When is the best time to treat for fleas?

Flea season is here!  There are a number of great products that pevent infestations from establishing.  The time to “treat” for fleas is before your pet has a problem.  A single flea can lay hundreds of eggs which fall onto your carpets and floors and before you know it fleas are established in your house.  Once this occurs it can take months to get them gone.  Fleas are insects and once they form the pupa stage they can be dormant for several months until moisture and temperature conditions or just right and then they hatch out in your house.  THERE IS NO PRODUCT THAT KILLS/CONTROLS THE PUPA STAGE OF THE FLEA LIFE CYCLE.  This is why keeping them out of your home is critical.  I recommend comfortis for dogs.  It is a once monthly chewable tablet that kills fleas for 30 days.  It is also available in combination with heartworm prevention in a product called Trifexis.  There are topicals available as well.  These too can be found in a heartworm/flea combination product.  What about cats?  Even if your cat is indoors, fleas can be carried in on your clothing or they can also hop into the home from outside.  Opossums and ferral cats are the number one source of fleas for dogs and cats.  They raom at night and the flea eggs drop from them and the next thing you know, you have fleas around your home.  If you have dogs and cats then your dog can carry fleas inside and they hop off and then feed on your cat.  Even if your dog is on flea control products, the flea is not instantly killed and those that hop onto your cat can feed and lay egss and once again you have a flea infestation.  ALL CATS AND DOGS IN THE HOME NEED MONTHLY FLEA CONTROL PRODUCTS!   So, the time to “treat for fleas” is all year long to keep them out of your home and to protect you and your pets from flea bits.

Senior Pet Health: When Is My Pet Considered a Senior and Why It’s Important.

Our pets are living much longer lives than they did 10 to 20 years ago.  This is due in a large part to advances in veterinary medicine and health care.  Much of the research for human disease prevention uses dogs as a model for discovering this information.  Many breeds from the American Kennel Club fund research projects to find answers to disease conditions that affect their breed.  Many of these conditions also affect people so that knowledge gained in canine research leads to breakthroughs in the human medical field as well.  As a result of this new knowledge, we now can detect disease conditions in dogs and cats much earlier than in years past.  Just as in human medicine, early detection and early intervention can lead to a higher quality of life, a longer life for your pet.

Senior pet health care is designed to perform screening tests for early detection of disease just as we do in humans.  Basic lab tests can pick up on early changes so that we can then monitor the progression of the disease and initiate treatment in a timely fashion to slow the progression of the disease and the associated damage that will occur.  When we age, we can tell our doctor or loved ones that we have this ache or pain or that we are tired or don’t feel well.  This alerts our physician to run screening tests to find the cause and treat appropriately.  Our pets do not tell us these things.  They can go for a number of years before we realize there is something wrong.   By the time the owner notices a problem, often it is far advanced causing great damage to the pet.  In addition, treatment at that time is often much more costly to the owner than early intervention and early treatments.

At what age is my dog or cat considered a senior?  It depends upon what pet you have and their calendar age.  Humans often enter into senior screenings when we reach age 50.  Colonoscopies are often performed at this age, earlier if there is a family history of the disease.  The following chart will help you determine at what age your pet is considered to be “50” in human years.  Cat owners should use the same chart as we do for small dogs.

The outer orange ring is used to calculate “human years” for giant breed dogs.  The middle ring is for large breed dogs, and the inner lighter orange ring is for medium to small dogs and cats.  So, a 6 year old Giant breed dog, 7 year old large breed dog and 8 year old medium/small dog and cat would all be considered to be in their early 50’s in human years.  So, in one calendar year your  giant breed dog will age about 7 human years, large breed dog about 6 human years, and medium/small dogs and cats about 5 human years.

Based upon the above aging chart, health screenings are needed minimally every year for your pet.  If your pet has a chronic compensated disease such as kidney failure, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, etc, more frequent monitoring is needed to manage the condition.  Not performing annual tests would be like you having a disease and not being checked for 5-7 years!  A lot can go wrong in that amount of time.  This is also why your pet can be fine at one visit and 3-6 months later show significant loss of organ function.

For optimum health and longevity of your pet, start annual health screenings  at 6 years for giant breed dogs,  7 years for large breed dogs, and 8 years for medium/small breed dogs and cats.  It is much easier to manage a disease if detected early.  It helps slow the progression of the disease and also helps prevent more serious damage to your pet.






Thundershirts……………Do They Work?

Many of you have probably heard of “Thundershirts” for use in dogs with anxiety issues.  Do they work?  We have found that in most cases they do give the dog some relief from the anxiety.  The shirt works by supplying even contact with the body over the top of the shoulders and the chest cavity.  These areas of the body, when gentle even pressure is applied, does tend to exert a calming effect upon the wearer.   They are appropriate for noise fears such as thunderstorms and fireworks but they are also helpful for other anxiety inducing situations for example, separation anxiety.

Do not expect the Thundershirt to work miracles.  Your pet should experience some relief but may not be totally relaxed as it would in a non-anxiety inducing situation.  In addition to using the thundershirt, behavior modification exercises may be needed as well to retrain you dog how to act in these stressful situations.  A very good resourse/book is Victoria Stillwell’s “It’s Me or The Dog”.  This is an excellent training guide for basic training and it also has a section dealing with problem behaviors.  Also remember that Thundershirts have a money back guarantee.  Our experience with Thundershirts has been that they are 70 o 75% effective.  So if your dog is afraid of storms and fireworks, consider using a Thundershirt.

Collars……………how tight is too tight?

How tight should my pet’s collar be?  Very good question.  Another question is how often or when should my pet wear a collar?  Are cat collar and dog collar suggetions the same?

Let’s talk about dogs first.  A good general rule of thumb is it should be tight enough not to slip over their head and come off but not too tight to irritate the skin or rub off the hair.  Ususally you should be able to fit 1 to 2 fingers between the neck and the collar when the collar is in position.   When you put a collar on your puppy you must remember to check it at least once or twice a week.  Puppies go through rapid growth spurts and you must let the collar out to allow for the increased size of the puppy.  Too many times I have seen dogs that had a collar put on as a puppy and it was never adjusted resulting in the collar causing serious injury to the dog and requiring surgery to remove the embedded collar.

I do not recommed the “clip/quick coupler” collars when walking a dog.  Over time these plastic clips get worn and if your dogs hits the end of the leash, these snaps give way and the collar comes off.  Always use a secure buckle collar when walking your dog.  I do not recommend dogs wearing collars all the time, especially those with tags attached to them.  These tags have been know to get stuck in crates, floor heating/air conditioning grates  and if you are not there, your pet can be severely injured and even some have choked to death.  My rule of thumb is if you are not monitoring your pet, then take the collar off.  You put it on for your pet to go outside and then take it off when it returns to the house.  This is the safest in the long run.

Some dog breeds will slip out of any collar if their neck is thick and the same width as their skull.  Breeds such as Greyhounds, Whippets, Pugs, Bulldogs and similar breeds will slip out of even the tightest buckle collars.  Slip leads are designed for these breeds.  They are comfortable and will gently tighten if pressue is put on the lead/collar.  Some of the very small breeds or those with very thick necks do better with a harneess.

Collars and cats…………..this is another story.  Always use a stretch collar for a cat.  Cats crawl through tight spaces and climb and also can slip while climbing.  If they do not have a stretchable collar then once again they can hang themselves and choke.  Whether they are inside or outside, collars can be a hazard for cats.  Make sure the collar will stretch easily enough to come off the cat with minimal pressure.  Again remember, if you have a young cat or kitten you must constantly evaluate it for proper fit.

Hunting collars are safety equipment for hunting dogs.

Another safety reminder.  When you pick your pet up from grooming or boarding always double check the fit of the collar.  If someone else has put it on it may be too loose and can easily slip off and your pet could get loose and seriously injured or killed.

I also recommend all pets be microchipped for more secure, permanent, traceable identification.  A collar and tags are not sufficient.  They come loose or fall off and the identification is lost.  Most shelters and veterinary offices have microchip scanners so that lost animals can be readily reunited with their owners.  It is a relatively painless installation process or it can be implanted when your pet is asleep when it is neutered or spayed.  We relocate one or two pets a year via their microchip information.

Hopefully these guidelines are helpful so that you can have a safe collar and one that fits properly.

Aging Pets……How Old is “Old”?

      Most of us remember being told that 1 year of a dog or cats life is equal to 7 years of a human’s life.  While this averages out it is not a direct 1 for  1 correlation.  Dogs and cats mature very fast so that by 6 months of age most of them can reproduce.  By year 1 to 2 they are comparable to humans in their 20’s to 30’s  The aging process then levels out for a number of years but toward the later years of our pet’s life the rate of decline is quite accelerated.  Another factor affecting the aging process is the size of the animal.  Toy breed dogs and most cats can live well into their mid to late teens if well cared for.  Giant or large breed dogs are good to make it to double digit ages in many cases.  Therefore a 6 year old Great Dane is much “older” physically than a 6 year old Chihuahua.

     As our pets age there are a number of diseases and conditions that can impact them and shorten their lives and decrease their quality of life.  As is true in human medicine, early detection allows for early intervention thus helping to prevent serious harm and/or slow the progression of the disease and thus increasing your pet’s quality of life and adding to the number of years you enjoy your pet.  This is a key reason we recommend screening health tests for your pet.  Think of these tests as an “internal physical examination” of your pet.  We can evaluate organ function and screen for many of the problems facing pets in their later years.  One frequently asked question is why do I need the tests done every 6 to 12 months?  In the later years of their life your pet will age in 1 calendar year as much as a 75 to 80 year old person will age in 5 or 6 calendar years.  If you stop to think about this, a lot of decline can happen to our pets in a matter of months since their rate of decline is much faster when compared to people.  Therefore, most senior pets should have routine “internal physicals” minimally every 12 months, more often if they have a chronic compensating disease like diabetes, kidney insufficiency, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, chronic arthritis, liver disease, etc.   A health plan formulated to meet the needs of your aging pets will provide a higher quality of life for them and add years to the time you have to enjoy them.  Also, early intervention in most disease processes will minimize or slow the damage from disease and thus help avoid those major health emergencies pets face when these diseases go undetected.

So, how old is your pet?  Think about this information and if your small or medium dog or your cat is  7-8 years old then they are a senior pet.  If your large or giant dog is 5-6 they are entering their senior years as well.  We encourage all owners of senior pets to get them on a regular plan of preventive health care to maintain them as happy, healthy and active for as many years as possible.

Bad breath? No laughing matter.

Halitosis (bad breath) in cats and dogs is nothing to ignore.  It is most often associated with plaque and tartar on the teeth.  This leads to periodontal and endodontal disease (inflamed/infected gum tissue and cavities and abscessed teeth.  Unlike us, our animals can not tell us they have a tooth bothering them until it is advanced to a serious stage and can cost the loss of the tooth, so regular home examination of your pets mouth and teeth are important to dental health.

In addition to the health of the mouth, periodontal disease is a primary source of bacteria that invades the blood stream.  The mouth has a very rich blood supply so infections of the teeth and gums can spread via the blood to infect other areas of the body including the heart, kidney and liver.  Animals (and people) do get infections inside their heart from infections in their mouth.  Bacterial kidney and bladder infections can arise from the infection in the mouth as can bacterial hepatitis.

One of the best precautions you can do for your pet is to brush its teeth.  If your pet won’t allow the tooth brushing you can at least swab the tooth paste into the cheeks of the mouth with a cotton swab.  This will mix with their saliva and the enzymatic action of pet tooth paste breaks down the bacteria and plaque that form tartar.  Once or twice a week application of the pet tooth paste often makes a huge difference in the health of the mouth and teeth.  Do not use human tooth paste as it contains fluoride and should not be swallowed.  Also, after you swab the tooth paste into the cheeks, do not feed or water your pet for at least 30 minutes.  This will allow the enzymes a chance to work before your pet rinses it with drinking water or eating food.

Another area of concern for dental health is fractured teeth.  I see a lot of teeth broken due to chewing or nyla bones and hard, natural bones.  These are often harder than the teeth and when the pet chews on these tooth fractures are often a common result.  I recently saw a young, 4 year old dog that had 3 fractured teeth that led to abscessation (infection) of the adjacent teeth which required extraction of 13 teeth total!  This dog had regular access to nyla bones and had broken many of its teeth.

Bad breath is not always associated with tooth problems.  It can show up in cases of kidney failure, lung infections, lodged foreign material in the mouth,  and certain cancers.  So, never ignore or tolerate “bad breath” in your pet.  It is not normal and is usually an indication of more serious disease that, when detected early, can generally be treated and provide a higher quality of life for your pet and add years to the time you are able to enjoy your pet.

Leptospirosis–A Very Real Threat

Leptospirosis continues to be a very serious threat to dogs and their owners.  I consider it one of the core vaccines your dog should have yearly.  This is a disease that you can contract from you dog as well and it can cause serious illness, permanent kidney damage and death in both dogs and humans.  There is a very good article from Michigan State University regarding a recent outbreak in the Detroit area.  The information applies to our area as well.  Go to  http://news.msu.edu/story/9952/  .  I hope this is useful for every one.

Winterizing Precautions

Once again cold weather is on the way and, as always, there are potential hazards for our pets.  First of all, this time of year many people are adding antifreeze to their vehicles.  This is highly poisonous to pets (and people too) in that it destroys the kidneys.  Most antifreeze has a sweet smell/taste so animals and children will readily drink it.  Anther potential source for antifreeze is in the garage where you store your car.  When the engine is turned off, occasionally a small amount of antifreeze/radiator coolant can drain from the overflow from the car and leave a small puddle under the car where you may not notice it.  Your cat or small dog can find this and consume it.  Small amounts consumed over time will results in kidney damage as well so it is important to not let your pets roam the garage unattended. 

Secondly, even though colder weather is approaching, fleas are still a threat.  They can harbor in leaves, etc and it takes a really hard freeze to kill them.  It has to get cold and STAY cold.  Even then there are sources of fleas for our pets such as stray cats, opossums, raccoons, coyote, etc.  It is best to protect your pets year round in order to keep your house flea free.  Remember, all pets in the house have to be on prevention.  Mixed pet households (dogs and cats) often think to only treat the dog since it is the one usually going outside.  Fleas are not instantly killed and if they jump off the dog and onto the cat that does not have flea protection, this is a source of food and the fleas will establish themselves inside the home.  Once established, it can take MONTHS to rid the house of the fleas.  There is no medication that will kill the pupa stage of the flea cycle.  These can remain dormant for several months and then hatch when temperature and moisture conditions improve.  Therefore, it is best to keep all your pets on year round prevention so that you don’t end up with a flea infested home. 

Another cold weather related problem can occur when the weeds mature and produce their seeds.  Many of these seeds have thorns or stickers that adhere to clothing and pet fur.  This is a favorite time of year to take our dogs for romps in the woods and fields.  Always check their paws, pads and toes for any weed seeds and remove them.  Another area to watch is the eyes.  Tiny seeds and plant awns can be trapped under the upper and lower eyelids as well as the third eye lid (the fleshy membrane at the inner part of the eye).  Always check the eyelids and if you see weed seeds, gently flush them out with a sterile saline eye wash.  If you see persistant squinting of the eye or excessive eye discharge immediately have your pet examined.  There could be a penetrating object in the eyeball or a scratch or an ulcer to the cornea of the eye.  These should not be ignored and should be treated immediately to prevent serious damage as well as relieving the extreme pain associated with these conditions.

So, enjoy the coming season.  I hope this information has been helpful and helps keep your pets safe and healthy.

Dr Walsh

Senior Pets Need Additional Monitoring

With advancements in veterinary medicine, there are many options for you to maximize your senior pets health and quality of life.  Depending upon whether you have a cat or dog there are certain health conditions that can negatively impact them.  In addition, large or giant breed dogs need these evaluations sooner than a smaller dog or cat due to the shortened life span associated with these larger pets.  In general a small dog or cat is considered to be a “senior” when they reach the age of 7 or 8 years.  Large and giant breed dogs the “senior” status begins at age 5-7. 


What do we look for in senior pets?  Just as in people we are checking for early signs of kidney, liver, and heart disease.  Additionally we evaluate for the beginnning of arthritis and diabetes.  Weight evaluation  and management are important as well.  Dental health is critical at all stages of life but especially as our pets age.  Poor dental health is a leading source of infection that enters the blood stream and can spread to the liver, kidney and heart causing major damage and disease.  It also HURTS to have bad teeth and gum disease!  Pets do not let us know they have a cavity in a tooth until that tooth is so far gone that we smell the odor or the pet is in severe pain.  When we have a small cavity, it HURTS us, too and we can tell our dentist which tooth and where it hurts.  Regular dental exams including cleaning and xrays can pinpoint these problems early leading to better dental health, improved overall general health and a much happier pet.

The health screens can be custom tailored to your pet’s needs, but in general, all pets should have a urinalysis, urine albumin screening, CBC (blood count) and Chem 10 (basic organ function tests).  Additionally, all senior cats should have a blood pressure and a Thyroid evaluation.  Early detection allows for early intervention thus maximizing the health and longevity of your pet, adding years of enjoyment for you and a higher quality of life for your pet.

We are encouraging all owners of senior pets to begin early monitoring and we are happy to explain in detail how we can assist you.  Together we are your pet’s health care team and we all want to preserve their health and well being.  Be sure to ask us next time you visit. 


During this extremely hot weather it is vital to protect our pets from overheating.  This can occur very quickly and can be life-threatening.  For outside pets, SHADE  is vitally important.  A dog house does not count as most pets avoid these in warm weather due to the lack of air flow.  A sun barrier should be provide so the pet can lay in the shade and still have fresh air circulating about.  A suspended sheet of plywood or an old door works nicely for this purpose. 

Fresh, clean, cool waer is also necessary for proper cooling for our pets.  This too should be shielded from the sun and changed multiple times a day to keep it cool.  Cats and dogs do not sweat, they pant and exchange heat through evaporation from the moisture on their tongue.  Cool drinking water helps in this cooling process and also keeps them hydrated.

Minimize forced exercise.  This includes taking your dog for a walk, even a short one.  In this extreme heat very little exertion can soon overheat a pet.  Also included in this list would be visits to the dog park, playing frisbee, fetching a ball, etc.  Dogs that are driven to perform and play will overdo and can be suddenly overcome with heat stroke.  You must be very observant and vigilant to prevent this and make wise decisions for you pet.

If your pet becomes overheated, immediately move it ot a cooler place, preferably in an air conditioned area.  Cool the belly and the inside of the rear legs with cool water repeatedly and try to get air movement over the pet by using a fan.  BE CAUTIOUS TO KEEP ALL ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES AWAY FROM WATER/MOISTURE TO PREVENT ELECTRICAL SHOCK! 

In the event your pet collapses from overheating, THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY!  Take your pet immediately for professional veterinary treatment.  Dogs and cats can die or sustain permanent kidney or brain damage very quickly when overheated.  Do not delay!  If in doubt, seek help sooner rather than later.  Taking a “wait and see” attitude in this instance more often than not is fatal to your pet.

With vigilance and wise decisions we can help our pets through this extremely hot weather.  Check your pets often throughout the day and remain alert for any sign of heat stress.