Help! My dog pulls on walks!

Walking your dog is one of the best, easiest, and least expensive forms of enrichment you can provide.  Not only is it great exercise for you — and a change to get some fresh air — but its a chance for your dog to exercise, smell the world, see the sights, and explore.  Regular walks are also critical to any dog’s weight loss program, along with indoor play.


However, walking is a not-so-fun experience when your dog pulls and pulls and pulls.  Maybe they pull so much they start coughing.  Or maybe they just drag you along on an annoying jog, rather than a nice stroll.  Pulling on a leash can deter you from walking them, which can lead to weight gain, boredom, and a whole host of other problems.

Here are some tips to get your “puller” turned around…

  • Use a head halter to walk your dog. Choose a brand that suits you and your dog and have it fitted correctly. Get your dog used to wearing it by rewarding them with treats, praise or pats when you put it on. Head halters allow you to control your dog’s movements, keeping you in charge of the walk.
  • Walk your dog in uninteresting areas until they learn to walk without pulling. If all they have to look at is a high brick wall ahead, or your backyard, chances are they will stop pulling. Practice giving them commands when you walk them so that the walk is under your control.
  • Practice walking in your backyard. Your dog is less likely to pull there and you can introduce a command like “walk,” when he is walking, then reward his calm behavior.
  • Ensure your dog has enough mental stimulation, as well as physical. Try rotating toys around and give him mentally challenging ones such as treat balls.
  • If your dog is sociable, you can take him to off leash areas. Then, you do not have to use a leash. You should be able to recall your dog to you, however, when he is off leash.  He should give his immediate attention and return to you 100% of the time.
  • If all this still fails, get some advice from a dog trainer. They may be able to show you a few techniques to make walking much more enjoyable.


Now, Where’d I Put My Catnip?

As cats age, they often develop medical problems which are interpreted as “getting old”.”

These can include:
 Confusion (getting trapped in corners or forgetting the location of the litter box)
 Increased attention seeking (or less commonly, aggression)
 Increased irritability or anxiety
 Changes in sleeping patterns
 Crying for no apparent reason
 Forgetting commands (yes, there are a few cats in the world who follow them)
 Loss of housetraining
 Changes in activity, such as wandering or pacing, or reduced activity
 Altered interest in food (either increased, or more commonly, decreased)
 Decreased grooming
 Forgetting they’ve just been fed
Diseases can be common causes of behavioral changes in older cats.
Arthritis: Arthritis pain can cause cats to be irritable, anxious (worrying another pet is going to attack them), aggression (attacking another pet when it gets near to prevent attacks), loss of housetraining (pain when jumping in/out of the litter box), reluctance to play, sleeping more, decreased grooming, and decreased appetite. 90% of cats over 12 years old have some evidence of arthritis!
Hypertension (high blood pressure): Hypertension can cause cats to be confused, irritable and have changes in sleeping patterns.
Kidney Disease: Kidney disease can cause increased irritability (they feel sick and so are cranky), insomnia, loss of housetraining (they’re drinking more water to compensate for kidney disease and so have “accidents”), decreased appetite, and overall (because they don’t feel well) can be anxious.
Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism can cause decreased grooming, greatly increased appetite, loss of housetraining, crying for no reason, changes in sleeping patterns, confusion, aggression, or irritability.
Loss of Hearing/Deafness: Loss of hearing can cause a cat to ignore commands, anxiety (worried about being surprised by things they can’t hear), and crying for no apparent reason.
Brain Tumors: Brain tumors can cause any of the above listed changes.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS): CDS is analogous to Alzheimer’s disease in people and can cause any of the above symptoms. It is primarily a diagnosis reached after excluding the above possible causes for the abnormal behavior.

At your cat’s bi-annual wellness exam, your veterinarian can offer blood and urine tests to help make sure your aging cat is otherwise healthy, and treat any medical conditions (such as those listed above) that can cause secondary behavioral changes.

There are some simple changes you can make to improve your cat’s quality of life as she ages. These include:

 Feeding your cat a senior cat diet.  These are usually enriched with glucosamine, chondroitin, and essential fatty acids.  They are also lower in calories for less active cats.
 Environmental enrichment with toys, company, interaction, and food hunting games helps maintain your cat’s cognitive function into old age. As with humans, the adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it” applies when it comes to older animals’ mental acuity. However, once cats have significant clinical signs of CDS, too much environmental change can have a negative effect. Cats with CDS often become stressed by change.


Using Feliway, a feline appeasement pheromone, can also help to reduce cats’ anxiety. You can buy Feliway at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital, at pet stores, or online- it comes in a spray or a diffuser.

 Provide a soft bed for your old pet to help ease the pain of arthritis. Heating pads are great, and they love them. (Just make sure you set them on low and use only when you’re around to prevent fire.) 
 Make some little steps for your cat to use to reach her favorite places. Some people just
rearrange the furniture a little or use boxes to make it easier for their cat to climb up to their
favorite places.
 Cut a lower entrance to the litter box so your cat can get in with minimal jumping.
 Regular contact with your veterinarian to help diagnose and treat disease. Wellness exams are recommended every 6 months with your older cat.

Don’t assume that because your cat is indoors only, she isn’t susceptible to disease. Many diseases, if diagnosed early, are easily treated.


Parvo Season is Almost Here…

This is one virus you DON’T want your dog to pick up.  Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a nasty, highly contagious illness, spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with feces. It can be especially hard on puppies who haven’t yet been vaccinated because their immune systems haven’t yet fully developed.


CPV shows up in two forms: intestinal and, more rarely, cardiac. Symptoms of the intestinal form of CPV include:

  • Extreme vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea, often containing mucus or
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • High fever or, sometimes, a low body
    temperature (hypothermia)
  • Severe abdominal pain

Because the intestinal form of CPV results in fluid losses and because the affected intestines do not nutrients and proteins properly, the affected puppy (or dog) will weaken, lose weight and become extremely dehydrated VERY quickly.

Diagnosis and Treatment
Every minute counts when it comes to diagnosis! If your dog is exhibiting one or more of the symptoms listed above, seek emergency veterinary care (at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital or an veterinary emergency room) as soon as possible.  CPV is an aggressive illness and dogs tend to deteriorate soon after becoming infected. If CPV is suspected, your veterinarian will first perform a physical exam and then follow up with other tests to determine the severity of the infection.

CPV almost always requires round-the-clock hospitalization at a 24-hour care facility. Because the virus is so contagious, affected pets must be hospitalized in an isolation room of the hospital and have all their own supplies and staff to take care of them.  Left untreated, dogs with the virus are likely to die. Since it’s a viral infection, there’s no cure for CPV. This means that your veterinarian will offer supportive care to help them get through the infection.

Treatment is aimed towards managing your dog’s dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and includes:

  • IV fluid therapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Medications to control vomiting, diarrhea, and
  • In severe cases, blood or plasma transfusions
  • Pain medications
  • Antibiotics are often prescribed to prevent
    bacterial infections, which can take advantage of your
    dog’s weakened state and often prove to be fatal

In general, dogs shouldn’t eat or drink until symptoms have subsided, and fluid support is usually needed for several days. Your veterinarian will discuss the best course of action to get your dog back to his normal, happy, healthy self as soon as possible.

Besides taking care of your dog, you’ll need to spend some time disinfecting your dog’s toys, crates, kennels, and toys. People can carry the virus on their hands and
clothes so be sure to wash thoroughly after being around a sick dog. Remember, CPV can live in the environment for at least a year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, so make sure to speak with your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital about vaccination and any lingering danger of infection in your house and yard.

The number one way to prevent CPV is vaccination.  Puppies should be vaccinated starting at a young age, and usually the vaccinations should be applied in a
series as directed by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will provide the best recommendation for keeping your adult dog  or puppy safe from CPV.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – we are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets!

Source: Pet Health Network

Vestibular Disease in Dogs

What is vestibular Syndrome in dogs?

Firstly, to avoid alarm, although vestibular Syndrome commonly presents with stroke-like symptoms, it is not the same and does not result in damage to the brain as we are familiar with in the human condition. Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome in dogs affects the mechanisms in the inner ear as opposed to a “stroke,” which is caused by a disturbance in blood flow to parts of the brain, potentially causing long term damage. Although dogs can have a “stroke,” this is quite uncommon and is usually less serious than in a humans.

What are the symptoms of vestibular Syndrome?

Vestibular Syndrome tends to happen in older dogs (>8yrs) although it can rarely can affect younger animals. It is usually seen as a condition with a very sudden onset and symptoms include:

  • Loss of balance
  • Dizziness
  • Falling over
  • Unable to stand
  • Head tilted to one side
  • Eyes flicking from left to right (nystagmus)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reluctance to eat and drink

Dogs that are affected can become quite distressed and disorientated. Commonly they will pant heavily due to distress and nausea and may not interact normally with the owner. It is also a frightening condition for owners as it is so sudden and dramatic.

What are the causes of vestibular Syndrome in dogs?

The cause of Vestibular Syndrome is unknown, although we know that it resolves without any specific treatment, over a period of days to weeks. Some dogs may have an episode which lasts less than a few hours and be almost back to normal the next day. If you suspect that your dog may be have Vestibular Syndrome, you should contact your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital for advice.

There are a few other conditions which can result in similar symptoms and an examination and some blood tests will help to rule some of these out. If your vet suspects there may be another underlying cause, then they may recommend further testing.

Can I prevent the chance of my dog getting IDV & can it be treated?

Until we understand the cause of Vestibular Syndrome, there is nothing that we can give to prevent it or even treat it.  However, when dogs are very nauseous we can give medication to help.  In more severe cases, when they cannot take in or hold down fluids, then hospitalization on intravenous fluids may be required. Occasionally, sedation may be needed for dogs with severe disorientation. If your veterinarian agrees that your dog is well enough to be nursed at home, try to settle them in a quiet place in the house and keep movement to a minimum until the dizziness subsides. Offer small amounts of water at regular intervals and hold off on food until any vomiting has stopped.

The prognosis is very good, with most dogs making a full recovery. Many pets begin to improve within seventy-two hours. The head tilt and stumbling often improve over a seven to ten day period. Most patients are completely recovered within two to three weeks. If the patient fails to improve or worsens, then a more severe underlying disorder should be suspected and advanced diagnostic testing should be pursued.  Some may have a slight tilt of the head which may remain permanently and there is a risk or repeated bouts of Vestibular Syndrome, but unfortunately this cannot be predicted.



© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. February 24, 2015


What is a “fecal series”?

If you’ve come to visit us with your pet who is suffering from diarrhea, most likely the veterinarian recommended a fecal series for your pet.  But what is this bundle of tests, and what are we looking for?


A fecal series is a bundle of microscopic fecal exams, usually performed in combination with other tests to identify possible causes of diarrhea.

  • Ideally, the sample should be examined within 30 minutes of collection.
  • The doctor may also recommend an antigen “snap test” — a fecal test used to identify Giardia,a contagious protozoan parasite that causes diarrhea.  This protozoa is also contagious to humans.
  • A fecal cytology is a specially fixed and stained fecal smear, used to examine the cells within a fecal sample, such as bacteria or fungus.
  • A direct fecal exam is a thin layer of feces that is examined under a microscope to evaluate for cellular abnormalities.
  • A fecal floatation is a wet sample of feces mixed with a concentrated solution to evaluate for intestinal parasites.

Identifying organisms in a fecal cytology, direct smear, and floatation can help your veterinarian determine the most effective treatment for your pet’s diarrhea.

What Is a Fecal Series?

A fecal series is set of a diagnostic tests that help identify possible causes of diarrhea in a cat or dog.

A direct fecal exam is a thin layer of feces that is examined under a microscope to evaluate for cellular abnormalities.

A fecal cytology is a fecal screening that employs heat-fixing and three stains (special “dyes” used for microscopic examination) to help identify additional organisms that may be or causing an imbalance or infection in the gastrointestinal tract.  Clostridium and Campylobacter are two types of bacteria that often cause diarrhea. Occasionally, fungal organisms may be identified. Cell abnormalities may help detect infection, hemorrhage, and in some cases, cancer.

Both tests are performed in conjunction with a fecal floatation to detect parasite eggs.

What Is a Fecal Floatation?

A fecal floatation is a diagnostic test that helps identify if the pet is infected with intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, or coccidia.  The test  requires mixing a small piece of the sample with a special solution.  The sample is then “spun down” in a centrifuge to help separate any parasite eggs.  Some parasites & eggs do not show up on all tests because there are too few of them or because the parasite is not “shedding” at the time of testing.  If we think that your pet may have one of these parasites, we may ask for another sample so we can either send it to an outside laboratory or conduct further tests in the hospital.

How Is the Test Performed?

The key to a good fecal series is to start with as fresh a sample as possible. Ideally, a fecal series should be examined within 30 minutes of collection, before the organisms die or disappear.

If you are unable to obtain a fresh sample, your veterinarian can usually retrieve a specimen with a gloved finger or an instrument called a fecal loop. If you can’t bring your pet to the veterinarian right away, fecal samples should be stored in the refrigerator, until the sample can be delivered.