Any cat owner out there knows that there is a point in time where they will get the pleasure of shockingly stepping onto a gooey, slimy and squishy (and usually cold by the time your foot finds it!) hairball on the floor at home. Not only are hairballs unpleasant for owners to clean up, but they can also be harmful to your cat if they aren’t vomited back up. Hairballs moving through the digestive tract can sometimes cause a lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation, diarrhea or even intestinal blockages.
When your cat works on the task of grooming, their loose and dead hair catches on the hooks on their tongue and then gets swallowed. A majority of this hair is able to pass through the digestive tract without issue. Sometimes though, some of the hair remains in the stomach and forms a hairball. In an ideal world, your cat will vomit the hairball on an easy to clean surface in an area that you won’t step on it with your bare feet. In the real world… it doesn’t always go that way!
What can you do to help keep your cat’s hairballs to a minimum?
- Groom your cat regularly. The more grooming work you do for them, the less they will have to do themselves. Grooming also allows time for you and your cat to bond.
- Feed your cat a diet that promotes healthy skin and hair coats. These diets will minimize the amount of shedding your cat does.
- Discourage excessive and compulsive grooming. Cats that are bored may turn to grooming as an activity to pass time. Find some fun toys that your cat will enjoy playing with.
- Give an anti-hairball or laxative product to your cat. There are many products available which help promote hairball movement through your cat’s digestive tract. Some cats need to be given these supplements once weekly.
A bike can excite some dogs and terrify others. Some dogs will gladly run alongside a bike while others would like to viciously destroy the bike until it can’t move anymore. And then there are the other dogs that are nervous and confused about the bike so they choose to run away from it in the opposite direction.
Having a fear of bikes can be dangerous for the dog and the bike rider. Often when a dog tries to attack a moving bike, they can end up getting hurt or the rider of the bike may end up crashing (which can lead to terrible injuries!). Sometimes the rider of the bike may even get nipped at or bitten by the fearful dog. It is a good idea to train your dog to be comfortable around bikes, especially in our town of Squamish, where there seem to be just as many bikes around as vehicles.
To train your dog to be comfortable around bikes, try the following:
Introduce your dog to a bike that isn’t moving and watch their reaction– then you will know how much training work you have ahead of you. Get your dog to practice sitting and staying next to the bike. Reward your dog with treats or their favourite toy.
Next, have someone slowly ride the bike around while your dog is on leash. Have them ride on the other side of the yard or street. Continue to practice obedience (sitting and staying) around the slow moving bike. Pretend that you don’t even notice the bike. Work on keeping your dog’s attention and reward calm behaviour with treats or their favourite toy.
Once your dog is ok with the idea of a slow moving bike, practice walking your dog on leash in one hand while pushing the bike around with your other hand. Go at a slow pace and teach your dog that there is no reason to be scared of bikes. Reward your dog with food or their favourite toy when they are calm and relaxed around the moving bike.
When your dog becomes ok with the idea of a bike in motion, keep them on leash and have somebody ride by at a faster pace. Once your dog is able to ignore the bike, have them increase their biking speed. Your dog may be ok with the bike at a slow speed but may become agitated when the bike goes speeding by. Continue to reward calm behaviour with treats or their favourite toy.
Purposely walk by strangers on bikes. Continue walking while keeping your dog’s focus and pretend like the bike isn’t there. If you are tense and nervous around the bike, your dog will pick up on it and be tense and nervous as well. The calmer you are, the better your dog will be. Don’t forget to reward calm behaviour with treats or their favourite toy!
Training your dog in new situations is not a quick process. Continue working with them as often as possible. Your dog’s behaviour will regress if practice is not maintained. Once your dog is completely comfortable around bikes, try taking them out on a bike ride with you! Just remember that all trails are shared and full control of your dog is necessary to prevent injuries to themselves or other people.
Fireworks, thunder and other out-of-nowhere sounds often leave dogs frightened and wanting to escape to a safer place. Many fear related issues can be successfully resolved. If left untreated though, the issues will often get worse.
Many dogs try and deal with their fear by acting out in such ways as running away or destroying something. Escaping to get further away from the noise can result in danger for your dog if they are outside of the house– they could run into traffic or run into an area they are unfamiliar with and become lost. If your dog is in the house and trying to escape from the startling noises, they may go into a room and destroy furniture or other household items to try and lessen their sense of fear. Many dogs will try digging, barking, jumping, scratching, chewing or howling to try and make themselves feel better. Both escape and destructive behavior can be a problem for you and could also result in injury to your dog.
How can you help your dog overcome these fearful reactions?
- Create a safe place for your dog. When your dog hears a noise that frightens them, where do they run to in the house to feel safe? Can you create a cozy bed in this area? Are they able to gain access to this area at all times? Try feeding them meals and treats in this area to allow them to associate it with a place where “good things” happen. The “safe place” approach may not work with all dogs as some feel the need to continue moving, pacing and being active when scared.
- Distract your dog. If you notice your dog is just beginning to get anxious, encourage them to engage in an activity that will take their mind off things. Try enticing them with a ball or toy or practice tricks for treats. However, if the distraction technique is not working and you can see that fear and anxiety is building, stop the process of rewarding them or else they may begin to associate fearful behavior with treats and rewards.
- Modify their behavior. This approach can often be successful in reducing fearful responses and phobias in most dogs. It is also known as “counter-conditioning” or “desensitization” and teaches your dog to respond in non-fearful ways to sounds and other things that scare them. This technique is often done with a cd or recording with noises such as firecrackers, thunder, vacuums, etc. Start by playing games with your dog using toys or treats and playing the sounds at a low volume so as not to scare your dog right away. As your sessions continue, gradually increase the volume of the recording. Eventually your dog will associate the noises with happy toy and treat feelings and not a fearful response. Be careful with behavior modification though – if not performed correctly, the fearful reactions could become worse.
- Work with a professional. Consult with your veterinarian to see if medication is recommended to help reduce your dog’s anxiety level for short time periods. Work with a dog trainer to learn different training techniques for fear related issues.
What shouldn’t be done when your dog is having a reaction from fear and anxiety?
- Don’t feed treats to try and comfort them when they are already in a fearful state. This will only reinforce their fearful behavior in the end.
- Don’t just put your dog in a crate. If a crate is not their “safe place” then they will still be fearful and could end up injuring themselves attempting to escape from the crate.
- Don’t punish your dog for being afraid. It’s not fair to them and would only create even more fearful behavior in the end.
- Don’t try and force your dog to remain in a situation that frightens them. It will only make them more afraid and could even cause them to become aggressive in attempt to flee the situation.
Below are a few tips to help keep your furry family members in one piece this Halloween:
Keep your pets from getting into your Halloween candy stash! Both chocolate and candies (including the wrappers!) can be dangerous for your pets to ingest. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and seizures. Candy containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause vomiting, sudden drops in blood sugar, loss of coordination and seizures. Tricks may be for pets, but keep the treats for the humans only.
2. Safe and Sound Indoors
It is best to keep your pets inside on Halloween. Firecrackers, excessive traffic and large crowds of people may startle your pets. Avoid the danger of having your pet run away and get lost or hit by a car. Many people still find it entertaining to tease, injure and steal pets on Halloween. Unfortunately, black cats are still the main targets of these pranks. Keep your pets safe and sound inside your home for Halloween.
3. Playing With Fire
Be careful with lit candles around your pets. Should they get too close, they could end up burning themselves or knocking the candles over and causing a fire. Make sure electrical cords for Halloween decorations don’t become toys for your pets. Chewing on them can cause life-threatening electrical shock or start house fires. Your pets may not realize that if they play with fire, they will get burned.
4. Check IDs
Before the big night, double and triple check that your pet is wearing their collar with all ID information, just incase they do end up getting spooked and running away. Better yet, having your pet implanted with a microchip provides them with permanent identification that can be scanned at any vet hospital or animal shelter. All pets participating in Halloween activities need to be carrying one or two pieces of valid ID.
5. Comfy and Cozy
If your pets become very stressed with firecrackers, knocking and doorbell ringing they may need to spend Halloween sedated and sleeping in their beds. Speak with your veterinarian about a safe sedative prescription for your pets. A comfy and cozy pet is a happy pet.
**A big thank you to “Jenga” from the Squamish SPCA for being a very cooperative model for our Halloween blog photo shoot!
If you have been in our exam rooms, some of you may have noticed a little bubble shaped plug-in on the wall. Ever wonder what these are for? No, they aren’t air fresheners or night-lights. They are pheromone diffusers.
Pheromones are natural substances that play a large part in communication between animals. Certain pheromones play a large role in comforting animals. For example, when a cat feels safe and secure, it rubs its head against various objects in its environment. The facial pheromones this rubbing action leaves behind later helps the cat gain emotional support with minimal anxiety in that certain area of their environment (such as a living room or bedroom). A dog that has just had puppies usually releases the canine appeasing pheromone. This pheromone helps to support bonding and to comfort and reassure her puppies which gives them confidence to explore the world around them. The canine appeasing pheromone has the same comforting effect on adult dogs. Having comforting pheromones diffused into our exam rooms helps create a less stressful environment for your pet.
The diffuser in the cat exam room is called Feliway. Cats only need to detect a very small amount of the pheromone to receive the comforting and reassuring effects. Feliway is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone. It is safe for all cats, non-sedative and non-systemic. It will not affect people or dogs. Cats cannot overdose on this pheromone being diffused into the room.
The diffuser in the dog exam room is called Adaptil. Dogs can gain a feeling of comfort and confidence after detecting small amounts of the pheromone. Adaptil is a synthetic copy of the canine appeasing pheromone. It is safe for all dogs, non-sedative and non-systemic. It will not affect people or cats. Dogs cannot overdose on this pheromone being diffused into the room.