Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

Sabal Chase Animal Clinic
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

All They Want For Christmas Is You

All They Want for Christmas is You

A client who was in last week confessed that while she loved the idea of spending the holidays with an adopted shelter pet, the timing was just impossible.  The holidays at her house, she explained, were just short of utter chaos. The kids are wired, the whole family is in town, food is everywhere, doors get left open - adding a new pet to the mix just might push both her and the pet over the edge! Thankfully, the rescue community has already thought of an alternative.

For families who are rightfully concerned the timing of a holiday adoption, an adoption certificate may be the way to go. Petfinder’s Pet Promise certificate strives to re-open the dialogue about what is expected of a pet owner, and remind a potential adopter of the responsibilities involved in pet ownership. The giver agrees to cover the adoption fees, while giving the receiver the opportunity to pick the pet that best fits their lifestyle at whatever time of the year that is convenient. Regardless of your family’s “chaos factor”, a pet promise certificate may be the best way to provide a pet in need with a home for the holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homes for the Holidays

Homes for the Holidays

Every January, shelters across the country are over run with adolescent puppies and kittens that were purchased as holiday gifts.  While the idea of surprising the family with a Christmas kitty of a Hanukkah hound may sound appealing, most holiday shoppers are ill-prepared for the work and chaos a new pet can impose on an already hectic time of the year. But what about holiday pets that are adopted from shelters? Do they find themselves back at the pound with the impulse purchases gone wrong?

Surprisingly, new studies show that pets who are adopted and given as gifts almost NEVER get returned to the shelter! The reasons for this are not clear. Perhaps shoppers are more impulsive than adopters, perhaps adoptees are more likely to be older, and past the demanding (and often destructive) baby phase. But for once, the statistics favor the animals, and that’s a good thing!

If you are thinking of adding a new pet to your family, consider adopting one of the many sweethearts in our shelters.  It is always wise to enlist the help of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, or an animal behaviorist to help you select a pet that will suit your family.  There are thousands of animals, including pure breeds, right here in Miami that would love one of Santa’s special helpers to give them a home for the holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Pet of the Month

Meet Vixen, our December Pet of the Month! Vixen is a 13 year old “Redland Rescue” who hit the jackpot with her forever family.  

Every December, animal advocates warn the public of the likelihood of pets purchased as gifts being surrendered to shelters in January. But what about adopted pets like Vixen?

An informal study by the ASPCA suggests that adopted holiday pets are bucking the post-holiday trends.  Unlike their purchased peers, adopted pets that are given as gifts have very low chances of being surrendered when the holiday season ends.

If you’re thinking of bringing home a pet for the holidays, consider a trip to a shelter or rescue organization to find that special soul. The greatest gift you can give a pet in need is a forever home - just ask Vixen!

Congratulations, Vixen and tell all your friends - you’re our Pet of the Month!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sharing the Feast

Sharing the Feast

Every Thanksgiving season, many pet parents beg my permission to share the Thanksgiving goodies with their four legged family members.  “But a little bit of turkey is okay, right?” they ask.
“I mean there’s turkey and chicken in his food.  And you even said sweet potato is good for them!”

While foods such as turkey and sweet potatoes are not “bad” for pets in and of themselves, bear in mind that any diet change can be upsetting to a dog or cat’s sensitive digestive tract.  Our foods are often basted, seasoned, garnished, and marinated in foods that are completely foreign to our pets. Sweet potato is good for your pet.  But the butter, brown sugar and marshmallows that make up Bubbe’s “special recipe” are not.  Butter and cooking oils are high in fats  - and even “good fats” can cause gastrointestinal upset.  Worse yet, fatty foods can lead to pancreatitis, a condition that can cost well over $1000 to treat, and can cost your pet his life if left untreated.  Many recipes also include onions.  Onions are the cause of Heinz body anemia, a blood disorder that is often fatal and again, costs thousands of dollars to treat.

While “people food” may be off-limits, bear in mind that this is a very hectic time of the year - and pets know it!  Many will help themselves to whatever they can find in garbage cans, recycling bins and things that have been dropped on the floor.  Strings, tin foil, roasting bags, and grease-soaked paper towels are just a few of the Black Friday emergencies I have treated throughout my career. Never set garbage bags on the floor.  They are fair game to a hungry hound.  A client learned this the hard way when her dachshund tore through the bag and ate the entire turkey carcass. I surgically removed it the next day.

My front desk is often asked why they have to work the day after Thanksgiving.  The answer usually starts with “Well, there was this dachshund one year that tore open the trash bag….”

For those of you who may be wondering, no it was not one of my dachshunds!  At least not that time...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cat Nail Trims

Can I Really Cut My Cat’s Nails?

Nail trims for cats are not nearly as scary as they sound.  While the best time to teach a cat to tolerate nail trims is kittenhood, older cats can learn as well.  Start by getting Kitty to tolerate having her paws and toes played with while you are holding her. Make sure she gets used to having the pads of her paws pressed so that the nails are exposed. Choose a time when she is naturally relaxed, such as right after mealtimes or after naps.  If she enjoys being cuddled in a blanket, do this as well. Choose a quiet place away from the distractions of children, other pets, or outdoor activity. Next show her the clippers.  Let her smell them, pet her with them, and give her a treat as a reward.

Once she learns that neither clippers nor toe handling is scary, get her used to the sound of the clippers.  While you are holding her, use the clippers to “trim” a piece of uncooked spaghetti.  Each time she hears the click, give her a food reward.  Once she accepts the sound without reacting, press the pads of her paws, and clip the spaghetti at the same time, and reward her with a treat. This teaches her that the sound and pressure combined are neither scary, nor painful, and ends in a tasty reward.  Do this many times until she is very at ease with the process.

Now you are ready to trim the nail.  Relax - your cat will sense any underlying anxiety.  Clip only the white part of the nail, and give her a treat.  End trimming sessions on a positive note.  If she’s happy and lets you keep going, progress to the other nails.  Give a treat reward each time you clip.  If you feel her becoming tense or stressed, end the exercise before things escalate.  Never force the issue.  Do not struggle, raise your voice, or use force. Remember to only clip the white part of the nail - the pink part, or quick, contains nerves and blood vessels.  If you accidentally cut the quick, you will see some bleeding.  Have some styptic powder handy just in case. This can be bought  at any pet store, and apply to stop the bleeding.  If this happens, end the exercise. And don’t beat yourself up! Trimming nails is much harder than it looks.  Try again when everyone is calm. Your veterinarian’s office should be more than happy to teach you how to do this on your own.

The more often nail trims are done, the easier they will be for everyone.  Set a goal for every two weeks to keep growth down and quicks pulled back as much as possible.  Always end nail trims on a positive note, and reward with treats and praise!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November Pet of the Month

This November our Pet of the Month is Lucky!

Lucky is a 4 month old tabby whose mom rescued him from the beak of an attacking Blue Jay. Poor Lucky’s first visit to Sabal Chase was for a nasty eye injury.  With lots of TLC from his new mom, Lucky’s eye healed beautifully. 

Now he’s all grown up, sweet as can be, and living happily ever after with his mom and two canine siblings. Congratulations, Lucky, and tell all your friends - you’re our Pet of the Month!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#4 Fact of Fiction: Only Criminals, Drug Dealers, and Thugs Own Pit Bulls

It’s Pit Bull Awareness Month!

Fact or Fiction: Only criminals, drug dealers and thugs own pit bulls. (Yes, a client actually said that to me!)
We’ll let you decide this one for yourself.  Here is a list of some nefarious characters, both past and present who own or have owned pit bulls:

Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, General George Patton, The Little Rascals Gang (Petey was a pit bull), Rachel Ray, Jon Stewart, James Gandolfini, James Caan, Brad Pitt, Alicia Silverstone, Pink, Fiona Apple, Linda Blair, Dr. Phil, Teddy Roosevelt, Jamie Foxx, Cesar Milan, Mary Tyler Moore, Woodrow Wilson, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, John Steinbeck, Mel Brooks, Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Bernadette Peters, Usher, Eliza Dushku, Anthony Robbins, Ashley Olsen, Orlando Bloom, Serena Williams, Giselle Bunschen, Barbara Eden, Vin Deisel, jack Dempsey, Frankie Muniz, Judd Nelson, Josh Hutcherson, Rosie Perez, Sinbad, Sir Walter Scott, David Spade, Edward Norton, Rick Springfield, Wil Wheaton, Kelly Cuoco, Steve Irwin, Jimmy Carter, Shaquille O’Neil, Tom Brady, Jennifer Aniston….

Have you found any criminals or thugs yet? Neither did we.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#3 Fact or Fiction: Whenever There's a News Story About a Dog Attack, It's Almost Always a Pit Bull

It’s Pit Bull Awareness Month!

Fact or Fiction: Whenever there’s a news story about a dog attack, it’s almost ALWAYS a pit bull.
Fact. Dog bites and attacks involving pit bulls are reported 85% more often than attacks by any other breed of dog.  A 2008 study by the National Canine Research Council studied a series  media reports of dog attacks that occurred during a four day period in 2007.  On day two, a mixed-breed dog attacked and killed a small child.  The local newspaper ran two stories.  On day four, two tethered pit bulls broke free from their chains and attacked a woman who was trying to protect her small dog.  The woman was hospitalized.  Her dog was uninjured.  The attack was reported in 230 articles in national and international newspapers, as well as all of the cable news networks.

Last year, our clinic ran its own experiment.  We scanned the names of children that had been killed by dogs, looking for names that would be easy for Google to find.  On July 25th, 2008, 14-month-old Addison Sonney was killed by an English Sheepdog mix.  A Google search of her name produced 28,900 results.  Seven weeks prior, 7-year-old Tanner Monk was killed by two off-leash pit bulls.  A Google search of his name produced an astounding 1,960,000 results.  The American media consumer has an insatiable appetite for stories involving pit bull attacks.  And our media providers are more than happy to feed us.

It is also important to note that in a study that included veterinarians and animal professionals, pit bulls were incorrectly identified 89% of the time! So the next time you hear a news report a “pit bull attack”, remember there is only an 11% chance that the dog has been correctly identified as such.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#2 Fact or Fiction: Pit Bulls Are Naturally Aggressive

It’s Pit Bull Awareness Month!

Fact or Fiction: Pit Bulls are naturally aggressive and inherently dangerous.
Fiction.  As of February 14, 2013, the American Temperament Test Society found that pit bulls averaged a score of 86.8%.  This is the same score logged by Standard Poodles!  Pit bulls were the sixth most tested breed with 839 subjects being tested.  This is a VERY challenging test that takes place in unfamiliar places, and gauges the dog’s level of fear, anxiety, and aggression when placed in stressful situations.  Pit bulls scored higher than Golden Retrievers, Collies, Schnauzers, and Malteses.

Many factors lead to aggression in dogs including, but not limited to, being sexually intact, having recently bred, being in the presence of puppies, being chained or tethered outdoors, living isolated from humans, inferior breeding, poor nutrition, lack of veterinary care, being born in puppy mills, lack of training and socialization, and being subject to abuse by humans.  It is interesting to note that of the 51 dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation. only one was euthanized for aggressive behavior.  The rest were placed into loving homes, and several even work as service dogs.  This is truly astonishing considering that all were subjected to the factors above, in addition to unfathomable cruelty.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#1 Fact or Fiction: Pit bulls have locking jaws

It’s Pit Bull Awareness Month!
Fact or Fiction : Pit bulls have locking jaws.  Once they bite down, they cannot let go.

Fiction. Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia has stated under oath “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of ‘locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaws and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier.” A study out of Presbyterian College by Jesse M. Bridgers III  titled “The Mechanical Advantage of the Pit Bull Jaw” examined 49 skulls of various breeds of domestic dogs, including those of pit bulls.  Conclusion: “After graphing and analyzing the derived ratios, I have found no evidence of mechanical advantage in the pit bull compared to other breeds of domestic dogs.”  A 2003 study by T.E. Huston titled “Bite Force and Bite Pressure Comparisons of Humans and Dogs” found “There is nothing out of the ordinary in the jaw structure or anatomy of the bull breeds.” That same study also disproved the myth that pit bulls bite with 1600 pounds of pressure per square inch.  Both Rottweilers and German Shepherds were shown to bite with substantially more force than pit bulls.

Nearly all breeds of dogs are capable of biting and holding on with amazing tenacity.  For a free demonstration, stop by the clinic and attempt to extract a Greenie from Grendel’s mouth. You will tire long before our geriatric dachshund does!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Pet of the Month

October is Pit Bull Awareness Month!

If you guessed that Reese Pieces is a pit bull, you’re WRONG!  Reese Pieces is a Rhodesian Ridgeback/American Bulldog mix.  If you guessed incorrectly, don’t feel bad.  In a recent study by the National Canine Research Council, pit bulls were only correctly identified on the first try 2% of the time.  As if that isn’t bad enough, the study group included veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and animal control officers.  Yikes!  So the next time you see an attention-grabbing headline about a “vicious pit bull attack”, remember there’s a 98% chance the dog has been misidentified.  

Congratulations Reese Pieces, and share with your friends - you may not be a pit bull, but you are a sweetheart.  You’re also our October Pet of the Month!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why Does My Dog Need a Heartworm Test?

Every year, compliant dog owners bring their dogs in for a check-up, and are informed that they need a heartworm test.  Understandably, this is especially confusing for pet parents who religiously give the medication every month.  If they know their pet has been taking the prevention, why must they take the test? It’s a good question to which there are two answers.

The first reason is that, quite simply, it’s the law.  Veterinarians in the state of Florida must perform this test every 12 months in order to legally dispense the medication.  The spirit of the law is to protect your pet’s health.  If heartworm prevention is given to a dog that has already contracted the disease, it is possible for the dog to become dangerously ill.

The second reason is that no preventatives are 100% effective, even when they are given properly.  Pharmaceutical companies know this, and as a result, provide their consumers with a guarantee that acts as a goodwill gesture.  If a pet owner is giving the medication properly and consistently, and the product fails to protect your pet against heartworm disease or intestinal parasites, the pharmaceutical company will pay for your pet’s treatment!  The guarantee is only valid, however, if there is a solid purchase history and a previously negative heartworm test on file.  Since heartworm treatment is risky, and the cost can easily exceed $1000, it is in the consumer’s best interest to do the test.  Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, so here in South Florida, our pets are at risk all year round.  It is therefore very important to remember to stay compliant with this basic, yet vital component of care.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back to School

Does Your Pet Have the Back-to-School Blues?

Summer is a time when many families decide to bring home a new pet.  When children are home from school, and routines are more relaxed, more time can be spent helping the new pet adjust, and teaching children about the responsibilities of pet ownership.  When the school year starts, and routines change drastically, the pet can easily become confused or develop separation anxiety.  This is especially true of pets who were brought home as puppies or kittens, and are now entering adolescence.

If you suspect your pets have the back-to-school blues, be sure to include them in the morning routine.  Feed them one of their main meals at this time, as they are more likely to sleep throughout the day if their belly is full.  Designate a special toy that is only given to them by the children, and only as the children are leaving for the day.  Look for toys marketed as food  puzzles or brain teasers that will allow your pet to entertain himself.  A “cat sitter” DVD with images of birds and squirrels can keep a bored kitty entertained for hours.  Allow both pets and children to play together and blow off steam as soon as the kids get home.  When it’s time for homework, encourage the pet to sit quietly near the children as they study.  Making the afternoon routine predictable and fun will give your pets something to look forward to, and make it easier for them to cope with being alone throughout the day.

Eros is not impressed with homework! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September Pet of the Month

Johnnie is an eight year old neutered male kitty who just might be one of the coolest cats around!  Whether he’s relaxing at home with his mom, or or getting a check-up here at Sabal Chase, nothing seems to faze this fabulous feline.  Not to mention, he’s awfully darn cute!  Congratulations, Johnnie, and share with your friends - you’re our pet of the month!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cats and Lizards

Cats and Lizards

One of the first things people notice when they move to South Florida is the abundance of wild lizards.  Their darting, scurrying movements are entrancing to watch - and even more so for our cats!  While our feline friends may delight in stalking and hunting lizards, these common backyard denizens can pose serious risks for our cats.  Lizards in South Florida often carry liver flukes, a parasitic worm that, when ingested by a cat, can cause damage to the liver and pancreas.

Cats with liver flukes do not always develop clinical signs right away.  This is one of the reasons routine, wellness bloodwork is so important for cats in South Florida. As the parasite takes hold, infected cats can become jaundiced, lethargic, inappetant, or anorexic.  They may suffer from vomiting or diarrhea.  Liver flukes can be treated with a series of anti-parasitic injections, and most patients make a full recovery.  While lizards do occasionally find their way indoors, outdoor, predatory cats are most at risk.  Reduced exposure to this nasty parasite is yet another reason why our cats deserve to live indoors.

Monday, August 4, 2014

August Pet of the Month

August Pet of the Month

Taco is a year old mixed-breed sweetheart who was living alone in a yard in Cutler Bay.  When his family lost their home to foreclosure, they moved out and abandoned him in the yard to fend for himself. While the neighbors were kind enough to give him food and water, he cried day and night for the family that left him behind.  When his new family heard about his situation, they took him in and fell in love.  He has settled in beautifully and is living the life of a pampered pooch.  With a little help from Edel Miedes with K9 Advisors, he is now up to speed on his training.  Congratulations, Taco, for hitting the forever home jackpot! And for being our August Pet of the Month!  #foreverhome #nomorecrying.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saltwater Toxicity

Saltwater Toxicity
Learn how to keep your pooch safe at the beach

If your dogs are anything like ours, they probably know that the smell of sunblock equals a trip to the beach!  What they don’t know, however, is that drinking that salty surf can be hazardous to their health.  Even small amounts of seawater can cause a condition called hypernatremia, also known as saltwater toxicity.  Clinical signs of mild hypernatremia are often limited to vomiting and diarrhea.  However if your pet ingests larger amounts of seawater, these signs can progress to lethargy, inappetance, stumbling, kidney damage, seizures, neurological damage, and even death.  Hypernatremia can only be reversed with aggressive IV fluid therapy.  If you suspect your dog may have ingested saltwater, call your veterinarian immediately.

Since dogs overheat far more quickly than their human companions, they feel the need to re-hydrate much sooner than we do.  This leads them to attempt to quench their thirst by drinking from the ocean.  The saltwater only increases the sensation of thirst, which compels them to drink even more.  If you plan on taking your dog to the beach, be certain to offer fresh cold water every 15 minutes.  Pick a beach with shady spots, or bring a beach umbrella and encourage frequent breaks from the heat.  While saltwater toxicity is treatable, prevention is always the best medicine.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke in Dogs

South Florida summers mean searing heat, sweltering humidity, and a considerable amount of complaining.  Imagine how uncomfortable you would feel if you were forced to wear a fur coat at all times.  Now imagine having minimal ways to regulate your body temperature.  This is what our dogs must cope with every day, so it is important to be aware of the risk of heatstroke.

Unlike their human companions, dogs only have minimal sweat glands.  These are located on the pads of their feet.  Dogs also release excess heat by panting, and excessive panting with signs of discomfort can be the first signs of trouble.  Sadly, the most common cause of heatstroke is human carelessness.  Never leave a pet in a locked car, even on an overcast day.  Be sure pets that spend much of their time outdoors have access to shade, fresh water, and ideally, a kiddie pool for fast, safe cooldowns.  Be mindful of your pet’s exercise tolerance, especially if he is older, overweight or is a “smushy-faced” breed (bulldogs, pugs, etc.).

If you think your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, bring him to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.  If there is someone who can help who while you make the drive, have them apply ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables to your dog’s body and head.  Have them vigorously massage the dog’s legs, as increased circulation reduces the risk of shock.  Encourage your dog to drink cool or cold water.  If you cannot get to your vet, remove your dog from the hot environment and use a garden hose to liberally douse your pet with cool water.  If you are physically able, place your dog in a tub of cool water, taking care not to let him inhale or aspirate the water.  This should only be done as a last resort if you unable to get your dog to a hospital.  Dogs suffering from heatstroke need IV fluids to replace lost fluids and electrolytes, and must be closely monitored for underlying symptoms such as kidney failure, clotting abnormalities, and swelling of the brain.  NEVER attempt to reduce a dog’s body temperature with human fever reducers such as aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Traveling with Pets

Traveling with Pets

If your summer travel plans include your pets, now is the time to research the requirements for doing so.  Since every airline, and every country has their own set of regulations for importing animals, this research can be time consuming and daunting.  International travel requires an international health certificate, which can only be obtained from a veterinarian. Health certificates can not be issued to pets with intestinal or external parasites, so make sure your pet is up to date on his heartworm, flea, and tick preventative.  Additionally, many countries require a blood test to ensure your pet’s rabies vaccine efficacy is within the country’s pre-determined parameters.  This test has a three week turnaround time, and if the results are not within the required range, it will need to done again.  Many countries, including France, Israel, and the United Kingdom require this test.  Additionally, it is required by Hawaii, and most Caribbean nations.

Certificates are also required for interstate travel, and are required by many airlines.  When booking your trip, be sure to ask what types of paperwork and specific types of carriers are needed.  Since rules and regulations change frequently, it is wise to make these inquiries several times before your trip.  For more information on travelling with pets visit

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July Pet of the Month

Meet Eeyore, a 16 year old female tortoise-shell who is both sweet as pie, and tough as nails.  In June 2011, a tumor was found in Eeyore's chest.  Eeyore, however, seems to have missed the memo.  She is taking her medicine like a champ and living the good life, thanks to the TLC from her awesome family.  Congratulations, Eeyore and share with all your friends - you're our Pet of the Month!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fourth of July and Firework Phobia

This week’s guest blogger is Dee Hoult of Applause your Paws, a.k.a., Zohan’s Auntie Dee!  Click here for some great tips on surviving the Fourth of July with a fireworks-phobic dog!  Zohan’s all set with his Thundershirt, Kongsicle, and Tibetan gong CD. #rockinthesafespace

Every year without fail, I know at least one person who loses their dog on the Fourth of July. I actually dread getting on Facebook on the morning of July 5th because inevitably somewhere on my newsfeed, I'll see a post from a  friend, client or colleague that says something to the extend of "but she never jumps the fence," "he's never run away from home before," "I can't believe she pulled out of her leash she's never done that."  

When faced with what could easily perceived as a life or death situation, it's no wonder that many dogs, regardless of their training, go into a panic at the sound of fireworks. We know what the Fourth of July is all about. Yet, our canine companions have no clue why, seemingly out of  nowhere, the sky fills with flashing, sparkling lights accompanied by what surely sounds gunshots and explosions. So if you're considering taking your dog with you to celebrate liberty, freedom, and America, please think again. The safest place for your dog on the Fourth of July is at home.

Some people are lucky that their dogs aren't firework, thunderstorm, or noise phobic. But, for the sensitive canine soul out there, here are some tips for surviving the celebration of the red, white and blue.

If your dog is microchipped, make sure all the information is up to date.
What good is that microchip if your old phone number and address are on it?! Or even worse, if you never registered it when you adopted your pet and/or had the chip implanted?! Should your dog become lost on the Fourth of July and end up at the county shelter, the first thing they'll do is scan him for a microchip. They can call you immediately if your dog is found.

Ensure your dog is wearing a collar with physical ID tags.
You would think in this day and age everyone and their mom knows that dogs could have a microchip. You would be surprised that people still simply don't know to take a dog they find to the closest vet hospital to be scanned for a chip. Make it easy for someone to return your dog to you by ensuring he has a physical ID tag with your phone number on it. Better yet, include your home address. Save them the drama; they can bring him straight back to your house.

Prepare a secure area indoors, away from windows and exterior doors where your dog can relax and ride out the fireworks.
If your dog was ever previously crate trained and is comfortable in a crate, this is the safest place for him.. Do not underestimate a dog who becomes panicked!  In my profession I see dogs go through glass windows, wooden doors, drywall, squeeze through incredibly small holes, dig out of what we perceive as a secure back yard, scale 10 foot fences… the list goes on. When  dogs experience panic,  they can become disoriented, meaning that if they were to somehow escape your home they are not just going to wander a few streets over, they are going to RUN. Even the most well trained dogs can end up miles from home in a matter of hours if they are scared. As the fireworks continue to boom, a dog will continue to run in order to find shelter. The best way to construct your doggie den is to use a crate and cover it with towels or a lightweight blanket. Dogs feel more comfortable in a small, darker, snuggly space. Make it as comfy as your dog typically likes his dog bed.

Provide a high value bone or chew toy during the fireworks display.
If your dog loves a certain type of chew bone or food item, this is the perfect time to provide it to your dog in his doggie den. My favorite high value food chews and toys include Himalayan yak chews and stuffed Kongs. I prefer to stuff my dog's Kongs with something like sweet potato, fat free plain yogurt mixed with wet dog food or boiled chicken, and then put it in the freezer for a few hours so it can harden. Then your dog can enjoy a Kongsicle (Kong+popsicle) in his doggie den. You want to give your dog the food item just as the fireworks are starting so he can already be busy working his treat when the fireworks really get going.

Do not leave your dog outside in your back yard unsupervised on the 4th of July.
Not for one second! Don't even think about it! If you have an outdoor dog I am begging you to please bring your dog inside for this one day/evening. I can't tell you how many beautiful animals end up at our county shelter on the 5th of July. Or how many others will get hit by a car or injured running on the street before they ever get picked up. This is the one day you have to take every precaution that your dog is secure and safe to prevent him from following his natural instincts to avoid what he may very well consider a life or death experience. I can't even imagine what fireworks must sound like, or look like to a dog. Their hearing is so incredibly sensitive, fireworks are likely painful too.

Consider boarding your dog with your veterinarian.
If you know your dog gets highly stressed by fireworks, it's worth considering an overnight stay at your vet. Some  vets with a boarding kennel have a staff person who supervises all animals in their care overnight. Most are designed with extra insulation to muffle the sound of barking dogs, which also muffles the sound of fireworks. Concrete roofs are an added bonus, as these muffle sounds as well. You'll have peace of mind knowing your pet is secure, safe, and has access to veterinary care should they need a little pharmaceutical help in order to cope with the booms and cracks of the celebration.  Meanwhile you can go out and enjoy your fireworks display!

Try some complimentary therapies to ease your dog's nerves.
Some of the most popular non pharmaceutical therapies that can help dogs feel less stressed include Rescue Remedy, Thunder shirt, DAP Collar/Diffuser and Through a Dog's Ear calming music for canines! Your dog cannot overdose on these natural and safe stress relieving remedies. The worst that can happen is that their administration will have no affect on your dog. Yet, if they do provide some relief, they're well worth the investment. All of these therapies can be used at other stressful times in your dog’s life, too.

Hug your Dog.
If you're not planning on going out and are going to stay home with your doggie, you have my permission to kiss, love, and reassure your dog when they're scared. Contrary to popular belief you cannot reinforce fear. If your dog feels comforted by your petting, hugging, snuggling or laying with him when he's scared then do it! You can think of me and my 11 year old Border Collie Zoe who will likely be under a blanket with me and my husband. Yes, she'll still be shaking but the panting, drooling and pacing stops when she can snuggle up to her favorite people that she trusts to keep her safe.

Happy Fourth of July! I hope your dog gets at least one hog dog from the grill.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Distemper in Miami

Distemper in Miami: The Neverending Story

At a recent veterinary conference, a local colleague and I were bemoaning the onset of yet another distemper outbreak in our community.  A vet from New York joined in the conversation.  “I don’t mean to eavesdrop”, he said, “but did you say distemper? You’ve actually seen it?  I’ve been practicing for almost 50 years and I don’t think I could diagnosis it if my life depended on it!”   Sadly, even the most junior receptionist at just about any veterinary hospital in Miami is able to recognize the clinical signs of distemper.  We see it all the time, and we are seeing it now.

Buddha, one of our favorite patients,
survived distemper as a puppy!
Distemper starts as an upper respiratory infection.  Clinical signs can include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, inappetence, and a yellow discharge around the eyes or nose.  It soon progresses to the central nervous nervous system.  Dogs suffering from this stage of the disease may howl or cry for no apparent reason, startle easily, be overly sensitive to light or sound, or suffer from violent seizures.  Although many dogs survive distemper, the neurological damage can be permanent.  

While there is no cure for canine distemper, there is an affordable, effective vaccine.  Puppies require four boosters, administered three weeks apart.  Adult dogs should be vaccinated every 12 months.  I do not recommend three-year distemper vaccines for my patients as they have never been evaluated in a challenge-based study.  The disease simply has too strong a foothold in our densely populated city.  If you suspect your dog’s vaccine may be out of date, please give us a call and ask us to check your records.  Your dog will be in good company - Grendel gets her annual vaccine in July!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dogs and Swimming

Dogs and Swimming

A question I am often asked during the summer is whether or not all dogs instinctively know how to swim.  Many breeds of dogs, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Portuguese Water Dogs are both physically built and genetically wired for swimming, while many other breeds do not fare nearly as well.  Dogs with deep chests, such as Boxers, Weimaraners, and Great Danes are naturally top heavy, and may or may not be strong enough to make up for this natural imbalance.  Brachycephalic, or “smushy-faced” breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers tend to be very poor swimmers and are common victims of drownings.  While some of these dogs may enjoy the water, my recommendation is to only allow swimming if the dog is wearing a life-vest, on a leash, and very closely supervised.

While Dachshunds are not generally a water-loving loving breed, our little Grendel is a skilled and enthusiastic swimmer! That being said, she has yet to figure out how to budget enough energy to return to shore before running out of energy. This is not an uncommon problem, so dog owners should be certain to teach their dogs how to reach the side of the pool and climb out unassisted. Consider installing a doggie pool ramp and teaching your dog where it is and how to use it.  Dogs that swim in natural bodies of water must be taught to return to you on command without exception.  Since Grendel will not do this consistently, she is only allowed to swim in the bay attached to a long, extendable leash.  As she ages, we are more inclined to add the life vest.  It is important to remember our dog’s changing physical abilities as each new summer rolls around.  Dogs that are elderly, blind, deaf, or prone to seizures must never be left unattended near any bodies of water or unfenced pools.

Monday, June 2, 2014

June Pet of the Month

Tyler is a 3 year old Boston Terrier with a keen eye for invasive pests. Unfortunately, his encounter with a toxic bufo toad ended in an emergency trip to our clinic.  Thanks to his mom’s fast thinking, Tyler got the help he needed before the venom had time to do its worst.

Bufo toads are especially active at this time of the year.  While they tend to venture out in the evening and after rainfall, this is by no means a hard and fast rule.  Tyler’s mishap occurred during the day, so it is vital that pet parents be vigilant at all times.  As for Tyler, he’s back to his normal, happy-go-lucky self.

Congratulations Tyler, and share with your friends - you’re our Pet of the Month!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dishing with the Doggie Diva Part 4- Resource Guarding

For the next few weeks, our blog will be written by Dee Hoult, owner/operator, and head trainer at Applause Your Paws. Dee is a certified professional dog trainer and more importantly, she is one of Zohan's favorite people in the whole world! We hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we have!

Resource Guarding
Dear Doggie Deeva,
One of my rescues is wonderful with other dogs except when food or toys are involved. I had him out yesterday, we walked into a doggie store that had a selection of bones/rawhides. He was sniffing, his canine friend came over and he quicking esculated due to the resource. He was adopted briefly but returned because he and the other dog got in a fight over a treat on the floor. So my question is other than reinforcing good interactions and avoiding and interactions around food and toys, is there any exercises you can do for resource guarding of dog on dog. He doesn’t have any guarding with people. It really sucks because in general he’s very good with other dogs but gets in those frenzies around anything of value. I’m really starting to search for a home with no other dogs, just to avoid any problems. 
A Rescue Dog Mom 

Dear Rescue Mom,
I’m sorry to hear that your doggie blew his first chance at finding a forever home. Resource guarding amongst dogs can be so scary, so I totally understand why this is so concerning to you. Firstly, understand that resource guarding (protecting food/bones) is a normal canine behavior. The dogs honestly think that it’s “life or death” and feel it’s necessary to defend that food item. They can’t reason like we can, which is what makes resource guarding dogs even more frustrating to deal with because we wish we could just explain to them “there’s enough for everyone! Relax!” Through early socialization we are able to teach young puppies that resources are plentiful, and that we are the provider of all resources and that aggressive  behavior around food does not benefit them. Yet, try convincing an adult dog that after he has had the opportunity to practice aggressive behavior with food before you acquired him. Right now he knows that if he becomes aggressive he gets to keep his food (or so he thinks). So, just like in healing food aggression related to humans we have to be able to set up the dogs in a way that they remain safe but we can slowly start a CC&DS (counter conditioning & desensitization) protocol to fix the food aggression issue.
Unlike training dogs who are food aggressive towards humans, we have to take into consideration the stress level of the other dog who will participate in the training sessions. It’s really important that we never allow the other dog to become a target or victim of the other dog’s aggression. With that in mind, you need to familiarize yourself with canine body language so that should you notice your helper dog is becoming stressed you can immediately end the exercise and remove the helper dog. Below is a free download available on Dr. Sophia Yin’s website. It’s my favorite pictorial of fearful canine body language.
I also suggest your picking up a copy of Jean Donald’s “Mine,” a practical guide to resource guarding in dogs. It’s a fantastic resource for any dog owner who has a dog that resource guards, and it’s those protocols that me and my trainers typically follow when we’re working with resource guarding dogs.
Here’s what I would do to get your dog started on a CC&DS protocol:
1. Set up a training area where you can securely tether the guarding dog (GD). I recommend using a harness during the training so that if the guarding dog lunges forward at any point we aren’t creating any unnecessary stress or strain on his neck.
2. Recruit a volunteer to handle a helper dog (HD). The HD should be well trained and free of any aggression. It’s recommended that your HD be able to do a very reliable “watch me” behavior so that for the duration of the exercise you can ask that dog to stay focused on it’s handler. This is important because we are trying to get the GD to get comfortable around the HD, and if the HD is constantly looking at or paying attention to the GD this will again cause stress during the early part of our CC&DS protocol.
3. Prepare a treat pouch with high value treats such as cheese or meat. We have to find a food item that you GD will desire as much if not more than the rawhide bone or toy that he would typically guard.
4. Get your clicker ready!
5. With your GD securely tethered provide him a rawhide/toy/bone (whatever he will guard), then stand out of reach and off to the side a little bit with your treat pouch. Once the GD gets settled and is into chewing or playing with the item, instruct your HD and helper handler to begin approaching. You will need to determine at what point the GD becomes uncomfortable so that you can make sure your HD team always from that point forward stops short of that threshold. Our entire goal with any behavior modification plan is to keep our GD under threshold so that we never get a reaction. Any reaction we get is a failure on our part because a) we rushed the protocol b) we aren’t clearly reading canine body language c) we made the exercise too difficult and stressful for our GD to succeed.
6. Initially you want to click and treat every time your GD notices the HD coming towards him and his bone/food/toy. You will click anytime you see the GD glances up or “notices” the HD. Immediately when you click you need to throw a high value food item to your GD. We are teaching the dog that everytime another dog approaches good things happen. When another dog goes away, good things stop happening (no more tasty bits of high value food).
7. Overtime, you will be able to decrease the distance between the dogs –bringing the HD closer and closer to your GD. This is not a process you can rush, and again…. decreasing the distance is determined by how comfortable your GD has been so far in the exercise. I would advise that you work for several sessions at the same comfortable level before ever attempting to make the criteria harder for the GD.
Outlined above is a CC exercise. Now, for the DS part…..

Set up an additional tether at a comfortable distance from your GD where you can secure the HD (this can be the same dog or even better different dogs throughout the training). I would advise that both dogs spend time at a safe distance apart enjoying bones together. This can also be accomplished through the use of crates. We want to give each dog their own comfortable space where they can chew bones, without interruptions, yet in the presence of the other dog. Over time, you may be able to move the crates/dogs closer together.
Remember: resource guarding is a TRUST issue. Not a dominance issue. Guarding is a natural behavior, and it is only through slow and methodical science based animal training that we can change a dog’s emotional perception of how he should interact with us and other dogs regarding high value food items.
Need help with your dog or puppy? Have an aggressive dog? We can help. Call Miami’s expert positive dog trainers. Our team has over 20 years of experience to draw from to help you have a well behaved and positively trained dog. 786-529-7833 @DoggieDeeva