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Pet Behaviour Concerns

Inappropriate urination in our feline friends

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Recently, we had a client come to visit us reporting that their indoor / outdoor cat had started urinating in the home on a curtain, & in one of the bedrooms both on the bed, & in a closet over the past 3 months or so, on a weekly or more regular basis. Many clients are looking for a very rapid, & simple solution to the problem – unfortunately, it’s rarely the case.

Any time an animal urinates in our homes it’s upsetting but, it’s worse for everyone involved if this becomes a semi-regular problem. Before you just attempt cleaning the areas of interest or, using some form of physical barrier, it’s a very good idea to come in for a physical examination to rule out any medical conditions. It is not that unusual for a cat to present with diabetes or, a simple urinary tract infection that causes similar symptoms & an office visit can usually quickly detect these issues.

After medical causes are removed from the equation (sometimes this does involve not only a urinalysis test but also bloodwork); There really only four or five concerns that need to be addressed &, all of them require some thought & change in behavior on both ourselves &, our family in order to change the behavior in our cat.

#1- Litter Box Numbers – There are usually “never enough” litter boxes. The general understanding is that there should be at least one on every floor in the home, AND at least one more than the number of cats in the home. For example, if you have four cats in a three floor home- FIVE litter boxes are needed!, & remember that two litter boxes in the same room do not count as two but only as one to our cats senses.

Aside – Cats Like Privacy! Place the litter pan(s) AWAY from noisy appliances like furnaces, dehumidifiers, washers/dryers, or a frequency used human bathroom whenever possible.

#2- Type of Litter Makes a Difference – Remembering that your cat needs two & 1/2 inches in litter depth, the type of litter does make a difference to many cats. I used clay litter for years with no concerns however, many studies now indicate that cats have a preference for non-scented, clumping cat litter. There are other natural clumping litters available that work well too.

#3- This one’s Simple – Clean your litter box DAILY! If you’re using clumping cat litter change over the entire contents of the litter box if not weekly then, every two weeks. Be certain to clean the litter pans out with warm, soapy water &, dry them well before refilling them. Some recommend replacing the Litter Pan every 6 Months as well as the accumulated odors in plastic cannot be fully removed &, some cats find that repulsive-they do have a sensitive sense of smell after all…

#4- Type / Design of the Litter Box – Some cats prefer completely enclosed litter boxes [as do we usually] however, many cats need open litter boxes – they want to see any other cats in the area to ensure they are not ‘trapped’ by a more alpha cat in the home. Also, consider that very young kittens & very old cats can’t climb over high sided boxes either, so varying the type of litter boxes in the home is always very recommended. Sometimes, it is simpler to cut down one side of a cheap litter box to obtain this result.

#5- STRESS – Once you addressed the previous four issues, changes in their world becomes the most likely “last straw” for many cats. My point is: Many cats will “deal with” dirty litter boxes, not enough litter boxes, possibly a discontent with the type of litter, or the design of the litter box – but stress pushes them to the point that they start to urinate outside the box.

In our client’s case-it was an infestation of fleas &, unfortunately the client did not see this is a significant issue until things had advanced to the degree they did.

Whether your cat is indoors or, does go outdoors – relationships within the ‘clowder’ (Aka. group of cats) you have in your home or, in your neighbourhood do change over time & cats that once got along may no longer do so. Also there may be a new dog in the area or, within the home you may have moved the furniture, obtained new furniture, or it can be simply a new perfume or even in some cases, we have found when clients paint their homes, they suddenly have behavior issues in their cats!

For these situations behavioral training products are one option, as are pheromones, medications, & even sometimes playing music will make a difference if the music is chosen correctly.

In summary although many clients want that simple solution, it rarely exists once a medical concern has been eliminated in your cat where abnormal urination in the home is considered.

Please take the time to review the first four options, & contact your veterinarian in a timely manner for his or her medical opinion on the overall health of your pet & take things from there! If the situation is dealt with earlier – many cats return to their normal behavior quickly, urinating & defecating in the appropriate locations.

Submitted with respect from Dr. Jeff Goodall, Sunnyview Animal Care in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Halifax Veterinarian, Lower Sackville Veterinarian, Fall River Veterinarian, using various Veterinary Reviewed Source materials. Further Reference Information Available upon Request.

Related Tags – Cat Health, Cat Diseases, Feline Urination, Aberrant Urination in Cats, veterinary treatment, veterinary information, cat care, pet care, Litter behaviour, diabetes in cats, urinary infections in cats,

Sunnyview Animal Care
36 Duke Street, Unit#6
Bedford, Nova Scotia  B4A 2Z5
Phone: (902)835-2223  Fax:(902)835-8837  
sunnyviewvet@eastlink.ca / www.sunnyview.vet

March is Tick Awareness Month at Sunnyview

By | Family Pet Care, Parasite Concerns | No Comments

Contrary to past years, Sunnyview Animal Care is recommending ALL our clients consider starting their pets on tick prevention medication earlier in 2016. This is a significant change to our policy from past years, & is due to our review of various journal-reviewed information sources in the past few weeks.

In the past year, the distribution & range of tick populations in Canada appears to be increasing significantly given new data released by both the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) here in Canada and, the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) in the USA.

Also, I only recently became aware study from 2001 which confirms what we saw in the past few months at our Bedford, Nova Scotia veterinary practice – that ticks are now moving & looking for hosts [referred to as “questing”] all months of the year given our mild Nova Scotia winters. In fact, data from 2001 shows that adult Lyme disease bearing tick species will “quest” at temperatures as low as -0.6°C! (Although the accepted general minimum average temperature is 4°C for this behaviour).

“In most parts of Canada, tick activity begins when the snow starts to melt in our early spring & continues until the late fall-the adult Lyme disease bearing ticks (Ixodes scapularis aka. the ‘Deer Tick’) prefer cooler weather and can “quest” at any time through late fall into the spring if conditions are appropriate” CVMA CVJ Vol 57 2016, pg. 254.

Given that our family dogs are more likely to be exposed to ticks than we ourselves are, can also bring ticks into our homes, & that testing for the bacterium causing Lyme disease (Borellia burgdorferi) is detected more readily in dogs then in humans; this puts all veterinarians in a unique position to be involved in both the health & well-being of our pets, with our client’s families, & possibly play a role in helping to increase public awareness & educate our clients about this concern.

To this end, Sunnyview Animal Care will be posting some prevention thoughts for our clients & their friends to consider in the coming days, & emailing our clients directly. With new oral tick prevention products, those clients who have concerns with topical applications used in the prevention of ticks & fleas now have other options that are easily combined with oral deworming medication if needed. These products can be given monthly, or every 3 months.

Submitted with respect from Dr. Jeff Goodall, Sunnyview Animal Care in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Halifax Veterinarian, Lower Sackville Veterinarian, Fall River Veterinarian, using various Veterinary Reviewed Source materials. Further Reference Information Available upon Request.

Related Tags – Ticks, Lyme Disease, Lyme disease prevention, Tick Prevention, Tick Concerns, questing behaviour, veterinary treatment, veterinary information, dog care, pet carersz_deertick_copy

dog and cat lying on red pet bed

Introducing your Baby to your Dog

By | Family Pet Care, Pet Behaviour Concerns | No Comments

New Baby, Old Dog
Considerations for introducing your baby with your dog.

So, your family is having a baby! Congratulations! Among the many things to consider with the new baby, is how is your dog going to accept it? A major consideration is to start long before the baby’s arrival. Preparation now could save many headaches, and heartaches later.

First, consider your dog’s personality. If your pet has shown any aggression to children in the past, recognize that you will never be able to completely trust your pet-but you can do a lot to lessen any problems. Is your pet possessive of toys, or does your pet suffer from any condition that may cause pain if touched in the hind-end or ears? For example, if your pet is sensitive to sudden movements, the baby could trigger unwanted behaviour. Always keep in mind that not all pets will be aggressive, some will just need to keep space between themselves and the baby. Adjusting your furniture to allow easy escape from a baby may be one idea.

While the pregnancy progresses, a refresher obedience course is a wise first option, even if you anticipate few problems with your pet. Among the basic behaviours to reinforce are two additional ones. I like to teach the pet the meaning of the word ‘careful’ said slowly-it sounds a bit like a growl and, you don’t fall into the trap of saying ‘No’ repeatedly. In fact anything the dog sees as punishment, if used after the baby’s arrival, could be misread by your pet-causing increased anxiety anytime the baby is around your pet. The second technique to build into your pet’s behaviour is to say ‘…What was that?’ Try saying this calmly while gently pinching the skin or, tugging lovingly on an ear or tail for example. Anytime you begin to use either technique, reward your pet for acceptable behaviour with verbal praise and an occasional treat.

Another useful technique is to start changing your pet’s routine before the babies’ arrival-not getting up on the couch, or any change in your walks. If you anticipate the need for a head halter-now is the time to have your pet get used to it. In fact, if you anticipate that your pet will be nervous, a halter gives increased control during introductory periods.

During the first meetings, please stay calm. Having the dog comfortable in the room first and bringing the baby to your pet is best. One key to reducing anxiety now is to have lots of treats handy, and while encouraging your pet to interact with your baby, add in the occasional command, such as sit, or down, and give lots of praise. Soon your pet will expect to behave normally with the baby, and know that treats are a part of it!

Once your baby has arrived, a productive method to lessen your pet’s anxiety is to pay them more attention when the baby is awake and, less when the baby is asleep or out with your partner. Ensure that you allow your pet to be a part of the family in every way, using a chew bone while the baby is crying for example will help with any fearful response, or feeding both the baby and your pet at the same time can really build up a positive relationship.

Finally, the use of an Adaptyl pheromone plug in diffuser is a great asset for you to use – the feline version is ‘Feliway’.  These diffusers release calming pheromones into the air of your home, covering 800 sq ft. and, you cannot smell them nor do they have an ill effect on you nor your child.  Instead, these are calming pheromones – in fact they are the same as those released by nursing mother dogs & cats, and calm your pet’s anxiety more then you can believe!

Please do not forget to never leave your dog alone with your baby – even the best dog can find itself in a situation with your newborn that it cannot manage, and accidents occur.  The most common form of accident with a baby is as it begins to explore its world – getting into the dog food can led to an instant response from your dog.  So putting the food up out of their reach between meals is one manner to prevent this accident, and restricting your baby from getting near your dog while it eats is another way to avoid a problem before one can occur!

Please contact your Veterinarian for more information – submitted by Dr. Jeff Goodall, Sunnyview Animal Care, 1746 Bedford Highway, Bedford, Nova Scotia. Your Bedford Veterinarian, your Halifax Veterinarian, and your Lower Sackville Veterinarian! #sac

We also love to help you care for your exotic pets too – Sunnyview is your Exotic Pet Vet!  We are Located on the Bedford Highway Vet!

Resolving Storm, Fireworks, and other Anxieties in your Dog

By | Pet Behaviour Concerns, Puppy & Kitten Care | No Comments

This article is primarily directed at the reduction of anxiety for dogs however, there is a similar approach for your cat as well! Please look for my cat anxietal blog entry elsewhere in our website!  Most of the references in this blog pertain to veterinary services in Halifax, Dartmouth, Lower Sackville and the Halifax regional municipality in general.

Typically, anxieties worsen over time, so you need to have some plan in place two months ahead of fireworks season or, the season for thunderstorms.  Also, before you book an appointment your veterinarian, it is a great idea to contact the obedience or behavior trainer that you took your puppy to for his or her basic life skills training. If you did not do this with your puppy-I can’t stress enough the bonuses for everyone in your family from taking these courses!  While attending behavior training classes may seem somewhat of a “chore”, these classes will remarkably improves the bond with your pet. Many of our clients who attend puppy skills training while the puppy is still 6 to 8 months of age.   However, about 30% of our clients will go when the dog is somewhat older and are amazed at the results. Specifically for this blog, a refresher course focused on methods to improve your dogs “self-confidence” can go a long way to reducing anxietal behaviors. This training basically helps your dog understand what’s accepted behavior from them, what’s expected of them in general, and of course what they can expect from you.

Some basic considerations for lessening anxietal behaviour(s) during thunderstorms or if you can anticipate fireworks celebrations or other anxiety-causing situations for your dog;

1 – Consider creating a safe & secure environment for your dog might be an area that is his or her “favorite” area to lie down at any time. It may be a good idea to try and pre-train your pet to go and settle on a mat, bed, couch or similar location as this strategy can help to increase calming behaviours.

2- However, if your dog finds a hiding place as a storm is coming or during a storm, don’t acknowledge this behaviour either way-that means not discouraging or encouraging the behaviour.

3- Playing music may assist in reducing his anxiety however, I think it’s more likely that having a circulating fan blowing on the area this is their’ favorite’ may also assist in adding “white noise” and lessen your dog’s anxiety, by masking some of the more subtle storm sounds.

4- Encouragement or praise may actually not be helpful as your pet could interpret them as reward for the behaviour.

5- I like to hear of clients playing with their pet during the prelude to any storm or stressful situation. Engaging in games or even practicing some basic obedience exercises can actually distract many pets, especially playing with familiar toys.

‘ThunderShirt’ Use

These are close-fitting ‘coats’ that are adjustable with Velcro fittings but, I would recommend that you take your pet to either ‘PetSmart’, ‘Pet Value’ or Pets Unlimited to have it fitted correctly.  They are slightly adjustable as well to allow you to fit it slightly tighter or looser as the need arises.

Pheromone Use

‘Adaptil’, a pheromone product that is thought to lessen anxieties overall as the pheromone mimics those pheromones given off by nursing mother dogs.   I’m trying this with my own dog currently, and it comes in 3 basic forms; a spray, a collar, & a plug-in diffuser. I’m currently using the spray and the diffuser at home.

Initially you need to buy a diffuser for the “Adaptil” start and, then it’s about $30 a month thereafter; while the spray is $ 58 but it is challenging to tell you how long it would last, as would depend on how frequently you used it however, they recommend 8 individual “pumps” per treatment session.  Typically the caller is used for puppies adjusting to their new home, and lasts about a month. One of my technicians is found this very helpful for her puppy!

We use the Adaptil diffuser in the clinic and each one covers 600 to 800 ft.². We also use the feline version “Feliway” for our cats as we are also a “Certified Cat Friendly” clinic by the American Association of feline practitioners – as cats can have anxieties too!

Additional Treatment Modalities & Medications

There is a calming food from the company “Medi Cal” in Canada – “Calm” is its name.  In our practice, we have had some profoundly great effects using only this diet. Our only client feedback that is negative is because the size of the bag is quite small.  This diet combines 3 natural additives that are known to reduce anxiety.  These are Tryptophan, Nicotinamide, and a milk protein hydrolyzate – See more at: http://www.royalcanin.ca/index.php/Veterinary-Products/Canine-Nutrition/Veterinary-Therapeutic-Formulas/Calm-Dry.

I have had some clients obtain the above three ingredients separately from health food stores but at this time, I’m unaware if this is available on our part of the country.

During thunderstorm/firework season drug therapy can be helpful as an addition to the above ideas. No medications are approved for use specifically for storm reactions, but two are approved for the treatment of anxiety-related conditions; Clomicalm® and Reconcile®. Please ask your veterinarian to look into the cost for these medications for your pet as the dose is weight related.  Either of these medications take 2 to 4 weeks for full effect.

Depending on your pet’s response to one of these medications, you may not need any additional therapy or, can add in other medications such as ‘acepromazine’ (sedative/tranquilizer) or  ‘alprazolam’ which is a family member of the valium group however, it has very little sedative effects and no addictive qualities.   The really great news about these two medications in combination is that, once we see the desired effect, and it is consistent for the first 3 months of storm season, we can begin to reduce the dose by 25% (one quarter), every 3 weeks to the lowest effective dose, while watching for a return of any anxiety indicators such as pacing, whining, loss of appetite.

There could be the consideration of the use of Clonidine with Trazodone for anxiety-based behaviour disorders in dogs. However this combination needs to be discussed at length with your veterinarian and preferably should be started about a month or six weeks before any ‘season’ of fireworks are anxietal issues.

If your pet begins to worsen during the dose reduction period, you can always increase it to the last effective dose as well. Again, any dose changes need to be discussed with your veterinarian at length so that both of you know what is going on!

Generally your veterinarian should be able to counsel you by phone or e-mail once you have attended the initial consultation with your pet. And don’t be surprised if it takes some time for some tailoring of the doses of medication combined with the Thundershirt or pheromone use, or for other behavior techniques to have the desired effects.

Submitted by Dr. Jeff Goodall, Veterinarian/owner of Sunnyview Animal Care, and you’re Halifax Regional Municipality dog, cat, and exotic pet veterinarian.  We are based in Bedford, Nova Scotia