Sally Ross was born in the USA – just in time to peek through the pot smoke and witness flower power at Haight Ashbury. She’s been a woodwind instrument repair technician, an activities director at Torres Mazatlan and El Cid followed by teaching English and music at the Angela Peralta Theatre. Sally can’t live without her satellite radio, dogs, steaks, and she loves to go mountain biking and dancing – not at the same time. This willowy blonde has been in Mazatlan since 1985 caring for all kinds of four footed friends and this is evident in Sally’s donated house, Casa Nika Bazaar. This is a thrift store where all the proceeds flow to Proyecto Animales de la Calle and other animal rescue groups on Mazatlan.

Vetting the vet’s advice

[updated, August 2021: sadly Dr. Cesar Duarte died of Covid in early August – his recommendations live on.]

For years, I have been relying on the advice of three wise men. I am fortunate to draw upon the knowledge of these three Mazatlan veternarians; Dr. Rafael Aguilar, Dr. Marco Antonio Cardenas and Dr. Cesar Duarte. I suggest you meet them all and apply an old fashioned remedy – go with your gut. Who do you like, respect, and want to treat your animal? Perhaps the answer is all three. I interviewed the doctors and asked their opinions and preferences for vaccinations, spaying options, and nutrition. Below are their answers.

The shots

Distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and lepostirosis are prominent in Mazatlan. They are highly contagious and frequently fatal. I had been too relaxed about having all my dogs vaccinated on a regular basis, until the newest member of the family died of distemper (moquillo), throwing me into a hysterical panic to get the rest inoculated before it was too late. Dr Marco Antonio recommends deworming puppies when they are 30 days old if the mother had been dewormed, or 15 days old if not, and a follow up treatment 15 days later for all.

Puppy vaccinations should start at six weeks for distemper, parvovirus, and kennel cough; at nine weeks for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus coronavirus and parainfluenza; at 12 weeks for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and lepostirosis. These should be followed by vaccinations for rabies and giardia. Dr. Marco Antonio recommends starting heartworm treatment when a dog is three months old. If a dog has been in a mosquito-infested area, tests for heartworm should begin sooner than three months. He vaccinates his adult dogs against distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, hepatitis, lepostirosis and rabies once a year and follows up with giardia and kennel cough (nasal vaccinations) three weeks later. Heartworm medication should be taken on a monthly basis.

Dr Cesar raised a crucial point: a puppy whose mother was vaccinated should not receive vaccinations until ten days after they are weaned as they will still have her defenses in their systems. If the mother was not vaccinated or her status is unknown, puppies should receive their shots when they are about five weeks old and continue through a series of a total of three sets of vaccinations given over a 10 week period. He recommends yearly multiple vaccinations, monthly heartworm treatment, and can provide Frontline for tic and flea control at discounted prices from bulk purchasing.

Dr Rafael’s top priority is to get the animals protected with their vaccinations as soon as possible. Puppies can be vaccinated at a minimum of six weeks but must not have their mother’s antibodies as the additional vaccines will block each other out and destroy all the immunity. He starts with a multiple vaccination for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, coronavirus and parainfluenza, repeats the same treatment two weeks later, and adds lepostirosis on the third and final vaccination. He feels that the necessity of other vaccinations depends on the environment where the animal will stay. Kennel cough (bordatela) is only necessary if the animal will be left in a kennel, giardia is not common in Mazatlan. Rabies shots should be given once a year for two years after which they can be given once every three years.

The neutering

Proyecto Animales de la Calle (PAC) has a pretty poignant poster in local vet offices showing how many offspring are created from one unfixed female cat in an amazingly short amount of time. It is a shocking eye-opener to realize that one unfixed female cat can be responsible for the reproduction of 376 cats in three years and an astonishing 11,801 cats in five years. Male cats yeowl, fight and leave a horrendous spray. Male dogs urinate incessantly to mark territory, may become aggressive, and will leave home in search of that lovely female dog that is in heat. Female dogs go into heat every six months… do the math. When should an animal be spayed or neutered?

Dr. Cesar recommends neutering male puppies at three to four months of age, once the testicles have dropped. He admits that his preference to spay female puppies and kittens after their first heat is controversial but feels it is important for the animal’s hormones to be fully developed to avoid hair and skin problems in later years.

Dr. Rafael recommends neutering male dogs when they are between three and half and five months old and emphasizes the importance of spaying female dogs before their first heat as 90% of female dogs that are fixed before their first heat remain free from mammary cancer. He says kittens should weigh 1 kilogram before being operated on, regardless of their age.

Dr. Marco Antonio discussed the importance of spaying a female dog before its second heat (estrus) to prevent mammary cancer. 05% of females spayed before their first heat, 8% of females spayed before their second heat, and 26% of females spayed after their second heat are diagnosed with this disease. He recommends spaying male dogs before they turn 5 months old or they will start marking territory.

Although Dr. Marco Antonio recommends spaying and neutering cats before they are 5 months old, he insists that they must be healthy, should have been vaccinated, and prefers to test adopted felines for heartworm, feline leukemia, and feline HIV before operating.

The diet

Over the years I’ve learned what my dogs can eat and tolerate. For instance my Niña likes The North Beach Diet – fishermen proudly feed her tasty raw chicken legs. She enjoys her chicken cuisine and has miraculously turned into one large, healthy aggressive beach dog. But Niña is the exception to the rule. Be very careful with uncooked meats as they quickly spoil and even worse, avoid chicken and fish bones at all cost as they may splinter in the dogs stomach causing invisible internal bleeding that can result in a slow painful death.

Dr. Cesar explains that some fresh fruits and vegetables including apples, broccoli, carrots and lettuce provide excellent nutrition and snacks for your dog but cautions against avocados, grapes, and nuts which can be poisonous. He recommends dry dog food (croquetas) as their rough texture helps to clean the teeth and suggests putting children’s toothpaste on a small toothbrush for a quick simple dental cleaning.

There are four standards of dog food on the market; common, commercial, premium, and super premium. Dr. Marco Antonio feels that the higher quality foods are worth the investment as they are made with superior ingredients resulting in less consumption, less excrement, better health and a superior quality of life. He sells Hills Science Diet for normal dogs and Hills Prescription Diet for dogs with special health problems such diabetes, obesity, and kidney problems.

Dr Rafael says that most commercial dog foods, starting with Pedigree and above, are sufficient. He acknowledges that premium dog foods have their benefits but that the price can be prohibitive. He summed up his feelings with the comment… “the most important thing for you to give your pet is a lot of loving.”

The grooming

Perhaps the best way to close this article is to discuss grooming options. Some dogs do just fine with regular dog shampoo or moisturizing bath soap and a hose but try as you like, you cannot forget about those adorable glamorous cuts. The dog groomers at Vet Pacifico introduced my tiny two month old toy poodle to grooming by putting the buzzing razor upside down on his back. Zeuss screeched and hollered before thinking it over a bit and downsizing to a soft whine before deciding that it might really be ok. Now he loves being groomed and will reach his paw out for more attention if the process is interrupted. Both La Jungla locations offer quality grooming service, and Mina at Golden Zone location will also pick up and drop off your dogs if you live in that area (913-1631). Many of us were initially delighted with Martita (669-431-3962) who serenades your dog while carefully detangling all those nasty knots at your residence but her scheduling problems can become more frustrating than their matted fur. She loves the animals and does a wonderful job, typically spending two hours on each animal, but one must have a lot of patience to wait for her.

I’d like to thank the vets for their patience with me, and taking time to explain their various beliefs. These three wise men are only a phone call away.

Dr Rafael Aguilar (La Jungla, 981-6197), Dr. Marco Antonio Cardenas (Veterinaria del Pacifico 982-6727),