Archive for Dog Health

10 Things To Ask On Your First Vet Visit


Have you recently acquired a new best friend? If so, you’ve got a lot on your plate.  One of the most important steps you can take with a new pup is getting a thorough checkup with a veterinarian.

Now, visiting the vet’s office can be stressful for both you and your dog. Fido might have a ruff time getting his temperature taken, while you may be experiencing some anxiety. Armed with this list, you can get the most out of your veterinarian’s expertise.

1. What do we need to do today?

Yes, I know. This seems like an obvious one! You brought your new dog to the vet for a checkup… Duh.  But different dogs need different things! Your dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, and background (whether they came from a shelter, rescue, breeder or friend) has a huge effect on what vaccines, diagnostics and preventatives (more on that below) they need.  Be sure to bring any and all health records your pup came with to help your veterinary team help you. All dogs should be vaccinated for rabies and contagious viruses like distemper and parvovirus, unless  there is a documented medical reason (like vaccine reactions) otherwise.

2. When do I come back?

Rechecks are so easy to forget, but so important! Even if your furry baby gets a clean bill of health, they may need to come back for booster vaccinations to ensure they are fully protected from contagious diseases.  If any medical issues are discovered, rechecks are a must. If you have the chance, schedule your next appointment before you leave the building.

3. When do the puppy play dates start?!

If you’ve never owned a dog before, you may have rushed off to the bark park or local dog friendly watering hole prior to your vet appointment.  But dogs are susceptible to many contagious diseases and parasites, some of which can even be deadly! Your pup should only make furry friends once they are considered fully vaccinated and up to date on prevention by your veterinarian.  Puppies especially shouldn’t even visit public places frequented by other dogs! Not to worry though– if you or your friends or family members have healthy, vaccinated pets, they are most likely safe to interact with your new pal.

Related: Behind Every Military K9 Hero Is A U.S. Army Veterinarian


Behind Every Military K9 Hero Is A U.S. Army Veterinarian

4. What preventatives should we be using?

Preventative medicine is very important in the veterinary world, and it refers to medical care that prevents the spread of disease, rather than treating a disease after it has already become a problem.  The cornerstones of preventative care for dogs are vaccinations and heartworm and parasite prevention.  All dogs should be heartworm tested at least once yearly, and should get heartworm prevention year-round. Most dogs will also need flea prevention, and dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors should also use tick prevention, especially in areas with dangerous tick-borne diseases.  Your veterinarian can help you choose the most cost effective and convenient preventative solutions for you.

5. When and why should I have my pup “fixed”?

Spaying and and neutering our canine family members is an important way we can keep them safe from disease and control the unwanted pet population. If you’re not familiar, spaying is the removal of female reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus), while neutering is the removal of the testicles. The ideal time to neuter or spay most puppies is 4-6 months, while behavioral issues and risk for mammary cancers can be avoided. However, older pets can avoid issues like infection of the uterus (pyometra, see above) and prostate enlargement if they are sterilized.

6. Could my dog be at risk for breed related disorders?

sleeping dog

If you worked with a breeder before bringing your fur baby home, you may have some ideas about what to expect from your new pet. But whether your pup came with AKC papers or you have no idea what your mutt’s made of, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet about this so that you know what to expect– and what to expect to spend.  Some dogs may require corrective or protective surgeries, while others are at higher risk for heart disease, bleeding disorders and other issues.  Work with your veterinarian to figure out what to watch for and if any measures need to be taken now.

7. What should I be feeding?

dog food

This is a very pup-dependent requirement.  In general, be sure to feed appropriately for your dog’s life stage and breed.  Many diets are specific for puppies, large breed puppies, and working breeds.  Some health issues can require modified or prescription diets which your veterinarian will recommend if necessary.

8. How much exercise does my dog need?

Whether you’re hoping your dog will become your running buddy or your fellow couch potato, each dog is different in how much exercise they need — and how much they’ll want! Breed can play a huge factor in energy level, tolerance for exercise as well as tendency to become overweight.  Your pup’s age is also important to consider when making active plans. In general, young puppies and senior citizens should not take part in high impact strenuous exercise to protect their growth plates and joints  unless cleared by your vet.

9. What can he or she chew on?

hug a dog

Dogs have a natural instinct to chew, but they can often get themselves into trouble by chewing on the wrong items. Your pooch should only have access to dog specific chew toys and bones.  Avoid giving any animal bones that have been cooked as these can be very dangerous–your leftover baby-back ribs will just have to go into the trash! Human food in general can be very dangerous for dogs, and even poisonous.  If your dog is a stronger chewer and enjoys destroying toys for fun, either limit his or her access to these toys or supervise playtime–or your vet may have to go in and retrieve a squeaker surgically someday!

10. How do I train a dog?

While most veterinarians don’t moonlight as dog trainers, we are all educated on animal behavior and can help guide you with training. Teaching your new or old dog new tricks can be overwhelming, but is essential if you and your best friend are going to have a happy life together. Some good rules of thumb are to employ positive reinforcement training, give your pooch consistent boundaries and a structured schedule, and patience patience patience! Your veterinarian is also a good resource if you’re having serious issues with training despite all your efforts. Behavioral issues and health problems can overlap more than you would think, and your vet can help you tell the difference.

Posted in: Dog Health, Dogs, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Does My Dog Really Need a Yearly Vet Visit?


Q. My vet won’t refill my dog’s heartworm medication if I don’t bring my dog in at least once a year. He says it’s for the good of my dog. I say it’s for the good of his bank account. Who’s right?

A. I have to side with your veterinarian on this one. Your vet would be doing your dog a disservice if he prescribed a medication to a pet he never saw. Your veterinarian also needs to follow both the law and the guidelines of ethical practice, both of which demand that prescriptions be written only for animals actively under his care — which they cannot be if they’re never in his exam room.

Prevention Is the Key to Good Health

Annual examinations (or at least twice-yearly for some pets) are the cornerstone of a good preventive care regimen, and preventive care is critical for your pet’s health. You may even save money when you can work with your veterinarian to tweak your pet’s care in order to prevent health problems from occurring (changing his diet, for example, to help prevent or reverse obesity), or to catch and treat illness earlier – hopefully before it can adversely impact your pet’s quality of life. The approval of another year’s worth of heartworm medication, as well as a review of all other medications, is part of that process.

I know many people accept the need for that first heartworm test, but balk at subsequent ones. They argue that they’ve given the medications as prescribed and their pets should be heartworm-free. Problem is, we’re only human. Studies show that not all pets get all their heartworm preventive doses, leaving room for infection. Your veterinarian needs to make sure your pet isn’t carrying these parasites despite your best intentions. That means you’ll need to take him in for a heartworm test at regular intervals.

Finally, there’s the question of where you buy your medications. These days it’s relatively easy to buy prescription medications from questionable Internet suppliers. The temptation to do so can be very strong, especially when money is tight. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against such purchases, noting that these operations may be selling expired, counterfeit or contaminated drugs. Not good! Work with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is taking the right medications and that you’re getting them from a reliable supplier.

In the interests of your pet’s health and your bank account, may I suggest a compromise? Schedule that all-important wellness check, and then ask your veterinarian about cost-saving options, such as price matching (some vets do), or writing a prescription for a reputable local or online pharmacy. Even better, your veterinarian may offer competitive prices through an Internet shopping portal.

The bottom line is this: Don’t skip that yearly visit. You’ll be doing your dog — and your wallet — a favor.

Posted in: dog flu, Dog Health, Dogs, Uncategorized, Westminster Veterinary Group

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First Aid Kits for Dogs: Supplies You Should Pack


You know you need a dog first aid kit for hikes or camping trips you take with your canine, but do you know what should be in it? In this short video, Dr. Sarah Wooten covers basic first aid supplies — like butterfly bandages, tweezers and a muzzle — and how best to store them.

Before you go out with your pet on such an adventure, read up on basic first aid procedures, including when to induce vomiting and when not to. And, of course, if your dog has special needs, consult with your veterinarian for recommendations about additional supplies.

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Posted in: Blog, Dog Health, Dogs, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Video: Is Your Dog a Territorial Barker? This Training Can Help

Taken from

Do you have a dog who likes to alert bark inside the house or out in the yard? He may benefit from learning the “look” game. This great training rewards your dog for performing a more acceptable behavior instead of barking when he sees his usual triggers — perhaps people approaching or dogs walking past. In this game, you calmly say the word “look” to bring attention to the stimulus, then teach him that the sight or sound he normally barks at is his cue to remain quiet for a treat or reward.

The game is free of punishment. Punishing a dog for barking is never recommended, as punishment can often increase anxiety and aggression, inhibiting the bark temporarily without resolving the root emotion causing the territorial barking. Check out trainer Mikkel Becker’s advice for teaching the “look” game in the video below.

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Posted in: Dog Health, News, Pets, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Reasons not to Choose Anesthesia Free Dentals for Your Pet

Reasons not to Choose Anesthesia Free Dentals for Your Pet

After years of anesthesia free pet dentals, this dog had lost so much bone structure due to undetected periodontal disease the probe goes through the entire jaw.

Those that provide Anesthesia Free Dentistry or No Anesthesia Dentistry (NAD) would like you to believe by removing visible tartar from the teeth they are improving oral health. This is just not the case and the AVDC wants you to consider the following reasons not to choose an anesthesia free dental for your pet:

Scaling (scraping surface of the tooth with an instrument) the plaque and tartar from the outside surfaces of the teeth does not remove the plaque and bacteria from beneath your pet’s gumline and does not decrease the risk of your pet getting periodontal disease. Consider this, the same level of “gross” build up you see on your pet’s teeth, is also thriving beneath their gumline where you can’t see it or the damage it’s doing. Cleaning and scaling below the gum line is most important because it’s where periodontal disease is most active. This can’t be done without anesthesia.
Anesthesia free dental cleanings require your pet to be restrained while the visible tartar is removed. In some cases this is stressful and painful. It is not fair to put your beloved dog or cat through the process without anesthesia.
There are few visible signs of periodontal infection before it has progressed too far to treat and save teeth. Anesthesia is needed to best evaluate periodontal disease with the help of a dental probe and x-ray examination to truly sense what is going on below the gumline.
A thorough oral health exam can’t be done on a dog or cat that is awake. During a thorough oral health exam, all surfaces of your pet’s mouth are evaluated and radiographs are taken. This allows a veterinarian to identify painful problems including broken teeth, periodontal disease or even oral tumors. An oral health exam and x-rays can’t be done on an awake pet.
Teeth that have been scaled and not polished are a prime breeding ground for more bacteria growth which perpetuates oral disease.
Anesthesia free dental cleanings provide no benefit to your pet and do not prevent periodontal disease at any level. In fact, it gives you a false sense of security as a pet owner that because the teeth look whiter that they are healthier.
The costs of anesthesia free dental cleanings are cheap to begin with. The ultimate costs to both your wallet, and pet’s dental health, are far more of an expense.

– See more at:

Posted in: Dog Health, Pet Health, pet safety, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Thinking About Pet Insurance?

Thinking about pet insurance? Look over the options of companies and use the questions provided to help you choose the best insurance for you and your pet.

Pet insurance questions

Insurance comparisons

Posted in: Cat Health, Dog Health, News, Pet Health, pet insurance, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Easter Safety: Keeping pets safe over the Easter holiday ( Pet Poison Hotline)

Chocolate poisoning occurs during this holiday.  Reminder to keep dogs away from Easter basket goodies. If your pet does ingest chocolate here are the steps to follow immediately. 

What to do if your pet gets poisoned
 Your pet has just injested something toxic. What do you do? First, take a deep breath. The more calm, cool, and collected you are, the sooner you
can seek the correct medical attention. Then get a handle on the situation by taking the following steps:
1. Remove your pet from the area. Make sure no other pets or children are exposed to the area, and safely remove any poisonous material.
2. Check to make sure your pet is breathing normally and acting fine otherwise.
3. Collect a sample of the material, along with the packaging, vial, or container. You’ll need that information to help your veterinarian or a pet poison expert assess the situation.
4. Don’t give your dog any milk, food, salt, oil, or any other home remedies. Doing so will likely complicate the poisoning.
5. Never induce vomiting without talking to your veterinarian or a pet poison expert—doing so may be detrimental or contraindicated. Sometimes,to induce vomiting in dogs, it may be recommended to give hydrogen peroxide. However, hydrogen peroxide won’t help induce vomitingin cats, and stronger veterinary
 prescription medications are necessary to get your cat to vomit up any toxins.
6. Get help. Program your veterinarian’s phone number into your phone, as well as an emergency veterinarian’s number and a pet poison
hotline number. There are two 24-hour hotlines: Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 ($35 per call) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 ($65 per call).
Remember that a pet’s prognosis is always better when a toxicity is reported immediately, so don’t wait to see if your pet becomes symptomatic before calling for help. Calling right away is safer for your pet and could help you save on treatment costs in the long run. Remember that there’s a narrow window of time to decontaminate in cases of poisoning.
Dr. Michelle Russillo

Posted in: Cat Health, Chocolate, Dog Health, pet safety, Westminster Veterinary Group

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FAQ PNA Prevention “Is feeding dry food the best way to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats?” – Pet Nutrition Alliance

FAQ PNA Prevention “Is feeding dry food the best way to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats?”



  • No. Unfortunately, there is a lack of long-term research providing evidence that any one method, including a dry dental diet, is “best” for preventing dental disease (i.e. gingivitis, periodontitis).1
  • Dental disease is even more complicated because there isn’t a clear relationship between the amount of plaque and calculus on the teeth and the severity of the gingivitis or periodontitis associated with it.1 Simply, a reduction of plaque and calculus may not result in a significant reduction of gingivitis or periodontitis for dogs and cats.
  • Therefore, mechanical debridement from foods or products that claim to simply reduce plaque or calculus formation cannot guarantee the prevention of dental disease.1
  • Current recommendations:
    • Research shows that tooth brushing is the most effective way to prevent dental disease. It provides mechanical stimulation of the gingiva, which enhances proliferation of fibroblasts and collagen synthesis. Brushing contributes to good dental health by preventing periodontal pocket formation and promoting epithelial attachment.1 Twice-daily brushing shows the greatest benefit in dogs,2 although once-daily brushing in dogs is adequate.3 For cats, there is evidence to suggest that daily tooth brushing reduces gingivitis.4
    • If a pet owner is unable or unwilling to brush their pet’s teeth daily, then it may require a combination of therapeutic strategies to reduce the risk of dental disease.5
      • For dogs: feed diets clinically proven to reduce plaque and calculus development and provide multiple chewing activities.5
      • For cats: feed diets clinically proven to reduce plaque and calculus formation6 and provide chewing activities.1
    • Dental diets may use a number of strategies to reduce dental disease. Mechanisms that might be used  are:
      • Mechanical abrasion
      • Inhibition of calculus formation (i.e. sodium hexametaphosphate-HMP)
      • Antibacterials (sodium ascorbyl phosphate)
      • Plaque retardants
  • Regulation:
    • Foods that claim to cleanse, freshen, or whiten teeth by mechanical action or abrasive action do not need pre-market approval and are permissible by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).7
    • If these types of claims are achieved by any other way (i.e. drugs), they must be approved by the FDA prior to going to market.
  • Options for oral health products:
    • The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) lists pet diets and products which may help in oral health.8 The VOHC provides a current list at


  1. Cave N. Nutritional Management of Gastrointestinal Disease. In: Fascetti AJ, Delaney SJ eds. Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition 1st ed. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012: 188-192.
  2. Yamamoto T, Tomofuji T, Ekuni D, Sakamoto T, Horiuchi M, Watanabe T. Effects of toothbrushing frequency on proliferation of gingival cells and collagen synthesis. J Clin Periodontol. 2004 Jan;31(1):40-4.
  3. Horiuchi M, Yamamoto T, Tomofuji T, Ishikawa A, Morita M, Watanabe T. Toothbrushing promotes gingival fibroblast proliferation more effectively than removal of dental plaque. J Clin Periodontol. 2002 Sep;29(9):791-5.
  4. Ingham KE, Gorrel C, Blackburn JM, Farnsworth W. The effect of toothbrushing on periodontal disease in cats. J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1740S-1S.
  5. Harvey CE, Shofer FS, Laster L. Correlation of diet, other chewing activities and periodontal disease in North American client-owned dogs. J Vet Dent. 1996 Sep; 13(3):101-5.
  6. Vrieling HE, Theyse LF, van Winkelhoff AJ, Dijkshoorn NA, Logan EI, Picavet P. Effectiveness of feeding large kibbles with mechanical cleaning properties in cats with gingivitis. Tijdschr Diergeneeskd. 2005 Mar 1;130(5):136-40.
  7. Association of American Feed Control Officials. 2011 Official Publication. Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. 2011: 144-145.
  8. Helping to Control the Most Common Disease in Dogs and Cats: Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease). Veterinary Oral Health Council Web site. Accessed April 26, 2013.

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