Curbing your Pet’s Stress at the Vet’s Office

At All Creatures, our goal is not only to provide excellent health care for your pets, but also to make your visit a positive, pleasant experience. We love it when our patients have a good time with us! It’s the best part of our job — there’s really nothing like a dog who comes bounding through the door like it’s their favorite place in the world, or a cat who rolls over on the exam table for some belly rubs… and then turns the good ol’ purr machine up to 11!

But despite our best intentions, a visit to the vet can unfortunately be a stressful and overwhelming experience for some dogs and cats. In fact, veterinary anxiety is quite common. The clinic can be a very unfamiliar environment with foreign smells, sounds, and people who, by necessity, need to approach and touch them. (And may even inspect their ears, check their teeth — not to mention the dreaded needles! No wonder some pets don’t even want to step through the door.)

Signs of Stress at the Clinic

We know our pets, so for most of us it’s quite obvious when they are feeling uneasy or fearful. In dogs, signs of anxiety might include subtle behaviors like yawning, licking, and averting their gaze, or more obvious ones like panting, drooling, trembling, tail tucking, and hiding. Some dogs may manifest fear-based aggressive behaviors like growling, snapping, or lunging. In cats, common signs of stress and agitation can include vocalizing (hard to miss!), flattened ears, crouching, raised hair, and a slowly swishing tail. Fear-related pooping or peeing can also occur in both cats and dogs.

Our staff are knowledgeable about pet behavior, and trained to handle patients with skill, compassion, and respect. We do our best to alleviate your pet’s stress — at the ready with treats, scratches, toys, and calming words. And you are instrumental to this process by remaining calm yourself — pets know their owners too, and are very good at picking up on your tension. Bring favorite treats or toys with you, but don’t worry if your pet does not respond as they normally would to these incentives — scolding them might reinforce any negative feelings.

By far, though, the best practical strategy to reduce veterinary fear in our pets is to get them familiar with coming into the clinic — and the routines involved, like getting into their carrier (or a car) — before the appointment even occurs. Working with your pet to desensitize them and make them comfortable with these routines can be the key factor in making vets exams a comfortable, stress-free experience.

Practicing and Preparing Your Pup

For many dogs, reducing veterinary anxiety just takes a little time — and plenty of delicious, high-value treats! Walking your dog by the clinic regularly, just to say hello, can work wonders. We have treats at the front desk, or you can bring some of your pup’s favorites with you. These friendly visits provide a gradual exposure to the clinic environment, and create a positive association, so that coming in for a doctor’s exam is no longer something to fear. (And you can always call ahead, to make sure the office isn’t too hectic that day, so we can provide a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere.)

At home, try to get your dog accustomed to being “examined” by gently touching and looking into their ears and mouth, holding and inspecting their paws — with plenty of praise, treats, or toys as a reward. (You can even invite trusted family and friends over to perform an “exam.”) This helps dogs build up a tolerance to this type of handling. (It’s easier to establish this kind of comfort zone if you start when they are puppies, but even older dogs can benefit from gradual exposure.)

Getting Your Cat Comfortable in the Carrier

With our feline friends, the most challenging factor is often getting them into their carriers — the struggle is real! If the only time the carrier comes out is right before a vet visit (or some other disruption to their comfortable daily routine), it’s no surprise that many cats develop negative associations. And so, the moment they see the carrier, they will hide — or fight tooth and claw — to keep out.

Instead of tucking your cat carrier away in a closet, keep it out in the open, with the door propped open (at least for a period of time, or intermittently). Make it feel safe and appealing by placing a cozy towel or blanket inside, as well as a regular supply of treats and toys. Once your cat seems comfortable in the carrier, try closing the door and carrying them around the apartment or down the hallway, or even for a short car trip. Covering the carrier with a towel or blanket helps them to feel safe and secure, especially in an environment like a vet office, where they will be around unfamiliar cats, dogs, and people. (Starting when they are young can make this process easier and more effective, but even older cats can benefit from these techniques to help them grow less fearful over time.)

Supplements and Medications

In addition, there are a variety of supplements available to help alleviate veterinary (and other types of) anxiety. Calming, pheromone-based supplements like ADAPTIL and FELIWAY — administered in products like sprays, diffusers, or collars — can be helpful in some cases. Another option is CBD: We recently introduced ElleVet CBD products to our in-house pharmacy, based on the strong body of clinical studies supporting their effectiveness for conditions from anxiety to joint pain.

Fortunately, for more severe cases, there are also safe and effective pharmaceutical options available. If your pet becomes extremely anxious when coming to the clinic, we advise you to speak with one of our doctors about the possibility of trying a prescription medication before the visit. (We do offer phone consultations to facilitate this process.) These medications can be administered before, or in some cases during, an appointment.

And remember, you can always let us know beforehand if your pet has any particular triggers (such as a preference for men or women in particular, fear/aggression with other animals, etc.). This information can be very helpful for us to prepare and make your pet’s visit as relaxed and stress-free as possible.

Keeping Your Pet Cool When Temperatures Spike

By now, we’ve all heard about the extreme danger of leaving your pet inside a parked car on a warm day — even just for a few minutes with the windows cracked. But less well known is the danger that hot weather — even just temperatures in the 70s and 80s — can pose to our furry friends during everyday outdoor activities, or even at home. And this risk is even greater in areas with high humidity, as is often the case in NYC.

Dogs and cats have only a limited ability to cool themselves since, unlike humans, they cannot automatically regulate their body temperature through sweating. Instead, they release heat by panting and, to a limited degree, through their paw pads. This leaves our furry friends particularly susceptible to the effects of heat stress. And some pets — older or very young animals; breeds with shortened muzzles like bulldogs, pugs, and persian cats; and those with thicker, darker fur — are even more vulnerable to the heat than others.

Here are a few key steps you can take to protect your pet during hot weather, and prevent any heat-related health issues.

Keep It Cool and Stay in the Shade

When temperatures start skyrocketing, it’s time to scale back your pet’s typical activities or change your habits to avoid the soaring midday heat. Instead, try to walk your dog (or cat) during the cooler hours in the early morning and the evening. (This also goes for letting pets outside in the yard — if you are lucky enough to have one in the city! — but never leave them outdoors unsupervised in the heat.) If you do need to relieve your dog during midday, make it a quick bathroom break and keep to the shade.

For long-haired pets, keeping fur trimmed can help, but shaving your pet is never a good idea — in fact, their coat helps to insulate them from the heat as well as the cold, and protects against sunburn. (Keeping the fur clean, combed, and mat-free encourages this process.) Instead, there are a variety of products that can help pets stay cool and comfortable, such as cooling vests or collars — though these must be regularly re-soaked and kept wet in order to be effective — and gel-filled cooling pads that are pressure-activated when your pet lies down on them. A cool, wet washcloth, a romp through a sprinkler (or dip in a kiddie pool), or a cool bath after getting home can also help keep your pet’s body temperature in a healthy range.

Prevent Dehydration

Staying hydrated is essential for your pet’s health year round, but particularly in hot weather, when dehydration increases the risk of overheating. So, it’s important for pets to have easy access to plenty of fresh drinking water. Keep multiple water bowls around the home or yard — and make sure to clean them daily to prevent the buildup of potentially harmful bacteria. You can also add ice chips to the water to keep it cool. Some cats and dogs are more enthusiastic about drinking running water, and if that’s the case, a pet drinking fountain that keeps the water circulating might be a good investment.

When you head out for a walk or a car trip, always be sure to bring water with you. There are a variety of products like collapsible bowls and pet water bottles (with a built-in bowl) that make it easier to provide water to your pet while on the go. (And many dogs enjoy pet-safe frozen treats like pupsicles.)

Paw Protection

Another crucial issue to remember is to protect your pet’s paws: Asphalt and cement can become dangerously hot in direct sunlight, leading to discomfort or even paw pad burns. (According to one study, at an air temperature of just 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of asphalt exposed to direct sunlight can rise to a whopping 125 degrees!)

So, when out walking your dog, stick to the shady sides of the street as much as possible — or grass, if you live near enough to a park or green space. Other options for protecting paws from surface heat are breathable booties that are made especially for hot weather, or protective wax that can be applied to the paws before walks (though this tends to be less effective than the physical barrier provided by a bootie).

Watch for Signs of Overheating

No matter how careful you are, it is important to keep an eye on your pet and to be aware of the signs of heat stroke — dogs and cats may not even realize that they are overheating, especially when they are having a great time running or playing. Symptoms of overheating or heat stroke can include heavy panting, difficulty breathing; disorientation or moving in an uncoordinated manner; lethargy; excessive drooling: or vomiting and diarrhea.

It’s always a good idea to keep a digital, rectal thermometer in your pet’s first aid kit, so that you can find out quickly if you suspect they are overheated. Normal body temperature in dogs and cats can range up to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. At any reading of 104 degrees or above, or if your pet exhibits symptoms of heat stroke, we would advise you to seek immediate veterinary care, ideally at an ER facility such as VERG or Blue Pearl. To be safe, body temperatures must be lowered in a gradual, controlled manner, so it’s best done under a veterinarian’s care. (Though you can use towels soaked in lukewarm water to cool your pet when on the way to the vet.)

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen?

It depends! Typically your dog’s (and cat’s) skin is protected from harmful sun damage because of their fur. However, you should apply sunscreen if your pet’s fur is sparse, lightly colored, or if your pet has bald spots.

Need more advice on how to protect your pet and keep them healthy all year long? Read our Blog or Contact Us.

An Uptick of Tick-Borne Disease in NYC

Summer is a wonderful time to get outdoors and spend time walking, hiking, and playing with your dog (or cat!). But the ever-present worry of tick-borne disease can put a damper on your adventures. Just how big is the risk for our pets to catch a tick-borne disease in New York City? Well, as you would expect, the risk for city dwellers and their pets is predominantly associated with travel outside of the city — upstate, Long Island, and surrounding states.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk of your pet picking up a tick in the city. Local parks are home to pervasive, endemic tick populations with the potential to carry disease — especially in Staten Island and the Bronx, where the parks are connected to wooded areas with a native deer population.

“Tick Season” and a Rising Risk

Ticks (and fleas) thrive in warmer, more humid weather, which is why we’ve all traditionally considered spring and summer to be “tick season.” But the truth is, ticks can be active at any time of the year if temperatures rise above freezing. With changing climate patterns that have led to shorter winters and an overall warming of temperatures, it is likely that “tick season” will continue to grow longer and more severe.

And this rising risk is compounded by the fact that a warming climate is causing native tick habitats to evolve and expand, bringing new species of ticks to NYC and the surrounding areas, along with the different varieties of tick-borne diseases that they carry. Indeed, rates of tick-borne disease have been trending upward in both humans and their pets in the city for decades.

At All Creatures, the most common tick-borne disease we detect in our patients is Lyme disease (caused by the black-legged tick, or as it’s more commonly known, deer tick), followed by ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. We typically do this using an in-house SNAP 4DX blood test, which screens for all of these diseases, as well as heartworm disease. While an alarming one in ten of these tests comes back positive, the SNAP test only checks for antibodies, which indicate exposure to the disease, but not active illness. So, if a pet who is acting well with no symptoms tests positive, this most often means they have successfully dealt with it without any help from us!

For pets who do develop symptoms —  which can include lethargy; stiff, painful joints; loss of appetite; and fever — treatment is typically a course of antibiotics for several weeks. (In some cases, we may also recommend a course of antibiotics for non-symptomatic pets.) And the good news is that most pets respond very well — especially if the disease is detected and treated promptly.

Prevention Is the Best Game Plan

Ticks prefer to live in shady, moist areas in the grass or shrubs near ground level, where they can most effectively find and latch onto small mammals or birds — precisely the kind of territory where our pets love to play and explore. So, prevention is the key to protecting your pet against tick-borne disease.

We strongly recommend that all our clients who spend any time outdoors with their pet use one of the many safe and reliable oral tick-preventive products that are widely available, such as Nexgard or Simparica, or topical products such as K9 Advantix or the Seresto Collar. For some dogs, we may also recommend the additional protection that can be provided by the Lyme vaccination.

Most importantly, inspect your pet (and yourself) promptly upon returning from any outdoor activities where ticks might be present. Be thorough — deer ticks are quite small, only about the size of a poppy seed. Typically, it takes hours or even days for a tick to transfer disease to its host — so the quicker you remove the tick, the less likely the risk of transmission!

The Most Common Ticks Found on NYC Dogs

What to Do if You Find a Tick on Your Pet

If you do find a tick that has already attached itself to your pet, you should remove it immediately using clean, pointed-tip tweezers. (See here for proper technique and tick disposal.) We recommend waiting 60 to 90 days after the tick bite before bringing your pet into the practice for a SNAP 4DX test, because it takes at least that much time for enough antibodies to be present in the blood to be detected.

And, with all of this in mind, don’t forget to enjoy yourself and have fun when you are outdoors with your furry friends!

Learn how to protect your dog from ticks and other parasites by contacting our hospital about our pet wellness plans.

What to Know About Dog Walkers in Brooklyn

Dog walker in Brooklyn.

There are over 600,000 dogs in New York City, a number that may surprise few. Urban dogs need daily exercise, but it’s not always easy to balance this commitment with work and life. There are dozens of dog walkers in Brooklyn to choose from (and throughout the boroughs), but how do you find the right match for your best buddy?


Got Long-Term Goals? Don’t Forget Pet Dental Care!

Pet dental care.

Most pet owners are familiar enough with doggy or kitty breath that they start to inch toward acceptance. But what if we told you that the first sign of periodontal (gum) disease was stinky breath? Aside from simple aging and normal wear and tear, the majority of pets over age three show many signs of dental disease. The good news is that with regular pet dental care, your best friend can enjoy a longer, healthier life (and better smelling breath!).


Yuck, Dog Breath! Signs of Dental Disease in Dogs

Dog tooth brushing dental care.

Dental care in pets is a very important, yet often overlooked, aspect of animal health and husbandry. All Creatures Veterinary Hospital of Brooklyn knows that pet owners want to do the best for their furry friends, though. We are happy to share why and when you might want to think about dental disease in dogs.


Does Your Dog Drool?

Dog drool.

If slobbering all over the place is a skill, dogs would be the ultimate masters. Sure, there are some breeds that don’t have slippery lips, but generally speaking, it is a common canine trait (we’re looking at you, Newfoundlands, mastiffs, and St. Bernards). Dog drool is simply part of the territory, but understanding the physiology of this action sure is helpful. Why does your dog drool, and are there ways to minimize the thick globs from wetting your floors and furniture?


Holiday Pet Safety in the Kitchen and Dining Room

Dog at holiday table.

The holidays (that is, the weeks between Halloween and New Year’s) center around food, a fact not overlooked by our pets. Most pets notice each new item or special ingredient brought home and plot to get a taste as soon as you’re otherwise occupied. Indeed, the holidays bring out the opportunist in every pet, so it’s up to us to fashion alternative experiences to the rich, fatty or even toxic foods that humans indulge in this time of year. The key to holiday pet safety is careful observation of what’s going in your pet’s mouth.

The Risks to Your Pet

Whether you’re hosting a family holiday dinner or preparing some dishes to share as a guest, your pet will probably be right under your feet. The good news is that you can control what they have access to, and provide substitutions to keep them satisfied (and out of trouble). 

Holiday pet safety hinges on asking guests not to feed your pet, and to quickly clean up any fallen morsels so your pet isn’t tempted. Monitoring their actions and behaviors during the holidays is also essential. 


Why Dogs Slobber

Dog slobbering.

If dogs could use napkins or their sleeves to wipe away drool, they probably wouldn’t. They don’t care about being neat and tidy. Dog slobber is a characteristic that dog lovers tend to (begrudgingly) overlook. In trade, dog people get an abundance of affection and loyalty. That’s worth every bit of slobber!