Thunderstorm & Loud Noise Anxiety

thunderWe had quite the thunderstorm last night–lightning, loud booms of thunder, high winds, tornado sirens.  Some people may have slept right through it, but there were many people who woke up to a whining dog, trying to crawl under the bed or break out of their crate.

Fear of thunderstorms in dogs is common and often gets worse as the dog ages.  We don’t  know why some dogs have a fear of thunder or loud noises, but perhaps it really hurts their sensitive ears.  Storms produce electricity in the air, which may be a major factor.  Perhaps the dog feels a generalized static shock as the storm approaches from which they try to escape.  Air pressure changes during storms, too, and dogs’ ears are more sensitive to pressure changes than humans.  It is also possible that their human companions become more fearful or agitated with the impending storm.

If your dog has a loud noise phobia, it is important not to reward the fearful behavior.  If you pet and praise the dog when it is fearful, it will increase the likelihood of that fearful behavior occurring more frequently.  Speaking to the dog in a high-pitched voice, telling him that it is “ok,” and trying to provide comfort by cuddling him or petting him are all “rewards” for the dog.  Instead, you want to only reward your dog when he is behaving calmly, happily, or confidently.  Practice this reward when there isn’t a storm–give yummy treats and verbal praise when your dog is sitting still, not cowering, wagging his tail, and “being happy.”

You can try desensitizing and counterconditioning your noise-fearing pet.  Initially teach your pet “sit-stay” and “down-stay” during a time with no distractions or loud noises.  Use a highly valued reward (treat or toy) that they only get during the training period.  Once your pet responds quickly and consistently to the commands, you should begin training in a variety of locations.  To begin desensitization and counterconditioning, choose a location where your pet feels comfortable and secure.  You will need to have a way to produce the “scary” noise at different intensity levels.  There are several apps available for your phone or other device that would work well.

Initially, expose your pet to a low level of the scary noise.  The intensity of the noise should be just below the threshold where the dog starts to react.  In an upbeat tone, give the dog a command to sit or lie down.  Reward him if he responds without any sign of fear or anxiety.  You want him to associate the positive experience and relaxed state with the noise.  Continue the training, increasing the noise a little at a time.  If your dog starts to become anxious, decrease the intensity of the noise until he can be calm again and ignore him as best you can.  Once he calms down and can be distracted and following his commands, you can give him a reward.  After he is  calm during the greatest intensity of the noise, start training him in other locations.

Desensitization doesn’t always work and can be too time-consuming for some owners.  There are other things that may help.adatil image   Adaptil is a pheromone, or scent, produced by mother dogs that is calming to other dogs.  It comes as a diffuser, which plugs into the wall, which spreads the pheromone through the house.  There is also a spray, which you can spritz on a bandana or towel.  It also comes in a collar form.  For thunderstorm phobias, since the dog knows the storm is coming way before humans do, the diffuser or collar would be the most beneficial.

Some dogs feel more calm when they wear a Thundershirt or can get under the bed covers.  If your dog finds comfort in being held, the Thundershirt would be worth a try.

Some dogs have such high anxiety to loud noises that they need an anti-anxiety medication prior to storms.  These medications can be used “situationally”–only during thunderstorms or around the Fourth of July.  For dogs that have generalized anxiety, in addition to thunderstorm anxiety, giving them behavior-modifying medication daily might be the best option.  If you have questions about your dog’s phobias, please discuss it with your veterinarian!

Vectra raffle!

It is flea, tick, mosquito, and biting fly season (finally!).  We recommend Vectra 3D as our topical preventative against these nasty, irritating parasites.  Vectra 3D is a repellant product–the fleas and ticks don’t need timageso bite the dog in order to die.  It is topical and applied once a month.


The applicator is VERY easy to use and doesn’t drip, unlike some other topical products you may have used in the past.

Vectra 3D also has great deals–if you buy 3 doses, you can get 1 free.  If you buy 6 doses, you get 3 doses free–enough to last you through the flea avectrand tick season.

Best of all, for every 3 doses that you purchase at Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic, you will get 1 ticket to enter into our Betty Lou Cruise raffle.  A gift card worth $240, which will get you 4 tickets for a cruise obettylouf Lake Monona.  What fun!



7/11/14: Congratulations to Brooke (and her dog Ole) for winning the Betty Lou Cruise tickets!
Big thanks to all who participated- we sincerely wish you all could have won!

“Chip Your Pet” month

May is National “Chip Your Pet” month.  What kind of chip, you may ask?  Cow chip?  Potato chip? Does one celebrate this auspicious occasion by tossing Doritos at your dog?  Well, no.

microchip cartoon

“Chip Your Pet” refers to microchips.  Microchips are small (a little bigger than a grain of white rice) devices that are implanted under the skin of an animal, generally between the shoulder blades.  From the website “How Things Work”, a microchip “incorporates several components to help it do its job. First, the glass material that encapsulates the device is biocompatible. That means it’s not toxic and doesn’t hurt the animal’s body, so your pet won’t experience an allergic reaction to the device after implantation. Some versions of the microchip also include a cap made of polypropylene polymer to keep the chip from moving around once it’s inside the animal. The polymer works by encouraging connective tissue to form around the capsule to hold it in place [source: Identipet].  Inside the capsule, you’ll find the actual silicon microchip that holds the important information, as well as a tuning capacitor and an antenna coil. The capacitor receives power and sends it to the microchip. The microchip’s information can then be picked up through the antenna, which is a copper coil.”

Microchips use “passive RFID” — RadioFrequency IDentification.  The chip doesn’t actively transmit information, but the number/letter combination assigned to it is “energized” when a scanner is passed over it. The microchip then sends a radio signal with the identification number to the scanner. This number can then be used to search a database of microchip registrations and, hopefully, reunite the pet with the owner.

microchip chartAt Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic, we use the 24PetWatch Minichip, which is 1/3 the size of regular microchips (so smaller than a grain of rice!)  This allows us to implant the chip using a much smaller needle.  While microchipping in general isn’t very painful, a smaller needle means less discomfort, especially in small dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens.

The cost for a lifetime of protection is nominal (call us for the price!  608-819-6750) and we submit your registration on-line for you!  There are no additional charges, unless you change your address.  If your pet does not have this form of permanent ID, please schedule to have a microchip inserted ASAP!

Why Test for Heartworm Disease?

We have recently come upon the test result universally feared by pet owners and veterinary professionals alike: a positive heartworm test.  This poor pup was adopted from down South, where heartworm disease is much more prevalent, and most likely was infected before her current owners got her.  One bite from a mosquito carrying the larva is all it takes.

You’ve heard us say before that it is overall much, much easier and healthier to prevent heartworm than it is to treat it.  1 pill per month (or even 1 injection every 6 months- ask us about ProHeart!) is all it takes. Doesn’t that sound easier than:

  • at least one course of antibiotics

  • a series of painful injections

  • day-long hospitalizations for observation after the injections

  • strict cage-rest for at least one month after treatment

. . . and this is what is done for a pet in relatively good health who is not symptomatic.

If you give heartworm preventative to a dog with active heartworms, it will start to kill off the adult worms, which can cause a catastrophic embolus of dead heartworms in the bloodstream and/or heart, which can endanger the life of the dog.  This is why we require testing for heartworm disease before administering heartworm preventative.

If you haven’t had your dog in yet this year for his or her heartworm test, now is the time! Mosquitoes are already around, so the threat is already out there!  You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. . .

Here are some great websites where you can learn more about heartworm disease:

Do Indoor-only cats need yearly vaccinations and exams?

There are more pet cats than pet dogs in the United States,  yet the majority of patients seen in most veterinary clinics is dogs.  Why?  Because dog owners bring their dogs in at least yearly to get booster vaccinations and heartworm testing. Dogs also go outside and are more likely to be in contact with fleas, ticks, pollen, parasites, and other dogs.

If indoor cats aren’t exposed to other cats, do they really need to be seen yearly by a veterinarian?  The answer is a resounding YES!

Cats are masters when it comes to hiding pain or illness.  Because they normally sleep a lot, it can be very difficult to tell when they are sleeping more than normal.  Cats can have cavities in their teeth, called “resorptive lesions,” but still continue to eat.  But they may not be as active or playful because of that chronic pain.  Clumpable litter can hide evidence of diarrhea, and weight loss in a fluffy cat can go undetected for months.  Determining if your cat is drinking more water is challenging if they drink from a faucet.  And when is “normal vomiting” not normal anymore?

An annual physical exam is very important to the long-term health of your cat.  Cats age more quickly than we do, so preventive care exams are a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle.  An 8-year-old cat is the equivalent of a 50-year-old person–colonoscopy time, anyone?   During the exam, your vet can often detect conditions early on that can affect your cat’s health so they can be managed or cured before they become painful or more costly.  Your vet should be examining all your cat’s teeth, looking for painful lesions, tartar, and oral cancer.  A history of your cat’s diet, eating behavior, and weight check is important.  Sudden weight loss can indicate serious problems and weight gain needs to be “nipped in the bud” before your cat develops problems related to obesity.

What about vaccinations in indoor-only cats?  That is definitely a topic to talk to your veterinarian about.  Rabies vaccines are required by law, but are also a very good idea.  Bats can get into your house and rabid animals can potentially come down a chimney (have you ever had a squirrel in your house?) or dash through the front door.  Rabies causes wild animals to act abnormally and unexpectedly!  It is also important to keep your cat vaccinated against rabies in case your cat ever scratched or bit someone in your house, like a visitor or small child.  If your cat wasn’t up to date on the rabies vaccine, the situation would be awkward or uncomfortable at best and, at worst, a physician might recommend testing the cat for rabies.  Testing can only occur only fresh brain tissue, which means euthanasia of the cat.  No one wants that!

PCVR or FRVCP vaccines protect against feline parvovirus and upper respiratory disease (calicivirus).  The current recommendations from the American Association of Feline Practitioners is to give a vaccination series as a kitten, boost the vaccine at 1 year of age, and then every 3 years after that.  Some clinicians will stop giving the vaccine in older, inside only cats; that is something to discuss with your personal veterinarian.

Checking a stool sample is also a good idea.  Inside only cats can still get intestinal parasites from digging in potting soil or catching the stray mouse that might find its way into your house.  Taking a fresh fecal sample when you take your kitty in for the exam is the easiest method to check the stool (remember that colonoscopy?  cats don’t like them either!)

So take good care of your cat and visit your friendly veterinarian every year.  Make note of any behavior changes you’ve noted at home and have a list of any questions you want answered.  Prior to the visit, feel free to call for advice on how to get your cat to the vet.  Feliway spray is good for putting in cat carriers to help “calm” the cat on the car ride.  While your cat may not seem happy about the doctor’s visit, you should feel good about doing all you can to help your cat live a long, healthy life.


Flea & Tick Preventatives

Spring is just about upon us!  Once the temps are consistently above 45-50F, the threat of fleas and ticks will soar.  Ticks are generally seen sooner in the year then fleas, so you will want to get some type of preventative on (or in!) your dog in the next couple weeks.

There are a variety of flea and tick preventatives available.  Frontline Plus is the “tried and true” topical product;  generic Frontline (fipronil) can be found in many different places.  Last fall we saw a fair number of dogs and cats using fipronil or Frontline that still had flea problems.   If you buy 3 months of Frontline from your veterinarian for ALL of the pets in your household and are still having flea problems, they will send an exterminator to your house at no charge.

Vectra 3D is another popular topical preventative.  Vectra is also a flea, tick, fly, and mosquito repellant.  Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic stocks Vectra 3D for dogs as our topical preventative.  It does seem to cause more itchiness when applied than we’ve seen for Frontline, but any topical product can cause a skin sensitivity.

There is a new ORAL product for dogs out this year, called Nexgard.  Currently Nexgard is only FDA-approved for preventing one type of tick (the American dog tick), but Merial is working on getting approval for others.  The American dog tick is more difficult to kill than the deer tick, so it seems likely that Nexgard is more effective than the current label claims.  Because it is an oral product, the flea and/or tick does need to bite the dog before it dies.  This would not be the best option for a dog with a flea allergy (as the allergy is to the flea’s saliva).  But it is certainly a great option for dogs with a sensitivity to a topical product or for owners who don’t like applying a topical product to their pet.  Nexgard is given once a month and can be given at the same time as Heartgard or other monthly heartworm preventatives.

There are other products available and the friendly staff at Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic would be happy to help you decide on the best product for your pet.  Please give us a call at (608) 819-6750!

Feline Annual Exam

  We did it!  We are officially a cat-friendly practice (check it out at:!  And we have the distinction of being the only one in our zip code!  We are proud to hopefully use this designation to encourage more and more cat-owners to bring their cats in at least once a year for an exam.

  SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMany people see cats as lower-maintenance than dogs- they don’t have to go outside on walks, they don’t often beg for attention, etc.- and oftentimes this translates to them not being seen by a veterinarian for most of their lives.

    Just as it is in people, the importance of preventative care for pets cannot be overstated.  There are a multitude of issues that Dr. Scarlett can identify during a typical physical exam that an owner may never notice, or that could progress, in the absence of an exam, into a life-threatening illness.  And cats, in particular, are amazingly skilled at hiding illness and injury.

    Think about a dog- constantly rolling on her back for belly rubs, giving kisses, getting ear scratches, shaking paws- there is easy access to most of a dog’s body.  Dog owners can often readily see or feel changes in their dog’s body.  Now think about a cat- does a cat typically want to get belly rubs or give kisses?  Some do, but many appreciate being left alone.

Even before she touches him, Dr. Scarlett can assess a cat with a well-trained eye and start her physical exam: she can see his mentation (is he bright and alert or quiet and uncomfortable), the condition of his fur, his weight and body condition, his gait, and any eye or nasal discharge.  Spending this time observing the cat lets him get used to the new environment of the exam room- the smells, sounds, and sights- before she even touches him.

  Dr. Scarlett then proceeds slowly and calmly to examine his body more closely, looking in his ears, eyes and mouth, listening to his lungs and heart, feeling him all over for lumps and bumps, all the while discussing everything she finds with the owner.  It is a practiced technique perfected to look like just a friendly encounter with a new person.  SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

    If your cat is stressed about going into the carrier to come see us, leave the carrier out and open all the time- try to let your cat make the carrier a safe, cozy place.  Keep it in a calm area, spray it with Feliway (feline pheromone), and put in a comfy blanket and some treats.  This can be the most important part of the trip to the vet- starting off calmly sets up the cat for a calm, pleasant visit.

    The bottom line is, we want to see your cat at least once a year.  We want to find potentials issues before they become life-threatening or cost you thousands of dollars to treat.  We will work with you on a plan to make the visit stress-free for both you and your cat.  Stop in anytime for a free “Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian” pamphlet to help you start down the road to CEVA-Brochurehappy, healthy vet visits!

Grains are NOT evil!

Advocates of raw food diets often implicate the grains and “fillers” in processed, commercial foods as being bad nutrition for pets.  A “filler” is a food ingredient with little or no nutritional value.  This certainly doesn’t apply to corn or other grains.  Corn, oats, rice, barley, wheat, and other grains contain protein, vitamins, and minerals.  Corn provides a lot of needed amino acids and is a highly digestible carbohydrate the body uses for energy.  While cats require a meat-based diet, there is nothing inherently wrong with feeding food that contains some grains.  Pets with allergies MIGHT have a sensitivity to wheat or corn, but it could also be to chicken, lamb, seafood, or beef.  Talk to your veterinarian about trying a “novel protein” diet and see if that helps before trying a raw food diet.

Many people are trying a gluten-free diet, but celiac disease is very rare in dogs and has been reported primarily in Irish Setters.  Pets (and people) with celiac disease react to the proteins (gluten) in wheat, rye, and barley.  The protein in corn gluten does NOT cause GI problems, even in individuals with celiac disease.  If your pet is doing just fine (ie. no vomiting, normal stool, nice coat) on the food you are currently feeding, there is no need to switch to one without corn or grains.

Remember, your veterinarian is your BEST source of nutritional advice, not the sales clerk at a pet store.  What works for one pet may not be optimal for your pet, so sometimes trying different foods is necessary.

Cat Friendly Practice

Cat Friendly

  Everyone knows that we are crazy cat people.  We admit it.  Dr. Scarlett, in particular, loves the felines and has 5 of her own (including Charlie).  Jamie has 2 sweet and lovable kitties, Natasha has the famous Ming Ming and I have recently adopted my very first cat ever, Obi Wan, which has been an adventure for him, as well as for me and my dog!

  We can’t believe that it has taken us this long to apply for Cat Friendly Practice certification through the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), but we finally did.

  It is a process that starts with Dr. Scarlett joining the AAFP (I know, seems like she could RUN it, right??).  Then we had to fill out a checklist of all the ways in which we are cat friendly, including having a cat-specific exam room, using Feliway (a synthetic feline pheromone) in areas where cats are examined or hospitalized, practicing cat-friendly handling and restraint, and demonstrating the staff’s feline knowledge base.

    We sent in our application last week, and though we haven’t heard back yet, we are hoping for a Gold Standard status, which would make us one of only 3 clinics in Madison to have earned this highest rating.

    Being a cat friendly practice isn’t all about just loving cats and wanting to cuddle them all day long.  It is about making each visit as calm, comfortable and stress-free as possible for cats as well as their owners, so that we can see our feline patients at least once every year.

  Why no “Dog Friendly Practice certification” you ask?  Because people generally acknowledge the need for annual examinations and vaccinations for dogs, and dogs are generally pretty happy to come to the vet (they are often more food-motivated than cats and we have yummy treats!)

  Annual physical exams for cats are very important to identify potential illnesses or injuries as early as possible.  Pets benefit from preventative health care just like we do!

  Stay tuned in February for another installment all about the feline physical exam.  It may look like Dr. Scarlett is just petting your cat while making small talk with you, but you’ll be surprised how much she learns from her exam and discussion with you!

To learn more about Cat-Friendly Certification, please go to:

American Association of Feline Practitioners

Raw food diets–are they a good choice?

“Raw” foods: uncooked, unprocessed, organic grains, fruits and vegetables, are advocated for good health.  I think there are a lot of good things to be said about adopting a healthier diet for ourselves.  And certainly we want to feed our pets a healthy diet, too.  Many people recommend feeding raw food–raw meat and bones, to dogs and cats for best health.  But that kind of raw food is NOT the best choice for a number of reasons.  I’d like to go over some of the myths and concerns about raw food diets in the next several articles.

Advocates of a raw meat diet for pets say that the benefits are proven.  This just isn’t true.  There are no scientific studies done that show any benefits of feeding a raw food diet.  You can find testimonials from people who say a raw food diet gave their dog a shiny coat or a small stool because the diets are generally high in fat and digestibility.  But these same properties can be achieved with commercial cooked diets without the risks of raw meat.  It may take some trial and error to find the best commercial food for your dog or cat, including trying both dry and canned, but with all the foods available, there should be at least one that is great for your pet.

Raw meat can easily be contaminated with E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and other bacteria.  These bacteria can cause disease in your dog or cat, yourself, your children, and anyone who might be in contact with your pet or your pet’s food or food bowl.  We all know how sick people can get from contaminated meat and food products.  It is very important to cook meats thoroughly to kill bacteria.  Freezing meat will NOT kill most of these bacteria.

In the next installment, I’ll discuss other myths you might have heard about feeding raw meat.