The Allure (and the Reality) of Young Pets

Daily one of my clients asks, “What kind of puppy should I get?" My answer, “Have you ever thought of a 1 to 2 year old dog? They are so much easier.” They’re usually house-broken and you'll know a lot more about the dog’s personality. There are so many dogs and cats that need homes. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get a great pet and a friend for life.

ccBut, lots of people still want a puppy. I must admit, there is nothing cuter than a puppy. They see wonder in everything. They love life. I would love to spend 10 minutes being puppy, just to know what true happiness is. And, with a puppy or kitten, you get the chance to watch them grow and develop, forming a lifelong bond. Which is probably why I didn’t take my own advice and now I find myself raising a puppy. Two months ago we “rescued” C.C. (right), a mini Labradoodle, who was being offered in a live auction at a fundraiser. (You don’t auction off a puppy at a fundraiser! As the auction proceeded I scanned the crowd, of well served possible puppy owners I might add, and came to the conclusion that C.C. had to come home with me and my wife.)

I am reminded of why puppyhood is a trying time! I always say having a puppy is a good primer to see if you want kids. She is cute, but she is testing us. We are trying to follow all the suggestions I give my clients, but if you don’t watch her for a minute she is chewing on one of my wife’s boots (BTW, why does my wife need five pairs of black boots?) or pooping on the rug.

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Guest Post: Pet First Aid Tips from Dr. Rex Riggs

Pet First AidIn an effort to make things safer for both pet and pet parent, we asked Dr. Rex Riggs what points about first aid he would most want to share with his clients. While some of his reminders may seem like common sense, it’s good to have these as mental notes in the event that you’re in an emergency situation.

Safety First When It Comes To First Aid

The first tenet of first aid for your pet is safety, for your pet and for you. Animals in distress will act with fear and no matter how much they love you, and how much you love them, they will bite and scratch. They are put in a flight or fight mentality. I have seen many clients who have sustained serious injury trying to help an injured animal. So be careful!

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Help your Pet be Happy, Starting with Healthy Weight

Obesity is the number one problem vets see in practice….bar none. It causes so many problems in our pets and can lead to a significant decrease in quality of life. It has been estimated that a lean dog can live 30% longer than his overweight counterpart, with up to 30% less orthopedic issues. But it’s not our pets’ fault if they gain a few extra pounds, it’s ours. With the immense marketing of pet foods in the US, the pet parent can feel pressured to buy foods they know nothing about. Pet food manufacturers and employees in pet stores will tell you anything to sell you the food du jour. There is so much misinformation and pseudo-science about pet food out there. Buyer beware when you are purchasing your next bag of dog or cat food.

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The stable, yet rising, costs of veterinary care

The word “insurance” has become a lightning rod for all of us, the daily news fills the airwaves with talk about the runaway costs of healthcare. There is so much involved with medical billing and insurance on the human side. The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that human medical practices spend up to 27% of their revenue on the administrative costs in handling billing. Most of today’s human health insurance is managed care where the insurance companies have contracts with doctors and medical facilities and have negotiated to provide care for members at reduced costs. These providers become the plan's network and you need to go to these doctors to get the most out of the plan. How much the insurance company will pay depends on the network. Indemnity insurance, which is what pet insurance is, allows you to direct your own health care and go to the doctor or hospital of your choice. The veterinarian takes care of your pet, then you pay the veterinarian with the insurance company reimbursing you a portion of your total charges. Just to set the record straight…veterinarians do not get “kickbacks” from the insurance companies. Pet insurance just allows pet owners to pay for their pet’s care. The beauty of the indemnity model is that the veterinarian fills out only a short description of services and faxes it to the insurance company. That is it. Veterinarians do not need to pay people just to handle the insurance billing. Our practices simply could not afford to.

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Visits to the vet don’t have to be traumatic.

The old logic goes that each year in our pet’s lives is equal to 7 human years, and while I think that it should be estimated a bit closer to 5, there’s still a big leap in “time” between a pet’s birthdays. Think about how much can change within you physically in 5 years. And, because they inherently mask pain and symptoms, our pets may not let on that something is wrong until it is a serious matter. Dogs, and especially cats, are just tougher than us human folk and compensate for illness very well. Which is why annual exams are so important for the health of your pets.

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Guest Post: Popular Culture and the Rise of Designer Dogs

Kim KardashianPop culture has been defined as “a collection of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, perspectives, images (you name it) preferred by the mainstream population.” It seems we all want to be like someone else. An actor, an athlete, a singer, or God forbid, the Kardashians. Why? I don’t know. I have never understood why people want fame. You lose control of your life. You can no longer be a normal person, doing normal things, but I digress. Pop culture has definitely impacted veterinary medicine also, affecting what are sometime called “designer dogs” and even pet food.

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Guest Post: 4 Trending Issues to Watch This Summer

There are certain illnesses and accidents that we see each and every summer, but this year it seems like we’re seeing a particular uptick in a few areas of veterinary medicine. Could they be random? Could they be due to some changes in our lifestyles as of late? Let’s see.

ACL Tears

One of the more common injuries we see in the summer is a ruptured ACL. The client brings in a limping dog and starts the story by saying, “Well there was this squirrel…” The squirrel zigs right, the dog follows to the right, but the dog’s knee goes to the left and boom… a torn ACL. The anterior cruciate ligament is the main ligament that keeps the knee together. It is the same ligament that football and basketball players rip. The problem with an ACL tear is it normally needs surgery, and not a cheap one. There are two different surgeries used to repair the knee. One is called a Lateral Suture Technique and the other more expensive surgery is called a TPLO, or Tibal Plateau Leveling Osteotomy. When the TPLO procedure first came out, it was promoted as a better procedure for larger dogs. Now that opinion is under some debate.

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Guest Post: Cancer Affects Everyone

Feline Cancer

Peter, a mixed breed cat,
suffered from lymphoma.


Cancer affects everyone’s lives. It might be a family member, a friend or our pet. Our pets get the same cancers that we do. They get mammary cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, lung cancer and any other cancers you can think of. If we can understand the disease of cancer in a dog or cat, we will better understand cancer in people, and vice versa.

There is such a high level of research being done by veterinarians, and until recently this research has gone nearly unnoticed by human physicians. Why? Who knows? But, it is now coming to the forefront that this research is valuable to the treatment and management of cancers in all species. For example, veterinarians have known for decades that estrogen mediated mammary cancer exists. The risk of mammary cancer in dogs increases to the exponential power with each heat cycle, and in cats 100% of mammary tumors are malignant. Spayed dogs and cats rarely get mammary cancers. That has not always been recognized in humans. There is now a test that tells you if the breast cancer is estrogen-receptor-positive or negative. These findings will help not only our pets, but us!

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Guest Post: Just Because It’s Good For You… Preventing Pet Poisoning

Photo of Jackson
Jackson, an Embraced pup from
Dublin, CA, chewed the cap off a bottle
of Tylenol and had to be rushed to the
 vet for
Tylenol toxicity.

Poisonings in our pets are definitely on the rise. It is not due to a nasty neighbor throwing some altered treat over the fence so your dog will eat it. I have had many people suspect that happened, but in all my years of being a vet, I have actually never seen this happen. By far the most common toxicity cases come about because we humans are careless.

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Guest Post: "Dental Cleaning for Pets is Not Just Cosmetic."

Dog Broken Tooth with Retained Roots
An x-ray of a dog with a broken tooth.

February is dental month in veterinary offices across the land. Many, if not most, of the clinics will have discounts on dental cleanings, so make sure to check your vet’s office. I can’t say that my technical staff is overly excited about February. Doing a proper dental cleaning with dental radiographs is a lot of work for them. We give a 20% discount on dentals done in February and boy do we get booked up quickly. That tells me people do see a real value in proper oral hygiene in their pets, but also tells me people are aware it can be an expense if not taken care of in the early stages. It takes our technicians a good hour to complete a dental cleaning, along with dental radiographs. Radiographs are so important because they allow us to see what is under the gums. We discover broken teeth and root abscesses that are impossible to see with the naked eye.

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