Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ties That Bind: 4 reasons why autism service dogs are awesome!

Blog shared from Autism Speaks, Ties that Bind Blog, 
This is a post by Maple Cabot, an entrepreneur and creator of InspirationSpark, the web's "inspiration hub." She is also aunt to Jack D, who inspired this article. Have a story you want to share? Email us your blog submission at!
My nephew, Jack, is on the autism spectrum. He is a truly wonderful kid, and I’m so lucky that he is a part of my life. He has struggled in many of the same ways other children on the autism spectrum struggle. He has difficulty making friends, communicating his thoughts and feelings, and controlling his behavior.
My sister and her husband have tried numerous types of therapy to help him better acclimate to the world, all with varying degrees of success. But recently they tried something that made an incredible impact on Jack’s life. They got an autism service dog. Honestly, I couldn’t believe the incredibly positive results. It’s almost as if having the dog by his side has completely changed how Jack experiences the world around him.
If you’re a parent considering getting a service dog for your child, here is a quick rundown of the benefits you’ll see.

1) They help manage sensory overload.

Facebook: Service Dogs for Autism
My nephew is extremely sensitive to loud noises and crowded places. Even a trip to the grocery store, if it is particularly busy, can be too much for him. He goes into flight mode and in the past has tried to runaway from his parents, in an effort to get out of the overwhelming situation. But as this guide on autism service dogs notes they can be a great help when a person on the autism spectrum experiences a sensory overload. And I can say from experience how amazing they are. My nephew goes everywhere with his service dog, and it’s amazing how the dog can help keep him calm.

2) They reduce stress.

What I’ve learned from my nephew is just how much stress and anxiety people on the autism spectrum feel every day. In addition to sensory issues, they can also become stressed and anxious in social situations. cites a study that found that kids with ASD “experienced a decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol after a service dog was introduced into the family.”

3) They help keep children with ASD safe.

As I mentioned before, my nephew used to a have tendency to bolt whenever he experienced sensory overload. And as parents of children on the autism spectrum know, wandering is a constant concern. However, notes that service dogs can offer parents some relief and help keep their child safe. It explains that the dogs are actually trained to prevent wandering. If a child does try to go, the dog will intervene by “circling them and barking to alert family members.”

4) They're a great four-legged companion.

Facebook: Autism Dog Services
While my nephew’s service dog has helped in many functional ways, I think the biggest benefit the dog has provided is being a friend to him. My nephew has always had difficulty making friends. He has just never had the companionship that other kids experience. So, watching him with his service dog has been truly remarkable. confirms that this is a common occurrence between children on the autism spectrum and their service dogs. It notes that the dogs often become a source of comfort and great companions for the children they’re assisting.
Jack and his dog are inseparable. And while the dog certainly looks after Jack, it has been a pleasure seeing how invested Jack has become in caring for his dog. The two are best friends, and there’s no denying that Jack’s service dog has changed his life for the better.
Maple C is on a journey, just like you. Her source of inspiration is helping others achieve goals they never thought possible. She has owned and operated several businesses throughout her career, including a doggie daycare and a fair-trade clothing shop. Finally, she realized her true calling wasn’t to help people with the elements in their lives (as lovely and loving as dogs and dresses can be), but her passion is for building others’ lives. Today, she’s working to develop InspirationSpark into the web’s “inspiration hub.” She gets her own sparks of inspiration from sunset yoga, paddleboarding, and spending time with her husband and children.

Animals can chew plants for a variety of reasons.  If your family plans to bring holiday plants into the home this season, it is important to be aware of any potential safety concerns your pets may face if they eat your flowers.
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Poinsettia plants have a bad rap, but are much less toxic than most people assume.  While they can cause irritation to the mouth, and stomach upset if ingested.  Pets are unlikely to consume enough to cause real fatality concerns.  Even so, keep these plants up high, or outside, for those avid roughage consumers.
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Holly and Mistletoe

Image result for hollyHolly and mistletoe are also popular holiday plants. These plants, along with their berries, have a greater toxicity level than the poinsettia. Symptoms of illness from ingesting these plants can include intestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain.  Larger ingestions, especially of mistletoe can cause very serious symptoms, and sometimes death.  Keep these plants well out of reach of any of your pets, or avoid them in the home altogether.

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 The Amaryllis can be highly toxic to both cats and dogs.  The Amaryllis causes salivation, gastrointestinal abnormalities (vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and abdominal pain), lethargy, and tremors in both cats and dogs.  The bulb is the most toxic part of the plant. 

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Fortunately, the Christmas Cactus plant is beautiful and not toxic to dogs in either its parts or flowers. The same lack of toxicity applies for cats. However, any fibrous plant material can cause irritation to the stomach and intestine, leading to vomiting or diarrhea.

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The Christmas Tree

Whether artificial or real, having a Christmas tree in your home can present a challenge with both dogs and cats.  Lights and ornaments can pose a risk to the most adventurous of our pets.  Natural Christmas trees are fairly non-toxic, but pets that ingest enough of the needles and oils may see some mild stomach upset.  The water for the Christmas tree has the potential to have molds, fertilizers and bacteria throughout the month, and pets that drink the Christmas tree water may sicken as well.

Playing it Safe

If you do choose to bring any of these plants into the home, or place them near the entry way where your pet can reach them, be very careful about where you are placing them. Cats, especially, need to be considered, since they can jump to high shelves. If your cat is a known plant chewer, you will probably be better off choosing imitation plants over the real things. But, if your dog or cat does manage to ingest any part of these holiday plants, call your veterinarian or poison control immediately to find out what you should do to minimize the damage.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Creative Pet Costumes for your Furry Friend

There were so many original ideas, it was hard to choose, but here are a few our staff enjoyed....

The unicorn....A very majoestic, yet simple ensemble
And Dr. Chernok is a big fan of the Bull Terrier breed.
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A Chia pet, this would take a very willing participant :)

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Our Nurse, Erica, and Dr. Gilbert are Big Game of Thrones Fans, so this was a fun one to discover.

Dr. Kirk is such a big fan of goldendoodles, this one won our hearts.

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Who doesn't enjoy a Pug in costume

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Someone was thinking outside the box with this Disney movie inspired costume

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This pug knew it is PSL season.

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We hope these costumes have inspired you to dress your pet in something creative and exciting, we can't wait to see all our patient's dressed for this favorite fall holiday!!!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Litterbox do's and don't's

Tricks to keep your cat happy with their litterbox

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Cat owners often show up for appointments with their veterinarians frustrated and at their wits end when their cat has been doing his business outside the litterbox.  They've "tried everything", read articles on the internet or used enzymatic cleaners from the pet store trying to mask the odors.  basically, cat owners are usually at the end of their patience before they finally think of bringing the cat into the veterinary office for an evaluation and some expert advice.

Here's our advice to you about how to deal with this frustrating problem BEFORE it becomes frustrating......

Image result for cats litter boxFirst off, evaluate your household routine and environment.  If there have been any changes that could "stress" your cat (eg. change of litter type, change in box location, change in family schedule, parties, new babies, etc) this is a possible reason your cat has started these behaviors.  If you know there has been a stressful events, this will be very helpful information to provide your veterinary team.  If you can think of something simple that you recently changed before the behavior started, change it back.  Your cat may resume using the litterbox normally, and you may not need a trip to the veterinary clinic.

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More often than owners imagine, there is a medical reason for cats to start having accidents outside the litterbox.  There are various medical causes that might instigate this behavior including (but not limited to) metabolic disease, hormonal imbalances, urinary tract infections, bladder stones. constipation or diarrhea.  It is important to bring your cat for an evaluation before the behavior has been going on too long, so easy problems can be diagnosed and treated quickly, and do not become more severe.

If your veterinarian determines through history and an evaluation, that the cause is "behavioral" there are several tips and tricks to encourage your cat to go back to the box.  Make sure you have one more litter box than you have cats.  For instance, if you have 3 cats, you should have 4 litterboxes provided.

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 Scoop boxes daily, as many cats are fastidious.  Place boxes in quiet places, that give the cat a view of their surroundings if you have multiple cats, or small dogs that may disturb a cat while doing their business.  Try having both covered and uncovered boxes, as some cats have a preference for one more than another.  Try a litter substrate buffet.  Offer boxes with regular clumping litter, natural pine type litter, carpet, linoleum pieces, etc, keeping in mind what surface your cat has been choosing over the box.  

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There are several products that are useful for tackling this problem.  There is a product called Cat Attract that is an herbal remedy you sprinkle into the litterbox to "attract" your cat back to the box.  There is a calming product, Feliway, that is basically a glade plug-in version of a happy cat scent that can help reduce your cat's daily stress or aversion to the litterbox, and there are many other stress relieving techniques on Ohio State's Veterinary College website called The Indoor Cat Initiative.
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Your pets LOVE Halloween, too!!!

The best ways to celebrate the spooky season with your pet in Champaign-Urbana

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Go on an autumn hike, like Allerton Park's Fall Color Tree Hike in October, and enjoy the crisp weather and colors of the season with your furry friend. October 22nd.

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Enter a costume inspired 5K with your canine companion: Howl'OWeen Jog/Walk in Toalson Park.  (October 22nd)  Costumes encouraged; or the Pumpkin Paws Jog/Walk in November (11/21).  Both are hosted by the Champaign Bark District.

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Dress your pet to impress to be a greeter to the Trick or Treaters on the BIG day.

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Organize a neighborhood Costume pet parade.  Let the neighborhood families know, because kids love dog parades, and costume parades, so why not both!!

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Host a Pet Friendly Halloween costume party for your friends, and their furry friends, too.  Have a contest for the best human-pet costume duo.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Preparing for Severe Weather

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After the recent severe weather, and tornado that touched down in our area, there were reports of several pets lost during the disaster.  This is a disaster and tragedy that is all too common.  Even simple thunderstorms can cause a spike in your pet’s anxiety, and need to hide or flee, depending on the pet.  Storms and weather as severe as what our region has recently experienced brings to mind the need to have a disaster preparedness plan, not only for our family, and our property, but also for our pets.
Here is a description of four areas of emergency preparedness, and how it helps you prepare for your pet’s well-being.

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     1. Be informed: Be aware of which stations and systems will alert you to upcoming adverse conditions and disasters.  Know where to turn for accurate information in your area.  The weather channel app will push local alerts to your phone, and be sure to be near a radio or television that will broadcast updates.  Make sure you can hear the tornado sirens in your home.  Champaign and Urbana test these on the first Tuesday of the month, as many of you may know.

Image result for cat in cat carrier     2. Plan Ahead: Create a plan in case of emergency, and make sure your whole family knows their role in preparing.  Having a crate or pet carrier to secure your dog during a storm, or having them leashed and ready if you will need to leave your home.  Find and have cats and smaller critters in carriers, ready to take if needed, so there is no last minute struggling to get a cat hiding under the bed.  Designating certain family members to this task ahead of time can minimize confusion about finding and securing pets.

Prepare your pet’s identifying paperwork in a water tight setup to have on hand in case they are lost or separated from you.  A plastic Ziploc bag containing your pet’s rabies license, microchip information, and an updated photo of your pets.  Have a tag for your pet to wear that includes contact information. 

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Have a bag packed with pet essentials you may need if you need to leave your home quickly with your pet to include: leash and collar, pet first aid, food, water, medications, handy wipes, paper towels, a flashlight, and a can opener. 

3. Evacuate: Evacuate if that is an option for the particular adverse event.  Consider a friend or family member’s home, a pet hotel that is not in an evacuation zone, a red cross shelter that will accept pets, etc.
In the event that evacuation is not an option, as in our case with sudden tornadoes, it is important to take certain precautions for your pets.  Bring all pets inside.  Separate dogs and cats, and keep them leashed and crated.  Have a large supply of newspapers of puppy pads for sanitary reasons.  Have a pet first aid kit, and maintain a supply of fresh water.

Image result for pet emergency preparedness      4. Return home.  When the weather event or emergency event is over, take certain precautions with your pets for a time.  Leash your pets when you are outside, even if they typically stay in the yard or close to you.  There will be unfamiliar scents, sounds and sights, and their anxiety level may still be on high alert.  Keeping your pets on leash can prevent issues with downed debris or power lines if you are controlling their destination.  Check your water quality before serving city water to your pet. Image result for pet emergency preparedness 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The dog days of summer

Summer days are getting a bit shorter, and school season is approaching fast.  Here is a list of 5 things to do with your dog before this summer is gone for good

       1. Swim at the dog beach
The dog beach is north in Chicago, along the lake front, but if you have an avid swimming canine friend, you will have all the feels when you watch him romp with 100 of his new friends at this dog friendly location.

     2. Hunt pokemon
If you are out walking to hatch that egg, or you are hunting the elusive Pikachu, bring your dog along too.  I am sure he’d love to take some of those dog selfies with a bulbasaur.  Just remember to check if the sidewalk or asphalt is ok to walk on, or stay on the grass.

      3. Meet a friend at the Dog park
Urbana and Champaign both have dog parks, and 
if your canine friend hasn’t been, they’ll be 
excited to take advantage of the large running s
pace for a game of ball, or chase.  
You pet may enjoy it so much, you can 
continue the fun into fall, and mild winter days.  Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines 
and preventatives prior to your visit, and both 
parks do have membership requirements when 
you sign up.

     4. Go on a road trip
Some dogs just love to ride through those country roads with the wind in their face, and a summer drive is relaxing and enjoyable for all.  Take in a road side oddity like the world’s largest Lincoln statue (in Asmore), or the giant ball of string (Lincoln).


      5. Sign up for a new pup and me activity to 
           keep the fun times going into fall. 
      The Dog Training Club of Champaign-Urbana 
       offers classes from obedience to fly ball to 
       agility; for fun or for competition.  
       There are also many private individual trainers 
        in our area as well.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Fourth of July Safety for your pets.

Whether your pet is more mildly affected by the booms and crackles of the celebration weekend, or your pet experiences sheer terror and thinks the world will end, Fourth of July is a difficult time for most of our furry family members.  There are many tips and tricks that might help soothe a scared or anxious pet, but the most important thing to remember is to keep your frightened pets secured. Anxious and terrified pets are more likely to get loose and lost during the celebration weekend. 

Please keep your pets secured in a safe area of your home if you will be away at parties and festivities, and if you have pets that can harm themselves or the household, it might be best to secure then in a crate or carrier to keep them safe. 
If you are home, make sure your pet is not in the yard unsupervised.  If you are leash walking, have a good handle on the lead.  Scared pets may forget their manners and training, and may act differently than they typically do on a normal walk.  They could suddenly take off, pull hard, and get away if a firm grip and a full awareness during walks is not used.
There are several adjustments you can make to the household to try to help your pet cope with any noise phobia associated with the holiday.  Keeping windows covered during firework and firecracker displays helps minimize any visuals of the celebration.  Turning the radio on and up moderately loud, or having the TV playing with a good amount of volume can help drown out some of the booms and loud explosions.  There are over the counter products of varying types, from soothing scents to soothing clothing that can sometimes help individuals cope with their anxiety.  Allowing your pet to find a safe spot, and hide, without a lot of emotional reassurance, can sometimes help your pet cope (like a closet, a crate, or a favored bed in a more secluded spot in the home).  Sometimes, these smaller measures are not enough to help your pet cope.  If your pet is likely to harm himself or harm the environment due to his stress and anxiety, that it is best to speak to your veterinarian about an individualized plan that may include a combination of environmental changes, over the counter products and  medications that can help ease his anxiety, and fear. 

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Walk Safe For Summer

Hot Surfaces, especially asphalt and pavement, can be extremely dangerous for your dog’s feet.  Paw pads and thick and hardy, but not any more thick and protective than the soles of our own bare feet. 
Pavement, metal, wood, and tar-coated asphalt can get extremely hot baking in the summer sun, and can get much hotter than the ambient temperature outside.
Even more concerning is that you might not always recognize burned or heat affected paw pads right away, because just like typical burns they develop outward signs over time.
Signs of burned or heat affected paw pads include: 
  • limping or refusing to walk
  • pads becoming darker in color
  • sloughing of parts of the paw pads
  • blisters and redness

First Aid for Hot Paws

Keep the foot area cool and clean.  As soon as you notice signs of your dog’s feet being too hot, get onto a grassy area, or carry your dog back home so no continued injury occurs.  Flush or cool feet with cool water or a cool compress to minimize the burn effects.
It is best to have your dog’s feet examined by your veterinarian to determine if antibiotics or pain medications are warranted, and to assess for deeper burns or injuries.
Sometimes socks or bandages need to be worn on feet to protect the affected areas, but mostly to keep your dog from licking at his sore paws, making the situation worse for infection, and pain.

Tips to avoid heat related feet injuries on a walk

  • Check the pavement prior to taking your dog on a walk.  
  • Place your hand (or bare foot) on the pavement for 10 seconds.  If it is too hot, do not let your dog walk on it.
  • Stay on more grassy areas and avoid bare ground when outside in the summer heat.
  • Avoid walking during the hottest parts of the day, walk early in the morning, or in the evening when temperatures are cooling.
  • Remember that bare feet, and paws are softer and more vulnerable after swimming, and you should be extra cautious about where your dog walks after a swim.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cat Visits: reducing your cat’s stress when you travel to the animal clinic

Recently a client shared their terrible and harrowing experience of getting her cat to the vet clinic yearly.  The client has to shut the doors, get the cat out from the bed, and then shove the cat into the cat carrier.  I think many of us could agree, that while this is stressful for you, and the cat, this is definitely not a unique experience.  Many of our clients with cats come in a few minutes late for their appointment, with battle scar scratches on their arms, because this is commonly a trial by fire task.
We would like to share a few tips on how to make vet trips less of an ordeal for your cat.

1. Feliway.  We cannot applaud the concept of this product enough.  Feliway is a calming facial pheromone scent for you cat.  It may not work for every cat, every time, but we have definitely seen it help.  You can plug a diffuser (its like a Glade plug-in) in all the time for a stressed cat, or plug the diffuser in a few days before an anticipated stressful event like a clinic visit.  The spray or wipes can be used directly in the cat carrier 1 hour before you put the cat in.  Again, it may not 100% decrease the stress, but it will definitely bring the level down a few notches.

2. Desensitizing for the carrier.  Please, take the time to desensitize you cat to the carrier, so it is not such a dramatic experience for them to travel inside it.  Leave the carrier out periodically, add food or treats inside; you can even leave familiar bedding or warm cuddly blankets.  Allow the cat to investigate the carrier at their own pace, and reward the cat for showing any positive interest in the carrier.  If its appearance isn’t always followed by a struggle, and a stressful visit to the vet, your cat will be less worried every time it sees that dreaded box.  
3. Desensitizing for the travel.  If it’s the car ride your cat despises, do practice runs for that as well.  Get the cat in the carrier, drive around for a short car trip, come home, and reward your cat grandly with attention and treats to let them know that travel isn’t always going to equal a stressful outcome.  Your veterinarian can even offer “happy visits” for your cat (or your dog), where we check your pet in to an exam room, and a technician or veterinarian comes in, talks with you, pets the cat, or gives a few treats, and they leave without any stressful injections, or handling.  This can do wonders for breeding trust between the clinic staff, you, and your pet.
4. Understanding.  I think most importantly, owners need a good concept of why they are bringing the cat in for yearly visits.  It is not “just” for that shot that we recommend we see your cat yearly.  We want to do a comprehensive physical examination, and get a full history on how your cat has been doing since their last visit, so we can intervene on any early signs of illness, or concerns.  We aim to keep your cat as healthy as possible and live a long, peaceful life.  In addition, if you are only coming in that one time your cat has become incredibly ill, a visit to the animal hospital is going to be that much more stressful and traumatic for a cat that has never traveled from home in its life.  
5. Getting an unwilling cat into a carrier.  Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your cat still doesn’t trust the travel carrier.  Bring the carrier into a small room, and then bring your cat into the room and shut the door, limiting escape.  Gently lower your cat into a carrier with a top door, or stand the carrier up and lower into the door.  If you have a plastic carrier that comes apart, consider taking off the top, putting the cat in the bottom, and then putting the top back on to secure the cat.  Remember, no matter what process you chose, go slowly, and calmly, as cat’s can sense your stress or anxiety.