Archive for the ‘Preventative Medicine’ Category

Sticks, stones, and other mysterious things your dog eats

April 21st, 2011

ask a vet, pica, why dogs eat rocks, why dogs eat paper

Word's most expensive dog snack

Ask the vet why your dog eats things that aren’t food

Many dog owners have this problem:  your dog eats the most bizarre things.  Guest what?  Veterinary medicine has a term for it and a diagnosis even.

The consumption of nonfood items is called pica. Although pica can be a sign that a dog’s diet is lacking in nutrition, pica often occurs in puppies and young dogs as a result of boredom.

Puppies eat all kinds of objects, and they tend to explore their world with their mouths. Although we aren’t quite sure why puppies do this, many puppies tend to chew and eat a variety of inedible objects, from rocks to plastic bags and toys, clothing, and even pieces of wood. Most puppies grow out of this behavior as the morph into adult dogs, with only the mildest of discouragement from their owners.

ask a vet why my dog eats grassMany adult dogs that eat inedible objects may do so out of destructive chewing. This is different from pica, in that destructive chewing starts off as just that, chewing. Most doggy chewing doesn’t lead to actual swallowing of the object, but inevitably your dog may swallow bits and pieces. Dogs have an ever-impressive ability to swallow something that is in the back of their mouths without second thought.

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 »

Ask the vet: What is the deal with Pet Dental Care?

February 25th, 2011

dog dental cleaning, ask a vet, online vet, pet dental careHaving the conversation with pet owners that are dubious that their pets need dental care is a repetitive part but essential part of being a veterinarian.  It is true that periodontal disease is by far the most common disease I see in dogs or cats older than a mere two or three years of age, and while more and more pet owners are recognizing that they pets can get toothaches like they can, there are still a large number of pet owners that ignore the fact that pets need dental care too.

Bad dog breath is not normal. It usually signals periodontal disease, which leads to tooth decay, oral abscesses, bleeding gums, tooth loss, and systemic infections that affect the kidneys, liver, and heart. And that doesn’t even mention the pain associated with periodontal disease.

So how often should you brush your pet’s teeth? Daily. This is one of those do as I say and not as I do. I am guilty of not brushing our pet’s teeth daily. I understand how difficult it is, and am not passing judgment. But if you strive for daily and perhaps reach every other day, I can vouch in the difference it will make.

Luckily, most general practice vets are trained in dental cleanings. While the procedure does require anesthesia as we are poking in the backs of their mouths with tickly instruments and headlamps, it is not a reason to shy away from the procedure. I would seek out a vet that includes pre-anesthetic blood-work (including both a complete blood cell count and a serum biochemistry panel) as part of the package deal. If your veterinarian has the blood work itemized separately and as an option, they really don’t have your pet’s best interest at heart and it is a red flag warning that they are willing to cut corners and risk your pet’s health.

After getting a clean and squeaky smile to move forward with, you can ask a vet to demonstrate how to effectively brush your pet’s teeth. It may take some practice (okay, guaranteed it will), but give it time. Also, make sure to use a toothpaste specifically for dogs or cats. Since they don’t rinse and spit, if they swallow our toothpaste it can be dangerous for them.

We are nearing the end of Pet Dental Month. How many times have you brushed your dog or cat’s teeth this month? Make the last few days count if you’ve forgotten! What are your best tips for fellow pet owners?

Dr. Laci


Dr. Laci Nash Schaible, DVM

Vaccine Fine Print (Not Another Argument)

February 17th, 2011

ask a vet, online vet, online vet reviews, dog vaccinesWhile many pet owners are becoming more concerned about which vaccines they should let their vet give their pets (and you can read our take on that here) , one message they may not be clear on when they leave the vet’s office is.

Just because your new puppy got his first vaccines does not mean he is protected.

We have excellent vaccines available in veterinary medicine to help protect against many infectious diseases.

But they take time to work.

There is a period before a puppy or kitten reaches 16 weeks of age where their immune system switches from antibodies from the mother and their own. During this switchover, they essentially have no protection and are at risk for serious illness.

This is nothing to make light of. Many states have recently reported an increase of both canine parvovirus, as well as deadly distemper. Both diseases have a great vaccine, but unfortunately not every dog is vaccinated and many pets suffer because of it.

Read the rest of this entry »

How healthy is it to get intimate with your pet?

February 9th, 2011

Online vet reviews some of the major diseases that people and our pets share

With all the talk recently frowning upon sharing your bed with your pet, cooking your pet’s food in separate areas than your own food, and a few recent cases of rabies in domestic animals, I stopped to wonder: what is all this hype about, and really, how dangerous or safe is it to be snuggly wuggly with our pets?  As a veterinarian, I want to address the main health scares that our pets bring indoors, and some of the myths that surround them.


I was a new veterinarian when we first learned that MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphyloccocus aureus), the bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics, existed. As a nation, we freaked out. Our MRSA positive pets were buried (after they passed, they were not euthanized let it be known) 6 feet deep in seriously thick plastic liners, and vets were quarantining simple skin infections left and right. I remember being scared. Now looking back? It seems we went a little overboard. Better safe than sorry, but MRSA is no longer making me lose sleep at night, as a vet or a pet owner.  Still, if your veterinarian is concerned, listen up!

The dreaded bacteria from a dog or cat’s mouth.

Now it is true, I am not a fan of having all my clients lick me on the lips. While you may think this is weird as I am a vet and a lover of all animals four-legged and furry (or furless), would you kiss thirty people a day? I’m guessing no.

What are your thoughts on getting up close and personal with your furbabies?

Do you kiss the person you share your life or space with? Lots of people would answer yes here. While your person hopefully doesn’t lick their bum, I can go either way on this one. Personally I think on the lips is too much, but I am one of those people who brings antibacterial hand gel everywhere. Perhaps a bit over the top, but I am so much healthier now than I was before I was geared up my my germ warfare.

As someone who has performed thousands of dentals on pets, most all of which there are countless harmful bacteria being aerosolized, and I know I have slipped more than once on my personal protective equipment, I have never gotten sick from dog or cat mouth germs. As the usual recommendation, I would say keep pet kisses away from the young, elderly, and the immune-compromised.

ask a vet, parasites people can get, online vet, online vet reviews


This is the biggest threat in my veterinary experience. An alarming 600 U.S. children lose their eyesight each year due to roundworm larvae. They contract this parasite from the soil contaminated with infected dog feces. It is important to emphasize your own pet can be parasite free, and your child can still be at risk.

As for safety tips for intestinal parasites, it’s simple. Use common sense, good hygiene (meaning picking up poop every other day in your yard, as this prevents the parasite from becoming “infective”), and please don’t skip on the heartworm meds. Being in a place where I honestly don’t see a lot of HW disease, I do diagnose a tremendous number of dogs with intestinal parasites when their owners skip a month of HW preventative. While I too hate the mark up we have to pay for pet medications, it is definitely worth the price to keep your family–four and two-legged– safe and parasite free.

Keep is simple, keep is safe, keep the love going with your pets. Isn’t that why we have acclimated into each other’s lives after all?

Cheers to pet snuggles,

Dr. Laci


Dr. Laci Nash Schaible, DVM

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

February 4th, 2011

itchy dog, flea allergy dermatitis, flea allergies in dogs

It can be one of the most frustrating conditions for dogs and cats, as well as their owners: itchy skin. With the background sounds of continuous licks, chews, scratches, and the associated collar jewelry jingling, you know your pet is more than uncomfortable.

Flea allergy dermatitis can be just as frustrating to vets, as many pet owners have a difficult time believe their pet has fleas or this condition. In actuality, when a pet is affected by flea allergy dermatitis (or flea bite allergy, as it is often referred to as), your dog or cat doesn’t even have to have fleas to be affected.

So what is it then? Flea allergy dermatitis arises from a negative immune response to flea saliva resulting in subsequent skin lesions and intense itchiness. In dogs, it is most common in dogs that are at least 3-years old, and rarely less than 6 months old. It can be a seasonal disease, but as some homes have indoor fleas present, it is often continuous problem.

With many dogs now visiting dog parks, pet stores, or even pet-friendly restaurants, it is virtually impossible to avoid fleas. Even if your pooch came from the most reputable breeder and remains in pristine condition, it is not a negative indicator of the care you provide your pet if your vet suspects your dog or cat suffers from flea allergy dermatitis.

Clinical signs of flea allergy dermatitis in dogs include moderate to severe itchiness, papules (small red bumps), overall redness, self-trauma from biting and scratching, hair loss, scratched or wounded skin, increase in skin pigmentation, and dandruff. The base of the tail, over the back, the backs of the thighs, and the front legs are common locations to see signs in dogs. In cats, head and neck itching, red lesions on the abdomen, small bumps and scabs, and symmetric alopecia may be seen. Fleas or flea dirt (black tiny specks in the fur that are actually flea feces and become red upon wetting with a water drop) may or may not be seen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diet Pills for Dogs?

December 27th, 2010

ask a vet, dog obesity, is my dog overweight, dog nutritionMost of us now consider pets part of the family and have accepted pets in dresses, winter booties, and many pet owners even home cook our pets’ diets, but has the latest drug from Pfizer crossed the line?

Slentrol is a diet pill for dogs that is now available for the bargain price of a couple bucks a day. It works by a couple ways: 1) reducing the amount of fat that the body can digest, and 2) affecting the cells in the dog’s small intestines to make the dog feel full before they normally would.

As a vet, I fully understand that the pet obesity epidemic is real and on the rise, and that there are sometimes medical causes of obesity that require intervention with a pill of some form, but in those instances, there are actual medical problems that result in obesity, not a too large dog measuring cup or days of endless inactivity spend curled up in front of the fire.

As humans, it takes self-restraint and will-power to lose weight.  Perhaps this pill’s entrance to the veterinary market is proof that it takes self-restraint to make your dog or cat lose weight as well.

I try to be very open-minded regarding new medications and new forms of therapy, of both western and eastern origin, but this “Slentrol” is really rubbing me the wrong way. I’ve yet to prescribe it for a patient, and none of my veterinarian friends have either.

I understand at least  on some level, human diet pills. When I was a freshman in college and eating cookie dough for breakfast and midnight snacks caught up with me, I purchased some Chinese herbal dieter’s tea. Wow, what a mistake! But the point? I was susceptible to wanting an easy solution.

Easy fix?  Yes, please! Read the rest of this entry »

Our Portly Pets: Obesity Epidemic Reaches Pets

December 20th, 2010

ask a vet, what should my dog eat to lose weight, fat dogAs the holidays are upon us, many of us will find ourselves packing on some extra padding around our midsections as we go back for seconds, thirds, and midnight snacks. Before sharing these multiple meals with your beloved four-legged kiddos, think about this number: about half of the U.S.A.’s dogs and cats are overweight.

The obesity epidemic, especially in America, does not just affect over-fed owners, but now more than ever effects our pets.  The reasons, however,  are the same.

Increased food intake

Unhealthy food choices

Convenient fast food.

As if this weren’t enough to pop the button on our pants, we demand more escalators and moving walkways, thereby become less physically active bordering on lazy.

ask a vet, ask a vet online, is my dog overweight, dog health problemsFollowing hand in hand with our rear ends resting more on the couch, it is likely that your pooch is resting idly as well, either on the sofa with you or at your feet. Our pets suffer the same negative consequences of obesity as people are.

Among the list of diseases that can result from obesity, not just in people, but yes in Fido as well?
ask a vet, ask a vet online, dog health symptoms

Read the rest of this entry »

Dogs on Airplanes: A Hazard for the Airline Passengers or the Dog?

December 7th, 2010

ask a vet a question, pet health problems, dog skin issuesPart One

As you may have seen on the news, a 12 pound Manchester terrier recently bit two people on an airplane en route from Newark to Phoenix. Though the bites were not serious, the pilot landed the plane in Pittsburgh as a precaution.

Granted, I have no idea how extensive the wounds were, but in my opinion, this pilot likely landed the plane to calm the passengers, not because the dog was posing an actual threat.

Fear-biting is believed to be the number one cause of dog bites sustained by people. People that are unfamiliar or uneducated in dog behaviour language will continue to be bitten everywhere they act on ignorance—the dog park, doggie day care, dog shows, or yes, even a plane.

Why, you say? I have been on planes where passengers became severly ill, more so than a dog bite—such as when Dr. Jed herniated a disc in his spine on our
L-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-N-G flight to SE Asia sitting in tiny seats engineered for the shorter Asian flying population (no joke).

Want further reason that the airline was not actually concerned about the safety of their passengers and was merely looking to diffuse the situation? The woman and her dog were indeed asked to not board the plane again when it re-embarked for it’s original destination.

The catch?  The woman and her viscious dog were allowed to board another plane shortly after.

ask veterinarian, ask a veterinarian, sick dog, online vet

Is this the future of air travel? I think not.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tear-Staining Debunked

November 22nd, 2010

What, Why, and To Treat or Not

tear stained westieThe undeniable brown streaks drive pet owners everywhere crazy across the globe, and there is no denying it is one of the most common questions I answer as a veterinarian.

Many times tear-staining is normal and not of concern, other than making the dog appear “less cute” to their owner. Is this cause for treatment if there is no medical cause?

“Doc, what can I do about these tear stains?  They’re so ugly!”

Tear-staining refers to the browning of hairs near the middle corner of the eye. We see tear-staining most often in white and light-colored dogs.

Tear-staining occurs when a chemical called porphyrin, a breakdown product of blood in the tears, interacts with the light and is oxidized. This causes a brownish stain of the hair at the inner aspect of the eye.

Most often, this is nothing more than a cosmetic problem. When there is a real medical problem involved, it often leads to excess tears, and excessive tear-staining. Medical problems that would cause excessive tearing (epiphora) include having a foreign object in the eye, having a scratch or lesion on the eyeball itself, having a hair growing inward towards the eye, and irritating it for instance.

Tear-staining is most often normal and not of concern, other than making the dog appear “less cute” to their owner. Is this cause for treatment if there is no medical cause?  Absolutely not. You may have heard of them: Angel eyes, Tear Stain Away, Pet Spark, the over the counter medications aimed to treat tear-staining are a dime a dozen, and they contain an antibiotic tylosan in them. Read the rest of this entry »