Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pet Myths Debunked ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

Both on the job and off, we hear a lot of "facts" about animals thrown around and readily accepted, especially on the internet. Let's take care of a few of those right now, shall we?

MYTH #1: All orange cats are male, and all calico cats are female.

(Dr. Alley has seen FOUR female orange cats in the last two weeks alone!)

While there is some truth to this, there are definitely exceptions. "The gene that codes for orange fur is on the X chromosome. Since females have two X’s and males are XY, this means that a female orange cat must inherit two orange genes (one from each parent) whereas a male only needs one, which he gets from his mother...In other words, orange cats always come from mothers with an orange gene, but female orange cats also require a father with the same gene. That’s why orange cats are usually male."

As far as a male calico, they do exist, but they are far more rare. "The XXY combination is a genetic rarity that occasionally shows up in cats (people, too). And if both X chromosomes carry the calico blueprint, you’re looking at one rare cat: a male calico. Such XXY animals are called Klinefelter males, after the doctor who first described the condition. If you have a male calico and think you can make money breeding him, you probably won’t. Though lovely, the cats are usually sterile."

MYTH #2: Dogs feel "guilty" when they misbehave.

(This face doesn't mean what you think it means.)

Your dog has no concept of the emotion that we label as guilt. Countless studies performed with dogs and their owners (including situations in which the dog was acting "guilty" prior to the owner even finding a problem) have concluded that "any appearance of guilt or contrition in dogs is the result of the animals having adapted to live with humans over thousands of years". While their mannerisms are very similar to ours in these situations, they are simply acting on instinct based on prior events--"guilty behaviors could simply be the result of a learned association between a stimulus...and impending punishment."

MYTH #3: Cats and dogs act out of spite when angry at their owners.

Similarly, cats and dogs do not act out of spite. Every behavior has an explanation, whether that is inherently obvious or not. In the case of cats, spraying behavior is both a way to communicate and a way to reaffirm their claim on territory if there has been a recent stressor present in the household; it can also be indicative of an underlying medical issue. With dogs, the cause of inappropriate urination or defecation is often a medical issue requiring veterinary care; it can also be directly related to stress and anxiety. 

MYTH #4: A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth.

While human mouths are no picnic, to be sure, dogs quite literally eat poop, and most people do not brush their dogs' teeth nearly as often as is recommended (twice daily--just like us!). As such, they are natural breeding grounds for bacteria and parasites. The reason that a dog licking a wound helps speed healing is "not because dog saliva is like antiseptic. It’s because a dog’s tongue is rough, and that helps to remove contaminants from an open wound."

These are just a few of the countless myths that we hear with regularity. Read more here!

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lumps & Bumps ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

As a veterinary professional, one of the most frustrating things to see on social media is a person seeking medical advice for their pets from people who are not veterinarians. While these people often mean well, they are in many cases doing far more harm than good. This is especially true when it comes to growths. 

Abnormal growths on animals are very common, but there are innumerable different types, and recommended treatment varies greatly between them. Lipomas, for instance, are benign fatty tumors that are typically not removed unless they grow large enough to begin impacting an animal's quality of life. By sharp contrast, malignant growths can appear and spread very quickly, and often complete excision is recommended as soon as possible upon identification. Nobody can tell you conclusively what a growth is based on a photo

The only way to determine the nature of a growth is to aspirate it (insert a small needle, withdrawing cells) and examine the cells under a microscope. Even this technique is sometimes inconclusive, then requiring a biopsy (removal of a small portion of the growth or the entire growth) and microscopic examination by a pathologist. 

Very small MCT pictured, center
Yesterday, my Clementine was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor. These can be particularly scary, since they can appear like many other growths and are somewhat unpredictable. Mast cell tumors are made up of mast cells, which are granulocyte white blood cells that play a large roll in the immune system and contain large quantities of histamine, heparin, and proteolytic enzymes. When irritated or removed, mast cell tumors can release these contents into other parts of the body, causing significant side effects. Notice how small and insignificant the growth (pictured left) on Clementine appears. Had I ignored this or gotten advice online suggesting that it was anything other than a mast cell tumor, we might not have diagnosed it quickly enough to make a difference.

Complete excision can be curative, but extremely wide margins (removal of healthy tissue around the mass) are necessary to accomplish this. In her case, the tumor is very small and was found quickly, so we have high hopes for a good overall prognosis.

When you find a new growth on your dog, it's always a good idea to call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment for an examination and potential fine needle aspirate and cytology. Be sure to note when you first noticed the growth, and monitor it for any changes in size, shape, color, or texture. Be careful not to irritate the growth by touching it excessively, and never attempt to drain or remove a growth at home. 

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What is a Vet Tech? ~ Trisha, Technician

Particularly when at networking events or anytime outside of the field, people tend to ask, “What do you do?” and I get to talk about being a Veterinary Technician and the Office Manager at Shiloh Animal Hospital. If the person I’m talking to is an animal person, then they probably have a vague idea what the former involves. However, I also get some people who are not, and they often ask what the job entails. Within the same conversation, I have gotten “it must be awesome to play with puppies and kittens all day” as well as “it would be so hard to have put the animals down,” but there’s a lot more than just those two extremes.

There are movements right now to standardize the title of Veterinary Technician to Veterinary Nurse across various accreditation programs and states. Both are actually the same and are the supporting role to the doctor/veterinarian. Some people choose to attend school for a two-year associate’s degree for this job, while others learn all their skills on the job. 

Either way, some of the actual skills that we have include proper restraint of animals for physical exams or procedures, radiography or x-rays, obtaining lab samples (ear swabs, fecal samples, and urine), drawing blood, placing IV catheters, running labs (CBCs, urinalyses, and cytology), monitoring patients while under anesthesia, filling prescriptions, educating and communicating with clients, dietary consulting, grief support, upkeep of medical records, obtaining patient histories, scheduling appointments, administering medications (orally, rectally, intravenously, intramuscularly, subcutaneously), performing sedated dental scaling and polishing, walking dogs and clean kennels, administering vaccines, and probably more that I just can’t come up with right now. And all of these also tend to be at various levels of cooperation from the cats and dogs who might not understand what we’re trying to do – skill, strength, and stamina end up being key. If you translated all the various roles we serve the animals and converted them into the human health field, we would have an insane amount of schooling behind us, since everything in human medicine is so specialized, but we do it all – on multiple species.

At Shiloh Animal Hospital, the vet techs are typically the first face (and the last) you’ll see in the exam room. We develop and foster relationships with both the pets and owners. Combined with the rest of the team (doctors, assistants, receptionist, managers, etc.), we strive to partner with you to provide long and healthy lives for your cats and dogs. Our goal is to hear your concerns and develop a treatment plan that is individualized to the needs of you and your pet. If you don’t like a plan or need to be more cost conscious, we do what we can to offer alternatives that might better suit your needs. But we advocate for the best health of your pet and attempt to do so with as little stress as possible while keeping you a part of the decision making process.

I love the job since my duties vary every day, and it comes with a variety of challenges as well as rewards. We try hard to leave “on-time”, but sometimes things happen that require staying late or an extra shift. And even though we all love animals, having good people skills is a must. I love seeing the healthy pets for their preventative visits as well as seeing pets overcome their injuries and sickness. But you’ll also be there when it’s time to say good-bye. This job is not for the faint of heart but is truly where I have found my calling at this point in my life.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fireworks Minus Fear ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

My newest foster dog, Electra, is a big, strong, stocky pitbull. She's also one of the biggest babies you'll ever meet.

Electra had some prior injuries that she had to have surgery to correct, and she's now receiving physical therapy treatments twice weekly. Being a two-year-old, previously untrained, excitable pittie, she has understandably needed some help with this in the form of medications that allow her to calm down. 

For anyone who is the parent of an anxious dog, you are likely familar with her list of medications, including Zylkene, Trazodone, Fluoxetine (Prozac), and Gabapentin. We also have Adaptil diffusers plugged in everywhere she goes. For the purpose of keeping calm at home with my other dog, in her crate, and at the vet in physical therapy, this combination has worked wonders for her. One thing it might not be enough to tackle, however, is the upcoming canine terror that is the Fourth of July. 

Noises in and outside of the home have been noticeably frightening to her, particularly since she's used to a shelter environment, not a house in the country. She's not alone! At least one third of all dogs in the United States suffer from noise aversion.

Noise aversion can present itself in many forms, including pacing, restlessness, lip licking, trembling, shaking, panting, hypervigilance, cowering, hiding, furrowed brow, ears back, freezing or immobility, abnormal clinginess, refusal to eat, yawning, or vocalizing. The medications mentioned previously can be helpful, but some have to be in the system for hours or weeks prior to being effective and are primarily sedatives. 

Sileo is an oromucosal gel that can be applied to the gums only 30-60 minutes prior to a loud event such as fireworks or a predicted storm, and it lasts for 2-3 hours. It is the first and only FDA-approved treatment for canine noise aversion associated with fear and anxiety. Dexmedetomidine (the active ingredient) calms your dog by preventing or reducing specific reactions in the nervous system related to noise. 

Should Electra need extra help when those fireworks start on the 4th, this is what I'll be reaching for. If you think Sileo might help your dog, don't hesitate to ask us about it, and don't forget to keep your pets safe inside this holiday with identifying information on their tags in case they get spooked!

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Keeping the Feline Peace ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

If you own or love a cat, you've likely experienced some...shall we say, "moodiness"? Cat's don't generally like change, and they can be quick to show you how they feel about it, whether that means marking your favorite rug, scratching things, attacking you or other pets in the home, or avoiding you altogether. Rest easy, because there is a way to move that couch across the room and reduce the likelihood that your kitty will protest. 

Meet Feliway. At the clinic, we use a sprayable version of this product on towels to help keep your cat calm in a new and potentially stressful environment, but for home use, we recommend this plug-in refillable diffuser. Feliway mimics the natural feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure.

Recently, my best friend moved in with her boyfriend, and that meant relocating her two cats, Loki and Charlie. Loki is a very happy-go-lucky boy, and he handled the transition like a champ. 
Charlie, on the other hand, decided to hide for days. We put food and water all over the house and spread out litter boxes to make sure that she didn't have to go far from her safe places in order to have basic necessities, but we saw very little of her. 

It took weeks before Charlie started to come around to hanging out with everyone again...and then came the furniture. This time, Charlie didn't disappear entirely. Instead, the kitchen and living room became her newest litter boxes. Butcher block counter? Check. Laundry basket? Check. Couch? Check, check, check.

Immediately after a Feliway plug-in was introduced, the inappropriate urination ceased, and Charlie decided that we were all cool enough to be around again. While it won't necessarily have such swift and amazing results for every cat in every situation, it is one of the easiest and safest first steps in attempting to reduce your cat's stress and keeping unwanted behaviors under control. 

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Massage For Your Dog? ~ Melanie Hampton, RVT, Certified Canine and Equine Massage Therapist

I’m honored that Shiloh Animal Hospital invited me to be a guest blogger and excited to write about the many benefits of massage therapy for dogs.

What are the benefits of Canine Massage?

The history of massage therapy dates back thousands of years to ancient cultures who understood and believed in its medical benefits for humans. Massage helps people cope with and alleviate the effects of stress, physical ailments, and emotional imbalances. Now, we are finally using massage to comfort and help our furry friends!

The benefits that dogs get from massage are similar to the benefits that we get. I like to share some examples of dogs that I’ve worked with and the difference it has made for them and their people.

Massage helps alleviate pain:

  • Sam is an 11 year old golden retriever who suffers from arthritis pain. He’s on anti-inflammatory medication but his owner is concerned about his pain level and decreased mobility. After his first session, he came bouncing out of the room, running up to his mom. She was thrilled by his energy level and the fact that he was holding his head up for the first time in months.

  • Stella is a 4 month old puppy with anxiety issues. Two days before our next scheduled session, she was playing on her owner’s bed and took a tumble off of it. Their veterinarian  diagnosed her with neck strain. They put her on anti-inflammatory and pain medications. As soon as I walked into the house I knew something was wrong. She was very stiff and not moving her head much. Her mom explained what had happened, and after checking her range of motion, I began working on her. At the end of her session, full range of motion in her neck had returned. Less than five minutes after I left her mom sent me a text that Stella was running around in the backyard like a puppy again!

Massage reduces swelling:

  • Duncan was hit by a car and suffered multiple fractures. After surgery he had significant swelling in both his rear legs. The day after his massage session, the swelling was almost non-existent and he was able to get up and walk outside to relieve himself.

  • Lukas was diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament that required surgery to repair.  Massage sessions alleviated the swelling, reduced scar tissue, and helped with his range of motion after surgery.

Massage alleviates stress and anxiety:

  • My husband and I adopted Gypsy last year. She’s a terrier mix that suffers from extreme fear anxieties. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person or an object, if it’s new, she’s afraid of it. I use massage techniques, Healing Touch for Animals®, essential oils, and training to calm her and help her cope with accepting new things in her life. It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me as we journey together and I’m able to see the differences that massage has made in her life. When she begins to get scared and tense, and I start to massage her, I can see and feel her visibly relax under my hands.

I work with a lot of dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, thunderstorm and loud noise phobias, and fear anxieties with great results. If our animals are alive, they have stress.  Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to both good and bad experiences that can be beneficial to their health and safety. However, chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and can affect the overall health and well-being of our animals. It can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

The central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of  the “fight or flight” response. Once the perceived fear is gone, the CNS should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor does not go away, it takes a toll on the body. Massage stimulates the nervous system to produce hormones that have tremendous benefit on the entire body while at the same time reducing or balancing chemical levels to prevent a detrimental effect. Massage increases the available levels of dopamine (the happy hormone), serotonin (the calming hormone), and endorphins (the body's pain reliever) while decreasing cortisol (the fight or flight hormone). High levels of cortisol have been linked to many stress-related symptoms and illnesses such as anxiety, inflammation, and aggression. For example, a dog who feels the need to "patrol and protect" their owner’s property will have increased levels of cortisol and could suffer from a variety of stress-related symptoms.

Massage should be thought of as preventative medicine...

Think about changing the oil in your car or brushing your teeth; animal massage works much the same way. You're making a small investment to prevent larger costs in the future. Massage is not a “cure-all” or a replacement for Veterinary care, but when used in conjunction with regular exercise, good nutrition, and regular wellness checks, massage therapy can be a vital tool in increasing the quality of our pets’ lives.

For more information, visit

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why Microchip? ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

Let's talk about microchips for a minute. No, not the kind that go into your electronic devices--the kind that should be going into your pets.

It's only a little larger than a grain of rice, but it has the power to bring your lost pet home. For one reason or another, many people hesitate to have their pets microchipped. I'm here to tell you that there is absolutely zero reason to hesitate. Let's address some of those fears, shall we?

1. I've heard that it hurts the pet to implant. 

The needle involved in inserting the microchip is very similar to those involved in routine vaccinations, albeit slightly larger, but most pets don't react to having it implanted in the loose skin between their shoulder blades. In many cases, if the owner is nervous about sensitivity, we will insert the chip during another anesthetic procedure. However, if your pet doesn't already have one on the books, I would not recommend waiting until that happens!

2. It's not safe for my pet to have a foreign object in his body.

While I would agree with this statement in most cases (I've seen a lot of weird things eaten by labs), this is not the case with microchips. Microchips are made out of an inert bio-compatible substance that will not cause an allergic reaction or degenerate. The anti-migrating properties of the chip prevent it from moving into tissues or organs. 

3. Microchipping is expensive!

Most veterinarians and animal shelters offer microchipping at a very low cost.  Registering your chip with your microchip company may require additional minimal fees because they offer you the opportunity to set up an membership account, keep your information up to date, add additional contacts, and the ability to add photos and descriptions of your pet. With our chips, initial registration is at no additional charge, but they do offer other services that you can choose to purchase. 

4. Why do I need this? Isn't that what his collar and tags are for?

Unfortunately, a collar and tags are not permanently affixed to your pet's body (especially if you have a cat). A microchip stays permanently under your pet's skin and can be detected for life. It's also much easier to keep your information up to date, as you can do this online or over the phone rather than getting a new one each time. 

5. How does a microchip actually work to bring your my pet home? Should I be concerned about my personal information getting out?

A microchip is not a GPS device, and there is no information that anyone could obtain without a scanning device and authority to do so. You do need to continuously update your personal information with your microchip company in order to guarantee that it has the right information associated with it. If your pet gets lost, any shelter or veterinary facility that someone brings him to will scan for his chip and find a series of numbers. They will then look up that number in an online database to see what company manufactured his chip. After calling that company, a shelter or vet can obtain your registered contact information to get your pet back to you.

6. My pet never gets lost. This seems silly. 

You say that now, but when you're trudging through the woods screaming her name for an hour like I did a few weeks ago when my landlord's three-year-old son let Clementine "out to play" in an unfenced yard surrounded by miles of wilderness, you'll feel even more silly. Luckily, Clementine came back all on her own, but if I hadn't found her that day, I would have been counting on that microchip to bring her back to me. Even years later, I've seen pets reunited with owners who had all but lost hope that they'd come home.

So what are you waiting for? Get your pets chipped...yesterday!

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