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by Dr. Kelsey Woolsey, DVM

What is cooperative care? Cooperative care is defined as training an animal to not only tolerate handling and husbandry procedures, but be an active willing participant in those experiences. 

Many routine husbandry procedures such as nail trimming, grooming, ear cleaning, etc. can cause fear and anxiety in our pets. This fear and anxiety stems from the inability to understand what is going to happen, not being able to refuse the care being performed, and in some cases, the anticipation of pain or discomfort. One of the most important aspects of cooperative care is that pets are allowed to “say no”. They can be taught to indicate, using a non-aggressive behavior, that they are no longer comfortable with the procedure being performed.

Why is it important for an animal to be an active willing participant in its care? Pets that are conditioned and trained for handling and medical procedures are less likely to display aggressive behavior. The fear, anxiety, and stress associated with vet visits and care can have long lasting negative behavioral and health effects. 

Forcing animals to tolerate procedures they are uncomfortable with can lead to lasting fear and cause the pet to escalate from just showing signs of fear (panting, shaking, avoidance, escape attempts) to aggression (biting, scratching, thrashing), making the procedure unsafe for the pet, handlers, and medical care team. 

How exactly do you train cooperative care? The foundation of most cooperative care training is a targeting behavior with duration.  A lot of dogs are taught a “touch” or “target” cue where they touch their owners fist or the tip of a target stick with their nose. This is the starting point of cooperative care! The targeting behavior can be transitioned to a “chin rest” where the dog rests its chin on something such as a towel on the trainer's lap, a pillow on a chair, etc. Once the pet is comfortable with this behavior they can be taught to rest their chin for longer and longer periods of time. Training can then include the introduction of touching for examination and tools (stethoscope, ear flush, otoscope, etc.). If at any point the pet becomes uncomfortable with the handling or procedure being performed, they will indicate by breaking the position, for example: a dog becomes uncomfortable when a bottle of ear flush is moved toward its ear, so he lifts his head from the chin rest position he was holding on a towel placed on the trainers lap. When this happens the trainer stops, then training is resumed at a prior step that the dog is comfortable with. In this example perhaps it would be simply picking up the ear flush bottle but not moving it toward the dog’s ear. 

If animals are allowed to “say no”, won’t they just refuse to participate all together? When cooperative care is trained correctly through the use of positive reinforcement, pets willingly participate in procedures, even ones that are considered unpleasant (such as a blood draw or injections).

How will focusing training on cooperative care help my pet during vet visits? Training cooperative care sets your pet up for success by giving her the ability to use learned behaviors at the time of a vet visit or during at home care. Training for a particular procedure reduces anxiety and stress because the pet knows the steps of the procedure and is aware of what is going to happen. Pets that are trained for cooperative care are less likely to develop aggressive behavior making it easier for them to receive appropriate care. 

In the following video, the dog “targets” his paw on the veterinarian's leg to indicate willing participation in a blood draw. Note how the steps leading up to the blood draw (holding off the vein, touching the leg) are practiced and reinforced prior to the actual blood draw. 


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  • Mountain View Animal Hosp

by Dr. Kelsey Woolsey

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (Lepto) is a disease caused by infection with the bacterial spirochete Leptospira. Many different species of animals are susceptible to and can carry the bacteria that causes Leptospirosis including cattle, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals. Cats appear to be more resistant to infection than dogs. Lepto is also zoonotic, which means it can be transferred from animals to humans.

The organisms that cause lepto can spread and replicate in many organs, including the kidneys, liver, spleen, eyes, genital tract, and central nervous system. Infection most commonly causes disease of the kidneys and liver.

Scanning electron micrograph of Leptospira interrogans

How can our pets become infected with Leptospira?

Animals and humans can become infected through contact with infected urine. Pets can also become infected through bite wounds and ingestion of infected tissues. Indirect transmission can occur through exposure to water sources, soil, food, or bedding that are contaminated with infected urine or tissues.

Why is vaccination important?

Not only can lepto cause serious illness and even death in our pets but dogs with leptospirosis are a potential source of infection for people. Clinical signs of lepto in dogs include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, inappetence, weakness and depression, stiffness, and muscle pain. In humans, symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash.

What is the vaccination schedule?

Two vaccine doses, 2-4 weeks apart, followed by annual boosters.

What are the vaccine risks?

Although reactions can occur after vaccination with leptospirosis, these vaccines are considered to be no more reactive than other vaccines administered to dogs. The most common reactions to any vaccine include discomfort and swelling at the vaccination site, mild fever, and decreased appetite and activity. Rare, but potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reaction may occur, but is a risk with any injection. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include persistent vomiting or diarrhea, hives, swelling of the muzzle, face, neck, or eyes, coughing and difficulty breathing. Most pets can be treated for vaccine reactions and recover with no issues.

Should my dog get the lepto vaccine?

If your dog has exposure to water sources (lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, etc), goes hiking or camping, or has access to areas where wildlife or farm animals live, then it is highly recommended your pet be vaccinated for lepto. The American Animal Hospital Association canine vaccination guidelines suggest considering vaccination for all dogs based on increasing prevalence of the disease. Vaccinating your dog can keep both you and your beloved pet safe!


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  • Mountain View Animal Hosp

by Dr. Kelsey Woolsey, DVM

Otitis externa, more commonly known as an ear infection, is acute or chronic inflammation of the external ear canal. This condition is all too common in our canine companions. 

Clinical signs of an ear infection can include scratching at ears, pain, head shaking, head tilt, discharge from the ear, and odor from the ear. The ear flap may be swollen, crusted, or red. 

Redness and brown discharge in a dog with yeast infection of the ears

There are several things that can predispose or cause ear infections including, but not limited to: parasites, food or environmental allergies, endocrine disorders, immune-mediated disorders, abnormal ear canal shape, and excessive hair in the canal. Dogs with pendulous ears and breeds with high numbers of ceruminous glands like spaniels, Labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers are predisposed to ear infections. 

What should you do if you suspect your dog has an ear infection? Call your veterinarian! Your vet will likely take a swab of your pet’s ear and look at the material under the microscope. Your vet will be able to determine if there are yeast or bacteria causing the infection and prescribe appropriate treatment. 

What NOT to do if you suspect your dog has an ear infection:

  1. Use hydrogen peroxide - it is damaging to healthy tissue and may do more harm than good. 

  2. Put any type of oil in the ear canal (olive oil, coconut oil, etc.) - oils can trap moisture and reduce airflow making a perfect environment for yeast and bacteria to thrive. 

  3. Stick Q-tips into the ear - sticking anything small down into the ear risks rupturing the tympanic membrane (ear drum). Instead, use cotton balls to clean the outer ear canal.

  4. Use home remedies such as colloidal silver and apple cider vinegar - the use of such remedies is rarely effective and may delay proper diagnosis and treatment of the ear infection. 

  5. Use  powders in the ear (like Athletes Foot Powder) - powder cannot easily leave the ear canal on its own giving it the potential to cause severe irritation as well as trap moisture and decrease air flow. 

  6.  Use tea tree oil - it is unsafe for dogs. When used in high concentrations it can lead to severe neurologic effects or death. Avoid any over the counter product that has tea tree oil as an ingredient. 

Tips for preventing ear infections:

  1. Avoid getting water in the ears when bathing. 

  2. Use a drying ear flush after your dog goes swimming. 

  3. If your dog has allergies, make a management plan with your veterinarian.

  4. Take your pet to the groomer on a regular basis if they have hairy ears.

  5. Use a veterinarian recommended ear flush weekly if your dog is predisposed to or has a history of ear infections .

Left untreated, ear infections can cause significant pain and lead to chronic conditions such as irreversible narrowing  and ossification of the ear canal. These conditions often require surgery for correction. If you suspect your pet has an ear infection, call your veterinarian! 


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