The Top Ten Questions about your Pet

Will My Dog or Cat Get Fat after Spaying or Neutering?

Many dogs will become overweight as they age. Since they continue to age after they are spayed or neutered there is a strong tendency to think that the surgery is the cause of obesity when it occurs. However, when dogs and cats who are not neutered or spayed are compared with dogs and cats who are neutered or spayed, there is actually very little difference in obesity between the groups.

A few dogs and cats will be heavier than they would have been if they had not been neutered or spayed. Overall, their health and longevity are still likely to be better than dogs and cats who are not neutered or spayed. Weight control is possible through increased exercise or cutting down on the calories these dogs consume.

Your vet can help you design a weight control program for your pet if necessary. Just ask!


Car Sickness

Dogs and cats generally become sick in the car because they are frightened, not because they have real motion sickness. It is necessary to reassure your pet that these fears are groundless (which might be hard depending on how you drive). You need to get your dog or cat used to the car by taking trips that are short enough that your pet does not exhibit the typical signs of car sickness- drooling, vomiting, etc. It may be necessary to start out by just sitting in the car together and giving your pet a treat after a few minutes. Then take very short rides followed by a treat - even if you can only make it to the end of the driveway. Gradually increase the length of the trips until your dog or cat enjoys the car rides.

If you don't want your dog or cat to be a regular rider in the car, but find it necessary on occasion, you can use tranquilizers to control the nervousness with good success in most pets. Your vet will have one that usually works well for him or her.

Some pets really have motion sickness. It is possible that dramamine will work for dogs if this is the case, but even in these dogs tranquilizers like acepromazine that also have anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) properties that usually work well.

Almost all pets can be conditioned to ride in the car without vomiting or extreme nervousness. Be patient and take the time to teach your pet not to fear car rides. In the long run, it will make life easier for both of you.


Can You Give Me Something to Put My Pet "to Sleep" with?

When it is time to consider euthanasia (putting a pet "to sleep"), many people wish for a pill or something they can give their pet at home. It is very difficult to bring a pet to the veterinarian's office knowing that they will not come home. This is even more true when a pet is frightened at the vet's or shows obvious reluctance to go. Owners are concerned that the staff at the veterinary hospital may not understand their grief or that they will be embarassed if they cry or get emotional over their pet's death.

The staff at most veterinary hospitals is very understanding about the importance of pets. When a pet dies, a friend dies. It doesn't seem to matter if our friends are four-footed or two-footed, we still grieve for them. After all, a friend is always hard to lose.

Unfortunately, veterinarians can not dispense medications that will kill a pet. Almost any medication that would do this would also kill a human being. Medications with this sort of effect are carefully controlled for obvious reasons. In addition, all of the euthanasia medications that we know of are injections which work best when given intravenously. The risk of an inexperienced user who does not have someone to help restrain their pet properly making an injection error is high enough to be very troubling. A euthanasia injection which accidentally ended up in the owner or owner's assistant would be a great legal liability. We would like very much to make each pet's passing as easy and as painless as possible but it is not possible at the present time for veterinarians to dispense a simple at home euthansia solution.


Do I Really Need to Vaccinate My Pet?

The short answer is YES - for many vaccinations and MAYBE NOT for others.

For more details, keep on reading!

In all states, rabies vaccinations are required by law. The first rabies vaccination is good for one year. In many states subsequent vaccinations are good for three years. In other states, they are only valid for one year by law. Please check with your vet to determine the legal requirements in your state. Vaccinating your pet for rabies may literally save its life for two reasons. Rabies is a threat in many areas and it is a horrible disease. In addition, an unvaccinated pet who bites a human being, even by accident, is subject to long quarantine periods or even death for the purpose of testing for rabies infection. Don't risk your pet's life. Get its rabies vaccination.

Other vaccinations vary in their benefits and risks.

It is extremely important to vaccinate puppies and kittens successfully for several diseases. This is the time that they are most likely to contract many of the diseases which we vaccinate for. Early protection can prevent the heartbreak of dealing with parvovirus in a puppy or feline leukemia in a kitten. Please contact your vet and work with him or her to establish and follow a good vaccination schedule for your pediatric pet! A series of vaccinations is given in the hopes of protecting all puppies and kittens as early as possible but continuing to vaccinate until all patients are protected.

That said, what do we vaccinate for and who needs the vaccinations?

For dogs, the following vaccinations may be advised, depending on the circumstances in your area. They are often combined into a single injection containing several components. Since several combinations are marketed, it is possible to tailor the vaccination schedule for puppies and adult dogs to match their needs.

    Distemper vaccination is important for all puppies. This disease is still present in most areas and it is still hard to treat successfully. Even when a puppy is nursed through the acute phase of the disease there can be long term health problems. The most common of these is a tendency to develop seizures.
    Adenovirus Type 2
    This virus causes a form of kennel cough and also protects against hepatitis in dogs. This is fortunate because there were more vaccine reactions using the hepatitis virus itself , even in a weakened state. While viral hepatitis is not as common as it once was in dogs, it has not been eliminated as a threat.
    This is actually a bacterial disease, so the protective "vaccination" is actually a "bacterin". In many areas of the country, this disease is not common and the leptospirosis portion of the vaccine combinations is thought to be the most common cause of reactions. For this reason, many veterinarians no longer include it in their vaccination recommendations, IF they practice in an area in which it is not common. Your vet can tell you whether or not it is necessary in your area.
    Parainfluenza must be an inexpensive virus to include in vaccines. It is in almost all the combination vaccines even though it is probably only a minor contributor to the problem of tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) in dogs. Vaccine reactions to this virus seem rare.
    Parvovirus is probably the most common viral illness of dogs at the present time. It is much more common in puppies than it is in adult dogs. It can be very hard to successfully vaccinate a puppy for this disease because the antibody protection the puppy acquires from its mother can interfere with vaccination. It is important to vaccinate puppies every three to four weeks for this virus starting at 6 weeks of age and continuing until they are at least 16 weeks of age and preferably 20 weeks of age. It is possible that this vaccine confers lifelong immunity once it does work but most veterinarians continue to recommend yearly vaccination for it. It seems prudent to at least get the vaccination at one year of age. Since it is combined with the other vaccines it is often easier just to give it yearly with them.
    Coronavirus may cause viral diarrhea and may make fatality from parvovirus more likely if the infections occur concurrently. On the other hand, this virus causes minimal damage to the intestines and may not cause clinical illness on its own. It just depends on whose studies you believe. Personally, I do not recommend the use of coronavirus vaccine.
    Bordetella is the most common cause of tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) in dogs. It is a bacterial illness that is most common among dogs that congregate at things like shows, kennels or other places frequented by large numbers of dogs at once. It does not appear that this bacterin gives a full year of immunity in many instances. For dogs that are often exposed to situations in which the infection is likely probably should be vaccinated twice a year. There are intranasal as well as subcutaneous bacterins available for this disease. The intra-nasal bacterin confers immunity more quickly but the injectable version may last longer.
    Lyme disease (Borrelia)
    Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial organism, Borrelia burgdorferi . It is carried by Ixodes species of ticks and may have other tick or insect carriers. It is more common in some areas of the United States than in others. Your vet can tell you whether it is necessary to protect against this disease in your area.
    There is a new Lyme bacterin on the market that Rhone-Merieux has produced using recombinant gene techniques. This bacterin only uses a portion of the bacteria which the body defenses recognize and form antibodies against. Because the whole Lyme bacteria is not present, it appears that there will not be the problem of the vaccine causing symptoms of Lyme disease. In addition, this bacterin does have a validated one year duration of immunity. It is a new product and like all new products there is a period when everyone looks hard for previously unknown reactions but if "vaccination" against Lyme disease seems necessary in your area, I'd definitely use this one.

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There are a number of vaccinations available for cats, too. The need for them depends on the risk of exposure for your cat. An indoor cat, kept alone or with only one other cat, is pretty unlikely to be exposed to diseases which require contact with other cats. An outdoor cat who roams the yard freely is probably interacting with other cats whether you see them or not. This cat needs to be protected against more diseases, since the risk is much higher.
    Panleukopenia (Distemper)
    Panleukopenia is the cat disease most often referred to as "distemper" in this species. It is a deadly disease. Fortunately, it is not a very common disease as vaccination against it appears to be very successful. Kittens require a series of vaccinations every 3 to 4 weeks from the time vaccinations start until they are approximately 16 weeks old. Since this virus does not always require direct contact for transmission, it is generally included in the series of recommended vaccinations for all cats.
    Rhinotracheitis is caused by a herpes virus. It causes respiratory disease in its acute phase. Chronically, it can be the cause of persistant eye irritation and corneal disease (cloudiness or blood vessel infiltration in the clear part of the eye). Due to the potentially chronic nature of this disease it is also usually recommended for most cats. It appears that the protection against this disease from vaccination is of relatively short duration and yearly boosters seem to be a necessity.
    This virus also causes respiratory disease in its acute phase. It also can become chronic. Affected cats may have persistant gum disease or chronically recurring upper respiratory disease. This virus is also recommended for most cats.
    Feline Leukemia
    Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) requires direct contact with an infected cat in order to spread. For this reason, it may not be necessary for cats confined to the home. Some veterinarians feel that the risk of a cat getting loose from the house justifies using this vaccine, anyway. We think this might be true if vaccines were risk free. We don't think they are, though. This vaccine should be administered to cats who live full-time or part-time outdoors. We recommend that cats who live indoors exclusively not be vaccinated.
    Feline Infectious Peritonitis
    We think that there are very few instances in which the use of this vaccine is warranted. If you have a large number of cats, it might be worthwhile. Otherwise, skip it. There is a great deal of question about how well this vaccine works.
    This is a bacterial respiratory disease of cats. It is generally believed that vaccine combination injections which include this bacterin are the most likely to cause reactions. Still, there are times when this disease is so prevalent in a group of cats or in a neighborhood that its use is warranted. Discuss this one with your vet.
Some veterinarians recommend the use of "nosodes" instead of vaccinations. I have seen no scientifically valid evidence at all that nosodes effectively protect against disease.

It is likely that as time goes on we will discover that some of the vaccinations we use last much longer than a year. There is already evidence to support this conclusion. This does not appear to be true of all vaccines. The current vaccine combinations will probably continue to be the most economically viable way to ensure that pets get the vaccinations they need for the near future but this is an area of veterinary medicine in which traditional recommendations are being challanged and changes may be coming.

Even if revaccination intervals do become longer, please continue to have your pet examined at least yearly by your vet. There are a number of problems for which early detection can be very beneficial for your pet!

Litterpan or Elimination Behavior Problems

Litterpan problems are very common in cats. It helps to think about this problem from the cat's point of view sometimes when trying to deal with it. Cats like to have a clean, inviting place to defecate and urinate. Remember some of the dirty bathrooms you have had to decide whether to use or not, and you can relate to this feeling. So it is very important to make the littepan as attractive as possible for use.

Keep it very clean. Use a litter that the cat likes. The clumping type litters are the most commonly preferred litters in surveys of cat preference. If you are not using this type and your cat has a problem, it can help to switch.

The litterpan should be in a convenient, but private or at least semi-private site.

It helps very much to have one more litterpan than you have cats. In multicat households where this is impractical, it can help to give the problem cat access to the litterpan, alone, for several minutes twice a day.

When a cat is using a place in the house other than the litterpan to urinate or defecate, it helps to make these spots unattractive.

Cleaning the area with an enzymatic cleaner so the cat is not drawn back to the same site helps. Putting plastic or aluminum foil over the area, if possible, can be very helpful.

Putting the litterpan at the site the cat prefers, then very gradually moving it to a site you like can be helpful.

Cats may not be using the litterpan because they are ill. Cystitis (a bladder infection or inflammation) is a common problem that can lead to litterpan aversion. One theory is that the cat associates the litterpan with the painful sensation or urinating with this disease and avoids it. Some anatomical defects can lead to an increased need to urinate frequently. Diseases that increase the need to urinate, like diabetes and hyperthyroidism should be ruled out if that seems appropriate. Disorders that might affect a cat's ability to get to the litterpan, like low potassium levels in the bloodstream or arthritis need to be considered. This is especially true for older cats.

If there are no medical problems and good litterpan maintenance is in place, then the problem may be behavioral for other reasons. Some cats are not using the litterpan because they are marking territory. Neutering the offending cat should be the first approach to stopping inappropriate urination. This is often helpful, even after urine marking (spraying) behavior is established. Marking behavior is more common in cats in multi-cat households, especially if there are five or more cats. This type of stress related territorial marking can occur in either male or female cats. It can occur when an inside cat is bothered by frequent appearances of an outside cat at the windows. In this case, limiting access to seeing the other cat can help. Urine marking behavior is often responsive to medical therapy with medications like diazepam (Valium) or buspirone (Buspar). It can be responsive to megestrol acetate (Ovaban), but this medication has significant side effects that must be considered. Megestrol acetate should be a last resort medication.

Most problems with inappropriate urination can be controlled with patience and a good diagnostic approach. Keep working with your vet to resolve these problems.


What Makes My Pet Itchy and How Do I Control the Itch?

Pruritis is the name for itchiness that causes pets to scratch. Several chemical reactions occur in the skin that stimulate the nerves, causing the brain to feel the itch. We treat a scratching pet by attempting to eliminate these reactions at the source and controlling the body's response to them as well. Some of the chemicals involved in itching are prostaglandins, arachodonic acid (a specialized fatty acid) and leukotreines. By using treatments that inhibit the action of these factors at the skin level, such as antihistamines and fatty acid competitors, we can sometimes control the itching without using corticosteroids such as prednisone. If we work to control other irritating factors such as fleas, dry skin and secondary bacterial infections we can also further reduce itching. Each of these steps is very important because pets have an "itch threshold". This is the point where all of the sources of itching finally add up to enough irritation to cause the irresistible urge to scratch. Just like pain thresholds, these levels vary from pet to pet. Control of every possible factor is important to your dog's health and comfort.

Pruritis is a complication of many diseases. Only by careful examination, diagnostic tests and sometimes even trial and error can we come to understand what causes the itching in a particular pet and how we can best control it.

Stopping the Itch:

Cold water will usually reduce itching and produce temporary relief. It doesn't really matter how the water is applied, but it must be at least cool. This effect doesn't last long, usually less than one-half hour. Adding Episoothe Oatmeal Shampoo, Episoothe Oatmeal Creme Rinse, Aveeno Colloidal Oatmeal, Relief Shampoo or Domeboro's solution helps to prolong the effect. All of these products are available over-the-counter. If you use Aveeno, one to two tablespoons per gallon of water, applied as a rinse, works best. Follow the directions on the Domeboro packet and also apply as a rinse. Shampooing will sometimes help to control itching. Some shampoos such as Pyoben and Oxydex, act to reduce the bacteria level on the skin, one cause of itching. Seba Lyt and other sulfer/salicyclic acid shampoos reduce scaling. Lytar, Clear Tar and other tar containing shampoos reduce itching and oiliness. An emollient or moisturizer used after shampooing will restore some moisture to the skin and this also reduces itching. Expar Creme Rinse can be used to kill fleas after itching and moisturize the skin.

Antihistamines are useful in the treatment of itching in some dogs and cats. Used alone, about 15 to 25% of dogs will respond to antihistamines. Used in combination with fatty acid inhibitors, such as DermCaps, EFA-Z and Omega EFA capsules, about 25 to 40% of dogs will respond, reducing scratching behavior to acceptable levels. Antihistamines available over-the-counter are Benedryl (diphenhydramine, 25mg capsules) and Chlortrimeton (chlorpheniramine maleate, 4mg tablets). There are prescription antihistamines, notably Atarax (hydroxyzine) that work better in some cases. It is necessary to get a dosage for your particular dog or cat from your vet. Dogs and cats have individual reactions to antihistamines. Since some dogs will respond better to one than another, it is best to try more than one antihistamine before giving up on them to control itching. Some pets will become drowsy when taking antihistamines. If this is unacceptable, they can not be used, or might be best to use at bedtime. Occasionally a pet will get excited when given antihistamines. These pets should not be given these products.

Fatty acid derivatives compete with arachadonic acid, the trigger for itching in the body. By replacing this compound with an inactive competitor, itching can be reduced. It is important that the fatty acid derivative chosen have gamma-linoleic acid, eicosapentanoic acid, or both. These products work best at high dosage levels and when given with a low-fat canned food such as W/D, which is available through veterinarians. Although they can be fairly expensive, their use is preferable to cortisones if they are effective. It is necessary to use these products for at least 6 to 8 weeks to judge their full effect. EFA-Z and DermCaps are examples of these medications.

Antibiotics are used to control skin infections associated with scratching. The itching leads to scratching, which damages the skin. The damaged skin is easier for bacteria to grow in. The bacteria then contribute to the itching, leading to more skin damage. As this cycle progresses, deeper and deeper layers of the skin are affected, sometimes leading to systemic bacterial infections that can even be fatal. Control of skin infections with antibiotics takes time. The usual defense mechanisms of the body, fever, white blood cells and antibodies do not work as well on the skin surface. Antibiotics must do more of the work alone. For this reason, 3 weeks is the minimum recommended time that antibiotics should be given for skin infections. Often, antibiotics must be continued for 8 weeks or longer to control skin disease. Several antibiotics seem to work consistently in skin disease. When these antibiotics fail, it is necessary to culture the skin lesions to identify which antibiotic might be appropriate in an individual case. Occasionally it is necessary to continue antibiotic therapy indefinitely to control severe bacterial skin disease.

Some dogs appear to be unable to prevent penetration of staph (staphylococcus) bacteria into the skin. These dogs can be benefited by the use of a product to promote immune responses. Similar to vaccinations (but short acting), these products help the body learn to fight off staph bacteria. They are Staph Lysate and Immunoregulin. Although somewhat expensive and necessitating weekly injections, these products can cost less to use than frequent or continuous antibiotic therapy. We have better success with Staph Lysate.

Hyposensitization, or allergy "shots", are used in dogs. Their use in cats is very limited due to difficulties in testing cats accurately for individual allergens. Similar to their use in people, these injections help many pets, but not all. To be used properly, it is necessary to identify the allergy agents affecting a dog and then treat accordingly. This can be done by skin testing, where small quantities of allergens (allergy causing agents such as pollens), are injected into the skin and the response to this monitored. Often, it is necessary for a general veterinary practitioner to refer a pet to a veterinary dermatologist for this testing. Recently, blood tests have been developed to allow allergy testing without injections into the skin. These have become better understood recently and are correlating with the skin testing fairly well, although it is generally agreed that skin testing is still more accurate. Allergy injections require a consistent effort from the pet owner. They are the preferred treatment for inhalant allergies if that is the only condition affecting dog, when effective. Currently, about 70% of dogs are thought to benefit from this therapy.

Fleas cause most the allergic reactions in pets. Flea control is essential to our success in treating itchy dogs. Please ask for flea control information if you have any problem at all with fleas on your pet!

When itching can not be adequately controlled by one of the above methods, we usually use a corticosteroid, such as prednisone. Cortisones are the most consistently effective anti-itch medications that we have. They do have several drawbacks, however. Cortisones increase the amount of water your pet drinks, making it urinate more, too. Sometimes this becomes a problem. These drugs increase appetite and weight control can be difficult while using them. If proper dosage schedules are not followed there can be long-term side effects such as decrease in bone density or an increased chance of pancreatitis. Cortisones depress lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, making it easier for bacterial infections to occur. Accidental overdosage with these medications or inappropriate long-term use can lead to medication induced Cushing's disease, a cause of hair loss, muscle weakness and other problems. For these reasons, we insist on monitoring a pet on cortisones through follow-up office visits. We may ask that you allow us to examine your pet prior to refilling prescriptions for these drugs. In spite of these side effects, cortisones can be the best drugs to make an extremely itchy pet comfortable. If they are the only effective drugs for your pet they are worth the small risk to an individual pet of side effects. These drugs are reasonably safe for long term use if given according to directions. Allowing your pet a good quality of life, by controlling the itching, is worth the small risk of using prednisone and related compounds.

These are the methods we use to treat pruritis, the itchiness that causes your dog or cat to scratch. It may take several tries to work out the proper medications and dosage schedule for your pet, but is worth the effort.

Flea Control

Flea Life Cycle

Understanding the life cycle of the flea is necessary in order to control it. The flea has several stages to its life cycle. Adult fleas spend most of their time on the dog or cat - they must be dislodged to leave since they will not do so voluntarily. Despite this, when the flea population on the dog becomes excessive humans tend to be an acceptable alternative to the flea. The average lifespan of an adult flea is probably about 6 weeks - but fleas can live as long as a year under certain conditions. A female flea can lay 20 to 28 eggs a day. She may lay several hundred eggs over her lifespan. These eggs fall off the pet and develop where they land. They are small and can even develop in the cracks in wood floors or other small crevices. A larvae hatches from the flea egg. It takes as few as 9 days to as long as 200 days to go through its growth stages. At this time is forms a pupae and waits for the right time to hatch. Fleas prefer temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees and humidity of 75 to 85 per cent. This range determines the period of time that fleas are a problem in your particular area. For some areas of the country, this is all year. In others, the flea season is relatively short. It is estimated that for every adult flea found on the pet, there are about 10 developing fleas in the pet's environment.

Flea Control

Since we know that the flea lays her eggs on the pet and they fall off, it is obvious that they fall off where the pet goes. This means that you must treat your house if your pet comes inside. Many people resist doing this, explaining that they never see fleas in the house. The flea egg does not move and it is very hard to see. The flea larvae does not have legs so it has limited movement. The pupal stage of the flea does not move at all. It is not likely that you would be aware of immature fleas --- until they grow into adults. At this point you will be overwhelmed and the problem will be very hard to control. It is possible to kill the pre-adult stages of the flea in the house. Outside, the flea eggs fall off in areas where the pet does things that dislodge them, like jumping around, sitting and scratching, etc. If these areas are warm and moist throughout the day, the flea can reproduce there. It is not necessary to treat large expanses of lawn that dry out during the day -- concentrate on areas the dog spends time, that stay moist and warm. Make sure you treat around the doors in and out of the house, where your dog or cat is likely to be waiting around and where flea eggs are likely to drop off.

There ar now several "once a month" flea control medications for pets. Lufenuron (Program - tm), makes control of preadult fleas easier than it has been in the past. This medication is approved for both dogs and cats. It is administered once a month and is active in the body for that entire time. At the present time there are no known side effects of the medication other than a small percentage of pets who are nauseous after administration of the pill. It may be administered when other medications are being used. The pill does not affect adult fleas at all. Therefore it is important to start this pill before the flea season or to treat for adult fleas as necessary. There are also "once a month" adult flea control medications. Advantage (tm) and FrontLine (tm) are two new medications that provide long lasting adult flea control. Advantage works for about one month to kill fleas and FrontLine works for one month in cats and up to three months in dogs. These are very effective products. While these products may be combined with Program (tm), their ability to kill adult fleas effectively may make it un-necessary. There are many other products that will kill the fleas on the pet. Shampoos, powders, and sprays tend to kill only the fleas present on the pet at the time of application. Mousses (flea foams) and flea creme rinse products tend to have some residual effect. Dips, which are usually used as pour-on products, have a slightly longer residual effect and are more likely to be associated with toxicity. Proban, an orally administered flea killing pill has short duration of action but is made to be given twice weekly. There are "spot on" products as well, which have may have a longer duration of action. However, all of these products are more toxic and/or less effective than FrontLine (tm) and Advantage (tm).

Treating the house should involve a two pronged approach. To kill the pre-adult fleas it is necessary to use methoprene (Precor). This can be done by using this product alone, or in combination sprays with an adult killing ingredient. The ingredients that kill preadult fleas are generally effective for 3 to 4 months, indoors. Killing adult fleas can be accomplished using any of the pyrethrins (tetramethrin, pyrethrin, permethrin, etc.), or an organophosphate. The adult flea killing ingredients do not have a residual effect and retreatment every 2 to 3 weeks until the fleas are gone is usually necessary. These products come in sprays and aerosols (foggers). It is very important to read the directions, figure out the square footage you are attempting to treat and use these products properly. Foggers generally are ineffective unless one is placed in each room, so small size foggers may be the most economical approach. An alternative to this approach is to use a sodium borate product for flea control - such as FleaBusters. Some people use diatomaceous earth (food grade) in the house to control fleas.

Flea treatment in the yard can be accomplished using one of the yard sprays specifically made for this purpose. There is a new approach, in which a nematode (worm) that lives on flea larvae is spread in the yard. This is non-toxic and appear to be effective. These worms are sold by various companies. One brand name is Interrupt, available through veterinarians. Remember, it is only necessary to treat areas which stay warm and moist. For some people this will be the whole yard. For others, treatment of much less than the whole yard will be effective.

Prior to this year (1996), we felt that effective flea control meant that you needed to treat the pet, the house and the yard. Not treating any one of these could lead to perpetual flea problems. It appears that FrontLine (tm), Advantage (tm) and Program (tm) may change that situation and allow control of fleas with treatment of the pet, only.

Flea control can be accomplished if you are careful to take a few steps to ensure that your plan works. Treat your pet with one of the new flea control products. If you elect to treat the house, to it right. Measure your house and figure out the square footage -- then apply a proper amount of flea control product. If you are using foggers, make sure that they will cover the area you anticipate -- don't expect them to treat two rooms by placing one in the hall, for instance. Get a fogger for each room. If you use a professional exterminator, make sure they use a product that kills preadult fleas as well as an adulticide. Pay them to come back in 2 weeks the first time, rather than waiting a month. Keep up the treatment until you see no fleas, then use the preadult products 2 or 3 times a year to keep the problem from coming back.

Fleas can be controlled. It can be expensive to take care of a flea infestation but it is usually cheaper than dealing with the complications to your pet's health that fleas can bring about. See Creepies

Feeding Pets

The bottom line on pet foods is simple. We have a rough idea of the essential nutrients necessary for pets. We know some of the toxic levels for nutrients. Other than that, it is hard to be sure about any nutritional claims.

Studying nutrient needs is extremely complex. There are a great number of theories about what constitutes "proper" nutrition. For every good thing you hear about a food, there are likely to be as many bad things. Making sense of this is very difficult. There is no single food that is "best" for all makes and models of dogs.

Some things seem to be clear, though. Pets do require certain nutrients. A good way to ensure that the pet foods you feed your pets contain adequate nutrients is to look for a statement that the food meets AAFCO Food Trial testing standards. This is an organization which sets standards for pet foods. Most good quality foods will have this statement on their label. It is at least a good start in ensuring that your pet's diet is adequate.

Some people are currently advocating diets containing raw meat for pets. Before feeding raw meat, please stop to consider the health warnings for humans concerning raw meat. Dogs get the same illnesses from E. coli, Salmonella, Toxoplasmosis and other health hazards associated with raw or undercooked meat. Is the perceived benefit worth the risk of one of these diseases?

Don't let your pet teach you to feed it a poor diet. It is very easy, especially with small dogs and cats, to fall into the trap of feeding your pet what he or she wants instead of what he or she needs. Dogs are very patient trainers of human beings. If you're not paying attention, you could find that Spot is on an all meat diet in no time. It can be hard to ignore those pleading eyes, but your pet IS better off if you feed a balanced diet!


Parvovirus is a viral disease of dogs. It affects puppies much more frequently than it affects adult dogs. The virus likes to grow in rapidly dividing cells. The intestinal lining has the biggest concentration of rapidly dividing cells in a puppy's body. The virus attacks and kills these cells, causing diarrhea (often bloody), depression and suppression of white blood cells -- which come from another group of rapidly dividing cells. In very young puppies it can infect the heart muscle and lead to "sudden" death. This is a very serious disease. Some puppies infected with parvovirus will die despite prompt and adequate treatment. While no extremely accurate statistics are available, a good guess is probably that 80% of puppies treated for parvovirus will live. Without treatment, probably 80% or more of the infected puppies would die.

Due to the high death rate, parvovirus gets a lot of free publicity. Many people just assume that any case of diarrhea in a dog is from parvovirus. This is not true. There are a lot of other diseases and disorders that lead to diarrhea. If you have a puppy, don't take any chances. Have your puppy examined by your vet if diarrhea is a factor in any disease. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.

Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?

To be perfectly honest, we don't know. We assume that dogs would not eat their stool, other dog's stools and cat poop unless they liked it. While this might be a strange concept for people to accept, there isn't much evidence for any other reason. Many people do not seem to wish to accept this simple answer. There have been studies looking for nutritional deficiencies associated with eating feces. So far, there isn't any real evidence we can find to support a lack of any specific nutrient as the cause for eating stools. There is some evidence that this behavior can be acquired when dogs are bored or stressed by being home alone or similar situations. Still, this does not explain why so many dogs exhibit this behavior. Perhaps some day, a real "cause and effect" reason will be found for this behavior. In the meantime, we just have to accept that it occurs and that most of the time it will not lead to much harm.

There are some risks associated with eating feces, as you might imagine. It is one way of acquiring diseases such as parvovirus and intestinal worms. This is not much of a problem if a dog is eating only its own stools but it can be a big risk if a dog eats other dog's feces. The cat stool treats are less likely to lead to disease than another dog's stools but there is still some risk.

What can be done about this behavior? The quickest solution is to make it impossible for your dog to get to other dog's stools or the cat litter pan for "snacks". Walking your dog on a leash is a good idea if you are not doing this. Putting the litter pan inside a cardboard box or behind a baby gate can be very helpful. If this is not possible, there are several suggested remedies that may help. A commercial product called "Forbid" is sold. It seems to work for some dogs. A commonly advised remedy is to sprinkle a small amount of meat tenderizer on the dog's food to discourage stool eating. Obviously, this only works when you are feeding the dog whose stools your dog is eating. This also seems to work sometimes. Some people advise treating stool your dog has access to with something like Tabasco sauce to discourage eating stool. Most dogs can tell if you have done this and will just avoid treated stool, if you just cover the stool with the Tobasco or Texas Pete. Hiding the hot sauce by splitting a stool in half and putting some of the sauce inside the stool then putting it back together seems to work to discourage some dogs. It might be worth trying this once. If it doesn't work, it would be better to expend your energies picking up the excess stool, probably. Otherwise, there are going to be people wondering about YOUR strange behaviors!