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30 Jul

How to Choose A New Veterinarian

How to Choose A New Veterinarian

How to Choose A New Veterinarian

How do you know which veterinarian is the best choice for you and your pets?

Do you ask friends? Ask your old vet (depending, of course, on why you need a new vet)? Call the local animal shelter? Just go to the closest clinic?

All of those alternatives have been tried, of course, and with some success. But why are those successful ways to locate a new doctor for your beloved pet?

If you have a normally healthy dog or cat and only need to see your vet for annual exams and routine shots, etc, chances are if you are treated politely and the expense is reasonable, you will probably recommend that veterinarian to others. But what if your pet has a life-threatening or debilitating condition that stretches the veterinarian’s knowledge? Now the choice is of paramount importance. What do you do?

If you are new to where I live, you will find a plethora of choices in Lewisville and surrounding areas from which to choose. All of our local veterinarians boast the latest in equipment, clean clinics, and ample staff. And no, I’m not going to recommend a vet for you. This is where your work begins.

Google “veterinarians in Lewisville, TX” and see what turns up. Probably the first result you’ll see is a map with the locations of seven or more flags showing the locations of veterinarians in the immediate vicinity. Now, obviously, you’ll probably want to choose the clinic nearest where you live. That makes the most sense, particularly when your fuzzy friend has ingested something horrible or fallen down the stairs or suddenly starts having convulsions. You know what I mean. That awful moment when his life flashes before your eyes and you realize you could lose him forever.

That’s why it’s important to become acquainted with your new vet long before any of this kind of thing occurs.
Now that you’ve got that map in front of you, notice that in light blue to the right of the telephone number you see a link for reviews. CLICK THAT LINK. Really. Do it.  And read every review. What you find there might surprise you, or even better, might save your animal’s life.

What you’ll see in these reviews will range from people who have used the same vet for generations and only wish their own doctor was as good, to those who lost a pet due to what is apparently the neglect or ignorance of either the staff or the vet himself.

While I find the positive reviews helpful, what I think is more so are the ones who tell the stories of bad experiences. (It’s interesting to note that the positive reviews seem to “gush,” while the negative ones present the facts of the situation.) What I found was in some cases heart-stopping. Figuratively speaking for me, but quite literally for some of the pets.

One of the reviews I read told about a tumor that concerned the owner but not the vet until it was too late. If you aren’t comfortable, go elsewhere.

Lesson: Follow your gut.

Another cited a story of a stray kitten that was pronounced healthy but then infected the rest of the owner’s cats with a fatal disease.

Lesson: Know your veterinarian’s practices for examining a new animal coming into your home.

Several reviews told of pets who died after being pronounced healthy by the veterinarians who apparently did not do more than a cursory exam when a more exhaustive one was indicated. Lesson: insist that the doctor tell you what he did in the exam and why. You’re paying for it—you have the right to know.

Money will always be an issue. I found it amusing that every complaint about money said that the veterinarian charged two or three times as much as “other vets,” but I didn’t read a single one that said that this was the “other vet” who charged reasonably.

Lesson: Ask your vet for a services schedule with prices.

Discuss his fees at each visit, for each visit. Don’t assume that because you paid a specific price once means that you’ll always pay that price. Make sure you know what tests will be performed and the cost of each, and leave a written letter in your file asking the doctor to call you to discuss any tests or procedures not authorized in the initial visit. (I write down—in front of my vet— everything he says he will do and which tests he will run, and then ask him to read it and make sure I understood each thing correctly. Believe me, he’ll be much less likely to do unauthorized procedures if he knows you are fully aware of what is being done.)

Reviews are very helpful, but don’t rely on them for all of your information. Before you need it, make an appointment to visit your vet of choice and have him (or her) do a tour with you. Be willing to pay for this appointment, as this choice could mean life or death to your beloved pet.

28 Jul

Best Day Hikes With Your Dog in Texas Hill Country

Best Day Hikes With Your Dog in Texas Hill Country

Best Day Hikes With Your Dog in Texas Hill Country
Should you take your dog on a hike?

That really depends. Where do you want to walk? Are dogs allowed on those trails? Do you have absolute control of your dog off lead, or do you plan to keep him on lead? Is he healthy enough to hike with you? Are you going with other hikers and their dogs, or just you two?

These questions are important considerations when deciding when and where to take your dog hiking with you. Dogs love the outdoors. They notice everything, not only with their eyes, but with their whole bodies. Watch Fido, and you’ll see him sniff, move his ears, cock his head, wag his tail, raise his hackles, paw at things, maybe even dig. And if he finds something really, really stinky, watch out! Chances are, he’ll want to roll in it.

Walking with your dog makes you much more aware of your environment.

And so it should be. You’ll need to keep your eyes out for hazards that might affect not only you, but your dog as well. Don’t let him drink from puddles, ponds, or streams, because he can get leptospirosis or giardia (which is sometimes called Beaver Fever). Both of these bacterial infections can make your four-legged buddy extremely sick. In many states, a dog in a pasture with livestock can legally be shot, just for being there, so keep Fido close at all times.

Not everyone appreciates dogs, and you must be sure that your dog has good manners before exposing the world to him. Don’t let him approach anyone uninvited.

Preparing for Your Hike

Be sure your dog is wearing a sturdy collar with a proper license. Today it is easy to have your dog microchipped, and many veterinarians and shelters have scanners to read them. This will facilitate getting Fido back to you if he should get lost.

You never know what you might run into on trails. Other dogs and animals are possible, so be sure your buddy is current on all his vaccines. Even if your state does not require rabies vaccine, if you are going to hike with him, it’s a good idea to vaccinate against rabies anyway. Watch for poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, etc. If you’re not sure what they look like, find out before you go. If in doubt, keep him out! Especially in areas where there is a lot of undergrowth or high grass and weeds, your dog may pick up ticks and fleas. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, so if that’s a risk in your area, consider vaccinating Fido against it.

Musts

• Keep your dog close
• Clean up after him
• Bring plenty of clean water and a bowl
• Bring a spray bottle of water
• Be aware of trailside hazards
• Bring along a first aid kit, and check paws often

Must Nots

• Don’t let your dog run around loose
• Don’t let Fido enter private property (even through wire fences)
• Don’t let him drink any water but what you bring for him
• Don’t let your dog approach strangers
• Don’t let your dog bark excessively
• Don’t let him eat anything off the ground

Three Best Hikes in Texas Hill Country

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Echo Canyon Trail
Distance: 2 miles round trip
Hiking time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate – dogs should be big and agile
High point: 1600 feet
Elevation gain: 100 feet
Best hiking season: Spring through fall
Regulations: Dogs must be on leash and are not allowed to swim in any water; scoop and pack out waste
Map: Texas Parks and Wildlife Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Contact: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 325-247-3903  This park is one of the most popular in Texas. When it reaches capacity, it closes; therefore, plan ahead and walk early. Hot summer days are best, or try midweek.

Colorado Bend State Park, Spicewood Springs Trail
Distance: 5.2 mile loop
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
High Point: 1300 feet
Best hiking season: Spring through fall
Regulations: Dogs must be on leash and are not allowed in the creek Map: Texas Parks and Wildlife Colorado Bend State Park
Contact: Colorado Bend State Park, 325-628-3240
Colorado Bend State Park is popular for bird-watching (more than 155 species have been identified in the park) and for fishing the white bass run.

South Llano State Park, Fawn Trail
Distance: 3 mile loop
Time: 1.75 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
High point: 1968 feet
Elevation Gain: 188 feet
Best hiking season: Spring through fall
Regulations: Dogs must remain on leash
Map: Texas Parks and Wildlife South Llano River State Park
Contact: South Llano River State Park, 325-446-3994

Resources for hiking and backpacking with your dog

Dog play activities

Trail dog

Dog scouts

Hike with your dog

Wolfpacks

Trailhead

Love the outdoors

Books and Videos

A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog by Charlene G. LaBelle
The Canine Hiker’s Bible Hiking With Dogs

Where do you like to hike with your dog?

18 Jul

Easy Steps to Thrush-Free Hooves

Easy Steps to Thrush-Free Hooves

Every person involved with horses has or will be exposed to thrush.

Exuding a foul smell and oily black discharge, thrush is among the most common problems experienced by horses, particularly those kept in stables. Thrush is caused by bacteria that thrive in a wet, dirty environment. Because the bacteria are anaerobic, horses confined to stalls are more likely to develop the condition than those who are kept out where they can exercise readily. The natural flex action of the horse’s foot exposes the bottom to air, and horses in pastures are less likely to stand in urine or feces soaked ground. Mud in and of itself will not cause thrush, although constant wet ground may lead to an environment conducive to picking up the bacteria, which lives in soil.

Treat it now.

Treating thrush promptly will help prevent a chronic condition that can lead to lameness, so it is very important to clean your horse’s feet at least daily. Using a hoof pick properly will dislodge debris that has been picked up as well as clean out dirt and manure.

12226756_f520Once thrush is found, the affected hoof or hooves will need to be cleaned and treated daily for seven to fourteen days straight.

Here’s how.

  • Thoroughly clean the hoof, using the brush end of the hoof pick to brush out debris that has been dislodged. If the frog has flaps, trim them and any black areas back to healthy flesh. If you are nervous about doing this task yourself, ask for help from your vet or farrier.
  • Wash the foot with a preparation that contains betadine. Thoroughly dry.
  • Using a preparation specifically for thrush or a combination of half bleach, half glycerine, dip a cotton swab into the solution and thoroughly saturate the thrush-affected area. An alternative is to mix betadine with sugar and scrub it with a brush into the crevasses in the foot. An acid brush from the hardware store or an old toothbrush will work equally well.
  • Clean the horse’s stall down to the floor and add fresh shavings or straw and keep it clean. Make sure the horse gets exercise, even if that means just taking him on a stroll in a halter.
  • Repeat the procedure for a week or two, until all signs of thrush are gone. If your horse tends to get thrush easily, use the bleach/glycerine preparation once a week once the thrush has cleared up.
  • The most effective way of preventing a recurrence of thrush is with proper husbandry, cleaning the horse’s feet every day and keeping his bedding clean and dry.