CAT | Pet Health

Facts to Fight against Fleas

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Facts to Fight Against Fleas

DID YOU KNOW?

 

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Female fleas lay eggs within 24 hours of mating, producing 40-50 eggs a day. That means hundreds of eggs in just a few days!

Fleas can jump 50 – 100 times their body length thanks to an elastic pad in their legs. It tenses like a spring and they fly into the air.

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Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your pet is safe from fleas. Fleas can survive in lows as cold as 28 degrees Fahrenheit and highs up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Fleas have four stages of life: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. All stages can live and cause problems on your pet and in your house.

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Stray cats and dogs, rabbits and ferrets can carry flea eggs into your yard. Having a fence doesn’t necessarily mean you will keep fleas out.

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Many species of fleas love to feed on humans. Your pets aren’t the only ones at risk if you don’t use preventative treatment.

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Flea eggs fall off an infested pet as it travels around your house. Be sure to treat the rest of your house after you’ve treated your pet.

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Even if your cat isn’t scratching, she may still have fleas. Those fleas will lay eggs and then your dog may start to itch.

Clinical Suite: Obesity

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Checking in on your pet’s weight

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Q.

What is the appropriate amount of food for my pet?

A.

A variety of foods are available for dogs and cats, each having its own instructions based on recipe and ingredients. It is imperative to review each brand and bag for portion recommendations based on formulation. Remember, recommended portions are based on a baseline metabolic rate, and your pet may need a little more or less to schieve or maintain a lean body condition based on the level of his or her daily activities.

Q.

How should I begin my pet’s weight-loss regimen?

A.

There are many dietary strategies for obese pets to lose an optimum amount of weight. Regardless of which feeding strategy your veterinarian recommends, remember there is no magic button for weight loss. A thorough diet history (which may involve logging everything that is fed for a week) may assist you as you begin weight-loss planning. Your veterinarian may also calculate a daily calorie target based on your pet’s daily activity. A typical plan involves 20% fewer calories than your pet usually consumes to ensure slow and gradual weight loss.

Q.

What will happen if my pet does not lose weight?

A.

In some cases, weight loss is difficult because or hormonal imbalances or major family lifestyle changes that are impossible to fix. If obesity is becoming life threatening and a weight loss program is not working, talk to your veterinarian about pharmaceutical options.

Q.

How do I know my pet’s ideal weight?

A.

Although this seems like an easy question, breed variations in dogs and cats can make an estimated body condition score, or BCS, difficult. The best tools are your hands; feel along your pet’s body and make sure you can feel the ribs (with mild fat coverage) and a gradual waist. Refer to a body condition scale for diagrams that illustrate this. The ideal BCS is 4/9 – 5/9, but because every pet is different and can vary in caloric needs, calories may need to be adjusted to achieve an ideal lean weight.

Q.

How much exercise should I encourage?

A.

Consult your veterinarian to ensure exercise recommendations are carefully planned before encouraging your pet to exercise. Never encourage exercise if your pet is in pain or has difficulty walking or breathing. Also, note that some breeds should never be forced to overexert. This is even more critical in hot weather.

*Recommended portions are based on baseline metabolic rate, and your pet may need a little more or less to achieve or maintain a lean body condition.

 

SOURCE: Veterinary Team Brief

 

 

7 Thanksgiving Foods Dogs Should NEVER Eat

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

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Cooked bones are a serious no-no, besides being a choking hazard, they can splinter and cause injuries to your dogs internal organs. If Fido does have no problems ingesting them, it could create an intestinal blockage with very serious consequences. Cooked meat is also bad, as it is often covered in marinades, spices, oils and fats that are detrimental to your pet’s health.

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Mushrooms can be toxic to dogs and should be avoided. They can cause damage to multiple internal organs and the central nervous system. While not all species of mushrooms are toxic, it’s probably best to keep this little guys away from Fluffy.

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Nutmeg is a hidden evil. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are good for your dogs in moderation – but remember they must be plain! We often forget we’ve added a little nutmeg and think we’ve made a Thanksgiving treat that’s safe for our pups to have. However, nutmeg can damage your dog’s central nervous system and cause seizures. So make sure this spice is nowhere near your dogs!

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Onions are toxic to dogs and can cause anemia. They are equally as dangerous cooked as they are raw – so this is a good item to make sure is kept far away from your pup.

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We’ve mentioned on our site before that raw bread dough will expand in your dog’s stomach and possibly cause bloat. Remember, too, that it will release alcohols that may also create problems in addition to the bloating.

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Sage is another common Thanksgiving herb, but it contains essential oils that might actually cause some stomach upset for your pooch. It can also cause central nervous system depression. Better to steer clear than take any chances.

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High-fat foods are not only unhealthy for you, they’re bad for your pets too. Fat trimmings are a common table scrap that pets might be given, but they can lead to very serious conditions such as pancreatitis.

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Pets & Parasites – Why Parasite Prevention is Important for Cats too

Monday, November 4th, 2013

 

You, Your Cat, & Parasites

Cat owners know the joy that these loving creatures bring to our lives. Because cats are independent by nature, they can be easier to care for when it comes to sharing our homes with them. Therefore, it’s important to both you and your cat to keep it healthy and free of parasites.

Monitoring your cat for any changes in its behavior, appetite, and water consumption and regular visits to your veterinarian are necessary to maintaining the well-being of your cat. Your veterinarian is there to diagnose, treat, and prevent parasites, such as fleas and worms, that not only affect your cat, but the health of you and your family.

It is relatively common for a cat to become infected with an internal or external parasite at some point in its lifetime. Parasites can affect your cat in a variety of ways, ranging from a simple irritation to causing life-threatening illnesses if left untreated. All parasites, particularly internal parasites (worms), can carry and transmit diseases to people.

By following your veterinarian’s recommendations and having your pet tested for parasites annually, you can protect your cat and your family from these potentially harmful parasites all year long. Click on the parasite names below for information on the symptoms they cause, where they are located, how they affect your cat, the health risks to humans, and prevention tips.

COCCIDIA

DANDRUFF

EAR MITES

FLEAS

HEARTWORMS

HOOKWORMS

MANGE

ROUNDWORMS

TAPEWORMS

TICKS

TOXOPLASMOSIS

Parasite Control Recommendations for Cats

The use of year-round heartworm and broad-spectrum parasite medications, as well as appropriate flea and/or tick products, is the foundation of an effective parasite control program for your cat.

In addition, the following steps can be part of a proactive program to help keep your cat healthy and parasite-free:

  • Have your cat examined at least annually by your veterinarian and include a complete history.
  • Have heartworm tests conducted periodically.
  • Provide pets cooked or prepared food (not raw meat) and fresh, potable water.
  • Conduct fecal examinations 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 to 2 times each year for adults, depending on the pet’s health and lifestyle factors.
  • Administer anthelmintic treatment to puppies and kittens starting at two weeks of age repeating every two weeks until 8 weeks of age, followed by monthly treatments as a preventive.
  • Also deworm nursing mothers (queens) along with their kittens.

If an optimal year-round parasite prevention program is not followed:

  • Deworm kittens biweekly from 2-8 weeks of age and then monthly until 6 months of age.
  • Have fecal exams conducted 2 to 4 times a year for adult cats.
  • Tailor parasite prevention programs to your cat based on parasite prevalence and lifestyle factors.

Source: ASPCA

What is Territorial Marking and How to Stop It?

Monday, October 14th, 2013

What is Territorial Marking and How to Stop It?

By Ashley Bennett

puppy-boxer-pee-urinate-accidentLet’s face it, dogs are territorial animals by nature. They like to protect their territory, their family, and their belongings. Territorial marking is different from urination because it is only a small amount to make other dogs aware that this is their territory. When people notice that their dog has been marking around the house, it is not usually done out of spite, but out of insecurity.

For a dog, this insecurity may be a sense that their area is under siege by another person or animal inside the house, or even outside in some cases. Territoriality is not always a bad thing, but it is definitely bad for your home, because it involves urination around things or places that “belong” to the dog; exposure to the scent later can also trigger re-marking. Here is what you need to know in order to prevent this behavior.

Spay or Neuter Your Dog

If you have not already done so, having your dog spayed or neutered can reduce incidences of territorial marking. It can also extend your dog’s life, improve other aspects of their health, and reduce the number of unwanted dogs. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered can and do still engage in marking behaviors from time to time, depending on other factors. According to a report from the Humane Society, spaying or neutering your pet may help reduce likelihood that they will mark their territory, but it does not completely stop it.

Allow Your Dog to Get Acquainted with Unfamiliar Faces

Sometimes your dog may start marking things around the house because someone new has been introduced into the household, whether it is a new roommate, pet, or even a frequent visitor. Chances are that the dog feels like this person or animal has entered their realm and it is marking to show them that they still have ownership over the territory. People are usually annoyed by this behavior, but other animals know what it means if a dog has marked their territory. The only way to resolve this issue is to allow your dog to get a true introduction to the new person or pet and allow them to spend some time to bond with them. Keep the new person or animal out of the dog’s area until the two have become more acquainted.

Establish Yourself as the Pack Leader

Dogs crave rules, boundaries and limitations. It is not a good idea to allow your dog to roam all over the house, sit on furniture, eat from the table, or engage in any other type of disruptive behavior. Although your dog is your companion, it is a follower in your pack, not a leader. You can reduce this type of behavior by asserting yourself as the pack leader by using calm, assertive energy. Make your dog earn food, water, and affection through exercise and discipline — exercise via two or more daily walks to drain her energy, and discipline through setting those rules, boundaries and limitations.

These types of issues are often exacerbated by a lack of training and discipline for your pet. If this seems to be a big problem, then you may want to consider an obedience class for your dog or speak to your veterinarian for some other solutions.

Are bones safe for dogs to eat? The FDA says NO!

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Are bones safe for dogs to eat? The FDA says NO!

Many people ask, “What bones are safe to give my dog?” However, giving your dog a bone may turn out to be more dangerous than you think! According to the FDA; “Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast, bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”

Here, at Town and Country Animal Hospital, a patient recently came in who was chewing on a seemingly safe marrow bone. Unfortunately, the dog got his lower jaw stuck right in the center of the bone. In order to remove the bone we had to sedate the dog and cut it off. Luckily for this pet, the bone was safely removed and he is doing fine now, but that is not always the case. Please think twice when giving your dogs bones, there are many safe treats available in pet supply stores. If you have any questions regarding which treats are safe for your pets you can call us at (305) 238-2222.

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Here are 10 reasons why it’s a bad idea to give your dog a bone:

  1. Broken teeth. This may call for expensive veterinary dentistry.
  2. Mouth or tongue injuries. These can be very bloody and messy and may require a trip to see your veterinarian.
  3. Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can be frightening or painful for your dog and potentially costly to you, as it usually means a trip to see your veterinarian.
  4. Bone gets stuck in esophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will need to see your veterinarian.
  5. Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone. This is an emergency because your dog will have trouble breathing. Get your pet to your veterinarian immediately!
  6. Bone gets stuck in stomach. It went down just fine, but the bone may be too big to pass out of the stomach and into the intestines. Depending on the bone’s size, your dog may need surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a procedure in which your veterinarian uses a long tube with a built-in camera and grabbing tools to try to remove the stuck bone from the stomach.
  7. Bone gets stuck in intestines and causes a blockage. It may be time for surgery.
  8. Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian.
  9. Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous. It’s time for a trip to see your veterinarian.
  10. Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.

“Talk with your veterinarian about alternatives to giving bones to your dog,” says Stamper. “There are many bone-like products made with materials that are safe for dogs to chew on.”

“Always supervise your dog with any chew product, especially one your dog hasn’t had before,” adds Stamper. “And always, if your dog ‘just isn’t acting right,’ call your veterinarian right away!”

Source: FDA

Finicky Eaters, Why won’t my dog eat his own food?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

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Finicky Eaters

A common complaint we hear all the time, usually involving smaller breeds that we tend to baby because they are so small … and cute. The main contributor to our pets developing a gourmet palate is our need to see them clean their plates. As soon as our little cutie walks away from a dish with food still remaining, it sets off a primal alarm in us that says “there must be something wrong.”  In reality, probably nothing is wrong, it’s just that small dogs don’t need to eat very much to be healthy and happy. Of course, we don’t understand that and our next reaction is to put a different food or non- dog food type treat to get them to eat something, after all, we can’t let the poor puppy starve, can we? Well, it doesn’t take long for the little munchkin to discover that if he holds out long enough, we will provide the gourmet treat that he has learned to love and expect, dare we say, demand.

OK, little monster created … so how do we reverse the mindset and get our lovable pets back to eating an appropriate diet? That is the kicker by the way, because if you so desire, you can cook for your little pooch as long as you are inclined to do so. Many web sites exist with lots of recipes and information regarding the fine art of being gourmet chef to our pampered pets. However, if you’d rather not, then the issue becomes how to get them to return to eating “dog food”.

That will often be a slow process and of course, will require much patience and craftiness. The first thing to know is that any change to the diet must be done slowly, try for a sudden change back to dry kibble or trust me, your little baby will make you pay dearly with plenty of guilt. When you make the switch back, start mixing in a little dog food in a way that makes it almost undetectable. This is where the craftiness comes in and also be aware that little dogs do not need to eat a lot. Sometimes canned dog foods are easier to start with, then once table food has been eliminated, you can start the transition to dry kibble, if that is your goal. Check with us if you have any concerns about your pet eating enough. It is a slow process back and there are no tricks that apply to all pets. Some are more stubborn than others, but almost all come around eventually.

-Dr. Eric Wenke (Town & Country Animal Hospital Veterinarian)

Flea and Tick Prevention

Monday, September 16th, 2013

what-to-do-if-my-pet-has-fleas - CopyFlea and Tick Prevention

  • Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort and serious illness in pets and even people.
  • Fleas and ticks are easily prevented from bothering your pet through the use of safe, easy to administer, effective products.
  • Parasite prevention also may require treating your home and yard and keeping pets out of areas where fleas and/or ticks are likely to lurk.
  • Flea or tick control products meant for dogs should never be used on cats and vice versa.

What Are Fleas and Ticks?

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort for your pet and can also cause serious diseases.

Fleas

Fleas are insects that are ubiquitous in the environment – meaning they can be found almost everywhere. There are more than 2000 species of fleas, but the common cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the one that most commonly afflicts dogs and cats.

A disease of concern that can be caused by fleas is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is a severe allergic reaction to flea bites. Some pets are so allergic that even a single bite can cause a reaction. FAD makes pets miserable. In severe cases, it can cause severe itching and inflammation that, if left untreated, can lead to excessive scratching and chewing that can damage the skin. Secondary bacterial or fungal infections can develop as a result.

Fleas can also play a role in transmitting parasites, such as tapeworms, and bacterial diseases, such as cat scratch fever (bartonellosis), to humans.

Finally, in very severe infestations, particularly in old, ill, or young animals, fleas can remove so much blood through feeding that they can weaken the animal.

Fleas are prevalent throughout the United States. They prefer warm, humid conditions, so infestations are typically worst during mid to late summer and early fall. In some parts of the country, they can be a significant problem year round. Even during the cooler months, fleas can survive very well indoors once an infestation has been established.

Ticks

Ticks are not insects, but they are closely related to spiders, scorpions, and mites. There are approximately 80 tick species found in the United States, but only a handful of them are of real concern to pets and people. Some of these include the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). The brown dog tick is the only species that can complete its entire lifecycle on a dog and can infest homes and kennels.

Tick bites can be painful and irritating, but the real concern with ticks is the number of serious diseases they can transmit, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These diseases can cause significant illness and even death in both pets and people.

Ticks are found in virtually every region of the United States. They are most prevalent in the early spring and late fall, although some species are well adapted to temperature extremes and can be found any time of year. In general, however, they prefer dark, moist, brushy places in which to lay their eggs.

How Do I Know If My Pet Has Fleas and/or Ticks?

Larger tick species can typically be seen or felt in the hair coat, especially once they are engorged after feeding. Deer ticks, on the other hand, are very tiny—about the size of the head of a pin in some stages—and can be harder to see.

Repetitive scratching is a telltale sign that your pet may have fleas. Adult fleas can be identified on the pet, but fleas in other stages of their life cycle (eggs, larvae, and pupae) can be harder to find. Adult fleas are tiny and can be hard to see, but flea combs can be used to remove fleas as well as flea dirt. Flea dirt is essentially flea feces, which is digested blood. To check your pet for fleas, run a flea comb through your pet’s fur and dump any hair and debris onto a white paper towel. Dampen it slightly with water. Any small, dark specks that stain the towel red are a clear indication your pet has fleas. Finally, excessive grooming is also a sign of a potential flea problem. Infested cats will groom themselves repeatedly in an effort to remove fleas.

How Do I Prevent Fleas?

There are many safe, effective, and easy to administer flea control products. These products are typically administered orally in tablet (or liquid) form or topically by applying the medication as a fluid directly to the animal’s skin—generally between the shoulder blades or at the back of the neck. Some flea control products are only active against adult fleas, whereas other products can also target other stages of the flea life cycle, such as eggs and larvae. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend more than one product in order to most effectively kill fleas and break the flea life cycle.

Once an infestation is established, fleas can be very difficult to get rid of. You may need to treat your pet repeatedly. In addition, fleas must be completely removed from the affected pet’s environment. Therefore, all other animals in the house must also be treated with flea control products, and the house and yard may need to be treated as well.

Vacuuming rugs, throwing out old pet bedding, and laundering other items may also be recommended by your veterinarian to help remove fleas from your pet’s environment.

How Do I Prevent Ticks?

There are many safe, effective, and easy to administer tick control products. Many of the major flea control products also have formulations that will help prevent ticks. These products are typically administered topically by applying the medication as a fluid directly to the animal’s skin—generally between the shoulder blades or at the back of the neck.

Prevention also includes keeping pets out of “tick habitats,” such as heavily wooded areas or tall grass. As much as possible, create tick-free zones in your yard by keeping grass mown short and bushes cut back. Ticks like moist areas, so remove leaf litter from around your house. If necessary, you may need to treat your backyard with a pesticide to reduce the number of ticks.

Finally, make a habit of performing a “tick check” on your pet at least once a day, especially if he or she has any access to wooded or grassy areas where ticks may lurk. If you find a tick, grasp it with a pair of tweezers as close down to the mouthparts as you can reach. Exert a gentle, steady pressure until the tick lets go. There are also tick removal tools that are very easy to use. Never remove a tick with your bare fingers. Avoid using lighter fluid, matches, or other products that may irritate the skin or cause other injuries to your pet. When in doubt, ask your veterinary care team for assistance removing the tick.

Never use flea control products intended for dogs on cats. Some medications can be highly toxic to cats. Only use products on the species for which they are intended, and follow all label instructions.

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Source: VetStreet

To purchase flea/tick prevention for your pets call Town & Country Animal Hospital at (305)238-2222 or visit our website www.tcahvets.com

 

Top 10 reasons to Spay or Neuter your pet!

Monday, September 9th, 2013

spay-neuter-top-tenTop 10 reasons to Spay or Neuter your pet!

Whether you’ve recently adopted a pet or you’re considering it, one of the most important health decisions you’ll make is to spay or neuter your cat or dog. Spaying—removing the ovaries and uterus of a female pet—is a veterinary procedure that requires minimal hospitalization and offers lifelong health benefits. Neutering—removing the testicles of your male dog or cat—will vastly improve your pet’s behavior and keep him close to home.

list of the top 10 reasons to spay or neuter your pet!

  1. Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life.
    Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases.
  2. Neutering provides major health benefits for your male.
    Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer, if done before six months of age.
  3. Your spayed female won’t go into heat.
    While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house!
  4. Your male dog won’t want to roam away from home.
    An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate! That includes digging his way under the fence and making like Houdini to escape from the house. And once he’s free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other males.
  5. Your neutered male will be much better behaved.
    Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs and cats may mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering.
  6. Spaying or neutering will NOT make your pet fat.
    Don’t use that old excuse! Lack of exercise and overfeeding will cause your pet to pack on the extra pounds—not neutering. Your pet will remain fit and trim as long as you continue to provide exercise and monitor food intake.
  7. It is highly cost-effective.
    The cost of your pet’s spay/neuter surgery is a lot less than the cost of having and caring for a litter. It also beats the cost of treatment when your unneutered tom escapes and gets into fights with the neighborhood stray!
  8. Spaying and neutering your pet is good for the community.
    Stray animals pose a real problem in many parts of the country. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, damage the local fauna and frighten children. Spaying and neutering packs a powerful punch in reducing the number of animals on the streets.
  9. Your pet doesn’t need to have a litter for your children to learn about the miracle of birth.
    Letting your pet produce offspring you have no intention of keeping is not a good lesson for your children—especially when so many unwanted animals end up in shelters. There are tons of books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a more responsible way.
  10. Spaying and neutering helps fight pet overpopulation.
    Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays. These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.

For the rabies tag for your pet that is required yearly, it can cost twice the price for pets who are not spayed or neutered. For Dade County residents, for spayed and neutered pets, the rabies tag  costs $32 vs. $60 for pets who are not spayed or neutered.

Source: ASPCA

Separation Anxiety

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

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Separation Anxiety

One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape. Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems are accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety when his pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren’t evidence that the dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t know which toys are his to chew. Instead, they are indications that the dog has separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.

Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety become agitated when their guardians prepare to leave. Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their guardians’ departure or when their guardians aren’t present. Some try to prevent their guardians from leaving. Usually, right after a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety, the dog will begin barking and displaying other distress behaviors within a short time after being left alone—often within minutes. When the guardian returns home, the dog acts as though it’s been years since he’s seen his mom or dad!

When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.

Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

The following is a list of symptoms that may indicate separation anxiety:

Urinating and Defecating

Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their guardians. If a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his guardian, his house soiling probably isn’t caused by separation anxiety.

Barking and Howling

A dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when separated from his guardian. This kind of barking or howling is persistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone.

Chewing, Digging and Destruction

Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects when left alone or separated from their guardians. These behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws and damaged nails. If a dog’s chewing, digging and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they don’t usually occur in his guardian’s presence.

Escaping

A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where he’s confined when he’s left alone or separated from his guardian. The dog might attempt to dig and chew through doors or windows, which could result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws and damaged nails. If the dog’s escape behavior is caused by separation anxiety, it doesn’t occur when his guardian is present.

Pacing

Some dogs walk or trot along a specific path in a fixed pattern when left alone or separated from their guardians. Some pacing dogs move around in circular patterns, while others walk back and forth in straight lines. If a dog’s pacing behavior is caused by separation anxiety, it usually doesn’t occur when his guardian is present.

Coprophagia

When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs defecate and then consume all or some of their excrement. If a dog eats excrement because of separation anxiety, he probably doesn’t perform that behavior in the presence of his guardian.

Why Do Some Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?

There is no conclusive evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, because far more dogs who have been adopted from shelters have this behavior problem than those kept by a single family since puppyhood, it is believed that loss of an important person or group of people in a dog’s life can lead to separation anxiety. Other less dramatic changes can also trigger the disorder. The following is a list of situations that have been associated with development of separation anxiety.

Change of Guardian or Family

Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter or given to a new guardian or family can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Change in Schedule

An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone can trigger the development of separation anxiety. For example, if a dog’s guardian works from home and spends all day with his dog but then gets a new job that requires him to leave his dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog might develop separation anxiety because of that change.

Change in Residence

Moving to a new residence can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Change in Household Membership

The sudden absence of a resident family member, either due to death or moving away, can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Medical Problems to Rule Out First

Incontinence Caused by Medical Problems

Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog “leaks” or voids his bladder. Dogs with incontinence problems often seem unaware that they’ve soiled. Sometimes they void urine while asleep. A number of medical issues—including a urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter caused by old age, hormone-related problems after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, neurological problems and abnormalities of the genitalia—can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. Before attempting behavior modification for separation anxiety, please see your dog’s veterinarian to rule out medical issues.

Medications

There are a number of medications that can cause frequent urination and house soiling. If your dog takes any medications, please contact his veterinarian to find out whether or not they might contribute to his house-soiling problems.

Other Behavior Problems to Rule Out

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not. Some common behavior problems can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has separation anxiety, it’s important to rule out the following behavior problems:

Submissive or Excitement Urination

Some dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being reprimanded or punished. Such dogs tend to display submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over and exposing the belly. For more information about this problem, please see our article, Submissive Urination.

Incomplete House Training

A dog who occasionally urinates in the house might not be completely house trained. His house training might have been inconsistent or it might have involved punishment that made him afraid to eliminate while his owner is watching or nearby. For help with house training, please see our articles,House Training Your Adult Dog and House Training Your Puppy.

Urine Marking

Some dogs urinate in the house because they’re scent marking. A dog scent marks by urinating small amounts on vertical surfaces. Most male dogs and some female dogs who scent mark raise a leg to urinate. For more information about urine marking and how to resolve it, please see our article, Urine Marking in Dogs.

Juvenile Destruction

Many young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their guardians are home as well as when they’re away. Please see our articles, Destructive Chewing and Digging, for more information about these problems.

Boredom

Dogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be disruptive when left alone because they’re bored and looking for something to do. These dogs usually don’t appear anxious.To learn about fun, effective ways to combat boredom and spice up your dog’s life, please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life, Exercise for Dogs and How to Stuff a KONG® Toy.

Excessive Barking or Howling

Some dogs bark or howl in response to various triggers in their environments, like unfamiliar sights and sounds. They usually vocalize when their guardians are home as well as when they’re away. For more information about this kind of problem, please see our articles, Barking and Howling.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety

Treatment for Mild Separation Anxiety

If your dog has a mild case of separation anxiety, counterconditioning might reduce or resolve the problem. Counterconditioning is a treatment process that changes an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. It’s done by associating the sight or presence of a feared or disliked person, animal, place, object or situation with something really good, something the dog loves. Over time, the dog learns that whatever he fears actually predicts good things for him. For dogs with separation anxiety, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food. To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house, you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish. For example, try giving your dog a KONG® stuffed with something really tasty, like low-fat cream cheese, Cheez Whiz® or low-fat peanut butter, frozen banana and cottage cheese, or canned dog food and kibble. A KONG can even be frozen so that getting all the food out takes even more of your dog’s time. (For KONG recipe ideas and more information about how to use food puzzle toys, please see our article, How to Stuff a KONG Toy.) Your dog might also love a Buster® Cube, a Kibble Nibble™ or a TreatStik® filled with kibble. Be sure to remove these special toys as soon as you return home so that your dog only has access to them and the high-value foods inside when he’s by himself. You can feed your dog all of his daily meals in special toys. For example, you can give your dog a KONG or two stuffed with his breakfast and some tasty treats every morning before going to work. Keep in mind, though, that this approach will only work for mild cases of separation anxiety because highly anxious dogs usually won’t eat when their guardians aren’t home.

Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation Anxiety

Moderate or severe cases of separation anxiety require a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program. In these cases, it’s crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.

The following steps briefly describe a desensitization and counterconditioning program. Please keep in mind that this is a short, general explanation. Please read our article, Desensitization and Counterconditioning, for a more detailed description of this treatment.

Desensitization and counterconditioning are complex and can be tricky to carry out. Fear must be avoided or the procedure will backfire and the dog will get more frightened. Because treatment must progress and change according to the pet’s reactions, and because these reactions can be difficult to read and interpret, desensitization and counterconditioning require the guidance of a trained and experienced professional. For help designing and carrying out a desensitization and counterconditioning plan, consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). If you can’t find a behaviorist, you can seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), but be sure that the trainer is qualified to help you. Determine whether she or he has education and experience in treating fear with desensitization and counterconditioning, since this kind of expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate one of these experts in your area.

Step One: Predeparture Cues

As mentioned above, some dogs begin to feel anxious while their guardians get ready to leave. For example, a dog might start to pace, pant and whine when he notices his guardian applying makeup, putting on shoes and a coat, and then picking up a bag or car keys. (If your dog doesn’t show signs of anxiety when you’re preparing to leave him alone, you can just skip to step two below.) Guardians of dogs who become upset during predeparture rituals are unable to leave—even for just few seconds—without triggering their dogs’ extreme anxiety. Your dog may see telltale cues that you’re leaving (like your putting on your coat or picking up your keys) and get so anxious about being left alone that he can’t control himself and forgets that you’ll come back.

One treatment approach to this “predeparture anxiety” is to teach your dog that when you pick up your keys or put on your coat, it doesn’t always mean that you’re leaving. You can do this by exposing your dog to these cues in various orders several times a day—without leaving. For example, put on your boots and coat, and then just watch TV instead of leaving. Or pick up your keys, and then sit down at the kitchen table for awhile. This will reduce your dog’s anxiety because these cues won’t always lead to your departure, and so your dog won’t get so anxious when he sees them. Please be aware, though, that your dog has many years of learning the significance of your departure cues, so in order to learn that the cues no longer predict your long absences, your dog must experience the fake cues many, many times a day for many weeks. After your dog doesn’t become anxious when he sees you getting ready to leave, you can move on to the next step below.

Step Two: Graduated Departures/Absences

If your dog is less anxious before you leave, you can probably skip the predeparture treatment above and start with very short departures. The main rule is to plan your absences to be shorter than the time it takes for your dog to become upset. To get started, train your dog to perform out-of-sight stays by an inside door in the home, such as the bathroom. You can teach your dog to sit or down and stay while you go to the other side of the bathroom door. You can teach your dog to sit or down and stay while you go to the other side of the bathroom door. (If you need help teaching your dog how to stay, please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to Stay. You can also contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer for assistance. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate a CPDT in your area.) Gradually increase the length of time you wait on the other side of the door, out of your dog’s sight. You can also work on getting your dog used to predeparture cues as you practice the stay. For example, ask your dog to stay. Then put on your coat, pick up your purse and go into the bathroom while your dog continues to stay.

  • Progress to doing out-of-sight stay exercises at a bedroom door, and then later at an exit door. If you always leave through the front door, do the exercises at the back door first. By the time you start working with your dog at exit doors, he shouldn’t behave anxiously because he has a history of playing the “stay game.”
  • At this point, you can start to incorporate very short absences into your training. Start with absences that last only last one to two seconds, and then slowly increase the time you’re out of your dog’s sight. When you’ve trained up to separations of five to ten seconds long, build in counterconditioning by giving your dog a stuffed food toy just before you step out the door. The food-stuffed toy also works as a safety cue that tells the dog that this is a “safe” separation.
  • During your sessions, be sure to wait a few minutes between absences. After each short separation, it’s important to make sure that your dog is completely relaxed before you leave again. If you leave again right away, while your dog is still excited about your return from the previous separation, he’ll already feel aroused when he experiences the next absence. This arousal might make him less able to tolerate the next separation, which could make the problem worse rather than better.
  • Remember to behave in a very calm and quiet manner when going out and coming in. This will lower the contrast between times when you’re there and times when you’re gone.
  • You must judge when your dog is able to tolerate an increase in the length of separation. Each dog reacts differently, so there are no standard timelines. Deciding when to increase the time that your dog is alone can be very difficult, and many pet parents make errors. They want treatment to progress quickly, so they expose their dogs to durations that are too long, which provokes anxiety and worsens the problem. To prevent this kind of mistake, watch for signs of stress in your dog. These signs might include dilated pupils, panting, yawning, salivating, trembling, pacing and exuberant greeting. If you detect stress, you should back up and shorten the length of your departures to a point where your dog can relax again. Then start again at that level and progress more slowly.
  • You will need to spend a significant amount of time building up to 40-minute absences because most of your dog’s anxious responses will occur within the first 40 minutes that he’s alone. This means that over weeks of conditioning, you’ll increase the duration of your departures by only a few seconds each session, or every couple of sessions, depending on your dog’s tolerance at each level. Once your dog can tolerate 40 minutes of separation from you, you can increase absences by larger chunks of time (5-minute increments at first, then later 15-minute increments). Once your dog can be alone for 90 minutes without getting upset or anxious, he can probably handle four to eight hours. (Just to be safe, try leaving him alone for four hours at first, and then work up to eight full hours over a few days.)
  • This treatment process can be accomplished within a few weeks if you can conduct several daily sessions on the weekends and twice-daily sessions during the work week, usually before leaving for work and in the evenings.

A Necessary Component of Separation Anxiety Treatment

During desensitization to any type of fear, it is essential to ensure that your dog never experiences the full-blown version of whatever provokes his anxiety or fear. He must experience only a low-intensity version that doesn’t frighten him. Otherwise, he won’t learn to feel calm and comfortable in situations that upset him. This means that during treatment for separation anxiety, your dog cannot be left alone except during your desensitization sessions. Fortunately there are plenty of alternative arrangements:

  • If possible, take your dog to work with you.
  • Arrange for a family member, friend or dog sitter to come to your home and stay with your dog when you’re not there. (Most dogs suffering from separation anxiety are fine as long as someone is with them. That someone doesn’t necessarily need to be you.)
  • Take your dog to a sitter’s house or to a doggy daycare.
  • Many dogs suffering from separation anxiety are okay when left in a car. You can try leaving your dog in a car—but only if the weather is moderate. Be warned: dogs can suffer from heatstroke and die if left in cars in warm weather (70 degrees Fahrenheit and up)—even for just a few minutes. DO NOT leave your dog in a car unless you’re sure that the interior of your car won’t heat up.

In addition to your graduated absences exercises, all greetings (hellos and goodbyes) should be conducted in a very calm manner. When saying goodbye, just give your dog a pat on the head, say goodbye and leave. Similarly, when arriving home, say hello to your dog and then don’t pay any more attention to him until he’s calm and relaxed. The amount of time it takes for your dog to relax once you’ve returned home will depend on his level of anxiety and individual temperament. To decrease your dog’s excitement level when you come home, it might help to distract him by asking him to perform some simple behaviors that he’s already learned, such as sit, down or shake.

To Crate or Not to Crate?

Crate training can be helpful for some dogs if they learn that the crate is their safe place to go when left alone. However, for other dogs, the crate can cause added stress and anxiety. In order to determine whether or not you should try using a crate, monitor your dog’s behavior during crate training and when he’s left in the crate while you’re home. If he shows signs of distress (heavy panting, excessive salivation, frantic escape attempts, persistent howling or barking), crate confinement isn’t the best option for him. Instead of using a crate, you can try confining your dog to one room behind a baby gate. (To learn more about crate training, please see our article, Weekend Crate Training.)

Provide Plenty of “Jobs” for Your Dog to Do

Providing lots of physical and mental stimulation is a vital part of treating many behavior problems, especially those involving anxiety. Exercising your dog’s mind and body can greatly enrich his life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal dog behaviors. Additionally, a physically and mentally tired dog doesn’t have much excess energy to expend when he’s left alone. To keep your dog busy and happy, try the following suggestions:

  • Give your dog at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (for example, running and swimming) every day. Try to exercise your dog right before you have to leave him by himself. This might help him relax and rest while you’re gone.
  • Play fun, interactive games with your dog, such as fetch and tug-of-war. To learn more about these games, please see our articles, Teaching Your Dog to Play Fetch.
  • Take your dog on daily walks and outings. Take different routes and visit new places as often as possible so that he can experience novel smells and sights.
  • If your dog likes other dogs, let him play off-leash with his canine buddies.
  • Frequently provide food puzzle toys, like the KONG, the Buster Cube, the Tricky Treat Ball™ and the Tug-a-Jug™. You can feed your dog his meals in these toys or stuff them with a little peanut butter, cheese or yogurt. Also give your dog a variety of attractive edible and inedible chew things. Puzzle toys and chew items encourage chewing and licking, which have been shown to have a calming effect on dogs. Be sure to provide them whenever you leave your dog alone. Please see our article, How to Stuff a KONG Toy, for more information.
  • Make your dog “hunt” his meals by hiding small piles of his kibble around your house or yard when you leave. Most dogs love this game!
  • Enroll in a reward-based training class to increase your dog’s mental activity and enhance the bond between you and your dog. Contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer for group or private classes that can give you and your dog lots of great skills to learn and games to play together. After you and your dog have learned a few new skills, you can mentally tire your dog out by practicing them right before you leave your dog home alone. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate a CPDT in your area.
  • Get involved in dog sports, such as agility, freestyle (dancing with your dog) or flyball.

To learn about more great way to give your dog the mental and physical exercise he needs, please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life and Exercise for Dogs.

Medications Might Help

Always consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem.

The use of medications can be very helpful, especially for severe cases of separation anxiety. Some dogs are so distraught by any separation from their pet parents that treatment can’t be implemented without the help of medication. Anti-anxiety medication can help a dog tolerate some level of isolation without experiencing anxiety. It can also make treatment progress more quickly.

On rare occasions, a dog with mild separation anxiety might benefit from drug therapy alone, without accompanying behavior modification. The dog becomes accustomed to being left alone with the help of the drug and retains this new conditioning after he’s gradually weaned off the medication. However, most dogs need a combination of medication and behavior modification.

If you’d like to explore this option, speak with your veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who can work closely with your vet. Please see our article,Finding Professional Help, to locate one of these professionals in your area.

What NOT to Do

Do not scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviors are not the result of disobedience or spite. They are distress responses! Your dog displays anxious behaviors when left alone because he’s upset and trying to cope with a great deal of stress. If you punish him, he may become even more upset and the problem could get much worse.

Source: ASPCA

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