Archive for March, 2013


Tonight is the first night of the Easter Triduum:  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, which bring Lent to an end and begin the Easter Season.

Since I won’t be posting on Sunday, allow me this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Easter.



As for the pet-related content, remember that chocolate (especially dark chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder) and candies containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol are especially toxic to pets.

We have a Chocolate Toxicity Wheel provided by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, which assists the veterinarian in determining the relative risk of chocolate ingestion in dogs. But let’s be honest: it’s better if we never have to use it! Keep those Easter treats of out your pet’s reach.


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Annual Examinations Can Save Pet Owners from Racking Up Expensive Bills

Brea, Calif. (March 5, 2013) – Pet owners can save hundreds and even thousands of dollars on veterinary costs each year by taking pets to their veterinarian for routine examinations. Preventive care is one of the most important factors for pet owners to maintain their pet’s health, and has the added benefit of minimizing total expenses on veterinary care. Nose-to-tail wellness examinations are an excellent way of catching any potential – and likely expensive – problems early on. Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently sorted its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to determine costs associated with the most common preventive canine and feline conditions in 2012. Following is a cost analysis of the five most common ailments that can be avoided through preventive care:


Dental Diseases: 
Definition: Diseases caused by, or directly related to inflammation or infection of the gums or teeth due to overgrowth of bacteria. 

Examples: Tooth infection or cavity and periodontal disease. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $531.71 
Average cost per pet to prevent: $171.82 
Prevention tips: Routine dental care, such as brushing teeth or feeding pet foods designed to help reduce dental tartar, can result in improved overall health. The most effective preventive treatment for dental disease is a professional teeth cleaning which will remove plaque buildup and tartar before it leads to more serious oral issues, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.


Internal Parasites: 
Definition: A parasite is a plant or animal that lives within another living organism (called the host). Pets may acquire conditions caused directly by a parasite or the pet’s response to the parasite living within its body.
Examples: Round worms, tape worms and giardia.
Average cost per pet to treat: $179.93
Average cost per pet to prevent: $29.51
Prevention tips: Keep your pet and the environment free of fleas. Clean up your pet’s feces immediately, and eliminate exposure to the feces of other animals when your pet goes for a walk. As recommended by your veterinarian, annual fecal exams and preventive medications can greatly reduce the chance of a parasitic infestation.


External Parasites: 
Definition: A plant or animal that lives upon another living organism. Pets may acquire conditions caused directly by a parasite or the pet’s response to the parasite or its bite. Some conditions are the result of a toxin or organism (e.g. bacteria, virus, etc.) transmitted by the parasite which can cause an illness. 

Examples: Heartworms transmitted by mosquitoes, Lyme disease transmitted by ticks and flea allergic dermatitis. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $180.67 
Average cost per pet to prevent: $84.89 
Prevention tips: Keep your pet and the environment free of fleas and ticks. Thoroughly check your pets after outdoor activities and remove any ticks you find with a pair of tweezers. As recommended by your veterinarian, use preventive medications and vaccines to limit your pet’s exposure to fleas, ticks and the diseases they carry.


Infectious Diseases: 
Definition: Conditions transmitted via bite or contact with another animal which carries a transmittable or communicable disease (virus, bacteria, fungi, etc). Transmission of disease can occur in various ways including physical contact, contaminated food, body fluids, objects, airborne inhalation, or through biological vectors (any agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism). 

Examples: Parvovirus, Lyme disease and feline leukemia virus. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $678.24
Average cost per canine to prevent using core vaccines: $85.14 
Average cost per feline to prevent using core vaccines: $73.52 
Prevention tips: Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent contraction of common canine and feline infectious diseases. A vaccination protocol will be recommended by your veterinarian, which may include additional vaccines based on your pet’s exposure risk (e.g. outside cat, area with high prevalence of ticks, etc). Keep your pet and the environment free of fleas and ticks to limit exposure to organisms that external parasites carry. In addition, keep your pet away from any other animals that may be sick.


Reproductive Organ Diseases: 
Definition: A reproductive organ is any of the anatomical parts of a pet’s body which are involved in sexual reproduction. Pets may develop conditions caused by, or directly related to, the pet having intact reproductive organs. 

Examples: Pyometra (infection of uterus), prostatitis (infection or inflammation of prostate gland) and ovarian neoplasia. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $531.98 
Average cost per pet to prevent: $260.69 
Prevention tips: Spay (removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female pet) or neuter (removal of the testicles of a male pet) your pet, as recommended by your veterinarian.

“As the data above shows, regular pet preventive care can significantly lower potential costs,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Similar to ensuring that all members of the family see their doctor regularly for wellness visits, it’s just as important for pets. Taking preventive measures can avoid more serious and expensive medical conditions from arising down the road and helps keep our furry, four-legged family members on track for a long and healthy life.”

 Est. 1973


About Veterinary Pet Insurance

With more than 485,000 pets insured nationwide, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency (VPI) is a member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies and is the oldest and largest pet health insurance company in the United States. Since 1982, VPI has helped provide pet owners with peace of mind and is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers.

VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. CareGuard® coverage for routine care is available for an additional premium. Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, one in three Fortune 500 companies offers VPI Pet Insurance as an employee benefit. Policies are offered and administered by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and DVM Insurance Agency in all other states. Underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (CA), Brea, CA, an A.M. Best A rated company (2012); National Casualty Company (all other states), Madison, WI, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2012). Pet owners can find VPI Pet Insurance on Facebook or follow @VPI on Twitter. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

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(*Not suitable for dinner.)

…but I just can’t. Knowing what I know about the havoc Roundworms can wreak on pets and people, I have to say this little guy got what was coming to him.

Still…it’s messy.




Gird your loins, people.




Okay, laaaaaast warning!




Click to enlarge, if this size isn't gross enough for you.

YUCK!!! Click to enlarge, if this size isn’t gross enough for you.


Bleahhhh! The end of the worm has been chopped off and the guts are spilling out! Did you really need to see that???

Now look at these pictures of Roundworm eggs under magnification:


Click to enlarge. Roundworm egg photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic.

Click to enlarge. Roundworm eggs. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic.

Click to enlarge. Roundworm eggs photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic.

Awww…look how peaceful they are…completely unaware of the messy end that awaits them, should they have the misfortune to grow to adulthood. Which they won’t, because we wormed the bajingles out of this puppy.

Veterinarian – 1

Roundworms – 0.

As it should be.

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If you’ve explored every inch of the Norfolk Botanical Garden and the grounds of the Hermitage Museum, you may be ready for a new oasis in the city — the Weyanoke Bird and Wildflower Sanctuary.

Tucked behind grand old houses in Ghent and lovingly tended by the Cape Henry Audubon Society, Weyanoke is already blooming — and surprisingly green for so early in the year.

My sister and I strolled through the grounds this past weekend and went a little camera-crazy in the process. To my dismay, a large number of photos disappeared off my camera’s memory card – including pictures illustrating the lush green growth hidden in the center of the park.

Nevertheless, I did take home a few gems, like these:






And let’s not forget the animal inhabitants of the sanctuary, such as…

a sweet brown garter snake, enjoying the afternoon sun
P1060538 (2)

a puffed-up robin, staking out its territory

and another bird, doing its best to blend in with the branches.

Also worth seeing:
Tangled vines are Nature’s jungle gym.


Leave it to Mother Nature to invite some fungi to the party.



Some might say I’m a tree-hugger, but I think this guy has me beat.

And lest you forget you’re in the city, a Norfolk-Southern train rumbles by occasionally, to remind you.
All photos by Jennifer Miele, at Weyanoke Bird and Wildflower Sanctuary.

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Animal Friendly

Are you ready to change your license plate? You’re in luck! It’s been said that more Virginia drivers sport vanity plates on their vehicles than drivers in any other state.   

And it’s not just a matter of cleverly announcing one’s favorite sport in plate-speak (MLB 4ME). Virginians have also been blessed with activists who have engendered specialty plates for everything from bowling at home to camping in the mountains to celebrating one’s favorite branch of the military.

As a dedicated pet owner, you may be interested in plates that financially benefit animals or just raise awareness to a cause. Try these on your Smart Car:

Animal Friendly – benefits spay/neuter programs

Butterfly Heritage

Greyhound Adoption

Horse Enthusiast

Wildlife – Bluebird — supports programs of the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries

This post originally published on Feb. 25, 2011.

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Looks like we're in for stormy weather...

Looks like we’re in for stormy weather…

     Thunderstorms are serious business for people whose dogs panic during thunder and lightning.  A client once told us his dog crashed through a plate glass window in a frenzy during an electrical storm.  What can you do if your pet has a storm phobia?

Sedate him

     In extreme cases, a dog may need to be given a sedative as the storm is approaching, so the pet is less likely to cause harm to itself.  Sedatives are dispensed by the veterinarian after an examination to determine if the pet is healthy enough for medication.

Calm him naturally

     HomeoPet Storm Stress is a natural anti-anxiety product which does not cause sedation.  HomeoPet touts its product as safe and easy to use.  It is a liquid which can be administered in the food or directly into the mouth.

Swaddle him

     Perhaps the most intriguing idea I’ve found is the Storm Defender Cape.  The cape (indoor use only) reduces the pet’s sensitivity to the static charge which builds up in the air during electrical storms and heat lightning.  

     Another option is the Thundershirt, which uses “gentle, constant pressure to calm your dog.”

More Tips

     Dr. Patty Khuly has more advice for calming storm-phobic dogs (cuddle, crate, compete.)  She recommends the Storm Defender Cape, as well.  Click here to read more about helping your pet through scary weather.

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     You may have brought your “outdoor” cats in for the winter, but have you considered keeping the cats indoors year-round?

     IDEXX Laboratories reports that Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) “kill more cats than any other disease.” Cats that are allowed to roam outdoors are at risk of developing one or both of these non-curable diseases. Even indoor cats can be exposed if they have physical contact with cats allowed to go outdoors.

     Check this list to see if your cat is at risk for either FeLV or FIV:

  • it is allowed outside the house
  • it is a male cat
  • it fights with other cats
  • it has not been neutered
  • it has not been vaccinated for FeLV
  • it lives in a multi-cat household
  • it is an indoor cat, but has contact with an outdoor cat
  • it has a fever, weight loss, gingivitis, or other symptoms
  • it has an unknown or untested mother
  • it is from a cattery, pet store, or breeder

How do the viruses make cats sick? Both FeLV and FIV attack the cat’s immune system, so it is less able to fight off other diseases. Illnesses that would otherwise be controlled by a healthy immune system can instead be fatal to a cat infected with immune-suppressing disease.

How are FeLV and FIV spread? Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is often spread through contact with an infected cat’s saliva, such as through sharing food and water bowls, mutual grooming, or through a bite wound. It can also be spread through urine and feces deposited in the litter box.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) lives in the blood of the infected cat and is typically transmitted through bite or scratch wounds. That’s why cats that fight are at high risk for developing FIV.

Can people get Feline Leukemia or FIV? People are not known to be at risk for these diseases. So far, only cats have been affected.

What are symptoms of FeLV or FIV?

  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • poor coat condition
  • loss of appetite755px-Hannibal_Poenaru_-_Nasty_cat_!_(by-sa)
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • dehydration
  • mouth sores

Is there a test for FeLV or FIV? Yes, cats can be tested for both diseases. If the tests are negative, we recommend vaccinating against Leukemia and limiting your cat’s potential exposure to disease by keeping it indoors.

What if my cat tests “positive”? Since cats with FeLV and FIV have weakened immune systems, it is important to avoid opportunities for exposure to illness. Keep your cat indoors and on a healthy diet with plenty of fresh water available. Try to provide a stress-free environment. Schedule yearly check-ups with the veterinarian and practice early intervention if you see signs of illness. Keeping your cat indoors will also limit its ability to spread the disease. If you have other cats in the household, have them tested and vaccinated accordingly.

The good news about Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is that they are preventable diseases. You can control your cat’s exposure level by keeping it indoors and vaccinated. Remember, though, each time a new cat is introduced to the household, it has the potential of bringing an illness with it. Ask your veterinarian about testing and prevention.

Some information from this article was borrowed from IDEXX Laboratories’ publications.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image 1. Image 2.

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