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The Mouse and the Lion

By Veterinary General One Comment

The Mouse and the Lion – Aesop’s Tale

When we were growing up, most of us heard or read Aesop’s tale of The Mouse and the Lion.  Versions of the story vary between a man (Androcles) or a mouse pulling a thorn from a Lion’s paw.  The lion is in such pain that he goes to extremes to take care of the mouse after the thorn is removed.  In veterinary medicine, sometimes we get to play the role of the mouse.

Once upon a time, we had Lexi, a mix breed dog, present to us with a bleeding paw after running in a field.  After a brief exam it was determined there was a wound on the underside of her paw.  During the examination of the paw we found a stick lodged in her paw.  The stick was so long it was pushing up on the skin on top of her foot, just short of going completely through.  Due to her high level of discomfort, Lexi was anesthetized to remove the stick.  Using forceps, Dr Barta carefully removed the stick via the entrance wound.  The stick was a half centimeter in diameter and 5 centimeters long (about the same length as a pink eraser).

Lexi’s wound was thoroughly cleaned, flushed and treated with cold laser therapy.  She was sent home with a bandage on her paw, oral antibiotics and pain medication.  After only 6 days of wearing her bandage the wound looked great and the bandage was no longer needed.

Our second lion in our series is Duke.  While Duke was visiting family he began limping on his right rear leg.  His owner thought he could feel a stick in his paw.  During the exam we found a wound on the underside of the paw.  Unlike the stick in Lexi’s paw, this object was thin enough to move – making isolation difficult.  Using a local anesthetic, Dr Barta was able to make a small incision and pull a thorn out.  The thorn was about an inch long, but very slender.  Duke went home with antibiotics and recovered well.

It is not often that veterinary medicine can be compared to a classic fable, but in these cases, we were able to play “hero” and save the day.  Our patients felt the relief of the thorn being removed just as the lion did.  They may not feel the same affection towards us as the lion felt toward the mouse but seeing our patients leave our office feeling better is all we can ask for!

Hot Spots

By Medical Conditions No Comments

Hot Spots

The hot, humid summer months can bring fun in the sun for our pets, but they can also bring seasonal medical concerns.  During this time of year, we see an increase in the number of pets suffering from hot spots.  Hot spots are patches of red, moist, itchy, painful, and often hairless patches of skin.  Hot spots (acute moist dermatitis) are skin infections affecting the superficial layer of skin. They generally heal rapidly and often heal without scarring.  Hot spots can occur very fast and are suspected to be caused by self trauma.  One example of self-trauma is a hot spot below an infected ear.  The pet has scratched around the ear, damaging the protective layer, and allowing an infection to form.

While hot spots can occur at any time they are most commonly seen during the hot, moist summer months through early fall.  Breeds most affected by hot spots are heavy coated, water loving breeds such as the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, and German Shepherd Dog.

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and history described by owners.  A thorough exam is done to rule out underlying causes such as skin parasites (fleas, ticks, etc.), allergies, or infections.  We begin treatment right away by clipping hair both in and around the lesion.  For large or especially painful regions sedation may be necessary.  After the hair is removed the technicians will gently clean the lesion with wound cleanser.

Treatment at home depends on severity of the lesion/s and location.  Elizabethan collars, (cone collars), are often sent home to prevent licking or chewing which can further traumatize the lesion.  Your veterinarian may send home oral antibiotics, and/or steroids to treat the skin infection and inflammation.  Cleaning of the lesions daily is recommended to speed the healing process – often followed by a topical medication such as a cream, ointment, or powder.  It is important to wash your hands after cleaning and treating a hot spot to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Pets suffering from hot spots recover quickly with treatment.  However relapse is common depending on the underlying cause.  Hot spots are not a medical emergency, but they should be addressed by a veterinarian quickly.  The lesions are painful and advance quickly with persistent scratching and /or chewing.

Vaping and Pets

By Safety, Uncategorized No Comments



What is an e-cigarette?

E-Cigarettes are electronic (battery operated) cigarettes. They come in all shapes and sizes. They can look like cigarettes, pens, pipes – they can be slender enough to fit into a wallet. “Vapes” work with an atomizer heating liquid containing nicotine, turning it into a vapor that is then inhaled. It creates a vapor cloud that looks like cigarette smoke.

How is this dangerous for my pet?

Nicotine has always been toxic to pets. Cases of toxicity are reported from cigarettes, nicotine patches, and nicotine gum. E-cigarettes carry new concerns if ingested by your pet because the nicotine is generally more concentrated than traditional nicotine products and the liquid form causes faster absorption. Liquid nicotine can be absorbed through the skin or mucous membranes of the mouth in dogs, cats, and humans. This causes a faster onset of symptoms. Additionally, the carrier may be propylene glycol and glycerin but ASPCA Poison Control states there have been reported cases of products containing diethylene glycol which can cause damage to the kidneys.

Pet-proof your home

Keep all of your vape supplies out of reach of your pets. Do not refill or change cartridges while your pet is nearby and never charge your e-cigarette in an area accessible to your pets. Dogs and cats are attracted to certain smells and cats have an intolerance to propylene glycol which is sometimes a carrier used in vaping liquids.

Symptoms of Nicotine Toxicity

Pets can show signs of toxicity very quickly, generally within 15 to 60 minutes of ingestion. Symptoms may include excitation or increased heart rate, abnormal breathing, salivating, vomiting, diarrhea, or agitation. More severe symptoms can include tremors, seizures, cardiac arrest and death.

If You Suspect Liquid Nicotine Ingestions

It is important you seek medical care immediately due to the rapid onset of symptoms. This is vital to your pets health. Call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian immediately.

What’s the Scoop on Poop?

By General Health Care No Comments

What’s the Scoop on Poop?


“My dog has diarrhea, loose or soft stools, mucous or blood in feces. What can be the cause?”  Well these are discussions we have daily when we pick up the telephone.  Checking your dog’s stool might be yucky, but noting any changes and reporting them to your veterinarian is an important part of keeping tabs on his overall well-being.  When your dog is healthy, his poop shows it. It can be large, firm and range in shades of brown. A sudden change tells you that something is wrong.

Cleaning up after our dogs is a daily task for most of us, but we tend to not look too closely at what we’re scooping up.  We know that examining your dog’s poop is the last thing you want to do, but be aware that the appearance of his feces can tell you some important things about his health. Changes in your dog’s stool can signal the beginnings of a health problem, and informing your veterinarian can give him or her some inside information about what is going on in your furry friend’s body. Let’s look at some common problems that can show up in your dog’s excrement.


Soft stool or diarrhea is often your first obvious indication that something is amiss with your dog. It doesn’t tell you specifically what is wrong, just that something’s going on. The mildest indication is a stool that looks normal but is a little softer than usual when you pick it up. The other extreme is watery diarrhea, often with a lot of gas. If you can’t clean up after your dog except with paper towels, something is really irritating the intestinal tract.

Depending on how sensitive your dog is, a bout of diarrhea could just mean he got into the trash. If he is otherwise behaving normally without other symptoms, we generally recommend feeding small amounts of cooked white rice and boiled chicken breast for a couple of days to see if he improves. If not, it’s time to set up an appointment to have him checked at the vet’s office. If at any time, abnormal stools is accompanied by a fever (temperature over 102.5°F) or lethargy, your dog needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.


If you see your dog straining to have a bowel movement, he is either experiencing diarrhea or constipation. In most cases, constipation arises from a lack of moisture and/or fiber in the diet. Avoid commercial dry pet foods, and make sure your dog is eating a high-quality pet food with fresh whole food ingredients, including fruit and vegetables. It’s also important that your dog has access to fresh water at all times.

If your dog is mischievous or tends to chew up items around the home, constipation could be due to a foreign object blockage. Other serious causes could be a mass in the digestive tract, an injury in the pelvic area, or a reaction to medications. If constipation does not clear up in a few days, even with the addition of moisture or fiber, take your dog to the vet.

Blood and/or Mucus

 Mucus is an indication of inflammation or irritation in the intestinal tract, but isn’t as critical as blood.  If you see blood in your dog’s stool, it also indicates inflammation in the intestines. If the inflammation is at the end of the digestive tract, the blood will be bright red. Black tar-like stools may indicate blood that has been digested.

Giving your dog aspirin or painkillers can cause intestinal bleeding or even ulcers. If you have just started one of these medications and your dog loses his appetite within a week or so, it may also be a sign of a developing ulcer. Stop the medication immediately, especially if there is blood in the stool, and contact your vet. If you don’t, the ulcer may penetrate the intestine, causing damage, and necessitating emergency surgery.

Other causes of blood in the stool can include colitis, IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), intestinal parasites, as well as other serious conditions.

Some dogs experience mucus surrounding their stools, although the stool itself looks healthy. There is still something going on and the problem will often go away if you add a prebiotic and a probiotic to his diet.

Intestinal Parasites

Most times, we won’t see actual worms in the stool. Most parasites stay in the body and shed eggs into the feces. This means your veterinarian will need to perform a microscopic fecal analysis. The younger the dog, the more likely they are to have worms. Contact your veterinarian if you experience any of the following:

  • The most common worm you’ll see in the stool itself is actually just part of a worm – the tapeworm segment. It resembles rice and when fresh it is flat and white, with a blunt front end that will crawl around a little. After it has been exposed to the air for a while, it will dry up and look a little bit like brown rice. Do not expect tapeworms to look like those ugly pictures you might have seen online. While that worm is still inside your dog; it sheds in the stool in tiny segments.
  • Puppies also commonly have roundworms, which look sort of like white spaghetti noodles. These are commonly seen in the stool. If there is severe inflammation, bloody fluid will accompany them.
  • In the case of hookworms or whipworms, you won’t see the worms in the stool. Whipworms will often cause intermittent diarrhea. Your dog might have diarrhea for a day, go back to normal for weeks, have another day of diarrhea, then go back to normal again, etc. If this keeps happening, and there is no other obvious reason for it, take a sample of the diarrhea to the vet.
  • Coccidia and giardia can cause enough irritation to lead to soft stool or diarrhea, often accompanied by some clear mucus and sometimes a little blood. Take the poop to the vet to find out specifically which parasite is causing the problem.

When it comes to poop, there are many characteristics to look at. They include:

  • Stool form
  • Odor
  • Fecal density
  • Stickiness
  • Food digestibility
  • Nutrient absorption
  • Stool bacterial levels
  • Composition
  • Presence of blood
  • Presence of parasites

What is Leptospirosis?

By Uncategorized No Comments

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a deadly bacterial disease of dogs and other mammals that affects the liver or kidneys. The bacteria (Leptospira) is found worldwide in soil and water.  It is commonly found in puddle water, lakes, and even wet grass.  Leptospira bacteria are commonly carried deer, skunks, raccoons, opossums, fox, rats and mice, but can be carried by almost any mammal, including people.  Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease – meaning it can be spread between humans and animals.  According to the CDC, people can contract leptospirosis in the same ways your dog can – through contact with urine or other body fluids (except saliva) from an infected animal or by contact with other contaminated sources such as swimming in urine-contaminated water.

The diagnosis of Leptospirosis in dogs has been on the rise in Michigan.  According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), Reported Leptospirosis cases have doubled over the last six years.

The most common early signs of Leptospirosis in dogs are: decreased appetite, increase or decreased urine production, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort.  Severely infected dogs show signs of lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and increased thirst and urination. Dogs may develop jaundice and, in some cases, bleeding.  Illness typically develops quickly, sometimes in just a few days, and can be rapidly fatal. In comparison, dogs with mild infections may show little or no signs of illness and the disease may go undetected.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?  Well, Leptospirosis was very common forty years ago and thanks to vaccination, was under control.  However, it’s now considered a re-emergent disease.  This is due to different strains of Leptospirosis.  The older vaccine protecting against two serovars (a subdivision of species or subspecies distinguishable from other strains) but today’s second-generation vaccine provides protection against four serovars with fewer adverse reactions.




Luxating Patella

By Medical Conditions No Comments


Luxating Patella

Our smaller patients frequently suffer from luxating patellas, a dislocated knee.  This condition is common in many small and toy breed dogs, most notably the Toy Poodle and Yorkshire Terrier.  Though not as common, cats can also suffer from luxating patellas.

The knee joint is comprised of four bones, the femur, patella, tibia, and fibula.  Just like a human knee, large tendons hold the patella in place.  The patella sits in the patellar groove on the front of the femur.  In a normal knee, the patella moves up and down in its groove as the knee straightens and extends.

In a knee with patellar luxation, the patella dislocates out of its groove to the inside or outside of the groove.  About 75% of patients have patellas that move to the inside of the leg.  Over time this movement causes wear to the cartilage that covers the knee joint.  This can cause pain and degenerative joint disease.

The most common sign of luxating patellas is intermittent rear limb lameness ranging from a limp to non-weight bearing.  Diagnosis can be made by feeling the movement of the patella or visually on radiographs.  Once diagnosed, this condition is classified into one of four grades.

  • Grade I patellar luxation rarely shows clinical signs. Diagnosis is most often made during yearly preventative health exams by manually moving the patellar out of position.  However it will spontaneously correct itself.
  • Grade II may appear as a skip in the pet’s gait. The patella will move out of place as they are running then slip quickly back into place.  When diagnosing, the patella will move in and out on its own as the leg is bent and straightened.
  • Grade III and IV are uncomfortable for the pets and affect their gait significantly. Pets may limp or not place any weight on the limb.  When diagnosing a grade III the patella will move out of place when the leg is bent and straightened and needs to be manually replaced.  With grade IV the patella will move out of place and cannot be replaced manually.

Treatment is based on the grade of luxation.  Grade I luxation rarely requires treatment.  Grade II are evaluated on a case by case basis, and may respond well to anti-inflammatory medications.  Grade III and IV generally require surgical correction.  There are two procedures to correct a luxating patella.  The first involves deepening the groove the patella sits in.  The second repositions a part of the tibia which straightens the leg, reducing the tension pulling the patella out of place.

Prognosis is usually good for all pets suffering from patellar luxation.  Changes to exercise routines, medications, and surgical treatments can help alleviate any discomfort a pet may suffer from this condition.




Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

By General Health Care No Comments

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears 

If the thought of cleaning your dog’s ears makes you nervous, taking him to the vet or groomer is always an option.  You could also ask a veterinary technician for an ear cleaning demonstration to help you feel more comfortable but cleaning your dog’s ears at home is easy to do if you have the right supplies and techniques.

Exactly how often you clean the ears depends on your dog. We recommend a light cleaning every 1 to 2 weeks or after swimming/bathing.


  • To get started, you will need cotton balls or gauze and a vet-approved ear cleaner. You can buy ear cleaners from your vet, at pet-supply stores or online. Just be sure to check with your veterinarian before using any product to ensure it’s gentle and safe for your pet.


  • To clean the ears, squeeze a little bit of ear cleaner into the ear and let it drip down into the ear canal. Gently massage the base of the ear to suds up the cleaner. This helps break down wax and debris. Let your dog shake his head (you can lightly drape his head with a towel to keep the cleaner and debris from flying all over).


  • Gently wipe the outer ear flap and inside the ear with a cotton ball or soft cloth. Do not clean ears more than one-half inch into the ear canal. You can use Q-tip to clean the area around the ear flap but DO NOT use Q-tips down in the ear canal! Repeat the cotton ball wiping until your cotton balls come back clean. A quality pet ear cleaner will contain drying agents, so any small amount of cleaner left inside the ear will dry on its own.


  • Observe the condition of your dog’s ear beyond the cleaning limit and report any potential problem or concerns. It’s entirely possible to find a foreign matter, discharge, heavy wax buildup, Hematoma (swelling of ear flap) or even a melanoma (tumor). Discontinue further cleaning if you uncover any serious ear problem, and seek veterinary care.

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

By General Health Care No Comments

When a dog’s nails become too long they interfere with the dog’s gait and as the nails continue to grow, walking will become awkward and painful. Walking on overgrown nails puts pressure on the toe joints. This can eventually affect the joint alignment and cause a future of continual discomfort for your dog. Untrimmed nails can also split resulting in pain, bleeding, and a trip to the veterinarian’s office. In severe cases the nails curl under and grow into the paw pad causing a serious infection. Trimming your dog’s nails regularly will easily prevent these problems.
It is best to start trimming your dog’s nails as soon as possible. If you start early it’s easier to adjust to a routine. Make a habit of handling your puppy’s feet every day. Nail trimming is much easier if your dog doesn’t mind having his feet handled. Adult dogs, like people, are usually set in their ways. So if your dog initially resists getting his nails trimmed you will most likely need to spend more time getting him used to the procedure. Be very patient and don’t rush.

Bring out the clippers ahead of time and let your dog become familiar with them. Stay calm, if you’re nervous, your dog will sense it and associate fear with nail trimming. If your dog is nervous use gentle reassurance, being careful not to coddle. Let her know that you expect her to behave. If you can only manage to get one toenail trimmed that’s all right. Just be persistent and try for another nail at another time. Always remember to reward good behavior with praise and a favorite treat.

Trimming nails is not usually considered sharing “quality time” with your pet. But if done often and properly while rewarding good behavior, it could be an event your dog will tolerate and even look forward to. If not done often with proper technique, and praise and reward- training, it can be frightening and painful for your dog. Once or twice a month is usually a good rule of thumb for nail trimming. Trimming nails is not as hard as it may seem. Start by clipping very small pieces of the nail tip until you can see a dark, round, kind of moist looking disk appear in the middle of the nail. This means you’re approaching the quick and the nail will bleed if you cut it any shorter. With white or clear nails, trim 1/8 of an inch longer than pink area. Dogs that walk on cement or rough surfaces can wear down their nails, but most dogs need some help. You will get to know how fast your dog’s nails grow if you routinely inspect them. Even if you aren’t actually trimming them, regular inspection will help assure that your dog’s feet stay healthy. So make nail inspection and trimming an important part of your dog’s routine.

Dog nail trimming is not painful if you use a sharp trimmer and don’t clip too short. A dull trimmer puts pressure on the nail and can result in an uncomfortable pinching sensation.

It’s a good idea to have styptic powder on hand for those occasional mishaps. A nail clipped just a little too short tends to bleed a lot. Applying styptic powder will help stop the bleeding. If you do not have styptic powder, you can use baking flour. Packing this on the nail and allowing your dog to rest can stop the bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop, contact your veterinarian.

Nail trimming is a regular home grooming task that helps keep your dog healthy and active. As with most dog grooming tasks, rewarding for positive behavior is an important part in the acceptance and tolerance of the activity. Learning the tricks to proper nail trimming, training with positive feedback, and showing patience and love will make the time you spend together a reward in itself.


Pets As Gifts

By Holiday No Comments



When we think of Christmas, we think of giving and we generally have the best intentions when trying to pick out the perfect gift for those we love but considering a pet as a gift, can be a big mistake.  Too many pets find their way into shelters or on the streets for a variety of reasons.  We’ve heard them all; too busy, new baby, allergic, high maintenance, moving, divorce, peeing on the floor – the list goes on and on.

Hollywood movies paint a pretty picture of puppies at Christmas. We’ve all seen it. Perhaps it’s just impulse or people caught up in the spirit of the season or simply the cuteness of the little critter at the time.  None of these are the right reason to add a new pet to the family.  Bringing a pet into the house is a long-term commitment that affects the entire household so it should be a family decision and a family commitment.

Responsible pet ownership is a lifetime commitment and one that we certainly cannot make for others.  Canidae describes responsible pet ownership as a promise to take care of the pet through sickness and health – in good times and bad – for the life of the pet.  The AVMA states, “Owning a pet is a privilege, but the benefits of pet ownership come with responsibilities”.  AKC has a list of 75 ways to be a responsible pet owner.

I decided to see what others thought of “pets as gifts”, so I put the question out on a social media sight.  Here is a small snippet of the comments:

  • “Nope, never”
  • “Pets are part of the family and should not be a gift”.
  • “Not a good thing. You don’t know if they’ll have a connection”.
  • “Choosing the right pet should be a family decision”.
  • “Horrible idea!”
  • “No! You’re just setting the pet up for disaster”.
  • “It should be a family decision and not one made lightly”.

Not one person welcomed this idea and many identified a pet as a family member. One person actually said she received a bunny from her uncle when she was five and mainly remembers how it liked to bite and scratch her.

If you are considering pet ownership, please do your homework.  Consider “where” you will get your pet and keep in mind that puppy mills are a huge business.  While you may rationalize and tell yourself that you’re saving a pet, you’re really investing in the future of puppy mills and deplorable breeding standards and care.  Consider adoption – It really is the best way to bring a new family member into your home.  But wait until the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over.  The bond between a family and their pet is the best gift imaginable – let’s just reflect on that for a moment.


By Uncategorized No Comments


The center of our holiday celebration is large meals for our loved ones to share.  Our pets are so much a part of our family that we can’t help but to share with them too.  Unfortunately, our pets can get sick from eating human food.  This can range from GI upset including diarrhea and vomiting, to severe problems including intestinal blockages, bloat, and pancreatitis.  Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can occur when a dog eats high fatty meals. It is commonly diagnosed over the holiday season.

The pancreas plays a large role in digestion.  It’s located next to the stomach and part of the small intestine.  In the GI system the pancreas secretes digestive enzymes to help break down food and neutralize stomach acid as food leaves the stomach.  The pancreas also produces insulin and glucagon which help regulate blood sugar levels in the blood stream.

Commonly, dogs with pancreatitis have a recent history of receiving table scraps or eating food from the garbage.  Cats can also suffer from pancreatitis however; it tends to be a chronic condition.  Other causes include metabolic disorders, tumors, toxins, certain medications, and trauma.  Pets that are obese are more susceptible, as are certain breeds such as Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, and Siamese cats.

Pancreatitis is believed to be an activation of digestive enzymes within the pancreas causing inflammation and irritation.  Long term this can cause the pancreas to breakdown as the enzymes eat away the gland.  Eventually the digestive enzymes can make their way to the blood stream and affect other organs or cause an abscess (pocket of infection) on the pancreas itself.  Severe pancreatitis can be fatal, so treatment is vital.  Symptoms of pancreatitis include depression, poor appetite, vomiting, dehydration, and fever.  Some pets  also experience diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Treatment will vary based upon the severity of the disease and patient’s medical history.  Mild cases of pancreatitis can generally be treated on an outpatient basis with little or no long term damage to the pet.  Severe pancreatitis may require hospitalization, IV fluids, IV medications, and close monitoring.  Pancreatitis can develop into a long term, chronic condition.  Switching to low-fat diet and maintaining a healthy weight are recommended.

This holiday season avoid the temptation of feeding your pets’ table scraps.  Pets are such a part of our families that not sharing can lead to feelings of guilt.  Consider buying special treats, new brands of cookies, and a new toy or two this time of year.  If house guests cannot resist treating your dogs, have a dog safe cookie jar available.  With a little planning our pets can safely join in the food festivities without the worry of pancreatitis.

Veterinary General is located in Shelby Township, Michigan.  We offer traditional and alternative therapies such as Acupuncture, Chinese Herbals, and Cold Laser Therapy.  More information can be found at