Bee Stings & Snake Bites – Dr. Todd’s First Aid Tips

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If you’ve ever been stung by one (or many) yellow jackets, you know first hand that these stings really stay painful for a long time. In our area it’s not just yellow jackets that are a threat. These lovely mountains have all manner of hornets, bees, wasps, and two varieties of poisonous snakes.

Here are Dr. Todd’s Tips for taking fast action if your pet has a painful encounter with Mother Nature:

Ferocious Flying Insects- Was it One or Many?

One sting is usually safe to manage at home.

One sting is usually safe to manage at home.

A single sting. Easy as 1-2-3 …. whether a honeybee, yellow jacket, or hornet… one single Single stings can usually be treated at home sting can usually be safely managed at home.

1st: If your pet will allow you to touch the area, see if the stinger is still attached. Only bees leave their stinger behind. If still embedded, scrape the stinger off with a credit card. Yellow jackets are part of the wasp family. Those little demons do not “lose” their stinger, and can continue to sting several times.

2nd: Administer Benadryl at a dose of 1 mg per pound of body weight. For example, a 5 pound dog gets only a 5 mg dose, while a 50 pound dog would get 50 mg. It’s important to read the label carefully to administer the correct dosage – either by capsule or liquid (for smaller pets).

3rd: If the sting is in a accessible area and you can see it’s red and swollen, make a paste with 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Put the paste on the affected area. You can also provide some relief by placing a wet tea bag on the affected area for 5- 10 minutes.

Multiple stings… a different story.

Some dogs arrive in our office with yellow jackets still clinging to their fur. Or they make an unfortunate stumble into a hornet’s nest and get multiple stings at once. If your dog is covered in wasps, grab a thick towel or blanket and “sweep” the bees into the towel or blanket to minimize your chances of getting stung. These aggressive critters generally cling to a towel just as aggressively as fur.

Multiple stings greatly increase the risk of a more dangerous allergic reaction and often require immediate veterinary attention. Oral medications sometimes will not take affect quickly enough to control the pain and swelling of multiple stings.

If your pet has received multiple stings at the same time, come directly to our office. If after hours, administer oral Benadryl and seek emergency after hours veterinary care as quickly as possible.

What About Snake Bites?

We frequently hear from pet parents who have a pet show up at the door yelping and clearly in distress. There’s sometimes confusion about whether the pet has been bitten or stung.

Act Fast!

1st: Look but do not touch. If your pet has had the misfortune of being bitten by a snake, it is a VERY PAINFUL injury. Most often pets get a snake bite to their face or foot.

2nd: If you can clearly see the affected area, look for two tell tale punctures from venomous fangs. If you need to explore through fur, be as gentle as possible and have a helper. Poisonous snake bites are so painful that even the sweetest most gentle pet might bite you. People who have been bitten by rattlesnakes describe the pain like this, “it feels like burning, like your being branded, but the brand never lifts”. Ouch

3rd: If you see two puncture wounds, you must seek emergency veterinary care immediatelyOnce venom enters the blood stream it takes time to travel throughout the entire body. You won’t have any information about how much venom the snake was able to inject, and the location of the bite affects how long it takes until the full impact of the bite will be evident. DO NOT WAIT until swelling and symptoms begin… poisonous snake bites are ALWAYS a medical emergency and must be treated as soon as possible.

Emergency Veterinary Care and snake bites:


The most common poisonous snake to bite pets in our area.

The most common poisonous snake to bite pets in our area.

In March a new after hours emergency clinic opened in our area. The Haywood Animal Emergency Hospital, at exit 104 in Waynesville. This new emergency service offers veterinary care until midnight, and overnight nurses to monitor and treat hospitalized patients. We couldn’t be happier that 24 hour medical care is now just 45 minutes away.

However, we have sent many snake bites this season straight to Asheville. Why you might wonder? In a word, anti-venom.

The REACH (Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital) in Asheville carries an expensive, but very effective treatment for venomous snake bites. Anti-venom injections reverse the destructive effects of particularly rattlesnake bites. If you know your pet was bitten by a rattlesnake, emergency treatment with anti-venom is the way to go if you have a pet insurance policy, or $1,000 – $1,500 to spare. The results are remarkable.

Fortunately (if any snake bite can be called fortunate), most of the poisonous bites in our area are from Copperheads. These bites, although very painful and destructive to surrounding tissue, are rarely fatal if they get prompt veterinary attention.


What to do when your dog growls

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By Dawn Todd

Does your dog bite?

I’ve been living with anywhere from 10 to 50 dogs for over 20 years. During that time I’ve evaluated hundreds of shelter dogs, and I’ve brought more rescue dogs than I can count into our home– usually without knowing much at all about their history. What has always amazed me is how rarely these dogs bite.

Let’s be clear, all dogs – even tiny ones – come equipped with jaws and teeth. Every dog can bite, but only a few actually do bite.

Over the years I’ve observed the emotional, as well as physical suffering that goes on in a family living with a canine “felon.” Big Caesar, the magnificent 180-pound Great Dane shown here with Dr. Todd, has just one felony on his criminal record — but it’s a big one. Looks so innocent doesn’t he?

Families who live with biting dogs agonize over how to best manage them. They try mightily to rationalize their dog’s bad behavior -“he got upset because I woke him”, “she’s never liked Uncle Ted”.

The truth is, we don’t ever know the exact reason a dog bites; and while I don’t rule out the possibility that there are doggie “psychopaths” out there… just born to be bad… the vast majority of dogs who become aggressive learned that behavior, and their human parents simply missed all the warning signs.

Fortunately we know a great deal about how dogs learn, and how behaviors form, so let’s start there!

While canine aggression is an extremely complicated subject, with entire academic textbooks devoted to it, I’m going to be brave and risk over-simplifying to share with you the four things I think are most important to remember if you want to be sure your canine is a good citizen, a good neighbor, and an enjoyable family member.

Tip # 1: ALWAYS let puppies stay with their litter for a minimum of 8 weeks, nine weeks is even better. 

Dogs learn about inhibiting the force of their bites as puppies.The first nine weeks of a puppy’s life is an important time. Puppies in a litter learn quickly that when they bite too hard, their playmate yelps and stops playing with them. That’s a powerful lesson. Mother’s get up and leave when pups get too rowdy and bite too hard.

Many people come to Noah’s Ark with extremely young puppies. Unscrupulous breeders are anxious to make a quick profit, so they sell puppies as early as possible. Sometimes the real birthday is noted. Sometimes we examine puppies that are clearly not as old as their new unsuspecting humans were led to believe.

AVOID PUPPY MILLS which for brevity I’ll define here as a person or group that breeds dogs for profit – not to maintain and improve a particular breed. For those readers who live here in Franklin, that includes ANYONE who sells dogs in the Walmart parking lot.

Tip #2: Socialization and gentle handling are keys to building the foundation for a canine good citizen and a great family member.

The first six months of a dog’s life is when they’re most impressionable. It’s equivalent to approximately the first 4-5 years of a human baby’s development. Once puppies leave their litter, they need to be well socialized to other dogs, other pets in the house, different places, and lots and lots of humans.

Many veterinarians encourage their clients to leave their dogs at home until they are fully vaccinated. I believe that’s a mistake. Far more dogs are euthanized for anti-social behavior than die of a virus contracted while visiting a friend. Our vaccine schedule will keep your puppy protected from deadly diseases.

By six months, puppies should have learned how to play properly with humans. At this age, your puppy should not be putting his teeth on your skin – even during play. Puppies need to learn that all humans are delicate creatures, and skin is off limits. Keep reading to learn more about our Puppy Preschool- a great place for pups to learn good habits from the start.

Tip #3: Almost all dogs warn before they bite. 

If you’re lucky enough to catch that warning, stop what you’re doing and contact Noah’s Ark.

There’s a very predictable progression of warnings leading up to a dog bite. The problem is, sometimes you have to be a trained professional who “speaks dog” to see the signs.

Most dogs start with warnings that don’t injure, and if those don’t work, they progress to more drastic measures. In the beginning the dog may “freeze”, then they’ll progress to a growl or some sort of vocalization, then a snap without contacting skin, then a snap that contacts skin but leaves no mark, then a bite that leaves a mark but doesn’t break skin, then broken skin…. and on to more serious bites.

The most common mistake I see pet parents make is to scold or punish their dog when he or she growls. If you successfully “train” your dog not to growl, you’ve taken away the dog’s ability to say “Hey dude, you’re freaking me out!”. If your dog growls at you for any reason, call for a consultation — we can help!

Tip #4: Never let your dog (or your children for that matter) practice a behavior you want to extinguish.

Humans become very good at what we practice, and so do dogs. If you want your dog to continue to perform a favorite trick, you have to practice that trick. If you allow any dog to practice biting, they’ll become very good at that too.

The best prognosis for stopping and eliminating undesirable behavior is to intervene as soon as possible when these behaviors begin. Don’t wait for catastrophe to strike.

If you observe your dog freezing when you take something away, growling or snapping at you, and especially if your dog has bitten anyone, let us help! If you have a Well Plan, a behavior consultation is included in your plan. Come to us first for expert advice.

Is Your Finicky Feline Fat?

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By Dawn Todd

At The Ark we often see felines who tip the scales at 15, 20 or even 30 pounds! Even our resident beefcake Tiny Tim struggles to keep his waistline from spilling too far out Dr. Thomas’s in basket!

Did you know adult cats should not weigh more than 10 pounds? If your favorite feline is a bit “big boned” it’s time to take action!

Here are the TOP FIVE feline health problems we see:

1. Obesity

2. Kidney failure (the primary cause of early death in domestic cats)

3. Diabetes

4. Urinary obstructions— especially in male cats

5. Chronic bladder irritation – often leading to litter box issues (the most common behavioral problem we see)

A diet consisting primarily of dry food is often to blame for all of these health issues, and there are two primary reasons for this:

Reason #1. Cats seldom drink enough water, and dry food is very…dry.

Yeti loves to drink from faucet.
Cats evolved in the desert, and thus have a very low natural thirst drive. When we eat a bag of pretzels, or anything else salty and dry – we feel thirsty and seek out a wide variety of beverages to drink. Cat’s don’t have the same options, and they can be very finicky about what and where they’ll drink. Before domestication, cats got water by consuming their prey. Raw meat, canned food, and freshly caught mice are all about 70-75% water.

Dry cat food has about 10% moisture. Cats become chronically dehydrated because they rarely drink enough water to properly digest dry food. This causes their urine to become very concentrated and leads to the urinary health issues we see so often in cats who love their crunchy kibble.

Cats must consume two to three times as much water as dry food to get close to creating the 70% moisture in fresh food. So in other words, if you feed ½ cup of dry food, your cat must drink at least 1 cup of water to remain properly hydrated. Even if your cat seems to drink a lot of water, it’s likely not even close to the amount required to keep urine dilute enough to avoid problems.

Fountains for better health

Many cats love water that is moving and fresh. We can make providing that easy for you. Noah’s Ark loves using water fountains, which can encourage cats to drink more water than they naturally would. We have a great selection of water fountains at the Ark in prices that range from $20 – $75. 

Reason #2. Cats are true carnivores, and don’t require carbohydrates. Inexpensive dry cat food is primarily carbohydrate calories.

The majority of energy provided by dry food diets are provided as carbohydrates, a cheap source of energy. Cats inevitably become obese on carbohydrate rich diets. Like us, obese felines are at risk for developing diabetes. Diabetes is difficult and expensive to manage in cats.


FIRST, transition your cats to high quality canned cat food. 

Visit these two websites for great advice on transitioning kibble junkies to canned cat food: and

We have a handout at Noah’s Ark that shows you how much it costs to feed a wide variety of high and low quality diets. You’ll be surprised by some of the data, so stop by and pick one up!

If you’re up for it, consider converting your cats to a raw, fresh meat diet- the ultimate natural diet for cats. We are here to help you with that! Dawn’s available for diet consultations in person, or via email at [email protected].

NEXT, plan a reasonable weight loss goal.

An average cat only requires 250 – 300 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight.

Weight loss can only occur if fewer calories are consumed than “spent” whether you’re a cat, a dog, or a human. If you feed a cat 100 calories per day less, it will still take at least a month to lose a single pound; but that’s a perfectly fine rate of weight loss.

Never put food out and let cats and dogs (or kids) “free feed” or have access to food at all times…that nearly always leads to obesity. 

FINALLY, get your fluffy feline off the sofa! Our domestic kitties need to eat less AND exercise more.

In the wild, cats expend lots of energy catching breakfast, lunch and dinner – those mice don’t just walk up and volunteer their services!

Kitty feather wands, laser pointers, and chasing toys can all stimulate activity. Noah’s Ark also has the Fun Kitty Eggcersizer available for sale. Put some low calorie treats in and watch your cat move it around the floor, burning calories in order to get a tasty treat!

AND REMEMBER, dry food DOES NOT help keep cats’ or dogs’ teeth shiny and white!

Many cats and dogs swallow their kibble whole, without even chewing it. IF they do chew, the kibble crumbles, mixes with saliva, and sticks to the gumline, helping to create tartar, not eliminate it. There is no truth to the myth that dry food keeps teeth cleaner.

Cats do suffer from dental disease and require regular examinations of their teeth. Dental disease is painful and causes many other serious health problems.

Remember… all GOLD Well Plans at Noah’s Ark include dental cleaning, nail trims, nutrition and behavior counseling plus much more!


Building a Better Bond is as Easy as P.E.T.

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By Dawn Todd

This week I was in an exam room talking to Patty. She was with her muscular little brown terrier Buster, and a couple of her two legged children. As we talked I discovered that young Buster had 24 hour access to a dog door, no fence, and could go anywhere in the world he desired, at any time.Another client, let’s call her Susan, puts out a full buffet for her dog along the fireplace hearth each day. There are choices of grilled meats, eggs, leftovers from the previous nights dinner.. and most incredibly (I couldn’t make this up), a glass of coca cola!

As you might imagine… both these humans really love their pets and want them to be happy, but they’re loving them, literally, to death!I asked each of these clients to imagine how their human children would behave if they had absolutely no rules, no restrictions, no bed time, no meal times, no curfews, and they could eat whatever they wanted at any time of the day? Most of us would assume those children would be what I sometimes refer to as “feral children”.

Fortunately, most of us are well aware that children thrive when they have structure, routine, boundaries, education, social time, games, healthy food, and physical activity as part of their daily lives. Our canine (and feline) companions have the very same basic requirements. 

Our human children are living with us (hopefully) for just 18 years… coincidentally about as many years as you can squeeze out of a much loved dog or cat. Most of us invest tremendous effort in raising a human child to be a good citizen of the world.

Today I’d like to suggest three easy things you can do each day to build stronger bonds with your furry family members. These recommendations foster relationships that are more fulfilling and healthy for both parties. These recommendations promote longevity – both for the relationship, and lifespan. After all, barring tragedy, you’ll be spending lots and lots of years together. Let us help you make a great “marriage”!

It’s Easy as Do Re Mi… A B C….1 2 3 … or P E T!

Pampered Pooches PlayingP is for PLAY and in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss…. Fun is Good! Even if you think your dog doesn’t like to play, all dogs can be taught to enjoy a fun game.

There are many benefits to play, and countless games you can teach your pets. When you regularly play games with your pets, they’re more bonded to you and more likely to “work” for you when you need them to. When dogs know that you are the source of all things good…. play, food, exercise…. they watch you like a hawk and are much easier to train.

Play With Your Dog by Pat Miller, is a great resource with 100 different games including directions on how to teach them. Teaching your dogs and cats to play with you is fun… but dogs also like to have their own social circles, and a variety of canine friends. That’s where Noah’s Playground comes in. Dogs at the Playground make fast friends with other dogs and it’s a huge quality of life treat that you can give your best furry friend. We talked about types of dog play in our August newsletter, and you can review that issue by clicking here.

E is for EXERCISE …. and in the immortal words of Nike…. just do it! Everyone agrees that having a buddy makes a fitness plan easier to stick to. I’d like to propose that making your dog your fitness partner is a “win-win” for both of you. A properly exercised pooch is a happy pooch. For more tips on how to have a fun and safe canine exercise partner, whether you have one dog or many, click here.

If you need help getting your dog enough exercise and socialization, we’ve got a solution! Visit Noah’s Playground, or click here to see the menu of services. Even lucky dogs who go to Noah’s Playground benefit from going on short daily walks with their human. If you have many dogs (as some of us do) don’t feel pressure to take them all at the same time. Give dogs in multiple dog households a chance to walk one on one with just you… even if you can’t do all dogs every day.

T is for TRAINING ….and to quote one of my very favorite behavior experts, Dr. Ian Dunbar, “Training a canine is like raising a child. Every single interaction is a training opportunity.”

I sense that when most people think of training, formal classes and a big time commitment come to mind. We do our best to stress in our Good Dog! classes that training is something that happens each and every day throughout a pet’s life. (And yes, you can train cats too! If you don’t believe me, click here.)

You’ll never have a dog “trained” in five easy classes… just like your human children couldn’t graduate high school after attending only kindergarten. Learning and training occur every day in every interaction. You must also remember that canine and feline attention spans are short – a couple of 3-5 minute sessions per day can really add up over time.

My promise: If you spend just a few minutes each day providing your pet with P E T, your relationship will continue to grow stronger throughout both your lifetimes!

Remember, we’re here to be your complete support for any and all things related to your furry family. (Sorry, no human children advice!) Always feel free to email or phone us with any questions that may arise! PS…if the best trained cat made you smile… you’ll love this.

Pointers for a Perfect Potty: House Training 101

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Are you living with a lovable little pisser like Spanky?

By Dawn Todd

Although Dr. Todd and I kid about what a “pisser” Spanky is, the issue of house training is actually no joking matter.

Dogs who don’t “get” house training are at serious risk of abandonment. In the largest study of it’s kind, researchers looked at nearly 2,000 dogs surrendered to shelters in four areas of the United States. House training accidents in the house was the most common reason given for surrendering a dog to a shelter, when more than one reason was listed. Nearly 20% of dogs were surrendered because they never learned that humans don’t like it when you use their home as a toilet.

Good house training manners are best taught to puppies, but don’t despair, all dogs can learn if they understand what you expect them to do.

Let’s start first with what you should NEVER EVER do…

1. Never punish or yell at your dog while they’re “in the act.”

2. Never come home and yell or “rub their nose” in an old accident. 

Our relationships with our pets, spouses, and kids are all healthier and happier when we reward the behaviors we want more of, versus punishing behaviors we don’t like.

There are two very common mistakes I see humans make when trying to house train their dogs. 

Mistake #1. Yelling at (or worse hitting) your dog when he squats and eliminates in the house. 

If your dog does this in your presence, he hasn’t learned that this is not what you want. When you yell, instead of teaching your dog where to eliminate, your dog learns to never “potty” in front of you again. If you scare your dog badly enough, he can learn in one lesson to hold his pee & poo when on a leash walk, to run behind the sofa to eliminate, or go to a room at the far end of the house.

Likewise, if you come home and scream because there’s an accident in the house, I promise you the dog does not look “guilty” or know why you’re yelling…she’s just learned to be very submissive when you walk through the door because sometimes you act crazy.

Mistake # 2. Inadvertently punishing the dog for eliminating by making the fun stop.

Here’s what happens…it’s the morning rush hour and you’re late for work. You run puppy outside and the second he’s done his business, you sweep him back inside to a crate to wait until you get home for lunch or dinner. These pups learn very quickly “when I eliminate, the fun stops and I have to go back in my crate.” I’ve heard of many dogs who learn to hold their bladder through their entire morning walk. Once they get back inside they can’t hold it anymore and they have an accident inside.

It’s much easier to train your pooch where you want him to eliminate by teaching him to exchange pee & poo for their very favorite treats. You do this by using one consistent word to signal to your pet that you’d like them to empty their bladder (most folks say “go potty”). You want to train your dog a word that he understands means drop and go now. This is super helpful when it’s cold, raining and you don’t want to be outside freezing. Click here to read a great article Ian Dunbar wrote, explaining how he uses treats to encourage elimination in the appropriate spot.

Responsible Pet Parents Top Tips for Rock Solid Potty Training:

1. Never punish accidents, only reward behaviors you want to continue. When your pooch eliminates outdoors in your presence, quickly (and happily) say “GOOD POTTY!” and give a really good treat.

2. Be consistent with an elimination schedule. The younger the pup, the more frequent the potty breaks. I often advise setting the timer on the stove each hour for new / young puppies.

3. Use GREAT treats when teaching house training. Save your dog’s very favorite treats to reward elimination outdoors.

4. Be consistent with a location. You choose where you prefer your dog to eliminate and then keep walking your dog in circles in that area. The more times the dog eliminates in that area, the more the previous smells will encourage continued elimination in the desired area.

5. Be consistent with your language. It may take 10,000 repetitions, but with enough practice, your dog will learn that when you say “go potty” it means drop and empty your bladder.

6. Be consistent with your feeding schedule. We never recommend “free” feeding (having food available at all times). Best practice for house training purposes is to feed one or two meals per day at roughly the same time so you can know when to expect your dog to have to “poop.”

7. Understand that dogs develop a distinct preference for the surface they’ll prefer to eliminate on. If you want to save your grass, walk your dog in a mulched area. We often see dogs confined long periods in shelters prefer hard surfaces like driveways to eliminate on. You’ll have to use lots of treats to alter that preference.  Dogs who prefer to urinate on grass often substitute a rug because it seems most like grass to them.

8. Start out with a crate. It’s not impossible, but it’s much trickier to house train when you don’t crate train your dog…heck…we don’t call them crates, we call them “bedrooms.” Your dog should be crate trained for lots of reasons… easier house training is just one. Click here to learn more about crate training your canine companion.

Click here to link to our website to learn more tips for puppy house training.

Still have questions or concerns about house training your pup? Dawn is available for behavior consultations relating to matters of the potty or any other concerns you might have…just call the office to make an appointment! Remember, all Well Plans include one behavior and nutrition consultation.

Leg Lifting and Urine Marking

Nearly everyone who lives with a male dog has seen urine marking behavior. Urine marking generally involves a leg lift and small amount of urine sprayed (or sprinkled) onto a vertical surface. This is a normal behavior that most male dogs, and even a few females, engage in.

Somehow at the Todd home we’ve ended up with nearly all male dogs. When we’re out in the yard on our potty breaks, you can watch the pecking order of dogs line up to mark over each other on the same tree or leaf. It’s a dog’s natural tendency to leave urine as a signal to other dogs “I was here,” or, “This belongs to me.”

The problem arises when urine marking doesn’t end when dogs come back indoors. Urine marking issues aren’t quite the same as housebreaking. In multiple dog homes it can be hard to find the culprit, and if one dog starts, it encourages the others to “go for it.”

The easiest solution to the problem of urine marking is neutering male dogs.Researchers find that neutering decreases urine marking behavior in 60-90% of dogs. But what if neutering doesn’t work and you find yourself living with a persistent pisser?

1. Use Belly Bands. We sell belly bands at Noah’s Ark. They’re simple bands that wrap around dogs prone to urine marking. If they lift their leg indoors, the band catches the urine. These are a staple in the Todd home, especially for Spanky.

2. Use Urine Off. This is a great product we also sell at Noah’s Ark. It’s an enzymatic solution that eliminates the residual odor of urine. If you’ve got marking going on at home, we’d highly recommend you get some of this product.

3. If all else fails, there is drug therapy for really persistent cases. We are here to help you with any and all health and behavioral issues for your furry friends, so give us a call if you’re particularly perturbed by your pampered pisser. 

All You Need is Love (and a Dog!)

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They Call it Puppy Love…We Just Call it LOVE

By Dawn Todd

Yesterday our lovely client Betty told me, “No one loves their dog more than I love my Honeybun!” I immediately responded…. “You’ve got some competition, I reallylove my Caesar!” This exchange reminds me that there are two “camps” when it comes to the question of whether our pets really love us. Camp 1 believes unequivocally that pets are furry family, we love them and they love us right back. Camp 2 is exemplified by my brother in-law, who once told me… “If you wanted to write a book about how to get your cat to love you, it would be a really short book with just two words….’FEED THEM!'”

In the Todd home, we’re solidly in the first camp. In fact, Dr. Todd is never jealous of handsome men who come around. Oh no, he sees himself directly in competition with the four pound ball of joy we call “The Emperor Caesar,” or sometimes “Boo-Boo.” I have to be very careful when I get home not to rush first to “Boo-Boo” and start my incessant baby talk… “Who do I love?”…”How was your day Boo-Boo?”…”Should we get some dinner you beautiful little boy?”… You get the point.

It’s not just the way we treat our own companion animals that puts the Todds solidly in the first camp – look at the business we’re in. All day long we help a stream of humans who visit our hospital. They’re as committed to their four legged family as they are to their two legged family. We share in pet owners’ joy when we’re able to treat an illness, save a life, or prevent a problem with their beloved companions. We also bear witness to the anguish and sorrow that comes with the loss of a beloved companion.

But do those who believe dogs and cats are just “social parasites” have a point? Are we just stooges, tricked into lifetime care of a different species who evolved alongside us just to mooch a meal and a sofa?

Thanks to groundbreaking research being done around the world, we’re finally getting the first glimpse into what happens inside a dog’s brain when he thinks of us, and scientists are shedding light on why exactly pets make us feel so good.

Science Unravels the Mysteries of Puppy Love

Dogs have a famous and extraordinary sense of smell. What happens when they get a whiff of us? Just the scent of a favorite human activates the pleasure region in a dog’s brain. Emory University has published fascinating results of dogs trained to lie completely still in a Functional MRI. Never before have we been able to observe the brain activity of an awake and alert canine. Now we know that canine brain “pleasure centers” light up when allowed to smell the scent of a human family member… proof that the irrational enthusiasm is not just that you’re holding dinner! Click here to see how it’s done. 

Have you ever fallen in love at first sight with a dog? Researchers in Japan have now measured oxytocin levels in both humans AND their dogs after sessions of gazing at each other. Oxytocin is often called the love hormone and it’s responsible for all manner of human bonding, lowering heart rate, stress hormones, and blood pressure. The longer the gaze, the higher oxytocin levels rose.  Learn more about this research by clicking here.

Why do we so enjoy petting our dogs and cats? In a South African study that included felines, men and women who spoke to and stroked their pet doubled their blood levels of oxytocin. Researchers also saw increases in endorphins and serotonin (other feel-good hormones). No wonder dogs and cats make such good therapists!

Take Away for Devoted Pet Parents

Try gazing – To relax and bond with your favorite pet, try making eye contact. Researchers in Japan defined a long gaze as 100 seconds in a five minute period. Remember to only practice this with dogs you have an existing relationship with…strange dogs might find this creepy…just like you would if a strange human were staring at you. 

Train daily to strengthen body and bond – Cats and dogs need physical and mental engagement each and every day. Bring your best friend to Noah’s Playground – a completely unique opportunity for canines to get lots of exercise, and form bonds with new humans and canine friends…exercising their body and mind. 

Pet your pets – Japanese researchers identified 40 stokes per minute as the ideal “pace” to maximum release of those feel good hormones.

Get out and socialize with your pets – Strengthen your bond with your favorite canine by bringing him or her to Yappy Hours!  Reduce your blood pressure and boost your endorphins by socializing with other super nice humans and dogs.The first Yappy Hour at the new Noah’s Playground is September 10 at 7:00 pm. People, pooches, pool, music and drinks…What could be more fun?

Check out Dognition – I love This clever website was developed by experts in canine cognition at Duke University. Click here to find tests and games you can play to learn more about what makes your favorite canine “tick.”

Take the test – Does your dog love you? Click here to watch this short video and let us know… who does your dog love?

Dog Play is More than Just Fun and Games

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By Dawn Todd

Dogs and humans have play in common. This is just one of the many reasons we feel such kinship to dogs – both our species like to play into old age. Play keeps life interesting and enjoyable whether you’re a person or a pooch. We love dogs because they remind us to play and have fun. When we play and socialize, life gets better for our dogs, and us. 

Do you recognize any of these play styles in your dog?

 The Cheerleaders – These types of dogs stand on the sidelines and “cheer” the other dogs on, usually barking excitedly. Every now and then the cheerleader will come in off the sidelines and decide to jump in and referee the game.



 The Party Crashers – These dogs like nothing better than a good doggie roller derby – they’re known for running towards each other at high speeds, an occasional tackle, and lots of rough and tumble play.


 The Wrestlers – This group loves rolling around on the ground with lots of full body contact and chewing… especially faces, but could be a tasty leg. Our Great Dane Julius is a terrific wrestler, willing to lie on a bed and chew faces with the tiny Cleopatra.



The Chasers – These dogs love to play “I’ll chase you then you chase me” games. This type of play often turns into “keep away”, where one dog steals a valuable toy and encourages the other dogs to chase the toy.




The Tuggers – This group loves a good game of tug best, whether with another dog, or their favorite human.


Sweet Softies – Gentle dogs who are frightened or uncomfortable with rough physical play. These dogs may eventually learn to play doggie games, but to start, they always prefer hanging around with their own kind.



In our years of experience, both here and back in Raleigh, we’ve learned that identifying pups’ predominant play styles is the first step to creating a safe, fun party for pooches. And we also know a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Even dogs who have not been formally trained to have “good manners” are rarely in our office for “bad behavior” when their need for exercise and social interaction is met.

And what happens when dogs don’t get enough exercise?

Boredom – which leads to dogs who create their own things to do… things that may or may not be ok with you.

Obesity – lack of exercise inevitably leads to overweight dogs who have the double whammy of needing fewer calories, and overeating because it’s the highlight of their day.

Neurotic behavior – when smart dogs don’t get mental and physical exercise they often develop the bad behaviors we see in the office – licking holes in themselves, spinning, excessive barking, aggression.

Noah’s Playground has been designed with many spaces to promote safe, supervised canine play to provide the opportunity for your dog to get the exercise and socialization he craves. 

You can see the full menu of services here, but here’s a quick overview of what we’ll offer at Noah’s Playground:

Doggie Daycare – Available for a half day or full. Just like human daycare, you drop your pampered baby off and we do the rest. There will be a morning full of games and play – in and out of the pool. There’s always an afternoon treat, nap, and training break. At that point the half day players go home and the afternoon games begin again. Parents are thrilled to take home a relaxed, stress free pup to enjoy the evening with.

Yappy Hours – We’re thrilled that Franklin has a couple dog friendly patios now…especially Lazy Hiker where we combine dogs & beer! But the dogs can’t be off the leash…and so now we’ll have Yappy Hours, where cool dog people and friendly dogs will get to roam about and socialize. Sign up for the Noah’s Playground newsletter here if you’d like to stay on top of announcements specific to the Playground.

Open Swim– Want to hang out and watch your dog swim with others? Then open swim is for you. We also have private swim sessions available for dogs who may be uneasy around other dogs in the pool.

Still not sure your dog really needs to go to daycare to get more exercise?

Whenever I meet with clients to talk about their dog’s behavior, I always ask early in our discussion, “How much exercise does your dog get?” Most report, “two walks a day” and “we play in the house.” While that’s a terrific effort, and way better than no exercise at all, those two walks probably don’t add up to more than a mile a day. The majority of dogs can tolerate many, many miles of exercise per day… but that’s not all a dog needs to remain psychologically healthy. 

Consider the dog Chaser…often billed as “the smartest dog in the world.”

Click here to learn more about Dr. Pilley and Chaser

Chaser knows the names of 1022 distinct toys. Chaser knows several verbs, and can be spoken to in sentences he understands. The retired psychologist John Pilley has been training Chaser 5 hours per day, 5 days a week for nine years. When asked if he thinks Chaser is a canine “Einstein,” he says “no, there are probably a lot of Chasers, you just need to work with your dog.” After all, Chaser was not selected for intelligence, he was just a random puppy the professor purchased after his retirement. 

I bring up Chaser’s story to illustrate the enormous potential locked in all of our canine companions. You see, our canine friends need not only good food, fresh water and exercise – they also have a need for mental challenges and social interaction, both with other dogs, and other humans. Yes, most dogs love having an active social life, and Noah’s Playground can help your pup be his best, and be a better companion for you too.

And did you know that plenty of exercise and opportunities to socialize can literally be lifesavers?

Researchers looked at reasons 2,000 dogs were surrendered at shelters around the country. 

Here are the top 8 reasons people gave up on their dog… Does your dog do any of these?


Aggressive behaviors 


Destructive inside

Destructive outside

Soiling in house



Each one of these problems can be prevented entirely or improved dramatically with exercise, socialization and training – all available now at Noah’s Playground! 

Try Pupscicles! They’re great boredom busters for busy pet parents!

Pupsicles are an easy-to-make, fun-to-eat treat for dogs who need to take their time when they eat.  They also keep dogs entertained and out of trouble while their owners take care of those pesky tasks that cut into playtime!

Watch this short video to learn how to make Pupscicles!

Everything You Need to Know about Canine Flu

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Find yourself fearing the flu? Canine Influenza is a hot topic right now. We’ve taken some complicated science and distilled it into just what you need to know to keep your pets healthy and happy.

Part 1: What’s going on? How worried should I be about Canine Flu?

In March of this year the Chicago area experienced an outbreak of respiratory disease in dogs. Major Universities and laboratories worked together and isolated a virus new to the United States – Canine Influenza – H3N2. 

H3N2 was first discovered in Asia in 2006. This particular virus originated in birds. 

Some clients are confusing the current flu outbreak with one that started in greyhound racing kennels in 2004. The virus responsible for that outbreak was H3N8, originally isolated in horses. There are still a few active “pockets” of H3N8 in the US, but they are confined to Southern California, Texas, and New York. 

While the H3N2 virus was initially being seen primarily in Chicago, it spread to the Atlanta area, and has now been confirmed in 17 states, including North Carolina. The recent local media coverage of Canine Influenza hit our area when one dog tested positive in Asheville. Additionally, the Regional Animal Emergency Hospital in Asheville reported that 12 dogs were seen this past weekend for coughing and fever. 

To put this in perspective…although more than 1,000 dogs have been reported sick in the Chicago area, to date, 304 have tested positive for the H3N2 flu virus. In the greater Atlanta area, 183 dogs have tested positive for H3N2. These are relatively small numbers considering the pet populations in these major metropolitan areas. 

Part 2: Is there an effective vaccine against Canine Flu?

Ever get your yearly flu vaccine and then find out there’s a different strain going around? That’s exactly what’s happening to our canine friends with this outbreak. 

There is a flu vaccine that is effective in preventing or minimizing the symptoms of Canine Influenza H3N8 strain. However, the vaccine for H3N8 has not yet been shown to be effective in preventing the H3N2 strain that’s responsible for the current outbreak. 

There is a little good news though. The company that manufactures the H3N8 vaccine has issued a guarantee to cover up to $5,000 in approved health care costs in dogs who become ill despite receiving properly administered flu vaccination. (The manufacturer, Merck Animal Health, does reserve the right to amend that guarantee if it becomes clear that the H3N8 vaccine affords no benefit against the H3N2 virus.)

Part 3: What should you do? Should you keep your dog at home to protect him?

No, there’s no reason to hide at home with your dog.  We have not confirmed any cases of Canine Influenza in the Franklin area. We will be providing Canine Influenza vaccines for those of you who are hoping to provide your K-9 kids some protection…or at least be eligible for the vaccine guarantee…should we have an outbreak in Franklin. 


What are the symptoms of Canine Influenza? Is it fatal?

Patients present with symptoms similar to kennel cough, but sicker. Fever and coughing are the primary signs, followed by loss of appetite. Just like us, treatment for the flu involves supportive care. If sick pets don’t receive supportive care, symptoms can worsen and develop into pneumonia. Canine Influenza is rarely fatal, but again like us, patients with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable. 

How quickly do dogs get sick?

Very quickly, usually 1-3 days after exposure to this new virus. Early evidence suggests this virus may still be contagious for 2-3 weeks after symptoms develop in dogs who contract the flu. 

Can Canine Influenza be transmitted to humans?

No. The disease is highly contagious between dogs and is spread in the same way we spread the flu to each other – through the air (sneezing) and by touching infected surfaces. There has also been a single case of H3N2 confirmed spread to a feline in New York, but this is very unusual. 

How are the vaccines administered?

The vaccine is an injection, and the very first vaccine must be followed with a “booster” in three weeks. The cost will be $25 per vaccine…or $50 for a year’s worth of protection. 

What should you do if your dog develops a cough?

Call our office to schedule an appointment. Be sure to let us know that your pet has symptoms of the flu. There is comprehensive laboratory test available to diagnose what’s causing the respiratory symptoms. To reduce any potential risk to other patients, your pet will be kept out of common areas until we rule out the H3N2 flu virus. 

Fighting a Formidable Foe — FLEAS!

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By Dawn Todd

Flea Control

I often warn about the real dangers to our health ticks can pose. They’re capable of spreading some pretty nasty diseases to us. Despite that, no one comes in crying over a tick bite…. but people definitely come in with tears in their eyes over the special torment that fleas bring. I love helping people solve their flea problems,and this month I’ll give you my top tips for avoiding a “Planet of the Fleas” takeover.

Like a fire, fleas can get out of control quickly if we don’t act fast. No one worries much about a house fire until they see flames. I commonly see the same strategy employed with fleas – not thinking about them at all until they’ve spread like a forest fire!

Folks who get their world taken over by fleas generally start using flea prevention only when they see fleas. But prevention is just that… prevention. Once you see fleas, you failed to prevent them … and now we have a bigger task to tackle.

TOP TEN Blunders That Give Fleas A Foothold Into Your World:

1. If your pet doesn’t itch and scratch that means he doesn’t have fleas right? Wrong– pets are often overlooked if they’re not chewing away at themselves. Some pets just aren’t allergic to flea bites and can have a thousand fleas on them, yet still not scratch.

2. Failure to identify fleas on pets with dark colored coats. It’s fairly easy to detect fleas on pets with white or light colored fur… it’s much more challenging on dark colored fur. Assuming your dark coated pet doesn’t have fleas because you can’t see them is a frequent miscalculation.

3. “I don’t want to waste money, I’ll apply the prevention as soon as I see fleas.” If you’re seeing lots of adult fleas it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Plan to be patient, it takes several months to get a flea infestation completely under control.

4. Skipping flea prevention all winter, and starting back on prevention in May or June. All flea infestations start with not using preventatives consistently year round.

5. Using over-the-counter products purchased at a “big box” store. See the video below for a classic example of a dog treated with inexpensive flea prevention products.

6. Treating the dogs, but not the cats because the cats “don’t have fleas.” This is a common error, explained in the section below entitled “Ever Wonder How…”

7. Failure to treat the pets that live strictly indoors. When pets with access to outdoors bring in hitchhiking fleas, they can quickly be transferred to untreated pets.

8. Treating the pets that live indoors, but not those who live outdoors. Untreated outdoor pets can create a huge flea population that your indoor pets must walk through when they’re outdoors.

9. Relying on ineffective solutions such as Dawn dish soap, vinegar, Diatomaceous earth, flea collars, flea shampoo, flea bombs, salt, and more. Some of these things simply don’t work, and some are fairly toxic to you and your pets. When in doubt, shoot me an email!

10. Failure to follow the Three C’s Correct frequency of use, Consistent year round application, Correct application.

What’s a responsible pet parent to do? 

Let us help protect you and your entire family from fleas with this month’s tips:

1. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight! Let us work with you to recommend the best solution for your pets and your home. When you purchase products from Noah’s Ark, they’re guaranteed to work.

2. Don’t waste lots of money on over-the-counter products that don’t work. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” absolutely applies to flea and tick control.  We have extremely competitive prices on products that actually work.  We also have great coupons and rebates, so check us first and keep your business local!

3. You can’t beat a guarantee. Many of the products we sell are eligible for the Satisfaction Guarantee offered by the manufacturer Merial.  If you purchase and use eligible products for each of the pets in your home for three consecutive months and still have a flea problem, they’ll send Terminex to your home FOR FREE.

4. Let us examine your pets for fleas, for free. That’s just another perk of letting Noah’s Ark be your one stop shop for everything you need to have happy, healthy pets. We have the latest technology to find fleas (watch the video below)…just phone our office for the best time to stop by.

Remember, the secret to rarely seeing fleas is pretty simple… 

Apply a product purchased at Noah’s Ark on each and every furry companion in your home every 30 days, year round.

If you can not afford to purchase product for each and every pet in your home, we can still offer you sound advice based on your unique situation. We’re here for you, so let us help!

We have a fantastic tool to help us in our war against fleas… it’s called Paravue. Pictured here, this device literally vacuums and stuns fleas and ticks on your pets, and then visualizes them on a magnified screen so that we can easily determine the scope of the project we’re about to tackle.

You see, before Paravue, when we flea combed pets in an exam room, hundreds of live fleas could potentially jump onto our hands and around the room.  This device helps us quickly diagnose the extent of the flea infestation, and it zaps fleas with a very low charge that we can’t feel — and neither can your pets.

Watch this video to see how Paravue helps us win the war on fleas.

Ever Wonder How Strictly Indoor Felines Infest a Home with Fleas?

Last year, the worst flea infestations I saw were homes with fancy felines who never venture outdoors.

How does that happen? Let me explain in three easy steps. 

Step one – The hitchhiker: The invasion starts when one very tiny flea hitchhikes into your home on your pant leg. One of the flea’s strategies for survival is to jump toward anything that moves past them – and they’re impressive athletes- able to jump more than 12″ – an amazing feat for their tiny size. Your pant leg doesn’t provide a meal, so they’ll lie in wait for a more suitable host.

Step two – Locate an all you can eat buffet: The next time your cat walks by, the flea leaps aboard, burrowing down to the skin to bite and feed. Half of fleas are female and all they do is eat and lay 30-50 eggs per day. These eggs do not stay on your pet- they roll off into your world where they’ll eventually develop into adult fleas. A single female flea can put hundreds of eggs into your environment. Eventually your cat will get a chance to eat the flea, but not before they’ve laid lots of eggs.

Step three – Lay eggs fast & furiously: The main reason cats are so often the culprits for seeding a home with lots of flea eggs is that they tend to be pretty good groomers. Through persistence they’re generally able to groom off the evidence of fleas until the population explodes and they can’t keep up…then you have a flea infestation.

Pet parents get lulled into a false sense of security because they never actually find fleas on their cats – but that doesn’t mean that fleas haven’t been able to sneak on and lay a few hundred eggs before your cat catches (and eats) them. Even strictly indoor cats should be on a flea and tick preventative year round in lovely Franklin, North Carolina.

Dog infestations happen the same way – although most dogs aren’t as fastidious as cats in their grooming habits…so you tend to catch fleas on dogs sooner.

Are you smarter than your dog?

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How Many Tricks do YOU Know?

By Dawn Todd Take a moment if you will to consider how many “tricks” you’ve taught your pampered pet. Go ahead… I’ll wait.If you’re like me, you’ve got “sit” nailed, and after that it gets sketchy. Now think for a minute about how many “tricks” your pet’s taught you.

This month’s question is, who knows more tricks?

Dr. Todd discusses vaccinations

I had a lovely conversation with Mr. Peters last week about his cat. He shared, “My cat has my whole day planned for me. She gets me up at exactly 6:00 am and she wants to go out. Then at 7 am she comes in for a little milk. By 8 am she wants to go back outside, at 9 am she’s wants back in for a bit of canned food, then she naps, by noon she likes just a tablespoon of her dry food….” and on it went throughout the day.

Count up the things this clever cat has taught her human to do: get out of bed, walk and use those handy hands to open a door, use her voice to get her person to come back and open the door again, get her human to pour milk into a saucer, fetch canned food, fetch dry food… you get the picture.

In a recent behavior consultation I was doing, the canine we were working with was exhausting his human with a brilliant game he’d devised to play when he was bored. 

Here are the game’s highlights:

1. Mom and Buddy the talented terrier are sitting on the sofa watching TV. Suddenly, Buddy runs to the back door and barks excitedly.

2. Mom jumps up and runs to the back door and lets Buddy out, then goes back to the couch.

3. Buddy runs at warp speed around the large house up to the front door and barks excitedly.

4. Mom jumps off the sofa and lets Buddy in the front door.

5. Both go back to the sofa to relax.

6. Two minutes later Buddy jumps off the sofa and runs to the back door barking excitedly…

7. Mom jumps off the sofa…. well you get the picture.

You gotta give Buddy credit! From a dog’s perspective, that’s a pretty complicated trick he taught his human, and in this case, it was so much fun for him that he wanted to do it over and over and over again.

I am by no means immune to being trained by my furry friends. My constant companion, the four-pound Emperor Caesar has me trained to do all kinds of things with his sounds and body language.

Here’s an incomplete list of the “tricks” he’s taught me to do on command:

•Pick him up

•Take him down off his throne and put him on the floor

•Fetch a saucer of warm foamed milk for him in the morning

•Get him a new dinner when he doesn’t like the first offering.

•Freshen up his water with an ice cube

•Let him share my dinner…. you get the picture!

Dear Dr. Todd and I often joke that Caesar is not the smartest dog we’ve ever known, just the cutest. But then I remember that I’ve only trained him to do one thing (and only if he feels like it), while he’s trained me to do at least a dozen things on command… begging the question, who is working for whom?

I guess my point is that while many of us (maybe even the majority of us) have allowed our pets to train us more than we’ve trained them, we should probably give some thought to balancing the scales. 

I do believe that working full time for a spoiled rotten canine or feline boss is only a problem if it’s a problem for you. I don’t believe in any of those silly rules like “dogs should never sleep in the bed with you”… it’s your life and your relationship.

However….. As the person who does all the behavior consultations in our practice, I can assure you that sometimes when a pet has shaped your behavior more than you’ve shaped theirs it does in fact cause real problems, especially with canines. 

Here are this month’s top three tips to balance the training scales:

1. Take time to train.

Pick one small thing you’d like to train your dog (or cat) to do and work on it for 5 minutes up to three times a day. Short frequent sessions are much better than longer sessions. Practice daily and add new tricks to keep training fresh and fun.

2. Keep it positive. Never use force, inflict pain, or use a harsh tone.

The primary purpose of training is to strengthen your relationship with your pet, not damage it. 

3. Pay close attention to exactly what behavior you’re reinforcing.

If your dog barks at you and you open the door, you’ve just confirmed for the dog that barking works to open doors. If your dog potties outside and you snatch him up, bring him indoors, put him in a crate and go to work all day–you’ve just accidentally punished him for eliminating outdoors. He’s learned to delay eliminating outdoors because as soon as he does–all the fun stops and he goes into a crate.

Bonus tip: The golden rule of behavior shaping is this: dogs, cats, kids and husband only do what works. If your dog makes a particular sound and it causes you to look, or better yet, pick him up immediately – he’ll do it more. If your kids leave the dirty dishes in the sink and you do them, that worked… and you can expect dirty dishes in the sink again!

Want to learn more?

We’re now offering fun and interactive training classes for teaching good manners. Although the opening of Noah’s Playground has been delayed by all the rain we’ve been having, when it opens we’ll offer more fun activities for building your relationship with your favorite furry friends.

Looking for some one on one advice? 

Dawn’s available for Behavior Consultations at Noah’s Ark. The fee is $60 for a one hour session, which includes a written summary of recommendations and follow up. WELL PLAN MEMBERS… one behavior consult is included in your plan!