Category: Dogs (page 2 of 5)

Cognitive Dysfunction & Your Dog

What is Cognitive Dysfunction?

One of the saddest things you may experience in your life is seeing someone you know who was so full of life, so vibrant, so smart…all of the sudden just seem to not be able to think clearly anymore.  Imagine if this was your dog.  Yes, what we see in people such as senility, Alzheimer’s disease, or “sundowners syndrome” can also be seen in dogs (and possibly in cats but much less understood).  The entire cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) has been an emerging area of understanding in the last several years.  While senior pets may show signs that could be attributed to medical issues, those potential diseases should be ruled out before coming to the conclusion of what is considered to be a behavioral problem.

Studies have shown that starting around 6-7 years of age, dogs may start showing signs.  Oftentimes, these go unnoticed until the condition has progressed to severe levels.  Signs can include greater attention seeking to seeming to want to interact less with family, increased anxiety levels in situations that used to not bother them, and becoming less responsive when called or given a command.  And these are the harder ones to note sometimes but also may not be as concerning in the mind of the family.  Signs more likely to get attention are soiling in the house, restlessness at night (stay up all night and sleep in the daytime), or pacing constantly.

What can we do to help?

cognitive dysfunction enrichment

Jennifer & Keltie rally obedience practice

The sooner signs are noted or addressed, the better chance we have of helping a dog’s quality of life.  Much like we encourage enrichment for cats or exotic pets, dogs can benefit from such activities as scent detection, competitive obedience, or agility – activities that help them think and positively stimulate their brains.  Sometimes just playing and interacting with your dog can be a good start.  It’s important to keep in mind any medical or physical limitations, especially as your pup ages.  Adding in toys can always be a good idea especially puzzles or toys that dispense food to keep then thinking and engaged.

Further treatment to help alleviate signs can be found with some medications but their effects may be variable from patient to patient.  Medications and supplements should be discussed with your veterinarian to determine what might work best for your particular dog and what the proper dosages are.  Senior pet diets supplemented with fatty acids, antioxidants, and medium chain triglycerides can also be beneficial.  There is a lot of exciting research and new tools to help these patients coming in the near future.

Due to our ability to better recognize these problems and the tendency for the earliest signs to start at middle to early senior years, it truly is important to have your pet checked out at least once a year.  There may be something we can work on together to help you and your dog live in harmony while working through cognitive dysfunction.  Have you noted any changes or signs mentioned above in your dog?  If so, what have you done that seems to help?

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers. 

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4 More Veterinary Visit Tips

Admit it, taking your pet to the veterinarian is probably not one of your favorite things to do.  Obviously, there are those times when your fur-baby is sick and that’s understandable you’re dreading the visit especially when the outcome is unknown.  Maybe it’s the cost of things that is frustrating.  Perhaps it’s the time you spend there or the interaction with the clinic staff that have you dreading the visit.  Fear not!  You can help make those trips to your veterinary clinic be more productive, safer, and efficient so we can cooperatively get your pet treated and make the experience less exasperating.  Think of these tips as some of the secrets we think but don’t say out loud.

broken leg puppyIf the presenting complaint is pain, we have to localize the pain – I know what you may be thinking…why do you have to make my pet hurt during the exam?  Yes, it’s true that during an exam we may palpate an area and it may hurt, but we have to know what is ailing your pet.  Afterwards (and before any x-rays), we’ll be more than happy to give your pet pain medication or a sedative to help them relax.  If we can’t find the painful area, then a diagnosis may escape us and your pet might not get the proper treatment.

from Trupanion.com

from Trupanion.com

Why can’t we complete our exam? – One of the things I find to take the most time (thus extending a visit length) is not being able to adequately complete our exam.  Why is this?  Two things….chairs & leashes.  Unfortunately, many pets are still afraid of the veterinary clinic.  When this happens, they tend to climb into a small or covered space in hopes of not being noticed or to make themselves more difficult to be touched.  This often means climbing under a chair.  I don’t mind helping coax Fluffy or Spot (with bribery from treats) out from under a chair but we may feel awkward if you are still sitting on said chair….let’s call it a personal space bubble that we don’t want to pop.

This is where you can help and where the leash comes into play (for dogs at least).  Drop the leash, hold the collar or place your hands on your pet.  Leashes also create prime tripping hazards with a big, happy dog.  If your pet holds still, we can do our jobs better and give you better service.  If a staff member is able to help in an exam room (not always possible), please trust them to handle your baby as if he or she were their own.

aggressive dogNot every pet who comes to the vet clinic is happy or a sweetheart – Admittedly, I will give every patient the benefit of the doubt if they seem leary or if they snap, we will likely want to put a muzzle on them.  I’ve heard people say that veterinarians should not be afraid of animals.  The truth is, we respect them and know what some of them can do.  I’ve known too many colleagues who have been unable to continue working like their accustomed due to a nasty animal related injury.  Animals are also perceptive and if they sense they the staff is uneasy, it may send the wrong signals of being dominant.  Simply put, if your pet has a history of misbehaving, allow us to take proper safety precautions so that nobody gets hurt.  Alternatively, for routine visits, we can often prescribe something ahead of time to help take the edge off and make your pet more relaxed so that their visit may not be such a bad experience.  Many veterinarians are become FearFree certified.

from justcuteanimals.com

from justcuteanimals.com

All we all need is just a little patience – Time spent at the vet clinic can be discouraging.  Whether it is before or after your appointment may make it more so.  A veterinary visit is compromised of multiple parts and interactions, from the client services up front to the veterinary technician to veterinarian and back up to client services.  Wow!  That can be a long time depending on the reason for the visit.  If you show up early, we can make sure your contact info is up to date so that further follow up can be done once you are done with the appointment.  And if we’re able to, we’ll see you early to give you some extra time or try to get you home just a little bit earlier.  On the same token, walking into the clinic with a true emergency (hit by car, active bleeding, trouble breathing, seizuring to name a few) is understandable but we ask that you at least call us before hand so we can prepare and if needed, we can notify our scheduled appointments and give them a chance to reschedule.  If you’re walking in and it’s not an emergency, we will do our best to squeeze you in but there may also be the need to schedule you for a later appointment.

So there you have it…a few more tips to try and help ease the trip to the vet clinic.  A few more tips you say??  Yes, check out part 1 of tips for your vet clinic visit!  And please keep in mind that we are always trying our best for all of our patients so let’s all be courteous to our fellow pet lovers and the clinic staff!  If there’s another piece of advice you have, please share with us in the comments!  Thank you!

Disclaimer:  All blog posts may contain opinions which do not reflect those of my current or any former employers.

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Dog Parks – The Good, The Bad, & The Furry

Dog Parks – The Good, The Bad, & The Furry

Over the past several years, dog parks have sprung up in communities as a place for your canine companion to get some exercise and depending on rules, meet other dogs.  Dog parks can be wonderful places, but they aren’t meant for everybody.  Let’s look at why this is and also review some etiquette.

The Good

Photo: Herne Bay Coastal Park

Photo: Herne Bay Coastal Park

Everyone loves their own dog.  Many people love other dogs.  Visiting the dog park is a great place to get your dog socialized to other people and dogs to help acclimate them and hopefully avoid some unwanted behaviors.  Dogs evolved as pack animals and the social aspect can be good for their mental stimulation.  You also will get to meet new people, maybe even your future spouse or a new close friend.  Rover will also get that much needed exercise to help fight off obesity by staying active.

The Bad

Photo: personalsafetyexpert.com

Photo: personalsafetyexpert.com

Remember what I said about dogs being pack animals?  Well, that can work against them as dogs meet each other for the first time, the potential for dominance aggression behavior is always possible.  Yes, dogs like children might fight on the playground.  Fights should try to be broken up by calling your dog or making some noise to distract them which might make it easier to pull them apart.  Another downside to these public places is that they can be a breeding ground for disease.  Infectious viruses, bacterial infections, or parasites can all be picked up at the park.  Also, dogs will be dogs…and if your dog is not spayed or neutered, then somebody could be expecting puppies in around 2 months.

The Furry (the Etiquette)pickupafteryourpet1

  • Make sure your pet is vaccinated and is free of fleas.  Not only are you protecting your dog, but also everyone else and the public.

  • Spay or neuter your pet!  This will help prevent unwanted behaviors which can lead to fights or unwanted puppies.  If spay/neuter is not an option, please keep your in heat dogs away for at least 2 weeks after the visible signs have stopped.

  • Teach your dog simple commands – sit, stay, and come are three basic commands to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

  • Before letting your dog off leash, it can be a good idea to let them meet the other dogs to see how their personalities and initial reactions are.  If there are obvious signs of aggression, you still have control while they are on leash and can pick another time to come back.

  • If you know your dog is anxious or does not play well with others, go at times that are less busy.  This category might also include a new dog to the family that has not had time to get trained yet.  Another recommendation is to tie a yellow ribbon onto their leash or collar as a sign to others that your dog needs space.  For more info, check out the Yellow Dog Project.

  • Avoid bringing toys or other personal possessions of your dog which may cause conflict with others.  If you bring something, perhaps a new toy is in order so your dog does not feel possessive.

  • Limit your time at the park to no more than 60 minutes.  Not only does this let other dogs & families have a turn but it also is a good way to make sure your dog does not get over heated.

  • And lastly, pick up after your pooch!

A trip to the dog park can be a great bonding experience for you & your canine companion.  Just be sure to be safe and courteous so that everyone has an enjoyable time!

 Disclaimer:  Blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and do not reflect that of any current or former employers.

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