Check out this adorable infographic from The Uncommon Dog!
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
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.
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 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
The answer for why many dogs and cats eat grass and other plants is not clear – cut. Some of the more popular theories are that they have a deficiency in diet, need for more fiber, or that it is a natural instinct inherited from ancestors to rid the body of intestinal parasites. Recent research suggests that most pets eat grass when they are not showing signs of illness. In a recent study conducted at UC Davis by Karen Sueda and her colleagues, it was reported that only 9% of dogs appear ill prior to consuming plant material and only 22% were seen vomiting afterward. It also suggested that younger animals tend to eat plants more often and less frequently appeared ill before plant – eating. Younger animals also have an increased likelihood of consuming other non- grass plants.
If your pet is consuming plant material, it may be normal behavior. If your pet has other signs of illness, please consult your veterinarian. Your pet should have a complete physical exam to rule out any underlying illnesses.
The following is a short list of some common toxic plants. If you suspect that your pet has consumed these or other toxic plants, please consult a veterinarian immediately:
Cycad palms (Sago palm)
Lacey LaVigna, DVM
Vaccinations are an important component of pet healthcare and also play a key role in the control of disease at the national and global level. Vaccines are designed to strengthen an animal’s immune system against a certain disease, to either prevent or minimize the effects of that infection, should the animal later be exposed. They consist of either modified or killed forms of the microorganism. Vaccine guidelines have been created for our pet population and generally consist of “Core” vaccines, which every animal should receive, and Non-Core” vaccines, which are given depending on life style. However, the most important component in vaccine management is consulting with your veterinarian so they can create a vaccination plan specifically tailored to your pet.
You may have wondered why puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccinations. Young animals have naturally occurring immunity to disease, which they receive from their mothers during pregnancy and while nursing. This natural immunity begins to breakdown over the first few months of life, putting the puppy or kitten at risk for disease. For an animal to mount their own immune response, and for a vaccine to be effective, the naturally occurring immunity must be gone. We don’t know the exact point that any given animal will lose their natural immunity, and be ready to mount their own individual immune response, so a series of vaccines are given to ensure we don’t put a young animal at undue risk for disease, but also are able to impart long term immunity. For this same reason it is important not to exposure your puppies and kittens to animals with uncertain vaccination history, or environments where sick animals may have been, until their vaccine series is completed.
There are two “Core” vaccinations given to dogs. The first is rabies, which is required by law due to its potential to spread to human beings. The second is DAP, which is a combo vaccine which protects dogs from some very serious viral diseases, including parvovirus and distemper. Several “Non-Core” vaccines for dogs exist which you and your veterinarian can decide upon based on your pets lifestyle and the diseases they may be at risk of contracting.
“Core” vaccinations for cats include rabies, and the combo vaccine FVRCP, which primary is designed to cover cats for upper respiratory infections. One of the primary “Non-core” vaccines for cats is Feline Leukemia Virus, a life threatening disease which outdoor cats are at risk of contracting.
Veterinarians would agree that the benefits far outweigh the risks. About 1 in every 200 animals will have an adverse vaccine reaction, but most reactions are very mild. Most vaccine reactions are limited to pain at the injection site, but they can also include facial swelling, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and in rare causes anaphylaxis and shock. Some cats can also develop cancer at the site of injection years after their vaccination, but this condition is rare (about 1 in 10,000) and modern vaccines put cats at less risk.
Although there are risks associated with vaccinations, they are an important tool available to your veterinarian to prevent serious and often life threatening disease in your pet. Vaccines are also largely responsible for controlling and even eradicating several of the world’s most serious infectious diseases, in both people and animals. By working with your veterinarian a vaccination plan can be made to minimize risk and keep your pet protected.
Trevor Miller, DVM
It’s hard to believe I have been able to cover so many differentials for behaviors associated with separation anxiety in just 3 blogs! The only other differential I want to briefly mention is predatory behavior. Destructive behavior (and even vocalization) can be seen when the dog is trying to get to prey; which could be in the form of rats behind the walls! The treatment is to remove the source as predatory behavior is different from other behavior problems in that it is not very amenable to behavior modification. Dogs are either born with it or not, making the prognosis poor for changing the underlying emotional response.
In the first blog of this series, we discussed the signs for separation anxiety, so in this blog we will focus on what can be done about it! Confirmation of appropriate diagnosis is important. Separation anxiety is one of the most difficult behavior problems to treat as it is often extremely difficult to avoid leaving the dog home alone for most people (myself included). Like other behavior problems, the more the dog practices the behavior, the more difficult it is to change. Since not leaving the dog home alone for months and months while behavior modification is implemented is not realistic for most people, anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed by your veterinarian to facilitate this process. If the pet does need to be left alone, they should be left in the place they are most comfortable with multiple long lasting treats they can safely consume in your absence. The Kong Company has some great ideas for different long lasting treat recipes (http://www.kongcompany.com/recipes/). The dog should always be ignored for 10-15 minutes before leaving and until calm once the owner returns home in order to decrease the emotional highs and lows of these times.
A key component to treating separation anxiety is to change the dog’s emotional response to being away from the owner. To do this, the dog first must be comfortable with the owner being in a separate part of the house. This is accomplished by implementing independence exercises. The dog is put on a mat with a favorite long lasting treat. Over many sessions the owner practices moving further away for longer periods of time. If the dog is not sleeping or relaxed and eating their treat, then the time and/or distance must be decreased during the next session. After many weeks, once the owner is able to walk around the house for 10-15 minutes out of sight of the dog, graduated departures can be started. This is an extension of the independence exercises with the owner being able to walk out the door for 1 second initially, working up to longer and longer (hopefully hours) periods of time. The long lasting treat should be picked up when the exercise is over so that your dog is rewarded for your absence, not presence. Using a video camera helps to monitor your progress once you are out of sight of the dog.
Another part of behavior modification for separation anxiety is uncoupling the cues that tell your dog you are leaving from your actual departure. This involves practicing the cues when you are not actually leaving. For example, pick up your keys and then go wash the dishes or put your shoes on and sit down to read a book. Over time you can do more and more cues together until you are able to work up to a whole day’s routine without leaving. Remember that these are general recommendations and each individual patient should have a treatment plan devised by a Veterinary Behaviorist or Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist for safety reasons and the best outcome.
Well, that’s it for my discussion of separation anxiety. Stay tuned for more behavior blogs. If there is a particular topic you are interested in please let us know!
Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB (Veterinary Behaviorist)
It finally happened. Your children won the argument and you came home with a new puppy or kitten. Everything was peachy – then it all started to happen: the kitten decided to use your great-grandmother’s rug as a litter box and scratching post, or the puppy found your beloved vinyl records of Elvis or the Beatles and destroyed them with such efficiency, that an industrial shredder would be jealous. You’re now over your head with this young creature. Now what?
Bringing a new puppy or kitten into the household is not as simple as walking down to the shelter, picking out the cutest animal, and then bringing it home. Time must be spent before ever bringing a new pet home. Most parents don’t have a baby without some sort of pre-planning and preparation, right? The same applies here.
Research the breed that you are interested in getting. Some breeds are better suited to your family’s lifestyle than others. An owner who doesn’t like to walk or can’t exercise will not fit well with a dog who likes to run a lot. The same is true for certain breeds of cats: some cats require a lot of attention and talk a lot, and some owners might not like that.
Make sure you have all your supplies beforehand. Crates, chew toys / scratching posts, water / food bowls, appropriate food for the age of the animal and grooming supplies. A leash, collar and ID tags are a must.
Is your house set up properly? You need to find a place for the crate and sleeping areas. Designating a potty area should be done as soon as your puppy comes home. Kittens need to be introduced to their litter box right away. Put away items that you do not want destroyed.
Routines work well with animals. Work with your puppy or kitten from the beginning to establish a routine for eating, playtime and exercise. Establishing good habits early on will save you trouble later on down the road.
Your first visit to the vet can be overwhelming with the amount of information you will receive. The following is a list of typical topics:
1.Vaccines and diseases
2. Controlling parasites, both internal and external
5. Behavior – house training, biting, contact with children / other pets
6. Problems commonly associated with certain breeds
7. When to spay / neuter
8. Dental care and grooming
9. New puppy / kitten kits
Vaccines are obviously an important topic at the beginning of any puppy or kitten’s life. While there are some risks involved with giving vaccines, the benefits far outweigh the risk. However, anytime an animal receives a vaccine, regardless if it’s the first time or the 10th time, some signs may occur, such as swelling, pain, a low grade fever, or lethargy. More serious reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, can also occur. In cats, a reaction called a vaccine associated sarcoma (a cancerous tumor) may also occur, but this is also infrequent.
There are a number of required, or core vaccines given to puppies and kittens. Additionally, there are other vaccines that can be given, based on you and your pet’s lifestyle (close contact with wildlife, frequent boarding, for example).
The core vaccines and their schedule for dogs:
1. DHPP – distemper, canine infectious hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus
a. These viruses can attack the liver, heart, respiratory tract, central nervous system and the intestinal tract
b. Initial vaccine at 8 weeks, then boosters at 12, 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.
2. Rabies – a virus that attacks the brain, spread by being bitten by an infected animal
a. Initial vaccine at 16 weeks, a booster at 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.
Lifestyle vaccines for dogs can include:
1. Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease that is spread by contact with urine from infected wildlife. Can be spread to humans. Can cause liver and kidney disease.
a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks, then boosters at 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every year after that.
2. Bordatella (kennel cough) – a bacterial disease that can cause respiratory illness, commonly caught at dog parks, grooming facilities or kennels.
a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks. Boosters every 6 – 12 months.
3. Rattlesnake – helps decrease the severity of rattlesnake bites.
a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks. Boosters every year thereafter.
The core vaccines and their schedule for cats:
1. FVRCP – feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia virus
a. These viruses can attack the respiratory and intestinal tracts. They are spread in the air or by close contact with an infected individual.
b. Initial vaccine at 8 weeks, then boosters at 12, 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.
2. Rabies – a virus that attacks the brain, spread by being bitten by an infected animal
a. Initial vaccine at 16 weeks, and then every year thereafter.
Lifestyle vaccines for cats can include:
1. FELV – feline leukemia virus
a. This virus can cause immunosuppression (decreased ability to fight other infections) and death in cats of all ages. It is spread by contact with infected individuals.
b. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks, then a booster at 16, and then every year thereafter.
Getting a new puppy or kitten can be stressful, but don’t worry, you’ll get through it. It requires patience, discipline, and sometimes the ability to step back and calm down. Don’t worry, you’ll do great with a new member in the family!
Byron Bowers, DVM