Now Seeing Eye to Eye

Wandering aimlessly through the streets in a rural area north of Columbia, SC, Yogi was found very underweight and worn, with no tags. The tip of his ears were all chewed up and on examination, tested a strong positive for heartworm, for which he underwent lengthy and rigorous treatment. The Fredericos always had a dog and at the time were looking for a new companion pet and Yogi was just what they needed. Since August 2009 Yogi has been a welcome addition to the Frederico family, who recently relocated back to their roots in Massachusetts. Though it was shortly discovered after his adoption that he had birdshot pellets throughout his body (which it was recommended not be removed), Yogi has been very healthy and a great companion. “Even though Chow Chows have a reputation of being somewhat aggressive, Yogi is the sweetest dog ever,” says Linda.

As a Chow Chow, though, he is susceptible to a condition known as entropion, where the eyelids turn inward. This results in the eyelashes and skin rubbing against the eye surface, causing irritation and discomfort and potentially permanent damage to the eyes.

Yogi’s primary care veterinarian at the Shrewsbury Community Animal Hospital recommended referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist. With the Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in the Fredericos’ “backyard,” they scheduled an appointment with the Ophthalmology Service and saw Dr. Kara Gornik in October 2013. Dogs with entropion usually squint and have watery eyes. If it is not surgically corrected and the rubbing persists, ulcers can develop on the cornea and the cornea can become pigmented. “The ulcers themselves may require surgical removal or potentially removal of the eye may be necessary,” says Dr. Gornik. There was no question that Yogi would need entropion surgery or risk serious eye problems.

The surgery was scheduled within a week of their first visit with Foster Hospital for Small Animals and went very smoothly. Owner Linda was a bit apprehensive to do the surgery because of the anesthesia, but the staff put her at ease. Tufts typically keeps dogs undergoing this procedure overnight but because Yogi has a bit of separation anxiety and a fear of crates, they made an exception. “Even as late in the day as it was when the surgery was done, we were lucky to be home with Yogi by dinner time,” recalls Linda.

Breezing straight through surgery, Yogi has also made a complete recovery and the Fredericos can’t be more satisfied. Linda describes the improvements since the surgery. “We really didn’t expect to notice a change. He wore the cone for 4-6 weeks and when we took the cone off, you could see that even Yogi noticed a difference. He never made eye contact with us previously, but now he sees ‘eye to eye.’ We always thought it was because he was a rescue dog and may have been due to how he was previously treated. Now we think it may have been uncomfortable to look up because of the deformity in his eyelids.”

Linda and husband Mike are truly grateful to have access to such advanced veterinary care and technology so close to home. They are also so pleased with Dr. Gornik and the entire Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine team, who, with compassion, provided Yogi with the highest quality care and have given him the opportunity to see the world in a new and different way.

Happy Driving with your Dog!

Riding in the car is a very common dog phobia. Fortunately, most dog owners can help their pet overcome this fear by introducing him or her to the car in a step-by-step approach that involves using lots of positive reinforcement. The ultimate objective is to develop a pleasant association with car travel.


Car phobias can develop for a number of reasons:

  • car sickness
  • lack of experience (particularly as a puppy)
  • fear of the unfamiliar
  • past association with negative experiences (like going to the vet and getting injections)

- Overcoming Fear:

Dog owners are often told not to socialize their puppies until they are fully vaccinated, which makes a new experience with the car that much more traumatic for them. To help your puppy, it’s important to start socializing him to cars as early as possible. For adult dogs with a car-phobia, the steps are very similar.

 - Getting your dog in the car

  • Begin by enticing your dog to the car rather than forcing him to approach it. Consider playing with your dog’s toys in and around the car to build positive associations.
  • Use positive reinforcement to get him inside. Start by opening up all the doors so your dog won’t feel like he’ll be trapped once he gets inside. Use treats and praise to encourage your dog to go inside the car. It’s important that you not reward crying, whining or other rambunctious behaviors.
  • Take the time to bond with your dog inside the car. Leave the doors open, and spend some time coddling your dog in the car. You may need to take a number of attempts over a period of days just sitting in the stationary car. Slowly work your way up to sitting in the car with your dog with the doors closed.

– Start your engine. Once you think your dog is comfortable being in the car, you can start the engine. As soon as you turn the engine on, it’s helpful to give your dog some treats, talking to him in a friendly tone and then turn off the engine. Repeat this several times until your dog is completely comfortable sitting in the car with the engine running.

– Start by taking short rides down the street or in your neighborhood.

– Graduate to longer rides and include fun destinations, (e.g., the park, a friend’s house or some other familiar and not scary place). Your dog’s first longer car ride should not be to the veterinarian. Instead take your dog someplace fun like the park, a friend’s house or some other familiar place.

For each of these steps, it’s very important to make sure your dog is completely comfortable with what you’ve accomplished before moving forward to the next step. And, providing your dog his/her favorite treats is key to the positive reinforcement necessary to be successful.

Dealing with Nausea/Vomiting and Anxiety

Vomiting can be attributed to motion sickness or anxiety associated with a negative experience riding in a car. A frightened dog may pant, drool and vomit even without feeling carsick. To treat this, follow the advice to decrease his anxiety. If your dog is motion sick or becomes anxious because he experiences motion sickness, this physical problem must be addressed before he can learn to appreciate car rides. You must avoid letting him feel sick when attempting to desensitize him to car rides. To do this, you should avoid feeding for a few hours prior to the car trip. Also, prescription medications are available from your dog’s veterinarian for preventing carsickness. Over the counter medications may help to ease your dog dog’s motion sickness. Always consult your dog’s veterinarian before administering any “human” over the counter medications.

Rest assured that most dogs can be conditioned to riding in the car and with persistence to the training process, you too can be successful. Happy Driving!

“I’ll Be Right Home”

We all know the saying, “dogs are a man’s best friend.” So it is not surprising that a dog may become anxious when separated from his/her owner. Dogs that develop separation anxiety are usually young. Older dogs, however, may develop separation anxiety in response to physical symptoms that accompany old age or because they are more dependent on their owners because of their illness.

Signs of separation anxiety are caused by a dog’s need to reduce tension or stress and only occur in the owner’s absence. The most common complaints by pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. They might urinate or defecate; bark and howl; or chew on objects, door frames or window sills.

When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone.

You may be able to nip it in the bud with a few easy tips:

  1. Before you leave for the day, take your dog for a walk. In general, aerobic exercise is encouraged as it helps to alleviate anxiety. Fetching a ball or going for a brisk walk or run are good forms of exercise. This allows you to leave your dog in a quiet, relaxed state while you are away.
  2. Feed your dog right before you leave and provide a variety of stimulating toys and puzzles as well as long lasting treats.
  3. Keep greetings and departures low-key. Don’t make a big deal when you leave or when you return.
  4. Stay calm and assertive and display confidence when you leave. Your pet will perceive signs of you being nervous.
  5. Day care may be a good option if you are going to be away for many hours.

Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University recommends pet owners consider a more formalized approach to behavioral training if you’re still having trouble after implementing the above tips. “Tufts’ program is designed to teach your dog to “stand on its own four feet” when you’re home, with the goal to have the dog’s newfound confidence spill over to times when you are away,” says Dr. Borns-Weil.

According to Dr. Borns-Weil, the essential components of independence training aim to:

Stop reinforcing attention-seeking behaviors. Owners are encouraged to ignore attention-seeking behaviors (e.g., do not comfort your dog if he/she is behaving anxiously as this will reinforce the behavior). This means no eye contact, pushing away or commands to stop, all of which will reward the dog’s attention-seeking mission. Instead, provide attention when the dog is sitting or lying calmly.

Make sure your dog has had plenty of mental and physical exercise. A tired dog is a happier, more relaxed dog.

Teach the dog to remain relaxed in one spot, such as its bed. Owners should initially focus on training the dog to perform a sit-stay or down-stay, while gradually increasing the time period that the dog holds the command and remains separated from the owners.

Provide ongoing training. Once basic obedience commands have been mastered, the owner can train the dog to perform long down stays while moving progressively farther away. Rewards can be offered for remaining still. Each time the dog breaks its “stay”, a verbal correction should be delivered, with no reward, while escorting the dog back to his/her bed.

Teach your dog to be alone. Your dog should become accustomed to being separated from you even when you are home. You can set up child gates to deny your dog access into the room in which you are doing something, and instruct your dog to lie down and stay on a dog bed outside that room; you can then graduate by shutting the door to the room so he/she cannot see you.

Implementing a program of this type will take persistence and patience and in some cases “tough love.” Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is staffed by professionals who are expert in helping you understand and handle canine behavior challenges, including separation anxiety. To consult with one of our Animal Behavior specialists, you may make an appointment by calling 508-887-4640.

Boom! Boom! Helping Your Dog with Thunderstorm Phobias

Causes and Signs of Thunderstorm Phobias


Many think that the most logical cause for a dog’s fear of thunderstorms is the loud noise, but the lightning flashes, accompanied by heavy pounding of rain and the changes in the atmosphere and barometric pressure can also affect a dog’s senses. It has been documented that the buildup of static electricity in the atmosphere can be uncomfortable and may be detected before a storm rolls in, triggering a fear even before that first boom of thunder occurs.

Dogs with thunderstorm phobia show signs that are usually quite apparent. They may become overwhelmed with fear and show physical signs, such as panting, whining, or pacing. They may also show other signs of stress, including dilated pupils, drooling, or rapid heartbeat. Some dogs will run and hide out of fear.

Preventing and Treating

So what is the best approach to treat a thunderstorm phobia? There are a number of steps one can take to combat noise phobias, including desensitization and counterconditioning. This involves eliminating or controlling the dog’s exposure to the stimulus. Some noise phobias, like fireworks and gunshots, can be treated this way. However, treating thunderstorm phobias is not as cut and dry and can be very difficult to control through the process of desensitization.

Essentially the best thing to do is to try to prevent affected dogs from being exposed to what it is they clearly do not like. Use basic common sense. Never leave your dog outside during a storm and do your best to remain calm and relaxed as your dog will sense your anxiety, fear or stress related to the storm.

Here you will find a few tips that may help you to wean your beloved Fido from his fear of storms.

1) Create a safe environment

Do everything possible to limit your dog’s exposure to storms. According to Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, of Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Behavior Clinic, “a finished basement is a perfect place to start and, ideally, it should have no windows so the storm cannot be seen by the dog. If possible, block off small windows with cardboard or thick, lined curtains.” If using basement space is not an option, she suggests you can create another safe space by sound-proofing a room and incorporating window coverings. A crate with a soft and cozy bed inside the room might make your dog feel safer. Wherever the safe room is, it should allow easy access and house a comfy bed and some essentials like food, water, treats and toys. A few tips to keep in mind for your safe space:

  • Play calming music (, in the safe space at a volume comfortable enough to drown out the sounds of thunder. Dr. Borns-Weil has found playing her guitar has worked for her dog, who, like so many others, has a thunderstorm phobia.
  • Keep the lights on in the room so any flashes of lightning that may squeeze through window coverings won’t be too apparent.
  • Take some time to play with your dog in the room when it’s not storming. It’s important that you get your dog to feel comfortable and safe in the room. Your goal is to get him/her to go there without prompting when they sense a thunderstorm is looming, 24/7, even when you are not home. Keep in mind that by over-comforting your dog during a storm you may suggest to the pet that there really is something to be afraid of. On the flip side, you don’t want to punish your pet for showing fear. Instead you should project confidence. If you are home distract your dog by playing, grooming or engaging in other activities your pet will enjoy.

2) Consider purchasing storm wear for your dog

There are a few options to choose from, including the Storm Defender, Anxiety Wrap and the Thundershirt. The Storm Defender wraps has anti-static linings that may decrease the uncomfortable feeling of static in your dog’s coat. The Anxiety Wrap and Thundershirt give dogs a feeling of being swaddled, which can be comforting to them during stormy weather.

3) Anti-anxiety medications may be needed

While many dog owners may be opposed to their dog taking these types of medications, the benefits often may outweigh the alternative. These medications can be given at the first sign of a storm or may be prescribed for an ongoing period to help manage your pet’s anxiety behaviors. Anxitane (L-theonine), an over-the–counter nutriceutical may also be helpful for some dogs.

Consult with an Animal Behavior Specialist

Whether it’s thunderstorms, fireworks or gunshots that your pet is afraid of, you may consider consulting an animal behavior specialist, who can advise you on how best to address your dog’s fear as there isn’t always a standardized solution. Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine has behavioral specialists, who are specially trained and can advise you on how best to manage your pet’s phobia. You may contact the office at 508-887-4640 to make an appointment.

Genuine Friendship Comes Full Circle for Scout and Finn

Scout (4-year-old male Beagle Coonhound) and Finn (2-year-old male Staffordshire terrier, lab, boxer mix)

Scout (4-year-old male Beagle Coonhound) and Finn (2-year-old male Staffordshire terrier, lab, boxer mix)


In November 2010, Melania and her husband Brian rescued Scout, a beagle coonhound mix from a shelter in Westport, CT, after he had been shipped to New England from North Carolina. He was 11-months-old and in spite of being very shy and seemingly frightened, he eventually came out of his shell. While exhibiting very friendly behavior with the Woodhouse family, their friends and other pets, he was always still a bit apprehensive and reserved. Melania’s family always had two dogs in the home, so about one year later she and her husband rescued another dog named Finn, a 2-year-old male Staffordshire terrier, lab, boxer mix, who at that time was approximately 6 months old, malnourished and weighing only about 20 pounds.

In the early days after bringing Finn home, he was a tiny puppy trying to figure out what he was supposed to do, following Scout around wherever he went. If Scout got into bed, Finn would follow. They were growing to be good friends and Melania was pleased that they were getting along so well. What happened one year to the day of Finn joining the household, however, was a surprise and shocked Melania. As Brian sat on the couch eating a sandwich with Finn by his side, Scout attempted to join them, and Finn reacted by lunging at Scout and latching onto his neck.

Melania immediately consulted her primary care veterinarian, Dr. Troy Hexter, who explained that it was important that she get this aggressive behavior under control. To that end, he recommended she seek expert advice at Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine  and Melania couldn’t be more grateful today. With her sister and niece in tow to assist with transporting Scout and Finn, Melania drove two hours to Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals in North Grafton for an initial appointment. During her 90-minute consult, she met Dr. Nicholas Dodman and Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil, both veterinarians with specialty training as animal behaviorists.


Melania shared Scout and Finn’s history and the recent outbursts of aggressive behavior, and while doing so she reinforced to both of them that rehoming was not an option. She was determined to fix the problem and do whatever it took. Dr. Borns-Weil took Melania’s determination very seriously. Drs. Borns-Weils and Dodman, immediately recognized that a key to getting this under control was laying down the rules as to who was the “alpha” pet in the household. Because Scout had been in the home the longest, they recommended that Scout take the lead. “Humans are the leaders in the food chain and Finn is last,” says Melania. “They told me, when you come home, say hello to Scout first, even if Finn tries to push him away, Scout gets a treat first, gets fed first, and Finn gets everything second,” she continued. They also suggested a change in diet and prescribed Prozac for Finn. Both dogs were on a raw food, organic (high protein) diet, which can cause more aggression in dogs that have those tendencies. Melania was a little apprehensive about the medication. Dr. Borns-Weil’s response: “There is no need to be concerned. It enhances learning in dogs and helps them get through any anxiety they may be experiencing and also builds their confidence to make the best decision.”

Dr.Borns-Weil and Dodman are trained veterinarians as well as animal behaviorists who have the advantage of ruling out medical problems that might be causing the inappropriate behavior. For Scout and Finn it was deemed a “resource guarding” issue where a dog will defend or “guard” what he thinks is highly valuable from other dogs. In this case he was attempting to guard Melania and her husband Brian. There were no issues during the work day. The two dogs had free reign of the house, but because there were no humans in the home, there was no one to guard.

“Every pet has to know what his or her job description is and what role they play in the house,” says Dr. Borns-Weil. “With the implementation of behavioral modification, the devil is in the details (e.g., what to do with the bed in the living room or how far apart to place their food bowls.”

Over the next several months, Melania would have one phone call follow-up and a flurry of email communications with Dr. Borns-Weil, who has been Melania’s “go to” resource throughout the process. With a couple incidences of Finn acting out aggressively since the initial consult, Melania would document what was going on and Dr. Borns-Weil would respond with recommended ways to handle the behavioral problem. This led to the ongoing creation of new rules that continued to reinforce with Finn that he is second in the pet hierarchy. For example, Finn is not allowed on couch and is not allowed in Scout’s bed. Finn still has his bed in the living room and while watching television, Scout has the privilege of sitting on the couch. At night, Finn’s bed now sits outside a gate outside the bedroom door. “She is amazing. Everything she recommended worked,” Melania says.


“Melania was very serious and committed to the program from the start, which is critical to the success of our program,” says Dr. Borns-Weil. “I commend Melania for her commitment to seeing this through. It’s not an easy process but her extreme dedication and wisdom paved the way to her success and an ultimate positive outcome. It’s been wonderful to watch Melania trust Scout and Finn and truly understand each of their unique inherent traits, their needs and concerns.”

Scout and Finn’s owners Melania and Brian have seen Scout and Finn come full circle — together initially as friends, apart for a brief period and now together again with rules and adjustments. “From the beginning, Dr. Borns-Weil told me I wouldn’t have to rehome Finn; she knew they genuinely liked each other. Tufts has truly helped me to understand my dogs, their breeds and what they are trying to tell me. I am so grateful for family veterinarian, Dr. Hexter for referring me to Tufts and I tell anyone that will listen about what Tufts has done for Scout and Finn,” says Melania.

Bang! Bang! Helping your Dog Manage Noise Phobia

What are Noise Phobias?


Fourth of July is a perfect example of a situation where a dog may exhibit fearful behaviors in response to a noise-related event. He may do so when he actually hears the fireworks, when he’s in places where he’s heard the sound previously, or when he sees an object or person who has been associated with a noise. Noise phobia is not a training issue or an obedience problem. Noise sensitivity and phobias are medical conditions that are diagnosed and for which you may need to seek the help of a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist.

Some dogs may pant or salivate excessively, destroy property, tremble, soil the house, hide or escape when they hear a noise that upsets them. Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University provides insight into what owners can do to reduce the intensity of frightening sounds that may be causing your dog problems.

Treatment of Noise Phobias

Treatment includes behavior modification techniques like desensitization, counter-conditioning or a combination of both. These techniques involve eliminating or controlling the dog’s exposure to the stimulus. There are also some nutritional and pharmaceutical products that can be employed.

1) Desensitization to Sounds

This can be done using an audio recording of the sounds that the dog fears. There are tapes, records, CDs and internet sites that mimic all sorts of noises, including exploding fireworks, car backfires and even gunshots. You can initially start by playing the tape at full volume once to confirm that the simulated noise is what is actually frightening the dog. If it is, you start by turning the volume low enough that your dog will no react. Reward him with praise and treats for his calm behavior. Once he is comfortable with that low volume, you may increase the volume incrementally over successive days, as he adjusts to each increase. Continue to rewarding him/her for relaxed behavior with yummy food treats that are only given during your desensitization exercises. Your dog will set the pace for this process. If he or she starts to show anxiety, go back a few steps to a tolerable lower volume.

Desensitization will not be effective if your dog is exposed to the actual source of the frightening sound during this process. Therefore, all efforts should be made to avoid anything that will trigger the dog’s panic response.

2) Counterconditioning

Counterconditioning, another approach often used in conjunction with desensitization, involves teaching a new behavior that is inconsistent with the undesirable behavior. For instance, when your dog is anxious, you would tell him/her to “lie down” in his/her “safe place.” During this time provide your dog with something to do, for example, providing a long-lasting treat. This treat would only be given when he/she is in the safe place and responding to your “sit-stay” or “down” command. Keep in mind that punishment with either behavior modification or counterconditioning is not appropriate for managing noise phobia as it will make the anxiety worse.

3) Nutraceutical and Pharmaceutical Treatment

Some dogs may benefit from the use of nutritional supplements or medication as a part of their treatment. Anxitane (L-theonine) and 5-HTP tryptophan are amino acids that may be helpful in decreasing a dog’s anxiety, fear and reactivity. Alternatively, medications such as SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.) may be an appropriate part of a noise phobic dog’s treatment.

Consult with an Animal Behavior Specialist

If you have made an effort to get your animal’s phobia under control and your dog is still running scared, you may find an animal behavior specialist to be helpful. These doctors of veterinary medicine have received added and specialized training in the psychology of animals and can advise you on how best to address your dog’s fear. You can reach the Foster Hospital for Small Animals Behavior Clinic at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University at 508-887-4640 to make an appointment.

Traveling with Pets: Should they Stay or Should they Go?


One key factor is how long you are going to be away, but the most important consideration is putting your pets’ best interests first. You know your pet best. So who best to make the decision on what to do than you.

Let’s talk first about cats for whom your best option may be just to leave them home. It’s common knowledge that cats like routine, do not enjoy change and taking them on trips is not usually recommended. Cats do not travel well and can get very stressed. As a result, getting a pet-sitter is your best bet. As a last resort you might consider boarding your cat, but this isn’t ideal given how cats do like the safety of their own home. Be sure if you do choose to board him/her that you do the proper inspection to evaluate the facility and that it is cat friendly.

Now let’s consider your dog. Maybe you think that your dog will be better off going with you to avoid the separation anxiety that you anticipate. However, if you are out and about sightseeing, will you be leaving him in a hotel room or an unfamiliar kennel? This may put you in the same place as if you left him/her at home. In this case, finding a pet sitter and keeping him/her in his own surroundings may very well be the best choice. Like with cats, you can consider hiring a pet sitter to feed and walk the dog and even stay overnight. Boarding him/her at a local kennel is certainly another appropriate alternative. Some dogs may love the socializing that comes with being with others at the kennel.

Whether you are trying to decide what is best for your dog or cat, think about his/her personality. If he or she is shy, older, under-socialized, afraid of strangers or just enjoys the comfort of familiar surroundings, a pet sitter is likely preferable.

Check with your veterinarian

While you may know your pet most intimately, your veterinarian is also a good resource for you if you have any doubts about whether travel is appropriate. You’ll also want to make sure he or she is in good health before you leave and that all vaccinations are up to date. If your veterinarian agrees your pet is ok to travel, he/she may suggest a sedative to relax your pet. Consider providing a trial dose to see what, if any, effects your pet may have to the prescribed dose.

Leaving your pet with a pet sitter

Arrange for a responsible friend or relative to take care of your pet at your house or theirs. Pet sitters who can stay overnight at your home can be an ideal option, giving your animal a sense of security while you are away. If you don’t have a friend who can come into your home and look after your pet, there are professional pet sitters that are licensed and bonded who you can pay. You might even want to check with your local veterinary clinic. They may have a pre-veterinary student or veterinary assistant who works for them and is comfortable with pets, especially if your pet has medical issues that may need to be attended to. If you’re hiring an unknown pet sitter, be sure to interview candidates and check references.

Just as you would when leaving your children with a sitter, you will want to make sure that he or she has all the necessary information.

  • Your contact information and a secondary contact should you not be able to be reached
  • Name and phone number of your veterinarian
  • Your pet’s dietary needs, typical daily schedule and any medical needs, if appropriate
  • Access to medical history/records should the need arise

We recommend that you have your pet sitter visit a couple times in advance so that your pet sitter and pet can become acquainted.

Boarding your Pet

If you choose to board your pet, you may want to consult with your veterinarian who may have recommendations on a reputable kennel in your area. Read online reviews and ask friends for suggestions. We encourage you to check it out in person before you make a decision.

  • Make sure the cages and dog runs are clean, dry, and odor-free; and that the facility is secure and well-supervised.
  • Ask how often your pet will be walked as it’s important that they get exercise during the day.
  • The kennel should also require that you show proof of vaccination and that all dogs be on flea and tick preventives.
  • Before you leave your pet at the kennel, it’s important to provide an emergency plan, just as you would with a pet sitter. Leave your contact information, primary care veterinarian phone number and a secondary contact in the event that you can’t be reached.

Taking your pet along for the ride

If you choose to have your pet accompany you on your trip, bring along all the supplies necessary to keep him/her comfortable while away. Always remember to bring your pets’ medical record information. If you travel across state lines, you must obtain a recent health certificate and a certificate of rabies vaccination from your veterinarian.

Locating a hotel can be easier now that some hotels have pet friendly accommodations. You may want to check out to search for pet-friendly hotels within the United States. The Humane Society also has some great suggestions for pet owners, with tips for making your trip safe and low stress when traveling by car, plane, ship or train.

KaChing’s story

Case solved: Intervertebral disc herniation


Sheila Zarella was in Florida on vacation. Her dog, KaChing, was recovering from back surgery at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. She eagerly waited for the call that came each day, updating her on KaChing’s condition.

“We had been planning a trip to Florida which happened to fall right after KaChing’s surgery,” recalled Zarella. “We weren’t sure if we’d have to cancel or if one of us would stay behind with him. But Tufts was able to medically board him while we were away for two weeks. One of the students, Oisin Tracey called us each day to provide a status on his recovery. He was absolutely wonderful and it was so reassuring to get a daily report.”

Many people can relate to KaChing’s pain—back pain to be specific. For a person or dog, suffering a spine injury is debilitating and can lead to devastating consequences. And all it takes is one wrong move, a weird twist or turn and one of the most critical spots of a dog or person’s body can be damaged.

For KaChing, it was a jump that had been performed many times in the past. A summer morning started off as usual: he went outside for a morning romp in the yard with his canine pal, Kato. From the Zarella family’s house, there is a 10-inch step that is part of the Chinese Crested dogs’ routine. But this time, KaChing landed wrong and yelped out in pain.

“He was hunched over and had trouble walking,” said Zarella.

She and her husband, Robert, immediately took KaChing to their vet to have him checked out. He was monitored throughout the day, and given medication to help with the pain and ease movement. But by that evening, KaChing’s condition had worsened. He could barely walk and was dragging both hind legs.

The next day, Zarella brought him to the emergency room of the Foster Hospital. After an MRI, KaChing was diagnosed with a spinal injury and the family elected to have surgery.

Dr. Harpreet Singh, a resident of small animal surgery at the Cummings School, explained KaChing’s case: “KaChing had a herniated disc near his mid-spine, which caused his spinal cord to compress. This condition diminishes or can completely cut off function to the hind limbs. His local veterinarian had prescribed a muscle relaxant, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and pain medication. These are common medications for this type of injury. In KaChing’s case, the medicine did not work and he required an MRI to pinpoint the herniation and then surgery to remove the compressive disc material.”

Dr. Singh performed the surgery and KaChing responded well, eventually regaining the ability to move his hind legs. Zarella was pleased with the outcome of the surgery and even more grateful that Tufts was able to medically board KaChing during his recovery.

Zarella said her high-energy dog is back to normal, always at her side. But she does take precautions against re-injury, like carrying him up and down stairs.

“You can tell he’s had surgery because he’s still a little hunched. But he is doing great and we are grateful to everyone at Tufts. They were incredibly helpful.”

Keeping Your Pets Safe at Cookouts

We consulted with Deborah E. Linder, DVM, DACVN, of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals regarding steps owners can take to keep their pets safe. As the better weather approaches and you begin planning for a backyard celebration or barbeque, we recommend the following tips:

Keep your pets inside (especially cats).

Between the risks associated with heat, firework noise and picking up inappropriate, high calorie food or those that may be toxic, it is ideal to keep your pets indoors and away from the party activity.

Make sure that no more than 10% of daily calories come from treats.

Stick to pet food as much as possible. We don’t want them to eat foods in addition to their regular diet, and we especially do not want them to eat the wrong things. Fatty foods can cause them to consume too many calories and can also put them at risk of pancreatitis. This can cause them to get very sick.

Avoid foods that can be toxic to dogs.

The grapes in your fruit bowl, raisins in your salad, garlic in the marinade, or the chocolate chip cookies on the dessert table all can cause harm. Foods you need to keep out of your pets reach include:

  • Onions/onion powder
  • Garlic/garlic powder
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Corn on the cob
  • Adult beverages
  • AND don’t forget about the S’mores that often serve as an scrumptious end of the day treat

Encourage children to check in with you before they feed your pet.

Kids may be apt to give a pet something he/she shouldn’t have. People food can add on the calories pretty quickly, so letting the children know the dangers of overfeeding dogs can not only be useful, but also lifesaving, especially if you also warn them about those foods that may be toxic or dangerous. This can make for a valuable teaching moment!

Shish kabobs and other foods-on-a-stick pose a special danger to dogs.

They may ingest the stick or fragments of them, which can cause blockages or gastrointestinal perforations.

Avoid bones from the meat that you grill.

While it may seem like a nice way to get the most of out of your meat’s bones, do not give your pet the bones to gnaw on. Your pet may choke on the bones, or the bones or bone pieces can get lodged in the esophagus or throughout the intestines, which can cause intestinal upset. This can lead to problems where your pet is not able to defecate because his/her intestines are jam packed with bone shards. On a related note, take special care to avoid your pet getting any raw meat that could harbor harmful bacteria for them just like for you and your family.

Keep garbage pails covered outside.

Your trash may often be covered inside, so the wide open pails at an outdoor barbecue can be an invitation for your pet to climb in, where there may be unfortunate food hazards lurking.

Offer your pet healthy foods.

  • Uncooked vegetables are a good choice (e.g., carrots, zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, celery sticks, and if serving corn, make sure it’s off the cob);
    Little known fact: Cats are lovers of zucchini.
  • Fruits make a healthy snack (e.g., watermelon, honeydew melon, strawberries, apple slices)
  • Always have water available in several bowls (and fill with ice cubes to keep cool)

Store medications away from your pets.

First aid kits may include ibuprofen or acetaminophen and should also be stored away from pets. This may be common sense, but keep your pets away from all adult beverages.

Leave your pets at home when invited to a friend’s outdoor barbecue.

Most pets can be over-stimulated by new surroundings and people. Unless your pet is very well-trained and can be kept on a leash, best to keep him/her home. You’ll have a more enjoyable time and won’t be spending your time keeping him/her calm and under control. Make this an opportunity for you to enjoy some quality people time.

Dr. Linder recommends several beneficial resources available through The World Small Animal Veterinary Association that you may want to reference. A link to the nutrition toolkit is provided here.

Watch Out for Potentially Dangerous Summer Poisons

Help keep your pet safe by keeping these poisons, some of which you may not think of, out of reach and touch.

Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides

Anything that you spray or spread on your property becomes free rein for your pet to come in contact with. These products are loaded with chemicals that can be toxic to pets. Most fertilizers will cause severe stomach upset if ingested. In addition to fertilizers, be extra careful about pets coming into contact with insecticides that you have sprayed in the yard or around the house. Be sure to read all product labels and recognize how long you must wait before allowing pets to come in contact with treated areas. Consult your veterinarian about the best products to use based on your pet’s lifestyle.

Topical Insecticides

Never use human or household bug sprays on your pets. Also, pets are subject to overdose, so if you are trying to get rid of ticks and fleas on your pet, do not use multiple products. Lastly, it’s important that you use only products specifically formulated for your pet. Some pet owners might consider using a smaller amount of a dog product on a cat, but cats can get very sick from using a product not specified for them. It’s worth asking your veterinarian for advice about the best products to use for your pet.

Barbecue lighter fluid and kerosene

These liquids can cause damage to the lungs if inhaled (dogs or cats may sniff an open container), as well as irritation to eyes and skin.

Mouse/Rodent Poison

Refrain from using mouse and rodent poisons in places that your pets can access. Not only can they ingest the poison itself, but they may eat a mouse that has consumed the poison. These poisons cause bleeding, paralysis and other often fatal effects. There are non-toxic traps available which should be used when possible.

It’s worth mentioning that while you may think ant traps fall into this same category, ingesting the chemical in an ant trap is rarely a serious situation. These products are almost always of extremely low toxicity and would very rarely have any effect on your pets.

Cocoa Mulch

Yes. Believe it or not, there is a mulch product that is made from the hulls of the cocoa bean, which like chocolate can be toxic and even fatal to dogs. It can be found at most garden centers and it’s known for a fine texture and sweet smell, which is likely to attract pets. This mulch product contains a higher content of theobromine and caffeine than chocolate itself, and even a small amount can cause gastrointestinal problems, neuromuscular problems, and death.

Chlorine/Pool Chemicals

If you own a pool make sure you always store any of the pool chemicals in a secure area away from your pets, and never leave these in the pool area even for a short time. Pool chemicals, if ingested can result in severe ulcers in the mouth, esophagus and stomach.

Coolants, antifreeze, radiator fluid

Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, is extremely dangerous to dogs and cats and is one of the most common forms of poisoning in small animals. You may think by storing these products high on a shelf in your garage that your pets are safe. Be aware that antifreeze poisoning can often happen when antifreeze drips from a car’s radiator. Pets are attracted to the sweet taste, where it is licked off the ground and ingested. If you suspect your pet has ingested even a small amount, contact your veterinarian immediately. You may want to consider purchasing a pet friendly brand that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.

While not summer time poisons take note of other sources of the dangerous chemical ethylene glycol including: windshield deicing agents, motor oils, hydraulic brake fluid, developing solutions for photography, paints, solvents, etc.


Fireworks can be dangerous to pets in several ways. Humans may find these exciting and fun on the 4th of July, however, the loud noise can result in severe stress, fear and anxiety in your pets. Also when unused fireworks are left around the yard, it should come as no surprise that pets will eat just about anything. If ingested, pets can develop gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, a painful abdomen and bloody diarrhea.

Suntan lotion

Be careful not to leave a tube of sunscreen out and open for your pet to find. If your pet gets a hold of it, he or she can suffer irritation of the mouth and eyes as well as stomach upset. Keep in mind that this means but there are also dangers to be had if they lick sunscreen from your skin.

The best practice here is prevention and to be diligent about the dangers that these products present. If you find that your pet does consume any of these products, contact your veterinarian immediately. And, remember to take the product container with you to the vet. In the event you are unable to reach your primary veterinarian, the Animal Poison Control Center of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) hotline at 1-888-426-4435 or (1-888-4ANI-HELP) (the call is toll-free, but a consultation fee may be applied). Another resource for you is the Pet Poison Helpline open 24/7 at 1-800-213-6680 (a $39 per incident fee applies).

Reference Sources:

New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association

Veterinary Pet Insurance Company