Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



Goodbye Butterscotch



Separation Anxiety in Cats
Goodbye Butterscotch - You were a Great Teacher
Dog Attacks - When your Dog is on Leash and the Attacker is Off
10 Things that can Kill your Pet


Separation Anxiety in Cats

Dogs are often the most common pet that has separation anxiety. Any animal can show anxiety when separated from those they are bonded with. Believe it or not, cats too are affected. How a cat show's it's anxiety will be different from dogs and is often not as destructive to the home. For the cat, it can be as upsetting. 

Cats are typically independent by nature, yet they do bond with their owners or other companion animals. When the bond is very close, as in a cat that was bottle raise, there may be more risk of separation anxiety. The cat has imprinted on the owner as if the owner was the "mother" and without a weaning period this cat may stay in the dependent kitten like state. Cats also feed off of our own emotions. If we are anxious about leaving our cat, the cat often becomes anxious too and then associates this behavior with the owner leaving. There may be other cats in the home that act up when the owner is gone, such as picking fights with the affected cat, which may also increase anxiety for this cat in the absence of the owner.  

Signs of separation anxiety in the cat are not as well documented as compared to dogs. Few owners recognize the signs of anxiety in a cat, so often the problem is missed until there is a bigger behavior problem such as house soiling. Signs of anxiety in the cat are often hiding, vocalizing (meowing loudly, repeatedly while pacing through the house) and agitation to noise. By definition these signs would start as the owner prepares to leave. Seeing the owner  get the car keys, pack a suitcase, or gather up a purse tells the cat that you are leaving. These actions are called triggers and the cat becomes anxious due to the association of these actions with leaving. A generally anxious cat may increase its anxiety level as you leave. This cat has both separation anxiety and general anxiety problems.

The treatment begins with combining positive things with the signs that you are leaving. Feeding a cat as you prepare to leave is the first place to start. Stop feeding your cat out of a bowl. Hide about a tablespoon of food in small dishes in different places in the house so your cat has to hunt for it. As your cat is eating you will be gathering up your things so now the cat associates feeding - good thing- with your leaving. A second thing to do is to get remote control play devices such h as the frolic cat toy. This is a battery operated laser light toy that can be programmed to come on at various times when you are gone. Again, play is fun- it happens when you are gone so less anxiety. Ranger our office cat tried out this product, and you can read about it on my blog.

For cats that are very affected - shredding the curtains, meowing so much the neighbors complain or house soiling only when you are gone do not wait to get a behavior consultation. There is help, but a specific plan using medication to help your cat calm down to learn is needed. Your cat is hurting and needs help and a trainer cannot screen for health conditions of cats that can make anxiety worse.

Treatment is not all about drugs either. CALM is an excellent food by Royal Canin that can help some cases: supplements and even kitty thunder shirts are available.


Goodbye Butterscotch - You were a Great Teacher

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, our beloved yellow lab mix Butterscotch had a stroke. He started off with some increased stumbling and balance problems on Saturday night, that progressed the next day to a full blown head tilt and falling to the side. Despite treatment, he became worse over the next day and my husband, daughter and I made the decision to end his difficulties by bringing him to a friend DVM for euthanasia. It was difficult for us, and Butterscotch was able go go peacefully with Tom and myself at his side. We miss him, and Bella is adjusting without the big guy. You read an awful lot about the crazy Bella dog, but now I will tell you about  Butterscotch.

Butter loved to have a toy in his mouth all the time

We adopted Butter from the local shelter about 7 1/2 years ago at an estimated age of 8. He was picked up as a stray with a leg so crippled with arthritis he could not walk on it.  He was gentle, friendly, and looked like the first dog Tom and I owned. When I saw him, I knew we had to keep him. Our dog at the time Sissel was getting a bit older and we needed  to have the back up dog to avoid the empty house syndrome after the older pet dies. Sissel was not always receptive to other dogs so, I thought let's have them meet  and see how it goes before making a commitment.  Do pets know what we need and want?  Sissel just came up to him, sniffed him over, and laid down and ignored him. There was not tension, no staring, guarding or anything. Butter was his usual laid back self so home he came.  The two of them always got along - no fighting over toys, food, space or anything. Butter thrived on medication to reduce the pain in his knee, joint diet and daily walks.  He was such a loveable dog around people and kids he was almost perfect.

One day while walking him, he saw a dog across the street - he immediately wanted to rush up to that dog in a very forward and not exactly friendly way. The dog was a little toy breed and the manner that Butter hunkered down with his head level, silently stalking I knew right away - we have some predatory aggression here. A few days later in the back yard  he quickly lunged after a squirrel using the same manner  and I realized this dog very likely predated on small furry animals, so he has a strong predatory aggression drive. There was even a time Butter got a squirrel in his mouth and Tom had to wrestle the poor creature out. I learned very quickly that not all dog aggression presents the same. Some is very specific to the situation - such as predatory aggression but is still something to manage and watch out for. From this incident I knew Butter would not be a dog to have at a dog park. He would very likely aggress on a small dog badly and there was no way I would take that chance.  Butter did not get into a fights with a little dog, but there were a few close calls when little dogs off leash would come trotting up to him and we had to get him away. It was very surprising to people who knew how friendly and sweet he was. I guess that is my point - Butter showed how there are different types of aggression and it takes a specific situation for it to show up. One aggression screen does not screen for all types of aggression.

Butter had thunderstorm phobia. I never had a dog with this problem, but I was aware of other client's dogs who were affected. I had been reading on new treatments using pheromone products and other medications but I was not really clear on what worked best. The first time we had a storm with him home, the kitchen table started shaking. I was wondering what was going on when I saw that Butter was trembling and laying against the legs of the table thus causing the shaking. I could not coax him to settle and I could see him drooling and panting and pacing. I had just gotten the DAP/Adaptil collars in so I ran back to the office and put one on him.  He settled down after 10 minutes which made us all feel better. Over time I learned more and developed a plan that had Butter sleeping through many a storm. From my experience with him I wrote out Butterscotch's play list of songs that soothe dogs through storms and my blog entry Thunderstorm nightmares no more showing how to set up an area for a dog to calm during a storm. So, Butter is still helping other fearful pets learn to settle and calm with fears.

Butter was a wonderful guest on television.  He appeared on CI living a couple of times and was on the Paw Report with WEIU twice. He was such a hit at the stations. When I would walk through he greeted everyone at every desk and they loved to pet him. I don't think he ever upstaged any host and he was very polite about any bathroom needs taking care of that before we entered any building. He is also featured on some of my instructional videos on my clinic website www.okawvetclinic.com  again, teaching clients, veterinarians, and technicians about rewarding during the veterinary visit to make it less stressful on the pets and everyone. So, again he is still teaching others about behavior and good pet care. 

Every pet has a special place in one's heart. Butter certainly has that in my families. I do miss him. My sadness is passing and writing about his gift of teaching here really helps me to accept his loss. If you have also lost a pet - I sympathize with your loss. It is never easy to go through. I hope that you too can see he ways your pet has helped teach you about life and that those memories give you peace.



Dog Attacks - When your Dog is on Leash and the Attacker is Off

One of the scariest situations to be in where dogs are concerned is having a large breed dog barreling down the street aiming right for your dog who is innocently walking along side you on leash.  Yikes! Now what do you do? You have to act quick but what should one do first to protect your dog and yourself.

Here is a guide to get you through this awful situation. There is not one way - fixes it all answer so use this information and apply it to your situation as best you can. If you are not clear on what to try - call my office. We have guided many clients through this and as a service to public health and safety I extend this offer to you. I myself have been in this situation and it is really scary. 

1. Know your neighborhood. If you have a dog nearby who is constantly running the fence barking, lunging, jumping up or on the fence that dog is really out to get yours. The gate may be open one day, or the dog may get enough gumption to jump or scale the fence. Too many backyard fences are too short to hold a dog in. I have seen many dogs scale a 6 foot privacy fence. Avoid at all costs walking past this yard. Go different routes. Don't tempt fate. If that is not possible - tell the neighbor that you need them to keep their dog up at the times you are walking your dog. Speak up for what you and your dog need to be safe. This dog is also not having fun - it is aggressing because it  does not want this dog around. Happy dogs don't do this!!! 

2. For loose dogs - get a bush, parked car, garbage can or some way to be out of the sight of the off leash dog. Move quickly without running! Running will entice the loose dog to chase. If the dog starts heading to you stomp your foot harshly, yell in a deep gruff voice "Go" and holler "Get your dog inside!!!!!!!!!"  Make a ruckus to get others out to help and call the dog away. After you have your dog home call the animal control and make a formal complaint if this dog is chronically off leash. All communities have leash laws. They are for public safety. Follow up and be something has been done. It may be the one time this has happened and a remorseful, apologetic owner will be more watchful of their dog. If the owner does not seem to care, make them be responsible to their pet and to the laws.

3. Use a protective tool. This is something that will protect you from a dog lunging and biting at your or your dog if you know the owner of the problem dog is not going to do anything and the law cannot extend enforcement completely. Spray Shield by Premier is a compressed water /citronella spray that will shoot out and confuse an attacking dog giving you time to get away and be safe. You can order this online. Baseball bats or big sticks are not safe or as effective. When you hit the attacking dog, they will likely redirect the aggression on you due to the pain. Or if you drop the stick or hit your own dog, the other dog will be more confident and attack more. An umbrella that you can quickly snap open and use a shield is also very effective. You don't want to hit the dog - use it as a shield.

4. Do not turn your back on this dog. Walk backwards to get away. If you turn away from the dog, many use this as an opportunity to attack.

5. Always wear solid shoes when walking your dog!!!! I have seen many more injuries to people and their dogs in these situations because they were wearing flip flops that slipped off, or were tripped over. Sneakers, boots, or other solid shoes only when walking dogs.

If you do have a caring neighbor with a dog that is aggressing - seek help for this situation from a veterinarian or certified trainer who has experience working with these dogs. Some attacker dogs can learn to be better, and safety can be set up. The "cure" depends on the owners, dogs and environment involved. Please see my website, blog and YouTube videos for behavior help or schedule a consult.



10 Things that can Kill your Pet

March 17 - 23rd is Poison Prevention week. So we wanted to share some common items that can poison pets.

If your pet eats any of these, please call us at 217-253-3221 or the Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435. Bring any uneaten portion of food, plant, medication, etc to the clinic with you. Also bring any wrappers or bottles with you.

  1. Prescription and non prescription medications and vitamins - Dogs chew on pill bottles because the bottle smells like their owner and makes noises. Dogs and cats will eat the pills because the pills often have a coating that taste good.
  2. People food - Grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate, macadamia nuts, fatty foods, figs, leeks, rhubarb, tomatoes and sugar free candy are poisonous to pets.
  3. Cleaning products - bleach, laundry detergent, fabric detergent, lysol and other cleaners are toxic to pets.
  4. Household chemicals - paint thinner, antifreeze, moth balls, lighter fluid, liquid potpourri, lead paint and other chemicals are poisonous.
  5. Plants - aloe, amaryllis, lilies, cycads, daffodils, ivy, ferns, palms, morning glory, philodendron, pothos, tulips and many other plants are poisonous. Visit this page for a more complete list of poisonous plants.
  6. Pesticides, Insecticides, Fertilizers - These chemicals are poisonous to pets. Dogs and cats will often eat dead mice or rats. If that mouse or rat that died from mouse poison, then the pet can also die from eating the poisoned animal. 
  7. Household items - batteries, twist ties, coins, jewelry, pantyhose, paper clips, packaging from meat and other foods, socks, yarn, string, thread and rubber bands can get stuck in the pet's intestines. Batteries and coins also release toxins into a pet's body.
  8. Garage items - gasoline, antifreeze, de-icing salt and oil are toxic to pets.
  9. Outside items - compost, cocoa bean shell muclch, algae and mushrooms can make pets sick.
  10. Holiday items - garland, glass items, Easter grass, fireworks, strands of lights, balloons and other items can cause pets to become sick.

Visit the ASPCA's Poison Control website for information about preventing poisonings and what to do when your pet eats something poisonous. 


Okaw Veterinary Clinic
140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953
(217) 253-3221


Mon & Fri 8 am - 6 pm
Tues & Wed 8 am - 5 pm
Sat 8 am - noon
Closed Thurs & Sun

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