ASK DR. CHIP - MARCH EDITION

Want to be featured in next month’s newsletter? Email our very own Dr. Chip at info@petsplusus.com and make sure you reference ‘Ask Dr. Chip’ in the subject line.

About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.


Question:

Hello,

When does a female go into heat for how long when is it safe for a female dog to have puppies any info would teach me the information on this subject.

Thank you,

Marlene

Answer:

Hi Marlene,

To answer your specific questions, depending on a number of factors such as breed and individual variations, most dogs experience their first heat between 6-14 months of age. The heat cycle itself lasts about 3 weeks and most breeders would wait until a breeding bitch has had at least 2-3 heat cycles before breeding her. The scope of our newsletter doesn't lend itself to give you any in-depth look into the world of breeding dogs. However, it is worth noting that successful breeding is far more difficult than it might appear and is fraught with challenges - both medical and financial. As an example, in order to have both the dam and sire certified to be free of a whole host of potential problems that could be passed on to the puppies, it can be very expensive. Depending upon the breed, the whelping process itself can be life threatening for both the dam and puppies.

Knowing that there are a huge number of dogs that are looking for a loving, forever home, unless you were intending to become a professional dog breeder over the long term, most owners, who contemplate what a wonderful idea it would be to clone their present dog through have her bred, reconsider when they fully appreciate all the challenges that have to be overcome with no guarantee of success at the end.

Cheers,

Dr. Chip


Question:

Hello Dr. Chip,

We have a 12-year-old mini-labradoodle (Maggie) who is relatively healthy, enjoys her life, is quite people-oriented and very food-motivated. We have 2 questions about Maggie:

  1. Maggie has an increasing number of adenomas, on her legs, back, neck and even a few on her face. Most are small (the size of a pea) but a few keep growing larger and some also secrete a sticky substance. Our vet has said that unless an adenoma interferes with the dog’s mobility, eating or breathing we should leave them alone; otherwise, surgery and putting the dog under anaesthesia would be required to remove it. Is there a way to remove a particularly large (size of a small grape) adenoma on her hind leg just above the paw (and which she frequently licks) that is prone to being nicked and then starts to bleed – without placing the dog under anaesthesia?
  2. Maggie occasionally starts to hack and cough, during excited play sessions, or when it is hot and humid outside, in spells that can last a couple of minutes. According to our vet, Maggie suffers from a poodle-related malady called collapsing trachea. Is there any treatment for this condition short of avoiding the play and environmental situations that provoke these “attacks”?

Thanks in advance for your feedback and advice,

Frank

Answer:

Hello Frank,

At 12 years of age, removing all of Maggie's adenomas would not likely make much sense. However, the one on her rear leg sounds like it is an issue and that may be worthwhile to remove. Depending upon its size, it might be able to be removed under a sedative and a local anaesthetic. As I haven't seen it, I am in no position to suggest this is feasible. Your veterinarian is the best judge as to what would and would not work. There are available ultra-short acting anaesthetic agents, i.e. propofol, and assuming the surgery would only take 10 minutes to remove the adenoma, this might be a thought. The concern is that if she worries it to the point of it rupturing and getting it infected, it might be a greater challenge to handle at that point.

As for the coughing, a collapsing trachea is not uncommon in small toy breeds. I would have thought that Maggie would have demonstrated the coughing signs for many years prior to now. If it is just a recent clinical sign, it might be an idea to have her chest x-rayed to rule out other causes of coughing. If it decided that a collapsing trachea is the most likely diagnosis, this can be controlled with powerful anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisone. However, this is a sledge-hammer approach with side effects that are not worth entertaining. Cough suppressants usually are not that effective on the long term. There is a surgical correction, but I would not suggest that at her age and knowing that it also isn't always successful. The cough is not likely causing her any harm, so I would try to control it, as you are, by controlling the situations that trigger the cough (i.e. getting too excited).

Hope this helps,

Dr. Chip


Question:

Dear Dr. Chip,

Our 8-year-old shepherd/lab mix has had some ongoing issues lately – the vet isn’t entirely sure what it is. but it’s causing a lot of stress to our fur-baby, not to mention it is very frustrating and very expensive. We have had 4 visits in as many months. First, it started with him obsessively licking his paw raw & bloody. We saw the vet, got meds and it stopped. Then he did the same to an area on his rear/hip closer to the base of the tail. Saw the vet, got meds and it stopped. Then he had a severe ear infection. Saw the vet, got meds, it stopped. Then he did the same thing to an area under his tail, around his buttocks, bit it until it bled. That last time, it turns out he had an anal gland that needed to be expressed, got meds and he’s not bothered with it since. So – we have no idea what is going on! The vet said all of this could have been caused if he was having anal gland issues this whole time and we didn’t know, or it could be an allergy, or they could all be unrelated. We are all at our wits end, so any help you have would be greatly appreciated! 

Signed,

Corina & Dargo

Answer:

Hi Corina,

Not knowing what the meds were that were prescribed makes my response somewhat limited. However, my best guess is that Dargo has atopy (allergies) and the allergies are either being triggered by a protein in the food he eats or an environmental allergen. Licking the feet, ear infections and chewing the perineal area (with or without anal gland issues) are all classical clinical signs. The fact that he is part Labrador Retriever also makes me think allergies. Your veterinarian has already considered this as an option, and it is the most likely to cause all these signs. Beginning a food elimination trial would be the first step, but this is not an easy task. It means that for 12 weeks, Dargo gets air, water and ONLY the food prescribed. He can receive absolutely NOTHING else. This is a huge challenge for most owners. Your veterinarian knows his history and the seasonality of these issues and if there is no seasonal trend, food is more likely to be the cause. If it is seasonal, then it is more likely to be environmental. To complicate matters, allergies in our pets, like us, tend to be multifactorial. The simplest solution is to put him on drugs, but these drugs can be expensive, and some have long term side effects. So, if you are able to eliminate the trigger factor, that would be preferable.

Hope this helps,

Dr. Chip


Question:

Hi,

Please help, my dog is eating its pooh! I can supervise when outside and I am able to cease its poop in a bag and throw it in the garbage but sometimes I send him outside for a moment and it will literally eat everything he just pooped so to speak.  I am discourage please let me know what I can do.

Julia

Answer:

Hi Julie,

There can be no doubt that eating poop (coprophagia) either one's own or that of another dog is a pretty repulsive habit. For bitches and puppies, it is considered normal behaviour, but the vast majority of dogs grow out of it. You will find a plethora of potential causes through Google, so I won't go into that aspect. Every time he eats poop, it reinforces the behaviour. I will assume that you have had him checked out and that he is in good physical health; he has no worms; the stools are well formed; and he is being fed a good quality, highly digestible food.

My suggestion would be to talk to your vet about putting him on a very highly digestible food with little nutritional value remaining to consume. There are also products one can add to the food to enhance its digestibility and to impart a horrific taste to the stools. I would purchase a soft muzzle that prevents him from eating poop and put that on every time he goes out. 100% of the time during the retraining period, he goes outside on a lead (with the muzzle) and the stool is cleaned up instantly. Out of sight- out of mind. Even in a nasty snow storm, you are there to clean it up. With time, it varies from dog to dog, he will lose the behavioural vice and once he is showing less interest, stop the muzzle. A few weeks later, you can then try him off the lead, but you are close by on clean up duty. It may take a few weeks or even months, but most dogs can be "cured".

Hope this helps,

Dr. Chip


Question:

Hello Dr. Chip,

I was wondering what you thought about the recent studies and the FDA's involvement regarding the correlation of grain free pet foods and DCM in dogs.

Specifically,...BEG (boutique, exotic, grain free) ingredients in pet food...legumes, lentils, potatoes etc.

We had a lab who was diagnosed (through an ECO by a cardiologist) with DCM in April of 2017 - he passed in August the same year (he was on Orijin/Acana all of his life - grain free). He was 11.

I was not able at that time to find a lot of information regarding DCM and labs.

I am a new member of a FB group...taurine deficient dilated cardiomyopathy...where I have done a lot of reading and research on the subject.

We have a new pup...Skai (one-year old lab).  He has been on Acana puppy large breed since I brought him home.

Based on my reading and research and discussions with our vet...we have just finished transitioning Skai off of Acana and he is now on Royal Canin large breed (vet brand) - the transition went well, and he is doing good.

He had a check-up and there was no heart murmur noted...I know that this and taurine testing will not detect DCM - only an echo.  Do you think I should have the echo done as a preventive?  

Our vet thinks we should be good...also to note our vet says that they do not promote grain free foods.  They recommend foods "based on the science"...which I as an owner have gone back to.

Thank you for your knowledge and time on this subject that is very near and dear to my heart.

Carmel Smith and Skai

Answer:

Hi Carmel,

DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) is a complex, multifactorial disease when it comes to causation. The genetic predisposition in breeds such as the Doberman has been an issue for decades. The concern that diet could also play a role should not be a huge surprise to anyone, only because we are what we eat. Taurine is an essential amino acid and pet food manufacturers are very much aware of its important roles in body health. As you have read, DCM in cats decades ago is almost never seen anymore - because the correlation with taurine deficiency was recognized and what was thought to be appropriate dietary levels turned out to be wrong. The levels added were boosted and the problem essentially disappeared.  The other advantage that cats have is that they are obligatory carnivores and organ meats are rich in taurine.

The work that Dr. Stern and others are doing has certainly raised a red flag when it comes to what we feed our dog. Even he, though, would suggest that the full causative impact of taurine and diet is not fully understood. It is reasonable to assume that there is more at play here; whether it be the binding of the taurine availability in certain foods or whether a defective gene is also involved. My guess is that this is multi-factorial, as so many issues are. Rarely is it simple.

Unfortunately, pet owners are easily swayed by misleading information put forth by individuals, groups or even companies who have limited scientific background and knowledge when it comes to the manufacturing of pet foods. The existence of social media makes the propagation of this misinformation a great deal easier with no checks or balances. My gut feeling is that Skai will absolutely fine and, personally, I would not spend the money on an echocardiogram. You have already switched him to a food from a very reputable food company and it should be a non-issue going forward.

Thank you for your question!

Cheers,

Dr. Chip