What Happens if My Pet Gets Bit by a Snake?

Dr. Ashley Gray

Spring is an exciting time of year where we start to come out of our winter hibernation mode and explore the great outdoors again. The weather starts to get beautiful as the flowers bloom, and we see an influx of wildlife in our backyards and parks. If you have your pets in a backyard, go to parks often, or hike in the mountains, you may come in contact with some critters that could cause harm to your pets. One of the most common injuries we see this time of year through our emergency department is snake bite wounds. Snakes are most active between March and October, which can pose a threat to your pets. The most common venomous snakes we see in the greater Charlotte region are Copperheads and certain types of Rattlesnakes.

            I would like to provide you with some tips to try to decrease the amount of snakes in your yard so that you can help keep your pets safe at home.Dog snake bite

  • Keep your yard tidy by cleaning up and removing any undergrowth, leaves, toys, wood, and tools that can be hiding places for snakes.
  • Keep all walkways and paths around your house clear.
  • Try to prevent and remove any food, bird seed, etc, which can attract rodents, which are prey for snakes.
  • It is favorable to walk your pet on a leash so you can control where they go in your yard if it is wooded or has areas that could hide snakes.
  • It is important to know that snakes can strike at a distance equal to about half their body length. If you see one, it is imperative to head back the way you came from.
  • You may want to familiarize yourself with what the common venomous snakes look like in the event you witness a snake bite so that you can better prepare your emergency veterinarian as this can guide your pet’s treatment.




Below are signs you may see if your pet experiences a snake bite so that you can quickly bring them in to us or your local emergency veterinarian to be seen.

  • Local or Generalized Swelling in the region of the bite (if generalized swelling, it can cause other signs such as difficulty breathing based on location of bite)
  • BleedingDog snake bite wound
  • Extreme pain
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Dead tissue around the region of the bite
  • Shortness of breath or Respiratory Difficulty
  • Weakness
  • Kidney failure

If your pet experiences a snake bite or you notice some of the above clinical signs, you must remain calm as well as try to keep your pet calm by reducing their activity. If your pet was bit around the neck region, remove their collar to decrease issues with swelling. Bring him to us or your local emergency veterinarian right away so that your pet can get immediate veterinary attention. Treatments you may read online to do at home such as icing, tourniquet, alcohol, sucking out the venom, etc will not help and ultimately waste precious time when it comes to giving your pet the best care. Your veterinarian will assess the wounds, determine the current health status of your pet, and discuss next steps in their diagnostic and treatment plan.

We hope these tips help keep your pets safe this spring and summer. If you have any questions, you can always call us for advice!


posted in:  Uncategorized

What is Heartworm Disease?

Dr. Abigial Brady

Heartworm disease is very common in North Carolina and has been diagnosed in all 48 states within the continental US. Heartworm disease is a fatal disease in dogs and cats. Heartworms are spaghetti-like worms that live inside the heart of dogs, cats, and wild mammals such as wolves, coyotes and foxes. When the worms are living in the heart they can cause heart failure, lung disease and severe disease in other organs of the body.


How do our pets get heartworms?

Heartworms are spread through mosquito bites. Wild animals are natural carriers of heartworms. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, they ingest the heartworm larvae (immature heartworms). The larvae mature into the infective stage while inside the mosquito. When the mosquito moves on and bites the next dog or cat they come across, they transfer the larvae into the pet. The immature mosquitos then migrate from the bite into the bloodstream and then to the heart, where Image result for Heart Worm Life Cyclethey will continue to mature and cause signs of disease.  From the time of the bite to the time that the worms are matured and able to be detected by a blood test is an average of 6 months.

Dogs are a natural host of the heartworm, meaning that the worms can mature and reproduce in the heart. Because of this, the worms can continue to reproduce and there can be up to several hundred worms living in one dog if they are left untreated. The heartworms can live in the dog for 5-7 years.

Cats are not natural hosts of heartworms. This means that they rarely develop to adulthood and typically do not reproduce. Normally when a cat is infected with heartworms, there are only 1-3 worms present. Even though they rarely have adult worms and in comparison to dogs, there are only a few present, heartworm disease can still be severe and even fatal in cats. The heartworms can live in the cat for 2-3 years.


What are the signs of heartworm disease?

In heartworm positive dogs, the most common signs seen are associated with heart disease. In early stages of disease there are usually no clinical signs that you will be able to detect. The most common signs that are seen by owners include a persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, becoming tired/worn out more quickly, weight loss and loss of appetite. In late stages of disease or severe disease you may see a distended abdomen, collapse, labored breathing or pale gums.

Cats with heartworm disease may have no signs or very severe signs. They commonly have respiratory signs including coughing or asthma-like breathing but they may also have vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty walking, fainting or a distended abdomen. Unfortunately in cats the first sign may be sudden collapse or even sudden death.


How do I get my pet tested for heartworms?

All dogs should be tested for heartworms every 12 months (starting at 1 year of age). This can be done with the annual blood work that your veterinarian runs. There are in-hospital, rapid tests that can be run, or your veterinarian may elect to send your pet’s blood to an outside lab to run a heartworm test.

Because cats do not usually have adult heartworms, they can be more difficult to detect. The preferred method to test cats is to took for both the antigen and antibody (the presence of worms and the exposure to them) but your veterinarian may also recommend x-rays or an ultrasound to help detect the worms if your cat is showing clinical signs of heartworm disease.


How can I prevent heartworm disease?

There are many veterinary approved heartworm preventions on the market. There are some preventatives that you may be able to find over the counter but these medications are not regulated so please consult your veterinarian before starting your pet on one. Heartworm prevention is available in many forms. There are several brands of oral medications, both pills and chewable “treats”. You can also purchase topical liquids, which can be convenient for Image result for heartworm preventionpicky eaters or pets with food allergies. Most preventatives should be given monthly, 12 months a year. Many of the available preventatives also protect pets from intestinal parasites and fleas, ask your veterinarian for more information on this!

How is heartworm disease treated?

In dogs there are a few different protocols that are available to treat heartworms. Before treatment is performed, many diagnostic tests such as blood work and x-rays will be done to make sure your dog is getting the best care.  Your veterinarian will come up with the best treatment protocol for your dog, most of which include several visits to the veterinary hospital, strict exercise restriction and close monitoring. Treatment can be very difficult on a dog’s body and there are side effects that can occur, but without treatment heartworm disease can be fatal. The treatment protocols can be several hundred to a couple thousand dollars. Monthly prevention is very important. The cost of prevention is much less than the cost of treatment and is much easier on the dog’s body.

Unfortunately for cats there are no approved drug protocols. Strict monitoring and close veterinary care is crucial to maintaining your cats health if they are diagnosed with heartworm disease.

Please talk to your veterinarian about any questions you still have about heartworms and how to protect your pets.  The American Heartworm Society also has an abundance of information on their website.

posted in:  Pet Health

What is Canine Arthritis?

by Dr. Robert Brady

What Is It?

Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce mobility and cause pain. Often seen in older dogs, arthritis can be caused by injury, infection, the body’s own immune system, or developmental problems. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (osteo = bone; arthr = joint; itis = inflammation) or degenerative joint disease. Normally, joints form smooth connections between bones. Osteoarthritis involves thinning of joint cartilage (a protective cushioning between bones), buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, this can lead to reduced joint mobility as well as pain.

  • Osteoarthritis affects one of every five dogs.
  • Thinning of joint cartilage can lead to a vicious cycle of joint deterioration, reduced mobility, and pain.
  • Supportive care is important, and treatment may include pain medication, NSAIDs, corticosteroids,supplements, massage, therapeutic laser, warm compresses, and/or surgery.
  • Regular, moderate exercise may help delay canine arthritis.

Signs and Diagnosis

  • Stiffness after exercise or rest
  • Wasting away of muscle
  • Limited movement
  • Joint swelling
  • Trouble getting up, laying down, walking, climbing stairs, or jumping
  • A grating sound in a joint
Normal Canine Hips- Arthritis

Normal Canine Hips

Recognizing arthritis in dogs can be difficult because the condition progresses slowly and dogs don’t complain about their aching joints. Also, some owners assume that signs of arthritis are “normal” in older animals.

Bringing your dog in for an annual checkup can help your veterinarian identify clinical signs early. Radiography (x-rays) can reveal bony growths and joint abnormalities.

Severe Hip Dysplasia and Osteoarthritis- Arthritis

Severe Hip Dysplasia and Osteoarthritis


  • Getting or keeping your dog slim can help by decreasing the load on his or her joints.
  • Feeding your dog the right amount of high-quality food should help with weight control.
  • Carefully monitored exercise on soft surfaces can help affected dogs..
  • Because arthritis is aggravated by cold and damp, keep your dog warm and dry. Padded dog beds can help.
  • Warm compresses can soothe affected joints.
  • Massage and passive range of motion can increase your dog’s flexibility, circulation, and sense of well-being. Professional animal massage therapists are available.
  • Pain medication, including nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (commonly called NSAIDs), may help relieve signs, but you should never give your dog a drug without your veterinarian’s recommendation. Ibuprofen (Advil), Aspirin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be toxic to dogs and cats so never give these medications to your pets.
  • Corticosteroids can be used to suppress inflammation, but they are usually used for short periods.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin have been used to help manage arthritis in dogs and other animals.
  • Acupuncture isn’t just for people. It’s painless and has shown some success in animals.
  • Therapeutic Laser therapy has also been proven to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis in dogs.
  • Surgery may be a good choice in advanced cases of canine arthritis including total hip replacements.
  • A low-stress environment, plenty of affection, and supportive care can help improve your dog’s quality of life.



Regular, moderate exercise and a high-quality diet can help delay aging, keeping your pet thin, and early intervention when a problem is suspected all help delay the progression of arthritis.


Aids for Arthritic Dogs

  • Slip-free flooring/ grip enhancement for your pets feet
  • Soft bedding
  • Ramps (instead of steps)
  • A warm, dry environment
  • Assisted grooming
  • Regular veterinary visits
  • Pain medications when warranted
  • Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Laser treatments



posted in:  Pet Health  |  Uncategorized

Why does my pet need vaccines?

Dr. Kerri Blackburn

 How do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines are a method to teach the body’s immune system how to fight off a disease.

  • A vaccine has parts of a virus or bacteria in it- not the whole bacteria or virus. This is enough for the immune system to recognize that there is an invader present.  The body then fights off the vaccine’s Puppy receiving vaccinesbacterial and viral parts. This is why we sometimes feel sick after a vaccine.
  • The immune system stores the knowledge of how to fight the disease for a period of time. This in turn protects your pet in case the virus or bacteria comes back.
  • After awhile, if not used, the immune system will forget this knowledge. Your pet still needs this knowledge since many of the diseases you pet was vaccinated against, exist in the environment at all times. For this reason “booster vaccines” are given to remind the immune system how to fight these diseases.

Why are Vaccines Necessary?

  • Vaccines are very important to your pet’s health. They prevent several very dangerous, often severe and life-threatening diseases like rabies, distemper and parvovirus.  Kitten receiving vaccines
  • Aside from your pet’s health, the health of you and your family is also a reason that vaccines are necessary. Some of the diseases that your pet will be vaccinated for can pose a risk to humans.
  • North Carolina rabies law requires that all owned dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age. Rabies vaccinations must then be kept current with booster vaccines.



Vaccines are selected based on diseases frequently seen in a geographical area, the risks to humans (rabies), legal requirements and a pet’s individual lifestyle risks. At Animal Medical Hospital we take vaccines and the diseases they prevent very seriously. We routinely review our vaccine protocols to ensure the health and safety of the pets and their families that we see. If you have questions about our protocol or the vaccines we use, please ask our veterinarians. We are always happy to discuss and know that this can be a hot button issue for some families.

posted in:  Uncategorized

Why Does My Pet Need Senior Wellness Bloodwork?

The Importance of Senior Wellness Bloodwork

 One of the most frequent questions I receive from pet owners is “Doc, why does my dog need bloodwork?  We just did that last year and everything was normal.”  Senior Wellness Bloodwork semi-annually in our pets is an important part of their physical exam.  Animals age much more rapidly than humans, and dramatic changes to bloodwork values can happen in a short period of time.

Senior Wellness Bloodwork allows us to screen for numerous diseases and begin treating them before our pets become ill or debilitated.

Often times our owners do not recognize that the signs their pet is having could be indicative of disease.  Changes in thirst, urination, appetite, activity, coat quality, weight, or mobility could all be early indicators of potentially serious diseases that often go undiagnosed until pets are ill.  An up to date blood panel can also aid your veterinarian in selecting which medications are safest for your pet to use.

What is included in Senior Wellness bloodwork?

  1. A CBC (complete blood count)
    • The CBC evaluates red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red cell, white cell, and platelet counts can change very rapidly over a period of hours.  Often veterinarians will evaluate the CBC daily in critically ill patients.
      • Red blood cells carry hemoglobin and are responsible for delivery of oxygen to the tissues of the body.
      • White blood cells are an important component of the immune system and are the first line of defenseagainst infections.
      • Platelets are important for allowing the blood to clot normally in response to injuries.
  2. A blood chemistry
    • Provides information on numerous organ systems in the body such as the liver, GI tract, kidneys, and immune system.
      • The liver has several enzymes which can indicate dysfunction such as the Alanine transaminase (ALT), Alkaline Phosphatase (ALKP).  These values can also be affected by toxins and certain medications your pets may take.  Many pets on arthritis medications or seizure medications will have mild liver enzyme elevations that are important to monitor over time.
      • The kidney is assessed by Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) and Creatinine (Crea).  Elevations in these enzymes can indicate dehydration, urinary disease, or kidney dysfunction.  Kidney disease is the number one systemic disease in elderly cats with almost all geriatric cats developing some degree of kidney disease in their lifetime.
  3. Senior Boston TerrierScreening the urine
    • It is important to assess urine concentration.  Low urine concentration can be the very first sign of kidney dysfunction.  The urine can also help indicate diseases such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease which are common in the aging pet population.
  4. T4
    • Assessing the T4, allows your veterinarian to evaluate the thyroid.
      • Elderly cats frequently will have elevated thyroid levels which can predispose to heart disease and blood clots.  Thyroid disease can also mask the signs of kidney disease in older cats.
      • Elderly dogs are prone to low thyroid levels which can predispose to hair loss, skin/ear infections, and weight gain.


Semi-annual bloodwork can help your veterinarian to help your pet before illness becomes severe.   Finding diseases before your pet becomes ill allows them the best chance at enjoying a long, healthy life.


Visit our Services page for more information about Senior Wellness visits here at Animal Medical Hospital.

posted in:  Pet Health  |  Seniors  |  Uncategorized

What is the Fear Free Initiative?

Fear Free Initiative: Taking the Pet out of Petrified

Dr. Monica Tarantino

Fear Free is taking over at AMH and we cannot wait!

Let’s face it, we here at AMH love your animals… but they don’t always love us!  The concept that many animals experience anxiety, stress and fear at the vet is driving a new method of pet management at veterinary offices across the US.  This method is called Fear Free and is an initiative that changes the way we approach and handle animals starting from home, through waiting room, exam room and checkout.   At AMH, our doctors and staff are proud to be one of the first hospitals in the US to embrace this method.  Check out the below link to see a short video with Dr. Marty Becker and Dr. Deborah Horowitz, talk about the path to the Fear Free initiative ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV685GjC0ns ):

So, what should you expect?  Here’s a few things you’ll start seeing:


Here we are feeding a nervous, submissive pet treats in order to decrease stress before performing services.

  • Separate Dog and Cat Waiting Areas: we will be doing basic things like trying to keep our dog and cat friends in separate areas in the waiting room to help decrease stress.
  • Take A Walk or Wait in the Car: for dogs, allow them to walk outside in designated areas while you wait. For cats, if the waiting room seems stressful, ask the front desk staff if you can wait in your car with your cat until their room is ready.

3) Withholding Food/Treat Rewards:  To help us bond with your pets even more, please withhold food from your pet prior to coming to see us (unless medically contraindicated). Treat rewards allow us to create a more positive experience at the vet!

Fear free socialization- some cats like their exams on a lap rather than a table!

4) Low Stress Pheromone Sprays: prior to your exam room appointment, our staff sprays exam rooms and towels with pheromone sprays designed to decrease stress.  We have both a cat specific pheromone spray and a dog specific pheromone spray.  Our staff is consistently doing this prior to all our appointments with your beloved animal to assist in creating a low stress visit.

5) Low Stress Holding and Management Techniques: our staff actively practices low stress animal holding techniques (see picture below of our technician Jess G. expertly holding our feisty kitty friend).  Each of your pets are special and unique and we approach them as such using body language cues, previous exam tips and other methods to help figure out what works best for them! Our hope is to help make the experience your pet has with us a positive one.




Here our technician Jess expertly holds a feisty cat with minimal restraint.

Please stay tuned for more future blogs on Fear Free at AMH and how it will impact you. Ultimately, we hope that we can create changes that help reduce stress as much as reasonably possible for your beloved pet.  As always, thank you for trusting your beloved pets with our care.






posted in:  Pet Education

Why Does My Pet Need Fish Oils?

The Little Magic Pill: Fish Oils

Dr. Mari-Ashli Foy

Itchy skin? Achy joints? Kidney disease? Heart disease? What do all 4 of these medical problems have in common? Studies over the years have shown that with this simple addition to your pets diet, there are numerous benefits to be gained.  On the human side of things, we hear all the time about adding essential omega-3 fatty acids to our diet. However, many do not know what these essential fats are why they are important.


What are omega-3 fatty acids?fish-oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are a part of a group of fats known as essential fats. These essential fats are those that are not made by the body and instead must be consumed.  Examples of food that contain omega-3’s include primarily food from the fish family such as salmon, tuna, and trout. The other group of essential fatty acids are known as omega-6’s, can be found in plant oils and nuts like walnuts, flaxseed, and sunflower oil. Most of the pet foods animals consume have more of the omega-6 fatty acids, than omega-3 fatty acids.  To ensure a well balanced diet and help with certain medical conditions, the addition of fish oils have become an important part of veterinarians diet recommendations.


What can these fish oils do for my pet?

Below are just a few examples of  how omega-3 fatty acids can positively impact the health of your pet.  Always remember to check with your veterinarian before adding fish oils to your pet’s diet. They will be able to advise you on an appropriate dosage based on the amount of omega-6’s and omega-3’s your pet is already consuming. It is imporfoy-2tant that there is an appropriate balance of these two essential fatty acids to provide well rounded coverage.

  1. Inflammatory skin disorders: If you’ve noticed that your furry friend has been scratching more than usual, even with a monthly flea medication, try adding fish oils to his/her treatment regimen. Fish oils help with inflammation caused by allergies and will leave your pet’s coat looking shinier than ever!
  2. Osteoarthritis: Arthritis is a natural part of growing old. Studies have shown consistent use of fish oils in arthritic patients can improve weight bearing and lameness.
  3. Kidney Disease: Protective to the kidneys. Will help with hypertension which is damaging to the kidneys. Additionally, it has been shown to lessen the amount of protein in the urine.
  4. Heart Disease: Reduces the frequency of arrythmias. Decreases inflammation associated with chronic heart disease and heart failure patients.



Favorite Brands

  1. Nature Made Fish Oil
  2. Welactin Canine Liquid or Softgel
  3. Welactin Feline Liquid or Softgel



posted in:  Allergies  |  Pet Health  |  Seniors

7 Things to Know Before Getting a New Puppy

Dr. Abigail Brady

A new puppy is so much fun, and truly such an adventure. Even if you have raised a puppy before, each one comes with its own personality and new challenges each day. Some are cuddly, some never stop running, some chew anything and everything while others are picky and will only eat one particular food. But there are some things are the same across the board and should be kept in mind whether this is your very first puppy or one more being added to your crew.

1. Puppies are a financial investment:

Whether we like to admit it or not, a new pet is a huge financial (and time) commitment. Before bringing a new pet into your home, please consider if it the right time for you to add on this expense. Puppies need multiple veterinary visits, they will need to be spayed or neutered, they will need preventative medications and unfortunately emergencies happen when we least expect them. Here at AMH, we offer preventative healthcare plans to help budget the cost of routine veterinary visits which can be helpful. There are also many different companies that offer pet insurance plans. Unlike human health insurance, most pet insurance plans require you to pay up front at the veterinary visit and they will reimburse you for the portion covered by your plan. This can be very helpful for those unexpected vet bills as well as the routine ones.

2. Vaccines in puppies are crucial to prevent them from common diseases:

Puppies require vaccines every 3-4 weeks from the time they are around 8 weeks old until they are 4 months old. Puppies have protection from their moms from viruses when they are born but unfortunately, sometimes that fights off vaccines as well. To ensure that they are appropriately protected, frequent vaccines are required when they are young. The distemper vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects dogs from 4 different viruses, some of which can be fatal. The rabies vaccine is required by law and rabies is always fatal if a pet is infected. Rabies can be transmitted to humans as well, so all pets should be vaccinated. Another vaccine that is recommended for all dogs is the leptospirosis vaccine. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can cause kidney and liver disease in dogs and it is contagious to humans as well. Many of these viruses can be contracted from the environment and from other dogs. Please do not bring your puppy to public places like pet stores or dog parks until they are fully vaccinated at 4 months or older. Please talk to your veterinarian to set up an appropriate vaccine schedule for your growing puppy!

3. Flea and heartworm prevention are recommended every month for the life of your dog:

Flea prevention can be purchased as an oral tablet or a topical liquid. Fleas can lead to severe skin disease and can transmit some other unwanted diseases to your pets. Some flea products protect from ticks as well. There are over the counter flea preventatives available but many of them have frequent side effects including trembling and even seizures. Please talk to your veterinarian about the prescription preventatives available that are regulated and are safe for your new puppy. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos. Only one mosquito bite is needed to pass the disease to your puppy. If a dog gets heartworm disease, it can be thousands of dollars to treat. There are oral and topical heartworm preventions available and most of them prevent your dog from intestinal parasites as well.

4. Intestinal parasites can cause severe problems in pets, and some are contagious to people:

There are many different types of intestinal parasites that puppies can have. Unfortunately, they are pretty common in young puppies. Intestinal parasites are easily contracted in kennels, breeding facilities, or even from their mother. Puppies are routinely treated for parasites when they first go to the veterinarian and many vets will check a sample of feces for any parasite eggs. You can help facilitate this by bringing a sample of your puppy’s stool with you to his or her first vet visit. Many parasite eggs can be picked up on your hands and some can even go through your bare feet. Please make sure you clean up dog poop regularly from the yard where you or any children walk, and wash your hands after every time you clean up.

5. Having your puppy spayed or neutered reduces the risk of many health problems:

A puppy can be spayed (for a girl) or neutered (for a boy) at about 6 months of age. They may be done younger sometimes when they are in a shelter olah-puppyr your veterinarian may recommend that you wait until they are slightly older (about 1 year) if he/she is a large breed dog or if here are any health concerns related to reproduction. Having a female dog spayed before her first heat cycle (which is usually around 6-8 months) reduces the risk of mammary tumors by 99.5%. This will also prevent any unwanted pregnancies and eliminates the risk of uterine infections, which can sometimes be fatal. Having a male dog neutered eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate disease. Neutering also decreases the risk of wandering and decreases behavioral problems and aggression.

6. At home dental care can begin right away and helps to prevent dental disease and dental cleanings in the future:

The only way to clean a dogs teeth once they already have tartar buildup and gingivitis is to put them under anesthesia since we can’t just ask them to “say ahh”. You can introduce your puppy to a toothbrush as soon as you get him/her. This will get them used to it and make daily teeth brushing much easier. You can even make it fun with flavored toothpaste for dogs and give a treat to follow. Please ask your veterinarian to show you how to brush your new puppy’s teeth or watch our video!

7. Nail trims and ear clepuppy-huskyaning does not always have to turn into a wrestling match:

Some dogs hate to have their nails trimmed and ears cleaned. You can help to prevent this and make these events much less stressful (for you and your dog) by exposing them to it at a young age. When your puppy is sitting with you or resting, you can play with his/her feet and run your fingers between all of the toes. This will get them used to having their feet handled and will let them know that it is not as bad as some dogs think. You can do the same thing with the ears. You can look in the ears and rub the inside with a tissue or cotton ball to get them used to their ears bring touched. These practices hugely reduce stress and make any nail trims or ear medications in the future much more manageable.



Please develop a relationship with your veterinarian and don’t hesitate to go to them with any questions or concerns. No question is too small, the more you ask the more you can learn. Also, find out where the closest 24-hour emergency clinic is located, in case you ever need their services. Enjoy your new puppy, take lots of pictures and have fun!

posted in:  Uncategorized

Feline Urinary Tract Disease: What Cat Owners Should Know

Dr. Lauren Hathaway

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is commonly diagnosed in cats and can have a variety of underlying causes.  As the name implies, this group of disorders involves the structures of the lower urinary tract, including the bladder and urethra (the long tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).  Signs of urinary tract disease in cats can range from mild to severe, with even death a possibility if left untreated.

Why is my cat urinating outside of the litterbox?

Urinary CatOne of the first signs of urinary tract disease that cat owners may notice is inappropriate elimination, or urination outside of the litterbox.  Although inappropriate urination can be behavioral in origin, it is very important for your veterinarian to exam your cat to rule out any potential underlying medical problems.  Possible causes of lower urinary tract disease in cats include:

  • Urinary stones
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
  • Urethral obstruction (blockage of the urethra with stones or mineral plugs)

What in the world is idiopathic cystitis?

One of the most commonly diagnosed problems in cats with urinary issues is idiopathic cystitis, which describes inflammation in the bladder that occurs for an unknown reason.  This condition is still not completely understood in cats, but is believed to be related to stress.  As idiopathic cystitis progresses, it leads to significant inflammation within the bladder, along with the production of debris composed of inflammatory cells, blood clots, and mineral deposits.  If this inflammation is persistent and ongoing, enough debris can accumulate within the bladder to result in urethral obstruction.Urinary Blockage

Urethral obstruction is the most serious form of urinary tract disease, and can be life-threatening.  Cats that are obstructed are unable to urinate, which means that they are unable to eliminate the body’s waste products that are filtered through the urine.  Obstructions almost always occur in male cats due to the length and narrow diameter of their urethra compared to female cats. In the male, small bladder stones often cause an obstruction as they pass out of the bladder and through the urethra. Plugs of debris and inflammatory cells can also lead to obstruction.

What signs should I watch for at home?

Symptoms of lower urinary tract disease include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Increased frequency of urination (spending more time in the litterbox)
  • Painful urination (crying out while attempting to urinate)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinating outside of the litterbox
  • Decreased appetite, hiding, or other behavioral changes

Cats that become obstructed may exhibit many of the same symptoms, but are unable to urinate.  These cats may show progressive clinical signs, including vomiting, extreme lethargy, or collapsing.  If left untreated, urethral obstructions are usually fatal.

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of urinary tract disease, it is recommended that your cat be examined by a veterinarian.  Testing and treatment will be tailored to your cat depending on his or her history and exam findings. If your male cat is not urinating, the situation is an emergency and he should be examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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posted in:  Pet Education

Coping with Pet Loss and Grief

Our animals are a huge part of our lives; they help to make our lives whole.  That’s why losing a pet can feel like losing a part of ourselves.

dog sunsetGrieving for your pet and for your loss is normal and understandable; and you should never feel embarrassed or ashamed about your feelings.  It is important to recognize the grief that you and others may feel surrounding the loss of a pet, but remember that not everyone will show and experience grief in the same way.

Grief can affect all aspects of life, and the effects can be widespread.

Symptoms can be physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual.  No matter how grief affects you, it is important that you recognize that what you are going through is quite natural.  It is also important that you give yourself time to grieve.  Find a way to honor the memory of your faithful companion, something that feels right for you and helps you to cope and, eventually, to heal.  Options include memorials, candle lighting, and rituals.  Our website has a paw wall where you may leave a memorial for your lost friend.


cat child

 As veterinarians, we are often asked how to help children through the grieving process.

Perhaps one of the most important facets of this is not to shield children from death.  The loss of a pet is often a child’s first experience with death, and this experience can be a powerful learning opportunity for children.  While it is natural to want to protect our children from the heartbreak associated with loss, it is often better to be honest and support them through the process.  Be willing to answer all of their questions, no matter how strange or complicated they may be.  Consider involving your child in saying goodbye to the pet, if at all possible. Above all, help your child to remember the good times with a much-loved pet, and encourage them to share happy memories.


When the right time to bring a new pet into the family?

This is a difficult question, and the answer is as unique as you and your family!  First take time to grieve for your pet, but remember that having another pet (while never a replacement!) can help your family and your heart to heal.  There are many pets out dog lives shortthere who would love to come into your home.


It is also important to realize that when you lose a pet, you are not alone.

We are here to help, and there are plenty of other resources available to you as well.   Charlotte has a pet loss support group that meets on the second Thursday of each month from 7:00-8:30 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.  These meetings are facilitated by a grief counselor from Presbyterian Hospice care and also have a veterinary advisor (Dr. Ginny Dodd) in attendance to answer any questions you may have.  You can find more about this group at www.petgriefsupportgroupnc.com.  The ASPCA also provides a Pet Loss Hotline that you can reach by dialing (877) GRIEF-10.  The ASPCA Hotline can provide support in your decision to euthanize, in coping with pet loss and grief, and in helping children through the grieving process.  Other websites you might find helpful are www.petloss.com and www.petlosshelp.com.

posted in:  Pet Loss