AGILITY TRAINING FOR DOGS
Dog agility training is a great form of exercise for dogs and handlers, can harness a dog’s energy and boost his or her confidence, and can help improve the human–animal bond.
There are many kinds of organized sports and activities that you can do with your dog.
Dog agility is a competitive sport in which a person (handler) directs a dog through a timed obstacle course. Handlers and dogs race against the clock as the dogs jump hurdles, climb ramps, run through tunnels, cross a see-saw, and weave through a line of poles. Scoring is based on faults, similar to equestrian show jumping. Dog agility competition has become an exciting spectator event, and training for it is a great form of exercise for dogs and handlers, can harness a dog’s energy and boost his or her confidence, and can help improve the human–animal bond.
Dog agility is frequently referred to as a sport for all dogs because any type of dog, purebred or mixed breed, can compete. More than 150 dog breeds (including mixed breeds as a single group) have performed well in this sport. Dogs with high energy and good agility make good competitors.
Dog agility training is physically and mentally demanding for dogs. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether your dog is a good candidate for dog agility training. Always put your dog’s health and safety first during exercise. Never force your dog to perform a task that makes him or her anxious or scared. If your dog does not appear comfortable with an obstacle, he or she should be taken to another obstacle. A dog may need time to work up to a large or complicated obstacle.
Completion of an obedience class is required for enrollment in most dog agility training classes.
An average dog agility class may meet for about 1 hour weekly for 6 weeks. Classes often begin with playtime and warmups to accustom the dogs to their surroundings. Classes tend to be enjoyable for dogs, and they give handlers the opportunity to meet other dog owners in their community.
The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) has four basic height divisions within its two competitive programs (performance and championship). The jump heights have proven to be safe for properly trained dogs. Developed for recreational competition, the performance program involves lower jump heights and more generous time limits. As with any sport, considerable training time is required to be highly competitive. Dogs must be registered with the USDAA to compete in its events and are eligible to compete beginning at 18 months of age.
USDAA also promotes dog agility as a community sport, offering people a fun alternative for spending quality time with their dogs. Handlers and dogs can do reasonably well and have fun without the training time required in other competitive canine activities. USDAA has developed a junior handler program for school-age children and their pets to encourage their participation and teach responsible pet ownership.
To get involved in dog agility, locate a group and/or attend an agility test or demonstration in your area. For more information, visit the USDAA Website: www.usdaa.com.
AGGRESSION IN DOGS
The most common and serious behavior problems of dogs are associated with aggression. Canine aggression includes any behavior associated with a threat or attack (e.g., growling, biting). Aggressive dogs usually exhibit some part of the following sequence of increasingly intense behaviors:
Dogs don’t always follow the above sequence, and they often engage in several of the behaviors simultaneously. Owners often don’t recognize the warning signs before a dog bite, so they think that their dog has suddenly become aggressive for no apparent reason. However, dogs rarely bite without warning.
If your dog has become aggressive, it is crucial to take him or her to your veterinarian in order to rule out medical issues before you do anything else. Some dogs are aggressive because of a medical condition (e.g., any type of pain, an orthopedic [bone or joint] problem, a thyroid gland abnormality, adrenal gland dysfunction, cognitive [brain] dysfunction, a seizure disorder, loss or decrease of senses such as vision or hearing). Geriatric dogs that feel confused or insecure may become aggressive. In addition, certain medications can alter your dog’s mood, possibly causing your dog to become aggressive.
If a medical cause of your dog’s aggression has been ruled out by your veterinarian, think about the situations that upset your dog. Who or what was the target of your dog’s aggression? When and where did it happen? What else was occurring at the time? What had just happened or was about to happen to your dog? What seemed to stop your dog’s aggression? Answering these questions can clarify the circumstances that trigger your dog’s aggression and can help you and your veterinarian understand the reasons for your dog’s behavior. Understanding the various types of aggression in dogs can also help you determine why your dog is aggressive.
Types of Aggression
Aggression can be a complicated condition to evaluate. Some dogs may exhibit a single form of aggression, while others may exhibit several types of aggression at the same time. Understanding the different types of aggression can help get to the root of the problem:
Play Versus Aggression
It can be difficult to tell the difference between nonaggressive and aggressive nipping and mouthing by dogs. Some dogs use their mouths out of fear or frustration, which can indicate a problem with aggression. In most cases, playful dogs have a relaxed body and face. During play, your dog’s muzzle might look wrinkled, but the facial muscles shouldn’t look tense. Playful nipping or mouthing is usually not painful. However, an aggressive dog often has a stiff body, a wrinkled muzzle, and exposed teeth. Aggressive bites are usually quicker and more painful than playful nipping or mouthing.
You are ultimately responsible for your dog’s behavior. If you are deciding whether to keep and treat your aggressive dog, consider the following factors:
Treating canine aggression is usually complex and can be dangerous, so a treatment plan should be designed and supervised by a behavior specialist. Look for a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (DACVB), or a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT) in your area. If you choose a CPDT, be sure that he or she has training and experience in treating canine aggression.
Helping your dog avoid situations that cause him or her to become aggressive can reduce the risk of your dog biting someone. Physical punishment, including the use of prong collars and electric shock collars, can worsen a dog’s aggression. Therefore, punishment of aggression is not recommended.
ADRENAL GLAND DISEASE IN FERRETS
Adrenal gland disease usually affects adult ferrets (older than 2 years).
What Causes Adrenal Gland Disease in Ferrets?
Adrenal gland disease is, unfortunately, a common disease of pet ferrets in the United States. Most affected ferrets are older than 2 years. While the exact cause of this condition has not been determined, it is believed that spaying and neutering ferrets at an early age plays a role. This is problematic because failing to spay females can result in life-threatening illness, while neutering males reduces odor and aggression. Removal of the testes or ovaries removes hormonal influences that appear to affect the adrenal gland. In the absence of these influences, the adrenal glands may overproduce several sex hormones, causing a variety of clinical signs. In some cases, the overactive gland can eventually become cancerous. Genetics may also play a role in the development of adrenal gland disease.
What Are the Clinical Signs?
The most common sign associated with this condition is hair loss, particularly on the tail, hips, and shoulders. Some ferrets may become extremely itchy, and some have an oily appearance to the fur. Female ferrets may develop swelling of the vulva and, occasionally, a discharge. Behavioral changes such as increased aggression are also sometimes observed.
In male ferrets, the prostate may become enlarged, resulting in difficulty urinating. This is an emergency situation. If you have a male ferret that is straining to urinate, veterinary care is required immediately.
Ferrets with any of the conditions listed above could have an adrenal gland problem and should be examined by a veterinarian.
How Is the Problem Diagnosed?
Adrenal gland disease can be diagnosed by measuring hormone levels in a sample of the ferret’s blood. If the hormone levels are elevated above normal, adrenal gland disease is present. Another way to diagnose this problem is with abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound exam is a noninvasive way of visualizing the internal organs. It allows the veterinarian to determine which adrenal gland may be affected as well as whether there are obvious abnormalities in other abdominal organs. Exploratory surgery, which is performed based on the history, clinical symptoms, and physical examination, is another means of identifying enlarged adrenal glands or masses.
How Are Ferrets Treated for Adrenal Gland Disease?
Several options are available for the treatment of adrenal gland disease. Surgical removal of the affected gland is the preferred treatment. Surgery allows direct inspection of both adrenal glands as well as the other internal organs. If abnormalities are noted in one or both adrenal glands, the glands can be removed, and other abnormalities can be investigated or addressed at the same time. The left adrenal gland can typically be removed without complication. The right adrenal gland lies very close to a major blood vessel called the caudal vena cava, making removal more difficult. For right-sided adrenal gland disease, more advanced surgical techniques may be needed. While surgery is curative in most ferrets, it is important to know that in some cases, an adrenal mass may recur, or grow back.
Hormone therapy can also be employed in treating adrenal problems. The hormone leuprolide acetate (Lupron) is commonly used. Leuprolide mimics the effects of a hormone called GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone). This ultimately causes the body to stop producing GnRH, thus decreasing stimulation of the adrenal glands. Lupron is usually given as one injection every 6 to 8 weeks. While leuprolide controls the signs of adrenal gland disease, it does not modify a diseased adrenal gland or prevent tumor development. Even with regular Lupron injections, an enlarged adrenal gland may continue to grow or become a tumor.
A newer treatment, similar to Lupron injection, is the deslorelin acetate (Suprelorin) implant. Like leuprolide, deslorelin mimics GnRH and blocks adrenal stimulation. The advantage of deslorelin over leuprolide is that the implant lasts for up to 2 years in the average ferret. Additionally, there is some evidence that deslorelin can shrink adrenal tumors or slow their development.
If your ferret has any of the signs listed above, or if you have questions about adrenal gland disease, please consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic pets.
What Are Subcutaneous Fluids?
Fluid administration is a regular part of veterinary medical care. Any time that a patient is dehydrated or needs fluids, your veterinarian determines the best way to provide them. Fluids can be given by mouth, injection into a vein (known as intravenous fluids or IV fluids), or injection directly under the skin – a procedure known as subcutaneous fluid administration.
If a pet is able to eat and drink, giving fluids by mouth may be an option. However, if the pet is vomiting, unwilling to drink, or unable to obtain enough fluids through drinking, other methods of fluid administration must be considered. To receive intravenous fluids, pets generally need to be hospitalized because only a small amount can be given at a time and the IV catheter (through which the fluids are given) requires special care and maintenance. However, subcutaneous fluids can be given in larger amounts over a relatively short period of time, so hospitalization is frequently not required. The injection of sterile fluid is given under the skin and absorbed slowly over the next several hours. Advantages of the subcutaneous route include a lower cost (no catheter is required, and hospitalization is often not necessary) and ease of administration.
When Are Subcutaneous Fluids Necessary?
Dogs being treated for chronic kidney disease are the most likely to receive subcutaneous fluids on a regular basis. Your veterinarian may also recommend subcutaneous fluids for pets that are vomiting or unable (or unwilling) to drink adequate amounts of water. Examples may include dogs receiving chemotherapy or dogs with a high fever.
Depending on the medical condition being treated, your veterinarian may recommend fluid injections daily, every other day, or a few times a week. The frequency of injections and the amount of fluids given at each injection may change over time, so be sure to keep a notebook detailing when fluids are given and how much.
Before you get started, your veterinary health care team will work with you to make sure you know how to give the subcutaneous fluid injections without injuring yourself or your dog. If you aren’t comfortable or need additional training sessions, don’t be afraid to ask!
Here are a few things to consider:
The new fluid bag, fluid line, and needles are sterile until they are opened. It is important to handle these items properly to avoid contaminating them. Your veterinary care team will show you how to assemble the fluid line and bag and to attach a fresh needle without breaking sterility. Be sure to change the needle after each injection; the fluid line can be changed when each bag of fluids is completed.
For the fluids to flow from the bag and into your pet, the fluid bag must be suspended over the area where your pet is sitting. Many pet owners use a bent wire coat hanger to hang the fluid bag over the top of a door; you can then sit in a nearby chair or kneel/sit on the floor with your dog while fluids are being given.
A small dog may be happy lying or sitting on your lap while you administer the fluid injection. For a larger dog, you may need to sit in a chair or on the floor next to your dog. Some small dogs may do better on a smooth surface, such as a table; the top surface of a washing machine can simulate the smooth metal table at your veterinarian’s office, which might encourage your dog to remain still during the procedure. Additionally, some dogs do better with two people administering the injection – one person to hold the dog, and the other one to give the injection.
Giving the Fluid Injection
Your veterinary care team will show you how to administer fluids before you have to try it alone at home:
Ask your veterinary team to teach you how to administer fluid injections safely. If you aren’t comfortable giving injections, ask about scheduling outpatient visits for the fluid injections to be given.
Understanding the Medication Instructions
The first part of successfully administering medication to your dog is making sure that you understand the instructions for giving the medication. These instructions include route of administration (for example, by mouth, into the ears, or into the eyes), dosing frequency (such as once daily, every 12 hours, or every 8 hours), duration of treatment (for example, 7 days, until gone), and other special considerations (for example, give with food, follow with water).
Sometimes there is flexibility with medication instructions; for example, some medications can be given “as needed,” or a twice-daily dosing schedule may be adaptable to once-daily dosing. However, for other medications, the recommended dosing instructions need to be followed closely. Before you leave your veterinarian’s office with a new medication, be sure to address any concerns regarding the medication with your veterinary team. For example, if your work schedule does not permit dosing every 8 hours, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a different medication that can be given less frequently. Ask about your pet’s expected response to the treatment.
It is very helpful to write a medication schedule for your pet on a calendar, including the date and time that the medication needs to be administered. This will help you to (1) avoid forgetting to give a dose and (2) remember when the course of treatment has been completed. It is also very important to follow all label directions carefully. Improper storage (such as keeping a refrigerated medication at room temperature) can affect the safety and effectiveness of medication. Additionally, it is important to give the medication for the correct length of time. Complications can occur if antibiotics are not given for the full duration of recommended treatment; in addition, some medications, such as corticosteroids, cannot be discontinued without causing illness, so it is very important to give medications as directed. If your pet experiences any medication-related side effects, contact your veterinarian promptly for advice before adjusting a dosage or discontinuing the medication.
If you’ve never given a dog medication before, it can be difficult to know what method will work best. Some dogs take pills very readily if the pill is hidden inside a treat (such as liverwurst, a small piece of soft cheese, peanut butter, or cream cheese) or given with a small amount of canned food. Pills can also be crushed (or capsules broken and emptied) and mixed with a small amount of canned food. However, your dog must eat all of the food right away to ensure receiving the full medication dose. Also, some coated pills and capsules have a bitter taste if the capsule or the coating is removed. If the medication makes the food taste badly, your dog may refuse to eat it. Before choosing one of these options, ask your veterinarian if the medication can be given with food (including dairy foods such as cheese). You will probably know after the first or second dosing whether this method will work.
If you must give your dog a pill directly by mouth, here’s a method that usually works. This technique takes practice and may require more than one attempt to get your dog to swallow the pill. If your dog is not used to having your hands in or near his or her mouth (as with toothbrushing, for example), gradually introduce your dog to this by stroking your dog’s muzzle and chin gently for a few moments. If you think your dog may try to bite you, do not attempt this technique; ask your veterinarian about alternative medication options, such as the following:
Administering Liquid Medication
Some pet owners prefer liquid medication because administering it does not require placing your fingers inside your dog’s mouth. However, your dog may refuse to swallow the liquid and, if your dog is very large, the amount of liquid required may be so large that it is not practical. Here are some tips for administering liquid medication:
If you are unable to administer medications to your dog, here are some suggestions that may help:
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