Ask Stream Valley
Wondering what you need for a new pet parakeet? Want to know what grooming style options are available for your cat? Looking for more information about your dog's prescription diet? Ask us! Just fill out the form at the bottom of the page to submit your question!
Note: we cannot answer specific medical inquiries online. If you have individualized health care questions, please give us a call to discuss. We may use your question online in a generalized way, but for the health and safety of your pet, contact us to schedule an appointment for true medical and/or emergency concerns. Thank you!
Catch up with all of our Q & A sessions in the Ask Stream Valley Archives!
You asked; we answered!
November 3, 2015
A Client Asks:
There was a bumper crop of hickory and acorns this fall and my dog is in heaven! Despite my best efforts to keep him from consuming a bushel each day, he's been eating them each time we go outside. It doesn't appear that hickory or acorns are toxic to dogs, but are there any concerns about nut consumption? Gastritis? Intestinal blockage? Or am I just a nervous Nelly?
In a case like this, it's best to contact your veterinary staff ASAP. You'll want immediate answers, rather than waiting for website Q & A. We get why you're nervous: what if these items are dangerous? What if he suffers some real harm? That fear should prompt you to call the vet right away. You're better safe than sorry!
Having said that, the occasional acorn doesn't generally cause a problem, as found via this ASPCA Pet Poison Control FAQ post: https://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/acorn. However, you are correct in worrying about blockage or other issues. And the fact that your dog is consuming so many at a time can interfere with regular diet and nutrition. It could also be a signal that something else it at play, whether it's a deficiency, a compulsive behavior, or a food palatability problem. As you've probably guessed, this means that we need to talk with you and quite likely get you and your dog in to see our medical staff so that we can get more background information from you and physically assess your pet. In short, we reiterate, call us for an appointment as soon as you can!
In the meantime, it may be best to avoid outside time around those culprit trees. Leash walks in clear areas may be in order until we do some detective work with you in our office.
We hope to hear from you soon at (703) 723-1017!
September 2, 2015
A Client Asks:
I want to give my dog things to do during the day now that the kids are back in school and my husband and I are at work. He has lots of toys, but we're thinking of getting him a doggie food puzzle or two. How do we know that these won't just frustrate him? We want him to have fun and stay busy when we're not home, so how can we be sure that this won't stress him out?
We completely understand your concern: you want your pup to have a great quality of life, even when he must be alone, and you also don't want pent up energy to turn into destructive behavior. He should play with his toys, not tear up your furniture!
With all new toys, food puzzle or not, make sure you let your dog try them out when you're home. This will give you the chance to see how he interacts with the toy, whether he is able to ingest or choke on any pieces, and, yes, even if he'll get frustrated. He should appear calm and/or cheerfully engaged with the toy. If he is angry or anxious, you may observe behavior such as whining, pacing, unexplained panting, or frantic pawing at the toy. Specifically with food puzzles, you're looking for a challenge that your dog is willing to accept and continue. He should be able to figure out how to retrieve the food, maybe with a bit of prompting from you, and he should be willing to continue the effort until he realizes that all the food or treat pieces are gone. If he whines or starts simply pawing at the toy out of frustration or confusion, he may need more prompting from you, or this may not be the toy for him.
You also need to consider whether the toy’s design allows your dog to get his nose, a toe, or anything else stuck inside. Furthermore, you'll want to be sure that you can clean the toy regularly since it will hold food or treats. Plus, you need to factor in those extra treats or kibble pieces into your overall feeding. If your dog’s kibble pieces fit into the puzzle, consider saving out a small amount of them from his breakfast so that he can eat them via the toy rather than in his dish. You’ll keep his calorie intake on track this way, avoiding inadvertent overfeeding, which can lead to obesity and other health issues.
And don’t forget about options like Stream Valley’s own Doggie Daycare! Your dog can go to school just like your human kids! Even twice weekly sessions would be great for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation. Your dog could become part of a regular play group, benefit from one-one-one obedience training, or even learn agility and special “tricks.”
Contact us if you’d like further information about assessing your pet’s specific behavior or about scheduling Doggie Daycare. We know that a busy pup is generally a happy pup, and we’d love to help you maintain your best friend’s great quality of life!
July 31, 2015
A Client Asks:
We've recently brought home a new cockatiel, and we were instructed to provide a packaged seed/pellet food along with millet treats and veggies. Why the extra treats and fresh food? Isn't a packaged food enough - like dog and cat food can be a complete diet?
A new feathered friend! How fun!
For the most part, a quality pellet diet can safely meet the majority of your cockatiel's nutritional needs. However, they can easily develop nutritional deficiencies, even with the best formulation of packaged food. Think of those packaged diets as you would a "complete nutrition" human breakfast cereal. Sure, the label says that the cereal provides 100% of your daily needs, but would you live on Breakfast Yum-Yums alone? For us and for birds like cockatiels, nothing can take the place of fresh fibers, vitamins, minerals, and more. That's where fresh veggies come into play. And don't forget to keep fresh, clean water available at all times!
There are some foods to avoid due to toxicity risk, and these can include avocado, chocolate, sugary foods, raw meats, and expired produce. You can find more detailed information about toxic dangers for birds at:
Also, birds are smart and need mental stimulation - the term "bird brain" is just plain wrong when it comes to cockatiels, parrots, macaws, and other such avians! For example, you can offer a treat puzzle toy containing kale to give your pet both a challenge and a reward. You've mentioned dogs and cats, too, so you likely have some familiarity with them. Consider, then, when you offer a dog or cat a treat: as a reward for good behavior or obedience, when you'd like to distract them from a "people meal" they can't share with you, or even sometimes as just a simple show of affection. Your cockatiel could benefit from millet or shredded carrots in the same ways! After a friendly play session, make sure that returning to the cage is not a disappointment by offering a slice of apple. Like the tune your bird is whistling? Encourage the song with a tiny bit of whole wheat toast. Just make sure you talk to your vet to compile a list of treats that should be safe for your pet. Contact us to set up a nutritional consult!
In the meantime, you can visit the ASPCA Pet Care, Lafeber Company, or Pet Place websites for more cockatiel care tips. Enjoy your new friend, and we can't wait to hear from you for that first appointment!
May 1, 2015
A Client Asks:
I recently brought my dog in for an appointment, and I got a lesson on ear cleaning from one of your technicians (my dog had an ear infection). It's a bit of a messy job, but I know it makes her feel better, so I'm happy to do it! But is this something that I should be doing for her regularly?
We love that you see ear cleaning as not just a chore, but also an act of loving pet care! And good news: after your dog's medical progress exam, if the doctor sees that her infection has cleared, you won't have to clean her ears every day or every other day (depending on how her ear cleaner was prescribed and dispensed with this infection). But, yes, ear cleaning is something you should feel comfortable doing as part of a bathing/grooming routine.
Your "schedule" of ear cleanings depends largely on your dog's ear shape and regular activities. Anything that introduces or retains excess moisture in the ear puts your dog at risk for infection (think: Swimmer's Ear for us). For example, a floppy shape or frequent swimming can cause ear canals to stay moist, creating a great environment for infectious overgrowth of naturally occurring yeast or bacteria. So, your veterinarian may recommend preventive ear cleanings on perhaps a bi-weekly or monthly basis if your dog's ear pinna (or outside "flaps") flop or fold over, blocking air flow and keeping ear canals from drying out on their own. (Check out the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine's website for an illustration of the anatomy of a dog's ear). And it might be best to clean your dog's ears after every bath and swim session. Ask your vet for a specific recommendation regarding cleaning frequency and the best cleansing product for your pet.
By the way, it's not just "dirty and watery" ears that cause infections. For instance, allergies can be the culprit, too--yep, the same allergies that make humans cough and sneeze can cause pets to suffer from dermatological ailments, such as ear infections. There is also the chance that your pet could have ear mites or even a foreign body (an object stuck in the ear canal where it doesn't belong!), leading to an infection.
It's important to know the signs of ear infections. Signals of a problem include discharge, odor, itching/scratching, redness, swelling, hair loss and/or scabbing (anywhere on the head), head shaking, head shyness, and loss of hearing and/or balance. When you attempt routine cleaning, you should notice if any of these signs are present. In fact, you can check for ear problems during normal play and petting; it's great to be vigilant! If you see any of these issues, call us for an appointment and we'll help you and your dog find some relief.
For those of you who have never cleaned your pet's ears before, contact us to set up a demonstration with one of our technicians or assistants. As our wonderful question-asker says above, ear cleaning can be a messy task, but it's a skill worth learning as part of providing a lifetime of high quality care to your beloved pet!
March 3, 2015
A Client Asks:
I've seen information on your website - including one of these "Ask Stream Valley" posts - about what to do in case of a pet emergency. But how do I know if a situation really is a pet emergency?
By their very nature, emergencies are flat out unpredictable, which can throw you off balance, making it difficult to judge: is this an emergency, or am I just in shock over a simple unexpected incident?
First, let us say that if you're uncomfortable or worried about an illness, injury, or other condition with your pet, don't hesitate to request an appointment with your vet. It's best to err on the side of caution when it comes to health and safety.
Next, we can give you a peek at how we initially assess potential emergencies when clients call our office. Of course, this is a very general starting point, and other factors may lead us to increase or decrease our concern. However, you should be prepared for the veterinary staff to request you bring your pet in right away in these situations:
- Toxin ingestion/exposure (be sure to contact a pet poison hotline, too!)
- Straining to urinate or defecate
- Drooling, pacing, uncomfortable, trying to vomit
- Repeated vomiting
- Trouble breathing
In other situations, you may be asked to bring your pet in within 24 hours, if he or she is stable:
- Squinting, discharge, etc. in eyes
- Head shaking, ear discharge
- Hot spots, rashes, inflammation, etc.
If your pet is coughing or sneezing, or if s/he has a runny nose, we'll likely request that you come in same-day as well. However, because of the highly contagious nature of respiratory illnesses--in all pet species--we may request that you come in at the end of the day when other appointments have all finished. Or, we may ask that you come in right away, but give us a call from your cell phone once you've reached the parking lot. We can come out to you so that we can discuss history and symptoms, and we can assess the immediate condition of your pet before you come in contact with other patients. From there, we can decide if isolation or other precautions are in order.
Having said all of that, what happens if you experience one of these potential emergencies outside of our business hours? Well, as you've probably seen in the other posts you mentioned, the closest 24/7 pet emergency facility to us the Animal Emergency Critical Care center at TLC - The Life Centre in Leesburg. A quick Google search should help you find a pet emergency care provider when you travel.
Dr. Andy Roark's web series "Cone of Shame" debuted with a great (and entertaining!) overview of pet emergency scenarios: Cone of Shame "5 Signs of a Pet Emergency (Stings, Staggering & Seizure Edition)"
Finally, we'd like to repeat the advice that it's best to err on the side of caution. If you're worried, have your pet seen. If you feel like it's an emergency, there is a reason for that, and you're better off taking action then taking the "wait-and-see" approach with your concerns. And in any event, please feel free to contact us - a phone call is a great first step in case of a potential emergency!
January 6, 2015
A Client Asks:
I have a friend who surprised his family with a puppy this Christmas. His wife didn't even know! They're a loving family, and they only want what's best for the new puppy, but I know they just weren't all prepared for her. What is the number one recommendation or resource that I could suggest as they all get used to each other?
You are certainly kind-hearted to be on the lookout for this little puppy's welfare! If you are an experienced pet owner, you may wish to share your recommendations for a veterinary care provider and tactics for budgeting for both the expected and the unexpected. A devoted savings account or credit card, pet insurance, and even Care Credit can help with food, bedding, medical care (routine and urgent), grooming, boarding, and all the expenses that go with responsible pet guardianship.
Another expected expense should be obedience training, and this can carry as much weight as picking the most nutritious diet, the most fitting set of vaccines, and the most effective parasite preventives. According to several professional studies as well as widespread anecdotal evidence, behavior issues are the top reasons dogs and cats are relinquished from private homes to shelters and rescue groups. This means that pets become essentially homeless most often due to problems that could very well be solved with a true commitment to consistent obedience training.
We want all companion animals to enjoy the security of a real "fur-ever" home, so we stress the importance of an early start with obedience training. We offer Puppy Primer classes (a $95 value--and for our clients, it's free with the series of puppy exams and vaccines!), and we encourage enrollment after the puppy has received initial vaccines and a clean bill of health and before she reaches 6 months old. We offer Basic and Advanced Obedience classes for dogs older than 6 months because 1) positive reinforcement training should last a lifetime and 2) you can teach an old dog new tricks! (Contact us today if you'd like more information or if you'd like to enroll in a class!)
Outside of class, the entire family must be committed to keeping up the techniques at home. Everyone must be on the same page as well. For instance, will you signal the dog to come to you by saying "here" or "come" or "come here"? Is the dog allowed on the sofa or not? Obedience training shouldn't be confusing, or everyone--including the dog--will only get frustrated.
Obedience training will help a family and a new dog adjust to one another. Once expectations are defined, the training activities will also help family members and the dog develop their life-long bond. Keeping up those activities and learning can be great for lasting physical and mental fitness. Therefore, once basic food, shelter, and healthcare needs have been met, obedience training would be the next step when a family welcomes a new dog into their home. It will build the base for trust and communication that is so vital to securing a true "fur-ever" pet-family bond.