A Gentle Approach to Pet Care: Announcing Our Fear Free Certification

Recently, The Bluffs Pet Clinic acquired our Fear Free certification, and we’re both excited and proud to tell you more about what this means for our clinic and how it helps your pet!

For many pet owners, something about taking your pet to the vet (especially the family cat) that evokes trepidation. You may have lucked out with the most friendly, fearless dog or cat around, but for many pets, the sites, smells, and overall bustle of an office visit can be overwhelming.

Thankfully, the veterinary community has taken notice of this and endeavored to adapt and overcome the many obstacles of the traditional clinic environment and create and atmosphere that pets respond to and enjoy, ultimately making your pet’s visit more enjoyable and productive. 

What is a Fear Free Certification?

Based on the findings of veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, the Fear Free program responds to the emotional wellbeing of pet patients. Studies from Bayer Veterinary Healthcare in 2014 found that 37 percent of dog owners and 58 percent of cat owners reported their pets were afraid of going to the vet.

What’s alarming about these statistics is that for many pet owners, their pets do not receive preventive care, which is necessary to maintain good health. In some cases, this may also mean a disease or other condition goes untreated.

For these reasons, Fear Free was developed as an educational initiative for pet owners and veterinarians to encourage a calmer, more relaxing, and ultimately successful experience with veterinary visits.

Drawing on the knowledge and expertise of veterinarians and animal behaviorists, the Fear Free Program teaches the following skills:

  • Gentle handling techniques
  • Recognizing subtle cues of anxiety and stress
  • Creating positive association with examinations
  • Creating a calm environment

The Advantages of a Fear Free Practice

For us, our commitment to a Fear Free practice goes far beyond the required coursework. It’s our goal to partner with all pet owners to identify stressors that prevent their pets from having a positive experience and work toward creating a successful one.

Some of our low-stress, comforting techniques include:

  • Quiet areas
  • Pheromone use, which can calm cats and dogs
  • Gentle restraint (when needed)
  • Soothing, calm exam rooms
  • Toys, treats, and plenty of attention to encourage positive association

Along with our Fear Free certification, we’re also a Cat Friendly Practice!

Is Your Pet Anxious?

We know it’s tough to witness a beloved pet in distress. However, annual and follow-up care is critical to your pet’s health, quality of life, and longevity. There are many ways we can help you prepare for your next visit with us. At-home behavior modifications and reward-based training can do wonders!

If you’d like to learn more about our Fear Free certification and our approach to holistic veterinary care, we welcome your call! Emotional wellness matters, and we’re here to make you and your sweet pet as comfortable as possible.

The Weather is Frightful, So is the Food: Preventing a Pet Poisoning This Holiday Season

The holidays are all about families celebrating together. Tables overflowing with savory, decadent food, champagne glasses clinking, and abundant greenery adorning every surface and walkway. All of this sounds lovely, but when you add your pet to the mix, your sparkling holiday scene could turn into a disaster rather quickly. While there’s definitely room for concern, pet poisoning around the holidays can be prevented when you learn to recognize the common culprits.


From advent calendars to Hanukkah gelt, chocolate is ubiquitous during the holidays. It’s given as gifts, it’s a showpiece on the dessert buffet, and it even makes an appearance in cocktails.

Depending on the amount and type of chocolate consumed, theobromine is responsible for hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, seizures, or even heart attack in pets.

Keep all chocolate on surfaces your pet can’t reach and away from the floor. Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Know what to look for in a pet poisoning, and call us immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested any chocolate.

Pet Poisoning and the Dining Table

It might seem relatively easy to keep chocolate out of the house, off the menu, or away from the table, but many other ingredients can pose risks. Onions, garlic, xylitol-sweetened goodies, desserts with raisins, and alcohol can all result in a pet poisoning.

Fatty or rich foods can result in a painful turn of pancreatitis, leading to emergency treatment, medical support, and lab work.

Also, rising dough may seem appetizing to your pet, but yeasted, uncooked dough can create sizable complications in the GI tract.


Garlands on banisters, over doorways, or on the mantel are par for the season, but you may want to consider artificial greenery. Pine needles from garlands, wreaths, or the holiday tree can lead to serious GI problems or get stuck in your pet’s delicate paw pads.

In addition, poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly berries can result in a pet poisoning if ingested by a curious (or hungry) pet. Keep plants off the floors and out of your pet’s reach.

Unpredictable Natures

You may have done your due diligence when it comes to the prevention of a pet poisoning, but if you’re entertaining guests, all your hard work may quickly dissipate.

Please inform any visitors of your concerns. Remind them to not feed your pet from the table, to clean up any plates or cups left out, and ask that all medications be stored safely. NSAIDs, acetaminophen, antidepressants, sleep aids, and more must always be kept out of sight and out of reach.

If you anticipate that your cat might be exposed to great risk this holiday season, please consider our feline boarding services.

Happy, Yet Safe, Holidays!

We hope your pet remains safe and sound this holiday season. If you have any questions about pet poisoning, we urge you to contact us. You can never be too prepared for a pet emergency. Remember, our team is always here to assist you.

It’s a Heat Wave: All About Pet Heat Safety

At The Bluffs Pet Clinic we often see pets who have problems related to the warm weather, and many of them are preventable when we are aware of the risk. Beat the heat this summer with our pet heat safety tips.

While Minnesota may not exactly be known for its sweltering temperatures, we get our fair share of hot days in the summer. At The Bluffs Pet Clinic we often see pets who have problems related to the warm weather, and many of them are preventable when we are aware of the risk. Beat the heat this summer with our pet heat safety tips.

Keeping Cool

As the temperatures rise, so does the risk of heat exhaustion in our pets. Just like people, sustained increases in body temperature can have serious and even fatal consequences.

Even in less intense heat, our pets are more prone to overheating than we are. Be sure to monitor closely for signs that your pet is becoming distressed.

Early symptoms of heat exhaustion can include panting, restlessness, increased breathing rate, decreased activity level, drooling, and vomiting or diarrhea.

If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, it is time to head indoors. If ignored, heat exhaustion can progress to weakness, incoordination, seizures, coma, and even death. If you are worried about heat stroke in your pet, it is an emergency.

Help your pet keep cool by:

  • Avoiding leaving your pet in the car, even with the windows down or for a seemingly short time
  • Provide plenty of shade and fresh when you are outdoors
  • Offer fresh, cool water often
  • Try to spend time outdoors during the cooler parts of the day
  • Providing a small wading pool or other source of water can help your pet beat the heat when supervised
  • Always monitor your pet’s activity levels while outside

Avoiding Burns

The sun is a powerful force, and an important part of pet heat safety is preventing burns.

Hot surfaces prevent a unique challenge for our canine friends. While we typically wear shoes while outdoors, our pets do not. Remember that if you can’t hold your hand to a surface for at least ten seconds, it is too hot for your pooch to walk on. Surfaces such as asphalt, sand, pavement, and even packed dirt can result in paw pad burns.

Our pets are susceptible to sunburns as well, particularly if they have a shorter hair coat or are light in color. The ear tips, nose, lips, and underbelly tend to be most susceptible. Try to avoid the times of the day when the sun is most intense or look for a pet-specific sunscreen or pet clothes with SPF.

Pet Heat Safety for Special Pets

Some pets are more susceptible to the summer heat than others. In particular use extra caution for animals who are:

  • Very old
  • Very young
  • Overweight
  • Have other health concerns
  • Brachycephalic (breeds with a short nose such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus)

These animals are unable to cool themselves efficiently and may find themselves in trouble more quickly than others. No matter what type of pet you have, leaving them unattended in the heat is never a good idea.

Keeping yourself and your pets cool this summer is key to having a great time. Don’t hesitate to call us, though, if you find yourself in trouble with the summer heat.

How to Ensure a Great Vacation For You and Your Dog

Here comes summer and road trips with your dog. Taking Fido on vacation can be fun for the family and your dog, if you plan with care, and always keep your dog’s best interests in mind.

Here’s a collection of vital tips to ensure your dog is safe and enjoys the trip as much as you do.

Getting Started

Begin preparing for your dog one month ahead of your trip. Here are the top pre-trip “to-do’s.”

  1. Visit your vet and microchip your dog. That’s the only certain way to ensure your dog can be identified if lost. Collars and tags can fall off. Microchips are permanent. For more information, call The Bluffs Pet Clinic.
  2. While at the vet, make sure all vaccines are current and that your dog’s rabies tag is, too. Your vet can provide certificates for all vaccines in case you need to board your pet. Make sure you have your vet’s phone number on your phone.
  3. If your dog doesn’t travel well, tell your vet. The veterinarians at The Bluffs Pet Clinic can prescribe medications or herbs to reduce their anxiety.  This is also a good time to refill any medications that you may run out of while you are gone.
  4. Plan how to restrain your dog in the car. Whether a kennel, dog seat belt, pet car seat or a barrier between the front and back seat, remember that a sharp turn or sudden brake can throw a loose dog into the car’s side or back of the front seat and harm your pet. If you choose a kennel, make sure it is well ventilated on both sides. Then fit the pet car seat or seat belt well before the trip. Just as it’s important for you to be comfortable in the car, it’s equally important for your pet.
  5. Take a few “practice rounds” with your pet in the kennel, car seat or seat belt. Start by placing your dog in the restraint in the car—without driving. Let him/her adjust to the restraint. Next, take your dog for small drives in the restraint. That way, when it’s travel time, they know exactly what to expect and you’ve reduced their anxiety. Back seats only. Never put your pet in the front seat. If an air bag deploys, it can severely injure your pet.
  6. Also, never travel with your dog in an open truck bed. This is extremely dangerous.
  7. If staying in a pet-friendly hotel, make sure you know if there are weight restrictions before making the reservation. Prevent an unfortunate surprise this way.
  8. Now is also the time to look up a veterinary clinic in the area you will be staying in case of an emergency.

On Trip Day

  1. Make sure you place your dog’s bed or favorite blanket with him/her in the car to help reduce anxiety.
  2. Bring along Fido’s favorite toys. Helps him/her feel at home—wherever you are.
  3. Bring along a photo of your dog that can be printed and duplicated. In the tragic event your dog is lost, you can post pictures to increase the likelihood he/she will be found.
  4. If your pet is on any medications or supplements, then make sure to bring enough to last until you return home.
  5. Pack enough of their dog food to last the entire trip. Vacations are not the time to introduce your dog to a new food. You don’t want your dog to have an upset tummy, (nor do you want to travel with one who does).
  6. Don’t forget their food and water dishes. If you’re short on space, invest in collapsible dishes.
  7. Start out with at least one gallon of water from your home. Dogs don’t always adjust well to new water. Gradually mix in your water with the new sources to reduce the chance of an upset stomach.
  8. Don’t forget the pooper scooper or dog waste bags!

On the Road

  1. Make frequent rest stops for your dog. Always use a leash to walk him/her, and give plenty of time to eliminate and exercise. Then give them more water. It’s very important to keep your dog hydrated during the drive. This is also a good time to give your dog extra love and attention—they’ll love you for it.
  2. Never leave your pet alone in the car. With windows closed at 72°, your car will reach 116° in an hour. At 85°, your car will reach 102° in 10 minutes. With windows slightly open, in 30 minutes it’s 120°. Dogs can suffer irreversible organ damage and/or death. If you see a dog in a hot car with windows rolled up call 911. That pet is in critical danger.

In a Hotel

  1. Please don’t leave your dog alone in a strange place—particularly a hotel. You will stress out your pooch and he/she will probably bark incessantly, leaving you to find a new hotel when you return. No fun for Fido, and no fun for you.
  2. If you have plans and your pup can’t join you, find a local dog daycare for them to spend the day. That way you both get to have fun!

Now you—and your pooch—are ready for a great vacation! As always, if you have any concerns or questions, the staff at The Bluffs is eager to help you. Happy and safe travels for you and your dog!