It is all fun and games until…….

I hate public dog parks.  As someone who worked as a full-time emergency vet for 6+ years, I have seen the worst from these parks.  Infectious diseases, parasites, and dog fights are all risks you take when you take your dog to a public dog park.  I understand that these parks provide a space for dogs to run, and that is helpful for owners who don’t have fenced in yards at home.  However, you need to make sure you and your dog are prepared if this is a regular part of your routine.  Your dog needs to be up-to-date on all vaccines.  This include the core vaccines of rabies and distemper, as well as protection against Bordetella and influenza.  A fecal test should be run on a regular basis, as the risk of acquiring intestinal parasites is high.  Regular use of heartworm preventatives will help, but don’t cover all parasites your dog may encounter.

Make sure you have control over your dog with the basic commands.  Come, sit, stay, and leave it can all come in handy.  You need to understand your dog’s body language and be able to read other dog’s body language.  That way you can intervene early before things escalate.  If things are out of control at the park, leave before you have a problem.  Don’t assume that other people’s dogs are friendly and well behaved or that the owners have control over their dogs.

Luckily, in this area, we have two parks that are privately run and can help mitigate some of these risk factors.  Awesome Dawgs and Godfrey’s Dogdom both run private dog parks.  Both require proof of vaccines, and all the dogs are screened for behavior before being allowed to play in the park.  If your dog is not social, these parks can also be rented for private use.  Yes, there are fees to use these parks and they are not open 24/7, but at least you know that your dog will have less risk, and hopefully a better experience.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

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It Matters.

The cat was sick.  He was flat out on the table with a low body temperature and diarrhea just running out of him.  The history was that he had been vomiting and having diarrhea for a couple of days.  The bloodwork would tell the tale.  He only had 100 white blood cells, instead of the normal 12,000.  It was Panleukopenia and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for him.  He was humanely euthanized.  The saddest part is that this didn’t need to happen.  It was totally preventable.  He never received his full set of vaccines, which would have protected him.

In this age of anti-vaccines, this case is a stark reminder of why we vaccinate in the first place.  The diseases that are covered in the core vaccines are still lurking out there, waiting for a drop in your pet’s immunity or lack of vaccines to strike.  They are often deadly diseases.  The reason we don’t see these diseases anymore is precisely because of the vaccines most of our pets receive.  As of the end of March, we already had 77 cases of rabies diagnosed in Pennsylvania this year.  Herd immunity (the immunity around your pet from other vaccinated pets) does provide a small degree of protection, but to achieve full immunity you need to vaccinate your individual pet.

The most frustrating part of the anti-vaccine movement is that the original article that started this movement was totally false.  In 1998 Dr. Wakefield published an article in the Lancet linking the MMR vaccine and autism.  Since it’s publication, Dr. Wakefield has admitted that he falsified all the data.  The article has been rescinded, and he has lost his license.  However, the damage was done.  Now a portion of the public doesn’t trust vaccines.  That is sad because vaccines have literally been a lifesaver.  Yes, nothing is perfect.  Which is why we tailor our recommendations to your pet’s lifestyle, and the frequency of vaccines has changed.  However, that doesn’t mean that you can totally skip vaccines.  Vaccines are safe and can prevent a whole lot of heartache.  Do you really want to take that chance?

 

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

SPRING!

SPRING!!!

Yah, it’s that time of the year.  Baseball season (Gooooo Phillies!!!).  Oh yeah, and it’s also time for ticks.  Any time we have weather above 45 degrees, ticks can start to be active.  Which means, while we had a colder than normal March and 1st day of April, they will be out in force later this week.  Unless your pet spends 100% of their time indoors (going outside to go to the bathroom counts as going outside), you need flea and tick control in this area.  We have different options – collars, oral products, and topicals. As a nudge for you to start your pet’s tick control, here are some fun facts.

  1. In this area we have the American Dog tick, Black Legged tick, Brown Dog tick, and the Lone Star tick.  The new arrival, the Asian Longhorned tick is in the northeast area of Pennsylvania.
  2. Ticks can survive the winter by going dormant, latching onto a host, or going underground.
  3. The CDC lists 12 diseases that are carried by ticks in the United States. In this area, ticks carry Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Babesia.
  4. Ticks have 4 life stages. They are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than other insects.  A female tick can lay 3,000 eggs.
  5. In Berks County your dog has a 1 in 8 chance of getting Lyme disease, a 1 in 15 chance of getting Anaplasmosis, and a 1 in 24 chance of getting Erhlichia.

So, how is your tick control?

 

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

RESOLUTIONS

As we count down the last days of 2018, the topic of resolutions always come up.  Resolutions are a great way to refocus for the new year and to set goals.  I am sure you have resolutions for yourself, but have you thought about some resolutions for you and your pet?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Daily exercise.  Good for both you and your pet.
  2. Teach or refresh your dog’s basic manners. There are a lot of good classes in the area.  A well-behaved dog is always a joy to be around.
  3. Give your dog monthly heartworm preventative. If your dog isn’t on heartworm preventative, have him/her tested and started on preventative.
  4. Regular flea and tick control for dog and cats. Even in the winter!  Two days of 50-degree weather will result in ticks being active.
  5. Keep your pet’s vaccines up to date.
  6. Bring a fecal to your annual exam. Even indoor cats can pick up parasites from bugs in the house.
  7. Buy health insurance for your pet. Illness and accidents happen.  How much easier would it be if finances weren’t an issue?
  8. Have an annual exam for your pet even if their vaccines are not due. We can find problems early with a good physical before they spiral out of control.
  9. Teach your dog or cat a new trick or start a sport. It will strengthen your bond and keep your pet’s mind active.
  10. Love your pet.

From the staff at Willow Creek Veterinary Center, we hope you have a happy and healthy 2019!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

TIS THE SEASON

Thanksgiving is over, and now comes the push towards the next set of holidays! Whether it is Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa here are some things to keep in mind for the furry members of your family.

• Changes in schedules and décor around the house can be disconcerting to
some pets. Try to keep your pets’ schedule the same as much as possible
to avoid adding to the stress.
• Remember potential toxins that may show up at your house. Imported snow
globes have been found to contain antifreeze, which is appealing and toxic
to pets. Antifreeze causes renal failure. Salt dough ornaments when
eaten can cause vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, weakness, and seizures.
Chocolate has 2 compounds that are toxic. Depending on the type and
amount of chocolate ingested, symptoms can range from mild
gastrointestinal signs to more serious seizures, tremors, and cardiac
symptoms. Grapes and raisins are known to cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss
of appetite, seizures, tremors, and comas. Macadamia nuts cause vomiting,
weakness and muscle incoordination, and hyperthermia. Alcohol, raw dough
and alcohol pastries cause hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, and
hypothermia. Artificial sweeteners can cause hypoglycemia and liver
failure. Lilies cause renal failure, while holly berries and mistletoe
cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Poinsettias are usually only
mildly toxic.
• If your pet ingests anything, please contact our office. Another resource
is the ASPCA’s Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435.

Need ideas on what to purchase for a family pet or friend’s pet? How about a new leash or collar with a new ID tag or Poop Bags (no explanation needed)? Please be careful with gifting treats and toys, though. Every pet is different with their dietary needs or what they can safely play with. Avoid treats made in other countries, as they have been problematic in the past. A health insurance policy for their pets can literally be a life saver. A donation to a local shelter or national animal welfare group in their honor is very special. Gift certificates to the local pet store or their favorite veterinarian also make great gifts. Whatever you choose, our furry family members deserve to be included on the gift list for all the unconditional love they give us year-round!

On behalf of the staff at Willow Creek Veterinary Center, I want to wish you, your family, and your pets a happy and healthy holiday season!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Not as good as you think.

Recently the FDA has warned veterinarians that there may be a correlation with Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and specific ingredients in pet food.   Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the muscles of the heart.  In DCM the muscles weaken, causing the heart to enlarge and not function correctly.  Signs of DCM include lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse.  Certain breeds such as Cockers, Boxers, Newfoundland, and others are affected due to genetic factors.  However, the FDA has noted DCM in breeds not typically affected.

The common factor in the dogs reported to the FDA – diet.  The dogs were being fed grain free diets with legumes (peas, lentils, etc.) or potatoes as the main ingredients.  Some dogs tested had taurine deficiencies, others did not.  Early reports indicate that the dogs ate these foods as their primary diet for periods ranging from months to years.   The dogs improved when their diet was switched to a balanced diet.  Most of the dogs also needed medication.   At this point the FDA is working with veterinary cardiologists, nutritionists, and manufacturers to determine the underlying cause.

The grain free craze in pet food was started as a marketing plan by certain dog food companies.  There is no scientific evidence that grains cause problems in most dogs.  For the 10% of dogs who have a true food allergy, 95% of those allergies are to a protein source, not a carbohydrate.  If you feel that your dog has a food allergy, please talk to one of our veterinarians so we can develop a plan to address your concerns.  At this point, grain free diets are not worth your dog’s heart.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Is It An Emergency?

Hopefully, you will never have to ask yourself that question!  However, our pets have a way of getting themselves into trouble; so, here is a guideline of things that should prompt a phone call.

  1. Trouble breathing.  This can mean a respiratory rate over 50-breaths a minute, nostrils flaring, sitting with the head extended and elbows out, and gums that are pale, or grey/blue.
  2. Trouble urinating. They may be straining and only producing a few drops or no urine.  They may vocalize when they strain and may try to urinate in unusual locations.
  3. Trouble using their hindlegs or unable to walk.
  4. Seizures
  5. Exposure to toxicities. This includes medication, plants, chemicals.
  6. Everything from an animal fight to being hit by a car, a fall, or hit by an unusual  object (i.e. a remote, baseball bat, golf clubs, a chainsaw). Oh, the stories I can tell from 6 years as a full-time emergency vet!
  7. Collapse
  8. Vulvar discharge if the pet is not spayed.
  9. Non-productive vomiting with dogs.

If you are not sure if your pet has a true emergency, please call and talk to one of our staff.  They can assess the situation over the phone and advise you on the best course of action for your pet.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Fire Safety For Pets!

This month we celebrate Fire Safety for Pets Day.  Each year, 500,000 pets are affected by house fires, with 40,000 pets losing their lives in fires each year.  In 2013, fire departments responded to 350,000 house fires (that is one house fire every 85 seconds).  December through January is the peak time for house fires.  Pets are actually responsible for 1,000 house fires each year (3 a day).Never leave your pet unattended with burning candles, portable heaters, open fires, and unsecured electric cords.

You can go to www.gopetplan.com/Firesafety to print a full, customizable pet rescue alert for your window.  It will include the name of your pet, their favorite hiding place, and you can add a photo.  This will help fire fighters know to look for your pet.

Remember, never go back into a burning house trying to save a pet once you have safely exited (leave that to the professionals).  Stay safe!

 

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

HARD TO BELIEVE

A couple of weeks ago my veterinary class celebrated our 25th class reunion.  I couldn’t attend because I was at a horse show, but I started thinking of all the changes that have occurred in veterinary medicine in the time I have practiced.

  1. Pain medicine has advanced greatly, and our understanding of pain has also improved.  25 years ago, dogs rarely got Bute or aspirin, which we now know universally causes stomach ulcers.  Today we have different classes and choices of pain medication.  Infusions of pain medication are routine but underheard of then.  While we are currently struggling with an opioid shortage, we still have many more choices then we use to have.  25 years ago, cats had nothing for pain.  Due to their unique metabolism, we still have only a small amount of choices compared to dogs, but at least we have something.
  2. Drugs available for anesthesia are safer and we have more choices. We also have drugs that allow us to safely sedate your pet in the office and then reverse the drugs and send your pet home shortly after a procedure
  3. Flea control consisted of shampoos, dips, sprays and bombs. Today’s choices include topicals, orals, and collars.
  4. We have a better understanding of the role of diet in our pet’s health. Dog and cat food has better ingredients, made into better formulas.  Dog food companies are now actually changing diets to change the gene expression of animals to control disease.
  5. Veterinary specialists are more readily available and accepted. In my first practice the closest specialty hospital was over 2 hours away.  It only offered limited specialists.  A lot of times, we did things because we were the only option for our clients.  It was fun because it allowed us to stretch our wings and do procedures that we are obligated to refer today.  My first boss told me he felt sorry for me, because he predicted correctly that as my career went along we all would be sending more and more to the specialists.
  6. As I write this, I am on call for our patients. Our hospital is one of the last hospitals in the county that take emergency calls.  24/7 emergency clinics are commonplace now, providing supervised care for patients.  This allows our patients to have the best care possible and allows veterinarians and their staff to have a work/life balance that didn’t exist before.  At the first hospital I worked at, I got 3 days off out of every 14 days.  That schedule was commonplace.
  7. The internet didn’t exist, so our research was limited to books and phone calls to specialists we had a relationship with.
  8. Dental care has advanced, and we understand the relationship of periodontal disease to the health of the rest of the body.
  9. Allergy treatment has improved just in the past 2 years, and as a result we are able to keep a lot of pets comfortable without having to resort to treatments with long-term side effects.

I don’t feel as if I have been practicing for 25 years (my mother can’t believe she has a daughter that has been a vet for that long either).  I can only imagine what the next 25 years will bring.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

That Doesn’t Work That Way……

This past week I noticed a trend among our clients.  As part of a pet’s annual exam, I always try to examine the mouth (if Fluffy will let me).  When I mentioned the grade of tartar found on the pet’s teeth, I was told by multiple clients that their groomer cleans their dog’s teeth.  Brushing a dog or cat’s teeth every 6-8 weeks is not enough.  If you are going to brush your pet’s teeth, it needs to be done several times a week, if not daily.  I feel bad for these clients, because brushing teeth every two months is a waste of money.  Please also understand that what your groomer does is not the same as a complete dental performed at our office.  A complete dental involves an examination of all tooth and gum surfaces under general anesthesia, a complete cleaning and polishing, and a fluoride treatment.

If you would like suggestions on how to care for your pet’s teeth so you can get the most bang for your buck, please reach out to our staff.  We have different types of products (chews, additives, food) to work with every pet and lifestyle.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.