Monthly Archives: July 2014

Thunderstorms and Dogs

You probably heard it repeatedly right around the Fourth of July in relation to fireworks—leave your pets at home. But the reason extends to more than just fireworks. Many dogs are frightened by loud noises and almost all aspects of a thunderstorm: wind, rain, thunder, lightning, and even atmospheric pressure. These fears can develop even if your dog has not had any traumatic experiences. The level of anxiety your dog experiences depends on the individual dog. Some dogs whine and pace while others injure themselves trying to escape. The most common reactions to loud noises are destruction and running away or escaping. To reduce his fears, your dog might seek out a place where the thunder or loud sounds are less intense. You can try a few different things to ease his fears. First is to create a “safe place” or somewhere that is safe for your dog to be and is readily accessible. Let him choose this place by seeing where he goes during a storm and making this a space he can retreat to when he is scared. Another option is to distract your dog. This works best when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Engage your dog in an activity he likes that will capture his attention and distract him from the noises. This can mean a game of fetch, practicing behavioral commands, or even listening to calm music. While it may seem counter-intuitive, do not attempt to reassure or soothe your dog too much when he is afraid. This includes over petting and giving him treats. Attempting to do so may reinforce the fearful behavior and make it worse. You should, instead, stay calm and as relaxed as possible. Another interesting option is a snug-fitting garment or shirt, such as the ThunderShirt. Products like this apply gentle, constant pressure and are designed to calm anxious dogs. They have a calming effect similar to swaddling a baby. If you prefer to make your own, you can buy a small t-shirt and put your dog’s front legs through the armholes of the shirt. The shirt should fit snugly around your dog’s torso. You can also try behavior modification. Counterconditioning is when the animal is taught to display acceptable behavior instead of the unacceptable one. You can do this by only playing your dog’s favorite game or giving him his favorite toy right before and during a storm. Another modification is desensitization. This is when your dog’s response is decreased while exposed to increasing levels of what they’re afraid of. For a noise phobia, start with the noise at a quiet level and work your way to a louder volume level. If you feel that his anxiety is out of control, consult your veterinarian as medication can be prescribed to temporarily alleviate your dog’s anxiety. Do not give your dog any over the counter or prescription medication without asking your vet first. What works for a human may be fatal to your dog. If you have any concerns or questions, please give us a call at 610-488-0166. Bernville Veterinary Clinic has been caring for pets in Bernville and Reading — and greater Berks County — for more than 20 years. Our hospital was founded in 1990 by Dr. Steve Stephan in the fall of 1989 when Dr. Stephan acquired the Northkill practice from Dr. A. Godfried on Shartlesville Road. At the time it was a part time practice run out of a several room small building. Pretty soon the Bernville Veterinary Clinic outgrew the small building and it was expanded on that site. In 1994 we decided that this area needed more veterinary and pet related services than even the expanded building could handle so the present hospital and spa were constructed. After a fire caused by lightning in 1997, the spa was rebuilt and expanded to accommodate the growing needs of our community.

Tips on How to Train Your Dog

Sit. Stay. Now read. Training your dog can take a lot of time and sometimes it even seems like you’re not making any progress. But what if that’s because you’re not doing it in the best way possible? Dogs thrive from positive reinforcement. That is, if they do something right or well, they will get rewarded. Positive reinforcement can be the tone of your voice, a toy, or an edible treat. Negative reinforcement should never include hitting. Following some of the simple training guidelines listed here can make all the difference. 1. Make sure your whole family is doing the same training techniques. If you use the command “stay” and someone else uses “wait,” you won’t get the results you’re looking for. You should also make sure that you are all rewarding your dog for the same behaviors. 2. Make the commands simple and short. Try to keep your commands to one or two words. Sit, stay, come, here, down, lie down, etc. 3. If your pet does something right, reward him or her immediately. If you wait, they may not associate the reward with the action. 4. Make sure to reward your dog with something he or she will enjoy. Food treats tend to work especially well but other positive reinforcements can include praise, petting, or a favorite toy or game. 5. As your dog begins to learn the command, slowly ease up on how often he or she is rewarded. Go from continuous reinforcements to only intermittent reinforcements. You should get to the point where you are only giving a reward for the behavior occasionally. All dogs are different so it is important to remain patient and consistent with your training. Your family should spend some time every day reinforcing the good behaviors. You can find a program led by an accredited instructor but the real work needs to be done at home. A trainer trains the family while the family trains a pet. Happy training and good luck! Bernville Veterinary Clinic has been caring for pets in Bernville and Reading — and greater Berks County — for more than 20 years. Our hospital was founded in 1990 by Dr. Steve Stephan in the fall of 1989 when Dr. Stephan acquired the Northkill practice from Dr. A. Godfried on Shartlesville Road. At the time it was a part time practice run out of a several room small building. Pretty soon the Bernville Veterinary Clinic outgrew the small building and it was expanded on that site. In 1994 we decided that this area needed more veterinary and pet related services than even the expanded building could handle so the present hospital and spa were constructed. After a fire caused by lightning in 1997, the spa was rebuilt and expanded to accommodate the growing needs of our community.

Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe from Fire

Did you know that although 1,000 house fires are caused by pets each year, approximately 500,000 pets per year are affected by house fires? To spread awareness and help keep pets safe, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and ADT Security Services have joined together to make July 15th National Pet Fire Safety Day. Compiled here are some easy and helpful tips to keep your pet safe from fire. Pet proof your home – Walk around your home to make sure there aren’t any loose wires, appliances, or any other areas where your pet could start a fire. Extinguish open flames – Animals are curious about light and tend to investigate cooking appliances, fireplaces, and candles. Make sure your pet is supervised around flames, keep them away from the area, and put out any flame before leaving. Using a flameless candle that contains a light bulb rather than a fire takes away the danger of a lit candle accidentally being knocked over. Cats are known for knocking things over with their tails. Remove your stove knobs – Be sure to remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house. According to the National Fire Protection Association, stoves and cooktops are the number one piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire. Don’t use a glass water bowl on a wooden deck – When sunlight is filtered through glass and water, it can heat up and ignite the wood below it. Use a stainless steel or ceramic bowl instead. Securing your pet – Especially with young puppies, keeping them in a crate or behind a baby gate in a secure area will ensure they are away from potential fire-starting hazards. If your pet is older and you still use a crate or confine them to a certain area, make sure they are close to an entrance. If a fire does start, firefighters can easily find them and remove them from the house. Use a monitored smoke detection service – Since animals can’t escape, use a smoke detector that is connected to a monitoring center so emergency response teams will be contacted when you’re not home. Battery operated smoke alarms can be used in addition but they may scare your pet. Affix a Pet Alert window cling – Write down the number of pets you have inside your house and what type of animal they are and attach it to a front window. This will help rescue teams know to look for your pets. Make sure to keep the number of pets you have updated on the sticker. You can order one for free from the ASPCA by going here.

Safety Tips for Taking Your Dog to the Beach

Besides the ocean, there are many other dangers that your dog can encounter at the beach. Being alert and attentive and following some of these rules will make your beach getaway proceed without problems! First, make sure to adhere to the beach’s specific rules as these are actually laws and you can be given a citation or fine. Some common laws include cleaning up after your dog, requiring your dog to wear a collar and ID tags and be up-to-date on vaccinations, be on a leash, and so on. Make sure to check prior to leaving to see if your beach destination is pet friendly! Just like people, dogs can only handle so much sun. Sunscreen that is safe for your dog is available at pet stores or online. Do not use a sunscreen unless it is specifically labeled safe for animal use. Make sure there is a shady spot for your dog to retreat to like an umbrella, picnic table, or tree and bring plenty of fresh, cool water and a dog bowl. Offer water refills often, making sure that the water does not get hot in the sun. Watch for signs of overheating, which can include: excessive panting or drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, collapse, and loss of consciousness. If you start to see any of these signs immediately move your dog to a cooler environment. While staying calm and speaking in a soothing voice, wrap the dog in cool, wet towels. A fan can be used to help blow air over the animal to speed up the cooling and applying isopropyl alcohol to the paw pads will facilitate cooling and should be repeated as the alcohol dries. It is important to never fully immerse your overheated pet in water as it may increase their anxiety. Hot sand is also a very real concern. Foot pad burns can occur when the sand is too hot. If a person cannot walk barefoot, their dog cannot either. While on the sand, lead the way for your dog to make sure they won’t step on anything sharp. Broken glass and shells are only two of many things that can hurt your pet’s paws. If your dog’s paw gets cut, apply pressure to the wound to ease the bleeding. If it’s severe, seek veterinary attention immediately. Once in the water, jellyfish and rocks start to potentially pose problems. If your dog gets stung by a jellyfish, douse the affected area in vinegar to ease the pain and kill off the stinging barbs before trying to remove the tentacles. If your dog does not come to you every time you call them, keep them on a leash. You can buy a long-reaching leash (20-30 feet) which will still allow you and your dog to play with a ball or Frisbee without worrying about the possibility of them running away. Pay close attention to your dog’s swimming habits. Fitness level, experience, and even breed of dog can influence how well your dog can swim. Poor swimmers and brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Boxers should probably not spend much time on the beach. When in doubt, put a life vest on your dog and keep an eye out. If your pet does go in the water, make sure to remove them if they start to drink the water. Instead offer fresh, clean water since salt water is bad for dogs and can cause gastrointestinal problems. Salt water may also cause some irritation to their skin and paws. Rinsing your dog off with fresh water before you leave or shortly after getting home will help him or her stay comfortable and happy. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, have fun!

How to Check Your Pets for Ticks

I went for a walk with my pet. Now what? The warm summer months means spending more time outside and unfortunately, ticks. Many ticks are co-infected, meaning that they carry more than one disease, including Lyme disease. Did you know that only about 5% of dogs exposed will develop symptoms that are attributed to Lyme disease? But with all this said, you’re still going to go for walks with your dog and your outdoor cat will still want to be outdoors. You can prevent Lyme disease by making sure you thoroughly check your pet’s body after they’ve been outside and removing ticks before they attach themselves. Even if your dog or cat wears a tick and/or flea preventative collar or is given a spot-on medication, it is a good idea to do a quick body check. Keeping your pet’s fur short is an easy first step. Breeds with shorter hair are easier to check than those with long hair. Shorter coats make the ticks easier to see by keeping them close to the surface while longer hair allows a tick to hide deep in the fur and avoid being discovered for long periods of time. Brush or run your hands over your pet’s whole body, applying enough pressure to feel any small bumps or something the size of a pea. You may also use a brush or flea comb, stopping if you hit a bump or a snag to investigate. Most attachments occur in front of the shoulder blades, which includes the head, neck, and front legs. Make sure to also feel under the collar, under their armpits, between their toes, behind the ears, and around the tail. Ticks are attracted to dark, hidden areas and when attached can range in size from the size of a pinhead to a grape. If you find an unattached tick, place it in alcohol and dispose of it. Flushing a tick down the toilet will not kill it. If the tick is embedded, you must remove it carefully so you extract the whole tick. If you are uncomfortable removing the tick yourself then call your vet. While wearing gloves to protect yourself, use fine-tipped tweezers to grip the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out, slowly and steadily, without squeezing the body. After removing the tick, place it in alcohol and clean the bitten area with soap and warm water. Keep an eye on the bitten area to see if an infection arises or if your pet starts to act abnormally. It is very typical for a small nodule to occur at the site of the attachment and persist for up to three weeks. Signs of Lyme disease typically occur one to three weeks following a bite and may include limping, poor appetite, and fever. A very small percentage of dogs may also develop a fatal form that affects their kidneys. If the skin remains irritated or infected or you suspect something might be wrong, call us at 610-488-0166.