Sunday, May 20, 2012

Readers's Digest May 2012, Vet Secret's

This is part 8 of the May 2012 article from the Reader's Digest, titled, "50 Secret's Your Vet Won't Tell You" by Michelle Crouch.

This section is called "What You Can Do."

Secret 44

"Yes, dog whisperer Cesar Millan has turned some aggressive dogs around, but-please-don't train your dog that way. Using aggressive tactics can cause serious behavior problems and may not be effective." A vet in Cal.

OK, here I go again being completely honest and knowing that some people, (my staff in particular), are not going to agree, or like, what I am about to say.

On the subject of Cesar Millan, he is viewed as a god-like entity at our practice. We actually have pictures of Cesar, I call them "little Cesar's," posted all over the place with hearts and sticky notes that read things like, "Tracy, you are my reason....," or "Cesar loves Micheley." He is our heart-throb poster pin-up boy. My staff has watched every episode, emulates every action, and I often find them huddled together swapping notes on a behavior case and using words like, "Well, I think Cesar would..." I have no place to supersede him, and his popularity has allowed many dogs to be seen as salvageable, and given many a four-legged (pit bull especially) a second, or third, or even fourth chance. I have seen his magic happen on his TV series and in my own clinic. BUT, I do think that the best way to train a dog is with kindness, respect, and patience. I don't necessarily adhere to the whole"pack mentality" behavior modification treatment plan. I think that overwhelmingly many of these dogs are mis-understood and we as humans are not trying to comprehend what they are trying to tell us. So if I have to pick a trainer to follow I would say I am a Victoria Stilwell follower, more than A Cesar follower. (Sorry guys).

My best advice is to get help for your dog if you even remotely think there might be a problem. I have found that many people disregard my advice when I tell them that I think their dog needs some behavior modification training. I think it is partly defensive on their part, and partly they excuse bad behavior by dismissing the vet staffs opinion because they think being afraid (or aggressive) at the vets is understandable.

I expect pets to be somewhat tentative in our office, but full blown snarling, and needing a muzzle is a big red flag in your face that your pet has some obedience issues.

Dismissing our recommendation because your pet is "never away from your home," and/or "never acts this way at home," is setting you both up for disaster down the road. Behavior problems, fears, anxieties, and aggression of any kind ALWAYS gets worse with time. So please address and deal with it the first moment you think there might be an issue.

Secret 45

"A lot of pet medications are available at human pharmacies  for lower prices than we charge. Walgreens even has a list of veterinary medicines for $4 per one-month dose. These are medicines that you would pay $20 to $30 for at your vet." Mei Mei Welker, DVM

This is true. We cannot compete with Wal-Mart, Walgreens, etc. We cannot in many cases even buy the product as cheaply as these big guys sell them for. But, that being said, you must understand that your veterinarian is trying to make their own businesses ends meet. And we are a business. If we reduced our prices for pharmacy items to match Walgreens (not that I even think this is possible without severely undercutting what we pay for them), we will have to increase prices elsewhere. I am not proposing that you do not inquire about your options, and we all understand that we are all on a budget, but please try not to be upset when you hear or see of a price difference. There is simply no way we could ever compete with these global super stores.

Secret 46

"Want to exercise your cat without getting off the couch? Get one of those little laser beams." Albert Ahn, DVM, a vet in Short Hills New Jersey

Cats love to chase a laser beam. They are widely available, cheap to buy, and will get your cat up, running, and stalking/hunting that ever elusive red light for hours. I fear that someday we will need psychotherapy for laser beam obsession?

Secret 47

"I know you mean well when you vigorously lather your dog with shampoo and then vigorously rub him dry with the towel, but that can jam hairs under the skin like little splinters and cause horrible infections that are very painful. It's especially a problem for short-coated dogs like Weimaraners, Boston terriers, pugs, Labs, and boxers." Nadine Znajda, DVM, a vet with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, Fla

I have not seen this happen, but it certainly can, and I bet it does. Please treat your pet the way you would like to be treated. If you think rubbing a towel hard enough to drive hair into your skin would be painful for you, it is painful for your pup.

Secret 48

"If the plaque sprays and dental water additives actually worked, none of us would be telling you to brush your pet's teeth." Dennis Leon, DVM

OK, think of it this way. Do you think that drinking mouthwash, or spraying mouthwash on your teeth would make your teeth feel as fresh and clean as a good brushing? Nope, it won't. Nothing even comes close (not even a tiny bit) to being as effective as brushing those teeth. And, just so we are all clear they need to be done at least 4 times a week.

I had a client last night who told me that she used to brush her dogs teeth, but gave it up a year ago, because she had replaced the daily brushing with daily Denta-Stixs. Unfortunately, the teeth were horrible and her dogs are now obese. So she only got a fat dog with still bad teeth. Not to mention how much money she sank into Denta-Stix?

Secret 49

"Take your cat to the vet in a plastic cat carrier with a removable top, and have your vet remove the lid for the exam. Your pet will feel more secure and be less likely to fight or flee." Mei Mei Welker, DVM

In the last ten years pet carriers have evolved significantly to be safer and easier to load an unload
your pets. For cats, I like the plastic clam shell carriers with the metal grate top that allows you to lower your pet into it, and also for us to open the hatch, and lift them out of it. Nothing is worse than having to stick your arm into a carrier where the cat is hiding and crouched into the tiniest ball in the deepest bowels of its carrier, giving you that low humm-growl that seems to crescendo as your arm plunges deeper. I usually opt out of the extracting unknown angry feline from said dark and safe carrier and opt for the try to dump now hissing and spitting cat onto the exam table instead. But in most cases these guys are also able to use their spideyman claws to cling to a seemingly ungrippable surface and hang upside down from inside of their carrier.

Worst of all are the owners (no doubt trying to instill "calm" (but we all know this ain't gonna happen, your upset cat will NEVER listen to reason)) tries to remove their cat from its' carrier and gets mauled. It has happened to us all. We really don't want you to get hurt in our hospital, and we really do believe you when you protest "that Fluffy is an absolutely delight fully affectionate cat outside of our office."

Your cat will be happiest with a crate you can lower them into, close them securely inside of, and then place a sheet or towel on top of. The carrier should only be about twice the size of your pet and no more. They actually feel safer in dark, quiet, claustrophobic places. That's why they run and hide in a tiny corner of your closet when they get scared. The quieter and darker that carrier; is the calmer they are.

And during that car ride to our office I would suggest that you keep the radio off, don't talk to them, and for god sakes NEVER EVER open the carrier. Your cat can flee to under your brake pedal after thrashing your face to bits in the frenzy to find cover and then neither one of you is going to arrive safely.

Lastly, if your pet has made hamburger meat out of some veterinary staffs arm already in the past, please give us a little heads up before we approach your pet. I always say "thanks for the advance notice," when an owner confesses to me that their pet isn't their usual collected self in our office.

On the subject of willing patients; I have a few patients who are much easier to examine when their owners are not present. I have a few German Shepherd's, Rotties, and Dobermans who are so protective of their owners that I always ask them to leave examination room after passing the leash to me on the way out. It seems once their owners step out of the room they don't feel that they have to protect anyone so they settle down. Either that, or these guys think that they can get away with bad manners in front of their owners and quickly realize we won't allow the rude snarling here. We are never ever mean or harsh, but we are always
stern, direct, and very observant. We have been trained to recognize fear, insecurity, anxiety, etc, and we know that these are likely to turn into aggression, so we are prepared at all times for it.

Secret 50

"If you live in a one-bedroom apartment with no patio and minimal space, and you're gone ten hours a day at your job, a 100-pound Great Dane may not be the best choice for you? Maybe start with a goldfish?" Amber Anderson, DVM

OK, a very big dog, does need more room than a very small dog, granted. BUT, a Great Dane is actually a pretty calm laid back breed of dog. I think it is crazy to get a border collie unless you live on a farm, or run 4 miles, or more, a day. I also think that a Lab, or anything with an -oodle on the end of their name has a very high energy need. So apartment dwellers out there try a cat, a small (mute) bird, turtle, reptile, etc. For those of you with yards and the ability to play for hours with your dog something middle sized is better.

As a good rule when you visit to adopt your pet; pay attention to how fast their tail is wagging. The slow waggers are often the quietest, the tails that you cannot identify other then as a flash of fur need a farm a job, and you will be expected to keep them exercised to the point of them being worn out, (so they sleep) when they get home. If you are finding that your walk or play time ends with him still in the house jumping, barking, chewing, chasing, tugging, etc, head back outside because your work isn't done yet. A quiet, tired puppy is a happy puppy!


  1. Hi Y'all,

    Playing catch up with my reading. Had to smile about Cesar. Like Victoria though. Learned some things from reading Cesar, but differ on how to get there. Distraction is good, differ on how to distract. Exercise is excellent.

    Personally think that no one should adopt a dog unless they are willing to take it to obedience classes with a qualified AKC trainer. You get trained to read your dog and learn how to handle it around other dogs. Even if you know how to train your dog, the trainer sees mistakes you are making that confuse your dog and can help you correct them.

    BrownDog's Human

  2. 44: I am not arguing that Cesar Milan might have saved some dogs' lives. I also think that some of his ideas seem to make sense. However, in my opinion, Cesar Milan calling himself a "whisperer" it's like a tornado calling itself a breeze. BAT training is what would the most representative of true whispering.

    45: Our vet is perfecly happy to send prescription for drugs available in a drug store for us to pick up there.

    47: Being gentle is always a good policy. If you want your dog really dry, try a dedicated shop vac to blow dry them.

    50: Neat tip about the wagging :-)