November 2019 Blogs

Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely with Your Pets

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with family and friends and indulge in delicious holiday treats. You can be sure that if your cat or dog is around for the festivities, they'll want to share some of the goodies, too. But no matter how much your pets purr, plead, whine or whimper, owners should remember that holiday treats that are tasty for people can be potentially harmful for pets.

Thanksgiving foods may look tasty to your pet, but they could be harmful.

The typical Thanksgiving spread is flush with a variety of foods, from savory fare like turkey and stuffing to sweet foods like yams and cream pies. Your pet's diet is much blander and boring, and for good reason—foods with lots of fat, dairy and spices can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets. For this reason, it's best to avoid letting Rover dine on the usual turkey day leftovers. If you must give your pet some holiday foods, stick to dishes like boiled potatoes or rice, which will not upset your pet's stomach.

Some holiday foods, however, can cause much more than an upset stomach in your pet. Garlic and onions are members of the allium family and, if eaten in large quantities, can cause hemolytic anemia, a blood disorder that causes red blood cells to burst. Raisins and grapes are also toxic to pets and have been linked to kidney failure.

Chocolate is dangerous for pets

Chocolate is one of the most dangerous foods that pets can eat—it's also one of the most prevalent holiday foods. Whether chocolate is found in cookies, cakes, truffles or baking squares, any amount can be dangerous. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both methylxanthines that can cause stimulation of the nervous system, increased heart rate and tremors. Signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate.

Other sweet treats, like gum and hard candies, can also make your pet ill. Sugar-free candies and gum are made with xylitol, a sugar substitute that can cause a drop in blood sugar, depression, loss of coordination and seizures in your pet. Xylitol is also linked to liver failure in dogs. Be sure to keep all candies, chocolate and other sweets out of your pet's reach. If you believe your pet may have ingested chocolate or candy, call your veterinarian immediately.

You may also be tempted to give your dog a leftover turkey bone or two once the table is cleared. However, poultry bones are small and easily breakable and can easily shatter and get caught in your pet's throat. These bones can cause damage to your pet's throat or lead to choking.

Holidays can also be as stressful for your pet as they are for you. Large gatherings of unfamiliar people may cause your dog or cat unnecessary stress and worry. If your pet does not interact well with strangers, keeping him or her in a separate room during the festivities may help keep your pet relaxed and worry-free.

During holiday gatherings, it's a good idea to keep your veterinarian's phone number handy. If your pet does get a hold of some Thanksgiving food and experiences mild vomiting or diarrhea, you can help settle their stomach by withholding food for a few hours then feeding small amounts of boiled rice and cooked hamburger. If the symptoms persist, contact your veterinarian immediately.

How To Use Reinforcement Training With Your Dog

Most of your dog's behavior is a direct result of reinforcement. In essence, when your dog presents a certain behavior, it is your acceptance or acknowledgment of that behavior that supports its continuation and repetition.

Many people feel guilty once they learn that they might have perpetrated bad behavior in their pet. Although it may be natural to feel this way about establishing a certain behavior in your dog, behavior is not stamped in stone. Keep in mind that, if your dog is adopted, it may have been a previous owner who imprinted the behavior. Or, it could be a friend, relative or neighbor who supported unwanted behavior in your dog. Anyone who interacts with your dog has the potential of reinforcing behaviors. Using the proper methods, you can always change a behavior you may have accidentally reinforced in the past that is causing problems with your dog in the present.

A simple way to begin reinforcement training is to think about what your dog likes.

A simple way to begin reinforcement training is to think about what your dog likes. Food often works best, but praise, petting, tone of voice, certain words, facial expressions or a particular toy might work best. Any one or a combination of these "reinforcers" can help determine your dog's behavior. Simply stated, when your dog does something you like, immediately do something your dog likes. It's that easy.

To illustrate reinforcement, let's start with a puppy. When a puppy is born, he or she immediately starts showing certain behaviors. Some behaviors are reinforced and some are not. The vast majority of the behaviors your dog has when he or she is older than a year are the result of intentional corroboration, whether accidental or intentional. Research does indicate that genes, for the most part, give a dog a predisposition to have certain behaviors, but the vast majority of behaviors you might object to (i.e. chewing, barking, sleeping in your bed) is learned. That is how powerful reinforcement training can be.

It has been estimated that one reinforcement can increase the probability of a recurring behavior from near zero to as much as 80 percent. A single reinforcement can almost guarantee that a behavior will happen again in the future. Another important consideration is the timing of the particular reinforcement. Four-tenths of a second after a dog performs a behavior is the optimal time to fortify that particular behavior. Basically, the faster you react to your dog's behavior, the more the dog will understand that particular behavior is acceptable. For example, think of training your dog to sit. You tell your dog to sit, and he does. If you wait until he is standing again to praise him, he will think you are praising him for standing.

Often, the behavior that is least pleasing to you is one that you reinforce without realizing. For example, if your dog jumps on you, how do you react? If you touch your dog or pet him while he's on two legs, you are reinforcing the problem. If your dog growls at someone when they enter your home and you say, "It's okay" in a calming voice that your dog hears under normal circumstances, you are reinforcing the bad behavior. As you can see, it's very easy to either create or aggravate any behavior pattern without the proper knowledge.

So, once you have identified the problem, what's next? At first, it may seem impossible to reinforce certain behaviors with your dog. To change a behavior takes time, patience and a little extra skill. The solution lies in reinforcing the incompatible behavior. The easiest way to understand incompatible behavior is to acknowledge that a dog is unable to do two opposing behaviors at the same time. For example, a dog is unable to sit and jump up at the same time just as a dog can't be friendly and aggressive at the same time.

Since each dog is unique, there are a number of different ways to tweak incompatible reinforcement. If your dog jumps on you every time he approaches you, command him to sit and reinforce the sitting behavior. Because sitting is incompatible with jumping, it is necessary for your dog to one or the other. By reinforcing the preferred behavior, you're letting your dog know that sitting is good and jumping is not.

It may take a lot of trial and error for you to determine which incompatible behaviors works best and how to reinforce them to your dog. In the long run, both you and your dog will be happier. However, remember that how you react to a behavior your dog presents is lasting. Never punish your dog with abuse, physical or verbal, or you will be reinforcing certain behaviors that are generally found in aggressive, defensive or extremely submissive dogs. None of these overarching behaviors are acceptable at any time. It is important for you to establish an open line of communication with your dog. Find what makes him happy, and you will be able to make yourself happy at the same time.

November is National Pet Diabetes Month

November is National Pet Diabetes Month, but with more than 50 percent of the nation’s cats and dogs overweight or obese, raising awareness of the common endocrine disease has been extended to pets – rather than just their human caretakers. It is estimated that one in every 200 cats may be affected by diabetes, being the most common endocrine condition found in felines. The numbers for dogs are similar and only expected to increase.

Diabetes results when a pet’s body doesn’t produce enough insulin (Type I DM) or doesn’t process it properly (Type II DM). When your pet eats, carbohydrates found in his or her food are converted into simple sugars, one of which is glucose. Glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestines and travels to cells throughout the body. Inside cells, insulin typically helps turn the glucose into fuel. However, when there isn’t enough insulin, glucose can’t even enter the cells to be converted into energy and instead just builds up in the bloodstream.

National Pet Diabetes Month

Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats and Dogs:

At-risk pets include:

Although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed so that symptoms are reduced or eliminated entirely. Your veterinarian will decide which treatment options are best for your pet. Often, changes in diet and lifestyle, combined with or without daily insulin injections, can help your pet live a happy, healthy, active life.

If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms in your pet and suspect he or she may have diabetes, contact your veterinarian today. Veterinarians are the only professionals who can accurately diagnose your pet and provide proper health management. Diabetes can affect a pet differently over time, even if your pet has experienced a long period of stability. The sooner your pet is diagnosed, the better, and the less likely you'll incur the cost of an expensive emergency visit for diabetic complications.