Importance of Rabies Vaccination in Indoor Pets

By Dr. Zeoli, Associate Veterinarian

Dog_Rabies_ClinicRabies is a fatal disease without treatment. It’s a virus that is transmitted though saliva (typically bite wound or scratch) from an infected animal to another animal or human. Rabies affects the central nervous system. It is a huge public health threat because it is deadly to both humans and animals. There have been documented cases of rabies in 49 states (Hawaii is the only rabies-free state).

Vaccinating your pet means that you are protecting yourself, your family, neighbors, groomers, veterinary staff, postal worker, delivery person, and anyone else who comes in contact with your pet from life-threatening rabies.

I know what you may be wondering, why would I have to vaccinate my indoor pet against rabies? This is a common question that the doctors and support staff here at Pet Dominion are asked frequently. I completely understand where you are coming from because rabid raccoons typically do not break into homes…but they could. Setting that aside, there are many reasons why this vaccination is extremely important for both indoor and outdoor pets. Below are the 5 top reasons to vaccinate.

1. If your unvaccinated pet gets out and is bitten by an animal presumed to have rabies, Animal Control has the right to quarantine them with no contact to humans or animals for up to 6 months. If they deem it necessary, they can order the pet to be humanly euthanized for rabies testing. This test can only be performed postmortem because it requires samples of brain tissue. The costs to the owner would include the quarantine period.

2. If your unvaccinated pet bites a human or another animal they will need to be confined and observed for 10 days. If they show any signs of rabies, they must be euthanized and have rabies testing performed. Not to mention you can get sued and have legal fees in additions to this.

3. Rabies vaccination is required by law in the state of Maryland for all dogs and cats over 4 months old. Non-compliance could mean a hefty fine if reported.

4. A rabies infected animal could come into your home unwanted. Bats are the most common cause of rabies in the United States. They can get into the house through windows, screens, chimneys, etc. Because of the serious health threat, the health department takes any reports of bats in the home seriously.

5. An indoor pet could escape from home some time during their life. If they did, they could come in contact with a rabid animal (bat, raccoon, skunk, fox, feral cat, etc).

In a nutshell, rabies vaccination for pets is required by law, it’s expensive not to do it, and the consequences of not having your pet vaccinated are not worth the risk. Play it safe and schedule an appointment to have your pet vaccinated!

If you have any other questions about rabies transmission or the vaccine, feel free to give us a call at 301-258-0333.  And be sure to give us a call today if your pet is overdue or coming due for his/her rabies vaccination.

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Keeping Your Pet’s Food Safe

By Dr. Zeoli, Associate Veterinarian
Just like in humans, food safety is important for our pets, and is commonly overlooked.  You probably know about the contaminated treats coming from China recently. So many types of food and treats can be contaminated with bacteria or toxins that can cause sickness. In addition, if the contaminated food is not handled properly it may cause food borne illness in humans too, especially children, elderly, and sick individuals.

It is important to practice good hygiene when handing your furry friends’ food. Remember to wash the food and water bowls daily with soap and water to prevent microbes from multiplying and causing your pet to get sick. After all, you wouldn’t use the same plate everyday without washing it. Washing your hands before and after feeding them is also important to protect your pet and your family from food borne illness. And remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.

Food storage is also important because they cannot speak to us and let us know that their food tastes funny (well, maybe some of them can). If they are a finicky eater, they might not eat food that went rancid and may become inappetent. However, if they aren’t picky they might still eat it and get sick.

• Canned food should be thrown away after 3 days and should be kept covered in the refrigerator until then.

• Canned food should be taken away and the food bowl cleaned, when they are finished eating.

• Dry food can go rancid if not properly stored. Always store it in a cool, dry place. If within your budget, buying small bags will ensure freshness.

• If you purchase large food bags, make sure to store them in air-proof containers.

• Always check the expiration or “best by” dates!

It is also very important to be aware of pet food recalls. This website is a great one to bookmark because it provides the latest information on any food or treat that was recalled and the reason why (most are due to bacterial contamination). You may have also heard in the media about chicken jerky treats made in China causing illness and death in dogs. Please read this safety alert for jerky treats by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

As a last word of advice, even if there are currently no recalls for products, I recommend being safe and choosing not to feed jerky treats, unless you know the origin, until everything is handled.

We want to hear from you.  What are your thoughts and concerns about pet food safety?  Leave us a comment about what’s on your mind.

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The Common Thyroid Problem

By Dr. Falter, Associate Veterinarian
Hyperthyroidism is a common malady of older cats. The typical patient with hyperthyroidism is over the age of 10 years old. Any breed or gender of cat may be affected. The disease occurs when small, benign growths on the thyroid gland, located on the neck, produce too much thyroid hormone.
At home, the cat’s owner may notice that their cat is losing weight despite having a normal or increased appetite. A cat with hyperthyroidism may lose a dramatic amount of weight in a very short period of time. The cat may also seem agitated, overly active or display other odd behaviors. They may also have an increase in thirst and urination. During a physical examination, our veterinarians may notice a heart murmur, abnormal heart rhythm, and/or an enlarged thyroid gland.
At Pet Dominion, we recommend that all senior cats be screened for hyperthyroidism, along with other conditions such as kidney disease, twice yearly. Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is made by detection of an elevated thyroid level, sometimes called a T4. The cat may also have elevated liver enzymes or high blood pressure as a result of hyperthyroidism. Usually diagnosis is straight-forward, but occasionally a full thyroid panel may be suggested if the cat has symptoms compatible with hyperthyroidsm but their T4 levels are not elevated.
If your cat is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, do not despair.  There are many treatment options available for your pet. Treatment may be as simple as switching your cat to a prescription diet called Hills YD. For other pets, a twice daily medication called Methimazole may be prescribed. The medication can be formulated in a variety of ways to make medicating your cat a breeze. Additionally, radioactive iodine therapy is a treatment that results in permanent cure of hyperthyroidism without the need for daily medications. Our veterinarians can talk through the options with you to choose the one which is right for your pet.
After starting treatment for hyperthyroidism, your cat will need to have his bloodwork rechecked to make sure that treatment is effective and no side effects from the treatment are occurring. Sometimes it takes a few adjustments of the medication dosage to find the right dose for your pet. Over time, medication needs may change, so it is important to monitor your pet’s labwork at least twice a year, or on a schedule recommended by your veterinarian.
If you suspect that your cat may have a thyroid problem, please give us a call at 301-258-0333 to schedule an appointment.  Has your cat been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism?  Leave us a comment with his/her success story!
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In the Mix

By Dr. Karen Burks
It’s Summer, and you know what that means! It’s that extra special season where your family gathers round the barbecue, when your pets play tug-o-war in the yard, and when you have animated conversations like, “Really? You think he’s a Spaniel/Dalmatian? I think he looks more like a Chihuahua/Greyhound!”

What am I talking about? Why, it’s National Mutt Day, of course!  National Mutt Day is celebrated every July and was created in 2005 to raise awareness for mutts that are sitting in wait in shelters around the country. The website encourages you to submit pictures of your favorite mutt to their Facebook page for prizes, buy some cool mutt merchandise, donate to your local rescue, and, of course, ADOPT A MUTT!

Mixed-breed dogs provide all the emotional benefits of purebred dogs, and in some cases can be healthier than their purebred counterparts because there is less chance for line-breeding and inbreeding.

Plus, you get to stump friends and family with a fun guessing game of your pet’s lineage. For those who absolutely need to know, genetic tests are available (such as Wisdom panel at ).

I had genetic tests done on my two terrier mixes, and was surprised by the results!

So gather around, hug your mutts tight, and don’t forget to play a game of “Is he a beagle or a borzoi?” And if you don’t have a mutt to call your very own, go out and adopt one today!!

Please share your experiences with adopting a mutt, guessing his breed, and/or performing a genetic test in the comment section below!

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Thank You!


Your generous donations to Hero Dogs this “pawtriotic” season (Memorial Day through Independence Day) helped Pet Dominion raise $1300 for this wonderful cause!  Hero Dogs, a Montgomery-county based charity, is a 501(c)(3) organization that survives solely on donations.  The organization raises, trains and places “service dogs (‘Hero Dogs’) with Veterans who have served honorably in the United States Armed Services”.  The Veterans receive the dogs free, and these furry companions can be life-changing for our wounded warriors.  This is the third consecutive year that all of you have helped us donate more than a thousand dollars to this local charity!

10422093_755789491155272_5558309394588511937_nOn July 2nd, volunteers from Hero Dogs and two of their current canine students were on-hand at Pet Dominion to demonstrate all of the helpful things they can do for Veterans.  Dogs can do everything from turning on/off a light switch and opening/closing doors with a pull to picking up keys and money.  And the best part?  They do everything with a sense of purpose and a smile!  For our nation’s disabled Veterans, these dogs are true heroes!

Thank you to all of you for your donations and support during our “pawtriotic” donation season!  Your generosity made a difference in the life of these special dogs and the Veterans they will serve!

Do you know someone who either works with service dogs or uses one to improve his/her quality of life?  Tell us about it in the comments.

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Debunking the Ice Water Myth

By Dr. Burks, Associate Veterinarian
There is a lot of hubbub going on about a blog post stating that you cannot give ice water to dogs. The original article was written in 2010. Why it is gaining popularity now, I have no idea. The story describes a show dog who drinks ice water after a show, then becomes violently ill, and needs emergency surgery. The dog survives. It is unclear whether the dog had a heat stroke, was bloated, or suffered some other unknown illness. Since Dr. Lamar discussed heat stroke here last week, we will discuss bloat today.

Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (commonly caused bloat)

GDV is a condition that we see in large breed dogs where the stomach fills with air or fluid (dilation) and twists on itself (volvulus).

We don’t know the exact cause of GDV, but we do know that is more common in large, deep chested dogs (Great Danes, labs, Chows, etc.) and in older dogs.

It is more common if a dog exercises after a large meal or a large amount of water or if they bolt their food.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Distended, painful abdomen or hunched back
  • Retching, either nonproductive or with white foam
  • Severe discomfort, pacing, vocalizing.

These are two very good GDV videos:

Video #1
Video #2

What to do:


  • For large breed dogs, feed multiple small meals per day.
  • Do not allow them to bolt their food. If they eat rapidly, consider a food toy or maze or specially designed food bowl to slow them down.
  • Do not allow them to drink large quantities of water at a time. Again, 10-20 laps, then wait 5-10 minutes, then repeat until no longer thirsty.
  • For dogs that are at extreme risk (for example, 1 in 3 Great Danes will bloat in their life) a preventative gastropexy (stomach tacking) is recommended. Please discuss it with one of our doctors during your next appointment. It is ideal to do it at time of spay/neuter, but any time is appropriate for at-risk dogs.

If you are noting symptoms of bloat, there is NOTHING you can do at home for him. He must be rushed to a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. If it happens at night, DO NOT wait for your vet to open in the morning. Take him to a 24-hour emergency center. A true GDV requires surgery, and the longer he goes without surgery, the lower the survival rate.

If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from heat stroke, immediately move them to a cool area (in front of the AC, into the shade, etc.)

  • If possible, take your dog’s temperature rectally. Again, 99-102.5 is normal; above 104.0 is a red flag.
  • GET YOUR DOG TO A VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY if they are showing distress or their temperature is elevated.
  • If you notice any unexplained bruising on their body, see a vet IMMEDIATELY!

If, for any reason, you are unable to get to a veterinarian, use lukewarm to slightly cool water to submerge your dog. The majority of heat is lost through the head and legs so make sure to saturate the head, ears, legs, and groin. Don’t use freezing water, as this is too much of a shock to their system.

In this situation, allow your dog to drink SMALL AMOUNTS of water to cool down. Let him lap 10-20 times maximum, and then take it away. If he holds it down and is still interested, repeat the process in 5-10 minutes. Do this slowly until he is no longer thirsty.

Now that I am done scaring everyone, please know that with proper preventative care, these risks are low for most dogs. Also know that at no point did I say that ice water is a risk factor for either of these conditions. If consumed in moderation using the above drink/wait/drink technique, ice water should be fine. Please also note that chilling the water is not necessary.

Ice cubes can be a problem for a different reason: broken teeth. Ice cubes are too hard for pets to chew. If you are going to feed ice as a treat, make a doggy SnowBall and feed him crushed ice. Do they make bacon-flavored syrup?

Well, readers, I hope I haven’t scared you too much!

Do you have any experience with either bloat or heat stroke?
Do your dogs enjoy chewing ice?

Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!

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What to Do if You Suspect Your Pet Has Heatstroke

Heat Chart

By Dr. Lamar, Associate Veterinarian

It’s starting to feel pretty warm outside, time to say hello to summer! As the weather heats up, it’s time to consider ways to cool our pets down. Every year hundreds of pets, mainly dogs, suffer from heat stroke – so it is important to know the correct way to handle the situation.

First of all, heat stroke is an increase in body temperature due to an overly hot external environment and the inability of the body to dissipate that heat quickly enough. It is NOT the same as having a fever, which is caused by internal factors. The techniques used on pets for heat stroke should NEVER be performed at home on an animal with a fever from illness.

When we are hot, the most common reaction from our bodies is to sweat, thus allowing us to dissipate excess heat. Sweating is a very effective method for humans because we have sweat glands nearly everywhere on the body, however, we must keep in mind that our pets have relatively few sweat glands. Dogs are only able to sweat a little bit through their paw pads, which does not get rid of a lot of heat. When they need to dissipate heat, their most effective way is via panting. This is especially important to remember if you have a short-snouted canine (ex. pug, shih tzu, bulldog, etc.) since they are unable to pant as effectively due to their conformation.

Any animal may experience heat stroke, but it is much more likely to occur if it is very hot and/or humid outdoors, he/she has a short snout or is overweight, no water is available, your pet has a heart condition, or if he/she has a thick hair coat. (Side note: it is not advised to clip pets that have a “dual” hair coat, for example huskies, as the special design of their dual coat actually dissipates heat better when intact than when clipped.) The two most common situations in which dogs have heat stroke are when they are trapped in a hot location (usually a car) or when they are outdoors exercising on a warm day. It is never advised to leave your pet in the car unsupervised; even with the windows cracked the interior of a car can easily reach over 100 degrees when it is only 75 degrees outside (see chart above).

In the beautiful summer weather many of us spend more time playing outside with our canine companions – and they adore it! We encourage exercise and play, but we must keep a close eye to ensure they are not overexerting themselves. Dogs are not good judges of when they have “had enough” and they can run themselves right into a heat stroke. If you are outside playing or running with your pet, just think of yourself doing all the same activities…but in a fur coat. On warm days make sure you pack enough water for your furry friend – they will need about twice as many water breaks as you. And never push them onwards if they seem to be slowing down or are not used to that amount of exercise.

Signs that your pet may be experiencing a heat stroke include extreme lethargy or weakness, panting, feeling hot to the touch, very red gums, fast heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, stumbling, tremors and/or inability to walk. If you are suspicious your pet is experiencing heat stroke, give us a call at 301-258-0333 immediately! We may recommend offering water or placing a cool towel on your pet on the way to the clinic, but check with us first before performing these interventions. It is NEVER indicated to place your pet in an ice bath to treat a heat stroke – this action will actually make your pet worse.

Timing is crucial in these cases as heat strokes can cause severe damage to every organ in the body – mainly on the heart, brain, and kidneys. In the hospital, treatment begins immediately with gentle cooling, fluid therapy, supplemental oxygen, and an assessment of organ function. Hospitalized supportive care is critical for these patients, and unfortunately even with proper care the prognosis is guarded for a pet who is already having a heat stroke.

If you have any concerns about your pets exposure to heat or just have questions about how much outdoor activity your pet may be able to handle, please call us at 301-258-0333 for an appointment today!

Pet Dominion Wants to Know: What would you do if you saw a pet trapped in a car on a warm/hot day?  Have you ever experienced this while out and about?  How did you react?  Leave us your stories in the comments!

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