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Hello readers, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Now that the season has passed and we have bid farewell to 2014, it is time to set our sights on 2015. While I am sure all of you have been faithfully following your personal resolutions, might I suggest that you make a few for your pets as well. Here is a list of suggestions sure to make this a happy and healthy year for your pet as well.
1) Have a consistent diet plan
Over 50% of U.S. pets are considered overweight or obese by their veterinarians. Carrying this extra weight around has more consequences than just affecting how your little ones look in a swimsuit. Overweight pets are more prone to diseases like arthritis, diabetes, breathing difficulties and even cancer. In addition, a fit pet is a happy pet, who can keep up with you and all your activities. What better time to start a weight loss plan than early in the New Year? Try to exercise with your pet each day. You can always start slowly with a steady walk for a short period of time and later adjust to an intensity or time that fits you and your pet best. Also, try to actually measure your pet’s food for each meal. It is hard to lose weight when foods are freely available all day or “eyeballing” the portion poured into a bowl. Start with an 8-ounce cup and measure how much your pet is currently eating on a daily basis. Based on that information and your pet’s current weight, your veterinarian can help you establish the proper ration. Weight loss is never easy, but I have faith that you can do it. After all, the rewards for you and your companion include a longer and happier time together.
2) Find a fun activity to do with your pet
I am a runner and have always dreamed of having a dog that could run with me on those lonely early morning jogs. Conveniently, I live near a dog-friendly beach that allows access to leashed pets. I have two dogs so what could be better? Except dear readers, while my two canine companions are quite athletic, they are also pint-sized. Thus, they are not really cut out for the long distance jogs that I like to take. Does this mean that we can’t play? In the words of my toddler, “Goodness No!” It just means that we need to find a fun activity that suits us both. For some dogs it may be daily walks to the park or coffee shop. Others may enjoy cuddling while you read a book by the fireplace. Or perhaps, you could enjoy a game of frisbee every so often. However you spend time with your pet, it is important to reinforce the bond you share, as this will yield many long-term advantages. Several medical studies that have proven the health benefits attained by people who spend time interacting with their pets. These include reduced stress, lower blood pressure and decreases in anxiety or depression. And, in my experience pets who receive increased levels of exercise and attention tend to exhibit far less undesirable behaviors. There is an old adage that most often rings true, especially in this busy world, “a tired pet is a happy owner.” So be sure to get out there and spend some quality time with your little one!
3) Don’t forget those pearly whites!
Bad breath is the worst! Not only can be it be an unpleasant surprise when your little one wants to give you a kiss, but it can be an indication of infection deep inside the gums. This type of infection causes a great deal of pain and can even damage critical organs like the heart, kidneys or liver. Even though many dogs and cats may seem to have adapted to the discomfort of having dental disease, they will be much happier and healthier if we are able to resolve the infection completely. Countless clients have told me how much better their little ones feel and act after a dental procedure. Most say that their pets start acting like puppies or kittens again shortly after the procedure. How cool is that? I am talking about a literal fountain of youth, fresh breath, and increased comfort and happiness. “What could be better?” you may ask. Well, February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and Ocean County Veterinary Hospital is offering a promotion to help you celebrate and save money on dental services and products. So let’s keep those whites pearly, guys!
4) Update your pet’s ID information
The statistics on pet loss in this country are quite sobering. The American Humane Association estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year in the United States. In addition, they estimate that one in three pets will become lost at some point in its life. That’s a huge number! I personally have six pets (two dogs and four cats) that could potentially wander from the house which means that, statistically, two of them could become lost at any time. This is unacceptably high for my family, and I am sure for many of you as well. It is important to take precautions to avoid loss of your pet, but accidents happen to everyone. As such, it is prudent to increase the chances of recovering your companion if he or she becomes lost. The ASPCA reports that for dogs entering shelters, 26% are returned to previous owners, while 31% are euthanized. The numbers are even dire for cats where less than 5% are returned to previous owners and 41% are euthanized. There are a few things that you can do to increase the odds of recovery should your pet become lost. Microchipped and properly registered pets are much more likely to be returned to their homes. Statistics show that 52% of lost dogs and 38% of lost cats that have been microchipped are reunited with their owners. Now you may be wondering why these numbers aren’t closer to 100%. The reason is that many owners forget to register or update their contact information with the company that hosts the microchip database! You do know what this means, right? First, get all of your pets microchipped. Second, make sure you register your contact information for each pet that you own. Lastly, to be extra safe, make sure your pets have an additional form of identification such as a tags and a collar which would be visible if anyone finds your pet. The shelters cannot help you find your pet if no one brings them there. Without external identification, some well-meaning Good Samaritan may think your little one does not have a responsible owner and take them in as his own. Once you have followed these steps, I recommend having your pet’s microchip verified yearly by your vet (this is a quick and easy process). Be sure that your most recent address and contact information is registered in the microchip database. As my grandma used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.” Not to mention the pain it saves!
5) Make a well-check appointment for all your pets
Except for some parrots and tortoises, our pets age more quickly than we do. They pack a lot of life into a shorter time span. So, it is important that you bring your little one in for regular wellness examinations at least once a year. As they become more advanced in age, we recommend twice-yearly visits. Regular check-ups can help us detect certain abnormalities before they become major problems. Medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, dental problems, kidney disease, arthritis and even some types of blindness, can be more properly treated or reversed if detected early. In addition, these regular visits allow our healthcare team to record even slight changes, which may become important later on. Make a resolution to schedule your pet’s wellness exam in a timely manner.
I hope these New Year’s recommendations have been a helpful inspiration. From all of us here at the family of Ocean County Veterinary Hospitals, we wish you a blessed and fruitful 2015.
Dr. Zach Weiner
As the daylight gets shorter and our homes get cooler, a natural process begins in many captive snake, lizard, turtle and tortoise species. In winter months, some reptiles undergo “brumation”, which is similar to a hibernation period. Many reptiles will go weeks without interest in eating and some go into a trance that can be alarming to owners.
This phenomenon occurs because reptiles are “cold blooded”, or more accurately, “ectothermic “. They rely on heat sources in the environment to warm them, in order to perform their bodily functions. A COLD reptile has DECREASED: metabolism, immune function and ability to digest food. As a defensive mechanism, in the cooler months, reptiles take cover and empty their bellies for a long, cold, winter of dormancy. Brumation is also necessary for reproduction in some species, which is the most common reason for people to purposefully hibernate their reptiles.
How can I tell if this is happening to my pet?
• Decreased appetite
• Less activity and hunting drive
• Hiding on the cool side of the enclosure • Excessive sleeping • Change in color (darker due to cold temperature) • Mild weight loss
How long can this go on?
Some snakes require a 3-4 month brumation period without food for reproduction. Reptiles can become anorexic for amazing lengths of time, but that does not mean it is healthy.
How can you know your pet isn’t sick?
• Please don’t hesitate to come in for an exam!
There are certain indicators of underlying disease that may only be apparent to the trained eye.
• Bring in a fresh stool sample. Reptiles get parasites too! They can even get them from their prey; crickets carry pinworms, yuck!
• Bloodwork and/or X-rays may be needed to further evaluate the health of your pet.
• Monitor for other signs of illness:
Does your reptile look thin? Is he dull in color? Does he have poor sheds? Does he have diarrhea?
How can I prevent this? It seems scary.
It’s time to work on your pet’s environment.
1. Buy light timers. Provide 12-14 hours of light a day, all year.
2. Turn up the heat! Even if the lamps are on, the air in your home is cooler. You may want to buy another heat lamp or get the next higher watt bulb. Remember, you need thermometers to know the temperature on both sides of the tank!
3. Reduce ambient lighting. Those tricky instincts seem to pick up lighting in windows nearby too!
4. Don’t skimp on the grub! Make sure you feed your reptiles regularly.
Sometimes, even if we try our hardest, reptiles will still slow down in the winter. If this happens, even if your reptile brumates, don’t panic.
Don’t be tempted to wake up your reptile and feed them! Partially digested food can cause many problems if it sits in a cold reptile for too long.
Instead, modify the light and heat in the tank until your scaley friend wakes up and wants to eat.
If you’re worried your reptile doesn’t have enough fat reserves for prolonged anorexia, see a veterinarian! Actually, it’s more dangerous to have an anorexic overweight reptile, due to a liver disease called, hepatic lipidosis.
Don’t forget there are other healthy insects for insectivores!
Butterworms, reptiworms, dubia roaches, silkworms, hornworms/pinkies (only for larger reptiles) And yes, you can buy insects online.
What else to expect for wintering reptiles:
• Poor shedding. You will need to increase humidity and remember regular baths. Don’t ignore retained shed, that’s how you can lose a finger!
• UVB bulbs need to be changed every 6 months, even if they still work! That’s especially important in the winter, when our pets don’t get the chance to sunbathe.
Good luck and Happy Holidays! from Dr. Christine Boss and everyone at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital.
It is hard to believe, but summer is already over, and the holidays are right around the corner. Of course, with Halloween and other holidays soon to follow, baking and gift giving season has begun. As one of the most beloved desserts and snack foods in the world, chocolate is sure to abound in every household. But this treat, delicious as it may be, can be extremely harmful to our adored pets. Even though it is a well -known fact for some of us, we may still sneak an Oreo or two to our dogs and cats and maybe even some Hershey’s chocolate. How can they be denied the satisfaction of such tasty treat? While there are not always toxic effects associated with the ingestion of very small amounts of chocolate, a tasty treat could turn into a real Halloween nightmare!
What part of chocolate makes it harmful for some animals?
Many dogs have indiscriminate eating behaviors. (I’m sure many of you have a dog that has eaten a sock or two in the past!) Because of this common trait, chocolate toxicity generally occurs more frequently in dogs than in cats. The chemical that causes all of the problems in dogs is called methylxanthine. Some types and brands of chocolate contain more of this chemical than others. For example, baker’s chocolate has extremely high amounts and is very dangerous compared to most inexpensive candy bars. In animals, this chemical causes extreme stimulation of the nervous system, increased urination and dangerous effects on the heart. It can cause arrhythmias, or disturbances to the normal rate and rhythm of the heart that may be life threatening. The increased stimulation of the nervous system puts dogs at risk for seizures.
What are the signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs?
If you suspect that your dog has ingested any chocolate, it is recommended that you contact a veterinarian for further advice. Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, hyperactivity, restlessness, high heart rate, and high respiratory rate. Some dogs may even develop pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas, several days after ingestion of chocolate, even if they have undergone treatment. Clinical signs of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Depending on the severity of the reaction, dogs with pancreatitis may require hospitalization because it too can be life threatening.
How is chocolate ingestion and toxicity treated?
It depends on what signs your dog is showing and how much chocolate your dog consumed. Methylxanthine is specifically found in cocoa so generally speaking, the higher percent cocoa in the chocolate, the higher concentration of methylxanthine it contains. If your dog is brought to see a veterinarian within a short period of time of the ingestion, the doctor may elect to induce vomiting in your pet. Depending on the circumstances, treatment can range from monitoring your pet at home to having your pet hospitalized in the ICU and on IV fluids and medications. While hospitalized, your pet’s heart rhythm can be monitored for life threatening arrhythmias and for seizure activity. If there is any question that your pet consumed chocolate, please contact your veterinarian right away.
How do I prevent chocolate toxicity?
Of course, the first preventative step is to lock away the chocolate-containing candy! Due to their great sense of smell, dogs can sniff out tasty treats, making them susceptible to ingestion and toxicity so be sure it is well out of reach or in a cabinet that can’t be opened easily.
Other household products do contain methylxanthine and may cause the same serious reactions in your pets. These include: diet pills, fatigue reduction pills, tea leaves, coffee products, and colas. If in doubt call your veterinarian!
In addition, please keep in mind that some “sugar free” chocolates and candies do have another chemical compound called xylitol, which is EXTREMELY toxic to pets. Xylitol is most commonly found in sugar-free products and leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Xylitol is quickly absorbed once ingested and can cause signs within an hour or sooner. Pets that have ingested the chemical typically require hospitalization.
We at OCVH, FVH, and NPVH are always available to help you with any concerns you may have with regard to your pet’s health. Never hesitate to contact us with your questions!
Jessica Moreira DVM
OCVH recommends that when thinking about adding a reptile as a family pet there are many things to consider. To avoid common problems ask yourself these important questions before setting foot inside a pet store and making an impulsive purchase. What is the life expectancy of this animal? How big do they get? What kind of enclosure do they require to keep them safe and comfortable? What is their normal behavior and temperament? Is this a good pet for a household with young children? What are the costs of keeping this kind of a pet? Do they have any special health concerns? And most important, have you done enough research to be confident that this future pet will be a cherished and welcome addition to your home and your life?
The popularity of reptiles as pets is growing and so is the diversity of available reptilian species. Unfortunately, some retailers may not provide sufficient information about appropriate care of the reptiles they are selling. For this reason it is best to consult a veterinarian who has a special interest and training in reptilian care and diseases before and immediately after you purchase your new pet.
The most common causes of illness in reptiles are feeding an improper or imbalanced diet, and poor husbandry. Husbandry is the care and management of your pet and its environment. This includes temperature levels, lighting, enclosure size and safety, ventilation, bedding, humidity levels and sources of water. Certain diurnal species, that is, reptiles that are active during the daytime, require UVA/UVB rays. These rays naturally come from the sun and are essential for calcium metabolism and overall health. In captivity, these rays need to be artificially supplemented with special UV light bulbs. Improper levels of this kind of light can lead to bone disease and other illnesses. It is also important to know that UV bulbs lose their strength over time. I have personally measured UV output on new and used bulbs and have found drastic differences. I recommend changing UV bulbs every 4 months in order to make sure your reptilian friend is getting the healthy amount of rays it needs.
You are what you eat! This saying is especially true for our reptilian pets. Certain species eat a steady diet of insects and it is important to make sure those insects are “gut loaded”. Gut loading is a process of feeding the proper nutrients to the prey insects so they are a healthy food source for your pet. Be sure the insects you purchase or raise for your pet’s food satisfy this requirement. Adding supplements to the diet is also important. Calcium is the most common oral supplement and comes in several forms. Dusting prey with a calcium supplement before feeding is an easy way to administer it. The same can be done for reptiles that eat mostly fruits and leafy greens. Many lizards and chelonians (tortoises/turtles) require steady diet of fruits and vegetables. As an owner of one of these reptiles you should be prepared to make lots of salads! Also, using the proper multivitamin supplement several times per week can help ensure good health.
Shedding of skin and scales is a normal process for all reptiles. Around the time a reptile is getting ready to shed, be prepared to see changes in behavior and coloration. For example, some will not be as hungry or as active and may retreat or hide. Typically scale color will become dull. In turtles and tortoises, the skin over the head, neck, and legs sheds in pieces. The layer covering the boney scoots of the shell will start to peel off. Lizards tend to shed in small sheets and over time will rub off pieces of their outer skin. Snakes will often shed their skin in one piece; however, they may shed in sections if the humidity is not right. Difficulty shedding or “dysecdysis” is a problem we veterinarians see very frequently. Retained shed over the eyes, nostrils, toes, and tails is common. If old shed is left on, over time it can cause serious eye damage and can kill tissues by strangulating the blood supply. This is a major concern during the shedding period. In general, DO NOT pull shed if it is not ready to come off easily. This can lead to serious damage to the underlying tissues. Consult our exotic veterinarians when in doubt. Learning what’s normal and what’s not normal for your species of pet is essential.
For the first time reptile owner I recommend corn snakes, ball pythons, bearded dragons, and leopard geckos. These are what I would consider good “starter reptiles” as they are easier to care for and generally heartier. Newly acquired pets should be examined by one of our exotic veterinarians as soon as possible to be sure there are no underlying problems. Our veterinarians will discuss all the important aspects of diet and husbandry so that you get off to the right start. Just as with cats and dogs, we advise examinations on an annual basis and whenever you notice symptoms of illness or changes in behavior.
A fun way to learn about what kinds of reptiles are commonly available as pets is to go to a reptile show. The New York Reptile Expo is being held in White Plains, NY, on Sunday, September 7, 2014. Hundreds of breeders and vendors will exhibit pets and products. Lots of valuable information is available and it is really fun too!
If you are really considering getting a reptilian pet it is important to be honest with yourself. What commitment in time, care and money are you willing to devote to have a healthy, happy pet? If you have questions or concerns, please call us first. It is a very satisfying and enjoyable experience when you are adequately informed and prepared. Think, learn, plan and go for it!
Daniel Golodik DVM
Ocean County Veterinary Hospital veterinarians want to know… Do your dogs go outside? If they do they may be at risk for Leptospirosis. This disease is caused by one of the many strains of the Leptospira bacteria. Wild animals that walk through your yard, day or night, can leave the bacteria behind wherever they urinate. Remember, there is not a yard or park in New Jersey that does not have a squirrel or mouse run through it! Dogs most often become infected with Leptospirosis through contact with the bacteria that live and multiply in contaminated puddles or moist areas. Any dog that goes outside is at risk. Even when I walk my own dogs on a leash they sometimes reach down before I can stop them from investigating a puddle. We used to think that only dogs that swam in lakes or rivers, such as hunting dogs, were at risk. The fact is that many dogs diagnosed with Leptospirosis are medium to small dogs that are mostly indoors. People are at risk as well because Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which means it can spread from animals to people.
The signs of Leptospirosis infection in dogs may vary. Some dogs do not show any signs of illness but may continue to shed the bacteria in their urine. Some develop a transient illness but recover, while many others become very sick and can even die. The signs can be nonspecific such as: lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea and yellowing or bruising of the skin. There are different strains of the Leptospira bacteria and different strains target different organs. Kidney and liver failure may occur. The treatment will vary depending on the extent of the illness. Some dogs are treated with oral antibiotics alone, while others need to be hospitalized for intensive care.
If your veterinarian suspects Leptospirosis, diagnostics must be run to confirm infection. New tests, such as the Leptospirosis PCR for blood or urine, allow us to detect active infections in a shorter period of time (a few days). Chronic infections may require a blood antibody titer to be run initially and again 4 to 6 weeks later. Other tests may be recommended depending on severity of the disease and the condition of the patient.
The good news is that there is a vaccination that can help prevent Leptospirosis. We recommend it for all dogs living in New Jersey. Discuss your dog’s risk of exposure and the vaccination with your veterinarian. All of my dogs are vaccinated for Leptospirosis every year. Even though they are not outside often, I want them to be protected. Remember “Lepto” and remember there is a way to prevent this deadly disease.
Laurie Pearlman DVM
Now that we are all stuffed to the gills from our Thanksgiving feasts and looking forward to more gluttony next month, I’m going to take a moment to refresh you on those foods to avoid giving to your pup. In addition to those listed below, it is also important to remember that giving table food to your canine companion can cause gastrointestinal upset and obesity, which can predispose them to other health issues. Yummy human food can also cause them to become more finicky about eating their usual dog food.
Alcohol – While it may seem funny to some to give Fluffy some beer and watch him act silly, don’t do it. Alcohol can cause not only intoxication, lack of coordination, and slowed breathing, but potentially even coma or death.
This is what NOT to do.
Baby food – Some varieties contain onion powder, which is harmful to dogs (see below under Onion). Otherwise not harmful for dogs, but does not provide a balanced diet.
Bones – Intact bones can cause choking or gastrointestinal obstruction. Splintered bones can cause damage to the lining of the GI tract and even possible perforation.
Cat food – Too high in protein and fat to be a primary diet for dogs. Occasional consumption is not harmful and is often unavoidable 🙂
Chocolate, coffee, tea – This is probably not new information for you, but be sure to avoid chocolate for your pup. It contains caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea and, in more severe cases, is toxic to the heart and nervous system. The darker the chocolate, the worse for your pet.
Corn on the cob – A common cause of intestinal obstructions every summer. Make sure to dispose of garbage well so that your pup can’t go dumpster diving to find a prize.
Fat trimmings – Can cause GI upset and occasionally pancreatitis.
Grapes and raisins – Grapes contain a toxin that can cause acute kidney failure. Some dogs seem more sensitive to the toxin than others, but best to avoid altogether.
Hops – One of the main components of beer, hop consumption by your dog can cause panting, an increased heart rate, fever, seizures, and even death.
Macadamia nuts – These contain a toxin that can cause weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting, and hyperthermia.
Milk and dairy products – Dogs are naturally lactose intolerant, so large amount of dairy products can cause diarrhea.
Moldy food – If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to your pup.
Mushrooms – Just as the wrong mushroom can be fatal to humans, the same applies to dogs. If your pup eats an unknown mushroom outside, seek veterinary care immediately.
Onions and garlic – In all their forms (raw, cooked, powder, etc), they contain disulfides and sulfoxides, both of which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia.
Persimmons, peaches, and plums – Persimmon seeds and peach and plum pits can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis.
Raw eggs – The most obvious concern is salmonella, which is why mom always said not to eat the cookie dough. But raw eggs also contain the enzyme avidin, which inhibits the absorption of Biotin (a B vitamin) that your dog uses to keep a healthy coat and skin.
Salt – Excessive intake can lead to electrolyte imbalances.
Sugar – Avoid sweet snacks in your pet. Just as with people, sugar can lead to obesity, which may predispose your pet to diabetes.
Tobacco – The nicotine in tobacco can damage your pup’s digestive and nervous systems, increase their heart rate, lead to coma, and ultimately result in death.
Yeast dough – Yeast can expand and produce gas in the GI system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.
These by no means are the only things to avoid in your dog, but keeping these in mind can help your pup to have a happy and healthy holiday season. If you ever have any question as to the safety of something your pet has eaten, call us anytime.