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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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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Is Your Pet Protected from Heartworms?

Is Your Pet Protected from Heartworms?

Did you know more than one million pets in the U.S. have heartworm disease? To shed some light on this serious, potentially fatal disease, we have put together some basic data to keep you informed.

Let’s take a look at who transmits it and is at most risk, what symptoms to look for, where the disease is most prevalent, when to take action, why it’s vital to consult your veterinarian, and how to best keep your four-legged furchild safe and healthy!

More on Parasite Prevention: Lyme Disease – Protecting Pets in the Midwest


Heartworms – foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets – are the cause of heartworm disease. We most commonly find the disease in dogs, cats, and ferrets, but it also affects other mammals such as wolves, foxes, sea lions, and (very rarely) humans. While wild species like the fox and wolf are considered significant carriers since they can live close to urban areas, the more vital component of the transmission of the disease is the mosquito.

Here’s a closer look at the life cycle of heart worm disease.


Dogs may not show many or any symptoms in the early stages of heartworm disease. As the infection persists or the number of infected worms increases, they often show signs such as:

  • Persistent cough
  • Resistance to exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen belly
  • Heavy breathing
  • Pale gums
  • Discolored urine
graphic of a dog

Cats, on the other hand, are atypical hosts for heartworms and most worms do not survive to adult stages. This means many cats go undiagnosed, either showing very subtle symptoms or displaying severe signs abruptly, including sudden collapse or death. Furthermore, medication used in dogs to treat infections cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means we have to deter feline cases of the disease.

Symptoms to watch for in cats include:

  • Coughing
  • Asthma-like attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Fluid in abdomen
graphic of a cat

All 50 states have reported heartworm diagnoses. While some areas may be less of a problem than others, the numerous risk factors to consider make taking preventative measures for the health of your pet very important. Everything from infected mosquitoes being blown long distances to the relocation of infected pets across the U.S. can contribute to the spread of this harmful disease.

This 2019 map below shows the average number of cases per reporting clinic across the United States; however, it’s important to note that not all rural areas have reporting clinics present and therefore may have more cases than are shown.

2019 Heartworm Incidence map

Because this is a serious, progressive disease, it is vital to consult with your veterinarian on how to properly protect your pet from infection and your surrounding community from increased risk. The American Heartworm Society recommends “Think 12” – test your pet for heartworm disease every 12 months, and treat your pet with preventative medication prescribed by your veterinarian 12 times a year.

Think12: Test every 12 months. Treat 12x a year.

Why are prevention and testing necessary? Prevention is the best defense for protecting your pet from this dangerous disease, and if your furry family member is a feline, prevention is the only means available to keep them from becoming infected.

Annual testing is important to ensure the prevention program you and your veterinarian have put into place is working, and while the preventative medication is highly effective, it is not 100% effective. Missing even one dose (or giving one late), vomiting of their heartworm pill, or rubbing off the topical medication can leave your furry friend unprotected and at risk.


The best offense is a good defense – work closely with your veterinarian to put a prevention program in place that will help you protect your pets from heartworm disease. Not only will your vet have the knowledge and experience to provide you and your pet with the best information and resources available, but preventative medication must be purchased from your veterinarian or with a prescription through a pet pharmacy per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Is your pet well-protected? For more information on preventative best practices and answers to your medication questions, or to schedule your four-legged family member’s annual heartworm test – call us at Grand Valley Animal Hospital at 701.757.3500.

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