Dog Grooming: The Dirt on Dog Fur

Soft and white. Red and curly. Smooth and brown. Your dog’s fur is its most distinctive feature. It’s the reason we love petting our dogs and it’s the attribute that makes them so darn cute.

But your dog’s coat is about more than just good looks. It protects her from the environment, microorganism and foreign objects. Fur also acts as insulation keeping her cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Dogs also use their coats to communicate. Ever seen the fur on a dog’s back stand up when it’s mad? That’s its fur talking!

So your dog’s coat serves a purpose, but it can also cause some problems. Fur gets pretty dirty because it traps dust and pollen that can cause allergic reactions for you – and your pet. Fleas and ticks take cover in fur. And let’s not forget the “s” word: shedding.

So, what’s the best way to keep your pet’s coat clean and healthy?  It depends on the type of coat.

Here are a couple of pointers on dog grooming based on common coat types.

Smooth, short coats:

  • Brush weekly with a rubber or bristle brush
  • Bathe as needed but at least every three months

Dense, short coat:

  • Brush weekly with a slicker brush to work out tangles and mats
  • Bathe as needed but at least every three months

Long, smooth coat:

  • Daily brushing with a slicker brush will keep the coat neat and tangle free
  • Some dogs will need regular, light trimming to maintain shape
  • Bathe as needed but at least every three months

    Dylan by Landon - Dog Grooming Flickr Photo

    Courtesy of Landon/Flickr

When it comes to bathing, you can let the pros handle it for a price or do it yourself. Summer time is ideal for outdoor doggy baths because it’s less messy. If you choose to bathe your dog in the tub, be sure to use a non-stick mat to keep your dog from slipping. Don’t use too much water (a few inches is enough) and rinse thoroughly avoiding the dog’s eyes, ears, and nose. Avoid using too warm of water as this can exacerbate any skin irritation your dog may have.

Which dog shampoo should you use?

Antiseptic, deodorizing, conditioning, antimicrobial – there are lots of great shampoos on the market. Choose the type that matches your pet’s needs or have your veterinarian recommend a shampoo.

We stock a wide range of shampoos for dogs. So order one up, grab your dog and just add water! Which dog grooming shampoo do you use? Let us all know by leaving a reply below. Thank you.

Happy bathing,


PCAB Reaccreditation from National Board

PCAB recognizes pharmacy’s excellence and commitment to quality standards

Coralville, IA–The Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board (PCAB) today announced the reaccreditation of VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy in Coralville, IA.  The reaccreditation is awarded in recognition of the pharmacy’s commitment to meeting and/or exceeding national quality standards.

“Our renewed PCAB® Accreditation status and our continued designation as a PCAB Accredited® Compounding pharmacy lets our community know VetRxDirect ranks among the best for commitment to quality,” said Shawn Roe, Pharm.D.

“We are honored by this renewed accreditation. It confirms our continued commitment to providing safe, personalized solutions that meet the medical needs of our patients – and the needs of the pet parents who rely on us for these specialized medicines,” said Tom Swegle, Director. “We believe this will further strengthen the bond of trust between our pharmacy and the veterinary community.”

Compounding medications is an integral part of the practice of pharmacy and the demand for these customized medications are increasing every year. Yet many people may not even be aware of its role. Compounded medications are prescriptions written by veterinarians and prepared for an individual patient by a specially trained pharmacist.

About VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy

Through excellent customer service and fast home delivery, VetRxDirect has been a leading, nationwide pet pharmacy since 2007. As the first Vet-VIPPS pharmacy, they have shown a history of commitment to pets and the veterinary community. While compounding is an important part of their pharmacy, VetRxDirect also specializes in prescription and over-the-counter pet meds and home medical devices.

About PCAB

The Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board (PCAB) is a nonprofit organization that provides a voluntary accreditation program for compounding pharmacies nationwide.  Formed by eight of the nation’s leading pharmacy organizations, PCAB promotes, develops and maintains principles, policies and standards for improving the quality of pharmacy compounding nationwide. For more information, visit


A Review of Potassium Supplements for Dogs and Cats

What are potassium supplements in pets used for?

Potassium supplements can be used in cats and dogs if they have a potassium deficiency, urinary stones, and other diseases. Common causes of low blood potassium levels (hypokalemia) include chronic kidney disease (CKD), some medications, inadequate nutrient intake, and many more. Diuretics are a common medication  that can cause low potassium levels, and using a diuretic may require potassium supplementation. Potassium supplements can be used long or short term, depending on what is causing low potassium levels. If diarrhea, chronic dehydration or decreased intake is causing hypokalemia, the treatment may be short term, until your pet’s symptoms have resolved. When chronic diseases are affecting your pets potassium levels, the treatment will likely be long term.  If your pet has been diagnosed with kidney disease, is currently on blood pressure medications or has been experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, then it may be beneficial to have your veterinarian monitor their blood potassium levels.

When should potassium supplements in pets not be used?

Potassium supplements should not be used in pets with hyperkalemia (high blood potassium levels), renal failure, severe renal impairment, untreated Addison’s disease, acute dehydration, or in pets with GI motility impairment. They should also be avoided when your pet is currently taking and ACE inhibitor, Digoxin, NSAIDS (Rimadyl, Norocarp, Previcox, and others), or potassium sparing diuretics such as spironolactone. Your trusted pharmacist at VetRxDirect can assist you if you’re concerned about adding potassium supplements to your pet’s current medications.

What kind of potassium supplements for pets are available?

Potassium Citrate Supplement Brands Available at VetRxDirect

Potassium is an ion, meaning that it is charged, and is hard to absorb into the bloodstream by itself. To neutralize the charge, it is bound to another ion which makes it easier to absorb. There are three potassium salt supplements available for pets: potassium gluconate, potassium citrate, and potassium chloride. All three can be used for potassium deficiency.Potassium citrate is also used to help prevent kidney stones, because it’s salt
form can increase urine pH.  There are a wide variety of  oral potassium supplementsPotassium Gluconate Supplement Brands Available at VetRxDirect available, and some require a prescription. Some of the potassium supplements also have cranberry extract in them, which is beneficial if your pet is prone to urinary tract infections. The cranberry makes bacteria less likely to attach to the bladder wall and grow. At the end of this article is a comparison table of the products that we carry at VetRxDirect and what they are used to treat. You can use this to compare the different products that are available to the one that your pet might use.

How to monitor your pet while on potassium supplements:

If your companion requires potassium supplements, it is important to keep all follow-up appointments with your veterinarian because their potassium blood levels should be watched closely. You should consult your veterinarian especially when purchasing and administering the non-prescription products because incorrectly dosing your pet with potassium supplements can be dangerous.Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the correct dose, and help you decide which product is best.

Regardless of what kind of product you are using, you should be aware of signs that your pet may have too high of blood potassium levels: if your pet seems abnormally weak, has a very irregular heartbeat, or if they seem depressed. These side effects of potassium supplements are serious and indicate your pet should be seen by your veterinarian. It is important to only use the potassium supplement for as long as your veterinarian recommends, especially if it is intended as a short term treatment. Treating your pet with potassium supplements for longer than your veterinarian recommends could cause your pet’s potassium levels to get too high. You should also watch your pet’s fluid intake because they will need to be well hydrated to keep their potassium levels steady.

With proper monitoring and regular administration of potassium supplements, low blood potassium levels can be corrected and/or maintained. The key to a safe and effective treatment is to develop a close relationship with your veterinarian. Not only is it important for your veterinarian to check up on your pet regularly, but you should also be monitoring your pet’s mood and overall health. Awareness of health changes can prevent your pet from overdosing on their potassium supplements. With knowledge about potassium supplements, you should be better able treat your pet’s low blood potassium safely and effectively.

Medication Prescription Required? Potassium Form Other active Ingredients? Dosage Form(s) Indications
Tumil K+ Yes Potassium Gluconate None Tablet, Powder, and Gel Potassium deficient states
RenaKare Yes Potassium Gluconate None Tablet, Powder, and Gel Potassium deficient states
Renal Essentials No Potassium Gluconate Yes- multiple extracts, vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids. Chewable Tablet and bite-sized chews Support and maintain proper kidney function and mineral balance
Renal K+ No Potassium Gluconate None Powder and Gel Potassium deficient states
PotassaChew No Potassium Gluconate None Chewable Tablet Not listed in Package insert
UroCit-K Yes Potassium Citrate None Extended Release Tablet Help stop kidney stones and crystals from forming and reduce urine acidity
CitraVet Yes Potassium Citrate None Chewable Tablet Reduce formation of bladder stones, and support overall urinary health
Potassium Citrate+ Cranberry No Potassim Citrate Yes-Cranberry Extract Chewable Tablet and Granules Prevent urinary stone formation and enhance urinary health
K-Cit-V No Potassium Citrate Yes- one formulation has cranberry extract chewable tablet Adjust urinary pH

Does your pet take a potassium supplement? Which ones have you tried, and have they worked well? Feel free to leave any remaining questions about potassium supplements for dogs or cats in the comments below or utilizing the Q&A feature on the respective product pages.

Abigail Maas

-VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy Pharmacist Intern

Reference: Hypokalemia.” Cornell University. Cornell University, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.


A Word About Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements

If you’re a companion to a pet that requires supplementing pancreatic enzymes, then you probably understand how confusing and expensive the pancreatic enzyme supplements can be. The large investment in pancreatic enzyme supplements, alone, is a motivation for the desire to have them to be efficient but their activity is crucial  for your pets to be healthy and happy. This article is aimed at helping you understand the enzymes, the cost of them, and the disease behind them, so you can get the best results from them while possibly saving money.

Why are pancreatic enzyme supplements for dogs used?

Normally, the pancreas produces enzymes that digest food and allow nutrients to be absorbed. Sometimes the pancreas can’t produce the enzymes needed to help your pet digest their food.The formal name for this disease is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency and it is often abbreviated as EPI. It can be more common in German Shepherds, Rough Collies, and Chow Chows.  The medication used to treat EPI is often a supplement of pancreatic enzymes that act like the ones your pet would usually make themselves.

What are pancreatic enzyme supplements for dogs?

The pancreas produces three major enzymes: amylase, lipase, and protease. Amylase breaks down carbohydrates, protease breaks down protein, and lipase breaks down fats. This breakdown is necessary for all three of these dietary nutrients to be absorbed and put to use in the body. The majority of prescription pancreatic enzymes are extracts from pigs. They can come in tablets and in powders. Some products also contain vitamins A, D3, and E. Your veterinarian will decide if your pet needs the extra vitamins or not.

Are there differences between brands of pancreatic enzyme supplements for dogs?

There are two main categories of pancreatic enzyme products: ones that contain the enzymes only, and ones that contain enzymes and vitamins. They can be further divided into tablets and powders which both contain the same ingredients when made by the same manufacturer, but in different ratios. Many questions have been raised about if the tablets and powders are equally effective and if you should pre-incubate the pancreatic enzymes (let them come to room temperature before feeding them). The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine reports that pre-incubating the enzymes has no statistical significance in studies, and may be unnecessary. They also state that tablets and enteric coated products may have decreased efficacy. This is likely because the powders can coat the food better, which is the whole point of the enzymes; They need to be in contact with the food to break it down, and a tablet doesn’t reach a large volume of food, as compared to the powder. You could think about trying to flavor popcorn: shaking a flavored powder over the bowl of popcorn will coat more pieces and make it more flavorful, whereas putting a tablet of flavor will only coat a few pieces. This isn’t to say that all pets are candidates for powder pancreatic enzymes but if you have tried the tablets with no success, it may be beneficial to try the powder. It is ultimately the veterinarian’s decision which is best for each case, just be informed about the options.

How do the prices compare between the pancreatic enzyme supplements available through VetRxDirect?

Powders containing pancreatic enzymes only: Pancrezyme Powder, Viokase-V powder, and Epizyme powder: All three of these contain 71,400 units of lipase, 388,000 units of protease, and 460,000 units of amylase per teaspoonful. VetRxDirect’s current cost per teaspoon for each of these medications are:

  • Epizyme 8oz = $0.92
  • Epizyme 12oz = $0.95
  • Epizyme 4 oz = $1.20
  • Pancrezyme 12 oz= $1.57
  • Pancrezyme 8oz = $1.65
  • Viokase –V 12oz = $2.10
  • Viokase-V  8 oz= $2.18

Tablets containing pancreatic enzymes only: Pancrezyme tablets : These tablets are similar to the powder above, but they contain 9,000 units of lipase, 57,000 units of protease, and 64,000 units of amylase per teaspoonful. VetRx Direct’s current price per tablet is:

  • Pancrezyme tablet: $0.26

Powders containing pancreatic enzymes and vitamins: PancrePlus powder, Panakare Plus powder, and PancreVed powder. All three of these contain vitamins and 71,400 units of lipase, 388,000 units of protease, and 460,000 units of amylase per teaspoonful. VetRx Direct’s current price per teaspoon is:

  • PancreVed 12oz: $0.99
  • PanaKare Plus 12 oz: $1.01
  • PancreVed 8oz: $1.04
  • PanaKare Plus 8 oz: $1.04
  • PancrePlus 12oz: $1.07
  • PancrePlus 8oz: $1.13
  • PancreVed 4 oz: $1.14
  • PanaKare Plus 4 oz: $1.26
  • PancrePlus 4oz: $1.28

Tablets containing pancreatic enzymes and vitamins: PancrePlus tablets, PanaKare tablets, and PancreVed tablets. All three of these contain vitamins and 9,000 units of lipase, 57,000 units of protease, and 64,000 units of amylase. VetRx Direct’s current price per tablet is:

  • PancrePlus 500ct: $0.16
  • PanaKare Plus 500ct: $0.16
  • PancreVed 500 ct: $0.18
  • PanaKare Plus 100 ct: $0.22
  • PancrePlus 100 ct: $0.23
  • PancreVed 100 ct: $0.25

Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements for Dogs from VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy

It’s all in the math for pancreatic enzyme supplements:

To find the difference in prices between the tablets and powders, a comparison between their concentrations must be made. The powders are much more concentrated than the tablets. In the enzyme only products and the enzyme plus vitamins, the powder-to-tablet enzyme concentration ratios (powder:tablet) for lipase, protease and amylase are 7.9:1, 6.8:1, and  7.18:1, respectively. So one teaspoonful is approximately 7 time more concentrated than one tablet. You could also think that it would take approximately 7 tablets to equal 1 teaspoon of the powder. If you multiply the price of the tablets by seven, then you get a rough comparative cost of the tablets to the powders.

For example:

  • Pancrezyme tablets = $0.26 x  7 =  $1.82
  • Pancrezyme 12 oz powder = $1.57

By using the Pancrezyme powder instead of the Pancrezyme tablet you could save $0.25 per teaspoonful that you use.  Let’s say that you are supposed to give one teaspoonful three times a day: you would save $0.75 per day. That could be $273.75 per year. Over ten years you could save $2,737.50, all because you were informed and proactive about your pet’s pancreatic enzyme supplements.

The take-home message about pancreatic enzyme supplements:

      While the decision on what product to use is ultimately up to your veterinarian and you, it is important to be informed about the options out there. It is important to discuss the efficacy of the powder and tablets with your veterinarian, and what they think would the best option for your pet.  The money that can be saved by switching to a cheaper product or by switching to powder form can save a large amount of money. However, you should be aware that some veterinarians like to start with more expensive products to stabilize your pet and then try the cheaper options, and there may be clinical differences between different manufacturers and how they get the enzymes.The purpose of this article is to educate pet owners about the pancreatic enzyme products and the long term costs that can accumulate from purchasing the more expensive products. We hope that reading this article has informed you about pancreatic enzymes, and that you (and your pet) can both be happy.

Is your dog on Pancreatic Enzymes? Does your dog take the powder? Which brand do you prefer? Please leave any comments below. Thank you.

Abigail Maas

VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy Pharmacist Intern


Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).” American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 9 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

Hypothyroidism in Dogs: What to Look For

One day you notice it: your furry companion is a little less furry and a little less companionate. In fact, he seems pretty “down” and lethargic.  That combination of symptoms might point to a common clinical condition called hypothyroidism.

The thyroid gland, located in your dog’s neck, produces hormones that control key bodily functions including metabolism, growth, reproduction, oxygen consumption and immunity. If the butterfly-shaped thyroid doesn’t function well – or stops working all together – your dog can suffer from a variety of symptoms that can harm your dog’s health and reduce his quality of life. (The condition is relatively rare in our feline friends who are more susceptible to hyperthyroidism.)

What types of dogs get hypothyroidism?

Larger dogs that are between 4-10 years old are more prone to the condition. Some breeds are more likely to have hypothyroidism including: Doberman pinchers, Golden retrievers, Great Danes, Irish Setters and Airedale terriers.

What are the causes of hypothyroidism in dogs?

Changes in the thyroid gland can cause hypothyroidism. In some cases, an immune system disorder attacks the gland causing it to overproduce thyroid hormone and then become totally depleted. In other cases, age and biological processes stop the thyroid gland from producing enough hormones.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Look for a combination of these symptoms:

  • Thinning or loss of fur on the trunk of the body
  • Thickening, darkening skin
  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Mood changes – depression, aggression and anxiety

Blood work is required to diagnose the condition and determine what level of treatment is required.

Popular Brands of Levothyroxine for Hypothyroidism in Dogs

How is hypothyroidism in dogs treated?

Dogs with hypothyroidism require hormone replacement therapy for the remainder of their lives. Fortunately, there are many excellent hormone replacement medications that regulate canine hormone levels and help the body function normally. We stock many of the leading thyroid medications.

As always, the first person you should talk to about your pet’s condition and any required treatments is your veterinarian.

If you’d like to read more about hypothyroidism, check out this comprehensive article by researchers at Washington State University.

Thank you for reading. We’re here to help you keep your pet healthy and happy!


Heartworms: Prevention is the Best Medicine

April showers bring May flowers… and, unfortunately, the onset of heartworm season in much of the country. That’s why it’s National Heartworm Awareness Month. Heartworm can be fatal and it is very difficult – and expensive — to treat so prevention is always your best bet.  Here’s what you need to know.

What types of animals get heartworm?

Many mammals get heartworm including dogs and cats. The disease is rare in humans.  Note that heartworm susceptibility, diagnosis, and treatment are different for dogs and cats.

Where are heartworms prevalent?

Heartworm can be found throughout the U.S. but it’s more prevalent in the Midwest and Southeast because the parasite flourishes in tropical and subtropical climates.  Check this map to see how common it is in your area:


Heartworm Incidence Map Courtesy of

Heartworm Incidence Map Courtesy of the American Heartworm Society


How do pets get heartworms?

The parasitic nematode Dirofilaria immitis, commonly called heartworm, is transmitted via mosquitoes. When a mosquito infected with heartworm bites your pet it can transmit heartworm larvae into your pet’s bloodstream. Once inside your pet, the larvae continue to develop over the course of about six months. They make their way to the heart or lungs where they mature and reproduce. Adult worms live for years, can grow to more that 12 inches long and cause blockages in the heart and lungs and damage to arteries.

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?

Often there are no obvious initial symptoms when your pet is infected with heartworm. Once the disease has progressed, dogs may begin to cough, experience shortness of breath, and be unwilling to exercise. Symptoms in cats are non-specific – like coughing or rapid breathing — and are often mistaken for other medical problems. Some pets show no symptoms until they collapse or faint due to “caval syndrome,” at which stage the body is so infected that treatment and recovery are unlikely.

Why is heartworm prevention so important?

Once a pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito it takes up to six months for the heartworms to show up on tests. By then damage has been done and treatment regimens are costly, complicated and aren’t always effective. Your best bet is to prevent this disease rather than attempt to treat it.

We stock many heartworm preventative treatments for dogs and cats.  Choose from monthly oral medications or topical treatments — both types are effective, convenient, and affordable. Talk to your veterinarian about which treatment is best for your pet and your area.

Want to learn more about heartworm and how to prevent it? Listen to Dr Rubin’s short podcast presented by the American Heartworm Society.

Here’s to a happy, healthy spring for your pet!