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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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Did Someone Say Treats? ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

With the heavy tone of our last blog post, I thought we would lighten things up a little this week. And what better way to do that than to share some fun homemade treat recipes? These are favorites that I've tried with my pups, all of which have been crowd pleasers. (*Be sure to ask your veterinarian before feeding any homemade treats to your dog, especially if they have known allergies.)

If you have any others that you'd like to share, leave us a comment below!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Compassion Fatigue ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

This week, I'm going to talk about something that's a little more personal than most of our previous posts. You might have heard the term "Compassion Fatigue" before, but what does it really mean?

Compassion fatigue is a real and debilitating stress disorder that frequently affects those in the veterinary industry, but is unfortunately also largely ignored both by the general public as well as those who suffer from it. The suicide rate for those in the veterinary industry has been as close to twice that of those in the dental industry, more than twice that of those in the human medical industry, and four times the rate of others in the general population.

"Compassion Fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper."
Dr. Charles Figley
Professor, Paul Henry Kurzweg Distinguished Chair
Director, Tulane Traumatology Institute
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA

Having worked in the veterinary industry for the last six years and with animals since I was young, I have felt the effects of compassion fatigue first hand. While everyone experiences it differently, mine presented itself in the form of severely bottled emotions, poor self care, isolation, apathy toward things I once loved, and a constant state of both mental and physical exhaustion.

Like others in similar positions, I was so concerned with helping my foster dogs, my patients, my clients, my coworkers, and everyone else around me that I had no room left to help myself. I took my work home with me (literally) in the form of puppies with parvo whose owners could not afford treatment. I adopted possibly the world's oldest cockatiel from a grief-stricken elderly woman who was forced on doctor's orders to find him a new home. I worked two jobs, took on extra hours, and I accepted tasks that I was not ready to take on in the name of doing the right thing. The word "no" had all but disappeared from my vocabulary.

In November of 2014, just two months after the suicide of Sophia Yin, DVM and popular animal behaviorist, I finally recognized my symptoms for what they were. I made the decision at that time to switch from a busy nine-doctor practice to Shiloh, a smaller, slower paced facility that aligned more closely with my standards of care and personal beliefs. While this transition didn't erase my problems, it did help me to better understand the reasons for my struggles, and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a team who cared about me on a personal level.

Many people who experience compassion fatigue and deny its impact leave the field entirely. I considered doing this when I relocated to Virginia in January, but my love of the animals and a need to be around like-minded people brought me right back. I can't imagine doing anything else, and I try to remind myself daily of the difference that I can make for these patients and their families.

If you think that you or someone you care about might be experiencing compassion fatigue, don't wait to say something. Visit the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project website for more information and resources.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Low Stress Handling ~ Trisha, Technician

In 2015, I took the Low Stress Handling of Dogs & Cats course to become certified through Dr. Sophia Yin’s art & science of animal behavior. Low Stress Handling leads to safer and more satisfied staff, efficient workplaces, lowered liability, loyal clients, and, of course, happy animals. Certification coursework for each individual consists of 10 lecture/labs in a set order (20 coursework hours, online), followed by online multiple choice exams. Lecture and lab topics cover recognizing and reversing fear and aggression, the science of animal learning and practical applications, techniques for handling difficult dogs and cats in a low stress manner, and preparing the patient and setting up the hospital to create a relaxing environment. This is an aggressive course in asking the participant to not only be aware of the material, but to truly master it for the quizzes and tests provided. However, I truly believe that anyone invested in making a different in the lives of this number of animals can benefit from the material that it covers.
One of the most beneficial topics I learned was how to recognize fear and stress.  Fearful body language in dogs includes tense muscles, cowering, head turned away, gaze averted, ears back, and tail low or tucked.  Some other signals that could also be confused for other issues include panting, licking lips, yawning, inappetence, and inappropriate urination or defecation.
In seeing lots of dogs in exam rooms and in the treatment area, this is something that you would think comes naturally, but some of these signs can easily be confused for other behaviors. Also, how people interact with dogs can make it worse. When we approach the dog by looming over them or sticking our hands in their face, we often look scary and can trigger that fearful experience. Instead, we should stay out of their space and avoid direct staring.
It is best to go slowly, speak softly, avoid quick movements, and allow the animal approach on their own to make the first contact. If we do need to approach, facing backward or sideways is better than head-on, and sitting is better than leaning over.
(Ruby knows where we keep the peanut butter!)
The course if full of amazing tips that help any animal handler as well as a variety of individual pets. One of our clinic’s favorites is the use of treats to make a scary situation easier. Some dogs get scared to the point where they don’t want to eat, but for those who are willing, flooding them with positive interactions (food) to distract them from the needle or nail trim is much better.  We use a lot of peanut butter for dogs as well as meat baby food for cats. If your pet is on a specific diet, please let us know, and feel free to bring your own treats for this purpose.  

Another of my favorite tips is to jog with the dog rather than pull them down the hallway. When you have forward momentum, a dog will be distracted and excited about where they’re going and forget they had put on the brakes for “THE BACK.”  And when we need to lower a dog from standing to lateral position, I love the technique that helps to slide the dog’s body down the holder’s front to maintain control rather than the flop that happens once the dog feet leave the surface.

There was so much information to gain that I can’t possibly put all 20 hours into a single blog post. However, I HIGHLY recommend looking into it further if you have an interest in the information, as well as if you have any further questions.  
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Little Support from OrthoPets ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

When I was 21 years old, I fell in love. He was soooooo handsome. He had the sweetest face, a deep, soulful voice, and huge floppy ears. 

His name was Roscoe.

Roscoe crossed over the Rainbow Bridge several years ago, but in the short time that he spent with me, he taught me some very important lessons in dog ownership. I knew going into his adoption that I was taking on an elderly, arthritic dog who had been through a great deal of abuse and neglect. I expected that he would need extra care in the final years of his life. What I didn't know was that just weeks after his adoption, he would tear his cranial cruciate ligament.

Much like an ACL tear in their human counterparts, tearing of the CCL causes serious instability in the joint that leads to swelling, severe pain, sudden rear leg lameness, and eventual osteoarthritis.

At 21 years old, I worked at a doggie daycare making close to minimum wage. I had no credit history to speak of, and my new addition was becoming very expensive very quickly. While I was ready to do whatever needed to be done (even if that meant putting myself in debt), his veterinarian did not heavily recommend surgical intervention initially due to his other conditions. Aside from surgery, his only option seemed to be constant rest and medication to reduce inflammation and pain. After a few weeks, it became clear that this was not going to be enough.

With no other options from that veterinarian and little veterinary knowledge myself, I set out to research what other owners had done in my shoes. After speaking to owners online and making a few calls to other area veterinarians, I discovered a company called OrthoPets that created custom orthotic and prosthetic devices for dogs and other animals. My veterinarian at the time had never heard of this company and was very skeptical, but they agreed to help me through the process of casting his leg, taking measurements, and sending away for his custom brace.

A little less than two weeks later, Roscoe was fitted with his new device. Almost instantly, his demeanor changed. He stood taller, walked more confidently, and seemed to be much less painful. While Roscoe did eventually become a good surgical candidate, I was so thankful that OrthoPets provided him with the support he needed until that time.

Shiloh Animal Hospital has fitted patients for braces through OrthoPets in the past, and we are happy to discuss this process and all other options with you should your pet need extra joint support.

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