Lynwood Veterinary Clinic
568 Metcalfe Rd
Ferndale, WA, 6148
Phone: 08 9451 3575
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Welcome to March's newsletter. March is the month where we highlight pet behaviour. Our pets mental health is just as important as their physical health, and many dogs and cats suffer from anxiety. This can lead to problem behaviours such as barking, chewing and inappropriate toileting amongst others. Sadly these problem behaviours damage the bond with our pets causing feelings of frustration, anger and guilt, and in extreme cases lead to pets being surrendered to shelters or rehomed, or in severe cases that are left untreated, may lead to euthanasia especially if the pet becomes aggressive.

Behavioural problems do not go away unless the underlying problem is properly diagnosed and behavioural modification started. The longer a behaviour is present the more difficult it can be to manage which is why we recommend talking to your vet if you have any concerns. Medical causes must be excluded before determining the problem is behavioural. Some pets require medication to help correct chemical imbalances in the brain and reduce their anxiety so training can be successful - similar to people who suffer anxiety. Referral to a behavioural specialist such as KalmPets is often recommended.

If you have any concerns about your pet's behaviour, please call or come down for a chat with one of our experienced nurses. They can give you advice if the problem is simple or can recommend a consult with the vet if this is needed.

Contents of this newsletter

01  When good behaviour goes bad

02  Common behavioural questions

03  Urine spraying in cats

04  Feisty cat does all he can to avoid trip to the vet

05  Anxiety - the leading behaviour problem in dogs

01 When good behaviour goes bad

Has your pet always been well behaved but all of a sudden things have changed?

Has toilet training gone out the window?

Is your dog suddenly digging up the garden or barking non stop?

Is your cat clawing at your favourite piece of furniture?

Behavioural problems in our pets are very common and they can begin at any point during your pet's life. 

This is where a medical examination with us is absolutely essential. For example, if your pet is suddenly urinating in the house, we need to rule out medical problems such as a urinary tract infection or urinary incontinence.

Perhaps your dog has started growling at you when he is picked up - have you thought that your dog might be in pain due to the onset of arthritis?

If your pet's behaviour has gone to the dogs you should arrange an appointment with us as soon as possible so we can get to the bottom of the problem. If we are able to rule out any medical problems we have plenty of tools up our sleeve to help treat and manage behavioural issues.  

If you want to improve your pet's behaviour, start by giving us a call. 

02 Common behavioural questions

Here are a couple of common behavioural issues we talk about with our clients on a regular basis.

Dog Behaviour

Barking: It's important to understand that barking is a normal behaviour for dogs and is one of many ways for them to try to communicate with you. However it is up to you SUPER parents to learn and understand what it is they are barking at and why. Some even have different pitches and types depending on the reason. Although barking is a "normal" behaviour it does however become rather undesirable for most in excess, especially in the suburbs. It is classed as one of the top leading causes of neighbour disputes and a contributing factor to the rapidly increasing number of abandoned dogs found in pounds and shelters.  It can be triggered in many situations such as: the fence line, while out walking (at bikes,dogs, people,cats,etc), to get attention, and in any fearful and anxious situations. The most common underlying factor barking cases is caused by an underlying anxiety which is classed as a behavioural disease. If you notice your dog appearing stressed constantly and/or barking in particular situations; the first step is to look for the cause of the barking, locations and frequency, and to seek professional advice.

TIP: We also strongly discourage use of any type of electric shock or citronella collar. Using this type of punishment may seem effective short term but long term it increases their fear and anxiety which will compress and contribute to worsening your dog's underlying anxiety, causing further undesirable behaviours to develop. 

Aggression: This is also classed as a "normal" behaviour expressed by dogs of which depends on the situation and their emotional state connected with it at the time. However, our new generation of domesticated canines appear to be developing more behavioural diseases such as anxiety and fear. The increased anxiety drives our dogs to not think clearly in particular situations where they may feel frightened or threatened and aggression is one of the most common responses. Any type of aggression shown should be taken seriously and it is best to seek help from a professional. A veterinarian is a good place to start to rule out any medical complications that may be contributing and/or causing the aggression by doing a full work-up. A treatment plan can then be developed or if behavioural disease is suspected we can refer you to a qualified Veterinary Behaviourist for a behavioural modification plan.  

TIP: It is important to understand not to "punish" your dog for behaviours such as lifting their lip, showing their teeth and/or growling in any situation. This should be taken as a WARNING from your dog and he/she is asking for space as they are highly stressed/anxious. Over time if the early warning signs have been punished, discouraged or ignored, they will be less likely to repeat and next time it will result into a potentially serious bite with no or little warning signs. 

Cat Behaviour

Scratching: Scratching is normal cat behaviour that is used to communicate or mark territory. It's something they must do and it can be easier to direct their scratching towards an acceptable surface, especially in the early stages, rather than trying to stop the damage later. Ask us for tips.

Yowling: Owners can find that this is a common problem, particularly early in the morning. This might occur because your cat is hungry, in pain, seeking attention, demanding food or defending his territory.

Spraying: This problem is frequently reported to us by cat owners. You can read more about this issue in the article below.

If you have a question about your pet's behaviour, we are the best people to ask. 

03 Urine spraying in cats

If you've ever seen a cat spraying you may have been intrigued. It's a strange looking activity where the cat stands with a vertical tail (sometimes quivering at the tip) and delivers a squirt of urine against a vertical surface. 

Urine spraying is considered a normal part of a cat's scent-marking. It is thought that the spray contains information about sex, age, hormonal state and general health and it may also deter other cats from coming into a cat's territory. Both male and female cats will spray - cats that are not desexed may spray more often.

Cats will also spray when they are frustrated, upset or feel threatened by another cat. It's fascinating feline psychology and by marking with a squirt of urine and leaving a familiar smell, a cat feels a greater sense of security in his or her territory. 

Most cats won't spray indoors as they feel sufficiently comfortable in their own territory. Sometimes this can, however go out the window and simple changes may rock the boat.

Why might a cat start spraying indoors? Triggers include: 

  • The arrival (or departure) of a new cat, dog or person in the family (or next door!)  
  • Changes in the home area such as a new piece of furniture or new carpets
  • Disruptions such as building construction next door
  • An addition of a cat flap which can suddenly make the cat feel insecure indoors

Medical problems such as urinary tract infections or inflammation can also cause a cat to suddenly start spraying urine indoors. This highlights the importance of getting your cat checked with us as the treatment for a urinary tract infection will be very different to the management of behavioural spraying.

If you are concerned about your cat or have any questions relating to your cat's toileting habits please ask us for advice.

04 Feisty cat does all he can to avoid trip to the vet

Wrangling your cat and getting them into a carrier can be a very stressful event - as demonstrated in this hilarious video. This can put you off bringing your cat to us and it means they might miss out on essential health check ups, vaccinations and preventative care.

If you think about it, in your cat's mind, nothing good comes after being shoved into a carrier. While our canine friends get to leave the house for pleasurable walks and trips to the beach, most cats are invariably taken somewhere a lot less exciting!

Remember that all pets should be secured in the car, not just for their safety but also yours.

Here are our top tips for reducing cat carrier stress:

  • First up: ask us about the pheromone spray we have available to help your cat feel more secure and safe while in the carrier.
  • Bring a towel that smells like home to cover the carrier when you arrive here.
  • Try not put the carrier down near a strange dog - that instantly creates stress.
  • At home, store the carrier in a part of your house that smells familiar. Give your cat the chance to rub her scent on the carrier.
  • Try to associate the carrier with good things! Place food in the carrier or special treats (ask us for the best recommendation).

We will happily recommend the best carrier for your cat that is both safe and secure - call us today.

P.S. Don't forget to check out the video!

05 Anxiety - the leading behaviour problem in dogs

Anxiety disorders are probably the most common type of behaviour problem we see in dogs.

For most dogs, stress plays a key role in the development of an anxiety problem but there may also be a breed predisposition in some cases. 

It is important to understand that anxiety in dogs is a medical condition and requires veterinary attention and careful management.

Some signs of canine anxiety to watch out for include:

  • Destructive behaviour such as digging, chewing furniture, scratching at door frames
  • Pacing or trying to escape
  • Aggression - to other dogs or people
  • Yawning
  • Avoiding eye contact or looking away
  • Standing with tail tucked under

For us to accurately diagnose an anxiety problem we'll be relying on you to give us essential information about your dog's behavioural and medical history. We will ask you lots of questions and also perform a thorough physical exam and possibly blood and urine tests, especially if your dog's treatment plan includes medication.

Punishment should never be used when training an anxious dog as this will only further increase anxiety and this can impair the retraining process. 

If you are worried about your dog's behaviour please call us.