In This Chapter
- Choosing a veterinarian
- Deciding on alternative medicine
- Getting the facts on vaccinations
Finding a reputable veterinarian and starting a vaccination schedule are the first steps to ensuring that your Bulldog has a long and healthy life. There are many different vaccinations available to protect your dog; your and your veterinarian will decide together just which ones your dog will need. This chapter also deals with alternative care, allergies, and internal and external parasites that can affect your pet’s health. There’s information on holistic care and massage therapy, as well as how to protect your Bully from fleas and ticks.
Choosing a Veterinarian
Many choices exist today for your Bulldog’s care. As you may have read in other chapters, choices abound for all categories: feeding, training, and even playing. Medicine is no different. Ideally, you want to choose a veterinarian before you pick up your puppy. Your breeder may also want to know who your vet is or if you have made the effort to look for one before you get your pup. You can just flip through the yellow pages and pick a name you like, but the results may be better if you take a little more time and care to select your veterinarian and weigh your options. You and your veterinarian work together to keep your Bulldog healthy for several years, and you want to have a good working relationship.
Counting the cost of veterinarian care
Many times people complain about the cost of a veterinary visit. So far, dog medicine is still cheaper than human medicine, but like people medicine, veterinarian medicine advances all the time. Veterinarians work hard to prevent illness as much as they do to cure it, and your vet may try to find the underlying cause of a problem and not just treat symptoms. This research into your Bulldog’s condition may mean that the vet needs to take measures beyond a regular visit: blood tests, x-rays, and maybe even a trip to a specialist. You should ask your veterinarian for explanations and alternative solutions, and you can always seek a second opinion, but don’t skimp when it comes to your Bully’s health.
Some veterinarian offices offer payment plans for procedures that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Before you arrange for procedures for your Bully, ask your vet about payment options.
There are numerous pet health insurance companies that offer policies to cover some bills and emergencies. The AKC offers one now as well, and when puppies are registered with AKC, they are now automatically eligible for two months of free trial coverage. Plans vary as to what is covered, and most (if not all) will not cover what they consider to be congenital, hereditary, or breed-specific illness. However, they can really help defray the costs of injuries and acquired illness. Some will even cover cancer. All are applicable to broken bones, swallowed foreign bodies, poisoning, and more. As an unexpected emergency and subsequent bill may mean deciding between treatment or the agonizing decision to euthanize or give up a pet, veterinary health insurance is a very important consideration for most pet owners.
Your Bulldog will never ask for a pair of high-priced sneakers (although she may chew on a pair or two). You won’t need to pay for an expensive wedding or for college tuition. Your car insurance won’t go up because of your dog, and she’ll never beg you for a car. Be thankful that veterinary medicine has advanced, and pay the bill.
Making an informed decision
Depending on the area where you live, your choices of vets may be limited. Assuming that you have choices, consider the following list when choosing a veterinarian:
– Who do you know who owns a Bulldog? If your breeder lives in your area, ask her what vet she uses and why. Ask other your local Bulldog club and dog people, and especially try to talk to other Bulldog owners.
– Do you want to take your dog to a multidoctor or a singledoctor facility? Taking your dog to a small practice may mean that the veterinarian knows your dog better, but if an emergency arises and your vet isn’t available, the interim doctor won’t know your Bully. In a multidoctor practice, you may not always see the same veterinarian, but if an emergency occurs, the on-call veterinarian has access to all your dog’s health records.
– Can you find a veterinarian who understands the potential problems of the Bulldog breed? These veterinarians are more aware of what to look for when they’re examining your puppy.
– How far are you willing to drive? A highly recommended veterinarian may practice 50 miles away, and you may not mind the drive for scheduled visits, but if your Bully has a serious problem, will that drive mean the difference between life and death?
Considering drive time doesn’t mean that you should go to the veterinarian right next door if you don’t like or trust him. Try a veterinarian somewhere in between the two extremes. Alternatively, you can choose to have a backup veterinarian (one you’ve seen once or twice and can use in emergencies).
– What kind of emergency coverage is offered? In a multipleveterinarian practice, doctors likely have staggered hours. If only one veterinarian practices, how are vacations and off hours handled?
– Is the staff friendly? Is the waiting room clean? If possible, visit different veterinarians’ offices. Ask how they handle emergencies, and find out what their hours are. When I need a veterinarian, I want to know that the staff believes me when I say that I have an emergency and not try to give me an appointment in three days.
– Are you willing to go through trial and error? It may not be possible to find the perfect veterinarian (if the perfect vet exists) without some trial and error. Friends may recommend a particular practice, but you just don’t feel comfortable there. No matter how highly recommended a practice is, if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t stay.
– What complaints have you heard? If someone complains about a veterinarian, consider the complaint. Was it a onetime incident or something chronic, like a dirty exam room?
Questioning your veterinarian
You need to be comfortable with how your veterinarian treats your Bulldog, and waiting for an emergency is not the time to search for a doctor you like. Depending on your Bully’s level of care, you may want to ask some of the following questions at your next visit:
– What shots do you recommend?
– How frequently do you give shots?
– How do you place referrals?
Most vet referrals tend to be for traditional specialists, such as orthopedics, dermatology, ophthalmology, and oncology. You should not only be appreciative when a veterinarian makes a referral, but also should actually insist on it or seek one on your own if your regular vet is floundering with an issue. (See the section “Finding a Specialist,” later in the chapter.) Owners need to be advocates for their pets’ health!
– Do you practice alternative approaches to veterinarian medicine?
- Do you use acupuncture or homeopathic remedies?
- If not, can you recommend practitioners should I consider alternative forms of medicine?
- If you’re a strong believer in alternatives to traditional Western veterinary practices and the veterinarian you’ve selected is totally against them, find another practice.
Selecting Alternative Medicine
While some pet owners feel that traditional veterinarian medicine is the way to go, others may choose a more holistic approach to solving the ailments of their Bullies.
Holistic medicine approaches the prevention and treatment of disease through examining the whole of your Bully (not just the part that is wrong with her) and her physical and social environment. Our society is accustomed to synthetic drugs that stop symptoms quickly. But in many cases, problems recur because they are merely suppressed, not cured. Holistic methods seek to cure problems, not just treat the symptoms. This therapy results in a more permanent solution and a healthier pet. Holistic medicine embraces different categories under its approach:
- Applied kinesiology
- Behavior problems
- Contact Reflex Analysis
- Cranial Sacral Therapy
- Crystal therapy
- Energy healing
- Flower essences
- Glandular therapy
- Grief counseling
- Magnetic therapy
- Metabolic balancing
- NAET Allergy Elimination Technique
- Nutrition consultants
- Orthopedic manipulation
- Tellington Touch
- Therapeutic Touch
For further information on holistic care, read The Holistic Dog Book: Canine Care for the 21st Century (Wiley).
Homeopathy follows the theory that like heals like. Homeopathic practitioners compare the theory of homeopathy with vaccines; “like” substances, weakened or killed germs, are used to prevent the disease the germs would cause if the germs were full strength. The like substances are diluted in several stages for safety and to prevent side effects, yet the substance is still powerful enough to act as a healing agent. Homeopathic remedies come in tablets, powders, granules, liquids, and ointments.
Homeopathic treatment consists of highly individualized plans of healing based on genetic history; personal health history; body type; and present status of all physical, emotional, and mental symptoms.
There are 235 homeopathic veterinarians listed at the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association Web site, www.ahvma.org. but this list is only for those belonging to the AHVMA. Many other veterinarians may also apply homeopathic treatment or combine it with traditional Western approaches to healing.
Consult your veterinarian or find a homeopathic veterinarian if you think this approach is right for your dog. “Do it yourself” treatment can do more harm than good.
Chinese herbal medicine
A doctor may have “TCM” listed after her name, indicating that she practices traditional Chinese medicine, including use of herbs in treatment. Herbal medicines may be gentler and safer than synthetic compounds when correctly used.
Don’t dash off to the drugstore or health-food store and give your dog herbals just because herbs are “natural.” Consult a veterinarian who understands the correct way to use herbs to heal.
Chinese medicine also uses certain herbal treatments. Herbs are pungent, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Pungent herbs help with circulation. Sweet herbs relieve pain and slow progression of diseases. Sour herbs are used to solidify. For example, if your dog has diarrhea, a sour herb would be prescribed. Salty herbs soften hardened tissue and are used for constipation. They may also help with muscle spasms and enlarged lymph glands. Bitter herbs are used with kidney-related diseases.
More veterinary practices are going beyond traditional Western medicine to treat pets. Acupuncture is one of those practices that is gaining acceptance. Acupuncturists have treated animals for about 2,000 years and humans for more than 4,500 years. Acupuncture is the process of stimulating acupoints on the skin by using hair-fine needles and is said to improve healing.
Acupoints are areas on the skin that contain concentrated levels of nerve endings, lymphatics, and blood vessels. Acupoints are identified by their lower electrical resistance and are usually located in small depressions detectable by trained acupuncturists.
The healing power of plants
Bach flower essences are often mentioned along with herbal and homeopathic treatments. In the 1800s, English doctor Edward Bach began studying the healing properties of various plants. He eventually identified 38 flowers and trees with specific healing properties for emotional and behavioral problems, such as shyness, fear, and anxiety.
Rescue Remedy is a mixture of five of the single Bach flower essences and is effective in cases of shock, collapse, and trauma. Many holistic veterinarians recommend Rescue Remedy as a part of your dog’s first-aid kit. Check your local health-food store for this product.
Studies have shown that acupuncture increases blood flow, lowers heart rate, and improves immune-system function. Acupuncture also prompts the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and smaller amounts of cortisal, an anti-inflammatory steroid. This release of natural painkillers lessens the need for pain medication.
Additionally, acupuncture frequently treats chronic conditions like arthritis and allergies. Epilepsy may also be helped by acupuncture, as well as skin conditions and side effects from cancer.
Besides using acupuncture to treat specific conditions, “alarm points” on the body help indicate what is wrong with your Bully. No reaction may occur when an alarm point is stimulated, but if a problem with a specific organ exists, stimulating the alarm point may cause a reaction from your dog. He may try to bite.
Many acupuncturists use acupuncture to complement Western medicine. Doctors diagnose based on Western medicine and then use acupuncture to help ease pain and hasten healing. An acupuncturist may also encourage an owner to manipulate acupressure points at home between treatments. Acupressure is acupuncture without the needles.
To understand more about acupuncture or to find a veterinarian in your area who practices acupuncture, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society lists certified veterinary acupuncturists by state at its Web site, www.ivas.org.
Finding a Specialist
A time may come when neither a general-practice veterinarian nor a holistic vet can help your Bully. You may need to take your dog to a specialist. Specialists practice in all medical fields, but common ailments that befall Bulldogs can be covered by a chiropractor and a masseuse.
Chiropractic treatment is the manipulating of the spine and connected bones. Chiropractic theory states that when the spine and bones are even slightly displaced, nerves become irritated. Chiropractors gently push the bones back into their correct places. If your Bulldog is extremely active (well, as active as he can be), the occasional chiropractic adjustment may be just what he needs. If you and your Bully practice agility, you may want to seek chiropractic care more often as a preventive measure against back pain and problems. Even a couch-potato Bulldog may benefit from an adjustment if he lands wrong jumping down from his comfy nest.
Many people take their dogs to chiropractors for humans if a veterinarian does not offer the service. If you choose this course of treatment, make sure that your regular veterinarian has examined your dog first to make sure that no other cause, like a tumor, may be pushing on your dog’s spine and causing his pain.
For more chiropractic information, visit www.animalchiropractic.org, the Web site of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
Although massage therapy may not be considered a medical treatment (although it is in my book), it is a wonderful way to relax your dog. Linda Tellington-Jones developed a method of massage called the Tellington Touch or Touch, in which repeated massage movements generate specific brain-wave patterns that help your Bully who is suffering from anxiety, especially following injury or surgery. The calming effect of the massage helps promote healing.
Your dog doesn’t have to be suffering from injury or recovering from surgery for you to give him a massage. A massage can soothe tired muscles and just plain feels good. Besides relaxing your dog, massage may strengthen the bond between you and your Bully.
When massaging your dog, pay attention to how he reacts. If your techniques seem to annoy or hurt your dog, stop! This tip may seem obvious, but you may love massage so much that you forget to make sure that your dog does too. If he whines, growls, or twitches, he may be trying to tell you that he doesn’t like what you’re doing. When you are pulling him out from under the bed for the daily massage, think about the moment you read this, and reconsider who benefits from that massage.
Massage is no substitute for veterinary care. Even after massage sessions, if your Bully consistently limps or is in pain, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
While you may not feel comfortable with every type of alternative to traditional veterinary care, you may come to appreciate a veterinarian who tries many different treatments to provide the best possible healthcare to his patients. Many alternatives are, in fact, complementary to traditional medicine. If your veterinarian does not use any complementary systems, ask for referrals if you feel that may help your Bulldog.
Knowing Your Vaccinations
A few years ago, “vaccination facts” would have been a no-brainer. Veterinarians vaccinated for just about everything that had a vaccine, and the shots were given every year. Combination vaccines were the norm, usually including five or six different vaccines in one shot. Ouch! Veterinarians gave the combination shot and rabies shot during the same office visit as well.
Circumstances are a bit different now. Veterinarians are moving away from combination shots that include vaccines against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. Many vets vaccinate only against distemper and Parvovirus and give the required rabies shot, giving other vaccinations based on what may be needed for a specific dog in a specific area. Veterinarians now may also split up the visits for shots.
A rabies shot is required by law in every state. While some states require the shot every year, others only have a once-every-3-years policy. Check with your veterinarian to find out the regulation in your state.
Talk to your veterinarian about her methods of vaccination and for what diseases she inoculates. Many veterinarians vaccinate young dogs or dogs who travel frequently, such as show dogs, every year, while older or stay-at-home dogs may receive vaccinations only once every 3 years.
Giving vaccinations at more than one appointment doesn’t mean that your veterinarian is trying to get more money from you. Multiple visits may mean that your vet is concerned about your Bulldog and wants to prevent problems that may arise from multiple-vaccine shots. A mild reaction can be swelling at the site of the injection. If your dog has an allergic reaction, he may itch or have hives, his head and face may swell, or he may vomit or have diarrhea.
Administering puppy and booster shots
Depending on the age of your Bulldog puppy, he may have already received his first set of vaccinations. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so you can get your Bully’s shots within the time frame of your breeder’s health guarantee — typically, within 48 hours of bringing your puppy home.
Currently, many veterinarians give the first set of shots at 8 weeks, then 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and annually. Some veterinarians may recommend shots at 18 to 20 weeks and then annually. Check with your breeder to see what, if any, shots have been given to your puppy.
Some dogs have an allergic reaction to shots. The first time your puppy gets a vaccination, stay at the veterinarian’s office for a while to see if your Bulldog is going to have a reaction to the shot. If he does, the staff is available to counteract the reaction.
Warding off diseases
What exactly are the diseases your dog may be vaccinated against? While many diseases and ailments may befall your Bulldog, you need to be proactive in your dog’s care and vaccinate against certain viruses to help keep your Bully healthy for years to come.
Bordetella, or kennel cough, presents in over 100 varieties, and the bordetella vaccination protects against only a few varieties. If you plan on leaving your Bulldog at a kennel while you are on vacation or for any reason, most boarding kennels require the bordetella vaccination before your Bully can stay there. If you’re traveling a lot or showing, you may also want to vaccinate against bordetella because kennel cough is highly contagious. If you decide that you want your dog to have this shot, keep in mind that even with the shot, your Bully may still develop kennel cough. Treat kennel cough with antibiotics, and while any disease is cause for concern, kennel cough is not usually serious. If your dog has a dry, hacking cough and has recently been around other dogs, he may have kennel cough. Check with your veterinarian.
Coronavirus causes weeklong diarrhea and is contagious. Diarrhea may be orange-tinted and have a strong odor. This disease, while rarely fatal, causes dehydration. Talk to your veterinarian about the need for this shot. A healthy, mostly indoor Bulldog may never need this shot, but the vaccination is advisable for a show dog or a Bulldog who regularly encounters many other dogs.
Distemper, which has a low recovery rate, is a dangerous and highly contagious virus. The threat for distemper is greatest for Bulldogs under 6 months of age and over 6 years of age. Symptoms include vomiting, coughing, and fever; the disease typically ends in death.
A Bulldog with a mild to moderate case of hepatitis will have a fever and be lethargic. He may also be reluctant to move and have abdominal tenderness and pale mucous membranes. Bulldogs usually recover anywhere from 1 to 5 days after showing symptoms. In severe cases, your Bulldog may vomit, have diarrhea, and develop a cough. Sudden death may result. The virus spreads through the feces and urine of dogs.
Leptospirosis is a bacteria frequently transmitted through the urine of rats and mice. Symptoms include vomiting, fever, and a reluctance to move. Signs of renal failure may also exist. With renal failure, your dog may urinate more frequently, as the kidneys work harder and less efficiently, or your dog may stop urinating altogether. If you notice any of these symptoms, get to your veterinarian immediately. Severe cases of leptospirosis can be fatal. Protect your Bulldog against leptospirosis if you live in an area of exposure to urine of rats and mice; otherwise, you may be able to skip this shot. The leptospirosis vaccine in combination shots seems to increase the risk of a reaction in dogs, but a newer type of vaccine has been developed that causes less reaction and can be given as a separate shot. Consult your veterinarian.
The deer tick spreads Lyme disease, a disease that causes lethargy, loss of appetite, and lameness. The disease can be treated with antibiotics. Some vaccination recommendations depend on where you live or what you’re doing with your Bulldog. Lyme disease is more prevalent in the East. If you live in the East, you may want to have your dog vaccinated. Ask your veterinarian if this disease is a problem in your area.
Parvovirus (Parvo) is another potentially fatal disease, particularly if the symptoms include vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Your Bully may show signs of a fever, lethargy, and depression. A dog with a mild case of Parvo may recover, but young puppies are highly susceptible and generally don’t survive.
Early shots are important in the prevention of this fatal disease.
The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system of Bulldogs and spreads through saliva. Common carriers in the wild include bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Rabies is considered a fatal disease. After symptoms appear, a cure is not an option. Only vaccination, which is required by law for all dogs, prevents rabies.
Mulling Over Medicines
A time may come when your veterinarian will prescribe some form of medication for your Bulldog. Usually, the dosage will be in pill form. If it’s an antibiotic, make sure that you give it all, even if your dog seems to have completely recovered. Using all the medicine ensures that the infection doesn’t have a chance to flare up again.
Each day that you are giving the antibiotic, also give your Bully a spoonful of yogurt that contains active cultures. Antibiotics, besides going after the “bad guys,” also destroy beneficial bacteria in your dog’s intestines. The yogurt’s active cultures will help replenish the good bacteria in your dog’s system.
Pills are one of the easiest forms of medication to give a Bulldog. Many dogs gulp down a pill all by itself or if it’s just lying casually on top of their food. If your dog is a bit more discriminating, wrapping a bit of food around the pill will make it acceptable. The food (anything that your dog eats quickly) can be almost anything that hides the pill:
- A pat of butter
- Canned food
- Cream cheese
- Hot dogs (Stuff the pill inside the hot dog)
Peanut butter may not be the ideal choice for covering a pill. Peanut butter sticks to the elongated soft palate of your Bully, and the peanut butter may be hard to remove or cause choking issues for your Bulldog.
Liquid medications can be a bit harder unless they’re flavored to appeal to your dog or are neutral enough to be accepted when mixed with your dog’s food. If mixing with food doesn’t work, pull your dog’s lower lip out to the side to make a pocket, and squirt or pour in the liquid. Quickly close your dog’s mouth, keep it shut, and gently stroke his throat until he swallows. You may need a helper for this project.
An eye problem requires drops or an ointment or both. The best way to approach the eye is from the rear:
1. Straddle your Bully.
2. Stand pigeon-toed so that your feet are under your dog.
This stance prevents your Bully from backing out between your legs.
3. Tip your dog’s head back slightly.
4. Squeeze the drops into the inner corner of the eye.
Dealing with dehydration
Severe vomiting or diarrhea can leave your dog dehydrated, and your veterinarian may suggest Gatorade or Pediolyte to replace the fluids your dog has lost. These fluids are fine suggestions except that in my experience, your dog won’t like either one. Try them, by all means, but don’t be surprised if your Bully turns up his nose even further.
My dogs consider ice cubes a treat, so I give those. If your dog won’t crunch up enough ice cubes to do any good, offer chicken or beef bouillon. Besides the liquid of the bouillon, the salty taste may send them to their water bowl. Water drained from a can of tuna fish may flavor a bowl of water enough to get your dog drinking.
If you need to apply salve, follow the same procedure, except that you should start at the outer corner of the eye. Slightly pull the lower lid away, and put in the salve. Then hold the eye closed for a few seconds so that the salve will melt and spread over the surface of the eye.
by Susan M.Ewing