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)

New Puppy or Kitten?

      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
          3. Nutrition
          4. Insurance
          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

Meet “Bernie”: 4 Week Old Kitten Survives Fire

   You may have heard that on May 23rd, 2012 there was a devastating fire in Bethel Island (click here for news story) that burned down two homes. What you didn’t hear about were the colonies of feral cats who lost their homes and lives that night.

   The night of the fire, this little 4 week old kitten was brought to us on emergency by a neighbor of the fire struck area. At the time, he was named “Amazing Grace” because of his miraculous survival among the feral cat colonies. The woman who brought us to him told us the story of how he had a sibling a mother that often were found nesting together under a car. The woman believes that once the flames started, the mother kitten could only carry one kitten to safety; sadly it wasn’t this guy. He crawled out from under a car on his own while flames chased him and ended up pinned next to a fence where the kind woman came and rescued him. By then, “Amazing Grace” was in critical condition facing issues such as severely burned paw pads, whiskers burned off, eye irritation, melted fur, small burned patches and smoke in his lungs.


   Our registered veterinary technician, Barbara, was working the night “Amazing Grace” came in. The woman who rescued him from the flames was unable to keep him herself but she wanted to be sure he got the best of care, which is why she drove from Bethel Island all the way to us, in Walnut Creek. Barbara decided right then and there that she would take responsibility of the kitten and find him a furever home as soon as he recovered.

   Due to Barbara’s kindness, “Amazing Grace” (now “Bernie”) will heal and spend the rest of his life in a home where he is loved and will no longer need to sleep under cars and escape roaring flames. We would like to help Barbara and her dedication to saving animals in need, even when she isn’t sure how she is going to do it. Please help us, help Barbara, help Bernie, by making a small contribution towards his ongoing care at Encina Veterinary Hospital:


encinavet.chipin.com

    The best part is that Bernie has nuzzled his way into the heart of one of our other Registered Veterinary Technicians, Nicole, and has found his furever home already!


Bernie as of Tuesday May 29th, 2012
(you may notice that his pupils are large; that is due to the pain medication he is on because his paw pads are burned so badly that they constantly hurt, even with burn cream applied and wrapped)

ARF’s Annual “Animals on Broadway” 2012

This year, we had the amazing opportunity to be apart of ARF’s Annual “Animals on Broadway” 2012. ARF has been rescuing and rehoming animals since 1991 — over 20 years! With them being located less than a mile a way from us, it’s easy for us to see the amazing work they do. We often have clients tell us they rescued their pet from ARF and are SO happy! Their pets have been through extensive training, behavior and socialization to help ensure that the pet will work out great with their new family.

We were lucky enough to be part of the wellness fair portion where we hosted the “Ask the Vet” booth with Dr. Cindi Hillemeyer and Dr. Meredith Stepita.

We had TONS of prizes to raffle off!

The place was packed with people out to enjoy the beautiful weather while helping an amazing cause



ARF volunteers were everywhere and helping with everything!

We saw some interesting pets — here are two dogs owned by a groomer in Orinda who safely paints dogs! Can you see what these two masterpeices are meant to be?

While we had an amazing time and enjoyed meeting everyone, we were exhausted at the end of the day!

Thank you to ARF for allowing us to be such a huge part of Annual “Animals on Broadway” 2012, we had a blast and hope to do it again!

For more information on ARF’s Annual “Animals on Broadway” Fundraising Pet Walk, click here.

Dog and Cat Behavior During Fireworks, Thunderstorms

When I was a child we owned a cute little Yorkie/Silky mixed breed dog named Cherry. We rescued her from the local animal shelter and had no information about her past life. She was very shy initially, but over time came out of her shell. I have very fond memories of Cherry, but one thing that always seemed to bother her were thunderstorms. We lived in Maryland and thunderstorms were frequent in the spring and summer. She would shake and hide in the bathtub during the storm. Poor thing; I always felt bad for her but never knew what to do. Years later after having completed veterinary school and becoming board certified in veterinary behaviorist I now know that there is a lot we can do to help dogs like Cherry.

I enjoy seeing the bright lights of the July 4 fireworks, but I also can’t help but think about all the dogs that are panicking due to the loud noises accompanying the beautiful display. I really enjoy helping these dogs develop a more positive emotional response to scary noises because I know with some hard work these dogs don’t have to continue to panic every year.) Some common triggers for noise phobia include fireworks, cars backfiring, gun shots, smoke alarms, and clicking noises (such as the heater or air conditioning turning on)…..and yes, parrots are very good at mimicking these noises, even when you are not home! Dogs with noise phobia may pant, pace, shake, hide, salivate, follow their owners, and even harm themselves trying to escape from their house/yard. However, don’t be fooled by dogs that are abnormally still and quiet during these events as dogs that exhibit “non-behavior” may also be anxious.

As it is difficult to modify problem behaviors when the noise trigger cannot be avoided it is best to start behavior modification well before unavoidable noises occur (such as in May rather than the end of June in preparation for July 4). When noise triggers cannot be avoided we use anti-anxiety medication. These medications consist of short-acting medications to relieve anxiety during unavoidable noises and/or long-term anti-anxiety medication to facilitate behavior modification and for noises that are unavoidable on a more regular basis. Sedative are not usually an appropriate first choice medication as they do not actually treat anxiety and in some cases people report that they are more noise sensitive while taking certain sedatives. Essentially, the pet is sedated and does not display anxiety on the outside, but is extremely anxious on the inside. Before medications are used it is always recommended to have blood work checked as these medications are by and large metabolized through the liver and excreted through the kidneys.

After a trip to your primary care veterinarian to rule out any medical problems that could be making the pet more sensitive to noises (and I have seen dogs react more intensely to noises when in pain), the treatment for noise phobia consists of several steps. The first is avoiding noise triggers as much as possible so that the pet does not continue to experience the fear/panic emotional response. Often, a command-response-reward program (commonly referred to as “Nothing in Life is Free”, “No Free Lunch” or “Learn to Earn”) is recommended to decrease any attention-seeking component of the behavior, create more structure and predictability for the pet and increase the pet’s responsiveness to commands. The “meat and potatoes” of the plan consists of systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning (DS/CC), the primary technique we use to change the pet’s emotional response to scary noises. Desensitization consists of introducing the pet to the noise trigger at elicits fear at so low of a level (volume) that the pet is calm and relaxed. Over time the noise is made louder, all the while staying below the dog’s threshold for fear and panic. Counter-conditioning is changing the pet’s emotional response to the noise trigger by associating it with something positive, such as a favorite treat or activity (ie playing fetch with a tennis ball). A head collar, such as a Gentle Leader ®, may be suggested for better control of the pet during DS/CC. Focus commands including eye contact and hand target commands may also be taught in preparation for DS/CC.

With some work and dedication noise phobias can be successfully treated and managed using behavior modification and in addition, sometimes anti-anxiety medications. For more information and to develop an individualized treatment plan for your pet please contact us at (925) 937-5000

Meredith Stepita, DVM, ACVB
Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behavior

Dexter the Wonder Poodle

In June of this year a special puppy named Dexter walked into our clinic with the NorCal Poodle Rescue group. The little black poodle had been rescued from a homeless encampment in Sacramento, where he was not able to receive the veterinary care that he desperately needed. Dexter was not classically good looking by any means, as he was suffering from demodex (a parasite that lives in the hair follicles of mammals) and was more or less hairless. However, his personality shined through his soulful brown eyes, and he quickly won over the hearts of everyone at EVH, Dr. Jill Christofferson in particular. Jill led the charge in collecting donations and organizing surgical treatments to give the sweet poodle the chance to live a life that was pain free.

Dr. Christofferson was able to treat Dexter’s demodex (parasitic mites of the hair follicle), and also donated her time to perform entropion surgery to correct the fact that Dexter’s eyelids folded inward causing his eyelashes to rub on his eyes. During all of his treatments, Dexter never so much as lifted a lip at our staff; his patience and tolerance truly amazed us.

For more information on Dexter’s story, please see Dr. Christofferson’s YouTube video “Dexter’s Story”

And be sure to check out the NorCal Poodle Rescue Summer/Fall 2011 Newsletter, which honored the contributions of Dr. Christofferson and Dr. Nurre in Dexter’s journey to health.

How Do You Roo?

The Punisher, Relaxing in His New Home

We were all very sad when we learned that the parents of one of our star patients, The Punisher (affectionately known as TP) were relocating down to Australia earlier this year. TP’s dad took a job on Curtis Island, which means that his parents packed up and headed Down Under to open up a new chapter in their lives. TP has stayed behind in the US, but his mom keeps in contact via Skype and Facebook. TP’s mom Jennifer has found some new friends who work in wildlife rescue, and she sent us some awesome pictures of some of her new companions. It is not uncommon in Jennifer’s circle to rescue baby kangaroos, many of whom became orphaned when their mothers were hit by cars. Jennifer herself is looking to foster a brushtail possum, as ‘roos require a lot of land and a long-term time commitment of over a year. Please enjoy some of Jennifer’s pictures, and we look forward to staying in touch as their Australian adventures unfold!

It's A Little Baby 'Roo!

It Doesn't Get Much Cuter Than This

What, You've Never Seen A Marsupial Before?

Pretty Birds

He's Good at Blending In

Jennifer and Her Amphibian Friend

Will You Help Meowwwt?

Glory B, one of the kitties looking for a forever home

Helping animals is an obvious prerogative for anyone in the field of veterinary medicine, but we are always impressed by the lengths some of our fellow professionals go to assist animals and the people attached to them. Such is the case of the doctors and staff at Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital (where I got my start as a kennel tech so many moons ago). One of their elderly clients, Bobbi, passed away recently, leaving seventeen cats behind. Bobbi’s animals were her life, and she provided all of them with love, food, shelter, and veterinary care. Unfortunately, her passing meant that her beloved pets were rendered homeless. The staff at Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital, led by Dr. Louisa Asseo and Kadeth Pozzesi, RVT, has begun an adventure in cat rescue with a mission to find forever homes for all of Bobbi’s cats. Their story touched us all at Encina, especially Christina, our administrative assistant, who launched a plan to ask cat food companies for donations to help Hillcrest feed their charges. Purina, Royal Canin, Iams, and Hill’s Science Diet stepped up to the plate, and through their generosity we were able to procure 400 cans of food for Bobbi’s cats, which weighed in at over 200 pounds! We delivered the food to Kadeth at Hillcrest last week, who was grateful for the donation. Though the food definitely helped their cause, there is still much more to be done for the cats. Many are still in need of homes, and donations of food, money, and time are very much needed and appreciated. We would like to thank the people involved in the rescuing of Bobbi’s cats for being an inspiration, you are all heroes in our book!

Contact Info for Bobbi’s Cats:

bobbikatz2011@hotmail.com

Please visit the website for Bobbi’s cats at http://bobbikatz.blogspot.com/, and see Gary Bogue’s blog entry on the topic here: http://www.ibabuzz.com/garybogue/2011/04/18/bobbis-cats-need-homes/

Kitten Season: TNR

With kitten season approaching us quickly, we thought we’d take a moment to shine some light on Trap-Neuter-Release programs and how you can help.


A female 5-6 week old kitten recently rescued from a
bush by one of our Registered Veterinary Technicians, Sarah S.

TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) is a strategy used to solve the feral cat problem by humanely trapping wild, unowned cats in order to spay and neuter them, and then releasing them back into this wild. Spaying and neutering wild/feral cats is beneficial in multiple ways: no more kitten reproduction, cuts down on cats fights and cat yowling, helps prevent the cats from developing cancer in their reproductive system and possibly makes you a new friend!

The East Bay SPCA currently offers FREE spay/neuter surgery to feral cats. You simply need to be sure you and the cat qualify and rent out a trap for $1/day.

If you’re interested in learning more about the TNR program offered at East Bay SPCA, simply click here.

Also, check out some other pet related blogs on the Saturday Blog Hop!

Adoptable Pet of the Week: Stevie

Every Friday, we’d like to share a furry friend with you who is looking for their forever home.
Our first pet is Stevie and he is a 1 year old Shar Pei/Hound mix, currently residing at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). After going through an extensive evaluation at ARF, Stevie is said to be suitable for children of all ages and great for a first time dog owner.

Interested in Stevie? Click here to learn more on how you can meet Stevie and maybe even make him your newest addition to your family this weekend!