Why you should consider year-round flea control.


Did you know that your veterinarian is an expert on flea pest control?  We know all about the life cycle of the flea and we have access to prescription flea medications, and we fight them every day for clients!

This fall has been no exception.  We have seen gobs of fleas here in the clinic recently, both on indoor and outdoor pets.  It always surprises me how many indoor only cats get a flea allergy rash and how many tiny indoor dogs have fleas during a routine vaccine visit.  Sometimes we even see fleas on pets that have used flea collars and topical flea control in the past.

So how does this happen?

For one thing, flea populations outside right now are through the roof.  Think about it: all spring, summer and fall these fleas have been breeding and breeding and breeding…and now there are oodles of fleas out there just waiting to pounce on our pets when they go outside to play and do their business.

Then the fleas come inside the house.  Did you know that fleas do their breeding and lay eggs on your pet?  Then as your pet runs through your home, eggs fall off all over the house (like salt coming off a salt shaker).  Within 2 weeks those eggs will hatch and flea larvae emerge, and within a month they spin a cocoon and turn into pupae.

These pupae live inside of the cocoon, protected by it, for weeks, months, or even years.  The cocoon is sticky and will bind deep into carpeting and cannot be easily removed by light vacuuming.

The pupae will emerge over time as an adult flea.  The adult flea seeks out your pet within a few hours of hatching; it needs to take a meal to survive and that meal is your pet’s blood.  The adults spend most of their time on the pet itself, feeding and breeding and laying eggs.

The crazy thing:  The adults that you see on your pet only account for 5% of the total fleas in your home.  

This means that when you find a flea on your pet, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Because the flea eggs and larvae and pupae in the home take time to grow and develop and hatch, it is beneficial to keep your pet on year-round flea control.  This stops the cycle in its tracks.  Here’s the thing: once an egg hatches and an adult emerges, the adult will be killed as soon as it reaches the pet.  No breeding.  No eggs.

Flea bombing the house can be really helpful in killing adults and eggs and larvae.  However, we know that very few products kill the pupal stage of the flea.  So you have to wait until the pupae hatch into adults to be able to kill them effectively, which may take weeks to months to even years!  But if your pet is on a good flea prevention product, any pupae that hatch at anytime will be killed as soon as they reach your furry friend.

The bottom line:  A flea infestation in the home is best fought by using a quality flea control product continuously, all year long, along with a home flea treatment.

Give us a call to help rid your home, your pet, and your life of fleas!!


My Dog’s Breath STINKS!!

Don’t you just love watching Wheel of Fortune with your furry buddy?  Letting him crawl up on your lap for a cuddle, then he looks up into your face with those sweet eyes that just melt you, and then opens his mouth and blasts you with the foulest odor on God’s green earth.

IMG_6976 2Have you been there?  It ruins the moment.  Makes you not want to cuddle with your pal.

All joking aside, as a pet doctor, this scenario makes me want to look in your furry friend’s mouth and figure out what exactly is happening in there to cause the odor.  There is a list of issues that could be, and a good oral exam will narrow it down quickly and help us to fix it.

Bad breath is a symptom of disease, which we know can quickly move from the mouth into other parts of the body, such as the heart, and cause systemic illness.  We want to know the cause so that we can stop disease before it gets out of control.

We like to help with bad breath.  It’s one of the most satisfying things that we do.

What are the most common things that we look for in your pet’s mouth?

  1. Tartar buildup on the teeth.  This is the hard brown stuff that cements itself to the teeth.  We see a lot of it on molars in the back of the mouth.  Over time, it crawls up the tooth root and loosens the tooth to the point of loss.  It traps bacteria, which create the nasty odor that you smell during Wheel of Fortune dates with your dog.
  2. Oral tumors.  We see both benign and malignant (cancer) tumors in the mouth, especially older dogs and cats.  These can involve the gums, the tongue, the cheek, the bone, or any other tissue in the oral cavity.  Sometimes these grow and become infected over time, which causes an odor and sometimes discomfort when eating.
  3. Trauma and foreign objects.  Labrador retrievers with pieces of stick stuck in the back of the mouth.  A long piece of string wrapped around a cat’s tongue.  Pieces of fur and grass stuck in a cut along a gumline.  A chicken bone wedged between teeth.  We’ve seen lots of interesting predicaments that animals get themselves into, and surprised a lot of owners in the process.
  4. Rash or infection along the back of the throat and cheek walls is not uncommon in cats especially, and can signal an allergic response to food.

Sometimes a thorough oral exam means sedation for your furry friend.  Often we get an idea of what we are getting into with our physical exam, and then sedate or use general anesthesia to go through the mouth carefully and resolve any problems that we find.  Sometimes that means cleaning the teeth, removing tartar and polishing clean teeth.  Removing loose and dead teeth.  Biopsy or removal of masses.  Finding that infection and treating it.

Typically there is follow-up at home after such a procedure, such as oral antibiotics and pain relievers and soft food for a few days.  Often we submit oral tumors for further testing (called histopathology) to identify the mass.

Long-term, many dogs need good dental treats, at-home teeth brushing, and yearly dental cleanings to help prevent tartar buildup and that nasty bad breath.

If you would like to come in for an exam to find out what we can do to help your furry friend’s breath, give us a call!

For more information:  

Periodontal (Tooth) Disease, American Veterinary Dental College:  avdc.org

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth, MSPCA Angell Hospital:  mspca.org

Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats, VCA Animal Hospital: vcahospitals.com

‘Dogs think that they are people; cats think that they are God.’ – Anonymous

“Dogs think that they are people; cats think that they are God.”  -Anonymous

Domestic cats have been associated with people since the time of the ancient Egyptians, and yet thousands of years later, we cat owners know that cats only choose to be domesticated when they wish to.  They will choose to interact with people when it benefits them and on their schedule.  They are survivors and will respond accordingly, to varying degrees, when their routine or lifestyle is altered.

Domestic cats vary widely in temperament and personality, from feral ‘alley’ cats that cannot be easily handled to indoor-only cats that demand constant attention.  The basic nature of a cat is to adapt to an environment only if he wants to.

So what is it that makes a cat a ‘lap kitty’ vs. a ‘shy cat’?  Why such a variety to the types of cat personalities?  Why do so many cats respond in different ways to different situations?

In a nutshell, cat behavior is affected by:  genetics (the DNA of mom and dad), kittenhood experience (feral outdoor vs. indoor socialized), sexual status (neutered vs. in tact), age and physical health.

Needless to say, there is a huge variety of personality styles between cats that are not pure-bred, due to the random nature of their breeding.  We do know, from published studies, that personality from the tomcat (father) is highly heritable (the genes are passed down) to kitten.  For example, if you have a friendly tomcat, odds are good that you will have a friendly kitten.

Socialization, or the amount of time that kittens are handled by humans and are exposed to other cats and dogs, can also impact the way that cats respond to humans and other animals as they get older.  For example, cats that ‘meet’ a lot of different humans as kittens tend to handle meeting new humans as an older cat with much more ease.

Neutered cats do not have the sexual drive that in tact male cats have, therefore are less likely to show behaviors such as roaming and aggression.  Older cats or chronically ill cats tend to have less tolerance for change in routine or new additions to the household.

Because of the nature of random breeding in the cat world, you never quite know what genetics and personality you are getting with your cat until you spend some time with them.  Cats are very routine-oriented, and as such it can take up to 6 months to truly know the nuances of your cat’s personality.  And often we don’t know the parents, so it can truly be a guessing game as to what kind of cat you have until you become that pet-parent.

Just don’t tell your kitty that you are in charge.  They know better.



Help! My dog has diarrhea!

Diarrhea is a fairly common presenting complaint here in the office.  Whether it’s a dog having accidents in the house, a cat having soft stools in the litter box, or a calf or pig or horse with scours, the consistency of an animal’s stool can tell us a lot about the health of the gut.  We also know that diarrhea causes dehydration fairly rapidly, especially in a young animal.  Also, we don’t want infectious diarrhea to spread from one animal to another.  For many reasons, time can be of the essence to treat the animal to get a successful outcome.

Let’s talk about a few of the major causes for diarrhea and what we look for when treating it.

  1. Intestinal parasites.  As in, “worms” in the gut.  These can range from roundworms, which look like spaghetti, to giardia, which can’t be seen with the naked eye.  Most of these bugs can be found on a good stool sample under a microscope with a trained eye.  Some are more elusive and can’t always be found on a stool sample (i.e., they aren’t shed every day by the pet or may be too small to easily see under the microscope).  There are more specialized tests that can be run for certain bugs if we are suspicious of them.  All parasites drain resources from the animal, usually proteins and/or red blood cells, and can cause weight loss, anemia, weakness, or even death.  We recommend checking stool samples on all diarrhea patients.
  2. Dietary problems.  This can include poor-quality food or food sensitivities.  We see this in young animals that have a sudden diet change, or older animals that become sensitive to certain food ingredients, such as chicken, beef, corn or soybeans.  Some dogs require antibiotics to right the diarrhea, while others need a diet change.  Most require a physical exam and fecal exam to rule out parasites before treating for dietary problems.
  3. Viral or Bacterial infections.  One of the most famous and often-seen viruses in puppies is parvovirus.  These young dogs are often unvaccinated and suddenly stop eating and have diarrhea.  Bacterial infections can range from diarrhea as the only symptom to severe weakness and lethargy.  Sometimes we see this type of infection in dogs that dig into the trash and eat raw or rotten meat, or go into the woods and eat a deer carcass.  It is not uncommon to see fevers and dehydration with viral or bacterial infections.  A good physical exam and fecal exam is necessary to rule out parasites.  Other specialized tests can also be helpful, such as a fecal smear or culture, or parvovirus snap test to specifically diagnose and treat infections.
  4. Structural abnormalities.  As in, the gut has a physical issue that causes diarrhea, such as a blockage, a thickening of the lining, or an intussusception (where one part of the bowel inverts and moves inside another part of the bowel).  Sometimes these can be seen on an x-ray or ultrasound or endoscopy.  Treatment varies, dependent on the cause.

What is the bottom line on diarrhea?

If you see it, get a fresh stool sample, seal it and keep it refrigerated until you can get it into the veterinary clinic.  If the animal is lethargic, weak, or goes off feed, make an appointment to get a good physical exam too.  Sooner is always better than later, as diarrhea can cause dehydration and weakness and can progress quickly with certain illnesses.

My Senior Pet is OK — right??


We get this question a lot in the clinic, often when we see a pet for annual check-ups and vaccinations.  Owners see signs of aging in their pets and wonder whether these signs are significant or not.  As in: at what point should we be intervening to help out a geriatric furry friend?

One of the most helpful things an owner can do is pay close attention to their pet’s day-to-day behaviors.  Here is a checklist of signs that may signal a problem with your pet:

  1. Bad breath or swollen gums
  2. Difficulty chewing
  3. Increased or decreased appetite
  4. Gain/Loss of weight
  5. Drinking more water than usual
  6. Urinating more frequently than usual
  7. Loss of house-training
  8. Vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or straining
  9. Trouble with vision or hearing
  10. Difference in attitude/behaviors (‘not himself’)
  11. Interacts less with the family
  12. Seems confused or disoriented
  13. Barking or howling for no reason
  14. Has become aggressive
  15. Changed sleeping patterns
  16. Tremors or episodes of shaking
  17. Change in activity level
  18. Lags behind on walks
  19. Difficulty climbing stairs and jumping
  20. Lameness
  21. Signs of pain
  22. Scratches, licks and chews excessively
  23. Changes in coat and skin
  24. New lumps or bumps
  25. Skin has an odor
  26. Coughing
  27. Panting more often
  28. Tires more rapidly or seems short of breath
  29. Objects to being handled/aggressive/resents being picked up
  30. No longer wants to play
  31. Breathing more rapid and shallow

If you are seeing any of these signs, the next step is to have your veterinarian give him a thorough exam.  Sometimes bloodwork is necessary to dig deeper and help to definitively diagnose problems, or may be a good idea if your pet needs to start on daily arthritis medications.

(List courtesy of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.)

Heartworm Disease on the Rise in the USA

The American Heartworm Society and Companion Animal Parasite Council are the authorities who veterinarians look to for national data regarding the treatment and incidence of heartworm disease.  These two groups have recently come out with updated information regarding the current national trends of the disease.  Data was collected from veterinary clinics all over the USA regarding numbers of positive heartworm cases and the results are in…heartworm disease is on the rise in our country.

Forecasted HW prev 2017

2016 saw an increase in the number of dogs diagnosed per veterinary clinic by an average of 21% nationwide vs. 2013 (this data is collected every 3 years).  Heartworm disease is seen in every state in the nation.

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes that carry the parasite from infected dogs, coyotes, wolves and foxes to uninfected dogs and cats.

The disease is a preventable one, with multiple medications available from monthly oral pills to liquid topicals to 6-month injections that stop the disease before you started.

We are still following AHS guidelines for the disease, testing dogs yearly and recommending year-round prevention.

For information regarding heartworm disease, check out the American Heartworm Society Page: https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/heartworm-basics

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction-“Old Age Disease”

Dr. Jennifer Allio

Many pet doINDEXSMALL_bassettg owners notice changes as their furry friend ages, but they don’t really know why this happens or what to do about it.  Hopefully this article will help with questions you may have about your dog’s behaviors.

Canine cognitive dysfunction is what veterinarians are calling an older dog that is otherwise healthy but has shown dramatic changes in behavior with age.  In the same way that we become forgetful as we get older, our pets can experience similar changes in their brain functions.  Examples include; changes in sleep patterns, disorientation, changes in social interactions, house soiling, activity changes, or anxiety.  There is a mnemonic for this disorder that may be helpful (DISH-A).

D – Disorientation.  Your dog may begin to wander around the house in a daze.

I – Interaction.  Your dog no longer wants to be around you, or the opposite, becomes clingy.

S – Sleep/wake.  Your dog begins to sleep longer during the day and not much at night.

H – House soiling.  An otherwise potty-trained dog that begins having accidents.

A – Activity.  A decrease in activity or sudden hyperactivity.

The ability for pets to learn significantly decreases at the ages of 6 to 8 years old.  This does not mean you have to cast your beloved dog out because he is having a hard time sleeping at night.  There is help available.  One of the first things you may want to do is watch your dog at home for any of these changes and make a list of what you see and when you see it, so you can talk to your veterinarian about it.  Your veterinarian may want to run a blood panel to begin ruling out other causes as this disease is typically diagnosed by knowing symptoms, doing a physical exam, and ruling out other disease processes.  Once you and your veterinarian have determined that your pet has canine cognitive dysfunction there are many things you can both do to help your pup live longer and better.

Things you can do at home to help:

  • Provide environmental enrichment. Dog puzzle toys are excellent ways to help your dog’s brain stay active and they can be used with food to entice your pup to learn to play again.  If you use these, be sure to remove all other food sources as a hungry dog will work for food.

o   https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/category/dog/dog-toys/dog-games-and-puzzles

o   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btOfI4vCRiE  (Food Maze Video)

  • Provide adequate, controlled exercise. Short leash walks may be all your pup needs to stay active.  A 15 minute walk twice a day can be beneficial to your dog’s brain health and total body health.

  • Work on some basic training to keep it fresh in your dog’s mind. Multiple short sessions of sit, down, or stay can keep minds active.  It only takes 2-3 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your dog safe by confining him or her while you are not home. A safe place with no stairs to fall down or cords to chew on with a soft bed can be helpful when you are not able to be with your pet.  Leave fresh water available if you will be gone for over 3 hours.


Things your veterinarian may do:

  • May run a blood panel or other tests to rule out other potential problems (kidney disease, arthritis, cancer, etc).
  • May prescribe a new diet that is rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, and proteins that help the brain function better. Two current prescription diets include Hill’s b/d and Purina Neurocare.
  • Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to aid in your dog’s cognitive function as well as help him or her sleep better if this is a concern.

As you can see, there are many things that can be done to help your pet stay active and healthy for as long as possible.  Hopefully this article is encouraging to our owners of senior dogs as well as helpful.  As always, continue to work with your veterinarian to provide your pet the best care.