Linda Ryder, D.V.M.

Helpful Tips

image 014 200 300Here you will find helpful tips from Dr. Ryder for your dog or cat.

When Mars Petcare presented its first DNA test for dogs in 2007, you could only get the breed-mix blood-draw test from a vet. In 2009, they offered a saliva tests, and sold these “Wisdom Panel” tests directly to consumers. Since then, the direct mail market has grown rapidly. Dog-DNA companies are making breed mix and risk estimate tests readily available to the public.

Many vets have expressed concerns about the tests. They have three primary issues: no standards, no regulations, and no independent-assessing body.

The Project Director for the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs, Llewellyn-Zaidi, says, however, that vets are no starting to get curious about these tests.

The harmonization project is a database of dog genes that have been linked to different diseases among different breeds. Getting breeds right is critical because many markers are breed-specific.

The companies selling these DNA test kits are gathering huge genetic data sets that are and will contribute to future and on-going dog research. This will allow vets to have more scientific data from which to draw conclusions.


This is not a topic to be discussed at the dinner table, but it is a common condition and therefore worthy of dog owners’ attention.  Many dogs eat their own or other dogs’ feces; this is called “coprophagia.”  Statistics reveal that 10-25% of dogs have this nasty tendency.

Most commonly, this is a behavioral problem, but it can also have a medical basis.  

For example, dietary deficits from insufficient absorption of nutrients can promote this habit.  Also, an increased appetite from illnesses or medications can cause it.  

Other medical conditions include: Cushing’s Disease (hyperadrenocorticism), exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (“EPI”), severe liver disease, undertreated diabetes mellitus, and gastrointestinal and kidney disease.  Being on some medications can prompt this act as well--particularly steroids.

As a behavioral condition, the most common condition is being a mother-dog.  They lick at their pups’ behinds to stimulate defecation, and then will consume produced feces to keep their “home area” clean.

It is best to consult with your vet to determine the cause if you witness your dog engaging in this act.  She or he can screen for intestinal parasites in your dog that may cause it.  In some cases, the most effective treatment is behavior modification.  One option is to give the dog an additive that will make his or her feces more distasteful.

The best solution is simply to pick up feces promptly.  You may also choose to keep dogs on a leash in a well-supervised area.  Teaching the dog to respond to the order to “drop it” is also an option to gently address this undesirable condition.


Some pets--especially dogs--get very anxious and nervous in storms. As the summer is approaching, we are having storms more frequently, and some can be rather harsh.

Dogs can sense a change in air pressure and my even hear low-frequency noises that humans can’t hear. Vets have further surmised that some dogs may be more prone to experiencing shocks from the build-up of static electricity that comes with storms as well.

Here are a few coping mechanisms to help soothe your pet in these scenarios:

1. Provide a safe space--indoors. One option is in the pup’s crate with a sheet over it. If you dog doesn’t typically use a crate, a small space such as a bathroom is a viable alternative venue. If the room has windows, close the blinds or curtains so your canine family member can’t see the outdoors.
2. Distract your pup--such as by using calming music at a low volume, or play with the pup using his or her favorite toy. Offering a treat at such times can work well also.
3. Some dogs feel more secure wearing a “Thundershirt” which can be purchased on-line or at your favorite pet store. It is the same principle as swaddling a baby. If your budget is rather restricted, a snugly fit t-shirt will also serve the purpose just fine.
4. Call you vet to ask for counsel on your pet’s specific issues.

It’s important not to scold or punish your pup or other pets for storm or weather- related manifestations of fear. In short, compassion is essential.


It’s Spring, almost Easter, and therefore that time of year when folks often purchase sweet little chicks and ducklings, and other forms of live poultry. They are precious to watch, but it’s necessary to be very cautious about handling them. They can be sources of Salmonella. It is critical to prevent Salmonella infections by using proper hygiene and sanitation.

The CDC recommends several preventative measures for handling live poultry:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (or use a hand sanitizer) after touching the animals or areas of containment.
2. Avoid having children younger than five, elderly persons, or individuals with weak immune systems handle the live poultry.
3. Keep all animal housing and water containers outside of the home.
4. Do not eat, drink, or touch your mouth while in the area where the live birds roam.

The CDC is truly an excellent resource for advice about owning backyard poultry flocks from mail-order hatcheries or local feed stores.

Most of us love fresh eggs, and the feathered cuties are fun to watch and witness. But-- be careful, cleanliness is a necessity.


Some of our four-legged family members are calm and easy-going. Others are subject to behavioral changes due to fear or anxiety prompted by other humans (especially young children), loud noises, and weather--such as thunder. These conditions can cause your pup to become aggressive and growl, nip, bite, or raise their hackles. It’s best to talk with your veterinarian or a veterinarian behaviorist about these reactions. In the meanwhile, one option is to purchase a basket muzzle.

This item will allow your dog to remain in the company of others and decrease the threat of harm. Basket muzzles can also be helpful when walking a leashed pet that is aggressive toward other dogs and people. Sometimes adding a gentle lead collar to the equation can also prove to be quite productive.

Another applicable scenario is if your dog has repeat offenses such as always eating socks, rocks, or digging in the trash. A muzzle can help discontinue these undesirable activities.

It is important to note, however, that basket muzzles are not intended for continuous use. They should be removed to allow your pet to eat, drink water, chew “authorized” toys, and simply rest.

Some pups get used to muzzles easily and quickly, while others take a bit more time and patience.

It is not an exaggeration to say that a basket muzzle could potentially be a life-saving accessory. Consider using one if the above conditions apply to you or your current situation.


Many have used hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in dogs, but that choice is not without risks. It works by creating mouth irritation as well as in the stomach and esophagus. Results can include continued vomiting or decreased appetite. When this happens, the patient is often treated with antacids and stomach protectants until the gut has an opportunity to heal.

In some cases, however, the side effects can advance to severe gastritis, stomach inflammation, ulceration, and even death from internal bleeding due to toxicity. It can also cause gas emboli which is an air clot in the vessels.

There are many safer alternatives to using hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Vets often recommend and prescribe apomorphine via an IV. Or, a small tablet can be placed under the lower eyelid to absorption.

If your dog has ingested something toxic, it is typically best to bring the pet immediately to a vet. If your dog has ingested rat poisoning or something else similarly toxic, then using hydrogen peroxide would be better in most cases than allowing the toxin to be absorbed.

If you must us it, remember that you should never use hydrogen peroxide that is more concentrated than three percent. The dose of three percent hydrogen peroxide is one milliliter per pound of dog. For example, a twenty- pound dog would get twenty milliliters or about four teaspoons.

Not all dogs will vomit when given hydrogen peroxide. And it should NOT be given to cats.

The best course of action if you think your dog has ingested something toxic is to IMMEDIATEY call the Pet Poison Hotline: 1-855-764-7661. Then contact your vet as quickly as possible.


Electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes,” are increasingly popular devices that simulate smoking. They are now commonly found in many households. Please be careful where they are placed and consumed. They can be very dangerous to your pets due to the liquid nicotine and other chemicals contained in them.

These products are often poorly labeled, and can contain dangerously high levels of nicotine and sometimes other substances such as diethylene glycol. The liquid form of nicotine is absorbed very quickly, and it can endanger pets in numerous body systems including the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, and the central nervous system.

Some possible effects of this ingestion include muscle weakness, salivation, excitation, diarrhea, slow respiration, and twitching. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect that your pets have chewed on or consumed these products, as extreme cases of ingestion can even cause death.

It critically important to keep these products away from your beloved four-legged family members.


Purina vet, Dr. Zara Boland, wrote an article reminding us to be cautious with holiday decorations, foods, and other seasonal items.

I offer a summary blow and wish you and your four-legged family members a safe and happy holiday.

  1. Add special tags marked “PET HAZARDOUS” to gifts that are not pet-friendly. If you are giving a gift to a pet owner, this is an essential step to making it a happy holiday for all members of the family.
  2. Ribbons and hanging electrical components can be very dangerous to curious pets. Keep them safely out of reach.
  3. Some holiday plants are very toxic to pets including poinsettias, lilies, mistletoe, and holly. Keep them well out of reach as well.
  4. Some seasonal ingredients are very threatening to pets’ safety and health. Avoid giving them access to grapes, raisins, chocolates, and the commonly used sugar alternative: Xylitol.
  5. Keep purses and coats that may contain harmful contents away from your pets. Pockets and purses may contain ibuprofen, decongestants, and other products that can harm your beloved pets. Most chewing gums contain the aforementioned Xylitol.

Happy holidays to all from the staff at Companion Animal House Calls!


National Pet Suffocation Awareness Week is from 11/25-12/1/18. So, this topic is not only timely, but very important.

Your pet can be endangered by an item everyone has in their homes: a potato chip, cereal, treat, or trash bag. This common household hazard should be properly stored or discarded. Most people are not even aware of this harm until after having a horrific loss experience.

It’s a fact: ninety percent of those who lost a pet did not know about this danger until it happened to them. Tell your family, neighbors, and friends about this serious threat. Please!

Statistics reveal that three to five pet suffocations are reported weekly and forty-two percent of them occur while the pet owner is in the next room. It only takes about three minutes for a pet’s oxygen level to drop to fatal levels.

The story of Petey, a Pitti pup who died from suffocation, was recently on the Today Show, and while the program increased awareness, it’s important to continue to alert pet owners about this matter of utmost importance.

To avoid the heartbreak, devastation, and guilt from this type of loss, be and stay aware. Tell others who own pets and ask each of them to tell at least two more people. You may save many lives and the pain of mourning a loved one.

Source: Messenger, September 2018

It’s getting close to that time of year when trick-or-treaters appear at your door with bags to be filled with holiday treats.  While many people enjoy Halloween, most pets do not.  Pets can become alarmed by frightening costumes, and can get in danger if they get into candies, or scary situations.  Purina experts and vets, Dr. Marty Becker and Dr. Ragen Mc Gowan, have provided a few suggestions on the Purina Pet Care website for keeping your pets happy during this holiday.  They are worth noting!

  1. Keep your pets inside for Halloween. Be sure they have proper identification in case they get out and wander away to avoid frightening scenarios.
  2. Keep candy well out of their reach. Most pet owners know that chocolate is a “big no-no,” but consuming other candies can also promote illnesses such as diarrhea, vomiting, and even poisoning.
  3. In the weeks and days before Halloween, use your doorbell or knock before you enter your own home, and ask visiting friends to do the same. It will allow pets to get used to the noise. Reward your pet with a safe treat for not barking at the sound of the doorbell or knocking.
  4. It’s best to choose a Halloween-themed collar and leash for your four-legged family member, rather than a costume. Pets do not typically like elastic around their head or neck area, and some material can result in overheating.
  5. Consult your vet if your pet is easily alarmed to obtain a prescription to help keep him or her feeling calm and secure while the ghosts and goblins are in your neighborhood.
Given the recent torrential downpours cause by Hurricane Florence and the recent tornadoes in the metro Richmond area, it is necessary to be extremely cautious about letting your pets drink water that is outdoors.  Standing water is a perfect home for bacteria, and one in particular that is always present is “lepto.”  
Lepto is transmitted most commonly through rodent urine, so it can appear most anywhere outdoors--not just in water.  Common signs of contamination in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, and other flu-like symptoms.  
Pets tend to dramatically increase their water in-take, and thus urinate more frequently.  This is a sign that kidneys may be compromised.  Pets may become jaundiced if the liver has been affected.  A common sign of jaundice is yellowing of the eyes and skin.
What should you do?  Prevention is a favored option. While not a common vaccination, it is available.  The good news is the disease is treatable if it is caught in its early stages.  Otherwise, it can become deadly.
Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns--as always.  This condition is most prevalent in autumn.    


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