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Socializing A New Puppy

May 20th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

I think all veterinarians can agree puppy and kitten visits are usually the happiest parts of our day. Between puppy-breath kisses, we usually vaccinate, de-worm, perform our exams, and go over pet food and basic husbandry aspects of having a new puppy. The longer I practice, the more I am seeing the importance of early socialization and the impact that it can have on the well-being of the dog and their owners. When I’m concentrating on the new pet’s physical health, it is a subject that I am guilty of overlooking frequently. Believe it or not, behavior problems like fear and aggression are the number one cause of death in dogs under 3 years of age; outranking infectious disease and trauma, and socializing your pet can help significantly. Lack of socialization and reliable training is the main reason young dogs end up in shelters or are euthanized.

So when is the best time to socialize a puppy? The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says the peak period for puppy socialization is 4 to 14 weeks of age. During the first 3 months of life, puppies are much more open to new people, animals, and experiences. Their sociability outweighs their fear at this time. This period can be a balancing act between socializing and protecting from infectious disease. Many would argue that the risk of developing a life-threatening behavior problem is greater than the risk of contracting an infectious disease like parvovirus. However, there are basic safety precautions owners should take when they begin bringing a young puppy “out into the world.” Avoid places like dog parks, animals who have not been vaccinated, and high traffic areas that can’t be sanitized properly.

puppies socializing

The objective of puppy socialization is to try to expose them to as many new people (all ages, genders, and ethnicities), new places (traffic, playgrounds, quiet areas, yelling children, etc.),  different animals, and new experiences like car rides and manipulation of their sensitive areas like ears and feet. An excellent way to provide structured socialization is to find a good puppy class. This provides socialization in a controlled and safe environment and should be done on a surface that can be easily sanitized. The puppy should have at least the first set of puppy shots 7 days prior to starting a class, be de-wormed, and stay current on vaccines throughout the duration of the class.

socializingWhen socializing, it is important to remember that the experiences must be positive for the puppy, or it can work against you and create fear and anxiety. Always use positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise. For example, if the puppy is scared of a loud noise or a specific person, try to make it positive by letting the stranger give the treats or distracting the animal during a fearful time. If the puppy suddenly becomes anxious and fearful in a situation and does not recover in less than 1 minute, it is probably best to remove the animal from the situation. If the animal is flooded with negative stimuli, it can promote more fear and aggression because they just want to get away from the situation. If a puppy does not recover from stimuli like loud noises in less than 1 minute, a behavior evaluation may be needed.

The final point to remember is that socialization does not stop at 14 weeks. Although puppies are most receptive at a very young age, training can (and should) still continue and be effective. It’s similar to the way children are more open and receptive at a young age. We can still learn as we get older, it just takes a little more work. Your veterinarian may be able to help you with behavior questions or problems, and if not, they can definitely direct you to someone who can help.

-Dr. Alison Bradshaw

Should I REALLY spay/neuter my pet?

May 13th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

Many people have heard it is important to spay/neuter your dog and cat but not everyone knows why it is so important.

So why do veterinarians recommend having your dog or cat sterilized?

By spaying or neutering your pet you are preventing many life threatening infections and reducing the risk of certain types of spay neutercancer! Female dogs and cats can develop a dangerous uterine infection if they are not spayed. This dangerous infection is known as a pyometra. When this uterine infection develops, if the pet is not seen for emergency surgery and IV antibiotics, she will become septic and die quickly. Not only is the infection life threatening but the necessary antibiotics and life saving surgery are very expensive. Spaying your cat/dog completely prevents this infection since the uterus is removed in a spay.

Spaying your dog reduces the risk of mammary, ovarian and uterine cancer, too. In fact, studies have shown that female cats spayed prior to 6 months of age had a 91% decrease in the risk of developing mammary cancer.  Dogs that go through one heat cycle have increased the incidence of developing mammary cancer by 8%. After a dog goes through two  heat cycles the incidence of mammary cancer has increased by 26%.  Thus spaying dogs and cats directly decreases their chance of developing mammary carcinoma later in life.

Female dogs will have a heat cycle every 6-9 months depending on the breed. When a dog is in heat they will produce a bloody discharge. For indoor pets, this can be an undesirable mess.  Female cats during breeding season can go into heat for 4-5 days every 3 weeks! Cats typically become very vocal and needy during their heat cycle.

Neutering male dogs and cats reduces undesirable behaviors. Intact males are prone to urine marking behavior, roaming and fighting with other males. Neutering reduces all three of these tendencies.  Thus neutering dogs and cats can result in a more enjoyable pet. Neutering also reduces the risk of getting lost or hit by a car!

In addition to sterilization being a healthy option and reducing undesirable behaviors in your pet,  spaying and neutering your pet is a morally responsible decision. Many dogs and cats die in shelters every day. In fact it is estimated that 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats are euthanized in shelters every year. Thus, unless a pet is being used for planned appropriate breeding, many feel that accidental litters are not socially responsible.

neuter spay

Allowing your pet to have one litter of kittens/puppies can have many hidden, unexpected costs. Some breeds have complicated pregnancies and require c-sections to deliver puppies safely. Breeders are prepared to incur the costs associated with complicated pregnancies and litters of puppies/kittens.  Some mother cats/dogs become ill after delivery and require hospitalization and the litter may need to be bottle fed. As the puppies/kittens grow they need to be dewormed and vaccinated. These medical expenses add up and letting your pet have just one litter of puppies/kittens can be very expensive.

Although a spay (removing the ovaries and uterus) or neuter(removing the testicles)  is considered a major surgery, they are performed routinely and very safely. Pre-surgical blood work is recommended to ensure that your pet is a safe anesthetic candidate. Pain medication, IV fluids and general anesthesia result in a safe, pain free recovery.

Spaying or neutering your dog/cat results in a healthier, better behaved pet. The benefits medically and behaviorally make sterilization an easy choice for any loved pet.

Litter Box Issues

May 4th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

Litter box problems are the most common behavior issue with cats. Unfortunately, it often leads to banning the cat outdoors, abandonment, or even surrender to the shelter when their owners cannot handle it anymore. While stress is often a common cause of litter box issues, medical conditions can also lead to this problem. If your cat is having litter box issues, we always recommend letting a veterinarian examine your cat so that they can better discuss your options.

Medical Conditions that can lead to house soiling/accidents:

-Cystitis (bladder inflammation or a bladder infection)

-Bladder stones

-Kidney disease

-Diabetes

-Hyperthyroidism

-Arthritis (arthritic kitties often have a hard time climbing into and out of the litter box)

If your veterinarian rules out medical issues, they will likely discuss other situations that can lead your cat to avoid the litter box.

litter box issues2

Some common causes include:

-too few litter boxes for the number of cats (the official rule is one more litter box than the number of cats in the household)

-hooded litter box (hoods should be removed until the problem resolves)

-dirty litter box

-litter box location (cats prefer litter boxes in quiet, secluded areas)

-recent change of litter type or liner type

-side height (elderly cats or small kittens can have difficulty climbing in to large boxes)

-size (most cats prefer a very large box)

-too many cats in the household

-a new pet or new person in the house

-other stressful events in the household

The smell of urine in carpet, bedding, or furniture, will continue to attract the cat, so a thorough cleaning is a must. If the item is washable, we recommend washing it in hot water and bleach. Use a black light to identify soiled areas of carpet. The litter box issues 3carpet should be thoroughly cleaned and a cleaner can be injected into the carpet pad using a needle and syringe. There are many odor eliminating cleaners out there, but “Zero Odor Pet” products have been highly recommended to us.

Unfortunately, feline litter box issues can be very complex and there is no easy solution that will fix every cat. Diagnosing and treating underlying medical conditions can help many cats. Healthy cats can benefit when stressors are identified and removed, and litter box issues are corrected. Soiled areas should be identified and properly cleaned. When these efforts have failed, we will try anti-anxiety medications if indicated. However, these medications are rarely effective by themselves.  We recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss any litter box issues your cat may be having.

Diarrhea Debunked

April 27th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

One of the most common problems we veterinarians see with our pets is diarrhea. Yuck, right?

Diarrhea can have many causes, and some are very serious and scary. The best way to help your dog’s diarrhea improve is to see your veterinarian! They will need to figure out why he has diarrhea in order to treat it.

Here are just a few causes of diarrhea:

  1. Stress
  2. Intestinal parasites (worms)
  3. Foreign body obstruction
  4. Pancreatitis
  5. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  6. Irritable bowel disease
  7. Cancer

Your vet has many tools at their disposal to help find out why your pet is having diarrhea. They may need to take xrays to look for items stuck in your pet’s stomach or masses in the intestines and surrounding area. They will more than likely run labwork to look for pancreatitis or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and rule out other organ function issues. They will also need to check the patient’s poop for worms by running a fecal float in house.

Surprisingly for many of my clients, they’ll bring their dog in for “constipation,” when in fact, he has diarrhea. The symptoms can look the same – straining to poop.

diarrhea

Sometimes when your pet is stressed, be it from a car ride, grooming, having visitors in the house, a new pet or baby in the house, etc… their intestines can overreact. You may notice soft or watery stools, and sometimes even blood.

Some pets eat things they shouldn’t- they get into the trash, counter surf, eat your dinner, swallow an entire toy, or they may play with rocks or sticks outside. Regardless of what the object is, they may get diarrhea because of this. Toys or indigestible items can cause an obstruction in the intestines which can be very dangerous. They can become very sick and even need surgery to remove the item!
Foods that the pet is not used to eating can cause inflammation in the intestines leading to diarrhea or pancreatitis as well. Thankfully, this can usually be managed with medication.
Some plants, medications, and human foods are poisonous to our pets leading to further tummy issues. Things like chocolate, onions, lilies, and medications can make our pets very sick and cause organ failure. The first sign of toxicity is often diarrhea. If your pet gets into something toxic, please notify your vet right away!

If there is blood in the poop, it is very important to inform your vet. Sometimes blood in the stools is due to stress, causing “stress colitis”. But some pets can get “hemorrhagic gastroenteritis” where they loose too much blood in the stools. This can be very serious and require hospitalization.  If the stools are black and tarry, they may have an ulcer. Depending on the severity of your pet’s symptoms, your vet may be able to help the diarrhea by medication, but they may need to keep them in the hospital, give fluids to rehydrate them, or do further treatment to help them feel better.

Sometimes, pets can have chronic diarrhea, (diarrhea that has gone on a long time). This is when we worry about chronic conditions like irritable bowel disease, food allergies, chronic pancreas issues, and cancer.

Puppies that have diarrhea can become very sick very fast so do not wait. The most serious thing we worry about with puppies is a viral disease called parvovirus. This can progress quickly and the patient will need treatment from their vet right away! Puppies also commonly get intestinal parasites. But a simple deworming can help if this is the case.

If your pet isn’t feeling well and having diarrhea, please let us know. We will be glad to help them with their tummy troubles.

Written by: Christina Munn

My Dog Has Allergies and Itches Constantly!

April 20th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

 

Whether for humans or pets, allergies are typically a frustrating diagnosis for all involved.   Dogs with severe allergies struggle to find relief for their itch as you have probably witnessed.  It can be frustrating for owners, due to the costs of necessary testing and the fact that there usually isn’t a quick fix or a magic pill for allergies.  It’s often tough for the veterinarian to know which path to take for treatment as well.

Some dogs have environmental allergies (allergic to things like molds, grasses and even cat or human dander).  Other dogs are allergic to ingredients in food. And many dogs have multiple allergies.  In addition to figuring out the underlying allergy itself, we often also need to treat secondary problems, such as yeast or bacterial infections, otitis externa (ear infections) and inflamed skin from all of the scratching.dog allergies

With testing, a veterinarian is able to determine if secondary problems are present and can then determine the best course of treatment for those problems.  However, treating the inciting cause, the actual allergy, can be a bit trickier.  Although this is not all-inclusive to the treatment options, three choices we often make for an allergic dog include:

  • antihistamines
  • steroids
  • or a new drug called Apoquel

Antihistamines are commonly our first line of defense for mild itching in a dog. These drugs, such as Benadryl and Zyrtec, are typically cheap, don’t have worrisome long term side effects, and are easy to give.  The downside is that, for most dogs, they don’t work to relieve the itching.  We will often try one and if that doesn’t work, reach for another.  There are some benefits to certain antihistamines (for example, Zyrtec is usually once or twice a day, whereas Benadryl is usually given every 8 hours).  Some dogs respond better to one than another, so it’s a trial and error thing.

allergies

Steroids are another type of drug that’s commonly prescribed to an allergic dog. Again, they are cheap and readily available and improve itchiness of most dogs with allergies.  However, steroids have worrisome short term and long term side effects.  Most pets, while taking steroids, will drink and urinate excessively. They may have a ravenous appetite and be more restless too.  Long term, steroids can have negative effects on the liver and the immune system, in addition to possible problems with the endocrine system.  Because of these things, we are limited to how long a pet can receive steroids and how often he or she can be prescribed them.

A newer drug that a lot of veterinarians are reaching for is a drug called Apoquel.  Apoquel works differently than anything allergieswe’ve had available before.  It targets the signaling pathway that contribute to itching and inflammation within the skin.  It is more costly than antihistamines and steroids, but it doesn’t come with a long list of side effects.  It can be used on a short term basis during an allergy flare up, or on a more chronic basis to keep the allergies under control. Dogs can still get those secondary problems while on Apoquel, so it’s important for them to be examined every 3 months while on the drug to make sure there are no additional problems.  And as with any chronic medication, blood work should be done at least yearly, just to make sure the pet is tolerating things well. Apoquel doesn’t work for every dog with allergies, but it has shown to be quite useful in most cases.

Allergies are a multi-faceted disease and usually require many trips to the veterinarian and much effort on the part of the pet parent.  It is often trial and error and in most cases, requires a multitude of treatment approaches and medications, but take it slow and we will work with you to find relief.