Euthanasia- the conversation no one wants to have….

VSSF Admin - Saturday, November 21, 2015

For all animal lovers, euthanasia is a difficult decision to make and perhaps the hardest thing they will ever have to do.  It is when we have to humanely say goodbye to our furry best friend, our family member.  The number one question I always get is, “When will I know it is time?”  Unless medically a veterinarian can determine a pet is suffering and can tell a family that, euthanasia is a decision a family needs to make. I try to get families to either write down or think about all of the things that are important to their pet:  what makes them happy, what makes them wag their tail or purr, what do they like for treats and are they eating, do they like to go on walks and are they still going out with you, or are they hiding?  Etc.  This is important to do especially when we are considering quality of life.  A big difference between veterinary medicine and human medicine (right now) is that we don’t have to watch our furry loved ones suffer.  They don’t know what is going on, they don’t know why they don’t feel well and we can prevent them from suffering, wasting away or living in pain. 

 The second question I typically get is, “Is euthanasia painful?”  The answer is no.  A catheter is placed in your loved ones little arm and here at VSSF, they are administered 2 injections- one is Propofol for sedation and the second is Euthasol for humane euthanasia.  Some pets require an additional sedative.  Typically, the process of euthanasia takes less than one minute.  Afterwards, the doctor listens with their stethoscope for no heartbeat and lets your know when your pet is at peace.  Some families decide to be present during the euthanasia process and others decide not to be, whether it is because it’s too difficult to watch or they want to remember their loving face alive.  Regardless of your choice, here at VSSF we respect your decision.  If you decide not to be with your pet during the euthanasia, it is our promise to you that your pet will get extra love during the process like they are our own pet. 

As you know, VSSF is open 24/7, that means that a doctor is here 24/7 if you need our help or support. 

NOTE:  A veterinarian can say no to performing a euthanasia if they don’t feel it is time for an animal or they don’t believe they are suffering (i.e. if you’re moving and can’t bring your pet, they’re young and healthy and NOT vicious, if you don’t have time to train them, etc)- we can provide options for rescue groups though, recommendations for training or shelters so they can be adopted out into another family. 



Stacey West, DVM

Emergency Veterinarian

Veterinary Specialists of South Florida 

Chocolate Toxicity

VSSF Admin - Sunday, November 01, 2015

With the start of the holiday season coming up, there tends to be an increase in visits to local emergency clinics as pets begin to get into Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinners, and holiday chocolate and presents.  While there are many human foods that are safe for dogs, such as carrots and cooked green beans, before you decide to share your holiday bounty with your beloved pet, be prepared to think twice about foods that can be toxic to pets that have no negative effects in humans. 

One of these common foods is chocolate.  Toxicity secondary to chocolate ingestion occurs most frequently in dogs, though other species are also susceptible.  The clinical signs seen will vary with each pet based on the size of the pet, type of chocolate ingested, amount of chocolate ingested, and pet’s individual sensitivity to the toxins.  As a general rule, the higher the amount of chocolate ingested and darker the type of chocolate ingested will account for more severe clinical signs and worse overall prognosis. 

So why does chocolate cause problems for pets?  There are two main ingredients that cause toxicity, caffeine and theobromine.  These chemicals (often known as methylxanthines) are readily absorbed from the GI tract and widely distributed throughout the body.  They are metabolized in the liver and will undergo what is termed enterohepatic recycling, meaning a large portion of the chemical will continue to recirculate throughout the body rather than being excreted.  The amount that is excreted is done so through the kidneys and the chemicals will then accumulate in the urine that sits in the bladder.  In the bladder the chemicals can again be reabsorbed into circulation through the bladder wall causing continued toxicity.  It can take 18 hours for half of the concentration of theobromine to be removed from the body and 5 hours for half of the concentration of caffeine.  This delay in excretion and toxin recirculation accounts for lack of improvement and possible progression of clinical signs when no treatment is instituted.

What type of clinical signs are to be expected from these two chemicals?  Typically the first clinical signs following chocolate ingestion are GI signs of vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, and restlessness.  These signs typically occur within the first 6 to 12 hours of ingestion.  Further signs indicating a more serious toxicity include very fast or slow heart rates, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), difficulty breathing, very high or very low blood pressures, high body temperature, tremoring, seizures, coma and even death.  Often the severity of clinical signs that can be expected can be predicted based on the type and amount of chocolate that was ingested.  By contacting your local veterinarian or poison control hotline, the severity of the toxicity can be quickly determined.

Why is treatment important?  Many times on presentation to a veterinarian, vomiting can be induced causing the removal of a large portion of the chocolate ingested, which can ultimately lead to lesser clinical signs and a better prognosis.  Hospitalization with treatment to help stop and/or decrease further absorption of the chocolate from the GI tract is instituted, as well as treatment to help reduce recirculation of the toxins and increase their excretion.  Pets are monitored for life-threatening arrhythmias, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature abnormalities, and can be further treated for any additional complications such as vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rates and tremoring/seizure activity.  Typically hospitalization lasts about 24-48 hours unless serious complications arise.  Most animals do not have any permanent or additional complications arise from chocolate toxicity following treatment; however, some pets can develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) that can cause them to have further GI signs and abdominal pain, requiring additional treatment.  Pets usually go home on a few days of GI supportive medications.

In summary, chocolate ingestion in pets can cause multiple clinical problems, which are typically based on the amount and type of chocolate ingested, with baking and dark chocolate being the most toxic.  Overall, while chocolate toxicity in pets can be extremely serious and life-threatening, those pets that receive prompt evaluation and treatment will fully recover and go home to their families in no time!


Tea Gluhak, DVM

Chronic Kidney Disease In Cats

VSSF Admin - Thursday, October 22, 2015

“Chronic Kidney Failure” is the term given to the condition wherein the kidneys begin to fail to remove the body’s waste products from the blood.  Kidney failure does not necessarily mean urine excretion ceases.  Kidney failure takes two clinical forms:

  1. Urine production is continued, but does not contain the filtered waste products.  Often urine production is actually increased.
  2. Urine production is decreased or is totally absent.

Kidney failure may occur from exposure to various chemicals or infectious agents, but the primary cause of CHRONIC kidney failure is the process of aging.  The kidneys just wear out!  For most cats, the early signs of impending kidney failure occur at 10-14 years of age.

Early signs of chronic kidney failure include increased water consumption and increased urine production.  When aging decreases the ability of the kidneys to filter the blood efficiently and effectively, the cat’s body responds by increasing blood flow to the kidneys.  More blood flow means more potential exposure of the blood to the kidneys for filtration.  This results in the production of more urine, but not necessarily filled with any more waste products.  Thirst usually increases as the body’s way of replacing the additional urine being drained from the body.  As the kidneys become more ineffective at removing the waste products from the body, clinical signs of decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and bad breath become evident.  In the late stages, mouth ulcers are commonly present.

DIAGNOSIS OF CHRONIC KIDNEY FAILURE is accomplished by several tests.  The first evidence of chronic kidney failure will be changes in the composition of the urine.  Chemical analysis, measurement of specific gravity, and urine sediment examination are important in the evaluation of the urine.  As the disease progresses, blood tests to measure the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatinine become important diagnostic tools.

SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT REQUIRES EARLY DETECTION.  The earlier signs of kidney failure are noted, the better chance for prolonging the cat’s quality life.  The best treatment would be a kidney transplant!  However, since that is not yet practical, treatment is directed at helping the kidneys “catch up” with its function of filtering the blood for the body.  This is accomplished through the administration of large quantities of intravenous fluids to “flush out” the blood, by running a lot more fluid through the kidney filtration system. 

The body can still function adequately with only 10% active functioning kidney tissue.  If the kidneys can be helped to “catch up,” hopefully they can then maintain adequate filtration with the help of medications.  This initial treatment may result in long-term kidney function, short-term functioning before problems return again, or no improvement at all.  Unfortunately, there is no test to determine which cat will or will not respond to treatment.

If initial treatment is successful, recommendations will be made to keep the kidneys functioning as long as possible.  The recommendations may include:

  1. High quality, low protein diets.
  2. Potassium supplementation.
  3. Phosphate binders.
  4. Additional oral or parental fluids.
  5. Drugs to stimulate bone marrow production.

Aggressive treatment can add up to 3-4 years to the life of a cat.

Anal Sac Disease

VSSF Admin - Friday, October 16, 2015

What are the anal sacs?

Popularly called ‘anal glands’, these are two small pouches located on either side of the anus at approximately the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. The sacs are lined with numerous specialized sebaceous (skin) glands that produce a foul smelling secretion. Each sac is connected to the outside by a small duct which opens just inside the anus.

What is their function?

The secretion acts as a territorial marker – a dog’s ‘calling card’. The ‘glands’ are present in both male and female dogs. Normally they empty when the dog defecates. This is why dogs are so interested in one another’s feces.

Why are they important?

Anal gland (sac) disease is very common in dogs. The sacs frequently become impacted, usually due to blocking of the ducts. This is followed by thickening and hardening of the secretion. It is then painful for your dog to pass feces. The secreted material within the anal sacs (glands) forms an ideal medium on which germs can multiply so that an abscess can easily form. Pain increases and sometimes a red, angry swelling will appear on one or both sides of the anus indicating abscessation. These abscesses often burst and release a quantity of greenish yellow or bloody pus. If untreated, the infection can quickly spread and cause severe damage to the anus and rectum.

How will I know if my dog has anal sac problems?

The first sign is often scooting or dragging the rear along the ground. There may be excessive licking or biting, often at the root of the tail rather than the anal area. Anal sac impaction and infection is very painful. Even normally gentle dogs may snap or growl if you touch the tail or anus when they have anal sac disease. If the anal sac ruptures, you may see blood or pus draining from the rectum.

What should I do?

Problems with the anal gland are common in all dogs, regardless of size or breed. If you are concerned that your pet may have an anal sac problem, do not hesitate to call us. Treatment for impaction involves flushing and removal of the solidified material. Since this condition is painful, many pets will require a sedative or an anesthetic. Antibiotics are often prescribed and sometimes instilled into the glands over a period of several days. In advanced cases, surgery may be necessary. 

Is the condition likely to recur?

Many dogs will have recurrent anal sac impaction due to blocking of the secretions in the ducts or the sacs themselves. If this recurs frequently, surgical removal of the sacs is indicated since repeated treatment often results in scarring and narrowing of the duct.

Are anal glands unnecessary for my dog?  Will removal have any adverse effects?  Will my pet miss them?

Anal glands produce the pungent smelling secretion that allows the dog to define his or her territory. For our domesticated dogs, this is unnecessary and will not adversely affect your pet.

Are there any other risks attached to surgery?

This is a specialized surgery. Many veterinarians perform this procedure routinely; however, veterinary surgical specialists may be recommended depending on the severity of your dog’s condition. The primary concern is permanent damage to the nerves that allow the anus to close. This can result in fecal incontinence or the inability to control bowel movements. While this is rare, we want to minimize the risk of any complication for your pet.

Some dogs will experience loose stools or lack of bowel control for one to three weeks following surgery. This resolves without further treatment in the majority of pets.

As with any surgery, there are risks and potential complications. Today’s modern anesthetics and surgical techniques ensure that these risks are minimized. For dogs suffering from chronic anal sac infection or impaction, surgery is the only permanent cure.

My dog is very nervous and sometimes seems to express his own glands. Is this normal?

It is common for dogs to express their anal sacs, particularly if frightened. Some dogs even appear to lack control of the anus or anal sac ducts so that small quantities of fluid will drain out when they are resting. This, of course, leaves an unpleasant lingering odor in the home. For dogs with this condition, surgery may be recommended.

Fall Festivities And Your Pets

VSSF Admin - Sunday, September 06, 2015
We are in the last  couple weeks of Summer and the fall will be upon us. This means the holiday season is just around the corner. We can never stress enough some of the dangers the holidays can bring to our pets. This is the time of the year for family gathering, parties and lots of good times with family and friends. Here are just a few reminders to make sure we keep our fur babies happy and healthy during the fall festivities!

Halloween Candy

In preparation for costume parties and trick-or-treaters, the Halloween festivities are usually accompanied by sweet and chocolaty treats. During this time it is important to keep chocolate treats and sweets away from your pets. Chocolates, in addition to causing an upset stomach, contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both the caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment can consist of inducing vomiting, giving medications to prevent absorption of the toxin contained in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into the Halloween candy, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian to start treatment.

Thanksgiving Holiday Pet Hazards

In this time of plentiful dinners and holiday goodies, it can be hard not to share with our furry household friends. However, it is important to remember that you should avoid feeding your cats and dogs Thanksgiving chocolate treats. Chocolates in addition to causing an upset stomach contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both the caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment can consist of inducing vomiting, giving medications to prevent absorption of the toxin contained in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into the thanksgiving chocolate, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, people often want to share their turkey dinners with their dogs. Most dogs would really enjoy sharing in the festivities but please keep a couple important points in mind. First, you want to avoid giving your dog sweet or fatty foods because this can sometimes cause diarrhea. Also, turkey bones or the turkey carcass should not be fed to dogs and cats. Poultry and turkey bones tend to shatter or sliver and these slivers can get stuck in the back of the throat or stomach. Finally, you should avoid feeding any side dishes that contain raw garlic or onions to your pets. Garlic and onions contain a toxin that can cause anemia in dogs and cats. If your pet does not have a sensitive stomach and you want to share some of the dinner festivities, consider giving them some lean cooked turkey meat and mashed potatoes, but avoid the fatty gravy topping. Vegetables (without lots of butter, garlic or onions) can also be a great treat.

The time of year for holiday and family gatherings can be stressful for pets that are shy, especially cats. Some cats are very social and love to greet your holiday guests; however, most cats tend to be shy, and need to have their own space to feel safe. With lots of company around the holidays, cats can become very anxious or risk injury if they are underfoot. For cats that are timid around strangers or noise, it is best to keep them in a room that is relatively quiet and where they can have access to hiding places and a litter box until the guests are gone.

Following these few tips will make the fall festivities more enjoyable for you and your furry loved ones!

Pets And Back to School Blues

VSSF Admin - Sunday, August 16, 2015

It's that time of year again, summer is just about over. With all the excitement of the kids going back to school, many families may no think what this means to our furry family members. The dog may start chewing on things he shouldn't and the cat may start meowing more. This behavior may be related to back to school blues!

Dogs and cats love a routine it makes them feel secure. They like knowing that certain things happen at about the same time each day, and they know where they want to be when it happens. If the kids have been around all summer, playing outside with the dog, or giving kitty extra love and snuggles, and suddenly they are gone all day, it's upsetting. For some pets, they just feel sad and confused, and others feel real separation anxiety and may act up.

The first thing to note is that this is a family matter, and a good opportunity for the kids to take more responsibility for the care of their pets. Let your kids know that their dog or cat is going to miss them when they're gone all day, and discuss what they can do to help their pets through it.
One of the best ways for a pet to get over the loss of one routine is to replace it with another. Your pet may be sad all day at first, but if he knows that at 3:45 your kids will be home from school and will actively play with him soon after each day, your pet has something new to look forward to. If your child has a set time to do homework or read, that's an excellent time for the dog or cat to curl up next to her and "help" with studying. Ask your kids to think of other ways to include their pets in their routines.

If your pet exhibits true separation anxiety, as in, he goes crazy when he sees your kids put on their backpacks to leave for school, or is destructive when everyone is gone, you'll have to do some gentle training to ease his stress. Your kids may feel sorry for their pet and do a long sad goodbye. This only reinforces your pets fears and builds up the anxiety.

It'€™s better to make the goodbye upbeat and brief, or eliminate it completely. Depending on your pet, he may respond well to a goodbye petting, a little goodbye treat, or simply leaving with a cheerful "good boy!" as your kids go out the door. This should happen before your pet gets upset. If your pet is freaking out, absolutely do not reward with anything. If you can get your pet to calm down a€“ if it'€™s a dog, a simple "sit!" command may help. Then reward with petting and telling him he's ok once he's calm.

If your pet gets upset just by the backpacks or car keys being picked up, pick those items up and walk around the house with them several times a day, but don't leave. Your pet will learn not to associate those items with the pending doom of your kids leaving.

If everyone is gone all day, both parents included, your pets are going to be bored on top of being upset. It's important to leave them some interactive toys to help them pass the time. Eventually, they will get used to the new reality, and will likely sleep most of the day.

You can balance the boredom by providing vigorous exercise each day when you or your kids are home. Remember, you and your kids may have had a very busy day, but your pet has done virtually nothing, unless there is evidence  as in a shredded or chewed up sofa. Providing your dog or cat active, vigorous play each day will help them burn up their pent up energy.

Take your dog for a run or go outside and throw a ball or flying disk. For your cat, run around the house with a little toy on the end of a string. You may also want to consider getting your pet a little buddy to keep him company when no one is home. Even an aloof adult cat is likely to accept a kitten into her life, and the kitten will entice the older cat to play. And dogs, being true social animals, nearly always accept another dog to play with.

Remember, your pets can get nervous, upset, anxious or lonely just like people, only they don't have the benefit of knowing that you'€™ll be back when you leave. It's up to you and your kids to make your pets feel secure in ways they understand.

Cerebellar Ataxia in Pit bulls

VSSF Admin - Sunday, July 26, 2015

Does your Pit Bull or American Staffordshire terrier have a head tilt, or showing signs of loss of balance...

Pit bulls, or American Staffordshire terriers, can suffer from a genetic neurological disorder called Cerebellar Cortical Disintegration or Cerebellar Ataxia. Because this disease shows up in adulthood, it's not uncommon for affected dogs to be bred, passing it on to another generation.

Cerebellar Ataxia, affects a dog's ability to balance. Approximately 1 in 400 pit-bull-type dogs might suffer from this disorder. This disease results in premature aging and death of cells in the cerebellum, the part of the brain in charge of coordination. While cerebellar cortical disintegration often affects other dog breeds in puppyhood, that's not true of the pit bull or American Staffordshire terrier.


Symptoms of cerebellar cortical disintegration don't appear until an affected pit bull is between the ages of 2 and 6, or ever later. Early signs are subtle -- the dog might appear to be just a bit "off." He might appear fine walking on flat surfaces; but if the terrain shifts or he changes direction, he might stumble or fall over. As the disintegration progresses, the pit bull can no longer negotiate stairs or perform other simple tasks. He might exhibit nystagmus, a condition in which his eyes move in various directions. Eventually, the dog loses the ability to walk.


Along with a physical examination, your vet can diagnose cerebellar ataxia via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).There is also a blood test that is now available through a genetic laboratory in France. There is no cure for the disease. Make your dog as comfortable as possible, keeping him on firm surfaces and helping him navigate. Eventually, you will have to consider euthanizing  your dog. According to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the time from onset of clinical signs to varied from six months to over six years, with the majority of affected dogs put down within two to four years after diagnosis.

Genetic Testing

To avoid the heartache of dealing with a dog with cerebellar ataxia, don't purchase a Staffy puppy unless he has been genetically tested and found free of the disorder. A genetics laboratory requires either a blood sample or cheek swab in order to conduct the DNA testing. The results will show whether your dog is normal and will not develop or transmit the disease; or is a carrier, who won't develop the disease himself but will transmit it to 50 percent of his offspring; or is affected. If it's the latter, not only will he develop the disease, but all his offspring will have it. Unfortunately Cerebellar Ataxia is always fatal and there is no cure. The important thing to remember is quality of life!


VSSF Admin - Thursday, July 09, 2015

What is GDV?
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening disorder most commonly seen in large, deep-chested dogs. The term refers to a gas-filled stomach (bloat) that then twists upon itself. It is a medical emergency that usually requires surgery to correct.
What causes the condition?
The definite cause is still unknown. The most common history is a large breed dog that eats or drinks rapidly and then exercises. In recent studies, stress was found to be a contributing factor to GDV. Dogs that were found to be more relaxed and calm were at less risk of developing GDV than dogs described as "hyper' or "fearful". Sometimes the condition progresses no further than simple dilatation (bloat) but in other instances the huge, gas-filled stomach twists upon itself so that both entrance and exit (cardia and pylorus) are occluded.
Is GDV serious?
Yes. This is probably one of the most serious non-traumatic conditions. Veterinary help is needed without delay.
Why does the dog collapse?
The gas filled stomach presses on the large veins in the abdomen that carry blood back to the heart. Tissues become deprived of blood and oxygen resulting in shock. In addition, the pressure of the gas on the stomach wall results in inadequate circulation and the stomach tissues will begin to die and may rupture. Digestion ceases and toxins accumulate in the blood, exacerbating the shock.
Are some dogs more prone than others?
Yes, statistically we know that large, deep chested breeds are more prone to GDV. These include Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs. Most commonly the condition occurs two to three hours after eating a large meal.
These are the facts:-
·         The condition almost always occurs in giant or large breed dogs with narrow, deep chests.
·         Gastric dilatation, usually without volvulus, occasionally occurs in elderly small dogs.
·         The distended stomach pushes the posterior rib cage so that the dog appears swollen or "bloated". This is most obvious on the left side and gentle tapping of the swelling just behind the last rib often produces hollow, drum-like sounds.
·         The enlarged stomach presses on the diaphragm and breathing becomes labored.
·         The swollen stomach also presses on the larger blood vessels in the abdomen and circulation is seriously compromised, resulting in shock.
·         Ultimately, the dog collapses and the huge size of the abdomen can be appreciated as the dog lays on its side.
Is it possible to distinguish between gastric dilatation (GD) and gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV)?
No. These two conditions often look identical on examination. Radiographs and other diagnostic tests will establish whether or not the stomach has twisted.
 What can be done?
·         Veterinary assistance must be sought immediately.
·         It is imperative that the pressure on the stomach wall and internal organs is reduced as soon as possible. The veterinarian may first attempt to pass a stomach tube. If this is not possible due to twisting of the stomach, a large bore needle may be passed through the skin into the stomach to relieve the pressure in the stomach.
·         Shock treatment will begin immediately by administering intravenous fluids and medications.
·         Once the patient has been stabilized, the stomach must be returned to its proper position. This involves major abdominal surgery and may be delayed until the patient is able to undergo anesthesia.
How is the surgery done?
The primary goal of surgery is to return the stomach to its normal position, remove any dead or dying stomach tissues and help prevent future GDV. There are several techniques available includinggastropexy (suturing the stomach wall to the abdominal wall) and pyloroplasty (surgical opening of the pylorus to improve stomach outflow). Your veterinarian will discuss the technique or combination of techniques best for your pet's condition.
What is the survival rate?
This depends upon how long the pet has had GDV, the degree of shock, the severity of the condition, cardiac problems, stomach wall necrosis, length of surgery, etc.
Even in relatively uncomplicated cases there is a mortality rate of 15-20% for GDV.
Can the condition be prevented?
Gastropexy (surgical attachment of stomach to body wall) is the most effective means of prevention. In high-risk breeds, some veterinarians recommend prophylactic gastropexy. This does not prevent dilatation (bloat) but does prevent twisting (volvulus) in the majority of cases. However, there is always a risk of the gastropexy failing and you should seek veterinary care if your dog becomes bloated.


365/24/7 Emergency Care

VSSF Admin - Saturday, June 27, 2015

The emergency and critical care service is staffed 24/7/365 with veterinarians, nurses/technicians and support staff to provide the needs for your sick or injured companion.

Upon arrival to our hospital, our emergency and critical care team will triage your pet—we will determine patient status and provide immediate attention, if it is required such as treating a bleeding wound or providing oxygen for pets having trouble breathing.

Unfortunately, we do not treat birds or other exotic pets; however, we will direct you to hospitals that do provide such care.

Once the veterinarian has evaluated your pet through history taking and performing a physical exam, a diagnostic and treatment plan will be presented to you.  Options for tests such as X-rays and blood work, hospitalization and treatments will be discussed. 

What to do in case of an emergency:

What is an emergency?  We feel that anything which causes a pet owner to be alarmed, enough so to contact us is important.  It’s always better to be cautious when it comes to your beloved pet’s health. 

1)  If you are concerned about your pet, please contact us.

2) Remain calm.  Alert a family member, friend or neighbor about the situation.  You may need help from that person to transport the pet to our hospital.

3)  Inform our staff about your pet’s condition over the telephone before you arrive.

Some common emergency tips:

Bufo toad poisoning: These toads cause heart and nervous system problems. Symptoms include: drunken behavior (staggering, falling over), excessive drooling/foaming from mouth, and seizures.

If your pet is not seizing and is conscious, rinse the mouth with running water by placing a sink sprayer or garden hose in the corner of the mouth.
Do not try to make your pet drink or force water down your pet's throat.
Do not give any other liquid or food, use only water.
If your pet is seizing, unconscious, falling over or becomes very stiff come to the hospital as soon as possible.
Pets exposed to poison or medication:
Call our hospital, you may be directed to contact Animal Poison Control (1-888-426-4435, fee charged) or you may be directed to give something to induce vomiting.
Be prepared to bring your pet to the hospital. Certain toxins and drugs have antidotes which we can administer.
Always bring the packaging or vial that the suspected substance was kept in. The label will provide information such as the main ingredient and its concentration.
If your pet's skin was exposed to a chemical or insecticide - bathe your pet using dish soap and water.
Pets that sustained trauma:
Approach injured pets with caution - they may bite anyone when in pain (including their owner).
Use plywood, blankets or an ironing board as a stretcher to move your pet if it cannot walk.
Place clean towels over any open wounds and apply direct pressure to any bleeding wounds.
Never place a tourniquet unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.
Pets that are vomiting or having diarrhea:
Call the hospital, you may be directed to remove your pets' food/water.
Excessive vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration which requires medical attention. Be prepared to bring your pet to the hospital.
Do not give your pet any over-the-counter medication such as Imodium unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.

What are some common household items to avoid?

No grapes or raisins—in some dogs it causes kidney failure

No onions or Kale—can cause anemia

No chocolate or caffeine —can cause tremors and seizures

No sugarless gum or sweeteners—these products contain Xylitol which causes severe              hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

Human pain killers—dogs metabolize these drugs differently than people—only give medication prescribed or directed by a veterinarian

Sago palm—any part of this decorative landscaping, especially the seeds are deadly

Lillies—all parts of the flower are poisonous and lead to kidney failure

Degreasers/Antifreeze—(dogs are poisoned too!!), causes irreversible kidney failure/death

Tylenol—one regular strength tablet will kill a cat, it causes their blood to loose its ability to carry oxygen

Spot-on/topical flea killers—some of these products are mistakenly placed on cats when they are labeled for dogs only.  Overdose causes tremors and seizures.

Remember... we are here for you 365/24/7

Signs Of Dehydration In Dogs

VSSF Admin - Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer time is here and the heat can take its toll on our furry loved ones. Please don't leave them out in the summer heat and when they are out always make sure they have plenty of fresh water. Even if they are inside please make sure they have fresh water available.

Dehydration occurs when the total body water is less than normal. Usually it involves loss of both water and electrolytes, which are minerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium. Dehydration is caused by either a lack of food or water intake or an increase in water loss through illness or injury.  A fever further increases the loss of water.   
When there is not enough body water, fluid shifts out of the body cells to compensate, leaving the cells deficient in necessary water. This leads to dehydration. The severity of the dehydration is based on the magnitude of these body water shifts.  Dogs lose fluid through: breathing, panting, elimination, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and evaporation through the feet and other body surfaces.  Dogs replenish fluid by drinking water or other liquids and by eating moist foods.  

Beginning Signs Visibly tired Slowed pace/ Less animation Excessive panting, signs of warmth Changes in attitude (i.e. appears more apprehensive) Eyes appear sunken and lack moisture Dry mouth, gums, nose  

Intermediate Signs The skin loses elasticity- Pinch a little skin between your thumb and forefinger on your dog's back.  When you release it, it should pop back into place immediately.  As the tissue under the skin loses moisture, the skin moves back more slowly.  In extreme cases, the skin doesn't pop back.  

Delayed capillary refill time- Place your index finger firmly against the gums so that they appear white.  Remove your finger and see how quickly the blood returns to the gums. The time it takes for the gums of a dehydrated dog to return to their pink state will be slower than normal.  Rectal temperature remains > 105° F  

Final Signs Weak in the hind end Wobbly and unsteady on feet  
Tips To Avoid Dehydration Maintaining a constant fluid level is as important in dogs as it is in humans. 

1.  Dogs lose a lot of water while panting. Leave two or three bowls filled with water around the house, so that he gets enough to drink.   
2.  If he has not had a good drink for a long time, start re-hydration slowly ... allowing your dog a few sips every few minutes.  Over drinking after a dry spell can quickly lead to vomiting and he 
may end up losing more fluids than he had.   
3. Don't let your dog drink excessive amounts of water after a strenuous exercise session.   
4. Wait a few minutes after your dog has exerted in very heavy exercise and then allow frequent but small amounts every few minutes.  
5.  If your dog is showing some signs of dehydration, give him electrolyte mixed in water. While water helps in replenishing a lot of nutrients, electrolyte can do the job more quickly. 
 6. Dogs who have gone a long time without water have a problem holding it down. So let him lick ice, he hydrates himself with licking the ice.    
7.  If your dog refuses to drink for any extended period of time, consult your veterinarian immediately!  

Diagnosis Blood tests such as a complete blood count and biochemistry profile are important to try to find the underlying cause of the dehydration but may not reveal if dehydration is present.   
The most important tests are a packed cell volume and total blood protein test. These tests are done on a blood sample and can help reveal if dehydration is present.  If the packed cell volume and total protein are elevated, dehydration is present.  
Determining the concentration of the urine can also help determine if the pet is dehydrated and if the kidneys are affected.   
Treatment The treatment for dehydration is to supplement the body with fluids. It is often not possible for an ill pet to ingest sufficient water to correct dehydration. Fluids are typically administered as an injection. The most efficient method of  hydration is through intravenous fluids. This requires hospitalization as well as an intravenous catheter.   
Fluid replacement is done slowly to allow the body to compensate and slowly replenish tissues starved of fluid. 

Remember just as we need our water so do they! The difference is they can't get it themselves they rely on us to do so. 

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