While dogs have been domesticated by people for a long time, it is important to remember that they are still animals with a very strong instinct for “fight or flight” when danger is present. When presented with a threat, many dogs will try to escape; however, some dogs will choose to fight against the danger and may bite in response to the threat.
It is important to follow certain safety guidelines when working with dogs to avoid injury for you and your dog. Remember, an adult large breed dog may weigh as much as a person, and all sizes of dogs have sharp teeth that can easily injure a person with minimal effort. In fact, small breed dogs weighing less than 25 pounds are more likely to bite than larger breed dogs.
Common steps to avoid injury include using proper restraint. This can vary depending on the dog, but at minimum, a strong collar and leash in good condition should be used when handling dogs. It is vital to have the dog in a secure environment (e.g. a room with a closed door or a fenced yard) and ensure that the dog’s collar is secure or the dog may be able to remove the collar and run away. In some cases, additional restraint such as a muzzle may be necessary.
Separating certain dogs such as non-neutered males and females or female dogs with puppies from other dogs on the property and using separate housing or crates is important. This will avoid exposing male dogs to female dogs in heat and the potential problems associated with their interaction. Female dogs with puppies are often very protective and may injure a person trying to interact with their puppies.
In addition, only experienced people should handle non-neutered males or females with puppies. It also is important to approach dogs carefully and slowly, not staring at them because some dogs may bite when they feel threatened by someone approaching. It also is imperative to wear protective clothing around dogs, such as sturdy shoes, and avoid loose-fitting clothing that they can bite.
What to Do
Introduce dogs slowly to a new situation or to new dogs to avoid agitating them. However, it is not always possible to avoid new situations, so it is important to recognize the signs of an agitated dog, which can include barking, growling, a tail held in an erect position and waving back and forth, pacing and erect hair around their shoulders. The dog’s ears may be erect or flattened against his/her head. An agitated dog may try to bite other dogs nearby, and if you approach, the dog may try to bite you.
Some dogs will show signs of fear such as avoiding your gaze, backing up as you approach, and hunching their back in a submissive position, but then lunge to bite you as you approach. This is called “fear biting” or “fear aggression.” If you notice this behavior, back slowly away from the dog to avoid escalating the situation. Then, try to determine what stimulus is causing the dog to appear fractious or agitated. Once you are able to identify the stimulus (e.g. a new dog in the area), remove the stimulus or wait a few minutes to see if the dog calms down.
Most dogs will calm down once they adjust to the change in the environment, if given a few minutes to adjust. If the stimulus can’t be removed, it may help to distract the dog with dog food or a treat. Sometimes the dog needs to be walked away to another location. Do not stand in front of the dog; stand to the side if possible, out of the way of the dog’s head. If the dog is confined, it may help to leave him/her alone for a few minutes; many dogs will calm down after they adjust.
Preventing dangerous situations is much easier than handling a dangerous situation, especially if you are a novice dog owner or handler. Working with an experienced dog owner or handler to learn precautions that are necessary for handling dogs is invaluable. Also, ask your veterinarian for tips. He/she is accustomed to handling dogs in difficult situations, such as when a dog is in pain. Many dogs will adapt to a new situation if given time; however, if your dog is highly fractious or dangerous to handle, it is important to contact your veterinarian for aid. Sometimes dogs can have diseases or pain that is causing the dangerous behavior.
Tips To Remember When Working With Dogs
Despite centuries of sharing our lives and homes with cats, many pet owners know very little about interpreting signs of anger, fear, or aggression in these creatures. The typical “Halloween cat” posture (arched back, raised fur, ears back, hissing) clearly indicates fear and/or aggression, but cats also use other postures and behaviors that are more subtle and easily missed. It may be impossible to avoid ever creating a hostile situation with a cat, but a few tips can help you (hopefully) avoid injury if you find yourself in such a situation.
What Are the Signs of Aggression in Cats?
Fortunately, most cats exhibit some sort of outward sign when they are unhappy or angry about something. Unfortunately, some of these signs can be very subtle and difficult to interpret:
In some cases, the signs of trouble may occur very suddenly and without apparent warning. For example, petting-evoked aggression occurs when a person is petting a cat (usually while the cat is on their lap) and the cat seems to be enjoying the interaction, but then suddenly strikes out at or bites the person.
The most logical explanation for this behavior is that some cats have a limited tolerance for being petted, so the best way to avoid this problem is to stop petting before that limit is reached. Unfortunately, the signs preceding the strike or bite may be very subtle—flicking the tail or ear may be the only indication of a problem. Understanding those behaviors for what they are may save the person from being injured.
What to Do
What Not to Do
What Is Avian/Exotic Anesthesia?
Anesthesia is the use of medication to induce the loss of consciousness, a decreased sense of anxiety, or the loss of sensation of a specific part of the body. General anesthetics are medications that are used to prevent the awareness of painful or stressful procedures. Sedatives are used to calm a patient during a procedure. Local anesthetics are used to achieve decreased sensation in an area of the body where a procedure may induce pain. Birds, reptiles, and small mammals differ from other pets in that their metabolic rates vary from one species to the next and specific precautions need to be taken when administering anesthesia to these animals.
Your veterinarian knows that some of these animals eliminate medications at different rates depending upon the size of the animal or its body temperature, thus, doses vary significantly among species. In addition, due to their small size or unique methods of maintaining normal body temperature (thermoregulation), some avian and exotic animals may have difficulty maintaining their body heat under anesthesia; therefore, steps must be taken to keep them at optimal body temperature.
How It Works
The anesthetics used in birds, reptiles, and small mammals are the same medications used in larger mammals and work primarily on the nervous system. However, many of the medications have unwanted effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Commonly, an inhaled anesthetic is used alone when the procedure is thought not to induce post-procedure pain. However, pain management is extremely important and if the procedure is anticipated to be painful, your veterinarian will likely include a pain medication and a sedative in the anesthetic plan. The benefit of multidrug protocols is that if multiple drugs with different modes of action are used overdoses can be avoided.
What Is It Used For?
Anesthesia may be used simply for the collection of data on a patient or to allow your veterinarian to perform procedures in life-threatening emergencies. For instance, a sedative may be used to relax a pet enough to allow for a complete physical exam, blood collection, or radiographs. Use of local anesthesia may make it possible for your veterinarian to perform a short procedure, such as obtaining a tissue sample for biopsy. General anesthesia may be needed for emergencies such as the repair of a broken limb or the relief of egg binding in birds or reptiles.
Types of Anesthesia
Benefits of Anesthesia
In some cases veterinary care itself puts stress upon a pet’s physical and emotional health. Without anesthesia, the health of our pet birds, reptiles, and small mammals would be in jeopardy. Stress is known to impair the body’s ability to heal and maintain wellness. These unique animals pose a significant challenge to veterinarians. Doctors must be acutely aware of the particular physiologic characteristics of the metabolic, cardiac, and respiratory systems of each species. The reduction of stress and pain using an anesthetic plan that addresses the specific needs of each patient will provide for a speedy recovery and a better chance at continued well-being.
Should My Bird Be Eating Seeds?
It is a common misunderstanding that seeds are a sufficient diet for companion birds. After all, wild bird feeders are filled with seeds, right? However, while wild birds enjoy the seeds people provide, they also eat a wide variety of other foods, including plants, insects, nectar, and, for some species, other small animals. In the wild, the same is true for cockatiels, parakeets, macaws, and other parrots. In their natural setting, these birds consume an almost unbelievable variety of foods.
The truth about seed diets is that they are comparable to eating only snack food and dessert. Seeds are very high in fat and deficient in protein and other nutrients such as vitamins A and D. Over the long term, a parrot that eats nothing but nuts and seeds is susceptible to liver disease, skin and feather problems, obesity, and many other medical conditions.
What Should I Feed My Pet Bird?
The current dietary recommendation for maintaining a happy, healthy avian companion includes feeding a combination of pelleted bird food; healthy, fresh foods; and a small amount of treat foods. And, of course, fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
Pelleted diets are made by several reputable pet food companies and are widely available in pet stores or from veterinarians in most areas. These diets are formulated based on current knowledge of the dietary requirements of birds. It is recommended that pellets account for 60% to 70% of the diet of a healthy bird. The remaining 30% to 40% of the diet should be a variety of fresh, low-fat, low-salt foods. These can include the following:
Foods that you should not give your bird include chocolate, avocados, onions, and high-fat, salty foods.
Treat foods should make up less than 10% of the diet. Included in this category are seeds, treat sticks, spray millet, and nuts.
How Can I Get My Bird to Eat a New, Healthy Diet?
The most important thing is to make any dietary changes gradually. Birds can be very stubborn, particularly if they are accustomed to eating a very tasty diet of mostly treat foods. Some birds may actually starve themselves before they will eat an unfamiliar diet, so make sure you see your bird eating as you are introducing diet changes!
To gradually change your bird’s diet, try following these steps:
1. Start by placing a layer of your pet’s regular diet in his or her regular food bowl, and cover it with a layer of pelleted bird food. Mixing foods simply teaches your bird to select preferred items out of the dish, so layering is a better approach.
2. Add a second food dish near your bird’s favorite perching spot. This will usually be near the highest perch in the cage. Put only the pelleted diet in this dish.
3. Over time, gradually decrease the amount of the old diet and increase the amount of pellets in the first dish.
4. Moist foods, such as beans, rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables, should be offered in a separate dish from dry foods and should be removed from the cage after a few hours. These foods will support the rapid growth of bacteria if left in the cage for too long.
Monitor your bird’s eating habits, and be creative! For stubborn cases, try offering only pellets for a while in the morning when your bird is most hungry. You can try making pellets tastier by soaking them in natural fruit juice. Some birds may take several months before they will accept a new diet, but be patient. Most can be converted, and remember: it is the best thing for the health of your bird!
AVIAN FECAL TESTING
What Are Gastrointestinal Parasites?
Gastrointestinal (GI) parasites are any parasites that live in the digestive tract of a host. The following are among the GI parasites that can affect pet birds:
How Do Pet Birds Become Infected With Gastrointestinal Parasites?
In most cases, eggs or infective stages of GI parasites are shed in fecal material. Once parasites are in the environment, other birds can be exposed through direct contact with feces or exposure to fecal-contaminated food or water.
Tapeworms are slightly different in that they can be transmitted indirectly when birds consume certain insects that are infected with the parasite. The immature stage of the tapeworm lives inside the insect. If your pet bird eats the insect—and the tapeworm inside—the tapeworm can hatch inside your bird and continue its lifecycle. Keeping insects away from your bird’s living area can help reduce the risk of exposure to tapeworms.
What Are the Clinical Signs of Gastrointestinal Parasites?
Feather plucking, diarrhea, weight loss, and weakness can be among the clinical signs of GI parasite infection in birds. Infected birds can even die. However, many infected birds don’t show any clinical signs at all. The best way to tell if your bird is infected is to schedule an examination with your veterinarian and have your pet tested for parasites.
How Is Fecal Testing Performed?
Your veterinarian can begin a fecal analysis by examining the appearance of your bird’s fecal material. If the stools are abnormal, discolored, or have an unusual odor, this can indicate a problem. Your veterinarian may recommend performing more than one type of fecal test. The most common types of fecal analysis are the following:
Fecal testing can detect GI parasites in many cases, but your veterinarian may recommend additional tests to help confirm a diagnosis. For example, Trichomonas is more commonly diagnosed by examining a direct smear of material from the mouth or throat (instead of from feces) to look for the microscopic organism in this material.
Even if testing doesn’t confirm parasites, your veterinarian may recommend treatment as a precaution. This is not harmful for your bird.
Why Is Fecal Testing Important for My Pet Bird?
In many cases, birds infected with GI parasites don’t exhibit clinical signs. That means the only way to tell if a pet is infected is to perform fecal testing periodically to screen for parasites.
Your veterinarian can recommend a schedule for checkups and fecal testing that can help protect your pet bird from these dangerous parasites.
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