Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



What is my Pet Thinking?


The 5th Sign of Pain in Pets - Increased Activity
Old Dog Behavior - Senility, Irritability and Anxiety
Everyone Have a Happy Holiday (Pets too)!

12 Tips for a Purrfect Pet Holiday

The 5th Sign of Pain in Pets - Increased Activity

The title probably sounds a little strange - how can pain cause increased activity? I recently read a one page hand out for clients pointing out the 5 ways pets can show dental pain. The first 4 were describing avoiding hard food, not playing with balls or chewing on rawhide, pulling away when petted on the head, and drooling. The last sign was the pet started to play more, want to be petted or had more energy after a dental was done. The elimination of pain due to infected teeth, tartar, inflamed gums decreased the drain on the body so the pet had more energy. Recently I had an experience like this with a client's cat and it brought this 5th sign home to me.

A sweet older kitty had a mass in his ear that was not causing any obvious infection, irritation, or problem until one day it started to bleed. It was pretty scary for the owner and not much fun for this kitty either. I examined the cat, and was able to treat the ear to control the bleeding and discussed removing the growth because it was growing slowly and could be bumped or bruised and bleed again. The client consented and we set up a day surgery. I was able to remove the growth under anesthesia, without problems and there was good news on the biopsy report. Upon rechecking his ear to be sure it all healed fine, the owner told me about how her kitty was more playful, affectionate, and getting along with the other cats better. She noted how her cat would fall asleep then have to scratch his ear before surgery, not any big deal, but now could sleep through the night. We talked about how getting petted around the head which most cats seek, may have been uncomfortable before but was welcomed now. Head bunting is they way cats greet each other so he now was doing this with the other cats and everyone was getting along better.

None of the previous behaviors were out of the ordinary. His change in nature told us that he chose not to be social and playful because it was painful for him. That is the 5th sign - he was more active, social and playful because the pain was gone. Judging pain in animals is not easy. They do not show pain like we do. The last thing a cat will do is cry in pain. For a cat to cry in pain it means they are ready to die because in the wild that would tell the predator "come get me." For dogs, they may cry or limp more readily but they also hold back until pain is pretty bad. This nature of hiding pain is related to animals living in the wild. Dogs do live in groups and are a predator but may also be predated upon. Cats are even more so at risk for predation when in pain because they are solo animals. They do not live in groups (except for Lions).

Veterinarians are much more trained to read the body language of pets for pain than in the past. We also have more medications, diets, supplements and therapies to help relieve pain in pets. When your veterinarian recommends surgery or treatment for a problem because they judge your pet to have pain, trust their judgment. Your pet cannot speak for themselves and a pet's behavior can tell us a lot about what is going on for them.

Old Dog Behavior - Senility, Irritability and Anxiety     

butterscotch on a walkAre you noticing your older dog is having trouble with navigating around the house? Is your dog more nervous when people come over, or during thunderstorms? Are you seeing grouchiness or irritability with a housemate dog? There are various behavior changes we can see as our dogs age. Often this is due to brain aging, but may be worsened by other health problems. The most common older dog behavior problems are:

  • Anxiety or fear of noises, children, housemate dogs
  • Aggression towards other dogs, children, being petted
  • House soiling and accidents
  • Confusion - can't find the door to go out, can't find owner when called, pacing and wandering in the home
  • Compulsive behaviors - licking objects, floor or self, pacing continuously, digging in furniture excessively

All of these behaviors reflect aging changes in your dog which is affecting the brain chemistry. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome - think of doggie senility - happens in geriatric dogs, starting at age 10 in large breed dogs. Smaller dogs have a later onset, usually at 13 years or older. As the brain ages, the chemicals that help the memory and learning part of the brain decrease. This part of the brain is not working as well so the client will see problems in any of 4 areas. Disorientation (can't find the door, walks all over the house), Interaction such as greeting and play with the owner changes, Sleep interruption, or House soiling. Think DISH to remember the 4 areas you may see changes. It can be difficult to determine if these changes are due to Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or something else. If a pet has early kidney disease, there will be house soiling problems. If the vision is decreasing, a common problem on older dogs, then they go to the wrong side of the door, or be confused about where they are. There are medications, supplements and diets that can help decrease the effects of this problem if they are caught early. If your dog is showing any of these changes, bring them to the veterinarian for a complete check up. Blood tests, urine tests and X Rays are an important part of this check up to rule out health problems and know what is best for your pet.

Pain causes lots of behavior changes. Humans do not interpret correctly when their dog is showing pain because it is different than when humans show pain. Also when dogs have arthritis and chronic pain they do not cry or limp at first. Instead they avoid being around active dogs or people. If they cannot get away from these things, then they may become grouchy or attempt to bite. This is how they are guarding their body from being bumped into or touched. Often, we see a friendly older dog snap when a younger dog has come to visit. That younger dog may have been jumping on or around this dog causing the older dog to have to move more aggravating pain troubles. Aggression in an older pet that was usually very calm is a red flag for body pain or problems. Get your pet to the veterinarian to screen for kidney, arthritis or other health problems. Much more is known now about reducing pain in pets with medications, supplements, massage therapy, diet, acupuncture, chiropractic and even laser therapy. A management plan for these dogs is essential to prevent pain and some of the behavior that comes with it. Do not let the medications, diet or other help lapse.

Anxiety, fear and compulsion problems can also arise in our geriatric dogs. Often these have a root cause in a source of inflammation in the body. It can also be the very first signs of Cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This is one of the most difficult problems in older dogs to figure out. Often a visit to a veterinarian behavior consultant like myself is needed to help your pet. The same blood and urine tests are needed to screen for internal problems. Often, I prescribe a combination of anti anxiety medications with products to help improve liver and kidney health.

If you are seeing changes in your older dog's behavior, please do not wait and just assume they are old or lazy. Your pet cannot tell you what is going on, and a visit to a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about both behavior and aging changes can help you out. The longer you wait, the more damage may be going on. As a certified low stress handling clinic, Okaw Veterinary Clinic is devoted to helping your pet be less upset for all parts of the exam, any tests and care. This is especially important in our older pets who may have difficult past veterinary exams. We can dispense anxiety reducing medications, pheromones and supplements that can help make the veterinary exam less upsetting also.

Everyone Have a Happy Holiday (Pets too)!

Ranger and Binx ChristmasHoliday gatherings are a big part of the celebrations of the season. In some way or another pets are involved in this. We buy presents for our pets, include them in family pictures and videos for the holidays, and they often are part of the party whether they like it or not. There are lots of guides and information on websites for present picking and even good picture taking. What is very important is providing enjoyable holiday gatherings for humans and animals.

First truly consider the age, health and temperament of your pet when guests are expected. If your pet is older, has arthritis, is blind or hard of hearing it is difficult for your pet to move around and get out of the way of people walking around the house for a party. They may be laying comfortably in their own bed, but they are usually on the lookout for what is going to happen next. This may have them a little tense and apprehensive about the whole gathering, which may result in more pain the next day from just holding their body tense, or having to move around more with more people present. Young pets may be very excited and jump, bark, meow excessively or knock little ones down.

Toddlers are especially at risk of possibly being bitten by even the most friendly dog when you think of how children are constantly on the go with an animal that is already a bit anxious. Toddlers are right up in the face of a dog, they do not follow verbal instructions from adults very well, and it seems the more adults there are fewer eyes are on the children (which adult is responsible for watching the kids?). If the owners have not made a quiet place for the dog or cat to go , there is a big risk of a bite.

So, to keep your pet and everyone happy plan ahead. Dogs and cats do not have to know everyone. If your relatives just come over once a year, then make a comfy place for your dog or cat to spend the day. If someone wants to visit your pet, you decide if it is okay. Younger well socialized pets may do fine with many people over but after a few hours they have usually had enough and are seeking a quiet area. Make that area away from the party scene and go ahead and put your pet there if you notice your pet avoiding people (avoidance is a subtle sign of anxiety). If the humans won't listen to you, perhaps board your pet for the day or make that comfy place in another room well away from others, and make it really hard for guests to "let the pet out." Most of the pet problems at parties are really humans not listening to each other or the animal.

If your pet is stressed out by visitors, we can help. Give us a call to set up an appointment for a behavior consult. You can also take a look at the behavioral services we offer.

12 Tips for a Purrfect Pet Holiday

  1. Give you pet gifts. If your pet doesn't like to unwrap his or her gifts, try the following. For dogs, put a couple yummy treats in with their gift and then wrap the gift. For cats, put some yummy treats or catnip in with their gift and then wrap the gift.cats dancing
  2. Keep candles and fragrance warmers out of your pet's reach. Dogs and cats can sniff or bump into these decorations and get burned.
  3. Cats keep climbing in the tree? Keep them out by spraying the lower branches with an antiperspirant containing alum.
  4. Tinsel and popcorn strings sure make the tree look pretty. Cats and dogs think so too. They often eat these decorations and become sick.
  5. Dogs and cats can chew on light bulbs and cords decorating the tree. So keep those lights tucked into the tree branches.
  6. Real trees have a pan of water that many dogs and cats like to drink from. Keep them out of this water! The water is contaminated by chemicals that have been sprayed on the trees.
  7. Hang ornaments out of your pet's reach. And hang them with thick ribbon instead of metal hooks. Dogs and cats are curious and play with ornaments. The hooks can fall off and easily be eaten and get stuck in your pet's intestines. The ornaments can also do the same if your pet eats them.
  8. Flowers and plants work great as decorations. Just keep them out of your pet's reach. Some plants, such as Amaryllis and Norfolk pine are poisonous to pets. Read more about poisonous plants.
  9. Yummy food is great for people, but most shouldn't be shared with our pets. Chocolate, sugar free candy, alcohol, fatty foods and bones can make your dog or cat sick. If you want to share your meal with your pet, try giving a few green beans (not casserole), carrots, celery or apple slices to your pet.
  10. Watch the aluminum foil, plastic cling wrap and raw meat wrappings. These are very yummy smelling and tasting to your pet. Your cat or dog can not only eat the bits of food, but will also eat the foil or wrap.
  11. Does your dog or cat run and hide when you have guests over? Help your nervous pet, pick up some Adaptil spray or collar for your dog or Feliway spray for your cat. Adaptil and Feliway are calming scents. Adaptil is the scent a mother dog releases when to help calm her pups while nursing. Feliway is the scent a cat leaves when rubbing their face on objects. This helps the cat feel more secure in their environment. Also keep these pets in a "safe" area, such as a bedroom, away from guests. Play the radio to help soothe your pet.
  12. Protect those tender toes. Use pet safe salt on sidewalks and driveways. Clean snow and ice from your dog's feet. Snow and ice can pack into your pet's paws and cause discomfort

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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