Fleas and Ticks 101

The summer’s winding down. In some parts of the country, the kids are getting ready to go back to school. If you’ve gotten this far without fleas and ticks feasting on your pets this summer, don’t get too comfortable yet.

The end of summer and early fall is still active for fleas and ticks, and the worst time of year in many parts of the country. If you live in a place that doesn’t get colder than 30 degrees for long periods, you can never get lax about these nasty parasites. Flea and tick season never ends for you.

If you’ve experienced fleas or ticks on your pets, you know it’s no fun. And it can be downright dangerous. These parasites carry disease and discomfort with them.

If you have been fortunate enough to be a pet owner who hasn’t experienced these annoying pests, you may not know the implications of an infestation… or even how to deal with it if it happens to your pet.

Now’s a good time to brush up on your flea and tick knowledge.

How do pets get fleas and ticks?

These little creatures are external parasites. They feast on the blood of your fur baby by biting them.

Fleas come from other animals that enter your pet’s environment. That might mean your yard, but it can also mean the woods where you hike. The park where you hang out with other dogs. Or a kennel where you’ve boarded your pet.

The animal that carries these pests could be a cat or dog. But it can also be a raccoon, rat, or other wild animal.

The female flea lays eggs on the host animal. Those eggs then fall off in your yard or where you’re dog plays. The eggs develop into adults and the fleas jump onto your pet looking for a place to get a good blood meal.

Once the adult fleas have found a home on your pet, they rarely jump to other pets. They’re happy to have a meal and will stay where they are. But the adult females will lay eggs on your pet. And those eggs could fall off in your home, turn into adults, and leap onto your other pets.

Ticks live 18 to 24 inches off the ground in tall grass or low shrubs. When your dog is walking by and brushes against the foliage, they dislodge the ticks that then climb onto your pet.

Can these parasites make your pet sick?

These bugs are not only annoying to your pet, they also carry disease.

The most common reaction to fleas is flea allergy dermatitis. The salivary protein in the fleabite causes an allergic response. Your pet will bite, scratch and even lose their fur.

It only takes a few bites to cause a reaction. And all the scratching can result in a secondary bacterial or fungal infection.

If your pet is infested with fleas, they can become anemic from all the blood loss. An old, ill or very young animal can become weak and even die.

Fleas can also transmit tapeworm to your pet… little rice-like worms found around the rectum, in poop, or on your pet’s bed.

Ticks can transmit more than a dozen very serious diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These can kill your pet.

Tick-borne diseases vary from one area of the country to another. So talk to your vet about which diseases are prevalent where you live.

Are fleas and ticks more common in some parts of the U.S. than others?

Ticks and fleas are worse in some parts of the country. And they’re worse at certain times of the year.

Fleas like warm humid conditions. So they’re not common in dry places like the Southwest. But the Gulf Coast and Southeast U.S. are flea infested.

Fleas are worse during mid to late summer and early fall. Ticks are most prevalent early spring and late fall. But these critters are around any time of year.

Ticks are almost everywhere but are particularly problematic in the Upper Midwest and Northeast where Lyme-carrying ticks are the worst.

How do you know if your pet has fleas or ticks?

There are many species of ticks and fleas. The large ticks are easy to see or feel on your pet. Especially when they are engorged after enjoying a blood meal.

Deer ticks are very tiny… the size of a pinhead. They’re not so easy to find. It’s a good idea to do a careful inspection of your pet if they’ve spent time in an area that’s known to have ticks.

If you live in a tick prone area, do a check once a day.

If your pet has fleas, they’ll scratch incessantly. In cats, you may notice excessive grooming.

Run a flea comb through your pet’s fur. Dump the hair onto a white paper towel. Dampen it with water. Red stains mean fleas. The red is flea dirt—basically poop.  It’s digested blood. Yuck!

How do you get rid of ticks and fleas?

If your pet has ticks and you’ve never removed a tick before, get the help of your vet. You must grasp the tick with a pair of tweezers as close to the mouthparts as you can get. Then apply steady pressure until the tick lets go. You don’t want to pull the tick out and leave the mouth in your pet.

Never use anything to remove a tick that could hurt your pet, like lighter fluid or a match.

Fleas are a nightmare to get rid of. I know this firsthand.

Talk to your vet about treatment. You will likely have to treat several times. Not only must you treat your pet, you need to treat your home, any environment your pet spends time in, and all other pets in your home.

You can have an exterminator fog your house if the infestation is bad.   If it isn’t horrible, you can vacuum the rugs. Throw out old bedding. And launder all other items in hot water.

Can you prevent ticks and fleas?

There are many prevention products on the market. Talk to your vet about the best one for your pet.

Often, one product can prevent both ticks and fleas. They are usually topical treatments. You apply the fluid directly to the skin between the shoulder blades or on the back of the neck.

These products need a prescription from your vet and are generally safe if you follow the directions. But of course, a pet can react to anything applied to their skin.

Over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives are not effective.  Fleas are often resistant to the synthetic pyrethrins in these products. People over apply them because they don’t work. That’s dangerous for your pet, you and the environment.

Remember too, prevention products meant for dogs should never be used on a cat and vice versa.

Talk to your vet about whether you should treat your pet year-round. That will depend on where you live, where you travel with your pet, and what activities your pet partakes in.

There are natural prevention options on the market too. Some work better than others. If you use a natural product, you must also flea-proof your pet’s living environment.

Minimize brush and tall grass in your yard to prevent fleas and ticks from taking up residence. Remove leaf litter.

These bugs don’t like sunlight so don’t give them shady hangouts. Ticks will also hide under shrubs or porches. Try to prevent your pets from laying in those areas.

Keep your pets out of tick habitats like heavily wooded areas and tall grass.

If you live in an area with a lot of ticks, you may need to treat your property with a pesticide.

Fleas and ticks can cause serious illness and make your pet miserable. It’s important to check your pet regularly. And use the prevention methods I’ve mentioned to stay ahead of a serious assault.

Have you ever had a flea infestation? Have you had to remove a tick from your pet? Tell us about it in the comment section above.

5 Common Eye Problems In Cats

The eyes of a cat… they’re captivating, mesmerizing and truly soulful.  But those almond-shaped beauties are vulnerable to problems.

Like any other health condition, early detection of an eye disorder is critical to successful treatment.

Some conditions are more common in cats than others and knowing the warning signs can save your cats vision.

If you notice squinting, blinking, eye pawing, swelling, redness, or a thick discharge these may be signs of something serious.

Here are 5 common eye problems found in cats and the symptoms to look out for.

Conjunctivitis

Just like in humans, this is also called pink eye.  It’s an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid.

The inflammation can be caused by a bacterial, fungal or viral infection.  But allergens like dust and mold can also cause inflammation.

Sometime chemical irritants like pesticides can be the culprit.  A trauma to the eye or an upper respiratory virus can cause pink eye too.

cat-conjunctivitis

Your cat’s eye will look red and swollen.  There may be a cloudy or yellowish/greenish discharge coming from the eye.

This is a painful condition that may cause your cat to keep its eye shut or squint.

Your vet will likely prescribe an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment and an anti-inflammatory.

If you prefer a more natural treatment, there are some helpful herbal therapies.  Check with your vet first to be sure nothing more serious is going on.

Corneal abrasions

The cornea is the transparent layer that forms the surface of the eyeball.  It’s three layers deep.  The outermost layer is the epithelium.  Beneath the epithelium is the stroma, and the deepest layer is Descemet’s membrane.

A break or scratch in the cornea is common in cats.  It’s often caused by a trauma to the eye, like another kitty’s claw scratching it.  Or over zealous rubbing against furniture.

But abrasions can also be caused by an infection like feline herpes or an underlying eye disease.

If dust or some other foreign object gets in your cat’s eye, this can cause an abrasion on the cornea too.

The severity of the condition depends on how deep the abrasion goes.  If it goes through the epithelium, it’s called a corneal erosion or abrasion.  Damage that goes into the stroma is a corneal ulcer.

But if the abrasion goes through the stroma into Descemet’s membrane, this is serious. Descemet’s membrane can rupture.  If that happens the fluid in the eyeball will leak out, causing it to collapse. This damage is usually irreparable.

Corneal Ulcer

If your cat has a corneal abrasion, the eye may look cloudy.  There may also be a discharge or some redness.  And sensitivity to light may force it closed.

It’s a very painful condition.  A cat will rub its eye on the furniture, paw at it, or blink to protect it.

The treatment will depend on how deep the problem is.  Your vet will prescribe a topical antibiotic and a pain reliever to treat an abrasion.  But an ulcer that goes through the stroma or Descemet’s membrane may warrant surgery.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is very serious and can lead to blindness.

It’s caused by an increase in fluid pressure in the eye.  Normal eyes drain fluid continuously.  But if there’s a problem with drainage, the pressure from the fluid builds up.

In cats, glaucoma is usually secondary to an eye disorder like feline uveitis, lens dislocation, tumors or trauma.

Glaucoma in Cats

Your cat’s eye may become enlarged.  The cornea may be cloudy and the pupil dilated. Because glaucoma is a very painful condition, your cat may squint, blink or paw at its eye.

Sometimes the eye recedes back into the head.

To relieve the pressure in their head, your cat may press its head against a stationary object.

There are treatments available for glaucoma.  But get your cat to the vet quickly.  The sooner the vet can reduce the pressure, the better the outcome.

Cataracts

Older cats are more likely to get cataracts.  An underlying eye problem is usually at fault.  An inflammation from trauma or uveitis are often the cause.

Sometimes it’s genetics.  There are breeds that are predisposed to cataracts.

Cataracts in cats

Cataracts are a cloudiness in one or both eyes that causes the lens to lose its transparency.

Your cat may show signs they are losing their vision.  They may be reluctant to jump on the furniture.  Or seem clumsy.  They may squint and their eyes may be watery.

Cataracts look a lot like nuclear sclerosis.  Nuclear sclerosis is a change in eye color common with age.  It does not affect vision though.  Your vet can differentiate between the two.

Treatment for cataracts depends on the cause.  Surgery is an option but may not be necessary.

This condition is more common in dogs than cats.  But don’t disregard a cloudy eye.  See your vet pronto.

Iris melanosis

This is when pigmented cells replicate and spread over the iris, the colored part of the eye, to create dark spots.

Iris Melanosis

Melanosis will appear like a freckle on the eye.

It’s benign but the cells can become cancerous.  A melanosis can turn into a malignant melanoma.  So your vet will want to monitor your cat closely.

Even if it doesn’t become malignant, spreading melanosis can lead to glaucoma, or a detached retina.

Some veterinary ophthalmologists will recommend laser treatment to prevent progression to melanoma because melanoma can spread to other organs of the body.

Like almost all other medical conditions, early diagnosis of an eye problem is key to effective treatment.

So while you’re staring into your kitty’s dreamy eyes, take note of anything that doesn’t seem right. It could save your cat from vision loss.

Has your cat suffered from an eye problem?  Tell us what it was and how you treated it in the comment section at the top of the page.

A Cat’s Tongue… 7 Things You Never Knew

Whether you’re a cat lover, a dog lover, or both, you’ll probably agree they’re different.  One of those differences… their kisses.  Because cats have unique tongues.

They feel like sandpaper.

That’s because a cat’s tongue is covered in backward-facing papillae—barbs made of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.

That sandpaper tongue serves several purposes, particularly for an outdoor cat or a cat in the wild.

1)   Grasping and pulling meat from the bones of its prey

The little hook-like structures on the tongue give the cat a good grasp on the meat of its prey.  This enables them to pull the meat from the bones very effectively.

2)   Collecting dirt, debris and loose hair from their fur

Cats groom themselves endlessly.  In fact, they spend more than half their waking hours on grooming.   That prickly tongue will catch anything on the fur that’s not supposed to be there

If you don’t groom them regularly, all the loose fur they lick up can lead to hairballs.

And those barbs, they’ll latch on to anything collected on the tongue.  Even something unintended for consumption.

Because the barbs face toward the throat a piece of yarn, string or tinsel in their mouth can be dangerous.  They’re not able to just spit it out. When not in licking mode, the spines lay flat.  And the cat will swallow these dangerous items.

Cat tongues are designed for intake only.

3)   Detangling knots

In a single swipe, a cat’s tongue moves in 4 different directions.  Because the spines are hook-like, the tongue acts like a flexible comb that snags on knots and teases them apart.  A handy grooming tool…

4)   Removing parasites

When your cat is grooming, their tongue removes anything in its path, including parasites and their eggs.

5)   Maintaining their ability to ambush their prey and hide from their predators

Cats are ambush hunters.  They will use extreme licking to hide their smell so they can go undetected by their prey allowing them to pounce before being noticed.

They will also lick every remnant of a fresh kill off their fur to avoid detection by their predators.

6)   Waterproofing fur

The sandpapery tongue helps redistribute oils produced by the cat’s skin to provide some waterproofing.

7)   Cleaning wounds

When a cat licks a wound, the barbs will get into the wound and clean out dirt.  And the saliva contains compounds that are antibacterial.

But a cat can go overboard and turn a tiny abrasion into a big lesion—and a big headache—if they lick themselves raw.

Necessity is the mother of invention—no truer words exist when speaking of adaptations in the animal kingdom.

Do you remember your reaction the first time a cat licked you?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Signs Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies

It’s April and everyone in my home is sneezing, wheezing, coughing or scratching… including our dog.

Spring is a beautiful time of year.  Everything’s in bloom.  The bees are buzzing.  And the landscape is vibrant… no matter where you live.  But with all that pollen comes allergies.

And our pets suffer too.

Pets may have some of the same symptoms as humans.  But unlike humans, the telltale sign of seasonal allergies in pets is a lot of scratching.

Their allergies usually manifest in allergic dermatitis—skin irritation or inflammation.

Because their symptoms are different than ours, their suffering often goes unnoticed. But they can be just as miserable.

Here are 7 signs your pet has allergies:

1)  Chewing or licking their feet

You’ll notice redness between their pads or toes from excessive licking or chewing.

2)  Constant licking of their body or groin

If the licking continues, this can cause loss of hair, redness, scabbing and hot spots.

3)  Rubbing their face on furniture, carpet, grass, walls

Excessive itchiness is so uncomfortable, your pet will rub against anything to relieve it. The stress of itching and scratching can even cause loose stools.

4)  Inflamed or infected ears

Head shaking, ear scratching, hair loss, odor or discharge around ears, are signs there’s a problem.  Allergies can cause yeast or bacteria to grow in the ear resulting in infection.

5)  Recurrent hot spots (dogs) or facial scabbing (cats)

The scratching can make your pet’s skin inflamed and infected.  In dogs, a hot spot may form.  This is a loss of hair on a patch of skin that becomes red, oozy and inflamed.  On your cat, you may see scabs on the face.  Not likely hot spots though.  They’re rare in cats.

6)  Wheezing (more likely in cats)

Pets rarely have the same respiratory allergy symptoms as people. But it can happen. The may wheeze, particularly cats. Or they may have a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing or coughing.

7)  Generalized redness (eyes, oral tissue, chin, paws, anus)

The inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to something in your pet’s environment can cause their mucous membranes to become inflamed and red.

What causes pet allergies?

Pets can have seasonal/environmental allergies, food allergies, flea bite allergies and contact allergies.

But you’ll know it’s a seasonal allergy if you only see the signs at certain times of the year—typically spring, summer or fall.

If you live in a place where there is no hard freeze, environmental allergens can cause problems year-round.  As a result, it can be difficult to differentiate between seasonal allergies and food allergies.

Food allergy symptoms can be the same as seasonal allergies.  Read more about how to know if your dog has a food allergy here.

Pollen, grass, mold and dust mites cause seasonal allergies in pets, just as they do in people. So minimize your pet’s exposure to these allergens to ease their misery.

How can you treat allergies in your pet?

The best way to help your pet is to keep them and their living areas as free from allergens as possible.

During the warmer months:

  • Soak their feet in a footbath or wipe them with a wet towel after a walk to keep allergens from coming into your home.
  • Bathe them frequently using a hypoallergenic shampoo, or one for sensitive skin.
  • Wipe them down with a grooming wipe after they’ve been outside.
  • Vacuum and clean floors and pet bedding often, using nontoxic cleaning agents.
  • Keep your pet off the grass if possible. If that’s not feasible, try booties.

You may want to try some allergy fighting supplements too.

Quercetin suppresses histamine release.  Bromelain and papain increase the absorption of quercetin which makes it more effective.  The three taken together decrease pain and inflammation from irritated mucous membranes.

Then there are Omega-3 fatty acids.  They decrease inflammation and reinforce the skins barrier.  Salmon oil is a great source of Omega-3.  Look for a food like Husse that already has it in most of their recipes.

And coconut oil is good to add to your pet’s diet.  It has lauric acid which helps decrease yeast production, a cause of infection in the ears.

Talk to your vet before you give your pet any supplement as it can cause an adverse reaction if your pet suffers from other health problems or takes medications.

And talk to your vet, too, if your pet’s symptoms are so severe that the itch/scratch cycle is causing the skin to become inflamed and tender.  This can progress to open sores, scabs, hair loss and infection if allowed to continue.

You want to get a handle on allergies quickly because seasonal allergies can become year-round with continued exposure to allergens.

Particularly for older pets, the more exposure to environmental offenders, the more intense and longer lasting the allergic response becomes until the allergy season just doesn’t seem to end.

Firstly, your vet will tell you to feed your pet a high-quality well-balanced diet free of fillers and animal by-products.  A food like Husse.

Also, avoid a high carbohydrate diet.  Just like in humans, carbs increase inflammation in the body.

Your vet may also recommend an antihistamine to help the itching.  And in severe cases, your vet may prescribe a steroid.

Steroids have many serious side effects and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Because they can cause high blood pressure and kidney disease, your pet will need regular blood work and urine tests if they’re on them long-term.

And if the scratching has caused a secondary skin infection, the vet will prescribe an antibiotic.

If your pet’s allergies are so severe they need steroids, it may be time to talk to the doc about allergy testing and shots.

Yes, that’s right… allergy shots aren’t just for human kids anymore.  They can be very effective in pets.

With the right combination of intervention and prevention, allergy season doesn’t have to be miserable for you or your pet.

What do you do to minimize your pet’s allergy symptoms?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Know About Feline Infectious Peritonitis?

In my last post, I rained down some pretty serious anxiety on canine parents.  So this week I thought I’d share the love with cat parents.

Seriously though, you need to know the facts about this dangerous illness to have any hope of preventing it.

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral cat disease.  It’s caused by certain strains of feline coronavirus.  It’s common for cats to get coronavirus.  But uncommon for coronavirus to turn into FIP.  FIP affects 5-10% of cats and kills 95% of those infected.

How does coronavirus turn into FIP?

Most strains of corona virus are harmless.  And cats infected with it rarely show any symptoms.  The immune system kicks in and a healthy cat will almost always fight it off.

But in some cats—the very young and the very old—there can be a problem with the immune response or a mutation of the virus that causes the infection to progress to FIP.

No one is certain why it happens but for coronavirus to progress to FIP, the antibodies produced by the immune system to protect the cat go awry.  This malfunction causes the white blood cells to become infected with the virus.  The virus then travels in these cells throughout the cat’s body.

It’s this interaction between the immune system and the virus that causes the disease, making it unlike any other viral disease in animals or humans.

Is your cat at risk of getting FIP?

The bad news is that any cat that carries coronavirus can get FIP.  The good news is most won’t because a healthy immune system will fight it off.

Kittens, cats with feline leukemia virus, and old cats are at greatest risk.  Most cats that get FIP are under the age of 2.

Multi-cat households are also at greater risk than single cat homes.  And shelters and catteries are potential breeding grounds for the disease.

FIP is not highly contagious though because your cat will shed most of the virus by the time it progresses from corona to FIP.

Coronavirus, however, is contagious and is transmitted by cat-to-cat contact and exposure to poop.  It can live in the environment for several weeks.

The most common means of transmission of corona is from mom to her kittens usually between 5 and 8 weeks of age.

If you are planning on breeding your cat, talk to your vet about the risks of coronavirus.

What are the signs of FIP?

If your cat has coronavirus, you may never know it.

Some cats show mild respiratory symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge.  Some have mild intestinal upset.

But once the virus progresses to FIP—which can be weeks, months or even years after exposure to corona—the symptoms may not be as subtle.

FIP comes in two forms, the wet form (effusive) and the dry form (noneffusive).  The wet form targets body cavities and progresses rapidly.  The dry form targets the organs.

Symptoms of the dry form are:

Chronic weight loss

Loss of appetite

Lethargy

Depression

Anemia

Persistent fever

Loss of vision

Loss of coordination

Early in the disease, the symptoms of the wet form are like the dry form: weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and depression.  In addition, you may notice:

Sneezing

Runny nose

Fluid in abdomen or chest

With the wet form, your cat may develop a pot-belly from fluid in the abdomen.  If too much fluid builds up, breathing may become difficult.

How will your vet diagnose and treat FIP?

FIP is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are similar to many other diseases.  And there’s no diagnostic test.

A biopsy of abdominal fluid is the only way to definitively diagnose FIP.

Generally, your vet will make a presumptive diagnosis based on symptoms, blood work, history, and examination of fluid if there is any.

There is no known cure or effective treatment for FIP.

With the dry form, your vet will provide supportive care to ease symptoms that includes:

Good nutrition

Steroids to reduce inflammation

Antibiotics

Draining of accumulated fluids

Blood transfusions

This may give your cat a few months to live without too much discomfort. The wet form progresses so quickly, supportive care is usually not beneficial.

Once diagnosed with FIP, there’s no need to quarantine because the cat is passed the point of being contagious.

But to keep coronavirus from spreading in your multi-cat household, clean your cats’ food and water dishes, and disinfect your cats’ living space. Keep sick cats away from other cats and kittens away from cats other than their mother.

What has your experience been with feline coronavirus or feline infectious peritonitis?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

The Winter Blues… Pets Suffer From Depression Too

Short gray days at this time of year can make anyone feel a little low.  I attended college in Binghamton, New York where the sun didn’t shine from late October until late April.  I can tell you with certainty that when I was there, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)… winter depression.  It’s a problem for many people.

But how about our pets?  Is it possible they’re affected by seasonal changes too?  And what about depression in general?  Can our pets be depressed?

If your pets are used to enjoying the outdoors—long walks in the park, games of fetch in the yard, hikes in the mountains—you can be sure they’re feeling down if bad weather’s keeping them housebound.

Are you noticing signs of the winter blues?  Our pets don’t care if the weather’s nice or not.  They still want and need to exercise… both their bodies and their brains.  Keeping a regular exercise routine, even if you have to take it indoors to an agility gym or play games of “Find It”, is essential to keeping your pet happy in every season.

But what about just generalized depression?  Have your pets ever been in a bad mood at other times of the year?

It’s likely pets experience depression, but maybe not in the same way people do.  We can’t be sure how our pets feel depressed because they can’t tell us.

In humans, doctors diagnose depression through dialog with a patient.  The patient can tell the doctor what they’re experiencing.  An animal has no ability to explain their state of mind.  So it’s a little more challenging to say they’re suffering from depression, as we think of depression.

But we know our pets suffer from depression-like symptoms.

Because of their inability to talk to us though, we can’t be sure that the symptoms they are experiencing are being caused by depression and not a medical problem.  The signs of depression are also linked to other health issues.

See your veterinarian as soon as you notice any of the behavioral changes I talk about in this article to rule out a health problem that needs treatment.

How do you know if your pet’s depressed?

A pet that’s depressed will act differently.  So take notice of any changes in their normal behavior.  Things like:

Lack of interest in playing

Sleeping more

Changes in appetite

Drinking less

Hiding

Destructive behavior

Aggression

Pottying in the house or outside the litter box

Lack of or excessive grooming

Lethargy

Withdrawing from attention

Moping

Pacing

Whining or crying

What would cause your pet to become depressed?

In pets, depression is short-lived, and it’s generally brought on by change.  A new home, a new baby or pet in the house, or a stay-at-home owner getting a job outside the house.  These can all lead to depression.

But the most common reasons for depression in our pets are the loss of an owner or companion animal.

Unfortunately, loss is a part of life… for everyone.   But there are ways to lessen the blow for our pets.

How can you keep those tails wagging?

During periods of change in your home, try to keep your pet’s routine the same.  Keep up with daily exercise, play and cuddle time—even if your new circumstances make it difficult.  Your pet needs their regular routine.

If your pet is moping, try not to reward that behavior by lavishing affection on them.  Instead, get them to do something that makes them happy and reward that behavior.

For instance, grab the leash for a walk.  If they wag their tail and show excitement, praise that happy behavior.

With a cat, give them their space.  But when they come to you, try to engage them in an activity they like and give them affection when they respond.

If you use this method of behavior modification early on, you can often avoid a prolonged period of depression.

Most pets bounce back in a few days or weeks.  They just need a little more TLC, exercise, and attention.

But if your pet falls into a depression you aren’t able to help them shake, talk to your vet about meds.  Some of the medications used for depression in people are also available for our pets.  Vets often prescribe drugs like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

Medication takes time to kick in—up to 2 months.  But your pet probably won’t need to be on it for more than 6 to 12 months.

If you prefer to take a more holistic approach, herbal supplements are available for pet depression.  A holistic vet can help you find the one that’s right for your dog or cat.

But remember, never give your pet any drugs or supplements without talking to your vet first.  They can have adverse effects if your pet is sick or is on other medications.

Depression is treatable in people and pets.  It just takes a little education to see the signs so you can act… because happiness is something we all want for our pets.

Has your dog or cat suffered from depression?  How did you know and what did you do about it?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

12 Tips to Calm Your Pet This New Year’s Eve

In a few short days, 2016 will come to a close. If it’s been a year you’re happy to see end, you’ll likely be celebrating.   As will your friends and neighbors who are happy to turn the page on the calendar.

With all that celebrating there’ll surely be noisemakers, fireworks, loud music and maybe some hootin’ and hollerin’ in your home or your neighborhood.

Although the carousing may be a release for us, our pets don’t feel quite the same way. For them, loud noises can be terrifying and anxiety provoking, making New Year’s Eve less than enjoyable for our furry family members.

If you have a seriously anxious pet, they may tremble, hide, pace or pant. With moderate anxiety your pet may lick their lips and yawn a lot.

Knowing you have an anxious pet enables you to be proactive and prepare.   Here are 12 things you can do to minimize your pet’s stress.

1) Confine your pet to a safe place. If your pet is crate trained, they’ll probably be comfortable there. But if your pet isn’t crate trained, now’s not the time to try it. Instead, put them in a safe room where they can’t get themselves into trouble.

2) Play relaxing classical music or the television at a volume that’s loud enough to drown out the frightening noises, but not too loud to cause more anxiety.

3) Spray lavender oil on your pet’s bed or favorite blanket. Or just let them smell it.

4) Try canine or feline pheromones that help your pet feel safe. These come as plug-in room diffusers or sprays.

5) Talk to your vet about ProQuiet, a chewable tryptophan tablet that works for cats and dogs. Sileo is a prescription medication for dogs that reduces anxiety without sedation. Ask your vet if it’s right for your dog.

6) Take your dog out for as much exercise as possible before the festivities begin. And keep your cat moving with toys and laser pointers before the evening gets going. They’ll be too tired to be stressed.

7) Try desensitizing earlier in the day or a few days before by making loud noises, blowing the noisemakers, and clanking the pots and pans. This may not work for extremely anxious pets.

8) Try a pressure point coat like ThunderShirt. These jackets put constant gentle pressure on a dog’s pressure points and promote a sense of calm by creating the sensation of being held.

9) Distract your pet with food puzzles or some new toys. Spritz a new toy with catnip to keep your cat engaged. And I never met a dog that didn’t love a Kong stuffed with peanut butter.

10) Allow your pet to follow you around if that helps them stay calm. If that’s not possible or you’re going out, hire a pet sitter. This is particularly advisable if your pet is extremely anxious.

11) Some say you shouldn’t comfort or coddle a frightened pet. It will reinforce their negative behavior. But some say it’s okay to show calm affection. I’m personally in that camp. If you were scared, wouldn’t someone speaking soothingly calm you down? When your pet is calm, reinforce that behavior with treats. And always stay calm yourself so your pet sees that everything’s okay.

12) Leave the neighborhood for a quieter place if possible.

One or two of these alone may not work. You may have to try several of them to have any effect on your pet.

In spite of your best efforts, you may come home to damage if you leave your pet alone on New Year’s Eve and there’s a ruckus in your neighborhood.

Whatever you do, don’t scold them! Your pet needed an outlet to express their anxiety. Or they may have been trying to escape from it.

What if your typically calm pet unexpectedly becomes anxious on New Year’s Eve? This can happen as pets age. Especially if they suffer from health problems or the dementia I wrote about in my last article.

Awareness can go a long way in minimizing your pet’s stress. It allows you to plan if you know you have an anxious pet.

But there are also things on the list you can do if your normally relaxed pet starts to unravel. Look out for the signs your pet is melting down and confine them to a safe place. Play calming music. Give them a stuffed Kong toy.  And sit with them for a while.

In some pets, the anxiety is so severe they hurt themselves. They may bloody their paws trying to escape out a closed door or possibly even jump from a window. And never tie up your anxious dog outside. They can injure themselves trying to escape the tether and runaway.

Always be sure your pet has a collar on with identifying tags and that they are micro-chipped, in case they get loose.

It’s unfair to let a pet suffer. Talk to your vet if you know you have an anxious pet.

For humans, the holiday season is a time for joyful celebration. But we rarely consider what our pets think of all the hoopla.  We can make the festivities enjoyable for all our family members with a little planning.

A happy and healthy 2017 to you and your pets!

How do you keep your pet calm when they’re frightened of noises? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.