Traveling with your pet

October 17, 2013

According to a survey of pet owners by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), more than 53% of dog and cats will travel with their owners. With the upcoming busy travel season, let’s talk about some of the best ways of traveling with your best friend.

Of the 4 major travel choices that Americans have, pets are not allowed to travel on half of them. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org), pets are prohibited from traveling by bus or train in most states. That means that our friends will either be flying the friendly skies or rolling down Route 66 with us during our time away from home. In both cases, there are many simple things that you can do to insure your pet’s comfort and safety during the trip.

First, make sure that your pet has proper identification on him or her at all times. This can be something as simple as an ID tag on his collar, but a more permanent solution would be the use of an implantable microchip. Next, make sure you have copies of vaccination records and needed medications easily accessible during the trip. You might even “google” a veterinary emergency hospital near your destination. And finally, do your homework. Some airlines and travel sites may require a health certificate for your pet. This document must be dated within 10 days of the start of your travels.

For pets who will be flying with their owners, good communication with the airlines is a must. In all cases, your four legged friend needs to be over 8 weeks old and weaned for at least 5 days. Most airlines will require the above mentioned health certificate and all recommend arriving at the airport early to insure the smooth check-in of your pet. Kennels that will be checked into the cargo area must be non-collapsible, large enough to allow the pet to stand and have a leak-proof bottom covered with absorbent material. Be sure to check the weather at home and at your destination. Airlines may refuse to transport pets if the temperature exceeds 85 degrees in the cargo hold or is less than 45 degrees anywhere along the itinerary. American Airlines, for example, requires a veterinarian’s statement that the pet is acclimated to cold weather if the temperature drops below 45 degrees.

Many owners are very worried about the safety of their pets in flight and during boarding procedures. According to the website, http://www.dryfur.com, the majority of accidents and injuries that happen to pets are the result of poor quality carriers or kennels that are missing pieces. Again, a few moments of preparation by the owner can avoid a loss or death of their pet. And for those owners who have contemplated sedation for their pets, the answer is – no. The AVMA, and the American Humane Association both agree empathically that sedation during flight is a risk pet owners should not take, however I occasionally make an exception to this for pets that will be flying in the cabin with their owners.

Traveling by car may be less complex than air travel, but due to the longer time frames, owners need to plan rest stops and exercise times. Keep a jug of fresh water in the car to avoid times when reliable water sources may not be available. Pets will travel better with small amounts of food and water in their system frequently rather than allowing the pet to eat his or her normal ration. Pets should be kept in carriers or cages during travel to avoid potential accidents if the pet gets “underfoot” of the driver.

Before you reach your destination, be sure that you are aware of pet-friendly hotels or be sure that your hosts are aware that you are bringing your pet along. Also, be “considerate” and have a kennel or crate available. There are many sites online that can help you find lodging that allow pets. At http://www.petswelcome.com, over 25,000 hotels and other locations that allow pets are listed.

So, as the busy travel season gets underway, remember that many problems and potential injuries can easily be avoided with a little bit of preparation and homework. Be sure and talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s special travel needs and what he or she recommends for traveling.

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January 16, 2013

ImageIf all this talk about the fiscal cliff and higher taxes has you worried about how you are going to be able to afford to keep your pets healthy in 2013, then this article is for you.

There are many different approaches to keeping health-care costs down while still keeping your best friend fit and healthy but perhaps the best way is to look at the problem the other way around; keeping your pet healthy will actually keep your health-care costs down.

Don’t skimp on routine check-ups

Because pet’s age faster than people, the yearly check-up is crucial to detecting health issues that could cause expensive problems in the long run. As pet’s get older, it pays to increase those check-ups to twice a year. Finding and treating disease early will decrease costs of treatment in the long run, and more importantly will also prevent or delay onset of discomfort and pain for your pet.

Be familiar with the genetic diseases from which your breed of pet is prone to suffer.  If you know what to look for, you and your veterinarian can watch for these problems and act early. Stay in contact with local and national breed clubs because they often offer screening tests for genetic problems at low or no cost to you and they may even have funds to assist you with the costs of caring for a pet with certain ailments.

Prevent common problems

Ear infections are one of the top reasons pet owners seek veterinary care. Asking your veterinarian about a regular ear cleaning regimen that you can do at home might prevent this problem. Dental care is very expensive for pets. Start brushing your pet’s teeth on a daily basis to minimize dental care costs in the future. Keep your cat’s environment stimulating and stress free to reduce the risk of urinary tract diseases.

Don’t smoke around your pets. Secondhand smoke can exacerbate respiratory diseases and lead to nasal and lung cancers. As cats groom, they ingest the toxins from the smoke which can lead to oral cancers. Quit now and you’ll save money on your veterinary bills. At the very least, consider not smoking around your pets.

Overweight pets have expensive orthopedic problems and higher risk of ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. Give the body what it needs, but not too much, and it can do amazing things to heal itself. By feeding your pet a high quality food and keeping him lean, you will drastically reduce veterinary bills.

Spay or neuter your pet

The costs of owning an intact pet are higher due to several factors that include an increased propensity to fight or escape, higher rates of ovarian, uterine, testicular or prostatic disease and the high cost of having and raising a litter of puppies or kittens. Most veterinarians spay and neuter pets at competitive rates, but if cost is still keeping you from having your pet spayed or neutered, contact Pet Helpers or The Charleston Animal Society. Thanks to local donors and grants, these organizations can spay or neuter your pet with minimum cost to you.

Keep parasites at bay

Fleas and ticks are not only nasty, but they carry diseases that can affect you and your pet. Use a veterinary approved flea, and if needed, tick, prevention year around on all dogs and cats to prevent costly diseases. If just one flea gets into your house, you will need to undergo an expensive regimen to get rid of all the progeny that little flea left behind. Heartworm disease is very expensive to treat in a dog and we cannot even treat cats if they become infected. So, keep all pets on a monthly heartworm prevention too.

Your vet can help you find the most inexpensive combination that will protect your pets. Veterinary staffs are used to doing cost comparisons and helping you get the prescriptions you need to keep costs down.

Don’t over vaccinate your pet

Only have your pet vaccinated for the diseases to which he or she is likely to be exposed. This varies widely from pet to pet and must be discussed with your veterinarian every year. Avoid veterinarians who appear to offer “low cost vaccinations” but then vaccinate for everything under the sun. It  may be true that one clinic’s vaccinations are cheaper than another’s, but if your pet doesn’t even need some of those vaccinations, then you have not saved a dime by going the cheaper route.

Save money on medications

In today’s world there are infinite suppliers of just about anything you need, and this includes pet medications. There are many reasons to consider buying your medications from your veterinarian: products have been stored correctly, experienced veterinary staff are familiar with doses and dosing, you are supporting a local business and prices are often competitive with online sites. That said,  your veterinarian won’t always be the cheapest place to get your pet’s medications. As more pharmacies, both onsite and online, begin to carry pet-specific drugs, you can ask your veterinarian about getting a written prescription for medications so that you can shop around. This is especially important to consider if your pet is going to be on a medication for a long time. If you want to read more about your choices on this topic, refer to http://www.beesferry.com/Veterinary-Care-Tips-by-Dr.-Saenger/filling-your-pets-medication-prescriptions

Prepare for future expenses

Sometimes there is just no way around an expensive treatment or surgery for your pet. In these cases it is best to have prepared ahead of time. You can do this by establishing a little Health-Care Savings Account for your pet or by purchasing health insurance. Just setting aside $50 every month into your pet’s savings account is probably more economical, as the money earns a little bit if interest if you don’t use it. However, most of us don’t have the discipline to put in money every month and then stay away from it. Insurance companies can help if you are one of these people. The catastrophic  plans that only cover for major illness or injury are very affordable. If a more broad plan encourages you to provide more preventive care for your pet, then this may prove to save more money in the long run.

Find someone else to pay

If your pet has been diagnosed with a serious disease, do a quick search to see if there are any clinical trials going on that could help your pet. The website www.animalci.com/about coordinates this information into one place.

If your pet is having an expensive crisis right now and you just don’t have the funds to pay for his care up front, find a veterinarian who accepts CareCredit or a similar payment plan. Companies like CareCredit (www.carecredit.com) extend credit for both human and pet health care costs with low monthly payments.

Be persistent, proactive and honest

Prevention truly is the best medicine, and it is the cheapest too.

If the economy is causing a drain on you, tell your veterinarian up front. If you are a good client and a friend of your veterinary hospital, your vet may give you a discount on some services. But, most importantly, veterinarians are experts at prioritizing medical care. They can help you pick and choose the best tests and treatments for your pet and your budget.

Take the time to research and shop around for the lowest pet care prices, but remember that establishing a relationship with a veterinarian can be the best and most effective cost-saving investment that you can make.

Owning a Greener Pet

April 1, 2012

Earth Day is upon us and recycling is at the forefront of conversation. I am happy to announce that Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital as begun a robust recycling program. It took a while for Charleston County to include our street on their pick-up route, but now that they do, we are taking full advantage. We are also applying for Bicycle Friendly Business status from the League of American Bicyclists. The Bicycle Friendly Business program recognizes employers’ efforts to encourage a more bicycle friendly atmosphere for employees and customers, even if they are four legged.
So, I was feeling pretty good about Bees Ferry’s efforts to help protect our environment, until I was reminded by authors Robert and Brenda Vale that it is my very patients that are bad for the environment. In their book: Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living, the Vales suggest that our carnivorous pets soil our water supply, use tons of plastics that end up in landfills and our pet’s meat based diet requires a lot of land to provide their foods.
So, what can we do to help reduce our pet’s carbon pawprint? I’ll use some “recycled” ideas from last year’s article on the same topic, but I will also throw in some new ideas for you to consider.
First and foremost, adopt a needy pet. In other words, get a recycled dog! This doesn’t mean you can’t have the breed of your dreams, it just means you have to search a little bit longer to find your perfect match.
Next, be sure to have your pet spayed or neutered. Unwanted puppies and kittens burden our society and the environment just because of their sheer numbers.
And then there is the inconvenient truth that dogs and cats poop, and their excrement is not good for our soil or water supply. Thus, we need to pick up our dogs feces. I use the newspaper bags for this purpose, but if you don’t use recycled plastic bags to pick up poop, I’d recommend that you buy biodegradable bags.
Now to the subject of what to feed your pet. Although there are some fairly balanced vegetarian pet foods out there, as a veterinarian, I do not recommend vegetarian diets. Instead of asking your carnivorous pet to go vegetarian it might be better to use organic foods. There are plenty on the market now. Keep in mind that packaging is a huge stress on our landfills. Try to buy foods in bulk and store them in your own re-usable Tupperware containers to keep them fresh.
You also can make your dog’s food with fresh organic products. Ask your veterinarian for help with a recipe if you choose to do this. Make sure the mixture is balanced with the proper vitamins and minerals. Poultry and rabbit farming have a lower environmental impact than beef, so chicken or rabbit diets are a little greener than beef or pork based foods. You can definitely make your own pet treats. Fun recipes abound on the internet.
Those plastic toys, litter boxes and brushes all end up in our landfills. Try to buy sustainable toys like Loofah pet toys by Olive Green Dog Company or Cosmos Balls by Orbee-Tuff.
We all want to keep our lawn and gardens free from chemicals, insecticides, herbicides and pesticides. You can help with this effort by keeping your pet on a veterinary approved flea prevention year around. This can help you avoid the need for strong chemicals in the house and the yard.
There are literally hundreds of ways you can turn your pet green. There is a great blog out there called raiseagreendog.com that can help you come up with fresh new ways to own a dog without overly stressing the environment.

Easter Bunnies

March 18, 2012

ImageQ. We are thinking about getting 2 cute little dwarf bunnies for the kids for Easter. We will put them in separate cages because we don’t want a bunch of baby bunnies. How much food should I give them and is it ok to just leave fresh food and water all the time?

A. When I get a question like this, I like to go in to my spiel about why and when to get a pet.  In this case, it sounds like the kids fell in love with an adorable furry thing at the pet store.  Fortunately, Mom has done the smart thing and has decided to research the situation before purchasing an animal on a whim.  This is very important because these bunnies will not stay as little as they are in the pet store, and most kids outgrow their promises to feed, exercise and care for their new pet.  The whole family must plan for a pet.

There are several things to consider as the family is discussing the addition of a new family member.  In the case of rabbits, they do make a nice alternative to a dog or cat.  They are usually not aggressive, they don’t require long walks, and they can be trained to use a litter box.  However, their life span is a bit shorter than a dog or cat (5-10 years) and they do reproduce, well, like rabbits.  (Do not trust the pet store employee’s guess about sex and do not put 2 rabbits together until you and your veterinarian are sure of their sex.)

Plan ahead for exercise and housing needs before you decide that a rabbit is for you.  Obesity is a big problem with rabbits that get little exercise.  They need daily, supervised exercise in fenced grassy areas (keep lawn chemicals off these areas) or in a safe room in the house.  There are harnesses and leashes made specifically for rabbits that enable you to exercise them safely inside and outside.  Rabbits should never be allowed to run around the house unsupervised.  They love to chew on carpets and furniture and for some reason they love electrical cords.  As you can imagine, serious injury can occur if they bite into a cord.

In between exercise sessions you will want to confine your rabbit.  There are lots of cages made for rabbits, but most of them are ridiculously small.  Be sure you get one that has both wire and smooth flooring because constantly standing on wire causes foot sores.  There should be a hiding place and room for ceramic food and water bowls and a hanging water bottle.  Feces should drop through a wire mesh or there should be a litter box available.

Charleston’s climate is not suitable for domestic rabbits to be kept outside.  They are very sensitive to heat stroke and anything above 80 degrees can be dangerous.

Once you have decided that you can handle the exercise and housing requirements for a rabbit, you need to think about feeding.  Timothy hay is the key to longevity and health for a rabbit and should be available at all times.  Most people want to feed highly concentrated pellets. Although younger rabbits need this extra nutrition, after a year of age no more than ¼ cup of pellets per 5 pounds of weight should be offered once a day.  Small amounts of alfalfa, grass and clover are a nice treat.  Dark green leafy vegetables also can provide nutrition, moisture and variety to the diet but they should not comprise more than 20% of the diet.

Rabbits need to chew to control their ever growing front teeth.  Some dog toys such as Nyla-bones are fine for rabbits and most pet stores offer wood chew sticks for this purpose.  If they are not adequately shortening their teeth, then a trip to the veterinarian is warranted for sedation and proper filing of these teeth.

Rabbits also have sharp nails that can be trimmed.  Rabbits cannot be declawed, so instead you must learn how to handle your rabbit properly so he doesn’t scratch you.  You cannot pick up a rabbit by his ears and his back legs must always be supported.  It is important to have your veterinarian show you and your children how to safely handle the rabbit.

And, here is something to consider.  Rabbits, like dogs and cats, do need regular veterinary check-ups.  At least annually they should have an exam of their teeth, nails, and ears.  They should be assessed for obesity and have a fecal exam for parasites.  Rabbits can carry some parasites that are contagious to people.  These are easily controlled, but cannot be ignored.  Rabbits do not need to have any vaccinations.  Rabbits can and should be spayed or neutered to avoid both medical and behavioral problems.

Because many people don’t plan accordingly before they get a rabbit, there are often rabbits available for adoption at the Charleston Animal Society.  I would recommend looking there first.  If you do decide to buy from a pet store, be wary of pets that have been bred several states away and trucked to our area.  These animals can be stressed by the trip and may have hidden illnesses.

If you truly plan for a rabbit to become a part of your family, you can expect years of a rewarding relationship with a different and fun pet.

St. Patrick’s Day

March 3, 2012

ImageIrish Setters

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, and what better time to talk about the beautiful Irish Setter?  This breed holds a special place in my heart, as I grew up next door to a Setter named Noah.  He fascinated the neighborhood kids with his big heart and slobbery grin.  But, you don’t see a lot of Irish Setters anymore. Maybe this is because they can be reckless and high-strung if they do not receive the proper amount of mental and physical exercise.  Decades of people buying this dog for its beauty and ignoring its physical and mental needs resulted in the dog’s reputation as being destructive and hard to manage.

But, it is this impulsive and independent spirit that I find so alluring.  And the beach can be just the place for a high-strung dog.   After a Setter is trained to behave on a leash and come when called, they can work their brains and their bodies as they play fetch or herd gulls.  Their flowing red coat is a spectacle to watch when they run at full speed.

The Irish Setter is classified by the American Kennel Club as a sporting breed. As an ancestor of the Spanish Pointer, the Irish Setter is an all-purpose hunting dog, both a pointer and retriever all in one. They are especially good for hunting game birds. They have excellent noses and are very fast. Over the years many breeders have started breeding more for looks rather than the dog’s hunting ability, and for some reason I find this sad.  In fact, the Irish Setter used to be a red and white dog, but selective breeding in the 19th century resulted in the chestnut color that we see today.

This talented breed has also been used for tracking, guarding, agility and competitive obedience.  Although I wonder about the guarding ability, as the setters I have known tend to be overly friendly and eager to please.  They might actually, in an effort to be friendly and helpful, lead a burglar to the jewelry rather than scare them away.

If you should consider an Irish Setter as an addition to your family, you should know that they are sensitive to the tone of one’s voice and will not listen if they sense that they are stronger minded than their owner, and on the other hand, they do not respond well to harsh discipline.  Like a high strung horse, the Irish Setter needs a calm, stern and rewarding discipline.  Sometimes kids simply get trounced by these big clown-like dogs. That said, they are generally wonderful with kids as my neighborhood friends can attest.   They also need regular brushing to keep the sand spurs out of their flowing coats.

If you want more information about the Irish Setter, check out the Irishsetterclub.org.  No matter what breed you may be interested in adding to your family, always think of rescuing a dog in need before you buy one from a breeder.  Saveoursetters.org is a national organization that can link you to Setters in need near you.  Setterrescue.org is a Southeastern organization coordinating Setter rescue in our area as is Irishsetter.rescueme.org/SouthCarolina.  The oldies are the best as I am a sucker for those grey faces and an energy level that I can keep up with, but there are needy pups out there too.

Pet Dental Health Month

January 17, 2012

ImageFebruary is National Dental Health Month and Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital is celebrating by offering free dental checkups and 10% off all dental treatments during this month only.

How do you know if your pet needs to take advantage of this special? The answer is pretty simple: you probably do. Eighty percent of all dogs and seventy percent of cats over 3 years of age have some form of dental disease.  If one of our veterinarians has mentioned that your pet would benefit from some form of dental care, now is the time to follow up.

If you aren’t sure if your pet needs dental work, call to make a free appointment with one of our nurses today.  He or she can help determine if you simply need to start a dental care regimen at home or if you need to schedule a cleaning, periodontal treatments or even extractions.

Remember that dental disease doesn’t affect just your pet’s mouth. Periodontal disease is a silent killer that starts with a bacterial infection in the mouth. The bacteria then sneak through the blood stream to the heart, lungs or kidneys where they exacerbate existing disease or cause disease by themselves.

The first sign of periodontal disease is bad breath, and it shouldn’t be ignored.  If plaque is present as a brownish staining of the teeth, your pet has stage I periodontal disease and it is time to initiate an aggressive brushing or dental chew program.  If there is a black line where the teeth meet the gums, your pet has stage II periodontal disease and bacteria has made its way under the gum line.  You won’t be able to get this off with brushing or chews, so you need to schedule a professional dental cleaning now.

Your pet has stage III periodontal disease when calculus had formed.  When this happens, you have missed your opportunity for a simple cleaning.  These teeth need to be x-rayed for disease under the gum, cleaned and if pockets of detached gum are forming around the teeth, then we will need to perform some form of periodontal treatment and you will need to maintain an aggressive home-care regimen to save the affected teeth.  Unfortunately, once calculus has formed, it is hard to tell how bad the periodontal disease is until the pet is anesthetized.  Sometimes we find stage IV and V periodontal disease under the calculus.  These pets will require tooth extractions or root canal therapy.  So, when you bring your pet in to have that mouth cleaned up, be available for us to call you in the middle of the procedure if we find periodontal disease beyond stage III.  Treating these bad teeth immediately brings instant comfort and relief to your pet.

Whatever stage of periodontal disease your pet has, it should be treated now.  Call us today so we can help.  843-769-6784.

Running with your dog

January 12, 2012

ImageOK, it is time to start working off those holiday pounds and your canine pal should probably do the same.  Dog running partners are much more motivating than humans.  Unless they are sick, a dog will never say “I just don’t feel like it this morning” and they will probably roust you from your bed even if you don’t feel like it.  A dog will not make fun of your lycra or criticize your form.  He will not mind running the same boring route everyday.  And, a dog that exercises is a happy dog all day long.

Before you head out with your new jogging partner, you need to make sure that he or she is up to the task.  The ideal running dog weighs 30-70 pounds and has a short to medium length hair coat.  Giant dogs like Great Danes do not have appropriate body proportions to support long distance running.  And, believe it or not, Greyhounds are not great for long distance either.  They can sprint like the wind, but long trots are not really their forte.  Obvious breeds that cannot become running partners include small or miniature dogs, those with squashed noses like Bulldogs and Pugs and short legged dogs like Basset hounds and Daschounds.

Young growing dogs should not be considered a good long distance partner either.  At this early age, it is best to begin training the puppy to obey commands so he or she will heal, stop, slow down and respect traffic.  My dog even understands “right” and “left”.  This is very helpful when I decide to make a sudden turn or if she is out ahead of me.  All this obedience training can be done within a couple of blocks of your home while you are waiting for the dog to mature.  Most are ready for long distance training by the time they are 2 years old.

Once you have determined that your age and breed of dog is going to make an appropriate running partner, go see the vet.  He or she will check out the dog’s heart, joints, muscle and weight.  If all goes well, he’ll get a clean bill of health and you can begin training.  If your dog has been enjoying the couch as much as you have over the holidays, you should probably start very slowly.  Start with half a mile every other day.  Increase the distance by 10% each week and give the dog a day off for every day of running.  In no time you will both be enjoying the spring for an hour or so at a time.

Always keep your dog on a leash.  Some people like the waist leash attachments and others think they are dangerous because the dog could pull you over if he sees a squirrel or another dog.  Know your companion and his habits when making a decision about what type of leash to use.  Stay visible.  Use reflective vests, collars and leashes.  Flashing lights around the dog’s collar are very effective.  If you must run near traffic, remember that your dog’s nose is the same height as automobile exhaust pipes.  Try to keep him away from these nasty pollutants.  Check your dog’s paws before and after the run.  If you are running on the beach, where sand can clump between the pads, you might want to do this more often.

In general you cannot enter running races with your dog.  Some runners are terrified of dogs and under crowded circumstances, leashes can be a source of trips.  However, there are some races that encourage canine participation, and these can be great fun and a source of bonding with your canine companion.  As my friend, who is not an avid runner, ran across the finish line of our local Reindeer Run with her dog Scup, she said couldn’t have been more proud of her pal and running partner.