The veterinarians and staff at the Irving Pet Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Living with Dogs in Small Spaces: Tips for Adding Four More Feet to Your Square Feet

If you think living in a small apartment or condo means having a dog is out of the question, think again. Don’t deprive yourself of the rewards of these loyal, tail-wagging companions because just because you’re an urbanite without a backyard. Here are some helpful tips for sharing your limited square footage with a furry roommate:

Choose a Dog that Will be Happy in a Smaller Space. This is not just about the dog’s size, it’s about his temperament and exercise needs as well. So you don’t just have to consider small dogs. According to the Massachusetts Animal Coalition, size and breed do not necessarily determine suitability for apartment living, so always inquire about the specific energy level and exercise needs of the dog you are considering before bringing him into your home. (Mastiffs, for example, with their easy going temperament and moderate exercise needs, can make fine apartment-dwellers.)

Living with Dogs in Small Spaces

Consider Your Energy Level. When you are missing a fenced backyard, your dog will be completely dependent on you for exercise. All dogs require exercise that unleashes both their physical and mental energy, which means a combination of play time and walks. If you like long daily walks, bike rides, or runs (even in winter!), even a high-energy dog will be happy in your small home. If year-round, daily outdoor exercise is not your thing, stick to a low-energy pooch or look into doggie daycare or a dog walker—or get a cat.

Be a Good Neighbor. Do not allow your dog to bark incessantly or let him run off leash or unsupervised anywhere within the common areas of your building, and always clean up after him. Also, socialize your dog so he’s comfortable with urban life, including loud noises, traffic, bicycles, and contact with animals and people, often in fairly close quarters.

Think About Crate Training. Crate training will minimize or eliminate destructive behavior. Keeping your dog crated when your away means when you come home, you won’t be greeted by torn pillow stuffing, detritus from last night’s dinner that had been gleefully pulled from the toppled over waste can, shreds of your favorite shirt, or a urine stain (or worse) on the rug.

Fight Fur. Brush your dog outdoors regularly to remove loose hair and dander and vacuum to further reduce allergens and fur tumbleweeds. Give your dog his own bed both to provide him with his own safe space and keep him off your furniture.

With some planning and effort, apartment or condo living doesn’t need to mean dog-less living. For more information about caring for a dog in New York City, please give us a call. We are here to help you make the right decisions for the health and happiness of your urban pet!

First Aid Kit for Pets

When your pet is injured or poisoned, quick and decisive action can mean the difference between life and death. It is not the time to wonder where you last saw the gauze, if the hydrogen peroxide (used to induce vomiting) is expired, or if you even have styptic powder.

The American Red Cross recommends that the following pet first aid items be kept in a waterproof container:

• Latex gloves

• Gauze sponges

• Gauze roll, 2-inch width

• Elastic cling bandage

• Material to make a splint

• Adhesive tape

• Non-adherent sterile pads

• Small scissors

• Tweezers

• Magnifying glass

• Grooming clippers/safety razor

• Nylon leash

• Towel

• Muzzle

• Compact emergency blanket

• Water-based sterile lubricant

• Hydrogen peroxide 3%

• Rubbing alcohol

• Topical antibiotic ointment

• Antiseptic towelettes

• Insect sting stop pads

• Cotton-tipped swabs

• Instant cold pack

• Epsom salts

• Eye dropper

• Sterile eye lubricant

• Sterile saline wash

• Safety pins (medium size 4)

• Tongue depressors

• Diphenhydramine

• Glucose paste/syrup

• Styptic powder/pencil

• Plastic card

• Petroleum jelly

• Penlight

• Needle-nose pliers

Additional items to consider, include:

• Milk of magnesia and/or activated charcoal to absorb poison

• Digital thermometer for taking your pet’s rectal temperature

• Liquid dish soap for removing a potentially poisonous toxin from your pet's skin

• Canned tuna in water or chicken broth to flush out mouth and esophagus if your pet ingests a chemical (from a plant, household product, or cleaner) that causes irritation

Remember to program the following numbers into your phone and post them prominently in your home:

• Your veterinarian

• A local emergency veterinary hospital

• Animal Poison Control Center

Before an emergency, take the time to assemble your own pet first aid kit. You and your pet will be glad you did

DIY Veterinary Tests Should be Avoided

While making a hair color change or painting a room may seem reasonable to do yourself, when it comes to your pet’s health, it’s best to leave that to the professionals. Do-it-yourself (DIY) or "at-home" tests for Heartworm, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease, Feline Leukemia, and other diseases have recently begun to infiltrate the online market. And while it may seem like an easy and inexpensive way to test your pets, these products may actually wind up causing your pet – and wallet – more harm than good. Messing up an at-home test is not merely creating the risk of a beauty blunder, but actually putting your animal’s safety, and even trust, in jeopardy.

In fact, one user review stated that after cutting her dog’s nail to get a blood sample for the test, it took her three months before her dog would let her touch her feet again. Another comment expressed a similar sentiment, stating that her dog "now hated [her] and is hiding under the bed." Further, she could not stop her dog’s toenail bleeding and now has spots all over her bedspread. Yet another review, written by a self-proclaimed ex-groomer, discusses how to cut the nail precisely enough as to avoid the vein. But what if you’re not a groomer? And what if you can’t stop the bleeding? In trying to avoid a trip to the veterinarian, you have actually created another reason for a visit. And what if the test is positive and you need treatment? Cue… the second trip.

Admittedly, there may be conveniences and cost benefits to using at-home tests if everything goes accordingly to plan. There are a few positive reviews (most notably on the product website itself) from people who had luck with collecting blood samples from their pets. However, it is when things do not go according to the way it’s stated on the back of the box when you should be worried. To avoid the added stress for both you and your pet, leave the medical tests to your veterinarian – after all, that’s what they’re trained to do.

Separation Anxiety

What is the cause of this obsessive behavior?

Dogs are pack animals and need a social structure. They rely on other dogs (or humans) for interaction. They need to be socialized and need to understand what is expected of them. Many of them have been mistreated in the past and have been locked up alone for long periods of time. Some of them have been abandoned and have ended up in animal shelters.

Destructive Dog

Destructive Behavior Due to Separation Anxiety

Dogs need socialization.

Since our pets are usually not socialized in a pack, it is our responsibility to see that the job gets done. Obedience training is the best method for socializing a dog. Both the dog and the owner learn what is expected of each other. If obedience training is begun at an early age, the dog will learn how to interact with both humans and other dogs. They will not have this insecurity that "separation anxiety" dogs seem to display.

How do you treat this condition?

First of all, establish yourself as the leader! In order to learn this, both of you will probably need to enroll in a dog obedience class. This will also help your dog in the socialization game. He may misbehave during the first few classes, but before you know it, he'll be the star pupil. How does this affect the dog's destructive behavior when you leave him alone? Since you are the leader of the pack, the dog accepts the idea that you are leaving. He does not question your authority!

In the beginning, confine your dog to a crate when you are away. This has two advantages. The first is that your dog does not have the opportunity to destroy your house. The second is that your dog actually feels comfortable and secure in the crate. The crate must be large enough for your dog to turn around and stand up.

When you leave, turn on a radio. A talk show is the best type of program. A tape recording of your voice is even better. The radio or the tape recorder should be placed in the bedroom with the door closed (any room as long as the dog cannot enter). Since most destructive behavior occurs during the first hour, you only need a voice recording that lasts slightly more than an hour.

Make plans for Fido when you are not home.

Plan your departures.Before leaving your residence, give your dog a treat. A chewy bone packed with his favorite treat works very well. This should distract your dog long enough for you to leave. Leave quickly and quietly! Do not say goodbye! When you return, give him another treat. By doing this, coming and going are not so traumatic.

Practice your departures.As mentioned earlier, the most difficult time for your dog is the first hour that he is left alone. Practice leaving and entering. Take your dog out of his crate, put your coat on, and then walk out the door. Return immediately. Greet your dog calmly or don't greet him at all. If he is excited, completely ignore him. Repeat the same exercise; however, this time stay out longer. Continue with this exercise until you are comfortable leaving him alone for an entire hour. This may take several weeks to perfect.


Your dog must have regular, planned exercise. This exercise relieves stress and tension. Just like feeding time, your dog needs a specific time for exercise. Dogs like routine. Feed and exercise your dog at the same times every day. They are creatures of habit.

Curing "separation anxiety" is very difficult. It is definitely one of the most challenging behavior problems in dogs. Enrolling in a good obedience-training course is the first step to take.

Feather Picking in Birds

One of the most frustrating conditions of caged birds is feather picking. When a bird begins to pick, pull out, or mutilate its feathers, its physical appearance is greatly decreased. A bird owner's frustration results from a lack of understanding of what motivates the bird to behave in this destructive manner and what can be done to stop it. Feather disorders rank as some of the most difficult and challenging conditions to diagnose. Luckily, bird owners frequently scrutinize their pets, so feather problems are usually quickly detected. It should be noted that normal preening is normal behavior and must be distinguished from feather-picking and feather mutilation.

Feather picking is an obsessive, destructive behavior pattern of birds during which all or part of their feathers are methodically pulled out or in some way damaged. This behavior often prevents normal feather growth and is not difficult to diagnose. Affected birds look very much the same. Regardless of the pattern of feather loss, the skin below the neck is bare and exposed. The feathers of the head are generally normal and untouched. This is, of course, because the bird cannot reach its head feathers. The one notable exception to this is the bird whose feathers are picked by a cage mate. In these cases, the head feathers of the "victim" are not spared.

Causes of Feather Picking

There are both medical and non-medical reasons for feather picking. The major medical causes include changes in hormone levels, external and internal parasites, malnutrition, internal disease, and bacterial or fungal infections of the skin and/or feather follicles. Contrary to popular opinion, external parasites (mites in particular) are extremely rare among caged birds. Non-medical causes are psychological and/or stress related.

Feather picking is generally a problem of birds in captivity. Wild birds do not pick their feathers because they are too preoccupied with their own survival and with reproduction. Captive birds (pet birds and those in zoos) endure stress not experienced by their wild counterparts. Captivity, malnutrition, solitary living, absence of a mate with which to fulfill courtship rituals and mating needs cause significant stress. The presence of a dog or a cat or even a noisy house can cause stress in a pet bird. The groups of birds most notorious for engaging in this vice include African gray and Timneh parrots, cockatoos, macaws, conures, gray-cheeked parakeets, and cockatiels. Interestingly, feather-picking budgies or Amazon parrots are rarely seen.

Tips for Treating & Preventing Feather Picking

• There are no quick and/or easy solutions for psychological or stress-induced feather picking

• Collars can create an artificial barrier, but can cause more problems

• Consider changing the location of the bird's cage and/or perch

• Provide a larger cage or a more spacious living environment

• Spend more time with your bird

• Feed your bird foods that require some time and effort to eat

• Provide stimulating toys

Seek to treat the cause, not the symptom!

Some cases of severe chronic feather picking may not respond to any kind of treatment. Damage to or destruction of the feather follicles from repeated trauma to the skin may result in permanent feather loss or growth of abnormal feathers. These pet birds also tend to be unmanageable and very difficult to handle.

Animals Laugh. No Joke.

A dog may be man’s best friend, but can dogs join in on a joke by laughing? If so, what does this suggest for animal behavior and their cognitive skills? New research suggests that animals not only have the ability to respond to physically-induced sensory stimulation that causes laughter, but that certain behaviors may trigger cognitive reactions that strongly resemble human laughter as well. If so, it is hard to say who has the last laugh: animals or us.

From Birth to Mirth

For many years, scientists have studied chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates, as well as rats and even dogs to develop theories regarding the evolution of animal pleasure and mirthful behavior. Interestingly, two categories have emerged from such studies that shed more light on whether animal laughter is merely a reactionary or cognitive response.

Reactive Laughing- Scientists have long studied chimpanzees, gorillas and others in the primate species in order to identify evolutionary traits and common ancestry links. Through their research, scientists have discovered that when chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas wrestle or are tickled, they exhibit laughter-like vocalizations. Whether or not the animal lives in the wild or exists in captivity doesn’t matter; a spontaneous game of tag produces the same result — laughter.

While chimpanzee laughter may not sound like human laughter, it does follow the same spectrographic pattern that human babies follow. That is, they alternate between rapid inhalations and exhalations, create similar facial expressions and even share similar ticklish areas on the body such as the armpits and belly. Unlike humans, however, chimpanzees continue to enjoy being tickled throughout their entire lifespan. There are few elderly among us humans who would admit the same.

Cognitive Laughing- Likewise, rats also have striking similarities to humans when it comes to our funny bones. When tickled and/or engaged in physical activity and play, rats emit long, high frequency, ultrasonic, socially induced vocalized… well, laughter. Extensive studies by Jaak Panskepp and Jeff Burgdorf, then at Washington State University, concentrated on whether rats can become accustomed and conditioned to tickling sensation so as to seek it out on their own volition. The result is no laughing matter. Over time, not only do rats become conditioned to the tickling sensation but they seek out the tickler — thereby strongly suggesting a link between sensing the stimulus and acting upon the favorable positive emotion — a cognitive connection, to be sure.

Of additional interest, rats that “laughed” the most also played the most, and preferred to spend more time with other laughing rats. Just as humans abide by the old adage “like attracts like” so too do rats appear to socially prefer other rats who exhibit similar laughing behavior.

Obviously, it is hard to know what goes on in an animal’s brain, but ongoing research and analysis seem to suggest that laughter is not only a way to signal joy but also an age-old tool used to promote social bonding. With this in mind, it seems fair to say that animals may very well have the last laugh.

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