Tender Care Animal Hospital


(309) 266-1182

300 E. Courtland


(309) 243-1755

9809 St. Route 91

Tips & Tails by "Big Red"

Tips & Tails by "Big Red" is a column written by Tender Care and published monthly in 50+ News & Views. Find out what Big Red has to say about many common pet questions!

My name is Big Red. I am a smart dog. How smart, do you ask? Well, I have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Being a dog, I have firsthand knowledge of what us furry, handsome family members really need. I am also knowledgeable about the other smug, independent furry animal - the cat. I hope you enjoy the column.

September 2018

Question: Recently my dog seems very thirsty. He is also urinating more frequently and even having accidents in the house. What could be causing this? What should I do?

Answer: There are several medical issues than can cause an increase in thirst and urination. These include diseases such as Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Cushing's disease, and occasionally Urinary Tract Infections. If you have noticed a change in your pet's thirst and urination you should consider scheduling an appointment with your Veterinarian. Your Veterinarian will likely ask if you can quantify the amount of water your pet is drinking. A general rule of thumb for water consumption is about 1oz per lb per day. Your conversation with your vet will likely include questions about appetite, attitude, getting you up in the night, accidents in the house, general odor/color of the urinary accidents, etc. Your veterinarian will also likely want to do a thorough physical exam on your pet. After an exam and history your Vet will likely be suspicious of the underlying cause of the sudden change. They will recommend blood work and or checking a urine sample to further confirm their suspicions.

Question: What if my pet is diabetic? How is this diagnosed and what is the typical treatment?

Answer: Diabetes is diagnosed by a blood test to check blood glucose. If your pet has a blood sugar above the normal range and symptoms consistent with diabetes then they are diabetic. Your veterinarian will likely recommend additional blood work and checking a urine sample to rule out other medical causes that may interfere with treatment. Your veterinarian will likely recommend starting your pet on a diet that is higher in fiber. Many diabetic pets tend to be overweight. Therefore your veterinarian may also recommend weight loss and exercise. Your veterinarian will also discuss insulin therapy with you. Insulin is given as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection most often twice daily. The idea of giving your pet an injection at home can be frightening to some owner's at first. With practice and proper instruction from veterinary staff, most owners become quite comfortable fairly quickly. An insulin needle is very tiny and most pets don't even realize they are getting an injection, especially if they are distracted with some food or a treat during the process.

Question: How do I know if my pet's blood sugar is improved with treatment?

Answer: If your pet is responding favorably to treatment, you should notice a decrease in thirst and urination. You may also notice an improvement in your pets overall attitude. Your veterinarian will likely recommend regularly checking blood sugar to monitor response to treatment. Your veterinarian will either recommend checking blood sugar at one point in the day (usually about 6 hours after insulin is given) or bringing your pet in for a glucose curve. One to two weeks after starting treatment is usually a good time to check blood sugar for the first time. Your veterinarian may recommend you either increase, decrease or stay at the same insulin dose based on test results.

June 2018

Question: I have heard lilies can be harmful for my cat. Is this true?

Answer: Yes, lilies are very toxic to cats. The can cause kidney failure. If you have a cat you should keep lilies out of your house. You should contact your veterinarian if your cat accidentally gets into some lily plant. Even a very small amount can cause a major problem for your cat. If your cat does get into lilies your veterinarian will likely recommend checking blood work to evaluate kidney values and several days of IV fluid to help flush the toxin out of your cat's system.

Question: What are some signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs and what can I do to avoid it?

Answer: Heat stroke (hyperthermia) can occur when your dog's internal body temperature is elevated. This is most commonly seen in warmer weather when your pet is left outside for a prolonged period of time, left in a hot car, etc. Some breeds are more predisposed than others to the development of hyperthermia. It is more common to see heat stroke in brachycephalic (smushy faced) dogs or dogs with a very thick hair coat. We can also see it more commonly in very young or very old dogs as well as dogs with underlying heart or lung disease and dogs that are not accustomed to a hot climate. Common signs of heat stroke include: panting, drooling, dehydration, an elevated internal body temperature, collapse, rapid heart rate, wobbly gait, muscle twitching or seizures, etc. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from heat stroke you should bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately. In order to avoid heat stroke, you should always keep an eye on your pet when outside on hot days. You should make sure they have ample access to shade and water when outside. If they seem hot or exhausted you should bring them inside. You may also want to limit the number of times you throw the ball on hot days or otherwise try to limit strenuous exercise.

Question: Why does my pet eat poop? Do you have any recommendations to help stop this gross behavior?

Answer: Many dogs simply develop this behavior as a bad habit. Clients are often concerned that it could be a nutrient deficiency. While this is possible it is very unlikely if your pet is on a well balanced commercial pet food and not otherwise acting sick or doing unwell. However, if your pet is chronically eating feces, otherwise known as Coprophagia, you should speak with your veterinarian about your pet specifically. It is always best to rule out any underlying medical issues before assuming the issue is behavioral. Some pets may actually have a nutrient deficiency, parasites, an endocrine abnormality or other underlying reason for the behavior. You should do your best to discourage this behavior because your pet can pick up parasites or other harmful bacteria while eating feces. You should have a fecal sample tested on a regular basis to ensure your pet has not picked up any new parasite friends while eating feces. You should always do your best to keep stool picked up in the yard. Ensuring adequate enrichment, i.e. toys, playing fetch, agility exercise, may be a good way to keep your pet otherwise engaged. Taste aversion or adding something to your pets food for a while to make their feces taste bad is another popular method to deter your pet from eating feces. For-Bid is a popular commercial product that is sprinkled over the pet's food daily for about 1 week to deter eating feces.

May 2018

Question: I am planning to get a new puppy this spring. It has been a long time since I last had a puppy. What is the recommended puppy vaccine schedule? Is it a good idea for my puppy to be around other dogs before he is fully vaccinated?

Answer: A typical vaccine protocol for puppies involves vaccinating when the puppy is 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. You should do your best to keep your puppy away from unknown dogs or unpredictable environments such as pet stores and dog parks until they have completed their vaccine series at 16 weeks of age. At 8 weeks your puppy will receive his first vaccine during his first puppy visit. This vaccine will help protect against Distemper virus and Parvovirus. These are both very serious viral diseases that if contracted can make your puppy very sick and even cause death. Your veterinarian will likely recommend deworming and starting on heartworm and flea prevention at this visit. You should also bring a fecal sample with you to your first visit so that your veterinarian can check for intestinal parasites. Make sure to discuss any behavioral, potty training, food related, etc questions that you may have with your veterinarian. At your puppies 12 week visit, your veterinarian will give a second Distemper/Parvo vaccine and discuss other vaccines such as Leptospirosis and Lyme with you. Both of these vaccines are a 2 part series (your pet will get the vaccines at 12 and 16 weeks) and then yearly after that. Leptospirosis is a soil bacteria found in standing water and rodent pee. If your pet spends any time outside, you should strongly consider vaccinating your pet against Leptospirosis. Another somewhat alarming reason to vaccinate your pet against Leptospirosis is the potential for humans to catch lepto from their sick pet. The Lyme vaccine is recommended if your pet lives or spends quite a bit of time in wooded areas and ticks are a concern. If Lyme is a concern you should make sure your pet's monthly flea prevention also protects against ticks. You can also pick up your next month's dose of heartworm and flea prevention at this visit. Your puppy's final puppy vaccine visit will be around 4 months/16 weeks of age. During this visit, your puppy will get a third Distemper/Parvo vaccine, a 1 year Rabies vaccine and typically Bordetella (kennel cough vaccine). . If you elected to vaccinate for Lepto or Lyme, your pet will get his booster at this time. If you haven't already, you should make a point to discuss spay/neuter with your veterinarian at this visit. Most veterinarian's recommend spay around 6 months of age, although there are some new studies suggesting it may be beneficial to wait a little longer in some patients.

Question: Why do we have to vaccinate a puppy at 8, 12 and 16 weeks before he is fully protected? What if my breeder gave vaccines before 8 weeks?

Answer: The reason for a 3 vaccine series in puppies is related to maternal immunity. Maternal immunity is passed from mother to puppy during pregnancy and while nursing. Maternal immunity helps to protect your puppy from diereses while very young, however it can block the first vaccine(s) given to young puppies, i.e. your puppies immune system may not recognize the first vaccine because mom's immunity is blocking the vaccine. This is especially true if your pet receives his first vaccine at 8 weeks or under. This could mean that the first vaccine may be ineffective and therefore not provide your puppy the protection he needs. Now you might be wondering why we give that first vaccine at 8 weeks if it may be "too early." Levels of maternal immunity vary from one puppy to another. Some puppies have a low maternal antibody level as early as 8 weeks. This means that mom's immunity is no longer protecting those puppies and they may be susceptible to disease. This is the reason why it is recommended to start a puppy's vaccine series at 8 weeks.

Question: I recently adopted a new puppy. I have been doing a 3 year rabies vaccine for my current dog for as long as I can remember. Can my puppy be given a 3 year rabies vaccine?

Answer: As a puppy, your veterinarian will give a 1 year rabies vaccine. At your puppy's 1 year wellness/vaccine visit your puppy can be given a 3 year vaccine. The reason for this is largely related to duration of immunity or how long studies have shown your pet to be protected by vaccines against Rabies. Historically, most vaccines were given yearly. Vaccine manufacturers were able to prove that some vaccines are effective for longer than 1 year. This is when vaccines labeled for use every 3 years became available. Unfortunately those studies have not proven 3 year protection from your pet's first rabies vaccine and therefore your puppy will need to be given a 1 year vaccine before it can be given a 3 year vaccine. Another option to consider if you are trying to avoid over vaccination is to check a Rabies Titer. Titers can only be checked in adult dogs after they have already been given vaccines. This test is done to measure the amount of antibody in your pets bloodstream, in other words this test helps to confirm that your pet has an appropriate level of protection and determine if your pet actually needs the booster. You will need to check titers on a yearly basis if you decide to go this route. Checking vaccine titers is a medically sound option but can sometimes be somewhat cost prohibitive and if your pet does need a vaccine booster may require multiple trips to the vet.

April 2018

Question: My dog, Sophie, put on some weight over the winter months. I have been trying to walk her more since the weather has been a little nicer. She doesn't seem to be losing much if any weight. Is there anything else I can do?

Answer: It can sometimes be hard to help your pet lose weight. You should look closely at how much you are feeding your pet. Remember dog treats and human food count too. If Sophie gets a lot of treats and human food you should consider cutting back or eliminating that from her diet. You should also look closely at the amount of dog food you are feeding. Many veterinarians recommend decreasing that by about 20% to help with weight loss. It may be helpful to bring Sophie to your veterinarian's office to obtain an accurate weight and return on a monthly basis to recheck weight. If you are unsure about how much weight Sophie should be losing you should ask your veterinarian for guidance.

Question: What is leptospirosis and how can my pet be exposed?

Answer: Lepto is a bacterial disease that can be spread through rodents and can be found in soil or standing water. Warm, wet spring weather can create the ideal environment for this bacteria to flourish. Dogs can become infected if their skin, mucous membranes or any areas with cuts or abrasions come in contact with infected urine or any soil, bedding, food, water, carcasses, etc that have been contaminated with infected urine. This disease can also rarely be spread through breeding. Another important aspect of this disease to mention is that it is a zoonotic disease, meaning people can get this disease from their pets. A cut or scratch on your skin can put you at risk.

Question: What are some common symptoms of leptospirosis and what can I do to prevent it?

Answer: Symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs can vary. Some dogs may not show any signs of illness, others may have mild illness and recover without treatment, and unfortunately others may become very sick and potentially die. Symptoms can include: fever, shivering, sore muscles, unwillingness to move, an increase in thirst, changes in frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, yellowing of the skin or mucous membranes or inflammation of the soft tissue around the eyes. This disease has the potential to cause kidney and liver failure and unfortunately even death. Fortunately there is a vaccine that will effectively prevent leptospirosis for up to 12 months. Annual vaccination is recommended in at risk dogs.

March 2018

Question: My 7 year old yorkie has really stinky breath. Do you think he could need a dental cleaning?

Answer: Your 7 year old Yorkie probably does need a dental cleaning. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in adult dogs and cats. This disease is very preventable. Statistics show that most dogs and cats have some degree of periodontal disease by the age of three. Your veterinarian will typically perform a good oral examination as part of your pet's yearly wellness exam. You should should make a point to discuss oral health during this visit. We often make the mistake of waiting too long to perform routine cleanings and as a result extractions are often required. When we wait too long the cleaning becomes more painful for your pet and more costly for you. You should check with your veterinarian if you think your pet needs their teeth cleaned.

Question: What can I do at home to help keep my pet's teeth healthy between cleanings?

Answer: Daily brushing is the gold standard for maintaining oral health. If you plan to brush your pet's teeth on a regular basis it helps to start as a puppy or kitten and try to make the experience as positive as possible using treats and words or encouragement. When brushing your pet's teeth, you should use an enzymatic toothpaste and try to brush as many surfaces as possible. Regular human toothpaste can be harmful to your pet if swallowed. It is often helpful to use a finger toothbrush. If daily brushing is not an option, dental chews, rinses and sprays can be helpful to maintain good oral health between cleanings. Many veterinarians use the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC- vohc.org) list of accepted products to guide their recommendations for dental chews, dental food, oral rinses, etc.

Question: I have an older dog with a heart murmur and terrible teeth. I am nervous about putting him under to get his teeth cleaned. What should I do?

Answer: You should talk with your veterinarian about your concerns. Together you can discuss the added risks of anesthesia in your pet with heart disease and weigh them against the benefit of good oral health. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a chest x-ray, blood work and an IV catheter as added precautions for the procedure. Some veterinarians may recommend perioperative antibiotics depending on the severity of dental and heart disease in your pet.

February 2018

Question: My dog, Molly, is an older beagle and really likes food. She has really gained some weight this winter. It has been hard for me to walk her with the cold weather and short days. What should I be doing to help her lose weight?

Answer: It can be hard to help food motivated dogs to lose weight. Does Molly get people food? If so, you should reduce the amount of people food she is getting or cut it out completely. When we put our pets on a diet, we generally recommend backing down the amount of food you are feeding by about 20%. It may be helpful to supplement her diet with low calorie treats such as carrots, green beans, etc to help with hunger. It may also help to check Molly's weight on a somewhat regular basis- most veterinary offices will be more than happy to help you monitor Molly's weight loss with regular weigh ins.

Question: How do I know if my pet is overweight?

Answer: At an ideal weight, your pet should have a somewhat hourglass figure. Your should be able to easily feel your pets ribs but not see them. It should be easy to see a defined waist when looking at your pet from above. Their waist should also tuck up in the area of the abdomen when looking at your pet from the side. Body condition charts are available online or at your local veterinarian's office. If you are unsure if your pet is overweight or have questions about putting your pet on a diet, you should contact your veterinarian.

Question: I am not able to walk my dog as much in the winter months. Is there anything I can do at home to keep my pet active and limit our time in the cold, slick and often dark conditions?

Answer: It can be hard to stay active in the winter months. Some pets appreciate boots, jackets, etc to help them stay warm. If it's too cold to go outside for more than just a potty break, you can encourage active play inside. Many dogs are happy to play a careful game of indoor fetch with an indoor safe toy and any breakables nearby picked up. Some animals will chase a laser light. Stairs can be a great source of exercise for your pet. With some patience and practice you can teach your pet to walk on a treadmill. Hide and seek- hiding toys or treats for your dog to find can be another great game to play with your dog to keep them active indoors. Be creative and you can keep your pet enriched and active even when it is cold outside.

January 2018

Question: My groomer told me she expressed my dog Fluffy's anal glands during grooming and they were full. What are anal glands? Is there anything I can do to help Fluffy express her anal gland on her own?

Answer: Anal glands/anal sacs are two small glands located around your dog's anus. A thick, oily, stinky material is excreted into these anal sacs. Some people describe the odor as "fishy smelling." Many dogs are able to express their anal glands on their own, however some dogs are unable to do this and require somewhat regular anal gland expression. If the anal glands are not expressed, the material can build up and the gland can become impacted. This can be quite uncomfortable. Increasing the amount of fiber in Fluffy's diet may to help decrease the frequency that she needs her anal glands expressed. It is thought that adding fiber will help to bulk up your pet's stool and allow anal glands to be expressed during normal defecation. It is also fairly common to see anal gland problems in dogs with food allergy. Switching to a hypoallergenic diet may also help. If you think Fluffy is needing to have her anal glands expressed too frequently, you should contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

Question: My dog, Wrigley, is constantly asking for table scraps. We are planning to have family and friends over for the Holiday season. He always seems to be begging for food. Are there any foods that are especially bad or toxic to feed Wrigley?

Answer: Generally speaking you should avoid giving your pet any table scraps. Table scraps can potentially cause upset stomach as well as possible pancreatitis. There are, however, some foods that can be especially dangerous for your pets. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in many of our dogs. The toxic component in grapes is unknown and it can take as little as one grape to cause kidney failure in some dogs. Chocolate is another food to avoid. If can cause dangerous increases in heart rate as well as tremors, seizures and can even be fatal at high doses. At lower doses it commonly causes vomiting and diarrhea. Onions and garlic are other foods to avoid in dogs as they can cause a blood disorder called methemoglobinemia in our pets. Sugar free gum and deserts containing xylitol can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar and liver issues in our pets. If your pet gets into any of these foods please contact either your local veterinarian or an animal poison control service immediately.

Question: With the cold weather and snow we will have this winter, I'm worried that the salt on the sidewalks could be harmful to my dog. Is my concern valid? What can I do to limit my pet's contact with the salt?

Answer: Ingesting large amount of salt can be very harmful to your pet. For most pets, licking trace amounts that they may get on their feet during walks should not be too harmful. However, the salt may be irritating and drying to their paw pads. You should try to limit exposure to ice melt products as much as possible. If your pet will allow, you can put booties on his feet during walks. If booties are not an option, you should consider wiping his feet before bringing him in from walks. There are several pet safe ice melt products on the market. You should consider using these products on your own sidewalks. You should keep bags of ice melt out of reach of your pets. If your pet does get into some ice melt, you should contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control as soon as possible for help treating the exposure.

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Warm Hearts for Cold Noses