Thwarting the Back to School Blues

Dogs and cats (but especially dogs) can experience a bit of sadness at the start of the school year. Their best friends who have been with them all summer are now gone for the better part of the day (or for a few months, if your kids are in college!). Such a big change in routine has the potential to trigger pet separation anxiety. This condition occurs primarily in dogs and results in a sense of fear and panic when you and your family leave the house. Our animal hospital in Carmel has come up with these tips to help reduce your pet’s anxiety.

Pet Separation Anxiety in Carmel: A Dog Looking Out a Sunny Window
Golden Retriever looking out a window.

Understanding Pet Separation Anxiety

In order to correctly treat pet separation anxiety, it’s important to first understand it. Separation anxiety and the distress behaviors that come with it can be compared to a panic attack in humans. Your dog is not simply behaving badly because he doesn’t want you to leave; he is having a panic attack. The reasons that dogs are often more affected than cats by separation anxiety are not completely clear, but it’s believed to link back to their pack instincts. Dogs in the wild live as part of a pack, and a dog alone is in a very dangerous situation, indeed. He’s vulnerable to attack from other predators and starvation since he can’t work with a pack to get food. As such, when you leave your dog home alone, he’s losing his pack and becomes fearful as a result.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Common distress signs include:

  • House soiling (only done when left alone)
  • Destructive behavior (torn up furniture, chewed shoes, etc.)
  • Escape attempts (digging or claw marks near doors and windows)
  • Barking and howling excessively while alone
  • Pacing in a circular or straight pattern

It can be difficult to catch some of these behaviors since they likely only happen when you’re not at home. However, signs of destructive behavior should be evident and you can also watch your dog’s behavior as you get ready to leave to see if they seem anxious.

Tips to Reduce Your Pet’s Anxiety

  • Exercise your dog before you leave for the day. A tired dog is less likely to have the energy to be upset! It also keeps them from getting bored.
  • Give them a special food puzzle filled with their favorite treat before you leave. This helps them associate good things with being left alone. Be sure to take it away the moment you come home, whether it’s finished or not.
  • Likewise, you can also give your pet a special toy that they only get to play with while they’re alone. This helps them occupy their minds so they’re not focused on your departure.
  • Don’t make a big deal about leaving or coming home. Excessive farewells and greetings will only reinforce your pet’s anxiety about being left alone. Make good-byes brief and when you come home, ignore your dog for a bit until they calm down.
  • Make sure to set aside some time for your kids to play with your dog after school. This helps your dog have something to look forward to!
  • If your pet suffers from more severe separation anxiety, talk to your veterinarian. We can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to help keep them calm while you continue to work on training with them.

Contact us today at (317) 900-7723 for more information about pet separation anxiety!

Why Is my Pet Scooting?

If your pet is scooting or dragging its bottom across the floor. It’s a sign something is irritating him/her. What’s behind that irritation can range from infection to worms to inflammation. The most common problem is the anal glands.

What on Earth are Anal Glands?

Anal glands are two small glands just inside your pet’s bottom. The material secreted into these glands is thick, oily, stinky, and is commonly described as smelling fishy.  Walking around and normal defecation serve to empty the anal glands but some animals become unable to empty their anal glands on their own at all. The anal glands become impacted and uncomfortable.

Pets with impacted anal glands usually scoot their bottom on the ground in an attempt to empty the glands. Some dogs will lick their bottom area and other dogs will chase their tails. Cats often lick the fur off just under their tails. Some animals are simply vaguely uncomfortable, holding their tails down, shivering, showing reluctance to walk or hiding.

What can I do about Scooting?

If you notice that your pet scooting across the floor. He/she may need to have their anal glands expressed. You can either make an appointment with a grooming facility or a veterinary clinic.

What if Scooting Continues?

If scooting continues for more than a few days after emptying the pet should be re-checked. For some pets it takes several anal gland expressions in a row before they stay emptied. If the anal glands are empty and scooting is persisting, another cause could be causing the irritation and other treatment may be needed.

What Happens If an Impacted Anal Gland doesn’t get Emptied?

An abscess can form and rupture out through the skin. This can be very painful, messy and a smelly condition. This often is mistaken for rectal bleeding. If an anal gland abscess forms, a veterinarian needs to examine your pet to start your pet on the proper treatment

How often should Anal Glands Be Emptied?

The best recommendation is to let the pet tell you when his/her anal glands are full. If the pet starts scooting again, it is time to bring him/her in.

When is Surgery needed or considered?

If the anal glands need to be emptied every few weeks or more, you may have to consider permanently removing the anal glands. This procedure can be complicated and should be performed by an experienced surgeon.

Fear of Fireworks

The summer is full of celebrations involving fireworks especially of the 4th of July. Dogs and cats react to fireworks. Some aren’t upset by the explosions, and others can get hurt by panicking and jumping through closed windows or bolting through doors to get away from the terrifying noise and lights.

The 4th of July Day is the busiest day of the year in shelters, and that many pets get lost, injured.  You should know which clinics or emergency hospitals will be open during fireworks season, in case you need one, as this will help you avoid time delays and stress.

Signs of anxiety

The can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking, vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people, hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.

Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep more available than usual. Remember these summer events usually mean hotter weather so extra water is already a good idea. Bring outside pets inside so they can’t bolt. Keep your cats securely inside and if your dog needs a potty break during the fireworks, take him outside on a leash. Make sure all your pets are wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number. Tags and collars can be lost so a microchip is even more useful in helping you find your lost pet.

Drug-Free Remedies

What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate as long as they are used to one or in a safe room with a closed door is all that’s needed.

Synthetic pheromone sprays for cats and dogs are available at pet stores. These sprays imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being.

Some pets respond to some commercially available pressure wraps . The pressure on the body may have a calming effect.

In behavior modification controlling the intensity of the fireworks is necessary and often the most challenging part. While it often isn’t possible to expose a fearful dog to only little fireworks, controlling other factors can help. Distance from the fireworks can be less intimidating, as would be keeping the dog indoors.  Music may disguise the bursts of noise; consider loud music with a regular beat.

Classical counter conditioning can create a positive association with fireworks if the anxiety isn’t extreme. Give high-value food rewards (canned food or peanut butter), offer your pet his favorite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards. You can teach a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening thing ends. Providing a safe retreat, such as a crate or a closet, will give security and confidence, although selecting the location is up to the pet. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs!  Hiding is not a sign of a problem, if the pet quickly returns to a normal behavior when the fireworks are over.

Medication

It’s easier to prevent a fearful reaction than it is to reverse one. If your pet is nervous around loud, unexpected noises, a short-term sedative before the fireworks start may be just the ticket. Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time, so you can have something on hand to give your pet before the fireworks start. Some severely anxious pets may benefit from drugs that increase the level of serotonin. However, these drugs can take several weeks, if not more, to build up to an effective level, so this is not a quick fix. We can help you decide which products may work the best for your pet.

You have many choices of how to help your pet cope with fireworks stress.  Talk to us about what is best for your pet. Hopefully, everyone in the family will then be able enjoy the holiday!

How to Know if My Pet is in Need of a Dental Cleaning?

Your pet might need a dental if:

-Difficulty chewing or chewing only on one side of the mouth

-Bad Breath

-Tooth loss

-Bleeding from mouth or drooling

-Oral pain (pet is reluctant to let you touch the mouth area)

-Decreased appetite or weight loss

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Did You know?

Did you know that 4 out of 5 dogs over the age of 3 years have some sort of periodontal disease? It can be caused by the buildup of plaque, so it’s important to go in for regular dental checkups and cleanings.

Caring for your pet’s teeth can prevent other health problems, saving you tons of money over the long term!

Your dog and cat are very good at hiding pain – you might never know that your pet has a serious dental problem until it’s very advanced. This is yet another reason it’s important to take your pet in for regular dental checkups.

Dental disease can actually lead to problems with your pet’s organs, such as the kidneys, heart, and liver.

A pet with healthy teeth equals a pet with better breath!

 

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease starts when bacteria forms plaque that sticks to the outer surface of the teeth. Following plaque formation, minerals in the saliva harden the plaque to form into dental calculus otherwise known as tartar. The plaque and tartar spread under the gums and cause gingivitis — inflammation of the gums. Once under the gums, the supporting tissues that surround the tooth become damaged.  The result of this effect is loss of the tooth or usually multiple teeth. This cycle of events is known as periodontitis.

 

How often should I have my cat or dog’s teeth cleaned?

Most veterinarians recommend dental cleanings once per year for dogs and cats. However, some breeds may require more frequent professional cleanings. Your veterinarian will run pre-operative bloodwork to make sure your pet is healthy enough to undergo the anesthesia necessary for the procedure. While modern anesthesia is considered very safe, this is a precautionary measure to minimize any risks.

During the cleaning, the veterinary team will monitor your pet’s vital signs to ensure that they are normal. These vitals include respiration rate, heart rate, blood oxygen levels and body temperature.

Your pet’s teeth will be cleaned and polished with professional equipment that smooths the tooth surface, removes tartar and plaque and polishes the teeth. Antibiotics and/or pain medications may be prescribed depending on the extent of disease at the time of cleaning. Once the dental cleaning is complete, your pet will be carefully brought out of anesthesia. Your veterinarian will ensure that your pet has recovered properly before releasing him or her to go home.

 

What can I do at home?

Daily brushing can help remove food particles from between your pet’s teeth. You can use a finger brush or a child’s toothbrush. You should us pet toothpaste, which comes in flavors such as chicken, seafood, and malt. Avoid human toothpaste.

There are also dental treats that can help keep tartar to a minimum as well as dental diets. The diets tend to have larger kibbles to provide abrasive action against the tooth surface when chewed. Or they may contain ingredients that help prevent tartar mineralization. Ask your veterinarian which are appropriate for your pet.

Flea Control

Where Did These Fleas Come from?

Fleas can come from anywhere; you could have carried the fleas home to your pet(s). Stray dogs, cats, raccoons, and opossums are the biggest carriers of fleas in your yard. If any wild animal has crossed your yard, flea eggs could have been dropped.

The Flea Lifecycle:                                                                                                        

“There are four life stages of a flea”

  • The Egg– The adult female flea can lay up to 40 eggs daily. The eggs are laid on the pet where they fall off to hatch in the environment.
  • The Larvae- Larvae are like little caterpillars crawling around eating on the flea dirt in their area. At a certain age and size, a molt occurs. There are three stages of molt after the third stage it is capable of spinning a cocoon and pupating. (Depending on the environment conditions it can be as short as 9 days)
  • The Pupae- Once they have spun cocoons the are nearly invincible. The cocoon is sticky and readily picks up dust and dirt. Inside the cocoon the pupa is turning into the flea that we are familiar with. (they are especially protected under the carpet) A pupa can lay dormant in its cocoon for several months, and even up to a year waiting for the right time to emerge.
  • The Adult Flea- The adult flea will now wait until it detects a nearby animal. Once they come out of there cocoon they are hungry and eager to find food.

What can I do?

Vacuum once to twice weekly.

Shampoo all carpets with soap and hot water.

Wash any bedding or blankets your pets lay with in hot soapy water.

Keeping your pet on a monthly flea preventive can prevent a flea infestation. Talk to your veterinarian about what would work best for you and your pet.

“If one pet has fleas, all pets in the household have fleas weather they can be seen or not. Flea control involves treating ALL pets in the home.”