Dr. Emily Levine is a veterinarian who specializes in behavior problems at Animal Emergency & Referral Associates in Fairfield NJ and she will be blogging about pet behavior topics. www.animalerc.com
I recently met with a family who adopted a dog from a foster situation. The new owners were that the dog did “fine” in a crate. Very shortly after adoption, it became clear that the dog had separation anxiety. The dog’s new owner videotaped the dog’s behavior in the crate when left alone and were horrified at what they saw. I watched that video and this dog was panting, barking, drooling, pawing at the crate, and getting his head halfway out of the door and pulling it back in ( this is the very scary part).
I wish I could say that this dog’s behavior in the crate was unusual but I have seen many videotapes of dogs trying to escape their crate. This is not safe! I know of one dog who died due to asphyxiation as he got his neck stuck in the crate door while trying to get out of the crate. Many other dogs have torn nails, paw pads, and broken teeth, and had injuries on their noses from trying to escape a crate.
Anyone who uses a crate to confine their dog when left alone, dog should videotape their dog to see how their dog behaves. Videotaping is the gold standard and the only way to really know what happens when you are not there. If you are like me and not technically savvy, you may wish to start by doing a search for inexpensive nanny cams. I am hoping that readers of this blog will post ways they videotaped their dog when left alone.
If you do videotape your dog and find he or she is trying to get out, the answer is not to put on padlocks and make it more difficult for the dog to get out. The answer is to understand why the dog is trying to get out and treat that issue!
Meet Cairo! This is just one my patients for whom pain played a significant role in his behavior problems. Pain is one of the most common medical conditions that can cause or exacerbate behavior problems (e.g. aggression, anxiety, or house soiling).
Keep in mind that if an animal is in severe pain and holding up a limb and or limping around, I would not be seeing those patients. They would be at their veterinarian’s office with clear indicators that there is something physically wrong with their pet. I am often looking for more subtle indicators of pain by watching the pet walk around the room, jogging them, trotting them, and then following up with a physical exam while taking into consideration their behavioral and medical history.
In two recent cases, one for aggression and one for anxiety, both animals did well for the physical exam until I reached a certain muscle (i.e. illiopsoas muscle). When I examined this region directly or indirectly, one animal cried out in pain and the other became so aggressive I could not continue with the exam. Once these animals received proper treatment for a muscle strain/sprain their behavior issues improved considerably.
Pain can be very difficult to assess in other species. Dogs and cats will not always show pain in “obvious” ways. So we should not assume pain isn’t a component simply because they still walk, play, go up and down the stairs etc. Most of the patients I diagnose as having an issue causing pain, have been walking, jogging, playing etc…..After all, sometimes WE are in discomfort yet push through with an activity if we are motivated enough to do so. I will walk through my chronic foot pain (i.e. neuromas and plantar fasciitis) to get to a plate full of chocolate! However, if someone were to walk too close to my feet and I feared they might step on them, I might just growl and snap to keep them away!
For dogs who are hesitant to get on the scale at the veterinary office or to get your dog started off on the right foot so he/she is easy to get onto the scale…implement the following tip:
1. Use an old yoga mat and teach you dog to go to that mat on command to get a treat or to play tug ( whatever your dog likes). Lets assume you use the word cue/command ” go to mat”
2. Once he knows the word cue “go to mat” place the mat on different floor types in the house ( wood floors, carpet, linoleum etc….) and practice the command on these floors. If he does well, take the mat outside and practice on grass, cement etc…
3. Set the yoga mat up on some bricks, books, or a somewhat elevated surface so the dog can practice stepping up onto the mat. Give the command, and reward.
4. Take the yoga mat with you to the vet clinic when you DONT have an appointment and practice getting on the scale ( make sure to give him or her the reward he is expecting!)
5. For your next real vet visit, roll up that yoga mat and take it with you and put in on the scale, give the command and reward your dog as the veterinary tech write down the weight.
If you are a veterinarian or anyone who works in a veterinary office, type this up and make a handout and give it to all of your clients!
A retrospective study looking at problematic behaviors and the age at which the puppy was taken from the litter, found that puppies taken earlier then 8 weeks displayed more behavioral problems that those who remained with the litter for the whole 8 weeks.
In addition, the authors found that puppies in pet stores exhibited more problematic behaviors than puppies from other sources even when they were kept with their litters for the 8 weeks!
Does this mean puppies should remain with their littermates for 8 weeks? It means that they should remain with their littermates for at least 8 weeks! More studies need to be done to really answer this questions but at this time it seems reasonable that no one should remove a puppy from his or her litter until at least 8 weeks and puppies should not be purchased at pet stores.
A couple in South Carolina says they were alerted to a babysitter’s abuse by the family dog, according to HLN affiliate WCSC.
Benjamin and Hope Jordan hired 22-year-old Alexis Khan to babysit their 7-month-old son. After a few months, they noticed their dog acting strangely whenever Khan came to the house. They told WCSC that they “started to notice that our dog was very protective of our son when she would come in the door. He was very aggressive towards her.”
They decided to record what happened when Khan was alone with their son — and what they found shocked them. They say they heard cursing and the sounds of slapping. They went to the authorities and the police arrested Khan. She later confessed. On Monday, Khan pleaded guilty to assault and battery and was sentenced to up to three years in prison, the station reports.
See the full story from our affiliate WCSC here.
Walking down the aisle of any pet store or pet aisle in the grocery store, you will see many different dog treats. As a society, we need to get away from these “dog treats” and start using real food to treat our pets. Rather than giving them junk food dog treats, try giving them some small pieces of fruits or veggies. ( No garlic, onions, grapes or raisins though!). These fresh whole foods are no doubt healthier for our pets than many of the average dog treats available at stores.
My dog likes cucumbers and beets:)
In humans, there is a condition known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. This is a rare disorder in which the heart stops working after an emotionally traumatic event such as loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, etc…
In wildlife medicine there is a condition known as capture myopathy. This is a condition in which an animal becomes so stressed/frightened that they die after being chased or caught.
I know many of my clients have expressed concerns that their dog is so anxious at times, they fear their dog may have a heart attack. Although, the majority of dogs will not have a heart attack from being anxious, there is in fact a real physiological connection between the mind and the heart. In the conditions mentioned above, there can be a mass release of the fight, flight, freeze, or faint hormones that can have devastating affects on the heart.
Too often, we want a nice clear divide between a “medical” issue and a “behavioral” issue. In reality, there is not always a nice divide. Behavioral issues can lead to physical issues and physical issues can lead to behavioral issues. For those of us who work in the field of behavior, we are well aware that how an animal perceives things can wreak havoc on the animals physical and psychological wellbeing. We are also aware of the benefits of treating anxiety disorders in dogs who have underlying heart issues, in hopes of keeping the heart as healthy as possible for as long as possible while, of course, decreasing the anxiety simply for the welfare of the pet.
For those of you who are intrigued by the similarities between diseases (both physical and emotional) that humans and non human animals share, I would encourage you to read a book called Zoobiguity. One of the authors is a human board certified cardiologist AND psychiatrist.