Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety is the second-most common problem that canine behaviorists address.  The signs include destructiveness, vocalization, salivation, urination or defecation while the owner is gone and not at other times.  Some dogs are so severely affected that they can hurt themselves attempting to get out of a crate or out of the house after their owner has left.
The initial treatment of separation anxiety involves various changes to a dog’s routine and management.  Dogs with separation anxiety should NOT:
•    Sleep on the bed or in the bedroom
•    Be greeted exuberantly after the family has been gone
•    Be given more attention, especially when they are anxious
•    Be punished for their destructiveness or “bad” behavior while the owner is away
•    Be chained or fenced in the yard
•    Have another dog added to the household for company

You should try to help your dog relax and be less attached and dependent upon you.  Before you leave for the day, you should give your dog exercise and feed him if he does not defecate while you are gone.  For the last 20-60 minutes before you leave, you should ignore him.  Put him in the crate (if he is crate trained) about 20 minutes before you go and give him something like a T-shirt or towel with your scent on it.  You can leave a radio playing or a tape of your voice.  You should also put a special toy that he ONLY gets when you are gone in the crate with him.  Some examples are a Kong toy with peanut butter or cheese inside, a Buster cube (food puzzle that you put some of his breakfast in), or rawhide if he can safely chew it without choking.
While you are gone, keep the room dimmed to help soothe him.  Your crate should be a closed “airline” type crate (hard plastic) and not a wire one.  The closed-type crates help a dog to relax because they create a den-like environment.  If your dog is not crate trained, you should crate train him (please ask us for more reference material about this topic).  You can also practice your departure several times a day without leaving.  This will help desensitize the dog to your routine and will help keep him from building up anxiety as you go about your morning routine.  To do this, go to the door first and keep repeating this behavior until the dog does not react anxiously.  The next step is to open the door up several times and repeat until the dog does not react.  You will gradually build up until you can leave for a few minutes without the dog reacting.  Eventually, the goal would be to be able to leave for a longer amount of time and have the dog be relaxed while you are gone.

When you come back home, do not greet the dog until he is calm.  Once he is calm, release him from the crate, and ask him to sit, and then pet him and give him attention.  Your dog should have good basic obedience skills, and if he does not, you should work about 10 minutes twice daily on basic commands like sit and stay.  Dogs with separation anxiety should not be allowed on the furniture at home and should not be rewarded for attention-seeking behavior.  If he comes and asks for attention, you should ignore him.  A few minutes later, ask him to sit or do another command, and then give him attention as a reward after he does the command that you have asked of him.  Dogs with separation anxiety also respond to being rewarded for relaxed behavior.  As your dog relaxes, you reward him (with petting or treats) once he reaches the relaxed state and not while he’s still very excited and anxious.
There are some anti-anxiety drugs labeled for use with separation anxiety in dogs but they will not work without also changing the dog’s routines and trying the above-mentioned behavioral modifications.  In severe cases, if these suggestions do not work, there is an excellent behaviorist available at Cornell and we can help you with a referral.


Oh no, a SKUNK!

Skunk Odor Removal Recipe

UH OH, Charlie’s been fighting with one of those cute striped “cats” again!



Image Source: Erwin C. Nielsen/Painet Inc., Illinois Department of Natural Resources.



1 Quart        3% Hydrogen Peroxide
¼ cup         Baking Soda
1 tsp        Liquid Soap

Mix ingredients together just before using.  (It cannot be stored in a closed container.)
Wet the dog thoroughly with the mixture.
Be careful not to get in its eyes.  Sponge the solution on those areas of the head.
Leave on for 10 minutes and rinse.


Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

My dog looks like he’s having an asthma attack!


Frequently, especially in times of the year with high pollen counts, we have calls from people who think their dog is coughing severely or having an asthma attack.  When we examine the dog, everything is normal, but from talking with the dog’s caretaker, we determine that the dog is reverse sneezing.  This is a loud, honking noise that dogs make when something tickles the back of their throat.  During an episode, the dog is rapidly inhaling and the noise is produced during inhalation of air.   The dogs sometimes look distressed while this is happening and it can be really alarming if you don’t know what it is.  It will last a few seconds and then they will stop.  Below is a video, courtesy of YouTube, that demonstrates this.

The good news is that it’s harmless in most dogs.  Possibly it is related to an allergy, and some dogs will benefit from an antihistamine during times of the year that they have reverse sneezing.  We only worry about reverse sneezing if it seems non-stop, the dog has a nasal discharge or nasal bleeding or he or she is otherwise not feeling well.



Dog Cookie Recipe

Dog Cookie Recipe

4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 ¼ cups water
¼ cup minced apple
3 Tb cinnamon
1 Tb oil
2 Tb honey
1 Tb cloves

Mix well to form dough. Roll out and cut into shapes. Place on ungreased foil lined cookie sheet.
Bake at 325° for 30-35 mins.

Feline Health Articles

Feline Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

What is it?

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland, a small paired gland in the neck, overproduces thyroid hormone.  Thyroid hormone regulates the metabolism in the body, and when it is over-produced, the metabolism speeds up, resulting in weight loss and a rapid heart rate, and sometimes in excess drinking, urination and diarrhea.  The good news is that it is a treatable condition in cats.  There are three treatment options:  lifetime medication, surgery to remove the thyroid, or injection with radioactive iodine.  A consideration with any of these treatment options is that sometimes these cats, who tend to be elderly, have underlying kidney disease.  When the body is in a hyperthyroid state, the blood pressure tends to be higher, which brings more blood to the kidneys, masking any kidney disease.  If we return the thyroid level to normal, if there is underlying kidney disease, the cat may start to show signs of problems with the kidneys (vomiting, poor appetite, etc.)

Medication with Felimazole

Felimazole (methimazole) is a medication that reduces the production of thyroid hormone.  The pros of medication with Felimazole are that we can stop administering it if the cat does experience any kidney problems.  The cost is about $30 per month.  Side effects sometimes include problems with the liver, reduced appetite or vomiting, although most cats do not experience side effects.  The cons include having to administer the pills twice daily, and over time, the cat will need an increasing amount of felimazole because the underlying thyroid condition is not definitively treated and the gland will continue to produce more and more hormone.  The cost of the medication and rechecking bloodwork (to make sure the cat’s system is tolerating the medicine and that the dose is correct) can add up.

Radioactive Iodine Treatment

If the cat’s kidneys are normal and the cat is otherwise healthy, the cat may be a good candidate for radioactive iodine treatment.  This treatment involves going to Cornell University where an injection of radioactively tagged iodine is given.  This chemical is taken up only by the abnormal cells in the thyroid that are overproducing hormone.  These cells are killed, leaving behind the healthy cells which can still function normally.  The treatment is very safe and carries few side effects.  The only drawback is that the cats need to be boarded at the University for approximately five days, to minimize human exposure to the radioactive chemical.  After discharge from the University, some precautions will need to be taken with the kitty litter for a time after the treatment.  Some of these cats may require re-treatment years later if they re-develop the condition.  The cost is approximately $800-1300.

For more information, please visit these links:


Feline Hyperthyroidism

Winn Feline Foundation on Hyperthyroidism


Feline Health Articles

Feline Asthma: Therapy Options

Onyx with Asthma

Onyx, who has been lived with asthma and used an inhaler

Feline asthma is a result of inflammation in the lungs which causes constriction of the airways, or bronchioles.  Basic treatment of feline asthma involves both relief of the underlying inflammation with anti-inflammatory treatments such as steroids and also opening up the airways by using brochodilators.

Option one – Oral medications:

Prednisone and theophylline:

Pros:  Inexpensive.  These drugs can be withdrawn immediately by simply not giving a pill if there is an adverse reaction to them.  The dose can be adjusted to the lowest possible dose to achieve an adequate effect.

Cons:  Your cat must be pilled daily, which is a difficulty for many cats and owners.  Also, prednisone is a systemic steroid therapy and as such can have side effects.  Over time systemic therapy with steroids can increase the risks of diabetes, pancreatitis and Cushing’s disease and in some cats may cause behavioral changes, increased drinking and urination, cystitis (bladder inflammation) and inappropriate elimination (urination outside the litterbox).

Option two – Inhaled therapy:

Pros:  This is a locally-delivered treatment (Flovent) that is inhaled into the lungs.  There are far fewer side effects and less risk of systemic side-effects such as pancreatitis, diabetes and Cushing’s disease.  Albuterol, a bronchodilator, can be administered daily as a quick relief of symptoms and can also be kept on hand as a rescue drug if the cat has an asthma attack.   The inhaled method of treatment is preferred because the risk of systemic side effects is low.

Cons:  Flovent (the inhaled steroid) takes 10-14 days to start working.  An Aerokat inhaler needs to be purchased at approximately $60.  The Flovent itself is expensive, as well, at approximately $300 for a month’s supply.  Albuterol is much less expensive (less than $20 for a greater than 2 month’s supply) and can be kept on hand as a rescue drug even if Flovent treatment is not chosen for the cat.  Another drawback is that not all cats are amenable to having the spacer (Aerokat) placed over their face.

If your cat is diagnosed with asthma, please discuss these options with your pet’s doctor to determine what the best treatment method is for your situation.