Dogtopia’s Veterinarian Consultant Dr. Antje Joslin answered your questions about your dog’s dental care, dry eyes, pet obesity, ticks, pet insurance and more. Watch her Q&A session below:
Q: How do you know if your dog is suffering from dry eye?
First, we need to establish what dry eye is. Dry eye is an inflammatory condition of the eye, which is due to a deficiency in the production of the “watery” portion of the tear film. Symptoms include a red, irritated-looking eye, which can include eye pain or irritation. This can present itself with the dog rubbing his face on objects, the floor or pawing at his face, which can also lead to periocular dermatitis. The dog also may squint his eyes frequently and you may see the appearance of “eye boogers” in the corner of their eyes.
Certain breeds are predisposed to this condition including English bulldogs, Westies, Lhasa Apsos, Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, Pekingese, Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzu, Schnauzers, Boston Terriers, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers. That said, any dog can develop dry eye.
Dogs with dry eyes will have a mucoid or mucopurulent discharge that is thick and whitish grey to yellow in color. The cornea of the eye will have a dull appearance instead of a nice, shiny reflective quality. Often dogs with a “cherry eye” will have or develop dry eye. Dogs who have had dry eye for a prolonged period of time may have signs of chronic corneal inflammation. Unmanaged cases can lead to vision impairment.
Dry eye can often be well managed with daily medication. In the vast majority of cases of dry eye, the medical management will be lifelong. If you suspect dry eye, visit your veterinarian. If you have a breed of dog that is predisposed to dry eye, discuss with your veterinarian what to look for and any medications to avoid or underlying disease (hypothyroid, Cushing’s, degenerative myelopathy) that can worsen the dry eye.
But don’t worry, dry eye is a fairly common condition in dogs and can be very uncomfortable for our canine companions, but can be very well managed.
Q: Does my dog need dental cleaning? Is there risk with being under anesthesia when getting their teeth cleaned?
Dogs need regular dental care just like we humans do. The dental tartar you see building up on your dog’s teeth is about 80 percent bacteria and it inflames and damages the gums, the bone beneath, and the ligaments that hold teeth in place. This bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to vital organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart.
Vets encourage dental cleaning because dental disease is painful for your dog. Regular brushing with dog-safe enzymatic toothpaste, dental treats, and dental specific diets will all help slow the buildup of dental tartar, and hopefully lessen the risk of dental disease. Most of our canine companions will eventually need a full dental cleaning with dental X-rays under anesthesia by a licensed veterinarian. Dental X-rays allow your veterinarian to see the large portion of the tooth that reside below the gum line. The frequency of these cleanings will vary by individual and by the amount of home dental care.
Dental disease is often worse in small and toy breed dogs. Small dogs have large teeth for their small mouth which causes the teeth to be overcrowded. The overcrowding allows food and debris to collect between the teeth and cause the buildup of plaque and calculus. This, in turn, can lead to loss of teeth and infection. In contrast, larger dogs tend to chew on toys and other things that keep their teeth healthier, but we often see fractures in these dogs from chewing on rocks and bones. When picking treats, pick products with the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal – these treats tend to be the right balance for your dog’s teeth. As always, consult your veterinarian about what dental program is right for your dog.
With anesthesia, of course there is always risk. But anesthesia has come such a long way. There is pre-operative blood work to make sure everything is functioning properly and your dog can metabolize the anesthesia. Your dog is constantly monitored before, during, and after the procedure. But, be sure to discuss your concern with your vet.
Q: After my puppy is fixed, when can they start going up and down stairs? Any ideas of keeping active dogs busy while they are in the cone/restricted from movement?
The first week after your dog is spayed or neutered is the critical week where you want to make sure your dog is not playing rough or running or jumping. A few days after the procedure, it is probably OK to involve your pup in controlled leash walks – this includes walking up and down the stairs. Take it slow and discourage rough behavior.
Be sure to keep the cone on as long as your vet recommends. The last thing you want is for your pup’s stitches to pop open and have to deal with that. A few days of annoyance will be worth it in the long run.
Chew toys, a little extra love and affection, and safe movement will help keep your dog safe and on the mend!
Q: How do you check your dog for ticks?
Especially if you live in a tick prone area or a woodsy area, it is always a good idea to give your dog a thorough check for ticks when coming in from outside. You can start by checking their back and belly. When doing so, make sure to go against the haircoat, feeling for small lumps or bumps. Ticks love to hide in warm, dark places, so make sure to check in and around the ears, between the toes, the medial thighs and armpits. Other places they like to hide is in skinfolds, especially around the head and neck and under the collar. Lastly, make sure you lift the tail and check around the anus and perineal area.
Often there are no warning signs that your dog has a tick and your dog will happily be going about his business. Finding a tick in your home may indicate that it hitched a ride on your dog. If you notice small red, raised or scabbed spots, this may be evidence that your dog has had ticks. Sometimes you will notice your dog’s head shaking if a tick has burrowed into your dog’s ear.
Identifying ticks from other insects takes a little bit of attention. Ticks can vary in size from a millimeter to a few centimeters. They have eight legs with an oval-shaped body that swells when the take a blood meal. They range in color from whitish, to red/brown, and vary in shades of brown. They have a very small “head” section where they attach to the host. They do not jump or fly.
If your dog does indeed have a tick, remove it carefully from the pet using tweezers by grasping the tick were the head attaches to the skin and removing the whole tick. Inspect the area on the skin to make sure that the head did not remain. Discuss a tick prevention protocol with your veterinarian and if any vaccinations or diagnostic testing will be needed to screen for tick-borne diseases.
Ticks are more than just a nuisance to your dog. They can carry diseases that affect both dogs and humans. There are great tick prevention products available through your veterinarian. If ticks are a recurring problem, it is important to treat your home and yard to help control them. Any time you and your dog venture into the great outdoors, be sure to consider ticks as a possible unwanted guest.
Q: How often should you see your vet?
A puppy will probably receive its first set of shots at about three months. Depending on the vaccine schedule you and your veterinarian choose, your pup will have another one or two visits spaced 2 to 4 weeks apart for booster vaccinations. Once your vaccinations are complete, you will want to discuss with your veterinarian at what age to spay or neuter your dog. With healthy adult dogs, annual to biannual examinations are recommended.
Q: What food should I feed my puppy?
Most puppies should be fed several small meals per day (2-4) depending on age and amount of food used for training.
In terms of types of food, there are many great puppy foods on the market right now. Each dog is different and there are a lot of good dog foods available to pups these days. It’s best if a pet parent and his or her veterinarian decide the right course together based on any current health issues, challenges, its breed and size, etc.
Q: My dog sneezes a lot, is it because he is excited or is it an allergy?
It may be either of those or a myriad of other things that may cause sneezing in dogs. An occasional sneeze or two in an otherwise happy, healthy dog is nothing to worry about, but frequent or repeated sneezing in a dog that seems unhealthy should warrant a visit to the veterinarian.
Dogs can sneeze due to irritants or foreign bodies inhaled into their noses. They will often sniff around and this is the body’s way to naturally expel them. They may also sneeze due to inhaled allergens such as grass and pollen.
Dogs can also have nasal mites that can cause sneezing and sometimes nasal discharge. They are transmitted from nose-to-nose contact with dogs. Fortunately, they are not very common and are easily treated once they are found.
Viral, bacterial and fungal infections can cause sneezing as well.
Other things that can cause sneezing include teeth problems or nasal tumors. Sneezing can be a calming signal for dogs just like lip licking and yawning. Finally, sneezing can be due to excitement, bug bites or rolling around on the floor. If your dog is sneezing frequently, has bouts of sneezing or is acting ill, see your veterinarian.
Q: What is a healthy weight for my dog?
Maintaining your dog’s ideal weight can add years to your dog’s life. A 14-yr Purina study found that “dogs fed to their ideal body condition lived 1.8 years longer than their overweight litter mates.” In this study, “ideal body condition” was defined as “when you can feel and see the outline of a dogs ribs, there is a waist when viewed from above and the abdomen is tucked up when viewed from the side.”
In the U.S., more than 54 percent of dogs are overweight or obese, and most pet owners fail to recognize this in their pets. A simple Google search on body condition score charts will provide you many tools that can help you decide if a diet might be in your dog’s future. Additionally, the Pet Nutrition Alliance also has a great BCS chart on its website.
Ask your veterinarian to assess your dog’s weight at every visit. It is much easier to make small adjustments in your dog’s daily food rations to maintain a healthy weight than being faced with having to lose 20 or 30 pounds from years of over feeding. Daily exercise and mental stimulation are important ways to keep your dog fit, happy and healthy.
Q: Should I get pet insurance?
Pet insurance can be a great way to help manage your pet’s healthcare costs. As a savvy consumer, you need to understand what you are purchasing and what it is being covered. It is also important to understand how you will be reimbursed, and what you need to do to get reimbursed. You need to make sure you understand the difference between insurance and wellness-type plans. In some cases, people choose to purchase healthy pet plans. If their veterinarian offers these, they usually cover annual vaccinations and routine testing in addition to insurance that covers emergencies or illness. Some insurance plans cover wellness and sickness, so be sure to read the fine print.