Circovirus in Dogs FAQ

This page answers pet owners’ common questions about the recently discovered canine circovirus and its possible role in disease in dogs.

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Platelet Enhancement Therapy (PET)

Like their owners, a large number of pets will develop arthritis as they age. In fact, veterinarians estimate that more than 15 million dogs already suffer from this disease. Thankfully, a new protocol that uses platelet rich plasma from your pet’s own blood may provide some hope to veterinarians and pet owners.

Canine Vaccination Series: Part 1

I’m afraid that sometimes I get distracted by the more esoteric aspects of veterinary medicine — the latest and greatest treatment for some rare disease that most of you (hopefully) will never encounter. I want to take some time to focus on something that all pet owners have to deal with … vaccines. Specifically, trying to help you understand how veterinarians determine which preventative vaccinations a particular dog should and should not receive.

To answer this question, it is helpful …

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Registry helps pet owners find clinical trials for cancer treatment

Cancer is the foremost killer of older dogs and cats, but pets stricken with the disease are gaining new options from clinica -More-

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Feeding the Large and Giant Breed Puppy

Veterinarians and pet owners have long been concerned about the various joint disorders that are so common in the giant breeds like Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Bernese Mountain dogs, Saint Bernards and the Newfies. The larger breeds like Rotties, Labs, Goldens, and German Sheperds are also over-represented with conditions like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) of the shoulders, knee, carpi (wrists) and tarsi (ankles), hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), and panosteitis.

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Parvovirus in Puppies

I work at a large hospital located in central Phoenix. For the last two weeks, we have seen a surge in parvovirus infections in puppies. While some of them were not vaccinated to prevent the disease, I am also seeing some dogs who were vaccinated. Here is the problem, in an effort to save money the pet owners bought vaccines from a feed store, pet store or on-line. Some paid their the pup’s breeders to give the shots. In each of these cases, I am concerned that these vaccines were either stored, …

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Safe Halloween Tips for Pet Families

Halloween can be a fun family event, but can be a dangerous holiday for your pet. Here are a few safety tips to help you through the holiday.

Keep your pet inside

Some dogs can be overwhelmed by all the little visitors coming to your door and ringing the door bell. Also the costumes can be scary for your pet. It is their natural instinct to protect their “pack” from strangers and you do not want any of your little trick-or-treaters to get hurt.

Contain your dog

Some dogs will need to be confined to a separate room to limit excitement or injury. If taking your dog outside, be sure he is on a leash at all times.

Act normally

If your dog does seem anxious, continue to act as normal as possible. By giving your dog extra attention to try and reassure them, it will actually re-enforce the behavior and communicate to the pet that there is something to worry about and will result with increasing the anxiety rather than calming them.

Wear ID Tags or Microchip your pet

Just in case your dog does get loose, you will want to make sure he is wearing a current ID tag or is micro-chipped so he will more likely to be returned to you. We now have an ID tag engraver and a large selection of ID tags in stock at the clinic. We can custom engrave a tag for your pet in minutes.

Help your dog get used to costumes

Expose your dog to the costumes your kids will wear before the big day. Allow them to sniff them and let your kids model them so they will get used to them with out  all the excitement. Avoid wearing masks around your dog because that can scare them even more.

Costumes on your dog

While some dogs are used to being dressed in sweaters or dresses, a lot of dogs do not like it. Do not wait until the big night to try your pet’s costume on. Start several days to weeks early and put the costume on when there is not a lot of excitement and watch them closely.  If your dog is still not used to wearing his costume, a colorful bandana or his birthday suit will have to do. We have a great selection of dog costumes in stock at the clinic and a larger selection at our website

Keep the treats away from your pet

Candy – especially chocolate or the artificial sweetener, xylitol – can make your dog very sick resulting in a trip to the Doggie ER. Some dogs have been known to devour the candy haul, sticks, wrappers and all. Keep all candy well out of reach of your pet in a pet proof container.

Fire Safety

Keep candles and lighted pumpkins away from your pet and never leave a burning candle and your pet home alone. A swishing tail is all it takes to knock over a candle and set your house ablaze or injure your pet.

With a just a little preparations and keeping the the actions of your pet in mind, your Halloween will be a fun night rather than a nightmare.

Beware of Chicken Jerky Treats from China

The FDA is continuing to caution pet owners about potential problems from chicken jerky treats originating from China.  The first warnings were issues in 2007 and 2008 with a drop in the number of cases in 2010, however, more than 350 cases have been reported to the FDA in 2011.  See report on MSNBC

The dogs affected from the treats are showing symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Some dogs have also exhibited signs related to a decrease in their kidney function by drinking more water and an increase in their urination.

There was not a specific brand of treats cited, but all complaints have been on chicken jerky treats obtained from China.

Most of the dogs that have had problems are the smaller dogs that have eaten the treats within a few weeks before becoming sick. A lot of these dogs consumed the treats as a large part of their diet. Some pets had upset stomachs and some suffered renal failure. Most dogs have recovered with treatment, but there are some unconfirmed cases of a few dogs dying from their illness.

Treats, especially jerky treats should only be fed occasionally and not as a major portion of your pet’s diet. If your pet does experience vomiting or diarrhea, please contact your veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment. Especially with the smaller dogs, they can become quite dehydrated within a short period of time and may need intravenous fluids until their tiny stomachs can tolerate food again. Be sure to mention any treats your dog may have consumed or any change of diet to your veterinarian.
If you suspect a problem stemming from a treat or pet food, you and your veterinarian can report it to http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Raw Food Diet for Pets

For a majority of pet owners, a quick trip to the local grocery or even pet superstore is the easiest way to pick up their pets’ food.  People might debate favorite brands, but most will use some sort of commercial dry or canned diet for their four legged friends.  For a few pet owners though, preparing a meal for the family dog involves a little more work and a lot of raw meat.  Are homemade or raw diets a good idea?

Take a stroll down the pet food aisle of your favorite store and your eyes will take in every imaginable color, a few cartoon characters and a lot of claims stating the food is “improved”, “natural” or even “organic”.  It’s truly a marketing bonanza!  More than 3,000 brands of pet food fill the aisles and pet owners will spend about $18 billion to feed their pets each and every year.

But, high profile recalls, sick pets and corporate mistrust has moved a small number of pet owners to consider making their pets’ food at home, instead of buying it in a bag.  An Internet search for “raw diets” brings up almost 3 million different results, many of which claim that this sort of food is nutritionally superior to the commercially prepared diets.

The raw food diet trend began in 1993 with the publication of “Give Your Dog A Bone” written by Australian veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst.  Building on the close evolutionary relationship between our dogs and their wolf cousins, Dr. Billinghurst claims that in domesticating the dog we “changed the wolf’s appearance and mind…but not the basic internal workings or physiology”.  Many pet owners agree with this theory and have flocked to a raw meat type of diet for their animals.

Proponents of raw diets claim the foods give their pets more energy, provide more nutrition and overall, their dogs and cats are healthier than animals fed a typical dry or commercial diet.  During the massive pet food recall of 2007, the number of people opting for homemade diets increased dramatically and many have continued to prepare their pet’s food at home.

Adding more fuel to the fire, advocates of homemade foods persist in claims that commercial diets, especially those with a high percentage of grain, are actually shortening the life span of our animals.

How many of these arguments are valid and which ones lack evidence?

First, it is important to understand that all of the reports of increased energy and healthier pets are simply observations by the owners.  Actual scientific and verifiable evidence supporting these claims is non-existent.  To be fair, there is no evidence to refute these statements either.

Many of Dr. Billinghurst’s basic arguments are answered by veterinarians, both in the clinic with clients and in the media.  For example, the claim that dogs must eat meat because they are related to wolves is discussed and usually dismissed.  As a well respected blog, Skeptvet.com, states dogs are omnivores and will often eat a wide variety, including some fruits and vegetables.  Not to mention that there has been more than 100,000 years of divergence between dogs and wolves as well as intense selective breeding, especially in the last 3,000 years.

Another claim that is used by raw food advocates is that dogs and cats can’t digest grains, especially the corn and wheat ingredients found in many commercial diets.  This contention is also refuted by scientific studies showing dogs use these cooked grains as effectively as other carbohydrate sources.

But, perhaps the biggest reason many pet owners opt for preparing their pets’ meals is a mistrust of the corporations formulating the dry foods.  Recalls due to contamination, excessive or deficient nutrients and bacterial contamination seem all too commonplace.  Although these recalls have happened occasionally and pets have become sick, the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of commercial diets are not only safe for our pets, they also provide an optimum level of nutrition, helping out pets live full and healthy lives.

So, is one type of diet actually better than another?

The answer to that question is complex and should always involve a discussion with your veterinarian.  Raw diets, for all their purported benefits, do come with significant risks.  Bacterial contamination is more prevalent with these diets and the potential for an imbalance of nutrients is very high.  If you do choose to use a homemade or raw diet, talk with your veterinarian and use an approved veterinary nutritional site, like BalanceIt.com to insure that your pet does benefit from your extra work.

Also, remember that many pet food companies have decades of experience, research and testing proving the effectiveness and safety of their diets.  It’s true that occasional recalls have happened, but these unfortunate events have also helped determine how to effectively handle this sort of crisis.  Lessons learned from past situations will help to prevent future issues.

Looking forward, science may give us an answer to this on-going and very passionate debate.  But, for now, your best source of advice is not an online forum or manufacturer’s website with products to sell, but rather you should put your trust in your veterinarian.
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Dr. Debra Garrison is a veterinarian at the Treaschwig Veterinary Clinic

Taking better care of our older pets

Pets are living longer thanks to advances in veterinary care, diagnostics, and earlier intervention. But the key to enjoying our “senior” pets lies not only in extending their life span, but in helping them enjoy their later years to the fullest.

Like people, dogs and cats are prone to debilitating ailments as they age. Kidney failure, heart disease, arthritis, dental disease, cancer, and cognitive dysfunction can occur during the normal aging process. In the past, because many diseases weren’t diagnosed until advanced stages, veterinarians could do little more than make a pet’s golden years a little more comfortable by treating the symptoms of age-related illness. If the pet was lucky, the problems would progress slowly. Most pet owners just accepted the fact that their four-legged friends were just going to live a relatively short life, get old, and pass on.

But thanks to technical advancements in modern veterinary medicine, surgery, diagnostics and nutrition, not only do pets live longer but their quality of life has increased dramatically as well.

One example follows human medicine in the development and use of the new generation of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs help the aches and pains of many senior pets while keeping side effects to a minimum.

Many age related problems are still seen as inevitable, but the attitudes of both veterinarians and pet owners have changed. The belief now is that “age is not a disease”, and veterinary medicine is putting increased emphasis on senior pet health through preventative wellness programs.

“The earlier we can intervene, the better, says veterinarian Dr. John Phillips in New York. “We now have greater knowledge, improved diagnostics and better therapeutics all of which mean we can effectively prevent or manage many senior health care issues.”

Eighty three year old Sam Edwards was raised on a farm and has had pets all of his life. He has taken advantage of advancements in veterinary medicine to extend the lives of his pets. “As I’ve gotten older, I’m glad that some of the same medical advancements that have helped me age well are good for my pets, too.”

Edwards shares his home with “Niki”, a 15 year old cat, and a 16 year old terrier mix named “Bones”. “If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be brushing my dogs’ teeth, I’d thought you were crazy. But I brush Bones’ teeth every night while we watch the news. It’s something we both enjoy and my vet says it’s one of the most important things I can do to keep the old guy healthy.”

Pets are living longer due to advances in veterinary care, diagnostics, and earlier intervention. Even so the key to enjoying our “older” pets lies not only in increasing their life span, but also in helping them enjoy their later years to the fullest.

Just like people, cats and dogs can be vulnerable to incapacitating health conditions as they grow older. Kidney failure, heart disease, arthritis, oral disease, malignant tumors, and cognitive dysfunction can take place through the typical maturing process. In earlier times, simply because quite a few health conditions weren’t recognized until the pet was in the advanced stages, veterinarians could do nothing more than make a pet’s golden years a tad bit more comfortable by caring for the symptoms of age-related health issues. If the pet was lucky, the issues could advance slowly. Most pet owners merely accepted the fact that their four-legged buddies were only able to survive a relatively brief life, get old, and pass on.

Yet breakthroughs in technical advancements in modern day veterinary medicine, surgery, diagnostics and nutrition, not only do pets survive longer but their quality of life has increased enormously as well.

One example follows human medicine in the development and use of the new generation of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs help the aches and pains of many senior pets while keeping unwanted side effects to a minimum.

Several age related problems will still be viewed as unavoidable, however the attitudes of both veterinarians and pet owners have changed. The belief now is the fact that “age is not a disease”, and veterinary medicine is adding greater emphasis on senior pet health through preventative health plans.

“The earlier we can intervene, the better, says veterinarian Dr. John Phillips in New York. “We now have greater knowledge, improved diagnostics and better therapeutics all of which mean we can effectively prevent or manage many senior health care issues.”

Eighty three year old Sam Edwards was raised on a farm and has had pets all of his life. He has taken advantage of enhancements in veterinary medicine to lengthen the lives of his pets. “As I’ve gotten older, I’m glad that some of the same medical advancements that have helped me age well are good for my pets, too.”

Edwards shares his home with “Niki”, a 15 year old cat, and a 16 year old terrier mix named “Bones”. “If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be brushing my dogs’ teeth, I’d thought you were crazy. But I brush Bones’ teeth every night while we watch the news. It’s something we both enjoy and my vet says it’s one of the most important things I can do to keep the old guy healthy.”

At what age is a pet considered a senior? Generally, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds, and cats live longer than dogs. Life spans vary with individuals, and pets, like people, grow older at different rates, some more gracefully than others. A few smaller breeds of dogs, like Bones, are considered geriatric at fifteen. Large and giant breeds like Labrador retrievers and rottweilers are considered seniors as soon as seven years old. Cats, especially if they are kept in the house, frequently live to their early twenties and do not attain their golden years until their teens.

The single most crucial way a pet owner can take to keep their pet happy and healthy as long as possible is to pencil in regular veterinary exams. As pets age, these exams tend to be more critical than ever, because as with people, quick detection is essential for disease and problem intervention. Younger pets need routine examinations once or twice yearly. However as dogs and cats approach middle age, these exams should be much more frequent because each year in a pet’s life is equivalent to 5-7 people years.

“Keeping Niki and Bones healthy helps me stay young, too”, says Edwards. “All of us have arthritis so exercise is important to stay in shape and keep from getting stiff. Years ago, when my pets got arthritis, I just accepted it as old age and let them lay around. Now, we go for walks, and there are safer medications for arthritis pain. They even get glucosamine and antioxidants in their senior pet foods!”

Veterinarians tend to recommend routine lab work, electrocardiograms, blood pressure monitoring, and x-rays to locate early conditions like thyroid, kidney, heart, and liver disease. With early detection, pets with organ function conditions can be treated with prescription medication along with specific doctor prescribed quality diets that not only prolong their life span but the quality of their lives. Sometimes, health conditions could even be arrested.

Dr. Leslie Maclean a Tulsa, Oklahoma veterinarian followed the advice she gives her clients and found a hormone problem in one of her own Scottish terriers. “I discovered a rare adrenal gland problem on Brin’s first senior wellness exam. He was acting perfectly normal but his lab work picked up a problem. Early detection meant early treatment and easy management of his disease.”

In general, quite a few early warning signs that your family pet might be having a problem are:

* drinking more water than usual and urination

* urinary incontinence or having mishaps in the house

* recurring throwing up

* terrible breath, drooling or difficulty eating

* excessive panting or tires more quickly when exercised

* lumps, bumps, nodules or alterations in areas of skin color, bumps that bleed or are ulcerated

* change in appetite – ingesting more or less than normal

* changes in behavior for example “spacing out” or increased whining

* abnormal bowel habits – diarrhea or constipation

* fluctuations in body weight – gaining or reducing weight

Watch pets closely and convey any uncommon behavioral or physical matters to your vet without delay. Talk with your veterinarian and develop a specific senior wellness strategy for your pet’s distinctive needs so your precious pooch or kitty can enjoy getting old gracefully.