December 27, 2023 Wellness

Ask the Vet: Your Pet Health Questions Answered

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus with a dog

Ask the Vet: Your Pet Health Questions Answered

Every month on my Ask the Vet podcast, I answer questions from concerned pet owners. The questions I received for my latest episode were especially good questions, so I am going to share them in this blogpost for those who don’t already subscribe to Ask the Vet.

How to Avoid a Perineal Hernia in Dogs

The first question came from a therapy and service dog organization about an unneutered male German shepherd who developed a perineal hernia. The organization wanted to know how to prevent this disorder in a dog selected for breeding, i.e. not neutered. Let’s discuss…

What is a Perineal Hernia?

First, let me define “hernia.” A hernia is when an internal organ bulges through an abnormal opening in the surrounding muscle tissue. A perineal hernia occurs when the bladder protrudes through the muscles below the tail and anus, so that the bladder “pouches out” the dog’s backside under the skin. There is telltale swelling in dogs with perineal hernias, and it often leads to constipation and difficulty urinating. In severe cases, it can restrict blood flow to the bladder, which can be fatal.

Perineal Hernia Risk Factors and Treatments

Perineal hernia occurs almost exclusively in unneutered male dogs seven to nine years of age. This suggests that male hormones are responsible for the development of perineal hernia. The hernia is most common on the right side, but sometimes occurs on both sides simultaneously. Treatment involves reconstructing the muscles around the anus and neutering the dog. An enlarged prostate gland and straining to defecate from constipation may also play a role in development of perineal hernia.

Since male dog hormones are the cause of enlarged prostates and hormones appear to play a role in the development of perineal hernias, I don’t think this dog’s hernia could be successfully managed without neutering him and of course that means he can no longer participate in a breeding program, unfortunately.

Read a prior blogpost to learn more about hernia.

Are Flea and Tick Medications Necessary in the Winter?

The second question came from a listener in Detroit who wanted to know if her dog really needs flea/ tick and heartworm medication during the cold Michigan winters. The short answer: yes.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends year-round flea/tick and heartworm medication. Due to climate change, the range of these ectoparasites is expanding. Flea/tick and heartworm medications also prevent intestinal parasites, which is an added bonus of year-round administration.

Year-round administration is also a good idea if you plan to travel with your pet. If I lived in Michigan, I know I might want to take a break from the snow and cold and head south. If I had discontinued the flea/tick and heartworm medications, I would have to remember to restart them since these critters are prevalent in the south. In my haste to travel, I am sure I would forget to give the medications and then my dog would be at risk of a flea/tick and heartworm infection. Better safe than sorry. Lastly, these drugs are so convenient and safe that I am not sure why the listener is concerned, because she shouldn’t be.

How to Manage an Overweight Pet

The third question is important to nearly all pet owners. The listener asked: My nine-year-old ragdoll cat loves to eat. I am worried she might be overweight. How do I know?

There is a very good chance the listener is right since recent data indicates that 61% of American cats are overweight or obese. Dogs are not far behind with 59% considered overweight or obese.

So what should you do? The first thing is to see your veterinarian who can assess your pet’s weight and help develop a diet and exercise plan. AMC’s Usdan Institute for Animal Health Education has resources as well for weight management.

For a tongue-in-cheek description of how to recognize an overweight feline, read this previous blogpost on feline body condition score.

Get Your Pet Health Questions Answered

Ask the Vet with Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

If you would like your pet health questions answered, just drop me a quick email at and I can answer your questions on next month’s podcast.

Be sure to subscribe to Ask the Vet on your favorite podcast platform or listen to each show on AMC’s website.

Thanks to all my listeners, Ask the Vet was recently included in the top 3 podcasts on FeedSpot’s Top 40 Pet Health Podcasts for 2023.

Tags: flea and tick medication, flea prevention, fleas, heartworm, heartworm medication, hernia, obesity, perineal hernia, pet obesity, ticks,

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