How To Be A Responsible Pet Owner

Although February 2017 is in the books, it was Responsible Pet owner month so I thought it was worth reviewing some basics of what is involved in being a Responsible pet owner

  1. Research various breeds to decide which breed is right for your family.  Things to consider include size, activity level and grooming needs.  Talk to breeders at shows, ask your veterinarian, read information about different breeds at or breed specific websites.  Make sure if you decide to buy from a breeder they are reputable.  Shelters and rescue organizations have wonderful dogs and cats as well.
  2. Know the cost of pet ownership. Besides the initial adoption or purchase price, there is food, vaccines, medication, and insurance.
  3. Keep up on your pet’s health. The staff at Willow Creek can make recommendations on needed vaccines and preventative medication that will keep your new family member healthy and happy.  Preventative care can help you avoid some of the larger medical bills in the future.
  4. Feed your pet a healthy, balance, age appropriate diet.
  5. Spay or neuter your pet. Besides helping with the pet overpopulation problem, spaying or neutering pets can help avoid medical problems such as mammary tumors, infections and tumors of the uterus, testicles, and prostate.
  6. Make sure your pet has ID. Microchips are a way of permanently identifying your pet if tags or collars come off.
  7. Have a basic first aid kit, and know some basic first aid skills. Keep the ASPCA Poison Control phone number in an easy to find location (1-888-426-4435).
  8. Train your dog to be a good citizen. There are several excellent trainers in the area.  We can provide you with a list of local trainers.  Your pet will be easier to care for, and you will enjoy your pet more if they are well behaved.

With the right preparation, pets are a wonderful part of our lives.


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.


New Arrivals


The Bastian clan recently expanded with the addition of Duncan, an 11-week-old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.  In the past couple of weeks, I have come to realize some basic tenants of puppy ownership (kittens carry their own set of issues, but you usually don’t have to litter train them).

  1. No house is 100% pet proof. No matter how much you try, they will find something to chew or eat.  Crate training is the way to go, as it prevents accidents and helps with housebreaking.
  2. Paper towels and carpet cleaner are essentials – no explanation needed.
  3. Razor sharp baby teeth will eventually fall out.
  4. Consistency is the key – puppies thrive when they know what is expected.
  5. Even when they protest vaccines, microchips, or removing the 1000th leaf from their mouth they don’t hold grudges.
  6. They have a 2 second attention span so be creative in the way you keep them busy.
  7. The witching hour doesn’t last all day.
  8. A tired puppy is a good puppy.
  9. And finally, you gain a family member that will grow to love you and become a treasured part of your life.

On behalf of the doctors and staff of Willow Creek Veterinary Center, have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

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.

Boogie Monsters DO Exist!

Boogie Monsters DO Exist!

Boogie monsters are the stuff of childhood stories and Stephen King horror novels.  However, in the real world they are still out there, waiting to take advantage of the vulnerable cat or dog.  In July, Berks county experienced a rabid dog at another veterinary clinic.  The dog had its initial puppy shot, but the owner did not follow up with any additional vaccines.  The dog was kept outside, but had no history of injuries or bite wounds.  The dog developed vomiting, that progressed to seizures. Luckily the veterinarian tested the dog, and now the entire veterinary staff, and the family are having to endure the post-exposure treatment.

This year our clinic has had to treat several dogs for heartworm infection.  The disease is carried by mosquitos, and treatment involves several days of injections, along with exercise restriction for weeks after the treatment.  We have seen some patients that have not returned for their treatment, resulting in a source of infection in the community for other dogs.

The sad part is that all these situations were entirely preventable.  Rabies vaccines are readily available, and required by state law for any dog and indoor cat over 12 weeks of age.  Monthly heartworm preventative is inexpensive, and highly effective.   Please feel free to ask our staff if you have any questions about vaccines and heartworm preventative.  Don’t let the boogie monsters have their way with your beloved pet!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Allergy Season in Dogs


145 pet health - sneezing dog1

April showers bring May flowers, and what do May flowers bring?  Itchy dogs and cats.  With the re-emergence of spring, the flowers and trees are in full bloom.  While we are all enjoying this welcomed weather, the pollen count is through the roof.  That means if your pet suffers from atopic dermatitis (aka – seasonal allergies), your pet is probably itchy.  Animals show their allergies differently from their human families.  While human allergy sufferers experience itchy eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats, our pets show their allergies through their skin.  That means they itch, their ears get infected, they get skin infections, and they lick and chew.

Luckily, we now have an arsenal of tools to help our pets.  Topical products can help control secondary skin and ear infections.  That can take the form of shampoos, ear drops, and wipes.  We can test your pet to see what specific things they are allergic to.  We can then order allergy shots or oral allergy drops to help desensitize them (just like people get allergy shots).  There are a variety of oral medications to help control the itch as well.  Steroids are very effective, but carry a host of side effects, especially if used for the long term.  Anti-histamines can help with mild cases.  There is a combination product of a small amount of steroids and antihistamine to combine the best of both worlds.  Cyclosporine can help to decrease the immune response in both cats and dogs. Elimination diets are available for dogs and cats with food allergies.

A newer product on the market has given relief to those dogs for who nothing else has worked.   Apoquel is a cytokine inhibitor, that works on the JAK1 receptor.  This does not allow the allergy cascade to start at the cellular level.  It is appropriate for dogs over one year of age, and has a good safety record.


Whatever your pet’s allergy issues, our veterinarians can work with you to find the best solution for your pet.


Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

It does matter what is in the food bowl.

Dog Eating Steak

Recently a client wrote in asking about feeding human food to dogs. I thought I would take the opportunity to address that, as well as some other nutritional questions we often get. Animal nutrition has come a long way since the days when cats foraged for themselves, horses got fed straight oats, and dogs got what was left over from the plates. When little was understood about animal nutrition, many of our companion animals suffered from a variety of nutritional disorders and diseases. Luckily, I have not had to witness first hand those problems, but they are lurking right around the corner if our pets do not get what they need in the right amounts and ratios. A lot of research, time, and effort from the big companies goes in to making sure the formulas in dog and cat food meet all their nutritional needs. The FDA regulates pet food, and many companies follow the guidelines by AAFCO. If the product is a prescription diet specifically designed to treat a certain disease, even stricter guidelines apply. The manufacturer of the food does matter, as a recent study found that over 50% of the foods found in a pet store have cross contamination of ingredients, and some of the food did not even contain the ingredients listed on the bags (one large, nationally advertised company just lost a major lawsuit in federal court over such an issue). Claims that grains are bad for your pet may apply to some animals with allergies, but is not an across the board recommendation. Adding large amounts of human food on top of the dog food (known as “top dressing”) can throw off the balance of the nutrients in the kibble. Cats also have different nutritional requirements than dogs do, thanks to their unique metabolism.

With recent recalls, some people have resorted to cooking homemade diets for their pets. This can be challenging to get it right, as oils, mineral additives, and multi-vitamins need to be added in the right ratio to assure optimal nutrition. Chocolate, coffee, alcohol, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, raw yeast products, artificial sweeteners, onions and garlic are just some of the human foods that can be toxic to dogs and cats. Raw diets carry the risk of introducing Salmonella and E. coli into the environment. Just two days ago, I saw a dog with a major allergic reaction after being fed a raw, pasteurized, cow’s milk product.

So what’s a pet owner to do? My recommendation is to stick with a national based company (I have my favorites, and I know the other vets in our practice do as well), and talk to us about your questions and concerns. We want to help your pet live a long and healthy life, and nutrition is a key component to achieving that.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Dr. Google


Dr. Google doesn’t have his Pennsylvania license…..

The World Wide Web is a wonderful innovation that has changed the world. My father worked in Research and Development for a major computer company for most of my childhood, so I was exposed at an early age to the wonders of computers. However, with the 24 hours, 7 days a week access to information comes access to misinformation as well. Almost anyone can say anything on the internet, whether it is based in facts or not. Unfortunately, this has led some of our well-meaning clients to make poorly informed decisions based on misinformation from the internet. When you are researching a question about your pet’s health, it is important to know where the information is coming from. Veterinary schools, veterinarians, breed organizations, and kennel clubs often have great sections on health related topics on their websites. Our staff is also very willing to answer any questions you may have about your pets, so please do not hesitate to call us if you have any concerns. Below I have listed some of the websites that offer great advice from reliable sources:

1. Pet poisonings –        
2. General health questions –
3. Canine health –          
4. Feline health –           
5. Equine health –          

Happy surfing,
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

Dr. Google image