How to Adopt a Dog

By  Robert J. Weiner, VMD, ABVP

A young mother once asked me what kind of dog to buy for her young son. My glib answer was “a stuffed one! Now if you want a dog we can have a conversation.” The decision to adopt or purchase a dog is best done with some forethought. Dogs need training, exercise grooming and veterinary care. Dogs also come in a wide range of sizes, breeds and temperament. Do you have the time and desire to accommodate a dog? Can you have a dog in your home? Many apartments, Co-ops and condominiums have “no dog” rules. Do you or your family members have allergies that need to be considered? Curly coated dogs like Poodles, Bichon’s, Poodle mixes and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are held to be hypoallergenic. These breeds do shed less, but the claim that they are truly hypoallergenic is debatable. Dog ownership also has financial implications. There will be a series of puppy visits to the veterinarian, vaccinations, parasite preventatives, spaying/neutering. Pet health insurance to cover the unexpected illnesses is highly recommended.

Next, do you have a particular breed in mind? If you do, then be sure to consider the size, temperament and activity of your choice and balance that against your schedule, the ages of your children and the size of your home. Also consider how much dog experience you have. Maltese, Shi Zu’s, Miniature Poodles, Cockapoos and Retriever/Poodle mixes (e.g., Labradoodles, Golden Doodles) are examples of dogs that generally have easy dispositions and reasonable needs for exercise. Rottweilers and Border Collies, by comparison, are wonderful dogs best owned by people with prior dog experience who know the breeds. Training puppies requires a significant time commitment. Be sure that your lifestyle can accommodate that. There is not definitive number of weeks to train a dog.

The source of your new dog is the next consideration. Purebred dogs are best purchased from a breeder — ideally one you can drive to and visit. Good breeders typically focus on one or at least a very limited number of breeds and have a small number of litters in a year. If you go and visit you should be happy to be there. The premises should be clean and orderly. Choose the puppy that chooses you. Avoid the puppy that doesn’t want your attention and also the one that is bouncing off the walls. Rescues and shelters can be great sources of dogs who need a home.

I am always grateful for the opportunity to counsel people before they acquire their new dog. The goal is to try and match the people with a dog that will become a successful adoption. Keep in mind that when people decide to become parents they don’t just wake up the next morning and suddenly have a baby. There is a process and it takes some time. Avoid making an impulsive decision. This dog will be part of your family for many years. Take your time and include your veterinarian in the process.

Reprinted in New City Neighbor magazine, October 2018

Give Them Your Best Shot

By Robert J. Weiner VMD, ABVP

Vaccination is a pillar of disease prevention for humans as well as dogs and cats. Very few contemporary dog owners or veterinarians in our part of the world have seen canine distemper, a very common and usually fatal disease of dogs as recently as the 1960’s. Racoons continue to be a reservoir for this virus. Vaccination stands between this devastating illness and your dog. The parvo virus epidemic of the early 1980’s killed countless dogs before an effective vaccine was developed. A canine influenza epidemic in the mid 2000’s resulted in the depopulation of humane shelters across the country and a new influenza strain that smoldered in the middle west for the past 3 years has been reported in New York State recently. Just a few years ago we had a kitten infected with rabies virus in our very own office in New City that was found a few blocks away. Nevertheless, there is vaccination anxiety among pet owners who worry that too many vaccines are given and that vaccinations are dangerous.

Vaccinations are a medical procedure and must be done thoughtfully. There are core vaccinations that all dogs and cats need and others that can should be considered and given depending on the circumstances. Dogs who go to doggie day care, the dog park or hunt in the woods might be vaccinated differently from a dog who never leaves an apartment.  A Toy Poodle gets the same “dose” of vaccine as a Great Dane.  Another way to think about this is that it does not require any more vaccine to vaccinate a large dog as it does to vaccinate a small one. Vaccines are not a drug that needs to achieve a certain blood concentration in order to work. Size has nothing to do with it.

Vaccine reactions are uncommon but do occur. The most common reactions are allergic type events that are seen within an hour of the vaccination. Signs include vomiting, facial swelling, hives (best seen on short coated dogs where the fur stands up in patches) and rarely more dramatic shock like reactions occur. These respond well to antihistamines and sometimes IV fluids. We note these and do not repeat them when they occur.  We occasionally pre-treat pets with antihistamines to prevent such things. Some pets will be sore or lethargic for a day or so after vaccination especially if several were given at the same time.  I prefer not to give multiple vaccines to toy breeds on the same day but that may be more personal prejudice than science.  Vaccinations are blamed for lots of maladies including auto immune diseases and cancer. We have no science that links vaccines to these things in dogs but it is impossible to prove that vaccines are not contributing factors. We do know for certain that many pets would suffer and die from infectious disease if vaccinations were not available.

August 2018

Tick Talk

By Robert J. Weiner, VMD, ABVP

Ticks are small parasitic arthropods. They have been in the news because, frankly, ticks suck. They can transmit several diseases to humans and animals. There are several species of ticks that are important. The Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the infamous vector of Lyme disease. Other species of ticks found in Rockland County include the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) and the Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineous). The Lone Star Tick (Ambyomma americanum) isn’t in Rockland yet, but is working its way here. Just recently the Longhorned Tick (Haemaphysalis longiconis) was identified in our area. The diseases these critters can transmit include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, babesiosis and Powassan virus. The list gets longer as more diseases emerge and are discovered. Veterinarians screen dogs routinely for several tick transmitted diseases by way of a blood test that is often combined with testing for heartworm (a mosquito transmitted disease of dogs). Some of these diseases, but not all, are treated with doxycycline but prevention is key. There are several products available to keep your dog and cats free of ticks. Your veterinarian can help you choose the one that best suits your pet and your family. Options include oral products (for dogs) given monthly or every 3 months (depending on the particular product), collars, and spot-on topical products. There are many over the counter products for purchase in stores or online. Some are generic versions of established and safe products and others are not.  It is important that the product chosen is labelled for the species of animal to which it will be applied. Some dog products can be highly toxic to cats if misapplied on that species. You also need to choose the products that are labelled for your pet’s body weight. Your veterinarian is the one best able to advise you. The product manufacturers know this and often offer rebates on products sold by veterinarians that are not available online or in a store.  No product is 100% effective in keeping ticks off of dogs or cats. All of these products take some time to kill ticks and some are faster than others. You should check you pets daily and remove ticks when you see them.  Your veterinarian can teach you the proper way to remove ticks from your pet. Tick control should be continued year-round.  Ticks are out and ready to attach if the ambient temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper and timely application of safe and effective tick control products and regular tick inspections will help keep your pet healthy and also reduce the possibility that unattached ticks will enter your home and threaten your family.  It is time to speak to your veterinarian about tick control. Tick Talk!

August 2018

Fear Not!

By Robert Weiner, VMD, ABVP,  of County Animal Hospital

Most of my patients are happy to see me but some are fearful. We strive to reduce the stress pets experience at the veterinary office. A fear free veterinary visit starts before the scheduled appointment.

Cat owners should purchase secure cat carriers that are large enough for your cat to be comfortable in. Never transport more than one cat at a time in a single carrier. The carrier should open from the top and the sides. Either hard side or soft side carriers are ok but the cardboard ones are not optimal. End opening carriers are ok if the bolts that hold it together are easily removable. Leave the carrier out in your home all the time. Put a t-shirt that you have worn in the carrier or you can use a towel that has been sprayed with Feliway. Feliway is a calming cat pheromone. Toss special cat treats in there from time to time or even a dish of favorite food so that you cat develops a good association with the carrier. If your cat happens to be in the carrier shortly before the visit just close the door. Try and avoid chasing your cat around the house. Hold the base of the carrier when transporting your cat, so your cat feels more secure. This will help reduce motion sickness and stress. When you arrive at the office set the cat carrier on a chair rather than the floor and certainly try not to set it in front of a curious dog. The hospital staff will get you and your feline family member into an exam room and out of waiting room traffic as soon as possible. Leave your cat inside the carrier until the doctor or the LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technician) is ready.

Dog owners should bring your dog to the office hungry and bring along a supply of your dog’s most favorite special treat — something that you would normally not feed. Even fast food is ok if your dog is particularly fearful. You can purchase Adaptyl, a Dog Appeasing Pheromone, to spray the car with (you can’t smell it) or even spray a bandanna that you put around your dog’s neck. If your dog doesn’t do well around other dogs let us know in advance so we can schedule your appointment appropriately.  Maybe call us on your cell phone from the parking lot so we can make sure the waiting room is clear when you come in. Use a nylon or leather six-foot leash. Retractable “flexi leashes” are never a good idea and especially not in the animal hospital. For some dogs, medications administered prior to the visit will help alleviate anxiety and make the visit less fearful for your dog and happier for you and for the hospital staff. With a little planning we can work together to make animal hospitals truly fear free.


This article was previously published in New City Neighbor magazine, April 2018

Dog Food Myth Buster

By Robert J. Weiner VMD DABVP (Canine and Feline)
County Animal Hospital New City, New York

Dog food is a multi billion-dollar industry worldwide. Pet food commercials are aimed at the dog owner’s heart. Dog food marketing targets nutritional myths–unquestioned answers. Here are four myths busted:

Grain Free” Grain free does not exclude rice, which is negotiably not any better than corn or barley, for example. “Gluten free” is another term used. Celiac disease, an allergy to gluten, is extremely rare in dogs. Dogs that do have food allergies are usually allergic to meat (beef, chicken, pork) or milk protein. Less typically the wheat or grain.

“No By-products” By-products include organ meats and bone meal that are valuable sources of nutrients. A diet composed of 100% muscle meat would be unbalanced for your dog.

No Preservatives Added “Added” is the operative word. The manufacturer may not have added preservatives to the ingredients obtained but you can be sure that the ingredients were preserved. Dog food is made of protein, fat and carbohydrate. Dry dog food sits in a bag in your closet for a long time before you use it. You don’t refrigerate it or freeze it. Before you bought it, it was shelved at the store, was transported in a non-refrigerated truck and prior to that, it was at a distributor. The dating on the package is many months (at least). How long would a hamburger last in your closet?

“Guaranteed Analysis” This is a list of what the minimum % of protein and the maximum % of fat is, for example, but does not enable one to knowledgeably compare one diet to another. To do so you really need the nutritional analysis on a caloric basis. These are available from most companies by request and are published by some companies and distributed to veterinarians. Your veterinarian can calculate the number of calories your dog needs. By consulting the nutritional analysis of a given diet on a caloric basis the exact number of grams of important nutrients that your dog would actually consume can be determined.

Your veterinarian is the trained expert in canine nutrition, knows your dog’s health issues best and is the most qualified to advise you on your dog’s nutritional needs.

As published in the January issue of New City Neighbors Magazine

The Canine Flu(s) Blues

By Robert J. Weiner VMD DABVP (canine and feline)
County Animal Hospital, New City, New York

If you are traveling on vacation it is possible your dog will also be vacationing at a boarding facility. Perhaps your dog enjoys meeting other dogs in the park or goes to doggie day care. If so, it is likely that at some point your dog will bring home “infectious canine cough”, also known as kennel cough. Infectious canine cough is not caused by a single agent and veterinarians cannot immunize against all possible causes. We do vaccinate against the most serious agents. These include Bordetella bronchiseptica (same genus as the bacteria that causes whooping cough in children), canine distemper virus and canine parainfluenza 3 virus.

Similar to the situation with humans the list of infectious agents that affect our dogs is constantly evolving. In 2004 veterinarians first became aware of canine influenza. At that time a strain of Influenza A, H3N8, was identified. This was an equine flu virus that mutated and was able to infect dogs. It was isolated from Greyhound race tracks in Florida. Dogs had no prior experience with influenza and as a result the virus spread rapidly across the country in epidemic fashion. Many dogs died. A vaccine was developed. H3N8 has pretty much disappeared except for the Northeast where self-limiting outbreaks occasionally occur. In 2015 an outbreak of a flu-like illness occurred in the high-density animal shelters in Chicago. The Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University veterinary college identified a new strain of Influenza A, H3N2. This outbreak has continued in the Midwest and this year there have been outbreaks of H3N2 in Florida, Texas and North Carolina. A few cases have been reported in Chemung County in New York State. This newer strain is a bigger problem than H3N8 because dogs shed the virus and are contagious for a much longer period of time. As of the date of this writing (August 2017) it has not been reported in Rockland County, but one imagines that it will arrive here eventually. There is now a vaccine for H3N2 and a bivalent vaccine that immunizes against both strains, which makes sense in the Northeast. Canine influenza is not contagious to humans, but H3N2 can affect cats. There is no influenza vaccine for felines.

Veterinarians generally recommend influenza vaccine for those dogs whose lifestyle frequently puts them in contact with other dogs.

For more information about canine influenza see:

As published in the October 2017 issue of New City Neighbors Magazine