(Note: I will soon have these topics finished and I’m also planning to have videos discussing each of these topics. There will also be a page devoted to issues regarding cats. Please be patient. Thanks so much, Dr. Clark.)
Important Issues Concerning Dogs:
Anal Glands (Scooting): Anal glands are located at either side of the anus at 4 and 8 o-clock. There’s a duct from each of these glands that travels up to the anal tissue and, in the smaller breeds, the ducts can get blocked up. If it gets infected, the gland will sometimes rupture to the outside. Most of the times, the dogs will show that it’s bothering them by scooting or dragging their butts on the floor. It’s not that hard to squeeze these glands out if owners want to try, especially when it’s time for a dog’s bath. The trick is to have someone hold the front of the dog and it’s important to pull the tail forward towards the head as this will stretch out the skin over the anal area so you can feel the glands better. I like to use tissue paper or kleenex as it’s soft and I can feel the glands through the kleenex. When the skin is pulled tight over the anus, you’ll be able to fell a half-marble shape at 4 and 8 o’clock. The trick is to squeeze the glands together and the pressure will force the fluid up through the ducts. The fluid is quite foul smelling unfortunately so be prepared for a skunk-like smell. Luckily, there’s nothing at the anal area that you can hurt when you squeeze the two glands together so don’t be worried or afraid.
To be complete, scooting can be caused by two other things other than the anal glands. One common cause of scooting is when a dog has a soft stool. A soft, sticky stool will make a dog feel like it needs to strain a bit after it’s finished pooping and it will often scoot afterwards as it may feel the need to wipe its rear end. The anal area may actually even burn a bit after a soft stool. The other reason dogs scoot is because they’re itchy and scooting is just another way to scratch their rear ends.
Anesthesia and Surgery (things you need to know to protect your pet): It is extremely upsetting to me how little people understand what goes on when their pet is put under anesthesia at many veterinary clinics. I wouldn’t have known myself as I’d had my own veterinary clinic in Camarillo, California for 17 years and had always assumed that everyone did anesthesia in the same way. What I learned when I became a relief veterinarian in Nashville, Tn. shocked me. I now tell people that they must ask about 3 things before their pet goes under anesthesia.
First: You will want to ask your veterinarian to put an IV catheter in your pet. This is an important safety guideline because if your pet starts to have problems while under anesthesia, you don’t want the vet to be frantically trying to hit a vein in an effort to save your animal.
Secondly: You want your animal to have GAS anesthesia. In this day and age, it’s simply ridiculous for veterinarians to still be using INJECTABLE anesthesia: it’s just not safe. One thing that everyone agrees on when it comes to anesthesia is that there are sensitive individuals and resistant individuals. With sensitive individuals, it’s going to take very little anesthesia to keep the individual under. If you give an animal an injection into the muscle based on the pet’s weight, it is going to be way too much for a sensitive animal. That’s why you want to insist on GAS anesthesia for your pet.
With gas anesthesia, the vet will give your pet a small amount of sedation via their IV catheter (just enough to relax them so an endotracheal tube can be passed) and your pet will then have the gas anesthesia administered by the slight turning of the gas anesthesia dial. Very safe (as long as someone is monitoring the anesthesia…that’s number 3 and we’ll get to that in a moment.) Unfortunately, with injectable anesthesia, there’s no way to retrieve or eliminate the anesthesia once it’s been injected.
I’ve encountered many examples of this horrible practice at veterinary clinics but one clinic in particular stands out. This clinic was a huge, new facility that even had a satellite clinic in a nearby town. When the owner of the clinic called to ask if I could fill in until their full-time vet arrived in six months, he inquired if I did surgery. After what I’d already seen at other clinics, I said, “Sure as long as I don’t have to use injectable anesthesia.” He said, “Well, that’s what we use but if you want to use gas anesthesia, we can arrange that.” I couldn’t believe that such a beautiful new animal hospital would still use injectable anesthesia as it’s so ridiculously old school.
One day when I was getting ready to do a spay on a dog, I was looking at the animal’s paperwork and I saw a paper that said “DNR: Do Not Resuscitate. I asked a technician who’d been working at the clinic for a long time why the clinic made owners sign a DNR (in my thirty-plus years, I’d never seen such a thing.) The technician said that the clinic was constantly having to resuscitate animals (as they didn’t do well with the injectable anesthesia) and that the owners had gotten mad when the clinic had tried to charge them for resuscitating their animals. So, instead of simply changing to gas anesthesia which would be so much safer, the clinic made it a policy to have owners sign DNR’s. With the DNR’s, the owners had to choose to either pay extra if their animal needed to be resuscitated or to let their animal die if they didn’t want to pay extra. Can you believe such a thing? I was totally shocked and disgusted.
If you’re wondering why the clinic didn’t want to change to gas anesthesia, it’s because they wanted to be able to keep doing surgery without having to pay someone to monitor the anesthesia. Pet owners would be aghast if they only knew how many times their pet is under anesthesia and NO ONE is monitoring their pet. While an animal is under anesthesia, a qualified person should be monitoring the pet’s heartbeat, their respiration, their color, their blink response, their jaw tone (all things that help determine how deeply under anesthesia an animal is.) With gas anesthesia, you really need to have someone monitoring the machine (though I’ve seen clinics who use gas and still don’t have someone monitoring the machine or the pet.) This is completely reckless and irresponsible and, unfortunately, many animals die because of it: though an owner will undoubtedly be told some story as to how their animal had a weird and unusual reaction to the anesthesia. Owners are never told the truth: that the veterinarian chose to cut corners and the animal died because of it.
So, for number three: not only do you want an IV catheter for your pet along with GAS anesthesia, you want to insist that a qualified individual is monitoring your animal the entire time your pet is under anesthesia.
Unfortunately, “qualified” in veterinary medicine is not like it is in human medicine. Very few technicians are even board certified. There is no governmental agency that checks out the people working at veterinary clinics to make sure they know what they’re doing. I’ve see clinic workers who didn’t even know how to listen to a dog’s heartbeat that were doing a dental on a dog with no one else in the room. Don’t blindly trust your pet’s care to a veterinarian if it’s going under anesthesia without asking about these three things.
The only other way to feel confident about your pet’s care is to take your pet to an animal clinic that’s AHAA accredited. AAHA accredited clinics are held to a higher standard of care and have regulatory consultants that come in every three years to make sure the clinic is doing everything that it’s required to do so that it can retain its accreditation.
Back Pain (extremely common in dogs): I constantly tell owners that they don’t want their dogs jumping up and down off of the owner’s beds. I tell owners that dogs don’t often like the stairs that are out there for us to buy because the stairs often feel a bit wobbly and unstable to a dog and dogs don’t really like to be spread out between steps: they’d rather jump on an ottoman or something that’s big enough for them to place all four feet on the structure. For my little dog (Priscilla), her first step is my carry-on luggage that I’ve filled up so that it’s flat and then I wrapped a towel over it for traction. The next step is a small ottoman that she can completely stand on and she uses both of these each time she wants to get up and down off my bed.
Jumping off a tall bed or a tall porch will really wear on a dog’s back over time. I always tell owners that, even though we’re told it’s a dog’s hips that debilitates it when it’s older, it’s usually the dog’s back that actually makes it hard for a dog to get around when it’s older. That’s why we have to try and protect our dog’s backs. So, we don’t want them jumping off the bed (even if they can do it easily) especially when it comes to the long-backed/short-legged breeds.
To further protect a dog’s back, it’s important to not encourage our dogs to do a lot of gymnastics or acrobatics when they’re chasing a ball or frisbee. I tell owners that it’s not the running that gets them into trouble, it’s the cutting and twisting that gets them hurt. It helps to throw the ball far enough such that it has stopped by the time the dog reaches it or to keep a frisbee low to the ground. For the dogs that chase toys in the house, it’s important to have a rug in the part of the room where they go to retrieve the toy so they don’t slip and slide.
It’s also important to not let our dogs get so itchy that they’re constantly twisting and turning trying to chew at their rear ends. This kind of behavior is extremely hard on a dog’s back.
When a dog has an acute episode of pain, they are not going to want to move at all. Their backs will be all hunched up and they’ll cry out or whimper if they happen to move the wrong way. Acute back pain requires cortisone, muscle relaxers and pain relievers. Yet, it’s important to not zonk a dog out too much on pain relievers because we want them to be aware of their pain enough so that they don’t overdo while they’re healing. Even though a dog may feel better with the medication, it’s vital to keep their activity down for a few weeks to a month. Changes need to be made so that the owner can minimize the activity or behavior that caused the injury in the first place.
Whenever I want to know if a dog’s back is a tender, all I have to do is pinch the sides of the dog from the neck to the rump. What I’ll consistently find whenever i’m examining a dog with back pain is that the dog will dramatically flinch when I pinch the area where the ribs meet the lumbar spine. This is a weak area for all of us as the spinal column is locked into place with the rib cage but suddenly becomes unattached at the upper lumbar area.
Ball Chasers (how to prevent injury): As mentioned under back issues, ball chasing is an easy way to injure a dog’s back but one of the most common injuries from ball chasing is a torn cruciate ligament. A torn cruciate ligament is a sever injury and often requires surgery. The problem is, whether a dog has surgery or is confined for months in order to allow a cruciate ligament to heal, the whole time the dog is healing it will be putting its entire weight on its good leg. Statistically, dogs that tear one cruciate ligament will often tear the other one in a year and a half. That’s not fun. So, let your dog chase a ball or frisbee but try to throw it such that the object stops before the dog reaches it so it doesn’t do any sharp cutting or twisting that will damage the cruciate ligaments.
Bathing (ok to bath dogs as often as you want): I constantly hear owners telling me that a vet or a groomer or someone told them to only bath their dog once a month or it will get dry skin or become more itchy. This is crazy. We wash our hair daily and we don’t get itchy or have dry skin. The ONLY requirement for bathing is that a dog shouldn’t be more itchy after a bath. If the dog is more itchy after a bath, it either means the particular shampoo didn’t suit the dog or the dog wasn’t rinsed well enough and soap was left on the dog. Most dogs feel less itchy after a bath but it only lasts a day or two.
The reason so many people feel their dog has dry skin is because they see flaking at the rump area of their dog. When a dog is itchy, the skin responds in a few different ways. The first thing the skin does when it’s itchy is it secretes a sebum substance onto the skin in an effort to coat the skin and provide a protective layer over the skin. This is the same sebum that forms in the ears and is what makes any itchy dog stink. When an owner pets their seborrheic dog, their hands will smell like musk as will their couches and carpet. When a dog with sebum on its skin is bathed, the sebum is worked up off the skin and will look like flakes: except that it’s not a dry flake, it’s a moist and seborrheic flake. Very few dogs have a true dry skin and the flake of a dry skin is very fine and non-smelly. The other two things the skin does on a chronically itchy dog is become thickened and pigmented black. That’s why some dog’s rear ends look like a baboon’s butt!
The best thing to use on a dog with seborrheic smelly skin is Dawn dishwashing liquid because it’s a grease cutter and an anti-bacterial. And, the rule is: THE MORE BATHS THE BETTER. It’s also fine to use our own shampoos on our dogs (such as Suave.) Since these shampoos have a lot of suds it’s just important to rinse the dog real well. I’m not sure all the oatmeal shampoos really help that much. I’d lean more towards Dawn than spending a lot of money on specialty shampoos for dogs.
Biting Dogs (aggressive dogs versus fear-biters)
Bladder Stones (urinary bladder stones)
Collapsing Tracheal (a small dog issue)
Constipation (an almost non-existent problem in dogs)
Coughing (heart issues versus tracheal coughing)
Dentals (Teeth Cleaning): Teeth cleanings are being done way too often these days. I constantly tell owners to please say “Thank you but no thank you” when their veterinarian tries to talk them into anesthetizing their dog in order to clean its teeth. It’s dangerous to put our dogs under anesthesia all the time (please read what I have to say about the different forms of anesthesia and how our pets are often under anesthesia with no one monitoring them while they’re under! Extremely dangerous!)
Even teeth with a lot of tartar (including loose teeth) are NOT dangerous to your dog but the anesthesia most certainly is. Small breeds of dogs, brachycephalic dogs and dogs over 8 or 9 years of age are very fragile when it comes to anesthesia and don’t let a veterinarian tell you otherwise. Never, ever do a dental on a dog over 10 to 11 years old. Veterinarians who advocate dentals on old dogs are NOT looking out for the best interests of your pet. All one has to do is look at the veterinary journals that say: “If you want to make an extra $50,000 a year, just add 15 dentals to your roster each month.” All I can say is shame on the veterinarians who would jeopardize your pet to make a buck.
I want to stress that everything concerning a dog’s teeth is dictated by the dog’s genetics. It doesn’t really help that much to brush your dog’s teeth (though if an owner wants to it’s certainly not going to hurt the dog but please don’t feel guilty if you don’t or can’t brush your dog’s teeth!)
Also, it doesn’t make a difference as far as a dog’s teeth are concerned if the dog eats canned or dry food. It does help a dog’s back teeth some if they like to chew on something hard as it will help to scrape off some of the tartar. The most important thing to remember is how a dog’s teeth look over a dog’s lifetime is completely related to its breed.
Almost all large breeds have great teeth for the most part. Large dogs (such as German Shepherds or Labs) are rarely going to have dental issues because their teeth are so big that they’re deeply embedded into the dog’s maxilla and mandible. Large breeds hardly ever have the gum recession or loosening of teeth that a small breed does. Small breeds (especially those less than 15 pounds) have the same number of teeth as a large breed but they’re crammed into a very small mouth. There’s simply no way that a tiny tooth can hold onto to the gums and bones in the same way that a large tooth can. It’s similar to having a 4 X 4 post in cement versus a toothpick: there’s no way a toothpick is going to stay as solid as a 4 X 4 post.
It’s normal for a small dog’s teeth to get tartar and loosen up over time. It’s simply a fact of life. Though veterinarians may tell you that it hurts your dog to have tartar on its teeth or to have loose teeth, I defy any veterinarian to show me an instance where an animal has had its life shortened by bad teeth. A little dog’s teeth may be gross and smelly but they don’t hurt the animal. Putting an animal under anesthesia all the time is what is going to hurt the animal (or kill it.)
There are only a few instances when an animal must be put under anesthesia for a dental issue. One is when the upper fourth premolar gets infected. This is a fairly common occurrence and it’s quite obvious when the fourth premolar gets infected because there’s going to be a lump that forms under the dog’s eye. Surprisingly, a dog with an infected fourth premolar is still rarely bothered by the infected tooth but the only way to ever resolve the issue is to remove the tooth. The only other time when it’s imperative to remove a tooth is when one of the dog’s canine teeth has gotten loose to the point that it’s sticking into the dog’s mouth and is keeping the animal from closing its mouth. Most of these can be pulled without anesthesia as they’re often just hanging there but, if it’s not loose enough, it may be necessary to give the animal a whiff of anesthesia to get it out.
What I’ve observed at clinics where veterinarians put older animals under anesthesia to do teeth cleanings is that the dog often comes back in two to three weeks in kidney or heart failure. It’s heart breaking to have to explain to an owner that having put their older dog under anesthesia in order to clean its teeth has caused the dog’s kidneys or heart to fail. Sadly, once an animal has kidney or heart failure, it’s very, very difficult to turn them around. The problem with older dogs is they’re often walking a very wobbly tightrope once they get older. Though a veterinarian may do lab work and say it’s mostly okay, older dogs are fragile and going under anesthesia is often all it takes to push them over the edge with their kidneys and heart.
Since it’s the smaller breeds that have the most problematic teeth, those are the breeds that veterinarians most frequently try to put under anesthesia in order to get their teeth cleaned. The problem with the smaller dogs though (especially the brachycephalic dogs with the smushed up faces) is that they’re the most fragile and sensitive dogs when it comes to anesthesia. A veterinarian must be extra careful with the anesthesia when it comes to these smaller dogs.
The scariest part of a dog getting a dental under anesthesia is that the vet is never the one doing a dog’s dental. It’s always someone else who may or may not have good training. There are times when a dog is getting a dental under anesthesia and no one is monitoring the dog’s anesthesia: it’s just the technician and the dog. (Please read the anesthesia section so that you can familiarize yourself with all the problems that occur with anesthesia and how to best protect your dog when it’s absolutely necessary that it go under anesthesia.)
I often tell owners that the best time to have a teeth cleaning is when their dog is already going under anesthesia for something else like a laceration or a growth removal. Since the dog is already going to have to go under anesthesia, that’s the best time to do a quick dental.
When it comes to SMELLY BREATH, it’s something that’s easily resolved with a low-dose of the antibiotic Clindamycin. I have prescribed a low dose of Clindamycin to dogs for years so as to eliminate the stinky breath that some dogs have and owners are shocked and thrilled that there’s no longer any odor when the Clindamycin is given Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Regrettably, most vets don’t want to prescribe Clindamycin as they’re focused on doing the teeth cleanings under anesthesia. I actually don’t think most veterinarians realize how well Clindamycin works to eliminate mouth odor. For small breeds, I’ll tell owners to ask their veterinarians to at least let them try the Clindamycin. Clindamycin for small breeds comes in a 20 ml bottle that’s 20 mg/ml. These little dogs only need 1/4 ml Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. At this low dose, it’s completely safe. My little dog, Priscilla, does great on only 1/4 ml Mondays and Fridays. If I happen to forget to give Priscilla her Clindamycin, my 5 year old grandson is quick to remind me: “Nana, you must have forgotten Priscilla’s medicine because her breath is smelly again!” The only bad thing about Clindamycin is that it tastes horrible! I tell owners that they can try to mix into something yummy like canned food or yogurt or maybe cottage cheese. If you just squirt it in their mouths (as I do with my dog Priscilla, they’re not going to be thrilled about the taste!
Diet: Click on this to read. This will tell you how to avoid too much protein in your dog’s dry food, how dry food is different from canned food, what table food is permissible and what table food to never to feed your dog, a super easy way to get your dog to lose weight and the best diet to feed an older dog)
Dogs that are too thin
Ear Issues (infections, ear washing, hematomas): Many dogs have ear issues at one point or another in their lives. These ear infections can be located at the inside of the ear flap, all the way down the ear canal or both. Whenever a dog’s ear gets irritated, it does one of three things. First off, the ear starts secreting this smelly substance called sebum. The ear is trying to coat itself with the sebum in order to protect itself but the sebum actually ends up being a medium for bacterial and fungal growth. The other two things the ear does in response to irritation is to get pigmented and thickened.
It’s important to clean an ear if it has sebum and other goop in or on it. The best way to do this is to wash the ear using Dawn dishwashing liquid. What’s good about Dawn is that it’s a grease cutter and an antibacterial. I know that many people believe it’s important to NOT get water down a dog’s ear but that’s simply not true and I don’t know where that old wive’s tale began. All an owner needs to do is to make the ear wash a part of the dog’s regular bath or, if the dog doesn’t get a lot of baths, just wash the ears by themselves. What one does is just the same as when one bathes the dog: get the ear wet with some water (ideally using a hose or a hand-held shower nozzle), apply the Dawn (it doesn’t take much), massage the ear to get it nice and sudsy, then rinse and massage until there is no more sudsing. This is a great and easy way to clean the ears without using a lot of chemicals in over-the-counter ear washes. How frequently one needs to wash the dog’s ears depends on how bad the ear infection is. The ears might need to be washed 2 times a week or just 2 times a month. The quest is to keep all the goop and sebum off and out of the ear. It’s not necessary to use Q-tips typically when one does this kind of ear wash. Using Q-tips can be traumatizing to an infected ear if one does a lot of digging and scraping of the ear canal.
Once the ear is clean, it helps to get some 1% hydrocortisone over the counter and apply it to the inside of the ear flap (if it’s affected) and down the ear canal once a day until the ear is looking better. Once the ear seems better, then use the hydrocortisone as needed to keep the ear good (maybe 2-3 times a week.) I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep treating the ears until they are 100% healed. If you stop treating them too soon, the infection will simply come back.
Some ear infections are so bad that they require antibiotics and prednisone to heal. This means having to go to your veterinarian. Unfortunately, the vet only tends to want to give a week or two of medication and this is often not enough to get the ears completely healed. It’s up to the owner, unfortunately, to call and get more medication or take the dog back to the vet to make sure the ear is completely healed before stopping the medication.
Excessive Water Intake (a definite red flag): Whenever any creature (dog, cat, person) starts drinking a lot more water than what’s normal for that creature, it’s a red flag. Excessive water consumption means that something is accumulating inside the body and the body is trying to flush it out. It could be the result of an infection, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, thyroid issues and many other problems in the body. If your dog starts drinking excessive water, it’s important to have the dog’s urine checked to make sure it is truly dilute (i.e.-has a low specific gravity) and, if it is overly dilute, to try to discover what the problem is through lab work. It’s never a good idea to limit a dog’s water intake in order to control its urination: the reason for the excessive urination must be investigated.
Excitement Urination: This is a common phenomenon in young dogs and typically occurs when the owners come home, when new people are introduced to the dog or the dog gets scared or scolded. The best way to handle this problem is to anticipate it. If it’s possible to have the dog outside when it’s most likely to happen, that can be helpful so the dog doesn’t urinate on the floors or carpet in the house. The quest in trying to control excitement urination is to distract the dog. One of the best ways is with food. So, if the excitement urination occurs when an owner walks in the house, it’s helpful to have a special treat ready before you walk in the door. Having some lunch meat or some cheese or some kind of other yummy dog treat the dog loves in your hand at the moment you see the dog can help the dog to focus on that instead of its excitement at seeing you walking through the door.
Euthanasia (how to make sure it’s a gentle procedure for your dog): When that sad moment comes and it’s time to have to put your dog to sleep, I think it’s extremely important to make that process as easy as it can be for both the dog and the owner. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to give the dog a strong tranquilizer first before the euthanasia solution is given. First off, the tranquilizer can be given either subcutaneously or intramuscularly and that’s a lot less stressful to a dog than the intravenous route needed to administer the euthanasia solution. It makes it so much more of a gently process if the dog has a chance to fall asleep first from the tranquilizer before the euthanasia solution is given. We don’t want our dogs being scared or feeling disoriented during their last moments on earth. It’s the last consideration we can offer them. So, it’s important for owners to talk to their veterinarians about this before they come in for the euthanasia. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian to give your dog a strong tranquilizer so that you can sit with your dog while it falls asleep. This way you’ll know that your dog is at peace before the euthanasia injection is given. There can be unpleasant consequences to giving the euthanasia solution by itself: a dog might struggle or cry out or even have spasms. There’s no reason to have to have our pets go through these unpleasant experiences and we sure as heck don’t want to see our dog going through anything like that.
Fighting between dogs in the same household: Dogs are pack animals and, as such, they are going to have a pecking order. Most commonly problems occur between the same sexed animals in a household. Having our animals spayed or neutered may help minimize these conflicts but sometimes even that isn’t enough to stop fights between certain individuals. Most conflict occurs as a result of three things: attention, turf or food. Many fights start when a certain person is present and the dogs refuse to share the attention of that person. Many fights occur when one dog gets too close to another dog’s toys, bed or food. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to anticipate every situation that might set two dogs off so owners are often put into the position of trying to separate them or find a home for one of the dogs. It’s important to figure out some means of stopping the fighting because not only do the dogs get injured but many times owners (especially children) get injured when the dogs fight.
Fleas and Ticks: The first thing that one has to consider when looking for protection for our dogs against fleas and ticks is the fact that every product will eventually experience resistance by the fleas and ticks. That’s why Frontline, which used to work so good for fleas, has now become much less effective. This is also true for Advantage which used to be my favorite product for flea protection. Right now, my favorite product is Comfortis. I love Comfortis when is comes to flea protection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t kill ticks so, if you have tick issues, then you’ll need to use something else. What I love about Comfortis is that it’s oral (so no pesticides on our dogs) and it can also be used for cats. The other great thing about Comfortis is that it can be broken down into pieces and divided among the different sized pets in a household. That makes it extremely economical. Comfortis is available in a Pink box for dogs 5 to 10 lbs and cats 4-6 lbs (140 mg), Orange box for dogs 10.1 to 20 lbs and cats 6.1-12 lbs (270 mg), Green box for dogs 20.1 to 40 lbs and cats 12.1-24 (560 mg), Blue box for dogs 40.1 to 60 lbs (810 mg), and Brown box for dogs 60.1 to 120 lbs (1620 mg). Amazingly, the prices between the various sized only varies by 2 to 3 dollars! So, when I treat my five cats, I simply get a brown box tablet (1620 mg) and divide it into sixths. Voila!
One thing that one needs to take into consideration about the Comfortis being an oral medication is that it’s a hard pill. I tell owners to crunch it up into a powder using a pill cutter and the side of a knife because, if it’s turned into a powder and fed with something yummy like canned food (or people tuna for the cats), it’s going to be much less likely to be thrown up.
As far as ticks go, they are by far the hardest external parasite to control on dogs. Ticks are tough. I’ve heard good reports from owners with respect to both the Seresto collars and Bravecto (both of these can be used on cats.) Nexgard seems to do a so-so job of controlling ticks as well as Advantix and Frontline. There are some newer products that I haven’t yet been able to make a determination as to their effectiveness (such as Simparica) but I’m always looking for the next new product that’s going to be able to keep the ticks at bay.
Flaky Skin (dry skin is very rare in dogs and most flaking in dogs is a seborrheic or secretory issue): please read the section about bathing
Growths (lumps and bumps)
Heart Disease: It’s very common for small breeds of dogs to develop heart problems when they get older. What typically happens is that the mitral valve in the left side of the heart gets leaky, allowing blood to flow back into the lungs where its just been getting oxygenated. When the blood backs up inside the lungs as a result of the leaky valve in the heart, the blood vessels in the lungs get overly filled and fluid leaks out of the blood vessels into the air spaces. This is called pulmonary edema.
When a dog has fluid in its lungs due to a leaky heart valve, that dog is going to cough. The cough will occur mostly at night and when the dog gets excited. There will be 3 to 4 outward coughs or more followed by a gag. The dog will also have exaggerated inspirations if you watch the way it’s breathing. In other words, the dog’s chest will be more exaggerated in its movements with the emphasis more on the dog’s efforts to breath in.
There are 3 medications most commonly used with heart problems. First, a dog will be put on Lasix (furosemide) as it’s a diuretic and will get the fluid out of the lungs. The next medication is Enalapril which is a beta-blocker. What the Enalapril does is to relax the blood vessels so it’s easier for the heart to push the blood around the body in the same way that a larger diameter water hose moves more water than a small diameter water hose. Finally, it’s important for the dog to be on a drug called Pimobendan (Vetmedin) as this is an actual heart drug that helps the heart beat more strongly and slows the heart down. When the brain notices that the heart is not doing its job, it tells the heart to speed up thinking that if the heart goes faster that will help things. Unfortunately, the faster the heart beats the less efficient it becomes because the heart is beating so fast that the individual chambers of the heart can’t fill completely before contracting. These three drugs work together to keep a dog’s heart problems under control.
Once a dog is doing better on all three medications, the Lasix is typically decreased as much as is possible in order to put less stress on the kidneys. The heart and kidneys are always at cross purposes because the kidneys want lots of fluid flushing through them while the heart wants less fluid in the body since the heart has to work a lot harder when there’s more fluid in the body. That’s why we always feed a low salt diet with heart patients so there’ll be less fluid in the body for the heart to deal with. Yet, it’s also important to feed a dog that has heart problems a low protein diet so as to decrease the stress on the kidneys. All heart problems eventually impact the kidneys so we have to keep that in mind in our efforts to find a happy balance between the different needs of the heart and the kidneys.
Heart Worms: Heartworm disease is a big problem wherever dogs are exposed to mosquitos. The only way your dog can get heartworms is if a mosquito bites a dog that already has heartworms, sucks up the baby heatworm larvae floating in the blood and then bites your dog. That’s why it’s helpful when a dog is mainly an inside dog or happens to live in an area where there are very few other dogs (i.e.-out in the country.) The only concern for country dogs is that coyotes carry heartworms: we just don’t know what percentage of coyotes have them. The critical fact to remember is that your dog gets heartworms from being bitten by a mosquito.
Adult heartworms live in the heart and produce microscopic larvae that float around in the blood stream. When a mosquito bites a dog with heartworms, it sucks up the microscopic larvae and spreads them to other dogs. Giving monthly prevention keeps a dog from getting heartworms. Unless a dog is under 5 months of age, though, a heartworm test is required before any heartworm prevention will be sold to a dog owner. The reason for blood test is that some of the drug companies that sell heartworm prevention (ex-Heartgard) offer a guarantee that, if your dog comes should come down with heartworms while it’s on the prevention, the drug company will pay for the heartworm treatment. That’s why the companies require your dog have a heartworm test before they dispense the heartworm prevention (the drug companies don’t want to pay to treat a dog that already has heartworms.)
There are two ways to treat heartworms: one involves a drug called Immiticide which is extremely toxic and expensive. The thing that makes treating a dog that has heartworms so dangerous concerns the fact that, as the worms are dying, little pieces of the worm are going to be breaking off and going into the lungs. That’s why every dog that’s undergoing heartworm treatment must be confined and prevented from having any exercise for 6 weeks. Otherwise, the dog could die from the dead worms causing clots in the lungs. Most heartworm treatment with Immiticide involves a specific protocol of heartworm prevention, doxycycline and prednisone. The recommendations for this treatment can be found on the American Heartworm Society website. The safest treatment with Immiticide involves 3 injections of the drug: one at the beginning of the month and two at the end of the month. This allows the worm death to be spread out over a month rather than it happening all at once which increases the likelihood of problems.
The second way to treat heartworms concerns a very controversial treatment called the “Slow Kill.” This involves putting a dog on monthly or bimonthly heartworm prevention along with an antibiotic called doxycycline (which renders the adult worms easier to kill.) The slow kill method obviously takes a longer to kill the adult worms. It’s controversial because of the concern that this method of heartworm treatment might eventually increase the resistance of the adult worms to the heartworm preventives. Unfortunately, as the treatment for heartworms with Immiticide is so expensive, many owners have had no choice but to use the slow kill method of treatment for their dogs.
It’s important to note that a dog should never be treated for heartworms based on one positive test alone. The most common test done these days is a “snap” test that reacts to protein from the adult female heartworms. Sometimes, it possible to get a false positive snap test. That’s why it’s vital that a pet owner have a different type of heartworm test done so as to confirm the positive snap test. The best alternative test is a test called the “Knot’s” test. This test actually tests a dog’s blood for the baby heartworms (the microfilaria): if a dog has the baby heartworms in its blood then it definitely has heartworms.
One final note for those people who can’t afford heartworm prevention or the blood tests required: there are some alternatives. First off, there are Canadian veterinary supply companies that will sell the heartworm prevention without requiring a blood test. Secondly, it’s always possible to purchase a larger sized heartworm prevention chew and divide that chew among smaller dogs. Finally, there is a product called Ivomec which is Ivermectin for cattle and it can be purchased at Tractor Supplies and other feed stores. There are formulas online that explain how to mix the Ivermectin with propylene glycol so it can be diluted enough to be given orally to a dog. It takes an extremely small amount and it’s important to follow the dilution directions carefully so as to not overdose the dog. Please remember: Ivermection is not recommended for use in Collies, Border Collies, Aussies and certain other breeds as they have a sensitivity that makes it more likely that they’ll have a bad reaction.
Hypothyroidism (mainly a large breed, older dog issue)
Intestinal Parasites (important to note that roundworms are a concern for toddlers)
Jumping (off beds and out of trucks): please see section on back pain
Lameness and Injuries (ball chasing and jumping off of the bed recommendations)
Loss of Appetite
Overweight Dogs (see section on diet)
Picking the Right Dog for yourself and your family
Picking the Right Veterinarian
Poop Eating in Dogs
Radiology (X-rays versus Ultrasound)
Sedation (over the counter options)
Smelly Breath: (please look at the last paragraph under dentals)
Spay/Neuter (why it’s so important to spay the females as opposed the males)
Teeth (how vets are doing too many dentals these days…please read the section under dentals)
Urine Leaking (primarily an older female issue)
Vaccinations (why it takes a series of vaccines for your puppy to be protected; don’t go to the park until your puppy’s had its last shot at 4 months of age; don’t give Leptospirosis to dogs under 20 pounds)