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Only the Lonely

Does your dog chew, scratch, whine or bark when left alone? Or does your cat urinate in your bed or meow loudly? While more common in dogs than cats, you may be tempted to conclude your pet has separation anxiety. It's important to properly evaluate the behavior to avoid a misdiagnosis and delay in proper training or treatment to correct the issue as many of the behaviors and cues associated with separation anxiety can also be attributed to other medical or behavioral concerns.

Separation anxiety behaviors are very focused, occurring only when the pet is separated from her human. In dogs, they also seem frantic in nature and your pup may even show a disregard for personal safety, continuing even through injury to herself such as broken nails, scratches or cuts. A dog with true separation anxiety will focus her destructive behavior on windows or doors, or on attempting to get back to her human, such as escaping from a kennel. Or a dog with separation anxiety may exhibit her stress by eliminating in the house or through excessive vocalization such as barking, whining or howling. However, it is important to determine if the behavior is the result of an outside stimulus, such as cars driving by or the mailman knocking on the door or if it is truly the result of a mild separation distress or a true separation anxiety. At Foley Boulevard Animal Hospital, we’re here to help!

Often, separation anxiety in cats can manifest as loud vocalization or improper elimination, such as urinating in your bed or in your laundry. While you may be tempted to scold your cat, it's important to understand the situation from his point of view. As long as you've brought him in and we've ruled out any medical concerns such as a urinary tract infection, your cat is trying to help you find your way home by doing the feline equivalent of leaving a breadcrumb trail. Cats may also be over-enthusiastic in their greeting when a pet parent returns, head butting or being continuously underfoot. Another way cats exhibit separation anxiety is by hiding out. While a pet parent may interpret this as normal aloof cat behavior, it is the cat's way of dealing with being stressed. Often, cats are fine with short separations, such as when you need to be at work, but exhibit anxious behaviors if left alone for longer periods, such as a family vacation, so you may not be aware of your cat's need for reassurance that you will return until after that first big trip. In either species, a true separation anxiety will mean that the only thing that will stop the behavior is the return of the pet parent.

When dealing with behavior issues that could be attributed to separation anxiety or another factor, it is important to determine the root cause of the issue. Improperly diagnosing your pet as having separation anxiety can mean inappropriately addressing the behavior and increasing the frustration level for both you and your beloved pet while failing to resolve the behavioral issues. By the same token, misinterpreting your pet's separation anxiety behaviors for other behavioral issues could lead to the sad conclusion that your pet is not a good fit in your home and family and result in her surrender to another family or shelter, increasing her potential for developing true separation anxiety. The suspicion that your pet may have separation anxiety makes it important to consult with us at Foley Boulevard Animal Hospital to verify the concern and set up a program to appropriately address the situation. Just as with many issues our pets face, there are a variety of options for treatment and alleviation of symptoms, such as behavior modification therapies, pheromone diffusers (Adaptil or Feliway, depending on your pet’s species) and other prescription options that are available in our clinic. The main thing would be to ensure your furry friend is getting the treatment that is right for her level of separation anxiety and that it alleviates both her symptoms and the frustration you both naturally experience due to the situation.

If your pet is exhibiting signs of true separation anxiety, we urge you to make an appointment by calling 763-755-3595 to discuss the issue and create a plan to ease her distress. It will take time and patience, but both you and your four-legged friend will be happier when she is able to tolerate being left alone.

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The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Having Pets

Pet owners believe that their lives are enriched by owning a pet, but did you know even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that having a pet is good for you? Pet ownership and companionship can prevent you from feeling lonely, give you more opportunities for socialization, and give you a sense of love and pride from taking such good care of your pet. In fact, just petting your dog or cat can immediately lower your stress level!

Pets have been proven to lower anxiety and depression, especially for people who are prone to these mental health conditions or who have suffered through a traumatic event. One reason for this is that the presence of a pet changes a person’s focus from his or her inward thoughts to taking care of a dependent animal.

Sharing your life and home with a dog, cat, or other four-legged or feathered friend offers many important physical health benefits as well. According to the CDC, some of these include reduced blood pressure, reduced triglyceride level, and reduced cholesterol. Additionally, owning a dog provides opportunities for you to get out of the house and exercise by taking your dog for a walk. Even playing with your cat can give you some much-needed physical activity.

Before You Make the Commitment

As wonderful as these benefits are, make sure that you’re ready for the responsibilities of pet ownership if you’re thinking about bringing a new animal into your home. For example, consider whether you have the time, patience, and energy to housetrain a new puppy or deal with the behavioral issues of a cat who suffered neglect in his last home. It’s important to understand that bringing a pet home is a lifetime commitment that can be as long as 20 years.

Foley Boulevard Animal Hospital also recommends that you spend time researching the health, nutrition, behavior, and exercise needs of the specific breed of pet you want to adopt. The better prepared you are at the beginning, the more likely it is you will experience all of the physical and emotional benefits of having a pet in your home. Plus, your preparation will help ease your new incoming new family member’s transition, too!

How to Help Your Pet Remain Mentally Sharp

Pets age much more quickly than humans do. In fact, dogs age the equivalent of 15 years for the first year and varying years, depending on size, for every year after that. That means you will be dealing with middle-aged and senior health issues in years, not decades. Fortunately, you can do several things to help your dog, cat, or other pet keep a sharp mind well into her senior years.

Food puzzles and toys that require your pet to problem-solve before receiving a treat are both a great option. Setting aside time each day for exercise and personal interaction with your pet is important as well. If you really want to see your pet think, hide a toy somewhere in the house and tell him to go find it. Placing a treat in or near the toy will emit a smell that allows your pet to follow his nose.

Our veterinarians are also happy to answer your questions and offer suggestions for other activities you can do with your pet to increase mental stimulation. Additionally, with regular exams, we’ll be able to help you on this journey and address pet health concerns at their most treatable stages. Call us at 763-755-3595 to make your pet’s appointment.

“Healthy Pets, Healthy People.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Feb. 2018, www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html.
“How to Figure Out Your Dog's Age.” WebMD, WebMD, pets.webmd.com/dogs/how-to-calculate-your-dogs-age.


Image credit: Pixabay.com

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The Top Summer Safety Issues for Dogs and Cats

Now that summer is finally here, you and your pet can spend more time outdoors enjoying all that the season has to offer. Like the other three seasons, summer presents unique safety challenges for our companion animals. The good news is that you can enjoy a wonderful summer with your pet by taking a few simple precautions recommended by our Foley Boulevard Animal Hospital veterinarians.

While dozens of potential issues could arise in the warm weather season, here are the ones that pet owners encounter most frequently:

Fireworks season: Independence Day may be only one day, but the fireworks used to help celebrate it can last for weeks before and after the actual 4th of July. Many communities have other festivals that include fireworks throughout the summer. Unfortunately, the constant loud booms can terrify some dogs and cats. We encourage you to ask us about medication options if your pet is especially fearful and anxious of loud noises.

Outdoor barbeques: Cooking food outside is practically a rite of summer. From a pet’s perspective, the heavenly aromas may be too strong to resist. This can cause an otherwise well-mannered pet to try to grab meat off the grill, dig through the garbage, swipe food from guests, or become food possessive. It’s best to help your pet avoid temptation by keeping her in the house or kennel.

Lost Pets: The sound of fireworks, having the kids at home all day, and more people coming to the door are just some of the things that can make a pet feel over anxious or excited. This can cause him to dart out the door at the first opportunity. Without a microchip, statistics are not in favor of your pet returning home. Even a tag and collar can slip off or get caught on an object such as a fence. When a pet has a microchip, the person finding your pet can take them to the nearest veterinary clinic or animal shelter for scanning. Since the chip registry holds information you’ve provided, you’ll want to ensure that your contact information is current.

Increased Risk of Tick-Borne Diseases: According to the website Pets and Parasites, the population of ticks is especially high this year and it increases the risk of companion animals contracting a serious disease. This includes Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis. Prevention just makes sense. We carry several tick prevention products in our clinic. Our veterinarians are happy to help you choose the most appropriate one for your dog or cat.

These are just four potential summer hazards that your pet faces this summer. Please let us know if you have additional questions or schedule an appointment today by calling 763-755-3595. We wish you a fun, happy and safe summer!

Image credit: Pixabay

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Silver Muzzles and Golden Years

A baby’s first birthday is a bittersweet milestone for parents because it’s hard to believe how much their son or daughter changed in just a year. When compared with the lifespan of our pets, it’s important to note that our pets age more quickly than we do. Although our pets reach their “golden years” at varying times based on breed, size and species, at Foley Blvd. Animal Hospital  we recommend bi-annual preventive care exams starting when your pet reaches his senior years. Because of pet’s accelerated aging, new health concerns can appear in very subtle ways, and early detection is the key to keeping your pet as healthy as possible.
 
Most Common Health Conditions of Older Pets
Dogs and cats experience many of the same age-related health conditions that people do. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the most prevalent ones include:
 
Cancer: Cancer is the number one killer of both dogs and cats over age 10, with mast cell tumors most common in dogs and leukemia in cats. Some signs that your older pet could have cancer include slow-healing wounds, behavior changes, weight loss, fatigue, and lack of appetite.
 
Kidney disease: Healthy kidneys are essential for proper waste elimination. When the kidneys become diseased, your pet’s urine and feces remain trapped inside her body. This can cause significant pain, vomiting, weight loss, incontinence, and greater thirst.
 
Diabetes: Pets are becoming just as inactive and obese as people are. In fact, more than half of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. This increases the risk of diabetes, but a pet doesn’t have to weigh too much to develop the disease. Some signs to look for include increased thirst, increased urination, irritability, fatigue, weight loss, and vision disturbances.
 
Arthritis: Your pet can develop arthritis when cartilage, which acts as a cushioning between bones, starts to wear down. This results in the bones rubbing together and causing pain. You may notice that your dog or cat uses some limbs at the exclusion of others, walks with a stiff gait, seems reluctant to jump, or vocalizes loudly when you pick him up.
 
Senility: Mild cognitive impairment is so common in the senior years that approximately half of all dogs and cats show some signs of it. You may notice a change in personality or a regression in previously learned skills. It’s important to remain patient and not punish your pet for something she can’t control.
 
Maximize Your Pet’s Health in the Senior Years
Unlike people who can voice their discomfort, animals have a natural tendency to hide when they feel sick or in pain. Regular preventive care is essential because it allows us to detect health issues you could easily miss. Between appointments, you can improve your pet’s quality of life with joint medication, supplements, toys to keep cognition sharp, and many other inexpensive pet supplies. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at (763) 755-3595 with questions about senior pet care or to schedule an appointment.
 
 
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Credit: jirousova/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

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