Top Medical Reasons For Grooming Your Dog

Keeping your dog healthy means paying regular attention to bathing, grooming and brushing. Even dogs with short hair will benefit from this often overlooked aspect of his health. Grooming does more than just make your dog look and smell nice. Here are the top medical reasons why regular grooming will help your dog stay healthy and feel better.

The Better To See You With

Keeping your dog’s face free of long hair that can irritate the eyes will make him feel more comfortable and prevent eye problems. Many dogs, such as the shih tzu, Lhasa apso and poodle, have long hair that hangs in the eyes causing irritation and damage to the cornea. Check your dog to see if there are hairs lying on the eye. These should be trimmed by a groomer, or drawn up in a bow to keep your dog’s face clean and clear. NEVER use scissors or sharp implements around the eyes.

Some dogs have a problem with drainage from the eyes. This problem may have many causes. Check with your veterinarian to help rule out any medical conditions that can be solved. If the drainage is persistent, make sure you keep it wiped away. Skin and fur that stays constantly moist can discolor and become infected.

My, What Big Ears You Have

Those long floppy ears are endearing but they cover your dog’s ear canal creating a moist warm environment that lacks air circulation. This can cause your dog to suffer from chronic ear infections that can be difficult to cure and can re-occur. Cocker spaniels, shar-peis and golden retrievers are just a few of the breeds that suffer from this all too common problem. Infections that go unchecked can result in serious and painful ear disease.

 

Learn how to clean your dog’s ears to help prevent these problems. Your veterinarian can show you how to clean them properly and advise you on the use of an ear cleaning solution. Have your groomer shave the hair from the inside of the pinna (the floppy part of the ear) to allow for air circulation, and gently remove any hair that may be growing in the ear canals. Once again, NEVER use scissors or sharp implements in or near the ears. A healthy ear should look and smell clean. Any foul odor, discharge or excessive scratching should be immediately investigated.

Say Cheese

Dental disease in dogs is common. Checking your dog’s mouth and teeth will help you spot trouble before it becomes a big problem. Your veterinarian can show you how to keep your dog’s teeth clean with brushes and toothpastes designed specifically for dogs. Your older dog may not think too much of dental care. If you can’t get him to accept having his teeth brushed, make it a regular habit to check his teeth for tartar, chipping or excessive wear, or any lump or bump that looks suspicious. Dental disease can be very painful and serve as a source of infection for the rest of the body, so check those teeth and tell your dog’s doctor if you find a problem.

Everybody Into the Tub

Most every dog will need a bath a few times a year. This need will vary depending on your dog’s lifestyle, breed and any skin problems he may have. Bathing helps remove old hair, dirt and oil from the skin. The physical action of being washed is pleasant to most dogs and it may make you aware of a lump or bump that may have appeared or changed suddenly.

This is also a good time to check for parasites such as fleas and ticks. Dogs that swim in natural waterways such as lakes, ponds and rivers, or those lucky enough to visit the beach should be rinsed after every outing. There are a lot of different shampoos and conditioners for every type and color of dog. Your groomer or veterinarian can advise you if your dog has special needs. Be sure to protect your dog’s eyes with a little mineral oil or eye ointment before bathing.

Break out the Brushes

Between baths, brushing your dog will help keep the coat clean and free of hair mats. Mats can be irritating and cause skin disease under the hair. Longhaired dogs require everyday brushing to keep their coats healthy. Most dogs enjoy grooming and often wait eagerly to be combed. If your dog’s fur is badly matted, he may need to be shaved. This is a job for a groomer. NEVER attempt to cut of hair mats with a scissors; you may cut the skin as well. As your dog’s hair grows back, begin with daily brushing to keep the new hair soft and tangle free.

Teaching Your Dog to “Fetch”

Teaching your dog a few simple tricks is fun and entertaining for both you and your pet. It’s best if your dog knows and reliably responds to the basic obedience commands of sit, stay and down before teaching him to perform tricks. Most tricks are built on basic obedience work anyway and, also, in the process of being taught “the basics,” your dog will have learned to pay attention to you during training sessions.

If your dog has an orthopedic problem, check with your veterinarian before proceeding with more advanced training. Even relatively simple tricks can place unnecessary stress on bones and joints that are in any way compromised.

Successful of training of your dog hinges on rewarding the desired behavioral response in a timely fashion. The most valued rewards differ from dog to dog: For some, food it is the most powerful reward, for others, praise or petting are what they crave. Some dogs will do whatever their owners want them to, just to have a little playtime. Find the reward that best motivates your dog to learn and stick with it. Work with your dog daily in 5 to 15 minute sessions. Keep training fun, and end sessions on a high note with reward for a job well done. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or tired, quit and try again later.

To teach your dog to fetch, start with the object he loves most. With your dog on a long leash, give your dog the command “sit.” Take the object and toss it a small distance from the dog. Give the command, “fetch,” and let your dog run after the toy. Once he has it in his mouth, gently draw him back to you by means of the lead. Show him a tasty food treat and give him the command, “release.” It is very important that your pet give the object to you willingly. This is not a tug-of-war. Retrieving breeds will learn this trick quickly, and may play for hours. Other dogs may not be so enthusiastic about surrendering their favorite toy, so make sure you reward success exuberantly, lavishing your dog with praise and treats.

Once your dog reliably brings the object back to you, remove the leash and have him fetch the object on his own. For a more advanced “fetch,” teach your dog the names of different objects. Once he understands the concept of “fetch,” work with one object at a time and call it by name until he can identify the object by name. For example, if you want your dog to get the morning newspaper, start by throwing a paper. Give the command “fetch paper.” Your dog should bring you only the paper to receive his reward. As your dog learns the names of different objects, give him some mental exercise by laying out 3 or 4 different objects and asking for them by name. See how smart your dog is.
Continue to practice this over and over. Always use a happy singsong voice and lots of positive reinforcement. Eventually, your dog will understand and will begin fetching all kinds of things.

The keys to success when teaching your dog tricks are patience, practice, praise, and persistence (the 4 P’s). Every step in the right direction should be rewarded as though your dog had just won the lottery. Tricks are fun – and learning how to do them should be fun, too.

Grooming Supplies for Dogs

Grooming is a lifelong part of your pet’s good health. Regular brushing, bathing and nail trimming add to your pet’s appearance – and it feels great, too. Here is a list of supplies to keep on hand that will make grooming easy.

Brushes, Combs and Rakes

Depending on your pet’s hair coat you will need a brush or comb for removing tangles, dead hair and mats. A mat rake will help for long hair. Brushing and combing should be done before bathing because wet hair is much harder to work through.

Shampoo and Conditioner

Choose a shampoo or conditioner appropriate for your pet’s needs. Skin, color and hair coat type should influence your choices. Most longhaired breeds need a conditioner or finishing spray to make the hair manageable.

 

Bath Essentials

You’ll need a few items to make bathing easier. Use a rubber mat in the bottom of the sink or tub so your pet can stand securely. You may need to use a leash or harness to keep active or frightened pets from jumping out of the tub. Have a small bucket ready to dilute any shampoo or dip you may be using. Place cotton balls in the ears to prevent water and soap from getting in the ear canal, and a drop of eye ointment or mineral oil in each eye to prevent soap burns. Protect yourself with a rubber apron and latex gloves if you are applying dips or medicated shampoos.

Have a few fluffy towels ready for drying. If you have a large dog, try a rubber grooming glove or curry to strip off excess water before drying.

After the bath is complete, use a blow dryer to dry the hair quickly. This is most important in the cooler months. Some pets will be frightened and resistant to a blow dryer initially, but with repeated exposure and patience, many come to endure this procedure.

 

Nail Trimmers

Don’t forget to trim your pet’s nails on a regular basis. Overgrown nails are prone to splitting and breaking and can make walking painful.

Summary List

  • Brush, comb and rake
  • Shampoo, dip and conditioner
  • Cotton balls and mineral oil
  • Drying mitt and curry
  • Towels
  • Bath mat, leash and harness
  • Hair dryer
  • Apron and gloves
  • Bucket
  • Nail trimmer

 

Healthy Dog Treats

Obesity in dogs is a major health concern. Just as with people, canine obesity can lead to very serious health problems. Diabetes, pancreatitis, arthritis and heart disease are just a few of the problems that can be caused by or worsened if your dog is overweight. While many pets are fortunate to stay naturally slim, there are those who seem to get fat with little effort.

And then there are those accomplished actors who have refined the business of asking for a morsel to an art form. Here are a few suggestions for offering your pet some healthy alternatives when you want to give them a treat.

If your pet has any type of weight problem (underweight as well as overweight) please check with your veterinarian to rule out possible causes. If your pet has dietary restrictions, discuss giving any new food with your vet.

Vegetables

Anyone who’s ever seen a dog eat grass or greens knows there’s a vegetarian side to your pet. Before domestication, when dogs hunted for their living, they ate the entrails of their prey, which contained a considerable amount of digested vegetable matter. Most animals still want some of this vegetation, but can’t digest the tough fibrous components on their own. Try offering your dog some cooked green beans, carrots or peas. Many pets love them, and you can even mix them into their regular diet.

Rice, Popcorn and Pasta

Another favorite for many pets are rice, popcorn and pasta. A bit of a rice cake or some air popped popcorn is a great substitute for a high fat treat. Cooked rice can be added for bulk to a weight control diet. It’s a way of giving your pet more food without adding a lot of fat calories. Cooked pasta is also great. Many pets relish a few elbow macaroni or other plain pasta.

Egg Whites, Cottage Cheese and Yogurt

A cooked egg white is a great protein treat, hard boil a few and keep them on hand. (The yolk has all the fat!) A little dab of cottage cheese or plain yogurt substitutes for licking that ice cream bowl!

Prescription Diets

If your pet has a health problem that is being controlled on a prescription diet from your veterinarian, sometimes treats have to be eliminated. Ask your veterinarian if a canned formulation of the diet is available. Most companies do make both canned and dried versions. Remove the food from the can in one large piece. Use a cheese slicer or knife to cut 1/4-inch slices and put them on a cookie sheet. Bake them at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until they are crispy, like a cracker. This gives your pet a crunchy treat that stays within the diet plan.

Food Sensitivities

Many pets have allergies or food sensitivities. Common culprits are dyes, flavorings, preservatives, carbohydrates and protein sources. If your pet is sensitive to any of these components, look for treats that are hypoallergenic, and have minimal or no dyes or preservatives. There are a number available in your local pet store.

The Last Word

If you can’t resist feeding your pet little extras from the table or sharing every meal you have with him, consider carefully what you may be doing. A small dog that would normally weigh 10 to 12 pounds can gain a considerable amount of weight being given an overabundance of treats. A weight gain of one pound may not seem like much but to a small pet, one pound can be 10 percent of his body weight. That’s like 15 pounds for a person! Use some healthy alternatives to help keep your pet in his best shape.

How to Care for Your Fish Bowl

If you’d like the pleasure of a few beautiful fish but don’t have space for a large aquarium, a fish bowl may be just the solution you need to bring some finny friends to your home. Fish bowls are small, inexpensive and easy to maintain. There are an endless variety of decorative plants and gravel to personalize your fish’s new home. It can be tranquil and restful or a bright and decorative focal point. Here are a few tips for selecting, setting up and maintaining your fish bowl.

Unlike an aquarium, a fish bowl does not have filtration, aeration or heat. Most fish bowls range from 1/2 to 3 gallons in size. Buy the largest bowl your budget and space can accommodate but remember – fish bowls need maintenance once or twice a week. A 2-gallon fish bowl may weigh 10-12 pounds and may be awkward to carry so limit the size of the bowl to what is workable for you.

You will also need water conditioner to remove chlorine and other harmful contaminants. Water can be treated with a variety of chemicals and your local pet store will know which conditioners work best for the water in your area. You should also select gravel, stones or marbles to cover the bottom of the bowl. Select whatever appeals to you. Decorative plastic plants are also an option. Live plants do not thrive well in fish bowls. A small net is also needed to remove fish during bowl cleaning.

Bowl Set-up

Wash your new fish bowl with warm water and non-iodized salt. Don’t use soap, bleach or glass cleaners as they may leave residues. Wash all gravel, rock and decorations and rinse them free of excess color or dust. Place the gravel in the bowl to a depth of about 1 inch of gravel per gallon of water. Add room temperature water and the proper amount of conditioner. Let the bowl stand for an hour before adding the fish.

Adding the Fish

Since a fish bowl has no heater, the water temperature is that of the room. Do not keep your fish bowl in a window or in direct sunlight because it can overheat very quickly. Most tropical fish like water that is warmer than the average bowl can maintain. Siamese fighting fish (bettas) do well in fish bowls if they can be kept above 72F.

Float the bag containing your new fish in the bowl for 10-15 minutes. Add an equal amount of water from the bowl to the plastic bag and float another 10 minutes. Gently tip the bag and let the fish swim free. Do not buy too many fish or select fish that are too large for the bowl. Remember, the fish waste is not processed and broken down like it is in an aquarium. You don’t want your fish bowl to be a sewer.

Water Changes

Water in the bowl should be changed no less than once per week and sometimes more often. It should appear crystal clear. If it is hazy, off color or you see waste accumulating at the bottom, it’s time for a change. Gently net your fish into a clean plastic bucket (used only for fish) that contains room temperature, conditioned water. Wash the bowl, gravel and decorations in warm water with a little salt. Replace gravel and decorations. Add room temperature and conditioned water to the newly cleaned bowl and then replace the fish.

When feeding your fish, feed small amounts twice a day. Feed them what they will eat in 3-5 minutes. Excess food will foul the water and increase the need for water changes.

 

Grooming Your Senior Cat – Special Concerns

Grooming is an important aspect of your pet’s health care throughout his life. As your pet ages, taking an active role in grooming becomes even more important. Older pets often groom less, may have trouble cleaning those “hard to reach places,” or may develop skin conditions that require extra attention. You will have to take a more active role in keeping your pet clean and monitoring for any changes in skin and coat that may signal medical problems.

Changes in the Skin and Coat

A number of changes are possible in your pet’s skin as they reach their senior years. Skin that has been healthy may become dry and flaky. You may see dander on the surface of the coat. At the opposite end, skin may become excessively oily and feel greasy to the touch. These changes may reflect your pet’s inability to groom properly. Arthritis often makes it hard for some pets to reach certain places. Mental changes associated with aging may cause a lack of interest in normally fastidious pets. You may need to help out with more frequent brushings, bathings or medicated shampoos.

Diseases of the endocrine system are often first reflected in changes in the skin. A hormonal imbalance may make the skin thin and fragile. It may tear easily, or be slow to heal. You may see color changes, often light skin becoming dark and thickened in appearance. You may see small bumps that look like blackheads. Any change in the appearance, color or odor of the skin should be investigated by your veterinarian for underlying medical reasons.

Lumps and Bumps

As your pet ages you may notice that you begin to see or feel lumps or bumps both on and underneath the surface of the skin. All new skin growths should be evaluated by your pet’s doctor to determine if any further attention is needed. Some may only be a nuisance, aggravating your pet if they are located in sensitive areas, or may bleed from grooming or other activity. Some may be more serious, including tumors.
Another type of lump/bump you may see is a pressure sore. These sores arise at the points where there is not much cushion between bone and the hard surfaces on which your pet may lie. These are seen with more frequency as your pet ages and loses a bit of protective muscle mass. Common locations for pressure sores are the sides of the knee and hip joints. If you see the beginnings of these types of sores, it is time to provide soft padded surfaces where your pet lies. These types of sores are difficult to treat.

Nails

Most pets dislike nail trims. The bad news is that as your pet ages, it becomes even more important to trim them and even more difficult to do. Nails often become thick and brittle with age. Pets may resent having their paws handled, further delaying the chore. Nails and nail beds may become overgrown. They can grow into the pads and be quite painful, and make walking a chore. Make it a habit to trim a small amount of nail on your cat every two weeks to prevent overgrowth and make walking easier.

Grooming Aids

There are products that help make it easier and more comfortable to groom your senior pet. Look for brushes and combs that have plastic tipped teeth. These types of tools are more comfortable next to the skin. Wire brushes will help get those mats and pick up excess dander. Brushes that are made with the teeth set in a rubber back with foam padding underneath will be more comfortable. If your pet objects to water and needs bathing, check out the variety of waterless shampoos that may make the job easier and less stressful.

If your pet has long hair, keep the area around the rear end clipped short. Feces often mat in the hair causing skin irritations and unpleasant odors. Senior cats often fail to keep this area as clean.

 

When the News Is Bad for Your Cat

Dealing with Bad News About Your Cat

You may have noticed small changes occurring for some time now, or perhaps it came quickly – in an instant, an illness or trauma. As you wait anxiously in your veterinarian’s hospital, you have just been given the news that your beloved cat is very ill. What do you do when the news is bad? What questions do you ask your veterinarian, and how do you make the right decision regarding the care and treatment of your cat? Here are a few guidelines to help you understand your pet’s illness and what issues you should address with the doctor if this difficult time comes.

Your Medical Education on Your Cat

No matter what the diagnosis may be, your veterinarian’s first job is teaching you some advanced medical science. This is a big job for your vet as it is his responsibility to explain in clear and simple terms what can be some pretty complicated problems. It may be a short course on diabetes, kidney or heart disease. When you hear an illness explained for the first time, the medical language can be confusing. It is difficult to remember technical information under emotional circumstances. You may spend an hour discussing every aspect of a problem only to forget everything when you get home. This is normal and expected. Ask your veterinarian for any printed information he may have regarding your pet’s illness that you can review at home and share with friends or family. Schedule a consult appointment time. Leave your pet at home so you can concentrate on what the doctor is telling you. The distraction of your pet during this time can hinder your understanding.

Now What Happens – After the Diagnosis?

Now that you’ve had a little time to comprehend the news, it’s time to ask the down-to-earth questions of what it will be to deal with your cat’s illness. You should not be shy in asking your vet these questions, as you and your family will be the ones responsible for care and monitoring once your pet returns home.

  • Ask for a prognosis. Your cat’s illness may compromise his health and quality of life and may do so in less time than you think. Ask the doctor if the illness will cause a quick decline or can be managed for a time and if so, for how long. Your veterinarian can only give you answers based on what is average for the diagnosis. Each cat will respond differently, some better than expected, some not as well. If the illness requires surgery, ask about this as well.
  • How will this change my lifestyle? The medical conditions of your cat may ask you to alter your daily routine. For example, pet’s that are diagnosed with diabetes often require insulin injections twice a day at regularly scheduled times. You may need to adjust your schedule to be at home to deliver injections and make sure your pet is eating to keep the diabetes under control. Find out if any aspect of your pet’s problem will cause a conflict in the way your daily routine is carried out. That way you can begin to think about adjustments and alternatives that can be made.
  • How will this change my cat’s lifestyle? Your pet’s lifestyle may change too. Depending on the diagnosis, some pets may need confinement or greatly reduced activity. For example, a diagnosis of heart disease means your cat has to eliminate his favorite salty treats from his diet. Pets who are not easy to medicate may now have to receive several doses of medicine a day. It is not unusual for your veterinarian to prescribe a diet change. If your pet is a picky eater, this can become a challenge. Ask your vet what significant changes an illness may mean to your pet’s overall routine,
  • Is my cat now a patient? Some diseases or disorders require frequent visits to the doctor to check on the progress, adjust medications and address any complications or concerns. If your pet required only a once a year wellness check, an illness that is being managed long-term may mean veterinary visits 3 to 4 times a year or more. Ask your veterinarian to anticipate what level of ongoing care your pet will require.
  • Cost. Please don’t be shy about addressing this issue openly with your doctor. Veterinary medicine is largely an out-of -pocket expense. Pet insurance may not cover a preexisting illness, so unless you had a policy in place before the diagnosis, it is likely that any costs incurred will be your responsibility. Ask your veterinarian about the cost for initial treatment. Many pets require a hospital stay to treat and stabilize medical problems. Ask for an estimate for any medications, supplies or special diets needed when the pet goes home. Ask what the doctor anticipates ongoing medical care will cost. Your doctor is used to addressing these questions, everyone has them.
  • Will I be referred? Veterinary medicine is specializing just as human medicine has. Your cat’s illness may require treatments, medications or surgery beyond the scope of your regular veterinary hospital. This may require travel and additional costs. Ask your doctor if your pet’s treatment will be done “in-house” or if you will be referred to a specialty practice or veterinary teaching hospital.
  • A Day In the Life of an Emergency Veterinarian

    Understanding the Work Like of an ER Vet

    Emergency veterinarians are a special group of people. They are dedicated to helping injured and ill animals and their workday can be exciting, thrilling, depressing and sometimes routine. Shifts often last for 12 to 14 hours. Nights, weekends and holidays are all part of the job. Learn more about how emergency veterinary clinics work with this article – What is an Emergency Vet?

    This story outlines a typical Sunday workday as an emergency veterinarian at a busy emergency veterinary hospital.

    The First 6 Hours as an Emergency Veterinarian

    7:50 a.m.

    As I pull into the parking lot I can see that the hospital is busy this Sunday morning. There are a lot of cars parked at the clinic so I am anxious to see what this day will bring. You never know what surprises are in store for the next 12 hours.

    The hospital contains the patients that have already been admitted. At a glance, I can see that we have a return visit. “Dinky” is a small longhaired Dachshund that spends the better part of his days rooting in the closets, trash, and kitchen to see what he can eat. What he can’t eat, he tears up. He was here a little while ago for eating a whole pan of brownies. Apparently unaffected by that incident, he is back. I can see his hair coat looks strange and choppy. He seems anxious and disoriented. His medical record clears the mystery. This time, it’s a three-stage event. Dinky first raided his owner’s purse and chewed two large packs of gum, which he later tangled into his long beautiful hair. Then he wrestled open a bag of microwave popcorn (extra butter) and got the popcorn kernels stuck in the gum. Lastly, and of greatest concern, he consumed a whole bag of menthol cough drops, and the menthol has caused some brain swelling and secondary blindness. He is being treated with drugs designed to decrease the swelling but it is still too early to see any improvement.

    8:00 to 8:30 a.m.

    Case transfers. The night doctor describes in detail the condition of the patients in the hospital and what medicines, treatments or diagnostics are scheduled for today. As usual, there are a few dogs being treated for vomiting and diarrhea (our most frequent complaint), a cat being treated for a urinary obstruction, and a new mother Boston terrier nursing a puppy delivered by C-section.

    8:30-11:30 a.m.

    I now begin to see patients. We practice on a triage basis, meaning we see the patients with the most serious needs first. In an emergency hospital, the order of patients can change in a moment. First up is “Fileo,” a goldfish who has a marble stuck in his mouth. Fileo has grown a lot since his fishbowl days and his mouth has become large enough to accommodate the marbles his owner uses on the bottom of the fishbowl. Fileo can breathe but does not look happy. We catch him quickly in a net, apply a little lubricant and gentle pressure, and thankfully the marble comes out. Fileo immediately returns to the bowl and appears unaffected. We are happy to start our day with this simple success.

    The exam rooms are full and we do our best to see each pet in a timely manner. Vomiting, diarrhea, straining to urinate, not eating and lameness are common in cats and dogs, and we treat these problems every day. Wounds are cleaned and sutured, broken toenails are trimmed and fishhooks are removed.

    11:30 a.m.

    The pace quickens and priorities rearrange when two traumas and a critical case arrive. “Gent” is a 9-year-old German shepherd that has collapsed at home and is having labored breathing. His abdomen is distended and his gum color is pale. We suspect he has an abdominal hemorrhage from a ruptured abdominal tumor.

    “Scooter” is a 2-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever who was out joyriding with his owner when their truck stalled on a highway overpass and the engine burst into flames. Scooter and his owner got out, but frightened and disoriented, he jumped onto the highway below and has broken both his front legs. Unbelievably, he is walking and giving everyone kisses. We love him instantly.
    Add to the list “Miss Dottie,” a 2-year-old Dalmatian that has been seizing for the last 20 minutes without stopping.

    “Gent” goes directly to radiology for X-rays, Scooter gets pain meds, Miss Dottie gets an intravenous catheter and some anticonvulsants to stop her seizures.

    Gent is now our greatest concern. X-rays reveal that he has a life-threatening abdominal hemorrhage from a tumor on his spleen that has ruptured. He requires immediate surgery. While he is being prepped, we sedate Scooter and stabilize his fractures. He will need surgery to repair the bones but we can put him in temporary splints to reduce the movement and keep him comfortable on pain medications. He is still kissing everyone while his casts go on – even dopey on pain meds.

    When the News Is Bad for Your Dog

    Getting Bad News on Your Dog

    You may have noticed small changes occurring for some time now, or perhaps it came quickly – in an instant, an illness or trauma. As you wait anxiously in your veterinarian’s hospital, you have just been given the news that your beloved pet is very ill. What do you do when the news is bad? What questions do you ask your veterinarian, and how do you make the right decision regarding the care and treatment of your pet? Here are a few guidelines to help you understand your pet’s illness and what issues you should address with the doctor if this difficult time comes.

    Your Medical Education

    No matter what the diagnosis may be, your veterinarian’s first job is teaching you some advanced medical science. This is a big job for your vet as it is his responsibility to explain in clear and simple terms what can be some pretty complicated problems. It may be a short course on diabetes, kidney or heart disease. When you hear an illness explained for the first time, the medical language can be confusing. It is difficult to remember technical information under emotional circumstances. You may spend an hour discussing every aspect of a problem only to forget everything when you get home. This is normal and expected. Ask your veterinarian for any printed information he may have regarding your pet’s illness that you can review at home and share with friends or family. Schedule a consult appointment time. Leave your pet at home so you can concentrate on what the doctor is telling you. The distraction of your pet during this time can hinder your understanding.

    Now What Happens?

    Now that you’ve had a little time to comprehend the news, it’s time to ask the down-to-earth questions of what it will be to deal with your pet’s illness. You should not be shy in asking your vet these questions, as you and your family will be the ones responsible for care and monitoring once your pet returns home.

  • Ask for a prognosis. Your pet’s illness may compromise his health and quality of life and may do so in less time than you think. Ask the doctor if the illness will cause a quick decline or can be managed for a time and if so, for how long. Your veterinarian can only give you answers based on what is average for the diagnosis. Each pet will respond differently, some better than expected, some not as well. If the illness requires surgery, ask about this as well.
  • How will this change my lifestyle? The medical conditions of your pet may ask you to alter your daily routine. For example, pet’s that are diagnosed with diabetes often require insulin injections twice a day at regularly scheduled times. You may need to adjust your schedule to be at home to deliver injections and make sure your pet is eating to keep the diabetes under control. Find out if any aspect of your pet’s problem will cause a conflict in the way your daily routine is carried out. That way you can begin to think about adjustments and alternatives that can be made.
  • How will this change my pet’s lifestyle? Your pet’s lifestyle may change too. Depending on the diagnosis, some pets may need confinement or greatly reduced activity. For example, a diagnosis of degenerative joint disease or intervertebral disc disease may mean your dog has to eliminate Frisbee catching from his list of activities. Pets who are not easy to medicate may now have to receive several doses of medicine a day. It is not unusual for your veterinarian to prescribe a diet change. If your pet is a picky eater, this can become a challenge. Ask your vet what significant changes an illness may mean to your pet’s overall routine,
  • Is my pet now a patient? Some diseases or disorders require frequent visits to the doctor to check on the progress, adjust medications and address any complications or concerns. If your pet required only a once a year wellness check, an illness that is being managed long-term may mean veterinary visits 3 to 4 times a year or more. Ask your veterinarian to anticipate what level of ongoing care your pet will require.
  • Cost. Please don’t be shy about addressing this issue openly with your doctor. Veterinary medicine is largely an out-of -pocket expense. Pet insurance may not cover a preexisting illness, so unless you had a policy in place before the diagnosis, it is likely that any costs incurred will be your responsibility. Ask your veterinarian about the cost for initial treatment. Many pets require a hospital stay to treat and stabilize medical problems. Ask for an estimate for any medications, supplies or special diets needed when the pet goes home. Ask what the doctor anticipates ongoing medical care will cost. Your doctor is used to addressing these questions, everyone has them.
  • Will I be referred? Veterinary medicine is specializing just as human medicine has. Your pet’s illness may require treatments, medications or surgery beyond the scope of your regular veterinary hospital. This may require travel and additional costs. Ask your doctor if your pet’s treatment will be done “in-house” or if you will be referred to a specialty practice or veterinary teaching hospital.
  • Your Dog’s Medicine Cabinet

    How to Create a Safe Medicine Cabinet for Your Dog

    Most of us keep a variety of medicines at home for those occasions when we are sick or injured, but did you know there are some important medicines to keep on hand if your dog is not well? Here are some of the commonly used items you should have on hand in your dog’s medicine chest. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before giving any medicines to your dog.

  • 3% Hydrogen Peroxide

    Hydrogen peroxide should be in every dog’s medicine cabinet. Although most commonly thought of as a way to clean a wound, another important use is to induce vomiting when your dog has ingested toxins, foreign objects, drugs or spoiled food. However, check with your veterinarian first because there are times when it is best not to induce vomiting. Dogs won’t drink peroxide willingly so buy an oral dose syringe or keep a turkey baster on hand to help administer the liquid. Also check the expiration date; expired peroxide is not as effective.

  • Diphenhydramine

    Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that is commonly used for itching and allergic reactions. Dogs that have had a bee sting, insect bite or vaccination reaction often need a dose of Benadryl® to calm itchiness, facial swelling or hives. The dose is based on your dog’s weight, so check with your veterinarian; he or she can tell you how much Benadryl® you can give and how often.

  • Pepto-Bismol/Kaopectate

    Every dog owner knows about vomiting, diarrhea and gas. Sometimes a dose of Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate can solve a mild case of stomach or intestinal upset. However, Pepto-Bismol contains salicylates, the active ingredient in aspirin, so dogs that are aspirin sensitive should be given Kaopectate. Any vomiting or diarrhea that persists for more than 24 hours needs your veterinarian’s attention. Be sure to mention if you have given any Pepto-Bismol to your dog; the tablet form of Pepto-Bismol looks just like a quarter on X-rays.

  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment

    Topical antibacterial ointment is great for superficial wounds, such as cuts and scratches. It works best when the wound is located where the dog can’t lick it since most dogs will lick off any salve you apply. It is not a good treatment for deep wounds, especially if they are dirty or bleeding, or the result of a bite. These need veterinary attention.

  • Alcohol

    Isopropyl alcohol is often a good drying agent for ears. Many dogs that have recurring ear infections can use a solution of alcohol mixed with vinegar to dry up a wet ear. Alcohol should never be used in an ear that is inflamed or infected, or on a wound, as it burns when applied to damaged tissues. It can also be used in cases where your dog is overheated. Heat stroke is a life threatening situation that requires immediate veterinary attention, but alcohol applied to the pad of your dog’s feet can provide some cooling while you are getting your pet to the vet.

  • Bandages and Tape

    It can be challenging to bandage a bleeding wound on your dog. Most often an old sock and electrical tape are cleverly used as bandages when an emergency arises. Keep a pack of clean or sterile gauze and some medical tape handy. Most bleeding wounds require pressure and tape will help keep the gauze in place.

  • Oral Dose Syringe/Pill Gun/Pill Splitter

  • Your veterinarian can supply you with a handy little item called a pill gun. It is a long plastic tube with a plunger used to deliver pills to our less cooperative friends. Some dogs just aren’t fooled by that little meatball with the pill in the middle. The pill gun keeps you from having to stick your hand/fingers into your dog’s mouth when medicating him. An oral dose syringe will help you give liquid medications accurately. A pill splitter will help you cut large tablets into equal portions if your pet requires a smaller dose.

    Having these medications on hand is only half the job. Calling your pet’s doctor for proper instructions and potential side effects is the other. Never give your pet any medicine prescribed for people unless instructed by your veterinarian.