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Take a hike! (But safely!)

Hiking is a great way to take a breather with your dogs.

Hiking is a great way to take a breather with your dogs.

We have had some beautiful days this summer (and some miserable ones), and we are fortunate to live in an area with a lot of great places to hike. Hiking with your dog can be a wonderfully rewarding (and tiring! A tired dog is a good dog.) way to get some exercise and get a mental break from the endless hubbub of modern life. Unfortunately, hiking without being prepared can result in some scary situations. Fortunately, some sensible and easy steps and planning can help you make the most of your outdoor experience with your pup.

Here are some ways to avoid trouble in the outdoors:

1. Consider your dog’s fitness level. Before tackling a long hike, make sure your dog is physically capable of it. Is he overweight? Is he a smush-nosed (brachycephalic) breed? Does he have arthritis? Maybe it is best not to take him along, but instead stick to shorter walks that are more manageable for him until he’s in better shape and the weather is cooler. Dogs with short snouts are especially sensitive to the heat, and can overheat quickly even on days that don’t seem like they’re that hot.

If you’re thinking about having your dog carry a backpack, make sure it fits him well. Get him used to carrying weight gradually– don’t load him up if he’s not used to it- it’s a lot more work to hike while carrying a pack! A dog should never carry more than 10% of his weight in a pack, and you should be careful to balance it from side to side so as not to put unequal stress on his body.

2. Make sure your dog is vaccinated. Rabies is the most important, of course, because it’s deadly and can be transmitted to humans. Rabies is alive and well in Pennsylvania, and a chance encounter with a sick raccoon could end in disaster. It is simply not worth the risk to your pet or to your family. (It is also state law that all dogs be regularly vaccinated against rabies, both for their own good and for the safety of the public.)

Other vaccines may also be appropriate, depending on where you’re hiking. We see a lot of Lyme disease in this area (especially Mt. Gretna and Cornwall). Fortunately, there is a fairly effective vaccine that protects against it. Leptospirosis is another disease for which we can vaccinate. Lepto is uncommon around here, but it is out there and it can be passed from dog to human.

3. In line with the Lyme vaccine, please use a flea and tick preventative! Whether you choose a topical product such as Frontline Plus or an oral flea and tick preventative such as Nexgard, it is always going to be your dog’s first defense against Lyme and other tick-borne nasties. Be sure to reapply monthly so that your dog gets the best protection possible.

Baby Bean's first hike.

Baby Bean’s first hike.

4. Be sure to carry plenty of water and a bowl for your dog! There are plenty of options out there for lightweight and collapsible bowls that are easy to pack (or even clip on to a backpack). Make sure you have enough water (more than you think you’ll need) for both the humans and the canines. Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially with some of the horribly sticky days we’ve been having. Yes it’s heavy to carry, but it is the most important thing to take with you.

5. Tag that dog! An easily visible and up-to-date id tag (or embroidered collar) is the best way to get your dog home in the case that he gets lost in the woods. Make sure the phone number is current. Microchips make for an awesome backup to an id tag. They cannot be lost or removed, but they do require someone with a scanner in order to get your dog back to you, whereas with an id tag, you eliminate that “middle man”.

6. Carry a first aid kit! This is always a good idea whether you take your dog with you or not. There are a wide assortment of first aid kits available, whether dog or human-specific. You can also make your own. There’s a wonderful post about how to make a tiny first aid kit on the Team Unruly website. I like to make sure I’m carrying Vetwrap (a flexible bandaging material that sticks to itself), a rubber glove, disinfecting wipes, and some kind of non-stick sterile pads. I also carry a bandana with me, which can be useful for everything from bandaging up a wound to muzzling an injured dog who is scared and trying to bite. It can also be soaked in cold water and used to help cool off a hot dog (or human).

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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Dogs, Health, Safety

 

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New weapons in the war on bugs!

Flea season last year was horrible. We saw so many clients with flea infestations who had never ever had flea problems in the past. It was frustrating and expensive for clients, and frustrating for us because they were so hard to treat. While we have an excellent step-by-step treatment guide for dealing with fleas, it seemed that no matter what people were doing, it just wasn’t working.

Recently, a few new products have come onto the market. One is just for fleas, the other is for fleas and ticks. White Oaks Veterinary Hospital is carrying both of them in order to give our clients more options when it comes to fighting the dreaded bugs that our pets can harbor.

The first one is for fleas only and is available for both cats and dogs. It is called Activyl, and we’ve been getting great reviews from clients.

Nobody wants fleas.

Nobody wants fleas.

We are only carrying the flea-only version of the product (the one that also kills ticks is toxic to cats), and it is currently only available for purchase as a pack of six, but at this point it does appear to be a powerful weapon against those dreaded blood-sucking, home-infesting fleas. If you have a kitten and you’re just looking for a general flea preventative, we would still recommend Advantage because it is a bit more gentle. If you’ve been using Frontline or Advantage and it’s working for you– fantastic! No reason to fix something that’s not broken. But we want to make you aware that we do have a potentially more potent option for the really tough flea problems.

Our other new product is something we’re pretty excited about– the first once-a-month ORAL flea and tick preventative called Nexgard.

nexgard

There have been other oral flea preventatives out there for awhile, but this is the first one that works against ticks as well. It is made by Merial, the makers of Frontline, and it has had extremely good reviews. It is slightly more expensive than Frontline, but it’s a terrific option for dogs who swim a lot, are bathed a lot, or have owners who dislike the oily patch that topical preventatives leave.

As with many oral medications, the most frequent side effect is vomiting, but otherwise this product seems to work very well. A number of staff members have tried it and liked it (I love it for my smooth-coated dogs– no mess!) and we are excited to see how it performs this flea season.

As always with tick prevention, checking your pet over after being out and avoiding high-risk tick areas is advised no matter what kind of preventative you are using (and even if you are having your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease because ticks do carry other nasties), but in the area that we live in, ticks are going to be lurking and for many people and their pets, unavoidable.

Nexgard is not available for cats. It is a dog-only product.

If either of these products sounds like something that you might be interested in for your own pet, or if you have any questions about what the right flea and tick preventative for your pets is, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 717-665-2338. We would be happy to help you figure out the best option for your pet.

 

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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.

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

 

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