All posts by AM

Storm Phobia – How You Can Help Your Frightened Friend

It’s that time of year again when we hear many reports of pets suffering from storm phobia. This very real condition is caused by a highly distressing irrational fear beyond any logical self-preservation instinct. It is deserving of our attention and there are effective treatments available.

Australia is bracing for a summer of above-average rainfall and increased risk of severe summer storms. If your pet suffers from storm phobia and anxiety, now is the time to enlist the help of your veterinarian.

So why are some dogs utterly terrified by your average storm whilst others barely bat an eyelid?

Affected dogs will have some degree of genetic predisposition to anxious behaviour often compounded by a scary experience of a storm, particularly one that occurred when they were home alone. It’s no surprise that a fear of separation from their owners can also develop in these pets.

What to look out for?

Signs of storm fear resemble what you would equate to a panic attack. These dogs are overwhelmed by fear and we see the full gamut of fear responses:

Fight, Flight, Fiddle and Freeze.
Fight: These dogs are active, agitated and sometimes destructive. They try to escape the experience, pace and pant.
Flight: Hiding in a closet, under a bed, in a bathroom, scratching at doors and windows in an attempt to get away from the storm.
Fiddle: These more subtle signs of anxiety (also called displacement
behaviours) are less known but important signs of anxiety. The dog may yawn when not sleepy, lick lips when not eating, shake off when not wet.
Freeze: This is the poor trembling soul completely paralysed by fear with no way to cope.

Elevated stress hormones can cause dilated pupils, increased salivation and house soiling. Take these signs seriously. The dog that shakes and hides in the corner may be less obvious than the one that is howling, pacing and destroying barriers, however both individuals are suffering from anxiety and need our help.

More resilient dogs may reset to normal soon after the storm, whilst others are anxious throughout the storm season. With repeated traumatic experiences, some dogs generalise their fear to the precursors of storms and become anxious with changes in barometric pressure, wind, rain or overcast conditions.

Some dogs will show less obvious signs of anxiety than others, however both are suffering from anxiety and need our help.

How can we help?

There are three important aspects to treating any behavioural disorder. We need to manage the environment, train for calm and look at ways to normalise brain chemistry.

Management
Our aim is to reduce our dogs fear by giving them options to avoid the intensity of the storm to a level where they can cope. This is easier said than done and needs to be tailored for each situation.

Mask the noise:
• Play white noise, Spotify is a great source for this.
• Play classical music or music that calms dogs eg “Through a Dogs Ears”. This can also be found on Spotify.
• TV or radio background noise
• Air-conditioning or fan noise.

Mask lightning
• Close curtains and blinds, turn lights on at night
• Offer access to a hiding place without windows

Allow access to a safe place of your dog’s choosing
• Under a bed with blankets pulled down over the edges
• Cover a table or chair to create a safe den
• Protected wardrobes or cupboards
• A crate that has a positive association with the door open
• Choice is mandatory here. Avoid confining your dog against their will. Let them find the place where they feel safest.

Stay with them.
• Dogs are social animals. Your calm presence will make them feel more at ease.
• Yes, it is fine to provide comfort and support. When you dog is in a state of panic, they are not able to think or learn when panicked and you cannot reinforce fear behaviour with cuddles. If they seek comfort, you can help them recover.
• If they are pacing constantly, try popping a lead on and see whether they will sit or lie with you for some calm stroking or massage. Observe their body language and ‘listen’ to what they are telling you.

Adaptil
• This synthetic version of a pheromone produced by lactating
bitches has been shown to promote calm in times of stress. It is a natural approach with no side effects and can be a helpful adjunct to management particularly in milder cases of storm fear. It is available as a spray, collar or diffuser.

Thundershirts
• These work on a similar principle to swaddling a baby. They can help some individuals feel wrapped and protected.

Food
• The food test can give you helpful information. In the height of panic, a dog will not want food. If they will take a favourite treat, this tells us that we are making progress.
• If your dog is able to take a treat during a storm, we can start
some training.

Teaching Calm
Training for calm starts long before the storm event. We first develop simple tools to reward calm when your dog has the mental ease to defer to you calmly for a treat or praise.
Simply teaching ‘Sit’ (treat), ‘Wait’ (treat after a moment delay) and ‘Look’ (lift the treat up beside your eye, meet their eyes softly and treat) rewards calm sitting. Make the treats small, tasty and immediate. Practice several times every day so this becomes second nature. You dog learns that being calm is rewarding.

Only then can you look for opportunities to reward calm when anxiety starts to occur as the weather changes. Training can only help with mild storm anxiety. Once the fear brain has taken over logical thinking, your dog is unable to focus and learn.
Desensitising your dog to the sound of storms using recordings can be helpful in some cases. Choose a time when your dog is relaxed and expose them to the sounds at a level they notice but cope well with. Make sessions short and always stop BEFORE your dog shows any signs of stress. There is a fine line between a non- scary exposure and making them more fearful.
Counterconditioning is about changing the emotional response to the storm from fear to a positive state using a favourite treat or toy. This is combined with desensitisation so that the dog hears the recording of the storm at an intensity they can handle and associates that with the positive experience of a yummy treat or fun game.

Medication
In many cases our dog is so stressed by the storm, that their focus is on self-preservation with no brain space for learning that calm is rewarding. Finding the correct medication to calm that brain can be a life-saving addition to our arsenal against storm fear. Our focus is to reduce anxiety but not sedate the dog. If we can help them overcome that amygdala hijack state and allow the thinking brain to function, we have the option to gain their attention and reward calm. All brains are different, and we can help you to find the most effective medication for your dog. In conjunction with management and training for calm we can improve your dogs welfare during storms.

If your dog shows any of the above signs of anxiety during storms, call us on (02) 6230 2223 to discuss how we can help them.

Canberra’s Kennel Cough Outbreak


Over the past few weeks we have seen a large increase in the number of dogs presenting to us with Canine Cough, also known as ‘Kennel Cough’.

Kennel Cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness which often presents with a harsh and persistent hacking cough, like your pet has something stuck in their throat. You may also notice sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy or loss of appetite.

Kennel Cough is transmitted via water droplets and can be passed on via direct contact with an infected animal as well as indirectly by coming into contact with a contaminated surface (e.g. the shared water bowl at a public dog park).

We have even seen infections occur in dogs who haven’t left their backyard, which makes the name ‘Kennel Cough’ very misleading. Whilst a boarding kennel is a popular place for an outbreak due to large gatherings of dogs in one place, infections can occur anywhere, regardless of whether your dog goes to kennels or not.

Luckily, there are vaccines available to help prevent your pet from contracting this illness. Although vaccination doesn’t guarantee immnuity from the desease, it does reduce your pet’s chances and means an infection will be less severe and easier to treat than if they didn’t receive the vaccination.

If you notice any signs that your pet may be unwell or you need to check your pet’s vaccination status, please call us on 62302223.

August Pet Dental Health Month

Pet Dental Health Month is here!

Did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 3 suffer from some form of dental disease?

Dental disease that is left untreated is not only painful for your pet, but can also lead to other serious health problems including infections in the kidneys, liver and heart.

At Hall Vet Surgery we are passionate about your pets dental health so for the month of August we are offering:
🦷 15% off all dental home care products
🦷 Free dental check-ups for new and existing clients
🦷 Free dental home care starter packs for dental procedure patients

Providing your pet with good oral care is essential for them to enjoy a happy, healthy and pain-free life.

Call us on 6230 2223 for more information.

We’re Hiring – Full Time Veterinarian Wanted!

Would you like to live your life surrounded by people who are fun, friendly, supportive and vibrant?

We need someone to contribute to this atmosphere in a workplace that has awesome vets, nurses and receptionists. We have purpose built veterinary facilities with all the technology you could desire.

At Hall Veterinary Surgery at Vets at Amaroo we aim to enrich our animals’ and human friend’s lives by providing the highest level of compassionate veterinary care.

This is a full-time position and we will support your passion in your desired field of veterinary surgery or medicine.

The position is available now! 
Remuneration – you tell us!
Continuing education is paramount and generously funded.

If you think this might be your nirvana apply in writing, with your CV and referees attached to janet@hallvet.com.au
For more information please see our website www.hallvet.com.au / www.amaroovet.com.au or have a chat with Janet our practice manager on 02 62302223.

How Will Our Pets Cope as COVID-19 Quarantining Ends?

While some isolated humans may be looking forward to the time when they are leaving the home to work and socialise, there are concerns that this could see a rise in separation anxiety amongst the millions of dogs who’ve grown accustomed to their owners’ constant companionship during lockdown. 

Whist our feline friends may also suffer from separation distress, it if far less common. In fact, many kitties would welcome more time to themselves as soon as possible!

Dogs experiencing so much more quality time with their families, can become over-dependent on their humans and this can lead to separation distress when mums and dads suddenly return to work and the children go back to school.

Dogs thrive on routine. They feel calmest when life offers consistency and predictability, as we all do, so times of abrupt change can be stressful.

The sudden loss of their doting humans could result in stress-induced behaviours in an attempt to find their owners or deal with anxiety. These include:

  • Barking, howling, or whining when you leave
  • Scratching or chewing at entrances and exits (doors/windows) when alone
  • Destructive behaviour that only happens when alone
  • Over-grooming or other self-harm or obsessive behaviours
  • A change in appetite

It is worth collecting video of your pet when they are home alone and pay attention to what they are ‘telling’ you through their body language. Are they coping calmly and munching through a treat whilst resting in their comfy safe place? Or are you seeing distressed behaviours?

Beware the dogs that suffer in silence with more subtle signs of anxiety like panting, pacing, salivating, trembling when alone. Some dogs are so anxious that they don’t eat or drink until their owner returns.

Separation anxiety isn’t just psychologically damaging for the pet. Some dogs attempt to dig and chew through doors or windows, resulting in self-injury, such as broken teeth and damaged paws. Some howl continuously in distress, disturbing all those in earshot.

Separation anxiety in dogs already accounts for a high proportion of pets referred for behaviour consultations, even prior to the current upheavals in routine.  

So what can we do now to reduce the risk of our dogs suffering distress when we go back to spending more time away from home?

Allow your pet to have some alone time. You have your space and allow them to have theirs. This should not be a punishing time out. Make this a fun experience where the dog is in another part of the home on a comfortable bed, chewing on a Kong, dental chew or other slow-to-consume tasty treat. Tether the treat to the bed if necessary.

Interactive food release toys can take the place of the food bowl to provide hours of entertainment.

As yummy as they may be, we can’t recommend bones. Vets are often faced with broken teeth, blocked bowels or sad vomiting pooches following access to bones.

Practice training your dog to perform out-of-sight “stays” within the house. Begin a gradual process of using small absences that start to teach the dog that absences are safe. 

Abandoning one’s fur babies for even short periods could prove a tall order for the millions who are relying on and even purchasing dogs to keep themselves sane during lockdown. Especially when pets offer such a joyful greeting after any absence. However, it is important to help them through this upheaval and prepare them for staying at home alone in the future.

Above all, provide consistent and predictable routines that you can continue once you return to leaving them at home more. For example, think about your morning and evening routines. How can these remain constant when you go back to working away from home? To minimise change, keep the really good stuff – like exercising with your dog, playing with them and feeding them – to the same schedule that you will manage when you’re back at work. Make the middle part of the day less interactive as that will be the case when you’re not around.

Dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) and nutraceuticals like Zylkene can help avoid separation anxiety. However, if your dog is already showing signs of separation distress, call us for a discussion and potentially a behaviour consultation to help you manage their anxiety and help them enjoy the peaceful life they deserve.

UPDATES TO COVID-19 PRACTICE PROTOCOLS

Firstly, we’d like to thank all of our fantastic clients for the patience and understanding that we’ve been given during these difficult times. From contactless consultations, 2-3 week waiting periods for non urgent appointments and some delays in response times to customer service enquiries. We have continued to be blown away at the good will, patience and kindness of our community in the face of these challenges.

As the restrictions in the ACT begin to relax, we understand that our clients are eager for protocols to return to normal. We too are looking forward to this! As it always has been, the safety of our staff, clients and patients remains our top priority.

We have begun creating a plan that will enable us to stage the relaxation of practice policies without sacrificing the health and safety of our clients or our staff. The first stage involves combining our working teams to ensure that we have sufficient workforce to provide best care to our patients.

Soon we will begin working on the second stage to allow one client per animal in the the consultation room – so long as there are no public health hiccups. Clients will still be required to wait in their cars until we call them and their animal in for their consultation. The waiting room will remain out of action as we cannot provide adequate social distancing in this area. And there will be plenty of hand-sanitiser!

Right now, our contactless consultations, food and medication collection protocols will continue until further notice.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us on 6230 2223.

COVID-19 Update 23rd March 2020

Hall Vet Surgery will remain open for as long as possible to ensure we can care for your furry family members. As always, maintaining the health and safety of our staff, our clients and our patients is our highest priority.

It is yet to be confirmed whether we are considered an essential service, however we will continue to service our community until we are advised otherwise or it is no longer considered safe to do so.

In order to ensure we can continue to help you, we have increased our precautionary measures in the hospital;

  1. If you are arriving for an appointment we ask that you please stay in your vehicle and phone us on 62302223 to notify us of your arrival. DO NOT enter the clinic until a staff member has advised you to enter. We will be minimising the number or people in the waiting room at any given time to ensure we are executing appropriate social distancing in the practice.
  2. We ask that you please limit the number of people attending your appointment to only those that are required to be present, to limit traffic through the practice.
  3. We ask that you pay with card where possible to avoid unnecessary risk associated with handling cash.
  4. If you are experiencing any cold/flu like symptoms please advise us over the phone before booking an appointment. We will still find an appropriate way to help you.

We have lots of ideas in the pipeline, such as contactless consultations, phone consultations and home delivery for essential items such as food and medication. If you are in self isolation or are just looking to decrease your risk/exposure but don’t want to do so at the expense of your pet’s health, please contact us. We will do our best to find a solution for you.

We will continue to adapt with the situation and update advice as we receive it. If we need to make changes to your upcoming appointment, we will contact you directly. Please notify us if you need to update your contact details.

We’d like to thank you all for your cooperation on this. It is a difficult time for all but rest assured we will be doing everything in our power to remain available to assist you and your pets.

Stay safe and look out for each other.
Kind regards, from all of us at Hall Vet Surgery.

COVID-19 Key Points & Our Response

We have received multiple enquiries recently around the current COVID-19 pandemic and whether companion animals have any relation to it’s spread.
The OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) has released the following information on it’s website;
“The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease.”

At Hall Vet Surgery the health and safety of our patients, their owners and our staff is our top priority. We want to ensure accessing health care for your animals remains as safe as possible for everyone involved. In the surgery we have ensured that there are hand sanitation stations throughout the clinic for your use, and have ramped up our own hygiene protocols.

We are currently brainstorming alternative solutions for members of our community who may be unwell, in self isolation or are considered high risk, ensuring they are still able to access essential items for their pets such as food and medication. If you fall into this category please contact us via phone on 6230 2223 for more information.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and follow the guidelines of the Australian Veterinary Association & The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

For more information you can contact us on 6230 2223 or at reception@hallvet.com.au

Preventing Heatstroke this Summer

Just like us, our pets can suffer from heatstroke.
The difference? Our pets are not able to sweat, are covered in fur and rarely sit in an air conditioned office during the day.
This means that our pets can’t cool themselves like we can and makes them very susceptible to heatstroke.

Heatstroke is extremely dangerous, causing irreversible damage to your pet’s internal organs including their liver, kidneys, brain and heart.
Heatstroke can be fatal if not recognized and treated quickly.

Watch this video for the symptoms, prevention measures and treatment methods that we think all pet owners should know!

Nail Trimming Tips & Tricks

The top tips & tricks from our team of experts on dog and cat pedicures!
  • Start young and make it positive!
    Get your new puppy used to examinations and nail trims by gently handling their paws, ears, mouth etc every day. Ensure you make nail trims fun by using rewards (such as food and praise) to keep it positive for your pup!
  • Enlist a helping hand
    Having a second person to distract, treat and praise your pup means that you can focus on nail trimming alone and will help to avoid any accidents.
  • Start slow and finish on a positive note
    Always stop whilst you’re ahead, if you can sense your pup may be starting to become restless then stop where you are, even if it means that you only do 2 or 3 nails at a time. Always make sure you finish the session on a positive note so that your puppy will have fond memories for the next time the nail trimmers come out.
  • Cut small
    Each nail has a blood supply called the ‘quick’. The quick can be visible in some white nails, however it is often invisible in darker colored nails. Clipping the nails too far back can result in cutting the quick, which is painful for your pup and results in a bleeding nail. We recommend only cutting 2mm or so off the end of each nail at a time, some dogs who haven’t had their nails trimmed in a long time can have quite a long quick so always cut small to begin with.
Dog Nail Anatomy
  • Accidents happen, have styptic powder ready
    Whilst you will try your best not to cut the quick sometimes accidents happen! In the case that one of the nails is bleeding, dabbing a cotton bud into styptic powder and applying this to the end of the nail will form a clot to stop the bleeding. It is a good idea to have styptic powder on hand and ready whenever you are trimming your dogs nails, cornflour will also do the trick as a substitute if you are stuck.
  • Don’t forget the dew claw
    Most dogs are born with dew claws on their front legs (and some even have them on their hind legs too!). These claws are located higher up on the inside of the leg leg, almost like a thumb nail. Often these nails need trimming the most as they don’t come into contact with the ground and therefore don’t get worn down by walking on concrete and other hard surfaces.
  • If in doubt, give us a shout!
    If you don’t feel comfortable or confident trimming your dogs nails, give us a call. Our nurses trim nails every single day and know all the tricks in the book 🙂 Their are also many helping hands here to feed treats and distract your pup to make it a better experience for them. Give us a call on 6230 2223 to make an appointment.