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.

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


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.

Office Safety and Common Courtesy

When you bring your pet to the veterinary clinic, safety is a concern.  Many times I see cat owners carry in their pets in their arms, no collar or leash.  We have had 2 occasions where a cat, loose in the car, escaped from the car upon arrival at our clinic.  The cat never made it into the clinic.  In one instance the cat found its way home after 5 days.  Sadly, the other cat was never found.  Cats loose in a car are also a driving hazard. You never know when they may become excited thus distracting you and causing a traffic accident.  Please have your cats secure in a carrier.  This protects it in the car if there is an accident.  Secure the carrier with a seat belt so that it does not become an airborne object during a crash.  Having a carrier prevents escape from your auto.  Additonally I have had clients holding their cat on their lap or shoulder in the waiting area when a dog shows up for its appointment.  The cat, already on high alert, freaked out and bit the owner on the neck.  You must remember that your usually sweet, affectionate cat from home is now in a totally new environment and will not act the same as he/she does at home.  So, for everyones safety and peace of mind, ALWAYS have your cat in a carrier anytime he/she is transported outside the home.

For our dog owners,  always have your pet on a leash and collar, under control.  This does not include a 16 foot flexilead that allows your dog to explore the waiting area while you are answering questions at check in or check out.  You never know what will be coming through the door and your pet could be injured or injur another pet entering the area.  It is just common courtesy to not let your pet run all over the area.  Not every dog or person is comforatable with strange dogs running up to them.  Keep your dog on a short leash, by your side.  If you have a highly excitable dog, one prone to barking at other dogs or strangers then try to position your pet out of eyesight of other dogs.  Controlling the vision lines of dogs is the easiest way to prevent them from becoming excited and barking at other dogs, especially in a strange environment. 

We love your pets and want only the best for them.  This includes a safe and enjoyable visit to our facility.  So please keep these tips in mind to protect your pets and to make your fellow clients visit to our facility a safe so that everyone has a pleasant visit.

Beware of "Dog"

Submitted by Danny Misch

      Although it is very likely many people have never seen a coyote near their home before, or anywhere in real life for that matter, coyotes are actually lurking everywhere.  The point of this blog post is not to care anyone but is to inform the reader.  Coyotes, like many wild animals, are losing their lifelong homes due to development in once forested areas.  This forces the coyotes to find somewhere else to live, usually right in your own neighborhood.  There has been one confirmed death from a coyote attack to a person meaning coyotes will probably not target you but your household pets are a different story. 

     Coyotes are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals.  They will go after anything from small rodents to even deer.  This blog was brought to our attention after Dr. Walsh saw a rather large coyote (which can range in size form 20-50 pounds) running through the backyard of our clinic.  We have also received a few reports of coyote attacks to family pets, a big target for coyotes in Northwest Indiana!  When letting your dogs out at night, especially small dogs, stay with the dog and be sure you know your surroundings.   Coyotes do not only carry the threat of attacking your animals, but they can also carry rabies, heartworm, leptospirosis, intestinal parasites and mange to name a few (a good reason to be sure to protect against heartworm all year round!!!)  There are also several ideas floating around of ways to protect other outdoor pets such as cats.  Giving cats escape routes such as planks in trees for them to use as a safe place from the coyotes are great ways to provide safety.  Please remember to provide safety for your pets, especially at night!

Enjoy the Holidays–safely!

Once again the holiday season is here.  Every year we see cats and dogs that have been given some of the holiday food and we think we are sharing with our pets but actually we are putting them at risk of illness, some cases that are life threatening requiring hospitalization.  Vomiting and diarrhea are 2 common results of feeding your pets holiday food.  Another serious condition is pancreatitis, which is a very severe inflammation of the pancreas that, left untreated, can kill your pet.  Also be careful of giving your pets new treats they are not used to having.  A sudden diet change (or introduction of a new treat) can trigger the same problems as table food. 

Also remember that your pet’s sense of smell is about 10,000 times stronger than humans so they will seek out candy and food during this time of year.  Chocolate is poisonous to pets and a lot of candy has a high fat content which also increases the risk for pancreatitis.  Always make sure to keep candy and holiday foods in a secure place where your dog or cat will not get into it. On the counter or table is not good enough.  Store it in the fridge or the microwave, somewhere you are certain they can’t get to it. 

Holiday plants and decorations can also pose a hazard.  Poinsettia plants are toxic and tinsel and decorations can be swallowed and cause serious damage often requiring surgical intervention.  Pet toys and chews can pose a choke hazard as well.  Always supervise your pets play with their toys and when they become damaged discard them and purchase new ones. 

So, enjoy the holidays–with your pets–but use common sense and keep them safe!

Halloween–Beware of "Spooky" Treats!!!

(submitted by Betsy Kubisz)

Just because you’re enjoying some spooky Halloween treats does not mean that it’s safe for your pets to do the same….notably candy and gum!  Candy, especially chocolate, and gum, especially sugar-free using xylatol, can be toxic (poisonous) to your pets.  You’re pets are attracted to the smell but do NOT let them eat it!  It is much better to celebrate the holiday with some pet-friendly treats.  Why not have a box of doggie biscuits handy or cat treats when answering your door?  No doggie biscuits?  Try some baby carrts – nice and orange for Halloween!  Many of your trick-or-treaters may bring along their 4 footed friends, so be ready.

 Don’t forget when your little ones come home with their bags of candy to put it out of the way (that is, if its’s not already gone) so that your pet does not help itself once all humans are in bed for the night.  Putting it out of the way is not leaving it on the table or counter.  Pets’ sense of smell is many times stronger than humans so make sure it is in a locked cabinet or in the refridgerator or microwave where you are certain your pet can not get to it.  Day after Halloween is a popular day for the veterinarians – lots of sick tummies!

If for some reason your pet DOES get into the treat bag, save the wrappers (whats left of them) and call your veterinarian right away to see what should be done.  Don’t wait an hour or 2 to decide.  Some of the ingredients in these treats can cause serious harm to your pet in a very short time.  Your veterinarian will be glad to advise you on the best method of treatment. 

Be safe and have a spooktacular Halloween!!!!

Leptospirosis–What you don't know could kill you!

Oak Hill Animal Clinic is committed to the highest standards of care for our clients and their pets.  Veterinary medicine isan ever changing science that requires us to reevaluate our policies and procedures on an ongoing basis in order to provide you and your pet with the best possible care.

Leptospirosis is the most common zoonotic disease in the world and can cause debilitating kidney, liver disease and even death.  A zoonotic disease is defined as a disease that can be spread from animals to people.  This disease is prevalent in the midwest states including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisocnsin.  Leptospirosis is easily spread from animal to animal via contaminated urine.   ANYWHERE an animal urinates can be a potential for Leptspirosis exposure. This disease can live for months in the soil or water and still cause infection.

Based on recommendations from several industry leading human and medical organizations (please see listed below), and in light of new research on this topic, Oak Hill Animal Clinic recommends Leptospirosis  vaccination for all dogs!  It is simple, inexpensive and it could just save your life!

American Animal Hospital Association;   JAVMA, vol 230, No.11, June 2007; Center for Disease Control and Prevention, vol12, No3, March 2006; Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine;

Identify your pets!

It is so important to have your pets identified so that if they become lost they can be readily returned to you .  This week we had a Dachshund/Hound mix brought to our office.  The lady found it wandering the street.  She had checked at several houses in her neighborhood and had posted signs.  The dog has no tags or collar and we scanned it for a microchip and it had none as well.  I am sure this dog belongs to someone.  It appears well cared for and is very friendly.  Micro-chipping is relatively painless for the pet and can be performed when your pet is neutered/spayed while it is asleep so they don’t feel it.  This is a means of permanent identification so that lost pets can be quickly returned to their owners.  So, if your pets have not been micro-chipped, I encourage you to do so.  It might just save your pet from going to a shelter and perhaps being euthanized.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

The Center for Disease Control(CDC) reports about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and 885,000 of those require medical attention. In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs. For more information on dog bite prevention be sure to check out the CDC website at Dog Bite Prevention or their podcast – Dog Bite Concerns

Be safe especially with the warmer weather and more dogs out dog bites are on the rise during the warmer months.