Choosing the Right Vet


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Purina Pro Plan Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food

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Deciding on the best veterinarian can be quite a tricky choice to make. A good online vet or someone in-person should be able to understand your pet, diagnose him correctly, and provide you with some assurance that your pet is in good hands. If you are looking for some tips to find out the best vet for your precious furry friend, continue reading.


It is essential to ask around amongst friends and neighbors as to whom they consult for their pet's health. Local pet shelters are also excellent sources for ascertaining the best veterinarians in your locality. It is more beneficial to trust word of mouth than online reviews and ratings.

Friendly Staff

When you call to make an appointment, be sure to notice the attitude of the staff members at the vet’s clinic. A polite and friendly demeanor is crucial as it can speak volumes about their professionalism.

If you have to face impolite behavior over the phone, the staff would likely be just as negligent with your pet.

Pet Philosophies

As a pet owner, you should have a say on a few critical matters concerning your pet. Euthanasia, neutering, and cancer care are a few of the areas of healthcare that require your input. Ensure that the vet you choose has pet philosophies that align with yours. If you can trust this person, you can rest assured that your pet will receive the best healthcare possible.


Veterinarian bills are those expenses that come in unexpectedly. You do not need to break the bank to ensure adequate healthcare for your precious pooch. Choose a veterinarian whose fees meet your budget. As for other treatments, ask your vet for payment options such as installments or monthly payments to ease the burden on your pocket.

Location and Hours of Operation

If you have a pet emergency that needs immediate attention, you will be less anxious knowing that your vet is near where you live. Choosing a clinic within a reasonable distance from your house can ensure that you will get the urgent care you need. Be sure to make a note of the clinic's hours of operation. Also, find out about the next available clinic that would be open if one of your choices is closed for the day. You might have to cover some distance if you find the vet is closed and you have to visit another one in a different location. So, carry your pet in a dog or cat backpack. Instead of having to carry them in your arms, you can use the cat or dog backpack to have your furry friend tag along on your back. 

Second opinions

If your pet is suffering from a critical illness, it may be best to avail a second opinion from a different vet. A good vet will have a few references to give you the peace of mind you deserve. They will not only share what their first choice is when it comes to food or medication but will also encourage you to check out other vets’ first choices in those areas. 

For instance, when it comes to dry dog food, your vet might suggest the Royal Canin Dog Food. However, they will be sure to let you know that another renowned vet suggests the Purina Pro Plan dog food.

Finally, it is vital to follow your intuition. If all the above parameters are met, you need to book an initial appointment to check out the clinic.

Ask the Vet: Top Pet Nutrition Questions Answered

In honor of World Veterinary Day this past Saturday, we called for questions for PetCareRx veterinary nutritionist Dr. Joe Wakshlag. 

Today, he is answering your questions! 

Thanks to all who submitted questions. We are pleased to be sharing Dr. Joe Wakshlag's answers with you. While we couldn't answer every question, we hope that this roundup of the most-asked questions about pet food and diets will help you and your pets to be happier and healthier.

Have a question about puppies or pet diet and weight loss? Check out the questions from pet parents like you and their expert answers.

Perfecting Puppy Diets:

Q: What is the best way to allocate treats into a puppy's diet so that they do not get too heavy? 

A: This is a tricky question, but we veterinarians tend to agree that people should follow the body condition of their dog and not feed more than 20% of calories as treats.

For example, if your puppy typically eats 4 cups a day of dog food, replacing about 1/2 cup of food with calories from treats sounds reasonable. That would be about 200-250 calories a day, equaling 8 of the small milk bone style treats or 2 of the large ones (not the jumbo ones). Pig ears, pizzle sticks (6 inches), and rawhide 7-inch knot chews also contain calories (150-250 calories); keep that in mind.

Q: My new 3-month-old puppy was thought to have high bile acids. Now they are saying it is neurological because of his symptoms. The ultrasound showed no shunts, yet they are still treating him for toxins, and his bile levels are still high. He is pacing and has some blindness now. The alternative therapy guy says he needs whole foods and supplements but no meds. Can the two theories work together? 

A: Not all liver problems in puppies with bile acids are straight shunts. There are other diseases like microvascular dysplasia. I would defer to a specialist in Medicine. Look for a boarded specialist from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Although whole foods sound good, it is more important to utilize a lower protein diet that is made from liver-friendly sources like dairy, egg, and soy, which the therapeutic diets have. 

Recently, a research paper has suggested that puppies grow sufficiently on liver diets like Hepatic LS from Royal Canin and Hill's LD. Home-prepared diets can also be made, but I am not sure if your alternative therapy person has the training to do this for you.

More on Puppies: The Proper Nutrition for Feeding a Puppy

Special Diets for Special Senior Dogs:

Q: My aging standard poodle has liver degeneration. The vet recommended a low-protein food, which gets none of its protein from beef. In this age of high-protein-must-be-better, this has been next to impossible. I have hefted and scrutinized dozens of dry foods. Currently, I am just trying to reduce her protein intake by adding cooked brown rice to her food. 

How about a tip on a low-protein food or a recipe I can cook up for her that meets her dietary needs?

A: Chronic degenerative liver disease often leads to very different protein recommendations depending on the stage of the disease.

If your dog is early in the disease, it is often recommended to increase dietary protein. In the end stages, we recommend low protein when the liver can no longer handle the higher protein load.

So, any recommendation will depend on blood work, ultrasound, and the dog’s symptoms and mental status (whether they seem dull and drunk-like from nitrogen build-up). That said, many board-certified nutritionists throughout the country would be able to work with you to create a home-prepared diet that is adequate for your poodle's needs based on the medical record from your veterinarian. Tufts, University of Tennessee, Cornell, Davis, Florida, UNC, and University of Pennsylvania all have nutrition programs in their hospitals, and you could utilize the services of one of these places.

Q: My 13-year-old Chihuahua just had her gallbladder removed, and I am wondering what will be the best food for her? I do not mind cooking for her. I just want it to have all of the nutritional value.

A: Assuming that weight is not an issue (as long as your dog is not too thin), plenty of foods are on the market that will be low enough in fat (12% or less – as labeled on the bag). Many of the light and weight management formulas will be adequate. Some folks advocate lower than 7% fat, but I have had many patients at around 10-12% fat that do just fine.

More on Senior Dogs: Nutrition for Your Senior Dog

Curious Cats:

Q: For 40 years, I have fed my cats dry cat food without any disorders. I have adopted a rescue who was fed wet cat food and am gradually reducing the wet. What are your thoughts about wet food?

A: There are two camps. The dry food camp suggests that dry food is better since it helps with dental health and many cats have dental issues. The wet food camp says that these foods are higher in protein (which may be better for a carnivore). Also, the increased water in the canned food will increase urination, which may help retard crystal formation and hence, prevent urinary tract irritation and inappropriate urination. In my mind, it really depends on the cat’s medical problems. 

If your cat is healthy, feeding both types of food is a good idea so that when a medical problem develops that requires either dry or wet, the cat is used to eating both. That way, the transition is not as much of a shock.

Q: My nearly 16-year-old cat is sneezing up a storm. The body is not hot, eating and drinking well too. I just moved to a small apartment from a seven-room house, and although she is finally adjusting, the loud "guttural meows" scare me. 

She has always been an indoor cat. We live alone. Does she have a simple cold? Could it be allergies, as windows are open, or is she "run down" from the move (Nov 2012), and this is the cause?

A: It is hard to consider all the possibilities without seeing your cat. However, it can be something as simple as a viral cold which many cats get.

On the other hand, the move to a new home may have introduced an allergen that could be causing the sneezing. Look at the mucus discharge in your cat’s eyes. If it is clear, it may just be irritation. If colored yellow or green, a trip to the vet is needed.

In an old cat, there are many possible issues you will want to rule out, including a nasal tumor or fungal or bacterial infection, in addition to allergy or a viral cold.

More on Feeding Cats: Nutrition for Adult Cats

Making Pet Food at Home:

Q: I cook for my two Bichons, making them chicken, brown rice, and vegetables. Needless to say, they love it. They have a little James Well Beloved dry food in the morning. Do you think they are getting all the nutrients they need from this diet?

A: If they are eating well over half of their calories as chicken, rice, and veggies, likely, they are not getting what they need to have a complete nutritional profile. From my experience, I would guess that they could be deficient in B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, Vitamin E, zinc, iron, copper, calcium, magnesium, iodine, and selenium. 

Things to help round out the diet plan would be a canine vitamin (but these vary tremendously) and some bone meal. At least you will be getting closer to completion.

You can always look for a veterinary nutritionist to help you out. There is also a website called BalanceIT that sells an all-in-one supplement that can be fed with a diet plan they put together for you from the ingredients you choose. It may be a good alternative for your Bichons.

Q: My Pomeranian will never touch dog food, though I have tried everything. It has been like this for five years. What should I do?

A: If you are feeding a home-prepared diet, you may want to get the book called Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets by Patricia Schenck. It is a good reference for home preparing food. You can always get in touch with a boarded veterinary nutritionist to help you with a complete diet formulation.

More on Homemade Pet Food: Homemade Dog Food Tips and RecipesHomemade Dog Treat Recipes

A Burpy Eater:

Q: My now 4-year-old Toy Poodle has always burped loudly and had reflux since she was a puppy. I can visually see her burp up food and swallow. I raised her food bowl and fed her expensive dry food. What can I feed her or do to help this? Is there any medication that may help? Are there tests that can be done to determine the cause? 

A: It would be best to discuss this with a veterinarian and determine the cause of this reflux. Like people, there are medications like Omeprazole or Pepcid that can help alleviate this problem. Your vet would likely know the best option for your dog.

Putting On, or Keeping Off, the Pounds:

Q: I need to know what to make or feed a 12-year-old little dog who needs to gain some weight.

A: If your dog is eating regular dog food but not too enthusiastically, you may want to try switching to puppy food or performance food. Often these foods have more protein and fat than regular adult food. So, they may be more palatable; examples are Pro Plan Performance or Eukanuba Puppy Food. They are also higher in calories, often having close to 500 calories per cup, while adult foods only have 400 calories per cup on average. 

Adding some wet food to his regimen may make things more palatable too. Either of these changes may help the situation. There is also a supplement called Annamaet Impact, a high-calorie supplement used to keep weight on sled dogs. This may be worthwhile, too, if your dog will eat it.

Q: I have a Mini Schnauzer who has lost 5 pounds (much needed) on a weight reduction diet. Now that she is at her desired weight, should we continue to feed the weight management diet food, or how do we proceed without adding the pounds back?

A: Very often, when you end a diet like this, if you are using an over-the-counter commercial food, you can add in about 15% more of the same food than what you were feeding during weight loss. In another month, weigh your dog to see if she is maintaining weight. If she has actually lost more, add in 10% more (so now 25% more than you were feeding her while she was losing weight) for a month and reweigh her again. 

This usually works to keep dogs lean and allows them to keep eating the same food, just more of it!

Q: I have 6 dogs, 5 of which are a healthy weight... ok, maybe 3 of them are a little fluffy, but my concern is with my Whippet/Greyhound mix. I know they are thin naturally, but it worries me that her rib bones show at times. She eats like a pig, and we give her peanut butter sandwiches in the morning and at night.

Should I be worried, or is this normal for her size? She just turned two in March.

A: It is difficult to assess your dog’s weight without seeing her, but I often tell clients that I want their dogs’ ribs to show naturally. If your neighbors think you are underfeeding your dog, your dog is likely in great body condition. If a Whippet/Greyhound was not showing their last 3-4 ribs most of the time, there is a good chance she is a bit overweight. As you said, the breed is naturally lean, and if you are feeding what the bag recommends as well as the sandwiches, it is doubtful that the dog is underfed.

More on Weight Management for Pets: 6 Diet Pet Food Ingredients that Burn FatFood to Help Your Cat or Dog Gain Weight

In addition, we have rounded up the answers to some other commonly-asked questions below!

Dogs Eating Their Own Feces

This is more than just a gross habit. It is actually a real condition called coprophagia. Learn all about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of coprophagia.

Dogs with Food Allergies

Dogs who seem to have food allergies—which can show symptoms like scratching and itching, will probably have to go on a hypoallergenic or novel protein diet.

Dog Dental Health

Keeping dog teeth clean is vital to preventing dental and gum disease, which can result in bad breath, tooth decay, and pain for your pet. Here are 5 easy ways to improve your dog’s dental health.

If you have more questions, take a look at our comprehensive articles on pet health and wellness, and leave your questions below.

Dog Dental Health

Keeping dog teeth clean is vital to preventing dental and gum disease, which can result in bad breath, tooth decay, and pain for your pet. Here are 5 easy ways to improve your dog’s dental health. If you have more questions, take a look at our comprehensive articles on pet health and wellness, and leave your questions below.

Subscribe to our blog (at upper right) and stay tuned for more “Ask the Vet” answers!

This post contains responses written by PetCareRx Consulting Nutritionist Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine. The information contained, however, is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian.
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