What's on Your Carpet?
by Dr. Bernstein
A sleepless night with a puppy with diarrhea is
enough to make one
reconsider your acquisition. Diarrhea
is a common problem, but there are many different causes.
dogs often have loose stool due to excitement, stress, dietary
changes, and internal parasites. More serious causes seen in young dogs
are blockages and viruses like
distemper and parvovirus infections. Other causes seen at all ages
intolerance, infections, inflammatory disorders, enzyme deficiencies,
An acute bout of diarrhea can often be managed at home.
Withholding food (NOT water) for 24 hours is often enough for the
disorder to pass. If diarrhea is
accompanied by severe lethargy or repeated vomiting, professional care
be sought promptly. Dehydration
can be a life-threatening condition in a dog with increased output
and decreased intake (not drinking) or vomiting.
diarrhea is noted to be associated with straining or mucous or
blood. This usually indicates a
disorder of the large intestine (colon) and is managed a little
from disorders of the small intestine.
Sometimes the observation
of diarrhea is actually due to constipation,
as only fluid can bypass the hard obstruction. Conversely, when
straining is present, constipation is not
necessarily the cause. Spasms from
a colon with diarrhea can make a pet appear to be constipated.
cases of diarrhea will respond to treatment and result in a happy pet
a happy owner.
Claws on Paws
Important Facts to Prevent "Claw Damage" and Keep Your Pet's Feet Healthy
By Jon Bernstein, DVM
Claws are complex structures that are derived from modified skin tissue overlying bone of the end of the digit. Claws serve many functions, including prehension, predation, aggression, defense, and locomotion.
Despite these attributes, claws are sometimes a cause for concern for the pet owner. Many people have been "marked" by the sharp claws of a puppy or by a cat that pushed off or held on with extended claws. Digging holes and scratching furniture are also commonly encountered problems.
There a number of things you can do to prevent CLAW DAMAGE:
1. Although animals can function without claws, they are not usually removed unless they are diseased or are causing unsolvable problems. In some municipalities it is actually against the law to remove your cats’ claws.
2. Soft plastic claw covers ("soft paws") can be glued over the claw. These can be helpful, but need frequent replacement.
3. The most common procedure to limit unwanted claw damage is claw trimming.
How to Trim Your Pet’s Claws
Claw trimming is performed with one of several types of specialized trimmers. The types include: guillotine-style, scissors-style, and snipper-style (human nail clippers). These all work well. The important factor is to be sure the instrument is sharp.
Claw trimming is performed in small increments. Each claw is tipped progressively from the sharp end toward the base. As each layer is removed, the cut end should be inspected. A dry white surface usually indicates that more can be removed. A dark shiny surface means STOP!!
If the claw is inadvertently clipped too far, there will be a painful reaction and blood will ooze from the surface. You should be prepared for this possibility and have something on hand to stop the bleeding. You can use styptic pencils or ferric sub sulfate solution or powder to staunch the flow. By progressing slowly and observing the cut surface, one can usually avoid this complication.
If you Google “how to trim my pet’s claws” there are many sites that offer images and additional tips
So What If Your Dog Has Fleas
Important Facts You Need to Know
by Dr. Bernstein
LOS ANGELES, CA -
“My dog has fleas” is not solely an aid for tuning string instruments. Unfortunately, it is a statement of fact for many Southern Californians. These tiny insects are responsible for making the lives of pets and their owners miserable. Fleas can cause irritation from a bite, but they are often responsible for more severe reactions.
Many animals develop allergies to flea saliva and this results in widespread skin irritation, not restricted to the area that was bitten. The itching is often so severe that many dogs wear their front teeth down to the gums seeking some relief.
There are approximately 2,200 types of fleas in the world, but only four are of significance in the U.S.A. Of these four, Ctenocephalides felis is by far the biggest problem for our pets.
To attempt flea eradication, it is helpful to understand the life cycle of the flea. In order to lay eggs, a female flea needs to ingest blood. After feeding, she will lay 20-50 eggs per day and can live for 3-4 months. Once on a host, the flea will spend the rest of its life there ingesting blood and laying eggs. White eggs are laid on the hair, but quickly fall off. Within a week, the eggs hatch into little white caterpillar-like larvae.
These larvae feed on organic matter in the ground, carpet, or bedding. The main food source for the larvae is flea droppings, which contain partially digested blood. The pet’s sleeping area is the best place for larvae to develop. After 5-11 days, the larvae spins a cocoon, which is a safe hideout since it is resistant to many environmental threats, as well as to flea control chemicals.
These pupae are ready to hatch in 1-4 weeks, but may lie dormant for up to 6 months. They hatch in response to stimuli in the environment, such as touch, warmth, carbon dioxide, or vibration. This “trick” is the basis for a hungry horde of fleas welcoming the family home when returning from a vacation. These newly emerged adult fleas have only 3 objectives: find a host; suck their blood; and reproduce!
For every 5 fleas you see on your pet, you can assume that there are 10 pupae, 35 larvae, and 50 eggs in the environment. For this reason, flea control needs to be systematic and continuous. There are effective and safe products available to eliminate fleas. If you still see fleas after treating your pet, it does not mean the fleas are resistant or the product is no good. Consult your veterinarian to help formulate an effective flea control program.
Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth - Caring for your Dog's Teeth
by Dr. Bernstein
LOS ANGELES, CA - Although this proverb may have some merit
for interpersonal relationships it is not in the best interest
of the horse. Nor is it a good idea to ignore the oral cavity
of your dog or car. Dental enamel is the hardest substance in
the body, yet the teeth and gums represent a major source of disease.
Plaque is a soft substance that
clings to the surface of teeth. It
is a sticky film of bacteria that
is not readily seen, but can be removed with gentle abrasion (such as a
Calculus (tartar) is a hard mineral deposit that commonly accumulates on
the teeth adjacent to the gumline.
Calculus can NOT be brushed off,
but requires much more effort (scaling) to remove. Calculus and plaque promote an
inflammatory reaction in the gums and can lead to destruction of the tissues
that anchor the tooth.
This inflammatory process can
also have consequences far beyond the mouth. Some conditions that have been linked to oral inflammation
are heart, lung, and kidney disease, blood clots, strokes, and low birth weight
Although calculus can sometimes
be scraped off while an animal is awake, the end result is usually not
ideal. There can be cosmetic
improvement, but serious problems may persist unseen. Under anesthesia, a complete oral exam can detect problem
areas that are unseen in an awake animal.
Damaged teeth, root pockets, inflammatory changes and tumors can be
evaluated and treated during a complete oral examination. Teeth cleaning consists of ultrasonic
removal of all the plaque and tartar, both above and below the gum margin. Each tooth is then polished to make it
more difficult for plaque to adhere.
Home care is extremely important
to maintain oral health between veterinary treatments. Since hard calculus starts to form in
2-3 days, brushing must be done several times a week. It has been found that certain "chewables" can be as
effective as brushing.
Follow the advice of your
veterinarian regarding oral/dental
exams and treatment to avoid many health problems. Whether your pet is a gift, a rescue, or purchased, don't
forget to look in the mouth.
by Dr. Bernstein
LOS ANGELES, CA - With the passage of time, changes occur in our environment. One of the indicators
of this change is variation in the plant and animal species in our
community. In my early years of practice, I would rarely see a dog
with a tick. If a dog presented with one, I could safely assume that
he had frequented the local horse race track. Now, I regularly see
tick-infested dogs from many different neighborhoods.
Another change we are experiencing is the increasing ability to
identify diseases which previously went unrecognized. Ticks and
disease have a close relationship. They are known to harbor and
transmit many diseases of humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.
Ticks have three developmental stages. Each stage feeds on an animal’s blood and can transmit disease organisms.
eggs are laid on the ground and hatch into small, tick-like 6-legged
larvae. These larval ticks attach to an animal host, suck blood, drop
off, and molt into 8-legged nymphs. These nymphal ticks also find an
animal host, feed, then drop off to molt into 8-legged adults. The
adult ticks repeat the process and after engorging with blood (up to 1
teaspoon each), drop off to lay eggs. This pattern of development
gives the tick three different animal hosts from which they can pick up
and transmit infectious agents.
This pattern of development gives the tick three different animal hosts
from which they can pick up and transmit infectious agents.
Since ticks can live several years and produce 20,000 eggs, their
threat to the health of animals and humans is immense. Ticks can be so
numerous that weakness or death from blood loss is a reality.
The list of tick-borne diseases is extensive. It includes:
erlichiosis, tick paralysis, tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,
babesiosis, Q Fever, and Lyme Disease.
Although ticks can be controlled with topical treatments, elimination
is more difficult that it is for fleas. Be sure to inspect your pet
daily, especially after outings in the fields or woods. By combining
vigilance with routine preventive treatments, you can minimize the
risks of encountering these blood-sucking arachnids.
Vaccines - An Ounce of Prevention
by Dr. Bernstein
LOS ANGELES, CA - Can you imagine a world without vaccines? A world with diphtheria, typhoid, poliomyelitis, smallpox and rabies
running rampant through the population? Fortunately, prevention
against many serious diseases is readily available. Our animal
population is likewise protected against many serious diseases by
pet owners know their dogs and cats should be vaccinated, but there is
often confusion as to when or why. Veterinarians are sometime
presented with a very ill puppy because the owner was told (usually by
a well-meaning friend) that vaccines should be started at a later age.
Another common scenario is an animal that was purchased with the
understanding that it “had all of its shots”, yet develops canine
parvovirus enteritis or feline distemper.
may be helpful to understand why these illnesses occurred. The answer
lies in understanding “maternally derived antibodies”. Antibodies are
produced by the immune system of the pregnant mother in response to
exposure to a vaccine or a disease-causing organism. These protective
antibodies are passed on to the newborn when they nurse colostrums
(first milk) during the first few days of life. These antibodies
protect the baby from disease for a limited period of time. If the
youngster is vaccinated while it has high levels of maternal
antibodies, the antibodies will attack the vaccine virus. The
antibodies cannot distinguish between a vaccine virus (good) and a
pathogen (disease-causing virus). For this reason, the puppy/kitten
needs to receive a series of vaccinations until the maternally-derived
antibody level has decreased sufficiently to prevent its cancellation
of the vaccine virus. We know that this will occur by 16 weeks of age,
so that is the age at which we are virtually certain that the vaccine
will be effective. The youngster will therefore make his own
antibodies against the disease.
might think that waiting until the puppy/kitten is 16 weeks old would
be a way to avoid maternal antibody interference (remember the
well-meaning advice to wait until the new pet was older?). In theory,
this is true, but if the antibodies decrease prior to this age, the
young one will be susceptible to infection. The vaccine series is the
attempt to make the window of susceptibility as small as possible.
veterinarian will explain his or her vaccination program at your first
visit. The ideal age for the first visit is at 6-8 weeks. We all want
your new family member to start off with at least an “ounce of