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Tick Borne Diseases in Pets (including new POW disease)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
by All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

Tick Borne Diseases in Pets (including new POW disease)

What do you think about when you hear the word  “tick”?

Most people think about deer ticks and Lyme disease and are fully aware that humans and dogs are susceptible to the disease. Most people do not know that Lyme Disease is present in all 50 states and that larval and nymph stages of the Black legged tick or deer tick (click on the link for pictures - can be carried by migrating birds for long distances. Many people do not know that the nymph stage of the tick can overwinter so you or your dog can get a tick bite in the winter. Ticks will acquire the disease causing bacteria by feeding on infected rodents, the primary reservoir.


A dog’s immune system may be able to handle the Borrellia bacteria that are injected by one tick. However if multiple tick bites occur with bacteria transmission your dog can start to show symptoms. Symptoms can start as soon as one week after the tick bite. Symptoms include lethargy, fever, and lack of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, lameness that will come and go and shift legs as the bacteria invade various joints.


A severe acute case of tick borne disease may include muscle pain, trouble breathing, inflammation of the eyes, nervous symptom signs including paralysis, loss of kidney function and bleeding from gums as the immune system turns from fighting the bacteria to attacking the dog’s own cells.   There is no way to know if your dog will get the acute or chronic form of Lyme disease. We have had dogs at the practice that had a complete explosion of their immune system causing it to attack their own red blood cells. These dogs were saved by blood transfusions at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital.


Your dog can be tested for tick borne diseases Lyme, Erlichia and Anaplasmosis along with the annual heartworm test.  If the test is positive for the antibody to these organisms your veterinarian will discuss further testing to monitor the kidneys and the level of bacteria present in your dog. Rocky mountain Spotted fever, Babesia, and Francisella are also carried by ticks and can be tested for in a more extensive tick borne disease panel.  Your veterinarian may offer you testing options and put your dog on the proper antibiotic based on the testing. Part of the treatment will be regular dosing of a reliable flea and tick preventive.


Not every tick carries disease. It is estimated that only 1% of tick bites transmit a tick borne disease. The following all have to occur for you or your dog to get sick:

  • A tick has to attach
  • It has to be the right type of tick
  • That tick has to be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi or other disease causing bacterium
  • It has to feed for at least 24-48 hours to transmit the bacterium
  • The bacterium has to enter the body
  • The bacterium has to evade the immune system
  • Disease has to develop.

Human beings can contract all of the tick borne diseases that our dogs contract. Ticks can transmit some viruses that are bad news as well. The most recent is called Powassan virus (POW). According to the CDC it is most prevalent in Northeast and Great Lakes region of the US. It is not contagious from person to person. Only 75 people have contracted the virus it he past 10 years in the US.


 Most people who contact the virus have no symptoms because their immune system eliminates the virus. Symptoms in people include ·fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures.  Approximately half of survivors have permanent neurological symptoms, such as recurrent headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems.  Approximately 10% of POW virus encephalitis cases are fatal. 


The newest tick in town this year may be the Lone Star Tick (click the link for pictures - It used to be a southern tick but has been moving further north and east. This tick hurts when it bites and is causing an aversion to meat in some people who have been bitten. It can carry what is called the Heartland virus that has many of the same symptoms as the Powasan virus.


If you have a dog be glad you have your dog as a sentinel for what you are exposed to during your walks. The one best thing you can do for your dog is get them on flea and tick preventives.  The best are either oral or topical. Ask your veterinarian which is best for your dog. Some highly effective palatable oral products have come onto the market in the last 2 years.


Next vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease. It requires two boosters and is updated annually.


Finally inspect your dog for ticks after every walk.


What is that Bump on my Pet?

Thursday, April 06, 2017

What do you do when you find a new bump on your pet?  You know from daily patting of your pet exactly how your pet feels. If you feel something unusual it is time to take your pet to the vet! Your veterinarian will determine if the bump is an enlarged lymph node, an abscess, a benign fatty mass, a hematoma (blood filled pocket) or a cancerous mass. It is important to present your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you feel the unusual bump.

When you have the appointment with your veterinarian your pet will receive a physical exam from nose to tail and the lump will be examined. Sometimes a sampling of cells, called cytology, will be recommended. Your veterinarian will make a recommendation based on the size, color, location, and degree of mobility, sensitivity, and texture of the mass.

A sampling of the cells, or cytology, may reveal that the lump is a benign fatty mass and must be monitored for growth. If a benign mass gets large it may need to be removed. Sometimes the cytology indicates a more dangerous growth such as a melanoma or mast cell tumor. In either case your veterinarian may determine that a biopsy is necessary.

A biopsy of the mass is the best way to confirm cytology results and to get absolute answers as to what the bump is. It is a wedge or a core sample from the center of the mass that is usually taken under general anesthesia.  It is placed in formalin and sent to the pathologist.  A small mass may be completely removed and sent in for biopsy.

At this point, after the biopsy, if the mass is one that is dangerous and can spread either locally by expanding or by metastasizing to the lungs liver and lymph nodes we usually refer our patients to a veterinary oncologist. There are veterinary oncologists at New England Veterinary Oncology Group (NEVOG) and Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Angell Memorial. A veterinary oncologist has studied several years after the four years of veterinary school to specialize in treating cancer via chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and sometimes vaccination! They are a great resource to discuss the best course of action to treat particular cancers. Some are best treated with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. Others such as some melanomas can be treated with a vaccine. Others need to be decreased in size before being removed surgically. Each type of cancer may be treated differently with one or more tools the oncologist has in her arsenal.

When our dog Otis was diagnosed via  MRI with a pituitary  mass my first call was to Dr. Sheri Siegel at New England Veterinary Oncology Group in Waltham. She knew that the most successful protocol to shrink the mass and buy Otis 1 to 3 years more of a good life was 15 daily doses of radiation.

As an aside I can tell you I was very glad that I had pet insurance for Otis. I did not have the cancer rider but the insurance paid for about a third of the cost of the MRI and the treatment. If I had a cancer rider more would have been covered.  The insurance we had is now owned by Nationwide. Now I use Trupanion insurance for my pets.  Trupanion covered 90% of the cost of some major eye surgery for our elderly Springer Spaniel.  Be very careful picking insurance companies. Some companies will consider any illness your pet gets after the waiting period to be a “pre-existing condition” if they get the illness a second time. Even if they never were sick with the disease before you purchased insurance.

The outcome (after many trips around Route 128 to Waltham for 30 minutes of radiation) was pretty much miraculous. Otis gradually changed from a dull sick emaciated dog back to his former enthusiastic self.  He lived for 2 more years and passed on from kidney disease

Even if you don’t have pet insurance and do not want to spend beaucoup dollars on your pet it is well worth making an appointment to talk to an oncologist once you have a biopsy diagnosis. You can find out life expectancy, options for treatment with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.  Sometimes there are studies going on for a particular type of cancer and your pet can be included at a lower cost. Other times the treatment is a vaccine that stimulates your pet’s immune system to attach the tumor.

How to travel with your pet!

Thursday, March 23, 2017
by All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

How to travel with your pet!

If you are planning a trip with your best non-human friend there are a number of actions you can take to make sure that the trip goes well for you and your feathered, furry or scaled pet. There are some caveats to safe travel with your buddy.


Bring enough food to last the vacation or plan to shop for the same brand during your trip so the diet does not suddenly change.  A change in food can cause digestive upsets. Bring any medications your pet is on so there is no disruption in the schedule.  For your bird, bunny, guinea pig, or reptile, bring the vegetables and hay that they love. 


If traveling by car or RV makes sure you have a good enclosure for your pet that is stable if you have to brake hard. You don’t need pets or cages hurdling towards you when the person in front of you comes to a sudden stop.  Bring a collapsible water bowl for hikes and a dish to hold water in the car or RV.  Have a source of water in the vehicle.  A cooler is essential to keep fruits and vegetables fresh.


Never leave your pet in the car if the temperature is over 60F.  The car heats up and can kill your pet in 10 minutes. A freezing temperature for more than 10 minutes is also life threatening.  


Some states require that you have proof of Rabies vaccine and a health certificate to cross state lines with an animal in a vehicle.  It is up to you to look into these laws and have your pet examined by your veterinarian. Request a signed health certificate from your vet that includes dates of all the vaccinations and travel with it.


If traveling by plane it is safer to not sedate your pet. Sedation is the number one cause of death for pets on airplanes.  If your pet panics and you know sedation is needed consult your veterinarian about the safest one to use.   Test the sedative a few days before to make sure it does not over sedate your pet. If over sedation occurs you are present with your pet and can get her to the veterinarian and plan to use a lower dose with your veterinarian. You can try a homeopathic remedy called Rescue Remedy. It is a tincture of bach flower.  1-2 drops on the tongue may be perfect to keep your pet calm without a pharmaceutical sedative.


Air travel with a pet always requires a health certificate. Check out the exact specifications your airline requires for carrier type size and construction.  Airlines do not allow snakes in the cabin.  Sometimes they allow a small dog or cat under the seat.  We once travelled on a flight with a baby kangaroo from a rescue organization!!


If you are travelling internationally find a veterinarian who is USDA /APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) accredited for an international health certificate.  Some islands such as Hawaii, Australia, and Japan require a Rabies titer instead of Rabies vaccines.  A titer is a blood test that measures the number of antibodies to the virus in the pet’s immune system. All countries require microchip identification.  Your USDA accredited vet will fill out forms in great detail. Usually you then need to send these forms to New York offices of APHIS with a fee to have them stamped. Many times this has to be done within 4 to 10 days of your flight.  Contact your vet well in advance of the appointment letting her know the country you and your pet are traveling to so she can look up that country’s requirements and forms.


If your pet is not a good traveler and panics it may be better to hire a pet sitter and let him stay at home where he is comfortable. This is the case with elderly pets as well. Sometimes traveling just upsets their equilibrium and they get sick.


Have a veterinarian picked out at your destination in case you need one in an emergency. Your veterinarian may have a colleague they can refer you to.  You can also look for certified cat friendly practices or American Animal Hospital Association accredited practices at your destination.


Hairballs in Cats

Monday, February 06, 2017

What did your kitty just deposit on the rug?  It looks tubular, surrounded by clear or yellow fluid and hard to differentiate from which end of the cat it emerged.  If you witnessed the episode you may have watched kitty start to wretch and gag and walk over to sit on the wood floor while positioning his head just onto the fine oriental rug to hurl this odd looking material onto the carpet, beating you by a hairsbreadth as you rush to place newspaper between the impending regurgitation and the rug. The medical word for a hairball is trichobezoar. Why do cats do this?  Is it normal?  Is there an impending problem? 


According to Dr.  Joanne Guglielmino,  at Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine Hairballs are the unsavory by-product of a good, clean habit. As your cat grooms herself, she swallows a lot of the dead hair that has come loose. This is because tiny backward-slanted projections (papillae) on the surface of her rough tongue propel the indigestible hair down her throat and into her stomach. While most of this hair eventually passes through the animal's digestive tract and is excreted intact in the feces, some of it remains in the stomach and gradually accumulates into a wet clump - the hairball.

According to Dr. Guglielmino, kittens and young cats are less apt to develop hairballs than older cats that, as well-experienced groomers, are likely to spend a good portion of their waking hours busily licking their coats. Some cats are, by nature, more fastidious than others in their grooming habits. Longhaired breeds - such as Persians and Maine Coons - are at significantly greater risk than shorthaired breeds. And the development of hairballs is more frequent in seasons of the year when cats shed their coats.


Vomiting a fur ball should not be ignored if it is happening as little as   once every two weeks. It especially should not be ignored if your cat is retching a lot without bringing anything up, lethargic or losing weight.  A severe life-threatening problem may exist. A fur ball can become lodged in the small intestine causing a blockage.  Asthmatic cats may make a retching sound when they are coughing. Both these conditions need veterinary care involving radiographs and lab work.


In 2014 study on vomiting cats Dr. Gary Norsworthy came to the conclusion that a cat that vomits as little as every 2 weeks may have small intestinal disease, either inflammatory or cancerous. He came to this conclusion after endoscopicly examining stomachs of vomiting cats and finding that the stomachs were normal. When he ultrasounded those cats’ abdomens to measure the small intestine thickness and then biopsied the abnormally thickened parts 50% of vomiting cats had inflammatory disease of the small intestine and 50% had cancer of the small intestine.

Dr. Norsworthy’s opinion after his research is that we take vomiting much too casually in our cats and attribute it to them eating too fast.


How do we prevent fur balls?  Dr. Jean Dodds, a veterinary immunologist who operates Hemopet Lab in California has some good suggestions for natural healing.



The cereal based corn and soy dry kibble can inflame the small intestine of some cats if they are allergic to corn and soy. These kitties may do better on a canned diet high in protein and containing no corn or soy.



 Brush your longhaired cat regularly and gently with a soft or wire cat-grooming brush to reduce the amount of fur she has to ingest.


Omega 3 Fatty acids:

 In the form of fish oils omega 3 FA is great for the health of the skin and to smooth fur ball through the system.  Soluble fiber helps keep things moving. You can try canned pumpkin wheatgrass or psyllium seed husk powder.


Natural Fur ball remedy

Natural hairball remedies that are not petroleum based include slippery elm papaya or marshmallow.  The first and last can be ordered online from herbal supplement stores. You can place a little on your cat’s nose or sneak a little into their favorite canned food. Slippery elm is a plant you can purchase dry and boil a little in water. It is tasteless and a teaspoon can be mixed into the cat food each day. It is known in homeopathic medicine to be healing for the gut.




How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats (DOCX FILE)

Pooch Jumping Prevention 101

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Do you have a dog that jumps on people? Does his unmitigated exuberance at the front door make entry into your home a fearful event for visitors? Let’s talk about how to solve this problem once and for all.

We humans encourage dogs to jump on us by petting them, starting in puppyhood, when they stand on their hind legs to get attention. As the dog gets older and stronger, he may scratch people and knock people down.

 When a dog is still a very young puppy, the best way to handle jumping up is never to allow the puppy to even start doing it. Don’t let anyone pet your cute puppy unless all four feet are on the ground. If you teach your puppy that all petting happens when four feet are on the ground, your big dog will not be jumping on people. Instead, the dog will develop sweet ways of greeting people such as laying a head lovingly against your knee.
This training is harder than it sounds because someone is usually rewarding your dog for this behavior. What do you do now? It’s the same principle, as with the puppy, only it will take longer.

Attack this problem on more than one front. Here are the ingredients for training your dog to greet with all feet on the floor:

1.    Teach your dog to sit, even when excited. When the dog is IN the sit position, give petting, praise, and treats. Do not praise AFTER the dog has gotten up, because that is not the desired behavior. Praise and reward DURING the desired behavior, the sit. This is the crucial training step that most people miss. Teaching the dog not to jump isn’t enough. We have to teach the dog that the petting will come when the dog is doing the right behavior. Put your focus on this moment. You’ll start this training in unexciting situations (i.e. in your house without visitors) and gradually build to more and more exciting situations (i.e. your backyard, then a quiet park) until the dog is totally steady. Then start to incorporate strangers. Teaching a dog to sit in more distracting situations sounds easy, but she has to be able to do it when she is highly excited. So don't expect it to be all fixed in a week. Sign up for a training class. It’s a great way to increase distractions in a more controlled environment with people who are educated to stop rewarding unwanted behavior.

2.    Teach your dog that when she comes to you or anyone else her default behavior is to sit and not jump. People should ask her to sit every time she approaches them.

3.    When you come into the house, come in quietly. Excited greetings when you come in encourage a dog to jump on you.

4.    When you have guests arrive, keep your dog under leash or other control (i.e. confining her to a separate room) for about 15 minutes until everyone is settled. This is the time of wildest excitement for the dog, and it will be much easier for the dog to muster self-control after this initial period. Eventually you will want to train this behavior without a leash, too.

5.    Never let anyone pet or otherwise give your dog attention when she is standing on her hind legs. The best remedy for jumping up is to withhold attention. This is different for every dog. For some dogs you can keep your hands to yourself and turn a hip toward the dog or turn your back on the dog, but for some dogs you may have to actually leave the room (separating yourself from the dog), until your training has progressed to the point of being able to get the dog to “sit” on cue.

6.    When the dog has been jumping and stops jumping, ask her for a couple of commands before petting to separate the jumping behavior from the reward of petting. Some dogs are so smart they will jump and then sit just to be petted.

7.    If you are going to do anything to interrupt your dog’s jumping, keep in mind that your goal is a dog that is safe with people. Don't fall into the trap of trying quick-fix methods, such as whacking her in the chest with your knee. This can cause pain, which could make her fearful of people, or worse, injure her. You want to give her a chance to earn praise for good behavior, not be getting in trouble when all she is trying to do is say hello.

People can be inconsistent about ignoring undesirable behavior and rewarding good behavior, so you may have to choose with whom your dog interacts. If even one person encourages jumping, she will continue to perform the behavior.

The non-jumping dog’s life will include more petting and love during the holidays and everyday, because it’s so much easier and more enjoyable to pet a dog that has four feet on the ground.


Every Season is Canine Influenza Season

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Have you ever heard your dog cough and decided to wait to call the vet and see how it worked out? Coughing is a tricky thing. We don’t go to the doctor every time we cough.  Sometimes it is the common cold virus or allergy and we have to let it work its way through our system. Why should we bring our dogs in for a cough?

A cough can be something serious such as an indication of end stage heart disease, heartworm infection, parasitic worm or fluke migration through the lungs, fungal infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, foreign body, malformation of the trachea, and primary or metastatic cancer in the lungs or thyroid gland. If a cough persists for more than 1-2 days you should definitely be calling your veterinarian.

 Kennel cough is a constellation of signs caused by multiple bacteria and viruses.  It usually involves a harsh cough with a gag at the end that sounds like the pet will vomit.  The cough can last for 1 week to 2 months and keep you up all night with your dog but it will not be lethal in 99.99% of the cases.  Frequently the cough happens when the pet is excited, or at night. Viruses such as parainfluenza virus or adenovirus can cause kennel cough. The bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica can co-infect and cause the cough.

Canine influenza virus infection  (CIV) also causes a cough. This Type A flu virus is named after unique amino acid composition of glycoproteins hemaglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) on its surface H3N8. The virus was first discovered in 2004 in dogs. Previously the virus was an equine  (horse) virus.  It is a very rare event in evolution when the entire genome of a virus jumps species. It happened when retrovirus jumped from African chimpanzees to humans and we discovered HIV.  This time the virus jumped from horses to dogs. Having observed my dogs and many others in the horse barn devouring horse droppings like fine delicacies I am not too shocked by this occurrence. Dogs ingesting horsemeat could have caused the jump as well.  The newly adapted virus is made up of 8 strands of single strand RNA surrounded by a glycoprotein capsid.  It acts by destroying the cells that are the lining of the lungs or epithelial cells.

The first outbreaks around the country were in greyhound racetracks around the country in 2004. In 2005 a Massachusetts kennel had an outbreak and greyhounds were severely ill.  The virus was likely spread when dogs were transported to different racetracks for competition.  

A large outbreak of canine flu in Chicago last year was discovered to be the H3N2 strain, a whole new CIV that spreads like wildfire in closely quartered dogs.   Last year a vaccine was developed for this new strain of flu. In the interest of not over-vaccinating dogs veterinarians advocated for a combination vaccine. It is now available in a double (bivalent) flu vaccine with the H3N8 strain.   

Unlike human flu, the symptoms are not seasonal. The outbreaks occur year round for dogs. 80% of dogs exhibit a mild form of canine influenza with symptoms very similar to kennel cough although many times the cough is a softer moist sounding cough. The cough persists for 10-21 days in spite of antibiotic and cough suppressant administration. Recent research has found that severe illness and death were much more likely when the dog was co-infected with CIV and common Streptococcus bacteria.  The death rate of dogs showing symptoms is between 1-5%.

The most problematic characteristic of CIV is that it sheds from the pet before the symptoms appear.  So for 4 to 10 days before any signs appear the dog can be spreading the virus to other dogs. Also 20% of the infected dogs show no illness and just spread the virus.  What a fantastic way to propagate for the virus! And what mayhem it can cause when it is in a boarding, day care breeding kennel or shelter. 

At a large grooming facility or pet store the virus can be spread by a healthy looking dog that leaves the virus on a surface via a cough or licking. It remains viable on surfaces for 48 hours clothes for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours. The owner will never know where the dog got the virus if it was at a groomer or pet store.  If canine influenza hits a facility where dogs spend their days and/or nights it will cause the facility to have to shut down and lose a huge amount of business. This has happened at facilities near us such as in New York.

Once the virus was isolated in the lab the race was on to make a vaccine to prevent CIV. Within the past 6 years the vaccine has become available. It was hard to justify the vaccine when there was just one localized outbreak yearly in Massachusetts over the past 3 years. One of the reasons the canine flu is not diagnosed more often is that the testing is expensive and veterinarians and their owners tend to treat for the kennel cough symptoms and do not test for CIV. 

How do we prevent the infection?  The virus can be removed from skin by hand washing. All surfaces dogs come in touch with must be cleaned with quaternary ammonium compounds (eg, benzalkonium chloride) and 5% bleach solutions after each and every dog contact.  Keep your dog away from dogs that are coughing.  Consider having your dog vaccinated with the CIV vaccine if your dog goes to the Dog Park, groomer, pet store, and boarding or day care facility. Your boarding facility may require it. The CIV series consists of one vaccine and a booster 2 weeks later. Many of these facilities that are on top of their dog health news are now requiring this vaccine before the dog can enter the facility.  The CIV is a lifestyle vaccine so you and your veterinarian can make the decision together about administering the vaccine.


Pet Parasites: A Danger to Human Health

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why should I care about my pets’ worms?

Hidden from view, the intestinal parasites of our pets don’t share the spotlight given to fleas or even mosquitoes.  In fact, many pet owners would just as soon forget that their pets could be carrying these “worms”. People, especially children, can get infected with worms directly from our pets so this is not a problem to be ignored.

How do our pets get worms?

Most people don’t realize it, but almost all puppies and kittens are born with roundworms, hookworms or even both.  In the vast majority of cases, these worms are passed from mom to the babies either during pregnancy or during nursing after birth.  Left unchecked, these tiny monsters can cause poor growth, diarrhea, vomiting, or even death in young animals.

Your vet will regularly worm kittens and puppies to kill these parasites that were passed down from mom.

Adult pets aren’t immune to these parasites either.  Pets who consume other animals’ feces, eat grass, or even those who catch and eat infected rodents might end up with bloody, runny stool or vomiting caused by the worms.

A dog or a cat can pick up roundworm or hookworm eggs by digging or just walking on dirt or grass where another  dog or cat  defecated. The feces can be long gone but the eggs remain in the soil over years of heat and frost. Once ingested  roundworm larva migrate through the liver and lungs on the way to the dog or cat intestine.  The larva can be coughed up and be in the saliva of your pet and transmitted when they lick you. 

How do people get the worms?

Pets share our homes, our kitchens, and, in some cases, even our beds.  Unfortunately, they might also be sharing some unwanted guests - WORMS!  Unlike fleas and mosquitoes who sometimes give us a break during colder weather, these parasites can cause problems all year long!

But beyond their immediate effects on the animals, there is an even more sinister side to these pests.  Both roundworms and hookworms are zoonotic, meaning that they can be passed to humans.  Children are especially susceptible and can suffer blindness, seizures or organ dysfunction.  In extreme cases, young children have lost an eye to roundworm infections.

Humans are not the end host so worms wander around in us not knowing where to go. They can end up in our eyes and migrating through our body. Hookworm larva migrate just under our skin and a serpentine line can be seen and it migrates over time under the skin.  Disgusting? Yes!!!

At our practice we biopsied a bump on a dog’s nose and the pathologist returned a report stating the lump was an encysted roundworm larva. That’ s proof that our dogs and cats can cough up a migrating larva, lick us and transmit the disease to us. Once I was explaining the parasite life cycle to one of our clients and she told me she absolutely knew about the life cycle because her sister had lost an eye to the parasite.  Ophthalmologists find them swimming in the vitreous humor, or liquid part, of the eye.

Why aren’t we aware of this danger?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that almost 14% of the U.S. population is infected with roundworms.  That’s nearly 40 million people! 

The answer lies in the life cycle of these parasites.  After the larval worms make their way to the puppies’ digestive tract, they mature into adults over a 3 week period of time.  Then, the real danger begins.  Adult female worms begin shedding enormous numbers of eggs into the environment.  It’s not unusual for more than 200,000 eggs to be shed every single day by a single female.

Now, imagine a mother dog with a litter of 9 puppies. Including mom’s contribution, even if each pup had only one female worm, more than 2 million eggs are being deposited daily into the yard where the puppies…and your kids, play.  Multiply that by the number of days until the pups get an initial de-worming and you can see why this is a problem that has not gone away.

Thankfully, hookworm eggs are often killed by freezing temperatures, but in areas of the Southeastern U.S., hookworm larva can survive in sandy soil, emerging to penetrate bare skin.  In people, this infection causes an intense itching sensation along with redness and swelling along the migratory track of the hookworm larva.  Dogs often present with hair loss on all four feet and thickened, damaged skin on the lower legs.

Due to the prevalence of these worms in our pets, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC, has developed “strategic de-worming” protocols as a means to help protect both people and pets.  Starting with puppies and kittens, CAPC recommends providing a de-worming medication every 2-3 weeks from two weeks of age until 12 weeks.  In addition, pet owners are urged to contact their veterinarian for a recommendation on the proper monthly parasite prevention product that contain medication to control these intestinal parasites. Many of the products control heartworm and the parasites that spread to humans. Both dogs and cats should take one of these products every month, all year round!  It's a safe and easy way to protect the whole family! Instead of forgetting the medication in the drawer set up an alert for yourself monthly to give the medication. If you need a visual cue the products come with stickers you can place on a calendar.

Parents should teach children to wash their hands after playing with the pets or playing in the yard where pets defecate.  Since the eggs are microscopic, you won’t see any evidence on the kid’s hands, but a thorough washing will help insure these parasites won’t end up infecting your children. Ideally the pet waste is picked up regularly in the yard.

It’s also a good idea to check your pet’s stool sample routinely.  The short life cycle of these parasites means that a severe infestation can occur quickly.  Also, many other parasitic worms and protozoans pose some danger to our pets and these can all be found with a routine fecal sample.  Your veterinarian can help you determine how often to test your pet’s stool based on previous exposure and geographic area.

Our pets are a big part of our lives and we want to share as much as we can with them.  Playing it safe and following your veterinarian’s guidelines for de-worming  could mean that you can share a much longer, healthier life together


Dr. Elizabeth Bradt is a 1986 graduate of  Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and is owner of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Salem MA

E-mail your pet questions, experiences you’ve had with your pet at Please title your e-mail Vet Connection.

Leptospirosis: A Disease for people and animals

Monday, July 11, 2016

Leptospirosis:   A Disease  for people and animals
 “Why should I vaccinate my dog against Leptospirosis?” This is a question that is asked in veterinary exam rooms across the country. Conscientious dog owners do not want to over-vaccinate their dogs and above all they do not want to cause their pet any harm from vaccine side effects. More over some owners are advised by their breeders to avoid the vaccine. How do you make the right decision?

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease- a disease that can be passed between animals and people.  It is spread by spirochete (spiral-shaped) bacteria in the urine of infected rodents, wildlife, and pets.  There are more than 200 different strains of leptospirosis and certain strains appear to prefer certain hosts, like dogs, pigs, raccoons or even rats.


The Leptospira organisms enter the body through mucous membranes or through abrasions on the skin. People and animals can become infected from direct exposure to infected urine, but also through contaminated environment, such as water or damp soil. 


A veterinary gastroenterologist communicated the following story to me about this devastating disease. A new veterinary school graduate honeymooning in Hawaii went swimming in a volcanic lake.  When he got home he had a fever, flu like symptoms, severely bloodshot eyes. The doctors could not diagnose the cause of his illness until he died and was autopsied. They isolated the Leptospira bacteria. The most likely explanation for his death was that wild animals had urinated in the still volcanic lake. The organisms had infected him through his mouth and eyes or possibly a scratch on his skin.


More recently the popularity of challenging races through muddy fields and woods with obstacles has increased the spread of Leptospirosis to people. The organism is in the mud and is splashed onto the mucous membranes of the eyes mouth and nose of the runners


People and pets are exposed to Lepto while camping or participating in outdoor recreational activities. Drinking or swimming in water that is infected with Lepto is the most common exposure, but wet soil can be contaminated as well. A city environment will not always provide protection against this serious disease. Rats and racoons are prevalent in the urban environment and their urine is in puddles and city fountains and ponds.


The signs of Leptospirosis can mimic many other diseases and illnesses.  The first signs in dogs are often depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, and generalized pain.  Affected dogs may also drink water and urinate excessively and have swollen, red, and painful eyes.  Because these signs are common to other diseases and non-specific, owners may try to treat their pets at home for such problems as an upset stomach or arthritis. 


This “wait and see” response delays proper diagnosis and treatment for the dog, as well as increasing the owner’s exposure to the disease.  If caught early, treatment is usually effective and the survival rate is good.  However, time is of the essence.  A mere three or four day delay can lead to irreversible kidney failure.


Vaccines are available but many pet owners have either experienced or heard about adverse reactions associated with these vaccines.  In the past, Leptospirosis vaccines were generally created using the whole bacterial organism.  In many cases, when a whole bacterium is used, the likelihood of a “vaccine reaction” increases.  Thankfully, newer vaccines have been developed that reduce this possibility by using specific Leptospirosis proteins instead of the whole organism.


A study reviewing vaccine reactions in more than one million dogs vaccinated found that reactions occur about 13 times for every 10,000 vaccines given.  More importantly, the Lepto vaccine was no more likely to cause a reaction than any other vaccine.


So, if the vaccine appears to be safe and the disease deadly, shouldn’t all dog owners vaccinate their pets?


At present, vaccines are available that protect against four of the common strains infecting dogs.  In addition, the vaccine will prevent clinical disease, but may not stop the pet from shedding bacteria in his urine.  This makes the pet a threat to other animals, especially those who are not vaccinated.  And, as mentioned above, humans are at risk as well.


Dr. Richard Goldstein, who is a respected lecturer and research veterinarian with Animal Medical Center in New York City states, “If a veterinarian and owner have not vaccinated the dog against this disease then we have failed the dog.” He has personally worked with a seeing eye dog kennel in New York that had many of their dogs affected by the disease. Fighting for the lives of those assistance dogs as well as his own research convinced him that dogs should be vaccinated.


Worldwide, Leptospirosis is the most widespread zoonotic disease.  Cases occur routinely in tropical countries, but increases have been seen in Europe and North America as well.  Floods and hurricanes are instrumental in spreading this illness and coordinated efforts to rescue and re-home pets from these disasters might actually transplant leptospirosis into new areas.


Protecting your pet from Leptospirosis can be achieved.  Use your veterinarian as a resource to help assess your pet’s risk factors as well as the benefits and hazards of vaccination.  Other important steps that might minimize your pet’s exposure to this disease include removing animal pests, such as rodents and draining areas of standing water. Your dog’s health and your own will be much better protected if you take precautions to prevent the disease.


Feeding Your Rabbit The Right Way

Monday, June 13, 2016

 As a prospective owner of an exotic pet you may have looked to a number of different sources for information about your pet. When I was a kid I researched turtles and saved my money for aquarium, heaters and food before I purchased Flapper and Splasher the Painted Turtles.  I hit the library and took out every book on turtles. Nowadays people research on the Internet or trust a pet store employee to supply them with knowledge. It is important to find trusted sources and not just someone trying to sell you a product.

As savvy consumers as we all try to be, we are easily swayed by our emotions, our personal and very human tastes for certain flavors, colors and textures of food and toys for our pets. When we wander into a store and see a brightly colored package with vegetables all over it we tend to think it will contain healthy food for our pet. Unfortunately this is not the case.  

 Pet stores are great convenient places to pick up some food, vitamins or toys for your pet. We all assume that pet stores have our pets’ best interest at heart. Unfortunately these stores sell many items and foods that are not at all safe for your pet.  Seeds are not the best food for birds and yet every bird seen at our practice has been to a pet store and told to feed the bird high fat seeds as the main diet. Store employees tell owners to purchase grit for the birds so people buy huge bags of it. A bird only needs 3 pieces of grit a month. It sits in their muscular gizzard to help grind food. If a bird eats too much grit they will become impacted. This happens if a newbie bird owner does not change the seeds and thinks the seed hulls in the bowl are new seed. The bird is starving so fills itself with the grit. Sad endings occur. The store sells antibiotics and vitamins for birds, which are useless because they are put in the water and denature within hours.

 We have a wonderful client Abigail Loewenstein who came into the practice with her new rabbit. She is an experienced rabbit owner and a member of the House Rabbit Society and owner of Bunnies in Baskets Visiting Rabbit team.  Her pet rabbits are involved in her therapy practice, helping her treat peoples’ emotional pain.  She was pretty steamed about the issue of dangerous food products being sold to unsuspecting rabbit owners. Here is her take on the situation for bunny parents:

 The pet store can be a daunting place for new and experienced rabbit owners. There are lots of pretty-looking food products and packaging telling you their food are safe and healthy for rabbits. Labels include ingredients such as food coloring, additives, seeds, nuts, fruit, sugar, and yogurt. Wouldn’t my rabbit like something that looks so pretty and delicious? Let’s take a moment to think about this. Where would a rabbit get yogurt from in the wild? What about that dried sweet potato?

Rabbit-lover beware… these are marketing ploys to attract their human owners. Sadly, rabbits are still misunderstood by many, and these companies take advantage of this. These ingredients do not offer any nutritional benefit, and in fact, are harmful to rabbits. Sugar easily disrupts a rabbit’s GI bacterial flora, which can cause GI stasis and death. Death from treats that you bought at the store to reward your pet.

Rabbits don’t need sugary treats. They need a low-fat diet mainly comprised of grass hays including timothy or orchard hays (or alfalfa hay, depending on age and nutritional status). Nuts and seeds have dangerously high fat contents for rabbits, and the hulls of seeds, which they cannot digest, can perforate their intestines. Did you know that rabbits have digestive systems closest to horses? Would you feed a horse yogurt, cereal, food coloring, or seeds? This seems obvious, but rabbits cannot safely eat processed human food. I would refer to these items as “junk food,” but poison seems to better describe them. Why are these  dangerous foods even being manufactured to start with? These companies purport to care about rabbits. I would like to believe that this is ignorance; unfortunately, this is greed.

These companies sell harmful products ignoring expert opinions. For example, A “Fiesta Country Harvest Blend Rabbit, Guinea Pig and Chinchilla Treat” is currently available for sale at a local chain pet store. Here are some of the ingredients: “Wholesome fruits, nuts, grains, and veggies, a munchable medley of exciting flavors, textures and colors.”

These companies try to convince you that your rabbit needs special treats to be happy, but they are complicit in selling products for profit, even if it could kill your pet.

The best treats are the most natural options that don’t cost a lot of money. For example, a small baby carrot (even those contain too much sugar for a rabbit to eat more than one per day), a few Oxbow pellets, fresh greens, or a tiny piece of safe fruit.

Overindulging your pet in sugary or the wrong foods (or “human” foods) can result in large vet bills… like thousands of dollars. Just as with human health care, prevention is key. Take your rabbit for a physical at least annually for a healthy rabbit, and at least twice a year for a senior rabbit (6 years plus). Rabbits can live for over 10 years (similar to dogs) if provided with the right food and care. Rabbits are prey animals, and as a result, they are adept at hiding signs of illness, which a rabbit-informed vet will be more easily able to monitor.

In addition to talking to your exotics vet, here are a few reputable websites on rabbit care to check out for more information: & - Abigail Loewenstein

I agree with Abigail. Educate yourself. Before you get your pet make an appointment with an exotic vet for an educational consult or find one online with a passion ( and maybe a blog) for your species of exotic pet.

Do you trust the person on the sales floor for pet health advice?  Some are very knowledgable and some were just hired and are really winging it. I have overheard vast amounts of misinformation given to unsuspecting consumers by very authoritative sounding employees in pet stores. No store employee has spent 8 or more years of their lives dedicated to a formal education on the anatomy, physiology, husbandry and nutritional needs of pets as veterinarians have.  Clearly I am biased.  We vets can’t save every sick pet but we sure like to increase your pet’s chances of survival in every way, and a good foundation of nutrition can extend  pets’ lives by years.

Why Is My Pet Having Accidents In The House?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


My friend Brenda and I were talking about why pets poop in the house.  Is it on purpose or not?  Veterinary behaviorists explain that pets often defecate in the house because of a metabolic or physical problem. These problems must be resolved before a behavioral issue can be diagnosed.  Veterinarians will tell you that pets never poop in the house because of vindictiveness or spite.   Is this true or not?


Cat and dogs that are forgetting their house training do need to have a thorough medical workup by your veterinarian before they can be diagnosed with a behavioral issue. The three main problems that may be causing the issue are constipation, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. 


A physical exam and a full blood panel will help rule out arthritis and underlying metabolic reasons such as diabetes mellitus or underactive thyroid and kidney disease.  More detailed tests may find vitamin or enzyme deficiencies that lead to inflammatory bowel disease.  A radiograph of the abdomen/ pelvis/vertebrae will help diagnose arthritis, constipation, abnormal growths or lymph nodes that could be affecting defecation.


All the physical and metabolic causes of inappropriate defecation are very treatable.  Arthritis is treated with special diets that have lots of   Omega 3 Fatty acids, chondroitin sulfates and glycosaminoglycan’s, fish oil supplements and modification of the litter box or stairs in the house with ramps so the pet can get to the place where it should be defecating.  Pain medications can help immensely in an older pet. Constipation is also treated with diet and supplements. Inflammatory bowel disease is treated with medications. diets and supplements.


How do you modify the litter box for the cat?  An elderly cat with arthritis may just need a shallower wall to climb over to access the litter. The elderly cat may need larger box placed where it has been defecating. Once the box is being used it can be moved an inch or two a day to the location where you would like the box to reside. A large tub with higher sides can have an entryway cut out with a lower lip so kitty will not have to step so high to get in and will not urinate over the edge by accident

An arthritic dog may need environmental modification such as ramps built over the stairs and ramps to get in the car. Diets designed to support arthritic patients and pain meds can help these dogs immensely. Some dogs even need dog chariots/ wheelchairs to support their weak hind legs. 


A diagnosis of Old Dog/Cat Cognitive disorder may explain symptoms of defecating and urinating inappropriately in the house. The pet may go outside and seem to forget why they are there, try to go around the door on the wrong side, get stuck in corners and defecate /urinate indoors. This diagnosis can only be made after all the other potential causes are ruled out. It is treated with medication.


It’ s not fair to the pet to assume there is a behavioral problem before testing for the illnesses.  If your pet is truly ill then most of the behavioral training you attempt will not work so please do get the medical work up done. Too many pets are surrendered to shelters because of “behavioral” problems that were likely caused by an underlying physical problem.


If your vet determines that there is no physical or metabolic cause for the problem she will ask you a lot of questions about your home, number and locations of litter boxes, type of litter you use, number of cats/ dogs pets kids in the house. She’ll ask about changes in your schedule or recent moves, new visitors, new furniture, vacations.  She’ll give you a plan to modify the behavior. The plan will almost involve you the owner working with the pet on a daily basis.  You may be referred to a veterinary behaviorist or lay behaviorist for training as well.


 A cat of any age may prefer a softer substrate. This is indicated if they are going on the rug or bed.  Try a ripped up paper towels or a cloth in the bottom of the box or a soft scoop able litter.  A plug in Feliway pheromone next to the litter box will calm kitty nerves and attract them to the litter box instead of your carpet.


A dog of any age may need further reinforcement with behavior training to defecate outside on command. Most learned behaviors in dogs need to be continually reinforced with praise from you the owner at the very moment the good behavior is performed.  Usually a bridging word such as “good” is used the second the dog performs the desired behavior (defecating/urinating outdoors). This signals the dog that the food reward or praise is coming.  Yelling hitting and rubbing their nose in it accomplishes nothing except a pet that fears you.


When we placed a dog door in our home our German Short Hair Pointer Otis got much less reinforcement for going outdoors and started urinating and defecating indoors. He did have a brain tumor that caused him to urinate more that was managed with radiation at the veterinary oncologist office. We reinforced the good behavior by praising him every time he went outdoors during his walks and if we saw him going out in the back yard.  The indoor mistakes ended with the positive reinforcement for the good behavior. Amazingly enough we lost him to kidney disease, not the brain tumor, two years later.


All this being said I have heard of numerous funny or not so funny episodes between families and their pets around this issue.  My sister went on vacation and came back to a perfect ring of poo smeared on the rug encircling her bed. My sister-in-law said her cats did a “protest poop” in the   planters or the top of the stairs only when she went on vacation and had the pet sitter attend to them.  Brenda told me about her cousin’s Corgi who laid one on his pillow after his schedule had changed.


How to Get Your Pet to the Vet - Part 2 Exotics!

Monday, May 16, 2016

 How to Get Exotic Pets to the Vet

People bring a whole lot more than dogs and cats to the vet. Exotic pets also require wellness exams every 6 to 12 months. How do you get your snake, bunny ,iguana ,bird or rat to the veterinary practice as safely as possible? There are lots of tricks to keep each species safe during transport. Make sure to bring pictures of the cage set up to your appointment. Also bring video of any abnormal behavior you want your veterinarian to see. Remember to bring a sample of droppings so your vet can check for parasites.

Snakes are escape artists; Snakes are best transported in a pillowcase tied at the top and placed in carrier. They are reptiles as are iguana’s tortoises and turtles. Reptiles are dependent on the environmental temperature to maintain their metabolic rate and body temperature. If the transport environment is cold the reptile will get chilled and will become lethargic and less apt to eat. You may want to put a fleece in the clothes drier to warm it up and wrap the carrier in it. Hand warmers wrapped inside the fleece so as to not come into contact with the pet may keep the carrier warmer as you transport. Make sure the carrier has a secure latch. When transporting Aida, my daughter Rebecca’s Ball Python to California for her big reunion to live with Rebecca again after college graduation, the airline zip tied the carrier door to the crate before placing her in the animal cargo section. This was to make sure that if she escaped the pillowcase she would not get past the metal door. Airlines require metal cage doors on sturdy carriers for transport so it is a good idea for your car transport as well. Plastic zip ties are not necessary for car transport.

Tortoises are land based so they do fine in a box filled with their preferred substrate such as hay or coconut shell bedding with a little log or plastic cave (hide) to crawl under. I rarely see a huge tortoise but they can dig under fencing and escape and occasionally we read about the small tortoise that makes an escape. Placing the box in a carrier is wise so no escapes happen during transport.

Turtles are aquatic. It’s difficult to bring an aquarium to the vet. You may transport turtles in a carrier without a water bowl for short trips under an hour. You can bring a shallow bowl so your turtle can have a short soak in some lukewarm water if the trip is longer.

Green iguanas and bearded dragons are much more mobile than tortoises. A sturdy carrier wrapped in a warm fleece will help them maintain their temperature. Place a rock under their basking light for an hour and place it in the carrier with them to maintain heat. Cover it with a cloth if it is too hot.

Birds are best transported in a small cage with perches. Special Plexiglas cages with perches are available but a large cat carrier will also do if you don’t have one. If it is cold outside warm your car up and turn the heat on for 5 minutes and cover your pet’s cage with a warm blanket or fleece to protect from wind and cold.

Be very careful getting your bird out of her home cage and into the transport cage. They will cling to the bars. Try to peel each toe off the bars so they do not sprain a toe or damage a toenail. Be careful of your birds’ wings. If they crash around in their cage avoiding your hand or towel while you are attempting to move them they can disrupt a blood feather and start to bleed. Ideally you have them trained to “step up” onto your hand and you can place them into the cage easily. This is the ideal scenario.

Desensitize your bird to handling in towels. Hide a treat under wrinkles in the towel and let him search for it. Make it easy at first and gradually increase the difficulty. Play peek –a –boo with the towel. Birds love this game. Use the towel and play with the bird in the towel post birdie shower.
Touch your bird in all the places the vet will touch. That way your pet will be used to being handled.

Birds tend to fly out doors and windows if their wings are not trimmed. A wise client of mine who owns two gregarious Amazon parrots trained both birds to listen to a bell. When Amy flew out the door he spent all weekend working to get her back. Ringing the bell got her back into a pine tree in the neighborhood. With a ladder and the long handled skimmer for the pool he scooped her out of the tree. She is one of the lucky birds that got back home. Train your bird to come to the sound of a bell. Educate yourself about bird training at

Rabbits, Guinea pigs, Ferrets, Rats, and Hedgehogs
A carrier with their favorite bedding and a place to hide is nice for these pets. The mammals are quite good at maintaining their temperature but will appreciate protection from the cold and wind as well. Cover them up with a warm blanket in the winter. Put the air conditioner on in the summer.
Bunnies can have damaged toenails if they are transferred from home into the cage too roughly. The rabbits and guinea pigs have very sensitive intestines that need to be constantly mobile. They are grazers and eat lots of fiber throughout the day to keep their GI tracts mobile and the healthy gut bacteria abundant. IF they stop eating for just a few hours it is an emergency. Transport these little guys with their food and hay so they can nibble when they please.

A big carrier is best for your chicken. As with every species, make sure the carrier is stabilized in the car so it does not tip over or move during the drive.

If you have questions about transport make sure to ask your veterinarian while you are scheduling your appointment. If you get your exotic pet to he vet on a regular basis for wellness exams every 6 months you with both be much more comfortable with these visits.

How to Get Your Pet to the Vet - Part 1

Monday, March 21, 2016


How to Get Your Pet to the Vet


Have you ever made an appointment to go to the vet? Have you dreaded the day when you would have to chase your cat around the house, drag her out from under the bed and stuff her into the dreaded carrier, hopefully with no bloodshed on your part?  You are not the only one.  Even dog, bird, bunny, ferret, guinea pig, iguana, and snake owners struggle to make their pets’ visits to the hospital as stress free as possible. 


We veterinarians don’t like to see our clients with scratches all over their arms and resignation written all over their faces.  After years of experience getting our own pets, your pet and our technicians’ pets to the hospital we have a few tips on making the visit a bit more pleasant for both of you.

Cat Tips

Starting with the kitties of course because they have their own plans…


1.    Acclimate kitty to the carrier by leaving it out all the time with a favorite blanket/ fleece in there. Give treats or even feed kitty in the carrier. Get her used to going in for a treat with the door open. Close the door for a couple minutes and then open the door with a treat or some playtime (positive reinforcement).  Do more acclimating and training around the carrier for 6 weeks before the visit.

2.    Transport only one cat in each carrier

3.    Spray or wipe down the carrier with Feliway spray or wipes 10 minutes before getting her to come to the carrier with a treat. These mimic cat pheromones.  Cats love the smell of the pheromone.

4.    Cover the carrier with a blanket in the car. Secure the carrier in the car between seats or with a seatbelt so it does not whip around the back of your car as you take turns and pull the usual Boston driver maneuvers.


5.    Calm her and let her know you are there by talking during the car ride even if she is howling.


6.    When you get to the vet try to sit in the cat waiting area if there is a separate one. Don’t put her carrier on the floor in front of a dog. A huge dog muzzle peering into her carrier will freak her out.  Try to get her on a table or chair away from curious dog noses.


7.    When in the exam room open the carrier and let her come out on her own for a treat.  You can spray feliway on the exam table and the towel she will be examined on if your vet has not done this already.  If she won’t come out we usually take the carrier apart rather than dragging or dumping her out of the carrier.


8.    Desensitize her to the veterinary exam. During the exam she can be offered treats.  Cats are not as easy to bribe with food but some really love treats when offered.  She can also be petted and have her ears scratched during the exam. Vets vary on how close they want clients to the pet during exam but work with the technician and vet and let them know she loves to be scratched behind the ears or under the chin.

Dog tips

1.    Desensitize your pup to the vet by dropping by just for a ride through the parking lot or a walk up the stairs several times a year. At times you may want go in to say hi to the team and weigh your dog and give a treat. Have him do a sit stay and maybe have a team member say hello and pat your dog.  “Gee that was an awesome visit “, he might be thinking “ treats and no pokes and lots of praise. I could do this again.”


If your dog panics at the vet the visit may occur once per week or more.  


2.    Desensitize you dog during the exam. As Dan Carlson of Walk a Pup explained to our practice during a meeting, the dog will exhibit behavior in the exam room to release his stress. These behaviors are pacing, grinning, yawning, lip smacking vocalizing with a little growl, and avoiding by hiding under table or behind the owner.  Do not discourage these behaviors as they are helping your dog get rid of anxiety.   Desensitization during an exam can occur as the vet gives treats during the exam, as the technician pats the dog and as the team talks to your dog calmly.  Desensitization during the exam if your pup gets too anxious the team will take a break and give him time to compose himself and do a known behavior such as sit/give paw for a reward before continuing.


3.    Try a thunder shirt.  The pressure on the torso may calm your dog.  We find it helpful for some dogs in the hospital. It is theorized that it comforts dogs by reminding them of the feeling of being utero.


4.    Talk to your vet about dog calming pheromones.  There are collars and sprays that are meant to calm a dog.   Our practice has not experienced a ton of success with them in dogs but we have not used them a lot either.


5.    There are short acting anti-anxiety meds and sedatives that your vet can prescribe if your pup is still climbing the walls during the exam after all these measures.


6.    Get behavior training for your dog.  When in a stressful situation a dog likes being able to fall back on a trusted behavior and receiving praise. 


We hope you find these tips helpful so your pet can receive regular preventative veterinary care and live a long and care free life with you.

Tips on Dog Walking Etiquette

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Did you ever dream how much fun a dog walk would be before you actually parented a pup?  You may have imagined a calm worry free stroll around the block with your pup gently sniffing the grass while you lost yourself in the beauty of the natural world. In this dream you’re dog only urinated so you never had to bend over and pick up feces and your dog interacted well with each person or dog that it encountered.  


In the real world, once we actually have a dog as a member of the family, we quickly realize that a walk around the block is not nearly enough and can be fraught with complications.  Your dog sees a squirrel and darts towards the road, lunges at other dogs, barks and shows her teeth at oncoming people, stops to defecate huge piles on the neighbor’s lawn of perfection, tromps through gardens, entangles you and other folks in the leash.  Your dream- like walk in nature has morphed into a tense battle with your pup. 


Keep in mind that a good dog is a tired dog. For a dog the walk around the block is an easy warm up for the one to ten miles they need depending on breed and size. We could walk for a mile while pup ran 5 mile circles around us and many dogs would happily run another 5 miles after the walk is finished. Dogs have muscle fibers that are very different than ours because they can function at top capacity for a long time.  We tire out a long time before they do while running.  Dog parks are a good solution as well as woods or beaches where dogs are allowed to run off leash.  The round the walk block for your dog is like a warm –up exercise for an athlete.


Proper behavior on leash must be established before letting your dog off leash. A leash should not have any pressure being exerted on it by your dog or you. It is merely a safety mechanism to keep your dog attached to you.  Use a six to eight foot leash that is not retractable.  Never wrap the leash around your wrist.  If a dog sees a squirrel it can take off like a shot on a retractable leash before you can press the lock mechanism. Labrador Retrievers have been known to dislocate owners’ shoulders with a sudden charge after prey.


The first thing a dog must learn is to pay attention only to you the owner at the other end of the leash. Training is best started when a pup is eight to ten weeks old.  Older dogs certainly should be trained as well.  Get the puppy on your left sitting. Say “Let’s walk” and keep the puppy’s eyes on you as you dole out treats almost at every step .The treats can be crumbs of kibble or broken up dog treats or baked chicken livers. Treat less often and at irregular intervals as your pup learns to keep eye on you over multiple weeks. You can say, “watch me” and treat when they make eye contact.  The reinforcement needs to go on for the rest of the dog’s life.  They need reinforcement with food, clicks with a clicker or your reward word  “good” The click or word “ good” are given instantaneously as the dog complies. This is the signal to the dog that the reward is coming. Rewards can be ear rubs or a friendly pat as well as food.   You and the dog need to have training under tutelage of a trainer to establish good on-leash behavior. We call it dog training but mostly the humans are trained to communicate with the dog in these classes.


 The book “The Other End of the Leash” by Patricia McConnell is a must read for any person who wants to understand how dogs think and why they behave the way they do.  In this book she recounts a time she saved her own dog’s life with voice behavior commands when it had made it’s way to the opposite side of a very busy street.   Proper training saves dogs lives every day because they are more enjoyable to live with and they are less likely to be surrendered to shelters. 80% of all dogs acquired are lost, deceased or surrendered to shelters within 2 years of their acquisition. Many people have trouble with their dog lunging and growling at other dogs.   This is called being leashed reactive.  Behavior training can help a lot with this issue.


There are a number of amazing trainers on the North Shore of Boston. The ones I work with are Sarah Prescott your, Dan Carlson of Walk A Pup, Glenn and Judy Goldman at, and Ann Springer at Call your veterinarian and see who they recommend.


Once you have enough training so your dog will come to you 100% of the time when called  (recallable) you can let him off leash in a dog park or woods or beach where they are allowed to be off leash. Please do not walk on a sidewalk with your dog off leash.  Please do not bike ride on the sidewalk or street with your dog off leash.  Dogs will veer into the street if they are startled or distracted and get hit by a car.


Always follow the “Leave no trace “ rule.  It is not appropriate to throw cigarette butts; tissues, coffee cups and empty cans where you walk the dog.  It is refuse that should be packed out and put in your car for proper disposal. The same goes for dog feces. Pick up the feces and pack your bag out. Don’t throw it in the woods or leave it by the path. The plastic bag of feces will take years to disintegrate. If you don’t see it the next time you walk it’s probably because someone who wants to enjoy the outdoors without seeing bags of dog poop dotting the horizon picked it up for you and packed it out. In a perfect world, according to the Department of Public Health the dog feces go in the toilet so the E. coli bacteria are filtered out by the sewerage processing plant and don’t leach into our water supply. If that is too much then into the trash it goes.


Save Your Pet from the Pain of Dental Disease

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Last week Robin, mom to eight cats and a wonderful cat rescuer, called me about her cat Loki who was screaming and jumping every time he chewed some food. It was evident to her that he had a dental issue. When we examined him we told her she had nailed the diagnosis. He had cavities and severe dental disease. He was scheduled for anesthesia, dental radiographs and multiple dental extractions and crown amputations. He is now pain free.


It is quite rare for a cat or a dog to express dental pain in such a straightforward manner.  Much more commonly the dental pain creeps up slowly on both pet and their family.  The family never followed through or was never taught about tooth brushing.  The vet keeps talking about the brown material (calculus) on the teeth and how to remove it with a complete oral health assessment and treatment (COHAT) but there are other pressing matters to attend to so the procedure is never scheduled.


Meanwhile the calculus, which contains bacteria, infects the adjacent gums and the ligament attaching the tooth to the socket (periodontal ligament).   The infection can spread to the bony socket holding the tooth and cause an abscess and an infection in the bone.


 It is always amazing to me how much infection can be in a dog or cat’s mouth with exposed nerve endings and all they do is sleep more and become much less active while awake.  It happens so gradually that many times the family attributes the lethargy to aging or arthritis.  The calculus covers the surface of the tooth and looks like the tooth itself. The stench of the bacterial infection is attributed to “dog breath”.


A Complete Oral Health Exam and Treatment (COHAT) is a twelve step process which includes a history and physical exam, an oral survey to check for missing teeth, extra teeth, cancer, pockets in the gums surrounding teeth, and sub-gingival scaling.Sub-gingival scaling is critically important.  This involves removing tartar and debris from the part of the tooth you can’t see – the part under the gum. This is where infection starts. 


Following the exam and cleaning, a complete polishing is done to remove irregularities in the enamel in order to slow future accumulation of tartar.  Next, the gum pockets are flushed and treated with antiseptic.  At this point, many veterinarians will apply a fluoride or enamel sealant treatment. 


The next step includes complete charting of every tooth and the surrounding gum and bone tissue.  Using a dental probe, the gum line around each tooth is probed for pockets where infection may exist.  The location and depth of each pocket is recorded in the medical record, just as you have seen done at your own dentist’s office.


Next, a complete set of dental x-rays is taken.  Dental x-rays have become the standard of care in veterinary practice.  Without them, it is impossible to find many of the most serious dental problems such as fractured teeth, abscesses and developmental problems.  Only by taking x-rays can you know the complete health status of your pet’s mouth.


Finally, a treatment plan is developed for the problems found, all necessary treatments are done and instructions are given for home care and any follow-up care that is needed.  Pet owners are also taught ways to provide at home dental care, daily tooth brushing being the gold standard, to help keep their pet’s mouth and teeth healthy.


In order to perform a proper dental exam and treatment, it is essential that the pet be under anesthesia.  Anesthesia today is very safe, using the most modern medications, anesthetic gases and monitoring by skilled technicians.  Care for a veterinary patient under anesthesia is very similar to that of a human patient.


If the pet is lucky enough to receive regular medical care and the family adheres to the recommendations for a COHAT, many times the family will notice a complete turn around in the activity level and personality of their pet.  Suddenly they have an enthusiastic energetic member of the family back in action and ready to play. We see this not just in dogs and cats, but also in ferrets guinea pigs and rabbits as well.


Twenty years ago nobody was brushing their pets’ teeth. Today each pet’s family is taught to brush teeth. Brushing seven days a week is the gold standard of dental care. Veterinarians now examine your pets’ teeth and make specific recommendations for dental care to prevent the periodontal disease and abscesses from ever setting in. If you brush your pet’s teeth daily it is possible that your pet will only rarely need a dental cleaning under anesthesia and may never need to have a surgical procedure to extract a diseased tooth.


Just lift your pet’s lip to check for the brown calculus, smell for the bad breath and look for the inflamed tell tale red gums of gum disease.

If you do recognize the signs of dental disease and want it treated be aware that  “no-anesthesia” pet dentals may sound appealing and inexpensive, but involve many risks and leaves most pets to suffer in silence. The procedure is often performed by unlicensed and untrained individuals who only scrape tartar from the outside of the few visible teeth while your pet is awake (assuming your pet will hold still).


The process has no medical benefit whatsoever. This procedure does not remove tartar from the inside of pets’ teeth and, more importantly cannot remove tartar from below the gum line.   Because they appear to be clean pet owner believe their pets’ teeth are healthy but underlying disease goes undetected and untreated, resulting in tremendous pain, tooth loss and systemic disease.


So, to ensure your pet’s health and comfort, lift your pet’s lip and look at the teeth.  Then call your veterinarian for a complete dental exam and treatment.  Providing this crucial care for your pet will be excellent insurance against the complications and pain associated with untreated dental disease. 


Go to to see a video our client made on how to brush your cat’s teeth.

Visit to learn more about dental disease


Top 10 Ways to Keep your Pet Out of the ER

Wednesday, January 20, 2016



An animal emergency hospital is definitely not a place you plan on visiting with your pet.  The last thing anyone expects is to rush their ailing pet to the ER with trouble breathing, seizures, toxin ingestion or a broken bone.  In recent years, more and more emergency hospitals have been opening around Boston.  Gone are the days when you would page a veterinarian and they would go into the closed veterinary hospital at any hour to see your pet without even a technician available.  It is great that we have this resource for animals when big emergencies happen.


The ER has experienced emergency doctors and veterinary technicians on  24/7 to help your pet.  After the pet is stabilized the specialists in neurology, surgery cardiology, internal medicine, ophthalmology can work to find the source of the problem and remedy it.  They are excellent at sending your primary veterinarian all the pertinent information the morning after the incident.  


So as great as the ER docs are, how do hedge your bets so you are less likely to have an emergency visit?

Here’s my list.

1.    Walk your dog on a non-extendable leash. Even if your dog is super recallable (comes when called 100% of the time) if it sees a squirrel and chases it as a car is passing your dog may be hit.  I have had clients lose a dog in just this situation on an extendable leash because they could not hit the button to stop the play out of the leash.


2.     Store your medications out of reach.  Do not leave medicines around or on the coffee table.  Dogs can eat antidepressants and pain meds and become severely ill.  If you mistakenly give your cat your pill call your vet to find out how the particular med affects your pet.


3.    Brush your pet’s teeth and get regular dental cleanings under anesthesia by your veterinarian. The brown stuff on your pet’s teeth is full of dangerous bacteria that eat through tooth enamel. Once bacteria get to the pulp and nerves your pet is in agonizing pain and the bacteria can and will spread from the tooth throughout the body via the rich blood and lymphatic supply to the tooth root.  Bacteria can infect any organ in the body. Make appointments for regular physical exams for your pet at least every 6 months.  That includes guinea pigs, rats, ferrets, iguanas, snakes, turtles and birds. Don’t skip them because your pet looks “OK”.  I hear this on a regular basis about cats. “She’s a patient of yours but we haven’t brought her in for a few years because she looks good.” 

4.  Regular physical exams are the bedrock of veterinary medicine because they protect your pet against disease through early detection. Early discovery and treatment of masses, dental fractures and root abscesses, tick borne infections, kidney, liver, and heart disease, while they can be treated will be much more affordable than a surprise visit to the ER.  Why every 6 months? Because subtle problems become big problems much faster in an organism that is aging at a rate 10 times faster than a human being.


5.    Keep pets out of your garbage and mulch pile.  Dogs love to raid the trash barrel in the kitchen.  Chicken or pork bones and decomposing food can lead to severe vomiting and diarrhea and possible perforation of the gastrointestinal tract.  Know what basic things are toxic to pets, for example: chocolate, chewing gum with xylitol, rat poison, cocoa based mulch, ibuprofen, Tylenol aspirin, grapes, avocado and onions.


6.    Remember to give your dog or cat heartworm preventative medicine and flea and tick prevention year round.  These meds also prevent pets from being infected with intestinal parasites that can spread to humans and cause blindness.


7.    Pets should not be left outdoors in the severe heat or cold   without your supervision.  Just 5 to 10 minutes and then back inside again. No pet should ever be left in the backyard tied to a leash or a rope.  A pet can strangle themselves easily under these conditions.

8.    Never leave your pet in your car in the severe heat or cold for any amount of time.  And do not drive with your dog in the bed of your truck.   Tying them in with a leash will not help them when they fall out.


9.    Realize that if ingested, there are huge arrays of items that can become a foreign body for your pet. We vets have removed sumo wrestlers, finger puppets, entire rope toys, string, pieces of Kong toys, golf balls and so much more, out of pets’ stomachs.

 10.  Microchip your pet even if it is always living indoors or always goes outdoors on a leash. Unlike 30 years ago, almost everyone knows you don’t just let your dog out the back door anymore and cats are much safer indoors than out.  However, escapes happen when guests, children or workmen accidently release pets. Cats fall through screen windows and escape and dogs dig and squeeze through fences. The microchip is implanted with a needle similar to a vaccine needle and is nontoxic.  Veterinary practices, dog officers and animal rescue agencies all have the scanners to ID a dog

Clearly the things you need to do to prevent emergencies are not difficult but are basic consistent pet care.  If a problem crops up unexpectedly you can always call your vet for an appointment or the ER  if it is after your veterinarians regular hours.

Stealth Diseases in Your Cat

Friday, December 04, 2015

People often admire cats for their independent nature, but that same self-sufficient attitude may also be responsible for a lack of veterinary care.  Cat owners often think that their kitties are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and don’t need any medical attention. Many cats are never brought to the vet for a wellness exam in their lifetime while silent but  easily preventable conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism and dental disease, are quickly rising among our cats.

There are many reasons to get your apparently healthy cat to the veterinarian. Reason # 1 is that it is a law in Massachusetts that every cat be vaccinated against Rabies.  That is how we prevent humans from contracting Rabies—by protecting our hunter cats from getting it. All indoor cats are at risk of contracting Rabies from a bat and then transmitting the killer disease to their human housemates. Within the past 2 years a person died in Massachusetts from Rabies.

Another reason to get your cat to the vet once or twice a year is parasite prevention.  A stool sample should be examined every year to protect you and your cat from parasites. Cats may contract roundworm and hookworm. Even an indoor cat can contract eggs from digging in potting soil or from worm eggs being tracked in on shoes. The eggs, if ingested or touched by a human, can infect the human, migrate throughout the body and cause blindness. 

Your cat can contract heartworm from one mosquito bite. Symptoms are asthma like symptoms, vomiting or sudden death.  Heartworm in cats is an easily preventable disease.

Fleas are what transmitted the bubonic plague.  They also transmit Bartonella, which is cat scratch fever.  Cat scratch fever can cause very bad skin infections lesions on humans. You do not want fleas in your house. For a good summary of how parasites are contagious to people and some really gross pictures of what a migrating animal parasite can do in your body go to

Cat owners should remember that our little feline friends are VERY skilled at hiding their illnesses.  Without regular veterinary visits, a disease or condition could go unnoticed for months or years, until severe symptoms finally force a visit to the pet’s doctor.

Monitor your cat’s social behavior.  An independent cat that suddenly becomes clingy may be feeling unwell.  Likewise, a normally social cat that becomes withdrawn may also be exhibiting early signs of illness.If your active cat is starting to slow down or doesn’t seem to have the same energy level, arthritis dental disease kidney disease or several other conditions could be the culprit.

Changes in water intake or eating habits are also often early signs of illness.  It’s a good idea to know how much your cat eats and drinks each day and to also monitor their eating. Is your cat chewing on just one side or dropping food while eating? If your cat has bad breath, metabolic diseases or even serious dental disease could be the problem.

Changes in weight can occur without any significant change in food intake.  Unexplained weight loss or weight gain should be investigated.A cat that doesn’t want to groom is definitely not feeling well.  This could be due to arthritis, obesity or even dental problems.

Changes in sleeping habits or even vocalization habits are also good signs that your cat may be experiencing some unseen problems. Cats often sleep about 75% of the day, so a sudden decrease in the time spent sleeping is very concerning.

Finally, like many people, cats prefer a stable routine and a calm environment.  Situations that can cause stress for our cats include new people in the home, changes in routine or even an unforeseen move.If you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior or signs similar to the ones listed above, it’s a good idea to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Our cats can’t talk to us and let us know what’s going on, but his or her doctor can help get to the bottom of their distress.

Ideally the veterinarian should see cats every 6 months.  This will help find and identify a problem before it turns into an expensive issue.

Child Safety Around Pets

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

How safe is it to combine children under the age of 14 and pets? Most people acquiring a pet don’t give the question a lot of thought.  Sometimes the acquisition is an impulse buy based on circumstance and pressure from the younger family members.  Think Topsfield Fair and the rabbit exhibit. Or the pet store iguana or bird purchase.  Nowadays it is easy to hit a button on the Internet and pay for a dog of a certain breed. Unfortunately with each of these purchases you have likely just pumped $800-$1500 into the booming puppy mill industry.

Sometimes the family wanders into the pet adoption center not realizing how fast a certain dog or cat will seize their attention and pull their heartstrings and come home unexpectedly with a dog or cat.  Now that you have the pet how do you manage the kids’ interaction with the adored new member of the family?

It is best to plan ahead and do a little research if you are getting any type of pet.  Find out what diseases the pet can carry and how likely it is to bite and under what circumstances.  Also investigate how to house and train the pet.  Even rabbits can deliver a good nip.  An iguana delivered the worst bite I have seen at my practice over the past 11 years.  However some iguanas live peaceably out and about their owners’ homes and are litter trained.  Even chickens and reptiles can carry Salmonella.  .

Most of us think about dog bites when we think children and pet safety. Almost 5 million people suffer bites from animals each year. Half of those are children less than 12 years old and could be avoided

According to the National Canine Research Council ( and the Center for Disease control file://localhost/ttp/ - See more at/ http/ sthash.p7IcbOFq.dpuf , rates of medically attended nonfatal dog bites to children have been decreasing. The rate decreased from 26 bites per 10,000 children age 1-12 in 2001 to 20 bites per 10,000 children in 2011

An important part of avoiding bites is the education of our children. The vast majority of dog bites occur in children 4-9 years of age with a larger percentage in young boys. Teaching your children some of the following guidelines could help to avoid a painful lesson and potentially even save his or her life. When faced with an unknown dog, or a dog whose behavior seems to be odd, Dr. Kersti Seksel, a board certified veterinarian and behaviorist from Australia, recommends the following:

  • Do not approach the dog
  • Look at your feet or the ground - do not make eye contact with the dog
  • Stand still - do not run if the dog approaches
  • Keep quiet- do not scream or yell at the dog
  • Do not attempt pat any dog on the head or reach your hand out

Children should be taught to never run up on a pet, especially one who is sleeping or feeding and that not every animal may be as friendly as their own pet. Teaching a child to ask the pet owner if it is ok to approach and then if it is ok to pet can help to avoid many of the common mistakes made by bite victims. Ideally the pet owner introduces the pet to the child.

Cats will not deliver bites unless they are stressed to a great degree.  Cats will almost always avoid a stand off and attempt to hide.  If they feel cornered their pupils will dilate, ears will lay flat back and hair will stand on end. They will almost always warn you with a hiss. Next will come a swat. The bite is delivered only if the cat has no way out.   Some young cats will jump on family members legs and bite.  This is playful but can hurt. This behavior is more for exercise and stimulation.  The environment needs to be enriched and games and play with the cat must increase.

 Even with the family dog it is important to remember that some of the worst bites occur when a person attempts to remove a “high value item” from the dogs’ mouth.  When we ay high value we mean high value to your dog, not you.  What are dog high value items?  Used tissues, deer carcass parts, and special treasures from the cat litter box, laundry items and squirrel jerky.  I don’t think the last item needs to be explained to dog people. Distraction or trade for a higher value item are safer ways to get the item out of the mouth.

An unknown child or your own bending over your dog, grabbing its scruff and staring deeply into it’s eyes without blinking and then smiling has just unknowingly displayed four overt displays of aggression to your dog and stands a good chance of being nipped in the face. Usually a dog will give one or more warning signs, which kids are not so good at reading but should be taught.

 Warning signs:

  • Yawning and fidgeting, hiding, tail tucked ears back  = fear (fear can lead to aggression)
  • Ears up and body leaning forward 
  • Tail straight up so you can see tail between ears when facing dog head-on
  • Staring unblinking at your eyes
  • Muscular tension
  • Fur on back standing up
  • Bark and or growl

One step you can take to avoid some of these problems is to socialize your pup with three people and three safe dogs daily from age 4 weeks to 16 weeks. Start behavior training classes with a trainer recommended by your veterinarian at 10-12 weeks of age. It’s never too late to train a dog but sooner is better than later.  The socialization and training will allow your dog to feel more secure in potentially stressful situations when a stranger approaches. That will keep children approaching your dog much safer.

Halloween Safety for Pets

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lots of people like to have fun during the Halloween festivities, but our pets can truly be “spooked” by all of the noises and costumes.  Halloween is a holiday with many dangers for our dogs and cats. You can have fun with Halloween and keep your pet safe.

Dressing up is fun for everyone, but may not be very fun for our pets.  If your pet tolerates a costume, there are some things to keep in mind. Your pet must be comfortable at all times.  Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing.  Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints or dyes.   Your pet’s costume should be inedible. If your pet appears uncomfortable in any way, allow him to dress up in his “birthday suit”.

Costumes on people can be equally scary to pets.  Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective or be fearful of people in costumes, even if they normally are very social with that person. Since we are in Salem Massachusetts and we are ground zero for the Halloween celebration it may be a good idea to desensitize your dog to Halloween masks and costumes because there will be people in costumes around for the entire month of October.

First of all your dog should be behaviour trained. If your dog knows the basic commands it is easier to desensitize your dog. Try walking around town with your dog during the day in October.  When you see someone a distance away in a costume coming toward your dog place her in a sit stay and praise her for being calm. As the costumed person approaches, if your dog acts out, barks or lunges don’t punish or speak to your dog. Just walk in a different direction and ask your dog to heel. Praise her for heeling. Place your dog into sit-stay or down-stay and praise for the good behaviour. After a couple minutes have passed later repeat the exercise with another costumed person.  Each time you do it the person should be able to approach closer to your dog. Eventually people in costumes will be able to approach your dog and pat her.  You can then progress to evening  “spooky
walks”.  Pretty soon your dog will be used to all kinds of people in costumes.

Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that it does not accost any of the neighbourhood ghosts.  Place your dog in a room where she is not able to rush to the door every time the doorbell rings.  Allow your dog to spend Halloween in her own special room indoors with special treats, safe and secure from the goblins.  Even if you have a fenced yard, Halloween is definitely not a good night for your dog to be outside without supervision and restraint. If you can’t find a safe place for your dog then consider staying on your front step to hand out candy.  Your dog may be perfectly friendly but a child can be scared by the size of your dog or knocked over.

If you have an exotic pet such as a bird iguana or ferret please confine them to their s cages. The open door may be too much of a temptation. Your feathered friend could be tempted by so many open door opportunities and fly away.  Ferrets can squeeze through very small openings un-noticed. Iguanas can run very quickly when they are motivated.  If any exotic pet gets out they are not easy to find. Microchipping pets makes finding them much more likely.

The two biggest concerns for pets during the holiday are injuries and poisonings. The excitement of the day may be too much for even the best-behaved dog. Constant visitors to the door as well as the spooky sights and sounds may cause some pets to become fearful; these pets could run away and become injured in a variety of ways. This is another reason to find a safe place for your dog.

Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe as well.   Fake cobwebs or anything resembling a string can be tempting to cats, leading to a foreign body obstruction. Candles inside of pumpkins are easily knocked over, burning your pet or even starting a fire.
Keep your pet away from the Halloween candy. Chocolate can be toxic to pets and even small amounts can cause heart problems and vomiting. Lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract, causing painful obstructions.  Candy that is sweetened with Xylitol® can cause low blood sugar in dogs and has been implicated in liver failure as well. Many people are concerned about black cats during this time of year.   It might be wise to keep all cats indoors during this holiday. If you can’t keep your cat indoors, considering a boarding facility or your family veterinarian.   It may help to keep your feline friend safe!

Kitty Vet Visits: Healthful or Horrible?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Did you know that according to a 2011 study of trends in veterinary medicine by Bayer Healthcare and Brakke Consulting that 60% of cat owners report that their cat hates going to the veterinarian? Furthermore 38% of clients say they get stressed just thinking about bringing their cat to the veterinarian. This is probably why out of the 86 million dog s and 78 million cats in this country twice as many cats as dogs never get a health check by a veterinarian.  Of the cats that do visit the veterinarian they average 26% fewer visits than dogs.

Many people assume incorrectly that an indoor cat does not have exposure to parasites and illness so they skip the veterinary exam. Cats appear to be quite self sufficient and so their families assume that if they don’t seem sick they don’t need a physical exam. Unfortunately your cat may silently carry illness that can shorten its’ lifespan a great deal and harbor disease that can spread to people.

Cats may pick up parasites by catching a mouse or playing in potting soil or being bitten by a mosquito. Some of these parasites such as roundworms and hookworms are transmissible to humans and can cause blindness and other symptoms as they migrate through us. There is no easy way to treat these parasites once they are in humans. Cats can even harbor the bacteria that cause Bubonic Plague Yersinia Pestis.

 All cats are susceptible to a range of metabolic diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes and pancreatitis. These diseases can decrease your cat’s quality of life and drastically shorten its life if not detected in a timely manner. Cats have evolved to hide their illnesses so many times they will just sleep or hide a bit more when they have severe disease. Dental disease can be excruciatingly painful and is present in 90% of all cats. 

Veterinarians have been made aware of the dismal rate of cat visits to their offices and we are working to make our practices more cat friendly. Lots of little touches can really help cats be more comfortable at the vet.  A quiet area for cats away from dog patients prior to the exam, warm exam table surfaces, blankets to hide under during exams all help. Providing treats, patting, speaking quietly and calmly during exams and gentle handling will all help.  The American Association of Feline Practitioners has a Cat Friendly Hospital Certification that hospitals can achieve through improvements in ten areas including waiting room, exam room, surgery, pain and anesthesia and hospital facilities to make the entire hospital a better experience for your cat.

So you are convinced your kitty needs health care. How do you get kitty in the cat carrier? The cat carrier must be a kitty Shangri-La. It must be spacious and clean.  It must be out all the times with an open door, with treats and catnip.  It must be lined with cozy fleece  ( You may give your cat praise with one word such as “good” as soon as she comes close to the carrier and again when she enters it. You might give a special treat only when your cat goes into the carrier.   You might even use a special kitty pheromone to attract your cat to the carrier. You actually plug it into an outlet near the carrier. Your cat is attracted toward the feline pheromones.

Do not be the owner who drags the dust laden moldy carrier up from the basement on the morning of the appointment, chases kitty around the house and attempts to stuff a flailing buzz saw of an angry kitty head first into a suddenly too small carrier. Frustrated and defeated clients in the process of canceling appointments have relayed sad tales of deep gouges, bloodshed, body and facial wounds inflicted by the unwilling patient to receptionists far too often.  We humans rarely win a battle with a cat. It is always best to back down, take a deep breath and come up with another tactic-- maybe in a year or so -- maybe never?  The statistics don’t lie.

Following the behavior modification with the open door ever-present Shangi La pet carrier is the first step. After getting kitty in to the carrier have the car at a comfortable temperature and minimize loud noises during transport.  Make sure the carrier is on a stable surface in the car so the carrier doesn’t catapult (pun intended) around the car when you apply the brakes or turn a corner. Covering the carrier with a towel may make it seem more secure for your cat. Refrain from stuffing two cats into one carrier. Even
cats that get along will become agitated and fight if crowded and stressed.

There are some wonderful house call veterinarians on the North Shore that are quite good at handling friendly house cats as well as cats that refuse to go into a carrier. A good number of cats that are tough to examine in a hospital setting are much better behaved at home. Even if you love your house call veterinarian, have a carrier out and train your cat to get in it, as you may need to evacuate your car in case of health emergency or weather emergency.

Do not despair. Patience, behavior modification, ingenuity and teaming up with your vet will all help you get your cautious kitty to the vet. After the veterinary visit you can both leave feeling that it was a comfortable and stress free visit for both of you.


How to Achieve the Perfect Pet Adoption

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The days of shopping for that puppy in the pet store window are fading quickly as we look through our computer windows for our next pet family member instead. How do you find a reputable purveyor of puppies without supporting the puppy mill business? 

It is not easy because there are so many ways to be tricked into purchasing a puppy mill puppy. A local kennel that is an easy driving distance from the North Shore fooled me. They advertised in the back of a major Boston newspaper. They told me they had two chocolate labs left from a litter. When I got there with my kids they had one lab left, which of course we fell in love with at first sight. When I diagnosed our puppy Milo with the contagious but curable intestinal parasite Giardia and called the kennel to alert them I was surprised and somewhat suspicious when they expressed an amazing lack of interest in this finding. This is a parasite that is contagious to people and can cause intense abdominal pain for months in humans. A responsible shelter or breeder would be continually checking to make sure their puppies did not carry this parasite. Milo was certainly not a perfect specimen. He had a white spot on his chest and was far from the breed standard for a Chocolate Labrador dog. Of course we kept Milo and loved him for many years until his big heart gave out in 2009.

Over the past years I have seen several very ill puppies come from this very kennel. What clinched it for me was an article in the Boston Globe about a truck that was pulled over with puppies in deplorable conditions being shipped to this very kennel. So if a veterinarian can be fooled, you certainly could be too. Unfortunately the fines for abusing animals in this way are so minimal and the money to be made is large enough that the crime continues. These organizations pay their fines and continue with their “business”.

Shopping on line does not guarantee you will avoid puppy mill puppies. Many great organizations work through to help bring millions of animals out of neglect and into safe homes. However there is also a large online presence of puppy mill breeders selling purebreds. My sister and brother in law ordered up two Wheaten Terriers online before consulting with me  (how could they!!). Were they from puppy a puppy mill? Quite possibly they were. The Internet can serve as a cover for the poor conditions and abuse of the breeder dogs. They may show you pictures of the “parents” that are just photos of better examples of the breed than the actual parents. Each breed may be sold by a different online  “kennel” with a unique name and website but they may be coming from the same huge puppy mill.

The occasional puppy mill will masquerade as a pet rescue organization to fool buyers. Two women in a rented truck towing a van were pulled over by police in Tennessee. Dogs were in both the van and the truck- overcrowded, sitting in their own mess with no water or food. The women were transporting dogs from their rescue organization Hearts for Hounds from California to Virginia.

As veterinarians, we are concerned about the health and welfare of the animals. Breeding dogs too often is not a healthy practice and many pets suffer from the poor sanitation and crowded living conditions. Shockingly, many of these breeders opt to perform medical procedures (such as ear crops, tail docks, vaccinations etc.) without utilizing a veterinarian. This can lead to mutilation, infections and even death among their breeding stock.

Your best source of information before purchasing or adopting is your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on breeds and temperaments that would be suitable for your family and lifestyle. If you don’t have a veterinarian currently then find one and set up a consult to discuss your upcoming adoption. The safest place to search for your pet may bet at the local shelter.   Purebred dogs and cats are there waiting for you as well as all kinds of great mixed breed pets.  There are shelters for birds as well.             

If you are at a breeder’s location ask to see the mother of the litter you are viewing. Often resellers buy entire litters from puppy mills and then pose as a breeder. The seller may be situated in a pastoral part of New England in a very nice setting, but if the mother is not available to be viewed there is a good chance the pups are from puppy mills. I also would never recommend that a client purchase a pet at a pet store.  If you are at a pet store be aware that an AKC registration does not guarantee the pet was from a reputable breeder. AKC registrations are not that hard to come by. Please resist the urge to make that impulse purchase and do the legwork to find a dog that is not feeding money into animal abusive businesses.

How to Avoid, and React, to Pet Poisoning

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Recently we fielded an emergency phone call from a dog owner.  She was worried because when she arrived home from work she found that her dog had consumed half a jar of Nutella. The 13-ounce jar was tipped on its side on the floor bearing all the signs of a canine lick-fest.   

Knowing how panicked the owner must be I wanted to quickly figure out if her dog had eaten a toxic dose.  With chocolate it can be tough.  Dark chocolate has more cocoa per ounce than milk and a chocolate spread?  Nutella has how much cocoa in it?

Googling  Nutella did absolutely nothing to tell me how much cocoa was in the product. The ingredient that causes the bad side effects is methyl xanthine.  I hopped on my Veterinary Information network and found a posting by an ER vet who knew that European Nutella has 8.5 % cocoa or 8.5 grams per 100 grams of product and the US Nutella had 7.0 grams. 

Going with the worst-case scenario, the calculations began. After triple checking my math it turned out the pup had eaten 450 mg of cocoa or ½ the potential lethal dose.  A dose in this range could cause a racing heart and nervous tremors.  A lethal dose could cause seizures and cardiac arrest.  Her pup was showing no symptoms but to be cautious we advised that he be examined.  Since he had eaten the chocolate sometime during the day the toxin had already been absorbed and inducing vomiting was not on the table.  He did well treated with fluids and activated charcoal.

If you ever have a poisoning emergency there is a hotline you can call ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 888- 426-4435. ASPCA Poison Control fielded 180,000 calls in 2012.  What were the top Ten poison  “hits of 2012”?

1. Prescription Human medications
2.  Toxins
3. OTC human meds
4. Veterinary medication
5.  Household products
6. People food
7. Chocolate
8. Plants
9. Rodenticides
10. Garden and lawn products

Note that 30% of the poisonings were due to human or veterinary medications. If people food and chocolate were combined it would rise to #3 on the poison list.75% of the poisonings were dogs   and 11%-25% of them were cats. The 3’rd species called about is rabbits and 4’Th is birds.

There are increased poisonings in the spring and summer months when people are using chemicals outdoors and a spike on Easter and Christmas when chocolate and lilies are around in abundance.  Variations in types of call occur based on geographic location. The south tends to call in more toad poisonings

70-90% of incidents were due to ingestion of toxin. Toxins  can also inhaled and come into contact with the skin. It is easy to mix up your human pill containers with the pet containers. Sometimes the human gets the dog pill and the dog gets the human pill. Unfortunately dogs will get into owner’s illegal drugs and overdose on those.

Of the 180,000 poisonings 58% of the pets had no symptoms, 22% had mild symptoms 7% had moderate to severe symptoms and 3% died.  10% could not be followed up.

What should you do if your pet eats something it shouldn’t? Don’t wait. Immediately call the poison control center or your vet.  Your vet will determine if your pet needs to have its stomach emptied based on the type of toxin and how long your pet has been exposed.  If your veterinarian is not available call the emergency veterinary center near you. Inducing vomiting can be extremely dangerous if your pet has ingested a caustic chemical.  Don’t guess or depend on Doctor Google to  treat your pet. Up to 60% of medical information on the web can be wrong. Most importantly do not wait to see what happens. Get information and medical assistance immediately. If your pet has ingested antifreeze every minute counts before kidney failure sets in.

Just one ibuprofen can cause gastric ulcer bleeding and even perforation of the stomach.  If and your veterinarian act quickly you will have a greatly increased chance of saving your pet’s life.

Summer Safety Tips for Pets

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summertime Tips for Dog Safety

Summertime! Finally, your chance to relax and unwind! With your sunblock, sunglasses and a good book, you plan to enjoy the day at the pool! Suddenly, you remember your dog is in the yard – unsupervised …surely he will be okay for a couple hours. Or will he?

Summer temperatures might be great for tan lines and boating trips, but the excessive heat and increased outdoor activities could spell disaster for your pets. As the mercury rises, take just a few moments to insure that your pets are safe and prevent an urgent trip to the animal ER with a summertime emergency!

The most common heat related problem for pets is heat stroke. Also known as heat stress or hyperpyrexia, heat stroke is a real emergency for dogs. Even on moderately warm days, an excited dog might show a body temperature increase of 2-5 degrees Fahrenheit. Since dogs don’t sweat like we do, they are unable to dissipate the excess heat and heat stroke may soon follow.

Any outdoor pet can overheat on a warm summer day, but short-faced breeds, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, are at a higher risk. In addition, every year thousands of pets succumb to heat stroke because they were left in cars while their owners ran “just a few” errands.

Many cities and states have now made it a crime to leave your pet unattended in a vehicle. These are important laws as even on a 70-degree day, temperatures inside a car can soar to over 110 degrees in less than one hour! Some owners try to help their pets by shaving the dog’s long coat. Although this seems like a good idea, a well-groomed and clean hair coat can actually insulate the dog from the heat and help keep them cooler.

Veterinarians will recommend shaving specific areas in longhaired breeds. For example, shaving under the tail and the groin area can help keep the area clean and free from infections.

In some cases, shaving the hair coat could expose a lightly pigmented dog to potential sunburn. For shorthaired lightly colored breeds, Canine solar dermatitis is another problem. Boxers, Pit Bulls and Dalmatians are just a few examples of dogs that are at risk. In these cases, chronic exposure to hot sunny days damages the skin and causes tender, red scaly lesions. Eventually, the skin becomes thickened and scarred.

When the sun goes down and the temperatures start to cool, your pets still face many summer challenges. The patriotic holidays during the summer months are often preceded by and celebrated with fireworks. The bright flashes and loud bangs are terrifying to some pets and can cause anxiety, stress and even escape.

Likewise, some pets react in a similar way to thunderstorms. Normally calm pets may become distressed, destructive and even bite in an attempt to get away from the noises. While running, they are at risk for being hit by a car, becoming lost or encountering another animal that might be aggressive.

The warm summer season also brings out a many pests that will actively seek out your pets. Fleas and ticks are two examples, but some species of biting flies are very fond of dogs’ ears. Repeated bites can cause a condition that can be serious and difficult to control known as “fly strike”.

It is possible to enjoy the summer with your pets by taking just a few precautions. First and foremost, always be aware of the weather forecast. Knowing the high temperature can help guide your plans for the day.

Don’t leave your pet unattended outside or plan heavy exercise on hot, humid days. If your pet is left outdoors, he must have access to adequate shade and fresh water.

When it’s time to run errands, leave your pet at home. Even a few minutes in a hot car is enough to increase your pet’s body temperature dramatically.

If you find your pet disoriented, panting excessively or collapsed in the yard, move him immediately to a cooler environment. Use cool wet towels over his back, armpits and groin to help bring his temperature down. Fans are often helpful too. DO NOT USE ICE! Then, get him to your veterinarian immediately so that they can assess his status and begin life saving treatments.

Your veterinarian is also a good source of advice for products that will kill fleas and ticks. There are a wide variety of topical and oral flea and tick products on the market, some of which are very effective and some that could harm your pet if used improperly. Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about which one to use.

If you are planning to take your pets to any outdoor celebrations or cookouts, find out first if pets are welcome or if fireworks are planned. It might be easier to simply leave the dogs at home rather than risk a run-away or injury.

Most national parks allow pets, but rules vary by park and of course your pets must be on a leash at all times. Check ahead on the parks you plan to visit.

Summertime should be a time for relaxation and fun…don’t let a pet emergency spoil your good time.

Top Ten Fun Things to Do with Your Dog This Summer

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Are you bored? Is your dog moping around the house?  Here are some ideas for both of you to wake up and have some fun.

1. Get your dog outdoors for a walk or run.  Head to Salem Woods (back of Old Salem Green parking lot on Willson Street) or get a dog pass to walk off leash at sites all over Massachusetts at Trustees of Reservations Watch out for mushrooms. It has been a damp early summer and mushrooms are everywhere- even in the Greenlawn cemetery/arboretum in Salem.  In Denver veterinarians have seen a big increase in mushroom poisoning in dogs due to the damp season on the mountains.  Signs are vomiting diarrhea lethargy.  How do you tell a poisonous mushroom from non-poisonous?  It’s really hard and may require a PhD in shroomology so just keep your dog from ingesting any mushrooms. 

2. Get your dog groomed, not shaved down. Clean fur protects skin from the sun and insulates from the heat.   Regular bathing removes the dust and pollen, or in my Porter’s case the dirt, mud, leaves and other unmentionable substances, from your dog’s coat and skin.  If your dog has allergies to pollen regular bathing as often as 1-2 time per week can reduce allergies in a big way.

3. Have a big bowl of drinking water in your yard, preferably with ice cubes.  Your pup should have a cool place in the shade to lounge while you are at work. If it is a stinking hot and humid day, ten minutes trips outdoors may be all your dog can take.  A dog door to an enclosed back yard is a great way to let pooch decide when it is time to escape the heat.

4. A kiddie pool in the yard is just the ticket for a water-loving dog to cool off in. Keep an eye on your dog near your in ground pool. Not all dogs are good swimmers. Make sure there is a way to exit if the dog accidentally falls in the pool. Supervise your dog around a deep pool at all times.

5. Hike with your dog. Doggie backpacks can be found at REI.  You can practice before the hike by gradually increasing the amount of weight in the backpack.  Remember to pack only items that you don’t mind getting wet or dented.  During a White Mountain hike and campout adventure with my dogs I made the error of packing the coffee pot in Otis’ pack.  He had not maneuvered between rocks much with the pack on. We had to navigate between many rocks at the beginning of the hike. The packs on his sides were banging the rocks until he realized he was wider than usual. At the campsite the next morning the pot was dented enough that it could not perk the coffee. Coffee lovers know what a kind of a tragedy that was.

6. Camp with your dog. Car camping is great fun.  If you have kids there is nothing more fun the crashing in your tent in a big human puppy pile on a cushy air mattress with the kids and the dogs.  You need a big, not too expensive tent. Develop tolerance for possible claw marks /holes from the high level of activity of dogs and kids in the tent. Needless to say they will not be sleeping the entire time.

7. Cross Country road trip with your dog.  Bring water bowls dog bed and crate.  Have a long lead. Check to make sure campgrounds and inns are dog friendly before you get there. Check out state parks for adventures /walks with your dog during rest stops.  You can’t leave your dog in a hot car for any amount of time. 

8. Take your dog to the beach. Alas so many beaches are closed to dogs in the summer.  After September you have many more choices. Sunbathers do not take kindly to doggie play beside their towels on the beach. The coconut oil and flying sand are not compatible. Talk to neighbors who have been in town awhile to find out the best places to take your dog for a dip early in the AM or
in the evening. While the ocean is the big draw in New England, lakes and streams are also a wonderful cooling spot for dog and owner.

9. Teach your dog to swim. Find a lake with a gradual slope. Gradually expose your dogs to water and they may become swimmers. On a hot day the introduction should be easy. Your dog will probably wade in to have a sip of water.  Porter had never been swimming but waded into a lake to have a sip of water on a 95F day in May.  He sipped and then gazed across the lake. I  could almost see his dog brain sizing up the cool water bathing his legs.  Then another step deeper. Another sip of water. He stood contemplating for another 30 seconds. Next he waded in up to his belly. A look of such doggie bliss ensued. On the next trip I threw a stick several times to a place where he would need to do 1-2 paddles to get to it. Being a Pit Bull Terrier he has no fat
nd no webbed toes and no air trapping fur.  He still managed to do a couple paddles and get to the stick.  Taking him to a lake with various dogs that knew how to swim and retrieve also helped him learn the game. Positively reinforce your pups with treats every time they respond to the command  “Bring it”.

10. Relax with your dog in your own back yard. Pick up the poo poos in the back yard to eliminate unpleasant surprises and make your backyard an oasis for both of you.  A comfortable lounge chair or hammock for you.  A birdbath or flower patch to gaze upon. A patch of grass and chew toy for your pup. Read a book and be at peace with your trusted companion at your side.


Seasonal Allergies in Pets

Tuesday, September 02, 2014
by All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

Seasonal Allergies in Pets

Last month the pine trees were shedding so much pollen that massive green clouds could be seen billowing across roads and fields. Simultaneously our practice saw a spike in dogs with painful ear infections, skin lesions, fur loss and uncomfortable itching problems. Coincidence? I think not. We will see the aftermath of the pollen explosion all summer. When the tree pollen wears off the flower pollen will take over in the summer. Then we’ll segue into the fall weed pollen season. Your pet could itch for one month or several depending what types of pollen allergies she has.

People with allergies may exhibit weepy eyes and scratchy throats, cough and wheezing when we are exposed to pollen from flowers trees or weeds. Dogs exhibit different signs because the pollen settles on their skin and is absorbed through the skin and causes symptoms which are related to skin issues rather than respiratory issues. Just as we get a weepy nose and eyes with allergies dogs may have a runny nose, a post nasal drip with “reverse sneeze” sound and red irritated eyes. They rarely cough due to allergies.

Pets may have allergic reaction to all types of pollen, air pollutants, aerosol sprays, detergents, and even make up. Home products such as air fresheners, candle and incense smoke; sisal and jute can also set off allergies. One of the biggest offenders for pet allergies is cigarette smoke. We have seen dogs, cats and even birds with severe skin lesions and even life threatening self-trauma in response to the cigarette smoke in the home. Pets feel just as miserable as people with allergies. Pets are less active and responsive when they are distracted by a painful itching sensation. And post nasal drip.

Cats experience allergies but they may have skin lesions or severe respiratory reaction to pollen and other allergens. Cats can be asthmatic in response to exposure to pollen and other environmental allergens. It is suspected that birds have allergies although research must still be done to learn more. Birds can have big itching problems due to smoke or air fresheners. They can traumatize their skin very efficiently with their beaks. Give your bird a shower to wash off the allergen. Showering your bird weekly can help a lot

What can you do for your pet in the face of this allergen assault? You can wash allergens off the skin by bathing with an oatmeal shampoo as often as weekly. Keep the windowsills wiped down if the windows are open. Vacuum frequently. Faithfully apply the tick and flea product recommended by your veterinarian every month. An insect bite can compound the allergic reaction. Have your pet assessed with a physical exam by your veterinarian. An ulcer, scratch, a lack of tear production or a reaction to pollen may cause a weepy eye. Each is treated differently. Antihistamines work nicely for people but unfortunately each one has only a 40% chance of being effective in your pet. Your veterinarian can work with you to find the antihistamine and proper dose that is correct for your pet. Your veterinarian will determine if there are secondary bacterial or fungal skin infections and treat for those if necessary. Discuss the benefits of fish oils with your veterinarian. There are many types and they are a natural way to reduce itch if given at the proper dose.

Allergic skin problems and a constantly itching pet are a cause of frustration for both the pet owner and the veterinarian because sometimes there are no quick fixes. The ideal fix is to eliminate the allergen. Sometimes allergen elimination can be achieved but pollen is ubiquitous and a constant source of irritation. Many times the solution is to control the problem with multiple types of treatments.

Veterinary dermatologists do skin testing for allergens in dogs. These veterinarians have studied for several years after completion of their four year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. They can test multiple allergens on the skin and see which ones trigger the biggest reaction. Your veterinarian can run a simple blood test for 48 allergens that are present in your area of the country. The blood test may reveal exactly what typed of grass weed or tree pollen is causing the problem. Then your pet may receive desensitization injections to help decrease the skin reaction. A decrease of 50% in the itching is considered good progress.

Don’t give up on pet allergies! Call your veterinarian and work together to establish a game plan so your pet can be as comfortable as possible for the vacation weather.

Myths about Fleas and Ticks You Ought to Know

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Anyone who has suffered through an infestation of fleas knows these parasites are programmed for survival. In ideal conditions, fleas can complete their life cycle in just 12 days, adding thousands of new offspring. Understanding how to control this life cycle and killing adult fleas helps your pet – and your home – remain flea-free!

Flea Myth #1: Fleas go away during winter months.

Although a good part of the country sees a decrease in flea cases during colder months, fleas can survive by taking advantage of our human comforts. Fleas thrive at temperatures above 65 degrees, making our homes a perfect winter refuge. The cocoon stage can actually survive up to five months in cooler temperatures – allowing the next generation of fleas to hatch and attack our pets in the spring!

Flea Myth #2: Natural remedies like brewer’s yeast and garlic are safe and effective flea control methods.

For many pet owners, avoiding man-made chemicals and “going green” is important. Garlic, for example, is purported to kill fleas, but the only study conducted showed no effect. Organic and natural remedy products are not only often ineffective at controlling fleas, but sometimes even cause illness in pets.

Flea Myth #3: Chemical pesticides are harmful to pets and to the environment.

Historically, this is true! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned products containing organophosphates like Diaz anon due to cancer risks and environmental impact. Advances in pest control provide us environmentally safe products that can be used on pets. Your family veterinarian has both oral and topical products providing effective and immediate flea kill. Additionally, these products are harmless to both pets and children.

Flea Myth #4: Fleas are resistant to these new chemicals – even products my veterinarian carries.

With stories of “super-bug” bacteria making headlines, it’s easy to imagine a super flea shaking off pesticides like water. Veterinary products have a great track record of killing fleas and experts state resistance to these products has not occurred. Most perceived product failures are likely due to excessive numbers of fleas or inappropriate application.

Flea Myth #5: There is no difference between flea products purchased from big box stores and your veterinarian. Sometimes it is the same product and sometimes it is not. Unfortunately, this myth is the cause of many emergency room visits – and pet deaths. Grocery store products may contain older insecticides and chemicals. This could mean that they are simply less effective, but in some cases, these products have actually killed pets – especially cats. In an attempt to save money, well-meaning owners have used dog products on their cats, causing the cat to seizure uncontrollably – creating a potentially fatal emergency.

Tick Myth #1

My dog lives in the city so it won’t get a tick.

Brown dog ticks are an urban tick that can live the entire life cycle indoors at the pet store, boarding facility your home or the groomer. You dog can get a tick even if it never sets foot outside. This is why veterinarians advise year round application of tick and flea preventative.

Tick Myth #2

Ticks do not survive the winter.

Some species of ticks are able to go for 12 months without a blood meal. Lyme disease ticks (Eastern and Western Black legged ticks) feed on animals as larva, nymphs and adults. Larva prefer small mammals such as mice. Nymphs and adults prefer large mammals such as deer dogs and humans. Nymphs are known to survive in the cold New England winter. In fact if you do see a tick outdoors between September and March it is highly likely that it is a Lyme disease spreading tick.

Tick Myth #3 Ticks transmit disease as soon as they touch your pet.

Ticks can’t transmit bacteria until they have cemented their mouthparts into the skin. This takes about 4 hours. They don’t transmit Lyme disease bacteria until they have had a blood meal about 24-48 hours. By then the Borellia bacteria (the Lyme disease organisms) have changed their surface proteins and enter the mammal’s body.

Ticks can transmit within just 15 minutes after biting a virus that is capable of causing encephalitis in people .

Your veterinarian has access to at least ten non-toxic flea and tick products. Your veterinarian can recommend what’s best for your dog or cat. Since the Brown dog tick is capable of spending its entire life indoors it’s best to use the product every month year round.

Don’t leave your pet’s comfort and your safety in the hands of someone who doesn’t know your pet – see your veterinarian for the best advice on avoiding flea and tick infestation!

Finches at Peabody Essex Museum Exhibit "From Here to Ear"

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dr Bradt has been taking care of 70 zebra finches at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Massachusetts. The finches fly around and land on the electric guitars when they are not busy nesting, breeding, preening their mates, eating seeds and pelleted diet from cymbals, hopping around on the sand or playing with the hay. The electric guitars make a wild array of varying chords depending upon how many birds are on the strings and what they are doing. It's fun to watch what they are up to and try to identify which guitar the sound is coming from. Sometimes that's not easy with so many guitars in the room.

Did you know?

The finches do pair off for breeding although we do not know if they " mate for life". Maybe a zebra finch breeder can fill us in on that.

Zebra finches will mate in the open. Look for the female with the raised tail and the male above and beside her.

They will defend their territory while breeding so they will chase other birds away from their nest.

More details about finch breeding at this link :
Peabody Essex Museum link :

Boston Globe article link :

Boston Globe video :

All Creatures Cares for 70 Guitar Playing Finches

Sunday, February 16, 2014
by All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

All Creatures Cares for 70 Guitar Playing Finches

Dr Bradt is taking care of 70 zebra inches at the Peabody Essex Museum. When they are not building nests mating and eating pelleted diet and seed out of cymbals they are hopping around on electric guitars and making music.

She visits the finches on Tuesdays to make sure they are all doing well. They sweep all over the exhibit hall and have become well acclimated to the 20 visitors allowed in at a time.

Dr Bradt will be in the museum atrium from 10:30 to 11:00 AM on Thursday February 20 to answer questions about the exhibit.

She will also be speaking on Friday February 28 on members night.

Link to Peabody Essex Museum

Avoid Winter Danger for Pets

Friday, January 03, 2014

Winter is a time when the temperatures drop and we all have the instinct to hibernate a bit. It is a great time to stay and snuggle with your cat or dog while watching TV or reading a book. You may not want to go out but your dog probably does. Most cats these days are indoor cats but the occasional cat insists on having access to the outdoors. There are a few precautions you can take to keep your pet safe in the winter weather.

If you have your pet in the car keep the heat on. Do not leave a pet unattended in the car for more than 10 minutes if temperatures are below 40F.

If you are walking out doors try to avoid rock salt as it can irritate your pet’s feet. Use sand or kitty litter on ice at your own property. Wash feet off after the walk if you are walking your pet on any sidewalks or streets where rock salt is regularly applied. I have purchased winter booties for my dogs but had zero success keeping them on their feet. If you walk takes you near a lake keep your dog off the ice. You don’t want your dog to be the big rescue attempt featured on the evening news. The best leash to use is not that does not extend. A dog can chase a squirrel onto the ice much faster that you can hit the lock button with your thumb.

Flea and tick preventative and heartworm medication must be used monthly throughout the winter. Deer tick nymphs are out in the winter and can attaché to your dog. The later onset of frost and snaps of warm weather during the winter allow mosquitos, the insect that transmits heartworm microfilaria to your dog, to survive longer into the winter. Most heartworm preventatives also worm your dog monthly for intestinal parasites such as roundworm and hookworm that your dog can transmit to you. Your dog sheds the parasites in feces. The eggs live in the soil through deep frost and hot summers for years. The hookworm egg can migrate right through your skin. The roundworm egg must be ingested. These parasites don’t know where to go in the human body so they wander everywhere. Human ophthalmologists have found roundworms in peoples’ eyes.

As a senior veterinary student studying at a bird farm I worked closely with the family that ran the farm. Their son was 12 years old and was being treated for a brain tumor. They took great care of the birds but I noticed that they did not pick up their dogs’ feces. There were huge bombs of feces all over the property. One day they mentioned that their son had a three-inch serpentine squiggle under his skin on the top of his foot. They had shown it to the doctor and he did not know what it was. They noted that it was now moving up his foot. Having just finished my parasitology course I let them know I thought it was a migrating hookworm larva but that they should speak to their doctor again. They treated him for the hookworm and the squiggle on his foot went away. Years later they called me about a bird in my practice. I was hesitant to ask if their son had survived his brain tumor. He survived and thrived.

If you want more information on pet parasites visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

Find a winter coat for your pet especially if the fur is short or your pet is very small or very old. Winter coats come in all sorts of styles and will add an extra layer of protection from the biting cold and wind.

If you have an out door cat make sure they are let in on a regular basis and kept in at night. Coyotes have devoured several cats in North Salem during the past year. I have observed foxes stalking cat at Salem Willows and in my own backyard in North Salem. Do not let your cat or dog out in heavy snowfall or when the snow is more than 8 inches deep. During the multiple blizzards in 2011 people lost their cats. Some were later found plowed into snow banks or just buried in snowdrifts. They did not make it out alive. Even a large dog can be lost in a snow bank or hit by a plow. Keep close track of your pets in these storms. They should be observed every minute they are outdoors and should be out no more that 10 minutes in freezing weather.

Antifreeze spilled during a top off of the tank can taste sweet to a cat or dog. As soon as even a teaspoon it is ingested it starts to damage the kidneys. If you know or suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze please call your veterinarian immediately. If you wait kidney failure can ensue within a couple days and you could lose your pet.

Enjoy your times of hibernation with your pet and then get out there and give them some much needed exercise and airing out. You’ll feel great after the fresh air and exercise.

How to participate in Food Drive for Pets Deadline is December 31

Sunday, December 15, 2013

According to the food drive's organizers, there are three main ways that people can contribute to the event until the Dec. 31 deadline:

  • Go to to take a pledge to end pet hunger. Royal Canin will donate 1 pound of pet food for every pledge made.

Royal Canin said it will contribute at least 30,000 pounds of pet food, and as much as 20,000 additional pounds based on the number of pledges from its Facebook page.

Now that we are into the holidays. Here are some tips on keeping your pet safe from Holiday Hazards

Monday, December 02, 2013

The last thing any pet owner wants to do on Thanksgiving or Christmas is rush their pet to the animal emergency room! But, the truth is that many pets are injured or poisoned during these holidays. How can you make sure your holiday doesn’t end in disaster?

During the holidays, most animal related ER visits are due to eating something inappropriate. Some foods cause upset stomachs, some are poisonous, and some can cause life-threatening obstructions. We know that 60% of us will share our holiday meal with our pets, but you should follow a few basic guidelines.

A small amount of white turkey is an acceptable treat but definitely avoid the turkey skin and the turkey bones! The skin is often fatty and can cause pets to develop pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pet’s pancreas.

Poultry bones, especially cooked, have potential to both break off and cause a perforation of the digestive tract or, if large amounts are consumed, could cause an obstruction. Ham contains a huge amount of salt, nitrites and fat which can cause severe diarrhea ,vomiting and abdominal discomfort.

Other foods to avoid include: grapes and raisins, excessively salty foods, foods flavored with onion or garlic powder, desserts ,sweets and gum containing Xylitol, and chocolates.

Dogs are genetically programmed to scavenge for their food. They just can’t help themselves if something is within reach. That’s why so many people have interesting stories about the turkey, roast, you insert the protein type, disappearing off the kitchen counter just before the dinner guests arrived.

All leftovers should be secured behind a pet-proof door. Remember, keep your Many items used in the meal preparation and then thrown away can be dangerous. A turkey string, foil wrappers, etc may smell like food and be eaten by a curious pet.

During family gatherings, it might be best to give your pets a special toy such as a Kong filled with dog treats to keep their minds off your meal and to decrease their anxiety. Also, monitor people going in and out of the front door. Pets might take advantage and try to escape.

Keep your veterinarian’s phone number and the local animal emergency hospital handy. A quick call to either of them can give you life-saving advice or even help you avoid a trip to the ER. Be sure to visit to see important animal health videos.

Dog Days of Summer (and precautions therein) !

Friday, July 12, 2013

Well, the long hot Summer days are here, and Dr Bradt has written an informative article for this time of year:

Summer Precautions for our Pets

It’s 99 degrees out. A heat wave is upon us. We are enjoying the barbequing, the opportunity to bask in the sun, exercise outdoors for a change. How can we keep our pets from succumbing to the heat and other dangers of summer?

Many of the precautions we can take to protect our pets are pretty common sense. If you want to be in air conditioning, then make sure your dog or cat is indoors in the air conditioning. Don’t leave them out in the fenced in yard for more than 10 minutes in the blazing heat. If they are outside for only 10 minutes they should still have a source of fresh water and shade. A baby pool full of fresh water is a favorite for dogs.

Plan ahead for the groomer and make the appointment. Don’t make the mistake we made. Our favorite groomer is so popular that we should

have made the appointment to have our Springer Spaniel shaved down a month ago. We missed the window and she had to live through several days of heat wave looking like a furry moppet. She also brought waves of dirt into the house on those bustles of fur. Now that she is groomed she is so much more comfortable she prances about feeling clean and cool.

In the heat wave be sensitive to your dog’s need for less exercise. Just because you are paying a dog walker to take your dog for a walk at high noon three days a week does not mean that your dog wants to go on that walk at noon on a 99 F day. Just like us they are feeling the effects of the humidity. Also they don’t have shoes. If they are being walked on pavement their pads may burn in weather that is so hot. If your routine is changing because of the heat consider that your dog may need a change in routine due the heat. Plan fewer or shorter walks at dawn or early evening to avoid the heat.

Pets need to drink more water in this heat just as we do. Keep the water bowl full all day. It is easy to overlook in a busy household. Your pet’s appetite may be decreased due to the heat. Your dog will pant more because dogs don’t sweat through glands in their skin. They dissipate heat by panting.

Never leave your dog in a car in the summer. One minute can turn into 10 and that is enough time for your pet to die from hyperthermia. A car at 70 degrees Fahrenheit can increase 40 degrees in 10 minutes and can kill any pet or person quite efficiently.

Hyperthermia is heat stroke. When the pet’s temperature is above 105 F the body can no longer work to cool itself.

During heat stroke the pet may appear distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless. As the hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva from the nose and/or mouth. The pet may become unsteady on his feet. You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red in color, which is due to inadequate oxygen.

If your pet is restless and panting immediately remove it to a cool area. Apply cool wet towels to the entire body. Do not immerse in ice water as this causes all the small vessels in the skin to constrict. Constricted vessels can’t bring circulating blood from inside the pet towards the cool skin surface. Take a rectal temperature if possible and get your pet to the veterinarian.

If you are enjoying a BBQ please remind your guests to please not feed leftovers to the cute dog with the pleading eyes. If a just a few guests each start slipping some food during a three-hour event your dog could ingest a lot of inappropriate food. If you don’t know and trust all the guests coming to the event it may make sense to put your dog in a quiet secure room or kennel for the duration of the party. Also secure the trash because the leftover corncobs make great foreign bodies and may require surgical removal. High fat chicken skin, steak fat, and hotdogs will at the very least cause diarrhea and vomiting and at the worst cause excruciatingly painful pancreatitis. Have a safe place for your cat to hide, perhaps an upstairs room with a litter box and food and water during the event so a guest does not let cat outdoors by mistake. Make sure your birds are caged so they don’t fly out the door as guests come and go.

Keep your eye out during walks with your dog for trash that they could ingest in a split second. Avoid food scraps on the ground as they go bad very quickly in the heat. Spoiled food will cause violent gastric upheaval. Recently during a walk one of our patients dove on a hotdog beside a lake and ended up with a fish hook embedded in the esophagus. A fisherman had left it beside the pond with the fishhook in. Luckily it was removed via endoscopy and the dog was fine.

Savor the long summer days. Enjoy walks at dawn or dusk. Just a few common sense precautions will help you have a peaceful and healthy summer season with your pet.

Warm weather is on the way, and more critters are in the neighborhood

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

...make sure you review Dr Bradt's latest article on rabies. It has interesting information to keep you on your toes about this disease that is always fatal.

Protecting People and Pets From A Killer!

As more and more people question the need to vaccinate their pets against infectious diseases, veterinarians are increasingly concerned about the resurgence of a killer. Thankfully, rabies is rare here in North America, but a reservoir of the disease is present in our wildlife. What’s the chance of your pet encountering a rabid animal?

It’s a scenario that happens all too often as urban sprawl encounters rural farmland and wooded areas. You hear aggressive barking and maybe a high-pitched “yip” or two. Looking out your window, you see your beloved dog in an all out battle with a raccoon! After breaking up the fight, your mind races as you check your dog for wounds and wonder about the chance of rabies.

Every year in North America, the Centers for Disease Control ( monitor the prevalence of rabies. Thousands of wild animals test positive every year and, despite mandatory vaccines for pets, hundreds of cats, dogs, horses and other domestic animals contract this killer as well. The good news is that rabies cases in people and domestic animals have decreased throughout the 20th century, but only continued vigilance will insure our on-going safety.

Several variant strains of rabies exist in North America, including strains found in skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats. Although these different rabies variants prefer certain hosts, they are capable of infecting almost any mammal, including people! And, despite reports of the canine strain of rabies being extinct in the United States, vaccines are still needed to protect our pets and us.

Laws may vary slightly, but all states require dogs to be vaccinated against rabies. Many also require cats and pet ferrets to be vaccinated as well. For most pets, an initial vaccine after 12 weeks of age starts the series and this vaccine is “boosted” when the pet is a year old. Depending on local laws and the veterinarian’s discretion, your pet might be vaccinated with a “three-year” or a “one- year” vaccine.

There is also an on-going study that is attempting to determine how long these vaccines provide immunity for our pets. The Rabies Challenge Fund ( was established in 2005 with a goal of determining how well vaccinated dogs are protected against rabies after five and seven years.

Thankfully, until this and other research is complete, you do have good guidelines to follow when it comes to protecting your pets.

First and foremost, follow recommendations from your veterinarian and local rabies ordinances. These laws are in place to help place a level of protection between potentially rabid wildlife and your family. Some veterinarians use Merial’s non-adjuvanted Purevax® rabies vaccine as a way to help minimize adverse vaccine reactions and vaccine related tumors, especially in their feline patients.

These vaccinations can also be a lifesaver if your pet does come into contact with a wild animal. If your pet is not vaccinated and fights with an unknown wild animal or even a confirmed rabid one, you will need to quarantine your pet for six months (although this can vary by region). This extended observation period is meant to keep the animal under control in the event it does develop rabies. It is also a costly endeavor. A six-month stay at an approved quarantine facility might cost more than $1500. Compare that expense to the cost of a physical exam and a rabies vaccine. Sadly, many dogs have lost their lives because of this economic factor.

Never assume that your “indoor only” pet is safe from rabies either. Bats, the largest reservoir of rabies in North America, can find their way into homes very easily. Attracted to their fluttering flight or a dying bat on the floor, our pets, especially cats, risk exposure. And, since bat bites are almost undetectable because of their size, you might miss the fact that your pet has been bitten.

Finally, always contact an animal control officer or wildlife expert if you see a wild animal acting strangely. Because of the deadly nature of this disease, you should never attempt to capture a wild animal on your own.

When travelling in a foreign country never contact dogs or cats that are wandering. Rabies prevention in other countries may not be as strict as it is here. Our practice had an intern that went to Africa to work with orphaned primates. When she came home she was informed the dog she had been in contact with had Rabies. She went through a series of Rabies and never showed symptoms. Other American citizens who were not so lucky as to be alerted to their contact with a rabid animal in a foreign country have died from Rabies virus.

World Rabies Awareness Day happens every September 28th. Although we rarely see human rabies deaths in our countries, more than 55,000 people die from rabies annually in Asia and Africa. That’s one person every 10 minutes! What’s even sadder is that many of these deaths are children. For those of us in North America, these deaths may seem remote, but we should never lose sight that this killer still lurks in our own backyard!

Rabies Vaccine clinic Sponsored by Veterinary Association of the North Shore will take place in many North Shore towns May 1 from 4-6 PM

Infographic Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Check out this Infographic on Cat Adoptions in the US:

10 Reasons Why You Should Take Care of Your Pet's Teeth

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's Dental Health Month!

Check out this informative list, and be sure to watch the videos within it so you can better learn how to care for and brush you pet's teeth!

10 Reasons Why You Should Take Care of Your Pet's Teeth

Pixie and the ACVH gang

New Feature Every Wednesday

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Feel free to caption in the comment section!

special thank you to AHAA's blog for the Wordless Wednesday concept

Happy New Year !

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Hello there!

Just wanted to wish you all a great start to 2013! I've made a resolution to start brushing my teeth this year (I want them to look extra pretty when I smile for pictures!)

Have you made any promises to yourself for the new year? Click this link to read the Pets Best Insurance Top New Years Resolutions for Cats and Dogs:

Hope your 2013 is off to a great start!
--Pixie the sato

I am surprised that toothbrushing isn't on everyone's list, January is Dental Health month!

Another Treat Recall !

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hey there!
Please take a minute to check this recall and compare it to the items stocked in your pantry. This is specifically interesting because these treats aren't even from China, they're US made:

The FDA has issued a warning urging people to avoid feeding their pets Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog Treats featuring the lot code BESTBY061913DEN. The batch, which was sold at Costco stores in the Denver, Colo., area, was found to contain salmonella during a Nov. 12 test conducted by the FDA. Consumers can locate the lot code on the transparent section of the package’s back and immediately following the term “All American Dog.”
Although the Denver-based manufacturer, Kasel Associated Industries Inc., has declined to voluntarily recall the product, Costco has pulled the treats from its stores shelves and plans on contacting people who potentially purchased the treats to supply them with instructions, the FDA said. People who purchased the potentially contaminated treats should take steps to prevent animals and humans from accessing them until the product is safely disposed of. Kasel already recalled one lot of the chicken jerky treats on Oct. 2, 2012, but that recall did not include the lot number currently being singled out by the FDA. Kasel has endured a rash of voluntary recalls during the 2012 year due to positive tests for salmonella. The company's previous recalls include:

  • Boots & Barkley Roasted American Pig Ears, and Boots & Barkley American Variety Pack Dog Treats
  • Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog Treats
  • Boots & Barkley American Beef Bully Sticks

The FDA made clear in its news release that Kasel’s chicken jerky treats are manufactured in the United States, and are not linked to the ongoing investigation of contaminated jerky treats made in China.

Thanks, and I'll see you soon!

What Does It All Mean? A Look at the Food Your Pet Eats

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Hey there!

With Thanksgiving behind us and the rest of the holidays coming right up, take a minute to expand your knowledge about the myths vs. the realities on the product label of your pet's food. Think you're being vigilant about the ingredients in that bag of kibble? Don't let the clever marketing pull the wool over your eyes!

Also be sure to read Dr. Bradt's article on the dangers of jerky treats of questionable origin. It'll make you more determined than ever to be sure to turn over the package of your pet's treats and read the fine print!

As always, have a safe and wonderful week!
See you next time,
at All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

Pixie's Tips for Staying Safe During the Holidays

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hello there!

I'm Pixie the Sato, and as you can see by my jaunty scarf, the cold weather is upon us! The added chill in the air means the holidays are fast approaching, so I'd like to take a minute to review some winter safety tips for your pets.

Besides some of the more obvious dangers, like kitties trying to eat the tinsel and doggies consuming too many fattening treats, you may find some stuff that you hadn't thought about before!

This handy chart is from the helpful folks at VPI Pet Insurance, and believe me, they know about the accidents that can happen when pets and holiday fun come together in a way that's not so festive:

Most Common Holiday-Related Pet Medical Conditions

And since we are an AHAA accredited hospital, you may find AHAA's list of kitty dangers to be informative, because even though I'm a dog, my best friend in the whole wide world is Lyle the cat (he may even be a guest writer on a future blog!)

Top 10 holiday dangers for cats

Have a terrific Thanksgiving, and remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet during the upcoming weeks, the nice people at All Creatures Veterinary Hospital can help!


Congratulations All Creatures for winning the "I Love My Job" poll for September !

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

All Creatures Veterinary Hospital has just won the "I Love My Job" poll for September! Click the link below to read why our head veterinary technician, Rachel, loves her job!

Summer time travel with your pets

Thursday, August 02, 2012

This an article from Dr. Bradt on how to travel safely with pets this summer. Enjoy!

Summer Travel With Pets

Summer is a time to get away, enjoy good weather and possibly a change of scene. The question is do you bring your dog cat, bird or snake? Do you bring one, two or the whole menagerie? How do you transport them? Where will they stay? Will they behave? Your pet’s temperament will be a huge factor in the decision. A twelve month old Labrador Retriever may enjoy a camping trip but have trouble with a hotel stay.

Before you go make sure you book at pet friendly hotels. In Salem the Hawthorne Hotel is pet friendly and even provides room service for the pet. Find out if there is a size limitation on dogs and if other types of pets are welcome. Sometimes rentals at the beach or lake allow pets some do not. Find out the requirements before you arrive. If you are planning to visit attractions that don’t allow pets find out if they have pet boarding facilities. Disney World has pet accommodations. Leaving a pet alone in a hotel room for 8 hours is not humane or sensible. Many towns have dog walkers who can attend to your pet while you are touring.

Before you go have your pet microchipped. The chip is implanted with a syringe and it is similar to getting a vaccine for your pet. The chip is the size of a grain of rice. If your pet is lost animal control officers, veterinarians and shelters have scanners and can trace the pet back to you. Your contact information and your pet’s photo and information are kept in a registry that you are prompted to update yearly.

If you are travelling outside the US you will need to have an International Health Certificate signed by a USDA certified veterinarian. Most practices have a vet who is certified. After a physical exam, usually required within 10 days of travel you need to send that certificate and an additional fee to your State veterinarian locally it is the APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) office in Sutton MA for authorization. You can find specific requirements for each country on the International Health Certificate. Some countries such as Japan and Britain may require a 6-month quarantine to prevent rabies virus from entering the country in a pet.

If you are travelling by car there a few common sense procedures you can employ to keep your pet comfortable. Needless to say we have all heard of the Mitt Romney method of transporting his dog. Clearly strapping the carrier to the top of your car with your dog in it is inhumane and should never be done. In these politically pisive times this is something upon which both Democrats and Republicans agree. A dog loose or tied in the back of a pick up is a recipe for disaster. Leaving your pet in the car for more than 10 minutes in 70-degree heat can cause heat stroke.

It is best to have your pet trained to be comfortable in a carrier long before the trip. The carrier should be a part of everyday routine and associated with treats, security and comfort. I did have a client who used to travel to Canada every summer with his cat Freelicks lounging on his dashboard. It sounds like fun but you could lose your cat out the window with one quick turn. Cats are best transported in carriers as well. There are seatbelts for dogs that will keep them on the seats and away from the accelerator and break peddles. Birds snakes and other pets are best kept in their cages for transport.

If travelling by car in the summer months you must plan you stop on route very carefully. A pet left in a car on a 70 degree Fahrenheit day can get heat stroke and die from the heat in 10 minutes. Water should be provided every hour. Rest stops should occur every 2 hours.

You can take your dogs hiking and camping with a bit of planning. My dogs went hiking with me in the White Mountains last fall. My dogs were already conditioned to walk 2-5 miles per day so I picked a route that was not up a tough mountain, equipped the dogs with small dog backpacks so they could carry some equipment and off we went. The dogs had to get used to fitting their side packs between boulders but they quickly figured out that they had an increased width and accommodated. I packed a water purifier so I could purify water from streams for all of us. The dogs had items in their packs that would be OK to get wet incase they went through a stream. The dogs should have a pad to sleep on to prevent hypothermia. When it got cold and rainy they really appreciated the Mylar heat-reflecting sheet I placed over all of us. One caveat is to remember to only put items that are not crucial or ruined by water in the dog packs. My dogs love wading into ponds and wacked their packs on rocks quite a bit. My camping coffee pot was beat up just enough that the lid no longer fit and I could not make that much anticipated morning coffee.

Whatever your summer pleasure, make sure your pets can travel in comfort with you or be pampered by a pet sitter in the comfort of their home. Then you will enjoy your vacation and your family pet may as well.

For more info click the link to read up on APHIS/USDA rules and regulations, every country is different!

Summer Storms

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We had a short but powerful storm here yesterday! The ACVH staff and pets all felt the stress of the thunder/lightning. AAHA newstat has a great article on how to help your frightened pet cope with the summer storms. Check it out here! Storm Phobia. Another great tip/product is the ThunderShirt. One of our Client Care Specialists and her dog Cheyene swear by it!

1st Annual Dog Days of Summer

Friday, July 06, 2012

Hello everyone! I would just like to take a second and inform you about a GREAT fundraising event benefiting Salem Play Areas for Canine Exercise. The event is hosted by SPACE and is taking place on July 14th at Leslie's Retreat Dog Park from 11:00AM-3:00PM. There will be dogs, demos, food, raffles, vendors and lots of fun! ACVH will have a booth set-up just for the occasion and will be offering microchipping for $29.99!!! 

Summer is almost here !!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer is a great time to get out and play in the good weather with our dogs. We just have to take a few precautions to keep them safe.

The most common heat related problem for pets is heat stroke. Also known as heat stress or hyperpyrexia, heat stroke is a real emergency for dogs. Even on moderately warm days, an excited dog might show a body temperature increase of 2-5 degrees Fahrenheit. Since dogs don’t sweat like we do, they are unable to dissipate the excess heat and heat stroke may soon follow.

Any outdoor pet can overheat on a warm summer day, but short-faced breeds, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, are at a higher risk. In addition, every year thousands of pets succumb to heat stroke because they were left in cars while their owners ran “just a few” errands.

Many cities and states have now made it a crime to leave your pet unattended in a vehicle. These are important laws as even on a 70-degree day, temperatures inside a car can soar to over 110 degrees in less than one hour!

Some owners try to help their pets by shaving the dog’s long coat. Although this seems like a good idea, a well groomed, clean hair coat can actually insulate the dog from the heat and help keep them cooler.

Veterinarians will recommend shaving specific areas in long haired breeds. For example, shaving around the anus and groin can help keep the area clean and free from infections.

In some cases, shaving the hair coat could expose a lightly pigmented dog to potential sunburn. For short haired lightly colored breeds, Canine solar dermatitis is another problem. Boxers, Pit Bulls and Dalmatians are just a few examples of dogs that are at risk. In these cases, chronic exposure to hot sunny days damages the skin and causes tender, red scaly lesions. Eventually, the skin becomes thickened and scarred.

When the sun goes down and the temperatures start to cool, your pets still face many summer challenges. The patriotic holidays during the summer months are often celebrated with fireworks. The bright flashes and loud bangs are terrifying to some pets and can cause anxiety, stress and even escape.

Likewise, some pets react in a similar way to thunderstorms. Normally calm pets may become distressed, destructive and even bite in an attempt to get away from the noises. While running, they are at risk for being hit by a car, becoming lost or encountering another animal that might be aggressive.

The warm summer season also brings out a many pests that will actively seek out your pets. Fleas and ticks are two examples, but some species of biting flies are very fond of dogs’ ears. Repeated bites can cause a condition that can be serious and difficult to control known as “fly strike”.

It is possible to enjoy the summer with your pets by taking just a few precautions. First and foremost, always be aware of the weather forecast. Knowing the high temperature can help guide your plans for the day.

Don’t leave your pet unattended outside or plan heavy exercise on hot, humid days. If your pet is left outdoors, he must have access to adequate shade and fresh water.

When it’s time to run errands, leave your pet at home. Even a few minutes in a hot car is enough to increase your pet’s body temperature dramatically.

If you find your pet disoriented, panting excessively or collapsed in the yard, move him immediately to a cooler environment. Use cool wet towels over his back, armpits and groin to help bring his temperature down. Fans are often helpful too. DO NOT USE ICE! Then, get him to your veterinarian immediately so that they can assess his status and begin life saving treatments.

Your veterinarian is also a good source of advice for products that will kill fleas and ticks. Talk to your veterinarian about safe products to prevent sunburn in fair skinned dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about the degree of fear your dog displays during fireworks. There may be anti anxiety drugs that can be prescribed temporarily or a behavioral modification program that can be initiated.

If you are planning to take your pets to any outdoor celebrations or cookouts, find out first if pets are welcome or if fireworks are planned. It might be easier to simply leave the dogs at home rather than risk a run-away or injury. If you do bring your dog be aware of what people are feeding him. Dogs that are overfed inappropriate high fat foods can become very ill. Corn on the cob can obstruct a dog and require emergency surgery.

Most national parks allow pets, but rules vary by park and of course your pets must be on a leash at all times. Check ahead on the parks you plan to visit.

Summertime should be a time for relaxation and fun…don’t let a pet emergency spoil your good time.

For more info on Summer Pet Safety, check out

More Diamond Pet Food Recalls

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Diamond Pet Foods have now issued a recall on some brands of cat foods that may have been contaminated. The affected brands are the Kirkland Signature sold at Costco.

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat (Chicken/Rice) date Best Before Dec. 9 2012 through Jan. 31 2013

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Cat date Best Before Dec. 9 2012 through Jan. 31 2013

This product was distributed in MA. If you are using either of those brands of cat food you can determine if the food is recalled by checking the production code on the bag. If the code has both a 3 in the 9th position AND an X in the 11th position, the product is affected by the recall.

Any further questions check out the Diamond Pet Food website.

Cancer in pets

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dr. Bradt's newest article for the Salem News regarding lumps and bumps on our pets and what it could mean. It is a great article about her personal experience, and some great tips on how to manage and get through what could be a very scary situation.

What is that Bump on my Pet?

What do you do when you find a new bump on your pet? You know from daily patting of your pet exactly how your pet feels. If you feel something unusual it is time to take your pet to the vet! Your veterinarian will determine if he bump is an enlarged lymph node, an abscess, a benign fatty mass, a hematoma (blood filled pocket) or a cancerous mass. It is important to present your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you feel the unusual bump.

When you have the appointment with your veterinarian your pet will receive a full physical exam and the lump will be examined. Sometimes a sampling of cells, called cytology, will be recommended. Other times a biopsy will be recommended. Sometimes a full excision and biopsy of the mass will be recommended. Your veterinarian will make a recommendation based on the size, color, location, and degree of mobility, sensitivity, and texture of the mass.

A sampling of the cells, or cytology, may reveal that the lump is a benign fatty mass and must be monitored for growth. If a benign mass gets large it may need to be removed. Some masses are so firm that they do not shed cells very well causing the sample to be non-diagnostic, meaning a determination of the type of mass was not possible. Sometimes the cytology indicates a more dangerous growth such as a melanoma or mast cell tumor. In either case your veterinarian may determine that a biopsy is necessary.

A biopsy of the mass is the best way to confirm cytology results and to get absolute answers as to what the bump is. It is a wedge or a core sample from the center of the mass that is usually taken under general anesthesia. It is placed in formalin and sent to the pathologist. A small mass may be completely removed and sent in for biopsy.

At this point, after the biopsy, if the mass is one that is dangerous and can spread either locally by expanding or by metastasizing to the lungs liver and lymph nodes we usually refer our patients to a veterinary oncologist. There are veterinary oncologists at New England Veterinary Oncology Group (NEVOG) and Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Angell Memorial. A veterinary oncologist has studied several years after the four years of veterinary school to specialize in treating cancer via chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and sometimes vaccination! They are a great resource to discuss the best course of action to treat particular cancers. Some are best treated with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. Others such as some melanomas can be treated with a vaccine. Others need to be decreased in size before being removed surgically. Each type of cancer may be treated differently with one or more tools the oncologist has in her arsenal.

I recently diagnosed my German Short Haired Pointer, Otis, with a mass on his pituitary gland--- a brain tumor that cannot be removed surgically. He had hormonal difficulties with his adrenal gland that progressed to painful pancreatitis, weight loss, tremors, collapse and intermittent seizures. An MRI determined that he had the tumor at the base of his brain. It is dangerous because it expands and releases excess hormones throughout the body. It can also press on the base of the brain as it expands.

My first call was to Dr. Sheri Siegel at New England Oncology Group in Waltham. She knew that the most successful protocol to shrink the mass and buy Otis 1 to 3 years more of a good life was 15 daily doses of radiation.

As an aside I can tell you I was very glad that I had Veterinary Pet Insurance ( for Otis. I did not have the cancer rider but the insurance paid for about a third of the cost of the MRI and the treatment. If I had a cancer rider more would have been covered. . The two companies I trust the most are Trupanion and VeterinaryPetInsurance.

The outcome (after many trips around Route 128 to Waltham for 30 minutes of radiation) was pretty much miraculous. Otis gradually changed from a dull sick emaciated dog back to his former enthusiastic bouncy self. He loved the people at NEVOG and couldn’t wait to get in the door even on his last appointment. We will re evaluate an MRI (if I can afford it and insurance will cover some of it) in 3-4 months and see how much the mass has been reduced.

Even if you don’t have pet insurance and do not want to spend beaucoup dollars on your pet it is well worth making an appointment to talk to an oncologist once you have a biopsy diagnosis. You can find out life expectancy, options for treatment with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Sometimes there are studies going on for a particular type of cancer and your pet can be included at a lower cost. Other times the treatment is a vaccine that stimulates your pet’s immune system to attach the tumor.

I never thought I would have a dog with a brain tumor. I just covered both my dogs with insurance when I offered the benefit to my employees. Our practice had always encouraged clients to have pet insurance. Now that I have been through it myself I am an emphatic advocate for every pet to have pet insurance so they have a shot at receiving the best care available.

Cats and Claws

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This is an interesting article I received via e-mail today, written for the Salem News by Dr. Elizabeth Bradt. Gives some insight into why cats use their claws and ideas on how to deal!

Human relationships with cats harkens back more than 9500 years ago. This theory was reinforced when an archeological dig in Cyprus discovered a cat purposely buried with a human in a tomb circa 7500 BC.

A study published in Science magazine concluded that based on genetic analysis it was likely that the domestic cat descended from a Middle Eastern wildcat Felis Sylvestris perhaps as long ago as 12,000 years ago. At that time agrarian, or farming, societies were just forming and they may have welcomed having a cat around that could do away with rodents that were eating the stores of wheat and barley grain. The wild cats may have started to stay closer to a readily available food source near the farms. It is theorized that the friendlier scavenger cats were favored by humans and thus were selected for in succeeding generations.

By about 1900 BC cats were domesticated and they appear on ancient tombs. Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats. Killing a cat could result in a death sentence in Egypt 5000 years ago. Some of the Egyptian deities are depicted as cats.

As a cat owner and veterinarian I can relate to views of the cat as an object of awe and fear. Their beauty, aristocratic carriage and independence invite worship. The repose of a domestic cat, such as our Tippy at the hospital, basking in a sunspot is vision of beauty and calm. The sight brings calm to those who witness it.

I experienced awe and fear of cats at a young age when I had no pets of my own. On a visit to my paternal grandmother’s home I met Anton, a Siamese cat. He was not at all used to children. I yearned to pat him and get him to understand I loved cats. Anton regarded me suspiciously from a high shelf in the coatroom. He avoided my approaches numerous times. One night at bedtime I found he was in my room, so I shut the door thinking he might settle down on my bed and get used to me. I shut off the lights. Immediately I became aware of this athletic feline rocketing off all four walls and the ceiling in rapid succession. To a six year old this was a pretty terrifying experience. I quickly opened the door 4 inches and he shot out of the room like a cannon ball. After that I would only appreciate Anton from a distance.

Cats use their claws for many purposes. They use them to climb trees or furniture. When they jump to a high surface they use them when they land to grasp the surface. Claws are used to knead soft surfaces, people or other cats for comfort. Claws are also used to hunt prey and for self-defense. Cats sharpen their claws by kneading surfaces such as tightly woven rugs or wood in order to shed the old claw shaped sheath and reveal the sharper claw beneath.

Indoor cats may use their claws on furniture, bed box springs or wood surfaces in your home if you do not provide a scratching area. Ideally the scratching area is provided while your cat is a kitten and forming its habits. The scratching area should include a tightly woven rug and stable, preferably large sisal covered scratching post. Most cats do not favor sisal-scratching boards that hang on a doorknob because they are unstable. A vertical pine board nailed into a wall is great because cats like to stretch vertically when exercising their claws and paws. Our cat scratches a pine board that supports the hand railing at the base of the basement stairs. Some cats really like the horizontal cardboard scratching areas. The idea is for your cat to have a choice of multiple surfaces.

Even if your cat is an adult it can be trained to use the scratching area rather than your furniture. Positive reinforcement works best so don’t shake cans of coins or spray with water when they are destroying your furniture. Remove the cat gently from the area. Cover up the preferred spot with tin foil or heavy plastic and make the scratching area a better place to be! Praise your cat with the word “good” and immediately offer a treat when the area is approached. Offer a special treat that your cat adores and offer only when your cat approaches the area. Offer the “good”/treat combo each time kitty gets closer to the area. It may take a month or two of five-minute training sessions to train your cat to the scratching area and away from the good furniture. You can also purchase cat pheromones in a plug in form or spray form that will attract your cat to the area. Feliway is one brand name.

Finally declawing was a routine method to remove cats’ claws 30 years ago. It is now considered quite a cruel and painful procedure because the claw is removed with the last knuckle of the accompanying digit. Some veterinarians refuse to perform these procedures while others will do them rarely so that if a client insists it is at least done properly by a licensed veterinarian with proper pain control during and after the procedure.

With a little effort in establishing your cat’s special scratching area and some training you can save your furniture and have a great relationship with your cat. If your cat does not want a “relationship” then at least you can co-exist in peace

Soft Paws or Soft Claw plastic claw covers are a wonderful invention that helped make the declaw procedure a rarity. They are plastic claw sheaths that can be glued over a cat’s claw after a nail trim. The plastic claw is blunt so fabric and furniture aren’t ruined. The plastic claws do shed every six to eight weeks so they need to be reapplied.

Purina added to list of pet food recall

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Just received an e-mail from AAHA regarding the newest company to issue a food recall. Purina is recalling one specific lot of Veterinary Diet OM (Overweight Management) canned cat food 5.5 OZ. cans. It is only sold through veterinarians and is not an OTC sell. According to Purina the recall is precautionary, and is a response to a consumer complaint to the FDA. Testing by the FDA revealed a low level of thiamine (vitamin B1), which has potential to create a thiamine deficiency in cats.

The affected food was distributed between June 2011-May 2012

For more information about this recall please check out

More pet foods being recalled

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More information about the newest batches of pet food being recalled. Click the link below to read more.

Costco Brand (Kirkland) Expands Pet Food Recall

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I received an e-mail from a co-worker regarding an article stating that the Costco based pet food company (Kirkland) expanded their recall to include the following foods;

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Mature Dog Chicken, Rice & Egg Formula
Kirkland Signature Super Premium Adult Dog Lamb, Rice & Vegetable Formula
Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Dog Formulated with Chicken & Vegetables
Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat Chicken & Rice Formula
Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Cat Formula
Kirkland Signature Nature's Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato Formula for Dogs

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