Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tick Removal & Insect Bites

taken from Bing Images

Since we talked earlier this week about Lyme's Disease, I thought this would be a good time to give you some guidelines that come in our Emergency Care handout from the Wisconsin Veterinary Referral Center.

Like people, animals vary in their reactions to insect venom.  The response can range from mild irritation to allergic shock.  Check the area for any remaining stinger or insect, remove them and cleanse the area with soap and water.  Cool wet towels or gauze can be used (for 20-30 minutes) to soothe the area.  Watch your pet for signs of allergic reaction.  Be particularly mindful of difficulties breathing.

When returning from a park or a hike, check thoroughly for ticks by running your fingers through your pet's entire coat, and inspecting paws, pads, between toes and inside floppy ears.  If you find a tick, place a small amount of tick spray (alcohol, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly can also be used) on a cotton ball and hold it over the tick.  Typically the tick will back out in 30-60 seconds allowing you to grab it with a tweezers and dispose of it.  Apply alcohol or an antibiotic ointment to the site of the bite.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Looking Out for Lymes

Lyme's Disease.... can people get it?  Yes, but not from your dog.  The disease is transmitted through a bite from a deer tick.  The spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium that spreads through the body.  Dogs that have been infected present with severe joint pain, stiffness, lack of appetite, lethargy and/or a fever.  The symptoms can come on acutely or sometimes after time (several months to a year) has passed.  Diagnosis of the disease can be determined through a simple blood test and treatment consists of long term antibiotic therapy. 

Is my dog at risk?  Well, ask yourself a few questions.  Are there deer around your neighborhood?  Has Lyme disease been found in any people or animals in your area?  Do you live in a wooded area or near tall brush where ticks breed?  Do you and your furry companion go for walks, hikes, camping, picnicking, hunting or fishing?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should be proactive in preventing the disease.  Use a monthly tick preventive like Frontline Plus, vaccinate your dog against Lyme's disease, and examine your dog checking for ticks regularly.  With these few simple steps you can help to prevent your companion from  this potentially debilitating disease.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How To Be An Informed Owner

Since we discussed arthritis last week, I thought this would be a good time to remind perspective puppy owners to consider potential problems when interviewing  your breeder.  We all instantly fall in love with that cute little eight-week-old, but we must remember that before we take that pup home, we want to minimize future health issues.  What it all comes down to is researching and knowing the breed you want before you see the puppy.  For breeds that are prone to hip and elbow displasia, you want to ask the breeder for the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) test results (  If the parents have bad hips, then the likelihood is high that the offspring will also have poor hips.  If the parents have allergies, the offspring have an increased likelihood of developing allergies.

By researching the breed of dog you want, you can learn which diseases to check for and which breeds commonly have tests for them.  As an example, when I looked at a litter of Golden Retriever puppies, I asked about the OFA status of the hips and elbows as well as whether the eyes had been examined by an ophthalmologist to be sure they were free of congenital abnormalities.  Many good Golden Retriever breeders will have the thyroid tested and heart checked for congenital abnormalities.  I also ask about allergies.  These answers will not guarantee health, but will lessen the chances that my little one will develop these problems in the future.  Also, don't forget to consider the mother's behavioral disposition.  A less trusting, fearful mother will likely have cautious pups.  So, enjoy the pup you get, but make sure you try to avoid the common issues your special breed may acquire. 

"What it all comes down to is researching
and knowing the breed you want before
you see the puppy."

Todd Whitney, DVM

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Beauty Of The Safe Room

This month, we’ve been consulting about two cats named Sami and Sadi.  They are beautiful calico kittens who have been together since birth.  Their owner, Virginia, loves them both and, up until recently, they loved each other.  Then, however, the cats turned two and, as all too often happens, they decided they were no longer friends.  They fight and scream and just can’t seem to be together.  Cats reach sexual maturity at two to four years of age and, even if they’re spayed or neutered, they can start to feel a little crowded by the other cats in the household.  In Virginia’s case, Sadi seemed to taking a lot of her frustration out on Sami, who was spending a lot of time running and cowering under furniture.  By the time we talked, Virginia had already used excellent judgement and was separating the cats.  Each cat would spend some time in a closed room with food, water, and her own litter box.  When Sadi was kept in the room, she spent a lot of time meowing and scratching at the door.  As soon as the door was open, she would dart out and start marking everything by rubbing her cheek against furniture, door frames, and anything else she could find.  Basically, it seems Sadi was spending all her time in the room stressing about the rest of her ‘territory’.  She was just in there knowing that Sami was ‘touching her stuff!!’  She needed to mark everything as soon as she was free and then sit high on a dresser to survey her domain. It’s very important for Sadi to keep an eye on her house. 

Sami, on the other hand, didn’t seem to mind being in the room at all.  We discussed reserving the private room for Sami and using it as her ‘safe room’.  Virginia started having Sami stay in this room for the majority of the time and letting Sadi have the run of the rest of the house.  She made sure to give Sami comfy sleeping areas and plenty of toys, and she spends special time with her every day. It’s now been two weeks since Sami started getting primary use of the safe room.  Virginia says she’s calm, quiet, and seems happy in her safe room.  When Virginia checks on her, she’ll see that she’s playing with her toys and seems perfectly content.  Rather than feeling imprisoned, Sami seems happy to have her own space that smells like hers and doesn’t involve any altercations.  Virginia wishes they could live together like a happy family, but for now, it’s more like a family with some teenager issues.  Eventually, Virginia will work on slow, supervised re-introduction.  In the meantime, we’ll let Sadi and Sami be the mistresses of their own, individual safe domains.

Kelley Wagner, C.V.T.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Run and Play to Help Keep Arthritis Away

It's no surprise that most animals will be affected by arthritis at some point in their lives.  This is especially true for large and giant breed dogs.  These dogs are highly susceptible to joint arthritis after the age of seven, but can exhibit signs of arthritis even earlier than that.  It's important that we do our best to prolong healthy joints and/or decrease our dogs' chances of developing arthritis.

First things first... when purchasing a breed that you know is prone to joint disease such as Lab, Golden Retriever, Great Dane or German Shepherd, it is important to purchase from a responsible breeder who screens against diseases such as hip and elbow displasia.  Genetics play an important role in the incidence of arthritis in your dog.

Genetic screening, although important, is still not enough to keep your dog from developing arthritis.  A significant common factor in arthritis is OBESITY!  Dogs that are allowed to become obese are certainly likely to develop arthritis earlier than a fit, trim, athletic dog.  A good high quality diet fed at least twice a day and ample exercise will keep your dog in optimal condition.  As I have said in previous posts, a dog must be fed according to their activity level, NOT what the bag says.  A dog that doesn't exercise doesn't need to eat as much!

This brings me to my next tip:  EXERCISE!!  A daily walk is necessary for good muscle conditioning.  However, this is not an adequate form of exercise to build muscle and maintain optimal condition.  Running is exercise that will actually burn the excess weight off your dog and create strong musculature.  Swimming is another great way to maintain muscle for the older dog, since it is a non weight bearing exercise.  The most important thing  when preventing the clinical symptoms of arthritis is muscle mass.  Without muscle, arthritis will debilitate your dog faster and more aggressively. 

So remember, arthritis will continue to affect millions of pets.  However, it should always be a goal to postpone the development of the disease so your pet can live longer and with minimal discomfort in her golden years.

Stephanie Severson, CVT

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vegetarian Cats

Does your cat have vegetarian urges?  One of our clinic cats (his name has been withheld to protect the guilty) likes to try to graze on our decorative plants.  This plant now lives in our break room so that he can’t get at it.  (Of  course, if someone accidentally leaves the door open, he’ll be in there snacking.)  If you have houseplants at home, there are a few tricks to keep the cats away.  First, as we’ve done here, restrict access to the plants.  This is especially important if your plant is potentially toxic.  There are a surprising number of decorative plants that can cause problems for our pets. 

The ASPCA has an excellent list at  You can also use sprays such as bitter apple spray on the leaves of the plant to discourage gnawing.  If you want to offer a safe alternative, you can buy ‘cat grasses’ or plant catnip for your little ones.  As with all behavior training, think about harmless deterrents (bad taste, an unexpected spray of water from around the corner) coupled with inviting, safe alternatives such as foraging toys or cat grass.  This way, we won’t have to try to explain to our cats that they’re carnivores.

Kelley Wagner, C.V.T.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chronic Medications and Monitoring

When your pet's condition can be successfully treated with medication, you want to make sure the medication is truly helping your pet- not causing any side effects.  That's why we recommend testing to reduce the risk that your pet will respond negatively to a prescribed treatment.  Testing can be done quickly, providing us with the answers within minutes to overnight.

For example, if your pet requires medication for arthritis, we can offer a number of medications to ease their discomfort.  However, those medications may come with side effects, including risk of kidney and/or liver problems. Our staff will do the following to make sure your pet receives the proper treatment.

:: Test your pet before prescribing a drug to be sure that organ function is normal and the prescription is the right one for your pet's age, breed, size, and physical condition.

:: Test your pet once the course of treatment has begun to see how they are responding to the medication and uncover any hidden reactions.  Should a problem arise, we can alter the treatment plan immediately.

:: Test your pet periodically during treatment as recommended to make sure that the continued use of the medication has not triggered any adverse reactions.

These simple steps helps us to ensure quality care for your pet and peace of mind for you!

**excerpted from Idexx Laboratories client information brochure