common pet ISSUES - chewing, housebreaking, post op:


Chewing and Destructive Behavior

Chewing and Destructive Behavior

Chewing and Destructive Behavior

By Sabra St.Germain,DVM

1. Dogs normally go through an oral stage, like teething, at 3 months of age and again at 6 months. It is natural and normal for them to do this. Provide safe chew toys that are different than the objects you want the dog to avoid. For example, do not use an old shoe for a chew toy. The dog cannot tell the difference between new shoes and old shoes.

2. Don’t play “tug of war” games. This type of game orients the dog to oral play and will reinforce the 

biting and chewing behavior.

3. Feed multiple times a day so the pup or older dog has some oral stimulation that is OK. Feeding only once a day leaves the dog with an empty stomach for many hours, 

this invites chewing.

4. Very common is eating or chewing articles that belong to the owner. This usually occurs when the dog is left alone. Don’t handle commonly chewed things in front of the pet if you can help it. Seeing you handle these items makes the pet want to chew them more. If you are home and notice the pet chewing on forbidden items, toss an empty pop can full of coins on the floor near the pet to startle it or use some other startle response ( clapping hands loudly, shouting, smacking the wall with a newspaper, water pistol, air gun, etc.) NEVER STRIKE THE PET The human hand should not be seen as the enemy.. Don’t speak to the dog during the correction. We want to de-personalize the behavior to get attention from the owner.

5. Tone down your emotions with the pet. Over indulgence in emotions makes a pet so dependent on you that when you are gone a LOT of pent up tension is created. Keep petting sessions short, make the pet “sit” or do something to please you before lavishing love, praise, or petting on the dog. It is a well known fact that dogs give the most love to the person they respect, not the person who is kindest to them.

6. When getting ready to leave the house, you may notice your dog getting more and more anxious as you go through the ritual of jangling keys, getting your coat, closing doors, switching off lights, etc. To de-fuse this situation, try just taking 5 minutes to sit down in the place the dog will occupy in your absence. Read the paper, watch TV, ignore the dog, just gather your thoughts for the day’s activities. This sets a calm, unconcerned prelude to departure. Do not even make eye contact with the dog, then get up and leave without any words or ceremony.

7. Plenty of exercise and playtime relaxes a dog. Remember that dogs should play or exercise until they are panting with effort. They need “aerobics” just as we dog.

8. After coming home, don’t make a big fuss to greet your pet. Say “Hi” and then go about your business for 5 minutes. THEN you may want to ask the dog to come to you and sit and give it a treat or a nice hello with petting. Do this in an area away from the door you entered. This avoids too much emotion in the 

area of your homecoming.

9. NEVER punish the dog after finding chewed up or destroyed articles. It may make you furious to find these things, but try not to take it out on your pet. It is too late to do any good by punishing the pet for destructive behavior, makes tension levels higher, and that makes the pet more prone to destruction.

10. Obedience training is an excellent exercise for you and your pet. It reinforces good behavior and teaches the pet that it can get attention from the owner 

in positive ways.

11. Pica(ingestion of non-food items) is most often not caused by disease although persistent cases should have a GI, kidney and liver workup as it can be associated with anemia or other medical problems. The workup should include a 

thorough investigation

for parasites, especially tape worms. Remember, dogs and cats having fleas often have tapeworms. Tapeworms come from the cat or dog eating the flea as they groom themselves. The cyst form of the tapeworm is released from the flea’s body as the flea is digested and the dog or cat becomes infested.

12. Administration of psychoactive drugs can help modify behavior. Clomipramine 1 mg/kg q 24 hours, a trycyclic antidepressant and serotonin uptake inhibitor. Also, Cyproheptadine for cats, 4 mg/cat q 24 hours. It is an appetite stimulant and a serotonin antagonist.

13. When no pathological cause for pica is found (malnourishment, hunger, vitamin deficiency, parasites or disease) then:

a. limit access to non food items to prevent ingestion

b. find a safe substitute that the animal can ingest with impunity, maybe a high-fiber diet 

fed more often.

c. Treat commonly ingested non-food items with bitter apple spray, underarm deodorant spray(without chlorhexidine) or some such bitter tasting or pungent tasting substance.


Housebreaking Puppies and Dogs

Chewing and Destructive Behavior

Chewing and Destructive Behavior

 By Sabra St.Germain,DVM 


Housebreaking Puppies and Dogs

The success of housebreaking depends on your patience and your ability to catch the puppy or dog in the act of soiling. Dogs do NOT learn by pushing their noses in the poop or pee, or by scolding them near the poop or pee. They will look guilty but that is only because they associate the presence of the stool or urine with the act of the owner scolding. They don’t get it that they shouldn’t have gone there in the first place. If you have a puppy, try to keep him or her in a play pen or enclosed area until he or she learns where to poop. If the puppy soils a rug the smell will be there FOREVER signaling that that is an ok toilet area. There are enzyme cleaners on the market like Nature’s Miracle that might help get rid of the odor but dog’s noses are so sensitive that usually its not going to eliminate it 100%.If you catch the pup in the act of soiling in a not OK place, try to startle it by a loud noise, hands clapping, whistle, or something and scoop the pup up and immediately take it outside, or to the pee pad,  then praise for going in 

the good place. 

You can put some urine or stool on puppy pads and lay them around the kitchen or bathroom, observe the puppy and when it goes to the pad to urinate or defecate, praise, praise, praise. If you want the puppy to learn to go outside, take him or her out about 15 min after eating, after vigorous playing, after about any activity. Be sure to allow enough time for the pup to sniff around and find a place. You may want to take some puppy pee and poo out to the yard and plant it in a couple places you want the pup to go so the pup will smell those as the toilet area. You need to wait at least 20 min before bringing pup back in the house. When they finally do go, praise, praise, praise. Lots of folks complain that they took the pup out, it did nothing and then it came back in and almost immediately did its business. Didn’t wait long enough!. Puppies can hold their urine for about 2 hours past the months in age they are so a 4 month old pup can hold urine for about 6 hours. 2 month old pup for 4 hours,etc. It is very important to have the puppy in a playpen area when you cannot observe him or her. Otherwise they will poop and pee all over your home and those places will call out to them for the rest of the time they are there 

as the “toilet area”. 

Don’t expect housebreaking to be completed til pup is at least 4 months old. Patience, kindness, praise will do a better job and faster job than scolding. I used to charge to housebreak dogs before I became a doctor. I tied the dog’s leash to my waist and walked around with it all day. My hands would be free to do chores and answer the phone and that way I could be right there to observe when the dog became antsy and wanted to go. I would notice that and take it out right away and praise it. Worked great. 


Post Op

Chewing and Destructive Behavior

Post Op

  By Sabra St.Germain,DVM  

Though many pets are fine after surgery without an Elizabethan collar, we recommend one. We are not responsible if your pet chews its stitches out after surgery if you decline it. Please let us know if pet is licking or chewing at surgery site excessively after surgery. Your pet may not feel well the day of surgery. Small meals are best. Vomiting once or twice is pretty normal. Excessive vomiting is not. Pets that seem extremely lethargic or have drainage or swelling around the incision area should be seen by the doctor. Pets should not be bathed for 10 days after surgery and should rest and not climb stairs for 5 days after surgery. We usually use absorbable suture but if non absorbable suture was used, stitches come out in 10-14 days. Cats that have had declaws need special litter for 10 days 

after surgery.