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680 Red Table Dr. Gypsum, CO 81637
(970) 524-3647
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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: My dog is scratching and losing hair, what should I do?

A: A scratching dog is probably one of the most common reasons why people seek veterinary care. The scratching could be caused by a number of conditions including fleas, ticks, allergies to grasses, trees, pollens, etc., mange, food allergies, endocrine problems, and skin infections to name a few. We’ll ask some important questions during your pets’ exam so pay attention to things such as what food you are using, what types of shampoos you use, and what medicines if any have helped in the past. There are many remedies for scratching; most of them are aimed at eliminating the cause and relieving the symptoms. For more information on allergies, which are very common, see Dr. Sheldon’s article Canine Allergies: Art or Science? elsewhere on this web site. Also of interest is his article, The Uses and Abuses of Corticosteroids and the blog section has the latest article on Ear Infections.

Q:When is the Best time to Spay My Dog?

A:Well, that depends on how long you want your dog to live and no, I’m not trying to be a drama king. I still can't believe my profession has not done a good enough job of educating pet owners and that this is still such a common question. Before I give you the definitive answer you need to know why the timing is important. Besides un wanted pregnancies, spaying your dog at the right time will, yes will, eliminate virtually any chance of her getting breast cancer, the most common cancer of female dogs. In fact, the incidence of mammary cancer is higher in dogs than any other species of animal and it is three times more common in dogs than humans. Breast cancer in canines is used as a research model for human breast cancer. So, if you are not going to breed your dog, get her spayed (which is a complete ovario-hysterectomy) before the first heat or menstrual cycle. No, you should not let her have one heat before getting spayed; this is a common misconception. The first heat cycle varies depending on breed and size but you can be pretty safe if you schedule the operation before she turns 6 months old. I like to follow the advice of experts and I’ve got a pretty good one to back me up in Colorado State University’s Dr. Greg Ogilvie who is a leading authority on canine cancer. Dr. O writes in his book, “Managing the Canine Cancer Patient”, that if you spay before the first heat you will reduce the risk of your pup getting breast cancer to 0.05%. That is less than one in 2,000. If you wait one heat cycle the risk goes up to 8% (1 in 12.5), and, after the second heat cycle the risk goes up to 26% (or over 1 in 4). These stats are so important that I made a poster and put it up in all of our exam rooms and on our waiting room bulletin board.If your dog gets mammary or breast cancer the news doesn't get better either because of what I call the 50/50 rule. It says 50% of breast cancers in dogs are malignant and 50% of those have spread or metastasized at the time of diagnosis and therefore CANNOT be cured by surgery alone. This means that if your dog has breast cancer there is a 25% chance that surgery alone will not cure it and your dog will need a combination of radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to whip this nasty disease. And even then the odds are not so great.

Q: How do you do CPR on a pet?

A: CPR on pets is done very similar to CPR in people. First remember your ABC’s. Establish an open Airway, check for Breathing, and check the Circulation. Then you need to start chest compressions and inflate the lungs. Dr.Sheldon often lectures paramedics and pet clubs on the basics of CPR and First Aid in pets. Check out his articles in this web site Be Your Pet’s Bets Friend: Learn First Aid and Be Your Pet's Best Friend: Learn First Aid Part 2.Print them out and keep them in a handy location!

Q: My cat is spending more time in the litterbox, is he having trouble urinating?

A: Either that or he has learned how to read magazines! Spending more time in the litterbox usually means one of 2 problems, gastrointestinal or urinary. Both are fairly common. Having problems defecating can mean your cat is constipated; more fiber in the diet is needed. Enemas might also be indicated. This can progress to a more serious problem called Megacolon which may require surgery, so just to be safe have your pet seen by a veterinarian. Spending more time trying to poop might also be colitis, inflammation of the colon; it is also seen in cats but causes a diarrhea characterized by mucus and blood streaks. Believe it or not it might be caused by stress (or one of 20-30 other causes). Antibiotics and special diets are used to treat idiopathic colitis (idiopathic means we can’t determine the cause). If your cat is straining to urinate he probably has FLUTD which stands for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This is a serious condition and can lead to total obstruction (blockage) of the urinary system resulting in kidney failure and death. See Dr. S’s article, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease: New Name, Same Diseasein this web site.

Q: I’ve been reading a lot about vaccines, should I change the way I vaccinate my pets?

A: I knew this question would come up sooner or later (hey wait, I wrote it!). Anyway, this is a topic that deserves discussion. No one knows for certain how long immunity lasts in animals (called DOI, or duration of immunity). DOI has not been adequately researched believe it or not. An interesting study done at University of Missouri tested antibody titers of every animal admitted to the hospital for a 2 month period and found anywhere between 1/3 and 1/2 were unprotected for diseases like canine distemper and parvo and feline distemper. This was regardless of whether or not the animals were current on their immunizations. However, a problem with just checking antibody titers is that it does not evaluate the other half of an animal’s immune response to diseases which is the cellular component (ie. T cells, lymphocytes etc). Some further work is definitely needed. Unfortunately, we still see animals suffering from preventable viral diseases like parvo, distemper, and panleukopenia and while we all want what is in the best interest of pets, we certainly don’t want to take any steps backwards. Stay tuned, until then, don’t change that dial (um, I mean don’t touch that remote. 

Q: My dog has mange; did I do something wrong?

A:The word mange conjures up images of unkempt, dirty, malnourished animals yet this is often not the case with demodectic mange. A very common comment when told of the diagnosis is "but I take such good care of her; how could this happen?" Relax. You have. What you are probably thinking about is Sarcoptic mange, or Scabies. The 2 diseases are vastly different.

Demodectic mange or demodex, is caused by the mites of the demodex species. It differs from Scabies or sarcoptic mange in a number of ways. First, it is not contagious to either dogs or to humans like scabies is. This is a tough concept to swallow for many of us; how can a skin condition so bad looking not be contagious? Trust me it isn't. I had one young lady ask me "well, how do you know". "I went to school for 8 years and I know how to read medical texts and journals" I assured her. I'll repeat again. It is not contagious. Second, it is much more difficult to treat than scabies is. And third, it is related to a poorly functioning immune system.

Demodicosis causes hair loss, skin thickening, oozing sores, skin infections, red, irritated skin, and is usually very itchy. There are 2 forms of the disease, both caused by the same mite. One is called localized demodicosis; the other is generalized demodicosis. Again, this is a difficult concept to grasp; 2 different diseases caused by the same organism. Localized demodicoses involves a few patches of hairloss, usually around the head, neck and hocks. It usually occurs in puppies around 6-8 months old and often resolves without treatment. It is not a very serious disease. When the demodex begins to spread uncontrollably we call it Generalized demodicosis; it is easy to distinguish from localized because larger areas of the body are involved. This is a serious disease and requires aggressive therapy. This is also a disease of mostly juvenile dogs; however it is seen in adults. Adult dogs with demodicosis often have an underlying immune or endocrine problem like hypothyroid disease or Cushings disease.

There is a lot we do not know about demodectic mange. Most agree it has an underlying immune system dysfunction involved with it.

Diagnosis of demodex is fairly straightforward. A scalpel blade is used to scrape the top layers of skin off for examination under a microscope. Your veterinarian should take off enough skin to make the area bleed so be prepared; he or she may even squeeze the area attempting to extricate the mites.

Treament of demodectic mange consist of a series of medicated baths and a very potent dip. The dipping must be done in a hospital under veterinary supervision. Your pet may need anywhere from 6-8 dips, spread every 1-2 weeks.

Q: Should I declaw my cat? Is it cruel to declaw a cat?

A: This is a hot topic among animal lovers these days. We do not feel it is a cruel procedure or cruel to the animals if they are provided a nice, loving, indoor home and only the front claws are removed using the proper surgical technique. We have 4 clinic cats who are all declawed; we would switch lifestyles with them in a heartbeat! For a more detailed discussion see Dr.Dodds' article The ABC’s of Declawing in this web site. This is a hot topic among animal lovers these days. We do not feel it is a cruel procedure or cruel to the animals if they are provided a nice, loving, indoor home and only the front claws are removed using the proper surgical technique. We have 4 clinic cats who are all declawed; we would switch lifestyles with them in a heartbeat! For a more detailed discussion see Dr.Dodds' article The ABC’s of Declawing in this web site. This is a hot topic among animal lovers these days. We do not feel it is a cruel procedure or cruel to the animals if they are provided a nice, loving, indoor home and only the front claws are removed using the proper surgical technique. We have 4 clinic cats who are all declawed; we would switch lifestyles with them in a heartbeat! For a more detailed discussion see Dr.Dodds' article The ABC’s of Declawing in this web site. This is a hot topic among animal lovers these days. We do not feel it is a cruel procedure or cruel to the animals if they are provided a nice, loving, indoor home and only the front claws are removed using the proper surgical technique. We have 4 clinic cats who are all declawed; we would switch lifestyles with them in a heartbeat! For a more detailed discussion see Dr.Dodds' article The ABC’s of Declawing in this web site. This is a hot topic among animal lovers these days. We do not feel it is a cruel procedure or cruel to the animals if they are provided a nice, loving, indoor home and only the front claws are removed using the proper surgical technique. We have 4 clinic cats who are all declawed; we would switch lifestyles with them in a heartbeat! For a more detailed discussion see Dr.Dodds' article The ABC’s of Declawing in this web site.

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