-By Jayme, Hillside Vet Tech
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacteria; meaning it can be spread from animals to humans. The
bacteria are often found in rodents, such as mice, but can be found in other wild and domestic
animals (dogs, raccoons, opossums, cattle, sheep, goats, etc). The leptospira bacterium is spread
through the urine of the infected animal. An animal may be infected with the bacteria, but not
have any symptoms at all. In fact, animals that are carriers can continue to spread the bacteria in
the environment for months to several years. In the environment (water and soil) the bacteria can
survive for weeks to months.
How is it transmitted?
A person that comes in contact with animal urine contaminated with leptospirosis could become
infected. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that the bacteria can enter through the
skin, especially if the skin barrier is broken or damaged, or mucous membranes (eyes, mouth,
and nose). Transmission in animals mirrors that of the transmission in people.
What are the symptoms?
According to the CDC website, humans will have fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches,
vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a rash. Leptospirosis may also take
place in two phases; with the second phase (also known as Weil’s disease) being much more
severe. Kidney and/or liver failure and/or meningitis are all possibilities in the second phase.
The CDC reports symptoms in pets are as follows: fever, vomiting, jaundice, abdominal pain,
diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe depression and weakness, stiffness, severe muscle pain, kidney
and/or liver damage, and inability to have puppies.
How is it treated?
With pets that have been diagnosed with leptospirosis, hospitalization is always recommended.
Treatment is intensive antibiotic therapy. Patients are hospitalized with an intravenous catheter,
started on fluid therapy, intravenous antibiotics, and at times radiographs are warranted. If a
patient reaches discharge status, it can be months before a patient’s renal and/or hepatic recovery
can take months. Some damage may be irreversible.
Who’s at risk?
Everyone! However, the risk increases if a person enjoys outdoor activities especially around
water. In our pets, it is our belief that they are all at risk. Even here in the city we have rodents
that are potential carriers. Again, though, those risks increase with our furry friends that enjoy
the outdoor activities such as camping and hiking.
How is it prevented?
In our canine patients, there is a vaccine available to help protect them from acquiring
leptospirosis. Dogs that live in the city and country are treated equally when it comes to our
recommendation for vaccinating against leptospirosis. We have some of the above mentioned
animals in our own backyards here in the city. We have also had the unfortunate task, of
informing pet owners their dog has this devastating disease. By vaccinating your dog against
leptospirosis, it greatly decreases the chances of your dog acquiring it. If you are unsure if your
dogs have been vaccinated against leptospirosis, or have more questions, please feel free to give
us a call at the hospital and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
by Matthew Lang R.V.T.
Summer will be coming to an end soon and Fall will be right around the corner. Kids are going back to school, the leaves will begin to change color, and all things pumpkin will make their return (Pumpkin-spice kitty litter anyone?). This is a time to buy school supplies, put away the swim trunks and start thinking about taking your animals off their flea, tick, and heartworm prevention....or is it? Maybe they only spend time indoors so they don't even need to be on prevention in the first place, right? This edition of Hillside Mythbusters will look at these and other myths that deal with your pet's monthly preventatives.
Myth: I don't need to keep my pets on prevention during the colder months.
BUSTED: Even during the winter months fleas and ticks can still lie dormant until one warm day arrives. This will often cause an infestation in your home if you have taken your pets off preventatives or they weren't on any at all. In our area we often never see an extended period of cold weather that would get rid of fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes(which cause heartworms). So this means that they can still be present even throughout the winter.
Myth: My pet lives inside, so they don't need to be on prevention.
BUSTED: Unfortunately, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are crafty creatures. There is a reason we label them as pests. Fleas can jump on you or your pet when they walk outside in a matter of seconds. Mosquitoes often will fly inside your house just from a door or window being opened. Also, no pet ever seems to totally live indoors, unless you are using puppy pads/litterboxes and have one of those nifty tubes that the bank uses to transport your pet around (Good luck getting that image out of your head!). Ticks will often attach to your clothes without you realizing it and can then latch onto your pet.
Myth: I don't have any carpets, so fleas can't live in my home.
BUSTED: Fleas are small, but their eggs are even smaller. You can think of flea eggs as grains of salt. Animals with fleas are like walking shakers of salt spreading flea eggs everywhere. These eggs will get into carpeting, furniture, or even the small cracks in between hardwood floors! A single female flea can lay 20 eggs a day and eggs typically develop between 2 days and 2 weeks. With the volume of eggs being laid and how quickly they develop, you can see how quickly an infestation can occur.
Myth: I never see any fleas, so there is no need to use prevention on my pets.
BUSTED: With fleas it is what you don't see that is the problem. Flea eggs make up 50% of the entire flea population and ,as mentioned earlier, are the size of a grain of salt. They then hatch and become flea larvae. The larvae make up 35% of the flea population and are about 1/4 inch long. They eat the pre-digested blood of adult fleas, or "flea dirt" as it's called. Another name for flea dirt is flea poop (gross, right!). In 5-20 days the larvae spin silken cocoons and go into the pupae stage. This stage makes up 10% of the flea population. In this stage fleas are well protected. Prevention generally won't touch them and if environmental conditions aren't right they can be protected for months up to years. This is commonly why people moving into a new home will experience a flea infestation. Flea pupae will lay dormant and emerge when they sense the body heat of pets or humans, the rise in carbon dioxide from breathing, and the vibration from the movement in the home. When they emerge they are hungry and will begin to bite anyone nearby! The last stage is the adult flea and this is the stage that owners often see the most. Adult fleas make up only 5% of the total flea population. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fleas.
Myth: I don't need Heartworm prevention since my pet has always tested negative.
BUSTED: The importance of an annual heartworm test cannot be stressed enough! Heartworm disease causes permanent damage to the heart and surrounding vessels. Dogs have died from as few as one heartworm becoming stuck in the chambers of the heart. The valves are forced open and the heart cannot pump blood properly in the body. One veterinarian even conducted his own study by following up on a patient of his. The dog was treated for heartworms when he was 2 years old. He was a stray that was adopted and kept on heartworm prevention every 30 days after heartworm treatment. When the dog passed away at the age of 15 from natural causes, the veterinarian received permission from the owner to evaluate the heart to see what the longterm effects of heartworm disease was. What he found was very surprising. The veterinarian found evidence of worm pieces still in the heart and the surrounding vessels had a cobble-stone appearance (normally this area is smooth). Remember all of this is 12 years after treatment on a dog who faithfully received preventative every 30 days. This shows that treatment isn't a simple matter and that preventative is a much easier option. Heartworm tests done annually will ensure that the preventative is working properly and that further damage can't be done if a dog is heartworm positive. The tests we use in the clinic will also test for tick-borne diseases that owners can get as well.
Hopefully this edition of Hillside Mythbusters has helped to clear up some myths surrounding prevention of fleas, ticks, and heartworms. I also hope you have learned something along the way and can better understand the diseases and pests we are fighting everyday with our patients and their owners. Finally, if there are any myths or topics you wish to learn about please let us know! Until next time enjoy the company of your furry friends and not the several thousand guests that want to make your home theirs!
Hillside Mythbusters: Food Edition
by Matthew Lang R.V.T.
Myth: The Ingredient list is the best way to pick a pet food.
BUSTED: While it is tempting to buy a pet food with a lot of fancy ingredients, you must remember that animals need nutrients not ingredients. Nutrients are the vitamins and minerals that are vital to your pet's health. Ingredients are also listed by weight with the heaviest ingredients at the top and lighter ones on the bottom. This often includes water content in fresh meat and vegetables. This means that these watered down ingredients may contribute less nutrients even though they make up a larger portion of the diet. Your best bet for picking a diet is to look for an AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) Seal and to choose a diet that was tested by "Feeding Trial". This is the gold standard of nutrition testing and means that it not only follows AAFCO diet formulation guidelines, but also was fed to groups of animals and deemed safe to consume.
Myth: By Products are unhealthy and shouldn't be fed to my pet.
BUSTED: When pet owners think of by products they think of the worst possible things imaginable, such as, feet, hair, horn, snouts, tumors, feces, and feathers. The truth is none of these things make it into your pet's food! What is really in animal by products are organ meat, blood, and sometimes ground bone. To most owners these still sound like disgusting items, but to your pet they are both delicious and nutritious. They provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients vital to your pet's health. Also you may be eating by products already and not realizing it if you eat anything with gelatin (which comes from cow collagen). So remember, "There's always room for cow collagen"! (Not as catchy as the original, but more accurate).
Myth: Corn is bad for my pet and is just filler.
BUSTED: Corn has become one of the most persecuted grains (not the G-word! more on that later) in pet foods and it is time to stand up for this amazing little guy! First of all, filler is defined as something added that has no purpose or in the case of food no nutritional value. This is far from true! Corn is actually a highly digestible grain (Oh, there it is again!) that is a great source of protein, fat, and fiber. Also when corn is harvested for pet food the healthiest part of the kernel goes into....your pets food and humans are left with the syrupy substance known as high fructose corn syrup.
Myth: Grains are bad for animals.
BUSTED: As I alluded to in the previous myth, grains also receive a bad rap. Owners often believe they are just filler or cause allergies. While some grains may cause allergies, it isn't as common as allergies to protein sources. Proteins are large molecules and in some animals it can trigger an allergic reaction. Grains can be a nutritious part of your pet's diet. Does that mean grain-free diets are bad? No, they just have to be fed with caution since they are often higher in fat and can cause weight gain.
Myth: If a pet food label says it has chicken/beef, ect... the majority of the diet has that protein source.
PLAUSIBLE: When it comes to pet food labels you often have to read them very carefully since the wording makes all of the difference as to the percentage of a protein source is actually in a diet. Hopefully this guide will help to show how much protein is really in your pet's diet.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc....
If a package says Chicken, Beef, or any other protein source it must contain at least 70% or more of that protein source. This is on an as fed basis once water is removed from that protein source.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc.. "Dinner"
These foods will have 25% or more of that protein source and water is included when weighing that protein source before it is added.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc.... "Platter" or "Entree"
These foods will have at least 3% of the labeled protein source.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc...."Flavor"
These food will have less than 3% of the labeled protein source.
Myth: I should feed an organic, natural, holistic diet
PLAUSIBLE : Of the three words I just used, only two really carry a legal definition. Organic diets meet regulation established by the USDA to certify them organic. Natural diets are diets made without any synthesized ingredients meaning all of the ingredients come from nature. Holistic ,on the other hand, has no legal definition. The same goes for labels such as "Human-grade" and "Premium". These are all marketing terms. Before you let that get you down, remember you can use these for anything! You can drive to work in your "premium" car that you filled with "holistic" gas.
I hope that these myths help educate, inform, and entertain. It is getting harder and harder to select the proper diet for pets with all of the growing number of new diets added to the diets that are already on the market. I hope this was a fun and easy way to learn about proper diet selection and as always feel free to call the clinic. I also hope we can do more "Mythbuster" segments in the future and look forward to any and all suggestions! Until then have a "premium" day!
--Jayme, Hillside Veterinary Technician
Have you ever found yourself in a vet clinic in pure shock? That’s exactly where I found myself one afternoon. I brought my dog, Woodrow, in for an examination because he got into the trash can and was experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. I fully expected him to have what we refer to in the veterinary world as “garbage gut”. I already had in my mind that we would probably do some fluid therapy, medications to help his gut, and a bland diet. Boy was I ever wrong. Upon palpation, Dr. Betsy felt “something” in his abdomen, and told me we needed to obtain radiographs for further evaluation of his abdominal cavity. I immediately thought, “Great, I sure hope he does not have a foreign body!”. The first radiograph flashed upon the screen. Having been in this field for quite some time, I knew what I saw was not good. His spleen was very large, and there was also a mass. Often, these masses we find on the spleen are usually not good news, they are aggressive tumors, and many times they rupture and the patient bleeds internally. On the inside, I was devastated and on the verge of tears.
I pushed through, and completed his radiographs. We radiographed his abdominal cavity and his thoracic (chest) cavity. Thoracic radiographs were needed in this situation because of the likeliness that the tumor was malignant. These radiographs allow us to verify if there is any evidence of metastasis (malignant growth secondary to the primary source). Happily, there was no evidence of growths in his chest.
We then switched gears, and prepared Woodrow for an abdominal ultrasound. Due to the highly vascular nature of these tumors on the spleen, we needed to check for any bleeding coming from the tumor. We scanned his abdomen, and there was not any evidence of active bleeding- which was great news! You see, if there was active bleeding, and the tumor turned out to be malignant, all those cancer cells were now spread all over his abdominal cavity. This would make his prognosis very grim, and would also make it an emergent situation for Woodrow’s life.
Still in a state of shock, we collected all the necessary blood work to prepare him for surgery the next morning. Woodrow needed a splenectomy. I was still processing all of this. I thought I would just be giving my dog some medications, bland diet, and fluids. Instead, I was preparing my senior dog, my best friend, for major surgery the next morning.
Surgery morning came fast. I was still in shock that morning, and was in tears. I was not in any position to monitor anesthesia for him, or have anything medically to do with Woodrow’s surgery. That morning, I was just his mom.
Dr. Betsy took him into surgery while Matt monitored his anesthesia. As a nervous mom, in between patients, I would go to our surgery window and check on things. Each time, Dr. Betsy and Matt delivered good news, and kept me calm. They knew exactly what I needed to hear at all the right times. Matt gave me all his vitals at each window visit, and made sure my Woodrow stayed warm, his blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate all remained normal. The spleen and tumor were so large, Dr. Betsy needed a surgical assistant to help her retract and hold the spleen up. Luckily, Melissa was available to scrub in, and assist Dr. Betsy. Woodrow’s surgery was two hours long, and finally the tumor was out! Dr. Betsy dissected a few samples to send off for pathology to confirm what type of tumor it was. Now the waiting began for the pathology report.
After the surgery was over, his care did not end there. My teammates made sure Woodrow had nice thick blankets, warming elements, made sure his IV catheter and fluids were still flowing appropriately, all the right post-operative pain medications, and monitored his vitals while in recovery every five minutes until he could sit up on his own and able to maintain a normal body temperature. They all made sure that he was kept comfortable and clean while in hospital that day.
I am so blessed and thankful to work at such a place as Hillside. All my teammates and doctors took such amazing care of my old man. The even more amazing thing is, is that Woodrow did not receive special treatment, or “extra” care because he is my pet. This is the level of care we provide for all our patients. We take such great pride in our profession, and that day I could feel and appreciate it on a different level- as a dog mom. I always knew what excellent care we provide, and how hard all of us work to give everything we have to our patients- which is why I love working at Hillside. Since that day though, I have an even greater and deeper appreciation for what we do each day. I love that we can offer our clients and patients lab work, ultrasounds, radiographs, blood pressure measurements, medications, fluid therapy, etc all in the same day, and often have the results within minutes to hours. There’s nothing worse than being caught off guard by the veterinarian giving you all the possibilities about what could be wrong with your fur kid, but I am so thankful that we have all the needed diagnostic tools that we used in Woodrow’s case to get him diagnosed. Thank you all my co-workers for keeping me calm that day, and for providing Woodrow with the best care possible!
To our clients, from all of us at Hillside, we thank you for trusting us and allowing us to care for your fur kids. It is an honor and privilege to provide medical care for the furry members of your family.
OH! Woodrow’s pathology report came back, and I am happy to report that his tumor was benign! He is still enjoying life, and living it to the fullest…… on the comfy bed!
Things That Go Bump in the Night
Has this situation ever happened to you? It's a quiet night at home when suddenly your dog starts panting, drooling, and whining. He/she starts pacing around the house, looking for a place to hide. You wonder what is going on. A few minutes later you hear the first rumble of thunder. As the storm rages, you try to comfort your dog. Despite your efforts, he/she is visibly shaken and in distress. Even after the storm has passed, your dog has a difficult time settling down. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in many households.
Studies have shown that at least 30% of all dogs suffer from some level of noise aversion, but only 40% of pet parents seek help from their veterinarian. The fear can be directed towards storms, fireworks, or any other loud and sudden noise. It can range anywhere from mild anxiety to an extreme phobia in which they become destructive of their surroundings. Most pet parents do their best to comfort their dogs during these events, offering over the counter calming devices and treats. While this is a great start, in many cases these alone are not enough to help ease their pet's anxiety.
Environmental Enrichment and Training
One of the most important things you can do is provide a safe place for your pet to retreat to during these times of stress. This could be a closet, bathroom, basement, or wherever he/she feels comfortable. If the area has a window, draw the curtains or blinds to help block the flash of light which is a predictor of the scary sound that follows. Turn the lights on in the room, making the sudden flash of lightning or fireworks less startling. Providing white noise, such as a fan, or music will aid in drowning out the scary sounds. If using music, play songs that have a have strong bass beat as they tend to mask the noises more effectively. Place soft bedding on the floor and bring in toys to make it a more inviting space. Prior to any stressful event, you can help your dog make positive associations with the space by playing or feeding occasional meals in the area. The goal is to teach them that it is a happy and safe place to go to when things become stressful.
Training your dog to relax is also very beneficial. There are many ways to do this, so having professional guidance will set you up for success. An excellent training tool is Through A Dog's Ear. This is a series of CDs that are tailored to specific sounds your pet may be fearful of. They aid in desensitizing your dog to these noises by presenting the scary sound at a very low decibel, then slowly increasing in volume. All the while you are teaching your dog to remain calm and focused on you. This series includes a training guide full of helpful tips. You can find Through A Dog's Ear at positively.com.
Natural and Over the Counter Products
Once the safe place has been established, adding over the counter products can help relax your pet. Thundershirts are an excellent option. This compression vest applies gentle pressure in key places which in turn releases endorphins. The physiological response to these endorphins is relaxation. We encourage our clients to buy the Thundershirt brand name, as opposed to similar products, for several reasons. First, they offer a money back guarantee. If you do not feel it works for your pet, you will receive a full refund. Second, the company donates all returned shirts to shelter pets across the country. Another product proven to reduce anxiety in animals, as well as people, is Lavender. Diffusing pure lavender oil or placing a few drops on the bedding or a Thundershirt can be beneficial. Adaptil, a pheromone product, can also be very useful in decreasing anxiety in dogs. Pheromones are naturally occurring substances in the body that promote relaxation. Adaptil is available in three forms: a spray, a collar, and a plug in diffuser. Calming treats are beneficial because they contain Chamomile, L-Tryptophan, and/or L-Theanine (a green tea extract). These naturally occurring substances also have been proven to help increase relaxation. Many dogs need multiple products to be able to cope with stressful events. In severe cases, dogs will need pharmacological help in addition to these over the counter products.
The Science of Stress and How Medications Can Help
When exposed to a stressful stimuli, neurons in the brain are activated. Cortisol, commonly referred to as a stress hormone, is released into the body causing blood flow to be shifted to the vital organs. The instincts of fight or flight will kick in as the brain determines the severity of the situation. When they are repeatedly exposed to a stressful stimuli, neurons fire at an abnormally high rate and can remain in that state even after the stimuli is no longer present. Cortisol levels increase over 200% and can stay elevated for at least 40 minutes after the stressful event has passed. This only reinforces your pet's fear. Fortunately, your veterinarian can help. There is a product that is the first and only FDA approved medication to treat this fear called Sileo. It is a very low dose of a commonly used sedative in veterinary medicine that blocks the neurons from firing. It is easy to administer and starts working in about 10-20 minutes. Other medications can also aid in helping your pet relax. Many of these are classified as anxiolytics, meaning their purpose is to reduce anxiety. These products are available through your veterinarian. It is important to have your pet examined and weighed regularly to be sure any medications your are administering are effective and dosed properly.
At Hillside Animal Hospital, we are devoted to your pet's physical as well as mental health. If your pet suffers from any form of anxiety, we encourage you to contact us at 314-645-2141. I am happy to provide consultations in which we can discuss your concerns about your pet's behavior. If needed, we can refer you to excellent trainers as well as a veterinary behavior specialist. Along with our veterinarians, we can devise a plan tailored to your pet's individual needs. Call us today!
Carolyn, RVT, Fear Free Certified Professional
Ah-Ha!! We are here to bring you an "ah-ha" moment. Did you know that Hillside Animal Hospital is AAHA (said "ah-ha") accredited?
AAHA is an acronym for American Animal Hospital Association. In 2015 Hillside joined the elite 12-15% of companion animal hospitals around the country in becoming an accredited member of this association. We were evaluated on approximately 900 rigorous veterinary standards. There are a total of 3700 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada that are held to a higher standard of excellent care. We are proud to be an AHHA-accredited hospital.
Every 2 years Hillside is evaluated to ensure that we are continuing to be a thorough, responsive, sanitary, and safe hospital for your pets. Being thorough means that your animal will get a complete physical examination during their visit and if they are in the hospital for a procedure, all of their vital signs will be carefully monitored throughout anesthesia. Beingresponsive means that Hillside is ready for emergencies with appropriate medications and tools that are in an easily accessible location. Being sanitary means that we take every precaution to prevent the spread of disease with disinfectants and thorough cleaning. Being safe is very important to everyone involved in a visit, especially your pet. Hillside has appropriately trained staff to humanely handle your 4-legged friend.
AAHA has a list of guidelines for behavior, dental care, weight management, nutrition, pain management, and feline life stages. These recommendations for quality care are closely followed by accredited hospitals, but are also good guidelines for pet owners. Hillside's goal is to work with owners as a team to allow their animal companions to lead long, healthy lives. The American Animal Hospital Association website aaha.org can be a resource for veterinary/client team to stay up to date on the latest guidelines and to find relevant articles on animal health and care.
So, if you are saying, AAHA, then you have found the right practice to take care of your furry friends.
--Dr. Claire Beckmeyer, Hillside Veterinarian
--By Dr. Claire Beckmeyer
Just when you think you have your male cat figured out, there he is standing there, squatting in the middle of your bedroom floor and staring oddly at you. "Boots, what has gotten into you?", you say as you cock your head and stare back at him. Then he meows in a strange tone and leaves a drop of blood on the floor. You follow him to his litter box where he continues to strain with little to no urine production. If this is a scene you have never before witnessed, but if you have a male cat, be warned. This scenario is actually an emergency situation! Boots likely has a urethral obstruction. At some point between his urinary bladder and the outside world is something creating a blockade in his urethra, which will not allow urine to pass through. Urethral obstructions are more common in male cats than you may think. If left untreated this condition can ultimately lead to death due to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
What causes this to happen?
The urethra can be obstructed due to a bladder stone(s), an accumulation of urinary crystals, scarring, or simply muscle spasms and/or swelling. When an obstruction occurs we may find that underlying reasons are related to environmental stress (recent move, construction on the house, interactions with other household cats, ect.), obesity, and/or lack of adequate water intake.
What do I do if this happens?
Call a vet. Right away. Even if it is the middle of the night. Someone is always available to help. Remember, this is an emergency. Your cat needs to be evaluated and if obstructed, he will need a urinary catheter placed to allow urine to flow freely again. Once in place he will need this catheter to stay in for approximately 24- 48 hours, or until the urine becomes a clear yellow. Your veterinarian will also ensure that he is rehydrated and comfortable by administering fluids intravenously and that he is given medication to relieve his pain. After his stay in the hospital you will need to closely monitor Boots at home to make sure that he is producing an adequate amount of urine in the litter box. Your veterinarian will likely discuss altering his diet and/or lifestyle to prevent this from happening again.
Urinary issues in cats are common and do not always lead to an obstruction, but should be addressed with a veterinarian as soon as they are noticed so that your veterinarian can start treatment before his issues lead to an obstruction.
Hillside Animal Hospital's veterinarians and staff are happy to announce that they recently enrolled in the the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Veterinary Care Charitable Fund.
This program was created to support veterinarians who provide medical services to the lost, neglected and abused animals that find their way into our hospital. The program also allows us to care for animals in our community when their owners face extraordinary hardships.
By partnering with the AVMF's fund, we're able to offer supporters a tax-deductible, convenient way to donate and support our efforts to help pets in extreme need.
We invite you to support us in this new endeavor by making a donation to the AVMF to support our charitable work. The AVMF is the charitable arm of our professional membership organization, the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMF has been helping veterinarians help animals for more than 50 years.
Your tax-deductible donations to the AVMF on behalf of our hospital will help us help animals. Click on the AVMF donate button to make your tax deductible donation today!
Thank you in advance for your donation. All gifts, no matter the size, are greatly appreciated. Please
watch for additional messages that will share exciting and heartwarming stories of the animals that are
helped through your generosity.
Spring is on the way. After a long winter, we all want to get out and enjoy the warmer weather. For many of us, that means we are starting to think about our travel plans. When making arrangements, do you find yourself not including your dog because he or she has a difficult time with car rides? Does your dog simply not like traveling? Does he or she become physically ill? Imagine being able to share more experiences with you canine friend without the stress.
Car rides can be an overwhelming experience for dogs. The smells, sounds, and movement can create a perfect storm of sensory overload. These can all lead to motion sickness, a common affliction in our canine friends. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 dogs suffer from this ailment. Unfortunately, most pet owners do not recognize the signs. Do you know what to look for? It can present in a variety of ways in dogs. The most common physical signs to look for are drooling, heavy panting, excessive lip licking, vomiting, pacing, shaking, and whining (visit cerenia.com for a comprehensive list of symptoms). Luckily there is something that can help alleviate their discomfort. It is the first and only FDA approved medication to prevent vomiting due to motion sickness. Studies show it is successful in up to 93% of dogs. Call your veterinarian to talk about your dog's symptoms to see if he or she would benefit from the medication.
Many dogs do not display physical signs of motion sickness, however they simply do not like car rides. In these cases, treating the behavioral aversion to the experience can be beneficial. The process will require some patience, but will be helpful in the long run. To do this you first need to make positive associations with the car. This is known as counter conditioning. Some people will feed their dog in or near the car, or play with their favorite toys around the vehicle. Every time they approach the car or jump in willingly, you should reward that behavior with treats or praise. Once they are comfortable hopping into the car, go for very short rides. In some cases, simply backing the car down the driveway, or just a short ride around the block, is all you need to do. The goal is to get them acclimated to the process. Sometimes playing soothing music in the car and talking in calm, reassuring tones will be helpful as well. Many people have had success with the assistance of the Adaptil spray, a pheromone that has proven to help ease anxiety in dogs. A Thundershirt can also assist in reducing their anxiety in multiple situations. Make sure it is always a positive experience. If your dog appears anxious, discontinue for the day and start at the beginning the next time. Slowly build on the length of time spent in the car until your are able to drive longer distances with no signs of stress.
Now that your dog is more comfortable in the car, you can start planning a fun outing. Before leaving, it is always a good idea to do a little research. Look up the route you are planning to take to be sure there are plenty of rest stops you can make with your dog. Also make sure you find pet friendly hotels and restaurants along the way. In some cases, a health certificate issued by your veterinarian is required for travel. In order to obtain this document your pet will need to be examined by your veterinarian, be current on all vaccines, and be in good health. It is always a good idea to bring your pet's veterinary records and a picture of them with you in case of an emergency, especially if they have a specific medical issue. If your pet is on medications, make sure you have enough for the trip as well as a little extra in case your plans change.
Traveling with your dog doesn't have to be an ordeal. Call us at Hillside Animal Hospital today and together we can come up with a plan to make the ride more enjoyable for everyone. Safe travels!
At Hillside Animal Hospital, we are dedicated to ensuring all of our patients receive the best care possible. We tailor our approach to fit the needs for specific age groups, as well as identifying specific needs for the individual pet. Companion pets age at a much faster rate in comparison to humans. For this reason, it is important to have an established senior wellness protocol to help an aging companion live a longer, healthier, and a more comfortable life. Our goal is to provide the best medical care that our knowledge, experience, and state-of-the-art diagnostic tools can provide.
What is a senior?
Pets age at a faster rate than humans do. To determine if a pet is considered a senior pet, there are different parameters that are considered. The weight and breed of the pet may help determine when we would consider a pet to be a senior. In addition, a patient’s medical history is also considered. On average, most dogs and cats would be considered a senior around 7-8 years of age. Keep in mind it may vary for the smaller and larger breeds. If it is determined your pet is considered a senior, we have a specific protocol that we follow to provide medical care and recommendations for these patients.
There were guidelines set forth by American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in 2004 to help veterinarians provide the highest quality of care to their senior patients. For this group of patients, we would like to see them for wellness visits every six months. Performing a comprehensive blood panel, complete urinalysis, and intestinal parasite exam yearly is also recommended. For comparison purposes, seeing a senior pet every 6 months for wellness exams is roughly equivalent of every 2-3 years in human years. Likewise, running yearly lab work is roughly equivalent to every 4-5 years in human years.
During our senior wellness exam we evaluate many body systems. You will see our veterinarians examining eyes, ears, auscultating the heart and lungs, monitoring vital signs compared to previous visits, palpating the abdomen, observing body condition, and feeling the motion of joints, amongst other things. Our senior blood work panel consists of a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry, electrolyte, and thyroid testing. This blood panel looks at many different body systems, which evaluates liver, kidney, and thyroid function. The urinalysis will identify any abnormalities such as white blood cells, glucose, crystals, and even malignant cells. Utilizing the results from the blood work, in conjunction with the complete urinalysis, can help determine if there are any issues that need to be addressed. We recommend these diagnostics, even if the patient is not showing any clinical signs of disease. We like to think of it as an “internal physical exam.” If we are able to detect early signs of disease, we can intervene, and hopefully provide medications, supplements, and/or even a simple dietary change to promote a healthier, longer life.
If there are abnormalities, our veterinarians may recommend further diagnostics to help aid in a diagnosis. At Hillside Animal Hospital, we have the capabilities of performing radiographs, blood pressure, and ultrasounds in our hospital. Our veterinarians and technicians have gone through extra training, and passed an examination to perform ultrasounds. We also are able to send images to a board certified radiologist for interpretation.
What to watch for?
As our pets age, even the smallest of changes can signify an issue. Since our patients cannot talk, the history you give us is extremely valuable. Paying close attention to their behaviors can provide much needed information. Signs and symptoms to watch for, even subtle changes: bathroom habits, eating and drinking habits, mobility, foul odor and/or bleeding from the mouth, sleeping habits, cognitive function, persistent diarrhea, and persistent coughing. Any difference, whether it’s an increase or decrease, an examination by the veterinarian is warranted.
We value the importance of providing excellent medical care, physically and emotionally for our patients. We strive to provide great quality care for our patients, as well as, our clients. We understand having an aging pet can be very emotional at times for the owners. We are here to answer any questions, and hopefully alleviate any concern you may have.
--Jayme, Hillside Animal Hospital Veterinary Assistant