How to Stop a Dog from Attacking Other Pets

How to Stop a Dog from Attacking Other Pets

This is a very difficult topic to write about because there is not a one size fits all solution. Unfortunately, for some individual dogs, there may not be a win-win solution either. The key here is trying to identify warning signs early in order to take immediate action before the behavior becomes too much of a habit. 

Just like there will not be one solution that works for every dog or every situation, there is usually not just one miracle cure that will work to stop the behavior. A combination of training, medication, and avoidance will likely need to be implemented for best outcomes.

Work with your Veterinarian

If you notice your dog acting aggressively towards your other pets, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. You can discuss the situation with your vet and they can examine your dog to make sure there is not a medical reason for the aggressive tendencies.

There are, in fact, some medical conditions that can make dogs behave more aggressively. If a dog is in chronic low-grade pain, or if they anticipate pain, they can act more aggressive toward another pet. Although rare, it is possible for a dog to develop a brain tumor or even a tumor in their adrenal glands, causing them to become more aggressive and attack other pets.

Once medical conditions are ruled out, your vet can refer you to a positive reinforcement dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. This is extremely important because you will need to work on changing your dog’s behavior. Working with a professional who has the knowledge and experience is crucial.

Work with a Dog Trainer or Veterinary Behaviorist

Once your vet refers you to a dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist, make the call. A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has extensive training and knowledge in animal behavior. They also have the added benefit of being able to prescribe behavior-modifying medication.

If there is not a veterinary behaviorist near you or if their services are too expensive, a dog trainer will still be needed. Make sure they only use positive reinforcement in their training and not punishment. Punishment techniques will only make your dog’s behavior worse.

It is best if the trainer can come to your home to see how your dog behaves in their own environment and with the other pets around. Then they can work with you, your dog, and the other pets to find a workable solution.

By evaluating your dog, they should help you identify triggers that set your dog off and cause them to attack other pets. Is it just one pet in particular? Is it one action a pet does? Is it always during a particular time, such as feedings? Are there multiple triggers involved?

There are many things the trainer will need to help you narrow down to determine the underlying trigger for the aggression. Once that is determined, you and your trainer can work on ways to redirect the behavior before your dog has a chance to attack.

Medications 

If your dog has high anxiety or the behavior of attacking other pets has become a habit, your dog will likely need to be started on prescription medications. The is because in order for your dog to learn how to respond to things in new ways, they need to be able to relax their brain. 

The medications that can help with this are anti-anxiety and anti-depressive human medications. The most common ones used are Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Clomipramine. Every dog is different. One medication may work wonders in one dog, while have no effect in another. It can sometimes be a game of trial and error.

These particular medications need to be given to your dog for at least 2-3 months for you to know if they are helping. They need to build up in your dog’s system over the course of 1 month before they start working. 

Your vet will also want to check bloodwork before starting one of these medications to make sure your dog’s organs are functioning properly.

Avoidance

If you know what the trigger is that causes your dog to attack other dogs, try to avoid it if at all possible. It is best to just not put your dog into that situation. This may also mean that you keep certain pets away from your dog. You just do not let them interact in any way. You may need to give them separate living spaces and separate feeding times.

It is understandable that not all situations are avoidable. This is where your training comes in handy. It is very important to be able to redirect your dog’s attention to focus on you if they are in a negative situation. 

Basic Obedience Training

Work on basic obedience and commands that make it impossible for your dog to do the negative behavior in the heat of the moment. For instance, train your dog to lie down and roll over with very specific words and hand motions that your dog can easily understand in any situation. If you notice them about to attack, do the command. They cannot attack when lying down, especially not when lying on their back. 

Have high value treats at your fingertips so you can reward your dog when they do redirect their attention and focus on you, doing the command. This will work to reinforce their good behavior. 

Safety

Never get in the middle of a dog fight. If your dog attacks another pet, do NOT put your hands or arms in between them as this only ensures that you will get bit. Your dog will not realize they are hurting you if they are in attack mode. 

Trying to distract your dog with a really loud sound or by pouring lukewarm water on them may work. But, never put yourself in the middle of it.

Does My Pet Have Allergies?

Does My Pet Have Allergies?

As springtime comes upon us, many of us also start getting the ills of our springtime allergies- sneezing, itchy eyes, running noses, and sore throats. Well, guess what? Just like us, our pets can suffer from allergies, too! Pets with allergies can have mild symptoms to severe symptoms. Some are similar to those which we suffer from, and some are different. The good news is, there are treatments available that provide relief to your pet, which we will discuss below.

Signs of Pet Allergies:

Pets with allergies may have one or more of the following signs:

  • Itchy skin 
  • Itchy ears
  • Hives
  • Sneezing 
  • “Reverse sneezing”
  • Runny nose
  • Eye drainage/Irritated eyes

Itchy skin and ears are the most common signs of allergies in pets. Pets with allergies usually develop a lot of inflammation in their skin, which causes them to itch and scratch with intensity. The itching is usually worse at night when they are relaxed and not focused on anything else. This can often cause you to lose sleep if your pet is up scratching all night. 

Some pets with allergies may just have some sneezing or what we refer to as “reverse sneezing”. This is more common in dogs. They will get themselves into a fit and it almost looks like and sounds like they are snorting or wheezing and trying to breath with fierce effort. They usually are back to normal within a few seconds to one minute.

Causes of Allergies

Pets can have allergies from many different things. Some of the common causes of allergies in pets are: 

  • Pollen (all different kinds)
  • Food
  • Fleas
  • Detergents, shampoos, things they may come into contact with

Environmental (seasonal) allergies are usually caused by various types of pollens that are floating around in the air. This is usually at its worst in the springtime and the fall. However, some pets are more sensitive to certain pollens that come out in the summer and/or winter. Allergies caused by pollen can result in any or all of the signs of allergies, including itchy skin and ears, sneezing, runny noses, and irritated eyes.

Food allergies usually cause itchy skin and occasionally problems with digestion (vomiting and diarrhea).  The cause of the food allergy is usually due to the protein source within the food (chicken, pork, or beef).  Some pets may be allergic to the carbohydrate source (rice, potato) or even to a particular dye within the food that makes it look a certain color.   

Even though fleas usually cause itching, pets with flea allergy really tear their skin up way more than a pet that doesn’t have a flea allergy. If your pet has a flea allergy, their skin will be very red and inflamed even though you may not visibly see fleas walking around on them. They will have incessant itching even with just one or two fleas on them. 

Finally, some pets may have an allergy to certain shampoos, conditioners, or even detergents you may use for their bedding or your bedding. 

When to Call the Vet

If your pet just as a mild itch or occasional sneezing, it is fine to wait it out to see if your pet is able to get through their allergy season on their own. Do not give into temptation to give your pet any human allergy medications, especially the ones with decongestants in it, as these can be very toxic to your pet. 

Here are some reasons you should schedule an appointment with your vet:

  • If your pet begins scratching their skin every time they are at rest
  • if the need to scratch is interfering with their normal daily activities
  • if they feel down and out and don’t even have the energy to eat their normal amount of food
  • if you are seeing bumps, scratches, or a lot of redness on their skin
  • if they are losing fur

It’s important to get your pet into the vet sooner rather than later because as your pet starts tearing up their skin they can develop secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections. The earlier the itch is treated, the better chance you have at getting it under control without further complications.

Your vet can examine your pet to look at their pattern of itch and skin irritation. This can help guide them in offering you some advice on what the underlying cause of your pet’s itch may be. Then, they can work with you to develop a short-term and long-term treatment plan. Depending on what your vet sees on your pet, they may prescribe or recommend one or multiple of the following treatments:

  • anti-itch medication (there are so many options available these days for our pets!)
  • special shampoo
  • antibiotic
  • antifungal medication
  • ear drops
  • eye drops
  • fish oils
  • medicated skin wipes
  • flea prevention medications
  • restricting certain foods from your pet’s diet
  • prescription food
  • food trial
  • allergy testing and allergy shots

Working with your vet is the best way to get your pet’s itch under control. Sometimes it will be through trial and error, while other times it may be very straight forward and an easy fix. Keeping an open mind and understanding that allergies can be very frustrating to truly get under control will help you through this process. 

How to Keep a Pet from Wiggling When Giving Medicine

How to Keep a Pet from Wiggling When Giving Medicine

If you have a pet, chances are you either have had to give medicine to them before, or you will have to give medicine to them at some point in the future. When you return home from a veterinary visit where your pet was prescribed medicine, you may begin to wonder how you are supposed to get the prescribed medicine into (or onto) your pet. 

In this article we will provide some tips and tricks on how to give medicine to your pet without your pet wiggling. Of course, there will probably still be some struggle on the part of both you and your pet, but hopefully with these suggestions life will be a little easier for the both of you as your pet heals.

Oral Medications (Meds Given by Mouth)

Oral medications may come in a few different forms, such as tablets/pills, capsules, or liquid. Depending on the personality of your pet, giving liquid medications may be easier or giving pill medications may be easier. Make sure you discuss what you feel would be easier with your vet so they can see if there is an alternative prescription available. There is no point in prescribing medications if you are physically unable to comply with the directions, and your vet should understand this.

Tablets, Pills, and Capsules

If your pet has a favorite food or treat, you can hide tablets, pills, or capsules in it and give to your pet. Try to not give any indication to them that you are hiding something in their favorite food, so do not let them see you put the medicine in it. Bread, meatballs, lunch meat, peanut butter, or cheese are great options for hiding pills in. You can also hide them in mushy, wet, canned food that is super tasty.

If your pet is one that always spits out a pill hidden in food, you could try using a mortar and pestle to mash up the pill or tablet. Then, mix the mashed up pill into their food or a special treat for them to eat. It would be best to mix it in with something that has a lot of flavor, just in case the mashed up pill has a bitter taste. For capsules, you can just open up the capsule and sprinkle the contents of it into their food or treat. 

Finally, if none of these work you will have to give the medication directly by mouth. Do this by following these steps:

  • Hold the pill in one hand, typically in your dominant hand
  • Use your other hand to open your pet’s mouth by pulling up on their upper jaw
  • Gently, but firmly, push the pill into their mouth and insert it as far back on their tongue as you can
  • Quickly closer their mouth and hold it shut with both of your hands around their muzzle
  • Quickly blow gusts of air at their nose and mouth gently 3-5 times to get them to swallow
  • You can also rub their throat gently to try to get them to swallow
  • Let them drink water to make sure the medication gets all the way down their esophagus and into their stomach. You can also use a syringe to slowly and gently instill a small amount of water into their mouth for them to swallow.

**If your pet gets “mouthy” or gives any indication they may try to bite you if you force something in their mouth, DO NOT attempt to give them medicine directly into their mouth. Call your veterinarian and see if there are any other alternative treatments available. The most important thing when medicating pets aside from them getting healthy, is your relationship with them and preventing bites.

Liquid Medications

If you are giving liquid medication, it is usually easier if you sit behind your pet and pull them in towards you with their back pressing against your front-side. You will both be facing the same direction. Hold the medication syringe in your dominant hand. Use your other hand to lift their upper lip up on the side of their mouth. 

Quickly, but gently, push your syringe into the side of their mouth in between their upper and lower arcade of teeth, and push the plunger, instilling the medicine into their mouth. This can oftentimes get messy, as I’m sure you have already experienced. The farther back in their mouth on their tongue you are able to administer the liquid medicine, the less chance you have of your pet just spitting it back out.

As mentioned above, if your pet acts like they may bite, DO NOT try the above mentioned approach. An alternative is mixing in the liquid medication with their favorite treat or food. Canned food works really well for this. You need to make sure your pet eats up all of the food that the liquid medicine is mixed in with, though. 

Ophthalmic Medications (Meds Given into the Eyes)

Giving eye medications can be quite a doozy sometimes, especially if your pet is extra wiggly. Eye drops are usually easier to give than eye ointments, because the drops can come out quicker and are easier to aim. Ointments are more difficult since your pet needs to sit very still with their eye open for you to be able to squeeze it out and aim it onto their eye effectively. 

When applying eye medication to your pet, it is best if you have someone who can help you. One person can restrain your pet, or keep their head still. And you can administer the eye drops. 

However, if you will be putting the medication in their eye by yourself, here is what you’ll need to do:

  • Try sitting behind them, pulling their back into the front-side of you. This will prevent them from moving backwards away from you, as they will have nowhere to go. 
  • Hold the eye medication in your dominant hand and use your other hand to hold their eye open. 
  • Use your thumb and index finger to separate their eyelids with your non-dominant hand.
  • Hold the eye medication bottle to within 1-2 inches of their eye.
  • Quickly squeeze the eye drop or ointment into their eye. 
  • Make sure to not touch their eye with the medication bottle. 
  • Even if the ointment just gets onto the tips of their eyelids, you can gently massage around their eye and eyelids to get it to move into their eye. 
  • Finally, and this is the most important step, give them praise and a yummy treat!!

Otic Medications (Meds Given into the Ears)

If your pet’s ears are painful, giving ear medication can also be quite a hassle. They may even run from you and hide if they see the ear medication bottle in your hand. If your pet is food motivated, try offering them a really great treat or something that is of high value to them when you administer their ear medication. 

A good thing that works for dogs, for instance, is peanut butter smeared on the dishwasher or in a cup to lick out. The idea is that this will distract them long enough for you to be able to sneak in their ear medication without them putting up a fight. It also provides a source of positive reinforcement so they see the ear medication as not totally a bad thing.

If this doesn’t work, having someone to help you is the next best option. While someone else holds your pet still, you can flip each ear flap back and squeeze the correct amount of ear medication into each ear canal. Then, gently rub the outer aspect of your pet’s ear near the base to help the medication move down into the canal and break up any gunk in your pet’s ears. They probably will lean into this and appreciate the massage.

If you are putting the ear medication in by yourself, and your pet is not easily distracted by good tasting food, follow these steps:

  • As mentioned before, sit behind your pet and pull them in towards you with their back pressed firmly upon your front-side so they cannot wiggle away.
  • Then, with your non-dominant hand hold their ear flap up if they have floppy ears, or just hold their head in place. 
  • With your dominant hand, quickly squeeze the proper amount of ear medication into the ear canal, then massage the base of their ear externally.
  • Repeat for their other ear, if necessary.
  • And don’t forget- give them praise and a tasty treat!!

Injectable Medications (Meds Given by Shot)

Some pets will need to be given injectable medications. If you feel comfortable giving shots, your vet may send you home with antibiotics, vitamin B12, allergy shots, or other medications to give by injection at home. Sometimes these are for short-term needs, while some may require long-term administration. For instance, if your pet was recently diagnosed with diabetes, they may need you to give them injections of insulin for the rest of their life.

Most of these shots will need to be given subcutaneously, which means under the skin. The best place to give an injection under the skin is where the skin is the most loose. For many pets, this is the area in between their shoulder blades, on their back, just behind their neck.

The needle used to give the injection should be very small, so your pet should not feel too much discomfort. Don’t worry, you will not hurt your pet with this small needle, either. If you do feel uncomfortable with this task, talk to your veterinarian about it. They will understand and can work with you to come up with ways to be successful. 

As with the giving the other medications mentioned above, offering your pet a tasty treat or yummy food that they only get at the time of their medication is a good way to get them excited about getting their medicine. It can also work as a great distraction. While they are distracted eating or licking something yummy up, follow these steps:

  • Hold the syringe and needle apparatus in your dominant hand.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to life their skin up where it is most loose.
  • Inject the needle at a 45-degree angle.
  • Pull back on the plunger very slightly to make sure you do not see blood.
  • Then, push the plunger to inject the medication.
  • Give your pet praise, praise, praise!! Hopefully they will be excited about the next time this happens.

If your pet is not distracted by food, you may need someone to help you hold your pet while you give the injection. For cats, you may have to hold them by the scruff to keep them still while you give the injection. Do not worry, this does not hurt them. It merely keeps them still and actually gives them a slight release of endorphins so they feel somewhat secure. 

Again, if any of this makes you uncomfortable, or you pet gives any indication of biting, call your veterinarian to discuss alternative options. Do not feel that you have to power through, as the most important thing through all of this is the relationship you have with your pet. 

How Often Should You Bring Your Pet to the Vet?

How Often Should You Bring Your Pet to the Vet?

Veterinary Visits for Your Pet

A question that may be lingering on your mind is “how often should I take my pet to the vet?” Even if you have a healthy, young pet, they still need to be seen by their doctor regularly so they can be evaluated for any health problems that may arise. Regular check-ups are even more important for our pets because they can’t talk to us and tell us if anything is wrong. If something is going on that is very subtle, we may not pick up on it until it’s too far progressed. 

How often should my pet see their veterinarian?

We’ll break this down into three different life stages- infant/young, middle aged/adult, and senior.

Infant/Young (usually less than 6 months of age):  If your pet is new to the world, they usually need to see their vet more frequently than when they get older. This is so they can be evaluated for any physical or behavioral abnormalities as they grow, and so they can get all of their age-appropriate vaccines (shots) to keep them healthy. For example, for puppies, this means visiting the vet every 4 weeks for 3-4 visits, starting at 6-8 weeks of age. Getting all of their shots at the correct time interval is extremely important for their health.

Middle Aged/Adult:  Our adult pets typically need to be examined by their veterinarian once a year. This is assuming they are doing well overall and you don’t have any health concerns for them.  We’ll discuss in more detail why yearly visits are important, even if your pet seems to be completely healthy. 

Seniors:  Our older pets, those we consider seniors, should be examined by their veterinarians twice a year, or every 6 months. This is because the older they get, the quicker their health and comfort level could change at any moment. Typically, for a cat this is when they are 10 years of age and for a dog it is when they are 7-8 years of age. 

Reasons to visit the vet at regular intervals:

Even though you may not notice something being off with your pet, your veterinarian might pick up on something that could be addressed right away to prevent things from getting worse. Here are a few of the things your vet can objectively check with your pet year-to-year to determine if a subtle health change may be going on with them:

  • Checking their weight on the same scale year to year
  • Checking bloodwork & comparing how values change over the years
  • Physical exams & how they change over the years
  • Comparing their vitals (heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure) year to year

Weight Checks

It may be difficult for you to notice at home if your pet has gained or lost some weight over the year since you see them every day. In your vet’s office, they can weigh your pet and compare their body condition scores year over year to really notice if your pet has gained or lost weight. Both weight gain and weight loss can be indicators of an underlying health problem, which would clue your vet to recommend running bloodwork to evaluate their kidney, liver, and protein values, their blood sugar, and their thyroid level, among other parameters. 

Bloodwork

Checking bloodwork either yearly or based off of physical exams and weight changes is something else your vet can do to pick up on subtle health changes going on with your pet. For instance, in early liver or kidney disease, your pet may not demonstrate any outward signs that something is going on. Therefore, picking up on it by proactively checking bloodwork can help you stay ahead of the game.  This way you can be able to start medications, supplements, or special foods that can help slow down the progression of such diseases. This usually prevents the diseases from taking you and your pet by surprise, which may lead to higher vet bills and unexpected costs due to emergency treatments, which may or may not improve your pet’s condition by that point.

Physical Exams

Having a physical exam done on your pet each year by their veterinarian is more important than you think. During this exam, their heart is listened to, their teeth are checked, they are examined for any signs of pain such as arthritis, and any lumps or bumps they have are measured to see if they’ve grown over the years. If anything is different, such as the development of a heart murmur or the growth of a lump, during the exam of your pet, your vet can make you aware of these changes and create a plan with you to help manage the condition and slow down its progression.

In summary, it’s very important to have your pet seen by their vet regularly, even if they are seemingly healthy. In between these yearly health checks, if you feel your pet is sick or isn’t acting right, it’s also important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and have them checked out.

How to Protect a Pet Against Sunburn

How to Protect a Pet Against Sunburn

The best part of summer is being able to spend time outdoors playing in the sun, especially with our pets! However, there are some precautions to take to make sure our pets stay healthy. Just like us, our pets are at risk of getting sunburn from prolonged sun exposure. Some pets are even at risk of getting skin cancer secondary to too much sun exposure. There are some steps you can take to decrease the risk of your pet getting skin trauma from the sun, and we will discuss those things here. 

Pets at High Risk

There are certain pets that have a higher risk of skin damage due to sun exposure. Pets that you should take extra precautions with include those with the following features:

  • Light-colored skin tone (pets that are white in color)
  • Pets with thin fur
  • Pets with no hair or fur at all
  • Pets with lightly pigmented noses, ears, and/or eyelids

There are also places on our pets’ bodies that are more at risk of being affected by the sun and potentially getting sunburned or skin cancer. These are the areas that typically are more lightly pigmented and/or that have no fur or hair covering them. These locations on our pets’ bodies include the following:

  • Brim of the nose
  • Ear pinnae (ear flaps)
  • Eyelids and area around the eyes
  • Groin area
  • Armpit area
  • Belly

You should pay close attention to these particular spots on your pet regularly, especially if your pet is one that likes to lie on their back and sunbathe. 

Prevention Tips

It may seem difficult to decrease the risk of sunburn to your pet if they love to romp around outside or to bask in the sun, enjoying the warm weather. However, there are some things you can do to try to mitigate the effects of the sun’s rays. 

Pet-friendly sunscreen

There is sunscreen made specifically for pets. It is important to use only pet-friendly sunscreen. Human-grade sunscreen may have certain ingredients in it that could be harmful to your pet if they were to ingest it. Since most pets groom or lick themselves, it is best to just avoid any topical products if you are not certain ingesting the product will not cause your pet harm. You should avoid any sunscreen that has the ingredients zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) in it.

Apply the sunscreen on the exposed areas of your pet. This will be the parts of their body, mentioned above, where there is no fur or hair. This includes their nose, parts of their face, their underbelly, or even their entire body if they are hairless. Follow the label instructions on the sunscreen bottle as to how often you should apply it. It is best to find waterproof sunscreen since your pet probably loves to play in water as well. 

Light Clothing

You can also protect your pet’s skin from the sun by putting light-weight, breathable shirts or clothing on them. For many pets this is probably not the best option, but it is one to consider. Just make sure the protective clothing is breathable and will not make them hot. 

Shade

Finally, the best thing you can do to prevent your pet from getting skin damage due to sun exposure is to play with them in the shade. Take short trips out into the direct sunlight, but try to keep the majority of their time spent outdoors in a cool, shaded area. 

Always remember to keep fresh water available as well. It is not uncommon for pets to succumb to heat stroke by being out in the heat for too long. Making sure they take regular breaks and have water to drink is a must. 

Additionally, try to limit your pet’s time outdoors in direct sunlight to just the mornings and late afternoons. These times are usually safer as the sun’s rays will not be as strong as they are during the middle of the day when it is usually hottest outside.

Signs of Sunburn

Pets with sunburn may have reddened skin that is warm or flaking.  If the burn is minor, you can apply some aloe to the area. However, if it is very red, moist, or flaking a lot you should have your pet seen by your vet. They can determine if your pet needs a prescription topical ointment or even an antibiotic to help in the healing process. 

Since sunburn can, in some cases, lead to skin cancer, if you notice any abnormal spots on your pet’s skin at any time of the year, schedule a visit with your veterinarian so they can see if it is something to worry about.