Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fireworks Fun (and Safety)!

Fireworks Fun (and Safety)!

In the midwest, summer is full of celebrations involving fireworks. We LOVE our fireworks! Unfortunately, most of our pets do not.  Some aren’t upset by the explosions, while others are so scared they may injure themselves.  We have seen pets that have jumped through plate glass windows from their fear of the explosions.  Other times, we discuss the fear that sends our four legged friend cowering under the covers.  

Signs of Anxiety
Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Hiding in closets, basements, and bathrooms is common. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside, and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.

How to be prepared for fireworks:

  1. Keep your pet on a secure leash whenever outside, even in a fenced-in yard.  Even the best trained dog may bolt from fear of the exploding sound and lights.  Pet advocacy groups report the number of escapees around Independence Day is so high that it is the busiest day of the year in shelters.  Worse, your pet could be injured or killed after escaping and fleeing from fear.
  2. Make sure your pet is wearing identification.  Permanent identification, such as a microchip, is best.  Visible identification, such as tags, should be worn at all times.
  3. Try to be home with your pet during the busiest fireworks times.  That's not always possible, so plan ahead before leaving them alone.
  4. Allow your pet to hide in a safe place.  For example, If your pet feels more comfortable hiding in the bathtub, provide him/her with cushions/blankets.  Be prepared ahead of time and put their usual bed in the preferred hiding space.
  5. Some pets find relief by increasing the white noise in the house, drowning out the fireworks.  Music or white noise players are options.  Not all pets will find relief from more noise.
  6. Synthetic phermone sprays such as Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs) are available online and in pet stores.  This natural remedy can provide extra sense of security.
  7. Some pets feel comforted by pressure wraps, such as a Thundershirt.  Ear muffs or calming caps are also available, and some pets find them helpful.
  8. Herbal supplements, such as Rescue Remedy or Composure Chews can provide extra relaxation.  These are most effective if given prior to the noisy event.
  9. Prescription medications are available for severely anxious pets.  Please plan ahead and make an appointment to discuss medications with your veterinarian if you think your pet would benefit from use of these medications.
Long Term Relief
For more permanent, long term relief, veterinary behaviorists recommend behavior modification, classical counter conditioning, and teaching a desirable coping response.  Please discuss a proper behavior modification plan with your regular veterinarian.  In severe cases, referral to a veterinary behaviorist will be recommended.   

In behavior modification, controlling the intensity of the fireworks is necessary.  This is challenging during the event, so this part of training should be accomplished in the “off months.”  Acquiring recordings of fireworks can be accomplished via YouTube, or CDs, or other recordings are available for purchase.  Start by playing the recordings at a very low level, and then while performing counter conditioning, gradually (over weeks) increase the intensity of the noise.

Classical counter conditioning teaches a positive association with fireworks.  Give high-value food rewards (canned food or peanut butter), offer your pet his favorite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards.

You can also teach a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening event ends. Providing a safe retreat, such as a crate or a closet, will give security and confidence. Selecting the location is up to the pet. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs!  Hiding is not a sign of a problem, if the pet quickly returns to a normal behavior when the fireworks are over.

You have many choices of how to help your pet cope with fireworks stress.  Talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your pet. Hopefully, everyone in the family will then be able enjoy the holiday!

Amanda Schnitker, DVM

excerpts obtained from Veterinary Partner

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How to Prevent and Detect Heat Stroke in Pets

How to Prevent and Detect Heat Stroke in Pets 
Summer is a time to have a great time with your pets outdoors.  There are countless activities we do with our four legged friends.  However, when the temperature rises, the risk for heat related illness increases as well.  Heat stroke occurs when your pet’s body can’t sufficiently cool itself in very warm conditions.  It can occur in any animal, but there are some predisposing factors to be aware of:
  • Brachycephalic breeds (pugs, bulldogs, boxers, etc)
  • Long haired or thick coated animals
  • Older animals with preexisting disease (laryngeal paralysis, heart disease, dehydration, hyperthyroidism)
  • Obesity
Heat stroke is a potentially life threatening issue and successful treatment is predicated on early recognition of the symptoms.  The main goal of treatment is immediate correction of the elevated temperature.  The effects of elevated body temperature can compromise various major organs in the body.  For this reason, heat stroke is considered an emergency situation, and, if suspected you should take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.  Signs and symptoms to monitor for (especially in animals with risk factors, on hot days, or in situations that may cause heat related problems) include:
  • Panting
  • Abnormal gum color (bright red, pale or blue in color)
  • Collapse
  • Elevated body temperature (over 103 F)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Change in mentation- seizure, coma
  • Muscle tremors
Heat stroke is better prevented than treated.   Common sense will go a long way in preventing heat related issues with your pet.  Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest times on a very hot day.  Do not leave your pet in a car for any period of time when the temperature is high and the sun is out.  If your pet spends time outside, make sure they have the ability to get out of the direct sunlight and provide plenty of clean, fresh water to drink.  Above all, if you believe your pet may be having heat related problems, early diagnosis and treatment is key and will increase the chances of a successful outcome.  Have a safe enjoyable summer with your pets!

article written by:
Derek Williamson, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Vernon Hills and Crawford Animal Hospital

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Skunked: How to get rid of that awful smell!
It is the absolute dread of every dog owner - you let Fido out for his evening nature break and then you smell it!  SKUNKED!  Some dogs can get sprayed so badly it might not even be recognizable as skunk at first.  You may even think they ate a toxin, or got wounded.  They are yelping, foaming at the mouth, pawing at their face (because they got the spray right in the mouth, eyes, or nose - think pepper spray!)  Don't panic.  Here are some simple steps to help you:

1.  Try not to let Fido in the house.  Seems obvious I know, but I've heard of people having to move out of their houses for a few days.

2.  Put on some clothes you don't care about.  Or a swimsuit 'cuz it might get messy.

3.  Bathe the dog.  Mix 1 qt of Hydrogen Peroxide, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and 1-2 TBSP of Dawn dish soap.  No water.  Mix and pour over the dog, lather and work it in, let stand for 10 minutes, rinse and repeat if needed.  You may be able to carefully sponge it onto the face taking great care not to get it in their eyes if Fido will sit still.  Consider wearing gloves if you have them so the oils do not get on your hands while bathing.  Do not store this mixture ahead of time as it will become pressurized.  If you feel it helps, follow the skunk wash with a regular pet shampoo bath.

4.  Rinse the eyes.    While the skunk wash sits, if the dog's eyes look irritated, rinse them with saline solution if you've got it.  If the eyes received a "direct hit" you may need to bring him or her in to their veterinarian as skunk spray in the eyes can cause corneal burns.

5.  Lastly, wash your clothes, the towels you used, and the dog's collar in warm water with regular detergent adding 1/2 cup of baking soda.  This should help with the smell.

A couple of side notes:  For what it's worth, you can also buy Skunk Off and Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover at the pet stores which work pretty well.  Unfortunately getting skunked follows Murphy's law and always seems to happen when the stores are closed.  Some people advocate letting the homemade skunk wash air dry without rinsing and then washing with regular shampoo in 24 hours.  The peroxide may lighten Fido's coat though just like it would our own hair, but this is purely a cosmetic problem!  Tomato juice is popular but doesn't work as well and will stain lighter colored coats (think white dogs turned pink)!   Good luck, and remember to turn on a light before letting your dog out for the night.  Here's to hoping you may never need the above advice!

article written by:
Jessica Smith, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Catching the Red Eye

What is "Red Eye" and how serious is it? 
I often see the words “check eye- red and swollen” on my schedule. I never know what I am going to find when I walk into the exam room and see the pet that has that gleaming look in its eye, and a red and swollen appearance to boot! My first thought is always “Good job mom/dad for getting this checked ASAP”. A red eye can be an emergency. It can have many different underlying etiologies and can be very serious. Sometimes the cause is not too concerning but others can be vision-threatening. Unfortunately it is impossible to tell without evaluating the eye and doing some simple tests. Treatment can vary tremendously depending on the cause of the red eye.

One potential cause of red eye can be a simple allergic conjunctivitis which is (usually) not serious. But now let’s swing to the opposite end of the spectrum. It could also be an indication of a serious condition called glaucoma, where pressures inside of the eye rise so high that the pet could feel like it has a constant migraine headache. Ouch!! How can we tell what’s going on?

The first step is performing a thorough ophthalmic exam to evaluate eye shape and position, squinting, and discharge. Next we will examine the eyelids, conjunctiva, and the cornea. Then we look deep into the eyes. This is always fun as I wonder what secrets I may discover. Will I find out where the dog bones have been buried or why kitty REALLY scratched up the couch? They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Well, we don’t really see those things, but we certainly can see if a cataract is developing or if the lens appears to be in the correct position. Finally, we examine the back of the eye, which is called the retina.
We often recommend tests to help us determine the cause of the red eye. A common test (and a very important one in my opinion) is called tonometry. We use a device to determine the pressure inside of the eye and, in turn, can diagnose glaucoma if the pressure is elevated. We may also recommend checking tear production and staining the eye for corneal lesions as both conditions can also cause a red and swollen eye! Our recommendations for treatment are based on our findings and can vary greatly depending on what we find.

Hopefully this article has helped our wonderful pet owners realize a few things.  First, a red eye can have many different causes. A prompt ophthalmic exam is of utmost importance and is essential to obtaining a diagnosis. Second, we often require additional testing to help aid us in the diagnosis. Lastly, our treatment recommendations will be based on our findings. So it is vital to see the pet in order to allow us to make the best recommendations for your best friend. 

Article by: 
Dr. Candace Auten 
Formerly of Camp McDonald Animal Hosptial, Mount Prospect, IL