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Trainer, Behaviorist or Vet: Whom to call with pet behavior troubles

Posted on: August 21st, 2007 by

Posted by Amy Shojai on 8/21/2007 in Dog Behavior

Adopting a puppy or kitten often conjures anticipation of his eventual Lassie-like devotion and intelligence, or fond memories of dressing Grandma’s oh-so-tolerant cat in doll clothes. But soon, reality sinks in.

Few new pets measure up to the sometimes-inflated memories of cherished childhood pets. For first-time pet owners, even normal cat and dog behavior can prove perplexing.

Perhaps you have experienced one of these behavioral scenarios:

Your new puppy outgrows his cute phase and still has not perfected housetraining.
Your kitten doesn’t seem so adorable when her frisky antics end up breaking family heirlooms like china plates.
Your resident pets appear to hate the new one (or vice versa), or they scream in fear at the sight of another animal.
Your resident pet starts displaying unwanted behaviors, like growling or snapping at you or houseguests.
You need to find workable answers, but where should you go for help?

The first line of defense is your veterinarian, who will examine your pet to determine if a medical issue is the reason behind your cat or dog’s behavior problems. Your veterinarian can also recognize if your pet’s behaviors are within the realm of normalcy.

For behaviors deemed to be normal – such as a cat walking on counters or a dog barking frantically when the doorbell rings, veterinarians often can provide some basic behavior tips. They may also recommend a dog trainer to help you teach that active puppy some manners. Some veterinary clinics may suggest products geared to keeping cats off counters – or refer you to places offering training classes and support.

But not every veterinarian has the time to provide training or behavior advice. And, even experienced dog trainers who excel at teaching obedience and performance skills, may not have the knowledge or inclination to deal with pets with emotionally-based, extremely challenging issues.

For example, a standard obedience class won’t help a severely frightened dog or cat. The fear emotion can block an animal’s ability to think and learn. Pets displaying aggression toward other animals or people require professional help – the sooner, the better.

In searching for an animal behavior expert to treat challenging issues, be leery of behavior professionals who promise quick fixes or instant cures. Longstanding behavior problems tend to require intense dedication on the part of the owner and rarely can be guaranteed to have a 100% turn-around.

Though some behavior professionals also may teach dog training, most primarily concern themselves with helping owners and pets work through issues, such as:

Hit or miss bathroom behavior
Aggressive, shy or fearful behavior toward people/animals
Household issues such as countertop cruising or jumping up
Excessive vocalization like dog barking or cats screaming
Destructive behaviors including dog chewing or digging and cat clawing
Introductions of new pets or human infants to a resident pet
Environmental challenges—transitioning outside cats inside
Attachment or separation anxiety and related problems
Self-directed behaviors like licking, chewing, or obsessive tail chasing
Be aware that anyone can claim to be a behavior expert. Following poor advice can make your pet’s problems worse, so be sure to check out claims and verify credentials.

There are several reputable behavior and training associations with professionals available who specialize in pet training and/or behavior problems. Behaviors such as aggression can be difficult to unlearn and require professional help to teach cats and dogs how to react in new, more positive ways. Many times, your local veterinarian will know of any expert help in the area. You can also find behavior help through the following resources:

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists – This group consists of veterinarians with a special interest and additional study in the field of animal behavior. As veterinarians, they are also able to diagnose concurrent health conditions and prescribe drug therapies that may be helpful. There are currently 42 board-certified veterinary behaviorists (designated by the initials DACVB) in the United States and Canada. Find a listing of members by visiting their website: www.dacvb.org.

Animal Behavior Society – This group certifies qualified individuals as Applied or Associate Applied Animal Behaviorists. These professionals hold doctorate-level education in the field of animal behavior and hold the title CAAB: certified applied animal behaviorist. There are currently about 50 members. Find more information by visiting their website:www.animalbehavior.org.

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants – This professional organization accredits and qualifies members as certified animal behavior consultants (CABC) or certified dog behavior consultants (CDBC). They address behavior issues of cats, dogs, and other companion animals. These experts may or may not hold graduate-level degrees and often work in partnership with local veterinarians to offer the best for your animals. Learn more about the organization by visiting their website: www.iaabc.org.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers – This group consists of more than 5,000 members worldwide and certifies dog trainers as Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT). Members may be qualified to help pet owners with canine aggression or other dog behavior problems, as well as training. For more information and a list of member trainers, visit their website: www.apdt.com.

In the best of all worlds, our companion animals understand us, we understand them, and all live peaceably together. But when frustration and confusion about why your pets do what they do emerge, take comfort in knowing professional help is available.

The Decision to Declaw

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 8/8/2007 in Scratching Post Articles

Currently there is an overwhelming amount of discussion over the hot issue of whether it is humane to have a feline declawed. There is a tremendous amount of information both positive and negative over this topic, yet the elective decision to have a feline friend declawed should be decided between the owner and the veterinarian. There are certainly health concerns and behavioral issues that should be taken into account before making a decision. However if having your feline friend surgically declawed creates a permanent home then it is probably in their best interest.

The surgical procedure of declawing a feline is called onychectomy, during this procedure the feline must be put under anesthetic while the claw and the end toe bone joint are amputated. Any surgically procedure creates an element of risk from anesthetic complications as well as post operative complications. The medical risks associated with declawing include infection, nail re-growth, hemorrhage, and death. Pain medication is a must with this surgery since it is believed to be significantly painful.

Getting the Cat Ready for Surgery
Generally a feline must be dropped off at the veterinary clinic in the morning hours with a surgery scheduled around lunch time. The cat will need to stay for a couple of nights; the number of nights is at your veterinarians’ discretion. Accompanying the surgical procedure is generally a few safety options that are recommended but not required. One of which is a pre anesthetic blood panel that can check the vital organs prior to surgery. It is a great idea to have this done before putting a cat under anesthetic, some cats can have a serious illness that they are very stoic about hiding and the illness may show up in the blood panel. If a feline has an abnormal blood panel result there is a good change for anesthetic reactions, surgical complications and death. Another option generally offered is the application of an intravenous catheter and administration of intravenous fluids. Again something highly recommended, pets under anesthetic typically have a drop in blood pressure and the use of fluids will aid in maintaining a normal blood pressure and maintain proper hydration, making your feline much happier when waking up. Also that catheter can be used to administer emergency medication if one does arise. If the feline does not have a catheter and there is a problem with the anesthetic a catheter will have to be placed which can take away precious minutes ultimately leading to loss of brain function and a high likelihood of death.

Methods to Declaw Cats
One method that may be used to amputate the claw and lower toe digits is with the use of a sterile resco clipper. This method is commonly practiced since it is the fastest method. The claw and bone of the third toe digit are severed and either glue or sutures are used to close the wound. Bandages are necessary to help control bleeding, and pain is controlled with a strong pain killer such as a fentenayl patch. Special litter such as litter made from newspaper or shredded paper must be used for at least ten days since clay litter will clump inside the toe incision. Complications can arise and the most common seen are infection, pain as if the feline is walking on eggshells and re-growth of the third digit bone that leads to infection. If the bone does attempt to re-grow another surgery is required to remove more toe bone.

Disarticulation method is also commonly practiced, but is felt to be more difficult and takes longer which puts any pet at risk since they must be under anesthetic longer. This procedure is commonly done with a scalpel blade used to cut and remove the entire third toe digit. The pain factor is about the same as the resco method and the same complications can arise. Laser surgery is also available for this procedure and can have some benefits. Pain can be reduced, there is virtually no bleeding, and bandages are not needed, yet the cost can be a significant difference. Also, if a veterinarian is not experienced using the laser complications can arise such as tissue burns that can delay healing. Always discuss the method that will be used before submitting your feline to this procedure.

Additional to the onychectomy or declaw procedure another option is available yet less prevalent, a tendonectomy can also be surgically preformed by severing the tendon attached to the toe, the claw remains intact. This procedure does appear to be less painful in the short term, the incisions are quite small, there is no blood loss, no glue or sutures, no bandages and no need for special litter. Yet the procedure has a different array of complications such as having to trim the claws, joint complications and arthritis.

Why do Pet Owners have their Cat Declawed?
The number one reason cat owners claim to have a feline declawed is due to the natural behavior of scratching and stretching that can be destructive to household items. Even once the claws are removed the behavior will still remain intact. It is always recommended to try to make every attempt to modify this behavior before resorting to surgery. By keeping the claws trimmed and providing appropriate materials for your cat to scratch one can significantly reduce the urge for your cat to scratch on household items. Professional animal trainers can also be hired to help with a problem cat and can offer lots of clever tips to train your cat not to scratch on household items. In addition to modifying behavior there are products on the market that can prevent your cat from being able to tear up items in the house that an owner may want to consider before deciding on surgery. One item is an acrylic nail cover with a blunt tip that only needs to be changed every few weeks. Any cat that has had a declaw or tendonectomy should remain indoors for the remainder of their life. Cats without claws have lost a major defense mechanism, are unable to hunt prey, climb trees or defend themselves against predators.

Additionally there is concern over the behavior of declawed felines. Some people claim there is a higher risk of urine marking, and aggression but this has not yet been determined in any research studies. “Declawed cats showed more jumping on tables then intact cats and more house soiling then intact cats but latter the difference was not significant” The decision to declaw should be taken seriously due to the irreversible consequences to a feline, but if the procedure is a last resort and prevents relinquishment then it is in the felines best interest. According to one study there was a seventy percent increase in the cat relationship after the declaw procedure.

Sources: dvmnews.com, avma.org, aahanet.org, cfa.org; veterinarypartner.com

Pet Food Recall Continues As More Food and Treats Are Added

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 8/8/2007 in General Articles

For the last few weeks, the attention of pet owners has been turned to what’s in our cupboards and pantries as news of additional recalls of dog and cat food as well as treats continues.

This week Sunshine Mills and T.W. Enterprises recalled products—dog biscuits and bully treats—and Menu Foods announced that it was backdating its recall dates to Nov. 8, instead of the Dec. 3 date it originally published.

Lists of the most current recalled foods and treats can be found at avma.org, and the FDA is encouraging all pet owners to visit there often as the list has changed several times since its original release on March 16.

More resources for this recall can also be found at http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/petfood.html.

In a separate recall, Eight In One Inc., a division of United Pet Group Inc., announced that they are recalling all packages of Dingo Chick’N Jerky, Dingo Kitty Chicken Jerky and Dingo Ferret Chicken Jerky after reports of possible salmonella poisoning.

The treats were sold around the country at Target, PetSmart and other stores.

Travel with Fido Friendly: Booking a Fido-friendly Hotel

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 8/8/2007 in Lifestyle

The listing states “Dogs Allowed.” But before you drive two hours to your destination and then find out that “Dogs Allowed” means in a crate outside, here are a few tips to help in the decision making process:

Are there pet restrictions?
Some pet-friendly properties enforce restrictions such as the amount of dogs they will accommodate. You may think three small Chihuahuas equal one medium dog, but better to check with management before making that reservation. If Fido weighs 50 pounds or more, you may be limited in hotel choices. And since you are asking, go ahead and ask if there are breed restrictions as well. The breeds that are getting a bum rap these days (and you know who you are) may be your cute and cuddly “buddy” at home, but he may strike fear in the hearts of those who don’t know and love him like you do.

Are there pet fees or pet deposits?
You have a budget in mind for your vacation and that budget could be sent into a tailspin if you have not allocated an additional fee for your pet. As an example, your property of choice could charge you $25.00 and higher per pet, per night! The hotel could ask for a $100.00 non-refundable deposit. Ask the questions before you check in to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

Do you offer any pet amenities?
Because dog travel is taking on a life of its own, many hotels realize how important your best friend is to you, and they want you to be just as happy with the treatment of Fido as you are with your amenities. Now I am not talking about a fluffy robe for your puppy, but you can expect extras such as: dog bed, dog food and water bowls, treats upon check-in, dog walking service, pet sitting and perhaps an on-site doggie masseuse. Don’t expect these amenities for free, however, so be sure to ask if there is an additional cost.

Are there dog parks nearby?
One last barking request you may wish to pose to your innkeeper is that of recreation for Fido. Are there walking trails or doggie parks? How Fido-friendly is the town? Are there restaurants that allow you to dine al-fresco?

By being pro-active and asking the questions ahead of time, you will have no surprises waiting for you at the lovely B&B or historic hotel you are anxious to visit.

Common Sense Care Tips Keep Pets Safe in Summer

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Kim Campbell Thornton on 8/8/2007 in General Articles

Summertime brings fun in the sun, but it also signals potential dangers such as heatstroke, sunburn, insect stings and water hazards to dogs and cats. To ensure a safe, adventure-filled summer for your pet, we offer several ways to recognize, treat and prevent problems.

Heat and humidity affect pets, especially breeds with flat-faces — such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Persians — or pets with heavy coats. High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or the more dangerous heatstroke. Pets who are outside or enclosed in cars are most at risk of heatstroke.

Heed these signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke:

Panting excessively
Fatigue
Dizziness
Nausea
Loss of consciousness

Treat early signs of heat exhaustion by pouring cool — not cold — water on the coat and working it into the hair. Loss of consciousness is an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary care.

Practice prevention by keeping your pet cool. Leave at-risk pets in air-conditioned comfort during the day. If your pet stays outdoors in hot weather, provide plenty of cool, fresh water and a shady place to rest. Be aware of how the sun travels through your yard. A spot that looks shaded in the morning may be in full sun a few hours later. Schedule walks for cool mornings and evenings.

Most importantly, never leave your pet in a car during warm months. The inside of a car heats up to more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes. Don’t be fooled by outside temperatures of 70 degrees. The temperature is a lot hotter inside a vehicle.

Apply sunscreen when your pet goes outdoors. Dogs and cats with thin or light-colored coats are susceptible to sunburn, and cats that get sunburned are more likely to develop skin cancer. Dogs who lie on their back outdoors can get painful sunburns on their bellies, but the areas most prone to sunburn are the nose, face, and ear tips.

Purchase pet sunscreen at pet supply stores, or apply zinc oxide or PABA-free sunscreen. Avoid getting it in your pet’s eyes.

Next threat: Pests like bees, wasps, fire ants and mosquitoes can put the “p” in pain for your pets. Reactions to insect bites and stings range from slight swelling and pain to anaphylaxis — a sudden, severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. If your pet is stung, seek veterinary help right away in the event of an allergic reaction.

Mosquito bites don’t provoke a skin reaction, but they can transmit potentially fatal heartworm disease. The best way to prevent heartworm disease is by giving a heartworm preventive pill orally once a month. While some flea-control medications repel mosquitoes, it’s important to remember that they don’t prevent heartworm disease if a mosquito does bite your pet.

Third summertime hazard – water. Does your dog love swimming in the pool or riding on the family boat? Be sure he knows how to get out of the pool or onto the boat. Problems occur when pets fall into pools or off boats and panic.

Teach your dog how to find the pool steps and climb out. Then put him into the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Repeat this until he is consistently able to get out of the pool on his own. If you have a boat, put the dog in the water next to the boat and then ‘rescue’ him. This way, he’ll be prepared if he falls off the boat unexpectedly.

Consider purchasing a product such as a Skamper-Ramp, which can be used in pools and on boats. Another sound buy: life vests made for dogs. They come in various sizes to accommodate different breeds.

For those trips in the car, if your dog likes to ride with his head hanging out the car window, consider protecting his eyes with a pair of Doggles — strap-on eyewear that offers UV protection and impact-resistant lenses. Doggles can also be protective for dogs that ride on boats, catch balls or flying discs, or enjoy hiking in wooded areas.

Take the Palm Test

One way to ensure that the sidewalk is not too hot for your dog’s feet is to simply place your hand, palm side down, on the concrete. If it feels too hot to your touch, it will be too hot for your shoe-less canine. If you need to walk your dog in the hot sun, bring water and try to walk on cooler surfaces like grass.

Now you and your pets can enjoy a safe, fun and cool summer.