Puppy Vaginitis

Puppy vaginitis is a frustrating medical problem that is first noticed around 8 to 12 weeks of age.  Signs include licking of the vulva, frequent urination and a thick vaginal discharge that coats the hair around the vulva.  The frequent urination makes these girls difficult to housebreak.  To diagnosis this condition, I perform a thorough vaginal exam looking for abnormalities of the vagina.  Usually, the only abnormality I find is dramatically inflamed vaginal mucosa.  I may also perform a urinalysis, culture of the vagina or culture of the urine depending upon the individual case. 

Unfortunately, there is a persistent belief that puppy vaginitis is more of a nuisance than a real medical problem.  I disagree!  In my experience, these girls are uncomfortable and I always treat them based on their test results.  If they are not already spayed, I recommend allowing a puppy with vaginitis to have one heat cycle to stimulate cell turnover in the vagina.  If the puppy is already spayed, I sometimes use oral estrogen to replicate a heat cycle. 

To repeat, puppy vaginitis may lead to difficulty in housebreaking.  The common history is a puppy who was doing well and then suddenly starts urinating in the house.  If you observe this, please bring your puppy in for a veterinary exam.  The puppy is not having accidents to punish you for leaving her alone. This is a genuine medical condition and fortunately, is treatable.    


Abused Dogs

Working with abused animals is a difficult but rewarding experience.  Since more abusers seem to be male, traumatized pets are often more comfortable around women than men.  This is especially true with dogs who operate under the “pack” method of thinking.  Women are perceived as less threatening because of their softer voices and nurturing personalities.  I hear lots of stories about abused dogs that are well-behaved around the woman of the house but suddenly have “accidents” when a man appears.  We humans don’t realize the dog is urinating as a sign of submission to the man.  It is not a sign of  “naughtiness”  or jealousy.  
Here are my tips for introducing a man to a dog who has been abused by a man sometime in its past. 

1)  The man should ignore the dog, especially when he comes home from work.  Allow the dog to approach him, not vice-versa. 

2)  The man should never stare at the dog.  Staring is an aggressive gesture in the dog world.  It makes the abused dog cower, look away and possibly urinate in fear.

3)  Have the man feed the dog and hand out treats.  We want the dog to associate men with the good things in life.  Sometimes it helps if the man is sitting while doing this rather than standing.  

4)  If the dog likes to walk, have the man take him for walks.  Keep all commands upbeat and happy.  If the dog pulls on the leash, ignore it.  Don’t work on obedience until the dog is comfortable with all the people in your family.  

5)  Often, men have deep voices.  This can be threatening to a dog.  When working with a timid animal, keep all commands upbeat.  Use a happy, soft voice for all commands.  This is especially important when asking the dog to come.  If you sound upset or mad, the dog is going to run the other way.

6)  Squat down or sit on the floor to look less threatening.  Since men are generally taller than women, the additional height can also trigger anxiety in abused animals.

7)  Keep your hands empty.  Abused animals will look at your hands to make sure you are not carrying anything that may be used against them.   

Three years ago, my husband and I adopted an abused dog.  Buddy is terrified of men in suits with briefcases.  After months of following the steps listed above, Steve and Buddy became fast friends.  When Steve is wearing shorts, Buddy will actually approach him for attention although he’s still shy when Steve wears a suit. 

Bringing love to an abused animal and helping them re-wire their thinking is immensly rewarding.  Ususally a timid animal is that way for a reason.  Always remember, it is not the dog’s fault.  If we think in their terms – particularly pack behavior – we have a much greater chance for success.

You Make The Diagnosis: Weimaraner

Weimaraners are a fun and sometimes stubborn breed with a lot of personality.  Originally bred for hunting, they have become a popular pet.  It is easy to see why after working with Jade, the Weimaraner pictured below.  She came into the clinic with a pitiful expression on her face.  After her examination was complete, her eyes brightened and she stretched out on the floor with her front paws crossed.  As I said before, Weimaraners have a lot of personality.

Unfortunately, some members of this breed suffer from a serious health problem that often appears between 12 and 15 weeks of age.  Name the disease.

Diagnosis:  Weimaraner Immunodeficiency Syndrome

Weimaraner immunodeficiency syndrome is a serious problem.  Affected individuals usually present with life-threatening infections between 12 and 15 weeks of age when the maternal antibodies are gone.  Symptoms vary depending upon where the infection is located but most exhibit fever, lethargy and anorexia.  If joints are infected they become swollen and painful.  

So far, the exact cause of Weimaraner immunodeficiency syndrome is unknown.  It is thought that affected pups may not produce the antibodies IgA and IgG or that one of their white blood cells, the neutrophil, is not functioning correctly.  In any case, be very careful when vaccinating a young Weimaraner.  Using a live vaccine with multiple antigens might trigger this syndrome. 

In my experience, most dogs who have Weimaraner immunodeficiency syndrome die or are euthanized before one year of age.  If they reach adulthood, affected individuals are subject to chronic infections that require long term treatment with antibiotics.  Fortunately, Jade is a healthy girl and having survived this trip to the vet, she should have a great life ahead of her. 

Possible Salmonella Contamination Causes Recall Of Pig Ears for Pet Treats

Recently, I received an AVMA alert warning of possible salmonella contamination of pig ears.  On May 3, 2011, Keys Manufacturing Company reported that a dog in Missouri became ill after consuming their product.  Therefore, the company issued a recall for 100 count Pig Ears for Pet Treats with a UPC of 7 61094 15000.  The suspect treats were sold in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.  For specific shipment dates please see the company’s website at www.keysmanufacturing.com/recall.htm

Signs of salmonellosis in animals include fever, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.  Please contact your veterinarian immediately if you observe these signs in your pet.  Many effected animals will require supportive care including intravenous fluid administration to overcome this disease.   

Salmonella may also cause disease in humans.  To be safe, I recommend washing your hands thoroughly after handing pet food and treats.  And don’t forget to disinfect utensils and work surfaces as well.  


Petique Book Signing By Veterinarian, Kristen Nelson

On Saturday, May 14th, 2011, I will be appearing at Petique – the Arizona Humane Society adoption center and store located at the Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona.  Come get your veterinary questions answered from 1:00 to 3:00 pm during a question and answer session with the vet.  I will also autograph copies of my book, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life.  Forty percent of the cover price of each book purchased during the event will go directly to the Arizona Humane Society.

I believe animals transform us!  Thus, my work as a speaker, author and clinical veterinarian is a celebration of the bond between people and animals.  Sadly, every four minutes, an animal enters the doors of the Arizona Humane Society.  This event draws attention to the wonderful animals who need homes and the benefits to humans who adopt them.  Did you know that people who live with a pet enjoy lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides as well as lower blood pressure?  Pet owners also get more exercise, visit their physicians fewer times each year and report fewer feelings of isolation and loneliness.  

Please join me on May 14th.  I would love to meet you in person.  Together let’s support the great work of the Arizona Humane Society.