Category Archives: Behavior

Assisted Living For Animals: Senior Pet Tips From Kingsbrook Animal Hospital

At Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, we know our furry companions are more than just pets—they’re family members! Our animals live, sleep, eat, and play right alongside us, and they age with us as well. Just as aging can pose obstacles for humans, becoming a “senior” pet comes with some challenges too. Below, we’ll look at some of the common changes we see in our senior patients, and discuss what we can do at home (and at KAH!) to help make them more comfortable.

KAH technician Nora with her dog, Sam.

KAH technician Nora with her dog, Sam. Sam is almost 9 years old, and eats Hill’s j/d to help with her bones and joints!

One of the biggest changes we notice in senior pets is in their skeletal systems. Older bones and joints just don’t move like they used to, and patients may suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, or even a narrowing of the space between the bones of the spine. This can make getting up or lying down uncomfortable. Dogs may not want to jump up on the bed anymore or may have difficulty getting into the car; cats may spend less time on the top of the couch or in the window sills, preferring to nap in a sunbeam on the floor instead. To help with these problems, a joint supplement like Dasuquin® can help the pet’s body repair cartilage to reduce arthritis pain. Hills Prescription Diets offers j/d, a diet with glucosamine, chondriotin, and omega-3 fatty acids added in to help support aging joints.  Orthopedic foam beds are comfortable and provide good cushioning for achy pets. Stairs and ramps are available to make transitions in height easier on elderly pets. It’s also important to provide regular low-intensity exercise to keep pets mobile and active. Being sedentary increases stiffness in joints, and becoming overweight puts more stress on any patient’s bones.

KAH technician Lainey gently reassures Fuji as he wakes up from anesthesia.

KAH technician Lainey gently reassures Fuji   as he wakes up from anesthesia.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medications can be prescribed by a veterinarian for long-term use in uncomfortable patients.

Another issue is hearing and vision loss. Aging pets often lose some of their hearing–which means it is harder to get their attention, but easier to startle them. Most pets will still respond to loud hand-claps or vibrations in the floor, but it’s best to approach deaf or partially-deaf pets slowly and gently to avoid a fear response. Dogs, especially, seem to lose some low-light vision and some depth perception as they get older. For these pets, steps and stairs become harder to navigate. Leaving lights on at night or teaching an older dog to begin sleeping downstairs can help to minimize falls and anxiety.

Even cats can go for walks! Make sure any pet that goes outdoors is receiving preventative medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

Even cats can go for walks! Make sure any pet that goes outdoors is receiving preventative medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

Some pets will experience cognitive dysfunction or dementia as they age, which can manifest with symptoms much like Alzheimer’s disease in humans. These pets can become anxious, may stare into space or wander in circles, and sometimes will vocalize randomly and repeatedly. Occasionally, there may even be a break in house- or litterbox-training. Purina ProPlan (Bright Minds) and Hills Prescription Diets (B/D) both offer diets that can help with these symptoms, and there are many medications available with a veterinary prescription that will make pets with cognitive dysfunction more comfortable. Keeping pets engaged and stimulated with walks, playtime, and new activities will reduce some stress and anxiety. Providing extra potty breaks for dogs or extra litterboxes for cats can also help to mitigate some of these changes.

Kingsbrook Animal Hospital Reveals: The Shocking Truth About Shock Collars

At Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick, MD, our staff is noticing an increase in the number of visiting dogs wearing shock collars. One of the most ubiquitous training devices found today, they are also known as training collars, electronic collars, or “e-collars.” Shock collars are marketed to well-meaning pet owners for training purposes including obedience, recall, and hunting, and to correct behaviors such as barking. Several high-profile board-and-train programs in Maryland use these collars. These programs guarantee their training results and promise to correct any future behavior issues, all via a shock collar.

Electronic training collars, or "shock collars," have metal prongs that rest closely against a dog's skin to deliver the correction.

Electronic training collars, or “shock collars,” have metal prongs that rest closely against a dog’s skin to deliver the correction.

Anyone who has ever received any sort of an electric shock, even a mild one, will state that it is unpleasant and uncomfortable–and most people do not care to repeat the experience.  An electric shock is exactly what is happening to a dog wearing one of these collars! While most owners understand this, they defer to professional trainers regardless of their discomfort.  More unfortunately, after spending hundreds or thousands of dollars, many feel trapped by their contracts and continue to forge ahead with additional lessons; after all, it is “guaranteed to work” and future sessions with the trainer are included in the package.

Dogs that persist with unwanted behaviors can leave owners feeling frustrated and confused.

Naughty behaviors, such as chewing shoes or stealing food, are some of the main reasons dog owners turn to shock collars for training.

Naughty behaviors are one of the main reasons dog owners turn to shock collars for training.

The most appealing premise of shock collars is that they result in a “quick fix” of the undesirable behavior. The truth is that shock collars do not eliminate behavior, they suppress it – there is a big difference. Behaviors that are suppressed are still there, and the things that cause them are still there too.  For example, if a shivering person in a cold room puts on a coat, he or she will be warmer, but the real problem is that the thermostat is set too low. Likewise, a quick fix may not be the best idea for owner-canine bonding or a well-behaved dog in the years to come. Training with shock collars can have unintended consequences. Sensitive dogs may develop generalized anxiety and related behavioral problems, including self-mutilation and even aggression. Dogs wearing bark-triggered collars may become fearful of the front door or other places where they bark. “You end up trading a nuisance behavior — barking — for fear and anxiety, which is much harder to deal with,” says Jean Donaldson, a California-based dog trainer who opposes the collars’ use. Most dogs do not know why they are receiving a shock, and that uncertainty in itself can create even more anxiety. People from the Midwest can relate; anxiety levels persist long after the tornado sirens sound, whether the tornado touched down or not.  Other problems that can arise include pain and stress, escalation of level of stimulation, generalization, and global suppression of behavior (“learned helplessness”).

Laurie Luck owns Smart Dog University, a fantastic positive reinforcement-based training program that offers classes right here in Kingsbrook Animal Hospital's lobby!

Laurie Luck owns Smart Dog University, a fantastic positive reinforcement-based training program that offers classes right here in Kingsbrook Animal Hospital’s lobby!

Fortunately, there is a better way to train our beloved fur babies—positive reinforcement! This method of training uses rewards and helps build a relationship of love and trust between dog and owner. For further information on positive-based training, speak with one of our caring veterinarians here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital.  They have every dog’s best interests at heart!

To Crate Train or Not to Crate Train

To crate train or not to crate train, that is one of the many questions pet parents face when they bring home a new puppy. While you may be feeling guilty about putting that sweet little puppy (and those big brown eyes!) in a crate for the night or while you are at work, what you really need to think about is what could happen if you didn’t.

A puppy left to her own devices operates much like a two-year-old child. Everything that could possibly be chewed on or swallowed, will be. Every nook and cranny will be investigated. And house training becomes a free-for-all. Puppies left free to roam in the house can get into all sorts of trouble; including chewing power cords, falling off balconies and eating things they shouldn’t.

It’s important that the crate is not seen as punishment, but rather a secure, comfortable den-like environment that keeps your puppy safe from harm (and encourages better bathroom habits). As your puppy matures into adulthood, you will be able to allow longer periods of time out of the crate when you’re not home. Eventually, you may even find that your dog doesn’t need to be in her crate once she is a mature responsible adult.

Fetch Volume 6 2010/2011

Ten Tips for Preventing Pet Behavior Problems

1. Set rules immediately and be consistent.

2. Avoid situations that promote inappropriate behavior.

3. Observe the pet and provide what it needs (food, care, attention and entertainment).

4. Supervise the new pet diligently through undivided individual attention and training, and restrict the pet’s access to a limited area of the house until training is completed.

5. Set them up to succeed! Encourage good behavior with praise and attention.

6. Correct bad behaviors by providing positive alternatives (A toy for a slipper, scratching post for the sofa).

7. Never physically punish or force compliance to commands. This may lead to fear biting or aggression.

8. Don’t play rough or encourage aggression or play biting.

9. Expose pets to lots of people, animals, and environments where you want them to live.

10. See your veterinarian if serious or unresolved behavior problems exist.