Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deck The Halls

Cats and tinsel can be an expensive combination, and it can prove fatal, too!

Tinsel is often a very attractive toy for cats. After all, its shiny, it dangles, and it’s something new in their environment. Few cats can pass it up – and even fewer can "pass it out".

When cats play with tinsel, they often end up swallowing some or getting some wrapped around their tongue, and this is when their nightmare (and yours) will begin. Fortunately, with awareness and some simple preventive steps, this is a common pet emergency that you can easily avoid. Read on to learn how...

Be aware...

Objects your pet ingests that then cause obstruction of their digestive tract are called 'foreign bodies'. There are two general types of foreign bodies that commonly obstruct the digestive tracts of cats and dogs.

  • Linear foreign bodies: String-like materials (e.g. sewing thread, dental floss, fishing line, and many others) where one end of the strand becomes entangled or 'caught' at some point along the digestive tract while the other end is free to be moved along by the normal rhythmic movement of the intestines. This sets up a 'sawing type' action where the middle portion of the strand, the portion between the entangled end and the free end, becomes embedded within and eventually cuts through the intestine. This is not only painful for your pet, as you might imagine, but it also results in the spillage of intestinal contents into their abdomen. Its this latter consequence that makes this type of foreign body likely to be fatal without prompt and appropriate treatment (i.e. surgery).
  • All others: Anything a pet ingests which causes complete or partial obstruction of their digestive tract through a means other than that described above for linear foreign bodies. These types of foreign bodies also typically require surgery (or endoscopy) for removal because of the damage they cause within the digestive tract, but that's a topic for another blog post.

Tinsel is a very common linear foreign body in cats at this time of the year, and one that can quickly deplete an already stressed savings account (you did get gifts for all of your loved ones, didn't you?). Be aware of this common holiday cat hazard to help prevent it.

Be prepared...

If your cat is vomiting, lethargic, or not eating bring them for veterinary evaluation sooner rather than later. Delay in cases of linear foreign body obstruction will lead to a greater degree of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and damage to the intestines. If you see tinsel (or any other type of linear material) protruding from your pet's rectum DO NOT pull on it!

If you do, you may cause significantly more damage than you are trying to prevent. You can carefully cut the protruding portion with scissors - just be careful not to cut their tail or their rectum in the process. It’s also a good idea, as gross as it may sound, to save the cut off portion of the strand and bring it with you to the veterinarian (I suggest putting it into a plastic bag). Bringing it along can help to determine the length of the strand still within your pet's digestive tract, and therefore how much needs to be retrieved surgically.

Be preventive...

If you have cats, it’s safest not to use any tinsel in your holiday decorating. While it’s true that they may not play with or eat it, there really is no guarantee and it only needs to happen once.

Given that the complications and costs associated with medical care and surgical removal of linear foreign bodies often run in the $2,000-4,000 range, I imagine you will agree that it really is best to take the simple steps necessary to prevent it. Of course, the simplest of those steps is to not have any tinsel on the tree or anywhere else in your home if you've got cats. If you must use tinsel, keep a very close eye and be sure to keep your cats well away from it. (And from a realistic standpoint... start saving your money, because if you continue to use tinsel in your cat's environment, one day, perhaps not this year, but one day, your cat is very likely to need surgery to remove it from their digestive tract.)
Story by: Jason Nicholas-The Preventive Vet

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taming Holiday Indigestion

The holiday season is quickly approaching and, all in all, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” with parties, out-of-town company, travel, festive decorations, and lots and lots of delicious foods. But, clients often forget that their four-legged family members are also experiencing the hustle and bustle and, perhaps secretly (or not so secretly), imbibing food, drink and garland! So, “wonderful “ can frequently turn into “woeful “ as the physical effects of changes in routine, over-eating, new food, trashy behavior, boarding and stress have their way with the pet’s gastrointestinal system. And GI upset can lead to lethargy, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, gas and    sometimes conditions requiring hospitalization.

With GI upset being prevalent during the holiday season, it seems prudent to look to support these pets against such insults, as well as to help with rapid recovery should they fall victim. When a pet is exposed to stressful circumstances the gut flora may become unbalanced, allowing potentially pathogenic bacteria to overpopulate and produce clinical symptoms. Bacterial overgrowth can generate diarrhea, but is also, frequently, the resulting consequence of a pet having an acute or chronic diarrhea condition.

Nutritionally, it is the perfect time to think about the use of probiotics and prebiotics for their benefits in re-establishing bacteria balance and promoting gastrointestinal health.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that provide health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition. However, not all probiotics are created equal: each species or strain of probiotic bacteria has a unique profile, which influences the health benefits seen in the pet. Careful consideration should be given to the selection of a probiotic, based upon its clinical effectiveness and the treatment goals.

Prebiotics, such as fructooligosaccharide, are not bacteria, but fibers. Prebiotics resist enzymatic digestion in the upper digestive tract and pass to the colon, where they are broken down or fermented by bacteria.  Uniquely, these specialized fibers act as fuel, or fertilizer, for select bacteria in the gut, stimulating their growth and/or activity and, thus, providing beneficial health effects. In addition, as prebiotic fibers are broken down by the bacteria for fuel they produce short chain fatty acids, which support intestinal cell health.

Probiotics and prebiotics operate, though through different methods, to increase the population of beneficial bacteria, which in turn can competitively exclude or crowd out potentially pathogenic bacteria through physical competition for space and nutrients. Beneficial bacteria also modulate immune function. Probiotic bacteria can utilize prebiotic fibers to increase their population and survival within the intestinal tract. Used together, through diet or supplementation, probiotics and prebiotcs may demonstrate a synergistic approach to regaining GI health.

With the holidays just around the corner, it is a perfect time to forewarn clients of the associated pitfalls of the season. Recommending use of probiotics or prebiotics (or both) can be beneficial, whether done proactively or reactively, and may keep your client’s pet from being the party pooper of the holidays.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Tis the season for friends, family & holiday feasts.

Talkin’ Turkey
If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don't offer her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.
Too Much of a Good Thing
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don't allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis..
A Feast Fit for a Kong
While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them chew bones. Or put dribbles of gravy—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.
Pumpkin - Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits            
2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                   
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)                                                                           

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C)
2.) In your mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients and mix until the dough holds together in a ball and all of the flour  is combined. The dough shouldn't be too sticky.
3.) Roll the dough on a floured surface 1/2 inch thick. These biscuits do not rise so you don't want to roll too thin. Use your favorite cookie cutter to cut the biscuits into shapes or cut with a butter knife into squares. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Since the biscuits do not rise you can place them close together on the baking sheet.
4.) Bake in preheated oven until hard - for about 40 minutes. Makes about 25 bones that are approximately 2 inches.
Tip: Every dog is different, so please check with your vet to see if this recipe is suitable for your pet

Trivia Time
1. What was the name of Rudolph's dogsled driving friend?
2. In Frosty the Snowman, who brought Frosty back to life?
3. Who lost $8,000 in It's a Wonderful Life?
4. Counting Rudolph, how many reindeer are there?
5. "Dry Ice"  is not ice, but actually a compressed form of what gas?
6. What animal is capable of drinking 30 gallons of water in 10 minutes?
7. What is the only animal that can't jump?
8. Name the first balloon in the 1927 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
9. What do you call the skin hanging from a turkey's neck?
ǝlʇʇɐʍ 'ʇɐɔ ǝɥʇ xılǝɟ ' 'ʇuɐɥdǝlǝ 'lǝɯɐɔ 'ǝpıxoıp uoqɹɐɔ 'ǝuıu 'ʎllıq ǝlɔun 'ɐʇuɐs 'snılǝuɹoɔ uoʞnʎ

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Canine Parvovirus: Easily Preventable!

As we head into the fall and cooler months of the year, we notice more frequent cases of parvovirus affecting unvaccinated puppies.  This disease is easily preventable, and can very quickly become deadly in small puppies. 

Parvovirus is a small virus that has been around since the 1970's and is species-specific--that is, it will only affect the species it was originally "designed" for.  (This also means you cannot give parvo to your dog or catch it from your dog.)  Due to it's small size and structure, the Parvo virus is VERY stable in the environment and can survive for up to 7 years in soil and unwashed soft surfaces.  This means Parvo can be found almost anywhere, but especially in areas where other dogs frequently use the bathroom (dog parks, yards, common dog-walking areas).  Unvaccinated puppies and young dogs are extremely vulnerable to this diease, although we have rarely seen it in older unvaccinated dogs.

An area becomes contaminated with Parvo when an infected dog defecates or vomits in an area.  Unless the area is immediately disenfected with a dilute bleach solution, it can remain contaminated for up to 7 years.  An unvaccinated dog catches Parvo by encountering either feces or vomit from an infected dog, or from coming in contact with a contaminated area.  The tricky part is, not all dogs will act sick even if they've been infected, so these dogs (called "shedders") can contaminate very large areas since their owners do not know to keep them confined. 

After an unvaccinated puppy is exposed to the virus, it takes 3 to 7 days for the puppy to show signs of the disease.  Classic signs of Parvo include vomiting, lethargy, dehydration and diarrhea.  The virus works by destroying the lining of the intestines, so that diarrhea occurs and bacteria can easily enter the bloodstream.  Since the puppy cannot keep water down, he will quickly dehydrate and can die within 2-3 days if no medical attention is sought. Puppies can also die from septicemia, which is a condition that results when large amounts of bacteria gain entrance to the bloodstream through the intestines. 

Diagnosis of Parvo virus is made with a combination of history (no vaccines or inapproprate vaccination), clinical signs, and/or a quick bedside test that is performed using a rectal swab.  The test results are returned within 10-15 minutes for a very fast diagnosis.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO SEEK IMMEDIATE VETERINARY CARE FOR A PUPPY YOU SUSPECT MAY HAVE PARVOVIRUS.  Hospitalized veterinary care is aimed at supporting the puppy and addressing the symptoms while the puppy's immune system fights off the virus.  At Idaho Veterinary Hospital, we recently started using an anti-viral treatment within the first 48 hours of signs of Parvo, and have found it decreases hospital stays and increases survival rates.  Other important components of treatment include IV fluid therapy, antibiotics, anti-nausea medications, frequent monitoring, pain control and warmth.  It is important to note that there is no cure for Parvo, and hospitalization gives your puppy the best chance of surviving this deadly disease.

Survival rate for hospitalized puppies can easily exceed 80%, especially if disease is caught early.  Home care for Parvo is not recommended, but is sometimes the only option.  Home care includes fluids given under the skin, anti-nausea medications and antibiotics.  Survival rates for home care are signficantly less, around 40-50%.

A correct vaccination schedule for puppies is below.  It is important that young puppies receive ALL 3 vaccines and that they are kept isolated from other unvaccinated dogs and from areas where other puppies/dogs use the bathroom.
  • 8 weeks of age:  1st Parvo vaccination
  • 12 weeks of age: 2nd Parvo vaccination
  • 16 weeks of age: 3rd and final Parvo vaccination, Rabies vaccine often given at this appointment as well
The puppy is now considered to have it's entire series of puppy vaccinations, and will not need additional vaccines for Parvo and Rabies until a year after the final vaccine.  It is extremely important that all puppies receive this series.  Oftentimes, we see puppies that come from unknown sources or are sold "with all their vaccines."  Unless the seller can provide proof of the full series of vaccinations, it's best to assume the puppy has received inadequate vaccination and start a series all over again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cats & Carriers: Friends not foes!

It is important to acclimate your cat to it's carrier before the day of their appointment to minimize the stress of the visit.  Carriers can provide a sense of security in a new and scary place.  It is extremely important for the health of your cat to have regularly-scheduled, low-stress visits to a veterinarian.  Beginning to acclimate your cat to its carrier 2-3 weeks before his or her scheduled visit will make both of you feel much better about the visit to your veterinarian.

Below are several steps to take to make your cat's visit to your veterinarian as happy and stress-free as possible!

1. Selecting the best carrier for your cat
·         The carrier needs to be stable--some cats prefer soft but most prefer hard-case carriers
·         Easy to carry and handle
·         It should have an opening at the top and front (see carrier pictured above)
·         The top should be easily removable
·         The carrier should be the right size--big enough for your cat, but small enough to handle easily

2. Choosing the best area to familiarilize your cat with his carrier
·         The area should be convenient for you and your cat
·         Some cats prefer elevated resting areas, but ensure the carrier is secure
·         Choose places your cat currently prefers to rest

3. How to make your carrier cat-friendly
·         Leave the door open to allow your cat to explore
·         Place a favorite soft blanket or a soft piece of clothing from your cat's favorite person inside the carrier
·         Use a feline pheromone spray, such as Feliway, at least 15-30 minutes prior to introducing it to your cat
·         Cats like warmth--place the carrier in a warm spot or a sunbeam

4. Feed and play with your cat in and around the carrier
·         Offer special and delicious meals inside the carrier (but do not place your cat's only source of food in the carrier--this can lead to excessive stress)
·         Play with toys, especially "fishing pole" type toys, in and around the carrier
·         Allow your cat to "catch" the toy inside the carrier

5. Getting your cat used to transporting in the carrier
·         Some cats prefer to see out during transport, although most prefer to have the carrier covered
·         Use a blanket or a towel with a familiar scent to cover the carrier
·         Secure your cat's carrier in the backseat with a seatbelt
·         Begin by placing your cat in the car and starting the engine for a few minutes at a time
·         After your cat tolerates this well, drive around the block to get him used to a moving vehicle
·         Slowly increase the distance and time your cat spends in a moving vehicle

An informational video of this process can be viewed at  Additonal informational resources about the importance of regularly scheduled kitty wellness exams is available at and We hope that by taking these steps, your furry feline friend will soon look forward to going to see the veteriarian!

Written by Dr. Elly Burnett

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Heartworm Season & Parasite Protection for your pets

Heartworm is a nasty parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. Luckily, we live in an environment that allows us freedom from such pest during our cold winters, However, in those warm spring and summer months we need to understand, as pet owners, that Heartworm is a genuine threat to our friend's health. Heartworm disease is easily (and nearly 100% preventable), but not easily treated.

Heartworm Larvae live in the bloodstream and mosquitoes acquire them from affected dogs/casts while taking a "blood meal". They can then transmit them to unaffected dogs/cats when getting a blood meal from the new canine. Heartworm preventives can kill any Heartworm within the first four stages of its life. This is why Heartworm preventive is recommended every 30 days. Once Heartworm gets to the fifth stage it is much more difficult to eradicate.

Idaho Veterinary Hospital offers two different methods of heartworm preventive:

Heartgard: a chew which treats Heartworm, roundworm, and hookworm.
Revolution: a topical treatment that protects from Heartworm, ticks, and fleas.

We do stock some Heartworm preventive in the hospital, but it gets very hard to keep up with the demand in the Spring. However, our online store is another convenient option. If you're not yet signed up for our ProxyRX site, please give our lovely receptionist a call and they can assist you with registration.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Anesthesia-free dentals: Not Recommended

Your pets' dental health is important not only for long-term comfort of the mouth. Dental disease can also affect other areas of the body as well.  Heart disease has long been linked to poor dental health in pets.  This occurs because when a pets teeth become severely diseased, every time the pet chews or eats, the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth gain entry to the bloodstream.  This is because a diseased mouth has unhealthy gums that lack the normal barriers for bacteria.  Every chew and bite cause a bacterial "shower" to enter the bloodstream.  From there, the bacteria must be eliminated by the immune system, but the rogue bacteria can gain entry to places in the body such as the lining of the heart or heart valves.  Regular brushing can help prolong the length of time between a full periodontal treatment, but in most cases, it will not eliminate the need for periodontal treatments in a pets life.

Good kitty!

A trend for Anesthesia-free pet dental cleanings (AFD) is sweeping across the nation.  This trend arose out of a desire for a "safer" alternative for current dental treatments that require general anesthesia, since anesthesia is often the most risky aspect of any procedure.  Problems arise, however, as owners perceive the quality of an anesthesia-free dental to be equal to that of a full anesthetic periodontal treatment.  This is simply not the case.

Anesthesia-free dentals (AFD) use sedatives instead of general anesthesia to relax the patient without completely putting them under.  The portion of the tooth that can be seen by a pet owner is cleaned, scaled and polished and the pet is sent home with a visually attractive set of teeth.  Oftentimes, if a pet cannot be effectively controlled with sedatives, either extra sedatives are used or "bruticaine" is enforced--physical restraint in order to control the patient long enough to clean the surface of the teeth.  Please note that the only portion of the tooth is the tooth seen above the gum line, and most frequently, only the outside of the tooth that the owner can see is cleaned.  Sub-gingival (or portions of the tooth that lie below the gum line) are completely neglected and set the pet up for having severe dental disease that is completely hidden from the owner.  Proper cleaning of the teeth involves the use of very sharp instruments--patients who are not anesthetized are still able to move freely and can react to the discomfort created by these instruments and can be severely hurt.  Other essential tools like dental probes are not used in these cosmetic procedures, and using probes to check for hidden pockets of infection and disease in healthy-appearing teeth is important for long-term pet health.

There is another type of dental cleaning that is frequently performed by groomers is a quick surface scaling of tartar.  We frequently see pets that have had this procedure performed, and owners; often have a misunderstanding about the difference between this quick, cosmetic cleaning and a deep periodontal treatment.  This quick scaling is often done by untrained staff, and the scratches and defects it creates in the teeth can set the pet up for a faster and more serious accumulation of tartar in the future.  A proper scaling is always followed by polishing to eliminate this risk.

A pet before and after a proper periodontal treatment.  You can see the airway tube inside the pets mouth.

A true periodontal treatment performed by your veterinarian not only cleans the visible surfaces of the teeth, but involves probing the sub-gingival parts of the teeth for hidden dental disease.  Although anesthesia is always a risk with any procedure, pet anesthetic protocols are much safer than they used to be.  Pre-anesthetic bloodwork can ensure there is no hidden diseases of the pet to minimize complications.  All vitals are monitored while your pet is anesthetized, including blood pressure, oxygenation, EKG, heart rate and respiration rate.  A dedicated pet nurse is assigned to your pet and will record all parameters for the entire length of your pets anesthetic procedure.  An intravenous catheter is placed and fluids administered, ensuring consistent blood pressures and easy access should an emergency occur.  Passing a tube to protect the airway not only guarantees a safer way of anesthesia for your pet, but also ensures the plaque removed from the teeth is not inhaled by your pet.  The teeth are thoroughly scaled using an ultrasonic scaler followed by a detailed and thorough oral inspection by your veterinarian.  At that time, the decision is made using a dental probe and x-rays whether all the teeth are healthy or not.  Once the teeth have been pronounced healthy, all four surfaces of every tooth are polished using a high speed polishing head.  A fluoride treatment is then applied to your pets teeth to help seal and protect the teeth between treatments.  If your pet has extensive work or extractions, they are sent home with pain medications to ensure their comfort.

Although anesthesia-free dental cleanings seem like a safer, more affordable route to take with your pets' dental care, in the long-run they can thoroughly compromise oral health.

Written by Dr. Elly Burnett