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Ectoparasite Management (fleas, ticks, etc,)


Flea and Tick Prevention


Minnesota is Heaven for Ticks!

There are three main species of ticks present in Minnesota—Dermacentor (American dog tick), Ixodes (deer tick or blacklegged tick), and Rhipicephalus (brown dog tick). They are commonly found in grassy areas, forests, and trails. A dog can also pick up ticks in a wooded back yard or during a walk in the park. Any dog can be affected— even long hair does not provide protection. Therefore, during spring, summer, and fall months, all dogs should be on an adequate tick preventive product.

Ticks are more than just a nuisance for you and your dog. More importantly to your dog's health, ticks frequently spread diseases. All three kinds of ticks can carry disease, but the biggest culprit in our area is the deer tick. These ticks are so tiny that they can attach to your dog and spread infection before they are even noticed. The two most common tick-borne diseases in the Twin Cities are Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. These diseases can cause some severe illnesses and, in the case of Lyme disease, can be the cause of kidney failure and death. Fortunately, we can screen for each of these diseases and several more with our 4DX Plus Heartworm-tick-borne disease panel. We recommend this test yearly to discover infection early in the disease process before there is long-term illness.

There are many flea and tick products available to the consumer—some are highly recommended and others leave much to be desired. At Foley Blvd Animal Hospital, we do not recommend using any over-the-counter flea and tick treatments. They can be ineffective at best and toxic or harmful to some pets at worst. Our veterinarians will have a specific recommendation of a product that can kill the ticks before they pass on disease.

Please check your dog for ticks daily. You can do this by feeling all over your dog for small lumps on its skin. The ticks can be variably-sized once they begin to feed. Once you determine that the lump you have found is a tick, you can remove it by grasping the base of the head with a tweezers and pulling straight out. For more information about removing ticks, please visit


Fleas are found in almost all parts of the country including here in Minnesota. Signs of fleas include intense itching with red skin and hair loss. Adult fleas can sometimes be seen crawling on the animal. Often the only external sign of the fleas is flea dirt on the coat—more apparent in light-colored animals than on those with dark coats. Flea dirt (actually digested blood) can be distinguished from regular dirt by placing a small piece on a while background and adding water. Flea dirt will begin to dissolve back into a reddish color.

No one wants to deal with fleas in their house, but fortunately there are now many excellent treatment options on the market. Treatment of active flea infestation can be accomplished with several types of products and environmental control. Please keep in mind that all animals in the house need to be treated, or treatment will be ineffective. Our current recommendations include oral medications and topical products, which can be used together to improve results. Our veterinarians will have specific recommendations for your situation.

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Vaccinations For Your Dogs and Cats

Vaccinations are a critical part of your pet's preventive medicine care. They provide protection against a disease before your pet even encounters it. The vaccines work by exposing the body to a weakened version of the infection so the animal's immune system can make antibodies against that disease. Booster vaccinations are then needed throughout the pet's life to help remind its immune system to continue to make those antibodies.

Although puppies and kittens require the most frequent vaccinations, adult animals also need to be up to date to ensure proper health. A wellness examination is always performed in conjunction with administration of vaccinations. This serves to verify the health of the individual animal to determine if there is any reason a vaccination should be postponed

Please keep in mind that vaccinations are not a guarantee against disease. Often they can help an animal fight off infection completely, but sometimes they work by helping the pet have a milder form of the disease. In either case, your pet benefits from the vaccination.

Puppy Vaccinations

Puppies are given some protection against disease from their mother. Although these maternal antibodies help prevent infection in young puppies, they do interfere with the effectiveness of the puppy vaccinations. In addition, as the puppies get older, they lose those maternal antibodies, and with them, the ability to fight those diseases, leaving them vulnerable. It is incredibly important for puppies to receive repeated vaccinations against these sometimes-deadly diseases.

We recommend starting vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age depending on the individual puppy. We start by vaccinating for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus (DHPP). Boostering vaccinations is important –every 3-4 weeks until the animal is 16 weeks of age or older. That way they are still protected even as their maternal antibodies wane. After 16 weeks of age the puppy can receive its last puppy shots and its first rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Lyme disease can be started at nine weeks of age for a puppy and requires a booster 2-4 weeks later. We may choose to give more than one vaccination at a time or we may postpone some vaccinations based on the age and size of your puppy.

Kitten Vaccinations

Kittens receive similar maternal antibodies from their mother, but their vaccination schedule varies a bit from that of puppies. Kittens should receive their first vaccination for distemper (aka panleukopenia), rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus (DRC) at 6-8 weeks of age. They then require boosters every 3-4 weeks until they are twelve weeks old, at which age they can receive their rabies vaccination. Kittens which test negative for feline leukemia virus should be vaccinated for that fatal disease starting at nine weeks of age, as well.

Adult Dog Vaccinations

Each dog should have a wellness exam performed yearly. At that point it can be determined which vaccinations the dog should receive. Typically an adult dog will receive a DHPP yearly and a rabies vaccination every two years. Rabies vaccination is required by law. Here in Minnesota, we recommend Lyme disease vaccination for all dogs yearly, starting as a puppy. Some dogs may also need vaccinations for Leptospirosis and Bordetella, depending on their expected exposure to these diseases. Protection against Leptospirosis is essential for hunting dogs and other dogs which will be exposed to areas of wildlife. Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine is important for dogs which will be exposed to other dogs, whether at kennels, dog parks, or groomers.

Adult Cat Vaccinations

All cats, even strictly indoor adult cats should remain current on vaccinations. DRC vaccinations are administered yearly to protect against distemper, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus. Rabies vaccination in cats should be yearly and is required by law. Adult cats which spend time outdoors should also receive vaccination against feline leukemia virus. Your veterinarian will let you know if it is recommended to vaccinate your cat against other diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).

Adverse Reactions

Unfortunately, vaccinations can occasionally cause some adverse reactions. These may be mild, such as a bit of soreness for a few hours, or severe, including facial swelling, vomiting, or sometimes shock. These reactions are rare and can be treated in almost all patients. If you feel that your pet is experiencing an adverse reaction to a vaccination it received recently, please call our office immediately.

At Foley Blvd Animal Hospital, we believe whole-heartedly in pet wellness care, of which vaccinations are an important part. By keeping your pet current on vaccinations, you are taking a big step in ensuring your companion's health.

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Geriatric Management


By Rodger Barr DVM

Caring for and managing the aging greyhound is both an honor and a privilege. Returning the favor for the “no strings attached devotion” you have received from this noble creature is very rewarding. Virtually unchanged for centuries, this exquisitely designed servant of man has never asked for much. We now have the opportunity given to us by advances in nutrition and medicine, to lead these loving companions into their latter years with dignity and comfort. With heartbreak lurking behind every corner we march onward, steadfast in our desire to serve the object of our passion. When the end comes, we mourn our loses, take a deep breath and prepare for the next challenge. Few people understand this mission, and fewer are strong enough to carry it out repeatedly. The fact is that although many individuals adopt greyhounds, only a handful deserves the title of the PROTECTOR OF THE HOUNDS. They are the dedicated folks who never consider exiting the cycle no matter how much it hurts when another one passes. In return, their lives have meaning and souls are served! This is not an elite fraternity, anyone can join. The criteria are, you must passionately adore the breed. Along with this adoration, the Protectors objective is to preserve and defend. You should be willing to stretch the limits of your comfort zone, and realize that there is always one more hound out there that needs your assistance. The job is never done, and even though the work can be difficult at times, you thrive on it. You must know your limits of pet ownership, in order to avoid diluting out your love and care giving. Lastly you must spread the WORD and do it so convincingly that those within earshot wonder how a dog could have such an impact on a rational human being.

My goal in presenting this article is to offer a common sense approach to some of the likely conditions you will face with your older greyhounds. The hope is to provide you with the knowledge necessary to minimize illness and reach solutions rapidly and efficiently.

When your greyhound becomes ill, being precise with your description of the problem is critical. Nothing that an aging Greyhound does or fails to do should be ignored when giving a complete history to your veterinarian. Any change in behavior or routine can be the key to the mystery, and assist in the ultimate diagnosis. Failure to mention that one, seemingly unimportant, fact may result in the loss of a beloved pet. If that small detail were known, the puzzle may be solved, and the greyhound could go on happily for some time

The question is often asked, “Now that my wonderful pet has reached the golden years, what should I be doing differently than when he or she was younger?” Firstly, those of you who are aware of my position on exercise will not be surprised when I say you must “CURTAIL THE RUNNING IMMEDIATELY.” These are dogs who were bred to run, that does not mean they have to run to be happy! They are dogs; and they don’t always know what’s best for them. That’s your job. An older greyhound who is allowed to run, often spells disaster. If you’ve owned an older greyhound now or in the past, allowed running and had no problems, you’ve been lucky. Eventually this practice will catch up with you and it’s your greyhound who will suffer.

Weight is often a concern for the owner of an aging greyhound. As they age, many greyhounds tend to lose weight for a variety of reasons. When this trend is recognized, and it’s easy to see on a short haired dog, the problem should be evaluated. This is best done with blood chemistries, fecal exams, x-rays etc. Extremes are to be avoided. Just as it is important to avoid weight loss, it is also important to avoid excessive weight, especially with advancing age. Rear leg weakness and an inability to get around comfortably is the fate of all older greyhounds if they live long enough. When excessive weight is factored into the equation this tends to accelerate the deterioration. Rear leg weakness is second only to cancer as the most common cause of euthanasia in greyhounds. Prevention, as in human medicine, is the key to longevity. When a greyhound reaches 10 years of age, it is wise to do blood chemistry profiles at least every 6 months. If problems are detected, those tests may need to be repeated even more frequently. In this day of dramatic advances in medicine, diet, and technology, many known conditions that in the past would result in the loss of a loved one, may now merely require a diet change a tablet or an injection and life goes on...

Diet in the elderly greyhound is a controversial subject. I personally believe in maintaining an animal’s normal diet unless a problem develops that requires a dietary adjustment. I don’t routinely recommend that owners switch to a low protein senior diet just because a dog celebrates another birthday. There is no hard and fast rule on diet, my only suggestion is to use a good quality food that minimizes by-products and maximizes palatability. Stools should be appropriate, firm not runny, and your pet should look good on the chosen diet. Fur should be shiny and slick. Energy levels should be appropriate for the dog’s age and breed, although this can be hard to evaluate in many of our laid back couch potato’s. Proper dental care promotes more than just sweet smelling breath; it provides an avenue for excellent health and a long life. It is a well known fact that the greatest flaw in the retired racing greyhound, for a variety of reasons, is their propensity for severe dental disease. These foul mouths can lead to heart, kidney, and other organ difficulties. The amount of bacteria coursing through the blood of a greyhound with a bad mouth is mind boggling. This common source of disease is completely avoidable. If your greyhound’s teeth are brushed daily and properly, you will need very little professional care when it comes to oral health. If you are a religious tooth brusher or you own a greyhound that will not allow you to brush teeth no matter what you try to do, you can skip over the next series of thoughts. If on the other hand, you are the owner who adores their pet and spares no expense when it comes to paying for regular yearly dental prophylaxis, but can’t seem to get it into your routine to brush daily, it’s time you wake up and smell the _______. The time has come for you to assume your moral responsibility and care for your greyhound’s teeth the way you know you should. Your dog, who by the way would do anything for you, needs your help. No longer can you SAFELY continue to anesthetize your hound yearly or even more often to have their teeth cleaned. The risks are too great to continue this practice. Daily brushing, if done properly, will allow you to avoid the danger of anesthesia and keep your pet happy and healthy. “You can do it”.

It is not unusual for aging animals to require surgical procedures both major and minor. When it comes to planning these procedures, the order of the day is DO NO HARM. Now I grant you that some risks are unavoidable regardless of age, but the primary goal is to manage any and all situations both surgical and medical, in such a manner as to minimize these risks. Many procedures on the geriatric hound can be performed with a local anesthetic and manual restraint, laceration repairs, certain skin tumors, some eye procedures etc. Whenever possible, general anesthesia is to be avoided in the aging hound. When anesthesia is deemed necessary, preliminary blood work, intravenous fluids and proper monitoring equipment must be used in order to assure a successful procedure.

No discussion on the geriatric greyhound would be complete without the mention of bone cancer. An unexplained lameness in any greyhound should be evaluated. If the lameness is in an older dog, cancer is always one of the primary considerations. Prompt evaluation is highly recommended. All options benefit from early diagnosis.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a form of senility that usually starts out very slowly. It can be as subtle as changes in sleeping habits, forgetting which side the door opens on, bathroom habit issues, confusion, changes in greeting patterns etc. When CDS is suspected, your Veterinarian has a survey you can fill out. With the completion of this survey, a trained professional is able to tell you if your older dog is exhibiting symptoms of CDS or not. If this condition is suspected, there is a drug called Anipryl that often helps. The drug should be administered in the morning, and can result in an increase in appetite and or hyperactivity. I have rarely seen any side effects from this once daily drug. Often improvement is detected within 7-14 days, with maximum results taking as long as 3 months.

With aging comes reduced rear leg function in the mature greyhound. Pain or weakness in the rear, knuckling of the rear feet while standing or walking, stumbling on surfaces that never before presented a problem, incontinence( urinary and fecal) all these characteristics can be the symptoms of a common Greyhound ailment, Lumbo Sacral Stenosis (LSS). When dogs are diagnosed with this condition, it is often necessary to alter their routines; no longer can they go out for walks with the others. Exercise should be abbreviated and preferably on soft grassy surfaces. Small adjustments can make a huge difference, and allow the good life to continue. NSAIDS pain relievers such as Rimadyl or Deramaxx (there are many to choose from) can help. Injections of corticosteroids into the Lumbo-Sacral space can provide some prolonged relief for advanced or refractory cases. Despite the need to alter your routine, all parties can be happy and enjoy life with modifications.

The use of antioxidants has gotten a lot of print lately thanks to “baby boomers” looking to prolong their youth. These products may help, and certainly don’t appear to cause any harm, what have you got to lose? Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements, used to improve cartilage health in fighting arthritis also fits into the category of those drugs that may improve the quality of life and appear to be harmless at the very worst.

Living with and managing the aging greyhound can be extremely gratifying and challenging at the same time. A useful tip for coping with the challenge of sharing your life with an aging greyhound is being consciously aware of your old dog’s shortcomings and adjusting your expectations accordingly. You must know that what was normal only a few months ago is likely to be impossible today. If stairs have evolved from a simple daily task to an obstacle, get a baby gate and make certain that when stairs are to be attempted you are there to assist. Learn to zig when your dog zags. Make the best of the situation and enjoy the pleasures of that unconditional love we all seek. Reacting to your greyhound’s twilight years in this fashion is undoubtedly more pleasant and enjoyable than living in the past, regretting the present and dreading the future.

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