Canine Therapy Center Blog


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Canine Developement and What to Expect


Behavior Counseling for Dogs and their Families”


Canine Development – What to Expect

Puppyhood and Beyond Puppies are growing animals. When they are young, they learn much and what is learned has a lasting impact. Even sexual patterns, which emerge as puppies mature, can be affected by early experience. All dogs, regardless of breed, pass through various stages as they grow and develop, physically, mentally, and psychologically. Psychologists use the term critical period to describe a specific time in a dog's life when certain experiences have a lasting effect upon their psychological development. Understanding these critical periods and a dog's stages of development will better help you to understand your dog's behavior and how to handle him during these special times. Additionally, puppies benefit greatly when their owners understand their development.

Puppy Toddlers (3 - 6 Weeks) During the Toddler period, puppies emerge on their own from the litter. They venture into the surrounding environment. This emergence from the litter is a gradual and continual learning experience. During this stage of development puppies learn basic behavioral patterns specific to dogs. While playing, they practice different body postures, learning what the postures mean and how they affect their mother and litter mates. They learn what it is like to bite and be bitten, what barking and other vocalizations mean and how to make and use them to establish social relationships with other dogs. Such learning and activity tempers their own biting and vocalizing. From the age of five weeks, the mother teaches her puppies basic manners. They learn to be submissive to her leadership and what behaviors are acceptable. If necessary, she growls, snarls, or snaps at them as a form of discipline. When weaning the litter, for instance, the mother will discipline her puppies so that they will leave her alone. Because the mother disciplines them in a way that they clearly understand, after a few repetitions, the puppies will respond to a mere glare from her. If a pup has not learned to accept leadership (and discipline) in its early interactions with dogs, its training will be more difficult. Puppies that are removed from the nest too early tend to be nervous, more prone to barking and biting, and less responsive to discipline. Often they are aggressive with other dogs. Generally speaking, a puppy taken away from it's mother and litter mates before seven weeks of age, may not realize its full potential as a dog and companion. To maximize the mental and psychological development of puppies, they must remain in the nest with their mother and litter mates until seven weeks of age.

Socialization Period (7 - 12 Weeks) It is at this age that rapid learning occurs. At seven weeks, puppies can learn and what they learn will have a lasting impact. Everything he comes in contact with will make a lasting impression upon him as it never will again. Not only will he learn, but, he will learn whether he is taught or not. Though he has a short attention span, what things he learns are learned permanently and resistant to change. Therefore, owners need to be careful about what their puppies are learning at this time. Your puppy is very anxious to learn how you want him to behave and react, and he needs to be shown what is expected of him in his new role as your pet. There are rules you will expect your puppy to obey. Establish those rules NOW while behaviors are easy to establish. For instance, how your pet interacts with you is determined during puppyhood. What he does now is what he will likely do later. So, don't allow your puppy to do things which will be unacceptable when he becomes a dog. During this time, you and your puppy will also begin to know and understand each other. You will get to know about your puppy's particular temperament and personality - whether he is strong-willed or eager to please, gentle or rambunctious, shy or outgoing, and just what else makes him the endearing individual that he is. For the puppy, this is both an exciting and somewhat confusing time. There is a whole new world of things to learn about and all sorts of new experiences to digest. Remember that the environments you put your puppy in are more complex than those he would encounter naturally. Puppies must now learn a new set of rules. He needs to know learn how to interact with humans and other animals who live with them. Puppies must adapt to the patterns and tenor of their new homes. All of these experiences and the behaviors which accompany them must be learned. Because you will impose such important demands on your puppy, you must help him to make the transition into the human environment. You need to lay a ground work for a trusting, happy mutually satisfying relationship. Keep in mind that puppies are less likely to broaden their experiences if they are insecure. In natural environments, puppies approach new things cautiously. By giving your puppy brief, repeated experiences in new situations, you give him a chance to become familiar. If you don't expose your puppy to a variety of situations and new environments, inappropriate ways to adapt may be learned. During the Socialization period, there is a fear imprint period from 8 - 11 weeks. During this time, any traumatic, painful or frightening experiences will have a more lasting impact on your pup than they would if they occurred at any other time. An unpleasant trip to the veterinarian, for instance, at this time could forever make your dog apprehensive about vets. To avoid this, take some treats and a toy with you. While you wait, play with your puppy and offer him treats. Have your vet give your puppy treats along with lots of praise and petting before and after the examination. Avoid elective surgeries, such as ear-cropping and hernia repair during this time. In general, avoid stressful situations. Remember, dogs are social animals. To become acceptable companions, they need to interact with you, your family, and other people and dogs during the Socialization Period. Dogs that are denied socialization during this critical period often become unpredictable because they are fearful or aggressive. It is during this time, that your dog needs to have positive experiences with people and dogs. Therefore, you need to socialize and teach your puppy how to interact with people and other dogs in a positive, non-punitive manner. You should gradually introduce your puppy to new things, environments, and people. But, care must be taken in socializing your puppy with other dogs or in areas where many "unknown" dogs frequent, prior to the time that your dog has had three of its booster vaccinations against contagious diseases. Shopping centers, parks, and playgrounds are good places to expose him. Begin by taking your puppy when there are few distracters. Give him time to get used to new places. Make sure he is secure. If you have children that visit only occasionally, have your puppy meet children as often as you can. If you live alone, make an effort to have friends visit you, especially members of the opposite sex so that your dog will become accustomed to them. If you plan on taking your dog to dog shows or using your dog in a breeding program, get him around other dogs. If you plan to travel with your dog, get him accustomed to riding in the car. Take him for brief rides, at first. Go someplace fun. Remember, if new experiences are overwhelming or negative, the results could be traumatic.

Seniority Classification Period (12 - 16 Weeks) It is during this critical period that your dog will begin to test you to see who the pack leader is going to be. He'll begin to bite you, in play or as a real challenge to your authority. Such behavior is natural in the pack and not necessarily undesirable. What is undesirable is an inappropriate response on your part. It is important, at this stage, that you establish your position as pack leader, and not just another sibling. Other behaviors, such as grabbing at the leash, will be observed, and all are attempts to dominate you. Biting, in particular though, should always be discouraged. Therefore, you should not wrestle or play tug of war. Such play is aggressive-inducing. What you see as a fun game may be perceived by your dog as a situation in which he has been allowed to dominate. Wrestling, of course, communicates to your puppy that he is allowed to bite you. Tug of war sets you up in a dominance confrontation over an object. He learns that he can keep objects away from you. During tug of war games, puppies will often growl. Growling is a dominance vocalization, designed to warn another pack member that they better not confront the growler or he will bite. Puppies see these games as situations in which they have been allowed to dominate. They do not understand that these are games designed by humans to entertain them. You can continue to play with your dog during this period, but, the relationship between you during the play must change. No mouthing of your body should be allowed and when your dog does mouth you, you should respond with a quick and sharp "NO!" or "No Bite!" Play that does not get rough is best. If you cannot keep the dog from getting overly excited during a game and he persists in biting at you, don't play that way. This will only stimulate additional dominant behavior in the future. For these reasons, this is the stage when serious training should begin. Training establishes you’re pack leadership in a manner that your puppy will understand. By training your puppy, you will learn how to get him to respond to commands designed to show that you are in charge.

Flight Instinct Period (4 - 8 Months) This is the age when puppies become more independent of their owners and are likely to venture off on their own. Puppies that have always come when called or stayed close to their owners will now ignore them, often running in the opposite direction. This period can last from several weeks to months. How you handle your puppy's refusal to come or stay with you will determine whether or not he will be trustworthy off leash. It is important to emphasize here that no puppy this young should ever be off leash except in a confinement area. Therefore, keep your puppy on leash when this period arises and keep him on leash until he readily returns to you or shows no inclination to leave you. The privilege of being off leash outside of a confined area is reserved for dogs whose owners have trained them to the point where there is no potential for them to run and fail to obey to stop or come on command. Releasing an unleashed dog in an unconfined area that is not well trained off leash is irresponsible ownership and dangerous to your dog. Even well-trained dogs can make mistakes or become distracted by something in the environment so that they do not respond to their owners' commands. So, how do you respond when your puppy suddenly develops the urge to bolt? First, you must, for his safety, put a leash or a long line on your dog whenever you are not in a confined area. Second, work hard on training your puppy to come on command. Use the recall game and the spontaneous recall. When walking your dog, suddenly run backwards and encourage your puppy to come. If your dog still continues to bolt or run away, then your dog probably does not view you as the dominant figure in this relationship and you require special help to resolve this problem. Even if your puppy appears less inclined to bolt, this does not mean that he is reliable off lead without more maturity and a lot more training.

Adolescence Period (5 - 18 months) Adolescence can appear in smaller dogs as early as five months. In larger breeds, it can start as late as nine or ten months. In giant breeds, adolescence doesn't take place until twelve to eighteen months. In general, the larger the dog, the longer it will take to physically mature. Some breeds can remain adolescents until they are two and a half, or three years old. Adolescence is expressed in male dogs by scent marking behavior. Scent marking behavior is stimulated by the release of testosterone into the dog's system. At this time, males may become macho. Male dogs may become less friendly and even somewhat aggressive to other male dogs. He may begin lifting his leg in the house. He may become very interested in girls, tend to roam, and certainly not interested in listening to you! Some males at this age become totally unruly. In females, adolescence is marked by the onset of the heat cycle, estrus. During this three week period, your bitch could become pregnant. So, keep her away from all male dogs. Bitches exhibit erratic behavior during estrus. Some get real moody and insecure. Others become quite bold or even aggressive. Adolescence is a very difficult time for pet owners. They are surprised when their cute little puppy becomes a free and independent thinker. Adolescence is certainly a good time to start (or reinstitute) rigorous training. You must work hard NOW to mold the dog of your dreams. A dog that you view as too stupid, too old or stubborn, or too spiteful can become a well-mannered, enjoyable, and reliable companion. Establish yourself as the leader. Be realistic about your expectations. You cannot expect young dogs to grow up overnight. Learn to appreciate your dog's adolescence for it is a truly wonderful time. At this time of their lives, dogs are very energetic and exuberant in their responses. They can be full of beans, but still, delightful playmates. You as the owner must learn to channel that energy and exuberance into learning, working, exercising, and playing games. It is not too late to train (or retrain) your dog to help him to become a long-lasting companion.

Second Fear Imprint Period (6 - 14 Months) The Second Fear Imprint Period is similar to the one that occurred during the socialization period, but, it is much less defined. It occurs as dogs enter adolescence and seems more common in males. It is often referred to as adolescent shyness. Your dog may suddenly become reluctant to approach something new or suddenly become afraid of something familiar. This behavior can be very frustrating to the owner and difficult to understand because its onset is so sudden and, seemingly, unprovoked. If you notice this behavior, it is important to avoid the two extremes in response: Don't force him to do or approach something frightening to him and don't coddle or baby him. To get through situations that make your dog fearful, be patient, kind, and understanding. Desensitize him to the object or situation by gradually introducing him to it and using food rewards and praise to entice him to confront the fearful object or situation. Do not coddle or reassure him in any way that will encourage his fearful behavior. Do not correct him either. Simply make light of it, encourage him, and give him food rewards as he begins to deal with his fear better. Make sure you lavishly praise his attempts! This phase will pass.

Mature Adulthood (1 - 4 Years) During this period your dog may again become aggressive and assertive. For instance, he may become more turf-protective by barking when someone comes to the door. Temper his protective behaviors by teaching him how to accept strangers into your home. His friendly play with other dogs may escalate to fighting with other dogs. Teach your dog to ignore other dogs that he sees if he can't be friendly towards them. Take him to places where there will be a few dogs at first and train him there. Then, train him in areas with more and more dogs. Next, allow him to interact with non-threatening dogs. Puppies and bitches are good choices, if he is a male. Always praise his positive efforts to interact or if he displays no reaction. Gradually move onto male dogs. At bit of caution here, adult members of the same sex, no matter what animal species, tend to compete with one another. Putting together two strange adults of the same sex could result in a fight. Watch for behavioral signs of playfulness before allowing two dogs to play together. Also, be alert to the posturing of aggressive behaviors. Watch for circling behaviors, walking on toes, stiff tail wags, and tense facial expressions. Adulthood is also a time that your dog may again test your position as pack leader. If he does, handle him firmly, suspend any rough play that may be giving him the idea that he can dominate you, and continue with training. Private training can help provide you with the structure and commitment needed to train your dog appropriately. Proceed with training in a matter-of-fact, no nonsense manner and your dog will become a reasonably obedient dog. Give him lots of positive attention for his efforts!

Closing Remarks: This has been a cursory look at some of the behavioral changes that often occur during puppyhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Other problems may arise at these stages which are not the result of the developmental period itself, but are caused by something in the environment or the dog's basic personality. Even so, they are probably aggravated by immaturity and you cannot afford to overlook them. Understanding, training, and perhaps professional help with training are the keys to success. All dogs are different. Some will not exhibit the behaviors we have discussed and others will pass through them at varying rates with smaller dogs maturing faster than large dogs. Remember that your dog needs you to play a role in his development and you can do that with knowledge and commitment to training. Learning plays a significant role in a dog's development. Through training, you actively take part in that process. 

7:32 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What kinds of care options are best for your dog?

By Abigail Witthauer, VSPDT

Every dog is different and, fortunately, there are many care options available for your dog while you travel. All of them have merits and it’s up to you to select the best option for your furry friend.

1. Traditional Boarding at your Veterinarian

This is a wonderful option for pets who need extra medical care. While most professional pet caregivers are very comfortable giving daily medications and even injections; if your dog needs extensive care such as subcutaneous fluids or involved skin/wound/eye/ear care, your vet may very well be your best option. Many veterinary offices have built beautiful boarding facilities within their practice that have many of the amenities we will discuss further down in the list. Reputable veterinary boarding facilities can provide peace of mind for an owner of a special needs pet.

2. Private In-Home Pet Care

In-home pet sitters are a wonderful option for older dogs who have anxiety about leaving home. For dogs who do not need a lot of exercise but are seeking the comforts of their quiet bed at their own home, this is a great choice. It is important to ask good questions of your pet sitter. How many times a day will you come? How long will you stay each time? And, very importantly, are they insured? It is extremely important that your in-home pet care professional be just that - professional. Insurance and excellent references are a must.

3. Traditional Non-Veterinary Boarding Facility

There are many wonderful boarding facilities available. These facilities often offer extra amenities like play time, walks, and luxury suites. A professional boarding facility should be able to offer references on request and allow tours of their facility during business hours.

4. Non-Traditional Boarding and Care Facility

Non-Traditional boarding facilities come in all shapes and sizes. Most are “cage-free” or “suite only” in style and offer a luxury experience for your pet.

  • This is the type of facility I own and operate, and it can be a wonderful option for many families.
  • This type of facility is an ideal option for a social dog that enjoys playing with other dogs and people.
  • This can also be a nice option for an older pet or a puppy who needs extra TLC if your local facility offers special play groups for geriatric pets and nursery care.

·         If you are considering a cage-free facility, please read this article on “Daycare – A How to Guide.” This type of facility should offer references upon request and allow tours of the facility during business hours.

What to bring?

Each facility has their own set of rules and regulations about what items you are allowed to bring with your pet. However, there are a few items I recommend you always bring for your dog to help them have the most stress-free vacation possible.

1. Food from Home

I recommend that owners always bring their pet’s food from home. The easiest way to bring this is in individual baggies measured out for each meal. This helps your pet’s caregiver keep your dog’s eating routine as close to normal as possible. One of the biggest issues dogs have while boarding is stomach upset. While stress can be a factor in this, many dogs get upset tummies just because their owner did not bring their regular food from home.

2. Medications

Bring your dog’s regular daily medications from home. If your dog has had stressful boarding experiences in the past, call your vet before you leave and discuss options for short-term anti-anxiety or gastrointestinal upset medications for your pet and whether your veterinarian feels that might be a good option for your individual pet to have these medications while you are away.

3. Safe, non-edible, toys/treats

If your chosen facility allows it, I recommend bringing safe toys for their suite, run, or crate. Toys such as Kongs, Nylabones, or other non-edible toys are best. You can bring your Kongs pre-stuffed in a small baggie so it’s easy for the staff to give them to your dog overnight to ease anxiety. Stay away from rawhides, bully sticks, or plush toys as these can pose a choking hazard to your pet.

4. A t-shirt or small bed but only if your dog doesn’t eat these items

A shirt, blanket, or bed from home can help your dog feel more comfortable; however, if your dog tends to eat or shred bedding while you are away, it is not recommended to bring these items. Many facilities do not allow these items from home but do provide their own comfortable bedding, so check with your individual facility.

5. A Brief List of Instructions

A brief, one-page summary of your pets feeding, medication, and care routine is a great resource to bring to your dog’s caregiver. Do your best to stay away from lengthy instructions that will be difficult to read quickly and reference frequently. Your caregiver would love to know that your pet eats one cup of food twice daily and is afraid of thunderstorms. Your caregiver will often feel overwhelmed if you leave an exhaustive list of your dog’s favorite “pet names” and moment-by-moment daily rituals.

What NOT to Bring

1. Your dog’s entire toy box

One or two safe toys are a great addition to your dog’s overnight bag, but less is more in this case. Not only will all those toys crowd your dog’s sleeping space, but they can also be very hard for your caregiver to keep track of and monitor. Bringing one or two carefully selected toys will make it easy for your caregiver to monitor and make sure your pet is chewing appropriately and not ingesting inappropriate toys.

2. A giant dog bed or comforter

Professional animal caregivers are obsessed with cleanliness. Giant beds and comforters make daily disinfecting and cleaning very difficult. Many caregivers like to wash bedding daily or weekly, and it is very hard to do that when every owner brings a giant bed. Stick with a t-shirt or small blanket that smells like home.

3. An exhaustive instruction manual

As mentioned above, a concise instruction sheet is very helpful to your caregiver but a cumbersome document is not. It can often be very difficult to find pertinent information when your caregiver has to read through pages and pages of overly detailed instructions.

4. How to Practice at Home

One thing I wish I could share with all of my clients is that practicing boarding skills with your dog at home really does make your dog’s experience so much better!

a.       Crate Training

Even if your dog does not stay in a crate when you are away from home or sleep in a crate, practicing crate skills can make boarding much less stressful for your furry friend. Much of the anxiety that we see with our boarding dogs comes from dogs who are never confined at home. At my facility dogs are only in their suites overnight and the suites are the size of a small room, but dogs who have never been confined can still become anxious. Our clients whose dogs have been taught calm crate behaviors are typically much happier and less anxious when boarding.

b.      Daycare

If your chosen facility offers daycare, and your dog enjoys daycare, this can be a great way to make boarding less stressful. There is no question that my clients whose dogs come to daycare just a few times a month prior to boarding show little to no stress when they are boarded at my facility.

c.       Happy trips

If your chosen facility does not offer daycare, or your dog does not enjoy daycare, taking short trips a few times a month to your chosen caregiver can be a great way to make boarding less stressful. Ask your caregiver if it would be ok to stop by regularly and just give some yummy food treats in the lobby and have a meet and greet. Before too long your pup will love going to visit all his friends. If you are using an in-home caregiver, hiring them to come and play with your dog a few times before you go out of town can be a great way to make that transition much less stressful for your dog.

Just like people, every dog has his or her own personality. While my friend may think a vacation hiking the Appalachian Trail and camping would be amazing, I much prefer a quiet resort with a spa. While I love staying with family and friends when I travel, some people prefer the quiet and predictable environment of a hotel room. Your dog will also have preferences and, fortunately, our four-legged friends have many vacation options from which you can choose. I always feel very honored when my clients choose to allow me to care for their dogs for the holidays as we have such a wonderful time with them! I wish you all a very happy holiday filled with friends and loved ones. I wish your dogs an equally wonderful boarding experience filled with fun and friends.

1:21 pm est          Comments

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ebola: Where Do Dogs Fit In?

By: Steve Dale
People, by nature, are terrified by the unknown and a lack of control – and that is no doubt fueling anxieties regarding the Ebola virus. Now that it’s been learned that dogs may get the disease, those fears have added uneasiness to an already worried public, and for several reasons.

It’s not only that dogs may get Ebola, but apparently they can mount an immune response and they don’t become physically ill. While this is a good thing for dogs, people wonder “how would I ever know my dog has Ebola?” And that’s a good question. More meaningful, it’s unknown as to whether or not dogs can spread the virus to other dogs, cats or to people.
Experts suggest the likelihood of even a small-scale Ebola outbreak is the U.S. is miniscule, but if it occurs - people may be reluctant to get treatment early on for fear of what is going to happen to their pet(s). For example, when people are told to evacuate their homes as impending bad weather approaches, many won’t go unless they can safely take their pets.
The Spanish government recently took a surprising step by ordering that the dog belonging to an Ebola patient be euthanized. Aside from obviously impacting the already distressed family, not nearly as much can be learned from a dead dog compared to studying one that is alive. The dog could have been quarantined, which is currently the course taken to care for stricken Dallas, TX health care worker Nina Pham's dog -- a King Charles Spaniel named Bentley.
The dog is safe at an undisclosed location and is under the care of Dallas Animal Services. The dog will be observed, studied, and to the best of the caretakers' ability, spoiled. Pham's family has spoken about how much her dog means to Nina, but there are other reasons, for the greater good of society, why it's beneficial that the dog is kept alive. If researchers can figure out how dogs are able to fight off Ebola, there’s potentially much to be gained.
Human health isn't in it's own little bubble. The term one-health applies to Ebola in many ways....Most Americans now understand that the issue is International in scope (not only West Africa's), and it's more than about human beings.
It turns out West African fruit bat species (which are eaten as a soup in places in West Africa) may have been the point of origination, or 'Ground Zero' for Ebola. Like dogs, it's not likely the bats become ill with Ebola, by eating the infected bats (even in a soup) people became ill. Once that happened, the virulent disease spread among people. Scientists know that various other animals may also be contributing to spreading the disease, and that African great apes also appear susceptible to becoming very ill from Ebola. 

So, what should pet owners do? Dr. Ron DeHaven, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) CEO says “Nothing.” He explains that dogs can’t get Ebola out of the air; they must be exposed to an Ebola patient. As it stands now those individual patients are known, and they are isolated. As for cats – and whether or not they can get Ebola, no one knows. Pigs apparently can get Ebola, as for other food production animals – it’s also apparently an unknown.

TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz publicly calls Ebola “humbling,” and notes a cause for real concern and preparation.

DeHaven adds, “It’s certainly true that we are paying attention, and that veterinarians are involved in coordinating with the CDC and various experts and agencies. In fact, in an effort to keep people informed, the AVMA offers a page dedicated to Ebola on its website, - this is important, because so much misinformation is beginning to be disseminated.
1:11 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 15, 2013

No Free Puppies
For a couple of years I have received regular “Spot Speaks” articles from Dr. Kay that I have wanted to share with visitors to my website.  I finally decided to ask for permission to repurpose them and she graciously agreed to allow me to do so.  Here is the first Dr. Kay article that I would like to share: There’s No Such Thing as a Free Puppy by Nancy Kay, DVM © According to the media, our economy is experiencing financial recovery, yet so many people are still struggling to make ends meet. How do I know this? For starters, the most hits I receive on my website consistently come to the page titled, “Financial Assistance for Veterinary Care”. Here visitors find a list of organizations that provide financial assistance to help pay for veterinary care. Additionally, I receive at least two to three emails daily from people with sick animals and no money. Here’s an example of an email I received today from Lisa: A lady online was giving away free puppies. When we picked ours up, I noticed that she had three spots on her tail where she was missing hair. And the spots are sort of scaly- about the size of nickels and one on her back about the size of a quarter. I’ve never seen this before. I’m nervous they won’t heal up. We’ve only had Daisy for three days now and I’ve been bathing her. I’ve also been putting triple antibiotic ointment on the spots. They seem to itch her also. She is only six weeks. And she is in great health other than the spots. No fleas. I’m just curious as to what these spots could be. And what I should do about them. I don’t have the money for a vet office visit. Thank you for your help. Lisa. Needless to say, I keyed in on, “I don’t have the money for a vet office visit.” Had I responded to Lisa with my initial gut reaction, she would have received this fiery, shouting reprimand (on line shouting accomplished by using extra capital letters and punctuation marks): Listen here Lisa. Skin problem aside, don’t you know that your new puppy is going to need deworming and multiple vaccinations, not to mention neutering?!? If you skip the vaccines and Daisy develops parvovirus disease, she will die a horrible death unless you come up with thousands of dollars for veterinary expenses!! What were you thinking, adopting this six week old puppy when you don’t even have enough money for an office visit?! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE PUPPY!! No, I didn’t send this email. Instead, I did what I do on a daily basis when confronted with an “I don’t have any money” email. I take a deep breath, summon forth the grownup that lives within me, and remind myself that the proverbial horse is already out of the barn. What’s important now is to figure out how to catch the horse and repair the broken barn door.   Here is the email Lisa received from me: Hi Lisa, Some possible causes for your new puppy’s skin problem include mange (a mite infestation), ringworm, and malnutrition. You can discontinue the bathing and antibiotic ointment for now. I recommend that you begin feeding Daisy a premium (super high quality) puppy food. If after a week the skin abnormalities have not improved or are progressing, I strongly encourage you to figure out a way to pay for a visit with a veterinarian. Here are some suggestions to make this happen. Try to find a vet clinic with a payment plan policy. Contact your local animal shelter to see if they provide low cost services. Visit where you will find a list of organizations that may be able to provide you with some financial assistance. Lastly, it is important for you to begin strategizing how to pay for Daisy’s other health care needs. In order to keep her healthy, she will need vaccinations every three weeks until she is four months of age. These are super important to prevent distemper and parvovirus both of which are life threatening and very expensive to treat. Daisy will also need to be dewormed and neutered, receive a microchip (for identification purposes), and get started on heartworm preventive. A puppy this age requires lots of veterinary care to make sure she will remain healthy. Best of luck and enjoy your new little girl. Dr. Nancy Kay I often contemplate whether people with very limited financial resources ought to be caring for a pet. The joy an animal can bring into the life of someone who is troubled (I suspect that most folks who are really struggling financially are troubled) is monumental. Don’t such individuals deserve to have a pet in their lives? Given the dog and cat overpopulation issue in this country, isn’t life for an animal spent with someone who is broke better than no life at all? What if social service networks existed to provide consistent assistance for pets belonging to indigent people? I will continue to ponder these issues, but am not optimistic I will arrive at any hard and fast answers any time soon. How would you have responded to Lisa’s email? Nancy Kay, DVMDiplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal MedicineAuthor of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer LifeAuthor of Your Dog's Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your VetWebsite: http://www.speakingforspot.comSpot’s Blog: dr.kay@speakingforspot.comFacebook:
12:28 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Avoiding Medical Maladies 

If you and your four-legged best friend enjoy frequenting the dog park, keep in mind that special vigilance on your part is required to avoid the medical maladies that are an integral part of the dog park scene. 

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) recently provided a list of the most common dog park related medical conditions gleaned from their 2011 database. Topping the list were soft tissue injuries, lacerations (cuts), and bite wounds. kennel cough, insect bites, head trauma, heat stroke, parasite infection, and parvovirus infection were also frequently documented. 

While some of the problems found on this list may not be readily avoidable, others certainly are. Here are some recommendations for keeping your dog as safe as possible at the dog park: 

1. Simply pay close attention! I realize how easy it is to pull up a chair in the shade and get caught up in conversation with friends at the “human park,” but it’s far safer for your dog if your eyes are on him. Issues such as bullying behavior or play that is too rough can be detected early and nipped in the bud before a casualty results.
2. Do not take your pup anywhere near the dog park until seven to ten days after he receives his last set of puppy vaccinations (administered at four months of age). Before that time, it is fine for him to socialize with other dogs, but only those that you know have been well vaccinated. Parvovirus, in particular, is a hearty little bugger that can survive and remain infectious within the dog park environment for days.
3. Allow your dog the opportunity to practice socializing with one or two doggie friends before turning him loose with ten to twenty hooligans at once.
4. Work with your veterinarian to create a customized parasite prevention protocol for your dog.
5. Plan your trips to the dog park so as to avoid the heat of the day, particularly if you have a smoosh-faced breed such as a Pug, Bulldog, or Boston Terrier. If your dog does not know his own limits in terms of running and playing (think Labrador Retriever here!), be sure you bring play to a halt when appropriate so as to avoid hyperthermia (overheating). Early signs of heatstroke can include any of the following: bright red tongue, in-coordination, heavy drooling, and heavy, rapid, noisy breathing. If you observe such symptoms, use water at the park to cool your dog off before heading to the closest veterinary hospital.
6. Talk with your veterinarian about the potential risks and benefits of vaccines that may help prevent kennel cough.
7. If your dog is a bully or tends to get bullied, accept the possibility that the dog park just isn’t a good environment for him.  


Community dog parks are a great place to bring your dogs for exercise and socialization. Following these simple guidelines will ensure a safe and joyful experience for all, canine and human alike. 

Appropriate Dog Behavior 

1. Dog parks are for well-socialized dogs that are friendly, outgoing and confident. Fearful, aggressive or reactive dogs are not appropriate for dog park use. They are not happy or comfortable and may bring this anxiety to other dogs.
2. Bullies are not appropriate for dog park use. A bully dog is a dog that is overly dominant and harassing in nature, making another dog uncomfortable enough to stop playing.
3. Barking should be kept to a reasonable level, for both the human park users and our park neighbors. Play barking is acceptable. Non-stop harassing barking and making another dog anxious is not acceptable, nor is barking with aggressive intent.
4. Do not bring aggressive dogs to the park. This includes bringing them in on leash, as this aggravates other dogs off leash. Remember, this is a park shared by dogs that want to romp and play, not fight.
5. Take off choke chains, prong collars, any extraneous collars where another dog could grab it in play and choke the dog wearing the collar.
6. Some dogs are fantastic wrestlers, in that they play exuberantly at each others neck. This is normal dog play, however, if you notice that they are grabbing collars in play, even their regular collar, then remove these collars, as they can grab and twist in play and strangle each other and/or loose a tooth in the process.
7. Unneutered or intact male dogs over 1 year of age should not come to the dog park. They are just coming of age in their maturity and may become a threat to other male dogs and fights may occur. As soon as you begin to notice this more dominant aggressive behavior in your dog, either neuter him or discontinue use of the park.
8. Do not bring females in season, (in heat) to the dog park. This causes anxiety in male dogs and fights could ensue. It is also very uncomfortable for the female, as she is unable to play, because she is too busy having to fend off male dogs.
9. Mounting or humping is normal dog dominance behavior. Males and females alike display this behavior. It is not sexual; it is how they establish play hierarchy or pecking order. It is instinctive and normal. Improperly socialized dogs can mount excessively, causing the dog being mounted great anxiety. If this occurs, please respectfully remove your dog.  

Appropriate Human Behavior 

As an informed dog owner you: 

10. Obey park rules and guidelines, even if you do not agree with them.
11. Are polite, especially when someone else’s dog is behaving inappropriately and the owner is not controlling his dog and is unwilling to take the dog out of the park. Remove your dog if you feel unsafe.
12. Do not bring small children inside the dog park. Dogs oftentimes see small children as playmates and may accidentally knock them over.
13. Are aware and realistic of your own dog’s limitations and weaknesses.
14. Can recognize undesirable behavior and be willing to leave the dog park in order to protect the safety of your own dog and that of other dogs.
15. Will not leave your dog unattended at the dog park.
16. Will take note of and report anyone who does not follow these guidelines, thereby causing potential danger to dogs or dog owners.
17. Do not bring treats to the dog park, causing potential dog-to-dog conflict.
18. Know that the dog park is not the place to fix inappropriate behavioral problems without a trainer’s assistance.
19. Will supervise your dog’s play and be prepared to interrupt inappropriate play whether your dog is the perpetrator or the victim.
20. Are willing to listen to someone else’s complaint about your dog’s behavior and are willing to leave the park if your dog is being too rough. If you really disagree with the person’s assessment of your dog’s behavior, do not argue, but get advice from a trainer.
21. Remember to keep the park clean and healthy for everyone.
22. Always clean up after your dog and be willing to clean up after others who did not notice, do not know or do not follow the rules. This is everyone’s park; we must take care of it for all our sakes.
11:51 am edt          Comments

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