The Latest News for Jacksonville Pet Owners

The veterinarian and staff at the Companion Animal Hospital of North Florida are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis. Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on Companion Animal Hospital of North Florida, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine. Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Summer Exacerbates Your Pet’s Breathing Problems

Summer Pet Tips

With summer in the air, it’s getting particularly hard for some animals to breath. This is especially the case for short-nosed – or flat-faced dogs such as the Pekingese, pug, bulldog, boxer, shih tzu and chihuahua. However, these airway problems, which are typically due to narrow nostrils, a long soft palate or collapsed voice box, can also affect our feline friends, such as Himalayans and exotic shorthairs. This condition (known as the Brachycephalic airway syndrome) is largely due to the dog or cat’s unique head shape, so there isn’t much you can do to entirely avoid it.

However, there are certain factors that can increase the risk and further complicate their breathing condition. These include:

  1. Allergies
  2. Obesity
  3. Over-excitement
  4. Exercise: Panting may also naturally increase in the summer months as the weather gets hotter and more humid.

Treatment options largely depend on the symptoms exhibited by your dog or cat. In some cases, surgical procedures may be your pet’s best option. So don’t let the summer heat waves stop your pet from getting a breath of fresh air. For more information about symptoms and treatments, talk to your local veterinarian.

Stuck in the Middle: Divorce and Pets

Children and pets both thrive and depend on intact families. However, divorce takes that sense of stability and security and throws it to the wind leaving children and pets anxious as to what the future holds. In the best case, both parents are able to come together and create a reasonable shared custody arrangement. In the worst case, a court must do this for them.

Divorce's Effect on Pets

Both dogs and cats are sensitive enough to understand when their human companions are under stress. They can sense discord and see the beginnings of one parent beginning to leave the home. Since your pet relies on you so much for their own sense of well-being, yelling and fighting and impending change can cause your pet quite a bit of anxiety. This anxiety can also lead to behavioral issues such as soiling, barking or howling and in some cases destructive actions.

If you are fighting with a spouse or in the midst of separating, it is important to understand that just as you shouldn't fight and yell in front of kids, you shouldn't do these things in front of your pets.

Additionally, as change and separation begins, make sure to keep consistent routines with your pets. Feed them at the same time each day and take them on regular and well known walks. Since they likely have a deep bond with your kids, maintain that relationship. It's good for both your pet and kids.

After separation or divorce you should understand that dogs, especially older dogs have a difficult time handling new routines and surroundings. It is important to take steps to ease your pets, when possible, into new circumstances. It may also be a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about some form of behavior counseling to help you make the best decisions for your pet.

Divorce, Pets and the Law

For kids the effect of divorce and the criteria used to establish custody are relatively well known. However, the effect of family separation and criteria to determine custody of pets are not nearly as well understood or clear cut in the law.

Pets occupy a rather uncomfortable place in divorce law. Pet owners love their pets and have deep and loving bond with them, but unlike children, a pet is merely a possession in the eyes of most state laws; sort of a four-footed, furry and friendly flat-screen TV. This is changing in some areas, and there are instances of shared custody arrangements and issuance of visitation rights, but a judge is not obligated to make these considerations.

Most judges decide pet custody based on a few criteria:

• Have the couple's children bonded with the pet and which parent has child custody?

• Is the pet the property of one person prior to the divorce?

• Who is in the best position to provide care for the pet?

• And generally speaking, what is in the best interest of the pet?

As noted above, in the best case, the parents will have arranged a shared custody agreement for the kids and have included the pets so that they remain with the children. If child custody is held by one parent, then it should be agreed the pets should reside there as well, with allowances for visitation. However, in many cases custody of pets can become a contentious issue. In this case, the following should help you maintain custody of your pet:

• If you owned the pet prior to marriage, you will need to be able to show this to the court.

• Tell your lawyer how important custody of your pet is to you so it can be a priority.

• If you have custody of the children, a court is very likely to award you the pets as well.

• Communicate and negotiate with your ex. Perhaps there is an arrangement that could be made.

• Were you the primary caretaker of the pet? If so, make sure you can demonstrate that to the court by asking your veterinarian to be a character witness as well as friends and family. Also include evidence that you paid the vet bills and provided care such as grooming services and etc.

• Try to show that the pet is best off in your home because you are physically and financially able to take care of it.

How to Pill Your Dog

So, the veterinarian has sent you and your not-so-well dog home with a bottle of pills and some instructions.

Don't worry. Giving pills to your dog is just a matter of know-how and plenty of praise. Here are the steps to follow. Note: Giving a pill to your dog is not the same as giving a pill to your cat.

Pilling a Dog

  1. Gently take hold of the head from above, placing your thumb and fingers on either side of the muzzle. Squeeze firmly in and up just behind the canine teeth ("fangs"). The dog's mouth should open.
  2. Use your free hand to hold on to the pill while lowering the animal's jaw. With the mouth open wide, place the pill as far back on the tongue as possible, pushing it even farther with your index finger.
  3. Gently close and hold the muzzle while your dog swallows. You can encourage this by stroking the underside of the throat downward.
  4. Finally, give your dog lots of praise and reinforcement each time he swallows a pill.

Here are additional helpful tips for pilling your dog:

The more quickly you perform the above steps, the better.

Film-coated pills are best. They go down more easily and don't dissolve as quickly, which is important if it takes you more than one try.

If you can't get the pill down, try disguising it in something your dog loves (example: peanut butter or cream cheese).

Check with your veterinarian, because some medication should not be given with food.

Lyme Disease Is the New (Bad) Summer Trend

Along with the heat, it looks like Lyme Disease is also expected to be on the rise this summer. A disease once attributed to deer is now shifting its blame to the decline of foxes, who lunch on mice, which in turn lunch on ticks before they’re able to lunch on us and our pets.

Studies reveal that young dogs appear to be more susceptible to the disease than older ones. The infection typically develops after the deer tick has been attached to the dog for 18 hours or more.

Here are a few signs that your dog may be infected:

  • Stiff and inflamed joints (producing lameness)
  • Sensitive to the touch
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depressed behavior
  • Kidney damage (producing vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination)

If you see signs of Lyme Disease, bring your dog to a veterinarian for an examination. Treatment typically consists of an antibiotic that can be taken from home. Your veterinarian can also recommend different collars and sprays that work to repel ticks in the first place.

Fourth Of July Pet Safety Tips

Fireworks and the Fourth of July go together like ... well, fireworks and the Fourth of July. While you may already have safeguards in place for people and children, there are additional things to consider for pet owners. Here are a few tips on helping your pets remain safe and happy while dealing with fireworks.

Always keep fireworks out of reach of your pet- While this may seem obvious for lit fireworks, it’s important to keep unlit fireworks away from your pets as well. Ingesting fireworks could be lethal for your pet. If your pet does get into your fireworks, contact your veterinarian right away.

Be aware of projectiles- Roman candles, for example, have projectile capabilities. If used incorrectly, an ejected shell can hit a pet, causing burning. If your pet gets burned, contact your veterinarian right away.

Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier- Never let your pets run free in an area where fireworks are going off.

Know what do to in case of a seizure- For some animals, being in the presence of fireworks can trigger a seizure. If your pet is prone to seizures, he or she should never be around fireworks – but most pet owners won’t know if their dog is prone to seizures until he or she experiences one. If this happens, stay calm and remove any objects in the area that might hurt your pet. Do not attempt to move your pet, as they may bite without knowing it. When the seizure is over, move him or her into an area clear of the firework’s sights and sounds. Call your veterinarian right away.

Ease your pet’s fear- Many pets are frightened of fireworks, and may exhibit fear by whimpering, crying or otherwise displaying uneasiness. Create a safe space for these animals before the event. During the fireworks, use the radio, television, fan or air conditioner to create white noise that will drown out the sound of the fireworks.

By planning ahead and keeping key information in mind, your pet can have a happy, stress-free Fourth of July – and so can you!