What’s the deal with dentals?

February is considered National Pet Dental Health month!

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Everyone loves doggy kisses and kitty nuzzles, but not when they have bad breath. Not all bad breath is a sign of dental disease, however when you find stinky breath, that is the first place the veterinarians will look. Having a yearly exam with your veterinarian is recommended not only for vaccinations and testing, but a thorough physical exam can help detect issues with your pet that can be treated before they cause major health problems.

One of my first things I do on a physical exam is do an oral exam. Dental disease can be treated early before causing gingivitis, gingival recession, and eventual tooth root infections that cause your animal a tremendous amount of pain and can lead to other health issues.

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Dental disease has been linked to heart and kidney diseases in small pets. There are a number of home remedies to help prevent dental disease such as drinking water additives that help keep pet breath breath (google it, there TONS of them like Emmy’s Best Premium Pet Water Additive, Zymox Oratene Drinking Water Additives), denti sticks and greenies, rawhide chews and oral health toys.

While these can certainly help keep tartar from forming on the teeth, the only 100% way to keep your pet’s teeth healthy and clean, is by having regular dentals. Some animals need dentals more frequently than others, but your veterinarian will be able to create a plan that works best for you and your pet. 

Spay Neuter Charlotte is invested in dental health and we believe that regular dental cleanings are part of keeping your pet healthy. Please call us to schedule a dental visit today! You will meet one of our experienced staff veterinarians who will examine your pet thoroughly and devise the best course of action for their overall health, including their dental health.

-Dr. Welch, SNC Medical Director

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Why choice matters when training your dog

What comes to your mind when you think of “dog training?” Perhaps a dog responding to commands, doing as he’s told, obeying you and staying quiet and complacent when you are busy or otherwise occupied? Perhaps you’ve learned to believe that the way to have a “good dog” is to control him, be the alpha, and be sure not to let your dog “dominate” you. This notion has been demonstrated and emphasized in a popular and widely watched TV show, The Dog Whisperer, and perpetuated by many misinformed trainers all over the country: the message is that dogs shouldn’t be given choices or they will think they are the boss.

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Jill Beitel runs Courteous Canine, a dog training company, out of Charlotte.

Happily, I share with you that much progress has been made in recent years in animal behavior; canine cognition and emotions, and humane, effective training methods. Training is evolving from dominance and dictatorship, to effective communication and patient teaching. Treating dogs like the intelligent, responsive beings that they are – and even giving them (gasp) choices from time to time – doesn’t create a pushy, difficult, or “dominant” dog as we’ve been led to believe. Interestingly, it has just the opposite effect.

Just as we understand that in raising confident, well-adjusted children we need to teach some independence and allow for some free thought and personality development, it is time we realize that this line of thinking would greatly benefit our dogs, as well.

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Courteous Canine offers Out on the Town classes where training skills are practiced in real-life situations, like Piper Glen Shopping Center.

In my 25+ years of teaching and training dogs and puppies, staying on top of current research and advances in behavior modification and training practices has been a priority. I’ve learned to be okay about changing certain exercises and recommendations I use with clients in light of new info – that’s what education and research is for! For example, I used to teach brisk, purposeful walks using a short leash with little opportunity to sniff because I thought dogs needed the physical exertion above other needs, and that the sniffing was just “goofing off.” But since learning the myriad of benefits of sniffing and exploration, and the resulting mental stimulation, I now strongly encourage these “enrichment walks” as an important part of a dog’s daily routine. Interestingly, sometimes dogs will choose to sniff/forage/explore, and sometimes choose to briskly walk or run with their person, perhaps fulfilling their current needs as only they know them. Perhaps the end result – a calm, happy pup at home – is more likely achieved when we let our dogs choose between acceptable options of enrichment.

Think about a normal day-in-the-life of a family dog: they have, sometimes by necessity, very few, if any, choices. Where and on what they sleep, where and when they eliminate, when and whether they go on walks, where they spend time when we are at work, what they get to eat and when they are fed, who they are allowed to meet and spend time with, whether or not they are given access to playmates and play sessions, whether they get to keep their reproductive organs, etc etc. Even if they feel nearly desperate for a walk or play session after days of being cooped up, they must wait until we make the choice to fulfill this need. When very hungry and more than ready for a meal, they must wait for us to provide this basic resource. In essence, we control nearly every aspect of our dogs’ lives. If the tables were turned, this lack of control would cause the average person a great deal of stress. Though dogs are admittedly not human, is it really that far fetched to presume that they aren’t stressed by this abject lack of choices in their lives? It is no surprise that today’s family dogs are displaying more stress symptoms, including extreme anxiety and destructive compulsive behaviors, in recent years than ever before; research suggests that giving them a few more choices in their day-to-day living will enhance their lives and improve the relationship we enjoy with them.

The freedom to make choices increases confidence, reduces stress, and deepens the trust our dogs have in us. If we are consistent about rewarding “good” choices – such as chewing on their marrow bone rather than on the rug or shoe, for example – our dogs begin to choose bones over household items on their own because it is reinforcing on several levels, not just because if someone sees them chewing on shoes they’ll be punished. This approach means less stress for dog as he learns and makes choices, and also means dogs will, in the long run, make these appropriate choices on their own, even when no one is watching or guiding them.

Encouraging free will and choices does not mean being shamelessly indulgent or permissive with our dogs. Take Twig for example… this one-year-old puppy flew in through the doggie door one day, seemingly quite excited and proud of himself, with half of a bright red cardinal in his mouth. Summoning calm and self-control, I resisted the urge to shriek or lunge at my dog, and instead smiled and asked him to drop his treasure. I had been practicing and proofing “drop” for months, but this – a novel creature just found and clearly coveted by this adolescent pup – was by far the toughest “drop” challenge he’d ever faced. He paused, as if to ask “really? THIS?”, and then…released it from his mouth at my feet.

The way I taught Twig to drop items from his mouth was all choice-based. As a pup, once he learned what the word meant by pairing the action with the word, I asked for multiple drops every day – his chews, his toys, a pine cone, even a sock now and then – and joyfully celebrated and rewarded his choice to release the item, and then gave it back to him. Those times he chose to keep it, I typically let him, teaching him he really did often have a say in the matter, which I truly believe has strengthened this behavior immeasurably. Why hang onto it, run away with it, growl about it, when I can just hand it over, get a big party and play session, and then usually get it back??

So, is this “training?” Sure! But it is teaching/training with respect and choice. I believe we should all be using teaching methods that are based on fun games and choices that can earn rewards, and move steadily away from the “do it or ELSE” approach that is causing disconnect between dog and owner, and undeniable stress in our pet dogs. My experience in teaching in this way has proven that it works. Not only does it work, but unlike forceful, intimidation-based methods, there is no fallout, and no risk to the relationship you yearn for with your dog. In fact, training methods that emphasize your dog’s needs and choices are by far the ones that your dog will enjoy the most. It is time for us to recognize that we can achieve happy, harmonious lives with our dogs without subjecting them to unfair teaching methods and without stripping them of the feeling that they have some say in their lives – a right that every living creature should enjoy. When given the choice between a method that your dog hates and one that your dog loves, which will you choose?

-Jill Beitel, Owner & Lead Trainer at Courteous Canine

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Jill Beitel is the owner of Courteous Canine.

Safety Tips for Pets During the Holidays

The holidays can be a very exciting time for families, filled with fun decorations and delicious food. Your pet will love all the smells wafting from the kitchen, as well, but it’s important to remember that much of what is served during the holidays can be harmful to our pets. Most people know about the dangers of their leftover Halloween candy, but did you know that onions and garlic are poisonous to dogs and cats? Another danger found in your kitchen would be turkey bones which dogs are inclined to chew on, but don’t know not to swallow them!

Aside from the food being served, there are some other things you should look out for around the holidays. We love to hang up decorations, such as Christmas trees, tinsel, poinsettias, etc. Poinsettias are actually poisonous to animals, and cats are seen every year at primary vets to remove tinsel from their digestive tracts! It’s something so simple, most people don’t think about it, but it’s important to remember that your pets should be monitored around any new additions to the house!

One last note to remember during the holidays, is no matter how excited you are to host your holiday party, or have your in-laws in town for several days, your house is ultimately your pet’s home as well. They may not be comfortable with the guests you have over, so it’s important to give your pet access to a quiet, calm space to get away from the crowd.

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Make sure your pet feels safe and calm in your home. Their favorite toys can help them feel more at ease with lots of people over.

We hope everyone enjoys their holidays, and keeps their beloved pets in mind, as well!

-Kelly, Pineville Clinic Manager

6 things you must do if a new pet is on your child’s wish list

*Originally featured on MomsCharlotte on Dec 6.

Dr. Elizabeth Welch, Medical Director for Spay Neuter Charlotte, knows that when taken care of properly, a new pet can be great addition to the family during the holidays. But to make the transition easy on parents, children and the pets themselves, she has a few suggestions for anyone with a new puppy, kitten, dog or cat on their list.

1. Have the animal examined by a veterinarian on before giving the children the animal. This ensures the animal is healthy from infectious diseases and free of parasites (intestinal and external) that can be passed on to children.

2. Be sure your new pet is beginning his vaccinations and is on heartworm and flea prevention. New pets should begin their vaccinations as soon as six to eight weeks of age. They should get their regular vaccines at 14-16 weeks of age.

3. If you adopt a dog, set up for obedience training to help them with their behavior.

4. You want them on a well-balanced diet. Your veterinarian can make suggestions as to which food to buy.

5. Always have plenty of toys for your new pet to play with so they leave the socks and shoes of kids alone. These things can become objects that dogs eat and then they get stuck and have to have surgically removed. In addition, during the holiday season be sure to keep up all poinsettias, chocolate, turkey and chicken bones away from dogs and cats, as these are toxic and can cause major illnesses.

6. Have your pet spay or neutered as soon as it’s time. This is best not only to prevent unwanted litters of animals but it’s also beneficial for the long-term health of your pet. Spay Neuter Charlotte recommends pets have their spay/neuter surgery at three pounds or three months. Dr. Welch highly recommends your pet be fixed before six months of age. The earlier the better for the lifetime health of your pet.

Spay Neuter Charlotte has two locations, with the new NoDa clinic opening at the end of December. Their third location, in Lake Norman, is scheduled to open in January 2017. They are currently running a holiday special: $65 for dogs and $35 for cats.

For more information, visit www.spayneutercharlotte.org or call 704.970.2711.

-Dr. Welch, Medical Director

It’s 7:30 am and you’ve just walked through our clinic’s doors – what happens next?

The staff of Spay Neuter Charlotte can appreciate how nervous our clients are when they are dropping their puppies and kittens off for surgery. Our check-in process can seem a little daunting, and may even add a little more stress to the owners, at first. Almost every day, however, we hear from at least one owner how easy going and quick the process truly was. A “well-oiled machine” is a common phrase thrown around in the morning. If you are new to our organization, and would like some insight on what to expect on your pet’s surgery day, please continue reading!

We open the doors first thing in the morning at 7:25 AM, and allow five minutes for everyone to get in the building. We ask that everyone with a dog please keep them in their car. Although our check-in discussion is very brief, if there were 15-20 dogs in the lobby during the “spiel” – I’m sure you can imagine the chaos that would ensue! We ask that anyone with cats bring them inside in their carriers. We do require that all cats come into our building in carriers because it makes them less stressed, easier to handle, and safer around the dogs. Once everyone is in the lobby we then take a few minutes to go over everyone’s surgical release. We require that a surgical release be signed for every pet receiving surgery that day.

Once your paperwork is signed, you will check your pet in for surgery with one of our staff members. We will take a minute to discuss what your pet is scheduled to get done for that day and if there are any additional services you’d like to add on. We will also require your rabies paperwork at this time. If your pet is up to date on their rabies, we are required, by law, to have some sort of documentation, so please don’t forget this at home! If you are seeing us to get your dog fixed we give you a collar made out of paper for you to put around your dog’s neck. This is important because it ensures that we know exactly who your pup is!

Once you’ve finished checking in with a staff-member you are able to then get your dog out of your car and bring him or her in with their collar on. The vet techs will then come up and take your dog into the back office for their pre-surgical exam. If you have a cat, we’ll ask you to label your cat’s carrier with a sticker and kennel card. Once your cat is labeled, you’re all finished and ready to go! Overall, this process typically takes 15-20 minutes if you arrive at 7:30 AM.

We take our patient care very seriously at Spay Neuter Charlotte and we want everyone who walks through our clinics’ doors to enjoy their experience. The best thing to do is come prepared (bring rabies paperwork, don’t give your dog or cat food after midnight, and bring your cat in carrier if you have a cat), take a deep breath and be patient with us – it’s 7:30 AM for us too! 🙂

– Kelly, Pineville Clinic Manager

What does wellness mean exactly?

Have you ever visited Spay Neuter Charlotte in NoDa on a Wednesday for Wellness? What about on a Friday in Pineville? If you have, you know we keep a steady and busy flow of doggy and kitty friends coming through the lobby for appointments. Some of them are here simply to have a vaccine updated, while others are waiting to see the doctor. When you’re making the appointment, you will be asked if you need a visit with the doctor or a visit with the technician. But what does that mean? We’re here to help with that.

When you contact us here at Spay Neuter Charlotte and ask to book an appointment for vaccines, we will book you for what we call a tech appointment. This type of appointment is what the majority of you, our clients, are looking for. We know that not everyone is looking for a visit with the doctor and sometimes you just need to come in and update Chuckie’s rabies vaccine or to get Tito a nail trim. A tech appointment is simply an appointment where your animal goes to the back with one of our trained technicians for services while you wait in the lobby. If you do not have questions or concerns for your pet that need to be discussed with a vet, this is the type of appointment you want.

These appointments are usually quick affairs, as we schedule three technicians’ appointments every fifteen minutes and you pay only for the services you need. We are usually able to schedule you for a tech appointment within 3-5 days of your contacting us to schedule. During a tech appointment, your animal receives a brief physical before any services are administered. If our staff sees anything out of the ordinary, we let you know about it, and if it is something we can help address, we go over your options to care for it as well. Some folks though are looking for a more complete physical exam, or have questions that need to be answered by the doctor. For these kind of appointments, we would schedule you for an office visit.

An office visit is an appointment where you go into a room with your animal with a technician and the doctor. An office visit is $25, plus the cost of whatever services are requested in addition to the office visit. During these visits, you have some one on one time with one of our doctors and are able to ask questions while your dog or cat is examined, and go over any concerns you might have. If your animal has a skin issue, or an ear infection, these would be addressed in an office visit appointment with the doctor. Our office visit appointments book up more quickly than our tech appointments and usually run 3-4 weeks out at a time. The office visits are booked as either a fifteen or thirty minute appointment depending on the day of the week you are scheduling and the reason for your office visit.

We are not a full services veterinary hospital and unfortunately are unable to see all types of visits here as we have limited diagnostic equipment. As an example, we do not have x-ray here so if your pet has a leg injury, we would refer you to your primary vet. If you are looking to schedule an appointment for something that is beyond the scope of what we can see here, we will advise you that Spay Neuter Charlotte can’t help in this situation and will refer you to your primary. In some instances, we can see you for an office visit to start a conversation but our veterinarian may have to refer to a primary vet.

As a general rule of thumb, unless you ask for a visit with a doctor, we will schedule you for a tech appointment. If you do want to see the doctor, please ask us when you are scheduling your appointment so we can make sure you are scheduled for the right visit. For every wellness day we have one technician dedicated to helping in the rooms with the doctor, and a different set of technicians working on the tech appointments. If you come in for an office visit appointment, you might see other appointments go back with a technician that came in after you while you are waiting. Because you are waiting to see the doctor and they aren’t, our technicians will take those back as they come in, but may help start services for your office visit appointment if there is a break and there is anything they can do to help get your visit started.

We now offer wellness three days a week at NoDa, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as well as continuing to have those appointments available on Fridays at Pineville. You can make an appointment by giving us a call, or by using the online scheduler on the website. The services we offer on wellness days can be found on our website, as well as pricing. We hope to see you soon!

-Nicole, NoDa Clinic Manager

Dog Days of Summer

I am a worrier by nature and when the temperature is consistently over 95 degrees I start worrying about our furry friends. Particularly when I see people running with their dog during the heat of the day or even worse, riding a bike with their dog alongside. Yikes! Of course, I didn’t want to presume that this was necessarily a bad thing and luckily for me, I have experts “in the house!” (i.e. I asked Dr. Welch!)  Here are her tips and strategies for managing your pup in the heat:

Outdoor Safety Tips in High Temperatures:

  • Provide animals with plenty of fresh, clean water.  You can also freeze chicken broth into ice cubes as a cool, fun snack for dogs!
  • Provide animals with adequate shade and shelter.
  • If outside longer than 15 minutes, water your animal down with a hose and/or provide a clean water bath where they can cool off in the shade.
  • Avoid the heat of the day.  Early mornings or evenings are recommended for exercise.
  • Brachycephalic breeds (short nosed breeds such as Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pugs, etc.) are at a higher risk for heat stroke.

With the high temperatures it’s also important to recognize the signs of dehydration.

Signs of Dehydration:

  • Excessive panting
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy and/or change in attitude
  • Vocalization
  • Seizures

Keep your pups safe this summer by being smart about the heat and keeping your eye out for signs of dehydration!

-Cary Bernstein, Founder & Executive Director & Dr. Welch, Medical Director