Pet Health Tips

Ask the Vet with Dr. Greer: Fall 2023

Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer answers questions about dog breeding, Giardia, coccidia, cat and dog vaccination recommendations, feline and canine diseases and more! Dr. Greer answers pet health questions at this virtual Ask the Vet event that was held in August 2023.

Ask the Vet with Dr. Greer: Fall 2023

DHA for Pregnant Dogs

Dr. Greer: I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a published dose for DHA for pregnant dogs, so that makes it a little bit tricky. It comes as a capsule, unless you’re feeding a diet that has it added, and there are nutritional diets that have those added. Royal Canin has it in some of their foods, their puppy, their HT 42d. Iams has it. I believe Hill’s and Purina also add it. Check the label to see if DHA is added. If it is, you may not need to supplement as much. But we know from the Canine Companions study that it improves brain and retinal function, eye function in dogs, if their mothers are supplemented during pregnancy. For a small dog, I would probably take a capsule and poke a hole in it. Just the usual fish oil capsule that people take, maybe put half of that capsule on a dog’s food once a day. For a larger dog, I’d probably use a full capsule. For a big dog, I’d probably use two capsules. You’re not going to hurt him with DHA. It’s a nice product. But I don’t think anybody has put together a published dose. I know the pet food companies have established what they put into the food, but I’ve never seen it published to be adding it as an additional or individual supplement. Kind of go based on little dogs getting less and big dogs getting more. I wouldn’t go more than two capsules on even a giant breed dog. That would be a human adult dose.

How to Handle Coccidia and Giardia in a Kennel Setting

Dr. Greer: When it comes to the question of can you ever fully get rid of giardia and coccidia, the answer is a hard no. You’re going to end up with it if you don’t already have giardia and or coccidia. If you have a group of dogs, you’re probably going to end up with it, especially if you’re not careful with quarantining your dogs when they come onto your property. So number one, I would not put a new dog onto the property and co-mingle them in areas where other dogs would be either with the dogs or not with the dogs out there, but in the same yards, gravel, grass, whatever, until you’ve got a stool sample that’s checked and found to be negative at the at the veterinary clinic. And in many cases they’re going to need to send that sample out to check for giardia because the cysts can be very hard to see under the microscope. And you can have dogs that have low enough numbers that you won’t see the organism itself.

It’s a one cell parasite, but you may find evidence of the protein, so you can send that test out to the diagnostic labs like IDEXX and Antech. You can have your vet clinic run a giardia snap test. So there are ways to screen dogs before they come in to your facility. Pregnancy doesn’t transmit it through the placenta, through the milk, the way that it does for roundworms and hookworms. So it’s a somewhat different transmission process. But the things that you can do to prevent both of those organisms would be to bathe your female several days before she’s due to have her puppies. Give her a good bath. Get her good and clean, then dry her off well. Don’t do it the day that she’s due to have the puppies. Do it several days ahead of time. Get her good and clean and dry. Trim up her a little bit if she’s got a long coat if you can do that, because the less stool that sticks to her hair around her rectal area, the less giardia or coccidia will stick in the stool and then end up being transmitted to the puppies. So a good clean environment. The best treatment for coccidia will be the Albon and those products, but those cannot be given during pregnancy, only after pregnancy. So Albon, trimethoprim sulfa, those are what we recommend. And for giardia, fenbendazole. I don’t use metronidazole during pregnancy or during the time that puppies are nursing. I will use fenbendazole. That is safe during pregnancy and that can be given on a daily basis at the usual 50 milligrams per kg dose once a day from the 42nd day of pregnancy to the 14th day of lactation. And you can repeat that every two weeks if you need to. Puppies should not receive those medications, either Albon or fenbendazole, until they’re six weeks old. You may have a time period in there that you can’t treat the puppies, but the environment being clean, keep your whelping box clean, disinfect it.

Unfortunately, there’s really not a disinfectant that kills it in the grass, kills it in the gravel, kills it in your whelping box, but sanitation is always important. Good soap and water break down the oils and the fats in that environment. Clean up the organic material, in other words, the feces. Keep it good and clean, and do the best you can to keep your puppies as hygienic as you can. We also have the Breeder’s Edge NurseMaid Wipes that can be used on the mammary glands that are on the hind end of the female. That’s another way without having to bathe her that you can very successfully keep her clean and it is safe for nursing puppies.

When Using the Topical Selamectin (Revolution) 6 Weeks and 2 Weeks Before Delivery, Do You Need the Fenbendazole and Ivermectin Regimens as Well?

Dr. Greer: The selamectin will take care of the same things that ivermectin will. From that perspective, you don’t need that. But selamectin, it does a good job on heartworm, it does a good job on some intestinal parasites, but it will not get giardia or coccidia. So if you’re looking to eliminate those, fenbendazole will get rid of your giardia and then Albon for your coccidia.

That’s a great question. We don’t want to double up on things. That selamectin protocol will also reduce the risk of the transmission of intestinal parasites, roundworms through the placenta and hookworms through the milk and into the puppies. It’s a good protocol to use.

Should Stud Dogs Be Tested for Brucellosis?

Dr. Greer: Brucellosis is still out there. We see it in the commercial kennels. We’re seeing it in dogs that are being imported into the United States from a number of different countries. So you need to be very careful with it. You cannot assume that a dog is brucellosis negative, and unfortunately brucellosis will also survive semen freezing. The temperatures of below 300 degrees does not kill brucellosis. So you want to be really careful with your stud dogs. Stud dogs, the general rule of thumb is to test at least twice a year or in increasingly more frequently if he has a fertility issue, if he’s got any kind of fertility concerns with testicles being uncomfortable, swollen, change in a semen quality, any of those things. The biggest concern we have right now is that there is not an FDA-approved test that is approved for use in the United States for in-office use.

The recommendation is for us to be sending our diagnostic tests out to the diagnostic lab. I was on the task force for the Society for Theriogenology. Those are the people that do canine and other animal reproduction in the US. The Therio group put together a task force, and we put together a position statement. If you’d like to see what that is, it’s at Go to position statement.

There’s also a Find-A-Vet feature on that website. So it’s a great way for you to find a veterinarian that’s nearby you. You can put in your zip code and find a veterinarian that’s well versed in theriogenology, because you do want to use somebody that is breeder-friendly and is willing to work with breeders and is knowledgeable in this information.

Take a look at that brucellosis position statement before you go in, and maybe print it off because your veterinarian may not have seen it. It was published in July of 2023. I’m going to say that’s a pretty safe bet. It’s not that they’re under-informed, but just that they may not be aware that this new position statement has come to be. It’s a great way to educate yourself and your veterinarian with statements from the organization, with really smart people that were on the committee that understand brucellosis and testing.

When Should I Worry About My Dog Licking His Paws?

Dr. Greer: Paw licking should not be a normal behavior. If the dog is licking their paws, chewing them, anything like that, there’s probably a component of allergies. The ears are a little bit of a different story. Some ear problems are related to allergies, some are related to swimming, being wet all the time, the humidity, the kind of environment that they’re in, if they’ve got water in their ears during baths, and how you’re managing their ear health. I would be a little less harsh on an ear infection, but I would still be cautious about it because allergies are an inherited disorder and we don’t want to produce puppies that have allergies or that we know are likely to produce dogs with allergies. It’s a chronic management issue that will be expensive for owners to manage. And the dogs are uncomfortable. Additionally, the medications that we put dogs on to manage their allergies, such as prednisone, Atopica, and others. So there’s Cyclosporine, Apoquel, prednisone. We don’t want the dogs on those medications during pregnancy, so we need to be really careful that we are not breeding dogs that are going to hand this off to the next generation.

How Do I Know if My Dog is Having Complications During Labor?

Dr. Greer: Oh, the list is about 15 or 20 items long. First and foremost, I would say if you feel like something’s wrong, trust your instincts. Call the vet. Call the emergency clinic. Whoever is available for you, give them a call. Let them know what you’re seeing, express your concerns and get some help. Because if you feel like something’s not right, then I would trust your instincts to go that route.

The other things that we are concerned about, if the female vomits repeatedly, that’s reason for concern. If she’s losing excessive amounts of blood, that’s reason for concern. If you see green vaginal discharge prior to the delivery of the first puppy, that signals the placental separation, which means that the puppy is not getting blood flow. After the first puppy is born, you will see green, or you may see green because the placenta on the prior puppy has separated, so that is not reason for concern. But if you see green before the first puppy is born, if you can’t get the puppy to be delivered in a reasonable amount of time, that being 2 hours of hard pushing on the first puppy and more than an hour on a subsequent puppy so she can rest in-between. But if she’s pushing and not being productive, not getting the puppy out, I would go in.

If you put on gloves, a gloved finger or a gloved couple of fingers and you can reach them, but you can’t get a hold of the puppy and you’re seeing a prolong labor, I’d be concerned. If you’re losing puppies or puppies are being born dead, those are reasons for concern. So it’s a pretty long list of about 15 or 20 items. But essentially, trust your instincts. And if your instincts say, “Something’s not right. She didn’t do this last time. This is what my dogs usually do in their labor. The puppy looks like it’s in the wrong position.” If something isn’t going well, then by all means proceed (to the vet). There are appropriate ways to give oral calcium and to give injectable oxytocin with your veterinarian’s input and insights. But overuse of particularly oxytocin can cause damage to the uterus, can shrink-wrap the puppies, or can cause the uterus to rupture. I have seen uterine rupture. It is not a good thing for the puppy, and is definitely not a good thing for the mom. So don’t wait too long. If you are under the impression that things just aren’t going the way that they should be, then get yourself some veterinary intervention. Get some help.

How Do You Fix a Luxating Patella in a Dog

Dr. Greer: The patella is the kneecap. So on the dog’s back leg, it’s the part of the leg that points forward toward their head. That’s the same as your kneecap. So the patella is that little bone that sits in your kneecap or is your kneecap. And there is a strong genetic component of inheritance to this disorder. If you want to prevent puppies from having patella luxation, don’t breed parents that have patella luxation, period. End of discussion. There really isn’t much else I can say about that. There’s no preventive, there’s no supplement, there’s no exercise, there’s nothing you can do. Just don’t breed parents that have it. And it’s easy to have it screened. There’s no X-ray involved. Your veterinarian can feel the kneecaps with their hands and they can position the leg in different flex and flexion positions to see if the kneecap pops on and off. If it doesn’t, then it’s probably okay. If it does, it probably isn’t. Now, really young dogs tend to have a little bit easier time. You can push those patellas off a little bit more easily because their soft tissues are still developing. I don’t like to be too aggressive in palpation because you don’t want to injure the puppy by too aggressively moving the patella.

If the dog does have evidence of patellar luxation, I don’t think any dog should have surgery or orthopedic surgery for a condition like that until it’s reached skeletal maturity, which means after the first heat cycle or after the testes are mature. So the dogs should go through puberty before you do anything surgical so that you know what their full skeletal changes are going to be. And this is another reason not to spay and neuter our dogs really young before they have skeletal maturity, because we do increase the risk of patellar luxation, hip dysplasia and other orthopedic additions by spaying or neutering too early. If we spay and neuter young before they go through heat or before they reach puberty and go through skeletal maturity, the legs actually don’t end up with that nice angulation where the hip is here, the knee is in front of it, the hock is behind it and the foot is below the hip. That should be that kind of a V-shaped limb. If we spay or neuter young, we end up making the growth plates close too late so the legs grow longer and straighter. It’s really important that we don’t do those early spays or neuters because we do increase the risk of orthopedic problems, different forms of cancer, allergies, a lot of different things, which goes down a different rabbit hole. So basic bottom line is don’t let your veterinarian spay and neuter your pet until they’re through skeletal maturity. If they do think they have patella luxation, don’t be in a hurry to cut that because it is a big deal to try and reposition that before the puppy has developed their full skeletal system.

Is Parvo Going Around 2023?

Dr. Greer: There are probably not new strains of parvo, but there are certainly puppies that get parvo, especially if it’s combined with coronavirus at the same time that take the puppies out so fast they don’t even look like they’re sick. They go from being normal to being deceased in hours. That’s number one. Number two is there is a new product coming to market. So this is just something that’s about to come to market, I believe, in September. It’s a monoclonal antibody that will deliberately and specifically block parvovirus. It’s given intravenously. It has to be kept frozen. It needs to be administered by a veterinarian intravenously, but it is going to be a complete and total game changer for people that have gotten parvo into their facilities.

Now, we do have some really good articles on parvovirus, both prevention and management of that disease, but management is going to change completely. Until now, we’ve done IV fluids, maybe plasma, Cerenia as an anti-nausea drug, Convenia as an antibiotic, supportive care. Those things have been really useful in managing puppies that have parvo, but the monoclonal antibody that Elanco is bringing to market, and I’m not even sure what the name of it’s going to be, is going to be a complete and total game changer.

Will it be expensive? Yes, but it’s also expensive to lose puppies, so it’s going to completely change the game. The other thing to realize is that parvo does not stand alone. Yes, it’s a virus, but if you have good environmental control of health, you have cleaned up your raccoon latrine so the dogs aren’t bringing parvo into your facility, you’re quarantining dogs before they come into your facility, you’re deworming your puppies at two, four, six and eight weeks of age, so that they’re not parasite ridden. All of those things are going to reduce the risk that your dogs get parvovirus. It’s really important that we do a great job with parasite control and vaccination is not going to get you completely out of this.

We don’t recommend vaccinating until they’re at least six weeks old and not any more often than every two weeks. There are places that feel like if a vaccination every two weeks is good, then more often is better and it’s actually not. Please don’t vaccinate your puppies any more often than every 14 days. Even the most important information that was shared from the Association of Shelter Veterinarians indicated that two week intervals are as close together as you should be vaccinating. Don’t think of a little as good, so more is better. Make sure your worming is fine. Make sure your females are up to date on their vaccines. And you can do nomograms on your females, which is a blood test. A titer to establish what their antibody level is. The University of Wisconsin at their CAVIDS lab, that’s Lori Larson’s lab. It used to be Ron Schultz’s. They can do nomograms which can tell you what the female’s immune status is and therefore customize vaccination protocols for your puppies. So there are some great tools that we have out there. But honestly, the Elanco monoclonal antibody treatment is going to be a complete and total game changer. It’s going to save so many lives. It’s going to be unbelievable. We personally in our practice administered it to 30 dogs for a safety study. So I’ve handled the product, I’ve handled the drug. It’s really safe. It’s really great. And I think that people need to pay attention to that as their fallback, but not instead of good hygiene, not instead of good deworming and certainly not instead of a great vaccination protocol with the appropriate vaccines. Work with your veterinarian on that.

What Heartworm and Parasite Prevention Products are Safe for a Pregnant and Lactating Dog

Dr. Greer: Frontline is labeled as safe during pregnancy and lactation. Heartgard is also. Some products are, some are not. You need to read your labels. The only oral flea and tick medication that is safe during pregnancy is going to be Bravecto. Simparica, Credelio and NexGard are NOT labeled as safe during breeding for breeding animals, pregnancy or lactation. So if you’re going to use an oral, use Bravecto. If you’re going to use a topical use Frontline or one of the fipronil products those we know are safe. Vectra is not safe. We don’t have it tested. We don’t have Seresto tested. So we don’t know if those are safe or not. For heartworm prevention, all of them other than Trifexis, which contains Spinosad, that has also not been tested in breeding animals, breeding meaning dogs that are intended for breeding male and female, dogs that are pregnant, dogs that are lactating. Be very careful with the products that you’re using for your flea and tick and your heartworm control.

Flea and Tick Finder button

The injectable ProHeart 6 and ProHeart 12. That’s moxidectin that is labeled as safe during pregnancy. So we have good drugs. You just need to make sure that you’re using the right ones and not just whatever your vet says, “Here, use this for heartworm or flea and tick.” They may use it for all their other patients, but for animals that are in a breeding program, you should be reading your labels. And it’s easy for you to find that information. You just need to search Google for the product name, and then you put in “product insert PDF.” It’ll bring up that big product insert that comes in the package if you don’t have it. It unfolds like a map, like you can never fold it again. You know how that is never goes back to the same shape that it was before you unfolded it, but you can pull it up online and then you can read through the safety literature and make sure that the products that you’re taking home for your pets are safe for pregnancy, lactation and breeding, meaning male dogs as well as female.

Is a Yearly Heartworm Test Necessary?

Dr. Greer: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Number one, sometimes dogs have breaks in protection. Either you stopped because it was seasonal or the dog spit it out or vomited up the medication or the dog dropped it, and then the other dog swooped in and grabbed it, before you realized that both dogs didn’t get their dose; one dog got two doses and the other dog got zero. And there are several new strains of heartworm that over the last ten or 15 years have been watched. They started off mostly in the Tennessee Valley and now they’re spreading to other parts of the country that are resistant to the medications. So it is important that you are testing for heartworm on an annual basis. You cannot assume because your dog was on preventive, that they are protected, unfortunately, because of the resistant strains.

I think the moxidectin, which is the product that’s in the injectable part and Pro 12, and there are some oral forms of that, are going to probably be the most effective at this point in those parts of the country where we see resistance. Don’t assume that your product is 100% effective because we know it’s not.

What Kills Ringworm in Cats?

Dr. Greer: Probably the most effective treatment for ringworm in cats and dogs is Lime Sulfur Dip. It’s smelly. It’s hard to use, but that stuff does an amazing job. It does have to be diluted. It does require bathing the cats, which, as anyone that’s ever tried to bathe a cat knows, cats aren’t big fans of water and being bathed and showered and rinsed and all those things. But lime sulfur is probably the safest and the most effective way to manage it. There are some oral antifungals that can be used. Mostly terbinafine can be used, but again, you want to be really careful during pregnancy and lactation. We know griseofulvin is not safe. That was one of the older medications. Some of them are probably safe at certain stages, so be very cautious in using them. If you don’t know the pregnancy status, be aware that there are limits on age that you have to watch as well. Lime sulfur can be used during any time and can be used on babies. And it’s stinky. Oh man, it smells terrible. You need to wear gloves, you need to ventilate well, but it will be your fastest way out of a ringworm outbreak.

You know, usually the best way isn’t the easiest way. Unfortunately, for a while, lufenuron was an oral medication that was in some of the heartworm preventatives and was thought at one time from some reports out of Israel that it would be effective in managing ringworm. That has largely been shown not to be true. So we’re back to the basics of lime sulfur.

Is the Lyme Vaccine Necessary for Dogs?

Dr. Greer: Of all the tick-borne diseases that we see, Lyme disease is probably the most nasty one. We do also see anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. We see Rocky Mountain spotted fever in certain parts of the country, especially the upper Midwest and the East Coast, around Connecticut, New Hampshire and those areas. Lyme disease is a big deal. It’s carried by probably more than one tick. It’s probably not just the deer tick, but other ticks as well that carry it. And what’s interesting to me is the number of people that have their dogs show positive on their tests for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and or ehrlichiosis, and sometimes we’ll have multiple infections, including my daughter’s dog. And people will say to me, “Oh, there’s no way my dog has Lyme disease. I never found a tick.” Well, the ticks can be very small. The nymph stages in the early stages are very small. They’re very hard to see. They can be smaller than a freckle on a dog, and can be really difficult to locate. It is very easy for those diseases to be transmitted through tick bites. So the bottom line is Lyme vaccinations are a good product to use to prevent Lyme disease, and it does a good job. But it’s not the only thing you should be doing if you’re in an area with ticks. Just because you vaccinate for Lyme disease does not give your dog protection against the other tick-borne diseases like anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And there are probably 30 or more diseases out there we don’t even know about. There isn’t a test. There isn’t a diagnosis. But I am certain because we see dogs that respond to doxycycline when we don’t really have a good reason for them to. We didn’t find anything on the test that they get better on doxycycline. I would be really suspicious that as we become better at making diagnoses of some of these tick-borne diseases, that we’re going to find that there are diseases out there we didn’t even know about.

If you’re in an area with a lot of ticks, you should combine your Lyme vaccination with your tick preventions, and that can either be the orals, the topicals or the collars depending on the reproductive status of your dog. So, yes, Lyme vaccinations are very effective. There’s a couple of companies that make very good products.

There are typically two vaccinations given the first year with an annual booster. So don’t forget to booster it. And although that helps a lot, it’s not going to completely prevent it. Last May, I had three dogs in our practice that died from Lyme disease because of Lyme nephritis. It affected their kidneys and it was absolutely tragic. One was pregnant, two were not. They were healthy dogs. All three were Labradors and they all three were apparently healthy and then they were deceased. It was just that fast. Within days, we lost them, even in spite of really aggressive therapy with antibiotics, fluids, plasma infusions, all kinds of things that we did for these dogs. We lost all three of them. And we had a golden retriever that got sick. Bernese mountain dogs, Labradors, Goldens are at increased risk, Genetically, they probably have a tendency to have Lyme disease. So be very, very careful with the products that you’re using and really think hard about it. Work with your veterinarian, Look at your risk assessment. There’s a really great bunch of maps on the CAPC vet website, which stands for Companion Animal Parasite Council. You can go in there and write down to your zip code like in your neighborhood, you can look at the map, you can see how many dogs are diagnosed with Lyme disease, heartworm, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or a number of other diseases. They also have a feline map for the cat diseases. If you’re really curious about this, go in, put in your zip code and see what’s happening in your neighborhood, and you’re going to be like, Oh my goodness, I didn’t know all these things were happening. So take a look at that and assess your dog or cats risk for some of those diseases and then respond to that by working with your veterinarian for the appropriate preventions, both vaccinations and flea and tick control medications.

Female Dog Had Her First Season at 1.5 Years of Age. Is Breeder’s Edge® B Strong a Product to Potentially Use in this Situation.

Dr. Greer:  That’s a normal thing for a dog to have a heat cycle up to one and a half years of age. I wouldn’t be concerned about that. And there really aren’t any great drugs to bring dogs into heat. Basically you need to give them a chance to grow up and mature.

There’s a lot to be said about nutrition, lighting, other environmental issues, other dogs in the environment. It’s nice to have a male dog in the household that can tell you if she’s in heat. You want to make sure she’s getting at least 14 hours of daylight so that she’s getting enough daylight for her to have normal ovarian function. If she’s at a kennel that you turn the lights off or she’s in a bedroom where the blinds are shut, if she’s in a basement where you have stuff stacked on top of crates, there may be inadequate amounts of light for her to cycle.

Nutrition is absolutely critical. Breeder’s Edge B Strong is a very helpful product, but all alone, it’s not going to take care of your concerns. I like to put the dogs on either a Royal Canin or a Purina Sport 3020 diet, because we see a lot better fertility on those particular diets. Look at your nutrition. I see a lot of problems with other diets that aren’t really meant to be life stage foods. The problem is reading the label. It can be very difficult to assess the micronutrients in your pet food.

Macronutrients are fat, protein and carbohydrates. Easy to take a look at. Easy to see what those concentration levels are, the percentages. But the micronutrients, the vitamins, the minerals, the amino acid supplements that are in the life stage foods, a Purina Sport 3020 and Royal Canin HT 42d 1542, are there for reproduction. So take a look at those diets. The first thing I do is ask people what they see. The second thing I do is ask, what else do they feed? Because nobody just feeds dog food. They always add something. And the third thing is what supplement? So that’s where the Breeder’s Edge B Strong comes in, third after environment, after lighting, after all those other things. Then we talk about B Strong. So it is not the first thing that I reach for. And I think it’s successful because I think a lot of our diets are deficient in some of the micronutrients, but don’t reach for that until you’ve gotten the other things under control first.

Is It Possible for a Female to Not Have a Stricture Band and Just be Tight for Her First Time Breeding?

Dr. Greer: That’s normal. If she’s never used her reproductive tract, it’s not going to be large and compliant. Absolutely normal.

Do I Still Need to Worm Puppies at 2 Weeks Old if the Female Received Fenbendazole at 42 Days or 2 Weeks Post Whelp?

Dr. Greer: If you gave it every single day for five weeks, you don’t need to worry about roundworms and hookworms. You can still have giardia. So it depends on how you use the protocol. If you give it on the 42nd day and the 14 day, you still have parasites. If you give it every single day from the 42nd day all the way until the puppies are 14 days old, that’s every day for five weeks, 35 doses, then you should not have roundworms and hookworms in those young puppies. They should be protected.

Are Expired Vaccines Still Good for Dogs?

Dr. Greer: Expired is expired. Vaccines for dogs, cats and horses should be stored correctly in a refrigerator, not on the door where that the temperature changes as you open and close the refrigerator door. You should make sure that you are using it before the expiration date. You should make sure you don’t make it up more than 2 hours ahead of using it. You should make sure it’s for the right species, the right age, all those things. But expired is expired. And because vaccines are living organisms, it’s an actual virus in many cases; it’s not like a medication, like aspirin is just a molecule. These are actual organisms. So unless you have a current date on it, those vaccines are probably not effective. So don’t use expired vaccines.

Fading Puppy Syndrome

Dr. Greer: There is no fading puppy syndrome as a diagnosis. It’s a description. It just tells us that puppies have died, but it doesn’t tell us why. We need to look at the puppies’ weight, urine, color, temperature and oxygenation. The Puppywarmer Incubator helps, the tube feeding helps. All those things are important. But if you’re losing puppies, we need to be looking at is there an infectious disease? Is there a genetic predisposition that these two parents don’t produce healthy puppies? Is there an environmental issue? Is the female not lactating adequately? Is she not a good mother? How big are they when they’re born? How many puppies are in your litter? Those are all really important things. What were their Apgar scores when they were born? So I think if you’ve probably watched some of these videos, you’ve gone through that and if you’ve done all those things and you’re still losing puppies, I strongly encourage people to send those puppies into the diagnostic lab to make sure that they’re getting a diagnosis for what’s going on.

Now, not all diagnostic labs are created equal. Some are really great at infectious diseases and other disorders that puppies die from. Others are like, Yep, it’s dead. And that’s really all they tell you. So make sure you’re using your veterinary clinic and the diagnostic lab that they have faith in. If they have any questions about it, they can certainly contact me. I’m happy to talk to veterinarians about submission. There are great diagnostic labs and then there are some that are just really not useful at all. If you’re going to spend your money on shipping the puppy and not getting an answer, you need to use a reliable lab that will produce an answer for you. There’s always an answer. Are you dipping the cords in iodine? What are the other things that are happening in your facility? Is it all one line of dogs? Is it multiple breeds? There’s a thousand questions that go with this. So I understand your frustration. It’s really hard to lose puppies. It’s very painful, emotionally and financially. But we can help get you an answer if we work with your veterinary clinic on submission of those puppies. So if you lose any, refrigerate, do not freeze and contact us and we’ll help you get them submitted.

Should I Vaccinate My Dog?

Dr. Greer: Well, we have not eradicated the diseases that we can protect puppies against with vaccinations, particularly parvo. We’ve spoken about that already today. Parvo is still out there. It’s still rampant. It is not unusual to have parvovirus run through a facility, a kennel, a rescue, a boarding facility, whatever. Vaccines really have probably been the single most important breakthrough that we’ve had in medicine. Probably more important than anesthesia, more important than antibiotics, certainly more important than chemotherapy and cancer treatments in the number of lives that we’ve saved by vaccinations. I cannot say that I would discredit vaccinations. Are there some that I think are better than others? Oh, yes, I think there are. But the basic distemper/parvo vaccinations with adenovirus in them that we give to younger dogs, rabies vaccinations.

If you go to other countries, people die of rabies. People die of rabies. In the United States, on average, 1 person dies of rabies a year in the US. In other countries like the Philippines and India, thousands and thousands of people die from rabies. So it’s hard for me to understand why you would not feel like there’s a strong benefit to vaccinations. Should you use them correctly. Yes, they are one of the strongest things that you can put into your dog’s body. So I am careful how I give them. I’m careful which ones I select. I’m careful how I space them out. I’m careful how I use them, how I administer them, who I recommend what for based on their lifestyle and risk assessment. But I think lumping all vaccinations into a category that they’re not safe is really doing a disservice to you, your family, your dogs, to the things that we can do, because we have saved millions and millions and millions of lives, dogs, humans, cattle, horses, you name the species. If we can vaccinate, we are saving lives, but not without judicious use of those vaccinations. So do titers. Be smart about it, space them out. Use your veterinarian. Use the risk assessment protocols on the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Feline Practitioners Association websites. That’s AAFP and AAHA. So look up those information pieces, find the information that you need to work with your veterinarian, but don’t throw vaccines out the window because they are lifesaving products that we have on the human and veterinary side. They’re hugely successful in saving lives.

What is the Difference Between Natural and AI Breeding. Will a Male Dog Naturally Mount if He is Collected for AI?

Dr. Greer: We have to be careful when we use this term because AI is now also meaning artificial intelligence. We want to make sure we’re talking about artificial insemination. I probably don’t get quite as many pregnancies or quite as many puppies as you get with the natural breeding, but they’re better than missing a breeding. Some male dogs need some practice before they figure out how to mate a female or how to be collected. With some practice, some experience, you can get them to understand what you’re asking them to do. You want to use a quiet room, You want to use somebody with some experience. You don’t need the whole neighborhood watching. Sometimes dogs have been told no so many times by their primary person that they live with that they flat out refuse to collect because they’ve been told, no, no, no, no, no, so they’re not doing it. Sometimes the female’s been intimidating to the male if you tried to introduce them too soon, and if the female turned around and snarked at him, then he may be reluctant to go ahead. Be thoughtful about how you do your AIs and do understand that there is a learning curve for these boys to figure out what you’re asking them to do.

Artificial insemination is a great tool. We use it a lot in practice because we do have people that are using sophisticated breeding systems like fresh, chilled and frozen semen. So I rely heavily on artificial insemination, but it has to be done correctly and you have to give the males a chance to figure out what you’re asking them to do.

Does Folic Acid Prevent Cleft Palate in Dogs?

Dr. Greer: With folic acid, there was a published article in 2013 out of Poland that demonstrates that they reduce the risk of cleft palate, which was one of the midline defects in small breed brachycephalic dogs. Specifically, I think it was Chihuahuas and French bulldogs. So there’s definitely a benefit to using folic acid. In Pembroke Welsh Corgis, they tend to also have a possibility of cleft palate. It can be genetic, it can be genetic in any breed, but it’s more common in the brachycephalics, the short-faced dogs, the Frenchies, the pugs, the bulldogs. So those brachycephalic dogs to have an increased risk. Even genetically, though, with their tendency to have that cleft palate, we can reduce that risk with folic acid.

The only published dose is five milligrams per dog per day. HT 42d, which is the pregnancy diet that Royal Canin makes does have folic acid added to it. If you don’t have a brachycephalic dog, you probably don’t need to supplement or if you do have a brachycephalic I probably would anyway. Folic acid comes in 400 microgram capsules. If you wanted to get to a five mg, the published dose that be 12 a day. That’s not practical for most people to give 12 to their dog, and I think it’s unnecessary. But a small breed dog, I would easily give 400 micrograms twice a day. A larger breed dog, maybe a Corgi, I would do 2 to 4 of those a day. We don’t have a great published dose other than the one, and I think we would really benefit from more research. But right now all we have but I would never hesitate to do it. It’s a B vitamin. It’s water soluble. If you give too much, it comes out in the urine and it doesn’t hurt to do that.

Now, the other to be aware of is that besides genetics, there can be environmental causes of cleft palate. Typically that’s if a steroid or some other drug, like a trimethoprim sulfa antibiotic, was given to the female at certain stages of her pregnancy. Be really careful what you’re giving during pregnancy. Pregnancy should not be taken for granted. It should be a drug free period of time other than the drugs that we know are going to improve the quality of the pregnancy like fenbendazole. Be aware of that. But yes, folic acid can be used. Yes, you need to do it. If you’re going to do it, you should start six weeks or more before the heat cycle starts. Don’t wait until she’s pregnant or the ultrasound, because by then you’ve missed that window of opportunity.

Does Gabapentin Really Help Dogs with Pain?

Dr. Greer: Probably not. Gabapentin will help with neuro pain, nerve pain, like back pain and certain other kinds of nerve pain. You it can be safely used with non-steroidal and inflammatories like Medicam, Rimadyl, Carprofen. But as a stand-alone, it’s probably insufficient for most pain. Depends on the pain in young dogs like puppies under six weeks of age. It’s a good choice because we don’t have renal function and kidney function and liver function that will allow us to give non-steroidal. Some dogs can’t take non-steroidals because of other health conditions, so we may have to use gabapentin along with some other things, but gabapentin alone is probably not enough for most dogs that are having arthritis or other pain.

There is a nice pain medication on the market right now. Another monoclonal antibody medication for cats called Solensia for cats with arthritis, and Librella is going to be the dog equivalent to that coming to market. Both of them are Zoetis products. Last week I had a chance to see some of the videos from clinical studies done over in England, and it’s going to be another game changer in the quality of life that these dogs have. So watch for Librella. If you have a cat, look at Solensia, they are probably going to cost less than most non-steroidal anti-inflammatories on a monthly basis. It’s an injection given by your vet clinic once a month and compared to the cost of Rimadyl, Medicam, and some of the other drugs that we have, it’s probably going to be less expensive. It’s absolutely phenomenal how much better those dogs feel and walk and are moving. So look for those to come to market if you’re looking for some help in your pain medications.

What Supplements are Good for Dogs Sperm Production?

Dr. Greer: If a male is normal, he probably doesn’t need much. If he’s got any fertility issues or his nutrition isn’t adequate, then yes, you probably do need something. We have four male dog supplements at Revival Animal Health. Breeder’s Edge Problem Male™ is for the dogs that are already experiencing some fertility issues like poor semen quality. Breeder’s Edge Get Him Going™ is for if we have a dog with low libido that needs some help getting the collection accomplished. There is also Breeder’s Edge In Between for Him™. And then we have Breeder’s Edge Oxy Stud™. We have four great products depending on where your dog is in his reproductive cycle. But again, back like we talked about, the female bringing her into heat, the first thing is to look at your basic environment and your basic nutrition. If a dog is not on a quality nutritional plan, they’re already behind the eight ball. Nothing you’re going to supplement is going to fix that problem. I’m pretty heavy on Purina or Royal Canin, and I can tell you hundreds of stories of people that have had very good successes with those diets when they’ve had previous failures on other nutrition.

Be really aware of what you’re feeding. Take a look at it. If you’ve always fed it, you’ve had good fertility, it doesn’t mean you’re going to continue to. Nutritional products change from time to time. The diet companies, because of commodity market changes, change their formulas, and sometimes we see nutritional needs starting to slide because of that. I’ve been sticking with the Purina and the Royal Canin products and having very good success. My personal dogs get Royal Canin, and I would not feed them anything other than that or Purina for great success in reproduction.

Is It Necessary to Continue Progesterone Testing a Dog Once She Has Reached 4 NG?

Dr. Greer: Yes. My own personal dog, one of them, got as far as four and then failed to ovulate two cycles in a row, even though she was being fed appropriately and everything else is going well. She’s got a cystic ovary and that is not going to respond to nutrition. So, yes, you do need to make sure that she rises above five. I usually like to see at ten or higher before I stop the progesterone testing. Just be aware that they don’t always rise the way that you expect them to. If they fail to rise, you’re not going to have a pregnancy. And then at 30 days when you do your ultrasound or at 60 days when you’re expecting a litter of puppies and you don’t have one, you’re not going to have an explanation for what happened. So please be aware that you should see one test above five, preferably ten or above, before you stop the progesterone testing on a dog.

Should I Deworm My Dog for Both Coccidia and Giardia, Even If I’ve Never Had a History of Either One?

Dr. Greer: No. If you have negative fecals, and you don’t see coccidia, you don’t see giardia, and you don’t have a giardia A positive antigen test, I would not administer medications if it’s not necessary. No, I would only treat if I have it or if I have diarrhea and I can’t figure out what’s going on. I take a sample in and find out that that’s what I have, then yes, you should appropriately treat, but not unnecessarily.

What Age Does Fontanelle Close in Dogs?

Dr. Greer: A Pembroke should not have an open fontanelle at birth. The brachycephalics, the Chihuahuas, the dome headed dogs, Pomeranians, a lot of those can, and we can see hydrocephalus even if the dog doesn’t have an open fontanelle. I’m taking care of a golden retriever right now, a puppy that has a very domed head and hydrocephalus. But it does not have an open fontanelle. Now, obviously the fontanelle should either not be open or should be closed within a few days of birth. So I’d be concerned in a Pembroke that has an open fontanelle now, that I have a problem with hydrocephalus or some other neurologic condition.

Can You Breed a Dog That Has Had Pyometra?

Dr. Greer: Don’t skip a heat cycle when she comes into heat. Breed her. I was talking to a client yesterday that was in my exam room that her female just produced her third litter after a pyometra, so she had a pile. We’ve successfully treated her. She bred her three times in a row. This last litter, she had seven puppies with frozen semen, a 40 lb. dog, so a seven puppy litter on a dog that size, very successful winner.

So you absolutely can get pregnancies to happen after pyometras if you don’t spay them, but do not skip a heat cycle. You did to breed her back to back to back. You need to talk about nutrition and talk to your veterinarian about whether an antibiotic is appropriate during the next breeding. But those are all great things. So congratulations on not spaying her and get her pregnant. You’re going to run out of time if you don’t do it soon.

Can you spay a dog after C-section? Can a Dog Have Natural Birth After C-section?

Dr. Greer: Do not spay a dog at C-section. Do not spay at a C-section. And if I didn’t mention it, do not spay at C-section. There are a lot of veterinarians that do spay. There are veterinarians who will hold you hostage because they will tell you that they won’t do a C-section for you if you don’t spay her. But females lose 30% of their blood volume if they are spayed at C-section, which is immediately going to put her into shock and put her at risk of developing shock and perhaps passing away. So we absolutely do not spay at C-section in our practice and in most practices where people do a lot of reproduction. If you breed her again, she can absolutely successfully have another litter if she’s not spayed, obviously. So C-sections do not interfere with for future fertility. That being said, they don’t need their ovaries to produce milk. From that perspective they don’t need them. But it is very unsafe. Ligatures can slip off of those great big blood vessels. Dogs automatically lose 30% of their blood volume when you take the uterus and put it in the trash. It’s very risky to spay a dog at C-section. It’s much safer to put the uterus back together and later on spay her if it’s appropriate, if you decide that you’re not going to breed her again. But I would never consent to a C-section with a spay unless the uterus had completely fallen apart. And I’ve only seen that once, once. And I’ve been doing surgery on dogs for C-sections for 42 years. So if it was common, I’d been seeing it.

When Retiring Your Female Dog from Breeding, When Do You Recommend as the Best Time to Spay a Female Following Her Last Litter?

Dr. Greer: I like the puppies weaned at least for four weeks so that the mammary glands are dried up and it’s easier for the incision to be opened and closed without a lot of blood flow. That being said, you can spay any time that she’s not in heat. But more than four weeks after the puppies are weaned. I do recommend spaying them after you’re done using her for a breeding program because of the risk of pyometra, which happens on average in 25% of dogs that are over middle aged. So it’s a very common condition. It can be a fatal condition that if you don’t end up losing your dog to it, it can be a very expensive condition to treat. Now the International Symposium for Canine and Feline Reproduction had an article in 2012 about the incidence of pyometra based on breed. If anybody’s looking, you can go to Google and type that in or if you’re used to emailing us, I’ll send you a copy of that article or a link to the article and it will define for you which breeds are at increased risk. Bernese Mountain dogs have a 46% chance of pyometra on the other breeds. And that was really in leonbergers, Great Danes, Keeshonds, American Staffordshire Bull Terriers, mostly giant breed dogs, Rottweilers. So in the top ten dogs, they were mostly giant breed dogs of European descent, other than the Keeshond, which is not a giant dog, but still a northern European descent. So, it’s important to spay when you’re done with a breeding program, but never at the C-section.

What is the Difference Between a Spay and OSS?

Dr. Greer: An OSS is an ovary sparing spay, otherwise known as a hysterectomy. We leave the ovaries or ovary, one or both, in those situations, meaning that the females still have heat cycles. There are definitely benefits to that. We see less obesity, less urinary incontinence, less allergies, less thyroid disease, less bone cancer, lymph node cancer, spleen cancer and mass or tumors as a form of skin cancer. There’s a lot of benefits to leaving the ovaries, but they still have heat cycles. If you do leave the ovaries, you have to go all the way down to the other end of the uterus, remove the entire uterus from the ovary down past the cervix so that they don’t end up with pyometra later on, because any uterine tissue under the influence of progesterone after a heat cycle can develop a pyometra, even if there’s not a piece of it there. If you’ve taken some of it out, you have to go all the way down to the cervix. So if you do have an ovary sparing spay make sure it’s with a veterinarian that has watched the video or knows how to do the ovaries when removing the cervix. So big differences. I do have people that even after they’ve retired, their breeding dogs, they still want to leave the ovaries because they want them to be their big dog. They don’t want to have urinary incontinence and not be able to sleep in the bed with them. It is again a conversation to have with your veterinarian.

Should Catteries Give the Chlamydia Vaccine?

Dr. Greer: I would in a cattery. I think chlamydia is a pretty common organism. It’s not quite as bad as panleukopenia, but it is still a pretty serious disease. So I would do chlamydia vaccinations. In the past 42 years I’ve used an intranasal feline vaccine product. I’ve just been told in the last couple of weeks that it’s currently off the market, so that makes it a little bit harder to get some of the vaccines that we really like using. But yes, chlamydia, panleukopenia, rhino, calici, those are important. And feline leukemia is also recommended for most kittens. If you go to the American Association of Feline Practitioners website AAFP, you can find the information about vaccination protocols. AAHA, the American Animal Hospital Association also has a great website for lifestyle and appropriate vaccinations based on lifestyle.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

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