L.A. Unleashed

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Category: Ask a Vet

Ask a Vet: How can I address my senior dog's lack of appetite?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Doris on helping her dog cope with appetite and arthritis issues.

Dog food Doris' question: How can I increase my 13-year-old, 3.2-pound male Chihuahua's appetite? He is on daily Metacam for painful arthritis. [Editor's note: Metacam is a pain-relief medication for animals.] He sleeps on a heating pad on very low. He had all his teeth removed last year due to very bad gum disease. The only thing he seems to like is chicken and he will skip several, twice-daily regular meals.

[Doris notes that her dog's problems seem to have increased since his mother, with whom he had a strong bond, died last year.] Would getting another girl puppy Chihuahua help to keep him company? I have tried to give him more TLC and attention, but still he is a very poor eater.

Heather Oxford, DVM: Although it is possible that your pup is mourning the loss of his mother, a serious medical condition may be causing the decreased appetite.  I have seen this many times in practice, and sometimes the signs of illness were present but not recognized due to focused attention on the ailing older pet. 

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Ask a Vet: How can I help my dog to control his bladder when he's excited or nervous?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Steph on helping her dog to overcome bladder-control problems.

Don't let this happen to your carpets! Steph's question: I have a 2-year-old male (neutered) golden retriever. He wets on the floor every time he gets excited or if he does anything wrong. It is awful! I can't have company over without worrying about my dog wetting on the floor. Will he ever outgrow this, or is there any medication that I can give him to help him control his bladder?

Heather Oxford, DVM: Your dog may be experiencing urinary dribbling due to overly submissive behavior, which is not easily corrected with medication. He will likely not outgrow this, and it may worsen if not addressed appropriately. The problem is that you cannot correct this by verbal reprimands because this will actually trigger more fear and anxiety, making the problem worse. The key is prevention. 

First, maintain a calm, soft vocal tone when addressing the dog in any way to avoid hyper-excitation for good behaviors or overly submissive, fear-based reactions to bad behaviors. Second, ignore the dog when you first come home while he is overly excited and pay him attention only when he has calmed down. This should help to discourage him from becoming overly excited in the first place, since he gets the reward of your attention only when he displays the desired behavior.

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Ask a Vet: How can I help my dachshund avoid back problems common to the breed?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford offers some advice to reader jane about common back problems in dachshunds:

Dachshunds Jane's question: What are some ways to keep a dachshund's back healthy and strong? Other than preventing accidents, are there any exercises or supplements I can give my dog?

Heather Oxford, DVM: As you may know, many dachshunds have a hereditary back condition called Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).  This causes the discs to slowly degenerate, which makes them less resilient shock absorbers. Any activities that cause compression through the spine are considered high-risk for disc herniations and neurological problems including paralysis.

Such activities include running down stairs, jumping down from furniture, or jumping up and down on the hind limbs. At CARE, we encourage spinal flexibility and core strength by dozens of exercises. One such exercise is sitting up, a.k.a. "begging."  This is a core strengthener that helps protect the back from injury. Also, I recommend fish oils that have concentrated amounts of omega-3s such as DHA and EPA. Not all fish oils are created equal, so make sure yours is independently tested for mercury and other contaminants, and that it meets its label claims.

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Ask a Vet: What's the best way to monitor the health of a dog with cysts?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Jane about caring for a dog with (maybe benign, maybe not) cysts.

Vet Jane's question: I adopted an adult dog who is about 6 years old and has some lumps and bumps on her body. She has a what appears to be a cyst on her forehead and also hard lumps near her nipples. Should I get these removed? My vet said to monitor them and if they change or get bigger to give her a call, but what if it's too late by then?

Heather Oxford, DVM:  This sounds like a reasonable, conservative course to minimize unnecessary growth-removal procedures.  Growth removal might sound minor, but it involves general anesthesia and there is always a risk of an adverse event, so waiting until it is warranted is sound advice.  Since at least 50% of lumps and bumps on dogs are benign, or non-cancerous, you might not have to put your pet through surgery.

But if you are concerned, you can request that these be aspirated.  A fine needle aspirate is a minimally invasive and relatively quick test that can be done by your vet.  She will simply insert a needle and syringe into the growths and then place the contents that get sucked out onto microscope slides.  The slides usually then get sent to a laboratory to be examined, and a report gets sent back to your vet within a day or two.

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Ask a Vet: What type of dog food and supplements should I feed my dog for optimum health?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford offers some helpful canine-nutrition advice to reader Vicki.

Pumpkin dog Vicki's question: What supplement and feeding regimen should we follow to keep our German shepherd/greyhound mix healthy and free from joint issues? The only conditions she currently has are horrible shedding all year long and recurrent anal gland issues.

Heather Oxford, DVM:  Starting with the food, one of the most important things to remember is to read the ingredient list and don't trust that it's good quality just because the bag says "Veterinarian Recommended" or because it's sold in veterinarian clinics.  Dog food companies utilize advertising strategies like this to attract consumer attention to the bag, but the ingredient list doesn't lie.  Since ingredients are listed in decreasing order by weight, you should always look for the meats to be the first ingredients.

Never buy a food that lists corn, byproducts, meat flavor, or other poor-quality ingredients within the first three items (or at all, ideally!).  You should also look on the label to confirm that the food meets Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards for being complete and balanced, in addition to successfully passing feeding trials.

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Ask a vet: If avocados are dangerous for dogs, what's up with avocado dog food?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford tackles canine nutrition -- and a commonly found food that can be harmful to your pets.

Avocado Unleashed: I've heard that avocados are bad for dogs, but I also see avocado dog food on the shelves.  What’s the deal?

Heather Oxford, DVM: The toxic principle in avocados is called persin, a fatty acid derivative that is highly toxic to birds, horses, guinea pigs, goats and rabbits, among others. 

Dogs seem to be less susceptible to the toxic effects; nonetheless, excessive amounts can cause fatal problems with the heart as well as gastrointestinal effects such as vomiting and diarrhea.  Persin is located in highest concentrations in the leaves and is likely in the skin in lower concentrations. 

Dog foods that utilize avocados for their nutritional value use avocado meal, which is the green fruit between the pit and skin, and avocado oil.  Neither of these parts used in dog foods are toxic.

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

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Ask a Vet: Is 4 months too young to have my pet spayed or neutered?

Last week, we introduced a new feature here at Unleashed: Ask a Vet.  We're delighted to have Dr. Heather Oxford, of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE), on board to answer your questions about your pet's health and well-being. Got a question for Dr. Oxford? Leave a comment on this post, and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet.

Westie Unleashed: L.A.'s recent spay/neuter law mandates that pet dogs and cats be sterilized by the time they’re 4 months old.  Is that an appropriate age for my pet to have surgery?

Heather Oxford, DVM: This is an incredibly complex issue.  My opinion is that the city took the right step in creating a spay/neuter law that is enforceable; however, 4 months might be too young according to new scientific studies. 

The first problem is that animals that are neutered (gender-neutral term) before their growth plates close grow significantly taller than those who are neutered after their growth plates close.  The extra growth can be unevenly distributed through the different bones of the body since the age of each growth plate closure is different for each bone, which can be up to 14 months for larger breeds.  For example, this means that the tibia (shin bone) could grow longer than the femur (thigh bone) and cause an abnormal angle of the knee which could cause ligament tears.  Therefore, we may see an increase in orthopedic diseases in the future.

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Ask a Vet: Should I seek a pharmaceutical solution to my pet's anxiety problem?

Allow us to introduce a new feature here at Unleashed: Ask a Vet. We're excited to have Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) on board to answer your burning questions about your pet's health and well-being. Got a question for Dr. Oxford? Leave a comment on this post, and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet.

Duster Unleashed: Under what circumstances, if any, would you prescribe medication to deal with a pet's anxiety? Do you recommend any herbal remedies? 

Heather Oxford, DVM: Great question, because anxiety is the second most common reason pets are brought to veterinary behavior specialty practices today! Mild forms of anxiety do occur and are usually easy enough to correct if the cause of anxiety is identified early and the veterinarian and owner work together to help modify the behavior and the environment. 

Behavioral modification, involving teaching the owner the proper way to leave and return without creating anxiety in the pet and teaching the pet to be calm and independent, is key. Managing the environment, such as taking the pet in the car, hiring a pet sitter, confining the pet during the day or even sending the dog to daycare, are good ways to help avoid the situation that makes the pet anxious in the first place. If the anxiety is due to an unavoidable noise phobia like car alarms, smoke detectors, fireworks or thunderstorms, I recommend distracting the pet with music, or games that will divert his/her attention. 

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