Phone : (515) 255-4464

4115 University Avenue, STE 200
Des Moines, IA 50311


Puppy Pack

_Photography-_Heartland_Animal_Hospital_IA_(191_of_326)Congratulations on your decision to add a new puppy to your family!  Whether you’re a first time owner or have been down this road many times, it is always exciting to share your love and happiness with a fuzzy ball of fur that will return the favor ten fold.

With this new addition comes great responsibility on your part as a new owner.  Because of this, the doctors and staff at Heartland Animal Hospital have designed an information packet to take you through the first year of your pup’s life.  The first few weeks that he or she is in your home are very critical for proper bonding, establishing your household hierarchy, and getting your puppy on track with optimal emotional and physical care.

Included in this packet you will find the hospital’s protocol and procedures on vaccination schedules, preventative care, house training, socialization, and much more.  Please refer to this packet as often as needed and always feel free to call us with any questions you may have.

It is our goal to make every visit to Heartland Animal Hospital as comfortable, compassionate, and pleasing as possible.  There is nothing we enjoy more than seeing you being dragged in the door by your four-legged friend because, of course, they are so happy to see us!

We hope your pet’s life will be a very long and happy one.  We thank-you for entrusting their medical care to us and we look forward to helping you have the best time of your life with your new best friend!!


 The following is a suggested list of supplies that you will need for your new puppy.

  • Puppy Food

  • Treats

  • Leash, Collar, and Identification Tag

  • Kennel or Crate

  • Dog Bed

  • Chew Toys (Kongs®, Tennis Balls, etc).

  • Wire Brush and Comb

  • Nail Trimmers (Scissor Type)

  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste

  • Shampoo

  • Stain and Odor Remover

  • Flea Control Products

  • Heartworm Preventative

Canine Vaccination Schedule

 It is crucial during the first four months of your dog’s life that he or she receives vaccinations to safeguard against many serious and potentially fatal upper respiratory, intestinal, and neurological diseases.

Puppies, like human babies, need to have a series of vaccinations in order to fight off infections and viruses.  They are vaccinated on a three-week schedule until they are four months of age, when their puppy series is complete.

Required Vaccinations for All Dogs

6 weeks                       DHP and Intestinal Parasite Exam

9 weeks                       DHP

12 weeks                     DHP and Bordetella

15 weeks                     DHP *, Rabies, and Intestinal Parasite Exam

18 weeks (21 weeks*) Leptospirosis*

*previously unvaccinated dogs older than 12 weeks must receive two DHP and Leptospirosis vaccinations three weeks apart

6 months                     Spay/Neuter and Heartworm Check

Semi-Annual              Intestinal Parasite Exam

Annually             Bordetella, Rabies **, DHP***, Leptospirosis

**After the second Rabies vaccine, this vaccine is given every year if overdue or every 3 years if given prior to due date, according to Iowa state law.

***After the first annual DHP vaccine, this vaccine is given every 3 years


D = Distemper                    – a virus that can cause respiratory and neurological problems.

H = Hepatitis                      – a virus that compromises liver function.

P = Parvovirus                   – aka “Parvo,” a virus that causes severe gastrointestinal upset, dehydration, and often kills puppies.

Bordetella                            – aka “Kennel Cough,” a bacterium that causes a deep hacking cough and upper respiratory infection.  This vaccine is required by most boarding and grooming facilities.

Rabies                                   – a virus that causes a fatal neurological disease that can be transmitted to humans.  This vaccine is required by state and city law.

Leptospirosis                      – a bacteria that can severely compromise kidney and liver functions.  Our vaccine protects against the four most common strains of Lepto.

Intestinal Parasite Exam     – a flotation test on a small sample of your dog’s feces.  This test detects intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, and Giardia).

Heartworm Test                – a simple blood test that detects the presence of female heartworms.  If the test is negative, then monthly heartworm prevention can be continued.  This test can not be performed until a dog reaches six months of age, even though monthly prevention is usually started at six to eight weeks of age.

Lyme Disease

This vaccine is recommended for dogs that will spend time camping, hiking, hunting, swimming, and/or visiting dog parks.

18 Weeks       Lyme Disease

21 Weeks       Lyme Disease

Annually       Lyme Disease*

*previously unvaccinated adult dogs must receive two vaccinations three weeks apart, then one vaccination annually

Lyme Disease – a tick-borne disease that can cause arthritis and joint problems.  Recommended in areas of high tick concentration or when visiting areas where there is a high frequency of Lyme Disease (northeastern Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri).

Yearly boosters are important in maintaining your dog’s protection from these deadly diseases.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are parasites (worms) that attack the heart and lungs of dogs that are not on preventative.  It takes a number of years before dogs show outward signs of infestation.  Consequently, the disease is diagnosed most often in four to eight year old dogs.  The disease is seldom diagnosed in a dog less than one year of age because the young worms take five to seven months to mature after infestation.  The most obvious signs of infestation are a soft, dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness, listlessness, and loss of stamina.  Damages that owners cannot see include an enlarged heart and organ damage.  Over time, if left untreated, heartworms will cause heart failure and death.

Heartworms are transferred through the bite of an infected mosquito.  Here in Iowa, mosquitoes are very common, and as we know, they often enter homes, so even indoor dogs need to be protected.  The good news is there are convenient monthly preventatives that can stop this deadly disease.  Even though mosquitoes are only a problem in the warmer months, it is recommended that your dog be given heartworm prevention monthly, because it also prevents common intestinal parasites.  Brochures are enclosed in the handout section that provide a more detailed description of the products we carry.

Dogs must be screened yearly for heartworm disease for two reasons.  First, if your dog has been on heartworm prevention for twelve months, we guarantee protection.  This guarantee includes roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and heartworms.  If your dog tests positive for any of these, treatment will be at no cost to you.  Second, if your dog has contracted heartworms, heartworm preventives alone will not take care of the infestation.  Other treatments are needed in specific stages to end the heartworm cycle.


Fleas are insects (parasites) that feed on your pet’s blood and cause other serious problems. A flea bite may go unnoticed with some pets, cause slight irritation in others, or can cause a severe allergic reaction. Reactions include intense itching, red lesions, hair loss, and ulcers. Anemia is a serious concern in pets that are severely infested, especially with puppies and kittens. Prolonged anemia will eventually lead to death.  Fleas can also transmit tapeworms and other diseases.

There are four stages in a flea life cycle: egg, pupae, larvae, and adult. Only one stage is found on your pet (the adult), the other three stages are found in the environment. The life cycle can be 12-180 days. Female fleas can lay 30-50 eggs a day and consume up to 15 times their body weight daily in blood. A flea can live from 2 weeks up to 2 years.

Preventing fleas is important and easier than treating an infested pet. The safest prevention can be found at your veterinary clinic.  Over the counter flea products such as Biospot® and Hartz® are more toxic and are known to cause severe reactions in cats, ferrets, children, and some dogs. Over the counter flea collars also cause reactions and are not an effective solution to prevent or control fleas. If you desire a flea collar, there are effective versions available at our clinic. Over-the-counter flea shampoos are also ineffective at treating an infested pet. There are also safe and effective products to treat your home and yard. Knockout™ Area Treatment is an excellent product for treating your home. There are also various outdoor products available at your local home and garden center.

The following steps should be taken when treating all infested pets and the home (if one pet has fleas, they are in the house, yard, and on all pets in the household). Flea prevention should be applied for a minimum of three consecutive months. Before you begin treating your home, you should vacuum all carpeted areas. The vibrations will bring out the fleas. Spray floors with Knockout™ ES Area Treatment and then vacuum again. Remember to throw away the vacuum bag immediately. Repeat this process in three weeks. Also wash all bedding in hot water.

Interesting Facts on Fleas

  • One in seven dogs and one in three cats have fleas IN THE WINTER.

  • There are 3,000 different types of fleas.

  • Adult fleas can jump 600 times an hour. Each jump, in terms of flea size, is the equivalent of a person clearing a 50 story building.

  • Record jump for a flea is 13 inches.

  • In 30 days, 25 female fleas can multiply to 250,000 fleas.

  • At any given time, only 5% of the flea population is in the adult stage.

Intestinal Parasite Exam

Intestinal parasites and protozoa are easily transmitted from infested pets to people.  Humans can also be infested with parasites through direct contact with infested fecal material.  That is why it is important that a sample of your pet’s stool be examined at 6 and 15 weeks and then every six months after.  If your pet is diagnosed with parasites, it is crucial that all medications be given as directed.  Also, keep your yard free of fecal material while treating your pet, so reinfestation does not occur.  Wash your hands thoroughly after discarding fecal material or interacting with your pet.

Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled organism (protozoa).  Coccidia are microscopic parasites that spend part of their life cycle in the lining of the intestine.  The most common problem caused by coccidiosis is diarrhea.

Roundworms are intestinal parasites that live freely in the intestine, feeding off of partially digested intestinal contents.  They are tubular in shape, often described as “spaghetti-like.”  Microscopic eggs are passed from infested pets in the feces.  These are ingested by sniffing or licking infested feces, or licking contaminated dirt.  Roundworms are most threatening to puppies and kittens.  The common characteristic “pot-belly” is due to the growing roundworm burden instead of a growing abdomen.  Diarrhea can be an indication of an infestation, and worms are sometimes seen in the stool or vomit.

Hookworms are parasites that get their name from the hook-like mouthparts they use to attach to the intestinal wall.  Pets may be infested with hookworms by four routes:  orally, through the skin, through the mother’s milk, and through the placenta before birth.  The most significant problems are diarrhea and anemia.

Whipworms are intestinal parasites that live in the cecum and colon of dogs.  The result of infestation is cyclic, bloody, liquid diarrhea and weight loss.

Tapeworms are flattened intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments.  The individual segments eventually shed and are passed in the feces.  Diagnosis is often made by seeing tapeworm segments in the feces or around the anus.  They often look like grains of rice.  Control of fleas is very important in the management and prevention of tapeworm infestation as tapeworms must first pass through a flea (or rabbit) before they can infest your pet.

Spaying and Neutering Your Dog

What Every Owner Should Know

  • Sexual activity will not mature your dog either mentally or physically. A puppy will grow to its full potential of size, weight, and personality with proper diets, care, and love.

  • A dog will not become obese or lethargic because of being either spayed or neutered. Dogs become obese from lack of exercise and too much food (or too many treats!).

  • A dog will be as good of a guard dog or protector if it is spayed or neutered. Personality and temperament are a product of heredity and environment, NOT HORMONES.  Altered pets will be less aggressive with other animals, but their basic reaction(s) to humans will remain the same.

  • A dog that has never been allowed to be sexually active does not know any better. Dogs do not have ‘feelings’ about sexual activity as humans do.  Such actions are only a means of reproduction.

  • The incidence of cancer is greatly reduced in dogs that have been spayed or neutered. Spaying/neutering may give added years to your dog’s life.

  • Spaying your dog is cost effective. If you take proper care of both the female and her litter, you will most likely lose money.  Remember, for every puppy you place, you have taken away the chance of another being adopted from an animal shelter, which results in thousands of animals being euthanized annually.

  • Neuter your dog for his protection. You will have fewer complaints from neighbors about roaming and noise.  Sexually active males become escape artists and are often killed while pursuing a female in heat.

Unsupervised mating can often cause physical damage to both male and female.  Your six-foot fence will not slow down, much less discourage, a determined male.


Each year, millions of lost or stolen pets never return home simply because they can not be identified.

Heartland Animal Hospital is proud to offer HomeAgain® Pet Microchip Identification System as part of a three-part program of responsible pet care.  This three part program is simple: we believe that the best way to help ensure your pet remains happy, healthy, and safe is to have your pet spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped.  By practicing these three simple steps with your pet, you can avoid unwanted litters, help prevent disease, and keep your pet from becoming one of the 10 million animals that are lost each year.

HomeAgain® Pet Microchip Identification System is the most completed nationwide system for recovering lost or stolen pets.  It utilizes a tiny microchip, the size of a grain of rice, which is implanted between your pet’s shoulder blades.  This procedure takes just seconds and is relatively painless.  It is recommended for companion pets of all species, breeds, and ages.  Individual numbers are registered in the national database.  When a lost pet arrives at a participating animal shelter or veterinary clinic, a Universal Scanner is used to identify the unique encoded number on the implanted microchip and the owner is identified and contacted immediately.  HomeAgain® microchips may be used on cats, dogs, ferrets, and other companion animals.

Remember, 1 in 3 pets is lost during their lifetime and only 1 in 10 is found.

Proper Diet

Ensuring that your pet lives and grows well starts with a proper diet.  At Heartland Animal Hospital, we carry several brands and types of food to meet the changing needs of your pet.  There have been numerous advances in dietary health for your pet.  Any problem from gastrointestinal upset to liver or kidney failure can be beneficially aided with a special diet.

Dry pet food is better for most pets because it has less chance of causing tarter build up.  Canned food sticks to teeth and, after years of feeding, can contribute to periodontal disease and tooth loss.

It is strongly recommended that you do not feed human food to your pet.  We know you may feel that a ‘treat’ once in a while will do no harm, but it does.  Pets are creatures of habit and do not get bored with eating the same thing day after day.  If you would like to give a treat (in moderation), there are several good treats for pets to choose from.

It is also important not to over feed your pet.  All diets that are sold at Heartland Animal Hospital include feeding guidelines on the bag.  These are only a guideline.  Your pet may require a little less or a little more than average.  Obesity is becoming a huge problem in the veterinary field; it is the most common nutritional disorder that occurs in pets.

A pet that is obese will develop many health problems over time.  Joint problems such as ruptured ligaments and arthritis can occur.  A pet that is overweight can also have breathing difficulties associated with heat intolerance.  Obesity predisposes pets to heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.  An obese pet is also a greater anesthetic and surgical risk.

There are several ways that you can prevent obesity or help a pet lose weight.

  1. Do a family survey to be sure who feeds the pet, what they feed, and how often.

  2. Make sure to feed each pet separately so you know the exact amount fed. This can also help you to detect decreases in appetite sooner, which can indicate illness.

  3. Feed your pet more often. It takes energy to digest food.  Dividing your pet’s daily ration into 2 or 3 feedings will help.

  4. Reducing your pet’s regular food amount by 25% will bring some results.

  5. Put pets in a separate room while you are eating to prevent begging.

  6. Substitute affection for treats. Give a pat or throw a toy when (s)he noses your hand.

  7. Break treats in half or use regular food kibbles.

  8. Most dogs and some cats enjoy fruits and vegetables (except grapes and onions) in addition to their regular diet.

  9. Many dogs also like ice cubes as a treat.

  10. Take your pet for a walk more often or play with them more.

House Training Your Dog

House training can be one of the most challenging aspects of owning a new puppy.  Following a few simple steps can greatly increase your success at house training.


Setting a routine and sticking to it will greatly increase your success at house training.  Remember that a young puppy can only control their bladder for 30-60 minutes.  Take your puppy outside on a leash every 30 to 60 minutes of waking time, and after naps and meals.  This helps to teach your puppy that before they get to play, they must first do their business.  When your puppy urinates or defecates outside, praise them verbally.  This allows the puppy to have something to work for and they will be more motivated to please you.  Go out the same door every time and to the same spot in the yard.  The more consistent you are, the faster things will click for your puppy.


Invest in a crate.  With the proper use of a crate, training becomes less of a challenge.  Most owners feel guilty for putting their puppy in a ‘box’ while they are not home.  Not only will the crate keep your puppy from getting into trouble while unsupervised, it will also save the carpet, furniture, and precious items you have in your house.  The crate becomes the puppy’s ‘den’, and they tend to not mess in their ‘den’.  The key is to use the crate whenever you can not supervise your puppy directly.  It must be small enough that they cannot urinate/defecate in one corner and then sleep in another.  Also, no blankets or absorbent material until your puppy is reliably (2 weeks minimum) not urinating/defecating in the crate.


If your puppy relieves itself on the carpet, stop the puppy (clap hands, make a loud noise, pick the puppy up).  Calmly take them outside to their designated spot and wait for them to finish.  If your puppy relives itself and you do not catch them in the act, DO NOT SCOLD THEM!  This will only teach them to relieve themselves where you cannot see.  Simply clean the area and be more watchful.  An enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle™ or Equalizer™ spray will break down the smell of urine and stool.  It is important to use products like these to eliminate the odor of urine and stool, making your puppy less likely to go in that same spot again.

Obedience Training

Obedience classes offer you the chance to socialize your puppy in a controlled environment.  They teach you the basic techniques needed to train your puppy and are valuable to even the most experienced dog owners.  They help teach your puppy to respond to your commands even in the most distracting environments.

There are many different training styles available.  Some trainers use only treats, some use clickers, while others use reprimands when the puppy is being inappropriate.  A good trainer uses a variety of techniques.  We suggest you talk to the trainer and/or observe a class before deciding on one.

Remember, a well trained dog is a welcome guest in other people’s homes, businesses, and out in public.  No matter how big or how small your puppy is, obedience classes are a necessary part of the training process.

Appropriate Play Toys

It is crucial that you control the pace and tone when playing with your dog.  There are certain games and types of playing that should not occur between you and your dog.

Tug of war may seem like a harmless game to play with your dog, but it is the complete opposite.  Tugging is a natural act of dominance.  In the wild chasing, tackling, and shaking prey to death are means of survival.  Even though your two pound Chihuahua eats dry food and never leaves your lap, he is a descendant of wild dogs, and these natural instincts still live with all domesticated dogs.  Wrestling or rough housing falls into the same category as tug of war for the same reasons.

Playing ball, Frisbee, or catch are best.  Not only will they make your dog sleepy due to vigorous exercise, it also leaves you in control.  When your dog brings the toy back to you, have them sit and give them the command of “give” or “release.”  This tells the dog that you will not play until they have honored your request, establishing you as the leader.

Appropriate toys for your dog include tennis balls (as long as they are supervised and not used for chewing), squeaky toys, and Kongs®.  Rope toys are all right, but always keep an eye on them.  If they start to fray, please discard them.  String foreign bodies generally do not pass and may need to be surgically removed.

Do not give your dog old shoes, socks, or stuffed animals since they cannot distinguish between old and new.

Dogs usually need constant stimulation, so a variety of two or three toys is best.  As they bore with one toy they can play with another.

Do not allow your dog to chew or bite any part of your body.  If he or she is doing so, give a stern ‘NO’ and then give them an appropriate toy to chew on.

Hazardous Household Products

 It’s only natural for animals to be curious.  But their curiosity can get them into trouble when they get into areas where you store household items, such as medicine and detergents.  Many common household items that you use everyday can be harmful, and sometimes even lethal, to your pet.



Balsam Pear

Japanese Plum

Yeast dough

Coffee grounds

Macadamia nuts

Tomato and potato leaves and stems


Onions and onion powder




Pear and peach kernels

Mushrooms (if also toxic to humans)




Xylitol (artificial sweetener in sugar-free gum and candies)

Common household items

Antifreeze and other car fluids

Bleach and cleaning fluids

Boric Acid




De-icing salts


Drain cleaners

Furniture polish


Hair colorings

Weed killers





Nail polish and remover


Rat Poison

Rubbing Alcohol

Shoe Polish.

Sleeping pills

Snail or slug bait


Windshield-wiper fluid

Prescription and non-Prescription medication

Symptoms of possible poisoning include: vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, salivation and weakness. If your pet ingests harmful chemicals, contact us, an emergency clinic, or a poison
control center immediately.

Dental Care

With recent advances in medical care, much has been learned about periodontal disease and the companion dog.  Without a regular oral care program, your dog can be at risk for multiple organ failure later in life.  This is because once the gums become infected; the bacteria that live below the gum line circulate throughout your pet’s body.  It then deposits itself in organs such as heart, liver, and kidneys.  The key to combating dental disease in your dog is to start early.

As a caregiver, there are several things you can do for your dog to reduce the buildup of plaque and tartar that will eventually lead to periodontal disease. This includes tooth brushing, oral hygiene solutions, providing a dental diet or dental treats, and regular dental cleaning.

When starting a dental program with your dog, short intervals are the key to success.  You want him or her to warm up to the idea of having their teeth and gums brushed.  Simply start out by letting the puppy lick the toothpaste off your finger.  Gradually start rubbing the teeth and gums with your finger, eventually adding the toothbrush.  It is very important that appropriate animal toothpaste be used.   DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE as the fluoride content is too high and will cause GI upset.  We carry C.E.T. dental products and have a variety of flavors.  Poultry, beef, salmon, and mint are just a few!  For optimal oral health it is recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth daily.  Realistically, several times weekly is better than nothing.

In conjunction with regular tooth brushing, adding Oxyfresh Pet Oral Hygiene Solution to your dog’s drinking water can significantly reduce plaque and tartar build up.  Oxyfresh is an odorless, tasteless product that acts as a “mouthwash” every time your dog takes a drink of water.  The Oxyfresh binds to and removes the bacteria that cause bad breath, plaque, and tartar.  This product is easy to use (just add one teaspoon per quart of drinking water) and is safe for dogs, cats, ferrets, and other pets.

Even with preventative care, most pets will need to have a professional dental cleaning at some point in their life.  A dental cleaning is an anesthetic procedure. Most pets will go home the same day.  Before we start the procedure, a preanesthetic blood profile is done to ensure your pet can handle the anesthesia.  During the dental cleaning, an ultrasonic scaler is used to remove tartar. Then, the teeth are fine detailed with a hand scaler and polished. Depending upon the condition of the teeth, some pets may also require extractions, have pockets filled, and antibiotics may be prescribed.  While your pet is under anesthetic, we monitor their heart rate, respiration, blood oxygenation, blood pressure, and body temperature. Pets will also receive fluid therapy to help maintain normal blood pressure.

Yearly dental exams are important to maintaining your dog’s health.


The amount and type of grooming needed varies by owner preference, the breed, and the individual dog.  Some owners prefer short, timed hair, while others like the look of long, flowing hair.  Some breeds and individuals have long hair prone to matting while other dogs have a tendency for getting dirty.

Finding a groomer is often like finding a hair stylist.  You may go to a few before you find the right one.  There are many groomers in the metro area, so  remember, pick your groomer based on positive experiences you and your dog have had.

Bathing also depends on your dog.  Some can go several months without needing a bath and others need to be bathed every 2-3 weeks.  We recommend that you bathe your dog no more than twice a month unless directed by your veterinarian.  Excessive bathing may dry out your dog’s coat and skin, leading to possible skin infections.  There are a number of shampoos and conditioners on the market.  In order to best meet the needs of your dog, we will recommend shampoos on an individual basis.  Most dogs can remain on hypoallergenic, soap free shampoos for the duration of their lives.  Others may need a little extra care when it comes to shampooing.

Brushing is another important aspect of coat care.  If you have a medium to longhaired dog you will need to brush him or her on a daily basis.  Dogs with short coats can be brushed 3-4 times weekly.  Brushing is great for the skin because it increases circulation and can be very relaxing for both you and your dog.  Brushing also benefits your dog by keeping the coat free from mats that can be very painful.

It is also important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed as short as possible.  You may be able to do this at home or you may need the assistance of our veterinary staff.  Clipping your dog’s nails every three weeks allows for optimal nail health.  Trimming nails will ensure that the quicks will not over grow.  When nails become too long, they break easily and over time can damage your dog’s feet.

 Anal Glands

Problems with the anal glands can be common in all dogs, regardless of size or breed.  The anal glands are two small pouches located on either side of the anus at approximately the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions.  These pouches are lined with numerous specialized sebaceous (skin) glands that produce a foul smelling secretion.  Each sac has a small duct, which opens just inside the anus.  The glands are present in both male and female dogs.  They normally empty when the dog defecates and the secretion acts as a territorial marker.

Anal gland problems often start with a thickening and hardening of the liquid in the gland.  This can result in an impaction of the gland. An impaction is uncomfortable for the dog and can be painful, especially when the dog is passing feces.  The first sign is often scooting or dragging the rear end along the ground and there may be excessive licking or biting, often at the root of the tail, rather than the anal area.  If the impaction is caught early enough, an anal gland expression done by your veterinary staff will solve the problem.  An untreated impaction can progress and become an abscess.  Abscesses are characterized by a swelling that appears on one or both sides of the anus. Abscesses often burst and release extremely foul smelling greenish-yellow liquid or bloody pus.  Treatment of an abscessed anal gland involves flushing and removal of the solidified material under anesthesia.  Once a dog has had an anal gland abscess, the owner must be quite diligent and have the dog’s anal glands expressed frequently to prevent reoccurrence.

Ear Infections

Some breeds are more prone to ear infections, but they may occur in any breed. The breeds more prone are particularly those with floppy or hairy ears such as Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Poodle crosses, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors.

Infection of the external ear canal (outer ear) is one of the most common types of infections seen in dogs.  It is called otitis externa.  Some breeds, particularly those with floppy or hairy ears such as Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Poodle crosses, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors, are more prone to ear infections, but they may occur in any breed.

Ear infections are painful.  Infected ears often become red, inflamed, and develop an offensive odor.  A black or yellowish discharge commonly occurs.  Many dogs will shake their head and scratch their ears trying to get the debris and fluid out.  Head shaking and scratching can also cause broken blood vessels in the earflap, called an ear hematoma, which requires surgery to correct.

There are several kinds of bacteria and at least one type of fungus which commonly cause ear infections.  A simple ear swab can help us to determine which type(s) of infection is present.  A thorough ear exam is also necessary to determine if the eardrum is intact and to rule out a foreign body or tumor as the cause of infection.  Treatment with medication alone will not resolve the problem is there is a foreign body or tumor.

Chronic ear infections can penetrate the eardrum resulting in an internal ear infection and possible permanent hearing loss.  Closing of the ear canal is another result of chronic ear infections.  There are medications that can shrink the swollen tissues and open the ear canal in some dogs, while other dogs require surgery to open the canal.

The key to preventing ear infections is to stay ahead of them.  Ear cleaning helps rid the ear canal of moisture and foreign material.  All ear cleaners that we carry have a drying agent.  Dogs that have been diagnosed with the ear infections should have their ears cleaned as directed.  Otherwise ears should be cleaned every one to two weeks and after swimming or bathing.  Dogs with hair in the ear canals should have the hair plucked periodically to allow more air into the ear canal and allow for better drying.  If your dog goes to a groomer, always make sure they are getting their ears cleaned and plucked.

Establishing Leadership

 Dogs are commonly treated like the leader of their ‘pack’ by being allowed to get up on beds and furniture, eating out of overflowing bowls whenever they want, coming and going as they please, having lots of unearned possessions to guard (toys), and being able to demand being petted, to go outside, or to be left alone.  It is important to establish yourself as the leader in a way your dog will understand.  Dogs’ methods of relating to each other rely on posturing, social ritual, and avoiding confrontation.  You and the other humans in the ‘pack’ need to appear as strong, dependable, consistent, and non-confrontational leaders who know the posturing and social rituals that make sense to your dog.  Listed are some exercises that will help teach your puppy that you are the leader so he will not feel he needs to take over that role.


  • Feed your puppy regularly scheduled meals. Follow the advice of your veterinarian for how much and how often.

  • Have your puppy sit before offering him his meal. Be ready to block him when you place the bowl on the ground so he does not dive for it.  Have your puppy wait until you say it is okay to eat.

  • Your puppy must finish his entire meal in one sitting. If he leaves the bowl, pick it up until the next scheduled feeding.

  • Your puppy should allow you to approach the food bowl when he is eating without any growling or snarling.


  • Your puppy should not be allowed to sleep on beds or furniture. He should sleep in a crate at night and when you are not home.

  • Your puppy should accept being moved from any sleeping or resting place.

House Manners

  • No free lunch policy: your puppy must perform simple obedience cues to get something he likes (petting, a walk, playing with toys, etc).

  • Your puppy should allow you to go through doorways first. Teach your puppy to sit and wait for you to go through the door and then give a release cue before going through the door after you.

  • Ask your puppy to sit before being pet. Be sure to pay attention to your puppy when he is being quiet and good, not when he is misbehaving.

Good Manners at the Veterinarian’s Office (and Groomers!)

  • Handle your puppy in a variety of positions to get him used to being touched. Make sure to play with the ears and feet.  Roll him over onto his back and sides.  Be sure to reward your puppy only when he is not struggling.  Look in his mouth.  Lift his eyelids.  These actions will make it easier for the doctor to examine him.

  • Do not make a big deal of going to the veterinarian’s. If your puppy perceives from you that something big is going to happen, then he will become more nervous and fearful.

Keep in mind that once your role has been established then your dog may earn privileges such as being on the couch, bed, etc.  If he ever starts acting badly when privileges are added, simply take the privilege away.  By only allowing privileges that don’t affect your puppy’s behavior, you can give your puppy a great deal of freedom in his life while still being a good leader.


An allergy is a state of over-reactivity of the immune system of a pet to a particular substance called an allergen.  Most allergens are proteins.  The allergen protein may be of insect, plant, or animal origin.  Examples of common allergens are pollens, mold spores, dust mites, shed skin cells, insect proteins such as flea saliva, and some medications.

The most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either in one area or all over the body.  Respiratory symptoms are also common and can include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and runny discharge from eyes or nose.  Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur with food allergies.

There are four common types of allergies: contact, flea, inhalant, and food. A contact allergy results from direct contact to allergens contained in flea collars or bedding, such as pyrethrins or wool.  Irritation and itching of the skin may occur with these.  Bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo may help soothe the pet’s skin.  This will also help rinse the allergens off the coat so they do not absorb into the skin.  Once the allergen is removed, the problem is solved.

A flea allergy is the inflammatory response from the saliva of a flea bite. It is a common allergy in pets and causes severe itching and biting, resulting in hair loss.  Normally this occurs over the rump in the tail base region. Control and prevention consists of treating the pet with Frontline Gold®, Nexgard®, Bravecto®, Advantage Multi®, or a Seresto™ collar. In severe cases, prednisone or Apoquel may be prescribed to help relieve itching.

Inhalant allergies are simply allergens that are inhaled by the pet that cause a reaction.  Common inhalant allergens are tree, grass or weed pollens, molds, mildew, and dust mites.  Many of the pollens occur seasonally, whereas mold, mildew, and dust mites may last all year round.  This may cause the pet to rub their face, lick their feet, scratch all over, or drag their bottom.  This type of allergy is often treated symptomatically with an anti-inflammatory and/or antihistamines.  If the response is unsatisfactory, an allergy test can be performed to determine what the pet is allergic to and then allergy shots to the specific allergen can be given.

Food allergies are a response to a protein component of the food or a particular food origin such as beef, chicken, pork, wheat, and/or dairy products.  Clinical signs can include the symptoms mentioned above: itching, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, and/or anal gland problems.  This is a type of allergy that is determined through a process of elimination.  If the pet does not respond to previous treatments, a food allergy must be taken into consideration.  A special hypoallergenic food with be prescribed will need to be fed for 8-12 weeks before a response is seen.  During this time the pet may not be fed table food, treats, or vitamins as this will interfere with the food trial.  If a positive response occurs, then the pet will continue that diet and other foods or treats can slowly be added in to determine what the offending food is.

The symptoms of allergies can be confused with other disorders or can coexist with them.  Therefore, do not attempt to diagnose your dog without consulting your veterinarian.  If an allergy is diagnosed and identified, the whole family must follow your veterinarian’s advice very closely if success in controlling the problems is to be achieved.


Arthritis is inflammation of the joint and can come in many forms, with the most common being osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease that affects joint cartilage. This causes the joint cartilage to wear roughly, ulcerate, and in some cases dissolve or disappear causing bone to rub on bone. These bones are rich with nerves and readily transmit painful impulses.

Since the disease is degenerative, it is important that an accurate diagnosis is made as early as possible and the immediate treatment is begun.  Radiographs may be helpful in the diagnosis of moderate to advanced disease because it can ascertain the severity and extent of the damage.  Sometimes diagnosis is made based on owner reported signs, especially in early stages of the disease, before degeneration can be seen on radiographs.  Common signs of OA include decreased activity, weight gain, shortened stride, dragging of the toenails, stumbling, and generalized weakness.  Pets with musculoskeletal problems, such as him or elbow dysplasia, are at higher risk for developing OA.  Other risk factors include obesity, being over the age of 7 years, being a large breed (lab, golden, etc.), or having short, crooked legs (basset hounds, dachshunds, etc.).

Treatment usually consists of three interrelated therapies, including exercise, diet, and pharmacological agents.  Exercise should be low impact, such as leash walking or swimming to increase muscle strength and joint stability.  Diet is especially important in overweight pets.  The heavier they are, the more strain is placed on the joints.  Last, the use of pharmacological agents may be necessary, which will not cure the disease but provide pain relief.  The veterinarian may prescribe a fast acting, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.  Also, using glucosamine and/or chondroitin supplements may help slow down the degenerative process and decrease the need for prescription medications.  Steroids may be used, but usually as a last resort because of the possible side effects and organ damage associated with chronic long-term use.

Important Phone Numbers

Iowa Veterinary Referral Center (24hr/7days a week emergencies)

4631 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines, IA 50322

(515) 727-4872

Iowa Veterinary Specialties (24 hr/7days a week emergencies)

6110 Creston Ave, Des Moines, IA 50321

(515) 280-3051

Des Moines Animal Control

(515) 283-4811 (non-emergency dispatch)

Des Moines Animal Care and Control

(515) 284-6905

West Des Moines Animal Control

(515) 222-3321

Urbandale Animal Control

(515) 278-3911

Windsor Heights Animal Control

(515) 279-3662

Clive Animal Control

(515) 278-1312

Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Des Moines

(515) 266-2005

Poison Control

(800) 222-1222

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

1-888-426-4435 (covered with HomeAgain membership)

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