Bringing Home Baby: Pet Introductions - 08/15/2018
Finding out that you are expecting a new baby into your life is exciting; but then you start thinking about your dog/cat and how they are going to react to a new member of the family. How will they deal with the changes? Is everyone going to get along? What if there is jealousy? I can’t imagine having to give up my pet! The what ifs can snowball into an endless spiral of doubt and stress. Taking the steps to help your pet through this life changing event can set the whole family up for success!
Setting ground rules for the whole family, including the current four legged members, is a great first step to preparing to bring a baby into the home. Including pets in the planning and setting desired habits before the baby arrives will set everyone up for success! Letting your pet be part of the changes and tailoring rules for everyone prior to the first weeks home will save everyone from confusion and frustration.
Ground Rules and Preparations:
Will pet’s be allowed in Baby’s room?
If they will be, be sure to let them in to explore the room under supervision. Close the door after their visit. Pet’s and kids should never be left alone together unsupervised.
For cats especially make sure there are rules about the crib! If they are allowed to sleep in it before Baby arrives they will not understand why they can’t after Baby comes home.
Although rare, a cat sleeping in a crib with Baby can pose serious health risks, like suffocation.
PRO TIP: Create a cat perch in the Baby’s room to enable Kitty to observe without being a danger!
Desensitization to New Environmental Changes
Getting your pets used to new household items prior to the baby coming home is a great way to alleviate stress.
As you unpack the new objects let your pet investigate the bouncers and strollers and playpens.
PRO TIP: Walking the dog with a stroller prior to the baby joining the party is a great way to make future walks easy and relaxing for everyone!
For dogs and cats who are more sensitive and anxious in regards to new noises, purchasing a CD or playlist of baby noises can help desensitize them to the future changes in environment.
Begin playing them at a very low volume and as the pet adjusts, gradually increase the volume.
For dogs that are more hyper or needy, teaching them a place command will help.
This will serve as a place the dog can be sent to while you need to be getting things done and they will be out of the way.
Now you cannot send them there and ignore them, instead give them a bone, kong, etc. while they are there to keep them occupied.
Gradually spend less time with them throughout the day and give them more periods on their own to help them get used to the inevitable decrease in attention they will receive once the baby arrives.
After the baby is born have your partner bring a blanket or other item the baby has been in contact with home from the hospital for pets to sniff and get acquainted with their scent.
It’s the day to finally bring the new baby home, now what do you do?
First, if you have a friend or family member walk the dog or play with the cat for you prior to your arrival home it will be very helpful.
A tired dog is a good dog and will make the introduction easier. For cats even just a 10-minute play session can help chill them out and be less excited about you coming home.
When you arrive home avoid doing the one thing everyone wants to do, putting the baby on the floor and letting all the animals sniff it to “say hello”.
While most of the time this form of introduction will go fine occasionally it won’t; and it only takes a second for something bad to happen.
Instead letting the dogs and cats sniff from a distance is fine. Animals can smell way better than we can, so they can smell the new baby across the room, from your arms, or in the car seat.
Also, only allow one pet in the room at a time. Babies make loud, unpredictable noises that can trigger some animals, especially those with high prey drives. This can cause the dog or cat to either go after the baby or to redirect and go after another animal in the household.
On the other end of the spectrum, if they are nervous and do not want to approach the baby DO NOT make them. Let them come on their own time to investigate the changes in the household. Forcing an interaction, especially that early on can set them up for a bad relationship in the future.
Remember to reward your dog and cat when they are behaving and acting calm. This is just as much a stressful time for you as it is for them; so letting them know they are doing things right will help.
Try to keep to their routine as much as possible. Even if you are tired, keeping to walks, playtimes, etc. as best you can will help them feel more like they haven’t been forgotten.
Utilizing the place command so they have a familiar area to go to and feel safe in can help more nervous dogs adjust to the changes.
It is very important as the baby starts to crawl and move that they are NEVER allowed to bother the dog or cat in their safe place.
If you are expecting a new baby and are worried about how your pet might react or just want to be better prepared feel free to give us a call at the office.
Less Stress at the Vet: Joining the Fear Free Movement - 08/07/2018
Our newest addition to the practice, Dr. Joanne Loeffler, has a passion for understanding pet’s likes, dislikes, fears and motivations. As a Fear Free Certified Professional she aims to help pets and their owners make the most of Veterinary visits and break the cycle of fear and anxiety related to the vet hospital. She was kind enough to sit down and teach us more about what Fear Free means and how it can benefit you and your pet.
What influenced you to pursue learning more about animal behavior and psychology?
I first got really interested in the concept of Fear Free when I was in vet school. During my exotics rotation we went to one of the local zoos and got behind the scenes tours. For me, the best part of the tour was seeing the tigers! The trainers and vets at the zoo showed us how the tigers are trained to present each part of their body for an exam. They amazingly trained them to accept blood draws calmly by presenting certain parts of their body. My mind was blown! If a tiger can be trained for an exam and blood draw with no resistance; why is it that my canine and much smaller feline patients are barely able to cope with being in the building, let alone having procedures done to them?? There must be a better way, and there is!!!! It’s called Fear Free.
What makes a Fear Free vet visit different?
The general way most visits were taught in school is that pets should deal with whatever procedures we need to do without complaint. If they do try to flee, fidget, fight, bite, etc then they may be labeled “bad” or “dominant”. The truth is, they aren’t any of those things, they just don’t know what we want from them!
Think of it this way. You are nervous to go to the dentist (who isn’t right?). You go in and sit in the chair waiting for your procedure. The dentist comes in with an assistant who tries to pry open your mouth, so he can inject the Novocaine. You get worried and start to fight, so instead of them stopping they bring in more people to sit on top of you just so you can get the injection. Now the injection itself isn’t all that scary. Sure, it’s not enjoyable, but it’s something you could easily tolerate if someone took the time to explain to you what was about to happen. And since they didn’t, you can bet that the next time you have a toothache you are going to delay treatment as long as possible because you’d do anything to not go back to that scary place. Well that’s how so many pets and their owners view the vets office!
So, what are we trying to do differently now? Here’s the first thing: We are now trying to assess theneeds vs wants for a patient for that day. They NEED to have their blood taken because they have been sick for the past two days, you WANT us to trim their nails cause you figure they are already stressed out, lets just do it all in one day. We want to help teach your pets that they have control over what happens to them. And that is a powerful tool!
If we can’t complete a full exam in one day, doesn’t that mean more scary trips to the vet?
It does take more time if I send you away today without getting everything done in the visit. I realize I am asking you to come back multiple times to achieve the one goal. It takes time for the staff to train your dog to accept things happening to them, and we want to respect your pet when they have had enough.
Especially initially as we are changing how patient visits in the clinic are managed we may be telling people they have to come back instead of us ‘powering through it’ for the benefit of their pet. Change takes time and we expect to receive push back from clients. But here’s the thing, when each one of us graduated from vet school we took an oath. Part of which states ‘I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering.’ And the Fear Free movement embraces exactly that.
You as the pet owner need to expect more in the way of behavioral health and well being during your pets exam and we as Fear Free Certified Professionals can help you get there! Our hope is that your pet wants to come see us for his next visit!
How can I help my pet that is petrified of the vet?
If you have a dog or cat that suffers from anxiety at the vet please reach out to our office or find a fear free certified vet in your area. I’d be happy to meet with you and set up a plan to help your pet overcome their anxiety and learn that we aren’t such a scary place after all!
Picky About The Potty? - 07/23/2018
Inappropriate urination is one of the top reasons cats are relinquished to shelters. Unfortunately, this also often means it is one of the top reasons people choose not to adopt these cats. So, what are some ways we can combat it or even prevent it?
Prevention, as with all behavioral problems is always the key. Encouraging your new cat/kitten to use the litter box by giving them a variety of options when you first get them can help.
Some cats prefer enclosed litter boxes while others prefer open ones.
Most cats prefer clay type litter.
It is also best to use unscented litter because it does not mask the smell. Now, you’re thinking, that’s the whole point! And that’s right, but only in our eyes…in your cats’ eyes, if they are using the box and suddenly can’t smell their urine and/or poop due to scented litter, they might go somewhere else trying to mark their territory.
Also make sure you have enough litter boxes in the house. You may want to vary the type throughout the multiple boxes to help if you have cats with different preferences. The recommendation is to have one litter box per cat plus one. This means if you have two cats, you should have three boxes.
The boxes should be all in different locations of the house. You should also leave all of the boxes out all of the time. Often one of the boxes goes unused so people take it away and then the cats stop using the boxes. Options are important to cats so leave that unused box where it is!
We also recommend continuing to use the same type of litter throughout your cats’ life. They often then develop a preference to what type of litter they like and changing it on them could be adverse enough that they stop using the box. For some cats that one adverse time in the box is enough to make them hate it all together.
When your cat has a urine accident outside of the box there are two things to initially look for:
Where is the accident located?
It is near the box and you think they just couldn’t make it in time?
Or it is in a “socially significant” area in the house (i.e. window, door to outside, etc.)?
What position where they in when they urinated?
If you didn’t see your cat do it, then you can look at the pattern of urination to see which it is. Cats will either squat and urinate (like they often do in the litter box) which will be more of a puddle on the floor vs spraying to urinate which is when they lift their tails and have a stream of urine often going down a wall, doorway, etc.
Now that we have determined what type of urination they had, here’s the next steps:
If they were squatting to urinate and this is the first time this has happened they need a trip to the vet.
Often either a urinary tract infection and/or crystals in the urine will cause cats to feel the urge to go frequently and therefore they have accidents. It is important to rule out any medical causes of the accident.
If they have a medical problem your vet will be able to then assist you with how to best treat it.
Once treated the problem often resolves.
If they are spraying their urine, then they are often trying to mark their territory.
If it is in a area that has an outside wall, window or doorway you need to do some investigative work to see who is on the other side of that wall!
Often we don’t even know that another neighborhood cat walks through that area or is using that area as a litter box.
If needed set up a camera so you can see who is walking through. Once you know then you need to get rid of the cat, or sometimes other animal that is outside your area. Even if you don’t see the other cat as a threat, your cat could.
How do we get rid of that intruder causing all the issues? If its another cat then using citrus peels (like oranges and lemons) spread in your garden will often deter them from using that area. If the cat is persistent or it is another animal (raccoon, skunk, etc) then using either motion activated sprinklers and/or spray canisters will often deter the unwanted guest.
If there’s no medical problem, there are no other animals outside in the house causing anxiety, and they are still having problems…what’s next?
Like mentioned previously make sure you didn’t just change the litter, box location, etc.
If the boxes are all in the same spot in the house, make sure that no other cat is bullying that cat and not letting them use the box.
You also want to make sure that there are not any “social stressors” in the house for the cat.
That could mean they aren’t getting along well with another pet, they are feeling bullied, or just overall insecure in their environment. Nervous/stressed cats either urinate or vomit, or sometimes both in their environment.
We know that they don’t have a uti or crystals, please make sure there aren’t any other health problem going on, i.e. diabetes causing an increased drinking and urine output.
Declawed cats have a higher incidence of not using the box.
The reason behind this is that often after their surgery, they go to dig/cover after they use the box and their feet hurt, so they no longer want to use the box. Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com
Arthritis in cats can also causes issues using the box as they age.
Again covering after they go causes pain so they stop wanting to use the box. Sometimes its even just the stepping in and out of the box is to painful.
For these cats often times switching to a box they can walk into helps. If they are still unsure then replacing the litter with a puppy pad that will absorb the urine so they don’t have to cover it will often times help as well. Still leave a regular box with litter for bowel movements if possible.
What can we do to help fix the problem?
If they are routinely going in the same spot, try placing a box there. I realize it’s not ideal to have a box in your dining room suddenly but, this most likely won’t be a permanent change. We just want to retrain them to use a box. Most cats if given the option will then pick the box to go in if it’s close to their preferred spot (or even over top their preferred spot). Then, once they are regularly using that and not going outside the box, slowly every couple days start to move the box a about a foot towards the preferred area for the box.
A thorough evaluation by your veterinarian is always a great place to start! Be sure to catch our live discussion on Facebook on this topic!
Bringing Home a New Puppy or Kitten - 07/17/2018
Before you bring them home
Before you decide on bringing home a new family member make sure everyone is on board with the decision. Surprising people with pets seems like a fun idea but often does not turn out as we had planned.
Have the entire family involved in picking out your new family member.
Make sure you pick a new puppy or kitten based upon your household lifestyle. i.e. don’t pick out the craziest puppy or breed if you prefer watching TV to running a 5k. Same goes for kittens, if you enjoy a quiet household don’t go get a Bengal cat even if they look cool.
Bringing Home Fido or Fluffy
For as excited as you are that your new puppy or kitten is home they are potentially equally as nervous about their new home.
Avoid having everyone you know come over to see them. Let them relax and explore their new surroundings for the first couple days.
If possible keep them confined to only small portions of the house to start, then as they gain confidence you can start to let them explore additional areas of the house.
This will have two benefits – 1) existing pets will have a “safe area” where they can get away from the new puppy or kitten if needed and 2) house training will be much easier because you have a smaller space to watch them in.
For kittens, be sure have an appropriate sized litter box that they can get into easily.
Introducing them to existing pets
Remember first impressions make a huge difference. Making sure the first introduction goes well can go a long way in your new family members being able to live with your existing ones.
For both sets make sure you have the house adequately puppy and kitten proofed. If needed, get down on the floor to their level and see what they might be able to get into!
Cats that live in the same household develop a group pheromone, so they likely will be very unsure of a new kitten/cat coming into the household.
Keep them separate for the first few days, sniffing under doorways at each other is acceptable if there is no overt aggression on either end
If they are comfortable with it; having them eat meals on both sides of the doorway will also help with the bonding process.
Once they are introduced, make sure adult cats have a place they can get away from the kitten (cat tree, another room, etc.).
When possible, take a towel or other object that will absorb scent and place it in socially significant areas (cat trees, windows, under the food dish if it is a towel, etc.), this will allow the cats to get used to each other’s scent without having to be in direct contact.
For dogs, having them meet on neutral territory is recommended for the first introduction. This can be as simple as the street in front of your house for the initial meeting and then taking them on a walk where they can be walking side by side but not sniffing. For new puppies make this short, as to not tire them out, and keep them on pavement where diseases (like Parvo) cannot live.
For both groups if you have multiple other dogs/cats, introduce them one at a time. You already know which one in the group is most likely to accept the new addition to the household, so start introductions with that one.
Socialization and Learning
So many people focus on telling their pets what not to do that we aren’t often clear on letting them know what behavior we would like. Treats and praise should be used to help convey to your puppy/kitten what you would like them to do.
Reward them for coming towards you and choosing to interact.
Especially for high energy breeds reward when your puppy is being calm and capture when they lay down, so you can start to teach your puppy an off switch.
For kittens if you don’t want them on certain things, like countertops, reward them when they chose to stay off them. Also giving them an alternative, like a cat tree near the counters, that they can be on and rewarding them for being there can make a big difference.
For both puppies and kittens socialization is key to having them grow up into confident adults.
The biggest key to socialization is to do your best to make sure your puppy/kitten has as many positive experiences as possible.
This means exposing them to different sites, sounds, people, etc all before the age of 16 weeks. When you do expose them to these different things pay attention to their body language. If they start to become nervous of the situation do not force them into it. Always allow them to retreat and then come back on their own terms. You can also use treats to help them become more comfortable with the situation.
For more information, call or email us to schedule an appointment and stay tuned for our puppy socialization/training classes coming soon!
Helping Pets Overcome Car Anxiety - 07/12/2018
It’s summertime and families are busy with sports, vacations and gatherings. These events can lead to more time in the car for your pets. For pet owners who have had a dog or cat with car/travel anxiety, you know how difficult it can be to manage. The end result? Families either avoid taking their pets in the car or the pet is super stressed during the trip. The plus side? There is hope for behavior modification or veterinary intervention for a stress free future!
Anxiety in the car is a very common problem among both dogs and cats. Both dogs and cats can also suffer from nausea while traveling in the car.
For cats the problem arises mostly because they are only put the in car once or twice a year going to the vet, so the car becomes a negative precursor to an event they find traumatic.
The dramatic change in temperature can also be a shock to some cats. If you think about it, 99% of most cats’ life, is spent in a temperature-controlled environment. Going straight out into the cold or heat is pretty shocking to them. Couple that with being placed in a small carrier that is unfamiliar or has bad associations is a recipe for stress!
Leave your pet carrier out all the time and make it a fun place for your cat to retreat to. It will make future trips much easier!
Warm up or cool down the car, depending on the season, prior to leaving for your destination so your cat is more comfortable.
Use a calming pheromone like Feliway to help mitigate anxiety.
For dogs the anxiety usually stems from a different point. Although it is worth saying some dogs who rarely leave the house can feel that same anxiety as cats, in that, the car is always a precursor to some event they do not like.
For many dogs, nausea (vomiting, hypersalivating, etc.) in the car is a common occurrence, especially in young puppies. Some puppies will outgrow this with repeated good experiences in the car. But some dogs, just like people, truly do get car sick in the car. For these dogs, using either over-the-counter products like Dramamine or prescription products like Cerenia can make a huge difference. Make sure to check with your Veterinarian to find proper dosage for your pet.
For dogs that are nervous or afraid in the car, working on desensitizing them can make a huge difference. The level of fear that your dog has of the car will dictate where you will start. Essentially you want to start at the closest point to the vehicle that you can be, without your dog reacting. You then start to gradually increase how close you get, all while pairing it with good things…food, treats, favorite toys, etc. Most people tend to rush and go too fast during this part of training, but it is important to go at the speed your dog is most comfortable with. This may take six weeks, or it may take six months, progress takes time. Be patient.
Use calming music in the car, like “Through a Dog’s Ear” or other soft classical music.
Use a calming pheromone spray or collar like, Adaptil, to help alleviate anxiety.
Utilize a crate in the car if your dog feels secure in one.
Consider covering the crate to reduce the outside visual stimuli.
Like all training, work on these behaviors when they are puppies and get them used to riding in the car. It’s much easier to prevent a behavior problem then it is to work on it when they are an adult!