Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dear Santa letters from the dog and cat

Dear Santa, 

I’ve been such a good, good, dog this year!  My humans say so nearly every day.  I have kept the yard free from squirrels, only chewed up one couch since last Christmas, and I have stopped chasing the cat (well, OK, I’m down to only once a week but still better)!  I am the best snuggler, sloppy kisser, tail wager for miles.  So if possible could I have the following for Christmas?  If not, that’s OK too, we can still be friends.

1. TOYS! – Bring it on – chew toys to keep my teeth healthy, balls for fetching and much needed exercise, puzzle toys for my mental health.  I’m not picky.
2. Treats – I love treats.
3. Walks – I know I have a yard but I love to get out and meet people, sniff a lot, keep my weight down, and get my wanderlust out of my system.  It is so good for me and my human.  So maybe you could bring some extra cold weather gear for my human so we can get out every day!
4. New collar, new leash, and a microchip to make sure I don’t get lost on my walks or while ridding the yard of invading squirrels.
5. Grooming – I want to look great for my Christmas pictures!
6. A professional dental cleaning by my veterinarian – My human sometimes turns their face away during my awesome kissing.  They say I have bad breath, whatever that means.  I don’t always like going to the vet but it keeps my mouth healthy which in turn keeps my other organs healthy as well!
7. More cats to chase, …uh…, I mean play with.
8. Year round heartworm prevention – It tastes delicious and keeps me free of parasites including intestinal parasites that are present year round.  I don’t want to gross out my family.
9. Did I list treats yet?  OK fine, healthy ones like carrots, no salt green beans, apple slices, Cheerios.  I can share them with the Reindeer so we can all be friends.

The Dog


Dear Santa, 

Oh poor guy, you can’t read my mind and know what I want for Christmas?  I guess I can help you out with that.  It goes without saying that I have been a good cat this year.  I let the humans pet me sometimes, I keep a spot on the couch warm, and I only swat at the dog once a week now.   So here is what I require for Christmas:

1. Sufficient litterboxes – We should have as many litterboxes in the house as we have cats + 1.  They should be scooped daily, cleaned weekly, filled with unscented litter,  uncovered, and away from noisy areas of the house.  This helps me be as happy as I can be and minimizes the chances that I will not use the box.
2. A cat tree – I love different levels to play and perch.  It makes me feel safe and allows me to survey my realm.  Who knows, it might even keep the dog safe from me.
3. An annual check-up – I haven’t been to the vet in years.  Yeah, I know I’m low maintenance and I don’t go outside, but I’m also really good at hiding my illnesses and things such as dental disease until much later in their course than the dog.
4. A scratching post – Apparently, the humans don’t like it when I scratch their couch and drapes.  A scratching post will help me direct my natural behavior appropriately.
5. Feather toys and laser pointers – I need exercise and mental stimulation just like the dog!  I only act like I don’t care.  I mean, would I be grooming myself all day if I didn’t want to look my best?
6. Take the dog with you back to the North Pole.  He loves the snow anyway.
7. Catnip
8. Catnip
9. Catnip

With Regards,  
The Cat

article written by:
Jessica Smith, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

When to consider acupuncture for your pet

Acupuncture is a healing modality that has been used for thousands of years in animals, mostly horses, and people. Acupuncture did not become widely used in pets until the 1990's. Although it's an eastern modality, more acupuncture treatments are done on pets in Europe and the US than anywhere else in the world.

How does it work? Some of the mechanisms are well understood. For pain control, acupuncture stimulates the release of the body’s own Endorphins, which is our own internal source of Morphine, and Enkephalins which is our bodies own aspirin. Painful muscle spasms are also lessened by modulating the nervous system. The way I explain this to my clients is that placing an acupuncture needle in a spasming muscle is like turning off a light switch. I can tell you from my own experience, that this feels great! The ways in which acupuncture helps the healing processes are less well understood. Acupuncture modulates Qi, which is energy that circulates through our body. Qi flows through channels, or meridians. By placing needles at specific points in these meridians, we can alter the flow of Qi and assist our body (or our pets bodies), in the healing process.

The decision to begin acupuncture includes several factors. The most important to me recommending it is, does it work?, and have I used this effectively in the past?. I have performed about 10,000 acupuncture treatments in the last decade. I'm always open to trying acupuncture for something new, but most likely, whatever your pet is experiencing, I've tried acupuncture for this before. As a general rule, I don't use acupuncture as often on young pets or for acute problems. For me, the specifics of your pet’s physical exam and history are extremely important in deciding if acupuncture can be of help.  Another factor to consider is your pet’s response to previous medications, or problems associated with specific medications. Cost is always a factor in considering treatments. A few hundred dollars may be a lot to pay for a case of simple urinary incontinence when an inexpensive medication may do the trick. On the other hand, an MRI that costs $3000 or more for a neurological problem that may not yield a diagnosis, is a lot to pay for a procedure that won't make your pet better.

Here are the conditions I treat with acupuncture: Neurological problems including disc disease, Degenerative Myelopathy, seizures, fecal and urinary incontinence and strokes, arthritis, bronchitis, asthma, inappetence, organ related disease like Liver and Kidney problems, and any night time problems.

The problems I usually do not try acupuncture on are skin and ear problems. Herbal medications, supplements and diet changes can very often be helpful with these problems.

As a general rule, I'll perform acupuncture weekly for 3 weeks and if we do not notice some significant change, we try something else.  

article written by:
Joe Whalen
Hyde Park Animal Hospital & Clinic
Companion Animal Hospitals

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season

With the holidays fast approaching, we know what a busy time of year this can be.  By taking a few precautions, you can make sure that everyone in your family (including your furry friends) enjoys the holidays! Below are some ideas to help avoid timely and expensive emergency visits to the vet.

  1. Keep your holiday plants away from your pets. While there are many beautiful plants we associate with the holiday season, some of these can be quite toxic to our pets. Holly and mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and even abnormalities with the heart. Ingesting only a small amount of certain types of lilies can cause kidney failure. If you suspect your pet has consumed a toxic plant, seek veterinary attention immediately.
  2. Be very careful about feeding table scraps. While it is never a good idea to feed your pets table scraps, some of the foods we associate with the holidays can be especially dangerous. For example, turkey bones can pose as choking hazards or obstruct the gastrointestinal tract. Fruit cake may contain grapes or raisins, which can cause kidney failure. Chocolate can cause an array of symptoms ranging from vomit and diarrhea to death. Also, we see a spike of “pancreatitis” (inflammation of the pancreas) around the holidays because of pets often getting fatty scraps; this disease is quite uncomfortable for your pet!
  3. No alcohol! In addition to avoiding table scraps, be careful your pet doesn’t get into the alcohol. Alcohol can cause dangerously low drops in blood pressure, blood glucose, and body temperature.  Even some desserts made with alcohol (rum cake for example) can cause these signs, along with GI upset from ingesting the dessert!
  4. Firmly anchor the tree. A nosey pet can potentially knock a Christmas tree down if not firmly anchored, which can injure your pet. Also for those of you with live trees: be sure that your pet is not able to assess any water you may have in the base, as this may contain fertilizers that can be toxic to your pet.
  5. Consider skipping the tinsel on the tree. What cat doesn’t love something shiny and stringy to play with?? Unfortunately, your cat may decide that the tinsel is a fun toy. If your pet ingests the tinsel, there is little risk of toxicity but a big risk that it can block up their intestines and result in an expensive surgery to remove it!
  6. Prep your house guests. Make sure that all holiday visitors understand how to appropriately interact with your pets. For example, if you have small children visiting that do not have pets at home, make sure the child understands how to engage with the pet and that they are closely supervised. Also make sure guests are careful to close main entrance doors behind them quickly so that there is no chance for a pet to escape. Ask all visitors to lock up any medicine or food they may have in their luggage, so that a nosey pet doesn’t get into something they shouldn’t!
  7. Have fun! The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy time with your pet. Consider getting them a stocking and fill it with appropriate treats (talk to your veterinarian if you need recommendations on what to fill it with!). Maybe take your pet for pictures with Santa. Play in the snow. Do whatever makes you and your pets holiday season merry and bright and SAFE!
article written by:
Erin Walsh, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Does my dog have arthritis?

With the changing weather, you may soon start to notice that your older dog seems a little “stiff” in the joints.  Arthritis is a progressive degeneration of the joints often seen in older dogs. It may start with subtle signs, such as your dog is no longer willing to jump up on the furniture or into the car, or maybe they are hesitant to use the stairs. You may also notice your pet seems very stiff when they first wake up, but then seems to loosen up as the day progresses. Cold or wet weather can make these changes more apparent.

If any of the above sounds like your pet, a veterinarian can help you determine if it is arthritis that’s bothering your pet. While we can’t undo your pet’s arthritis, the great news is that there are a number of things we can do to slow it down and keep your pup comfortable! The following is just some of the ways we can work to keep your pet comfortable in the face of arthritis:
  1. The biggest thing is weight loss! Excess weight puts excess strain on your pet’s joints. Ask your veterinarian about your pet’s ideal weight and how many calories per day your pet should be consuming to help reach that weight.
  2. Dietary supplements, such as fish oil and glucosamine/chondroitin, can help with decreasing inflammation in joints. These can be obtained through your veterinarian (remember that human over the counter products were designed for people, not cats and dogs, so dose adjustment is needed!). You may also find these ingredients in some senior diets.
  3. Anti-inflammatories, such a as Rimadyl or Deramaxx, are great methods of controlling arthritis. These medications help to lessen the inflammatory processes associated with arthritis. These medications can be used short or long term. With long term use, your veterinarian will likely recommend periodic blood work to check internal organ function.
  4. Injections such as Pentosan or polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAGs) can be given to your pet weekly initially and then every month or so as determined by your veterinarian. These injections have anti-inflammatory properties and also help to stimulate production of hyaluronic acid (which helps to lubricate your pet’s joints).
  5. Pain medication may also be incorporated into treatment protocols for pets who are not responding well enough to the above.
If you are concerned your pet is suffering from arthritis, reach out to your veterinarian. We want your pets to be happy and comfortable as they age!

article written by:
Dr. Erin Walsh
Companion Animal Hospital, Mount Prospect, IL

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I never knew Fido was painful!

Almost daily I find dogs on routine physical exam that show signs of chronic pain unbeknownst to their owners.  Arthritis and back pain are two very common causes of chronic pain in middle age to senior dogs, yet their pain is rarely recognized by their human caretakers.  Why is this? The reason is simple.  Pets do not express pain in the same ways that humans do.  Pets do not grimace or have facial expressions we might equate with pain when we observe this in our fellow human beings.  Pets do not complain, gripe or grumble and rarely whine about their pain.  They certainly cannot communicate to us where their pain is at on a scale of 1 to 10.

Decades ago even some veterinarians felt that animals do not feel pain.   That is just not the case.   We know that pets absolutely suffer from pain and it is very real.  They just do not express their feelings of pain in the same manner people do.  I have found that the most common sign of chronic back or rear limb arthritic pain in dogs are lack of desire to be active and decreased interaction with other pets and people.  Some people may construe this as simply “my pets just getting older” when it could be that the pet is experiencing chronic pain. 

Some people feel that their dog is just getting stiff with age because they are slower to rise or get to their feet.  I will submit to you that if your dog is stiff in the morning, or slow to rise from a lying position, or gets up on the front legs then needs an additional effort to get the back legs up and moving, your dog likely is exhibiting symptoms of pain.  I will submit to you that if your older dog no longer greets you at the door when you get home, or just does not seem to interact with your family the way he used to, he may be experiencing chronic pain.  I will submit to you that if your dog seems reluctant to take the stairs or jump into the car like he used to, he may be experiencing pain.

There are so many treatment modalities to help pets with pain issues that significantly improve their quality of life, unfortunately, the biggest barrier to providing this benefit is that most of us humans fail to appreciate that our pats may be experiencing pain, and thus go untreated.

article written by:
Scott Petereit, DVM
Companion Animal Hospitals of Mount Prospect, Kenosha, Vernon Hills, and Oak Park

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Switching your Cat to a Healthier Diet

Cats can be addicts!! The dry food that we feed to our cats is high in fat and salt, and even the shapes can trigger the response of turning down other, healthier foods.

Because of the tendency toward addiction on these dry foods, they can be very resistant to change.
It is VERY important that you change your cat very, very slowly to a healthy new diet.  Cats WILL starve themselves rather than switch and this can lead to Fatty Liver Disease, a life-threatening condition.  If your cat fasts, he runs the risk of this disease.
Please take this warning seriously!!

First either ask us how much you should feed ( if your cat is overweight) or measure the total amount you are currently feeding( if your cats’ weight is normal).
Divide your cats’ complete measured daily allowance into 3 meals.  Give one portion in the morning, one in the afternoon, and the final feeding in the evening.
Be tough, that is all he gets for the daily feeding.  It may take several weeks for him to adjust to the feedings, but your cat will learn that this is all he will get to eat.

When kitty learns that that is all they are going to get, replace one of those feedings with canned food.  They will get enough from 2 feedings of dry to keep up the necessary nutrition that they need.

Don’t give in to your cat.  If he gets hungry enough, he will try the canned.  It may take weeks, even months for your cat to eat the canned food, but you are doing this for the health of your kitty.

When your cat is eating the one meal of canned food for several weeks, take one of the meals of dry food and replace with canned.  Be sure to adjust the amount for calorie intake.

After several weeks of  2 canned meals, replace the final dry feeding with the canned.

Another way to introduce your cat to canned food is to measure the total amount of daily dry food, then give 1/3 the amount at each of  2 dry meals, one for breakfast and one at dinner, and leave a bowl of canned food out all day.  This is good for an all day nibbler, and when the dry is gone, they will try the canned.  Then gradually replace the remainder of the dry with canned food.
Take as much time as your cat needs to make the transition from dry to canned.

article written by:
Dr. Joe Whalen
Hyde Park Animal Hospital and Clinic

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Chances are, when you have been to our clinic for your dog’s annual wellness care, we have either recommended or administered a Leptospirosis vaccine to your furry friend.  But what exactly is Leptospirosis, how does it affect dogs, and how can we best prevent it?   Let’s start with the fact that Leptospirosis (or Lepto for short) is a spirochete type bacteria that is transmitted through the urine of infected animals.  Some of the animals that can spread Lepto through their urine include raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rodents, opossums, and deer.  As you can see, we have no shortage of those animals in our yards and parks, so nearly every dog that comes to see us is considered “at risk”!  In turn, the infected urine can then contaminate ground water, puddles, and soil where it can potentially survive for months.

Dogs become infected when the bacteria enters their body through breaks in the skin or their mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth).  Some examples include getting contaminated soil in a wound or drinking or swimming in contaminated water.   After infection, some dogs do not get ill but those that do can display a wide variety of signs including fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and gastrointestinal signs, but unfortunately some dogs progress to the hallmark signs of kidney and liver failure.  This makes Lepto a potentially life-threatening disease and not to be taken lightly!

Testing for this disease once a pet becomes ill involves a combination of bloodwork, urine, Lepto titers (which check the body’s antibody levels to an infection), and imaging of the internal organs through x-rays and ultrasound.  Treatment is aimed at supporting the affected organs and the patient while starting antibiotics.  This is best accomplished with hospitalization for IV fluids, anti-nausea medications, monitoring, and injectable antibiotics.   Fortunately, the Lepto bacteria are susceptible to antibiotics and typically a combination is used to both clear the blood infection and eliminate the bacteria from the kidney.  It is worth noting that even though we can kill the bacteria, the patient’s overall prognosis depends on the degree of organ damage and response to treatment.

However, the best treatment is prevention, and thank goodness we have vaccines for the most common strains of Leptospirosis.  They can be started as young as 12 weeks of age and initially are a series of two vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart.  It is boostered annually thereafter.  Unlike many of our viral vaccines which can produce an immunity of up to 3 years, Lepto is a bacteria and durations of immunity longer than one year have not been able to be established.  So that annual booster is a must!
Recently, at our Mt. Prospect Hospital, we have had a couple of positive cases of Lepto that were late on their annual vaccines.   After consulting with veterinarians at the vaccine manufacturer, we have started recommending re-boostering if your dog is more than 6 weeks late for their annual booster.  This ensures they are protected for the strains in the vaccine and allows the manufacturer to back their guarantee on the vaccine.

If you have any further questions, please ask our team or visit http://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/

article written by:
Dr. Jessica Smith
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Did you know cats thrive on canned / moist food?

Diet is the foundation of  health. This blog lays out some often-ignored principles of feline nutrition and explains why cats have a better chance at optimal health if they are fed a quality canned food diet instead of dry kibble. Putting a little thought into what you feed your cat(s) can pay big dividends over their lifetime and very possibly help them avoid serious, painful and costly illnesses!

The three key negative issues associated with dry food are:
1) Type of protein - too high in plant-based versus animal-based proteins
2) Carbohydrate load is too high
3) Water content is too low

Cats are obligate carnivores which means they need meat / protein!  Canned cat food on average provides 20-30% more protein per serving than dry cat food. Feeding canned cat food addresses the
three negatives associated with feeding dry food.

Kibble or dry formulations of cat foods are often too low in protein and rely too much on plant based protein.  Proteins help our cats produce amino acids, which help the body grow, create cells and regulate normal bodily functions. A protein deficiency can lead to: Loss of appetite, dull coat, poor skin, decreased immune function, lethargy, and increased rate of illness or infections.

Who doesn’t love carbs! Despite being delicious they are not always the best for us or our feline friends!  Dry cat foods are heavy in carbohydrates because of the manufacturing process used to produce the food. Although the dry food may be dipped in animal fat to make the kibble more appealing to the cat, this may present a problem if it encourages the cat to eat dry food excessively. A diet high in carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and overweight cats can have complications from and higher chances of diabetes, poor mobility, liver disease, heart disease, arthritis and urinary tract disease.

Water content and hydration
Cats do not drink enough water and those cats fed only a dry kibble based diet do not receive adequate hydration.  In the wild cats eat fresh prey, such as birds and mice, and the raw meat of these animals has some liquid content that helps keep the cat hydrated without it having to seek additional water sources.  When fed kibble they do not seem to make up the difference with their water intake.  Poor hydration over years leads to both kidney disease and or urinary tract disease. Feeding canned cat food helps reduce this risk !

article written by:
Dr. Joe Whalen
Companion Animal Hospital

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Upper respiratory tract infections are common problems seen in cats. While there are many different types of infectious organisms that are the culprit, most of these infections are started by a virus. Both feline Herpes and feline Calicivirus can be involved, but Herpes is the more common of the two.

Most to all cats are exposed to feline herpes virus at a young age. Once a cat is carrying the virus, they will have it lifelong. Typically, the virus will remain latent in the body and the cat will show no symptoms. When something suppresses the immune system (most commonly stress), the virus will become active and the symptoms can appear.

Symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection include sneezing (most common), conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the eye), coughing, and even ulcers that develop on the eyeball. When the infection is caused by a virus alone, clear discharge may be seen from the nose or eyes. Unfortunately, viral infections often pave the way for secondary bacterial infections. We know a bacterial infection is involved when the discharge becomes colored (yellow or green).

The most frustrating part of treating upper respiratory tract infections in cats is that the virus is difficult to impossible to treat. There are no inexpensive, effective anti-viral medications readily available. When a bacterial infection is present, antibiotics can do a good job clearing it up, but these medications will do nothing to treat the viral component of the disease. Thankfully, in time, the cat’s immune system will typically beat the virus into submission and send it back into latency.

Cats that have severe viral upper respiratory infections or cats that are prone to recurrent infections may benefit from a supplement known as L-Lysine. This is a type of protein that works to support the immune system to fight the viral component of the disease. It can also be used to prevent recurrent or chronic infections at bay. L-Lysine comes in many forms made specifically for cats.

As mentioned, stress is a very common trigger for upper respiratory tract infections in cats. For this reason, we often see these infections following a stressful period or event in a cat’s life. For example, it is very common that newly adopted cats may show these symptoms shortly after entering their new home, having surgery, or meeting a new housemate for the first time. It is important to recognize the symptoms and consult your veterinarian as to the best course of action to keep your feline friend as comfortable as possible while dealing with this often miserable condition.

article written by:

Dr. Derek Williamson

Companion Animal Hospital Vernon Hills

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Scooting Dogs

Some call it the "butt scooting boogie," but most would call it "gross." Regardless of what you refer to it as, there are number of reasons your dog is scooting his or her butt across your favorite rug. 

One of the most common reasons your dog may be scooting is because he or she is expressing their anal sacs. Anal sacs are two grape-sized pouches located on either side of the anus that fill with a foul fishy smelling oily yellow-brown fluid that dogs use to mark their territory. Each sac has a small duct that will normally drain this fluid during a bowel movement. However, sometimes these ducts can become clogged causing the anal sacs to fill and your dog to feel uncomfortable. This is usually when you will see your dog do the dreaded butt drag, often accompanied with the unforgettable smell of anal sacs. Should the anal sacs continue to fill, this may lead to an anal sac impaction, rupture, or infection. 

While small breed dogs such as miniature poodles, toy poodles, and Chihuahuas are more predisposed to anal sac issues, your dog may also be more prone if they have chronically soft feces, recent diarrhea, excessive secretions, or poor muscle tone. Cats also have anal sacs, however, anal sac issues are much less common. Though a veterinarian or veterinary technician can manually empty these anal sacs (or if you are brave enough to empty them yourself), this may be a sign of other problems if your dog continues to scoot, lick or bite at their butt, or strain to defecate. Other common causes of scooting include intestinal parasites, fleas, allergies, or irritation from debris in the fur. 

article written by:
Kathrine Anderson, DVM
Norwood Park Animal Hospital
Companion Animal Hospital of Norridge
Norridge, IL

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Traveling with your pet

Summer is here and travel season is upon us.  Having your pet accompany you on vacation may seem like a great idea to you, but be sure to consider your pet’s personality, too.  Some pets can be distressed traveling and may be much happier staying home or at a kennel.  If travel is right for you and your pet, before you go, update all vaccinations and take all necessary health papers with you.  Know where to find a local veterinarian at your destination in case of emergency.  Be sure to bring plenty of food and water, bowls and leashes and pack a small Pet First Aid Kit for your trip.  Make sure your pet has identification in case you get separated in a strange place (collars, tags, microchip, identification on the kennel/carrier).  Harnesses are a better choice than collars when traveling. Many pets will slip out of their collars when they are scared.  The harnesses are more secure.

Many pets are used to car rides and will have no trouble adjusting to a longer car ride.  For some, travel is stressful.  Proper preparation is the key to a successful trip. If your pet is not regularly crated, start getting them used to their travel kennel well before your departure.  (Pets should be securely confined for the safety of all human and animal passengers.  A wide variety of pet safety belt harnesses and kennels/carriers are available.  The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around freely). Start feeding meals in the kennel so that there are positive associations.  If your pet is not used to car travel, start by taking them for short, happy trips and then slowly working up to longer drives. Make the association with the car ride rewarding by giving a treats or special toys.
Fasting for 6 hours before travel can help minimize vomiting associated motion-sickness. Other signs of motion sickness include restlessness, heavy panting and salivation/drooling.  Many pets take medication to prevent motion sickness and travel anxiety.  If your dog or cat is distressed about travel, ask your veterinarian what the best options are for your family.

Never leave your pet alone in a car. The temperature can quickly rise to a dangerous level, causing heat stroke, even on a cool day. Leaving a window partially open is not an alternative. Have someone stay in the car with your pet, or see if it’s possible to take them into wherever you’re going.  You’d be surprised at the numbers of retail locations that allow pets inside.

If you have to leave your pet unattended in a hotel room, make sure that there is no opportunity for escape. Leave your pet confined in its carrier. Use the "Do Not Disturb" sign and ask hotel personnel to wait until you return before entering your room.

If you are traveling by air, it’s important to contact your airline well in advance of your travel in order to find out what the specific regulations are. Federal guidelines require pets to be at least 8 weeks old, be current on rabies vaccination, and have a health certificate obtained within 10 days of travel. Health certificates are issued by your veterinarian after a complete physical exam.  

It is best to fly with your pet in the cabin if they are small enough to fit under the seat.  Avoid flying your pet as checked cargo when temperatures on the ground are likely to be below 40ºF or above 80ºF. Some airlines will not baggage check pets in the summer months because of potentially dangerous hot conditions in the cargo holds and on the tarmac.  Always take direct flights to avoid connections and layovers. Use airlines that hand carry your pet carrier to and from the aircraft instead of being placed on a conveyor belt. Avoid the busiest travel times so airline personnel will have extra time to handle your pet.

With some planning and special attention, travel with your pet can be a wonderful experience for all!

article written by:
Sheila Newenham, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Heartworm affects cats too.  Largely thought of as a dog parasite, heartworm occurs in cats as well.  Moreover, 1 in 4 cats diagnosed with heartworm infection live indoors.

Heartworm is a worm that lives in the right side of the heart or pulmonary arteries in many species, including dogs, cats, ferrets, coyote, fox, wolves, and sea lions.  Some of the wild carriers of this parasite live and thrive in this region.

Cats are not a typical host of heartworm, therefore heartworm infection behaves differently in the cat.  While a dog could have more than 30 worms, a cat will generally have less than 3. Heartworms often do not mature to adults in cats, and because current tests evaluate for adult worms, infections in cats can go undiagnosed.  The early signs of heartworm infection in cats include coughing, asthma-like signs, vomiting, and poor appetite.  Over time, the worms die and send fragments to the lungs.  More serious signs such as collapse or sudden death can occur due to lung injury. 

The treatment that is used to effectively eliminate adult heartworm infections in dogs is not safe to use in our feline friends, underscoring the need for prevention.  Monthly preventatives are effective and highly recommended for cats.  An added benefit is that some also protect against fleas and intestinal parasites.  If infected, medications can be given to manage the signs that heartworm causes, but the cat is faced with the task of naturally clearing the parasite over time—usually 2 to 3 years.    
Our understanding of this parasite continues to evolve.  Cats, in their unique style, react to this infection in their own way.  We would expect nothing less of them. 

The American Heartworm Society Website has great information about heartworm in dogs and cats and was the source for the information contained in this article. 

article written by:
Laura Rau-Holl, DVM
Wolf Merrick Animal Hospital, Kenosha, WI

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Heartworm in Dogs—the Big Picture

What is Heartworm?

Heartworm is a worm that is about the size of angel hair pasta that grow inside the right side of the heart and major blood vessels of the lungs.  Dogs, wild canids (fox, coyote, wolves), ferrets, cats, some other small mammals, sea lions and even very rarely people can become infected with heartworm.  Worms grow to adulthood most readily in dog and dog-like species.  Adult worms living in the heart will produce microfilaria (baby worms) that are transmitted via mosquito.  Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches long and live 5 – 7 years!

Heartworm disease refers to the illness caused by a heartworm infection.  Initially, an infected dog may have no signs of illness.  As heartworm progresses, damage to the lungs and heart will lead to cough, exercise intolerance, decreased appetite and weight loss, and ultimately heart failure.  Occasionally heartworm can contribute to kidney damage as well. 

The current recommendation of the American Heartworm Society, a veterinary organization that focuses on best way to contend with heartworm disease, is to keep pets on heartworm preventative all year around.  This recommendation is due to the many complex factors that contribute to the unpredictability and spread of this disease.  Prevention is safe, effective, and well tolerated.  
Important things to know:

1)  The mosquito is a necessary vector (carrier) for heartworm disease.  A very early stage of the heartworm development occurs in the mouthparts of the mosquito.
2)  Current tests can only detect adult heartworms living inside the heart. Following a bite from an infected mosquito, it takes 6 months for a heartworm (microscopic baby worm carried by the mosquito) to develop into an adult in the dog. 
3)  Heartworm has been diagnosed in all 50 states.  While transmission has not been documented in Alaska, there are brief times when this northern climate can support transfer of the disease. 
4)  Heartworm is on the move.  Some areas of the country have more heartworm than others.  The southeastern United States has consistently documented high infection rates.  Movement of dogs from these areas contributes to the spread of infection.
5)  “Heat islands” associated with buildings and parking lots of urban areas may extend active mosquito seasons and transmission of heartworm disease. 

6)  The course of treatment for heartworm disease takes many months.  In fact, dogs need to be restricted from activity for about 5 months during treatment due potentially severe lung embolism (clots) from dying worms. 

There are many great sources for pet owners about heartworm.  Here are some links to learn more:
The Companion Animal Parasite Council:  http://www.capcvet.org/capc-recommendations/canine-heartworm
The American Veterinary Medical Association:  https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Heartworm-Disease.aspx

Heartworm disease in cats manifests itself very differently and is deserving of a separate discussion. 

Sources:  The American Heartworm Society, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

article written by:
Laura Rau-Holl, DVM
Wolf Merrick Animal Hospital, Kenosha, WI

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Ticks are remarkable arachnids.  There are many species that have adapted to survive and thrive in many environments.  They will feed on many different hosts at nearly any time of year, including the cold winter months for the Blacklegged (deer) tick.  But the most challenging aspect of this particular pest is the sheer number of diseases they can carry and transmit. 

The problematic ticks found in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois include the American dog (wood) tick, the Blacklegged (deer) tick, the Brown dog tick, and now even the Lone star tick according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  The range of ticks is expanding, leaving many finding ticks when they have never seen or had them before. 

Ticks go through distinct stages of development.  Hatched from an egg, transitioning through larval, nymph, and adult stages, a blood meal will be taken at each stage.  Some ticks can take up to three years to complete their life cycle.  While the American dog tick and Lone star tick may not be active in the fall and winter, the Blacklegged (deer) tick will be active anytime the weather is above freezing.  In fact, the Blacklegged (deer) tick adult is most active in the cool fall months through spring, while its nymphs are active in the spring and summer. 

Lyme disease is most commonly recognized, but many other diseases are carried and transmitted by ticks.  Diseases such as anaplasma, ehrlichia, and babesia affect the blood cells, though in different ways depending upon the species.  All diseases carried by ticks can be debilitating and life threatening.  Some also have zoonotic potential, which means they can affect humans as well. 
Avoidance of ticks and rapid removal if one is found is imperative.  The longer the attachment period, the more likely disease could be transmitted.  The CDC website has basic recommendations to help prevent tick bites, how to limit ticks in your yard, and how to remove attached ticks.  There are effective tick and flea preventative options for dogs and cats.  Preventatives can kill and even repel ticks depending upon the product.  Dog products cannot be used on cats.  Annual heartworm testing in dogs also identifies exposure to many tick-borne diseases and an effective vaccine is available for Lyme disease in dogs. 

Idexx Laboratories, the laboratory used by the veterinary hospital, has a website dedicated to ticks and dogs.  It is a great reference and worth checking out.   Ticks seem to be here to stay, so being diligent with tick prevention and avoidance will limit the risks.

article written by:
Laura Rau-Holl, DVM
Wolf Merrick Animal Hospital, Kenosha, WI

Idexx Laboratories Dogs and Ticks website:  http://www.dogsandticks.com/
University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center:  http://www.tickencounter.org/

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Microchipping Your Pet

Microchips are an effective form of permanent identification for your pet.  They can easily be implanted during a routine visit to your veterinarian.

A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the same size as a grain of rice.  It is injected under the skin using a needle.  Although the needle is slightly larger than those used for vaccines or other injections, implanting a microchip is not significantly painful and is typically done without sedation or anesthesia.  Alternatively, many pet owners choose to have the procedure done during a routine spay or neuter.  Once implanted, your pet will be completely unaware the microchip is present.

Microchips contain the name and description of the animal, the owner’s contact information, emergency contacts in case the owner can’t be reached, and the information for the veterinarian or rescue organization that implanted the microchip.  All veterinary clinics, shelters, and rescue organization have microchip scanners and will routine scan pets.   After the microchip is implanted, the necessary information will be collected and the microchip registered.

So, do microchips increase your chance of being reunited with your pet?  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association,   “A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009) For microchipped animals that weren't returned to their owners, most of the time it was due to incorrect owner information (or no owner information) in the microchip registry database – so don't forget to register and keep your information updated.”  Microchip information can be updated if your information changes(name, address, phone numbers, etc).  

Many types of microchips have additional benefits.  Microchip companies often have insurance policies on the lost pets.  If the pet has been reported missing and is found injured, these insurance policies will pay for medical expenses.  They are also used for permanent identification which is required for health certificates for international (or in some cases interstate) travel. 

We recommend all pets be microchipped.  Please talk to us at your next visit if your pet hasn’t been chipped.  We want to do anything we can to keep you and your pet together long term! 

article written by:
Derek Williamson, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Vernon Hills

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why can’t I give my pets my medications?

Many owners are surprised to find that there is a lot of overlap between the drugs their veterinarian prescribes for their pet and the drugs their doctors prescribe for them.  For example, you may be surprised to find that many antibiotics, pain medications, and even insulins can be prescribed for humans and pets. However, it is very important to realize that there can be huge differences in drug doses in a human versus an animal, and some human drugs can be quite toxic to pets! Even a drug that is usually benign to us, such as Tylenol, can be deadly in a cat! This is because our pets metabolize some drugs very differently than we do. Below is a list of some classes of drugs that are potentially dangerous for pets.

1)      Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil, Aleve, and aspirin
These drugs are by far the most common drugs I see owners giving to their pets. However, our pets metabolize these drugs very differently than we do. So while Advil may help with your aches and pains, it can cause issues like intestinal ulceration and bleeding and even kidney failure in your pet.  The other issue is that if you give these drugs to your pet before a vet visit, your vet may have a hard time prescribing an appropriate anti-inflammatory drug until the human NSAID is out of their system.  There are NSAIDs made specifically for dogs and cats, so speak with your veterinarian if you think your pet may benefit from these.
2)      Tylenol (acetaminophen)
This is another popular human pain medication that can have deadly consequences in our pets. Acetaminophen can cause anemia (decrease in red blood cells) and prevent appropriate distribution of oxygen in the body, resulting in hypoxia (lack of oxygen).  Liver failure can also occur in cats and dogs. Pets exposed to Tylenol will likely require hospitalization and extensive supportive care, and even then could still die with or without medical intervention.
3)      Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin)
While there are certain situations that warrant benzodiazepines in cats and dogs, such as storm phobias, it is important to realize that some animals may have adverse reactions. Some patients may become excessively sedate while others may have an excitatory effect and actually become agitated.  If your vet decides these drugs are necessary for your pet, they can guide you on appropriate doses to minimize the chance of seeing these side effects.
4)      Antidepressents (Prozac, Cymbalta, etc)
There are numerous drugs available to treat anxiety in pets, and some of these drugs are even the same as those used in humans. For example, Prozac is often used to manage behavioral issues in dogs and cats. However, it is important to remember that animals’ weights and metabolisms are very different from humans, so allow your vet to decide if one of these medications is appropriate and to prescribe an appropriate dose and frequency of administration.  Additionally, your vet may be able to help you with training tips, as these drugs often work best when paired with behavioral modification.
5)      Antihistamines (Benadryl, Zyrtec, etc)
These are wonderful drugs to help with mild itching and allergies, however it is very important to consult with your vet to find an appropriate dose for your pet. If overdosed, these medications can cause profound sedation, excessive panting, pacing, and other undesirable effects.
6)      Pseudoepherdrine (decongestant found in Sudafed)
While your vet may prescribe pseudoephedrine to help control urinary incontinence, an overdose of this drug can lead to tremors, pacing, rapid heartbeat, overheating, and even collapse.  Again, consult your vet for appropriate dosages if need be.

Please remember to NEVER give your pet ANY medicine unless advised by a veterinarian. Drugs are great tools when used appropriately, but can be deadly when used incorrectly! Your veterinarian can safely guide you on what medications are ok to give your pets, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you need guidance!

article written by:
Erin Walsh, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect