Thunderstorm fears may be GENETIC!

 

Fear of thunderstorms is a common problem among dogs and is thought to have a genetic basis (e.g. herding breeds such as border collies are more prone to this).

In most dogs, this phobia is usually related to the noise component (i.e. thunder) rather than to the rain or flashing lights. However, in some dogs, it is the combination of lightning, static electricity in the air, low barometric pressure and noise that causes anxiety. Recent research has shown that static electric shocks during electrical storms may play a significant role in the formation of storm phobias.

You should also be careful not to send any wrong signals to your dog during these stressful times. For example, rewarding your dog when he is anxious, whether with petting or treats, can send the signal that this behaviour is acceptable and even rewarded. Likewise, punishment is inappropriate because it only serves to increase your dog’s level of anxiety even more.

Some basics steps can help minimize your dog’s stress levels and hopefully help him cope with thunderstorms. For example, a change in his environment (e.g. staying in the basement or in another location with no outside windows or doors), playing calming music or turning on the television during a storm, and providing exercise and playtime as a diversion may all prove helpful.

Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP), which goes under the trade name Comfort Zone, is a synthetic hormone that mimics the comforting and calming hormone that is released by canine mothers during nursing. It was developed to help reduce anxiety associated with storm phobias, separation anxiety, excessive barking and several other behavioural disorders.  It is available in a collar, spray, & room diffuser here.

The Thundershirt —  a tight, snug and stretchable fabric and velco garment for pets — is available online and at many pet stores.  This type of product was developed for pets after autistic children and adults showed comfort being swaddled or “squeezed” by a tight garment.  This product is most effective when used with behavior modification and sometimes, anti-anxiety medication.  It can be found online here.

Behavior modification is the most important step toward a solution.  We recommend a consultation with a behaviorist (much different than a “dog trainer”) who can help you redirect and eliminate your pets fear.  We recommend Dr. Vanya Moreno, PhD.  Her website can be found here.

As a last resort, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety medications.  These medications are not without risks or side effects.  Your veterinarian works in combination with a behaviorist to determine what medications at what dose would be ideal for your pet.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Information for Pets with Allergies & Ear Infections

If you’re finding yourself shouting “Stop scratching!” several times a day, your pet might be suffering from allergies. Just like humans with Hay fever, dog and cat allergies are the result of an exaggerated immune system response to allergens in the environment such as plant pollens, tree pollens, and mold spores.  The scientific name for this inherited allergic condition is atopy or atopic dermatitis. Almost all Terrier breeds are notorious atopy sufferers along with Dalmatians, Lhasa Apsos, Shar-peis, Bulldogs, and Labrador Retrievers.

Whereas people are prone to runny nose and eyes, dogs and cats with atopy develop itchy skin, often accompanied by skin and ear infections.

Symptoms are initially mild and seasonal, but tend to progress year by year in terms of severity and duration.  Fortunately, there are many options for treating atopy including medicated shampoos, antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, and drugs that alter the immune system’s overzealous behavior (cyclosporine, cortisone).  Just as for people, desensitization injections can be administered after specific testing is done to determine which allergens are provoking the immune response. Elimination of exposure to the allergens may also be an option (a good excuse to move to Hawaii!).

Here are a few easy and inexpensive things you can do at home to help your pet feel more comfortable:

  • Wipe your pet off daily with a wet cloth.  This helps to remove allergens, pollen, and dry skin from the coat.  No need to use fancy pet wipes, just a washcloth with warm water works just fine!  If applicable, use medicated shampoos/lotions as directed by your doctor.
  • Give antihistamines as directed.  Most pets can take (human) Benadryl.  Call our office to see if this medication is okay to give to your pet.  If so, Benadryl 25mg (adult)Tablets is given at 1mg per pound of their weight (small dogs and some cats can take Children’s Benadryl Liquid which is 12.5mg per mL).   It can be given every 8 to 12 hours as needed for itchiness.  Use 3-4 weeks as the initial trial period.  If this dose makes your pet too groggy, decrease the dose by half.  Be sure to choose PLAIN Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) with NO ADDITIVES.  Generic brand is just fine.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids are an amazing and inexpensive supplement.  They benefit your pet’s skin, coat, heart, & joints.  They should be given daily LIFELONG to improve your pet’s health and comfort.  If you choose to use a human Omega-3/Fish Oil supplement, please check the back of the bottle for the “EPA” milligram dose.   The dose recommended by the veterinary dermatologist is 36mg per kilogram of their weight.  Call our office and we can help you calculate this dose.
If your pet has had a severe flare-up or an ear infection recently and come in for a visit, there are a number of things we can do to help them.  For painful, uncomfortable, red swollen skin the doctor may prescribe steroids.  Steroids are very effective at relieving itching and redness, but they are not without side effects.  Steroid use at high doses and long term can cause obesity which can predispose your pet to diabetes and organ problems.  They also suppress your pet’s immune system so they may be more likely to get infections such as urinary tract infections, fungal diseases, etc.  All said, if the doctor has prescribed these for your pet, that means the short term use is unlikely to cause long-term effects.  They are also your pet’s best chance of being comfortable while we get the allergies under control.
  • Your pet may have received a steroid injection or have been sent home with oral steroid medication.  If so, steroids can cause the following side effects: increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, and occasionally you will see your pet pant more often.   If you see anything other than these signs that concerns you, please call our office.
  •  Your pet may have been sent home with antibiotics.  If so, please give these antibiotics as directed UNTIL GONE, even if your pet is 100% improved.  Always give antibiotics with a meal to avoid upset stomach.
We also offer allergy testing through Spectrum Labs.  You can learn more about allergy testing and allergy “shots” at their website, here.
  •   If your pet has repeated allergy signs or ear infections despite following your doctor’s recommendations, it may be time to pursue Allergy Testing.  Call our office or ask your doctor for more information.

The 10 Commandments of Cat Management: The Art of Managing Multicat Households

Thou Shalt:

1. Provide plenty of space.  Cats are a lot like people.  Some cats become stressed when they are too close to one another, others like to be close to their preferred friends.  Whether you have a big house or a studio apartment, there are several ways to provide more room for cats living together.

2. Not expect cats to get along.  Cats are social, but live in a singular society.  If your cat was raised an “only child” and then brought into a group, integration may be more difficult.  Typically, introductions go more smoothly if cats are brought into groups as juveniles or introduced as pairs (that are already familiar with each other).  The occasional hiss, growl and tussle are common, expected, and normal.  If one cat begins stalking another or a cat starts hiding and is reluctant to emerge for food, attention, or litter box use —  this is a serious problem.

3. Provide food.  Free-roaming cats reportedly eat up to 13 small meals throughout the day, most of which involve hunting.  You can bring this into your home by providing several small bowls with food around the house at different heights, or even employing puzzle toys.  About 80% of cats that are free choice are overweight.  It is also difficult to tell who is eating what, and how much everyone is eating with a free-choice household.  For instance, you may not notice that your cat is sick or hasn’t eaten in 3 days if the bowl is always kept full.

4. Provide water.  Cats tend to drink more if the water dish is separated from the food source.  They prefer flowing water, and some even drink from faucets.   Studies have even shown that they prefer to drink from a tall receptacle, such as a sturdy flower vase.  We are not usually concerned when owners feel their pet is “not drinking enough,” but are VERY concerned if you noticed the pet drinking dramatically more.  Dramatic increase in urination can indicate problems with the kidneys or blood sugar, just to name a few.

5. Provide opportunities for play.  In a multicat household, it is important to provide a number and variety of safe cat toys for cats to play together, alone and with you.  Keeping rubber bands, hair ties, paperclips, wires, strings, yarn and ribbon away from cats as these can be ingested and cause a dangerous intestinal blockage.

6. Provide clean litter boxes.  In an outdoor environment, cats have plenty of room to eliminate and will dig down a good distance to do so.  To duplicate this in the home, it is best to have LARGE boxes that are easily accessible.  The typical rule for the number of boxes is one for each cat, plus an extra.  The boxes should be filled several inches deep with litter made of a finer particulate.  The boxes should be scooped out at least once a day and completely empties and cleaned with mild soap and water once a month.

7. Provide areas for rest.  We all know cats can be lazy, but studies suggest cats rest for about 5 hours a day and sleep about 10 hours a day.  Provide as many resting places as possible all over the house.

8. Provide scratching opportunities.  Cats scratch to communicate with other cats — if a tree or dirt isn’t available, then a chair or rug will do.  Indoor cats need lots of options, including vertical and horizontal places.  Scratching surfaces should be located in central, visible area of the house so the cats can communicate.  Increase the appeal by sprinkling catnip or spraying the surface with Feliway (ceva.com).  To prevent cats from scratching furniture, double-sided tape, such as Sticky Paws (pioneerpet.com) can be used to deter them.  If furniture scratching cannot be tolerated, nail caps such as Soft Paws (softpaws.com) can be applied to the nails.  As always, make sure nails are trimmed regularly!

9. Realize that some cats urine mark.  While urine marking is normal (though undesirable) no one is exactly sure why cats do it.  Spaying and neutering decreases the incidence of marking by 89%, but “spraying” is likely to increase with the number of cats in the home.    You can help prevent urine marking by making sure you follow Commandment One.  If a cat begins to mark, the first step is a veterinary visit and urine test to make sure there isn’t a medical cause such as a urinary tract infection, urinary crystals or bladder stones.

10. Consider outside spaces.  Because space is essential, consider expanding to safe outdoor areas.  Specific fencing is made for cats such as Purr…fect Fence (purrfect-fence.com) or Cat Fence-In (catfencein.com).

By Terry Marie Curtis, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVB

Source: Today’s Veterinary Practice magazine

Declawing in Cats

The following information is borrowed from declawing.com.

Written by Veterinarian, Dr. Christianne Schelling

 

If you are considering declawing your cat, please read this. It will only take a moment, and it will give you valuable information to help you in your decision.

First, you should know that declawing is pretty much an American thing, it’s something people do for their own convenience without realizing what actually happens to their beloved cat. In England declawing is termed “inhumane” and “unnecessary mutilation.” I agree. In many European countries it is illegal. I applaud their attitude.

Before you make the decision to declaw your cat, there are some important facts you should know. Declawing is not like a manicure. It is serious surgery. Your cat’s claw is not a toenail. It is actually closely adhered to the bone. So closely adhered that to remove the claw, the last bone of your the cat’s claw has to be removed. Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat’s “toes.” When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing. Wheelchairs and bedpans are not an option for a cat.

 

No cat lover would doubt that cats–whose senses are much keener than ours–suffer pain. They may, however, hide it better. Not only are they proud, they instinctively know that they are at risk when in a weakened position, and by nature will attempt to hide it. But make no mistake. This is not a surgery to be taken lightly.

Your cat’s body is perfectly designed to give it the grace, agility and beauty that is unique to felines. Its claws are an important part of this design. Amputating the important part of their anatomy that contains the claws drastically alters the conformation of their feet. The cat is also deprived of its primary means of defense, leaving it prey to predators if it ever escapes to the outdoors.

I have also had people tell me that their cat’s personality changed after being declawed. Although, the medical community does not recognize this as potential side effect.

Okay, so now you realize that declawing is too drastic a solution, but you’re still concerned about keeping your household furnishings intact. Is there an acceptable solution? Happily, the answer is yes. A big, joyful, humane YES! Actually there are several. The following website “Cat Scratching Solutions” provides many solutions as well as and insight into the psychology of why cats scratch. You can teach your cat to use a scratching post (sisal posts are by far the best). You can trim the front claws. You can also employ aversion methods. One of the best solutions I’ve found is Soft Paws®.

Soft Paws are lightweight vinyl nail caps that you glue on the cat’s front claws. They’re great for households with small children and are extremely useful for people who are away from home all day and can’t exercise the watchfulness necessary to train a cat to use a scratching post. Soft Paws® are easy to apply and last about four to six weeks. They come in clear or colors–which are really fun. Now that’s a kitty manicure! The colored caps look spiffy on Tabby or Tom and have the added advantage of being more visible when one finally comes off. Then you simply replace it. You can find Soft Paws® on the web by clicking here or call 1-800-989-2542.

 

You need to remember, though, that the caps and nail trimming should only be used on indoor cats who will not be vulnerable to the dangers of the outdoors.

For a list of countries in which declawing is either illegal, or considered extremely inhumane and only performed only under extreme circumstances, or for medical reasons, CLICK HERE.

Not yet convinced? Click Here for “The Truth about Declawing – Technical Facts.”

Summertime Treats for Your Pet

Peanut Butter Pupsicles for Dogs

 

Dogs love popsicles, or “pupsicles,” because they taste great and give them something to do. Try this cool recipe to help your pooch beat the heat this coming summer.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rice milk or vanilla yogurt
  • 1 medium mashed banana or 1 6oz. jar of baby fruit
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter, without salt

Directions: 
Mix ingredients well in a blender, then pour into 3 oz. paper cups or ice cube trays. Do not use popsicle sticks of any kind! Freeze for four hours or more. When ready to serve, tear off the paper cup or pop out of tray and place pupsicles in a bowl.

Nutritional Information:

Protein: 17.74%
Fat: 19.88%
Carbohydrates: 62.38%

Calories for Entire Recipe (please create portions appropriately): 1302

Purr-fect Puff Pops

A tail-twitching, whisker-lickin’ treat that is sure to get a meow from your favorite feline!
Ingredients:

  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 1⁄2 cup of honey
  • 1 long sliced carrot
  • 6-ounce can of tuna in water

Directions:

Mash the hard-boiled egg and put it into a bowl. Add honey, carrot and tuna. Mix together and roll into marble-sized balls. Place the puffs in a sealed container and keep refrigerated until they turn into chilled pops. Then serve.

Serving size: 1 puff pop for an adult cat and 1⁄2 pop for a kitten.

Nutritional Information 

Protein: 21.65%
Fat: 17.80%
Carbohydrates: 60.55%

Calories for entire recipe: 972

If your pet has a pre-existing medical condition, consult your veterinarian before adding a new food to your pet’s diet. Also, these recipes is for intermittent or supplemental feeding only and is not a replacement for a complete or balanced diet.

Source: banfield.com