“My dogs have strong breath. Do you have anything to help with that?”

Good breath starts with excellent digestive health. Choose a dog food that has the highest quality ingredients, prebiotics and probiotics to help restore the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. Bad breath can also come from mouth problems—you should see your veterinarian routinely to make sure there isn’t a problem with plaque, tartar or something more serious. Daily tooth brushing is also recommended to keep teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

“Is it OK to pick up a new flea collar at the grocery store?”

Another common scenario in the clinic is when we ask clients about which flea or tick control products they are using, and are often told over the counter products picked up at the local feed store or supermarket. As a veterinarian of nearly 20 years, I can tell you that many of the local topical reactions as well as rare whole body reactions, often occurs in pets treated with cheaper imitation topical spot-on products purchased over the counter.

And while rare reactions can occur with any topical pesticide, I do recommend that clients stick with the more tried and tested long standing flea and tick. This is for both performance and safety reasons.

“What Are Hot Spots on Pets?”

Hot spots is a skin disease (dermatitis) caused by your pet’s allergic reaction. Derm means skin, and “itis” means inflammation, so your pet will have itchy, inflamed skin. Biting insects and fleas are common causes. Often the skin becomes smelly because yeast and bacteria grow well on unhealthy, inflamed skin. When your pet scratches the bacteria are rubbed deep into the skin and hot spots develop. Hot spots are just infected sores. Pets with flea allergy dermatitis are so sensitive they can develop hot spots if bitten just twice a month by fleas. Your pet is having an allergic reaction to flea saliva, feces and exoskeleton.

“What are Allergies in Dogs and Cats?”

Allergies in dogs and cats occur when the immune system overreacts to something that isn’t really a threat. For example, reacting to peanuts, air-borne pollen, or laundry detergent—none of which should cause harm. The material that causes an allergic reaction is called an antigen. Antigens are usually proteins. The term “allergen” is often used rather than the term antigen, but these two terms are slightly different. Antigen refers to any substance causing allergies, and allergen refers to ingested or air-borne substances causing allergies.

It helps to group antigens into three categories and to realize that your pet can be allergic to materials from more than one category:

  • What your pet eats (foods, additives, preservatives, dyes, food storage mites);
  • What your pet breathes (cigarette smoke, pollens, perfumes, particles released from carpet underlays, cat dander, decks treated with a preservative); and
  • What your pet’s skin comes into contact with (dust mites, fleas, soaps, wool).

Pet allergies are additive so that the more antigens your pet is exposed to, the more severe the symptoms. For example, pets with allergies to beef often develop more extreme symptoms in the spring when surrounded with high levels of pollens.