7 Holiday Foods NOT to Feed Pets

By Educational, Health

7 Holiday Foods NOT to Feed Pets

Sharing holiday foods with pets can be hard to resist—especially when they stare at you with those adorable eyes. However, while many foods that humans eat are not dangerous to pets, some exceptions can lead to life-threatening and even fatal outcomes.

To help prevent this, here’s a quick list of seven-holiday foods not  to feed pets:

Grapes, Raisins, and Currants

Found in fruitcakes, traditional holiday puddings, bread, grapes, raisins, and currants can cause kidney failure in dogs. Since researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact agent that makes these fruits so toxic, any ingestion should be cause for concern, regardless of the grape variety.

Poisoning in dogs has occurred from:

  • Seedless and seeded grapes
  • Commercial and homegrown fruits
  • Red and green grapes/raisins
  • Organic and non-organic fruits
  • Grape pressings from wineries

Foods containing grapes, raisins, and currants (including everyday foods like raisin bran cereal, trail mix and granola mix) are all potential sources of poison for dogs.

Macadamia Nuts

Common to holiday cookie recipes, macadamia nuts are considered poisonous for dogs. Though researchers are still trying to identify the specific toxin that affects dogs, both raw and roasted macadamia nuts are considered dangerous.

Signs of macadamia nut poisoning include:

  • Lethargy
  • Joint stiffness or hind limb weakness
  • Increased body temperature or fever
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

According to numerous animal poison control agencies, macadamia nut poisoning in dogs can also cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Foods Sweetened with Xylitol

As a sugar substitute widely found in diet baked goods, gum, candies and other foods, xylitol is safe for human consumption. Yet for dogs, xylitol can be lethal. Xylitol is rapidly absorbed into a pet’s bloodstream and can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), liver failure, seizures and even death in dogs.

Signs of xylitol poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Loss of energy
  • Tremors


All forms of chocolate are toxic to dogs (and cats) because of theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine. At doses over 40 mg/kg, cardiac symptoms can be seen, including racing heart rate, high blood pressure or irregular heartbeat, and doses around 200 mg/kg can be fatal.

The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. While milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg of theobromine per ounce, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate can contain 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce.

Signs of chocolate poisoning include:

  • Agitation and hyperactivity
  • Drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Increased thirst, panting or restlessness
  • Excessive urination
  • Racing heart rate


As the intoxicating agent found in beer, wine and liquor, ethanol (a.k.a. alcohol) affects dogs in much the same way that it affects humans. Ethanol depresses a dog’s central nervous system to commonly cause drowsiness, lack of coordination and unconsciousness. Signs of advanced ethanol poisoning include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Depression or vocalization
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Involuntary urination or defecation
  • Acidosis, hypothermia, hypoglycemia or hypotension
  • Seizures or coma
  • Heart attack

Unbaked Bread Dough

When ingested by dogs, unbaked bread dough results in the production of ethanol from the fermentation of sugars by certain species of yeast. As such, the consumption of unbaked bread dough presents most of the same symptoms and risks listed previously under Alcohol, including vomiting, incontinence, respiratory distress, seizures and heart attack.

Other signs of poisoning from unbaked bread dough include:

  • Distended, painful abdomen (from gases produced by fermentation)
  • Gastric obstruction with the potential for gastric dilation (twisted stomach)

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic contain a substance called thiosulphate, which causes a form of anemia in dogs and cats due to an abnormal breakdown of red blood cells, though signs and symptoms may not appear right away. Onions don’t have to be raw to be potentially lethal to pets. Toxicity can occur from fried, dehydrated or powdered onions in food. Garlic contains significantly higher concentrations of thiosulphate than onions, meaning just a little can be dangerous.

Signs of poisoning from garlic or onions include:

  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Vomiting, nausea or diarrhea
  • Reddish discoloration of urine
  • Excessive drooling or a wobbly gait (ataxia)
  • Elevated heart rate or increased panting
  • Pale gums
  • Abdominal discomfort

The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” remains true today when it comes to protecting your pet from toxic foods during the holidays.

Don’t leave foods unattended on coffee tables and other places where foods are easily consumed by curious pets. Put leftovers away and take out the trash so pets aren’t tempted to raid the scraps.

If you see your pet eating anything toxic or exhibiting any unusual signs, immediately call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline, available in North America by calling 800-213-6680.

Happy holidays!

Summer Pet Safety Tips and Reminders

By Educational, Health

Summer is now in full swing and with it comes the long, hot days. Here are some tips and reminders to keep your dog safe during the dog days of summer.

    • Dogs do not sweat through their skin but dissipate heat by panting. Dogs with compromised respiratory systems are more susceptible to heat stroke.
    • Never leave your dog in the car. Many sources say when the outside temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too hot. This is a good guideline. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can start in dogs when their internal temperature reaches 104 degrees. Keep in mind that normal temperature in dogs is around 101 degrees. The temperature inside cars can get hot fast. A scientific review written by forensic scientists measured temperature variations in parked cars. When the outside temperature was measured at 75 degrees, the temperature in the cabin of a car has been measured at 118 degrees. That’s too hot. At 81 degrees, the cabin of the car can reach 138 degrees. Cracking the windows has an effect, but not enough of one when the temperature is in the 70s. A one inch crack in all windows lowers the maximum cabin temperature by 5 degrees. A 2” crack in all windows lowers the cabin temperature by 10 degrees.
    • Go for walks early in the day or in the evening. Dogs need exercise but it’s best to take them out for walks early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperatures are cooler. Also, be aware of hot asphalt. It can burn your dog’s paws. Asphalt temperatures have been measured at 143 degrees Fahrenheit when the ambient temperature was only 87 degrees. To put this in perspective, 140 degrees can cause skin damage to vulnerable areas in five seconds. Eggs can literally fry at 131 degrees. If you suspect the ground may be hot enough to make your dog uncomfortable, simply bend down and test the surface with the back of your hand. You should be able to press the back of your hand firmly into the asphalt or metal for seven seconds with no discomfort.
    • Make sure your dog has plenty of water. Dogs need extra water on hot days to keep them hydrated. In addition, your pup will be grateful for a pond or creek, wading pool and/or a nice shaded area to keep cool when outside. Bring your dog inside often. Like humans, they also appreciate air conditioning and fans.
    • Dogs can sunburn. Dog breeds with short or no hair at all and with white or light-colored hair are the most vulnerable canines. Sunburn most often occurs on the nose, ears, around the eyes, and the tummy area of dogs. The most common sign that your dog has sunburn is redness and tenderness around the affected area. Sometimes, in more serious cases, the sunburn can even lead to hair loss and exposed skin on the burn site. As is the case with humans, repeated sun exposure and burns can cause skin damage and possibly skin cancer for your pets. You can apply sunscreen that is specifically labeled for dogs.

Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion in your pet and how to deal with it are also important. Signs and symptoms include vigorous panting, elevated heart rate, excess salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, staggering, gasping, lying down and refusing to get up, and brick red, blue, or purple discoloration of the gums.

Heat Exhaustion Action Steps:

    • Take immediate measures to reduce body temperature.
    • Move dog to shade or air conditioned room.
    • Give the dog small doses of cool water or ice cubes to lick. Do not let the dog drink a copious amount of water.
    • Rinse the dog off with cool (not cold) water.
    • Place ice bags around the head, neck, and chest.
    • Put a fan on the dog if possible.
    • Do not cover the dog with a wet towel as this may prevent heat from escaping the body.
    • Bring your dog friend to us.


Here’s to a very happy and healthy summer!

Hairball Awareness Day is observed on the last Friday in April. So we're regurgitating the furry facts about hairballs in your feline friends!

By Educational, Health

What Causes a Feline Hairball?

By Dr. Mike Paul, DVM

Cats commonly develop hairballs that stress them and make us none too happy when we find them on the floor. Hairballs are, as their name implies, accumulations of hair that has been swallowed with grooming or excessive licking. Though generally considered a cat condition, other animals, including humans, can be affected.

What are hairballs and how do they form?
As cats groom themselves, they swallow a lot of the dead hair that has come loose. This indigestible hair passes down their throats and into the stomach. Most of this hair eventually passes through the cat’s digestive tract and then through the stools, but some of it remains in the stomach and gradually accumulates into a wet clump—the hairball.

What are the signs that my cat is having trouble with hairballs?
Because cats groom so much, it is not uncommon for cats to “cough up a hairball” as often as weekly. They are generally rather small (<1” in length) but can be quite large with long cylinders (up to 4” in length). On occasion, they may lodge in the stomach or intestine and develop to a size that requires intervention.

Hairballs tend to begin with the sound of a cough that is followed by retching and gagging and then followed by expelling a cylindrical mass of hair. It is impossible to distinguish the cause of a cough just by the sound.

It is very difficult to differentiate the coughing and gagging associated with a hairball from coughing associated with primary lung disease or parasites.

Vomiting can also look a lot like coughing and may or may not be associated with a cough.

Is my cat likely to have problems with hairballs?
Long hair cats have a greater tendency to form hairballs, as do younger cats. Some cats that are prone to skin problems and excessive grooming may have more problems with hairball formation. In some cases, frequent vomiting of hairballs may indicate an underlying gastrointestinal problem, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Prevention and management of hairballs
Brush and comb your cat frequently to remove hair that will otherwise be ingested. When you get a new kitten, start getting her accustomed to grooming. If your cat is a long hair cat and does not allow daily combing, it may be necessary to have her shaved regularly.

Administer a hairball remedy if necessary. Do not attempt to use mineral oil as there is a risk of aspiration. Petroleum jelly is effective if the cat will tolerate it. If not, there are a number of more palatable petroleum jelly based products that most cats find appealing.

Cat foods that have increased fiber content to facilitate the passing of hairballs and omega-6 fatty acids to enhance skin health may also be beneficial.

Questions to ask your veterinarian

  • Why do cats regularly vomit wads of hair?
  • How can I prevent hairballs in my cats?

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


Five Tips for a Healthier Dog Smile

By Educational, Health

Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

Dogs have 42 smile generators. Keeping those 42 teeth strong, healthy, and happy is essential to preventing illness, pain, and may extend longevity.

Each February, U.S. veterinarians celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the dangers of oral diseases such as gingivitis, tooth abscesses, and mouth tumors. While I’ll be the first to admit it’s not a thrilling party theme, it is an incredibly important topic that directly affects every dog’s quality of life.

To get this party started, I’d like to share five of my top tips for a healthier dog smile!

1. Daily brushing
The foundation of a good oral care regimen for your dog is daily brushing. It can seem like a lot to brush your pet’s teeth daily, but it’s my professional obligation to remind you why it’s important. Daily brushing removes the biofilm and plaque created by mouth bacteria and helps avoid most oral diseases. That’s why we spend two to three minutes twice a day brushing our pearly whites; we fear the dentist’s drill and the threat of root canals (well, at least I do). Once you train your pooch to sit still for a couple of minutes while you clean his teeth, you’ll discover how fast and easy it is. Here are my seven simple steps to teaching your dog to tolerate the toothbrush:

  • Start by touching and rubbing the face, lips, and muzzle. Do this for a few days before moving to the next step.
  • Next, rub the teeth and gums with your fingers for a few days.
  • Begin rubbing and brushing your pet’s face and lips with a veterinarian-approved toothbrush.
  • Let your pet “taste test” pet-safe toothpaste on the toothbrush.
  • Gently brush the front teeth by lifting the lips.
  • Slowly work your way to the back teeth over several sessions. Concentrate on the outside of the teeth.
  • Make it fun! Reward your pet with praise and a crunchy veggie treat after each session.

2. Beyond the brush
No matter what, some pet parents simply can’t brush their dog’s teeth. If you fall into that category, think beyond the brush. Daily oral swishes and rinses chew treats containing anti-plaque ingredients, and specialized teeth-cleaning diets are easy options. Be honest with your veterinarian if you struggle to clean your dog’s teeth; ask for alternatives to tooth brushing. I almost always find another technique the pet parent can use. Are these substitutes as good as brushing? Of course not. But they’re infinitely better than no oral care, and some work nearly as well.

3. Monthly mouth check
In addition to daily oral care, mark your calendar for a monthly peek inside your pet’s mouth. Look for reddened or puffy gums, cracked or broken teeth, and unusual color changes, growths or swellings. Any bleeding, pus, or discharges from teeth and gums should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. While you’re checking the teeth, be sure to feel the throat for swollen lymph nodes, the eyes for cloudiness or changes in coloration, and the tummy for tenderness or masses. Identifying subtle changes early can help prevent significant diseases later.

4. Yearly vet check
No discussion of oral health would be complete without mentioning the importance of annual veterinary checkups. Your veterinarian will carefully examine your pet’s oral cavity for any problems difficult to notice at home. Oral health may impact your dog’s entire body: infection in the mouth is reported to cause infection in the heart, kidneys, and elsewhere. A complete annual exam with basic bloodwork and complete urinalysis for adult dogs is what I recommend. The exam should be every 6 to 12 months for older canines as this can help with early disease diagnosis and optimize outcomes.

5. Veterinary dental cleaning  
There’s no substitute for regular dental cleanings by your veterinarian. Every one to three years, your pet will likely need to have his teeth professionally cleaned. In addition to producing a sparkling smile, the most important work occurs out of sight, beneath your dog’s gum line. Your veterinarian will carefully clean every tooth surface and remove plaque and tartar from hard-to-reach recesses below the gums and between teeth. Unchecked and uncleaned, pathogenic bacteria will eventually cause significant gum recession, resulting in oral pain and tooth loss. Tooth abscesses have been linked to heart valve infections and other serious medical conditions. The next time your veterinarian recommends a dental cleaning, remember the procedure is much more than cleaning teeth; it’s about preventing disease.

There are many, many reasons to keep your dog’s smile healthy. Good health begins in the mouth. A healthy smile suggests a healthy pet. Try these five tips and ask your veterinarian for five more. Together we can help our pets live the longest, highest quality of life possible. Keep brushing and keep smiling!

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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Here at Rocklin Road Animal Hospital we now offer Dental Preventive Plans.  Monthly payments and a nice discount make it affordable to give your pets the best care!  Click here to find out more!

Protecting Your Pet's Paws

By Educational, Health

Winter can be brutal on our dog’s paw pads. Exposed to the elements and toxic chemicals, the paw pads are at risk for drying, cracking, trauma, frostbite and chemical burns. Luckily, there are some tips and products out there that can help keep your dog’s paws happy and healthy this winter.
Many protective balms are available to help protect your dog’s paws, and even some human products can do the trick, Musher’s Secret or Bag Balm are good examples. Do your research.

Once you find the balm that you like, take these steps:

Prep the paws

Before using the balm, make sure the paw is ready. Good grooming is essential for healthy winter feet. If your dog has long hair use a clipper (beard trimmer with the shortest plastic guard equipped works well) to keep the hair between the paw pads short so that it is even with the pad.
Trim the hair around the paws especially if they have a lot of feathering to make sure none of the hair comes into contact with the ground. This will help prevent ice balls from forming between and around the paw pads which can be painful and result in trauma. It also makes it easier to apply the balm to the pads. Keeping the nails trimmed is important year-round but even more so in the winter because long nails force the paw to splay out and make it more likely that snow and ice will accumulate between the paw pads.
Apply a thin even layer of balm just before going out for a wintery walk. After the walk wipe your dog’s paws with a warm washcloth to remove snow, ice and ice melt. Then apply another layer of balm to soothe any irritation and to keep them from drying out. Bag Balm can be found in most drug stores and pet stores. If you can’t find Bag Balm then Vaseline is an acceptable alternative.

Dog boots

Another good option to protect your dog’s paws is dog boots. These boots are made by various manufacturers and can be easily found online and in pet stores. They consist of a sock like boot with a Velcro strap to help keep them in place. Some have soles which provide the additional benefit of adding traction. These boots protect the paw by helping them stay dry and preventing exposure to salt and deicers.
Be sure to check that the strap is not too tight; the boot should be snug so that it doesn’t slip off but not so tight that it constricts the paw. Dogs tend to not to like wearing the boots at first so acclimate them to wearing them by putting them on your dog for short periods of time in the house. Praise them and gradually increasing the length of time as they get used to them.

Salt and deicers can be toxic

Be aware that salt and most deicers can be toxic to our canine friends. Try to keep your dog away from roads and sidewalks that have been heavily treated with salt and chemical deicers. There are pet friendly deicers available for use on your own sidewalks and driveway and you should encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Immediately after a walk, wash your dog’s paws with warm water as described earlier to help prevent them from ingesting any salt or chemicals that may be on their paws. While outdoors, do not let your dog eat slush or drink from puddles near heavily treated roads and sidewalks.
Dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia just as people are so use common sense as to how long your walks can be. Keep them short and watch for signs of hypothermia such as shivering, anxiety and moving slowly.
Winter can be tough on our dog’s feet but good grooming and protecting the paws by using a balm or booties will go a long way to keeping your dog’s feet healthy.

Diabetes in Cats

By Educational, Health

 What is feline diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, the clinical name for “sugar diabetes,” is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose, a type of sugar, in your cat’s blood. Diabetes results from a shortage of insulin or when the body has trouble using the insulin it has made properly.

Insulin affects the way your cat’s body uses food.

When your cat eats, food is broken down into very small components that the body can use. One component, carbohydrate, is converted into several types of sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood. Once in the bloodstream, glucose travels to cells where it can be absorbed and used as a source of energy—if insulin is present. Without enough insulin, glucose can’t enter cells and builds up in the bloodstream. So your cat may act hungry all the time and eat constantly, but still be malnourished because its cells can’t absorb glucose.

Diabetes occurs in cats when their cells no longer respond 

normally to the amounts of insulin produced by the pancreas. Cats with diabetes usually need to have insulin injections, at least initially, as well as an appropriate diet. Your veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate treatment for your cat’s diabetes.


Check out Pet Diabetes Month for more information.

Dangers of Mushrooms

By Educational, Guides

Dangers of Mushrooms

Edible mushrooms or mushrooms that are non-toxic to humans are generally also non-toxic to pets. However, some can cause gastrointestinal upset or even symptoms of poisoning. This is because dogs and cats don’t digest food the same way as humans. For that reason it is recommended not to give your pet any mushrooms. Even more important is to prevent your pet from eating wild mushrooms. Just like humans, dogs and cats are not particularly good in distinguishing between toxic and non-toxic species which puts them at risk of potentially dangerous mushroom poisoning.

The Risk of Mushroom Poisoning in Pets

Unfortunately, mushroom poisoning in pets is not uncommon. This is especially true for dogs although cats are also attracted by the fishy odor that is produced by some of the most toxic mushrooms. In comparison to cats, dogs usually spend more time in areas where they are more likely to encounter mushrooms, both toxic and non-toxic species.

Signs and Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning in Pets

Signs and symptoms of mushroom poisoning in pets depend greatly on the species that was ingested, the quantity that was eaten and some other factors such as the pet’s overall health. Obviously, symptoms are more severe if the ingested mushroom is very toxic. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between toxic and non-toxic mushrooms, let alone determine the toxicity level. Since the most toxic species can be lethal, any mushroom should be treated as dangerous.

The most common signs and symptoms of mushroom poisoning in pets include gastrointestinal upset including abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Species with higher toxicity may also cause extreme drooling, watery eyes, weakness, lethargy, seizures and coma. Especially dangerous are mushrooms from the so-called category A which can lead to liver and kidney failure. Pets that ingested hallucinogenic mushrooms may develop hallucinations which can manifest themselves in restlessness, uncoordinated movement, depression and unresponsiveness.

Treatment of Mushroom Poisoning in Pets

To reduce the risk of potentially fatal complications, mushroom poisoning in pets requires immediate treatment involving removal and/or neutralization of the toxins. This is achieved by inducing vomiting and if necessary, using activated charcoal to get rid of any toxins remaining in the gastrointestinal tract. Only then treatment of mushroom poisoning focuses on treating/relieving the symptoms.

With treatment, death or lasting complications due to ingestion of toxic mushrooms are rare. However, it is crucial for the pet to receive treatment as soon as possible. Also, it is recommended to pick a sample of the mushroom that was ingested or is suspected to be ingested and take it to the vet.

The easiest way to prevent mushroom poisoning in pets is to reduce the risk of exposure to potentially toxic mushrooms. To do that, inspect your backyard or garden for mushrooms and remove them immediately. Not all mushrooms are toxic, however, it is best not to take any chances, especially if you’re not sure if they are dangerous or not. Also, choose your walking routes carefully and avoid areas where mushrooms might thrive, especially moist wooded areas.

How to train pets for a Fear-Free veterinary experience

By Educational, Guides

How to train pets for a Fear-Free veterinary experience

 Fear-Free veterinary visits start before the dog trots through your front door. Pet owners can help by training these three behaviors to make the exam a less stressful experience.

wait and train


Bella and Buckley should have good doggy manners, and doggy parents just love showing off their precocious pooch’s amazing abilities to sit, wait, jump through hoops and and rollover on command. But do your clients know that training also boosts their pooch’s positive emotional state? Even better, a relaxed pup might just be more willing to do what you need her to do in the exam room. Sound too good to be true? It just takes a little training.

Veterinary visits are naturally frightening for many dogs because of the invasive nature of the work. When dogs feel uncomfortable or scared, they may freeze—and many progress to struggling, fleeing or fighting to get away. When the pooch panics this increases the risk of injury to the dog—and to your veterinary team—and may lead to pronounced fear during future veterinary visits.

Even the more laid back canines may have unique challenges if you’re handling them in a sensitive area or they dislike a certain procedure, like nail trims. Or they may need guidance in tasks like remaining calmly in place on the scale and during an exam.

Training allows the pet owner to share a form of communication and cooperation with their dog. When dogs can willingly participate in their care, they are more relaxed and easy to handle during their visit. It also helps you refocus the dog when you need to either distract during handling or procedures and to help pups calm down when they’re feeling upset.

Training is highly individualized, but every dog can benefit from learning three foundational behaviors for less stressful veterinary visits. Read on for three training tips and client handouts to educate pet owners.

Training tip 1: Down stay on a mat

down stay pic

How to train

1. Start by tossing treats to get your dog interested in the mat area. When she puts any paw on the mat, mark with a word like “yes” or a click, and then toss a treat onto the mat.

2. Over time, work to get the dog into a down position. Either ask for the down once she’s on the mat or wait for it to naturally happen and place treats onto the mat when she does.

3. Eventually add a cue like “mat” to the behavior when your dog reliably goes to lie down in the space. Reward your dog intermittently for resting on her mat so she never anticipates how long it will be. Gradually build up distractions and duration.

How it helps

The mat serves as a security blanket, going along with your dog from the home, to the car, to a waiting area and into the exam. The mat gives your dog a designated area to rest instead of pacing restlessly.

Quick tip: Choose the right mat

The best mats are those with an anti-slip bottom to prevent slipping on slick surfaces. You can place the mat on he floor, scale and exam table to provide a familiar and comfortable space for your dog when she’s weighed and examined.

Training tip 2: Hand target

hand target pic

How to train

1. Place your hand gently out a few inches from your dog’s nose. If she makes any movement towards the hand, mark with a word like “yes” or a click, and reward.

2. If your dog is uninterested, start with a peanut butter approved by your veterinarian or spreadable treat on your hand. Then, once she’s interested in the hand, remove the smeared treat. Add in a word like “touch” and say it just as your dog touches her nose to your hand.

3. Work with your dog until she’s able to follow your hand further distances and onto and off of things. Practice the behavior with other people so your dog gets used to touching other people’s hands as well.

How it helps

Hand targeting prepares your dog to willingly move towards, away from and on or off of objects and directs her focus. Then you can ask your dog to target to get her out of the car or onto the exam table. The hand target also provides a familiar way for your dog to first greet and interact with new people, such as members of the veterinary team. If your dog is distracted by something, such as another dog in the waiting room, the hand target allows for you to help refocus their attention and to get her willingly turn to face you.

Bonus: Training your pet to hand target can also boost her confidence with novel or seemingly threatening objects. If your dog is afraid of the stethoscope, you can use the hand target to get your dog to willingly approach the instrument and investigate it at her own pace. This makes the novel object more of a familiar part of a game she knows how to play rather than something she fears.

Training tip 3: Wait

wait pic

How to train

1. Start with your dog in a sit or a down—even four paws firmly planted on the ground will do. Say the word “wait” and make a small movement, like a foot shift or glance away. If your dog stays in position, offer a reward. Mark with a word, like “yes,” or a click when your dog remains in place during distractions.

2. If your dog breaks the “wait” make it easier the next time with less distraction.

3. Slowly build up until your dog can remain in place even while distractions happen. For example, you can lower the food bowl or open a door.

4. Work up to adding in petting and handling your dog’s body parts as your dog stays relaxed. Reward her for letting the handling and touch occur and for remaining in a stationary position.

5. Build in a release cue by saying a word like “OK” to let her know the exercise is finished.

How it helps

This behavior teaches your dog to remain in place until she’s released. Your dog may feel frightened if veterinary team members handle her body and she isn’t sure why they’re touching her or what to do about it. But if your dog has been trained to remain in place and knows a reward is coming, she may stay calmer. You can also use wait in combination with prior handling and associated rewards to help your dog remain calm when she’s handled in myriad ways.

Bonus: During the exam you can ask your dog to wait while the veterinarian examines each body part or performs each procedure. Then you can release and reward your dog afterward.

There are many benefits of training the “wait” behavior. For example, it can help you get your dog to remain on the exam table rather than jumping or help your dog remain calmly on her side for handling until you release her.

Preventing Dog Bites: A Guide for Safer Interactions

By Educational, Guides

An important part of dog bite prevention in recognizing the behaviors that signal Fido is uncomfortable.  Stephan Appelbaum, ABCDT, president and CEO of Animal Behavior College, shares things to keep in mind when introducing your dog to new situations.


Why might a dog bite

Dogs bite for numerous reasons.  These include fear, pain, dominance and territoriality, both learned and predatory.  Probably the most common reason is fear.  Usually the dog displays plenty of warning signs to the person, growling, trying to escape, and and so on.  People don’t always understand the language, or ignore or minimize the signs.  If there are no other options, the dog, depending on the situation, will bite.

What should you keep in mind when introducing your dog to new situations and people

It depends on the dog.  For most dogs,  it’s a matter of letting them slowly adjust and get used to the new situation.  Most dogs are social and like to interact with new people.  However, gradual introductions are the best.  Dogs are very receptive to friendly people who that greet them using slow easy movements along with praise.

What body language should you look for that signals your dog is uncomfortable-especially around children

You should look for fear indicators.  These include the dog’s ears being held back, tail is tucked, attempts to run away to escape (not play), hackles raised, growling, whining, barking and snapping.  The challenge with children is they like to grab and hold.  Many dogs find this threatening and will thrash wildly to escape.  If the dog exhibits these responses, talk with the children about safe interaction and talk to your veterinarian or a dog trainer about training the dog.  Dominate challenging behaviors can also be an issue.  Dogs that become possessive of objects, food or places – like a bed or couch- need to be trained and watched.  Possessiveness usually manifests itself when the dog believes your’e going to take away objects or encroach on his space.  You can stop this behavior, but remember that it takes time and proper training.  fear agression under bed

What should you do after recognizing these signals

Aggression challenging because there isn’t much leeway for error.  However, if you notice any of the body language that signals the dog is uncomfortable, stop the children’s behavior that stimulated the response and contact a professional trainer, behaviorist of veterinarian right away.

What’s a no-no when it comes to having dogs and children in the same space

Dogs need some space to relax without having constant stimulation and intrusions.  A safe spot such as a crate or large dog bed where the kids are taught to leave the dog alone is a good start.

dog bed

Lack of Mobility May Mean Less Time With Your Pet

By Educational, Guides

Here are five ways to improve your senior pet’s health-and maybe even his life expectancy-by helping him get back to the things he used to do.

Take your pet to the veterinarian for for a physical exam.

Find out if he has any medical conditions that might affect a workout routine, such as arthritis, a heart condition or respiratory issues.

If your pet is overweight, work with your veterinarian to form a diet plan that is palatable, keeps your pet satiated and still allows for occasional treats.  Weight loss reduces excess strain on joints and weakens muscles, which may reduce pain.

Slow and steady wins this race.

Start your senior pet with five minutes of walking, adding an additional five minutes each day for five days until a daily 30 minute walk is manageable and routine.

If your pet is limping, lagging, panting excessively or refuses to continue, stop the activity and check with your veterinarian.  Some pets may require pain medication to get moving or to complete an exercise.

Once you and your pet have achieved a daily exercise routine, you can step it up.

Increase duration, speed, even incorporate hills or different surfaces like sand to add more challenge.  Walks will become easier as your pet becomes stronger.

If your pet can’t jump onto the couch or climb the stairs well these days, it’s likely because, like many older dogs, he has lost strength in his hind legs.  Focus on building back those muscles with exercises recommended by your veterinarian.

Senior pets need to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.

Obstacles courses can be a fun way to stimulate your pet’s mind and improve neurological and muscle control.

If you use simple household objects, you can stimulate your pet’s mind with physical games.  For example, coax your pet to step over a garden hose fashioned in a serpent pattern in the backyard-broom handles or pool noodles also work well.  For pets already at a food fitness level, try rally events, agility classes, tracking or field events.

Discomfort and a lack of strength and flexibility may make achieving mobility seem like an insurmountable task.

But don’t give up!  Exercise can be tailored to fit the needs of any pet and will not only improve your pet’s  health but strengthen the bond you share with your pet as well.

If physical injuries prevent your pet from exercising, ask your veterinarian about rehabilitation.  Rehab specialist can use methods such as joint mobilization, massage, stretching, laser therapy and acupuncture to help get your pet up and moving again.

Source: Dr. Kara Amstutz