Dear Daisy Dog: We are planning to buy a pure-bred golden retriever puppy. One breeder I called didn’t want to spend much time talking with me. How many questions may I ask without becoming a nuisance? Daisy Responds: Good breeders will answer all your questions – and then pose a bunch of their own. You should ask to see the puppies’ mother and as many relatives as possible so you can judge how well their temperaments match your family’s personality and lifestyle. Question the breeder about health problems in the line. How many have common golden problems, such as allergic skin disease, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism or cancer? How long do most of the breeder’s dogs live? Request copies of each parent’s certificates attesting that they have no inherited diseases. For example, the Canine Eye Registration Foundation certifies dogs that are free of inherited eye diseases. The pups’ parents also should have certificates from PennHip or the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, indicating the quality of their hips. OFA also maintains a registry for hypothyroidism. Ask how many of the breeder’s puppies have earned obedience, agility or working titles, so you’ll know how trainable your pup is likely to be. Also, ask to speak with others who have bought puppies from the breeder. Remember, you are adding a family member, so don’t hesitate to ask all the questions you need to make such an important decision
Dear Daisy Dog: When I chop vegetables for soups, stews and other dishes, I invariably drop some pieces onto the floor, where my dogs immediately devour them. I worry that some of the veggies may be toxic. Which should I be especially careful about? Daisy Responds: Most vegetables are safe for us dogs – except onions, garlic and chives. They can damage red blood cells and cause anemia, so make sure they don’t fall from your cutting board. If one of your dogs has a history of calcium oxalate bladder stones, it’s best to avoid oxalate-containing vegetables, such as leafy greens (including rhubarb), beets and potatoes. The root of the jicama is safe for dogs, but the seeds and other above-ground parts of the plant are toxic. Because the root is usually sold by itself, you shouldn’t have a problem unless you grow jicama in your garden. Some vegetables, such as cauliflower, produce gas, so you should be careful not to let large quantities drop to the floor. Otherwise, most vegetables are tasty, low-calorie, nutrient-rich, high-fiber treats your dogs can enjoy.
Dear Daisy Dog: You recommend brushing a dog’s teeth, but to be honest, it’s all I can do to make sure my kids brush their teeth. Isn’t there an easier way to care for my dog’s teeth and gums? What do you think of water additives? Daisy Responds: By three years of age, 80 percent of us dogs have dental disease. Unfortunately, disease in the mouth can spread elsewhere, compromising kidney, liver and heart function. So it’s important to minimize the plaque and tartar that give rise to dental disease. The “Essential healthymouth” anti-plaque water additives are effective at decreasing plaque in dogs and cats. The Veterinary Oral Health Council evaluated multiple research studies and granted these products the VOHC Seal of Acceptance in recognition of their efficacy. Since other water additives have not been approved by the VOHC, consumers have no way of knowing whether they really work. Your dog undoubtedly would prefer a product shown to be effective. You also can reduce your dog’s plaque and tartar if you feed a dental diet, offer dental treats and use a mouth spray or oral gel. For a list of effective products, visit www.vohc.org. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so this is a good time to have the veterinarians at Bernville Veterinary Clinic evaluate your dog’s mouth and recommend ways to help enhance his oral health care.
Dear Daisy Dog: I have Labrador retrievers, and I want a straight answer about canine vaccinations. Do our dogs need so many yearly vaccinations? What’s actually required? Which can be given every three years instead of annually? Daisy Responds: I wish I could give you a blanket answer, but the truth is that each dog’s risk of developing a given disease differs. Factors include how likely he is to be exposed to a sick dog, the strength of his immune system and chronic diseases that may suppress it, and even his breed and age. Because the veterinarians at Bernville Veterinary Clinic can assess your dog’s risk and know the prevalence of the diseases in our community, you should ask these important questions during the next wellness exam. That said, I can tell you that rabies vaccination is necessary because the disease is deadly to dogs and humans, vaccination is required by Pennsylvania law, and the disease is all too common here. Antibodies from the initial vaccination last one year; thereafter, duration of immunity is determined by the vaccine given. Most veterinarians recommend a distemper combo vaccination that also includes adenovirus, parvovirus and often parainfluenza. These viruses cause respiratory infection, neurologic disease, liver disease, vomiting, diarrhea and death. Both 1-year and 3-year vaccines are available. Our veterinarians may recommend annual vaccination to protect your dogs from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that damages the kidneys and liver. “Lepto” can be transmitted to humans. Lyme disease, caused by bacteria that damage the joints and kidneys, is transmitted by ticks. The disease is often life-threatening in Labradors and other retrievers. The vaccine is boosted annually. Finally, you should consider having your dogs vaccinated for kennel cough if they are exposed to other dogs, particularly in close quarters or when under stress. The vaccine is given every six to 12 months.
Welcome to the inagural post of a new blog feature on our Web site. Ask the Vet’s Pets is your chance to ask tough questions and get answers straight from the ones who know: Dr. Lee Pickett’s pets. Dr. Pickett, our hospital medical director, writes the entries in the voice of Christopher Cat, Daisy Dog and several guest pets: Christopher Cat Christopher Cat is the pen name of Oliver, a silver and black long-haired tabby of uncertain ancestry. Oliver is known for his common-sense intelligence, humor and unlimited self-confidence. He frequently receives assistance with the column from feline family members Carlie and Claire. Daisy Dog Daisy Dog is the pen name of Annie, an English setter rescued in 2005 at the age of five. She is bright, affectionate and eager to please. In answering questions, she sometimes consults her Irish wolfhound brother, Ollie. The original Daisy Dog, an olde English sheepdog, lived with Dr. Pickett from 1974 through 1988. Guest Columnists Cathy Cockatiel, Frank B. Ferret, Gina Guinea Pig, Reba Rabbit and Reggie Rat contribute their expertise when Christopher Cat and Daisy Dog take occasional vacations.