Submitted 3/17/07:
I have a three-year old dog that has never been on heartworm medication. I’ve been told she should be on it so I bought some on E-bay. My question is should she be tested prior to starting the medication?

I think this question illustrates the good and the bad of the internet and the internet's limitations. I’m guessing you may have found out about heartworms via an internet discussion site, which is good. However, I would strongly discourage buying medications from a source like E-bay, as you have no idea what you are buying or how it has been handled.

I would strongly recommend you establish a relationship with a local veterinarian so that you can get correct information about your dog’s health and care. Prior to starting the medications you should have her tested, especially since she is not currently on preventative. If a dog is positive there is the potential for an anaphylactic reaction if you start the preventative prior to treating the heartworm disease. I commend your for trying to get more information for your dog’s health; however, I would really recommend that information come from a local veterinarian. Sometimes free internet advice can be the most expensive alternative.

Submitted 12/22/06:
Porcupines and their quills are a problem for my young GSP as well as for me. It is very difficult to restrain her while trying to remove the quills. My dog and I hunt chukars in very remote areas. Because of that I carry a pretty good medical kit with me in my backpack. However, after my last experience I think I would like to get some oral anesthesia that will sedate my dog to facilitate removal of quills and provide any other emergency medical treatment. Is there anything you can recommend?

Unfortunately there is nothing good available for the purpose you desire. Often we deal with extremely viscous dogs in the practice, and I would love to have a product I could have the owner administer orally prior to the appointment. In fact, within the last couple of months I had a boxer that the owner was so afraid of they wouldn’t even think about putting a muzzle on the dog. While dealing with this dog I consulted with board-certified anesthesiologists who recommend some products used in wild animals, and while it slowed the dog down, it would have been impossible to remove quills.

There are some drugs that we use orally to sometimes take the edge off; however, they react very inconsistently from dog to dog and usually do not sedate them enough to do anything like quill removal. I would talk this one over with your vet and establish your comfort level with giving medications. I personally would not send out any injectable anesthesia with a client except in very rare situations.

Submitted 4/16/05:
I’ve been using Advantix (this year) or Frontline (last year) on my dog, and last year had problems with ticks still attaching even though I was applying the medicine every three weeks. If ticks still attach while using Advantix, can I use a tick collar as well? If so, are there any recommendation to which one is safe?

You’ll notice from my earlier post that I’m a big fan of Frontline. The one problem that people do have is that it is not a repellant, but rather an insecticide which means you will still find ticks on your dog and some of them will be attached. The hope is that they will be killed prior to transmitting any of the tick borne diseases. Usually you'll notice that the ones that are attaching are usually dead or very slow when you take them off. It is very important to also make sure you are applying it correctly and getting it down on the skin and not just on the haircoat. I have only had one or two dogs in the last five or more years that I can think of that Frontline didn't work and it was likely due to the oil layers on those dogs not being adequate to support the product.

I personally do not have any experience with Advantix and so won’t comment one way or the other. However, I do have a friend who recently switched his practice from Advantix to Frontline. Frontline is extremely safe as it is only absorbed into the oil layer of the body and not into the body itself. It is also very waterproof after 24 hours and bath proof after 48 hours; the other products usually are not.

As far as using a tick collar, off the top of my head I cannot think of a complication with using it in combination; however, I would touch base with the company of the product you are using to ensure there are no reactions or potential for overdosing using the two products together.

Submitted 3/3/05:
When using Ivomec 1% for heartworm preventative on dogs what is the correct dosage?

This is one of those situations I would strongly suggest talking over with your veterinarian prior to using this product. Certain breeds of dogs are incredibly sensitive to ivermectin and dosing is important.

I personally have never used Ivomec as a heartworm preventative, as I feel the heartworm medications on the market are effective and safe. That being said I do know for some kennels this may be a more economical choice, but I still would use it under the direction of your local veterinarian.

Submitted 11/15/2004:
I took my two-year-old GSP quail hunting Saturday for four hours. He hunted hard and enthusiastically until around the three-hour mark, and then he hunted close and a little slower until we ended the hunt. Saturday night I noticed he was moving slow and was pretty tired. Sunday after church I went to brush him don and check all his scrapes and cuts from the briars and noticed that his right front paw and ankle was really swelled up. I felt it for heat, moved it a little for movement and squeezed for a reaction. None of the above was present. I looked for some kind of cut or puncture, none was present. I gave him half of a Naproxen, his normal bowl of kibble and straightened up his bed and he climbed in his house and lay down. In the afternoon he was up running around but there was still a lot of swelling in his paw and ankle. I think he may have twisted it when we were hunting. What do you think and what should I do?

First I’m going to STRONGLY caution against giving dogs anti-inflammatories without your veterinarian’s guidance…if you had it in this case I apologize. If, however, you gave him half a tab of your Aleve, you could potentially be asking for more problems than a simple twisted wrist. Dogs do not have the same liver enzymes we do, and do not break down our anti-inflammatories in the same way, which can lead to serious side effects.

As far as the swelling, if the dog otherwise seems okay and is using the leg, there is likely no harm in waiting through the weekend. If the swelling persisted for more than a day, if the dog became sick or painful, then it is a situation that should be addressed by a veterinarian. There are a lot of tendons, ligaments and small bones that all come together in the “wrist” region and can sometimes make a diagnosis and treatment plan tricky.

Submitted 7/15/04:
What is the best antibiotic cream to use on dogs? I had heard in the past that “double” antibiotic ointment was preferred over “triple” antibiotic ointment because of the third ingredient. While reading labels it would appear that ingestion of any antibiotic ointment is a serious problem requiring immediate medical attention. So….is there a better or preferred topical antibacterial ointment?

In all honesty I tend not to use a lot of topical medications in dogs, as they tend to just lick them off. That being said you may have noticed in the first aid kit I recommend triple antibiotic ointment. Basically the only times I’ll use ointments is as a temporary covering to a wound or under a bandage until I can get somewhere to more adequately address the situation. The biggest thing you can do with any wound is to flush it out, then flush it out, and finally flush it out some more. An instructor I had at some point in time would use the phrase, “dilution is the solution to pollution.” Meaning if you can get the bacteria and debris flushed out you can help the body prevent infection. Typically if I feel an area is infected or of a high probability to become infected I’ll use oral antibiotics and thorough cleaning as my standard care.

One place ointment can come in handy is when cleaning out a wound, usually I’ll place ointment or something like Vaseline in the cut while I clip the hair around it, this prevents the hair from getting in the wound and can easily be wiped away once I need to suture or staple the wound. Also, if I’m not going to be able to “fix” something such as a cut immediately I may place some triple antibiotic on the cut and place a bandage over it if I trust the dog won’t have it off as soon as I turn my back.

Submitted 2/12/05:
My English Pointer is into his eighth week following cruciate surgery and is doing quite well. We still have him on leash walks and are fairly methodical with his recuperation. Before his surgery I would hunt him as much as I could and ran him several nights for 45 minutes to an hour.

I've read quite a bit about cruciate injuries and the long-term prognosis regarding arthritis, muscle and joint soreness, etc. My question is should I being adding some type of joint supplement to his food to help alleviate any long-term arthritis as he gets older?

Should I be adding glucosamine, Rimadyl or any other medication that will help him long-term?

I'm glad to hear it sounds like your dog is recovering nicely from surgery. In my mind the most important, post-surgery, component is physical therapy. It is extremely important to get these dogs using their leg again to ensure rebuilding of muscle mass and continued range of motion of the joint. Physical therapy is a growing segment of veterinary medicine and one just beginning to catch on with most practitioners. If you are not currently performing any controlled exercises I would talk with your veterinarian about a program, or for a referral to someone who could set such a program up for you. These programs will include exercises like sit and stand, swimming, as well as utilizing tools like walking through obstacles and the use of exercise balls. It is very important to be shown how to correctly perform these exercises so as not to further the injury or break down the surgery site.

Now to your question on medications, I think that supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are good choices for dogs with any type of orthopedic condition. For a number of years I did not use them at all in practice, being very skeptical of their effectiveness, but after hearing too many success stories I decided there had to be something to their use. More studies are coming out that also advocate their use, which makes me more comfortable in recommending them. It is important to note you'll want a supplement that has both glucosamine and chondroitin and not just one or the other. I would talk with your veterinarian about the dosing levels for your dog, as there is typically an induction course, at higher levels, followed by a maintenance level.

The anti-inflammatories you mentioned likely were used post surgery to help manage pain. Their future use will be dictated by your dog's recovery. Most dogs do great and do not require the use of these drugs as they recover, others will need them during and after athletic events. I had my own knee redone two years ago and I'm just finally getting to the point where I can run and bike without much discomfort, although part of my problem was likely going overboard with the physical therapy.

Basically I would take everything in stride, continue the controlled recovery and use medications when needed and under the direction of the surgeon.

Submitted 1/6/05:
My question concerns the safety of the Frontline flea and tick products. I have used this product on my labs for about as long as I can remember, and I seem to have had good success with it. Recently a breeder/trainer that I know and respect told me he would never ever put that chemical on his dogs. He claims it causes cancer in the animal and is generally not good for man or beast! I asked for specifics on the cancer causing effects and he could/would not provide them. I love my dogs and would not knowingly put them in harms way. I asked my vet about this and he told me it was hogwash, but he does sell and make profit from the product. Your thoughts and opinion would be appreciated.

I think the breeder/trainer is VERY misinformed about Frontline. In my opinion, it is one of the best products we have available to us in veterinary medicine…and in my experience one of the safest. I to, absolutely hate to put unnecessary chemicals or medicines on or in my dogs (or self for that matter). The beauty of Frontline is that it is not absorbed into the dog’s body, but rather is just contained in the oil layers of the coat. Thus, by never entering into the body, it really has no way to do the things the trainer was claiming. In my mind he is doing his charges a much greater disservice by exposing them to tick-borne diseases and fleas. Also, the other available products, both topicals and collars, act in different ways, and they are often absorbed, making them more likely to cause an issue than Frontline. It really is a safe, good product.

Submitted 7/19/04:
I have used Frontline for the last two and a half years with my GSP. I have noticed recently this year that when I have applied the Frontline from my vet two to five days before taking her into the field, she still has ticks. The place I am taking her has tall grasses and is prone to ticks. On at least two occasions this year, after applying the Frontline 2-5 days prior to the field, upon returning home I have pulled 2-4 ticks off of her. These ticks have attached and had not yet died. Am I doing something wrong, why are these ticks attaching to the dog? Is it possible that they would die soon and fall off or is it just not working? Please note that after the application I have not washed her for at least two days before or after.

A couple of notes on Frontline: first, it is, in my opinion, the best product we have in our arsenal for tick protection. As far as the actual product, it is not a repellant, and so ticks will still get on the dog and in some cases will attach. The tick should not become engorged; the hope is that it will be killed before transmission of tick-borne organisms can occur. When applying Frontline, the most important part of the application is to make sure you are applying it to the skin and not just to the haircoat, as this will make a big difference in product effectiveness. It works by getting into the oil layer of the skin and down into the oil glands and acts as an insecticide when the fleas and ticks come into contact with it…it is not absorbed into the body or bloodstream.

One way you might be able to tell if it is working would be to look in the area your dog sleeps, as usually there will be dead ticks around or on the dog's bed, especially if you are in a high tick area. Also, it seems that when you pull ticks off of a Frontline dog they seem slower and in some cases dead but still attached. If you can find no evidence of the product working or you are finding engorged ticks, I would recommend calling either Merial (the customer service number is on the box) or speak with your veterinarian. It has been my experience that these companies want to make sure their product is working for you, and in the rare instance when it is not the right choice for your particular dog they will also tell you.