What You Always Wanted to Know About Service Dogs

With Labor Day coming up, this is a great time to celebrate some of our unseen laborers, the service dog. Service dogs use to meant seeing eye dogs. The role of the service dog has greatly expanded and they have become more more common members of our society.

A service dog is a dog that helps someone with a disability. That dog has been trained to perform tasks specifically for the person with the disability. and has had specialized training for the disability. The disability can be mental or physical.

Kinds of Service Dogs

There are many different kinds of service dogs, and we don’t mean breeds, though there are many different breeds of service dogs as well.

  • Guide dogs that help people with vision problems from impairment to full blindness.
  • Hearing dogs to help deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • Mobility dogs that assist people in wheel chairs or with moving imparements.
  • Medical alert dogs that detect the onset of medical issues such as low blood sugar (diabetes), anaphylaxis, seizure.
  • Mental health dogs to help with OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, anxiety.

These dogs are working dogs, they are not pets. This can be confusing because we are use to dogs being pets. When these dogs are with their humans they are working. This means they are taking care of their human. Never pet a service dog without asking their human first. Many people do not want their dog to be distracted when they are working. Are they always working? No. They are given time off from work. Their “down time” is usually defined by the type of training they have.

The Bigger the Dog the Bigger the Service?

There are many different breeds of dogs that become service dogs. The size of the dog is important to the kind of service they are providing. You would not want to have a chihuahua pull a wheel chair but they could be good for PTSD or hearing services.

German Shepherds, Labs, and Golden Retrievers are the most common guide dogs.

The breed of the dog is less important than the training. These dogs are extensively trained to be desensitized to distraction, to be reliable, and perform very specific tasks. They are trained to only respond to their owners while they are working and to always be paying attention to their human in case the human becomes in need. Trying to distract a service dog is not like trying to get the Queen’s guard to smile. They are helping and protecting their human. Getting distracted could be dangerous to the health and safety of their human.

The Service Uniform

There is no required uniform for a service dog. If someone tells you their dog is a service dog and the dog is not wearing anything that does not mean that they are not a certified service dog. On the other side, a dog wearing a special harness or vest does not mean that dog is an actual service dog. A good example of this are emotional support animals. These are animals that are meant to provide comfort to their human and help with many mental/emotional conditions such as anxiety, but these dogs are not trained as service dogs. For the dog to qualify as a service dog they have to be trained in specific tasks related to the disability. Being a comforting presence is highly valuable but does not qualify as a true service dog. Therapy dogs are the same as emotional service dogs. They provide happiness and comfort and provide incredibly valuable services but they are not official service dogs.

Training a Service Dog

A service dog is not required to be professionally trained. Anyone can train a service dog. There are also training classes you can take to train your service dog.

If you are considering training your own service dog you want to look for certain qualities in the dog:

  • Calm in unfamiliar settings
  • Alert or paying attention without being reactive
  • Smart
  • Good in a variety of different situations and enviornments
  • Reliable and consistent
  • An interest in pleasing their human

If you are interested in getting a service dog, there are a lot of trainers/breeders out there that can match you with your perfect service dog to fit your specific disability.

On this labor day as we recognize the hard working people of this country, especially our essential workers who have been showing up to work in the face of Covid-19, lets remember that our service dogs are essential workers too.

Bald Spots on My Dog

bald spot dog
bald spot dog
Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

Help! My dog is going bald!

Dogs losing hair is normal. Shedding is common for most dogs. Some dogs will even go through intense shedding periods where they are losing clumps of hair. But there is a difference between shedding and balding. There are lot of reasons why your dog may have alopecia (hair loss):

 

What do you call it when your dog won’t stop licking a spot? It is called worrying the spot. It is called this because it is often a sign of anxiety or has become a habit. However, worrying can also be a symptom of an underlying problem. The biggest problem with worrying is that it leads to bald spots and the creation of sores. Your dog will lick and nibble a spot so much that they create a sore. Since it is in their nature to want to clean and sooth the sore by licking it, they continue to worry the area which gives it no ability to heal.

 

Reasons for Hair Loss in Dogs

Allergies- Having an allergic reaction to food or the environment can trigger hair loss, or can cause itching that leads to your dog worrying the area.

Fleas- Fleas are the primary cause of hair loss in dogs. If your dog has a flea infestation this not only itches but because of the scratching can create sores. Your dog can literally scratch their hair off or worry it off through licking and nibbling on itchy areas. If your dog is allergic to fleas their reaction to a bite might be stronger and sometimes it only takes one bite to trigger an allergic reaction that can lead to a bald spot. The best way to treat fleas is to use Frontline Flea and Tick treatment. This is also the best way to prevent fleas.

Cushings Disease- Cushings Diseases is caused by the overproduction of cortisol. It is not an overly common disease and is typically seen is dogs over the age of 6. Hair loss is a primary symptom. If the condition of your dogs hair suddenly gets really bad and starts falling out you should have the vet test for Cushings. 

Ringworm- Ringworm is a fungus that causes hair loss around the spot of infection. This is treated with a cream to kill the fungus. Once the fungus is cleared up the hair will grow back.

Mites- Mites like to bite on areas with thin skin such as around the ears and eyes. Their bites both irritate and itch and can lead to hair loss in those areas. Often times treating mites requites an oral or topical medication.

Pressure Sores- Pressure sores are more common on older or overweight dogs. They will get bald spots on their elbows or other more bony parts of the body that come into regular contact with the floor. Over time, the regular pressure on those spots cause the skin to thicken and that is when hair falls out. If the skin is really thick and dry you can apply moisturizer to the spots, but it is not likely the hair will grow back.

Anxiety- There are a lot of dogs that will worry a spot bald due to anxiety habits. This is more common in dogs that are left alone or in single dog households. If a dog had a regular sore in one spot they can also develop a worrying habit. If your dog is worrying from anxiety try giving them some rescue remedy to help quell their anxiety, a toy to play with, more regular exercise, or take a look at these great tips for helping your dog manage anxiety. If your dog won’t stop worrying a spot you may want to try a Elizabethan collar. This will prevent them from being able to lick.

 

If you have any sudden hair loss in your dog it is a good idea to contact your Albuquerque veterinarian. Unless you know this is from anxiety it is typically a symptom of something else going on and you will want to make sure to get your dog treated.

 

 

Why is My Cat Mad?

aggressive cats
Image by christels from Pixabay

We all talk about how cats are crazy. How many meme’s have you seen about crazy cat behavior? But what happens when typical crazy behavior changes to actually aggressive behavior? Why does a perfectly sweet cat become not so sweet?

There are few different reasons why a nice cat can become a mean cat:

  • Illness is one of the biggest problems. Cats can’t tell you when they are feeling poorly. They can’t come up to you and say hey mama I don’t feel good, or something hurts. You know how we get cranky when we don’t feel good or when we are in pain, they are the same way. In fact, being aggressive is often their way of telling you, hey! I don’t feel good.
  • Unaltered males can be more aggressive. Unaltered males are males that have not been neutered, meaning they still have their testicles and can still breed. This is also known as being “intact”. Intact males have more hormones running through them and these hormones can cause them to be more aggressive towards other cats. Even having one intact male can affect the behavior of all your other cats. This means that one intact male can cause your neutered males, or females, to become more aggressive. Neutering your cat will fix this pretty much immediately, at least for your other cats. However, if you wait until a cat is older before neutering them their personality can get set in place and neutering may not get rid of all the aggressive behavior and you may have to look at doing some behavioral work with them.
  • Amenities. Cats have high standards. They will not graciously put up with substandard amenities. Your cat may be acting aggressively because there aren’t enough litter boxes, or water dishes, or places for them to sit. If you give them more space and access to their needs they will often calm down.
  • Socialization. A big reason for aggressive cats is lack of socialization. Have you ever met a feral cat and noticed that they do not seem to want your attention. This is because they have not been around people enough, or they have not received enough positive attention from people. If your cat is primarily aggressive when someone tries to touch them, it could be that they need to be more socialized.

How to Deal with Aggression in your Cat

A lack of socialization or bad experiences with people is the primary reason for aggression in cats, especially if you are seeing it in a cat you just adopted. Your cat needs to learn to trust you. Part of doing this is not forcing the cat to be with you. Show them that you are a safe place to be. NEVER HIT THEM! Even if they are being aggressive, do not hit them. This will not teach them to be less aggressive and can make them more aggressive. At best hitting them will teach them to fear you and then they will still be aggressive when they are cornered.

If you have put up a second litter box and another water dish, you have tried being gentle and building trust, they are neutered, but they are still being aggressive, it is time to take your cat to the vet. Aggression is always a sign that something is wrong the hard part is figuring out what is wrong. Often times a health issue can be the root of the issue. At any time if your cat goes from being nice to regularly aggressive it is a good idea to take him to the vet. Your vet will also have tips to help deal with behavioral aggression if the aggression is not health related.

Vetco in Albuquerque offers low cost spay and neuter as well as low cost well animal veterinary care. Take a look at our pet care promotions page for extra savings on our veterinary services.