Is it time to say goodbye? Discussion on Euthanasia

cat and dogFor us as pet parents, no matter how well we take care of our fur babies, eventually it comes time to say goodbye. It is a very emotional time, and is very personal for each owner as well as each pet. Some of the most commonly asked questions are touched on in this blog.  If you have any questions or concerns about your pet, or would like more advice, please call us or book an appointment online for us to see your  pet for a consultation on their quality of life and options to keep them comfortable for as long as possible.

“How will I know it is time?”

The answer is, “It is different every time.”
Unfortunately we cannot make the decision for you, but we can help you to evaluate a few things more objectively and answer some questions which may help you decide.

“Is my pet in pain/suffering?”

With an exam, we may be able to tell you based on your pet’s individual diagnosis whether or not your pet is suffering or in pain. Elderly pets may not be suffering per se, as aging is usually not painful by itself, but the diseases that come with age may be painful. They may suffer ailments that may be helped with special diets and medications to improve their quality of life. There is no need for them to be uncomfortable just because they are old. For example: an older cat may not need to waste away as in the days of old, as things like thyroid disease are treatable. With medications, the symptoms of thyroid disease can even be reversed to an extent. The same goes for older dogs.  They need not limp around or suffer stiff joints due to arthritis (which cats suffer as well!).  We have many medications to try to help your arthritic pet have more comfortable days moving forward. Unfortunately, there will be some pets who have an illness or who have aged to the point that their quality of life cannot be maintained or is deteriorating, and with a consultation, we can help you to determine where your pet is on the spectrum of quality of life.

One of the most common signs your pet may be suffering is their inability to eat or drink. Most pets LOVE meal time, and when they cannot or no longer want to eat, starvation is most assuredly a suffering death if it is prolonged. Some terminal patients will eat up until a day or two before they pass on their own, but if they haven’t eaten in a few days it may be time to have a quality of life consultation and possibly be ready to say goodbye.
Water is also very necessary to life, and if a pet has lost the ability to drink or hold down water, dehydration can also cause suffering if prolonged.

“Is seeking medical advice worth it?”

You betcha! Imagine yourself being put in a nursing home, simply because your thyroid was off or you had arthritis.  There is no need to skimp on finding a diagnosis for an elderly or ill patient. Blood work, x-rays, ultrasounds and other modern diagnostic tools are key to discovering the health/comfort level of your pet. We can’t help your pet if we can’t discover what is ailing them. Some issues are treatable, or it could be determined a major illness is present, and your pet may be suffering more than you thought.

We can help you decide as well if the medical issues your pet is facing is something you can help manage or not. For larger patients, mobility may be an issue: helping a chihuahua get down stairs is much easier than assisting a great dane. There are harness systems and other methods we can teach you about which may help keep your pet comfortable for week/months/years to come. Other issues, such as incontinence, may have a solution that we can come up with together, as some types of incontinence can be treated, while others can only be managed. We can help you to know all your options.

“My dog/cat doesn’t seem to enjoy things like they once did. I’m not sure they are enjoying life.”

This may or may not be a reason to euthanize. A dog or cat who once used to love to play with toys and run may not feel like doing so any longer. For these pets, an exam is definitely in order. There may be a reason for their lack of interest, and with diagnostics, we may be able to get them back to their old tricks! Some pets may need encouragement in their older years to keep them engaged. Getting new toys for them, engaging in different games with slightly lower impact on arthritic joints (like puzzle toys and hide and seek treat games), and changing the pace of life may be all that’s needed to get a pet to reengage with the family. Like our own older generation, aged pets may prefer their version of a crossword puzzle more than a rousing game of football. Although it is something they enjoyed in their youth, they may have lost interest or simply may no longer be physically able to do some things. This doesn’t mean they are suffering or have no quality of life; it just may mean more work on your part to keep them engaged.  It’s almost like the reverse of having a puppy or kitten. Puppies and kittens need hours of play and they most often seek out the attention of their owners. Senior pets need hours of play which they may need to be encouraged by their owners.

Other times, there may be a significant reason a pet is retreating from family life.  If we cannot use engagement/enrichment methods and medications to help bring them back out to enjoy their time around family, then it may be time to consider an end of life plan.  If a pet truly cannot feel well enough by any means to enjoy anything they used to (ie food, toys, being around their favorite people, etc), then we consider their quality of life to be poor.  Sometimes a daily diary can be helpful to see good days versus bad days, and may help you determine a little more objectively how much they seem to be engaging in their favorite things.

“I’ve never had to have a pet euthanized before, I don’t think I can do this!

There are many other aspects to consider beyond the above when deciding whether or not to euthanize your kitty pawspet. Some owners do not want to part with a pet because they know the emotional trauma is going to be more than they can handle, but most will admit they do not want to prolong suffering. There are others who do not want or who cannot accept the financial burden or time burden of a terminally ill pet. Some terminally ill patients will need around the clock care that can be very expensive, this may be impossible for many owners both due to time and money constraints.

There are several things we can do to keep a pet comfortable until an owner can decide, such a giving fluids and medications until the owner can make a decision; but these are palliative measures, and are meant to bring comfort for the short term only. Veterinary medicine cannot restore a new heart in an end stage heart failure patient, nor give them new organs that may be failing or are so deteriorated they have no chance of recovery. There are some illnesses and cancers that don’t have a good prognosis as well. We wish we could fix them all, but unfortunately some things are not fixable. Delivering the news to a pet parent that their pet is in chronic pain and/or is terminal is truly the most agonizing part of a veterinary practice. As pet lovers, we do know the pain of loss and our goal is to always make sure no animal suffers.

“I am totally against euthanasia, is that OK? Are there things that can be done to help keep my pet comfortable until they pass on their own?”

Humane euthanasia is certainly an individual decision, and recommendation for it will be based on quality of life for the pet and pet parents and belief system of the family. As a veterinary practice, we always prefer a quality of life over quantity of life, but we’d never tell you you MUST euthanize.

Be aware that if hospice is chosen that the pet is free from pain and is not suffering. Remember most pets in hospice care will require around the clock care, and some treatments to keep them comfortable are not only time consuming but can be expensive. This may not be an option for some.

There are actually pet hospice practices that specialize in these cases and can help you, again on a case by case basis. They will assist your needs as well as try to keep your pet as comfortable as possible until the inevitable end. There is no judgement against you for not wanting to euthanize your pet, but no expense should be spared ensuring your pet’s last days and moments are made comfortable and the pet free from suffering.

There is no need to tackle such an undertaking of saying goodbye to your companion alone and without the support of a hospice program.  While Blue Door Veterinary Services can act as a hospice program, there are other in home services which specialize in hospice care, so we can discuss your desires and may refer you to one of our colleagues to get the best end of life care for your pet possible.

Grief and How Planning Can Help: 

Grief for pet owners actually starts at the discovery that your beloved pet is ill and dying. No one wants to think about that day. Unfortunately, our pets live shorter lives than ours, so the chances of having to make that decision at some point are relatively high for every pet owner.

We recommend you have a discussion with your family and anyone responsible for the care/well-being of your pet. Making sure everyone is on the same page with regards to opinions on humane euthanasia versus hospice care is important before the last moments.  Look into options, so you can have a few plans in place before they are needed.  Sometimes in times of stress it is hard to make decisions about whom to call or what to do, so having that conversation early is important.

It is also important to have a good relationship with your veterinarian; as a team you will be better prepared to make a plan when it is time to make such a decision. It is a lot easier to discuss your pet with the veterinarian who already knows you and your pet and has been able to see your pet recently.  It is fairly common practice for many pet owners to stop seeking medical attention for their pets as they age; however, we highly recommend not only annual checkups, but biannual checkups for your senior pets. It is much easier for us to have a quick chat with you about any changes you may be seeing at home and what consequences they may have if we are familiar with the aging changes your pet is experiencing.  We can also stay ahead of some problems by identifying issues early and helping to change diets and medications as needed.
Instead of visiting the vet less in their golden years, the aging pet actually is most benefited with biannual checkups.

So get your pet their check-ups regularly, catch disease processes before they advance, and have a good relationship with your veterinarian. That way, when it is time to make plans for end of life care, and plan for the end of life visit, these can be made based on your pet’s individual needs.

Call or e-mail us today if you’d like a senior visit for your pet to discuss their health and begin the planning process so we can keep them around for as long as possible with good quality of life and comfort for their golden years.

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“To potty pad or not to potty pad?” That is the question.

To continue our blogs on potty training, here are a few thoughts on potty pads.

(from the desk of Wendi, your friendly client coordinator!)

At first, the idea of using potty pads seems like a great idea.
Don’t do it.

When a puppy has to go every 10 to 20 minutes while they are awake and playing it is difficult to get them out as often as they need to go! Potty pads seem like a great option!
Don’t do it.

It sounds great in theory because training dogs to potty pads is relatively easy.
Most are infused with scents to encourage elimination, and some of the scents can even be purchased in a spray bottle so you can freshen the potty pad elimination scent with each fresh pad you set out.
Don’t do it.

Pads can be easily set in great locations so instead of having your pup have an accident on the couch or an expensive rug they can go on the pad!
Don’t do it.

OK, with all these great reasons, you are asking, WHY NOT?”

First, it will teach your dog that eliminating in the house on something soft is OK. This will send confusing messages to your dog during training.
This, in turn, prolongs potty training due to many issues:
First you’d have to train them to the pad,
then you’d have to train them to go potty outside,
then you must teach them to stop going indoors on the potty pad and to only eliminate outside.

It is much easier for the dog to simply learn to go outside from start,
and going outside from the start cuts training time almost in half.  See our previous blog posts on potty training to help with successful puppy and new adult potty training.

Another potential problem associated with a few dogs who learn to go on potty pads is that they will spontaneously get the urge to void on soft textures throughout their lives.
Potty pads do not feel like your floor, they are soft, like a throw rug, towel, or sheet. For some dogs, their training takes much longer if they learn texture voiding, as they are programmed to think that soft spots are the spots to go. This behavior can manifest in dogs not potty pad trained, however the incidence of soft texture preference is slightly higher in dogs who were trained to go on soft items like potty pads and even newspapers.
For all the great reasons potty pads give us to use them, we do not recommend using them as a training aid for housebreaking. There are uses for wee wee pads, and we’ll be covering them in another blog.

There may be times where dogs MUST be trained to use potty pad like systems, but I still don’t recommend the pads.
For example, some healthy dogs who love walks and who have no health issues that would prevent them from being potty trained may need to learn to void indoors. This is the case for those on the top floor of an apartment or condo building. Getting successfully down twenty flights with a slow elevator isn’t possible before they have an accident, especially if they are very young or very old, or are on medications that increase urination.
There are probably hundreds of reasons dogs will need to be taught to void indoors.

Dog Grass Systems: 

For those that must learn to go on pad like systems, I suggest doggy grass or litter systems.
The dog grass systems are excellent. The only downside I can see is some brands run on the smaller side. A solution would be to get two units and put them close together to increase the size for larger dogs. The best way to tell if the grass patch system is big enough for your pet is to ensure they can easily turn around on it. You certainly don’t want their front feet on the grass patch and their back feet on the floor!

Litter Systems:

The litter systems for dogs are very good as well,  but I’ve found it is hard to find a large size that will accommodate large breed dogs. A litter box the size of a bathtub or larger is not feasible but would be needed for a mastiff; however, several grass patch system’s single units  close together might do the trick.

As far as litter, dogs cannot use cat litter at all, they specifically need dog litter. Dog litter is usually compressed paper pellets, unscented or only very lightly scented with no dust. Dogs sniff a lot when they are finding a good spot to go. If they sniff litter that has a strong scent or dust it will be unpleasant for them. Another issue with dogs is that they will attempt to eat litter, so the crystal litters like those used for cats simply aren’t safe to use for dogs. So, when you pick out your dog litter, pick out the canine litter.
You will also notice the sides of the litter boxes for dogs are much lower than cat boxes, and the boxes are wider. This allows for the dogs to turn around. The sides don’t need to be high because dogs don’t bury their excrement. Unfortunately the dog litter systems I’ve investigated for research for this blog all seem designed around small dogs. And I mean really small dogs. I personally have three dogs under five pounds, and the largest box would just accomodate them, and most I’ve viewed would never do for a pet over ten pounds. The larger the litter system, the more litter needed, and dog litter is heavy, so if you have a larger pooch, I’d go for the grass systems.

Kilo is learning about the sights and sounds of the outdoors as he learns to void outside on the grass

Overall, the best method to train your dog to go outside is to simply start them right away to going outside. The next best option would be the grass patch, as it will be an easier transition to train them from grass indoors to using the grass out of doors. The grass patch is also the best option for pets who cannot go outside to relieve themselves. For pets with allergies to grass, there is the fake grass variety that of grass patch potty system. The fake grass systems need a bit more maintenance than I would like as a pet owner, but they still may be of great benefit for a pet with grass allergies.

In a later blog we’ll cover separately issues concerning incontinence in pets, and will give more ideas to help you keep your house and furniture clean.

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Welcome Wendi Tabor, our newest team member!

Wendi and puppy

Wendi and her newest addition, Grace.

We are so excited to announce our newest member of the Blue Door Family, Wendi Tabor.  She is an awesome animal trainer, an avid studier of all things animal, and our fantastic new Client Coordinator.  If you haven’t had a chance to speak with her on the phone yet, I’m sure you’ll love her as much as we do.  Her excitement about animals and their people is just infectious! 

Welcome to Wendi Tabor, Client Coordinator Extraordinaire! 

I’ll let her tell you a little about herself.

“I love animals and I love people. So, helping animals and their people comes pretty naturally for me. I’ve always had animals, from tiny hamsters to horses. Currently my husband and I have four dogs, four lizards, a plethora of fish and a tarantula. My husband will tell you straight up the tarantula is ALL MINE, as she was a rescue and only had seven legs when I took her in to care for her.  

I had my first official job with animals mucking stalls at a local barn to earn time to ride and practice in their show ring. I didn’t do so well showing as I was having too much fun plodding around on my horses and never took on the competitiveness others had. My first paying job while in high school was working for a professional dog handler. I learned to handle show dogs, and one of my job duties was to help train dogs for the show ring in handling classes as well as obedience/socialization for show dogs or puppies who were retiring and/or going to pet homes. 

While in college, I took a position with a local veterinary hospital, and that is where my passion took off. I started entry level, and after my college graduation I stayed on with the same veterinary practice and worked my way through the ranks and spent ten years as their hospital coordinator. I organized communication and hospital flow, and was the main go between between doctors, clients, fellow staff, outside vendors, reps, and local

Wendi with cow

Wendi with a cute “alternative” patient.

rescues and other community outreach programs. It was a wonderful career, so professionally and personally rewarding; I loved it so! Unfortunately, a life event forced a move of over a thousand miles, and I had to leave the job I loved. The move was rough, and I couldn’t quite find the perfect job fit in my new city, so after a couple tries, I decided it was time to go back to something I loved and knew, DOGS. 
I spent a year studying and practicing positive reinforcement dog training, and became a mentor for Petco Corporation to regionally train their prospective dog trainers. During this time, my husband and I started our small rescue for alternative pets like reptiles, as there are many rescues for dogs and cats, but not so much for alternative pets like lizards.  

Recently, I suffered a debilitating injury and as a result was unable to continue to train dogs or mentor trainers. Because of this, I sought out options to get back to my passion, veterinary work. I was so happy When Dr. Dawson asked me to join her team. Blue Door Veterinary Services shares the same love for animals and their people as I do. I look forward to speaking and/or emailing with you soon!”

If you haven’t seen any of her blog posts about training tricks and tips, then check out our blog for some of the amazing advice she is sharing with you all!

Join me in welcoming Wendi to our Blue Door family!
-Dr Dawson

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Bringing Back the Old-Timey Feel to Modern Veterinary Medicine

Why does YOUR PET want you to choose a mobile vet?

  • Have you ever noticed your pet shaking, shedding excessively, or panting when you sit in a veterinarian’s waiting or exam room?
  • Does your cat yowl or have accidents in their cat carrier on the way to the vet’s office?
  • Does your dog get over-excited about the other pets in the lobby of a traditional vet?
  • Do you stock up on bandages in preparation to put your cat in a carrier?

Henry was relaxed for his at home vet exam

These are all signs of stress. Blue Door Veterinary Services will see your furry friend in the place that is most familiar: their home and neighborhood. The mobile truck is specially designed for nearly every medical need from immunizations, to dental cleanings and surgery, thus almost eliminating the need to travel to a brick and mortar clinic where they get so upset.


Why should YOU choose a mobile vet?

  • Do you have multiple pets that require multiple trips to the vet? Get them on the same schedule. With Blue Door, you make one appointment, saving you the hassle of transporting your family.
  • Has your dog had more trouble getting up/into the car in recent years? Save your back and let us come to her.
  • Do you work-from-home? You can continue with your own work while we attend to your pet’s needs. No need to sit and wait in someone else’s office for the doctor to see you. Your boss will never even know you’re multitasking!
  • Are you a parent with young children who are tough to keep entertained at the doctor’s office? With Blue Door, we only need a few minutes of your time at the start of the visit. After we discuss a plan, we then transport your pet to our veterinary truck if needed, take care of their needs and return them to you to discuss the exam and recommendations. No need to wrangle kids and pets together as you would in a traditional brick and mortar clinic.
  • Prefer to spend your day off at home? So do we. Your home is exactly where we want to be. You and your family can remain relaxed and well cared for by Blue Door Vet Services.

Have any questions about what we do as a mobile vet or how we can help you and your pet out?  Visit our FAQ page for more information.

Why Choose Blue Door Vet for your in-home pet needs?

mobile veterinary clinic

“Doory” the Truck at a house-call

Our Mobile Service Is Unique

Blue Door Veterinary Services is a veterinary practice like you have never seen before! Dr. Meridith Dawson, owner and veterinarian, operates our mobile veterinary unit in the greater Portland community, providing complete veterinary services to dogs and cats (and sometimes rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and chickens).

blood work

On board lab machines

The mobile vet hospital is equipped with a complete surgical suite (for spays, neuters, mass removals and other elective surgeries), digital x-ray capabilities, pet dental cleaning/treatment equipment, on-site laboratory services, and so much more. Our advanced technology is on par with the technology you would find in a traditional brick and mortar practice, but we come right to your door!



Most importantly, we bring our full attention to your pet’s needs, in a place that is most calming: home. Whether your pet is anxious or travels poorly, or you have difficulty handling your pet or multiple pets for a visit to a traditional veterinary office, mobile care can be perfect for all of you. We’ll spend the time needed to meet your pet, conduct a full evaluation, and develop a plan of care. Should specialized care or longer-term treatment be necessary, we may even be able to help with the transportation of your pet to specialty hospitals.

Dr Dawson

Dr Dawson and her Boston Terrier, Donovan.

We invite you to explore the many veterinary services we offer to learn more about who we are and what we can provide to you, with exceptional convenience! If you have questions about our care, please explore our Frequently Asked Questions page on our website, or contact our team directly.


call: 503-819-8040

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Potty Training Tips – Part Two

puppy training

Wendi, training her puppy, Kilo

Welcome to Part Two – Potty Training Tips

Our favorite receptionist and dog training guru, Wendi (seen here on the left training her puppy, Kilo), has put together a few more tips for successfully potty training your new (or new to you) puppy.  If you missed the first 4 tips, see our previous blog post – Potty Training tips – Part 1.  If you’re all caught up, let’s go!

5. Use CUE words to teach your dog to go:

Can your dog learn to go on command? Of course they can!
Over time, your friends and family, if they are as impressed as easily as mine, will be astounded if you take your dog outside, tell them to “go potty” and they do so on demand! AND, it is easy to do! Of course, we don’t demand our dogs to go, we ask for the behavior, and if they go, they are rewarded.
You will learn your dog’s behavior when they have to go – a certain circle, sniff, even a different way they hold their back. When they enter into this “about to go” stance, give a cue word. It doesn’t matter what you pick, just be consistent. I’m not sure if it is just my luck or what, but most of my dogs get potty trained over the winter. As a result,  their cue is “hurry” but it can really be anything. Once they go, they get rewarded, eventually they will start going as soon as possible to get that praise or reward for going.
This is a handy training tool to have at your disposal. This can be the difference between a five minute potty break at a rest area while traveling and a half an hour adventure hike at a rest area. The choice is yours. I’d prefer my pets go when I ask them to go.

6. TREAT/REWARD timing

With real estate, it is common to hear location is everything. With potty training, TIMING is everything!
A treat and/or rewards/praise are to be given IMMEDIATELY, even to the point where you are rewarding them while they are still going. Some people wait until they come inside to give the dog a treat. By then it is too late. You are rewarding your dog for coming inside, not for eliminating outside. Reward immediately when they eliminate outside since THAT is the behavior you want them to repeat. Otherwise, you are going to have a dog that wants to go outside, do nothing, come inside, and expect a treat.

dog pooping

Time to give a treat/praise/a toy for a job well done!

You have to discover what your dog likes as a reward. Some dogs may love verbal praise and others may be totally indifferent to you verbally praising them or it may interrupt them from going. Some dogs love treats the most. I have a dog who is not crazy about treats, nor is she responsive to verbal rewards. For her potty training, I always let her play with a squeaker ball for a few moments after she went potty. Those few moments of play were the reward she got immediately for going. I always gave the cue “hurry,” and when she went, I gave her a verbal short “YAY” followed quickly with her squeaker ball. Whatever it takes. Find your dog’s loves, then use them to your advantage.

It is common for dogs to be confused as to where to go to relieve themselves, especially if they go on walks for exercise.  For this reason, choose ONE door that leads to where they are to relieve themselves and use that consistently for potty training and use ANOTHER DOOR to exit for exercise. 

While potty training, always go to the ONE door that leads to the potty break area first.
After potties, come inside for a few minutes. Then, go out the OTHER DOOR for a walk!

“Why not use the same door and walks for potties?”
If their mind stimulating walk is utilized for them to relieve themselves then a couple things could happen:

too many dogs

It’s time for a fun walk Mom!

    They will be too distracted to go to the bathroom (the walk is so much fun!)
There will be too many distracting sights and sounds and smells that going to the bathroom will be the last thing on their “to do” list.
    They will HOLD IT on their walks to get longer walks. Dogs are smart. They learn that if they “go” then they get taken back inside. They don’t want to go  inside, they want to walk!!! A super smart dog will eventually learn to hold it longer and longer because they want longer and longer walks.

If you only have one door, no worries – here’s how to make it work for you:
Simply make sure the dog is taken outside to void in a designated spot in the yard, rewarded immediately, and come inside for a few moments.
That way they don’t associate the to go potty trip with the outside to get exercise trip.
Always make sure they void before you set off on your adventures; Going potty before setting off on a walk is another incentive to go fast on a potty break because the adventurous exercise walk is a reward for doing so well!

I don’t wanna go inside yet…

Using the Two Door method will avoid what I call “walk let down” as well. What is “walk let down”? This is when you take your dog outside, and they get let down because they think it is going to be a fun trip or walk about the neighborhood. By taking them out the POTTY DOOR first, they know NO walks will occur until they eliminate, so, it could be good encouragement to go, and go fast, to try to earn a fun walk.

We covered a LOT of tips for successful potty training. Some are intertwined and related, as there is no cut and dry formula for potty training. All dogs are different, but all dogs respond to a lot of the great tips presented.  If you’re a client of Blue Door Veterinary Services and you’d like a little help with potty training, feel free to request a chat with Wendi after you’ve had a visit with to doctor to make sure there are no behavioral or medical health problems factoring in to the troubles.  

If you’re not a client with us yet, feel free to give us a call at 503-819-8040 or request an appointment online to get your pet(s) on our schedule!  We love puppy kisses!

Our last segment on potty training will wrap up the loose ends of training, including a sample schedule to help get your pup on the right track to perfect potty training. 
If you missed our initial potty training segment, check it out at “Potty Training Pitfalls. 

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Tips for Potty Training Success!


In our previous blog post,  Potty Training Pitfalls, we discussed some common issues that might make potty training difficult. Now we will share some training tips that will not only have you avoiding those pitfalls, they should have your dog avoiding going inside the house altogether!


Don’t Forget the Health Check:
Previously, two key factors were discussed that are of utmost importance, the physical health of your pup or adult dog, and their behavioral health. These are still key factors. If you are facing house training problems, make sure you discuss your dog’s physical exam results, diagnostic testing results,  as well as their behavior with your veterinarian. Potty training attempts with a pup with parasites or an older dog with an ailment aren’t going to go so well. We want you to be able to succeed in potty examining puppy training your dog. No dog is ever too old to learn to eliminate outside, and no puppy is too young to start learning the basics of what is expected of them, though a puppy’s age must be taken into consideration. Physically, most puppies will  not be able to have control over urine and bowels for several months. Don’t expect too much too soon from very young or very small breed puppies. The same goes for very old dogs. Sometimes as senility sets in, they may forget to go outside, but accidents in the house may also be a sign an older dog is not well.  So remember, the first step to solving elimination issues, is to schedule an appointment for a check up with your veterinarian.  

Now, onward for TIPS FOR SUCCESS!

  1.  Patience
    Your dog is not going to learn to eliminate outside overnight. It is a behavior they will learn, so be patient. Accidents will happen, so don’t have a freakout when they do occur. Just clean them up, and move on with life. No sense in crying over spilled milk, and no sense in yelling over accidents on the floor. Be patient, and following the pitfalls to avoid with the tips this week, we’ll have your on your way to potty training success!
  2. Consistency
    Dogs, like people, do better when they know what is expected of them. A dog is less likely to have an accident if they have a good idea of how long they are going to have to hold it. So, CONSISTENCY is important in training. A dog is less likely to soil indoors if they know they will be let out soon.  Take them out at the same times every day. Over time, dogs will learn to adjust as they know they will not suffer the pain of a bursting bladder by being forced to hold it all day.  Some pups are very good and CAN hold it all day; the point is, they SHOULD NOT have to hold it all day.
    If you work 8 hours a day, imagine not going to the bathroom from the moment you leave for work in the morning until you get home. That is the exact same thing you are requesting of your dog! They shouldn’t have to hold it all day, nor should you. You probably CAN, but from a medical perspective, it isn’t good for bladder, kidneys, or bowels to hold it that long. And, containing it for long periods actually can become physically PAINFUL to a pet. Your dog may be in pain from trying to hold it, and may have an accident simply to avoid a painful situation.
    We recommend you schedule a mid day walk, either from a pet sitter or other source. Your dog will thank you, AND it will make house breaking easier.
    If a dog KNOWS they are going to be forced to hold it all day, they may simply GO chi puppy  hen they have to as they will want to avoid the pain and/or discomfort from holding it all day; However, dogs who KNOW they will get that middle of the day break will be more apt to try to contain it because they KNOW they won’t have to hold it all day.
    As for puppies, there is NO QUESTION they will be unable to hold it all day, and probably should have several scheduled breaks for elimination during the day. So, if you work outside of the home, get those pet sitters or dog walkers lined up. It is unrealistic to ask a puppy to contain urine/bowel movements for an entire work day.
  3. Scheduling
    Scheduling is related to consistency; they go hand in hand. A regular schedule is of utmost important when it comes to effective potty training. What goes in must come out, and for dogs that timing is predictable.
    Put your dog on a regular feeding schedule, feeding at exact time(s) every day. Leave the food down for ten minutes then pick it up until the next scheduled feeding time. For puppies, after they eat, take them immediately outside to eliminate. For older dogs it may take up to ten minutes to get the urge to go.
    As for water, you must monitor when your dog drinks. Puppies will have to urinate within ten minutes of drinking, and adult dogs within 20 minutes. You can measure how long it takes until your dog “has to go” by monitoring when they drank some water and when they had to eliminate. After a few days, you should start noticing patterns in your dog’s elimination patterns, and, with proper monitoring you will notice pre-elimination behaviors, such as circling, intense sniffing, or hiding behavior if they’ve had a bad experience from voiding  in the house.
  4. Confinement
    This can be a hot button topic for pet owners, because for a lot of people when they think of confinement, the first thing that pops into their head is PRISON, and no one wants to imprison their puppy. But a potty training pitfall is giving a dog or puppy too much freedom too soon. Dogs are den animals, and WILL NOT object to their own den. It is a natural behavior for them to seek out a cozy, quiet spot to relax. Once a dog is used to their crate (and yes, we will have a blog on crate training as well!) it is a simple matter of utilizing the crate for house training. This may NOT be an option for some dogs, or some owners, so let’s examine the pros, cons, and alternatives.

    1. Crates: If you chose to use a crate, it should only be large enough for the dog to turn around for house/potty training time. You can also feed and water the dog with bowls that hang inside the crate, as it is even more unlikely for a dog to eliminate where they eat/drink. If the dog must be in the crate, make sure you give him something to do, like a large nylabone or Kong stuffed with stuffing to chew on.  When we go over crate training, there will lots of tips to keep your pet entertained while crated. Crating, as awesome as it is, is NOT an option for all dogs. Highly stressed dogs, dogs with anxiety, or dogs who have been abused or neglected often have bad association with crates and cages, and can never be crated.
    2. Leashes indoors: Leashing is simply having the dog on the leash indoors to leashed dogkeep them with you, so where you go, they go. Tight monitoring of the pet is accomplished because they are literally attached to you at all times with the leash. This allows you to spend time with the dog outside of the crate or their designated small potty free zone without worrying about them slipping off to void in the house. NEVER tether the dog to something as the object of leashing indoors is to have them monitored and in your sight. They need to be close enough for you to monitor their every move.
    3. Small room/Potty free zone: If a crate is not an option, a small enclosed area with an easy to clean floor may work. You may need to invest in baby gates and/or exercise pens to accomplish creating an area that is puppy proof and easily cleaned in the event of an accident. Avoid rooms with carpet or those with possibly unsafe items, such as garage or storage room. The room should be safe for dogs – perhaps a small powder room or bathroom that is devoid of anything a pet may get into. Offering food at scheduled meal times and water in this designated room can help, as again, dogs are less likely to soil areas where they eat and drink. 

When fostering dogs, I often keep the dog  on the leash while indoors. It keeps them within eyesight, and I can socialize them and spend time with them out of their crate all while I can get some work done. For me, a super productive day is spent solving pet and pet parent woes on my laptop, all at the same time as potty training a rescue, foster, or my own dog/puppy.  I simply put a dog bed with some toys next to my work area. I  attach the leash to my trainee, and the handle end of leash I tuck under a leg or behind me so I can feel it if the dog gets up and I’m engrossed in something, like making potty training blogs 😉 I keep them within eyesight, and I keep the leash on so I don’t miss anything if they get up unnoticed. Win win!

ALL dogs can be potty trained,  but not all potty trained dogs can avoid accidents if they suffer anxiety.

If your dog is suffering from anxiety, and is having elimination accidents because of anxiety, be advised it is NOT a potty training issue. It is a physical manifestation of a more deep rooted medical/behavior issue. Speak to your vet about anxiety as your dog will not be able to avoid accidents if they are anxiety related.  Anxiety can be helped with behavior modification though some dogs are so bad they may need medications.
We will have a blog on KEEPIN’ CALM with pointers and tips to help dogs with anxiety! But some dogs may need more.  Again, this is NOT a training issue, but a much more insidious condition in which potty training cannot commence until it is remedied.

Keep following our blog to hear more tips and tricks from Wendi (our favorite receptionist and puppy trainer) on potty training and other training tips for your puppies and newly adopted pets.

If you want to learn more about why a mobile veterinary service could be your and your pets’ next favorite thing, learn more about us at Blue Door Veterinary Services here

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Avoiding Puppy Potty Training Pitfalls

Avoiding potty training pitfalls

House training is one of the most challenging times in all of puppyhood for both puppy and owner. Puppies are carefree and happy, and most don’t understand why their humans freak out over a piddle or a poo on the floor.
They don’t have the control of their bladder or bowels and some are so young it almost seems silly for humans to get so upset. After all, it would be the equivalent of getting upset at a baby for soiling their diaper.
For older dogs who may have been adopted or rehomed, they may never have been properly potty trained or they may be suffering stress at new surroundings or simply may not know where to go.
The good news is, no matter what age a dog is, as long as they are old enough to have some control of their bladder and bowels, potty training can commence.

So let’s first examine some potty training pitfalls, how you can avoid them, and how you and your new puppy or “new to you” dog can get ready for house training.

First things first, here are some key factors to consider:

PHYSICAL HEALTH: It is important to make sure there are NO HEALTH problems that are causing inappropriate elimination behavior. Schedule an appointment with your vet if you find that you’re having some potty training issues to help rule this out as a contributing factor.
BEHAVIORAL HEALTH: A dog’s prior history is important too. A dog’s elimination behaviors are a product of the environment in which he or she has been raised. A chat with your vet can help determine if this is part of the issue.

We will get into both physical health and behavioral health in a later blog, but for now, remember to rule these out to make sure there are no underlying health issues that could play a major role in house training. Even completely trained pets can have accidents in the house. For most, it is simply that, an accident, and for others, it could mean they don’t feel well or are having another problem.

On to the Potential Pitfalls:

Here is a list of common potty training mistakes;
We can help you avoid these, as they should be avoided at all costs!
Common and easily avoidable potty training mistakes:

  1. Not taking your dog outside often enough:
    This is a tough one, because most newbie pet parents will not understand how a puppy can hold it at night but can’t make it more than 20 minutes while they are playing. Well, an easy way to explain it is –active puppies have “to go” more. Why is this so? Because when they sleep, their bodies aren’t making as many waste products. When they are awake, active, and running, they generate waste products, sometimes rapidly. Metabolic waste has to go somewhere, and that is usually through urine and feces. AND, you will notice in young puppies, it is mostly urine. Lots of urine. Growing is serious business, and puppies may not notice they have to go until they are actually going.
    A good rule of thumb for a puppy to hold it at night or while sleeping, is roughly an hour for every month of life for the first few months. So, a three month old puppy should be able to “hold it” for three hours in a crate at night. HOWEVER, if they are awake, they really may have to go every 10-20 minutes. This also means that for most puppies you will have to get up in the middle of the night to let them out, and when they are awake and active they really may need to go every 10-20 minutes, especially toy and smaller breeds. Remember too, when they wake up they will have to go immediately, so keep an eye on those babies. When their eyes pop open from a nap, pop that leash on and get them outside.
  2. Not cleansing with effective products: 
    There are some rules when picking out cleaning supplies for a new puppy, such as, NEVER use ammonia or ammonia containing products. Urine breaks down into ammonia, so when a dog smells ammonia, it means, “It is OK, there is already urine here, so this is a great place to go!”
    So say “NO” to using products that contain ammonia.
    NEVER use products that are known to be toxic to pets; read labels carefully. Most will state to keep away from pets not only while you are using them, but even after use, and these products should be avoided. The safest products to use are those specifically labeled for PET ACCIDENTS and that are designed to be safe for use around pets.
    The next thing you need to be on the lookout for, is ALWAYS use a product that has ENZYMES for cleaning. The enzymes actually break down urine and feces, and when they are broken down, their odors are eliminated. Just because you have a favorite cleaner and you cannot smell the accident site, rest assured your dog who has thousands of more smell receptors than you do can still smell odors. And, an odor means, “This is where we go!”
    That is why we frequently hear, “He always goes on this carpet” or “she likes to go here all the time.”
  3. Free feeding:
    Leaving food down all the time seems like a great idea at first. However, this can make housebreaking almost impossible, as most puppies eat and then almost immediately, poop.  They can also eat a lot for their size, and if you do not time your feedings, they will also be making a lot of waste. It is best to put food down for about ten minutes at regularly scheduled times, and pick it up at the end of ten minutes, and don’t put it back down again until the next scheduled feeding time.
  4. Too much freedom too soon:
    “Hey, Sparky didn’t have an accident all day, I’m going to let him run through the house!”
    Don’t do it. When training, your puppy or newly adopted dog should be within eyesight at all times, just like a toddler, and when they can’t be watched, they should be in an area they are unlikely to soil, like a crate or smaller area.
    The use of baby gates to keep them in the room with you, or even tethered (SAFELY) to you are good methods to keep them close, so you can see what they are doing, and more importantly, to learn their cues for when they have to go.

  5. Using walks as potty breaks:
    There are a couple of reasons not to have your puppy or adopted dog use long walks as their main means of elimination.
    They may be too distracted to go to the bathroom (the walk is so much fun!) There are usually too many distracting sights, sounds and smells that going to the bathroom will be the last thing on their “to do” list.
    Dogs are smart. They learn that if they “go” then they get taken back inside. They don’t want to go inside, they want to walk!!! So they will start HOLDING IT longer and longer to get LONGER WALKS. Our dogs are very smart, and they train us very well, so they can really learn to hold it, as long as it gets them a longer walk.
    Plus, training your dog to go when you want/need them to, instead of having to go for a three mile trek before they go, can be helpful in the future.
    Don’t fall into that trap. Have your pet learn to go outside to eliminate first, then you can go off and do fun things like a fun walk. We’ll discuss more in a later blog such as learning to cue to eliminate as well as other techniques to make potty training faster and more convenient both for the here and now, as well as for future events.
  6. Rubbing a dog’s nose in excrement:
    We know this is a long held training method, and many people still hold firm to the belief that showing a dog that they had an accident is an effective method of preventing future accidents, but veterinary behaviorists and trainers disagree.  Truth be told, it does teach the dog something, that having one’s face rubbed in excrement is gross and disgusting. If they make any connection at all, it may teach them that if a mess is out for all to see, then faces get rubbed in it. So, if they have an accident, and this technique us used, they may learn to simply HIDE where they go. We call these “closet poopers” or “behind the couch whizzers” because their owners have unknowingly trained them that hiding when they go eliminates the facial rubbing. It can also destroy the trust you’ve made with your new pet, and they may learn to fear you.  It could even lead to “submissive” urination issues as well, which is a topic for another day.
  7. Attributing dogs inappropriate voiding behavior to spite, jealousy, or anger:
    While we know our pets feel emotions, they probably do not feel them the same way humans do. It is highly doubtful Fifi peed on your new carpet because you hugged Uncle Frank or fed the goldfish first. For our pets, revenge is probably not even in their emotions repertoire.  Your dog doesn’t soil your home out of spite; there is always another reason.  Except for anxiety, emotions don’t play into potty training. Anxiety affects animals on a physical and mental level, and is very real, so we’ll address that separately.

Take Home Message: 

There are a lot of aspects to potty training; it isn’t a simple cut and dry “just follow the directions and they get it” kind of training. There are a lot of factors that influence a dog’s behavior, including their elimination behaviors. Hopefully, by avoiding some of these common mistakes, you and your pet can live harmoniously.

In our next blog segment, we will try to teach pet parents some simple tricks and methods for potty training, making it easier on both the pet and their people.

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Clover the Rescue Dog – a client’s story

A client of ours sent us the most adorable story about how she adopted her rescue dog, Clover.  Then she gave us permission to share her story with you.

Clover the Rescue Dog & the Foo LionFoo Lions

The Classy Canine Animal Shelter seems like the right place to find a small dog. It takes some looking but here it is in a side street with a little dog sleeping in a glass enclosure in the window. A shop bell rings as I walk in and a woman walks out of a side room through a velvet curtain apologizing.

“I only have three dogs to choose from right now,” her voice sounds like a warning before dropping and becoming very friendly, “and they are all very cute.”

One puppy looks like a fluffy pink marshmallow and has big black eyes under her shaggy bangs. She wags her tail like a big feather.

“I’ll take this one,” I say to the lady.

“Good choice,” she said. “She is a very special little dog.

“Do you know anything about her?” I ask.

“She has her shots and she is housebroken.”

“Sorry, I mean about where she comes from.”

“Well, the lady who brought her in the first time only said that she was bringing her in because things got “out of control.” She tells me this quoting her fingers in the air. I mean, just look at her. How ‘out of control’ can a little piece of fluff be?”

“The first time?” I ask.

“Yes, the second time the people said she would not behave, but after all, dog training should help with that.”

“How confusing for the puppy,” I say.

“Not as confused as I was when the next family brought her back. They said she was not good with small children.” she says.

“Okay, well, there are no small children in the house and it looks like I should start with dog training,” I smile.

I am sure you will give her a good home,” she looks at me, nodding. Come into my office and we will sign the adoption papers. I am going to give you a discount…and…” Her voice stretches the word ‘and’ as she reaches around behind her to take a bluish statue from the bookshelf….”here is something from the first owner. She left this statue here when she brought the puppy to us and said that we should always keep it near her. Nonsense of course, but here it is.”

“That’s okay, I don’t need to….”.

“You have to…” she insists, staring at me until I pick it up. It is a rather ugly little statue and I cannot tell if it is a dragon or a lion or a laughing horse. I stick it in my bag and put a little leash on our new puppy.

We drive a good hour to get to our home out in the country.

When I open the door she jumps out like a high dive champion and rolls and rolls in the clover. That is her new name. Clover.

Clover is pretty calm for about a week. She sits curled up in her soft little bed, she takes walks on the leash and she eats her dinners.

On day eight she begins barking.

She barks at the mailman.

She barks at birds on branches.

She barks at cats.

She barks at squirrels.

She barks at people walking by

She barks at the doorbell.

She barks if I leave the room.

She barks if I leave the house.

She barks if someone comes to the door.

On day nine she begins snarling. She locks her knees, throws her head back, squints her eyes, shows her sharp teeth both upper and lower, growls in the back of her throat and then begins clawing in the air.

She snarls if you try to put her leash on.

She snarls if someone reaches down to pet her.

She snarls if you reach down to ask her to go for a walk.

Clover is a rescue dog with issues.

One day my grandson Nick comes over and she goes berserk and nearly bites him. She jumps around showing her teeth like an angry piranha fish. I tell her she is being an ‘awful waffle’ but she does not care. Now Nick does not want to be around her.

Dog training is not starting soon enough for me. But the day finally arrives.

“Oh, isn’t she cute?” the trainers coo, “So, what are your goals for dog training?

“She acts vicious sometimes and I do not know what to do.”

Everyone in the class laughs.

She gets along very well with the other dogs, mostly retreating if she feels uncomfortable. She is a model student. She is even able to learn circus tricks quickly. Until the day of the tunnel trick.

“Please take off her leash so she can run through the tunnel,” the trainer asks.

“But she won’t let me put it back on,” I protest.

“Be serious,” he says, “just put it on.”

“I’m afraid she’ll bite me,” I say, sheepishly.

“Here, give it to me,” he says, sounding exasperated while reaching for the leash.

Piranha Dog jumps into action. She locks her legs, throws her head back, squints her eyes, bares her sharp teeth and begins clawing in the air. Everyone gasps at Clover’s behavior.

“We did not believe you,” he says. “She’s such a cute little dog…but something is not quite right. She is a rescue dog with issues.”

The next stop is the vet for flea and tick medication. She does not want the vet to touch her. She does not want flea medication. She locks her knees, throws her head back, squints her eyes, bares her sharp teeth and raises her claws. I leave the room and they are finally able to wrangle her.

The vet says goodbye. “She is a rescue dog with issues. Is it safe to keep her?”

Safe to keep her? What are my choices? All of my hopes are pinned on the dog training.

Clover and I drive out to visit my sister Chris at the beach.

“Why on earth did you bring that awful little statue to the beach?” she asks.

“The lady at the dog shelter told me to keep it near Clover.”

“Where is the other foo lion?” she asks.

“What is a foo lion?” I ask.

“That statue that you have in your hands, it’s a foo lion.”

“Oh, its a lion,” I say, surprised. “I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. But I only have one.”

“What do you think happened to the other one?” she asks.

“You’re kidding,” I laugh. “Isn’t one enough?

“No, I think there are always two. In China they are thought to protect homes and buildings.”

“So how does a statue protect homes?”

“Their power is in their claws, their fangs and their eyes.”

I take down the statue and look at it. I had seen that look.

“Now I do see the resemblance.” I say, puzzled. “Now that you mention it Clover behaves more like a lion than a dog!

Clover the Rescue Dog

Clover looks like a little Foo Lion

I tell my granddaughter Thea about the statue.

“Why don’t you find out more about the lady who brought her in the first time? The one who left the statue at the shelter,” Thea suggests.

“Sure, let me do that. There is something very odd about the whole thing.”

I call the dog shelter.

“Hi, Remember me from the Pomeranian poodle puppy I adopted last month. Do you remember giving me a small statue the original owner had left with the puppy?”

“I do,” she responds.

“Could you ask the lady who left it to contact me? I have a question about the statue,” I add.

“Oh, I hope everything is okay. Sure, I can do that.”

My phone rings about twenty minutes later.

“Hello, the lady at the dog shelter asked me to give you a call. Is the puppy okay?”

“Sure,” I said, “I’m calling about the statue.”

“The little statue I left at the shelter?” she asks, with trembling in her voice.

“Do you think we can meet somewhere for coffee? I am in town this afternoon and I have some questions about the statue.” I say, trying to sound casual.

She begins crying. “I know, it’s all my fault. I never intended….I am so sorry, so sorry.”

“So you don’t mind meeting with me?” I ask, hopefully.

“Okay, okay. Here’s my address. About two o’clock?”

I park in front of a narrow cement building with big windows, maroon drapes with gold fringe and hundreds of little statues and decorations in her tiny garden in front. An older woman wearing layers of clashing scarves and necklaces over a crocheted poncho and black leggings opens the door. She had 1980’s eyeliner tatooed on her eyes.

“Please come in, come in. You can sit over here. I just set some hibiscus tea.” She begins very busily moving cups and spoons.

“Thank you,” I say, hoping she will sit down, “I brought the statue,” setting it on the table.

She begins crying again. I had clearly struck a nerve.

“There were two of them. There are always pairs of foo lions. In China they are called stone temple lions. In Japan they are called foo dogs, but they are not dogs, they are lions who will protect your home or a building. They were sitting there”, she said, pointing to the mantle.   She stared at the mantle for some time.

“And then something happened?” I asked.

“I found an old book at a yard sale showing how to put spells on things. I was just standing here in this room waving sage, practicing the words and movements and before I knew it, the statue…..(breathing heavily)…the statue began moving and came alive and a puppy jumped off the mantle. I could not believe it. I had cast a spell! Me! A spell! ” Her eyes grow wider as if she is very proud of herself and then she begins crying again. “I’m so sorry!”

I cannot believe what I am hearing. For a moment I feel like someone inside a Tin-tin adventure and try to imagine what she is describing. Moments later my scientific mind kicks in. Is this woman on drugs?

“Are you kidding me? A statue on the mantle came alive with a spell?” This is just plain kookie. I stare into my teacup, trying not to laugh or roll my eyes at what she is telling. So this is the twilight zone.

“The little puppy was so cute and sweet and I was so happy for about a week. And then she began snarling and biting and scratching me and that is when I took her to the shelter.”

“So that explains why she is behaving like a lion and not a dog?” I said, catering to her crazy story, for fear she might try to put a spell on me!

She nods eagerly. I had to go. This is too much. I can not stay any longer.

“Okay, well thank you for letting me come over. Clover seems pretty happy in her new home, just difficult at times around people.” I am in a hurry to say goodbye.

I tell my granddaughter Thea about my visit and the very strange story about the statue. Thea loves dogs and walks well-behaved dogs in her neighborhood.

“I don’t really believe in magic spells, but if the lady did cast a spell how do we know the she won’t do another spell and make her a statue again?” Thea asks, even though we both think the whole thing about spells is really unlikely.

“Well, we know that Clover is alive and not a statue. We know that she behaves badly for a dog. And we know she behaves quite normal for a lion. So since she is here and she is alive maybe we need to look at her differently.”

Clover does not like the rain.

Clover does not like water.

Clover likes to sit and watch fish in a pond.

Clover does not want a collar on her neck.

Clover does not want a leash on her collar.

Clover does not want random people to pet her.

Clover does not like the smell of medication.

Clover is much like a cat. A lion is a cat.

Clover seems quite content as a living lion. She loves her morning walks. She loves to sit for long stretches and protect the birds. She does not allow any cats or squirrels anywhere near the birdfeeders.

Clover loves to be petted only when she decides. As soon as I sit down on the couch she jumps up and paws at my hand to pet her. As soon as I sit on the bed to put my socks on for a walk, she jumps up and lowers her head for a neck and shoulder rub.

Clover loves broccoli. Even when she does not want to go for a walk in the rain, you can lure her to the porch with broccoli.

Clover loves swiss cheese. In the evening when I slice apples and add a slice of swiss cheese, she comes over, sits silently, puts one paw up and waits for a tiny piece of cheese

Clover loves the snow and jumps straight up and down with

joy. Foo Lions are called Snow Lions in Tibet….so that figures.

Clover’s best friend is an older lady in the neighborhood who likes to read with her. She also prevents me from giving Clover to the zoo on very bad days.

Clover enjoys her life enough not to think she will do better as a statue. Our big problem is not to let animal control know we have a lion in the yard because our neighborhood is not zoned for wild animals and because we only pay taxes on a dog.

Clover rescue protector

Clover the protector



I no longer tell people Clover is a rescue dog with issues. I just say she is a Foo Lion who likes to sit by the door protecting her friends.



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New Puppy Nutrition Recommendations

Did you get a new puppy? Congratulations! puppy-eating-ozzy

Here at Blue Door Mobile Veterinary Services, we love puppies!  If you live in or near Portland, Oregon, we can help you get your puppy started the right way and help them live a long, healthy life.  Follow us to find out about your new family addition and how to treat them right. Today we will talk about finding the right puppy food for your new friend. Later, we will discuss vaccinations, behavior, potty training, and much more!

Are you asking yourself what do I need to know about owning a puppy?

Let’s start with a the basics – FOOD!:

  • What do you feed the newest member of the family?

The short answer is, puppy food! Just as babies are not miniature adults: puppies are not miniature adult dogs. Just being a puppy is hard work and requires different nutritional levels than adult dogs. Puppies generally require more calories than adult dogs. A commercial dog food that is labeled as a “puppy food” will have more calories per cup than adult dog food, so it is important that your new pet get the right food.  The differences don’t stop with calories though, so keep reading!

  • What are the other special nutritional needs of puppies?  puppy-max

We already know puppies require more calories, but they also require higher amounts of amino acids, minerals, more protein and different levels of fats. Small and medium breed puppies may be okay with a higher fat content to get those calories, but large breed puppies are at risk for developmental orthopedic diseases and require lower fat content to carefully regulate the rate of their growth. Quality puppy diets contain high levels of certain types of omega 3 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and a glossy coat as well as optimize brain and eye development.

  • How do I know what I am looking for?

First off, you want to look for an AAFCO label: American Association of Feed Control Officers. You can usually find their seal on the nutritional adequacy statement of the bag of food.  If the bag you’re looking at isn’t certified by AAFCO, it means the company hasn’t met the nutritional standards for complete and balanced nutrition which show that the diet supports the good nutrition they are claiming on the label.

aafco-labelExample of AAFCO statement on dog food label – look for “all life stages” or “puppies” instead of “adult dogs”

Next, look at the ingredients list: look for diets that are made from wholesome, natural ingredients, but don’t be scared away by the terms “by-product” or “meal” – those simply mean that the food may contain parts of the animal which aren’t used in human foods – ie lungs, spleen, and kidneys. Use of hair, horns, teeth, hooves, blood, manure or stomach contents is not allowed.  Check out this website for more definitions – Contrary to popular advertising campaigns, pets can also get nutritional value from some grains (corn, wheat, potatoes, barley, etc) and vegetables – they aren’t just carnivores like their wolf/wild cat relatives.

Last and most importantly, pick a food that is labeled specifically for puppy growth and development. Like we said above, puppies have some very specific needs and puppy foods are formulated to meet the needs of growing puppies.  Make sure to pick a large-breed puppy diet if you have a puppy who is likely to be over 50 pounds when he/she is full grown.

  • How much do I feed my new puppy?

All foods have different nutritional value. You should check out the feeding guideline on the bag. This is usually written as a per day amount. Most puppies should be fed 2-3 times daily.  If you have concerns that the bag suggestion is too much or too little, call your vet for a recommendation.


When do I switch him/her to an adult dog food?

When your puppy’s growth in height slows, you should begin switching to an adult formula. This usually occurs around 9-10 months for small breeds, around 12 months for medium breeds and 12-24 months for large breeds.

Did you adopt a kitten instead?  Check out our “What to feed my new kitten” blog.

As always, don’t hesitate to call/e-mail us at Blue Door Veterinary Services if you have any questions that this short blog didn’t answer!

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Pets, Fireworks and Thunder. Oh My!

Fireworks and thunderstorms are a fact of summertime.


While the celebrations and warm rain storms can be fun for people, some pets can become extremely frightened of the noise of both thunder and fireworks.  This can lead to anxiety/hiding, injuries due to trying to get away, and lost pets.  Your pet has a much better developed sense of hearing than we do, and that makes them more sensitive to these sounds of summer. The unexpected boom and crackle from fireworks can be startling and therefore scary. Thunderstorms may have more of a warning for our pets as they can sense the changes in the atmosphere long beforehand, but this means that they may be anxious for a longer time leading up to the storm.

Historically, Humane Societies around the country are busiest on the night of the 4 th of July and on July 5th as many pets become so frightened they slip from their collars or escape the backyard and wind up in their care.

There are many different approaches to helping your pet through this scary time of year.

Some pets need a combination of therapies to reduce their fear, stress and anxiety. Below are some options for your pet:

  •   Thunder shirt:  These work like swaddling does for infants. They can help your pet feel secure during stressful situations

Lemur modeling his Thundershirt

  •   Prescription  Medications: There are several anti-anxiety medications that can be used. Sileo is an FDA approved treatment for noise aversion. It is a fast-acting, easy- to- administer at home treatment.  Call us today to schedule an appointment to pick up some medications before your pet gets scared.

Sileo – A noise aversion prescription medication


A Feliway plug-in pheromone diffuser

  •   Pheromones:   Dog appeasing Pheromones or Feliway ( for cats). These products can be found  in several formats that can be used alone or together.  There are collars,  sprays or a plug in diffuser. They can be found in most pet stores.
  •  Melatonin is a natural calming supplement and you can find it at any health food store. This should be given before the fireworks start for best effect.

Tips for the Big Day (July 4th):

  • Block as much noise as possible by closing doors and playing a white noise cd. If possible use an interior room for your pet. Create a special area for your pet to feel safe: a covered crate with a favorite treat or toy.
  • Make sure all pets are wearing collars with identification tags – even if you leave them inside – Imagine a big boom happening when you open the door to leave and your pet runs out.
  • Make sure your microchip information is up-to-date with a correct phone number and address. If your pet is not microchipped : schedule an appointment to have one implanted today.


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