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Ask Dr. Johnson...

Ask Dr. Johnson

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(We regret that Dr. Johnson cannot answer each question personally, but will try to answer as many questions as possible on this website.)

Latest Topics

Bland diet feeding recommendations for dogs with vomiting or diarrhea problems

Should I buy pet insurance?

My dog is in heat – What do I do?

I see a lot of ads about preventing Heartworm Disease. Is this something I need to be concerned about for my two dogs?

Why are medication costs higher from my Vet than at internet pharmacies?

My cat needs to be spayed, but anesthesia is a big concern for me. How safe is it?

I've heard pros and cons about vaccinating my pet. What are your thoughts?

My clinic is recommending a fecal exam/stool testing for my elderly dog. Is this really necessary or just an added expense?



Bland diet feeding recommendations for dogs with vomiting or diarrhea problems.


  1. No food until no vomiting for at least 24 hrs.

  2. If no vomiting for 24 hrs., can feed 50:50 low fat cottage cheese and white rice, or water packed tuna and white rice. Cooked potatoes can be substituted for the rice.

  3. Feed small amounts of the bland diet 4-5 times a day, until no vomiting for 2 days.


  1. Can feed low fat cottage cheese or water packed tuna and rice in small quantities 4-5 times daily until stools are normal for 2 days.

  2. Non flavored powdered metamucil can be added to this formula as well. Small dog - 1 teaspoon per feeding, large dog heaping tablespoon per feeding.

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson



Should I buy pet insurance?

I think the reason to buy pet health insurance is based on your over all philosophy about the degree of high-end veterinary care you may or may not want or need.

Young pet issues that can cost a lot of money are injury related. Older pets however develop age related organ failures and cancers.

For people that are not interested or don’t believe that advanced cancer management is a desired treatment for their pet, insurance may not be needed.

Oftentimes, insurance carriers will exclude conditions thought to be “hereditary” which encompasses many, many gray zones.

There are now several options for pet health insurance. If you’re interested, it would be best to contact them and ask direct questions like:

1. Does this policy cover hereditary conditions?
2. Is there a cap on the amount that the insurance company will pay for a problem?
3. How much are the annual premiums?
4. Does the premium price remain the same through the animal’s life?
5. Does it cover routine exams, vaccinations and tests?

Basically, like any other insurance, you’re buying protection for the catastrophic problems. If you think about it, the insurance company needs to pay out less than they take in or they would be out of business. Therefore most people get less back than they put in.

An alternative is to start a savings account for each pet. If an insurance premium is $400.00 per year, after 8 years, without interest you would have $3,200.00 and with interest, even at today's rates, you would have $ 4,000.00 or more. Now this is not enough to pay for advance cancer care but goes a long way toward most things. And, if it’s not used it’s still your money! Something to think about!

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson


"I have had Dr. Johnson take care of my dogs and cats for 15 years. He is always gentle and compassionate with my animals. His prices are very reasonable. In fact I now live in Oceanside where the local vet charges $765.00 to clean a dog’s teeth. I drive all the way to Hemet to take my pets back to Dr. Johnson. I would recommend Dr. Johnson to anyone with a dog or cat."

My dog is in heat – What do I do?

Most female dogs and cats come “into heat” for the first time at about 8 months of age. They remain “in heat” for about 2 weeks. During this time their reproductive tract is geared up for pregnancy. The uterus enlarges and in the case of dogs, they have a bloody vaginal discharge. They are most fertile during the second week of the heat cycle.

Pets can be spayed at that time but it’s harder on the patient and the surgeon due to increase in size and blood supply of the reproductive organs. The hormonal roller coaster that occurs is somewhat harder on the patient as well.

It’s best to do the surgery when not in heat due to these issues. Once out of heat it will be approximately six months before they come into heat again giving a large window in which to do the surgery.


Most of the time there is no difference in surgery time for a patient in heat versus one that is not. Sometimes, additional time is needed to do the surgery and therefore additional fees may be charged. Many patients require more pain relief as part of their aftercare as well.

The further away they are from being in heat, the better it is all the way around.

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson


"Our experience with 2 Great Danes has been first rate. Quality care at reasonable prices.
- Thomas M."

I see a lot of ads about preventing Heartworm Disease. Is this something I need to be concerned about for my two dogs?

Heartworm disease is a potentially serious problem for dogs and occasionally cats. The disease itself is an actual spaghetti like worm that lives in the heart or pulmonary artery. The restriction of blood flow caused by the presence of the worms and inflammatory reaction in the blood vessels is what causes the cardiac symptoms that develop.

The disease is spread by mosquitoes which is why heartworm is a RARE DISEASE in the San Jacinto Valley

. There are "hot beds" of the disease and in our region it happens to be Idyllwild. Camp Pendleton and Julian have also had some problems but by and large, it is a very rare problem for Southern California pets.

Since mosquitoes are the source, areas that have a lot of mosquitoes are where the disease is much more prevalent.

Our current recommendation for heartworm prevention is as follows:

1. Pets living in Idyllwild should be on prevention.
2. Pets traveling to other areas where mosquitoes are more common should use prevention during     their trip and give one more dose AFTER returning home.

My philosophy on heartworm prevention is like other preventative medications. Use what they need but do not overdo it. For most of San Jacinto Valley I do not feel that heartworm prevention is necessary.

For those that are at risk, I prefer Ivermectin products because the chemical is in their body for only eight hours after given orally. I feel there is less potential for adverse drug reaction when using this approach. Most other preventatives use 24 hour, 7 days topical chemical approach.

For more information on heartworm disease click on the link below:

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson


"I used Dr. Johnson for a very sick dog even before he bought his own practice. He was wonderful. He tried everything to save her. Eventually we did have to euthanize her. He did the autopsy for free and sent the report to UC Davis to get their input. She had an infection of her heart valve and nothing would have saved her. Dr. Johnson did an extraordinary effort to help us."
- Jim


Why are medication costs higher from my Vet than at internet pharmacies?

That’s a good question. Historically, animal hospitals derive their income from many different areas of their businesses.

Exams, surgery, radiology, foods, etc., all serve as sources of overall profit for the animal hospital. For most quality animal hospitals, the overall profit (what the owner takes home) is a low percentage of the gross. This percentage has dropped steadily over the last 30 years. Making a “good” living as a veterinarian is harder and harder all the time.

The animal hospital's pharmacy has always been a profit center for the business. Ordering, shelving and storing medications all take time, which adds to the cost of operation. In order to have medication on hand for immediate use, a sizeable investment is kept on the shelf. Many of these medications go out of date before being used or sold which is absorbed as a loss to the animal hospital.

The convenience of being able to get needed medications immediately is therefore more expensive for the animal hospital to provide than an internet pharmacy which may or may not have medications available. Most sick animals can’t wait several days before receiving needed drugs.

Internet pharmacies buy in quantity and often have medications shipped directly from the manufacturer which means there was no overhead for them to shelve and store these products.

Some internet pharmacies promote generic drugs that may or may not be of the same quality as non generics. When a veterinarian gives out a prescription, he or she is now legally linked to the transaction which may or may not be legitimate.

As you can see, it’s a complicated problem.

We at AVL are acutely aware of the tightening of people’s personal budgets these days. In an attempt to reduce the financial burden of pet medication costs we have reduced the fees on the more expensive medications as well as the commonly used preventatives. We are trying to match, as closely as possible, internet pricing on the following medications:

Heartworm Preventatives:
- Iverhart
- Heartguard

Flea and Tick Preventatives:
- Advantage
- Frontline
- Advantix
- Comfortis

Anti-Inflammatory/ Pain Relievers:
- Rimadyl
- Deramaxx
- Metacam

Incontinence Medications:
- Proin

Many times promotions and coupons are available to us that are not available to internet pharmacies. This enables us to beat the internet price.

We at AVL are doing our best to give you the most value possible for your hard earned dollars. Corporate internet companies care only about profit, not you or your pet or your local neighborhood.

Buying from your local veterinarian helps them keep the doors open and supports those that support you and your local community.

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson


"I live in San Diego (more than 2 hours drive from AVL) and was recommended to Dr. Johnson to help diagnose a difficult skin condition with my 2 year old Lab. It is a drive well worth taking. Dr. Johnson is extremely knowledgeable and took the extra time needed to get to the "root cause" of my dog's irritation. Other Vets had us giving our pet one prescription after another, with little to no effect. Dr. Johnson listened well and help us find a solution that requires minimal medication and works.

He was very courteous, kind, and patient with me. He explained things in a manner that I could easily understand and made sure that all of my questions were addressed. For us, Dr. Johnson is "The Best Vet in Southern California". Kudos!!"


My cat needs to be spayed, but anesthesia is a big concern for me. How safe is it?

Probably the biggest fears for most pet owners are procedures that require anesthesia. I hear all the time, stories about pets that died under anesthesia for non life threatening problems.

Yes – anesthesia has risk but that risk can be drastically minimized by technique and thorough monitoring.

We at AVL strive to give the safest anesthesia possible through extensive training of our staff and use of the highest quality monitoring equipment.

When your pet is anesthetized at AVL, all available monitoring equipment is used at NO ADDITIONAL COST. Your pet’s safety is not an optional issue for us. All anesthetized patients get a full time anesthesiologist and high tech monitoring to ensure a safe procedure.

In most cases anesthetic pain relief is given before the procedure to ensure smooth anesthesia and recovery. For our routine procedures this is done automatically at no additional charge.

Gas anesthesia is used nearly 100% of the time. It’s the safest and most controllable anesthetic drug.

During anesthesia, all pets receive :

1. Temperature controlled warming blankets.
2. Pulse oximetry. This measures the oxygen content of the patient.
3. CO2 monitor – Carbon dioxide levels are an early detector of equipment problem or poor     anesthetic performance.
4. Blood pressure – a sensitive test for the level of cardiac performance under anesthesia.
5. ECG – for detecting specific cardiac abnormalities.
6. Respiratory monitor – respiratory rate is measure of depth of anesthesia.
7. Temperature monitor – patient’s body temperature frequently drops while under anesthesia.
    Correcting or maintaining it, is good anesthesia management.
8. Technician monitor at all times – from start to wake up your pet has a very cautious friend in     their own private tech/anesthesiologist.

In summary, with proper technique, and caring well informed technician help, anesthesia is a safe, low stress procedure.

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson


"I've used AVL and Dr. Johnson for over fifteen years for breeds large and small, for dogs and cats, for routine care and emergencies, and there's no place else I'd go to feel more confident in the care of my pets. I trust them completely and appreciate many years of their helpful, respectful, professional, knowledgable and caring service."

I've heard pros and cons about vaccinating my pet. What are your thoughts?

Now here is a big topic.

Suffice it to say that over the years most pets have been greatly over vaccinated. In recent years, many studies have been done to show that the "old way" of vaccinating is not helpful, but even harmful to many pets. The understanding of how contagious diseases transmit and develop into clinical diseases has changed dramatically.

The truth be known, only minimal vaccination is needed for most dogs and cats. We try to understand each patients vaccination needs and tailor the program to the needs. We find in most cases that very little to no vaccination is truly needed.

An in-depth explanation can be provided during your pets exam on the pros and cons of vaccinating. Our goal is to do what is necessary for your pet's optimum health, but not more.

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson


"Dr. Johnson and his staff are the best out there. I have taken my dog, Lily, to him for over 7 years. He doesn't get excited easily and he instills that same calmness to the pet and its owner. He is not quick to medicate or to recommend expensive treatments, if it is not warranted. You can tell he has many years of experience and accumulated wisdom from those years.He also possesses just good old common sense. Which is so refreshing! My Lily, a medium-sized, mix breed dog who is 13 years old, is everything to me. I have implicit trust in Dr. Johnson in caring for her. He expects his staff to have the same high standards he holds to.I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Johnson and his staff."

My clinic is recommending a fecal exam/stool testing for my elderly dog. Is this really necessary or just an added expense?

Internal parasites are relatively common in young cats and dogs. In most cases they get them from their mother or from a contaminated environment. Some parasites actually transmit to the babies prior to being born!

As animals get older, their immune system helps to control parasites and prevents them from causing clinical disease. However, there are parasites that can affect the older dog. Hookworms and Whipworms are common in other, wetter areas of the Country, but almost unheard of in the arid climate of Hemet.

Though we very rarely see parasite problems here with adult patients, there are with 2 exceptions:

1) Tapeworms are commonly seen. Dogs and cats get these from having fleas or if they hunt rodents. Tapeworms are seen from the rectum or in fresh feces. Interestingly though, they very rarely result in illness. They are easily killed with a variety of deworming products. The most toxic of these medications are over-the-counter products!

2) Giardia is a parasite that causes diarrhea. People can get this too. The route of transmission is oral and contaminated drinking water is the source (standing water, streams and ponds).

If your dog is showing signs of Tapeworms or experiencing bouts of diarrhea, then a fecal exam/stool testing is certainly in order.

~ Dr. Clayton Johnson