Pet Education

When Should My Dog Visit the Veterinarian?

Clients will often call with questions trying to decide if their pets need to come in to see
the doctor.  Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) surveyed veterinarians and listed the top ten
reasons their canine policy holders visited the veterinarian. Perhaps this list will help you
decide if a veterinary visit is in order.

Skin allergies: Living in the valley, it seems we have more than our share of itchy
uncomfortable dogs.  From the odor that often accompanies skin allergies to your dog
disrupting your sleep at night with his scratching and licking, this is a problem that you want
to fix as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, skin allergies can be challenging to diagnose and
treat.  It is important to be patient, and be prepared to work with your veterinarian’s
course of action, which may include skin scrapings, blood work, and possibly even a skin
biopsy.  Getting skin allergies under control can take some time and some expense, perhaps
a good reason for pet health insurance.

Ear infections: Ear infections can be quite painful, a dog that is digging at his ears, shaking
his head, holding his head at an angle or simply crying out when you touch his ears is clearly
sending you a message.  Like skin allergies, ear infections may require some involved
diagnostics, including smears and cultures, to find the exact cause.  It is worth the effort to
catch an ear infection early before permanent damage is done to your dog’s hearing.  Be
prepared to clean your dog’s ears and apply ear drops as directed.  Sometimes an
anesthetic is required to flush debris from the ear canal or remove a foreign body (such as
a foxtail).  Follow up visits are a must for ear infections to make sure everything is cleared

Stomach upsets: Vomit or diarrhea on the carpet does catch your attention!  Dogs are
creatures of opportunity and will eat almost anything resembling food.  This can lead to
some nasty stomach and intestinal upsets.  While mild cases may clear up with no food for
24 hours, some dogs may require fluids to prevent dehydration, along with medications to
stop vomiting and slow down the intestinal motility.  Sometimes pets are hospitalized until
their symptoms are controlled, this way he can be monitored and your home can stay clean.

Bladder infections: Ranking right up there with diarrhea or vomit on the rug is urinary
incontinence.  Fortunately dogs rarely get urinary blockages, but a bladder infection is
painful and can lead to more serious kidney infections if left untreated.  Dogs with bladder
infections may have obvious blood in their urine or may need to go out more frequently. A
visit to the veterinarian could detect something as simple as a bacterial infection needing
some antibiotics, to bladder stones requiring a surgical solution.

Tumors: Small growths are common on some dogs in the later years of their lives, but if
you have ever had a pet with cancer, you become very sensitive to any growths at all on
your dog.  Having those growths removed means not having to worry about them growing
or becoming malignant.  As a first step to treatment, your veterinarian will probably do a
needle aspirate or biopsy to determine whether the growth is benign.  You can then make
an informed decision whether surgery is indicated.

Osteoarthritis: Our dogs are living longer lives and may of them are overweight.  Both
age and weight can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.  To help prevent this
painful condition, use diet and exercise to keep your dog’s weight down.  As a precaution,
many owners supplement their pets diet with glucosamine, or purchase diets that have
these supplements in them.  For dogs that already have some arthritis, there are many
effective arthritis medications available to keep your pet comfortable into their senior years.

Sprains: Many dogs are “weekend athletes” just like many of us, and heading out to hike
after a week of lying around leaves our dogs open to sprains and muscle and tendon
injuries.  Remember to do warm-up and cool-down exercises for your dogs, just as you
would for yourself.  Daily walks will also help to keep your pet fit.

Eye infections: Eye problems are true emergencies, necessitating an immediate visit to
your veterinarian.  A simple corneal scratch can lead to a full blown ulcer in a very short
time.  Glaucoma is another ocular problem that can progress very rapidly.  Virtually any
change in your dog’s eye justifies a visit to your veterinarian. If your dog is squinting or has
eye discharge, make an appointment as soon as possible.

Enteritis: Enteritis is an inflammation or infection in the intestines that can cause vomiting
and diarrhea. If either problem continues for more than 24 hours or you can see blood in
the vomit or diarrhea, a veterinary visit is in order.  Don’t forget to take a sample of the
diarrhea to your veterinarian!  If your pet is dehydrated, be prepared to leave him in the
veterinary hospital for fluids and care.

Hypothyroidism: This is the number one hormonal problem for dogs.  If your pet is lethargic
or his coat is dull with areas of thin hair coverage, he may be suffering from
hypothyroidism.  Since  the thyroid gland does control metabolism, it has the ability to
affect many bodily functions.  Your veterinarian will need to do a blood test to definitively
diagnose your dog with hypothyroidism.  If your dog does  have hypothyroidism, chances
are he will need to take medication for the condition for the rest of his life.

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View the second segment of our dermatology services featured on Good Day Sacramento on our dermatology page