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Does your pet really benefit with rattlesnake vaccine?

A newsletter from the pharmacy department
Management and prevention of rattlesnake bites in pets.
 rattlesnake vaccine
Although the vaccine appears to be safe (1% injection site reactions), vaccinated animals must still be considered a veterinary emergency if bitten. This is due to the fact that 1) not all species of snakes are well covered by the vaccine 2) the dogs response to the vaccine is variable 3) the amount of venom may overwhelm even the highest titers and 4) the vaccine does not address secondary tissue necrosis or infection. While severe envenomation in vaccinated dogs may still require antitoxin, there does not appear to be a significant difference in the course of treatment if an animal is bitten. In addition, as of this writing there have not been any objective studies conducted to prove the efficacy of this vaccine.
Due to the vaccines questionable efficacy, cost and no substantial difference in acute therapy if bitten, the product is currently not advocated for animals seen at the VMTH.  However, in patients that are at very high risk, and in areas where treatment may be substantially delayed, the rattlesnake vaccine may buy time for the owner to get their animal to a veterinarian and may potentially decrease the overall severity of envenomation.  Although the VMTH does not stock the vaccine, many referring veterinarians often carry the vaccine.

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What to do about dogs freaking out over fireworks and other noises

dogs fearing noise

Allene Anderson with her foster dog, Wrigley, a golden retriever who suffers from noise aversion, at her home in Naperville, Ill. (Whitten Sabbatini / The New York Times)

By some estimates, at least 40 percent of dogs experience noise anxiety, which is most pronounced in the summer. Animal shelters report that their busiest day for taking in runaway dogs is July 5.

It is entirely possible that no one dreads the dog days of summer more than dogs themselves.

Sodden heat gathers itself into sudden barrages of pounding thunder, crackling lightning and pane-rattling rain. Drives dogs crazy, all that noise.

And then, on the Fourth of July: fireworks.

By some estimates, at least 40 percent of dogs experience noise anxiety, which is most pronounced in the summer. Animal shelters report that their busiest day for taking in runaway dogs is July 5.

It is entirely possible that no one dreads the dog days of summer more than dogs themselves.

Sodden heat gathers itself into sudden barrages of pounding thunder, crackling lightning and pane-rattling rain. Drives dogs crazy, all that noise.

And then, on the Fourth of July: fireworks.

By some estimates, at least 40 percent of dogs experience noise anxiety, which is most pronounced in the summer. Animal shelters report that their busiest day for taking in runaway dogs is July 5.
Veterinarians tell of dogs who took refuge in hiding places so tight that they got stuck, who gnawed on door handles, who crashed through windows or raced into traffic — all desperate efforts to escape inexplicable collisions of noise and flashing light. Ernie, a wired-hair pointer, was so terrified by thunderstorms that he would vault fences at his Maryland farm and run in a straight line for miles.

“It’s very serious,” said Dr. Melissa Bain, an associate professor of clinical animal behavior at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary

Medicine. “It’s a true panic disorder with a complete flight response.”

Over the years, a mishmash of remedies for noise anxiety have sprung up: homeopathic blends; a calming pheromone; CDs of thunderstorms mixed with Beethoven; swaddling jackets; even Prozac and Valium. But this month, the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for canine noise aversion (a term encompassing mild discomfort to phobia) came on the market. The drug, Sileo, inhibits norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with anxiety and fear response.

In the coming days, the annual onslaught of calls will pour into vets: “’The fireworks are happening and my dog will freak out, so I need something to stop that, and I need it right now!’” Bain said.

Some vets prescribe strong sedatives, but even if the immediate crisis is averted, the underlying phobia remains untreated.

Being startled by a loud noise is normal, for dogs as well as humans. But these dogs cannot settle back down. Even if most reactions are not as extreme as the dog who tears out its nails while frantically scratching a door, many dogs will cower, pace and defecate indoors.

Cats can have noise aversion, though reports are less common. Animal behavior experts say cats often seem more self-reliant and understated than dogs, so when they hide under beds during storms, owners may not read that response as unusual.

Veterinary behaviorists say that as years pass, dogs with noise aversion may associate one sensation with another: storm-phobic tremors can be set off merely by dark clouds.

And thunderstorms are complicated beasts. “There are significant pressure changes, frantic winds, massive electrical discharges, concussive sounds:

Dogs can hear above and below our auditory range,” said Dr. Peter H. Eeg, a veterinarian in Poolesville, Maryland, who has been reporting Sileo results in patients to Zoetis, the company that distributes the drug.

Wrigley, a 10-year-old golden retriever in Naperville, Illinois, started trembling three hours before a recent storm, said Allene Anderson, a foster caretaker of abandoned dogs.

“She was desperate to climb down my throat,” Anderson said. “I got down on the floor with her, and she clawed me. She couldn’t get close enough.” After the storm passed, Wrigley quaked for hours.

“If owners don’t understand what’s going through the dog’s mind,” Anderson said, “they shout and throw them in the basement. That just makes it worse.”

Countless other noises set off dogs: jackhammers, lawn mowers, coffee grinders. One vet said that even garments designed to cocoon dogs in a secured wrap can irritate some by the sound of Velcro flaps being ripped apart. A toddler’s shrieks freaked out Winnie, an Indiana bulldog; her owner, Dr. Sara L.

Bennett, a veterinary behaviorist, taught Winnie to relax with yoga breaths.

During a thunderstorm two years ago, Rebecca Roach was awakened at 3 a.m. by Stella, her 6-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, clambering on her chest, panting, whining and shaking.

“My instinct was to comfort her,” said Roach, who lives in Boyds, Maryland. “so I held her until the storm passed.”

But behavior specialists disagree about whether owners should comfort animals. Dr. Daniel S. Mills, a veterinarian at the University of Lincoln in England who is an expert on canine noise aversion, suggests that owners “acknowledge the dog but not fuss over it. Then show that the environment is safe and not compatible with threat, by playing around and seeing if the dog wants to join you. But don’t force it. Let it make a choice.”

Other experts say that soothing a spooked animal, bred to seek safety with its human, is just fine. “You can’t reinforce anxiety by comforting a dog,” Bain said. “You won’t make the fear worse. Do what you need to do to help your dog.”

Other tips include muffling noise with quiet music and, if possible, staying with the dog in a windowless, interior room. Because a dog’s flight response is on overload, it is seeking a haven.

For years, veterinarians treated noise phobia with acepromazine, a tranquilizer. It sedates the dog but is not an anti-anxiety medication. During a thunderstorm, the dog can still see and hear everything. But like someone having a nightmare in which he or she cannot run from danger, the frightened dog can’t move to escape. So veterinary behaviorists say that acepromazine can exacerbate noise aversion.

Some dogs function better with Prozac, but as with humans, the daily medicine takes four to six weeks to become effective.  Stella was impervious to prescriptions. During thunderstorm season, she and Roach lost hours of sleep. Roach tried positive reinforcement: When Stella’s symptoms would begin, she would be given treats from the night stand.

“Then Stella started climbing on my chest at 3 a.m., whimpering, whining and looking at the night stand,” Roach said. “And no thunderstorm! That was the end of that.”

The new canine noise aversion drug, Sileo, is actually a micro-amount of a medication approved as a sedative for minor veterinary procedures — a flavorless gel, measured in a syringe, that is squeezed between the dog’s cheek and gum and absorbed within 30 minutes.

Orion, the Finnish company that developed it, tested it on several hundred noise-averse dogs during two years of New Year’s fireworks. Three-quarters of the owners rated the dogs’ response as good to excellent; their pets remained unperturbed. The drug lasts several hours, after which another dose can be administered.

A syringe costs about $30 and holds several weight-dependent doses. Sileo’s main side effect, in 4.5 percent of dogs, is vomiting.

“I’m not naive enough to think this is the miracle cure,” said Dr. Emily Levine, a veterinary behaviorist in Fairfield, New Jersey. But she considered it a worthy option.

The optimal solution, vets say, is catching the response early, and desensitizing the dog with calibrated recordings of the offending noise, and positive conditioning.

But training takes time, patience and consistency.

“And humans,” Eeg said, “are one of the most inconsistent species on the planet.”

Why do dogs eat poop?

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It’s one of the most disgusting things our dogs do—eating poop. Even if we shell out the big bucks for premium dog food, some dogs still seem to want to eat feces.

The technical term for eating poop is coprophagia. According the a study by the University of California at Davis, poop eaters are more likely to come from multi-dog households and be greedy eaters. Your dog might also eat poop because of a nutrient deficiency, a poor diet, hunger, or even for medicinal purposes. Read on for all the detail on the common theories about why dogs eat poop.

why dogs eat poop

1. Nutrient Deficiency

Nutritional deficiency is probably the most oft-cited reason for eating poop, but there is no science backing up that theory, especially since most modern-day dog foods are fortified with iron and other minerals dogs would be lacking if they were eating poop for a nutritional deficiency.

“Generally dogs are on diets of premium foods that are well-rounded and have all the nutritional elements they need,” California Veterinarian Dr. Deirdre Brandes says.

2. Poor Diet

But along the lines of nutrient deficiency, some dog food is pretty close to the quality of poop. Low-quality supermarket dog foods are full of hard-to-digest ingredients and cheap fillers, and these foods may not contain the nutrients your dog needs.

“Commercially available dog food may have the appearance of real meat or real veggies and happy looking dogs on the front, and it may say nutritionally balanced for all life stages, but that really doesn’t mean that much in terms of the quality of the food,” holistic veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney says. “Unfortunately, most dogs tend to eat the same thing day-in and day-out and in doing so, they’re probably not going to be exposed to a diverse array of nutrients that their body needs.”

To address quality—which will make the nutrients more digestive and bio-available to your dog—look for premium-label foods at a pet store instead of the supermarket or consult Rover’s exposé on dog food to find a suitable brand. To address variety, switch the formula you feed your dog every few months, but remember to wean him onto the new formula to avoid an upset stomach.

3. Hunger

Hunger can also tie in with low-quality food. Ingredients like corn, soy, and beef can be difficult to digest, meaning your dog doesn’t get all the nutrients from his food and will still be hungry.

Even if your dog is well fed with a high-quality food, there is a chance he could be starving. Dogs with parasites that steal nutrition from their food may turn to poop to fill the gaps. Make sure your dog is checked at least yearly for worms and parasites at the vet, but especially if you suspect a problem.

4. Medicinal Purposes

It turns out, poop isn’t always all bad. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria in poop, and your dog may be looking to strengthen his gut with some of the good. This is more commonly seen with other animal species and should not be encouraged with our dogs, especially since the bad bacteria like salmonella can pose a threat to humans in close contact with the dog.

5. Preventing Infestation

You’ve probably never heard this one before, but it’s the only theory based on research. Dr. Benjamin Hart led a study for U.C. Davis that surveyed about 3,000 dog owners. They concluded dogs eat fresh stools—as in one to two days old—as an ancestral instinct to keep infectious parasites from harming the pack.

They concluded dogs eat fresh stools—as in one to two days old—as an ancestral instinct to keep infectious parasites from harming the pack.

“The only way that wild [dogs] can remove feces before infective larvae hatch is by consuming them—no pooper-scoopers available,” Dr. Hart writes in the preliminary findings.

The researchers could find no evidence to scientifically support other theories why dogs eat poop.

“The main research focus was testing these other ideas and nothing held water,” Dr. Hart says.

How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop

If you’re hoping to correct this behavior in your dog, you may not have much luck; Dr. Hart’s study found the “cure rate” is only 1 to 2%. Here are some techniques to minimize poop eating:

  • Training might work; teach your dog to “leave it” or “drop it” on command and practice, practice, practice so you dog is 100% reliable.
  • Keep the kitty litter out of your dog’s reach, as dogs tend to prefer cat poop.
  • Pick up after your dog regularly, if not daily. Regardless of why they eat poop, removing the temptation will eliminate the opportunity to do it.

Dr. Hart thinks the last method might be the best approach.

“I would suggest being very vigilant about picking up feces,” Dr. Hart adds.

“I would suggest being very vigilant about picking up feces,” Dr. Hart adds. “The best is to walk the dog in the morning and evening on a leash—and, of course, pick up feces—so almost all defecation is done away from the home.”

     

   

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