What to Expect when You’re Expecting to Adopt a Puppy or Kitten

What to Expect when You’re Expecting to Adopt a Puppy or Kitten

You’re getting your very first pet, and it’s beneficial to both you and your new pet to keep some key points in mind as your puppy or kitten grows. Read on to find out more about the different life stages of pets.

Dogs – from Puppy to Adult Dog

At birth, puppies don’t have most of their senses yet – they can’t hear or see, and they don’t regulate their body temperature or eliminate without help. At about two to three weeks puppy first opens his eyes, and he gradually begins to develop his other senses after that. Before you even meet your new pup, your breeder should have already begun introducing smells and noises to him in the first two to three months, which will help him to become socialized as he interacts with littermates, people, and other pets. This is a crucial time in a puppy’s development, and he will depend on you to continue the socialization regimen as well as take on a primary role in his training when you bring him home. 

Tiny puppy cuddling tiny kitten

At what age is your puppy considered an adult? This depends on the type of dog he is. Smaller breeds tend to reach adulthood earlier than large breeds, but in general, the puppy stage can last anywhere from six to 18 months. During this stage, it is especially important to take the time to train him so that proper dog etiquette becomes second nature. Make sure he gets his vaccination shots starting around this time too, and to keep him boosted on schedule as he matures. Depending on your dog’s breed, he reaches senior age at six to ten years, so be prepared to give him some extra TLC at that stage

Cats – from Kitten to Adult Cat

Kitten is only two weeks old when she begins to develop her senses of sight and smell, and about a month old when she picks up many of the familiar behaviors we associate with cats, such as grooming and exploring. In another week she has found her way to the litter box and is well on her way to expressing her independence. Be mindful of this if you take a notion to pick up a kitten for snuggles, as it may take some time and training for her to appreciate it in the way you intend it.

Your cat will go through several stages as she matures. She is a kitten up to six months of age, by which time she should have developed good behavioral habits. Around this age, you’ll want to ask your veterinarian about the various vaccination options available for her.  Cats up to two years old are called “junior” cats and reach prime adulthood around three to six years. When your cat is between the ages of seven and ten years old, she’s mature, and at 11-14, she’s considered a senior cat. It’s not uncommon for cats to live even longer than that, reaching the venerable geriatric stage beginning at age 15. Remember to pay special attention to your cat’s health at her most vulnerable stages, and she should live a long and happy life.

Here at Grand Valley Animal Hospital, we know you want the best care for your pet, for every age and stage. We’re here to help with answers to all your pet care questions. Reach us at (701)757-3500.

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Core Canine Vaccines that Protect Your Dog from 5 Diseases

Core Canine Vaccines that Protect Your Dog from 5 Diseases

Dog ownership carries many responsibilities to ensure your four-legged friend stays happy and healthy. Among feeding, grooming, walking, and training, your dog also needs regular veterinary care to maintain good physical health, and this includes vaccinations against dangerous diseases.

Vaccines for dogs work similarly as those for humans, as they prepare your dog’s immune system to fight harmful viruses that would otherwise cause serious illness or death.

Canine vaccines fall into one of two categories: core and non-core vaccinations. In this blog, we highlight five core canine vaccines – or inoculations that are considered vital for all dogs – and explain why these safe and effective doses are integral for your pet’s well-being.

Rabies Vaccine

As one of the most well-known viruses, rabies presents a serious threat to humans and dogs alike, among many other animals. Rabies is transmitted through high levels of saliva, typically from a bite of an infected animal.

Because there is no treatment for rabies, the disease means almost certain death once the infection has manifested in your dog’s body. However, this can be avoided by immunizing your dog with the rabies vaccine when it is a puppy between 12 and 16 weeks, with booster shots following every one to three years during adulthood.

Vaccine booster schedules vary with city ordinances, so chat with your local veterinarian for a recommended timeline. Our team at Grand Valley Animal Hospital recommends a three-year vaccine through our practice, but it’s extremely important for dog owners to not go even a day over three years without a booster to stay current.

Combination Vaccine

The remaining four diseases discussed in this blog – distemper, hepatitis/adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza – are included in a combination vaccine offered at our clinic. This vaccination includes a series of three shots when your dog is a puppy, another shot when it’s one-year-old, and then a booster every three years to protect your dog from all four of these viruses.

Let’s dive into each of these diseases so you understand the importance of vaccinating your dog against them.

A woman playing with her dog in a grassy field


Canine distemper is a dangerous virus that attacks your dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system when infected. Because it primarily spreads through airborne exposure (like sneezing or coughing), it can spread rapidly through unvaccinated dogs of all ages in close quarters. Even if a dog survives distemper, they may have permanent damage to their vision, nervous system, and teeth.


Another highly contagious disease, canine hepatitis, is passed through items contaminated by urine. If infected with this pathogen, your dog can experience sore throat, coughing, and eventually kidney and liver failure. The onset of symptoms is extremely rapid, and in some cases, death can result only two hours after initial symptoms begin.


Parvovirus is a serious virus that affects all dogs, but unvaccinated puppies under six months are most at risk. Symptoms include severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, dark or bloody feces, and fever. This disease is difficult to treat without veterinary intervention, and if not treated or if the dog is severely infected, the mortality rate is high. It also has lasting effects, as the disease can live on items and places that it touches for up to two years and can only be removed with bleach.


As another threatening virus, parainfluenza causes dry cough, fever, wheezing, difficulty breathing, runny nose, sneezing, pneumonia, reduced appetite, and lethargy, as well as runny and inflamed eyes. Most dogs will recover on their own if infected, but veterinary care is still needed since the disease is extremely contagious. The vaccine does not prevent the spread of the disease, but it will limit the severity of the infection.

A white and brown beagle being examined in a bright, clean veterinary clinic.

At Grand Valley Animal Hospital, we strongly recommend vaccinating your dog with core canine vaccines – and staying on top of booster shots – to protect your furry friend and prevent the spread of these dangerous diseases.

To sum up the vaccination information in this article based on our clinic’s practices, here’s this helpful chart:

Age for First Dose
Booster Timeline
Between 12 – 16 weeks
Every 1 – 3 years
(protects against canine distemper, hepatitis/adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza)
Series of shots as puppies and again at 1 year-old
Every 3 years

Our qualified veterinary staff is ready to provide information on our vaccination protocol and other preventative medicine to keep your canine healthy for years to come. To learn more about us or to schedule an appointment, contact us today at 701-757-3500!

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Service Animals – Are Fake Certifications Harming Others?

Service Animals – Are Fake Certifications Harming Others?

We all love our pets and wish they could always be by our side. Your pet is a sweetheart that wouldn’t hurt a fly and you want to take him everywhere. No harm in that, right?

Just being around them can help improve a person’s physical and mental health such as decrease stress, lower blood pressure and increase socialization. With such amazing benefits, it’s easy to see why some pet owners may be tempted to fudge on some details in order to get their pet certified as a working animal, like an emotional support certification.

When it comes to faking working animal certifications for a pet, can the repercussions have a negative effect on the service animal community as a whole? From harming the legitimacy of disabled people with real service animals and putting businesses in difficult situations to potentially putting your non-service pet in traumatic and stressful settings; it’s clear that the service animal topic is in need of more education to the public.

Background on Working Animals

There are several types of working animals that provide support of some kind to their human handlers:

Service Animals:

  • Service – These animals train for years to help their disabled handler accomplish tasks and goals they would otherwise be unable to do themselves. Because of these necessary services they provide, service dogs are allowed by law to be just about anywhere their human handler goes.
  • Psychiatric – Another kind of official service animal, psychiatric service animals help their handlers deal with mental disabilities such as PTSD, autism, anxiety, and schizophrenia. These types of service animals are entitled to the same rights and access laws nearly everywhere.
Service Dog
Service Dog

Non-Service Animals:

While they all offer help to their human in need in some way, the distinction between emotional support and therapy animals do not meet criteria as service animals like their psychiatric and service counterparts.

  • Emotional Support – The presence of an emotional support animal is what comforts their owners. While they do not have regulated training requirements and are not service animals, the law requires that they are allowed in all housing and airplanes.
  • Therapy – These animals train for years to provide comfort, affection, and interaction to people, but are not official service animals and are not privy to access most public places like their service counterparts.

Working Animals Are Not Pets

An important note on this hot topic is that not one of these types of working animals is a pet. They are an animal that has been trained to provide a service of some kind to a human in need.

While the animal’s handler or owner may have a strong bond and love for their animal, the reason they have the animal is because they need them to perform their daily tasks due to a disability, making the relationship much different than that of a personal pet.

Are fake service animals really harming anyone?

Service animals are extensively trained to go unnoticed in public places. They will not react to others, sniff food, bark (unless trained to notify their handler of danger such as low blood pressure or oncoming seizure) or relieve themselves out of turn. If approached or attacked by another animal, they will not react.

If your animal is not thoroughly trained to these standards, they would be considered untrained or undertrained when you bring them into public places. But your pet is so sweet and well-mannered, that this couldn’t possibly be a problem – right? From handlers and businesses to the service animals themselves, more and more negative repercussions are being experienced by all parties as the problem continues.

Legitimate Handlers

One of the biggest issues with fake service animals is the deterioration of respect and good reputations of those legitimate service animals and disabled handlers.

Now that the number of service or working animals has gone way up, and the documentation to “certify” them is incredibly easy and cheap to obtain from sources with few to no requirements, real service animals and their owners are looked down upon or questioned for their legitimacy.


Businesses can also suffer from people wrongfully bringing in a fake or undertrained service animal. As crazy as it may seem to pet lovers, not everyone likes being around pets and some have serious allergies to them. If your animal is anything short of the high standards set forth by certified service animals, they are not fit to be in public places.

Many businesses fear the threat of being sued for questioning the legitimacy of service animals and so let it slide. But there have been increasingly more reports in the news about untrained or fake service animals disrupting and endangering the cleanliness or well-being of others in public places.

Some companies, such as Delta, have had to set more strict guidelines for allowing service animals on flights because of increasingly problematic situations with fake service dogs. It’s unfair to businesses, but even more so to their legitimately disabled customers, when extensive rules and regulations need to be put into place to ensure the safety of the people using their facilities or services.

Service Animals

There is an abundance of stressors that present themselves to animals when in public. If the animal is not properly selected and trained to be 100% temperamentally sound in the situations that commonly arise, they can experience extreme anxiety and fear, potentially causing them to react in a way that could bother or harm others.

It’s unfair to an animal that has not been rigorously trained to put them in those situations and expect them to handle it without any reaction. Kids will grab at dogs’ ears or strangers will approach an animal incorrectly, the presence of another animal can set them off, loud noises can make pets skittish – all of these extremely common occurrences act as stressors that can make an animal react in ways they normally would not. Some reactions, if harmful enough, could even result in the animal’s euthanasia.

Service Dog

While having your pet by your side everywhere you go may be your dream, it’s essential to the well-being of the public, your pet, and the legitimately disabled service teams that you educate yourself on how this could negatively affect them. If you have questions about this topic, our Grand Valley Animal Hospital team is happy to help point you in the right direction. Give us a call 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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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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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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