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

Summer Water Safety for your Pet

Dogs and Water Safety

Many breeds of dogs are natural born swimmers, while others, like the pug or bulldog, are not and will need to be watched more closely. Also, puppies are generally not good swimmers and should be kept away from water and older dogs may have health issues not conducive to swimming.

Pool Safety

While a quick dip in your backyard pool by your dog may be a great opportunity to cool off and a perfect form of exercise, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your pet’s safety.

  • Teach your dog to swim or get the help of a dog trainer
  • Train your dog about pool safety (e.g., to wait at the pool’s edge or to use the stairs; and how to get out of the pool)
  • Do not leave your pets unsupervised around deep water
  • Ensure that the pool cover is off or secured to prevent pets from falling in and getting trapped underneath
  • Fence your pool to avoid your pet wandering in unsupervised
  • Invest in pool safety products (e.g., pool alarms and life vests)
  • Provide your dog fresh water to avoid the temptation to drink chlorinated pool water
  • Keep pool chemicals safely stored away

Beach Safety

Some may think that the beach is a great place for your dog to run around and play, but it’s really not the most ideal playground. Take these precautions at the beach:

  • Intake of salt water can lead to salt poisoning (hypernatremia), which can have neurologic effects.
  • Have plenty of fresh water available for your dog while on the beach.
  • Be careful not to let your dog swim too far out to be taken by the current.
  • Hosing your dog down after a day at the beach is highly recommended.
  • Take relevant precautions as noted in pool safety section above regarding training your dog and having a life vest available.

Water Safety and Caring for your Dog

Keep these things in mind as it relates to hygiene and caring for your dog after he or she has taken the plunge:

  • Moisture in a dog’s ear is the perfect breeding ground for an ear infection, so make sure to clean your dog’s ears after each swim.
  • Rinse your dog after he or she takes a dip to wash off chlorine residue and reduce the chance of skin irritation. Rinsing is just as important in a pond or lake to remove bacteria or dirt.
  • Learn Pet CPR in the event of an emergency. (provide link to article on pet safety/first aid care)

Cats and Water Safety

Most of the tips previously described here have pertained to dogs, so a few words about cats and water safety. Cats instinctually will avoid the backyard pool because they do not like to get wet. Same with the ocean and a lake. If you have an outdoor cat, the best advice is to install a floating pool alarm, which will alert you if the pool water is disturbed. In general, by taking the same precautions noted about for a dog, you too can ensure the safety of your cat.

Take Shade: Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Dogs and Heat-Related Illness

With their fur-covered bodies, dogs release heat by panting and at extreme temperatures are not able to release heat quickly enough to cool off. Some dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion and stroke, such as pups and older dogs, as well as dogs who are overweight, sick or recovering from illness. Certain breeds of dogs also need to be watched more carefully, including short-faced breeds, double-coated breeds and dogs bred for cold climates. For example, short-snouted breeds or those with pushed in faces, such as Boxers, Pugs, Bulldogs, and Pekinese, can have trouble breathing in high heat. Alaskan Huskies, Chow Chows and Shelties, have extra thick coats and should be monitored carefully for signs of heat exhaustion. While there is some overlap with the double-coated breeds, there are also dogs bred for cold climates, such as Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Golden Retrievers, who are more likely to exhibit signs of heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion

A dog’s regular body temperature is 101 degrees. Anything above 103 degrees is abnormal and signs of heat exhaustion may become apparent; between 105-107 degrees it can begin to affect their thought processes. One of the first signs of heat exhaustion is intense panting. The tongue may look larger than normal, taking on a wide flat shape that is hanging out of the animal’s mouth. Your pet may not want to stand up and begin to seem disoriented, confused or dizzy.

You should contact your veterinarian if your pet has any of these symptoms. In the meantime, give him/her water and a cool place to rest; an air conditioned room also works well. Take a rectal temperature every 10 minutes to monitor. If the temperature is above 104 degrees, towels soaked in cool water (not ice cold) can be placed around your pet’s neck to help with the cooling down process. You may also help the cooling process by spraying a dog with a garden hose or immersing him/her in a tub of cool water (for up to two minutes). You may find that mild cases can be resolved fairly easily by taking these steps. Once the temperature is down to 103, it is important to stop the cooling process. It is possible to overcool your dog and give him/her hypothermia if you cool their temp back to normal.

Heat Stroke

If heat exhaustion is not treated at onset and the body temperature reaches 106 degrees, illness may progress to the next phase called heat stroke, which can be fatal. You will want to seek immediate medical attention. Panting may cease, and upon exam their gums and tongue may be dry and very red. Diarrhea and vomiting are common. They may or may not be conscious, but they certainly won’t be acting like themselves. Seizures can occur at this stage and are a sign that damage has already begun in the brain. Collapse, coma and death may subsequently occur.

Cats and Heat-Related Illness

As with dogs, if you catch signs of heat-related illness early, your cat can recover pretty quickly with prompt first aid and veterinary care. It’s important that you watch for signs that may indicate your cat is in stress from the heat. These may include restless behavior, panting, sweaty feet, drooling, and excessive grooming in an effort to cool off. If you observe any of these symptoms and can do so safely, check your cat’s temperature with a rectal thermometer:

  • 100° to 103° F is normal to slightly elevated
  • 103° to 104° F is elevated and requires evaluation by a veterinarian
  • Over 105° F is potentially life threatening and requires immediate care

At temperatures of more than 105 degrees, your cat may show additional signs of distress, such as rapid pulse and breathing, redness of the tongue and mouth, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, staggering gait and diarrhea. This may lead to collapse and seizures where your cat may fall into a coma.

Immediate Care for your Cat

The first thing you should do if your cat is starting to show signs of heat stress is to move him/her to a cool quiet place and provide plenty of water. If the signs of heat exhaustion are more severe, you’ll want to get him/her to the veterinarian, but first take steps to lower his/her temperature by wetting with lukewarm to cool water and you may want to use a fan to circulate the air.

Be careful not to use cold water and not to cool him/her too quickly, checking a rectal temperature every 5 minutes. Once the body temperature is at 103, stop the cooling measures, and dry your cat thoroughly to prevent a continued loss of heat. Even if your cat appears to be improving, seek medical care by a professional, who can evaluate whether there are signs of dehydration or other complications.

In the most extreme cases where you find your cat unconscious, soak him/her in cool water, place a bag of ice or frozen veggies between the legs and go to your veterinarian immediately.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke for Cats and Dogs

Prevention requires some very simple steps:

  1. Never leave your pet in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked
  2. Limit exercise on hot days (e.g., quiet walk). Consider early morning or late at night as these are cooler parts of the day and will make the walk more comfortable for both you and your dog.
  3. Watch for signs of dehydration.
  4. Watch out for hot pavement. You might consider doggie booties available at your local pet supply store. Heat rises from the ground, especially asphalt, and since dogs absorb and release heat through their feet, walking on hot pavement can be dangerous for your dog.
  5. Provide ample shade and water. Add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow (as compared to a doghouse, for example). However, use your judgment: it’s best not to leave your pet outside if it’s hot.
  6. Keep cats with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade.
  7. Pay close attention to breeds of dogs more prone to heat stress (as described earlier)
  8. Never leave your animal under direct sunlight without access to shade or plentiful water. They need to be able to take shelter from the sun’s harsh rays just like people.

You will want to do everything possible to avoid putting your pet in this kind of danger and prevention is key. By taking these steps, you will be assured that your furry friends remain cool and comfortable during the upcoming summer months.

Exotics and Heat-Related Stress

Rabbits, chinchillas, and guinea pigs can be particularly prone to heat stress. Housing pets outdoors in the summer will increase the risk of heat stress so it is best to house these sensitive species indoors with access to fans or air conditioning to maintain environmental temperatures under 80 degrees Fahrenheit (temperatures approaching 85 degrees Fahrenheit and above are dangerous for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas). In fact, outdoor guinea pigs can develop heat stress in ambient temperatures as low as 75 degrees. High humidity can increase stress on these species, especially chinchillas.

Treatment for heat stress in these species includes slowly reducing body temperature with spraying, cool water baths, or wrapping in cool wet towels (making sure not to induce hypothermia), fluid administration, and supportive care as needed. Prognosis may be guarded so prevention is the best approach!

Make sure air conditioners are in good working order before the summer since air conditioner malfunction is a common cause of heat stroke in small mammal species. Ensure pets have protection from the sun, good ventilation, and a plentiful supply of cool drinking water. A simple tip is to freeze water bottles and place them in front of fans to encourage circulation of colder air on particularly warm days.

Hospital Renovation Campaign Gains Momentum

Generous supporters help fundraising exceed the halfway point

Just twelve months into an $8 million campaign focused on “renewing the healing spaces” within the Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is enthusiastic to have exceeded the campaign’s halfway point toward its goal. Dean Deborah Kochevar and Cummings School administrators are growing increasingly optimistic about reaching a successful conclusion in 2014 if the steady support shown so far continues at the present pace.

Key to the success to date has been a matching challenge grant offered by the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund. For every $2 raised or pledged for the renovation by December 31, 2014, the fund will donate $1  once we meet the challenge. To meet the challenge, the school committed to raising $5 million by the end of the year.

Many people have come forward to support the renovation and meet the challenge. Inspired by a long-standing confidence in the school’s mission and our caring clinicians, Anne and Travis Engen of Connecticut, pledged an outstanding $2.5 million, catapulting the school halfway toward the funding goal required to leverage the Peabody match. A number of generous donations have made a collective impact as well, for which campaign organizers are deeply grateful.

Can you help broadcast our renovation plans?

In addition to making generous gifts, the Foster Hospital’s friends and clients can contribute to the hospital renovation campaign by telling others about it. Grassroots communications can go a long way as the school works to secure additional support in the months between now and December.

We hope you will spread the word about our planned renovation among your circles of animal lovers. Perhaps you are a member of a breed club? Do you network with animal owners through a local dog park? Or are you active on social media on animal topics?

If you are interested in either making a gift or helping to spread the word, the Cummings Advancement Office would appreciate your assistance. An “overview kit” on the renovation can be mailed upon request. Contact the Cummings Advancement Team at (508) 839-7905 or by email

See our video on the campaign website:

Three Cs of the Soft Tissue Surgery Service: Comprehensive, Compassion and Communication

The Soft Tissue Surgery service at Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals cares for small companion animals with a variety of “soft-tissue” diseases and conditions affecting the head, neck, abdomen, chest and external parts of the body. Tufts Foster Hospital is home to one of the most comprehensive and state-of-the-art soft tissue surgery services in New England, offering compassionate care that is efficiently coordinated with a strong focus on keeping the lines of communication open with you and all involved in the care of your pet.

With multiple decades of experience our surgeons have expertise from the most basic of procedures to the most serious complex cancer surgeries. Common conditions our surgical team treats include:

• serious wounds
• upper airway and oral cavity diseases
• surgically resectable benign and malignant tumors
• surgical conditions of the internal organs within the chest and abdomen

We perform surgery in state-of-the-art surgical suites and have access to outstanding expertise and equipment for advanced diagnostic imaging, anesthesia monitoring, critical care, and pain management.

Tufts also offers minimally invasive surgery capabilities for some conditions. Tufts prides itself on carefully orchestrated, team-based care that is provided throughout your experience at the Foster Hospital. Your pet will receive the highest quality care from a team of specialists, including board certified surgeons, surgical residents, anesthesiologists, highly skilled veterinary nurses and surgical technicians, as well as other clinical specialists. Our comprehensive and integrated approach ensures the most optimal surgical outcome and the most favorable experience for you and your pet.

Once you and your pet arrive at Tufts Foster Hospital you will find all the services you need provided under one roof. Whether you are referred to soft tissue surgery directly by your family veterinarian or after a consult with our Critical Care, Internal Medicine or Oncology services, you will have access to the full range of our hospital’s capabilities.

We’ll make sure your pet gets to the right place with the appropriate services, including any X-rays, laboratory, ultrasound, MRI, pain management, etc.

During the initial consultation and diagnostic process, we’ll discuss with you why we believe a particular procedure may be necessary, what is involved and what you can expect. And you should understand that just because you’ve come for a surgery consult that does not mean you have to proceed with the surgery. We’ll discuss with you your options and the cost,  and provide advice to help you make informed decisions regarding the care of your pet.

We recognize that you do not want your pet to be hospitalized any longer than necessary. A typical hospitalization period for an average surgical procedure is 1-2 days in advance of the surgery, and 1-3 days after surgery. More minor procedures can often be performed during a single day’s visit but typically not on the day of your initial appointment. Regardless of the length of your pet’s stay, we will provide leading edge pain prevention and management before and after surgery, and will ensure that your pet’s experience is as non-stressful as it can possibly be.

As the only veterinary medical center in New England, we are committed to training the veterinarians and animal care specialists of the future. Students, interns and residents rotate through our clinical services and are integral to the veterinary care team. Also unique to this academic environment, our faculty and surgeons may be able to provide you with access to innovative therapies not available elsewhere.

At Tufts Foster Hospital, you can be assured that you will not only receive the highest quality of surgical care, but we are focused on providing a comfortable, efficient and compassionate experience for you and your loved one. This is because our staff are not only highly trained specialists in their fields, they are animal lovers as well.

A Life Saved Twice: Family Grateful to Tufts’ Surgeon

kota_20130717_175820 (2)Name: Dakota

Age and Breed: 11-year old Boxer-mix (part Boxer and part German Shepherd)

Medical Challenge: Cheryl knew something was wrong when she came home to find Dakota (“Kota”), her very spirited, 11-year old boxer walking around like he was lost and very uncomfortable. She also noticed that his abdomen was swollen. He subsequently vomited and seemed a little better but she didn’t want to let it go without having him checked out.

The first appointment she could get with her family veterinarian was two days later on Saturday. Upon examination, he palpated Dakota’s abdomen and found that it was distended and unusually hard. He ordered an x-ray which revealed that Dakota had a tumor in his spleen. Cheryl was advised that it could be one of two things: a highly malignant cancer called a hemangiosarcoma or a benign mass called a hematoma, essentially a blood clot. Her veterinarian felt that cancer was the most likely of the two and advised her of two alternative treatment plans. If she chose to have the spleen removed, it would give him only about 3 months if it was the very aggressive form of cancer. Without the surgery, it was likely he would die within the week from a spleen rupture. Cheryl had a special bond with Kota, a dog she had rescued and she did not want to let him go just yet. She was truly concerned and after some research decided to pursue a second opinion at Tufts. “I trusted my instincts. I know Kota and there was no way I was going to let him go without seeking any additional information to help make this decision,” says Cheryl.

Treatment: Upon arriving at Tufts on the following Wednesday, Cheryl immediately felt she made the right decision for Kota. Cheryl recalls how personalized the care was “They took care of everything from the time we walked through the door. Dr. Berg’s initial steps were to do all the necessary tests to get to the bottom of Dakota’s situation and it was refreshing to be able to speak directly with such a seasoned surgeon.” When she and her husband Roger met Dr. John Berg, Tufts’ small animal surgeon, he offered some hope. He told them that there was about a 30-40% chance the tumor could be a hematoma, and a somewhat greater chance that it was cancerous. Since hemangiosarcoma commonly metastasizes to the liver, he ordered an ultrasound to look for evidence of spread there, or to any other sites in the abdomen. He also ordered a chest x-ray to look for evidence of spread to the lungs. Advanced diagnostic testing would provide the additional information Kota’s family was seeking to help them make a surgery decision. A 30-40% chance of a benign lesion gave Cheryl and Roger a reason to be optimistic. Cheryl had done everything she could since his rescue to protect Dakota, so when Dr. Berg called back she had the weight lifted off her shoulders. The blood work and chest x-ray were normal, and the ultrasound showed no evidence of spread to the liver. These results gave Dr. Berg more confidence that a hematoma was high on the list of possibilities, and recommended surgery. Because of the comprehensive nature of the services that Tufts offers, Dakota had access to other specialty care, which was needed when he developed an arrhythmia. Upon the cardiology team’s assessment, they deemed Kota was stable enough to proceed with surgery. In just two days, the surgery was completed and Dr. Berg had removed a hematoma; a mass the size of a football which if left alone, would very likely have caused the spleen to rupture. And the best news came a couple weeks later when Dr. Berg shared with Kota’s family that the tumor was indeed a hematoma and non-cancerous.

Outcome: Because of Dr. Berg’s access to Tufts’ comprehensive and advanced diagnostic services, he was able to feel fairly certain that the mass wasn’t cancer and that Kota was an appropriate candidate for surgery before advising Kota’s family. And as a result, Cheryl and Roger knew they were making the right decision in going forward.

This all happened in September 2014 and five months later, Dakota is now back to his old spirited self. He takes the steps four at a time, jumps into their jeep and van and jumps with excitement when he sees them. She says, “I saved him twice, first as a rescue dog when he was about 10 months old, and now with Dr. Berg’s help and his lifesaving surgery. Dr. Berg and all the staff at Tufts Foster Hospital made us feel so welcome, well-advised and cared for through this whole process. We are so thankful for Dr. Berg.”