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Critters Corner
By Karen Cunningham
About Karen
Critters Corner

Common Cancer Signs In Your Pet

First published: August 19, 2014 at 2:22 am
Last modified: August 19, 2014 at 2:23 am

It is very difficult to detect cancer early in pets. In many cases, cancer cannot be detected on blood work. It is critical to remember that a pet can be very sick “inside”, without showing any signs “outside”, which is why regular veterinary checkups are essential, ideally every 6 months.

Here are 10 common signs that may indicate that your pet could have cancer.

1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow. The most obvious example is a mass (or bump, or lump) that keeps growing under the skin. It should be removed and biopsied. The mass may be benign or malignant (cancerous), then you know and can discuss what to do next.

2. Sores that do not heal. These are typically skin wounds that don’t heal despite antibiotics or ointment application.

3. Unexplained weight loss.

4. Loss of appetite. When your pet is not feeling well, the first thing it does is stop eating.

5. Difficulty breathing may be caused by heart or lung disease, and also cancer. Difficulty eating or swallowing may indicate cancer and should be discussed with your veterinarian.

6. Blood, pus, vomiting, diarrhea or other discharge from a body opening should be checked by your veterinarian. If your pet’s abdomen becomes bloated or distended it might indicate accumulation of abnormal discharge within the body.

7. Offensive odor from the mouth, ears, or other part of the body should be checked by your veterinary professional.

8. Your pet is sleeping more, less playful, less willing to go on walks, or exercise, these may be signs of cancer. Lethargy or depression are not symptoms confined to cancer but are reason enough to speak with your veterinarian.

9. Persistent lameness or stiffness. Limping or other evidence of pain may be associated with arthritic issues or joint or muscle diseases, but it can also be a sign of bone cancer.

10. Difficulty urinating or defecating, frequent bathroom use, or blood in urine or stool are potential signs of cancer.

As noted, not every change in your pet’s behavior is related to cancer but it may be a symptom of some other issue affecting your pet’s health—early detection is the key. Stay informed, keep your eyes open, touch your pet all over and often, and see your veterinarian for regular checkups.

Whether to detect cancer or any other condition, these are safe recommendations to keep your pet healthy for a long time!

Another recommendation, be sure you have savings set aside throughout your pet’s life to assist you with paying for unexpected pet-related medical needs.

Upcoming Rabies Clinic: Thursday, September 11 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Human Services Building, Rt. 310, Canton.

Clinics may change or be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances without notice, please call 386-2325 for clinic confirmation or questions. For a complete listing of upcoming clinics:


Check Out Featured Pets

First published: August 14, 2014 at 2:57 am
Last modified: August 14, 2014 at 2:57 am

ANGUS (F-1) is a male adult tan, white, and black Beagle. FALINE (5617 B) is a female adult, domestic long hair, Torti. Angus and Faline are currently available for adoption at the St. Lawrence Valley SPCA. You can learn more about them and the other cats and dogs currently residing at the shelter by telephoning the shelter at (315) 393-5191, visiting the shelter on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., or on our website at

IMPORTANT FACT FOR DOG LOVERS NEVER TO FORGET: Don’t be angry with me for too long. And please don’t lock me up to punish me. You have your friends and family to keep you happy and entertained. I just have you.


Submissive Urination In Dogs Can Be Helped

First published: August 12, 2014 at 2:02 am
Last modified: August 12, 2014 at 2:07 am

Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, purchased a purebred or adopted a shelter dog, some dogs have a behavior that is distressing to their caregivers—submissive urination.

Submissive urination is common in dogs that are introduced into a household where there are dominant dogs.

With submissive urination, a shy dog responds to perceived threats by urinating on the floor. The key is a “perceived” threat. Some dogs are so submissive that they urinate even when a person approaches them.

An angry or upset response from humans is a complete mystery to the submissive dog. Fortunately, the solution for submissive urination is simple: Stop punishing your dog. Instead of penalizing negative actions, reward positive behavior.

If your dog urinates submissively, ignore it. Don’t scold, glare, strike, yell, or even call attention to it. The less you respond to your dog’s behavior, the less likely it will repeat it.

To present less of a threat to your dog, keep your greetings low-key.

Approach it from the side rather than from the front. Don’t tower over the dog any more than you can help; instead, crouch down, lean back, and open your arms. Avoid looking directly into the dog’s eyes. Dogs regard eye contact as a threat.

When the dog responds with positive, self-assured actions, pet and play with it. It might take a while, but gradually your submissive dog will acquire the self-confidence to break the habit.

If your dog suddenly begins to urinate inappropriately, it is not submissive urination, it may be that it has a urinary tract, bladder, or kidney infection—see your veterinary professional as soon as possible.


Your dog barks to call your attention to something. No dog should be penalized for alerting you to something odd, but when your dog barks too much, it can make life miserable for everyone.

Some people say to just let the dog bark until it “barks itself out” and ignore it. You think this would work, but it doesn’t. They can bark for hours; they can bark all night.

If your dog is outside and barking, bring it inside and keep it there. If it was barking for the simple glory of barking, it’ll catch onto the idea that the only way to stay out and have fun is to be quiet. If you do this every time it barks, it will learn to stop barking if it wants to stay outside.

If it was barking because it is lonely and wants to come in, you will satisfy its needs and spare the neighbors.

Things are handled differently for an inside barker. This is called “request barking.” When your dog barks for attention, get up and leave the room. Ignore it.

Soon it will learn that barking for attention doesn’t lead to the desired result. Give it that longed-for attention when it’s quiet. It’ll figure out that the magic way to get snuggles and treats is by not barking.

For inside barkers who bark at the outside world, try closing the curtains. There will be nothing for your dog to bark at if the curtains are closed.


Trust Your Dog Like It Does You

First published: August 07, 2014 at 2:27 am
Last modified: August 07, 2014 at 2:48 am
Ginger Peach

LUNA is a tan and white female adult Pug/Beagle Mix. GINGER PEACH is a female juvenile, domestic short hair Tabby orange swirl. Luna and Ginger Peach are currently available for adoption at the St. Lawrence Valley SPCA. You can learn more about them and the other cats and dogs currently residing at the shelter by telephoning the shelter at (315) 393-5191, visiting the shelter on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., or on our website at

IMPORTANT FACT FOR DOG LOVERS NEVER TO FORGET: Give me your trust. Just like I trust you, I need you to trust me, too.


Ticks Cause Lyme Disease

First published: August 05, 2014 at 2:02 am
Last modified: August 05, 2014 at 2:02 am

As the weather gets warmer, our pets spend more time outside. However, being in the outdoors can expose them to ticks and tick-borne illnesses. Make sure you know what you can do to protect your pets from tick-borne diseases.

Ticks are more than just creepy, they can spread a number of different diseases that affect both pets and people. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and also Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Tularemia, and Babesia.

The best way to treat Lyme disease is to prevent it in the first place. Talk with your veterinarian about tick-borne diseases in your area. Fortunately, there are numerous products available to prevent tick infestations. Topical medications and medicated-collars are effective in keeping ticks away from your pets. Your veterinarian may also recommend additional protection like a vaccination for Lyme disease. Although these preventative measures are effective, it is important to note that none provide 100% protection.

Since no preventative treatment can be completely foolproof, it is important to inspect your pets for ticks on a daily basis. Know what ticks look like, study up on the lifecycles of ticks, and give your pet a head-to-tail inspection. Since ticks need to be embedded for 24-48 hours to spread infections, prompt proper removal is critical.

If you find a tick on your pet, remove it right away. Here are some tips for safe and effective tick removal. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Grasp the tick very close to the skin with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal device available from your veterinarian. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. To prevent infection, avoid crushing the tick. After tick removal, clean your pet’s skin with soap and warm water. Throw the dead tick away in your trash or flush it down the toilet. Never use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products to remove a tick.

Ticks can spread a number of different diseases, so the signs and symptoms can vary depending on the disease. Some of the signs seen in several of these illnesses include: lethargy (loss of energy), loss of appetite, and lameness or reluctance to move. Symptoms of Lyme disease may come and go, vary from mild to severe, and mimic other conditions. In many pets, the signs may not appear for several months after infection. In severe cases, your pet may also develop heart disease, central nervous system disorders, or fatal kidney disease. It is best not to wait for symptoms to appear. If your pet has been exposed to ticks speak with your veterinarian immediately about screening tests and preventative products.

Screening tests are a fast and easy way to detect tick-borne diseases early when they are easier to treat. Many vets routinely include a screening test for tick-borne illnesses with their annual blood work. For more information about ticks, instruction on how to safely remove them, and ways to protect your pets, speak with your veterinarian.


Show Patience Understanding Dog Behavior

First published: July 31, 2014 at 2:05 am
Last modified: July 31, 2014 at 2:05 am


GUS is a male adult brown and tan Labrador Retriever/Rottweiler Mix. CARMELLA is a female juvenile, domestic short hair Tabby orange swirl. Gus and Carmella are currently available for adoption at the St. Lawrence Valley SPCA. You can learn more about them and the other cats and dogs currently residing at the shelter by telephoning the shelter at (315) 393-5191, visiting the shelter on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., or on our website at

IMPORTANT FACT FOR DOG LOVERS NEVER TO FORGET: Give me time to understand what you want from me. I don’t always get it right on the first try, but I promise I’m trying as hard as I can.


Pet Obesity Is Serious

First published: July 29, 2014 at 2:05 am
Last modified: July 29, 2014 at 2:36 am

Obesity can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Hypertension is one of the commonly overlooked conditions in pets. High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because you can’t tell if your pet has it, nor can you see the damage it’s causing.

If your dog or cat has packed on a few extra pounds, have its blood pressure checked by your veterinarian. This simple test can help prevent sudden blindness, heart problems, and kidney failure.

Obese pets have less fun. Dogs love to exercise, it’s in their nature.

It only takes a little research on the history of breeds to notice that most have hunted and worked with humans for thousands of years. Knowing this, do you think a dog that has a hard time getting around would be happy?

Tips to trim excess pounds from your pet and keep them trim:

• Calculate Calories. If you don’t know how many calories your pet needs each day, you don’t know how much to feed. And don’t think you can trust the feeding guides on the bag. Instead, ask your veterinarian to calculate the proper number of calories your pet needs each day. Another good starting point is to use this formula: Divide your pet’s weight by 2.2. Multiply this figure times 30. Add 70 and you’ve get a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding a typical inactive, indoor spayed or neutered dog or cat weighing between 6 and 60 pounds.

Of course, each pet’s metabolism is different so be sure to consult your veterinarian before starting a diet.

• Measure Meals. A pet parent’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is a measuring cup. Some pets, especially cats, are fed an “all-day buffet” that results from the “just keep the bowl full” feeding method. Studies show that feeding as few as 10 extra tiny kibbles of food per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in indoor cats and small dogs. After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed each meal—and measure it.

• Tactical Treating. If you’re going to give your pets extra goodies, make them count. Break treats into peewee pieces and divvy them out whenever your pet earns it. Choose low-calorie, no-sugar goodies that provide a health benefit. Whatever treats you give, be sure to count those additional calories. As few as 30 extra calories per day means your pet gains over three pounds in a year.

• Vital Veggies. Try offering baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, sliced apples and bananas or ice cubes. These naturally nutritious tasty tidbits are a healthy option for many dogs. For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna.

• Hustle for Health. When it comes to living a long, pain-and disease-free life, research proves our most powerful partner is daily exercise. For dogs, as little as 20- to 30-minutes of brisk walking is all it takes to boost immune function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce many behavioral problems. Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks, rain or shine. The health benefits of walking extend to both ends of the leash. For cats, try playing with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy, or ball of paper for 5 to 15 minutes each day.

It’s the responsibility of each of us to help our pets maintain a healthy weight. It’s up to pet owners to feed healthy, nutritious foods and treats and exercise daily. Talk with your veterinarian about specific strategies to keep your pet at a healthy weight. Your pets will be happier, have fewer medical problems, and you’ll enjoy more years together.

Karen Cunningham is president of the St. Lawrence Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


Check Out The SPCA Animals

First published: July 24, 2014 at 1:47 am
Last modified: July 24, 2014 at 1:47 am

BLONDIE is a blonde Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever Mix, female adult. GINO is a male adult, medium-length hair, gray Torti. Blondie and Gino are currently available for adoption at the St. Lawrence Valley SPCA.

You can learn more about them and the other cats and dogs currently residing at the shelter by telephoning the shelter at (315) 393-5191, visiting the shelter on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., or on our website at

IMPORTANT FACT FOR DOG LOVERS NEVER TO FORGET: Don’t be upset when I jump for joy when you come through the door.

I only live for 10 to 15 years. You are what makes that time enjoyable. It’s hard on me when you go away.


Pet Obesity Is Serious Problem In Country

First published: July 22, 2014 at 1:46 am
Last modified: July 22, 2014 at 2:24 am

In the United States, it is estimated that 45% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight. This means almost 80 million pets are at risk for developing crippling arthritis, debilitating diabetes, many forms of cancer, high blood pressure, and catastrophic kidney and heart disease. Pet obesity is not healthy and will ultimately lower a pet’s life expectancy. If you’re concerned about your pet’s weight, talk to your veterinarian about how to keep your pet fit and trim.

Pet obesity exacerbates arthritis. The number one medical condition associated with excess weight is osteoarthritis. Both large and small breeds of dogs are typically affected, but cats are developing crippling arthritis at alarming rates. If your pet is carrying as little as one or two extra pounds, remember those pounds are stressing tiny joints not designed to carry extra weight. There is no cure for arthritis; we can only minimize the pain.

Obesity can increase the risk of diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects pets as well as people. Even more alarming is the fact that the prevalence of diabetes has been increasing.

Diabetes mellitus is a multifactorial disease influenced by both inherited and environmental factors. It is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body is unable to control blood sugar levels. There are two types of diabetes, type-1 and type-2. Type-1, also known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone released when blood sugar levels are high, such as after meals, and directs cells in the body to move sugar out of the blood stream and into cells for storage or energy. In type-2 diabetes, insulin is being produced but the body becomes less responsive to its effects, which is why it is also called insulin resistance or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Regardless of the cause, both forms of diabetes result in chronically elevated blood sugar levels that damage capillaries and lead to different complications like nerve damage, kidney failure, and even death.

Genetic predisposition seems to be an important risk factor. Age is another risk factor. It is more common in middle-aged and older animals. However, of all the risk factors, obesity is the most important, especially since the prevalence of obesity is increasing.

The classic symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst, increased appetite, and increased urination. Pets may become lethargic, lose weight, have a dull coat, and in dogs, develop cataracts.

Fortunately, diabetes is manageable. With the right medications, diet and weight loss, diabetes can usually be controlled. The goal of treatment is to prevent high blood sugar or hyperglycemia and provide stable blood sugar levels. Insulin is the primary treatment for both dogs and cats. In addition to medications, diet and weight loss are just as important when it comes to treating diabetes in pets. Speak with your veterinarian about what, if any, nutritional changes are necessary for your particular pet. Weight loss is also important because obesity is a common cause of insulin resistance. To promote weight loss, you should exercise your pets in addition to following your veterinarian’s dietary suggestions. Encourage active play and exercise for both dogs and cats.

When caught early and with proper treatment, diabetes can be controlled and the complications of the disease can be delayed or even avoided.

We may not be able to change genetics or stop aging, but we can do something about obesity.

Excess fat has been implicated in the formation of many cancers in animals. The consensus is that excess weight increases a pet’s risk of developing many types of cancer. Reduce the weight to reduce the risk.

More on Pet Obesity in Part 2 next week—-


Your Heart Will Pick Pets

First published: July 17, 2014 at 2:19 am
Last modified: July 17, 2014 at 2:56 am

BRANDY, BINDY, and SIMBA are senior female Chihuahuas. Brandy is light tan with a white face, Bindy is long-haired and dark brown, and Simba is light tan. SASSY is a female adult, long-haired Calico. Brandy, Bindy, Simba, and Sassy are currently available for adoption at the St. Lawrence Valley SPCA. You can learn more about them and the other cats and dogs currently residing at the shelter by telephoning the shelter at (315) 393-5191, visiting the shelter on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., or on our website at

THIS WEEK’S ADOPTION TIP: Listen to your heart. At the end of the day, after you’ve done your research and spent hours visiting local shelters, it’s your heart, not your brain that often makes the final choice. You know “this is the one” and your new pet companion knows “you’re the one”.

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