In a previous post I discussed litter box problems. Today I am going to discuss litter box solutions. Once your veterinarian has ruled out medical causes for going out of the box you can focus on modifying your cat’s environment. There are many different things one can do and there definitely will be some trial and error. I take somewhat of an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach because the goal is to fix the problem as fast as possible. Today, let’s focus on the litter box. What type of box do you have? Is it covered or open? If you have a covered box, then try an open box. Many cats prefer to use a non covered box. An analogy is that a covered box is like a porta-potty. Need I say more? After that, look at the location of the box. If it is near where the cat eats it needs to be moved. Cats live by the expression: “Don’t s%@t where you eat”. It should be in a quiet place. Most cats don’t like an audience or distractions while going to the bathroom. What type of litter are you using? Cats have preferences and aversions to different types of litter. Many cats prefer unscented, clumping litter. If you are considering using a scented litter you can try “Cat Attract” litter. This litter has a nice piney, herbal aroma that cats seem to like and has proved to be very helpful in getting cats to use the box. For more information on Cat Attract Litter: go to http://www.preciouscat.com/product/cat-attract/ . You also need to look at the number of boxes. The cat behavior experts recommend the number of cats in the house plus one. So if you have 1 cat you should have 2 boxes. If you have 5 cats you should have 6 boxes, and so on. Also make sure you keep the boxes clean. Remove feces and urine daily and replace litter weekly. Over a long period of time the urine odor can permeate the plastic of the box so very old boxes should be replaced. These are just a few ideas to fix the problem. When it comes to this subject I could go on for hours. As I stated before, the longer the problem goes on the harder it is to repair. So, if your cat is not using his or her box please give us a call so we can get to work on it.
Getting a dog is a huge decision. We’re talking about a potential 10-15 year commitment. And just like any other important decision you make, the more time you spend researching your options the more likely you are to have a positive outcome. There are so many things to consider. For example: Does anyone in the house have allergies to dogs? Do you want a high energy or low energy dog? Do you mind taking the dog to a groomer several times a year? What size dog do you want? These are just a few of the questions that you should have an answer to before you begin your search. If you have had a lot of experience with dogs and are flexible then consider a rescue or shelter. If you are new to dogs you can still get a rescue or shelter dog but if you have specific requirements and want predictability then a purebred may be the best option for you. So how do you begin your search? If you don’t have a breed in mind, go to a dog park and talk to people. Ask them what they love and don’t love about their dogs. Most dog people are nice and would be happy to share their experiences with you. You should also have a conversation with your vet. That’s what we are here for. We have seen a lot of people have great experiences getting puppies from reliable breeders. We have also seen people get burned. You should also do some reading. That’s where “The Perfect Puppy” (http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Puppy-Choose-Your-Behavior/dp/0716718294/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356035490&sr=1-8&keywords=the+perfect+puppy) by Hart and Hart comes in. This book is by no means hot off the presses. In fact, the most recent version was published in 1997. Nonetheless it is a great resource for the prospective dog owner that wants to look before they leap. The book starts out with general information about owning a dog then focuses on key characteristics to look at such as activity level, obedience training and barking. After that are the breed profiles where specific characteristics of the more common breeds are discussed. The thing to keep in mind is that every dog is an individual. Regardless of genetics much of the personally and behavior will be shaped by how the puppy is trained and socialized. So if you do your research, train and socialize properly, and shower him or her with love your chances for success will be good.
In a previous blog I discussed some of the reasons that dogs are anxious. In this blog I will discuss some remedies for anxiety. Keep in mind I am referring to general anxiety, not separation anxiety. With separation anxiety the dog usually panics when he is left alone. Behaviors such as vocalization, pacing, panting, house soiling and destruction of house hold items are exhibited. With general anxiety the dog exhibits these behaviors whether the owner is present or not.
So how do we fix the problem?
1) Early Intervention-It is best to nip this problem in the bud. The longer it goes on the harder it is to resolve.
2) Ignore undesirable behavior-Make sure you are not rewarding or reinforcing the behavior. Three ways that dogs are rewarded are food, affection (petting) and play. Only give these rewards when the dog is behaving.
3) Obedience training-Obedience if done on a regular basis keeps a dog’s mind busy and can decrease anxiety. This also comes in handy for replacing an undesirable behavior with a desirable behavior. For example, if the dog is pacing and whining you can put her in a short sit stay and reward her. Gradually increase the time of the sit stay. By doing this you are rewarding the dog for desirable behavior and hopefully changing her patterns for the better. Obedience training also tires dogs out mentally. Have you ever had a day where you sat at your desk doing paperwork and making phone calls for hours on end? Even though you didn’t exert yourself physically or burn many calories you are still exhausted and just want to veg out when you get home. The same applies to dogs. Have you ever seen a high energy dog after a day of working? It’s a beautiful thing. They are peaceful and calm.
4) Tire them out physically-Some dogs are couch potatoes and are perfectly happy to lay around all day. But other dogs are born to move. They instinctively want to hunt, herd and chase. Dog parks are good for this. Doggie day care is excellent too. After 4-6 hours of play even the most hyper dog will be mellow.
5) Adaptil- Mother dogs secrete a pheromone that calms their newborns. The company Ceva has replicated this pheromone for use in dogs. It comes in multiple forms including a collar, a spray and a diffuser that plugs into the wall. For more information check out: http://www.adaptil.co.uk/
6) Thundershirt- Yes, I know it sounds questionable but I have gotten some great feedback from clients that use it for their dogs.
7) Medication- For some dogs with severe anxiety where it is impacting their quality of life medication may be an option. If you are considering going this route contact your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
The suggestions listed above are just a few of the many things you can do for anxiety. If you think your dog has anxiety issues the first step is to set up an appointment with your veterinarian for an exam to rule out any potential medical causes.
There are only 29 Veterinary Colleges in the United States and the competition to get in is intense. Here are some tips for stacking the deck in your favor.
1) Volunteer. There are many opportunities for graduate veterinarians from companion animal medicine to food animal medicine. Determine which area you are interested in and get your feet wet. This will serve 2 purposes. The first is to find out if veterinary medicine is the right path for you. We are talking about 8+ years of school and considerable sums of money for tuition so it is prudent to look before you leap. The second is to get letters of recommendation from practicing veterinarians. These are a vital part of the application process.
2) Learn to love to study: If you don’t already have good study habits then get them. GPA is one of the most important parts of the evaluation. The higher the better.
3) Develop relationships with your teachers: In addition to letters from veterinarians, veterinary colleges require letters of recommendation from college professors. One way to make an impression on a professor is to volunteer to work in their lab or help with their research.
4) Get involved: Veterinary schools are looking for well rounded people. Community involvement demonstrates the leadership and communication skills that veterinary schools are looking for.
5) Do your research: Contact the veterinary school that you are interested in attending and find out their specific prerequisites. The website for The University of Illinois is: http://publish.illinois.edu/vetmed-admissions/ The application process has been streamlined and can be done on line. This is the site for application to all of the veterinary colleges in the United States. It is also a great source of information: http://www.aavmc.org/Students-Applicants-and-Advisors/Veterinary-Medical-College-Application-Service.aspx
Greetings from Countryside Animal Clinic! We hope this December finds you and your pets well. With the holiday season coming up we need to start thinking about how to keep our pets safe.
Let’s start with the weather. As I am writing this I am thinking about how it is the last day of November and I’m seeing people walking around in shorts. Unfortunately it’s not going to last. Soon enough it will be very cold. And with the cold comes challenges for us and our pets. The first and most obvious concern is hypothermia. Different breeds tolerate the cold differently. While a Newfoundland or Siberian Husky will happily play in the snow an Italian Greyhound or Chihuahua would rather stay inside by the fireplace. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go out. It just means that they need to be bundled with a comfortably fitting sweater and kept moving to generate body heat. Even the big guys are susceptible to hypothermia. It is one thing if they are moving but if they are lying down on a very cold day it is better for them to come inside. And some pets are sensitive to the salt that is put out to melt ice. For minor irritation it is good to gently clean the paws after walking. Usually a veterinary specific oatmeal or hypoallergenic shampoo will do the trick. Some dogs, usually the smaller breeds, will need booties. Most of the bigger pet stores will carry these. The concept of wearing booties is foreign to dogs and some will object. One way to prevent this is to get them used to booties when they are young.
Another concern, especially for dogs and cats that tend to wander into the garage, is antifreeze. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that pets love. Unfortunately it contains ethylene glycol which, even in small amounts, can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats. It is best to limit access but if there is a chance that your dog or cat may get into the garage then consider using a brand of antifreeze called “Low Tox”, which is not as harmful when ingested. For more information check out: http://eartheasy.com/article_antifreeze_low_tox.htm
We also need to keep our pets from eating all of the sweets that come with the holidays. Pet’s love chocolate just as much as we do but don’t do so well with it. The following can be associated with chocolate ingestion: vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and heart rhythm disturbances. Xylitol can be problematic too. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that can be found in gum, candy and some baked goods. Ingestion of xylitol can cause low blood sugar potentially leading to seizures and death. If you know or even suspect that your pet ingested either of these contact your vet immediately. If it is after hours contact an emergency clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888- 426-4435).
With a little planning and preparation you can avoid problems and focus on celebrating the holidays. From all of us at Countryside we wish you a happy holiday season. Stay tuned for the next blog post on January 1.