Pet Safety for the Cold Weather Blues

Pet Safety for the Cold Weather Blues

When the snow is falling along with the temperature, that combination can bring problems that those of us in cold-weather climates know all too well. Your furry friends are no exception. When the cold winds blow, follow some of these top tips to keep your pet safe in the winter, even when it is snowing cats and dogs outside.

Frolic and Play the Safest Way

When the cold winds come knocking, it is best to be prepared. While some pets love playing in the snow, others are more content to stay curled up by the fireplace. Know your pet’s limits and always monitor them while they spend time outside.

Boy and dog walking outside in winter.

If you’re wondering how cold is too cold for your pet, use this handy chart as a reference. It is important to remember that if your pet is left outside in harsh conditions for too long, they are prone to become hypothermic or develop frostbite. If your dog has a thick undercoat and is a breed built for cold weather, such as the Siberian Husky or Malamute, they still need a well-insulated dog house and a high-fat, high-protein performance diet to be able to tolerate the cold. Even then, they should be inside during the bitter cold and at night.

Don’t forget about winter wardrobe; if you need a special winter coat, your furry friend may need one as well, especially if they are a small or shorthaired breed. Booties are also an option to protect your pet’s paws from becoming too cold and being injured by sharp ice and de-icing chemicals.

Whenever your pet comes in from a walk or backyard snow session, make sure to wipe down their feet, legs, and belly, and thoroughly check their paws to remove ice, and chemicals and check for pad injury. Always be vigilant in recognizing problems and making sure that your pet is safe in harsh temperatures.

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Anxiety
  • Looking for warm places to burrow
  • Shivering
  • Slowed or stopped movement
  • Weakness
  • Whining
Cat in snow.

Protection from the Cold

The winter woes don’t affect just your pet; to an outdoor or stray animal, a warm vehicle engine can be a cozy bed for the night, but it can also be deadly. Make sure to check underneath the car, bang the hood, and honk your horn before starting your car each morning, to warn off would-be nesters from your engine.

Winter can also spell trouble in the form of poison, from antifreeze and ice melt salt to hot chocolate. Make sure you clean up messes quickly and never give pets seasonal treats that are potentially toxic.

Winter Wellness

Being from the Midwest, we know that winter weather is the harshest of the year, and extra precautions must be taken when it comes to health and safety.

All pets need a yearly vet visit for a check-up, and making sure yours is up-to-date before the snow falls is essential to address health concerns, especially those that can be aggravated by the change in temperature and staying inside (ahem…hibernation) for the season. For example, pets with arthritis may have flare-ups as the weather changes, and very young or old pets have different needs when it comes to cold tolerance.

Small puppy in snow.

Another thing to consider is food and exercise changes for your pet. It’s tempting to think that gaining some winter weight can provide added insulation from the cold, but the truth is extra weight can be detrimental to their health and is not worth the risk. While it is a good idea to change your pet’s food in the winter for added generation of body heat and energy if they spend a lot of time outdoors, consult with an expert before making the transition.

Also, the extra time indoors can be a problem when it comes to pets at risk for obesity. If your pet is at risk, talk to your veterinarian about a diet and exercise plan that will work for the lifestyle changes that winter brings.

The winter wonderland outside can be both magical and menacing, but we want to keep the winter blues away for both you and your furry friend; if you notice any signs of hypothermia or frostbite, it is essential to contact a veterinarian right away. We’re here to help – contact us 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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Certified Vet Technician/Veterinary Assistant Position Available

Certified Vet Technician/Veterinary Assistant Position Available

Dr. Darin Meulebroeck uses a stethoscope on pregnant French Bulldog

Available Position:

Certified Vet Technician/Vet Assistant

Grand Valley Animal Hospital is looking to expand our team! A hospital with rapid growth, we are located in Grand Forks, ND, and open Monday—Friday from 8AM to 5PM. We are looking to add a Full-Time Certified Vet Technician or Vet Assistant to our animal hospital.

Job duties include, but are not limited to, assisting the doctor in appointments and surgeries, cleaning, and patient care. The position will be crossed trained and will be answering phones, making appointments, and checking patients in and out of surgery. Candidate should be able to multitask, be a team player, and have a strong work ethic. All experience levels are welcome. Previous experience working with small animals in a professional setting is required.

Pay depends on experience and benefits include; occasional weekend hours, vacation pay, uniform allowance, health insurance allowance, retirement plan, and clinic discounts.

Please email your resume to or drop off your resume to apply.

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What Are Pocket Pets?

What Are Pocket Pets?

Are you one of the four million homes in the U.S. that own a pocket pet, or are thinking about adding one to your family? We’re here to help you learn how to care for these little critters. 

Pocket Pet refers to small animals such as guinea pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, mice, rats, gerbils, chinchillas, and sugar gliders. All of these wonderful pint-size creatures require specialized care, so reading up on them before bringing one into your home is very important for their health and well-being.

Preparing to Care for Your Pocket Pet

Some pocket pets need to climb, so they will require a larger or more complex cage. Certain critters are comfortable being handled and will love to go along with their owners, while others prefer to be left alone in their cage and admired from afar.

Pocket pets’ nutritional requirements can range from a simple diet of pellets to a specialized diet, and knowing their specific needs is very important. For example, guinea pigs need Vitamin C supplements and sugar gliders eat a variety of foods from produce to insects.


Related: The Secret Life of Pocket Pets

Pet white rat sits on female owner’s shoulder.

Do some basic research to be mindful of your pocket pet’s specific preferences to create a care routine and home environment they will thrive in.

Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What habitat and exercise needs does this animal have?
  • Does the habitat need room for the animal to run or climb?
  • Do I have room for a cage that will meet these habitat needs?
  • What does the animal eat, and how specialized is their food? Can I easily purchase this food in my area?
  • When does the animal sleep – night or day? How will this affect my household?
  • How much interaction does this animal require? Do I have the time to fulfill these needs?
  • How messy is the animal and how often will I need to clean the habitat?
  • What are this pet’s veterinary care requirements; will they need more than a standard annual checkup?
Tan hamster in bedding.

Consider Your Pocket Pet’s Veterinary Needs

An important aspect to consider is the animal’s veterinary needs. How often your pet needs to visit the vet will depend on the type of animal.

Due to their shorter life expectancies and small size, pocket pets are often affected more quickly by illness compared to larger in-home pets and should be taken to a vet right away if you suspect they may be ill.

All pocket pets should be taken for an annual exam to ensure they are in good overall health. Hamsters often need to go two to three times per year, while rats and guinea pigs are prone to dental issues, leading to more frequent visits. Spaying and neutering is also an option for some pocket pets, chinchillas and guinea pigs to name a couple.

If you have done your research before purchasing your pet, you are sure to easily welcome the new member of your family into your home and enjoy your time with them!

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

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6 Essentials for Responsible Dog Ownership

6 Essentials for Responsible Dog Ownership

While there are endless charms to owning a dog, there are also some very important responsibilities to know before taking on such a big commitment. Whether you are searching for that forever friend or adding a dog to your existing pet pack, this information pays homage to Responsible Dog Ownership Month with some need-to-know’s before taking the leap into owning a new dog.

1. The Basics 

The decision to own a dog is not one to be taken lightly, so make sure to do your research and not only find a reputable breeder, but also hold out for a puppy or dog that suits the personality of your household – better yet, adopt from a shelter if you find the perfect pup! Avoid purchasing on impulse from a pet store, as many of these dogs come from backyard breeders with unacceptable practices.

Introduce your new housemate slowly, letting them acclimate to their new surroundings without stressful distractions. Though it may be hard, you may want to start kennel training your dog from the first night at home; soon they will be safe and happy having their own private space to rest and relax. It is also important to make sure your new pup has healthy food and plenty of fresh, clean water, and an opportunity to cool down while they are outside.

Before bringing your furry friend home, be prepared with these items:



Dog Bed



Healthy Food

Bones & Treats

Food & Water Dishes

Enzyme Killing Pet Stain Cleaner

2. Safety First 

Now that you know the basics, let’s discuss keeping your dog where they belong – by your side! First things first, make sure your dog has a properly fitting collar with an identification tag that contains your contact information, rabies vaccine certification, and city license tag. This is a necessity to wear any time your pet will be outside the home.

Also, make sure your dog is leashed with a regular, non-retractable leash while in public to prevent injury to your dog and others. If you plan on letting your dog go leash-free in your backyard, make sure it is properly secured and there are no holes in or under the fence that your dog can fit through.

We also suggest that you consider  your dog; it’s a simple procedure that will ensure they can be identified and returned to you, even if their collar is removed.

3. Health 

Proper veterinary care is essential to keep your dog happy and healthy for years to come. Most dogs require a yearly appointment to administer necessary vaccines and check up on their general well-being.

Puppies, seniors and special needs dogs should visit the vet more often to monitor the changes that happen very rapidly in the young and geriatric, as well as dogs with diagnosed conditions. Once your dog is old enough, it is also important to spay or neuter them to prevent both unwanted litters and adolescent behavior problems.

You will also want a pet first-aid kit on hand for small accidents, which should include:

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Foil blanket
  • Cotton balls
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Clotting powder
  • Ice pack
  • Non-latex disposable gloves
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Saline solution
  • Tweezers
  • Self-stick bandages (which stick to themselves, not fur)

4. Grooming & Dental Care 

Proper grooming and dental care will not only assure a cleaner house, it also means a happy, healthier dog. Bathe and brush your furry friend regularly to cut back on shedding and keep their coat from becoming dirty, tangled and matted, or worse yet, developing skin conditions caused by infrequent bathing and brushing.

Though it may seem small, regular at-home dental care is necessary to keep your dog’s vital organs running efficiently and to prevent bad breath, painful chewing, and tooth loss. You will want to brush your dog’s teeth with a toothpaste specially made for dogs or give them dental chews at least three times a week, on top of periodic professional dental cleaning when suggested by your veterinarian.

Additionally, keep your dog’s nails trimmed to keep them from getting too long, to prevent injury to his feet and breaking, which may cause infection. You can have a groomer take care of this or you can do it yourself; just make sure to keep clotting powder on hand in case of over-trimming.

5. Training 

 While obedience training may seem like a luxury, it is very much a necessity for all dog breeds. Proper leash-training is just one of many things your dog will learn from a great reward-based trainer, and it can be hard to master on your own because of positive cues that dogs learn when they pull, especially when using a retractable leash.

Learn the top three tips for choosing the best trainer here and reap the benefits, which include strengthening your bond with your dog, preventing and correcting unwanted behaviors, and overall creating a well-balanced, happier dog.

6. Exercise

Last but not least, get up and get active! Taking your pooch for a walk at least once a day is important not only physically, but mentally as well. Many behavior problems arise out of boredom, and a quick walk is just what your vet (and the trainer) will suggest to cure the behavior blues. Keep in mind that exercising your pet daily is a necessity regardless of size, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes.

While there are many responsibilities that go with owning any pet, their unconditional love and uplifting company more than make up for it! Whether you are on the brink of bringing home a new furry friend or a seasoned dog-owning expert, we are here to help and answer any questions you might have. Contact us today at 701.757.3500.

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A Guide to Pet Loss & Handling Grief

A Guide to Pet Loss & Handling Grief

When it comes to losing a pet, there is no right or wrong way for someone to grieve. All of us at Grand Valley Animal Hospital hope this guide will help you find closure and peace after the loss of your much-loved family member.


When the time comes in a pet parent’s life to consider laying one of their closest companions to rest, the decision is not easy and the time may never seem right. If it is recommended by your veterinary team due to illness or age, or you notice changes to the quality of your pet’s daily life, such as constant pain, lacking response to affection, and being generally uninterested in life, it may be time to consider relieving your pet of their suffering. You may find the JOURNEYS Quality of Life Scale to be a helpful resource when considering the best course for you and your pet.


Be honest and unselfish when it comes to evaluating your pet’s health and consult with your veterinary team about their recommendations and next steps to help you during this difficult time.

Man hugging dog.

If you have made the decision to put your beloved friend to rest, you will need to decide if you should stay with them during this final act of love. Many feel a sense of closure and relief in being able to provide comfort and see their pet’s pain end as they peacefully pass away. In some cases, it may be harder to accept that your pet is gone without being present and saying goodbye during their final moments.


Whichever option you decide is best, it is most important to consider what will bring both you and your pet the greatest sense of peace.


A pet is one of the only companions that will love you unconditionally, and the need to memorialize them after passing is natural. Whether you are considering burial or cremation, planning the final resting place for your best friend can provide closure and bring you peace.

Home Burial

Some owners choose home burial, which can be more economical and personalized. However, make sure to consider your specific situation before choosing this option, as some city ordinances prohibit pet burials, and this may not be the best choice for renters or frequent movers.


Cremation is one of the most economical options and allows for more choices in how to handle your pet’s remains, including burial, scattering the ashes in a favorite location, or keeping them with you in a decorative and personalized urn or remembrance box.

Pet Cemetery

Another option for burial is a plot at a pet cemetery. Costs for this service vary, but some pet owners find this option to have more permanence and be the most serene, since care of the gravesite is usually given.


There are also many wonderful and thoughtful ways that can help you cherish the memories of your pet after their memorial service, including memory boxes with their favorite toys, photos of them, and other items that will keep your pet close to your heart, such as photo albums, memorial paw prints, personalized jewelry, garden memorial stones, and charitable contributions in their honor.

If you need assistance in finding the perfect way to memorialize your pet, we have a variety of options we can recommend. Speak with our staff at 701.757.3500 or during your appointment for more information.


Woman sitting in windowsill.

After the loss of your pet, it is normal to experience all of the same emotions as losing a human loved one, such as guilt, denial, anger, and depression. Different people deal with grief in different ways, so what you are feeling and how you are grieving may not be the same way others, even your spouse or children, handle the loss of your pet. The most important thing to realize is that you should not internalize your feelings.


Communicating openly with your support network and others in your life about your loss will help you to work through your feelings in a positive manner, and you may find their sympathy comforting and healing during this fragile time. There is no reason to be ashamed of feeling extreme grief over the loss of a pet, and definitely don’t suffer in silence and alone; other people, especially pet owners, will realize what a devastating loss this is in your life and be willing to offer the support you need.


No matter how long you spent with your beloved friend, they were a constant part of your life, as well as a comfort and source of unconditional love. In some cases, seeking professional help is necessary, especially if you feel powerless or cannot cope with your grief. There are some great resources available to help you during these trying times; here are some that we recommend.

The process of losing a beloved pet is unique for everyone, but one thing that is certain is that you don’t have to go through it alone; contact us today for additional resources or to ask questions at 701.757.3500.

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