Friends News

Pocket Pets 101!

Pocket Pets 101

Everyone knows that I live with Brian T. Dog, an adorable golden retriever with a bevy of themed bandanas. There are many of us with cats, too. But what if you are more space-limited or enjoy having smaller companions in your house? Pocket pets! While we know that they are smaller than the aforementioned creatures, they frequently require an outsized amount of care. Small furry creatures can be wonderful companions, so please do all you can to assure that they receive the best husbandry possible. Let’s explore a few care tips about these friends.

Guinea Pigs
These precocious creatures originate in South America and have been pets (and food!) for thousands of years. Guinea pigs are born looking like miniature adults and nurse from their mothers for only two to 3 weeks! Their lifespan can range from 5- 8 years, but some have been know to be in their teens. They also make really cute grunting noises. Special needs of guinea pigs include plenty of exercise, an ability to explore and be stimulated, regular brushing, and vitamin C!
Diet: Timothy hay, commercial guinea pig pellets, fresh veggies and fruits (slice of orange, apple, romaine lettuce, carrots, collard greens). Be sure to routinely offer fruit with Vitamin C as it is an essential nutrient for them. Many guinea pigs have died from a poor diet and lack of Vitamin C. Always have access to fresh water.
Housing: A large cage with ramps, platform, and hiding places is required. Bedding should be shredded paper and cleaned daily.
Special considerations: Brush your little pigs daily with a soft brush. Be sure they get exercise outside of their cage frequently. They do better in pairs, but do not have different sexes – or if you do, be sure to have them spayed and neutered.

House rabbits have become very popular and can live in excess of ten years. They can be very social and frequently get along well with other pets, supervised, of course. Like guinea pigs, rabbits are social animals and require quite a bit of playtime daily. They make great indoor pets and can readily be litterbox-trained!
Feeding: Grass hay (timothy, rye, barley), rabbit pellets, and plenty of fresh leafy greens (romaine lettuce, collard greens, carrot tops), occasional carrots.
Housing: As large of a cage as possible with a solid bottom. Provide paper-based bedding, never cedar shavings. They will drink from a large water bottle with a nozzle. They require chew sticks (available at pet stores) to help keep their teeth from growing too long.
Special considerations: Spayed or neutered rabbits tend to live longer, healthier lives. Learn how to properly hold a rabbit – improper handling can result in the rabbit breaking its back – really! Rabbits also eat a small amount of their own feces daily, this is why you don’t house them in a cage with a wire mesh bottom. Annual veterinary exams are important for your rabbit.

These creatures are really mostly fluff! When handled from a very young age, they can be quite tame and make great companions. Like rabbits, they, too are social and require attention. They are from Chile and Peru – cooler environments – and do not tolerate temperatures above 75F or below 50F, or high humidity. A chinchilla is a longterm pet – they can live up to twenty years.
Feeding: Chinchillas eat mostly grasses: timothy hay is best. Chinchilla pellets (without treats) may also be used in addition to the hay. Give treats rarely as they may cause digestive issues. Safe treats include a Cheerio (only one), a few unsalted sunflower seeds, a small amount of fig. Always have fresh water- a stoppered water bottle is great.
Housing: Again, as large of a chew-proof cage as possible. Have ramps and a sleeping box, too. Shredded paper is best as bedding, avoid pine and cedar. If you are busy, it is better to have two chinchilla than one – they will play with each other. A solid exercise wheel (avoid wire ones) will help with exercise. Let them play, while being supervised, outside the cage in an enclosed room whenever possible.
​Special considerations: Dust baths! Yes, you read correctly – they daily need to bathe in dust to reduce oils in their fur. Be sure the dust is very fine and not coarse like sand. Like rabbits (and most small furry creatures of their ilk), they need chew items – wood or pumice. Special chinchilla dust and chews are available.

There are now several varieties of hamsters available as pets. From larger teddy bear hamsters, to tiny Russian dwarves. Hamster care is bit more forgiving than rabbits or chinchillas, but they also have much shorter lifespans: approximately two years, sometimes a bit longer.
Diet: Hamsters will readily eat commercial hamster mixes and love small amounts of fresh vegetables and fruit added to their diet. They are trainable and you can use small pieces of apple as the reward! A stoppered water bottle is essential. Hamsters also tend to hide their food – allow them to do so in their cage, but do clean this area at least every few weeks.
Housing: Personal experience: hamsters have teeth that can chew through almost anything. Use a large glass aquarium for their environment or a really high quality wire cage. Provide a nest box area and offer empty cardboard tubes for them to chew and play with. Bedding can be wood shavings (not pine or cedar), paper-based, or even sand. Give them wood wool to use in making a nest area – a bit of toilet paper works well, too!
Special considerations: In the wild, hamsters are nocturnal, so they may be most active at night. The Syrian hamster (teddy bear) usually lives alone and if two are placed in the same enclosure they may fight to death. Russian dwarf hamsters prefer to live peacefully in groups. Be careful though – you could wind up with a whole host of them like Dr. Teich did when he was a kid if you have members of both sexes living together!

The above information is only an introduction to pocket pets. Before you bring a new furry creature into your house, please do your research and preparation! Like creepy crawly, scaly, or slimy creatures? Stay tuned for a later edition exploring facets of their care! Dr. Teich has an affinity for frogs, salamanders, and fish!

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

Friends News

Support Our Friends at Doggie Style

Dr. Teich has known Krista Heinz and friends for many years. Doggie Style on 18th Street, NW, is one of the main sources of Brian’s toys and is a great place for grooming and dog food, too. As a small business, Krista will bend over backwards to see that you and hour dog are happy. It’s what we small business people do. Below is a bit more information about Doggie Style directly from their website.


Doggie Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Spa opened in 2002 with one goal: to provide a local alternative to big-box pet stores. Long before “going green” was popular, Doggy Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Spa was finding as many products as we could that were made by ethically-sound, privately-owned companies and offering them to our customers.

From all-natural pet foods (none of which were affected by the May 2007 pet food recall) to the chemical-free shampoos and grooming products, Doggy Style is a store that you can trust to offer only the best for your pet.

Look around at your local pet store today and there are lots of treats that are labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ and more and more are made in the USA. But when we started out, this was not the case.

Today, Doggy Style Bakery provides a wide range of hand-made treats that will make YOUR mouth water. Doggy Style’s hand-made treats are one of the many reason that our customers love us. And, more than a few times, our canine friends have broken free from their owners and headed straight for our bakery! From birthday cakes (which are made fresh to order) to everyday treats, Doggy Style Bakery’s treats are loved by our canine companions…and you can be sure that they are good for them too.

We know that you need more than treats to raise a healthy puppy, so we’ve sniffed out all kinds of cute, eco-friendly, all-natural, and organic products to offer to your pooch. We even found quite a few for your cat!

All of the dog and cat foods, and the dog chews (such as Bully Sticks, Pig’s Ears, and even Rawhides) that we carry are all-natural, contain no by-products, and most are manufactured right here in the United States. They are the types of foods that you would eat, just made for your dog or cat.

Our toys, apparel, designer bowls, beds, leashes and collars are all carefully chosen. Many of these products are manufactured in the United States.

When you bring your dog for grooming at Doggy Style Pet Spa, our first goal is to ensure that he or she has a positive experience with us. We use all-natural, chemical-free shampoos and products at no extra charge to you. We do not use cage dryers, eliminating the concern that your pet may overheat during the grooming process. We also provide an open environment for your pet where he or she can see what’s happening at all times and where we can keep a watchful eye on them as well.

To make the grooming process even easier on your pet, we recommend a ‘socialization’ visit the first time they visit us. This is a 10-15 minute visit where your dog is brought into the grooming room and allowed to simply acclimate to the environment. Your dog is then returned to you without any grooming. This allows your dog to have a positive experience with us on the first visit and makes being left with us in the future less stressful on your pet. This is not necessary, but it is a FREE service, and one that we recommend.

Call or TEXT us today at 202-667-0595 to book an appointment or with any questions about our bakery, boutique or pet spa.

Friends News

Mindful Pet Services – Here to help with pet-sitting and medications

We are frequently asked for recommendations for pet-sitting and in-home veterinary technician services. Our friend and former veterinary technician, Doralee Halperin, is the person behind Mindful Pet Services, a service that helps when you need someone to visit your friend while you are away or when you need help with prescribed medical care.

Doralee visits pets at home and will feed your friends, change their litter and give them love, too.  Dogs – no problems – she will love on them, walk them and provide care, too. She will also administer medications, including insulin and fluids, as prescribed. Her business is licensed and insured, too.

Doralee can be found at 202-415-6090, and

Friends News

DogWalkingDC – Great Walkers, Good friends


If you are away and need pet-sitting or have long work hours, consider a dog walker or pet-sitter. The folks at DogWalkDC have been serving Dr. Teich’s clients for years and have provided exemplary service. Please check out their website: for more details.

Friends News

Friends and Community!

This is a fun profession – one where many different individuals and companies contribute to the well-being of our furry friends, and ultimately, ourselves. In this column, we will list our friends – those individuals and companies that help pets here in the District and across the area. Say tuned.

Dogs Friends News

Summertime and Overheating

It’s summer in Washington – time for tourists, ice cream and panting dogs. We at District Veterinary Hospital want you to be aware of the dangers posed by overheated dogs. It is imperative that all dog owners and people caring for dogs understand the dangers of overheating, known as hyperthermia. A dog’s body temperature may  become elevated secondary to an infection (fever) or from not being able to cool itself off effectively. Both conditions can be dangerous.

Hyperthermia in a dog can be life-threatening – and I have seen deaths from overheating in the past. The normal temperature of a dog is around 101.5°F, plus or minus a degree. Dogs certainly can have an elevated temperature when exercising, but if it exceeds 105°F, the dog is in an emergency situation. This is called heatstroke and it may occur when dogs are in the following situations:

  • Locked in a car with no ventilation (even on relatively mild days)
  • Playing hard in hot and humid weather
  • Staying outside without adequate shade or water
  • Poor ability to regulate temperature (bulldogs, pugs, and other breeds with short / squat noses)
  • Other underlying medical conditions

Special attention to heat should be paid by owners of bulldogs, pugs, maltese, Boston terriers, and other short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds. Older dogs are also more prone to heat problems, especially Labrador retrievers, The problem is that dogs mostly cool off via breathing out hot air – panting. If you have a short nose with poor passage of air, you can readily overheat. Some older labs (all larger breed dogs, too) can have a condition called laryngeal paralysis – where the opening for the trachea in the larynx isn’t held fully open by the muscles in the throat. This causes poor passage of air, too. Also don’t forget that overweight dogs have the same amount of lung as a normal-weight dog – but the lungs have to work even harder.

The first sign of heat stroke is panting and distress, leading to excessive drooling, unsteadiness and possibly very red or even purple gums and ears. You must take action immediately! Here’s what you should do:

  • Get your dog out of the heat
  • Move to a cool, shaded area
  • Get fan and blow air over the dog
  • Place wet towels over the dog’s neck, wet the feet with cool water
  • Seek veterinary care asap

There are things that you should not do as they may worsen the problem:

  • Do not give your dog ice or ice water
  • Do not bathe in cold water
  • Do not leave the dog unattended
  • Do not force the dog to drink

Why should you not dunk the dog in cold water? While the goal is to rapidly reduce the dog’s temperature, rapid cooling causes the blood vessels closest to the cold water to shrivel some, therefore insulating the deeper tissues and preventing them from venting their heat.

Hyperthermia can damage many organ systems, including muscle, kidneys, heart, brain and others. The best treatment is prevention! Don’t leave your dog in the car, stay out of the heat of the day and always remember to take it easy in the heat. If you ever have questions, call us here at District Vet, we are happy to help.

– dan teich, dvm (2014)