Do What’s Right

Last night at the North American Veterinary Conference I was sitting with a group of wonderful veterinary students, and we were chatting about practice and whatnot, when all of a sudden it occurred to me that I was the senior veterinarian in the group. As in, the things I was saying were now the Pearls.Of.Wisdom from on high, and the idea that I’ve been doing this long enough to have wisdom to impart is simultaneously horrifying and delightful. Wow, I’m the wise one! Good Lord, I’m the old one.

I was talking about my first days of practice, when I was with a group that had proclaimed that all veterinarians must give a whole bunch of vaccines, because vaccines prevent disease, so the more you give, the better you are practicing. This is where we were at in 2002, and it was an ugly scene. As you know, all vaccines are not created equal. Now we have AAHA and AAFP guidelines that define “core” versus “non-core” and “not recommended”, excellent, evidence-based rules that take into account efficacy, likelihood of reaction, and the individual pet. But at the time, those concepts were still kind of nebulous, so the concept was more along the lines of, “more vaccines = more medicine = good.”

Translation: Cats getting FIP vaccine whether or not the vaccine actually worked, dogs getting Lyme vaccine whether or not they lived in an area that had Lyme disease. FIV vaccine, regardless of whether we were messing up future FIV testing. We were expected to do it, because that was considered good medicine.

But it didn’t feel right.

I was the lowest producing vet in my area, in terms of the money I was generating. I talked to clients about the risk and the benefit, and in cases I deemed appropriate, I might give Lyme. I didn’t give FIP. According to the medical algorithms at the time, I was practicing bad medicine.

I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to justify my decision to my superior. He felt I was practicing poor medicine. I felt the exact opposite. He had been out a lot longer than me, and saw a lot more things than I did, but I stood my ground, shaky as it felt at the time. I knew what was right by my clients, so no matter how much my superior protested, I practiced for them and not for him.

It was considered quite contrarian at the time.


After a year and half or so of neither of us budging, I quit. I quit my job rather than compromise myself. Again, a move that seemed provocative back then, when practitioners had more of an expectation of loyalty from their employees. I went to a place that told me I could practice the way I felt was appropriate, and I took a few key staff members and clients with me.

I didn’t know at the time whether or not I made the right decision, but I made the one that allowed me to sleep at night. And then two things happened:

1. Tides turned on the vaccination deal. The medical field came around to the same conclusion the rest of us had reached some time before, which is, “more does not equal better.” Vaccination must be determined on an individual basis, tailored to the pet. Now that person who had made me feel like a chump for two years was on the defensive, and all those pets I had dissuaded from an unnecessary treatment sought me out at my new clinic.

2. The practice I had been at before I quit, the one that performed quite mediocre in terms of revenue, was recognized in a group of 400 practices as having the highest client loyalty in the nation for the year. The area I practiced in was economically depressed. My clients weren’t wealthy, but they cared, and they knew I was working with them to do what was best. And at the end of of the day, there was no greater recognition I could ever receive than that. Me, newbie Dr. V, the one who put the needle back in the fridge and said no, had more people who kept coming back than all the others out there with more experience, better skills, more knowledge.

And trust me, I really did not have a clue what I was doing, so don’t take it as a boast about my amazing vet-fu. I was shaky and insecure and I had a ton of stuff I was horrible at, like most new grads. I never lied about my skills. I referred a whole lot of stuff I wasn’t ready to handle. I said no to what I couldn’t take on. I put aside that mask of bravado you’re told you should have as a doctor, and decided to just be perfectly honest.

It’s exactly what they tell you not to do.

But it felt right.

And my clients all knew it, intuitively. They forgave every deficiency because they trusted me to be upfront with them, no matter what.

Time moves quickly. I’ve done a lot since then, and made good choices and bad choices and gotten to the point where I’m perfectly comfortable in my practice; I know what I know and what I don’t and I don’t worry about how old clients think I am because it doesn’t matter. But that one lesson has never changed, and I know now never will. It’s so easy, and we screw it up so often under some auspice of ego or “promote confidence” or whatever the practice management du jour mantra is.

Apollo, the minimally vaccinated, wet food only counterculture hippie of the house, is doing gangbusters at 14. He’s outsurvived Nuke, Mulan, Emmett, and sadly, probably Koa too.

I was in a lecture today with Dr. Alice Wolf, a world renowned expert on feline medicine. She stated without preamble that yes, adjuvanted vaccines have a higher risk of inducing cancer in cats, laid out the evidence, and said this is a risk she considers unacceptable.

Adjuvant, for those who don’t know, is something that is added to a vaccine to enhance the body’s immune response by acting, essentially, as an irritant. In some cases, estimated to be 1:10,000, that inflammation turns into a horribly aggressive form of cancer. While documented in many species, it is most prevalent in cats, to the tune of about 20,000 cases a year. Manufacturers, realizing this was an unintended consequence, have responded by producing alternative vaccines without this added product. They may be more expensive. They may need to be boosted more. But they are, in Dr. Wolf’s opinion and that of many others, the superior choice.

Note that she is not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that all vaccines are bad and you shouldn’t use them. She is saying there is a component of one particular type of vaccine that has the potential to cause a nasty problem, and because there are better, safer vaccine alternatives, we need to use those instead.

Dr. Wolf bases her vaccine recommendations on the widely used AAFP recommendations, which can be found here. She does state, and I agree, that all kittens should be vaccinated for FELV, though whether that is boosted into the adult years should be determined based on pet lifestyle. Again, and this is key, she recommends vets always use non-adjuvanted vaccines whenever they are available. “WHO classifies veterinary vaccine adjuvants as a Class 3/4 carcinogen,” she told the crowd. “If there was an alternative, which one would you choose?”

I’m calling this now. As a client, your vet may not carry non-adjuvanted vaccines such as PureVax, but they should. This is where the tide is going. This is what is right, and you as a client should be OK demanding it, and the other you, the new vets, should as well, because you need to advocate for your clients no matter what.

Let me make it easy for you, newbies. Because you won’t be newbies for long and in another year or two you won’t care what I have to tell you.

Do what you know is right, always. And that is all you need to know.

Pawcurious: With Pet Lifestyle Expert and Veterinarian Dr. V.

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A Dog’s Diet Influences Oral Health

A Dog’s Diet Influences Oral Health


dog brushing teethYour dog is your very best friend. Every single time you walk through the door your dog is so happy to see you that he wags his tail and practically smiles at you. How can you show your pet how much they mean to you? Well, one way is to take care of that smile for your pet. Did you know that your dog’s diet can influence their oral health?

Humans need to brush and floss their teeth regularly to keep their teeth, tongue, and gums in good condition. Research has recently shown a link between good oral health in humans and a lower risk of heart disease. If good oral health can have such a profound affect on people, then it only makes sense to consider the impact it can have on man’s best friend.

It is important to brush your dog’s teeth frequently to keep plaque and tartar from becoming an issue. Even wiping his gums with a clean, damp cloth can be beneficial.

Your dog’s diet also plays a role in your pet’s oral health. Do you typically feed your dog canned or dry dog food? What kind of treats and toys do you provide for your pet? All of these things can affect the likelihood of trouble with your pet’s teeth.

When your dog’s diet is nutritionally sound, containing essential vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes, your pet’s oral health will be at its very best. Feeding dry dog food rather than a moist canned variety is best for your dog. The tiny kibbles’ hard surface rubs against the teeth to remove and reduce plaque. The simple act of moistening the dry dog food with water or gravy eliminates this property from dry dog food.

The treats you give your pet are part of your dog’s diet just like snacks are part of a person’s diet. As humans, we tend to want to overlook our snacking habits, so it can be easy to overlook the treats you give your dog. This is not a good idea. Carefully consider any and all items your dog will consume.

Do you give your dog bones, rawhides, jerky treats, or dog biscuits? Maybe your pet prefers greenies or corn starch chews. You may not have considered it, but tossing Spot a rawhide chew is like giving him a candy bar. The rawhide, for example, contains calories and is often provided between meals.

Many of the treats and snacks you provide in your dog’s diet can be just empty wasted calories. Some treats, alternatively, provide excellent opportunity to improve oral health. Greenies, rawhides, bones, and hard dog biscuits all help to keep tartar at bay. The softer snacks, such as jerky treats, do not provide much relief from plaque. The healthy treat, on occasion, will also prevent your dog from having bad breath.

Your dog’s diet must be healthy to ensure excellent oral health. Dry dog food is best whenever possible. Don’t forget to select treats for your pet that will enhance your dog’s diet. Consciously monitoring your dog’s diet will positively influence your best friend’s oral health.

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How to Potty Train a Puppy Dog

In this video I share with you some top tips on how to potty train your puppy dogs. If you need more info, visit our dog training guide at where you can learn how to…

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Dog Training Blog | Tips and Dog Training Resources

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018.365, crashed

Some cool skin allergies images:

018.365, crashed
skin allergies

Image by stetted
In bed, hiding from the allergens. Cedar fever is NOT fun, people.

Man, my skin looks terrible. Might be time to switch cleansers.

skin allergies

Image by Nottingham Vet School
A 6 year old male labrador cross with a lesion on the neck due to seasonal allergies.

I think I’m becoming more allergic to my cat
skin allergies

Image by craigemorsels
When I brush her she gently rests her paws on my forearm, not breaking the skin at all. And then I break out in these super itchy welts and I’m all stopped up now.

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The ABCs of Problem Solving

Problem solving is a big part of dog training and behavior consulting. Many problems are very straightforward: my dog pulls on leash, my dog jumps on visitors at the front door etc. Some problems are more difficult: my dog bites the mailman on the third Tuesday of every month except during July on leap years.

At times these problems can be very difficult to get a handle on. Some of them, like the contrived problem I made up above, seem to have countless moving parts. Where do we start? Where do we finish?

And of course we have the seemingly unlimited lists of “common sense” rules and “facts” about dogs and how they operate. Packs, leaders, alphas, betas, rules for 2 females in the same home (if your particular breed or rescue cult allows that), rules for 2 males in the same home (again if your cult allows this – the fact that some people think that this is Not Allowed For Their Breed™ is a matter of great pride for them), rules for when dogs can eat, rules for where they can do their business, and other facts about this and that amazing thing. Many fascinating things that some people might be tempted to say don’t have much to do with much of anything. Like me.

What if, dear readers (all three of you), I could give you a formula that would help you focus in on the real problem while giving you a very very big hint as to how to solve it?

And what if I could tell you that there is a formula that is so basic and so fundamental that it’s been used successfully on just about every known species on this planet? (The only reason I am saying “just about” is I’m assuming there are species no one has tried to work with yet.) This isn’t a new discovery and it’s not some silly “dog training secret” that I am going to hide behind a shopping cart or a membership site. That would be silly and dishonest since this is good old behavioral science and you can Google it and find hundreds of thousands of pages on it, many from colleges, universities and other reliable sources.

This is the good stuff. The stuff that really works.

Antecedent (A) -> Behavior (B) -> Consequence ©

An antecedent is the thing that comes first. In a colloquial sense you can say it “causes” the behavior.

The behavior is, well, the behavior. The thing that happens.

The consequence is what happens as a result of the behavior. (Remember, consequences don’t have to be "bad.")

Let’s look at a common problem:

Antecedent: Someone enters home through front door.
Behavior: Dogs jumps up on person.
Consequence: Dog receives attention.

The most important thing that ABC gives us is a template with which we can focus in on the specifics of a problem. What’s missing from the example above? Quite a bit, and that’s what makes it so powerful. Because what’s missing isn’t needed to solve them problem at hand.

Let’s break down the three components a little further to illustrate how this helps:

Antecedent: Someone enters home through front door.

The antecedent has a couple of basic rules: it has to be a change in the environment made by someone or something other than the dog and it needs to be as specific as possible.

So “the dog runs to the door” would not be a proper antecedent. Why did she run to the door? The antecedent needs to be a stimulus that elicits a behavior, to be all scientific-ky about it.

Similarly, a “person is there” is not really specific enough for us to really start solving a problem. Even “a person walks in the door” could use some help. Which door?

Behavior: Dogs jumps up on person.

Defining the behavior would seem pretty simple, and it usually is. There are, similar to antecedents, 2 pitfalls to look out for.

When describing the behavior, stick to behavior: things that are observable and measurable. “The dog greets the person enthusiastically” is nice and colorful but it doesn’t tell us what she is actually doing. “The dog greets the person inappropriately” also tells us nothing other than someone isn’t happy with whatever happened.

Measurable is a little more complicated. In this example we could measure how high the dog jumps, or for how long she would do it if no one intervened. We don’t need to include a measurement in this specific example, but we could. We might use measurements when we need to describe something involving a specific distance, such as “the dog begins to growl when a person comes within 10 feet of him while he is eating.”

Consequence: Dog receives attention.

Identifying the consequences of the behavior is where things can get tricky.

If you worked with a trainer that uses and talks about positive reinforcement you should have heard one very important fact: the dog decides what is reinforcing and reinforcement and punishment are measured by results. If it doesn’t increase or maintain the behavior it wasn’t reinforcing. If it doesn’t decrease or eliminate the behavior it wasn’t punishing.

Sometimes this means making an educated guess. In our example we have a dog that is jumping on people and presumably not biting them, so we can safely assume she is seeking to greet them and then getting the attention she wants. Here is where what the human thinks might ought to be punishing “Daisy! Get off! Stop it!” and what the dog actually finds reinforcing can be the same thing.

Sometimes it’s more obvious:

A: Child leaves cookies on toybox.
B: Dog jumps onto toybox.
C: Cookies.

Food is a primary reinforcer. We can assume that the cookies are the consequence that is sustaining this behavior.

How can we use this formula to solve a problem? Since I am already past 990 words, I am going to have to save it for next week. Stay tuned and let me know what you think in the comments!

The ABCs of Problem Solving is a post from: Dog Spelled Forward

Dog Spelled Forward Website and Blog

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Grooming Your Golden Retriever

Grooming your Golden Retriever is a never ending process. The entire process should be down once or twice a week, and will take you around a ½ an hour of time. Brushing your dog while he is shedding will help to control shedding quite a bit. While outside, if your Golden Retriever manages to get burs or other defects in his hair, you should instantly take a few moments of your time and get the burs or other matter out of his coat.

When you groom your pet, you should always start with a good brushing. Brush his entire body, then once you have finished brushing you can switch to a comb to get out any loose hair that remains in the coat. While you are getting out the hair, you can also inspect your pet for ticks, fleas, and other types of skin ailments. If you wish, you can also check his ears and trim his nails as well.

Bathing your Golden is essential to grooming, and can be somewhat complicated. Before you attempt to give him a bath, you should always brush him first, to get rid of tangles. During shampooing, you should always use shampoos that are specifically for dogs, since human shampoo can dry a dog’s skin out. You don’t need to bathe your dog often, once every other week is good enough. If you properly maintain your Golden’s coat, you’ll find it’s much easier to clean.

To prevent matting, which is very common with Golden Retrievers, you should always make sure that you brush your pet on a daily basis. Metal combs and brushes work extremely well, and will help you to get a great deal of the hair out. Although some people choose to use scissors and cut the mats, you can easily injure your Golden if he happens to move or jerk. Scissors aren’t recommended, as brushing and proper bathing will help to prevent matting of the hair better than anything else.

When you cut your dogs nails, you should trim them a great deal, all the while avoiding going down into the quick. You should never let your Golden’s nails get too long, as long nails can easily take the shape of the dog’s foot, resulting in a splay. Therefore, you should always check your Golden Retriever’s nails and trim them every few weeks. If you trim them just right, you’ll have at least 2 weeks before they need to be trimmed again. If you do happen to trim the nails past the quick, bleeding will occur. To stop the bleeding, always keep some styptic powder on hand to make sure that you are prepared if you do make a mistake.

With other types of grooming, you should also make sure that you clean your Golden’s ears as well. They can get ear infections quite easily, if you don’t clean their ears on a regular basis. To get the best results and protect your pet from ear infections, you should clean his ears once a week using a quality cleansing solution. This way, you can rest assured that your Golden has healthy ears.

Grooming is an essential aspect to the health of every Golden Retriever. All it takes is a little bit of time from your day to groom your pet and keep him healthy. If you don’t have the time to groom your Golden, you can always take him to a professional. Whether you do it yourself or take your Golden to a pro – grooming is something that simply must be done.
Welcome to The Top Dog Blog!

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With Seresto, we give consumers a new alternative to spot-on topical flea and tick, and oral flea prevention." Seresto will be sold in veterinary clinics, pet specialty stores and select online pet pharmacies beginning on January 21, 2013 at a
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Project Life 365 – Week 3

Yikes.  This is almost becoming a weekly blog!  I’ve felt busier than usual since Christmas.  Constantly scrambling, nothing ever really getting completed.  I’m not sure what is different (other than this project), or how to fix it.  This weekend probably isn’t going to help as Friday night I went and had some fun photographing a basketball game, then Saturday I spent the day taking in a photography workshop on editing and today I’m meeting my Dad and his wife Shelley in Waterton for a snowshoe.  (Can you just say snowshoe, the way you say hike?  Feels weird, yet right.)

Anyway, here are my pictures from the week.  I like looking at them all together because it shows me that I’m actually doing a variety of subjects even though it doesn’t always feel that way.  I’ve had some more fun with the Lensbaby on days 15 and 17. I’m still struggling with focusing it but I’m getting better. :)

Day 13 – Forgotten
I’ve forgotten what it is like to sleep soundly through the night.  Luckily for me, I can usually fall asleep again fairly easily.

Day 14 – Temptation
I didn’t really want to admit what all my vices were, so I decided to torture Coulee with hers instead.  I’m going to try this again one day.  I really wish you could have seen her face, but she refused to lay down on top of the kibble. Next time, I’ll arrange the kibble after she is in a down stay.

Day 15 – Confusion
Ears up or ears down?

Day 16 – Sign of Winter
Wool and fur, don’t leave home without it.

I have mixed feelings about the fur, just like I have mixed feelings about eating meat, but I feel it is OK if I am putting it to good use and provided it is obtained ethically.  On those really cold blustery days, this small amount around my face really does make a huge difference.  If you are interested in the fur policy of this particular jacket manufacturer you can find out more here -

Day 17 – This is so me
I’m one of those people that actually like rules. I think rules help make the world go round.

I even like the “Pets on Leash” rule which may surprise you as I constantly break it – but I only break it when we are alone. The dogs always wear emergency leashes around their necks and they both have a pretty decent recall in case they need to suddenly be on leash.

One of my biggest pet peeves is dogs running off leash when they should be leashed.  Ironic, I know.  But if I can see it happening, it means we are too close and the dogs should be leashed.

Day 18 – News
The sports news is the one section I’ll skip completely in the newspaper.  Although I quite enjoy watching sports live, and I’m really enjoying photographing basketball, I don’t actually care who wins as long as it is entertaining.

Day 19 – Style
No one would ever describe me as stylish.  I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.  Plain Jane and boring.  That’s me. But I did find a pink rubber belt that I love.
Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey

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Black PUG = Odie Pig Beige PUG = Simba Pig Together = free scratches!

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