Do Dogs Smile? Understanding Pet Facial Expressions

Pet facial expressions are one of the ways pets communicate with us.

Facial expressions are such an integral part of communication between humans that oftentimes we impart meaning on the expressions that our pets carry. Anyone who is an animal lover will maintain that their four-legged friends have meaningful facial changes, though. So what is the final verdict? Do dogs really smile or is it all in our heads? The team at Carriage Hills Animal Hospital  loves to decode pet facial expressions, and sharing our findings with you is part of the fun!


Pet Facial Expressions in Nature

You can tell a great deal about what another person is thinking or feeling based on their facial expression. Pets also rely heavily on nonverbal communication, but unlike people, they naturally use more body language changes than facial changes to communicate with one another.

Animal communication utilizes posture, ear position, tail carriage, and facial expression in order to convey information. All of these components are integral to the process. For instance, a dog with a low, relaxed tail, slightly open mouth, and perked ears communicates a sense of ease. A tucked tail, low body, and pinned back ears indicates a fearful demeanor.

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Leave It! What’s Your Policy for Pet Safety Around Snakes?

Pet safety around snakes is no joke.This time of year it’s increasingly common to have an encounter with a snake. Whether they’re swimming through the lake directly towards you and your pet, or you encounter one while out for a walk together, the fact is you have to be on your guard. Many pets are downright intrigued when it comes to a slithering serpent, while others may get struck in a surprise attack. Water moccasins, or cottonmouths, have a reputation for being rather aggressive, so it’s best to have a proactive approach to pet safety around snakes.

A Lay of the Land

There are many – venomous and non-venomous – water snakes. While you may teach and train your pet to leave all snakes alone, we recommend at least a fundamental, working knowledge of what a water moccasin looks like:

  • Heavy-looking or thick body shape
  • Tan to brown coloring with darker cross bands
  • Rough-looking scales
  • Thick or blocky head shape
  • A visibly narrow-looking neck
  • Dark eye stripe or facial band
  • Vertical pupil
  • Heat-detecting facial pits between the eye and nostril

These snakes will not retreat before attacking a perceived threat, increasing the need for pet safety around snakes.

Avoidance Is Key

Most pet owners are highly tuned into possible dangers facing their pets while out and about. Taking it an extra step further, we offer the following helpful measures for pet safety around snakes:

  • Keep your pet’s off-leash time to a minimum
  • Discourage exploration near tall grasses, overgrown areas, or thick underbrush
  • Do not play catch the stick with your dog in bodies of water known for cottonmouths (they may inadvertently get ahold of one in the mouth, but rattlesnakes and copperheads can swim, too!)
  • Do not pick up or turn over large stones
  • Do not reach into crevices or holes

You’ll Know When It Happens

Pet safety around snakes must also include knowing the signs of a snake bite, and what to do to help your pet. Water moccasins are venomous and can cause:

  • Extreme pain at the bite site
  • Redness and swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Blurry vision or vision loss
  • Numbness in the face and limbs
  • Increased salivation
  • Weakness

Inspect the bites marks closely if if your pet allows you to. Attempt to wash the wound with clean, soapy water and then wrap the area in sterile dressing. Seek emergency care immediately and on the way be sure to:

  • Remove the collar from the neck if there’s swelling
  • Keep the bite mark below your pet’s heart level
  • Calm your pet as much as possible, taking care to keep them as stationary as possible

Pet Safety Around Snakes

Pet safety around snakes is so critical because of the terrible consequences of a venomous bite. Low blood pressure, kidney damage, and blood clotting disorders are among them.

Once your pet is examined, we’ll test their blood. Pain medication, antihistamines, IV fluids, and more may be necessary. Sometimes, effects of snake bites aren’t exactly clear until later, increasing the importance of monitoring and repeated lab work.

Move Quickly

If you need our assistance with pet safety around snakes, please let us know at Carriage Hills Animal Hospital. Stay safe out there!

Be Well: Preventing Canine Influenza

Canine influenza, also known as “dog flu”, was first discovered in the United States in 2004 among racing greyhounds in Florida. This particular strain of flu, called H3N8, has mostly been contained to areas along the Eastern Seaboard.

Fast forward to the spring of 2015 in the Chicagoland area, where dog after dog began arriving at veterinary clinics across the region with symptoms of an unidentified illness. It wasn’t until April of that year when scientists at the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University determined that the sick dogs were infected with a different strain of canine influenza, known as H3N2.

Becoming educated about canine influenza is an essential first step toward preventing its spread and protecting our pets.

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Pythiosis in Dogs: An Unusual Enemy

In veterinary medicine nothing is ever straightforward, but we do see some disease processes more often than others. Through the process of elimination, most veterinarians look for the more routinely seen issues. Once these are ruled out, however, there are always a few “zebras” at the bottom of the list of possibilities.

While we seldom get into zebra territory, our veterinarians at Carriage Hills Animal Hospital do encounter these uncommon medical issues from time to time. We recently diagnosed a pet with one of these more unusual diagnoses, so we thought we would share a little bit about the disease known as pythiosis in dogs.

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Leptospirosis and Your Pet

leptospirosisLeptospirosis may not top your list of concerns when it comes to pet diseases, but it probably should be. This serious bacterial infection should not be taken lightly, and with cases on the rise across the US and Canada it’s more important than ever to educate yourself about leptospirosis and learn how to protect your family and pets.

Equal Opportunity

The threat of leptospirosis is not limited to your pet; many domestic and wild animals can become infected, as well as humans. Dogs are most commonly affected due to their more frequent exposure to the bacteria by breathing in or ingesting soil, drinking contaminated water, or coming into close contact with infected animals at dog parks or in boarding kennels.

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The TPLO Procedure for Dogs

iStock_000039085662_SmallIf you have ever known a person who tore their ACL while skiing, or heard about a football player blowing out his knee, you are somewhat familiar with cruciate disease. The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is one of the main structures that stabilizes the knee. Rupture of this ligament is one of the leading causes of canine lameness. It can result in pain and the development of arthritis if not corrected with the TPLO procedure for dogs, or other effective treatments.

Dogs that have an injury to their CCL often have a progressive lameness that may result in difficulty rising or jumping, decreased activity, muscle loss, or intermittent limping. Eventually the ligament may tear entirely, resulting in a sudden, non-weight bearing lameness. Continue…