Beach Fun

Pet Travel

As summer approaches, Skipper will likely be making some extra trips for vacation.  We can’t WAIT to take him to the beach and show him the waves and let him chase the ghost crabs, and see how he swims at the lake!

If you anticipate traveling with your puppy, it’s very important to work on acclimating to the car early, during the socialization period.  We started by taking Skipper on very short rides with lots of treats.  Ideally, try to get the puppy used to where you want him to sit in the car as an adult. For example, when we brought Skipper home the very first day we met him, he would only ride quietly on top of my shoulders. This was fine for 9 lb Skipper, but not exactly acceptable for the current, 45 lb Skipper.

There are lots of options for securing your pet when traveling, but disappointingly, not very many studies to determine the safest option.  In my opinion, making sure that your dog or cat is secured away from the driver is the MOST important consideration. Your dog should not be able to climb on your lap (or your head), bump any of your car controls, or distract the driver in any way.   Skipper has done quite well with a sling in the backseat which keeps him confined to the second row of the car, but gives plenty of space to lounge and look out the windows.  His sister, Lily, on the other hand, has to be confined to a crate, because she will not settle in and relax as readily.    There are numerous options including car seats, seat belt type attachments, kennels, slings, etc.  Choose what option keeps your dog calm, happy, and away from distracting the driver.

I do strongly recommend keeping some form of identification on your dog during a car ride, as a precaution, in case the unthinkable accident occurs and your dog leaves the site of the crash in the fray.  Because a collar could get lost or fall off, a microchip implanted under his skin is the safest way to ensure he is constantly carrying identification, and your contact information.  Of important note, these microchips do not help track your dog; there is no GPS capability to the standard microchip. I can’t wait for the day that happens! The microchip is only helpful if a Good Samaritan finds your dog, and brings them to someone with a scanner to retrieve the stored information.   You’ll also need to make sure to regularly update the information attached to the microchip, if you move, change phone numbers, etc.

For those dogs (aka Lily) who are very nervous during car rides, there are a few pharmaceutical options to help make the trip less stressful. These medications work beautifully even for short rides to the vet office.  Consider this: if every time you got in the car, you went to the doctor, you vomited on the way, and THEN had to get shots or blood samples were drawn, you’d probably really hate the thought of getting in the car.  For the animals who become car sick, there are a few antinausea medications.  Benedryl will work for some dogs, however, there are a select few who become overly excited from Benedryl doses.  I typically recommend giving maropitant (Cerenia) at home 1-2 hours prior to starting a car trip, long or short.

For the anxious creatures, trazodone or gabapentin (anti-anxiety medications) are great options to give 1-2 hours prior to leaving home. If you’re headed to come see us at Aldie, there is an added benefit of already having that anti-anxiety medication on board before you get to the clinic. Please don’t feel strange about giving anti-anxiety medications to these guys who are so incredibly worried at the clinic, or in the car. It is not a reflection on you, your training, or your pet. If you’ve ever experienced any level of anxiety/stress, you know how terrible that feels, and I suspect that our canine and feline friends feel the same. We CAN help these guys with a little “special” snack just a few hours before a trip!

If you are taking your pet on vacation, always make sure that your lodging arrangements permit pets. I also recommend bringing an appropriate kennel to confine your pet if you have to step out of your hotel room, or baby gates to cordon off dangerous areas of a rental house.  Depending on when or how you’re traveling, you may also need a health certificate to cross state or international borders.  These certificates can take some time to complete, so make sure to check with your veterinarian well in advance of your trip.  Ideally, at least have a way to access your dog’s vaccination records (rabies especially!), in the event that your dog needs to see a vet while you’re away from home, or there is some bite or fight incident.  Many veterinarians, including Aldie Vet Hospital, have user-friendly apps that allow you to access your pets’ medical records any time, directly from your cell phone.

Always make sure to bring your pets’ medications along and try to keep them on a consistent schedule.  I recommend bringing these medications in their ORIGINAL bottles, just in case there’s a need for a new veterinarian to know the dose and drug name.   If you’re going on a long trip, remember to check your supply and get refill requests in early.

If you’re not planning to take your pup along on a trip, there are a few options.  There are several boarding facilities around, which work well for some pets and often have someone on staff 24/7.  These facilities can be loud, and some pets can become very stressed in this type of environment, while others are unfazed and enjoy playing with the other boarders. There are also many in-home pet sitting services, or you may know someone who can stop by, or stay overnight, to watch your pets.  In either situation, I recommend pre-arranging an authorization for veterinary care.  Aldie Veterinary Hospital has forms which can be filled out ahead of time to authorize your pet sitter/boarding facility to request care for your pet in the event of an emergency.  It’s also helpful to create an info sheet for caretakers, including emergency contacts, veterinary clinic number, and medications for each pet.

 

Happy travels this spring and summer! Share your pictures with us on Facebook and Instagram!

 

Skipper & Dr. Conroy

Cone of Shame

Spay Day

Last week we covered the plan for neutering Skipper… so what about your female puppy?

There are many reasons to spay your dog, including eliminating the risk for a life-threatening uterine infection (pyometra), decreasing the risk of mammary, uterine, and vaginal cancers, and preventing unwanted puppies.   Small breed female dogs can experience their first heat cycle by 6 months of age, sometimes as early as 4 months.  Large breed female dogs tend to mature later; their first heat cycle occurs between 9 months and 2 years of age.  Heat cycles occur once to twice yearly in most dogs.  During a heat cycle, your dog will exhibit physical as well as behavioral changes, including vaginal discharge, and the desire to escape/roam away from home looking for a mate.  Skipper’s housemate, Lily, went through a heat cycle between her adoption and spay date when I was in college. I have lots of stories, but can tell you that it was not a fun time for either of us and something I recommend avoiding if possible!

Historically, it’s been recommended to spay dogs between 4-6 months of age.  Your veterinarian may recommend spaying a little later for certain individuals.  Similar to the literature for male dogs, there are studies which show a decreased risk for orthopedic conditions like cranial cruciate tears (ALC tears) or hip dysplasia for dogs who are spayed later than 4-6 months of age.  However, this benefit has to be weighed more carefully for female puppies.  With each heat cycle, the risk for mammary cancer increases, to a 26% risk for mammary tumors by the second heat.  Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of spaying, and the appropriate timing for your female puppy with her veterinarian.

We are fortunate to have two spay procedure options at Aldie Veterinary Hospital. A traditional spay is completed through an abdominal incision that is a few inches long; the ovarian vessels are individually tied off with suture material, and the ovaries removed from the body. Pets typically stay in the hospital the night after this procedure to monitor for post-operative complications, such as pain or bleeding.

A minimally invasive, laparoscopic procedure affords the opportunity to utilize a much smaller (about 1-2 centimeter) abdominal incision, through which a special camera and instruments are introduced. The ovarian vessels are cauterized during this procedure. These patients are typically able to go home the evening after surgery. Laparoscopic procedures are highly recommended for large breed dogs due to the decreased risk for postoperative bleeding and the ability to make a smaller skin incision.

As with any procedure, there are risks associated with each of these options including anesthetic complications, intra or postoperative hemorrhage, pain, or in the specific case of laparoscopic procedures, the need to convert the procedure to an open-abdominal approach if there are any concerns noted through the camera. Pre-operative lab work is reviewed for each patient prior to her procedure, to ensure she is a good candidate for anesthesia/surgery, and able to process pain medications postoperatively.  A licensed veterinary technician is with your dog for the entire duration of her procedure, from sedation to recovery.  Her technician monitors her vital signs, makes sure she stays warm and comfortable, and keeps her relaxed and calm during her recovery time.

Once she goes home, your dog will need to take it easy for about 2 weeks, in order to give her body and skin incision time to heal.  She will not be able to have a bath or go swimming until she’s fully healed. She will go home with pain medications to help keep her comfortable in the first few days following the procedure. It’s critically important to keep her e-collar on at all times during the entire recovery period. Healing incision can be itchy, and she may want to lick/chew at the incision site. This can introduce bacteria to her surgery site, or cause the incision to open up.  These complications can be severe, even life-threatening in some situations, and could require hospitalization, or a second surgery to treat.  About 10-14 days following surgery, your dog will be scheduled for an incisional recheck, to ensure she is fully healed and cleared to return to normal activity.

Be sure to ask your dog’s veterinarian about the right timing and procedure for your dog at her puppy appointment! We are happy to answer any questions at any time!

 

Here’s to the cone-of-shame pictures and keeping our girls healthy!

 

-Dr. Conroy, Skipper, and Lily

#SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus #FollowFriday #FF

Xylitol products

Sugarless Sweetener: Not So Sweet for Canines

Xylitol is a common ingredient used to sweeten human food products.  It’s most notably found in sugarless items like chewing gum, peanut butter, Jell-O, pudding, or other household products like vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste.  Ice Breakers Cubed gum is the most common culprit we’ve seen lately at Aldie, and unfortunately has a high amount of xylitol.  Just ONE tiny, little, delicious cube can cause toxicity in a 25-pound dog!

Xylitol toxicity is not documented as well in cats; most research indicates they are a bit more tolerant than their canine counterparts.  However, it is not recommended to give cats xylitol and you should contact your veterinarian if you believe your cat has ingested any amount.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

A dog’s body responds to xylitol in the same, but exaggerated, manner that it would typically respond to sugar: it releases insulin.  This causes a low blood glucose (blood sugar) level, which can result in subsequent weakness, muscle tremors, or even seizures or death. Xylitol is absorbed rapidly after ingestion; the drop in blood sugar can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion, but signs may take up to 12 hours to develop.

Xylitol can also cause damage to your dog’s liver.  It can take up to 2-3 days for evidence of the damage to appear on lab work.  The liver damage can range in severity from mild and temporary, to extreme and life-threatening.  The liver is an important organ and has many jobs.  We typically think of it as the filter/recycler of the body, as it processes blood from all around the body and “cleans” it up.   However, the liver also makes many things, including clotting factors. Clotting factors allow the body to stop a severe hemorrhagic event from occurring following a simple injury (think bumping your knee=small bruise, not life-threatening hemorrhage).   Dogs with severe liver damage may become jaundiced (have a yellow tinge to eyes/skin).   If the clotting factors are also affected, life-threatening anemia can occur, and a blood transfusion may be required.

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Time is of the essence! As soon as you realize your dog has ingested something containing xylitol, contact the veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center and bring them in right away!  Blood glucose can drop as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, so there’s no time to waste.

WHAT DOES THE VET DO?

We will induce vomiting, and make recommendations for further treatment and monitoring based on how much xylitol your dog ingested.  Inducing vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide can work, sometimes. However, there are studies that show that burns from the peroxide ingestion can persist in the esophagus/stomach days after the vomiting episode. Veterinarians have a much more potent vomiting agent, which is more likely to be successful than just peroxide, and less likely to have the abrasive side effects.

After vomiting occurs, we often recommend hospitalization for IV fluid support, dextrose (sugar) supplementation, liver protectant medications, and frequent monitoring lab work.  These hospital stays range from 1 day for minimally affected dogs, to a week or more in very severe cases.

PREVENTION

Xylitol is a sneakily dangerous food ingredient.  Make sure to double check what kind of peanut butter you use to feed treats/medications, and use extreme caution with oral hygiene products, medications/vitamins, and chewing gum in the house. Make sure to keep your toothpaste and mouthwash in a drawer if you have a counter surfer, and keep purses and bookbags with gum up high on hooks to deter “shopping” from these items.

The veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center are here to answer any questions or treat your pet if he/she happens to get a hold of xylitol-containing goodies.

Skipper's Reaction

Neutering and the Cone of Shame

Skipper is now 6 months of age, a milestone which brings up an important conversation about the future of those two things between his hind legs. Does he really have to lose them? What health benefit is there to neutering my pet? When is the best age to part ways with them? Let’s go over some of the most common questions.

Should Skipper be neutered?
Breeding dogs has its place, for responsible, thoughtful breeders, who want to contribute to an individual breed’s future. Breeding a litter of puppies sounds fun, right? Who wouldn’t want a litter of tiny wriggling puppies in their house for a few weeks? But, whelping (birthing of puppies) is a full-time job. Keeping momma and puppies safe and healthy is tough, requires hard work, conscientious, round the clock care, and should be left to the educated breeders who truly have a passion for the duties associated.

Now, obviously Skipper isn’t having puppies himself, so where does that put us? Un-neutered male dogs (we call them intact males) are more likely to go off roaming, to find a mate. This could put another dog owner at risk for having to care for an unwanted litter and put Skipper at risk for injury on his wandering adventure.

Intact males are at risk for development of testicular cancer, infection of the testicular cord and/or testicles, testicular torsion (a painful twisting of the spermatic cord which chokes off blood supply to the testicles), and prostatitis (inflammation/infection of the prostate). Without the testicles, the risk for these conditions drops impressively, to 0%.

Some intact males may also have some undesirable behaviors, like roaming, wandering, marking, and in some cases, aggression/reactivity to other dogs or humans. Some groomers, boarding facilities, and doggie daycare facilities have policies that restrict or prohibit access to their facilities.

OK, so when do we plan this?
For small to medium breed dogs, anywhere in the 4-6 months age range is appropriate for neutering. For larger breeds, like Labradors, Rottweilers, Great Danes, etc., I often discuss waiting until the dog is more skeletally mature. There are several studies documenting a beneficial, protective effect of sex hormones on joint development in these bigger dogs.

The breeds listed above are inherently at a higher risk of developing some orthopedic conditions, like a torn cruciate ligament (like an ACL tear in humans). Allowing these guys to remain intact until around 1 year of age may decrease that individual’s risk of injury. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Skipper will never have an orthopedic injury if I allow him to stay intact until he’s a year old. Likewise, it doesn’t mean that every dog neutered before a year of age will definitely have an orthopedic issue. It’s just a factor in the planning process to discuss with your dog’s veterinarian.

What should I expect before, during, and after a neuter?
Within 30 days of your dog’s procedure, a pre-operative blood test needs to be completed. The lab work will tell us if his liver and kidneys are up for the job of processing anesthesia and pain medications. It also ensures that we know his red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet counts are normal, which is important before any surgical procedure.

The day of his neuter, withhold breakfast to ensure he doesn’t become nauseous following anesthesia. Check-in for surgery is usually between 7-8 am. The procedure itself is fairly quick, usually about 30 minutes, and once your dog is up and awake, he can go home, sporting his brand new e-collar. Sometimes this is as early as lunchtime; it all depends on where your dog’s procedure falls in that day’s surgical line-up.

Your dog may feel a bit “funny” the night following anesthesia. Some dogs whine or pace, others will just want to go home and go to bed. He will need to take it easy for the next 7-10 days and MUST wear the oh-so-glamorous lampshade, to make sure he doesn’t damage his surgery site until it has time to fully heal. For those dogs who spend more time jumping around on two legs than walking on four, we often recommend a light sedative to help encourage him to stay quiet during the healing period. He’ll also have some pain medications for the first few days after surgery to keep him comfortable.

Since Skipper is a large breed puppy, and so far very well behaved, we’re planning his neuter for around 10-12 months of age. Discuss the best plan for your puppy at his puppy examination; we can help create a plan that fits each individual, and answer any questions you may have.

-Skipper & Dr. Conroy

#Vetsrus #SkipperAndConroy #FollowFriday #FF

I can Help

Outings to the Super Pet Expo

The Super Pet Expo is just a week away! This event has lots of fun things to offer both humans and canines.  For the humans, you can shop from many vendors of unique, pet-related products: beds, treats, collars, clothes, toys, etc. For the dogs, there are several activities: small and big dog play areas, a dock diving pool, and a lure game for dogs who like to chase!

 

So it sounds awesome, and you want to take your dog. But how do you know if your dog is going to enjoy his time at the Expo as much as you will?

 

For adult dogs, consider the following:

  1. Does your dog like being around other dogs?
    • Does he greet other dogs in a calm, friendly manner? Look for signs such as a loosely wagging, raised tail, ears forward, and a relaxed face.
    • If your dog is pulling so much that you don’t need to go to the gym tomorrow, and lunging at other dogs, he is not a good candidate. While your dog might be enjoying himself, he’s going to intimidate others.
    • Likewise, if your dog is hiding behind your leg, tail tucked, ears are back and his lips are pulled back tight into a “smile,” he would rather let you shop alone at the Expo.
    • Check out this link for more information on identifying signs of anxiety/stress in your dog: https://fearfreehappyhomes.com/fearful-fido/
  2. Your dog likes being around other people and is comfortable with tiny humans
    • LOTS of people come out to enjoy the Expo and look at all the cute dogs! If large crowds, strange people, or the unpredictable hands and fast movements of tiny humans make your dog uncomfortable, you should think twice about bringing him along.
  3. Leash Manners
    • With so many toys, treats, people, and other pets around, it’s very important that your dog is obedient on a leash to avoid an accident.
    • I strongly recommend using a harness rather than a collar. A dog who pulls on collars can put a lot of pressure on his windpipe, and cause discomfort, difficulty breathing, coughing, and/or gagging. Front-lead harnesses (the ring to clip the leash is on the front of the dog’s chest, rather than on the back) are really helpful for dogs who like to pull. Or look into a gentle leader- with a halter type loop over the nose. For any leash/harness, always make sure to read the instructions to ensure a proper fit
  4. Vaccinated
    • This is the MOST important consideration. Before taking your dog (especially a puppy!) out into a dog-dense location, it’s critically important that he is up to date on vaccinations to protect himself and others.
    • Dogs socializing with other dogs in public should be up to date on their rabies, distemper, and bordetella vaccines.
  5. Caution Alerts:
    1. If you are unsure of how your dog will react, attach a yellow or red ribbon to his leash and/or harness, to alert others that he may not like attention.
    2. You can also get creative and make a t-shirt with a gentle warning, “Anxious. Please do not pet me.”

 

What if you have a young puppy, working on socialization skills and outings, and want to use the Expo as a training time?  This could work, with a few precautions.

  1. First and foremost, make sure your puppy is on track with his vaccination schedule.
  2. Attend the Expo at times less popular times of day to avoid overwhelming his senses.
  3. Bring your pup in a cart/stroller to minimize exposure to germs on the ground, especially if he is less than 5 months of age.
  4. Keep some sanitizer handy for new people to use prior to petting your puppy to avoid disease transmission.
  5. Minimize or prevent interactions with other dogs, as there is no way to know their vaccination status or how they may interact with the puppy.
  6. Remember, it’s your responsibility to advocate for your puppy. It is OK to decline peoples’ request to pet your puppy or ask them to refrain if they forget to ask permission.

 

The Super Pet Expo is a very fun family-friendly event for all.  Make sure to bring LOTS and LOTS of treats from home for positive reinforcement. Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior for signs of anxiety, and make adjustments as needed. That may be offering some treats and re-focusing, taking a time-out in a quiet corner, or even leaving the Expo a little early.   Do not force your dog to participate in the dog activities. Remember to use lots of positive encouragement, treats, and patience.  For example, Skipper has not yet been exposed to water (only ice so far this year, sadly), so you would not find us leaping from the dock diving exhibit. We suspect he *might* like the lure exhibit though!

Have a great time at the Super Pet Expo, and make sure to stop by and see our emergency team at the Dulles South Veterinary Center booth for fun freebies from March 15, 2019 to March 17, 2019!

 

Dr. Conroy & Skipper

#SuperPetExpo #SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus #FollowFriday #FF

 

Skipper Flies

Preventatives Part II: Stopping the Creepy Crawlies

So last week we covered heartworm disease and its prevention. Skipper and Lily line up on the first of the month, all year round, even if there are 4 inches of snow on the ground, to get not one but TWO very special treats. The first is a heartworm/intestinal parasite preventive, and the second is a flea/tick preventive.  Whisper, the feline housemate, aka Boss of the House, is not so excited for her topical heartworm/flea/intestinal parasite treatment each month, but a little tuna makes everything better in her world.

 

FLEAS

Everyone’s familiar with these little jumpy, black bugs. Flea infestations can be quite nasty to control once they’ve taken hold.  And this isn’t just a warm weather issue: a flea that hitch-hikes into your warm house with carpet, blankets, baseboards, or rugs to ride out the winter has hit the jackpot and will have no intention of vacating.  They can live on wild animals (rodents, squirrels, deer, etc.) and jump on your pet from a shared yard/outside space.  Fleas feed off the animal host and lay eggs which fall into the environment (most worrisome, the carpet/floor in your house).  Fortunately, they won’t “infest” a human, but they may incidentally bite humans if they jump off their nearby animal host.

 

If you have seen live fleas on your pet, take care to thoroughly wash any bedding and vacuum carpets/furniture they frequent to remove all flea eggs.  Talk to your veterinarian immediately about treatments to kill the adult fleas present on your pet quickly, and preventives to address future generations. A single female flea will start laying eggs within 24 hours of feeding on a pet and can lay 40-50 eggs per day.  Eek!

 

A flea infestation can take months to get under control once it occurs.  As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” Better to never see these guys than have to try to get rid of them later. Flea bites are exceptionally itchy to dogs, to the point that some quite literally pull their hair out and/or develop skin infections.  Very small/young animals can suffer from anemia in severe cases. Fleas also happen to transmit tapeworms, among other diseases, which can rob an adult or juvenile animal of nutrients.

 

TICKS

Ticks are nasty little creatures which can carry several different diseases, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ideally, we prevent the ticks from attaching at all or kill them as quickly as possible once they do attach. Unfortunately, ticks are also fastidious bugs that can survive the winter, even under snow and during frigid temperatures. They tend to bed in leaf debris to survive these cold spells. For this reason, we need to keep all dogs on tick prevention year round. You can also make your yard less tick friendly, by keeping the grass cut short, and remove all leaf litter/debris regularly.

 

So, how do you prevent these?

I usually recommend giving flea/tick/heartworm prevention on the 1st or 15th of the month, as these dates are the easiest to remember. You can put reminders in your phone calendar to keep on track. Or go old school and use the monthly reminder stickers on the family calendar- super fun for the kids to do!

 

There are several options for flea/tick control: topical medications, oral medications, or collars.

  • Topical Medications: These are easy to apply and fairly effective.  Just part the pet’s fur, and squeeze the contents of the tube onto the skin. There is an oily carrier (nontoxic to humans/pets) which can leave a little greasy spot for a few days.  Some of these products also have the benefit of repelling fleas/ticks, rather than just killing them after they bite. Take care to use only veterinarian approved products.  Store labeled products can be caustic and harm your pet’s skin.
  • Oral Medications: These medications are easy to administer, safe, and very effective.  These products are labeled to kill quickly (<24 hours) after a flea/tick bites. They also have the benefit of not leaving that temporary greasy residue behind on the pet’s fur!  These products are not designed with a repellant.
  • Collars: The Seresto collar is a reputable, effective product which kills and repels fleas/ticks.  These collars should be replaced every 5-8 months. Frequent swimming/bathing can decrease the duration of coverage for this product, so for those water-lovers, we recommend changing them every 5 months.

 

Your veterinarian may even recommend a combination of the treatments, such as oral product combined with a Seresto collar for additional coverage, especially in peak tick season (March-September). Keep in mind, that even if a product has been proven to be 99% effective, if a dog is exposed to 100-200 ticks in a day (shockingly not unreasonable in some parts of our state!), 1-2 could easily attach and have a chance to transmit diseases.

 

It’s recommended to purchase these products through your vet’s office, or approved pharmacy to ensure quality control and avoid counterfeit products that can filter their way onto online markets.  Please feel free to ask any of the Aldie vets about which product would best fit your pets’ lifestyle!

 

Much love from Dr. Conroy & a Bug-free Skipper

#FollowFriday #FF #SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus

Baby Teeth Missing

Doggie Tooth Fairy

February is Dental Month at Aldie Veterinary Hospital! Did you know that our dogs and cats need dental care too?  Daily teeth-brushing is the best way to cut down on the plaque and tartar build up.  While your puppy is young, practice brushing his teeth a few times a week to get him used to the process. Start by just rubbing your finger across his teeth on each side, and then graduate to using a finger brush or toothbrush for dogs, adding flavored toothpaste makes this activity way more fun.  While it sounds absolutely repulsive to us, there are chicken, beef, and even peanut butter flavored toothpastes for dogs!

 

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah right, I’m never doing that.”  I encourage you to try because some dogs LOVE this activity and it only takes 1-2 minutes of your day!  And, it can save you hundreds to thousands in dental costs later. Remember, you and I brush our teeth twice a day, and still go to the dentist twice a year. Imagine years of plaque buildup without a single brushing or dentist visit, and how gunky those teeth would feel.

 

Personally, I don’t remember canine oral health being a concern for our family dogs as a child. It just wasn’t a popular topic in veterinary medicine even 10-15 years ago. Many of those pets were silently suffering from dental disease, rotten/wiggly teeth, tooth root abscesses, broken teeth with exposed pulp cavities, or undetected oral masses.  If you’ve ever experienced tooth sensitivity, had a loose/diseased tooth, or felt the sting of an exposed dental nerve, I’m sure you can sympathize with those dogs and cats. The difference is, most of our cats and dogs continue eating without showing any signs of discomfort. They just don’t know any better, and can’t say, “Hey Mom, lately that cold water and hard food really hurts!”

 

So why is all this “old dog” information on Skipper’s puppy blog? Because oral healthcare starts now!  Work on getting your pup used to teeth brushing so that we can delay the timing of his first dental cleaning, and increase the intervals between them.  If you have a toy breed dog, like a fluffy little Maltese or sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this becomes even more important; those guys LOVE to build nasty tartar on their teeth even at a young age.

 

There are also some dental concerns for young puppies. Skipper is still in the process of losing his teeth, and he’s apparently not read the book on a “typical puppy,” yet again! Most puppies will lose their baby teeth as their adult teeth come in. Well, as you read this, Skipper has 7 canine teeth. 4 adult canines (the big pointy teeth) have come in, but 3 of his baby canines refuse to be evicted.  He’s a little too young to get too worried just yet, and these teeth are wiggly, so I’m keeping an eye on them.  If these “persistent deciduous teeth,” aka stubborn baby teeth, are still around at the time we decide to neuter him (or maybe even before!), I’ll need to extract them.

 

Persistent deciduous teeth can cause numerous problems for that adult tooth which needs to last him for the next decade or so. Abnormal tartar accumulation and food bits can get stuck between the two teeth sharing the same slot, and damage that adult tooth. They can also detour the normal path for the adult tooth to come in and can change the way the upper and lower teeth meet when he takes a bite/chews.  If you notice your dog looks like they have two sets of teeth after about 5-6 months of age, ask your veterinarian if they are a concern. Often times we find extra teeth at the time of a young dog’s spay/neuter surgery and can easily remove them to prevent problems from developing later on.

 

Much love from Skipper, Dr. Conroy, and the Tooth Fairy

#SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus

Dental Month

February is National Dental month in the Veterinary world. We wanted to take just a minute to let you know why regular dental cleanings on your fur baby are important.

Each day plaque, the soft white material, accumulates on the teeth. If this plaque is not removed, it becomes tartar. Tartar is the “cement-like” yellow material you may see on your pet’s teeth.

Plaque and tartar contain bacteria that circulates through the bloodstream, therefore going through each and every organ in the body. These bacteria can “stick” to organs, including the valves of the heart. Over time, even healthy animals can be affected. This bacteria and tartar also cause halitosis or bad breath.

When the tartar accumulates, it makes a heavy coating over the teeth. If left untreated, this tartar will push on the gingival above/below the teeth, causing gingival recession and gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is defined as inflammation of the tissue and boney structures supporting the tooth. If left untreated, the tooth will have no structure holding it in place, therefore requiring surgical extraction.

During a dental cleaning, also known as a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment, our licensed veterinary technicians clean the teeth, examine the entire oral cavity, and take radiographs. Once the cleaning and oral examination are complete, our veterinarian also does an oral exam and reviews radiographs for any signs of periodontal disease. Once they have completed their exams, a treatment plan is recommended.

What can be done to help? Starting a routine home dental program! There are multiple options available including brushing, adding a water supplement, sprinkling powder on food, or using chews impregnated with an antimicrobial enzyme. Brushing daily is the best option but we are aware not every dog or cat will tolerate this immediately! Like anything else we want our pet to do, it takes time and training!

As with anything, do not hesitate to call and speak with one of our staff members about products, cleanings, or training tips!

Chewing Away

Teething & Toys

Puppy teething is upon us.  From about 4-6 months of age, a puppy’s baby teeth will fall out and permanent teeth come in.  You may not see this happen, since puppies often swallow baby teeth during eating/playing, but during this time it’s pretty common for chewing and biting behaviors to worsen. Keep up the remove and replace techniques, and stock up on some good chew toys!

At about 15 weeks of age, Skipper starting teething more than ever, even reaching for our coffee table legs for the first time! So like all good parents, we took him on a socialization outing to Petco and let him pick out some new things.  Adorably, he lost his two front teeth over Christmas! He’s currently completely snaggle-toothed and the baby canine teeth are next to go! Below is a list of some of our favorite toys and chew items.  Keep in mind that NO toy is indestructible, so always monitor your puppy closely and inspect toys for tears/damage often to avoid swallowing hazards.

 

Dr. Conroy’s Favorites 

Skipper’s Favorites

 

Playology Scent Infused Chew Toys

–        These smell faintly like bacon or peanut butter, and supposedly smell more strongly as the dog chews

–        They seem pretty sturdy, and are firm enough for gnawing without breaking pieces off, but squishy enough I’m not worried about him breaking his teeth

–        Cost: $9-15ish

 

 

Plastic Bottles

–        Tropicana OJ and soda bottles are my top choices.  They’re so crunchy and crackly!

–        Mom always takes all the tasty labels, caps, and rings away so I can’t eat them

–        I love trying to get kibbles and peanut butter out of the bottle! And all the loud noise it makes clunking across the floor!

–        Cost: free, PLUS it’s recycling!

 

Nonstuffed Toys:

–        Tightly bound rope toys and knots: watch these for stray strings that can be swallowed

–        Plubber toys are a bit more durable than plush toys, though they are NOT indestructible, especially for terrier teeth!

–        Rubber squeak toys: no fluff to swallow, but watch for disembowelment and squeaker removal

–        Cost: $5-10

 

 

Literally Anything I Can Destuff and Destroy

–        Fluff is SO FUN.

–        It’s a little dry but I still try to swallow it as mom and dad untangle it from my teethies

–        I’m allowed to play with nonpunctured fluff toys under supervision, the nylon ones get to stay on the floor longer!

–        Grandma comes over sometimes to replace squeakers and sew them back together! It’s like Christmas all over again!

–        Cost: $1-$10

 

Kongs:

–        These are great for tossing in a kennel at bedtime or while you’re away for a bit

–        Line the inside with a bit of peanut butter, or toss some kibbles in!

–        Not 100% chew-proof, but pretty durable

–        Freeze low sodium chicken broth, water, and vegetable mixes for an outdoor summer treat!

–        Cost: $5-20

Socks and Shoes:

–        My humans’ feet smell ah-mazing.

–        These are soft and fun to nom on, especially Dad’s thick winter socks and Mom’s slippers!

–        For some reason these vanish and another fun toy appears real fast, but I love to shop for them in the closet!

–        Cost: $2- $5000 for foreign body surgery

 

Nylabones:

–        Any sort of rubber bone or ring can be helpful in the peak teething.

–        Less likely to be destroyed, but Lily once ate a good chunk of one as a puppy.

–        Many different textures/flavors available

–        Toss them in the freezer when the puppy’s teeth seem particularly uncomfortable!

–        Cost: $5-20

Cat Toys:

–        The  purrfect size for my tiny puppy mouth

–        She has toys that squeak like REAL mice!

–        They have this weird scent that my booply snoot likes to snuffle… some sort of catnip? We have a bush of it outside, too!

–        These apparently live on the coffee table now after I tried to eat one.

–        Cost: priceless hatred from the cat

Happy shopping!

Dr. Conroy, Skipper, and the Tooth Fairy

Skipper_Conroy_Hat

Tips on Training Commands

Keep It Short, Sweet, and the Same


Puppy training can be a daunting task.  I’m here to empower you, and tell you that YOU can do this!  If you’ve been working on potty training and general manners at home, you’ve already learned the important training fundamentals: consistency and positivity. And I’ll add one more: patience.  Remember to be patient with your puppy, but also patient with yourself.  You and your puppy are learning how to communicate, and you are learning to teach, essentially in a different language.

First and foremost: create a setting for success.  As you get to know your puppy, you’ll be able to tell when he’s ready to focus.  There are certain points of the day that Skipper just wants to terrorize Lily and others where he’s wandering around the house needing to occupy his mind.  Take advantage of those moments when you can, and try to minimize distractions.  Separate your training session from other dogs in the house, and work in an area with good traction and minimal background noises.

There are countless YouTube videos, books, puppy classes, and training services that demonstrate how to teach each individual command. Always be sure to select only positive reinforcement training programs; avoid punishing or forceful techniques, as these have no place in puppy training.  Dr. Sophia Yin’s material is a wonderful resource.  She has countless online videos and has written many books, including How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves and Perfect Puppy in 7 Days.

 

Short

Keep your sessions short and simple, as puppy attention span is quite brief.  Depending on your individual puppy, 5-10 minutes may be his maximum.  When he starts to show signs of disinterest, quickly wrap things up on a good note, i.e. one more good sit with a treat, praise all around, and then break for play.   I like to introduce a command during a training session, and then reinforce the command sporadically throughout the day.  For example, Skipper and I will spend 5-10 minutes at lunchtime learning something like “sit.” Then, at random points during the rest of the day, I’ll ask for a sit and reward him for remembering.   During training, you’ll want to maximize the chance of success by minimizing the possibility of failure (like potty training!), so make sure to pick your battles wisely. I don’t ask for a “sit” command in the middle of an intense tug of war session or while he’s running around the yard like a gazelle. The chances my kibble and praise are worth stopping the fun are pretty slim, and it’s important to get the behavior I requested each and every time, or he’ll learn to get away with “forgetting.”

Sweet

Prepare the treats!  Using a handful of puppy kibble is usually sufficient.  Dogs don’t particularly care what you’re offering, just that you gave them something!  Speaking from experience; be careful offering a bunch of rich food as rewards, as you may find yourself punished by the flatulence later.   It’s also a good idea to save the “high value” treats for things like the vet’s office, bath time, and nail trims.  We like to spoil your puppy and bribe away their love so next time they’ll come bounding through the hospital doors ready for more! As a veterinary behaviorist once explained it: if you were offered $20 to go to the dentist, you may be inclined to find something else to do that afternoon; if you were offered $20,000 to go to the dentist, you’d be there every Tuesday!  For Skipper, the $20 kibble is quite sufficient to learn sit, down, roll over, etc.  The $20,000 liquid gold (aka squeeze cheese from the can) has been deemed a fair price for nail trims, vaccines, and ear exams at the clinic.

Same

Be consistent with the terms, hand signals, and the manner in which a command is given to the puppy.  All members of the household will need to use the same terms and process in order to avoid confusion.  And, more importantly, make sure puppy gets praise and/or a treat each time, to keep him interested in learning and doing the right things!

With Love and Squeeze Cheese,

 

Dr. Conroy & Skipper