Monthly Archives: July 2016

Does Your Pet Have a Bikini Body?!

Does Your Pet Have a Bikini Body?!

Dr. Whitney Wolfgang, DVM

shutterstock_114802885While your pet partner may not need to look great in a bathing suit this summer, there are many reasons to take a good look at your pet’s figure. Pets that are overweight are at a much higher risk of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, breathing issues, skin issues, heat exhaustion; the list goes on. Most importantly our obese pets have an overall shorter lifespan! Just a few pounds can drastically change your pet’s quality of life.

Many owners ask their veterinarian a great question, “what should my pet weigh?” While I love hearing this question, I will let you in on a secret… there is no magic number! Pets come in all sizes, from Tea Cup Chihuahuas to Great Danes! So what do veterinarians look for in a good body weight?

As a veterinarian, I look at 2 main areas – the ribs and the waist (from the top and the side) – and you can do this at home. The ribs of a dog of ideal body condition should feel like the back side of your hand when you make a fist; go ahead, make a fist, and feel your hand and then feel your pet’s ribs! The waist of a dog in ideal body condition will create a figure eight shape from the top; standing over your pet, you should see a slight curve in as it creates a waist, and curves back out for the hips. If you kneel down and sit at your pets level, you should see a dramatic “tuck” at the end of the ribs. Click on the pictures below and compare them to your pet’s body condition.

Dog Body Condition Scoring

Cat Body Condition Scoring

Even if your pet isn’t going to be a bikini model this summer, take a good look at their weight for a healthy life! If your pet needs to lose a few extra pounds a great place to start is pre-measured meal feedings, rather than free feeding all day long without a limit. Be sure to use an accurate measuring cup. Secondly, replace store bought treats with carrots, green beans, or ice cubes (these treats have ZERO CALORIES!). If your pet really likes treats or is in training, hold an allotted amount of their pre-measured dry food in a “special daily treat jar”. Once those treats are gone, NO MORE TREATS TODAY! If your pet scarfs food down faster than you can pull your hand away, consider using a foraging device for a food delivery method! This gives them some mental stimulation, slows their eating so that they feel full by the end of the meal, and provides you some entertainment; you will probably be amazed at how smart your dog/cat really is!! Finally, you can try to reduce the amount of food you are feeding by 5-10%.

We are always happy to see pets in for a quick weight check (cat owners may consider purchasing a baby scale) that we can add to our records! If you find you are struggling to decrease/maintain your pets weight, talk to your veterinarian about more options!

Tech Talk with Sarah: Chinchillas

Chinchillas don’t need water to stay clean! Their bodies produce oils & those oils are controlled by a dust bath. Yes, a dust bath. The chinchilla rolls around in the dust multiple times until he/she feels satisfied. For excellent hygiene, a chinchilla needs to have a dust bath twice a week.

Tech Talk: Chinchillas

By: Sarah Elizabeth

Hello fellow readers! This month, I will be discussing chinchillas. Admit it, we all love to go to the pet store to watch them sleep & snuggle. I think the attraction is in how fluffy they are  & how little their paws are. If you are considering adding one of these furry friends to your family, I am here to give you the information you need.

If you have young children, it is not recommended to have a chinchilla as a pet.  They can scare easily, overstress & possibly become injured from the child playing or being overly affectionate.  They may even bite out of fear. However, as long as you are supervising your child & the chinchilla, there is no reason why this can’t be a family pet. Once they are adapted to their surroundings, chinchillas are actually quite social, vocal, & entertaining to watch! They are nocturnal & very active & they are nearly impossible to catch! These little bundles of fur are smart, inquisitive, & can live up to 20 years!

Chinchillas can have multiple different fur colors such as gray, black, tan, beige, or white, and are all fur. Their fur is very dense, soft, & can be up to 1-foot-long in length. Their average weight is 1 pound to 1.5 pounds! They are so little & fragile!

Cage & Habitat

Chinchillas have continuously growing teeth just like rabbits and are known to be chewers! Always be sure to get a chew proof cage that is a minimum size of 16” x 20” x 16” for just one chinchilla.  A pelleted or shredded paper bedding is best. Avoid bedding made from pine & cedar as pieces tend to be sharp & can cause the chinchilla pain or respiratory issues from the amount of dust they produce. When looking for a cage, you want to avoid cages with a wire floor because their feet can become injured, and glass aquariums provide poor ventilation.

Chinchillas are sensitive to heat, humidity & drafts. Heat stroke is LIFE THREATENING and can be the result of poor environments. Try to avoid an area with direct sunlight, heaters, & away with drafty areas with high humidity.

Chinchillas do not like dirty environments, so it is necessary to clean their habitat once a week.  Along with their habitat, it is best to clean their food & water containers & any cage items with no scent soap & warm water. Everything MUST be dry before returning to the environment for your pet. Another important question is what kind of water bottle should a chinchilla use? You want a water bottle with a stoppered opening & one that can hang on the side of the cage for easy access. An average food bowl will suffice for your pet’s food, but don’t forget a hay rack.  This will keep any hay added to the diet from sitting in urine/feces. Because chinchillas are social, they obviously like to play. Chew proof toys & untreated wooden toys are great for chinchillas to chew on & so their teeth can wear down & avoid any overgrowth of the teeth.

Chinchillas are native to Chile & Peru. They live in the mountains where the weather tends to be chilly. The dense fur that covers their body protects them from the harsh environment.

In the wild, chinchillas live in groups. They make their homes in burrows & crevices of rocks in the mountains.


Chinchillas are little vegetarians & boy do they love their veggies! They are known to have very sensitive stomachs & are commonly seen for GI tract issues at the vet. Most chinchillas need a commercial pelleted food in their diet. Pelleted diets are designed so that chinchillas are getting the correct amount of protein, fat, & roughage. They are compacted into small pellets to make it easy to eat. Most pet stores will have this in stock.   They should be given 1-2 Tbsp per day.  Chinchillas need to have a source of fiber & roughage in their diet such as timothy hay, which should be the majority of their diet. This is something that they tend to munch on continuously throughout the day. You want to have pellets & fresh hay available at all times to avoid hypoglycemia.   Fruit and greens can be fed in small amounts as a healthy treat but avoid sugary and fatty foods as these little guys stomach are not designed to handle this type of treat.  Chinchillas partake in coprophagy, this means that they eat a form of feces they produce called cecotropes, or “night feces” because they are usually only produced at night & they are eaten as soon as they are passed. Cecotropes provide necessary nutrient that a chinchilla needs to obtain on a daily basis.


If you have multiple young chinchillas housed together & they are all intact, you are most likely going to have babies in the near future. Yes, that sounds so fun & wonderful, but it is a lot of work & responsibility.  Also females that are not bred until later in life often have difficulty giving birth as their pelvis loses the ability to stretch to allow the babies to pass through.  If you do not want to have the issue of having a preggers chinchillie, you will need to know how to tell the males from the females. Males have a patch of bare skin between the anus & urethral opening. The distance between the urethral opening & the anus is also much farther apart in males. Females have a small slit opening & no patch of bare skin. If you do happen to run into a situation where your chinchilla is expecting, here are the need to know facts:

Breeding Facts

Chinchillas tend to reach sexual maturity by 8 months. They mate seasonally upon the light cycle which is November until May. The gestation or pregnancy period of a chinchilla is 110 days long. Once the Kits or babies are done cooking, they are generally born within a few minutes apart from each other. There are usually only 2 babies per litter, but there can be as many as 6!  They are born with their eyes open & their bodies covered in fur. A healthy weight for a new born is around 2oz.

Helpful hint! Chinchillas love willow tree wood. Not only is it safe for them to chew on, but if branches are added to their environment this can add enrichment.

Health & Illness

As is possible for all of us, chinchillas can get sick. It is best to know your chinchilla’s personality so you know when he/she is not feeling well. Here are some physical symptoms to watch for in case of illness.

  • Poor coat
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Unusual feces
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Not eating/Not drinking

If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, call to make an appointment with Dr. Balmer at AHDC.