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252 West Ina Road, Tucson, AZ 85704, United States
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Do Small Dogs Live Longer?
As a practicing veterinarian of over twenty years, I’ve been nagged by an obvious and seemingly unanswerable question: why do small dogs live longer than large dogs? For years it’s been widely accepted and understood in the pet world that tiny teacup poodles will live ten or more years longer than a Great Dane. They’re both dogs, share the same basic DNA, eat the same types of foods, and live in similar homes. Yet one breed lives up to three times longer. Why? New research sheds some light on this issue.
In the April issue of the scientific journal “The American Naturalist,” biologists at Germany’s University of Göttingen explored the relationship between size of dog breeds and life expectancy. Researchers analyzed data on over 56,000 dogs representing 74 breeds that visited North American veterinary teaching hospitals. The scientists found that larger dogs appeared to age at a faster rate than smaller dogs. Interestingly, the research concluded that every increase in 4.4 pounds (2 kg) reduces life expectancy by approximately one month.
Okay, so my observations on small dogs living longer than big dogs were correct. But why?
That has yet to be definitively determined. Lead researcher Cornelia Kraus has been quoted saying that larger dogs’ lives “seem to unwind in fast motion.” Her research found that bigger breeds died more often from cancer than their tinier canine cousins. Kraus speculates that because large breeds grow faster and age quicker than small breeds, that abnormal cell growth found in cancers would be more likely. Another possibility is that larger dogs start aging at an earlier age, thus developing age-related diseases earlier. Kraus also postulated that larger dogs may simply live riskier or more dangerous lifestyles than dogs carried in handbags, thus leading to earlier mortality.
When Kraus and her colleagues plotted each of these three possibilities with the data, she found that the “faster aging” hypothesis was most consistent with her findings.
My own suspicion is that in addition to accelerated cell division and growth, researchers will also discover more genetic abnormalities in large breeds due to fewer breeding pairs and smaller geographic distributions. I also think they’ll find differences in key hormones such as IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor 1, something scientists have previously suggested. After all, we’ve created these breeds to suit our particular working needs and tastes without regard to their individual longevity. In addition, many giant breed dogs aren’t as popular as more compact canines, especially in the United States. For example, the top three largest breeds in this year’s top 10 American Kennel Club (AKC) breeds list are Labrador and Golden retrievers and German shepherd dogs. Not exactly Great Dane and mastiff-sized canines. In fact, of the large breeds Rottweilers ranked ninth in 2012, Dobermans peaked at 12, Great Danes reached 17, and Mastiffs topped out at 26. All the rest of the most popular breeds are smaller.
So this particular research didn’t exactly answer my question. Yet. Kraus and her colleagues are now pursuing why the death rates are younger in large breeds since they’ve established that it does, in fact, occur.
by Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM
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Sometimes, You Just Need To Follow the Directions

“But Rebel was fine. Why should I give him the pills once he’s better? I don’t understand why he’s sick again.”

If I’ve heard that excuse once, I’ve heard it a thousand times during the past 21 years of veterinary practice. And I still don’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe my clients mean any harm. I understand that administering a pet pills and potions can be challenging at times. The sooner you can stop the better for everyone. But don’t stop before you’re supposed to.

Garfield was a kitty with bathroom problems. By bathroom problems, I mean chronic diarrhea. Smudges on the sofa; runs on the rugs; piles on the plush. After a series of tests, I made a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One of the first steps I take when treating IBD is changing diet. By changing diet, I mean feeding a different food. Maybe I didn’t communicate it clearly enough.

“She’s no better, maybe even worse.” I felt immediately welcome. “That fancy, expensive diet didn’t do a thing.” The temperature in the room raised a degree or ten.

The thing about dietary trials is you have to give them time to work. Changing diets for eight weeks is typically a good start. Garfield should’ve been on the special diet for four weeks by this time.

“I had to give that food to my neighbor after a week because it obviously wasn’t helping.” So she only gave the food for a week? “Of course! Since then I’ve been trying every food I could find at the grocery store.”

Shoot me now. Drive hot pokers in my eyes. Anything to get me out of this exam room. All I could think of was how much time I’d spent explaining why we change protein sources, how the ingredients in many foods are the triggers for IBD, the need to stick with a therapeutic diet for a month to see if it would help. All forgotten after a week. But my day was about to get better.

“My neighbor told me her cat got better after six months of doing nothing. I think that’s what I’ll do.”

She’d somehow forgotten that her cat’s diarrhea had gotten progressively worse over the past three or four months before she finally brought Garfield to me. Somebody give me a fork covered in cayenne.

The biggest treatment mistake pet parents make is not completing a prescription. They stop short a few days because their pet appears normal. They allow their dog to resume normal activity because he wants to go outside. They wait a few extra days to see if the problem gets better. They give their pet an extra goodie despite the vet’s insistence they feed a special diet. And then they wonder why things return or don’t improve.

There’s a couple of things you need to know: 1) Vets don’t know exactly how long a pet needs a medication or treatment. We often err on the safe side and add a few extra days. Most of the time, in my experience, the pet needs those few extra days. 2) You can’t see most healing. When your pet has cleared 80% of an infection or 75% of the injured tissue has healed, they appear fine. So you stop whatever it is you’re doing. In a few days or couple of weeks, the infection returns with a vengeance or the pet reinjures itself. Happens all the time. Doesn’t have to. 3) Vets aren’t wasteful. I don’t give meds or treatments unless the pet needs it. Use as directed. And finish it.
Sometimes you need to follow the directions. You’ll save yourself time, money, and frustration while helping your best friend.

Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM
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What is bothering your cat? It could be feline allergies

Like people, our feline friends can develop allergies. This happens when their immune systems become sensitive to substances present in their surroundings. Known as allergens, these irritating substances may not bother you or other animals in your home, but as your cat’s body tries to get rid of the offending substances, he might show all kinds of symptoms.
Because there is such a wide variety of allergens, cat allergies are generally divided into 3 main categories: flea allergy, environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis), and food allergy. Flea allergy and environmental allergies – the ones that cause “hay fever” symptoms in humans – are the most common. However, cats often have multiple allergies, so a thorough examination by your veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist is recommended.
Allergic kitties are often very itchy and have skin problems associated with allergic dermatitis. They also might exhibit some of these symptoms:
 •Sneezing, coughing, and wheezing – especially if the cat has asthma   
 •Itchy, runny eyes
 •Ear infections
 •Vomiting or diarrhea
 •Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
 •Paw chewing or swollen, sensitive paws
There are a variety of allergens that cause these symptoms:
 •Pollen, grass, plants, mold, mildew, and other organic substances
 •Perfumes and colognes
 •Fleas or flea-control products
 •Household cleaning products
 •Prescription drugs
 •Some cat litters
Gastrointestinal symptoms usually accompany a food allergy, so it is important to avoid feeding your cat food to which he or she has a known allergy. Also, allergies tend to be more common among outdoor cats because they are exposed to a wider range of potential allergens, especially from plants and organic matter.
If something appears to be making your kitty miserable, the best thing to do is pay your veterinarian a visit. He or she will initially do a complete history and physical exam for your cat to determine the source of the allergies.
If your vet suspects your cat has allergies, he might want to perform blood tests or experiment with your kitty’s diet to narrow down the cause. Or, if your vet thinks your cat has a skin allergy, your cat might be referred to a veterinary dermatologist.
Treatment & Prevention
The best way to treat your cat’s allergies is to remove the allergens from his or her environment. For instance, if your cat’s allergies are caused by fleas, using veterinarian-recommended flea and tick preventatives can eliminate the cause. If the problem is cat litter, substituting your normal litter for a dust-free alternative could do the trick. In fact, this might help correct a bigger problem if your cat’s been missing his or her litter box.
When it comes to pollen, fungus, mold, or dust, bathing your cat a couple of times per week can help alleviate itching. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate shampoo to help you avoid drying out your cat’s skin.
A diagnosis of food allergies may require you to provide your cat with a prescription diet or even home-cooked meals free of the offending allergens. Your veterinarian will provide recommendations as to the best course of action. It is possible that your cat will need dietary supplements to ensure your he gets all the vital nutrients he needs.
Medication is sometimes prescribed for cats in case certain allergens cannot be removed from the environment. Medications include:
 •Cortisone, steroids, or allergy injections  for airborne pollens
 •Antihistamines as a preventative
 •Flea prevention products
How do allergies affect asthma?
If your cat is allergic to environmental pollutants, it may worsen your cat’s asthma. In this case, your vet may prescribe medications that open your cat’s airway for the short-term; long term solutions include corticosteroids. And here’s a good reminder: cigarette smoke is bad for your cat, especially if your cat has asthma.
.... - See more at:
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Rabies: What every pet owner MUST know
Always fatal, rabies can be prevented through vaccination and caution
 When you think of rabies, you probably picture an angry, growling dog foaming at the mouth and aggressively advancing on all who come near him. While the drool, the frothing mouth, and the angry disposition are an accurate representation of a typical case of rabies, there’s more that you should know.
Rabies is something you DON’T want your pet to end up with. It can affect all mammals. Always fatal, rabies is a viral infection that affects your pet’s brain and central nervous system (CNS). Primarily spread through the bite of infected animals such as foxes, raccoons, bats, and skunks, rabies is a zoonotic infection that can affect all mammals, meaning it can be transmitted to humans.
 Rabies can cause several symptoms, but there are some telltale signs. Early stages may merely cause mild abnormalities with the central nervous system, such as weakness and loss of coordination. This can last up to three days before progressing rather rapidly to the severe symptoms many are familiar with, ranging from paralysis to extreme behavior swings.
Here’s a list of signs and symptoms to watch for:
•Change in tone of bark
•Lack of coordination
•Change in behavior/irritable/unusually shy or aggressive
•Excessive salivation
•Inability to swallow
 If you think your pet may have been bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal, it’s crucial to contact your veterinarian immediately! Your pet must be quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease, and the amount of quarantine time depends on several factors, including state and local regulations, whether or not your pet was vaccinated against rabies, and/or whether or not the animal your pet encountered is a confirmed rabies case.
Since there are other diseases that can cause behavior changes similar to those caused by rabies, your veterinarian may want to run tests to rule out other issues. These tests may include:
•Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
•Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
•A complete blood count (CBC) to screen your pet for infection, inflammation, or anemia and other blood-related conditions
•Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infection and other diseases, and to evaluate the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine
•Screening tests to rule out certain infectious diseases
 It is important to keep in mind that there are no blood tests that can be performed by a veterinarian to test for rabies. Testing must be done post-mortem (after death) to verify a rabies case, and this testing is performed in a state-authorized laboratory. Any confirmed cases of rabies should be reported to your state health department.
 Sadly, there’s no treatment for rabies. It is always fatal in an unvaccinated animal, which is why it is very important for pets to stay current on their rabies vaccinations through regular booster shots. Rabies protocols vary from state to state; some states require pets to have rabies shots each year while others do not. To learn more about your state’s laws concerning rabies, talk with your veterinarian or contact state officials in your home state.
Always follow the recommendations of your veterinarian, and when you have your pet vaccinated, keep your vaccination record handy for proof of vaccination. If your pet were to be bitten by another animal, or if your pet bites another animal, this can save your pet’s life.
Protect Yourself!
 If your pet comes into contact with a potentially rabid animal, be careful! Because you and others are in danger, it’s important to avoid contact with your pet’s saliva. Immediately disinfect any areas your pet may have come in contact with using a bleach solution. If you have been bitten or scratched yourself, contact your physician immediately.
To learn more about rabies, visit the Center for Disease Control at
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What Is Quality of Life For Pets?
Pets don't need a fancy red sports car, a generous retirement account or a fulfilling job.
Their basic needs include being able to eat, drink, breathe, walk, urinate, defecate, groom and sleep, all in a pain free manner. And hopefully, you can expect a little tail wag here and there from a dog and a happy meow from a cat.
This list is certainly debatable, I admit it. One could add that a pet should be free of loneliness, fear and boredom. But I think the short list is a good starting point when you consider medical conditions.
If any of these basic bodily functions doesn't take place, or if it occurs with discomfort or pain, then your pet has a decreased quality of life. What can you do then? You need to start by having a serious conversation with your family veterinarian.
Questions that need to be answered are: Why is my pet painful? How can we decrease the pain? Can medications or surgery help?
For example, if your dog limps, pain medications, surgery, joint supplements, weight-loss or a "joint food" might help. If your cat has a tumor, surgery may help get rid of it. If your pet has a hormone imbalance, medications may solve the problem. The list goes on...
How can you tell if your pet's quality of life is changing? One subjective but simple way is to use a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being the poorest quality of life and 10 being the best. If you rate your pet as a 9 in January and a 3 in June, then it is time to face reality. You need to have a heart-to-heart discussion with your family and your veterinarian about what can realistically be done.
For a more thorough & slightly fancier quality of life scale, you can visit If you question your pet’s quality of life, you can print a few copies of the “HHHHHMM” Quality of Life scale. Then fill in a form regularly, monthly, weekly or even daily depending on the situation. This will help you see a trend more objectively: is your pet’s status the same, better, or worse than last time you assessed the situation?
Remember this very important concept: "age is not a disease." Just because a pet is 12 or 14 or 16 years old does not mean you should give up easily. That said, if neither pain management nor medical and surgical treatments can help, then maybe it is time to consider euthanasia.
As emotionally and ethically difficult as it is for a pet owner, the whole family, and the veterinarian and his/her staff, euthanasia is sometimes the only reasonable, humane solution. It may be the only way your pet finds relief. For a pet, quality of life includes the right to end suffering with dignity when all reasonable options have been exhausted.
by Dr. Phil Zeltzman
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How To Tell If You Have An Awesome Vet
Dear reader, how would you describe your vet? Is (s)he good? excellent? Or awesome?
Let me share with you my top secret to judge how good a family vet is. To clarify, I am a surgeon. Family vets refer difficult surgery patients to me. So I have a somewhat unusual "system" to rate my beloved colleagues.
Cinnamon, a gorgeous 6-year old Golden retriever, had a "hot spot." His owner took him to his family vet, Dr. C. A hot spot is an area in the skin that a dog licks so feverishly, that it becomes hairless, raw, red, irritated and painful. It is so annoying that the poor dog becomes obsessed with the hot spot. Licking and chewing only make things worse.
But back to Cinnamon. Instead of simply sending him home with a prescription for cortisone cream and maybe antibiotics, Dr. C went on to perform a complete physical exam. There was nothing else to report... except for a small mass in the thyroid area. She doubled checked, but there was little doubt in her mind: Cinnamon most likely had a thyroid tumor.
She kindly referred the patient to me. We performed surgery to remove the mass... which the lab diagnosed as cancer. Clearly the hot spot was the least of his problems. But because his family vet found it so early, Cinnamon should logically do better than if the tumor had been found after growing for several weeks or even several months.
Thunder, an 8 year old German shepherd, was due for her "shots." To many pet owners and some vets, this may seem like a routine, boring, necessary evil... Once a year, the pet is schlepped to the vet. Pet hates car ride. Vet gives shots. Pet hates vet. Owner hates paying the bill. Nobody seems very happy here.
But Thunder's family vet, Dr. T, does not see the situation like that at all. He educates all of his clients so that they understand that the yearly vaccines are important, but the yearly physical is even more important.
Which is why Dr. T performs a thorough physical exam and comments on his findings out loud. "Wow, nice teeth. Looks like you're doing a great job brushing Thunder's teeth." "The left ear is a little bit red, we will check to see if there is an infection in there." And so on and so forth. Organ by organ.
Only after a full physical does Dr. T give the vaccines.
But that day, the conscientious Doctor felt that Thunder's spleen was irregular. He focused on the area, and became convinced that the spleen had a mass. He referred Thunder to me for surgery. Fortunately, the spleen is a somewhat expendable organ, so it was removed. It was then sent to the lab for analysis.
Masses in the spleen have about a 50-50 chance of being cancerous.
But fortunately for Thunder, the mass was benign! Regardless, had it been left undetected, it would most likely have grown, causing anemia (a low red blood cell count) and possibly could have ruptured, causing internal bleeding.
Dr. T's dedication and thoroughness avoided such complications, and Thunder's owner should be very grateful for that.
These stories are not unusual in my world. Some of my colleagues have found tumors in an anal gland ONLY because they performed a "routine" rectal exam; or a mass way in the back of the mouth, simply because they looked; or a mass deep down at the bottom of the ear canal, simply because they took the time to check.
Now please understand that I am not saying that a good vet is one who finds a tumor every time you walk into the clinic!
In my mind, the two family vets above are modern heroes. Instead of rushing through a "routine" exam for a minor issue, they performed a thorough physical exam, from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
This, in my mind, is the mark of awesome vets. They don't jump to conclusions. They don't just do the obvious and wave goodbye. They don't simply focus on the tip of the iceberg. They don't believe in the 2-minute veterinary consult.
Awesome vets perform a full exam, write their findings, and share them with you, the dedicated pet parent.
Keep that in mind during your next visit to the vet.
Note: names have been changed to protect the patients' privacy, but the stories are real.
Dr. Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
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Does Your Pet Have Arthritis?
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
As pets get older, they often move around less. Yet as the saying goes, “age is not a disease.”  Up to 30% of adult cats and dogs are affected by arthritis.  Because it is often overlooked, arthritis has been called a “silent epidemic.”  How can you tell if your pet has arthritis?

In people, arthritis can just "show up" with age. In pets, it is most often the result of another condition or an injury. Many dog owners have heard of hip dysplasia, a common form of hip arthritis.  Arthritis can affect any joint, most commonly hips, knees and elbows. A tear of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) will lead to arthritis of the knee.  Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is an ongoing condition that damages cartilage. This leads to pain, swelling and inflammation (irritation) in one or several joints. The end-result is lack of range of motion, muscle loss, decreased mobility and lameness.

Signs of arthritis in pets include reluctance to walk or jump (e.g. onto a favorite couch, into the car or on your kitchen counter), difficulty doing stairs or playing a favorite game, or trouble getting up. Limping is very common. Crying out in pain may be noticed. Some vague signs can also be noticed, such as lack of appetite and restlessness. In cats, a classic but often ignored sign is a decrease in grooming.
The diagnosis of arthritis starts with a thorough physical and orthopedic exam by your family vet. This includes an exam awake to sort things out. For example, some medical and neurological conditions can make your pet slow down, but they have nothing to do with arthritis. Many other conditions need to be ruled out by your vet. After blood work is performed, another exam and X-rays under sedation or anesthesia may be recommended. More advanced testing, performed by your family vet or a surgeon, includes taking a fluid sample from the joint with a syringe and needle (a "joint tap"). The fluid can then be sent to the lab for analysis.
Once arthritis is actually proven, there are multiple options to help your pet, which you can discuss with your family vet.
There are other rare forms of arthritis due to ticks, infections or immune-mediated diseases. Even though the process can be difficult, only a vet (i.e. not your neighbor - no offense) can help reach an accurate diagnosis and design an appropriate treatment. Putting a pet on long-term pain killers or anti-inflammatory drugs without knowing for sure whether or not arthritis is the problem is not desirable. An accurate diagnosis is the first step.
Most of the time, with the appropriate treatment, pets with arthritis can be helped and lead a happy, comfortable life for many years.
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For over 30 years our veterinarians and staff have been providing quality health care for your pets. Compassionate care is an important part of proper medical care. For the creatures who share our homes and lives, the Northwest Pet Clinic strives to be a place of healing, helping and kindness.

Sunday7:30 am–5:00 pm
Monday7:30 am–9:00 pm
Tuesday7:30 am–9:00 pm
Wednesday7:30 am–9:00 pm
Thursday7:30 am–9:00 pm
Friday7:30 am–9:00 pm
Saturday7:30 am–5:00 pm
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(520) 742-4148
252 West Ina Road, Tucson, AZ 85704, United States
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