We’ve seen many new pets through this COVID season, and some of them, unfortunately, have had some medical needs discovered in the few months after coming home. Pet Insurance is a wonderful way to give yourself peace of mind, so that should something arise, you know you can say ‘yes’ to the treatment your pet needs.
Many of our clients have been happy with Trupanion, but there are several companies that offer services to make sure that your pet has the coverage they need. Things to check are the waiting period, coverage, deductibles, and premiums. We hope you don’t need it, but peace of mind is a great thing to have.
Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks
As many dog owners have noticed with dismay, there seems to be an explosion, if you will, of fireworks this summer. The increased fireworks activity is being reported all over the region in cities, suburbs and small towns. As soon as the sunsets, the pops and bangs begin and the poor dog begins to tremble. For dogs with preexisting noise phobia, this summer is an unending nightmare. Even dogs with a history of mild fear can be sensitized to the frequent explosions. Signs of fear can be obvious. Your dog may shake, pant, drool, hide, eliminate or vomit or destroy doors, walls, and window frames in an attempt to escape. But fireworks phobia can also be subtle and gradual in onset. You may notice that your dog no longer wants to go out or walk after dark or that she won’t eat once the sun goes down.
Noise phobia, including fireworks phobia, can be treated with a combination of environmental management, behavior modification, and when more severe, medication.
Create a safe space for the dog to go where the sound is as muffled as possible. A basement or windowless room such as a walk-in closet or bathroom works well. If there is a window, try covering it acoustic curtains or even a homemade Styrofoam insert. Add white noise either by turning on a white noise machine or downloading a white noise app such as Simply Noise. A fan will also cover ambient sounds. Calming music such as Through a Dog’s Ear and xxx both covers the scary sounds and contributes to overall relaxation. To help him accept the safe space as safe, it is important to spend time in the space with him on a daily basis engaging in rewarding activities like treats, chews, play, and petting. Once he associates the space with calming, enjoyable activities during quiet times, the space will help him to relax when the noise starts.
Teach your dog to relax by taking a deep breath on cue. Deep breathing has been shown (in people) to slow the heart rate and promote calmness and relaxation. Although similar studies have not yet been done in dogs, in my clinical experience, deep breathing can also help dogs to relax and settle when they start to become anxious or stressed.
- Step 1: Have him sit or stand in front of you. Watch for his nostrils to dilate when he inhales. You may notice that when he inhales, the sides of the nostrils flare out slightly and the furred skin next to the nostrils ripples slightly. Have tiny, but tasty food treats ready to hand.
- Step 2: The instant that he inhales, praise, and give a treat.
- Step 3: When it appears that he knows what he is being rewarded for (i.e. that he continues to lie in front of you breathing regularly without offering other behaviors) you may add the cue “breathe”. Once you add the cue, you will only reward him when he takes a breath on cue.
- Step 4: The next step is waiting for a split second after he takes a breath to praise and reward.
- Step 5: Practice regularly for a few minutes a day. Gradually increase the amount of environmental distraction over time.
- Step 6: Once he learns the skill, you may direct him to take a deep breath when you notice he is becoming frightened. He may also learn that he relaxes when he takes a deep breath and begin to do so spontaneously when he becomes stressed.
Here is a link to a video demonstrating the training: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIxELL4FkWI.
Comforting your dog during fireworks does not make her fear worse, despite what many of us have been told. Pairing something positive (petting, food, soft words) with something frightening (thunder, fireworks, motorcycles) cannot increase the dog’s fear of the frightening stimulus. Offering comfort is more likely to reduce fear or at worst, do nothing at all. Many dogs are not able to take in comfort when they are overwhelmed by fear. Comforting alone has some limitations in that it does not teach a dog to stand on her own four paws. It is important to also use other strategies such as relaxation training and a safe space that enable the dog to manage her fears even when you are not there to comfort her.
Help keep your pet safe by keeping these poisons, some of which you may not think of, out of reach and touch.
Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
Anything that you spray or spread on your property becomes free rein for your pet to come in contact with. These products are loaded with chemicals that can be toxic to pets. Most fertilizers will cause severe stomach upset if ingested. In addition to fertilizers, be extra careful about pets coming into contact with insecticides that you have sprayed in the yard or around the house. Be sure to read all product labels and recognize how long you must wait before allowing pets to come in contact with treated areas. Consult your veterinarian about the best products to use based on your pet’s lifestyle.
Never use human or household bug sprays on your pets. Also, pets are subject to overdose, so if you are trying to get rid of ticks and fleas on your pet, do not use multiple products. Lastly, it’s important that you use only products specifically formulated for your pet. Some pet owners might consider using a smaller amount of a dog product on a cat, but cats can get very sick from using a product not specified for them. It’s worth asking your veterinarian for advice about the best products to use for your pet.
Barbecue lighter fluid and kerosene
These liquids can cause damage to the lungs if inhaled (dogs or cats may sniff an open container), as well as irritation to eyes and skin.
Refrain from using mouse and rodent poisons in places that your pets can access. Not only can they ingest the poison itself, but they may eat a mouse that has consumed the poison. These poisons cause bleeding, paralysis and other often fatal effects. There are non-toxic traps available which should be used when possible.
It’s worth mentioning that while you may think ant traps fall into this same category, ingesting the chemical in an ant trap is rarely a serious situation. These products are almost always of extremely low toxicity and would very rarely have any effect on your pets.
Yes. Believe it or not, there is a mulch product that is made from the hulls of the cocoa bean, which like chocolate can be toxic and even fatal to dogs. It can be found at most garden centers and it’s known for a fine texture and sweet smell, which is likely to attract pets. This mulch product contains a higher content of theobromine and caffeine than chocolate itself, and even a small amount can cause gastrointestinal problems, neuromuscular problems, and death.
If you own a pool make sure you always store any of the pool chemicals in a secure area away from your pets, and never leave these in the pool area even for a short time. Pool chemicals, if ingested can result in severe ulcers in the mouth, esophagus and stomach.
Coolants, antifreeze, radiator fluid
Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, is extremely dangerous to dogs and cats and is one of the most common forms of poisoning in small animals. You may think by storing these products high on a shelf in your garage that your pets are safe. Be aware that antifreeze poisoning can often happen when antifreeze drips from a car’s radiator. Pets are attracted to the sweet taste, where it is licked off the ground and ingested. If you suspect your pet has ingested even a small amount, contact your veterinarian immediately. You may want to consider purchasing a pet friendly brand that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.
While the following are not summer time poisons, take note of other sources of the dangerous chemical ethylene glycol including: windshield deicing agents, motor oils, hydraulic brake fluid, developing solutions for photography, paints, solvents, etc.
Fireworks can be dangerous to pets in several ways. Humans may find these exciting and fun on the 4th of July, however, the loud noise can result in severe stress, fear and anxiety in your pets. Also when unused fireworks are left around the yard, it should come as no surprise that pets will eat just about anything. If ingested, pets can develop gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, a painful abdomen and bloody diarrhea.
Be careful not to leave a tube of sunscreen out and open for your pet to find. If your pet gets a hold of it, he or she can suffer irritation of the mouth and eyes as well as stomach upset. Keep in mind that this means but there are also dangers to be had if they lick sunscreen from your skin.
The best practice here is prevention and to be diligent about the dangers that these products present. If you find that your pet does consume any of these products, contact your veterinarian immediately. And, remember to take the product container with you to the vet.