Dr. D Did It: Kitty Bed From An Old Shirt


They say you should blog about what you’re good at and what makes you happy, then people will be more likely to enjoy what you write.


Well, you know I’m passionate about veterinary medicine, about a fear-free experience for pets, and about the human-animal bond. But did you also know that I love DIY?  🙂


Here’s some fun for ya:  I want to show you what “Dr. D Did”. Just because it’s fun, and it makes me happy.  And maybe you will “Did It” too! I’m sure your pets won’t complain.


Here’s what Dr. D Did today:


I took this original idea for a DIY cat tent made from an old t-shirt from Pinterest (click the image to go to the original article and get directions).


DIY Cat Tent From Old Shirt


And I made this for my kitties:


DIY Cat Tent for Jack

Don’t judge…I know it’s not pretty! But Jack doesn’t care. He is sleeping in it as I type this.



Here’s what you need:

  • An old shirt (I used an old scrub top, because, you know…veterinarian)
  • A piece of cardboard about 13×15 inches (I used the cardboard tray from a case of canned cat food)
  • two metal hangers
  • masking tape and/or safety pins
  • pliers and scissors

I happened to have all these supplies lying around my house, and the whole project took approximately 20 minutes.  That is including all the time I spent extracting a crazy kitten from the partially completed tent…


Cat Tent Blooper


If you “Did” this too, I want to see pictures!  You can send them to me at drd@smallthingsvhc.com, or post them to my Facebook page.

Dr. D Recommends: Catification


“Dr. D Recommends…” is a sporadic presentation of something I love (or just like a lot) that pertains to pets and/or veterinary-type stuff.  Something I think you might also like or find useful.


Or it might be silly.  That happens around here sometimes.





It’s a made-up word that means “making small changes to your living environment that benefit the cats you reside with”.  It was coined by the wonderful Jackson Galaxy, a cat-whisperer who got his start in Boulder, CO.


If you’ve seen any of Jackson’s popular Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell”, you know that he has an uncanny ability to understand cats and their specific environmental needs. In the book Catification, Jackson explains how to give your cat opportunities to practice their natural instinctive behaviors to climb, scratch, and rest safely in your home, while still maintaining a stylish and comfortable home for the humans who live there.  His ideas range from simple DIY to fancy store-bought, and everything in between.


If you have a cat, you have probably heard me talk about environmental enrichment for their mental well-being. Cats have very specific and instinctive needs that we can accommodate fairly easily in our homes.  Without opportunities to climb, scratch, play, rest and own their space, cats will develop behavioral and medical problems.


I love this book, and here’s why:

  1. Jackson explains the most common personalities of cats, including my personal favorites – the tree-dwellers vs the bush-dwellers.
  2. He helps cat people determine what, if any, issue is plaguing their feline roommates, and how to remedy most situations with easy solutions.
  3. He empowers and encourages cat people to live freely with their felines, embracing what we love most about them and improving the human to cat bond.
  4. There are so many amazing ideas that are quick and easy to implement, right now!  In fact, right after I read this book, I immediately gave my kitties a couple new beds (which I made myself) and some new toys.  My home is in a constant state of improvement for the kitties’ benefit.

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If you have a cat, go pick up this book from your library or purchase it for your future reference! Also, this would be a perfect gift for the cat-lover or veterinarian in your life… just sayin’.



Do you have a cat with behavioral and/or medical issues, and you are ready for some professional help?  Give Dr. D a call – she does in-home consultations!


Things You Should Know: How to tell if your dog is stressed out.


Here’s one of my articles that bears repeating, and there’s no better time than on National Stress Awareness Day!


Do you know how to tell if your dog is under stress or feeling anxious?


When I ask this question, most pet owners will tell me that they see their dog:


  • Cower or hide under a chair
  • Pee or poop on the floor
  • Growl when afraid, but he would never bite!


These are certainly signs of fear, make no mistake.  However, the signs that the typical pet owner notices are usually the last in a series of attempts by your dog to avoid whatever is causing them fear or anxiety.  The signs leading up to these are much more subtle, but once you know what to look for, they will become apparent.

If you can recognize the early signs of anxiety and stress in your dog, not only can you help your pet relax before they go to the “dark side”, but you might just avoid a dangerous situation.  Dogs who are allowed to progress to the fear stages listed above are the ones who will either be permanently mentally damaged by that situation (leading to behavior problems), or they will bite. 


stressed dog


Allow me to tell you a story:

Once upon a time there was a cute little puppy who had never been to the big doggie park.  Her loving owners decided, when she was about 4 months old, to take her there so she could play and have fun!  When she arrived, there were so many smells and so much noise!  She stopped and sat down on the sidewalk, but her loving owners tugged on her leash and encouraged her to keep walking toward the park.

When they arrived at the gate, it made a really loud squeaking sound that hurt her ears! Her eyes widened, and she laid her ears back; she tried to avoid the big gate, but her loving owner picked her up and carried her through.  When they set her down in the grass, she was suddenly surrounded by big dogs!  They were sniffing her and running around in circles, panting and barking.  The puppy tried to find shelter between her loving owner’s feet, but her loving owner walked a few steps away.

The little puppy didn’t like the big doggie park after all.  And so she growled and snapped at the big doggies who wanted to meet her.  Her loving owner scooped her up – she was safe!  But then her loving owner scolded her, telling her she was a bad dog.  The little puppy was confused and scared, and from that day forward she hated the big doggie park.

Did you recognize the signs of anxiety and stress in the story?  The puppy in the story is a real dog, now an adult; she continues to have problems greeting other dogs, and she NEVER goes to the dog park.  Had her loving owner recognized her initial signs of stress, these permanent behavior problems might have been avoided.


Stressed bully breed dog


Here are the signs of anxiety that you NEED to recognize in your dog:

  1.  Ears laid back
  2.  Wide eyes (“fish eyes”)
  3.  Brows furrowed
  4.  Panting (without being hot or thirsty)
  5.  Licking lips
  6.  Acting sleepy or yawning
  7.  Moving in slow motion
  8.  Hypervigilant (looking in many directions)
  9.  Moving away
  10.  Pacing
  11.  Suddenly won’t eat, even if they were hungry earlier

Start watching your dog for these signs.  I guarantee that you will begin to see them, and maybe even in situations that you didn’t know were causing your pet stress.  Once you become attuned to your pet’s body language, you can intervene early to help your pet relax!  If your pet experiences the signs of fear listed at the top, the damage is already done.  It’s up to you to be your pet’s advocate!

And here’s a handy-dandy handout for you:

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

If you need help understanding your pet’s body language, or realize that your pet already has some fear issues, give Dr. D a call!

Q&A: How do I teach my dog to stop jumping up?


Being a house call vet, I’ve seen just about every possible canine greeting there is.  From barking and backing up, to searching my pockets for treats, to the crazy jumpers, and even humpers.  🙂

But the one that bothers my clients (and their guests) the most is the jumper.  These dogs are so darn excited to see another live being that they just can’t hide it!

Jumping up is probably one of the hardest habits to train out of our dogs because they receive all types of reinforcement for the behavior (you’ll understand that statement better after seeing this video).

I’ve shared Mikkel Becker’s videos before, and here’s another great one!  I share them because Mikkel has the ability to make training simpler and more doable for everyone.

Watch the video below!


Source: Video: Teach Your Dog to Stop Jumping Up


Do you have other training or behavioral issues you’d like to see more information on?  Give me your suggestions in the comments below, and your question might just make it into a new blog article!

Things You Should Know: Xylitol can kill your dog.




With another candy-filled holiday approaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to educate you about XYLITOL.

Do you know about Xylitol?  Have you heard of this chemical before?

It’s not necessarily a new thing; in fact, veterinarians have been doing their best to educate their clients about the dangers associated with Xylitol.  However, I am still finding plenty of people who don’t know why it’s an issue.  Enough people to warrant a blog article.   😉


Products containing Xylitol

So what is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a type of artificial sweetener found in many food and health products.  Typically we think of things like gum and candy containing xylitol, however it can now be found in prescription and non-prescription medications, mouthwash, and even some types of peanut butter.


From the Pet Poison Hotline:

Some of the places we have seen xylitol include chewable vitamins, gummy vitamins, lozenges/cough drops, sublingual supplements and medications (over the counter and prescription), liquid medications (over the counter and prescription), breath sprays, medication/supplement sprays, toothpastes, nasal sprays, mouth rinses/washes, essential oil products, cosmetics, and many sugar-free foods and baking ingredients.


That’s a long list, and it’s getting longer!  Xylitol may be very safe for humans, but it can be deadly if ingested by your dog.

(The jury is still out on whether it affects cats the same way.  We think they may be sensitive to xylitol, but they are too smart to eat gum, so there’s not a lot of research.)


Why is Xylitol toxic for my dog?

Without going into a bunch of technical jargon regarding pharmacokinetics (big fancy word alert!), suffice it to say that even a very small amount of xylitol causes severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver damage in a very short period of time after ingestion.  In as little as 24 hours liver failure can occur.

It might be a little shocking, but I want you to check out this graphic depicting the significance of the small amount of xylitol it would take to kill a dog, compared to chocolate:


Xylitol Toxicity Image


Did you see that a dog the size of a Border Collie would die if they eat ONE pack of gum containing xylitol??

As you can see, the ingestion of anything containing xylitol is not something to overlook or “wait and see”.


What should I do if I think my dog has ingested something containing xylitol?

Initial signs of xylitol toxicity can occur in as little as 10 minutes.  Some of the signs you may see include:

  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • ataxia (incoordination)
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • increased respiratory rate

If you see any of these signs, and you suspect your pet has chewed or ingested something containing xylitol, take the packaging, any remaining product, and your pet, and GET THEE TO THE VET.


Is there any good news?

The good news is that there is treatment available for your pet if they ingest xylitol!  It will likely involve hospitalization, but pets that are treated early typically recover well.  Yay!


I hope you feel educated and empowered by this information, rather than scared witless!  🙂

Prevention is key here.  Keep anything that is not dog food, treats, or toys far out of reach of your pooch.

If they can’t reach it, they can’t eat it. 


Did you know this information, or was it news to you?  I bet you have a friend with dogs who needs this… Will you share this and help me save more doggies?

How to Give Your Cat Liquid Medicine




Your veterinarian has prescribed medication for your cat.  And how, you might ask, should I get said medication down kitty’s gullet without stressing us both out completely?

Again, Dr. D is here to help!  I have created two videos, just for you, to show how I give liquid medication to a cat.  These are my kitties – one is super compliant, and the other one… not so much.


Video the First:


Main takeaways from this video:

  • Let your cat sit comfortably in a normal position, without cranking their head backwards.  They will swallow easier and be less stressed.
  • Gently place the tip of the syringe or dropper right behind the canine tooth, between the lips, and give a very small amount of liquid at a time.  No kitty likes to feel like they are drowning while something pokes them in the gums.
  • Take it sloooooooooooow.
  • Give really yummy treats when you’re done (and even during, if needed)!


And now, are you ready for a giggle?  Watch on…

Video the Second:


When using the towel-wrapping method that I so gracefully demonstrated for you:

  • Have your cat lay down fully on the towel before starting to wrap them.  Less space between their body and the towel ensures a secure burrito.
  • Make sure you use a towel that is large enough to cover your cat’s bum.  That way they can’t back out.
  • Wrap the front corner of the towel around the neck and above the feet. Hold the corner tight as you continue.
  • After the first layer goes over, tuck it under their belly.  This gives the towel more holding power once you wrap the second side over.
  • Wrap the second side over top, pulling the front edge around the cat’s neck and above the feet.  Do not wrap loosely, or your cat will scootch out the front.
  • Swaddle the kitty like you are securely swaddling a newborn.  This way, your bunny-kicking kitty won’t escape from the towel burrito.


I hope this was helpful!  I know it can be a challenge to medicate your cat, but with some patience, practice, and really yummy treats, you CAN be successful!

And isn’t it nice to know that even the professionals have some trouble every once in a while?  😉


If you’d like your kitty to have a low-stress veterinary experience, call me – Dr. D!


Dr. D Recommends… All Dogs Go To Kevin


I thought I might start a new category of blog articles for you, just for the fun of it.

“Dr. D Recommends…” will be a sporadic presentation of something I love (or just like a lot) that pertains to pets and/or veterinary-type stuff.  Something I think you might also like or find useful.

Or it might be silly.  That happens around here sometimes.

For this first installment, allow me to present to you the following book for your consideration:


All Dogs Go To Kevin by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang


All Dogs Go To Kevin is a memoir written by fellow veterinarian Dr. Jessica Vogelsang.  Dr. V provides in-home hospice care for dogs and cats, founded the website Pawcurious.com, and writes for several other media outlets.

From the cover:

All Dogs Go To Kevin is a humorous and touching memoir that will appeal to anyone who has ever loved an animal… It reminds us, with gentle humor and honesty, why we put up with the pee on the carpet, the chewed-up shoes, and the late-night trips to the vet: because the animals we love so much can, in fact, change our lives.

Why I Love It

Because Dr. Vogelsang is a veterinarian, I found a kindred spirit in her stories about veterinary school and working in a veterinary clinic.  Her anecdotes about veterinary practice feel very familiar to those in the field; she does a fabulous job of weaving together the truths, challenges, and compassion of what we do every day.

However, her memoir doesn’t alienate the layperson, but rather brings them alongside in the journey to becoming a vet.

Dr. V is not just a veterinarian; she is also a dog person, a pet lover, a mom and wife.  She includes bits of her life that resonated with me on so many levels.

The struggle of balancing motherhood and the veterinary career.

The joys, frustrations, and heartache of being a pet owner.

The way it feels when you have a dog-shaped hole in your heart that can’t be filled by anything other than a big slobbery beast.

And how your spouse often rolls their eyes at your constantly bleeding, pet-loving, heart.

I don’t read very many books from the “yet another pet book” category, but this one got my curiosity peaked, and once I started I couldn’t put it down.  It was a breath of fresh air, a validation of what I hold dear, and full of giggles and tears.  It was like reading James Herriot again, modernized for my generation.

If you’re a pet lover, I think you’ll like this.  If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Don’t Let Anesthesia Fears Delay Your Pet’s Teeth Cleaning


I have many senior patients in my practice, most of which are in need of dental work.  With good reason, the owners of these pets have concerns about anesthesia and the risks involved for elderly pets.

I spend a good amount of time talking with my clients about benefits vs. risks, and all the precautions and monitoring that go into anesthesia for pets (young and old).

Dr. Marty Becker wrote a great article that addresses most of the talking points I cover with my clients. I thought it would be helpful to share this with you on the blog.  Click the graphic to read it!

Don't let your fear of anesthesia delay your pet's dental cleaning.


The most important points I’d like you to know are these:

  • There is a risk involved with every single medical procedure and treatment that your pet has experienced, not just anesthesia.  But if your vet is recommending something, they have already determined that the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Your veterinarian will take every possible precaution, choose anesthetic drugs specific to your pet, and will monitor them throughout the procedure and during recovery.  Just like in human medicine.
  • You will be amazed at how much better your pet feels after those yucky, uncomfortable teeth are cared for.


What other questions or concerns do you have about anesthesia for your pet?  Send them to me or write them in the comments – I’ll answer every one!


Does your pet have “dog breath” or “tuna breath”?  Let Dr. D take a look!  You can find all the contact information on the Small Things website.

Don’t Believe The Marketing: “Dental” Products Dogs Shouldn’t Chew

During the month of February, we are discussing important information regarding your pet’s dental health.  In the previous article on keeping your pet’s mouth healthy, I alluded to “dental products your dog shouldn’t chew”…


I know you want to purchase the right things to help your pet have a healthy mouth, and to help them with their instinctive need to chew things!  There is a lot of marketing hype out there.  It seems like every diet, treat, and toy package is screaming benefits for your dog’s teeth.  But many are actually unsafe!


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I know it’s hard to believe that something that is supposed to be helpful could actually be harmful – leading to fractured teeth, intestinal blockage (gastrointestinal obstruction), and/or tummy upset (gastroenteritis) – but these are things that veterinarians see regularly in practice.

I’m here to give you the low-down!


First, a few guidelines:

  1. For aggressive chewers, don’t give your pet any chew toy that’s hard enough that you wouldn’t want it to hit you in the knee.
  2. Always supervise your pet while they are chewing, since they may swallow large pieces (this could lead to problems!).
  3. Avoid products with abrasive surfaces, such as tennis balls.  These have a sandpaper effect on the teeth, wearing them down to the sensitive parts.
  4. Give a dental chew or treat every day for the best results.



No Rawhides

And now, I am going to tell you which commonly purchased products are not recommended by your veterinarian!


Bones (cooked, uncooked, butcher shop bones)

These are hard as a rock and slinter-prone.  Not a good idea for the teeth OR intestines.


Lots of tooth fractures with these. Beware!

 Cow hooves

Commonly cause tooth fractures, gastroenteritis, and pancreatitis!


Generally speaking, most dogs do okay with rawhides.  However, please exercise caution!  Your dog has to actually chew them for them to be effective, not swallow them whole (which commonly causes intestinal obstruction).

If you must give your pooch a rawhide, supervise them while they are chewing and take it away once it gets small enough to swallow whole.

Also, these treats have a ton of calories.  Not the best idea if your pet is overweight!

Pig’s ears

I have seen many dogs develop gastroenteritis and/or pancreatitis after eating these.  They are also very high in calories and fat.  And they can be swallowed whole.

Overall, not a good idea.



So what can I give my dog to chew?


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Here are the treats and chews I most commonly recommend for both dogs and cats:

  1.  Greenies
  2.  C.E.T. Chews (rawhide-like)
  3.  Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d  – You can feed this as your pet’s regular diet, or buy the small bag and use the kibble as treats!


You do have an advocate (other than me, of course)! The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is a trusted resource for choosing an appropriate dental health product for your pet, and has approved several products for dogs and cats.  Look for their seal of approval on the packaging when choosing a treat or toy for your pet.



I hope this helps clear up some confusion for you!

If you have questions about specific products, or dental health, let me know in the comments below.  I will answer every question!


Dr. D’s Tips: Keeping Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy


Okay, I know you get tired of hearing it.  Every time you see the veterinarian she tells you that you should be brushing your pet’s teeth.  But, seriously.  Doesn’t the vet know that I find it difficult to follow my own dentist’s recommendations for MY teeth every day, let alone my pet’s teeth?

I get it.  Truly I do.

I still have to tell you how to care for your pet’s teeth… because if I don’t tell you how to prevent dental disease, you’re going to be upset with me when you have a very expensive bill for tooth extractions later in your pet’s life.  Not to mention the possibility of heart, liver, and kidney disease that is associated with severe dental disease.

So, humor me, just one more time.  I’m going to try to make this easy!


The GOOD, BETTER, and BEST of pet dental health goes like this:


Dog::Essential Healthymouth water additive

GOOD:  Water additives and dental gels


These products are relatively new to the pet-product scene, and so there aren’t many that get the veterinary seal of approval.  One water additive, Dog::Essential Healthymouth, is approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) which is a group of leading board certified veterinary dentists from around the world.

It works just like you’d think it does – you add the liquid to your pet’s water daily, and it helps slow the accumulation of dental plaque.  It helps a bit in pets with otherwise healthy mouths, but isn’t going to do much if your pet already has significant dental disease.



Greenies Products


BETTER:  Dental chews and treats


You’ve seen them in the pet store.  It seems like every treat, toy, and food is screaming at you that it’s Great For Your Pet’s TeethFreshens breathEliminates Dental Tartar!

The marketing is fabulous.  I would love to believe it, too!

Unfortunately, no treat or toy is going to magically make your pet’s dental disease disappear.  Certain chews and treats, however, can minimize the build-up of dental plaque, thereby slowing the progression of dental disease.

Not all treats and chews are created equal.  Look again for the VOHC seal of approval!  I personally prefer Greenies and C.E.T. chews for this category.  One per day is enough, and make sure to purchase the right size for your pet.

(By the way, be on the lookout for a future blog post about “dental health” products your dog shouldn’t chew on!)



Dog Toothbrush


BEST:  Brush your pet’s teeth!


If you really want to earn a chocolate chip cookie from your veterinarian, brush your pet’s teeth a minimum of 3 times a week.  No really.  You’ll be my favorite client EVER.

Brushing your pet’s teeth (I like this kit) is the only surefire way to keep your pet from developing serious dental disease. Use a pet-specific toothpaste (they have fun flavors!), a soft-bristled toothbrush, and lots of positive reinforcement!

I’m sorry to say that once a month isn’t going to do the trick.  The veterinary dental specialists have spoken, and they say that brushing every day is the gold standard.

But 3 times a week is acceptable.

Once a week or less?  You might as well start saving for that dental cleaning next year.  🙂


Added bonus:  Here’s the video I made, just for you, to show you how to brush your dog’s teeth.