This Fourth of July, it’s important to be prepared for all the celebrations, and not just in terms of fireworks and food. Read on to learn more about how to keep your pets safe and happy this Independence Day.
Make sure your pet has proper identification! A collar with an ID tag and accurate, up-to-date contact information is very helpful in the event that your pet accidentally escapes. Another option is to consider microchipping your pet. This is helpful if your pet’s collar comes off- if someone finds them, then they can take him/her to most shelters or veterinary hospitals and find your contact information just by scanning the microchip. An extra safety measure to help prevent a possible runaway is to make sure your yard or fencing is secure so that if your pet gets anxious or afraid and decides to make a break for it, they will at least be contained on your property. Extra Tip: Don’t change their diet! It could give your pet some unexpected tummy upset or diarrhea, and if your pet has an unknown noise anxiety, it might spell trouble later in the evening.
During the Festivities:
If you’re having a get-together or barbecue, it is good to keep your pets away from any grills or cooking areas to prevent any mishaps with hot surfaces or charcoal. The same should be done for any beverages or human food that may be around. Make sure that if you or neighbors are setting off fireworks that your dogs are indoors and/or away from any and all fireworks, sparklers, or glow sticks. The loud noises and lights can be frightening and disorienting. It’s also a good idea to ask your guests to help out in keeping an eye are your pets as well if they will be roaming around the house. If you’re going to be heading elsewhere for a celebration, make sure you pet-sitter has the information they need to care for your pet. Especially if your pet has known anxiety with loud noises or thunderstorms, your pet sitter will need to know how to best deal with that and know how best to keep your loved-one calm and happy.
After it all Dies Down:
After all the fun, of course, comes time to clean up! Not just for you, but for your pet as well. Make sure to get any and all food and beverage trash that might be lurking around waiting for a pet to get into. When you throw things away, also make sure that the trash is completely sealed and out of reach to your pets! If you had guests over and lit fireworks, it’s very important to go through your yard or property to properly dispose of any leftover debris. Even if you didn’t personally set off fireworks, other debris might have made its way into your yard.
Teresa Mundy, Boarding Technician and Social Media Coordinator
It is officially the 2014–2015 holiday season! Time for thicker jackets, shorter days, and everyone’s favorite: making plans for holiday travel. As pet parents, our worries do not stop at planning our vacation; we also have to worry about where our pets will stay while we are gone.
While some families are lucky enough to have a trusted friend or family member who can tend to all the needs of their pet, that is not an option for many people. Sometimes circumstances don’t allow for a pet sitter, and some animals adapt better to a secure, comforting, and friendly facility then to being left alone. Animals left at home with someone checking on them just a few times a day are more likely to become destructive, risk injury, and have accidents in the house.
So what’s best for you and your pet? Below are some key things to consider—the Who, What, and Where—when leaving your pet in someone else’s care while you are away.
When choosing a caregiver keep your pet’s specific needs in mind. WHO is best suited to meet the specific needs of your pet?
- Who is best equipped to ensure your pet’s daily habits are disrupted as little as possible (eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, exercising, taking medications, etc.)
- Who can guarantee your pet’s safety?
- Who do you truly trust with your pet’s life?
It can be hard to anticipate everything your pet might need while you are away. WHAT does your pet need in your absence?
- Can all of your pet’s needs be taken care of by a pet sitter, as opposed to multiple staff at a boarding facility?
- What happens if your pet gets injured?
- How will you know if your pet is healthy, comfortable, and relaxed?
While home is familiar to your pet, being left there alone for long periods of time may cause unexpected behaviors or circumstances. WHERE your pet stays matters. Boarding at a facility with trained, knowledgeable staff can guarantee the following:
- You will be informed immediately if anything goes wrong
- Your pet will be staying in the safest possible place when not in your care
- You will know exactly where your pet is at all times, and how he or she is doing
Boarding Facility vs. Kennel
Boarding facilities are commonly misidentified as “kennels.” Many people mistakenly believe these terms are interchangeable, but there are two significant differences between the two types of facilities.
Staff—While kennels and boarding facilities both have the goal of taking good care of animals being housed there, boarding staff—especially those working at a veterinary hospital—are more than just caretakers. Typically 80% of the staff at a veterinary hospital or clinic work there because veterinary medicine is their chosen field. A kennel worker may love animals, but typically does not possess the medical knowledge, experience, and credentials of a professional in the veterinary field.
Facility—While a kennel may be well equipped to provide comfort, exercise, and basic safety for your pet, it does do not have the diagnostic and treatment resources that a veterinary boarding facility has. Should a medical issue arise, a kennel will have to consult with a veterinarian—preferably yours, if they are close by—to arrange for transport and treatment of your pet.
Only you know what is best for your pet and your family, but if you have any doubts, think about what will put you at ease and what kind of environment and care will put your pet at ease as well. At Centreville Animal Hospital we do not take any concerns about our patients lightly. Our primary concern is always the health of our patients and the needs of their owners. The scenario below is just one example of how this approach benefits our overnight clients.
We recently received a call from a cat owner reporting that her 2-year-old male cat had lost interest in eating, and also had a history of bladder infections. Our first suggestion was to bring the cat in to allow us to fully evaluate him. Upon arrival, the owner informed us of the cat’s health issues, and also explained that she was headed out of town and would need to leave her cat with a pet sitter. We recommended that the cat stay with us over the weekend to allow for monitoring in case any other issues were to come up, which his owner opted to do. This turned out to be a very good decision, as on the morning of his second day here we found that he was “blocked,” a very dangerous—and potentially fatal—condition for a cat. Luckily, we were able to immediately unblock him by performing the necessary procedure (from which he recovered well), and we administered the proper medications. He fairly quickly got his appetite back! When his owner came back into town he went home bathed, relaxed from a comfortable stay, and in good health. Had the owner gone away and left the cat in the hands of sitter, the outcome could have been very different.
Centreville Animal Hospital is keenly aware of the anxiety that can come with leaving behind a pet when your family is away from home. Learn more about our boarding services by visiting our website or watching our boarding video. The best way to know if a facility is right for you and your pet is to see it for yourself, so don’t hesitate to request a tour of our boarding facility with one of our boarding assistants.
Contributed by Allison “Ally” Velandria, Boarding Assistant, with her two birds, Zazu and Snowflake, and cat Sassy
(who was not at all pleased with sharing her space with the birds)
When Is It an Emergency?
A great owner (like you) brings their pet in at least once a year for annual vaccinations, but would you know if your pet was in need of emergency care? It is not always easy to tell if your pet’s symptoms are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Many owners wonder:
“Is my pet merely experiencing the ordinary highs and lows
that all healthy pets experience over the course of their lives?”
“Should I immediately bring my pet in, or
is it OK to grab the next convenient appointment?”
Without an education in veterinary medicine, it can be intimidating and stressful to try to distinguish an emergency situation from a condition that can wait until the next day. To help you start this process, below is a list of some of the common urgent situations we encounter. Knowing the warning signs can help you determine if your pet requires immediate medical attention.
Warning Signs for CATS & DOGS
Bleeding and/or any kind of trauma—Time is a huge factor. Bleeding can be internal and/or external. The sooner your pet is able to receive medical attention, the faster your vet can prevent injuries from worsening and start the healing process. Causes: bite wounds, burns, being hit by a car, and broken bones (not a complete list)
Suspected/confirmed ingestion/exposure to particular non-food items—Rodent poisons, insecticides, antifreeze, household cleaning agents, certain human medications, and various plants and flowers
Suspected/confirmed ingestion of dangerous foods—Chocolate, grapes, onions, garlic, fruit seeds, and/or raisins can be toxic (see also Your Pets Don’t Know What’s Bad for Them)
Not eating and/or drinking (24 hours for cats; 48 hours for dogs)—Pets can be picky, but it becomes serious when your pet has not had anything to eat or drink in that time
Distended, swollen, or bloated abdomen—It may become tight and drum-like
Vomiting more than once in 24 hours—Especially concerning if vomit contains blood
Difficulty breathing—Includes choking, wheezing, raspy/labored breathing, and intense coughing or retching; open-mouthed or noisy breathing in cats
Extreme lethargy and weakness—Seems more lackluster or sluggish than usual
Mobility problems—Cannot use one or more limbs, cannot get up or walk, and/or shows signs of possible broken bones
Seizures and/or markers of neurological problems—Difficulty walking or dragging of the hind limbs
Comatose appearance—Animal is not moving, or his/her eyes stare blankly or blink very slowly
Temperature change—Body temps outside this range are a concern: 99–103 degrees Fahrenheit
Abnormal gum color—Discoloration, such as pale, off-color (dark or yellow), or tacky/dry gums can signal blood pressure or circulation issues
Pus and/or infection
Eye issues—Red, cloudy, or pus-filled eyes, or squinting and pawing at the eye
Difficulty giving birth
Other Warning Signs:
Diarrhea lasting longer than 24 hours
Excessive drinking and urination
Blood present in urine
Hives or facial swelling
Feline-Specific Warning Signs
Straining and/or crying in the litter box—Difficulty going to the bathroom is a symptom of a bigger problem in cats; could indicate internal blockage
Excessive vocalization or howling—Cat is telling you something is wrong
Canine-Specific Warning Signs
Excessive panting—Panting can be a symptom of more serious conditions, including bloat, which is potentially fatal for dogs
Restlessness and/or inability to get comfortable—Humans similarly show discomfort when they are ill or in pain
Many other non-emergency circumstances do not appear on this list—such as urinary tract infections and broken nails—but they can still be extremely painful for your pet and you shouldn’t wait too long for treatment. Your pet will be grateful if you bring him/her in sooner rather than later.
True Diagnosis Requires an Exam
Diagnosing a pet and creating a plan of action without physically evaluating it in person is next to impossible. What happens when you call your doctor about a sore throat? Your doctor requests to see you, right? Based on a verbal description, the doctor may have suspected strep, but the exam might show it to be tonsillitis. Over the phone, any advice a doctor gives is only a well-informed, educated guess.
In pets, for example, excessive scratching could be a sign of fleas, or ticks, or a skin condition, or a food allergy, or countless other possibilities. Similar symptoms can be present for numerous illnesses and conditions. The most reliable way for your pet’s veterinarian to recommend a course of action is to do an exam. He or she wants the best for your “baby,” just as you do!
Better Safe Than Sorry
It comes down to this: If your pet is exhibiting potentially serious symptoms, tell your veterinarian! When it comes to your concern about your pet’s health, there is no such thing as a stupid question. If you suspect the worst, visit the animal hospital or clinic immediately.
At Centreville Animal Hospital, we are always available to talk to our clients when questions arise. We truly care about owners and their pets and plan to make 2014 our best year yet. See you at the front desk!
Contributed by Melissa Wilmoth, Client Care Specialist
Arthritis is something most of us are aware of in people, but know little about in our pets. One major difference between how it affects humans and pets is that animal patients can’t tell us which body part hurts, or how badly it hurts. Arthritis (Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease) is caused by the breakdown or deterioration of the cartilage in joints that protects and covers the joints as they move. As the cartilage deteriorates it causes the bones in the joints to rub and grind against each other, causing pain and inflammation.
Although arthritis in pets is most common in larger breeds of dogs (ranging from Great Danes and Mastiffs to Labrador and Golden Retrievers) it can also affect smaller dogs (even the tiniest such as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas) and even cats.
Signs of arthritis can range from something as subtle as a decrease in energy level (we often say a pet is “slowing down”), to holding up a limb and not walking on it at all. Here are some other signs:
- stiffness when getting up from a lying-down position
- refusal or hesitation to jump or run, or to lay or sit in a certain position
- changes in behavior, such as sudden signs of aggression, which can be a response to fear of pain
- trouble walking or getting around on slick surfaces
- lack of activity
- change in bathroom habits (dogs may be reluctant to go outside and cats may be reluctant to use the litter box)
Both dogs and cats (cats especially) are notorious for hiding signs of disease or sickness until it has substantially progressed. By the time your pet is showing significant signs of joint problems, the condition generally is in an advanced stage. The best was to keep your pet from feeling the pain of arthritis is to recognize the early warning signs and prevent the disease from going further. Managing your pet’s weight and providing adequate exercise also can reduce joint strain.
Let your veterinarian know if you see your dog having trouble getting up after laying down, or have noticed she is reluctant to go on a walk or play for more than a few minutes. Similarly, if you notice that your cat isn’t jumping on furniture as much as normal, or he isn’t using his litter box, he may be suffering from arthritis. You’ll have to do a little detective work and communicate closely with your veterinarian to distinguish whether these are symptoms of behavioral issues or a sign of a health problem. For instance, a cat that fails to use his litter box may be having a behavioral issue or may be avoiding pain caused by arthritis, since squatting or climbing in and out of a litter box can be painful.
There are simple ways to help your pet feel more comfortable and protect her joints:
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin—These can prevent further damage by helping to cushion joints and make movements less painful. NOTE: Ask about our current discount on Dasuquin, which combines avocado and soybean with Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
- Omega 3s (found in fish oil)—Helps with inflammation and is also good for the skin and heart.
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)—These help with pain and inflammation in dogs.
IMPORTANT NOTES: Cats do not fare well with the use of NSAIDs since they are unable to process these drugs without internal damage. Over-the-counter (OTC) human medications such as Aspirin, Advil, and especially Tylenol, are very toxic to pets and can cause ulcers, bleeding, anemia, and even death. Always consult with a veterinarian before giving your pet any type of medication. If you administer OTC medication, there is a 7- to 14-day waiting period before we can give your pet other pain medications.
- Other Pain Medications—There are other options for both dogs and cats that work differently and have fewer side effects than NSAIDs, but they are generally not quite as effective.
- Joint injections—Administered during an office visit, these provide anti-inflammatory relief from arthritic joint pain.
- Physical Therapy—We offer various treatment options, depending on the nature of and severity of the condition.
If you suspect that your pet is in pain, please contact us immediately so we can diagnose the problem and start treatment. We have many ways to help prevent and treat arthritis, as well as the many other conditions affecting your pet’s health and quality of life.
Contributed by Michelle LeBlanc, Veterinary Assistant
Pictured here with her husband, Jon, and pets (left to right) Quincy, Simba, and Ducky (in back), and dog Gracie
As you may recall, last month we looked at the different positions required to support a full-service veterinary practice. In the coming months, we will be exploring the personal journeys of the CAH staff to better understand how their training has helped them achieve their professional and personal goals. This month I talked to Margaret Bolen about what led her to pursue LVT training.
A Virginia native with a life-long love for animals, Margaret Bolen (pictured here with Annie) accepted a position at Centreville Animal Hospital back in 1998 after moving to Northern Virginia from her hometown of Lexington, Virginia. Little did she know then that what started out as a part-time job would grow into a career. Today, 15 years after joining the CAH team, she is a busy working mom pursuing her certification as a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT).
Growing up in a rural, equestrian-oriented area, Margaret loved the fact that she was always surrounded by barn cats, farm and house dogs, and horses. But after earning a masters degree in Psychology at Hollins College, she moved to the Centreville area and began her working life, holding various professional positions, including serving as an adjunct professor at NOVA. She eventually realized that as interesting as some of her positions were, something vital was lacking in her life: she missed being around animals. So when a friend referred her to an open position at CAH, Margaret applied. The rest is history.
Pursing A Passion
Several years into her tenure at CAH, Margaret decided to pursue professional training. At first, she pecked away at doing piecemeal coursework, but realized that what she really wanted to do was to become an LVT. Having decided to take this leap, she found an accredited college degree program offering the structure and support she needed to undertake the rigorous technical curriculum, with the flexibility for part-time distance learning to accommodate her very busy life. The Distance Education Veterinary Technology Program (DEVTP) at Texas Cedar Valley College turned out to fill her needs:
- distance learning option
- option to take only 2 to 3 courses per semester
- affordable, pay-as-you-go tuition
- one-on-one support provided by the program
- innovative use of technology to complete assignments (such as using video to show completion of work she is doing at the veterinary hospital)
While this option worked best for Margaret, there are many other options for LVT training, including traditional on-campus programs, which are usually completed in two to three years. Local options include the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) Loudon Campus and the Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Weyer’s Cave, Virginia. Both institutions offer distance-learning programs as well. See the links provided at the end of this article for more information.
You Can’t Do It Alone
CAH’s commitment to providing educational opportunities and employee mentorship have been essential in helping Margaret achieve her goal. This engagement with staff is not only an important component of training and retention—as evidenced in Margaret’s long tenure at the practice—but participation by the veterinary hospital in the student’s training is a requirement of many veterinary programs. The doctors at CAH have agreed to support Margaret’s efforts in the following ways: staying informed about the specific requirements of her curriculum, providing her with opportunities to complete assignments during the course of her daily work, and taking time out of their schedules to work with her directly when necessary.
As a “people person,” Margaret “loves the work of caring for animals and helping owners,” and finds great satisfaction in analyzing and solving patients’ medical problems. She admits that the work takes “emotional stamina,” and in one day she may go from the excitement of the birth of a new puppy to end-of-life treatment for a beloved geriatric cat. Once she completes her LVT program, Margaret will be able to enjoy more hands-on contact with her patients, both during exams and during surgical procedures, including dental cleanings, inserting catheters, monitoring anesthesia, and playing a vital role in many other aspects of patient care and treatment.
Margaret’s pursuit of training, inspired by her passion for and commitment to treating animals, has been an example for other CAH staff. She was the first assistant in the practice to enroll in an online LVT program, and now four other staff are in similar programs, three of whom are enrolled in the DEVTP at Texas Cedar Valley College (Brittany, Kacey, and Kate). Zach Buchanan is currently enrolled in the Penn Foster program. Our group of Licensed Veterinary Technicians, including Becky Lewellen, Elise Welker, and Elisa Miller, all are an integral part of the mentor support that helps our LVT students reach their goals. Centreville Animal Hospital takes pride in being a center for constant learning.
What advice would Margaret give to someone considering a career as an LVT? “If you’re in college, don’t be afraid to take the hard science courses,” to prepare yourself and get a taste of what you will be learning as an LVT candidate. And, she urges, “Don’t give up” on pursuing a career in veterinary medicine if you have been working in another field. “It’s never too late to start!”
Veterinary Education: https://www.avma.org/professionaldevelopment/education/pages/default.aspx
—Article by Martha B. Schultz, Blog Managing Editor