Sileo: Helping your dog calm down during fireworks and thunderstorms

June 30th, 2016 by Audrey Parker

Something New For Canine Storm Anxiety?fireworksandsileo

Does your dog fear fireworks? Pant up a storm when it’s thundering? Well, there’s a new option available to help with that.

Sileo is the trade name of a drug long-used in the veterinary field. Dexdomitor (also called dexmeditomidine) has been available as an injectable medication for veterinary anesthesia for many years. Now it comes in a unique oral gel that you insert between your dog’s lip and gums. The medication is absorbed across the gums, so it does not have to be swallowed. Gone are the days of forcing a pill down the throat of a panicking pup!

How Does It Work?

Sileo helps to decrease the amount of norepinephrine (or sileopicnoradrenalin) released in an animal’s brain. Norepinephrine is a molecule involved in the fight-or-flight part of the nervous system. Turning it down should thus prevent a dog from becoming so over stimulated by loud, scary noises. I have long used a tiny dose of this medication given as an IV injection for dogs who wake up disoriented and howling from anesthesia. It usually works like a charm. The dog is not knocked out, just calm and no longer distressed.

What are the Side Effects?

Sileo can effect a dog’s heart rate, respirations, and blood pressure. When used in the vet clinic at high doses to “knock a dog out,” the heart rate can drop from a normal 120 beats per minute down to about 40! This can be a bit nerve wracking, even if a doctor knows it’s coming. At the low doses to be used in the Sileo oral gel, however, such a drop would not be expected. Sileo also causes small blood vessels, called capillaries, to constrict, which can make a dog’s gums look white. Again, this is not a concerning sign if you know it is normal for the drug. Still, veterinarians will select the patients for whom Sileo is considered safe and effective, and dog owners should not exceed the dosing instructions they are given. Sileo is not approved for use in pregnant animals, and should not be given to dogs who have heart, respiratory, liver, kidney, or other serious disease.

How is Sileo Given?

sileo thunderstormSileo oral gel comes in a reusable hard tube with dot markings on the side designating a dosing “unit”. The number of units a dog needs for a dose depends on its size. As with many drugs, Sileo will be cheaper for smaller animals, and more costly for larger ones. There are twelve units in a syringe. One unit is a single dose for a dog up to 5.5 lbs. Two units per dose for a dog 5.5-12 lbs. And for a 200lb mastiff, all 12 units would be a single dose! You can repeat a dose every two hours for up to FIVE doses, which would be a VERY LONG thunderstorm or VERY EXPENSIVE fireworks display! A syringe can be used for up to two weeks after it is opened, but it should be stored in its box because the drug is light-sensitive.

Sileo gel should be given between the upper lip and gums, and should NOT be swallowed. The drug is actually inactivated in the GI tract, so it should be absorbed across the gums to work properly. A swallowed dose is not dangerous, it just won’t work well.

Sileo and Human Safety

Owners should wear impermeable gloves when administering this oral gel to prevent the medication from being absorbed across their own skin. Pregnant women should not administer the drug because of the potential for blood pressure changes if contacted. Wash hands after using Sileo, or after contacting the dog’s mouth shortly after they have received a dose.

If you know you will be out of town or out of the house for a loud event, another option for keeping your pet calm during a storm could be allowing them to stay with us at the clinic! Sometimes just not being home alone can help them feel safer.

For more information about this new drug, including videos on how it is administered, and helpful hints about canine noise aversion, go to:

Essential Oils and Animals

June 15th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

As I am delving into the world of essential oils for myself, I have found many people asking me about use in and on their dogs and cats.  First and foremost let me clarify I am NOT a holistic veterinarian (there are tests and lots of qualifications that go into becoming a true holistic veterinarian). I am just an interested vet wanting to pass along what I have learned to you about essential oils and animals.

essential oils cat dog

This is a very controversial topic in the veterinary world. There have not been many studies on the use of oils and aromatherapy with animals, and dosages/applications  and safety is obscure at best.  Sure, Pinterest is teeming with recipes for ‘essential oil flea and tick prevention’ as well as ‘shampoo’ made with the oils, but beware. Just because one person tried it on their pet does not mean it is safe for yours.

There is an internationally recognized holistic veterinarian, Dr. Melissa Shelton, who has authored two books on essential oils for pets, and has her own online website,, that I reference. You may want to check it out, too. To quote her about which oils are safe to use around your animals “You may not know until you use them! I know, that is not the answer you would like to get. You want a cut and dried, “use this oil, but not this oil” sort of scenario. But, it is just not accurate….the most important thing to know is “which oil are you using and where did you get it?”. There are many different grades of essential oils, and some are created for the ‘scent and flavor’ industry.

To read more on  this or explore her blog posts and information, visit her website!

pinterest essential oils

A perfect example of the articles you will find on Pinterest promising you that essential oils are safe for your pets…

A few safety precautions to keep in mind when combining essential oils and animals:

  • Keep all oils and aromatherapy products out of reach of children and pets
  • Do not give your pets essential oils internally
  • Do not get any oils near or in the eyes
  • Never apply essential oils directly to an animal’s muzzle area or inside  nostrils, ears or mouth
  • Do not force essential oils onto animals by way of a head or muzzle mask breather-type device
  • Do not apply undiluted essential oils to animals
  • Remember essential oils are very concentrated

Always consult with your veterinarian before using these with your pet!  Become educated enough to make proper decisions about their use. Improper use of even high quality oils can lead to burns, respiratory issues, GI upset and more! Keep in mind that pets cannot speak and tell you when “Ouch, that hurts/burns!” Unfortunately, Pinterest cannot always be trusted.

-Dr. Karen Gant



The Truth About Dog Flu and Pneumonia

June 9th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey


pneumonia coughAs we have discussed, canine influenza- aka the dog flu- is a highly contagious respiratory infection. There are currently two canine strains of this virus known to affect dogs internationally. H3N8 emerged around 2004 in Florida, and continues to cause sporadic disease. H3N2, a mild strain, was recently identified around Chicago in 2015. Geographic locations for this newer strain have expanded in recent months, following the initial outbreak in March of 2015.

What are the signs?

There are two forms of this disease: a mild form, and a more severe form that is often accompanied by pneumonia.

Mild form

Dogs suffering from the mild form of influenza develop a soft moist cough that can persist for 10 to 30 days. They may also be lethargic, and have a poor appetite, accompanied by a fever. Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose may also be observed. Some dogs may also have a dry, hacking cough, closely resembling that typically seen with classic kennel cough. Dogs can also have a thick nasal discharge, which typically indicates a secondary bacterial infection.

Severe form

Dogs with the severe form of influenza will develop very high fevers, and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort. Fatal cases of pneumonia have been reported, but the fatality rate is less than 10 percent.

How is canine influenza transmitted?/How do I keep my dog from getting the dog flu?

Influenza viruses do not persist in the environment for long, but will spread easily among individuals. Transmission requires direct contact with an infected and contagious dog’s saliva or nasal secretions. The major problem is that dogs are typically contagious even before they begin to show clinical signs; therefore, seemingly healthy dogs can transmit this disease. Puppies and geriatric/senior dogs, as well as patients with compromised immune systems, have the greatest risk for severe illness.

dog pneumoniaIf I think they have dog flu, when should my dog see the veterinarian?

Dogs that reside in, or travel to, areas where there are reported outbreaks are very much at risk, and should be considered to have canine influenza until proven otherwise. A coughing dog should never be ignored. Canine influenza is very contagious, so your veterinarian may request that you enter the hospital through a separate door to minimize potential exposure to other patients.

Tests and treatment will depend on the severity of current illness. For mild disease, the veterinarian might collect samples to identify the cause of illness. Dogs with mild signs will receive supportive care, typically including fluids, cough suppressants, or anti-viral medication, depending on their signs and how long the dog has been sick. For severe cases, chest radiographs (x-rays) are performed to look for evidence of pneumonia. Dogs with severe disease can require hospitalization, with oxygen and fluid therapy.

As with any illness, early intervention is directly related to successful treatment and rapid resolution of disease.

-Dr. Christie Taylor

Beware of Grass Awns!

June 1st, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

What are grass awns?

One of the most common minor emergencies we see during the summer in the Mid-south are grass awn foreign bodies. These grass awns in paw‘seeds’ or grass awns can become lodged in pet ears, between toes, and under the skin. The most common presentation is a draining tract between the toes. However, grass awns can also cause much more serious health problems when they enter through the mouth or nose of a dog, and migrate through the respiratory or gastrointestinal tract. Grass awns have backward-pointing barbs that prevent retrograde movement, making removal difficult (aka painful), and causing them to migrate deeper with normal motion. These seeds tend to get tangled in long, furry hair coats.


What should I look for?

Clinical signs will depend on the location of the plant material. The most common location is between the toes, which will cause redness and swelling, or even a draining tract. These patients typically present with a lameness associated with the affected paw. If untreated, an abscess will form that reoccurs despite drainage and antibiotic therapy. If the grass awn passes through the chest or abdomen, clinical signs can be vague, such as decreased performance, exercise intolerance, lethargy, fever and weight loss. Some patients will present with swelling and pain just behind the last rib, which is a common location for abscess formation. These grass seeds can also become lodged in the ear canal, and migrate to the middle or inner ear. This will cause the dog to shake their head excessively, or even cause a head tilt (when a dog holds their head tilted to one side).


grass awnsHow is this treated?

A thorough physical examination will help in identifying the location of a grass awn. In cases where the grass awn is suspected to have migrated through a body cavity, imaging (such as xrays or ultrasound) may be required to located the foreign material. The ultimate goal is successful removal of the foreign body, debridement and drainage of infected tissue, and long-term antibiotic therapy to resolve infection. This often involves surgical exploration of the affected tissue to locate and retrieve the foreign material. Pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication may also be prescribed to keep the patient comfortable. In some cases, placement of a drain may be necessary until the infection has improved.


How can I prevent this from happening to my pet?

In order to prevent grass seeds from penetrating into your dog’s skin, it is important to check their coats and feet for these objects regularly. If your pet is a breed with particularly furry feet or a long, shaggy coat, it can be quite beneficial to have their hair trimmed short during the summer months. By regularly examining your pet, and removing any grass seeds as soon as they are found, you will prevent migration of these grass awns and subsequent infection. It would also be helpful to keep weeds out of your pet’s yard and enclosure, as well as avoiding grassy fields and roadsides.


-Dr. Christie Taylor

Socializing A New Puppy

May 20th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

I think all veterinarians can agree puppy and kitten visits are usually the happiest parts of our day. Between puppy-breath kisses, we usually vaccinate, de-worm, perform our exams, and go over pet food and basic husbandry aspects of having a new puppy. The longer I practice, the more I am seeing the importance of early socialization and the impact that it can have on the well-being of the dog and their owners. When I’m concentrating on the new pet’s physical health, it is a subject that I am guilty of overlooking frequently. Believe it or not, behavior problems like fear and aggression are the number one cause of death in dogs under 3 years of age; outranking infectious disease and trauma, and socializing your pet can help significantly. Lack of socialization and reliable training is the main reason young dogs end up in shelters or are euthanized.

So when is the best time to socialize a puppy? The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says the peak period for puppy socialization is 4 to 14 weeks of age. During the first 3 months of life, puppies are much more open to new people, animals, and experiences. Their sociability outweighs their fear at this time. This period can be a balancing act between socializing and protecting from infectious disease. Many would argue that the risk of developing a life-threatening behavior problem is greater than the risk of contracting an infectious disease like parvovirus. However, there are basic safety precautions owners should take when they begin bringing a young puppy “out into the world.” Avoid places like dog parks, animals who have not been vaccinated, and high traffic areas that can’t be sanitized properly.

puppies socializing

The objective of puppy socialization is to try to expose them to as many new people (all ages, genders, and ethnicities), new places (traffic, playgrounds, quiet areas, yelling children, etc.),  different animals, and new experiences like car rides and manipulation of their sensitive areas like ears and feet. An excellent way to provide structured socialization is to find a good puppy class. This provides socialization in a controlled and safe environment and should be done on a surface that can be easily sanitized. The puppy should have at least the first set of puppy shots 7 days prior to starting a class, be de-wormed, and stay current on vaccines throughout the duration of the class.

socializingWhen socializing, it is important to remember that the experiences must be positive for the puppy, or it can work against you and create fear and anxiety. Always use positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise. For example, if the puppy is scared of a loud noise or a specific person, try to make it positive by letting the stranger give the treats or distracting the animal during a fearful time. If the puppy suddenly becomes anxious and fearful in a situation and does not recover in less than 1 minute, it is probably best to remove the animal from the situation. If the animal is flooded with negative stimuli, it can promote more fear and aggression because they just want to get away from the situation. If a puppy does not recover from stimuli like loud noises in less than 1 minute, a behavior evaluation may be needed.

The final point to remember is that socialization does not stop at 14 weeks. Although puppies are most receptive at a very young age, training can (and should) still continue and be effective. It’s similar to the way children are more open and receptive at a young age. We can still learn as we get older, it just takes a little more work. Your veterinarian may be able to help you with behavior questions or problems, and if not, they can definitely direct you to someone who can help.

-Dr. Alison Bradshaw