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dog trainingIf you use treats to train a dog, you will always need them to get the dog to obey your commands.

The principles that govern the laws of learning have shown this to be completely untrue.  Treats are an excellent means o reinforcing a behavior.  Clear and consistent reinforcement is necessary when you initially begin teaching any animal a new behavior.  For some animals, a vocal reward, toys, or petting may serve as good reinforcers, but food is for many animals the most salient reinforcement there is. The rules of learning show that when first teaching a new behavior, reinforcing every singe time the behavior is performed on cue will lead to the fastest rate of learning.  Once a behavior is learned, intermittent reinforcement is the best means of maintaining the behavior and making it most resistant to extinction.  This means that you only have to use the treats periodically once the behavior is learned.

People who believe that an animal is not responding because it knows there is no treat available have usually failed to use reinforcement appropriately or don’t realize that the animal has actually not learned the behavior.  It is common for pet owners to think that an animal has learned a command long before it actually has.

FACT: When used correctly, positive reinforcement training with food rewards is far more likely to be effective and has less chance of doing harm than most other forms of training.

baddogI’m embarrassed to talk to my veterinarian about my pet’s behavior.  I’m afraid that I’m the problem!

A variety of factors play a role in the development of behavior problems, including a pet’s genetics, early experiences, and environment.  While you can certainly worsen a pet’s behavior problem with inappropriate training methods, it is highly unlikely that you caused your pet’s behavior problems.  Many medical conditions and medications can also contribute to behavior changes, so your veterinarian is the best person to consult first when your pet exhibits worrisome behaviors.

FACT: Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian about any problem that may affect your pet’s health and well-being. Most behavior problems are at least manageable-if not always curable. But the sooner you seek qualified advice, the higher the likelihood you can successfully treat the problem.

A Cat Owner’s List of Tips for Less Stress on the Way to the Vets:

An excellent web video called “Cat Carriers: Friend not Foe” is available which demonstrates the recommendations listed below. Please feel free to use this link to see the site: www.catalystcouncil.org/resources/health_welfare/cat_carrier_video/

Step 1)

Choose a good carrier: 

An ideal carrier is safe, easy to clean, easy to get your cat into and out of, and a reasonable size for you to carry.  Many an injury can occur when a frightened cat jumps out of an owner’s arm, or is loose in the car during a sudden stop. Carriers that can be opened from the top, a side or that can be easily taken apart and re-assembled work very well.  Plastic carriers are easy to clean, which is especially important if a cat has urinated or vomits during the trip.  Soft cloth carriers are harder to clean but more comfortable for some cats.  A good carrier can be a safe, and even comforting place for the carrier trained cat.

Step 2)

Making the carrier a welcome den for your kitty:

Many people store their cat carrier in the closet or basement and get it out when it is time for that yearly trip to the veterinarian.  As a result, the kitty hides when is sees the carrier.  The carrier also may smell strange from being stored, and from previous trips during which the cat felt nervous.  To help alleviate some stress find that carrier, clean it up and place a nice comforting towel or a piece of clothing from the cat’s favorite person in it.  Put the carrier in a place where the kitty often relaxes or sleeps and leave it there with the door open, inviting the cat to rest or play in it.  For particularly nervous cats, enticing them to enter the carrier with treats or play can really help.  If the carrier is a regular and safe part of the kitty’s life it won’t seem scary when it is time to ride to the veterinary office.

Step 3)

Getting ready for a ride:

Once your cat is used to being in and around the carrier, we need to get her used to the sounds the carrier makes when the door is opened or closed, and the feeling of being picked up and moved.  Exercises at home prior to the vet visit can help.  Make sure to minimize shifting and bumping when the carrier is carried.  (This is why you should avoid getting a carrier bigger than you can comfortably handle.)

Step 4)

Getting used to the car ride:

Some cats feel more comfortable with a blanket or towel draped over the carrier for rides.

Bringing the carrier to the car and getting the cat used to short drives can also help them prepare for future vet trips. 

We need to try to make the journey in the car as smooth as possible.  During cold weather, warm the car up prior to travel.  In hot weather remember that closed cars heat up fast and heat stroke is a concern; so don’t leave pets in closed cars unattended for any length of time.  Avoid loud music, and sudden accelerations or stops as much as safe driving allows. 

Step 5)

Minimizing stress at the Veterinary Hospital

Try to sit at a distance from dogs in the office and keep a cover over the carrier if kitty is more nervous at the Veterinary office.  If your cat is particularly anxious, ask to arrange an appointment during one of the quieter times at the clinic.

While it would be ideal for cats to visit the Veterinary office when it is calm and there are no dogs barking (especially true if the cats don’t live with dogs), that is not always possible.  Most small animal practices don’t have the luxury of having a “cat only” area.  In order to help our feline patients, State Street Animal Hospital, PC is trying out a “cats only” Wednesday appointment time once a month. Ask us about “Whisker Wednesday” if you would like to try this out to help your feline friend feel less stressed.

Christmas trees, Holly and Ivy, kissing under the mistletoe, bright red Poinsettias: holiday greens brighten up December.

Unfortunately some of these are risks to our pets.  Houses can be decorated with some simple precautions.  Poinsettia leaves contain sap, which is very irritating to the mouth and throat and can cause drooling and vomiting.  Holly and mistletoe are both poisonous.  Christmas trees are relatively low risk though the sap can irritate skin and get stuck in fur.  

Then there are the ornaments on the tree.  Tinsel and ribbon are very attractive to cats and if consumed can cause intestinal damage.  Ornaments on the bottom of the tree should be safe and non-breakable.  Electric cords should be protected from pets that chew everything—especially puppies!

Make sure trees are secured and cannot be easily knocked over.  Supervise your pet around Christmas trees and keep the other greens out of reach.  

The Staff and Veterinarians of State Street Animal Hospital, PC wish you a happy, healthy holiday season.   

It’s Coming!!!  Winter.  Whether you love it or hate it, you will want to take note of some important cold weather tips to protect the pet you love.  Check this site for your weekly tip, and today’s tip is…..Ice melt.  Ice and snow are a hazard and all of us want to prevent accidents.

Calcium chloride ice melt is one of the most common formulas sprinkled on the sidewalk, and rock salt is spread on the roads.  Both of these can cause irritation to the skin, paws and gastrointestinal system.

Spread these products sparingly—you need to be safe, but excess amounts waste your money and hurt your dogs paws.  Pet safe formulas are available on the market. We also recommend wiping your pets feet when they return from walks can minimize paw irritation and ingestion of the salts as they lick their feet.

At State Street Animal Hospital, PC we seek to help you prevent problems.

Does your dog spend his days in a barn, kennel or outdoor run?  If so this message is for you.

Wintertime brings some important considerations.  Outdoor dogs (and cats) need more calories in cold weather because their bodies need more fuel to stay warm.  While many animals, if used to being outdoors, can adapt to the cold, wind and water can undermine their defenses.

A healthy coat provides some insulation as long as the wind in not cutting through its fluffy layers.  Wet fur on the other hand provides little insulation, and helps chill your pet.  Make sure your pet has adequate shelter, protection from wind and rain/snow, and clean bedding.

Finally, dehydration is as big a concern in cold weather as it is in hot weather.  Water dishes (unless heated) often freeze and snow is not an adequate substitute.  Make sure your pet has access to fresh water.

Antifreeze (Ethylene glycol)—It’s important to keep your car running in winter and cool in summer—it’s also VERY TOXIC to pets.  Unfortunately it is also sweet to the taste and pets may try to consume spills.  Some windshield washes even contain a little antifreeze.  If your pet consumes even a little antifreeze it is CRITICAL to deal with the poisoning immediately!!!  Antifreeze toxicity can be counteracted within the first few hours after it is consumed, but after 12-24 hours the damage is done and the resulting kidney failure is frequently fatal.  If your pet consumes this poison get help before they act sick and before it’s too late!  Better yet, keep the antifreeze safely stored out of your pet’s reach, check your car for leaks, and keep your pet away from the area that you do any car maintenance work.

At State Street Animal Hospital, PC we prefer to prevent problems when we can.

(There is a safer alternative antifreeze, Propylene glycol, it’s available but it may not be good for all cars—check with your mechanic)

Did you know your dog’s sense of smell is 40 to 100 times better than your own!  Dog’s seem particularly capable of smelling food gifts and chocolate—even when they are wrapped in cellophane and wrapping paper!  Chocolate, if eaten in large enough quantity (depending on the size of the pet) can cause anything from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures.  Salty, fatty treats can cause pancreatitis and other significant digestive problems.  Think ahead and keep those tempting presents, even if wrapped, out of reach of your pet so you can all enjoy a safe and happy holiday.  The Staff and Doctors at State Street Animal Hospital, PC wish you a happy healthy holiday.

Your pet ate WHAT? If only you called me sooner!  How often I want to say this, but I don’t want my client to feel worse than they already do.  Many people think that when a poison is consumed their pet will fall over frothing at the mouth in the first hour.  While this can happen, it is rare.  Many poisons take hours or days to show their evil effects.  Antifreeze toxicity shows few signs in the first few hours after consumption, but during this time can be counteracted. After 12 hours the poisoning is almost irreversible, and will cause severe, usually fatal kidney failure.  Rat poison may not show symptoms for several days, but once the severe anemia and bruising are obvious can be expensive to treat.  Both of these examples are important because if we know a pet has gotten into these substances right away we can reverse or prevent problems saving both lives and money.  If your pet consumes something it shouldn’t, PLEASE, don’t wait.  Call your Veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435, www.aspca.org/apcc).

The large powerful body of the German Shepherd lay still in the pick up truck bed.  Only his rapid shallow breathing and occasional feeble movement let me know he was still alive.  “I saw him eat some “rat bait” last week, but he seemed okay, so I figured there was nothing to worry about” his owner told me confidently.  I lifted his upper lip and noticed the pale white gums and purple bruised typical of the life threatening hemorrhage that occurs when rat poison disrupts blood clotting.

I explained this to the owner, and discussed the blood transfusions, which would be needed to save “Chief’s” life.  His owner shook his head, explaining that he couldn’t afford this treatment, but he didn’t want to euthanize his dog.  I didn’t know if this was fair to the old watch dog but I went to get the antidote shot to see if we could stabilize him with minimal treatment.

A few moments later Chief passed away, before I could even draw up the dose.  Had we only seen the dog sooner, a simple, inexpensive antidote, a special form of Vitamin K, would have saved his life.  If you see your pet get into a toxin, consult your Vet right away!

 

RAT POISON: the rest of the story!

1) No rat poison is safe for dogs or cats, but some are more dangerous than others.
2) The best rat poison is none at all. Consider adding a kitty to the household! They
are equally effective against mice, rats, moles, chipmunks, squirrels – you name
it!
3) If that is not an option, and you must use a rat poison, be very careful about
which one you choose. BE SURE IT SAYS TO USE VITAMIN K AS AN
ANTIDOTE! These anticoagulant preparations are the only type of rat poison
that is easily treated. Other types cause kidney failure or swelling of the brain,
have no antidote, and are frequently fatal.
4) Vitamin K responsive / anticoagulant rat poisons are only easy to treat if you
discover the ingestion quickly. If bleeding is already occurring – something that
usually takes a couple days to develop – treatment is intensive, expensive and
may not save your friend.
5) If your pet eats rat poison, call your veterinarian immediately. You will probably
be advised to give hydrogen peroxide ASAP at a dose appropriate to your pet to
induce vomiting. It is a good idea to keep some in your medicine chest! You will
then need to have your friend seen for an exam. Your veterinarian will prescribe
the right dose and duration of vitamin K for your pet.
6) Rat poison has no expiration date, even if there is one on the box. I once had a
cat poisoned by rat poison she found in the attic, which had been placed there
by the previous owners of the house. The current owners had lived there for 10
years, making that box of poison over 10 years old! (The kitty was treated and
recovered.)