In This Chapter
- Finding the right veterinarian for your dog
- Spaying or neutering your mixed breed
- Making sure your dog can be identified if he’s ever lost
- Giving your dog regular healthcare
- Dealing with chronic health issues
Choosing a Veterinarian
You don’t have to get all your veterinary services from one location. For example, I use the services of a local vet for my animals’regular checkups, vaccinations, and stomach upsets. But when it was time for my male dog to be neutered, I took him to another vet because he was the only one within an hour radius who performed laser surgery, and that’s what I wanted for my dog. Not every veterinarian can specialize in everything — just as not every doctor can specialize in everything.
Here’s what to look for in a veterinary clinic:
– A friendly staff: The receptionist who answers the phone the very first time you call should be friendly, as should every person you come into contact with at the clinic, from the vet tech on up to the veterinarian.
– A clean waiting room and exam room: If the clinic can’t be bothered to keep the areas of the office that you see clean, imagine what it’s like in the back, where they take your dog for shots or medical treatment.
– Efficient recordkeeping: You want to be sure that your vet has a complete record of your dog’s health and can access it at a moment’s notice.
– Knowledgeable and helpful assistants and veterinarians: You want to be sure that your questions are treated with respect and that you get the answers you need. You don’t want to feel rushed through your appointment or as though the vet doesn’t have enough time for you.
Single Vets versus Veterinary Clinics
Your vet will be more familiar with you and your dog and better able to identify problems when they occur.
Your vet will be able to spend more time with your dog.
One of the vets will likely be available in an emergency.
The vets can consult one another on difficult cases and get better insight into medical conditions.
Different vets in the clinic. may specialize in different areas, such as nutrition or holistic treatments, and you can see whichever vet’s knowledge you need at the time, with your records all in one place.
Your vet will likely not be available in an emergency.
Your vet won’t have other
opinions readily available.
Your vet likely won’t have any specific veterinary specialties to handle difficult cases.
You may see a different vet each time you visit, which means you won’t develop as close a relationship to your vet as you would otherwise.
Each vet will be very busy and
may not spend much time with you.
Here’s a list of questions you can ask a vet to help you determine whether that vet is right for you:
– What vaccinations do you recommend and how often should they be given? Many veterinarians prefer to practice only traditional methods — and traditionally, dogs have been vaccinated once a year, whether they need the vaccine or not.Newer approaches involve blood tests to determine whether the vaccine is needed.
– Where do you send clients who require specialists for their dogs? You want to make sure that your vet can answer this question and refers her patients to specialists she trusts. You also want to pay attention to how far away that specialist is and, if it seems farther than you’d normally want to have to travel, ask if there’s a reason for referring patients so far away.Maybe that vet is the best one in the state, and she only trusts her patients with the best. Or maybe she just doesn’t know anyone else. Obviously, the former would be a better answer than the latter.
– Do you offer alternative or homeopathic approaches?If you don’t care about alternative therapies and you’re a straight-by-the-book kind of a person, this won’t matter to you. But if you’d like to consider alternative approaches, the vet’s answer will make a huge difference. Whether your vet offers these alternatives or not, you want a vet who doesn’t dismiss them as whacko.
Homeopathy operates on the assumption that like heals like. Similar to traditional vaccines that utilize killed or low doses of live germs to create antibodies, homeopathic remedies take the same path of administering diluted substances to help the dog heal. The dilution is done in several stages to prevent side effects. These remedies come in tablets, powders, liquids, and ointments. Though they’re readily available at health-food stores and online, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian who is familiar with alternative medicine in order to know the correct substances, dilutions, and doses to give your dog.
– What are your hours? Make sure that the vet is open hours that are convenient for your life and schedule.
– Are you available in emergencies? If not, what arrangements have you made for your patients? You probably can’t expect your vet to be available at all hours of the day or night, but you can and should expect your vet to have a number you can call in case of after-hours emergencies. It may be a 24-hour veterinary hospital in your area or the number of another vet who’s covering her emergencies while she’s out of town.
– If my dog is sick, will you tell me all my treatment options and their costs, and let me make the decision that’s right for me financially and emotionally? One of the worst parts about owning a dog is having to make decisions about how far you’ll go, and how much you’ll spend, to save his life. Some vets believe that anything and everything should be done, and they may make you feel guilty if you question whether a particular treatment is necessary. You want a vet who will respect your decisions and not make you feel like a horrible person for not spending thousands and thousands of dollars to save your dog’s life — unless you have the means to. It’s bad enough to have to lose your dog without having to deal with a vet’s guilt trip in the process.
– When you visit the vet, does she answer all your questions in an easy-to-understand manner and make the effort to fully explain your dogs’ health issues?
Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
– Put a soft Elizabethan or hard plastic Elizabethan (cone-shaped) collar on your dog. With one of these contraptions on, your dog won’t be able to reach beneath him to bite at the incision area. He’ll try, of course — and he’ll bump that collar on everything he passes. He walks by the end table — bump. He walks by the coffee table — swish go the magazines to the floor. No dog likes wearing one of these collars, but keeping him from biting or licking his incision is critical, so just remember that it’s only for a week or so.
– Rub a product called Bitter Apple around the area. I usually apply antibacterial cream directly on the wound and around it, and then I apply the Bitter Apple on top of that. With such a horrible flavor, your dog is sure to not mess with his incision area. You will need to reapply the Bitter Apple several times each day.
No matter what, keep that incision area clean. After your dog goes outside (and remember to keep the play to a minimum), clean the area with a disinfectant solution such as Nolvasan and then reapply the antibacterial cream and Bitter Apple over that.
Microchipping or Tattooing: Keeping Your Dog Safe
– Tattooing: A tattoo is usually done on the inside of your dog’s hind leg. It takes about five to ten minutes when done by a professional canine tattoo artist or a vet familiar with the techniques. You can choose what to have imprinted on your dog’s skin — it can be your driver’s license number, your Social Security number, or a number that you register with a national organization such as the National Dog Registry (www.nationaldogregistry.com). Tattoos are easily seen, and if your dog is every lost, you’ll be notified. Plus, a tattoo is an outward sign to the people who find your dog that you’re serious about holding on to him for life.
– Microchipping: Microchipping is the latest technology for identifying not only pets but also farm animals and people. A microchip is embedded beneath the dog’s skin in the shoulder region. It’s as easy as an injection, though the needle is a little larger than the kind they use for a vaccination. The microchip contains encoded information, usually a registration number that coincides with your contact information. Most animal shelters, humane societies, and vet clinics own microchip scanners, which can detect the microchip and read the information on it. If your dog decides to take a walk and ends up at one of these places, you’ll be contacted.
Keeping Up with Regular Healthcare
Not all dogs require yearly vaccinations. After your dog is about 3 years old, your vet can do yearly blood tests to check whether his previous vaccinations are still protecting him. This is called a titer test.
Regular checkups and yearly vaccinations
For your mixed breed’s first three years, he should also get the following vaccinations annually:
– Coronavirus: This illness causes diarrhea and dehydration. It’s highly contagious, especially among young and very old dogs. It’s not often fatal, though it can be debilitating.
– Distemper: This illness is a very common one among feral (wild) animals. Symptoms include ocular and nasal discharge. In more severe cases, coughing, vomiting, and fever. Untreated, it’s often fatal.
– Hepatitis: Recognizing this illness is difficult — the signs are fever and lethargy, though sometimes there’s vomiting and diarrhea, too. It is easily spread through the feces and urine of an infected dog. If it’s not caught in time, it’s fatal, so vaccinating makes sense.
– Leptospirosis: A dog with this illness will have a fever, will vomit, and won’t want to move around much. Leptospirosis is often contracted through the urine of rodents, so if your mixed breed has some varmint-chasing instincts, beware if he displays these symptoms. Renal failure often results from this illness, as does sudden death. If you live in an area where your dog may be exposed to rodents, make sure he’s vaccinated.
– Parvovirus: This disease is highly contagious and potentially fatal. It’s common in feral animals and easily transmitted from dog to dog. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and lethargy. Caught in time, dogs often recover with treatment. In young puppies, however, the disease can be fatal. This vaccination is one of the first that puppies must have; they should also should get three sets of booster shots spaced two to four weeks apart to protect them.
There are other vaccinations that aren’t as vital, but that are still important for your dog’s protection. These include
– Bordetella (for kennel cough): You’ll only really need the bordetella vaccine if you’re planning on exposing your mixed breed to other dogs (for example, in a boarding kennel or in a dog park — and most kennels require proof of vaccination), but if you’re of the better-safe-than-sorry mindset, you might vaccinate him no matter what.
– Lyme disease (to prevent infection of the tick-borne disease): Within ticks’ saliva are several fatal diseases, and Lyme disease is one of them. The symptoms for Lyme disease include lethargy, loss of appetite, and lameness. It’s easily treated with antibiotics, if caught in time. If not, the result can be permanent lameness or death. Why chance it?
If you got your dog from a shelter, chances are, he’s infested with parasites inside and out. If your mixed breed has internal parasites, your vet can treat them through an injection or oral medication. If your dog has external parasites (such as fleas or ticks), he can be given Capstar an oral medication that quickly and safely kills all live adult fleas within 2 hours. After four hours a regular bath will wash out the dead the bugs and clear his skin of the parasites entirely. At that point you can apply a topical flea preventative.
If your dog gets bathed a lot, you’ll want to reapply the topical preventative more often than the package suggests.
Addressing Special Health Problems
– Change his diet to a lower-calorie one.
– Reduce the amount you feed him by half and substitute with raw vegetables. This will give him the fiber he needs without the calories he doesn’t need.
– Make sure he’s getting enough exercise.