Pet Info

PROBLEMS PASSING URINE -
'THE BLOCKED' CAT

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a catchall term used by vets to describe a number of conditions which cause cats pain and discomfort when trying to pass urine. These include different types of bladder stones, blockages in the tubes running from the bladder to the outside and inflammation of the bladder itself (cystitis). About three in every 100 cats will be affected at some stage in their lives and some can suffer recurrent problems. In extreme cases your cat may be unable to empty its bladder and may die without emergency treatment.
 

What causes FLUTD?
 

Domestic cats are descended from cats which hunted in the arid regions of North Africa and the Middle East and so are adapted for acquiring most of their water requirements from their diet without the need to drink. Commercially prepared diets often contain less water than the natural ones and many cats do not compensate for this by drinking more water. However, a number of factors appear to increase the risk, usually associated with inadequate fluid intake or frequent bladder infections, such as:
 

  • Stress: often a cat with this condition has recently had a stressful experience, such as a change of home.

  • Diet: mineral balance, urine pH and water intake can be altered to reduce the risk.

  • Infection may produce swelling and the formation of pus which can block the cat's urine tubes (ureter and urethra). Diabetes and some viral diseases may make cats more vulnerable to infection.

  • Obesity: problems are more common in overweight and inactive cats which are often too lazy to go outside to toilet frequently.

  • Urine retention: cats which, for some reason, hold their urine for long periods, ie do not go to the toilet frequently may be at greater risk of developing bladder stones.

  • Anatomical abnormalities or tumours may increase the difficulties of urinating in some cats.
     

Is my cat at risk from FLUTD?
 

Neutered male cats are the most likely to develop blockages in the urethra, the tube which runs from the bladder to the penis. But un-neutered males and females also suffer from these problems. The urethra is longer and narrower in males than females, which seems to increase the risk of it becoming blocked by inflammation or stones in the urine. The disease is more common in young cats and the risks decrease with age. Affected cats are often between two and six years old.
 

How do I know if my cat has FLUTD?
 

If your cat is suffering from FLUTD it will make regular visits to its litter tray or outside to its favourite toilet area but without much success. There may be small amounts of dark or red (bloodstained) urine. Your cat may look as if it is straining and may cry out in pain or lick around its bottom or penis area. The discomfort may cause changes in its toilet habits and a normally reliable cat may try to go to the toilet in the wrong place. If there is a total blockage of its tubes, pressure can build up in the bladder causing it to burst. Alternatively there may be kidney failure and poisons normally filtered out by the kidneys will build up in the blood.
 

How can we be sure that it is FLUTD?
 

Often an owner may mistake the discomfort of FLUTD for constipation. If you are in any doubt assume it is FLUTD and consult your vet as soon as possible. Your vet may need to take a urine sample to show the difference. An affected cat will have abnormalities such as crystals in the urine (mineral salts which cause bladder stones) or unusually concentrated urine. Blood samples will also show evidence of kidney damage if this has already occurred. An x-ray may help your vet to find the source of the blockage.
 

What can be done to treat the disease?
 

A complete blockage is an emergency and your vet will have to act fast. At first your cat may only seem mildly depressed with occasional vomiting but within 48 hours it could have lapsed into a coma and died. Your cat will be sedated and a tube ('catheter') inserted into its bladder to drain the trapped urine and relieve the pressure. Occasionally stones may be surgically removed. Less serious cases will be given pain killers and drugs to reduce the inflammation. Antibiotics may help get rid of any infection. Remember, only use the medicines recommended by your vet - some human drugs are poisonous to cats.
 

How can I prevent the disease coming back?
 

Encouraging your cat to drink plenty of water and adjusting its diet are the best ways of treating and preventing FLUTD. You must make sure there is always clean, fresh water available. Ideally you should feed your cat moist food only and make your cat drink extra water by mixing one third of a cup of water with every meal for the rest of its life. The water should be mixed thoroughly with the food and allowed to stand for 10 minutes before feeding so that it takes up the flavour of the food. There are special diets available from your vet which can reduce the risks of stones developing. These have low concentrations of certain minerals and are formulated to make your cat produce more urine. Some cats may need daily medication to help keep their urine acid. Cats are very choosy about their habits and a dirty litter tray may make them hold on to their urine and this may be a factor in the formation of stones. If there are several cats in your household the affected cat should be encouraged to use its own litter tray. This will allow you to check how much urine it produces and whether there are further signs of problems.

URINE SPRAYING & STRESS

CANCER IN YOUR CAT- POSSIBLE OPTIONS

Some cats urine spray because they are feeling anxious. In these cases you will need to do some extra things to make areas inappropriate for urinating unattractive to the cat, but also make the litter tray as attractive and as accessible as possible:

  • Clean the soiled area to eliminate smells of previous urination with cleaners such as the laundry powder, Bio Zet (Kao Australia Marketing) and neutralise, rather than mask, the smell with a product such as Bac to Nature (NutriPet). When possible, clean with 90% alcohol prior to Bac to Nature to further reduce odour. Avoid bleach and ammonia.

  • Confine the cat to a small area that has previously not been sprayed in. Gradually allow access to more of the house once spraying diminishes.

  • Change the significance of the soiled areas by placing items such as food (superglue some dry cat food to a paper plate and place on that spot), toys, double-sided sticky tape, lemon-scented soap, citrus peels, mothballs, or Snappy Trainers (Innovative Pet Products).

  • Cover the area with a thick plastic or plastic hall runners or place the cat's bedding in that area or simply denying access to certain areas until the cat is reliably urinating appropriately.

  • Place a litter tray in the area the cat prefers and then gradually move it to the area you consider acceptable. Spraying a pheromone spray on all soiled areas daily for 30 days may help.

  • Spray the cat with a water pistol ONLY if caught in the act of urine spraying.

  • Provide one litter tray per cat and an extra one in another area, so there is no competition for litter trays.

  • Clean the tray at least once daily with warm soapy water and preferably every time it is used.

  • Vary the type of litter or add an empty litter tray, as cats have substrate and/or privacy preferences.

  • Modification to the tray itself can also be useful, for example, providing a covered tray for more privacy or a tray with a cut down side for an arthritic cat for easier access.

  • Spend 10 to 15 minutes per day at a set time, playing, grooming and otherwise interacting with the cat on its own.

  • Grow an indoor garden of safe plants such as catmint or catnip for the cat to use

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells and the speed of progress and severity of symptoms depends on the type of abnormal tissue cell affected. As many as one in five cats are likely to develop one of the many different forms of cancer at some stage of their lives. The risk increases with age and so, with cats now enjoying a longer life expectancy through improved veterinary care, the number of animals with cancer has been increasing in recent years.
 

What causes cancer?

As with human cancers, the causes of cancer in cats and the processes which occur in the disease are still not well understood. Possible causes include:

  • toxic chemicals or exposure to harmful radiation.

  • feline leukaemia virus (a very common cause in cats).

  • abnormalities in the immune system which usually protects against infectious diseases.

  • abnormal genes.
     

How do I know my cat has cancer?

The symptoms of cancer are very variable and depend on the type of abnormal tissue cells involved, the site of the cancer and the stage of the disease. Advanced cases often show weight loss and appetite suppression. Your cat may be depressed, vomit, have diarrhoea or constipation, or fever. Your cat may also get tired easily because of anaemia.
 

Is my cat at risk of developing cancer?

Cancer can occur in any animal at any age but certain types of cat are more susceptible to particular forms of cancer. Cats with white fur and skin which like to sunbathe are vulnerable to skin cancers especially on the ears, nose, lips and any other areas where the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. The risk of cancer developing may be reduced by applying sunscreen to white exposed areas on sunny days. Feline leukaemia virus is the most common cause of cancer in the cat, although not all cats exposed to the virus will develop the disease. Most cats are able to resist the virus but those that cannot will develop permanent infection and three out of 10 of these will get some form of cancer.
 

Can cancer be treated?

Yes but this depends on the type of abnormal tissue cell involved and the stage of the disease. Sometimes euthanasia is the only humane alternative to a slow and painful death. In other cases treatment can produce a complete cure or at least significantly increase the length, or improve the quality of your cat's life. There are three basis options for treating cancers, not all are appropriate for every case and sometimes a combination of treatments has the best chance of success.

These are:

  • Surgical removal: usually the best choice for most cancers affecting solid tissue. If the cancer is relatively benign or if a more malignant cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body, surgical removal may often produce very good results.

  • Chemotherapy (drug treatment): the best option for the cancers that affect the blood or multiple areas of the body. It may also prevent or delay the appearance of secondary tumours in other organs after surgical removal of the original lump.

  • Radiotherapy (x-rays): often effective when tests have shown clearly the extent and size of the tumour. The radiation may be given from an outside source or radioactive material may be injected into the body. A beam of radiation is most effective on cancers of the extremities such as the limbs and head where it is less likely to damage normal tissue before reaching the tumour. Radiotherapy units are only located in a few specialised centres and your vet would need to refer you to a cancer specialist for this form of treatment.
     

Will my cat be in pain?

Growths are not usually painful initially. Discomfort can be severe when the cancer is advanced, but most cancer-related pain can be controlled. Your vet will probably try a gentle painkiller at first and move on to more powerful drugs if this proves ineffective. Your vet will try to improve your cat's quality of life rather than prolonging the life of your cat if it is suffering.

 

Is diet important?

Careful attention to your cat's diet may improve its quality of life. Cats need extra food to cope with the effects of a fast growing tumour but many cats will have a poor appetite and this will accelerate the weight loss. Warming the food or feeding by hand may help stimulate your cat's appetite. There are also special diets which provide good nutrition even if your cat's appetite is poor.

 

How long will my cat live?

This is the question that every owner wants answered but as with human cancer it is impossible for your vet to give you an answer with any confidence. The survival chances will depend not only on the type and stage of the disease but also on your cat's general state of health. You should discuss this issue with your own vet so that you can agree between you an appropriate treatment plan for your cat. It is understandable that, faced with a diagnosis of cancer, you will feel frightened about the future for your pet - discussing your fears with your vet is the very best way to obtain reassurance and an independent assessment that you are doing what is right for your pet.

AGGRESSION BETWEEN CATS IN A
MULTI-CAT HOUSE

When a cat is frightened or startled, its reaction may be redirected to the nearest available individual or object. In a multi-cat household, this target may be another cat.
 

Redirected aggression is swift and intense, and may begin a cycle of persistent aggressive interaction. The spontaneous eruption can occur between housemates that previously coexisted peacefully. It may subside within moments but, more commonly, several days or even weeks may pass before the housemates resume normal relations. Sometimes the relationship between cats is permanently changed.
 

In a multi-cat household, the target cat is not necessarily the first victim of the aggressive outburst, though usually it is. Occasionally, the roles may be reversed and the aggressor becomes the target cat.
 

After the initial conflict, a vicious cycle may form between the target cat and its aggressor. In anticipation of an attack, the target cat typically assumes a defensive fearful and cautious attitude, which triggers the attacker's pursuit.
 

Long after the original episode has passed, the aggressive cat may be aroused simply by the target cat's hesitation. The dominant cat may appear to chase the other as a kind of game.
 

To avoid further problems, separate the cats as quickly as possible after the first episode. It is safer to let the tension subside and then deal with any injury inflicted on the target cat.
 

Neither cat should be permitted the run of the house. Confine each cat separately, each with its own litter, food and water for several days. Wait an extra 24 hours after the time when they both appear calm and content. Then release one cat at a time to readjust.
 

Extend the period of confinement by another day if there is any sign of aggression. Alternate with each cat so that periods of confinement are gradually briefer and periods of freedom are longer. Eventually, both cats can be briefly allowed out at the same time, perhaps at mealtime. If there is any aggression, remove the food and confine the aggressive cat, or both if necessary. Try again later.
 

It can be very helpful to tranquillise one or both cats during the recuperative period. Both cats are anxious, agitated and aroused, and anti-anxiety medication, prescribed by your veterinarian, can help prevent permanent problems.

OVER GROOMING & EXCESSIVE VOCALISATION

Some cats may constantly meow or groom themselves to the extent that they have large bald patches. These cats may be feeling anxious or these may be stereotypic behaviours.

When these conditions are diagnosed it is advisable to:

  • Attempt to limit exposure to situations that may lead to anxiety.

  • Not pat or talk softly to the cat when it exhibits the behaviour because this reinforces the fearful response.

  • Spend 10 to 15 minuets per day at a set time playing, grooming and otherwise interacting with the cat on its own.

  • Grow an indoor garden of safe plants such as catnip or catmint for the cat to use.

  • Provide a variety of toys or change them weekly.
     

These exercises require time and patience but have shown to be effective in most cases of anxiety-related and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
 

Many cats displaying these signs will benefit from the use of anxiety-reducing medications, but behaviour modification as described above, is the cornerstone of successful long term treatment.
 

Behaviour modification takes time and effort and can be a slow process. Dedicate at least a four-week period to start with and then assess the situation.
 

If you are having difficulty please don't hesitate to contact your veterinary clinic.

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THE BARKING DOG

Barking is one way dogs communicate. It is a normal behaviour, but when it is excessive or occurs at inappropriate places or times, barking becomes socially unacceptable and a behaviour problem.
 

Some breeds tend to bark more than others. Terriers, Beagles, Rottweilers and German Shepherds are more likely to bark than Bassett Hounds, Afghans or Basenjis. Some dogs have learnt to bark and have had years of practice. For example, the dog that barks every day at the postman has been rewarded for his behaviour regularly and consistently because every time he barks the postman leaves! Dogs that have experienced many changes of home or owners, or spent time in shelters or pounds will be predisposed to anxiety-related problems.
 

Dogs can be taught when it is appropriate to bark, and for how long. It is probably impossible to stop them barking completely. Here are some tips that may help reduce barking:
 

  • Change the way the dog sees passers-by. Put escape proof 'windows' at ground level in the fence so the dog has to get down to see out. This discourages barking.

  • Provide a platform, eg a flat-topped kennel, at a distance from the fence so the dog can see over the fence but cannot chase passers-by along the fence.

  • Prevent access to the fence or gate at the times of day when the dog barks most, eg school times, postie times.

  • Provide food, water, aerobic exercise, 'thinking' toys and basic obedience training.

  • Avoid accidentally 'rewarding' the dog for barking by talking, shouting, coming outside, grabbing the collar etc when it barks. Instead, reward the dog for not barking with food, attention or games when it is quiet.

  • Teach the dog a 'stop' command and reward the dog when it is obedient with praise, food and attention.

  • Place a radio between the dog and the barking stimulus. However, not at a volume that may disturb the neighbours!
     

Dogs bark for many different reasons and these may be managed in different ways. If the problem persists the dog should be examined by a veterinary surgeon. Your vet will check whether there is an underlying physical or medical problem and discuss whether a full behaviour assessment is required.

SUDDEN ACQUIRED RETINAL
DEGENERATION

SARD is a condition of middle-aged dogs in which there is a sudden onset of blindness without any other signs of eye disease. Some dogs show increased eating and drinking (and consequently urination), and some may have an underlying glandular disorder known as Cushings disease.
 

SARD is an incompletely understood condition and no effective treatment is available. Some researchers have suggested that the sudden loss of photoreceptor function, in which both rods and cones are affected, may be due to an excess of a neurotransmitter called glutamate. The increased levels of the excitatory chemical glutamate may 'switch off' the retina. Irreversible degeneration of retinal function follows.
 

Females and smaller breeds are more likely to develop SARD. The first indication that a dog may have SARD can be ravenous eating and drinking, or obvious evidence that sight is deteriorating rapidly, ie bumping into objects.
 

Diagnosis of SARD requires specialist veterinary ophthalmological examination. This involves a procedure called electroretinoscopy to assess the photoreceptive activity of the retina, which invariably progresses to zero.
 

Because this condition occurs occasionally in dogs with underlying disease, sometimes laboratory investigation, eg urine and blood tests, is warranted to eliminate such conditions.

FOOD HYPERSENSITIVITY &
ELIMINATION DIETS

Allergies and intolerances to food can cause skin disease in dogs, although insect bite, plant and pollen allergies are more common. They can occur from a very young age or start in adulthood (some animals have eaten a particular food for up to 2 years before showing signs of intolerance to that food).
 

The most common foods implicated when a food intolerance is suspected are beef, chicken, dairy products, wheat, corn and soya. Skin reactions to allergenic foods can occur within hours to days after eating. The most common signs are itchiness, red ears and ear infections, chronic and recurrent skin infections, and gastrointestinal upsets.
 

The only way to prove that food is contributing to the problem is to conduct a food elimination trial. This involves eliminating all foods your pet usually eats and providing a new source of simple foods over a set period of time, then reassessing your pet's health. If this trial is successful, ie your pet improves, other food sources can be introduced one at a time until the illness recurs - this permits identification of the food or foods causing the illness.
 

Start with a source of protein that your pet has not eaten (or has rarely eaten) previously, eg one of kangaroo, lamb or duck plus a source of carbohydrate, eg rice, and feed this combination as the ONLY source of food for a period of 4-8 weeks. If your pet's condition is well controlled at the end of this period, introduce other single sources of protein at 7 day intervals.
 

It is vital that you ensure your pet has no access to any other food, treats or toys containing animal proteins (eg hide, chews) during the trial period.
 

It is useful to keep a record of when and what foods are introduced and a grading of your pet's condition ie on a scale of 0 - 10 where 0 = ideal and 10 = active severe disease. This ensures that the minimum period of elimination is followed, and that you have an objective guide as to whether or not the condition has improved, deteriorated or is the same.
 

Once you can confidently identify foods that cause a problem, devise a diet as varied as possible that excludes that food. There are some commercially prepared prescription 'hypoallergenic' diets that may be appropriate for your pet.

TICK PROTOCAL

Is a veterinary examination necessary?
 

Veterinary examination is necessary if the answer is yes to either of questions 1 or 2 below. A yes answer to questions 3 or 4 increases the suspicion of tick paralysis.
 

1. Does the dog/cat show one or more of the signs of tick paralysis?

 

  • Weakness in hind limbs - unable to stand, collapsing, wobbly gait, reluctance to climb stairs, jump in car

  • Abnormal respiration - grunting, laboured, abnormal vocalisation, coughing, slow breathing

  • Dilated pupils

  • Salivation, vomiting/retching, licking Hyperactivity
     

2. Has a tick (or ticks) been found?

  • Paralysis tick - size from < 1mm to > 5mm body length; black to grey; fat; strongly attached to the skin; hard bodied

  • Cattle tick (northern Australia)

  • Bush tick (coastal NSW)

  • Brown dog tick (northern Australia)

  • Poultry tick - soft bodied

Note: Differentiation of paralysis, cattle and bush ticks can be difficult and requires microscopic examination of the whole tick to be certain of species differences. If in doubt, assume a paralysis tick until proven otherwise.

 

3. Has the dog/cat been in contact with known tick habitat in the last 7 days?

 

  • Coastal scrub

  • Backyard overgrowth

  • Bushwalking

  • Farm visits
     

4. Has the pet had tick paralysis before?
 

Is tick paralysis an emergency?

On average, animals die within 24 hours of developing paralysis without treatment
 

Tick serum takes 12 hours to work
 

Animals with respiratory signs have poorest prognosis

GETTING OLDER

About 25% of all dogs are considered 'aged', ie in the last third of their lives. All dogs in this group are at risk of behavioural changes called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. This is like Alzheimer's disease in humans and is due to decreased brain function. Dogs with this problem might show confusion, loss of appetite, apathy, barking or whining at night, loss of toilet-training or irritability. Sometimes another medical disorder can trigger these changes.
 

Common problems of ageing
 

Progressive loss of eyesight and hearing
You can help your pet compensate for loss of eyesight by not moving furniture, food bowls or bedding around. Walk your dog on a short leash through unfamiliar surroundings and allow extra time for your dog to become familiar with new objects using other senses. For loss of hearing, try to use hand signals rather than verbal commands. Never permit your vision or hearing-impaired pet to wander unrestrained outdoors.

 

Arthritis

Progressive degenerative joint disease is common in aged animals. The pain and discomfort can result in difficulty negotiating stairs, difficulty rising from or settling to a prone position, inappropriate toileting, and aggression or irritability. Obesity aggravates arthritis due to the increased weight carried by the joints. Ensure your pet has well-padded, warm and comfortable bedding. Assist mobility if necessary using a sling or provide a ramp rather than stairs. Pain-relief through drugs and/or acupuncture maybe necessary.

DESENSITISING A FEARFUL DOG

This information sheet describes the steps required to desensitise your dog to distressing stimuli. These may be thunderstorms, loud noises, being left alone or strangers.
 

Desensitisation involves the gradual exposure to low levels of the stimulus, and encouraging and rewarding relaxed behaviour like sitting and staying. Desensitisation is part of a long term strategy that when successfully completed will mean you will be able to leave your dog alone for extended periods or he will tolerate thunderstorms or other loud noises without any anxiety or undesirable behaviour.
 

The first step is to provide a clear rule structure for your dog and to encourage him to be calm and relaxed in a non-stressful setting. This is described in 'Creating Stability and Security'.
 

Once your dog will reliably perform these exercises for you, you can move on to teaching the dog to remain relaxed in the presence of the stimulus. This may be exposure at a low level, for example, playing a thunderstorm tape very quietly or only departing to the next room for a very short time. As your dog progresses, the period he can be left alone or the volume of the thunderstorm can gradually be increased.
 

If we combine these episodes of being exposed to the anxiety-inducing stimulus with something the dog really enjoys, then he will progress more quickly. Your dog will associate your departure or the loud noises with something positive, rather than only the negative aspects which have been overwhelming until now. The specific program for each dog will vary because the environment that your dog finds challenging and the rewards he will value the most are unique for him. There are some general principles evident in the following example.
 

Desensitisation to being left alone
 

Imagine a dog called Fido. Fido adores dried liver treats, but from now on, the ONLY time he will ever receive this treat is as a reward for being calm in his owner's absence. Fido remains quite settled if left alone in the car but is destructive if left alone in the back yard. Fido's owner puts a blue rug (his relaxation cue, as described in 'Helping your dog cope alone') on the seat of the car and asks Fido to sit on it.

She leaves him alone for five seconds (with the door open) and rewards him with a piece of liver, as he remains calm and relaxed. She repeats the process leaving him for 10, 20, 40, 10, 30, then 60 seconds, rewarding him at the end of each interval. She then repeats the process but closes the car door each time she leaves him.
 

She notes that when leaving him for 40 seconds with the door shut he looks slightly anxious - his muscles are a little tense and he is breathing slightly more quickly. She does NOT reward him for this but goes back to leaving him for 10 seconds with the door open. He is relaxed again so is rewarded with a liver bit and the session finishes on a good note. It is very important that every training session should end on a positive note. Gradually, she works up to 2, then 5, then 7, then 10 minutes and so forth. Then the procedure can be carried out in gradually more challenging environments such as the house or yard and food rewards given intermittently, rather than after every good response. Once Fido is relaxed and calm for 30 minutes on his own, he will generally be settled for any extended period alone.
 

Your dog will progress more quickly if it does not experience any episodes of anxiety during the period of desensitisation. If you have to leave him alone for a time during the desensitisation period, consider a "dog-sitter" or "doggie daycare" and some of the suggestions in 'Helping your dog cope with being alone'. Certain events in your dog's life may also trigger a relapse. This may be anything your dog finds traumatic such as moving house, a member of the household departing, the death of another pet and so forth.
 

Desensitisation to thunderstorms or other loud noises
 

Using the same principles as described for Fido we can desensitise your dog to thunderstorms or other loud noises. Instead of rewarding Fido for being relaxed while alone, we will reward for relaxation while a tape of thunderstorm noise is playing. Start with the tape playing very quietly then gradually increasing the volume over time.
 

Note that lightening and ozone may contribute to the fearful response and in these cases the thunderstorm tapes will not be as effective as in cases where the stimulus is the noise alone.
 

Progress will be hampered in dogs with noise or thunderstorm fears and phobias if the dogs are exposed to these during the desensitisation process so it is better to try thunderstorm desensitisation before the thunderstorm season.
 

These exercises require time and patience but have been shown to be effective in most cases of separation anxiety and phobias. Some dogs will experience severe anxiety or panic under certain circumstances. These individuals can benefit from the use of anxiety-reducing medications which assist them in learning more appropriate responses in a given situation.
 

Behaviour modification takes time and effort and can be a slow process. Dedicate at least a four-week period to start with and then reassess the situation. If you are having difficulty with any of the programs please don't hesitate to contact your veterinary clinic.

ELIMINATION PROBLEMS IN CATS

Urine Spraying
 

Urine marking outside of the litter box (in a crouching or sitting position) occurs in sexually intact or neutered male and female cats.
 

A sexually intact cat that has begun to urinate inappropriately should be neutered without delay. The hormonal influences related to reproduction may motivate urine marking.
 

A cat's failure to urinate appropriately in the litter box may have several causes. A dirty litter box may cause a cat to avoid the box. Individual cats have different levels of tolerance to an unclean litter box. One cat may faithfully use a box that is only cleaned once or twice a week, while another cat may avoid a box that has been used just once. Do not scold or startle a cat in the vicinity of its litter box. A negative experience associated with the litter box could result in avoidance.
 

Urine contains odours that identify the individual and mark a cat's territory. The location of food, water and safe places to rest are linked to a cat's sense of security within its territory. If these are disturbed or if a sensitive cat is distressed for any reason, it may reaffirm its territorial claim and relieve anxiety by urine marking.
 

Litter training is further complicated in households with more than one cat. An easily offended cat may avoid a box that has been used by a housemate, while another may be attracted to use the box in order to cover the odours left by the others. Territorial conflict between cats in multi-cat homes may cause problems relating to use of the litter box. One cat may wait near the litter box to ambush another cat when it attempts to use the box. An increased level of anxiety could lead to inappropriate elimination.
 

As a guideline, provide one litter box for every cat in your household. Choose a variety of locations in quiet corners of your home to see which box attracts the most use. A cat that is harassed by others, even in play, should have an alternative box to use.
 

The longer urine marking is allowed to continue, the more enduring the pattern may become and the more difficult it maybe to resolve. This behaviour is self-reinforcing, increasing the likelihood that the cat will do it again. Inappropriate urination may continue because of environmental factors that have little or nothing to do with the initial cause, which may never be determined.
 

A cat can develop preferences for a certain target surface, such as carpeting, and eventually mark similar surfaces throughout your home. Certain sounds or even certain times of day may trigger marking. The problem can rapidly become complex. Regardless of the initial trigger, inappropriate elimination may reappear in times of stress because the act immediately relieves anxiety.
 

It is always important to investigate a possible medical problem associated with inappropriate urination. Among the more common conditions are bladder or kidney disease and diabetes mellitus. Virtually any illness may cause inappropriate urination. See your vet regularly so that physical problems can be detected early. Consult your vet when you detect a problem.
 

Inappropriate defecation

Defecation also functions in territorial marking and relief of anxiety. Inappropriate defecation may stem from a dirty litter box, medical problems, stress, anxiety and even fear. A cat may display its displeasure by depositing urine or stool in inappropriate areas. Inappropriate defecation and urination should not be viewed as intentional acts of malice or revenge. The same solutions apply to both types of elimination.
 

The litter box

Most cats prefer a quiet out of the way place for urination and defecation. Too much noise or activity nearby can discourage a cat from using the litter box and drive it to another location. Moving the litter box to a new location can also upset some cats. If the litter box must be moved, do it gradually.
 

Move the box a few inches each day toward the new location, even if this is slightly inconvenient for you. Place another box at the new location. When your cat discovers the new designated location and uses the box there, it is probably safe to remove the transitional one.
 

Another method is to place several additional boxes in various new places and observe which of these your cat prefers. Your cat's individual preference of location is your best guide.

WORMS & YOUR CAT

Worms will affect all pets at some stage. Many pets will be re-infected unless they are given regular, routine worming treatment. Except in rare cases, worms are unlikely to cause an animal serious harm but a heavy worm infestation will affect its general health. Getting rid of worms is simple, so regular treatment is strongly recommended, particularly as some types of worm can be passed on to humans.

 

What types of worms affect cats?

There are two important types of parasite worms in cats - roundworms and tapeworms. Roundworms can grow up to 15 cm long and are white in colour. They are round in cross section, whereas tapeworms are flat and ribbon-like. Tapeworms can reach up to 60 cm long. Both roundworms and tapeworms live in the cat's intestines along with two other types of smaller worm, similar to roundworms, called whipworms and hookworms.
 

What damage do worms cause?

Intestinal worms cause injury and loss of blood from the lining of the gut. If there are a lot of worms there may be changes in your cat's appetite, coughing, weight loss, a rough, dry coat and a 'pot-bellied' appearance. In kittens a worm infection can be dangerous, because the intestine could become blocked (although this is rare in an adult cat) and quickly be fatal. Worms can also cause diarrhoea, dehydration and anaemia, and this may make your cat run-down and susceptible to other diseases.
 

How are worms passed on?

Roundworms grow in the intestine laying thousands of eggs that pass out in the faeces (droppings). The eggs can survive for months or even years in the soil and need to lie in the environment for some time before they can infect another animal. They find their way into a new host either directly, when eaten by a cat or indirectly after being swallowed by a rodent that then is eaten by a cat. Inside the rodent - and sometimes in people - the egg hatches inside the gut, burrows through the intestine wall and lodges as a resting larval stage somewhere within the body. Some of these larvae also survive in the tissues of an infected cat. If that cat is female and has kittens they make their way to the cat's breast and are passed on to the kittens in the milk.

Tapeworms anchor to the intestinal wall and grow a continuous ribbon of segments - each packed with eggs. The segments gradually break off and are passed in the cat's faeces. They may wriggle like a maggot for a short time and they dry up (sometimes still attached to your cat's fur). The most common type of tapeworm moves on to a new cat by way of fleas. The next cat will become infected when it swallows an adult flea whilst grooming itself. There is also a less common type of tapeworm that uses mice and other rodents to complete its life cycle. A cat is infected when it hunts and eats the rodent.
 

How can I tell if my cat has worms?

Apart from the general effects on health described above, signs of infestation are to be found in your cat's faeces. Segments of tapeworm looking like grains of rice can often be seen in the droppings or in the fur around your cat's bottom. You may be startled to see them move. Roundworm eggs are microscopic.
 

How can worms be destroyed?

There are some highly effective treatments that will kill worms. These are available as liquids, tablet or injections. However, not all the products are equally good and some work against certain types of worms and not others. Your vet will be able to advise you on which product is best for your cat. Worms are so common that it is safe to assume that any kitten, cat with fleas or animal that regularly catches rodents will be infected. Kittens should be dosed every two weeks from four weeks to 16 weeks of age and older cats should be treated about every three months. Some cats, eg hunting cats, will need more regular treatment than others. You should discuss with your vet the most appropriate treatment regime for your cat.
 

Can my family be affected?

The type of roundworm normally found in cats is much less likely to cause problems in humans than that of dogs and most of the parasites found in cats are unable to survive at all in people.
 

What can I do to reduce the risk?

  • Regularly worm your pets.

  • If a cat uses your garden as a toilet clean up the faeces and bury them (if your cat has not done so already) or put them inside a sealed bag in your dustbin.

  • If your cat normally uses a litter tray, remove the faeces every day and disinfect the tray every week using hot water.

  • Check your cat for signs of fleas and treat them regularly using the product recommended by your vet. Fleas are more numerous in the summer and autumn.

  • Discourage your cat from hunting rodents by keeping it indoors at night.

  • Children will put dirty fingers and other objects into their mouths and this may bring them into contact with worm eggs. Make sure that they wash their hands after playing in a garden or other open areas that may be used as a toilet by cats. Remember the greatest risk of children being infected with worms is from other children not your cat.

TIPS FOR FELINE FUN

A cat confined indoors enjoys a significantly longer life expectancy because of decreased risk of injury and disease. There are also benefits in terms of wildlife protection and the appreciation of the non-cat lovers in the community. With a bit of extra effort, these cats can still have a lifestyle that meets their needs.
 

Even cats that spend some time outdoors can benefit from mental and physical activity in their home environment. This is particularly true for individuals prone to anxiety disorders. The following suggestions allow cats to focus their energies in a healthy, positive way that helps relieve stress. Cats are individuals so it is important to trial as many of the following as possible so you can identify the elements that your cat appreciates the most.
 

Toys

Cats are very sight sensitive to moving objects, so providing toys with an element of motion will help attract interest and enthusiasm for play, eg:

  • Simple home-made items such as scrunched up pieces of newspaper on the end of a piece of elastic, attached to a stationary object or tied to your belt so they bobble around on the floor behind you as you walk.

  • Balls containing a bell, cat dancers and various furry items such as mice.

  • Toys are available that contain catnip or you might like to grow your own indoor catnip, catmint or catgrass.

  • Table tennis balls or non-toxic soap bubbles can also be fun for cats.
     

Interacting With the Outside World

Cats will often be content with a view of the outside world, even if they cannot venture into it.

  • Access to a window ledge while others may be more satisfied with an enclosed outdoor run that extends out into the garden area.

  • There are companies that specialise in erecting and designing these structures with cats' particular needs in mind.

  • Supervised access to the outdoors on a harness is another alternative.
     

If you have more than one pet and consider there is some tension between different members of the household, you could consider allowing your cat exclusive access to one viewing area that is particularly favoured. It can then become an area of relaxation for this cat that will be identified as a haven from potential threat. Providing a cubby, such as a cardboard box containing an unwashed sweater, in this or other areas of the house will also help your cat feel secure. Making an entry and exit hole and placing it up high also adds to the feeling of security.
 

Games

Cats often enjoy:

  • Chasing concentrated dots of light from a penlight or similar source.

  • Exploring items such as paper bags and boxes, which you can encourage by popping the odd surprise inside - the commercially available "Busy Kitten" takes advantage of this natural curiosity.

  • Searching the house for small piles of food, rather than finding it all in one spot. Train your cat to do this by sprinkling food at gradually increasing distances away from the bowl until your cat catches onto the idea that it is worth looking in hidden spots for its ration.

  • Using a Kitty Kong with food items placed inside it to extend the pleasure of mealtime.

  • Chewing raw chicken wings - these can help keep teeth and gums healthy as well as provide a suitable chew item.

  • Using scratching posts - these can prevent damage to furniture items while allowing the cat to enjoy scratching indoors.

  • Climbing - a suitable post can provide access to areas such as exposed beams and double as a scratching post if covered in a suitable material such as cut pile carpet.

  • Playing with other cats - some young, exuberant cats will appreciate the company of a slightly older, energetic cat who they can play with; however, some individuals prefer solitude.
     

Quality Time

There is quite a marked variation in the amount of time different cats like to spend being cuddled. Many will appreciate extended periods of sitting on your lap, being patted or groomed while others dislike too much physical contact at one time. Some owners like doing some obedience work with their cats that can include teaching tricks or games such as retrieve or hide and seek. With patience they can respond very well to this type of attention.
 

Taking time to make life more interesting for your cat can really increase the quality of life that it enjoys and is an opportunity to give back some of the pleasure that their company gives us.

DEAL WITH AGGRESSION

Fear-induced or territorial aggression in a cat or dog can be redirected toward people during peak moments of arousal. Aggression may be redirected to you, particularly if you act to distract the aggressor.
 

Do not touch an aggressive pet, even if your intention is to comfort or reassure it. When emotional energy is high, it must have an outlet. It may dissipate slowly over time or it may erupt spontaneously.
 

Avoid directly challenging an aggressive pet, regardless of the cause of agitation. You are more likely to trigger an attack if you pursue the animal to its place of refuge or crowd it into a corner.
 

Do not threaten the animal further with direct eye contact or speak in a loud or angry tone.
 

Do not take your pet's aggressiveness as an opportunity to punish it and 'teach it a lesson'
 

Take any warning from your pet very seriously and remain at a safe distance. If your pet is frightened, give it room to escape.
 

Do not reach toward it with your hand or place any part of your body within striking distance.
 

Call your veterinarian and ask for advice. A referral to a veterinary behaviour consultant may be wise to prevent an escalation of the problem and deterioration of the bond between you and your pet.

FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a significant cause of disease in cats. FIV is very similar to HIV in people and causes disease similar to AIDS and is often referred to as cat AIDS. It affects the cells of the immune system by killing or damaging them and causing a gradual decline in the cat’s immune function. The immune system fights infection, therefore HIV positive cats are at a far greater risk of disease and infection with other viruses and bacteria.
 

Recent studies show that 14-29% of cats in Australia test positive to FIV. We are seeing an increased prevalence of the disease in Newcastle. 
 

Contracting FIV
FIV is mainly spread through biting, with high levels of the virus shed through saliva.

Outdoor cats are at a much greater risk of contracting FIV, especially if they are involved in cat fights, breeding or have a history of cat fight abscesses. 
 

Diagnosis
In house blood test is used to diagnose FIV. Testing is recommended for cats socialising outside with other cats and cats presenting with cat fight wounds/abscesses.

Prior to a FIV vaccination adult cats should be tested for the disease.
 

Signs of FIV

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Conjunctivitis

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Vomiting/diarrhoea

  • Weight loss

  • Poor coat quality

  • Chronic infections

  • Gingivitis

  • Sores in mouth
     

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for FIV and infection is for life.

 

Prevention
A highly effective vaccine to protect against FIV is now available. The best way to prevent the disease is by vaccination. A course of 3 vaccinations is required 2-4 weeks apart and then annual boosters to maintain immunity.

 

If you would like more information or would like to make an appointment to have your cat protected from FIV please telephone for an appointment on 02 4925 2999.

PET IDENTIFICATION

Millions of cats end up in shelters every year and never make it home. In fact, fewer than 5 percent of cats taken in by animal shelters are reunited with their families.

 

Losing your pet is a challenging and stressful time for owners and families, here are two lists to help you plan ahead to keep your cat as safe as possible, and be prepared in case she/he does get lost. for more information call 02 4925 2999

 

Safe cat checklist

 

  • Put an ID tag on her/his collar

  • Get microchip

  • Take a photo

  • Keep a photo

  • Make a plan

 

Lost cat checklist

 

  • Alert & visit local animal agencies

  • Distribute flyers

  • Notify neighbours

  • Go online

  • Advertise

BEGINNING AT AROUND AGE 7, YOUR PET ENTERS HIS OR HER SENIOR YEARS

Often, pets begin to develop diseases common to their senior human counterparts, such as diabetes, heart disease, endocrine disease & cancer. These diseases can go unnoticed in their early stages; therefore, preventative health care is very important.

 

Early detection can help in disease prevention & can minimise suffering. 

 

If left undetected, many diseases can put your pet's health at risk. The best approach to caring for your senior pet includes preventative diagnostics such as:

 

  • Establishing baseline bloodwork

  • Identifying existing health problems

  • Monitoring progress during treatment

 

Together, Cooks Hill Veterinary Clinic can help your pet. You know your pet better than anyone else & can alert us to any changes in your pet before they become serious. We can help you understand the common medical conditions that your senior pet faces, & discuss a regular monitoring plan.

WATCH YOUR PET FOR THESE SIGNS

Keep track & then report them to us, before they become serious.

 

  • Just not acting like himself/herself

  • Interacting less often with family

  • Responding less often or less enthusiastically

  • Changes in behaviour/activity level

  • Having difficulty jumping

  • Exhibiting increased stiffness or limping

  • Drinking more often

  • Urinating more often

  • Changes in eating patterns

  • Noticeably gaining or losing weight

  • Losing housetraining habits

  • Changes in sleeping patterns

  • Becoming confused or disoriented

  • Experiencing changes in hair coat, skin, or new lumps or bumps

  • Scratching more often

  • Exhibiting bad breath/red or swollen gums

  • Displays tremors or shaking

HOW TO KEEP YOUR OLDER PET HEALTHY AND HAPPY

Work closely with us at Cooks Hill Veterinary Clinic to evaluate your pet's general health & to monitor the physical effects ageing has had on his or her mind & body.

 

Schedule routine checkups.

 

Speak up for your pet. Tell us about any changes you've observed, including:

 

  • Weight, appetite or elimination 

  • Behaviour

  • Skin & coat

  • Mobility
     

Ask us at cooks Hill Veterinary Clinic about nutrition & exercise and the role they play in your pet's health.
 

Know your pet's condition. Ask us about testing options that can identify health risks before they become evident, including:

 

  • Routine blood testing

  • Urinalysis

  • Hormone testing

  • Electrocardiograph (ECG)

  • X-rays
     

Ask for annual screenings for life-threatening diseases, including:
 

  • FIV (the feline version of HIV), FeLV (Feline Leukaemia)

  • Feline & canine heartworm infection

FELINE STRESS

Thunderstorms

 

Some cats are very fearful of the noise made by thunder and lightening storms. Make sure your cat has access to her/his refuge when it is storming outside. Play a radio or TV to help cover the noise of the storm. Provide hiding areas that will allow the cat to escape the sound. For example, leave a closet ajar so the cat can hide inside. If you are home during the storm, sit with the cat. Try to engage the cat in play to distract her/his. Reward her/his with treats and praise to help create a more pleasant association with storms.

 

Cats that are extremely agitated or wild during storms may need to be confined to a small space such as a cat carrier or bathroom. If your cat fits into this group ask your veterinarian about medication that can help.

CREATING STABILITY & SECURITY FOR
YOUR DOG

This program will benefit all dogs but especially those with behaviour problems. It provides a clear set of rules for your dog to follow and this plays a major part in relieving anxiety (and hence undesirable behaviours that can follow this emotional state). The aim is for the dog to recognise that you are dependable and to recognise where in the household hierarchy he fits. This reduces sources of confusion or conflict, the dog feels more comfortable and confident that he can rely on you to determine departure and return routines.
 

The first step - SIT
 

Your dog must learn to sit for all of the things that it values. There is no need to push down on his bottom. Firmly hold a food reward above his nose and move your hand backwards until his hindquarters start to drop. As he goes down say 'sit' and 'good boy' and when he sits give his reward. It is essential that he is taught in a gentle, positive manner, which results in the dog being rewarded when it is obedient. Some people dislike food rewards as they consider them a bribe. However it may be thought of as a 'payment' for a good job. Once the behaviour occurs 95% of the time then start alternating food rewards and pats. At this stage intermittent reward becomes the strongest reinforcer of good behaviour.
 

Eye contact
 

Once your dog can reliably sit on your request he should be encouraged to make eye contact with you when he sits. You can hold a favourite toy or titbit near your eye while asking him to 'look'. The treat should be given as soon as he complies. Over time the item can be replaced by a hand movement up towards your eyes only and a reward given from your pocket. If you are concerned that your dog is focusing on the food rather than you, an alternative is to hold a titbit in each hand and hold them at shoulder height to your left and right. Initially your dog is likely to look from one to the other - eventually he will look at you and as he does so instantly give the word 'look' and reward him with both pieces of food.
 

Stay
 

The next step is to introduce the 'stay' and ask the dog to remain in position until a release command such as 'free' is given. Make this learning process fun. Use a happy tone of voice and lots of verbal praise together with the reward of a titbit or a game. Sessions should be short and enjoyable. No more than 5 minutes at a time but repeat these sessions a minimum of six times during the day. If you and your dog are not looking forward to them then progress will not be as good as it should be. If you are continually becoming frustrated with your dog, then it is time to contact your veterinary clinic for some assistance.
 

Saying 'please'
 

Once you have taught your dog to sit and look at you on request you can begin to ask this of him for ALL the things he enjoys in life. You might like to think of it as the dog saying 'please'. It does not mean that your dog has to miss out on anything - only that he must use 'good manners' (ie sit, look and stay) to earn what he has previously been given for free,eg:

  • 'please' (= sit, look and stay) can I have my dinner

  • 'please' can I have my lead put on for a walk

  • 'please' can I cross the road

  • 'please' can I have a pat

  • 'please' can you open the door

  • 'please' can I get into/out of the car, etc
     

This program will reach its full potential if you ignore any attempt on your dog's part to control YOUR actions. For instance, if your dog comes up and nudges you while you are reading the newspaper (his way of saying 'gimme'), it is important not to reach down and pat him until he chooses to move away. Doing so would have allowed the dog to dictate that entire interaction. It is preferable to ignore the dog (even if he whimpers or paws at you). If he jumps up, make no physical, voice or eye contact with him. Don't push him away - this is a response. Just turn away or stand and walk away. Once the dog has moved away you can call him over, ask him to 'sit' and 'look' (ie he says 'please') and then pat him if he complies. If your dog does not do as requested, walk away and ignore him. It is important to watch for potentially 'pushy' behaviours by your dog to ensure you are not inadvertently being manipulated. It is to be expected that there will be some resistance to the change in the household hierarchy and the behaviours may become worse in the short term but will eventually disappear when the dog realises he gets no benefit from them.
 

Remember in attention-seeking dogs any recognition is a reinforcement for the behaviour. That includes even small gestures like eye contact or negative things like yelling. These will seem like acknowledgement to this dog. We must avoid all signs of acknowledgement unless we initiate it. We need to teach our dog basic manners.
 

This programme often means quite a big change in the way that you interact with your pet. In the short term you might feel like you are being harsh on your dog. However, like people, dogs generally value things more highly if an effort is required to obtain them. The simple act of sitting and looking at you will provide your dog with direction, and reward for deferring to you.

CHEWING & DIGGING

Chewing and digging are normal behaviours of dogs. Dogs chew and dig for a range of reasons, eg to hide bones or toys, as part of the elimination ritual, to relieve aching teeth or improve jaw strength, to find a cool spot to lie, and occasionally because they are feeling anxious. It is almost impossible to stop these behaviours completely, however here are some hints on how to improve chewing and digging behaviour or direct it towards something appropriate.
 

Chewing
 

  • Direct puppies toward appropriate chew toys.

  • Provide a variety of toys and rawhide chews or pig's ears for puppies and adult dogs.

  • Make chew toys attractive by smearing some food, eg peanut butter or Vegemite on them. Play with your dog using the toy.

  • Praise the dog for sniffing, licking or chewing appropriate items.

  • If you catch the dog chewing something inappropriate then correct the dog with a firm, deep voiced "no" and remove the object. Replace with a chew toy and praise the dog for chewing this. Watch carefully for any opportunities to repeat this process.

  • Be consistent! Don't let the dog chew a shoe one day then punish him for chewing a shoe the next.

  • Fence off areas where the dog is doing damage; ensure that valuable objects are placed beyond temptation.

  • Using punishment might only teach the dog not to chew when you are watching and can make an anxious dog worse. Try 'booby trapping', eg apply a bittering agent to rags on the line if the dog pulls washing down. Place upside down mousetraps or Snappy Trainers near objects that may not be chewed.
     

Digging
 

  • Provide a digging pit about the size of a sandpit and teach the dog that it is OK to dig in this place but not anywhere else in the garden.

  • Encourage digging in the 'digging pit' by burying bones, toys, food in it and reward and praise the dog when he uses his pit.

  • 'Booby trap' the garden with air-filled balloons or mouse traps or Snappy Trainers just covered with soil.

  • Correct the dog's behaviour when you catch him in the act. Then take him to his 'digging pit' and give praise and reward, eg liver treats, for digging here.

  • Place fences around inappropriate areas, especially newly tilled soil or freshly planted plants.

  • Place chicken wire over the top of garden beds or just below the soil surface.

  • Provide shelter from the cold and heat, clean bedding and a wading pool in hot climates.
     

If your dog continues this behaviour, make an appointment to see your vet. It is important that a physical cause of this behaviour is ruled out and the vet may discuss with you the possibility of a full behaviour assessment.

HELP YOUR DOG TO COPE WITH
BEING ALONE

Separation anxiety refers to the distress that some dogs feel in the absence of a person (or less often, an animal) to whom they are highly attached. The anxiety can be expressed in several ways including vocalisation (barking, whining), destructive behaviour, salivation, pacing, house-soiling, escaping or depression.
 

Anxiety is a cascade phenomenon - once you get upset it is easier to become more upset. The memory of an unpleasant experience will make the same situation even more stressful next time. Avoid these situations whenever possible until there is time to implement strategies which will enable the dog to cope with separation without distress. Here are some short-term strategies that may help your dog to cope.
 

Denning and "dog-sitting"
 

Some mildly affected dogs may accept confinement in an exercise pen, crate, cubby or den.
 

  • Give the dog some items, such as an unwashed sweater and appropriate chew toys such as Kongs.

  • Some dogs may prefer the car and settle better there. !This is not suitable on warm days or if the dog is very destructive!

  • Allow access to a place closely associated with the owner such as a couch or bed.

  • Ask a friend or neighbour (who is willing) to check on the dog at certain intervals or temporarily "dog-sit".

  • When you have to leave home early in a retraining program try "doggie daycare" at a veterinary hospital or boarding kennels.
     

Departure routines
 

Many dogs recognise departure routines and these are cues to become distressed. Identify ways that will relax the dog to help him tolerate your departures better.
 

  • Carry out activities such as picking up keys, packing a briefcase or putting on a uniform but then stay home, practice these "mock" departures many times.

  • You might know of a cue that helps your dog relax, eg putting on joggers indicates a short departure for a morning jog. You could put these joggers on and go to work.
     

"Relaxation" cues
 

On days when you are leaving the dog for very short periods only, you can develop some cues that indicate you will be back soon, eg:

  • A particular piece of music.

  • A special blanket or rug, a novel toy. These show the dog that the departures are "safe" and that you will be back very soon.

  • These items MUST be removed at other times or they will lose their significance.
     

Greeting and departures

Downplay greetings and departures:

  • Ignore the dog for 5 - 15 minutes before you leave and for 5 - 15 minutes on your return. This helps to avoid the intense highs and lows that are contributing to the anxiety levels your pet is experiencing.

  • Set a light or radio on a timer programmed to come on 15 - 30 minutes before your arrival home to defuse the sudden nature of your return.
     

Guilt

When dogs have separation anxiety we often come home to find precious things destroyed, or urine or faeces on the carpet. Remember the dog is not doing this out of spite but because he is anxious about being left alone.
 

Our bodies get tense and we speak with a loud, stern voice. Dogs are sensitive to body language - this is a large part of their communication to each other. You think your dog looks "guilty" for what he has done! But he is just responding to your angry body language and submitting to your authority.
 

Some dogs will cower before you even have the opportunity to assess if any damage has been done. This is because they have learnt from past experience that you are displeased if there is destruction or soiling, not as a result of guilt about making the mess. Your dog would show exactly the same reaction if another dog were responsible for the destruction.
 

Punishment in these circumstances will only make him more anxious and the signs of distress will get worse.

DIABETES MELLITUS

Diabetes mellitus, or sugar diabetes, develops when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin. It is a rare disease in dogs under the age of 6. Insulin is a hormone essential for the metabolism and utilisation of glucose - the body's main source of energy.
 

Because the glucose is not absorbed from the bloodstream of a diabetic animal, it is excreted in the urine - this requires a lot of water, and hence one of the most obvious signs of diabetes is increased drinking or water consumption. Glucose in the urine can encourage bladder infections; other signs of diabetes include muscle wasting, weakness and even coma. When diabetes is not recognised, or not managed correctly, a more serious condition can develop called ketoacidosis - at this stage a dog feels nauseous, may vomit or refuse to eat and becomes dehydrated. This is a life-threatening situation.
 

Managing a diabetic dog at home
 

Stability is a key word in managing diabetes:

  • Diet must be consistent - give a prescription dog food in the same recommended quantity (feed for your dog's ideal bodyweight) at the same time (or times) of day. For dogs receiving once daily insulin, feed three meals 6-8 hours apart - the first meal is given 30 minutes after the morning insulin injection. Never allow scavenging or give treats or titbits.

  • Exercise must be regular, never excessive or overexciting.

  • Insulin dosages must be regular, the same dose at the same time (or times) of day. Most dogs manage best on two injections of insulin every day, each given 12 hours apart; sometimes a single dose in the morning is adequate. The dosing regime that suits your dog best will be determined by your vet, based on the blood tests done during the initial stay in hospital. Never alter the dose or frequency of insulin injections unless on veterinary advice
     

Initially, diabetes in pets needs to be managed in hospital. The dose of insulin required varies and it takes a few days, with regular blood and urine glucose measurements taken, to be sure the dog has been stabilised.
 

Once stable and at home again, you will need to check your dog's urine once a day for glucose and another chemical called ketones. There should be just a trace of glucose and ketones in the urine in a well-stabilised dog. The dipstix suitable for this are available from your vet or local pharmacy.
 

Depending on the underlying cause of diabetes, adjustments to insulin dosing may be required. If you have any doubts about your pet's well-being, discuss these with your vet.

PLAY BEHAVIOUR IN PUPPIES

Puppies begin to play as soon as they can walk. Littermates commonly wrestle and chase each other, pulling on ears or tails. Through play with littermates, pups learn just how strong they are or how to turn circumstances to their advantage.
 

By the time they are weaned, each pup has formed an impression of its own abilities and social standing within the ranks of littermates. This forms the basis for adult behaviour, such as achievement of dominance, in relation to people and other dogs.
 

Play allows a young animal to practice important life skills without adult consequences. Running, jumping, hiding and other playful antics could be invaluable later when hunting for food or escaping an enemy. Play is one of the best ways to teach desirable behaviour to a pet by setting standards for a lifetime. By tolerating subtle or not so subtle dominance behaviour even in young puppies, for example, you may encourage inappropriate social patterns.
 

Undesirable forms of play
 

Wild and uncontrolled forms of play frequently lead to undesirable behaviour in juvenile and adult dogs. Games that encourage chasing and jumping on people promote aggressiveness. Don't encourage your dog to mouth, chew, nip or nibble any article of clothing or part of a person's body, even if it is behaving playfully. Avoid games that arouse your dog's aggressive instincts, such as wrestling or tug of war with any object.
 

Forms of play that do not focus a dog's attention on your or reinforce your authority may lead to misdirection of the animal's energies. The results of a dog's unrestricted activity are often undesirable. Also, you lose the opportunity to teach your dog desirable skills.

HOUSE TRAINING

Puppies
 

Start puppy training between 7 and 8 weeks of age. Confine a puppy when you are absent or at night, eg in a kitchen, laundry, verandah or in a crate at first to give it a sense of security. Leave a radio or low wattage light on. Gradually expand this area as the puppy learns not to eliminate in it or destroy things. If the puppy is confined for more than 2-3 hours provide a small area of substrate within this 'den' such as newspaper or kitty litter for the puppy to eliminate in. Also provide bedding, water, food and toys.
 

Puppies learn preferences for certain eliminating surfaces or substrates. Training to prefer substrates such as grass as a toileting area straight away is ideal. However, there may be circumstances when the puppy can't be taken outside every 2- 3 hours such as overnight. Newspaper or kitty litter can be alternatives at these times. Remember that a puppy cannot distinguish an old from a new newspapers!
 

Training tips

  • Teach the puppy some vocal commands.

  • Take the puppy outside frequently (every 1-2 hours or a minimum of 6-8 times a day) including directly after waking, playing and within 15-30 minutes of eating so he learns toileting behaviour on an appropriate substrate.

  • Watch for signs that the puppy may want to eliminate such as whining, circling, pacing or sudden cessation of another behaviour. Quickly take the puppy outside.

  • Choose toileting areas with the surface (substrate) you prefer, eg dirt, grass, litter.

  • Stand still, allow the puppy to sniff around on or off the lead. Always supervise the puppy.

  • Put a bell on the puppy's collar so you can keep track of it.

  • Put some urine or faeces in the selected spot to mark it as a toileting place.

  • Reward appropriate elimination behaviour with a treat. Praise the puppy as soon as it starts to squat.

  • Play with the puppy after it has eliminated appropriately.

  • Do not punish the puppy for 'mistakes'. A puppy will not understand its mistake by having its nose rubbed in it. Instead startle the puppy with a noise (clap, whistle) if you catch it in the act.

  • Take the puppy to a preferred place and reward for appropriate elimination behaviour.

  • Clean soiled area with BioZet (Kao Australia) laundry powder and spray with Bac to Nature (Nutripet) to eliminate the odour.

  • If the puppy is paper trained then gradually move the paper towards the door over several days.
     

Older dogs

The same principles as described above apply to older dogs. Remember that they must relearn elimination behaviours and change their substrate preference. This will take time and supervision. Attach a bell to the dog's collar to keep you aware of his activities. Identify his current substrate preference and avoid or cover this with your preferred substrate if possible. Supervise carefully, use of a short lead used to encouraging circling behaviour and immediate reward when the dog squats may help.
 

If your housetraining problem persists, please make an appointment to see your vet. Your vet will check whether there is an underlying physical or medical problem and discuss whether a full behaviour assessment is required.

Be consistent, be patient!!

DOGS WITH ENERGY TO BURN

There are numerous causes for behavioural problems, but simply providing more stimulation and unpredictability in the dog's routine can help to reduce some unwanted behaviours. Confining the dog or tying it to restrict its annoying habits will tend to add to the stress and/or boredom the dog feels and will make matters worse in the long run.
 

There are marked individual differences in the stimulation and activity that a dog requires - some are happy to be lounge (or lap) lizards while others like to be on the go all day. Try as many of the following recommendations as possible and then select those activities that benefit your dog (and you) the most.
 

Ideas for owners short on time
 

Most dogs enjoy eating but will eat their meal very quickly.

Make eating more interesting and time consuming, e.g.:

  • Provide some of the meal ration stuffed inside a "Kong" (a sturdy, hollow rubber toy) or within a training treat ball (which the dog must roll around to allow pieces of food to drop out). Remember to put the Kong away when the dog has finished with it.

  • Provide raw bones to chew, e.g. shin, brisket. Small dogs may find ribflaps more manageable.

  • For very active dogs, partly split a tennis ball, place a dessertspoon of peanut butter or Vegemite inside, then put the tennis ball inside a rubber tyre swing. This is a real challenge!

  • Give several bones at a time to reduce the chance of the dog burying them (unless he has a digging pit - see below).
     

Many dogs can learn to entertain themselves with toys or acceptable activities:
 

  • Offer a different toy every day and rotate the toys over the period of a week or so.

  • Don't leave all the toys out all the time or they will become 'humdrum'.

  • Provide a couple of escape proof 'windows' at ground level in solid fences (forcing the dog to get down to ground level discourages barking at passers-by).

  • Put a flat roof on the dog kennel so the dog can see over the fence (but not jump it).

  • A birdbath, a secure aviary or caged bird, if you enjoy these, can provide added entertainment for the dog.

  • Provide a sand or dirt pit for dogs that like to dig. Let your dog see you bury favourite toys or bones (in loose soil and not too deeply to start with). Reward the dog when he digs in his pit. Most dogs soon work out that it is more fun to dig in this area than disturb the rest of the garden, which is much less interesting. Initially you will need to bury quite a few items but the need for this will diminish over time.

  • Monitor your pets if you have more than one to ensure bones and toys don't trigger aggression!
     

Activities to share with your dog
 

Fetch
 

Even a short game of throw and retrieve can allow a substantial amount of aerobic activity in a small area. Ensure you control when the game starts by having your dog sit quietly first and control when the game ends by putting the toy away while your dog is still interested in playing. Different items can be chased:

  • Balls - hit with a tennis racket if you have a large area and athletic dog

  • Squeaky toys

  • Kongs

  • Frisbees which are specifically designed to be long lasting and easy for dogs to pick up (don't use normal frisbees as they may injure your dog's teeth).

  • Some dogs prefer to play soccer with a basketball and a little encouragement from you.
     

Walks
 

Making time to ensure your dog has regular walks can be difficult - but even 20 minutes a day can make a difference. Obviously, longer or more frequent sessions are even better. Your local council can advise you about where your dog is permitted to run off lead (see below). Consider the use of a head halter such as a 'gentle leader' or 'halti' if you have problems with your dog pulling or being unruly on a lead.
 

Swimming
 

Many dogs enjoy swimming, and it is a particularly good for any individuals with joint disease such as arthritis. There are canine swimming pools in some areas or you may have access to a beach or lake where dogs are permitted.
 

Companions
 

Some owners consider getting another dog as a source of activity for their current dog. Unfortunately, there is a risk that your problems may be doubled by this approach. A better solution, if possible, is to have another dog visit or arrange to meet it on your outings together. Not all dogs will welcome the company of others but if they can be monitored closely during the initial stages they many well go on to become a great source of entertainment for one another.
 

Quality time with your dog
 

Stimulating your dog's mind is just as important as physical activity. Some basic obedience work, either at home or in a class situation, can assist you in having better control of your dog as well as giving him a mental workout. Always use positive reinforcement techniques and don't give attention to unwanted behaviours by punishing. Dog trainers use different methods so be sure to find one that uses a gentle positive reinforcement and reward approach. You may need to shop around for the trainer you like. Before selecting a training group, go to a class without your dog to see if you feel comfortable with the instructor and their methods. Dogs who love to run and play will often benefit from agility work. Some juvenile and adult dogs may find it difficult to learn obedience among the distractions of a group situation - these dogs need to be taught on their own.
 

Even after your dog has learnt some simple commands, it is useful to 'put him through his paces' every now and again to reinforce his learning and your authority.
 

The benefits
 

It takes considerable effort to put the above suggestions into practice. Some dogs' behaviour will deteriorate for the first few days then settle down to a much more acceptable level. Enriching your dog's environment will help to keep him contented by giving him the opportunity to direct his energies in a positive manner. This allows you to enjoy a much happier relationship with your pet and makes the time and effort all worthwhile.
 

Dog exercise / leash free areas in Newcastle City Council area
 

These areas permit dogs to be exercised under the following conditions:

  • Off the leash, but under supervision of a competent person

  • Off leash only within the indicated area

  • Dog faeces to be removed by the dog's handler

  • Dog registration must be current
     

The areas are:

  • West Park, Adamstown

  • Honeysuckle, Carrington

  • Ballast Ground, Stockton

  • Braye Park, Waratah

  • Upper Reserve, Wallsend

  • King Edward Park, Newcastle

  • Purdue Park, Mayfield

  • Islington Park, Islington
     

Newcastle City Council pet enquiries, call 4974 1300

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