Dog Questions

photo of two dogs
Dog Questions 

What age do you recommend for first vaccinations of a puppy?

Most puppies leave the mother dog to go to their new home between 6 and 8 weeks of age. If this is the situation with your new puppy, then vaccinations should begin at 6-8 weeks of age. In our clinic, we recommend at the first visit, and examination by a doctor, a stool check for internal parasites or worms, the Bordetella vaccine, which protects against kennel cough, and the DA2PP (Distemper) vaccine that protects against the viral diseases of distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

Should I neuter my dog?

We strongly suggest that dogs that are not used for breeding be neutered. Even if you are planning on breeding your dog, when you obtain the puppies you want, then for the pet's best interest neutering should be considered. 

Reasons for neutering include population control, behavioral and health reasons. Even if you keep your dog in a fenced yard, accidents and events do occur that allow for the pet to escape. In these instances, your male dog may impregnate a female dog, and more unwanted puppies would be welcomed into the world. Neutering your pet will prevent this senseless loss of life due to unwanted puppies or dogs on our planet. 

Some male dogs have genetic or learned aggressive tendencies that may be manifested in biting and extreme territorial behavior. Neutering these individuals early in life may be helpful in minimizing this aggression. Once aggressive behavior is learned and practiced, neutering is still recommended but the likelihood of improvement of unwanted behavioral traits is less likely. 

At what age should I spay or neuter my dog?

We recommend spaying and neutering dogs before 6 months of age. As dogs first come into heat between 6 and 10 months of age, it is strongly recommended to neuter them prior to the first heat cycle. This is because there is a greater chance of developing mammary (breast) cancer later in life if a dog is allowed to come into heat.

The criterion for neutering males is that the testicles be descended. This can occur around 8 weeks of age, or later. Generally speaking, if the testicles are not descended by four months of age, they may not descend. We use the age of six months as the time that if the testicles have not descended, they most likely will not descend. At that time, an abdominal surgery is required to remove the non-descended testicle as it may develop into cancer in the abdomen.

How often should I bathe my dog?

The frequency that dogs need to bathed depends on a number of factors. Some dogs essentially keep themselves clean and never really need to be bathed. Others seem to love to get their hair coats dirty and may require bathing on a frequent basis. Other pets may have skin problems and require bathing as frequently as daily or every other day. Whatever the frequency of the bathing, high quality shampoos and conditioners especially formulated for dogs should be used.

Should I give my dog the vaccine for kennel cough even if he will not be kenneled or boarded?

Assuming your pet does not ever leave your house and yard, the chance of exposure of kennel cough is minimal. But as many pets are part of the family, and go on family outings, walks down the street or to the dog park, the chance of exposure to the causative agents of kennel cough which are airborne, is increased. Therefore, the vast majority of dogs should have the kennel cough vaccine, called Bordetella, even it is not planned to board. 

My dog's teeth have accumulated some brown material, and the breath smells bad, so I want my pet's teeth cleaned. I've seen some ads for no anesthesia dentals elsewhere. Why do you require dentals to be done under anesthesia? 

An animal's teeth cannot be thoroughly cleaned without anesthesia. Thorough removal of accumulated calcified and soft tartar require scraping and flushing the teeth surface, grooves, and around the gumline, which is nearly impossible in an awake animal, even a very cooperative one. Additionally, when the surfaces of the teeth are scrubbed with metal instruments, small scratches are left on the enamel. These scratches will accumulate material faster and tartar returns much faster. These scratches need to be polished out with a rotary dental tool, which feels funny and the sounds scare a pet that is completely awake.

My dog has been scooting a lot lately. What could make him do that?

Scooting may be due to a number of different causes including: internal parasites, impacted anal glands, infected anal glands, rectal tumors/polyps, and allergies. The most common of these would be due to the anal glands being full and uncomfortable to the dog. The dog thus scoots in an attempt to remove the material that is making him uncomfortable. It would be recommended that you take your pet to a veterinarian to determine which of the many causes are affecting your pet.

What is the drug I hear about on TV called Rimadyl really for and should my dog be on it?

Rimadyl is a rather new oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is licensed and safe for use in dogs only. The drug is indicated for the relief of pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis in dogs. It is also commonly used following surgery to offer pain relief at home following the in-clinic procedure. One of the main benefits of this type of medication is that it causes minimal gastrointestinal tract irritation as can occur with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as aspirin. Whether your pet would benefit from Rimadyl, would be a decision you should make with your pet's veterinarian.

Can I give my dog aspirin?

We strongly recommend that dogs not be given aspirin for pain or fever. It has been shown that even a single tablet can lead to severe gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding. If you feel that your pet is in pain or has a fever, it would be best to take the pet to your veterinarian for a complete physical examination and consultation.

When can I take my new puppy to the dog park?

We recommend that your adorable new puppy remains in either your own house or yard until the vaccine series for parvovirus is complete. This may vary with the clinic or veterinarian, but generally would be after the last vaccine is given at four or five months of age.

How long should I keep my puppy on puppy food?

Recommendations vary with food manufacturers and veterinarians on this question. As a general rule though, small breeds of dogs should remain on puppy food through the first year of life, and large breeds of dogs should remain on puppy food for the first year and one half of life. Medium sized dogs should be on puppy food for at least one year. After the initial time feeding puppy food, the pet should be slowly switched to a maintenance dog food.

What are those little rice-like things in my pet's poop?

Those little rice-like structures are actually part of a longer worm in your pet's intestinal tract, called a tapeworm. The worm breaks into little segments that you may see in the pet's stool or on the hairs around the anus. As the segments may be only intermittently passed, so seeing the segments one day and not the next does not mean that the problem is gone. It simply means that at that time the worm is not breaking into small segments and being passed in the pet's stool. Deworming medication and flea control should be administered to resolve the problem.

Where do tapeworms come from?

Tapeworms are transmitted to dogs and cats through ingestion of a flea when the pet is licking and cleaning itself. Once inside the pet, the tapeworm egg, which is inside the flea, develops inside the pet's intestinal tract. Intermittently segments of the tapeworm will be passed in the pet's stool and that is usually when owners realize their pets have tapeworms. Special types of deworming medications that are not available over the counter are required to kill the intestinal tapeworms. In addition, placing and maintaining the pet on flea control will present tapeworm infestations in the future.

What are those long skinny worms that look like spaghetti in my pet's stool called?

The internal parasites that you describe are roundworms. Roundworms are passed to the puppy either while it is in the uterus or after birth while the puppy is nursing. The worms then develop in the puppies intestinal tract and may be either vomited our or passed as worms or eggs in the stool. As the worms can be transmitted to people, it is extremely important to ensure that your puppy is checked for internal parasites and dewormed as necessary. Generally, the deworming process takes at least two treatments of deworming medication and the stool sample should be rechecked following the second deworming to ensure that the parasite has been cleared from the pet's body.

How does a dog get heartworms?

Pets (dogs, cats, and ferrets) can contract heartworms when a mosquito bites a pet and takes a blood meal. The mosquito would need to be one of several types of mosquitoes and the mosquito would have had to have previously bitten a dog with heartworms. Part of the life cycle of the heartworm is in the mosquito and then further development of the heartworm continues in the dog. The worms will develop and live in the pet's heart. With time, the pet may develop heart failure. The heartworm society recommends that if pets are left on heartworm preventative year round, that they are tested every year for the presence of heartworms. Monthly preventative in areas where heartworms are present is strongly recommended. As the climate of the world is changing we may see an elevation in the number of heartworm positive dogs in So. California.

My dog found and ate a box of chocolate candy. What do I need to do?

Ingestion of chocolate can lead to death in some pets. The amount that the dog ingests and the size of the pet are important. Pets that have recently ingested chocolate should be induced to vomit by a veterinarian. If you come home and find the chocolate ingested but do not know when the pet ate the candy, a trip to your veterinarian for a physical examination of your pet is well warranted.

What does it mean that my pet is constantly licking his paws?

The most common reason that we see dogs licking their paws, in particular the front paws, is due to  allergies. When people inhale different pollens from plants growing and blowing, people often have runny eyes and a runny nose. In pets with inhalant allergies, instead of runny eyes and a runny nose, pets have itchy skin. One of the common manifestations of this is licking the abdominal area and licking the feet. Allergies such as this are not usually due to contact with the allergen, but due to inhalant of offending agents. As with people and allergies, problems such as this are not curable but potentially treatable. A physical examination with your veterinarian and discussion of the options for your pet is well warranted.

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