Vedder Mountain Veterinary Clinic



     Imagine, if you will, a warm, sunny afternoon with you seated on a park bench with your four-legged companion happily romping about sniffing at intriguing objects for a minute or two until he is distracted by the motions of a butterfly then gaily pursuing this new object of interest. For a minute, your attention is diverted and then suddenly, you hear a bone-chilling scream from your pet and you turn to see him pinned to the ground with a snarling, much larger dog hovering over him with his jaw clamped on your terrified dogs neck!

       Not uncommonly, a scary event like this can occur very unexpectedly when a roaming dog seeming to appear out of “nowhere” and starts to cause trouble.    Dogs will show aggressive behavior for a variety of reasons.  Often anxiety, fear or territoriality instincts can be underlying motivations.  Inherited personality traits and environmental factors also significantly influence a dog’s personality. For example, a dog brought up in an abusive or neglected manner can become aggressive since, quite understandably, having experienced many bad experiences in his world and very few good ones, he will tend to assume worst-case scenarios for most of his future life experiences.

         Fortunately, however there are a few measures that you can take to help keep your pet safe from these potentially dangerous individuals.  First and foremost, try to find safe areas for you and your dog to walk and play, away from areas where you may expect dogs to be out running unsupervised and loose. However, this does not mean keeping your pet away from all dogs since all dogs, particularly young ones, significantly benefit from socialization with other dogs.

     Young dogs need to learn the body language of other dogs as well as human body language to coexist with dogs and humans and feel worthwhile, confident and secure in their daily life experiences. For example, your pup needs to learn that growling and baring of teeth, staring, snarling and lip lifting are all clear signals by another dog of these individuals drawing a line in the sand that he best not cross. 

       It also pays for you, as well as your pet, to learn to interpret correctly that a dog approaching with his body curved is usually communicating that he is not interested in an attack, while one approaching with a straight and stiff body with or without his hackles raised, is a sign of attack-mode intentions. A relaxed, loping gait generally means a curious and playful dog while an even, beeline run towards the two of you means be very wary!

        Early training of your pup to teach him or her to return immediately to your side in response to your voice command or to the sound of a clicker can be a very useful safety measure to make use of if you sense that a dangerous situation may be unfolding. In the event of a challenge by a loose dog, it is very important to keep yourself very calm, standing tall and still and with your dog close at your side, ideally seated, with the both of you facing the dog. Since the aggressor is generally more interested in your dog as a target rather than you are, it is important to keep your dog calm and still.   Often, basic commands such as “GO HOME”, or DOWN or “GO AWAY” spoken in an authoritative tone will be all that is needed to cause him to slink down and retreat.   Even if this is the case do not turn your back to him or he may seize the opportunity and return to attack. 

         Often pebbles are handy on the ground to pick up and throw at the dog to scare him off.  Also, if you have come prepared for your outing, an umbrella that opens quickly and easily in your hand can be very useful tool to shield you both from the other dog. Another useful aid is a squirt bottle containing water, a water and vinegar mix, or a commercial dog repellent spray.  Again, as mentioned above, do not turn your back to the retreating dog but back away slowly until you are out of his immediate range to avoid him returning for another attack attempt. Also be very careful about using pepper spray or mace since if you are downwind, the spray may affect you and your pet way much more than the challenging dog.

         If the aggressive dog is actually locked onto your pet, a cloth coat thrown over his head may be confusing or scary enough to cause him to let go and retreat. Another very useful method to separate the two animals is to grab his back legs and elevate them into the air while you step back, pulling him away from your pet.

          Vets are accustomed to dealing with the challenges of healing injured pets that have sustained dogfight injuries.  Hidden damage to torn or compressed tissues or body organs is the rule rather than the exception.  Sometimes vital organs such as the liver, spleen, lungs or intestines are damaged very severely, and even if this isn’t the case, the infection rate occurrence is very high from bite wounds.   Further, even if a dog attack victim is not seriously injured it can develop phobias or other temperament problems resulting in him becoming defensive or very fearful about all dogs in general. 

        If your neighborhood has a problem with roaming dogs it is best to involve the animal control authorities in your area. It is important to keep in mind that loose dogs are in danger too since unsupervised dogs can be accidentally hit by vehicles, or injured in other ways while running at large.  So you are acting in their best interests by stopping their roaming activities.


  Please note: 

Internet access to some notes by Kathy Diamond Davis, an author and trainer has been a helpful source of some of the information for this article.   (Veterinary Partner, published 11/15/2004)



      TO SPRAY:  to atomize, drizzle, dust, scatter, shoot, shower, smear, spatter, splash, spritz, squirt, throw around . ( These  synonyms  are from a  GOOGLE SEARCH :  Thesaurus com/browse).

       Spraying behavior is a communication system of cats, a kind of twitter post to other resident felines providing important information from the cat’s point of view about his or her gender, territorial rights and claim for social status.  The spray message also can be a notice of availability for those cats wishing to attract members of the opposite sex.

     Spraying of urine, also known as marking, is an activity which starts with the cat backing up to a socially significant surface such as a wall, couch, bed, a pile of laundry or an owner’s personal possession.  It then vibrates or flags his or her tail while ejecting a horizontal stream of very pungent, pheromone-rich urine to anoint the chosen area.

          Spraying is a normal feline behavior and not generally a litter box problem. The cat does not need to pee, for peeing’s sake, but is experiencing a desire to leave a  “ pee-mail” message for other cats.  Intact male cats are the most likely to spritz urine although neutered and un-neutered cats of all ages are capable of doing so.      

     Frustrated or anxious cats may spray because of changes in their environment or routine. As well, anxiety brought on from being picked on by “ he or she who must be obeyed cat types or playful dogs can bring on episodes of this behavior. Disruption of their previously established social status due to an introduction of a new cat or family member may also be a trigger, Cats disturbed by these issues probably urine mark to create a familiar scent around them, thus decreasing some of their anxiety.

     In mult-cat households, especially if the living space is cramped, territorial disputes and conflicts are much more likely to occur. In many cases if one ensures that that there are adequate numbers of food bowls, resting places and litter boxes for each cat their will be a noticeable reduction in the number of spraying episodes. A good litter box formula is to have one box per cat plus one extra box.  Litter boxes themselves should always be well tended, spaced out from each other and attractive to each cat.  Features of importance include cleanliness, litter depth, (optimally three to four inches deep in litter), type of litter and size of litter box. (Bigger is definitely better!). Studies show that many cats prefer unscented clumping materials to scented or clay litter products.  Litter boxes should be easily accessible, placed in quiet locations and where the cats spend most of their time.

    Time spent in positive interactions such as brushing and game playing with your cat is time well spent. It provides a positive bonding experience for both parties.   Punishment should always be avoided as it can increase anxiety and create the potential increase of unwanted spraying behavior.  

    Some factors outside the control of an owner such as the presence of neighborhood cats or squirrels can trigger marking behavior.   Blocking off of windows and glass patio doors from the cats view may help with this problem

   To keep cats out of certain areas there is a product called a ScatMat. The ScatMat responds to your pet's touch with a mild, harmless static pulse. Pets soon learn which areas to keep away from.

     Anti-Icky-Poo (1-800-745-1671) or Nature’s Miracle are good urine cleansers. If there are only a few target spots then one can attempt to make those areas less attractive by covering them with aluminum foil, by placing upside down plastic runners  (nubs up) as obstacles or by placing potpourri at the marking sites.  In a pinch, even vinegar helps but do be sure to avoid ammonia since the ammonia smell of urine is what encourages the cat to return to the same place repeatedly to supplement the scent!

    If it becomes apparent that these measures are ineffective it is very useful to have the offender checked by your vet for some underlying medical causes.  These can range from bladder disorders to metabolic diseases to aging changes resulting in marking as a display of irritability by older cats.   Numerous effective medications are available to help with the great majority of these problems.

       MEDICAL LASER THERAPY…Safe, Effective and Cost-Efficient! 



      A common reaction experienced by people when first introduced to the concept of medical laser therapy is skepticism. I was certainly one of these skeptics when I first read about this medical modality. To me, it sounded rather  “hokey” and “out there” but the more I researched the topic the more I became interested in learning even more about them.

     Eventually, in fact, I became so convinced that I decided a few months ago to acquire a Class 1V therapy laser, and since then both my staff as well as myself have been very gratified and encouraged by the results so far.


      Therapy lasers are a separate type of laser from CO2 surgical lasers and cosmetic lasers.     In basic terms they are technologically advanced machines that use focused near infrared light to penetrate into the body to target specific areas of disturbed body tissues resulting in very positive benefits to the unhealthy tissue. The result of this therapy is to assist these tissues to return to their normal function safely and much faster than they would have in normal innate healing processes.  


       Laser therapy helps relieves pain, decrease inflammation and increase new blood vessel growth.  It also stimulates the immune system.  All of these benefits add up to accelerated healing and a more rapid return to normal function.


     Other healthful and practical advantages include no requirement for sedation or anesthesia, relatively brief treatment times and often this therapeutic modality can allow for the reduction of dosage of other medications decreasing the risk potential to a patient of unwanted drug side effects. 


     Laser therapy is very safe.  In essence, the procedure energizes sub optimally functioning cells, leaving optimally functioning healthy cells unaffected.  In other words, phototherapy, or photobiostimulation as it is sometimes called, stimulates only unhealthy tissues.



     At this point you may be wondering how much information is available on the credibility of this treatment modality?  My personal research has convinced me that it is good, evidence-based medicine.  Therapeutic effects have been studies for almost 40 years with thousands of paper having been written on this subject.  (For those of you who wish to do their own research on the topic, a great Internet source is (Search for therapy lasers or L.L.L.T referring to low level light therapy). Of course, it is not to be construed as a cure-all modality, but certainly can be considered a very useful adjunct to other methods of pain and healing management. 


     Animals suffering from conditions such as arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, cystitis, pancreatitis, non-healing fractures,” hot spots”, asthma, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, wounds and ear disease, are all proven to benefit from medical laser therapy.  In general, it is a common consensus that 70 to 80% of patients have a positive response to therapy laser treatments. 


     As I pointed out earlier, abundant research involving humans as well as animals continues to indicate the efficacy and safety of this evolving science. The majority of providers of higher-powered therapy laser machines have them equipped with protocol software that is upgraded over time allowing for optimum treatment success of various disease conditions.   Numerous reputable suppliers also provide online courses to allow clinicians to stay abreast of new developments worldwide. Additionally, these suppliers also provide excellent service and are diligent about ensuring safety of operation of these machines including eye protection of the operators, pets, and attending clients if they wish to be in the laser area with their pets.



   I personally am feeling very satisfied with my decision to plunge into this exciting technology feet first. .   Expect some updates from me from time to time as my knowledge and experience with this medical modality continues to expand.



     Tails are wonderfully expressive body parts put to a great array of uses by the many creatures blessed with them. These uses can widely vary, from enabling elaborate courting displays, as is the case of many birds, to serving a role as visual decoys, equipped with imitation “eyes” to create more favorable odds for survival, as is the case with some species of fish; and, even further, to a much more down-to-earth function as a handy dandy fly swatter for many hoofed creatures. 


     Most tails of mammals have a clearly defined shape or color boundary such as a darker, lighter or different colored tip.  Many tails sport a lighter underside.  These variations are helpful to species of the same kind to identify gender and to provide courtship cues.


    Tail function vocabulary is quite complex in the animal world.  A rather surprising finding from recent research indicates that in dogs there is a consistency to what is being messaged by a wagging tail.  In particular, recent research indicates that tail movement, position and even direction of wag are often very significant, acting as an indicator of a dog’s feelings at the time. These emotions may range from feelings of happiness and friendliness to insecurity and  anxiety or intense fear. Of course, within any dog population, there will be some individuals who present mixed messages such as a wagging tail along with other subtle body language cues that precede an aggressive action.  This behavior is most often associated with intense insecurity and often is hard to read. Fortunately, much more commonly, anxious dogs present an unmistakable message of this emotion with a tucked tail posture, often accompanied by a low growl, which would indicate to another dog as well as a person a warning of their fearfulness and readiness to bite.


    According to reliable research studies, (please see below for reference credits) the position of a tail in relation to a dog’s body, speed of the wag and sweep of the wag can communicate generally consistent information to the observer Apparently, when dogs feel positive about something or someone their tails wag more to the right side of their rear ends and when they have negative feelings their tail wagging is biased to their left.    Also the breadth of the tail wag arc means something as well.  For example, a slight wag indicates tentativeness while a broad wag indicates friendliness and happiness. Further, a slow wag at a half-mast position is less social and indicates insecurity while tiny high-speed vibrations are an active threat, especially if the tail is held stiffly high.


     Of course, as with people with different accents, different breeds have tail anatomy variations resulting in differences of normal tail carriage so these need to be taken into account when interpreting a dog’s tail language. For example the natural low-slung tail carriage of Whippets contrasts with the nearly vertical carriage of many terriers and Beagles. Also, some tails are stubby, some tightly coiled like a corkscrew and some are kinked, making tail language a little more difficult to translate.


    The tail message of a tail-wagging cat is, for the most part, almost the opposite of the tail message of a tail-wagging dog. When a cat flicks or lashes its tail he or she is most definitely not happy.  In fact, as a general rule, it best to back off at the flicking stage because the intensity of his or her emotions can escalate to violent action in a surprisingly short period of time!     A cat that is thumping his tail is very frustrated as will often be seen when a cat is chattering at a bird just out of reach.


     Tail disorders are fairly frequent reasons to require the attention of a vet. One relatively common medical condition is called “swimmers tail, also known as limber tail, or cold tail.  Dogs equipped with very thick, long, and muscular tails like labs and duck-hunting retrievers who use their tail as a rudder when splashing about in the water are particularly prone to develop this painful condition.  A dog presenting with “swimmer’s tail” generally won’t wag his tail, instead preferring to allow it to hang straight down. When his tail is lifted the dog will often express a lot of pain. X-rays are generally recommended to help to rule out tail fractures and other causes of an abnormal tail carriage.   Rest and anti-inflammatory medications for a few days are common and effective treatments for “swimmer’s tail “.


      Split Tail tip injuries can be particularly challenging for vets since tails are often difficult to securely bandage. These are often slow to heal and can be messy, especially for dogs with very muscular tails since a strong tail wag force can create a shower of blood all over a house. In some cases, veterinarians will secure a dog’s injured tail temporarily to one of his hind legs to avoid tail motion.

Again, acupuncture or laser therapies are also medical considerations in some select cases. There are anti-tail wag harnesses available for the very difficult cases. In very severe, untreatable cases, amputation of the tail at a length suitable to treat the condition is a last resort option.


      Another common tail problem affecting cats are well as dogs are wounds sustained during a battle over territory, food or self-defense. Cats seem more prone that dogs to develop tail abscesses from tail wound bites. Also, cats get their tails pulled or broken through an assortment of traumas.  For example, a child might pull a tail or a tail might get caught in a closing door. Also, of course, automobile accidents can easily lead to dislocated or broken tails.  It is important to be aware that a tail break doesn’t always involve an obvious external wound therefore x-rays are routinely advised. 


     Tail-sucking behavior, which is basically excessive licking and/or chewing of the tail, can occur in dogs as well as cats.  Like thumb-sucking children, it often, but not always, has an underlying emotional cause, with the tail-sucking act helping to soothe the disturbed animal. The act occurs more frequently when the pet is experiencing tumultuous emotions.  It may even be started just as a playful chase- the- tail pastime and then eventually become more and more of an entrenched habit over time.  It can lead to tissue changes of the tail so this behavior is not considered to be harmless, instead it is considered to be a medical condition requiring diagnostics to determine if there is a physical cause then appropriate medical or surgical treatments.  In some cases Laser or acupuncture therapies are effective


    A similar condition that can affect cats is “RATS”, or Restless Angry Tail Syndrome. This is a very perplexing condition where the cat seems to get “mad at his tail” rather than just playful with it.  With this condition a cat may keep his tail moving back and forth endlessly never stopping its motion whether the cat is happy, angry, eating and sometimes even when sleeping. For those cats that carry this behavior to the extreme, even causing mutilation of their tails, mood-modifying medications or medications that treat nerve-based pain can be effective.  Generally these medications are required to be administered on a long-term basis. Therapeutic laser therapy or acupuncture may be effective as well,      

       Finally, wrapping up this brief discussion, it is worth noting that tail tumors and cysts are not uncommon in pets as well.  Depending on the type of tumor or cyst treatments differ, but generally require some form of surgical excision of the abnormal tissue.


       So, I will end this brief discussion (pun-intended) with the hope that, the next time you see a strange dog approaching you at a fairly rapid pace, you will have time to read his tail language and react appropriately to his message as either a friend or foe! 




Reference Credits:

Giorgio Vallortigara a neuroscientist at the University of Trieste it Italy and two vets Angelo Quaranta and Marcello Siscalchi at the University of Bari published a paper in the journal Current Biology.


Modern dog magazine summer 2012. By Stanley Coren 



Laterality. March 2011;16(2):129-35.

K A Artelle1; L K Dumoulin; T E Reimchen

1University of Victoria, BC, Canada.




Euthanasia :   Greek translation “eu” =goodly or well 



     Dr. Leslie Ross, D.V.M. B.Sc.



             While I was in the process of planning the format and content of this article I soon realized that I would need to change my plan of a detached academic approach to a more personal discussion because the process of euthanasia is a personal and unique experience for all parties involved including the grieving family members, the participating veterinarian and in many cases associated animal care assistants. Therefore, I wish to acknowledge that I will be expressing my own views regarding this very emotional experience and presenting my own opinions, which I am comfortable to admit, may not match with some other pet owner’s views.  

     The procedure of pet euthanasia applies specifically to a veterinarian inducing the death of a pet with a lethal injection to a patient who is suffering unrelievably. The personal experience of pet euthanasia is almost invariably a difficult issue for people to confront and often involves a flood of emotions including fear, guilt, and grief yet, it is a necessary experience we must all be ready to face whenever we make a lifetime commitment to a companion animal.


     Although it can never be an uncomplicated experience to undergo, if one is as informed and prepared as possible it can make it a little easier to deal with the experience when the time finally arrives.  This can be accomplished by talking to all involved family members and your veterinarian about the process long before the time actually is upon you. These discussions should involve the making of key decisions ahead of time regarding final proceedings such as when, where, and how they will proceed.   Even if these decisions are changed at the time of action, it allows for a calmer, often more rational choice while your pet is still with you rather than having to make them in the middle of a crisis where snap decisions may be regretted later. 

 Of all the decisions that need to be taken into consideration regarding euthanasia, most frequently the hardest one to make is when to accept that it is time. Of course, there is no one correct answer to this very difficult question since it is so much an individual and personal decision to make.  However common signs of prolonged, severe unrelenting suffering and pain can alert caregivers wrestling with this problem to consider euthanasia as the final act of kindness. Some questions caregivers can ask themselves are:  has he or she stopped eating, drinking or is he panting almost continuously, pacing endlessly, whining anxiously or crying especially at night? How about his overall daily existence? Is he or she enjoying any part of his day-to-day experience or are his good days rare or even absent?


   Of course for any signs of serious health concerns such as the above and also such as falling, seizures, urinary or fecal incontinence, obsessive foreleg licking or licking of open non-healing sores, it is best to consult with your veterinarian to benefit from his or her professional guidance. Your veterinarian is an informed source of medical knowledge about disease and organ failure and is best able to assess and assist you from a wider perspective. In a considerable number of cases, the signs of illness mentioned above may be treatable and if treatments are implemented may significantly improve a suffering pet’s quality of life. The assumption that these signs are common and expected as signs of “getting old” can in fact miss the opportunity to alleviate some health problems resulting in a sustained improvement of a pet’s quality of life.   A good example of a common problem in older dogs is anxiety. It is important to note that prolonged anxiety is a form of emotional pain that can be worse than any physical pain in animals. A common cause in older animals is arthritic pain.  Currently there are many safe and effective medications available to treat pets suffering from degenerative joint disease allowing for a much more comfortable and active lifestyle for them in their twilight years.

      For many people, some additional preparatory steps prior to decision day and to make the day a little less stressful include:

Understanding how the procedure of euthanasia is actually performed. Your veterinarian can explain this to you in simple or more complex terms depending on your needs.                                                                    

 Deciding ahead of time whether your family members wish to be present in the room with your pet as your veterinarian performs this procedure, in the waiting room to view your pet later, or perhaps not present at all.    

 3) Another consideration may be directed towards the thought of arranging for a   housecall visit so that your pet can pass away in his familiar surroundings that he has come to know so well.


      Still other questions to ask yourself and other involved parties include the discussion of aftercare of your pet’s remains.  Options include burial, cremation, home burial (of course municipal restrictions must be adhered to with this option) and even orchestrated elaborate funerals, which may include a eulogy, ceremony and hymns. Additionally, many people may wish to acquire treasured keepsakes from their pet such as paw prints, nose prints or snippets of a beloved pet’s hair.




In general, unfortunately, a pet does not “let you know” when you need to let him or her go because an animal’s nature is to accept pain and suffering as it comes. Of course, if Mother Nature has her way, suffering animals detach themselves from their world by retreating to a “safe “resting place and suspend themselves from the daily activities necessary to maintain their life but unfortunately, this process of dying is generally protracted and at times, dreadfully painful.  Animals very rarely die peacefully in their sleep during their shutdown of body systems. Of course, for wild creatures, Mother Nature often mercifully provides the release of suffering much faster for these animals, generally by predators or the elements.


    On occasion, for religious, cultural or personal reasons some people prefer to not end their pet’s life but rather to allow for a peaceful passing at home.  It is very important that these animals be provided with pain management and veterinary supervision as well as intensive nursing and hygiene care until the final active stage of dying occurs.


   When a pet’s life declines to a very low point, a gift of rest by euthanasia may be the last act of compassion that can be offered by a loving caregiver, as difficult as it will be to say goodbye. In my experience I have found it useful to suggest as a visual aid, a diary of sorts, using colored marbles in a jar. A certain color can represent a good day and an opposing color a poor-quality day (or night).  When the number of bad- day marbles out numbers the good- day marbles, it is time.

     As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the process of euthanasia is one that is a personal and unique experience for all involved parties, which includes as a group the grieving family members, all involved animal care assistants, and the participating veterinarian. Every situation is different, involving in many cases intense emotions.


     Veterinarians, as a group, along with the intensity of the euthanasia experience itself, must form and be guided by personal decisions regarding certain aspects of euthanasia. These personal decisions are based on past experiences, upbringing and personality factors as well as individual circumstances. Convenience euthanasia’s and euthanasia of aggressive animals are two examples of difficult circumstances requiring individual decisions. Further, even opinions such as, for example, whether young children should observe euthanasia’s are open to debate even within the veterinary profession.  Although there can be a few exceptions to my own customary views, I am in general opposed to convenience euthanasia’s but in support of euthanasia of aggressive animals that for no apparent health or other reason cause physical harm to humans or other animals. I also, for the most part do not encourage the attendance of young children in the euthanasia room or, of them seeing the deceased pet afterwards. The main reason I have for this is that if the euthanasia is not extremely smooth the child might be more upset the next time when another pet is declining in health and experience additional emotional stress due to this previously negative experience.

      I am in favor of being very honest with children of all ages.  I have found that kids are often capable of accepting death quite well, especially when they are led to understand that they don’t want their friend to be forever sick and in unrelenting pain. I also believe it is important to not describe euthanasia to children as “putting him to sleep” since this can invoke in sensitive young children a parallel fear of their own sleeping behavior.

     From a strictly emotional standpoint, and one that is essentially universal amongst veterinarians, some euthanasia experiences are much more stressful than others, especially over festive holiday times.  In my own experience, I find that euthanizing old pets owned by very old, single caregivers to be quite difficult. (I tend to watch them driving away with tear-streaked faces and imagine them heading back to an very quiet home with no tail wagging welcome to be experienced.) Also stressful for veterinarians and involved staff-members is euthanasia of long-time patients or pets that they may have formed a strong bond with over the years, to the extent that they themselves need to grieve, talk out their feelings, and on some occasions, get additional professional support.  

     The euthanasia process for all involved parties is one of intense emotions for all. I find without exception my own sub-conscious coping mechanism is to take a big breath entering a euthanasia room and to release a big sigh after the act is completed.  I sincerely hope it will never get any easier for me as more years pass by. 




Note:  an excellent website that I would like to reference for interested readers wishing to know more about this subject is:


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