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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Instruments of terror -  what sets fear off in our pets at the veterinary office

 cat carrier = fear if exams are scary

Last week as I was holding a spoon of baby food that an anorexic cat was finally eating, my tech laid the ear thermometer on the floor next to me.  The cat took one  look at the thermometer, stopped eating, turned away and crept to the back of the cage as I stayed motionless with the baby food.  I asked her to remove the thermometer and when she did, the cat came right back up to me eating the baby food. 
So what was happening here?  The thermometer was an anxiety trigger to this cat.  That one item - an ear thermometer- was enough to shut this cat down.  How often have you had a happy dog suddenly snarl and become agitated  just before an injection is given?  Very likely this dog saw the syringe and that triggered the aggression.  That dog remembered the pain and irritation that the syringe injection gave.
If you don't have a reward, all this dog will remember is the pain
 When I present to veterinarians and technicians, some  of the audience acknowledge the trigger effect of our equipment.  They too have had an episode like the one I had with the cat.  Others can not believe that something so innocuous as a thermometer could set off that much anxiety.  These instruments are triggers.  They are items, or settings that predict for the pet what is coming next which may be unpleasant. 

These are some of the most common triggers that I see ( and my face book friend have added!)
                Stainless steel topped tables       small room syndrome - the close quarters of an exam room
               syringe and needle attached       white coat/smock/scrubs - especially on the DVM
               thermometers                              otoscope
               Stethoscope                      nail trimmers          electric trimmers             
Here is the challenge.- how do we perform our work, needing to use   these instruments and avoid setting off fear aggression and anxiety?   Here are a few tips that have helped reduce the anxiety and aggression we see from patients. 

1.   Hiding these triggers is a first step.  Be creative.  When you have drawn up the vaccines, keep the syringes hidden under a paper towel or piece of paper.  Hold the thermometer palm down so the pet cannot see it.    Cover your table with a beach towel to hide the stainless steel.  Use a towel or blanket as a hood  or a calming cap ( from the  thundershirt company)  over the pet( dog or cat's) face so they cannot see what is happening.   
2. Reduce  pain and discomfort when  using these instruments.  Use lidocaine cream around the rectum and wait a few minutes before using a fecal loop or rectal thermometer.  Smaller gauge needles (25ga for most injections)   reduces pain during injection.  Give pain relief before a procedure such as oral buprenex.
Latex gloves + pain unless you use lidocaine
3.  Reduce the anxiety the pet is feeling.  Try the pheromone products early and often.  Adaptil may take 5-15 minutes to help reduce anxiety.  Give the client a bandana to put on their dog so it is taking effect in the waiting room and during history taking.   Spray feliway on a paper towel to rub on the door of the carrier and on the exam table.   Offer food reward, verbal praise and petting that the pet enjoys throughout the steps of the exam and treatment. 

Here is a video showing how varying the triggers helps a nervous dog in for an exam  nervous dog exam you tube video

  Whatever steps you take with a patient to reduce anxiety,  record it in the record.   This will save staff  time and improve every visit for that pet. I have a medical record labeling system  Bella Behavior Label System available at to make this easy.   It is essential that  the doctor is a part of  stress reduction for this pet. Technicians can take the lead by suggesting  they removing the lab coat or hold the syringe so the pet cannot see it.   Tell your doctors what you notice when the pet became tense and that you want to try reducing anxiety by removing a trigger or 2 and see the effect.  Some of us doctors get so engrossed in doing the tasks of diagnosis and treatment we don't pay attention to  what may be triggering the patient's anxiety.  We can't see how the animal is responding as we bend over to look in an ear or are at the rear of an animal.  Doctors - be open to changing a few things for the benefit of your patients and your staff.  Everyone wins when we decrease fear in the veterinary clinic.
This little dog took rewards because I left my lab coat off - the Bella system reminded me to do this Bella Behavior Label System                  

Dr. Sally J Foote DVM CABC-IAABC 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Change just one thing - how to improve behavior in baby steps

When ever I see a behavior consult at my office, I know my clients want immediate improvement. .  While many people understand it will take time for the problems  to be  better, there is a need for immediate improvement..  It is possible to see improved behavior by  changing just one thing with your pet.   No, it won't be the entire solution,  and there will be some undesired behaviors going on.  Yet the intensity and frequency of the problem behavior can be decreased with some simple first steps.
Audie and Carol  - One of my first behavior cases

 To  improve behavior one must have an accurate diagnosis of the problem(s)  and address all of them.  Now that is pretty daunting.  It takes time in the consult, watching video, drawing floor plans to have a full understanding of the problem and provide a comprehensive solution.  You can hear some clients sigh in despair of how complicated this may be.  I have learned the importance of focusing improvement on the most disruptive or dangerous ( biting for example) behavior first, so a behavior modification plan can be as direct and simple as possible.

For our pet's behavior to change, we have to change.  There lies  the difficulty.  Many of us are resistant to change.  And what will change look like or mean to the other aspects of our life?  Breaking change down to baby steps that have the greatest effect is the easiest way to improve behavior.  There is often many more than one thing on our behavior plans, but I have found that asking the clients to do one thing first and work on just that the first few days will often improve life that they can then do more.

Here are a few baby steps to start with that can make some immediate change:
1.   Stop using punishers
no more  spray bottles, ultrasonic collars, yelling at your dogs or throwing pillows,  or grabbing the neck of  your cat!   Anxiety increases  and these techniques rarely  work to improve behavior.  If you stop the punishers,   many pets will be  less fearful and reduce their growling, lunging or fighting.

2.  Have your pet behave nice to get any kind of food.  Cats included.
Bella gets food for just standing nice
 No more food out of the bowl!   Now they will get a kibble or 2 for just standing, sitting or laying in their bed quietly.  Or better yet, coming when called, attaching a leash, walking at your side or laying on their perch.   This is like catching them being good ( or not bad).  When your pet is earning their meals they get the idea quickly that better behavior means more food.  When they are not acting good -no food, no attention.

3.  Increased exercise for dogs and cats
  This means play in the yard with a human - throwing a ball, Frisbee or what ever.  Or walking your dog  on leash outside of your yard.  Walks for dog need to be about 1 minute per pound per day as a dose.  Cats really need humans to play with them!!!  They need to kill something every day so get those toys on a stick, a laser light, catnip ball, the ring from the milk jug to toss and make them move.  Play increases the bond with you and raises calming brain chemicals.
Butterscotch loved his walks! 

4. Start the appropriate drug/supplement/diet  as recommended by your veterinarian.
 The proper drug or supplement helps them learn.  It helps adjust the brain chemical balance that literally opens up learning pathways in the brain so please do not refuse medication!  It is like getting glasses when you are near sighted - now you can learn so much easier.  

5.  Chart how often your pet is doing the bad behavior and in what circumstances.
Data is helpful.   Keeping track  can increase every one's  awareness of the problem, show what the triggers are, and really help with accurate diagnosis.  Now you can start to help yourself by avoiding triggers or situations.

Some people feel that only  the pet has to change  - that the humans should not have to do anything different.  Your pet is responding with their behavior to the home they live in. This   includes everything from how all the humans come and go as well as other pets.  There is something about life from your pet's point of view,  that is stimulating the behavior.  So if you don't change, how can your pet change ?  
giving a reward through the muzzle makes treatment much easier

Think about what is in it for you to change and get better pet behavior.  If a 10 minute walk for your dog decreases how much destructive chewing they do daily, and gives you some fun time with your pet is that worth it for you?  Is getting the cat toys out and tossing them around or getting your cat to follow you around the house for more exercise worth not cleaning up urine around the house?   It may seem unconnected to you, but these little things can make a huge difference.

Keeping it simple also means trying it for just a week and see how it works.    Just give the first step a  try and monitor what improvements develop. It's like decluttering a home.  It did not happen in  one day - even after a huge tornado it takes some days to clean up.  Pets that suddenly erupt with behavior problems will take time to be  better but small steps do improve things.
food puzzles are fun for cats too

Lastly, what is the level of behavior that is acceptable to you in your home?  All dogs don't need to overcome their fears of strangers to the point of running up to everyone to be a happy, safe and well behaved dog.  In my home my dog barks readily at noises outside, people at the door and is wary of unknown people.  In some ways I actually like that.  It makes her  a good watch dog for my home and my daughter.  She is not aggressive and will warm up to people after she has some time with them. Yes it is irritating, but the reality is that she is always vigilant and that increases our security.  Your dog or cat does not have to get an A in training to be a good pet.  A C grade may be good enough for you.
Thanks and good luck!
It's ok with me to let Ranger play with boxes a bit

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Helping and old cat with acupuncture and chiropractic care

Tuesday I took our office cat Mercy to a fellow veterinarian and acupuncturist, Dr. Susan Hites in Savoy Illinois.  Mercy had a day or 2 where she was not walking well,  did not want to be petted or greet people.  My staff is fully aware of Mercy's arthritis in her hip and lower back and faithfully give her the medications, supplement and special diet she needs to keep her out of pain.  They did not see her do anything unusual, but could tell she was  having trouble.  We took  x rays and compared to previous ones from a year or 2 ago,  to see if things had changed in her. Yes, her arthritis in her back and hips had progressed.  Actually I was impressed at how well she has been jumping up on the counters and greeting people as I looked at the films.
Mercy loves to be up on the front counter

There were other choices for pain meds but they don't work well on our Mercy.  She gets very sedate, and seems to see pink elephants when she has any of the narcotics used in cats.  Buprenex works well for many cats but not our Mercy.  That one had her on a drunk that lasted 12 hours, and reducing the dose did not help.  Gabapentin rarely causes any sedation or " seeing things" in cats but here again Mercy was on a high that did not seem fun for her.  So adding more medication was not an option.  As I looked at her x rays, I realized that she needed more help to reduce her inflammation and pain even though she was acting better that day. She would have other bad days, and I wanted to help her have the best days she could.  Also, there was that lingering thought - am I missing something in my own cat?  Do I not see something bad because I don't want to?  I need to take her to another veterinarian, specialized in chronic pain in older pets to have that objective view.   I also wanted a veterinarian who is also dedicated to gentle handling in cats. Dr. Hites came right to mind.
When she is feeling sore - she stays in her bed more

The day I took Mercy to her appointment, we gave  her a calming supplement called Composure.  Mercy usually does not like exams and may tense up.  This would be a strange place to her so I wanted to reduce any anxiety as much as I could.  I took her up myself with her favorite liver paste to eat and A/D food to reward her during the exam.  She laid on her own blanket from home and Dr. Hites looked at the X rays with me as Mercy became accustomed to the office.  She did not have any sedative because she did not need it.

  I had not missed any thing on her X rays, and she was on a good pain management regime.  Mercy's had misalignment in 3 areas on her back which were aggravating her pain.    Dr.Hites suggested some adjustment and acupuncture over the back area as a starting point that day,  and see how she responds.   Some pets may not show much improvement while others may respond more dramatically.  It is an individual therapy and response.  It is important to understand that the arthritis is still there but the adjustment is to line things up that have become out of place due to using the body differently.  It is a  trial and see response type of therapy.  I was aware of this approach, and wanted to give it a try.  There was nothing to lose -  the time and money would be worth while to know  personally what acupuncture and Chiropractic for pets is really like.
after a little manipulation, the first needles go in

Dr. Hites feels for the right spots
We set Mercy up on her own blanket after taking her carrier apart - all good ways to handle cats!  Dr. Hites is cat friendly!  Dr. Hites began feeling over Mercy as I fed her the liver paste.  Mercy was calm as Dr. Hites worked.  Adjustments in cats are small - as are their bones.  So the manipulations are subltle but effective.  Dr. Hites then  did acupuncture on about 8 spots along her back and shoulder.  These thin needles go in without any notice.  Then Mercy just laid there with Dr. Hites supporting her as I gave her more yummies to keep her happy.  And she was.  This is what shocks many - how can a dog or cat just lay there with a bunch of needles poking out?  Hites was able to straighten out her hip area.  In response Mercy stuck her hind end up with her tail up as Dr. Hites petted her.  That is a comfortable cat!
Mercy just laid calmly
These needles are activating endorphins - feel good body chemicals- as they sit there.  So, having needles in your back feels good for a while.
That is the skill for the acupuncturist - judging how long to leave in the needles and not over stimulate.  After the acupuncture treatment  Mercy's back was more relaxed and Dr.

I posted Mercy's photo on our  facebook page and have had a few ask about how acupuncture could help their cat.  I have referred other clients with dogs for chiropractic and acupuncture before but I did not have much information about how it helped cats.  Mercy will be going back in 2 weeks for a second treatment.  Then as often as we figure out she needs to stay well adjusted - at least physically!
All done and feeling good!
It is important to go to a veterinarian certified in Chiropractic and acupuncture.  The anatomy and general health are important to know, and a human chiropractor is not trained in this.  
I hope others older cat owners will look at their older cat who does not move around much with an open mind to come in and discuss what can be done to make their cat's life better.  There are a lot of options, and they can be worked out step by step individualized for your pet.

Thanks Dr. Sally J Foote 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Parental Advisory: prevent dog bites to your kids!

There are lots of things that drive me crazy when I am out in public as a veterinarian.  Dogs left in cars on a hot day; dogs roaming in a yard off leash;  dogs loose in the back of a pick up truck, to name a few.  My craziness comes from having to clean up the problems such as heat stroke, or  accidents that could have easily been avoided.  As my practice has developed  in pet behavior , I can see the easily avoidable problems with dog bites when I am out in public.  So now I get frustrated and a bit crazy at people when they are not paying attention to their dogs, especially when children are around.  The resulting bites, scratches, lunges and nips that happen result in the dog being the bad one, not the humans who could have easily prevented the whole scene.  I am not going to rant on this.  This blog is devoted to preventing bites to our children from owned pets when children greet them - the most common dog bite situation.
Know your pet - Butterscotch is loving the rubs but others might not 

So who is responsible for keeping kids safe around dogs?  The parent or the dog owner?  In my opinion both are, with the parent the  foremost responsible.   One can not rely on the dog owner to be aware of what is the best way for kids to greet a pet.  There is not any test on dog care, training and behavior one needs to take before getting a dog.  Many people base their knowledge of what to do with dogs on just what they knew from a previous pet.  In my experience in our community, I see less than 25% of dog owners actually going through any kind of  dog training, so do not depend on the dog owner to  knowing what to do.   This is your child.  Protect and educate them.

Here are a couple of very important points to always remember:
  Look at life from the dog's point of view.  It does not matter what your child meant by hugging the dog.  To the dog they were about to be strangled so that is why they  snapped.  A  common bite
scenario is hugging  a sleeping dog.  Let sleeping dog lie!!!!   Don't disturb them - do you like someone rubbing your back or hugging you all of a sudden when you are deep in sleep?
leave this dog alone not matter how sweet she looks!!

Dogs turn to aggression - any body language to increase the distance from what the dog perceives as a threat - to get something to stop coming towards it.  Simply said, snapping, growling, staring, freezing, lunging and circling are ways to get your child to go away because no one has paid attention to the earlier signs of "help me".  Those signs are turning the head away, moving away from the child, tail down, ears turned back, licking the lips, and constantly looking around.  Get the dog and child apart if you see these signs and everyone will be much better off.
Glenda loves this but  Butter does not

If a dog goes to growling, staring, not moving,  they are shifting to aggression because acting afraid is not helping them.  Keep your kids away!!!  Ask the owner to put their dog up for the benefit of both your kids and the dog.  This is not a  bad dog.  It is a dog that is overwhelmed  and trying to help itself.  If it is difficult to remove the dog, get your kids to another area or have them do different activities ( like stop cartwheeling around the dog, or running around ) that may help decrease the stress on the dog.
humans like hugs and close contact - but not all pets do!

Where do you start?  Right now !

1. Infant to toddler ( birth to  age 2) - Children at this age cry, squeal, roll around, crawl, and move around very quickly in an unpredictable way to the dog.  All of this activity can look like a little injured squirrel that needs to be eaten.   Some
 dogs  stare - sniff intently over the body of the child.   Do not allow this!!!!!!!!!!!!   Even if a dog seems very tolerant, you don't know what the dog will do next.  If a dog is looking away, turning the head away from a child, moving to another area it is saying "I don't know what this child is going to do and I need to get away".
Bella keeps one eye on the child - and I on Bella 

So get the child  or the dog away from each other.  This requires parents to have their eyes literally on their child.  Do not leave kids and dogs alone with each other.  The major of bites to children happened when the adults were not present.

2.  preschool to school age:  At this age, the child can follow your instructions about proper greetings -  asking first, avoid petting on the head, and not rushing up to to dog but they need an adult to demonstrate this with them.  Few children at this age remember to follow all the rules, so parents remind  the child and  demonstrate proper greeting.  Take the opportunity to ask your child how they see the dog respond to them.  If the dog is pulling away, point out that the dog has had enough.  This is how the child learns to respect the dog's space.  It isn't all about what the child wants to do.

3.  Adolescent to adult hood:  Parenting never ends.  Yes, you still need to remind and at this point keep an eye out for how your child is acting around dogs, especially at family barbecues or parties.  When your teenager is laughing loud, looking at their phone and not paying attention  this is scary to the dog.  If they all of a sudden reach down to pet the dog as they hold an I phone, to the dog they are  unsure of what that object is in the hand.  All the rules are the same- ask if you can pet, invite the dog in, and touch from the shoulders to the back.

Dog owners certainly need to be in charge of their dogs.  Unfortunately not every dog owner sees life through their dog's eyes.  They miss the early signs of fear and then aggression results.  Information abounds for the dog owner, but some just don't listen.
reward good behavior
  So parents, step up.  Take charge of the situation with your kids.  The majority of dog bites to kids could be easily prevented by not allowing the child to rush up to a dog, getting in the face, reaching over the head, or "bugging" the dog when it is sleeping, eating or had a toy.  If parents and dog owners would step in and stop kids doing this the bite rate would drop dramatically.
Thanks. Sally J Foote DVM 
Okaw Veterinary Clinic

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A surprise gift in the mail!

Bella loves to investigate
I came home from the office tonight after a bit of a challenging day to find a box from the Kong company.  I had not ordered anything, and to my surprise Bella  had an early Christmas.  There were a few new toy items, treats and stuffing items for my dogs to try out.  I think I remember giving my business card to a sales rep at one of the conventions to try out products and review them - so now my dog is reaping the benefits.

So, first of all I let Bella sniff out and pick through the box.  She was most interested in the tire like toy and I thought that would be a good place to start with her.  I also saw the jerky treats and thought those would be good to try out too.

The packet size is also handy for trips to the vet
The treats are semi soft and easy to break into that small - half a cheerio size I suggest for rewarding.  Not the whole treat - just a nibble.  Then one treat lasts a long time and gives multiple rewards.  It also makes it much easier to reward with the 1 second that many dogs like as a rewarding or reinforcement rate.  These treats are lamb or beef and do not have corn, soy or wheat so they are somewhat hypo allergenic.  I think these would be great for trips to the veterinary clinic, and for owners to use them for rewarding during the veterinary exam.
I show how to do this at my site for the Bella Behavior System 

This is the handy tube of Kong past
Simple, but effective
So after giving Bella one treat, I got the peanut butter squeeze tube out for a try.  Kong makes liver , peanut butter and cheese flavored  pastes that now come in a small toothpaste tube like container.  This makes it easy to carry around in a purse or car to use in toys for distraction and rewarding.  This would be a great product to take along with you to the groomer, or veterinarian to stuff a food puzzle toy.  That stuffed toy can be enjoyed by your dog as they get their vaccinations, nails trimmed or blood test taken.   The rubber is pretty durable and it is a small enough size to carry along with you.  It is not that challenging, but at times you may need a simple food puzzle.

Bella, the 2 fisted toy tester!
The last toy in this box was the Squeezz - a soft ring toy that squeaks.  The material seemed soft so I was a bit wary of giving to Bella.  She can chew through just about anything.  The squeaker in the toy is very enticing for a dog to try to chew out.  To my surprise the toy has stood up to some pretty harsh bites.  It also bounces to it makes a great play toy as well.  The size is a bit small for the big dogs so I would use this just on dogs under 40lbs.

So, thank you Kong!  My dog loves your products as do I.  There is a lot of variety with an eye for safety and fun for pets.  I really like how these treat products and toys can also be used for rewarding during home treatment and at the veterinary clinic.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Treats are not bribes - especially at the vet office

If you have ever brought your pet to my clinic, you know that every single staff member  will try lots of ways to help your pet be less upset during the visit.  Over the years we have become very creative  using towels, treats, happy voices and even taking off our white coats to make the visit less stressful.  While this may seem like a lot more work at first, it really saves a lot of time and work in the long run.  And that is what really counts - the long run.
This how I examine a timid cat

 High volume    - get them in get them out veterinary visits are easy on the pocket book but not on the  pet, vet or owner.    Why would I want to just rush you in and out?  This approach leaves  little time to fully  examine your pet and inform you about what is best for your pet.  The wham - bam approach leaves you to the internet, magazines or television to get your pet information which is not always accurate..  Rushed visits taking your   to "the back"  it often increases the stress for your pet.  "What are they doing to my baby?" you may wonder. 

 Many clinics focus on efficiency by taking the pet to a treatment area where the trained technician and veterinarian work together.  Many lawyers have strongly counseled veterinarians  to take this approach. Why?   Owners who become bitten, scratched have sued veterinary clinics even when the owner insisted on restraining their pet. Often  these  owner won large monetary judgements so the resulting solution was do not allow the owner anywhere near the pet while at the vet.  So the legal advice focuses on the liability of the veterinarian ,not the pet's experience and behavior.At our office, we use our technical staff to reward the pet in all areas of the office. This will take a little more time the first visit or 2, but soon the pets are co operating much better to go to the exam area and we allow the clients to stay as the techs handle the pets in a low stress manner.  It is a win -win for pet, staff and owner.
treats in the waiting area - calm not nervous

Through all of this, we have ignored the effect on the pet.  Finally the tide is starting to turn.  Veterinary technicians, assistants, and veterinarians are becoming educated to identify pets showing anxiety and pain during the veterinary exam.  The early signs of fear need to be recognized to change the methods of handling to reduce stress on the pet.  This is a new concept in handling animals.  Classes are not routinely taught on this in college - it is at the post graduate convention level that many veterinarians and staff are learning how to reliably read the signs of low grade pain, fear, and aggression.  When we immediately start to offer treats or use a calming spray, our  clients comment about how this exam is one of  easiest exams on their pet ever.  They are often amazed when their little terrier  now accepts the muzzle with treats and is not attempting to bite.  The few minutes of rewarding, and reducing stress makes each visit quicker, more complete and safer for the staff and the pet. .
this dog hated her nails clipped until she got treats

When clients call around looking for a veterinarian, often the first questions are about the cost of care. Sure care costs money and there are different prices at different clinics.  Not all clinics are managed, staffed and operated exactly the same.  This is often where the price difference comes in.  When a clinic takes a minimum of 30 minutes for a wellness exam, they charge more since they have more time and staff involved.  This time is often spent in making the exam less upsetting for your pet, as well as time to help educate you.  Ask the clinics you call what will they be doing - ask if they use less stressful handling techniques and rewarding.  If they stumble to answer - keep calling around until you find a place that puts your pets mental/emotional needs ( and yours) equal with the physical needs.
Even cats get treats during exams!

  Yes, my clinic charges more than some others in my area - and charges less than others too.  When you come here you get that longer exam, the licensed Certified Veterinary Technician, and time with me, the doctor doing all we can to decrease the stress of the visit for your pet.  I am committed to less stressful handling and rewarding during exams because it is in the best interest of your pet and my staff.  I cringe now when I see  a dog trembling in fear at another clinic and more and more handlers are called in to restrain this fearful dog.  It can be better. See my videos on my youtube channel drsallyjfoote   and you will understand the difference.

As I present the concept of Bella Behavior - rewarding and recording what helps this pet to have the least stressed exam - I see staff starting to understand how and why low stress handling is best.  Practice by practice change is happening.  Be a part of that change by choosing a low stress clinic.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Good Bye Butterscotch - you were a great teacher

Butter still liked his walks as he aged
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

Sissel - the super senior at the pet show
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.

a calm moment with Carole
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 Champaign 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  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.

Dr. Sally J Foote CABC-IAABC