Every dog needs a collar, chiefly because they need something on which to hang their leash, license, ID and rabies vaccination tag.
There are so many styles of collar out there that it's easy to get one that reflects your dog's (or your) personality—but collars serve purposes beyond identification and decoration and not all kinds of collars are appropriate for all, or even any, dogs.
This is the standard collar for dogs. It has a buckle or plastic snap ("quick-release") closure and a ring for attaching identification tags and leash and is available in many colors and designs. A flat collar should fit comfortably on your dog's neck; it should not be so tight as to choke your dog nor so loose that they can slip out of it. The rule of thumb says you should be able to get two fingers underneath the collar.
The martingale collar is also known as a limited-slip collar. This collar is designed for dogs with narrow heads such as Greyhounds, Salukis, Whippets and other sighthounds. It is also useful for a dog of any breed who is adept at slipping out of their collar or for fearful dogs who may try to retreat while out on a walk. A martingale collar is a must-have for anxious and fearful dogs.
The martingale consists of a length of material with a metal ring at each end. A separate loop of material passes through the two rings. The leash attaches to a ring on this loop. When your dog tries to back out of the martingale, the collar tightens around their neck. If the collar is properly adjusted, it will tighten just to the size of your dog's neck, without choking them. This is the most humane collar option for dogs who may slip out of their collars.
The head collar is similar in principle to a horse's halter. One strap of the collar fits around your dog's neck and sits high on the head, just behind the ears. The other strap forms a loop around your dog's muzzle. The leash attaches to the ring at the bottom of the muzzle loop.
The head collar is good for strong, energetic dogs who may jump and/or pull. Because the halter is around your dog's muzzle, instead of their neck, your dog loses a great deal of leverage and they are unable to pull on the leash with the full weight of their body.
To be effective, the head collar must be properly fitted. As with any training equipment, the head halter is not intended to be used in a jerking or yanking fashion but rather to gently steer your dog in the direction you need them to go. Some manufacturers include instructions and a DVD with the collar. Otherwise, ask your dog trainer or a knowledgeable sales clerk for assistance with fitting. Proper fit and use should minimize the risk of injury to your dog.
It may take some time, patience and lots of treats to get your dog accustomed to wearing a head collar. Put it on them for short periods while giving your dog lots of high-value treats until your dog is comfortable in the collar. Then they should only wear it when you are taking them out on a leash. Don't leave the head collar on your dog all the time; eventually they will manage to pull off the muzzle loop and use it as their chew toy!
Aversive collars, or collars that rely on physical discomfort or even pain to teach a dog what not to do, are not a humane option. While they may suppress the unwanted behavior, they don't teach the dog what the proper behavior is and they can create anxiety and fear, which can lead to aggression. Positive reinforcement training methods—ones that use rewards—are more effective and strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.
Choke chain collars
As the name implies, this collar is made of metal links and is designed to control your dog by tightening around your dog's neck, an often painful and inhumane training tool. Unlike the martingale collar, there is no way to control how much the choke chain tightens, so it's possible to choke or strangle your dog. It can also cause other problems, such as injuries to the trachea and esophagus, injuries to blood vessels in the eyes, neck sprains, nerve damage, fainting, transient paralysis and even death. It is very easy to misuse choke chains and with all the humane, effective collars on the market, choke chains are unnecessary and should not be used.
Prong or pinch collars
The prong or pinch collar is similar in design to the martingale. However, the control loop that the leash is attached to is made of chain. The loop that fits around your dog's neck is made of a series of fang-shaped metal links, or prongs, with blunted points. When the control loop is pulled, the prongs pinch the loose skin of your dog's neck. Similar to choke chains, these collars can be easily misused and should not be used.
Shock collars use electric current passing through metal contact points on the collar to give your dog an electric signal. This electric signal can range from a mild tickling sensation to a painful shock. Shock collars may be sold as training devices, although more and more companies are pulling them from the shelves. They are also used with pet containment (electronic fencing) systems. Shock collars are often misused and can create fear, anxiety and aggression in your dog toward you or other animals. While they may suppress unwanted behavior, they do not teach a dog what you would like them to do instead and therefore should not be used.
Electronic fencing uses shock collars to deliver a shock when the dog approaches the boundaries of the "fenced" area. Typically, the shock is preceded by a tone to warn the dog they are about to get shocked. While the dog will be shocked if they run out through the electronic fence, they will also be shocked when they re-enter, leading to dogs who are unlikely to return home.
During the holidays, plants play a prominent role in festive decorations. However, there are some types of decorative plants that are toxic to dogs and cats. In some cases, only mild indigestion and discomfort will result; in other cases, the toxicity can lead to more severe health problems, and even fatalities.
If you are planning to bring holiday foliage into your home this season, you will need to know which plants are safe, which should be kept out of your pet’s reach, and which should be avoided entirely.
Poinsettia PlantsA lot of people have been led to believe that the poinsettia plant is deadly for pets and children, but this is actually an unlikely occurrence.
The poinsettia plant’s brightly colored leaves contain a sap that is irritating to the tissues of the mouth and esophagus. If the leaves are ingested, they will often cause nausea and vomiting, but it would take a large amount of the plant’s material to cause poisoning, and most animals and children won’t eat such a large enough amount because of the irritating taste and feel from the sap.
However, if the plant has been treated with a pesticide, your pet could be at risk of becoming ill from ingesting the pesticide. The size of your pet and the amount of ingested plant material will be the determining factors for the severity of the poisoning. Young animals—puppies and kittens—are at the highest risk.
Severe reactions to the plant or to the pesticide it has been treated with include seizures, coma, and in some cases, death. That being said, it is still best to keep poinsettias out of reach of pets.
Holly and Mistletoe
Holly and mistletoe are also popular holiday plants. These plants, along with their berries, have a greater toxicity level than the poinsettia. Symptoms of illness form ingesting these plants include intestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, excessive drooling and abdominal pain.
Mistletoe contains multiple substances that are toxic to both dogs and cats, including toxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin (lectins, phoratoxins). It’s well-known for causing severe intestinal upset as well as a sudden and severe drop in blood pressure, breathing problems and even hallucinations (showing up as unusual behavior).
If a large enough amount of these plants are ingested, seizures and death may follow.
The leaves and berries of holly and mistletoe plants, even the dried plants, should be kept well out of your pet's reach, or better yet, kept out of the home altogether.
Lilies and Daffodils
Both popular gift items at this time of year, the lily and daffodil can be toxic to pets.
In cats, Lilium and Hemerocallis genera lilies are the most dangerous. Eating even a small amount of the plant will have a severe impact on a cat's system, causing severe symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues, arrhythmia and convulsions.
Daffodils are also toxic to both dogs and cats. The bulbs are the most toxic; however, even a few bites of the flower can cause kidney failure and even death in cats.
Any lilies and daffodils you buy or receive as gifts might be better used for decorating your desk at work to keep your pet safe (unless there are pets in the office).
Amaryllis (Belladonna)The beauty of the flowering Amaryllis is only matched by its toxicity. The Amaryllis contains lycorine and other noxious substances, which cause salivation, gastrointestinal abnormalities (vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite and abdominal pain), lethargy and tremors in both cats and dogs.
The bulb of the plant is reputed to be even more dangerous than the flowers and stalk.
The Amaryllis also goes by other names, including Belladonna, Saint Joseph Lily, Cape Belladonna and Naked Lady. Amaryllis, by any name, should be kept out of the house.
Fortunately, the Christmas Cactus (or its relative, the Easter Cactus) plant is not toxic to dogs in either its parts or flowers. The same applies for cats. However, fibrous plant material can cause irritation to the stomach and intestine, leading to vomiting or diarrhea. Curious cats and dogs, especially kitt
The Christmas Tree
There are other dangers to consider with the Christmas tree that go beyond lights and ornaments.
The oils produced by fir trees can be irritating to a pet's mouth and stomach, causing excessive vomiting or drooling. The tree needles, meanwhile, may cause gastrointestinal irritation, obstruction and punctures.
Additionally, the water used to nourish Christmas trees can be noxious. Bacteria, molds and fertilizers can cause your pet to become extremely sick with only a few laps of water. Keep the water covered and blocked off to prevent pets from accessing it.
Curious cats may climb the tree and/or knock the tree over, injuring themselves and damaging heirloom ornaments. Best practice is to keep your Christmas tree blocked off and out of reach of your cats.
Playing It Safe
If you do choose to bring any of these plants into your home, be very careful about where you are placing them. Cats especially need to be considered, since they can jump to high shelves.
If your cat is a known plant chewer, you will probably be better off choosing artificial plants over the real things.
But if your dog or cat does manage to ingest any part of these holiday plants, call your veterinarian or poison control immediately to find out what you should do to minimize the damage.
The phone number for the ASPCA Poison Control is 1-888-426-4435, 24 hours a day.
The holiday season brings potential dangers for our pets, but with a little effort, you can keep them safe.
Author: Ann Staub, Vet Tech & Pet Blogger, Pawsitively Pets!
Diabetes mellitus is a common medical condition that can affect cats. Some cats just have the right genes for it. Others may be at risk due to their weight and diet. But were you aware that cats can actually come down with diabetes after receiving steroid treatments?
There are many cats out there who are plagued with itchy skin due to allergies. Many vets today are more cautious with their use of steroids in feline patients, but sometimes they may feel that steroids are necessary. In a cat with horribly itchy skin, a steroid injection could be recommended for relief.
One method of treatment is an injection called Depo medrol which is a steroid injection with effects that last a few weeks. If your cat is already at risk for diabetes, a steroid treatment like this could give them that push over the edge and some become diabetic after the injection. Repeated long-term use of steroids in cats also puts them at more risk of becoming diabetic.
Steroids also have a number of side effects on cats. Increased urination, thirst, and hunger are a few. Steroids raise a cat's blood glucose levels. These are some of the side effects of diabetes mellitus as well. Diabetes is not caused by the steroids alone, but is more like a "side effect" of the drug.
Fortunately, steroid induced diabetes in cats can go away in time with treatment, but this is not always the case. After the cat has been weaned slowly off of the steroids, given an insulin regimen, and started to eat a proper diet, it is possible for the diabetes to go away all together. The patient will need to return to his or her veterinarian for regular check ups and blood tests to regulate how their treatment is going.
Of course, a cat who is diagnosed with diabetes should not receive steroids. Taking steroids will make it difficult, if not impossible, to treat diabetes in cats. Cats with allergies should seek different treatment options to help their itchy skin.
Always keep a cat with severe skin allergies on a flea prevention. Even one bite from a flea can cause a severe reaction in cats with allergies. Try a hypo-allergenic diet with a novel protein and less grains. This may also help with your cat's diabetes.
I don't think that it is wrong to have your cat treated with steroids when it is needed, but you should keep in mind that steroids can have unwanted side effects. I treated my own cat with steroid injections and pills for asthma and oral ulcers on several occasions. It may be easy to tell the vet that you just want to get a shot and stop your cat's itching, but it might not be in their best interest over time. A quick and easy fix is not always the best answer.
I am inspired to write this by one of my favorite cat patients. He had steroid induced diabetes and severe skin allergies. Unfortunately, his steroid induced diabetes did not go away with time and treatment. His family eventually decided to let him cross over the rainbow bridge due to his poor quality of life. I don't typically become very attached to patients, but this cat was one that I will never forget and his story has always stuck with me.
Pets Aren't Always Fun and Games
By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
Pets can present a variety of challenges, even to the best prepared of owners. Here are our picks for the 5 common pet owner mistakes that may be making your life challenging. Let us know if anything sounds familiar?
1. 'He’s Not Fat, He’s Big Boned'Actually, he probably is overweight or obese, along with more than half of pets in American households. Because the majority of dogs and cats are packing on extra pounds these days, our minds are fooled into thinking this is normal. Your veterinarian can assess your pet with an objective tool such as the Healthy Weight Protocol to give you an accurate idea of what your pet’s weight should be, as well as a specific diet plan to get you to that healthy goal.
2. 'I Only Go to the Vet When My Pet is Sick'Animals are tremendous masters of disguise; they don’t want to inconvenience us by letting us know they feel poorly. Usually by the time owners notice signs of illness, a pet has been sick for quite some time. Annual preventive care exams at the veterinarian allow you to catch diseases like arthritis and renal disease much earlier in the process, saving you money, and your pet pain and stress.
3. 'The Store Employee Told Me to Change Pet Food'Choosing a pet food can be confusing. Meanwhile, the person at the pet food store, convincing as they may be, doesn’t know your pet’s medical history the way your vet does. If your veterinarian recommends a specific diet for your pet, there’s usually an excellent reason. Diet plays a key role in your pet’s health, so make sure to include their number one health advocate in that decision.
4. 'Don't Be Scared; Give Him a Cookie'When a pet is exhibiting a fearful behavior, such as growling or snapping, it can be tempting to try and calm them down with attention. But rewarding a fearful pet with hugs and consolation can actually worsen the behavior by reinforcing it. If this behavior worsens over time, a pet might actually wind up in a shelter, and aggressive pets have lower chances of being adopted. If your pet shows any signs of fear or aggression, talk to a certified trainer, your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist ASAP!
5. 'My Dog Doesn’t Need a Leash, He's Trained'It’s important to be a good dog ambassador by obeying local dog ordinances about leashes and cleaning up after your pup. If you live in an area where leashes are required by law, you should obey that law without fail. Many people — and even some dogs — are frightened of other dogs, and they can be very distressed by being approached by any canine. Many cities and towns have designated areas where dogs can run off leash, so if your dog is feeling the call of the wild, find a dog park and let loose.