Flea Products – Are OTC Products Really Safe and Effective?

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Thirty years ago, as I first stepped out as a veterinary practitioner, fleas and the products to kill them were practically our bread and butter. These first products consisted mainly of  organophosphates and carbamates,  similar to the same ingredients that made up the nerve gases of World War I. These products had to be applied frequently to kill the fleas and were also toxic to both humans and pets, yet the fleas evolved and still managed to survive these products over time.

Over the years, new products were developed that were less toxic to humans and pets and still killed the fleas and prevented egg hatch outs. Many of  flea products that were effective were only available through your veterinarian. This insured that the flea products were used correctly in order to prevent accidental over-dosage or applying the products meant for dogs onto a cat.

With the development of the World Wide Web, many of the flea products became available to purchase on the internet and skipped the advice and counseling of your veterinarian. There were some toxicities that occurred because of incorrect applications and several of the products have been recalled. But because the lucrative market of flea and tick products topped $1 billion, many companies expanded into the flea and tick market in order to get their piece of the pie.

Several companies began to make “generic” products that were supposed to contain the same ingredients as the original. One such product contained the ingredient fipronil, the active compound found  in Frontline®, that veterinarians have used for years.  Merial had to sue them for patent infringement and won their suit this month forcing the company to withdraw their generic product and remove them from the shelves. But, many other “generic” products as well as counterfeit products still exist.

How does this affect you and your pet?

Can you count on the product you purchase to be safe and effective?

What exactly is a generic medication and how is it different from the original?

Whenever a new product is developed, the company must undergo rigorous testing, drug trials and sometimes strict FDA guidelines in order to get the product approved. These companies apply for a patent so they can have exclusive rights to the formulation in order to cover their research and development costs. When the patent expires, other companies can then manufacture and market their own product with out having to do the trials and testing, thus they can sell the product for less than the original products.  Other companies ignore our patent laws all together, making their own product in a foreign country and counterfeiting the product, packaging and logos, making it look the same as the original product. These products can enter the market without having been tested and may not be as safe or effective as the original product.

The generic products will utilize the same active ingredients as the original, but they often are not exactly the same product. Also, the inert ingredients (inactive ingredients) may be different.  In the case of many of the flea medications, it is the inert ingredients that help spread the product over the body of the pet, or allow the product to adhere to the pet which will make the product more effective, longer lasting and less likely to be washed off during swimming or bathing.  The FDA only requires that the generic manufacturers prove that their product exhibits bio-equivalence to the original product.

In the past, some “generic” drugs contained contaminants or products that actually proved harmful. One case that I can recall was L- Tryptophan, a product used by many as a sleep aid in the late 1980’s. In an attempt to manufacture the main ingredient faster, one company altered the manufacturing of the amino acid and the contaminate caused serious side effects of those people that had consumed it.

With the topical flea and tick products, many of the products are parasiticides and are regulated by the EPA rather than the FDA.  In this case, you can purchase the product without a prescription, but many of the companies choose to sell their products with the label “under veterinary supervision” in order for their products to be administered correctly by the consumer. A lot of the generic manufactures ignore  this and their copycat products end up on the shelves of large stores and internet pharmacies across the country. I regularly treat pets that have been treated with the OTC products that have experienced serious side effects, especially when a dog product was applied to a cat. Also, many skin conditions, itching and hair loss may not be caused just by the fleas, but can be caused by skin infections, mites, allergies and other factors. Only an examination and sometimes diagnostic tests can fully determine the cause of your pet’s skin conditions. As stated before, the product may  not have the same effectiveness as the original product and some products, such as the flea collar, are totally worthless.

In order to combat the counterfeit products that have been showing up in the internet companies, many veterinarians have added their own on-line pharmacies. The products in these pharmacies are purchased directly through the manufacturer and not third parties so that we know the products are genuine and they are also backed by the manufacturer with a guarantee. Our on-line pharmacy is located in the Pet Portal. The pet portal is also synced with your pet’s medical records so that we know what products your pet is on and you can also check your pet’s medical records and know when their next vaccinations are due.

Many of the more effective flea products are now combined with the heartworm prevention making it easier to administer to your pet. Revolution and Advantage-multi were topical products that were applied to the skin and are very effective. However, the medication often left a sticky residue on the hair coat, or didn’t get all the way to the skin for complete effectiveness. Trifexis is the newest product to be introduced and it is a chewable tablet that controls fleas, prevents heatworms and protects against the intestinal parasites; roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.  Trifexis starts killing fleas in 30 minutes and keeps working to prevent flea infestations all month long. Because fleas, heatworms and intestinal parasites are major problems here in Houston, I routinely recommend for my client to use both the flea and heatworm medication every month all year long, in order to prevent flea infestations in the home and to prevent heartworm disease. Since the Trifexis is a chewable tablet, you don’t have to worry about it being washed off or leaving a dirty streak down the back of your dog. Trifexis is now available in the Pet Portal area.  I have even switched my own dog to this medication.

Information on Trifexis can be found at Trifexis.com

Each pet has unique problems and your veterinarian can help you choose the product that is best for your pet.  Many products can have an adverse affect on your pet, especially if a heartworm prevention is given to a pet that is already harboring heartworms. A heartworm test is performed on dogs every year to insure that the pet has not been infected by the heartworms and parasite tests (fecal examinations) are routinely done as well to detect other parasites that may have been picked up by your pet, many of which can also affect humans as well.

I hope this helps you the next time you choose a product for your pet or even yourself. Many of the “generic” products available are really not exactly the same and may not work in the same manner or be as effective at the original product. Your veterinarian and their team are here to help you when it comes to choosing the safest and most effective flea medications for your pet.

Tips to Winterize your Pet

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Lectro Kitty Window Sill Perch with Optional HeatCold weather is tough on pets. The following recommendations can provide your pet with a much better “quality of life” through the wintertime months:

1)    Update all vaccinations. Increased stress of cold weather lowers the resistance to disease. Your pet needs more than just a Rabies vaccination. Dogs should have DHLPP (Distemper, Adenovirus/infectious canine hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza), and Bordetella boosters each year. Cats should receive FVRCP and Feline Leukemia boosters every year.

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2)    Heartworm preventive should be given year-round. The medication kills certain immature stages of the heartworm throughout its journey through the body before it actually reaches the heart. The medication ought to be supplied all year long to make certain all immature heartworms are killed once they get to the stage of susceptibility to the medication.
3)    Internal Parasite Examinations insure your pet is “worm-free”. Internal parasites drain your pet’s blood, protein, and energy.
4)    Feed premium quality diet to fulfill the increased nutritional demands for the duration of cold weather. You get what you pay for in pet foods. “High Protein” labels don’t mean it is “digestible protein”. Pets kept outside should be fed more food to meet their requirements through the winter. Fresh water should always be obtainable. Be sure to provide UNFROZEN water at least twice daily during zero weather. Porcelain bowls will prevent tongues from sticking to it. Steer clear of metal bowls for this reason.There are also heated bowls available to keep the water thawed.
5)    Vitamin supplements, such as Nutrical®,may help increase your pet’s resistance to the effects of cold weather and provide required nutritional elements that often deteriorate once a bag of food has been opened.

6)    Brush your pet every day to maintain its hair coat. Heat in your house may dry the skin. Moisturizers , such as Dermal Soothe Anti-Itch Spray for Dogs & Cats, are available to maintain a healthy coat.
7)    Provide adequate shelter. Supplying adequate shelter from the elements is the key to a healthy outdoor pet. The pet that has a cozy refuge where he can seek shelter from the cold wind, driving rain, sleet, and snow will be much better able to tolerate the cold temperatures. Pet shelters should be tightly constructed and no larger than three times the size of the pet. The doorway should be just large sufficient for the pet to enter and positioned away from the prevailing wind direction. Building the shelter off the ground a couple of inches and adding insulation underneath will significantly add to the pet’s comfort. Be sure all insulation is sealed away from the pet. Position the shelter where it’ll get the most sunlight in the winter. Cedar shavings make the very best bedding. No pet should be out in zero or sub-zero weather for more than a few minutes without adequate shelter. Winter is no time to Begin keeping a pet outside. Acclimatization should begin in warm weather, permitting gradual improve in hair growth as temperatures turn out to be cooler.The best thing to do for your pet is to keep them indoors.
8)    Other Suggestions:
a.    Antifreeze can be deadly. It’s sweet tasting to your pet. Always clean up any spills in the garage or driveway. Contact your veterinarian right away if you suspect even a “few licks” by the pet.
b.    Cats like to sleep close to warm car engines. Know where your cat is and honk your horn before beginning the automobile to make sure no neighborhood cats are taking a snooze under the hood.
c.    Chocolate may be fatal. Keep those giant chocolate kisses and other sweets out of reach from your pet.
d.    Salt can hurt paws. Clean the foot pads instantly when coming back inside.There are dog booties available for your pooch.
e. Heated pet beds may help with your pet’s arthritis and keep the chill off.
f. Sweaters and coats can also help dogs maintain their body temperature better.
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Your Pet Can Face Special Dangers During Winter

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Winter is here and we are thinking of family gatherings, holiday parties, and perhaps even snow and ice. Wintertime can be beautiful, festive and a great time for winter sports, but keeping our pets safe could involve a little homework and preparation.

Whether or not snow actually falls in your area, many people will gather for traditional holiday parties. With all of the delicious smells and exciting new people, our pets may take advantage of a stranger’s generosity or an unattended plate in order to help themselves to the appetizers. However natural it is to share with our pets, there are a few foods that should be avoided. These foods include:

Excessively salty foods
Sweets and chocolate
Foods with onion or onion powder
Excessively fatty foods
Grapes and raisins
Poultry bones
Alcohol or eggnog
Macadamia Nuts
Yeast or rising dough

Chocolate and sweets deserve special mention due to their abundance during this time of year. Some candies and foods that are artificially sweetened with the ingredient, xylitol, can actually cause a rapid decrease in blood sugar of dogs and has even been implicated in some liver failure cases.

Chocolate is a well-known toxic for dogs, but baking chocolate and the semi-sweet varieties are much more dangerous, causing heart problems, vomiting, and even death. And, it should go without saying that pets should never be given any alcoholic beverage. Not funny, potentially dangerous.

In our quest to decorate and create a cheerful atmosphere, we often will use various plants. Almost any member of the lily family can be deadly to cats and other holiday foliage, such as mistletoe and holly, can also cause severe stomach upset to our pets. Interestingly, poinsettias are actually over-rated with respect to toxicity. Most pets who ingest a poinsettia leaf may have mild irritation of the mouth and/or stomach.

Artificial decorations can be just as bad. To a cat, a ribbon or strand of tinsel can be too much of a temptation. These long string-like objects can be swallowed and cause major problems in the intestines and stomach. Electric cords can cause electrocution or severe burns if chewed upon and many glass ornaments or lights can be easily broken and cut your pet’s feet or mouth.

Beyond the dangers indoors, the outdoor world may be just as bad. One of the most common poisonings of pets during the winter months is a case of ingested car anti-freeze. Its pleasant, sweet taste masks a deadly poison that can kill with very small amounts. If you even suspect that your pet has consumed anti-freeze, you need to contact your veterinarian or nearest emergency hospital immediately! Rat and mouse poisons, as well as ice melting products should be used with care around any pets.

Pets can suffer the effects of frostbite and hypothermia just as easily as their owners. Household pets should stay indoors in very cold temperatures. But if your pet must stay outdoors, be sure to provide them shelter from the wind and moisture. In this case, bigger is not better! Smaller homes will help to trap body heat more efficiently. Use heated water bowls and replenish everyday.

Knowing your pet’s limitations will be very important during these months. An older dog may not be as sure-footed on the ice and young puppies may not have enough body fat to keep them warm for extended periods in the snow. Monitor your pets when they go out for exercise or for their “bathroom breaks” to insure that they are able to make it back on their own. In addition, the added excitement and presence of strangers in the house may be too much for some excitable pets. Find a quiet room for their kennel and make time for them after your guests have left.

Wintertime can be glorious and full of family fun. It does not have to involve a visit to the animal emergency room if a few simple precautions are taken. Talk to your family veterinarian about a winter “check-up” for your pet and how to avoid a winter catastrophe.

Leptrospiriosis Can Infect People As Well as Dogs

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Leptrospiriosis is a zoonotic disease which means, it is a disease that can be passed between humans and animals. It is the most prevalent zoonotic disease in the world today and your dog and you may be at risk for contacting this disease. While this disease is usually not fatal by it’s self it can lead to kidney failure and damage to both the liver and the eyes.
Leptrospiriosis is an old disease that was first discovered in the 1800 and vaccinations were developed that helped control the spread of this disease. However, new strains of this disease have recently been discovered and despite the development of two additional vaccines to combat this disease it is on the rise.
Once mainly confined to rural areas where an abundance of wildlife was present and carried the disease these new strains are now reaching urban areas as well, mainly because cities are growing and encroaching on wildlife habitats forcing domestic dogs and even people into closer proximity to the animals who naturally carry the bacteria that spreads this disease. The spirochete bacteria is released by an infected animal when it urinates and is then picked up from the soil or water through the mucus membranes or abraded skin of an animal or human. Not all animals who carry the bacteria show signs of illness but even a seemingly healthy animal can spread the bacteria putting even more animals and people at risk.

Signs of Leptrospiriosis in your pet may mimic a host of other diseases but, common symptoms of this disease are:

  • general depression
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • swollen red and painful eyes
  • excessive drinking and urination

Due to the fact that the symptoms of this disease is common to many other diseases as well, identifying the disease is not always quick and easy, which poses a problem as a dog suffering from this disease can begin experiencing kidney damage or failure in as little as three to five days.
There are things that you can do to protect yourself and your pet from contacting this disease. The most important thing is to contact your Veterinarian and find out how prevalent this disease is where you live and ask if he would recommend that your dog get vaccinated for one or more of the strains of Leptrospiriosis. While vaccination may not completely protect your dog from all the possible strains it will reduce his chances of contacting this disease by protecting him from the more common strains.
Also don’t assume simply because you live in an urban environment either you or your pet is safe from contacting this disease.

Always take extra care when working in damp soil and around places that have standing water and if camping in places where there is abundant wildlife even small squirrels and rodents, avoid places where there are puddles or damp ground as much as possible.
As in all cases prevention is the best protection and in the case of Leptrospiriosis prevention means using your common sense and getting your dog vaccinated to protect both him and yourself from this disease and it’s serious side effects.

Tips To Protect Your Dog From Ticks

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A tick is a small parasite related to spiders. They are most normally found in wooded areas and those fields of high grass and like mosquitoes and fleas pose a health hazard to your dog and to people as well as they carry the Lyme disease, Rocky mountain spotted fever and other illnesses that can affect your dogs health and even his life. While many people know that ticks can be detrimental to their dogs health they simply aren’t sure what to do to protect their dog from these parasites. Here are a few tips that may help you to protect your dogs from ticks and keep him healthy.

Since ticks are found in wooded areas and high grass and especially prevalent during the spring and summer it is a good idea to keep the grass in your yard mowed and short. Ticks are far less likely to inhabit areas where there is no tall grass.

You will also want to keep your yard free of spilled bird seed and other things which might attract mice and squirrels because ticks often use these animals as a host and food source.

Don’t allow your dog to roam. The best way to protect him from ticks is to limit his access to areas where there is not a high concentrations of these parasites.

If you take your dog camping with you check him/her every three hours for signs of ticks. Make sure you check him thoroughly including the inside of his ears and around the genital area. Ticks do not attach immediately to a new host and usually don’t start feeding until after they are on the host for about 4 hours. (It is also wise to thoroughly check all humans who are camping in wooded areas for ticks as well.)

If you find a tick use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the body as possible and pull the tick straight out. Never remove a tick with your bare hands. Ticks have teeth designed to latch onto a host and remain fixed and twisting and turning the tick may result in leaving the head with the disease carrying fluids attached.

Once the tick is removed then clean the area with soap and water and apply antiseptic.\

Using protectants such as Advantix and Frontline Plus and Vectra 3D may prevent ticks from using your dog as a host. Ask your Veterinarian about these and other products that may help to protect your dogs from ticks.

If your dog has had access to any area where ticks may live and suddenly appears lame, feverish and has a loss of appetite and appears lethargic then take him to your Veterinarian immediately for treatment. Be sure to tell your Vet of the places your dog has been so that he can be tested for tick spreading diseases.

Your dog is your trusted companion and your friend. You want to be able to share those outside adventures, picnics, hiking and camping trips with him but, you also want to keep him safe. Following these few tips will help protect your dog from ticks and the associated health problems they cause while still enabling him to enjoy all those out of door adventures.


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7 Steps To Prevent Accidental Poisoning In Dogs

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Every year people lose a beloved dog to some kind of accidental poisoning. In most cases that poisoning could be prevented if the pet owner used reasonable care with certain products around the home.

Various medications made for people have resulted in dog illness and death.

Medications such as:

  • NSAIDS ( i.e. advil, motrin),
  • Acetaminophen ( i.e.Tylenol)
  • Antidepressants
  • ADD/ADHD medications ( i.e.Ritalin, concerta,)
  • Benzodiazepines (xanax,ambien)
  • Birth control
  • ACE inhibators (i.e. zestril or Altace,)
  • Beta blocker (i.e. Teprol, coreg)
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Cholesterol lowering agents, are just some of the many medications that can harm your dog.

While these are the most common medications that vets see in dog poisoning cases, any human medication may prove deadly to your dog.

Following these 7 steps to keep your medications out of your dogs reach and prevent accidental poisoning will result in less worry for you and a safer, healthier life for your dog.

  1. Always keep medications tightly closed and high up out of the reach of your dog. Even the best behaved dog likes to explore and finding that plastic medicine bottle may well look like a chew toy to him.
  2. Never medicate your dog with a human medication unless specifically advised by your Veterinarian and then only use the recommended dose and only for the condition it is prescribed. If in doubt contact your vet and double check.
  3. Don’t assume because a medication is safe for a child it is safe for your dog. Pets metabolize medications far differently than humans and something that may be mild and harmless for a child may be deadly to your pet.
  4. Don’t leave loose pills of any kind in a zip lock bag. The pills showing through the bag are an invitation to your dog to explore and zip locks are easy to rip open. Again keep medications in safe containers and out of your dogs reach. Encourage guests in your home to also keep their medications high up or locked in their suitcases.
  5. If you store your medications in a weekly pill container,make sure that this container as well as the medicine bottles are out of your dogs reach.
  6. Never store medications for your pet along side your medications. Having a separate place for your pet’s medications will prevent any accidental mix up.
  7. Always hang your purse up even if you aren’t carrying medications it is a great habit and dogs can get sick from cosmetics as well so it is better to be safe than sorry.

By keeping all medications out of your pets reach you can help keep your beloved dog safe and reduce the risk of accidental poisoning greatly. If your pet does ingest any human medication either over
the counter or prescription, please call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison helpline immediately.

The Helpline’s 24 hour number is (888) 426-4435.

Keeping the helpline number posted prominently near the phone may save your dogs life in an emergency.

Download your free Pet Poison Guide from the ASPCA

ACL or Ruptured Cruciate Ligament Knee Injuries in Pets

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Meet Jack…an English Bulldog with a great job and an exciting story to tell. Sadly, Jack’s career was almost derailed due to an unexpected injury. Like so many NBA stars and skiers, Jack messed up his knee and was sidelined for many weeks. Thankfully, prompt care and a great surgery team got Jack “back on the road again!”

Just one look at Jack and you can tell that this is a dog meant for bigger things. From blogging about his travels as New Mexico’s Canine Travel Reporter to his awards from the governor, Jack oozes confidence and excitement. So, when Jack ruptured his cruciate ligament, neither he nor his human partner, Jill, were going to let anything stand in the way of his speedy return to the spotlight.

Normal Stifle x-ray

Like people, dogs have two cruciate ligaments to help provide support for the knee. Their presence keeps the femur and tibia from sliding around and destabilizing the joint. According to veterinary surgeon, Dr. Phil Zeltzman, repairing torn cruciates is the most common surgery at veterinary surgery centers. He adds that certain breeds (Labradors and Rottweilers) show up with this injury more frequently than other pets.

Dogs can rupture these ligaments with sudden twisting movements while running or even from slipping on ice. In Jack’s case, a sudden meeting with a child’s snow sled was enough to cause the injury. After seeing Jack limp into the house that snowy day, Jill knew an appointment with his veterinarian was needed.

In most cases, diagnosing a cruciate tear simply requires a veterinarian’s examination and, if the patient is not cooperative, a touch of sedation. Palpation of the knee joint is the key to the diagnosis although it is also a good idea to take x-rays of both knees to look for any other problems.

The next step is surgery. According to industry experts, pet owners spend more than $1 billion dollars on cruciate surgeries for their pets each year. A variety of procedures exist to help stabilize the knee, but most surgeons will utilize one of three procedures. Because of Jack’s anatomy, breed and size, surgeons at the New Mexico Veterinary Surgery Center determined that the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement surgery would be the most effective solution.

Radiographs to the left show a ruptured ACL ligament in one of my patients, Luna. Compare it to the normal knee and you can see at the 90 degree angle of the x-ray on the left, the femur or the big thigh bone sits almost behind the tibia or the lower leg bone. The cruciate ligament stabilizes the knee. Luna had a TPLO surgery (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) performed by Dr. Payne of North Houston Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Payne is a veterinary orthopedic surgeon and travels to the veterinary clinic that requires his services.

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The surgery requires very special instruments and surgical skills for a successful outcome and at Luna’s 6 week check up, she was walking great.

As with any pet surgery, cost certainly is an issue. It is not unusual for these cruciate surgeries to range in cost from $1200 to more than $3000. David Goodnight, CEO of PurinaCare pet insurance says that nationwide, the average cost for this type of surgery is $2500.

Some pet owners will question the need for surgery as fibrous tissue in the dog’s body will eventually stabilize the joint. Sadly, this could lead to bigger problems, including severe osteoarthritis or even a rupture of the ligaments in the other knee. Certainly this route only increases the pet’s discomfort.

After surgery, most dogs feel much better. In fact, it’s a challenge for owners to keep their pets rested during the recovery. Jill recalls her experience with Jack, “Luckily I remembered to always keep him on a leash outside…by day three after surgery, I could see him wanting to run!”

This 8-10 week recovery period is crucial. Too much activity can delay healing at the site or even cause enough damage that a second surgery might be needed! The doggie patients need to stay in a crate when they can’t be supervised, go outside ONLY on a leash and only for bathroom breaks until the surgeon says short walks are ok. Running, jumping and stairs should be avoided.

Jack has made a complete recovery and is now back educating people about the wonders of New Mexico. But he is not out of the woods yet. About half of dogs who rupture one cruciate will tear the opposite knee’s ligaments. Along the course of his recovery, Jack’s veterinarians have made several recommendations to help him avoid this fate.

First, weight control! Excess weight creates additional stress on joints and can lead to ligament tears.

Next, daily exercise is important. Spending about an hour each day engaged in moderate exercise is not only a good way to keep your dog healthy and limber…it will probably help you too!

Finally, don’t overdo it! You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, so don’t expect your dog to hike 4-5 miles with you immediately.

Your veterinarian will also have some helpful ideas to protect your pet’s joints. Nutraceuticals, like glucosamine or rehabilitation exercises can help strengthen and support the knees. Canine Dasaflex contains a blend of ingredients to help with joint health and pain.

Tips to Curb Your Dog’s Barking

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Annoying barking is the most common complaint of dog owners and their neighbors. Barking is after all, a natural and instinctive behavior of dogs dating back to the wolf packs. Dogs communicate through their bark. There is barking to warn of territory encroachment. Dogs will bark to warn of danger. Some dogs will bark when there is unusual sounds, sights or even odors. During times of stress, frustration, anxiety or separation, some dogs will bark. Just about anything or anyone in some dogs will start the barking, wailing and howling.

So, what can you do to curb excessive barking?

The key to preventing your dog from barking is through socialization and habituation. In other words, get your puppy used to as many people, animals, situations, noises, thunder, raccoons, cats, kids, squirrels, etc. as possible when they are puppies. The more familiar a noise or an object is to your puppy, the less likely your dog will exhibit anxiety or stress induced barking as a dog. Socialization will also help to reduce the amount of alarm barking as well as the intensity. A socialized puppy should only be allowed to alert owners and then be controlled and stopped before the barking gets out of control. By learning how dogs communicate and understand their pack mentality, it will be much easier to control their barking. Here are a few scenarios we will discuss to help you curb the barking.

My dog barks constantly when I leave.

The common cause of this type of barking is from separation anxiety and your lack of leadership skills. A dog suffering from separation anxiety often thinks that he is the alpha leader and not you. As the alpha leader. when a member of his pack (you) walk out the door, the barking initiates because it is his job as the leader to worry about the pack members. To combat this type of barking, you will have to learn how to be the alpha leader of the pack. An excellent dog training system set up by Barkbusters.com can help you with this problem.

An excellent dog training program on line is the “Secrets to Dog Training” . They have a special edition that also covers dog barking.

To prevent this problem in grown dogs, effective crate training techniques when you first get your puppy will help to decrease the anxiety when he is left alone in the crate. The puppy will associate the crate as his den and will eventually be able to spend time in the crate without barking. The biggest mistake most people do when trying to crate the puppy is let the puppy out when he is barking. This actually reinforces the attention seeking behavior. You must ignore the puppy when he is barking, and then let him out either on a regular schedule or when he is calm and quiet. The ultrasonic sound emitter, BarkOff, works to interrupt the dog’s barking. When you follow that with praise when the dog stops barking, you are rewarding the good behavior (being quiet).

If your are experiencing separation anxiety in your dog, your veterinarian may be able to assist your with some treatment options such as DAP,(Dog Appeasing Pheromone) a synthetic pheromone, or medications (Clomipramine hydrochloride- sort of a doggy prozac) to help calm your dog while you initiate leadership control.

My dog is constantly barking.

Attention seeking barking can be very difficult to get a handle on as the dog receives attention whenever he barks and this actually reinforces the behavior. An example of inadvertent reinforcement includes letting the dog in when he barks. In this case the dog is training you rather than the other way around. Other examples of inadvertent reinforcement are feeding, patting, praising, playing with, giving a toy or even going to the dog to attempt to quiet it down. Never reward barking with any type of attention, even occasionally.

So, how do I get him to stop barking?

Training your dog to be “quiet” on command is an invaluable aid for curbing annoying barking. Many owners usually accept their dog’s barking as normal or even desirable in the beginning. However, the barking soon becomes a problem once it gets too loud, too often or just won’t stop when you tell him to. In order to train your dog to quiet down on cue, you must find a verbal command your dog will understand. Barkbusters uses a command “Bah” which is a sharp, guttural growl. If it does not embarrass you when you utter such sound, you are not doing it right.

Another method is with remote training with either a check chain or halter lead. In this case, I used the check chain and the “bah” command. To teach our dog to quit barking when someone came to the door, we had a friend go to the door and ring the bell. We drew a line a few feet away from the door and our dog could bark and approach to that line. Once he reached the line, he was given the command “bah” and slightly corrected with the check chain. He was then told to go kennel. After repeating this process for about 15 minutes a day, he has learned to alert us that some one is at the door, then he will go and lay down on his bed (kennel) where he stays until we tell him he can get up. This process also eliminates the jumping on visitors when they enter the door.

The key to controlling barking is to reward the behavior we want (i.e. quiet and still) rather than to give any attention to the behavior we don’t want (barking). Each time you pay attention to the barking dog, you are actually inadvertently rewarding the barking behavior. If you yell or try to punish the dog when he is barking, you will make your dog more anxious and will aggravate the problem.

All right, I admit it. I was a bad puppy parent and my dog is now a barking menace. What can I do now?

Your chances are good that you will be able to resolve most barking problems with effective leadership training. But what if your current situation, such as a new baby or an irate neighbor, requires that the barking stops immediately and you do not have the time to implement the corrective behavior?

There are newer anti-bark treatments available to help you when you need to stop the barking now. But first let us cover an anti-barking program to initiate in your household.

1. Make sure that you and the other family members are not inadvertently rewarding the barking behavior. Avoid giving your dog any type of attention, play, toys, food or affection when he is barking. Only give your dog attention when he is quiet and calm. (This is tough, because it is our nature to yell at the dog when he is barking) By the way, as a mother,rewarding the good behavior while ignoring the bad behavior, works for children, too.

2. Make sure that your response to the barking is not aggravating the problem. When a dog is barking due to anxiety or as a territorial response to a squirrel or other such enemy, yelling at the dog or throwing something at him will only increase his anxiety and the barking.

3. Modify the home environment so that the dog is kept away from the stimuli (sounds and sights) that can cause the barking. A simple way is to confine the dog to a crate or a small room away from the windows so he cannot see outside to bark at the errant squirrel or cat. You can also try to mute or mask the sounds that stimulate the barking by playing music. There are actual doggy CD’s that claim can help calm your dog when you are away. Dogs that are outside may have to brought inside. Condition your dog to trigger sounds, such as doorbells, by practicing with a friend and reward him when he stops the barking on command. In cases of separation anxiety, your veterinarian can help with a prescription of Clomicalm while you are re-training your dog.

4. Consider enrolling your dog in a training class to help you with leadership training. Several pet stores and even community colleges hold training classes. It is important that you know how to control your dog, so sending him off to school without you will only teach your dog and he may revert to the old behaviors if you haven’t been re-trained as well. Barkbusters will come to your home and teach you how to be the pack leader and thus your dog will learn to follow you.

5. Once you have sufficient control and your dog responds to your commands and handling, it should be possible to stop your dog to bark on your command. Over time, your dog will remain quiet for longer periods of time. You can then start conditioning the dog to other stimulus that causes barking, such as the squirrel in the back yard or kids on the bikes riding by the window. Slowly introduce the dog to the stimulus and and give the command to stop barking and enforce it with either the check chain, halter or some other disruptive bark trainer. Over time, these barking stimuli will no longer initiate the barking.

What are anti-barking collars and other devices and do they actually work?

There are many products on the market today from anti-bark collars that spray citronella, to products that emit an ultrasonic sound that only the dog can hear. The most annoying one I came across was an anti-barking device that produced such a loud, shrill noise, that I thought it was worse than the barking. Many of the products will interrupt the barking, but if you have not implemented the concurrent retraining techniques, many dogs will soon begin to ignore the devices and commence their annoying barking once again.

The bark activated products are the most practical to help deter the inappropriate barking when use in conjunction with the environmental modification and training. Owner initiated anti-bark devices such as the ultrasonic sound emitter, Bark Off, work best when you are with your dog and are able to reward your dog for being quiet. Off collar devices are useful to stop barking in selected areas such as doorways or windows, or for dogs that continue to bark in their crate or kennel.

Bark activated collars can be used when the barking does not occur in any predictable location. Audible and ultrasonic training collars are occasionally effective, but they are usually not sufficient or unpleasant enough to be a reliable deterrent. The collars that emit a spray of citronella each time the dog barks may be effective when you are away, but without the concurrent re-training, the dogs will soon learn to bark over the spray. You also have to re-charge the batteries and the spray chamber or the dog soon learns that he can bark and it won’t spray.

If you opt for the citronella collar, begin to use it when you are present so that when the dog is startled by the spray and stops barking, you are there to reward the dog with an enjoyable activity, such as a belly rub or a toss of his favorite ball. This will help to reinforce the quiet behavior and the barking will gradually reduce.

What if it is not my dog, but the neighbors dog that is doing all the barking?

There are some ultrasonic anti-bark devices available that are disguised as birdhouses that you can put outside. These may be only a temporary fix because without the behavioral re-training and conditioning, the dog may soon learn to ignore the noise and start barking again.
If all else fails, you can print out this article and anonymously mail it to your neighbor.

What are “Hot Spots” in Dogs?

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The dog’s skin is the largest organ of the body, yet there is a very restricted number of ways in which it responds to trauma. “Hot Spots” or acute moist dermatitis are locations on the dog’s skin due to your dog’s itching, biting and scratching and may often arise quite suddenly. These places may become very large and may develop just about anywhere on the dog. I see it sometimes in the spring time once the temperatures are warmer as well as the humidity is high. The dogs with the thick undercoat, such as Labs, golden retrievers and rottweilers are susceptible to getting these spots on their face and neck. Typically, spots located at the base of the tail are very likely resulting from fleas simply because fleas choose to congregate in these areas. Quite a few dogs happen to be so hypersensitive to fleas, the bite of one flea is sufficient to induce the dog to itch all over. Almost any injury can begin the process which the dog then exacerbates by continual chewing and licking which in turn results in a vicious cycle and will cause the hot spot to spread.

The dog normally has bacteria that lives on their skin and so long as the skin is healthy, the microorganisms almost never result in any issues. However when something occurs, such as a fleabite, cut or allergies, the dog begins to lick, bite, chew and scratch which in turn disrupts the defensive layer of the skin. As soon as that takes place, the bacteria on the skin, as well as the germs in the mouth, set up housekeeping in the skin. This creates a swiftly spreading infection which may be quite painful. The area on the skin is red, raw and seems moist because the wound oozes serum and pus. The hair then mats down over the wound and the infection then spreads beneath the hair.

A visit to the veterinarian is usually called for. In many cases the fur must be clipped off to stop the spread of the infection. Sometimes, these hot spots are so painful, the dog may need to be sedated in order to have the region cleansed and shaved. Antibiotics are prescribed to take care of the infection and follow-up antibiotics are sent home. Sprays, ointments and medicated shampoos can also be prescribed to continue treatment at home.. For some dogs, a special collar may be used that can help deter the dog from chewing at the places.

The particular underlying reason for the insult should likewise be tackled. If fleas can be found, then year round flea control may be prescribed.(over-the-counter flea control is not recommended) Pollen, food, and other allergens can also precipitate an attack. Sometimes specific diets with essential fatty acids and a novel protein source for example salmon, lamb or venison may be recommended to help heal the skin. Blood and skin tests can be preformed to help discover what the dog is allergic to and special allergy injections or prescription diets is often given.

Check your dog daily for itchy spots and use flea control suggested by your veterinarian year round to help avert hot spots as a result of flea allergies. Daily grooming and brushing can keep mats from developing. If your dog is itching continuously, take him to the veterinarian to handle the itching before the infection can progress.

Tips for Trimming your Pet’s Nails

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Nail care is a vital part of your pet’s total health care. Because nails continuously grow and are not necessarily worn down as they could if they have been going for walks, in that case it is up to you to help in keeping them at a more comfortable length. Whenever nails are too long, this affects the manner a dog walks which may lead to inflammation of the joints later on in life. Additionally longer nails could possibly get snagged as well as torn, or on occasion curl back into the toe pad and may also cause an infection. Trimming nails is not that upsetting if you have the correct gear and have taught your dog to let you hold the paw.

The nail has a “quick” which houses the veins and nerves of the nail.The quick is easier to see in white nails. By trimming small amounts at any given time and trimming with the plane of the bottom part of the toe pad (horizontally rather than vertically) you can keep from cutting the nail to short as to make it bleed.

Here are a few additional guidelines to successfully cut your pet’s nails:

small nail trimmers

1. Get started while your pet is still a puppy or kitten by gradually holding their feet. Start by making a sport of it and examining the nails, chances are they will allow you to cut them when they grow older.

2. Decide a nail trimmer for the size and age of your pet. I will sometimes use a human toe nail trimmer for young pet’s nails since it can easily get to the tiny points a tad easier and they are generally sharper. As your kitten or puppy grows older, I may then switch nail trimmers to the scissor action style of trimmer as an alternative to the guillotine trimmer. I find that these stay sharper longer and are easier to use. The guillotine type some times catches the nails and doesn’t necessarily make a clean cut. Your veterinarian will help you choose a proper trimmer.

large dog nail trimmers

large dog nail trimmers

3. When you are trimming your pet’s nails, by no means undertake it when your pet is sitting in your lap. Enlist someone to aid you and set them on the counter or lid of the washer or dryer. You may wrap them with a bath towel to assist holding them even better. If your pet begins to fight, just try holding the paw until he calms. In the event you let go of the foot when your pet begins to protest, you are just encouraging the poor behavior and will make the next nail trim episode even more difficult. (Go back to number 1)

styptic power

Styptic Powder

4. Be well prepared. Have available styptic pencils like silver nitrate or Kwik stop powder. Be aware that the silver nitrate on the end of the sticks will stain counters and your skin in the event you get it on you. The styptic powders are better for beginners.

5. If your pet has light colored nails, you are able to see the pink portion of the quick. If your pet has darker nails, trim only a little at a time. I like to carefully press on the toe and extend the nail out. I then draw an imaginary line level with the bottom of the toe pad and extend it out across the nail. I then trim the nail at this imaginary line so that the nail is now level with the floor when the pet is standing.

6. You can use an emery board to smooth the rough edges.

pedipaws

Pedipaws

7. Pedipaws or similar rotor drill sanders are helpful to smooth rough edges and to trim just a small amount of nail. If the nail is very long whatsoever, then it can take you forever to get it trimmed. You might use the drill to keep the nail shorter or for smoothing the nail after you have used the clippers. Your pet will also need to be taught not to be terrified of the motor, so it is advisable to proceed gradually while you each figure out how to control the drill.

With a little practice and a lot of patience, you may soon be trimming your pet’s nails with confidence. If all else fails, your veterinarian or groomer are there to help.