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Mapleton, MN 56065

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Exposing your pets to human medications

As you know, I usually like to use cases that come to All Pets Clinic when discussing pet health topics. However, this case, which was presented in a peer reviewed veterinary journal, was too hard to pass up!

The owner arrived with their 7 year old dog with the complaint that she was showing signs of being in heat (swollen nipples, vulvar discharge). However, this dog had been spayed when it was 6 months old! Was part of the ovary missed by the surgeon? If so why did the signs not begin until the dog was 7 years old? Was there a tumor that was secreting estrogen (the hormone that causes dogs to show signs of being in heat)?

A number of tests were performed. No remaining ovarian remnant. No tumor.

This dog was getting exposure to her owner’s topical (applied to the skin) estrogen medication (used to treat menopause in women). Especially concerning is the fact that dogs can develop bone marrow problems when exposed to too much estrogen. Careful actions were taken to avoid further exposure (the owner covered areas of application and wore gloves so that there was no residual on her hands when petting her dog). Within 3 months after the diagnosis, the dog had recovered and (thankfully) did not develop the bone marrow problems!

This example leads to a few pet safety comments.

  • About two to three times a month we get an after – hours call that a pet has eaten the owner’s medication. Pets simply like to put things in their mouths and chew on them. Many human medications are kept on the table or counter. We would never expect our pets to grab the bottle – that’s why it’s called an accident. But I guarantee they can open those child proof bottles and down the contents faster that the owner can say “Oh no!!” They just bypass the lid and chew the bottle right open, something we have all FELT like doing when trying to get those darned bottles open!
  • The above example involved topical medication – another situation we might not normally think about.
  • The 3 second rule applies to pills that fall on the floor – that is how long the owner usually has to pick it back up before the pet sends it down the hatch. One Tylenol tablet that falls on the floor un-noticed can kill the feline pet who eats it later. So the danger lies not only in owner’s prescription medications, but in anything with a drug label on it.
  • The past month has been typical in that we’ve received two calls where a pet had a medical emergency, and the owner had already applied a treatment – that they found on-line just minutes before trying to call us. In one case the owner had given the exact wrong thing, in the other the owner had given the right treatment but the wrong dosage. Both owners had human medical backgrounds. We do encourage owners to be as educated as possible about their pets, especially when bringing them in for their annual checkup or a non-life threatening illness. However, in situations that are potentially life threatening to our pets (like the above examples), call us first and then compare our recommendation to the Internet – not the other way around.

Some thoughts about prevention

  • Use different bottles for human and pet medications (all of our prescription bottles have pet specific lids). If it helps, put a piece of tape around the pet meds so that the owner knows immediately if they have accidentally grabbed a human medication that they are about to give to their pet.
  • Keep all meds (including topical meds) in a cabinet that the pets can not get into. That includes the pet’s medications – it’s not fair when the owner has to work so hard to get their pet to take a pill on purpose, and then they eat the whole bottle at once when the owner’s back is turned!
  • Take meds out of the bottle over the table or counter so that if one slips out of the owner’s grasp it will not fall on the floor.
  • Don’t get meds out when in a hurry. Organize them ahead of time when not in a hurry. This decreases the chance of a pill falling un-noticed on the floor (and decreases the chance of grabbing the wrong medication).
  • Wipe the dust from the table or counter that occurs from counting medications – surprisingly small doses of medication dust can cause serious problems in pets.

Our pets really are part of the family, and accidents from exposure to human medications occur fairly frequently. Let us know if you have any questions! Just call or e-mail your comments to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(The above case example was taken from NAVC Clinician Brief, August 2011, Vol. 9, No. 8, P. 21)

Getting Your Hunting Dog in Shape

The crops are turning from green to gold, the trees are turning color, and I even noticed some geese heading south. It’s hard to believe but hunting season is right around the corner, and now is the time to make sure your dog is on track to be ready for all that fun.

The fact that your dog will get out of the truck and push hard on the first day of the season means that he’s a normal pal who will go to extremes to please his owner – it does not mean that he’s in shape for a physically challenging weekend. Below is a guide to help make sure your dog is in shape physically.

REMEMBER – it takes a few weeks for muscles to strengthen, but it takes much longer for tendons and ligaments to strengthen because they have less blood supply. Allowing your dog to go harder than he is ready puts those ACL ligaments and flexor/extensor tendons at high risk!

In the chart below, the “Minutes / Exercise Period” is the time spent running through weeds and tall grass. Going for a walk each day is exercise, but is not preparation for hunting. So the chart assumes that the dog has not been exercising regularly, if yours has then skip ahead two weeks on the schedule. Use your judgment – if the schedule says to increase exercise time but your dog is not ready, then wait to increase the exercise period.

Optimal weight for hunting dogs is when you can easily feel the ribs behind the shoulder blades without having to push much with your fingers, but cannot see any ribs.

“Getting Fit for Hunting Season” Schedule
Week Age (Years) Overweight? Minutes / Exercise Period (3 periods per Week)
Week 1 <6 No 30
  <6 Yes 15
  >5 No 30
  >5 Yes 15
       
Week 2 <6 No 60
  <6 Yes 30
  >5 No 30
  >5 Yes 15
       
Week 3 <6 No Ready to Hunt!
  <6 Yes 60
  >5 No 60
  >5 Yes 30
       
Week 4 <6 No Ready to Hunt!
  <6 Yes 60
  >5 No Ready to Hunt!
  >5 Yes 60
       
Week 5 <6 No Ready to Hunt!
  <6 Yes Ready to Hunt!
  >5 No Ready to Hunt!
  >5 Yes 60

By week 6 all of the above categories should be ready to hunt (assuming no health problems including arthritic stiffness).

Some reminders:

  • Do treat your hunting dog for pain/stiffness – call us with any questions on this.
  • Do not use aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen.
  • A humid 70 degree day is worse than an 85 degree day with no humidity.
  • Assure access to water.
  • Use vests / wraps to protect from lacerations, torn dewclaws, etc.
  • Have all toenails short.
  • Lacerations – get as much debris out as possible, wrap if applicable; if it needs to be sutured then get to a vet within 24 hours. Do not glue.
  • Use veterinary tear replacement fluid to flush debris from eyes at the end of each half day of hunting. If your dog is squinting/painful in and eye, have a vet check it for corneal scratches or weed-ons.
  • Enforce breaks – your dog will not quit when he should, he needs you to be a good judge of that.

Call us if you have any questions!!!

Good luck and enjoy the time outside with your hunting Pal!

A Story About Hormones

Several weeks ago I artificially inseminated a dog for one of our clients. This is a service that we regularly provide for our clients, but this situation was a little unique, so I thought I would share it with you. As you will see, this story is not really about breeding dogs!

We work with a number of dog and cat breeders. Most of our dog breeders either have a male or female, but the client that I was working with a couple of weeks ago had both. In this case, their female (Layla) was the dominant dog, and would not let the male (Jake) breed her, which is why we used artificial insemination.

Each time Layla comes into heat, poor Jake is beside himself. Male dogs can smell a female in heat from miles away, and in this case she was in the same household. Jake’s owner spent several minutes describing to me how crazy he got – constant whining, not eating, in a frenzy, when he was outside he wanted to come in and when he was inside he wanted out, losing weight, etc. Basically Jake was in a dilated pupil, love crazed state, 24/7 for the 2-3 weeks Layla was in heat.

Normally he is a typical calm, laid back Golden Retriever.

Which brings me to a day back in February when I was at the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association meeting. I was attending a talk about the risks/benefits of spaying and neutering at 4-6 months of age vs. waiting until later in life (there has been a lot of misinformation on the web about having those surgeries done later in life, so this speaker had pulled together all of the science available so that we would have solid information to give our clients).

When discussing pro’s and con’s of waiting to neuter/spay, the speaker made a comment that came back to me as I listened to our client describe the changes to their Jake. It went something like this:

“Very few pet owners have a good image in their mind of the power that these hormones have over their pets. The degree to which their pet’s personality can change, and the degree of their unwavering focused to breed. The lengths they will go to in trying to escape their home and travel toward that scent of another dog or cat in heat”.

In effect, those powerful hormones can be dangerous to your pet

None of us expect our dog to escape from home – that’s why it is called an accident. But a significant percentage of dogs and cats that we get to fix after being hit by a car are not spayed or neutered. I guess their mind is focused on something other than looking both ways before crossing the street.

So we recommend getting your pet spayed or neutered unless you really know that you will breed them. If you planned to breed them but change your mind as they got older, remember that we perform those surgeries on pets of any age. Eliminating those powerful hormones decreases the chance of dangerous roaming and other undesirable behaviors, decreases many types of cancer, and in the females it decreases the chance of uterine infection.

If you have any questions about the benefits of spay/neuter surgeries at different ages please don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Help All Pets Clinic be as Green as possible – update your e-mail address with us!

Let us know any questions!

Buyer Beware: Purchasing Products that Perform

Unfortunately we saw another pet this week that had been treated for ear mites three times with a product purchased at a discount store, the poor little guy still had ear mites (and the owner was justifiably frustrated)! This situation (usually it involves flea/tick products) has occurred frequently enough with either discount supermarkets or products purchased on-line that we felt the subject deserved some space here. The following are some things many of our clients are not aware of:

The products we carry have good guarantees. For example, if your pet has fleas, and you use 3 doses of Frontline and she still has fleas, the manufacturer will pay for treatment and diagnostics from there. There are similar guarantees with the other products we sell, and we help get the manufacturer on board when there is a problem. Because of how on-line pharmacies care for the products in their warehouses, the manufacturers do not honor the guarantee.

We assure the products we store are cared for properly so they work as expected. On-line pharmacies buy products like Frontline “sideways” – they find a vet who buys it from the company and then re-sells it to the on-line pharmacy. Those products go to warehouses where they are not always properly stored, which affects how they work. There have actually been cases of counterfeit product getting into these warehouses.

We have a long line of clients who have purchased flea/tick/ear mite products while “getting the groceries” and ended up several weeks later paying us for products that are more effective and watching their pet endure extra time being infested. Sad but true.

Pricing – we price all of our flea, tick, heartworm, and ear mite product equal to 800-PET Meds. Our prices are updated monthly so that we stay competitively priced.

From us you can buy one dose, two doses, twelve doses – whatever meets your needs best.

We have tiered pricing on those products so that you save money by buying multiple doses.

We also pass on the company promotions to you. So for example, if you buy 6 Frontline you get 1 free. If you buy 6 Revolution you get 1 free, if you buy 12 Heartgard, you get a $5.00 rebate.

Also, you get 10% off during our annual Wellness Clinic!

And last but not least, our staff all know how to use these products. Effective treatment is partly good product and partly using the product correctly, and our staff will help you to get your money’s worth by using them so they work best!

Let us know any questions!

Preparing for Kittens

The breeding season for cats in Minnesota goes from December through July each year. Only a few female cats come into heat outside of this time period, and late January through May are when the most females are ready and the Tom Cats are straying.

The feline hormonal push to mate is much stronger than many people understand. Straying Toms explore literally every household with cats – indoor or outdoor – whether the owners of those households see them or not. Un-neutered males are direct targets for straying Toms, and cat bite wound abscesses are a common injury that we treat in the spring and summer at All Pets Clinic. Neutered males may also be attacked by straying Toms, but less frequently than non-neutered males.

The reason I chose to discuss the “straying Tom” issue first is because the biting and the face to face hissing when fighting or mating is a very effective way to spread diseases to your cats – including feline leukemia, upper respiratory viruses, and even rabies. Unfortunately, the category of cats most likely to spread rabies to people is the category least likely to be vaccinated – “barn cats”.

On the average, cats have their kittens about 63 days after mating. Females can become pregnant anytime after they go through puberty, which can occur any time after 5-6 months of age.

The best situation for a cat to become pregnant and have healthy kittens is when she is in good body condition, is free of worms, fleas, and ear mites, and has good immunity against common cat diseases. Owners of pregnant cats should have a good plan for nutrition, parasite control, and vaccinations.

As the birthing time nears, the nutritional requirements to support the developing kittens increases, but a pregnant cat can not eat as much at each feeding because of the pressure against her stomach from the kittens inside her. After the kittens are born, the new mom has to support these growing kittens – a huge nutritional drain on her. Pregnant cats should be fed premium quality kitten food for the last 2 weeks of their pregnancy and continuing until the kittens are weaned.

Science has shown that roundworm eggs live for over 20 years in cement and for many years in dirt. So we can assume that any place that has had cats in the last 10-20 years has roundworm eggs on the premises. Fleas and ear mites are more of a problem when cats congregate for warmth, which is happening in the spring when many cats are pregnant. Many outdoor cats have worms, fleas, and ear mites whether the owners see them or not, and those parasites steal nutrition from pregnant females that are already often marginal from a nutritional standpoint. Pregnant cats should be wormed every two weeks during their pregnancy and both the mom and kittens should be wormed every two weeks until weaning. Moms should be treated for fleas and ear mites monthly through their pregnancy.

The new mother cat passes protection against some diseases through her milk to the kittens. This helps keep kittens from getting sick before their own immune system is strong enough to develop protection (around 4-6 weeks). Mom can’t pass protection against diseases that she is not well protected against herself. Pregnant cats should be current on their rabies vaccinations, and should be booster vaccinated against feline upper respiratory viruses and feline leukemia at about 2 and 5 weeks before birthing.

Pregnant cats should have access to a place that is warm, dry, protected from the wind, and that provides separation from other cats to have their kittens. As long as the kittens are suckling well, it is best for owners to minimize handling them until after their eyes open.

The most common issues we see with kittens are poor nutrition, parasites, and upper respiratory infections. Treating those issues as they occur is important, but the best treatment is prevention – which starts long before they are born!

I hope this information was helpful – let us know if you have any questions!!!

Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen and Pets

Hey Everyone – this morning we had a kitty cat come in that had ate a whole Ibuprofen tablet that had accidentally fallen on the floor. He’s pretty sick. Just a reminder – Tylenol and Ibuprofen made for humans can be fatal to dogs and cats. Ibuprofen can cause kidney failure and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause a blood disorder and liver problems.

Both cause conditions that are difficult to treat once the pet starts to show symptoms. Accidents do happen, if you see your pet eat one call right away so we can deal with it before it starts to affect your pet.

Let us know any questions!

Giving your Pet a Bath

Just a real quick one – many of our clients give their pets a bath at home. One way to get your dog to be more cooperative for this little project is to smear peanut butter (or liquid cheese) on the sides of the tub. It takes them 10-15 minutes to lick it off, they hold still and shake suds around less! This is especially helpful when giving medicated baths that require waiting 10-15 minutes before rinsing the lather off.

Cats are famous for disliking getting into water – try propping a window screen up so that one end is on the tub floor and one end is up on the edge of the tub. Put your cat on the screen – they have something to dig their claws into and you can use a cup to pour water over them.

For those of us with sore backs, try giving your small pet a bath in the kitchen sink, or if he / she is a little big for that, get a plastic tub that can sit on your counter top and has a drain plug so that you can drain it into your sink (putting a bath towel under the plastic tub will keep it from sliding as much).

I hope all of you have a great day!

Why Should I Vaccinate my Pet?

Why should I vaccinate my dog for Rabies when I keep him inside all the time? Why should I vaccinate my cat for distemper when I keep her inside all the time? Will the sun continue to come up in the east if I’m late getting my pet in for booster vaccinations?

Great questions! So let’s talk about the practical side of vaccinations.

Vaccinations are different than antibiotics. We use antibiotics to treat a current infection. They take effect immediately. We use vaccinations to prevent a health problem from occurring. Giving a vaccination stimulates the immune system to increase your pet’s immunity against that disease, and it takes 2-6 weeks for that “building up” of the immune system. So vaccines do not take effect immediately.

Remember that there are two main things that determine if your pet will get sick when exposed to a disease. The first is the level of immunity that her body has against that disease. The second is the size of the dose of virus or bacteria that she is exposed to.

If your pet has a medium level of immunity to a disease, and is exposed to a small dose, she will not get sick. If she has a medium level of immunity and is exposed to a large dose then that large dose can overcome her immunity leading to illness.

For most of our patients, vaccinating moves their immunity from the “medium level” to a “high level”. As time passes their immunity drops, until the next year when the booster vaccination bumps it back up to a high level again. So the longer an owner waits after their pet is due for vaccinations, the lower their immunity drops, and the easier it is for them to get sick after being exposed to even a small dose.

So now let’s tackle some of those good questions!

Why should I vaccinate my pet when I keep her inside all the time?

Let’s cover this question for cats first. Feline Distemper is another name for the upper respiratory infections that cause sneezing, runny nose and eyes, and loss of appetite in cats. It is VERY contagious, which means that it is easily spread and a small dose can cause disease. It’s most commonly spread when cats sneeze in each other’s faces. But these organisms can live for a short period of time on surfaces like food/water bowls or even our clothes. So although cats that are indoor all the time are not exposed to other cats that may be infected, they do have access to people or things that may have been contaminated by an infected cat and then brought into the house. I have unvaccinated indoor cats that get these upper respiratory diseases.

The same logic applies to dogs and their Distemper/parvo vaccinations. The most common issue that we are vaccinating for in this case is Parvovirus, a virus that causes severe diarrhea and 40% to 60% of infected dogs die. Most of us have stepped in a doggie poop at some time or another, and tracking a bit of poop into the house that is infected with parvovirus can happen without us even knowing it. The vaccine does a good job keeping dogs from getting Parvo, and almost all of the cases that I see are in dogs whose owners decided not to vaccinate.

Why should I vaccinate my pet for Rabies?

When discussing most vaccines we are talking mostly about protecting the pet. When discussing Rabies vaccine we are also talking about protecting people. Rabies is spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into an open wound – often a bite wound. The chance of most of my patients contracting Rabies is very very small. However, almost every person who has ever got infected and started showing signs of Rabies has died. So, it’s kind of like getting struck by lightning – the chance of it happening is very small, but if it happens the repercussions are huge. The fact that Rabies kills people is why the government has set rules that make sure it’s given by a veterinarian, and it is also why it can be a legal liability issue for the owner if their unvaccinated pet bites someone.

My neighbor vaccinates his dog for Lyme disease, my other neighbor does not? Why?

Some vaccines we administer based on the pet’s lifestyle. We don’t want to give pets vaccinations unless they are necessary. For example, Lyme disease is spread by ticks, so we recommend that vaccine for dogs that have lots of tick exposure. Quiet a few hunting dogs get Lyme vaccine, but a lot of poodles do too if they go camping every weekend!

Bordatella vaccine is another example. This vaccine helps protect against Kennel Cough (an infection of the windpipe). We recommend that dogs that are being boarded, go to puppy classes or the dog park regularly, or have other similar exposure to other dogs should be vaccinated.

What about cats? Well, when it comes to lifestyle dependant vaccination recommendations for cats, Feline Leukemia is a good example. Cats are different from other species in that they have a virus called Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV). This virus causes leukemia in infected cats. It is not treatable, is fatal, and is prevalent in the “outdoor cat population”. So if your cat has exposure (even through the screen door) to outdoor cats, he has potential exposure to FELV, and should be vaccinated.

Why do all of the kittens born at my place get a runny nose/eyes every year?

Most of those cases are the caused by the “distemper” viruses I talked about above. Kittens are dependant on protection they get through their mom’s milk until they are 6-8 weeks old. So making sure that all of the cats on your place are current on their vaccinations will help in two ways. The higher the mom’s immunity level is, the higher the level of protection she passes to the kittens in her milk. Also, the more cats that are vaccinated, the fewer sick cats are present, and so the exposure dose for the kittens is lower.

My dog and cat are getting old, do they still need vaccinations?

Disease is most common in very young and very old animals because their immune systems are the weakest. As your pet moves into his or her “senior” years, vaccinating becomes even more important.

Do you have any questions about vaccinations that I did not cover here?

Do any of you have things that our clients should remember when heading out on vacation with their pets? Just put them in the comments!

Hair Coat Shedding in Pets

Before getting into this week’s health tip, I need to introduce another addition to our team. Being the only vet here at All Pets has lots of advantages – I get to meet all of you whenever you stop in! It also has a few disadvantages – thank goodness my family likes me, they just want to be able to take me away more often! Anyway, I’m very exited to introduce Dr. Christy Stone to all of you. Dr. Stone started two weeks ago and will be working at All Pets one day each week. She graduated from Kansas State in 2005 and lives in Fairmont with her husband Steve and one and a half kids (she is due in November to have their second child!). I’ve spent quite a bit of time with her and she does a great job with small animal medicine and surgery. Besides making it easier for me to get to my kids’ cross country meets this fall, it will be great to have another doc around to discuss cases, etc.

Wow, we get a lot of hair left at our clinic! Shedding is one of the most common things that I hear clients expressing (usually mild) frustration about – our pets are definitely part of our family but it would sure be nice if they didn’t leave their coat behind on all the furniture. Of course, getting my kids to pick up after themselves is sometimes a challenge also, so maybe we shouldn’t view it as a problem specific to the furry family members!

Although concerns about excessive shedding are common among my clients, in most cases the shedding is normal. Understanding what causes shedding and how to tell when it is abnormal helps pet owners to make more sense of it all.

Dogs and cats don’t grow hair continuously. Their hair grows in cycles, and each cycle has a growing phase, transitional phase, and a resting phase. The most important things that influence these cycles are the amount of light each day (called the “photoperiod”) and changes in environmental temperature. Lesser important influencers of the cycles include nutrition, hormones, and the “health status” of the pet.

In our geographical area outdoor pets tend to shed their coats twice a year – in the spring and in the fall – due to changes in temperature and photoperiod. The up/down changes in temperature and photoperiod cause the brain to tell the hair follicles to increase activity, the old hair gets pushed out and new replaces it. Pets that are kept primarily indoors experience year around changes in temperature (going in and out of the house) and in photoperiod (lights being turned on and off) and so – hurray! – they shed all year around!

So, what’s a poor indoor pet owner to do? Modifying the temperature and photoperiod of your house to reduce shedding is the equivalent of moving outside with your pet, which is much less comfortable than moving him or her inside with you. Well, that’s were we get into some of those “lesser important” influencers of the hair growth cycles – we can’t eliminate shedding but it’s worth doing everything we can to control it.

Diet is the first place to look. The skin is a very large organ and requires a large amount of nutrients in the right proportions. In the majority of cases feeding a quality diet (please go to our web page and read my health tip on what pet food to buy – quality diet and best tasting/fanciest label are not the same!) goes a long way toward healthy skin and minimal shedding. Some pets have a larger requirement for omega fatty acids, and supplementing that area can also be beneficial, especially if your pet also has dandruff. We carry several omega fatty acid supplements; Welactin has given the most satisfactory results for me in both dogs and cats.

If your pet is going to shed a certain amount of hair, the more hair you get them to shed in your hair brush, the less will end up on your furniture. Daily brushing is also a fun time to spend with your pet!

Bathing can loosen the hair follicles, so that in the day or two following a bath the pet looses the hair it would normally have shed during the next week. Then later in the week the hair loss is correspondingly less. I’ve talked with clients about using this approach to time taking their pet on vacation, trying to increase shedding before they leave and have less shedding while traveling. Never use human shampoo on your pet, it will dry the skin and cause several problems including increased shedding.

Anxiety definitely increases shedding. Thoroughly socializing (I have an upcoming health tip on pet socialization) your new puppy or kitten has lots of advantages. One you might not have thought about is that the more relaxed your pet is (whether you are home or away, when you have visitors, etc.) the less anxiety is present and shedding due to anxiety is minimized. Stress actually causes the hair follicles to loosen, which is one reason why pets shed so much during a visit to the vet or groomer. If you have an anxious pet, give us a call, there are some things we can discuss trying.

Hormones can affect shedding directly (pregnancy/nursing hormones can directly cause increased hair loss), or indirectly (in-heat females or males who are aware of in-heat females definitely have higher anxiety levels). So reduced shedding is another reason to make sure your pet is spayed or neutered.

Long haired breeds shed more than short haired breeds. Giving those long haired breeds a hair cut, especially in the summer, will significantly reduce the hair you find on your furniture. It will also reduce the discomfort due to being hot – remember more stress or anxiety results in more shedding.

Shedding can be breed specific – breeds without undercoats or guard hairs shed less. Examples of low shedding cat breeds that I’ve seen locally include Siamese and Burmese. Heavier cat shedders include Persian, Maine Coon, and our ever-present Domestic short/long hair. Looking at dogs, poodles are known for their low shedding which has resulted in several poodle crosses such as Labradoodles and Goldendoodles. Double-coated heavy shedding dog breeds that I see locally include Akita, American Eskimo, Collie, German Shepherd, Newfoundland, and Dalmatians.

If you are concerned that your pet’s hair loss is not normal, have us take a look. Signs that you should have your pet examined include bald areas (may be due to hormone problems or excessive licking), crusty areas, areas that are very itchy, or red/inflamed areas.

Sometimes we have to perform surgery on our patients. Cleaning the surgical area to allow a sterile surgical field requires clipping, and a common question is “how long before the hair will grow back, and what can we do to make it grow back faster?” A study reported in Veterinary Dermatology in 2004 showed that the average number of weeks for total hair regrowth after surgical clipping was 14.6 weeks and that there was no difference from the season of the year. The slowest hair to grow back was in along the dog’s back just in front of the hindquarters, which sometimes took 6 to 24 months to grow back (I’ve seen this also). The reason for the slow growth in that area is not known. A 2006 study, also reported in Veterinary Dermatology, showed that efforts to increase growth rate after surgical clipping including vigorous brushing, and application of melatonin had no affect on hair regrowth rate. So our standard answer of “it will grow back in 3-4 months, as long as you’re feeding quality food and the pet is in good health” seems about right.

I wish we had the “cure” for shedding. It would even be nice to be able to bale the hair we get here at the clinic and market it! Alas, some things are not to be. I think the main things for our clients to focus on are whether the shedding is normal, are they doing everything they can to minimize the normal shedding, and if they feel that the shedding may be abnormal to bring their pet to us without delay.

Is your pet a heavy shedder? Do you have any “anti-shedding tips” for the rest of our clients?

Do any of you have things that our clients should remember when heading out on vacation with their pets? Just e-mail us and we’ll pass them on!

Traveling with your Pets

We usually get a few questions or comments after each Health Tip is sent, but last week’s Tip about What to Feed your Pet really generated a lot of interest. Thanks for the comments!!!

One note – it is a new month, has everybody remembered their Heartgard/Frontline or Sentinel for August?

August is a time when many of our clients are going on vacation. All Pets boarding facilities have been pretty full lately, but many of our clients take their pet with them. Here are a few things to keep in mind so that this summer’s adventure is both safe and comfortable!

Make sure they are current on vaccinations AND that you have a copy of your pets vaccination history ready to whip out at a moment’s notice. Accidents can happen and if you are enjoying a tourist site and your pet nips the child who is hassling it, the first thing the child’s parents (and, heaven forbid, any authorities who get involved) will ask is “has your pet been vaccinated for Rabies?”.

Make sure to apply Frontline or Advantix 1-2 days before leaving. That way it’s at maximum strength so that any fleas or ticks that your pet picks up at the rest stop (remember fleas live in the grass were other pets have been) will be stopped in their tracks. Advantix has more repellant action than Frontline and so may be a better pre-vacation option. Doing it a day or two before leaving allows the wet spot on their back to dry before departure.

Avoid heat stroke – never ever leave your pet in the vehicle in the direct sun! Provide water periodically during travel.

Are your pet’s nails trimmed? Having to find a vet to finish removing the nail that your pet tore ALMOST off is probably not part of your vacation plans.

If you are traveling across state lines, or especially if you are traveling to another country, bringing health papers along is a good idea. Different states have different regulations on this so having them does no harm, not having them when required can be a bad experience. Some airlines require a special paperwork. Health papers certify that I’ve examined your pet and have found no evidence of contagious disease. They are good for 30 days after the exam.

Have our clinic number with you. A number of medical emergencies can occur, some require a visit to the nearest vet clinic, but some can be dealt with over the phone.

Make sure you have your pet’s Rabies tag number and microchip number written down. If he or she becomes lost, calling the local shelter and vet clinics to give them a heads up will facilitate a safe return.

Consider having your pet microchiped. Many of our clients are doing this – if your pet becomes lost and the break away collar gives way, the microchip is the only way for a shelter or clinic to know who to call. This costs $39.95 and takes just a couple of minutes.

Make sure we have your current cell phone number in our computer. If a shelter in Denver gets your lost pet and calls our clinic with a Rabies tag number, we can let them know how to contact you.

Going on a family bike ride is tons of fun and a good way to look around your “destination”. Remember the mathematical equation: Bikes + dog on leash = ½ family accompanying hurt family member to the emergency room + ½ family accompanying hurt dog to the vet clinic.

Bring some Benadryl along, and check with us on what dosage is appropriate for your pet. It’s an easy first line of defense against those sudden skin rashes, poison ivy, insect bites, etc. Also, Benadryl helps calm some pets while traveling, during storms, or when driving through Chicago during rush hour when the human occupants of your vehicle are a little tense and your pet senses that!!!

Bring some Pepcid AC along, and check with us on what dosage is appropriate. Sudden gastric upset from new food or from eating something picked up at a rest stop can make a pet pretty unpopular in a hurry. Pepcid AC can help coat the stomach for mild gastric issues, and it doesn’t stain furniture if your pet vomits after eating it.

It looks like fun when your pet puts his head out the window while you are going down the road – until a bug hits him at 60 – 70 mph right in the eye! That is potential for permanent eye damage.

Sounds scary but if you travel with your pet in a carrier, strap the carrier in with a seat belt. If (heaven forbid!) an accident occurs, your pet will not be ejected from the vehicle and the human occupants of the vehicle won’t be struck by a flying pet carrier.

Make reservations – not all hotels accept pets!

Do any of you have things that our clients should remember when heading out on vacation with their pets? Just add them to the comments!

What Food Should I Feed my Pet

I saw a puppy several weeks ago that had mega-dandruff, and now the hair coat looks healthy. The only change – the food.

So I thought I’d talk about pet food a little bit in this week’s health tip. This discussion is a little long, so if you want the bottom line skip right to the bottom!

Which food should I feed my dog or cat? If trying to determine the answer to that question is confusing for me, and it is, then I can imagine how frustrating it must be for my clients. We have to feed our pets something, so we can’t avoid the decision. So here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Point #1 – the ingredient label is pretty much useless for this decision. I can buy 50 pounds of dog food for $7.50 and I can buy 50 pounds of dog food for $75.00. Both bags say HIGH PROTEIN on the bag, both have almost identical ingredient labels, so logically the less expensive food is just as good as the more expensive right? Not! An extreme example is that I could grind up my shoe leather (a protein source ingredient that we all know my dog Casey can not utilize) and create a food with the same percent protein as both bags have on their label. So what the label says is in the bag says nothing about QUALITY of ingredients and how well your pet can actually digest and absorb what is in the bag. Reading ingredient labels will not help much in choosing one food over another.

Point #2 – in the above example, the more expensive food has to be better, right? Not necessarily. When I first graduated from vet school I could tell my clients that generally low end (from an expense standpoint) pet foods used lower quality (harder to digest) ingredients, middle end foods used higher quality ingredients but purchased based on least cost (this week they get their protein from meat based ingredients, next week from poultry based ingredients, whichever is least cost), and high end foods used high quality ingredients made from the same ingredient sources all the time regardless of cost (which is expensive so the food cost more). Things have changed though, now days the pet food business has so much profit potential that a lot of new comers have jumped in, the price sometimes reflects what they think you will pay as much as the quality of ingredient.

Point #3 – so I think I’ll let my dog Casey help with the decision – not so fast! Studies have shown that the average pet owner will sooner or later go to the store, get three kinds of food, put each one in a bowl, and continue buying the one that their pet eats. The food manufacturers know that in order to continue keeping their food on the shelves instead of their competitors, they need to win the “Taste Battle”. So some manufacturers have ramped up the food’s taste to the point that pets can’t stop eating. I can tell you that some of the brands that I know have the best nutrition taste just fine but consistently loose the “Taste Battle” because they are not made to taste like candy. I have been blessed with five kids – imagine how their bones and muscles would have developed if I had fed them based on what they thought tasted the best!

Point #4 – about 85% of allergies in dogs and cats are from inhalant allergens – things like ragweed pollen, etc. That means that only about 15% of allergies are from the food a pet eats. Last week’s health tip was about allergies, and I have an upcoming health tip specifically about food . So if you think your pet might have allergies, odds are that the food is not the cause.

Bottom Line – the most scientific ways I can think of to choose a food don’t seem very scientific, but they help me get past the marketing blitz and glitz:

  • ”Choose a food that has been around for years. A decade or longer is my preference. There are so many new foods with colorful bags, some will stand the test of time and some won’t. There are foods in each price category that have stood the test of time. Let someone else allow their pet to be a test for new food brands.
  • ”Choose a food that is fed to dogs or cats before being put on the shelf. Not all foods are, believe it or not. It should specifically say someplace on the bag that the food was tested by being fed to dogs (some foods have statements that sound like they might have been tested in this fashion, but don’t actually say it – sorry that doesn’t count).
  • ”From the list of foods that pass both of the above two criteria, the higher priced foods will tend (no guarantees) to have better nutrition.
  • ”Remember that if your pet is used to eating ice cream (a food that tastes too good) and you buy a more nutritional food that tastes the equivalent of pizza, you will have to wean them off the ice cream and onto the pizza!

How did you choose the food your pet eats?

Mon, Tue, Thurs: 7:15am to 6:30pm|Wednesday: 7:15am to 8:30pm|Friday: 7:15am to 5:00pm|Saturday: 8:00am to 2:00pm
EMERGENCIES: Call normal clinic number: (507) 524-3748 and press the button for emergencies (we have a vet on call 24/7).