The Birds, the Bees, and Spaying or Neutering your Pet

The Birds, the Bees, and Spaying or Neutering your Pet

If you’ve ever thought about adding a pet to your family, spaying or neutering should definitely be on your to-do list. During this procedure, reproductive organs are removed from your pet to prevent reproduction, disease, and behavior issues.  The following information will let you know why spaying or neutering is vital for both you and your pet’s health and happiness.

Brown striped cat relaxing with head on its white dipped paws

Preventing Overpopulation

While millions of pets are born happy and healthy every year, sadly many others are also abandoned or surrendered to shelters, where only a small percent are adopted. The largest contributing factor to this overpopulation issue is the failure to spay and neuter pets. Many are the offspring of abandoned animals whose owners moved, could no longer care for them, or lacked research and information before making the commitment to become a pet parent.  Luckily, by educating ourselves on both the dedication to adopting a pet and the importance of spaying and neutering, we can do our part to help control the overpopulation of domesticated animals.

Spaying and neutering is the responsibility of every pet owner, and unless there is a medical condition present or you are a reputable breeder, it should always be taken into account and planned for when bringing home a pet. If you are hesitant about sterilizing your pet because you may be interested in breeding, make sure you do your due diligence in research. Responsible breeding is not easy, and it takes an owner who has patience, knowledge of newborn training, and funds for all of the veterinary care and vaccinations required pre- and post-birth.

It’s Healthier for Your Pet

As caring pet parents, we strive to keep our pets as happy and healthy as possible, and spaying/neutering provides both behavior and health benefits to help you do just that. Not only does it provide the benefits below, but it also has been proven to extend canine lifespan by one to three years and feline lifespans for three to five – the procedure is worth it to love your furry friend that much longer!

Health and Behavior Benefits of Spaying & Neutering Your Pet

  • Decreases risk of mammary gland tumors, prostate disease, and ovarian, uterine and testicular cancer
  • Reduces desire to roam, therefore less likely to go missing or become injured in fights and auto accidents
  • Decreases aggressive and destructive behaviors, including biting, scratching, marking, digging, and reactivity

More Opportunities for You and Your Pet

Another often-overlooked benefit of sterilizing your pet is the advantages it offers for pet owners. If you would like to send your pets to daycare or to be boarded at some point during their life, sterilization is required by most facilities – and in situations where it is not required, your pet will likely have to be kept separate from other pets in order to prevent pregnancy. It is also an unspoken rule that pets taken to public places where other pets are present, such as dog parks, should be spayed/neutered. If you are a renter, be aware that some landlords require pets to be sterilized and up to date on all vaccinations to live in their rental properties. Having your pet spayed/neutered makes pet ownership life easier and more practical.

Two dogs run on bridge with large green rope toy.
A sleepy cat lays on its back while a person pets its face.

Getting Your Pet Spayed/Neutered

Pre-surgery: Always choose a reputable veterinarian to perform the surgery on your pet; this tends to be a routine surgery for most veterinarians, but they will be able to best handle complications should the need arise. You’ll typically want to have the surgery performed at around the age of 6 months for most pets, and soon after adoption of older pets, but your vet may have different advice for pets with certain conditions; talk to them to get an expert opinion on when to do the surgery.


Post-surgery: your veterinarian will recommend a pain management system and care plan for your pet. Never give your pet human pain medication, which can be fatal. If you feel like your pet needs stronger pain medication or unstoppable bleeding occurs, contact your vet immediately. Most vets will use stitches that dissolve on their own on the incision site, but if non-dissolvable sutures are used or the stitches do not dissolve within 10-14 days, plan for a follow-up visit for your vet to remove them.

Now that you know the basics on why to spay/neuter your pet and what to expect, it’s time to talk to your vet! Contact us if you have any questions about the procedure or would like to schedule an appointment at 701.757.3500.

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The Basics of Bird Care

The Basics of Bird Care

Looking for an outgoing, quirky, lifelong friend that is the life of the party but also a great listener? Then you may want to consider coming home to a pet bird! From their low-maintenance lifestyle to their intelligence, calling a bird your companion can chase away loneliness and mean a friend for life.

Learn all about the basic needs and care of birds for those who are interested in adding a feathery friend to their nest!

Finding the Right Bird for You

Just like any other pet, it is important to select a breed of bird based on your lifestyle and living arrangements. Are you a first-time bird owner? Then you may want a low-maintenance and easy-to-care-for parakeet. If you live in an apartment and prefer not to receive multiple noise complaints, a green-cheeked conure may be the bird for you. If you want a true lifelong friend, some breeds of birds, such as the macaw, can live up to 80 years!

Make sure to take the time to do your research when choosing a breed to own. Also, consider your environment; while most healthy birds can tolerate temperatures that are comfortable for their owners, sudden changes in temperature and humidity can spell potential threats to your feathery friends. Birds also love fresh air and sunlight, but like any other animal, they need to be closely monitored while exposed to the outdoors.

Giving Your Bird The Perfect Home

Another extremely important part of being a bird owner is choosing and setting up a cage. If your bird will be confined most of the time, make sure to get the largest cage that your home can accommodate. The cage will need to be wider and taller than your bird, to accommodate stretched wings and long tail feathers, and should be made of a non-toxic material that resists being able to be dismantled by your bird and that is easy to clean. You will also want to make sure the cage contains multiple clean, easily replaceable perches that are the appropriate size based on breed to exercise your bird’s feet and keep them healthy.

Food and water dishes are a necessity, along with safe toys made specifically for birds to promote exercise, mental stimulation, and beak wear. Additionally, it is important to clean droppings from your bird’s cage at least once a week if you use a lining such as newspaper, and more often if there is no lining. If you choose to cover your bird’s cage at night, use a single-layer, lightweight, breathable fabric and only cover three sides to allow for proper ventilation.

Green and yellow parakeet sits on persons hand.
Pet bird sits on perch in cage.

Feeding Your New Family Member

One of the most important parts of your bird’s care, and the most misunderstood, is what type of food they need to be fed. While birdseed is great for your outdoor feeder, it won’t cut it for an everyday meal if you want your feathery friend to receive proper nutrition. We recommend a diet of bird pellets in order to provide a balanced diet. This can be supplemented with seed treats and bird-safe fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, bananas, corn, broccoli, and carrots. Avoid fruit seeds, houseplants, alcohol, and tobacco products, which are unhealthy and toxic to birds.

Veterinary Care For Your Bird

Proper grooming and veterinary care are where we can help. We have a special interest in birds unique to the region and can do anything from wing, beak, and nail trims to bone repair, surgery, and treating egg-bound birds. While birds make wonderful pets, it is important to realize that like other prey animals, they hide sickness well. If you notice that your bird is acting abnormally, such as sitting on the bottom of the cage, ruffling feathers consistently, trembling, or any of these symptoms, it is extremely important to bring them to your veterinarian sooner rather than later.

To visit with our vets about whether a pet bird is right for you, or to bring your current bird in for a checkup, call 701.757.3500 and request an appointment today.

Green parakeet eats bird food.
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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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Pet Emergencies & First Aid Preparedness

Pet Emergencies & First Aid Preparedness

In a pet emergency, those first few minutes are crucial and may require advanced care and know-how on your part to protect your pet and maybe even keep them alive.

Let’s review what classifies as a pet emergency and some first aid preparedness tips you should know for before you call the vet.

Pet Emergencies that Require Immediate Veterinary Consultation or Care

What constitutes a pet emergency that needs immediate veterinary attention? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, here are 13 pet emergencies that you should call your vet or animal urgent care provider about immediately:

  • Severe bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop within five minutes
  • Choking, difficulty breathing or nonstop coughing and gagging
  • Bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum, coughing up blood, or blood in urine
  • Inability to urinate or pass feces (stool), or obvious pain associated with urinating or passing stool
  • Injuries to your pet’s eye(s)
  • You suspect or know your pet has eaten something poisonous (such as antifreeze, xylitol, chocolate, rodent poison, etc.)
  • Seizures and/or staggering
  • Fractured bones, severe lameness or inability to move leg(s)
  • Obvious signs of pain or extreme anxiety
  • Heat stress or heatstroke
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea – more than two episodes in a 24-hour period, or either of these combined with obvious illness or any of the other problems listed here
  • Refusal to drink for 24 hours or more
  • Unconsciousness

If your pet is experiencing any of these life-threatening emergencies, call us immediately at 701-757-3500. If this happens to your pet between 10 PM and 7 AM daily, please call our after-hours referral, Red River Animal Emergency Hospital & Referral Center located in Fargo, ND, at 701-478-9299.

Pet First Aid Preparedness

Being prepared for a pet emergency is crucial to keeping your pet safe and helping you stay calm if faced with an urgent health situation. Here are some tools to have on hand and some common urgent care situations to educate yourself on to help keep your pet safe.

Pet First Aid Emergency Kit

Having an emergency first aid kit in your home is not just for humans. Keep an emergency first aid kit handy for your pet’s specific needs separately, too, so that you have everything you need in case of an emergency.

Pet First Aid Emergency Kit

Toxins and Poisons

When it comes to poisons and your pet, a good rule of thumb is that if it is hazardous to you, it is also toxic to your pet. However, there are also plenty of human-safe foods and products that are poisonous to your pets, including chocolate, lilies, grapes, Xylitol (found in peanut butter), and these common household items and plants.

If your pet’s eyes have been exposed to a toxin and the label tells you to flush them with water, do this as soon as possible. If their skin has been affected, the label may say to wash with soap and water, and this should be done with pet-safe soap as quickly as possible, while avoiding getting soap into your pet’s eyes, mouth, or nose.

Consuming poisonous substances can be very harmful to your pet and may cause:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing

If your pet has experienced any of these symptoms, call us at 701-757-3500 or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435 right away.


Seizures can be very traumatic for both you and your pet, but it is important to remain calm and keep pets away from anything that may hurt them while they are seizing. Do not try to restrain your pet, as this may cause injury to both them and you.


It is helpful to time the seizure and report the length to your veterinarian for diagnosis. Once the seizure has stopped, make sure to keep your pet warm and try to calm them if possible.


If there is external bleeding, use a clean gauze pad or cloth and apply firm pressure to the wound until it starts to clot. This may take several minutes and checking it often will slow the progression, instead hold pressure for a minimum of three minutes before checking for a clot.


If the bleeding is on an extremity, you should apply a makeshift tourniquet first and follow the steps above. Make sure to get your pet to the veterinarian immediately if there is severe bleeding, as this can quickly become life-threatening.


If your pet is showing symptoms of internal bleeding, keep them warm and calm and go to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Internal Bleeding
Heatstroke Symptoms in Pets


During seasons of warmer weather, it is important to monitor your pet extra closely. Never leave your pet in the car on a warm day, and always limit their exposure to direct sunlight.


If your pet shows signs of heatstroke, move them to a cool spot and place a wet, cold towel around their head and neck. Pouring water on their body, paying particular attention to their abdomen and between the hind legs, can help lower their body temperature as well.

Having to administer first aid to your pet can be a trying experience, but as long as you know what to do and remain as calm as possible, it can mean the difference between life and death.


No matter what you do, immediately visit your veterinarian as soon as you are able to after administering first aid. Call us if you have an emergency at 701-757-3500, or our after-hours and extensive emergency referral in Fargo, Red River Animal Emergency Hospital & Referral Center, at 701-478-9299.

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How to Protect Your Pet from Heatstroke

How to Protect Your Pet from Heatstroke

We all know that during this time of year the temperature can get much hotter than what we are used to. When we are playing and having fun outside, we forget that our pets are more susceptible to dehydration, overheating, and heatstroke than we are.

Heat-related illnesses should be taken seriously; it’s crucial to be informed on how easily our pets can get overheated, how to prevent heatstroke, and how to take action if your pet is showing symptoms.

Why do cats and dogs overheat?

Dogs and cats can overheat quickly, because they have higher body temperatures than we do and are unable to cool down as efficiently. Their bodies are designed for insulation from the cold and not for cooling down in intense heat.

Did you know, on an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with windows slightly open could reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes, and 120 degrees in 30 minutes? Within a short period of time, our pets can experience severe damage to their brain, heart, liver, and nervous system.

Take a look at this video showing veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward capturing what it’s like for a dog to be trapped in a car for only 30 minutes:

How to Prevent Heatstroke

Practice these safety tips to make sure your pet doesn’t get overheated:

Never leave pets in a parked car

Do not ever leave your pet in a parked car, not even for a minute with the A/C on. Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly. If you see a pet in a parked car, inform the owner or a store attendant immediately. It is also appropriate to call the police or the humane society.

Watch humidity

If the humidity level is too high, pets are unable to cool themselves down and their body temperature will rise to dangerous levels. Ideally you would like to aim for 60% humidity in your home, so be aware of levels that exceed this wherever your dog may be.

Limit outdoor exercise

On hot days, limit exercise to morning or evening hours. Asphalt can get very hot and burn their paws, so walk your pet on the grass when possible.

Water and shade

Whenever your pet is playing outside, make sure there is cold water; even add ice when there’s intense heat and humidity. Also, tree shade and tarps are ideal — not a doghouse; those will not provide relief.

Cool your pet down

Use a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat to help them release heat, or if they don’t mind baths, it’s beneficial to give them a cool soak.

German Shepherd drinks from a stone fountain as owner pets its head

What to Do If Your Pet is Showing Symptoms of Heatstroke

Monitor your pet closely when they are outside. Overheating and heatstroke symptoms include:

  • Deep red or purple tongue
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fever
  • Glazed eyes
  • Heavy panting or trouble breathing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Profuse salivation
  • Paleness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting

If your pet is showing three or more of these symptoms, they may be experiencing heatstroke and you should immediately contact GVAH or the closest veterinary clinic.

If you have questions or concerns about heat-related illnesses, the staff at GVAH is more than happy to assist you. You may stop in, call our office at 701-757-3500, or email us at

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