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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.

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.

All we want for Christmas…….

This is the time of year when people make lists of what they want for the holidays.  So, I decided to ask our staff what they wanted from our clients.  This is what they came up with:

  1. Be polite.  A please and thank you go a long way.
  2. Be on time for your appointments. If you are held up, call us and let us know.
  3. Vaccinate your pets. Vaccines protect against a ton of deadly diseases, are safe, and keep your pet healthy and your family safe.
  4. Keep up with preventative medication for your pets. Flea, tick, and heartworm preventative can help your pet avoid a lot of nasty diseases.
  5. Train your pet. Get your cat use to the carrier and being handled.  Train your dog to walk nicely on a leash, stand on command, and have their feet, ears, and mouth handled.  It is much easier to do a thorough exam on a cooperative animal.  You will also appreciate not having to struggle to treat your pet if you need to medicate them.
  6. Take our recommendations seriously. We only recommend what we truly believe is in the best interest of your pet.
  7. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. There is some great advice available on the internet, but there is also some horrible advice on there.
  8. Ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  9. Do not give your pet over the counter medicine or human medicine without asking.
  10. Don’t take our equipment. We need our tools for our next patient.

And of course, we all want you, your family, and critters to have a happy and healthy holiday season.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D., Duncan, and Rio

They Are More Than Their Jobs!

October 15-21, 2017 is National Veterinary Technician Week.  This is the week we recognize what a vital role our technicians play in taking care of our patients and clients.  Without them, we would not be able to do our jobs.

So, who are these people outside of their jobs?  I decided to explore that question.  When I asked the technicians what their hobby was, I got a lot of blank stares.  Most of the time the initial answer was they didn’t have a hobby outside of their work and spending time with their families (a separate problem that I won’t address here).  When I pressed the issue, here were some of the varied answers I got (I promised I wouldn’t list their names).

  • Drink wine
  • Visiting breweries, watching the TV show Fixer Upper
  • Making soap, crocheting, quilting
  • Gardening, vacuuming (that is what she said)
  • Birding, gardening
  • Gardening
  • Walking the dogs
  • Reading
  • Reading, going to the lake
  • Milking cows, spending time with her niece and memau

I must admit, some of the answers surprised me, but the variety of personalities is what makes our team great.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Ladies, for all you do!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Canine Influenza Fact Sheet

The recent outbreak of canine influenza, affecting dogs in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas as of this writing, involves the influenza virus H3N2.  The strain is referred to as the Chicago strain, as it first appeared in Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 2015.  The virus is an extremely contagious airborne disease that is easily spread among dogs, and can be contagious to cats.  Two deaths have been reported in North Carolina. Listed below is some additional information about the virus and how to minimize the risk and reduce the spread of the disease.

The influenza virus is an airborne virus that is spread through proximity to infected dogs and can travel up to 20 feet.  It can also be spread by contact with contaminated items (bowls, leashes, crates, tables, clothing, dog runs, etc.).  People moving between infected and uninfected dogs can spread the virus.  Eighty percent of all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it.  The virus lives on soft surfaces for up to 24 hours and 48 hours on hard surfaces.

Some exposed dogs will be sub-clinical carriers, meaning that the dogs will contract and spread the virus without showing symptoms.  Once exposed, dogs show clinical signs within 24 to 48 hours, and can shed the virus for up to 28 days after exposure.  Most dogs recover with proper supportive care.

Symptoms of the virus are a dry hacking cough, a lack of appetite, lethargy, discharge from the eyes or nose, and fever.  Untreated, the virus may progress to pneumonia, sometimes severe, that may make dogs extremely sick with potential for fatalities.  Most dogs take 2 to 3 weeks to recover.

Prevention includes vaccination.  The vaccine requires an initial series of 2 vaccines, and full immunity is not present until 7-14 day after the 2nd booster.  Sick animals should be isolated for 30 days after symptoms subside.  A 1:30 bleach solution should be used to disinfect common areas such as tables, bowls, leashes, crates, etc.  The solution should be made daily, and a drying time of 10 minutes should be used before a new dog is exposed to the items.  Stainless steel bowls should be used.  Hands should be washed between dogs.  At a minimum, hand sanitizer should be used between handing dogs.  Disposable gowns, and wiping down shoes and clothing with a bleach solution are recommended after leaving an area where dogs congregate.

Willow Creek Veterinary Center is striving to keep up-to-date on the latest information regarding this outbreak. We are happy to answer any questions you have about your pet’s exposure risk; and whether vaccination is appropriate for your dog.

Dr. Ann Bastian

Leptospirosis – You and Your dog

Recently a client reached out to us asking about the recent outbreak of Leptospirosis in New York city.  Three people were diagnosed with Leptospirosis in the Bronx, with one person dying.  A veterinary hospital in Paramus, New Jersey reported treating 5 dogs with 3 fatalities this month.  So, what is Leptospirosis?  Leptospirosis (lepto for short) is a worldwide disease caused by spiral bacteria affecting both dogs and people (cats don’t seem to get Lepto).  Lepto is carried by cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, mice, rats, racoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, and deer.  Lepto is transmitted to people and dogs through contact with urine or body fluids. Lepto is also transmitted through water, soil, or food contaminated with urine from infected animals.  The bacteria enter through breaks in the skin, mucous membranes, or drinking contaminated water.  Lepto can survive in the water and soil for weeks to months.  There are multiple forms (serovars) of Lepto.  Lepto is found in all 50 states.  The World Health Organization states that very little is known about the true incidence of Leptospirosis worldwide.

Signs of lepto in dogs are fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, anorexia, weakness, depression, stiffness, severe muscle pain, and jaundice from liver failure.   Time from exposure to clinical signs can range from a few days to a month.  Lepto can be shed in the urine for up to 3 months after infection, especially if not treated appropriately.  Clinical signs in people include kidney disease, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress.

There are vaccinations available for dogs, although the current vaccines only cover 4 of the serovars.  In the most recent vaccine guidelines, the lepto vaccine is considered a lifestyle vaccine.  That means that veterinarians may make recommendations based on each dog’s risk of exposure. Lepto is the “L” part of the distemper vaccine.   The vaccine needs a series of shots to start, and then is a yearly vaccine thereafter.  Contrary to the old wives’ tale, lepto does not cause vaccine reactions.  We have many people who come in to the office with the recommendation from their breeder not to vaccinate for lepto.  When a vaccine reaction does happen (about 1 in 10,000 vaccines), it is caused by the adjuvant in the vaccines.  Adjuvants are the liquid part of the vaccine that contains material used to stimulate the immune system.

I encourage everyone to ask their veterinarian about the lepto vaccine, and come up with vaccine schedule that best suits your dog’s lifestyle.  And yes, my dog is vaccinated for lepto!


Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Pet Dental Health Month

February is National Pet Dental Health Month.  By the age of 3, most dogs and cats have signs of periodontal disease.  Signs of dental disease include bad breath, broken or loose teeth, retained baby teeth, tartar, discolored teeth, abnormal chewing or drooling, dropping food from the mouth, decreased appetite, bleeding, or swelling around the mouth.  The only way to address periodontal disease is with a dentistry performed under general anesthesia, so the health of the teeth can be checked from all angles, including under the gum line.  In celebration of National Pet Dental Month, Willow Creek Veterinary Center is offering $50 off a dental procedure performed during the month of February.  Please call to schedule your consultation today.

Once we have professionally cleaned your pet’s teeth, many people ask how we can keep the remaining teeth healthy.  Ideally, brushing daily to several times a week with a toothbrush and a pet toothpaste is the best method.  If your pet is not willing to go along with that option, there are additives to the water, raw hide treats that are treated with an enzyme to prevent tartar, and the new Oravet chews that scrape the plaque off the tooth as the dog chews.  If you are looking at the large variety of over the counter chews, make sure to look for the VOHC seal of approval, which indicates that the treat meets the Veterinary Oral Healthy Council criteria for teeth cleaning protocols.

Recently, I performed a dental on a 14-year-old Chihuahua.  The owner had been told by another veterinarian that the dog was too old for a dental.  We safely performed the dental, and extracted multiple teeth that had advanced periodontal disease.  At the next visit, the owner asked me what I did to her dog.  Then she laughed, and explained her dog had a new lease on life.  He was jumping into bed with her, playing with toys that had been ignored for years, and generally acting like a dog half his age.  Dental disease hurts!  Dogs that are labeled as grumpy, “slowing down”, and old may in fact be dealing with chronic pain.  If your dog or cat suffers from dental disease, don’t let age stop you from talking to us about a dental.  Age is not a disease, and we may be able to give your pet a new lease on life.


Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Holiday Hazards

With less than two weeks until Christmas, just a quick reminder of the hazards the holidays can pose to our pets.  The change in décor, schedules, and holiday guests can all cause stress because our pets are creatures of habits (I mean seriously, who thought it was a good idea to bring a tree in the house?).  Lights, tinsels, and ornaments are all things to be investigated, chewed on, and possibly ingested.  The house often gets decorated with amaryllis, lilies, yew, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia which are all toxic plants.  Then the food.  Chocolate, garlic, onions, alcohol, unbaked bread, and xylitol can all be present in holiday baking and gifts.  It is enough to drive any pet owner crazy.  So, try and be aware and as safe as possible; and as always, if your pet does get into something, call us right away.  It is much easier to deal with something that has been recently ingested, than deal with the aftermath.

From the staff of Willow Creek, we wish you and your family health and happiness through this holiday season and the coming year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New year.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.


National Vet Technician Week

This week is National Veterinary Technician week.  As veterinarians, we owe a big group of thanks to this group.  They are the core of any veterinary hospital.  They keep our veterinarians safe so they can do their job while getting bitten, scratched, peed, and pooped on.  They are a source of reassurance and information for our clients.  They mourn the loss of patients with their human families, and are the first ones to celebrate the addition of new family member with clients.  They keep our patients safe under anesthesia, while making sure our hospitalized patients are comfortable.  They fill the roles of pharmacy techs, x-ray technicians, laboratory techs, nurses, orderlies, and secretaries.   Thank you for all you do every day.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.