Animal Planet and Insta Celeb Vet Dr. Evan Antin was lending his star power in New York City for National Pet Day to help Bideawee with their adoption event and sponsor Clorox raise awareness of how bleach prevents the spread of disease in adoption shelters and keeps our pets’ living environments clean and healthy. It was perfect timing for Goodnewsforpets.com Editor & Publisher Lea-Ann Germinder to get caught up with him on a range of topics for our popular guest interview.
The final episode of Season 1 of Animal Planet’s Evan Goes Wild airs this Sunday April 16 at 9:00 p.m. EST up against the first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. No pressure at all, right?!
(Laughing and sighing) I’m done. I can’t compete with that. I feel like the whole country and their mother is going to be watching Game of Thrones, which is on the same day and the same time. Hopefully they’ll record Evan Goes Wild and watch it later. Our final episode is also on the Animal Planet Go app. There’s a link in my bio and my Instagram @dr.evanantin and there’s plenty of other places to see it, and plenty of other times to see it and the other episodes.
What was the best part of filming Evan Goes Wild?
Actually doing it! Seriously, it was seeing the vision of what I worked so hard on for years come to life and actually do it. It was filming all over the world with a fantastic camera crew for my dream Animal Planet show. I worked with the crazy wildlife I love — some of them new animals, others I’ve worked with before, but in new countries in unfamiliar surroundings.
What are the three biggest takeaways you would like people to get from Animal Planet’s Evan Goes Wild?
The biggest one is species awareness –that these animals even exist. So many species that we work with on the show are species that most people haven’t heard of. I guarantee you 90% of Americans have never heard of a binturong, a pangolin or the Loris. Just showing them these animals I hope raises awareness there are animals we need to know more about.
Second is conservation education. I’m the veterinarian, I’m not a conservationist professionally, but a lot of the work I do is towards wildlife conservation, even if that’s working on individual animals and helping an individual monkey get back in the wild.
Third is understanding we need to do so much more in conservation. Rhinos are being poached at an alarming rate, as are sharks, as are pangolins. We’re losing habitats in so many parts of the world.
What is the response you hear about to the show?
The show gets people excited about these animals because the interactions that I get to have with so many of them are so special and so fun. That’s my favorite part of being a vet. I get on the animal’s level, whether it’s an elephant or a dog or a pangolin. Showing that interaction with them is really important.
For me, that’s what got me excited about animals when I was growing up. I grew up in Kansas. I had a creek in my backyard. I’d look for wildlife before I’d go and sit inside and watch TV. When I’d watch TV, I was watching animal shows, and I didn’t know about a lot of the animals and I was learning so much.
Seeing Steve Irwin, for instance, work with a crocodile or a monitor lizard or a little sloth was interesting to me. That engagement and seeing that was what helped get me so excited about it. Seeing simple things like that actually goes a really long way. I know it did for me, and I know for a lot of animal lovers it does for them too.
You’ve administered veterinary medicine to animals in the wild. You have a practice in California, but most of us take care of our animals in the home. What are the tips on using Clorox products that translate into keeping areas of the home clean?
Providing a clean environment whether it’s in a veterinary clinic, a shelter of in your home is all part of preventative medicine, which is something that I feel very strongly about as a veterinarian. I partnered with Clorox because they make awesome products that have been super effective for many, many years. One of those, for instance, is their regular bleach product.
The important thing to note here is you are not using the product directly on the pets, you are using it in their space and on their bowls and toys, rinsing them off and letting them air dry to get them clean.
Keeping things in the home clean is one of the easiest first steps that pet owners can do. For example, distemper and parvo are two diseases that we vaccinate against. That’s the number one most effective way to reduce them. They’re really scary and they’re extremely contagious. Parvo virus is really hardy. Distemper is not as hardy, but it can be shed from an animal for months even after it’s been resolved, if it survives. They’re really scary, gnarly viruses.
For pet owners that have a dog more akin to my situation at home, not including what I do at the vet hospital, but just as a dog owner at home. I want to keep his food bowl clean and his toys, and he’s got a crate, and I want to keep that clean.
At home, I’ll use a much more dilute version where I’ll do a couple teaspoons of bleach in a gallon of water, and that can eradicate and kill a lot of the bacteria mites that accumulate in his food bowl or in his crate. I just want to keep that area clean. There are wipes and other things you can use by Clorox that accomplish the same thing.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. I sometimes have patients come in and like, “You know, my dog’s got this dermatitis on its muzzle.” I inquire about their feeding and cleaning the food bowl and it comes down to them just not realizing how important it is to clean the food bowl on a regular basis.
If we didn’t wash our face and clean our plates, we’d have a lot of acne and stuff too. It’s simple stuff that can help reduce even simple day-to-day things like dermatitis on the face. Just keeping their environment and things like their food bowl and toys clean.
Now parvovirus is not something I worry about day-to-day with my dog at home. But if you are getting a new pet and it’s from a shelter, it’s important to make sure that first the pet is vaccinated and also that you also keep the pet’s area clean. You can also take ½ a cup of Clorox and dilute it in three quarters of a gallon of water, and that gives you a formula that can kill parvovirus.
This goes for shelters too and for them preventing the spread of disease, that’s super important. There is also the Clorox cleanup spray that can kill distemper.
How often should a pet owner be using bleach to clean their pet’s area?
It depends on the use and how many animals are there, and what you’re feeding your pet. If it’s a wet food, obviously that’s a lot dirtier and it can harbor a lot more bacteria and mites because it’s wet for a longer time.
I don’t think you need to use it more than once or twice a week, maybe even less in some cases, but it’s something that you do to thoroughly clean everything. A couple times a month might be good. For me, I don’t need to use it more than that.
You do so much work with exotic animals. Is the use of Clorox products different with them?
For exotic mammals, like terrestrial mammals, all the same rules can apply. Some species can get distemper, not just dogs, but others have different bacteria and different viruses. When it comes to aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, I’m pretty old school. I just rinse their spaces with water and let it air dry in the sun. UVB is a very effective disinfectant.
I get a little paranoid putting any cleaning solution, no matter what it is, into their water environment. With fish, for instance, you never do full water changes. You do very partial water changes because there’s a whole biological filter. It depends on the exotic animal, but really for most terrestrials, you’re safe using these products as long again, you rinse and let them air dry. The best bet is to check with your local veterinarian about your pet.
(For more tips from Dr. Evan Antin and Clorox click here).
What about the shelter environment? Is it the same Clorox product used in the shelter environment?
We use that same dilution. A half a cup of regular bleach and three quarters a gallon kills parvo. You need that contact time. It’s super important to keep that area with the contact time moist for ten minutes, but it will kill parvo, and then the spray, 30 seconds of contact time kills distemper.
In the shelter it’s every bit as important as it is in the home. We’ve got a couple dogs with us here today, and they’re from Bideawee. These guys are incredible. Bideawee is one of the oldest no-kill shelter in the country. They’re really responsible and really good about cleaning their areas. Their rates of disease are definitely lower because of their preventative medicine. They have good vets on staff and good volunteers and people that help out these animals that actively do the cleaning on a regular basis.
Bleach is also one of the top things asked or requested by animal shelters for donations, and that’s just regular Clorox bleach, and especially during times of natural disasters. It not only helps with what we discussed previously but also with mold and mildew. Even then in times of crisis, it’s just a really important thing, just a little thing to care about the animals. Molds are fungal, and bleach is totally effective. It’ll eradicate those.
How does a pet owner know what to feed their pet especially with so many commercial pet food recalls happening the last few years?
That’s a good question, especially now that there’s so many different avenues to go down. Here’s the thing with pet food recalls. The last one that happened was with a major brand and the truth is, every major commercial brand at some point is going to have a recall because it is a manufacturing process with many steps — and that goes for human food too. Try to stay on top of it, stay educated, and if there is a recall and it happens to be a food brand you’re getting, abide by it and get rid of that food and do what you have to do.
I feed my pets commercial dog food, and that’s my favorite pet food for a few reasons. As a vet, my number one reason is there’s a lot of science behind it. The company knows exactly what’s going into that dog food, and they know exactly what your dog needs. They have all the micronutrients. Macronutrients are easy. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats. That’s a little more straight forward, but micronutrients; vitamins and minerals, and having the right amount of each one is super important. Number two, it’s easy to access commercial dog food. It’s so simple. Number three, it’s affordable.
What’s the right amount of exercise a pet should get every day?
The answer is very individual-based. It really depends on your dog’s age, their physical ability, and their overall demeanor to want to play. Say we have a young, healthy border collie. This is a dog that wants to work, and it wants to play, and it wants to burn calories and burn energy. For a dog like that, a matter of a few plus hours every day is good for them and important for them. This is not an apartment dog.
Then you contrast that to my dog at home. He’s an 11-year-old Chihuahua toy fox terrier mix named Henry, and he’s a couch potato. He is so content going on two ten-minute walks a day, and doing a little bit of playing at home, and that’s all he wants and needs. He otherwise just wants to sleep on the couch.
There are other dogs that are maybe older and they have arthritis, and really they shouldn’t be going on more than a half hour walk once or twice a day. We need to focus on their diet and other things to make sure they’re a healthy weight. There are so many factors and variables. There’s not one right answer for dogs. It really, really depends and you should again discuss this with your veterinarian.
What about animal training? Should every pet get some kind of professional training?
I have reptiles as pets, who are great to train actually, and they are much more trainable than most people realize. It’s not quite as important. With our domesticated pets especially, training is awesome for so many reasons.
It really reinforces that human-animal bond, and it’s quality time with your pet. You get to reward them for positive behavior, and that makes them feel good. When they get rewarded for doing something good, and you get to tell them how great they are and give them a treat for it that releases endorphins. That’s a positive good thing for them. They’ve been bred to please as dogs, and so when they do please us, that’s them being what they’ve been bred to do, and so they’re very happy.
It’s good mental stimulation for them, and it’s good for their brains and good for their development. Puppies especially, at this age, you start training them even now. It’s not too early. That helps with their development, and helps to make them better pets.
It makes your life more convenient. As a pet owner, you’re going to be a happier pet owner when you have a trained pet that can do a few commands, or at least is potty-trained, and potty training is a part of training. All those things tie together and potty training ties in with crate training, and a crate is important to have for your pet.
On the topic of crates, every pet should have a safe space that’s a positive place that’s refuge for them. It’s not a time-out zone, it’s not punishment. There’s no negative association with it. It’s their happy place. Even my dog, Henry, sometimes he just wants to be in his crate. The door’s open. He can come out when he wants when I’m home, but he just likes to escape the world, which is really my apartment and my cats. It’s not a scary world for him. He just likes to spend time there. Training’s awesome. I’m a huge fan of it.
Can you comment on positive versus punishment-based training?
There are different schools of thought but positive reinforcement is absolutely the way to go. If you reward a living being for something that they’ve done right, they’ll make that association and they’ll do it.
There are some people that do their own kind of training that are self-taught, that is punishment-based training. With punishment-based training, it can confuse your pet. It’s negative, it’s scary, and they don’t learn well. Any other trainer that learned in a conventional way these days knows that training today is all about positive reinforcement.
If you give animals a reward within two seconds of a desired behavior, they’ll learn it very quickly, and that’s what you want them to do, and that’s a positive thing. It’s all the things I talked about earlier. They’re rewarded, they release endorphins, they’re happy, and a human-animal bond is created.
Positive reinforcement training is something that we can use in just about any species all the way down to insects and bees and fish, let alone something as intelligent as cats and dogs.
What vaccinations should pets get, and what are the guidelines?
I’m a very evidence-based person and the reasons I do the things that I do are based on scientific evidence. The only pets I don’t vaccinate are a very rare few that have had a significant adverse reaction. It’s very rare, but some pets can get really scary immune mediated diseases. If I know a dog has that history, then I won’t vaccinate them.
If I know the dog has a mild inverse reaction, I still vaccinate them. I give them a Benadryl. I give them steroids if I have to, but usually just an antihistamine does the trick. I do this with ferrets, for instance. They’re prone to vaccine reactions. Just give them a Benadryl before. No issues. No problem whatsoever.
Across the board, other than that, I vaccinate. There’s zero reason not to. It reduces so much awfulness when it comes to your pet’s health, your budget, the stress, all the horrible things that come with distemper and parvo.
Do vaccination guidelines vary by region?
Absolutely. There are two main vaccines that every dog should get. Every dog should be getting is the DHPP vaccine, and that covers Distemper, Parvovirus, Para influenza, and Hepatitis, otherwise knows as Canine Adenovirus. That’s your classic vaccine they do at Bideawee. They do it at every shelter. Every dog should get it no matter where you are.
The other one is the Rabies vaccine. Rabies is really not common in this country, and it’s really not common where I practice. We see a lot more of it in the East Coast, and a little bit more in the Midwest than we do, but very rarely see it in the West Coast and in southern California. But that’s one there’s just no reason not to vaccinate.
What happens if you don’t vaccinate your dog for rabies? What if you travel? There are some states where if your dog gets out and bites someone; they can legally test for rabies. To test for rabies is a terminal diagnostic. They have to euthanize your pet, dissect half the brain, and then do a certain staining chemistry to look at tissues of the brain to see if the rabies is there. I don’t try to instill fear in people into vaccinating their pet, but it’s a reality, and people should know this.
If you live on the East Coast or in the Midwest, there are other diseases you can vaccinate against like Leptospirosis. Leptosporosis is a bacterial organism that can live in little stagnant bodies of water and stuff in the Midwest and the East coast, and so I recommend that. In California, I don’t because we don’t see lepto. In southern California it’s very dry. In Northern California, it’s a different story. I don’t worry about it there.
Across the board, flea and tick is pretty important in most parts of the country, in the warmer months at least. We see fleas year round in southern California where it’s warm. More in the summer, but year round they’re there. Geography definitely matters.
My best advice for pet owners is consult your veterinarian about what your own pet needs. He or she is going to know what is best for your pet.
We know people can help by adopting pets from shelters. How can they help in other ways?
There are so many ways to help beyond the obvious act of adopting a pet. Just being honest, money goes a long way. If you give to good organizations that know what they’re doing, money can give them the opportunity to buy and do exactly what they need for these animals, and if you have the funds and ability to do so, awesome. There are a lot of good organizations, just be sure you are donating to a good organization that will use the money as intended.
Another one is volunteering if you have free time, and you want to get some hands-on experience, or you just want to help some animals and spend time with them. There’s a lot of volunteering opportunities at local shelters all over the country, depending on where you live.
Volunteering is a great way to see what a shelter’s all about and to get hands-on experience with animals. You might be a young person or an older person who wants a career change. You may be someone who wants to get into the veterinary world or the animal world or just get some experience. That’s where most people start.
Finally, fostering is a big commitment, but the people that do it absolutely love it. I don’t know many fosters that do it that stop doing it. There are a lot of shelters that really need help. They need someone to help care for healthy animals that need room and space and love for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think we got to talk about some awesome stuff. Thank you.
Thank you Dr. Antin. Goodnewsforpets peeps, be sure to watch
Animal Planet’s Evan Goes Wild 9:00 p.m. EST Sunday April 14th. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, please show some animal love and watch it on your Animal Planet Go App while Game of Thrones is on the TV – dual tasking! There are always ways.
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Goodnewsforpets.com has been published for 19 years to bring information about veterinary medicine and pet products to a curated audience interested in pet/vet news. Our guest interviews are some of the most highly read sections. For more information contact Lea-Ann Germinder at [email protected].
Disclaimer: As Dr. Antin notes, these are his views and are provided for general informational purposes. As always speak to your veterinarian for specific recommendations regarding your own pet or pets.