Your Dog Hates The Vet? This One’s For You!

Courtesy of: Kaila and Dr. Gwen

Let’s face it…every dog is different!  For some of our patients, a trip to the vet is their favourite event in the day (not counting breakfast, lunch and supper, of course).  These dogs tear through our doors ready to greet everyone and have a fantastic time!  Then there are the other dogs…the ones for whom a visit to the vet is a terrifying event, causing stress and anxiety that often carries right through the rest of the day.  The big question is, how can we (both staff members and owners) try to help our dogs stay happy and stress-free while visiting the vet?

Here at Truro Vet we try to do everything we can to make your dog’s visit to the vet an enjoyable one; we want positive experiences and not negative ones. Coming to the vet can come with a lot of anxiety, not just for the dog, but for the owner as well. No owner likes to see his or her dog stressed out and worked up. Yet most of our patients love coming in. If yours is one of the poor dogs who does not love the visit, what can you do to make it at the very least tolerable and at the best (hopefully eventually) very fun?

  • If you’re starting off with a new puppy, you are lucky enough to have a blank slate.  Bring your puppy to puppy parties. We notice a HUGE difference in the puppies that have come here for Thursday Night Puppy Parties because they are pulling their owner to come IN rather then go out of the building. We have dogs that attended puppy parties years ago and still love to come to the vet because they had so many positive experiences at the vets. Oh and did we mention they are FREE?
  • Bring your dog to Obedience Classes. This is great if your dog is too old to attend puppy parties; we have a variety of different classes for different levels that can help your dog associate the vet as a fun place full of positive interactions and treats.
  • Visit us just for fun – stop by and get some treats. Have your dog sit on the scale for some freeze dried liver, and get some extra love and attention from the staff. These fun visits that aren’t associated with anything negative can really help to make the next visit be not quite as scary.

 

Now for some “tricks” you can teach your dog at home to make vet visits less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone involved. If you don’t know how to get started with any of the below behaviors contact us about training.

  • Train your dog to LOVE a crate, even if you don’t use it at home (although we really recommend that you do).  If your dog is in for any lengthy procedure they will be crated. It is a lot less stress on your pooch if they already enjoy being in the crate when they come to the vet then having to learn about a crate when they are already scared or painful.

Meeghan and Bear love their kennel!

  • Train your dog to stand still and tolerate being handled all over. Practice some pushing on the abdomen, or an arm reaching over his back, picking up and stretching legs carefully, even holding him still for restraint. Don’t forget to get him used to you looking in their ears, eyes, and mouth.
  • Teach your dog to lay on his side. This is a great body position for examination of legs and belly, also great position to lay in for nail trimmings or radiographs (X-rays).

Indy playing "dead"

  • Make sure your dog is comfortable with having his paws held so that it isn’t a fight for the staff to trim his nails – causing your poor dog even more stress at the visit.

Even with all this preparation, some dogs are just plain worried about their time here at the hospital.  There are a few ways that we can work together to lessen your best friend’s anxiety before it even starts.

  • Book the appointment for the beginning of your vet’s work day or right after a lunch or dinner break. This will reduce the waiting time until the vet can see your pet. The less time to wait, the less time to worry.
  • Ask when you book the appointment that you be allowed to be directed right into an exam room, away from other animals that might upset your dog.  When you arrive, leave your dog in the car (if it is safe to do so) and notify the staff of your arrival.
  • Exercise your dog before the visit. It is harder to worry about things if you are physically tired.
  • Skip the meal before the visit and bring some of his favorite treats. A hungry dog can be distracted with food more easily then a dog with a full belly.
  • Gentle leaders or head halters offer your dog some comfort in the office if he is used to wearing one. If you don’t use a head halter then just use a regular collar and leash, preferably not a chain collar or leash. They make scary sounds and can get very tight on your dog’s neck, making the anxiety worse. Please never use a prong collar on your dog. They are inhumane and can cause permanent damage to the throat area.
  • Dogs have empathetic souls. They can read your emotions without even working up a sweat. Your scent changes if you are anxious and they know that you are worried before you even know about it.   If possible, have the calmest person in the family to accompany your dog. Calmness is almost as contagious as anxiety. If you can exude a calm attitude so will your dog.
  • A good thorough exam of your dog takes time. Anxious dogs need more time to adapt to the new environment. The examination takes longer too. Worried dogs prefer the slow but steady approach. Don’t pick a day when you are on a tight schedule. Set yourself up to be calm and relaxed yourself.

Despite all our best efforts, some visits to the vet are likely to go more smoothly than others.  Try not to let a less than perfect trip keep you from coming again.  In fact, a few visits just to come in and get weighed can help remove any negative associations, for both you and your dog.  If you would like information on happier visits for cats, please visit our blog “NOT The Happiest Place On Earth!”

If you would like more information about helping your dog love us as much as we love him, please give us a call at 893-2341.  We can’t wait to see you soon!

 

A Story That Could Take Your Breath Away!

Courtesy of: Dr. Gwen

Veterinarians practice veterinary medicine.  I always thought that it was an odd thing to say.  A hockey player practices slap shots or a student of music might practice the piano, but this type of practice allows for mistakes.  After all, how can one learn without making mistakes?  In veterinary medicine, however, mistakes can result in harm and must be avoided at all costs.

I discovered in my first year in the practice of veterinary medicine, I could make mistakes too.  My own kitty, Uri, was the victim of one of my mistakes.

I started working as a vet in Ottawa in a busy animal hospital that also provided emergency care after hours and on weekends.  We had many interesting cases walk through the doors and I learned a lot in the four years that I was there.  I considered myself a fairly seasoned vet when I left vet school because I had worked as a student in veterinary hospital since I was twelve.  I thought I knew a lot.

That was my first mistake.  I quickly learned that there were many gaps in my education that I needed to fill.  Also, the skill of talking to pet care givers was an art form that had to be developed on my own.  I definitely learned that some vets make lousy pet owners!

One day, while trying to catch a little sleep after a long weekend shift, I woke to the sound that all cat owners come to dread … the windup retching to a big vomit.  The cough/gag woke me out of a deep sleep. I rolled over and groaned, wondering what sort of mess I was going to find when I surfaced to the world after my slumber.  “Hair balls” I grunted to myself and I made a mental note to give Uri some hairball medicine.

I treated Uri for hairballs for three days but the horrible retching cough persisted.  Uri still ate food and he still did his standard purr that made me fall in love with him, so I wasn’t worried.  On the third day, I laid down on the floor with him to pat him and play and I noticed that his tongue was a shade of pastel blue.  “That’s definitely not good!” I had to admit. “I think I better take him to work with me.”

In those days I didn’t have a car and I was too cheap to get a taxi, so I bundled him up in my backpack and bicycled to work.  In hindsight, I should have made the journey as low stress as possible because when a cat with breathing problems is stressed, death can result.  Surprisingly, he tolerated the trip and amazingly, he survived.  After chest x-rays and blood work we had a diagnosis…asthma, feline asthma.

Asthma is a condition seen in cats of all ages.  It is reoccurring and involves constriction of the airways along with excess mucus production and inflammation.  This makes it difficult to take a deep breath without considerable effort.  This results in exercise intolerance, coughing, and wheezes which may or may not be obvious.  There are many degrees of asthma that can range from a low grade hairball-like cough to severe asthma that can cause death.

Feline asthma can mimic a number of other diseases so doing some tests to identify it is necessary.  Treatment in the early stages can be quite successful and the key to long term control is prevention by improving air quality in the cat’s environment.  This includes avoiding cigarette smoke, spray on pesticides, using dustless cat litter, and  using air filters.

Diagnosing Uri made me feel like a bad pet owner and horrible vet.  I had been treating him for hairballs while he was suffocating from asthma.  In typical Uri style he didn’t hold it against me.  He happily took his medicine and got better within hours.  In a few days he was back to normal.  He forgave me.  Thank you Uri for the unconditional love and being such a good teacher.

Uri

 

Truro Vet Gives Back – In Mexico!

Courtesy of: Joye

Who doesn’t love a winter trip down south?  Many people in our area travel once a year (or more) to visit sunny climates during the depths of our stormy season.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling of checking into an all-inclusive resort for a week of soaking up the sun.  Not a care in the world!

But frequently, travellers like to take some trips outside of their little piece of tropical heaven.  They want to experience the local culture, see how the residents really live.  What they see isn’t always heavenly.  The people often live in poor conditions we would consider unacceptable…and they share these conditions with their pets.  There are also huge populations of stray dogs and cats unlike any that exist back home.

dog in Mexico

These holiday-ers will sometimes return to their resorts full of concern.  They express to the management that they are upset over the large numbers of stray animals and the poor conditions they live in.  The management will then report these concerns to the local government, as they are worried that tourists will no longer want to visit their resort if they see sights that are upsetting to them.  The local government then feels it must take action to preserve tourism…by carrying out large scale executions of dogs and cats to try to reduce their numbers.

In addition to being extremely inhumane, these mass killings of dogs and cats do little to address the problem of overpopulation.  It has been shown that the most effective way to handle these problems is through cooperative efforts between rescue groups, local government and members of the community to establish low or no cost spay/neuter programs.

mom with pups

That’s where Cats and Dogs International (CANDi) comes in.  CANDi is an organization that brings tourism businesses together with local animal welfare groups to implement programs that humanely address the issue of cat and dog overpopulation in destination communities.  They organize spay/neuter clinics in poor areas of resort communities and use international volunteers to staff them.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with Truro Vet.  On November 30, 2013, I will be flying to Cancun, Mexico, to participate in CANDi’s next spay/neuter clinic.  It will be a whirlwind trip of 5 (long) days carrying out as many spays and neuters of both owned and stray dogs and cats as we can possibly accomplish with a team of 30 people!

surgery in Mexico

All of the volunteers for CANDi’s clinics pay their own way to participate, and also try to take as many necessary supplies (such as surgical masks and gloves, IV catheters, medications, dewormers, etc) as possible down with them.  If you would like to support my trip to help pets in Mexico, please call us at 893-2341 or drop by.  All money raised will be used to offset the cost of travel and to purchase supplies for the clinics.  For those clients up to date on annual vaccinations with us, our nail trim donations for November will also be going to support this cause.  I am truly grateful for any donations and I’m happy to answer any further questions you might have.

For more information about how Truro Vet also gives back to pets and stray animals locally, please visit our blog, or call us with any questions.

My next blog will be coming up in December, after I return from this amazing experience.  I can’t wait to share our many success stories with everyone!

Recovering pets in Mexico

 

 

I Am A Veterinary Technician

Courtesy of: Charity

A wagging tail or a soft purr has the ability to melt my heart in an instant.  I am a sucker for a cute, furry face and because of this, every day I wear a smile from ear to ear (and of course a layer of fur on my scrubs). I can be a nurse, anesthesiologist, radiology technician, surgery assistant and a pharmacist within a matter of minutes and for this I certainly will always be a veterinarian’s closest sidekick.  I speak dog, cat, and even cow and can be found conversing with patients during any down time.  I enjoy a good cuddle and as a result become a companion, playmate, and parent many times a day.  I can be creative and clever, because every patient tests my wits.  Every single day I speak for those who speak with their eyes, and advocate for their every need right down to the blanket they want to curl up on.

I am a teacher to every animal`s human and, more importantly, a student to every four-legged friend.  I take lessons on having an appreciation for the little things in life.  I am a shoulder to cry on in a time of need.  I make a special connection with all patients and as a result, sometimes I need a shoulder to cry on as I shed a few tears. I take my work home with me, figuratively and occasionally literally. I work seven days a week, because even on my days off I am visiting or calling to check up on a certain patient that has touched my heart.

All of this I would not trade for the world, because I am a Veterinary Technician.

Charity enjoying her job!

 

Getting A (Stress-Free) Handle On Your Pets!

Courtesy of: Ashley

One of the wonderful things about working at Truro Veterinary Hospital is the encouragement and opportunity all staff members are given to continuously learn.  Recently six of us attended a two day seminar with amazing Animal Behaviourist, Dr. Sophia Yin.

Dr. Yin became a veterinarian in 1993.  Soon after, she realized that more and more pets were being brought in to be euthanized due to behaviour problems.  In 2001 she graduated with her Masters in Animal Science from UC Davis and focused her studies on Animal Behaviour.  Sophia learned that “Every pet needs a human who can lead.  Not like a boss, but like a partner in a dance – someone who gives clear signals,  rewards desirable behaviour as it occurs, removes rewards for inappropriate behaviour immediately, and sticks to the plan consistently until the new, good behaviour is a habit.”  Her knowledge of animal behaviour is widespread and watching her throughout the seminar was like watching Picasso paint…simply put…stunning!

Dr. Yin spoke to a wide range of audience members, including pet owners, day care and kennel workers, groomers, veterinarians and veterinary staff.  She spoke at length about the “Earn to Learn Program” where pets (dogs AND cats, among other species) should learn to say “please” by sitting for anything they want.  This can be for something like putting on a leash, waiting for you to throw their toy, or sitting for attention.  Having your pet sit for attention also reinforces no jumping, and if your puppy learns to do this at a young age, it will become a habit before they are big enough to knock someone over!

Puppies start learning at a very young age when they are still with their mother and littermates.  They are like sponges in the sense that they soak up everything – including the bad behaviours we, as pet owners, don’t want.   They learn by trial and error – if they do something that works they will continue doing it.  Starting to train your puppy as soon as you introduce them into your family will not only start them off on the right paw, but show them what is appropriate and what is not.  Introducing your puppy to a wide range of objects and noises will give them more confidence.  For more information, visit our blog on socialization!  As pet owners, we must realize that every interaction with our pet is a training session.  Dr. Yin has published a book called The Perfect Puppy in 7 Days which portrays her own experiences training puppies.  She gives a step-by-step guide to start you off.  Kaila, our trainer, has also learned many of Dr. Yin’s techniques and will be happy to help you put them into practice.

One of the main reasons I wanted to attend Dr. Yin’s seminar was to learn how to better handle your pets while they are here visiting us.  Dr. Yin discussed techniques outlined in her book Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behaviour Modifications of Dogs and Cats.  In this lecture, she gave us pointers to help your pet love their visit or stay at our hospital.  She focused on Desensitization & Counter-Conditioning (learning by association) or Operant Counter-Conditioning (learning by trial and error) of pets for things like blood draws, exams and x-rays.

Counter-conditioning is when we put the pet in a new emotional state by pairing food (a pleasant experience) with an experience the pet may be nervous about.  This method may not be effective for all pets, however, especially if they are already very stressed about the experience before we get the opportunity to offer them food.

Operant Counter-Conditioning is using positive reinforcement paired with negative punishment.  Positive reinforcement means to reinforce (reward) something the pet has done in order to increase the likelihood it will happen again.  For example, when your dog sits quietly in her crate, a treat can let her know that you appreciate that behaviour and want to see it again.  Negative punishment involves removing the reward the pet is hoping for in order to decrease the chance that the pet will perform that behaviour again.  For example, when your dog jumps up for attention, leaving the room and providing no attention will reduce the chance that he will jump up the next time he wants attention.

Dr. Yin demonstrated some towel restraint techniques to use on dogs and cats that can reduce their stress level and that are safer for them and us.  However, the steps to helping your pet enjoy a visit to the veterinary hospital really start before they even arrive.  I learned some new tips and techniques to counsel owners that they can work on at home, such as getting your cat or dog used to a carrier or a muzzle.  Another tip that can make your pet’s visit pleasant is to give them lots of rewards while they are here.  That doesn’t necessarily mean treats.  Each pet is different in stressful situations so what works at home might not work at the veterinary hospital.  If your dog simply enjoys lots of attention, we can reward her by everyone (staff and owners) telling the pet they are a “good boy/girl” and providing plenty of pats and rubs.  If your dog likes toys then playing with them in the exam room while you are waiting can ease their stress level.  Not feeding your pet before his/her appointment and bringing their meal with you so we can hand it out to them could make it a good experience for them, as they may think “if I’m good I might get more food”.  All these tips don’t take extra time at all; just using what “wait time” you have wisely.

Dr. Yin uses “7 general principles of handling difficult dogs”, all of which I believe we do well here, but there is always room for improvement.  She reinforced the importance of being part of and providing a comfortable and safe environment, possessing the skills to know how to support each pet, and knowing where to hold and the degree of restraint needed for each individual pet.  All pets are individual and the protocol used will vary from pet to pet.  Knowing what works and what doesn’t will help us to be successful in making your pet’s next visit more positive.

We were shown the correct way to greet a dog.  It is best to approach scared dogs while standing with your back to them and offering treats.  Once the pet is calm, sit side-on (don’t bend over them) and let them come to you.  Keep your movements slow.  She demonstrated that when doing all of these things incorrectly, it can make you look like some alien creature from outer-space with a knife in hand…scary!  Videos and photographs were a big part of her seminar, and it reinforced my knowledge on reading body language with cats and dogs.

At the seminar, we got to see firsthand the importance of timing rewards correctly so you capture the correct behaviour.  Some people who attended brought their “pets with issues” so Dr. Yin could demonstrate techniques.  We learned the difference between the incorrect deliverance time and the correct one.  She demonstrated how using the correct deliverance time is crucial when trying to keep the pet’s attention when you are working with them.  Keeping your pet focused on you will make training far easier with your pet.  She spoke again of “being a partner in a dance”, and indicated that your posture when training can mean one thing when you want another.  Being aware of where your hands and arms are, bending at the knees, and your movement speed are all factors that will increase your success when working with your pet.

Dr. Sophia Yin has a wonderful website with lots of information and resources.  She has multiple books (I bought two!) and DVDs with LOTS of tips.  If you have the opportunity to purchase any of her resources or better yet, see one of her seminars in person, I highly recommend you attend.  I left with more knowledge than my brain could store and I will be using her references frequently!   If you would like more information, please contact us at 893-2341!

Special thanks to Dr. Gwen Mowbray-Cashen for providing us with this opportunity to learn, to Betty at Stay N Play Canine Centre for organizing Dr. Yin’s seminar in Truro and last, but not least, to Dr. Sophia Yin for opening my eyes further to the world of Animal Behaviour!

Our staff with Dr. Yin

 

Nothing Brightens A Day Quite Like A Kitten!

Courtesy of: Joye

Before you ask, no, we don’t take strays!  That sounds like a rather tough rule, but as a Veterinary Hospital we handle requests from overwhelmed folks almost daily, asking us to take in a stray cat (often pregnant or a new mom with many kittens) or rehome a kitty who just isn’t working out any longer.  Sadly, we just don’t have the space or resources to help all the animals in need.  That means that we have a rule of only seeing stray cats who need medical assistance.

That first paragraph is very important.  I will refer back to it several times during this blog.

Because sometimes…rules just get bent.  Take Pineapple and Papaya.  No, we aren’t specializing in tropical fruits these days.  Instead, we have two little visitors hanging out with us, looking for forever homes.  This is their story.

Meet Pineapple.

Pineapple!

Pineapple is a male short-haired orange tabby kitten brought to us a couple of weeks ago.  When he arrived, he was about 4 weeks old with a belly full of worms and a bad attitude.  Well, a fearful attitude anyway.  Pineapple was brought in by a caring lady who found him and felt he had been abandoned and was doing poorly.  One look at that little face and we just had to take him in.

Remember…we don’t take strays!

Meet Papaya.

Papaya!

Papaya is a female short-haired calico kitten who arrived just a few days after Pineapple.  She’s a little older (about 16 weeks when she arrived) and she was brought in by some folks who were worried she seemed sick or injured.  Luckily, her main issues were fleas, worms and ear mites, all of which we treated with Revolution.  Papaya is a super groomer and within a couple of days her fur was sparkling.  Her personality is sparkling too, and she loves to cuddle and be petted.

So, within three days we had accumulated 2 kittens.  (Remember, we don’t take strays!)  The SPCA is already overrun, so we decided to hang on to these guys until we could test them for Feline Leukemia and get them vaccinated.  Once they both passed their test (with flying colours) we introduced them and they became fast friends instantly.

Now, I mentioned that Pineapple didn’t have the best attitude when he arrived.  We don’t think he had had much interaction with people before he arrived with us.  We have never been put off by a cranky cat, however, and a little ½ pound ball of fur was no match for us.  With a lot of patience and care, soon Pineapple came to see people as an essential source of comfort and (very importantly) food!  In fact, as you can see in this photo, he’s sleeping on my arm as I write this very blog!

Snuggly Pineapple :)

Remember – we don’t take strays!

One universal fact about Veterinary Hospital staff is that we love kittens!  Having kittens in the clinic is a fantastic morale booster.  Having a bad day?  Go cuddle a kitten.  Need a laugh?  Watch tiny Pineapple wrestle Papaya to the ground.  Even the busiest day is made a little easier when we can pause for moment and watch kittens playing…or eating…or sleeping…or heck even using the litterbox is adorable when kittens do it!  Having kittens is great, but there are two major drawbacks.

The first is quality of life for the kittens.  While we handle them as much as possible, and these kittens are each lucky enough to have each other, the treatment room of a Veterinary Hospital is really no place for a cat to live.  On slow days, the kittens can come out and socialize with us and each other, but on busy days they can spend almost 24 hours confined to a kennel.  While we make sure they are fed and have clean litter, they don’t always get the attention and exercise they deserve.  They are also missing out on some important bonding time with their new parents in a forever home.

The second drawback to having kittens is the expense.  There are several costs associated with having kittens in the clinic, including Feline Leukemia Testing, deworming and flea control, vaccines, food and cat litter.  A conservative estimate of costs for each kitten so far is about $250 and it keeps growing daily.  This doesn’t even include the time that staff members volunteer on the weekends to care for the kittens when we are closed.  Our clinic has established the Lost Souls Fund to help provide for the care of strays like these, but every nickel spent on kitten care takes a little away from other pets that may need help.

So, as you may remember, we don’t take strays.  Well, we try really hard not to.  Once we have them, however, it becomes our number one priority to find them a new, loving forever home.  If you have room in your heart and household for one (or both) of our little kittens, please give us a call at 893-2341 to get more information.  We also accept donations to the Lost Souls Fund to provide for their care and that of other needy strays.  We regret that we cannot issue tax receipts for donations, but we do appreciate every dollar we receive.

Papaya says "Come pick me up soon!" :)

Both Pineapple and Papaya have found wonderful forever homes and settled in perfectly.

 

A Tired Dog Is A Happy Dog!

Courtesy of: Brea

Many dog owners are surprised with the amount of energy their dog seems to have.  When dogs have too much built-up energy, they can display it in a number of unhealthy ways such as chewing, barking, and destroying anything they can get their mouths on!  My motto is “A tired dog is a happy dog” and it’s true!  There are numerous ways to help channel your dog’s energy in a healthy way.

Walking, running, or even bicycling with your dog is a great way to help burn off some energy. These repetitive movements strengthen your dog’s muscles and help to get them in shape.  Oh, and by the way, it’s great exercise for you too!  For people with really high energy dogs (like Cooper, my German Shorthaired Pointer), you can purchase this amazing invention- a backpack for dogs!  This gives the dog a real “job” to do. Whether you pack his own things inside, or add some weights, it amplifies the walk so your dog has to work harder thus burning more energy.  Remember to start light and gradually build up the weight.  Also, make sure you have an equal weight in both sides of the backpack.  As a general rule, the weight should not exceed between 15-30% of your dog’s body weight.  If you aren’t sure, remember to consult with your veterinarian to determine how much your dog should carry.

Cooper's backpack

If you have a dog like mine who doesn’t think he even belongs on a leash, there are many “off leash” activities that can really help burn off that energy.  Make sure your dog has a reliable recall (comes when called) so it is safe for both you and your dog.  Our Trainer, Kaila, will be happy to help you in this area.  One of Cooper’s all-time favorite things to do is go to the dog park.  He absolutely LOVES other dogs, and could spend the entire day there if I would let him.  Taking your dog to the dog park is a fabulous way to socialize them with other dogs, and people as well.  People enjoy when I bring my dog  there because he is SO busy, he really tires out the other dogs!  I assure you, your dog will sleep on the drive home.

Another favorite pastime of Cooper’s is going to the field.  Whether it’s playing ball or running around foolishly, he has a blast.  There are also many off-leash trails that you can take them to really burn off some steam.  Just be on the lookout for any wildlife you may encounter.  A reliable recall is a huge asset when your best friend comes nose to nose with a skunk or porcupine!  We particularly like to go to places that have water near them so he can swim.  Swimming is another exercise that is great for your dog.  Swimming is great for your dog’s joints and helps to cool them off on hot summer days.

German Shorthaired Pointers are not only great companion animals, but they were bred to be very versatile hunting dogs.  My boyfriend does a lot of hunting during the season, so they are involved in a hunting club called NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association).

Cooper's a hunting dog!

Many dogs were bred for a specific purpose, whether it’s hunting, herding, or racing. Giving your working dog a “job” by letting them channel their instincts toward what they were bred for is a great way to help relieve energy in a healthy way.  If you don’t provide them with healthy outlets, your dog can display these instincts in undesirable ways.  For example,  a border collie who is not stimulated enough and not given a job to do, could start nipping at your heels or herding small children.

Many people tend to only think of the ways to make your dog physically tired.  Just as importantly, you can actually make your dog mentally tired.  This can come in handy when your dog is recovering from a surgery and has to refrain from physical activity for an extended period of time.  If you’ve read my previous blog regarding Cooper’s experiences with the “cone of shame”, you’ll remember that this is how I made it through his neuter experience!  Stimulating a dog’s mind is very exhausting for them.  Training requires your dog to think a lot, whether it’s regular obedience, or just teaching a new trick.

Cooper's new trick!

There are also many types of toys that help to keep them busy.  One of my favorite is called a “Kong Wobbler”.

Kong Wobbler

I bring Cooper to work with me here at the clinic every morning.  He used to hate coming here until I started using this fabulous invention.  I screw off the bottom and place his breakfast inside. He has to move it around so his kibble can fall out of the small hole.  By the time he finishes his breakfast, he is tired again!  It takes about half an hour for my dog to get all of the kibble out.  Another toy that we use is a Rubber Kong with stuffed with cheese whiz or peanut butter.  We then put it in the  freezer and it makes a nice tasty cold treat for your dog.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, I still have to tell you about my all-time favorite activity to do with my dog… AGILITY!

Cooper loves agility too!

I absolutely love agility training.  It is a fabulous way to spend time with your dog.  Agility will help to fulfill your dog’s natural instincts.  These courses are designed to replicate types of natural scenarios and fulfill the instincts of your working dog.  Running a course that involves many different types of obstacles will challenge your dog both mentally and physically.  This will help to strengthen muscles, improve coordination, keep him fit, and increase endurance.  Agility training helps strengthen the bond between you and your dog.  Your dog is dependent on you on the course and could not do it without you.  Leading your dog through an agility course will help reinforce basic obedience commands, improve communication, and improve your dog’s behavior outside of the agility course. Agility will also help you get in shape, too!  You will learn very quickly if you have a fast dog, you need to be fast on the course.  Take it from me!

If you have any questions about keeping your dog tired and happy, feel free to contact me at brea@trurovet.com or give us a call at 843-2341.  Also, Cooper and I spend lots of time at the dog park if you want your dog to get a good workout!

Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog!

A tired dog is a happy dog!

 

Myth Busting: TVH Style!

Courtesy of: Kaila

I would like to clear up a few myths about dog training in this blog, as I see these myths in practice far too often. Even though positive dog training techniques have become widespread, “negative” or discipline-based training using physical force has become more common.  This is likely due to the increasing popularity of television shows that feature it.

There are many punishing and/or confrontational techniques used to control dogs (NONE of which we encourage or recommend) including: sharp leash corrections meant to cause discomfort; hitting or kicking the dog; applying electric shock; applying physical force to pressure a dog into a submissive down position; or the “alpha roll,” which forces the dog on its back in an apparently submissive position.  There are a variety of other techniques involving shouting, threatening stares or growls, use of water sprays or water guns, or grabbing the dog by the scruff of the neck or the jowls and shaking it.  How do you think these “techniques” make your dog feel?  They cause fear, stress and even pain.

Shock collars cause pain

Fear inhibits the ability to listen and learn.

For example, take your biggest fear; is it heights, spiders, or snakes? No matter what it is, now imagine yourself in that experience, whether it is falling from the CN Tower, or being locked in a room full of spiders or snakes . . . how well do you think you could LEARN something new while you are surrounded by your fear?  Chances are you aren’t going to learn anything because you are so stressed that you likely would have issues with listening and following instructions given to you – even to do something simple like write your name on a piece of paper.

Why then would we expect our dogs to be able to learn when they are in a fearful state of mind – a state of mind that we have created with one of the above listed “techniques”?

Punishment is not successful at teaching behavioral changes.

Just imagine:

You have a boss that speaks another language and you don’t understand your job requirements. Every time you make a mistake, your boss slaps you.  Now add a little inconsistency:  sometimes you get slapped after a behavior and sometimes you don’t, so you never know which response to expect.  He also yells at you A LOT.  When he tries to teach you something new and starts yelling…do you work harder or do you just shut down in fear and brace for the inevitable beating?

In times of conflict, are you the type of person that becomes very quiet and basically melts into the floor, focusing on anything but the confrontation? Perhaps instead you get angry and defensive, even yelling back?  Like people, there are dogs that may fall into either category.  By using physical pain, and punishment animals become unwilling to try to learn for fear of failure, pain and oncoming punishment.  Some dogs shut down and go to their “happy place” while others may be pushed far enough that they lash back at you in defense.

Now let’s look at things from a positive reinforcement point of view.  This is type of training that we offer and promote at Truro Vet.  Not only are the dogs willing, but they are excited to show of all their behaviours when they are trying to learn something new.  They don’t have ANY FEAR of failure, because there is no discipline for a “wrong answer”.  Any undesired behaviours are just ignored.  It is much easier to train a dog that is willing and excited to learn than to train a dog that is afraid of making a mistake.

Back to your boss.  Now imagine a scenario where every time you worked a little bit harder at your job, you got a nice big bonus.  Perhaps every time you politely greeted a client you got rewarded with a candy.  You are likely to repeat these types of behaviours over and over – because you got positive results.  Who doesn’t like to have a bit of extra cash?  How about that candy reward for what you might think is a “simple” task – I LOVE candy (especially Skittles)!  You’ll likely also try to find out other ways that you can earn candy and bonuses, making you more motivated.  The same thing happens with our dogs; they are so highly motivated by the rewards we have to offer them that they work harder to get their next reward.

Happy training session!

If you have questions about various training techniques, be sure to contact us at 893-2341.  We would love to discuss ways that you can build your bond with your dog in a loving, positive manner.

 

 

Heartworm – Should You Be Worried?

Courtesy of:  Dr. Melissa

Most of us visiting a veterinary clinic regularly are familiar with monthly parasite prevention for fleas, ticks and intestinal worms. These are bugs we often see on our pets, and it makes sense to prevent them!  There are parasites that are more difficult to see however…and one of those is heartworm.  Although heartworm disease is not common in our area, many parasite preventives are effective against it, and for good reason!

Heartworm infection happens when an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat and deposits larvae.  These larvae become young adults, then migrate to the heart and pulmonary arteries.  Mature female worms release larvae (microfilariae) into the bloodstream which are then picked up by more mosquitoes.  It takes 6-7 months for this process to occur.  Areas with warm climates (ie. more mosquitoes) pose a much higher risk to pets, especially in the summer months.  It is endemic (very common) in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coastline, the Mississippi River, Australia, Japan and the Mediterranean.  Male outdoor dogs and sporting breeds are more prone to infection because of higher exposure to mosquitoes.  Although cats can be infected with heartworm, they are more resistant to the disease.

Most pets with heartworm show no symptoms, which means the only way to know is to test for it.  With a small blood sample, we can test for heartworm in our hospital in 10-15 minutes.  More specialized tests are needed in some cases.  Once the disease is mature and has progressed symptoms include coughing, exercise intolerance, weight loss, and collapse.  Heartworm disease can be life threatening, eventually causing right-sided heart failure.

It is much easier to prevent heartworm than treat for it.  Treatment is expensive with the potential for serious side effects, and permanent lung damage from the disease is common.

Animals in our area most at risk for heartworm infection are those who come from or travel to temperate climates.  For example, getting a dog from a rescue group in an area with heartworm, or traveling to Florida for the winter.  These pets should be on monthly preventives for heartworm, especially while traveling and for two months when they return home.  A heartworm test should be done each spring, especially if you have missed doses of medication.

If you have any questions regarding heartworm disease or parasite prevention in general, please call us at 893-2341!

Roxie gets heartworm preventative monthly, just in case!

 

Guest Post: A Volunteer’s Experience

Courtesy of: Kaitlyn – Veterinary Administrative Assistant Student Volunteer

Volunteering at Truro Vet was a very good experience.  All the people I met were amazing and helpful, and all the animals I met I fell in love with.  I will never forget them.  I wish I could stay with their team forever but I need to spread my wings.  They helped me grow and move on.  Working at an animal hospital you need to have compassion for every animal that comes in the hospital as well as the owner.  You need to think of it as your pet and how you would feel in the owner’s shoes.

Working at this hospital for 6 weeks, I thought it was going to be the longest 6 weeks of my life and to tell you the truth I didn’t even want to go there in the first place, because I thought I would do nothing but clean kennels!  Now that I only have 2 days left I don’t ever want it to end!  The 14 people I met while I was there, you couldn’t ask for better co-workers; they are an awesome team of people.  There are 3 Technicians (#1 – the youngest, #2 – always has the chair sitting on the ground, #3 – ask her anything and she will give you the definition);  3 Doctors (#1 – you can ask her if she needs help but she never does, #2 – she’s the shortest, #3 – she will answer any questions you have); 4 Assistants (#1 – she’s very emotional, #2 – always cleaning, #3 – very tall,  #4 – always laughing and making jokes); and 4 Receptionists (#1 – always asks about my dog, #2 – went school with her, #3 – she never gets mad, #4 – she hates if you ring the bell more than once).  What the heck…why don’t we just make it 5 Assistants!?!

The things people do for their animals are the same things they do for their kids, and for some owners, their pet is their kid and they want them to be the happiest little cat or dog.  Sometimes, that means their kid is a little rounder then others, but that’s why they go to Truro Vet so they can get help with any problems.  The people at Truro Vet will never forget your animal because they all have so much compassion for their job.  Something I was told from one of the other assistants when I was there was “Never stop caring “and I will never forget that.

One of my favourite memories volunteering happened on a Friday afternoon around 3pm.  A beautiful dog came in that wasn’t in very good shape and needed our help.  I fell in love with him at first sight, all I wanted to do is cuddle him (but at the same time I didn’t because he didn’t smell too good) but that didn’t stop me.  I sat with him for 2 hours and then it was my time to go home .  I didn’t want to, but at the same time I knew he was going to be in good hands.  Monday came and all I could think about all weekend was that cute dog I met on Friday and I hoped he went to a good home, but there he was still at the hospital at 9am Monday morning.  The first thing I did was ask about him and then I jumped in the cage with him and started to cuddle him like I did Friday.  Then one of the Technicians came over and told me the bad news, and it was that he wasn’t doing so good, his kidneys were failing and there was nothing else they could do for him.  All I could do is cry and smile, and now you are probably wondering why I was smiling?  That’s because I knew he didn’t have to suffer any longer.  That dog was a strong dog, a loving dog, a dog I will never forget, he’s the reason I want to help animals.

Kaitlyn loving her dog, Duke