Vedder Mountain Veterinary Clinic







                                  “A Barking Dog Never Bites” 



                 For English-speaking folks, it is common to imitate a large dog’s bark phonetically as a “woof”, and for smaller dogs; “ruff, arf, yip yelp, aur, au and more rarely, bow wow”.  Wolves, foxes and numerous other related species can bark.  Even parrots can be taught to bark.


         Interpreted literally, the expression “a barking dog never bites” supplies little consolation for many folks, dog-lovers or not, who happen to be within acoustic range of a raucous dog.

        Along with being undeniably annoying, prolonged, high-decibel barking can cause psychological distress and sometimes permanent hearing damage to humans and other pets within hearing range.


     Many dogs are capable of barking at a sound intensity level in the 100-decibel range. In rough comparison, starting at 0 as a baseline, 80 dB s a person shouting loudly and about 110 dB is a pneumatic drill nearby. A dog barking from four feet way can be as loud as 95 decibels.  If the dog is closer up, the number could be much higher; two dogs barking together, higher yet! 


      According to the March 2013 edition of THE INDEPENDENT, Charlie, a six-year-old Golden Retriever has made the Guinness book of records for the loudest ever recorded bark at 113.1 decibels, This noise level approximates that of a loud rock concert!  According to the owners, very fortunately, Charlie uses considerable discretion when he chooses to bark.


    According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) noises louder than 85 decibels can cause people to suffer hearing damage leading to hearing loss or persistent ringing of the ears (tinnitus).   Furthermore, widespread noise control bylaws make it unlawful for a dog owner to allow a dog to bark or howl to the annoyance of neighbors or the public. For these reasons it follows that dog-owners must accept the responsibility that comes with owning a dog and control any objectionable barking behavior that their dog may have.



  Easier said than done of course!   There is no canned solution since the causes of undesirable barking behavior of dogs vary widely with the individual dog and his or her environment.   The key is to figure out the reason WHY a dog barks.



    Below, I will outline some solutions that are often effective for most but not all problem-barkers. For dogs that do not respond to these measures, professional trainers and veterinarians generally need to be involved.   In fact, it is best to have a problem-barker examined by your veterinarian in any case since the dog may have an underlying medical condition that is adding to the problem.  For example, as dogs age sensory decline, particularly of their sense of hearing, cognitive decline or pain from degenerative joint disease can all lead to more vocalization. 


     Healthy dogs have been known to bark for hours on end.  Common reasons for strident, prolonged barking include an emotional state of anxiety or outright fear, attention seeking, (often from boredom), and frustration. Many dogs are triggered to bark when they hear other dogs barking.  Since dogs are social animals, trying to be with other dogs, i.e. the neighbor’s dog across the street can also be a trigger. 


    Many kinds of inappropriate barking behavior can be eliminated in an inexpensive way with basic training techniques that anyone with a generous amount of patience and time can apply.  Perhaps the most difficult part is determining the barking trigger or triggers for the problem dog.    Observations need to be made on when the barking occurs, what triggers the bark, what the dog’s body language is when he barks and whether the barking occurs when one is absent. Videotaping him during your absence will answer this last question if, of course, the neighbors don’t provide this information to you first!

     Once these barking triggers are determined, then when the dog responds more appropriately to these triggers, favorite treats can be provided.   Then eventually, for example, the dog can be trained to lie quietly on a mat, or to respond to a hand or clicker signal as a “quiet” cue rather than bolting to the door and barking every time he hears a pin drop.  



     If a quicker fix is desired or if these training measures are unsuccessful, then there are collars of different types available that are designed to control problem barking. One type that is quite humane is the citronella collar which when activated by a bark directs a spritz of citronella oil at the dog’s muzzle.  In general, these collars are quite effective however, some inventive dogs will learn how to still bark yet avoid the spray by directing their snouts skyward when they bark!  It is also important to be aware that the citronella spray can be caught up in the furry mane of Pomeranians and other longer haired dogs and lose its efficacy. (Clipping of this interfering hair is a simple remedy).    Two more downsides are that citronella oil has an odor that some people find offensive and it can stain some upholstery.  Still, all in all, these collars can be effective and are worth thoughtful consideration. 


    Other types of collars such as electric (shock), ultrasonic and vibration collars and various combinations of these are also available. Downsides include that they don’t work on all  highly bark-motivated dogs, and also that “breakthrough bark” can occur if there is not ongoing consistency and maintenance of these collars. They are particularly useful for “distance barkers” who bark some distance away from the owner.  Of course, it is very important to have a fail-safe mechanism for these kinds of collars to cause the unit to shut itself off after a set period of time to avoid sustained shocking of the poor dog.   Many people and animal rights groups are opposed to the use of these collars, particularly the shock collars. However, most Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are in agreement that as a last resort, it is better solution than euthanasia for highly motivated barkers.

     Sometimes simply managing a dog’s environment to reduce his exposure to his triggers can result in a very satisfactory outcome.   For example, when visitors first arrive, one might move him to another room or put him in his crate, pick him up or redirect his attention to a number of his favorite treats that you have just tossed on the floor. For dogs with storm phobias,” thunder capes” (a body-hugging spandex-like affair) may help.  If the neighbors are complaining that the dog is barking when you are not at home,  you could consider crating him  ( for a limited time and only if the dog is comfortable in his crate), or blocking his view of the street, taking him to doggy day care or even to work with you. It is also worth mentioning sound-absorbing wall panels as a trade-off for peaceful neighbor relationships.

      When anxiety is the driving force behind a dog’s extreme barking behavior medications can often be very beneficial. Some useful options include pheromone collars, anti-anxiety medications and some holistic products. Of course, your veterinarian should be involved to ensure safe use of these medications.

      Finally, it seems relevant to point out that the idiom “barking dogs never bite” is actually not true.  In fact, they may.  So it is most prudent to keep your eye on a strange dog barking at you up close and personal!




                                   MY DOG HAS GONE MISSING!  GENEROUS REWARD!  by Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M.; B.Sc.



                                            Attached to the privilege of pet ownership is an individual’s responsibility for maintaining the pet’s health and safety. Safe and secure confinement when the pet is left to its own devices is of particular importance Still, in the rush of the day, most people will agree that there will be times when doors are incompletely closed, windows accidentally left open or gates improperly latched. Most pet owners will also agree that it is a rare pet that won’t take advantage of any opportunity to go exploring if the occasion presents itself!  Fortunately, there are a variety of choices of pet identification methods available ranging from very basic pet collar I.D to more technical electronic devices to insulate against permanent loss of the pet should an escape misadventure actually occur.  


     A very simple and affordable yet effective form of protection for dogs and most cats is a sturdy collar or harness equipped with a legible I.D. tag and worn 24-7.   Ideally, the collar needs to provide basic and current information such as the name of the pet; phone number and address of its home. It may mean the difference between a quick return home, and an impounded pet. ( It is an unfortunate fact that in Canada and in the United States a substantial number of lost pets are received daily by humane societies without any owner identification to make easy their safe return.  Consequently, and very sadly, over 50% of dogs and even a higher percentage of cats are euthanized every day at these facilities due to limitations of housing space for these pets).

      Rabies vaccine collar tags, frequently supplied by veterinarians for free when a cat or dog is vaccinated, can be very useful as additional identification insurance since these tags are engraved with information that allows for efficient tracing of the lost pet to its owners.  Very importantly, this information needs to be kept current should circumstances such as new ownership or a new phone number occur. 

     Unfortunately, collars are not fool proof.   Some cats, like Houdini, can wiggle out of almost any style of collar or harness, either because of their temperament or because of circumstance. (In fact, for an outdoor cat, breakaway collars are actually designed to release should the cat become entangled in a bush, peg or tree branch to avoid it potentially hanging itself).  Also, a significant number of dogs will chew through rope tethers or leashes, especially if left unsupervised, so for these individuals, and ideally all pets, tattoos and microchips are excellent considerations for back-up identification purposes. 


      Veterinarians will commonly tattoo pets when they are admitted to their care for surgical procedures such as for neutering or spaying.  Tattoos are applied with a special kind of durable ink to the inside surface of a pet’s ear flap or less often, the inside of its thigh while the pet is still anesthetized. Should the pet go missing at some later date, the tattoo can be traced from its unique coded combination of letters and numbers that identifies the location of the veterinary hospital that performed the tattoo and the year that it was applied, ultimately, leading to retrieval of the owner’s information.  Tattoo drawbacks are that darker skin may be harder to read, that sometimes shaving of the ear may be necessary to see the tattoo and that the tattoo may fade over time.  Also, very   importantly, the owner’s contact information must be kept current if they move or if new ownership of the pet is involved.



     Microchips are electronic implants that are roughly the size of a grain of rice. They are injected under the skin of animals between their shoulder blades.   Since the injections only cause a momentary mild discomfort they can be administered during a regular physical exam with no requirement for anesthesia.  When a scanner device is held close to the chip it emits an electric field that activates the chip causing it to transmit an identification number back to the scanner. From this number, through a registered database the owner’s information can be determined. There are two specific limitations of microchips that must be recognized, especially if they are intended to be the only form of pet identification. The first is that because they are invisible externally, identification information can only be obtained if a facility such as a rescue society, S.P.C.A or veterinary facility has a scanner. The second limitation is that in the United States, some scanners will not read all microchips.   


     A natural desire of any healthy pet is to explore its surroundings and experience adventures outdoors.  Unfortunately, numerous hazardous situations can occur when pets are roaming about unsupervised.  Therefore, yard confinement is a necessity to ensure their safety.  For dogs, a sturdy fence will usually adequately fulfill this need.   Along with sturdiness of structure, additional important features are adequate fence height and depth into the ground .to avoid a bored, energetic dog scrambling up and over the fence or digging under it.  Other outdoor confinement alternatives that may be convenient in some circumstances are Aerial Cable Trolleys and Pulley systems.



    Cats that prefer the great outdoors are much more difficult to keep confined within a yard.  Most won’t be confined for long by a fence unless it is of the invisible kind (pun intended!).  A common type of invisible fence system includes an energized wire buried at the perimeter of a designated area.  This electronic wire emits coded signals that are received by a shock collar worn by the pet.  When the boundary area is approached the collar makes a warning sound and then gives the dog or cat a harmless shock if it ignores the warning and continues on.   Some invisible fence variations are wireless or use radio signals from a central unit to define the boundary area.  At its best, these electronic systems prevent pets from straying from a yard or area, however they have quite a few downsides.  Firstly, an invisible fence doesn’t prevent a neighbor’s pet or predator from entering the area where the confined pet is forced to stay.  Also, it can create a phobia in a sensitive pet resulting in a fear of the yard and unwillingness to venture outside because of anticipation of a shock.  As well, it may not be a deterrent if an animal is bound and determined to pursue a target outside of the defined safe zone.


   For many owners of particularly energetic and adventuresome pets, G.P.S. equipped collars are excellent options for tracking of these guys eloping from their home range. Most types can be configured to different boundaries.  Two of the three front runner types of GPS units are the Garmin and Tagg. 

These  two units will send an alert by a text or e-mail to an app on one’s smart phone or uploaded to a browser on a computer. The third kind, PetTronic communicates through radio waves to an owners handset.   Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages of each kind. Battery life  may be shorter with some types than others.  Also, some send more frequent test message alerts than others. So,for these kinds, unlimited text plans may make costs less of a concern. A summary of the main attributes and disadvantages of these  three types of GPS can be found online at May 2012  ( how to track a lost pet ). The cat versions  are lightweight and attach to most collars.  In general, they serve their purpose well however, there always is the slim possiblility that one day  you may find yourself on your hands and knees under a thorny bush expecting to find your cat but instead finding just his collar with the  GPS unit well attached but no cat in sight!


    Obviously,for all the identification measures that have been discussed, none are 100% foolproof. However, in general, their individual effectiveness is directly related to how current the owners identification is maintained.



         To  protect your pet from becoming permanently lost it is best to research your options thoroughly and then consider at least one, or ideally more than one of them.  Obviously, there is no single cookie cutter approach since every pet-owner has different needs and requirements.  Optimally, more than one identification safeguard is safest.  After all, your four-legged best friend is worth the investment.  Saving his or her life can be your valuable personal reward!


     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.


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