LBAH Informational Articles

Home Care of the Surgical Patient

When your pet first returns home from surgery let it have a calm and quiet spot away from other pets and children. It will be groggy from the pain medication it is given, which is exactly where we want it to be.

After it is home and settled, offer a small amount of water. Even though most pets are fasted prior to surgery, at our hospital they are give intravenous fluids or water after surgery, so do not worry if your pet does not drink initially.

If it drinks, and does not vomit, offer small amounts of water periodically over the next several hours, and then offer small amounts of food the same way. Give it a chance to go outside to the bathroom several times.

Use all medication, especially pain medication, as directed. What might seem like pain can sometimes be confusion after the day’s activities and surgery. If your pet seems painful several hours after returning home please call us. It is rare for a pet to be painful after surgery. We take special precautions so that does not happen. Some of these precautions include:

Preanesthetic pain patch and sedation

Local anesthetic at the surgical site

Laser surgery

Post operative pain injection

Post operative pain medication at home

Many pets will go home with an E-Collar (Elizabethan Collar) to prevent them from licking or chewing at the incision site. Leave this collar on at all times until sutures are removed, unless you are in direct supervision. Some people take the collar off after a few days when healing is progressing well and the collar seemingly is not needed. This coincides with the itchy phase of the healing process, and most pets can cause damage to the incision, or worse.

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Make sure you put your E-Collar on your pet and not on yourself!

After surgery one of our doctors will call you with a post operative update. You will also be given a detailed post operative handout when you pick up your pet.

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In Home Exam

Pets are experts at hiding illness, so paying close attention to the hidden physical changes that preceed some diseases can be highly beneficial. There are several basic physical parameters that you can assess at home on a weekly basis to alert you to a medical problem before it becomes entrenched and difficult to treat. If you find a problem with any of these physical exam findings bring your pet in for one of our doctors to confirm there is a problem and make a specific diagnosis.

Lets start at the front and work our way back.

Eyes

Look for redness, discharge, squinting, or swelling.

The pigmentation on the white part of this dog’s eye has the potential to be a malignant cancer. Catching this change early can make a big difference in saving this eye.

A tumor in a dog's eye

Always compare both eyes during your exam. The natural symmetry will allow you to identify a problem like this dog with different diameter pupils.

Different diameter pupils from a neurologic problem called anisocoria

Ears

Smell them for odor and look for redness or discharge.

The pinkish color to this ear is not normal, and can be caused by several things. Our ear page has more information.

Inflamed ear flaps (pinna) from chronic atopy

Mucous membranes

Assuming it is safe to look in your pets mouth lift up its jowls and look at its gums. They should be pink. They should not be blue, grey, white or red. If you see any of these abnormal colors your pet should be brought to us immediately. While you are there look for tartar on the teeth or inflamed gums or bad breath.

These gums are nice and pink, the only color they should be

Normal pink gums

While you are there look at the teeth for tartar and gingivitis, the tongue for any problems, and the gums for any growths like this dog.

Mouth tumor

Haircoat

Rub your hands thoroughly over your pets whole body weekly to look for lumps or bumps or areas of inflammation or hair loss. Look and feel around the ears, abdomen, anus, and genitals.

Take your time and be observant. This almost imperceptible red area at the arrow is a malignant tumor called a mast cell (MCT).

Skin tumor called a mast cell tumor (MCT)

Lymph node exam

Your pet has many lymph nodes. Some are inside the body, some are outside. The lymph nodes on the outside of the body are called peripheral lymph nodes and can be palpated.  When you check these lymph nodes you are feeling and looking for:

Swelling or pain or heat

Enlargement- most should feel the size of a marble or less (depends on the size of your pet). If one of them is larger than this, painful, or the area around it is swollen or painful, it should be examined by one of our doctors.

Each of the lymph nodes we want you to check comes in pairs on each side of the body. This symmetry helps you in determining if one of them is large or not.

Enlargement of the peripheral lymph nodes can be for several reasons:

Inflammation- pets with chronic skin conditions, inflammatory reactions, or allergic reactions can have an enlarged peripheral lymph node.

Infection- pets fighting infections, or a lymph node draining a specific infected area of the body, might be enlarged. We diagnosed a case of Valley Fever in a dog once based on an enlarged popliteal lymph node.

Cancer (Neoplasia)- pets with lymph node cancer (lymphoma, lymphosarcoma) will have an enlarged lymph node usually somewhere in its body.

There are 4 peripheral lymph nodes you can palpate as part of a weekly health exam.  We can demonstrate how to find them next time you bring your pet to us. (Thanks Doyle for being a good guinea pig for the photos). In most cases if you do not feel any lymph nodes that is OK because it means they are not enlarged.

  1. Submandibular

    Submandibular are under the angle of the jaw. Use your thumb and index finger and palpate both at the same time.

    Dog submandibular lymph node palpation

  2. Pre-scapular

    Use your hand in a sweeping motion and feel right in front of the shoulder

    Dog prescapular lymph node palpation

  3. Axillary

    Stand alongside your pet and simultaneously rub along the ribs with both hands under the armpits. Make sure you are palpating behind the leg so move your hands way forward as you feel for the axillary lymph nodes.

    Dog axillary lymph node palpation
  4. Popliteal

    They are located on the back of the leg opposite side of the knee.

    Dog popliteal lymph node palpation

Respirations

When your pet is at rest observe how many times per minute it breathes. A typical dog or cat breathes 20-40 times per minute at rest, although this is variable. What we want you to observe is a change in the respiratory rate. Write down the rate on a calendar on a weekly basis and look for trends of increasing rate. If for several months in a row the rate is 35, and now it is 60 every time you observe, that is a reason to bring in your pet for an exam.

This is particularly important in pets that have heart disease or asthma.

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Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

Dental disease is prevalent in almost every adult dog and cat we examine. Prevention is the key, and in addition to professional cleaning which we provide, the most important thing you can do is to brush your pets teeth. If started at an early age this “bonding time” is an enjoyable time for all. Start the brushing when the adult teeth are in, which is around 5 months of age. We can tell you if you are not sure.

People sometimes wonder why pets need their teeth professionally cleaned by us and brushed by you when they have memories of growing up with dogs and cats and never doing this. It doesn’t take much to answer this question. Pets nowadays eat diets that makes them prone to plaque. They also live longer, and just like in people, are more prone to disease. A big reason is because we did not have the knowledge decades ago to understand how dogs and cats lived lives of chronic pain because we did not know or could not diagnose. With the advent of digital radiography and our body of knowledge we realize that we did not treat dental disease anywhere near as thoroughly as needed.

One of the most important things you can do to slow down the recurrence of dental disease is to brush your pets teeth. This will help keep the gums healthy and prevent tartar buildup on the teeth on the cheek side (buccal) of the mouth, although it does not work as well on the teeth on the tongue (lingual) side of the mouth. Even though this may sound like an impossible feat for an uncooperative pet, or even a ludicrous idea, it is one of the best ways to prevent dental disease.

Even though the teeth will eventually need professional cleaning again in the future (most people get their teeth cleaned several times per year), proper brushing will decrease the amount of dental disease that occurs and the number of times we will have to clean your pet’s teeth over its lifetime. Due to the short life span of pets in relation to people, proper home care of your pet’s teeth becomes an important health measure.

When brushing the teeth there are some common sense things to do to make the process go smoother. One of our technicians will demonstrate some of these techniques with one of our hospital cats (they love the attention). It is important to remain calm and patient, since for most pets having something put into their mouths is a new experience. With a little tincture of time, the procedure progresses smoothly. also, it is highly advantageous to start the brushing process at an early age. Patience is the key! Try to do something positive (feeding it, playing or walking)  with your pet just after brushing to condition the behavior for the future.

Try to make the whole process fun, and don’t ever let on that you are doing something good for your pet (kinda like child psychology- if its good for them they won’t do it). With your pet near you or on your lap, maybe while watching TV, let your pet get used to your finger near its mouth. Dipping your finger into a food or liquid your pet has acquired a taste for helps start the process smoothly. When it is comfortable with your finger, use a soft gauze to massage the gums and gently rub the teeth. a cotton tipped applicator can also be used. Eventually you want to progress to a toothbrush.

In smaller pets, especially cats, proper restraint is important. There needs to be a proper balance between too little and too much restraint, a balance that varies with each pet. This is especially true with cats. For smaller pets, placing them on a table will make the process go smoother. Larger pets can also be placed on a table, if feasible, or can be restrained on the ground. Only one or two people should be involved in the cleaning process, usually without children present. We have a complete page demonstrating this restraint technique.

Eventually, introduce a soft bristled toothbrush. These toothbrushes are available in our dental kits. A rubber finger brush can be used but a toothbrush is preferred. You should not use your personal tooth paste to brush your pet’s teeth because the taste can upset their stomachs. Our dental kit has toothpaste that is specially made to be palatable to animals. These kits also have suggestions to make it easier to brush your pets teeth. If you consider daily tooth brushing a chance to enhance your bond with your pet, you and your pet will find it more enjoyable.

Brush the teeth in a slow and circular motion with a small amount of toothpaste. Its important to brush the outside of the teeth (the teeth up  against the lips and not the teeth up against the tongue) since that is where the plaque is most prevalent. If your pet is cooperative brush the insides next. Your goal is to brush at least 3 times per week. This will decrease plaque by 90%.

If you encounter resistance on a pet that normally lets you brush, or see blood or there are blood tinges on the toothbrush, smell any odor, see any inflamed area or swelling, or a buildup of tartar or inflamed gums, you should bring your pet in for an exam. If the tartar is significant it is time for a professional cleaning.

The brown staining at the top of this tooth is plaque.  The reddish gumline just above the plaque is gingivitis. It is time for a professional cleaning when you see this.

Canine gingivitis

In some cases brushing is just not feasible. In these situations you can use sprays, gels and chew toys to control the buildup of bacteria. Another excellent way to prevent the tartar buildup that leads to gingivitis is the food called T/D. It is particularly useful for small breed pets, which are prone to significant dental disease.

Just like in people, routine preventive care is critical to proper dental hygiene. This saves your pet from extended periods of pain and unnecessary tooth loss, and can save you the expense of the veterinary care needed to treat advanced dental disease. Your pet’s teeth should be checked every 6-12 months by one of our doctors, especially if it has already had gingivitis and had its teeth cleaned. Any pet that has had periodontal disease should be checked every 3 months. One of these check ups can be accomplished when your pet is brought to our hospital for yearly booster vaccinations.

You can learn much more about how we care for dental disease in dogs and cats by going to our Dental Page.

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Home Care

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Puppy Training

More dogs are euthanized for behavior problems than for any other reason. In almost all of these dogs, early, correct, and persistent training techniques will reverse this dismal statistic.

This section contains information about a variety of canine training techniques and behavior modification programs that will help you teach your dog basic manners that s/he needs to live in human society.

Learn how to solve common behavior problems like house training, puppy mouthing and biting, adolescent destructiveness, teaching Fido to come when called, and preventing aggression. The information you find here is based on contemporary humane training techniques that are fun for both you and your dog(s).

Puppies from 6-16 weeks

Now that you have that cute puppy in your family how are you going to mold him or her into a productive member of our society? If you don’t have an organized approach, with time set aside to enforce your training, that adorable little thing will soon become a monster that controls your life.

What your pup learns (and fears) during its first 4 months will be carried in its memory for the rest of his/her life. Therefore, it is imperative that you set aside the time and patience to turn these first 4 months into a positive experience for both of you.

In all honesty, few of us know enough about dog behavior to properly train a pup. Never fear, we are here to help you. We have enlisted the aid of Terry Long, a dog trainer par excellence. With her guidance you will soon know exactly how to approach the training of your pup.

We have complete information on what to do when you first get that pup home and until your pup is 4 months old. This is probably the most important time in your pups life, since it is during this time that your puppy will learn the behaviors it will carry into adulthood. We have 6 sections to cover, so grab those valium and lets get started.

We have 7 areas to start your training:

House Training

Socialization

First Visit to the Veterinarian

Leadership and Guidance

Basic Manners

Preventing Behavior Problems

Handling

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How we make a diagnosis

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