Five Things My New Toy Breed Puppy Has Taught Me

Long-time-no-see, readers! I hope you like my site’s makeover. It is still a work in progress, so bear with me over the next few weeks!

Here’s a fun update:

My fiance’, Jen, and I recently rescued a then 12-week-old toy Maltese puppy. We’ve had him for a little over a month now, and it has been a steep learning curve. We already have two large breed dogs, and they were much easier than our little nugget, Franklin. Since bringing him home, we’ve had quite a few ups and downs and we’ve learned a whole lot!

Here are 4 things that I’ve learned from owning a toy breed puppy:

Toy breed dogs are high maintenance.

Franklin has long, straggly hair. This is quite different than the short fur of our older dogs. His daily grooming routine includes frequent brushing (at least twice), cleaning up the food stuck in his beard after every meal, wiping his bottom every time he goes to the bathroom, and taking him to the groomer every 1-2 weeks. Also, pretty soon we have to start brushing his teeth every day, as toy breeds have a higher incidence of dental disease than other types of dogs. For a little boy, he’s got an intense beauty regimen!

Not all dogs live to eat.

Our big dogs love food. You could feed Gemma anything (even vegetables) with enough enthusiasm and she would happily eat it and treat it like a great reward. In my experience, most dogs are very food driven.

Not Franklin. It is very difficult to get him to eat at all. We’ve resorted to feeding him equal parts plain boiled chicken, vitamin paste, and canned puppy food, just to make sure he gets enough calories into his little body. Why do we spoil him with chicken? Shouldn’t we just wait it out until he starts eating the dog food more readily? For most dogs, that is what I would recommend. But, because Franklin is a small breed puppy, he has toy breed hypoglycemia. That means that if he doesn’t eat, he could get very sick and possibly die (and no, that is not an exaggeration. See #4 on this list).

Potty training is really, extraordinarily difficult.

I have a new-found respect and sympathy for the clients that tell me that they’re having difficultly potty training their puppy. I used to always rattle off some nonsense about the importance of crate training, consistency, and rewarding good behaviors. Now, my response is noticeably more frazzled.

Franklin is a poop ninja. He will go to the bathroom outside (most of the time), and he is almost 100% when it comes to urinating, but when he wants to poop… he will find the most secluded corner in the most secluded room and leave little Cheeto-sized nuggets for us to find (usually much later). Obviously, I know the concepts behind potty training and understand that I should try to catch him in the act so that I can put him outside immediately, but it’s so hard to find your pooping puppy when he weighs less than 2 pounds!

It is extremely scary when your pet is in the hospital.

Remember that toy breed hypoglycemia that we touched on earlier in the post? Well, Franklin had a terrible episode with that a couple of weeks ago. When we came home from work, he was slumped over in his playpen, totally comatose. The end result was Jen and I driving to the vet clinic, calling in our friends and coworkers to help us, and then sleeping on the floor of the clinic overnight while our puppy had an IV placed in his neck, praying that he would come out of it. It was absolutely terrifying. I am going to try to my best to remember how painful that experience was when I deal with clients at work, so that I can be a more empathetic veterinarian.

Luckily, right now Franklin is doing really well. He is making noise at me from the floor as I lay on the couch typing this, and being his usual rowdy and rascally self. Ultimately, the lessons I’ve learned from him have given me a new respect for some of my clients at the clinic I work at.

Having a puppy is a lot more work than I remembered!

Question for readers: Have you had your dogs since they were puppies? What did you find most challenging about owning and raising a puppy?


All About The Itch: Atopy

Before we start, a small side note: Hey guys! I want to apologize for missing Thursday’s blog update. Since I’ve started actively blogging, meeting a twice-weekly schedule has been one of my top priorities. I hope to deliver relevant, informative content on a timeline that my readers can expect and rely on. Thursday, I failed to do that- I was sick with the stomach bug. In the future, I hope to have each post written a few days in advance so that I can be a more reliable blogger for my audience. Thanks for sticking with me!

Today, we’re going to be talking about something called atopy.

Atopy (also known as atopic dermatitis) is a condition that results in chronic dermatitis (skin inflammation), and is associated with allergies, usually from the environment. Atopy is in full bloom here around the tristate. I’ve been seeing itchy dogs (and even itchy cats) left and right. Unfortunately, atopy can be a very difficult problem to diagnose, and can be even more difficult to manage.

Here are 5 things you should know about atopy in dogs and cats;

  1. Allergens invade your pet’s immune system through the skin- not the respiratory system. It was once thought that, much like humans, dogs inhaled their allergens, which then caused a skin reaction. We now know that the allergens that cause skin inflammation break directly through the skin barrier. Because of this, keeping your pet’s coat healthy with topical shampoos and essential fatty acids is extremely important in treating this disease.
  2. Atopy can only be ‘definitively diagnosed’ when all other causes of itching and skin inflammation are ruled out. Atopic dermatitis is what veterinarians call a “diagnosis of exclusion.” That means that we cannot say for certain that skin disease is caused by environmental allergies unless we rule out all other causes of skin inflammation. These causes include mites and other topical parasites, food allergy, bacterial infection, ringworm- the list keeps going. If your vet is suggesting diagnostic tests, don’t get frustrated! Remember that your vet is just trying to make sure that a different problem isn’t going undetected.
  3. A wide variety of allergens can play a role in atopic dermatitis. Dogs can be allergic to seemingly ridiculous things- even cat dander! Common allergens associated with atopy include animal dander, dust and dust mites, feathers, fleas, grains, cleaners, insects, mold spores, plants, pollen, and wool. Because many of these allergens are ubiquitous in the environment (meaning: everywhere, no matter what), eliminating them from the atopic pet’s environment is often not possible. However, if you can find out what the cause of the reaction is- eliminating or reducing exposure to the allergen is a good place to start.
  4. There is no cure for atopic dermatitis. But it can be managed. Usually, long term management involves allergy testing and immunotherapy (small doses of the allergen that are given to desensitize the pet to its effects). In the last few years, products such as apoquel and atopica have been developed to act as immune suppressants, which decrease a pet’s immune response to an allergen. Recently, a product called Cytopoint has launched that is a biologic aimed at preventing the itch signal from being released in dogs. These products are impressive and have very few side effects compared to traditional treatments (such as steroids), but they can be expensive, and patients usually require them at least periodically for life.
  5. Symptomatic treatment can help some pets. Some pets may benefit from using anti-histamines, topical anti-itch medications, and short courses of steroids (long-term steroid use is no longer advised due to the high risk of dangerous side effects). However, these treatments may not be enough in severe cases of atopy. Some pets may do well for most of the year on antihistamines, and only need apoquel (or the other products listed above) during flare ups. Which treatment is best for your pet depends on many factors, and your veterinarian is the best person to ask for advice!

If you think that your pet may be having signs of atopic dermatitis (such as inflamed ears, head shaking, licking the paws, gnawing the legs or forearms, scooting his back on furniture, and otherwise itching excessively), talk to your vet about the short and long-term options for treatment. Remember that atopy is a complicated disease and that there is no permanent cure. However, you can substantially improve your pet’s comfort level and quality of life by communicating well with your veterinarian and by being dedicated to life-long management.

Question for readers: Has your pet ever been diagnosed with atopy or “allergies?” What steps did you and your vet take to improve his or her quality of life?


5 Important Things To Do If Your Pet Has FLEAS

Hello, readers! So, if you’ve stuck around for the last week or two, you’ve been with me as we hammered the topic of fleas and flea prevention into dirt (flea dirt, to be exact).

Today, we’re going to wrap up with something short, sweet, and important! Many people (myself included) find themselves in a flea induced panic at least once in their life. Here is a quick guide to help you keep your head on straight so that you can help your pets and get rid of your fleas ASAP.

If you notice that your pet has fleas, you should:

  1. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath, then proceed to step two.
  2. Get some flea prevention. Call your vet. If you’ve been to the vet within the last 6-12 months, they should be able to get you some effective flea prevention that starts working within hours. As a reminder, I recommend these products for dogs and cats. I do NOT recommend these products.
  3. Treat Your Environment. Remember that a large portion of a flea problem is actually in your environment- your yard, your carpet, your furniture. Call an exterminator for the best recommendations on how to treat your home in a way that is safe for your family and also effective. If you can’t hire an exterminator, make sure you follow the instructions on over-the-counter pesticide product labels carefully. Wash your bedding, steam clean your carpet and furniture, and vacuum frequently.
  4. Keep using flea prevention for at least 4 months… and then year round. It takes at least 4 months to get rid of an active flea infestation, as fleas in the environment may hatch, hop on your pet, and start the process all over again. After the infestation has resolved, I recommend year-round flea prevention for all pets. Why treat the problem again when you can simply prevent it?
  5. Watch Out for Flea Related Illnesses. Usually, these are fairly mild. Tapeworms are very common, and they are spread when an animal ingests a flea while licking/chewing. Tapeworms can be easily identified when an owner sees small, rice-like worms around the pet’s rear end or on bedding. They can cause GI upset and, in severe cases, malnutrition. More serious illnesses, like bacterial infections spread by fleas, can also occur. If your pet is ill and has had fleas recently, make sure you tell your vet so that they can help diagnose the problem.

Thanks for reading! How have you dealt with flea infestations in the past? How long did it take to see an improvement in your pet and your environment?

If you enjoyed this post, please like, comment, subscribe, or share! Check back on Thursday, where we will be tackling a new (but still itchy) topic, environmental allergies in pets!

My 5 LEAST Favorite Flea Preventatives for Dogs and Cats

Welcome back, everyone! We’ve talked about my favorite flea preventative products for dogs and cats, and discussed why flea prevention is important- even for indoor pets. Today, we’re going to talk about my 5 least favorite flea products (some of them shouldn’t even be called ‘preventatives’) on the market. I will attempt to stay off of my soap box and give factual information (based off of my knowledge of parasitology, pharmacology, and the flea life cycle), but some of this is anecdotally based.

Disclaimer: I have not been sponsored or paid to write about these products by anyone. These opinions are my own and are based of 2 years of experience as a veterinarian and a combined total of nearly 10 years of working in the veterinary medical field. My opinions do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or of the veterinary medical profession as a whole. I will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or for any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.

Now, here are my 5 LEAST Favorite Flea Preventatives for Dogs and Cats:

  1. Hartz

    I have two problems with the Hartz line of products. First, I don’t find them to be very effective. They will kill adult fleas, but do not keep killing the larvae and eggs. These stages live in the environment, will continue to hatch, and then will hop right back on your dog- starting the whole process over again. I believe that this lures pet owners into a false sense of security; I see many clients that think that they are doing everything that they need to for their pet, but in reality, they are wasting their time and money.

    My second problem with the Hartz line of products is that I see more adverse reactions with these products than with other flea medications. I don’t think that this is due to unsafe ingredients (the brand has full licensure by the EPA, which regulates all topical anti-parasitics), but it may be because people buy this product and do not get counseling from veterinary staff on how to properly use it. I also think that since these products are less effective and shorter acting, they may be applied too frequently, resulting in toxicity. Most of the complaints against these products is anecdotal, but I recommend that you spend your money on something else.

  2. Capstar (and other generic nitenpyram products)

    Overall, capstar is a good product. But it is not a good flea prevention- it is a good flea killer. I believe that this isn’t always clearly communicated to clients, and so they are lured into a false sense of security. Capstar is a tablet that is given and it kills all the active adult fleas on the dog or cat for 24 hours. That’s great, as long as you cover the rest of the month with something else.
    Remember, killing adult fleas for 24 hours is not going to stop your infestation- it will only set it back a little bit. In one of my first jobs at a veterinary clinic, an old man would bring in his 5 cats every month for capstars and a steroid injection (to treat the itching from the fleas). We could not persuade him away from this habit. Don’t be like him- Don’t waste your money every week and instead buy a monthly preventative.

  3. Flea/Tick Shampoos, Powders, or Sprays

    These products were once very popular methods of flea prevention, but they simply do not work. In order for them to have a chance of being effective, you would need to treat your entire home and bathe your pets every day. That would take a lot of time, money, and resources, and even then, your success isn’t likely. There are much easier, safer, and less messy ways to deal with parasites.

  4. Fipronil Products

    I almost didn’t put this one on the list, because I respect Frontline (Fipronil) as the flagship topical flea prevention for dogs and cats. However, now that Frontline’s patent is up, other generic fipronil products have come on the market. Let me be clear- out of this list, these products are probably the safest and the most likely to actually get rid of fleas. However, they don’t even compare to the line of newer products available through your vet.

  5. Essential Oils/Homeopathic Remedies

    If you want to see a veterinarian’s eyes turn red, tell them that you feed your pet garlic to prevent fleas. Not only does this not work, but garlic can cause hemolytic anemia (which can be fatal) in dogs and cats. I also have seen people using coconut oil, skin-so-soft, human shampoos, and essential oils on their pets. These products aren’t made to be used on pets, especially for this purpose. They won’t work, may damage your pet’s skin, and can be very harmful to your pet. Please don’t listen to the pet witch doctor you met online. Your vet really does know what’s best for your pet. If there was a cheaper and easier way to prevent fleas, we’d be all for it.

Question for readers: Have you used any products listed above? What was your experience?

If you enjoyed this article, please comment, like, or share this post so that we can reach more pet owners and help more pets live their very best life!  Come back on Sunday, where we will wrap up our flea series by talking about what to do if you have fleas.

My 5 Favorite Flea Preventions (For Dogs)

Hi guys! Now that you know how important flea prevention is for your dog, you are probably feeling a little bit overwhelmed trying to figure out which product is the best. In this post, I am going to tell you which products are worth every penny- which to me means that they are highly efficacious, safe, and science based. I hope you enjoy the list. Check back on Sunday, where we will be talking about my five favorite flea preventions for cats, and next Thursday for my five LEAST favorite flea preventions.

Disclaimer: I have not been sponsored or paid to write about these products by anyone. These opinions are my own and are based of 2 years of experience as a veterinarian and a combined total of nearly 10 years of working in the veterinary medical field. My opinions do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or of the veterinary medical profession as a whole. To ensure complete transparency, products listed below that are followed by a star are sold in the veterinary practice where I work. Products that are underlined have been given to me as free samples by company representatives.

I only recommend products that are scientifically based, effective, safe, and that I would feel comfortable using on my own pets.

My Top 5 Favorite Flea Preventions for Dogs:

  1. Trifexis*
    Trifexis is my absolute favorite antiparasitic product on the market. It is a one monthly prevention that is given orally with a meal. It protects against fleas, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, and heartworms. It must be purchased with a valid prescription from a veterinarian and an up to date heartworm test. Animals that have had seizures before should not take this (or any oral flea preventatives). This product should always be given on a full stomach, as rare GI upset can occur. My dog, Gemma, is on this every month and has been since she was 5 months old. She looks forward to taking her special “treat” and has never had a problem with it.
  2. Revolution*
    This product is a heartworm and flea preventative (it also protects against one species of ticks, and is effective against mange mites). It is applied topically. Animals should have a heartworm test before purchasing this, and this should be purchased from a vet. Revolution is one of the safest products on the market. I’ve used it “off label” in very small pets such as neonatal puppies and kittens, guinea pigs, ferrets, and rabbits. The newest addition to my family, Franklin, is on this preventative as he is currently too small for anything else.
  3. Nexgard*, Bravecto* Chewables
    These are some of the newer preventatives out there. Simparico is another comparable product, but it is not on this list as I am not familiar with it. These products are given orally, and are flavored chewable tablets that most dogs actually love to take. Like other oral products, don’t use them if your pet has seizures. These products also kill ticks, but do not protect against heartworms or intestinal parasites. Nexgard lasts for one month and Bravecto lasts for 3 months. You do not need a heartworm test to purchase these, although they should be purchased from your vet. My oldest dog, Willow, takes Nexgard (and heartgard) every month. She is very picky about pills, but she loves them!
  4. K9 Advantix II
    K9 Advantix and Seresto (below) are made by Bayer Health and are the only OTC products that I trust. K9 Advantix is highly effective at killing and repelling fleas, ticks, and mosquitos. It is applied topically. You can get this product at many pet stores, and you don’t need a prescription from your veterinarian. Be very careful with this product if you have cats- if a cat is exposed to the product while it is still wet or if it is accidentally put on a cat, it could be fatal.
  5. Seresto Collars
    Seresto collars are the only collar you’ll ever hear me (and probably most other veterinarians) recommend. How are they different from other collars on the market? For one, they aren’t greasy, smelly, or gross. It lasts for a whole eight months and has been extensively researched and found to be very safe. The product has been rigorously tested- and is safe even if the collar is chewed on or ingested. Most other collars aren’t efficacious, are smelly and greasy, last for a month or less, and can be toxic if swallowed. My dog, Gemma, wears a Seresto collar in the summers (and also takes Trifexis) to protect her from ticks.

Question For Readers: Are you familiar with any of these products? Which are your favorite? Why?

If you liked this post, please comment, subscribe, or share to help us reach more pet owners!


My Flea Confession (and what you can learn from it)

Guys, I have a confession to make.

A few months ago, I was sitting on the couch with my fiancé watching TV. One of my cats, Thursday, hopped up in my lap. We have tortoise shell cats that are extremely sassy (we call it their “tortitude,”), and so it is a special occasion if they want attention. I seized the day and began petting her, only to become horrified a few seconds later.


“How could this happen?” I found myself thinking, “My cats only stay indoors, I have hard wood floors, and both of my dogs are on flea prevention!”

I immediately started laughing. I had just used the same excuses that my clients rattle off day in and day out, and I definitely knew better. I had been telling my clients for two years that they needed to have all of their animals on flea prevention- even the ones that are “indoor only.” And now, I realized that I wasn’t practicing what I preach!

It was humbling, to say the least.

Luckily, I immediately applied Bravecto for cats (a topical feline flea prevention that lasts for an entire THREE months), and the problem went away. I am extra careful now to make sure that I give the torties their flea and heartworm prevention every month, at the same time I give my dogs theirs. I hope to never be in a state of ‘flea-nial” ever again!

FLEA-NIAL: The state of denial a pet owner is in when they say “my pet doesn’t have fleas” (and their pet definitely has fleas).

Now, you can learn from my mistake. Here are a few reasons why ALL mammals in the household need to be on flea prevention:

  1. You can track fleas, flea eggs, or other parasites into your home. Fleas can come into your house on you or your shoes. Don’t worry- they won’t parasitize humans, our body temperature is just a little too cold for them.
  2. Your dogs- even if they are on flea prevention- can track parasites into your home. Many preventions need the flea to bite the pet in order to kill the flea. This means that a flea could “hitch a ride” on an indoor/outdoor pet, come in, jump off, and colonize your indoor-only pets.
  3. It only takes two fleas to start a family. Listen, kids. When a mommy flea and a daddy flea love each other very much… But, seriously. A female flea can lay over 500 eggs in her lifetime. And those fleas can lay 500 eggs. Two fleas can easily start an infestation.
  4. Dormant stages of the flea’s life cycle can live in the environment for MONTHS. I usually tell my clients that it takes at least 4 months to get rid of an active flea infestation in your home. That is because certain life stages of the flea, especially the pupal stage, can live in your environment for up to 4 months. Because of this, you must use your products continuously and year round to prevent reinfection of your pet.
  5. Fleas can survive the winter. Especially if they are indoors, on an inside only pet, or laying dormant in your home. I see almost as many animals suffering from flea infestation in the winter as I do in the summer. I suspect that this is because owners are not as diligent as applying flea prevention in the winter time.


Picture of the flea life cycle: borrowed from Eli Lilly and Trifexis.

Now, hopefully you have learned from my stupidity and now know the reasons WHY you need flea prevention, even in indoor pets. If you liked this post, please comment, share, or join the conversation on twitter @KatieHoganDVM

You won’t want to miss my post on Thursday- we will be talking about which flea preventions work well, which work some of the time, which are a waste of money, and which can actually be harmful to your four-legged friend.

Question for readers: Have you ever had a problem with fleas in your home? How did you finally manage to get ahead of the problem (or are you still struggling with it)!?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in my professional veterinary career, to apply to my own pets. I also work at a veterinary clinic that sells flea and heartworm prevention. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers and thier animals. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Breeding Your Female Pet

“Should I breed my female pet?”

If you have to ask yourself that question, it is probably a sign that you should not. In fact, I don’t recommend breeding any animal unless you are an experienced breeder who is dedicated to that breed and wants to help improve upon it.

Don’t get me wrong- I can understand wanting to breed your female pet- you love her, and feel like she has great genetics. Plus, wouldn’t it be cool to have one of her offspring, or grandchildren, once she’s gone? And puppies and kittens are adorable! Those ideas may seem attractive, but I recommend that you consider the following questions before you get serious about this.

  1. Do you want to breed your pet to make money? If the answer to this question is yes, you may need to do some more research. It is very difficult to make money breeding most species unless you are “cutting corners” and not doing the proper genetic testing or recommended care for your breeding stock. Breeding is, essentially, an expensive hobby for individuals who are fanatical about one or two breeds.
  2. Are you willing to put your pet’s health at risk? Just like in humans, pregnancy can be dangerous for many pets. If your female pet is a family pet, I would not recommend risking her health to produce offspring. Health problems can arise during and after pregnancy, and even years later if she is never spayed.
  3. Do you have the financial ability to pay for an emergency c-section or other pregnancy complications? Remember how I said that it was difficult to make money breeding animals? This is especially true if there are complications or if your pet is a breed that will likely require a c- section, such as Persian cats or bulldogs. These bills can easily pile up, coming to hundreds- and sometimes thousands- of dollars to save the mom and her babies. Remember that most veterinary clinics require payment at time of service, so you should have at least $1000 saved in case of emergency prior to breeding your animal.
  4. Is your pet a purebred animal with papers? Please consider that thousands of mixed breed animals die annually in US shelters. I beg you- please don’t add to that number. Please only breed an animal that has been registered with a legitimate breed organization or kennel club.
  5. Is your pet a breed commonly found in shelters? The top three dog breeds euthanized annually in shelters (behind mixed breeds) include pit bulls, Labrador retrievers, and chihuahuas. Other popular pure-bred dogs, such as dachshunds, beagles, and poodles, are only a little further down the list. Remember economics class? Don’t add to the supply if there is not enough demand!
  6. Does your dog have genetic traits that should not be passed down to offspring? The list of possible genetic traits that your pet may be carrying may surprise you. This could include anxiety, behavioral problems, skeletal or joint problems (such as hip dysplasia), environmental allergies, ocular disease, or heart problems. Not sure if your pet has genetic problems? Talk to your veterinarian and get her genetically tested prior to breeding her.
  7. What will you do if you’re left with extra puppies or kittens? The best breeders have waiting lists for litters that are yet to be born. They will also keep extra puppies, and even take back puppies that don’t work out with their new homes, if need be. If you don’t have a plan that allows you take responsibility for the lives you help to create, you should not breed your pet.

Remember, I am not here to judge you. I will be cheering for you and helping you and your pet live your best lives, even if puppies or kittens are in your future. However, I encourage you to think through these questions and consider multiple angles. If you can answer the questions above honestly and conscientiously, then you may be in a situation where it would be acceptable to breed your pet.

As always, before making any big decisions, I encourage you to discuss the pros and cons with your family veterinarian. They’ll assess your pet and help make the best recommendation for her and your family.

Like this post? Please comment below, subscribe, or share with friends on Facebook or twitter! 

Questions for readers: Has your female pet ever (purposefully or accidentally) had offspring? What was the hardest part of trying to care for her and her babies? What did you learn? 

Resources for pet owners: