Loud Noise Aversion in Dogs and Cats



Summer is a wonderful time of year for most – more time outdoors, picnics and barbeques, and trips to the beach. However, for those of us that have pets with loud noise aversion, summer means thunderstorms, fireworks, and all the anxiety, distress, and suffering that our pets experience.  Here is a brief overview of causes, signs/symptoms, along with treatments and strategies to help manage your pet’s noise aversion.

Causes of Noise Aversion in Pets

While the exact cause of loud noise aversion is unknown, it may be due to lack of exposure in early development, a genetic predisposition for emotional reactivity, or result from a traumatic event.  Often, pets with noise aversion or phobias also suffer from other anxiety disorders.

Signs of Noise Aversion

While reactions to loud noises are natural, some pets experience escalating fear behaviors.  If you repeatedly see the following symptoms in reaction to loud noises, your pet may have a true noise aversion.

  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Hiding or clinging by the owners side
  • Excessive salivation
  • Trembling
  • Destructiveness
  • Excessive vocalizing
  • Attempting escape and/or panicked running
  • Self-inflicted trauma (from self-soothing behaviors like licking or chewing, or from escape attempts)
  • Hypervigilance
  • Fecal incontinence


What can be done to help our furry friends with noise aversion?

Firstly, consult with your pet’s veterinarian at Family Pet Animal Hospital to rule out any underlying medical conditions.  Certain medical conditions can exaggerate your pet’s fear responses.  Moderate to severe noise aversion is managed most successfully with a combination of strategies including environmental controls and drug therapy to ease your pet’s suffering.  Below you will find some tips to help keep your pet safe and reduce his/her anxiety during noise events.

Don’t panic.

You’ve heard the saying, “Anxiety travels down the leash,” right?  Our pets are acutely aware of our emotions and responses to the environment.  Try to stay calm and be present for the needs of your pet.

Close windows and doors to secure your home.

Securing windows and doors to your home can help limit the exposure to fear-evoking sights and sounds.  Additionally, this will decrease the risk of your pet escaping.

Create a safe space. 

Choose a safe spot for your pet to “weather the storm (whether it is an actual storm or other noise event that induces fear and anxiety in your pet).  Pets will often find a covered space comforting.  Place familiar items such as favorite blankets and toys in the area and provide plenty of your pet’s favorite treats.  Ideally, this safe space should be in an interior space in your home, away from windows and doors to limit exposure and decrease chances of escape.  Consider installing sound-insulation for this safe space as well.

Don’t use punishment.

While this seems like a no-brainer, we have to say it.  Physically punishing or yelling at your dog or cat for his or her fear behaviors will likely make your pet more anxious and reinforce his/her fears.

Redirect your pet’s attention.

Try redirecting your pet’s attention to fun activities that he/she enjoys – obedience exercises, agility, food puzzle toys, etc.  For some pets with mild anxiety, his or her desire to participate in these activities may be an effective distraction during a noise event.


Dress your pet in a Thundershirt.

Thundershirts, made for both dogs and cats, are snug-fitting shirts for your pet designed to help calm your pet during stressful events.  Effectiveness for treating anxiety varies, but we’ve seen great results for some of our patients.


Consult your veterinarian about medications that can help your pet.

While some pet owners do not want to resort to drug therapy, the repercussions of allowing your pet to suffer severe anxiety caused by noise can be detrimental to his or her health.  We want to stress that noise-induced anxiety often worsens over time if left untreated and there can be serious physiological effects.  The decision to utilize drugs to treat your pet should only be made with the advice of your veterinarian.

Ask us about Sileo® – a NEW oromucosal medication for noise anxiety.

Family Pet now carries a new medication, Sileo®, for dogs that is the first and only FDA-approved treatment indicated for canine noise aversion. Your pet’s veterinarian at Family Pet Animal Hospital will determine if and which medications are appropriate for your pet’s needs.

The American Humane Association states that July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters.  July 4th fireworks send many pets fleeing in fear and many are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted.  When you can anticipate anxiety-inducing noise events and manage the situation from the start, you will likely see better results.  So plan ahead and be prepared!  Call us to schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian if you’d like more information on how to help ease your pet’s distress and suffering due to noise aversion.




“Help Dogs during Thunder & Fireworks – Vet Med at Illinois.” University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. http://vetmed.illinois.edu/help-noise-averse-dogs-thunder-firework-season/=

“Holiday Issues.” Holiday Issues. American Humane Association, n.d. Web. 16 June 2016. http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/adoption-pet-care/issues-information/holiday-issues.html


“Thunderstorm Phobias in Dogs.” Pet Health & Nutrition Information & Questions. PetMD., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.  http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/behavioral/c_dg_thunderstorm_phobias


Pet Insurance – Is It Worth It?



The last thing you want to think about when your pet is sick or injured is how much the veterinary care will cost.  Pet insurance helps to cover the cost of unexpected veterinary costs so that you can focus on making sure your pet gets the best care.

Understanding the Cost of Pet Care

Understanding the cost of veterinary care is an important part of making a decision about purchasing pet health insurance.  According to Wallet Hub, dog owners spend an estimated $235 – $776 per year on veterinary care, and cat owners spend $160-$564.  While lifespans vary, that can equate to around $10,000 over the course of your pet’s life!

However, due to the other financial obligations people have, only 3% of dogs and 1% of cats are insured. Of course, those that don’t have pet insurance are asking the question – “Is it worth it?  Is the protection against an unexpected cost of veterinary care worth the monthly premiums?”  There are two basic scenarios to consider:

  • The insurance pays out less than what you paid in premiums because your pet stayed healthy and did not have any accidents.
  • The insurance pays out more than what you put in if your pet does get injured or become ill.

Because either scenario is possible, pet insurance should not be used with the expectation of saving money.  Let’s break down the potential benefits by looking at the numbers:

  • Average life span of a dog:  10-13 years, approximately 11.5 years
  • Average cost of pet insurance for a dog = $32/month (according to pet insurances quotes)
  • Average cost of premiums over a dog’s lifetime = 11.5 years x 12 months/year x $32/month = $4,416
  • Potential estimated savings:  $8,924 (high end of estimated cost of lifetime care for a dog) – $4,416 = $4,508


  • Average life span of a cat:  15 years
  • Average cost of pet insurance for a cat = $26/month
  • Average cost of premiums over a cat’s lifetime = 15 years x 12 months/year x $26/month = $4,680
  • Potential estimated savings:  $8,460 (high end of estimated cost of lifetime care for a cat) – $4,680 = $3,780

None of us have a magic 8 ball to know whether or not your pet will get injured or become ill and whether pet insurance will be “worth it.”  However, at Family Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend having health insurance simply to help you soften the financial burden if something unexpected happens, so that you may provide optimal medical care for your pet that you may not otherwise be able to afford.  Pet insurance will provide the peace of mind that you will not have to sacrifice saving the life of your pet due to financial considerations.

What Should I Consider?

When deciding on what insurance is best for you and your pet, consider the following:

  • Do not choose your pet insurance provider based on cost alone. Choose it based on the coverage provided.
  • Choose the right maximum payout structure that first your “worst case scenario costs” (the threshold beyond which you would not be able to pay for your pet’s injury or illness – this will vary for everyone).
  • If possible, choose a plan that has coverage for cancer, hereditary and congenital diseases, continual coverage for chronic disease, medical conditions common to your pet’s species and breed.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered by ANY pet health insurance company. Therefore the sooner you get coverage for your pet the better.
  • Insurance companies have differing deductibles, maximum payouts, and waiting periods and restrictions. Read through policies carefully.

Our Pet Insurance Recommendations

We want pet owners find the insurance that best fits their needs and the needs of their pet.  Here at Family Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend Figo, Embrace, and Trupanion.  (Pet Insurance Review offers a plethora of information to help you choose the right insurance for you and your pet.)


(insert graphics for coverage for each or table of comparison)

Figo & Embrace at a glance.  Please note that information was pulled from each company’s respective websites and Family Pet Animal Hospital cannot guarantee accuracy of the information.  Please call the insurance provider directly with questions regarding exactly what is covered along with what is excluded.







Editor, author, or compiler name (if available).”Article name.”  Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.

Kiernan, John S.  “Is Pet Insurance Worth It?  Pros & Cons Explained.”  WalletHub.  n.d.  Web.  31 May 2016.

“100 Facts About Pet Insurance.”  PetInsuranceQuotes.  n.d.  Web.  31 May 2016.

FDA Update on Jerky Treats



Update on Jerky Treat Investigation

On May 16, 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update to its ongoing investigation into illnesses and deaths in pets who had consumed pet jerky treats.  According to the statement issued by the FDA, from 2007 through December 31, 2015, the “FDA has received approximately 5,200 complaints of illness associated with consumption of chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, most of which involve products imported from China. The reports involve more than 6,200 dogs, 26 cats, three people, and include more than 1,140 canine deaths.”

Throughout the investigation, the FDA has issued various updates.  The most recent updates indicate a decline in reported incidents in recent years compared to when the initial investigation began in 2007 and the inclusion of all poultry jerky products (versus chicken only) in the Import Alert.  The majority of complaints received involved chicken jerky, but some have included duck or sweet potato, or other treats wrapped with these jerky products.

While the FDA’s testing has attempted to identify a definitive cause or causes of the illnesses, none have yet been determined.  Testing has included analyses for pathogenic bacteria, metals or elements, markers of food irradiation, pesticides, antibiotics and antivirals, mold and mycotoxins, rodenticides, radioactivity, biogenic amines, illegal dye agents, nephrotoxins, and other chemicals and poisonous compounds. “Although it is impossible to conclude definitively in every case whether the events reported were caused by eating jerky pet treats, FDA continues to believe that there is an association between some of the reports and consumption of jerky pet treats.”

The FDA’s investigation into the pet jerky problem continues to be challenging due to a lack of a centralized database for pet illnesses and deaths, the lack of adequate post-mortem information in most cases, and the limited access to market data about food items for pets.  All these factors contribute to the difficulty in evaluating the scope of the issue or accurately determine root causes for the illnesses reported.


The FDA “continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not required for a balanced diet.”  At Family Pet Animal Hospital, our veterinarians recommend that you look for products made in the United States and avoid those manufactured in China.  However, the FDA cautions “Pet owners should be aware … that manufacturers are not required to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products.”


Commonly reported symptoms of illness associated with pet jerky treat consumption include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and increased urination.  The symptoms may occur within hours to days of feeding the treats.

What You Can Do:

If you believe your pet has become ill from consuming a pet jerky product, firstly, as always, you should take him/her to his/her veterinarian to be examined.  In order to aid in the FDA’s continued investigation, save the original packaging and file a report electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal.  Additional recommendations for pet owners can be found on the FDA’s website.



FDA Provides Update on Jerky Pet Treat Investigation.  U.S. Food and Drug Administration. May 16, 2016. Web.  May 18, 2016.


The Coconut Oil Myth – Separating Fact from Fiction



Have you heard of all the magic associated with the addition of coconut oil to your pet’s food?  We know that many people are looking for alternative options to process pet foods.  Unfortunately, much of the hype and misinformation you hear and read will lead you to a diet that is not nutritionally balanced.

Let’s talk about the hype regarding coconut oil.  Television celebrity Dr. Oz has been cheerleading the wonders of coconut oil.  Remember the green coffee bean debacle?  Not everything he promotes is true.  According to Dr. Ken Tudor of PetMD, Dr. Oz claims coconut oil “cures bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, promotes weight loss, promotes ‘good cholesterol,’ and improves the mental skills of Alzheimer’s patients. He stops short of coconut oil getting rid of unwanted facial hair and unwanted house guests, but the implication is that anything is possible.”

Does it sound too good to be true?  You bet.  We recommend that coconut oil not be used as the sole source of fat in a pet’s homemade dog food diets or added to commercial dog food. Why?

Separating fact from fiction about the wonders of coconut oil

Does not provide daily fat requirements for dogs

According to Dr. Tudor, “To meet the daily fat needs of dogs, every 1,000 calories (kilocalories, actually) needs to contain 2,700 mg of the omega-6 fat called linoleic acid, and 107 mg of the omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid. Coconut oil contains only 243 mg of an undifferentiated form of linoleic acid (omega 6).”  Dogs and cats are not capable of efficiently converting omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids.  In other words, coconut oil as a sole source of fat in your dog’s diet will be deficient in what he/she needs in regards to essential fatty acids.

Does not protect against bacteria,viruses, or fungi.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has been shown to kill some bacteria, viruses, and fungi in laboratory experiments.  However, the amount needed to kill germs in laboratory culture dishes is greater than can be consumed.  Research has NOT shown that coconut oil protects humans or animals from infection at normal amounts of consumption.

It also raises the blood levels of “bad cholesterol.”

In addition to raising the levels of HDLs, or “good cholesterol,” in the blood, coconut oil also increases the blood levels of LDLs, or “bad cholesterol.” Fortunately this is not a problem for pets since cholesterol is not a factor in their heart disease.

Does not improve congnitive function

According to Dr. Tudor, “Geriatric cognitive disorders, or dementia, are very similar to Alzheimer’s and are real disorders in pets. That cat that howls for no reason at night or the dog that stares at the wall and seems confused are suffering from an Alzheimer’s-like brain change.”  Some human Alzheimer’s patients have shown improved mental function after adding coconut oil to their diets.  However, there are no evidence-based studies that show that coconut oil positively impacts degenerative brain function in pets.

The bottom line is that coconut oil adds 120 calories for every tablespoon without adding any appreciable nutritional value. Adding it to a commercial diet is adding unneeded fat calories, much like an unnecessary treat. And it is certainly a recipe for fat malnutrition for those using it exclusively in their pets’ homemade diets.

Source:  http://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ken-tudor/2015/july/coconut-oil-over-hyped-super-food-pets-32910


Xylitol More Toxic to Dogs than Chocolate

1479743596All of us here at Family Pet Animal Hospital want to continue to warn pet owners about the dangers of xylitol, an increasingly popular sugar-substitute that is highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol can be found in many common products from sugar-free gum, mints, mouthwash, toothpaste, gummy vitamins, over-the-counter supplements, and various food products. Unsurprisingly, given the increasing presence of xylitol, the Pet Poison Helpline recently reported a dramatic increase in the number of phone calls they have received regarding xylitol poisoning.

What products contain Xylitol?

Alarmingly, multiple peanut and other nut butter brands have started using xylitol. How many of us use peanut butter as a medication vessel or treat for our dogs? A lot! According to the Veterinary Information Network News Service, the following five companies add xylitol to their peanut butter products – Go Nuts, Hand’s Protein Plus Peanut Butter, Krush Nutrition, Nuts ‘n More and P28.

Be sure to check labels carefully for xylitol. According to Dr. Tina Wismer at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, pet owners should be on the lookout for xylitol and the other names it may appear as: 1,4-anhydro-d-xylitol, anhydroxylitol, birch bark extract, birch sugar, d-xylitol, xylite, xdylitylglucoside, and Zylatol.

100x More Toxic Than Chocolate

Almost everyone knows that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but few people know xylitol is estimated to be 100x more toxic than chocolate to dogs. While xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is safe for people, ingestion by a dog of >0.1 gm/kg can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia within 10-15 minutes. Ingestion of larger quantities can even cause liver necrosis and liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning include weakness, depression, lethargy, vomiting, tremors, seizures, acute collapse, jaundice, diarrhea, black-tarry stools, bruising and death.

If You Suspect Xylitol Poisoning

Be sure to keep all these foods/products out of your dog’s reach. If you suspect xylitol ingestion, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (855.764.7661 – a $49/incident fee applies) immediately for potentially life-saving recommendations. Be sure to have the product packaging handy during the call(s) and bring it to your veterinarian to assist with determining the amount ingested by your pet. Treatment may require hospitalization and will usually include IV fluids, sugar supplementation, monitoring of blood sugar and liver values, and the use of liver protective drugs.

Call for Foster Homes with Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) Outbreak at Local Shelter


You may have heard that there is a current outbreak of feline panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, at Chicago Animal Care & Control. Feline panluekopenia is a highly contagious virus that attacks and destroys white blood cells, weakening the immune system and puts the cat at a greater risk of contracting secondary infections. We believe that there is minimal risk to the vast majority of our feline patients, but wanted everyone to be aware of the situation, especially anyone bringing home a new cat from a shelter or rescuing a stray.

Symptoms often include depression and extreme lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. The virus is shed in feces or vomit of an infected cat. Others can be exposed by sniffing or licking the vomit or feces or surfaces that have been contaminated.

Kittens are the most susceptible to the virus, although it can strike cats at any age. Generally, adult cats are more resistant because they have been previously vaccinated against panleukopenia or developed their own immunity through exposure to the virus in the natural environment. Studies have indicated cats that have received the appropriate vaccination series during kittenhood and their first booster as adults have long lasting immunity.

Family Pet Animal Hospital has NOT seen any cases of panleukopenia but will remain vigilant. We will take all necessary precautions with any suspect or high-risk patients (young, unvaccinated, sick, recently adopted from shelters/rescues) coming to the hospital – practicing all the appropriate isolation, disinfection, and handling protocols to minimize risk of spreading the infection.

Again, we reiterate that we believe there is minimal risk to the vast majority of our patients because of their vaccination status and likely natural immunity. However, we wanted to share the information.

Animal Care & Control enlisted the help of PAWS Chicago and other rescue groups in order to save as many lives as possible at the shelter. PAWS Chicago has taken in cats that are not currently sick but may have been exposed to the virus at ACC and are looking for potential foster homes. If you DO NOT have cats in your home and would like to foster, contact PAWS Chicago.

BREAKING NEWS on the Canine Influenza Outbreak

This latest statement from Family Pet Animal Hospital was issued via email to our clients on 4/13/15

Important Update on the Canine Influenza Outbreak in Chicago

The doctors and staff at Family Pet Animal Hospital wanted to inform all our clients, both dog and cat owners, about the latest information on the canine inluenza outbreak in the Chicago area. While Family Pet has posted information on our website and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) during the last few weeks, we are distributing this message via email in an attempt to reach as many of our clients as possible with the latest news.
As most of you are aware, the Chicago area has experienced a huge surge in respiratory infections in our pet canine population in recent weeks. The doctors here at Family Pet Animal Hospital have been working tirelessly to determine the cause and best course of treatment for our pets and the community by working closely with other local veterinary hospitals and veterinary specialists.

The current outbreak had previously been attributed to the H3N8 influenza strain, which was identified in the U.S. dog population back in 2004. However, on Sunday, April 12, 2015, laboratory scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin announced they have determined that the influenza outbreak in our area is due to a different strain of the virus than previously assumed. This strain of the virus had not previously been seen in North America. It is closely related to Inluenza A H3N2 viruses, which were identified in 2006 in southern Chinese and South Korean dog populations.

For our cat owners, we wanted you to be aware that the H3N2 viruses previously identified and studied in Asia were shown to cause respiratory illness in cats as well. However, there are no current reports of feline respiratory illness here in the U.S. from the strain of virus currently affecting the dog population. At this time, there is no vaccination available for cats. We will continue to provide updates to you as information becomes available.

Additionally, everyone should be aware that, to date, there is NO evidence that the virus can be transmitted to humans.

Symptoms of the virus are persistent, hacking cough, high fever, nasal discharge, lethargy, and inappetence. Because the best defense against contracting the virus is to minimize chances of exposure, we continue to strongly recommend eliminating your dog’s interaction with other dogs – daycare, boarding, training, dog parks, grooming salons, pet stores, and any other area dogs congregate. Please schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian if he or she is displaying these symptoms. Early treatment is important to prevent progression to pneumonia or other serious health problems.

Unfortunately, no one knows whether or not the current influenza vaccine available for dogs (developed for the H3N8 strain) will be effective against the new strain. The canine inluenza vaccine protocol requires a series of two vaccines given two to four weeks apart. It is important to note that any protection offered would not begin until a minimum of four to six weeks from the initial vaccine. For those patients who have received the first vaccine in the series, we absolutely recommend finishing the series.

Given the information we have at this time, the highly contagious nature of the virus, the fact that a handful of dogs have died due to complications of the illness, and because the existing vaccine is the only potential defense available, unless you are able to keep your dog isolated in your home and yard, the doctors at Family Pet Animal Hospital continue to recommend vaccinating your dog. Our hope is that the vaccine may offer some cross protection against the current strain, lessening the symptoms and severity of illness. While the number of cases of respiratory illness we are seeing on a daily basis has begun to decrease in the last few days, we are unable to say how long the outbreak will last.

The press release issued on 4/12/15 from Cornell University is available here:http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2015/04/12/midwest-canine-influenza-outbreak-caused-by-new-strain-of-virus

Please continue to visit our website and connect with us on social media for the latest updates. We will continue to share any information we have as it becomes available as we are deeply committed to the health of our patients and pets in our community.

Family Pet is a Proud Veterinary Ambassador of the Anti-Cruelty Society

1479746237-1Start off on the right paw for a long and happy life for your your newly adopted pet from the ACS! As a Veterinary Ambassador of the Anti-Cruelty Society (ACS), Family Pet Animal Hospital commits to financially supporting the ACS and to providing special offers to ACS adoptees. Bring your new furry friend into Family Pet (within 90 days of adoption) and receive an exam for $20 and a discount on diagnostic tests and vaccinations performed during that first visit.

See more from the Anti-Cruelty Society’s website:http://www.anticruelty.org/vet-ambass/