Protecting Your Chihuahua From Your Veterinarian
by Cara Ryckman
Today, like many other days, I helped someone on Facebook who had taken a Chihuahua puppy to the vet only to be told that the puppy – who was three weeks old and having some problems nursing – was hydrocephalic. The puppy was NOT hydrocephalic. A hydrocephalic puppy has pressure in its head, and this shows up often in the eyes – the eyes look like they are bursting out of the skull. Often they will be east-west. The top of the head feels spongy. The molera on most hydro puppies is HUGE. However, the mere presence of any molera will cause some veterinarians to tell an owner that their puppy is hydrocephalic. We were so saddened to hear that an absolutely gorgeous little boy that we almost bought was euthanized by a veterinarian only days after he reached his new owner due to a vet claiming his molera made him hydro. I have written in both my puppy contract and on the puppy’s vaccine record that the molera is NORMAL and ACCEPTED in the Chihuahua breed, and I include links to the AKC standard (http://images.akc.org/pdf/breeds/standards/Chihuahua.pdf) and to the Chihuahua Club of America’s statement on the molera (http://www.chihuahuaclubofamerica.org/chihuahua-breed-standard/molera-statement/).
Unfortunately, that is not the only thing I must include in my contract and on my vaccine records to attempt to protect my puppies from unknowing or unscrupulous veterinarians.
One of the biggest concerns is over vaccinating, or re-vaccinating. Some vets do not believe breeders really give the shots, so they insist on giving the entire series of shots over again. If you don’t trust that your breeder has given the shots, you have selected the wrong breeder. Any breeder who cares about their puppies will want them to have the best protection possible against anything that would harm them. Other vets simply want the fees for office visits and additional vaccines. My contract requires that the purchaser agree not to let their vet over vaccinate or re-vaccinate their puppy. Too many vaccinations can harm or kill your Chihuahua. My contract specifies “The puppy’s death or health issue from over vaccinating by a greedy veterinarian is the responsibility of the PURCHASER.” My vaccine record specifies, addressing the vet, “Do not over vaccinate or re-vaccinate. The puppy buyer is contractually obligated not to over vaccinate this puppy as it can result in death or health issues. I also specify that Lepto should not be given to Chihuahuas, and that the Neopar vaccine I give at 3 ½ and 5 weeks can result in a positive parvo test in a puppy that does not have parvo.
Another issue that many vets are unaware of is hypoglycemia. By the time I head to a vet with a puppy who is sugaring out, things are REALLY bad. I have already tried to get the puppy up, and most of the time I can. However, a particular puppy I loved very much was found unconscious with sugar issues and I could not get her up. I was unable to go to my regular vet as she was too far away, and the vet’s office I chose with my vet roulette insisted on giving her an exam and multiple tests prior to doing any treatment for hypoglycemia. The puppy died on the table while testing. I still believe that if the vet had listened to me about Lucky’s sugar issue, she would be alive today. With a new owner, they may not be as experienced with recognizing a sugar issue and they may not be as successful in treating it. I make sure that I verbally explain hypoglycemia to any new owner. I also have it written in my contract: “Purchaser agrees he/she has been warned about hypoglycemia, and the need to make sure that the puppy is eating and drinking. Keep Nutri-Cal handy. Give if stressed, ill, tired, listless, refusing to eat, staggering gait or having vomiting or diarrhea. The Dog’s death or injury from hypoglycemia will be the sole responsibility of the Purchaser. Do not wait…if you can’t get puppy up and normal with dyne, nutri-cal or karo syrup, get to a vet immediately. Do not let the vet try to waffle around and test for hypoglycemia – give the treatment immediately. I have had a puppy DIE because a vet wanted to do a bunch of testing rather than just treat for sugar issue. Better to prevent this issue entirely by making sure that puppy is eating and drinking.” I go over my contract with the new puppy owner, so if by any chance I have forgotten to explain hypoglycemia, it will come up in the explanation of the contract. Also, I have on my puppy vaccine record in my notes to the vet: “If this puppy is ever brought in stressed, appearing ill, listless, staggering gait, vomiting, diarrhea, or the owner reports it is not eating or drinking, expect and treat for hypoglycemia. Please do not wait to treat while testing. Hypoglycemia is very common in our breed and we have watched puppies die while vets attempt to perform various tests.”
Vets often point out to puppy owners a missing tooth or a malocclusion as an emergency situation and talk the puppy owner into expensive surgeries. Often, a bite that is off may be why a puppy was placed as a pet instead of a show dog; often, the bite is not even something that would be noticed by someone who is just wanting a pet. Even a wry or open bite where the tongue hangs out, it is usually just a cosmetic issue that wouldn’t fly in the show ring but that a pet owner may even find endearing. I recently had a woman write to me wanting to buy a puppy with this type of bite as she had lost a much loved pet who had the visible tongue. I have seen show puppies ruined because an overzealous vet is in there pulling puppy teeth prior to adult teeth being there, which causes the bite to shift. If a vet does not know what they are doing, they can really jack up a bite by pulling teeth. In my contract, I do mention teeth: “Chihuahuas are well known for having retained puppy teeth. Malocclusions are also common in our breed, as well as adult missing teeth. Missing teeth are not a fault in the Chihuahua standard, and do not generally present a problem in the show ring. Some veterinarians will throw a fit about missing teeth or slight bite issues and recommend putting the puppy under anesthesia for expensive dental procedures. Unfortunately, many veterinarians have no idea how to maintain a good bite in a puppy with their teeth pulling activities. Please do not allow your veterinarian talk you into expensive teeth procedures – keep the puppy’s teeth clean, and if any teeth are pulled it should be retained puppy teeth that have an adult tooth coming in. Do not allow him to pull any puppy teeth that do not have an adult tooth there – this could seriously alter your puppy’s bite. Please do not let your veterinarian make you feel that a missing tooth or a slight bite issue is a huge big deal in Chihuahuas. It’s just simply not.” Addressing the vet on my vaccine record, I say: “Chihuahuas are well known for having retained puppy teeth – please do not pull puppy teeth unless/until adult tooth is present. Malocclusions and adult missing teeth are common in our breed. Missing teeth are allowable in our AKC standard. A Chihuahua puppy’s bite can move around substantially while the head is growing.” For the vet who attempts to convince a new puppy owner that a few missing teeth or an off bite will make it impossible for a dog to eat, Chanel at age 6 probably had 4 teeth in her head and she ate just fine; likewise, I have an older bitch that has gone very wry in her old age and she also has no problem. I think it would be a rare Chihuahua who would be unable to eat because of missing teeth or bite.
I like to inform puppy owners to second guess a vet on anything that is expensive or requires anesthesia. Get a second opinion. Consult with me, as the breeder. I am always happy to answer questions. Sadly, many people do not realize you CAN say no to a vet. You can go home and think about it, and learn about the situation for yourself. Unless it is an emergency situation, you have time. There is a lady out there somewhere who adopted a champion bitch from us who had her CHIC – patellas, eyes, and heart tested clear of issues. A vet told her that the bitch had grade THREE patellas that required and apparently received emergency surgery. There is absolutely no way in God’s green earth that this bitch had grade 3 patellas. The woman hates my guts, as she is sure her vet is beyond reproach. A vet can make a mistake, a vet may just not know, or a vet can be a greedy unethical person.
I have had a vet tell me that because a puppy had coccidia, that it was from a bad breeder with dirty conditions. This is absolutely not true. Coccidia is actually a protozoa that lives in the intestinal tract of ALL dogs. When a dog gets stressed, these organisms reproduce in such numbers that it can cause a dog to have diarrhea that can include blood or mucous in the stool. Sometimes cocci is mistaken for parvo by new owners and veterinarians alike. A dog that is severely affected with coccidia can vomit, may not eat, can become dehydrated, or can even die. Cocci is very simple to treat; most use albon. Because coccidia is a protozoa that is located in the intestinal tract of every single canine and triggered by stress, it could have actually been the move to the new owner’s home that caused the stress that produced the overgrowth of cocci. I do mention coccidia in my contract informationally, so that if their puppy does begin to have bloody and/or mucuosy diarrhea, the new owner may have an idea of what it may be to share with any vet who is screaming parvo.
Giardia is also an issue that a vet can sometimes make a huge deal about, when it is a simple one celled parasite that can be acquired by a puppy walking through a new area and licking its feet, drinking rainwater, or chewing on something that has this parasite on it. Giardia can also be fatal if untreated, and can be recognized by its foul smelling diarrhea that can have a green tinge to it, vomiting, and weight loss. If the vet tests the puppy’s stool, giardia can be easily recognized and treated with medication. Some vets will blame the breeder for giardia, which can also be acquired easily on the trip home. I suggest to new owners, in addition to mentioning giardia in my contract, that they do not put the puppy on the ground on strange grass on the way home.
As a breeder in an area where good toy vets are hard to find, my repro vet is a good two hours away from me. I have yet to find a good local backup for emergencies, so we continue to play vet roulette. My issues are usually that the vet will not listen to me. They assume I know nothing. Case in point, a bitch in whelp who had been hard pushing for 2 hours was put into a crate bank and left “to keep trying” when I knew that we had an issue with a head being too big; when vet finally x-rayed, shockingly the head was too big. Another bitch we lost because my husband asked for an ultrasound AND an x-ray, but the vet felt the x-ray alone was sufficient. 24 hours later he lost my bitch because the puppies inside her were dead and she was toxic – which the ultrasound would have shown. Recently, we went to yet another vet with a stuck puppy, and he informed me that if she needed a c-section she’d have to stay overnight. I asked “So, you have experience with infant Chihuahua puppies?” Long silence. He did not. We ended up delivering the puppies on his table while he stood back and watched. He did not even know to get the sacs off and suction the nose and mouth. A friend of mine said, “Most vets are not breeders.” If you are going to breed toy dogs, find a vet who is a breeder. I have a great one, but she’s just too far away. I hope that when we move we are lucky to find a good backup vet.
I saw an article recently on the dog foods that the FDA suspects are causing heart issues, and the article suggested to consult with your vet, as your vet has access to experts in nutrition. Most vets that I have known know little to none about nutrition. Most vets I have known sell some kind of dog food (often Science Diet) and try to peddle it as the end all be all cure-all for ALL dogs. I have yet to find a food that is good for ALL dogs. In fact, my own dogs eat 3 different types of food, each working best for that particular dog. While vets may have access to nutritional experts, whether a vet has utilized that access is a different story. One thing I love about my vet is that she’ll tell me if she doesn’t know something. She will also listen to what I have read or heard from others, and give me her opinion on that. What I choose to do is up to me.
When choosing a vet, ask about their experience with toy dogs. Find out if they are anti-breeder. If they start breeder blaming right off the bat, be suspect. If they suggest something you don’t feel right with, don’t do it. Never do expensive surgery or certainly euthanization without a second opinion. If not an emergency situation, you have time to think and to consult others. You have the right to say no. Just as you find that there are good and bad doctors for people, there are good and bad doctors for animals, too. Unfortunately, some people just won’t admit when they don’t know. Even more unfortunately, sometimes the almighty dollar is of higher value than an animal’s life. Every vet is not a part of the profession for the right reasons. As a puppy owner, question anything that seems out of the ordinary and go back to your breeder for assistance in figuring out a difficult situation. As a breeder, give your puppy owners as much information as you can so that they are prepared for situations where they must protect their puppy. As a vet, please learn about your smallest patients, and recognize that all breeders are not the demons that animal rights portrays them to be; remember, when there are no more pets, you have no more job.