Ask the Vet: My dog is Barking at Skaters and Scooters. What do I do to Stop This?

 Alicia asks: “My dog is absolutely obsessed with skateboards and kids scooters!! She goes mental (like beyond controllable) whenever one goes past us. How can I teach her to tolerate them?”

Answer

This sort of behaviour is quite a common problem. It may be the dog reacting to skate boards, bikes, other dogs, people coming to the house, or the postie.

We need to start off by working out why the dog is reacting the way it does. Sometimes it can be excitement and wanting to play, other times it is guarding behaviour, or even a form of fear aggression.

The feedback to the dog is almost always the same. The dog barks at the person/skateboard/bike etc., and the person keeps moving away. The dog thinks it has chased the person away, even though the postie or skateboard was always going to move away. This reinforces the behaviour for the dog, and it builds on that experience.

My approach for training any dog is making everything positive. Punishing a dog for bad behaviour can cause a lot of anxiety issues, and particularly when we’re not sure if the behaviour already relates to the dog being stressed.

My first tip is to do training with your dog every day. Dogs need a lot of mental stimulation, and if they don’t get it, they will get board and find their own way to entertain themselves. It also makes it much easier to adjust inappropriate behaviours. My favourite type of training is called “Clicker Training”. To learn more about clicker training, it’s worth getting a good book. Some examples of books can be found here.

I find desensitisation is normally the best way to break this sort of barking behaviour. Find a treat that your dog absolutely loves (I find dried liver is great). Start off by teaching your dog that it gets a treat when it looks at your face. This is taught over several short lessons, before you head out to where the dog can see a skateboard.

Once your dog has learned that it gets a treat for looking at you, head out to a place where there are skaters in the area but so far away that your dog is just aware of them. This works well if you’ve got a friend with a skateboard who can hang around. When the dog looks at the skateboard, get them to sit and look at you. When they do this, give them a treat. Continue doing this for around 5 minutes, until the dog is consistently looking at you for treats, and only mildly distracted by the skater. If the dog’s behaviour gets worse, calmly end the session and try again the next day.

Over several days and weeks, gradually get closed to the skater and repeat the training session above. As your dog learns that skaters means treats, they will start to look for treats once they see a skater. Suddenly, the skater becomes a good thing because in the dogs mind, skaters = treats.

Some dogs will progress really well with this then get worse again. If that happens, go back to stage one and repeat the process. It can take time, but they get there in the end.

If the dog is reacting to people riding and skating past the house, the process can be a bit slower but it still works. Make sure people going past the house aren’t stimulating or teasing the dog. If that’s happening, it will be very hard to break the behaviour. You may need to move the dog inside or to the back yard at times of high traffic, like before and after school, so the dog can be retrained.

What to do if you think your pet may have been bitten by a snake.

After seeing our first possible snake bite case today (fortunately it doesn’t appear to have been bitten), I thought it would be a good time to let people know what to do if they are concerned their pet has been bitten by a snake, or find their pet with a snake.

My advice is simple. Get your pet to a vet.

Often your pet won’t show signs of envenomation at first. They may appear quite normal, then collapse quite suddenly as the venom takes effect. Once this collapse occurs, we often only have minutes to treat them, so they need to be in a place where they can get treatment rapidly.

So what are the classic signs of snake bites?

In dogs, the “classic” snake bite has the dog appear to rapidly collapse, then appear to recover. This is a major red flag that you need to get to a vet urgently, as the dog is likely to collapse again very soon and they rarely recover from this without treatment.

In cats, they may have a similar appearance to dogs, or they may appear quite “floppy”.

If we have a client phone us unsure if their pet has been bitten, we will normally ask them to bring the pet straight down. When we examine the pet, we will normally check the eyes for the light reflex (it will be reduced if bitten), we may test blood clotting times due to snake venom being an anticoagulant, and also test the urine for muscle breakdown products.

If these tests indicate the pet has been bitten, we will immediately start them on an intravenous drip and give them antivenom. If we are unsure or the tests are negative, we will normally hopsitalise the pet for several house in case signs of envenomation take some time to appear.

What does a Pet Dental Procedure Involve?

At some point in your pet’s life, it will probably need some degree of dental care. Just like people, pets need their teeth examined annually and if there is calculus or gingivitis, we may recommend a dental clean. This will normally be done as a day procedure, with your pet dropped off in the morning and picked up in the afternoon.

If your pet needs its teeth cleaned or other dental work is required, we will need to do the procedure under anaesthesia. This is to allow us to do a thorough job, as the most important part of the tooth for us to clean is under the gum-line, which we can’t do while an animal is awake. It is also for our safety as some of the procedures may be uncomfortable if done conscious and we don’t want to risk being bitten.

We use very similar equipment to human dentists, including ultrasonic scalers, pneumatic drills and a wide range of hand scalers and elevators.

Once the animal is under anaesthetic, we will chart the teeth, remove any calculus and plaque from the teeth, and assess if any teeth may need removal. If the structure of the tooth is damaged, or if the roots and sensitive nerves are exposed we may need to remove the tooth.

Before we remove teeth, we will normally place some local anaesthetic around the nerves to the mouth so we can keep the anaesthetic as light as possible and allow the pet to have minimal pain when it wakes up from the anaesthetic.

In dogs and cats, teeth have different numbers of roots. Incisors (the small teeth at the front) only have a single root, while the large bone shearing carnassial teeth of dogs have three roots and may need to be cut into several pieces to remove them safely. We may then close the sockets with dissolvable sutures or leave it to close itself.

The final stage of the dental procedure is polishing the teeth. We use a special compressed-air driven polishing piece to ensure the teeth are completely free of calculus.

Antibiotics, pain relief and a diet of soft and chunky food may be needed until the extraction sites have healed, which normally only takes a week or so.

Ongoing dental care is then important, which may involve regular tooth brushing or specially designed “Dental” biscuits such as the Royal Canin Dental Range.

August is Pet Dental Month at the Bunbury and Eaton Vet Clinics, so take advantage of our $20 discount on Dental Checks with our Vets this month. Just ask for a Dental Check when you make your appointment.

What do you do if you live in Australind and have an emergency outside you vets normal opening hours?

As we all know, animals can get sick at any time of day, or for that matter any time of night. So what do you do if your vet in Australind is closed and not offering an out of hours service? You could follow their advice and drive to the Baldivis Vet Hospital, over an hour away, or you can call us on 97215999 and access our 24 hour on call service, where you will be seen locally and your pet treated much faster.

Why do we offer a 24 hour on call service? Because if your pet is bitten by a snake, hit by a car, poisoned, seizing or in any other way unwell, an drive of over an hour could very easily be fatal.

When choosing a vet for your pet, consider a vet that will be there for you when you need them, regardless of the time of day or night.

What do I do if my pet needs vet attention and the clinic is closed?

Did you know we offer an after hours emergency service at all times we are closed? Whether it is the middle of the night or on the weekend, you will always be able to access vet attention for your pet.

If your pet needs to be seen outside normal hours, it is important for you to phone the clinic first before heading in. No clinics locally have a vet at the clinic 24/7. If you phone ahead before heading to the clinic, the vet will be able to meet you at the clinic much sooner than if you drive to the clinic first then call the vet.

It is also important to listen to any instructions the vets may give you, such as which hospital to attend. We will normally see all our after hours cases at the Bunbury Vet Clinic. We share after hours work with Harradine and Associates, so you may need to attend their hospital on Bussell Highway when they are on call, and Harradine clients will need to attend the Bunbury Vet Clinic when we are on call.

To access the after hours service, phone our normal clinic number 97215999 and press 2 when prompted. This will divert your call to the duty vet. If they cannot answer straight away such as when they are with another patient, please leave a detailed message including your name and phone number, and they will call you back as soon as possible.

Urinary Incontinence in Female Dogs.

Urinary incontinence is a relatively common occurrence in desexed female dogs, with reports of up to 10% of these dogs being affected. Symptoms of urinary incontinence tend to be a bad smell (it may smell a bit “fishy” due to the bacteria that can grow on the urine soaked fur), leaving puddles where they have been sleeping, and frequent urinary tract infections.

Urinary incontinence is normally quite simple to treat. We have two main classes of medication to help control the problem. One of these drugs helps simulate the muscle around the bladder neck, making it more effective at keeping the urine in. The other class of drug is a hormone replacement medication, which helps thicken the lining of the urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside world) as well as helping strengthen the muscle around the bladder neck. The decision as to which medication is best for your pet will be made by looking at the benefits of each of these medications in each case. In some cases we find both medications are needed in combination to effectively control the problem.

For cases which fail to respond to medication, there is a surgical procedure available called Colposuspension, where the cervix is sutured around the urethra. This will lead to improved control in around 75% of cases (50% of cases will no longer require any medication at all).

If you are concerned that your dog may be incontinent, or feel their incontinence is not being fully controlled, please talk to one of our vets. As with most medical problems, early intervention can help prevent additional problems such as urinary tract infections and dermatitis of the skin around the back end.

Treating Arthritic Cats with Kidney Disease

Until quite recently, we believed we had a bit of a clinical problem when treating cats for arthritis when they had evidence of kidney disease.

The most common class of drug for treating arthritis in pets are a class of drug called “Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These NSAIDs are very effective anti-inflammatories and pain killers, but can have some side-effects elsewhere in the body including the kidneys.

We used to believe that the effects on the kidneys would mean that any cat with evidence of kidney disease (which is diagnosed with a combination of clinical signs such as increased drinking and urination, blood and urine tests) couldn’t have these medications due to the risk of significant kidney damage, so our treatment of arthritis for cats was very limited.

A recent study has now been published that proves these NSAIDs are just as safe regardless of whether the cat has evidence of kidney disease ore not, and even cats with advanced kidney failure could still be treated safely and effectively with NSAIDs. Cats treated with NSAID’s, even if they had severe kidney disease on averaged lived at least as long as those cats which were not treated with NSAIDs. Many cats even had apparent improved kidney function following NSAID use.

We believe this apparent safety comes about for several reasons. Firstly and most importantly, the cats feel better in themselves so move around more, and are more likely to eat and drink normally because it doesn’t hurt to walk to the bowl. There is also some evidence to suggest chronic kidney disease in cats is due at least partly to a low grade inflammatory condition. These NSAIDs block inflammation, so may help with the health of the kidneys themselves.

So what does this mean for your cat? If your cat has signs of arthritis, which might include grooming itself less, being less active or not interacting with you as much as before, we now know we can use these NSAIDs safely regardless of whether they have kidney disease or not.

Top 7 Flea Control Tips

Recently I’ve joined a Facebook group called “Ask It, Answer It Bunbury” to see if I can give a bit of useful pet care advice to people in the group. One of the questions that keep coming up is “How do I get rid of fleas”.

Now this is a question we get every day at our clinics too, and it’s something every pet owner should know. So here are our top 7 flea control tips:

  1. Environmental control is essential. Fleas are nest parasites. That means that at any one time, 5% of your pets fleas are on your pet, the other 95% are in the environment. This means you either need to use a flea control product on your pet that controls environmental fleas, or you need to treat the environment. This is done with a combination of hot washing bedding, regular vacuuming and sprays in sandy areas and gardens
  2. Flea baths and collars don’t work. Flea baths are very good at killing fleas on the pet. But as we mentioned above, that’s only 5% of the flea population. The other 95% are there ready to jump straight back on. Collars are also very ineffective, as they cover the front of the animal very well but the back end, where most of the fleas live, is left unprotected
  3. Not all spot-on products are equal. Many cheaper brands are pyrethrum based so are quickly deactivated by sunlight. This means they may not be effective for even a week after application. Pyrethrums are also very toxic to cats so care needs to be taken with these products
  4. You need to treat all your pets. Many people treat their dog but forget about the cat. The cat then keeps bringing fleas back home when it roams around, meaning the house is never flea-free
  5. Regular treatment is essential. You should be using flea control products monthly or as directed. Fleas are a year-round problem, so you need to control them constantly
  6. Use a good quality flea control product. We recommend two products. For most pets, Activyl (a new generation of spot-on product) is easy to use and very effective. For dogs which swim a lot, get bathed frequently or have certain skin issues we recommend Comfortis, which is a tablet form of flea control. Both these products are very effective, last at least a month, and control fleas in the environment
  7. Call us for free advice. We always have qualified, experienced nurses on reception, so if you have a question about flea control give us a call or drop in and we’ll work out which product is best for you and your pet. It’s often the advice which comes with the products that makes the control program successful.

Responsible Dog Ownership

As a vet, we see the best and worst of dog ownership. We see people take on pets with major medical or behavioural issues and work hard to resolve them, while other owners fail to provide basic care for their dog.

When it comes to responsible dog ownership, there are a few points I feel everyone should follow.

  • Train and socialise your dog. You wouldn’t let your kids grow up with no discipline and no exposure to other kids, then send them to high school and expect them to get along with other people. Dogs are the same. They need to learn how to behave.
  • Keep your dog under control in public. If exercising your dog off-lead, make sure you can call it back reliably. If not, keep it on lead until you can. Remember that your dog may be friendly, but the dog it runs up to may not.
  • Pick up after your dog. If dog owners don’t pick up their dog’s poo, the areas where dogs can be exercised will be reduced.
  • Keep you dog on a lead except in designated off-lead exercise areas.
  • Feed your dog well. This means feeding good quality food as well as the right amount. Just like in people, dogs’ waist lines are expanding. Obesity can reduce a dog’s life span by up to three years, which for some dogs is 25% of their life expectancy. The food you choose doesn’t have to be the most expensive around, but it is important to understand that cheap food is normally made using cheap, inferior ingredients.
  • Vaccinate your dog. Not only does it protect your own dog, herd immunity also helps protect other dogs and reduces the overall disease levels.
  • Desex your pet. It helps prevent unwanted pregnancies, reduces roaming behaviours, and eliminates the risk of some cancers such as uterine, mammary, ovarian and testicular cancer.
  • Keep your pet’s parasite control up to date. Flea, worm and heartworm prevention will help your dog live a more comfortable and healthier life.
  • Microchip and register your pet with the council. That way if your pet escapes, it can be returned to you as quickly as possible.

Responsible pet ownership is fairly straight forward with the right advice. Remember we are always just a phone call away if you need some help.

Registering Your Pet With Local Councils (Bunbury, Capel, Dardanup and Harvey)

Dog Ownership Part 9

The guidelines for registering dogs in the local Shires are all very similar. These points are a summary of the requirements for registering a dogs.

All dogs must be registered by the age of 3 months. An owner must be over 18 years of age to register a dog. The registration period is from 1 November to 31 October, with all registrations expiring on 31 October, regardless of the date your dog was originally registered.

REQUIREMENTS FOR DOG OWNERS WHICH WILL BE ENFORCED BY COUNCIL

Compulsory micro-chipping has been introduced for all dogs.

  • Dogs must be micro-chipped when they are registered for the first time or when a change of ownership occurs;
  • All restricted breed dogs, must be micro-chipped;
  • By 1 November 2015, all dogs must be microchipped
  • If your dog is impounded the dog must be registered and arrangements made to micro-chipped your dog before it can be released.