Allergies in Pets – Scratching the surface

April 22nd, 2014

Have you noticed your pet scratching a lot lately?  Shaking their head or chewing at their paws?  If so, most likely it is due to allergies (Atopy).  We need to schedule your pet for a comprehensive exam to have several diagnostic tests done to best determine the cause(s) of their allergy problems.  The most common symptoms that owners will notice from their pet is excessive licking, scratching or chewing, odor from the ears or skin, hair loss, crusted skin lesions, greasy or oily skin, scaly, dry or red skin, stained or inflamed paws.  Recurrence of skin infections and/or ear infections is also common in allergic pets.

Depending upon the specific allergy that your pet has different recommendations and course of treatment will be made.  After a complete physical exam, complete blood panel, and fecal testing, the doctor can establish a complete history and better picture of what the issues are affecting your pet.  Allergies can be caused by various things including environmental, food, or flea allergies but all are associated with the immune system overreacting. This over-reaction by the immune system causes the body to release numerous chemicals that start an inflammatory cascade, or chain reaction effect.  The endpoint being that the skin is red, inflamed, itchy and irritated.  The skin can additionally become dry, crusty, and hot, with secondary bacterial or yeast infections.  Once the cause of the allergy is known we can maintain the best health for your pet by controlling what is causing the body to react and the discomfort that your pet is feeling.

Several diagnostic tests can be done by the Doctor in our veterinary office (many with results on the same day).  This is needed to indicate how to best treat your pet. Examples of this would be a skin cytology, skin scrapings, fungal culture, skin biopsy, urinalysis, thyroid profile along with complete labs, and allergy testing to determine the underlying allergen predominately causing the issues.

These tests are very important to indicate how we should be treating your pet and the cause of the allergy symptoms. Often, treatment is an ongoing process. And once your pet is diagnosed with allergies (depending upon which type of allergy they have, sometimes with multiple issues) it can be an ongoing lifestyle maintenance issue.

Flea allergies will go away if the source is removed and no more flea exposure occurs. Being on a monthly preventative is very important and the treatment would be to avoid the pet from being exposed to fleas.

Food allergies will work the same as with flea allergies.  Avoidance of the offending allergens is needed.  Food allergies are diagnosed by using an elimination prescription diet.  This cannot be accomplished with any over-the-counter diets, as they have cross contamination of ingredients.  This is a diet provided by the Veterinarian and is selected to restrict allergic components.  A pet must be fed this diet and this diet alone for 3-4 months to rule out food allergies.  Many pets can have combination food and environmental allergies.

Environmental allergies require more maintenance and can be a year round concern. Weekly, bi-monthly or monthly medicated baths,  using daily ear washes, Hypoallergenic prescription diet food and treats, medications (Apoquel, Atopica, antibiotics, antifungals, allergy immunotherapy, etc), routine lab work and exams are necessary to keep your pet in their best health to avoid flare ups and addressing any skin issues before they become worse.

Environmental Allergies (Atopy) is diagnosed based on the clinical signs and presenting complaints.  The specific allergen, to which the pet is allergic, is diagnosed via a blood allergy panel or skin prick test (performed by a veterinary Dermatologist).  Our hospital utilized the blood allergy panel.  Once the allergen(s) are known, specific immunotherapy is used.  Immunotherapy is the administration of very small amounts of the items to which the pet is allergic.  These can be administered via injections under the skin or via drops administered under the tongue.  The veterinarian will discuss what the best treatment option for your pet is.  Immunotherapy is designed to train the immune system to be less reactive.

Another common concern are skin issues that can be contagious to people. Certain types of mites from pets, and ringworm are contagious. Ringworm can live in the environment due to the spores for over one year and still be contagious.  Once your pet is diagnosed with ringworm the best protocol to follow would be to clean and disinfect all areas that your pet has lived on or within the home. This may include bedding, floors, countertops, carpeting, and window sills.  Any concerns should be discussed directly with your Veterinarian.  See our other articles discussing Ringworm.

Dr. Hodge is a Tampa Florida Veterinarian and owner of Harbourside Animal Hospital

Pet Food Nutrition

February 12th, 2014

Part 3

online vet, pet food nutritionPet Food Topics

Organic - At least this one has a legal definition. According to the USDA – the term “USDA Organic” may only be applied to pet food labels that follow USDA rules. Look for the seal, but there is much blur even on the definition of organic. Read more on organic here.

Holistic - There is not even a legal definition of this term under laws devoted to pet foods. Any manufacturer can make claims of “holistic” in literature and brochures regardless of ingredients chosen. SIGH.If you want to waste your money on this veterinary marketing ploy, go ahead; it is meaningless and unregulated.

Human Grade- Claims that a product contains or is made from ingredients that are “human grade”, “human quality”, “people foods”, “ingredients you (the purchaser) would eat”, are false and misleading.  It is illegal for companies to use this wording unless the food is made start to finish in a human plant but that doesn’t stop them from doing so.

Natural - According to AAFCO, the term “natural” requires a pet food to consist of only natural ingredients without chemical alterations.

Fluffy or Fat? Weight loss for your pet could mean a longer life

January 3rd, 2014

by Karla Frazier, DVM

Recent estimates report that 50% of our canine pets are overweight and as many 25% are classified as obese.  These are scary statistics!  Unfortunately most pet owners are not equipped with the knowledge of how to assess their pet’s body condition.  Excess weight can have serious health consequences for your pet if it goes unaddressed.   An overweight pet is more likely to develop joint discomfort, diabetes and potential respiratory complications.  Purina has recently completed a 14 year longevity study where they found Labradors of lean body condition to live TWO YEARS longer than overweight Labradors!

So how can you tell if your pet is just fluffy or fat?  Your veterinarian can determine your pet’s body condition, any potential medical causes for the weight gain, appropriate methods of weight loss and  reasonable weight loss goals.

Canine Body Score Chart Purina

Healthy weight loss is commonly resolved with changes in diet and exercise routines.  The most common cause for excess weight gain is due to over-feeding.  If your pet is overweight, you will need reduce the amount of daily calorie intake and increase the amount of daily activity – it’s a simple equation – calories in must be less than calories burned!  Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate diet for your pet to promote healthy weight loss.  Human snacks should be eliminated completely and dog treats should be replaced with healthy options such as apples, carrots or green beans.

Sometimes it is hard to find time in the day to get your pet up and active.  You may want to look into ‘doggy daycare’ for a fun way to have your pet exercise and play with other pooches while you are busy at work.  Dog parks are also a fun and easy way to incorporate more activity into your pet’s routine – even if it is just one or two times a week.  Exercise is also easily completed at home with regular walks, playing fetch or even chasing a laser pointer inside the house (for our smaller canine friends!).

Don’t let your pet become a statistic.  Talk about your pet’s weight with your veterinarian and take any recommendations seriously – it may just add years to your pet’s life!

Karla Frazier is an Advance NC Veterinarian. Dr. Frazier received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. She is a graduate of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She began her veterinary career in the Winston Salem area in 1994; opening Hillsdale Animal Hospital in 2000.

NTA Tick Surveillance Program

August 16th, 2013

by Dr. Tom Khun

TickHave you heard about the National Tick Assessment program?  That is what I think we should be doing when we find a tick on ourselves or our pets.  Remove the tick with tweezers, place it in a zip-lock bag and take it to your veterinary office for identification.  Knowing the species of tick will help your physician or veterinarian zero in on the tick-borne disease the tick may carry.  Certain ticks carry certain diseases and not others.  For example:  A Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) carries Tularemia disease, Ehrlichiosis, Tick Paralysis and on cats can transmit Cytauxzoonosis.  Whereas, the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) transmits Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, babesiosis, Tularemia and Tick Paralysis but not Erhlichiosis. There are at least six common species of ticks and at least eight common diseases.  When you or your pet becomes ill, the doctor will know the likely diseases to test for and treat.

Certain areas of the country are hot-beds for certain species of ticks.  The Brown Dog Tick (Ripicephalus sanquineus), which can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Erhlichiosis, and Babesiosis, is found throughout the U.S. and even worldwide, but the American Dog Tick doesn’t inhabit the Rocky Mountain area of the country.  If you go on vacation with your pet and pick up a hitch-hiker you hadn’t counted on, take the tick to your veterinary office, have it identified and you and your pet will have additional information to help you both stay safe and healthy.

Have questions about ticks?  Vets are standing by.

In his daily clinical practice Dr. Kuhn has a special interest and advanced training in ultrasonography, knee surgery, dentistry, and pain management. Dr. Tom Khun  is owner of two animal hospitals in Asheville, NC.

Gainesville, FL Veterinarian on exercising with your dog; safety first

August 9th, 2013

Dogs make great running companions. They get us off the couch, provide a sense of safety, and are just fun to be with. Running is also a good way to burn off extra energy that might otherwise go into chewing and barking. Before you set out, bring your dog in for a physical exam to be sure your dog’s heart and joints are healthy. Here are some safety tips:

  • Most young dogs (5-12 months) have enough energy to keep up with a person jogging, but not the brains to know when to stop. Excess impact can permanently damage developing bones. Wait until small/medium breed dogs are 6 to 9 months and large breed dogs are 12 months of age to introduce a running program. Until then, take long walks and short easy jogs on softer grass or trails.
  • Choose a light and sturdy 4 to 6 foot leash which will be comfortable to hold while running. A head collar is a great option for dogs that tend to pull.
  • Be extra cautious in hot weather, which can occur year round in sunny Florida. Watch carefully for signs of fatigue or heat illness (panting, slowing down, foaming at the mouth, weakness, seeking shade, agitation, glazed eyes).  Also remember to exercise early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cooler.
  • When you start running with your dog, begin slowly to gradually condition him/her. Many dogs will keep going past what they can reasonably tolerate. Watch for signs of fatigue, as listed above, during your run. Also look for stiffness and raw, tender foot pads the next day. These would all be signs you went too far too soon.

Dr. Jennifer Wallace is a Gainesville, FL Veterinarian who is an avid writer and pet parent.

How to Choose the Best Boarding Facility for your Pet [Part 1]

July 15th, 2013

Dog and Cat BoardingLooking for quality care for your pet while you are away, having some work done on your home, or welcoming a new baby into the family?  No matter the reason, it is important for your peace of mind, and your pet’s health and safety, that you do a little homework ahead of time.

One of the best ways to finding a reputable boarding kennel is to ask other pet owners, neighbors, reputable dog trainers, or your veterinarian for a recommendation.  You may also want to do some research online to see which facilities in your area meet your requirements for your pet’s needs.  Do you have a young puppy or kitten?  Does your pet have some special health needs such as medication or diet?  Do you have a giant breed dog, or perhaps a small pocket pet?  Once you have decided on a few kennels, and confirmed that they can accommodate your pet’s needs and the dates you will be boarding, then it’s time to do some investigating.


The kennel owner and staff should take great pride in the appearance of their kennel.  The facility should be tidy, organized, and smell clean.  Ask for a tour so that you can see where your pet will be spending their time while boarding.  While some facilities do not allow visitors to come into the areas where animals are housed, there should be viewing windows allowing a visual inspection of the kennel.  Don’t be afraid of a “No Visitors beyond This Point” policy, as this is to protect the pets.  Some animals may become fearful or anxious when strangers are present causing intestinal upset, aggressive behavior, or even injury to themselves.  Good boarding kennels follow strict disinfecting protocols.  Visitors can unknowingly transport contagious agents into the kennel.


Look for secure and locked fencing where dogs are exercised, sturdy gates and dividers between runs, and separate quarters for cat boarding with secure, enclosed quarters.  The facility should be free of any sharp objects.  All toys and equipment should be in good condition.  There should be no exposure to harmful chemicals.  Pets should have their own enclosed sleeping quarters where they can relax and sleep without being bothered by their neighboring boarders.  A security system and fire fighting plans and equipment should be in place.


Be sure the kennel is clean, free of fecal matter, odor, and parasites.  There should be stringent policies on disinfection and cleaning.  All boarding pets should be given a pre-entry exam for ticks and fleas, and treated appropriately if necessary before admission.    The kennel should be regularly and safely monitoring outside and in for pest control.


Are the staff members regularly monitoring your pet throughout the day?  Are staff members trained to recognize symptoms of illness or distress?  Competent kennel staff observe and note sleeping and eating habits, bowel and urinary function, general appearance and health of the pet.  The staff should be trained to seek veterinary assistance when needed.

Ask about how often and what times of the day your pet will be walked?  Frequent walks especially after meals are important for your pet’s comfort and health.  If your pet is a cat, how often is their litter box cleaned?

How are your pet’s exercise or play sessions supervised?  Are many pets let out together, or are the play sessions more closely monitored?  Be sure that your pet is well supervised during play or exercise to prevent injury, exhaustion, or over heating.  If your pet is a cat boarder, be sure your cat has plenty of room to stretch and move around comfortably.

Food and water should be closely monitored.  Ask about the kennel’s feeding schedule.  Do they provide the food, and if so, what is the diet? Can you provide your pets food if you prefer?

Immunization should be required.  If your pet is not current, can the kennel provide the proper immunizations for your pet?

Inquire about medication policies.   Does the kennel accommodate pets on medication?  Are they able to administer and monitor your pet’s medication?  What are the additional charges for medication administration?

It is very important to know how your pet will receive veterinary care if necessary while boarding.  Some kennels are affiliated with a veterinary hospital on site and can provide services right there.  If an onsite veterinarian is not available, it is very important to give the kennel your veterinarian’s name and phone number.  Remember, you, the pet owner, are financially responsible for any veterinary care that may be required during boarding.

To be continued….

On the next installment, the following will be discussed:

  • Sanitation and Parasite Control
  • Supervision and Care
  • Other Considerations

Linda Metzler is owner of a Clearwater Florida Dog and Cat Boarding business called Metzler Pet Boarding which is part of Metzler Veterinary Hospital.

Pool and Water Safety for Dogs

May 6th, 2013

by Mike Barton

Here are some great tips about how to keep your pet safe around pools:

There are many myths out there about pool safety with pets.  First of all, many people think all dogs can swim.  This just isn’t true.  Some breeds as well as older semi-disabled pets may have difficulties staying afloat.  Other breeds have problems swimming in general.

St. Petersburg Pool ServiceRule 1: See if you pet can swim under supervision.

Another myth is that children are the ones that need to be supervised around water and that dogs have an innate ability to keep them safe.  This is false!  Many pets do not have the skills to survive in water.

Rule 2: Always supervise your pet around water.

Another misconception is that people without a pool don’t have to worry about water safety.  This is also false. Dogs can escape to others’ yards, rivers, ponds, and even hot tubs.

Rule 3: Make sure that if your pet is near water that you supervise them.

How to Avoid Pet Drowning

  1. Keep the pool area secure.  Just because there is a child gate does not mean small dogs cannot circumvent their defenses.  Be sure to test the child gate for its ability to keep your pet out.
  2. Teach your pet that the pool surface is NOT solid by putting them into the pool while being held.  If your dog swims in the pool, be sure to be in the pool and teach them the best area for exit (i.e. the steps).
  3. Dogs cannot see well through water so understand that if there are steps, the only way he or she will know there are steps is by repetitive guiding.
  4. Freezing cold pools are more dangerous than in the summer time.  This might not be a problem in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I work, but your should be sure to keep your pets away from water even if they can swim when it is winter because the temperature can be enough to overwhelm their swimming abilities.  Even if they can exit, they can enter hypothermia if not attended to.
  5. Purchase dog-protecting pool gear.  These include ramps, collars, pool alarms, and life jackets for dogs.
  6. When boating, always be sure that your dog has on his or her life jacket.  Take into consideration the tide and current before letting your dog swim.
  7. And remember… NEVER leave your dog unattended near open water.

Mike Barton is the owner of Blue Aces Pool Service.  Blue Aces is the premier St. Petersburg, FL Pool Service company.  Mike is a dog-lover and his business is dog-friendly.

A case for close quarters with our pets

April 15th, 2013

While there are some disease risks that rise when we share our home and germs with our pets, with proper hygiene and just as important thorough preventative care for your pets, sharing your home with pets and relishing in as many furry snuggles as possible does have its wealth of benefits, including psychological support, friendship, and even promoting good health. Here are a few of my favorites.

Elderly and petsPets are a natural mood elevator! In fact, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine.
Infants are less likely to develop allergies if they share their home with a family dog. They also are less likely to develop eczema.

Having pets tends to lead to better heath for the elderly, particularly less anxious outbursts for those with Alzheimer’s. At least one insurance company (Midland Life Insurance Company) even asks elderly applicants if they have a pet as part of their screening.

Sharing your life with a dog or cat has cardiovascular benefits as well. It appears to lower blood pressure and heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without pets.

While extra cautions should be taken with the young, elderly, or immune-compromised, the studies shows there is a low risk of zoonotic disease transmission from sharing your home with a healthy pet. Any area licked by a pet, especially for those at increased health risk or an open wound, should be immediately washed with soap and water. Pets should be kept free of all ectoparasites, routinely dewormed for protection against internal parasites, maintained on heartworm prevention medication year round, and regularly examined by a veterinarian. Use common sense and wash your hands after handling feces or even gardening. Keeping your fur kids healthy is crucial to keeping your human family healthy.

Pleasant Plains Animal Hospital contributed to this article. They are a Staten Island Veterinary Hospital.

Dog ate chocolate – how much chocolate is dangerous?

March 28th, 2013

dog ate chocolate cake

Below is an example question and answer from a concerned pet parent whose dog ate chocolate. If your dog ate chocolate, you can ask a vet if you need to worry or if the amount should be okay by typing your question into the box at the right.

Pet parent question:

My 90 lb dog ate 4.5 oz of baking cocoa powder chocolate …he ate 3/4 of a chocolate cake. It’s been 1.5 hours, he seems fine. He’s a actually sleeping, heart rate is 80. Should I be worried?

VetLIVE Veterinarian:
I have received your question and am doing the calculation right now for you. I will be right back with you.
Dr. Laci

Hi again,
For a 90 lb dog to eat 4.5 oz of baking cocoa powder absolutely warrants an emergency vet visit. Though he seems fine now, the absorption of the chocolate’s toxic components is delayed if he had food in his GI tract. When it does get absorbed, it will be enough of the toxic chemicals to put him in serious danger, including seizures and tremors that may or may not become life-threatening. I know it is not what you want to hear but if he ate that amount and type of chocolate, he needs to go in. Without veterinary intervention, death is possible.
Best wishes,
Dr. Laci

You may be wondering why chocolate is so bad for dogs. The toxic ingredients in chocolate include caffeine and a chemical called theobromine. Baker’s cocoa is one of the most toxic types of chocolate but no chocolate is safe for pets, so you need a dog chocolate calculator like a VetLive veterinarian to help you out.

In general, the amount of theobromine found in chocolate is small enough such that chocolate can be safely consumed by us as humans. Dogs however metabolize theobromine much more slowly than we do, and can easily consume enough chocolate to cause chocolate poisoning. Caffeine and theobromine are both stimulants of the brain and heart. The clinical signs reflect this and can include hyperactivity, increased heart rate, muscle tremors,  seizures and eventually death within 24 hours.

Your Cat Not Eating? Hepatic Lipidosis and Feline Anorexia – What to do.

January 28th, 2013

Anorexia? This is not a term your veterinarian uses to describe your cat’s poor body image.  This term simply means not eating.  What may be to the casual observer an insignificant symptom, anorexia is one of the most important and often only indications that your cat is not well.  Our feline companions are exceptionally good at hiding discomfort and illness, and only once they are feeling quite bad will they indicate their decline.  As a result, a cat that is anorexic (not eating or eating significantly less than its metabolic needs) is one that needs immediate veterinary attention.

The primary disease causing the inadequate calorie intake can initiate a cascade of metabolic events that affects the liver as well as protein and fat metabolism.  The feline liver is not designed to handle these changes, which can result in a condition called Hepatic Lipidosis, or fatty liver. In this condition, the liver becomes “clogged” with fat that it cannot handle and causes it to fail.  Feline Hepatic LipdosisThe original disease may be one easy to manage alone, however when compounded by anorexia, recovery may be negatively effected. Almost any illness or problem can lead to your cat’s poor appetite, including but not limited to pain, nausea, Diabetes, kidney disease and thyroid disease.  Nutritional support for these cats not only helps the pet to recover, but will “buy” time for a diagnosis to be made, especially in difficult cases.

If you think your cat’s appetite is poor, depending on your cat’s symptoms and status, a veterinarian can recommend several patient-specific nutritional strategies that the pet parent can try at home to encourage an anorexic cat to start eating.

Don’t wait for your cat’s appetite to completely disappear before seeking help from a veterinarian.

There are many things your veterinarian can do provide nutritional support, while causes of anorexia are investigated.  Medications to control nausea, appetite stimulants, syringe feeding and in the most severe cases, feeding tubes are used to aid in calorie intake.  It is imperative that your cat continue to have adequate nutrition to improve its outcome.  Feeding tubes may seem extreme, however they are relatively simple and cost effective to place and can be managed easily by owners at home if necessary.

As your veterinarian works to identify and treat the primary disease affecting your cat, with blood work, radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, etc., nutritional support will drastically improve the chances that your cat will have a positive outcome.

Dr. Jennifer Teitelbaum is the veterinarian owner of Mulberry Grove Animal Hospital, The Villages Florida Veterinarian. Dr. Teitelbaum lives with her husband and two children in Summerfield, along with two dogs and one cat.  She enjoys spending time with her kids and family, running and boating. - - Make a name for yourself in the digital world.

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