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December 2015

Thunderstorms and New Year's Fireworks Can Lead to Noise Phobia in Pets

By Guides, Health, News

cat dog fireworksThunderstorms and New Year’s Fireworks Can Lead to Noise Phobia in Pets

Pets are not as thrilled about the New Year’s fireworks as their human owners. Just the opposite, they find the noise very stressful and even scary. The same counts for thunderstorms, especially when it comes to dogs although excessive fear of thunders, fireworks, gunshots and other loud noises can be developed by cats and other pets as well. And with each exposure, the fear tends to intensify, often progressing to noise phobia. Besides causing a major distress for both the pet and their owners, noise phobia also poses a risk of injury which can occur while the pet is trying to run away from the source of noise.

Dogs More Likely to Develop Noise Phobia than Cats

Irrational fear of loud noises such as thunders and New Year’s fireworks can be developed by both cats and dogs as well as other pets including horses. However, it is much more likely to be developed by dogs than cats. It remains unknown what causes noise phobia in pets and in most cases, there is no single trigger. But in most cases, the fear grows bigger with each exposure and eventually, the animal may also develop fear of similar noises/sounds and related events.

Signs and Symptoms of Noise Phobia

Animals suffering from noise phobia can display fear of loud noises in many different ways. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include trying to escape, hiding, shaking, pacing, drooling, whining, urinating/defecating, refusing to obey and panting, to mention just a few. As the animals try to run away from the source of the noise, they can injure themselves, while those succeeding to escape can get lost.

Making Loud Sounds Less Terrifying for Your Pet

If your pet suffers from noise phobia or is afraid of certain noises such as thunders and New Year’s fireworks, there are several things you can do to make the noise less stressful and frightening:

– Keep your pet away from sources of loud noises such as fireworks. As mentioned above, the fear tends to increase with each exposure. Therefore, it is best to avoid events such as New Year’s celebrations involving fireworks.

– Keep your pet indoors during thunderstorms. Pets generally feel safer with their owners and as a result, thunder and lightning appear less frightening. You may also run a kitchen fan or TV to mask the noise and distract your pet.

– Watch your attitude. The way you behave during thunderstorms and other ‘scary’ events has a major impact on your pet. Try to stay calm and take a comforting stand but be sure not to be overly comforting because the animal may misinterpret it as an approval of their behavior. Also, don’t punish your pet because it will only make things worse.

– Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier if you must go outside during a thunderstorm, fireworks or other loud event. Animals that are afraid of loud noises instinctively try to run away from the perceived threat and they don’t respond to commands. As a result, they are virtually impossible to control unless on a leash or in a carrier.

– Ask your vet for help. If your pet’s fear of loud noises is severe or if you suspect noise phobia, turn to your vet for help. There are several treatment options, with medications and behavior modification being the most common approaches to treatment of this irrational form of fear.

Christmas Dangers for Dogs

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Christmas is a happy time for most dogs. The entire family is together, everyone is in a festive mood, there are all sorts of goodies to eat, … But there are also all sorts of dangers lurking around every corner. To prevent painful and potentially life threatening accidents, and save yourself a trip to the veterinarian during the holidays, beware of Christmas dangers for dogs and take the necessary precautions. Some of the most common dangers and ways to reduce the risk of injury include:

– Christmas decorations and ornaments. They are intended to look pretty and create that special festive atmosphere, however, they can be very dangerous for your dog. Christmas decorations and ornaments such as Christmas tree baubles, tinsels, ribbons, lights, candles, wrapping paper, etc. don’t pose an immediate threat to your pet but they are a very common cause of veterinary visits during the holidays.

For example, baubles which are often made of glass or other fragile material can cause serious injuries to your dog’s mouth, intestines or other internal organs if chewed or/and swollen. Also, they pose a choking hazard. The same goes for tinsel, ribbon and many other popular Christmas decorations and ornaments. Christmas tree lights, on the other hand, can cause electric shock if chewed, while burning candles can lead to potentially severe burns, not to mention the risk of a potentially very serious fire. So make sure that potentially dangerous Christmas decorations and ornaments are out of reach of your dog.

– Holiday foods and treats. It’s perfectly normal to feel the need to give your dog a special treat during the holidays. Unfortunately, many holiday foods and treats are dangerous for your furry friend. Chocolate, nuts, onions, grapes and other popular Christmas choices are difficult to digest or even toxic for dogs, while many can also cause choking, internal damage, obstruction or other forms of health problems. So resist the temptation to give your dog special treats during Christmas.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something potentially poisonous, contact your vet immediately. The most common symptoms of food poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, lethargy and seizures. Also, call your vet immediately if your dog appears to be choking.

– Christmas tree and other popular holiday plants. Believe it or not, but many popular holiday plants are poisonous and can cause a potentially deadly poisoning if ingested. Fortunately, this doesn’t count for Christmas tree although pine tree needles can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested. Also, they can get stuck in your pet’s paws and cause a major discomfort, irritation or injury. You are therefore recommended to vacuum the needles on a daily basis.

Ingestion of plants such as Holly, Poinsettia or Mistletoe, all of which are very popular during the holiday season, is another Christmas danger for dogs as all the mentioned plants are toxic. The good news is that they are not very toxic although some Christmas plants can be deadly if ingested in small amounts. To reduce the risk of poisoning, check plants for toxicity before bringing them home and keep all poisonous (or potentially poisonous) plants out of reach of your dog.

Chocolate Toxins and How to Keep Them Away from Dogs

By Guides No Comments

Dr. Grunder holding a box of chocolates. Keep these away from your pets!

Dogs love to eat sweet foods including chocolate, preferably in large quantities. But they are not supposed to because chocolate and anything containing chocolate (or cocoa) is poisonous to dogs. Very poisonous! In fact, chocolate is among the top 10 causes of poisoning in dogs.

Chocolate Toxins Potentially Fatal

Chocolate poisoning in dogs can lead to severe illness and even death. Unlike humans who can enjoy the sweet treat without the risk of poisoning, dogs are extremely sensitive to substances known as methylxanthines that are found in chocolate in varying amounts. Dark chocolate including baking chocolate contain higher amounts of these substances than milk and white chocolate, and therefore, the dark varieties are much more dangerous than the light brown and white ones. Depending on the size and overall health of the dog, sometimes as little as half an ounce of dark chocolate can cause deadly complications.

Keeping Chocolate Toxins Away from Your Dog

Since even a small amount of chocolate can cause poisoning, it is of utmost importance to keep chocolate out of reach of your dog, especially the dark varieties and cocoa powder which contains the highest levels of methylxanthines. These, however, are also found in other chocolate-containing treats including candies, cupcakes, cakes and brownies, to mention just a few. Therefore, they should be stored in a ‘safe’ place – locked kitchen cabinets, refrigerator or high shelves.

In addition to the obvious ‘chocolate dangers’, there is one, less obvious threat to your dog – cocoa shell mulch which is very popular as a top cover in gardens. It too is poisonous to dogs which are attracted to it by its sweet smell. To reduce the risk of poisoning, you are advised to use other mulches that are non-toxic to dogs such as shredded bark of cedar or hemlock for instance.

If Your Dog Ingested Chocolate…

Don’t panic and stay calm. Chocolate can cause severe poisoning and even death but it usually isn’t fatal. As mentioned above, the severity of poisoning depends greatly on the size and overall health of your pet, and of course, the ingested quantity. But it also depends greatly on your reaction. No matter how little your dog has ingested or is suspected to have ingested, you should call your vet right away and follow their instructions closely.

Depending on the previously discussed factors, your vet may tell you to wait it out, what to do to induce vomiting or instruct you to rush your pet to their office to receive treatment. The latter may include administration of medications to induce vomiting, intravenous fluids, stomach pumping and activated charcoal treatment to block the absorption of chocolate toxins in the blood.

The outcome of most chocolate poisoning cases is good, especially if the dog is otherwise healthy and well fed.

Don’t Wait for Chocolate Poisoning Symptoms to Develop

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning develop within a few hours after ingesting chocolate or chocolate-containing product. To prevent potentially deadly complications, however, it is extremely important not to wait to see the symptoms of poisoning. These may include vomiting, excessive thirst, diarrhea, fever, hyperactivity, rapid breathing, shaking and seizures. If left untreated, symptoms can progress to weakness, heart failure and death. So again, don’t wait for poisoning symptoms to develop but call your vet immediately for advice/instructions on what to do if your dog ate any chocolate.

Cold Weather Tips for Outdoor Dogs

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Happy white Samoyed dog on snow in winter day

Cold Weather Tips for Outdoor Dogs

Dogs are not as sensitive to low temperatures as their human owners. This, however, doesn’t mean they can be left outdoors during the winter. On the contrary, it is best to bring them inside when the temperatures get really low. But if for some reason your dog will be spending most of the winter outdoors you should take the necessary steps to ensure that he is protected from the cold and stays as  comfortable as possible.

Dogs Vulnerable to Hypothermia and Frostbite As Well

Contrary to common belief, dogs (and other furry pets) are not resistant to cold and prolonged exposure to low temperatures can lead to potentially very serious health problems including hypothermia, a condition marked by dangerously low body temperature. Likewise, exposure to the winter cold over a longer period of time can lead to frostbite. Short-haired breeds, young and older dogs as well as those with health issues are especially vulnerable although the risk of hypothermia and frostbite is very real for long-haired, healthy and well fed dogs as well.

Helping Outdoor Dogs Get Through the Winter

If your dog will be spending most of the time outdoors during the winter, you are recommended to:

– Have your dog examined by a vet. The goal is to ensure that your dog is healthy and free of health issues that can be made worse by exposure to cold such as arthritis for example. Also, dogs with some medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney problems and heart disease, to mention a few, are at increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

In addition to prescribing treatment/medications (if necessary), your vet will also provide advice and guidance on how to reduce the risk of complications or worsening of the symptoms due to exposure to cold.

– Provide appropriate shelter. In addition to providing protection from rain and snow, the shelter should also provide protection from the chilly winter winds and of course, low temperatures. Make sure that the shelter is elevated from the ground a few inches and large enough for your dog to be able to sit and lie comfortably. Also, make sure that the entry/doorway to the shelter is turned in the opposite direction of the prevailing winds and covered by a windproof door.

You are recommended not to use any heaters or heated mats because they pose a risk of burns and fire.

– Offer more food. Animals that are kept outdoors need more food to get through the winter. This is because they need more energy to stay warm. In general, most dogs need 10 to 15 percent more food than during the warmer seasons of the year. But before making any changes to your pet’s diet, you are recommended to consult your vet. And ensure that your dog’s water stays clean and unfrozen.

– Clean up any antifreeze spills immediately. Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets and ingestion of even small amounts can be fatal. To make things worse, its sweet taste makes it very appealing to dogs. To prevent antifreeze poisoning, be sure to clean up any spills immediately.

– Know the signs of problems. As discussed above, hypothermia and frostbite are a very serious threat to outdoor pets. In addition to taking steps to reduce the risk of both health problems, however, it is also important to know their symptoms (shivering, skin turning pale or blue) in order to be able to seek veterinary help on time and prevent complications.