Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Skunks and rabies

Skunk mating season is upon us, so be sure to supervise your dogs carefully when they are outside. Getting skunked is no fun for dog or owner! Skunks have been more active recently; I smelled one at my house last week when I let the dogs out in the morning and later I saw what I presumed to be the culprit, a freshly killed skunk in the road nearly a mile away.

Should your dog get skunked, you can try this recipe for decreasing the odor:

1 quart hydrogen peroxide

1/2 cup baking soda

2 tsp dishwashing liquid

Mix together and rub over entire coat. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. DO NOT wet the dog first. DO NOT attempt to store once it is mixed- it will explode. This may lighten the dog's coat- just like a peroxide blonde! I have also used it with some success on dogs who have gotten into sewers or other stinky things.

In Kentucky, skunks are our most common animal diagnosed with rabies. There have already been 10 confirmed cases of rabies in Ky in 2009; 5 of these were in Fayette county (Lexington area) which is usually an area with multiple cases each year. 6 of the 10 cases so far this year were in skunks; one was in a dog, one in a horse. In Kenton, Boone, and Campbell counties we are most likely to see rabies in a bat. Kenton had confirmed cases of bat rabies in 2001, 2002, and 2006; Boone in 2004, and Campbell in 2001. Over the past 10 years Kentucky has typically seen 20-45 cases of rabies per year. In 2008 there were 6 cases in dogs and 1 in a cat; in 2007 5 dogs and 2 cats; and in 2006 5 dogs and 4 cats.

Make certain your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations. Should your pet have a bite wound of unknown origin, their rabies vaccine should be boostered. If you plan to travel with your pet in the Lexington area, you would be wise to carry a copy of your rabies certificate with you.

Also remember if your pet needs to be euthanized for any reason, is not current on its rabies vaccine, and has bitten someone recently, it MUST either go through a quarantine period first or have its brain submitted for testing after death. This is a legal requirement, not a requirement of our hospital. So be sure to keep your pet up to date to avoid any unpleasant issues around an already difficult time.

And be very careful in approaching wildlife and in allowing your pets to approach. Rabies is a real disease and it does really happen in this day and age!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The dreaded nail trim...

One of the most universally hated procedures we do is the nail trim. Clients hate to do them at home, dogs hate to have them done, and I hate to do them on someone else's dogs ;-). Amazing that such a simple, easily trained procedure can be the cause of such angst.

Recently there has been a lot of TV time spent promoting a product called the "Pedipaws" and it's cousin the "Peticure". These products are both basically nail GRINDERS as opposed to nail CLIPPERS. In the TV commercials, the dogs relax on the couch and let their owners effortlessly grind the nails away....but we've all been around the block a few times and fallen prey to those infomercials before, right? Flowbee, anyone?

Here's an entertaining video about what REALLY might happen if you try one of these products

Ok, here's the skinny on these products. For years show groomers have used nail grinders on their dogs. These can be either products specifically made for the purpose, or many use a dremel drill with a sandpaper cylinder or grinding stone. I use a dremel mini mite cordless on my own dogs; for a larger dog you probably need a full sized one. The main difference in the TV products is they have a "guard" which is supposed to protect you from trimming too short. Now, I haven't personally used these products, only looked at them. To me the guard does not look like it is going to prevent anything and I am a bit worried that some dogs could be at risk for getting their nail caught in it. However, the guard is removable. The products themselves should be fine to use, they look a little less sturdy to me than a typical dremel or nail grinder, but they're also probably a little cheaper.

The advantage to these over trimming your dogs nails is you can get them a bit shorter and a LOT blunter, so no more sharp edges. This is great for older folks with thin skin or those with expensive hardwood floors and large dogs. Some dogs object less to them than to the nail clippers, but this is not universally true. If the nails are really long, you still need to clip them before you grind or you will be there for days. I see absolutely no reason to use them in cats, who do best with human toenail clippers (the slightly larger ones, not the teeny fingernail ones). You can get cat nails plenty blunt and short with these.

BUT just like using nail clippers you have to TRAIN your dog to tolerate it. Sorry folks, no magic bullet here. And I do not dremel nails for my patient as a general rule unless they are sedated for surgery (we alway trim nails any time we sedate a pet, sometimes I will use my own dremel on dogs I think I can do a much better job on provided that mine is charged up and in the clinic, and it's not a big dog with thick nails- mine is too small for that). Training a dog to tolerate nail trims or grinding is generally not that hard to do, especially if you start with a puppy, but it does take some time and persistance. (Personally I think if you are not willing to invest at least that much time in training a dog you should look at other options like a goldfish, but that' s just me). We generally talk about how to do this with all of our new puppy clients at least once during their puppy visits. However, below I will post a video that is quite good for teaching a dog to tolerate nail trimming (essentially the same procedure for nail grinding, I just add a step in which I start by turning the grinder on every night while I feed the dogs so they start to associate the noise with something pleasant). One additional caveat; if you have a dog with hair legs or belly, you must be careful not to catch their fur in the grinder as it can get wound up quite tightly very quickly. One easy safeguard is to take an old kneehigh stocking and put it over their leg; poke the nails through the end or cut the very tip off; this will confine the leg hair and keep it out of your way. Here's the nail training video: 


This video was the winner a year or so ago in a contest for videos of positive training techniques. I think it is quite good. If you are dealing with a young puppy, I do add in one thing that is slightly less positive but certainly not harmful in any way; I like to hold the foot just tight enough that they can't pull it away and wait for the pup to sit quietly (this is best done up off the floor, a washer or dryer top works well). If they want to wiggle, that's fine, I just hold the foot and wait till they're done. Sometimes the wiggling can get quite dramatic and they will twist themselves inside out. Not what I would recommend to the puppy, but again, I just wait until they relax, then I praise, treat, and release the foot. The dog learns very quickly that nothing bad happens if they hold still, that struggling does NOT get them what they want (release), and that cooperation is in their best interest. This is best done with a young puppy as with a larger, older dog who is determined it can turn into a rodeo which we would prefer not to do. However, I really do like them to learn early that fighting me is not to their advantage and never gets them what they want. The timing of your praise is very critical; it is best to keep your mouth shut and just sit there while they wiggle as anything you say to try to soothe them sounds like praise and reinforces the wiggling. As SOON as they relax for a second praise and loosen your hold a little, offer a tiny treat with your free hand. If you get the timing right, for most puppies this takes 2-3 5 minute sessions before they figure out what you want. There is the occasional one who is a bit harder core (most often an older pup, in which case fall back and follow the video above and table this for a while).

Hope this helps! A few five minute sessions as a puppy can save you and the dog a lot of stress through the rest of their lives, and your vet will love you for it. Even if you prefer not to trim them yourself, do the work to accustom them to the foot handling and half the battle is over.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More peanut butter recalls...and a chickadee

More peanut butter recalls keep coming in and there are some new ones involving dog treats. Most of them seem to be peanut butter stuffed rawhides, cowhooves, or bones, so if you use anything like that be sure to check the link below, scroll down to "pet food recalls" and make sure none of your brands are involved. It might not hurt to check out the human ones too!

And just for fun, here are some pictures of a cute little chickadee I took today. Those guys are hard to catch, they don't hold still very long unless they're on the ugly plastic feeder (not very photogenic!). I KNEW there was a reason I hadn't bothered to clean out my planters!
And here's a picture of the creek, visible again now that much of the ice is melted. The creek itself is still mostly frozen though; up until this year it never froze, but whatever they did with their bulldozers this summer has had a big effect.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Obedience explained...Utility

Ah, we are back to obedience! Yesterday we went to another show n go and I was able to tape Andy's utility routine successfully this time.

Utility includes the most fun exercises of all of the obedience classes. Unfortunately, they also are the most difficult to get a dog to perform consistently and well under varying conditions. While many dogs learn to become extremely consistent in open and qualify the majority of the time, far fewer ever become quite as reliable in utility. Even in the "B" classes on any given day it often ends up being "survival of the fittest" and about a 50% qualifying rate is typical. In "A", with green dogs and handlers who have not finished an OTCh, the Q rate is closer to 5-10%. It's not unusual to have a class of 15-20 A dogs and not have a single qualifier.

It was about 10 years between retiring Levi, my first dog who finished his UDX, from obedience, and starting to seriously think about competing in utility with Andy. I forgot just how darn HARD it is! Teaching the exercises for the most part is not that difficult and Andy had known almost all of them to one degree or another for quite a long time. But the utility exercises require the dog to work away from the handler and to think through situations and make some decisions, and getting them to pull it all together in a strange place on any given day is tough.

The utility exercises are:

-Signal exercise (a heel off leash pattern at the end of which you stand/stay your dog and go to the other end of the ring, then ask him to down, sit, come, and finish. All commands in this exercise are hand signals and a verbal will result in an NQ, although you MIGHT be able to get by with a verbal command to heel if you lose the dog during the pattern- you'll take a big hit though).
-Scent articles- you provide a set of five metal and five leather dumbells; you will keep one of each and handle it to put your scent on it while the steward places the rest across the ring. The dog is sent to the pile twice, once for the leather article you have scented and once for the metal (only one scented article at a time is in the pile). He must correctly identify and retrieve the scented article.
-Directed Retrieve- three gloves are put out at the end of the ring as you and your dog stand with your back to them. There is one in the middle and one in each corner. The judge will instruct you which number glove to retrieve and you must pivot and send the dog to retrieve the correct glove.
-Moving stand- You begin heeling at one end of the ring and on the judge's command, without stopping, ask your dog to stay in a standing position and continue another 8 feet or so. The judge will then examine your dog (run his hands over him) and the dog is expected to stand without moving his feet. You then call the dog directly to heel position.
-Directed jumping- a bar jump and a high jump are placed about midway down the ring, one on either side. The dog is asked to go out between the jumps to a point at least 8 feet beyond them, stop on the handler's command, turn and sit. The handler, on the judge's instruction, then directs the dog to take the appropriate jump and come to front. This is then repeated for the second jump.

When I got Andy, I had intended for him to primarily be an obedience dog but when he was pretty young we got sidetracked into agility. He LOVED it and I was hooked. Up until he was about a year old, we worked on heeling and focused attention but I didn't think he was ready to show quite yet (now I see those old tapes and wish like heck I'd had him in the ring then!). Eventually I thought asking for that extreme focused attention might be causing us some issues in agility so we stopped working it for a while, although we still worked off and on on teaching the rest of the obedience exercises. Our Q rate in agility is awful since there is a big discrepancy between his speed and mine, but we were having fun regardless. Finally when he turned 7 it hit me that I had better get my act in gear and get his CD. He did that pretty quickly with reasonable scores although we didn't put the work in to do as well as my original goal had been (he did blow an all breed HIT on his second or third try, can't remember which, at a horrible muddy outdoor show when I had to call him twice on the recall.. AAAGH! He was easily 3 points ahead of the dog who ended up getting it...). A few months later he was back in the ring in open and earned his CDX (waiting for second commands became my nemesis with this dog...he wanted SO much to make sure he was right!). When it came to utility though we got hung up for a long time because I could not get him to do the signal stand. When I stopped, he insisted on sitting. I worked on that problem for almost two years and FINALLY got it fixed (I'm not really even sure how, it just seemed to "click" for him one day). I started showing him in utility only at my two home clubs' shows, knowing he wasn't really ready but hoping I would "luck" into a leg. Right. When he was almost ready to turn 10, it suddenly hit me that I had better get my act together or he was going to be too old. At that point, he was qualifying consistently on all the exercises except the directed retrieve (gloves), usually not that difficult an exercise but tough for Andy as he never REALLY learned to "mark" the glove you were sending him to. We got some help with that at a Laura Romanik seminar and did several shows where we had such near misses and missed qualifying by the skin of our teeth. We were almost there...and then suddenly he fell apart. In retrospect, I believe that around this time his hearing started to fail. At any rate, his barking became a big issue (previously he only barked once on each go out) and he got to be REALLY bad about barking when he got to the article pile before settling down to work.

At this point, Andy will be 12 in June and I would estimate only has about 10% of his hearing left (the AKC rules state that a dog cannot be "without useful hearing" and still be shown; I figure he still hears his clicker, his squeakies, and some of the things I say to him so he still falls under the legal category). His barking not only got worse in obedience when his hearing started to go, but also around the house, so I don't think we are likely to be able to fix it in the time frame we have left. He has two utility legs and only needs one more qualifying score so we are crossing our fingers he can do it when the spring shows start back up! He has started to have some heart and kidney issues as well, so our time left for him to be able to compete may be getting short.

You can see him below at a local show and go yesterday; this is what we call Andy's "freestyle" utility interpretation! He is going to loose BIG points for barking, and along with the aging and hearing loss he now has a tendency to anticipate (so you will not see him do an actual moving stand, in practice we always keep heeling instead. As you can see, he still knows where he is supposed to stop and getting him NOT to until I give the command is tough!). But he still has tons of attitude and enthusiasm and he is so much fun to train, even if he is an old man!