Author Archives: Chryssa Rich

The Truth About Low-Cost Clinics; How to Switch Vets

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

The first question comes from Samantha, who writes, “Is there any difference between having your pet spayed or neutered at a regular vet’s office versus a low-cost spay/neuter specific clinic?”

I love this question. I think this is a great question because sometimes I think the general public doesn’t actually realize what you’re getting at a clinic and why it’s more expensive. The low-cost spay/neuter clinics may be subsidized with donations. If it’s a Humane Society, those are non-profit organizations so they have more money that they can put towards that procedure. That’s one way they can keep their costs down. Another way they keep their costs down is by volume. A regular veterinary hospital may do between three and five procedures on a typical surgery day, whereas a low-cost spay/neuter place may do up to 60.

You can see that it becomes much more of an assembly line type of clinic with the low-cost spay/neuters. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad medicine or that it doesn’t have its place. I think that low-cost spay/neuter clinics are a fantastic way to help reduce pet overpopulation. But definitely ask questions. If you’re considering using a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, ask why it’s so inexpensive. If it’s because they get donations, then that may be different than if their answer is that they do 60 a day and can keep the cost down that way.

Talk with your regular clinic as well. Ask, “Why are you more expensive than the low-cost spay/neuter clinic?” They’ll probably say things like, “We have state-of-the- art monitoring,” or, “Every pet gets an IV catheter and fluids, or “We include pain medications or blood work,” or things that your low-cost spay/neuter clinic may not include. Definitely communicate with your regular veterinarian and with the low-cost spay/neuter clinic before you make your decision.

The next question comes from Hilary, who writes, “I’m considering switching vets because I’m no longer happy with my current vet’s level of care. Is there any good way to break up with your vet? How do you ask for files to be transferred somewhere without it being awkward?”

This is a really great question and I think it’s great that you’re trying to be considerate. If you’re not comfortable with your veterinarian for whatever reason, you need to feel free to switch. I think most veterinarians are a sort of close-knit community and we want you to be happy.

If there’s something specific that you had a problem with, consider bringing it up with them. If they have a website with a ‘Comments’ section and you don’t feel comfortable naming yourself, you might comment anonymously. If you felt comfortable with it, you could even talk with the hospital manager and say you had a problem with some things. Most veterinary clinics really want to have that feedback so that they can be the best clinic that they can be for you.

If you are pretty set on switching to a new veterinarian, they don’t have to know why you’re switching. Typically what you’ll do is just call the office and say, “I need to have my records faxed to such and such a place”. It could be because you’ve moved or for any number of reasons. They are your files. They are your records so you’re allowed to do with them what you want. Most veterinary clinics will fax them wherever you want them to go.

If you have questions for me, feel free to post them at

Preventing Hemangiosarcomas and a Cat Who Chews Metal

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

The first question comes from Yasmina, who says, “Is there a supplement or food that I can feed to prevent hemangiosarcoma? I lost a 10-year-old dog to this disease recently.”

I’m so sorry for your lose of your dog. Hemangiosarcoma is a really horrible cancer. Unfortunately, there’s not really a food or supplement, or anything that you can do, to prevent this disease. You might consider getting pet insurance so that finances aren’t a factor if your dog does get this horrible disease, so you can offer them the best possible treatment.

The next question comes from Ann Marie, who says, “My cat, Pickles, likes to chew on metal things; iron, silver, aluminum. Can cats need iron supplements? Can they crave it? I’m worried about his teeth.”

This is a great question. It’s possible that this is just behavioral. He likes shiny things or he likes the way they taste. It is a little bit worrying for me because cats can get certain toxicities from metal. For example, pennies and other things that have zinc in it can be really toxic to cats. I would try to discourage him from chewing on these metal objects.

There’s a possibility that there could be some sort of an underlying anemia. Sometimes cats can crave non-food objects. You might contact your veterinarian and have a blood work-up done. If everything comes back normal, you’re probably looking at a behavioral problem.

If you guys have pet health questions for me, feel free to post them at

Repeat UTIs and Rashes in Dogs

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

The first question comes from Linda. “What to do about a one-year-old dog that has had four urinary tract infections? We’ve tried changing the diet and adding cranberry supplements. She’s on antibiotics once again for a whole month. We have a doggy door so both dogs are able to go out at any time. Any ideas?”

It sounds to me like you’ve been working with a veterinarian already since the urinary tract infections have been diagnosed and she’s been on antibiotics. I’m not sure what your veterinarian has already done, but I would recommend that you do a couple of additional diagnostic tests besides just a urinalysis, such as an x-ray to rule out bladder stones, which can certainly cause recurrent urinary tract infections in dogs. Blood work might be important just to make sure that her kidneys are producing normal urine and urine that shouldn’t have a problem with infection.

She’s a younger dog so there’s a possibility that she could have been born with some type of different anatomy that creates urine pooling in which bacteria can grow and then come back up into the bladder. Sometimes certain conditions like that can be surgically corrected but, of course, would need to be diagnosed.

If the bladder continues to become infected, one other thing that you might think about is culturing it. Have your veterinarian actually grow what’s in there and make sure that you’re using the appropriate antibiotic rather than just picking one out of a bunch. Those are the next things that I would do to try to keep this from becoming such a recurrent problem.

The next question comes from James. “My American Bulldog keeps getting a bumpy rash and needs antibiotics to fix it. They only stay away for a few weeks and then come back. I’ve tried changing food and am now using a low ingredient buffalo food. I feel for her and just want it to go away.”

Because you use a good, hypoallergenic diet, it sounds like you might be able to rule out food allergies as a cause, unless she’s truly allergic to buffalo. That leaves some type of contact allergen. I do think that this rash is probably related to some sort of allergies. It may be something that you don’t have a lot of control over such as pollens, dust, molds, and that type of thing. When she has a flare-up, you’re definitely going to want to see the veterinarian so that you can get the antibiotics she needs.

Things that you might do to try to prevent it from happening would be antihistamines, certain prescription shampoos and sprays. These would all be things that you would need to talk to your veterinarian about, to get dosages and that type of thing. Dogs can get allergy shots, too. Allergy testing, so they can actually get prescription allergy shots, is sometimes a possibility.

Allergies can be really frustrating, but if you work with your veterinarian you can hopefully formulate a plan that will keep her from continuing to flare up.

Winking Dogs and Dog Lice

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

The first question comes from Drew, who asks, “Why does my dog sometimes wink, and is that normal?”

This is probably completely normal. Dogs will blink or wink to remove debris off the eye or if hair gets in there. If it’s constant, or if the dog is squinting or you’re seeing discharge, that might be an indication of a problem, but just a normal wink here and there probably doesn’t mean anything.

The next one is from Mary Ann, who asks, “Is there a home remedy for chewing lice?”

Dogs can get their own type of lice, just like people can. I’m going to recommend that you go to a veterinarian to get this treated. There are some things that you can do at home but probably the guidance of a professional is going to be helpful.

You can use some type of an insecticide shampoo. Make sure that it’s a shampoo that’s meant for the animal you’re using it on. For example, cats are especially very sensitive to topical shampoos. If it’s a dog, make sure you use dog shampoo. Usually the flea and tick shampoos will actually help with lice as well.

You’re going to need some type of a topically-applied medication, such as Frontline or Revolution, that are generally prescribed by a veterinarian. Those typically need to be done in a series of three to four treatments every two to three weeks apart.

These are all things you’re probably going to need to work with a professional about. The environment’s really important as well. You’re going to want to wash all the bedding or throw it away. You might even consider, in a large infestation, getting an exterminator.

Eggs and Dewclaws – What’s Normal for Dogs?

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

The first one comes from Hannah, who says, “My dog goes nuts for eggs, whether they’re hardboiled or scrambled. Is it okay for her to have some once in a while?”

Absolutely. In moderation, that’s a fine treat for dogs to have. I would prefer that the eggs be cooked. Dogs can get salmonella, just like people can, from raw eggs, so cooking them is probably better. As with any people food, definitely in moderation.

The next one comes from Natalie, who says, “Our dog keeps chewing on her dewclaws and tearing the hair off around them. She does this every year. Is there any treatment other than making her wear an E-collar all the time?”

It sounds to me like this is seasonal if it’s happening every year. Chances are she’s got some type of seasonal allergies that coincide with the time of year. Because it’s on her feet, you might try rinsing off her feet after she’s outside or using a hypoallergenic shampoo on the feet.

If she’s actually causing damage to the skin or there’s an infection, you’re going to need to see a veterinarian so you can get her on the appropriate antibiotics. At that time it would probably be a good idea to talk about things that you can do to prevent this when that time of year comes around. This might include antihistamines, special prescribed topical shampoos, or topical sprays that can go on the feet and give her some relief.

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