Is your dog digging up your yard or barking incessantly & annoying you or your neighbours? Does your cat toilet inappropriately on your carpet or your bedding? Does your pet get separation anxiety when you leave the house? Don’t despair….you’re not alone. Behaviour problems such as these and many others are a common concern amongst pet owners. Fortunately for you, you’ve come to the right place. Our vets & nurses have a wealth of knowledge on all sorts of behaviour problems & will be able to help point you in the right direction. Most behaviour problems require re-training & desensitisation. Our vets can help advise on basic behaviour modifying techniques & our extensive client education library allows our staff to send you home with helpful information & practical tips on how to apply these techniques. In some situations behaviour modifying drugs may also be helpful. If more complex or specialised help is required, our staff are able to refer you to highly experienced behaviour modifying trainers or a veterinary behaviour specialist. So if you’re struggling with an awful or frustrating behaviour your furry friend is displaying, don’t hesitate. Call us today and one of our friendly staff will book you in for an appointment!
Specific behavioural problems & how we can help
*HELP!!!....My cat now thinks my bedroom is his toilet!!!
Is your cat urinating on your bed or other places around the house?
A sudden change in the urinating pattern of your cat may be a true behavioural problem or may be indicative of a urinary tract problem. The most important 1st step is a thorough exam at our clinic by one of our veterinarians who will be able to determine if a urinary tract problem is present. Once a medical problem has been ruled out, we would recommend ensuring there is no source of stress which can be a motivating force for marking behaviour especially if there are new pets or new people in the house. Provide your cat with a dedicated area & ensure there are numerous litter trays available even trialling various types of litter substrates if possible. Ensure the litter trays are cleaned out frequently as some cats have an aversion to toileting in a dirty litter tray. Limit access to the areas of the house the cat has been toileting inappropriately in. If the inappropriate toileting continues despite these measures confinement to the room that houses the litter tray is required. This confinement may not be required all the time. For example if the cat only eliminates out of its box at night, or when the owners are getting ready to leave for the day then these are the only times that the cat may need to be confined. Drug therapy can be a helpful adjunct where stress or anxiety are contributing to the problem. Products such as Feliway can also be helpful. More specific advice for your pet’s problem can be given by one of our veterinarians when you attend the clinic.
*My dog seems to be digging his way to China! How can I stop it?
Digging behaviour in dogs can have many motivations. Some breeds dig holes on hot days to lie in them & cool off. Breeds such as terriers dig for rodents in response to high frequency sounds or odours undetectable to the human nose. Pregnant bitches dig when nesting. Dogs can dig to escape confinement. Or digging may occur when pets are left alone with insufficient stimulation or attention.
The 1st step is to determine the reason for digging. Inhibiting or preventing all digging without understanding & dealing with the motivation could result in new behaviour problems such as chewing, excessive barking or escape behaviours.
Dogs that dig in pursuit of prey will continue unless you can get rid of the prey. Dogs that dig in attempt to get cool should be provided with a cool resting area with plenty of shade & water; this may involve bringing your dog inside on an extremely hot day. If boredom or insufficient owner attention is the cause, additional play & exercise may be required. For some dogs it may be useful to provide a designated digging area & preventing digging in other locations.
If your dog is digging to escape from the yard or confinement, or if the digging occurs when you are not at home, housing the dog indoors is the most practical solution until he or she learns to stay outdoors without digging.
In some situations medications and specific training may be a helpful adjunct to treating this behaviour. Once your pet has been assessed by our vets, they will work with you to formulate a treatment strategy.
*Why is my dog eating his own stools?
Stool eating, called copraphagia, can be a purely behavioural problem or may be part of a medical problem. A visit to the clinic can help the vet to rule out any medical conditions that may give rise to this behaviour. Some of these conditions include feeding a poorly digestible diet, inadequate absorption of nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract, intestinal parasites, malnutrition, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Some diseases which increase the appetite, such as diabetes, Cushings disease or thyroid problems, may also lead to stool eating. Once a medical condition has been ruled out, the vet will turn their attention to behavioural reasons. Copraphagia can be common in puppies, either as part of playful or investigative activity, as an attention seeking behaviour or as learnt behaviour from the bitch, who cleans & ingests the puppy’s excrement in the nest. Adult dogs may actually be attracted to faeces (despite their seemingly unpleasant features to humans) in the same way that they are attracted to food, and the behaviour can be akin to scavenging.
This unpleasant behaviour can be best corrected by preventing access to stools, by thorough cleaning of the environment & constant supervision when the pet is outdoors. At the 1st indication of stool sniffing the dog should be interrupted with a firm command or a quick pull on the leash. Dietary changes may also help – in some cases a more digestible diet is needed, in other cases an increase in fibre or bulk is required. Addition of certain elements to the diet may help to make the stool less attractive or palatable – meat tenderisers may help to increase protein digestion resulting in a less palatable stool. Other published remedies include paw paw, pineapple, yogurt, cottage cheese or breath freshener added to the dogs food although none of these have been proven to be effective. Products such as “Wild Forage” and “Forbid” have also been reported to be successful in some cases.
I love New Years Eve, but my dog hates it!!...Why can’t he tolerate loud noise?
Noise phobias tend to be more common in certain breeds of dogs, including Labradors and retrievers. Dogs can be afraid of almost any type of loud noise, from thunderstorms and fireworks to the lawnmower and even the hairdryer. This can be a tricky problem to solve and many dogs will require medication for anxiety as part of the process. These medications, along with a diffuser of Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) - an analogue of the "feel good" pheromones produced by the lactating bitch, may be prescribed by your vet. The generally accepted technique is "desensitisation and counter-conditioning". You need to expose the dog to the noise, very softly at first, rewarding him for staying calm and not reacting. Gradually increase the sound over a number of sessions. If the dog reacts, you will need to turn the volume down and start again.
My pooch can’t stand it when I go out. Why is she so attached, and why does she get so anxious?
Some dogs display all sorts of unruly behaviour in the absence of their owners. This can be anything from barking to urinating and defecating in the house or destroying the furniture. Again, the key here is to have the dog well socialised and trained early on. All dogs should spend at least 2 hours alone each day from puppyhood. Dependant behaviour such as sleeping on the owner’s bed should be discouraged. Dogs should be provided with behavioural enrichment toys to play with during the owner’s absence, and all dogs should receive enough exercise and mental stimulation so that they are not so easily bored when left alone. If this problem is left for too long, some dogs can be difficult to treat, requiring medication and cognitive therapy with a Veterinary behaviour specialist.
If you require further information on a behavioural problem or training program, feel free to call us at the clinic. We can also direct you to our local dog training clubs if you are interested in further training for your furry friend.