Sheltie Nation

Category Archive for ‘Health’

Four Out of Five Puppehs Agree:

Brush daily for a dazzlingly cute smile!


Does little Connor floss too, Jacqueline? :)

How to Properly Remove a Tick from a Dog

It is summertime here in the USA, when the living is easy — unless you have a dog who spends lots of time in the outdoors. Spring and summer are the most active and prolific seasons for ticks, especially this summer. Ticks are going to be a big problem this year because of the relatively mild winter we’ve had across the United States. That type of weather pattern is particularly conducive to seeing lots of them. Read on for information on how to remove a tick from a dog.

Ticks are dangerous because they can transmit much more than Lyme disease. In fact, some species can emit as many as four or five different pathogens – infecting humans and dogs. If a large number of ticks infest a dog, they can suck so much blood that your pet can become anemic — a good reason to nip the prospect of ticks in the bud.

Fortunately, there’s preventive medicine that can protect your pet from picking them up in the first place, as well as foolproof techniques to remove them. But there are also popular myths out there that won’t actually fix the problem.

Common Tick Removal Myths

Petroleum jelly, burning them off, freezing them off, nail polish. These are just a few of the common folk remedies that pop up when you google tick removal. All of them won’t work — and have the potential to further hurt your pet.

Ticks do not back out once attached. Their head remains embedded in the animal’s skin. And this is precisely the problem with petroleum jelly and nail polish: Pet owners think that they can drown or kill the tick, but the head stays in place.

Then there’s the burning method. Fact: Lighting a match anywhere near your pet is the very definition of playing with fire. This should be common sense. Your dog has hair and that hair could be singed or catch on fire.

Some owners try to freezing ticks, which they do by using an aerosol-based liquid freezing gel. We recommend you not toy with this method. You’re not a veterinary professional, so you won’t know how long to hold it on. You could injure your dog.

The other myth often heard: Once you successfully take a tick off, you can burn it. The tick is actually toxic. When it pops, it can let off a toxic fume that can be harmful to pets and infants.

Correct Tick Removal

There are a number of tick-removal tools on the market all over the world. All claim to be safe and efficient but this may not always be the case. The most important aspects of tick removal are:

  • The mouth parts of the tick should be cleanly removed along with the rest of its body.
  • The body of the tick must not be compressed.
  • The tick should not be stressed or injured, because this can cause it to regurgitate its blood meal along with any infective organisms.
  • The tick should be removed without causing the host any discomfort.

The Best Way to Remove a Tick

There is a better way than pulling them out using tweezers.

Tick removal toolThe latter is a tool that’s specially designed for safely and quickly removing ticks. There are a couple of types to choose from. One functions as blunt-ended, plastic tweezers called a Tick Twister or a Tick Stick. The other is called the Tick Key, a little gizmo that resembles a bottle opener. The hole in it comes down to a very thin point, so you can kind of slip the tick into this hole, slide the tick down to the end and basically lift — just like you would remove a cap off a bottle — and it pulls the tick out.

Your technique is equally important: Start by parting your dog’s fur where you see a tick, and then “pull it out by the body, so as not to twist or pinch the head off.

Once you’ve removed a tick, there are a couple of ways to banish it for good. If you just have a tick or two, you can put them on a piece of tape, so they can’t move, and flush them down the toilet.

Be warned: Flushing alone may not do the trick. You don’t want to flush a live tick down the toilet because they can crawl back up.  Not to mention that tape isn’t septic system friendly.

Putting them in rubbing alcohol however, will kill them. We suggest pouring a little alcohol into a bottle, dropping in the tick and then waiting five minutes until you’re sure that the tick has met its match.

Why is it safe to twist with this tool?

When using tweezers/forceps, the tick is grabbed close to the skin. Twisting the tick then exerts pressure to its mouth parts, which can cause them to break off. The Tick Twister cradles the body of the tick and doesn’t exert pressure to either its mouth parts or its abdomen. It can therefore be safely twisted, which allows the barbs on the tick’s proboscis to be freed from the surrounding tissue. Because the tool doesn’t cause any compression to the body of the tick, it minimizes the risk of disease transmission.

The Tick Twister is suitable for the removal of ticks from both humans and animals and can be disinfected with normal disinfectants or sterilized in an autoclave at 284°F (140°C). The product is made from recyclable plastic, which can also be incinerated without pollution (no chlorine fumes during combustion).

Protect Your Pet Before You Have a Tick Problem

The best way to protect your pet from ticks is to apply a monthly flea and tick preventative.

However not all tick preventers are created equal. Flea and tick collars are not as affective because they’re localized around the neck. Since fleas and ticks tend to latch on near the neck, the rump and in the crooks of a dog’s legs, most collars won’t provide complete coverage.

So how do you know if your pet requires professional care?  If you notice a large red ring developing — regardless of whether there are 1 or 100 ticks — that’s evidence of the migration of pathogens, and a good sign that veterinary treatment will be effective.

The second red flag is the actual tick count: A lone tick isn’t reason enough for a visit. However any dog who has a lot of ticks needs to seek prompt professional attention.

Bottom line: Seek out preventive care, and give your dog (along with yourself and any kids in your home) a thorough going-over on a daily basis to help ensure a carefree — and tick-free — summer.

Summertime Dog Heatstroke: Your Car is an Oven!

Hot cars are deadly for dogs, even with the windows rolled down.

It is that time of the year again.  Summer is no time to take our dogs along as we run our errands.  With this record heat, it becomes even more dangerous even faster.

As we go about our busy lives please keep a look out for dogs left in cars by owners who do not know just how quickly a car can become a death trap. Reporting a dog in distress to the police can save the animal’s life.

  (At 107 degrees, dogs begin to suffer brain damage.)

Signs of Heatstroke

  • Panting
  • Staring
  • Anxious expression
  • Refusal to obey commands
  • Warm, dry skin
  • High fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse

Cracking the Windows Doesn’t Cut it.

A study from Stanford University shows that even on comparatively cool days, such as 72 degrees, a car’s internal temperature will rocket to 116 degrees within 60 minutes. And keeping the windows open a  crack hardly slows the rise at all.

If your pet can’t come with you when you get out of the car, leave him at home. Why people don’t remember this completely annoys us here at Sheltie Nation. We rank this right up there with leaving children in cars. This is really a common sense “no no”.

Help Spread the Word

The Animal Protection Institute (API) has a website, which is packed with life saving tips and resources such as windshield fliers, millions of which have been distributed since the start of the campaign. The national outreach effort also includes materials and warning notices for stores and public places.

FlyerthmbYou can also purchase the API fliers (25 for $3.00) to leave in your own glove box in case you come across a dog you suspect may be in need of help. You might just educate a complete idiot & save a precious dogie life. But if you see a dog in distress, do not hesitate to call the authorities!

Heartworm Vaccination Caution: ProHeart6

A Dog-Owner’s Story of Loss and Raising Awareness

This article has been reprinted with permission by Ashley Sassaman

One of our beloved dogs, Jack, a 6-year-old, chow-lab mix, died yesterday. His death was very unexpected and traumatic. Although, our dogs did not receive the same amount of attention as they did before Bobby was born, they were still loved dearly. Bob walked them religiously every single day. Jack loved, loved, loved, playing fetch. Tennis balls were his favorite. When we discovered that he had died, we began questioning what happened to our sweet Jack.

On Monday, May 7, we took both of our dogs to our vet for their annual check ups. It was a very routine visit. They were both checked for heartworms and parasites, weighed, and listened to. They were deemed normal and healthy. They both received their rabies vaccinations, and a new drug (via injection) that was recommend by our vet, ProHeart 6. Our vet simply said, “Hey, we have this new shot that we can give them for heartworm protection instead of an oral preventative. It’s easy because it’s only one dose every 6 months.” Sounded good to us, so we agreed. That was it. That was all the information we received, and—by our own fault—all we asked for.

Both of the dogs seemed fine the first week home, then Jack started acting differently. He didn’t want to go on his daily walks. He didn’t want to fetch his tennis ball. He didn’t want to eat his dog food. My husband even tried giving him some leftover steak from our dinner, and Jack wouldn’t eat it. We knew something was up, so we took him back to the vet on Monday, May 21.

The vet discovered that Jack had a fever, but could find nothing else wrong with him. He was given a steroid shot and some antibiotics in case he had an infection, and we were sent home. Over the next few days, Jack seemed to feel better. He was still a little lethargic, but was eating and perked up when we threw a ball or petted him. He seemed on the mend. We thought he must have just had a virus and was getting better. It did not even cross our minds that he was so gravely ill, so we continued with our Memorial Day plans to go to the beach.

We returned from the beach to a grim discovery—Jack dead in a pool of blood and vomit. His poor little body was crumpled up in a strange way, like he had literally just fallen over dead. We took him to an animal ER where they confirmed that he was dead, and we paid to have his body cremated. The vet at the animal ER stated that it appeared to be a heart attack or cardiopulmonary problem that killed him.

That evening, as we wrestled with grief and trying to explain death to our 3-year-old son, we began to question what on earth had happened to our previously perky puppy. Okay—he wasn’t a puppy, but he always behaved like a frisky, fun puppy, and he certainly wasn’t an old dog. We considered the possibility that he ate something bad, but his vet had all but ruled out a GI problem. We went over and over what was different, the only thing we had changed was their heartworm medicine.

We googled the shot he had received a few weeks earlier, ProHeart 6. The drug was originally made by a division of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, but the drug company Pfizer acquired Wyeth and all of its holdings in 2009. Pfizer’s own website lists side effects of the drug as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and death. (Source: Pfizer) Jack had exhibited exactly all of those symptoms… in that order.

After doing further research, we also discovered that the drug was originally pulled off the market in 2004 for a high rate of adverse reactions to the drug. “According to an informed veterinarian, ‘Proheart caused more deaths in one year than all of the oral heartworm preventives combined did in ten years. When the FDA notified Pfizer that their drug was causing a problem, the manufacturer claimed it was due to the vaccines’ being given at the same time. The FDA looked at the data again and told them the dogs involved had been getting their vaccinations all along and the only difference was the Proheart. That’s when the FDA informed the company of their intent to pull it and the company then voluntarily took it off the market.” (Source: The Senior Dogs Project)

Pfizer was allowed to re-market the drug in 2008 with the following stipulations: Pfizer agreed to add additional warning labels to the drug packaging, and agreed to mandate that pet owners be given a drug fact sheet and be made to sign an “informed consent” document. Pfizer went even further as to mandate web-based training for veterinarians who gave the drug, and issued several “Dear Doctor” letters to all veterinarians regarding the adverse effects of the drug. (Read one of the “Dear Doctor” letters here.)

The part that bothered and alarmed us the most was this line from the drug’s website: “ProHeart 6 dog owners must be advised of the risks of ProHeart 6 and sign an Owner Consent Form prior to the first administration.” (Source: Pfizer)

We were never shown a fact sheet on the drug, never “advised of the risks”, and certainly not given an Owner Consent Form” by our vet to sign. (In hindsight, we feel that we should have asked more questions about the drug, but we trusted our veterinarian.) If the side effects had been presented to us as they have in our research, we would NOT have consented to have Pro Heart 6 administered to our dogs.

We also found some literature suggesting that ProHeart 6 should not be administered at the same time as vaccinations: “Allergic reactions, sometimes serious, have been reported when ProHeart 6 and vaccinations have been given at the same time. Talk to your veterinarian about the risks of administering ProHeart 6 at the same time as vaccinations.” (Source link here.) Our vet administered ProHeart 6 at the same time as Jack rabies vaccine, and distemper/bordetella.

The drug’s information page from states the following: “Owners should be advised of the potential for adverse reactions, including anaphylaxis, and be informed of the clinical signs associated with drug toxicity. Owners should be advised to contact their veterinarian immediately if signs of toxicity are observed. The vast majority of patients with drug related adverse reactions have recovered when the signs are recognized and veterinary care, if appropriate, is initiated.” (Source:

When we did recognize that something was going on with our dog, we did what we thought good pet owners are supposed to do. We took him back to the vet. The vet should have recognized that he was having an adverse reaction to the ProHeart6 that she administered to him  (without our “informed” consent) only weeks earlier and treated him appropriately. If the vetrinarian had recognized his symptoms, he could have recovered. She did not, and as a result, our otherwise healthy dog died. Now, we are left waiting on the drug to work its way out of our remaining dog’s system praying that she does not fall victim to the same fate.

Stories of dogs that died as a result of being administered this drug are abundant. Check out any of the following links for more information, and please, ask for all of the facts, side effects, and more information when your vet (or doctor) recommends this drug (or any drug). ProHeart 6 provides no additional benefits or protection than safer, oral heartworm preventatives.

Additional Resources:

Letters & Data by the Drug Manufacturer from the FDA’s Website:

July 22, 2002 “Dear Doctor” Letter warning of additional “adverse reactions”

June 19, 2003 “Dear Doctor” Letter advising of label changes due to “adverse reactions”

“Risk Minimization Action Plan” for the Re-Introduction of ProHeart 6 to the Market (63 Pages which includes the newest precautions, and the actual drug label, “Client Information Sheet”, and “Owner Consent Form”—none of which we were ever given.)

May 30 UPDATE: I truly appreciate all of your condolences and support, and all of you who have shared this blog on your social media sites. It makes me feel much better knowing that we are raising consumer consciousness.

We aren’t trying to tell you what to do with your pets, just encouraging you to gather information before making any decisions.

A vet that works for Pfizer, the drug manufacturer, contacted us today to ask us if we would let them do an autopsy necropsy on Jack. (They had already called the crematorium to make sure his body had not been cremated yet.) We agreed. In fact, we felt relieved and feel that we will get some answers soon. His body is now on the way to the University of Florida to be examined by experts.

Our other dog does not seem to be exhibiting the same symptoms (so far thank goodness).

May 31 UPDATE: Pfizer called back today to let us know they were planning on reimbursing us for the money we paid to have Jack cremated.

His body is being sent to a different lab in Florida and it will be 4-6 weeks before we get a full autopsy necropsy report. They are doing tissue samples, toxicology… The whole nine yards.

Pfizer seems as interested in getting answers as we do. Which is more than we can say for our (former) vet.

The vet has not responded to our requests for answers. (I.e. Did the vet who administered the shot complete Pfizer’s mandatory training? Why were we not given the “Owner Consent Form” and drug fact sheet? Why did the vet not recognize Jack’s symptoms when we took him back in?)

I have received lots of emails and messages from others who have lost their pets. My heart goes out to you. Some have asked me to publicly name the vet. I’m not going to do that (yet). I may, or may not, do that when we receive the autopsy results. At that time, we will know who is truly culpable. In the meantime, just be sure to ask your vet (or doctor for that matter) for lots of information before consenting to anything.


Thank you to Ashley for sharing your story.  We hope that by reaching as many dog lovers as possible, additional tragedies can be avoided.

Dog toxic xylitol in gums, mints, desserts … and now drugs

Written by Dr. Patty Khuly, contributor to VetMD and the blog Fully Vetted. Reprinted with permission.

FEB 07, 2011

I’ve written about the dog-toxicity of the popular sugar substitute xylitol so often and so fervently that a Google search for “xylitol and dogs” digs up my past posts on the subject among the first several findings. And that’s cool. But it’s not nearly enough. Indeed, the fact that I’m up there tells me precious few people are getting the news. Which is why I keep trying …

Yes, xylitol is still killing dogs … more dogs than ever before. This, despite my efforts and those of like-minded big mouths who seek to inform all U.S. consumers that xylitol is a menace to dogdom.

How menacing? A few sugar-free breath fresheners, a pack of gum, a spilled tin of mints, a sugar-free dessert cup. It takes only a little of this toxin to send a dog into hypoglycemia-induced seizures, and just a little bit more to bring on liver failure.

And what’s worse is not so much its extreme toxicity … but its insidiousness.

Let me explain:

Xylitol is a great product. It’s a natural extract from the birch tree, and it takes only a little bit of this stuff to sweeten a whole lot. It’s therefore less expensive than other sugar substitutes. And it happens to taste better than most of them. Diabetics everywhere can rejoice! The tooth fairy, too.

All of which is why consumer product manufacturers have been slowly and quietly replacing other sweeteners with xylitol … in everything, not just products that are labeled sugar-free.

And that’s the trouble. When I first started writing about xylitol three or four years ago the number of consumer products containing xylitol numbered less than a hundred in the U.S. Moreover, they were largely restricted to the arena of sugar-free gums and foods. Fast-forward to today and the list is way longer and much more diverse. You can find xylitol in everything from Flintstones vitamins to commonly prescribed drugs.

These latter products pose more of a problem for dog owners and veterinarians for a variety of reasons.

These products never used to contain xylitol. In fact, I used to recommend Flintstones vitamins for my patients. Now I have to caution my clients to stick to pet-only brands and to be very diligent about reading labels. But it took months before I became aware of the change in this brand’s ingredients. (So you know, xylitol is included in only a few of the Flintstones formulations, not all.)

What’s worse — and even more stressful for veterinarians — is that it’s not just common consumer products anymore that we have to watch for. The human versions of drugs, especially the children’s elixirs, are now being formulated with xylitol for greater pediatric palatability. Unfortunately, the lower doses in the kids’ meds are exactly what some of our smaller animal patients require.

Got a little dog who needs hycodan syrup for a cough, or the bronchodilator theophylline for breathing? Even if you’ve been getting a drug for months or years as an elixir from the same exact pharmacy, beware. Preparations of these drugs may soon change to reflect the widening market for xylitol as a sweetener.

Case in point: This week I sought to relieve a clients’ small dog of back pain associated with recurrent episodes of intervertebral disc disease. In so doing, I prescribed a dog-only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and the smallest dosage of gabapentin (used for both seizures and neurogenic pain) currently formulated. But the pharmacy had run out of the 100 mg capsules, which is why I received a call from the pharmacist to see if I would OK the liquid (elixir) version instead.

Now, I’d like to say I’m always up on every single drug and all the new formulations, but I’m not. It’s just too damn much info to consume on a regular basis. I had, however, just read through Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook on this exact point: available formulations of gabapentin. And guess what? Some commercially prepared versions of liquid gabapentin have xylitol in them — and it was one of these very versions my pharmacist was offering.

The same drug I was offering my patient might have killed her had I not known about the change!

Now, I don’t know how much of the elixir it would’ve taken to send her into seizures, but rest assured, this little dog was already getting the high end of the drug’s dose, so I think I’m justified in fearing the worst for other dogs all over the country whose pharmacists don’t make the call (it happens all the time), or whose veterinarians haven’t yet heard of the dangers pediatric elixirs now pose to animals.

Does this shock you?

It should. It terrifies me.

Dr. Patty Khuly

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