Have a Fear Free Fourth

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and as a licensed veterinary technician, visions of frantic pets running scared down the freeway enter my head.  Year after year, pet owners are warned about the potential dangers Independence Day pose on our beloved furry family members.  Last year I wrote about preventing pet anxiety on this freedom filled holiday.  Fortunately, there’s already ample information on the web pertaining to Fourth of July pet safety, so I’ve decided to take a different approach.

Most of us know if our pets need special care on this explosive, rumbling night, but if they do need special care…do we really know why?


It’s fear that causes pets to hide under the bed during the thundering firecrackers.  It’s fear that causes dogs to jump through window panes, only to find the outside world is what they fear even more.  And it’s fear that causes pets to frantically roam for hours with no destination in sight only to wind up tragically deceased on the side of the road.  But…what is fear?  When does fear start?  Why did it start in the first place?


As an LVT at Lone Mountain Veterinary Hospital, I see fear every day, and it comes it many shapes, sizes and severities.  Terror, fright, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress…the list goes on.  In humans fear is a vital response to physical or emotional danger allowing us to protect ourselves from threats.  In pets it’s equivalent, but with a major language barrier; fear can be amplified by the slightest movement or sound. scared dog and cat

Both, environmental and psychosocial, factors can cause stress in your pets.  Stressors such as humidity, noise, pheromones, and odor contribute to environmental fear. Unfamiliar pets and people, as well as separation from his or her owner contribute to psychosocial factors.  If taken lightly the festivities surrounding Independence Day can encompass many, if not ALL, of these!

Thanks to newer insights and progressive veterinary practices, fear can be recognized sooner and hopefully be reduced.  Understanding your pet’s fear-induced triggers is first way you can help. If you observe signs or behaviors listed below, take time to record them and the circumstances surrounding them.

Signs Your Pet May Be Fearful or Anxious

Cats – Dilated pupils, arched back, open mouth (breathing through their mouth), thumping/flicking tail, hidingScared cats

Dogs – Dilated pupils, taught skin, furrowed brow, hunched back/rigid spine, tucked tail or high over the back wagging, closed mouth with lips short, lip smacking, yawning, and tense growling/snarling

Scared submissive dog


We all know the cracks and booms of this year’s fireworks display will have many pets hiding, running or worst of all, dying.  If you think your pet may be fearful of specific circumstances or events, take the time to understand your pet’s fear and anxiety, so it can be reduced and/or prevented in the future.  Get your pet to the vet, or schedule a house call to have your pet assessed before tragedy strikes.  Ask your veterinarian about special treatment plans that may include sedatives and anti-anxiolytics to ensure you and your pet have a safe and happy Fourth.  This information isn’t meant to be boom, gloom and doom; it’s simply meant to empower you and protect your pet.





For tips to keep you pet safe during this Fourth of July, check out my 2016 post!


Spring Time is Prevention Time!

With record snow fall in the Sierras this winter, mosquitoes will be flourishing more now than drier years in the past. Spring is the perfect time to start preventatives for heartworm disease!

If you are not familiar with heartworm disease – it’s a parasite transmitted by infected mosquitoes.  Adult worms develop in the heart, cause heart failure and eventually death.  Crazy thing…it can be prevented. 

This disease isn’t as prevalent in Northern Nevada, but it does exist in the Reno-Tahoe area.  It actually affects both, dogs and cats, in every state. 2013-Heartworm-Incidence-Map

With record snow fall in the Sierras this winter, mosquitoes will be flourishing more now than drier years in the past.  Spring is the perfect time to start preventatives for heartworm disease!

Heartworm larvae live in infected mosquitoes and are transmitted when they bite your dog or cat.  The larvae develop into adults that gather in the heart.  Once adult worms are present, without treatment prognosis is death.

Boomer HW

Boomer’s Heart Infected with Adult Heartworms – Villa Lobos Rescue Center

The best way to prevent heartworm disease is keeping your pet on a preventative year round. Infected mosquitoes in the Lake Tahoe Area, have even been found at the Lake level as late as November. Yes November! So, skipping winter months is no longer a viable option to fight this often fatal disease.

Performing a simple blood test at your veterinarian’s hospital can test for the disease in as little as 10 minutes.  Negative results mean you can start the preventative.  It’s as easy as giving a tasty beef chew once a month.  Positive results are another story of their own.  Treatment is necessary to save your pet and risks involved can be fatal as well.

As an active outdoor enthusiast, camping and hiking with my dogs is a must. My dogs are protected by Heartgard all year, since mosquitoes are unavoidable. Although there are products like k9 Advantix II that repel mosquitoes, there’s no guarantee.  And…mosquitoes not biting your dog are biting you.  Cases of heartworm have been reported in humans as well. West Nile Virus is another nasty disease spread by mosquitoes.

Tech Tips:

  • Get your dog tested for Heartworm disease annually.
  • If, you skip or miss a dose, be sure to re-test in 6 months.
  • Keep your dog on a Heartworm preventative all year.
  • Symptoms, though not always seen, may include:
  • A mild persistent cough, lethargy, exercise intolerance, weight-loss, and loss of appetite.

The fact is, if there’s even a chance for infection and there’s a preventative…It’s in your power to ensure you pets’ well being.

Spring is here so start prevention now!

Ten Ways To Bark in the New Year Purr-fectly!


Our pets are clueless when it comes to the holidays, nor do they care about our need to ring in the New Year!  Try some of my tech tips and start you and your pet’s New Year right.

  1. Check your local listings for announcements about Fireworks displays and New Year’s celebrations. (Reno/Tahoe) (Carson City)
  2. Keep pets in a safe, secure place inside during outdoor festivities. Be sure doors and windows are secured.  Turn on the TV or Radio.
  3. Be sure they have current identification tags and that their microchip information is updated.
  4. When hosting or attending parties, keep pets at a safe distance and in a secure place. Festive noise makers, loud, laughing friends or unfamiliar faces could spook your pet.9cff457122ad4cae45c24215e5bc8052
  5. Keep toxic foods out of paws’ reach. Goodies like chocolate, raisin laden fruit cake, rich, fatty foods, meat bones, and alcohol could be fatal.
  6. Schedule a visit to your veterinarian for special medications to help with anxiety or noise aversion.
  7. Take them to a cozy boarding facility with fully enclosed kennels if you’re going to be out-of-town.
  8. Hire a pet sitter or friend to stay home with your pets, if you can’t be there with them to celebrate.
  9. Find a dog friendly celebration and bring Fido along!
  10. Watch Ryan Seacrest rock in the New Year in Times Square together.

By keeping your pets safe this New Year’s Eve, 2017 is sure to unveil a year full of playing and hiking, catnip and cookies…pet friendly cookies that is!

cool-catWhat will you be doing to this NYE to start it off PURR-FECTLY?

Tricks To Start Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

This slow introduction to brushing will help you establish a routine.

It’s an old wives tale that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans. Periodontal disease is the number one disease diagnosed in veterinary medicine. Dirty mouths lead to build of bacteria, plaque and eventually calculus (tartar).  Years of plaque build-up creates a city of bacteria and minerals thriving on your pet’s teeth – not to mention liver, kidney and heart disease!IMG_4617

Dental chews and treats, rinses and water additives are options for keeping your pets mouth happy. Brushing, however, is the gold star!

How would you would feel, if you hadn’t brushed your teeth for 5 years?  This is the case with a majority of the patients I anesthetize for dental cleanings.  Many dental patients spend several hours under anesthesia because they need several teeth extracted.IMG_4619

Daily I’m confronted by owners who don’t, can’t, or won’t brush their pet’s teeth.  Often, they laugh at me as I pull out the complimentary toothbrush when discharging them from Fluffy’s $1800 dental!

Don’t say you can’t without trying first.  Follow my tech tips and gets started today.

Here’s the brushing advice I give clients on a daily basis.  This slow introduction to brushing will help you establish a routine.  Daily brushing is the key to preventing dental disease, and I know it can seem impossible.

Tech tips

Take it slow and have fun!  I cannot stress this enough!  

Week 1 – Spend time just touching your pet’s mouth. Lift their lips and touch their teeth.  After each positive interaction reward your pet with a low calorie, tasty treat.  This will reinforce their good behavior.

Week 2 – Buy a soft bristled toothbrush from your local pet store or obtain one from your veterinarian.   Dip the brush in something tasty like beef broth, chicken broth or tuna juice.  Let them lick the juice off!  Touch your pet’s mouth and teeth with it.  Then reward them.  Do this daily for the rest of the week.

Week 3 – Purchase toothpaste specially formulated for pets from your vet or a pet store. Put a small amount (pea-sized) of toothpaste on the toothbrush.  NO BRUSHING YET – You’re still in the introductory phase. Just get your pet used to the taste and feeling of the toothpaste and toothbrush.  Reward, and repeat daily for the week.


Week 4It’s time to start brushing!  Put the toothpaste on the toothbrush, gently lift the lip and start brushing.  Focus on the gum line; that’s where bacteria live.  Use gentle pressure and circular motion just as you would your own teeth.

Focus on one quadrant at a time – Upper Right, Upper Left, Lower Right, Lower Left.  Just get through one quadrant, unless you pet already is a super star!  Reward them, clean the toothbrush and put it away until tomorrow.  Repeat daily moving from one quadrant to the next.  By the end of Week 4 you should be able to brush their whole mouth in one sitting!

Do what you can to make it a daily habit, even if it means only getting half of Fido’s teeth done one day, and the other half the next.  It’s better than not brushing at all. Right?

Once again, as with all pet care, prevention is key!  Keeping your pets teeth clean at home, will prevent costly dental procedures and unnecessary anesthesia time.  Even if you brush daily, remember to have your pet’s teeth examined annually by your veterinarian.  They’re the professionals and will keep you on track.

Remember…Take it slow, REWARD, REWARD, REWARD, and have FUN!