Four Steps to Help Fido’s Anxiety
No matter how much we love our dog, leaving the house and the dog home alone is a part of life as a pet owner. For some dogs, this can cause anxiety and stress, resulting in mild to severe separation anxiety. Some breeds are more prone to it, and life changes, like a move to a new house or the loss of an important person, can cause it. It’s important to remember some of the symptoms of separation anxiety are similar to other behavioral conditions, such as a dog that is not fully house-trained. If you suspect your dog is suffering from anxiety, monitor and record his behavior patterns to discuss them with your veterinarian.
How Can I Help My Dog?
Separation anxiety can be hard on you as the pet owner too. If you have concern over your dog’s behaviors that may include urinating or defecating, excessive barking and howling, trying to escape or being destructive while you are away, try these four steps to help with the dog’s separation anxiety.
- Take a walk- The physical stimulation will help tire the dog out and you will leave him in a quiet, resting mode. If you can’t take a walk, playing together or working on training before you leave will help mentally exhaust your dog before you depart.
- Don’t make it a big deal- Don’t pet your dog, talk to him or make eye contact when you leave — or even when you first return home. This helps him learn time apart is just business as usual.
- Start small- Leave the dog alone for five minutes, then extend the time to 20 minutes, then to one hour. Continue to increase your time away until you’re able to leave for a full eight hours without problems occurring. Use treats and praise as positive reinforcement when your dog responds well.
- Stay calm- The dog can sense your concerned and guilty feelings as you’re getting ready to leave. When you’re calm and confident and project the energy that everything will be okay, the dog’s anxiousness will decrease.
Is Your Dog Still Suffering?
If these steps don’t help your dog’s separation anxiety, ask your veterinarian to consider medical problems that may be contributing to the behaviors, such as incontinence or a medication that causes frequent urination. If behavior problems persist, a certified applied animal behaviorist or certified professional dog trainer may be able to help the dog with more complex counter-conditioning or desensitization.
Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed too, but for best results, these drugs should be used along with a training plan to help the dog learn how to handle being left alone. Consider leaving your dog with a friend or family member, taking him to a doggie daycare or even taking your dog to work with you, if you can, while you help your dog cope with anxiety in the short term.
Will Crate Training Help Separation Anxiety?
Some dogs respond well to crate training because they learn their crate is a safe place to go. But for others, it can cause added stress and anxiety. Owners can observe the dog when he’s left in the crate while you are home. If he is panting heavily, trying to escape or persistently barking/howling, you may consider confining your dog to one room behind a baby gate instead. Leaving busy toys for distraction, or clothes you’ve recently worn as a scent cue can help your dog too.
Treatment can be a gradual process. As you work with your dog through the separation anxiety, it’s important to remember you should not scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviors are a distress response, and not a result of disobedience. If you punish him, he may become more upset and the problem could worsen.
Does your pet suffer from Separation Anxiety, and you feel like you’ve tried everything?
Schedule a Behavior Consultation appointment with our very own Dr. Annika Benedetto! She loves helping families with pets that have challenges. Dr. Benedetto can asses your pet and their environment to provide your family with a training protocol aimed to reduce stress for the whole household.
Is your dog pawing at its eye? Does it have a green discharge? Is your cat’s eye bulging?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine when a condition is serious enough to take your pet to the veterinarian.
However, when it comes to eyes, even minor symptoms can be signals of serious eye disease.
EXAMINE YOUR PET FOR WARNING SIGNS OF EYE PROBLEMS
Whenever a pet shows any signs of discomfort near or observable changes to their eyes, the animal needs to be examined. Look for warning indications in your dog:
#1. Does Your Pet Have Eye Pain?
Squinting or closing the eye
Tenderness to the touchProtruding nictitating membrane
Behavioral changes, for example:
Loss of appetite
Pawing or rubbing at the eye.
#2. Have Your Pet’s Eyes Changed in Appearance?
Noticeable differences in the animal’s eyes may indicate a problem.
Physical changes in:
Your cat or dog may be experiencing a problem caused by an inner eye disease. Signs of these diseases are indicated by changes in eye pressure and an abnormal firmness or swelling of the eyeball. These symptoms could be related to diseases such as:
Are they equal in size?
When light is shined directly into the eye, do they contract?
Are they dilated?
Thick green or yellow
Is there any indication of pain?
Loss of clarity or transparency, with the cornea appearing:
Is there any sign of associated pain?
#3. Is the Surface of Your Pet’s Eyeball Smooth?
When examining the surface of the eyeball, you probably will not be able to look at the eye beneath the skin and eyelids and may need to take your dor or cat to a veterinarian immediately. When examining the surface of the eyeball, the veterinarian will look for indications of:
#4. Do Your Pet’s Eyes Appear Unusually Sunken or Bulgy?
This is an examination that is usually and more safely conducted by your veterinarian. Please do not attempt to assess your pet’s eyes, as the eye and surrounding tissue is quite delicate.
The veterinarian may begin this examination by closing the pet’s eyelids and gently pressing on the surface of the eye. This helps them determine if there is a difference between the feel of the eyes; for example, if one feels harder or softer than the other. Additionally, this will provide information to let them know if the eye is tender to the touch as the animal will react with a show of pain. Knowing there is pain may help to point to the cause of the problem.
If the animal’s eye is bulging, it may be the start of an abscess, hematoma, or tumor. This part of the examination will also check for:
Swelling of the face around the eye
Tenderness to the globe when lightly pressed with a finger
Signs the animal has difficulty opening and closing their mouth
Evidence of a head injury.
#5. Is Your Pet Losing Vision?
Similar to a vision test for humans, when checking a dog or cat for vision loss, one eye will be covered while the other is not. Move as if you are going to touch the uncovered eye, and if the animal can see, it will blink as the finger gets closer to its eye.
TAKE YOUR PET TO YOUR VETERINARIAN
If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, get it to your veterinarian right away. The basic steps of an eye examination help the veterinarian uncover initial information. Based upon these findings, the veterinarian will be able to identify the next step to take toward determining a final diagnosis of the your pet’s eye condition.
Call us or CLICK HERE to schedule your pet’s eye exam.
The ear canal is the tubular portion of the outer ear that carries sound to the tympanic membrane (eardrum). The most common disorder of the ear canal is otitis externa. Routine (at home) examination and cleaning of your dogs’ ear canal is essential for its overall health, especially if it is a breed predisposed to inflammation of the ear canal.
There may come a time when a more thorough exam will be needed by your veterinarian. If your dog is shaking his head frequently, scratching his ears, if you notice redness and/or swelling of the skin of the ear flap or the outer portion of the canal or if there is an odor or discharge, these all suggest that a visit to your dog’s doctor is in order.
We will cover some of these diagnostic exams and the results they may return. The tests will be used to eliminate possible causes of the symptoms you have noticed, and they will be used by your veterinarian to identify if there underlying issues which have led to these symptoms. Unless all the causes of the inflammation are identified and treated, the condition may continue, return or even become worse.
After a thorough history is taken, the initial exam is done with an otoscope. Depending on the pain associated with your dog’s condition, sedation may be needed in order to ensure a thorough examination. This visual examination will help to identify impacted debris, foreign objects, parasites and even ruptured ear drums. While performing this exam, the discharge noted can hint at the type of underlying infection which may be present. A light, moist cerumen [a fancy word for earwax] may indicate yeast or staphylococcal infections. Yeast will also produce a sweet biscuit-like aroma, while many bacterial will give a metallic one. A green, black, tarry or mucoid discharge may suggest a Pseudomonas infection. Still other bacterial produce a creamy, yellow discharge.
During the otoscopic exam, samples are taken of both the debris and/or discharge present to aid in the identification of infection-causing organisms. A simple smear of the ear canal may present a quick diagnosis of bacterial or yeast infections as well as parasites. Examination of this sample is the single most important technique in assessing the involvement of pathogens in the ear. One type of organism commonly found in otitis externa conditions are bacteria. Small numbers of various bacteria are present in normal ears. During the early stages of inflammation in the ear canal, the normal ear secretions increase, which is limited in its external movement by breed predispositions. Cocker Spaniels are one example of a breed whose ear canal anatomy causes a buildup of these secretions during early otitis externa.
The overgrowth of these common bacteria is of even greater challenge to the treatment prescribed because many of these bacteria are resistant to a wide range of antibacterial agents. If microscopic examination of the discharge in the ear canal suggests a bacterial infection, your veterinarian may also suggest susceptibility testing in order to determine the proper antimicrobial for treatment. This is especially true if the issue is recurring frequently.
Yeast is also a normal part of the micro-flora of the ear canal. Just like bacteria, under certain circumstances it may increase in number which can trigger inflammation. Unlike bacterial infections, it typically is not necessary to identify the species of yeast nor to undertake susceptibility testing.
While treating either of these types of infections (bacteria or yeast) with the appropriate medications, it is also suggested your veterinarian test your dog for any underlying potential causes of a suppressed immune system which may have led to the overgrowth of the normal yeast in the ear canal. However, a swim in the lake can also case some of these issues as the ear canal may not fully dry out leading to an environment that can encourage bacterial or yeast overgrowth.
Finally, the sample collected during the exam may show the common parasite, ear mites. These are identified on direct examination under a microscope and are treated with anti-parasitic drugs which also contain an antibacterial because many of these parasite infections also have a secondary bacterial infection.
In order to make the diagnosed treatments more effective, your veterinarian will do a thorough cleaning of the ear canals. Many times a follow up exam in 5-7 days will be needed to assess the progress of the treatment. During this time you should avoid any home remedies or cleaning solutions. Many of these can actually cause the ear canal to increase in swelling due to irritation from the product (particularly vinegar based solutions). Any treatment prescribed should be continued until the infection is completely eliminated by a follow up otoscopic exam and swab testing. For most cases the follow up exams and re-testing will take up to 28 days to insure total elimination. For severe cases it may take months to resolve and there are conditions which may require indefinite treatments.
Whether your dog has an initial ear infection, diagnosed by your veterinarian and treated with prescribed medication or requires additional testing for underlying endocrine challenges, the first best diagnosis will still be the close observation, routine examination and cleaning of your dog’s ears at home by you, the owner.
What do you do when your dog suddenly becomes paralyzed? You search for the tick!
Lola came in this morning tetraparetic, which means shes couldn’t move any of her legs. After locating and removing a tick Lola could walk again 6 hours later!
Drs. Coulson and Benoit explain more about tick paralysis in this video below:
A few weeks later we had yet ANOTHER tick paralysis patient! Here’s more information from Dr. Patterson.
Learn more about ticks here:
Did you know that approximately 80% of adult dogs and 70% of adult cats have some form of oral disease? Dental problems are among the top three pet owner concerns in dogs and cats. There are many misconceptions about how to provide good oral care to your pets. Here is a list of the most common myths that people believe about their pets dental health.
1. White teeth equal a healthy mouth
Not necessarily. The health of the gums is more important than the color of the teeth. Red swollen gums are a sign that INFECTION is lurking below the gumline. This infection can lead to bad breath, tooth loss, and heart, liver and kidney disease in pets. The best way to ensure that every pet has a healthy mouth is to perform a regular oral examination and professional tooth cleaning procedure on at least an annual basis.
2. Bad breath is normal in pets
Not true. Bad breath is an indicator of an infected mouth. The odor is often caused by the by-products of the bacteria in the mouth that form plaque and lead to dental disease. If the pet has halitosis it is time for thorough dental exam and cleaning procedure.
3. Anesthesia is scary so non-anesthetic dental cleaning is the way to go
Yes, there is always a risk when an animal is anesthetized, however a thorough pre-op examination and blood work along with individualized anesthetic protocols and monitoring puts the pet at lesser risk during anesthesia. An anesthesia-free dental cleaning provides no benefit to the pet’s oral health. Scaling or scraping the teeth with an instrument only makes a tooth whiter in appearance. Think of the tooth an iceberg, we only see about 1/3 of the tooth with the remaining 2/3 below the gumline. The bacteria below the gumline quickly become pathologic and begin to destroy the tissues surrounding the tooth. It is not possible to eliminate bacteria beneath the gumline where damage is done.
See more: Pet periodontal disease
4. Tooth brushing is too hard and my pet hates it and it really doesn’t help anyway
While not all pets are willing to accept tooth brushing it is the gold standard for good oral care. It does take time to train the pet to accept tooth brushing. Make sure to have a detailed demonstration for the pet owner such as this: Start slow with your finger and some pet toothpaste. Hold the muzzle with one hand and gently insert your finger between the cheek and the teeth and “brush” the teeth. Reward the pet with his favorite treat, praise or game when he accepts the brushing! You may need to do this every day for a week to ensure your pet learns that it’s ok! Once the pet accepts your finger then begin using toothbrush, but introduce it slowly over several days. You only need to brush the outside of the teeth. Pets keep the inside of the teeth very clean on their own. Only brush the teeth you want to keep! 😉
- Watch this video for SouthCare’s tutorial on “How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth”
- If your pet isn’t a fan of brushing – you can opt for the next best thing. Oral Cleansing Wipes, may be better tolerated by your pet. Watch this tutorial from SouthCare to learn more!
5. Feeding a hard kibble will keep my pets teeth clean
False – most dogs and cats actually swallow their kibble whole therefore getting no dental benefit. Even if the pet chews the kibble, the kibble is too hard and breaks apart when the tooth hits it and offers no benefit. There are dental diets that are specifically designed to solve this problem. The kibble is larger, softer and is comprised a fiber matrix that allows the tooth to penetrate the kibble, thus wiping the plaque off the tooth.
6. Bones, chew toys and tennis balls will help keep his teeth clean
While your dog will love you for the bone, his teeth may not. The dogs jaw does not shift side to side like a humans therefore when they chow down on a bone they often fracture the carnassial teeth. These fractured teeth hurt and can lead to infections and abscess if left untreated. A good rule of thumb when choosing a chew toy is if you can’t easily bend it with your hands or if you wouldn’t want to be hit in the knee with it, don’t give it to your pet. Wild dogs and wolves often have multiple fractures in their mouths due to chewing on bones.
Playing fetch with a tennis ball is a great way to bond with your pet but put the ball away when done. The rough surface of the tennis ball can lead to abrasion, wearing away the enamel or surface of the teeth over time. Dogs who constantly chew on tennis balls often have severely worn teeth that can lead to a very painful tooth.
7. Dogs and cats don’t feel pain!
Our pets can’t tell us about the pain they feel and they often want us to be happy so they mask the pain. An infected mouth or a fractured tooth hurt and require treatment. Pets need to eat to stay alive so they will often figure out a way to do so that causes the least amount of pain. Ask the client if they have noticed their pet dropping food or only chewing on one side of the mouth, if they have there may be a problem.
8. I don’t see the mouth so it doesn’t bother me if it’s not pretty
Pets with dental disease have an INFECTION! Would you leave an infected ear untreated or a sore toe untreated? This infection is in the oral cavity and every time that animal chews bacteria is being released into the bloodstream. The bacteria can have a detrimental effect on the heart, liver and kidney. There are even new studies linking joint issues to the oral cavity.
9. Oral disease is an inevitable part of aging
False – If a pet receives good oral home care and routine professional cleanings they are much less likely to develop dental disease as they age. Studies have shown that good oral care can add an average of 2 years to the life of your pet. Just as age is not a disease, dental disease does not have to be an issue in aging pets.
10. How can I know if a dental product will actually work for my pet?
The Veterinary Oral Health Council gives dental products a seal of approval for either plaque reduction or tartar reduction. The VOHC exists to recognize products that meet pre-set standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) retardation in dogs and cats. Products that are awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance have been proven to work based on scientific studies and protocols. VOHC.org
Mary L. Berg, BS, RVT, RLATG, VTS (Dentistry)
Beyond the Crown Veterinary Education
Pavilica, Z., Petelin, M., Juntes, P, Erszen ,D., Crossley, DA, Skaleric, U, “Periodontal Disease Burden and Pathological Changes in Organs of Dogs.” J Vet Dent 2008 Jun:25(2):97-105.
DeBowes LJ: The effects of dental disease on systemic disease. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 28:1057. 1998
Debowes, LJ, Mosier, D. Association of periodontal disease and histologic lesions in multiple organs from 45 dogs. J Vet Dent 1996; 12: 57–60.
Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Moore GE, Goldstein GS, Lewis HB. Evaluation of the risk of endocarditis and other cardiovascular events on the basis of the severity of periodontal disease in dogs. JAVMA 234(4):486-494, 2009
Maresz, KJ, etal, “Prophyromonas gingivalis facilitates the development and progression of destructive arthritis through its unique bacterial peptidylarginine deiminase (PAD)” . PLos Pathog. 2013 Sep;9(9):e 1003627
Tang, Q, Fu H, Qin B, etal,”A possible link between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontitis: A systemic Review and Meta-analysis.” Int. J Periodontics Restorative Dent 2017, Jan/Feb, 37(1):79-96
Some of you may have already asked yourself this question, or maybe even wondered if acupuncture is a valid treatment option. I mean, it’s a little out there, right? Does it actually help? Hopefully the following post will help answer some of these questions, and give you the information you need to decide if acupuncture would fit into your pet’s already established treatment regimen.
Veterinary acupuncture has likely been around for the same amount of time as human acupuncture, which is over 1000 years! In the US, veterinary acupuncture has been practiced for several decades. There is more than one school of thought regarding how acupuncture points are chosen. Dr. Patterson was trained in the neurophysiology based method, which means the points are chosen based on the physical issues present e.g. nerve dysfunction, arthritic pain, gastrointestinal issues, etc.
As with human acupuncture, our goals with veterinary acupuncture are to decrease pain, & increase mobility and comfort in our patients. We use it to treat pain from arthritis or soft tissue injuries, and to help increase nerve function in animals that may have spinal cord diseases or neuropathies. It can also be used to treat certain kidney or digestive disorders, or in conjunction with laser therapy to help with wound healing.
Does it seem impossible to perform acupuncture on a cat or dog (or any other animal for that matter!)? After all, they would probably rather be anywhere else than an exam room getting poked with needles! Luckily those pesky needles are quite small, about the size of a human hair, and flexible, therefore many patients barely register them. We also offer our patients snacks like baby food, peanut butter, and other yummy treats to keep them occupied while the needles are being placed and stimulated. We also try to have our sessions in a non-clinical area, one that is comfortable for both the patient and owner.
Acupuncture is a treatment modality that works best when administered routinely. For example, an ideal acupuncture treatment regimen might look something like this: you and your pet come in for an initial evaluation and discussion about your main concerns and goals. This includes an appointment with the veterinarian, who will do a physical exam on your pet and determine how acupuncture may benefit your pet; the first session will also take place. Then, we schedule weekly sessions for at least 3 weeks. By that time, we will be able to determine how your pet is responding to the treatment.
As with any treatment, human or veterinary, each individual patient will respond, well, individually. While most patients are quite happy and cooperative during the acupuncture sessions, there are those who are too worried or uncomfortable to allow the treatment to occur. In that case, we will discuss other treatment options that best fit with your pet’s current status.
Acupuncture could be a wonderful adjunct to your pet’s already established treatment routine. Please feel free to call and chat with Dr. Patterson if you have any questions!
For more information, check out the links below!
The holiday season is, once again, upon us. Family members may come from all corners of the globe to celebrate with us. Fido may also enjoy this time – not only are there extra pats on the head to go around, but there may be extra bits of dropped food too! We all want to snuggle on the couch with our pets. At times it might be safer for our pets to be entertained with snacks that keep them busy instead of under your feet in the kitchen.
If you would like to include your pet in the festivities, there are safe and healthy ways to do it. A favorite trick of ours is to stuff a rubber pet toy with treats and let your critters lick it out. Kongs along with West Paw Toppl, Qwizl and Tux toys are great options. We do offer these toys in our clinic, if you would like to check them out. If your pets are skilled at treat extraction from the toys you can pop them in the freezer to harden the goodies. This way your pet will have to try extra hard (and will take a bit longer) to get the treat.
What stuff should you stuff with? A classic favorite is peanut butter, pay close attention to make sure that your brand does not contain xylitol which is toxic to pets. For cat toys, tuna is extra stinky and tasty for them. If your pet is on a specialized prescription diet, a wet version of this food could be used. Both cats and dogs will appreciate meat flavored baby foods too! During the holiday season people are treated with extra special home-made foods. Why shouldn’t your pets be treated to the same delights?
Here’s a list of holiday recipes for our furry family members:
Pumpkin Pie Smoothies
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, pumpkin puree and applesauce until mixed thoroughly. Spoon into your favorite dog toy and wrap in cling wrap. Place in the freezer for roughly 4 hours, or until frozen solid. When ready, remove the cling wrap and let your pet enjoy!
Roasted Turkey & Cranberry Stuffing
6 oz roasted boneless turkey
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup quinoa flour
1/8 cup dried cranberries (this can be optional for our feline friends)
Blend turkey, carrot, quinoa flour and cranberries in a food processor. Roll the doughy mixture into 1-2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and allow to cool. Place your stuffing balls into your pets’ toy. Depending on the size of your toy, you can seal up the opening with a glaze of peanut butter to make sure your balls don’t roll right out.
Sweet Potato Cookies
1 large cooked sweet potato
½ cup quinoa flour
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
In a medium bowl, mix banana, sweet potato and vegetable oil until well blended. Mix in quinoa flour until well blended. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool completely and serve in a toy or give as is.
Thanksgiving / Holiday leftovers!
Great options include:
Things to avoid:
Xylitol – sugar substitute
Foods high in fat – bacon, etc.
Simply combine all the tiny bits of leftovers and stuff them into your pets’ toy. Wrap in cling wrap and freeze. Unwrap and serve to your pets that need a bit of distraction during the bustling holiday season.
The best part about these recipes, they only take minutes to prepare! A spoiled pet and no food waste make for a happy holiday season!
Halloween can be a fun time for kiddos, but a potential stressful time for our critters.
Doorbell ringing, knocks on the door, strange people in even stranger looking masks – can be scary!
Here are some tips to help keep your beloved pets safe.
Stash the Treats Safely Away
Kids love to stash candy in their rooms, but dogs are quick to sniff out all the good hiding spots. Explain to your children that Fluffy would like to snack on the treats and putting them somewhere safe is best. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for cats and dogs. Sugar-free candies containing the sugar substitute xylitol can also cause serious problems in pets.
If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call SouthCare or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.
Watch the Decorations and Keep Wires Out of Reach
While a carved jack-o-lantern certainly is festive, pets can easily knock over a lit pumpkin and start a fire. Curious kittens are especially at risk of getting burned or singed by candle flame. Glow sticks are used to help keep kids safe while they are out in the dark. Pets (especially cats) find these glow sticks to be a lot of fun as well, and we commonly get calls about pets puncturing the sticks. While most of them are labeled as non-toxic, they do have an extremely bitter taste. We will often see pets who bite into them drooling and racing around the house. A little treat or sip of milk will usually stop the taste reaction.
Be Careful with those Costumes For some pets, wearing a costume may cause undue stress. The ASPCA recommends that you don’t put your dog or cat in a costume unless you know he or she loves it. If you do dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit his or her movement, sight or ability to breathe, bark or meow. Check the costume carefully for small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that could present a choking hazard. Ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury. Be sure to have your pet try on the costume before the big night. If he or she seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting your pet wear his or her “birthday suit” or don a festive bandana instead.
Keep Pets Calm and Easily Identifiable
All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. While opening the door for guests, be sure that your dog or cat doesn’t dart outside. If your pooch is lucky enough to join in on the trick-or-treating route, make sure your pet is having as much fun as you are. There are a lot of extra people on the streets at Halloween, and that combined with strange costumes can spook pets and cause them to bolt. If you take your pet out after dark, make sure he or she wears a reflective collar and is securely leashed. ALWAYS make sure your pet is wearing proper identification—if for any reason he or she does escape, a collar with ID tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver for a lost pet.
“Those dang yellow jackets!” This is a phrase you don’t want to hear at your barbecue. You may have noticed this has been a particularly bad year for wasps. The western yellow jacket [Vespula pensylvanica] is native throughout most of the western United States. This type of wasp can be aggressive and usually show up in August and September. During the spring and early summer months yellow jackets pollinate gardens and feed on caterpillars, aphids and other insects. As food sources dwindle they become extremely aggressive in search of sugary or protein rich foods- the hot dogs and sodas of your summer barbecue’s. This taste for protein makes them unique in the insect world.
They make their homes in vacant cavities. This can include cavities of building or underground in abandoned rodent burrows, depending on the species. These pests can pack a painful sting, and for those that are allergic, these encounters could be life threatening. Yellow jackets are slow to sting but are also quite territorial. If the entrance to their nest is approached they will become very aggressive with each wasp able to sting multiple times.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Pest Management by the University of California Department of Entomology had introduced a new way of controlling these pests. Fipronil, which is the active ingredient in some topical flea and tick products for our pets can be used as an effective bait. Frontline is one brand of a fipronil based product you may have used on your pets.
In this 3 yearlong study yellow jacket colonies were greatly reduced. This works similarly to baiting traps you can purchase in stores. The foraging wasps bring fipronil laced meats back to the colony where it kills off the queen and other workers that snack on the bait. The smaller the size of proteins used allowed for small and easy to carry chunks to be brought back to the colony. This study also found that wasps have a preference of chicken or fish compared to other meats. Wet cat food makes a perfect carrier for fipronil!
If you’re finding your backyard barbecue being inundated with yellow jackets you could try what Dr. Benoit has done for us here at SouthCare Animal Medical Center. Take a small amount of cat food and mix in a few drops of Frontline. Place this high up where pets and children are not able to reach and wait for the yellow jackets to come. Over time this can help greatly reduce the number of colonies present around your home.
Porcupines are the 3rd largest rodent in America, second only to the beaver. Porcupines can be active during the day or night. They can be found lumbering on the ground and perched high in trees – searching for leafy forage. They are slow moving herbivores with few natural predators. Cougars and fisher weasels are the only ones are known to regularly prey on porcupines. If a threat gets too close a porcupine may spin around and swing its tail at a predator. If this doesn’t do the trick, they may start to lunge backwards at the aggressor.
North American porcupines have three types of hair on their bodies. Underfur, which is short and soft. Guards hairs that give porcupines their cute fluffy appearance. Then, the infamous quills – which can be over 12 inches long. Painful going in, but the quills can be even more painful when coming out. This is due to the barbs on the tips of the quills. These tiny barbs help the quills stay fixed in flesh and drive them deeper with every movement. These barbs also render the quills four times harder to pull out once embedded.
Sticky situation. The tiny barbs (top) coating the tips of the quills from North American porcupines (bottom) make it more difficult to extract a quill from flesh, but they also help the quill penetrate the fleshAs the weather warms up and more of our pets are out and about, encounters with these prickly creatures tend to increase. If your dog or other pet has been a victim of a porcupine you should consider having a veterinarian remove the quills.
Only remove the quills if there are less than 10 and are not embedded in the mouth, throat or eyes. Be mindful that the quills can be brittle and break off still within the flesh. Due to the discomfort caused by the barbs during removal, even the sweetest dog can bite. Do not attempt to muzzle your dog – there may be quills within the mouth or airway. Another factor to consider is, quill removal may be traumatizing for some pets. If you attempt to remove quills on your own only to find Fido is not having any part of this- they can be more anxious when they come to the vet.
When you’ve discovered your pet has had an encounter with a porcupine bring them to the vet immediately. Frequently quills can penetrate through the eyelids and into the eye. If your pet attempted to bite the porcupine, quills can also be found in the gums, tongue and down the throat – which can obstruct breathing. The paws will likely have quills in them as your pet attempted to remove the quills in their face.
When they arrive at our hospital we will sedate or possibly anesthetize them and remove the quills. Sedation is required to make sure your pet is not experiencing pain during the procedure. This also allows us to completely check over the entire body and within the mouth. Despite all efforts, there is still a small chance a quill tip could be embedded below the surface of the skin. Over the next few weeks continue to monitor your pet far any signs of pain, areas of redness or swelling. A small portion of a quill may need to be removed and your pet possibly require antibiotics.
Do not assume that your pet has “learned their lesson” after a porcupine encounter. Many dogs will be treated for porcupine quills more than one time. Porcupines are solitary creatures that live in rocky dens or in trees. If an encounter occurred at your home – check under decks, crawl spaces or downed logs, these may be areas for a den. Keep your pet on a leash if not under voice command if you are in known porcupine territories. Minimizing encounters is the best way to protect your pet from the pain of quill removal. Porcupines are not aggressive and would much rather saunter up a tree to eat some leaves, not have a standoff with your dog.