Dog days: Answering questions about caring for your pet

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher / Photo

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher / Photo

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

A lot of this has to do with studies on immunity, but also what the vaccine is made out of. The vaccines that can be spread out to every three years are all vaccines for viruses. Yearly vaccines are all what we call bacterins, or vaccines made to prevent illnesses from bacteria instead of viruses.

At this point the studies to support how long a vaccine lasts haven’t pointed to these bacterins lasting longer than a year. That is why leptospirosis, Lyme and bordetella (kennel cough) are all yearly. While there may be a time in the future when these vaccines are altered to provide longer-lasting immunity, right now they show a sharp decline even two months past their due date! That is why we are so strict about keeping these on a schedule. In fact, if your pet has gone more than two years without a lepto or Lyme vaccine they have to start the series over, complete with a booster.

Mud itself isn’t bad for their skin, but anytime we have something trapping moisture against the skin we can see issues. Because mud will hold hair and moisture against the skin, it creates a better environment for normal skin inhabitants like bacteria and some fungal components to go wild and invade. Dogs can get hot spots just like in the summer when hair holds water near the skin. Horses develop fungal infections near their feet when they are consistently standing in wet or muddy areas. While most of our dogs don’t spend as much time outside as horses, the same ideas apply.

We certainly can’t prevent our dogs from getting muddy this time of year, though! My recommendation is to either wash or brush dried mud off your dog and make sure their skin is dry before they settle into the house. This will make a difference both in his skin and your house.

This is a good question. Since we are seeing days where the temperature hits 65 followed by weekends of single digits, there is an extra lack of consistency this spring. The tricky thing about ticks is that they don’t need consistency in weather. If there is a run or 2 or 100 days with freezing weather, the ticks will hang out and wait. All it takes is one day with temperatures above about 36 degrees F for them to wake up and come out. I had a tick on my dog last week on the warm day, even though the surrounding days were cold.

Long story short, ticks don’t come out for the year. They can come out for just one day. Because our winters lately have been so inconsistent, I recommend using tick prevention year-round.

Unfortunately, all it takes is one tick that is carrying the Lyme organism to bite once. When we try to play the waiting game, by the time we think about whether the ticks will be out or not, it can be too late. We have already seen dogs this year with Lyme nephritis and it is barely spring, but with a winter like we have had, you can never be too careful.

These drastic temperature changes aren’t just confusing for us, they are hard for our pets too! The humidity and temperature all make a difference with thirst. On very warm, very cold or very dry days our pets will drink more. When the temperature then comes up to a neutral zone or our house heat runs less, they will drink less.

It is great that you are paying attention to their water consumption, but we worry more about trends. Monitor their urine for changes in color and smell, which will help pinpoint if it is one pet specifically. Some back and forth isn’t too concerning, but if one pet is drinking much more or much less, then it is likely time to get them checked out. Also, make sure nothing is changing in the water that makes it less appealing during the times when you feel they are not drinking very much.

Some pets (including one of my dogs) are so inconsistent in water consumption that I advise adding water to their meals. Your vet can tell you the perfect amount for their body weight, and if you add part of their water needs to meals it can help balance out how much water they consume. This is a good option if you are having trouble quantifying how much each one is drinking, and is especially easy for most dogs who eat in meals.

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher is a veterinarian at All Points Animal Care in Rutland. Have a question on this or any animal health topic? E-MAIL:

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