Sunday, February 24, 2013


Well, we got one of those winter snow storms that I mentioned last week, although only about half of the expected accumulation showed up.  We're still a bit behind our yearly average but there's still the big month of March awaiting.


Helpful Buckeye still remembers the lecture back in 1971 when one of our clinical medicine professors told us that one of the major stumbling blocks in achieving success in healing our patients would be...the owners of those animals.  At the time, it didn't make any sense to any of us but he went on to explain that the medicines we'd be prescribing had to be given to the animals for any results to occur.  Then, the light bulb went on as we realized that this could be a problem to be reckoned with.  So, with that in mind, let's consider this week's topic:

Managing your Pet’s Medications
Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
The Importance of Compliance
On a daily basis, the veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center prescribe pills, capsules and tablets to cure, control and prevent diseases. We have pockets full of prescribing information, access dosing online and carefully follow guidelines to use medications safely and wisely.
Correct prescribing by the veterinarian is critical to medication success, but the other half, administering medications as prescribed is equally important. Pet owners, upset by the illness of their pet often misunderstand directions or adjust medication dosing without consulting their pet’s veterinary healthcare team. If you think no one would do this, here is summary of this week’s medication conversations.
Poor Becky had major dental surgery this week, including eight extractions and resulting in a prescription for pain medications. Becky, a dachshund, belongs to an employee of The AMC and I stopped by her office the next day to check on the dog. It just happened to be medication time and Becky’s owner was worried Becky was in pain (highly likely given eight extractions) and she thought she would give only half the prescribed dose of pain medications. I reassured her that the amount prescribed had been carefully calculated for Becky’s size and pain level and that the entire dose should be given.
Montana is getting chemotherapy and also some anti-nausea pills. When I reviewed his prescriptions, his owner reported she was giving half a pill twice daily rather than one pill once daily. She thought the anti-nausea effect would last longer if she gave the pill more often. The problem with this logic is the anti-nausea medicine stays around a long time, hence the once a day dosing recommended by the manufacturer. By giving half a dose, Montana may not have gotten a high enough level of anti-nausea medicine in the bloodstream to have a full effect.
Finally, there’s Harvey and his chemo pills. He started a new regimen of treatment and I called a couple days later to see how it was going. Harvey felt great. I should have listened to my inner doctor voice saying, “Hmm, seems too good to be true.” Turns out his owner made an honest mistake, misread the label and was giving only one pill instead of two. Now he is on the correct dosage and is feeling better than ever since his tumor is shrinking.
Medication Pointers
Read the label. Read it again and if you have questions, call your veterinarian’s office.
Give the medication as prescribed on the label. Don’t adjust the amount, frequency or duration of administration without talking to your veterinarian.
If you are having trouble administering medications, stop by your veterinarian’s office for a lesson in administration.
If the medication schedule does not fit with your schedule, ask your veterinarian if there is an alternative drug with a different schedule.
If your pet won’t take a pill, ask if the medication comes in a liquid or can be formulated into a liquid to ease administration, or perhaps administered with a pill gun.
If you think your pet is having a bad reaction to the medication, stop the medication and call your veterinarian immediately.
For after-hours trips to the animal ER, be sure to take all the medications with you and show them to the ER staff.
Ask the Vet: Managing medication for your pet
Dr. Ray Cahill
Sitting in my own doctor’s office the other day I saw pamphlets for a variety of drugs from Tylenol to Lipitor. It made me think about how complicated it can be to keep track of medications, especially those for our pets.
Multiple times a week I find myself reviewing medication protocols with clients that have either stopped giving their pet’s medication too soon or were not giving it as directed. This can happen because it becomes difficult for owners to remember the details of their pet’s condition and exactly what the medications are doing to help.
In vet school, we’re taught that clients typically remember the first and last 5 percent of what we tell them at an office visit. What we blab on about in between may or may not stick, and the notes we send home may or may not get read. That said, it is important that the pet gets treated appropriately, and that remains a shared responsibility between the owner and the vet.
Contact your vet’s office for help understanding your pet’s health issues and medications, even if you’re unclear about commonly used products such as heartworm, flea and tick preventatives. Give your pet’s medications as directed for the full length of the prescriptions (i.e., don’t stop early because your pet is feeling better). Call in advance for medication refills to avoid running out and risking your pet’s health. This applies especially to prescription diets; it’s easy to think that a day or so off a prescription food is OK, but the reality is that the diet is the medicine.
Fortunately I left my doctor’s office without any prescriptions. One less thing to confuse me!

Helpful Buckeye said M-E-D-I-C-A-T-I-O-N...not, M-E-D-I-T-A-T-I-O-N....
OK, now we know that even though the pet owner is supposed to be able to give medicines to their pet when needed, it doesn't necessarily work out that way all the time.  Veterinarians understand that most pet owners are very sincere in their efforts to comply with instructions on medicating their pets; however, when you consider that a lot of pet-owning humans are less than attentive to medicating themselves the proper way, who knows what they'll do when Fido or Tabby bares their teeth at treatment time?
Another problem with medications and your pets goes in the other direction...pets getting hold of medicines that can cause them problems.  Helpful Buckeye has discussed this in the past but a current reminder is well-intentioned: 
Human medicines are pets' biggest poisoning
By Maryann Mott, HealthDay
When John D'Amato arrived home early from work one day, he found an empty bottle of ibuprofen on the living room floor — and one very sick pet.
His Great Dane puppy, Otis, had knocked the pain-reliever container off the coffee table — where D'Amato had left it the night before — and devoured dozens of the pills.
"My heart dropped through the floor," he said of the discovery.
D'Amato rushed the 85-pound puppy to a veterinary clinic near his home in Manchester, N.H., where the staff immediately induced vomiting and began administering IV fluids. Had D'Amato arrived home much later, Otis might not have survived.

Ingestion of over-the-counter and prescription drugs formulated for humans are by far the most common cause of pet poisonings in this country, veterinarians say.
Since the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, Ill., began keeping statistics in 2002, human medications have consistently topped its annual list of the most toxic substances pets ingest.
Of the 98,000 calls received so far this year, about one-third involve dogs and cats consuming human medications, says Camille DeClementi, a veterinary toxicologist with APCC.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as Advil, Aleve and Motrin, are among the top offenders, the APCC finds. Other drugs commonly eaten by dogs and some felines include antidepressants (Prozac), acetaminophen (Tylenol), anti-anxiety drugs (Xanax), sleep aids (Ambien) and beta-blocker blood pressure medications (Tenormin or Toprol.)

"The most toxic things in our homes are the medications we take," she said. "Animals are inquisitive, and get into things they're not supposed to."
Pets knock vials off countertops and nightstands, or owners mistakenly think they're helping their pets by giving them human medication to alleviate some sort of ailment.
That's a big no-no.
"Dogs' and cats' metabolisms are different from ours, so they can't always process the same drugs we can," explains Silene Young, a former emergency room veterinarian who works for Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) in Brea, Calif.
Just one extra-strength Tylenol, for example, can kill a cat. And the anti-cancer topical treatment, Fluorouracil, can be fatal in dogs, even in the tiniest doses ingested — say, from chewing on the discarded cotton swabs used to apply the cream, according to veterinary toxicologists.
Medication mix-ups cause unintentional poisonings too. By grabbing the wrong bottle, some owners inadvertently give their pet medication that's really meant for them or other humans.
Keeping animal and human medications in separate drawers or cabinets is the simplest way to prevent those types of mishaps from occurring.
It's also a good idea, veterinarians say, for owners to take their medication in the bathroom with the door shut. That way, if a pill drops on the floor, they have time to retrieve it before the dog does.
Luckily, a good portion of pet poisoning cases are treatable at home if caught right away, says the DeClementi. The center runs a 24-7 hot line staffed by veterinary toxicologists who give diagnostic and treatment recommendations for poison-related emergencies in animals.
And if a trip to the veterinary hospital is warranted, you'd better take along your credit card. Treating a pet that has ingested a human medication costs owners, on average, $791 before insurance reimbursement, according to VPI.
As for Otis, the Great Dane, he pulled through just fine after three days of intravenous fluids and close monitoring by veterinarians.
The sheer number of pills he gobbled — at least 35 — could have caused gastric ulcers or kidney failure, both of which can cause death.
Quick action taken by his owner, though, saved the young dog's life and stopped internal damage from developing. "He's been back for check-ups since (the incident)," says D'Amato, "and he's a very healthy dog."
Don't forget, if you have any questions and/or comments, send them to Helpful Buckeye at:  or submit them in the comment section at the end of this issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, February 17, 2013



Warmer weather has been slowly creeping back into the mountains of northern Arizona, easing up somewhat on the sub-zero nights and days that don't go above 15-20 degrees.  However, we'll still have at least a few big snowstorms before winter breathes her final sigh.  February and March are historically the months that bring the most snow accumulations to us...but, there is still a sense of spring on the horizon.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye finally got several days off from our renovation this past week and were able to do some things just for fun.  Our contractor has finished the first phase of the project and is now awaiting the cabinetry and countertops before finishing the job.  A couple of trips to the Phoenix area, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon await us over the next two weeks on days when no work is being done.  Desperado has been very eager to get out and stretch her legs on some trails....


For those of you who own more than one dog or cat, where would you draw the line at having too many pets?  Four dogs/cats, six, many?  The problem with that question is that there are so many variables involved in formulating an answer.  As with children, some families are better able to properly take care of more animals than another family might be.  Finances enter into the equation, as do the amount of space available and the quantity of time the pet owner can devote to the care of those pets.  Another consideration is whether or not there are any local ordinances governing the number of pets allowed on one property.  I think we all can agree that there is a reasonable limit to the number of pets anyone can caringly and sanely provide for.

How Many Dogs Are Too Many?
By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Adding a dog to an existing household of dogs can sometimes be tricky. It requires trial meetings on neutral territory to establish the dogs' tolerance of each other before throwing the unsuspecting pair together permanently. Where even greater numbers of dogs are involved, pack dynamics must be considered.
Naturally, the dogs' temperaments must be considered, but age and seniority – basically who was there first – are also important factors. In fact, the best way to start out may be to favor the original resident over the newcomer, and the elder dog over the younger dog. This "senior support program" may have to be reversed to a "junior support program" if after four to six weeks hostilities persist or are escalating.
When several dogs share the same close quarters with each other, there is often some occasional inter-dog aggravation. This may sound worse than it is, with much growling and posturing over some issue important to the dogs. This is normal dog behavior that is best ignored. Let dogs be dogs – unless there are serious biting incidents (not just a nicked ear) or biting lower than the neck (e.g. on the abdomen). In this case, you will have to work hard to establish the true leader and support that dog's position over the usurper.
It is probably true that as the number of dogs in a household increases the incidence of behavior problems also increases. Let's face it, the larger the pack the more complicated the social dynamics and the more diluted the owner's attention. But how large a pack is too large? If one dog is fine, two's company, and a small group of four to six dogs (natural pack size) is manageable with care and knowledge, what about 25 dogs?
The Envelope, Please
Having more than six to eight dogs as pets does seem excessive, unless you are a breeder or are involved in some canine enterprise that requires you to own many dogs, like foxhounds that you use for hunting. Owning large numbers of dogs means that individual dogs do not receive the same level of attention they would if they were part of a smaller unit. The relationship of human and dog changes, becoming less personal, and the dogs themselves become less pet-like and more pack-like.
While there is nothing wrong with this altered dynamic, it is in a direction away from what is normally understood as pet ownership. In general, this is a move away from close human-companion animal bonds, and indicates a more perfunctory type of relationship.
Some folks take the acquisition and mass ownership of dogs a stage further in the name of humanity. They often surround themselves with scores of dogs that live in cages like battery hens and/or run rampant around the home, soiling the place and creating an unhealthful existence for both human and dog. In extreme cases, dogs in these situations are not fed or cared for properly and end up emaciated and sick. People who foster such situations, known as animal collectors or hoarders, may be psychologically unwell and don't appreciate the inhumanity of what they are doing. They may even have a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and should seek help – though they usually don't.
One thing is for sure, how many dogs you can humanely care for depends on your availability, energy and resources. For most people, owning one or two dogs is a full time job, but some may be able to balance upward of four to six dogs. Anything above this number requires a special kind of person with special circumstances if each animal is to receive the kind of attention he should receive as a pet.
Adapted from:

How Many Dogs are Enough "Tip"
By: Dr. Debra Primovic
A common question we get is how many dogs are too many? The answer is not a simple one and really depends on how much time and space you have as well as the personality of the individual dogs. Some dogs are more gregarious than others and some dogs really are happiest when they are the only dog in the house.
Adapted from:

Animal Hoarding
In recent years, several television shows and news specials have documented the lives of Americans that have practically buried themselves in their own belongings. This behavior, known as hoarding, is often typified by compulsive accumulation and storage of books, clothes, or other nonessential items. For some of these individuals, hoarding goes beyond keepsakes and overflows into the realm of pets. With about 1,500 new cases like this arising each year, there’s no arguing that animal hoarding is a growing problem.

Adapted from:

What is animal hoarding?
According to the Hoarding Animals Research Consortium, the following criteria are used to define animal hoarding:
1)More than the typical number of companion animals
2)Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death 
3)Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and the human occupants of the home.
Nearly 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year. This abuse differs from other types of animal cruelty in that the perpetrators don't always accept or recognize the cruelty they inflict on their animals. Rather, animal hoarders usually ardently believe they are saving or rescuing the animals they imprison.
How does it cause animal suffering?
Animals kept in hoarding conditions often suffer extreme neglect, including lack of food, proper veterinary care and sanitary conditions. Officers investigating hoarding situations often find floors, furniture and counters covered with animal feces and urine. In extreme cases, decaying animal carcasses are found among the living animals. Insect and rodent infestations are also common.

Are there other concerns?
Aside from obvious animal suffering, animal hoarding presents health hazards for the human occupants of the home. Child and adult protective services can be called to intervene when the hoarder's neglect extends beyond the animals.
Filthy conditions under which animal hoarders live also attract disease vectors such as insects and rodents. This can also threaten neighboring households. Often a house that is home to a hoarding situation must be condemned by the health department due to unlivable conditions.
Finally, animal hoarding places a tremendous strain on already-overburdened animal shelters, which lack the space or resources to deal with an influx of hundreds of animals, many of whom are usually in dire need of medical attention. Holding these animals pending the outcome of a court case may displace otherwise adoptable animals and lead to their euthanasia.
Treatment options
Although what causes animal hoarding is still poorly understood, there is a general consensus that animal hoarding is a symptom of psychological and neurological malfunctioning, which might involve dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Treatment is difficult and has a low rate of success. Typically a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and some type of psychopharmacological intervention is recommended.
Removing animals from the hoarding situation can temporarily help solve the problem, but without long-term psychological intervention, animal hoarding has a nearly 100 percent recidivism rate. It is recommended that animal control, social service agencies, and health and housing agencies work together to treat each animal hoarding situation as a long-term project. Intervention also should involve the family of the hoarder, and any other involved members of the community.
Charging options
The animal cruelty laws of all states have provisions stipulating minimal care standards (e.g., food, shelter, veterinary care, and sanitary conditions) for animals. Legislation has been enacted in a few states specifically addressing animal hoarding.
In situations where the animal hoarder is unwilling to accept help and the animals' conditions do not warrant animal cruelty charges, non-animal agencies often step in to force change. For example, fire departments can cite hoarders for fire code violations, health departments can intervene where there are disease issues and housing code violations, and county zoning boards can step in to force change if there are local ordinances regarding the number of animals a person may keep. The charges may be necessary to help the hoarder understand the gravity of their situation.
Sentencing options
The HSUS recommends that convicted animal hoarders be sentenced to mandatory psychological evaluation and treatment and that they be restricted to owning a small number of animals; two is a reasonable number.
A lengthy probation period, during which the hoarder must agree to periodic unannounced visits from animal control to ensure compliance, is vital. In cases where animal suffering is extreme (and depending on the mental and psychological capacity of the hoarder), we favor jail time, both as a punitive measure and to help hoarders understand the serious nature of their actions.
More Details on Animal Hoarding
Animal hoarding is a complex and intricate public health and community issue. Its effects are far-reaching and encompass mental health, animal welfare and public safety concerns.
Why Do People Hoard Animals?
It is not clearly understood why people become animal hoarders. Early research pointed toward a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but new studies and theories are leading toward attachment disorders in conjunction with personality disorders, paranoia, delusional thinking, depression and other mental illnesses. Some animal hoarders began collecting after a traumatic event or loss, while others see themselves as “rescuers” who save animals from lives on the street.
“Historically, a person who collected animals was viewed as an animal lover who got in over his or her head, but the truth is that people who hoard are experiencing a total loss of insight,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President, Forensic Sciences and Anti-cruelty Projects. “They have no real perception of the harm they're doing to the animals."
In the majority of cases, animal hoarders appear intelligent and clearly believe they are helping their animals. They often claim that any home is better than letting that animal die. In addition, many hoarders possess the ability to garner sympathy and to deceive others into thinking their situation is under control. They often are blind to the fact that they are not caring for the animals and to the extreme suffering they are inflicting.

According to Dr. Lockwood, "Being kept by a hoarder is a slow kind of death for the animal. Actually, it can be a fate worse than death."
How Can I Tell if Someone Is a Hoarder?
It's not always easy. Animal hoarders range in age, and can be men or women of any race or ethnic group. Elderly people tend to be more at risk due to their own deteriorating health and isolation from community and social groups. One commonality between all hoarders is a failure to grasp the severity of their situation.
“I have worked with many animal hoarders in their homes. Their mental illness allows them to maintain an absolute denial of the filth and the suffering of the animals,” says Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, ASPCA Senior Director of Counseling Services. “They simply cannot see or smell or react to the situation as a normal person would."
Here are several signs that may indicate someone is an animal hoarder:
•They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
•Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).
•There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.
•Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.
•Fleas and vermin are present.
•Individual is isolated from community and appears to be in neglect themselves.
•Individual insists all animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.
Do Hoarders Often Pose as Rescue Groups or Sanctuaries?
Absolutely. Research shows many hoarders are beginning to set themselves up as “rescue shelters,” complete with 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status. They may appear to be sensible people, persuasively conveying their love for animals and readiness to take those who are sick and with special needs. Furthermore, the Internet appears to be becoming a great tool for solicitation.
“When looking to place an animal, it is easy for a person to get seduced by a pretty website,” points out Lockwood. “We need to caution people to look behind the curtain before giving over an animal.”
Here are several signs that a rescue group or shelter may involve a hoarder:
•The group is unwilling to let visitors see the location where animals are kept.
•The group will not disclose the number of animals in its care.
•Little effort is made to adopt animals out.
•More animals are continually taken in, despite the poor condition of existing animals.
•Legitimate shelters and rescue organizations are viewed as the enemy.
•Animals may be received at a remote location (parking lot, street corner, etc.) rather than at the group's facilities.
I Have Many Animals—Could I Be a Hoarder?

It's important to note that not everyone who has multiple animals is an animal hoarder. A person may have a dozen animals, and all are spayed and neutered and provided with regular veterinary care and a sanitary environment. This person would not be an animal hoarder. Even rescuers who occasionally become overwhelmed are not considered hoarders if they are actively trying to modify the situation. That said, if you think you might have too many animals to care for properly, please contact your local shelter or a veterinarian for help.
How Prevalent Is Animal Hoarding?
It has been estimated that there are 900 to 2,000 new cases of animal hoarding every year in the United States, with a quarter million animals falling victim. Animals collected range from cats and dogs to reptiles, rodents, birds, exotics and even farm animals.
Should Hoarders Be Prosecuted?
In most cases, criminal prosecution of animal hoarding can be a difficult process and may not be the most effective route. Such cases are difficult to successfully prosecute and, once litigation ends, the hoarder is likely to resume collecting an excessive number of animals unless closely monitored. “Hoarders are like drug addicts—you can't cure them, you can only prevent relapses,” says Lockwood.
Some say prosecution isn't the answer because hoarders are often emotionally troubled rather than criminally inclined. “Like many psychological conditions, the causes of animal hoarding are probably multiple and, therefore, assessment of emotions, behavior and thoughts must be multifaceted to point the way toward successful treatment,” says the ASPCA's Dr. LaFarge. In some cases judges can impose conditions that actually help the hoarder. They can require counseling, for instance, or prohibit the person from having animals.
What is clear is that prosecution alone rarely alters the behavior. “It is essential that key community agencies work together to prevent animal hoarders from harming the large number of animals they gain control over,” says LaFarge. “Social service agencies must collaborate with animal shelters and law enforcement to intervene to save the animals and then follow up with years of monitoring to prevent a recurrence. The general public needs to be educated to realize that the hoarder is not just a nice little old lady who 'loves too much.'”
Are There Laws Against Animal Hoarding?
Animal hoarding is covered implicitly under every state's animal cruelty statute, which typically requires caretakers to provide sufficient food and water, veterinary care and a sanitary environment. Only two states, Illinois and Hawaii, currently have statutory language specifically addressing animal hoarding. With guidance from ASPCA, the Illinois Companion Animal Hoarder Act was created in 2001 to create a legal definition for “companion animal hoarder” and mandate counseling for those convicted of animal cruelty who meet the definition. Animal hoarding itself is not prohibited by the statute. Hawaii's 2008 law is the only state law specifically outlawing animal hoarding. It does not mandate psychological counseling for convicted hoarders or restrict future animal ownership. Anti-hoarding legislation has been proposed, but not passed, in several other states.
How Can I Help?
If you think someone you know is struggling with animal hoarding, here are some ways you can help:
•Pick up the phone and call your local humane law enforcement department, police department, animal shelter, animal welfare group or veterinarian to initiate the process. You may not want to get the person “in trouble,” but a phone call may be the first step to get them and the animals the help they need. “Often people don't report hoarding situations because they are worried the hoarder will get in trouble or that the animals will get taken away,” says the ASPCA's Allison Cardona, Director of Disaster Response. “What I would like to stress is that these situations only get worse with time, and the animals always end up getting taken out of the home. It is always better to say something—this is the first step for both the animals and the people to get the help they need.” 
•Educate others about the misery involved in a hoarding situation. Animal hoarding has often been portrayed as an eccentricity—the elderly “cat lady.” The public needs to be made aware of the greater harm caused by animal hoarding.
•Contact social service groups and ask them to get involved. Animal hoarding is not just about the animals. Your local department of the aging, adult protective services, health departments and other mental health agencies may be able to provide services or links to services. It's important to get the animal hoarder connected to the right services.
•Reassure the animal hoarder that it's okay to accept help. Animal hoarders are usually worried that their animals will be killed or that they will never see them again. Regardless of the outcome, assure them that the animals need urgent care and that immediate action is necessary.
•Volunteer your time. With the removal of so many animals from a hoarding situation, the burden on local shelters can be staggering. Volunteer your time to help clean cages, socialize animals, walk dogs and perform other such necessary duties.
•Keep in touch. In many cases the animals are too unsocialized or too old and sick to be considered adoptable. However, it may be appropriate for the animals to be spayed and neutered and returned to the home if the animal hoarder can provide—or can be aided in providing—care. Under the guidance of an organization, help the individual with daily animal care chores. And if the individual acquires new animals, help ensure that they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated.
•Support local legislation. Laws that recognize hoarding as unlawful with appropriate punishment and mandatory treatment are necessary. Even though hoarding cases exhibit typical characteristics of animal abuse, they are rarely prosecuted because they fail to show the individual's intent to harm.
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye enjoyed a really nice birthday dinner on Saturday with a couple of good friends...the celebration was actually for both Desperado and the lady of the couple since they share the same birthday.  It was a great start for Desperado's next year!

Then, of course, we've got Valentine's Day creeping up on us this week.  Helpful Buckeye will have a few culinary surprises ready for our dinner that evening....

We're both getting itchy to get back outside and do some hikes we weren't able to do last year due to Desperado's problematic joints.  After therapy and some medications, she's ready to go again.  We both subscribe to the theory of one of history's greatest scientists: "An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion." – Sir Isaac Newton...given a choice, we always prefer staying in motion.

Helpful Buckeye appreciates all the e-mails received about last week's topic of housetraining for puppies.  Many of you found it helpful for puppies that showed up at Christmas time and others said they would be saving the information for upcoming puppies. On a related topic, Helpful Buckeye presents this week some advice on doing the housetraining again, but this time on adult and senior dogs.

Housetraining Adult and Senior Dogs

Any dog, even a fully housetrained adult dog, may have house-soiling accidents when he first moves to your home. The stress of new surroundings and a new schedule can disrupt his routine. Usually, once he gets accustomed to your household schedule, the accidents stop.
It's also possible he's never been housetrained. Give him a few weeks to settle in to his new home and follow the procedures for housetraining puppies.
Here are some reasons why adult and senior dogs might have accidents in the house:
Senior dogs
As your dog ages, he may need to eliminate more often than in the past. Just as people can have difficulties as they age, so can dogs. They may not be able to "hold it" as long as they used to. They also may become incontinent. This is not a housetraining issue.

 If your senior dog has accidents frequently, your vet should examine him for possible medical problems. If the vet says it's not a medical issue, you will have to manage the situation instead of trying to housetrain the dog.

If you are at work all day, you may need to:
Hire a pet sitter to visit your dog to let him outside.
Confine him to a room of the house where accidents will be easy to clean up.
Try sanitary products on your dog, such as doggie diapers. They fit like little pants and hold a disposable absorbent pad to catch the urine. These work best on female dogs. Belly bands—fabric bands that wrap around the dog's waist and contain an absorbent pad—are available for male dogs. They're available at most pet stores and online.
Small dogs

Because of their short legs and small size, you may need to make some special accommodations for your small dog:
Provide a sheltered spot near the house or under a porch or deck for your dog to eliminate in bad weather.
Provide a bathroom spot covered with mulch or gravel so your little dog won't have tall and/or wet grass pressing against his tummy when he eliminates.
Clear a path or other area for your dog to eliminate when it snows.
Follow our basic housetraining procedures to housetrain your dog.
Other types of house-soiling problems

If you've consistently followed the housetraining procedures and your dog continues to eliminate in the house, there may be another reason for his behavior, such as:
Medical problems: House-soiling can often be caused by physical problems such as a urinary tract infection, a parasite infection, or even a seizure. Check with your veterinarian to rule out any possibility of disease or illness.
Submissive or excitement urination: Some dogs, especially young ones, temporarily lose control of their bladders when they become excited or feel threatened. Submissive or excitement urination usually occurs during greetings or periods of intense play, or when they're about to be punished.
Prevent submissive urination-

Submissive Urination

In a pack, dogs have many ways to show the leader that they accept his role as top dog and thus avoid a confrontation. One way is to roll on their backs and urinate on themselves.
Submissive urination is common and normal in puppies, who will usually outgrow the behavior. But some puppies remain timid into adulthood, and submissive urination can become a problem in the home.

Signs of submissive urination are when he urinates:
  • When he's being scolded.
  • When a person approaches him.
  • When he's being greeted.
  • When there's a disturbance such as a loud argument or sirens blaring.
  • While making submissive postures, such as crouching, tail tucking, or rolling over and exposing his belly.
If your dog urinates when he's playing or being greeted but doesn’t exhibit submissive postures, he has a different problem: excitement urination (discussed below).

Why does my dog do this?

Dogs who urinate in submission are usually shy, anxious, or timid and may have a history of being treated harshly or punished inappropriately. A dog who's unclear of the rules and unsure how to behave will be chronically insecure. He urinates and adopts submissive postures to mollify anyone he perceives as a "leader" and to avoid punishment.


First, take your dog to your veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons for the behavior.
Then, start building up his confidence with these steps:
  • Teach him commands using positive reinforcement training methods.
  • Keep his routine and environment as consistent as possible.
  • Gradually expose him to new people and new situations and try to ensure that his new experiences are positive and happy.
  • Keep greetings low-key (no bear hugs or loud voices, which your dog may perceive as acts of dominance).
  • Encourage and reward confident postures such as sitting or standing.
  • Give him an alternative to submissive behaviors. For example, have him "sit" or "shake" as you approach, and reward him for obeying.
  • Avoid approaching him with postures that he may interpret as dominant or confrontational. Avoid direct eye contact; look at his back or tail instead. Get down on his level by bending at the knees rather than leaning over from the waist. Ask others to approach him in the same way. Pet him under the chin rather than the top of his head. Approach him from the side, rather than head on, and/or present the side of your body to him.
  • Eliminate odors wherever your dog submissively urinates especially if he isn't completely housetrained.
  • Don't punish or scold him for submissive urination. This will only make the problem worse.
  • If your dog is extremely fearful, ask your vet about medications that may help during the retraining process.
Above all, be patient. It will take time for your dog to gain confidence, but with you leading the way, he can overcome his fears and blossom into a happy, secure dog.  

Prevent excitement urination-

Excitement Urination

Excitement urination occurs most often during greetings and playtime and isn't accompanied by submissive postures as in submissive urination.

Excitement urination is common in young dogs and puppies who don't yet have complete control over their bladders. It usually resolves on its own as a dog matures. In some cases, however, the problem can persist if the dog is frequently punished or if the dog's behavior is inadvertently reinforced—such as by petting or talking to your dog in a soothing or coddling tone of voice after he urinates when excited.

Signs of excitement urination
  • He urinates when excited, such as during greetings or playtime.
  • He urinates when excited and is less than 1 year old.
  • Take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out medical reasons for the behavior.
  • To avoid accidents, play outdoors until the problem is resolved.
  • Take frequent walks to make sure your dog's bladder stays as empty as possible.
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of vigorous exercise.
  • Don't punish or scold him for urinating when he's excited.
  • Keep greetings low-key. No high-pitched baby talk, hand-clapping, hugging, or rough-housing.
  • When he's excited, ignore him until he's calm.
Territorial urine marking: Dogs sometimes deposit small amounts of urine or feces to scent-mark their territory. Both male and female dogs do this, and it most often occurs when they believe their territory has been invaded.

Urine-marking Behaviors
You mark your stuff by putting your name on it; your dog marks his with urine. We've covered why dogs mark their territory, now here's how to prevent urine-marking behaviors before they happen in your house.
Before doing anything else, take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out any medical causes for the urine-marking behavior. If he gets a clean bill of health, use the following tips to make sure he doesn't start marking his territory.

Spay (or neuter) first

Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible. The longer a dog goes before neutering, the more difficult it will be to train him not to mark in the house. Spaying or neutering your dog should reduce urine-marking and may stop it altogether.

But if he has been marking for a long time, a pattern may already be established. Because it has become a learned behavior, spaying or neutering alone won't solve the problem. Use techniques for housetraining an adult dog to modify your dog's marking behavior.

More tips
  • Clean soiled areas thoroughly with a cleaner specifically designed to eliminate urine odor.
  • Make previously soiled areas inaccessible or unattractive. If this isn't possible, try to change the significance of those areas to your pet. Feed, treat, and play with your pet in the areas where he marks.
  • Keep objects likely to cause marking out of reach. Items such as guests' belongings and new purchases should be placed in a closet or cabinet.
  • Resolve conflicts between animals in your home.
  • Restrict your dog's access to doors and windows so he can't observe animals outside. If this isn't possible, discourage the presence of other animals near your house.
  • Make friends. If your pet is marking in response to a new resident in your home (such as a roommate or spouse), have the new resident make friends with your pet by feeding, grooming, and playing with your pet. If you have a new baby, make sure good things happen to your pet when the baby is around.
  • Watch your dog when he is indoors for signs that he is thinking about urinating. When he begins to urinate, interrupt him with a loud noise and take him outside. If he urinates outside, praise him and give him a treat.
  • When you're unable to watch him, confine your dog (a crate or small room where he has never marked) or tether him to you with a leash.
  • Have your dog obey at least one command (such as "sit") before you give him dinner, put on his leash to go for a walk, or throw him a toy.
  • If your dog is marking out of anxiety, talk to your vet about medicating him with a short course of anti-anxiety medication. This will calm him down and make behavior modification more effective.
  • Consult an animal behaviorist for help with resolving the marking issues.

What NOT to do

Don't punish your pet after the fact. Punishment administered even a minute after the event is ineffective because your pet won't understand why he is being punished.

If you come home and find that your dog has urinated on all kinds of things, just clean up the mess. Don't take him over to the spots and yell and rub his nose in them. He won't associate the punishment with something he may have done hours ago, leading to confusion and possibly fear.  

Separation anxiety: Dogs who become anxious when they're left alone may house-soil as a result. Usually, there are other symptoms as well, such as destructive behavior or vocalization. Learn more about separation anxiety by going to our earlier presentations, which can be found in the "Labels" column to the left. 
Fears or phobias: When animals become frightened, they may lose control of their bladder and/or bowels. If your puppy is afraid of loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, he may house soil when he's exposed to these sounds.
Adapted from:

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~