VSSF Admin - Sunday, March 22, 2015

Whether you are planning to give your pet their own Easter basket, or they just decide to help themselves to one meant for someone else. It is important to be aware there are a few things in a typical Easter basket that can seriously harm our pets.


Hopefully you are aware of the dangers that chocolate poses to your pets, but be aware that its not the only sweet treat that can do them harm. Many sugar-free gums and candies now contain xylitol, a sugar substitute. Though it may be beneficial for people with diabetes and a high risk of cavities, is highly toxic to dogs.  Even a small amount of xylitol can cause a steep drop in your dog’s blood sugar, leading to seizures, and possible coma or death. At slightly higher doses, xylitol can put your dog into liver failure from which they are unlikely to recover, even with intensive veterinary care.

Easter Grass 

This common filler of Easter baskets is often too tempting a ‘toy’ for pets to stay away from, particularly cats. When ingested, Easter grass has a high likelihood of causing irritation or obstruction of your pet’s intestines. Such digestive problems will likely result in a decrease in energy level and appetite, as well as vomiting and diarrhea. And while the irritation may resolve with at-home care, it just might require several days in the vet hospital too. An obstruction on the other hand, could require surgery to correct. 


Whether chocolate, plastic, or real, the eggs found in Easter baskets can cause a variety of problems for your pets. While the dangers of chocolate are well known, the dangers of plastic and real eggs may be less obvious. Plastic eggs can cause digestive and respiratory tract irritation or obstruction when swallowed or inhaled.

Broken pieces of these eggs can also lead to cuts on your pet’s paws and in their mouth. Hard boiled eggs often cause digestive issues when dogs sniff out and eat the eggs leftover from the egg hunt. For your pet’s safety, and your kid’s entertainment, consider writing down where you hid all the eggs, and then be sure they have all been collected before leaving your pet unattended.


We have mentioned this above and this is typically more of a dog hazard, as many dogs have a sweet tooth, a great nose, and the determination to find chocolate hidden or not, but cats may consume chocolate too.

The toxic components in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine, and the level of toxicity is based on the type and quantity of chocolate consumed. 

Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine and caffeine. Dark chocolate contains the highest concentrations and white chocolate contains the least. Early clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea and trembling

Easter is a great time to spend with family and friends. Make sure all of your guest are aware of these hazards to your furry loved ones, especially young children. If your pet does get into any of these please contact your veterinarian or pet poison control. 

Never Leave Your Pet in a Parked Car

VSSF Admin - Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring is in the air and our temperatures are now on the rise. Unfortunately every year dogs suffer and die when their guardian makes the mistake of leaving them in a parked car.  Even if it's just for a few minutes while running an errand this is not acceptable. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked is not the solution. 

Parked cars are death traps! On a day where the temperatures are 78 degrees, the temperature in a parked car can soar between 100  and 120 degrees in minutes. On a 90 degrees day the temp can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. During the 10-15 minutes it takes you to run in the store to pick up a few items for your evening dinner your dog is out in the car suffering. He or she can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in 15 minutes.

Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.

If you ever see a pet  alone in a car, call authorities immediately. Make sure you write down tag number make and model of the car. Get witnesses from nearby bystanders. Send one of them in nearby building to have owner paged. If you believe the pet is in imminent danger take steps to remove the suffering animal for the car if it is taking to long for authorities to arrive. Again having a witness with you while doing this is important.

Symptoms of heatstroke are restlessness, thick saliva, heavy panting, dark tongue and rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea and lack of coordination. If the dog is showing any of these signs get him or her out of the heat and into a air conditioned car and to the vet immediately. If you can't transport immediately again get pet out of heat, provide water, spray down or pat dog down with cool water to chest and pads. Do not use ice water. Call someone to get you to the vet as soon as possible.

So next time you think you will give your furry loved one a treat and let him or her go for a ride in the car while you run a few errands re think your decision by leaving them at home where it's nice and cool!

Day Light Savings And Our Pets

VSSF Admin - Saturday, March 07, 2015

This Sunday morning there will be many blurry eyes and tired faces. The clocks will be moved one hour ahead for Daylight Savings Time. Does this affect our pets?

There is no science to prove that dogs and cats can tell time. Any pet owner will disagree with that! Pets are creatures of habit. They know when it's time for breakfast, dinner and other events.

They don't realize time has changed, they are still running on their time. Just as with us there will be some transition. It's more of an issue when the clock goes back and food time is an hour later.

So don't be surprised if early in the morning they look at you as if to say,  HEY I still have some snooze time here. Or you come home from work you open the door to find your furry loved one laying on the couch, or doing something he's not supposed to be doing. You get that surprised look of...OMG your not supposed to be home yet! Again they are creatures of habit, be patient they will adjust to the new routine and all will be good...then the clock slips back and now they are up an hour early! 

Pericardial Disease

VSSF Admin - Sunday, March 01, 2015
Pericardial Disease
Nick Schroeder, DVM DACVIM (cardiology)

The heart is held in place within the chest cavity by a sac that is called the pericardium. When patients have pericardial disease, fluid commonly accumulates within the pericardial sac. This fluid is referred to as pericardial effusion. When too much fluid accumulates around the heart, the increased pressure makes it difficult for the right side of the heart to fill with blood. If this occurs suddenly, it typically leads to weakness, collapse, difficulty breathing, or fainting (syncope). If this occurs over a period of days to weeks, then this leads to chronic, increased pressure in the systemic veins in the body, which may cause congestion of the abdominal organs (liver, spleen, intestines, etc.), and secondary fluid accumulations. Fluid may accumulate in the abdomen, and this is termed abdominal effusion (ascites). Fluid may also accumulate in the chest cavity outside of the pericardial sac and lungs. This is termed pleural effusion. Occasionally fluid may build up in the subcutaneous tissues (under the skin), leading to swelling and puffiness. This is termed subcutaneous or “pitting” edema.

Patients with too much pericardial effusion may require a therapeutic procedure to manually remove the fluid from around the heart. This is called a pericardiocentesis (pericardial “tap”). This is a moderately invasive procedure that involves the temporary placement of a catheter into the pericardial space with which the fluid is drained off with a syringe. We recommend that patients that have had a pericardiocentesis to be monitored in the hospital for a minimum of 24 hours on telemetry (continuous EKG) monitoring.

There are three main causes of pericardial effusion in dogs. The most common cause is hemorrhage from a mass on the heart itself. Masses on the right atrium/auricle of the heart most commonly turn out to be a serious type of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. Masses at the heart base are commonly a neuroendocrine tumor known as a chemodectoma. Most hemangiosarcomas result in bleeding into the pericardial space (hemopericardium), and the fluid removed is bloody. Heart-based masses may cause intrapericardial bleeding or cause fluid accumulation that is not bloody. Pericardial effusion may develop secondary to heart disease. Dogs may occasionally develop fluid accumulation within the pericardial space secondary to congestive heart failure. Rarely, dogs may have bleeding into the pericardial space secondary to rupture of a heart chamber from severe underlying heart disease. This is most commonly a rupture of the left atrium, and is secondary to severe, chronic mitral valvular disease. Dogs may occasionally develop pericardial effusion (typically hemorrhage) for unknown reasons, and this is referred to as idiopathic pericardial effusion. The prognosis for pericardial effusion varies with the underlying cause.

Diagnosis of pericardial effusion is made most effectively with echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart). This generally allows us to not only diagnose the presence of pericardial effusion, but also determine the underlying cause as well as guide therapy.

Recurrent pericardial effusion may sometimes be palliated by a procedure to remove all or a portion of the pericardial sac. This is a surgical procedure called a pericardectomy. This may be done thorascopically or by a procedure to open the chest between the ribs (thoracotomy) or splitting the sternum (median sternotomy). Typically only a portion of the pericardial sac may be removed via thoracoscopy or thoracotomy (subtotal pericardectomy), whereas the majority of the pericardial sac may be removed via sternotomy. The pros/cons of each procedure must be evaluated in light of the patient’s underlying problems, and consultation with a veterinary surgeon is recommended.

Gastric dilatation-volvulus...Bloat

VSSF Admin - Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What is bloat?

Saint BernardGastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is also known as "bloat," "stomach torsion," or "twisted stomach." Bloat is an extremely serious condition, and should be considered a life-threatening emergency when it occurs. There are no home remedies for bloat, therefore dog owners must contact their veterinarians immediately if they suspect that their dog has bloat. Dogs can die of bloat within several hours. Even with treatment, as many as 25-33% of dogs with GDV die.

The gastric dilatation is one part of the condition and the volvulus ortorsion is the second part. In bloat (dilatation), due to a number of different and sometimes unknown reasons, the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach also compresses large veins in the abdomen, thus preventing blood from returning to the heart. Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, thus pinching off its blood supply. Once this rotation (volvulus) occurs and the blood supply is cut off, the stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted and the animal's condition begins to deteriorate very rapidly.

Not all dogs that have a gas buildup and resultant dilatation develop the more serious and life threatening volvulus. However, almost all dogs that have a volvulus develop it as a result of a dilatation.

Bloat is a very serious and life threatening condition. Understanding the signs, prevention, and need for prompt treatment will help reduce the risk of mortality if your dog develops this problem.

What dogs are more susceptible?


There is a definite link between the likelihood of occurrence of GDV and the breed and build of the dog. GDV is much more likely to occur in large breeds with deep, narrow chests. The problem can occur in small dogs, but only rarely. The University of Purdue conducted a study of hundreds of dogs that had developed GDV, and they calculated a ratio of likelihood of a particular breed developing the problem as compared to a mixed breed dog. For example, using the GDV risk ratio, a Great Dane is 41.4 times more likely to develop GDV than a mixed breed dog.

Breed GDV Risk Ratio Risk Rank

Great Dane



Saint Bernard






Irish Setter



Gordon Setter



Standard Poodle



Basset Hound



Doberman Pinscher



Old English Sheepdog



German Shorthaired Pointer






German Shepherd



Airedale Terrier



Alaskan Malamute



Chesapeake Bay Retriever









Labrador Retriever



English Springer Spaniel









Golden Retriever









Miniature Poodle




In addition to breed predilection, there appears to be a genetic link to this disease. The incidence is closely correlated to the depth and width of the dog's chest. Several different genes from the parents determine these traits. If both parents have particularly deep and narrow chests, then it is highly likely that their offspring will have deep and narrow chests and the resulting problems that may go with it. This is why in particular breeds we see a higher incidence in certain lines, most likely because of that line's particular chest conformation.


Dogs over 7 years of age are more than twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as those who are 2-4 years of age.


Male dogs are twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as females. Neutering does not appear to have an effect on the risk of bloat.

Eating habits

Dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to develop GDV as those fed twice a day. It appears that dogs who eat rapidly or exercise soon after a meal may also be at increased risk.


Dogs that tend to be more nervous, anxious, or fearful appear to be at an increased risk of developing bloat.

What causes gastric dilatation and volvulus?

There is no one particular activity that leads to the development of GDV. It appears that it occurs as a combination of events. Studies of the stomach gas that occurs in dilatation have shown that it is similar to the composition of normal room air suggesting that the dilatation occurs as a result of swallowing air. All dogs, and people for that matter, swallow air, but normally we eructate (burp) and release this air and it is not a problem. For some reason that scientists have not yet determined, these dogs that develop bloat do not release this swallowed gas. There are currently several studies looking into what happens physiologically in these dogs that develop GDV.

What are the signs?

The most obvious signs are abdominal distention (swollen belly) and nonproductive vomiting (animal appears to be vomiting, but nothing comes up) and retching. Other signs include restlessness, abdominal pain, and rapid shallow breathing. Profuse salivation may indicate severe pain. If the dog's condition continues to deteriorate, especially if volvulus has occurred, the dog may go into shock and become pale, have a weak pulse, a rapid heart rate, and eventually collapse. A dog with gastric dilatation without volvulus can show all of these signs, but the more severe signs are likely to occur in dogs with both dilatation and volvulus.

How is gastric dilatation and volvulus treated?

When the dog is presented to the hospital his condition is assessed. Blood samples are generally taken and tested to help determine the dog's status. Usually the animal is in shock, or predisposed to it, so intravenous catheters are placed and fluids are administered. Antibiotics and pain relievers may be given.

The air in the stomach is removed either by passing a stomach tube or inserting a large needle into the stomach and releasing the gas. After the animal is stabilized, x-rays are taken to help determine whether or not a volvulus is present.

Some dogs with GDV develop a bleeding disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which small clots start to develop within the dog's blood vessels. To prevent or treat this condition, heparin, an anticoagulant, may be given.

The heart rate and rhythm are closely monitored. Some dogs with GDV develop heartarrhythmias, and this is a common cause of death in dogs with GDV. Dogs that already have a heart disease or are prone to heart arrythmias are generally treated with appropriate medications.

Once the dog is stabilized, abdominal surgery is usually indicated to accomplish three things:

  • Assess the health of the stomach and surrounding organs. If areas of the stomach or spleen have been irreversibly damaged, they are removed. In such a case, the chances for recovery are very poor, and euthanasia may be an alternative.

  • Properly reposition the stomach

  • Suture the stomach in a way to prevent it from twisting again (a procedure called gastropexy). If gastropexy is not performed, 75-80% of dogs will develop GDV again.

After surgery, the dog is closely monitored for several days for signs of infection, heart abnormalities, DIC, stomach ulceration or perforation, and damage to the pancreas or liver. Antibiotics and additional medications may need to be given.

How is gastric dilatation and volvulus prevented?

Despite adopting all of the recommendations listed below, a dog may still develop GDV. Because of the genetic link involved with this disease, prospective pet owners should question if there is a history of GDV in the lineage of any puppy that is from a breed listed as high risk. In addition, the following recommendations should be followed:

  • Owners of susceptible breeds should be aware of the early signs of bloat and contact their veteriarian as soon as possible if GDV is suspected.

  • Owners of susceptible breeds should develop a good working relationship with a local veterinarian in case emergency care is needed.

  • Large dogs should be fed two or three times daily, rather than once a day.

  • Water should be available at all times, but should be limited immediately after feeding.

  • Vigorous exercise, excitement, and stress should be avoided one hour before and two hours after meals.

  • Diet changes should be made gradually over a period of three to five days.

  • Susceptible dogs should be fed individually and, if possible in a quiet location.

  • Some studies suggest that dogs who are susceptible to bloat should not be fed with elevated feeders; other studies have not found this to be true. It is recommended, however, that dogs at increased risk be fed at floor level.

  • Some studies have associated food particle size, fat content, moistening of foods containing citric acid, and other factors with bloat. At this time, no cause-and-result relationships between these factors and bloat have been verified.

  • Dogs that have survived bloat are at an increased risk for future episodes; therefore prevention in the form of preventive surgery or medical management should be discussed with the veterinarian.


Bloat is a life threatening condition that most commonly affects large-breed, deep-chested dogs over two years of age. Owners of susceptible breeds should be knowledgeable about the signs of the disease, since early and prompt treatment can greatly improve the outcome. By following the preventive measures recommended, pet owners can further reduce the likelihood of their pet developing this devastating condition.


Brrrrr....it' cold outside!

VSSF Admin - Wednesday, February 18, 2015

 The following guidelines will help you keep your companion animals safe when the mercury dips.

While the SPCA encourages pet owners to keep their cats and dogs inside at all times for their safety and health, if you or anyone you know has an outdoor pet, ensure they are brought inside during cold nights.

  • If you are one of the many in the area who care for feral and/or barn cats, be sure to provide plenty of straw. It traps the heat from the animals’ bodies and keeps them insulated and warm in the cold weather.
  • During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, check under and/or bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
  • More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.
  • Do not shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When bathing your dog in the colder months, be sure he or she is completely dry before going for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is everyday winter wear.
  • Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
  • Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the cold, you may opt to paper-train him indoors. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
  • Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase her supply of food, particularly protein, to keep her, and her fur, in tip-top shape.
  • Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the Pet Poison Helpline more information.
  • Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Pet

VSSF Admin - Saturday, February 14, 2015
One of the most difficult decisions pet owners have to make is choosing to put down a pet. Ideally, need for this decision doesn’t come until after many years of fun and love between you and your dog or cat. If you’re lucky, Fifi or Fido goes quickly and without a prolonged illness, taking the need for the decision out of your hands. But usually, that is not how it happens.

This is not a decision to take lightly. If your pet is young and mostly healthy and an ailment is treatable, of course you wouldn’t choose to euthanize. However, if your pet develops an illness that a vet can’t cure and that interferes seriously with the animal’s quality of life, it may be the only right decision. But how do you really know?

Most veterinarians will not directly advise euthanasia, as they don’t want to be the ones making the decision for the pet owners. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan while your pet is still healthy so that you aren’t going into the decision last-minute while in the early stages of grief.
Some questions to consider and some to ask your vet:
  • What is the prognosis?
  • How will this condition affect the animal’s quality of life?
  • What treatments are available and how will they affect the animal’s quality of life?
  • How much pain is the animal in right now?
  • Is the animal eating and drinking?
  • Is your pet still playful?
  • How old is your pet?
Sometimes even with treatable ailments, it may not be best to prolong your pet’s life. If your pet is elderly and has cancer, is it in your pet’s best interest to go through chemotherapy, which comes with its own unpleasant side effects? That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to immediately make the decision to euthanize. If your pet is still feeling well and not displaying signs of distress, it’s OK to take him home and let him enjoy his time for as long as possible.

If you do decide it’s time to euthanize, the procedure is relatively simple. You can usually stay in the room with your pet, which many people find comforting. The vet will administer by needle into a vein sodium pentobarbital, which fist causes unconsciousness and then stops the animal’s heart. It is both quick and painless. Your vet will listen for a heartbeat to confirm that the animal has passed and will let you know when it’s finished.

There are several options for disposing of the body. If you have a place for burial, perhaps beneath a favored tree in your yard, you can take your animals’ body home and bury him. Otherwise, veterinarians offer cremation services and if you choose, they will inter the remains in a box and you can keep it as long as you wish or scatter the ashes. A third option is to allow the veterinarian or a service he contracts with the dispose of the remains for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 09, 2015










What is Head Pressing and Why Worry?

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 02, 2015
Unfortunately, our pets don’t have the language to tell us when something doesn’t feel right. But their health can fail in myriad ways and there is almost always a change in behavior that can clue a pet-owner in to there being something wrong. One such signal, an important one, is called “head pressing.”

Head pressing happens with both dogs and cats and involves the animal pressing the top of its head against a hard surface. If you see your pet doing this, call your vet immediately.

There are several health issues head pressing might indicate. They include anything from a neurological disorder to liver damage. It can even indicate a rabies infection or some kid of parasite.

If the problem is your pet’s liver – called a liver shunt – the behavior is due to toxins building up in the body because the infected organ can no longer filter them safely out of the animal’s system. This condition is usually genetic and hereditary. If it’s neurological, it could be a brain tumor or a stroke or even the result of head trauma. Encephalitis and meningoencephalitis are also common causes.

Some of the causes are unavoidable, but keeping your pet up-to-date on vaccines and well visits can help prevent rabies and parasite infestations. Treatment and prognosis depend on the cause of the head pressing, but seeking treatment as soon as possible will increase your pet’s recovery chances.

Keep in mind that head pressing is not the same as when cats rub their heads and faces against surfaces to mark territory or when dogs or cats rub their heads up against people and other animals affectionately – head butting. It is the prolonged pressing of the head against a stationary, hard surface.
Other symptoms are
  • Seizures.
  • Pushing the head into the ground.
  • Problems with vision.
  • Pacing and walking in circles.
  • Problems with reflexes.
  • Getting stuck in corners.
  • Staring at walls.

Cats Communicate in Many Ways

VSSF Admin - Monday, January 26, 2015

Cats often have a reputation for being solitary and self-absorbed. Many people think cats don’t bond with their humans or that they don’t need or want any kind of social interaction. Those who really “know” cats, though, know differently. Cats, beneath their stoic demeanor, are full of emotion and they convey that to others – cats, humans, dogs, etc., – in varied ways. Understanding them can be an art, but there are a few things all cats do that have specific meaning:

  • Purring – Most think the cat’s purr in a sign of happiness and often it is. But the purr has many meanings. A cat purrs when it feels strong emotion. This can include love, contentment, pain or extreme stress.
  • Meowing – Kittens meow at their mothers, but as cats grow, they tend to save this particular form of communication for their human companions. The meow can mean many things and is a way of garnering attention. Cats meow when they want something – food, petting or for you to open the door and let them outside. Some meows, usually lower in tone and seeming to come from the back of that cat’s throat, are a warning sign that Kitty isn’t happy and might attack if you don’t stop doing whatever it is that bothers her. The meow can also indicate stress or loneliness.
  • Ears – Cats can’t change their general facial expression the way humans and dogs can. There is speculation that this is one of the reasons for their above-mentioned reputation, since humans read facial expressions to judge other creatures’ moods. But cats can do a lot with their ears. A laid-back ear is a sure sign that your cat is angry or afraid and you should probably leave him alone – or at least investigate a possible problem if the cat is reacting to something you can’t see. Perked up ears mean Kitty has heard something interesting that she might want to investigate herself. Perhaps there’s a smaller creature that needs hunting somewhere or someone to play with. A nervous cat will flatten his ears to the side while an annoyed cat will flick her ears.
  • Tails – Just like dogs, a cat’s tail is full of expression. A tail held high and straight in the air is Kitty’s greeting and a sign that he might want some petting. This is especially true if the end of the tail tips over a bit. A relaxed cat might gently move his tail back and forth, but if that tail begins flicking quickly, you know your cat isn’t happy at the moment. If you’re petting him, it’s best to stop to avoid injury.

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