Q&A: Does my dog need to wear sunscreen?

In Colorado, we live close to the sun.  We never leave the house without sun protection in the form of sunscreen, hat, or sleeves.  But what about our dogs?

 

Dog Hiking in the Summer

 

If your dog has light-colored or thin fur, then it’s a great idea to provide their skin with protection from the sun!  Here’s what you need to know:

Don’t use any old sunscreen lotion.

The sunscreen that you use for yourself MIGHT be okay for Fido, but only if you use one that doesn’t contain zinc oxide.  And most of them do.  Zinc oxide, the same ingredient that helps with diaper rash, is toxic to your dog.  If ingested, it will cause their red blood cells to explode, resulting in anemia.  Major summer buzz kill.

You also need to make sure that you are protecting your dog’s skin from both UVA and UVB rays (to prevent both sunburn and skin cancer), so look for a sunscreen that is labeled as “broad spectrum”.

Here’s an option that I recommend and is safe for your dog:

 

Bull Frog Sunscreen

(P.S.  Don’t put this sunscreen on your cat.  It contains salicylates, which are toxic to cats.)

There are some “pet-friendly” sunscreens you can purchase at pet stores, just read the labels first.

And if you really want your pet to be protected from the sun, there are places that you can get dog sunglasses, visors, and sun shirts!

Now get out there and have some [protected] summer fun!

Dr. D’s Tips For Hiking With Your Dog in Colorado

Oh, how I love the summer in Colorado!  Every year I can’t wait to strap on my hiking shoes, grab my pack, and hit one of the many amazing trails along the Front Range.  And more often than not, I took along my best hiking buddy – my dog.

Because hiking with your dog is one of the greatest pleasures of living along the Front Range of Colorado (there are so many great dog-friendly trails!), I put together a list of tips for you so that you and your pooch can have the best experience.

(And so can all the other trail users…)

 

Backpacking with Dogs

 

1.  Make sure your dog is in good health.  Consider getting your dog an exam to make sure they are fit for some serious exercise.  If they are elderly, definitely have them examined by your veterinarian for any joint or limb pain before you start hiking with them.

2.  Don’t be a weekend warrior.  If you and your dog aren’t getting any exercise during the week, it’s not a good idea to jump into a 4-hour hike on Saturday.  You’ll both regret it.  Start building up your dog’s endurance with walks, runs, or fetch sessions during the week.  Increase the time and intensity gradually.  You should also gradually increase the intensity of your hikes over time.

3.  Strengthen your dog’s recall response.  Many trails in Boulder County allow your dog to be off leash if they wear a Voice and Sight tag.  If you participate in the program, make sure your dog has practiced and can recall immediately when you signal them.

4.  Bring plenty of water and snacks.  Not just for you.  Hiking burns a ton of calories, and it’s easy to get dehydrated quickly.  Make sure you have some good, energy-replenishing snacks for your pup.

(4a.  Do you know the signs of heat exhaustion?  I had a park ranger in Boulder tell me once that they see tons of dogs with heat stroke, and they wished more people knew how to spot the signs.  Learn all about it in this article!)

5.  Know your dog’s abilities.  Don’t take him on a hike that’s too strenuous for his level of endurance.  He’ll end up with an injury that will put him on bed rest.  If it’s a hot day, pick an easier hike (like one that ends at a pond), or just let them stay home.  Remember, a dog’s paws are more sensitive to hot sand and rocky trails, and they can easily end up with burns.  That would certainly put a damper on your summertime adventures.

 

Dog Hiking on Trail

 

6.  You and your pooch are ambassadors for ALL hikers with dogs.  Be the best at hiker/dog etiquette:

  • Pack it out!  You know what I mean.
  • Obey posted signs regarding leash laws.
  • Yield the trail to other hikers and trail users.  When someone is passing, leash up your dog and hold them next to your side.  Say a friendly hello to the people passing so that your dog knows they are not a threat.
  • Don’t assume that everyone you see is a dog lover.  Some folks might find your exuberant, friendly pooch rather intimidating.  Recall your dog, and keep them by your side.
  • If you see another dog approaching, leash your dog.  It is easier to control the situation if at least your dog is on a leash.  Be familiar with dog body language so that you can avoid an undesirable situation with another dog.  And don’t be afraid to ask the other dog’s owner to leash their dog if necessary.
  • Don’t let your dog chase or approach wildlife.  The trail is their home, after all.

7.  After the hike, inspect your dog.  Check all four paws for injury or soreness.  Check their coat and skin for any ticks, thorns, or burrs.  Make sure they are hydrated and not over-heated.  And if they are sore the next day, give them a rest and don’t let them push so hard the next time.

8.  Above all, have fun!  Take your time, stop and smell the smells, listen to the sounds of nature, and enjoy being in the great outdoors with your best friend!

 

GrayTorrey 2011 summit

 

Need to schedule a pre-hiking exam for your pooch?  Give Dr. D a call!

Q&A: Is it ever OK to leave my dog in the car?

In the last two weeks, the rain finally stopped falling and the sun started to shine again in Broomfield, Colorado.  It’s been gloriously warm and beautiful!  But also in the past two weeks, I have heard and seen several dogs locked in cars in parking lots.

 

 

You’re asking me if it’s ever okay to leave your dog in the car.  Here’s what I hear people say:

I’ll only be a few minutes!

It’s not that hot today – only 75 degrees!

I parked in the shade; he’ll be fine.

Oh, I always crack the windows so she can get some fresh air.

I’d like to address these statements with you right now.

 

When it is 70 degrees outside, the inside temperature of a car can rise to 90-100 degrees in 10 minutes.  TEN MINUTES.  The temperature inside the car can rise up to 160 degrees on a really hot day.

 

It DOES NOT MATTER if you crack the windows.  Cracking the windows has little to no effect on the temperature inside the car.

 

It DOES NOT MATTER if you park in the shade.  The temperature inside the car will still rise rapidly.  It may not get to 160 degrees, but it will still reach over 100 degrees in no time flat.

 

It only takes a few minutes for your dog to start showing signs of heat stroke, and death can occur in less than 10 minutes under extreme conditions.

 

doginhotcar

 

It sounds obvious and I know you would never treat your dog this way, but every summer hundreds of dogs suffer and/or die from heat stroke in Colorado.  Don’t let your pet be one of them.

 

You might think I’m being extreme.  You may be one of those people who have left your dog in the car without any problems.  I am so glad that nothing bad happened to your dog.  But, just humor me for a minute.  Put yourself in your dog’s position, and then tell me how you feel in 10 minutes.  Or just watch this video:

 

 

 

Now, I know none of my wonderful clients would leave their dogs in the car, but so many of you wouldn’t hesitate to save a dog if you found one in a hot car!  So here’s a lovely info-graphic that explains what to do if you come across one.  Share with your friends!

 

IF YOU SEE A DOG IN A HOT CAR_

 

Let’s all treat our dogs the way we would like to be treated.

 

How To Move Without Making Your Cat Crazy

 

We’re in the process of purging, selling, and packing up our home to get ready for a local move.  And while the kitties certainly love the empty boxes all over the place, I know as moving day gets closer their stress level is going to increase significantly.

Cats do not appreciate change.  Especially change that involves removing them from a comfortable, well-marked territory to one that is completely new and smells funny.  But, as a veterinarian mommy to these two handsome felines, I know how to help them remain calm, and I’m going to share my tips with you!

(By the way, these tricks will work to reduce cat anxiety in many stressful situations besides moving; think new cat, new baby, new human, new furniture, etc…)

 

GooseBeanFocused

 

Prior to moving day:

Purchase a Feliway diffuser and place it in the room your cat uses most often, especially if they hide there.  Feliway is a synthetic cat pheromone that only cats can smell, and it helps reduce anxiety.  You can begin using Feliway a couple weeks before moving day, and then continue its use in your new home (we’ll talk more about your cat’s “sanctuary room” later).

Play classical music while you’re packing!  Studies have recently shown that cats respond well to classical music and that it reduces anxiety!  As an added benefit, it will reduce your stress as well.  I like this product (for both dogs and cats)!

Get out the carrier(s) and do some positive reinforcement training.  If your cat does not like the carrier, this is really important.  Your cat should not see the carrier for the first time on moving day!  Bring it out several days in advance, put it on the floor in a quiet spot and put a comfy blanket in it.  Prop the door open and put some food or treats in there.  Do this every day leading up to moving day.

Make sure your cat is microchipped and that the info is updated.  Moving is the perfect opportunity for tragedy to strike in the form of an escaped kitty.  Take this simple precaution to make sure your cat can be identified.

Play with your cat regularly during the packing stage!  Be sure to have regular play sessions during the weeks leading up to the move.  This will help reduce any anxiety or loneliness your cat might experience while you are preoccupied with the move.

 

Goose in a box (4)

 

On moving day:

Lock ’em up!   Put your cats, their carriers, a litter box, some food and water, and a hiding place in one room with a closed door.  This room should either be emptied before the cats are placed inside, or emptied last.  Whatever you decide, make sure everyone knows the plan and to keep the door closed.  Place a sign on the door as a reminder if necessary.

Move the kitties last.  Once the movers have emptied your home, load up the kitties in their carriers and buckle them up in the car to take them to their new home.  You might consider spraying a little Feliway on the blanket that is in the carrier at least an hour before you are going to load them up.

Cat proof the new house by checking to make sure all the windows are closed, the screens don’t have holes to escape through, and that your cats can’t get stuck anywhere.

Set up a sanctuary room in the new house.  Plug in your Feliway diffuser in the room you have chosen.  Place the litter box, food and water, and hiding places in this room.  If necessary, have the movers put your furniture in this room first, so that the cats will feel more at home.  Let your cats out of the carriers inside this room, and close the door.  This is their safe zone, until you are finished moving for the day.

When you are done moving and all is quiet, open the door to the cats’ sanctuary, and allow them to explore on their own time and terms.  You can also use Feliway in the rest of the house to help your cats adjust more quickly.  Play some classical music.  Maintain the same routines as much as possible, and give them plenty of love and attention as they are getting used to their new home.

 

For super anxious cats:

If your cat is prone to severe anxiety, consider arranging to board them for moving day and the day after.  They may be less stressed this way, and there is less chance of them escaping or hiding out of fear.  Sedatives might also be an option that you can discuss with your veterinarian.

 

Does your kitty totally freak out at the vet, too?  Then call Dr. D – she makes house calls!

Things You Should Know: Easter Hazards For Pets

It’s that wonderful time of year again – pet hazard time!  It only rolls around once a …. I mean 4 or 5 times a year…  Oh, holidays.

 

Easter-Dog

 

Yes, holidays are the most common times of the year for your pets to be exposed to poisons and hazardous items in your home.   Veterinarians like to use these magical times of year to remind you of all the ways your pet could potentially die.  So morbid.  Ah, well, you DO need to know!

 

Here are the most common hazards for your pets during EASTER:

 

Flowers of the Lily family

 

1.  Lilies, and any flower in the Lily family.  Also daffodils.

If you’ve been around me for very long, you know that I remind you often about the dangers of lilies for cats.  They are extremely toxic.  Only one or two leaves or petals can send your cat into kidney failure.  If you have cats, it’s better to not buy any lilies at Easter.  Seriously.  Don’t buy any.

 

EasterGrass

 

2.  Easter Grass

It’s that pastel colored stringy stuff that lines the bottom of your Easter basket.  And it’s irresistible to your pets.  If they ingest it, it can cause severe problems in the intestines and may require surgery to remove it.  Not a happy ending.

 

Chocolate-Easter-bunnies

 

3.  Chocolate.  Duh.

You all know this one, right?  Chocolate is toxic to your pets.  The darker it is, the worse off your pet will be.  I suggest putting any Easter candy, baked goods, or other treats under lock and key, far away from your curious pets.

 

xylitol

 

4.  Xylitol

Xylitol is that artificial sweetener that’s used in candy, gum, and even mouth wash.  It’s extremely toxic to your pets.  Ingesting as little as 1 or 2 pieces of gum containing xylitol can put your doggie in the hospital for days.

 

Now that you know the hazards, take the time to keep your pet safe!  And have a Happy Easter!!

 

If your pet ingests any of these hazardous substances, get thee to an emergency clinic!

 

Dr. D’s List: The Best Veterinary Websites You Should Bookmark Right Now

I get it.  It’s almost midnight on a Saturday, and you have a question about your pet.  You can’t get a hold of Dr. D or your veterinarian, but you need answers!

 

If you absolutely have to look up some information regarding your pet on the internet, here are some of my favorite (and reliable) resources:

1.  Veterinary Partner

Why I love it:  Veterinary Partner is the place I send my clients when they need more information about their pet’s diagnosis or illness.  The content is written by Veterinarians specifically to educate their clients.  If your pet has recently been diagnosed with an illness, go here first.

P.S.  Also great for questions about small mammals, nutrition, or the meds your vet prescribed.

2.  Vetstreet

Why I love it:  The content is user friendly and often fun.  It’s a great place to go not only for medical questions, but also those weird questions you might have (like, why does my dog turn around 3 times before they lie down?).

P.S.  One of my favorite humorous veterinarians, Dr. Andy Roark, writes for Vetstreet.  His “Conversations With My Cat” video series is hilarious.

3.  Pet Poison Helpline

Why I love it:  This is the go-to place (second only to the emergency clinic) if your pet ingested something and you want to know if it will hurt them.  But please, if they did eat something, just call the emergency clinic first.

P.S.  Also great for planning your spring planting or indoor plants, since you want to make sure you aren’t bringing anything toxic into your pet’s environment.

4.  The Indoor Pet Initiative

Why I love it:  CAT OWNERS, PAY ATTENTION!  This website is an excellent resource for all things kitty – behaviors, proper environment, providing enrichment for your indoor cats, cat-to-cat interactions, and so much more.  Bookmark it, read it, love it.  It is your new best friend.

P.S.  If you are a dog person, you’re not left out of this one.  There is an equally wonderful section just for you.

5.  The Pet Food Institute

Why I love it:  Some of the most common questions I get from clients are regarding what their pets eat.  After I give them my advice, I trust sending them here so they can get all the information they need about proper nutrition and choosing the right diet for their pets.

P.S.  Especially the “Myth Buster” section.

7.  For dog behavior and training, I like these two:

Dr. Sophia Yin – Her work regarding low-stress handling of pets has been instrumental in the Small Things philosophy of veterinary care.

Victoria Stilwell – You know her from TV, but her positive dog training methods are really effective.

 

So there you have it!  These links are Dr. D-tested-and-approved.  Search them to your heart’s content!

But hey, don’t hesitate to call me in the morning.

Q&A: How can I help my senior pet adapt to old age?

It’s inevitable.  Your pet will get old.  These days our pets are living even longer because we have learned how to take better care of them throughout their lives.

 

The downside of our pets living longer, however, is that most pet owners just aren’t aware of how to best care for their senior pets.  The good news is that with just a little bit of effort you can easily help your pets adapt to old age, and continue to provide them with a good quality of life.

Here are ten easy tips that you can easily implement to help your pet adapt to old age:

1.  Give them a runway.

Elderly pets often have mobility problems, and may not be very steady on their feet anymore.  Giving them a walkway with good traction over tile or wood floors will help increase their confidence while moving around the home.  Choose a material that is non-slip and easy to clean, such as a runner rug, bath mat, or yoga mats.

2. Move their food and water bowls to a better position.

For cats, put their dishes on the floor in a quiet area, rather than on a raised surface.  For dogs, consider elevating the dishes so they don’t have to reach so low to eat or drink.

Also, put multiple water dishes around the home so your pet doesn’t have to walk as far to get a drink of water.  Dehydration can be a major concern for senior pets.

3.  Make potty time easier for your pet to minimize accidents.

Senior cats may need a litter box that’s easier to get in and out of.  Get one with lower sides so they don’t have to jump to get in, and keep the level of litter lower as well so they don’t “sink” as much.

Senior dogs may have difficulty holding their urine for long periods of time and may need more frequent trips outside.  You could also consider an indoor “potty” area, using puppy pads or artificial turf in case of emergencies.  Don’t scold your dog if they have an accident indoors at this age; they will be just as upset about it as you are.

4.  Resist the urge to redecorate.

If your elderly pet has vision impairments, either partial or complete blindness, this one is important.  Your pet has likely memorized where everything is, so try to keep furniture, pet beds, and food/water dishes in the same places they’ve always been.

5.  Change their food.

Yes, I said change their food!  Senior pets have different nutritional needs than adult pets.  Seniors don’t need as many calories or as much fat as younger pets, but do need more fiber.  Most older pets will benefit if you switch them over to a “Senior” diet formula.  Senior pets who have diagnosed medical issues may benefit from specialized diets, which your veterinarian will recommend.

6.  Give them more spa days.

Elderly pets aren’t as good at grooming and keeping clean as they might have been when they were younger.  Brushing your pet’s fur will not only give you some important quality time with your pet (which they will love!), but will keep their coat and skin healthy.  Also pay attention to trimming the hair around the anal area to help with hygiene.  Some elderly pets will benefit from fatty acid supplements which help support healthy skin and fur.

7.  Stimulate their brain with fun activities.

Just because your pet is a senior doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy some fun!  It may look different now than it did when they were younger, but enrichment activities are very important to keep your senior pet young at heart.  Here are a few ideas for easy ways to stimulate your pet’s mind:

  1. Short, low-impact walks or swims during nice weather.
  2. Food puzzles, which are readily available at pet supply stores or can be made at home.
  3. Indoor games, such as hide-and-seek, rolling a ball, or find the treat (make it easy and encourage them when they get close to the treat)
  4. Hang a bird feeder outside your cat’s favorite window.
  5. Play a tamer version of catch the laser or string with your cat.

8.  Make their comfort a priority.

Most people immediately think of getting a comfy bed or blanket for their senior pet, which is great!  Also keep in mind that your senior pet can’t regulate their temperature as well anymore, so keep your pet warm, dry, and indoors when they’re not out getting exercise.  In the hot months, be sure to keep them from overheating.

9.  Don’t avoid your veterinarian.

Yes, I know, senior pets generally have more medical issues, and it is hard for some people to allot finances for an elderly pet.  But continuing to see your vet regularly (I recommend every 6 months at a minimum) will help you provide the best quality of life for your pet. Your vet will not only be checking up on their physical and mental health, but will also be able to provide you with  valuable advice and support as your pet grows older.

Please don’t automatically assume that a visit with the vet will mean spending thousands of dollars; discuss your financial concerns with your vet, and be honest about what you are willing and able to do for your pet.  I guarantee you that your veterinarian has your elderly pet’s quality of life and best interest at heart, more than anything else.

10.  All they really want is love.

Having an elderly pet can be tough.  Caring for their needs and seeing them get older before your eyes is a challenging part of your life together.  But remember this:  your aging pet only desires your continued love.  And they may not be able to come to you to get it.  So take some time every day to love on that senior pet.  It will mean the world to them.

 

 

Do you have other concerns about your elderly pet?  Dr. D specializes in in-home veterinary care, including geriatric pets.  Contact her by going HERE.

Help! My cat has acne!

You might be sitting on the couch one evening, absentmindedly scratching your kitty, when you look down and see black dirt or pimples on your dear kitty’s face!  The horror!

 

Don’t worry, dear cat lover.  Although it may appear that your cat has been afflicted with an adolescent embarrassment, it’s really nothing to worry about.  Here’s what you need to know about, and how to treat, feline acne.

What Feline Acne Looks Like

 

An example of feline acne

Feline acne can appear as what looks like “black dirt” along the chin, lower lip, or upper lip.  These are actually similar to the “black heads” that affect humans.  Feline acne can also look like pimples or inflamed bumps in the same area.

In more severe cases, feline acne can progress to painful cysts or ulcers.

What Causes Feline Acne

 

The majority of cases of feline acne can be attributed to eating out of plastic bowls or dishes.  These dishes harbor more bacteria and oils from food, which are then transferred to your cats skin, leading to clogged pores.

The more severe cases can usually be attributed to food sensitivity/allergy, skin mites or fungus, ringworm, and even certain other cat diseases.  Your veterinarian may need to run a few diagnostic tests to determine if your cat’s acne is caused by something more serious.

 

How to Treat Feline Acne

Metal Cat Dish

 

Since the most common cause of feline acne is eating from a plastic dish, the first thing you can do is switch out your cat’s dishes for ceramic or metal dishes.  Also, wash the dishes regularly to keep them free of food oils and bacteria.  These simple changes should allow your cat’s acne to resolve.

If your cat has a more severe case of acne, be sure to have your veterinarian check them out.  Sometimes further treatment, such as antibiotics and/or special cleansers, will be necessary to resolve your kitty’s issue.  In the case of food allergies, a diet change might be recommended.

 

Feline acne is certainly nothing to be worried about!  But if you have further questions or concerns about your cat, you can always contact Dr. D!