Friday, September 28, 2012

Thunder Phobia

by Beau Dove

I have often wondered why the roll of thunder shoos the most fearless, ferocious, and daring canines into hiding. Surely, I have been guilty of jumping a time or two when that ominous storm comes knocking at my door but never have I cowered quite like a dog does during these noisy sessions. Dogs will scurry under beds and seek haven in closets as if they have some higher insight into the depths of a storms danger. Throughout this post, I will look to gain reasoning and possible solutions for this all too familiar scene.

The weather channel website ( states; “Storm phobias are one of the most common behavioral problems dog owners face, but their cause is not entirely clear. Behaviorists are not yet sure what part of the storm frightens dogs most, whether they're reacting to lightning flashes, the sound of thunder, wind blowing around the house, or the sound of rain on the roof. Some dogs even start to pace and whine half an hour or more before a storm. They may be reacting to a sudden drop in air pressure or the electrical charge of the air.” Dogs with storm phobias may also react badly to fireworks or other loud noises.

This seemingly scientific statement has very basic point: that our canine companions heightened senses do not couple well with loud flashes of energy. I can’t even begin to imagine a dog’s perception of the crackling boom, so loud and hot that it’ll make the fire alarm go off!
Well, okay, the cause of dogs’ loathing for thunderstorms was pretty obvious… but, now it is time to figure out some solutions.

USA Today lists these helpful steps to preparing your dog for storm braveness:
  • Handle it early on in your dog's life.
    Storm phobia is considered a progressive behavioral disease, signs like this should not be ignored. Each successive thunderstorm season is likely to bring out ever-worsening signs of fear. It's time to take action — NOW.
  • Don't heed advice to let her "sweat it out" or not to "baby" her.
    Your dog won't get it when you punish him/her for freaking out. Indeed, it'll likely make her anxiety worse. Providing a positive or distracting stimulus is more likely to calm her down.
  • Offer treats, cuddlings and other good stuff when storms happen.
    This method is best employed before the phobia sets in –– as pups. Associating loud booms with treats is never a bad thing, right?
  • Let him hide — in a crate.
    Hiding (as in a cave) is a natural psychological defense for dogs. Getting them used to a crate as pups has a tremendous influence on how comfortable they are when things scare them. Having a go-to place for relaxing or hiding away is an excellent approach, no matter what the fear. Another approach to try, whether he's a pup or not:
  • Get him away from the noise, and compete with it.
    Creating a comfy place (for the crate or elsewhere) in a room that's enclosed (like a closet or bathroom) may help a great deal. Adding in a loud radio or white noise machine can help, too. Desensitize him.
    Sometimes it's possible to allay the fears by using thunderstorm sound CDs when it's not raging outside. Play it at a low volume while plying him with positive stimuli (like treats and pettings). 
  • Ask your veterinarian about drugs.
    Sure, there's nothing so unsavory as the need for drugs to relieve dogs of their fears, but recognize that some fears will not be amenable to any of these other ministrations without drugs. If that's the case, talk to your vet about it –– please. There are plenty of new approaches to drugs that don't result in a zonked-out dog, so please ask!
  • Consider seeing a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.
    If nothing else works, your dog should not have to suffer. Seek out the advice of your veterinarian, and, if you've gone as far as you can with him/her, consider someone with unique training in these areas –– perhaps a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Be sure not to reward your dog's fear. Treats and cuddles while the dog is displaying fearful behavior will only reinforce the idea that acting anxious will get them rewarded.

Another option is the Thundershirt, a garment that wraps tightly around the dog's torso and reportedly helps to calm them (similar to swaddling for babies). Some of HSEC's foster and adoptive families have reported good results with this product.

I would highly recommend trying a few of the best sounding techniques listed above when the next storm rolls into town. If nothing else, your dog will appreciate your efforts in helping him/ her combat their life-long foe.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - Mystic

Mystic... happy in her foster home!

Interested in becoming a blog contributor? You're invited to our next blog meeting, TOMORROW - Thursday, September 27th at 7pm at The Tipsy Teapot, 409 S Evans St in Greenville. More information in this post. Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meet Precious!

My name is Precious, and everyone who meets me says it describes me well.  I must admit I LOVE people, and being petted just makes me swoon with joy.  I would love nothing more than to be someone’s lap cat, purring in contentment.   I enjoy the company of kids and other cats, and am happy to use a sisal scratching post – no furniture for me!

The last few months have not been easy for me.  I had a human I adored, but he had what’s called Alzheimer’s disease, and could no longer care for me.  I understand that, but it left me feeling sad and lonely.  The staff and volunteers have been wonderful to me, but it’s no substitute for having a person – or maybe people – of my own.

Right now I'm staying with a foster family, so if you want to meet me, just contact HSEC!

I keep hoping there’s someone out there that would appreciate the love of a three-year-old gal like me, who’s plenty young enough to play, but mostly wants to soak up the love.  I just want to be someone’s Precious – could I be yours?

Visit Precious' Petfinder page here. All cats with the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina are evaluated for temperament, spayed/neutered, up to date on vaccines, dewormed, on flea prevention and tested for FIV/FeLV. The adoption fee for adult cats is $70. All cats must leave in a carrier. You can either bring your own or purchase a cardboard carrier for an additional $6.

We are open Friday through Sunday 2pm - 5pm or by appointment only during the week. You can email for more information.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Separation Anxiety

Welcome to our 100th post!

Last Friday we promised that today we'd talk about separation anxiety, a common condition in pets that can lead to destructive behavior. Does your dog chew up the house when you're gone? Dig or scratch at doors or windows in a desperate attempt to be reunited with you? Howl, bark, or whine when he's home alone? Forget his potty-training every time you go out for the night?

These are classic symptoms of separation anxiety, a condition which may affect up to 10% of dogs and puppies. Sadly, this condition is a major reason why dogs are left at animal shelters, and rescued pets are at particular risk for developing this type of anxious behavior. We'll look at the symptoms and root causes of separation anxiety and what can be done to address this issue.

A dog is considered to have separation anxiety if negative behaviors occur mainly when the owners are out of the house, whether the separation is for a short or long amount of time. These dogs will greet their owners with particular enthusiasm when they are reunited, and may follow their people from room to room when everyone is home together. Dogs learn the signs that owners are preparing to leave, and those with separation anxiety will respond with over-excitement, depression, or anxiety.

We don't understand completely why some dogs develop this condition and others don't (just like we don't fully understand the same condition in human beings). Dogs are very social and don't like to spend time alone. They also don't react well to changes in routine. Common triggers for separation anxiety are:
  • A major change, particularly a negative one like a move, a divorce, a death, or a change in the family structure like a child going away to college
  • Situations where the owner goes from spending all day with his pet (like a vacation or extended unemployment) to the dog being left alone for several hours at a time
  • A traumatic event, like noise from a fireworks display or time in a boarding facility, that occurs when the dog is alone
  • Past experience - many rescue dogs have already experienced losing their people, and may perceive time alone with particular anxiety.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with separation anxiety is this: the dog is not intentionally misbehaving and the behavior cannot be fixed with punishment.

Instead, create positive associations with alone time and build up your dog's confidence that you will always return for him.
  • Practice desensitizing your dog to being left alone by leaving him in an empty room. Start with a few moments, then gradually increase the time until the dog is comfortable being alone for several hours. Don't reward your dog for anxious behavior by returning when they are barking, digging, or so on. Come back in when they are calm. Don't encourage clingy, dependent behavior, and routinely spend some time apart even when you are home.
  • If the mere action of preparing to leave sets the dog off, practice the routine without leaving so it loses the negative association. Make your lunch, get your keys and your coat - then don't leave. Doing this frequently and in association with events your dog enjoys, like mealtimes, will break the connections that cause your buddy to begin his panicking ritual.
  • Don't make a big production out of coming and going. Fussing over the dog during these times just reinforces the idea that coming and going is a big deal. It's ok to say goodbye and to greet and treat the dog when you return, but do so calmly, without a scene. If you are calm, they are more likely to be calm.
  • The dog's area should be clean and comfortable. Provide fresh water and a comfy bed.
  • Reduce the impact of boredom on this behavior by making sure your pet is well exercised and has access to toys that will distract and entertain them for the duration of your absence.
Continue practicing these simple techniques and give your pet time to adjust to the idea of being alone. For bad cases, create a safe zone where the dog can't be destructive, but isn't contained. The safe zone should still provide toys and distractions. Crating only helps if the dog already has positive associations with the crate. If they hate being in the crate, this is just another hurdle to jump. Dogs can be desensitized to their crates using the techniques described above, but ideally, should not be crated for extended periods. If you are gone all day for work, it's not a great solution.

If you are still having problems, your vet may recommend calming medication. This is for a truly worst-case scenario. Consider other options as well, such as a doggy day-care, hiring a dog walker, or leaving your pet with a friend or family member when you are gone. You may even be able to take your buddy to work with you. There are also many professional trainers that will assist in solving this problem. Choose one with good credentials and references that you feel comfortable working with.

Finally, here are a few things that we don't recommend for separation anxiety:
  • Getting another dog - the problem isn't just being alone, it's being apart from you. Worst-case scenario: TWO pets with separation anxiety!
  • Leaving the TV or radio on - the dog may come to associate this sound as a safety cue. But it's not an instant solution.
  • Obedience training - we recommend such training for everyone. But because separation anxiety isn't a matter of disobedience, it cannot be fixed with obedience training.
  • No Bark collars - these deliver an electric shock when the dog barks. This may stop barking (at least for a while), but will not actually solve the problem. The dog will continue to act out in other ways. 
  • Punishment!
Fortunately, the majority of dogs can overcome this problem. Follow the steps above, and be patient. It may take some time for your friend to unlearn his negative patterns of behavior, but with love and time, you can overcome separation anxiety.

Have you had a dog with separation anxiety? What worked for you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Changes to the Volunteer Program

It's a big day for HSEC! We're announcing changes to our volunteer program that includes a new schedule for volunteer work and a hi-tech, 21st century way to sign up for volunteer positions, view your schedule, and track your hours. It's like we're living in the future!

Every volunteer opportunity will be available to view on our new scheduling website, and volunteers may sign up for spots at their convenience. In addition to our other volunteer opportunities (adoption stands, Bow Wow bingo, etc), every day there will be set shifts to work with cats and dogs. Each shift can only hold a certain number of volunteers - including daily dog walking and cat socialization. Volunteers must now use our new website to schedule a particular shift for every activity. Please do not come to the facility if you are not scheduled for a shift. 

This change is not intended to discourage volunteers from coming out to socialize the dogs and cats. On the contrary, we're hoping for better, more even coverage! Right now, volunteers may all come at the same time, meaning that we sometimes have too many volunteers, while at other times we do not have enough. Animals thrive on predictable schedules, and this will also help the facility staff prepare to assist volunteers. This new program is based on successful programs at other animal welfare organizations, and we're very excited about it!

We hope this change will make it easier on your schedule too. Pick the same shift each week to make your volunteer work easy to remember. Sign up with a friend or two - make it a weekly date! If you come in to volunteer without signing up for a shift, you will be welcome to take any open spots on the schedule. If none are available, you will be asked to schedule yourself for another time.

If you don't see a volunteer opportunity that fits your interests or needs, let us know. We always have odd jobs like facility maintenance, gardening, data entry, and so on. If you have a skill, chances are we have a need!

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about our new system, please contact Katie Benson: or 252-227-9193. You can also leave your questions here in a comment and we will continue to edit this post with the answers so they are available to everyone.

In order to use our scheduling site, you must first register with us.

If you have NOT volunteered with us before:
For adults, click here.
For juniors, click here.

Junior volunteers are ages 13-17. All junior volunteers must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to orientation, and volunteers who are 13-15 must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times. We do not allow volunteers younger than 13. Sorry, it's a liability/insurance issue.

Once we receive your form, you will be able to sign up for orientation. After orientation, you can use the rest of the site as normal to sign up for opportunities.

If you are a CURRENT volunteer:
For adults, click here
For juniors, click here 

After you are registered, you can use your login (email and password) to view and sign up for volunteer opportunities at the Volunteer Information Center here. You may want to bookmark this page, and the link will also be available through our website.

Need a little more direction to complete this task? Read on for details!

Filling out the Volunteer Information Form:

The link for adult volunteers will take you to a page that looks like this (the junior volunteer page is similar):

Fill out the information (required areas are marked with an asterisk), be sure to accept the terms and conditions at the bottom of the page, and click 'continue'. When you have registered successfully, you will see this page:

You can then sign into the Volunteer Information Center using the link above. After signing in with your email address and the password you created in the previous step, you will see this page (except obviously with your name instead of mine):

This is your Home page. When you want to return to this page, just click 'Home'. Each of the options will take you to a different part of the site. Be sure to use the links on the page to move around, don't use the back button.  Our new volunteer website allows you to see when we have a need for volunteers. It also has a spot for you to track your hours and view your service history with HSEC.

If you want to sign up for a volunteer opportunity, or just see what is available, click 'My Schedule'. Scroll down, and you will see this calendar:

On every day when there is a volunteer opportunity, you will see a 'Help Wanted' sign. If you want to see only certain types of volunteer positions, you can select from the drop down menu in the blue box:

Click on the 'help wanted' sign on each day to view the opportunities available, and scroll down to see the schedule:

Click on 'Job description' for more information about each task. If you would like to volunteer for this position, click on the green 'Schedule me' button to the right of the task. And look! There, on September the 27th, the very first volunteer opportunity is the blog meeting at 7pm at the Tipsy Teapot! I'm going to schedule myself for this amazing and fantastic opportunity to serve HSEC.

Clicking on the 'Schedule me' button takes me to this page:

Just click Yes (or No, if you do not want to sign up for this spot), and you will see a confirmation screen thanking you for signing up. Clicking 'Continue' takes us back to the calendar, where you will now see your event scheduled:

You can continue to look through the available volunteer opportunities and sign up for as many as you wish. Links below the calendar will take you to the previous month or to next month.

When you're through using the site, click on 'Exit' to be logged out.

Questions using the site? Leave a comment below and we'll address it at the end of this post. Don't be shy! If you have a question, chances are someone else has the same one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Volunteers Needed!

Want to know how the magic happens? Want to help make it happen?

Though we work closely with HSEC staff, this blog is maintained and run entirely by volunteers. We have a small group of dedicated writers and photographers that produce all of the content you see each week. And we're looking for help:
  • Blog photographers keep us up-to-date with current photographs of HSEC residents and also provide chronicles of HSEC events. 
  • Blog writers produce posts about HSEC activities, adoptable animals, pet health, and so on. Some ideas for posts are produced by the group or suggested by the HSEC, though many (particularly the educational posts) come from the writers themselves.
  • We're also very interested in volunteers with experience in blog design and technical support!
We meet every other month and correspond via email in the interim. We will work around your schedule - contribute occasionally or become a regular!

If you'd like to help by becoming a writer, photographer, or tech/design support for the HSEC blog, come to our next meeting at 7:00pm, Thursday, September 27th, at the Tipsy Teapot (409 S. Evans St Greenville).

If you're interested, please rsvp (we'd like to get an idea of how many people to expect) - send an email to Anna,

Questions and comments can be sent to the same address.

We hope to see you there!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stop the Destruction!

Here at HSEC we can't get enough of this dog shaming blog.

All images in this post from
Owners send in pictures explaining their dog's (and sometimes cat's) crimes. It's hysterical! Often, the crime is the destruction of some priceless human artifact.

In order to successfully alter destructive behavior, figure out why your dog is doing it. There are three basic reasons why dogs destroy things: a desire to chew, boredom or misplaced energy, and separation anxiety.

Many dogs just love to chew things - any things. This may be particularly true of puppies and young dogs. This behavior doesn't need to be stopped (since chewing is good for the teeth), just redirected. Give the dog access to a chew toy, either edible or inedible. Treats like bonies or dental bones are designed to clean your buddy's teeth while being used. Dogs who love to chew can't really be expected to give up the activity entirely. And the habit might even save you some money in dental bills.
'I did this'

A bored dog will go beyond simple chewing to directed destruction. They may also bark excessively, run aimlessly around your house or yard, or just have a total lack of interest in you or their toys. Dogs need mental stimulation just like we do! Their destruction isn't naughtiness, it is a desperate attempt to stave off boredom. High-energy dogs may have particular difficulties in this area.

The easiest way to reverse boredom is to have a consistent walking and exercise schedule appropriate to your pet's needs. Try an agility course, a doggie sport, or incorporate your workout with theirs (just be mindful that most dogs will keep going far past the point when they need to rest, so watch for signs of exhaustion).

'I try to chew my way out when my parents are gone'
It's also important to work your pet's mind. Rotate their toys and introduce games like hiding treats around the house or employing a toy that requires the dog to manipulate the item in a certain way in order to receive a treat. Teach your dog a new trick, or sign up for a training course. Canine Good Citizen certification is a great goal to aim for. Mental exercise can be just as rewarding and exhausting as physical exercise.

Many dogs are stuck inside all day while the owner is at work. If your budget allows, consider a doggie daycare or hiring a dog walker. These professionals will ensure that your buddy is well-exercised and socialized.

If boredom isn't addressed, it can turn into a whole host of anxiety-related behaviors, including the last major reason for the destruction of your house: separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is pretty easy to spot. If your dog only chews up the furniture when you are gone, that's separation anxiety. This may also come with a host of other nervous behaviors - clinginess, whining, refusing to eat, barking, urinating/defecating inside, and so on.

Come back next Friday to learn about addressing separation anxiety in your pet! In the meantime, we want to know - has your dog ever destroyed anything? Tell us your horror stories in the comments.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - Annie

Annie has a rare birth defect that caused her to be born without eyelids. But she's sleeping peacefully because YOU helped to fund the surgery that will prevent her from going blind!


Friday, September 7, 2012

When to Call the Vet

by Anna Geletka

I could tell my cat Fletcher wasn't feeling well. He couldn't find a comfortable position, he was refusing food, and he hopped in and out of the litter box every few minutes without anything to show for it. As the night continued, he began to cry and moan when his stomach was touched.

Like many pet owners, I worry over when to call the vet. I don't want to haul the cat around - and pay the exam fees - for the feline equivalent of the common cold.  But Fletcher was only getting more miserable. Finally, around midnight, I'd had enough. We headed to the emergency vet.

The diagnosis was a bladder obstruction, a relatively common condition for male cats (and dogs) that can lead to death in as little as 24 hours. Fletcher was already in the beginning stages of kidney failure. If I had waited until the next morning to call my regular vet, my kitty would have been in very serious trouble. After 36 hours at the vet, and further medication and care upon returning home, Fletcher has made a full recovery. I have no regrets about calling the vet - I only wish I had done it sooner.

Deciding when to call the vet might be one of the most important decisions a pet owner will make for their animal's well being. It's important for all pets to have regular wellness visits with the doctor at least once a year. But there will also be times when pets need to see the vet because they are ill or injured. Read on to find out how to determine if it's time to make the call.

Every pet has their own normal, and it's important for you to know what is normal for your little friend. For example, Fletcher rarely hides, and although I am granted the occasional snuggle, he isn't very cuddly overall. But when he's sick, he's either hiding under the bed or planted firmly on the nearest lap. Neither of these behaviors would be odd for some cats, but for Fletcher, they signal discomfort.

Similarly, your pet has his own tell-tale signs of illness and his own normal routine. Pay attention to where your pet likes to spend their time (under the couch? on a favorite bed?), their reaction to food (do they wolf it down? Pick delicately?), how often and how much they drink, and their toilet habits. Some pets may get occasional bouts of diarrhea, and this is nothing to be concerned about. For others, diarrhea is quite rare, and thus will suggest that something else may be going on.

Of course, once you notice an unusual behavior, it's very tempting to pick up the computer and start Googling away. Resist! There's a lot of great information online, but without an expert to connect the dots, you won't be able to make an accurate or useful diagnosis. And of course, don't try to medicate your pet on your own, especially with human medicine. Just one Tylenol can be fatal to a cat.

At the bottom of this post is a list of symptoms that should be addressed by a vet, either on an emergency basis or by appointment. Choose a vet whose diagnosis and treatment you can trust, and develop a good relationship with them. After all, they're responsible for keeping your best friend safe and healthy.

Finally, trust your instincts. You know your pet better than anyone else. If you think something is wrong with them, don't ignore that feeling.

Call or go to the clinic IMMEDIATELY for:
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Swollen abdomen (especially in dogs)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue, white, or very pale gums (a sign of low blood pressure, shock, internal bleeding, anemia, or other serious problems)
  • Trauma related injuries (lacerations, bite wounds, fractures, dislocations, and blunt trauma) - for a small wound it may be ok to wait until normal business hours, but in general it's best to have these checked out to prevent serious consequences like infection or internal bleeding.
  • Signs of acute severe pain, like loud, continuous cries. 

Make an appointment for:
  • Protracted vomiting or diarrhea
  • Malaise and lethargy
  • Persistent congestion, cough, wheezing, or panting
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Toilet problems: blood in the urine, difficulty passing urine or stool, or inappropriate toileting (outside the litter box, for example)
  • Lameness or weakness with no obvious explanation
  • Unexplained bleeding, especially if it does not stop quickly on its own
  • Dry coat, flaking skin, or excessive scratching
  • Increased water intake and urination
  • Skin masses, lumps, and bumps
And, in general, any symptom, even a mild one, that persists or worsens for 48 hours should be checked out by your vet. If in doubt, give them a call.