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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

            It’s that time of year again. Time for family and friends to gather for holiday festivities.  During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is easy to forget to plan for the four-legged family members.  Whether traveling or hosting gatherings at home, pet owners should plan appropriately for housing and care of their pets.  Planning will help to ensure everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.

            For traveling pet owners it may be necessary to schedule boarding reservations, find pet-friendly hotels, or check with airlines for pet-flying procedures. Many individuals choose to board their pet with the family veterinarian, but there are additional pet boarding facilities available.  When locating a boarding facility, you may want to plan a pre-drop off visit to view the facilities.  It is also important to review necessary vaccinations, flea prevention, and diagnostic protocols that may be required (i.e. fecal test for internal parasites).  These steps ensure that each pet cared for receives minimal exposure to contagious pathogens that can be transferred amongst dogs and cats in high density settings. 

            If you choose to take your pets with you while traveling, locate pet-friendly hotels on-line.  There are several pet-friendly hotel search engines available online that can aid in finding a hotel along your travel route.  For those traveling by air, it is important to contact the airline in advance to determine what may be necessary for the pet to travel (i.e. vaccinations, carrier restrictions, health documentation). 

            For pet owners staying at home and hosting holiday gatherings, there are a number of important items to consider. First, does the pet stress easily or become anxious with family or friends in the house?  If so, it may be beneficial to consider boarding these pets.  Other options include placing your pet in a quiet area of the house, or giving anti-anxiety or sedative medications if the anxiety is severe. 

            Tell your guests how to interact with your pets.  If a pet is fearful, guests should know not to approach him.  Don’t give your pets human food and monitor them around guest luggage to ensure no toxic foods or medications are ingested.  If you think your pet ate something potentially toxic or foreign, emergency veterinary care should be sought as soon as possible.

            The holidays should be a joyful time for everyone.  A little planning will help to ensure pet’s safety and the start of a happy new year.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Dreaded "C" Word

The Dreaded “C” Word

            As pets age, concerns arise regarding their overall health.  In some instances diseases can develop that may be terminal or require intensive treatment or management.  Just as in humans, one group of diseases that can strike fear in every pet owner is the dreaded “C” word, or cancer (also known as neoplasia).

            Like in humans, cancer in pets can affect various systems and organs of the body.  Some forms are more prominent or are at increased risk of occurrence in a certain breed or sex.  The typical age group for diagnosis is middle to old age (7 yrs old or greater), but it can be diagnosed earlier in life.  Clinical signs that can be seen will depend on what organ or system is being affected.  For instance, bone cancer may cause a lameness or swelling to develop on the affected limb; cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, or spleen may cause a decreased appetite, listlessness, vomiting or diarrhea, or anemia (a decrease in the red blood cell count); cancer of the central nervous system may cause seizures, an unsteady gait, or change in a pet’s behavior (i.e. becoming aggressive). 

            How to determine a diagnosis will also vary based on what type of cancer is suspected.  The most common diagnostics that are performed in all cases include complete blood work, urinalysis, and chest radiographs.  Additional diagnostics that may be considered, depending on which organs are affected, include fine needle aspiration, biopsy, abdominal radiographs and/or ultrasound, or additional blood work.  Occasionally more advanced diagnostics such as CT scan or MRI may be needed.  Once a definitive diagnosis is reached treatment protocols can be discussed, which can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or palliative treatment. 

            There have been great advancements in the methods of detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in veterinary medicine through the years.  There are increasing numbers of board-certified veterinary oncologists throughout the US that offer cutting-edge therapy to cancer patients. Research is continuously being conducted to determine earlier detection methods, clarify the use of biomarkers to aid in identification of the presence of certain types of cancer, and improve treatment options.  These enhancements are improving the veterinarians’ ability to maintain an acceptable quality of life for pets and their owners and hopefully improve longevity. 

            If you have any questions or would like to schedule a wellness visit for your pet, please contact us today at (407)366-4486 to schedule an appointment.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Help! My pet is peeing everywhere!

Help! My pet is peeing everywhere!

            November is Pet Diabetes Month.  When left undiagnosed and unmanaged, diabetes can be a fatal disease in dogs and cats.  By reviewing the most common clinical signs, potential risk factors that may increase the chances of development, and diagnostics and treatments available, pet owners will hopefully become more astute in monitoring at home and in the management of diabetic pets.
            When veterinarians discuss diabetes in pets, it is mainly in reference to diabetes mellitus (referred to in this blog as diabetes).  Diabetes insipidus does occur in dogs and cats but is rare. The clinical signs of this disease are different and will not be discussed in this blog.
 Diabetes is typically diagnosed at approximately 7-9 years old (cats may be 9-11 years old), and it is more frequent in female dogs and male cats. The most common complaint from owners of pets when diabetes may be suspected is an increase in water intake (polydypsia) and increase in urination (polyuria), sometimes to astounding amounts.  An increase in appetite may also be noted (polyphagia) with concurrent weight loss. With more progressed or severe disease, extreme lethargy or a decrease in appetite, abnormal gait in the hind limbs in cats, or the development of cataracts in dogs can occur. A serious progression of diabetes, known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), may occur if left untreated. 
            Diagnosis is based on several criteria.  First, appropriate clinical signs must be present. Second, blood work is used to confirm the presence of high blood glucose (hyperglycemia), as well as elevated liver values and cholesterol.  A positive glucose on a urine sample is confirmation of diabetes mellitus.  In cats, high blood glucose can occur without the presence of glucose in the urine due to stress; this does not indicate the presence of diabetes. Additional diagnostics, such as abdominal ultrasounds, additional blood work, or radiographs may be warranted to rule-out additional underlying diseases, especially if DKA is present. 
           Treatment may be short-term or long-term.  If DKA is present, short-term treatment may include hospitalization, intravenous fluids, insulin therapy, and additional supportive care as indicated.  Long-term treatment with insulin is aimed at lowering and managing blood glucose.  As insulin treatment continues and blood glucose stabilizes, the owner should notice a decrease in water intake and urination to “normal.”  Frequent blood glucose monitoring is necessary, typically through blood work, to ensure the insulin dose is adequate.  Once on insulin dogs remain insulin-dependent for life; however, some cats can become non-insulin dependent.  A diet change to a prescription diet may be recommended.  It is important to work closely with the veterinarian to ensure your pet’s disease is adequately controlled. 
            Not all pets will develop diabetes, but there are risk factors that may increase the probability of this occurring.  Obesity is often the most prominent risk factor.  Additional factors can include recurring or chronic pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), or chronic use of insulin-antagonistic drugs (such as glucocorticoids, progestagens). 
            If you are concerned that your pet may be exhibiting clinical signs related to diabetes, or would like to discuss if your pet may be at risk for future development, please contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment. 



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fun Feline Facts

October 29 is National Cat Day. For all the cat lovers out there,  here are some fun feline facts that many cat fanatics may not be aware of:
1.       Cats can make approximately 100 different sounds.

2.       A group of cats is called a clowder.

3.       In keeping with the spirit of Halloween, black cats are considered to be lucky in Britain and Australia.

4.       Cats spend approximately 1/3 of their time awake grooming.  They spend on average 15-17 hours per day sleeping.

5.       Cats do not have the ability to taste “sweet” flavors.

6.       The average domestic cat can run at a speed of approximately 30 mph.

7.       Cats are crepuscular pets, meaning they are most active late at night and early in the morning.

8.       The Maine Coon breed and American Shorthair breed arrived on the Mayflower.

9.       Purebred cats mature slower than domestic shorthair cats.

10.   Not all cats will respond to catnip.  The ability to respond is actually a trait that is inherited in cats.  The reaction that cats have to catnip is speculated to be “hallucinogenic.”

11.   The “color points” located at the face, tail, and feet of the colourpoint breeds (such as the Siamese or Himalayan) is due to a temperature recessive gene expressed in hair located in cool parts of the body.  Therefore, it is important to remember that any hair shaved on these cats may grow back darker for some time due to the decrease in temperature in that region of hair growth!

12.   The longest whiskers on a cats face are called the mystacial tufts.  These are used for sensing location close to the face, especially prey, as cats have poor vision up close.

13.   The reason that only females are typically calico is that the gene coding for red or black color can only be expressed on the “x” chromosome, which makes female cats more likely to have multiple colors (XX vs XY of males).

14.   There are 4 distinct tabby patterns: mackerel (striped), spotted, classic, and ticked (agouti).  The tabby coloration is actually dominant to solid colors in gene expression.

15.   The “tabby” color pattern is thought to be the original color of domesticated cats.

16.   All tabby cats have a “M” marking on the forehead.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Halloween Safety tips, provided by the ASPCA

Happy Halloween

The ASPCA recommends taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet safe from:

Trick or Treats

1.      No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms- especially dark or baking chocolate- can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888)426-4435. 

2.      Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.

3.      Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4.      A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle.  Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire.  Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames. 

5.      Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets.  Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!).  For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.

6.      If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe.  It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow.  Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night.  If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au natural or donning a festive bandana. 

7.      Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on.  Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8.      All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours.  Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets. 

9.      When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10.  IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification.  If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

Animal Poison Control Center
Information gathered from ASPCA
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thanks for the advice!

Thanks for the advice!


            How do pet owners know what is best for their pet? Every day they see it in advertisements, read it on packaging, and options available in the ever-growing industry of pet foods or alternative veterinary options (i.e. holistic, alternative, behavior, or Chinese medicine) available.  With more selections available to the owner and information from various sources, it is crucial that owners become attuned to what information is accurate and what information warrants further investigation. 

            First, let’s glance at the pet food industry.  From personal experience, it can be overwhelming for an owner to walk into the local pet food store, walk down the multitude of food aisles, and try to determine which brand or formulation is best for their pet.  The options can vary from grain-free to novel protein to low-fat/diet to raw/dehydrated to prescription and everything in-between. 

The truth is what may be recommended for one individual pet may not be recommended for another.  Diet choice should be individualized.  The starting point to try to determine what may be recommended is the family veterinarian.  The veterinarian can determine if any underlying disease processes are present that may preclude the use of a certain food, or if consultation or referral to a veterinary nutritionist is warranted.  Veterinary nutritionists are veterinarians who have completed advanced training to become certified in nutrition.  Many of the larger companies (Hill’s, Royal Canin, Purina) have veterinary nutritionists on-staff that the veterinarian may contact if any questions arise.  When receiving nutritional advice from additional sources (i.e. pet store employee, company representative), it is important to review their credentials to determine their degree to be able to offer pertinent medical advice. 

            Second, there is the growing field of alternative veterinary medicine.  If an owner is interested in these options, it is extremely important to talk to the family veterinarian as they can recommend veterinarians nearby that may specialize in this field.  Typically veterinarians interested in this path will undergo additional specialized training and continuing education.  

            There is also the opportunity, however, for individuals who are not licensed to practice veterinary medicine to be able to offer some of these services.  It is important that when seeking alternative veterinary care outside of a veterinarian’s office, the individual’s credentials are verified to ensure the safety of the pet.  This also stands true for behavioral training opportunities.  There are numerous behavior training courses available to lay-people (those that are not veterinarians), and what the trainer is certified in should be readily available for the owner to view. 

            The main point is that everyone wants to ensure that the pet’s best interests are being met.  It is just important to ensure that information that is received is medically based and takes in to consideration the individual pet.  As always, the best place to start with questions regarding the pet is with the family veterinarian, who can then direct you along the appropriate path. 



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why senior wellness bloodwork?

            As pets begin to age and reach what veterinarians consider “senior age” (dogs approximately 7 years old, cats approximately 8-9 years old), you may notice that your veterinarian begins to recommend yearly wellness bloodwork.  Many pet owners may wonder what this is and why it has not previously been recommended with each yearly visit.  The information presented below is to help those owners understand why it is recommended once the pet reaches a specific age, and what the bloodwork is comprised of.
            Imagine your pet (cat or dog) as a human senior adult.  As humans become older, a general health screen begins to involve wellness bloodwork to monitor for common senior illnesses, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, liver or kidney disease, or even cancer.  If these diseases are detected early enough prior to the development of clinical signs, treatments or lifestyle changes can be implemented to slow the progression of disease or even cure or improve existing changes.  Cats and dogs age much faster than humans (approximately 7 times faster), and therefore veterinarians must look for these changes sooner.   
            A complete blood count (or CBC) is performed to view changes that may be occurring with the patient’s bone marrow, hydration status, or immune system. Such values include the hematocrit (useful when assessing hydration status or presence of an anemia or immune-mediated disease), white blood cell counts (useful when assessing for infections, parasitic disease, inflammatory disease, or certain forms of cancer), or platelets (useful when assessing for clotting or immune-mediated disorders). 
            Serum chemistry is performed to assess overall organ function.  This is particularly important in those pets that may be on long-term medications that can have an effect on the kidneys or liver, or those that are currently exhibiting vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or potential toxin exposure.  Based on your pet’s underlying condition or medication, bloodwork may be recommended more often than once yearly (perhaps every 3 to 6 months).  In some cases, a thyroid function test (T4) may be needed to assess for an under- or overactive thyroid.  On many occasions, the veterinarian may actually be able to diagnose an underlying problem prior to it becoming severe, and early intervention is essential in controlling the overall course of disease (in some instances even life-saving!).
            So what if you perform senior wellness bloodwork on your pet and it is normal? Great! Even “normal” results on bloodwork provide valuable information, especially if the patient develops a sudden illness over the next year or has an adverse reaction to a food or medication.  This can aid us in better determining what may have been the underlying cause and time line for the illness to occur. 
            If you have any questions or concerns regarding wellness bloodwork or your pet, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Williams or Dr. Walker at (407)366-4486 and schedule a consultation today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Be honest about your pet’s ability to travel.  If your pet is very young or old, is ill, pregnant, or recovering from surgery, it may be better for all concerned to look into a pet sitter or kennel.  There is no need to risk injuring your pet by taking him/her with you.
Ask us about any medical risks for areas you will be visiting, as well as any medications needed for carsickness.  Pets can be separated from their owners while traveling and often collars are not on pets recovered at the shelters.  Seriously consider having your pet microchipped, because facilities nationwide are using scanners that will read these implanted chips.  This allows you to be reunited with your lost pet! 
Make certain that all vaccinations are current and obtain a copy of the records to carry with you, as you may need to board your pet unexpectedly.  Also, if your pet requires emergency medical attention, these will allow this to take place much more quickly.  If your plans include air travel, you need to check with the airline carrier regarding their requirements.

Some helpful hints:
Obtain a proper carrier.
You need a sturdy, properly ventilated crate of adequate size for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.  The crate should be free of interior hazardous protrusions, have a door that latches securely, and have external handles.  The bottom should be leak proof and covered with a towel or absorbent material.
Make sure your pet is accustomed to the crate before you begin your trip.  On the outside of the crate print your name, the pet’s name, your home and destination address and phone number.
Never put a leash in the crate, as your pet could become entangled.

Verify that your pet’s tags are current.
Your pet should wear a secure collar at all times with tags showing proof of rabies vaccination and your name, home address, and phone number in case you get separated.  Make a set of temporary tags with the address and phone number of your destination

Be prepared for the worst.
No one likes to think about it, yet many pets become separated from their owners while traveling.  To increase the chances of a safe return, bring a recent photograph and written description of your pet.  Make sure to include name, breed, any tattoo/microchip numbers, sex, age, color, and any unusual markings.

Keep in mind.
Ø  Keep fresh water available for your pet at all times and avoid sudden changes of diet.
Ø  Obey all leash laws and clean up after your pet.
Ø  Never give your pet any sedatives or medications unless under a veterinarian’s prescription.  Such medications can interfere with your pet’s ability to maintain its balance and equilibrium, which can lead to injury.

Be sure to find lodging along the way where your pet will be welcome. Also remember the following:
Ø  All medications and a first aid kit
Ø  Health records
Ø  Sturdy leash and collar (with tags)
Ø  Extra collar
Ø  Bedding
Ø  Food, can opener, spoon, and bowl
Ø  Water and bowl
Ø  Treats and toys
Ø  Waste removal bags and a flashlight