Don’t Poison Your Pet With Mouse Poison This Summer…..Or Anytime

An older golden retriever laying on a tile floorIt’s summer, and whether you’re at home, the cabin or a resort, mouse and rat poisons are a lethal threat to your pets. Many people believe that it is ok to use as long as it is put out of reach of pets, but here’s why that’s a danger.

People using poison often place it up high (where it can fall off) or in an inconspicuous corner. The problem is, rodents hoard poison and will move it to a favorite spot—like inside an old shoe, or somewhere undisturbed. Either way, your pet can find it and ingest it.

Fortunately, there are ways to kill rodents without risking your pet’s life.The best thing you can do at home or your cabin is to never use poison; use a mouse trap instead. There are many styles available now to suit your needs. BUT, you never know what neighbors or resort owners use for rodent control.

If you’ve got a pet roaming or if you are in a cabin you don’t own, be vigilant and take these precautions:
1. If traveling, get the name, phone number and hours of a vet clinic near your destination. Add it to your phone before you hit the road.

2. When renting a cabin, first ask the owners if they use rodent poison. If they do—consider staying elsewhere, or ask them to remove it before you arrive. (Even then, there’s a chance that poison may be in the vicinity of your pet.)

3. Inspect the cabin when you arrive. Check shelves and inconspicuous places for small boxes of poison such as D-Con, or little nuggets that resemble cat food or are brightly colored. Google “mouse poison photos” to see examples of the many types of poison to watch for. Check outside around the foundation of the cabin as well.
Often times we are completely unaware that our pet has eaten mouse poison. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms before it’s too late.

Here’s where it gets dicey. There are a variety of poisons that kill in a number of ways. That means, symptoms of poisoning vary, depending on the poison. Here’s a list of symptoms to watch out for. Symptoms vary, of course, with the poison.

• Lethargy
• Difficulty breathing
• Pale gums
• Coughing (especially of blood)
• Vomiting (especially with blood)
• Bloody nose
• Swelling or bruising of the skin
• Collapse
• Bleeding from the gums
• Not eating
• Weakness
• Decreased or increased thirst/urination
• Bad breath
• Tremors
• Anxiety
• Walking “drunk”
• Tremoring
• Seizuring
• Coma
• Drooling

If you see any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately. If caught early, there are antidotes for some poisons. Call The Bluffs Pet Clinic should you have more questions or see any of the above symptoms in your pet.

Dr. Cook is a 1997 graduate of the Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and purchased The Bluffs Pet Clinic in 2001. She is certified in Veterinary Acupuncture and well versed in the use of Chinese Herbs.  In her spare time she can be found playing ball with her Golden Retrievers.

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

A white and brown dog licking a human's hand

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.

Solving Your Pet Food Dilemma

Did you know that genetics, nutrition and care are the three factors that most impact your pet’s longevity? This and upcoming blogs will discuss those factors in detail. Today’s blog addresses nutrition.

A dog laying on the ground with ears up

Ever feel overwhelmed when you go to your grocer or pet store to buy food for Fido? It’s no wonder. Pet food brands and types have mushroomed as more people become pet owners. In fact, research shows that US pet ownership has grown by nine million in the past decade. Some 67 million households now include a pet. So it’s no surprise that more and more businesses want a piece of the pet-food pie. The question is, which foods are fad, and which foods are legitimate, and how do you know what to buy for your pet? Here are thoughts on how to best choose the right food for your pet.

 Just like we are what we eat, our pets are also what they eat.  Feed them a high quality pet food! If you are looking for a high quality commercial pet food, look for those that have passed the AAFCO feeding trials (Association of American Feed Control Officials).

If your pet is healthy, it’s a bit easier to find the right food. If your pet has a food allergy, however, beware of over –the-counter foods boasting they’re a “novel ingredient” diet.  Testing has shown that about 10% of the time, companies substitute another “meat” for the “novel ingredients”, and your pet may be allergic to that.   Your better manufacturing companies will prepare novel ingredient diets at a separate facility or take strict measures to avoid cross contamination of other ingredients.

In commercial foods, unfortunately the cheaper they are, the more likely they contain lower-quality ingredients.  However, you don’t have to buy the most expensive food, either. Stick to major food manufacturers, rather than store-labeled foods or foods with celebrity names.

What to Read on the Label

Check the label to see if it says “Manufactured by” or “Manufactured for”. If the label says manufactured by, that company is vested in high-quality testing and is more likely to have a veterinary nutritionist on staff.  Such companies test both the raw ingredients and the finished product.

If the label says “manufactured for, that company is less likely to have a veterinary nutritionist on board. Equally important, testing is generally less thorough. They often don’t test both the raw ingredients and prepared food. Testing is vital. In particular, it helps prevent recalls due to a bacterial contamination—unfortunately, an increasingly frequent reason for recalls.

You can check for recalls a company has had by visiting the FDA website.  Once you have researched a food you think will be good, enlist the help of your veterinarian to help you evaluate your choice.  Their in-depth knowledge of your pet’s health combined with their background in nutrition ensure you’ll make the right choice.

The Right Foods for Pet Diseases and Conditions

If your pet has a disease such as kidney, liver, urinary or a gastrointestinal disease, a prescription diet may be healthier for them.  Prescription Diets, available from your veterinarian, are especially good and have been researched and tested extensively in both the raw ingredient and cooked stages.

These foods are developed to address the specific nutritional needs of a pet with a serious disease.  Pets that are fed these diets have been shown to live longer than pets who are fed a commercial diet.

I know, you say, “but these diets have corn in them!” This is true, many of these diets do have grains, but grains are not necessarily a bad thing. It depends on the pet. These prescription diets are tried and true; they have been researched and tested multiple times on many dogs and cats to ensure they do what they are prescribed to do.

This is especially important if you have a male cat with urinary crystal problems. There are commercial foods labeled to help prevent urinary problems. But if your cat has ever had a urinary obstruction, go with prescription food!

Believe me, I too, have tried numerous other commercial diets for my own cats to address this problem.  All I can say, is “Don’t do it. Your pet’s life is too important to risk a life-threatening urinary obstruction!” I feed my cat a prescription diet to help prevent urinary obstructions.  Though the ingredients are not on my preferred list, these diets do prevent a crisis.

The most important factors in your pet’s diet are

  1. The food has been formulated by veterinary nutritionists to ensure it is a complete and balanced diet for your pet
  2. The food meets your pet’s needs
  3. The ingredients are tested extensively for contamination

Home-made Pet Food

What about homemade diets? Preparing a homemade diet for your pet is expensive and a lot of work. Yet, many people want to provide homemade diets for their pets.  Please know that this does not mean feeding them table scraps or whatever you are having for breakfast or supper. This means using high quality human food ingredients in a diet formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the diet meets the pet’s nutritional needs.  If your pet has no known health concerns then you can visit for home-made diet recipes formulated by a veterinary nutritionist.  The recipes as written will provide a nutritionally complete diet for your pet so no changes should be made for optimum health.

Our pets do not have the same nutritional needs as we do.  Diets that do not meet all the pet’s nutritional needs put your pets at risk for diseases. Such diseases can affect their brain, eyes, heart, joints, kidneys, liver, skin and digestive track. So, proper nutrition is vital. Contact us if you would like discuss nutrition recommendations for your pet or if you are interested in learning more about home-made diets.

Dr. Cook is a 1997 graduate of the Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and purchased The Bluffs Pet Clinic in 2001. She is certified in Veterinary Acupuncture and well versed in the use of Chinese Herbs.  In her spare time she can be found playing ball with her Golden Retrievers.

How to De-Stress Your Pet’s Visit to the Clinic

A dog and catIt’s no secret. Some pets dread visiting the veterinarian. That means high-anxiety time for pets and their owners. Fortunately, there are tricks, techniques and products for both dogs and cats that dramatically reduce that stress-or eliminate it altogether.

Some pets seem to have antennae that warn them when they’re approaching the vet clinic. They know…and they’re not happy about it. Here are a few ways to change your pet’s mindset.

  1. Take a test-drive to the Bluffs Pet Clinic. Enter the parking lot, but don’t exit the car. Wait a few minutes and then return home. Your pet will see that nothing adverse happened when going to the clinic.
  2. Next, kick it up a notch. Call us and let us know you’re taking a “test drive” to the clinic. This time, park your car and bring your pet inside. Our friendly staff will be ready to greet your pooch or feline friend with lots of attention, pets and a treat—but no exam. It’s a purely “feel good” trip to the vet that costs you nothing, while creating a pleasant memory for your dog or cat. “Hmmmmm,” says your pooch. “Maybe this place isn’t so bad after all.” And remember cat lovers: our clinic is certified cat-friendly. We have a cats-only area in our waiting room which also helps de-stress vet visits for your cat.

If your pet’s still a bundle of nerves when it’s veterinarian time, Bluffs Pet Clinic offers natural calming supplements for both cats and dogs. Pick them up in advance of your pet’s appointment and give to your pet two hours before you head out.

Another option is Feliway for cats, and Adaptil for dogs. These products are synthetic cat and dog pheromones in a spray form that calm your pet. For cats and dogs brought in a kennel, simply spray the Feliway or Adaptil in the kennel 10 minutes before your pet enters it. If you include their dog or cat blanket in the kennel, spray that, too.

For large dogs, simply spray a pump or two in the room they spend most of their time in, and also in the car 10 minutes before entering it. The calming effect will occur within minutes.

Now that you have a new cache of techniques to make your pet’s vet visit a pleasant one, plan your trial run today, pick up some products and give these techniques a try. Your pet, as they say on “Animal Planet,” is sure to have a “Fear-Free” visit which, in turn, reduces your stress, too.

The stress free preparation doesn’t stop there.  At the clinic, we use Feliway, Adaptil and Lavender in the exam rooms before your pet arrives to continue their stress-free visit. Call us today for your “trial run” 651-388-1103.

Four-Legged Rejuvenation: The Benefits of Tui Na for Pets

A dog being given a massage

Who among us can deny the pleasure and benefits of a good massage? Whether you have sore muscles, are recovering from an injury, or simply enjoy a little bit of stress relief from time to time, a good massage can certainly hit the spot.

It probably comes as no surprise that massage can have many of the same benefits for pets as it does for people, and that more pet owners are turning to massage as a way to help ease pain and promote healing in their fur babies.

If you’ve ever considered booking a massage for Fido or Fluffy, we invite you to consider Tui-Na, a form of traditional Chinese massage therapy. Tui-Na for pets is growing in popularity as a non-invasive, drug-free way to speed healing and increase well-being (and the pets seem to enjoy it as well).


Flea and Tick Prevention 101

An older dog scratching itselfFleas and ticks are one of the last things most of us want to think about, but these creepy-crawlies can pose some serious health risks to your pets. They’re more than just annoying—as it turns out, fleas, ticks, and the diseases they carry can be passed to the human members of the family as well.

Year-round flea and tick prevention is an important part of pet health and wellness care. Your partners in pet care at The Bluffs Pet Clinic are here to help you every step of the way as you learn about protecting your pets and family from fleas and ticks.


While fleas are found in many places, one of the most likely sources in our area is rabbits. If you have rabbits in your yard or anywhere that your pet frequents, then they are at risk. One female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, which can quickly lead to a full scale infestation. Fleas are easily passed from one pet to another, to household furnishings, and even to people.

Although we associate fleas with annoying itching, they can also cause some serious health concerns for pets and people. Some pets are severely allergic to flea saliva, resulting in an allergic skin reaction called dermatitis. Dermatitis causes severe itching and can lead to hot spots and skin infections.

In addition to dermatitis, fleas can also transmit tapeworm and certain bacterial diseases such as Bartonellosis (cat scratch fever) to both pets and humans. If the infestation is severe enough, it can also lead to anemia in your pet.


Unlike fleas, ticks are not insects, but rather more closely related to spiders. Ticks tend to hide in grass and shrubs, waiting for a warm-blooded host to wander by. Ticks burrow their heads into their host animal’s skin and feed on the plentiful blood supply.

Ticks pose a much greater health risk to pets and humans because they are more likely to transmit serious diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and tick borne encephalitis.

Year-Round Flea and Tick Prevention

Contrary to popular belief, flea and tick prevention is not a seasonal affair. Even here in Minnesota where the winters seem like they’ll never end, fleas and ticks can still affect our pets. In the winter, ticks hibernate in the trees and will come out as soon as the snow melts around the base of the trees. The warm, dry environments of our homes are the perfect climate for small critters like fleas and ticks to thrive. The constant influx of pets and people who travel from other climates causes a constant influx of external parasites, as well.

As with most health issues, prevention is always preferable to treating the effects of a flea infestation or tick bite. Fortunately, there are a variety of products on the market that provide pets with year-round protection. If your pet hasn’t yet started on a monthly flea and tick prevention regimen, please give us a call for more information.

Other Ways to Protect Your Pet

Along with preventive treatment, there are plenty of other ways you can help to keep your pets safe from external parasites:

  • Fleas and ticks often make their homes in tall grasses and weeds. Cutout their available habitat by keeping your yard trimmed and free of weeds and debris.
  • Inspect your pet from head to toe after he or she has been outside, and remove any ticks immediately.
  • Bathe and groom your pet on a regular basis.
  • Be sure to wash your pet’s bedding in hot water weekly, as it can be a breeding ground for bacteria, fungus, and parasites.

Your veterinarian should be your first line of defense against pet parasites. Please contact us with any questions or for more information. We are more than happy to address your questions and concerns regarding flea and tick prevention.

The Importance of Heartworm Protection for Pets

A black and tan dog laying in the grassMost pet owners have heard of heartworm, but few of us understand what it is and the danger it poses to our pets. In colder climates, such as here in Minnesota, heartworm just doesn’t seem like a big risk, causing many pet parents to put year-round parasite prevention on the back burner.

April is Heartworm Awareness Month, and the team at The Bluff’s Pet Clinic would like to take this opportunity to share with our readers the importance of heartworm protection for all pets.

Getting to Know Heartworm

Heartworm is present in all 48 contiguous states and Hawaii, as well as throughout the temperate regions of the world, and poses a serious risk to canine and feline health.

Heartworm is caused by the parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis, and is transmitted by mosquitoes that have fed on an infected animal, such as a dog, cat, coyote, raccoon, opossum, or wolf. The worms take up residence in the heart, lungs, and accompanying blood vessels, wreaking havoc on the internal organs as they grow and reproduce over a period of several months or years.

Heartworm in dogs can be treated if caught early enough, but treatment is expensive and painful, and often requires months of confinement.

A Word About Cats

Cats are considered an atypical host for heartworm, meaning they’re not as physiologically compatible with the disease as dogs. This is why there are fewer cases of heartworm in cats, but it’s also the why there is no effective treatment for feline heartworm. It only takes a few worms for the disease to be fatal.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms commonly associated with heartworm disease include:

  • Coughing or asthma-like symptoms
  • Labored breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of interest in play or exercise
  • Weight loss

Heartworm Protection for Dogs and Cats

It wasn’t that long ago that preventing heartworm in pets was expensive and time consuming. Today, heartworm protection is as simple as a monthly preventive medicine, and is all that is required to keep your dog or cat disease-free. Most heartworm preventives also include medications designed to kill common intestinal parasites, giving you even more reason to keep your pet on the preventive all year long.

If you haven’t started your dog or cat on a monthly heartworm preventive medication, or are in need of a refill, please contact the staff at The Bluffs Pet Clinic today!

Pet Microchips—So Much More Than Pet ID!

A cat being scanned for microchips
Your pets love summer. They are out more often enjoying the weather. However, this increases the chances your pet may go exploring—without you. But you can take precautions that will help find your pet–microchips.
Microchip implants do more than identify pets. A microchip is a tiny chip inserted just under the skin, between your pet’s shoulders. Once inserted,  a veterinary clinic or animal shelter may use a Universal Scanner to retrieve the number on the chip. Home Again Microchips provide a link to get your pet back to you and assist with medical care if they have become injured while away. 
All registered pets have the lost pet ID benefit as well as those benefits indicated below for the first year.  The lost pet ID benefit is available for as long as you own your pet. In the event your lost pet’s microchip is identified, you will be contacted. To continue to provide the additional “lost pet” program benefits indicated below, you will need to pay the modest annual fee of $19.99 to Home Again beginning your second year. The benefits are significant and include:
  • 24/7 on-call support with trained Lost Pet Specialists
  • A nationwide network of over 1,000,000 volunteer PetRescuers
  • A National Pet Recovery Database that assures their contact information remains current
  • Lost Pet Medical Insurance that provides up to $3,000 worth of coverage* should dogs and cats become sick or injured while lost
  • Travel Assistance that covers the cost of flying a lost dog or cat home, up to $500, when found more than 500 miles away
  • 24/7 Emergency Medical Hotline that provides access to a licensed ASPCA veterinarian when pets are sick or injured while traveling or when your clinic is closed.  (The usual cost for this service alone is $65.00 per incident and if follow up is needed, consultation is provided to your veterinarian.) 
The Bluffs Pet Clinic veterinarians and staff are always eager to assist pets and their owners. To help keep your pet safe, call us today at 651-388-1103 to have a chip implanted in your pet.

Are You Having a Pet Emergency? How to Know When It Can’t Wait

A dalmatian being held by a humanWhile it may not seem like rocket science to figure out what is an emergency and what isn’t, oftentimes things are not clear cut.

Next time you are wondering after hours if your pet’s problem can wait until the morning, take a look at our pet emergency reference guide to help decide if you need to seek immediate care.

Recognizing a Pet Emergency

All pet owners should know the deal breakers – those symptoms or situations that fall into the “do not pass go, do not collect $200” category. If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms or is affected by any of these conditions, urgent care is essential. Seek emergency care if your pet:

  • Has suffered trauma, such as being hit by a car, even if he or she seems fine
  • Has bleeding that does not stop within a few minutes
  • Has been (or potentially has been) exposed to a toxic substance
  • Has eaten a non-digestible object
  • Displays symptoms of pain
  • Is straining to or cannot urinate
  • Is bleeding from an orifice
  • Collapses
  • Is having trouble with one or both eyes
  • Has a seizure
  • Appears to have a swollen abdomen
  • Has vomiting or diarrhea that occurs more than once
  • May have a broken bone
  • Is having difficulty breathing
  • Is in active labor and has not had a puppy or kitten in 2 hours

By paying close attention to your four-legged family member, you can make yourself familiar with what his or her normal habits are. If your pet isn’t eating or drinking normally, is acting strangely, starts limping, or displays other unusual behavior, it is never wrong to have things checked out. You know your pet best, and if you feel something is wrong, it probably is.

How to Handle a Pet Emergency

If your pet is having some level of emergency, it can certainly be a little scary. Try to take a deep breath and call us right away. We may be able to coach you through stabilizing your pet, or help you determine the level of emergency. For true emergencies, we always appreciate a call to know that you are on the way, so that we can be prepared to help more quickly.

If it occurs outside of our normal business hours, please don’t hesitate to call one of the many wonderful emergency hospitals in the area. They work together with us to bring your family the best veterinary care possible.

It can help to educate yourself a little about pet emergencies in advance of a problem. Make an effort to review some pet emergency care tips. A pet first aid kit can also be handy to have available.

Pets are very good at hiding symptoms of a problem until things become quite serious. This is why it is so important not to wait too long to seek help. Never hesitate to call us at The Bluffs Pet Clinic if you think that there might be a problem. We are always happy to help.

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

A small dog licking its lips at the sight of human foodThe 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.