Pet Tips and F.A.Q.s

Buffaloed? Are You
Ask any veterinarian which pet food company sets his blood boiling, and, you will probably be deafened by his shout of “BLUE!”. Why? Because for years that company has been selling inferior products at premium prices, all the while marketing their products as the only ones that any person who truly loves his pets should feed them. We’ve all seen the commercials (The “True Blue Test”) where a “real pet owner, not an actor” is given several recipes for dog foods to compare, and asked to choose which one seems the best to feed his pet. Of course, the “real people, not actors” all choose the menus used in Blue products which contained “real meat only”, and, “no harmful chicken by products” that other companies use. There are several aspects of this commercial that grossly misrepresent the vital information that should be taken into account when choosing a food for our furry friends, including the fact that byproducts (liver, kidnies, other organ meats) are actually excellent, clean, healthy sources of protein vitamins and minerals, but, the single most important piece of information is, well, they lied.
Just recently (May, 2015), in federal court, the Blue Company admitted that ” a substantial and material portion of its pet food contained by product meal”. In fact poultry byproducts were found in 9 out of 10 Blue Buffalo pet food products.
As a veterinarian, I have, for years seen dogs on Blue products that failed to thrive as they should and, have always had concerns about the quality of their products. Now we know why.
Hypoallergenic Foods??
Here is a pretty quick read on the danger of assuming that commercial foods actually meet their label claims.( In this review 10 of the 12 tested commercial pet foods contained ingredients not listed on the bag. That is why we carry Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Iams hypoallergenic diets.
Chicago Blues!
As you probably know, an outbreak of canine influenza has been spreading through the Chicago area the past couple of months. The first cases were reported in January of 2015, and, although the tide seems to be turning, new cases continue to emerge. Canine influenza is a disease of the respiratory tract. Clinical signs of infection include coughing, sneezing, nasal and ocular discharge, inappetance, fever and lethargy. The particular virus causing this outbreak is highly contagious, as over 1000 dogs, including puppies and adults, have been infected. So far, six dogs have died. As is usual, the most severely affected are pups under 1 year of age, and, older dogs over 7 years of age. The virus is spread in respiratory droplets and can be spread from dog to dog by direct contact or by a person handling an infected dog, and, then passing the virus to an unaffected dog.
Unfortunately, this is a strain of canine influenza previously unseen in the United States. Although this particular strain is known in China, this is the first known occurrence of it here. What that means is that we have no specific vaccine for this virus. We do have effective vaccines for other strains of canine influenza, including the H3N8 virus which caused outbreaks in 2005 and 2005, but no one knows if the current vaccines are effective against this particular virus.
As of this writing, this disease has been diagnosed in at least 8 states, including Florida and Texas. So it is not unreasonable to say that we should see this disease in Lafayette soon.
Bottomline: Do not allow your canine pets to mingle with any dog that has traveled to the upper Midwest recently or that travels to dog shows, especially in Houston or the Gulf Coast. Respiratory diseases generally do not live long in the environment, outside of the host, but this particular strain appears to be relatively hardy and has been isolated from fabrics and hard surfaces. If you travel to the Chicago area, wash your hands and change clothes and shoes when you get back home, prior to interacting with your dogs. If your pet goes to a boarding facility or groomer, or if you or your pet attend dog shows, it is best to make sure that those facilities are screening for pets that have recently taken trips to the Midwest, Houston, or Florida. Getting the H3N8 vaccination for your dog may also be a good idea. Finally, if your dog displays any of the clinical signs for canine influenza, let’s do a thorough examination on him to make sure that he is well. As always, feel free to call if you need further information.
No need to panic, here. There are no reported cases of domestic animals contracting Ebola virus. Although the virus can spread between species (Humans, apes, monkeys, bats), some dogs in Africa have been exposed to the virus, and, there is no evidence that they either became sick, or, spread the disease to humans or other animals. There is currently one dog in “quarantine” because its owner has Ebola. The dog has not yet shown signs of the disease. If this should change, we will update immediately.
He's How Old? Early Detection!
Everyone is familiar with the fact that, unfortunately, our canine and feline friends age more rapidly than we do. Most dogs and cats are fully mature at about one year of age, and, they age 5-7 human years for every twelve months of their life thereafter. We are trying to do everything possible to help our beloved pets live longer, healthier lives. Early disease detection and prevention is our goal. That is why we encourage twice yearly physical examinations and timely parasite testing. There is something new on the horizon that we are now offering that will help us detect and treat early disease processes that we could not economically address before. We have partnered with Antech Laboratories, one of the leading veterinary laboratories in the country to offer additional testing, at our annual physical examinations at an incredibly low price. For an additional $30.00 for pets under 7 years of age, we can get a complete blood count and chemistry panel performed. These tests provide a wealth of information about the functioning of the internal organs (anemia, infection, autoimmune diseases, kidney disease, liver disease and much more) that is not detectable by physical examination alone. As we know, animals tend to hide their illnesses, and, if we wait until the pet is showing discomfort, the disease may be far advanced and more difficult to treat. By providing early detection for potential problems, we are able to treat, cure or prevent the onset of many serious illnesses. For senior pets ( 7 yrs and older) we have an even more encompassing program. Research shows that one in five senior pets suffers from a preclinical disease condition. This means that your elder dog or cat may have kidney disease or liver disease and is still outwardly normal. In order to detect and treat these conditions before they disable your pet, we offer a senior wellness package . For $80.00, in addition to the complete blood count and chemistry panel, we also test thyroid function and perform a complete urinalysis. We know you love your pets. Now, we can do even more to help you assure that your friends are healthier and happier for a long time. Please ask about our Early Detection programs for you pets.
I thought this article about cat pain was pretty informative. Don't take it too literally, though.
Dental Month!
Adult dogs have 42 teeth, adult cats have 30, and every one of them needs care! In recognition of dental month, schedule a dental for any Tuesday in February, and receive 10% off of the price of our complete dental prophylaxis package.
Noise Phobia?
It’s called “noise phobia” . You can tell when a thunderstorm is approaching just by the way your dog starts acting. He paces, pants, trembles, begins whining. He seeks your attention and cannot be comforted. No one really knows why this happens in some dogs, or, exactly what triggers it. Even though it is linked to thunderstorms commonly, many dogs will begin showing signs even before the storm is close enough for the thunder to be audible. Because of this, some experts believe that the drop in barometric pressure is what actually triggers the event. However, other noise events, such as firecrackers, sirens and car horns can also trigger noise phobia in your dog.
Often, the symptoms will “generalize”, meaning that although he initially may have been upset by only thunderstorms, as he ages, other triggers may begin to cause these behaviors. The behaviors can also become more extreme, including salivation, frantic attempts to hide, elimination, or, rarely, aggression.
A couple of important points when dealing with a noise phobic pet. First of all, never confine them! Do not lock them in a crate, bathroom, outside in a pen. Dogs will destroy whatever they can, and injure themselves badly in their attempt to break out of whatever restraining device that they are in. Do allow them to pick the place that they feel most at ease, whether it is under a bed, or in the room with you. Some behaviorists recommend trying to distract the dog with food, treats, their favorite toy, and music that drowns out the noise making event. As the owner of two dogs with noise phobia, I have never seen this work.
Medication does help. If you are with your pet often enough to give medication just before or as soon as the event starts, sedatives given as needed are generally very helpful. If you, on the other hand, cannot be with the pet, daily use of anti-anxiety medications (such as fluoxetine) are also effective. These medications must, however, be given long-term, and will not work as “spot” treatments. Another interesting approach is the the thundershirt, Their website claims an 85% success rate and a money-back guarantee. I do not have enough information about this product to make a judgement, but, according to clients who have purchased them, they work with some pets, and, do not work well, or at all, with others.
Dogs, cats, heartworms?
Just a few quick tips on heartworm disease in companion animals. First of all, cats, as well as dogs, can and do get heartworm disease. Secondly, feline heartworm disease is extremely difficult to diagnose and treat, whereas, for dogs, diagnostic techniques and treatment protocols are well established. In Louisiana, dogs and cats should be on heartworm preventatives for the entire year. Finally, the evidence is becoming pretty convincing that some strains of heartworms are becoming resistant to the monthly heartworm preventatives. For this reason, in most cases, the better alternative for preventing heartworms in dogs is the six month injection (Proheart 6). Although the medication in Proheart 6 is derived from the same parent compound as that of the monthly preventatives, it seems that there is enough difference to make this product effective against the resistant heartworm strains. Research is ongoing, but, so far, the six month injection appears to be the superior product. Unfortunately, Proheart 6 cannot be used in cats.
What's going on with his skin?
He scratches constantly. His hair is falling out and he’s getting sores all over. Sound like your dog or cat? Welcome to the club. Dermatological problems are one of the most common reasons for visits to our office. Maybe a little information on skin problems will help keep your pet from scratching his skin raw.
Unfortunately, when skin is inflamed, for whatever reason, it can only respond in a couple of ways, regardless of the cause. It can get red, swollen, weepy, and the hair can fall out. Pretty much anything that irritates the skin will cause these same lesions. So, determining the cause and proper treatment of skin problems is often not straightforward. Consequently, careful, stepwise examinations and procedures are absolutely essential, in order to assure that we arrive at the proper diagnosis and treatment.
An arbitrary categorization of skin disease can be made, placing the source of the inflammation into either one of two camps: infectious causes, or, non-infectious. Infectious causes can be bacterial, fungal or acariasis(mange). Probably fleas would fit under this category as well. Tests can be performed to rule in or out infectious agents, and, treatments are safe and effective.
Unfortunately, many causes of itchy skin are not infectious in nature, or, very commonly, predispose the pet to bacterial or fungal skin diseases, so, antibiotics, antifungals, and antiinflammatory medicines work initially, but, the signs reappear after treatment ceases. The most common noninfectious causes of skin disease or Atopy(allergies), Food Allergy, and Hypothyroidism. These are very common diseases. Various tests can help determine if your pet is suffering from one of these, and, treatment is often rewarding.
To sum up, if your pet is itching:
First, check for fleas. If you see just one flea, you must treat all pets in the household. Be careful of the products you buy at retail stores or over the net. They are not created equally, and, some are extremely harmful to pets.
Scondly, don’t wait to bring your pet in for an examination. Skin problems tend to worsen over time, and rarely resolve on their own. If your pet is itching, and a good flea control product is not working, a trip to the office is a good idea.
Thirdly: Take what you read on the internet with a grain of salt. Remember, anyone can post anything on the web. There are no referees. And, anecdotal information, although well intentioned may not be factual.
How do I decide the best food to feed my pets?
Making the appropriate choice of food for our pets is a crucial decision. Besides the obvious factors of acceptance by the pet, cost and availability, it is important to know that not all foods are created equally. Just as importantly, food labels may not give the necessary, critical information to make an informed decision. Let’s take just one ingredient- protein. If one product has 21 % protein and the other has 30%, doesn’t it follow that the second one is better for your dog? The answer, for an adult dog, of any breed is- absolutely not! (Puppies need a higher level of protein for the first few months of their lives so let’s talk about adult dogs right now.) The first thing to know is the digestibility of the protein, which is not included on labels. Your pet’s hair is 100% protein, yet you wouldn’t feed your friend hair, would you? Of course not, because it has 0% digestibility. Superior foods have protein digestibiliy rates of about 85 to 90 percent. So, including large amounts of cheap, unusable protein may lure an unwary pet food buyer, but are of absolutely no benefit to the pet. Secondly, and, as importantly, protein cannot be stored by the pet. Consequently, any fed protein in excess of his needs (about 20% for most dogs) is broken down and removed from the body as waste. So, the extra protein does no good, costs more, and, actually causes the body’s metabolic processes to work a little harder to remove the excess. As a side note, protein “by products” are actually, in some cases, superior protein sources than lean meat alone. By products actually include organ meat (usually liver and heart) which are nutritious, palatable and highly digestible. Protein by products are not feathers, beaks, and bone, as commonly thought.
What is the best heartworm preventative for my dog?
The American Heartworm Society has finally recognized what we have known here in Louisiana for a couple of years now- Heartworms are becoming resistant to the monthly preventatives. Although the resistant strains are geographically limited, the greatest area of found resistance is in the Mississippi River valley. In simple terms, this means that some dogs who are given appropriate, timely doses of an approved monthly heartworm preventative, are becoming infected with heartworms. For this reason, we recommend all dogs be placed on ProHeart6- the six month, injectable heartworm preventative. It appears to be the best available resource for preventing heartworm disease.
At the July 2013 conference of the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), this organization officially endorsed the abolition of the “slow kill” method of heartworm disease treatment, recognizing that “the slow kill therapy….is never appropriate,” and that this protocol “increases the proportion of circulating microfillariae (the transmissable stage of the heartworm) that possess resistance markers.” What they are saying is that it is never appropriate to administer antibiotics and heartworm preventative(regardless of the dose) in the hope of killing heartworms in those dogs that have heartworm disease, as this not only does not kill all of the heartworms in the dog, but, it also results in the development of resistant heartworms, which then can be spread to other animals. For this reason, we have never endorsed or recommended treating heartworm disease in this manner. We have always used and continue to use the methods approved by the American Heartworm Society.
Is it too hot to keep my dogs outside?
Just a brief mention of the common local plants that are toxic to dogs and cats. The list is, by no means, exhaustive, but includes those which are common ornamentals, or are plentiful in fields and barnyards: Sago Palms, Oleander, Lantana, Azalea, Yew, Castor Bean, Jimson Weed, Pigweed. For a more complete list, with pictures, go to It’s also a good idea to have a poison control telephone number handy in case you suspect that your pet has gotten into something toxic. ASPCA’s number is (888) 426-4435. They can guide you on initial steps to take until you can get appropriate veterinary care for your friend. (Consult charges do apply.)
Later, we might talk about other household pet toxins. You may already know that certain foods, such as onions and grapes can be extremely toxic in certain cases. But did you know that xylitol- a common sweetener in chewing gum, can also be lethal to your dog or cat?