ASK DR. CHIP - JANUARY EDITION

Want to be featured in next month’s newsletter? Email our very own Dr. Chip at info@petsplusus.com and make sure you reference ‘Ask Dr. Chip’ in the subject line.

About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.

Please note: This forum is not intended for life saving medical advice. If your pet is having a medical emergency, please contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic.


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Question:

I just adopted two kittens. It is time for them to be spayed and they told me they have to wear these cones around their necks for fourteen days after surgery. I have had many cats fixed over my lifetime and I have never run into this before. Are they doing the surgery differently than they used to? I am getting stressed out just thinking about the poor little things running around for two weeks without being able to clean themselves. Is this really necessary? They don't go outside yet but I can't imagine anyone having an outdoor cat with one of those cones on. What is your take on them? 

Thanks for any help.

Ginny

Answer:

Hi Ginny,

You might think that kitty fashion has changed over recent years and that your two would be at the cutting edge of haute couture. Unfortunately, your veterinarian is being more practical and safety conscious than fashion conscious. The concern is that either one might be inclined to lick or pull out the suture(s) being placed in the skin during the surgery. Potentially, if that were to happen, the results could be tragically disastrous, as a portion of the abdominal contents could protrude through the abdominal incision.

Most incisions would be healed well enough after 7 days that even if the suture(s) were licked out at that stage, there is unlikely to be a problem. You could ask your veterinarian if that would be OK. There are also many different e- collars that can be worn and the soft sided ones are very well tolerated by cats. Your kittens won't be any worse off for not being able to groom for such a short period of time. Not every veterinary practice suggests these collars, but the intent behind using them is to avoid any problems post operatively.

Cheers,

Dr. Chip


Question:

Dear Dr. Chip,

Charlie is a 3 year old neutered maltipoo or cockapoo who is very well behaved except that he barks aggressively at any strange visitor dressed in dark clothing, which is quite common among mail delivery people, especially in winter.  The mail is delivered at different times and rarely by the same person.  Other visitors are welcomed.  He reacts the same way to large dogs, which can be problematic.  He has never bitten, nor does he show his teeth.  Any suggestions would be helpful.  His background is that he was adopted 1 1/2 years ago from the Dominican Republic, although from his story he actually came from a very loving home.  He has no other major issues.  We hit the jackpot with Charlie.

Thank you, Dr. Chip, from his mom, his family, and his huge fan base at the senior’s residence he visits daily.

Answer:

Firstly, bravo for taking Charlie to visit seniors. I have no doubt that his visits are the highlight of their day!

Behaviour problems are complex and I could never do justice to the input you require to solve Charlie's problem barking in this tiny space. There are some excellent sources online at www.avsab.org , www.dacvb.org , https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=kikopup+barking and, of course, there is your own veterinarian who can explain potential solutions much more fully.

You appreciate that dogs bark as their primary source of communicating - both amongst themselves and with us as owners. There are many reasons for any dog to bark and smaller breeds will sometimes try to make up for their size with a little more vocal bravado. Anxiety, territorial protection, and fear are all likely part of the stimuli for Charlie to respond the way he does to strangers dressed in dark clothing. The problem is exacerbated by the stranger leaving when Charlie is barking. The stranger was going to leave anyway, but Charlie doesn't know that. Instead he pats himself on the back for a job well done! Two quick suggestions I would offer.

Firstly, don't yell, scream, or throw anything as a distraction to his barking, as this, too, may just escalate the behaviour. Rather give him commands like "sit, stay, and quiet" either in immediate anticipation of the trigger and during the initial trigger phase. Should he respond to your commands, immediately reward him with treats for obeying. 

Secondly, with the help of friends unknown to Charlie, set up mock deliveries at exact times. This allows you to utilize the above technique systematically and more exactly. It also allows you to invite the "stranger" in. Have them sit on the floor well away (non-threatening) from Charlie. Using suggestion # 1 repeatedly, have Charlie approach in short increments until he is next to the "stranger.” This person can speak in a very quiet voice in a conversation with you. If Charlie is relaxing, then have the stranger offer Charlie some treats with very minimal movement of their arms (to avoid Charlie thinking he is being threatening).

The principles of the above are to distract Charlie from the barking behaviour and secondly to try to get him to think that dark clothing strangers are not all bad. The hope is that after a few quick barks, he responds to your commands to sit and be quiet, as well as to accept strangers into the house more readily. If your circumstances allow, it is ideal to have Charlie reside well away from windows and doors when you are not home, so that this behaviour is not reinforced when you are away.

I hope this helps.

Have a healthy and happy New Year!

Cheers,

Dr. Chip