Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dog Bite Prevention in Kids

Each year in the US, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. 
One in five of these bites require medical attention.
Children are the most common victims of dog bites- primarily from familiar dogs.

Injuries to children usually occur to the face and hands.  These injuries can lead to life-long disfigurement or disability. Tragic events, like this, can be avoided but not intuitively.


Here are 3 steps to help prevent dog bites in your family.

Train yourself. 

Dog behavior interpretation is a learned skill.  It can be difficult to tell what your pet is “saying” with his non-verbal skills. Pet owners should seek advice and training from Behavior professionals and utilize online resources to research pet behavior ques. 
by Lili Chin

Train your Pet.

A well-trained dog is a happy dog.
Training increases a feeling of self-worth, sets a clear expectation, and shows the pet that you are the person they can trust.  All pets young and old should attend basic training classes.  These classes not only help set the rules for the home, but can also uncover the need for professional guidance and intervention for fearful or more challenging personalities.

Remember, while it is fun to play roughly with your new pup those little teeth turn into big teeth.  Your pet won’t understand why that play is no longer desired once he or she is older.

Train your children.

Begin your discussion of proper pet etiquette with your children early.  It should be a regularly occurring discussion that extends for years. 

Don’t leave young children alone with your pet.  Kids are curious and learn by touching, pulling, and biting. Your pet  shouldn't be the recipient of this kind of attention.  Spend time modeling proper touching of your pet. 
The Blue Dog

Use books and graphics to help your child understand how to treat pets.  

Educate your child to always ask the pet owner if they can touch their pet. 

Don’t assume that just because an owner says ‘yes’ that the pet will behave.  You should pet the dog first to see if there are any signs of fear or avoidance.  If so, redirect your child away from the dog.

Practice with your child what to do in the event of an aggressive dog encounter.  Stand like a tree… or lie like a log…avoid eye contact with the pet…..and DON’T run!

The most common types of in-home dog bites occur due to fear and food aggression.
Training your pet can help identify these issues so you may work with a behavior professional to rehabilitate your pet.
Never allow your child around your pet during feeding time. 
Never leave your child alone with your pet and interrupt rough touching of your pet.

Remember: Pets in the home with children need some quiet time too!  Give your pet a “safe” place where they can go when they need a break.  Teach your children that your pet is not to be touched when they are in their special place.  You can designate a crate, bed, or special corner as your pet’s safe place.

I hope this helps,
Brittney Barton, DVM

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Do you have a Disaster Preparedness Plan for your pet?

The recent devastating tornado activity in Oklahoma may have you scrambling to create a Disaster Plan for your family....but wait, what about your pets?

Thousands of pets are left behind or separated from their family when crisis hits.  Here are a few suggestions on how you can prepare to protect you furry family, too.

Design your pet's "safe place"

Plan for your pets in your “go-to” place.
Whether your safe place is a closet, bathroom or storm shelter, is it outfitted to account for your pets?

a) Both cats and dogs should have a carrier in place for safe keeping and added protection from physical disasters, such as tornados.   In the event your home is damaged, the carrier can be used as temporary housing for your pets as you assess your situation.

b)   Just as you would plan emergency food, water, first aid, and medications for you and your family, the same considerations should be made for your pet.  Ration your fresh water supply with your pet(s) in mind, have a premade emergency pet food supply and an extra supply of chronic pet medications (Note: consider purchasing two bottles of medication and then rotate from your emergency stock when refills are needed.  This is helps ensure that the medication isn’t expired when your pet needs it most.)
You may either buy a pre-made pet first aid kit or make one yourself. These kits can be easily tweaked to create an adequate "Crisis Kit".  

How to make a First Aid Kit into a "Crisis Kit"
Simply add---
1.  Cat litter pan-
     A simple shoe box lined with plastic bags is really all you need. Don't forget the litter!

2.  Pet Harness and leash
     Consider your pets mobility control.  If your pet is too large to move around in the carrier
     post-disaster, then have a properly fit harness and leash for BOTH your dog and cat.

3.  A supply of pet food

4.  Water and food bowl

5.  Pet medical records and Animal Hospital information

6.  Pet medications

"I wonder who this pet belongs to....."

All of your pets should have collars with identification information, including your cell phone number and a back-up number of someone who lives outside of your area. But DON’T rely solely on this.  Approximately 60% of lost pets are found without their collar present.  Permanent identification is imperative in pets. 

Pet microchipping is an invaluable identification tool.  Members are able to list contact information, emergency secondary contact information and veterinary hospital information for each of their pets.  You can even list chronic medical conditions in the event your pet needs regular medication or special considerations.
Remember: If you move or any of your pet’s important information changes, you need to update the information with the microchip database. (This is simply done on-line).

What are your "after" plans?

What are your plans post-disaster?  Where is your family going?  Do they allow pets?  Do you know where you can house your pet?

Create a post-disaster plan that addresses your pet's needs.

If you are headed to an extended family member’s home, check to see if they can accommodate your pets. 
If you have a post-disaster meeting place, brainstorm on what you would do if you found yourself without a car.  Where would your pets go?
Do you have a list of hotels that are pet-friendly?
Check with local shelters and boarding facilities to determine who provides disaster relief for pets. Create a primary and back-up plan for your pets.
Know who can care for them and keep them safe.  Keep contact information for those locations and
be familiar with where they are.

Most likely the majority of us will never need to use our kits, but for those that do, this kind of planning can truly be life-saving.

I hope this helps,
Brittney Barton, DVM
HEAL Veterinary Hospital

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Feline Bootcamp

  In September 2012, Skinny the cat weighed in at 41 pounds.  Today he is down to 34 pounds, 13 ounces. A total of 7 pounds, 3 ounces weight loss in 6 months. It is hard to tell by looking at him that he has lost 17% of his body weight.  He still has quite a way to go, but we are off to a great start!

I have received multiple questions and requests for help guiding individuals to their own pet's weight loss.  I have put together a 5-step plan for helping pets lose weight safely.  

Assess Health

Obesity is a systemic disease condition. Your pet, regardless of age, needs to have a full physical, metabolic and cardiac exam.  This can be accomplished with your regular veterinarian.  Specific samples needed from your cat include blood, urine and feces.
The tests should evaluate for and hopefully, exclude Diabetes Mellitus, thyroid disease, liver disease, kidney disease, urinary infection/ inflammation, heart disease, and blood pressure issues.

Once these tests have been conclusively completed and your pet is declared healthy with no chronic medical condition, your feline is ready to begin a weight reduction plan.
You should continue to have your pet assessed monthly during his/her weight loss plan.

    Nutritional planning

There are a plethora of pet foods to choose from these days.  As a consumer it can be very difficult to fully understand what you are feeding your pet.  The AAFCO (http://petfood.aafco.org) has some guidelines in place to help regulate how a pet food company formulates and shares information about its food.  These regulations only apply to what is printed on the food bag itself.  A company can claim just about anything in commercials and on websites.  It is imperative to discuss and choose a weight reduction food with your veterinarian.  Trying to do it yourself can result in frustration and failure of weight reduction in your pet.
There are some newer commercial pet foods available by prescription that utilize nutrigenomics (http://nutrigenomics.ucdavis.edu) to improve your pet’s healthy weight loss.
If fresh food is your goal, then utilize the expertise of a boarded veterinary nutritionist to formulate a healthy, balanced home-prepared food for your pet. (http://www.petdiets.com)
Remember, treats add calories.  If you must give treats, then calculate these calories into your pet’s weight loss plan.            

-Feed meals
If you aren’t already, start acclimating your pet to meals.  This gives you better control of food intake in a multiple pet household and also allows for better assessment of how much your pet is eating.
Cats can slide into liver disease if they consume only 75% of their daily caloric needs on a regular basis.  Because of this, weight reduction in felines must be done slowly and carefully.  For a severely obese cat, it is best to feed 4 meals a day.  This allows the stomach to shrink over time and greater satisfaction with small amounts of food.

 -Consider canned food
Most canned cat foods have more protein and water content.  The increased aromatics also attract felines to their food, not to mention the inherent effect the sound of the can opener has on our feline friends.

  -Change your cat’s water frequently
It is tremendously important that they have free access to fresh water 24 hours a day.  This helps flush the toxins as the pet begins to lose weight.  If your pet gets dehydrated, they may stop eating and can slide into liver failure before you know it.

    Get Active

It can be difficult to directly increase your cat’s activity level.  So do it indirectly.  If your cat is highly social and seeks interaction with you, move his food far away from the site of most social interactions.  This will facilitate more walking for the things he wants.  If your cat isn’t as social, but highly enjoys meals, move the food bowl to different areas of the house.  He may even follow your around a while waiting for your to place the food bowl on the floor.  Take advantage of this and walk around the house for a little while before rewarding him with his food. 

Use toys and designate play times to help your cat get moving.  Laser pointers, catnip toys, small jingle balls can all be utilized to help increase your pet’s activity.

Consider a cat tunnel for safe outdoor time (https://www.kittywalk.com)

   Environmental enrichment

Do you know what your cat is doing while you are at work?  Likely just hanging out on the couch.  To help influence your pet’s regular activity, consider adding a family member.  A two-cat household can be helpful in facilitating weight loss.  Once the social order is established, most cats will interact and play when left on their own.
There are also great stimulating DVDs available to improve stimulation of your feline friend while you are out of the house( http://petsittervideos.com).


Track the progress

Since cats need to lose weight slowly, it can be difficult to determine progress by visual assessment.  Consider purchasing a digital baby scale to help track progress with weekly weigh-ins (http://www.scalesgalore.com/babyscales.htm)

Write down the results of each weekly weigh-in.  Healthy weight loss in a feline friend is about 1 pound per 3-4 weeks.  Reassess and adjust your plan if you witness weight loss faster than this.  Remember: cats are not small dogs!  Felines must lose weight slowly to stay healthy.

I hope this helps:)
Brittney Barton, DVM, CVA