Preventing Seasonal Weight Gain in Dogs

The two most common health problems I see in dogs are dental disease and obesity. In Arizona, the hot summer weather keeps people and dogs indoors. The lack of exercise packs on the pounds.  Most dogs come into the clinic 3 to 5 pounds heavier every fall then slowly lose the extra weight over the winter when good weather returns to our area.

I saw the opposite when I practiced in Minnesota. Dogs gained weight over the winter from the lack of exercise and the holiday season. Those special holiday treats really pack on the pounds too. By the time spring arrived, many dogs gained substantial amounts of weight. Summer activity helped them slowly shed the excess weight until they were back to normal by fall.

Here are my suggestions to help curb seasonal weight gain in dogs:

1) Monitor your pet’s weight closely during periods of inactivity. I welcome all my clients to come in and use my clinic scales at no charge to keep tabs on their dog’s weight. Most of my veterinary colleagues do the same.

2) Change from high calorie to low calorie treats. Dog treats contain a surprising amount of calories. During periods of inactivity, use vegetables or low calories items for treats.  Alternatively, break a standard treat into pieces and give 1/4 instead of the whole.

3) Decrease the amount of food by 5 to 10 percent during periods of inactivity. Supplement with green beans or other vegetables.  If using canned or frozen vegetables, use low or no salt brands.

4) Find ways to exercise despite the extreme temperatures. Many boarding and training facilities offer indoor group play sessions.  To avoid the excessive summer heat in Arizona, I walk my dog at early in the morning.  I also recommend swimming for my patients who enjoy the water. In winter climates, many dogs can walk year round with the appropriate gear. Neoprene vests and snow booties come in a variety of sizes that will fit almost any dog.


Thanksgiving Dangers for Pets

Thanksgiving is a time for celebration. Unfortunately, it is a time for pet accidents as well. The family dog escapes while guests unload their cars and leave the front door open. The family cat burns their fur on a holiday candle. Here are my tips for keeping animals safe during the holidays.

1) Keep purses and briefcases tightly closed. Dogs and cats like to explore new items especially if they contain food. They are attracted to the sugar free gum and mints often found in bags. The chemical xylitol found in many sugar free products may cause a life- threatening drop in blood glucose.

2) Place candles in places that are inaccessible to pets. After the holidays, I see many cats with singed whiskers. Unfortunately, not all are so lucky. Some are burned severely after jumping onto the table to check out the centerpiece. To prevent this, I use battery operated candles in my house.

3) Ask house guests to keep their suitcases closed at all times. Many human medications, edible gifts and toiletries are poisonous to pets.  One of my patients found a box of chocolates hidden in luggage and promptly ate it, box and all. I had to pump his stomach to get everything out. I have had other patients get into estrogen cream, heart medication and even a bottle of Advil.

4) Secure all pets in a safe location. Every holiday season, many pets escape when doors, gate or windows are left open. Some make it home again but others don’t. I have had two patients killed, one dog was hit by a car and another cat was attacked by a dog. Remember, boarding is always an option.

5) Share the Thanksgiving meal with your human family only. Every year, many dogs will suffer from eating the high fat/carbohydrate food we have for Thanksgiving. The dogs come in with vomiting, diarrhea and severe abdominal pain. The lucky ones will respond to conservative therapy. The unlucky ones will develop pancreatitis. Provide appropriate treats for your guests to share with the pets.

I hope these tips will help keep Thanksgiving fun for the entire family.                               Happy Thanksgiving!               -Dr.  Kris Nelson

Determining Your Puppy’s Age

When I see a puppy for their first post adoption visit, the family often asks me to determine the pup’s age. Since weight and size are dependent on nutrition, I use teeth instead. Here are the guidelines I use for determining age in puppies:  Please note that baby teeth are also called deciduous teeth.

 2-3 weeks – no teeth are present. The gums feel smooth and hard.

3-5 weeks – deciduous canine teeth are present. Canine teeth are the large ‘fangs’ on the upper and lower jaws.

4-6 weeks – deciduous incisors are present. The incisors are the small teeth on the front of the upper and lower jaw located between the canine teeth.

5-6 weeks – deciduous premolars are present. The premolars are the teeth behind the canine teeth, toward the back of the mouth on the upper and lower jaw. Puppies do not have deciduous molars.

8 weeks – all deciduous teeth are present.

3-4 months– permanent incisors are present. I sometimes notice swelling of the gums in the area of the deciduous premolar teeth toward the back of the mouth. This swelling is caused by growth of the permanent premolars and molars under the gums.

3-4 months– at 3 months the area in front of the deciduous canine teeth swell. In my experience, the tip of the canine usually pops through the gum at 4 months and is fully in place at 5 months of age.

4-5 months – permanent premolars erupt. I find chilling the pup’s chew toys helps them get through this phase of teething.

4-6 months – permanent molars erupt.  When these teeth are erupting, the pup will push toys into the back of their mouths and chew.

7 months – all permanent teeth should be present.

Please note, these are approximate times for eruption of teeth. Toy breeds often experience delays in eruption as well as retention of the deciduous teeth.

Source:                                                                                                                              -Gorrel, Cecilia. Veterinary Dentistry for the General Practitioner. Saunders 2004, p 30.