Category Archives: Medical

Spaying and Neutering Your Pets: What To Expect

Spaying and neutering your pets is important. If you don’t plan on breeding, you can actually lengthen your pets life. Visit our website at azpaws.org for more information.

If you’re looking into the services at a spay and neuter clinic, you probably already know that there are many benefits of spaying your pet or neutering your pet.

This sterilization process is actually likely to lengthen your pet’s life — and keep them healthier for those extra years, too (usually one to three years for dogs, and three to five years for cats). According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a spayed female dog has a dramatically reduced risk of uterine infections and breast cancer, which are often fatal, and neutering a dog (before six months of age) eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. Most towns and cities offer a reduced licensing fee for spayed and neutered pets, which definitely helps out your wallet (and gives you a few extra bucks to spend on a new toy for Fluffy). Most importantly, you’ll help lower the population of stray dogs and cats that are abused, neglected, and euthanized.

But let’s be honest here, most pet owners are a bit nervous before the procedure — and that’s completely normal. The best way to keep your pet healthy and safe is to prepare yourself and know exactly what to expect from an affordable pet clinic that also serves as a dog spay and neuter clinic, so with that in mind, here are a few things you should know:

  • First (and most importantly), both spay and neuter procedures are pain-free. Your pet will be under general anesthesia the whole time, just like humans receive for a surgery. The anesthesia is measured out precisely according to your pet’s size. Pain medication helps with the post-operative discomfort

 

  • For female cats and dogs, a small incision will be made in the abdominal wall to remove the uterus and ovaries; for male cats and dogs, only the testicles are removed.

 

  • The procedure won’t take too long but many clinics prefer to keep pets for a few hours, just to monitor the animal’s recovery. After your pet is discharged, it’s important to keep him or her away from other animals and allow for a recovery period for the anesthesia to wear off and the wound to heal more.

 

  • Pain medication will be provided for you to administer at home after the procedure, but many animals do just fine without it (or only need one or two small doses).

 

  • It’s normal to see slight redness and/or swelling right after the procedure; this goes away quickly.

 

  • Most pets can return to their daily activities within a week, although they may have to wear The Cone of Shame during the recovery time in order to keep them from licking or biting the incision.

The most important thing to know is that spaying and neutering your pet is good, and you’re giving your furry friend the healthiest and happiest life possible when you do so.

3 Reasons Why Dog Dental Care Matters More Than You Think

Many pet owners know that procedures like spaying and neutering help pets stay healthy and well-behaved. These procedures also help reduce the number of strays and unwanted animals, which makes them undeniably important.

But when was the last time you thought about your dog’s dental health — or even considered bringing your dog to a pet dental clinic?

The truth is that pets need dental care just as much as we do. This is especially true for our dogs, whose teeth can experience plenty of plaque and tartar build-up over time.

Brush up on the need to provide dog dental care to your four-legged friend with these three reasons why pet dental hygiene matters just as much as the importance of spaying and neutering your pet:

Regular dental checkups prevent pain

Unlike other people, our pets aren’t able to tell us when they’re in pain. As a result, you may not be aware that your pet is in pain until the problem becomes extreme. Regular dental checkups can help prevent this from happening, ensuring your dog doesn’t have to deal with painful tooth-aches. Your dog will be a much happier member of your family when he or she isn’t experiencing dental pain!

Pet dental care prevents tooth loss

Did you know that a full-grown dog will have 42 teeth? Each of these teeth is essential for chewing, biting and functioning. If your dog loses one or more teeth, this can be extremely painful and lead to serious health complications. By bringing your dog to a dog dental care clinic regularly, this tooth loss can be prevented.

Caring for your dog’s teeth will prevent numerous health problems

Much like spaying or neutering your dog can lengthen her or his lifespan by one to three years, ensuring your dog gets regular dental care is important for making sure he or she lives the longest, healthiest life possible. Dental care can help prevent periodontal disease, which has negative effects for the heart and other organs. And when your pet is healthier, your pet will be happier, as well.

Why Summer is the Right Time to Spay and Neuter Your Pets

It’s not just the mercury in your thermostat that rises during the hottest months of the year. In fact, summer is prime season for dogs and cats to have new litters of puppies and kittens. That’s why veterinarians and spay and neuter professionals across the country are advising pet owners on the importance of spaying and neutering your pet this season.

Still not exactly sure why you should spay and neuter your pets this summer? Here’s a look at the top three reasons to invest in this highly-important procedure before the end of the season:

Spaying and neutering prevents unwanted litters of puppies and kittens.

As stated before, summertime is the top season for unaltered dogs and cats to reproduce. During this time of year, animal shelters become overwhelmed with litters of puppies and kittens whose owners simply couldn’t care for them; as a result, millions of these animals are euthanized. The number of stray animals spikes as well. While the idea of your pet having babies might seem cute for a time, it’s much more ethical to have him or her spayed or neutered.

Spaying and neutering makes your pet more obedient.

Another reason why you should spay and neuter your pets? This procedure makes pets more obedient and better-behaved. Pets who are spayed or neutered are less likely to wander away from home. When an astounding 85% of dogs who are hit by cars are unaltered, the procedure could actually save your pet’s life, as well.

Spaying and neutering keeps your pet living longer.

Spaying and neutering, which removes the animal’s reproductive organs, is the only 100% effective way to prevent certain cancers and infections. Spaying, for example, prevents uterine infections and breast cancer, the latter of which is fatal for 50% of female dogs and 90% of female cats. As a result, you’ll be able to ensure a happier, healthier life for your pet.

Preventing Heat Stress and Injury in Pets

Your dog can’t tell you when he’s becoming overheated, so it’s up to you to keep an outdoor romp from turning into a dangerous medical situation.

It always amazes me when, every year as the temperatures rise, there are still reports of animals being left alone inside hot vehicles, despite the fact that the dangers of doing so are well-known. Animals that exercise too vigorously in the heat or cannot seek relief from it are also at risk for illness and injury as well. Not too long ago, I had a concerning experience like this with my own dog when I took him out for a little fun in the dog park.That’s why, as the dog days of summer arrive, I thought it might be helpful to review some simple facts about how the heat can affect our pets.

Balmy Weather? Still Deadly

It’s important to realize that dogs and cats can develop heat-related injury quickly when they stay inside a parked car or other vehicle. This can happen even when the windows are partially lowered, the vehicle is in the shade, or the outside temperatures seem relatively moderate. Many people do not realize just how quickly the interior temperature of a car can increase to deadly levels, even with some airflow provided by cracked windows. For example, on a 90-degree day, the temperature inside a closed car can climb to 109 degrees within just 10 minutes. In less than 50 minutes, temperatures in that same car can rise to above 130 degrees. On even a comparatively balmy 70-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach triple digits within 30 minutes (see table).

Heat toxicity can also occur in dogs that exercise too vigorously during periods of high heat, especially if the humidity is also elevated. Even dogs that are in good athletic shape and used to regular exercise can develop heat injury when out and about in extreme conditions. Heat toxicity, or heat injury, can run the gamut from heat exhaustion (which occurs in the early stages of a heat-related event) to heat stroke, which is a full-blown emergency that requires immediate veterinary intervention.

Temp Car

This chart was originally published in the journal Pediatrics. It also appears on the American Veterinary Medical Association site page about pet safety in cars. To better understand the factors that can cause a car’s interior temperature to skyrocket even when it is cool outside,read this article by Jan Null, CCM.

What Happens to a Heat-Stressed Pet?

During heat stress, the animal’s internal body temperature can increase rapidly, and fatal organ failure can follow. Since dogs and cats do not sweat (except on footpads and the nose) the way humans do, they cannot use this as a method to lower body temperature. Instead, dogs and cats try to regulate their body temperature by panting to help body heat dissipate. This response, however, is limited and easily overwhelmed under extreme conditions.

 

Signs of Heat Stress

  • Initial signs of heat toxicity include:
  • Panting
  • Excessive salivation (which is often thick and ropey)
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Bright red membranes of the mouth, tongue, eyes, and sometimes skin in light-pigmented dogs
  • Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur due to damage to the gastrointestinal tract

Multiple organs can fail if the excessive heat retention is not relieved soon enough. These organs include the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, liver, heart, muscles, brain, and bone marrow. Heat retention causes the blood vessels to dilate, and a form of shock develops as the condition advances.

If the animal is in a state of collapse when found, it is imperative to get him to your local veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately. Quickly cooling the animal for the trip with cool water from a garden hose may be helpful but do not immerse your dog in cold or ice water as this could lead to shock. If shock does develop, intravenous fluids and other medications may be needed for a few days upon arrival at the hospital.

 

The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Pets enrich the lives of people everywhere, adding joy and companionship to their owners’ lives. While many people strive to give their pets the highest level of care available, they often concentrate on feeding good foods, regular grooming, and taking pets to obedience class. Unfortunately, while veterinary care is a priority for pet owners, the importance of spaying and neutering your pet can be lost on many pet owners. There are many reasons why you should spay and neuter your pets for their health, and your sanity as an owner.

The most obvious benefits of neutering your pets include the decrease in pet overpopulation. This is an especially significant issue for cats, which are less likely to be adopted from shelters and harm the environment when left to roam freely. Because the number of stray and unwanted animals in communities decreases when pets are spayed or neutered, fewer animals are left in shelters or euthanized.

When you neuter or spay your cat or dog, you are sure to save money in long-term vet bills. Intact male cats and dogs are more likely to wander away from home, and are at a higher risk for testicular cancer than male pets who have been neutered before six months of age. When you neuter or spay your cat, his or her life span is increased by three to five years, while fixed dogs see a life span increase of one to three years. Many owners are concerned about the cost of having their pets fixed, but there are many dog and cat spay and neuter clinics that offer affordable surgery for low-income pet owners.

Spayed and neutered pets contribute to a more peaceful household. Spayed and neutered pets tend to be friendlier, more focused, and easier to train than their intact counterparts. Fixed pets also exhibit fewer aggressive behaviors, as well as refrain from unwanted actions like wailing and spraying.

Whether you are a cat person or a dog person, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to keep your companions happy and healthy, so be sure to have your pets spayed and neutered as early as possible to help them live a long and happy life.

Three Surprising Numbers and Statistics You Didn’t Know About Pet Overpopulation

Millions of Americans count companion animals as a member of their families. The ASPCA estimates that Americans own approximately 70 to 80 million dogs and 74 to 96 million cats.

And while there’s no denying the companionship and unconditional love you can get by owning a dog or cat, it’s also important to make sure you’re providing the best level of care to your companion animal.

Every pet owner has a responsibility to make sure his or her pet is spayed or neutered — a surgical procedure involving the removal of a pet’s reproductive organs so they can’t have puppies or kittens. One of the biggest reasons why you should spay and neuter your pets? It cuts down on the problem of pet overpopulation.

Pet overpopulation is one of the most overlooked issues plaguing the U.S. today — and it’s just one of the many reasons why you should spay and neuter your pets. Here are three numbers and statistics that show just how pervasive the problem of pet overpopulation has become:

10%

Did you know that only 10% of the stray animals that enter animal shelters are spayed or neutered? In contrast, 83% of pet dogs and 91% of pet cats are spayed or neutered on average. To help keep the number of animals in shelters down, the percentage of pets that are spayed and neutered should be closer to 100%.

70 million

It’s nearly impossible to measure the exact number of stray cats and dogs living in the U.S. Estimates for just the number of stray cats ranges around 70 million — and this doesn’t even count the number of stray dogs. The saddest part? A huge portion of these strays and unwanted animals came as a result of unplanned litters that could have easily been prevented through spay and neuter procedures.

2.7 million

Every year, approximately 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs living in animal shelters are euthanized. This figure shows perhaps the biggest reason why you should spay and neuter your pets — it lowers the number of unwanted animals who ultimately end up suffering and being put down in shelters each year. Many dog and cat spay and neuter clinics offer reduced fees for the spay and neuter procedure, so there’s no reason not to have your pet spayed or neutered.

How to Read a Dog Food Label

Reading nutrition labels is important when choosing dog food. 

The dog food nutrition label, like the nutrition facts box on packaged foods for people, is designed to help you compare products and to learn more about the food. But it can be a bit hard to decipher. We’ve put together a guide to the label to help you understand how to use it.

1. How do I read the dog food ingredient list?

Like packaged food for people, pet food must list ingredients by weight, starting with the heaviest. But if the first ingredient is a type of meat, keep in mind that meat is about 75% water, according to the FDA.

Without that water weight, the meat probably would fall lower on the ingredient list.

Meat meals, such as chicken meal or meat and bone meal, are different; most of the water and fat have been removed, which concentrates the animal protein.
2. What are byproducts, and should I avoid dog foods that contain them?

Veterinarians say that’s a matter of personal choice. Any pet food labeled as “complete and balanced” should meet your dog’s nutritional needs.

Liver, which is a byproduct, is rich in nutrients such as vitamin A. Meat byproducts also can contain blood, bone, brains, stomachs, udders, and cleaned intestines, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Byproducts don’t include hair, horns, teeth, and hooves, although an exception is allowed for amounts that occur unavoidably during processing.

Meat meal also may contain animal parts that many people consider to be byproducts. An ingredient listed as “chicken” or “beef” may include the heart, esophagus, tongue, and diaphragm. Although all these ingredients may sound unpalatable to you, your dog would probably disagree. So don’t necessarily balk if you see byproducts in the ingredients list.

Federal rules to guard against the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) ban some previously allowed cattle and buffalo parts in animal feed, including pet food. The FDA rule bans the inclusion of body parts from any animal that has tested positive for mad cow disease, as well as brains and spinal cords from older animals, as these are considered to be at higher risk of the disease.

3. What are all those chemical-sounding names lower on the ingredient list?

Preservatives, artificial colors, and stabilizers in pet food must be either approved by the FDA or be generally recognized as safe, a category that includes everything from high fructose corn syrup to benzoyl peroxide, used to bleach flours and cheese. Manufacturers must list the preservatives they add, but they do not always list preservatives in ingredients such as fish meal or chicken that are processed elsewhere.

Some pet owners don’t want to buy food that contains the synthetic preservatives BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), or ethoxyquin. These preservatives stop fats from turning rancid and can keep dry dog food fresh for about a year, but their safety has been questioned by some consumers and scientists. But the FDA says they’re safe at the level used in dog food.

“There is a debate about whether there is a need to avoid artificial ingredients like these, as conventional safety testing says they’re fine,” says Susan Wynn, DVM, AHG, a nutritionist for Georgia Veterinary Specialists in the Atlanta area and a clinical resident in small animal nutrition with the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. “I wouldn’t want them in my diet every day though, and I try to avoid them in my dog’s daily diet.”

Ethoxyquin came under scrutiny in the 1990s after complaints of skin allergies, reproductive problems, cancer, and organ failure in some dogs given food with this preservative. In 1997, the FDA asked dog food makers to halve the maximum allowed amount of ethoxyquin after tests conducted by manufacturer Monsanto Company showed possible liver damage in dogs fed high levels of the preservative.

Some manufacturers no longer use ethoxyquin, BHA, or BHT, instead using natural preservatives such as vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and extracts of various plants, such as rosemary. Those also keep food fresh, but for a shorter period. Be sure to check a food’s “best by” date on the label before buying or feeding it to your pet.
“If you want shelf life, it’s better to have chemical preservatives,” says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “They’re added at amounts that won’t harm the dog, and it creates a more stable fat. Rancid fat can cause liver enzymes to go up, and diarrhea.”

4. How can I make sure the food meets my dog’s needs?

Look for a statement of nutritional adequacy on the label.

Many pet food makers follow model regulations set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that establish the minimum amount of nutrients needed to provide a complete and balanced diet. The statement may say the food is formulated to meet AAFCO standards or that it has been tested in feeding trials and found to provide complete nutrition.

The AAFCO statement also should say what life stage the food is appropriate for. For puppies, look for a food suitable for growth or all life stages. For adult dogs, look for adult maintenance or all life stages. Nutritional needs for senior dogs can vary, depending on health conditions, and there is no AAFCO standard for senior food.

5. What is the guaranteed analysis?

All dog food labels must list the minimum amount of protein and fat in the food and the maximum percentage of fiber and moisture.
Some dog food labels also list the percentage of other ingredients, such as calcium and phosphorous.

Low-fat dog foods often contain less fat and more fiber, to fill up a dog without adding calories.

At least 10% of the daily diet, by weight, should be protein, and 5.5% should be fat, according to the National Research Council, a scientific research unit of the nonprofit National Academies. Dog foods typically contain higher amounts than those, because dogs may not be able to digest all of the nutrients in a food.

6. What do “natural” and “holistic” labels mean?

Legally, not much. Food labeled as natural should contain few, if any, synthetic ingredients. Holistic, along with premium and super-premium, are marketing terms and there is no rule that controls how they’re used. Watch out for marketing terms like “human-grade ingredients” or “made in a USDA-inspected facility,” too.

“It’s difficult to confirm those claims are truly accurate,” says Teresa Crenshaw, interim chair of AAFCO’s pet food committee. Although pet food can be made in a USDA-inspected plant, it may happen when there is no inspector present, Crenshaw says. Meat once considered safe for humans may have spoiled and been diverted to pet food, she says. Neither claim means the food is safe for humans to eat.

7. What is organic pet food?

There is no official definition for it. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, which sets rules for using an “organic” label, is reviewing the issue.

By Elizabeth Lee
WebMD Pet Health Feature Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

 

Top 10 Human Medications Poisonous to Pets

Pet owners who are serious about pet-proofing their home should start with their own medicine cabinet. Nearly 50% of all calls received by Pet Poison Helpline involve human medications – both over-the-counter and prescription. Whether Fido accidentally chewed into a pill bottle or a well-intentioned pet owner accidently switched medication (giving their pet a human medication), pet poisonings due to human medications are common and can be very serious.

Below is a list of the top 10 human medications most frequently ingested by pets, along with some tips from the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline on how to prevent pet poisoning from human medications.

NSAIDs (e.g. Advil, Aleve and Motrin)

Topping our Top 10 list are common household medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which include common names such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and some types of Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). While these medications are safe for people, even one or two pills can cause serious harm to a pet. Dogs, cats, birds and other small mammals (ferrets, gerbils and hamsters) may develop serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure.

Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol)

When it comes to pain medications, acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) is certainly popular. Even though this drug is very safe, even for children, this is not true for pets—especially cats. One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in large doses, red blood cell damage.

Antidepressants (e.g. Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)

While these antidepressant drugs are occasionally used in pets, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Pets, especially cats, seem to enjoy the taste of Effexor and often eat the entire pill. Unfortunately, just one pill can cause serious poisoning.

ADD/ADHD medications (e.g. Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)

Medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder contain potent stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate. Even minimal ingestions of these medications by pets can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures and heart problems.

Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)

These medications are designed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep better. However, in pets, they may have the opposite effect. About half of the dogs who ingest sleep aids become agitated instead of sedate. In addition, these drugs may cause severe lethargy, incoordination (including walking “drunk”), and slowed breathing in pets. In cats, some forms of benzodiazepines can cause liver failure when ingested.

Birth control (e.g. estrogen, estradiol, progesterone)

Birth control pills often come in packages that dogs find irresistible. Thankfully, small ingestions of these medications typically do not cause trouble. However, large ingestions of estrogen and estradiol can cause bone marrow suppression, particularly in birds. Additionally, female pets that are intact (not spayed), are at an increased risk of side effects from estrogen poisoning.

ACE Inhibitors (e.g. Zestril, Altace)

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (or “ACE”) inhibitors are commonly used to treat high blood pressure in people and, occasionally, pets. Though overdoses can cause low blood pressure, dizziness and weakness, this category of medication is typically quite safe. Pets ingesting small amounts of this medication can potentially be monitored at home, unless they have kidney failure or heart disease. All heart medications should be kept out of reach of pets.

Beta-blockers (e.g. Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)

Beta-blockers are also used to treat high blood pressure but, unlike the ACE inhibitor, small ingestions of these drugs may cause serious poisoning in pets. Overdoses can cause life-threatening decreases in blood pressure and a very slow heart rate.

Thyroid hormones (e.g. Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid)

Pets — especially dogs — get underactive thyroids too. Interestingly, the dose of thyroid hormone needed to treat dogs is much higher than a person’s dose. Therefore, if dogs accidentally get into thyroid hormones at home, it rarely results in problems. However, large acute overdoses in cats and dogs can cause muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, a rapid heart rate and aggression.

Cholesterol lowering agents (e.g. Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)

These popular medications, often called “statins,” are commonly used in the United States. While pets do not typically get high cholesterol, they may still get into the pill bottle. Thankfully, most “statin” ingestions only cause mild vomiting or diarrhea. Serious side effects from these drugs come with long-term use, not one-time ingestions.

How to get your dog in shape

Weight loss is tough for anyone—two- or four-legged. But losing weight and getting in shape not only adds years to your pet’s life, it can also make those extra years more enjoyable.

Why a healthy weight is important for your dog?
If a dog is just five pounds over its ideal weight, it’s at risk for developing some serious medical conditions. When a dog is overweight or obese, it’s not a question of if it will develop a related illness, but rather how many and how soon.

Veterinarians expect overweight dogs to live shorter lives than their fitter counterparts. Heavy dogs tend to be less energetic and playful. It’s common to think dogs that lie around are just lazy, making it easy to overlook the lethargy that results from being overweight or obese. If your dog doesn’t run and jump, it might be overweight. But don’t worry, your veterinary team can help your pooch get in shape!

Start with calories
A weight-loss formula seems simple: fewer calories, in plus more calories, out equals weight loss. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. First, never put your dog on a diet until it’s been examined by your veterinarian. A medical condition may be causing your dog’s excess weight. The veterinarian will rule out these diseases before putting your dog on a diet.

Once the veterinarian prescribes a diet, the next step is calculating the calories your dog needs. First, the veterinarian will calculate your dog’s ideal weight. Your veterinarian will use your dog’s initial target or ideal weight to figure out how many calories your dog should eat each day. To figure out how many calories are in your pet’s food, check the label. If it doesn’t tell you what you need to know, ask your veterinarian.

The art of changing foods
You’ll most likely need to offer your dog a diet food if its overweight. When you’re introducing a new food, allow several days for the transition. We recommend gradually adding the new diet over a one- to two week period. Start by substituting one-quarter of your dog’s diet with the new food for two or three days.

Then give your dog a diet that’s half old food, half new for the next two to four days. Then increase to feeding three-quarters new food for the final three to five days before completely switching to the new diet. To make dry food more appetizing for your dog, try warming the food, adding ketchup or oregano, or even adding a splash of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement or salmon juice on top of the food.

 

 

How can I tell if my pet is overweight?

Before you buy or adopt a puppy, read these tips to make sure your new friend is healthy.

Choosing a Healthy Puppy
The best time to acquire a puppy is at 8 to 12 weeks of age. At this age a puppy should be well socialized, will have received the first series of immunizations, and should be weaned and eating solid food. The breeder can usually make a good guess about whether a puppy is of show or breeding quality. But keep in mind that picking a future champion at 8 weeks of age is a problem, even for breeders with considerable experience.

Most puppies look healthy at first glance, but a closer inspection may make some puppies more desirable than others. Take your time and go over each puppy from head to tail before making the final decision.

Begin by examining the head. The nose should be cool and moist. Nasal discharge or frequent sneezing is a sign of poor health. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs and Pekingese, often have nostrils that collapse when the dog breathes in. This is undesirable.

Check the puppy for a correct bite. The correct bite for most breeds is a scissors bite, in which the upper incisors just slightly overlap the lower ones. An even bite, in which the incisors meet edge to edge, is equally acceptable in most breeds.

The gums should be pink and healthy looking. Pale gums suggest anemia, possibly caused by intestinal parasites.

Feel for a soft spot on the dome of the skull. If present, the fontanel is open. This is not desirable. In toy breeds, an open fontanel can be associated with hydrocephalus.

The eyes should be clear and bright. If you see tear stains on the muzzle, look for eyelids that roll in or out, extra eyelashes, or conjunctivitis. The pupils should be dark and have no visible lines or white spots that may indicate congenital cataracts or retained fetal membranes. The haw (third eyelid) may be visible. This should not be taken as a sign of disease unless it is swollen and inflamed.

The ears should stand correctly for the breed, although in some breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs, the ears may not stand up fully until 4 to 6 months of age. The tips should be healthy and well furred. Crusty tips with bare spots suggest a skin disease such as sarcoptic mange. The ear canals should be clean and sweet-smelling. A buildup of wax with a rancid odor may be caused by ear mites. Head shaking and tenderness about the ears indicate an ear canal infection.

Feel the chest with the palm of your hand to see if the heart seems especially vibrant. This could be a clue to a congenital heart defect. The puppy should breathe in and out without effort. A flat chest, especially when accompanied by trouble inhaling, indicates an airway obstruction. It is seen most commonly in brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Pekingese.

A healthy coat is bright and shiny and has the correct color and markings for the breed. In long-coated breeds, the puppy coat may be fluffy and soft without a lot of shine. Excess scratching and areas of inflamed skin suggest fleas, mites, or other skin parasites. “Moth-eaten” areas of hair loss are typical of mange and ringworm.

Next, examine the puppy for soundness and correct structure. The legs should be straight and well formed. Structural faults include legs that bow in or out, weak pasterns (the area between the wrist and the foot), flat feet with spread toes, and feet that toe in at the rear. Two inherited bone and joint diseases that may be present in puppies younger than 4 months of age (but are usually not discernable on puppy selection exams) are canine hip dysplasia and patella luxation. Certification of the puppy’s sire and dam by the OFA, PennHIP, or GDC is highly desirable in breeds with a high incidence of these diseases.

The puppy’s gait should be free and smooth. A limp or faltering gait may simply be the result of a sprain or a hurt pad, but hip dysplasia and patella luxation should be considered and ruled out. Patellas can be examined at this age, but this should only be done by an experienced breeder or veterinarian.