Nail Trimming

At our hospital we charge $23 for nail trims. Reactions to that price vary from outright disbelief at how high the cost is to people who feel it is a bargain at twice the price. The reason we insist on being compensated to some degree is that nail trims are a non-medical procedure that could be done elsewhere. In order to get a patient’s nails trimmed I have to pull two technicians off of whatever work they are doing--say getting a patient prepped for surgery or administering treatments to hospitalized animals--and ask them to spend 15 minutes wrestling with an animal who is more likely than not going to kick and thrash and spray anal gland material all over them and try to bite them. I hate unnecessarily traumatizing both animals and staff over such a simple procedure that could be done by owners with a little patience and training.

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Noise Phobias

            As we move into summer full swing we are approaching a part of the season that many dog owners dread. The opening salvo is the Fourth of July, and then insult is heaped on injury as thunderstorm season kicks off. There are a lot of people who have dogs that are afraid of loud noises who know exactly what I am talking about.

            This is the time when our office starts getting the calls requesting tranquilizers for phobic dogs. There are some circumstances where a dog’s irrational fear very well may lead to serious injury or property damage. I once had a lovely 13 year old German Shepherd patient who become so frantic from the neighbors fireworks display she broke all her teeth chewing through the metal garage door and as she forced her way through the hole she made she caught her eyeball on a shard of the twisted metal and destroyed it. She didn’t even notice the eye was gone in her terror and only stopped after she got out and was hit by a car.   When the stakes are that high I prescribe heavy medication, but in less extreme circumstances there may be some other options to consider.

            One thing to realize is that just being nervous is not life-threatening, and a dog doesn’t stand much of a chance of learning to cope with the fear if given mind altering drugs. Dogs with phobias of the vacuum cleaner or the menacing gnome statuette in the garden can often lose their fear through a process of desensitization by which they are exposed to ever increasing doses of the scary thing until they learn it is not a problem. It is a little harder to control when the neighbors will decide to unleash their illegal arsenal in the weeks in advance of the 4th of July, or to conjure up ever increasing doses of thunderstorms on cue. We can help guide our dogs by ignoring fearful behavior and either go about our business as usual, or engage in active play with the dog, thus demonstrating by our own actions that there is nothing to worry about. Punishing anxious behavior obviously has a tendency to make the situation worse, but even less helpful is inadvertently reinforcing fearful behavior by giving the dog lots of attention and reassurance when it is acting anxious. As an owner is stroking and soothing a dog she is saying in dog language “Yes, this is the behavior I want. Do more of this.”

            There are a variety of non-drug options that can sometimes help the situation. Dog Appeasing Pheremone or DAP is a scent detectable only to dogs that gives a chemical signal to them that everything is safe in that area. DAP infused collars, sprays, and room diffusers (made to work like Glade plug-ins) may help give environmental cues that let a dog know that the situation is OK.

            I am not trained in homeopathic medicine, but Rescue Remedy is a treatment used for calming in situations where dogs feel anxiety. There is no scientific evidence that it does anything at all, but there are certainly people who swear by it. I have no concerns that it would be harmful, so if it seems to help, then great.

            There are zillions of herbal calming treatments out there too. Herbs are essentially drugs in a less quantified and controlled formulation, so using them is similar in principle to using tranquilizers, just with less predictability of results or understanding of exactly what they are doing. Just because it is called “natural” does not necessarily mean it is safer, more gentle, or without possibility of side effects.

            So here’s to a summer of improved noise phobia. And if you are one of the lucky people who does not have a dog with such problems try to take into consideration that your neighbor’s 13 year old German Shepherd may not be quite as easy going as your dog when your fireworks extravaganza goes off next door to her.


The little 3 month old Shepherd mix puppy was flat on the table with a fever of 105 degrees.  Just yesterday he had been playing and acting like a normal puppy, but in the evening he had started vomiting, and this morning he had started with some red-tinged, liquid diarrhea. He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t play, he wouldn’t  even lift his head off the  floor.   His owner had just taken him in as a favor to a cousin who had gotten the dog and had done his best to hide it.  Inevitably the dog was discovered by his landlord who reminded the cousin in no uncertain terms that the no pets rule in the apartments meant he had to get rid of the dog or move out.  With all the cloak and dagger activity during the past few weeks the puppy had not yet been to a veterinarian for anything.  A quick test confirmed that the source of the problem in the puppy was a parvovirus infection, or "parvo".

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Rat Poison

After hearing about hantavirus, plague, and other nasty things that rodents can carry along with them you may have decided that it is about time to do something about the little visitors who keep leaving their black rice grain sized calling cards in your cabinets.   After strategically placing several packs of D-Con where it will be absolutely impossible for anyone but mice to get to them, you walk away feeling satisfied that you have protected your family and are on the way to eliminating the unwanted vermin. When you get home you are greeted by the dog who is standing over the remnants of a D-Con box with its bright blue contents scattered artfully hither and yon around the kitchen. He gives you the look that says “Boy, someone sure made a mess in here which I just discovered myself while walking through the kitchen minding my own business. I wonder who it was? Perhaps it was that sneaky goldfish.” He is wagging his tail and looks perfectly fine. He would look sick if he had eaten any of the rat poison wouldn’t he?

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Rattlesnake Bites

365 Pink grand canyon rattlesnake 640x556                                The weather has finally gotten warm and now it is time to get outside and enjoy our beautiful outdoors with your best four-legged friends. As you are ambling along the path in Ute Valley park you hear from under a pile of nearby rocks that unmistakable rattling noise which causes the sensation that Emily Dickinson so aptly described as "zero at the bone". Your dog's response to the rattlesnake, however, is "Hey, that looks interesting. How 'bout I go poke my nose at it.". Before you get a chance to react you have a yelping dog with a rapidly swelling snout. What should you do?

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To Breed or Not to Breed

So you just got your new puppy from the pet store. She is an adorable ball of fluff, but the price tag after all the food and collars and such came to $800. To soften the sticker shock the clerk at the store did emphasize that she is a purebred dog and therefore some of her expense may be recovered by breeding her. You may not have seriously considered it before but now the idea is in your head. Should you breed your dog?

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