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Fourth of July Advice for You and your Pets

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The fourth of July is the bomb for most of us humans , but for our pets it can be one of the most stressful days of the year. The fireworks displays and the associated loud noises and bright lights may mimic thunder and lightning which many animals are deathly afraid of. Often dogs will panic while searching for cover or trying to escape, or may exhibit some very destructive behavior such as chewing furniture or other household items into tiny un-recognizable pieces. That is why it is imperative to keep your pets inside to help them cope with the chaos outside and it also eliminates the chances of an escape. Below are some tips to keep your furry family members safe and secure while you enjoy the Independence day festivities.

-Keep your pet’s indoors in a safe, secure environment.

-Play classical or other soothing music as this helps drown out the noise from the fireworks outside.

– Surround your pet with things that may help calm them such as a favorite toy, a new chew treat and their favorite bedding .

– Turning on a T.V and even using a fan to help with background noise can be useful.

– If you need to take your dog outside to use the restroom be sure to keep them on a leash and armed with a microchip and/or collar ID tags should they get loose.

– If your pet gets especially stressed or your neighborhood celebrates the fourth on a particularly grandiose scale, then you may want to talk to your veterinarian about the use of a tranquilizer such as Acepromazine or a homeopathic product such as rescue remedy to aid your pet.

– Please keep in mind that your beloved pet really does not want to be with you at your local park for the festivities. Wait until you return home and then take him/her on a nice quiet walk, watch an old movie together and just heap on some extra TLC.

Never leave your pet in a parked car. Especially on the Fourth of July during a fireworks extravaganza. Your dog may get anxious and panic in response to the noises outside and decide to eat your seats or dashboard as an evening snack. This is very detrimental to your pet’s health and your wallet.

Have a spectacular, safe, fourth of July!

Greg Castle DVM

Dr. Greg Who?

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Dr. Castle’s loyal blog readers may know him as their pet’s veterinarian, but many do not know our blog author like this: 

Who is he? Father. Husband. StepFather. Son. Brother. SportsNut Amateur Impressionist. Prankster. smarta**. Adrenaline junkie. goofball. WW2 afficianado. Native Oregonian.

Greg believes that people who work incredibly hard tend to be very lucky, loves the saying “there but by the grace of god go you or I”, does not mind that his kids all get tired of him preaching the usual be humble, be respectful, always give 100% no matter what you do.

Greg has a duffel bag full of hats and costumes from around the world, sets of fake teeth, moustaches and fake cigarettes that he loves to bust out to accompany him to a particular gathering. He loves cars, fast cars, animals, mountains, limericks, alternative music that his family cannot tolerate.

He still hangs out mainly with many close friends from childhood. He understands that he has a million flaws and makes mistakes daily, puts his foot into his mouth, says insensitive things and acts like a buffoon regularly.

He truly loves his crazy blended family consisting of his Spanish bride, four kids and lots of critters. You can meet many of them at the clinic hanging out during the day. Greg also loves the quote “It is not only possible to be the person you pretend to be, but there is less effort involved”.

Lastly but surely not in the least his good friend Neil Steinhauer frequently reminds him “wherever you are, be all there”.


Pet’s in your home: common problems, issues AND solutions!

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1. Inappropriate urination in cats: Some cats will urinate in the house due to medical issues. Infection or inflammation of the urinary tract or even kidney, liver or thyroid issues often lead to increased drinking and urination. Some cats with arthritis may be reluctant to use a litter box and even older cats that are becoming senile may urinate outside the box. There are also behavioral problems, such as litter box aversion or urine spraying that can lead to house soiling. Aversion usually means that there is something about the litter box that your cat dislikes. It may be in an inappropriate location such as a high traffic area, the box edges may be too high, the litter may be unsatisfactory in terms of sanitation, texture or smell. Urine spraying is the deposition of small amounts of urine around a given area. Spraying establishes or maintains boundaries and also has sexual connotations meaning hey, I’m available. They do not squat , rather they back into an area or object the tail lifts and quivers and they let the urine fly. Cats that are unneutered and from multi-cat households tend to spray more frequently. To address your cat’s spraying issue you must first make sure to neuter him. Outside cats may be to blame so motion detecting sprinklers, closing blinds and other tactics may be necessary. Address sources of frustration such as introducing new diets slowly, increasing playtime and solving disputes among house mate cats. The use of pheromone sprays and diffusers can help as well as spraying odor neutralizers on the urine marked areas. We have also had good success using oral liquid medications to control anxiety although this must be used in conjunction with the other methods that address environmental changes.

2. Is xylitol a threat to my dog? The common sugar substitute Xylitol can be deadly for pets. Xylitol is used in many human food products such as sugar free chewing gum, many types of candy and even dental products such as toothpaste. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and when ingested by dogs can cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar which is caused by the rapid release of insulin. Signs of toxicity may appear in as little as 30 minutes and may include:

Depression ; Seizures; Coma; Vomiting; Weakness; Eventual liver dysfunction or failure

If you suspect that your pet may have ingested a product containing xylitol please contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may then advise you to induce vomiting if the xylitol containing product was very recently ingested.

3. Dogs chewing on household items: Does your Dog view many household items as a midafternoon or bedtime snack? Munching on table legs, baseboards, wooden decks, couches a common problem in many dog loving households. Some common sense advice is to not let Fido use a shoe or other everyday items as chew toys. I believe we are all aware of this. I also have a secret that an old time veterinarian, even older than me, taught me years ago. His two golden retrievers were eating his wooden deck to pieces so he took a minute amount of Tabasco sauce , placed it on a stick and let the dogs sniff and even give it a quick lick. The dogs recoiled in horror at the taste and smell and so he then proceeded to dab Tabasco on parts of his chewed deck and the dogs never chewed it again owing to their incredible sense of smell and apparent recall of a negative experience.

4. Does your dog have a bald spot on the “wrist” area or the front part of his lower front leg? This condition is called a lick granuloma or Acral lick dermatitis and is the direct result of excessive, chronic licking. The constant licking causes inflammation of the skin that may become thickened, raised and ulcerated. The area is itchy, the fur is removed and the itch-lick cycle continues. The act of licking may release endorphins similar to a runners high, however allergies, arthritis, skin mites, fungal infections and anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorders may also be to blame. In short there are numerous reasons why dogs develop these pesky lesions. The treatment of these lesions depends on the underlying cause as determined by your veterinarian. Antibiotics, anti- inflammatories, anti depressants or anti anxiety medications, Elizibethan collars or even skin biopsies are but a few of the treatment methods used.

5. Ingested foreign Bodies that have been surgically removed from a Dogs GI tract: some examples include plant bulbs, a polly pocket, coins, pencil erasers, a diaper, an eye from a stuffed animal, Christmas lights, a rubber chicken head, feminine hygiene products, and a spider man action figure. As you can imagine, the list is endless. If your pet has swallowed a foreign body you may observe listless behavior, persistent vomiting, anorexia, abdominal tenderness and pain. Call your veterinarian immediately and please do not wait to see if a particular ingested object will pass on its own.

6..Does your pet chew, itch, scratch, and lick his fur frequently? Do you see patchy areas of scabs, crusts, hair loss and inflamed or thickened skin? If so, then your pet most likely suffers from allergic dermatitis an extremely common condition that is frustrating for both pet’s and their owners. The typical underlying causes or allergens that incite your pet to scratch and dig are usually food, fleas or inhalants. Food allergies may be due to the consumption of human food or a commercial pet food or treats that their immune system does not agree with. Flea allergies are a direct result of an allergic reaction to a flea bite and the flea’s saliva. Inhalant allergies are usually due to pollens, mold spores or house dust mites. There is no cure for allergies but to minimize the likelihood that your pet may develop one we recommend the following;

-Feed your pet only a good quality pet food, no people food and good quality or no treats. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend.

– Flea control is very important. Even if you don’t see fleas we highly recommend treating every 30 days with a good quality product and year round treatment is recommended. In our moderate climate, fleas can survive year round. Again, ask your veterinarian which products they prefer.

Inhalant allergies: not much you can do except treat your pet based upon the clinical signs and symptoms that may develop. Some typical remedies that your veterinarian may discuss with you to treat your allergic pet and make him more comfortable include:

Antibiotics to clear up infection.  Antiinflammatories or antihistamines. Specific hypoallergenic pet foods. Medicated shampoo therapy. Flea control products. Topical anti-inflammatory sprays Immunomodulating drugs such as cyclosporine. Essential fatty acids inflammation and itching.

Common wive’s tales regarding your pet’s health

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Dr. Castle busts some common myths about our pet’s healthcare… Have more? Comment below and let us know! 

  • Spot’s nose is not a common indicator of how sick or healthy he is. Check out your dogs nose and you may notice it fluctuates between slightly dry to soft and moist depending on the day, weather and humidity. A dog’s nose usually feels wet due to glandular secretions that keep it moist. If you notice that your pet’s nose is bleeding, cracked or thickened then this is the time for a veterinary exam.
  • Garlic given to pet’s to eliminate fleas. It doesn’t work.
  • A distemper shot has nothing to do with your pets temperament. It will prevent your pet from contracting the distemper virus however.
  • Burnt motor oil will not cure your pets skin disease and gasoline will not kill your pet’s intestinal parasites.
  • Mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide placed into your pet’s ears will only make any problems that are present, much worse.
  • Dog’s scoot their butts on the carpet because they have worms. Actually this is due to irritated, infected or impacted anal glands.
  • If a dog or cat scratches, then it must have fleas. May be true, but there are many other underlying causes for itchy dogs and cats.

Questions dog owners may have, but are afraid to ask…

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1. SNIFFING OF FELLOW CANINES REAR ENDS…WHAT ‘S UP WITH THIS? Dog’s have two anal glands that sit in the 4 and 8 o’clock position just inside the rectum. They release a foul brownish, discharge with a peculiar scent almost with a hint of anchovy mixed within. Both female and male dog’s possess these glands and this is typically what dog’s are referencing as they poke their nose into their new friend’s posterior. This may seem odd to us humans but it is the dog equivalent of a handshake or a hug.

2. Drinking out of the communal water bowl at your local dog park isn’t the best idea (although likely a necessity) and could be a source of contagion unless cleaned and refilled frequently. A fresh running “drinking fountain” is the best option for your dog to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission.

3. A lot of dogs and even some cats eat grass. Normally it passes undigested and you’ll see green blades in the feces (if you look carefully enough) They can also vomit if they eat enough or are sensitive. We don’t know the reason other than it must be something instinctual. I believe that dogs enjoy the taste of a good salad every once in awhile. I know my own dogs graze like dairy cows every time we venture to the local school or even in our front yard.

4. Canine nasal solar dermatitis also known as a sunburn, may develop on the nose of certain dogs with depigmented or light-colored skin. Lesions may develop characterized by redness, hair loss and later crusting and ulceration. With continued sun exposure squamous cell carcinoma (cancer) may develop at these sites. The treatment involves keeping your pet inside between 9 am and 4 p.m , using waterproof sunblock with an spf of at least 15, artificial pigmentation with a black felt tip marker or tattooing, can apply to depigmented areas of nose but still need to use other protective measures.

5. Mounting and humping are normal behaviors exhibited by most dogs. Dogs masturbate in various ways. They mount and thrust against other animals, people and objects such as wadded up blankets or stuffed animals. As puppies reach sexual maturity, they start to mount other dogs in sexual contexts. After they’re spayed or neutered, many dogs continue to mount because they have learned the behavior feels good. Female dogs also commonly mount and hump other females when one or both are in heat. Dogs sometimes mount other animals and people to display social status or control. There is also evidence that some dogs with abnormal odors as a result of certain medical conditions may be mounted or humped more frequently.

6. As a general rule before taking your pet to a dog park for an adventure be sure to check with your veterinarian to make certain that your pet’s vaccinations are current, heartworm and flea preventative meds have been administered and your pet has been thoroughly dewormed and therefore parasite free..

A veterinarian’s story: Raleigh

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It was a beautiful fall day in Portland with a light frost on the ground, clear skies, and the leaves just beginning to change. I was at work and anticipating a busy day ahead.

Then it happened, an encounter that will be burned into my brain until eternity.

This is when I walked into the exam room and met Raleigh for the first time. He was an 11 year old lab shepherd mix weighing about 50 pounds with clear brown eyes, a mouth that seemed to be perpetually smiling, erect ears and an energetic tail.

His owners: a young, hip, outdoorsy couple had brought Raleigh in to be examined due to some recent weight loss and a lack of appetite.

I examined Raleigh thoroughly and presented the couple with a few treatment options, one of which entails sending blood and urine to the lab for analysis. One of the symptoms Raleigh presented with was jaundice or a yellowish discoloration of the whites of the eyes as well as a yellowish tint to the skin.

I explained to his family that this usually means that something is wrong with his liver. This may be a transient infection either viral or bacterial, toxin exposure, or something more sinister such as the dreaded “C” word meaning cancer.

We took Raleigh to the back of the clinic and he happily cooperated as we drew his blood and collected urine to send to the lab. I then explained to his family that I would call them first thing in the morning when his test results came in.

I came into the clinic the next day and quickly went to the in box to check Raleigh’s lab results. As I studied the lab results before me, my heart sank as I realized the prognosis was not going to be favorable.

Raleigh had elevated liver function tests, anemia, clotting deficiencies as well as an abnormal urinalysis related to his failing liver. Raleigh’s family rushed to the clinic, and as I ushered them into the exam room I explained the various options.

We can start with a course of treatment to attack what may be going on or we can perform further tests, such as an ultrasound guided fine needle biopsy at a cost of $850 to narrow down the underlying cause.

I did explain that in my 22 years in practice my opinion was that the most likely cause of Raleigh’s abnormal test results was hepatic (liver) cancer most likely hepatic carcinoma.

As I uttered these words I could see Raleigh’s family slowly bow their heads in unison, and they both started sobbing uncontrollably as the reality sunk in. They simply could not afford the expensive diagnostic test and even so, the treatment for liver cancer was out of their reach financially.

We then discussed the next steps, a veterinarian’s worst nightmare. We discussed Raleigh’s future and what may happen if left untreated. The young couple could not bear the thought of Raleigh wasting away, unhappy, tail drooping, his spirit empty, anxiously awaiting the inevitable.

I will never feel comfortable or at ease discussing the euthanasia procedure or putting a family’s beloved pet/ family member to “sleep”. It was something that had to be done. and so we discussed the details and the couple decided to return the following day to say their final goodbyes to Raleigh.

I went home that night and as I lay awake thinking of Raleigh and his family, I felt truly blessed to be able to be a part of something so special. Raleigh was an integral part of this couple’s life. He went everywhere with them swimming rivers and lakes throughout Oregon, hiking the cascades and snow shoeing in the Mt. Hood wilderness.

Every year they celebrated Raleigh’s birthday with a specially made dog friendly turkey based cake. Raleigh’s birthdays were an event to behold with photos, plenty of wrestling with his dog friends, tug of war, chew toys and hats and a loud happy birthday song bellowed out by all his human friends.

I went into work the next day and my staff told me that Raleigh and his family were waiting for me in exam room #1. I took a deep breath and entered the room. I greeted Raleigh with his tail wagging, brown eyes sparkling and gave him a warm hug. I then turned to his family and noticed out of the corner of my eye that a guitar and candle were neatly placed on the end of the exam table.

I never really know what to say, so I simply said that Raleigh led an exceptional life, was well loved and will be sorely missed and I then proceeded to leave the exam room so the couple could spend a few minutes with Raleigh and say their final goodbyes.

As I was waiting outside the exam room I could hear a melodic guitar playing a song with two people singing. I recognized a few words and surmised that it was a song written for Raleigh as a final goodbye.

I then entered the room and Raleigh was smiling, as always, his tail wagging, his family was crying and singing at the same time with a large scented candle burning in the middle of the room.

I left the room to gather myself and noticed that my staff had gathered outside the exam room to listen to Raleigh’s song. At this point we were all crying as we listened to a family’s final farewell to their beloved companion.

I then realized just how special the human animal bond really is. Truly amazing, a day I will forever cherish and never forget.

Rest in Peace Raleigh, you will never be forgotten.


A thankful veterinarian…

Dr. Greg Castle is a veterinarian at North Portland’s Hayden Meadows Pet Clinic, which he has owned since 1991.


Check out the original article from the Oregonian here: