My Dog was Skunked! What to do…

Skunks produce an oily liquid that is yellow in color and produced by glands in the anal region. The skunks glands produce the liquid, which is stored in 2 sacs that each have a duct that exits at the 4 and 8 o’clock position around the anal opening. Dogs and cats have similar structures. Dogs and cats produce less pungent material that is thought to be used for marking territory, while skunks use their’s for defensive purposes. Each sac can hold about 1 teaspoon of liquid, which is enough for multiple sprays. The oily liquid is made up of multiple ingredients, most of which are sulfur-containing thiols that give the liquid its potent smell. It is thought that people can smell the liquid at concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion. As a result, it can be very difficult to completely remove skunk odor from a pet that has been sprayed by a skunk. If the animal is harmed in anyway during the encounter with a skunk, you should seek veterinary care.

Paul Krebaum’s home remedy for removal of skunk odor.
Tomato juice (with or without vinegar) used to be commonly advised to remove skunk odor, but it is relatively ineffective. The most common home remedy recommended for removal of skunk odor was developed by a chemist, Paul Krebaum. It involves a mixture of the following:

- 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (usually sold in pints, so 2 bottles needed)
- ¼ cup baking soda (Arm and Hammer is the most common brand)
- 1-2 tsp liquid hand soap (preferred brands are “Softsoap” and “Ivory Liquid”)

The ingredients should be mixed in an open plastic container with plastic utensils and then used immediately. An open container is important due to the amount of gas produced; while plastic is preferred as metal will encourage decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide. The solution can be diluted with 1 quart of lukewarm water for larger pets to help cover a wider area. The solution is placed on the animal while avoiding any exposure to the eyes, ears and mouth. A small strip of eye lubricant or few drops of mineral oil can be placed in the eye for protection. The solution should remain for at least five minutes prior to washing it off and can be repeated as necessary. Use of latex or rubber gloves and old clothing is recommended.

Paul Krebaum’s recipe works by focusing on the chemical nature of the thiols that create the skunk smell. Thiols are not water soluble even with soap. The soap serves to keep the coat wet and get the oily skunk spray into solution where it can react with the other ingredients. The baking soda facilitates the ability of hydrogen peroxide to alter the thiol through oxidation into a water-soluble form as a sulfonate for easy removal.

Commercial remedies for removal of skunk odor
If you are not inclined to try a home remedy for the skunk smell, numerous commercial products exist on the market that have had variable results. Nature’s Miracle skunk remover is one option. This product is thought to work by enzymatic breakdown of the thiols and works best when massaged into a dry coat and left for hours while it dries. Odor-Mute and Earth Friendly Products skunk odor remover are other products that are designed to work by enzymatic breakdown of the thiols. Skunk Off is another product for skunk odor remover that uses various non-enzymatic methods for odor control as described on the website.

There are a number of professional products that are available, that are better applied for environmental control in difficult situations. Products include Neutroleum Alpha, Freshwave, Epoleon and Nisus Bac-Azap. Information regarding these products and additional information regarding removal of skunk odor can be found through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

By Dr Stephen Atwater

The Impact of Stress on Indoor Pets

It has been well established that there is an important link between mental health and overall health and well-being of people. Avoiding stress plays a critical role in the general welfare of people. It should not be surprising that the same can be said for dogs and cats. Poor mental health in dogs and cats often lead to behavioral problems such as house soiling or aggression that may lead to animals being relinquished, abandoned, or euthanized. Although it may not be easily apparent, poor mental health can result in the development of disease conditions and a poor quality of life for the pet. Owners can best avoid problems by understanding the normal behavior and general needs of their dog and cat. In doing so, owners can provide the best preventative and therapeutic care for their pet.

General guidelines for the well being of indoor pets
An important need for the well being of children is a predictable daily routine, predictable consequences and environmental enrichment. When parents provide these things to their children, children are less likely to develop behavioral problems as they feel they have more control of their lives and circumstances. It should not come as a surprise that the same holds true for indoor pets. Daily routine for indoor pets include feeding, elimination, social play and environmental exploration, and sleep or periods of rest. These needs vary depending on the breed and age of the animal, as well as the household itself. By making these basic needs regular and predictable events, the indoor pet gains some sense of control and therefore less stress in knowing how these basic needs will be met.

The Indoor Pet Initiative
An excellent website on environmental issues for dogs and cats is available for veterinarians and pet owners, called the Indoor Pet Initiative . It was created by The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine with the purpose of providing information that describes the basic physical and behavioral needs of dogs and cats. It also provides basic recommendations for dealing with common behavioral problems and resources for help in addressing more severe or dangerous behavioral issues. Being aware of and understanding normal companion animal behavior and needs will help improve the quality of life of your pet dog or cat. One of the main goals of the Indoor Pet Initiative is to improve the quality of life of indoor pets by increasing knowledge and awareness of normal companion animal behavior and needs.

Dr Stephen Atwater

Dr. Stepita’s Behavior Tip

Adding a New Pet to the Family
    When considering adding a new pet to your family I highly recommend researching which species and/or breed best match your lifestyle and family situation. Your veterinarian is a great resource! Drs. Lynette and Ben Hart have studied breed and gender differences among cats and the information can be found in their new book, Your Ideal Cat. Interested in the dog version? The original study which was performed in the 1980’s is called The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior….. Look out for the updated version of this book which should be published soon (FYI- the Hart’s found similar information in the new dog study as they did when they performed the original study, but the new book will include more breeds).

Here are a few pieces of information found in these studies:
1. Female dogs are easier to housetrain than males
2. Terriers rank high in snapping at children
3. Bengal cats rank high in aggression and urinating outside of the litterbox

Meredith Stepita, DVM, Dipl. ACVB

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Izzy is currently up for adoption through Community Concern for Cats in Walnut Creek. Izzy is a sweet kitty, great with other cats and dogs, and settles in very quickly. She also is fine with loud noises like a hair dryer, the vacuum, etc. And she likes to lick! She can be silly and loves to play with other kitties. (click image for larger size)

PET HOLIDAY SAFETY TIPS

While the holidays are a great time to decorate and celebrate with loved ones, our furry family members seem to be up to mischief. Here are a few things to be aware of this holiday season:

EMERGENCY VET We’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – including all major holidays. Don’t hesitate to call us with your pet concerns at any hour of any day because we are always here for you: 925-937-5000

PLANTS Did you know holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia plants are poisonous to dogs or cats? If you normally use these plants to decorate your home, they should be kept in an area your pet cannot reach.

DECORATIONS Whether your decorations may be ornaments, or cranberry or popcorn strings — they are like time bombs waiting to happen. These goodies are just too enticing and your pet will surely tug at them, knocking down your wonderfully decorated spruce.

CANDLES Burning candles should be placed on high shelves or mantels, out of your pet’s way — there’s no telling where a wagging tail may end up. Homes with fireplaces should use screens to avoid accidental burns.

WIRES To prevent any accidental electrocutions, any exposed indoor or outdoor wires should be taped to the wall or the sides of the house.

GIFT WRAPPING When gift wrapping, be sure to keep your pet away. Wrapping paper, string, plastic, or cloth could cause intestinal blockages. Scissors are another hazard, and they should be kept off floors or low tables.

How Dogs Became Our Best Friends!

Check out this adorable infographic from The Uncommon Dog!

Overcoming Nail Trimming Hurdles

Most dogs and cats do not enjoy having their paws handled, let alone their nails trimmed, but with a little bit of work you can change their emotional response to this procedure.

First, hold your pet in a position that is comfortable for nail trimming (for you and your pet) while feeding a high value treat. Use a treat that your dog or cat only receives at this time so he associates nail trimming with something he really likes. Start with a short amount of time (less than 30 seconds) and gradually work up to longer periods of time.

Next, feed the treat while you touch your dog’s foot. The key is to touch the foot only while your pet is interested and eating the special treat. When you stop touching his foot, the treat goes away. This is easier with 2 people.

Once he is comfortable with this progress to tapping his nail with the clippers while feeding the treat and finally clipping his nail while feeding the treat. Initially you will only be able to clip one nail at a time. Gradually work up to clipping more nails in one session.

Remember to only proceed to the next step when your dog or cat is calm, relaxed and eating treats. The whole process takes weeks to months. If your dog or cat becomes aggressive (barking, growling, lip lifting, hissing, snarling, snapping, biting), then consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before proceeding.

Here’s a video:

Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB

Jump start behavioral health in your puppy with socialization!

The days of keeping your puppy confined to the house until 16 weeks of age are over! The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (www.avsabonline.org), a well respected group of veterinarians who share an interest in understanding behavior in animals, believe it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive socialization as early as 7-8 weeks of age after a minimum of one set of vaccines and deworming at least 7 days prior to the first class, with other healthy dogs in an environment that is clean, not in places such as dog parks.

Socialization is the process by which pets develop a relationship with animals of their own species, other species, and humans. With adequate socialization starting as a young puppy, pets are often able to maintain these relationships for life, helping to prevent behavior problems. Although socialization should be continued throughout life, pets are more likely to be defensive, fearful, and possibly aggressive later in life if not properly socialized during their sensitive socialization period, between 3 and 16 weeks of age.

Here is a checklist of some, but not all, experiences your puppy should have before 16 weeks of age. Always associate the experiences with high value rewards such as treats or a tennis ball. Every puppy is different so make sure to go slow if your puppy shows signs of fear or anxiety. If your puppy shows aggression or extreme fear contact your veterinarian immediately.

___ Veterinarian/ Veterinary technicians
___ Person wearing hat
___ Other animals (including non-dog)
___ You with vacuum
___ Person (child & adult) on bike & roller blades
___ Jogger
___ Stranger on street
___ You mowing grass
___ Person with umbrella, open and close umbrella
___ Toddler (supervised)
___ Person with coat, take coat on and off
___ Man with beard
___ Drive – thru window or toll booth
___ Children playing ball
___ Walk on different surfaces (soft, hard, unsteady)
___ Mailman
___ Person with wheelchair, walker, stroller
___ Rain
___ Person in uniform (police, etc)
___ You with hair dryer
___ Handle your puppy on a daily basis (ears, mouth, paws, belly, tail, etc)

What other experiences can you think of that will be important for your puppy? Let us know for the next blog!

Remember: Avoid socializing your puppy in areas frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination status such as dog parks.

Here is a list of recommended books to use as a guide in raising your puppy:

• The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
• An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet: Dog Behavior by Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., MRCVS
• Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. and Daniel Estep, Ph.D.

Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB

Why does my dog do that? : Mounting

    Nothing can be more embarrassing than your dog mounting other dogs (or even people!), but did you know that this is a normal canine behavior? Dogs mount in play as play is practice of future behaviors and excessive mounting in pubertal males is normal. Most people are familiar with such causes as sexual behavior and mounting used to express dominance (ie their position at the top of the hierarchy), but there are other causes, and for successful treatment the root cause must be determined.

    Less commonly, the cause of being mounted may be a medical problem such as testicular cancer or even giving certain medications; so for this reason, the first step is to have your dog examined by their veterinarian. Males and females may mount females in heat. Females in heat may mount inexperienced males. Other dogs that have been in contact with females in heat and smell like them may also be mounted. One of the more common reasons for mounting is when a dog is excited or over-stimulated and mounting is used as a way to relieve this excitement or anxiety. For example, your dog may mount or be mounted when they enter a dog park, when unfamiliar people come to your house, or when petted too much. Over time dogs may learn that mounting is a very self-rewarding behavior and people usually encourage the behavior by paying lots of attention to the dog (even if the attention is negative) when they perform the behavior. Behavior that is rewarded is likely to be repeated.

    Studies show that two-thirds of male dogs show a decrease in mounting after neutering. Once medical conditions have been ruled out and your dog is spayed or neutered; the next step is implementing an appropriate behavior modification plan.

    The first step in behavior modification is to avoid the situation in which the behavior occurs, so that the dog does not continue to practice the behavior. For example, if your dog mounts other dogs at the park, then they likely need a break from the park, at least for now. If a dog is continually put in the situation that elicits the negative behavior, then it is very difficult to re-introduce the situation in a controlled manner to decrease the behavior. A board-certified Veterinary Behaviorist can help to design a plan specific to your family’s individual circumstances to diminish the undesirable behavior. This may include implementing a program in which the dog works for everything in life that they want (to give the dogs structure and predictability in their life, set the owner up as a positive leader, and increase their responsiveness to commands), teaching commands that are incompatible with the unwanted behavior (such as eye contact and hand target), the use of tools such as a head collar for better control, and desensitization and counter-conditioning (DS/CC) exercises. DS/CC is the primary technique we use to change your pet’s emotional response to triggers of anxiety and arousal.

To find a board-certified Veterinary Behaviorist in your area visit the website: www.dacvb.org.
To learn more about Dr. Meredith Stepita and her services, click here.

Seizures in Dogs and Cats

     A seizure is involuntary behavior that is caused by abnormal brain activity. Seizures may involve loss of consciousness, involuntary muscle activity affecting one part of the body, such as the face or whole body, sustained muscle contractions, alternating limpness, stiffness, inappropriate behavior – gum chewing, fly biting or attacking other pets or family members. Some seizures are one time events or may occur repeatedly over the course of weeks or months. The most important clue in determining if your pet has had a seizure or not is if they appear disoriented after the episode. This is otherwise known as the post-ictal phase.

     The causes for seizures differ based upon age and history – young animals causes include low blood sugar, liver shunts or improper brain development. In older pets we become concerned about brain tumors, infections, and/or autoimmune diseases. In both age groups we are concerned about toxin exposure such as chocolate ingestion, recreational drugs, pesticides, flea or tick medications or other infectious causes. Some breeds of dogs develop idiopathic epilepsy (or cause is unknown) – breeds include Labradors, Goldens, Bernese mountain dogs and poodles. Cats however require more advanced diagnostics which include spinal fluid analysis to determine infectious causes (toxoplasmosis) along with imaging.

     Diagnosis starts with a medical history, it is very important to note when your pet had a seizure, the duration, intensity and frequency of the seizure. Laboratory tests are necessary to help diagnose the cause of seizures if there is a cause outside of the brain. Additionally some dogs may require more advanced testing if the problem is located inside the brain. Tests include obtaining a sample of spinal fluid, performing an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography).

     Some dogs may have a single seizure and may not require further medications. Dogs that require medication have seizures more than once a month, or have had multiple seizures in one day. Medications may cause the pet to be sleepy at the beginning but they will acclimate or become used to the drug over time. Many pets remain on antiseizure medications for life and require regular serum drug levels to ensure proper drug dosaging to prevent seizures from “breaking through.” If your dog has a seizure longer than 5 – 10 minutes or is in a state of continuous seizures these dogs need to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Caroline Li, DVM

Ear Infections in Cats and Dogs

     Ear disease is one of the more common diseases in dogs. Infection of the ear or otitis can occur in the external or middle ear. Clinical signs of ear infections include – head shaking, scratching at the ears, a stinky ear, discharge, swelling or redness of the skin inside the ear. Not all red ears are infected ears, however, if they are left untreated it can become infected.

     The normal ear is a structure made up of cartilage that is lined with skin, hair follicles, sebaceous (sweat glands) and modified ceruminous (wax forming) glands. Normally the skin cells and glandular cells produce wax to trap dirt and debris in the ear canal. The normal ear canal is smooth, light pink, with a pearly appearing tympanic membrane.

     The development of ear infections can be divided into predisposing, primary and perpetuating factors. Predisposing factors include the environment such as moisture and or heat, hair plucking, grooming powders and/or anatomic variation; floppy ears (like cocker spaniels), stenotic or narrow ear canals (like the sharpei), and the number of wax/ glandular cells, and number of hair follicles lining the ear canal. Other predisposing causes include hormonal or autoimmune diseases.

     Primary causes include foreign bodies (foxtails), cancer, ear mites, food/inhaled allergies, endocrine or autoimmune diseases.

     Perpetuating factors – these are causes that make treatment challenging and prone to failure –include bacterial or yeast infections, chronic changes to the structure of the ear from inflammation or deep infection, or inappropriate treatment.

     Determining ear infections begins with an otoscopic examination – to assess the surface of the ear canal and to determine if the ear drum is intact. Next is obtaining a sample of the material in the ear by rolling the exudates (wax) onto a slide. There we look for yeast and/or bacteria or even parasites!

     If bacteria or yeast are seen, we need to clean out the ear wax and debris using a special ear cleaner. In order for a medication to work and adhere to the skin in the ear, we need to start with a clean dry ear. If some infections are very deep we may need to add oral antibiotics and steroids to decrease inflammation.

     Maintenance ear care prevents ear infections from occurring again. Depending on your veterinarian they may recommend routine ear cleanings with an appropriate cleaner and medication. Over cleaning can also predispose our pets to developing ear infections by disrupting the normal microenvironment in the ear. Successful treatment of ear infections require identification of the primary cause (allergies, foreign body, autoimmune, endocrine diseases etc), and choosing the appropriate antibiotic along with regular visual assessment of the ear canal and tympanic membrane by your veterinarian.

Caroline Li, DVM