Update: West Central Indiana -Lyme and Heartworm in 2016

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

Annual testing of pets for heartworm disease has been recommended in our area for 30+ years because we know that the disease is here and that it does affect dogs and their owners.  (What is heartworm disease?)

Every year we keep track of the numbers of dogs that we test for heartworms.  This gives us an idea of how prevalent the disease continues to be, as well as how well we are doing at educating owners about the disease and prevention options.

Thankfully, we have a test that is easily run in the clinic, while the patient is still in the building!  A small sample of blood can give us a lot of information.

Last year, at our Veedersburg location we tested over 1300 dogs for heartworms, and 17 of those dogs came back positive for the disease.  This means that those dogs were actively carrying the worm inside their body.

Most of those were incidental findings, meaning that we found the disease during a routine exam and blood screen.  These dogs were not acting sick at home.  Often this is the best time to treat (before a dog is more advanced with the illness).  Most treatments, when done properly and disease is caught early, take three-six months to treat with a 90%+ rate of success.  More advanced disease is much more difficult to treat, with a more guarded rate of success.

Lyme disease is also highly prevalent in our area.  We have been testing and tracking the disease since 2007 at our clinic, and have seen many dogs that were feeling sick with the disease.  (What is Lyme disease?)

Some dogs carry the disease without showing signs of illness.  In 2016, we saw 7% of those dogs tested for Lyme show positive exposure.  This means that they have been bitten by a deer tick, who transmitted the Lyme disease to the dog.  Most dogs that are symptomatic for the disease respond to antibiotic therapy.

It is so handy to have a test that we can run immediately in the clinic to get a diagnosis before a patient goes home!snaptestkit



Hairballs. A comical look at how they affect us humans. And how they can actually be a sign of something more serious.

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

Good morning, furry friend owners!  Monday after the holidays can be a rough one.  Back to the races and routines.

I have a morning routine, like everyone.  It actually starts the night before, when I set my coffee pot up for the next morning.  (Someday I will buy one with a timer, but for now I’m too sentimentally attached to this one to replace it.  I credit it almost singularly for getting me through veterinary school).  Every morning, my alarm goes off and my kitty cat jumps onto the bed for his morning pets.  Then I peel myself out of bed and plod to the kitchen where I push the magic button that starts the coffee drip.  The sound of the machine firing up is what starts up my wake up process.  And a new day has begun.

Sometimes, the morning routine can get more complicated than this.

  • Scenario 1:  At times, my coffee pot fails to fire up right away. (Aside:  I’m waiting for the morning that I turn it on and nothing happens, and I realize that my dear daily companion has quietly gone to sleep during the night.)
  • Scenario 2:  I fail to hear the alarm and I rush through the dark house to the kitchen.  And then I step on my son’s Match box car in my bare feet or stub my toe on the coffee table.
  • Scenario 3:  I hop out of bed in bare feet and step onto a cold, wet pile of hair and food.

Hairballs.  The less-than-fun side of cat ownership.

All of us kitty lovers know the feeling of stepping on one or the feeling of finding a dried-up nasty one in your closet.  We can hear our cats hacking one up from three rooms over.  We know how much our dogs love to find and eat a hairball ‘treat’.  We find them on our new couch or bedspread or carpet and spend good money on stain remover to clean them up.  It seems to be a necessary evil of having these furry friends in our homes.



Meet Miko.  His hobbies include eating, sleeping, climbing up my shoulder, growing sharp razor-like claws, playing with rolled up balls of paper, attacking toes, and hacking up hairballs.


The biology behind a simple hairball:  When you have a long haired kitty that loves to give himself baths (i.e. grooming), the hair catches on a cat’s rough tongue and kitty ends up swallowing the ball of fur.  It ends up in the stomach, where it can sit and roll around until the cat regurgitates it back up, usually along with a ball of undigested food.  This is especially common with long-haired cats due to the large amount of hair that they carry.

As a veterinarian, we have to think about other causes for hairballs, such as medical issues.  For example, is the cat stressed for some reason?  Stress can cause a cat to groom themselves more than normal.  Stress can involve change of routine, adding new pets or people to the household, or medical issues.  Bladder infections, masses, and skin issues (among other things) can act as a stressor or cause pain that can trigger this grooming behavior that leads to hairballs.  Sometimes it’s not pain or stress, but an intestinal issue that causes the gut to slow down and not allow hairballs to move through the digestive tract.

Often, a simple change of diet to a ‘hairball control’ diet and starting a daily habit of brushing your cat can cure the problem.  However, if you are dealing with hairballs more than once every couple of weeks, consider bringing your pet to the veterinarian for a check-up, especially if:

  1. It has been more than one year since your pet’s last exam
  2. Your pet is showing other signs of illness or is ‘off’
  3. You have tried simple treatments, such as brushing your cat’s hair daily and hairball control diets with no success.

We can help make your daily morning routine hair-ball free, just give us a call!

(Coffee Cheers)