Our first Technician Tip is brought to you by Roberta! She’s an amazing Registered Veterinary Technician in our Anna office!
You and your cat may speak different languages… but you can still communicate with each other! The look in your cat’s eyes, the tone of their voice, position of their ears, and motion of their tail will tell you their feelings or intentions. By watching the video below, you can learn to read these signals so you’ll learn to understand what is on your cat’s mind.
Visit http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/cat_communication.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ for more tips on communicating with your purring family members!
Although often thought to be a teething behavior, nipping, mouthing and biting in young dogs is generally a form of social play. Teething is more likely to involve gnawing or chewing on household objects. The first thing you must do is to provide a regular daily routine that includes ample opportunity for play. Social play with people could involve controlled chase and retrieve games, as well as long walks or jogging. Many dogs also enjoy engaging in tug games, which may be an excellent outlet for play biting, providing the games are directed toward appropriate play toys and objects (see below) and under human control. However, if the puppy’s play becomes too rambunctious or aggressive, these games may not initially be acceptable.
Puppies need to learn to limit the force and strength of their bite so if mouth contact is utilized, the message is communicated with minimal damage, commonly known as bite inhibition. This is something they start to learn while with their littermates. It is one reason that puppies should not go to new homes until 7 to 8 weeks of age and they have had time to practice social skills with other dogs. Often littermates play very rough and may even seem loud and aggressive. Sometimes one puppy bites another one too hard and screams out; this startles the offending puppy and teaches him how hard to bite during play. These lessons are essential for a puppy and people should not intervene in most littermate puppy – puppy interactions. In addition, after puppies have been adopted into the new home, it can be extremely beneficial to have regular interactive social play periods with other dogs or puppies in the home or in the neighborhood. One of the things that puppies need to learn is how much pressure from their jaws causes pain. Without this feedback, a puppy does not learn to inhibit the force of its bite. Because all dogs can and will bite at some time, this lesson is vital for human safety.
Be sure you are providing the puppy adequate and appropriate play, exploration, attention and exercise opportunities.
When puppies play with each other, if one puppy bites another too hard, the bitten puppy will yelp, and may also stop playing and leave. This sends the message to the puppy that its bites were too hard and if it wishes to continue to play, it needs to be gentle. However, people often do not send this message to their puppy. In the beginning, some owners might allow their puppies to chew and bite on them without reprimands and the puppy assumes that the behavior is acceptable.
Children appear to be most vulnerable because their attempts at stopping the biting may not be properly timed or sufficiently abrupt to stop the puppy from biting. In fact, a child’s response is often seen by the puppy as an invitation to increase its level of chase and play. Adult supervision or a head halter for training (discussed below) should help to ensure more immediate success.
The message people should send is that mouthing and chewing on hands is painful and it leads to an immediate cessation of play. All family members must consistently follow the rules for the puppy to understand and learn what is considered desirable behavior and what is not. However, regardless of the technique, you cannot expect the play biting to cease until you first ensure that you are giving regular and sufficient opportunities for play. If your puppy begins to bite or chew and tug on clothing, immediately stopping play (negative punishment) is the preferred response or walk away if the puppy persists. The message is that all social interactions with you will stop as soon as biting begins. Sometimes a sharp “off” command can be helpful to indicate that social interactions will cease if the biting continues. Playing with the puppy when it is not attention seeking, nipping or biting is the goal. In fact, all forms of play and attention soliciting behavior should be ignored, as these might escalate into more intense biting. If all family members are consistent in their responses, the puppy should quickly learn that play biting actually leads to inattention rather than play. If you teach your puppy to sit or lie quietly before each play session, you should soon have your puppy trained that these behaviors, and not play biting, will be rewarded with a play session (see Learn to Earn – Predictable Rewards).
If ignoring the puppy and walking away does not stop the biting, then you will need to work on training desirable behaviors and discouraging the undesirable behavior. Having a leash attached at all times during interactions and play can be an excellent means of preventing undesirable behavior, as well as prompting and teaching desirable behavior. Another technique is to emit a sharp “yip” or “ouch” as soon as biting begins so that the puppy backs off. Remember any contact with the skin should lead to an immediate cessation of play and attention. This sends the message to the puppy that the bites are painful and that biting will cause the end of play. Alternately, a sharp “off” command and quickly backing away can be effective. Using a verbal cue such as yip, ouch or off or enough is intended to interrupt the behavior and indicate that play and attention will now cease. This training usually works for those family members that most immediate, consistent and clear in their responses. If the puppy persists, chases or immediately repeats the behavior, closing a door and walking out of the room can help to teach the puppy that biting leads to immediate inattention.
Other techniques are often suggested for play biting. Some involve harsh discipline, like slapping the puppy under the chin or forcefully holding the mouth closed. Remember, pain can cause aggression and cause the puppy to become anxious, fearful, defensive or perhaps more excited. These techniques also require that you grab an excited puppy, which is not an easy thing to do! Some puppies may even misinterpret the owner’s attempts at punishment as rough play, which in turn might lead to an increase in the behavior. Physical methods are not recommended. Owners who cannot inhibit the puppy with a yelp could consider a shaker can, water or air spray, noise alarm, or ultrasonic device as soon as the biting becomes excessive. The loud noise or spray is used to startle the puppy, and it will likely back up and stop biting. When that happens the puppy should immediately be praised and gentle play and interactions resumed. The use of a head halter with a remote leash attached allows the puppy to play and chew, but immediate pressure on the leash can redirect and successfully close the mouth and stop biting or chewing as soon as it becomes undesirable. By simultaneously saying “no biting,” most puppies will quickly learn the meaning of the command. As soon as the puppy stops the tension on the leash can be released. If the biting resumes then a gentle and immediate pull and release may be needed until the puppy remains calm at which point, the play can be resumed as long as biting does not begin again. This is one of the quickest and most effective approaches to stop the biting and get immediate control of the muzzle and mouth and is useful for owners that are not gaining sufficient verbal control.
Remember that this kind of biting is a component of play behavior in puppies. Play is a form of social interaction and your puppy is practicing his social and communication skills. Realize that your puppy is trying to play with you, even though the behavior is rough. Play-motivated bites still hurt! Also, remember that each puppy and each breed has a different level of intensity or a slightly different form in which play is exhibited so try and match the length and type of play to the needs of the puppy. Be assured your puppy is not trying to dominate or control you. Your puppy needs adequate play and each puppy has different needs. Be certain that you are initiating attention and play often enough to meet your dog’s needs. Hounds may enjoy games in which they use their nose to find interesting treats or just a long walk with opportunities to spend time with nose to the ground. Retrieving, agility, flyball and even tug games with toys, encourage play that should not lead to mouthing of the owners. If you allow your puppy to initiate all play and attention, sessions with pawing, barking, jumping up or mouthing, then these may escalate into more intense attention soliciting or even play biting if you subsequently try to ignore the behavior. On the other hand, if you teach your puppy to sit or lie down calmly in front of you prior to play then these behaviors can be rewarded. In addition, you should end each session abruptly if biting occurs. One strategy is to use a command such as sit or down, and reward the behavior with a chew or feeding toy. Another is that if the play gets too rough and involves biting, immediately end the play session and leave. Social withdrawal can be a very powerful tool. Leave the puppy alone long enough to be confused by your absence. If upon your return the biting resumes, leave again. Your puppy may be as active, wild or animated as you will allow but you are teaching him that biting doesn’t have a place in your interaction with him. Although it is tempting to pick the puppy up and take it out of the room, your puppy may interpret this interaction as additional play and the biting may continue as you carry the puppy to a confinement location. Keep track of which types of play seem to get the puppy too excited and these should be avoided to help prevent biting behavior.
Games of tug and pull can be a good way for the puppy to expend energy while playing with family members. In this way, the puppy can be given an acceptable outlet for pulling, biting and tugging rather than on the clothing or body parts of people. The rule is the person should stop the game abruptly and socially withdraw anytime the puppy’s teeth touch human skin or clothing or the puppy becomes overly excited and agitated. In addition, the tug of war game provides an opportunity to teach the puppy to give up toys on command.
However, tug games are only acceptable if they remain under your control, and if play biting and over-exuberant play does not result in aggression if the puppies teeth remain on the toy rather than human body parts, and if possessive behavior does not develop over the toy. Select a few tug toys for playing this game and be certain that you are the one to start each session. It might be best to keep the toy(s) out of the puppy’s reach until it’s time to play the game and to use the game and toy as a reward for training (e.g., sit before play or retrieve). Throughout the play session, if the puppy gets too excited or begins to grab hands or clothing, immediately cease play and begin again only when the puppy is settled down. Animation and exuberant play are acceptable; biting on people or their clothing is not! Food rewards can also be used at the outset to encourage the puppy to stop and give up the toy. At the end of each tug session, teach the puppy to give up the toy and reward with a favored chew or feeding toy. If successful, this type of play provides you with a means of controlled interactive play, as well as teaching the puppy to give up the toy on command.
Following each play session, give the puppy a chance to eliminate and some downtime. Try and use a crate or confinement pen with object play toys e.g., food-stuffed toys and chews that have been saved for confinement time so that the puppy can play with the toys or take a nap until the next scheduled play, exercise, training, or elimination session is due.
You are the most important person in your dog’s world. Next to you, the second most important person in a dog’s life is the veterinarian. These animal doctors have two major goals: to keep animals healthy for as long as they can and to care for them when they become ill.
Keeping your dog healthy requires exercise, good diet, and consistent medical care. Your veterinarian can help you with all three components of your pet’s healthy lifestyle. Since you and your dog will make many trips to the veterinary hospital over the years, it’s best to start preparing your dog for these visits as a pup.
Unless you are walking distance from the veterinary hospital, you should accustom your dog to car travel. For safety, properly restrain your dog in the car by placing him in a crate or use an approved canine harness restraint. Before actually going to the veterinary hospital, take practice car rides making short trips to a pleasant location, such as a nearby dog park, and provide a treat when you reach the destination. If your dog enjoys traveling in a vehicle, going to the veterinarian is much easier.
The very first visit to the veterinary clinic shouldn’t be clinical at all, but rather a fun introduction to a new place. When scheduling your first visit, tell the receptionist that you want to introduce your dog to the veterinary clinic before his medical appointment. Ask if you can drop in when the clinic is least busy so that your dog is not overwhelmed by a multitude of strange dogs and cats, and so the receptionist has time to chat with you.
While in the veterinary clinic, have your dog on a short leash to keep him close to you. Small dogs can be held in the arms, but should still be on a leash in case they manage to jump out of your embrace. You may want to place a nervous dog inside a crate to limit his interaction with other animals and to make him feel secure. You can improve the “homey atmosphere” of the crate by lining it with a familiar smelling towel or blanket.
With your dog safely under your control, you can focus on making this first hospital experience a fun one. Veterinary staff members should be happy to give you a tour of the hospital, make friends with your dog, and offer a treat to make the first visit pleasant. You will not see the veterinarian on this drop in so it should only take a few minutes, giving you an opportunity to get a head start on the real visit by setting up your dog’s medical chart. Bring along all medical records including previous immunizations, de-worming, heartworm prevention, and medical problems.
Now for the real thing. Before the actual veterinary visit, take your dog for a walk to expend a little excess energy. Gather a stool sample in a plastic bag if he has a bowel movement on your walk. Your dog will be grateful not to have to provide a sample at the clinic!
After checking in with the receptionist, sit in a quiet area of the waiting room (if there is one) and speak to your pet in a calm reassuring voice. Keep close to him since your presence is comforting. Try to position him so that other animals are not in his direct line of vision.
A veterinary technician will accompany you into the exam room and ask questions about your dog’s appetite, brand of dog food, feeding schedule and quantity fed. Be precise. One “scoop” can be one cup or 10 cups! The technician will ask about elimination habits (are his stools normal? How many times a day does he urinate? ), exercise regimen, and general health condition (does he scratch, limp, sneeze, cough, have a runny nose?).
To check for intestinal parasites, the technician will retrieve a stool sample if you didn’t bring one, and may also take a small blood sample to check for heartworms. She will take your dog’s temperature, too. With all these strange things happening, your dog will need to hear your comforting voice.
“With all these strange things happening,
your dog will need to hear your comforting voice.”
When the technician is done gathering vital information, the veterinarian will see you and your new pup. Your veterinarian will befriend your pup before starting the actual exam, making you both feel more comfortable! A complete physical exam will include scanning the coat for any dryness, bald spots, irritated areas, or pustules. The veterinarian will look at the eyes from cornea to retina with an opthalmoscope, examine the ear canals with an otoscope, and open the mouth to assess teeth and gums. The doctor will listen to your pup’s heart and lungs and palpate his abdomen. She will check the pup for hernias and soft spots on the skull. She will also examine the legs and watch the pup walk to detect any gait abnormalities.
After the physical exam, the veterinarian will administer necessary immunizations and give you a schedule of follow-up boosters. She will provide medication for intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks if needed. She will prescribe or administer medication to prevent heartworms as well.
The veterinary staff will remind you when to return for follow-up visits. Expect to bring your dog to the veterinarian twice a year for well-health visits. These check-ups will help keep your dog healthy by preventing illnesses through immunizations and parasite control and by diagnosing problems early through lab testing.
Going to the veterinarian will be a breeze if you start preparing your dog early. Of course, it also helps to give a reward such as a yummy treat or visit the dog park after each visit so he will always associate the veterinary hospital with fun!
When I was growing up, we always gave our dogs bones. I thought it was OK. I recently read that bones are not safe. What’s the real story about bones and dogs?
It is a myth that dogs need to chew bones. While dogs want to chew, and most would love to chew on bones, bones are dangerous and they can cause serious injuries.
Here are the top reasons that bones are bad for dogs (with thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationwww.fda.gov/consumer):
Bones are very hard and can be brittle, making it easy for a dog to break one of its large chewing teeth. A broken tooth is painful, and whether the tooth is extracted or saved with a root canal, this is an expensive outcome.
The broken edges of bones can be razor sharp. Likewise, dogs can break off sharp shards that can pierce the tongue, the cheek, or the soft palate on the roof off the mouth.
Round bones can get stuck around the lower jaw behind the lower canine teeth. This is certainly a very scary experience for the dog, and most dogs need to be sedated or anesthetized in order to cut it off.
Pieces of bone can lodge in the esophagus on the way down to the stomach. Sharp shards can penetrate the soft tissues at the back of the throat or pierce the esophagus. It is also possible for a piece of bone to get into the trachea (windpipe), interfering with your dog’s ability to breathe. Choking is an emergency!
If the bone fragment is large enough, it may not be able to pass out of the stomach, requiring either abdominal surgery or endoscopy to remove it. If the piece of bone is sharp, it can penetrate the stomach wall causing the stomach contents to leak into the abdomen. The result is peritonitis – – an infection in the abdomen that can be fatal even if treated.
Bone fragments can become lodged in the small intestines, causing a blockage, and requiring surgery to remove them. They can penetrate the intestinal wall and cause peritonitis. Bone fragments may travel far enough down the GI tract to get to the large bowel/colon. Once there, they can collect and cause severe constipation. This is extremely painful for the dog as the bone fragments scrape the lining of the colon and rectum. Enemas and manipulation are generally required to evacuate the large bowel. The trauma to the colon may cause significant bleeding from the rectum.
There are several significant pathogens with which raw meat and bones can be contaminated – – E. coli, Salmonella species, and Listeria. These are pathogens that may or may not make a dog sick, but that certainly pose a significant health risk to the humans in the household. Children, the elderly, and immuno-compromised individuals are the most vulnerable, and these organisms can be life-threatening.
Is there anything safe that I can give my dog to chew?
There are many great chewing products available for dogs. If you want to offer rawhide, choose one made from U.S. cattle hides, give the thickest hides you can find, and choose ones that are too large for your dog to swallow. No knots on the ends, please. The knots can be pulled off and swallowed, resulting in a trip to the veterinarian for surgery.
There are also dental health chews that may be offered. Be sure to look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval. This seal assures you that the product has been evaluated for its ability to contribute to a dog’s oral health.
Dogs were built to chew — that’s a fact. Our job as pet parents is to provide them with chewing options that do not put them in jeopardy. Happy chewing!
Dog owners in the United States spend nearly $2 billion per year on treats for their dogs! No wonder making choices among treats can seem so overwhelming. There are some simple guidelines that can help you to make reasonable choices about treats – both quality and quantity – supporting good health and still allowing for some fun.
Treats should never provide more than 10% of a dog’s energy/calorie intake, and a 5% target is better. Unlike commercially prepared dog foods, dog treats are NOT complete and balanced. Providing too many treats actually upsets the nutritional balance of the regular ration. For instance, one popular dog treat consists of dried cow tendon which is 85% protein – far higher than in an appropriate dog food formulation. And this protein is of very low biological value, meaning it does not contribute to the dog’s true nutritional needs.
Too many treats will interfere with your dog’s appetite for her regular food. This can contribute to a nutritional imbalance in the long term, and can turn her into a “fussy eater,” making it particularly challenging to use therapeutic nutrition should the need arise later in life to manage a disease nutritionally.
Finally, too many treats make a significant contribution to dogs becoming overweight and obese – both conditions are now afflicting family dogs at epidemic rates. While exercise does play a small role in maintaining optimal body condition, nutritional science tells us that “calories in” is by far the most important part of the equation. Do not be fooled by treats that are labeled “light” or “lower calorie.” These are not significantly lower in calorie than other treats and they do add extra calories to a dog’s daily intake.
I’ve been told my dog is overweight and she is eating a special food to help her lose weight. Are there treats she can have?
Water based vegetables like green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower are low calorie snacks. Not all vegetables fall into this category. For instance, carrots are surprisingly calorie-dense, so they do not make good treats for dogs. Fresh or frozen green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower are crunchy, inexpensive, easy snacks. They can be frozen inside a Kong® toy, allowing the dog to get rewarded as the veggies melt and can be pulled out.
Be sure to check with your veterinarian first in case there are vegetables your dog should not eat.
Another terrific low calorie snack that works great for a dog treat is air popped popcorn – no butter or salt, please! Dogs enjoy the crunch, and they can have popcorn snacks nearly any time – while training, as rewards for good behavior, and even to provide extra volume for a meal.
So many commercial treats have been recalled or have resulted in dogs getting sick that I’d like to make my own. Are there good recipes for dog treats?
The Internet has countless dog treat recipes! When choosing a recipe for homemade treats, it is best to keep it simple. Watch the sugar content (and don’t forget that honey and molasses are simple sugars) – less is better and none is best. And because homemade treats have no preservatives, be sure to store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
If your dog eats a special diet for any reason, be sure to ask your veterinarian about recipes you are considering for homemade treats. Most therapeutic diets can be made into treats pretty easily, and that will not disrupt the nutritional balance your veterinarian has prescribed. If you are using a canned food that has a fairly firm texture, slide the contents of an entire can out onto a cutting board. Cut the food into bite-sized pieces and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using a conventional oven, bake the pieces at 350° for approximately 30 minutes, checking periodically for the texture you desire. Baking does change the texture of the canned food, but still offers the appropriate nutrient profile.
For a therapeutic dry formulation, grind kibbles in a blender or food processor, and mix with enough water to form dough. Shape the cookies and bake them in a conventional oven at 350° for 25 – 30 minutes, or until they reach your desired level of crispiness. When using treats of this kind, do not allow the quantity to exceed 5% of your dog’s total daily intake.
By making smart treat choices, we can reward our dogs during training, give them a little something to reinforce the good behaviors we want repeated, and simply build our bond with them.
1½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup corn meal
½ cup rolled oats
1½ cup water, or as needed
½ cup canola oil
3 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract