Archive for the ‘Infomative lists’ Category

Allergies in Pets – Scratching the surface

April 22nd, 2014

Have you noticed your pet scratching a lot lately?  Shaking their head or chewing at their paws?  If so, most likely it is due to allergies (Atopy).  We need to schedule your pet for a comprehensive exam to have several diagnostic tests done to best determine the cause(s) of their allergy problems.  The most common symptoms that owners will notice from their pet is excessive licking, scratching or chewing, odor from the ears or skin, hair loss, crusted skin lesions, greasy or oily skin, scaly, dry or red skin, stained or inflamed paws.  Recurrence of skin infections and/or ear infections is also common in allergic pets.

Depending upon the specific allergy that your pet has different recommendations and course of treatment will be made.  After a complete physical exam, complete blood panel, and fecal testing, the doctor can establish a complete history and better picture of what the issues are affecting your pet.  Allergies can be caused by various things including environmental, food, or flea allergies but all are associated with the immune system overreacting. This over-reaction by the immune system causes the body to release numerous chemicals that start an inflammatory cascade, or chain reaction effect.  The endpoint being that the skin is red, inflamed, itchy and irritated.  The skin can additionally become dry, crusty, and hot, with secondary bacterial or yeast infections.  Once the cause of the allergy is known we can maintain the best health for your pet by controlling what is causing the body to react and the discomfort that your pet is feeling.

Several diagnostic tests can be done by the Doctor in our veterinary office (many with results on the same day).  This is needed to indicate how to best treat your pet. Examples of this would be a skin cytology, skin scrapings, fungal culture, skin biopsy, urinalysis, thyroid profile along with complete labs, and allergy testing to determine the underlying allergen predominately causing the issues.

These tests are very important to indicate how we should be treating your pet and the cause of the allergy symptoms. Often, treatment is an ongoing process. And once your pet is diagnosed with allergies (depending upon which type of allergy they have, sometimes with multiple issues) it can be an ongoing lifestyle maintenance issue.

Flea allergies will go away if the source is removed and no more flea exposure occurs. Being on a monthly preventative is very important and the treatment would be to avoid the pet from being exposed to fleas.

Food allergies will work the same as with flea allergies.  Avoidance of the offending allergens is needed.  Food allergies are diagnosed by using an elimination prescription diet.  This cannot be accomplished with any over-the-counter diets, as they have cross contamination of ingredients.  This is a diet provided by the Veterinarian and is selected to restrict allergic components.  A pet must be fed this diet and this diet alone for 3-4 months to rule out food allergies.  Many pets can have combination food and environmental allergies.

Environmental allergies require more maintenance and can be a year round concern. Weekly, bi-monthly or monthly medicated baths,  using daily ear washes, Hypoallergenic prescription diet food and treats, medications (Apoquel, Atopica, antibiotics, antifungals, allergy immunotherapy, etc), routine lab work and exams are necessary to keep your pet in their best health to avoid flare ups and addressing any skin issues before they become worse.

Environmental Allergies (Atopy) is diagnosed based on the clinical signs and presenting complaints.  The specific allergen, to which the pet is allergic, is diagnosed via a blood allergy panel or skin prick test (performed by a veterinary Dermatologist).  Our hospital utilized the blood allergy panel.  Once the allergen(s) are known, specific immunotherapy is used.  Immunotherapy is the administration of very small amounts of the items to which the pet is allergic.  These can be administered via injections under the skin or via drops administered under the tongue.  The veterinarian will discuss what the best treatment option for your pet is.  Immunotherapy is designed to train the immune system to be less reactive.

Another common concern are skin issues that can be contagious to people. Certain types of mites from pets, and ringworm are contagious. Ringworm can live in the environment due to the spores for over one year and still be contagious.  Once your pet is diagnosed with ringworm the best protocol to follow would be to clean and disinfect all areas that your pet has lived on or within the home. This may include bedding, floors, countertops, carpeting, and window sills.  Any concerns should be discussed directly with your Veterinarian.  See our other articles discussing Ringworm.

Dr. Hodge is a Tampa Florida Veterinarian and owner of Harbourside Animal Hospital

Pool and Water Safety for Dogs

May 6th, 2013

by Mike Barton

Here are some great tips about how to keep your pet safe around pools:

There are many myths out there about pool safety with pets.  First of all, many people think all dogs can swim.  This just isn’t true.  Some breeds as well as older semi-disabled pets may have difficulties staying afloat.  Other breeds have problems swimming in general.

St. Petersburg Pool ServiceRule 1: See if you pet can swim under supervision.

Another myth is that children are the ones that need to be supervised around water and that dogs have an innate ability to keep them safe.  This is false!  Many pets do not have the skills to survive in water.

Rule 2: Always supervise your pet around water.

Another misconception is that people without a pool don’t have to worry about water safety.  This is also false. Dogs can escape to others’ yards, rivers, ponds, and even hot tubs.

Rule 3: Make sure that if your pet is near water that you supervise them.

How to Avoid Pet Drowning

  1. Keep the pool area secure.  Just because there is a child gate does not mean small dogs cannot circumvent their defenses.  Be sure to test the child gate for its ability to keep your pet out.
  2. Teach your pet that the pool surface is NOT solid by putting them into the pool while being held.  If your dog swims in the pool, be sure to be in the pool and teach them the best area for exit (i.e. the steps).
  3. Dogs cannot see well through water so understand that if there are steps, the only way he or she will know there are steps is by repetitive guiding.
  4. Freezing cold pools are more dangerous than in the summer time.  This might not be a problem in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I work, but your should be sure to keep your pets away from water even if they can swim when it is winter because the temperature can be enough to overwhelm their swimming abilities.  Even if they can exit, they can enter hypothermia if not attended to.
  5. Purchase dog-protecting pool gear.  These include ramps, collars, pool alarms, and life jackets for dogs.
  6. When boating, always be sure that your dog has on his or her life jacket.  Take into consideration the tide and current before letting your dog swim.
  7. And remember… NEVER leave your dog unattended near open water.

Mike Barton is the owner of Blue Aces Pool Service.  Blue Aces is the premier St. Petersburg, FL Pool Service company.  Mike is a dog-lover and his business is dog-friendly.

The Ten Commandments of Boating and Dogs – Boat Safety For Pets

January 4th, 2013

By Patrick Dines

I have been boating with dogs and cats for more than twenty years and have experienced all the benefits as well as most of the problems that can occur with dogs on a boat. If you want to enjoy the company of your pets on the water you need to remember the Ten Commandments of Boating with Pets.

Dog boating safety tipsI.  Dogs need to learn to swim just like humans.  Although their first paddle will be a lot easier for them than your first breaststroke, you need to make your dog feel comfortable in the water, and a boat is not the first place to begin swimming lessons. Tossing a stick or a ball in the water, progressively further from shore is the best way to teach them to feel comfortable in the water.

2. Some dogs will never feel comfortable in the water.  Dogs with large bodies and small legs will never swim for fun… they will swim to survive.  American bulldogs are a good example.  Compare them to standard poodles, originally bred as duck hunters that can swim all day long and ask for more. If you have a dog that is not a good swimmer, consider fitting them with a doggie life vest when you are on a crossing.

3. Dogs, just like humans, can get hypothermia in cold water. However, they won’t know they are getting cold because their instincts to please you in the water are stronger than their understanding of cold water.  The ground rule is that if you need to get out of the water because you are getting cold, your dog is getting cold. The exception is dogs with very thick fur that trap air in their fur that acts as insulation. If your dog comes out of the water and begins to shake uncontrollably, put them in a hot shower or warm them up with blankets or towels.

4. Most dogs cannot be trained to use a marine toilet.  Therefore, you need to plan your stops along the way accordingly or teach them to pee off the swim platform.  That’s not so easy. Most dogs would rather rupture their bladder than pee on a swim platform. Buy some of those paper training blankets for puppies and lay them on a spot where you would like them to pee, preferably near a scupper and a water hose connection.

5. If your dog falls overboard at night, you will never find him if you are underway. At night, make sure your dogs stays inside the boat.

6. If your dog falls overboard during the day, and you see him fall overboard, keep pointing at him in the water so as not to lose his position. Dogs cannot wave at you. All you have is a small head that can easily get lost in the swells. Guide the captain to the location where you are pointing. If the dog falls overboard underway and no one sees him fall in, he will be lost.

7.  Vets are not available at sea. If you are going to be out at sea for any length of time, make sure you have all his meds with you, especially his flea medication. A flea infestation at sea is a nightmare.  If you have any problems, consider contacting an expert at VetLive.

8. Small dogs cannot climb ladders…but big nimble dogs can. If you are going to live aboard and want a pet, select a long legged and nimble dog, or at last resort, a cat.

Boat safety with pets9.  At sea, most dogs cannot get back aboard from the water without human help or a device to that end. Hydraulic swim platforms are the best solution but very expensive.  The other option is outfitting your swim ladder with a float that leaves about two feet of ladder under the water.

10. Big dogs that panic in the water can drown a human, in particular small humans. Do not try to help them by swimming next to them. Instead, using a calm voice, guide them to a location where you can get them out of the water safely. If you are in the water with them and they panic, push them away from you keeping them at arms length.

Patrick Dines has been boating for 30 years, has lived for extended periods on boats (with pets) and now operates a St. Petersburg, Florida Yacht Charter business called Florida Yachts Charter.  He has lived in France, England, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States for most of his life and speaks five languages. He now resides on the West Coast of Florida for 6 months of the year and Europe for the other 6 months.

Ways to Winterize your Pets

December 3rd, 2012

winterize your dogA Fresh Look at a Boring List

It seems each year that the same seasonal pet articles appear. The trouble is, the audience that reads them is the audience that least needs to. In the past I have written them here for this blog, and I continue to write them for different publications at their request, but I have to wonder: who the hell benefits from these lists?

Perhaps someone benefits from the knowledge they provide but I am not sold. Here I present to you a few of my favorite and most obvious things to know about how to endure the bitter cold winter (despite the fact that I am a St. Pete Fl Vet), should you live somewhere that actually still gets a bitter cold winter. If you are experiencing an unseasonably warm season, feel free to skip straight to number one—you need to read it more than anyone.

5.Winter gear for dogs

Personally I find dog clothes a bit embarrassing, but as long as they are on your dog and not mine, I’m all for it. Still, it goes without saying, if you don’t enjoy walking with snow stuck between your toes for 15 minutes, your dog won’t either. Ice is cold and it hurts, and tiny dogs with little body fat or insulating fur will need a winter coat.

4. Antifreeze is anti-life!

Changing the coolant in your car should really be done in an auto shop as it needs to be done via pressured reverse flush. Then there is the whole fact that it is illegal in every state to dump the antifreeze down a drain, on the ground, or send it to the dump in your trash. Still, if you are someone that changes his or her own antifreeze, take note: this colorful liquid is not a superfood smoothie. Antifreeze is incredibly toxic and causes kidney failure in a very short time. Keep away from pets as they do like the smell and taste of it!

online vet

Unacceptable!

3. Apparently some people still keep their pets outside. They probably don’t call them pets actually. Still, if you keep “animals” outside, they need fresh liquid water, NOT THE FROZEN KIND, at all times. They also need a shelter of some sorts. Animals get frost bite! And it hurts! Yes, animals feel pain! Despite some old school folks’ opinions (some vets are amongst that group, shameful and humiliating to the profession, I know), it is decidedly so that pets (animals included) feel pain. I’m pretty sure if you don’t know this, you probably don’t care, and you will definitely never read this article. Animals can live happily and safely outdoors, but If you know people that aren’t aware that winter weather brings additional precautions, educate them! If they are resistant and responsible for a pet’s suffering or neglect, report their ass.

2. Indoor pets (distinctly different from those ordinary outside “animals”) may gain a little weight in the winter if their exercise level decreases.

Really? I never stopped to think that less exercise when the weather is cold and I’m too lazy and wimpy to take my dog on as long or frequent of outdoor walks means that Fido and myself are more likely to plump up a bit. Fascinating stuff! I wonder if I can secure any federal funding for a study to back this up.

1. For the last item, I will offer something useful which many pet parents seem to be unaware of. Don’t assume that cooler weather eliminates the threat of diseases like heartworm, which are spread by infected mosquitoes, or other diseases spread by ticks and fleas. These pets have been known to survive well into the winter months, thanks to indoor havens and protected microclimates existing within larger, cooler climate zones. For this reason, I strongly recommend year-round heartworm protection for dogs (cats are debatable and I see both sides of the argument) and year-round flea/tick prevention for both.

This post is not intended to offend anyone, but is simply a means for me to express my frustration with the repetition of content in the veterinary writing world, especially seasonal topics. Though I will undoubtedly continue to write them once my snarky attitude passes (I’ve got to pay the bills somehow after all), I find it a bit dull to say the least. Pet parents are smarter than this.

If you do have any unique ideas that you think are important or useful to help other pet parents prepare for winter with their pets, do please share. There has to be something new to learn out there!

Pet Nutrition: Pet Food Label Tips from your Online Vet

November 29th, 2011
Part 2: Ask a Vet

online vet, ask a vet, chat with a vetAs we reviewed last week in part one of pet nutrition, AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. This organization sets the nutritional standards for pet foods sold in the United States.

Easy things first–

online vet, ask a vetMOISTURE

There are four product forms for pet foods based on moisture level of the food:

1.  Dry = < 20% water content

2. Semi-moist = >20% and <65% content

3.  Wet = >65%  water content

4.  If the moisture level is above 78%, the product must be labeled as a stew, gravy, sauce, broth, milk replacer, expensive pet food in water, etc. The reason is that the maximum moisture declared on a wet pet food shall not exceed 78%

pet food nutrition, how to read a pet food labelThis probably seems pretty basic and logical to you.  Moving forward with how nutritional adequacy is actually determined.  There are two methods.

1. Formulation method

This method is less expensive, and results are determined more quickly because actual feeding or digestibility trials are not required. There is no guarantee of pet acceptance or nutrient bioavailability when utilizing this method.

The pet food product must simply meet the nutrient requirements for the specific life stage established by an AAFCO recognized nutrient profile. This is accomplished by a laboratory analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pet Nutrition: How to read a pet food label 101 by your online vet

November 17th, 2011

pet food label, pet nutrition, ask a vetPart One: Ask the vet

Choosing proper pet nutrition is one of the most important things that you as the pet parent can do to lengthen the healthy time that you and your pet will share together. After the melamine recall of 2007, pet owners internationally are taking a more active interest in pet nutrition.


Reading a pet food label can be quite the daunting task, but with a small amount of education, you can arm yourself with the information to make an informed decision.

We’ll start at the beginning. There are a few basics required to be on pet food labels. The manufacturer’s name, brand, and product, as well as what species the food is designated for, the net weight of the product, and a pet nutrition statement indicating if the food is for a juvenile, adult, etc. Not too many companies skip this basic info, and if they do, consider yourself warned.

Do you need to ask a vet about pet nutrition?  We provide online vet nutrition consultations, and you can get started by typing your question in the box to the right.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  The next broad area of the label to make sense of is defining what the food is labeled as.

The first group is the food that is labeled as 100% something, be it 100% beef, chicken,

ask a vet, online vet, pet nutrition

buffalo, you name it. If a pet food label says this, then it means that the product must be 95% or more of that particular food product they are claiming to be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vomiting in Dogs

September 1st, 2011

vomiting in dogsDogs vomit. A lot. But even more than the number of times your dogs has vomited, so is the long list of causes of vomiting in dogs.

This seemingly endless list is broken down into two relatively simple categories.

Regurgitation and actual vomiting.

Sometimes after a dog eats, the food stays in the esophagus and doesn’t make it all the way to the stomach. This can happen for a number of reasons, from a mass to a hernia or even an enlarged heart. Any cause results in the same thing though: food accumulates in the esophagus until it is overloaded, and the it goes right back out of the dog’s mouth, usually in tubular shape. It isn’t always immediate, and can occur up to 24 hours after the dog ate, so don’t rule it out as quickly as you might think. Also, the longer the food stays in the esophagus, the more digested it will appear.

Remember, vomiting in dogs is a cause of a disease or ailment, not the disease itself. If you would like personalized help for vomiting in your dog, or don’t know if you should be concerned, you can ask a vet for help in the question box to the right.

If your dog did however go through the full vomiting experience (nausea, lip licking, retching, and abdominal contractions, it is likely that this is true vomiting. The most common causes of vomiting are eating inedible food objects or food that just doesn’t agree with a dog’s stomach, eating too quickly, eating too soon after exercise, motion sickness, parasites, and stress. Yes, dogs do experience stress even without a daunting mortgage payment hanging over their fuzzy heads. Read the rest of this entry »

Beat the heat with vet tips for a safe summer

July 9th, 2011

summer pet tips, ask a vet, ask the vet, heatstroke in pets

July is here, and along with it the official dog days of summer. Keep your pets safe during this heated season with these easy tips.

Outdoor smarts.

Dogs and cats can become dehydrated quickly, so give your pets plenty of water when they are outdoors, even if they are only out for a short period. Shady places are important so Fido can escape the sun when the temperature rises. In addition, don’t let your pet linger on hot asphalt. Lying on a hot surface cause your pet’s temp to quickly soar, and may even burn them. Of course our readers know to never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle, but be sure to keep an eye out for careless dumb dumbs that do. Don’t forget–heatstroke can be fatal.

heatstroke in dogs, signs of overheated cat, overheated dog

Heatstroke is NOT this obvious.

Know how to tell if your pet is overheated.

The signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, seizures, and an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees, and even blue or bright red gums. Don’t forget—short-faced or stub-nosed breeds like pugs are more susceptible to overheating as they can’t pant as effectively. Also at risk are overweight pets, or those with concurrent illnesses, espeically heart or lung in origin.

Read the rest of this entry »

Online Vet Reviews Spring Cleaning Tips to keep your pets safe

April 5th, 2011

ask a vet, online vetAsk a Vet

Though the mercury isn’t yet rising in our part of the world, spring time is here, and for many of us, a thorough spring cleaning is in order.

As you clean out your medicine cabinets and drawers, please remember that many pets often find pills tasty little treats (dogs) or toys to bat around on the floor and then ingest (cats).

One of the most common types of accidental ingestions that we see as VetLIVE veterinarians is pets that have gotten into medications. While many human drugs can be safely prescribed for dogs or cats, overdoses can be dangerous or deadly.

So which drugs are the common ones that pets get into? Listed below are some of the most common drugs pet owners report to us that their pets got into.

1. Aspirin. Did you know that giving a puppy even one baby aspirin can be fatal? Toxic quantities of aspirin can adversely affect all organs of your pet, including impaired blood clotting, vomiting and diarrhea, acute kidney failure, and even seizures.

2. Ibuprofen (or many similar drugs such as Aleve). For dogs, ibuprofen can easily exceed toxic levels. The most common cause of ibuprofen toxicity is a well-meaning owner who tries to alleviate pain in their dog by giving a dose he thinks is adequate or reasonable without knowing the toxic dose. The initial toxic effect is bleeding stomach ulcers. In addition to ulcers, increasing doses of ibuprofen eventually lead to kidney failure and, if left untreated, can be fatal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dog Diabetes: Ask the Veterinarian

March 2nd, 2011

I thought we would do something different today.  We receive a lot of questions about canine diabetes mellitus, and it seems to be a commonly confused topic in veterinary medicine for pet owners.  Today I wanted to share with you a portion of a Q&A from our ask a vet service.  Additional topics were discussed, but for the purpose of this post, I have only included relevant information on diabetes.

Ask a vet a Question:

ask a vet a question, ask the vet, dog diabetesI have a seven-year old female miniature schnauzer Daisy. Over the past month, I have noticed her drinking more, asking to go out more–just to pee it seems, and she seems to be losing weight. She still has a strong appetite, and seems otherwise normal. I already went to the vet, and they thought it was probably a urinary tract infection and gave her antibiotics. We didn’t do the test because the vet thought it was pretty sure and money is tight, and the antibiotics were expensive enough. We finished the antibiotics but they didn’t seem to help any. What do you think could be wrong?

Vet Answers:

I am very suspicious that your dog may have a condition called diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a endocrine disease often called “sugar diabetes” because of the dog has an abnormally high blood and urine sugar levels. Diabetes arises when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that allow the body to use glucose, and in turn, when not enough insulin is produced, there is excessive glucose in the blood, and negative consequences happen.

The most common reason is that the cells of the pancreas that are responsible for insulin production, called beta cells, get destroyed. They usually get destroyed from chronic inflammation of the pancreas, such as flare ups with pancreatitis or chronic GI issues of many kinds. This is Type 1 DM, and is the most common type of DM in dogs, while Type II which arises from insulin resistance is very rare in the dog.

The common clinical signs are why I am suspicious this is what your pooch is suffering from. Increased thirst and urination are the most common signs. The miniature schnauzer is one of the most common breads that we see DM in, and females are more likely to suffer from it than males. The average age of onset is 7-9 years. Other signs are increased appetite and weight loss. This is because even though they are eating more, the body can’t effectively use the glucose because of low insulin levels, so they are in essence starving.

The diagnosis is fairly straight-forward. A significantly elevated fasting blood glucose Read the rest of this entry »