Author Archives: Chryssa Rich

Dandruff on Black Dogs and Kennel Cough Vaccines

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question is, “My black dog seems to have more dandruff than other dogs. It’s especially noticeable after I give her a bath. Is there anything I can do to get rid of it?”

Black dogs do seem to have more noticeable dandruff just because of the contrast between their black fur and the whiter flakes of skin. If you are noticing it right after a bath, you might actually be drying the skin out a little bit. You might try using either a leave-in conditioner or a conditioning rinse, or a shampoo that’s meant to condition the skin. There are some supplements that can help as well, like fish oil or omega fatty acids. These can sometimes improve the quality of the skin health.

The next question is, “My dog caught kennel cough at doggy daycare just as she was due for her six month vaccination for kennel cough. I understand she didn’t need to be vaccinated again since she caught it, but the daycare manager won’t allow her back until she’s vaccinated. What would you recommend?”

Kennel cough is a tricky thing to vaccinate for because it can be caused by a number of different organisms and the vaccine only protects against one. If your daycare center requires a kennel cough vaccine, I would get her vaccinated. There is no harm in getting her re-vaccinated even if she already caught it. Obviously you wouldn’t want to do it while she’s sick, but once she’s feeling better, go ahead and schedule an appointment to get her vaccinated again.
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Making the Switch from Puppy Food and Dog Soft Spots

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering questions from the Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question is, “At what age should I switch my young dog from puppy food to dog food?” I like this question because every dog is a little bit different. If you’ve got a bigger breed dog, like a Great Dane or a Labrador, or something that grows really quickly, it’s pretty important that they be switched earlier than you might think.

Growing too fast with rich puppy food can sometimes cause some orthopedic problems in these bigger dogs so switching as early as four, five, or six months of age in the really fast growing breeds can be safe. A smaller breed dog, like a Chihuahua or Shih Tzu, can typically stay on puppy food longer, but remember that they stop growing quicker than big dogs do and so will likely need to be switched to adult food before one year of age.

The next question is, “My Chihuahua has a soft spot on the top of her head. She’s almost four years old and it doesn’t seem to bother her. Is this common and can it be problematic?” This is really common in Chihuahuas. We’ve bred them to have this sort of cute, domed forehead. Unfortunately, that makes them predisposed for the plates of the skull to not come together 100%. Most of the time it doesn’t cause a problem. If it’s small it should be fine, but do know that the soft spot is basically an area where there’s a little less bone covering the brain so it is important to make sure it’s protected as best you can that from trauma or anything like that.
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Dog Heartworm Prevention and Cat Hair Loss

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question is, “What’s the best defense against heartworm for those living in the South?” This is a great question because heartworm disease is really prevalent in the South or anyplace that has a lot of mosquitoes. The best defense is going to be going to your veterinarian and get a prescription heartworm medication. Generally, these medications are given once a month and are really quite effective at preventing heartworm disease. Over-the-counter products or mosquito repellents are not going to be as effective.

The next question comes from Sarah. She asks, “My 13½-year-old cat had his teeth cleaned last weekend and now he has lost hair above his right eyebrow. He still has his lashes but I thought this was odd. Should I be concerned?”

It’s hard to say without seeing your cat, but I would bring it up to your veterinarian. Sometimes when there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the mouth, the head may be positioned in such a way that it possibly rubbed on the table or came in contact with something. Call your veterinarian and see if they’ll do a follow-up. A lot of times veterinarians are happy to follow up after a procedure to make sure everything went smoothly.
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Cat Peeing Where it Shouldn’t; Dog hiccups


Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page

The first question comes from Chrissy. She asks, “My 14-year-old female cat suddenly started peeing on the bathmat and anything in the bathroom about three months ago. She sometimes pees on the puppy’s rest blankie and potty grass. Is this behavioral or medical? It’s not constant; she uses her litter box, too.”

This is a great question and one of the probably more frustrating things about owning cats. I do think it’s important for you to make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out a medical cause for her inappropriate urination, such as a urinary tract infection or even something more serious, like stones.

Once that’s been ruled out, then you’ve got a behavioral issue. It sounds like you’ve got a new baby in the house. That could possibly be a trigger for her inappropriate urination. Your veterinarian might suggest feline pheromones. Cats are actually really quite sensitive to pheromones and they have a calming effect. It sounds kind of hokey but some people swear that they work really pretty well.

Make sure you’ve got litter boxes in more than one area of the house so that she doesn’t feel like she doesn’t have a place to go. Make sure there’s privacy. Sometimes cats are finicky about the location or even the type of litter. Make sure you haven’t changed the type of litter or suddenly gone from an open litter box to a covered litter box. These are all little things that can sometimes make cats not want to use their box as much.

The next question comes from Emily and she asks, “My 1½-year-old male neutered Shih Tzu get hiccups a couple times a day ever since he was a puppy. What causes this and is there anything I can do to eliminate these hiccup spells for him?”

I love this question. It’s a great question. Puppies do get a lot of hiccups. Hiccups are from irritation to the phrenic nerve, which is the nerve that innervates the diaphragm. No one really knows exactly what it is about puppies that makes them have this irritation, but most outgrow it, usually by about 18 months of age, which is right about where you’re at with your Shih Tzu.

I would venture to say in the next couple of months you’ll probably be seeing less and less hiccups. There’s probably not much you can do to help shorten the duration of the hiccups, but know that they’re not harmful to him and they’re not painful, and they will go away.
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Dog Flu and Hormone Problems After Being Spayed

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home today answering some questions from our Facebook page.

The first question is, “I think my dog got a flu or a cold bug. His poop isn’t solid and he needs to go out every half-hour and he’s miserable. Is there something I can give him? I’ve been watching him to make sure that he’s drinking fluids and eating his dry food, but I’m not sure if it’s upsetting his tummy.”

This is a great question. Dogs can catch a flu or cold bugs just like people can, and sometimes it can manifest as an upset tummy. There are some things you can do at home to try to correct the situation before you need to call your veterinarian.

If they’re continuing to eat and drink, you could try switching to a bland diet, something like boiled chicken or rice. You might reduce the amount or even skip a meal altogether to see if that helps to make the stools a little bit more solid. If your pet is vomiting or isn’t eating, that’s the time to call your veterinarian, as well as if the stool doesn’t become more firm within about 24 hours after the onset of signs. If you’ve got questions or concerns, call your veterinarian about that one.

The next question is, “Do spayed females still give off hormones or a scent when they would have otherwise come into heat that other dogs can pick up? My male dog goes crazy around my spayed female for about two weeks a couple of times a year.”

The answer to this question is probably not. If a female dog is spayed correctly, both ovaries are completely removed, and the ovaries are the organs that produce hormones. It would be really unlikely that your female dog was able to produce these hormones or even have a regular heat cycle. If you’re concerned about something like this, contact your veterinarian.
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