What is Head Pressing and Why Worry?

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 02, 2015
Unfortunately, our pets don’t have the language to tell us when something doesn’t feel right. But their health can fail in myriad ways and there is almost always a change in behavior that can clue a pet-owner in to there being something wrong. One such signal, an important one, is called “head pressing.”

Head pressing happens with both dogs and cats and involves the animal pressing the top of its head against a hard surface. If you see your pet doing this, call your vet immediately.

There are several health issues head pressing might indicate. They include anything from a neurological disorder to liver damage. It can even indicate a rabies infection or some kid of parasite.

If the problem is your pet’s liver – called a liver shunt – the behavior is due to toxins building up in the body because the infected organ can no longer filter them safely out of the animal’s system. This condition is usually genetic and hereditary. If it’s neurological, it could be a brain tumor or a stroke or even the result of head trauma. Encephalitis and meningoencephalitis are also common causes.

Some of the causes are unavoidable, but keeping your pet up-to-date on vaccines and well visits can help prevent rabies and parasite infestations. Treatment and prognosis depend on the cause of the head pressing, but seeking treatment as soon as possible will increase your pet’s recovery chances.

Keep in mind that head pressing is not the same as when cats rub their heads and faces against surfaces to mark territory or when dogs or cats rub their heads up against people and other animals affectionately – head butting. It is the prolonged pressing of the head against a stationary, hard surface.
Other symptoms are
  • Seizures.
  • Pushing the head into the ground.
  • Problems with vision.
  • Pacing and walking in circles.
  • Problems with reflexes.
  • Getting stuck in corners.
  • Staring at walls.

Peaceful Pets - Ensuring a Stress-Free Life for Your Pet

VSSF Admin - Monday, December 03, 2012

We often talk about how pets can relieve stress in humans’ lives. They offer friendship and companionship to their caretakers. However, pets can have stress too and it is important to know how to identify possible pet stressors and do your best to calm any uneasiness.

How do I know if my pet is stressed?
If something is causing your furry friend to fret, it can usually be narrowed down to either a physical ailment, psychological distress, or an environmental change.

Always make sure your pet is in good physical health. If you see signs of stress, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems. Signs of stress can include but are not limited to: diarrhea, hair loss, aggression, not eating, hiding, and urine marking in cats.

How do I ensure I have a peaceful, stress-free pet?
To promote overall mental health, try to reduce change in your pet’s life as much as possible. Assess your living situation and try to determine if there is anyway you can reduce possible stressors for your pet.

If you will be implementing an environment change that you know will affect your pet, like moving or introducing a new baby, try to ease them into the change if you can. Otherwise, give your pet plenty of attention and try to keep their routine as similar as possible. You may want to consider using natural remedies, such as pet pheromone sprays, to settle your pet during exceptionally stressful situations. There are products on the market for both dogs and cats that are simple to use and work wonders to calm your kitty or sooth your pooch.  

Make sure they are getting the mental enrichment they need. Cats and dogs like sunshine so make going outdoors with your pet a priority. If you have a cat that is less than thrilled with venturing out with a harness and leash, ensure they have a comfortable ledge or cat condo near an open window. Being able to perch and watch birds go by will keep them mentally stimulated.  
Physical activities for your pet will battle boredom and are great stress-busters. Toss a ball around with your dog or take them for a long run outside. Let your cat chase a toy mouse or the light of a laser pointer around the room.

Eliminate stress by making sure that your pets have their basic needs met. In addition to plenty of food and water, provide at least one litter box for each of your cats and plenty of room to roam throughout the day for both cats and dogs. Reduce loud noises whenever possible and always provide a safe, peaceful home for your furry family members.

Growing Up with a Pet

VSSF Admin - Friday, August 31, 2012

A pet can be more than just a cozy companion or a warm greeting at the door. Growing up with a pet in the house can be good for a child’s health and development. There is nothing like the relationship between a child and their pet. According to Pedigree, studies have shown that children with pets have higher self-esteem, improved social skills, and are more popular with their peers. In addition, having a pet requires some sort of responsibility whether it’s simply brushing them or refilling the water bowl. It can teach a child how to nurture and care for another being.

Aside from just benefitting the children’s growth, having a pet in the family is said to have a positive effect on family harmony. Families tend to spend more time interacting with one another once a pet is added to the family. The companionship that a pet provides to its owner is irreplaceable. Also, studies show health benefits of pet owners such as: a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased amount of minor illnesses, and report fewer visits to the doctor.

Having an energetic animal like a dog is likely to get you and your kids off of the couch. Animals give us a reason to get out of the house and go on a daily walk to get some fresh air. Having a dog actually helps pregnant women stay healthy by motivating them to participate in some sort of activity each day. According to Dr. Sandra McCune, “We are increasingly seeing that exercising with a dog can lead to improved motivation and effectiveness.” Combined with a healthy diet, you are not only improving your health, but you are improving your pet’s health as well.

Interacting with a pet on a daily basis and learning to take care of an animal is an important life experience. The health and development benefits of growing up with a pet in the house are endless. What could be better than raising your child with a loving playmate and companion that is proven to better their development? Look into adding a furry companion to your family today!

Can Your Pet Love You Too Much?

VSSF Admin - Friday, August 10, 2012

One of the greatest pleasures when owning a dog is having “mans best friend” by your side. To have a companion is to have unlimited love and support from one who will never judge or criticize you. Although we all embrace the connection we have with our canine companions, too much attachment can lead to your dog experience separation anxiety. 

Four Main Symptoms

1) Destructive behavior directed toward exits from the home, crates, and other confined areas.

2) Persistent howling and barking in the form of a monotonous sound. This will occur especially while you leave/return to the house.

3) Bowl movement and urination accidents when your dog is left alone or thinks they are left alone.

4) Increased drooling, which may also led to boosted thirst because of dehydration.

These symptoms can occur from a variety of reasons and situations. A change in routine could result in your pooch being very unsettled. Dogs are creatures of habit, so when things change, they become confused. Another possible scenario is if a traumatizing situation, such as a bad thunderstorm, occurs while you are away. If this happens, your pet may associate your absence with the traumatic event. The change of moving can also led to separation anxiety of the unfamiliar. This can be from house to house or if the dog is rescued from a shelter and is being moved into the new home. Treatment involves increasing your dog’s level of independence and reducing the excitement levels that are associated with your departure.

Daily Modifications to Help Your Pooch

  • Start with keeping your dog in a different room than you to get the idea in mind.
  • Ignore any attention demands your dog initiates. Keep in mind this is different than YOU initiating the attention.  
  • Provide plenty of clean water and bedding to ensure a safe, comfortable environment.
  • Plenty of exercise is vital when you are around. This will keep your dogs brain stimulated as well as tire them out for when you leave.
  • Appealing dog toys/treats help pass the time while you are away. (Toys that require work are best!)
  • If you find that these methods are not working for you, contact your veterinarian, as there are FDA approved separation anxiety medications for dogs.

All in all: You are your dogs’ first priority. There’s no argument there. Your dog would probably spend every bit of his life with you if he could. It’s only natural that when you go out your dog experiences varying degrees of distress. This anxiety can last the entire time you are away, all the way up to when you return home hours later. Like any relationship, take precautions to ensure a healthy and happy life for you and your dog. 

Puppies and Chewing

VSSF Admin - Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chewing and nibbling may seem to be cute when you have a new puppy, however when they start leaving bite marks on your furniture (or your arm), it starts to become a little less adorable. Although teething and chewing are expected of any dog, there are ways to curb your dog’s chewing behavior and teach your puppy what is right and wrong chewing etiquette - without scolding them.

For dogs, chewing is a natural habit and is actually beneficial to your dog’s dental health! Teaching your dog when and what to chew is the tricky part. By providing the proper chew toys, you can minimize the amount of destructive chewing from your dog. If the chewing is becoming a constant issue and your dog is damaging many items in your home, you may start to consider that this chewing may be a result of some sort of anxiety. Some dogs get frustrated when they are not given constant attention or may have separation anxiety. In these cases, you must train your dog to be more independent by placing them in a crate or their doggie bed. Lay them on their side and make them feel comfortable and relaxed while you attend to other things around the house. This will teach your dog that they cannot demand attention at all times, which will make them less reliant on you.

If you don’t expect anxiety to be the issue, contact your veterinarian and ask them about a spray to be used on problem items. When you find your pup chewing on a household item, simply spray the object, say, “leave it,” and distract them with toy that they can chew on. If you are persistent and make this a routine, your dog will start following the rules, especially if there is a treat incentive for good listening!

Chewing can become a serious and damaging problem if you are not determined to make a change. There are simple solutions to keeping your dog happy and saving your furniture! 

Preparing for a Move with your Pup

VSSF Admin - Thursday, June 28, 2012

Moving can be a particularly stressful time all on its own, and adding a pet to the mix can really add to the pressure.  Just like arranging for your own move, it takes some time to prepare your pet for the move.  It all starts with the basics of housetraining as a young pup.  It is important to make sure that your dog can rest calmly in a crate for a few hours at a time.  This is an essential trait not only for traveling, but also boarding, medical care, and grooming sessions.  Your dog’s obedience is key when traveling, especially when you are making frequent stops in populated areas.  Their behavior around family and visitors can be a guide as to how they will react at rest stops and around other dogs. 

When choosing your future housing, be aware of who inhabits the surrounding areas like neighboring dogs or loud children that may cause a problem with your pet.  If you are traveling via airplane or train, it is essential to contact your veterinarian to ensure that your dog has the necessary health checks and certificates to guarantee a safe and effortless journey.   It is safest if your dog travels with you rather than having them separately shipped, sometimes this process can really upset your pet.   When preparing for the move it is important to have all of your dog’s necessities within arm’s reach.  Remember the essentials like their leash, collar, food, treats, toys, dishes, medications, paper towels, and plastic trash bags for cleanup. 

The journey to your new location is when prior dog training really comes into play.  To avoid any accidents, give your dog frequent breaks about every two hours for them to stretch and relieve themselves.  Also, monitor your dog’s water and food intake to avoid any accidents during the trip.  Use a crate or leashes at all times during the trip, because there are usually a lot of people, commotion, and distractions at rest stops that could cause your pet to scamper off and potentially be hurt. 

Once you have reached your destination, it is only natural for your dog to sniff and roam around their new territory.  Give them the freedom to inspect the property, just as you have.  Make sure before you let your dog wander around that there are no toxic plants or pesticides from the previous owner that could be harmful to your pet.  Since it will take some time for your dog to become adjusted to his or her new surroundings, try to refresh their memories with simple housetraining rules like where to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. 

By following these simple guidelines you can help transition your pet into your new territory as easily as possible.  This will allow for a less stressful move for both yourself and your dog.  Soon enough you and your pup will adjust and be comfortably situated in your new home!

Pets and Stress Relief

VSSF Admin - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stress is a part of daily life; most people have found a proactive way to deal with or even work under the pressure. For those who own pets, you may not even realize that being in the company of your furry friend is a massive stress relief.

A pet’s playful and loving nature immediately lifts your spirits and their constant need for your attention and unconditional love has a positive effect on a pet owner’s confidence, making them feel important, loved, needed, and most importantly, relaxed. Therefore, it is not a surprise that many therapists tend to keep tiny animals (such as hamsters) in their office because they put children (as well as adults) at ease in an otherwise anxiety prone environment.

Dog owners realize the importance of taking their pet out for a walk, making it a part of their own daily routine. This custom acts as a stress reliever because exercise releases endorphins, our body’s ‘feel good hormone’, which gives us the boost we desperately need, subsequently decreasing ‘stress hormones’ such as cortisol.

While people provide good social support, pets act as a great icebreaker for meeting new people. There is a reason why a majority of romance movies follow the same cliché of having the protagonists meet for the first time in a park where one (or both) is walking a dog. The basic premise behind this is that we appear  more approachable because instead of the daunting task of having to converse with somebody you are meeting for the first time, you can talk to (and through) the furry animal with the loving eyes. Increasing our network of friends also has great stress relief benefits in the long run.

Talk to your vet today about how you can include your pet in daily activities, allowing you to manage your stress even better. Pets are loyal by nature, and most can sense your emotions in times of suffering and pain. Let them take care of you in their own loving ways. 

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