Linda Ryder, D.V.M.

Helpful Tips

image 014 200 300Here you will find helpful tips from Dr. Ryder for your dog or cat.

We hope everyone is staying well and complying with government-mandated quarantines and processes.

There seem to be a great deal of talk about pets spreading this virus. While there are two dogs in Hong King and one cat in Belgium that have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, there is CURRENTLY NO EVIDENCE to indicate that pets spread COVID-19 to other animals or to people. There are no grounds or testimonies to suggest alarm is warranted.

If you are not ill with COVID-19, you may continue to interact with your pet as you typically would. Continue walking, feeding, and playing with your four-legged family member. It’s best to take extra pre-cautionary measures like washing your hands before and after interactions, and keeping water/food bowls and bedding clean.

If you are ill with COVID-19, please avoid contact with your pet until further information is gathered on and about this dangerous virus. Have a family member or friend tend to your pet.

If you have a service animal and you are reliant upon him or her, please always wear a facemask and refrain from hugging, kissing, and sharing food with your pet.


Source: AVMA

While the country is under strict quarantine, we are all having to make adjustments. One thing to consider is how much your four-legged family member(s) help soothe you during this unprecedented time in our history. In this example, I will focus on dogs.

Dogs, by their very nature, tend to have a calming effect on us. They now also often serve as our proxy for other humans. And a dog’s “simple presence, and willingness to be touched, is viscerally satisfying.”

While the Covid-19 outbreak has created hardship on us, at least it has given dogs what they’ve always deserved: more of our companionship.

Please remember to care for them as they take care of you. They need to still be walked outdoors. If you have concerns after walking your pups, promptly give them a soap and water bath to assure cleanliness.

It’s a fine time to be reminded what a true privilege it is to keep the company of animals.


Source: The New York Times

Dr. James Dear of Edinburgh University’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science said, “I am delighted that the blood test we developed to improve the diagnosis of liver disease in humans can be used to help dogs, too.” The test tracks levels of the blood molecule miR-122, a known marker of liver disease.

Vets at the University of Edinburgh’s Vet School joined with medical doctors like Dear to look at miR-122 levels in 250 dogs. The study was then published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

These blood tests will allow vets to make a more accurate and rapid diagnosis of liver disease. Vets formerly had to rely solely upon biopsies which are both expensive, and can lead to further complications.


While we are often tempted to “Google” the symptoms and scenarios that are applicable to our beloved pets, we must be cautious about what we believe.  A better resource is your vet who has the required medical background and real-life experiences to debunk and dispel Internet misinformation.

One common Internet rumor is that ingesting garlic is a homeopathic way to get rid of fleas.  This is simply not true.  It can cause hemolytic anemia and methemoglobinemia.  And even a slight bit of exposure in cats postures them at risk.
Another myth is that atropine is a universal antidote.  While it can help treat certain toxicities, it does not treat all of them. It can be used when pets are exposed to insecticides that result in organophosphate and carbamate toxicity. But nowadays insecticides are being made to be much safer than in days past.
Is milk another universal antidote?  Unfortunately, it is not.  It can make a good diluent for certain caustic substances, but it is far from a universal antidote.  For example, if your pet has ingested plants, it can help dissolve the insoluble calcium and oxalate crystals found in some plants.  But it may also create some gastric irritation.  It’s simply best to allow your vet to prescribe medications that can be more immediately reliable, trusted, and effective.
Should your pet stay away from pistachios and almonds?  As a rule, pistachios are not really toxic.  Eating too many may cause gastrointestinal distress and possible pancreatitis, but they are not generally a lethal food to pets.  What about almonds?  Bitter almonds (like those sold in natural food stores and those commonly sold outside of the US) will put your pets at risk due to a level of cyanide that’s present in this type of nut.  But sweet almonds are typically sold in the US, and while they can cause also intestinal and pancreatic issues if ingested in too great a volume, as a stand -alone they are not threatening.
Your vet remains the best “go to” for conditions related to your pet.  

According to pet specialist Roxanne Hawn, 42% of dog families have K9s over 7 years of age, and 44% have older cats. Therefore, it is important to work closely with your vet to monitor, diagnose, and manage age-related conditions. For example, conditions worth tending to promptly include joint and mobility problems, cancer, diabetes, cognitive issues, coronary problems, and immune system disorders.

There are ways to help your pet live an enjoyable life even when these conditions exist.

Senior dogs often have urinary incontinence, and therefore may require an indoor potty option such as potty or pee pads. These pads vary in type and may be made of artificial turf, or be disposable or machine washable. Also, a ramp may be useful for when your pet must access the car. They involve less strain on joints. It’s very critical to buy one that will be safe relative to the pet’s weight.

For geriatric four-leggeds, feeding dishes may be necessary as well. They should be sturdy, rust-resistant, and kick proof. One should also consider the proper height of the dish and the gradient spill. Your vet can offer advice to be sure you meet your specific pet’s needs.

As they age, animals may also require orthopedic beds rather than just bed pillows or pads. This is especially true in the event of arthritis and hip dysplasia. It’s best to get a cover that can be removed easily to clean, and a bed that will retain its shape and loft. Some are specifically calibrated for larger animals.

Finally, as our pets age, we may need to make adjustments in their food. Again, most pets are considered to be seniors after age 7. Monitoring caloric intake, food textures, and content is important when age increases and exercise decreases. Your vet will factor in the breed, pet’s health conditions, and genetics to help you make a wise nutrition choice.

With close to half of the pet population being seniors, it’s essential to work with your vet to address aging issues when they arise and as they exist day-to-day.

Source: and

We all tend to indulge a bit during the holiday season, but it’s important to keep an eye on your pets as temptations prevail! The integrative vet, Dr. Carol Osborne, has a few important suggestions worth noting:

1. Pet-proof your Christmas tree. Be sure it is securely anchored, and hang only pet safe ornaments on the bottom half of the tree--in reach of their precious paws. Also, place netting around the tree stand to prevent your four-legged family members from drinking the water. If they start eating the pine needles, spray the tree with a red pepper and water solution to discourage needle-eaters right away.
2. Keep pets away from the following common holiday items: alcohol, grapes, yeast/dough, raisins, macadamia nuts, coffee grounds, onions, chives, garlic, small bones, and chocolates.
3. Reward good behavior with “good” holidays treats like pumpkin, cranberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and green beans.

Our clinic sincerely wishes everyone a safe and joy-filled holiday season and the very happiest New Year!

According to Emerald Animal Clinic, chocolate toxicity is “biggest concern for pets.” While we are tempted to share our sweet delights with our sweet four-legged family members, it is not a good idea.

Chocolate toxicity can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.

When in doubt, call your vet immediately. You may be advised to induce vomiting so your pet can purge the poison. One tablespoon of peroxide every five minutes is often the initial suggested treatment. If this does not work, medication-induced vomiting may be the next necessary intervention.

It’s also important to watch pets to be sure they do not ingest candy wrappers. They can cause intestinal blockages which may require surgery for removal.

Enjoy the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins--but don’t let your pets eat out of your trick or treat bag!

According to a study by Dennis Turner, a Swiss-American biologist researching the relationship between humans and domestic cats, cats do get emotionally attached to their owners, but they do not display this affection as readily as dogs. He explains, dogs are pack animals; cats are not.

The cat’s ancestor is the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). This animal only eats small animals: mice, reptiles, rats, and birds. It therefore hunts alone. Today’s feline companions have inherited this tendency. The exception to this feline rule is lions, however, who do live like wolves and hunt in packs. But this is very unusual for most cats. They are typically self-reliant and rather aloof.

Further, as penultimate creatures of habit, cats do not like change. They may reveal their protests to change or stress by urinating indoors. This “protest pee” is a result of anxiety, not intentional meanness. They are “acting out” as would an upset child.

While your cat may not be as fun and communicative as Snoopy or even Garfield, he or she likely cares and has feelings for you, the owner. Cats are not demonstrative, but please remember, they do have hearts.


When Mars Petcare presented its first DNA test for dogs in 2007, you could only get the breed-mix blood-draw test from a vet. In 2009, they offered a saliva tests, and sold these “Wisdom Panel” tests directly to consumers. Since then, the direct mail market has grown rapidly. Dog-DNA companies are making breed mix and risk estimate tests readily available to the public.

Many vets have expressed concerns about the tests. They have three primary issues: no standards, no regulations, and no independent-assessing body.

The Project Director for the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs, Llewellyn-Zaidi, says, however, that vets are no starting to get curious about these tests.

The harmonization project is a database of dog genes that have been linked to different diseases among different breeds. Getting breeds right is critical because many markers are breed-specific.

The companies selling these DNA test kits are gathering huge genetic data sets that are and will contribute to future and on-going dog research. This will allow vets to have more scientific data from which to draw conclusions.


This is not a topic to be discussed at the dinner table, but it is a common condition and therefore worthy of dog owners’ attention.  Many dogs eat their own or other dogs’ feces; this is called “coprophagia.”  Statistics reveal that 10-25% of dogs have this nasty tendency.

Most commonly, this is a behavioral problem, but it can also have a medical basis.  

For example, dietary deficits from insufficient absorption of nutrients can promote this habit.  Also, an increased appetite from illnesses or medications can cause it.  

Other medical conditions include: Cushing’s Disease (hyperadrenocorticism), exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (“EPI”), severe liver disease, undertreated diabetes mellitus, and gastrointestinal and kidney disease.  Being on some medications can prompt this act as well--particularly steroids.

As a behavioral condition, the most common condition is being a mother-dog.  They lick at their pups’ behinds to stimulate defecation, and then will consume produced feces to keep their “home area” clean.

It is best to consult with your vet to determine the cause if you witness your dog engaging in this act.  She or he can screen for intestinal parasites in your dog that may cause it.  In some cases, the most effective treatment is behavior modification.  One option is to give the dog an additive that will make his or her feces more distasteful.

The best solution is simply to pick up feces promptly.  You may also choose to keep dogs on a leash in a well-supervised area.  Teaching the dog to respond to the order to “drop it” is also an option to gently address this undesirable condition.


Some pets--especially dogs--get very anxious and nervous in storms. As the summer is approaching, we are having storms more frequently, and some can be rather harsh.

Dogs can sense a change in air pressure and my even hear low-frequency noises that humans can’t hear. Vets have further surmised that some dogs may be more prone to experiencing shocks from the build-up of static electricity that comes with storms as well.

Here are a few coping mechanisms to help soothe your pet in these scenarios:

1. Provide a safe space--indoors. One option is in the pup’s crate with a sheet over it. If you dog doesn’t typically use a crate, a small space such as a bathroom is a viable alternative venue. If the room has windows, close the blinds or curtains so your canine family member can’t see the outdoors.
2. Distract your pup--such as by using calming music at a low volume, or play with the pup using his or her favorite toy. Offering a treat at such times can work well also.
3. Some dogs feel more secure wearing a “Thundershirt” which can be purchased on-line or at your favorite pet store. It is the same principle as swaddling a baby. If your budget is rather restricted, a snugly fit t-shirt will also serve the purpose just fine.
4. Call you vet to ask for counsel on your pet’s specific issues.

It’s important not to scold or punish your pup or other pets for storm or weather- related manifestations of fear. In short, compassion is essential.



Veterinary services
for Dogs and Cats

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We are closed Saturday and Sunday.

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in the following RVA areas:

Ashland, Beaverdam, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa, Mechanicsville, Midlothian, Montpelier, Powhatan, Richmond, and Varina.