In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from March 28th, 2015 Kate and Don talk with Dr. Munzer about traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture and how it can be an excellent complementary therapy for pain management, skin issues, seizure disorders and many other issues.
Using a carrier is the safest way to transport an animal from your home to another location. I would particularly discourage anyone from transporting a cat that is not secured in a carrier. No matter how well behaved your cat is, if you are in an accident your cat will be terrified and will do everything they can to get away.
Unfortunately, most cats only see their carrier moments before they are forced into them to be taken on a car ride, usually to the veterinarian, groomer or boarding kennel. Often the end result is a cat that runs and hides the minute they are aware of the presence of the carrier. Finding and extracting a cat from a hiding place without getting scratched or bitten can be a prolonged and stressful process; one that is terrifying for your cat and frustrating for you. Wouldn’t your cat be happier and your life significantly easier if your cat enjoyed their carrier and perhaps even walked right in? Getting there is not as complicated as you might think.
So how do you get your cat to like their carrier?
Make sure you have a carrier that is safe– If you do not already have a carrier; an airline style carrier is the preferred choice. They are usually made of plastic and have a wire door at the front and sometimes a second wire door on the top. Don’t scrimp when you make this purchase. You want a carrier with doors that can be secured and stay secured. Card board boxes labeled as cat carriers can work, but they are not nearly as safe and we have known many cats to escape from these. Soft-sided carriers are easier to store and are lighter, but in the case of an accident offer your cat little protection
Make sure that your cat finds the carrier to be comfortable – By itself, a plastic carrier is not going to be the most comfortable place; however, you can make it quite posh by inserting a blanket or a pillow that your cat already enjoys.
Leave the carrier out so that your cat can explore it – If your cat is like most cats, they love boxes, bags and other things that they can explore and hide in. Take the door off your carrier and place the carrier in an area that your cat frequents. Do not try to coax the cat into the carrier, let them explore it if and when they are ready. To make the carrier even more rewarding, put a small dish with a tablespoon of your cat’s favorite canned food or some favorite treats at the back of the carrier. Now getting in the crate will be very rewarding. If your cat has favorite toys that they will chase and catch, toss a toy in the carrier and let them go get it and play with it. If your cat is hesitant about the carrier talk to your veterinarian or favorite pet care provider about Feliway®, a feline pheromone which has a calming effect on cats.
Keep the carrier out and keep rewarding your cat for using it – Leave the carrier out as an alternative resting place for your cat and continue to reward them for its use by occasionally; feeding them in the carrier, tossing treats in the carrier, and tossing toys in the carrier,
Put the door back on the carrier and practice carrying your cat – Put the door back on the carrier and continue to reward your cat for going in and exploring. After they are used to the door being back on, toss a treat into the carrier and after the cat goes in gently and quietly close the door, wait a few seconds, open the door and wait for your cat to come out. Repeat this a couple of times per day until your cat is used to hopping in and out of the carrier. When this becomes routine, close the door, pick the carrier up, hold it for a brief period and set it back down. Practice this for several days and then start carrying the cat around in the carrier. Eventually get to the point where you can get the cat in the carrier, carry them out to the car, and then immediately bring them back inside and let them out.
Use the carrier to transport your cat to the vet or kennel – Many cats do not travel well and may get car sick. Make sure your cat’s favorite blanket or towels is in the carrier and if you have some Feliway, spray it on the blanket a good thirty minutes before getting the cat in the carrier. Secure the carrier in your car so it is not thrown in case you need to stop fast, and cover the carrier with another blanket to limit visual stimulus. When you bring your cat back home leave the carrier out and continue to reward them for its use.
With this little extra time and attention your cat can soon be an expert traveler. The time spent today helping your feline friend adjust to liking its carrier will pay off immensely in the future when it comes to getting your cat where it needs to go.
This great infographic from our friends at MightyDogGraphics can serve as a reminder as to how to get your cat prepared to travel. You can download the graphic as a PDF file by clicking on it.
Canine cough or kennel cough is actually a lay term for Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC). There are many bacteria and viruses which can cause this illness. The most prevalent of the bacteria that cause this illness is Bordetella bronchiseptica. This illness involves an inflammation of a dog’s trachea and upper bronchii and is similar to bronchitis in a human. The passage of air over the inflamed tissues can be very irritating which causes the dog to cough.
Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex is highly contagious to other dogs. It can be transmitted through the air from one dog to the next or by contact with contaminated objects such as a common water dish at the dog park or in front of a dog-friendly store. Sitting next to an infected dog at a vaccination clinic is all it may take to catch canine cough. It’s basically transmitted the same ways as the “common cold” is transferred from one person to another. Just like people that work with the public, or like school children, the more dogs your dog associates with, especially those that are unvaccinated, the greater the opportunity to contract canine cough. That’s why the canine cough vaccine is often recommended for dogs that; frequent the dog park, attend daycare, are boarded or groomed, are in a training class, go to dog shows or dog sport events, visit the veterinarian frequently, or are just around lots of other dogs. Most boarding kennels, daycares and training classes require guests to be vaccinated for CIRDC.
The most typical symptom of canine cough is a persistent dry cough that almost sounds as if your dog is “honking” like a goose. When we adopted our dog Shed from the Dane County Humane Society many, many years ago, she started showing the symptoms of canine cough in a few days. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a flock of geese “honking” under the bed. Most of the time your dog will appear healthy except for the cough. They’ll eat normally and will still be active. They may gag and produce white foamy phlegm. Exercise and pressure from their collar against their trachea (from pulling on leash) may cause a bout of coughing.
If your dog is coughing repeatedly it’s a good idea to take them to the veterinarian. While canine cough often resolves on its own, there are several other infections, as well as cardiac issues, that cause coughing, which can be fatal if not treated. Pneumonia can result as a secondary infection to canine cough. Typical treatments for canine cough include a cough suppressant, and possibly antibiotics as secondary infections can occur from canine cough. It is also essential that you keep your dog away from other dogs while they have canine cough so that they do not spread the disease.
There are different types of vaccines for canine cough/CIRDC; however, because there are so many infectious agents that can cause the disease, a dog can be vaccinated and still get the disease. The vaccines do often reduce the severity of the disease. Vaccines can be injectable or given orally or intranasal. Dr. Ronald Schultz (Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) recommends that dogs that will be around other dogs be vaccinated annually with the intranasal vaccine which immunizes against Bordetella. Since the normal path of infection for these diseases is via the respiratory system, Dr. Schultz feels the intranasal approach, which immunizes via the respiratory system, is the most effective way to administer this vaccine.
A common call we receive goes like this: “We have a new puppy. She’s 11weeks old and has a lot of energy and is biting a lot as well as nipping at our ankles when we walk. We have tried spanking her butt, tapping her nose, and holding her on her back while holding her mouth shut. We continue to say “no biting”, but it doesn’t seem to help. She actually seems to be getting worse with my spouse and children and if anything it is causing her to be more aggressive.”
Don’t feel bad; you are not alone and I promise you, your puppy is not really a land shark in disguise.
Having a puppy biting and nipping at your heels can certainly be a very frustrating and painful experience and often takes some of the joy out of having a puppy in the first place; let’s face it, being bitten by those sharp little teeth hurts! That being said, the behavior, from the puppy’s perspective is a very normal one and right on target with their developmental period. Responding to this behavior by way of physical force was frequently recommended by dog trainers in the past, and unfortunately is too often still recommended by some trainers that have not kept up with the advances in the field of canine behavior.
Since typically, a puppy’s nipping behavior is repeated on a regular basis, they must find that behavior to be a rewarding one on some level. In an effort to eliminate the “problem biting,” people often inadvertently reward the behavior. In addition to the unintentional rewarding by humans, puppy biting is often a behavior that can be self-reinforcing.
Unfortunately, since we cannot ask the puppy why it finds the behavior rewarding, there is no way of having 100% certainty what the payoff is for each particular dog. However, if we look at typical canine instinctual behaviors we can make an educated guess. Dogs, as predators, are attracted by movement and are hard-wired to pursue things that are moving away from them. A swaying pants leg, robe, or dress can appear to be a very stimulating toy, tauntingly inviting any puppy to “latch on.” Some breeds, such as the herding breeds, often have more of a genetic predisposition towards the biting of feet and ankles.
This instinctually triggered nipping behavior often starts as a form of play and quickly escalates. A puppy may learn that when they grab our ankle they can get us to yelp, just like a squeaky toy, which they find extremely fun. No matter what the initial cause of the behavior, paying attention to the puppy in any manner (looking, touching or speaking to them) may be construed as a reward and at least from their perspective, participating in the play.
Your puppy’s increased aggression when you physically reprimand the biting may also be perceived as “rough play” and tacit approval from you to magnify the response. If the puppy feels threatened an escalation in aggression may be motivated by fear or anger and frustration. Attempts at correcting a puppy that is causing it to respond in fear or anger may result in a dog with serious behavioral and fear issues in the future.
Remember the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Examine the circumstances and the environment in which the nipping behavior occurs. Consider time of day, what you are doing, what the puppy is doing immediately before the behavior, the puppy’s activity level (tired, over-tired, hyper), and what else is occurring in the environment. Many puppies will “act up” when they are bored and not getting enough exercise or conversely, they are over-stimulated and not getting enough sleep. Look for triggers associated with the behavior so that they can be prevented in the future by managing the puppy and its environment. For example, if your puppy starts nipping when you want to end a play session, look at alternative ways to end play. A quick trip outside to “do its business,” followed by some down time in a crate would be one way that you could manage this behavior.
While prevention is one tool, we also need to ensure that the undesirable behavior is not being rewarded; this is often the most difficult part because it is our natural instinct to react and reaction (looking at, talking to, or touching the puppy) is usually rewarding. Put on some old worn out jeans and setup a situation where your puppy is likely to become a “land shark.” Make sure you have some tasty treats in your pockets to reward the behavior you like. When the puppy grabs at your pants leg, pretend you are a tree and stop. Do not look at, talk to, or touch your puppy. The very second the puppy lets go of your pants legs, quietly say “yes” to mark the behavior, and as long as your puppy is not biting, reach down and give it a treat.
If your puppy is one that likes to chase and nip at you from behind, perform the above exercise on leash, with the leash tethered to something secure, like a large piece of furniture. When you step out of range, your puppy will probably start barking in an attempt to gain attention. Continue to be a tree, ignoring the puppy until it stops barking and lunging on the leash. Quietly reach down and give the puppy a treat; alternatively you can play with the pup for a bit. If you choose to play be ready to completely ignore your puppy again when the play escalates to the point where it is too rough.
If your puppy has an extremely reliable sit behavior, “extremely reliable” meaning that you can say “sit” it once and only once and the dog will immediately respond on the first cue, then you could ask for a sit as a means of refocusing the dog. In this case by asking for a sit, you are using what is called a mutually exclusive behavior; a puppy cannot be sitting and “acting out” at the same time. This scenario illustrates how training for extremely reliable behaviors can be very useful.
Play biting and nipping is normal canine behavior for a puppy. It’s best to start working on this right at 8 weeks of age. If your puppy is 13 weeks of age or older and play biting is still a problem, contact a reward-based, force-free trainer for assistance.
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.