Spring & Summer Parasite Control

Spring and summer are the times for barbequing, going to the beach, and bugs! Fleas, ticks and other assorted creatures make their way out of winter hibernation to infest our pets and home. But there are ways to help!

Make Fleas Flea!

Flea infestations need to be handled from three different angles to get control of these little pests. First – treat the pet. This consists of monthly topical medications such as Bravecto, Frontline or Revolution, which safely eliminates the fleas and interrupts their reproductive cycle. Talk to your veterinarian to determine which product is right for you. Second – treat your home. Dusting the carpets with Borax, vacuuming all areas (including couches/chairs) every two weeks, and washing all bedding can be very effective. Using a household flea spray may be used in severe cases. Third – treat the yard. In summer months and with severe infestations, several effective products can be sprayed on the yard and in play areas.

Tick Patrol

Ticks can spread many kinds of diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Most monthly flea preventatives also help repel or kill ticks as well. Certain collars also have effective tick treatments. Physically removing ticks before they have a chance to feed will prevent the spread of these diseases. Check your pets for ticks after being outside.

Mosquitoes Revenge

With the knowledge that West Nile Virus may be able to infect our pets, and that both dogs and cats are susceptible to heartworm disease, mosquitoes can be more than just annoying. Mosquito repellent is difficult and possibly toxic, especially to cats. Avoidance and giving a heartworm preventative is more effective.

Give us a call today to find out what parasite prevention is best for your pet!

The "F" Word!

You all know the one I am talking about, the elephant in the room (so to speak). Fat. Overweight. Obese. Husky. They all mean the same – your pet is too large! This happens to the best of us with the best intentions. A few extra holiday cookies, one less walk per week, and the weight starts to add up. Before long, your dog has a spare tire, your feline friend’s belly is rubbing the ground while walking, and the neighbors are starting to talk. And we all know the issues of this added weight: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

The way I console myself (“My name is Brian, and I too have had a fat pet…”) is that this is a very natural method for animals to store energy when the getting is good, to help with the lean times. Except that our pets very seldom (I would argue never) have lean times! Their food bowl seems to fill up twice a day regardless of their hunting skills, weather or season – things that would normally help regulate how many calories they might consume.

Sooo… how do we tell if our pets are fat? A scale? Nope. Body weight can be very misleading. Gaining a pound of fat versus a pound of muscle gives the same number. I much prefer using a Body Condition Score, which is a way to quantify their relative muscle to fat ratio. The chart is located below. What I also like about this method is that it can be used at home, with no cost and is very easy to perform. We would like most of our pets to score around a 5.

OK, once we know whether (or perhaps confirm) our pets are fat, now what? The simple answer - less calories in and more calories out. The more complicated answer – the right food in the correct quantity, and the proper amount of exercise for the individual. In other words, every pet is different, and has different needs and abilities. Your veterinarian can help you to customize their weight loss approach, and to ensure there is not a medical reason for this weight gain, such as arthritis or thyroid problems. However, I will give some generic recommendations.

Less calories in. This generally means a bit less than you are now feeding. Most research shows that a 10-20 percent decrease in total calories taken in will lead towards weight loss. I tend to focus that decrease on foods that are not very good for them to start with. Less pizza, chips, crackers and cheese. That does not mean you can’t give treats – my pets would stage a coup if I did not give them a daily snack! But you can use raw carrots, small bits of lean meat, rice cakes, or even some of their regular food held back from breakfast. Also using treat balls or Kong toys with some peanut butter in it can give them a food reward but takes them some time and energy to get it. Notice I did not say diet food. For the majority of dogs and cats, diet food is not necessary and may be contraindicated.

PANTING - It's what dogs do!

Yes, who got kicked off Dancing with the Stars might be more interesting than this topic, but it is one I get asked about a lot. Who wants to hear their beloved Labrador Retriever panting all night long, or see their 1-year-old Jack Russell seemingly out of breath over nothing? What does it mean? Should we be worried about it? Can we fix this annoying but possibly very important issue?

Panting can be a sign of a medical problem, such as heart disease, lung issues, obesity, Cushing’s disease, and others. It can also be a sign of anxiety, stress or other behavioral issues. We certainly don’t want to forget about pain from orthopedic or surgical causes. To differentiate among these potential problems, a thorough history and full physical exam are a good start. Often this can tip us off to behavioral causes or some of the more common physical conditions. Sometimes a combination of testing can pinpoint the issue. Blood tests, for example, can tell us about thyroid conditions, excess steroid hormones, or even infections. Chest radiographs, or x-rays, can diagnose heart or lung conditions. More advanced testing such as specific tests for Cushing’s disease or heart rhythm tests (ECG) may be needed.

If the history, physical exam, and tests are all normal – what else might be happening? Sometimes it is something as simple as having a long/thick-coated pet in a warm environment. Overweight dogs and cats certainly have more difficulty with any weather change. Along with obesity often comes lack of conditioning or athletic ability, and those pets often get winded much faster. Older pets can also suffer from those conditions as a normal part of the aging process.

My own Golden Retriever, Baxter, used to pant nearly continuously. Strangely, it would worsen whenever I watched a movie or was on the phone. After I conducted a thorough history on myself, a full physical exam on him, and some testing – I found absolutely nothing wrong with him. He continued to pant until he passed at 16 years of age. Sometimes, dogs just like to pant!

Cats, Carriers and Travel

Many cats are fearful of car rides and veterinary visits. Cats can be trained to be much more comfortable with their carriers, cars, and the veterinary clinic. It takes a little preparation and patience, but will greatly improve your cat’s comfort level and our ability to care for your pet. Here are some tips and links that will help you to help your cat! Of course, if you have additional questions, just call us anytime!

The steps to improved carrier behavior:

1. Start carrier training as young as possible. Starting as kittens teaches your pet that the carrier is just another fun hiding place, or play area, rather than a confined punishment space. Carriers that load from the top or especially those that come apart in the middle are helpful, as veterinarians can then take the top off and start their examination with the cat comfortably sitting in the bottom. Put the carrier in a room that the cat likes to be in, perhaps in a sunny location, with a soft piece of bedding to encourage exploration and voluntary use.

2. Encourage daily entry. Every day, put a piece of kibble or a treat in the carrier. When the cat eats it, calmly praise/pet it and give it a few more treats. If the cat doesn’t take the treat right away, just walk away; if you try to persuade the cat, they will become suspicious! It may take a few days, but the cat should start to eat the treats, although maybe when you are not watching.

3. Gradually close the door. Once the cat happily goes into the carrier when you are around, gently close the door, give a treat, and open the door so that the cat does not feel trapped.

4. Extend the door‐closure period. After several days of this, leave the door closed and walk out of the room for a few seconds before returning and giving another treat. Gradually work up to carrying the carrier to a different place in the house.

5. Begin car rides. Over days to weeks, move on to placing the carrier in the car, then short car rides, then a ride to our veterinary clinic for a treat (and petting from our staff if your cat is comfortable with it). If at any point your cat becomes nervous (crouching, ears back, etc.), go back a step and give treats until your cat is more comfortable with that level.

6. Cover the carrier when traveling. When you start taking the carrier in the car, place a towel over it; cats usually feel safer this way.

7. Add toys, treats or bedding into the carrier. If your cat has favorite toys, treats, bedding, or brushes, please bring them to the clinic when you visit (for training visits and the actual exam). This will give your cat more familiar things that he/she associates with good feelings.

8. Consider using Feliway® (pheromonal anti‐anxiety spray) just before traveling. Medications such as Gabapentin can also be helpful.

9. Pick your carrier carefully. If it is from the Reagan administration, and has rusty bolts holding it together, time for a new one. The newer carriers have quick-release sides that come apart in a jiffy, and allows us to do exams with the cat still in the bottom of the carrier with just the top removed.

Heartworm Disease in February??

Skiing, sledding, snowboarding, drinking hot chocolate by a roaring open fire – all wonderful things to do in the winter.  Unless you live in the Triangle….  Yes, we have once again had a warm ‘winter’ as we tend to have seemingly every other year.  This also brings out the inevitable question with my clients – should I continue heartworm prevention year-round?  Can it be stopped in the winter?

 My first answer is to ask a question – when is winter in North Carolina?  I truly don’t know!  Looking at the high temperatures in February for the last few years in Durham (81o, 81o, 73o, 72o), I certainly have no clue.  We just can’t predict when it will get cold, and stay cold.  The temperature must be below 57 o F to stop mosquito activity (yes, heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes).  All it takes is a few warm days for them to come back out!

 My second answer to the original question is not based on science, but based on human nature.  And by that, I mean my behavior.  I remember to do things when I do them consistently and usually with a few reminders to boot.  If I stop for a few months, I have a high tendency to forget to restart.   I know my clients are the same way, as I get several dozen folks every summer (yes, several months into mosquito season) that come in with a pale look on their faces and tell me they forgot to restart their heartworm prevention. 

 So what do I recommend?  Monthly heartworm prevention, every month, no question.  It is always easier to prevent disease than to treat it. 

 Here are a few tools and information to help:

 Email reminders (works for any medication, not just heartworm prevention):

www.Remindmypet.com

 Information on heartworm disease:

www.heartwormsociety.org

 iPhone app:

Remindmypet (free)

 Android phone app:

Med Minder (free)

Brushing your pet’s teeth… Who does that?

I grew up in a time when veterinary care for your dog meant getting a rabies “shot” and that was about it!  We didn’t give heartworm prevention or flea/ tick prevention.  We certainly didn’t spay or neuter our pets and if someone had mentioned brushing our dog’s teeth, they would have been laughed out of the neighborhood.  Veterinary care has come a long way since then and so have my ideas about what is best for a long, healthy and happy life for my pets and dental care is way at the top.

 I never realized just how connected oral care, or your pet’s oral care, is to the entire health of the body.  Who would ever link kidney disease or heart disease to how clean your teeth are?  And let’s face it, most of us would never know our pet had tooth pain if it depended on whether or not they would eat that tasty biscuit you were giving them.  They mask pain so well, a defense mechanism ingrained in their DNA.  The health of a pet’s mouth is just as important as their heart, liver, or anything else vital in a pet’s body.

 It isn’t just clean teeth either!  Pet teeth are a lot like ice bergs, you only see the tip and there is so much more hidden below the gum line.  That is why I am a big advocate for dental radiographs.  It is the only way to see if there are hidden problems that need to be addressed.  Teeth can degrade under the gum line while the part you see looks normal.  Little pockets of infection can sit deep in the mandible.  Bone erosion, cancer, and so many other life threatening problems can be found with a few simple radiographs.  So why would you not do them?

 And of course there is the “dog breath” issue.  Nothing like coming face to face with a pet whose mouth smells like they have been eating out of the local dump for the past few years.  That smell is bacteria.  Nasty bacteria that will go straight down the throat and into the blood stream and into places like the pet’s heart and kidneys.  Not the best place to have bacteria.  So that bad breath is not just part of the pet, it mean something significant!

 So when your pet’s Veterinarian suggests dental care for your pet, please take it very seriously, because we do, and your pet would too.

cat mouth.jpeg

Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off

Xylitol is a danger to all pets and seems to be hidden in the oddest of places. The newest hiding place is in some PEANUT BUTTERS! Below is a great article from the FDA on just why this sugary substitute is such a danger.

Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off

Your six-month-old puppy, Hoover, will eat anything that isn’t tied down. Like many dog owners, you know chocolate can be dangerous to your pooch. But you may not know that if Hoover sticks his nose in your handbag and eats a pack of sugarless chewing gum, the consequences could be deadly.

Sugarless gum may contain xylitol, a class of sweetener known as sugar alcohol. Xylitol is present in many products and foods for human use, but can have devastating effects on your pet.

Over the past several years, the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received several reports—many of which pertained to chewing gum—of dogs being poisoned by xylitol, according to Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian at FDA.

And you may have heard or read news stories about dogs that have died or become very ill after eating products containing xylitol.

Other Foods Containing Xylitol

But gum isn’t the only product containing xylitol. Slightly lower in calories than sugar, this sugar substitute is also often used to sweeten sugar-free candy, such as mints and chocolate bars, as well as sugar-free chewing gum. Other products that may contain xylitol include:

·         breath mints

·         baked goods

·         cough syrup

·         children’s and adult chewable vitamins

·         mouthwash

·         toothpaste

·         some peanut and nut butters

·         over-the-counter medicines

·         dietary supplements

·         sugar-free desserts 

Why is Xylitol Dangerous to Dogs, but Not People?

In both people and dogs, the level of blood sugar is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. However, it’s different in canines: When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.

This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening, Hartogensis says.

Symptoms to Look For in Your Dog

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse and seizures.

If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately, Hartogensis advises. Because hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not occur in some cases for up to 12 to 24 hours, your dog may need to be monitored.

(A note to cat owners: The toxicity of xylitol for cats has not been documented. They appear to be spared, at least in part, by their disdain for sweets.)

What Can You Do to Avoid Xylitol Poisoning in Your Dog?

“If you’re concerned about your dog eating a food or product with xylitol in it, check the label of ingredients. If it does, indeed, say that it contains xylitol, make sure your pet can’t get to it.” Hartogensis says. In addition:

·         Keep products that contain xylitol (including those you don’t think of as food, such as toothpaste) well out of your dog’s reach. Remember that some dogs are adept at counter surfing.

·         Only use pet toothpaste for pets, never human toothpaste.

·         If you give your dog nut butter as a treat or as a vehicle for pills, check the label first to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol. 

You Can Help FDA by Reporting Safety Issues

FDA wants to know if your pet encounters safety issues with a product, and/or unanticipated harmful effects that you believe are related to a product.

“Timely reporting of problems enables FDA to take prompt action,” Hartogensis says. Each report is evaluated to determine how serious the problem is and, if necessary, additional information may be requested from the person who filed the report.

You can report problems related to both human and pet foods and treats at the Safety Reporting Portal.

October 25, 2018

Article source from the FDA Website

Peanut Butter.jpeg

National Train Your Dog Month

All Paws Up!!  It is National Train Your Dog Month.  Dogs and humans get a month to celebrate their bond through training.  Yippee – train, earn treats, and more couch cuddle time.  Who could want for more?

Why train with your dog? 

We’ll live longer because we’ll be off the couch.  We’ll drink more water – which we know is important.  Not enough?  Our dogs will love us.  Want more?  Training enhances communication with our dog, helping them be a better family member in our homes.  Still need an excuse?  A tired dog is a happy dog (and a happy human).  Tired dogs rarely get into trouble which makes their humans even happier.   

What can you train when the weather is yucky outside (rainy, snowy, insert any descriptor you find unpleasant)? 

Nearly everything!   Come when called is always a favorite.  Sit, down, on, off, crawl, back-up, find it, find Mom (or Dad, or baby brother) just to name a few.  What about High 5, Leave It, Stay, Wait, Shake (the whole dog), Shake a paw, Play ball……the list is nearly limitless!  What about loose leash walking?  That is another important one.  Training outside can be fun as well; however, teaching some basics first before you go on long walks outside can be very helpful.  There are also important life skills:  wait at the door, bathing, nail trims, being still for the Veterinary examination, and too many to list!  So, regardless of whether you’re inside or outside, let’s leash our pup (have them sit quietly while we put on the leash & open the door first), and have Some Fun!!

There is no reason to only train in January because many dogs love it so much, they keep trying to get their humans to play/train even when the school time lesson is over.  Equally important, the environment is always training – so be sure that your dog is learning what you want them to know/do.  So much to do & so little time? 

Remember a few things:           

1)  short training sessions (3-5 minutes) are best 

2)  reward what you like & with-hold rewards for behavior you don’t like.  You’ll get more of what you like & less of what you don’t!   

Start out on the right paw by contacting Southpoint Animal Hospital (919-226-0043) & scheduling a private or group lesson with our resident trainer, Lynn Rives.  Your dog will love you for it!

For more tips on training, the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) encourages everyone to enjoy the following links to learn more  about dog training: apdt.com and www.TrainYourDogMonth.com.

Nail Jail! Do Not Pass Go!

By Deborah Jones, Ph.D.

In the game of Monopoly you sometimes get a “go to jail” card.  This card tells you “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200”. You are simply stuck in jail until you get released.  While you are in jail nothing good happens, you are just in limbo. In the All About Nails class I’m teaching right now I have purposely put my students in “nail jail”.  The students in my class are there for a variety of reasons, but they all have one thing in common. Their dogs will not cooperate when they want to trim their toenails. They have all tried a wide range of solutions and approaches, but have not yet been successful.  My approach is to put a stop to all of these unsuccessful attempts, tell them to avoid doing anything with nails unless absolutely necessary, and take them back to the beginning to build a solid foundation. This is not a quick fix because there is no such thing. This is the beginning of a lasting fix.  

I am deeply dedicated to the process of teaching others how to find ways to shorten their dog’s nails without stress or frustration.  Doing nails is by far the #1 husbandry issue for most people. The main problem is that nails keep growing and throughout your dog’s lifetime and you will need to do them over and over and over and over again.  

No matter why your dog dislikes having his nails done, the way to begin solving the problem is the same: back to baby steps.  The only way to make forward progress is to go back and strengthen your foundation work first. You may not even realize that you skipped over some crucial foundation work; but my educated guess is that you did.  That’s what got you to this place.

The really good news is that it’s possible to make positive changes, no matter how unpleasant things are right now.  However, in order to make that progress you must be willing to take a step or two or ten or one hundred backwards before you can move ahead.  

When you think about trimming your dog’s toenails you likely think about the end result and not all the little steps necessary to get there.  That’s perfectly normal! You know what you want but you don’t realize that there are a large number of small nearly invisible steps that are necessary first.  That’s where you need a good trainer! We think like that. We are constantly considering how to break things down to make them clearer and easier for our animals to understand.  

The first hard truth that you’ll need to accept is that you MUST go much further back in the training process than you want, or think you need.  This is the “go to jail” card in the Monopoly game. You are now at the point where you are being told “do not pass go, do not collect $200”, meaning you have no choice here if you want things to get better eventually.  Trying to patch up a behavior that has a shaky foundation, or even gaping holes in the foundation, is not ever going to get you where you want to go. Go backwards in order to move forwards again! Going backwards isn’t failure; it’s the first step towards success.

Below are a series of videos showing some of the initial steps that you should master long before you even consider bringing out the nail clippers or dremel.  These are not suggestions; they are a necessary foundation for success.

*I do realize that my camera angle was too low and I apologize for being headless in these videos.  But the actual training steps themselves don’t suffer from that.  

Step 1: Table Conditioning:

Determine where you are going to do your nail trimming work and make it a comfortable and enjoyable place for your dog to be.  Set up a dedicated space for this. I’m demonstrating in this video with two Klimb tables covered with a thin non-skid bath mat.  Your table or grooming area can be on the floor using play tiles to delineate the space or even on your sofa with your dog in a specific position.  The important thing is to determine where it will be and work on making your dog really really really want to be there. See video here.

Step 2: Zen bowl:

A zen bowl serves a number of purposes in this type of training.  First, it teaches your dog that stillness is desired. It also teaches him that waiting for permission to get what he wants pays off while trying to take it himself does not.  And it’s a very convenient tool to be able to leave out an open bowl of food while doing your husbandry work. I teach 2 verbal cues for the zen bowl. One, the calm marker (good) tells my dog that I will bring the cookie to him.  Two, the active release (get it) tells my dog to go ahead and take the cookie. Once I have trained these then I combine them with the table. See video here.

Step 3: Touching legs & feet:

Before you can cut your dog’s nails you need to be able to handle his legs and feet without issue.  If your dog is not comfortable with this then he is definitely not going to be comfortable with an even more invasive procedure.  Most people with problems cutting nails actually have problems handling legs and feet. That needs to be addressed before moving ahead. See video here.

Step 4:  Touching nails

Once your dog is comfortable with the previous steps then you can working on touching nails, isolating them, squeezing them, and so on.  Think about how you will need to hold the nail in order to cut it and simulate those actions. See video here.

Conclusions

Once you have worked through all 4 of these foundation steps then it’s time to consider bringing out the tools.  If this has been your starting point (approaching your dog with tools) then I hope you can now see why this is an issue, and also now have an idea of where to actually begin your work.  If you’d like some guidance through this and the rest of the process here are a couple of options you might consider.

See full article here.

Paws and Ice Melt Don't Mix!

Ice melt, or salt, that is commonly used to clear ice from sidewalks and other icy surfaces can be harmful to pets.

The main ingredient in most ice melt products is either sodium chloride or calcium chloride. Both sodium and calcium chloride can irritate a dog's paws or be harmful to the animal if ingested.

A dog's paws should be cleaned after walking outside on snowy days. Even if you don't see the ice melt, it may still be on surfaces. A dog that licks its feet after coming inside could experience vomiting or diarrhea.

To keep your dog from ingesting large amounts of ice melt products, keep him from eating snow or drinking from puddles.

A dog that ingests 4g (less than 1 oz.) of sodium chloride per 1kg (2.3 lbs.) of body weight could die. That would mean a dog that weighs only 4 lbs. would only need to eat about 2 ounces of ice melt containing sodium chloride before resulting in death.

When using ice-melting products around your pet, consider using non-toxic brands, such as Safe Paws or Morton Safe-T-Pet. These products do not contain salt or chloride.

Another alternative for pet owners are dog socks or boots. Simply put the socks or boots on your dog's paws before going out. The dog's paws will be protected from any salt that is on the sidewalks. Most dog socks and boots can be machine-washed after use.

Most people will have to use some sort of ice-melting product this winter. As a pet owner, it is not difficult to protect your animals. Use a non-toxic ice melt product, clean your dogs paws or use dog socks or boots this winter.

Article from Accuweather