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
Oral health and dentistry is an area of medicine that our veterinary hospital is extremely passionate about. This is for good reason too. It has been suggested that as much as 80% of pets have some form of dental disease. Many pet owners are unaware of the negative effects oral health disease can have on a pet’s overall health. Often, it can be shocking to pet owners when their veterinarian comments on their pet’s poor oral health. Luckily, there are products, preventative measures, and procedures that can help in preventing oral disease. By discussing the importance of oral health and dentistry, together as a team, the veterinary staff and pet owners can work together to determine the best treatment plan for your pet.
What is poor oral health and why is it a cause for alarm? Oral health can be described using many different terms. Vocabulary used to describe infections of the oral cavity are: Gingivitis meaning inflammation of the gum tissue, plaque and calculus are both types of buildup that accumulates on the surface of the tooth that leads to infection, and periodontitis which is a term used for disease of the oral cavity. Having an infection in their mouth can lead to long lasting adverse effects on the rest of their body. The bacteria living in the mouth gives off toxins. These toxins in the mouth can enter the pet’s bloodstream. Blood is filtered through several organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart. While the blood is being filtered through these organs, the toxins can cause damage to these tissues. These oral infections can progress mostly due to owners not being aware of what to look for.
Many pet owners are unaware of the signs of oral and dental disease in their pets. Therefore, when it is mentioned there is an infection in their pet’s mouth, it can catch them by surprise. Signs that are most common when there is an infection are: foul odor from the mouth, loss of appetite, blood coming from the mouth, drooling, and if you can examine your pet’s mouth, discoloration of the teeth. Fortunately, advances have been made in veterinary dentistry allowing for the most current standard of care.
Think of it this way: What condition would your teeth be in if you never brushed, or only brushed your teeth occasionally? It is the same for your pet. Many pet owners are unaware that their pet’s teeth need daily attention. It is recommended by the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) to brush your pet’s teeth daily. Brushing their teeth can really benefit your pet, and not to mention, your pocket book! Professional dental cleanings can range in price, but generally in the $400.00 to $1,000.00 range depending on the severity of the disease and infection, and if they would require extractions. If extractions are needed, they would receive extra pain medication and possibly antibiotics. It is never too late to incorporate a daily brushing routine with your pet! There are several youtube videos you can watch, or a staff member at Hillside would be happy to show you the proper way to brush your pet’s teeth. If brushing is absolutely, out of the question, there are other options available. There are chews and oral rinses that we carry that can be used to help prevent dental disease. While they are not as effective as brushing, they certainly will help. Even animals that have their teeth brushed daily, at some point may require a professional dental cleaning. A professional dental cleaning requires anesthesia. Here at Hillside Animal Hospital, we use the standard of care when we approach a dental plan for our patients. We always perform a physical examination and run lab work before proceeding with a professional dental cleaning. Once under anesthesia, we will perform a full oral cavity exam to look for any abnormalities, as well as, a full set of dental radiographs. Radiographs are extremely important in veterinary dentistry due to 2/3 of the tooth laying below the gum line. If there are issues, we will be able to address them.
As you can see, dentistry is a vital role in your pet’s overall health. Infections in the mouth can lead to other medical issues and even cause damage to other organs. By knowing and understanding what signs you should look for, will help you determine if you need to take your pet into the vet for an oral health screening. Utilizing options available to do preventative care at home will pay off in a big way. Being proactive in regards to the oral health of your pet, you can help them live a longer and healthier life. If you are at all concerned about your pet’s oral health, or if you have questions on what you can do at home, we would love to help you. We offer FREE oral health screening with one of our technicians. Together, we can develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your lifestyle and that would best benefit your pet.
(Pet) Food for Thought
--Matt, Hillside Animal Hospital RVT
Choosing the right pet food for your pet can be a daunting task. You are expected to make an informed decision on a diet that is healthy, palatable, and cost effective for your pet. All of this while trying to balance your already busy schedule. “Which brand should I buy?” “Is canned or dry food better?" “What ingredients should even be in the food?” All of these are common questions that pet owners have to ask themselves. Hopefully we can answer these questions and any other questions you may have!
Emotional vs. Educational Decisions
As a consumer and a pet owner you should be wary of any statements that try to illicit an emotional response. Pet food companies are in the business to sell food (obviously), and they will use advertising slogans to trigger an emotional response. These are often ingredient-focused claims such as “Chicken as the first ingredient,” “Real Beef,” or “Grain-Free.” Pet owners often see quality in ingredients because they are tangible. You can picture “Beef” with ease, but “Beef Meal” can conjure some rather strange images to owners. Also we are told certain foods, such as grains, can be “bad” in our diets, so why not our furry friends?
A much better way to judge is based more on nutrition and safety. This will be making an educational decision instead of one based on emotion. Foods that fall in this category will have an AAFCO seal and be either formulated or will have gone through a feeding trial. A formulated diet will meet certain requirements established by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) such as, but not limited to percent protein, carbohydrates, and fat. A diet that has gone through a feeding trial has met these requirements AND has been fed to animals that they are intended for. This is considered the “gold standard” of diets because it has been proven safe for animals to eat. As an owner, you should also look into a company’s practices. You want to know if there is a veterinary nutritionist on staff, how the food is processed and stored, and what research has been done on the food. All of this information could be found by calling the company’s customer support located on the food container.
Homemade Diets: A Recipe for Success or Disaster?
Some pet owners may feel more comfortable feeding their pets a homemade diet. As a society we equate food with love and a way to share memories. Why not spread this love to our pets as well! Homemade diets can be a viable option as long as certain precautions are taken. If you choose to prepare your own diet for your pet, you should make sure that it is complete and balanced. This can be done by using an online nutrition site or meeting with a veterinary nutritionist. Sites such as BalanceIt.com can be used to both provide supplements and use the online diet generator to form your own diet. This generator is as simple as plugging in a protein, carbohydrate, fat, vegetable, and/our fruit choice and then following the quantity listed on the site. This method works great as long as there is no “diet drift” Diet drift is when owners start to substitute the original ingredients for similar ones (ie: chicken for turkey or barley for rice ). This changes the nutrient profile as well as calories and can unbalance the food. It is best to make a new diet on the generator if you wish to change ingredients. Owners can also meet with a veterinary nutritionist to create a custom diet. The nutritionist will meet with owners and discuss what ingredients to use and their quantity as well as what supplements to add to the diet to keep them balanced. This generally is the best option since there will be follow up visits to ensure that the animals are tolerating the diets and changes can be made to avoid nutrient deficiencies. If a diet is not balanced it can cause nutrient deficiencies and can start to affect your pet’s health. If you have any questions you should always consult your veterinarian.
So, What Do We Recommend?
At Hillside Animal Hospital we recommend that our clients choose an over-the-counter diet that is produced by a larger, well-known company such as Purina, Hills, Iams, and Eukanuba. These are companies that employ veterinarians/veterinary nutritionists, perform quality research, and will often put diets through a feeding trial. They also will diminish their reputation if there is a problem with any of their diets. Customer service with these companies will also be easier for pet owners to use, and they often have staff trained to answer any questions that owners may have. Of course, if you have any other questions you should always consult your veterinarian or veterinary staff.
For many cats and their owners, a trip to the vet is a stressful experience. According to a 2013 survey, 44.9% of cat owners did not take their cats to the vet the previous year. One of the reasons cited was that owners believed their cats, especially indoor cats, became stressed when leaving their home environment. Does this sound like your feline friend?
It is vitally important that your cat receives regular veterinary care throughout their lifetime. Recently veterinary medicine has begun to understand the implications stress can have on them. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), as well as experts in the field of feline behavior, have created a set of guidelines for veterinary practices to follow. These guidelines are meant to help alleviate stress. As a team, you and your veterinary professionals can help make your cat's visits less fearful, ensuring thorough exams. In order to achieve this, try these simple tips at home to help you and your cat have a more enjoyable visit.
Prior to your appointment:
At least 1 week prior to your appointment, pull out your cat’s carrier and place it somewhere your cat spends his or her time (experts recommend leaving the carrier out all the time so as to minimize fear). Leave the door to the carrier open, or take the top off, and place a soft blanket inside. Use calming or pheromone products, such as Feliway, to make it more pleasing for the cat. If they are afraid of the carrier, consider feeding your cat nearby or inside the carrier in order to make more positive associations with it.
Also turn on the radio at regular intervals. Studies have shown cats respond well to classical or soft pop music. There is also a CD called Through A Cat’s Ear available online that studies have shown relaxes cats.
Day of your appointment:
Do not feed your cat prior to leaving for the vet. Some cats may become nauseous from the car ride and a big breakfast will only make them feel worse. Also, we like to use treats as rewards to make the visit a more positive experience.
When it is time to leave for your appointment, start the car in order to get it to a comfortable temperature. Turn the radio on to soothing music, preferably the kind of music you have played at home. Place treats or toys in the carrier and place your cat inside. Place a towel over the carrier. Again, using pheromone products can be helpful as you can spray the towel and your car.
When you place your cat in the car, be sure the carrier faces the back of the seat. Keep the towel over the carrier to minimize stressful stimuli. While driving to the vet, try not to talk to your cat. Many will meow loudly, but experts say it is better not to reinforce the fear.
When you arrive at the vet, check with the front desk if there are any potential stressors in the front lobby (you can call them or run in to check). When ready, carry the carrier from underneath, not by the handle, to ensure stability. If you have to wait in the lobby, place the carrier on a high surface (a bench or counter-top). The towel should be kept over the carrier the entire time.
Once in the exam room, open the carrier and encourage your cat to explore the room. Use toys or treats to help them relax before the veterinary staff comes in.
We at Hillside Animal Hospital strive to provide the best possible veterinary care. If your cat is stressed by the time he or she enters the hospital, it will decrease the likelihood of us being able to provide proper care. Anything that can keep them calm prior to walking in our doors will pay off in the long run. If you have any questions, please call our office at 314-645-2141.
Well, you've probably noticed by now that we have a brand new website! This is a big update at Hillside, and we're excited! We decided to update our website and offerings for several reasons.
1. It's 2016. Information is available at the click of the button from around the world, especially on mobile phones. We pride ourselves on following the latest advances in medicine, but we wanted to provide our clients with the latest advances in convenience too! Our new site is mobile-friendly and offers you more functionality.
2. You'll notice that our new site offers many new handy features for you as a pet owner. You can now make an appointment online, fill out new client and some pet condition questionnaires online, and even order your pet's medication and food! All from the comfort of your own couch 24/7, probably snuggled up to that cute patient we love seeing!
3. The biggest feature is the new Petly site. Petly is your pet's story all in one place online! It's fun, it's yours, and best of all, it's free! We hope to have Petly up and running within the next two weeks. Once it's live, you'll be able to sign in to your pet's Petly account to access photos, health information, appointment reminders and more! It looks a little like this:
With many of our patients being active at doggie day care, dog parks, grooming, training and other activities, we wanted you to have access to vaccine information and health stats wherever and whenever you need them. As soon as Petly goes live, you'll be able to log in and access your account, plus set your preferences on how you'd like to receive reminders from us- now even via text if you'd like!
4. We're also looking forward to the opportunity to hear from you. We have a new contact form allowing you to email us directly, and you can also share feedback with us with our brand new survey.
We're excited about all of these new changes, and appreciate your patience as we learn the ropes. While we're getting used to all these new bells and whistles online, we're still the same Hillside here at the clinic. Hopefully these changes make connecting with us even easier and make pet ownership a little more convenient! Let us know what you think next time you're in!
--The Hillside team