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Frequently Asked Questions for Dogs

Does my dog really need heartworm preventative all year round?

There are NO mosquitoes in February!

If I give heartworm preventative all year round, why do I have to test every year?

While it's true that there are no mosquitoes in February, intestinal parasites are present and infective to your dog all year round.  It is possible to pick up a parasite infestation from sniffing other dog feces that is infested, so dogs who walk where other dogs have been are exposed. Since some of these parasites are also a human health threat, we recommend that all dogs are on preventative all year round.

We follow the manufacturer's recommendations on testing every dog annually for heartworm disease. This is to be sure that every dose that your pet receives has heartworm medication in it, and to be sure that every dose was given.  It is very easy to forget a dose.

Also, we use the annual blood drawing opportunity to briefly assess liver and kidney function in our canine patients to be sure that all is well.

How do I know when a lump on my pet needs to be examined?

All new lumps found on your pet should be examined by a veterinarian.  During the examination, the doctor will palpate (feel) the lump, measure it, and take a needle biopsy sample.  This initial test will let the doctor know if it is a benign lipoma (fatty tumor), cyst, or a malignant lump that needs removal.  If a lump is cancerous, early removal can be curative.  Therefore, it is important to get lumps checked out early.  

My dog becomes very spiteful when I leave the house and ruins my things to teach me a lesson. What can I do?

Dogs do not have feelings of spite as people do.  If your dog is destroying things in your home when left alone it likely due to the anxiety of being separated from you, his social group.  This anxiety often manifests as destruction of owner’s property and other undesirable behaviors.

Dogs with separation anxiety tend to display behaviors, such as following owners from room to room, reacting to owners’ preparation to leave the house, and frantic greeting behaviors.  Separation anxiety can be precipitated by multiple factors, including the dog being left alone more often due to a family schedule change, a period of time at a boarding facility, a move to a new home, or loss of a family member or pet.

It is important to realize that dogs with separation anxiety are not doing these things to get even with you for leaving, out of boredom, or due to lack of obedience training. Once again, these behaviors are not due to spite or anger, but by anxiety when left alone.  It is also important to know that punishment will make the problem worse and not better.  Resolution of separation anxiety is best achieved under the direct supervision of a professional animal behaviorist using counter conditioning and desensitization techniques.  Some pets will also benefit from anti-anxiety medications in combination with behavior modification.  Appropriate therapy will be tailored on an individual case basis.  Please make an appointment with on of our veterinarians to discuss your pet specifically.

My older pet is having accidents in the house. Is that just a sign of old age?

When an older pet has urine accidents in the house it can indicate an underlying disease process, such as diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, and others.  These pets may drink and urinate significantly more (referred to as polyuria/polydipsia or PU/PD) leading to housesoiling.  Primary urinary tract problems, such as a urinary tract infection, prostate problems, or tumors of the urinary bladder can also lead to an increased need for a pet to relieve himself.  Another possible cause is urinary incontinence.   Decreased urinary sphincter function and neurological dysfunction can result in incontinence.  Declining cognitive function in a geriatric pet can also lead to accidents in the home.

What initially appears to be a behavioral problem, often time turns out to have an underlying medical basis, and can be treated accordingly. A thorough history and examination of your pet, along with additional diagnostics such as urinalysis and blood work, will help our veterinarians provide appropriate medical treatment.  

My vet says my dog has arthritis. I don't want to give her pain medication, she doesn't cry. She just doesn't do what she used to.

Most dogs are very good at hiding signs of pain. Dogs who are suffering with arthritis often show pain by decreasing their activity, walking for shorter distances, laying down more, panting more and not going up and down stairs as readily to be with the family.

While there is the chance for side effects with pain medication, we monitor closely both your dog's attitude and bloodwork to be sure that we aren't doing any harm.  Most pet owners find that their dog feels much, much better with pain medication, seems  younger than they have been in a while.

Why does my dog keep getting ear infections?

If you find yourself wondering why your dog’s ear infection keeps coming back, there is most likely an underlying cause that needs to be identified and treated.

 These underlying causes/diseases include:

1. Allergies: Allergies to environmental allergens or food can predispose animals to recurrent or chronic ear infections.  Although allergic animals often have other signs such as itchy skin, sometimes ear infections are the only symptom. A hypoallergenic diet trial or skin testing for environmental allergens can help diagnose these underlying diseases.

2. Hormonal disease: Hormonal diseases can suppress the immune system and make pets more likely to develop ear infections. Screening bloodwork may be necessary in some cases to diagnose these diseases.

3. Middle ear infection: This can occur when an ear infection becomes chronic and penetrates through the eardrum into the middle ear. Even if the outer ear infection is treated with topical medications, bacteria from the middle ear can continue to grow and reinfect the ear. Detailed examination of the ears using video otoscopy under sedation and/or ear x-rays or CT scan can identify this problem and allow us to determine a prognosis. Oral antibiotics or even surgery may be necessary to treat middle ear infection.

4. Abnormal ear conformation/hair: Some dogs have narrow ear canals or long ear flaps, or have hair growing in the canal. These situations can cause moisture and wax to build up in the ear canals, leading to infection. Prophylactic use of ear cleansers/drying agents is usually needed 1-2 times weekly to prevent infection.

5. Tumors/polyps: Masses in the ear canal such as tumors or polyps can block the canal, leading to infection and preventing topical medication from penetrating well. If growths are present, surgery may be needed to remove them.

6. Foreign objects in the ear: Dried clumps of wax, grass, or other objects can irritate the canal and act as a focus of infection.

It is extremely important to have you dog examined each time you notice an ear infection.  A veterinarian needs to determine if the ear drums are intact, collect a sample of the ear debris, and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.  It is also extremely important to return for recommended progress examinations.  This allows the veterinarian to determine if ear infections are recurring or if they were not completely resolved.  Please contact us if you notice signs of an ear infection.  These include shaking the head, redness, ear discharge, and pain.  Untreated ear infections can lead to serious damage.