Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

This morning sure felt crisp!  There’s no doubt about it, autumn is here in West Central Indiana, and my brain is starting to think about leaves turning and pumpkins and harvest.  Meanwhile my stomach is thinking about candy corn and caramel apples and gobs of Halloween chocolates.  And yummy pumpkin lattes (they totally live up to the hype!!  You should try one.  Get me one, too.)tim-burton-jack-o-lantern

My Labrador retriever, Hank, loves this time of year, too.  He just can’t wait until Halloween night, when he can sneak a piece of chocolate or two (or twelve) from the kids’ trick-or-treat bags.

Many owners know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but we also know that many dogs eat an M&M here and there and live to tell about it.  So when do we worry?  When do you call your veterinarian?

Chocolate toxicity is one of the top 20 poisons that we see in our canine friends.  It is a combination of caffeine and a chemical called theobromine that causes the problem.  Dogs are very sensitive to these (more-so than humans), and owners will see a hyper, easily excitable dog.  This excitability can progress to seizures, increased heart rate, vomiting and even death.

The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of the toxic chemicals.  This means that your dog has to eat less of it to see these effects.  Dark chocolate is the most toxic, and white chocolate the least toxic.

Your best bet is to catch it as early as possible, make note of your dog’s symptoms and a good assessment of how much he ate, and then call your veterinarian for advice.

Sometimes as veterinarians we need to encourage a dog to vomit, or control seizures with anti-seizure drugs, or give oral medications to help protect the stomach or the heart.   Sometimes bloodwork is necessary or even IV fluids to help keep a dog hydrated until the caffeine and theobromine leave his system.

Each case is very individual and most turn out well with the help of your other family doctor!  Here’s to wishing you a safe and happy fall season!



Red Irritated Eyes in Dogs and Cats

It’s Sunday morning and you wake up with your best furry friend and see that one of his eyes are weepy.  His tail is wagging and he is squinting up at you.  Upon closer inspection, you see that his eye appears red and irritated.  He starts to rub his eye on the bed and then with his paw.  It seems painful and sore.

What do you do in this situation?  Do you get through the day and call your veterinarian first thing in the morning?  Do you call an emergency service today?

There are a variety of reasons that your furry buddy could have an irritated eye.  If he is young and playful, we often see scratches on the cornea (the clear outer surface of the eyeball), or irritated eyes from being ‘nosy’ and brushing eyes against weeds, bushes, etc.  Some dogs get allergies, especially in the spring and fall, that cause irritation.  Fleas can cause the same type of irritation.  Older dogs can get ‘dry eye’, where tear glands do not produce as many tears as they should and the cornea becomes irritated and even infected.  Cats as kittens often have underlying viruses that cause red eyes that can progress over time to serious infections of the eye ball itself.  In this way, eyes can also be a clue to underlying diseases such as diabetes or fungal infections.

A simple call to your local emergency service is likely the best way to start in this situation.  A good description of your pet’s lifestyle, his history, and the look of the eye can go a long way as to the cause of the problem.  Get a good idea too of how your pet is feeling overall before you call.  (Is he eating/drinking?  Urinating/defecating?  Acting tired or listless?  Vomiting or diarrhea?)  If nothing else, a conversation with a professional may be able to determine whether or not your pet needs to go in to see the doctor immediately or if things can likely wait until Monday.

Once your veterinarian gets an opportunity to look at the eye, they will be able to do a physical exam and run some simple diagnostics to determine the problem.  Sometimes bloodwork is necessary to decide whether or not an underlying problem exists.  Typically, even simple eye issues should be seen ASAP for fast healing with minimal long term effects.

The Fight Against Fleas

Halloween is still a month away, but many of our clients have been seeing blood-sucking monsters in their homes for weeks now.  The flea population outdoors is heavy this time of year, and often that means that as your favorite pet moves in and out of the house, the population can be growing inside your home too.

Veterinarians hate fleas for all of the same reasons that pet owners do:  they spread disease, they make pets ill, they trigger allergies and they make pets (and people) itchy and miserable.  And they can be incredibly frustrating to get rid of.Flea in hair

There is a reason that these tiny pests have survived (thrived!!) on this planet for thousands of years.  They are ridiculously small (the body is the size of the tip of your pen), they have a hard protective shell, they lay hundreds of eggs at a time (within hours of landing on your favorite pooch), and their offspring can live as pupae in the soil or in the home for months at a time.  Adult fleas suck blood from the dog, at the same time laying eggs which fall off the dog as he runs through the house.  These eggs hatch over time and develop into pupae (which are incredibly difficult to kill), then larvae, and eventually into adults which use pets as nourishment to start the cycle all over again.

No wonder we are in battle with these parasites.  We have many factors fighting against us:  sheer numbers of pests, cost of control, difficulty in effectively killing the flea, and the fact that our dogs get re-exposed every time they run outside to potty.

So is there any good news in all of this??

We are happy to tell you that as a whole, our profession is now armed with a variety of products that are effective in killing fleas and preventing future infestations.  Flea baths are becoming a thing of the past, and drugs that we give once that last for 3-4 weeks (or even longer!) are the way to go.  We have several oral medications that last from 4 weeks to 3 months.  We also have a collar that kills both fleas and ticks and lasts up to 8 months.

There are so many products out there that many of our clients are overwhelmed with options.  Every family’s situation is different; some dogs take pills, others are better about a liquid applied to the back or a collar.  Some dogs need tick prevention as well as flea control.  Our job is to help you develop a plan of attack to keep your family healthy.  There is nothing that makes us happier than to see your home flea-free for now and for years to come.

If you are in the face of a flea infestation in your home, a dual-attack approach is necessary.  This often means treating all of the dogs and cats in the home every month AND flea bombing the house, too.

Please stop in and see us, we are your resource for flea control!

Rat Poison and Our Pets

This time of year there are many pests outside and consequently we have a lot of pets that are exposed to ‘rat poison’.  For some reason, dogs especially are attracted to many of the products that we humans use to keep mice and rat populations down on the farm and around our homes.  They eat the product (unbeknownst to us) and then it may be days before they act sick.  At this point, it may be difficult for us to save the pet.  We will dive into the products today and give you an overview of the major products out there and their potential consequences.

  1.  The anticoagulant rodenticides.  These products are eaten by the pest and over time (1-3 weeks, typically), internal bleeding will cause death.  The same fate happens with our pets, if we don’t catch it in time.  Signs of rat poison toxicity:  Weakness, lethargy, pale gums, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, coughing, difficulty walking, sudden death.  To diagnose the problem:  Physical exam, bloodwork (including a panel to check for blood clotting ability), x-rays and ultrasound may be necessary.  The treatment:  Vitamin K, supportive care, and potentially a blood transfusion.  The prognosis:  Good if found early on, especially if treatment starts before your furry friend is acting sick.  The rodenticide products (courtesy of “Clinical Veterinary Advisor”, Etienne Cote):
    1. Warfarin.  Trade Names:  Anchor Rat and Mouse Bait, Cat-in-a-Bag
    2. Pindone.  Trade Names:  Purina Rat kill Soluble, Eaton’s AC Formula 50.
    3. Diphacinone.  Trade Names:  Assassin Rodenticide Bait, Exterminator’s Choice.
    4. Difethialone.  Trade Names:  D-Cease, Generations, D-Con Rat and Mouse Bait.
    5. Brodifacoum.  Trade Names:  D-Con Mouse Prufe III, Havoc, Jaguar, Final Blox
    6. Bromadiolone.  Trade Names:  Boot Hill, Hawk, Just One Bite
  2. The bromethalin rodenticides.  These products are also used as bait for rodents, but act in a different way than the traditional anticoagulant rodenticides.  These products affect the nervous system of the animal, causing muscle tremors and seizures and weakness.   These signs start quickly, within the first 24-72 hours after our furry friend eats the product.  Treatment:  There is NO treatment or antidote for this poison.  We can try to get the pet to vomit or pump the stomach to stop absorption.  We can give supportive care (IV fluids, etc) to pets that are showing signs of ingestion, but at this point the prognosis is guarded.
  3. The cholecalciferol rodenticides.  These products are also ingested as bait for rodents and are as insidious and deadly as the bromethalin rodenticides.  They cause weakness, lethargy, and increased thirst and urination.  The kidneys are affected and shut down over several days.  Treatment: There is NO treatment or antidote for this poison.  We can try to get the pet to vomit or pump the stomach to stop absorption.  We can give supportive care (IV fluids, etc.) to pets that are showing signs of ingestion, but at this point the prognosis is guarded.

We highly encourage you to keep these baits out of reach of your furry friends!

If you have a pet poison emergency, please call us at WCVS or call the ASPCA pet poison hotline (888) 426-4435.

Feline Leukemia Virus – What is it?

This is such a complex and potentially devastating disease.  We get a lot of questions about it from pet owners, and frankly it can be tough to diagnose and manage Thebes the Catfrom a clinician’s standpoint.  Let’s see if we can clear up a few mental fuzzies about this subject today.

This disease affects cats ONLY.  This means that it can only be spread between cats and cannot be passed on to humans or dogs.

The virus is transmitted through close contact with an infected cat, i.e. cat bites, grooming, sharing a litter box, food or water dishes.  Saliva is the primary carrier, but blood and urine and feces and mother’s milk can all carry the virus too.  Many cats are infected as kittens, whether still in the womb or through nursing and close contact with an infected mother.

After a cat is infected, several things can happen.  

  1. Cat’s immune system responds and fights off the virus, clearing it from it’s system.
  2. Cat’s immune system responds but cannot fully fight off the virus, and it stays hidden in the body as a ‘latent’ infection for years.  These cats do not act sick, and can live a normal lifespan.  They can also live for a number of years and then eventually become actively infected and ill.
  3. Cat’s immune system cannot fight off the virus, and ends up with infection throughout the body, including the bone marrow.  This is life-long and cannot be undone.
    1. Bone marrow infection can lead to secondary infections because the immune system is not working properly.
    2. Bone marrow infection can also lead to anemia and platelet abnormalities, which can lead to weakness, blood loss and eventually death.
    3. FeLV virus also causes a variety of cancers in cats by ‘turning on’ cancer activity in normal cells.


How do we know if a cat is infected with FeLV?   Veterinarians have a quick blood test called an ELISA that tests for the virus in the bloodstream.  It is a good screening test for cats that have the virus active in their bloodstream.  Any positives should be followed up with another ELISA in 2-4 months, or a different blood test called an IFA.  An IFA test is different from an ELISA because it detects a positive infection in the bone marrow and is a good confirmatory test.  This helps to determine if your kitty fought off initial infection, or whether the infection has progressed into the bone marrow.  Cats with ‘latent infection’ and are not sickly may not show up positive on either test.

What do we do for sick, FeLV confirmed positive cats?  Because the disease is life-long, we try to keep cats from getting secondary infections.  This means keeping them indoors in a protected environment, where owners can also keep watch over daily activities (eating, drinking, using the litter box, playing) and observe any changes that could indicate a change in the health of the kitty.  Regular exams with your veterinarian (every 6 months or so) help to detect secondary issues early on.  Regular bloodwork and deworming can help prevent problems as well.

What is the typical lifespan for an FeLV-positive cat?  A cat with a latent infection that isn’t showing signs of illness can live a normal lifespan.  Kitties that are actively sick with positive ELISA and IFA tests can live for 1-3 years with good care.

Can we prevent infection?  Testing strays before adopting them into your household can help identify disease before exposing other naïve cats to FeLV.  Keeping known FeLV viremic cats away from other naïve cats is key as well.  There are several FeLV vaccines on the market that do have efficacy when given yearly as boosters.  They are not 100% effective but are a very good idea for cats that spend time outside or around known FeLV-positive cats.


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Fear of Fireworks and Storms in West Central Indiana

It’s that time again! Thunderstorms and fireworks affect many pets. Check out some tips that may help you and your furry friend to have a happy holiday weekend.

West Central Veterinary Services

The Fourth of July Holiday.  It’s a wonderful time of year, with warm weather and picnics and time spent outside with loved ones.  Often we celebrate our country’s independence with a BANG!  (literally).  For some of us, that’s thrilling.  For those of us that have furry friends that are frightened by things that go ‘boom’ and ‘flash’, it can be a tough season of the year.

Compounding the problem, the holiday falls right in the middle of severe thunderstorm season, which can mean several months of anxiety management at home.

To some extent, all dogs and cats have some fear of anything that falls out of a normal routine, especially loud noises. Dog hiding under bed Some pets are overly fearful, to the point where we as their humans need to intervene.

This fear can exhibit itself in many different ways.  These can include hiding, pacing, whining, drooling, howling, trembling, destruction of things in the…

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Cat Bite Wounds

Spring is here, and at the veterinary clinic that means more than wonderfully warm weather.  Here it also means lambs and baby calves and cat bite wounds.

Everyone seems to emerge from the winter cold and quiet and here we are with cats that are mating and fighting with one another.  Hence the cat bites.

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Happy kitty with no cat bites. 

So what is the typical presentation to us at the veterinary clinic?


  1.  The owner sees his/her furry kitty friend engage in a squall with another kitty.
  2. (Or, alternatively, the kitty friend is let outside for the day and shows up in the evening with a limp or just doesn’t feel good).
  3. Kitty doesn’t have any energy.
  4. Kitty doesn’t want to eat or drink.
  5. Kitty may have a swollen leg or may be lame on one leg.  (Often it resembles a broken leg).

Typically, these cats are running fevers, with 104 degrees F and higher pretty common.  They can be dehydrated and extremely painful.

When cats bite, they inject bacteria deep into the muscle tissue with their long canine teeth.  These bacteria fester over the next few days, during which time the skin may even heal over, trapping infection inside the muscle.

These infections require prescription oral antibiotics to heal properly.  Sometimes an x-ray is required to rule out a fractured leg.  Sometimes the skin over the wound dies and falls away, leaving an open wound that is managed with bandaging and fly repellent.  Sometimes pain relief is required, or even hospitalization to rehydrate a very sick cat with IV fluids and start with injectable antibiotics.

Another thing to think about is the transmission of other diseases by cat bites, such as feline leukemia, FIV, and FIP.  This discussion is an important one to have with your veterinarian, especially if your cat is outdoors.

Every case is different, but now you know the basics of what to look for with cat bites!