Building the Bond: Tips to Increase the Relationship with Your Dog

Please note that Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital is offering a free class to help you strengthen the relationship with your dog. Details are below.

Many dogs that are adopted from shelters or found as strays exhibit behaviors that make people believe they have been “abused” in the past…

  • “He’s terrified of men.”

  • “She cowers when I raise my voice.”

  • “He won’t go near the broom.”

These are all interpreted as a reaction to some malicious process from their past - what we generally refer to as abuse. And certainly, this may occasionally be the truth.

But far more often is the everyday damage that we ALL inflict on our pets - unintentionally, unthinking, and most often with the best of intentions that ultimately lead to a dog that is fearful, reactive, destructive, and, at worst, aggressive. These difficult dogs are then turned in to shelters, or chained in the yard, or dumped - making the damage even worse.

So, what are the things that we do to dogs to bring out the worst in them?

  • We don’t spend enough time with them. We expect bright, energetic young dogs or puppies to spend hours a day alone. Having a big back yard does not constitute exercise. And a 30-minute walk once a day is just a warm-up for an energetic border collie.

  • We rely on quick fixes. Any quick internet search will reveal a plethora of devices to help “fix” your dog’s issues. Anti-bark collars (both shock and scented), pronged collars, choke collars, invisible fences - all of these things rely on an unpleasant stimulus to produce the desired result. Pain causes fear. Fear leads to anxiety. Anxiety leads to poor behavior. Poor behavior weakens the bond between owner and pet and greatly increases the chance of owner surrender.

  • We are busy, anxious, and stressed ourselves. Dogs and cats are intuitive creatures. Our stress leeches out of us, and they sense it.

  • We don’t maintain consistent routines.

  • We expect instant results.

  • We misinterpret or ignore dogs body language.

Strengthen the Bond with Your Dog

Building a Bond with Your Dog | Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital | Charleston, SC

At Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital, we will give you the necessary tools to help strengthen the bond with your pet, teach you how to read her body language, and help with training. Here are some great ways to strengthen the bond with your dog…

  • We strongly encourage all pet owners, but especially those who have recently adopted a new dog, to come to our upcoming free “Building the Bond” class. Here we will go over body language interpretation and give some basic insight into each individual dog’s needs.

  • A tired dog is a happy dog. We work closely with Chucktown Charley’s - a local daycare/training facility. Scheduling your pup there a day or two a week will help channel some of that energy.

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise. For most breeds this does not mean a walk. Walks are good. Runs are better. Agility courses are great. Low Country Dog Agility Club will be happy to work with you and your pet. If you work long hours, hiring a dog walker to come in mid-day for an exercise/bathroom session is essential.

  • Avoid dog parks like the plague. The only thing your dog will learn here is bad manners or fear… or both.

  • The beach is a great place to exercise, run, throw the ball, teach Frisbee, etc

  • Clicker training is the easiest way to train through positive reinforcement. We will discuss this more thoroughly in class, but basically the pet is reinforced with a “click” whenever he does something right. The click is immediately followed by a high incentive food reward. For example, “get your duck” and then when his nose touches the duck hit the “click” followed quickly by food. Most dogs learn this very quickly, and as they become comfortable with the clicker and positive associations, we can quickly expand that to “unlearning” negative behaviors - such as leash reactivity.

  • Mental stimulation is essential. Dogs left home alone get bored quickly. And bored dogs can definitely find (mostly inappropriate) ways to entertain themselves. A quick Amazon search will bring up a plethora of puzzles of various difficulty levels for your dog (and cat!) that will make them work for a treat. These can keep them occupied for quite some time.

Recommended Supplies

  • DAP collar or diffuser (anti-stress)

  • Crate

  • No-pull harness such as Gentle Leader

  • Clicker

  • Kong toys

  • Dog walker (human!)

  • Mental stimulation toys such as DogFood Puzzle Snuffle Mat and the Outward Hound Dog Puzzle

  • Small, highly desirable treats

Join Us for a Free “Building the Bond” Session

As mentioned above, we are holding a free “Building the Bond” class. Dr. Lanford is passionate about speaking for those who have no voice. Please join us and learn techniques to help build a bond with your dog that will last a lifetime! This session is to help understand the basics of a dog's body language.

  • Learn things that we do to dogs that bring out the worst in them.

  • Learn recommended supplies to help keep them busy/entertained.

  • Listen to Dr. Lanford's prior experiences with dog behavior.

Or contact us for further information and to hold your spot at our next session!

Jennifer Morrow
Tips to Keep Your Indoor Cat Active

Can your cat be a bit of a couch potato? Indoor cats need physical activity to keep them happy and healthy; otherwise, they tend to become overweight and depressed due to inactivity and boredom. It may be time to give your feline friend a lifestyle makeover, and we have some great tips to help!

  • Toys: Look for toys that will stimulate both your cat’s physical and mental needs. Cats love chasing a catnip mouse toy, swatting a feather teaser or playing hide-and-seek in a crinkle tunnel.

  • Towers or perches: Place a cat tower or perch to satisfy your cat’s need for stimulation. Cats love to climb up high and investigate their surroundings.

  • Scratching posts: Adding a scratching post will also improve your cat’s well-being. Cats use posts for stretching, exercising and to maintain their claws. As a bonus, having a scratching post will save your house furniture from being shredded.

  • Puzzle feeders: Even indoor cats inherently have the motivation and skill to seek and hunt, and the pursuit of food is instinctive. Add a puzzle feeder to encourage your cat to think and stay mentally stimulated. Puzzle feeders encourage the use of a cat’s hunting and foraging skills. They also offer a healthier option to free-feeding and aid in weight control.

Having an enriched environment consisting of playtime, entertainment and a cozy warm cat bed is essential in keeping your feline friend happy.

Let Us Help

Indoor cats need owners who provide them with a healthy, happy and interactive lifestyle. Please contact us for further information… we would love to help!

Jennifer Morrow
Treatment for Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Did you know that approximately 20% of our canine friends suffer from separation anxiety? The condition is physically and emotionally damaging to dogs, and it can take a toll on the monetary budget and emotions of dog owners. The cost to repair walls, doors, flooring and furniture can really add up. And, it’s natural to worry or get angry and frustrated. Fortunately, we have had great success in treating separation anxiety in dogs.

What causes separation anxiety in dogs?

Dogs are basically pack animals. They are programmed to live in groups, and separation from the group means death. When we adopt a puppy or a grown dog, we are taking them into our social group and teaching them to live with us and our social order. However, it can sometimes be a rough transition. We love dogs for many reasons, including the way that they bond with us. However, this bond can cause trouble if we are not around and the dog suffers from separation anxiety.  

This condition often results in owners coming home to torn doors, walls and curtains. The dog may have even urinated, defecated or drooled excessively. These can all be signs of separation anxiety. Unfortunately, some dogs may remain undiagnosed because they simply freeze and shut down when their owners are away.  

Not all dogs who destroy the couch cushions, books, curtains, etc. suffer from separation anxiety. Some are just very bored when we are gone, and they do it for fun. Dogs acting out in this way probably need a different form of treatment.

Treating dogs with separation anxiety

Fortunately, the treatment for separation anxiety can be very successful. It involves medication, behavior modification and sometimes lifestyle changes. A good place to start is with a video camera. This can help your veterinarian determine if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety or just boredom which can have different treatments.

When separation anxiety has been identified, working with your veterinarian and a qualified trainer that is experienced with behavior problems is essential. Some things to expect…

  • Doggy daycare/walking: During the initial phases of treatment, it may be necessary to have your pet attend a doggy daycare (if they like that) or have a dog walker come in several times a day. Fortunately, many work places are becoming more open about having pets come to work. Keep in mind that there is a time limit that your dog should be left alone. If you are going to be gone extended periods of time even after initial treatment, it is best to have a pet sitter/walker come over to provide companionship and a potty break. Some dogs will do best at a doggy day care.

  • Medication, supplements, etc: Some of the most common medications used are anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants. Some of these drugs work immediately while others take several weeks to reach full effect. Pheromones, supplements, thundershirts as well as music are also very helpful in easing the signs of separation anxiety.

  • Behavior modification: This step is essential in working with your dog to overcome the anxiety of being left alone. It gives the dog coping skills and teaches it that being alone is not a death sentence. The training also gives the owner skills on how to manage leaving the house and how to approach coming home. Behavioral modification is as much for the owner as for the dog.

Let us help you and your dog

The first step in diagnosing separation anxiety is to see your veterinarian. If you have a video of your dog’s actions when alone, bring it along. We will want to do a physical exam and get some blood work to make sure there is not a physical cause of the anxiety. Once separation anxiety has been confirmed, we will discuss medication, supplements, pheromone usage and recommend a trainer. Separation anxiety is highly treatable. Once treated, your pet’s life and yours will improve dramatically.. Please contact us for further information.

Jennifer Morrow
8 Ways to Be a Good Pet Parent

The responsibilities of pet ownership can be a bit overwhelming, especially for new pet parents. However, it’s really not that intimidating when we break it down into eight simple categories. If you aspire to be a good pet parent, your dog or cat will be much more likely to have a long, happy life if you focus on the following...  

1. Spaying/Neutering

We recommend spaying or neutering all pets because the number of animals relinquished to and euthanized in shelters is directly related to the rate of accidental litters and behavior problems with intact (not neutered) dogs. If you adopt from a shelter, odds are your pet has already been spayed or neutered. However, if you found a kitten or adopted a purebred dog, you’ll need to consider when it's best to take this step.

There are some recent studies suggesting that we should wait until animals are a bit older before performing these procedures. The problem with waiting is that the surgery (especially for females) gets more difficult and results in a longer recovery as they get bigger. A simple guide...

  • In a small animal (cat or small dog), you can wait until skeletal maturity (about one year of age) before spaying or neutering.

  • In a large female dog, consider spaying at about six months of age so that her recovery time will still be short.

  • Because neutering male dogs is a relatively more simple procedure, they can wait until skeletal maturity. This might be as long as two years in a very large breed dog. However, you should not wait this long if there is any risk of roaming, mating with another dog unexpectedly or aggression.

2. Microchipping

Get your pet microchipped as soon as possible. We usually do this during the spay or neuter procedure, but it can be done earlier. We know that you think you will always have your beloved pet by your side, but accidents happen. Fires, hurricanes and car wrecks can result in a pet escaping and losing their collar and tags. A microchip will increase the chance of reunion by immeasurable amounts. Don’t skimp on this simple way to keep your pet safe.

3. Regular Vet Visits

We recommend the following frequency for vet visits to extend your pet's life expectancy and save you money in the long run....

  • Young pet - every three to four weeks

  • Adult pet - yearly

  • Senior pet - every six months

4. Vaccinations

Vaccination needs vary for every pet. We assess your pet’s lifestyle and then recommend vaccinations that will keep you and your pet healthy. Yes, YOU can be protected from diseases that your pet can contract, so vaccinating the pet keeps your family safer.

5. Parasite Prevention

It's unfortunately very easy for pets to share parasites with humans, so be sure to bring a fecal sample to the veterinarian for every wellness check-up to keep your family safe. Fleas are the most prevalent parasite among companion animals. These pesky pests are known to cause itching and irritation, but they can also transmit diseases to animals and people. Learn more in our blog post about flea control.

6. Wellness Testing

Wellness testing at your regular vet visits can catch diseases early when there is still much that can be done for your furry loved one. 30% of apparently healthy dogs have problems detectable in blood work, and 25% of apparently healthy cats will have an abnormality that needs to be addressed.

7. Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Our blog post which discussed how pet obesity is a growing problem laid out some key factors contributing to pet obesity and ways that we can help your pet be more fit.  Pets who suffer from obesity have a reduced lifespan, a higher incidence of diabetes, urinary obstructions, arthritic pain, respiratory compromise, increased surgical risk and much more.  Keep in mind that any weight loss plan should be supervised by a veterinarian.

8. Dental Care

Dental care is very important starting day one. You certainly do not want to wait until your pet’s teeth are rotting to intervene.  Instead, we recommend home care including brushing, water additives, special chews or supplements starting at a very young age. If tartar begins to build up, it may be hiding more severe periodontal disease, and it is best to treat that early. If your dog or cat has a toothache, he or she will simply shift the food to the other side of his/her mouth. They don’t need to live this way, so we’ll evaluate your pet’s dental health at every visit and recommend appropriate treatments.

Let Us Help You Be a Good Pet Parent

Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital has the tools and knowledge to help you be the pet parent that you want to be. We would be happy to customize a plan in each of these categories for your individual pets. Please contact us for further information.

Jennifer Morrow
Pet Obesity is a Growing Problem

The American Animal Hospital Association recently reported that pet obesity is a growing problem. “Over the past ten years, the number of overweight cats went up 169% and the number of overweight dogs increased 158%.” These numbers are concerning when you consider the multitude of health problems associated with obesity and the cost associated with addressing them. Pets who suffer from obesity have a reduced lifespan, a higher incidence of diabetes, urinary obstructions, arthritic pain, respiratory compromise, increased surgical risk and much more.

Factors contributing to pet obesity:

  • Not understanding what a healthy weight looks like. As pet obesity continues to escalate, the general population is inaccurately evaluating what a “fit” pet looks like. Getting a body condition score (BCS) done on your pet by a veterinarian is recommended.

  • Not knowing what your pet is eating. This is a leading factor in obesity. It is imperative to have control over what your pet consumes. They should be eating a nutritious, quality diet. Your veterinarian should be able to guide you in choosing an appropriate diet for your pet. It is important to know the exact quantity that is being fed. This includes treats, rawhides, etc. The most accurate way of measuring is by weighing the food with a kitchen scale; however, a measuring cup is an appropriate alternative. Keep in mind that many overweight pets may be “sneaking” food from their siblings bowls. Keeping cat food away from dogs and feeding each pet individually is imperative when dealing with weight issues. Some pets may need additional help with weight loss and may benefit from a prescription weight loss diet.

  • Free Feeding. Many cats and dogs tend to nibble throughout the day. Just like people, this can lead to obesity. For cats, feeding towers and prey feeders are the perfect way to replicate feeding in the wild, where cats have to work for their food. Most cats benefit from a primarily canned food diet. Not only is this less calorie dense than dry food, but the increased water content can help prevent problems such as bladder issues. For most dogs, twice daily meal feeding is recommended. Talk to your veterinarian.

  • Inappropriate use of “people food”. Sharing food with our pets is tempting. Those eyes! That mournful face! He must be starving! One good rule is only feed your pet in a designated room, from a designated bowl. This will help to prevent begging while you eat. Many people choose to supplement their pet's diet with table food. Talk to your veterinarian about what foods are appropriate to add. In general, white meat chicken, lean ground hamburger, and fruits and vegetables can be added to the diet or fed as treats. The calories in these foods must be taken into account as we strive for a healthy weight. Green beans and carrots make excellent treats for many dogs. In the summer, ice cubes are a calorie free treat. If you prefer to cook for your pets, consult with your veterinarian. We use and other sources to make sure that home made diets carry all the right nutrients. Keep in mind that certain foods are toxic to cats and dogs. Consult with your veterinarian.

  • Limited physical activity. Most cats and dogs do not get nearly enough exercise. Strictly indoor cats often need motivation to move, especially as they age. Using the feeding towers and prey feeders as mentioned above helps, especially if you hide the prey feeders around the house. Some cats can be encouraged to play by using a feather toy, a catnip toy or a laser pointer. Older cats may need to be carried to the opposite end of the house from their favorite spot so they have to walk further. Placing two small food bowls as far away from each other as possible can help get them moving as well. For dogs, exercise is the key to losing weight and helping with anxiety. Exercise should be tailored to your pets age, breed, and ability. Your veterinarian can help with an exercise program for your pet.

  • Hypothyroidism in dogs. As many dogs age, there is a reduction in the amount of thyroid hormone produced by their thyroid gland. The thyroid hormone has a huge impact on metabolism. Without enough of this hormone, their metabolism slows down and causes weight gain. Evaluating a dog’s thyroid level can be easily done with a blood test, and treatment tends to be cost effective and easy. A thyroid level should be evaluated for all overweight dogs.

A weight loss plan should include the establishment of a Body Condition Score, evaluation of your pets diet, strict measurement of what is being fed, monthly weigh-ins and regular adjustments. Any weight loss plan should be supervised by a veterinarian.

Helping Your Pet Become More Fit

Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital is excited to assist in improving your pets quality of life by helping your pet become more fit. We have the tools and knowledge to help guide you. We would be happy to customize a weight loss plan for your individual pets. Please contact us for further information.

Jennifer Morrow
Summer Safety and Travel Tips for Your Pet

Spending the long, sunny days of summer outdoors is one of the joys of living in the Lowcountry. While it’s natural to want to include our furry companions in the fun, rising heat this time of year also causes a rise in danger. In addition, many of us are heading out of town on vacation which requires some preparation for your pets whether they are along for the ride or not. We encourage you to review and act on our summer safety and travel tips below so that the hot sun doesn’t threaten your pet’s safety and your vacation isn’t impacted by a planning oversight. 

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe in the Heat

  • Avoid taking your dog for a walk or playing ball in the heat of the day. Early morning and evening exercise is ideal. 
  • The hot sun can cause asphalt, concrete and sand to reach temperatures that will burn your pet’s paws. Be mindful of this as you are walking outside in shoes. Your dog doesn't have the same protection and could easily burn his or her paws. It is best to find grass dirt or shaded regions that are safe for your pet.
  • Always be sure to travel with enough water and a collapsible water bowl. Whether you run into car trouble or the short walk you were planning becomes a long one, your pet (and you) may end up needing more water than you anticipated. Keep frozen water bottles stocked in the freezer so you always have some handy for traveling.
  • Certain breeds are more prone to heatstroke (see below), and extra caution should be taken during the summer months to keep them safe. Brachycephalic dogs (think short noses and smaller nasal passages) such as English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Boston terriers have a more difficult time breathing due to their anatomy. Pets with certain medical conditions can also be at increased risk during the warm summer months, so please be sure to ask at your next visit if there are any precautions you will need to take.

Preventing and Managing a Heatstroke

  • Never leave your pet in the car on warm days. The temperature inside a car can rise very quickly to dangerous levels, even on milder days. Pets can easily succumb to heatstroke and must be treated very quickly to give them the best chance of survival.
  • If you cannot immediately get your pet to a veterinarian, move him or her to a shaded area and out of direct sunlight.
  • Place a cool or cold, wet towel around your pet's neck and head (do not cover his or her eyes, nose or mouth).
  • Remove the towel, wring it out, rewet it and rewrap it every few minutes as you cool the animal.
  • Pour or use a hose to keep water running over the animal's body (especially the abdomen and between the hind legs) and use your hands to massage its legs and sweep the water away as it absorbs the body heat.
  • Transport your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Summer Travel

Traveling with (or without) your pet can be fun, but be sure to keep these tips in mind whether you are taking a cross-country road trip or just headed to the beach for a little fun in the sun.

  • Make sure to have an up-to-date rabies tag. It’s also a good idea to have an ID tag for each pet you are traveling with that includes: the pets name, your name, cell phone number and address.
  • If you have recently moved or adopted a new pet, now is a good time to update your pet’s microchip information. This is the best way to make sure a lost pet finds his or her owner in case they are lost. Let us know if you need a microchip before you take off for vacation this summer.
  • Before heading out, please make sure dogs have a collar that fits properly without being able to slip out. Cats should have carriers with a secure top and door and no missing attachment pieces. 
  • Remember to keep all of your vaccine information handy, whether on the road or prior to boarding. You can find all of your pet's vaccine records through our pet portal.

Let Us Help

Need help understanding your pet's risks in summer heat and preparing for travel plans? Request an appointment online for individualized recommendations. The Bees Ferry staff wishes all of you a fun and safe summer! 

Jennifer Morrow
Flea Control

April is Parasite Awareness Month, and there is no time like the present to ensure your home, family and furry friends are protected. Fleas are the most prevalent parasite among companion animals. These pesky pests are known to cause itching and irritation, but they can also transmit diseases to animals and people. 

Flea Transmitted Diseases

Fleas can carry plague, typhus, tulaRemeia (a potentially serious illness that occurs naturally in North America) and bartonella (“Cat Scratch Fever”). Many of these illnesses are rare, but all of them can be transmitted to humans. In addition to bartonella, fleas pose specific risks to cats. Mycoplasma haemofelis is an infection of the red blood cells that causes feline anemia and can affect some humans with compromised immune systems.  Fleas also act as an intermediate host for tapeworms.

The Flea Life Cycle

The adult fleas that you see on your pet are just the tip of the iceberg and represent only 5% of the flea population. Hundreds or thousands of eggs, larvae and pupae may live in your home and on your pet. 

Flea eggs are laid in your pet’s coat by an adult female. Flea eggs then fall off your pet and into your home. Larva hatch from the eggs and develop in your pet’s environment by feeding on adult flea feces (digested blood) that falls from the infested pet. Larvae eventually spin cocoons to form pupae. Pupae are resistant to freezing, drying, and insecticides and can lie dormant for many months. New fleas hatch from the pupae when they sense the presence of a mammal (preferably a dog or cat). 

Flea Control Tips

Gone are the days of flea dips and regular flea baths. Newer, safer products can help us control and prevent fleas on your pet. 

  • Treat ALL pets in your household, even indoor cats. Fleas can enter your home on clothing or via other pets.
  • Treat your pets year-round with a monthly flea control product regardless of whether you see fleas. In warmer climates like South Carolina, fleas are ever present, and prevention is the best medicine.  
  • We recommend Revolution for cats. Revolution is a topical application for cats that also prevents heartworms. 
  • We recommend Simparica for dogs. Simparica is a chewable pill that kills fleas and ticks fast. Trifexis is a chewable pill for dogs that is also a combination of heartworm and flea prevention. The problem with Trifexis is that it can cause vomiting in some dogs, and it doesn’t control ticks. However, it does work very well for many of our patients whose owners prefer a combination product. For dog heartworm prevention, we recommend Sentinel Spectrum, which is a monthly chewable tablet.  Sentinel Spectrum, as the name suggests, has the widest spectrum of parasite control on the market. Sentinel Spectrum prevents hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms. As a bonus, it contains lufenuron. Lufenuron helps control flea populations by rendering the larvae incapable of cracking its egg shell.  If ALL pets in a household are on lufenuron, fleas cannot establish an infestation in that home, even if there is a lapse in regular flea control. However, you can still see adult fleas on pets on lufenuron if fleas are picked up outside. This is why we always combine Sentinel Spectrum with something like Simparica.
  • Cats can take lufenuron by getting an injection of it (Program) every 6 months and this is recommended in households that currently have or have recently had a flea outbreak.
  • If your pet is epileptic or has ever seizured, be sure to let your vet know! Many flea control products are not appropriate for dogs with this condition.

Treating a Flea Infestation

If you follow the tips listed above, you will absolutely get your flea problem under control, but it can take up to 3 months. Remember that the pupae is resistant to all attempts to kill the maturing flea inside. Your pet will frequently encounter maturing pupae, and fleas will hatch out and hop on. These fleas will be killed by your flea product, but since no product kills fleas instantly, you will likely still see fleas regularly for up to 3 months, or until all pupae have hatched.

When you see these fleas, you can give dogs and cats a pill called Capstar. Capstar kills fleas within minutes and is very safe. However, Capstar does not work for more than 24 hours.

To speed up this process of getting eggs, larvae and pupae out of your house, treat your pet’s environment. We recommend calling a professional exterminator to treat inside and outside your home. If you prefer to treat your home yourself, you can do so with Knockout spray. Be sure to… 

  • Remove your pets from area that is being sprayed.
  • Wash all bedding, blankets and towels on a hot-water cycle.
  • Vacuum all carpets and upholstery and then discard the vacuum bag (or the eggs will just hatch in there and hop out into our home again.)
  • Spray all surfaces where your pet walks, and spend extra time on the areas where your pet hangs out the most – bedding and play areas.
  • ALWAYS wait until all surfaces have dried before allowing your pets back into a treated area.
  • Repeat the process in 2 weeks.

Flea bombs aren’t very efficient because they treat areas that don’t need to be treated (i.e. your counters) and don’t focus on the areas that need extra attention.

Sometimes a pet’s outdoor environment will also need to be treated. Yard sprays labelled for fleas can be used for this purpose. Follow all instructions on the label.

Protect Your Pet

Need help developing a protection plan for your pet? Request an appointment online for individualized recommendations. All Bees Ferry patients have access to our on-site dispensary and an online pharmacy with free shipping. 

Jennifer Morrow