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Dogs News

Lyme Disease – An Annual Invasion

Lyme disease

Be prepared for an invasion. Not from across the ocean, but from little critters hitching a ride on mice: ticks. Each year the territory of ticks carrying Lyme disease appears to be spreading, and urban and suburban environments are ripe for the reason they spread: mice. While traditionally people have blamed Lyme disease on deer, mice appear to play an even larger role in spreading Lyme infected ticks.

Research by ecologists has shown that the numbers of mice the previous year is correlates with the number of Lyme cases the following summer. Due to mild winters the past decade, the population of mice has increased and the range and severity of Lyme disease has increased as well.

The CDC tracks Lyme cases and the spread of Lyme has been startling. Lyme was originally confined to New England and some areas of Wisconsin. It now can be found from Maine down through Virginia, across Wisconsin and Minnesota and in smaller pockets throughout the country. The ecologists suspect this is due to larger populations of deer, increased fragmented forests (mice thrive in small patches of woodlands), decreased predators feeding upon mice and deer, and increased travel by people. DC has plenty of mice and great moue habitat: small gardens and small patches of woodlands.

Lyme is spread via an infected tick biting either you or your dog (it is possible in cats, too, but less frequent). Infected ticks carry the organism that transmits lyme, Borellia burdorferi, in their saliva and inject it into the animal while feeding. In general it takes over 24 hours for the tick to transfer Lyme to its host once it attaches. The disease is treatable in both humans and dogs, but prevention is key. For people routinely checking for ticks post any outdoor activity is key. Look in great places for a tick to hide: behind the ears, in the groin area, under the arms.

Therefore, if you note a tick on yourself or your pup, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. When removing a tick, grasp it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull it off. Do not squeeze its body. Always check yourself and your dog after playing outside – simple walks in the neighborhood are sufficient to have ticks jump onto you and the pup.

For dogs, we have a three-fold method of prevention: removal of ticks, oral and topical tick preventives, and a vaccination against Lyme. The most effective preventives focus on killing ticks as soon as possible. Simparica, NexGard, and Bravecto work via causing uncontrolled neurologic issues in ticks and the ticks rapidly die. The medications have a very high affinity for the specific chemical in ticks (fleas, too), and usually cause no ill effects in dogs. When giving any of these three preventives, monitor your pup for any adverse reactions, such as vomiting, tremors, or simply not feeling well. Side effects are quite rare and pass with time. The risk from Lyme and other tick-borne disease is much greater than the risks from the preventives.

There are several Lyme vaccinations available as well. They prime the immune system to recognize the Borellia organism and mount a immune response its presence, thus decreasing the likelihood of clinical disease. Here in DC, the vaccine is recommended for most dogs.

Even with preventives and vaccination, Lyme can still be transmitted – these methods are not fool-proof. We recommend that your dog be tested for Lyme once per year as part of annual parasite testing. If positive for Lyme, treatment can help prevent problems from arising.
Tick and parasite control is complicated and requires several different paradigms. We veterinarians are here to help keep your pup (and to a degree you) safe from ticks and tick-borne diseases. As always, please let us know how we can help.

Dan Teich, DVM
District Veterinary Hospital

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Dogs News

Senior Dogs in the Winter – Keep Them Active!

Winter may be harder on senior dogs than the balmy warmer months of summer. Sure, it is cooler and we do not have to worry about heat stroke, but arthritis is worsened by the cold, their level of exercise decreases, boredom sets in, and there are routine winter hazards. The importance of mental and physical exercise in the winter cannot be overstated – for senior and younger dogs.

Similar to humans, and as discussed a few months ago, dogs develop arthritis as they age. Sure, we give them medications and supplements to aid in comfort, but don’t forget that exercise is equally, if not more important. Walking keeps joints more nimble. When it is warm, be certain to go for routine walks and adjust your schedule some on cooler days so as to walk longer when it is warmest outside. All dogs need to be walked a minimum of three times daily to eliminate. If the walks are short due to the weather, you will need to increase exercise inside. Consider interactive tugging toys, mild games of fetch, training involving sitting and laying down, and other physically tiring activities.

Walks outside are mentally stimulating, so when indoors, find other ways to tire your dog’s brain. Consider playing a treasure hunt game where the dog is tasked with finding hidden treats or toys. Start simply by having your dog sit and stay and watch you hide a treat. When you are ready, release him to find the treat and once found, reward with a high-value treat. Once mastered you can up the difficulty by hiding things in different rooms, under different objects, around corners, in open boxes, etc. Be creative! This activity can last for hours. You can even play hide and seek with your dog, but the requires two people. Begin with both of you standing next to the dog, make him sit, and then one of you goes off and hides. Once hidden, have the other person release the pup to find you. What a wonderful prize – you!

A variation of the hunt game can involve cups with a treat placed under one cup. The challenge is for the dog to knock over the cup with the treat. This task is challenging for dogs, requires little space, and can act as a great bonding activity for both of you. Begin with two upside-down plastic cups. While the dog is watching, place a treat under one cup, wait a few seconds and then give a cue to get the treat. Perform this task 10-20 times until the dog becomes proficient. Then start alternating which cup hides the treat. If the dog chooses the incorrect cup, elevate the cup, show him the treat but do not let him have it. Replace the treat under the cup while he is watching and repeat. If mastered, place under a cup and then slide the cups to switch places. See if your dog can use all of his senses to find the treat. Remember, this is a difficult task – not all dogs can master the cup game.

Tired of picking up your dog’s toys? Teach them to place them back in the bin themselves. This game requires much patience and many sessions, but is worth the effort. Begin by teaching your dog to drop a toy, aka, “drop it.” Use traditional treats, praise, or clicker training techniques. This alone is a valuable task and is worth the investment of time. Once mastered bring out a bin and give the dog a toy, when he walks near the bin with the toy, give the command to drop-it. The closer to the bin, the better the reward. Reinforce the behavior with one toy once mastered. Eventually you can change “drop-it” to “put it away” and slowly add the number of toys to be placed in the bin. In time you can train the dog to run around the house to gather toys, awaiting a treat once they are all in the bin.

Well, it’s time to walk the dog again. You’ve been playing in the house for a few hours, but she needs to pee again. Be mindful of icy conditions – for both you and the dog. Avoid walking on heavily salted areas, if possible. Salt can become wedged between paw pads, causing discomfort. Simply clean between the paws with a paper towel, if needed. Any discomfort should resolve once the salt is removed. Don’t let your dog drink from puddles, especially when surfaces have been salted. The salt can irritate their stomachs. If your dog is happy to be outside in the cold, consider a snug-fitting dog jacket. Many varieties exist and they can help keep pup comfortable on those cold days.

May your winter be full of warm times with your dog. And as always, we are here for you.

Dan Teich, DVM
District Veterinary Hospital
(c) District Vet 2017

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Dogs News

Canine Arthritis Management

The most common source of chronic pain in dogs is arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. Arthritis develops with age in many dogs, but can also begin earlier in life in dogs with hip or elbow dysplasia or as the consequence of an injury. In a select few cases, surgery may be of benefit, but in most dogs, treatment involves attempts at preventing further joint damage, increasing mobility and decreasing pain. The best way to treat arthritis is via a multi-modal approach, combining several different therapies / medications to achieve a better result than one treatment alone. Your dog does not have to be in pain – we will discuss some of the options available below. As always prior to starting any therapies and treatments, have a good discussion with your veterinarian about the condition at hand.

Joint Supplements / Nutraceuticals

Omega three fatty acids, as found in cold water fish oils, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce some joint inflammation. Regular fish oils may work well, but there are veterinary specific brands, which may have an even better effect. Many people use flax seed oil, but it is not as effective in dogs as the oil in flax seeds needs to be converted in the body to an omega 3 fatty acid – and humans are much more efficient at this process than dogs. Stick with fish oil.

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate

Cartilage is composed of a number of elements, including chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine metabolites. These compounds are the building blocks of cartilage and by supplementing the diet with them, you are assuring that your dog has these components available to repair damaged cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are available in a number of oral chewable supplements, making administration very easy. Dogs have been found to absorb glucosamine better than humans, making it potentially more effective than in people. There may even be a subtle anti-inflammatory effect from them. We have seen some remarkable results with glucosamine supplementation, but there a few caveats: it takes several weeks to months to show an effect and quality of the product is essential. Most glucosamines on the market (especially human brands / generics) are of poor quality and are not absorbed well. The branded veterinary products are tested and found to be far superior. We are happy to chat with you about these brands and have Dasuquin Advanced in stock at all times.

Anti-oxidants and free radical scavengers

Free radicals are compounds that can damage cells and are thought to contribute to aging. They are formed in the body via natural processes and from external sources, such as pollution, sunlight, food contaminants, etc. In human medicine free radical scavenging molecules are being used to help slow aging and possibly aid in slowing arthritis. This is still a new field and we expect more research developments in free radical scavengers in the near future. Anti-oxidants include Vitamins C and E, S-adenyl Methionine (sAMe), and Superoxide Dismutase.

MSM

MSM, or methyl sulfonyl methane, is frequently combined with glucosamine chondroitin sulfate. It, too has anti-inflammatory properties. The compound contains a large amount of sulfur, an essential element in glycosaminoglycans, a main component of cartilage that enables cartilage to absorb water and stay soft. MSM provides another building block to help repair cartilage.

Adequan(R) – polysulfated glycosaminoglycans

All of the above supplements / nutritional additives are taken by mouth, but there is one that has proven very effective and is approved by the FDA for use in dogs, which is given via injection. Adequan(R), composed of glycosaminoglycans, has been shown to stimulate cartilage repair, inhibit destructive enzymes, and increase joint fluid. Giving Adequan(R) is not as scary as it sounds: many dogs tolerate injections very well and we can even show you how to give them at home. The biggest fear is conquering your own fear of injections – the dogs don’t care! Adequan(R) is highly recommended for most dogs with arthritis as its benefits can be tremendous and the side effects minimal.

Medications

With any medication it is important to follow your veterinarian’s directions carefully. Many medications are safe to administer, but have specific dosing amounts and are not safe to be combined with other medications. You should also never increase the dose or frequency of administration of medications without consultation with your veterinarian. In addition many of the arthritis medications are flavored and should be kept in a cabinet, far out of the reach of dogs and children. This is especially true of NSAIDs (discussed below).

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)

The most common medications used to treat chronic arthritis are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs). These medications work by inhibiting the production of cyclooxygenase, an enzyme which stimulates cells to produce prostaglandins, a group of chemicals that cause inflammation. Prostaglandins contribute to pain, inflammation, further joint damage, and fever. The inflammation produced further damages the dog’s joints, leading to more discomfort. Prostaglandins are important for other bodily functions, including supporting platelets and blood clotting, stomach lining protection, blood flow to the kidneys, etc., therefore NSAIDs must be used carefully.

When used under the direction of a veterinarian, with routine monitoring, NSAIDs provide the most reliable and effective pain management for arthritis. Many dogs with severe pain will have remarkable responses to NSAIDs. The most common veterinary approved NSAIDs include Rimadyl (carprofen), Deramaxx (deracoxib), Previcox (firocoxib), and Metacam (meloxicam).

NSAIDs should be used with caution in any dog with kidney, liver, heart, endocrine, and intestinal disorders. Never give your dog another NSAID or corticosteroid unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. District Vet doctors most commonly use Rimadyl and have it in stock at all times.

Tramadol

While NSAIDs control inflammation and to a lesser degree pain, there are several medications commonly used to control pain itself. Remember, arthritis is painful and this is why dogs are lame when walking. Tramadol works directly upon pain pathways, making dogs more comfortable quickly. It may be used alone or in combination with NSAIDs as they have very different mechanisms of action. Tramadol works similar to morphine: it blocks opiod receptors in the brain, leading to less sensation of pain. The effects of the medication can last from 6-12 hours, depending upon the dog, but the medication is generally given twice daily. Use with caution in dogs with seizures and those on anti-depressants or other medications. The main side-effect we have seen with tramadol is mild sedation, but it can also cause constipation or insomnia.

Gabapentin

Gabapentin has recently gained favor in the treatment of chronic arthritis in dogs. It works via mimicking the activity of GABA, a chemical in the brain which helps calm nerve activity. Traditionally gabapentin has been used to treat seizures, but at a different dose, it helps address chronic pain, too. The medication is considered quite safe to use, with the most common problems including sedation and wobbling when walking. Usually adjusting the dose takes care of these issues. Gabapentin may be used in combination with several other arthritis medications.
Other therapies aside from nutritional support and medications may also be employed to control arthritis pain and discomfort. Cold laser therapy (CLT) has been gaining in popularity and use over the past few years. CLT works via shining a beam of light at a certain frequency, which gently warms tissues, many times resulting in pain relief, decreased inflammation, increased blood flow, enhancement of immune cells to combat pathogens, and tissue regeneration. The therapy is given over a number of sessions, generally twice per week for a month, and does not require sedation or have any side effects. It is particularly useful post injury and may be combined with any other form of arthritis treatment. We have several strengths of gabapentin here in the office.

Rehabilitation

Although last in the article, rehabilitation therapy is integrative to many arthritis and post-injury protocols. As in humans rehab helps increase mobility, decrease pain, and helps strengthen muscles and bones. There are many modalities in rehab, from using an underwater treadmill (allows dogs to more freely use their legs with less pressure), to manual flexion / extension / massage of joints, to chiropractics and acupuncture. Rehabilitation therapies will require their own article in the near future.

Please remember that the above content is only for informational purposes. Never treat your pet without being under the direct supervision of your veterinarian. And as always you may feel free to contact one of us at District Vet if you have questions or concerns about your dog.

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Cats Dogs News

Pet Insurance – There Are Benefits

As time has progressed, I have become a fan of pet health insurance. More clients are asking about the benefits and limitations of policies and we have seen a number of clients’ pets receive care that the client would otherwise have not have been to provide without an insurance plan. It is not a panacea for health care, and there are limitations, but understanding the available programs may assist you in keeping you dog or cat healthy for years to come.

Nearly every insurance plan works in a reimbursement basis: the client receives a bill for the veterinary services and pays the bill on a credit card or via another means. The client then processes the claim with the insurance company, which then reimburses the client either through a deposit into their checking account or via mailing the client a check. In special cases, the insurance company may be able to reimburse a veterinary hospital directly, but such an arrangement must be made with the veterinarian and the insurance company in advance.

What’s covered? it depends upon the insurance carrier selected and the plans that they offer. Most plans cover accidents and illnesses that occur after the insurance is purchased and several have wellness components. When evaluating the plans, check to see if pre-existing conditions are covered, whether there are breed / hereditary condition restrictions, and age of enrollment maximums. Then assess if there are waiting periods. Several plans have a two week waiting period before coverage is effective, and most have a restriction on coverage for hip dysplasia or knee problems. Remember, this is insurance and the companies want you to enroll before there are problems.

There may be a maximum age in which you can enroll your pet. If over this age, they may not write a new policy, but if your pet was enrolled before said age, your pet may have the policy renewed for life. This helps keep the pool of healthier pets larger, pushing down overall costs of the insurance plans.

Reimbursement for accidents / illnesses will generally include the exam fee, necessary bloodwork, X-rays, medications, necessary treatments, hospitalization, and surgery. Many plans even include rehabilitation services and alternative medicine modalities, such as acupuncture, laser treatment, and others.

One must navigate pre-existing conditions carefully. Read your pet’s full medical chart carefully for any prior findings of abnormalities. If your pet has had a knee problem in the past or has had skin disease or upper respiratory infections, you may not be reimbursed for like problems in the future. Some companies will review your pet’s medical records in advance for you and detail any problems with coverage at no cost to you. I highly recommend such a service, especially if your pet is older or has had issues in the past.

Most plans have an annual deductible and possibly an annual or lifetime limit that is paid by the insurer. Ask what the deductibles are and if there is a per-incident or per-disease / condition deducible or reimbursement. It is usually best to avoid per-incident deductibles as these can limit the amount paid out to you, even if you meet your standard deductible. For example, the company may only pay $2000 for a condition, but the actual bill was $3000. You are left paying the difference. It is also important to be certain that, so long as you keep the policy in good standing, chronic conditions that develop while insured will continue to be covered every year.

Several companies offer wellness endorsements to their policies. There are detractors to wellness plans, but if you know how to navigate them, you can save yourself a few dollars. They pay up to a certain amount for routine vaccinations, heartworm testing, preventives and dental procedures. Wellness plans work similar to a health savings plan – you put money in and the payout when used is larger than that put in, usually by 20%.

Differences exist between plans – some are comprehensive and cover everything, others only illness. Although we don’t endorse a specific company or plan, we are happy to chat with you about insurance and you pet. Please research what plan is best for you and your friend and feel free to ask us anytime for help.

dt,dvm – (C) 2016

Categories
Dogs News

Leptospirosis: A real threat in the city

A Real Threat To Dogs (And Their People)

When thinking of disease hazards to dogs, most people are aware of rabies, parvovirus and kennel cough, but leptospirosis should not be ignored, especially in our urban environment. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that may infect all domestic animals, wildlife and humans. It may cause fever, liver failure, kidney failure, abortion and even death. It is of particular concern as it is a zoonotic organism, meaning that it can be passed from animals to humans. Leptospirosis has been seen in a number of dogs right here in the city. Of note, the disease is rarely seen in cats.

Leptospirosis is spread from animal to animal via urine. This may occur from direct contact with contaminated urine, but is most frequently transmitted via contaminated water sources, such as stagnant puddles, ponds, and creeks. It may also be found in soil, contaminated bedding materials, dead animals, or be transmitted via bites. In the city the main hazard is from rats and raccoons, but other sources of wildlife may be vectors of leptospirosis. The disease is most common in warmer ties of the year in the metro area, but may be found year-round, especially in southern climates.

Initial clinical signs of leptospirosis are nonspecific and can look like many illnesses. Fever, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the mucous membranes and skin) are the most common signs seen with infection. But some dogs may never even show signs of illness. These dogs have the potential to not appear ill, but may still spread the bacteria to other animals. Oftentimes, the infection is not diagnosed until late in the disease process.

The bacteria is most damaging to the liver, and may cause liver failure. The kidneys don’t fare much better. Liver failure frequently results in yellowing of the skin and kidney failure is seen as either not producing urine or producing too much urine, leading to dehydration.

Leptospirosis is a differential diagnosis in any dog that presents with kidney failure or liver failure (or both) or presents simply not feeling well. In addition to a physical examination and thorough history taking, blood and urine tests may be performed to assess organ function and to look for markers of leptospirosis. An ultrasound of the abdomen or X-rays may also be helpful in the proper diagnosis.

Treatment involves antibiotics, hospitalization, fluids therapy, nutritional support and supportive care. When caught early enough and treated aggressively, the likelihood of recovery is good, but some dogs may not recover and others may have permanent damage to the liver and kidneys. In some cases, dogs may benefit from kidney dialysis, which allows the kidneys time to recover.

In households where a dog has been diagnosed, or is suspected of having leptospirosis, family members should contact their physician immediately. Remember, leptospirosis can be passed to people.

The best ways to prevent leptospirosis include vaccination and decreasing exposure to contaminated water stagnant ponds, puddles, rivers, marshes, etc.) and minimize contact with dead animals, especially rats. The current leptospirosis vaccines are effective at protecting dogs for at least a year and are seen as being safe. The leptospirosis vaccines are no more likely to cause adverse reactions than any other vaccine commonly administered.

When assessing your dog’s health at annual physical examinations, discuss with your veterinarian if it is appropriate to vaccinate your dog against leptospirosis. Many shelters and rescues do not provide it as part of their routine vaccination series. Owing to the ubiquitous nature of the leptospira bacteria, your dog may benefit from the vaccine.

dt,dvm

(C) District Vet 2016

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Cats Dogs News

2016 Cat and Dog Resolutions (For you to do)

Canine and Feline New Year’s Resolutions

Get more exercise

We could all use more exercise, unless of course, you run your dog several miles per day. Dogs that have more exercise tend to be healthier, have joints that last longer and behave better when left alone. The side benefit is an increase to your own stamina and health. And for our feline friends, play with toys at least 20 minutes per day. Jumping, running and any vigorous exercise for your cat is beneficial. Make it fun!

Have your annual physical examination
You should see the doctor every year, and should your dog and cat. Your veterinarian is trained in performing physical examinations and seeing problems before they become evident. Early detection and treatment for many diseases and conditions can save your pet’s life and increase quality of being.

Learn a new trick every few months
If you sit and only watch television, your brain starts to slow and age more quickly. Several studies have shown the same is true with your pet’s brain – use it or lose it. Teaching your dog or cat new tricks will stimulate brain activity and will have health benefits for both the brain and the whole body. All dogs – and even cats – should be taught sit, stay and come. Try paw-shaking for both and other tricks, too. Also try using food puzzle toys. Make your dog or cat think and stay engaged.

Walk the dog more often

Dogs should be walked at least four times per day. When they hold their urine for long periods of time, it increases the likelihood of bladder infections and other problems. For your feline friends, be certain the litter box is always clean. Scoop daily and change the entire contents of the box weekly.

Brush your pet’s teeth

“You want me to brush the dog and cat’s teeth?” Yes. As with humans, good dental hygiene is essential in pets. Tartar build-up leads to bacteria in the bloodstream and can shorten life and quality of life. At your pet’s annual physical exam (see above), your veterinarian will inspect his or her teeth. If needed, your veterinarian will recommend a sedated dental cleaning with x-rays of the teeth. Having bad teeth in the mouth will cause problems beyond bad breath. Start the year with a minty smile.

Explore a new place every week
This is more for dog – get out and walk somewhere new once per week. Change up the routine. I’m certain your dog has checked every tree for pee-mail; give him or her some new surroundings. Walk along the George Washington Trail, explore the C and O Canal in Georgetown, greet visitors on the National Mall. New environments are stimulating for both you and the dog. And for cats, introduce new boxes or cat trees on occasion. They, too like to explore.

Be consistent with feeding amounts
When we doctors ask clients how much they feed their pets, we usually get the reply, “about a cup.” The problem is what is your cup? Is it a standard measuring cup or is it whatever vessel you have available at the time to feed the pet. Use the same exact cup / scoop for all feedings. This is so that if we recommend feeding more or less, it is easy to do! And you can keep feeding consistent between family members.

Microchip and ID tags
In the past we discussed microchips. If your pet does not have one, the New Year is a great time to resolve to have your pet chipped. It is also the perfect time to check that the address and phone number on file with the microchip registry is current. The best way to ensure a lost pet makes its way home is a current, active microchip.

Consider fostering a pet
Have space at home to help a homeless pet? Consider fostering through a local rescue organization. City Dogs Rescue, Washington Humane Society, Lucky Dog Rescue and a host of other rescues could use your help. What greater start to the new year than to help save a life!

From all of us at District Veterinary Hospital, have a healthy, safe, prosperous and love-filled New Year.

Dan Teich, DVM

Originally published in The Hill Rag, January 2016.

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Cats Dogs News

Preparing Your Pet For Less Stress at The Vet

This article originally appeared in the Hill Rag. It was written for our client to help make visiting us – and any vet – less stressful. And I have an affinity for sea lions, too. (dt,dvm)

Your dog or cat may not be a sea lion, but looking toward the sea lion at the zoo may help you and your pet with their next visit with us at District Vet. How? Repetitive training. The behavior of a sea lion at a training session is not innate and no animal instinctively rolls over and or hands you his or her paw. We also cannot expect a dog or cat to be fear-free in a veterinary environment without training and positive reinforcement. There are a number of steps that you can take with your pet to make veterinary visits smoother and less stressful.

Start basic training with your friend on the day they arrive home. Most pets have a fear of their feet being touched, causing anxiety when nails need to be trimmed.  This can be readily overcome by playing with their feet on a regular basis. Continue on training by performing a mock exam several times per day. Look in their ears, lift the tail, examine the webbing between the toes, comb their fur, and so on. Give praise and small treats frequently. We are happy to show you how to do all of this during your pet’s appointment or with a technician before your pet has to be seen by the doctor.

For possibly painful or uncomfortable procedures, consider sea lion trainers again: they perform a similar action many times, but in a rewarding environment and without the painful stimulus.  Consider gently pinching your pet on the thigh and shoulder so they will be used to touching in these areas as this is where vaccines are most commonly given. Thus when the real procedure needs to be performed, the dog or cat is already accustomed to the handling and methods being used. This is all part of counterconditioning – getting your dog or cat used to certain actions so that they react minimally to these actions. As one friend puts it, your pet should be completely “ho-hum” about being touched. Such training takes only a few minutes per day and will make everything – from vet visits to bathing and grooming much easier.

Your pet may be used to being handled, but not accustomed to traveling to the veterinary office. The veterinary hospital has other animals and myriad smells present. For some dogs or cats, this can be anxiety-causing. Again, we turn to positive training. If your pet only experiences unpleasantries at the vet, he or she will resent going there very time. Therefore, visit us socially, play in the lobby, have the staff give treats, walk your dog onto the scale, make the visits fun. If there is availability, ask if your pup can visit an exam room – play in there for a few minutes- toss a ball, play catch and then go home. We are happy to provide treats and encourage such visits!

Once accustomed to the doctor’s office, remember to continually reinforce the good behavior by performing the above exercises on a routine basis. Just like us, you either use the skill or you lose the skill.

Frequently clients tell us that they have difficulty getting their cat into a carrier. Consider keeping a carrier open at home, place treats inside, make it a comfortable place for the cat. Remember, in an emergency, you will need to immediately get the cat into the carrier. We also encourage you to take your dog and cat into the car and make short trips. Make the car a routine place, too.

Preparing for a visit to the veterinary office is essential. Know what you feed your pet- the amount, brand and variety. We will ask you this important information. Answering dry or canned food is not acceptable. Unless a routine visit, it may be useful to call ahead and ask these questions: Can I feed my pet before coming? Do you need a stool or urine sample? Is there anything else I should bring? If your pet is afraid of other dogs or cats, kindly request that a room be made available in advance of your arrival. We want to make it as easy as possible on your furry friend.

Sometimes we may request your pet be fasted before the visit. Recently ingested food can result in a large amount of triglycerides, or fats in the blood. These fats can then cause blood tests to be inaccurate. Pack a small baggie with your pet’s favorite treats and bring it with you, especially if your pet is on a restricted or special diet.

So long as we don’t have any reason to restrict exercise, play with your dog for at least 30 minutes prior to visiting the office. This makes them expend most of their energy and as we know, a tired dog is a good dog. Use caution if you have an older dog or if the pet is unwell or is in need of special diagnostic testing.

Upon arrival always have your dog leashed and your cat in a closed carrier. If you have a small dog that is comfortable in a carrier, it may be safest for him or her to come to the office in the carrier. Find a place in the waiting room away from other pets and if your pet is uncomfortable or too excited, request to be placed into an exam room. Most of the time this is possible.

Once in the exam room and with the doctor or assistant, you – the client, need to be prepared as well. Your behavior and actions are key to a successful visit. Many people have their own hesitation visiting the doctor’s office and even shirk away and turn their heads in the presence of needles. The cat or dog will pick up on your queues and may be nervous as well. Be brave and do not let the pet know you are nervous. This is even the case when the pet is ill and you are worried about his or her health. Remain calm, speak clearly and provide support to yourself and the pet.

Your friend isn’t a sea lion, but the same training techniques used by the professionals at the zoo can be applied to make your pet more comfortable at the vet’s office. And we all appreciate a happy, low stress visit.

dt,dvm

District Veterinary Hospital

(c) 2015

Categories
Cats Dogs Friends News

Happy, Healthy Treats for Your Pup and Kitten – All Local

As cooler weather descends and the holidays sneak up on us, our pups and kittens will be getting less exercise and more treats. We can avoid adding winter weight and continue to show happy love to our dogs and cats. It is imperative to give healthy treats and to avoid choices that may be unsafe or even toxic.

A good place to turn is the local farmers’ markets, such as at Eastern Market. Many fruits are tasty and nutritious for pups. A few are not.

Sliced peaches are yummy and nutritious. We sampled a few this past weekend at Eastern Market. Be certain that the dog does not eat or have access to the pit. Peach pits will get stuck in your dog’s intestines and may need to be surgically removed. Apples are also in season and a few slices will be loved by most dogs. Again, avoid the seeds, but this is because they contain a small amount of cyanide. Eating an entire apple’s worth of seeds will not be toxic, but large quantities can cause serious medical problems. Watermelon, without the rind is cherished, as are strawberries, oranges, kiwis, pineapple, and blueberries.

On the vegetable side, carrots, sliced sweet potato, and broccoli are low in calories and taste great. Be certain to have them in bite-size pieces.

Being at the farmers’ market does not guarantee that item is safe, though. Always steer clear of grapes, raisins and all grape products. They are toxic at any level and should always be avoided. Never feed your dog onions, garlic, avocado, chocolate or other items that contain caffeine.

Many dog like chewable treats. Use these with care. Hooves, bones and antlers are hard and can break teeth. In some cases dogs swallow larger chunks of these items and cause an intestinal blockage. If your dog gnaws them slowly and will not swallow whole pieces, these may work for your pup.

There are a few safer options for chewers. The Big Bad Woof in Old Takoma has tasty Earth Animal products – one of their favorites is a rawhide that is made from chicken which is readily digested. Regular rawhides digest very slowly, which can cause problems if dogs eat larger pieces; these do not have that problem.

Many dogs have allergies to specific proteins, but still like to chew. Howl to The Chief on 8th Street, SE, maintains a large selection of Barkworthies single ingredient products, such as lamb chews and even kangaroo chews. These may be good alternatives for our food allergic canines.

Our feline friends are more discerning regarding their treats. Some like cat grass, others will eat dried fish flakes. Both are available at Metro Mutts, along with dog treats, too.

Even if you are using healthy and natural treats, be mindful that they all contain calories. Too many will lead to excessive weight gain. Although it’s the winter, remember to get your dog or cat regular exercise. It’s good for you and them.

Dan Teich, DVM

Originally published in The Hill Rag

Categories
Cats Dogs News

Halloween Safety Reprise.

I love Halloween. Not sure why – probably the pumpkins and the dogs and cats in cool outfits. Well, even Nala, Beth’s feline friend will be dressing up. Halloween presents a number of safety issues for dogs and cats. Here’s a few tips in no particular order to keep our dogs and cats in DC safe.
The front door escape artist: Halloween, after the Fourth of July, is the most common time for pets to become lost. You will be opening the door many times and paying attention to the trick-or-treaters at the door – admiring their Shrek costumes.  In the interim, it is easy for the dog or cat to dash outside, many times unnoticed. It is best to keep your dogs or cats in a closed room away from the front door.
Microchips: Being a former shelter veterinarian, I cannot stress enough the importance of having your pet microchipped. If he or she was to get outside and become spooked, you want the best chance of getting him or her back home as soon as possible. Nearly every shelter and mot vets have microchip scanners and can facilitate getting the two of you reunited as soon as possible. Please talk to us at District Veterinary Hospital about microchips! You can walk in anytime for this service.
Candy! Candy! Candy!: Who doesn’t like Mike and Ikes? But be wary, the dog does, too. Keep all candy far out of reach of the dog, and even cats. Dark chocolate may cause severe problems if ingested as well as many sugar-free candies. Candy without sugar is generally flavored with xylitol, which can cause dogs blood sugar to drop dangerously low and may also cause liver damage.
Pumpkins and corn:  The dog eating too much pumpkin can cause intestinal upset and diarrhea. Eating corncobs may result in intestinal obstruction, requiring emergency surgery to correct.
Keep your cat indoors for a few days: Black cats in particular should not be allowed outside for a few days before and a few days after the holiday. Put simply – not everyone is nice to black cats, especially at this time of year. Many shelters do not adopt out black cats in late October as a safety precaution.
Dressing your pug as Shrek: Please be aware that although the cat may look adorable as a bumblebee, the cat may disagree. If your pet is uncomfortable or struggles at all, take off the costume. Also, please be wary of any buttons, loose cords or thread or anything that the pet may ingest. And NEVER leave your pet unattended in a costume for any length of time. Please also be cautious that the costume doesn’t cause your friend to overheat.
The walks with the kids: Although Fido may enjoy walks, consider not bringing him or her trick-or-treating. As above, there are a lot of scary things going on for dogs and he or she may easily be spooked. You may also encounter other spooked dogs, setting up a potentially unpleasant situation.
Candles and decorations: Halloween is scary enough without your cat lighting his or her tail on fire. I have personally seen this happen. Be careful of all holiday decorations, especially jack-o’-lanterns with candles – these may easily be knocked over, causing harm to your pet and potentially causing a fire. Decorations that make noise or have flashing lights or fast movements may frighten pets as well. As with winter holidays, be wary of stringed lights and all electrical cords, dogs or cats may chew on them or get tangled in them.
dt,dvm
Categories
Dogs News

Life Jackets ARE For the Dogs!

“It’s ok, my dog can swim.“While it is true that most dogs can swim well, drowning is a very real risk for canines when enjoying a day out on the water. Bring out the life jacket for the dog. Yes, you heard right, a life jacket. No – not the old bulky, moldy one from summer camp years ago – comfortable, effective and even stylish jackets for dogs are now readily available.

It is unknown how many dogs drown annually, but the statistics for humans can be sobering. The United States Coast Guard keeps tabs on boating accidents and nearly 77 percent of all deaths are from drowning and of the 77 percent, 80 percent of the victims knew how to swim. Frequently, these victims found themselves in the water unexpectedly, and without a life jacket. Of those in drowning accidents, well over 80 percent were without a life jacket.

Boats rock and roll and dogs will be dogs. It is easy to see how a dog can fall off a boat or a dock – either being knocked off by waves or a strong passing wake or from simply jumping in after a duck or other bird. Even if your dog knows how to swim, drowning is possible from exhaustion, hypothermia and other medical conditions. And don’t think that drowning is limited to boating – most drownings are not boating-related, but occur in pools, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water.

Before we discuss what to look for in a life jacket, remember that not all dogs are suited for swimming and the great outdoors. Pugs, bulldogs and other dogs with short snouts and decreased stamina should be handled with extreme caution around bodies of water. They have barrel chests, short legs and congested airways. These breeds are prone to heat exhaustion and also may not be able to keep their heads above water. Dogs with heart or lung disease, seizure disorders or any illness that impairs mobility or stamina should probably not be out on the open water. You can always ask us if swimming is safe for your dog.

Here are a few things to look for in a dog life jacket:

  • The Fit: You want the jacket to be snug, but comfortable, allowing for easy movement, but not able to slip off the dog or be too tight that it causes chafing.
  • Bright Coloration: Water is dark and you want the dog to be readily visible to you, other swimmers and boaters and watercraft users.
  • Reflective Strips: Like your bicycle, reflective strips help make the dog more visible, especially in low-light situations.
  • Handle on the Top: Test the strength of the handle – you should be able to pull the dog up into a boat or onto a dock with the handle.
  • Front Floatation Padding: For older dogs or those with movement problems, this padding will help keep their heads above water and is especially helpful if the dog is in distress.
  • Leash Attachment: This may come in handy with dogs that cannot be trusted to readily return or in situations where there is a strong current or where you are unable to lift the dog yourself but do not want him / her to drift away.

Have fun this summer in and on the water. Have fun dock-diving. Have fun down at the beach. Keep it safe and have a life jacket for the pup and yourself!