Pet Sitters & Dog Walkers McKinney TX

What Can I Give My Dog For Pain?

We love our dogs. There is no question about it and the absolute LAST thing that we want to see is them being in some sort of pain. Their pain can be caused by many things. It could be a bug bite, it could be a worm or a parasite that they may have, or it could in relation to an underlying infection or disease that they may be carrying. In the case of an infection or disease, it may be a good idea to take them for a checkup, immediately, if you suspect that this is the cause of their pain. However, the question remains: what can i give my dog for pain? There are some methods that you can go about relieving your dog’s pain, both drug-related, and natural pain relievers. Let’s cover those now.

Natural Pain Relievers For Dogs

We have our list of natural pain relievers for dogs listed first, because we recommend that you try natural ways before you make your way to putting any powerful drug substances in your dog in efforts to cure their pain. Not only do natural pain relievers for dogs who are in pain, but they also cut down on any possible side effects that may arise. Here are some of the natural remedies:

Yucca Root

Yucca root is a desert plant that comes with a plethora of medicinal properties and purposes to care for the health of any human or dog who consumes it. In fact, many human arthritis patients take this, because it has something in it called steroidal saponins which help to tremendously ease joint pain and reduce inflammation.

Cayenne Pepper

Increases blood circulation to joints, muscles and connective tissues because of the capsaicin that it has. One great thing about this is that it can be used both topically as well as internally for relieving pain in your dog.

Ginger

Ginger helps to stop the immune system from producing what are called leukotrienes which cause inflammation. It also does a great job at easing any join pain just as the yucca root does.

Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers For Dogs

Once again, we recommend you first start with the natural pain relievers for your dog, but if you absolutely must, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers for a little more power. Always consult with your veterinarian first before resorting to this method and the ones listed below.

Steroids

Steroids are the number one substances to control pain when it is in an excruciating stage. In most cases, they are only prescribed by vets in rare cases, but one of the most popular is prednisone.

Antidepressants

It has been reported that many vets often combine antidepressants with natural dog supplements because of the pain relieving power that they offer.

Opiates

Opiates aren’t necessarily a pain reliever because they do more of blocking the dog’s ability to feel the pain. Similar to the steroids, these will be used in extreme cases and prescribed by your veterinarian and can often be too strong for dogs.

Conclusion: What Can I Give My Dog For Pain?

So, as for the question “what can i give my dog for pain?” – This list of remedies should steer you in the right direction. You can try the over-the-counter pain relievers if you’d like, but it would be best to consult your vet before doing so. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to also consult with them about the natural remedies as well. Chances are, these will get the approval much quicker because they are effective but more safe.

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The Best Probiotics For Dogs

If you own a dog, then nothing will make you happier than coming home to a happy, healthy pet with its tail wagging. While their diet and what they are consuming plays a huge role in their mood, it is also due to other factors. For example whether or not you supplement their diets with probiotics can play a big role!

But what are the best probiotics for dogs? This is a question that is asked quite often, because dog owners realize the important of supplementing with an adequate amount of probiotics. They can help your dog maintain a healthy gut bacteria, improve their overall well-being and digestion and increase their performance in all areas. While there are many other profound health benefits that dogs can get from the regular consumption of probiotics, here is a list of the best probiotics for dogs that are available today.

Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets Fortiflora

This probiotic supplement, Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets Fortiflora is one of the best probiotics for dogs and is also one of the top selling. It is fortified with active, live cultures as well as vitamins A,C and E and its main mission is to help your dog maintain the healthiest immune system that it possibly can. This probiotic supplement comes in powder form and it in individual packages to make it easy to monitor consumption and mix with your dog’s food. It is also vet-recommended and made in the USA, and comes with antioxidants in efforts to help rid their bodies of any harmful toxins.

Amazing Nutritionals Probiotic Joint

Amazing Nutritionals Probiotic Joint supplement is one of the best probiotics for dogs that happen to suffer from any form of aching and joint pain. This serves the primary purpose of alleviating any kind of joint pain and inflammation, and it also promotes a healthy digestive tract and a healthy coat and skin. This supplement comes in a chewable pill form and this allows for easy consumption by your dog and makes much less of a mess than any powder probiotic supplements.

VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotic

What we absolutely LOVE about the VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotic supplement is that it is very affordable, it comes in capsule form that can be opened up and served as a powder on your dogs food, it promotes overall health and well-being for your dog but focuses on the digestive tract, and it is dairy-free. Many products that contain dairy can cause constipation for dogs because of how difficult they are to be processed by their digestive tract. Each capsule contains 8 different strains of five-billion microorganisms. So, it is safe to say that it is an all-around and all-purpose probiotic supplement that will indeed keep your dog healthy and happy.

Conclusion: The Best Probiotics For Dogs

As a dog owner, if you were to stick with one of these on our list of the best probiotics for dogs, it is a no-brainer that you will keep your dog healthy and at its optimal performance on all levels. However, we still encourage you to do your own research. Ultimately, the best way to find out what probiotic supplement works best for your dog is to simply try different brands in both powder and pill form and notice any positive changes that may take place as a result.

Can Dogs Eat Bananas?

Bananas are a tasty, nutritious treat for us humans. But can dogs eat bananas? We think that you’d be surprised at just how many different fruits that dogs can eat. Normally, we look at dogs as carnivores and this is completely understandable because of their ancestors and their true origin. However, there are some plant nutrients that dogs need to survive on a day to day basis. We all need plant nutrients – there is no debating that.

Did you know that dogs chew on tree barks and sticks because they are searching for nutrients within the bark? Yes – it is a habit that has been passed down for thousands of years from their ancestors, because they realize and instinctively know that tree barks have nutrients that are beneficial to their bodies. After all, bananas do come from a tree also. That being said, would a banana be just as much of a healthy and tasty treat for dogs as it is for humans? Let’s discuss some potential things that can happen when dogs consume bananas.

First, Discuss This With Your Veterinarian

As a great rule of thumb, you should always discuss with your vet any changes that you are making within your dog’s diet. They have a firm grip on the foods that you should and should not be feeding your dog. That being said, it would be wise and a great service to both you and your dog if you were to consult with them and get their input. Depending on your dog’s current diet and how they may react to the consumption of bananas will let you know whether or not it would be suitable for them.

 

Bananas Can Cause Constipation In Dogs

One thing that is true for dogs is if you feed them bananas in excess it could lead to constipation and other forms of gastrointestinal discomfort for them. Another thing you should NEVER do is feed your dog the banana peel, as this could potentially cause them to choke before it gets in their stomach and cause any internal digestion problems. While bananas aren’t toxic to dogs, they can cause blockages and can be harmful if they are eaten whole or in large quantities. Especially if they aren’t getting the proper water intake that they need on a daily basis.

Bananas Provide A Great Source of Vitamins, Nutrients and Minerals

Just as they can for humans, bananas can provide a great source of vitamins, nutrients and minerals to dogs. Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Potassium, Manganese, copper, fiber and biotin are all things that dogs need within their diets as they contribute to them living long, healthy lives. These vitamins, nutrients and minerals are also good at nourishing and hydrating their skin and their coat so in this area, it would make sense for dogs to consume bananas.

Conclusion: Can Dogs Eat Bananas?

So, can dogs eat bananas? In short, the answer is yes, but it must be in moderation. While bananas can cause some problems within a dog’s system, they can also provide a great way for them to get a good source of nutrients. While humans can eat bananas on a daily basis, it wouldn’t be a good idea for dogs. Instead of a regular meal, use them only as a treat.

How Much Water Should A Dog Drink?

We all know what a vital resource is not only to human beings, but to all life on the planet. We need water. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. And if we have pets, specifically dogs, at some point or another we’ve asked the question: “how much water should a dog drink?” That is a pretty good question, and indeed, it does have an answer. One thing you need to understand is that the amount will vary between dogs. You have to factor in the weight of the dog, the height, the food and exercise frequency, the weather conditions, and a couple other factors to make sure your dog is getting adequate water intake. Right now, we will discuss three of the most important categories in factoring out how much water should a dog drink and this will certainly point you in the right direction.

Normal Daily Intake

When your dog is sedentary, or just going about its normal day, it is a recommended guideline that your dog gets at least ½ to 1 full ounce of water per pound of body weight. On days when your dog isn’t that active and they may be lounging around on the couch with you watching movies, they will occasionally get up for a drink if they happen to be thirsty, but for the most part, they won’t require much water to function regularly.

Intake for Exercise

As we stated earlier, a general rule of thumb to abide by when it comes to how much water should a dog drink, it should be anywhere from a ½ to a full ounce of water per pound of their bodyweight. However, when they are active, running around in the doggy parks or out on a run with you for some exercise, they will need more water for energy to fuel their activities. Naturally, your dog will know when it is thirsty and it will go to a nearby stream or pond and as long as it senses that the water is suitable for consumption, it will drink.

Weather Conditions

Dogs tend to drink more in the summer months than they do in the winter months and they do this by instinct. They are sweating more profusely in the heat and this can be the culprit for a lot of water loss and could result in dehydration. When your dog senses that it needs water, it will go to get a drink. Your job, as the owner, should pay attention to the weather and know that when it is hot outside, the dogs are much hotter because of their coat, so it would be in your dog’s best interest for you to keep a lot of fresh water around for them to drink when they need it.

Conclusion: How Much Water Should A Dog Drink?

To answer the question: “how much water should a dog drink?” – You need to look at things from a bird’s eye view. Really, it isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Simply put, make sure your dog is getting a good amount of water on a daily basis regardless if they are sedentary or have been out running around in the park. One, important thing you also want to make sure your dog gets is the RIGHT water. Your dog should be getting the cleanest water possible, as this helps with digestion, keeps them hydrated efficiently and could help regulate the systems that go on within their body.

The Best Dog Friendly Plants

When it comes to the types of plants that you have around your dog, you must be careful. Although plants in and of themselves seem very harmless, they can be a bit aggravating any dogs or pets that you have in your household. There is a good chance that your pets could be allergic to certain plants and they can cause your dog to have sneezing fits, excessive scratching and other symptoms of an allergic reaction. This is why it is important to take heed to the plants that you have both inside and outside of your home.

When your dogs are in the house, it would be great to have plants that could scent the air beautifully and wouldn’t cause any problems should your dog inhale the scent and plants outdoors that wouldn’t cause your dog to have an outbreak should they go snooping around in your bushes. These are just a few of the best dog friendly plants that are safe around your dog and may even provide some health benefits as well.

Creeping Rosemary Plant

Not just the Creeping Rosemary Plant, but all Rosemary plants are suitable for many culinary uses and are 100% pet safe and this makes it one of the best dog friendly plants. This is a plant that many gardeners use to fill many empty spaces in their garden with a nice cloud of evergreen.

African Daisy Plant

The African Daisy plant has wonderful smelling daisies that aren’t funky smelling like other plants. They can really brighten up the mood if you have them indoors, and they can really add some color and pop to your garden if you were to have them outdoors. Not only are they available in yellow, but they are available in a plethora of other colors. Another thing about these plants is that they go very well dry climates and they are drought-tolerant. So, if you happen to have any dehumidifiers running in your household, they will do no harm to the African Daisy plants that you may have.

Purple Basil Plant

The Purple Basil Plant is one of the most common plants used outdoors because it brings stunning colors to gardens that really brings everything together. While they are mainly used for show, they also offer a great scent and basil is a seasoning that can really bring some great health benefits to the table. Chop some up, add them to your dishes or you can even sprinkle a little on your dog’s food to help them consume more fiber in their diet and relieve any pain or inflammation.

Conclusion: The Best Dog Friendly Plants

As for the best dog friendly plants, we would say that without a shadow of a doubt, that these choices certainly make the top 5 and if not, they make the top 10. What we invite you to do is experiment and find out which plants cause your dog to have a reaction, and of course, which ones that don’t. Once you find the ones that don’t and they also bring other benefits to the table such as offering up a beautiful scent along with some potential health benefits, then you are on the money when it comes to the best dog friendly plants.

Dogs playing in the park

The Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth for Dogs: Natural Flea Treatment and More!

What is Diatomaceous Earth for Dogs?

Bag of Diatomaceous Earth for DogsDiatomaceous earth, often abbreviated as DE. It is a fine grayish-white powder that comes from the long-dead remains of diatoms, a type of algae. DE is mostly made up of silica, a very hard mineral, and it has a very coarse texture and absorbent properties.

Diatomaceous earth has been used as pest control for thousands of years. These days, you can purchase it for many different purposes. You can even get food-grade DE that is safe for human or pet consumption. Why would you want to eat DE, and what else can you do with it? Read on to find out!

Diatomaceous Earth for Flea Control

If you haven’t had to deal with fleas, consider yourself lucky. These blood-sucking parasites are happy to hop on your dog and hitch a ride into your home. Once they’re inside, they’ll lay thousands of microscopic eggs all over, and we mean all over! Your dog will be itchy, you’ll be itchy, and you’ll have to spend hours of time cleaning your home. Not to mention, you’ll have to bathe your dog, wash their bedding, and constantly monitor them for signs of a new outbreak of fleas. (Can you tell we’ve had to deal with this before?)

A Back-Up for Preventatives

Unfortunately, using a preventative doesn’t always prevent fleas. Across the nation, more fleas are reportedly becoming resistant to preventative treatments. Even if you keep up with the monthly dose, there’s still a chance that your dog or cat could get fleas. Skipping a dose or giving too small of a dose can keep your preventative medicine from working.

A Natural, Drug-Free Flea Treatment

Many people aren’t comfortable with using traditional preventatives (like oral or topical drugs and flea collars). We get it—you want to keep your pet and your family healthy, and the ingredients in these products are controversial. After all, they can kill fleas—can they harm your dog, too? Some pet owners have reported side effects that can be quite alarming. We don’t have the authority to comment on the safety of these medications, but we totally get that many people don’t want to use them.

No matter what camp you’re in—whether you want a backup for your regular flea preventative or you want to skip the flea medicine entirely—DE is here for you!

How to Use DE for Fleas

DE can kill fleas thanks to its microscopically-sharp edges. It won’t hurt you because the sharp edges are so tiny, but for an insect, it’s like Natural Flea Treatment and Morecrawling over broken glass. It will pierce their outer shell and kill them in a matter of hours or days. There are a few ways to use DE for fleas:

  • Externally after potential flea exposure:

Just sprinkle it on your pet’s coat and thoroughly brush it through all their fur before a walk, hike, or other potential flea exposure. You’ll have to do this every time they go outside in a flea-ridden area and apply the DE before they come inside.

Note: Be careful when applying it around your dog’s nose, eyes, and mouth. Make sure it’s not drying out or irritating your pup’s skin—if your dog already has dry skin, don’t use it externally too often.

  • In your yard/garden:

If you know there are fleas in your yard, sprinkling DE in the soil can kill the fleas and their larvae. Also kills ticks, earwigs, and other bugs! It’s non-toxic to your pets, so you won’t have to worry when they nibble on the grass or roll in the dirt.

  • In your home, in case of an infestation:

Apply it to bedding and carpeting, leave it for at least 3 days, then vacuum it up. It does take 3+ days to work, but it will kill the larvae and adult fleas, breaking the life cycle and making your home flea-free!

Note: several sources recommend using a shop vac to vacuum up the remaining DE, since its sharp edges can be damaging to regular vacuum cleaners over time.

Diatomaceous Earth for Internal Parasites

While there isn’t much hard evidence out there, DE may be able to treat internal parasites. Those who use DE for deworming say that it can help eliminate several types of parasites. It can work for internal parasites in the same way that it kills fleas.

The FDA approves DE as pest control in food products. It’s often added to stored grain, like corn, and is generally recognized as safe. The FDA requires the testing of food-grade DE to make sure it doesn’t contain dangerous elements like lead, arsenic, or fluorine. You can rest assured that DE is a safe additive to your pet’s diet.

To use as a dewormer, simply add a small amount of food-grade DE to your dog’s diet. Approximately 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of DE should be given daily for a month—less for very small dogs and cats, more for very large dogs.

  • Safety First!

If you choose to use DE in your dog or cat’s food, make sure to mix it in with wet food instead of just sprinkling it on top. You don’t want your pet to inhale the powder and irritate their respiratory system.

Also, double-check to make sure it’s food-grade DE. You don’t want to feed your pet DE that is intended for yard and garden use. While it’s the same basic ingredient, it hasn’t been processed in the same way and might contain impurities that are unsafe for your pet to consume.

Diatomaceous Earth for Dogs: The Bottom Line

Are you interested in using DE for your pets, or does the idea of pest-killing algae dust still seem weird to you? Let us know what you think! Contact us at pets@vippets.net or comment on this post. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Golden Retriever Dog with tongue out smiling


 

dog walker legs and dogs

How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

Dogs and Exercise

Dogs need exercise, but how much? Most dogs need between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise depending on age and breed.

Exercise and Stimulation

Depending on the dog’s age and breed will determine the proper amount of exercise your dog will need. A puppy will require more play time than a senior dog. Sporting dogs will need much more exercise than non-sporting dogs.

If dogs do not get their energy out, they might take to chewing, tearing up couches, eating your favorite pair of shoes and other destructive behaviors.

The type and duration of exercise matters as well. Some dogs can play and run what seems like all day, while others will make do with a short walk and play fetch at home. It is important as a pet owner for you to know your dog’s needs, and we are here to help.

Quick Tips

(found from Dogtime.com):

  • Active breeds need a minimum of 30 minutes of hard aerobic exercise daily
  • Toy or small breeds need exercise, which can be done inside the house
    • Due to inactivity, small breeds are more prone to obesity
  • Extreme weather is not safe so make sure you find alternatives inside during these times
    • Fetch
    • Running up and down stairs
    • Playing chase

We Can Help

Luckily, VIP Pet Services has many different options for you and your dog.

  1. We suggest our Puppy Program for those who have  young canine at home. Puppies need extra attention and of course, plenty of exercise. For young puppies, we recommend a minimum of 2 visits per day.
  2. Dog Walking = Happy Dogs. We don’t do group walks, so your dog will get our undivided attention during their walks!
  3. Time and attention. Pets need TLC and we want to be there! Our services provide visits 7 days a week at almost any time you need.

Black Lab Dog Green Background


We can help you with the perfect service and as always, exceptional care. Contact us today!

 

 

 

dog santa hat

Can Your Dog Catch Your Cold?

Many of us catch at least one cold during the winter months, and we all know how easy it is to pass a cold around the household!

What about your dog? Can your dog catch your cold? Happily, no. Humans and dogs are affected by different kinds of cold germs and cannot share them.

But dogs can catch colds from other dogs, which is why keeping them home with a pet sitter is so much better than boarding them at a kennel where they can be infected by another dog. If your dog does catch a cold, there are a few things to watch for. (This short video from Pet MD has some quick tips.)

As the video mentions, the best cold treatment for an otherwise healthy dog is to make sure they stay hydrated, and you may even want to put a humidifier near their bed.

If you’re going out of town for the holidays, or just extra busy and need a hand with your furry friend, it’s time to book your VIP sitter. It’s a great way to reduce their chances of catching a cold from other pets at a kennel! We’ll take your dog for a walk, cuddle with your cat, give them a belly rub and a snack, and we’ll even text you a quick update so you’ll have peace of mind.

Our schedules fill up quickly during the holidays – especially Christmas, so click here to book your pet sitter, or leave your number here and we’ll call you…

dog paw wrapped in gauze hand of human

Cuts, Scrapes & Injuries On Your Pet

By Cate Burnette

Minor Injuries You Can Care For At Home

When a pet sustains an injury, concerned pet parents often have a lot of the same questions as human parents, such as, “How bad is this, really? What should I do to treat this? Is this an injury requiring immediate professional medical care, or can it be dealt with at home?” That’s why it’s good to have an understanding of what the difference is between a major and a minor injury in your furry companion.

What is the difference between a major trauma and a minor injury?

Major traumas include:

  • Bite wounds
  • Puncture wounds
  • Burns and scalds
  • Snake bites of any kind
  • Deep lacerations
  • Broken bones

These injuries should NEVER be treated at home and your pet needs to see your local veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. A deep cut can get infected and require stitching and even small burns or scalds can send an animal into shock. Snake bites – both poisonous and non-poisonous – can cause pain and extreme inflammation and, of course, broken bones necessitate professional care.

Minor injuries are issues like torn nails, bruises, skin scrapes, insect bites or stings (without allergic reaction), and/or minor intestinal problems such as occasional constipation or diarrhea. You can treat most of these matters at home and contact your vet if you have any concerns.

Home Treatments for Minor InjuriesInjured orange cat with paw wrapped in gauze in the hands of a vet with gloves

As concerned pet parents, you know that your veterinarian needs to be called for traumatic wounds, ongoing illnesses and sudden, acute disease symptoms. However, for any inconsequential injuries, there are treatments you can do at home with items from your medicine cabinet and kitchen to help your pet heal quickly and pain free.  

 

  • Bumps, Bruises, Twists, and Sprains – Tenderness, swelling, limping and mild to moderate pain can indicate a bruise, sprain or strain of limbs and paws. Keep your pet quiet and restrict exercise by crating if necessary. If the signs continue for more than 2 or 3 days, contact your veterinarian.
  • Torn Toenails – Dogs and cats can slice up their nails in a variety of ways. Everything from a too-close nail trim that nicks the quick, to running outdoors over sharp rocks. When the bleeding doesn’t stop, dip the hurt nail into a tiny amount of styptic powder, typically found on the shaving aisle found in most commercial pharmacies. If you don’t have styptic powder available, corn starch or regular baking flour will also curtail the bleeding.
  • Cuts and Scrapes – Please Note: If the injury site is swollen, bruised or bleeds excessively, you must assume your pet has sustained a bone break or sprain and you should allow your veterinarian to provide treatment and pain meds immediately. For minor cuts and scrapes with no other signs, clean the site of dirt with a cloth or towel and a non-stinging antiseptic diluted in warm water. Apply a cold compress (you can use a bag of frozen veggies) and keep it in place for a few minutes to alleviate any inflammation and pain. Place a dab of 3-in-one antibiotic ointment on the cut and bandage lightly to keep your pet from licking the area. Contact your vet for further advice and additional treatment.
  • Bug Bites or Bee Stings – Bug bites or stings typically occur around the face and head of a dog or cat. Once you notice the area, apply a cold pack to the bite to reduce swelling and itching. Look for a stinger. If one is still in the skin, use a credit card or other flat, rigid object (NOT tweezers) to scrape it out. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you notice any swelling in the head or neck area that can affect breathing or if you find a stinger in the tongue or the roof of the mouth.
  • Swallowed Objects – In many cases, if your dog swallows an inappropriate object, you can take a wait-and-see approach to watch if the item passes without any trouble. However, swallowing sharp objects, extremely large objects, or any type of long item, is very dangerous.  Additionally, cats often swallow tinsel, fishing line or thread that can become wrapped around the tongue. In those cases, or if your pet shows signs of consistent vomiting, has a distended or painful abdomen, or is not having bowel movements, contact your veterinarian for immediate emergency treatment.
  • Constipation, Diarrhea, Hairballs, and Other Minor Digestive Issues – Most pets, at one time or another, experience digestive upsets that last for a few days and disappear. If these upsets are not related to other major health issues, then a dose of canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) can do the trick. Veterinarians recommend giving 1 teaspoon per every 10 pounds of body weight either as a treat or in the normal diet one or two times a day until the issue resolves. Pumpkin is rich in a soluble plant fiber that eases the pains of both constipation and diarrhea.

 

If the symptoms of any injury or trauma are excessive – or continue for more than 1 or 2 days – contact your veterinarian for treatment. Remember, if your pet is sick or injured, it’s important to protect yourself and anyone else who may be caring for or handling her, so using a muzzle on dogs or a pillowcase on cats may be necessary. Even the most docile and gentle of pets can bite in response to pain or fear.

——

Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

May is National Service Dog Eye Examination Month

 

By: Cate Burnette

Service Animals Need Healthcare Too…

What One Alliance of Veterinarians is Doing To Help

Because good eyesight to so important to the work of the approximate 20,000 service animals in the US, the ninth annual American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) National Service Animal Eye Exam event provides a free screening-wellness eye exam to all working animals. Those animals include guide dogs, hearing assistance dogs, drug detection dogs, police/military animals, search and rescue animals, therapy animals, and those assisting people with disabilities other than blindness. This program incorporates both dogs and horses in their exams.

To be eligible, all service or therapy animals must be formally trained and certified, currently working animals with proof of active registration. Animals currently enrolled in a formal service-training program are also eligible, based on clinic availability. The client must provide all qualification paperwork to the clinic at the time of the exam along with an online registration number. This complimentary eye exam through your veterinarian is of a screening nature and is not appropriate for animals with known eye issues.

So how do these wonderful working animals assist their human partners and what effect to they have on the daily lives of persons with disabilities?

 

Types of Service Dogs and Their Duties

According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, the approximate 20,000 service animals in this country – which includes 10,000 guide dogs – empower their disabled owners to function with greater self-sufficiency, summon help in a crisis, and to become aware of events in the environment that might prove stressful or harmful.

The types of tasks these animals are asked to perform revolve around the physical or psychological limitations of the pet parent and, by necessity, require the animal to be able to see clearly and without hesitation.

 

Guide Dog TasksA guide dog’s 4- to 6-month education involves mastering a set of tasks which, taken together, allow a blind or visually-impaired person to negotiate the unseen environment with greater ease, independence and safety. Some of those duties involve:

  • Navigating their person around stationary objects, hazards, low-hanging objects and moving objects while watching for oncoming or intersecting traffic in the team’s path.
  • Signaling changes in elevation, such as stepping off a curb, going up and down stairs, warning of a ditch, cliff or other outdoor drop-offs, halting when confronted by a barrier or refusing to go forward if there is a drop-off.  
  • Locating objects on command. Some of those objects might be finding an exit and indicating the door knob from a room, finding an empty seat, locating the person’s customary seat in a particular classroom, following a designated person (waiter, fireman/police officer), finding a specified designation after appropriate training.
  • Other tasks may include retrieving dropped objects or finding specific objects, such as the morning newspaper.

 

Hearing Dog Tasks Hearing dogs are schooled for 3 to 6 months to alert to the specific sounds needed by their partners, primarily in the home setting. Some hearing dogs also work outside the home, alerting to specific sounds in public settings. These service dogs are trained to get the attention of their human partner by touch, either a nose nudge or a paw on hand or leg, and to then lead the partner to the source of the specific sound.

 

A hearing dog’s specific tasks may include:

  • Alerting to specific sounds at home. For example, a hearing dog needs to warn a non-hearing partner to the doorbell, a smoke alarm, a crying baby, a cooking timer, an alarm clock buzzing, phone ringing or someone calling the name of the dog’s partner.
  • Alerting to specific sounds away from home, such as police, ambulance or fire truck sirens, car horns, cell phones, smoke alarms at work or school, and fire drills.
  • Other duties may include the retrieval of dropped objects (keys, glasses, coins), carrying messages between spouses or other family members, warning of a vehicle approaching from behind, entering a dark home first at night to turn on any lights and provide safety against possible intruders.

 

Service Dog Tasks – Service dogs generally receive 6 months to a year of schooling to assist people with a wide variety of mobility issues. While many service dogs partner with humans who are severely impaired or have a degenerative disease, others benefit those people who suffer with hidden disabilities such as a seizure disorder, a psychiatric disorder, or conditions which cause chronic pain. These highly trained service animals work to provide their partners with the ability to manage pain, conserve energy, and secure a measure of self-sufficiency.

 

The duties of a service dog may consist of:

    • Retrieval-based tasks, such as bringing a partner the phone, picking up dropped items, fetching an out-of-reach wheelchair, retrieving a purse/wallet and unloading towels from a dryer.
    • Carrying-based tasks may include transporting items from one person to another, paying for purchases at high counters, bringing in the mail or a newspaper, and/or moving items upstairs or downstairs.
    • Deposit-based tasks; for example, dropping trash into a wastebasket, putting dirty dishes into the sink, loading clothes into the washing machine, and placing shoes or other items into a closet.
    • Tug-based tasks can include opening drawers, cupboard doors and a refrigerator with the use of a strap, closing a bathroom stall door for the disable partner, tugging off socks without biting the foot, and opening or closing drapes by pulling on a drapery cord.
    • Nose-nudged tasks are the exact opposite of tug tasks; i.e., shutting doors and cupboard drawers, calling 911 on a K9 rescue push-button phone, turning light switches on and off, and returning a paralyzed arm or foot to its correct physical position.
    • Pawing tasks are taught to those dogs who prefer using their feet instead of their noses while on duty and include the same set of assignments geared to provide access and safety to their disable pet parents.
    • Mobility assistance revolves around such tasks as opening doors, assisting a partner to turn over in bed, preventing a fall by bracing, getting a partner in and out of a bathtub, helping an ambulatory partner to walk short distances or climb stairs, transporting textbooks, and possibly working with a partner to pull a wheelchair up an incline.
    • Crisis assistance means the dog may need to bark for help on command, find a care-giver on command, hold the partner in an upright position so that a wheelchair user can take meds or access a phone, or wake up a sleeping partner if the smoke alarm goes off.

 

  • Medical assistance for a disabled partner can include duties such as fetching an insulin kit, calling 911 for help in a crisis and letting first-responders into the home.

 

Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – The psychiatric service dog is trained to help individuals with such debilitating conditions as Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Depression, ailments attributed to a brain chemistry malfunction. In addition to the task training given other service dogs, psychiatric dogs must have mastered the behaviors of no nuisance barking, no aggressive or intrusive behaviors and no intrusive sniffing into another person’s or dog’s space to accommodate their partners’ emotional issues.

Even more important than assisting with everyday tasks, psychiatric service dogs provide emotional support using some of the following methods:

 

  • They provide tactile stimulation to disrupt any emotional overload happening with the partner. When their human experiences flashbacks, nightmares, or any other psychological distress, service dogs are trained to vigorously lick the person’s face or use a nose nudge in order to bring the partner back to full awareness and interrupt any inappropriate behavior.
  • When tactile stimulation doesn’t work, psychiatric service dogs can cause an abrupt change of scene to ‘break the spell’ of emotional overload. For example, a dog can turn on room lights, switch on the television, fetch a beverage or medication, or initiate a game of ‘tug toy’ to vanquish the distressing thoughts, feelings and images and prevent sleep disturbances of their person.
  • These dogs are taught to wake up their human partner for work or school. Panic Disorder, PTSD, and Major Depression can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Success has been noted in fighting back against avoidance behavior, apathy or withdrawal by having the service dog respond like a hearing dog to the alarm clock in the morning. It may also be possible to train the dog to go by his internal alarm clock to eagerly awaken the person at a certain hour of the day, through use of a feeding schedule or, if not motivated by food, by the promise of a walk.
  • Those who suffer from panic attacks have reported that the deep pressure of the weight of a medium size dog or a large dog against their abdomen and chest has a significant calming effect. It can shorten the duration of the attack and often prevent the symptoms from escalating. This same task performed by service dogs on autistic children and adults prone to panic attacks has become known as ‘deep pressure therapy’ in the assistance dog field.

 

To get a visual idea of exactly how service dogs affect the lives of their human partners, you can watch this short, informative video.

 

How is a veterinary eye exam performed?

Whether your pet is a service dog or just your furry companion, eye exams should be an integral part of your pet’s annual health exam. During an ophthalmic (eye) exam, your veterinarian may perform a number of tests. These tests can help identify problems with the eyes or underlying diseases that may affect the eyes. Your vet may recommend that a veterinary ophthalmologist – an eye-care specialist – evaluate your pet if the eye problems are found to be chronic or extensive.

 

A complete veterinary eye exam should include the following tests:

  • A visual exam of the eye and its functionality. The veterinarian may observe how the pet moves around the room or if he or she follows a cotton ball when tossed near the eyes. A menace test may also be conducted to see if the pet blinks when a finger is moved toward, but without touching, the eye.
  • A Schirmer Tear Test to determine if your dog is producing enough tears to properly lubricate the eye. This test works by positioning a small strip of paper in each lower eyelid and holding it in place for 60 seconds. A gauge on each strip indicates the amount of tear production.
  • A fluorescein stain test shows any painful abrasions or ulcers on the cornea that cannot be seen without a vet exam. During this procedure, the vet or vet tech drops a small amount of fluorescent, lime-green dye on the eye and the cornea is examined under a blue light looking for scratches or divots in the tissue.
  • An intra-ocular pressure reading will be taken using a device called a ‘tonometer.’ Testing for glaucoma (high eye pressure caused by improper fluid drainage within the orb), a few drops of liquid ocular anesthesia are placed on the cornea to numb the eye surface. The vet will gently tap the tonometer on the surface of the eye several times to get an average eye pressure number. High pressure is a sign of glaucoma – a symptom of unchecked diabetes and some genetic disorders, while low pressure may be a sign of uveitis (inflammation of an interior layer of the eye).
  • Your vet can facilitate a thorough inspection of the fundus (the back of the eye) by dilating the dog’s pupils and examining the interior of the eye, including the retina, the optic nerve and the interior blood vessels.

 

Because a service dog’s ability to see the world around him is so important to the safety and independence of his disabled human partner, regular eye exams are necessary. The ACVO’s commitment to service dog health with National Service Dog Eye Examination Month and free exams allows people without veterinary health insurance to get much-needed healthcare for their canine life partners.

 

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Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.