If owners only knew to ask the right questions, my patients would have it so much easier. My life would be easier, too! Here are 10 perfect examples:
1. What kind of pet do you recommend for my family?
When I think of how many problems I could head off by having this conversation before the new pet happens, I wonder why we don’t recommend that more clients come in for pre-pet consultations.
2. Where should I find my pet?
A corollary to #1, this is another one of those fraught issues that I wish people would ask me about in advance of any purchase or adoption: no pet stores, no online purchases. Get breed club recommendations. And ask for references.
3. Should I sign up for pet insurance?
I’d much rather have this discussion before the injury or illness happens than once it’s way too late.
4. Is she too old to learn?
I love this question because it’s undoubtedly true that you can teach an old dog new tricks. When pet owners mistakenly assume otherwise, they endorse the notion that to live uneasily with behavioral problems is preferable to taking positive steps to improve their pets’ lives through training.
5. She’s fat, right?
If my clients were willing to fess up to the obvious — and ask for help when it comes to overweight pets — I’m sure that I’d have a healthier pool of pets in my practice.
6. How often should I brush my pet’s teeth?
I love this question because it implies that the owner already knows that teeth need to be brushed. If only I could find someone who’d ask, “Is once a day enough?”
7. How much exercise is too much?
It’s a great question because, if you have to ask, it probably means that your pet is getting lots of exercise. By the way, the rule of thumb is that it’s never enough — unless you’re courting heatstroke or your pet has a disease that specifically precludes exercise.
8. Is it OK to give my pet human meds?
You’d be surprised to learn how many people think it’s acceptable to use ibuprofen or aspirin when they run out of their dogs’ arthritis drugs. Never give your pet medication without consulting with your vet first!
9. Is my pet too old for [fill in the blank veterinary procedure]?
This is not a common question. It is, unfortunately, a common assumption among owners, which leads to many pets missing out on care they really need. I love nothing better than to assure people that if their vets are recommending a procedure, it’s likely because they’ve considered how the risks stack up against the rewards.
10. Should she see a specialist?
Whenever clients ask me this, it gives me a lot of information about the quality of care they want — which makes it a lot easier for me to focus on higher-quality treatments when appropriate.
With July 4th sneaking up on us fast, it’s the perfect time to pause and review some of the dangers our dogs face during summer months. After all, just being aware of what threats lurk is the first step in acting to keep our dogs out of harm’s way.
Even as I write this, I can hear fireworks of some kind being set off in my neighborhood which reminds me that some dogs are truly frightened by the sounds of these. In the days around this yearly holiday, it’s a good idea to keep noise wary dogs on leash or in securely fenced yards at all times when they aren’t indoors, just in case a sudden round of firecrackers causes a ruckus. See the Weekly Yip I wrote last year about creating a “Zen Zone” to buffer your dog from the sounds of fireworks happening outdoors at times when they might possibly be set off in your own neighborhood.
Many of us love to spend as much time as we can outdoors during the summer, whether grilling, having garden parties, hiking in the woods, taking our dogs wading or swimming in local ponds and lakes or kicking back in the park. These forms of summer fun can also pose potential threats to our dogs, so a touch of precaution is warranted.
During cookouts and other summer gatherings, be sure that guests know what food your dog may and may not eat, and why. People who don’t know dogs as well as we do may not be aware of the dangers of slipping your dog a cooked chicken bone or a nibble of chocolate, grapes, raisins and so on. For that matter, even just overeating can cause your dog a bout of troublesome diarrhea. Consider dividing your dog’s portion of dinner and treats for their next meal into zipper baggies to hand out to guests who may be tempted to feed your dog. At the end of your event, you can give your dog any remainder of food in the baggies.
Also exercise extreme caution to ensure that food laced toothpicks and wooden skewers aren’t left lying around within your dog’s reach. I once had a co-worker at a veterinary clinic whose dog died after eating a kebab skewer it was suspected to have stolen out of the trash at a holiday party. The obstruction, which perforated the wall of the dog’s stomach, wasn’t picked up by an XRAY because it was made of wood, and since this particularly stoic dog only seemed a little bit off, even all the veterinary professionals around him didn’t think to do other testing which would have uncovered the problem. The cause of this poor lab’s death was sadly discovered only when a necropsy was performed.
By now, I think most New Englanders are aware of the dangers of tick-borne illnesses, including (but not limited to) Lyme disease. In fact, WBUR aired a special series of broadcasts called “Living with Lyme” over the past week. I wrote in a Weekly Yip earlier this year (titled “Acorn Shortage Yields Deer Tick Surplus”) about why we are seeing such great numbers of ticks this year. It’s more important than ever to protect your dog from ticks all year long! Be sure to consult with your own veterinarian about the right options for you particular dog. On a side note, keep in mind that while flea and tick preventatives stop most ticks from attaching to your dog, they may still hitch a ride into your home on your dog and climb off onto you! This year in particular, it’s a good idea to do a tick check every time your dog comes in, even from just your yard.
While we’re on the topic of nasty, disease carrying insects, it’s also important to give a mention to mosquitoes, which can transmit heartworm to your dog. Having seen a handful of rescued dogs from the south in recovery from heartworm, I can tell you this is something well worth your effort to avoid. Your veterinarian is the person to ask about which heartworm preventative is best for your dog. You might also wish to use a dog-safe insect repellent on areas of your dog susceptible to mosquito bites. On my borzois, that includes their long snouts and skinny legs. Be sure not to use a chemical insect repellant made for humans on your dog! These can be extremely dangerous to your pets. I purchased a pet-safe insect repellant at Mill Brook Animal Clinic on Mass Ave in Arlington this year, and have seen other brands for sale at various pet stores recently.
One product I still haven’t found locally this year (although I haven’t had a chance to check all my favorite resources yet) is dog-safe sunscreen. Dogs can get sunburn on areas of their body where their fur is thin. For my boys, that’s their white snouts as well as Tatsuya’s bald patches where his fur is growing back around the areas where he had hot spots. The makers of Epi-Pet Sun Protector Sunscreen Spray claim that their product is the “only F.D.A. compliant sunscreen on the market for dogs and horses.” On the previous advice of our own veterinarian, I’ve been using sunscreen made for human babies on my dogs, but recently read that isn’t advisable. I haven’t had the sunscreen discussion with our veterinarian in years, so I’m thinking it’s time to check in on that topic again.
Speaking of fun in the sun, it’s also important to talk about the danger of heatstroke and dehydration. Because I need my dogs to participate in much of the training work I do, I’m constantly seeking shade to park in on days that are cool enough to leave them in the car with windows rolled all the way down, protected by Breeze Guard grids to keep the pets in and strangers out of my car while allowing maximum ventilation. On other days, I leave the car running with the air conditioner on when I’m in an appointment at which having my dogs would be inappropriate.
Being left in a hot car isn’t the only way dogs can suffer from heatstroke and dehydration, though. Be sure your dog has ample shade when outdoors. Avoid giving your dog too much exercise when it’s hot out. Offer your dog plentiful water. Read my Weekly Yip titled “Hot Dog Alert for Pet Parents” for much more on protecting your dog from heatstroke.
Proactively working to protect your dogs from these summer dangers and others will help make this season one to remember—for the right reasons.
Related Topics: Dogs