Dogs that pull excessively can put their owners at risk of injury, as well as making daily walking a chore and an annoyance. There are several options to help reduce pulling, but there is no “magic” collar/harness to stop the behavior. TRAINING, TRAINING, and more TRAINING combined with a specific collar or harness will give you the best results and make walking your dog a pleasant experience. If your dog is 6 months or older you can train using a corrective collar. Puppies younger than 6 months should only train with a buckle collar. Below are some available training collars/harnesses:
This is a true training collar. It works by pressing slightly on the dog’s muzzle and neck. This collar is self-correcting. You never need to pull or yank on it. Instead, the dog will correct itself when it pulls. When the dog tries to pull, he will feel pressure that will push his head down and pull his muzzle to the side. Where the head goes, the body follows. This collar is an excellent training collar in that it does not cause or heighten aggression. These collars do require patience to teach your dog to wear them and be comfortable. There are excellent training instructions included when you purchase these collars. The most well-known brand is Gentle Leader Chic® (this is the doctors’ favorite!) www.petsafe.net. The Gentle Leader website has a demonstration video. Halti® (www.halti.com) and Canny (www.cannyco.us) are other brands. There is also one designed for brachycephalic (“smush-face”) dogs, called the Snoot Loop® (www.snootloop.com).
A “regular” harness is designed to allow, and even encourage, a dog to pull and to prevent damage to the neck. However, there are now several “anti-pull” harnesses on the market. There are several different designs, which discourage pulling via different methods. The Gentle Leader Easy Walk® harness (www.gentleleader.com) places the leash across the front (pectorals) of the dog and squeezes the shoulders when the dog pulls forward. The Sporn® harness (www.sporn.com) causes discomfort by pulling/squeezing in the “armpits” of the dog when the dog pulls forward. These harnesses do not always work well for very exuberant dogs, but are a nice option. These do not cause or heighten aggression and are an option for dogs who cannot wear collars.
Prong collars are used to provide correction for the “wrong or bad” behavior. They work by pinching the skin when the dog pulls. Although this is less traumatic to deeper structures than a slip chain, it does correct by discomfort. They should be loose except when performing an actual correction. If a dog is pulling despite wearing a prong collar, then the collar is not being used correctly. These collars should only be used under the supervision of a trainer and should never be left on the dog. In some dogs, correction using a prong collar can increase aggression. Also, using a prong incorrectly or harshly can cause wounds to the neck as well as damage your emotional bond with your dog. Finally, this collar should never be pulled over the head—instead the links are made to disconnect so the collar “falls off” the neck.
Slip-chain (Choke) Collars
Slip-chain collars, or choke chains, are one of the oldest training collars. These collars require excellent training skills to use correctly. The collar sits high on the neck and corrects the dog with a fast tug and release method. It is important the collar be fitted correctly—if it is too long or too short it will not work. A dog that continues to pull while wearing this collar is at risk of choking and damaging his neck. If a dog is pulling despite wearing a choke collar, then the collar is not being used correctly. This collar should only be used under the supervision of a trainer and should never be left on the dog. There are so many other easier/better options available that we do not recommend this collar.
Many pets suffer from severe anxiety this time of year. Fireworks can put many of our pets over the edge, and we all know that the fireworks displays are not limited to the 4th of July; we can expect several weekends on either side of the holiday.
Thunderstorms trigger anxiety in multiple ways. Not only does the light, noise, and vibrations trigger fear, but the changes in electromagnetic energy and static electricity in the air plays a big role as well.
What can we do? Depending on the level of anxiety, simple adjustments can minimize the problem.
- Move the pet to a central room in the house.
- Play white noise or music that will mask the sounds.
- Close blinds or drapes so that the visual stimulation is minimized.
- Thundershirts– These are jackets that work on the same principal as swaddling. By wrapping the pet in these shirts, acupressure is applied that helps your pet feel safe. While these don’t work in every pet, many experience complete relief. These are available here at Mill Creek Animal Clinic, on Amazon, and in many pet stores. They should be sized appropriately, so we recommend bringing your pet with you so we can measure and fit him or her with the best size.
- Desensitization-Find a recording of thunderstorms and fireworks. Play the recording at a low level over time, gradually increasing the volume. It is important that you are playing with your dog during these sessions so that he associates the noise with positive behavior.
- POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT– avoid giving your dog the calming pats and hugs while he is experiencing the events, as this could reinforce the behavior. Get your pet use to sitting at your feet or in a safe place in the house (when it isn’t storming) and rewarding and reinforcing this location as his safe place. Do this all year round. Obviously, don’t scold your pet. Negative reinforcement is still reinforcement.
- Natural Remedies– The essential oil Lavender has calming affects as well as the phermone product Adaptil. There are also products that are based on natural proteins that simulates the protein from their mothers milk, making the pet feel safe. Composure Pro and Zylkene fall into this category, and we have had a lot of success with these products. Adaptil is available here as a plug in diffuser, and also as a collar that you put right on the dog. Cats respond favorably to Feliway.
- Pharmaceuticals – Probably the most reliable form of anti-anxiety treatment for the majority of pets. Medications like alprazolam (Xanax), trazodone, and gabapentin all can be effective. The goal of these medications is to inhibit the anxiety receptors, not just sedating the dog. Straight tranquilizers like acepromazine are not recommended as sole agents, since they tranquilize the patient but don’t take away the fear. In the long run, this can make the anxiety worse.
Your pet may respond to any single treatment above, but most pets require a multi-modal approach to find the best and most effective treatment plan. Trial and error is the only way to find which treatments work and at which doses, so plan ahead, we will need time prior to the stress event to find the best therapy.
The ingestion of Antifreeze by pets is extremely toxic. Because antifreeze has a sweet taste, it is also one of the most common poisonings of dogs, cats, wildlife and even birds. Often animals are poisoned around their own home due to the improper storage or disposal of antifreeze. As little as a teaspoon can be fatal for pets.
It is estimated that over 78% of animals with antifreeze toxicity die. The toxic component of antifreeze is ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol has one of the highest fatality rates of all poisons. If you believe your pet has ingested antifreeze you should call your veterinarian immediately. It may be too late if you wait for symptoms to occur.
Often pets ingest antifreeze unnoticed. Therefore it is prudent to mentions the signs of ethylene glycol toxicity. There are three stages of poisoning. The first two stages can pass unnoticed.
Stage 1 – (30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion)
Pet may appear drunk; staggering, increased thirst, increased urination and/or vomiting. The body temperature may drop and the pet can appear depressed. It is also possible that seizures, coma and/or death can occur during this stage, depending on the amount of antifreeze ingested.
Stage 2 – (12 to 24 hours after ingestion)
The respiration rate of the pet increases and heart rate may increase or decrease. Other signs may go away giving a false sign of recovery.
Stage 3 – (24 to 72 hours hours after ingestion for dogs and 12 to 24 hours in cats)
Kidney failure occurs in this stage. More vomiting and diarrhea can occur along with severe depression and seizures. Eye lesions and/or oral lesions can also develop. Coma and death may follow within a day.
Treatment requires immediate diagnosis and early intervention. Your pet will be hospitilized for several days and given IV fluids among other medications.
The best way to prevent this from occuring is to limit your pets and other peoples pets exposure to your antifreeze. Always clean up antifreeze spills immediately. Check your car for leaks. Store your antifreeze containers in areas that are inaccessible to pets. Never allow your pets near you when you are draining antifreeze from your car. Carefully dispose of any antifreeze products. There are less toxic forms of antifreeze that you can use instead of conventional ethylene glycol containing products. These products contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. Preston Low Tox® and Sierra® are two types available in automobile shops. Although, if your pet ingests any type of antifreeze you need to contact your veterinarian immediately.
There are many delicious sugar free gums available for people to choose from. But did you know that some of these gums can be fatal to your dog if ingested? Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can drop your dogs blood sugar levels rapidly and cause liver toxicity. This artificial sweetener can be found in many different types of objects including gum, sugar-free candy, flavored drinks, peanut butter, protein powders, tooth paste, vitamins, sunscreen and deodorants.
Symptoms of xylitol toxicity include tiredness, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty walking, seizures or falling down. Since blood sugar levels can fall to a dangerous level within an hour of eating the toxic ingredient, immediate veterinary care is essential.
Treatment for xylitol ingestion will depend on how recently and how much of the toxin was eaten. If your dog ate xylitol within 1-2 hours, your veterinarian will induce vomiting to try and prevent absorption of the toxin. Sadly, the gum manufacturers are very secretive about the amount of xylitol in each of their gum varieties, since this is considered part of their trademarked recipe, so we have a difficult time determining how much is dangerous.
AS LITTLE AS 2-3 PIECES CAN CAUSE TOXICITY IN A 10 POUND DOG!!!
If your pet’s blood sugar is low, your veterinarian will recommend hospitalization with IV fluids to help keep your pet’s blood sugar at a safe level. While at the hospital, your dog’s blood sugar will be checked every few hours. Due to the risk of liver damage, your veterinarian will also recommend submitting blood work to monitor liver health. Other medications for your patient while they are in-hospital could include anti-nausea medications, liver protectants and antacids.
If your dog only suffers from low blood sugar, they will usually make a quick recovery and be able to leave the hospital within 1-2 days. However, if liver damage is present, a longer hospital stay with more aggressive care will be needed to try and get your animal feeling better.
Due to the dangers of this toxin, we recommend keeping all gum/candy out of reach of our furry friends. Also, before feeding peanut butter, please check the label to make sure xylitol is not present.
IN HOMES WITH CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS-EXERCISE CAUTION! FRIENDS MAY HAVE GUM IN THEIR PURSES AND THE DOG MAY GET ACCESS! We aren’t suggesting searching your children’s friends for contraband…or maybe we are ;).
ORBIT, TRIDENT, ICE BREAKERS, AND STRIDE ARE JUST A FEW. IF YOU SEE XYLITOL ON THE LABEL….DON’T BUY IT!
Did you know that grapes and raisins are toxic to your canine companion? New research is also suggesting that cats and ferrets can also experience kidney damage from ingesting grapes/raisins. While the exact toxin within the fruits is still under investigation, a potential theory is that a fungus within the fruit causes the kidney failure seen in dogs.
If your dog eats grapes/raisins, please bring them to a veterinarian immediately to see if your doctor will be able to induce vomiting. It is highly recommended to make your dog vomit within 1-2 hours of eating grapes/raisins. Since we do not fully understand what causes kidney failure with these ingestions, we recommend treating every exposure as potentially toxic.
Due to the complete lack of information on the toxic nature of grapes, we would recommend including any grape juice or grape flavoring (medications) in the list of items to avoid.
Signs of a grape/raisin toxicity include decreased appetite, vomiting, lethargy, belly pain, drooling, increased water consumption, difficulty walking or decreased urine production.
Even if the patient successfully vomits the toxic fruit, we still recommend hospitalization with IV fluids for three days to support kidney health and flush out the toxin. Your veterinarian will recommend doing blood work to evaluate kidney health immediately after the grape ingestion so we have baseline kidney values to compare to later. Blood work will be repeated again at the 72 hour mark to ensure that kidney damage has not occurred. While your animal remains in the hospital, they would also receive anti-nausea medications and antacids to help with nausea as well as prevent stomach ulcers.
If kidney values remain within normal limits on supportive care, this is a good sign for your pet and he/she most likely they will make a speedy recovery!
Pet food companies have been marketing grain free diets in the past decade, and insinuate that these diets are much healthier for our pets, as though corn, wheat, and rice are harmful. Most veterinarians have been skeptical of these marketing gimmicks. They have made pet food companies a lot of money, but most veterinarians have been skeptical about benefit claims of these foods. Research is indicating that not only are they not beneficial, they could be downright harmful.
New research has indicated a link between grain-free diets and a heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy. This is a heart condition that causes the heart to become enlarged and walls of the heart to become thin. In-turn, the heart can not function the way it is supposed to, and eventually leads to heart failure which can be life-threatening.
In grain-free diets, the grains are replaced with legumes, which are another plant. The most common legumes found in grain-free diets are peas, chickpeas, lentils and soybeans. The lack of grains in these diets cause a decrease in an amino acid called Taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that is found in high concentrations of the heart muscle. The lack of this amino acid in grain free diets is what newest research is indicating as being a possible link to developing heart disease.
Many times in our allergy patients, owners choose to put their pets on grain-free diets to help with clinical signs of allergies and believe that their allergies have improved. When in actuality, the allergy clinical signs have likely resolved because of the change to a novel protein (protein pet has never been exposed to before) in the diet that many limited-ingredients and grain-free diets encompass (IE: venison, rabbit, kangaroo, bison, salmon etc). Grain-allergies in dogs are very rare and majority of dogs food allergies are from the meat proteins in their diets.
Grains are a great source of proteins for your pets and do not need to be avoided. Much of this research is in the early stages but at this time, we are recommending that if your pet is on a grain-free diet to reconsider this dietary choice. Changing your pet’s diet is the most conservative action until more definitive research regarding this is emerging concern is recognized. If you do not wish to change your pet’s diet, an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and blood Taurine levels is recommended to screen pets for changes related to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).
Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a devastating disease. Our goal is to give you the latest information on this emerging medical research so that we can keep your pet as healthy as possible.
If you have any questions about grain-free diets, switching your dogs diet or screenings for heart disease feel free to contact Mill Creek Animal Clinic.
Basic House Training
The direct house training method requires you to be nearby to supervise and reward good habits from the beginning.
Provide frequent opportunity to eliminate in an appropriate place and to reward this behavior immediately as it occurs. To do this, walk your puppy on a leash at regular intervals. Other methods may seem easier and may appear to demand less initial investment of time. The direct training method, however, is sure to save you time and energy in the long run.
Frequent Opportunities to Go Out
Puppies require more frequent walks until they are able to reliably control their sphincters. This usually occurs by 6 months of age. The best method of house training is to take your puppy out within several minutes after each meal and each nap. These are predictable moments during the day when bowel and bladder are most full. A wave of rhythmic contractions along the length of the digestive tract (the gastro colic reflex) begins when food or water is swallowed. The contractions are particularly strong after a puppy eats. Feed your puppy at scheduled mealtimes and avoid snacks between feedings. The gastro colic reflex may be conditioned by feeding your puppy at regular intervals. Allowing your puppy continuous access to food makes house training more difficult. Prevent “accidents” between meals by taking your pup out before the accidents occur.
Learning to Walk on a Leash
It is best to leash walk your puppy within 15 minutes or sooner after each meal. Continue to walk, incorporating play to make it fun, until the puppy has eliminated. If your puppy is too young to walk on a leash, carry it outside to an enclosed, safe area. Stay nearby and play with or pet it. Additional activity will help to stimulate bowel movements when your pup is already outside. Be sure not to distract it, however, if it begins to sniff the ground or crouch to void. If your pup is slow adjusting to leash walks, be patient. Avoid pulling the leash and allow your pup to take its time. When the pup prepares to eliminate, begin praising it in a happy and light voice. Your tone should be soft and quiet so your pup won’t stop before it is done in response to your over enthusiastic praise. Continue your praise until the task is completed. Immediate encouragement is necessary for your pup to learn to eliminate in an acceptable area. As your dog eliminates, pleasantly say something like “hurry” or “do it” and give abundant praise. This teaches the pup to void on command so that you won’t freeze unnecessarily on a cold winter night while the pup leisurely looks for just the right spot. If your pup is initially afraid of the leash, leave the leash on indoors for brief periods without holding onto it. When the pup becomes more accustomed to the collar and leash, take the pup for brief walks outside. Daily leash walks throughout a dog’s life help maintain good elimination habits.
Avoid Paper Training
Paper training is not the method of choice, contrary to popular opinion. Paper training encourages the pup to eliminate on newspapers spread over the floor in a designated area of the home. This can lead to several problems.
The first is that you may confuse your pup by teaching it twice what it need learn only once. When, and if, the pup has learned to void on the newspapers, it must then be retrained to eliminate outside.
The second problem with paper training is that you may unintentionally teach your pup that it is acceptable to eliminate inside your home. Though some puppies’ stay on the paper, many more “miss” the boundaries set for them. You may think your pup clearly understands that it is acceptable to eliminate anywhere in that room and may begin soling in a variety of unacceptable area in your home. Some owners of small-breed dogs prefer to continue paper training throughout the pet’s lifetime, but this should not replace daily walks.
Accidents Will Happen
Puppies need to learn these skills and need time to physically be able to control their sphincters. Punishing the pup for accidentally eliminating in the house and then taking it immediately outside is a common and unfortunate practice. Some owners believe that pressing the pup’s nose into its own waste discourages it. Others punish by using a stern and loud voice or by hurriedly grabbing a pup while it is urinating or defecating. Punishment is often followed by whisking the puppy outside into a big and freighting world, where the irritated owner impatiently awaits appropriate behavior. Although this may be intended to teach the puppy not to eliminate indoors, the puppy may associate the punishment with going out and may learn to fear going outside. A confused and frightened pet is even more likely to spontaneously void when it is threatened. The dog might even learn to fear eliminating in your presence.
It is pointless to punish your dog at any age for “accidents” that occur in your home. This is particularly true when there is any delay between the act of soiling and your discovery of the mess. To be effective, punishment (and praise, for that matter) must follow your pet’s action within seconds. Punishment, however, is not helpful in house training. No matter how frustrated you may be, clean up the mess and concentrate on the steps to prevent another one.
Crate training is base on the premise that puppies are unlikely to eliminate in or near an area used for rest. Crate training is popular among owners who cannot continually remain nearby to take the puppy directly outside as described above. Some owners place the up in a crate while they are away at work or when they will be absent for short periods of time or even overnight. A puppy naturally resists voiding inside the crate may eventually adjust to longer periods of crate confinement when you are absent. At the least, a crate will contain any messes and can prevent destructive behavior, too. This method works will for some dogs, but not for all.
Many young puppies are simply unable to control immature sphincters, especially when they are anxious or frightened.
Some pups may soil themselves and even ingest their own waste. For these pups, the direct training method is preferable and crate training should be abandoned.
Pups should not be crated for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time. If you must confine your plans to visit it on your lunch hour, for example, and go for a nice long walk. If necessary, ask a neighbor, friend, or relative to help you. If no one can help you, professional pet sitters are an option until your pup is an adult. Still, even an adult dog should not be crated for more than 6 to 8 hours at a stretch.
Some pups do not tolerate this type of confinement, becoming very agitated and excessively vocal. If the pup initially objects to being confined in the crate, you will encourage undesirable attention-seeking behavior, such as whining or barking, by visiting or otherwise comforting the crated pup. Wait a few moments until it is quiet and calm before checking that all is well. This way, you will not encourage undesirable behavior nor will you defeat the potential usefulness or the crate. If your puppy’s objections seem excessive or unacceptable to you, apply other house training techniques instead.
Choosing A Crate
If you choose to try crate training, begin by selecting a crate that will accommodate your dog at its anticipated adult size. Your (adult) dog should be able to comfortably stand and turn to change positions in its crate. If you are purchasing a crate of a large-breed pup, you may decide to obtain several crates of different sizes to accommodate your growing pet. If you decide to purchase just the one for its adult size, you may partition the unused space and enlarge the available space as the young dog grows. Consult a veterinarian about your dog’s projected maximal growth, particularly if your pet is not purebred.
A Safe Place
Choose a crate that is constructed solidly of materials that are easy to clean and disinfect. In case your pet does panic inside its crate, the crate must stand up to any escape attempts and not result in injury because of sharp edges, for example.
To introduce your dog to the crate, associate the crate with positive things, such as food and safe shelter. Leave the door open until there is no sign of fear. Cover a section of the floor with comfortable and easily laundered bedding, such as a towel or blanket. Play with your pup, tossing favorite toys into the crate for it to retrieve. Place food and water in the crate to encourage your pet to consider it a safe place. This also decreases the likelihood that your dog will soil inside the cage. When the puppy enters the crate without hesitation at mealtime, gently close the door while it eats. Keep the door closed for gradually longer periods. Let the pup out when it is calm and quiet.
The crate is your dog’s special place where it must never be disturbed or threatened. The crate must not be linked with punishment or your dog will avoid it. Encourage your dog to use the crate as a resting place. When the pup is ready to nap, place it in the crate with a favorite toy or treat. Never place your pup in the crate or try to remove it from the crate when you are angry. Do not reach in and pull your dog out of its crate. A dog that is threatened in its crate may aggressively resist leaving it. Teach your dog to willingly leave the crate on your command, using a simple “come” in a happy tone of voice.
The Umbilical Cord Method
This method of house training is best used with other techniques detailed above. Attach your pup to a long leash that is tied to your wrist or waist. This allows it a certain amount of freedom while ensuring your constant supervision over its activity. The pup cannot wander away to have an undetected “accident” and you can anticipate the pup’s need to void, taking it directly outside. Your pet can also enjoy your extra time and attention. This will benefit not only its house training, but also the bond between you and your pet. This method may be applied as an alternative to overnight crate confinement or isolation in another part of your home. The pup may be restrained on a 6-foot leash tied to your be overnight. Although some puppies may have “accidents” where they sleep, they may be less anxious when their owners are nearby, and this may positively affect their behavior.
Skunks are often coming around your home in in search of food, so if there are skunks around, you probably have lawn grubs. Get rid of the grubs and you will probably get rid of the skunks.
Paul Krebaum, a chemist, invented a new more effective formula for de-skunking a dog.
Mix in an open bucket or bowl:
> 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
> ¼ cup baking soda
> 1 teaspoon of strong liquid soap such as dishwashing detergent.
Mix the ingredients in an open bucket or bowl. The mixture will fizz.
Wet your dog and thoroughly massage the solution into the coat. Be sure to keep the mixture out of the dogs eyes, nose and mouth.
If it is necessary to apply it to the dogs face, very carefully use a washcloth or a sponge.
After applying the mixture to all parts of your dog that may have been sprayed, rinse the dog thoroughly.
This mixture can be explosive, as it will fizz and creates pressure if it is enclosed in a seal tight container. Never store unused portion, always discard. Be sure to only mix in an open container and do not try to store or cover it in any way. Do not get the mixture into the dog’s eyes, nose or mouth.
Fact: People buy at least 2-3 million Poinsettia plants annually.
Myth: The Christmas Poinsettia is toxic.
Fact: The Christmas Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is the most widely tested consumer plant on the market.
Myth: Ingesting the Christmas Poinsettia causes vomiting, diarrhea, and even death due to toxins entering the bloodstream.
Fact: Both American and European Mistletoe (Phoradendron and Viscum, respectively) are toxic.
Fact: Ingestion of anything alien to the digestive system may cause upset stomach.
The Christmas Poinsettia has been deemed highly toxic by folklore. This may be due to misidentification with Mistletoe. Experiments performed by Ohio State University have proved that all parts of the poinsettia are non-toxic to both humans and pets. As with any non-food product, the Christmas Poinsettia is not meant to be ingested and can cause an upset stomach if it is.
Mistletoe, unfortunately, is toxic. If you believe that your child or pet has eaten any part of the plant, call your doctor or veterinarian immediately. The berries are the most toxic part of the plant, where 3 or more berries can be lethal to a child. Yet, the leaves are also toxic. If you have any questions about mistletoe or identifying it, you can call the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.