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


Age Is Not A Disease!

Recently I performed a dental on a 16-year-old dog, after which I removed an infected eye from a one pound, four-week-old kitten.  While the cases were very different, they had one common denominator.  At one point or another, someone suggested the patients should not have surgery based solely on their age.  Now I will admit, I kind of held my breath a little on the one-pound kitten.  It wasn’t because of its age; it was because of its size.  It was hard to dose the medication accurately; and even harder to get an IV catheter in.  However, I trusted my staff, they trusted me, and the kitten did very well during the surgery.

Age is not a disease process.  There are certain diseases that are more common in elderly patients; but the diseases, not the age, dictate whether anesthesia and surgery are plausible.  As an emergency vet, all my surgery cases were very sick when they were placed under anesthesia.  We didn’t have the luxury of waiting to anesthetize healthy animals.  Are there times when an animal is too sick to have a routine procedure on them? Absolutely… but the disease, not the age dictates that.

While I was at the Western Veterinary Conference in March, I attended a lecture on anesthesia.  The board-certified anesthesiologist described a phone call he got for a consult with a former student.  The dog was healthy, all the pre-anesthetic bloodwork was normal, but the doctor was terrified to anesthetize the dog.  When the specialist asked why, the local doctor explained that the dog was 27 (it was an AKC registered dog, so the age was accurate).  With a gentle prod and a reminder that age is not a disease, the 27-year-old Bichon had his dental done successfully, and the owner was very happy.  So, the next time you think your cat or dog shouldn’t have something done because it is older, remember the 27-year-old Bichon!

Ann E Bastian, V.M.D.

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.

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.