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Halloween Dangers

By Uncategorized No Comments

Autumn is full of color and full of fun.  The October schedule seems to be filled with harvest festivities  right up until the very last day, Halloween.  Generally a childhood favorite, Halloween is an evening of dressing in fun or scary costumes. But for pets, Halloween is not the “scary fun” that children enjoy – it can be very upsetting for our pets and a real challenge for us as pet owners.  There are many pet dangers associated with this “holiday”, including the obvious – Chocolate.

Because their theobromine metabolism process is significantly slower than that of a human, Chocolate is toxic for dogs.  Many people just don’t understand how dangerous it can be for their pet.  The greater the cocoa content, the greater the danger.  For example, Milk Chocolate has less cocoa than Semi-Sweet Chocolate which has less than Dark Chocolate.  Cocoa Powder is very concentrated and extremely dangerous to our pets.  Two ounces (2 oz) of Milk Chocolate ingestion may not be a toxic dose for a 40 pound dog but two ounces of Cocoa Powder could have a devastating outcome.   Keep all candy out of your pet’s reach.

Costumes are another concern.  Yes, it’s cute and may be fun to dress our pets but it’s important to realize when cute turns into scary for pets.  Costumes cause stress for many dogs and cats so limit the dress-up time unless you are certain your pet isn’t bothered by it.  And always be sure to check costumes for parts that could be choking hazards.

Additionally, when decorating, be sure your décor is not pet accessible – especially Jack-O-Lantern and  candles.  Decorations with a flame could be easily knocked over by our excited or anxious pets.

Finally, during trick-or-treating hours, kennel, contain, or keep pets safe in a separate room to avoid the stress of the excessive activity.  This will ease anxiety and keep them from running off, either with or away, from all those ghost and goblins.

Canine Influenza

By Medical Conditions No Comments

Canine Influenza


Canine Influenza, or dog flu, is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs as well as cats. Canine Influenza is highly contagious and easily spread from infected dogs to other dogs. Almost every dog exposed to the virus will become infected. Recently, both strains (H3N8 and H3N2) have been (and still are) being diagnosed in Macomb County.

The virus is transmitted by either direct contact, in the air (barking, coughing, sneezing), contaminated objects, and by people moving from infected to uninfected dogs. The virus can live on surfaces for 48 hours, clothing for 24 hours, and hands for 12 hours.

Symptoms mimic kennel cough but the clinical signs of the cough persist for 10 to 21 days despite treatment.  Affected dogs may have a soft, moist cough, nasal or eye discharge, sneezing, lethargy, or decreased appetite.  Many dogs will spike a fever up to 105 degrees. Some, more severely affected, may exhibit signs of pneumonia.

What can you do to keep your dog safe?  Vaccinate with the bivalent H3N8/H3N2 vaccine.  This vaccine requires a booster 3 weeks.  Until then…

  • Avoid frequent dog areas such as dog parks, pet day care, grooming facilities, kennels, dog-friendly stores, and communal water bowls.
  • Wash your dog’s toys, bowls, and bedding regularly.
  • When in contact with other dogs, even if they don’t appear sick, wash your hands and change your clothes before handling your own pet.
  • Avoid contact with sick or possibly exposed dogs as the virus can persist on clothing and other surfaces for at least 24 hours.


Call Veterinary General for more information and to schedule your dog’s vaccine today!  586-992-3810



By Medical Conditions No Comments

Bloat, a Flip Flop Stomach

            Bloat is a condition that affects the GI system, mostly the stomach, but other body systems including the circulatory system can be affected. Food and water enter the stomach through the esophagus and exits into the small intestine after mixing with digestive enzymes.  The stomach is very similar to a balloon; both have a remarkable ability to expand many times their normal size.  A rapidly expanding stomach can cause bloat, which occurs in two forms gastric dilation and gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV).

In gastric dilation, commonly referred to as food bloat, the stomach can expand many times its normal size displacing other organs and blood vessels as it expands. This stage of bloat is very uncomfortable for the dog, but can become dangerous if the stomach rotates.  At this stage the affected dog will still need to see their veterinarian and stay as calm as possible.

In gastric dilation-volvulus the large, heavy stomach can rotate over itself, similar to twisting a balloon before knotting it.  Food cannot enter or leave the stomach, however the stomach continues to expand as gas is produced and digestive enzymes are secreted.  The rotation and expansion can cut off blood flow to the stomach itself and have a detrimental affect on blood flow returning to the heart.  These dogs can have arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms.  GDV is life threatening and can kill a dog within hours.

Breeds that are most likely to be affected are deep-chested, large breed dogs, including Great Danes, Greyhounds, St. Bernards, and Weimaraners (to name a few).  While large breeds are more prone to bloating, any dog, no matter their size can suffer from bloat.  Other risk factors include dogs that only eat one meal a day, have a history of bloat, eat very quickly, and/or dogs that exercise after a meal.

Symptoms of GDV can progress very rapidly.  Dogs may show signs of nausea include drooling, they may also retch but not bring anything up.  Dogs can have abdominal distension and pain which can lead to refusal to eat or drink, pacing, and restlessness.  Upon physical exam by a veterinarian a distended abdomen can lead to a diagnosis of bloat, however radiographs are needed for further diagnosis of bloat with or without torsion of the stomach.

Once a veterinarian has confirmed diagnosis a treatment plan can be made.  Many factors such as type of bloat, medical history, breed, and state of shock will determine which treatment option to take.  Most commonly bloat is treated surgically or by decompressing the stomach, however depending on the severity other options may be available.  Statistically 75% of dogs that bloat will bloat again without surgery.  Once stable most dogs undergo a gastropexy procedure, a surgery to tack the stomach to the abdominal wall so it cannot rotate over itself again.

If you feel your dog may be suffering from bloat take them to your veterinarian immediately.  Bloat can go from serious to life threatening very quickly and prompt care is vital.  You can decrease your pet’s risk of bloat by feeding smaller meals instead of a single large meal, elevating the food bowl, avoiding exercise after eating, and encouraging your dog to eat slower by adding water, using a specially designed bowl, or interactive food toys.  High risk breeds may elect to have a gastropexy performed at the same time as their spay or neuter as a preventative.

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            

Car Rides – Pet Safety

By Safety No Comments

Spotlight on Safety: Car Rides

It is common to discuss pets riding safely in the car. The statistics and safety risks associated with pets riding loose in the car are numerous!  Pets riding loose in vehicles can become a distraction to the driver and pose a safety risk.  Pets involved in accidents can become projectiles, may pose a threat to first responders, and may bolt from the car and get hit by another vehicle.  To further explore the subject we will look at types of restraint for pets available, their benefits, and training tips.

Seat Belt Harnesses and Pet Safety Seats

The best harness for car safety is a body harness specifically made for car travel.  These harnesses have thicker material across the pet’s chest to spread the force of the crash across the dog’s body.  Depending on the brand some harnesses have straps that thread through the seat belt or snap directly into the buckle.  Others use the tether points of SUV.  Pet safety seats are designed for small or toy breed dogs.  They are secured by seat belts and some are raised to allow pets to see out the window.

Dogs that like to spin or pace in the car could get wrapped up in the straps.  Transition the dog to riding in the harness or travel seat with a few trial runs.  Begin by sitting in the back seat (away from air bags) with the dog and reward for calm behavior such as sitting or lying down.  After a few trips you can sit in the passenger seat to offer rewards.  As your dog becomes more successful you can try a few short solo trips.  At stop lights toss your dog a reward for calm behavior.

Crates and Partitions

Crates are the industry standard for pet airline travel.  Small crates for cats and toy breed dogs often have places to secure the crate using seat belts.  Small crates can fall off a seat in the event of sudden braking.  Large crates can be secured in the back by SUV tethers or fit snuggly behind seats.  Partitions for large dogs in SUVs or hatchbacks are put up to keep the dogs in the trunk area.  These will minimize distractions while driving, but not necessarily protect pets during an accident.

Most dogs will require little or no training when riding behind a partition or in a crate.    Dogs with anxiety to the crate may need desensitization and counter conditioning sessions before being introduced to a carrier in a vehicle.  Dogs in a crate can be taught to wait calmly at the door and released when you are ready.


Collars, Leashes, and People

This section can also be titled “How Not to Restrain Your Dog in the Car.”  A dog on a collar with the end of the leash slipped with the seat belt threaded through is not safe.  In the event of sudden braking, the dog’s momentum will be halted by the collar potentially causing neck injuries.  Pets should not be restrained on owner’s laps.  If a person is holding a dog in their lap and the air bag is deployed, the pet is between the person and airbag.  The person doesn’t receive the full benefit of the airbag and the pet can be injured during deployment.

Final Thoughts

Safety restraints protect owners, pets, and first responders in event of an accident and minimize distractions while driving.  They can also cut down on the stress of car rides.  Instead of trying to stop your pet from engaging in bad habits, you can enjoy the drive knowing your pet is safe.   A little bit of planning and rewards makes the transition to riding in safety restraints go smoothly.


Understanding Your Pet’s Blood Work

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Understanding Your Pet’s Blood Work

This entry will examine routine blood work for pets.  Blood work can be described as your pet’s “internal examination.”  When you receive copies of your pet’s blood work the abbreviations and numbers can appear daunting.  Often we turn to the internet to research, but sometimes these searches lead to false or even frightening information.  In explaining blood work we will break it down into three categories the Complete Blood Count, organ chemistries, and electrolytes.

We will try to keep these explanations as simple as possible, and there is only so much one can do to make blood work sound fascinating to everyone.  Some things to also keep in mind while reading; this is not a list of every test we can run on a pet, it’s just the basics.  The abbreviations listed below may be slightly different depending on the laboratory used.

The CBC, Complete Blood Count

CBC’s are used to evaluate a pet’s blood, including platelets, red and white blood cells.  A CBC gives us information on hydration status, anemia, infection, the blood’s clotting ability, and the overall status of the body’s immune system.

  • HCT – Hematocrit measures the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. An abnormal result can indicate anemia or dehydration.
  • Hb and MCHC – Hemoglobin and Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration measure the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • WBC – White Blood Cell counts measure the amount of immune system cells. Abnormal results can indicate disease, infection, or inflammation.  Individual types of white bloods cells are reported as a percentage then as an absolute number; which is the total number of cells in the blood.   Absolute counts are designated by “ABS” before or after the white blood cells’ name.  Types of white blood cells include:
    • NEUT SEGS – Segmented neutrophils are the most common white blood cell
    • BANDS – Band neutrophils are immature neutrophils
    • LYMPH – Lymphocytes
    • MONO – Monocytes
    • EOS – Eosinophils
    • BASO – Basophils
  • PLT – Platelets form blood clots to stop abnormal blood flowChemistry ProfilesChemistries evaluate organ ability to perform its “job” in the body.

Liver – The liver has many functions include filtering the blood as it leaves the small intestines and is responsible for taking substances such as medication then altering it to a form the body can use.

  • ALT – Alanine Aminotransferase can indicate liver disease, but doesn’t identify the cause
  • AST – Aspartate aminotransferase can indicate liver disease and muscle inflammation
  • ALKP – Alkaline phophatase can be elevated in patients with liver disease, Cushing’s disease, or in young patient with growing bones.
  • GGT – Gamma glutamyltranspeptidase can indicate liver disease or excess steroids
  • TBIL – Total Bilirubin can indicate liver disease or cause of anemia

Kidney – The kidneys most well known function is filtering the blood and excreting waste material in urine. The kidneys also secrete hormones that cause the bone marrow to produce and release red blood cells into the blood stream.

  • BUN – Blood Urea Nitrogen is an indicator of the kidney’s ability to filter and remove urea from the body. Urea is a waste product of protein metabolism.
  • CREA – Creatinine is another waste production that is filtered by the kidneys and can help determine the cause of an elevated BUN
  • PHOS – Elevated phosphorus is associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders

Pancreas – The pancreas has two main functions one is the secretion of enzymes that help break down food the other is secreting insulin into the blood stream.

  • AMYL – Amylase breaks down starches and carbohydrates
  • LIP – Lipase breaks down fat

Other – These are chemistry results that covers multiple organs or don’t fit underneath any of the organs listed above.

  • ALB – Albumin evaluates hydration, intestinal, liver, and kidney disease.
  • CHOL – Cholesterol supports diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s Disease, and diabetes.
  • GLOB – Globulin can increase with chronic inflammation and certain diseases.
  • GLU – Glucose when high can be a sign of diabetes. When low it can cause seizures, collapse, or coma.
  • TP – Total protein is amount of protein found suspended in the liquid portion of blood and evaluates hydration status.

Chemistry Profiles

Electrolytes are important for maintaining fluid balances, blood clot formation, nervous and muscle system functions to name a few.

  • Ca – Calcium
  • Na – Sodium
  • K – Potassium
  • Cl – Chloride

When is Blood Work Requested

Blood work is used to diagnose, determine a cause of illness, monitor progress of an illness, and evaluate treatment.  Annual blood work on a healthy pet may seem like an odd request however; early detection gives you the best prognosis for treating disease.  An example is your pet’s liver and kidneys.  We can compare them to a rubber band that can be stretched for large tasks, small tasks, and are used repeatedly.  Like a rubber band, they have a remarkable reserve and use a small portion to perform their daily tasks, but can be stretched in times of need.  We never know when too much stress will cause the rubber band to snap.  If the organs are “stretched” any stress in the form of food changes, medication, or anesthesia may cause organ failure (the snap of the rubber band).

Evaluating Results

Blood work is a small piece of the puzzle that when combined with physical exam and history, allow the veterinarian to form a picture of the patient’s health and well-being.  Individual results above or below normal ranges may or may not affect the patient’s health.  An example is a slightly elevated BUN (kidney value) in a puppy presented for a routine spay at 6 months old.  Since the CREA (kidney value) is normal, the puppy is healthy upon physical examination, and eating a high protein puppy food the veterinarian isn’t concerned.  The elevated BUN is a byproduct of the puppy’s high protein diet being broken down in the body.


Preventive Health Exams

By Veterinary General No Comments

Spotlight on Preventive Health Examinations

Annual visits to the veterinarian are so much more than just vaccines!  Pets live longer, healthier lives if they keep fit and see their veterinarian yearly for preventive health exams. Early recognition of diseases is achieved by having a veterinarian perform a complete physical exam, screening blood tests, urine analysis, and microscopic fecal exams annually.  Complete preventive health exams involve a visual or manual (feeling and palpating structures) inspection of the entire body.  Even though this exam doesn’t take a lot of time, it can reveal hidden problems.  An examination begins at the nose and ends at the toes.  Let’s go through an exam to see what our veterinarians look for:

Overall Appearance: As patients enter the hospital the technician and veterinary staff are observing your pet’s overall appearance. Things that we observe at a distance include gait (is there a limp), coat condition; nail length, weight, and lesions.

Nose: Visual inspection at the start of the respiratory system to look for abnormalities such as crust or discharge.

Eyes: Visual exam of the eyes includes the cornea (surface of the eye), the internal structure, and tissues surrounding the eyes.  Veterinarians can look for any redness, irritation, changes in pupil size, changes in the lens (such as cataracts), adequate tear production, and pressure of the eye to screen for glaucoma.

Oral Exam: Teeth and gums are checked for evidence of dental tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease, fractured teeth, or abnormal growths in the mouth.

Ears: Veterinarians will begin with a visual inspection of the ear flap and outer ear canal.  Continuing the exam we look for discharge, check for odors, hair in the ear canal, and finally an inspection of the tympanic membrane (ear drum) to identify any swelling in the inner ear canal.

Auscultation of the Chest: Next the veterinarian will auscultate (listen with the stethoscope) the chest, listening for normal or abnormal cardiac sounds (such as murmurs or irregular rhythm) and lung sounds.

Palpation of the Abdomen: Many organs can be felt and evaluated for enlargement or abnormal shape.  How comfortable the pet is during palpation can alert us to a possible problem area.

Lymph Nodes: When palpating the lymph nodes near the surface of the body the veterinarian is checking for abnormal size. Swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of disease or infection.

Evaluation of the Skeletal System: Feeling and manipulating all joints and bones for signs of swelling, and/or pain.  All joints are evaluated for range of motion and the gait is evaluated for any subtle lameness.

Rectal Palpation: This involves evaluating the end of the gastrointestinal system and anal glands for evidence of infection or abnormal growths.  Male dogs are screened for enlargement of the prostate gland.

Skin and Coat: Finally the veterinarian looks for evidence of any skin diseases, growths, and external parasites.

For Our Senior Pets

As our pets age, we don’t always recognize the subtle symptoms they may exhibit and commonly can be chalked up to age. Organ function can decrease over time without our pet showing any signs or symptoms of disease.  Wellness blood screens and urine panels should be done annually and even biannually in our elderly patients.  Trends seen in yearly blood panels can lead veterinarians in diagnosing disease early.  Early detection allows us to make changes in the pet’s diet and lifestyle, or prescribe medications if necessary.

Next entry we will take a closer look at routine blood work.


Heartworm Prevention

By Parasites No Comments

Spotlight on Parasitology: Heartworm Preventative

Last entry we talked about what heartworm disease, how it is spread, and how it is treated.  We will continue our look at heartworm disease by taking a closer look at prevention.  The American Heartworm Society recommends heartworm prevention year round and dogs being tested annually.

Why Prevent?

As discussed in our last entry, heartworm disease is treatable; however, it is expensive and complicated.  Veterinarians walk a fine line of giving enough adulticide to kill adult heartworms and not harm the dog.  Restricted activity is necessary and could last several weeks to even months, to prevent dangerous complications in treatment.  Even after treatment the pet may still suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory disorders from damage done by the heartworms.  Preventatives interrupt heartworm development by killing the adolescent heartworms before they mature (AHS, 2012).

“To everything there is a season”

In the past there was “heartworm season” between April and October.  During these six months of the year dogs would receive their monthly heartworm prevention.  Then every spring the dogs return to their veterinarian for the annual heartworm test and refill.  Research into heartworm disease and mosquitoes has shown us that the heartworm season is much bigger than we used to think.  Heartworm season is all year around!

Those pesky mosquitoes

Mosquitoes thrive in warm, wet places.  They lay eggs in standing water, but will avoid running water such as fast moving streams.  Some people in urban areas feel the threat from mosquitoes is lower than those living in rural areas.  That is simply not true; mosquitoes are adaptable and will use any standing water to lay eggs.  Urban mosquitoes will find old tin cans, old tires, watered lawns, sewer systems, and they love bird baths.  Even in times of drought man-made breeding areas exist.

While in the mosquito, heartworm development is affected by temperature (CAPC, 2009).   Their growth will slow and even stop in cold weather, and will resume once temperatures increase.  In Michigan our cooler temperatures won’t completely stop development of heart worm larvae.

Another common myth is that mosquitoes cannot bite an animal through thick coats of fur.  Hair may slow a mosquito down but it will not stop them completely.  Even dogs and cats with thick, double coats have thin areas on their face and legs.

Tying it all together

Getting the timing just right to start and stop preventative with the season is very difficult, especially in Michigan given our sporadic temperature ranges from one day to the next.  Using our heartworm season schedule from the past as an example, preventative is stopped in early October.  The infective lifecycle of the heartworm develops in the tissue for up to 70 days before entering the bloodstream where preventative will kill it.  If infected in October that adolescent heartworm can enter the bloodstream in November or even December, that worm has about 5 months to develop into an adult before preventative is started in April.  Heartworm tests cannot detect a heartworm infection until 7 months after exposure.  This leaves the possibility of the heartworm not even being detected for a whole year and a half!  Putting your pet on a monthly routine is simple and dramatically cuts down on risk of infection (Think 12, AHS, 2012).

Where you get your preventative matters

Into today’s market there are many online retailers selling heartworm preventatives at discount rates.  However, there are pros to spending a little more at your veterinarian’s office.  First of all it keeps your business local and supports your community.  If there is a problem with your pet’s medication you have a direct line to help fix it.  Secondly, most pharmaceutical companies offer rebates on their products when you purchase them at your veterinarian.  Considering this, preventative is the same cost or less than the online retailer.  Finally most manufactures offer guarantees on their product.  They may cover costs of treatment if your pet gets heartworm or intestinal parasites while taking their preventative year round, IF you bought it through your veterinarian.  Rebates and guarantees are only offered through your veterinarian because pharmaceutical companies trust the veterinarian more than an on-line pharmacies.  Manufactures sell directly to your veterinarian’s office, this guarantees that the product is stored properly and not compromised during shipping.

Types of preventative

There are several brands and types of heartworm preventative on the market today. They include monthly flavored oral preventatives, such as Heartgard Plus, these are chewable treats that make medicating a breeze.  Topical solutions, such as Revolution, are a great alternative for dogs with food allergies and also protects against fleas.  Finally there is an injectable preventative called ProHeart6, which lasts for 6 months.  Many preventatives protect against internal parasites as well.  At this time there are no “natural” or herbal therapies shown to be safe and effective for the prevention or treatment of heartworm disease (AHS, 2012).

In closing…

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin



Works Cited

AHS. (2012, January). American Heartworm Society. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from Canine Guidelines Summary:

CAPC. (2009, November). Canine Heartworm CAPC Vet. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from Companion Animal Parasite Council:

Think 12, AHS. (2012). Think 12. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from Truth About Treatment, Mosquitos in Winter, Don’t Try to Predict-Protect:



Heartworm Disease

By Parasites No Comments

Spotlight On Parasitology: Heartworm Disease

Everyone knows their dog needs yearly heartworm preventative, but do they really know what heartworm is or why we give preventatives?  Heartworm disease is caused by parasitic worms that make their home in the arteries leading to the lungs and sometimes in the right side of the heart.  These parasites can infect dogs, cats, wolves, foxes, ferrets, and sea lions (American Heartworm Society, 2013).  Though rare, humans can also be infected by heartworm larva.  The immature heartworms don’t survive long in humans, but they end up in the lungs causing nodules to form (CAPC, 2009).  These nodules can be mistaken for tumors or tuberculosis!

Life Cycle and Stages

            The lifecycle of the heartworm involves numerous steps before they mature into adult heartworm.   Adult heartworms live the arteries between the heart and lungs, where females give birth to live young, called microfilaria.  Microfilaria must be ingested by a mosquito before they become infectious.  This means heartworm cannot be from pet-to-pet contact, it can only be transmitted by mosquitoes.  Dogs are highly susceptible to infection, virtually 100% of dogs exposed become infected, whereas 61-90% of cats become infected (American Heartworm Society, 2013).  After entering the pet the adolescent worms spend up to 70 days migrating through the tissues of the body before they make their way into the bloodstream.

Where is it found?

            Heartworm disease is found worldwide and in all 50 states. It is found in higher numbers in warm, moist climates.  The Southeastern United States and the Mississippi River Valley have the greatest number of reported cases in the US (CAPC, 2009).  Michigan comes in with an average of 6-25 cases per clinic.  Please keep in mind the actual number may be higher as these numbers are reported cases, and not all veterinary clinics report positive cases.

Clinical Signs and Testing

            In the early stages of heartworm disease the clinical signs are mild and can even be absent. Dogs suffering from severe heartworm disease may have a persistent cough, exercise intolerance, abnormal lung sounds, fluid in the chest cavity, episodes of passing out, and/or weight loss.  Dogs can harbor 30 or more adult heartworms; this large number of worms can alter blood flow through the heart and potentially interfere the normal function of the heart.  This can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, and can lead to murmurs, severe heart disease, anemia, and more (CAPC, 2009).

Testing for dogs is very simple and looks for the presence of a protein found only on the surface of female heartworms.  For dogs that return positive a confirmatory test is performed to rule out any potential false positive results.  If both tests are positive the dog is considered heartworm positive.

Cats with heartworm disease display symptoms similar to feline asthma, bronchitis, or can have no symptoms at all (American Heartworm Society, 2013).  Symptoms include vomiting, coughing, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, and not eating.  Anyone who has owned a cat can tell you that not eating and vomiting can be a regular occurrence in their cat, thus making the heartworm diagnosis more difficult.

Testing for cats is different because cats have smaller hearts than dogs therefore usually harbor only 1-2 adult heartworms. Heartworm test for cats looks for the body’s immune system response to the heartworms rather than an antigen testing used in dogs.


Heartworm disease is treatable in dogs; however it can be costly and recovery is very lengthy.  Treatment is designed to kill off circulating microfilaria (immature heartworm) and adult heartworms while minimizing complications caused by worm die off and treatment.  The dog undergoing treatment should be as healthy as possible before undergoing treatment (AHS, 2013).  Treatment consists of three injections of melarsomine, derived from arsenic, over 31 days (Think 12, AHS, 2012).  To reduce side effects and complications of treatment an antibiotics, steroids, and medications to control heart disease may also be prescribed.  Dogs with severe heartworm disease may require surgical removal of the heartworms.

During and after treatment, dogs are on a very strict exercise regimen.  All excitement and exercise (beyond slow walking for bathroom breaks) should be restricted.  As the worms die off and begin to decompose they can become lodged in arteries and capillaries around the heart and lungs.  Increased activity causes more blood to flow to these blocked vessels and increase risk of cardiovascular side effects including heart failure (AHS, 2013).

Unfortunately there is no approved treatment for heartworm disease in cats (American Heartworm Society, 2013).  Cats react severely when the worms begin to die off.  This reaction can cause shock and even death.  In some cases surgical removal of the adult heartworms may be attempted.

Next time we will look at heartworm preventatives.


Works Cited

AHS. (2013). Canine Guidelines. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from American Heartworm Society:

American Heartworm Society. (2013). What is Heartworm Disease? Retrieved February 8, 2013, from

CAPC. (2009, November). Canine Heartworm CAPC Vet. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from Companion Animal Parasite Council:

Think 12, AHS. (2012). Think 12. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from Truth About Treatment, Mosquitos in Winter, Don’t Try to Predict-Protect:




By Nutrition No Comments


By-products provide valuable nutrients for your pet:

  • AAFCO* defines by-products as suitable for animal food; they are the clean internal organs including liver, lungs, heart, as well as cartilage, bone, and muscle tissues
  • By-products are a valuable source of energy, vitamins, and minerals for your pet
  • Quality by-products are safe and used by pet food companies that follow strict guidelines and standards

Grains provide valuable nutrients for your pet:

  • Grains such as corn and wheat are excellent sources of quality protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber
  • Many grains are more digestible sources of protein than meat
  • There is no evidence to support claims that grains cause health problems excluding the rare dog with a true allergy [1]
  • Many “grain free” diets substitute with potato or tapioca (for the grains), which contribute fewer nutrients than grains [1]

Wheat gluten provides a valuable source of protein for your pet:

  • Wheat gluten is more than 80% protein, 99% digestible, and has an amino acid profile similar to other proteins (meat)

Chicken meal is an excellent source of protein for your pet:

  • Chicken meal is dehydrated and defatted chicken and provides a very digestible source of concentrated protein

Flax does NOT contain Omega-3 fatty acids for your pet:

  • Most veterinary research supporting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids; including benefits in dermatitis, arthritis pain, kidney inflammation, and heart disease [2], have been done evaluating EPA and DHA (found only in certain marine plants and fish)
  • Flax requires conversion by your pet to achieve EPA and DHA, a conversion which is “uniformly poor” [1]

Food allergies – not all pet foods are created equally:

  • Food elimination trials are the only way to diagnose food allergies in dogs
  • One recent study showed that none of the over the counter (venison) diets tested were suitable for an elimination trial since they all were tainted with common pet food proteins[3]
  • Your veterinarian is the most reliable source for accurate information and management of your pet’s health


  • Is a description of process (under which plants/animals are grown/raised) and does not refer to quality of the raw material
  • No official rules govern labeling of organic pet foods but they must comply with USDA National Organic Program regulations
  • There is no scientific data to back up the “claim” that organic is healthier for pets
  • Organic diets frequently use flax seed as a source of fatty acids. Flax seed does NOT contain EPA/DHA


  • FDA does not advocate a raw meat, poultry, or seafood diet for pets
  • There are no published, peer-reviewed articles supporting health “claims” for raw diets
  • Published reports exist of gastroenteritis and death in animals eating contaminated raw meat foods


  • Solely from plant, animal, or mined sources not having produced by or subject to, a chemically synthetic process; exceptions include: artificially synthesized vitamins, minerals, or other trace nutrients
  • All Royal Canin diets contain ingredients (meat, cereals, fats) of natural origin

Human-grade & Holistic

  • Not defined by AFFCO and therefore cannot be accurately used to describe pet food




*American Association of Feed Control Officials establishes ingredient definitions and uniform guidelines as to what is appropriate for animal feeds.
[1] Heinze, C.R., Pet Food 102: Myths and Misconceptions. Central Veterinary Conference, 2011
[2] Kirk, Claudia, NAVC Proceedings, The Use of Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, January 2011, www.ivis.orgKirk, Claudia, NAVC Proceedings, The Use of Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, January 2011, Heinze, C.R., Pet Food 102: Myths and Misconceptions. Central Veterinary Conference, 2011
[3] Raditic, D, 2011 ELISA Testing for Common Food Antigens in Dry Dog Foods Used in Dietary Elimination Trial, MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center, Boston, MA. Association of American Feed Control Officials. In: Noel RJ ed. Official Publication, 2011. Stone GG, et al. Application of polymerase chain reaction for the correlation of Salmonella serovars recovered from greyhound feces with their diet. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostics and Investigation 5:378-385, 1993. Shaw M, et al. Streptococcus zooepidemicus in small carnivorous mammals fed uncooked horsemeat. Journal of Zoo Animal Medicine 15:161-164, 1984
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Spotlight On Dentistry: Can’t you just scrape that off his teeth?
February is Pet Dental Health Month and at Veterinary General we feel dental health is crucial to the overall health of your pet. Volumes of books can and have been written on dentistry but in this entry we are going to look at each step in the cleaning process and explain why they are important. Since advanced periodontal disease and treatment is beyond the scope of this article we will only look at the cleaning details of a patient undergoing a “Stage 1” (see Initial Evaluation below) dental cleaning.
Dental care is quickly evolving in veterinary medicine and old recommendations are being discarded in light of research. It is not uncommon to get questions about dental radiographs, pre-anesthetic blood work, home care, and why those items are even important in a younger dog with mild tartar. Cost is another concern, and we often have clients compare costs from previous pets or other practices. Through education we hope to share the value of the complete dental prophylaxis and show how it is not just simply “cleaning the teeth.”

Initial Evaluation
The dental therapy process begins with an oral examination of the pet. The veterinarian or veterinary technician will stage a pet’s teeth based upon amount of tartar and gum irritation visible. This visual inspection allows us to create and plan and estimated cost for the procedure. Pets with more severe periodontal disease require more advance treatments and are discussed on an individual basis.
Dental disease is “staged” from one through four, with four being most severe. Stage one dental disease is marked by halitosis (bad breath), mild calculus (tartar) build up, inflamed and red gum line. In stage two there is more calculus build up, the gum line will appear shiny, and swollen. Stage three is marked by swelling and recession of the gum line that may bleed with gentle probing. Stage four is identified by severe inflammation, pain, gum recession, bleeding, and purulent (pus) discharge. These are simply the visible signs, a more accurate assessment is made when dental radiographs and charting are completed (VetMed Team).

Blood Work and Anesthesia
Pre-anesthetic blood work is required for all patients receiving a dental cleaning. The liver and kidneys are responsible for converting drugs into a form the body can use then removing them from the body. If the liver and kidneys are not functioning properly the anesthetic protocol can be altered or the procedure aborted. Dental disease can cause changes in the rest of the body and blood work will help us identify any potential problems.
During anesthesia the patient is monitored by a licensed veterinary technician at all times. Monitoring includes heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, percent of oxygen in the blood, and blood pressure. All patients have IV catheters placed, receive IV fluids during the procedure, and have endotracheal tubes placed in their trachea. IV fluids help maintain blood pressure during anesthesia and allow for injections to be given if needed. Endotracheal tubes have a small balloon on the end that can be inflated to prevent fluid from entering the lungs.

Dental Radiographs
The veterinary technician begins the dental process with radiographs. Radiographs are key component between a complete dental prophylaxis and just cleaning the teeth. Cleaning and observing abnormalities above the gum line ignores 60% of the tooth (Iams Partners for Health, 2003). Radiographs allow the veterinarian to evaluate the root of a tooth, bone loss around the root, and pockets (spaces between the gum and tooth root). If caries (cavities in people) is seen on the surface of the tooth a radiograph will allow the veterinarian to assess how far the lesion affects the tooth. After extractions an x-ray is often taking to make sure the entire root of a tooth has been extracted. Radiographs can also reveal roots of baby teeth that did not fall out, and adult teeth that never erupted through the gum line.

The first step with charting is a second oral exam. This allows the veterinary technician to note any abnormalities that were not observable on the patient while awake. Pictures are taken for both the patient’s records and the pet’s owners. The veterinary technician then begins to chart the oral cavity. They insert an instrument, called a probe, gently between the tooth and gums. A small depth is acceptable and requires no treatment however; bigger “pockets” need attention and indicate periodontal disease. The technician will also note any missing, fractured, discolored, or loose teeth.
Charting and dental radiographs are the foundation of the veterinarian’s treatment plan (VetMed Team). A treatment plan will include a diagnosis, recommendations for treatment (including extractions if needed), prognosis, and home care plan.

Dental Cleaning, Polishing, and Fluoride Treatment
Cleaning begins by removing large pieces of tartar by hand scaling both above and below the gum line. Ultrasonic scaling will be used to remove any material that was left behind. Once again the mouth is visibly inspected for any remaining tartar, and a probe is run over the tooth to “feel” for any irregularities caused by tartar left on the tooth (VetMed Team).
After scaling is complete the teeth are then polished. Scaling can create micro abrasions on the tooth’s surface. If these abrasions are not smoothed out, they will provide a foothold for plaque and tartar formation. Finally the mouth is rinsed with water, to flush out any debris, and air dried. A fluoride treatment is applied to the teeth to strengthen the enamel.

Home Care
The true definition of prophylaxis is “the prevention of disease or control of its possible spread (Farlex).” A dental cleaning is a treatment of a disease process, whereas true prophylaxis is done at home. Home therapy is targeted at removing or lowering the amount of bacteria in the mouth. If home care is not instituted by three months after a dental cleaning then gingivitis scores are equivalent to those recorded prior to dental cleaning (Gorrel, 2004).

Brushing teeth is the gold standard for at home dental care; however, there are many options available. Products range from traditional tooth paste and tooth brush, to toys, treats, chews, wipes, and sprays. This allows us to design the home care plan that fits your pet’s needs and your lifestyle as well. Home care is a large subject matter and will be the focus of a later blog.

True dental prophylaxis encompasses both the professional dental cleaning under anesthesia coupled with home care. Dental cleanings that are incomplete or focus on the visible tooth anatomy can regress quickly. To answer my opening question; No, we cannot just simply scrape that off his teeth.

Works Cited
Farlex. (n.d.). The Free Dictionary. Retrieved February 1, 2013, from
Gorrel, C. (2004). Veterinary Denistry for the General Practitioner. Edinburgh, London, NY, Oxford, Philadelphia,St. Louis, Sydney, Toronoto: Saunders.
Iams Partners for Health. (2003). Spotlight on Dentistry: More than meets the eye.
VetMed Team. (n.d.). Companion Animal Denistry 101. Retrieved January 20, 2013, from
VetMed Team. (n.d.). Companion Animal Dentistry 102. Retrieved January 20, 2013, from