10909 Indian Head HighwayFort Washington, MD 20744(301) 292-1150(301) 292-1056

BCS CanineWeight loss is tough for anyone—two- or four-legged. However, losing weight and getting in shape cannot only add years to your pet’s life, but they also make those extra years more enjoyable. Helping your cuddly canine shed a few pounds may be easier than you think. It simply requires understanding the importance of weight loss and fitness, paying attention to detail, and seeking assistance from your veterinary team.

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. Some of the common disorders associated with excess weight include:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic inflammation
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Many forms of cancer
It is expected that overweight and obese dogs will have 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. 
Start with a Medical Exam
One of our veterinarians will examine your pet to make sure your pet does not have a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism, amongst others that may be causing your dog’s excess weight. An exam with some blood work and a good medical history will rule out these diseases before putting your dog on a weight loss plan.   Too many dogs start a diet and fail simply because overeating and lack of activity weren’t the problem—a disease was.
A weight-loss formula seems simple: fewer calories, in plus more calories out equals weight loss. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  Once we recommend a diet, the next step is calculating the calories your dog needs.  First, we will calculate your dog’s ideal weight. If your dog has a lot of weight to lose, we may strive for an initial goal weight that is higher than your dog’s ideal weight. We will use your dog’s initial goal or ideal weight to figure out how many calories your dog should eat each day.
 A safe guideline for dogs is losing 3-5% percent body weight per month under a doctor’s supervision.
If you feed too much, your dog won’t lose weight. If you feed too little, your dog could get sick. To figure out how many calories are in your pet’s food we will need to check the label.
The art of changing foods
You’ll most likely need to offer your dog a diet food if it’s overweight. When you’re introducing a new food, allow several days for the transition.
Change food
Exercise the Right Way
Based on our studies of observations of people walking with their dogs, the average pace is 20 to 25 minutes per mile. That is a slow stroll with frequent pauses (on average every 1 to 2 minutes!) to allow their dog to smell an interesting object or mark territory. We’re here to shed pounds, people! Walking for weight loss is very different than walking for pleasure. Make it your objective to walk briskly and focus on the “out” leg of your walk and then you can smell the roses on the “back” leg. We recommend starting the activity with the brisk or “hard” effort first. Too often if we try to start slowly with the dog, allowing them to sniff and smell everything, we may have a challenging time getting them up to speed when we’re ready. People often ask, “Shouldn’t we do a warm up before you walk them?” The simple reply, “Have you ever seen a fox take a few warm-up laps before an all-out sprint to capture its prey?” Our dogs are built to go from 0-100 miles per hour with very little risk of injury. And besides, we’re going nowhere near an all-out sprint when we’re walking for fitness.
It is important that your dog understands you have places to go and that this is different than your usual casual walk. If they sit or refuse to walk, you may have to return home, crate them or put them in a quiet space without your attention and try again another time. We have yet to encounter a dog that didn’t take readily to brisk walking.

Draw your leash close – generally within two to four feet of your body – pull them close to you and away from the street side and set off at a pace you feel comfortable sustaining. This should be about a 12-15 minute per mile pace. It should feel like a brisk walk and you should break into a light sweat. The key is to keep it up! Don’t stop. Don’t look down at your dog when they inevitably want to stop and smell something or mark a hydrant. Continue staring straight ahead, tighten the leash (don’t jerk) and give a command such as “No stop.” “Come.” or “Here.”
Additional tips for getting your dog to move more:
  • Move the food bowl upstairs/downstairs and rotate it so that the dog always has to walk to get to its food bowl. Dogs are smart, and if the food bowl moves upstairs, they’ll start relocating upstairs, too.
  • Move the food bowl as far away from your dog’s favorite haunts as possible. Again, many dogs will sleep and lay near the food bowl so they don’t have to go far when the eatin’ urge hits!
  • Use toys, balls, laser pointers, squeaky toys, anything that your dog finds interesting to chase. Try to engage your dog for at least ten to fifteen minutes twice a day. There are numerous toys that move and squeak that may also be interesting to your dog. Experiment and understand that what is exciting today may be boring tomorrow.
  • What about the dog that wakes you at four in the morning to be fed or the dog that stares at you during dinner or television time until you give in and feed them? Our dogs have trained us well and know exactly which buttons to press when it comes to getting their way. Here are some tips for handling the pleading pup:
    • Do not use a self-feeder. Auto-feeders are unlimited candy machines to a dog.
    • Pet or play with your dog when it begs for food. Dogs substitute food for affection so flip the equation and you may find that playtime displaces chowtime.
    • Walk your dog when it begs. The distraction may be just enough to make it forget its desire for food.
    • Feed small meals frequently – especially for those dogs that like to wake you up in the wee hours begging for more goodies – divide the total volume or calories into 4-6 smaller meals – whatever you do, don’t feed extra food.
    • When the bowl is empty and your dog is pleading, add a few kibbles to the bowl. By a few, try ten or fifteen – not a handful.
    • Give vegetables such as baby carrots, broccoli, zucchini, celery and asparagus. Dogs love crunchy treats so make it a healthy – and low-calorie – choice.

Information from petobesityprevention.org

Weight Loss Program Chart webRechecks and weigh-ins after you’ve put your pet on a weight loss program are critical to determine if the plan is working for your pet.  Each pet is an individual and may require many changes in diet or routine before finding the correct approach. In general, your pet should be weighed every 30-60 days until the ideal weight is achieved. If there is no significant weight loss in 60 days a new approach should be pursued.

*Weight progress Evaluation ($) (with a doctor) should be done at a minimum every 4 months in order to continue to be part of the Weight Loss Program. Every exam is charged separately. All prices are subject to change without notice.
**Blood test should be done at least every 12 months or more often if the doctor deems it appropriate to continue to be part of the weight loss program. Every blood test is charged separately. All prices are subject to change without notice.
***Technician evaluations are free of charge. However they do not include a Veterinarian during the evaluation.

All Dogs

  • Annual Physical Exam
  • Diet: Feed a Premium or prescription diet appropriate for the age and health of our pet. Good nutrition prevents skin and coat disorders, obesity, and other physical problems.
  • Vaccinations: A vaccination program based on your pet's needs, and tailored for your pet by the veterinarian.
  • Rabies Vaccine
  • Bordetella Vaccine
  • Annual Fecal testing for parasites
  • Annual Heartworm, Lyme and Ehrlichia testing (H3D Test)
  • Heartworm and internal parasite prevention (Heartguard or Interceptor)
  • Flea and Tick Prevention (Advantix, Frontline, Promeris)
  • Dental Care: Home care and professional cleaning as needed
  • Prompt Diagnosis and treatment of any medical problem
  • Annual adult blood testing

For dogs that live where the owner can see deer from or in their yard or who hunt, camp or hike.

  • Lyme Vaccination
  • Tick Control

For Outdoor dogs and dogs that run with other dogs (parks, hunting, etc.) add:

  • Twice yearly fecal exams
  • Leptospirosis Vaccine

For dogs with ears that hang down

  • Weekly ear cleaning program

For dogs over 50 lbs. and 7 years of age or older:

  • Annual geriatric blood testing
  • Ask for pamphlet on Senior Health Care Work-up

For Boxers, English Cocker Spaniels, King Charles Spaniels, Dobermans and all dogs over 12 years of age:

  • Annual EKG

Hypothyroidism: Some breed of dogs are at high risk of developing disease associated with an under active thyroid gland

  • Boxer, Doberman Pincher and Labrador Retrievers should be tested between 3 and 6 years of age and repeated whenever symptoms are present.
  • English Cocker Spaniels, Daschunds, English Bulldogs. Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Irish Setters, Miniature Schnauzer, Poodles, Shetland Sheepdog and Beagles should be tested if they exhibit any symptoms i.e. obesity, poor hair coat, skin disease, ear infection, etc
We believe in a preventive medicine approach to health care. Many infectious diseases can be prevented by routine vaccinations. Easy to use, once a month treatments will prevent heartworms, intestinal parasites and fleas and ticks. The physical examination is a major component of the preventive medical approach to health care. Physical exams frequently reveal minor problems before they develop into serious illnesses. It is far less costly to you and your pet to prevent diseases than to treat them.
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Your Puppy's First Visit:
A thorough physical exam of your puppy is important, but not the only reason for the visit. We hope to inform you about proper home care as well as veterinary care of your puppy. We want to answer all your questions and make sure you and your puppy get off to a good start.  Your puppy needs a Physical Exam as soon as possible, preferably within the first 48 hours. We want to be sure that you have a healthy puppy and we want to make sure he remains healthy. Physical exams are given with all vaccinations.
Please bring the following with you:
Your new puppy
 ♦ Medical records
 ♦ Diet history
 ♦ Fecal (stool sample) if possible
 ♦ List of questions you need answered

Subjects to Discuss or Consider:

  • Spay and Neutering is usually performed around 6 months of age. However, many puppies adopted from the pound have had surgery as early as 8 weeks of age.
  • House-training is easier and faster by using a crate. It may seem heartless to crate train, but it is a kinder and safer method of house-training than the old method of punishing bad behavior.
  • Elimination Accidents are going to occur. We have several products designed for easy clean up and elimination of stains and odors.
  • Diet and feeding schedule will be discussed thoroughly. Most puppies need to eat least 3 times a day.
  • Grooming should be enjoyable for you and your puppy. Combing tangled or matted hair is very painful for your puppy. Comb often to prevent tangles and use a cream rinse on longhaired pups. Use praise and treats, as a reward.
  • Pet Identification: Pet ID Tags, Tattooing and ResQ Microchips are all available.
  • Fences: Look for escape routes and close them before your puppy finds them.
  • Mushrooms: Puppies sometimes die from eating mushrooms that grow in your yard. Dispose of any mushrooms in your yard.
  • Antifreeze: very small amounts will kill your dog. Dispose of antifreeze appropriately and beware of spills in your driveway.
  • Heat Stroke: Dogs need protection from the heat. Make sure your pet has protection from the sun, plenty of clean water and perhaps a small swimming pool in his yard. Never lock your dog (or anyone else) in the car in the summer. Even a few minutes may be fatal.

We recommend regular physical examinations for your puppy or dog. The first visit includes a complete physical examination, and young adult animals should have a complete physical examination yearly and whenever problems develop. We recommend bi-annual physical examinations for all dogs over 7 years of age to help keep them healthy and happy for a long time.

A Vaccination Program will be tailored to your pet and is dependent on the health of your new puppy, his age, his medical history, and his needs. Generally, vaccinations begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age and are repeated every 3 weeks until he has received two vaccinations after or three vaccines.
  • DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, & Para influenza) - Protects from several viruses, mostly involving the intestinal tract, respiratory tract & liver. Several boosters are needed, generally 3-4 weeks apart. Recommended for all dogs. Distemper Information; Parvovirus Information; Hepatitis Information
  • Leptospirosis - Protects from this bacterial disease that is spread through water sources with wildlife contamination, usually affecting the kidneys & liver. This may be included with the Distemper vaccine. Two initial boosters are needed, then an annual vaccine. More information
  • Lyme Disease - Protects from this tick-borne disease. Two initial boosters, followed by annual vaccines. Recommended depending on risk level.  More information
  • Rabies - Protects from this deadly virus. Generally done around 16 weeks of age. First vaccine is good for one year. Required for all dogs.
  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough) - Helps protect from this contagious respiratory disease. Required for boarding and most grooming facilities. More information
  • Influenza (H3N2 and H3N8) - Helps protect from this contagious respiratory disease. Required for some boarding and grooming facilities. More information

Fecal Examination & Deworming:
Checks for and treats intestinal parasites which may be harmful to your puppy and you. We will generally de-worm your puppy initially. Repeat fecal exams are often needed to ensure your puppy’s health. These parasites can all potentially cause problems in people also. Good hand washing (especially with the kids) will prevent problems!  More information

Common intestinal parasites:
  • Roundworms: The most common intestinal parasite. Very commonly found in puppies, passed from their mothers. Adult worms resemble spaghetti. More serious symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and a pot-bellied appearance. More information
  • Hookworms: Also fairly commonly found. Acquired from infected mothers and contaminated environments, adult worms are small, and not readily seen in stool or vomit. Can cause diarrhea and anemia, which can be dangerous in puppies. More information
  • Whipworms: Less commonly seen, but a potentially dangerous parasite. These worms can cause diarrhea with blood, anemia, and severe disease, even in adult dogs. Acquired through contaminated environments. Detecting these worms may require multiple fecal samples. More information
  • Tapeworms: Tapeworms are long, flat, segmented worms that live in the small intestine. They are acquired when your dog ingests fleas containing tapeworm eggs. These are not often detected on the fecal examination, but rather are detected when the segments are seen around the anus, or on the outside of the stool. These segments resemble a grain of rice. These worms are less harmful to your pet. More information
  • Coccidia: These parasites are not worms, but rather protozoa. Contracted though contaminated environments, stools, stress can trigger symptoms. The most common symptom is a watery diarrhea, which may be severe in puppies. This parasite may be transmitted directly to people also. More information
Spay & Neuter
Spay is the common term for surgical sterilization of female animals. The medical term for this procedure is a complete ovariohysterectomy. The entire female reproductive system (the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus) is removed through an incision in the abdomen.
Benefits of Spaying include:
Spayed female dogs will not come in heat and will not have bloody vaginal discharge associated with the heat cycle.
       ♦ Spayed animals are less likely to develop breast cancer and cannot develop ovarian cancer.
Spayed animals can not develop uterine infections (pyometras)
No unwanted litters: 61% of dogs and 75% of cats entering animal shelters are killed.
Neuter is the common term for the surgical sterilization of male animals. Castration is the medical term for this procedure. In dogs, both testicles are removed through an incision near the scrotum. In cats, both testicles are removed through two small incisions in the scrotum.
Benefits of Neutering Dogs:
      ♦ Neutered dogs are less aggressive towards people and other dogs.
 ♦ Neutered dogs are less likely to roam in search of a mate.
 ♦ Neutering almost always eliminates annoying leg mounting behavior.
Neutering usually stops sexual marking in the house.
Testicular cancer, prostate cancer, prostate infections, and perianal adenomas (anal tumors) can be prevented by neutering at a young age. Neutering at any age will help reduce the risk of these diseases.
Our Dog Spays and Dog Neuters include the following services:
Pre-operative pain medication
Anesthesia: Induction (injection) and Inhalation (gas)
Veterinarian (surgery)
Trained Veterinary Assistant for: Surgical Assistant and Post operative care
Heart and Blood Oxygen Monitor
Surgical pack and supplies
Post-operative (in hospital) pain relief (as needed)
Antibiotic Injection
Dental Care:
Puppies and dogs can often be accustomed to having their teeth brushed at home on a daily basis, if started early. As dogs age, plaque and tartar will build up on their teeth, these means most dogs will eventually need a complete dental cleaning under anesthesia to keep them healthy.  More information
Flea & Tick Prevention:
We have several options for flea & tick prevention in your pet. Most of these products also help control intestinal worms. These include several monthly topical medication
and oral options. Your puppy should be on a year round preventatives for their entire life.
Heartworm Prevention:
Heartworm disease is a serious disease in dogs and is very prevalent in the area.  This parasite is spread though mosquitoes, which after biting an infected dog, can spread the parasite to your dog. The adult worm develops in your dog’s heart & lungs, and will lead to heart disease. Monthly preventative medication is recommended for all dogs, year-round , starting by at least 6 months of age . We will get your puppy started with the right monthly preventative.  More information
Your dog should receive maintenance care at home like brushing and cleaning ears. Start your grooming off with our groomer, Vee. She is available during the week. Vee can do everything from the basic bath to starting off your first puppy clipping! More information
Take advantage of our monthly puppy class to get you started on the right foot with training and housebreaking your puppy. This class is intended to give you advice on general training & housebreaking issues, with individualized attention to your puppy. More information
Housebreaking tips:
Train your puppy to eliminate in the proper location and time through a combination of positive reinforcement, confinement, and close supervision.
Anticipate when your puppy will need to eliminate, and when to take them outside: 
After eating & drinking- most puppies will need to eliminate within about 30-45 minutes after eating. 
After waking up
After playing.

Teach a verbal command. Give your puppy a command to tell it when to go. Use any consistent phrase like “go potty”, “outside”, or whatever you choose. Always go out with your puppy while training. Stay with your pup until he/she eliminates. Don’t play or otherwise distract him. Use your verbal command so your puppy will learn to associate this with what you want. Praise your puppy when he/she does eliminate. Make a big deal of it , teaching how happy you are with the correct place to go. Take them back inside and pet them or play. Be patient. It will take a while for your puppy to get the hang of things. Most will not be truly trustworthy until at least 4 months of age, some longer.

Don’t ever scold, severely punish or strike your puppy when it has an accident. He may learn to associate going to the bathroom with being punished, or may even learn to fear you.  More information
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Chart Summary
The Indian Head Animal Hospital recommends a schedule of health visits, immunizations, and screening tests to ensure your puppy's health based on recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Your veterinarian will examine and discuss growth, nutrition, development, house training, dental care and any other age-appropriate health matters or client questions during each visit. The following schedule is a guideline only and informative in nature. Your veterinarian will provide you with a specific schedule based on your puppy's health, life style and vaccination history
Age in weeks
Comprehensive Physical Exam
Rabies Vaccinations
Leptospirosis Vaccination*
Lymes Vaccination*
Influenza*       x x
Fecal Analysis
Heartworm Preventative
Flea and Tick Control
Spay (ovarian hysterectomy)
5 to 6 months of age
Neuter (castration)
Puppy Dental Care
Begin dental care program now!
Grooming Begin grooming care as soon as possible
Note: These guidelines are for information only. Your veterinarian may make changes based on your puppy's health, medical history, and lifestyle.
*If indicated for pet's lifestyle.

LucyIf you haven't already, soon you may begin to notice some tell tale signs that your pet is entering his senior years. Maybe your dog takes longer to fetch a favorite ball. Maybe your pet has stopped greeting you at the door . . . or it takes longer to get there. Maybe your pet is "forgetting house training". Perhaps your pet is gaining weight, has poor skin and coat condition or is sleeping more than usual. While these things may seem like "old age" to you, the fact is that any or all of these signs might be an indication that your senior pet has a medical problem that needs attention.

In the past, we often accepted a declining quality of life for our aging pets (even for ourselves) as a fact beyond our control. Thanks to advances in disease detection and treatment, that is no longer necessary!

With appropriate veterinary care and nutrition, your pet's senior years can be a healthy and happy time. You know your pet better than anyone, so it's up to you to report any changes you see to your veterinarian. We also recommend that you bring your pet in for physical examinations and lab work more often now.

Remember: your pet ages 3 to 6 years for every one of yours. This suggests that health problems can progress 3 to 6 times faster and therefore, more frequent check-ups are necessary. By working together, we can prevent or treat many problems that could rob your pet of its quality of life.

Senior Health Care Recommendations

Twice yearly thorough physical exams is excellent advice for our senior pets. Our pet's aging process is greatly accelerated compared to humans, so early identification of disease and early medical intervention may be extremely beneficial to the health and longevity of your cherished pet.

Complete Blood Count (CBC), Blood Chemistry Profiles and Electrolytes - Although the thorough physical exam is essential, it cannot evaluate the performance of your pet's organs. Significant destruction of the kidneys and liver and other organs may not be detectable without blood tests.

Urinalysis - helps asses the overall health of your pet's urinary tract including the kidneys and bladder.  Also checks for health indicators like glucose, hydration status, urinary tract infections.

Radiographs - Many body systems (spleen, lungs, prostate, gastrointestinal tract, neurologic system) produce no enzymes that can be measured in blood.  Thus, diagnostic imaging should be considered, even if bloodwork is normal.

Blood Pressure - High blood pressure in pets can lead  to kidney problems, heart disease, blindness, and other complications.

Ocular Tonometry - glaucoma testing measures the pressure in each eye quickly.  Undetected glaucoma leads to irreversible blindness.

Electrocardiogram - is a recording of the electrical avtivity of the heart, detecting rate and rythm abnormalities in the heartbeat. 

General Health Care Recommendations

Monitor your pet's weight: Rapid weight loss or gain may indicate significant disease. Hyperthyroidism (cats), diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer will usually result in rapid weight loss. Weight gain is frequently seen in any disease that decreases your pet's activity level such as arthritis and hypothyroidism or it may indicate an inappropriate diet.

Senior health care diets: Dietary needs mirror the changes occurring in the body, metabolism slows and fewer calories are required. Just as we need to alter our diet, as we grow older, aging pets should avoid excess weight gain. A properly formulated diet combined with a moderate exercise program is powerful preventive medicine for your senior dogs and cats.

Arthritis: General slowing-down and aging in pets may actually indicate pain.  Evaluating the level of pain and medication can make a great difference in the quality of life.

Dental Care: Gingivitis can be painful and can progress to periodontal disease, tooth abscesses, and tooth loss.  Bad breath can be a sign of periodontal disease.  Bacteria from periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream through bleeding and inflamed gums which can affect organs causing further problems.

Cognitive Dysfunction:  Cognitive decline (aka dementia) increases with advanced age.  Indicators include loss of house training, increased anxiety, disorientation, sleep and activity changes, shifts in levels of aggression, and a general change in alertness. 

Special Care

Doberman Pinchers are prone to a heart muscle disease called cardiomyopathy. Early detection and treatment may significantly slow the progression of this fatal disease. We recommend a screening ECG (electrocardiogram) every 6 months for Dobermans starting at 5 years of age.

Labrador Retrievers may develop hypothyroidism as early as two years of age. Weight gain, seborrhea, torn cruciate ligaments and ear infections are frequent signs of hypothyroidism in Labs. Regrettably, Labs can also develop laryngeal paralysis and esophageal disorders which can lead to pneumonia and death. Labs that show any signs that could be attributed to hypothyroidism should be tested.

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