are here to discuss all of your cat’s physical activity and diet needs. To schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians, give us a call at 701.757.3500.

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