Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



7 Tips for a Happy Howl-o-ween



Feline Friendly Vet Exams
Local Cats Sick with Tularemia
How far is Too far to Walk

Healthy Pets are Happy Pets

7 Tips for a Happy Howl-o-ween
Meet the Vet Techs


Feline Friendly Vet Exams 

Ranger and Mercy chilling out
The word is out - cats outnumber dogs as pets in the home. Yes, there are more cats as pets in the USA than dogs. 81.7 million cats to 72 million dogs according to the CATalyst council to be exact. Despite this, veterinarians are seeing fewer cats for regular care compared to dogs. Various surveys have listed the reasons  and I am going to focus on one - many cats hate going to the veterinarian. Surprise!!!  Are you surprised? I am not. The typical veterinary process  is not very cat friendly. Good news is that things are changing at progressive veterinary clinics and there are things you can do to help your cat be more tolerant ( even like) check ups.
Liver paste by Kong in a syringe to reward
I have seen many cats become more tolerant and even like their exams as we use rewarding and less stressful handling my office, Okaw Veterinary Clinic. What is less stressful handling?  First of all - minimal handling of the cat. It shocks many owners to see my Certified Veterinary Technicians only rubbing the head of a kitty as I give vaccinations or injections. Even more awesome is when a cat likes the liver paste fed by syringe, then give the injection as they are chowing down. This reward is now linked with what used to be really upsetting. I won't lie - there is a bit of pain with the injection but we use small 25ga needles, not the larger type typically used. The pain is less noticeable due to the pleasure of the liver paste. So the liver paste wins out for the cat's attention. Wouldn't you tolerate a blood draw better if you were able to eat a chocolate brownie as the needle went in? So rubbing the head, sliding the body, feeding what ever this cat likes during  examination helps the cat link something good with the exam. The cat learns there are good things at the vet.

Leeza helps veterinary students learn 

For the hissing, hiding fearful cat, less stressful exams means being creative. It also means telling clients how we are going to handle this kitty differently than before and how it may help their cat. Some of what we do may  look a little crazy, but it works. Taking the carrier apart and examining the cat while still in the base of the carrier is one way to make the exam a bit more tolerable. The cat is surrounded by the smells it knows, and feels more protected. I use a tongue depressor to examine the mouth so I will not be bitten and often put some salmon paste on it to make the depressor nice for the cat.  Covering the cat with a towel can work - some like the whole body covered some like the head only. The point is to prevent the cat from escalating in hissing, jumping around, and resisting exam. It may seem contrary, but for cats  more hands means more fighting. 

Examining the mouth using the tongue depressor
How the cat feels during the exam is what the cat will remember about everything involved in getting to the veterinarian. So, the car ride, carrier, waiting area, exam room, table and hands of the assistants and veterinarian can be good, bad or neutral. Unfortunately, the majority of training how to restrain cats for exams has been based on holding them down.Cats really do not like to be held down. This has resulted in many cats having a bad vet experience - hence the results of the study! When you are going to bring your cat in for an exam ask the staff at the clinic what types of handling do they use. Low stress handling is a new "buzz word"  thanks to the book and writings of Dr. Sophia Yin, veterinarian and behaviorist. If you do not hear those words, or descriptions of " we use blankets, Feliway (Ceva inc) and other things to make the exam more cat friendly"  then look around. These newer techniques are not a secret.  Practices are using them and the cat owner needs to help promote this in our profession by asking for it and selecting clinics that use less stressful techniques.

Use rewards at home when loading your cat into the carrier. The Bella Behavior System for the pet owner will teach you how to offer and know what works for your cat to accept treatment and handling better. The kit has an instructional booklet, pet chart to record what works for your pet, and online support It is available for purchase at the Bella Behavior System website.

This kitty relaxes with her Feliway bandana

Now some cats are difficult to get in the carrier or even into the vet. You can ask your veterinarian if they will do a house call. It is still important that less stressful handling is used at the home exam a well. Read my "Here Kitty Kitty" article, and look for next month's blog about how to get your cat to the veterinarian easier. Let me know what works or does not work for your cat. We are all in this together to help our pets and us live longer happier lives together.






Local Cats Sick with Tularemia

The News Gazette had an article last week about cats in Savoy with Tularemia, a serious infectious disease that can affect pets, wildlife and people. Check out the article here. So, what does this mean for our pets here in Douglas county?

Tularemia is a bacterial organism that causes an infection in the lungs, skin, eyes, and sinuses of animals. It is most commonly found in rabbits, mice, sheep, and people although cats and dogs can become infected also. The disease is treatable with antibiotic provided the infection is detected early. 

Common signs of the disease are fever, skin abscesses, nasal discharge, eye discharge, or pneumonia. It may take 1 to 10 days before symptoms develop. The disease is spread primarily through ticks, fleas and biting flies. Dogs and cats can also become infected by eating the raw flesh of the rabbits or infected animals. Ticks, fleas and biting flies can also spread the disease from one animal to another when they suck the blood and bite another animal. Humans become infected by skinning hunted animals or handling hit by car wildlife without wearing gloves. Cats rarely spread infection directly to humans. It is usually handling the dead wildlife that the cat has brought in that causes spread of the infection.

The disease may be difficult to diagnose at first because the symptoms are similar to other infections. Be sure to tell your veterinarian if your dog or cat is allowed to run off leash at all, even for short periods. Cats are very good hunters, and can kill mice and small rodents within a short time outside, even if they are not hungry. Blood tests and cultures can confirm the diagnosis but these tests may take up to weeks to get the results.

To protect your pets and yourself follow these guidelines:

Keep a veterinary recommended flea and tick product on your dog or cat. Preventing those tick and flea bites is an easy way to protect your pets and yourself. Revolution is a good product to kill fleas, ticks, heartworm and other diseases in the dog and cat.

Do not handle any dead wildlife without gloves on and wash your hands after handling. Use a shovel to clear any road kill.

Walk your dogs on leash and limit how much time your cat goes outside. Have your cat wear a breakaway collar with a bell to warn wildlife.

Take your pet to the vet as soon as they are not eating normally, acting quiet or having any eye or nasal discharge. Cats do not show the signs of disease as obviously as dogs do, so anything that has your cat "off" take them in or have the veterinarian come to your home.

You can read more about Tularemia at our Pet Library.




How far is Too far to Walk?

nullAfter the home coming parade last Friday, someone asked about how Butterscotch did after the walk. Was he used to walking that far (He is. He walks that far twice daily). The next question was how far was too far to walk an old dog. No one wants to over work their pet, especially an older one. How does one know what is a good amount of exercise but not too much to cause harm?

The answer will depend on your pet's fitness level now, if there is any arthritis already present and what kind of surface your pet will be walking or exercising on. All pets, especially older ones get a lot of help by regular daily walking. So, even a short walk will be good for your pet. Walking helps the circulation to the heart, liver and kidneys helping those important organs to work better. It is really stimulating to the brains of older pets to sniff out different things and see different sights on a walk. Keeping muscles fit and in use is one of the best ways to reduce pain and stiffness due to arthritis.

So, for a first walk, notice when your dog starts to tire out make note of how far or how long you have walked. Take about 5 minutes to let the dog lay and rest before heading home (be patient!). Now, for future walks go half the distance out that you went when they became tired so you can do the whole route in 1 walk. Use this as a starting point. Repeat this walk twice daily. Even if it is just 5 minutes of walking, 2 walks that are 5 minutes and not over tiring a dog is better than 1 10 minute walk. Every week you can increase the walk by 2 minutes or so. After a while many old dogs can go on a 15 minute or 1 mile plus walk 2-3 times a day. The point is to keep up the walks daily so your dog does not loose it's conditioning. Running or jogging is very hard on the joints so just keep it to a walk.

Grass is a good surface to walk on. The key is to praise your dog when walking with the head up and not buried in the grass. Do not use a choke chain or prong collar. These can be damaging to the neck. The easy walk harness by Premier is a good choice to prevent pulling or guide the dog into you. Older dogs do ok on pavement as long as it is not too hot, and they keep the pace at a walk. Be mindful of areas where there may be broken glass, or other debris.

As dogs get older they may not be able to hear as well. So people may startle them, or shrill noises may upset them. Pet them and use food rewards for walking well or encourage calm behavior when a train passes or emergency vehicle.

Most dogs do best walking after they have been up for a little while to get their legs limber. If your pet takes arthritis medication wait about 30 minutes or so before a long walk so the medication is already working.

Walking your old dog is a great way to enjoy time together, keep them and yourself healthy, and show off your super senior dog!



Healthy Pets are Happy Pets

Keeping your dog or cat healthy is an important way to keep them happy and help them have a long and full life. How do you keep your pet healthy? Take them to see their vet, keep them on flea and heartworm prevention, keep them at a normal weight and keep their mind and body active.

Take your dog or cat to see their veterinarian at least once a year. We check your pet's weight. If your pet has gained or lost weight, without a change in food or activity, this may be an indication of an illness. We ask you about your pet's activity, appetite, etc. Dr. Foote then examines and gives your pet his or her vaccines. We also feel for lumps on pets during the exam. If we find a lump, Dr. Foote may take a small sample and look at it under the microscope. When your pet isn't feeling good it is important to bring him or her to the vet. The earlier Dr. Foote diagnoses an illness, the earlier she can start treatment. Sometimes pets come in after they have been sick for several days or weeks. Some of these pets we can treat and help them get well. But sometimes, the pet is so sick, treatment will not help the pet. We want to help your pet live a long and healthy life so we recommend senior dogs and cats get a senior blood panel test every year, even if your older pet appears to be healthy. This panel tests shows how the liver, kidneys and other internal organs are functioning. We just draw a little blood and then run the test. If your pet has normal results, then Yeah! your pet is a Super Senior. If the test shows a problem, we will start to treat your pet. This test was able to find a hidden problem in your pet and now we can help them live longer. We have had many cases of dogs and cats who appear to be in perfect health, have a hidden illness that was found while doing this routine blood work. We were able to provide changes in food, medications or other treatments to help these pets get healthy.   

Keep your dog or cat on heartworm and flea prevention. Dogs can get heartworm and we have recently learned cats can get heartorm and other illnesses from the heartworm. Even dogs and cats who never go outside have been diagnosed with heartworms. Mosquitoes, which transmit heartworms, can enter your home and bite your pet. Heartworm prevention also helps prevent your pet from getting intestinal worms. Several heartworm prevention medications are available for purchase. We carry Revolution and Interceptor in our office. You can purchase other medications like Heartgard and Sentinel from our online pharmacy. Heartworm prevention medication should be given once a month all year long. Dogs and cats can get fleas. Even if your pet never goes outside, it is a good idea to keep him or her on flea prevention. Fleas can enter through cracks in windows and doors and on your pant legs as you enter your home. Many flea preventions are available to purchase. We carry Revolution and Frontline in our office. You can purchase other preventatives like Advantage and Vectra3D from our online pharmacy. Flea prevention should be given once a month year round. Fleas can live through the winter in basements and crawl spaces.

A pet with at a normal weight will live longer than a pet who is overweight. Pets at a normal weight will live up to two and a half years longer. Is your pet overweight or at a normal weight? Check out this site to find out! Overweight pets are at a higher risk for diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, knee injuries and cancer. So to help your pet live a longer and fuller life, watch that weight! You can still give treats, just change how you are doing it. Break your pet's treats into smaller treats and give pieces of the treat instead of the whole treat. For example, if your dog gets three treats a day, break one of those treats into three pieces. Your dog still gets 3 treats, they are just smaller pieces. Try giving your dog fruits and vegetables as treats. Raw green beans, slices of apple, baby carrots and other fruits and veggies are healthy and lower in calories than most treats. Do NOT give your pet grapes, raisins, onions, garlic or nuts. These foods will make your pet sick. Feed your pet a quality pet food that is appropriate for your pet's age. For example, if you have a kitten, purchase kitten food and if you have a nine year old cat, purchase senior cat food. Low quality brands of food are often cheaper, because they contain cheap ingredients that can't be digested by your pet. These ingredients just get pooped out without providing any nutrition for your pet. Since these cheap ingredients aren't being digested, you have to feed your pet more food than a higher quality food. You are feeding more, you go through the bag faster and have to purchase food more often. The cost of these "cheap" foods is often very close to the higher quality foods. Another way to keep your pet trim is to measure your pet's food and feed him or her according to the feeding suggestions printed on the bag. If your furry friend is already overweight, purchase a diet dog food. These foods will often be labelled light, weight control, weight management, etc. For more information about overweight pets, visit the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention's website

Keep your pet's mind and body active. A bored pet can get start to make up games like...chew the couch cushion and chase the human. You can prevent games like this by providing exercise. Dogs should be walked multiple times a daily. Cats enjoy going outside on a leash or in a cat proof fenced area. Check out this article for more information about cats going outside. Play games like fetch and hide and seek to exercise your pet. Walking and playing helps your pet's mind and body stay active. Use food puzzles to feed your pet. Your dog or cat must move the toy or pieces of the toy to get food. Check out our Play with your Food page for ideas on food puzzles. We also have videos of pets using the food puzzles. Food puzzles help keep your pet's mind active.




7 Tips For a Happy Howl-o-ween

  1. Keep candles out of your pet's reach. Your pet may be burned by the candle. Dogs and cats can also knock over the candle and may start a fire.

  2. Keep fake cobwebs out of your pet's reach. Dogs and cats may eat the webbing. The webbing can cause a blockage or cut off blood to part of your pet's intestines.

  3. Put your pet in a bedroom, kennel or other confined area during Trick or Treating. Your pet won't be able to dart out the door when you open it for Trick or Treaters. Your pet may get scared by the funny and scary costumes children wear.

  4. Keep candy away from your pet. Chocolate and sugar free candy containing Xylitol can make your pet very sick. Wrappers can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

  5. No nuts from the yard. Falling walnuts, hickory nuts, buckeyes and other nuts may be fun to play with, but they can cause your pet to become sick. The nuts and shells can scratch and get stuck in your pet's intestine. Buckeyes are poisonous to dogs.

  6. Do not let your pet eat Asian beetles (orange lady bugs). The bugs secrete an irritating liquid that will make your pet sick.

  7. Be aware of rat and mouse poison. Neighbors may put out poison to control these pests. If your pet eats the poison or a mouse or rat that ate the poison, your pet will get sick.

Meet the Vet Techs

October 9 - 15 is National Veterinary Technician Week. We are celebrating it here by telling you a little bit about what a technician does and a little bit about our technicians. To become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), you must go through a Vet Tech course at a college and then pass a certification test to be licensed in your state. Parkland College has a Veterinary Technology course. Most tech courses are two years of intense classes and an internship at a veterinary clinic. After receiving the college degree, we study for the state test. After passing the state test, we are now a CVT. We must earn 15 hours of continuing education every two years. Attending educational seminars and reading articles is how we earn our continuing education hours. CVTs can do many tasks at a veterinary clinic. We can draw blood, administer and monitor anesthesia, assist during surgery, perform dentals, evaluate slides of urine, skin and other samples under the microscope, give injections and many other tasks.

We have three CVTs at our clinic. All three attended Parkland College and are licensed by the state. Get to know our techs:

Rachael Green
7 years at Okaw Vet Clinic

I grew up in a small town and have had pets my entire life. We have always had at least one dog and outdoor cats. We live on a farm so I also grew up around horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, chickens and a goat. I decided to work in an animal related field when I was in high school. We had a sick cow on our farm. She was pregnant and was having a difficult time walking. She had fallen down. We were trying to help her stand up, but we couldn't get her up. So I started massaging her legs to help stimulate blood to flow to her muscles. My brother said I should be a veterinarian. I laughed, but thought maybe I should go into the veterinary field. I could help animals stay healthy and help them when they are sick.

I started looking into the veterinary field and I found out Veterinary Technicians. I did a bit of research and found the Vet Tech program at Parkland College. I thought this would be a great way to help animals. I applied and got into the program. It was a tough - lots of studying and long hours of classes. But it was worth it. I have enjoyed working with animals and helping keep them healthy.


Debbie Gass
6 years at Okaw Vet Clinic

From a very young age, I just knew that I was going to work with animals. Back in 1988, I had the opportunity to work at an Animal Emergency Clinic. Oh boy, was I hooked! I just knew that this was what I was meant to do.

Upon arriving in Illinois (from my native Rhode Island), I learned about Parkland College's Veterinary Technology program. I jumped at the chance to learn more and get some more training. It was great to know there was a program to gain more knowledge and training for the field I had come to love.

Every day as a veterinary technician is a learning experience. There are always new medicines, techniques, diagnostics out constantly coming out to keep this field so fresh and exciting. (Not to mention all the great animals and people I meet!)

I am blessed that I love my job and look forward to going to work to see what each day will bring.


Leeza Chapman
1 1/2 years at Okaw Vet Clinic

I have wanted to work in the veterinary field for as long as I can remember. I used to bring home stray animals. My mother wasn't to happy, but I wanted to keep them. In second grade, I announced that I wanted to be a vet. In fifth or sixth grade I decided that I would like to work in a vet office, but not be a vet. I decided to look into other jobs that would allow me to work in a vet office. I found information about veterinary technology and decide to be a veterinary technician. 





Okaw Veterinary Clinic
140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953
(217) 253-3221


Mon & Fri 8 am - 6 pm
Tues & Wed 8 am - 5 pm
Sat 8 am - noon
Closed Thurs & Sun

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