Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adopting a Pet

Where to Go

There are many options if you are looking for a new pet.  Almost every county or city has a pound, there are rescue groups devoted to specific breeds, and local rescues.  There are breeders, local, across the country and on the internet.  Your first step is to decide what type of pet you are looking for.  Do you have it narrowed down to dog or cat?  Dogs are generally more social, cats require less work.  If you want a dog, think about your lifestyle.  Do you go for a jog every day or are you more sedate?  Does someone in your home have allergy issues?  Are you willing to brush a long haired dog or cat, or would you prefer the easy care of a short hair?  Some dogs need to be groomed every few weeks.  That is an expense to be considered against the benefit of a dog that sheds less.( No dog doesn't shed at all except a stuffed one.)

I want a puppy!

Puppies are adorable.  No question.  They are also a huge amount of work.  If you are willing and able to devote a large amount of time and effort into house training and basic obedience you will have a dog that you know is trained and socialized.  For many households, an older dogs makes more sense.  You will know what you are getting, size and temperament wise.  Especially these days, many wonderful family pets are being surrendered for economic reasons.  There are also dogs with behavior and health issues.  Sorting out which is which can be the tricky part.  Adopting from a rescue group can take some of the surprise out of the process.

It's easier to adopt a child

Reputable rescue groups generally keep their dogs in foster homes or other closely observed facilities so that they can evaluate the dogs temperament and health before they adopt it out.  Bringing a healthy dog up to date on shots and spaying or neutering can easily cost several hundred dollars.  If the dog has even a minor sickness, that will increase greatly.  Rescue groups do not know you.  Their application is the way they try to decide not only if you will take good care of the pet they have loved and cared for but if you are a good fit for this particular dog or cat.  Some groups only require that your current pets be up to date on rabies vaccines.  Other groups want to see that you have given distemper vaccines and heartworm prevention.  Some will want to see the area where your pet will be housed.  We have even heard of groups asking for a criminal background check for adopters wanting breeds like Pit Bulls.  Decide how much information and effort you are willing to put out for a life-long companion.  There are plenty of pets available.  Find a group you can work with and keep looking.  Your life-long best friend is out there waiting for you.

High or Low Energy

The dog's energy level is probably the single biggest factor in determining whether he will fit in well with a family.  Breed plays a part but individual dogs can vary widely, especially mixed breeds.  A high energy dog without focused exercise is a timebomb waiting to go off.  He will leave a path of destruction behind him and confused owners asking "what happened?"  Digging, barking, chewing and aggression are all possible.  The same dog, in a family of joggers, will thrive.  The owner has a running buddy that never complains and everyone is happy.

Health concerns

Parasites are a major concern with rescue dogs.  Intestinal parasites can usually be taken care of with a simple dewormer.  Heartworms are another story.  You cannot look at a dog and see any sign of heartworms.  A blood test is the only way to know if your dog is infected.  Treatment can easily cost $600-$800.  If you adopt an adult dog that has not been heartworm tested, know that you are taking a very big chance.  Puppies should be started on prevention at 8 weeks of age and we recommend testing at 6 months if they have not been on prevention.
Many shelters offer a free vet visit so your new pet can be checked over for any other problems.  Even if it's not free, this is a really good idea.  Even if you are not willing to return the pet, you should at least know what you are getting into.  As usual, you get what you pay for.  Shelters are usually the least expensive place to get a dog, and there are lots of great dogs in pounds, but you will know the least about them.  Rescue groups have higher adoption fees, but usually you will have the peace of mind of some vet care.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spay and Neuter Your Pets

Why Spay and Neuter?

Cards on the table, we believe spayed and neutered dogs and cats are better pets.  They have fewer health problems and less behavior issues.  Anesthesia is much safer than it used to be and with bloodwork beforehand, there is very little chance of a problem with the surgery.  Marking, roaming and the dangers associated are reduced.  Twice a year heat cycles, cancers of the reproductive organs, pyometra and not to mention, unwanted puppies and kittens are all avoided.

When to spay or neuter?

Generally between 4 and 6 months is a good time.  Your pet will have had all of its puppy vaccines and the liver and kidneys are mature enough to handle the anesthesia.  Sexual maturity is very close, so it's a good idea to spay before those behaviors begin.  If females are spayed before their first heat, many studies show a reduction in mammary cancer later in life.

What do I do?

Your pet needs to go into surgery on an empty stomach so we will ask you to take up all food and water the night before.  If you need to separate the pet having surgery so he can't get into other animals food or water, plan ahead for this.  Close the lid on the toilet bowl and make sure all family members know about the instructions.
You'll typically bring your dog or cat to the hospital early in the morning the day of surgery.  Technicians will check his weight and temperature and if needed, draw blood to test.  The doctor will check his heart and lungs before anesthetizing your pet.  He will be completely asleep during the surgery and just like humans, different pets wake up differently from anesthesia.  Your pet will be monitored until he is awake and able to maintain a stable body temperature.  He will spend the remainder of the day resting in a cage, where he will be safe. 
When you take your dog or cat home after surgery, expect them to be sleepy.  Make sure they are kept in an area where they can't hurt themselves, a crate or a small room.  Don't leave them on a sofa or near a staircase where they can fall.
They generally will not have much of an appetite.  You can offer a small amount of water.  If that stays down and he seems interested, you can offer a small amount of food.  It is completely normal for the pet to not eat at all that night.  Some pets eat a little the next day, others are back to normal.  Both are perfectly fine.

It will be a stressful day for both of you, but there's a good chance this will be his only major surgery.  Pre-anesthetic bloodwork and following your veterinarian's instructions will give your pet the best chance of an uneventful day that will improve significantly improve the rest of his life.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Veterinary vs. Human formulations

Many medications that are used in veterinary medicine are also used for humans.  Antibiotics, pain medications, insulin, thyroid supplements and antihistamines are just a few examples.  The dosages can be very different.  An adult human with allergies would take one 25 mg benadyl tablet.  A 100 lb. dog would need four tablets.  Other medications have different formulations for animal and human use.  The medications we sell or prescribe are formulated to work best for your pet. 

Flea Control

Reports of generic and off-label flea control products not performing as they should or even worse, causing harm to pets are increasing.  Even if the products use the same active ingredient as a name brand product, the delivery agent may be different, lowering the effectiveness.  Frontline and Pet Armor both have fipronil as their active ingredient.  The difference in cost is because of the other ingredients, which help the fipronil adhere to fat molecules and work more effectively.

We sell prescription and over-the-counter flea control products.  We have a relationship with the manufacturer so if there is a problem with a product you have purchased from us, we can make it right.  Our staff has had training directly from the manufacturer, so they can answer your questions about how and when to apply.  If your pet has a reaction to a product we sold, we are available to treat your pet. 

Internet Pharmacies

Buying your pet's medication from an online pharmacy is an option today.  Protect yourself and your pet and make sure you are buying from a vet-VIPPS certified pharmacy. An example is heartworm preventatives, which like birth control pills, are not 100% effective.  This is why dogs need to be tested every year.  If you purchase your prevention from a certified pharmacy and your dog becomes infected with heartworms the manufacturer will pay for the heartworm treatment, just like if you had bought the pills here in our building. 

We have had clients purchase products from discount internet pharmacies and not get the results they were getting from the name brand medication.  Were they really saving any money?

Monday, November 28, 2011


I don't see it

Most intestinal parasites are too small to see.  They can be found by your vet, who gets a sample of your dog's feces and examines it under a microscope.  There the eggs can be identified.  Depending on what it found, different dewormers will be prescribed. 


Puppies should be given a routine deworming at 2,4, and 6 weeks.  They are then started on a heartworm preventative at 8 weeks that also controls intestinal parasites.  Interceptor, Iverhart Max and Heartgard Plus all control hookworms.  These are given once a month for the rest of the dog's life.  If an adult dog is brought into the home, it should be treated twice with dewormer, 2 weeks apart, then started on heartworm prevention.  Feces should be picked up immediately to prevent contamination of the soil.  If the soil becomes infested, a flamethrower is the only tool available to kill the eggs in the ground.  Bleach will kill eggs on hard surfaces.


Dogs with hookworms can show no symptoms at all or can have diarrhea, possibly bloody.  They may be lethargic or have difficulty gaining weight.  As the parasite load gets worse, a dog can lose weight and if left untreated can cause death, especially in young or sick animals.  Because the worms themselves are so small they are not able to be seen with the naked eye.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Caring for Your Older Pet

What is a Senior Pet?

The old adage of "that's 107 in dog years" has some merit.  Dogs age faster than humans, but it is not exactly a one to seven ratio.  The first year of a dog's or cat's life is approximately the same as a human's first 18 years.  After that, the aging process slows down, and depending on breed and size at about age 7, your dog or cat becomes a senior.  For smaller breeds like toy poodles and chihuahuas this may be extended to age 10.  Giant breeds like Mastiffs and Great Danes can be considered senior at age 5. 

What's the Difference? 

As your pet enters his golden years you may notice him slowing down or having trouble getting up after laying down.  Just like us, dogs and cats can be affected by arthritis.  This can be helped with glucosamine supplements, ideally started before middle age.  There are also prescription medications to help with pain and inflammation.  Some dogs and cats will benefit from a heated pad in their bed, or a ramp or stairs to make getting up and down easier. 

Start out Right

Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is probably the single greatest gift you can give him in his older years.  Excess weight wears out knees and hips, makes pets more prone to diabetes ( See our blog post about Diabetes on pets for more info), arthiritis and just plain shortens their life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Diabetes in Cats and Dogs


Diabetes is increasing in cats and dogs in the United States, just like in humans.  And just like in humans, excess weight is often the cause.  When animals take in more calories than they can burn over long periods of time, the pancreas doesn't work the way it should.  Insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar,  is not produced properly and diabetes is the result.  In other cases, the pancreas just stops working for unknown reasons.  Breeds like Keeshonds, Samoyeds, the Maltese, Lhasa Apsos, Miniature Pinschers. Poodles, Beagles, Dachshunds, Bichon Frises, Fox Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, and Cairn Terriers more openly affected.  In cats overweight males are more likely, but it can strike any cat.

Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, weight loss without reason, poor coat, and in dogs, loss of sight.  A blood test can tell your vet what your pet's blood glucose level is. Blood glucose is measured in mg/dl or milligrams per deciliter in the US.  Near 100 is normal. Consistently high glucose reading are the hallmark of diabetes.  Under 75 can cause loss of consciousness and seizures.  Damage to your pet's organs occur when blood sugar is too high for long periods of time.


The goal of diabetes management is to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range (around 100).  This is accomplished with diet and most times with insulin injections.  Routine is your best weapon.  Consistent feeding times, keeping to the same food and schedule will all help in getting and keeping your pet regulated.  In the early days of diagnosis this will involve many visits to your vet's office for blood tests.  Good control is usually not reached for several months in most cases.  Don't get frustrated, once you have a formula of feeding this much food, giving this much insulin and exercising this much it will become a habit and you will see your sickly dog or cat become healthy again.

Diabetic dogs do best on low fat, high fiber formulas like Purina DCO or Royal Canin HF.  Cats need a high protein, low carb diet and many recommend feeeding wet food to overweight and diabetic cats.

Special Considerations

Once your pet is diagnosed, you need to talk to your vet about what to do if the unexpected happens.  If you need to go out of town, what boarding facilities can take care of your pet's special needs?  What do you do if your dog or cat gets sick and won't eat, or vomits the food he just ate?  If you have these answers ahead of time the unexpected is not so scary, and you will feel more prepared.

Diabetic pets cannot control their body temperature as well as they did before, so a sweater may be needed if you live in a cold climate.  Fido probably won't be able to spend as much time outside during extreme weather as he used to.

Since he is eating a special diet are treats forbidden?  Check with your vet, but generally lean chicken breast, and unseasoned vegetables like carrots or green beans are fine.


Diabetes is manageable in most cases, but there is no cure.  Prevention is not always possible, but maintaining a healthy weight throughout your pet's life is your best chance of avoiding this disease.  As your pet ages, regular bloodwork checks and exams can catch it early, before serious consequences like blindness and kidney disease take their toll.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rabies Vaccines for Dogs and Cats

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral illness that can be spread from one infected animal to another through saliva (spit). It affects the nerve system in the body.  Rabid wildlife loses its fear of humans, comes out during the day, and becomes disoriented, has trouble walking.  If a human gets bitten, a series of rabies vaccines can be given, but they must be started immediately to be effective.  They are not given in the belly anymore, and they are not nearly as painful as they used to be, but I don't think anyone would call them fun.  Prevention is a much better idea.

Rabies vaccines

Rabies vaccines are required for all dogs and cats over the age of four months in the State of NC. We can give them at 13 weeks of age.  They can be given at the same time as other vaccines like distemper parvo, but if your pet had a history of vaccine reactions or is very small your vet may recommend spacing them a week apart.  Rabies vaccines must be given by a licensed vet, but can be given without an exam at a rabies clinic.

How often and why vaccinate
The first rabies vaccine is good for one year, after that they are valid for three years.  If they lapse for even one day and your pet is exposed to an animal that tests positive for rabies, your pet will probably have to be euthanized.  Bats can get inside houses, wildlife can get inside fenced yards, so this means that every pet must be vaccinated for rabies.

Vaccine Reactions
The rabies vaccine is a live virus, so there is a possibility of vaccine reaction.  The signs to watch for include swelling of the face, panting,fever and vomiting.  If any of these symptoms occur after a vaccination bring your pet back to the vet immediately.  If your pet has reacted in the past, let your vet know so they can pre-medicate before giving the vaccine.  As with any medical treatment, there are risks.  These risks can be managed to make vaccinating your pet as safe as possible.  The risks of not vaccinating are much greater.