Tips on Training Your Pet

It's back to school time and as the kids go back to getting their brains in shape we have some helpful hints on how to get your dog's brain in shape. You can teach an old dog new tricks and help young pups refresh their manners.  The benefit of teaching your dog tricks and manners is to keep his brain busy and can make him more manageable.  It can reduce the stress of having people over to the house and the chaos that may happen when the doorbell rings.

Some basic commands that we recommend all dogs know are: sit, stay, and leave it or drop it. These verbal commands can keep your dog safe and prevent him from hurting himself or getting into trouble. If your pet is food motivated, you can use a treat to reward him when he accomplishes the task that was asked.  Dogs, like small children, need to be rewarded (or corrected) right when the event takes place. If you were to reward a sit after your dog has stood up already you are no longer teaching sit. You are teaching  your pet to stand. On the other hand, if your pet has an accident on the floor, punishing him after the fact does not help him know what he did wrong.  We will talk more about that later in this blog. 

When asking your dog to perform a task, associating a hand signal along with a verbal cue will help your dog understand your request. Make it simple and have everyone in the home use the same verbal and physical cue.  Say "Sit" while using your hand signal at the same time. When the dog sits, reward with a treat as quickly as possible.  Then, verbally praise your pet "Good job, Charlie!"  This is the same pattern you will use for any task you would like to accomplish with your dog. 

Some dogs catch on much faster than others, so be patient. Training sessions should be kept short (five to ten minutes) but can take place multiple times a day.   Three, five minute sessions through out the day will help your dog stay engaged and focused. I like to use the term "All done" and the ASL sign language sign for it to help my dogs know when we are done training.  I try to finish the session before they lose interest that way I end on a high note.  When you do multiple sessions through out the day, you are creating purposeful bonds with your dog. Remember to always use your cues whenever you ask them to do anything.  Remember practice makes perfect.

Potty training a young or an old dog can be incredibly frustrating.  It takes time, patience, and high value rewards.  Potty training means multiple trips outside and some trips may not be a successful one. Make sure the whole family uses the same cue to get the dog to eliminate; "Go potty"   is a very common cue we use at our hospital. Give your dog time to sniff around and take in his environment. Sniffing is one of your dog's main ways to gather information around them. When your dog starts to posture to go, give good words of encouragement but do not get too excited.  You may scare your dog away from doing the deed.  When your dog is completely finished, this is when you celebrate.  Lots of verbal praise and treats should be given on the spot.

Make sure to watch your dog for cues that he needs to go outside. Sniffing, circling, going into another room away from you are all common signs that he may need to go outside.

A trained dog makes for an excellent life long friend. All of us at Fairway Animal Hospital would be more than happy to direct you to further resources and local trainers if you need some in house help.  

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Are Essential Oils Toxic To Your Pets?

There has been a lot of info floating around on Facebook and other social media sites recently about the use of essential oils around pets – particularly about their use around cats. We wanted to take a moment to provide some more info on this topic since we have received a few questions about this recently. 

If you take the articles floating around at face value, you may be ready to throw all your essential oils or diffusers in the trash. These articles have claimed that essential oils are extremely toxic to cats, and while in some instances this can be true, we need to delve deeper into what actually causes these toxic effects.

The main problem with using essential oils is related to ingestion. Placing essential oils onto your animals or onto your own skin where your animal may lick them off can lead to problems due to the concentrated amount of oil ingested. If essential oils will be used topically by members of your household, make sure to do adequate research on the ingredients in your oils. There are oils that are known to have toxic effects; you can find more info on those oils here: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/essential-oils-cats/

As for the realm of essential oil diffusers, there is much less information readily available about the effects this can have on your animal. You are likely to find a variety of answers about the safety of these devices depending on who you ask. The main concern for our pets in regard to using diffusers is respiratory irritation. Homes that have cats with asthma or pets with other respiratory diseases would be better off skipping diffusers as they can make the symptoms of these conditions worse. However, for all other animals, diffusers can be used safely around them. As a general rule of thumb, make sure your animal can leave the room that the diffuser is in if it is irritating to them, switch your diffuser off occasionally to give your animals a break, and make sure all oils are out of reach of curious pets who may ingest them accidentally. The only exception to this rule would be for homes with birds. Birds are particularly susceptible to any airborne chemicals, such as air fresheners and candles. If you keep a bird as a pet in your home, diffusers should not be used around them.

If you want to read a more in depth look about the effects of essential oils on cats, check out this article written by a fellow Veterinarian: http://mailchi.mp/84d05339fa01/cats-essential-oils-research-references

If you have more questions about whether essential oils or diffusers are appropriate for use in your home, feel free to contact our veterinary technicians or veterinarians for more information. We are always happy to help you make informed decisions about your pets and their health!

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An Explanation of a Dental Procedure

We are now halfway through Dentistry Month, and this blog entry will go through the process of a dental cleaning.  Most people are familiar with the process of a dental cleaning for humans, but the entire process differs in many ways for your dog or cat. One of the main differences is that pets have to be under general anesthesia to have their teeth cleaned.  Once plaque settles onto a tooth, it hardens into tartar/calculus.  The tartar can accumulate above and below the gum line, causing problems for the health of the tooth.  A thorough and safe dental can only be performed for a pet under general anesthesia.  Let’s take a step-by-step look at what happens during this process.

After you drop your dog off at the hospital, the first thing that your veterinarian will do is collect vital signs and perform a thorough physical exam to ensure your pet is healthy enough to go under anesthesia. Our technicians will draw blood from your pet to run an in-house blood panel to check the function of the organs that play a part in anesthesia.  For example, we assess liver and kidney function because these organs are important for metabolizing and excreting anesthetic drugs.             

After your pet has been deemed healthy enough for the procedure, they will be given an injection called a pre-medication to help them relax. This does not put them fully under anesthesia, but makes them sleepy and carefree during the process of preparing for their dental. Before they are fully anesthetized, our technicians place an intravenous catheter into a vein, which is used to give anesthesia drugs and fluids during their dental. This is also a safety measure that allows us to give additional drugs if an emergency were to happen under anesthesia.

Your pet then receives another drug called an induction agent to fully transition to anesthesia. After this, a technician places an endotracheal tube into the dog or cat’s airway, just as a human would have for surgery. Not only does the endotracheal tube allow us to deliver gas anesthetics to your pet, it also protects your pet’s airway from water and debris while their teeth are cleaned.

Another safety measure in place during these procedures is the fact that in addition to our veterinary technician cleaning the teeth, we also have a trained surgical assistant with each patient. The assistant monitor your pet’s vital signs, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood pressure, every 5 minutes. This means that a team of an assistant, technician, and veterinarian are all dedicated to your pet and their safety during these procedures.

This is where the actual cleaning process begins. Our Registered Veterinary Technicians have many roles, and one of them is as your pet’s dental hygienist. They perform a full evaluation of the animal’s teeth and gums. They also scale your pet’s teeth above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar, and polish the teeth to make them smooth. Our technicians are trained to notice abnormalities while cleaning and alert the veterinarian to any problems they find. Once the teeth have been fully cleaned, the veterinarian will also perform a thorough oral exam.

At this point, your veterinarian will determine if any teeth need to be radiographed or extracted from the mouth. At Fairway Animal Hospital, we are lucky to have a digital radiograph system for dentistry, which means that radiographs are almost instantaneous and your pet does not have to spend a lot of additional time under anesthesia waiting for x-rays. Once the radiographs are taken, our veterinarians review the health of the tooth root and surrounding structures. This can be helpful in the evaluation of teeth that have broken, are loose for one reason or another, or have other issues. Sometimes extractions of the teeth are necessary.

Once all necessary procedures have been performed in the mouth, it is time to wake your pet up! Both our technician and assistant continue to monitor your pet as they wake up from anesthesia. We also use towels, blankets, and warming devices to keep your pet’s temperature stable and keep them comfortable during recovery. Pets are often disoriented when waking from anesthesia, so we ask that your pet stay with us most of the day so they can stay quiet in a cage while recovering.                 

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet undergoing anesthesia or having a dental cleaning, please reach out to us!

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Dental Health Products/At Home Care

Dental Health Month – Post #1

Dental Health Products/At Home Care

Did you know that by two years of age, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease? Your pet may not need a full dental cleaning under general anesthesia at that time; however, they may already be accumulating plaque and tartar and often show no clinical signs that this is happening. Because of this, it is important to think about your pet’s dental health before you start to notice any outward signs of dental disease. There are many steps that you can take at home to help care for your pet’s teeth.

The best option to keep your pet’s teeth clear of the plaque and tartar that cause gingivitis is to brush their teeth daily. There are different types of brushes available on the market for pets, so it may take some experimentation to figure out what works best for you and your pet. There are brushes with a long handle similar to what a human would use, as well as versions designed to fit over your finger. If you do take on the task of brushing your pet’s teeth, make sure to use veterinary specific toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that can be harmful if swallowed by your dog or cat. Veterinary toothpaste has the added benefit of coming in flavors your pet is more likely to enjoy, like beef or tuna.

 It can be a challenge to get your pet to accept tooth brushing. You may need to use baby steps with lots of rewards along the way to help your pet feel more comfortable with the entire process. If you want more info on getting started brushing your pet’s teeth, we would be happy to show you how and share some of the ways you can make brushing a positive experience. You can also check out this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB3GIAgrTPE

If brushing is not an option, there are treats, special diets, and other products available that can also help. However, if you have been to a pet store recently, you have probably noticed that there are often entire aisles of products available that claim to help keep your dog or cat’s teeth clean and freshen their breath. But with so many options out there, how do you choose?

While you are browsing for a product appropriate for your pet, one of the more important things to look for is a VOHC seal located on the product packaging. VOHC stands for Veterinary Oral Health Council. The VOHC is a non-profit organization that allows their seal to be used on any product that has had testing done and is proven to help slow the formation of plaque and tartar. Essentially, this seal can help you determine which products can back up the claims that they make in regards to your pets oral health. There is a full list of VOHC accepted products available at http://www.vohc.org/all_accepted_products.html.

The brand of veterinary dental products we recommend most often in our hospital is the CET brand. They make many products, including a variety treats and chews, toothpaste, and different types of toothbrushes, dental rinses, and water additives. We carry many of these products in the hospital; they can also be found using our online store and entering “CET” in the search bar. Our online store is accessed at this link: http://fairwayanimalhospital4.capnavetsource.com/index.pml

Even with regular tooth brushing or the use of dental chews, treat or other products, your dog or cat may still need a full dental cleaning at some point during their life. Our doctor’s will assess your pet’s teeth yearly at their annual visits and let you know when it is time for their teeth to be cleaned.

*February is Dental Health Month! Stay tuned for more blog posts and more information about your pet’s dental health!*

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Eight Steps to Walking Your Dog in the Winter

Here is some helpful information about walking your dog in the winter. 

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Eight Steps to Walking Your Dog in the Winter

Here is some helpful information about walking your dog in the winter. 

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In with the New, Out with the Old

Happy New Year! As we prepare for the year ahead, everyone sets new goals, plans adventures, and declutters the house to make room for the next twelve months.  When it comes to our pets, we need to be going through their things as well because it helps to keep your cat or dog healthy, safe, and happy. Below is a list of things to consider throwing away or repairing.

1.       Nail trimmers that may be dull. Sharp nail trimmers make an already difficult task slightly easier.  You can sharpen the blade or just toss them and get a new pair.

2.       Busted toys. Toys that are broken have the potential to hurt or injure your cat or dog. If the toy has loose strings, sharp edges, or pieces that may be easy to swallow, toss them and buy new ones for your pet. 

3.       Scratched up litter boxes. Litter boxes that have scratches or imperfections may trap bacteria and odor.  This is a perfect environment for the bacteria to set up shop, and remember that your pet can transfer the bacteria to you.  Consider buying a new litter box each year.

4.       Plastic bowls. Plastic tends to be naturally greasy. Some cats can suffer from feline acne and plastic bowls tend to irritate them more than ceramic or metal. Similar to the litter boxes, the food bowls can be scratched or have areas where bacteria can settle and cause problems for the pets. Dogs may not have as many issues with this, but it’s still a good idea to toss if they have been chewed up. 

5.       Expired medications. It is tempting to have a stock of medications but if any are expired, they need to be thrown away. Some medications can go past their date, and the potency may be affected.  Giving your pet expired medication usually won’t work or, in some cases, might make the problem worse.   Expired medications can also be toxic. Don’t take the chance.

6.       Retractable leashes. These leashes look convenient and simple to use but they can be one of most dangerous pet related items in your house. You don’t have complete control over your dog when they are stretched out in front of you. You don’t know what danger might be right around the corner.  Often these leashes have built in breaks on them, but if those fail, the only way to stop your pet is by grabbing a nylon rope, and many people have reported skin burns from these leashes.  Our best recommendation is to toss them. Get a sturdy leash that won’t injure you or your dog.

7.       Smelly collars. Collars should be replaced if they get stinky or so dirty where a run through the washing machine doesn’t improve them.  The collar sits on your pet’s neck all the time. It is another perfect environment for bacteria to grow and cause future skin problems for your pet. 

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National Animal Safety Month

October is National Animal Safety Month.  With all of the natural disasters that have been happening around the globe, now is a good time to refresh yourself on how to keep your furry friends safe.  Cats and dogs are important members of your family and including them in your safety plan now will help prevent future loss.    

1. Micro-chipping.   Having your pets micro-chipped, and making sure that information associated with the microchip is up to date is one of the best ways to ensure that your pet is returned to you if they ever get separated from you.  You can use the AAHA tool (www.petmircochiplookup.org) to find which company your pet's chip is through. From there, you can contact the company and update any information.  If you are unsure of your pet's number or if your pet has a microchip, come to our hospital and we can scan them for you to double check.  

2. Window stickers.  No one wants to think about needing emergency help at their own house. Window stickers will let an emergency crew know about other family members that may need to be rescued as well.  The ASPCA has a free emergency kit that you can order online (https://secure.aspca.org/ take-action/order-your-pet- safety-pack).  This pack includes window clings and a fridge magnet.

3.  Wallet Cards.  There are a lot of pet emergency wallet cards that you can buy or download.  These cards are kept in your wallet for occasions where you may have an emergency away from your pets.   We like ones that give the basic information such as a person to contact to care for your pets while you are unable to, but you must make sure to let the person that you put on the card know that they are in charge of your pets if something happens to you. Here is a link for a free basic download that you can add to your safety plan for your pet: http://www.thepugdiary.com/my- pet-is-home-alone-card/

A lot of families already have emergency kits in their home that are packed with items that would help the family during an emergency.  We've put together a checklist of items that would be helpful to add for your pets.  It's not a complete list, but it's a good starting point.  

1. Leashes and collars with I.D. tags.  Carriers that are tagged with your information are also helpful.

2. Daily medications your pet needs.  The CDC recommends a two week supply.

3. Proof of ownership (laminated in case of water damage).

4. Proof of current vaccines (laminate this one too).

5. Food and Feeding Instructions. Again,  a two week supply is recommended for each animal.  We also suggest a manual can opener if your pet is on a canned diet.

6. Water for everyone, including pets. You can never have too much water.

7.  One or two comfort items like nylabones, toys, or blankets.

8. Veterinary contact information.

We all hope that we are never in a situation where these items are necessary, but life takes unexpected turns, and it doesn't hurt to be over prepared for your pets.  

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