Animal Care, How To:

How to Move with Your Pet

How Cao feels about moving: worried and shed-y.

How Cao feels about moving: worried and shed-y.

Cao has been stress shedding profusely since she saw the first cardboard box come out. This is probably the most organized move I’ve ever done, and while it means that I’ll show up for vet school knowing exactly where my Veterinary Virology book, Carhartt bibs, and shampoo are, it also means that the stress of packing has just been spread out over a longer period for both me, and Cao.

Here are some ideas on how to minimize the stress of a move on your and your pets:

1) Start acclimating your pet to kennel travel.

Not everyone wants their pet to be kenneled while driving, but it add another arrow to your quiver of skills, both for moving, and in the case of an emergency. Begin the process well before your move by procuring an adequately-sized, hard sided kennel. The ASPCA has a great resource for how to crate train your dog over a weekend. Then, move the crate to the vehicle, and practice crating while on the move (but never leave your pet in a hot car). If you’ve got a kitty, it’s a good idea to harness train them as well.

2) Bring some easily accessible familiar items.

Your pet should have a designated space during the move – a bed, blanket, kennel, etc. Work with your pet to establish it as “their place” at home. A favorite toy can provide some security as well.

Smorgasbord (You're welcome, Nature's Variety).

Smorgasbord (You’re welcome, Nature’s Variety).

3) Now’s not the time to change foods.

Make sure you have enough of your pet’s current food to last for a week or two after arrival – or check with local pet supply stores to make sure it will be available there.

4) Enrich!

The day before the move, block out some time for you and your pet to get some exercise. A llllooooonnnngggg walk for you and your dog, or some laser/feather flinger time for your kitty. It’ll provide some normalcy, tucker them out a little and help them (and you!) relax. I’ve also increased Cao’s bone time. The day of the move, make sure their morning activities are as uninterrupted as possible.

5) Paperwork.

Request veterinary records for your animals from all vets you’ve seen. To cross interstate borders, your animal should have proof of current rabies vaccination. In case of emergency boarding, I recommend that dogs are currently vaccinated for Bordetella and canine distemper, and cats should be vaccinated for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and feline distemper. Keep the phone number of your current vet handy, and research veterinary options in your new hometown – it’s a good idea to establish a relationship with a vet before a crisis occurs.

6) Pet-proof your travel plans.

Make sure you’ve budgeted time for walks, confirmed that pets are welcome at any hotels along the way, and brought along a cat litter box, if necessary (Xerox box tops work great as a portable, disposable solution.)

Cao's suitcase.

Cao’s suitcase.

7) On sedation…

I think that most travel anxiety can be eliminated with a combination of careful acclimation and exercise, but if you and your vet decide that sedation is required, make sure that you do a test run with the drug at home before the move. You do not want to discover that your pet reacts poorly 150 miles from the nearest vet, or in the middle of the night at a hotel.

Now, to continue packing, while Cao sighs heavy-heartedly. T minus 44 hours! Got some additional advice for moving with pets, or other good resources? Leave it in the comments!

Animal Care, How To:

How to Assemble a Canine First Aid Kit

Canine First Aid Kit

Earlier this week, some friends and I went camping in the Crazy Mountains. There was a 3:5 ratio of canines to humans (unusually low for our group of friend) – still, we managed to talk about our pets for around 75% of the time. One of the topics covered? Our need for canine first aid kit. I decided to reference the list that Dr. Gustafson and I had compiled a year ago when we considered creating our own for the clinic.

The list below should provide you with a starting point for putting together your own first aid kit.

I’d also recommend visiting with your veterinarian about how to use each of the items below at your next wellness visit.

1. A Thermometer
A healthy dog’s body temperature is between 100°F and 102.5°F ( 38°C to 39.2°C). Don’t forget, temperature is taken rectally!

2. Tweezers

3. Blunt-end Scissors
For trimming hair away from wounds, and cutting wraps.

4. Triple Antibiotic Ointment
The same stuff you use on yourself!

5. Sterile Saline Solution
For irrigating eyes and wounds. NOT contact solution or other eye drops.

6. Electrolyte Tablets (Canine Specific)

7. A 10cc Syringe
For irrigating wounds

8. Alcohol Wipes
For cleaning wounds. Steal ’em from your own first aid kit.

9. Hydrogen Peroxide
Make sure to store in a light-proof container. Hydrogen peroxide can  be used to induce vomiting, but this should only be performed with the direction of your veterinarian. Can also be used to clean wounds.

10. Sterile Gauze Pads

11. 4″ Cotton Roll

12. 2″ & 4″ Vetwrap
Any self-adhesive works. Be sure not to wrap too tight, and to remove immediately if swelling occurs on either side of the wrap.

13. First Aid for the Active Dog, by Sid Gustafson, DVM

14. The numbers of your veterinarian, the nearest emergency vet, as well as a list of any medications that your dog takes.

In addition to the items above, talk with your veterinarian about including:

13. 81mg Enteric-coated Aspirin
Or another fever-reducer/NSAID more appropriate for your dog.

For a great article about assessing the seriousness of your dogs condition, check out Examining Your Dog: Determining the Seriousness of Injury and Illness, an article by Dr. Gustafson.

Any additions or experiences compiling your own canine first aid kit? Share in the comments!

How To:

How to introduce BONES!

AKA: Paleo for your canine companion.

As promised, here’s a guide to introducing raw pipe bones to your dog’s diet as a way to contribute to your dog’s dental, mental and physical health (a phrase coined by Sid Gustafson, DVM).


Cao has noticed that I have bones, procured from my local butcher for $7!

Why bones?

Dogs that chew real bones (specifically bones, not dental chews) have less tartar. If you watch your dog chew their bone, you’ll see and hear why. Their carnassial teeth and incisors are used to shear meat and fascia from the outside of the bone. That griding successfully removes tartar from the surface of the tooth and stimulates the gums. Dental disease is a serious problem for many dogs, one that may lead to tooth extraction, abscesses, GI problems, and oral cancers, among other issues.

Puppies (and dogs!) that are orally enriched with appropriate chewing materials are less likely to look to inappropriate objects (qiviuq yarn, sunglasses, shoes) to satisfy their need to chew. The frozen bones are also very soothing for teething pups.

Chewing bones is an intensely physical activity. On days when your pet is holed up due to bad weather, healing, or just because you don’t have the time to get outside, bones offer a way to get out a portion of their physical energy.

Bones are also mentally stimulating. Getting to the marrow inside requires problem-solving and manipulation of the bone.

The list goes on and on.

Please read:

You will find people who disagree with the idea of feeding raw bones and bones in general. Do your own research. Feel free not to feed bones. I personally feel that the benefits of raw bone feeding outweigh the potential hazards for most dogs. I have seen raw bones perform the equivalent of a several-hundred-dollar dentistry on a 10 year-old dog that would have otherwise had to have been sedated. Dory, who chews deer femurs, is 11 years-old, has never had a cleaning and has almost no tartar. My dog eats bones until they are gone, and has yet to have severe GI upset. She has retched up pieces, but rarely. That said, the intestinal tracts of all dogs are not created equal.

What kind of bone?

I’m glad you asked. I recommend medium sized raw beef or bison pipe bones for most dogs. Bones should absolutely not be cooked – it changes the way they break into pieces, increasing the likelihood that they will shard. The nutrients in raw bones are also more readily absorbable by your dog’s digestive system.

The bones I recommend for beginners are cut from the center of a leg bone of a cow or bison. They have no protruding pieces that could be easily broken off, contain marrow, and have a small amount of meat that remains attached to the outside of the bone.


The ideal raw beef pipe bone, ready for chewing.



I hope that a lot of my suggestions will sound like common sense. First, a few caveats:

– Know your dog.

Does your dog’s stomach rumble if he eats a dropped piece of food in the kitchen? Just had a $3000 visit to the vet for bloody stool? It may then be a good idea to skip the bones, or to be extra cautious. A gobbler? Maybe 5 minutes is a good length for your first attempt at bone time. An overzealous chewer? Monitor for cracked teeth. Your dog (like mine) regularly brings home deer legs and voles and consumes them, with no issues? Probably safe to skip forward a few steps. If you have questions or concerns, I’d be happy to talk with you about them, but a great asset could be your veterinarian, who has a relationship with you and your pet.

– You are in charge of the bones.

When first introducing bones, many dogs are fanatical about this wonderful, new, delicious experience. This excitement can be used for good, or evil. Require good behavior (all four paws on the ground, quiet, etc.) before giving the bone. Any undesirable behavior while chewing results in the immediate loss of bone privileges, to try again another day.

Let us begin!

Dory and Cao demonstrate what deserving, humble dogs they are.

Dory and Cao demonstrate what deserving, humble dogs they are.

Day 1: Bone Time

Start with a frozen bone, as seen above. Introduce “bone time” after your dog has had some exercise, preferably when the house is calm. If there are multiple dogs, each should have their own bone, in their own room/area to reduce potential conflicts. For day one, I recommend 15 minutes of bone chewing. All bone time should be supervised. If you hear or see pieces of bone being broken off, remove the bone shards immediately, and the bone itself if sharp points remain. This is unlikely in such a short amount of time, but if it does occur, consider scaling back bone time. Once the time has elapsed, retrieve the bone, praising your dog for giving it up willingly, and use a plastic baggie to store it in the freezer ’til tomorrow! Check the bone for broken pieces and fractures before freezing, and discard if you find any.

Day 2:

Repeat, but with one addition: today you get to monitor your pet’s stool. A little loose is fine, but any blood or explosiveness means you need to slow things down a little, or consider alternative oral enrichment. If all is well, proceed!

Day 3:

Examine bone, and if it is intact, with marrow inside, try 30 minutes, again under supervision, removing the bone if it starts to break into shards.

Day 4:

Rest, and continue to monitor stool.

Day 5:

Depending on your dog, it may be time for a new bone, especially if the marrow is gone, or your dog has lost interest. Today, go for 30 minutes supervised bone time. Continue to monitor stool. It’s a good habit to get into, and so fun!

Day 6:

45 minutes, or break it up into 15 minutes AM, 30 minutes PM. Report findings in the comments.

Day 7:

As Day 6, only you don’t have to comment this time.

Day 8:

New bone, and try it for an hour – that is probably long enough for your dog to have extracted the majority of the meat, fascia and marrow. If not, use it again!

Bone half-empty.

Bone half-empty. Or half-full.

Antlers are a great alternative for dogs that are overzealous, or for guardians that aren’t too sure about having raw bone/canine saliva drippings on their carpet (weirdos). The bones pictured above are suitable for dogs from around 10-100 lbs. Larger dogs may need to be more closely monitored, or have longer bones that they are unable to swallow. Often times, the bones that are cut from closer to the head of the femur are larger.

At this point, if there has been no sign of gastric upset, you should be safe to have supervised bone time as you see fit! 1-2 fresh bones per week should keep your dog healthy and happy. Take a look at your dog’s teeth before you start feeding bones, then reexamine after 2 weeks of bone chewing. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find improvement, and would love to see photos. You can email them to


Bone chewing can become a social activity, but it’s better to try that once the novelty has worn off a little.