Separation Anxiety

You've likely been spending lots of time at home during the pandemic, and no doubt your dog has enjoyed this quality time with you. If like many, you've welcomed a new furry family member into your home during this period, they'll be very used to having you around most of the time. This poses a challenge for our pets when they start spending more time alone. Some dogs may take these new changes to their routine fine. But for other pets, it could bring about separation anxiety, which can be very distressing for dogs and owners alike.

Separation anxiety is one of the most common yet most underdiagnosed behavioural problems in dogs. The clinical signs of excessive barking, howling, destruction, self-mutilation, urination, and defecation can significantly affect both dogs and owners. Luckily, veterinarians understand separation anxiety, and there are treatment options available to manage this condition and improve the quality of life for your special furry family member.

Separation anxiety is distress experienced on separation from you as the owner(s). Anxiety is the "anticipation of future danger or misfortune" – Dr K Seksel. Dogs are social animals, and it is normal for a puppy to become attached to their litter and then subsequently to the human family that becomes their home. Some dogs do not adjust to being without their owners and develop separation distress. Some dogs may become destructive or vocalise if under-stimulated and not provided with the appropriate physical exercise and mental stimulation. However, signs of separation anxiety become apparent when they are linked to the owner's departures or absence, when they cannot gain access to them and when they cannot adjust to their absences over time. These dogs are anxious and are not "acting out" or trying to spite their owners; they are having a difficult time and need help.

Pay attention to your dog's behaviour before you leave the house. Some possible signs to look for are:

• Signs of distress, especially when your dog sees cues that you are leaving like picking up keys, putting on shoes or applying make-up
• Following you around unusually
• Pacing
• Try desperately to go with you
• Reacting to noises unusually
• House soiling
• Panting and drooling
• Freezing
• Barking
• Scratching
• Other signs of distress

Some possible signs of separation anxiety while you're away from your dog include coming home to:

• Digging in the garden
• Destructive behaviours around the house
• Trying to escape
• Reports from neighbours of repetitive barking, whining or howling
• House soiling

If you notice any of these signs of separation anxiety, please speak to your veterinarian. Depending on the case, they may refer you to a veterinarian with further qualifications in behaviour or a veterinary behaviour specialist. Go prepared for your Vet consult with a thorough understanding of your dog's history, routine, and any changes to their routine that could be causing the anxiety.

Things your Vet may recommend to address your pet's separation anxiety:

• The use of calming pheromones, like Adaptil diffusers, sprays or collars
• Encouraging independence through positive reinforcement exercises
• Creating a structured and predictable routine for your dog
• Make departures and arrivals low-key (calmly speaking to your dog, but not ignoring them completely)
• Offering your dog food puzzles, long-lasting chews, and feeding devices to give your dog something to enjoy while you're away
• A focus on physical exercise and mental stimulation – a tired dog will be more likely to relax while when you're gone
• Desensitisation and counterconditioning to cues that hint you are leaving the home
• Enriching their environment – leave the radio on to make the house feel less quiet and empty. Make sure they have access to their favourite bed and toys.
• Medication or supplements to address the underlying anxiety

It is essential that a puppy or dog can cope with being left alone. In our busy lives, it's unrealistic to be with them 24/7, so separation anxiety needs to be addressed with your veterinarian. It may be a journey to help your distressed friend to find comfort on their own, but there are options available to help. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from separation anxiety, please give your local vet a call.


Christmas & New Year’s Hazards

The silly season is an exciting time of year, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations giving us plenty of reasons to let loose and celebrate. With an increase of visitors, noises, tasty treats, shiny new toys, and interesting smells, this time of year can be overwhelming for our pets.

Here are some recommendations to make sure your furry friends are safe and happy during this festive time.

  • Make sure your pet has access to a quiet, calm, and secluded spot to hide away if needed
  • Exercise your pets before any guests arrive or before any particularly noisy events (i.e., fireworks displays) if you can – a pet with pent up energy can easily become anxious
  • Keep Christmas decorations and wrapping items (paper, tape, ribbon, discarded plastic, etc.) out of your pet’s reach. If ingested, these items can cause serious health problems, including intestinal blockages that may require surgical removal
  • Many plants and flowers used for Christmas decorations are toxic to pets – be sure to keep these out of reach
  • Many foods we see at celebrations are toxic to pets and can even be fatal. Make sure your pet does not have access to:
    o Chocolate
    o Christmas pudding
    o Salty foods (chips, pretzels, crackers, etc.)
    o Lollies & artificial sweeteners
    o Grapes, sultanas, raisins, and currants
    o Alcohol
    o Cherry pits (and other stone fruit pits)
    o Macadamias
    o Corn cobs
    o Avocado
    o Cooked bones

Fireworks can be terrifying for pets. Here is a list of tips for preparing your pet for fireworks displays:

  • Keep pets indoors when possible. The walls and roof will help to soften the noise and will also contain them safely.
  • Prepare your pet for loud noises during the day by putting on the TV or radio. Turn the volume up progressively throughout the day, so when the fireworks display commences, the existing noise will create a distraction
  • Avoid fussing over your pet. Carry on as normal, as this will reassure your pet nothing is wrong. You can use treats and games to distract them and encourage calm behaviour.
  • Ensure your pet’s microchip and identification tag details are up to date. Unfortunately, many pets escape during fireworks displays and can be found very far from home.
  • Pheromone diffusers could help to calm your pet. Talk to our team about Feliway for cats or Adaptil for dogs.
  • Some pet owners choose to use medications to assist in keeping particularly anxious pets calm. This is not something our team can organise for you without prior consultation, so please book in advance.

Our appointments during the festive season fill up very quickly, so be sure to organise an appointment as soon as possible.

If you suspect your pet has ingested something they shouldn’t, has injured themselves, or you would like more advice on keeping them safe over the Christmas and New Year’s period, please give your vet clinic a call.


Understanding Rat Bait Toxicity

With winter upon us, many of us will be spending more time indoors. This can also be the case for unwanted rodents. Many of us use rat poison/bait to defeat these critters, but these poisons also pose a risk to our household pets if they happen to ingest rat bait directly or by eating a rodent who has consumed the bait. There are many steps you can take to ensure your pet is protected!

The effect of rat bait on your pet

Rat bait acts as an anticoagulant (prevents the blood from clotting) by depleting the body's supply of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin and is essential in forming clotting agents in the bloodstream. It can take between 1-5 days after ingestion to see the signs of toxicity, but once the symptoms become prevalent or you believe your pet may have ingested some bait, it is crucial to act fast!

What to do if your pet has ingested rat bait

It is extremely important to bring them straight to our clinic if you have seen your pet eat rat bait or notice the signs of rat bait toxicity. If you cannot visit, please ring us for advice on how to treat your pet immediately.

Some of the signs of rat bait toxicity may include:

  • Pale gums or haemorrhages on the gums
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding from the nose, existing wounds or cuts
  • Blood in their urine or faeces
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Respiratory issues (coughing, breathing difficulties, rapid breathing)
  • Seizures or muscle tremors

The effects on pets who have consumed rat bait varies based on which rat bait was ingested, how long ago it was ingested and how much was eaten. In all circumstances, if you have a box of the rat bait, please bring this in with you (or a picture on your phone). Finding out the name and its active ingredients will assist with the treatment of your furry friend!

What are the treatment options?

Treatment of your furry friend is based on the severity of the toxicity and when it was ingested. Blood may need to be taken for clotting tests and assessment of anaemia.

Treatment may be as simple as giving a vitamin K treatment for 3-6 weeks or may require more intensive treatment such as blood transfusions and hospitalisation. In some cases, even with the most intensive treatment, if action is not quickly taken, some ingestion cases can be fatal.

Alternative options to rat bait

If you want to avoid using rat bait around your home, we recommend to:

  1. Use mouse or rat traps in places pets can't reach (this can be extremely difficult with cats!)
  2. Keep your pet on a lead around areas where rat bait is present
  3. Keep unwanted rodents out of your garden and home. Avoid leaving human or pet food lying around, keeping a secure lid on waste and compost bins, keeping outdoor areas clean and tidy, and removing items that could be a potential home or food supply.

If you suspect your pet has eaten rat bait, please contact us and immediately bring your pet into our clinic. If you have any questions about rat bait toxicity, please speak to our vet clinic team.


The Important Role of Dental Awareness

Would you ever want to see your pets experience any painful or serious disease? The overwhelming answer would be a simple NO. However, dental disease in our pets is one of the most underestimated causes of pain and discomfort, which can lead to a few missing teeth or more serious conditions! Amazingly dental disease is estimated to be present in 80% of dogs and cats over three years of age! What are the chances your pet is in that 80%?

Imagine having a toothache when you were once little; the pain is almost identical to what your pets are exposed to on a day-to-day basis, but unlike us, they are a little more stoical about it and often continue to eat and drink normally. Making it hard for us pet parents to know anything is wrong!

Genetics play a role in the disease, but it is mainly caused by a lack of mechanical action on the teeth. This allows bacteria to stick to the teeth and form plaque and then calculus.

Common symptoms

So how do we ‘know’? The following is a list of things us vets look for;

  • Bleeding or inflamed gums
  • Brown or yellow discolouration over the teeth (tartar)
  • Extremely loose or missing teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Blood tinged (unusual) or excessive saliva/drooling
  • Pus around the teeth
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth over the other
  • Not playing with toys like they used to e.g. tug toys

Some breeds are more predisposed to dental disease, with those with flatter faces such as Frenches, bulldogs and pugs, as well as those with smaller jaws, such as the small fluffy type breeds like miniatures and terriers, more commonly and severely affected. Though, the disease is preventable, or its severity reduce through things like the brushing of teeth (where tolerated!), specialist dental diets or at a minimum an exclusively dry food diet.

Treatment options

Whilst the above is good at prevention, professional dental cleaning/ treatments are generally required, and in some cases they will need to be performed as frequently as every 6-12 months – though that depends on the pet, with many pets needing them at least every 1-2 years. This level of care should hopefully avoid the loss or necessary extraction of many teeth as the pets age, as well as reduce the risk of complicating disease. Poor oral health can have a knock on impact on the heart and kidneys with serious implications, so prevention really is better than cure!

As pet owners, we can prevent our lovely pets from getting dental disease, and the condition can be treated and reversed - if detected early. When it comes to your pet’s oral health, regular visits to the vet clinic can ensure your pets smile lasts for years to come! Visit us for a dental check and chat about the best plan for your pet.


5 Myths about proper puppy training

We are welcoming lots of new puppies into our clinic recently, and with new puppies comes the task of training. We’ve put together five of the most common training myths that may be causing more harm than good to your new puppy.

Putting your pet’s nose in their accidents

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common myths and also the most harmful when training. When your puppy has an accident inside and you push their nose into it, they aren’t capable of understanding why they are being punished. This can make it even harder to house train your pet and may make them afraid of you.

Puppies don't differentiate between good attention and bad attention, so reprimanding them for accidents is unlikely to produce the response you desire. Instead, focus on rewarding them for the behaviour you want.

 

Repeating words over and over

When training a puppy to sit or stay, we often repeat the command over and over again until we get the result we want. In the long run, you want your puppy to obey commands instantaneously; repeating commands can train your dog to only sit when it hears the command “sit, sit, sit”.

 

Treats are better than praise when training

Both praise and treats produce equal results. It is best to balance out food rewards and positive reinforcement rewards from the very beginning when training your dog. You can also employ toys as rewards.

 

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Somewhere along the line this common phrase latched on and many believe it to be fact. However, no matter the age of the dog they can always been trained out of their bad habits.

 

Playing tug of war increases aggression

Playing tug of war the right way in a controlled environment does not increase aggression in dogs. You should only play tug of war with specific tug toys, and the play should always be initiated by you and not your pet.

If you would like more advice on training your new puppy, book in a consultation with us today.