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Tag: vets

The Ace Files: What to do when your dog won’t let his claws be trimmed

Ace was born and raised a city dog, and however mean one might consider the streets of Baltimore, they (and its sidewalks) always did a good job of keeping his claws filed down to a less than deadly length.

That was a good thing, because, when it comes to a toenail trim, Ace will have no part of it.

Groomers, vets and I have all attempted it, only to receive the clear message from him that — as much as he likes to have his paws played with, as much as he likes to hold hands — bringing any sort of grooming tool near his claws is a declaration of war.

Ace’s claws, for that very reason, have always been too long.

That poses problems, to himself and others. Ace is quick to shake hands, and sometimes does so unsolicited. In Baltimore, when he was working as a therapy dog, I feared he might inadvertenly and with all good intentions rip apart the small children reading to him, and I monitored him accordingly.

They were too long when we pulled out of the city, for a year-long, John Steinbeck-inspired tour of America. But by being constantly on the go, his claws remained at least at a tolerable length during our travels.

They were too long, despite daily walks around the block, after we ended up in Winston-Salem, N.C. and moved into the apartment of my birth.

ursula 053And since becoming a country dog, when we moved to a little house in tiny Bethania, N.C., they’ve only gotten worse — to the point they may now be described as a tad freakish, if not lethal weapons.

Once again, I went out and bought some expensive clippers, having  misplaced several old and never-used ones. But the latest attempt didn’t work either. No brand, no style, no method of claw trimming seems to work on Ace.

He doesn’t snarl, or bite, he just bucks and flails and, at 115 pounds, overpowers anyone attempting to trim his nails. What’s much scarier is the immense stress it seems to cause him. His heartbeat speeds up. He pants and drools and squirms. His eyes get a frightened look. Maybe I just imagine it, but he even starts to exude an odor. The smell of fear?

Once, back in Baltimore, I asked Ace’s vet to trim his nails. Ace resisted. The vet muzzled him and tried again. Ace resisted more. Then the vet called two burly men into the room to usher Ace upstairs.

From below, I heard the ruckus. It sounded like a professional wrestling match was underway, and about two minutes later they brought Ace back down, saying they’d been unable to accomplish the task — despite their muscles and whatever implements of restraint were upstairs.

It was concluded then that the only way to do it would be by sedating him. The idea of that scares me at least as much as how stressed he gets.

For my my most recent effort, I bought the most expensive professional nail clippers I could find. I let them lay around the living room for a week so Ace would get used to them. Then I recruited a friend, and had her feed him treats as I attempted the deed. Despite even that incentive, he balked. By the time it was over, I was almost fully sprawled atop him while whispering sweet nothings into his ear. He bucked me off, and not a single nail got trimmed. (Anybody need some expensive professional nail clippers?)

I described all that to Ace’s most recent veterinarian, here in North Carolina, at his check-up last month.

He suggested we start jogging on sidewalks. Then, seeing my reaction, he suggested I find a young and energetic friend to jog with Ace on sidewalks.

He also suggested a complete blood work-up that, in addition to checking for any health problems, might also help determine how well Ace would handle sedation.

We didn’t take him up on the second offer, deciding to wait until Ace turns 9 for that.

We did consider his  other suggestion — though not to the point of taking up jogging.

Since moving to historic Bethania, and having our own back yard, Ace doesn’t go for a walk every day. Bethania doesn’t have a lot in the way of sidewalks.  Three or four times a week we take a short walk — mostly on the street — to the little post office where I pick up  my mail. Two or three times a week we walk the dirt trail that meanders through Black Walnut Bottoms, behind the visitor center.

Once in a while, Ace will hear a hunter’s gunshot there, prompting him to turn around and head home. Ace also fears loud, cracking noises — anything from a bat hitting a ball to the crackle of the fireplace. His fears, as he grows older, seem to become more pronounced, but then maybe that’s true of all species. Whatever little fears we have turn into big looming nightmarish ones. Probably, there is a drug to help deal with that. But I am increasingly fearful of pharmaceuticals.

Given the lack of options, I decided Ace needed to spend more time pounding the pavement — and at a pace quicker than the slow one at which I prefer to move along.

So we took some of the vet’s advice, and reshaped it to fit our lifestyle (OK, my lifestyle). We headed down to the golf course where I work as a bartender a couple of nights a week. (Ace not having appeared in a movie in a while, I took my new camera along, too, to test out its video capabilities.)

I’m thinking of making it a twice-a-week routine. The mile-long trot seemed to make an immediate difference. His claws weren’t really any shorter, but they were much less sharp and pointy.

Ace slept great that night, but then he sleeps great every night, with only occasional scary dreams that makes his paws flutter as he emits little whimpers. I don’t think he’s chasing rabbits in his dreams. More likely, he’s running away from scary monsters that want to clip his nails.

(Ace has appeared in one professionally made movie, and several unprofessional ones. You can see some of the latter here.)

Give us the goods on your veterinarian

veterinarian symbolWe want to know about the veterinarian of your dreams – whether you’ve found him or her, or not.

For an article in an upcoming issue of The Bark on how we choose a veterinarian, we’d like to know what – in your eyes — are the most important factors.

If you’ve found the perfect vet, just what is it that makes him or her perfect? If you’re still seeking that person, just what exactly is it you’re looking for?

As our dogs become more and more like family members, the choice of vet is a decision humans probably take more seriously than they did 50 years ago. Time was one’s choice of veterinarian was based in large part on proximity.

We’re guessing that has changed. Now we seek opinions from friends, question fellow denizens of the dog park, turn to online reviews, and perhaps even make some in-office visits, all in our quest for the perfect vet.

But what makes the perfect vet?

Is it where he or she went to school? Is it a friendly staff, reasonable rates? Is it how quickly you can make an appointment or how long you spend in the waiting room? Is it bedside manner, how much empathy, or compassion a vet exudes? Is it how clearly that vet can communicate? Whether they honor your pet insurance? Is it how the vet connects with you, how the vet connects with your dog, or both?

We want to know what is (or was) the single most important factor in your choice of veterinarian, and how you found the one (if you have) that you can’t imagine ever leaving.

Tell us about the veterinarian of your dreams by leaving a comment, preferably with your name attached, on The Bark’s blog, or here on ohmidog!

(John Woestendiek, who produces the ohmidog! website, is a frequent contributor to The Bark. His story on finding the ideal veterinarian will appear in an upcoming issue.)

No! No! No! He’s too young to be old

Ace has been stricken.

With exactly what, I don’t know. But in the past four days, he has taken to yelping when he gets up from a long nap or makes a sudden move.

At the dog park this week, he has plodded along lethargically, showing little interest in other dogs — even when he ran into this little white fellow who shares his name. How’s that for a pair of Aces?

I have poked and prodded every inch of his oversized body, but I’m unable to pinpoint what particular spot might be hurting him.

So today, we’re off to the vet.

My first thought was the hips. That’s based partly on the simple fact that he’s very big. Then, too, some of you might recall, when I took Ace to an animal communicator three months ago, she told me he was having some mild discomfort in that area. Add in the 10 months we’ve been traveling, and all the hopping up into and down from the back of my jeep he’s been doing, and the hips seem as good a guess as any.

I knew the day would come when the jumping in and out of the car would need to cease, and given his size, maybe that practice should never have started. Chances are — at age 6 — that day is here, earlier than I expected, and not without some accompanying guilt on my part.

Yesterday I ordered a ramp.

Then again, it might not be his hips at all. Although he’s hesitating to jump into the car, he’s not yelping when he does so — only when makes a sudden movement, usually after laying still.

I’ve pushed on his paws, rubbed the lengths of his legs, looked into his ears and down his throat, poked his belly and prodded his hips. None of that seemed to bother him. He didn’t yelp. He didn’t do that thing he does where his eyes get big, which signifies, to me, anyway, rising alarm on his part. That would have told me I was getting close.

The only time he yelped was when I lowered his head, making me think maybe the pain is in his neck, or spine-related. A half hour massage followed, which, though it might not have helped at all, he seemed to appreciate.

I am puzzled, too, about how much of his current “down-ness” is physical, and how much of it might be emotional.

Twice, I’ve come home to hear him howling — not howls of pain, I don’t think, but howls of loneliness. Twice I’ve left the video camera on, to try and capture their onset, but he didn’t howl those times. And the times he did, he immediately cheered up and ran around when I walked through the door.

I’m pretty sure Ace is less than in love with our new basement quarters, though he likes the upstairs and yard just fine. He has shown a distinct preference for being outside, content to lay at top of stairs, keeping an eye on the kitchen window of the mansion owner, who gives him a daily biscuit.

Something about the basement bothers him. And friends I’ve talked about it with have different theories. Maybe he was mistreated in a basement in his puppyhood. Maybe the old mansion we’re living under is haunted. Maybe, with a firehouse around the corner, the sirens are bothering him, though they never have before — and we lived in Baltimore, where sirens are background music. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight, or he’s getting arthritic and the cold and dampness of the cellar aggravate it.

He’s moving slowly, lethargically (except when the treats come out), and rather than circling twice before laying down, he’s circling about eight times.

Yesterday, working with my theory that it might be his neck, I took a treat and moved it around in front of him — from side to side, then up and down. There were no yelps. Either it caused no pain, or the thought of getting food superceded it.

So, with fingers crossed, we’re headed to the nearest veterinarian, with hopes that whatever is bothering him is something minor, something that will pass or doesn’t cost too much to fix,  something unrelated to all the traveling I’ve put him through — 21,000 miles of it over the past ten months, something that is neither chronic nor old-age related.

Because he’s too young to be old.

California man seeks vet insurance — for self

You can’t blame Hal Ziegler for trying — what was good enough for his golden doodle, he figured, would be good enough for him.

Facing exorbitant increases in his health insurance payments, Zeigler, a self-employed consultant, called up the pet insurance company that covers his dog Charlie — for $37 a month — and asked if he could get a policy for himself.

“They laughed,” Ziegler, 47, of Mission Viejo., told the Orange County Register. “I knew what the answer would be but in reality I wasn’t joking.”

Ziegler noted that his dog, Charlie, has seen his claims paid promptly and without dispute by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) , including those for vaccinations and a trip to the veterinary emergency room.

Ziegler’s dealings with Anthem Blue Cross haven’t been nearly as simple and swift, and the price of his coverage keeps going up — a 34 percent jump this year alone.

And even then, it sounds like he lacks coverage for a major medical event. “One one of our greatest fears is to be in a catastrophic medical emergency,” he said.

Being without health insurance myself I can relate to the problem faced by Ziegler and so many others who have been priced out of the health market. So I’ll share my secret plan, if a major medical problem comes my way: I’m going to go to the vet, get him to give me a bacon-flavored treat, scratch me behind the ears and gently put me down.

More than you want to know about anal glands

Somehow, in three years of dog-blogging, I’ve managed to avoid addressing the issue of anal glands.

The time has come to express myself.

Dog anal glands are two small glands located on either side of your dog’s anus, each of which holds a tiny amount of a foul smelling brown liquid. For a long time, traditional wisdom among groomers was that, every now and then, those glands should be squeezed, or expressed, to clear them.

Fortunately, especially for groomers and do-it-yourself expressers, the wisdom has changed — so much so that some experts, including veterinarian Karen Becker, featured in the video above, now advise that anal glands, as a rule, be left the heck alone.

That’s because your dog knows how to express himself, so to speak.

Whenever a dog urinates or defecates, the act applies pressure to the anal glands, and a tiny bit of the fluid is released. Dogs also have the ability to express at will, by raising their tails, which they often do when meeting a new dog — as in “Allow me to introduce you, new acquaintance, to eau de Ace.” They just emit a tiny amount, not detectable by humans, but enough to lead those meeting for the first time to a long bout of mutual butt sniffing.

Only once has my dog Ace been the victim of a manual anal gland expressing, by a groomer in Alabama who was pretty much insisting it be done, and insisting I watch and learn. She squeezed and squeezed but nothing came out. Finally she gave up, saying maybe they didn’t need expressing after all.

Many dogs never develop any problem with their anal glands, especially those who are eating quality food — not big on fillers — that lead to a firm stool. A firm stool will create the pressure needed to naturally express the glands.

When the anal glands are not sufficiently expressed, bacteria can build up, which can lead to infections, which can lead to an abscess, which can lead to further problems.

If your dog is scooting or dragging his rear across the floor, emitting foul odors from his rear, or licking and chewing the area, those are signs that his anal glands may not be properly expressing. A visit to a groomer, or better yet a vet, can, shall we say, rectify the situation. 

If want to do it at home — and trust me, you don’t — you can learn more at  Lovetoknow.com. To see more of Dr. Becker’s reports, visit Mercola Healthy Pets.

Franken’s service dogs for vets act passes

Sen. Al Franken’s first piece of legislation — aimed at increasing the supply of service dogs for veterans – has been passed and is headed to the White House for approval.

Under the legislation, the Veterans Administration would develop partnerships with organizations that provide disabled veterans with service dogs. Franken said the measure will cost about $5 million and is designed not to interfere with non-profit organizations providing service dogs.

“The government is going to pay for essentially every other dog. What I didn’t want to happen was to dry up the funding for the organizations like Hearing and Service Dogs in Minneapolis and all of these non-profits who have been providing dogs to some vets.”

Franken said about 200 veterans will get dogs as a result of the legislation. The legislation was passed yesterday as apart of the Defense Authorization bill, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Franken introduced the legislation after meeting Luis Carlos Montalvan, a veteran who said his service dog improved his quality of life.

Leptospirosis appears on rise in NYC

Veterinarians and dog owners in New York are on alert for leptospirosis after reports this week that two Brooklyn dogs died of the disease and dozens more have been hospitalized.

The infectious illness rarely strikes the city in high numbers, but vets say it seems to be hitting a little earlier and harder this year, the New York Daily News reported.

“Lepto likes warm, wet weather and we’ve got that to a T,”  said Dr. Cathy Langston, a renal specialist with the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, which is treating three dogs for the disease.

The swift-moving illness is spread by a bacteria in the urine of rats, skunks, raccoons and other infected animals, which dogs can come in contact with through contaminated water or moist soil. The disease can damage the kidney and liver and prove fatal if untreated.

The first signs in dogs are weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, depression, muscle pain and sometimes diarrhea or bloody urine.

The Daily News article says Amy Tiscornia, a waitress, returned home from work to  her 4-year-old pit bull Bird unable to move. The white dog’s skin and belly were glowing yellow from jaundice and his eyes, she said, “were the color of Mountain Dew.”

 The dog fully recovered after three days of treatment in a Long Island animal hospital.

And after a week of round-the-clock IV and treatment at a Long Island animal hospital — amounting to a $7,000 bill — Traci Schiffer’s Boston terrier Fenway also recovered.

Both women live in the East Village and frequently take their dogs to East River Park, where the canines play in the soggy fields and puddles of still water left by the intense rains, the story noted.

A Health Department spokeswoman said it is not considered an outbreak. In 2007, 17 cases were reported in the five boroughs.

Wondering where the Greenies went?

If you’re not noticing Greenies on your store shelves these days, that’s because their maker, Nutro Products, Inc., has restricted those selling them to veterinary hospitals and pet specialty retailers.

In a press release issued last week, Nutro announced the change applies to Greenies canine and feline dental chews, Pill Pockets and Smart Biscuits.

“…We believe that pet medical professionals at veterinary hospitals and well-trained, knowledgeable staff at pet specialty stores are best equipped to answer pet owners’ questions about our products, and to make the right recommendation, said Carolyn Hanigan, Vice President of Marketing, Nutro Products, Inc.

Read more »

How your dog can help other dogs

The Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank is experiencing a blood shortage and has scheduled a series of blood drives to replenish its supply.

To be a blood donor, a dog must weigh at least 35 pounds, be in good health and be between the ages of 9 months and 7.5 years. Dogs weighing 55 pounds or less give a half pint of blood, while dogs that weigh more than 55 pounds give a full pint. Technicians draw blood from the jugular vein, and do not muzzle or sedate donor dogs.

EVBB is one of a few of private blood banks for dogs in the country.

If you and your dog are interested in donating, call the blood bank staff at 1-800-949-3822, or drop by one of the drives. Here’s the schedule:

Read more »

Closely watched Crufts show starts next week

The London Times reports that judges at the prestigious but beleaguered Crufts dog show next week will be keeping a sharp eye out for any unhealthy animals as part of a campaign by Britain’s Kennel Club to lift the show’s tarnished image.

The club was badly damaged when the BBC One documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” was broadcast last summer, followed by the network’s decision to scrap its coverage of the show after 42 years. The program was critical of club breeding standards that it said created dogs with diseases and deformities.

The club has since issued new breed standards that place more of a priority on health, less on appearance, and it has enlisted a team of vets and monitors to be on the lookout during the show for breeds deemed to be at risk from health problems, including the basset hound, bulldog, mastiff, pug and shar-pei.

Judges, meanwhile, have been told to ban dogs if they shows signs of sickness, lameness, shortness of breath or aggression.

“We all think dog shows are under threat,” said Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club. “There is a view among some animal welfare groups like the RSPCA that dog shows are bad … We have to get across that showing dogs is about improving the health of dogs and ensuring they have a good temperament.”

Kisko said Passionate Productions, which made the documentary, won’t be given a press pass to the event. “We see Crufts as a big celebration of dogs and we don’t want them there spoiling our day — and I don’t think breed people would be pleased to see them there.”

The show opens next Thursday, and the Kennel Club is expecting about 160,000 visitors to see 28,000 dogs over the four days.

While it won’t be aired on BBC, Crufts will be shown on a live webcast at www.cruftslive.tv.