How often do you recommend examining our pets if they seem healthy?
We recommend annual exams, even for pets that seem healthy to their owners at home. We frequently diagnose medical issues in healthy appearing pets during this annual exam. Many are simple such as ear and skin infections or dental disease, but some are more serious such as heart murmurs, cataracts and kidney disease. Annual exams are especially important for geriatric pets (any animal over 8 years of age) as early diagnosis often makes chronic disease much easier to treat. In addition, an annual exam is necessary for us to legally prescribe medications and for our clients to use our technician appointments for routine care and vaccine updates.


My pet has been diagnosed with dental disease and a dental cleaning has been recommended. Can this be done without sedation or general anesthesia?
Unfortunately, no. Dental prophylactic cleaning cannot be done thoroughly and safely without general anesthesia. It requires sub-gingival curettage and scaling which removes plague and tartar underneath the gum-line. While not typically an extremely painful process, pets will not sit still enough to allow this procedure to be done effectively. In addition, diagnosis and treatment of any more significant dental disease is impossible with a conscious animal. Dental cleanings done with animals awake have brief cosmetic benefits only.


My Labrador Retriever is 14 and has been diagnosed with dental disease. I understand he needs to be put under general anesthesia for this procedure. Is this safe?
Any time an animal is put under general anesthesia there are risks associated with the procedure. Our job as veterinary professionals is to minimize these risks and make the experience as smooth and safe as possible for the animal. We do this in a variety of ways, including using the safest anesthetics available and thorough and dedicated monitoring of your animal’s vital signs during the procedure. Depending on your animals age and any pre-existing conditions, our staff veterinarians may recommend certain pre-anesthetic tests to make sure your animal is healthy before the procedure. We would not recommend a general anesthetic procedure unless we feel the potential benefits far outweigh the risks.


Is heartworm disease prevalent in this area?
Heartworm disease, transmitted by mosquitoes is not currently a commonly seen disease in Marin County. However, the disease is quite prevalent right on our doorstep in Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties and the rate of occurrence is increasing every year in Marin. Why it is less common here is unclear but it is believed that the high percentage of dogs on preventative medicine and good mosquito control are large factors.
The disease is very easily prevented with an extremely safe and relatively inexpensive chewable monthly pill. If undetected and untreated, heartworm disease leads to fatal heart failure. Without a blood test, clinical signs of the disease are difficult to detect until irreparable damage has been done to the cardiovascular system. For these reasons we strongly recommend all dogs be put on monthly preventative.


My pet seems to be drinking a lot of water lately? Is this a sign of any serious disease?
Yes, increased thirst can be an important red flag for a variety of serious diseases in both dogs and cats, such as bladder infections, kidney failure, diabetes and thyroid or adrenal gland problems. Dogs and cats should generally drink about 1 cup per 10# of body weight a day. This includes any water added to their diet or found in canned food. If you notice your pet is drinking excessively it is very important to have him or her examined as soon as possible. One of our staff veterinarians will likely recommend blood and or urine tests to try and determine the underlying cause. Most causes of increased thirst are treatable, especially if caught and diagnosed soon after onset.


Are oral flea/tick control products safe and effective?
Yes they are and they may be more effective as well. Most of the newer flea control products on the market, especially for dogs, come in chewable treat form. These are prescription products and can only be sold through a licensed veterinarian. They work by mimicking invertebrate’s (animal’s without backbone’s) neuro-transmitters and causing paralysis when the animal takes a blood meal from your pet containing the drug. These drugs have NO effect on vertebrates (dogs, cats and people) since they have very different neuro-transmitters. These products circulate in your pets bloodstream and kill these parasites for up to 30 days. Unlike topical products, oral products are not affected by environmental exposure to wind, rain and bathing and are therefore much more predictable in their effectiveness. Topical products such as Frontline and Advantage have been around for decades and really revolutionized the concept of flea control. They are considered safe and generally cost-effective. However, there have been frequent reports of some of these products being “overwhelmed” in “high flea burden” environments. These situations are typically multi-pet households, especially with cats that go outside. Discussion of flea and tick control options is a common component of your pet’s annual exam.


My dog seems to scratch all the time, especially in the spring and fall? What is causing this?
Itchiness, or pruritus, is one of the most common problems we see in veterinary medicine. The most common cause is one form or another of allergic disease. This can be allergies to fleas, pollens in the environment (inhaled or from skin contact) or food. Dogs suffering from allergic disease can frequently develop secondary skin or ear infections from bacteria or yeast. Diagnosing and treating allergic disease can be one of the most challenging in veterinary medicine. It can also be one of the most frustrating and expensive diseases for owners to treat. Our goal at San Marin Animal is to take this issue step by step with each individual animal and discuss all possible causes and treatment options in detail with the owner. Allergic disease is very difficult to eliminate but we are often quite successful at long term control and management. Solutions may be as simple as instituting more effective flea control in the household or switching to hypoallergenic diets. Allergy testing has become more reliable and desensitization much easier to administer. There are also several new drugs available that offer good control of allergic signs without the side effects of traditional corticosteroids such as prednisone.