Friday, December 22, 2017

Harnesses Versus Collars: Some Things to Consider

Often here at the hospital, we see many different types of harnesses and collars used by our clients. Some are complex, others are simple.

For a dog that pulls, a harness where the leash attaches to their back can cause discomfort to you (as the handler) and isn’t very effective in controlling their pulling.

Dr. Sophia Yin, who specialized in Animal Behavior, wrote on her blog, “I avoid harnesses that hook on the back unless you want to train your dog to pull a cart or a sled. These harnesses actually help train your dog to ignore you and pull you because when you pull on the leash to try to gain some control, they direct the dog’s attention away from you.”

(Link to her blog: Which Types of Collars and Harnesses are Safe for Your Dog?

A small 5 pound Poodle probably won’t cause you any discomfort, but a 65 pound Labrador can cause pain/damage in your wrist, shoulder, neck and back with his pulling if wearing a harness that helps give him that control to use his weight to take you where he wants to go. (He can also cause damage to his own neck if he’s pulling with a collar.)

If you are considering a harness for a dog that pulls, consider a no-pull harness. According to the Kindred Companions’ No-Pull Harness blog, “The first thing that should to be considered when choosing one of these tools is why it is needed. Each one has its pros and cons and some of the cons very heavily out weigh the pros.” 

Their article discusses the different options to consider when buying a no-pull harness.  Check out their detailed blog here: http://www.kindredcompanions.com/for-the-love-of-dog/no-pull-harness

Harnesses are great for dogs with medical needs. An elderly dog that needs help getting up or a dog with a collapsing trachea will benefit from a harness compared to a collar when on an outing.

When considering a collar, according to dogtime.com, “a common, traditional collar that does not constrict is fine for dogs that don’t have respiratory problems and aren’t prone to pulling on leashes. They may also be more comfortable for some dogs, especially if you plan on leaving it on all the time. A harness usually isn’t as comfortable for all day use. Also, if your dog has long hair, it might get caught up in a harness. A collar doesn’t have that problem. However, for dogs that pull hard during walks, a collar can increase the risk of neck injury. A harness may be the better option in those cases.”


If you have a dog with a narrower head such as a whippet, greyhound or sheltie, you may want to consider a Martingale collar as it makes it harder for a dog to slip-free from their collar.

Neither harnesses nor collars are perfect. Dr. Sophia Yin explained in her blog, “they are all just tools. But some are more likely to cause problems in your pet or may just provide a less than ideal match for your needs.”


When choosing a collar or harness, it is best to discuss any specific health issues or needs your pet has with your veterinarian to ensure the best health and experience.  If your dog needs help understanding how to properly walk on a leash, your vet office most likely can recommend a list of trainers to work with.

Our Veterinarian, Dr. Gloria Ku, would like to remind dog owners to "keep in mind that harnesses and flat collars  are not necessarily good for training your dog as they provide little directive information from the handler. For training collars, such as Gentle Leader collars, it is best to discuss options for your pet's specific needs with a trainer or veterinarian."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why Is My Dog Scooting?

Photo credit: http://drtony.com/images/cases/pi2.png
Written by Danielle and Dr. Gloria Ku





As a dog owner and a veterinary assistant, I have often asked our veterinarians many questions due to curiosity or due to a pet problem I am dealing with. Most recently, I asked “Why is my dog scooting?”





I noticed at home that our Papillion mix was scooting across the carpet in our living room and wanted to lick at his rear end which alarmed me. My first reaction was to check his rear end for anything stuck in his hair around the anus.  Occasionally, when dogs have a bowel movement, they will unfortunately get some material stuck to their hair around the anus which can cause some irritation.  I also looked at the skin on his rear end for signs dermatitis (skin irritation) which can include inflammation, bumps, or redness. After investigating the problem area and not seeing anything wrong, I made an appointment and took him in to see my veterinarian.

A dog scooting and/or licking can be caused by many possible reasons such as intestinal parasites, allergic dermatitis, behavioral issues such as boredom or finding a new way to itch their rear end, or full anal glands.  It is always best to consult your veterinarian for medical or behavioral pet problems.
Photo Credit: ocotilloanimalclinic.com

We spoke to Dr. Ku for advice about a pet scooting. She responded, “Most often scooting is the result of some type of physical irritation to the area around the anus that is difficult to reach any other way.  The act of scooting also helps apply pressure to the anal gland area and sometimes can allow a dog to self express a mildly plugged or inflamed anal gland and/or duct (the short passageway from the gland on either side of the anus and out to the edge of the rectum).  Most groomers will help dogs express their anal glands by applying external pressure such as would happen with scooting.  But if the duct is plugged or the gland is infected, the itchiness can sometimes be so intense that the animal scoots repeatedly to alleviate the itch, yet is unable to self express the glands.  This is when a trip to your veterinarian is best as he/she can do an internal expression and treat any infected glands.  If left untreated, the area can actually rupture and the pet will develop a bigger problem.  

Parasites, such as fleas or intestinal parasites can also cause itchiness that leads to biting, licking, and scooting.  Of course as you did, examining the area for any debris or irritation (I’ve occasionally had to pull out a long hair or blade of grass that wouldn’t come out on its own!) is always the best thing to do first.  Fecal parasite tests and regular parasite control can help prevent many of these issues too.



Photo Credit: puppydogadvisor.com
Lastly, as you mentioned, dermatitis, or skin infection or irritation can also lead to itchiness and scooting and biting or licking.  This can be caused by allergies (to food or environmental allergens) or yeast or bacterial infections.  Determining which of these issues the cause is can take some investigation but generally, it can be resolved and should be, before more harm is done.

And by the way, although less common than in dogs, cats can have all of the same issues we just discussed as well.  Good luck with Ryker and hopefully he will stop scooting as soon as we can get to the bottom of it…no pun intended lol! ;)”                                -Dr. Gloria Ku



Thanks Dr. Ku!  After Ryker’s exam, we have a better understanding of what we can when our little doggie starts scooting again!
-Danielle

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Your Fur-baby...

Co-written by Danielle B. and Dr. Gloria Ku

In April 2016, my 12 year-old dog, Vega, started showing swelling in her neck area that didn’t seem normal. She had been healthy most of her life, so of course my husband and I were concerned and brought her in to see Dr. Ku the following day. After a physical exam and lab work, test results were still inconclusive as to why she was swollen. As the days went on, we tried antibiotics but that didn’t seem to help with the swelling. We continued testing, radiographs and a biopsy until results gave us an answer…it was a form of aggressive cancer.

So now what? After discussing our options with Dr. Ku, we knew that we didn’t want her to put her through surgery at this stage in life, and financially we could not put ourselves in debt for the small chance that we’d have more limited time with her—it’s always hard to make that decision when you can say, "we did the best we could." And we did. She had a wonderful life with us and we soon made plans to continue our happy lives with her for as long as she was comfortable and content.

Vega was our first dog. This was our first time we were planning to say goodbye to a beloved fur-baby. Of course, sometimes other pet owners don’t have that luxury to plan their goodbyes, so we are grateful we had this opportunity. We knew for sure that when the day arrives, we would take her out for a burger, fries and vanilla cone (she’s always had dietary restrictions due to sensitive stomach issues, so this would be the ultimate treat for her!). But as we talked about remembering her in the future, we reached out to our friends and family for advice and support:

*Cherish the memories you shared. Pictures or small items that have meaning will help during this time of adjustment and something to look at fondly in the future.

*Use pictures to tell your pet's story.  Frame a photo to display. You can get creative with scrapbooking supplies or order a nice printed book from an online retailer.

dog tribute photo book
Photo Credit: http://www.mixbook.com/blog/pawprints-on-our-hearts-5-pet-photo-books-ideas/

Or make a collage or shadow box to display with love.
 
Photo credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/78/eb/e3/78ebe3553f5bf96069fbc022e778496e.jpg
 
*Have a lack of space at home? Consider making a DVD or a using a thumb drive to store a collection of your pet's pictures and video.

Photo credit: https://aliexpress.com

*Have a friend or photographer do a photography session to capture special moments.

Image may contain: 2 people, outdoor
Some of our "family" pictures taken by a wonderful friend.
Photo credit: Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le

*Custom-made jewelry can be very special like charms with imprints of your pet’s paw.
Photo credit: https://img0.etsystatic.com/038/0/5304031/il_fullxfull.660390986_h12a.jpg
Remember, it’s ok to be sad…and it’s ok to cry. As you are going through this adjustment period, it will take time. Each person is different on how we handle grief. Talking with others that have gone through this can help too. If you are looking for a support group, Sacramento SPCA has information on a free support group (http://www.sspca.org/program-services/end-of-life-services/petloss):

Yolo Hospice Pet Loss Support Group
First Monday of every month from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
 
Yolo Hospice
1909 Galileo Court, Ste. A
Davis, CA
For questions, please call (800) 491-7711 or (530) 601-5756 or visit www.yolohospice.org.

This service is provided for free.

There are also books for children and adults about dealing with the loss of a pet. Here is a link to a list of books: http://petlossathome.com/pet-loss-books

Like most people, we had questions about what to expect towards the end of her life. We also asked Dr. Ku if she had any advice on the process we will be going through for the last of her days…

"As a veterinarian and pet owner, the question "when is it time?" is inevitable. For each pet and each situation that time may vary, but some of the things I ask pet owners to consider, and I ask myself are:
 
- Is the pet interacting with their surroundings and loved ones still?
- Are they still eating and enjoying meals as well as before they became ill?
- Do they still react positively when you come home? Have energy to greet or respond to you? Recognize you?
- Can they control their elimination behavior and if not is it manageable for all parties?
- Are you sleeping? Is you pet sleeping?

End of life issues are not only extremely variable by circumstance, but also very personal as to how we address them. Our own beliefs about life and suffering, and pain and comfort, are based on a lifetime of experiences that help us make the decisions we make. There is no right, and there is no wrong, way to do things. But we doubt ourselves because we do not want to be in charge of this decision. It is however, a responsibility as pet owners that we will all most likely face as our pets do not live as long as we do. Most often, once we accept that inevitability, and we consider life and health from the perspective of love for our pet, the decisions become more clear." -Dr. Gloria Ku

 
2 months later, my husband and I said our goodbyes to Vega as Dr. Ku was by our side.  And as we go through our daily life at home, there are wonderful reminders that she will always have a place in our heart and home.

Danielle (receptionist at HVH)
with Husband and Vega.