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When Should My Dog Visit the Veterinarian?

Clients will often call with questions trying to decide if their pets need to come in to see the doctor.  Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) surveyed veterinarians and listed the top ten reasons their canine policy holders visited the veterinarian. Perhaps this list will help you decide if a veterinary visit is in order.

Skin allergies: Living in Sonora, it seems we have more than our share of itchy, uncomfortable dogs.  From the odor that often accompanies skin allergies to your dog disrupting your sleep at night with his scratching and licking, this is a problem that you want to fix as soon as possible. Unfortunately, skin allergies can be challenging to diagnose and treat.  It is important to be patient, and be prepared to work with your veterinarian's course of action, which may include skin scrapings, blood work, and possibly even a skin biopsy.  Getting skin allergies under control can take some time and some expense, perhaps a good reason for pet health insurance.

Ear infections: Ear infections can be quite painful, a dog that is digging at his ears, shaking his head, holding his head at an angle or simply crying out when you touch his ears is clearly sending you a message.  Like skin allergies, ear infections may require some involved diagnostics, including smears and cultures, to find the exact cause.  It is worth the effort to catch an ear infection early before permanent damage is done to your dog's hearing.  Be prepared to clean your dog's ears and apply ear drops as directed.  Sometimes an anesthetic is required to flush debris from the ear canal or remove a foreign body (such as a foxtail).  Follow up visits are a must for ear infections to make sure everything is cleared up.

Stomach upsets: Vomit or diarrhea on the carpet does catch your attention!  Dogs are creatures of opportunity and will eat almost anything resembling food.  This can lead to some nasty stomach and intestinal upsets.  While mild cases may clear up with no food for 24 hours, some dogs may require fluids to prevent dehydration, along with medications to stop vomiting and slow down the intestinal motility.  Sometimes pets are hospitalized until their symptoms are controlled, this way they can be monitored and your home can stay clean.

Bladder infections:  Ranking right up there with diarrhea or vomit on the rug is urinary incontinence.  Fortunately dogs rarely get urinary blockages, but a bladder infection is painful and can lead to more serious kidney infections if left untreated.  Dogs with bladder infections may have obvious blood in their urine or may need to go out more frequently. A visit to the veterinarian could detect something as simple as a bacterial infection needing some antibiotics, to bladder stones requiring a surgical solution. A urinary blockage in a male cat is an emergency, so if your cat is trying to urinate frequently and/or is straining, get them to the vet right away. 

Tumors: Small growths are common on some dogs in the later years of their lives, but if you have ever had a pet with cancer, you become very sensitive to any growths at all on your dog or cat.  Having those growths removed means not having to worry about them growing or becoming malignant.  As a first step to treatment, your veterinarian will probably do a needle aspirate or biopsy to determine whether the growth is benign.  You can then make an informed decision about whether surgery is indicated.

Osteoarthritis:  Our dogs are living longer lives and many of them are overweight.  Both age and weight can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.  To help prevent this painful condition, use diet and exercise to keep your dog's weight down.  As a precaution,  many owners supplement their pet's diet with glucosamine, or purchase diets that have these supplements in them.  For dogs that already have some arthritis, there are many effective pet specific arthritis medications available to keep your pet comfortable into their senior years. DO NOT give human NSAIDs (Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.) or pain relievers to your pets. 

Sprains:  Many dogs are "weekend athletes" just like many of us, and heading out to hike after a week of lying around leaves our dogs open to sprains and muscle and tendon injuries.  Remember to do warm-up and cool-down exercises for your dogs, just as you would for yourself.  Daily walks will also help to keep your pet fit. 

Eye infections:  Eye problems are true emergencies, necessitating an immediate visit to your veterinarian.  A simple corneal scratch can lead to a full blown ulcer in a very short time.  Glaucoma is another ocular problem that can progress very rapidly.  Virtually any change in your dog's eye justifies a visit to your veterinarian. If your dog is squinting or has eye discharge, make an appointment as soon as possible.        

Enteritis:  Enteritis is an inflammation or infection in the intestines that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If either problem continues for more than 24 hours or you can see blood in the vomit or diarrhea, a veterinary visit is in order.  Don't forget to take a sample of the diarrhea to your veterinarian!  If your pet is dehydrated, be prepared to leave him in the veterinary hospital for fluids and care.

Hypothyroidism: This is the number one hormonal problem for dogs.  If your pet is lethargic or his coat is dull with areas of thin hair coverage, your pet may be suffering from hypothyroidism.  Since the thyroid gland does control metabolism, it has the ability to affect many bodily functions.  Your veterinarian will need to do a blood test to definitively diagnose your dog with hypothyroidism.  If your dog does have hypothyroidism, chances are he will need to take medication for the condition for the rest of his life.

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Our family pets have gone to Dr. Wes Wittman and staff for over 20 years. His care has exceeded any expectations we have ever had. He even performed a c-section on our rabbit! Our pets are an extension of our family and have always been treated so with Dr. Whitman.

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