Tips in choosing a veterinarian

You understand the meaning of the phrase "man's best friend." Your dog is loyal, provides companionship and is there for you through good times and bad. So when your dog is injured or feeling under the weather, you want the best for it — though you'd like not to have to declare bankruptcy to get it.

Vetting the vets

  • You won't be able to measure all aspects of the technical skills of veterinarians. On the other hand, just as you can when choosing a physician, you can tell a lot about the performance of a vet.

    • Are they convenient? You'll want convenient hours, limited wait times, and a location close to your home. Most area vets have some evening or weekend hours for routine visits.
    • Can you make an appointment quickly? This is important to your peace of mind and to the comfort — and perhaps the survival — of your pet. You should ask what provisions a vet makes for covering emergencies outside of office hours.
    • Do they care? The first time you visit a vet you'll get a sense of whether he or she really cares about animals. Note how gentle the vet is and how interested he or she is in learning relevant facts about your pet. Note also how your pet responds to the vet.
    • Can you tour the facility? To make a reliable judgment about a veterinary practice, you have to see more than the front office. Find out how open the vet is to showing you treatment rooms and the cages and runs where animals are temporarily held or boarded. The facility's cleanliness, of course, is also important.
    • Do they give you advice on prevention and home care? For the health of your pet and for your wallet, you need advice on prevention, on how you can spot pet-health problems, and on how to take care of your pet when it is sick.
    • Can you easily communicate with them? Good communication includes listening, making you feel comfortable about asking questions and explaining what is wrong with your pet, what is being done, and what you can expect. A vet should frankly admit his or her limitations and the need for outside specialist consultation. The vet also should talk openly about costs. And the vet should let you make decisions based on your finances, your devotion to your pet and your informed understanding of the prognosis.
    • Are they competent and thorough? Does the vet give a thorough exam and take a thorough medical history to find out about previous medical problems, previous occurrences of the current problem, what treatments have worked and other matters? If your pet is referred to a specialist, does your primary vet follow up with the specialist and keep a record of what happened? If tests are done, does the vet keep a record of the results and share them with you?

    • Do they have reasonable fees? Unfortunately, this is an area where consumers are often dissatisfied. The most common complaints we received from surveyed vet customers were related to bills that seemed excessively or unexpectedly high.
    • Do they try to keep costs down? Low prices are not the only way a vet can save you money, of course. You also save if the vet is effective in showing you how to prevent disease and injuries and if the vet shows you how to care for your pet by yourself. Equally important, you want a vet that informs you about lower cost care alternatives and doesn't do more than necessary.
    • Does accreditation matter? Veterinary hospitals can become accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) by meeting certain minimum standards: keeping adequate medical records and having complete diagnostic, pharmacy, anesthetic, surgical, nursing, dental, and emergency-service facilities.

Pet Theft on the Rise

Here is a note from the SPCA about the frightening Rise of Pet Theft:

" We have heard some disturbing news related to the slowing economy and your pets’ safety. Reports of pet theft have dramatically increased this year - in fact, reports have quadrupled since 2007.
SPCA International cannot explain this rise, but we do recognize that people get desperate in hard times. It is extremely unfortunate that the victims in this case are our pets.
Thieves see our animals as helpless victims for their gain in a number of ways. Purebred dogs and cats can often sell for thousands of dollars. On Web sites like and the thief can remain relatively anonymous while selling your missing animal for a retail price. Thieves may also scheme to take advantage of your desperation by stealing your pet and waiting for you to post a reward. Returning your dog or cat a few days later as a hero and collecting profit with little suspicion.
Reports indicate that animals are stolen from backyards while parents are out, from cars while parents run a quick errand and from dog parks while old friends chat. I urge you to take extra precaution for your pets’ safety this year, especially if your best friend may be viewed as an expensive breed. You being aware of this rising problem may be just the protection your companion needs. "

JD Winston

Executive Director
SPCA International


Here's just a quick primer on the vitamins that are important for cats and dogs. Vitamins are only required in minute amounts, but they are critical for life.
  • Vitamin A is fat soluble, and important for skin, eyes, mouth, intestines and reproduction. It is found in Liver, egg yolk and milk. Beta Carotene, a related compound, is found in yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables like carrot and sweet potato, as well as leafy greens.
  • The B Vitamins are water soluble and necessary for a whole array of functions including metablism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and enzyme formation. Foods rich in B vitamins include liver, beans, organs, legumes and some grains.
  • Vitamin C is water soluble and necessary for collagen formation. It is also an antioxidant. It is prevalent in fresh fruits and some vegetables. Some people thoerize that Vitamin C is not an essential vitamin for dogs since they manufacture it in their own bodies - however many holistic vets advocate vitamin C supplementation for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • Vitamin D is fat soluble, and necessary for the proper regulation of calcium and phosphorus in the body. Yogurt and cottage cheese are good sources of Vitamin D.
  • Vitamin E is fat soluble. It is found in spinach as well as wheatgerm- safflower- and sunflower oils. It is an antioxidant and regulates prostaglandin.
  • Vitamin K is Fat Soluble and essential for blood clotting. It is found in leafy greens including spinach, turnip greens and broccoli.
  • Folic Acid is water soluble, and found in dark leafy greens and liver. It is needed for genetic transfer.
  • Biotin is water soluble and necessary for protein construction. Biotin is found in oats, egg yolk and liver.
  • Choline is a water soluble vitamin whose role is in liver function and nerve transmission.
  • Inositol is water soluble, and plays a part in fat metabolism.

A Pantry Must-Have

Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween.

I always keep a supply of canned pumpkin in my kitchen cupboard. Pumpkin is a very effective and natural remedy for diarrhea. It is also a very helpful antidote for constipation. My dogs, (and most others) love the taste. I somtimes add it in their food, or stuff it in their Kong.

Pumpkin contians a lot of fiber, so it is very filling and is great for those dogs that are on a diet!


Copyright Jim Willis 2002

I stole your dog today. No, I didn't set a foot on your property, but from the condition of your dog, I can imagine what it looks like...the word "junkyard" comes to mind.
I found her along a road, with a heavy chain wrapped around her neck, still attached to rotten boards from her doghouse, with rusty six-penny nails protruding. Not only did I know that most of the town had already ignored her, judging by where I found her, but I knew that if she had gotten into the woods the "cross" that she dragged behind her would have wrapped around a tree until starvation or thirst killed her. The local populace is usually deaf to the sound or blind to the sight of an animal in need, unless they decide to shoot one for trespassing.
That her ribs showed, that her ears were filthy, that her overall condition was poor and that her coat and eyes were dull, were good indications that you didn't deserve her. But just to make sure, I checked with the local authorities for a report of a missing (unlicensed) dog matching her description and to see if you'd placed a "lost dog" advertisement in the local newspaper. You hadn't, which I can only surmise means that you do not miss her. That's rather convenient, because the fact that she is not spayed, probably unvaccinated, and possibly heartworm positive means that restoring her health could cost me around a thousand dollars.

Perhaps it may be some small comfort to know that she doesn't miss you. In fact, her very act of escape made it clear that she'd had enough of your brand of pet guardianship. It took her about a day to realize that I'm not you, that I won't hurt her, that despite our brief acquaintanceship, I love her. It took two days for her to realize that the other animals who live here accept her and that one of the joys she has been missing has been the companionship of other dogs. It took three days for her to appreciate the ecstasy of a home cooked meal and that a couch is meant to be reclined on, and that she no longer has to sleep outside - in fact, when the thunder starts, she'll get a hug and her ears rubbed, and I'll make a fool of myself with baby talk.

She has a beautiful name now. Already in the first week she has come to look more like she should. Her eyes sparkle and she has learned to wag her tail in greeting. She has stopped flinching when I make a sudden movement, because she knows now that I won't beat her, in fact, she rarely leaves my side. She's even become brave enough to bark at a cat and today I watched from the window as she initiated play with the other dogs. No, it's clear she does not miss you or her former life of neglect on a chain.
Of all the things that have become apparent from my brief relationship with her - such as the forgiving nature of the dog, their wonderful ability to heal and to trust, the fact that love can work miracles - one of the most apparent is what a fool you are. She was possibly the
most trusting, loyal and loving being in your life, and you consigned her to a life of filth and loneliness until she made the best choice she's ever made when she broke free. Perhaps her guardian angel helped her escape. Lest anyone should mistake me for an angel, I will admit that one day I hope to be as good as she; I believe she forgave you within the first twenty-four hours of her new life for the about four years of her previous "life," while I still wrestle with the part of me that hopes that one day you will burn in Hell.

It's not clear yet whether she'll remain here or whether I'll find her a loving home where she can count on more individual attention than I can give her, but one thing is certain, this is one bit of stolen "property" who is never returning to you. So sue me, prosecute me, plead with
the courts that she is rightfully yours...I'm convinced this is the best "crime" I've ever committed. Hardly anything has pleased me more than the day I stole your dog. I need only look into her beautiful brown eyes to know that she'd defend my decision with her life. If we have one prayer, it is that you will not replace her, and if we have one special day to commemorate together, it is the day I stole your dog and the day she stole my heart.

Feel free to pass this on or cross-post.

Bad Medicine

Just because prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications are marked childproof doesn't mean they're dogproof. In fact, most dogs find it way too easy to chew through plastic pill containers if given the opportunity. What's scary is that some of the most common drugs and supplements -- including OTC painkillers, cold medicines, antidepressants, cancer medications, diet pills, and vitamins -- are potentially lethal to dogs, even in relatively small doses. Keep your pooch safe by storing all meds, vitamins, and supplements in a secure cabinet that's out of your pet's reach.

Protect Your Pup from Pesticides

Protect Your Pup from Pesticides

Using fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides to keep your yard green? If so, handle them with care, because many can be toxic to your dog. Applying the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, in particular, four or more times per season has been shown to double a dog's risk of developing lymphoma. To reduce your pet's exposure to these chemicals:

Keep all lawn chemicals safely out of reach.
Take any food bowls and water dishes inside when applying outdoor chemicals.
Avoid overdosing your lawn with products, which can leave behind residue and increase the odds of your dog coming in contact with toxins.
Wait until all treatments have dried before allowing your dog back on the lawn.

An Answer to Achy Paws

Ever wonder why dogs are so susceptible to developing arthritic conditions?

Arthritis occurs with age in dogs as well as in people. One of the most important things that dog owners can do to delay the onset or reduce the severity of arthritis is to keep their dogs lean. Excess body weight not only adds stress to the joints but also is associated with an increase in inflammation. In obese dogs, the fat cells secrete chemicals that actually increase inflammation in the joints, causing or aggravating arthritis. In addition to weight control, gentle exercise and a diet that contains fish oil or supplements of glucosamine may help.

Signs that your dog may have arthritis:

  • Favoring a limb
  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Sleeping more
  • Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased activity or less interest in play
  • Attitude or behavior changes
  • Being less alert

Doggie Paddle Tips

Jumping into the water is a great way for your dog to cool off, especially on hot, steamy days. Swimming can also be a great everyday activity, since it's easy on the joints, but never force it on your pup if she isn't a fan of the water. If he is, always be cautious of water quality, and don't let him drink from the pool, lake, stream, or ocean. Swallowing too much salt water or chlorine can very quickly make your dog sick. Keep a close eye on him while he's paddling around, and help him steer clear of deep waters and strong currents.
5 Dog Water Safety Tips

1. Buy your dog a life jacket - not all dogs are natural swimmers and older and young puppies can tire quickly, the weight of a water logged thick and/or long coat can easily drag your dog under water, your dog can be knocked over by breaking waves, if your dog jumps into the river he may not be able to get again if the bank is too slippery.
Like people, dogs can quickly get into trouble and if you are not there to help, may easily drown. By using a doggy life jacket when your dog's around water you are buying him extra time should he get into trouble and need rescuing - it just makes sense.

2. Watch what your dog drinks - water in lakes, stagnant ponds and slow moving rivers can contain algae and parasites which, if ingested by your dog, can cause vomiting, diarrhea and in some instances death.
Swimming pool water contains chlorine and other chemicals which can make your dog sick if he drinks the water.
Always keep plenty of fresh water with you, and teach your dog to drink out of a water bottle so you don't need to carry a bowl with you all the time!

3. Think dog - whether you are at the beach or at home, look out for potential hazards in advance and supervise your dog at all times. For example:
  • don't let your dog swim in places where there are strong undercurrents;
  • look out for sharp rocks and shells just under the water surface that he might cut his paws on;
  • check for steep muddy riverbanks that might prevent him from getting out of the water, particularly if he's tired;
  • if the water is cold your dog could be at risk from hypothermia; and
  • swimming pools and spa pools should be covered or fenced off at all times.
4. Rinse and dry after swimming - after you dog has finished swimming and playing in the water rinse his coat thoroughly to remove salt, chemicals and debris form his coat. Make sure his ears are dry too to reduce the risk of dog ear infections - damp ears are a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast spores.

5. Heat can kill - in summer remember that the heat from the sun is more intense around water. Watch your dog for signs of sunburn and heat stroke, and keep him off hot sand as this can blister his paws.