Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms

(This article was first published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers Chronicle of the Dog  – [Click for a PDF of this article])

As trainers and behavior consultants, it is essential for us to consider whether or not a pet’s basic needs are being met if we are to offer our clients the best possible training and behavioral advice. This becomes even more important when facilitating the treatment of “problem behaviors,” as these often manifest when a pet’s welfare is compromised or when basic needs are not being met consistently. Brambell’s Five Freedoms are a very useful set of guidelines for assessing a pet’s welfare and developing a corresponding training, behavior modification, and management plan.

Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom as a result of Parliament creating a committee to assess the welfare of livestock raised in factory farms. In December of 1965, the Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept Under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, December 1965 (HMSO London, ISBN 0 10 850286 4) was published. The report identified what are known as the five freedoms that a farm animal should have: “to stand up, lie down, turn around, and groom themselves and stretch their limbs.” The British government then established the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council, to further define these freedoms to what we know today as: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.1,2

While originally intended for farm animals, the freedoms can be applied to any animal that is kept by humans. During my training in the Bach Practitioner program in the U.K., we discussed how Brambell’s Five Freedoms applied to dogs, cats, cattle, horses, rabbits, hogs, ducks, and a variety of other species. It is imperative that we have adequate knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements and natural behaviors in order to appropriately assess whether their freedoms are being restricted. Even when we do have adequate knowledge, we may find that the freedoms sometimes conflict with what are considered best practices. Likewise, they may be inconsistent with what may be necessary to protect a pet or others. Not everything is black and white, and considering the freedoms over the years has brought me many answers, but also many questions for which I have no definitive answer. I invite you to consider some of the questions that have occurred to me and contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms.

  1. Ensure the animal is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple, right? Provide animals with food and water and the need is met, but…

  • Does the type of food matter? Cats are true carnivores and most dogs, if left to their own devices, would eat a diet with very few carbohydrates. However, the average dog and cat are fed a diet that is probably at a minimum composed of 40% carbohydrates. Both dogs and cats would usually be eating fresh food, yet most pet food is highly processed. Feeding a pet as naturally as possible is not inexpensive. Is it better to have one pet and to feed him really well, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? What about pets on prescription diets? They may need it for disease purposes, but is it optimal nutrition? Which takes precedence?
  • Many pets in the U.S. are obese, clearly due to overfeeding, improper diet, and lack of exercise. How does an animal’s obesity affect its welfare?
  • Does the source of water matter? Cats often depend on getting the majority of their hydration from eating live prey, yet few cats have that opportunity in today’s world. Would they drink more and have fewer urinary issues if they had ready access to fresh meat and running water? If you don’t drink from your tap, should the animals?
  1. Ensure the animal is free from discomfort.

Originally this freedom focused on shelter, and seemed relatively straightforward: make sure animals always have adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

  • Animals need down time. Does the pet have a quiet, comfortable resting place where he can be undisturbed and where he will feel safe? Is the pet’s environment free from things that may cause harm and discomfort?
  • Many people have multiple pets. Does each pet have adequate space, or are there too many animals for the amount of space available? Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there constant conflict? Are there sufficient resources for all of the animals?
  • Breed also affects what an animal needs to be comfortable. Pets with long coats often cannot groom themselves adequately, and their hair can become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort. This becomes an even bigger problem if the pet is obese and as he ages. Are your clients making sure that their pets are adequately and properly groomed?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury, and disease.

Regular and as-needed veterinary care goes a long way toward meeting this freedom, but breeding also plays a huge role, as well as how we respond when a dog is injured or ill. Mental disease needs to be considered along with physical disease.

  • Working dogs and dogs who compete in dog sports can experience injuries that cause pain. Is just using painkillers enough, or do we need to consider removing the dog from the activity causing the pain? Physical therapy for pets is still a relatively new treatment modality. Should it be a routine part of care for a working or competitive dog?
  • Breeding has resulted in some pets who essentially have physical impairments that can affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How much should these animals be put through in an effort to correct their conditions? How do we help our clients separate their emotions from those of their pet? How do we handle it when it is one of our own pets?
  • Many purebred pets are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders, as well as physical conformations that often cause impairments. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these disorders and create healthier pets? When clients are considering what type of pet to get, should we steer them away from certain breeds that have physical impairments or are prone to genetic disorders? How do we educate without being judgmental?
  • Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, etc.) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of these disorders are often not considered as important as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog? How do we best counsel clients who wish to keep their dog involved in activities that have great potential to exacerbate behavioral issues?
  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

The ability to express normal behaviors is often problematic, because many normal behaviors are the behaviors that people dislike the most (e.g., cats hunting and killing birds and dogs sniffing people’s crotches, to name two).

  • Do your clients’ pets have an adequate and safe space in which to run and express normal behaviors, both indoors and outdoors? Are they provided with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Cats are all too often neglected here. Are they getting ample chase games?
  • Is the environment in which the animals live suitably enriched so that it stimulates their minds? Do they search for their food or is it just dropped in a bowl?
  • Do the pets have sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide emotional enrichment?
  • Are there opportunities to interact with suitable members of their own species, if they choose to do so, in a manner that is rewarding for all parties?
  • Humans use dogs for a variety of jobs. Is it ethical to put dogs in working situations where they are not allowed to express many normal behaviors for most of their lives?
  • There are a number of breeds that humans choose to physically alter by docking their tails or cropping their ears. Tails and ears are both tools that dogs use to communicate with one another. Do physical alterations impair a dog’s ability to express normal behaviors and to communicate?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect knowledge — about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in our canine and feline companions.

  • Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. What can we do to make clients, breeders, shelters, rescues, and veterinarians realize the importance of socialization and habituation? What can we do to help our clients to be successful in socializing their puppies gracefully and gradually without overwhelming them?
  • Cats have an even earlier socialization period than a dog (two to five weeks). How do we make sure that breeders and shelters are aware of this and taking steps to accomplish this? Should we be discouraging clients from adopting kittens that have not been properly socialized at this age? What about the feral population? Is it just kinder to leave them be?
  • Additionally, many animals have a more fearful baseline, either due to genetics, prior history, or a combination of both, and with the best of intentions, well-meaning pet owners throw the animals into situations that involve flooding to re-socialize them. How do we decide when enough is enough? At what point does management become preferable to continued trials of desensitization and counter-conditioning?
  • Dog bites, especially of children, are a significant problem, and are often caused by a dog who is afraid or is otherwise under stress. In some cases the child is the direct cause of that fear. How do we convince the dog-owning public and the non-dog-owning public of the importance of learning basic canine body language so that many of these bites can be prevented?
  • A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. How do we help clients understand and find the time to ensure that their pets get appropriate amounts of stimulation and exercise?
  • On the flip side, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Many dogs will not do well in a daycare setting, playing all day or going for a five-mile run every morning. How do we educate our clients and others in the industry that too much activity can be as detrimental as not enough activity? How do we help clients to find the balance for their pet between too much and not enough?
  • While both the domestic dog and domestic cat are considered to be social animals, some are more social than others. Feral dogs and cats choose which bonds to form; in most households, humans choose which pets live together. How do we get clients to understand that pets who do “okay” together may not be thriving, and may be living under stress? Is that fair to either pet? Should one be rehomed, or would that be worse? If so, how do we counsel clients about which one should stay?
  • Communication and understanding are the cornerstones of good relations. How do we get the dog-owning public to understand that learning dog body language and training their dogs with reward-based training is key to ensuring that their dogs do not live in fear and distress?
  • Stress comes in two varieties: distress (scary things, trauma) and eustress (excitement). Whether distress or eustress, what happens to the body physiologically is very similar, and being in a state of frequent eustress or distress can have negative impacts on health. How do we get people to understand that, while occasional, moderate distress and eustress is in fact essential to life (and unavoidable), high or frequent doses can be extremely detrimental? How do we help them balance and manage their pets’ lives to avoid long-term, high levels of stress? If going to the vet is causing extreme stress, yet is necessary for freedom from disease and pain, how do we respond? Which carries more weight?
  • As trainers we may choose to put our own dogs into situations where they serve as a decoy dog while we evaluate a client’s dog-aggressive dog. Even though we take great effort to prevent physical and emotional harm to our dogs, the latter is not always easy to measure at the time. Is it ethical to place our dogs in this situation?
  • Working with dogs, and observing others working with dogs, is an essential part of how we learn to become better trainers. Is it fair to bring out a dog who is experiencing fear and distress and to use him in a demonstration in front of a group? Can we come up with a better way for us to learn, without causing dogs even more distress?

There are not necessarily any straightforward answers to satisfying Brambell’s Five Freedoms for all animals in all situations. As with any treatment or training plan, all factors need to be considered and weighed. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the freedoms and how they apply to the animals in your life, the global ethical questions they bring, and also learning how you can use them to help your clients and their pets.

 

Footnotes

1 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms: http://www.defra.gov.uk/fawc/about/five-freedoms/

2 “Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05: http://www.fawc.org.uk/pdf/fivefreedoms1979.pdf

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Adopting/Getting A Pet – Before You Adopt A Dog…

< A version of this article was published in the October 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Whether it is your first dog or you have had dogs your whole life, whether you have no other pets or lots of other pets, whether you live alone or live with a large family, adding a dog to your life is a big decision and requires careful thought and planning. As a pet care professional with over 19 years of experience, I have heard countless stories of what can happen when you bring a dog home on impulse. Yes, it might turnout just fine, but there have also been many times where being impulsive leads to heartache. I suspect that there is a “right dog” for most every situation, but not all dogs will be right for your situation. So before you start thinking about which breed you want, whether you’ll get a rescue or purebred, a puppy or an adult, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions.

What is the primary reason you want a dog? – Companionship is probably the most typical reason people get a dog. Other reasons might be so that you can compete in dog sports or to do therapy dog visits at nursing homes and hospitals. Perhaps you want a dog as a hunting companion or to help you on the farm. Some people will even think they want a dog to teach their children responsibility or for protection. If it’s either of these last two, I’ll try to talk you out of getting a dog for those reasons. Alternatively, you might be looking for a dog to be a service/assistance dog for yourself or a family member. In this situation your best option is to let a qualified and reputable service dog agency select and train the dog for you. Most dogs, even the ones specifically bred to be service dogs, do not have what it takes to develop into a reliable service dog. My point is that there are several reasons you might want a dog and how you answer this question will determine what breeds you should consider and those that would be out of the question, whether you want a puppy or an adult dog, and whether or not you should consider a purebred or a mutt.

Where will you be 15 years from now? – Depending on the breed and individual dog, your new canine friend will hopefully be with you for 12-15 years, perhaps longer. Your life, where you live, who lives with you, the amount of free time you have, your financial resources, your health and physical abilities, and your dog’s health can and will very likely change a great deal in 15 years. When adding a dog to a family I believe you need to plan for it being a lifetime commitment. That means you need to think ahead and be sure that the reason you want a dog today will still be the reason you want a dog several years from now. When we recently added our new dog my wife and I knew we needed a smaller dog. We both have back issues, and carrying our 16 year old Golden up and down the stairs was difficult at best and we knew we would not be able to do that 15 years from now.

What are your deal breakers? –  Even though we make a lifetime commitment to a dog sometimes things happen and it is in the best interest of you and your dog to part ways. This can be heartbreaking for all involved. One of the best ways to prevent that heartache is to spend some time before you welcome a dog into your home deciding what would be a reason you would not want or be able to keep a dog.  Some reasons that people have given for ending the relationship; the dog bites someone, you need to move into town and the dog cannot adapt, the dog kills another animal, someone in the family develops allergies, the dog urinates and defecates inside and cannot be trained, the dog has separation anxiety and you work 14 hours a day, the dog barks excessively and the neighbors are complaining, you move in with a new life partner and your dog hates their dog, etc.. The point is that unexpected things happen, sometimes beyond our control. If you can identify these deal breakers before you choose a dog, you may be able to select a pet that decreases the probability of these unfortunate situations developing.

What happens next? – After you have answered these questions for yourself, I recommend you share them with at least a few pet care professionals; a veterinarian, a dog trainer or behavior consultant, a daycare/kennel operator or a dog groomer. You want someone who can give you an objective opinion based on extensive experience with many breeds as well as individual dogs. Breeders, rescues, and shelters can provide useful input; however, remember that they are hoping you will choose one of the dogs that they have available. This is not to say that we do not all have our share of biases; for this reason talking to several people will give you a broader perspective.   At Green Acres Kennel Shop, we will gladly sit down and have this discussion with you at no charge, because we know it’s going to result in a good match.

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Events – Helping Pets and Their People In Need

<A version of this article appeared in the September 2014 Down East Dog News>

If you read DownEast Dog News I have no doubt that you understand and appreciate the companionship of a pet. Unfortunately, not all pets are so lucky, which is why I’m going to use this month’s column to highlight three organizations with three very important events that will be occurring over the next three months.

BARKK To End The Silence -5K Walk, Run Or WOOF! – Sponsored by Mutt Nose Best and the Paw It Forward Foundation and in its second year, this event is meant to raise awareness of domestic violence and to raise funds that will help to equip local domestic violence shelters with designated “pet friendly” rooms that have separate ventilation and outside fenced areas. Funds will also help pay for veterinary care and emergency “get out” kits for families in violent relationships. Currently, in the state of Maine, there are no Domestic Violence shelters equipped to house family pets. That means that people don’t leave a violent situation for fear of what may happen to their pets, or if they do leave, they and their pets face being separated at this critical time. BARKK wants to change that.

Taking place on Saturday September 27th on the Bangor Waterfront, this is a dog friendly walk or run. Last year over 500 participated, raising a total over $7,000. You do not need to participate to donate. All contributions are welcome.

For more information, or to donate or to volunteer to help at the 5K run, call Mutt Nose Best at 207-262-8773 or muttnosebest@gmail.com. You can also find information online at: – https://www.facebook.com/BARKKMuttNoseBest and http://www.muttnosebest.com/.

As you may be aware, BARKK To End The Silence was the focus of Green Acres’ first Cash for Your Cause fundraiser held from June 1st through July 5th. We raised $3187, but equally important we raised awareness of this critical issue with our clients, the community and our staff. In fact many of our staff will be participating in this event, some running, some walking, and we hope to see you there!

Bangor Humane Society Paws on Parade – The Bangor Humane Society was founded in 1869, making it the oldest Humane Society in the State of Maine. They are also Maine’s largest animal shelter both in terms of the total number of animals handled and the geographical area they serve. They care for approximately 5,000 owner released and stray animals each year. Their ability to do so depends on generous donations from people like you and me.

Paws on Parade is the Bangor Humane Society’s largest fundraising event of the year. This year’s Paws will be the 21st and is scheduled for Saturday, October 4th on the Bangor Waterfront. Last year, Paws on Parade raised over $70,000 and drew a crowd of over 700 two-legged and four-legged participants!

Paula and I didn’t purchase Green Acres Kennel Shop and move here until October of 1995, but we’ve participated in every Paws on Parade since then and will be there again this year. Having previously served as the President of the BHS Board of Directors I know how critical this event is to BHS. I hope that you can help!

Eastern Area Agency on Aging Furry Friends Food Bank – This organization is all about keeping pets and seniors together and healthy. No one should have to choose between feeding their pet and feeding themselves or being able to afford heat or their medications. The pets in these homes play a vital role in the physical, mental, and emotional health of their human companions, especially those that are isolated and live alone. Sometimes a pet may be the only living thing a person interacts with on a daily basis. By helping people feed their pets, the Furry Friends Food Bank helps keep pet and person together and keeps both healthier.

During the month of November, Green Acres Kennel Shop will be holding its annual fundraising drive for the Furry Friends Food Bank. Last year we raised $1387 from clients and added a $1000 donation from Green Acres. This year our goal is to raise $2000 from clients and the community. If we reach that goal, Green Acres will contribute $1000. You may follow the activities of the fundraising drive on the FaceBook page for the Friends of EAAA Furry Friends Food Bank at (https://www.facebook.com/GAKS.FFFFB)

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™

Adaptil™, formerly labeled as ComfortZone™ with D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone), is a product that can be useful in helping reduce a dogs’ anxiety. It looks much like an air freshener that you plug into a wall outlet. When plugged in, it releases dog appeasing pheromone into the air.

Dog appeasing pheromone is a substance produced by a mother dog 3 to 5 days after giving birth to a litter of puppies. Scientists believe this pheromone enhances the attachment between the puppies and their mother and also helps reassure the puppies by providing them with comfort and emotional stability. Research has demonstrated that the pheromone is also effective on adult dogs, facilitating social interaction and positive emotions, thereby reducing anxiety.

Use of the D.A.P. ComfortZone has been useful for dogs with fear and separation anxiety issues. We have occasionally used DAP at Green Acres and at times have found it helpful and at other times have not noticed any change. In discussions with other trainers and behaviorists throughout the country I have heard similar reports. Because it does appear to work very well with some dogs, I think it is worth considering with any dog that does exhibit anxiety.

We sell the Adaptil/D.A.P. ComfortZone at Green Acres.

A DAP collar is also available through veterinarians, which may be another alternative you wish to consider.

Other Articles You May Find Helpful

Alone Training – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/01/dog-training-alone-training/

Bach Rescue Remedy – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 3

<A version of this article was published in the August 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Last month Don discussed how to evaluate the brands of food with a company’s offerings. This month he talks about the ingredients panel.

After you have selected a few companies and brands that you feel you can trust and that are right for your pet, then it’s time to start looking at the information on the bag. The new buzz word is “grain-free,” and while the foods labeled as grain-free are in most cases, better than the dry dog foods of twenty years ago, the whole “grain-free” phenomena has become more marketing hype than sound nutrition. When lamb was first introduced as a protein source it was erroneously marketed as “the best” protein source and everyone wanted their dog on a lamb based diet; the same thing is now happening with the “grain-free” craze.

Grains are not inherently bad. The ingredients that have replaced them in dry pet food (potatoes, various legumes, etc.) are still basically carbohydrates. That being said the grain free formulas, depending upon the manufacturer, do often have fewer carbohydrates than the standard formulas that do contain grain. However, keep in mind that dogs and cats have absolutely no need for any carbohydrates in their diet. That is why the “Guaranteed Analysis” panel on a bag of pet food does not list carbohydrates. Pet foods contain carbohydrates because they are required by the process used to manufacture kibble. The carbohydrates are the glue that holds the fat and protein together, and in order to do so the food must typically be at least 40% to 60% carbohydrates. Also recognize that carbohydrates, whether from grains or other sources, are also added to commercial pet food to keep the cost down; the carbohydrates used in dry pet foods are always less expensive than meat.

The most important information on a bag of pet food is the list of ingredients. By law, all ingredients must be listed in order, by weight. This portion of the label must indicate if the food is preserved and if so, how. One loophole here however, is that the preservatives only need to be listed if the ingredient is added at the manufacturing plant. For example, meat meals such as chicken meal, which is simply the chicken processed once to remove the water, may arrive at the manufacturing plant typically in a powder formula. If there has been a preservative added to this meal at a different facility which processed the meat meal, the preservative does not have to be listed on the bag. Often people wonder why meat meals are in dry formulas; they are necessary to get the protein levels sufficiently high for the optimal health of the animals. All ingredients on the list are defined by AAFCO, a quasi-regulatory body for pet foods.

When recommending a dry pet food we always look for a clearly identified protein source as the first ingredient. Foods with a single protein source are most appropriate for pets with food intolerances or allergies. They also make more sense with our rotation philosophy. We avoid dry foods that contain by-products in whole or meal form, as well as animal digest.

Another thing to be wary of are foods that list the same ingredient in multiple places on the label. This process, known as fragmenting, makes a food look better than it is. For example an ingredient panel that reads as “Lamb Meal, Ground Rice, Rice Flour, Rice Bran, Sunflower Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of natural Vitamin E), Poultry Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of natural Vitamin E), Natural Flavors, Rice Gluten, Dried Egg Product, Dried Beet Pulp” creates the impression that Lamb Meal is the predominant ingredient, clearly what the manufacturer would like us to believe. However, if we were to add the weight of the Ground Rice, Rice Flour, Rice Bran and Rice Gluten together, they could very easily outweigh the lamb, making rice the main ingredient in this food.

Finding the right pet food can sometimes feel like a daunting task and requires a willingness to learn and constant diligence, but is well worth the effort. All of us at Green Acres are always ready to discuss pet nutrition and to share what we know; all you need to do is ask

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Training – Alone Training

ALONE TRAINING

OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog that it is safe to be left alone.

Dogs are social animals and actively seek out our companionship. They can quickly become accustomed to being part of a group 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whenever a new dog is brought into a home, especially a young playful puppy, people have a tendency to interact with them constantly. While this interaction is a very important part of socialization and bonding, you need to make sure that you are not setting your puppy up for a big disappointment when you must leave him at home alone. Including some “alone training” right from the beginning will be beneficial to both your puppy and you.

Older dogs, depending on their previous circumstances, might also need to learn how to cope with being alone. For example, a dog that was housed in a shelter or kennel situation where other dogs and people were always around may have trouble coping being by themselves.

If you have not already done so, start leaving your puppy/dog alone for brief duration’s throughout the day. He needs to learn that 1) people are not always around and 2) you will come back. When leaving your puppy/dog alone, put him in his crate or in a puppy proof room. Be sure to give him some of his favorite chew toys so he can have some fun while he awaits your return. Do not make a big deal out of leaving. Just pop the puppy/dog in his area and leave.

Your puppy/dog may start to whine or bark when you leave. This is very normal. Your first impulse may be return to the puppy/dog and try to calm him, however, that is the worst thing you can do. If you want him to stop whining, you must make sure you do not reward the puppy/dog for whining .Do not pay any attention to your puppy/dog and do not let him out until there is a lull in the whining. Reward him for being calm and quiet.

Leaving your puppy/dog at home, at the veterinarians, at the groomers or at a boarding kennel should also be a very low-key, non-emotional event. Likewise, the same applies when returning to your puppy/dog. If you make leaving or returning into a big event, with lots of cuddling and petting, your puppy/dog is more likely to be stressed by your arrivals and departures. You can, and we hope you do, miss your puppy/dog when he is not with you. We just do not want to let him know that.

Start your alone training by building time slowly. Five to ten minutes is a good place to start if your puppy/dog has never been out of your site for that length of time. Like all training, we want to work in small achievable increments that the dog can handle. Continue leaving your puppy/dog alone for longer and longer periods of time.

If this behavior does not improve after a few days, or if your dog exhibits destructive behaviors such as digging, scratching or chewing on themselves, house soiling, destructions of objects, extreme vocalization, constant pacing, digging and scratching at exits such as doors and windows in an attempt to reach you, and following you excessively, never letting you out of sight then you should immediately discuss this situation with your veterinarian.  These are also symptoms of separation anxiety which many need to be treated with appropriate medications and a behavior modification program specific to separation anxiety. Your veterinarian will probably refer you to a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog and your family.  Resolving separation anxiety will typically involve changes in your family’s behavior in addition to your dogs.  This is typically not an easy problem to resolve and becomes more difficult to resolve the longer it goes on.

Things you should start doing immediately:

  • Make an appointment to discuss this issue with your veterinarian. If your veterinarian suggests medications follow their advice.
  • Contact and work with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog. They may also suggest additional things you can try such as Adaptil/DAP and Bach Rescue Remedy.
  • Leave your dog home alone as little as possible until you have successfully modified their behavior.  This is the hard part and can take weeks and even months; however, it is essential if you wish this problem to resolve. Consider it from your dog’s perspective, they are living in extreme fear. Every time your dog causes through this process of your leaving and there becoming anxious makes this behavior more likely and decreases the probability of resolving the behavior. You also need to consider the serious damage a dog can do to your home and belongings and themselves. I have colleagues that have worked with families where the dog has done thousands of dollars of damage to themselves and to their surroundings in less than 30 minutes. If you yourself cannot stay home you have some alternatives. Perhaps a friend or family member can stay with your dog while you are gone. Doggie daycare or day boarding may also be an option. However these alternatives do not always work if the dog is very attached to you.
  • Do NOT make a big deal about your leaving and returning. No attention for the dog until they settle.
  • Look for cues you may be giving your dog that suggest your leaving is imminent. This can be things like; picking up keys, closing a brief case, putting on shoes, putting on a coat, packing a lunch, etc. Start offering these keys at times when you are not leaving so they are no longer predictors of being alone.

Other Articles You May Find Helpful

DAP/Adaptil – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/14/canine-behavior-adaptild-a-p-comfortzone/

Bach Rescue Remedy – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

You can learn more about Green Acres Behavior Counseling services by clicking here.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2

<A version of this article was published in the July 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Last month Don discussed how to evaluate the companies making the pet food. This month he discusses how to evaluate individual brands and formulas within a company.

After selecting companies you are comfortable with, the next thing a pet parent should do is to look at the individual foods produced by a company. In this day and age most pet food company’s manufacture and market multiple lines or brands of food. For example, the Natura Pet Food Company, which is currently owned by Proctor & Gamble, manufactures 5 brands of pet food: California Natural, Evo, Healthwise, Innova, and Karma. They do this to meet specific needs (hypoallergenic and grain-free formulas), marketing niches (organic) or various price points (good, better or best).

Pet food companies recognize that budget does matter to pet parents, and they try to offer a food brand in multiple price categories. Unfortunately, because people focus on the price per bag and price per pound, instead of the cost per feeding, these categorizations aren’t always logical. It really can save you money if you learn how to calculate the true feeding cost of a pet food (click here to read: Determining True Pet Food Costs). You will often discover that the actual difference in the feeding cost between the categories is often negligible and the food that costs more per bag actually is a better value.

When choosing pet foods to offer in our store or for personal use, we also look for a brand that offers multiple, adult formulas, with different protein sources that support our philosophy of dietary rotation (click to read Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense). A great example of this would be PureVita’s formulas in which they offer chicken, duck, bison, salmon, or turkey formulas. When we first started talking about dietary rotation many years ago, we quickly became the pariah of many food companies and some local veterinarians. Interestingly, now some food companies also actively promote rotation and many veterinarians recognize that it is not harmful and makes sense.

Other factors to consider are the availability of a pet food brand. The small family owned companies we discussed in my last column typically and intentionally choose to market their products through independent, locally-owned retailers who are knowledgeable and passionate about sharing their knowledge of pet nutrition. They also typically offer a money-back guarantee – if you are not satisfied with the food return it to the retailer for a full refund. They also often offer frequent buyer programs that help that retailer build customer loyalty. Remember when you buy from a locally-owned store you are getting expertise and service and you are also helping your community.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the labeling on pet food, specifically the ingredients used.

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 1

<A version of this article was published in the June 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

In this first of a three part series, Don discusses the importance of looking at the companies behind the foods.

Not a day goes by here at Green Acres without at least somebody asking us, “Which brand of pet food is the best?” And when pet food companies are in the news, either due to recalls, buyouts or lawsuits, we are asked this question with even more frequency. Unfortunately, there is no single commercial pet food that will be the best food for all pets, despite of what some food companies try to tell us. Individual animals have different needs and these may shift over time. Additionally, pet food formulas and the people and companies behind pet food brands can and do change; today’s great food might become tomorrow’s worst. This is why we choose to offer multiple brands of food in our store and why we are constantly monitoring the foods and the companies behind them. It’s also why taking a close look at the company is the first step in selecting a food.

Our first preference for a pet food company is one that is a family owned and primarily focuses on making pet food as opposed to pet food being a sideline business. These companies typically own and operate the plant where the food is manufactured,  know the farmers that produce the raw ingredients for their food, have tighter quality control measures in place, and also usually only produce their own food. These brands very rarely advertise on TV, preferring to spend their money on the ingredients that go into the bag. They know that when you have a superior product, nothing beats “word of mouth” advertising.

On the flip side pet food companies that we avoid are “marketing only” companies. These companies typically don’t have a plant or manufacturing facility, nor do they have a permanent research and development staff. Instead they contract a nutritionist to develop a formula and then contract out the sourcing of the ingredients and manufacturing of the food to the lowest bidder. Often the plants that manufacture these foods vary from contract to contract, and they are also often the plants making the lowest quality foods in the market; the generic brands and house brands for supermarkets and discount stores. These marketing companies focus on what they are best at, manipulating the masses to believe that their food is the single best food available. They typically do this by creating a website and TV advertisements that tug at your heart. Like a dirty political campaign, they focus their efforts on pointing out why other brands are bad instead of why their food is good.

In the middle are the other types of companies in the pet food business. Often held by conglomerates such as Colgate-Palmolive or Procter & Gamble, these companies will sometimes still produce high quality pet foods and fund R&D in their facilities. That being said, these pet food lines continue to always require close scrutiny because of less than positive histories in the pet food industry. Two huge candy conglomerates, Nestlé and Mars, own a number of pet food brands and by some accounts may hold as much as 78% of the market share for pet food in this country. Other pet food companies are owned by venture capital funds that typically have a goal of developing a brand until they can sell it, hopefully for an enormous profit. Now the fact that they may be investing in the food usually means good things, but that may be temporary.  The reality is that knowing who owns a pet food company and their motivations for being in the business is huge in selecting a quality, healthy pet food.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the various brands and individual food formulas offered by a pet food company.

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Pet Health and Wellness – External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas

<Updated 28MAY17>

This post is based on an episode of The Woof Meow Show which aired on May 3rd, 2014. Don Hanson and Kate Dutra talk with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic about ticks and fleas and how to safely and effectively protect your pet from these parasites and the diseases they carry. You can listen to the show by <clicking here>. You can listen to a more recent show on this topic by <clicking here>.

If you are concerned that your pet may have any type of parasite, please see your veterinarian rather than trying to treat your pet on your own. Your veterinarian is trained to help choose the safest and most effective treatments for your pets and consider how the treatment of one pet may affect other people in your home as well as other pets. Products used to kill fleas and ticks are pesticides and can be toxic your pets and even to you and your family. People inappropriately using a product for treating fleas on their pets is the number one reason the National Animal Control Center receives calls.

NO FLEAS-TICK-canstockphoto2080171Fleas and ticks are both external parasites that can affect our dogs, our cats and even us. In talking with many pet parents, it seems they believe fleas and ticks are only a “summer problem”. However, they are a potential problem any time it is warm enough for our pets to have “muddy paws.” Since most of our pets live indoors the vast majority of the time, fleas have the potential to be an issue 365 days per year.

Ticks live outdoors and once the ground is frozen they become dormant for the winter. As soon as the ground thaws ticks wake up, crawl up vegetation and wait for a victim to come by. They do not jump onto their victim; they wait until an animal brushes against them. The tick then begins crawling on the body, usually up towards the head, with a goal of biting and attaching to the animal so they can get a blood meal. When the ticks bite, they inject a numbing agent so the bite does not sting, they then inject an anti-coagulant so the bite bleeds as they lap up their meal. Ticks also regurgitate when eating, so whatever is in the ticks stomach often transfers to the bite and then into the victim’s bloodstream. After feeding, the tick will detach itself, fall off and look for a place to lay their eggs.Deer Ticks-canstockphoto13960474

Ticks can carry several bacteria that cause diseases in animals and humans. Among these are Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Babezia and others. While many animals and people can fight off these infections, some cannot. The first three of these are included as part of the test when your pet is checked for heartworm. The Deer Tick is the primary vector for transmitting Lyme disease, but they are very tiny and hard to find on our pets or on ourselves. Fortunately, Deer Ticks are not prevalent everywhere. If you avoid areas where they live you may not need a tick preventative for your pet. For example, Dr. Cloutier indicated he does not use a tick preventative on his dog because he typically finds one tick or less on his dog per year. He does choose to use a preventative, however, when visiting family in Connecticut because he sees more ticks in one short visit there than he does the rest of the year in Maine.  Whether or not your pet will acquire ticks depends on where they go and how they move through vegetation in any given area. Dr. Cloutier has clients with multiple dogs that often find ticks on one dog but none of the others.

There are ways you can minimize the chance of picking up ticks, therefore minimizing the chance of obtaining a tick-borne disease. At home, keep your yard mowed and fence off any areas where you let vegetation grow wild. While hiking, avoid areas with a high tick concentration and stay on the trail. Whether hiking or at home check your pets, and yourself, for ticks daily.

The tick obtains the organism that causes Lyme disease from the White-Footed Mouse. The tick then feeds on the deer, which becomes another vector for the disease. However, you must have a White-Footed Mouse to start the cycle and they typically stay within 30 minutes of large bodies of water. If you stay away from large bodies of water, you will be less at-risk for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease rarely affects cats, but it is possible. Because cats are such fastidious groomers, they often groom the tick off before it has had its blood meal and a chance to infect them.

When choosing a tick preventative, you need to balance the toxicity of the preventative along with its efficiency in killing ticks. In dogs, the preventatives often use two chemicals: one to kill the tick and the other to keep the tick crawling. Normally, ticks do not move much, which is why it is hard to deliver enough of the chemical to kill them. The second chemical is safe on dogs but is very unsafe for cats. Cat’s systems cannot clear this toxic chemical from their body. This is why it is absolutely essential to talk with your veterinarian when selecting tick preventatives for your pets.

Fleas are the other concern when it comes to external parasites. When topical products like FrontLine came out in the late 80s, everyone was excited about how effective it was at preventing fleas on pets. In Europe, it was originally labeled as being effective for three months. Currently, FrontLine only seems to be effective for about two weeks because the fleas have developed a resistance to the Flea-canstockphoto5849153chemical.

Dr. Cloutier prefers to use a flea preventive that uses a growth inhibitor instead of a toxic pesticide. These products don’t kill the flea, but prevent them from reproducing. This product is administered to our dogs as an edible tablet they eat and for our cats is injected. When a flea feeds upon their blood, the flea consumes the growth inhibitor. The growth inhibitor prevents the flea from developing their endoskeleton and their eggs won’t hatch.

Some people worry about the growth inhibitor products because they are a chemical. Also, they are not just applied to our pet externally; they ingest the product or it is injected into them. The growth inhibitor prevents the flea from making chitin, a derivative of glucose. Mammals do not make chitin or have chitin in their systems; therefore, they are not affected by this chemical.

Fleas and ticks are very different creatures so, in some ways, it makes no sense to use the same product on both. Ticks live 99% of their life outside in the wild. They get on our pet for a couple of hours, drop off, and then go live in the external environment. The bulk of their life-cycle occurs in the wilderness which gives us very little opportunity to kill them. Fleas, on the other hand, love living in our homes and on our pets. Most of their life-cycle occurs on our pets.

It’s important to remember that most of the products we use to control fleas and ticks on our pets are toxic pesticides. They not only kill the fleas and ticks, but also have the potential to make our pets ill or even kill them if they are not used properly. Some of these products are only available from a veterinarian. Some can be ordered on-line or purchased in pet stores, as well as grocery stores and convenience stores. Too many people assume that since these products can be purchased so easily, they 1) must be effective and 2) must be safe for all applications. Unfortunately, neither is true.

A small number of these products, the growth inhibitors, are considered drugs. This means they must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These drugs are approved for use on a healthy animal, in a specific application, on a specific species, and at a specific dose per weight. This is also assuming it is the only product you are using. None of the other products are drugs, but are pesticides. This means that they are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When evaluating a pesticide, the EPA’s primary focus is on protecting the environment from chemicals. Typically these products are not tested as stringently as drugs, nor are they tested when used with other chemical products.

Evaluating which products will be the safest and most effective with your unique family of pets is something that your veterinarian is better equipped to do than anyone else. Your veterinarian knows your pet’s health history and, if you inform them, information about others in your home as well as environmental factors that need to be considered when selecting these products. For these reasons, we recommend that everyone talk to their veterinarian before using these products.

Many people choose to make decisions regarding flea and tick preventatives without their veterinarians input. This is why the number one call to the National Animal Poison Control Center is about reactions to flea products. The number of pets that become sick, or even die due to inappropriate use of flea and tick products in the US is alarmingly high. It is not because these products are bad, but because people use the product differently than intended. Either they don’t read the instructions, use too much of the product, use the product on an inappropriate species or use the product with another product that has a cumulative toxic effect. Many people are unaware that some of the products designed for use on dogs are very toxic to cats – at any dose.

The key things to remember are: fleas and tick are here to stay, they can be a big problem and can affect both humans as well as our pets, and the best source of information you have for helping you decide what products are best for your pet, and for you, is your veterinarian.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Ticks! & New Products to Keep Them Awayhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/05/28/ticks-new-products-to-keep-them-away/

Pet Health and Wellness – Internal Parasites – Wormshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/04/24/pet-health-and-wellness-internal-parasites-worms/

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Worms, Fleas,  and Ticks, Oh My!-Parasites & Your Pets with Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow2016-04-23-Worms_Fleas_Ticks_Oh_My-Parasites_and_Your_Pets_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

 Ick! A Tick! -with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-06-13-Ick_Ticks_w_Dr_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-05-03-External_ParasitesFleas-Ticks-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

Internal Parasites – Worms with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-04-26-Internal_ParasitesWorms-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

©2017, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Pet Health and Wellness – Internal Parasites – Worms

This page is based on an episode of The Woof Meow Show which aired on April 26th, 2014. Don Hanson and Kate Dutra talk with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic about hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, tapeworms and the scariest of all the internal parasites; heartworm. We discuss the importance of protecting your pet and your family from these parasites and the safest and most effective means of accomplishing this protection. You can listen to the show by <clicking here>. You can listen to a more recent show on this topic by <clicking here>.

If you are concerned that your pet may have any type of internal parasite, please see your veterinarian rather than trying to treat your pet on your own. Your veterinarian is trained to help choose the safest and most effective treatments for your pet and will take care to consider how the treatment of one pet may affect people in your home as well as other pets and other species. The number one reason the National Animal Poison Control Center receives calls is because people have inappropriately used a product for treating fleas on their pet.

Internal parasites that affect our pets may pose a significant problem for our four legged friends and can also be contagious to humans. There are two main types of parasites; those that live in the GI tract and those that live in other parts of the body. When considering worms in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats, we are usually referring to the following types; hook worms, round worms, whip worms, and tape worms. The other worm we will be discussing is the heartworm, which migrates through the body and into the heart.

While both dogs and cats may host the whipworm parasite, feline whipworms are uncommon in North America. Whipworms are typically contracted through the ingestion of contaminated matter (soil, food, water, feces and animal flesh) and can survive in the environment from months to years. Whipworms may cause significant damage to the intestinal tract resulting in bowel inflammation and bloody diarrhea, or it can also be asymptomatic. It is often associated with dehydration, anemia and weight loss in dogs.

Hookworms are very small and barely visible to the naked eye. They typically attach to the small intestine and feed on blood and tissue fluids from the host animal. The primary concern for hookworms is the development of anemia and weight loss. As with whipworms, hookworms are more prevalent in our canine companions and often result in more damage to our pet’s GI tract.

More commonly known but less harmful internal parasites are the tapeworms and roundworms. Tapeworms are the size of a grain of rice and are often spotted under our pet’s tail, near the anus or in their fecal matter. Several segments can come out together, in which case they look more like a piece of linguine with horizontal lines running through it. Our pets can get tapeworms two different ways; from ingesting prey that has tapeworms, such as a mouse, or from ingesting fleas, which carry the tapeworm egg. If our pet has fleas and they groom or bite at themselves, they may inadvertently ingest the fleas thus becoming infected with tapeworms. While it is rare for humans to get tapeworms, as it requires the ingestion of a flea, it does sometimes occur, primarily in children.

To continue with the food analogies, roundworms look similar to a piece of spaghetti. Tapeworms and roundworms don’t usually cause a lot of weight loss unless your pet is very infected; butt scooting may be a sign if your pet’s anus is irritated by tapeworms. The primary concern for roundworms is the possibility of stunting growth in puppies as the roundworms eat the partially digested food in the intestinal tract. Humans can contract roundworms if the eggs are inadvertently swallowed. Once an animal has a round worm in their body, some of the worms will move from the intestinal tract into muscle tissue where they remain dormant and inactive until the hormone levels change during pregnancy. The newly awakened worms may then transfer into the offspring through the placenta before they are even born or via the mammary glands during nursing.

All of these worms produce microscopic eggs that are shed in your pet’s feces in the litterbox or in your yard. Even if you cleanup after your pet religiously, there will still be some of these eggs in the environment in incredibly large numbers. Roundworms can shed up to 1,000,000 eggs per gram of feces. The FDA estimates that the average dog excretes 0.75lbs of feces per day. That’s 340 grams which means your dog may shed as many as 340 million roundworm eggs per day!

The fact is, in most cases if you took a shovel full of dirt from anywhere in your yard and analyzed it, you would find eggs for these parasitic worms. In almost all cases puppies and kittens are born with worms, which is why they are routinely wormed when you first get them.

Dr. Cloutier recommends that puppies be wormed at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 16 weeks of age to make sure that the worms are “wiped out” and so that your yard does not become contaminated with worm eggs. While no one intentionally ingests worm eggs, if you are playing in the yard, pick up a ball that lands in the grass, and then pickup and eat or drink something, there is an excellent chance you will ingest some worm eggs.

Statistics indicate that 1 in 7 people in the US will show an exposure to roundworms if they are tested. In poorer countries it is estimated that 50% of the population would test positive for roundworms.  Since round worms can migrate through the body, they can also cause severe liver damage, blindness and other life threatening problems.

Intestinal worms in our pets are very easy to prevent, if we do it faithfully. A simple once a month treatment can prevent against all types of worms. Why do we need to do this every month? Because our dogs are outside every day, walking barefoot on the ground and picking up things on the ground with their mouth. They’re not only in our backyard, but we take them other places as well; the dog park, Bangor Forest, hiking trails and many other areas where other people take their dogs. All of those places carry parasites in the soil, and more so if some of the dogs that visit there are not on a monthly worm preventative.  If you cat is an indoor only cat and you have no other pets, you may want to talk to your veterinarian and see if they believe a monthly worm preventative is necessary.

Heartworm falls into the category of worms that exist outside of the GI tract and is a scary internal parasite. Heartworm can be transmitted across species, including but not limited to dogs, cats and humans. It is transmitted via a mosquito that has become infected when they bit wildlife or a pet that is already infected. An infected mosquito typically deposits about four microfilariae (worm larva) when they bite. Statistically one of those four worms will make it to the heart of our pet where it will grow to be an adult worm, growing to about a foot long and living in the right side of our pet’s heart. The migration to the heart and development into adult heartworms typically takes about six months.

If your pet’s heart has both male and female worms, they will start to reproduce, which then means they can infect mosquitoes that bite them and then those mosquitoes can go on and infect other animals. As the worm population grows it can cause problems in the heart and pulmonary arteries; killing the worms to get rid of them is not a simple matter because of where they are located. The dead worms will pass into our pet’s lungs where they can cause additional problems. While heartworm is usually treatable, it can take several months.

We are seeing more and more heartworm in Maine. In certain areas of the southern United States it is estimated that fifty percent of all animals not on a preventative have heartworm. We currently don’t have that high of an incidence in Maine because many pet parents do use a preventative but also because our climate limits the amount of time mosquitoes are active.  However, as well-meaning people and rescue groups bring more dogs up from the South, we bring some dogs into Maine with heartworm.

If no dogs in a neighborhood are carrying heartworm, the percentage of mosquitoes in that community carrying heartworm will be less than 1%. However, if there is a dog that is positive for heartworm in your neighbor’s yard, research suggests that 60% of the mosquitoes in that yard will be carrying heartworm and just a couple houses away, 20% to 30% of the mosquitoes will be carrying heartworm. This is very much a community problem.

If you are adopting a pet from the South, you want to make sure that they are tested for heartworm before they are transported to Maine and again after they have been in Maine for 6 months, and then annually. This is necessary, because there is a period of time where a dog can test negative for heartworm but still have it.

Treating heartworm is a serious issue. It requires a very toxic, arsenic type compound, and your pet needs to be in otherwise good health before being treated. It takes a couple of months to treat and then you must keep your dog quiet for a month during the treatment. It is much easier to prevent heartworm than treat it, so why not just use a preventative?

Heartworm can be prevented by a monthly treatment for both dogs and cats, often with the same treatment you give them for intestinal worms. In Maine, it was typically recommended that a heartworm treatment be given monthly for six months. However, some of the heartworms have become resistant to the preventatives, so manufacturers have had to change their labels to read “Use for six months after the last possible exposure” which effectively means, to be most effective we should be using a heartworm preventative 12 months out of the year even in our cold, frigid state. The heartworm preventatives are very safe, very effective and easy to do. One is even listed as safe for pregnant and lactating animals which suggests a very high degree of safety.

Even indoor cats require protection from heartworm. There is a certain species of mosquito that prefers to get into our homes and also tends to bite cats and carry heartworm. There was a year at the Veazie Veterinary Clinic, probably about ten years ago, where they actually saw more indoor cats test positive for heartworm than dogs.

It should be noted that in the South, in the Mississippi River Valley, there is a type of heartworm that is completely resistant to the heartworm preventatives. Fortunately, it has not moved beyond that area yet.

Although not common, heartworm can be transmitted to people. Since humans are not natural hosts for the heartworm, the heartworm do not fully develop to the full size worms as they do in our pets, but they can pass to the lung and are sometimes mistaken for lung cancer.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Pet Health and Wellness – External Parasites – Ticks and Fleashttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/05/03/pet-health-and-wellness-external-parasites-ticks-and-fleas/

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Worms, Fleas,  and Ticks, Oh My!-Parasites & Your Pets with Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow2016-04-23-Worms_Fleas_Ticks_Oh_My-Parasites_and_Your_Pets_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

 Ick! A Tick! -with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-06-13-Ick_Ticks_w_Dr_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-05-03-External_ParasitesFleas-Ticks-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

Internal Parasites – Worms with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-04-26-Internal_ParasitesWorms-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

©2014, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>