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COVID-19 Update

The health and safety of our clients and staff, along with providing continuity of care for our patients, is of the utmost importance to us here at Aztec Animal Clinic.

According to the most up-to-date releases from the Center for Disease Control, companion animals are NOT considered to be at risk for the disease nor are they carriers of the current Coronavirus.

For now, appointments and surgeries will continue as usual.

For those wishing to minimize contact with other people we have a few options:
1. Call first prior to your appointment from the parking lot and we will let you know as soon as your exam room is cleaned and ready to minimize time in the reception area.
2. Drop off appointments are always welcome. A technician can meet you at your car and bring your pet in or we can meet you at the back door.
3. Medications and food can be brought out to the parking lot.

Due to the overwhelming requests for food and medication refills, we are at this time only able to honor refills in the quantity you would normally order. If you would like to avoid coming into the clinic or would like to order larger than 1-month supply of your pet’s medication, we ask that you use one of our two online pharmacies: Vetsource or Covetrus (formerly Vets First Choice). You can access both of them from our website or follow the link below. We monitor those requests during business hours so there will be minimal delay in your pet’s medication and food being shipped to you. If you need help in setting up your account or finding your pets food or medications, please contact us.

https://www.animalclinic.com/resources/request-refills

Our clinic is cleaned by a professional cleaning service nightly and we are disinfecting all common spaces, floors, doors and surfaces at regular intervals throughout the day. We are asking clients and staff to wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds before and after each appointment.

We are asking clients and staff with a fever or cough or have reason to believe that you have been exposed to Covid-19 to please stay home. We are committed to keeping our hospital clean and safe as we navigate our way through this unprecedented and evolving situation.

Thank you for your continued trust in Aztec Animal Clinic.


Fear Free Crate & House Training

Teaching your dog or puppy to relax in a crate is an effective way of ensuring its safety while protecting your home and possessions from damage caused by chewing or other destructive behaviors.  Crate training can also be an important tool in teaching your new pet the appropriate time and place to eliminate.

Many dogs that end up in shelters are there because of repeated housetraining accidents inside and destructive behavior. By learning the basics of housetraining and crate training, and what you can reasonably expect from your dog, these types of problematic habits can be avoided.

Talk to your Veterinarian:

Before starting any kind of training, have your new dog or puppy checked out by a veterinarian. Housetraining, or teaching your dog where and when to go, can be difficult if the dog is experiencing any kind of medical issue. Urinating or peeing more than usual or in numerous areas both outside and inside the house, especially if your dog has just gone, could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Drinking more water than usual could also be a sign of a UTI or possibly a more serious medical problem. Runny stool or loose poop is not normal, even in puppies, and may be caused by some kind of infection.  Even dogs with separation anxiety, or an extreme fear of being left alone, may have medical issues contributing to the anxiety. Discuss any unusual symptoms with your veterinarian during your dog’s exam. The veterinarian will be able to determine if any medical issues need to be addressed and what to do about them.

Crate Training

What are the benefits of crate training?

Crate training will help teach your dog to be comfortable spending time in a kennel or crate during times when you cannot be there to supervise them or for car travel.  There will be times in your dog’s life where he may need to be kenneled or spend time at the groomers or veterinarian.  These are already stressful events for your dog and can be made worse for a dog who is not comfortable being in a crate or kennel. It can also help decrease the risk of over-attachment and separation anxiety by helping your puppy learn to spend time away from you napping and entertaining themselves.

Dogs are naturally den animals, meaning that their natural instinct is to find a quiet area. By providing a crate to sleep and eat in, you are giving your dog a private place (den) they can go to if scared or in need of escape from other pets or kids. Staying in a crate can prevent your dog from finding his way into your closet and eating your favorite shoes, having a feast in your garbage can, or urinating in a less than ideal place in the house.  Most dogs won’t eliminate where they sleep and eat, so crate training can be a big help with housetraining.

Crate training tips

Large Toppls filled with canned dog food then frozen

Crates, especially when you are beginning training, should be just large enough for dogs to sit, stand, lay on their side, and turn around comfortably. For large breed puppies, select a crate that can be sectioned off so that as they get bigger you can increase the size of the crate area. If a crate is too large, your dog may try to potty in one area and sleep at the other end.

Aim to make the crate one of your dog’s favorite areas of the house. You can feed meals in the crate as well as use the crate for bedtime and naptime. You may also want to give your dog a special toy that can be safely played with while unsupervised or a *”Kong” or “Topp” stuffed with their food, squeeze cheese or a dog safe peanut butter that are reserved to be  enjoyed only while in their crate. Avoid using the crate as a place of punishment, such as time-outs for bad behavior. You don’t want your dog to associate their special den with times of stress or fear.

To get your dog comfortable with spending time in the crate, start by tossing a tasty treat into the crate and as they are going in  say a command or cue word, such as “crate” or “kennel”. The cue word will help your dog to eventually associate the word with going into the crate alone, so that over time he will go into the crate willingly on command or on his own in anticipation of a treat.

An Adult dog who, as a puppy, learned to be relaxed and happy in her crate

Once you dog is in the crate give him/her another treat and lots of praise. You can also start using a “release” word such as “done” or “break” as they exit the crate. Once your dog understands that his cue word means to get into the crate (he should start offering the behavior) then you can wait until he has gone into the crate on his own with no cue word before giving the treat and praise. Once your dog has started offering to get into his crate and is comfortable being in it you can start closing the door and opening it right away.  Praise and reward your dog every time the door closes, not when it is opening. If for some reason your dog does not want to leave his crate, you can toss a treat out into the room and as soon as he moves out of the crate towards it use your release word. Praise your dog again once you let him back out. Slowly increase the amount of time the door is closed working slowly  up to you being able to walk away and out of sight over several days to weeks.  Go at your dogs pace and if you find he is getting anxious at a given stage go back to where you were successful and stay there for a few more days.  With lots of treats and praise and some patience your dog will quickly catch on to this “fun game”.

Don’t forget to reward your puppy or dog for being quiet and restful in their crate!!

Words of caution

Crates can be a wonderful way to keep your dog safe and comfortable, but it is important to know your dog or puppy’s limits. No dog should spend the majority of the day in a crate. Puppies especially should be limited to the amount of time they spend in a crate to avoid elimination accidents and future behavior issues. A good rule of thumb for the maximum amount of daylight hours a puppy should spend in the crate at a time is to add one to the puppy’s age in months. For example, a two-month old puppy should spend no more than three hours straight in a crate during the day. After three hours, give the puppy a break from the crate, go outside to eliminate, and provide some time to play before putting her back in the crate. Always make sure that your puppy or adult dog has had sufficient play, exercise, attention and an opportunity to eliminate before confinement and that you return before their next need to eliminate occurs.  Confinement should be used when you cannot supervise your dog, but when you are at home you should try to keep your pet with you as much as possible to train and reinforce desirable behaviors and direct them away from  undesirable ones.  Some whining is normal, but if you are unsure whether the amount is normal or not please consult with your veterinarian before it develops into a problem.

 

Is Crate Training practical for all dogs?

An occasional dog may not tolerate crate training, and may continue to show anxiety or even eliminate when confined.  These dogs may adapt better to other types of confinement such as a pen, dog run, small room or barricaded area.

Dogs with separation anxiety can be difficult to crate train, and their anxiety behaviors may actually worsen if you attempt to keep them in a crate. Discuss your dog’s behaviors with a veterinarian. Your dog may need a combination of anxiety medication and behavior modification therapy, which is a different form of training to help dogs overcome some of their anxieties, before crate training can be successful.

Housetraining

Dog and puppy development

Puppies start learning to leave their family and den area to use the bathroom between three and 12 weeks of age. This means that some puppies may not be fully capable of learning where and when to use the bathroom before the age of three months. For those puppies that are ready to learn, they may not be able to hold their bladder for more than a few hours (typical of puppies less than 4 months of age). Why is that important to know? Owner expectations and the puppy’s ability to learn are not always in sync. Housetraining can be a lengthy and sometimes frustrating process. Housetraining an adult dog can also be difficult because they may have been going wherever and whenever was desired up until now. You will have the troublesome task of teaching your dog that previous bathroom methods are no longer appropriate, and on top of that, teaching brand new methods for elimination. Don’t become discouraged, remember just like people, dogs or puppies all learn at different rates.

Housetraining tips

Puppies and dogs will provide you with many opportunities for successful trips to go potty. Remember that what goes in will eventually need to come back out again. To help make timing bathroom trips easier, feed your dog on a consistent schedule, ideally two to three times a day. This way, 15 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking, you know it is time for a trip to the elimination area. Dogs, especially puppies, also tend to go right after playing or sleeping. A good rule of thumb during the beginning of housetraining is to take your dog out every two hours for the first couple weeks, plus after sleeping, eating, drinking, or playing. Be sure to take your dog out right before bed time too.

Use a cue word such as “bathroom” or “potty” every time you take your dog to the bathroom area, so the dog will learn to associate the word with what you want achieved. Try to take your dog to the same area each time. In the beginning, it is essential that you go with your dog or puppy and make sure she actually poops or pees. If successful, immediately reward them with treats and praise. It may be helpful to lead your dog with a leash instead of carrying her to the elimination area so that going straight to the appropriate spot becomes a habit.  The leash can also help keep their mind on their business and not wonder off to investigate.  Puppies are especially prone to “forgetting” what they are suppose to be doing.

Constant supervision is important when you begin housetraining your dog. You need to catch your dog in the act of going in the wrong place in order to correctly redirect them to the appointed place to relieve themselves. If you find pee or poop on the floor, the dog will not understand and make the connection with why you are actually upset. Catching your pet in the act of a mistake will help them correct it in the future. If this happens simply tell them “oh, oh” and rush them out to the appropriate place, using their cue word, for them to go. Remember to give them lots of praise and treats if they finish going there.   Rubbing your dog’s nose in pee after the fact will only make them anxious and more likely to “hide” away from you in the future.

Keep an eye out for clues or signals that your dog needs to eliminate. Circling, wandering off alone, whining, or going to the door you typically use to go to the elimination area are common signals. If your dog is demonstrating any of these signals, stop what you are doing immediately and take him to the bathroom. If he uses the bathroom when you take him to the designated area, be sure to reward your dog with praise and/or treats so he will continue to provide these signals.

Housetraining and crate training can be tough but rewarding. If you are ever in doubt as to whether you or your pet are on the right tract, call your veterinarian for advice. Otherwise, be consistent and persistent, and your pet will love you for it!

 

Information for this article was obtained from the following sources.

VIN veterinary Partners

“Perfect Puppy in 7 days” by Sophia Yin DVM,MS

“Decoding Your Dog”  from the American College of veterinary behaviorists

“Crate Games for Self-Control and Motivation” DVD by Susan Garrett

 

*”Kongs” and “Toppls” are available on line from many different retailers


Wondering When To Spay or Neuter Your Pet?

When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Pet? It Used to Be a Simple Question… 

Fortunately, the question of timing in cats is simple, so we will start with our feline pets. Cats who are not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered by 5 months of age. The biggest reasons to spay or neuter are to prevent overpopulation and curb unwanted hormonally influenced behaviors. Cats are incredibly fecund and precocious, meaning they can become pregnant as young as 6 months, and it usually takes a single mating. In addition to this, hormonal influence can lead to roaming, fighting and, in males, a powerful urine smell with a tendency to mark in the home. Marking behaviors often persist despite neutering once they are established, so early intervention is recommended. Waiting until after a first heat cycle to spay female cats increases the incidence of mammary tumors, which are an aggressive form of cancer in felines. These reasons, coupled with no known benefits to waiting, make the question of spay and neuter timing in cats clear-cut.  

Although one would think that the answer is just as straightforward in dogs, there are many factors that might influence the timing decision. Before we explore these factors, it is important to remember that prevention of overpopulation and its painful and sad consequences is our first responsibility. This means that if a dog’s situation puts it at risk for an unwanted litter, then early spay or neuter should be done as soon as possible. This is the approach taken by animal shelters and rescue organizations. For owned pets that are not at risk of an unwanted pregnancy, there may be benefits to waiting beyond the traditional 6-month recommendation and even potentially allowing female dogs to go through a first heat cycle.  

There are both risks and benefits to early spay, as well as risks and benefits to a later spay (ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy). To be clear, the question here is whether or not to spay early or after the first heat cycle. Because of significant risks of pyometra (uterine infection) or mammary cancer late in life we recommend that all female dogs not intended for breeding be spayed before their second heat cycle. Most females experience their first heat cycle between 5-9 months of age (large dogs usually start later), then once every 6 months thereafter. In terms of benefits, early spaying (before 5 months) results in very low (0.05%) risk of mammary cancer, no risk of pregnancy, and no heat cycle bleeding. Spaying before the first heat cycle results in an easier surgery with fewer potential for complications such as bleeding and pain.  

Urinary incontinence is, however, a common problem associated with early spay. It can be well-managed with lifelong medication. With early spaying or neutering, certain breeds may be at increased risk of developing orthopedic disease due to the removal of sex hormones. These problems include knee ligament rupture, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Breeds with documented increased risk appear to be Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Pitbulls and Rottweilers. There is possibly a correlation between early spay/neuter and anxiety. Other reported possible risks (with weak evidence) for males and females are a possible increased risk of certain types of cancer (osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma) and slightly increased risk of immune-mediated diseases.  

After the 2nd heat to spay, the lifetime risk of developing mammary cancer is approximately 26%. If you wait until after the 1st heat, but spay before the 2nd heat (i.e. between 5-15 months depending on breed size) the chance of mammary cancer is about 7-8%. This timing may be appropriate for some breeds in which we are wanting the maximum influence of estrogen on bone growth but wish to remove the 26% risk of mammary cancer when spayed after the second heat cycle. Most small mammary tumors in dogs can be cured with surgery, as long as they are detected when small (<3cm). This requires periodic teat exams to ensure early detectionIf you allow your dog to go through one or more heat cycles, you must be prepared to recognize when a heat cycle is happening (swollen vulva, bleeding or dripping blood from the vulva), take care to ensure your female is kept clean and is not around intact males during this time (for about 3 weeks) to minimize pregnancy risk. We are happy to discuss other factors that may influence individual timing recommendations (training classes, other pets in the house, cost of intact licensure).  

For male dogs the question is less complicated, as there are no medical risks associated with not being neutered for the first few years of life. A male dog with no behavioral problems such as aggression or marking and with no access to intact female dogs is not at risk in its first years of life. Older, intact dogs will reliably develop benign prostatic hyperplasia (testosterone-driven enlargement of the prostate) which can be associated with discomfort associated with urination and/or defecation; this condition is cured by castration. They are also at risk of prostatic infections. In general, we recommend that small male dogs be neutered between 6–12 months and large breed male dogs in their second year. Male dogs of any size exhibiting aggression or unacceptable testosterone influenced behaviors, such as marking in the home, should be neutered as soon as possible regardless of age.  

As can be imagined, there is considerable debate within the veterinary community about this, and if you need help determining the right timing for your dog’s spay or neuter, we encourage you discuss this with your veterinarian. 


Blue-Green Algae Could Pose A Serious Danger to Your Pet

Blue-green algae have caused the tragic death of many dogs around the country, and New Mexico is not immune to the scary trends. Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae is one of the largest and oldest groups of bacteria, and can be found in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds and brackish water ecosystems around the world. Multiple bodies of water in our state, and even in the Albuquerque area, have recently been reported to be contaminated by these toxic organisms. Both the New Mexico Department of Health Epidemiology and Response Division and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department have distributed safety warnings and tips to keep families aware of this outcropping of bacteria.

What pet owners need to be aware of, however, is that the blue-green algae can cause even worse ailments for their dogs. As evidence to the danger, the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department has provided a second resource specifically for dogs. Humans can be easier to warn and control than your four-legged family members, making it harder to stop your pet from swimming into water that is obviously contaminated. Plus, once a dog comes in contact with blue-green algae, it’s difficult to wash it all out of their fur, which can mean further exposure when it comes to the animal’s habitual self-grooming. Symptoms of exposure in pets can include excessive salivation, fatigue, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. Death can occur within hours to days of exposure.

While the above resources give us a lot of information about avoiding blue-green algae and what to do if contact is made, it would be best to play it safe and leave your pets at home if you plan to visit any bodies of water this time of year. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 505-265-4939 if you have any further questions or are worried about a pet’s potential exposure.


Update: Grain-Free Pet Foods & Heart Disease

By now you’ve probably heard the warnings about the link between grain-free diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. DCM is a heart condition that can result in abnormal cardiac rhythms, congestive heart failure and even sudden death.

Veterinary cardiologists, nutritionists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have found evidence that grain-free foods are associated with DCM. At this point researchers are not completely sure why these formulations are a problem, but it appears to be most commonly tied to dog foods that use beans/legumes and potatoes as a carbohydrate source—though there is still not a 100% correlation.

We ask that you carefully read the FDA’s latest update at the link above so you understand the findings and how they relate to your pet. Although there are no specific guidelines from the FDA at this time, the update offers more detail on the specific brands of foods that have been most often associated with the development of DCM.

Based on this information, we feel that there is mounting evidence of a link between certain cases of cardiomyopathy and diet. If your dog is on a food containing large amounts of legumes or potatoes (they are listed in the first 3-4 ingredients on the package or can) there is a risk for this serious complication, and you should consider a non-grain-free diet for your pet.

We encourage you to contact us at (505) 265-4939 if you have questions about what to feed your pet, or if your dog has been on a grain-free diet and is exhibiting symptoms such as lethargy, coughing, or difficulty breathing, as these could be signs of developing heart disease.


Heartworm Disease is on the Rise in the Albuquerque Area

Albuquerque has again made a top 10 list and not for a positive reason, no pun intended. Heartworm disease is on the rise and with the increased rainfall, we have seen this spring we are poised to see even more spread of the disease. Several other factors that have changed in the last decade such as the use of rain barrels and container gardens have also played a role. These potential water reservoirs have given mosquitoes more opportunity to thrive in our desert environment. The evolution of many species of mosquitoes to survive in drier climates has also added to their ability to exist easily where they were not able to in the past.

Heartworm disease is a very complex disease and can affect many vital organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. As a result, the outcome of infection varies greatly from patient to patient. Heartworm Disease is also a very complex and expensive disease to treat so the best approach is prevention.

For more information on Heartworm Disease, it’s treatment and prevention go to Heartworm Basics. For information on testing and prevention for your pets contact your veterinarian.


The Big Balloon Fiesta is Not Always Fun for Our Dogs

Albuquerque is home to the largest ballooning event in the world. From October 6, 2018 to October 14, 2018 our city will be hosting people from all over the world to witness this event and balloons will be filling the sky on most mornings.

Most of us find this to be a wonderful time with cool weather and the smell of roasting chili in the air. However, many of our canine companions experience significant stress due to this. The response that they exhibit is similar to that seen with thunderstorm and firework phobias. Although the reaction is not logical, the sense of dread is real, and these pets are very distressed by the sights and sounds of these strange things filling the sky. Continue Reading


Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats

Many cats suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and it is common for this condition to go untreated for years. Vomiting and diarrhea are never normal, and cats who suffer from one of these signs on a regular basis should be evaluated—even vomiting due to hairballs is not normal. Although hairballs can irritate the stomach, most cats with normal gastrointestinal (GI) tracts will process these and pass them in feces.

Some cats with IBD show neither vomiting nor diarrhea and may only have weight loss symptoms despite a normal appetite. IBD can affect any segment of the GI tract and the clinical signs that ensue depend on what portion of the tract is affected. Vomiting happens when the stomach and the first part of the small intestine is affected while diarrhea results from the colon being involved. When only the middle part of the small intestine is affected it is possible to have weight loss without vomiting or diarrhea. Continue Reading


Is Walking Your Dog a Challenge?

We are blessed to live in a place where getting out for a walk with the dogs is a year-round activity. Now that the winds have died down a bit and the days are longer, I am seeing our clients and neighbors out enjoying the springtime mornings and evenings with their dogs.

With the increased “traffic,” it means that our dogs are asked to cross paths with others more frequently, leading to more stressful interactions for owners of a reactive dog. If your dog finds sharing the sidewalk, median or path with others stressful or has “favorite” places on the route to release their inner Cujo (usually where there is another dog behind a fence), then you know the drill.

I am the proud owner of two rescue dogs, one of which joined our family when she was about a year old. When we took her for her first walk I realized that we had a “project” on our hands, as she perceived every car, bicycle, skateboard, fire hydrant and four-legged creature a mortal threat.

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Giardia: New Mexico’s State Parasite

Giardia is by far the most commonly diagnosed parasite in New Mexico. It is diagnosed in both cats and dogs and it can also infect people.

In contrast to most intestinal parasites (roundworms, tapeworms) Giardia is not visible to the naked eye. Pets usually acquire Giardia by ingesting the cysts from contaminated water. Clinical signs range from significant diarrhea to no signs at all. The life cycle of Giardia includes two stages. Usually a dog will ingest cysts in contaminated water or directly from the feces of another animal. Once the cysts are ingested and reach the intestines they transform into a fragile swimming form called a trophozoite which attaches to the lining of the intestines to feed. If enough trophozoites attach to the lining diarrhea develops (severity often correlates with the number of organisms present). As part of their life cycle the trophozoites produce very resistant cysts which pass through the GI tract and exit the body in the animal’s feces. Once the cysts are in the environment the cycle begins anew once they are ingested.
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