Ask the Experts: Noise Phobias in Pets

More often than not, when we think about our pet’s health, we tend to consider their physical health. However, our pets can experience stress and anxiety the same way we do! I had the chance to chat with our team of technicians to discuss how you can manage specifically noise phobias and anxiety in your pet.phobias

Q. Can dogs and cats have noise phobia? What does this look like in my pet?

Diana: Dogs and cats can absolutely have phobias and anxiety, to noise and a variety of other things. Noise phobias can occur during events in which loud noises occur frequently and unexpectedly – such as holiday fireworks or thunderstorms. Pets experiencing noise phobias may hide, vocalize loudly, drool, shake, and inappropriate urinate / defecate in the house due to fear.

Q. That sounds very stressful for the pet! Are there any options for treating these fears so that my pet is more comfortable during these situations?

Meaghan: There are lots of over the counter options for both dogs and cats! For dogs, Therabite mellows contain natural ingredients that help curb anxiety in pets – and they’re given as treats so they’re super easy to administer! Another option for dogs and cats is Zylkene, a pill that also contains calming ingredients. If pills and treats aren’t your thing, the Thundershirt has had excellent feedback from our clients! This shirt has sizes for dogs and cats and simulates a “big hug”, the tight contact reducing stress via pressure points instead of having to give your pet pills.

Sadie: Don’t forget about Adaptil and Feliway. These are another great drug free choice for relieving anxiety, and are species specific. Both release calming pheromones into the environment – through a diffuser, spray or wipes.

Q. These sounds like great options, but I have to ask – what if they aren’t enough?

Rachel: If you give these options a try and your pet is still experiencing phobic behaviours – which are stressful for both the owner and the pet – you can always book a behavioural consult with our veterinarians. There are prescription options as well that can be explored under the guidance and supervision of a vet. If alternative therapies are of interest, we can always work with Dr. Butler to see if any of our herbal options will be beneficial to your pet.

Canine Body Language

It is extremely important for everyone to learn how to read a dog’s body language whether they are an owner or not.

Happy DogSigns of a Happy Dog:

  • Relaxed body position
  • One paw tucked underneath body
  • Tail wag rapidly or thumping on the floor
  • Play bow
  • Panting, happy expression

Anxiety dogSigns of Anxiety:

  • Raising of one paw
  • Half moon eyes
  • Tail between legs, may or may not wag
  • Sideways ears or ears back
  • Rapid panting
  • Submissive urinating

bite soon dogSigns of Imminent Bite:

  • Dog becomes suddenly stiff
  • Front legs splayed, head low
  • Lip curl, teeth showing

Agressive dogSigns of Dog Aggression:

  • Growling/Snarling
  • Snapping
  • Guarding (owners, food, toys)
  • Aggressive barking
  • Lunging on or off a leash

For more information please visit

Meaghan RVT

Sudden behaviour changes: Is your pet telling you something?

If there is one thing most of our clients have in common, it is that they view their pets as members of their family.  They give us love, make us laugh and keep us company.  Thissick-dog close relationship sometimes leads us to believe that they really are human.  As a result, we often attribute their behaviour changes to personality quirks, and sometimes they are. However, when a behaviour change is sudden it is often an indication that an underlying medical issue may be to blame. This is especially true when no sudden environmental change (new pet, moving, etc.) accompanies the behaviour change.  Our pets are not able to tell us when they aren’t feeling well, and so it is important that we listen to the clues they are able to give us.  That is why we at the Guelph Animal Hospital would like to share with you some common behaviour changes to watch for in your furry family members that should not be dismissed. 

Changes in Urination


 A common complaint from clients is that a pet is urinating in the house. Most often, owners believe that this is a behavioural problem occurring because their pet is upset with them. However, the majority of instances where a pet who was previously good about using a litter box or going outside to pee suddenly begins urinating around the home can be explained medically. Often times the pet is suffering from a bladder infection, crystals or stones. In addition to inappropriate urination, changes in frequency/amount of urination can also signal a health problem, such as reduced kidney function or an impending urinary blockage, in your pet. These issues can all be assessed and treated by your veterinarian.

Changes in Eating/Drinking Habits

Has your dog recently started emptying their water bowl several times a day?  Has your cat refused to eat even the most tempting of wet foods, no matter what flavour you try?  Is your pet suddenly ravenous, no matter how often you feed them?  Any sudden change in eating or drinking habits should be taken seriously and evaluated by your veterinarian. These symptoms can be signs of kidney failure, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal blockage and dental disease.  In addition to signaling an underlying medical issue, your pet’s refusal to eat or drink can cause additional problems if not addressed quickly.  In cats, reduced calorie intake (be it from complete refusal to eat or reduced hunger) can lead to liver failure in as little as a few days.  Taking this change in behaviour seriously, and getting your pet to a veterinarian quickly, is always the best course of action.

Less Active/Playful

 As our pets age, they often become less active and playful than they were when they were younger.  While some decreased activity is to be expected, often times a less playful pet is suffering from some degree of arthritis or pain.  You may notice that your cat, which always slept on the back of the couch, now prefers a ground level bed.  Perhaps your dog sleeps on the floor when you are used to him warming your feet at the end of the bed. These are common signs that your pet is experiencing discomfort, and should be seen by their veterinarian.  Depending on the severity of your pet’s individual case, options for treatment may include food changes, supplements, pain control, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments and/or laser treatments.  Your veterinarian can help reduce your pet’s discomfort and increase their activity, giving them the quality of life that they deserve as a beloved member of your family.


When our pets are not feeling well, many will try to disguise their pain or illness by hiding.hiding cat If your normally outgoing pet begins to spend more and more time away from you, it is an indicator that they are not feeling well and should be seen by their veterinarian.

Inappropriate Defecation

Think your pet left you that special gift on your bathroom rug because you were late with dinner last night?  It’s possible that you have an especially vindictive dog, but it is more likely that they are not feeling well. Inappropriate defecation can be a sign of arthritis pain, inflammatory bowel disease or colon issues.  Before deciding that your pet is sending you a stinky message, you should bring them to your vet clinic for an exam to see if there is another explanation for their behaviour.

While this list contains some of the most common behaviour changes that are seen, it is important to have ANY sudden behaviour change in your pet evaluated.  Your pet may be unable to speak to you and explain what is wrong, but your veterinarian can use diagnostic tools (bloodwork, X-rays, urinalysis, etc.) to listen to what your pet is unable to verbalize.  If you suspect something may be going on, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’re here to help!

Krystal Boehm CCS

Adopting Fido: Six Things You Should Consider Before Getting a Dog

We’ve all heard the saying, “A Dog is a Man’s Best Friend”. They make great companions, provide us with unconditional love and they create a bond like no other. However, bringing a new pup into your home is not just about having something cute and cuddly to keep you company! Are you thinking of becoming a new dog owner? Before heading to the shelter or breeder, here are six things to consider:

1. Living Space + Environmental Enrichment: All dogs need a place to call home and it isgood your homeimportant to provide them with an appropriate amount of living space.  Certain breeds will require a larger living area than others.  A small city apartment with no yard will be more appropriate for a smaller breed like a Yorkshire terrier, whereas a house with outdoor space would be better suited to a larger breed. Keep in mind that housing an animal in unsuitable quarters can cause them to feel under- stimulated, which in turn can lead to boredom, anxiety and sometimes unwanted behaviour problems. Ample room to play and space for toys and treats are essential contributions to a happy well-behaved dog.

2. Training: On the flipside of being cute and cuddly, a four-legged friend is also a lot of work.  All dogs big or small will require a certain level of training. Puppies will require obedience training to first teach them the basics, and this is best achieved through obedience school. You can expect to commit to a 1-hour class once weekly for several weeks. You will also need to devote time at home to practice any newly required skills. Pets are always adapting to our ever-changing lifestyles, so one must understand that they need time and patience to adjust, as well as our guidance. Older dogs will also require training depending on their circumstances. Even the best behaved pooch will need to be shown what is acceptable in the household and what is not.

3. Energy Level and Exercise Requirements:  We always say; a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Just like us, all dogs benefit from regular physical activity. Being active not only keeps Fido’s organs and joints happy and healthy, but it also helps to build confidence and trust.  You can expect to take most dogs out for at least one walk daily depending on their activity level. It is important to make sure that time is allotted for this on a daily basis. Are you a couch potato? Or an avid outdoorsman? In both cases certain comic dogbreeds will be more appropriate than others. Do your research to determine which will be a better fit for your lifestyle before making the commitment to adopt.

4. Expenses: Dogs are great, but it is essential to realize that they are a huge financial responsibility that you should be prepared to contend with. According to Ontario Veterinary Medial Association, the first year of puppy ownership can cost up to $2500-3000 ( Expenses to consider include things like vaccination series, heartworm and deworming medications, spay/neuter, food, training courses, pet licensing, toys and a leash/collar among other things. Dogs and especially puppies are mischievous creatures, so one also needs to be financially prepared for any unexpected circumstances/injuries that may arise. As dogs age, they tend to develop more medical conditions which may require diagnostics and medications to treat.

5. Children:  A four-legged friend can make a great addition to family life. However, you can’t throw an animal into the mix and expect that everything will sort itself out.  It is important for parents to set boundaries and rules for any child and dog interaction. Puppies are rambunctious with sharp teeth and claws. They may not have mastered the art of bit inhibition or the ‘off’ command yet and could accidentally injure a small child. This is why it is crucial that any interaction be supervised.  An adult dog with prior exposure to kids might be a more suitable choice depending on the circumstance. Keep in mind that no matter the age of the dog, it is unrealistic to expect a child to have the sole responsibility of caring for it. If you are bringing a pet into your home, you need to be prepared to be its primary caretaker.

6. Grooming: All dogs have hair. Some have A LOT. In general, the longer and thicker the coat, the more extensive (and costly!) the grooming.  And it doesn’t just stop there. All dogs will require a certain level of at-home maintenance from nail trimmings to tooth brushing. dog comic 2Long-haired breeds will require daily brushing to avoid matting and snarls as well as more frequent bathing to remove dirt and mud from their coat. It is easy to see that coat length is an important factor to consider when choosing a dog and something to think about if keeping a cleanly household is important to you. Dogs in general tend to create more mess; something a new pet-owner needs to be prepared to deal with!



Diana Hunsberger RVT

Common Myths About Anxious Pets

True or False With Dr. Jen Perret

Many animals are anxious at the clinic, but some animals find all new situations stressful, and some are even nervous at home. These may be the cats that hide for days when the furniture is moved, or the dog that barks incessantly and lunges at other dogs on a walk. Sometimes the behaviour is a new one, but it might just seem to be part of the pet’s personality. As a pet owner, where do you turn for help?01-scaredy-cat1-200x200

True or False: Veterinarians deal only with the physical causes of behaviour.

False. Veterinarians are concerned with your pet’s emotional and mental health as much as its physical health! If the problem is too complex to be addressed during a behavioural consultation in the clinic, we may recommend a referral to a specialist.

True or False: Changes in behaviour can indicate a change in health.

True. A good physical exam and medical history, sometimes combined with bloodwork or a urinalysis, might reveal a reason for your pet’s unpleasant behaviour. For example, older dogs might be startled more easily if they are losing their vision or hearing. Cats with bladder stones will often urinate around the house.

True or False: If my pet needs medication for her behaviour, she may not need it for life.

True. For very anxious animals, even training is too stressful. A temporary stint on medication or supplements can be very helpful to put them in the right mindset. Once calmer behaviour has been learned and reinforced, the medication may be reduced, or no longer needed. Some pets only need help during certain stressful events such as thunderstorms.

True or False: Cats who are fighting will work it out if left to their own devices.

False. Cats lead complex social lives and are very quick to learn negative associations. Each time they fight with another individual, their anger toward that cat gets stronger! This effect can be true even if the fight starts with something completely unrelated – like a loud noise. Cats who are fighting should be kept apart as much as possible until a strategy is devised for their slow reintroduction. Often, we’ll use the feline comfort pheromone (Feliway) to curb their anxiety about the situation.

True or False: Dogs who misbehave need to learn that you are dominant.

False. Although occasionally effective, misguided attempts to “dominate” anxious or aggressive dogs will often result in an escalation of the unwanted behaviour. A veterinarian or canine behaviourist can help direct you toward a positive training method that will allow you to be a leader for your dog, without increasing their level of anxiety or stress.

Behavioural issues remain one of the top reasons that cats & dogs are rehomed or surrendered to rescue agencies. The sooner a problem is addressed, the more likely it is to be corrected. At Guelph Animal Hospital, we are here for you and your pet.  Book a consultation today if you are worried about your pet, we can help!

Dr. Jen Perret