Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



Killer Dogs


Killer Dogs - Predation and Predatory Aggression in Pets
Pay Attention to Prevent Dog Bites
Dog Flu Update
Help Hot Dogs

Killer Dogs - Predation and Predatory Aggression in Pets

dogs fightingBefore dogs became pets, they were wild and lived by predating on animals big and small. Dogs would gather together to chase down  an older, injured, or young animal grabbing the jugular vein, or abdomen resulting in a kill. All of the dogs would feed in turn, and bring some back to the pups at home. The pattern of see - chase - grab - kill is the predation sequence. In domesticating dogs, certain parts of the sequence were diluted but never eliminated. For example, the herding breeds are very strong chasers, but do not go for the bite - hold - kill as readily as other breeds. Terriers, on the other hand will readily grab - bite and kill.

So despite domestication, dogs still have an instinctive desire to chase, grab, bite and kill things that look like prey. This is why your cute little Yorkie will run down a squirrel, catching and killing at times. I have clients  shocked to see a placid Labrador suddenly jump up and grab a fledgling bird swallowing it whole. Predation is instinctive - it is not based on hunger. The level of predatory drive depends on the particular dog and breed. Movement starts the sequence. Allowing a dog to chase down small animals strengthens the prey drive.  

It is springtime and you may see your dogs or cats killing  birds and upsetting bunny nests. It may not be a big problem depending on your needs. This predatory drive is a problem when it is directed towards running children, small dogs or cats.  For us these targets are not prey but to the dog they move like prey, sound like prey and look like prey hence the danger. 

The term predatory aggression is used for dogs who stare at a target creature, move silently and quickly with a grab - bite to the jugular or abdomen - the vital organs. A hallmark of this is the sudden, impulsive action of the dog. For many dogs, this may be the only type of aggression they show. It is dangerous because it cannot be trained, medicated or counter conditioned out of them. You may have a dog who chased cats be commanded to stay or sit around the cat but they will still chase the cat down at some point. I have seen this happen. This aggression is shocking to the owners because it comes out suddenly and it is directed to what we do not see as prey. But the dog's instinct tells otherwise.

A predatory aggressive dog living with an infant child is very risky. Children under the age of 3 years move  quickly, with high pitched noises. The infant lying on a bed or blanket looks like small wounded prey. The horrible stories of infants attacked by dogs are often the result of the child left alone with a dog. In just a few seconds, the dog sees the movement and noises of the child, pouncing and grabbing around the head, legs or arms. With the owner present often the dog may just stare which is misinterpreted as interest. The lunge - bite may be suppressed but the desire is not.

The only way to control predatory aggression is 100%  avoidance of the situations that put humans and animals at risk.  This means is if your dog chases cats, it cannot live with a cat. If small dogs are the prey, your dog cannot be  around any small dogs.  Any dog with this history of preying on  animals should never be around infant or small children under 3 at all. This is why if you have a predatory dog you must  realistic about how you will control this. It's not easy. Find a veterinarian behaviorist to consult with you on this problem to work out the most realistic, safe solution that protects the people and animals around this dog. 


Pay Attention to Prevent Dog Bites

Preventing dog bites is not complex. When adults and children follow the rules for proper greeting a dog there are very few if any bites. The most important rule is to pay attention to what the dog's body is telling you. So part of bite prevention is learning the early signs of fear, and removing your dog from the fearful situation. This is where people mess up, especially with family and friend's dogs. Approximately 77% of dog bites to children come from the family or known dog. Even children who have been taught to not hug a dog, or bother a dog when sleeping do so anyway resulting in bites. So the rules are ignored when it comes to a known dog, and the dog's response is also ignored putting the dog in a situation where it may bite.

Here is a common situations. An owner is walking a beautiful Golden Retriever by the playground and sees a friend and their kids playing there. This dog is nervous around loud noises, as shown by the pacing, panting and ducking around the owner's legs. The owner talks to the friend, ignoring what the dog's body is saying. The kids know this dog and have petted it at home and the dog seemed to like petting in that setting. Now 3 kids run up to the pretty dog, who cannot move away. As the adults are continuing to talk, ignoring the dogs and 3 kids the dog's fear escalates up and it snaps at the child who hugs it. A child screams and cries, the dog cowers and shakes, and the kids run off. The shocked owner says "What the heck happened?"  Ignoring the rules of petting - stay away if a dog does not come near, do not pet around the head or face, one person petting at a time - were all ignored by the children and adults. This was not a fluke situation. The dog was telling everyone "Get me out of here" but no one removed the dogs or the kids so the dog did what it had to do. It bit the child to make the child go away.

If the owner was watching her dog and the kids as she talked to her friend, she  would have stepped away with her dogs and said "Kids leave him alone. He is getting overwhelmed here." Observing the scene she would realize the park had more noise that made her dog a nervous than. It is not rude to share attention when your are out with your dog between people and your dog. If you have to stop talking to a friend to protect your dog, that is what you do as a responsible owner. Other people are not always going to follow the rules of greeting a dog right and you have to take charge.

The other bite scene that  is the owner thinking that when their nervous, barking, lunging dog is "ok" because they have not bitten yet. They stay in the situation with the nervous dog keeping the dog stuck. They may even encourage kids or people to attempt to pet their staring, growling dog thinking "He won't bite. He just has to get used to you." When a dog is staring at another dog or person, they hold still looking calm but they are on the brink of lunge - bite. One movement closer, a hand reach or step the approaching human takes is enough for this dog to lunge u p and bite. The owner here is ignoring the dog's body language. This dog needs to be removed from the situation and tell the approaching person to STOP!

If the dogs in these scenarios were not ignored, but were listened to, the bite rate would drop dramatically. Please watch your dog and respond to what your dog needs at all times when around people. For more information on dog body language and bite prevention please visit www.doggonesafe.com

Dog Flu Update

dog listeningYou may have heard about the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) that has been going around recently. The virus is getting closer to our area. Bloomington has seen 15 confirmed cases of CIV recently. And many dozen more dogs are suspected to have CIV. During 2015, when the virus was in Chicago, over 1,000 dogs were sick in the Midwest.

The virus making dogs sick, is not the usual virus strain we have seen in the past. This new strain has been in Asia and causes both dogs and cats too become ill.

The virus is spread easily by dogs sneezing or coughing on other dogs or cats, coming into contact with contaminated surfaces (toys, food and water bowls, dog parks, kennels), and contact with people who are around sick dogs. The virus can live up to 48 hours on contaminated surfaces, 24 hours on clothing and 12 hours on your skin.

Once a dog or cat comes into contact with the virus, they will start showing symptoms within two to four days. During these first few days the dog or cat is most contagious to other animals. Symptoms of CIV include coughing, runny eyes or nose, sneezing, lethargy, fever and not eating. Call us if your pet has any of these symptoms. Some pets become severely ill. It is best for your pet to come in as soon as possible for treatment. Less than 10% of pets who get infected with CIV do not survive.

Protect your pet from CIV by not visiting dog parks, boarding kennels, pet stores and other places visited by other dogs. If you are around other dogs, change clothes as soon as you get home and thoroughly wash your hands, arms, etc. A vaccine for the CIV strain is available. Call us if you would like to have your dog vaccinated.

Read more about Canine Influenza Virus:

Canine Influenza FAQ
Canine Influenza: Pet Owner's Guide

Help Hot Dogs

dog in carImagine you are walking in a parking lot this summer and pass a car with a dog inside. The windows are cracked, but the dog is panting and seems upset. What do you do?

Write down the make and model of the car along with the license plate number. Go into the nearby businesses and ask if anyone is driving this vehicle. If you find the owner, let them know that their pet needs help. Find some water from a sink, water fountain or pop machine for the dog to drink. You can also pour some water on the dog to help him or her cool down. If the dog can't stand, is panting heavily or acting disoriented, have the owner take the dog to the vet immediately. You may feel like yelling at the owner, but that won't help the dog. Let the owner know how dangerous it is to leave a dog inside a vehicle on warm days.

If you can't find the owner, or if the owner doesn't check on their dog, call the local animal control or police department. They will be able to remove the dog from the vehicle. If the owner comes while you are there, let them know how concerned you were about their dog and how dangerous it is to leave their dog in the car.

Cracking the windows of a car doesn't provide enough air circulation to keep the inside car from heating up. On an 85 degree day, the inside of a car can reach 102 degrees in only 10 minutes; and can reach 120 degrees in 30 minutes. Even on cooler days, the inside of a car can be as much as 20 degrees warmer. When you leave your dog in a car during warm weather, you risk your pet becoming overheated or getting heat stroke.

Symptoms of overheating or heat stroke include: drooling, foaming at the mouth, panting, wobbly head, having trouble standing, acting disoriented, and pink or red skin and gums. If you see a dog with these symptoms, immediately wet the dog down with cool or room temperature water. Using cold or ice water can prevent cooling. Pets cool down by blood flowing along the skin. The cold temperature of the ice causes blood vessels to constrict. These constricted vessels won't allow blood to flow along the skin, so the pet can't cool down. If this is your dog, call your vet and bring the dog into their office. If this isn't your dog, try to locate the owner. If you can't find the owner, call animal control or the police. Older or younger dogs and dogs with short muzzles (pugs, boxers, Boston Terriers, etc.) overheat much quicker than other dogs.

Share this information with your friends and neighbors to help keep pets safe this summer. Check out this Hot Car Flier from Humane Society of the United States. You can purchase the flier or print them off and give them to people. Also check out Dr. Foote's article Myth Busting Heat Stress in Pets for more information about keeping your pet safe this summer.

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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