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You may have questions about everyday routine matters such as vaccinations or heartworm prevention. You may have more specific questions regarding a diagnosis or specific symptoms. Please feel free to send us an e-mail or call our office. The doctors or our trained technicians will be happy to give you the answers you're looking for.

For starters, here are some common questions many of our patients ask:

  1. What items or over-the-counter medications should I have on hand at home for my pet in case of a minor emergency?
  2. We are thinking about getting a pet to add to our family. How do I find a reputable breeder so we can obtain the healthiest pet possible?
  3. How do I know if my pet is experiencing pain?
  4. We recently moved from Colorado to Missouri. Are there any differences in preventative health care for pets?
  5. Do you recommend pet insurance?
  6. Can a cold be transmitted between my dog and a human?
  7. What is Diabetes Insipidus?
  8. Is my dog’s Staph infection contagious?
  9. How did my pet get a bladder infection?
  10. Why is my dog scooting?
  11. Why is my dog licking its feet?
  12. I have been reading that we may be over-vaccinating our pets. Does my dog need to be vaccinated this year?
  13. Do I need to continue heartworm prevention and flea control through the winter for my dog?
  14. Do dogs sweat?
  15. What kind of toys should I AVOID for my pet?

Q. What items or over-the-counter medications should I have on hand at home for my pet in case of a minor emergency?
A. Having a first aid kit for your pet is a great idea! There are several items you may want to keep on hand. It is a good idea to have Benadryl (Diphenhydramine 12.5mg or 25mg) in your pet’s first aid kit. Your veterinarian may have you administer this drug to your pet in case of mild itching, allergic reactions to bug bites or vaccines, or even for mild sedation or coughing. Benadryl is a very safe drug, however, it is always recommended to consult your pet’s veterinarian before administering any drug, as your pet may have a condition that requires caution with certain medications. For instance, those dogs already taking an antihistamine should not take Benadryl.

Another helpful item to have on hand is Hydrogen Peroxide. This product is helpful in cases of minor wounds or abrasions, especially when you are not able to get to the veterinary hospital right away. It is also beneficial in some cases of toxin ingestion, as your pet’s veterinarian may instruct you to administer Hydrogen Peroxide orally (by mouth) to induce vomiting. It is very important to call the veterinarian in this case to get an appropriate dose and instruction. Additionally, with some toxin ingestion, it is CONTRAINDICATED to induce vomiting. Only your veterinarian can determine what is best for your pet in this situation.

Corn starch powder (this may already be found in your kitchen) can be used to stop the bleeding if you have accidentally trimmed your pet’s nails too short, or if your pet has broken it’s nail. Simply apply the powder in dry form to the end of the bleeding nail and hold pressure. Reapplication may be necessary. For cases in which this does not help, veterinary consultation may be required.

There are many human medications you may have in your medicine cabinet at home. Unfortunately, not all of these medications are safe for animals. For instance, Tylenol, Advil, and many other pain relievers are toxic to dogs and cats. Please do not administer any medications without first consulting your pet’s veterinarian. If you have any questions regarding medications for your pet, please call.

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Q. We are thinking about getting a pet to add to our family. How do I find a reputable breeder so we can obtain the healthiest pet possible?
A. The most important thing to do when searching for a reputable breeder is self-education. Owners need to be very choosy when it comes to selecting the best pet for their family. A reputable breeder is one who breeds dogs for the purpose of improving the breed. These breeders tend to focus on only one breed of cat or dog, versus having multiple different breeds at their facility.

Ideally they should have the breeding pair (parents of the puppy) certified (OFA, CERF) in the areas of hips, eyes, and heart. These types of certifications are the result of a tremendous effort to reduce the prevalence of genetic diseases such as canine hip dysplasia, congenital heart diseases, and congenital eye diseases.

It is important for potential pet owners to realize that certification is not a guarantee that the new puppy or kitten will not have any genetic illnesses, but it decreases the chances of obtaining a dog with these problems, some of which do not show up until later in life. AKC registration papers are not the same as certification.

For a list of registered breeders in your area, visit akc.org.

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Q. How do I know if my pet is experiencing pain?
A. It is sometimes very difficult for owners to know if their pet is uncomfortable or in pain. Even veterinarians have a difficult time deciding if a pet’s symptoms are related to pain. In many cases, the owners are more aware of the problem because they have noticed a change in behavior at home. Of course, most animals act very differently once they are in the examination room.

As veterinarians, we must rely on an accurate and complete history as well as the physical exam. There are many potential signs of pain that animals may display. Some examples include panting, shivering, trembling, and restlessness. Unfortunately, many animals have these symptoms when they come to the clinic, but usually because they are nervous.

Most importantly, owners should be concerned if there has been a change at home. If a dog that does not normally pant a lot at home begins to pant excessively, this could be a sign of pain or other medical issues. If a cat begins to pant, it is definitely a sign of discomfort, more likely associated with the respiratory system.

Pets in pain may also have a difficult time sleeping, stop eating, or begin to avoid the normal routines or avoid people in the home. Occasionally, a pet may feel bad enough and offer to bite the handler. This is an unfortunate consequence of our inability to communicate directly with our beloved pets.

One of the more obvious signs of pain is an abnormal gait or limping. Yet many owners do not associate limping with pain. There are several options for pain control in pets, depending on which type of pain they are displaying. If you are concerned that your pet may have pain or discomfort, please feel free to call or make an appointment.

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Q. We recently moved from Colorado to Missouri. Are there any differences in preventative health care for pets?
A. One of the biggest differences between Colorado and Missouri is the higher rate of heartworm infection in Missouri. Many veterinarians in Colorado do not recommend year round heartworm control. Due to the arid climate, the mosquito problem is not as great in Colorado as it is in Missouri.

Large amounts of water are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Therefore, there is a greater potential for heartworm disease since mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting the disease. In Missouri, the Missouri River and the Mississippi River as well as the Lake of the Ozarks makes this area high risk for Heartworm disease. Veterinarians in Missouri recommend year round heartworm prevention, especially since we can have mild winters.

Heartworm disease is so much easier and safer to prevent than it is to treat. Don’t forget cats get heartworm disease too! If your dog or cat is not on heartworm prevention and you would like more information, please give us a call.

In general, parasites are more prevalent in warmer, more southern climates. Flea and tick control is recommend from March through November or the first hard frost. Those dogs with flea allergies should be kept on year round flea control. We recommend Advantage for fleas and Frontline Plus for fleas and ticks.

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Q. Do you recommend pet insurance?
A. Pet health insurance has been available for more than a decade. There are several national companies that are dominating the pet insurance market, for example VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance). I would strongly encourage pet health insurance if you have a young puppy or kitten that is healthy and has no pre-existing medical conditions. The great benefit of insurance is that treatment for major illnesses and injury will not be a financial burden. Many pet owners are faced with the difficult decisions of costly treatment versus saving their life-long companions. If you are a pet owner who would consider orthopedic fracture repair, chemotherapy for cancer, or advanced hospital care for your pet; pet health insurance is for you. The reality is that finances factor in when we are considering health care options for our pets. Your pet will be the ultimate winner; as the highest standards of veterinary medical care will be available to them.

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Q. Can a cold be transmitted between my dog and a human?
In general, “NO”, but it is possible for humans to catch some infectious agents from dogs. The viruses that cause colds and the Flu in people are species specific and don’t infect dogs. The most common “cold” bug in dogs is Infectious Tracheobronchitis, or “Kennel Cough”. This disease is caused by a combination of Bordatella Bronchiseptica (a bacteria), and Parainfluenza virus. It causes a dry, hacking cough with possibly a fever. The bacterial component (B. Bronchiseptica) has been isolated in people on a very rare occasion. In dogs, this disease is treated with antibiotics and cough suppressants. This will take care of the bacterial component, but the viral component must be cleared by the dog’s immune system. There is a vaccine for Kennel Cough, and because it is dealing with bacteria, it must be given every 6 months. There are many other causes of infectious respiratory diseases in dogs (viral, bacterial, and fungal). Some of these diseases can be transmitted to humans and cause serious disease, especially in immunosuppressed individuals. If these conditions are diagnosed, it is important that you tell your veterinarian that there is an immunosuppressed person that comes in contact with the sick dog, so that precautions can be taken.

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Q. What is Diabetes Insipidus?
A. This is a rare hormonal condition which may cause your pet to drink or urinate excessively (called PU/PD). In contrast to Diabetes Mellitus, which is an insulin deficiency or resistance, Diabetes Insipidus (DI) has nothing to do with insulin or blood sugar levels. There are two types if DI. Both have to do with the hormone ADH, which is released by the brain, and tells the kidneys to conserve water. In “central” DI, the brain is releasing an insufficient amount of ADH, and in “nephrogenic” DI, the kidneys are resistant to the effects of ADH. To diagnose the disease, we must first rule out the other, more common, causes of PU/PD such as urinary tract infection, Diabetes Mellitus, and liver or adrenal gland problems. We can then do water deprivation tests or ADH blood levels to diagnose the condition. Medication can be administered to help control the symptoms.

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Q. Is my dog’s Staph infection contagious?
A. The answer is no. The Staph infection on a dog’s skin is caused by an overgrowth of Staph Intermedius, which is a normal bacterium on the dog’s skin that takes the opportunity to overgrow in response to inflammation of the skin, in situations such as allergies. This infection is not transmitted between pets. The bacterium on human skin is Staph Aureus, which is a different strain of bacteria than the one that causes problems in our pets.

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Q. How did my pet get a bladder infection?
A. Urinary tract infections (UTI) are caused when bacteria works its way from the outside of the body, up the urethra, to the bladder, where they set up an infection either in the urine or the bladder lining. Things that make the environment ideal for bacterial growth include holding urine in the bladder for an extended period of time, bladder inflammation, or changes in the urine Ph or concentration. A UTI can be diagnosed with a Urinalysis, and is most often treated with antibiotics. The urinalysis not only picks up on an infection, but can alert the doctor to other conditions such as Diabetes, kidney or liver problems, or even high blood pressure. If the infection persists, we may need to do additional diagnostics such as urine cultures, bloodwork, radiographs, or ultrasound to check for an underlying problem that may be causing the persistent infection.

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Q. Why is my dog scooting?
A. Most often the cause of scooting is a problem with the anal sacs. These are two grape sized sacs located at 4 and 8 o’clock around the anus. The material produced by the glands is normally expressed when the dog has a bowel movement. Sometimes the ducts that drain the sacs become clogged and the sacs become impacted. This situation becomes irritating to the dog, causing them to scoot and lick. Severely impacted sacs can become infected, and can cause an abscess that can rupture. If your pet is scooting and licking under its tail, they should be examined, and have the anal sacs expressed. This exam also allows the doctor to look for other causes of scooting, including skin allergies, tapeworms, and occasionally anal gland tumors. Anal sacs that become problematic can be infused with an antibiotic/cortisone paste, or as a last resort, removed.

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Q. Why is my dog licking its feet?
A. The most common cause of excessive foot licking is a skin allergy to things in the environment. This condition is called Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy). When dogs breathe in pollen, mold, plant materials, or other environmental particles, called allergens, it causes the body to release Histamine, which causes itching. Dogs tend to release Histamine in their skin, especially in their feet causing them to itch. This is in contrast to humans, who tend to get Histamine release in their respiratory tracts, causing stuffiness, sneezing, etc. There is some evidence that dogs also may absorb allergens through the skin on their feet, causing a local allergic reaction. There is no way to cure allergies, but the symptoms can be controlled with medications such as antihistamines, steroids, immunosuppressant drugs, allergen injections, fatty acid supplements, and special diets. Your pet should be examined to rule out other problems on the feet such as a laceration, nail problem, or foreign object in the skin. It should also be noted that some nervous dogs can lick excessively as a behavioral problem.

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Q. I have been reading that we may be over-vaccinating our pets. Does my dog need to be vaccinated this year?
A. Change is in the wind with vaccine protocols. There is no longer one set of vaccinations for all pets; each animal will be receiving what we call “core” and “non-core” vaccines as recommended by their veterinarian. The frequency of rabies vaccination (core vaccine) is still governed by local municipalities. In suburban Jackson County, rabies vaccine is still required yearly. Other risk-related vaccinations (non-core) such as Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, and Bordetella are given based on environment and risk of exposure. These are bacterial vaccines and should be given more frequently, such as yearly or every 6 months. We are now administering a new 3-year Distemper/Parvovirus vaccine, the only vaccine approved by the USDA for 3 year efficacy. Please remember that routine wellness examinations for your pet, every 6 to 12 months is critical at maintaining their good health and helping us as veterinarians prevent not only infectious disease but medical diseases as well.

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Q. Do I need to continue heartworm prevention and flea control through the winter for my dog?
A. Yes. Heartworm disease which is transmitted by the mosquito is still a risk for your dog during the winter months. Missouri is just not consistently cold enough to prevent mosquito development; we can have very mild weather in December and January. That is the same reason that your pets should stay on flea control year-round. If our weather warms up for a short spell, fleas can emerge from their dormant state (cocoons) to jump on our pets. To insure that your dog does not pick up an internal or external parasite, we recommend you continue your summer regimen of heartworm and flea control monthly year-round. That also takes the burden off of you the pet owner to remember when to start or when to stop; or when to heartworm test. The most common error people make is only giving protection to their pets 6 months out of the year because they purchase only a 6-month supply. Refill and give year-round!

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Q. Do dogs sweat?
A. Yes, but not in the same was as people. Dogs sweat through their pads and feet. Dogs do not have sweat glands in their skin or arm pits. One of the primary ways that dogs cool down is by panting. When dogs are nervous they will often leave footprints on the smooth flooring due to their sweating pads.

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Q. What kind of toys should I AVOID for my pet?
A. Here is a list of things to avoid:
  • Sticks and bones that splinter
  • Balls that are too small and could be swallowed
  • Towels, undergarments, shoes and other clothing
  • Rocks
  • Plastic bags
  • Yarn, strings, rubber bands
  • Toys that can be shredded or torn into pieces