All dogs will need to have a bath from time to time. The most common reason that we bathe Fido is because he is dirty or smelly. Less commonly dogs will develop some type of dermatitis, inflammation of the skin, that will be treated with a medicated shampoo and possibly a leave on product or dip.
Regardless of the reason for the bath the shampoo used should be one that is specifically formulated for dogs. The pH of dog skin is different than the pH of human skin and the use of a human shampoo on your dog could result in dermatitis. The variety of dog shampoos today can be overwhelming but if you are just seeking to get your friend shiney and clean there are a few simple rules to follow. First and foremost-dog shampoo only, secondly avoid heavily scented products-just like people some dogs can be sensitive to perfumes and third look for something that is tearless.
The best place to purchase a shampoo is your veterinary office. Not only do they know your dog and his particular needs and sensitivities they obtain their “everyday” shampoos from the companies that produce the medicated shampoos your veterinarian trusts. Groomers and pet stores also carry shampoos for home use. Again these shampoos are safe to use as long as you are purchasing something to get your dog clean. If there is a specific skin problem that you are trying to remedy it is best to consult your veterinarian instead of making a purchase based on the recommendation of a groomer or pet store staff.
There a variety of shampoos designed to treat skin conditions in dogs. They range from shampoos used to treat fleas and ticks to oily skin to fungal or bacterial infections. The list is extensive and your veterinarian will know which one is most appropriate for your dog and his specific problem. The medicated shampoo that your veterinarian prescribes will have been developed and produced by a pharmaceutical company that knows the changes in the skin and coat that occur in each type of dermatitis and how to correct them. The “medicated” shampoos found at your groomer or local pet store are not a product of medical research and could be ineffective or worse harmful.
The timing and technique of bathing is also dependent on the reason for bathing. The average dog with healthy skin should not be bathed more frequently than every 2 weeks and usually less often than that. If your dog goes out and gets dirty but not smelly a good rinsing with plain water will take care of the problem. On the other hand if they have a strong odor a good thorough shampoo is the way to go. In areas where dogs have access to some sort of creek, river, pond, etc. shampooing may be necessary more frequently, you may want to consult with your veterinarian as to which product has the least drying effects. If your dog has been prescribed a shampoo by the doctor then the instructions will include the frequency of shampoos and the amount of time that the shampoo needs to be in contact with the skin.
Every cat and dog will need to “take a pill” at some point in their life. When faced with the prospect of medicating their pets many owners will ask “You want me to give Fluffy WHAT?!?. Medicines for animals come in all forms: injections, oral liquids, oral tablets and topical creams or gels. These medications must be “administered” to our patients for them to be effective the question is how. Topical medications are usually fairly easy. Any injectable medications, if prescribed, will have an appointment scheduled for detailed instruction and demonstration.
That leaves the Dreaded Oral Medication. Contrary to popular belief most cats and dogs will not eat any form of medication in their food. The best method for giving Fido oral medication is to “pill” them. Pilling both cats and dogs is a 3 step process: 1 OPEN their mouth with one hand, 2 PLACE THE MEDICATION over the back of the tongue with the other hand, 3 CLOSE THEIR MOUTH and wait for them to swallow. Practice and preparation are the keys to a successful medicating adventure. Practice sessions should start VERY EARLY in your life together so when you need to give your friend medication it is a smooth process. The actual techniques of each step for cats & dogs are different as you might imagine.
Prior to giving Thor a pill place a favorite treat in a visible area. Hold the medication in your dominant hand
Step 1-Place your non-dominant hand over his muzzle, using your thumb & index finger press his lips into the gaps behind his canine teeth. The pressure of his lips on the small teeth on his upper jaw will make him open his mouth slightly.
Step 2-Holding the pill between your thumb, and index finger of your dominant hand, use your middle finger to open his mouth wide enough to place your hand into his mouth. Slide your hand into his mouth until you can push the pill over the back of his tongue. Do not worry you will not choke him with the pill. Unfortunately your hand will now be covered in slobber.
Step 3- Remove your hand and close his mouth. Hold his mouth closed until he swallows. To encourage to him to swallow you can rub his throat, blow forcefully into nose, squirt some water into the side of his mouth.
Immediately after he has swallowed give him his treat and pat yourself on the back! Then watch him for a few more minutes to make sure he hasn’t pulled a fast one on you and hidden the pill in his cheek.
Preparation for cats usually does not involve having a favorite treat visible but it won’t hurt. Instead you may want to have a beach towel handy to wrap your cat in prior to giving him the pill. If it is necessary to wrap Fluffy you will need to wrap her snuggly from her ears to her tail containing all 4 limbs in the “papoose”. Using a papoose can facilitate medicating with or without someone to hold Fluffy while you give her the pill.
Step 1-Place the palm of your non-dominant hand on top of Fluffy’s head, grasp her cheekbones with your thumb and index finger. I usually place my little finger behind her ear on the same side as your thumb and my ring finger behind her ear on the other side of her neck. This grip usually gives me good control of a cat’s head. Tilt Fluffy’s head up and back so that her chin and her chest are in a vertical line. You will notice that she cannot keep her mouth closed in this position.
Step 2- Holding the pill between your thumb and index finger of your dominant hand, use your middle finger to pull down her lower jaw. Drop the pill into the spot where her tongue meets the roof of her mouth.
Step 3- Close her mouth and wait for her to swallow. Just like Thor you can rub her throat, squirt water in the side of her mouth. One sure sign that Fluffy has swallowed is that she will lick her nose.
I know most of you think that you will be able to hide the abomination that we know as medication in a treat or a pill pocket. While this may be true in some cases, many times our pets are not feeling well and do not want to eat their regular diet or any of their treats. The medication that they are prescribed may be the key to making them feel well enough to eat or relieving pain after surgery when they cannot or do not want to eat. It is at these times when being able to pill you friend is essential. If you run into trouble remember we are just a phone call away.
Is your pet turning into an itchy, irritated mess this time of year? If so, you (and your pet) are not alone. Many pets will experience an increase in environmental allergen sensitivity this time of year with the sudden bloom in flowers, trees, and grasses. Some pets may even experience allergies year round depending on what they are allergic to.
Common Allergies in Pets
Dogs and cats are allergic to many of the same environmental items that humans are. Tree, weed and grass pollens, molds, fungi, dust mites and various insects are all common allergens in pets. Some allergens for pets that we may not often think of include orris root (a common additive in scented candles), kapok (a common filler in pet beds and couches) and sisal (a common component of natural rugs).
Various food ingredients can also be common allergens in pets. Despite popular belief, most pets are actually not allergic or sensitive to gluten and grains. It is far more common for pets to be allergic to the protein source in their food (think chicken, beef, eggs, or pork).
Common Symptoms of Allergies in Pets
Some symptoms of allergies are quite obvious in pets--itching, sneezing, watery or runny eyes, redness of the skin, and hair loss. Other symptoms may be less obvious or may be a shared symptom of other conditions--nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chronic ear or skin infections, coughing and reverse sneezing. Having your pet examined by one of our veterinarians will help you navigate these symptoms and work towards a diagnosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Allergies in Pets
Proper diagnosis of allergies starts with a physical exam done by one of our veterinarians. During that exam we may run some additional tests. These tests may include general wellness bloodwork, skin scrapings or cytologies, food trials or serum allergy testing.
Depending on the severity of symptoms and length of time your pet experiences symptoms during the year, there are many treatment options for allergies. One of the most effective treatments is allergy hyposensitization with allergy shots or sublingual drops. This treatment reduces your pet’s sensitivity to specific allergens that your pet is found to be allergic to on allergy testing. Other common treatments include antihistamines, steroids, medicated shampoos and hypoallergenic diets.
Navigating the world of pet allergies can be confusing and sometimes frustrating but we are here to help. If you have any questions please call us at the office at 410-956-4500 to set up a time to speak with or meet with one of our veterinarians. Also, don’t forget that May is our Allergy Testing Special--receive 10% off of all allergy testing panels and allergy serums or drops.
The Holiday Season is upon us and a new pet can be found at the top of many wish lists. Many people have a specific breed of animal in mind because they are looking for specific characteristics such a size, personality, coat type, etc. in their next pet. While there are no guarantees that all of their wishes will be fulfilled certain breeds of animals do tend to have a consistency in many of these traits.
Once you have decided on a specific breed the next step is to decide what role your new addition will have in your family. Are you looking for a family pet, do you have any desire to show or breed, do you have plans to participate in specific activities or clubs with your new pet. The ultimate goal is to find a breeder that has healthy puppies or kittens that will be able to fit into your family. There are many ways to locate breeders for both cats and dogs. National organizations such as the AKC (American Kennel Club) and the CFA (Cat Fanciers of America) have lists of breeders and local breed clubs that can connect you with individual breeders. Your veterinarian may have a breeder as a client or have clients that have obtained healthy pets from a breeder. Activity clubs for dogs such as Agility or Fly Chasing clubs can be a good source of breeder names. If these sources fail an internet search can provide you with many options.
Now you have some names of kennels and catteries, how do you decide who is the best? There are some general characteristics that can help you pick. First you want to find a breeder that specializes in the breed you want and possibly one or two other closely related breeds. If the breeder has several different breeds listed it may be an indication that they are “puppy or kitten mill”. Secondly you want to choose a breeder who has their animals tested and certified for the common health problems that are of concern to the species and breed in which you are interested. A quality cattery will have had their cats tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency viruses. Additionally they may have breed specific testing done. A conscientious kennel owner will have their breeding animals screened and certified for a number of orthopedic and other breed specific heritable diseases such as hip dysplasia and Von Willebrand’s disease.
Many breeders will offer some form of limited health guarantee(s) on the pets. I recommend reviewing those clauses with the breeder and discussing the breeder’s responsibilities in the event some problem arises with your new pet. Some breeders will have restrictions attached to the animal you purchase such as verification of spay or castration if you are purchasing a puppy or kitten as a family pet. It is important to ask the breeder if they have any restrictions on the puppy or kitten. If so discuss them thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.
Once you have narrowed your list down the next step is to determine how the actual breeder operates their kennel or cattery. How are the animals housed? Are they an integral part of the family? Are they kenneled for periods of time but have interaction with the family and other animals on a daily basis? How clean is the facility? What type(s) of food is fed? What is the vaccination policy of the breeder? Ideally all of these questions would be answered by a tour of the kennel or cattery. Certainly if the breeder is within travelling distance I would recommend asking if a visit is possible. If the facility is too far away then conversations with the breeder by phone or by email will help you determine if you are making the right choice.
Bringing a new pet into a home with other pets can be an adventure. It can be a good adventure with a little preparation. When you decide to rescue a pet you there are a few things to consider: the personality and behavior and physical concerns of your new pet, the age and personality of all of your family members (both 2 and 4 legged), the space in your home, the extra time the new member of your family will require.
Oftentimes pets in adoption agencies have not had the best beginnings and have suffered abuse that ranges from simple neglect, physical and/or emotional, to extreme abuse. These abuses can result in unusual behaviors that require special consideration. As a new owner it is always best to be informed about prior history that could be the cause of abnormal behavior or health conditions that require medications. The first step once you have decided to adopt is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They can review all of the history that comes with your new family member, examine your new friend and develop a treatment plan to insure that any health and behavior concerns are addressed. A professional trainer may be recommended for rescue animals that come with a “behavior history”.
Age and personality of people and animals alike determine how easily they accept newcomers. Older animals and people need time and patience to become comfortable with change. Introduction of new pets should be done in small increments allowing the residents to adjust to increasingly longer periods of time with the new family member. Similarly children always need close supervision when bringing a new pet into the house. Proper pet etiquette is essential for all ages especially children. Your current pet’s personality is a very important factor during the introduction phase. Certain traits such as territorial, dominance or fear aggression can make it difficult to add a new member to your household. Likewise very timid animals can lose their place in the home or never take a place if the other pets have very exuberant or dominant personalities. If any one of these traits are part of the personalities of the pets involved it might be best to reconsider your plans or enlist the help of a professional trainer.
Your home’s indoor and outdoor space also play a large role in determining the size and activity level of the pet you plan to adopt. Pets that are larger, large and giant breed dogs, and that are very active usually require a larger living space and exercise area. Additionally there must be enough space so that every member of the family has a comfortable, stress free area in which to eat, rest and eliminate. This is especially important in multi-cat households where overcrowding can lead to inappropriate elimination behavior.
The extra time necessary to care for another animal is often overlooked. Ideally all of our pets will eat, sleep and play side by side so that time spent with one is time spent with all. Unfortunately this is not usually the case. Meal time is a prime example especially when they each eat a different food and some eat slowly while others “inhale” their food. The dining areas must be separate and monitored which may require a big change in your normal routine. Younger and more energetic animals may need extra play time or longer walks. Animals that are older or have disabilities could require slower walks or extra therapy of some kind.
Adoption is a wonderful way to enrich your life and provide a loving forever home for a rescue pet. Preparation and patience are the keys to a smooth introduction and lasting relationships between all family members.
Cats should have a physical exam at least once every year. A veterinarian performs a thorough examination similar to the one that you receive from your doctor. We check them from nose to tail looking for any problems that might need to be treated such as dental disease, ear infections, upper respiratory infection, heart disease, fleas to mention a few. We also recommend a complete panel of laboratory testing at a young age to establish a baseline for comparison as your cat gets older. Most of us are familiar with the concept that our pets age much more quickly than we do but often forget how quickly when they still play like a kitten. The average cat celebrates its “50th birthday" at the age of 7 ½ years! There are many changes that occur with age that appear on bloodwork before we notice any difference in behavior at home. Often we can adjust their diet or supplements and medications can be given that will slow these processes and allow our friends to enjoy a longer and happier life.