Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dealing with the dreaded FLEA INFESTATION.

‘Tis the season for fleas. It seems like they are everywhere right now, and lots of people are struggling with combatting them. There are so many options out there for treating flea problems– treating your pets, treating your house. Let us try to lay out a basic warfare plan for you.

Fighting the flea life cycle is a challenging battle. Most people with flea issues find that fleas seem to come in waves– again and again– making the fight seem impossible to win. It is frustrating, but we are here to help. We agree that it takes a lot of work, but with guidance you can end your flea problem by targeting the life cycle and striking it from multiple angles.

It is time to think like a flea to better understand fleas. By the time you realize you have a flea problem, you are likely six or more weeks into these pests infiltrating your home! In a typical flea population, the adult fleas, which prefer to live on your pet, represent only about 5% of the total flea population. The remaining 95% of the flea population, the eggs, larvae, and pupae, exists in the environment. Depending on temperature and humidity, the completion of the life cycle from egg to larva to pupa to adult flea varies from as short as about two weeks up to one year. An adult flea can survive for three months to one year, with the females laying up to 50 eggs per day. It is imperative to treat all the pets and their home environment (which sometimes includes your car, your garage, and the outside yard area), to get a flea problem completely under control.

To Do List:

Step One — Treat all the Pets

Apply a monthly flea product to every pet that lives or enters your home. We recommend Frontline Plus or Advantage II — the active ingredients in both of these products can be safely used on dogs and cats. If you do not treat every pet, the flea life cycle will continue. Be sure to use the product according to package instructions. You must treat all pets for several months (usually at least three) to break the life cycle of the flea. Do not discontinue treatment after only one or two months. REPEAT THE TOPICAL TREATMENT MONTHLY.

If you are using Frontline Plus, do not bathe your pet for two days before or after applying the product. Advantage II can be applied immediately after a bath and a towel drying.

For a severe infestation, Capstar, an oral pill, will begin killing adult fleas on a pet within an hour of ingestion and continue killing fleas for 24 hours. It’s a like a “flea bath in a pill”.

For dog-only environments, Sentinel, which is a heartworm preventative product, also contains a “birth control for the flea that the dog takes”, thus preventing any viable, hatchable eggs being laid by the fleas.

Step Two — Treat the Indoor Environment

Fleas can seemingly go anywhere. Their eggs can be on your pets, but most will fall off into your carpets and furniture and between the cracks in your floor. Once the eggs hatch, the larva live in similar areas until they spin their cocoons, then finally emerge as adult fleas. And then the life cycle repeats. To stop this process, we recommend Siphotrol Plus Area Treatment — an aerosol can product with both quick kill and residual activity against fleas– or you can hire a professional residential pest control company.

Before treating, vacuum the environment very well, concentrating on the areas where “dust bunnies” go and where your pets spend most of their time. After vacuuming, empty your vacuum canister or bag immediately since flea eggs can hatch inside your vacuum cleaner. Be sure to follow package instructions carefully, treating your entire house, even areas your pet does not enter (fleas still will!). This might include closets, basement, garage, and bathrooms. We recommend use of a spray product like the Siphotrol Plus Area Treatment, because foggers will get good overall coverage but may not reach under furniture, under cushions, or in the nooks and crannies.

Wash your pet’s bedding and your own bedding in hot water.

Repeat this process in 2-3 weeks and then as needed to fully resolve your situation.

Step Three — Treat the Outdoor Environment

It is likely that every time your pet walks outdoors, he or she is picking up new fleas. Fleas are often brought into your yard by wildlife and stray cats– animals who visit your yard when you are not looking. People can actually bring “hitchhiker fleas” into the home on pant legs and shoes. Fleas will enter your house through window screens, cracks, and crevices like any other bug. Check your local retail store (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply) for outdoor sprays or granules to help reduce your pet’s exposure to fleas when they are enjoying the outdoors.

Whew, that was a lot of information! Fleas can be an extremely frustrating problem to deal with, and we totally understand that. If you are having problems that you just cannot get under control, talk to us and maybe we can help. Also, your flea products will have a phone number for the manufacturer on them, and that can also be a helpful resource in combatting stubborn flea issues. Merial, the makers of Frontline Plus, guarantee their product if purchased from a veterinarian, and will even go so far as paying for the home to be treated by an exterminator in some cases.

Things will get better after we start getting some good hard frosts, but if you have a flea problem in your home, the change in seasons will unfortunately not be helpful. Hopefully the steps in this post will help you get back to a happy, pest-free household.

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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Cats, Dogs, fleas, Health, parasites


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What vaccines does your cat need?

Last week we talked about what vaccines are available and recommended for dogs. This week we’re going to look at cats. Unfortunately, a lot of cats miss out on annual exams and vaccines. People tend to see cats as very self-sufficient, and this combined with cats being experts at hiding signs of illness means a lot of cats miss out on routine care. We really like to see cats in at least annually because there are so many diseases that can be treated much more successfully if they are caught early.

As with dogs, we try to tailor our vaccines for cats to each individual’s lifestyle. There are fewer vaccines to recommend for cats, so this is quite a bit less complicated than with dogs.

There are two vaccines we recommend for all cats.

The first one, of course, is Rabies. All healthy cats should be vaccinated for rabies, even cats who do not go outside. There is always the potential for an indoor kitty to one day decide to go on an adventure. And there is also the potential for bats, one of the more common rabies carriers, to get into your house. If your cats are anything like mine, they will be all about hunting that very interesting fluttering creature, and the risk of having one of them bitten by a rabid bat is just not worth it. And as with dogs, rabies vaccination is required by state law for all cats and kittens 12 weeks and older. It is not just about keeping your cat protected; rabies can be transmitted to humans and if not treated promptly is nearly always fatal. We don’t want anybody to have to deal with that.

The first rabies vaccine given to a cat is good for one year. After that, if it is boostered on time, all subsequent vaccinations will be good for three years.

The other vaccine we recommend for all cats is the FVRCP combination vaccine, also known as the Distemper vaccine. This vaccine offers protection from four different diseases, three of which affect the upper respiratory tract (Rhinotracheitis, Calici Virus, and Chlamydia) and one which infects the intestinal tract causing profuse vomiting, diarrhea, and fever and is frequently fatal (Panleukopenia). Again, we recommend that all cats, whether they live indoors only or go outside and mingle with other cats, receive this vaccine. After the initial kitten series, this vaccine is given at one year, again at two years, and then becomes a three year vaccine if kept up to date.

Lifestyle comes in to play with our last vaccine.

We only recommend that cats who go outside outside and potentially interact with other cats and cats who do not go outside but are regularly exposed to cats who do receive the Feline Leukemia vaccine. This is a contagious disease that affects the immune system. Approximately 50% of infected cats die within six months, and 80% within three years. We recommend that all new kittens be tested for it, especially if being brought into a home with another cat. Because there is a somewhat higher risk of vaccine-associated tumors with the Feline Leukemia vaccine, we do not typically recommend it for cats who are not at significant risk.

And that covers our feline vaccines. As always, if you have any questions, please contact our office. We will be happy to answer them for you and to help you clarify which vaccines your cat should be receiving in order to keep them as healthy as possible.

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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Cats, Health


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What vaccines does your dog need?

Vaccines are a popular and somewhat controversial topic on the internet right now, especially with the flare up of the potentially deadly parvovirus in Lancaster County. I think a lot of us take them for granted, but vaccinations are not a “one-size-fits-all” topic. At White Oaks, we try very hard to tailor our vaccine protocol to each individual pet to protect them from the diseases that they are at risk of being exposed to, but not overvaccinate them with things they don’t need.

There are two vaccines that we recommend for all normal, healthy dogs.

The first is the Rabies vaccine. This is the big one, because it is not only an animal health issue, but also a human health concern. We don’t hear a lot about rabies anymore in the United States, but it is still out there. The CDC provides some pretty interesting maps of reported rabies cases, and their cats and dogs map shows an awful lot of cat dots in our area. Most affected animals are wild ones, but it is not unheard of for those sick wild animals to come in contact with our pets. If our pets are not protected, that’s a huge risk to everyone in the household. Rabies vaccines are required by law for every dog 12 weeks and over, and there is a potential for a hefty fine if you do not comply. We recommend that dogs be vaccinated at 12 weeks of age, then again one year later. After that, as long as the vaccine is given on time, we vaccinate every three years against rabies.

The second vaccine that we recommend is the DHLPP vaccine, which is a combination vaccine which provides protection against five different diseases: Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. Distemper is a nasty virus that affects the nervous system. Fortunately, we don’t see much of this disease anymore because the majority of dogs are vaccinated for it. Hepatitis is a disease that affects the liver, Leptospirosis is a bacterium that can cause liver and kidney failure and which can be passed from pets to humans, Parainfluzenza is an upper respiratory virus that causes coughing and sneezing, and Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea and can easily be fatal in puppies.

We recommend that puppies be vaccinated every 3-4 weeks starting at six weeks of age and until they are 16 weeks old, again a year later, and then at two years. Like the rabies vaccine, the DHLPP vaccine then becomes an every three years vaccine as long as it is given on time.

Then there are the optional “lifestyle” vaccines.

These are the vaccines that we only recommend if the individual pet’s lifestyle suggests that they are at risk.

Lyme disease is increasingly prevalent in our area, especially in the Mt. Gretna and Cornwall areas. Any dogs who live in areas where they are frequently picking up ticks, or who visit tick-heavy areas for hiking, hunting, or play should be vaccinated against Lyme disease. We always recommend a topical flea and tick product as a first line of defense because there are other tick nasties out there (Anaplasmosis is one we see from time to time), but the Lyme vaccine is important back up against a potentially debilitating and occasionally fatal disease. This vaccine is initially given as a two-part series administered 2-3 weeks apart, and then after that it becomes an annual vaccine for some dogs, and a twice-yearly vaccine for dogs who are at very high risk. We prefer to give annual boosters in the spring so that they are providing maximum protection during the warm months when ticks are most active.

Kennel Cough, also known as Bordetella is recommended for any dog who is in an environment with a lot of other dogs. These are dogs who go to boarding kennels or groomers, who visit dog parks or doggy daycare, and who are attending any kind of puppy or obedience classes. Dogs who show or trial in any sport also risk exposure to kennel cough and should be vaccinated. All of the more popular boarding kennels in our area do require this vaccine annually for any dogs staying there, and the vaccine should be given several weeks before the dog’s scheduled stay. This vaccine is given anually for most dogs, and every six months for dogs at an even higher risk.

Canine Influenza is another vaccine required by some boarding kennels in the area. It is a newly emerging disease, so most dogs in the population have zero immunity to it- their immune systems have never seen it before. This puts all dogs at risk of contracting it. Like kennel cough, Canine Influenza causes coughing and sneezing, but in rare cases, this disease can develop into pneumonia and potentially even be fatal. Lancaster County did see a flare up of this disease that included several deaths during the summer of 2012, but it seems to have disappeared again. We did not have any confirmed cases at our hospital. This vaccine is potentially recommended for the same crowd of social butterflies that we recommend receive the Kennel Cough vaccine- those who are boarding, grooming, visiting dog parks, or simply going places where they are around a lot of other dogs. The Canine Influenza vaccine is initially two vaccines given 2-4 weeks apart, and then is given annually.

A Facebook reader asked about the Rattlesnake Vaccine. That one is not common in this area, although I know it is used some in the Southwest where rattlesnakes are much more likely to, say, be chillin’ in your backyard. We do certainly have venomous snakes in this area (I nearly had a nervous breakdown once while hiking with my dog when I looked down and realized he was standing less than six inches from a big fat Timber Rattlesnake), though they are uncommon. The best protection for our dogs is for us to be aware that snakes are out there and to keep dogs leashed while hiking and out of areas where snakes may be lying hidden. Any dog bitten by a venomous snake will require immediate medical attention, vaccinated or not.

That covers all of our canine vaccines. As always, if you have any questions about your individual pet’s needs and risks, give us a call. We can certainly talk to you about what vaccines are necessary and which are maybe not so pressing. We just want to do everything we can to keep your pet safe and healthy and to give all of our clients the information that they need to make the best decisions for their own pets’ well-being.


Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Dogs, Health, Puppies


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Tips for finding a good breeder. Part one: Doing your homework.

This is a question we get asked frequently: in an area with so many puppy mills (which we all know are bad news!), how do I find a good breeder from whom to purchase a puppy? It’s a complicated question, and it takes some patience and some work on your part to do the research and make the contacts, but buying a puppy from a truly good breeder who is breeding to create better dogs and who stands behind her dogs for their entire lifetimes is something well worth the investment.

And more than anything, how do I find the right dog for me?

Step One: Do your Homework

Is this the right breed for me? With so many different breeds and mixes out there, make sure you are choosing a breed that fits with your personality and lifestyle. Are you a fairly sedentary person living in an apartment? No matter how little and cute they are, a Sheltie- a highly active breed that loves to bark- may not be the best choice. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a jogging partner, a smoosh-faced breed prone to overheating is probably not going to fulfill your needs. Sit down and discuss with your family what characteristics make up the ideal pet for your household and go from there, instead of choosing a breed on looks or because somebody you know has one and loves him.

What health issues are common in this breed? There are so many different health issues out there afflicting our purebred dogs. The good thing is that there are screening tests for many of them, and these are tools that a good breeder will be using. Many results are available to the public, and a breeder that you are talking to should always be able to provide you with proof of testing. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals provides a searchable online database for dogs who have been tested for a variety of health issues from Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia to Patellar Luxation (loose kneecaps) to Sebaceous Adenitis, a skin problem that primarily affects Poodles. It also provides an overview of which breeds are the most affected by each disorder so that you can know if it is something that you should be worrying about. Looking for a Rottweiler? You should know that they are ranked third highest overall for Elbow Dysplasia and you want to look for a breeder who screens for this. Looking for an American Pit Bull Terrier? You should know that 24.4% of dogs tested had dysplastic hips. Health testing does not guarantee litter outcomes, but it is a valuable tool that helps breeders play the odds in their puppies’ favor as much as possible.

For dogs prone to eye issues such as Collies and Cocker Spaniels, the CERF Certification database is also searchable and will give you results for any individual dog who has been recently tested. It’s another good thing to know about. And last but not least there is the CHIC Database. This one can be valuable not only to search for individual dogs, but because each breed club has decided and listed what health issues in the breed they find to be the most significant. This is an easy way to find out what you should be asking questions about of a breeder.

In what area does this breed excel? Some breeds are frequently used for the sport of obedience or agility, some are primarily conformation dog show dogs (think Westminster), other breeds are used for hunting and retrieving, some make great therapy dogs and love to go into nursing homes to visit the elderly. Why is this important? You want to look for a breeder who is Doing Stuff with her dogs. If that’s floofing them up and trotting them around a show ring in front of a judge in order to judge their physical structure or retrieving ducks or herding sheep, a good breeder is going to take a strong interest in her dogs and getting them out and comparing them against other dogs to see what she is doing right and what she could be doing better in her breeding program. It is easy to take a male dog and a female dog and make puppies, but with that type of random breeding with no goal other than make money or make “nice pets”, you’re doing nothing to guarantee that you’re going to get a healthy dog with a good temperament. And shouldn’t that always be the goal?

I know a lot of people say “I don’t need or want a show dog”. Most people don’t. But I do think that most people do want a dog who is going to stay healthy for as long as possible, who is going to be friendly and tolerant instead of skittish and bad-tempered. Nature and breeding are not everything- socialization and training are also big factors- but a dog’s potential can very much be shaped by the genetic baggage he is born with, or by the genetic gifts he was given by his parents. Good breeders want to test their dogs in the real world, and frequently want to have them judged by some third party, so that they can get a better idea of what they truly have instead of just the rose-colored image in their hearts of the dogs they love. They want to produce the best puppies they possibly can.

So, some places to get started. <a href="; target="_new"Next up? How do I find these breeders and how else do I know that they’re good?

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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Breeding, Dogs, Health, Puppies


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