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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

April 2019

Full Issue (PDF)

April 2019 - Full Issue PDFSubscribers Only

Features

With Heartworm Medicine, Do Not Follow Package Directions

Heartworms are parasites that can infest a dog’s pulmonary artery — the artery that brings blood from the heart to the lungs. That can result in severe illness and even death, which is why our pets need to take a heartworm preventive from the time they are puppies throughout their lives.   More...

Ear Cleaning Done RightSubscribers Only

As much as physicians warn against using a cotton-tipped applicator such as a Q-tip for cleaning debris from your ears because of the risks for puncturing an eardrum and impacting wax, using one for cleaning a dog’s ears comes with even more risks. The canine ear canal is long and tapered and takes an almost 90-degree turn about halfway in, going abruptly from “down” to “across.” (See illustration.) If you insert a cotton swab, the fluffy tip will begin to fill the entire width of the ear canal as soon as it approaches that tight turn. That means you end up pushing wax and dirt deeper into the canal rather than removing it. There’s no room to do a bit of scraping along the sides and pull out the gunk. In fact, if you apply just a little too much pressure, the material you want to get rid of can be pushed right through the eardrum. Sometimes the cotton-tipped swab itself gets pushed with enough force to perforate the eardrum.   More...

Sharing the Medicine Chest With Your DogSubscribers Only

Did you know that you likely have a few medicines on hand that can actually be used for your pet? You’ll need to confer with your vet about dosages, but often what’s right for you may be right for your dog.   More...

Patience, Please! She’s Sniffing.Subscribers Only

Imagine if you came across a headline like “World Peace Declared” or “Your Neighbor Threw a Block Party and You Weren’t Invited.” Then, just as you were getting to the juicy part, someone pulled your head away and you couldn’t learn the pertinent particulars. That’s just how it is for your dog when you yank her head away from a blade of grass that she has been sniffing for what seems like forever. Why? Because while we read our world largely with our eyes, dogs read that same world with their sense of smell.   More...

Homemade Treats Your Dog Will LoveSubscribers Only

While a home-cooked diet can be a healthful alternative to commercial pet food, it can be very time-consuming and expensive to make sure it meets all your dog’s needs — and should never be done without help from a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.   More...

News & Views

Which Kids Get Bitten By Dogs? (Those Who Live With Them)Subscribers Only

If your idea of a dog most likely to bite a child is a hungry, feral mongrel who comes upon a youngster accidentally, you’re way off. Most dog bites inflicted on children occur at home by the family pet. Generally speaking, the younger the child, the greater the risk, research finds. And boys are more likely to be bitten than girls.   More...

Please Don’t Pet the Service Dog. Here’s Why.

Service dogs are taught to perform all kinds of duties that keep their owners safe — everything from barking into a speaker phone to signal an emergency to alerting other people when their owner is in distress. They can also provide tactile stimulation for someone in the throes of a panic attack, or even react if someone is experiencing dangerously low blood sugar.   More...

Is Her Aggression a Response to Fear?

How many times have you heard people say their dog is less aggressive off-leash than on? That’s often because their aggression is born of fear. Off the leash, they are free to move away from whatever is making them scared — another dog, a person. But on leash, they’re stuck where you want them to be, which they might perceive as right in harm’s way. So they bark ferociously; they take one step forward in a threatening posture, then two steps backward to protect themselves. Sometimes, if their nerves really get the better of them, they snap.   More...

Expert Advice

Dear Doctor: When removing the tumor means removing the tail

My 8-year-old Bernese mountain dog has a mast cell tumor in the skin of her tail, about an inch from the tail’s base. Because there is so little skin on the tail, it’s hard to get optimal margins when removing a mast cell tumor there — wide-enough margins would leave too little skin to close up where the tumor had been. So the veterinarian is saying her entire tail should be removed to make sure the margins around the tumor are adequate to excise any cancer cells at the edges. While I can adjust to the reality of no tail, my concern centers on bleeding as well as on missing limb pain. Is there something different I should ask for? Remove the tumor but keep the tail? Add radiation to the tumor location to wipe out any stray cancer cells instead of taking off the tail? Forget all treatment, ignore the lump, and let the dog live out her life? What would you recommend?   More...