Avoid A Fright On Halloween Night

By Dr. Jenkins

Halloween is just around the corner, and although it can be a fun and exciting time of the year for your family, it can pose great risks for your pets! We at Animal Medical Hospital have compiled tips to help everyone have a safe and happy Halloween together.

  • Beware the Candy

Those goodies filling the trick-or-treat baskets may contain substances that can harm your pets.  Chocolate, raisins, and xylitol (a sugar free sweetener) are all hazardous to animal health. Even candy wrappers can be harmful if your pet swallows them. If your furry friend does get into the contents of a trick-or-treat pail, please call us or a pet poison-control hotline to determine the appropriate steps to take.

If you want to be safe rather than sorry, bake Spot a festive Halloween treat such as the Pumpkin and Peanut Butter treats featured in the link below so that he can enjoy the occasion. Just make sure your peanut butter is xylitol-free!


  • Let Sleeping Dogs—or Cats!—Lie

We understand that it’s tempting to take your four-legged friends along for the neighborhood trick-or-treating rounds, but it is truly best to leave them at home. All the commotion of Halloween can be too much for the most well-adjusted and well-socialized animals. If your pet does choose to join the trek, make sure to outfit him or her with a reflective vest and proper identification (see below).

  • Whoooo’s There?

Whether your pet stays at home or joins the raiding party (i.e., trick-or-treating), the most important thing you can do for him on Halloween is equip him or her with proper identification. Even if Lucy stays home, she can easily become spooked by the ghoul at your door and slip outside into the great unknown. Collars and tags are wonderful, and all pets should sport them on Halloween (and throughout the year); but they can easily become lost.

Consider a more permanent option for pet identification, such as a microchip. Registered microchips can help reunite lost pets and their loving families. Another option is to equip your pet with a GPS tracker such as one of those mentioned in the Consumer Reports review below.


  • The Purr-fect Outfit


Costumes are great for kids, but they can be scary for pets. If your pet enjoys playing dress-up, make sure that the costume fits well and does not impede movement. Then supervise your costumed pet at all times. Costumes that are too large can easily get caught on objects and trap your pet. Costumes with small parts (buttons, bows, etc.) can be dangerous if your pet thinks that the small parts are treats to be nibbled.

If your pet does have a safe and well-fitting costume that he loves to show off, be sure to enter him in our Spooktacular Day Camp Costume Contest on Wednesday, October 28th!

  • Watch Out for Boooo-By Traps

Decorations can pose a considerable threat to your pet. Lighted jack-o-lanterns are quite festive, but they can easily be knocked over by your pet—and this could start a fire. Dry ice can set an eerie mood, but can turn the mood chilly if your pet gets frostbite and it can be fatal if swallowed or inhaled! Frayed or broken electric cords and wires for all the lights on your porch can shock your furry friends.

If you do choose to set up a Halloween display, please make sure it is puppy-proof!

Wishing you a happy and safe Halloween—from our family to yours!

Is Your Pet Slowing Down?

Is your pet slowing down ? 

Is this normal aging or something else?

We all know that dogs and cats age faster than we do, which sometimes leads us to accept their slowing down with old age without question. Many people wonder if there is something they could do to keep their older pet happier and perkier for longer. Is there something that we may be overlooking?

Common causes of pets ‘slowing down’

There are a number of different reasons that an older dog or cat could lose the pep in their step. The most common causes are osteoarthritis, heart disease, hypothyroidism or other endocrine or metabolic problems. Twice yearly checkups for our pets over 7 years old (over 5 for giant breed dogs) with complete blood cell counts, serum chemistries and a urinalysis can help to detect early problems and take steps to prevent disease.

Is there anything I can really do?

While its true that for some diseases like osteoarthritis and heart disease there is no cure, many therapeutic options are available that could slow the progression of disease, especially if caught early. Special therapeutic diets, nutritional supplementation, weight management and exercise plans are all things that your veterinarian can discuss with you to help your aging pet live a longer, more comfortable life.

Written by : Dr. Lauren Goode, DVM

Canine Influenza in the US

Bridget Andersen, DVM

Approximately 4 months ago there was an outbreak of a strain of the Canine Influenza virus in the Chicago area.  While it was first believed that the virus was the same Influenza strain (H3N8) first isolated in Florida in 2004, subsequent studies have shown that this outbreak is more closely related to the Asian strains of Influenza A H3N2.  These viral strains have been affecting dogs in China and South Korea since 2006 and this virus outbreak likely came from that region.

Since the outbreak in Chicago was confirmed with a broadly targeted Influenza-A matrix PCR test, cases have also been confirmed in other parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, and Alabama.  Both strains of  Influenza virus (H3N8 and H3N2) cause coughing, nasal discharge, high fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy.  The clinical signs of H3N2 may be more severe as this may be a more virulent strain based on the widespread nature and short time frame in which the virus spread.   While thousands of cases have been confirmed, only 6 dogs have died from the virus.

There is a vaccine developed to protect dogs from the H3N8 strain of the virus.  It is unknown whether the currently available canine H3N8 flu vaccines will protect dogs against the H3N2 strain.   However, at this time it is recommended to vaccinate high risk dogs against the H3N8 strain with the currently available strain because the H3N8 strain is still a risk, and because there might be some cross protection against the H3N2 strains of the virus.   High risk dogs include dogs with high exposure to other dogs such as doggy day care, dog parks, boarding facilities, dog shows, sporting events, and dogs living in inner cities.

Currently at Animal Medical Hospital, we are only recommending the vaccine for dogs or their owners who are traveling to endemic areas and are coming into contact with dogs in those areas.   If an outbreak of the virus is reported in North Carolina, we will likely change our protocol and we will notify our dog owners immediately.

To learn more please visit this link:   doginfuelza.com




Guinea Pig Nutrition

Guinea pigs develop dietary preferences early in life and do not adapt readily to changes in type, appearance, or presentation of their food or water.  The optimum diet for a guinea pig should contain guinea pig pellets, grass hay and supplemented with fresh vegetables.  Guinea pigs are completely herbivorous and enjoy a variety of leafy greens.  All fresh vegetables should only be left in the cage for a few hours and only a small amount of fruits should be offered.  Good quality hay should be available at all times and pellets can be given free choice as well.  Guinea pigs require a dietary source of Vitamin C and should be offered in the way of green leafy vegetables (kale, parsley, beet greens, chicory, spinach), red and green peppers, broccoli, tomatoes or small amount of kiwi and oranges.  Make sure to speak to your veterinarian if you have questions about your guinea pig’s diet.

Why Does My Pet Need Parasite Prevention?

Dr Jamie Laity

Monthly preventative products for parasites can be a source of much confusion for pet owners. What does my pet need? How often should I give it? Which products work best? These are a few of the many questions we hear on a daily basis.

Here’s the scoop:
In the south, parasites (both inside and outside the body) run rampant for dogs and cats. Heartworms are the focus of many of the monthly preventatives because these parasites can cause significant damage, but are very preventable! Heartworms are transmitted through mosquitos, and because we live in the south, heartworms are a real problem for our pets.

Both dogs AND cats can get heartworms, even the pets that stay indoors all the time. Heartworm preventatives should be given EVERY 30 days for maximum protection. If you forget a dose, the best thing to do is bring your pet in for a heartworm test.

Intestinal parasites are very common in our pets. Dogs and cats can become infected with intestinal worms through their everyday environment. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms are among the most common intestinal parasites we see. These worms can cause various problems including diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia. Like heartworms, intestinal parasites are preventable. We recommend that each pet has a fecal once a year to check for internal parasites.

What about those nasty fleas and ticks? External parasites are not only ugly to look at, but can also transmit dangerous diseases to your pets. Fleas can result in tapeworm infections and ticks can harbor a whole host of organisms that cause serious illnesses in pets. The tricky part with flea infestations is that only 5% of the fleas are actually on your pet. The remaining 95% of the population is buried in deep carpet, couches, and rugs. If you are noticing fleas on your pet, monthly preventatives will help, but they won’t eliminate the problem. Vacuuming daily will help remove eggs and larvae from the environment. With severe infestations, professional exterminators may be necessary.

So what products should I use?
There are many different products on the market that do a great job preventing these harmful parasites. At Animal Medical Hospital, we recommend Sentinel combined with Vectra 3D each month for dogs. Sentinel is an oral tablet that prevents heartworms and intestinal parasites and acts like a “flea birth control.” It does not kill adult fleas, but makes fleas sterile, which helps with population control. Vectra 3D is a topical liquid that kills adult fleas, kills and repels mosquitos and ticks. Vectra 3D also has the advantage of being waterproof. Both of these products in combination will protect your dog for 30 days. For cats, we recommend Revolution, which is a topical product that prevents heartworms, fleas, intestinal parasites and ear mites for 30 days.

Household Toxins

Dr Bridget Andersen

There are numerous toxins in a typical household to which our pets could become exposed.  Toxic substances range from obvious hazards such as rat poison, to seemingly benign substances such as over the counter flea medications and raisins.  It is impossible to remember all of the potentially harmful household items, but there a few key facts that every pet owner should know.


  1. Whenever a pet has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance but seems normal, call a poison control hotline for advice.  Animal Medical Hospital recommends the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435. Note: this service is included in the HomeAgain membership.    This organization has the most accurate and expansive database of toxins, and they will be able to calculate the toxic dose your pet received and advise whether or not your pet needs to be treated.
  2. If your pet is already showing signs of illness, bring him/her into the hospital and we can call the Poison Control Hotline once your pet arrives.    There is a fee for the hotline’s services but it is well worth your while and may prevent an emergency visit to the hospital.
    1. If possible, have the product label available during the phone conversation so that you can provide information as to the product ingredients, concentration, and quantity.
    2. Also, bring the container/product label to the veterinary hospital – including the quantity spilled and vomited.


If your pet has had a topical exposure to a toxic substance (over the counter flea medication, household cleaners, 100% tea tree oil, antifreeze, etc) wash your pet immediately with mild dish detergent and copious amounts of water.  It is best to wear gloves in case the product is toxic to humans as well.   For powders, vacuuming the pet’s fur prior to bathing is ideal.   For eye exposure, immediately flush the eyes with water, or ideally saline solution prepared for eyes.  Then follow up with a phone call to Poison Control or Animal Medical Hospital.


For ingestion of a potentially toxic substance it is best to seek advice prior to treatment.  If the substance is deemed non-caustic and the ingestion has occurred within the hour, it may be recommended to induce vomiting.  This is best performed at a veterinary facility with an intravenous injection because the injection is less irritating to the stomach lining than oral induction.   However, if unable to bring your pet to the hospital, vomiting can be induced at home using FRESH 3% hydrogen peroxide.  Feeding a small amount of dog food or bread prior to induction of vomiting is commonly recommended.  It is helpful to keep a turkey baster, bulb syringe, or large medicine syringe on hand in order to administer the hydrogen peroxide.


It is extremely important to contact your veterinarian or Poison control center prior to induction of vomiting because vomiting is contraindicated when the ingested material is caustic.  Caustic items are corrosive and cause mild irritation to necrosis/sloughing of the mucosal tissue of the mouth and esophagus.  Common caustic household items are alkalis (in cleaning products), turpentine, and petroleum products.   In these cases it is best to dilute the toxin by giving milk or water and head to the emergency facility immediately.

The list of toxic substances is very long and is often time dose dependent.  For complete lists of toxic substances, please go to www.ASPCA.org.

Why spay or neuter?

Neutering is a sterile surgical procedure that involves removing both testicles from a male pet. Spaying refers to the operation where the ovaries and uterine horns are surgically removed from a female pet. It is recommended to spay and neuter your pets between 5 and 8 months of age, before they reach sexual maturity. This is for both medical and behavioral reasons. The only reason not to spay or neuter is if you are going to breed or show your pet.

For male pets, there are several medical reasons for neutering. The first is to eliminate the risk for testicular cancer, which is the 2nd most common cancer in unneutered male dogs. If the testicles are removed, they can’t get cancer there. Neutering reduces the risk for prostate cancer and prostatitis, and reduces the risks of diseases associated with hormones such as testosterone. As for behavior- there will be a decrease in the need for roaming as your dog will not have the urge to reproduce, as well as decreased aggression. It also decreases the urge to “mark” their territory, so inappropriate urination is less likely to be an issue.

There are medical and behavioral advantages to spaying your female pets as well. Medical reasons include the eliminating the possibility of false pregnancy, uterine infections known as pyometras, decreasing the risk of breast cancer and eliminating the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer. As with males, behavioral benefits include reduced aggression and other undesirable behaviors such as inappropriate elimination.

There are serious medical complications and behavioral issues that can arise from not spaying and neutering your pets, as outlined above. In addition to these, you will be preventing the risk of unplanned pregnancies. If you take away the urge to reproduce, they will be much more suitable as pets because they will no longer have to answer the “call of the wild.”

Nutrition for Ferrets

Feeding your ferret a proper diet is extremely important.  Ferrets, like cats, are strict carnivores that are designed to eat whole, small prey animals.  In nature, ferrets would only encounter carbohydrates in the partially digested stomach contents of their prey.  The most common diet fed to pet ferrets in the United States is dry kibble, however these diets still contain high levels of grain.  The most important thing to look at when choosing a food for you ferret is the label.  The optimal diet contains 30-35% crude protein (high-quality meat sources) and 15-20% fat content.  The first three ingredients of a ferret diet should be meat products.  Dry diets can also be supplemented with:  fresh raw organ or muscle meat and raw egg.  Fruits should be avoided and fresh water should always be available either in a sipper bottle or a heavy crock-type bowl.  If a bowl is used it should not be easy to overturn.  Supplements should never be added to the ferrets’ water because they will degrade quickly.  Make sure to speak to your veterinarian if you have any questions about your ferret’s diet.

Dangers of Over the Counter Medications By Dr Kerri Blackburn

It is tempting to reach in the medicine cabinet when our pets are not feeling well, but this can ultimately result in more harm than good. Many over the counter medications that are safe for use in people are toxic to dogs and cats. Even those medications that are safe for use in dogs and cats are not safe at the same dosages as those used in people.

Tylenol for instance is extremely toxic to cats and dogs and can lead to kidney failure as well as severe bleeding ulcers. It should never be used. Neither should Aleve as it can cause similar problems. Even milder forms of pain relievers such as aspirin can cause these signs at the human dosages listed on the bottles. In addition, aspirin can be extremely dangerous if given with other forms of medications such as steroids and anti-inflammatories dispensed from your veterinarian.

Antihistamines dispensed over the counter often have additional drugs in them for decongestion or to prevent drowsiness in people. These extra ingredients can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias in pets. Even something as mild as vitamin supplements often contains concentrations of certain ingredients that can be harmful to pets. For these reasons it is always advisable to consult your veterinarian before administering ANY over the counter medication to your pet.

Owning a Pet Reptile

Pet ReptileDr Lorraine Pennea

Have you ever thought about owning a pet reptile? Many people think  the reptiles that are kept as pets are ‘cool’ to own and sometimes after seeing one up close or handling one people get their hearts set on owning one too.  Some of the more common pet reptiles that people keep are turtles, tortoises, non-poisonous snakes, green iguanas, chameleons, and various other lizards.

I too am a reptile enthusiast and although I am not a veterinary specialist in the exotics world, I am hobbyist. I want you to know that the single biggest ‘mistake’ people make when it comes to reptiles is not learning enough about which ever particular species they desire before acquiring it. Husbandry issues are the leading cause of illness and injury in pet reptiles. There are multiple websites where one can learn about how to care for a reptile but some of these sites are just a person’s opinion and perhaps not factual. The best place to learn is from your veterinarian. If your veterinarian does not take care of reptiles they certainly can guide you towards one who does or one who is a hobbyist like myself who would be more than happy to guide you. If you want your reptile to do well and thrive then you must know how to care for it.

Some simple facts: green iguanas will turn brown and stop being green if they are not kept at the correct temperature. Turtles will stop eating if humidity is wrong. Snakes will sometimes sit so close to heat sources that they will burn their own skin before moving away. Most reptiles can have zoonotic diseases – meaning a disease that is contagious to people!  Make sure to speak to your veterinarian if you are thinking about owning a reptile or if you have questions about reptile care.