Archive for the ‘About pets’ Category

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

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.

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.

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.

Home Dog Boarding Site Joins with VetLIVE

November 7th, 2012

We Are Pleased to Announce That Home Dog Boarding Site Partners With VetLIVE and are partners

Planning a trip without your dog can often be stressful, but with, making arrangements just became easier. provides a unique alternative to traditional kennels by allowing your dog to stay in a loving home with someone just like you. Since 2011 the Rover community has expanded to thousands of cities across the U.S., and with more than 70,000 members it makes finding the perfect dog sitter a snap.

As a dog-care industry leader, was founded on the commitment to provide peace of mind for owners, and safety for dogs. Unlike caged kennel facilities, allows sitters to care for dogs in their own home as well as the dog’s home; wherever the dog will be most comfortable!

“Cages can’t cuddle. We believe people feel much more at ease knowing that their dogs are receiving real love, in real homes when they are away” explains Aaron Easterly, CEO at “A significant goal of is to give pet owners true peace of mind while their dog is under the care of one of our member-sitters.”

In-home dog care has many benefits for the dog. The stress of a new environment such as a kennel can be very overwhelming for a dog in addition to any separation anxiety they may be experiencing. The most important benefit of in-home boarding is the dogs safety, happiness and parent’s peace of mind.

Home Dog Boarding

Boarding kennels can be very busy which may be distracting to caretakers at the facility. The caretaker may not have the appropriate time to spend with each dog to address its needs, provide the exercise it needs and make sure it is as comfortable as possible. While your dog is with an in-home sitter, they are are treated like the sitter’s own dog in an environment they are completely familiar with. To ease any worries an owner may have, has an insurance and satisfaction guarantee. “We have a community of sitters who love dogs and are committed to the health, safety and well-being of those in their care, so our insurance option just enables us to meet their goal and ours,” says Easterly. A new added bonus is our new partnership which gives members access to 24/7 vet support. helps their members create bark-worthy profiles by encouraging them to include photos, credentials, past and current experience, home details and other relevant information. Badges on sitter profiles indicate certifications such as CPR and First Aid. Profiles allow pet owners to learn about their potential sitter and to help them feel at ease about the person they are contacting. makes offering your pet sitting services easy and simple. Being a sitter is a great way to earn money while doing something you love – caring for dogs!

Perhaps the best part about being a Rover sitter is the opportunity to help the dog community through’s Sit a Dog, Save a LifeTM program, which enables sitters to donate a portion of their dog-sitting proceeds to participating charities. encourages a meet-n-greet with the sitter before the stay, so dogs and owners feel comfortable with the choice. Before the stay, owners receive an itinerary with important information such as feeding instructions and Veterinary care details. During the time of care, sitters and owners can take advantage of the Rover mobile app to check-in, share photos and log activities like walks or trips to the park.

We are beyond thrilled for our new partnership with and hope you utilize their services the next time you travel without your pet! Check out for more information.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Dr. Laci Schaible

Ask a vet for advice on choosing a pet

May 18th, 2012
online vetPart 2, by Online Vet Dr. Laci

Trying to answer the question, “What breed is best for my home and family?”

Okay, you’ve decided if you are going to go dog or cat, but the the next decision is a bit more difficult. Whether it is important to you to go with a purebred or a mixed breed is something you should spend a lot of time deciding. By selecting a mixed breed from a pound or a purebred from a breed-specific rescue agency, an abandoned animal will be re-homed so this is really something to consider. You will be changing the world for this pet! Also, with a mixed breed, some of the genetic problems associated with inbreeding can be avoided and the initial cost to acquire the pet will be considerably lower by sticking with a mixed breed.

If you are set upon a certain breed, the best way to predict the attitude and physical attributes of an adult pet is to do your research about their parentage–and don’t cut corners. Unless you know the parents, it is merely a guessing game trying to predict the size, health, or behaviors the pet will develop as they grow up. It sort of defeats the point of getting a purebred in the first place and you might as well adopt or rescue. In contrast, selecting an adult, something that often not considered, whether rescue or purebreed, allows you to actually see their physical characteristics, health and behavior of the animal. You also skip many frustrating steps of puppyhood when you adopt an adult. Read the rest of this entry »

How to toilet train your cat, part 2

February 29th, 2012
The Online Vets‘ quest towards a litter-free existence, continued from part 1

toilet train a cat, online vetAfter several days on step 2, which is a solid red bowl that fits inside fake white toilet frame, meaning no access or view of the sparkling toilet water below, we were pretty confident. We have the smartest kittens in the world, after all. I mean Rigby does tricks, she sits, she fetches, and sweet little Mackenzie, well, she just never could do anything wrong and the fact that she somehow convinced Rigby to listen to her without so much as a hiss is proof of her intelligence. Such a sweetie pie.

Anyways, we had the veterinarians’ meeting of the minds conversation where we discuss their future as if we deciding which school to send actual human children to, and we decided our girls are ready for the next step.

Step 3 is the orange bowl, and in the middle of the orange insert, there is a rather large hole. As you go through the steps, you essentially trick the cat into just peeing in the toilet while perched on the rim of the toilet seat. You slowly take away the litter tray and hope they are so used to the toilet, that they accept it and you say cianarra to cat litter–and more importantly, changing it–forever.

And we decided it was time to move onto step 3. Our brilliant kitten minds could handle it! Read the rest of this entry »

Ask a vet about risks of surgery in pets

January 31st, 2012

ask a vet a questionOnline vet reviews a rare complication from anesthesia that is no fault of the veterinarian’s, just a risk

Real question from pet parent to VetLIVE’s veterinarians:
My 8 yr, 10 mo old FS boxer went deaf after having an MRI on her brain. Could the MRI or the Anesthesia have caused this. She was given the following drugs during the MRI: Diazepam, Glycopyrrolate, Hydromorphone, Isoflurane, Naloxone, Propofol. Is there anything we can do to reverse this hearing loss?

Dear Terry,

I am very sorry to hear about the sudden deafness of your dog.

I have looked into some veterinary databases for you, and there is nothing reported connecting acute deafness with an MRI of the drugs you listed. The adverse side effects include CNS depression, coma, respiratory depression (these are all either very rare or as the result of an overdose), but there is nothing on deafness.

But, I was surprised to learn myself that general anesthesia itself may cause deafness in both ears from unknown causes. In rare cases, animals awaken from anesthesia deaf in both ears, often following ear cleaning or teeth cleaning. It may be the case that Read the rest of this entry »

What to get your vet for the holidays? An online vet review!

December 19th, 2011

online vet reviews, ask a vet, what to give your vet for christmasPerhaps it has never crossed your mind to get your vet something for the holidays, but there are a number of pet parents that do shower our clinics with tokens of appreciation. (Thanks guys!  You are in the minority and are appreciated!)

It is almost always in the form of desserts. Cookies, brownies, homemade candy…our lunch room overfloweth with endless calories that most of us really don’t need.

Instead, this year if you would like to share the holiday spirit with your vet and their staff, I would encourage you to give something of lasting value that also happens to be free—a positive online vet review.

It’s no secret that angry people are far more likely to go the trouble of ranting online with negative reviews than satisfied customers.  It is no different in the veterinary world.

As a veterinarian, I have received many handwritten cards, letters, and thank you notes from clients over the years; I cherrish and keep every single one. They warm my heart and remind me of why I am in the veterinary profession, which all the thankless irresponsible pet parents our there do a pretty damn good job of sometimes making me forget.

But I am the only one who sees them! Read the rest of this entry »

Kittens and Toilets: Can they really coexist to make the perfect pet?

December 17th, 2011

Ask a vet: Online vets review their first hand trials and tribulations with the litter kwitter

toilet training cats, vet storiesThis is not a product review, a recommendation or endorsement, and I have been in no contacted by or in contact with Litter Kwitter.  This is just intended to distract you from your life, desk job, boring partner, etc. for a few moments and share with you the comical adventures of two vets doing their damnedest to toilet train their precious and perfect kittens.

Several months ago while Dr. Jed and I were browsing the aisles of PetSmart, a curious item caught our eye. The Litter Kwitter.

We had watched the episode of Shark Tank where the woman presented her toilet litter contraption to the panel of investors and we had taken note. We had even heard from a few clients that had trained their cats (yes cats, not even young impressionable kittens) to successfully use the toilet!

Note to those considering this feat at home: cleaning this litter box is messier than your typical one. I don’t know why, I think it has something to do with how shallow it is, but it is messy, and there is lots of daily wiping and scrubbing. Not for those with a weak stomach, *insert cough saying Dr. Jed*

Dr. Jed and I looked at each other, back at the colorful box, and in our shopping cart it went.

The instructions say that you can start toilet training them as early as 3 months, as they may be big enough to squat on a toilet at this point, but we didn’t want to traumatize the poor little tykes with an accidental dunk in the old porcelain throne if their kitten coordination and balance still left something to be desired. Read the rest of this entry »