Tag Archives: dogs

Very Limited Availability

For an unknown period of time, I may not be available for consultations. You can contact me, but I can make no guarantees that the situation will allow me to help right now.

My boy Ryder’s hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the spleen) has progressed to a much more critical level. He had a bleed on Tuesday 9/15, and since then my world has been all about supporting him through the recovery from this incident. As of today, Saturday the 19th, he’s more stable but still weak, and we are working on trying to help him find his appetite again. I’m in close contact with his vet, and doing everything I can to bring him through the crisis.

Please think good thoughts for Ryder. He’s such a sweet and special boy. A true gentle soul.

Creature Thoughts: July 2018

The Noise Season

YodaPuppyMusicBoxWhen Yoda, my first Saluki, was a puppy, I lived and worked at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. One day not long after Yoda arrived, I stood outside on the sidewalk with him on a leash, talking with the general manager. There was kennel construction going on beside us, and the work crew were installing the air conditioning and ventilation system. One of the workers let slip a huge sheet of metal, which fell from the roof and hit the ground with a thunderous bang.

Yoda jumped just a bit, turned toward the source to check it out, and went back to his sniffing.

The manager looked at the puppy and said, “Wow, perfect, sign him up!”

Guide dogs entering training are tested, with the use of a pistol firing blanks, for noise sensitivity. Yoda’s nonchalant response is exactly what trainers hope to see.

Not all dogs are so fortunate. And, although noise phobia is most often associated with our canine friends, many other animals can exhibit varying levels of sensitivity to loud sounds. I have met quite a few cats, and horses, for instance, who are anxious over thunderstorms. And, of course, holidays that involve fireworks are a nightmare for the owners of sound-sensitive animals. Summer time, in addition to the threats brought on by heat, can be very loud and unpleasant for a sensitive pet.

Fear of loud noise has long been considered a temperament issue. Everyone has heard tell of the hunting dog rejected and either adopted out, or put down, because he is discovered to be gun shy. It is true that many animals can be desensitized or trained to be somewhat less reactive, so temperament certainly plays a part.

However, there is a certain sector of noise-shy animals who are not experiencing fear for fear’s sake, but because they are in pain.

Have you ever had a bad ear ache—the kind where the pressure inside your ear makes it feel like your eardrum is liable to burst? It’s the kind of sharp, continual pain that can bring the toughest guy to tears. I have had more than one dog show me this kind of pain in response to (and sometimes well ahead of) storms. For some dogs, it’s a terrible pain, for others only minor. Not all dogs have shown me pain, of course, and only once or twice a cat with a similar problem. If you have a phobic pet, however, consider the possibility that what they are experiencing might be more than fear. For a small sector of the pet population, this pain can affect them long before a storm arrives, and for quite a while after it has passed. Fireworks, for these animals, are like a stab in the ear with each explosion.

Vets will now commonly prescribe calming medications for animals who have severe noise reactions. I would also encourage, in extreme cases, that you discuss with your veterinarian the question of whether your pet might also be experiencing pain in his ears, and whether pain medication might be helpful.

Another aspect of storm fear, according to some studies, is static electricity. Though this isn’t a factor in reactions to fireworks or gunfire, it can be part of why some pets are very sensitive to thunderstorms. The electric charge in the air, sometimes starting long before the storm actually arrives, can be uncomfortable for some animals. In fact, quite a few cats who exhibit anxiety during storms have shown me that this increased static is very unsettling.

There are quite a few tools and remedies on the market today which have varying levels of success in treating noise-fear in pets. Thundershirts are a wonderful product, and some owners swear by them. They don’t seem to help every animal (in fact, the ones who fail the Thundershirt test might be candidates for an interview with the vet about the possibility of pain), but they are definitely worth trying. There are companies that produce lines of herbal essences, such as Jackson Galaxy’s Spirit Essences, which can help noise sensitivity. As mentioned before, vets will often be willing to try medication for fearful pets, and there are also over-the-counter calming supplements available.

Many trainers report having some success with desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques. Thunderstorms, however, can be difficult to desensitize against, because there are so many factors involved besides the noise: static, light flashes, wind, rain, the smell of ozone, etc. With patience, positivity, and persistence, however, owners might help their pets find some relief with these training methods. Just don’t expect overnight miracles.

As with so many pet problems, helping an animal to overcome (or at least reduce) noise fears is a matter of investigative work, and then attempting to work gently with the clues your investigation reveals. There are often more factors than just the noise itself involved, and the best results will be seen if you are able to identify which of those factors are affecting your own pet.

Summer can be a wonderful season. Vacations, togetherness, lots of time to play. Long days and evenings of light, hikes in the cool woods, swims in the lake. The downside of summer—the unpleasant noises and storms—can mar the season for many of our pets.

I hope your summer has lots and lots of the good stuff, and very little of the not-so-good!

 

News and Updates:

Once again, the time has gotten away from me, life has simply gotten in the way, and I’m way behind on newsletter issues. In fact, I’m way behind on all of my writing, and beginning to go into some serious withdrawal! I thank you all for your patience, and hope July finds you and your beloved animal friends well.

As always, please continue to visit my website for updates, changes of schedule, etc. I will always try to keep the Unavailable Times page current, and you can also follow my Twitter announcements in the sidebar.

Blessings and Light,

GayleSig2

 

 

Creature Thoughts, June 2015

Play Therapy

Missie-Play

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

If there is one thing I have found myself recommending over and over again throughout the last fifteen years, to both cat and dog owners, it is play. I (and many other pet caregivers and advisers) have found that if we can set up a routine of play with our animal friends, it can ease a whole world of ills. Play improves health, boosts confidence, and increases a sense of ownership of space. It fulfills instinctive needs for chase and catch, giving our predator friends an outlet for their natural urges. It is a wonderful way for an animal with energies he is directing inappropriately to reroute them to much more pleasant activities. Above all, play enhances the wonderful bond we humans have with our pets.

I have seen the inclusion of regular play sessions with a dog make a huge difference in his separation anxiety problems.

I have seen numerous cats who were not using their litter boxes due to stress return to more sanitary habits because their owners started playing with them for fifteen or twenty minutes a day.

I have seen old cats find new youth, and young dogs learn to control bad habits, like excessive barking and chewing, because of faithfully followed daily play routines.

There are a few keywords in the above that those who are attempting to incorporate “play therapy” into their pets lives should pay attention to: “Faithfully”, “Daily”, “Routine”.

We all play with our pets, of course. We do it when we have time, when we aren’t distracted by the normal humdrum of human life. Although haphazard play-times are fun and nice, they aren’t quite the same thing as giving our animals a special time, every day, so they may grow confident that this is their special time with Mom or Dad. Having a regular routine of play allows our cats or dogs to know that they own that space, and (just as importantly) that they get to share their space with their humans.

Choose fifteen or twenty minutes, around the same time each day, and engage your animal in a variety of games. Cats love to chase a wand toy, catch and kill it like real prey (and to symbolically fulfill the hunt, end the game with a snack or meal). Dogs thrive if they know the game of fetch, but even those who don’t bring the ball back will rejoice every time mom or dad throws it. (The trick here is to have an assortment of toys, balls and frisbees to toss, or you will be getting more exercise than the dog as you chase down the same toy over and over.) It’s perfectly fine, with the exception of animals with certain health problems (check with your vet if there is any doubt) to play till your pet is really tuckered out. Even an elderly or ailing pet, of course, will benefit from gentle play, as it is a chance to spend true quality time with his human.

Play therapy almost always works wonders, but it may not do so overnight. It usually takes a week or two of a regular daily play routine before pet parents begin to see the beneficial changes in their animals. So set up your play date, keep it each day, and trust that it will truly make a difference in many wonderful ways.

 

Helping The Animals

If would like to support a not-for-profit organization that does a great deal to help animals, please consider making a donation to New York Wildlife Rescue/Northeast Llama Rescue. Wes Laraway and his family and volunteers help hundreds of animals every year, with no funding except your donations and what comes out of their own pockets. You can support their efforts by visiting their website and clicking the “Donate” button. You can also look at their “Other Ways To Help” page (found under several of the top level drop-down menus) for more ideas. They can’t do it without the support of friends like you!

News:

Now that the summer months have arrived, and since I have not (so far) been called in to work for the summer school session, it looks like things are going to be somewhat back to normal until September. I am again accepting new clients, and will sometimes be available for daytime phone sessions during the week. Email is still preferred, as other obligations have arisen that make my availability less than certain, but there is more room to work with now.