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Medical & Surgical Articles




October 18th, 2013

Halloween Safety Tips

for Pet Owners

Halloween Cat

Here are some tips for keeping your pet safe on the spookiest night of the year and in the weeks leading up to it:

Keep Candy and Chocolate Away from Pets
Candy & Wrappers
Keep holiday treats and candies, out of your pet's reach as they can make your pet quite sick. If eaten, candy wrappers can cause an upset stomach.


Dog with Chocolate

Unsweetened, dark, bittersweet and baking chocolate can be toxic to pets, especially dogs, who are more prone to eat it. If your dog eats chocolate, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center, as treatment may need to be rendered immediately. Symptoms of toxicity include excitement, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, muscle spasms and seizures.


Xylitol Gum

Keep gum, candy or breath fresheners containing the sweetener xylitol away from your dog. When a dog eats even a small amount of xylitol, it causes a surge of insulin, and the animal's blood sugar may drop quickly and dangerously. Cases of liver damage have also been associated with ingestion of xylitol. If you suspect your pet has ingested xylitol, some signs to look for are depression, loss of coordination and vomiting. The signs of illness may occur within minutes to days of ingesting xylitol. Contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately.


Ghost Dogs

Keep Pets In When Trick-or-Treaters Are Out

If you plan to participate in Halloween festivities, such as answering your door to trick-or-treaters, keep pets in a quiet part of the house. Pets can become overexcited, confused or frightened by trick-or-treaters in costume.
Watch for open doors and make sure your pets have ID tags and/or microchips in case they do get out. Remind your guests that your normally friendly pet may want to be left alone. Young trick-or-treaters may be scared of dogs who run excitedly toward them when the owner answers the door.
Outdoor pets, especially black cats, should be kept indoors on Halloween.


Sleeping Cat

Decorations Are Potential Tricks
Halloween decorations such as fake cobwebs should be kept out of reach of pets.
Glow sticks can be hazardous if chewed or ingested. While not usually life-threatening, they can cause mouth pain and irritation, as well as profuse drooling and foaming at the mouth.
Light strands, loose wires and electric cords can be a serious hazard to your pet, especially puppies, who may chew them.
Never leave candles, such as those in jack-o-lanterns, unattended, especially around puppies and kittens.
Never allow your pets to eat a leftover jack-o-lantern, as a rotted, moldy pumpkin can make them seriously ill.


Dog with light

Costumes May Not Be a Treat
Some pets may not mind "dressing up" for Halloween, but, for others, it could be a stressful experience best avoided.
Costumes should fit properly and not hinder your pet's movement, vision or breathing.

Have your pet try out the costume several times before Halloween so it can get used to wearing it.

Fake Spider

Poison Control
ASPCA's Poison Control Hotline

(1-888-426-4435, fee)
Pet Poison Helpline
(1-800-213-6680, fee)

October 11th, 2013

Vet Exam

The Importance

of the Annual Veterinary Examination

By Jean Hofve DVM

Even if your pet is not getting any vaccines, it is still essential that your veterinarian have the opportunity to give your animal companion a thorough examination at least every year (more often in some situations). This applies not just to cats and dogs, but all pets! Why?

Dental Dog

1. By checking your pet regularly, your veterinarian can catch potential problems early. For instance, it is estimated that 85% of dogs and cats who go to the vet for any reason have significant dental disease. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to painful tooth decay as well as systemic illness due to chronic infection. Bacteria from infected teeth can enter the bloodstream and “seed” other organs such as liver, kidneys, and heart, causing damage to those organs. Every vet can tell a dozen stories of serious problems such as cancer and heart disease that were discovered at an annual exam, even though the animal seemed normal at home. Because many animals tend to be very stoic, they often do not show symptoms until disease is very advanced. Early diagnosis increases the chances of successful intervention and treatment.

Older Dog & Cat

2. A rough estimate of cat/dog years to human years is about 5:1 after the first two years (which equal about 10 years each). If your pet does not visit the veterinarian annually, this is the same as you not having a check-up for ten years or more. And while you would know if you were having pain or not feeling good, your pet cannot tell you if there’s a problem. By examining your animal and asking you about her appetite and behavior, your veterinarian can assess her health more fully and make appropriate recommendations to keep her as healthy as possible.

Today Has Been Ruff Dog

3. Veterinary medicine is in a constant state of change and advancement. New information becomes available virtually every day in every journal. The annual visit is a good time for your vet to communicate to you any recent developments that could affect your pet’s health. For example, pet vaccination recommendations have changed radically in the past four or five years, and continue to change today. Additionally, there is new information coming out all the time on diet and disease that may affect what you feed your pet.

Happy Pet Owner

The annual veterinary exam is a small investment of time, effort and money that will more than pay for itself in better health and longer life for your animal companion

October 4th, 2013

Anal Glands

Anal Glands: More than you ever Wanted to Know about Anal Glands.

What on Earth are Anal Sacs?
Anal sacs (also called anal glands) are two small glands just inside your pet's anus. The material secreted into these sacs is thick, oily, stinky, and is commonly described as smelling fishy. Most wild animals can empty these glands voluntarily for scent marking or in self-defense (like a skunk might do); however, domestic animals have largely lost their ability to empty these sacs voluntarily. Walking around and normal defecation serve to empty the sacs but some animals become unable to empty their sacs on their own at all. The sacs become impacted and uncomfortable.
Dogs with impacted anal sacs usually scoot their rear on the ground in an attempt to empty the glands. Some dogs will lick their anal area and other dogs will chase their tails. Cats often lick the fur off just under their tails. Some animals are simply vaguely uncomfortable, holding their tails down, shivering, showing reluctance to walk or hiding. Strangely, some animals seem to refer their discomfort to their ears and scratch and shake their ears as if an ear infection were present.



What to do about Scooting?
The first step is to check the anal sacs when any pet has a history of scooting. The anal sacs can be emptied in one of two ways.
Externally: Hold up a rag or tissue to the anus and squeeze both sides of the anal area. If the secretion is very pasty, this method may be inadequate to empty the sacs.
Internally: Insert a lubricated, gloved finger in the anus and squeeze the sac between thumb and forefinger into a tissue held externally. The full anal gland feels like a grape in the location as shown in the top illustration. The emptying procedure is repeated on the opposite side.
What if Scooting Continues?
If scooting continues for more than a few days after sac emptying, the sacs should be re-checked. For some individuals, it takes several sac emptyings in a row before the sacs stay emptied. If the sacs are empty and scooting is persisting, another cause (such as itchy skin, tapeworms) should be pursued.

Dog Scooting

What Happens If an Impacted Sac doesn't get Emptied?
An abscess can form and rupture out through the skin. This is a painful, messy and smelly condition often mistaken for rectal bleeding. If an anal sac abscess forms, it must be properly treated by your veterinarian. Antibiotics will be needed.
How often should Anal Sacs be Emptied?
This is a highly individual situation. The best recommendation is to let the pet tell you when the sacs are full. If the pet starts scooting again, it is time to bring him in.


Anal Gland

What if My Pet's Sacs seem to Require Emptying all the Time?
To avoid the expense of having the sacs emptied, you can learn to empty them yourself at home but most people feel it is well worth having someone else perform this service. A non-invasive technique that helps some patients is a change to a high fiber diet. This will produce a bulkier stool that may be more effective in emptying the sac as it passes by.


Anal 20 Gland

Anal Sacculectomy
If the sacs need to be emptied every few weeks or more, you may opt to have the sacs permanently removed. This procedure is complicated by many local nerves controlling fecal continence, the fact that any change in the local musculature of the anal sphincter area can affect fecal continence, and the fact that with chronic anal sac problems anatomy is distorted. Draining tracts can develop after surgery if the gland is not completely removed. Still, despite these pitfalls anal sac removal is considered a relatively simple surgery by experienced surgeons.
Many people own pets for years without ever learning that anal sacs exist at all and the “wive’s tale” that worms cause scooting erroneously continues. If you have further questions about anal gland disease, ask your veterinarian or go to the Ask a Vet feature on Veterinary Partner’s home page.

September 27th, 2013

Dog Fleas

Flea Control

Anyone who has ever battled fleas knows how difficult they are to eradicate. Once a home becomes infested, control can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. A flea-infested dog or cat can introduce hundreds of new flea eggs into the home each day. By mid- to late summer, pet owners often find themselves fighting a losing battle. Here in Washington State, fleas are a year-round concern.

Cat Scratch

To effectively control fleas, it is necessary to understand their life cycle and habits. The best way to manage fleas is through prevention. By taking action before fleas are abundant, pet owners can avoid severe infestations later in the season. Preventive flea control has been made possible by new product innovations and insights into flea biology. We now know that adult fleas (the biting stage) spend virtually their entire life on the pet, not in the carpet. Eggs are laid on the fur and fall off into carpeting, beneath furniture cushions, and wherever else the pet lays, sleeps or spends time. After hatching, the eggs transform into larvae, pupae, and eventually adults to renew the cycle. Pet owners can break the cycle of flea development and prevent future generations by killing the eggs as they are laid on the pet, or by eliminating the egg-laying adults. The easiest way to do this is to take action before flea problems get out of control. Below is a quick summary of the most important aspects of the flea lifecycle.

Flea Cartoon

Adult flea—lives on the host animal (dog or cat), where the female lays her eggs

Egg—flea eggs are laid on the host animal but fall off into the bedding, carpeting, and elsewhere in the animal’s environment. These pearly white eggs are barely visible to the naked eye and are usually impossible to find without a magnifying lens. Flea eggs hatch into larvae in 1–10 days, depending on the temperature and humidity; the warmer and more humid, the more rapidly the eggs hatch

Larva—flea larvae feed on organic material in the environment and on the droppings from adult fleas. They are sensitive to sunlight and to drying, so inside the house the larvae prefer deep carpet, bedding, and cracks in the floor boards. Outside the house, the larvae prefer shaded areas that have plenty of organic material (grass, leaves, etc.) or moist, sheltered soil. As the larvae feed on adult flea droppings, they are found in highest numbers in areas where flea-infested animals spend much of their time


Pupa—after 5–11 days, the larvae produce a fine cocoon in which they complete their development. During this stage of their life cycle, fleas are resistant to insecticides. In ideal conditions, adult fleas hatch from their cocoon in as little as 5 days, although fleas can survive in the pupated form for up to 5 months. Hatching is stimulated by vibration, physical pressure, heat, and carbon dioxide; in other words, the presence of a potential host animal.

Immediately after hatching from its cocoon, the adult flea seeks out a host animal. It must have a meal of blood within a few days in order to survive and produce eggs. Within 2 days of her first blood meal, the female flea begins producing eggs. Fleas can continue to produce eggs for up to 100 days. A single flea can produce thousands of eggs.

Dirt Fleas

Fleas feeding on your dog or cat can cause several problems. Most pets will itch and scratch at the flea bite—in most pets, the itching is mild and temporary, however, some can become allergic to flea saliva and develop severe itching, hair loss, and skin damage from scratching and biting at the site and the body in general. If left untreated, significant skin infections can develop. As fleas are an essential part of the tapeworm’s life cycle, pets are commonly infested with tapeworms when they swallow fleas that contain the immature tapeworm stages. Finally, flea bite anemia can occur with severe flea infestations because of the significant blood loss associated with large numbers of fleas feeding on the host. This usually occurs only in young, sick, debilitated, or neglected animals. It is easy to tell when a pet is heavily infested with fleas, as you can see the fleas crawling over the skin and through the hair. If your pet has only a light infestation, you may not see any fleas unless you look for them. A common place to see fleas is on your the belly and the inside of the thighs, where the hair is thin or the skin is bare. Another place to look is in the dense hair over your the rump, especially near the base of the tail. Part the hair and inspect the skin for either fleas or flea dirt. Flea dirt is actually flea droppings. It looks like black grains of sand or cracked pepper on the dog’s skin. If you place a few particles of flea dirt on a white surface (e.g. a piece of paper) and wet them, you will see a reddish brown stain form. This is because the flea droppings contain digested blood from the flea’s blood meal. You may also notice tiny areas of dried blood on bedding from moistened flea dirt that has since dried.

Cat Hair Loss

Going by the common precautionary statements on many readily available dog flea and tick treatment products, it sure seems that these products would be or could be harmful to us. So it may make you wonder what these products will do to your dog when you apply it to them. There are countless stories of dogs or cats that have suffered some ill effects from the use of these products which further add to the controversy as to whether it is indeed safe to use them on pets. That’s also precisely the reason why more dog owners are looking towards natural flea control for their dog. Unfortunately, natural remedies are universally unsuccessful in eradicating significant flea populations. They’re free of hormones and insecticides. They’re reasonably priced. They’re guaranteed. They’re safe. THEY’RE INEFFECTIVE AND A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. Dr. Sutherlan and Dr. Linnet have been a veterinarians for many years and have heard all the stories of how natural remedies can protect your dogs from fleas. The most common mistake regarding these products is all too often the "more is better" approach that some people take when using flea products. More is NOT better when it comes to chemicals or medications!

Dog Flea

More patients die from flea infestation than from all of the above flea control products combined. Fleas cause skin disease and contribute to autoimmune disease in cats and dogs. They spread tapeworms and are vectors for infectious maladies ranging from cat scratch fever to bubonic plague. They can also cause anemia and ultimately death.

Today’s Flea Control Products

Today, veterinarians have great flea control products that are highly efficacious, long lasting and very safe to choose from amongst. Many of these products treat more than just fleas so that there are products that can be utilized for any one of a number of situations depending upon your pet’s exposure risks. Several products are available which are convenient and effective.


Revolution® (selamectin) from Pfizer

This is a prescription flea prevenative so it does require an anual exam. It is designed as a once-a-month heartworm preventive and flea preventive for dogs and cats as young as 6 weeks old. It also kills adult fleas and can be used to treat sarcoptic mange, ear mites and ticks. It also helps control roundworms and hookworms in cats. The product is placed on the skin at the back of the neck, but is absorbed into the body to have its effect when female fleas ingest it with a blood meal. Adult fleas will die slowly, but more importantly, female fleas stop egg production as soon as they are exposed. It is most useful as a preventive for flea infestation and in the presence of a flea problem in an allergic pet, but it is an excellent flea control product for cats.

Capstar® (nitenpyram) from Novartis

This is a OTC tablet for dogs and cats as young as 4 weeks of age. It offers extremely rapid and complete killing of adult fleas on the pets after administration (aproximately 30min). It is safe enough that the tablets may be used as needed, as often as once per day, whenever you see fleas on your pet. This is designed to be used in combination with a monthly flea prevenative. It can also be used when the pet has visited a flea-infested environment for rapid protection.

Trifexis Rebate

Comfortis ®for Dogs AND Cats! (spinosad) from Elanco

This monthly prescription tablet for fleas represents a completely new class of drugs in flea control. It is available for use on dogs/cats 14 weeks of age or older and is available in a flavored (soy and pork) chewable tablet. It is meant to be used once a month and preliminary results show it will be very useful for flea allergic pets as it has a rapid kill rate (starts working within 30min).

Trifexis® for Dogs (spinosad + milbemycin oxime) from Elanco

Trifexis is a once-monthly beef flavored tablet that kills fleas, prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections. Trifexis combines two powerful active ingredients that are safe and effective at protecting against three types of dangerous parasites. And since it is given orally, there is no need to isolate your dog from other pets or kids.

Activyl for Cats & Dogs

Activyl® for Dogs and Cats

This is an OTCr topical monthly flea preventive Unlike some flea treatments, Activyl® doesn't just kill adult fleas, it also stops flea eggs and larvae from developing. Breaking the flea life cycle is important, so your pet is not re-infested by new fleas developing from flea eggs and larvae in your home environment.

Activyl Application

How does Activyl® work?

1. Application: Activyl® spreads through your pet’s skin and coat.

Contact and Ingestion

2. Contact and Ingestion:

When a flea lands, it takes up Activyl®.


3. Activation:

Enzymes inside the flea change Activyl® into its fully active form.

Flea free

4. Flea-free:

The flea is soon unable to feed, becomes paralyzed and dies.

As you can see, there are numerous products that are available to very effectively prevent and/or control your pet’s flea problem. These products differ in their ability to also control ticks, mosquitoes, heartworm disease, sarcoptic mange, ear mites, and internal parasites such as hookworms and roundworms. For these reasons, there is no one "best" product for every pet. Which one is best for you and your pet depends upon the region in which you reside as this has a profound effect of your pet’s risk of exposure to these parasites. Similarly, it is important as to whether or not your pet spends significant amounts of time outdoors, goes to the dog park or daycare, or is boarded frequently. In these situations, your pet is at greater risk for communicable parasitic problems. Speaking with a veterinarian and telling him or her what type of exposure risks your pet may have will enable you to decide which of these excellent products is most appropriate to not only control fleas, but to also control a variety of other parasitic issues as well.

August 22nd, 2013
Dog Breath

Dogs and Cats need Dental Care Too

Bad breath in pets, particularly dogs, is often joked about, but it is not a laughing matter. Dental disease affects up to 80% of pets over the age of three, and just like humans, there can be serious consequences of poor dental health.

Dog with Tooth Brush

Pet dentistry has become an established aspect of good veterinary care. And for good reason! One of the best things a pet owner can do to insure the overall health of their pet is to do routine checking of the teeth, gums and oral cavity.

Cat resorptive lesions

In cats, a common dental problem is tooth resorption, also referred to as resorptive lesions, feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs), and (inaccurately) cavities. This is the most common oral disease in cats. Estimates are the condition affects between about 30 to 40 percent of healthy adult cats, and from 60 to 80 percent of cats who visit the vet for treatment of dental disease. Purebred kitties, especially Persians and Siamese, may be more prone to the condition than other cats. 

Healthy Oral

A healthy mouth with normal bacterial flora and sound gums and minimal plaque buildup.


An unhealthy oral cavity with all sorts of unfavorable bacteria, gum and inner lip ulcerations, receding gums, root exposure and plaque buildup. Infected gums and teeth aren't just a problem in the mouth -- the heart, kidneys, intestinal tract, and joints may also be infected. The tartar and any infected areas of the mouth contain a multitude of bacteria than can 'seed' to other parts of the body.

Dog Smile

With regular dental care, you can prevent some of these more serious side effects. What if a seven-year-old dog was presented for annual vaccinations and during the physical exam the veterinarian notice the plaque on the teeth and inflamed gums at the margins of the teeth and gums?If left to its own evolution, the dog's gingivitis and plaque would worsen over time. The dog would eventually develop cavities in the teeth, gingival recession, bacterial contamination, loose teeth and root exposure. It probably would hurt to eat, too!

Teeth Cleaning Anesthesia

Typically, the dog would be admitted in the morning after an overnight fast from food and water. If the routine blood tests are normal (recommended in pets over 7yrs and required in pets over 10yrs) and the dog is judged to be a good candidate for anesthesia and dentistry, we can begin.

Scale Cat

After the dog is relaxed via a pre=medication, general anesthesia will be applied. This is done via an endotracheal tube which is regulated throughout the procedure so that work can be done painlessly and still have the patient at a safe level of anesthesia. An ultrasonic instrument is used to separate the plaque from the teeth. It sprays cooling water at the time it works it's cleaning magic on the teeth. After the teeth are "scaled" a light buffing is done to polish the teeth.

Cat Smile

As the dog awakens, the endotracheal tube is removed and antibiotics are prepared for administration at home for 7 to 10 days. Further instructions are given to the owner as to beneficial oral care for the dog. Hopefully s/he won't need further dentistry; but there are some patients who need ultrasonic cleaning almost every year.

Dog Brushing

Be sure to take a good look in your dog's (or cat's) mouth and inspect it for any foul looking or smelling characteristics. If you are suspicious that something isn't right, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a dental checkup.

CET Oral Hygiene Chews

After your pet has had a dental cleaning oral hygiene doesn't stop there! Ideally you should brush your pets teeth daily, even better would be after each meal like we as humans should do. Realistically this isn't going to happen for our pets. There are multiple products out there to help maintain dental health and keep the plaque and tartar off the teeth! For example, C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews make good oral hygiene as simple as giving your pet a daily treat. Great tasting and satisfying to chew, C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews offer a dual-enzyme system, have a natural antiseptic plus and abrasive texture that works with your pet's chewing action to reduce plaque and loosen tartar.

Hill Prescription Diet

Hills Science Diet also has a prescription diet called t/d which is a dental diet. The unique kibble scrubs away plaque in the mouth to promote systemic health. It has been proven to reduce plaque, stain, and tartar buildup, as well as reduces bad breath. It has added antioxidants to control cell oxidation and promote a healthy immune system. Although t/d is formulated to be your pet's only diet many owners use this kibble as treats or mix it in with their current diet.

Home dental care is as important for your pets as it is for you. A program of oral hygiene and regular professional care can prevent problems that might occur as the result of plaque and tartar buildup. Routine home dental care should be a part of every pets' health care program. If you have any concerns about your pet's oral health stop in to see us here at Afford-A-Vet Animal Clinic we'd be happy to asses your pet's dental disease and help you and your pet get on the right tract to a much healthier life style!

August 10th, 2013

Obesity - A Disease in Dogs and Cats

Cat Treadmills

The diagnosis of obesity is simple and warrants an intervention because of the association between obesity and increased morbidity. Pet owner commitment, a proper feeding plan, and regular monitoring are the keys to a successful weight loss program. Treatment of obesity involves caloric restriction and/or diet change. To protect against the recurrence of obesity, owners should be educated on how to monitor body condition.

Fat Dog

Is Your Pet Overweight?

To tell if your pet could stand to shed a few pounds, feel around his ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. If you can’t find the ribcage, you have an overweight dog or cat.

Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your pet's size at every check-up. Once your canine reaches maturity, ask for his optimal weight. As a rule of thumb, 15% above that weight is obese; zero to 15% is overweight. If your pet falls into either category, they are not alone. According to a 2011 study, 53% of pets are overweight or obese.

What are the major consequences of obesity?

Why worry about one extra pound? Maybe on a big dog, one pound wouldn’t matter, but for small cats and dogs, that’s 10 percent of their body weight, and it’s noticeable on their small frame.

Disorders of obese dogs include, diabetes osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, dyspnea, exercise and heat intolerance, anesthetic complications, breathing problems. skin problems, hyperlipidemia, pancreatitis, renal disease, and reduced life span. Disorders of obese cats include diabetes, skin problems, oral disease, urinary tract disease, lameness, and certain neoplasms. Some of these disorders—in dogs and cats—can be eliminated with weight reduction.

So your pet is over weight now what?

Hills Metabolic Weight Solution

Fortunately for your pet we, as their owners, can be their personal trainer free of charge! Just like people need exercise and diet restrictions, well, so do pets! You take care of the exercise and our staff at Afford-A-Vet Animal Clinic can help you with diet and portion control. Hills Science Diet has a great prescription weight loss diet called Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution. This diet has proven to help 88% of pets lose weight in two months at home. It helps pets feel full and satisfied between meals and proven to avoid weight regain following a weight loss program. Come into the clinic today ask a staff member to provide you and your pet with a weight loss diet plan. We can help every step of the way!

July 12th, 2013

Euthanasia: Knowing When and How to Let go

Brittany Schleining, LVT
Hand to Paw

Being a Veterinary Technician, one of the hardest things to partake in would be euthanasia. It is hard because I have so much compassion for the people who have to make this ultimate sacrifice of losing a best friend; a family member.These animals we experience life with, and intern for their love and devotion we must also experience their death. But, the daunting question remains when is it time to let go.

Heart with Paw

As my mother would say,

I wish they could just die in their sleep. Then I would not have to make that horrible decision.

This moral confliction is understandable, wanting to relieve pain and yet not wanting to play God. But how often do we see people suffering… suffering, and yet the only option we have is to make them “comfortable” as they live out their days. When we brought these little hairy family members into our home we accepted the responsibility of taking care of a life; in youth and in old age. Thus, in this aging processes , hopefully you have chosen a veterinarian who will know you and your pet well. What is the quality of life of my sick or aging pet? This is a question your veterinarian should be able to answer; honestly and sincerely. In my

experience, most people make the decision to euthanize too soon or too late. Every pet deserves a fighting chance and it is up to us as their owners to give them that chance. However, it is the duty of our trusted veterinarians to let us know when we should let go.

Nevertheless, when the decision has been made one must not send a pet into the next life alone. Yes, it is understandable that experiencing the death of a loved one may be difficult, but no one, neither human nor animal, should be left to die alone. When you leave your pet to be euthanized in the hands of veterinary staff, these hands, although caring and comforting, they are a stranger’s hands. Nothing is more calming to an animal than to be caressed with the adoring hands of the people they know as family. It is so touching to witness a pet being embraced and comforted by those they love.

A simple I love you and a gentle pet on the head letting them know that it is ok to go. Then they release their last breath; a release from this world, from pain, and from any suffering. This is a scenario I see time and time again. In my lifetime I have had the pleasure of owning many pets and in urn watching them grow old and making that choice and saying goodbye. It is the hardest things and yet often times and a decision made with deep love. It touches my heart in ways that many times I struggle to hold back tears as I participate in a euthanasia. The family surrounding their beloved pet and saying their last goodbyes as the veterinarian administers the injection.

Yet, this is not a release from our love. It is because of this love that we should take this as not just an opportunity to morn, but a time to remember and to reflect on the life we cherished to the very end. Through these tears be sure to take some time to smile. Smile at those little paw-prints that are forever embedded on our hearts.

June 28th, 2013

The Feline Behavior Issues


Paul D. Pion DVM, DipACVIM (Cardiology) and Gina Spadafori

Urinary Issues

Defining the Litter Box Problem

Many times people see inappropriate elimination as one problem, when in fact it's potentially several problems, some of which may be related - or not. The most basic behaviors are those intended to mark territory and those that express dissatisfaction or discomfort with using a litter box. Your must first observe, exactly ,what your cat is doing - marking territory or avoiding the box - before you can figure out what to do about it.


Start a journal of your cat's errant deposits. In your journal write down the date and time, what you found (urine or feces), where you found it (on a horizontal surface or, in the case of urine, on a vertical one, such as the side of a couch), and the location in the house of the mess (in the bathtub, on a throw rug, next to the litter box). Note taking not only helps you figure out what kind of behavior the problem is and how you should approach it, but also helps you spot even small signs of progress. And perhaps most importantly, having a written record provides you with the information your veterinarian needs to help diagnose any medical problems.

Dog Marking

What's Being Done, and Where?

With many animals, urine and feces are almost as much about marking territory as they are about eliminating waste products from the body. A dog who lifts his leg on every piece of furniture and wall corner in the house, for example, is marking a far different statement than the one who hikes his left once and lets flow all the urine stored in his bladder. The first is marking territory, the second doesn't understand where he's allowed to relieve himself, or has been cut off from that spot, or both.

The same scenario can be true with cats, especially male ones. Sometimes a cat's relieving himself, and sometimes he's sending a message. The difference is often one of location and context. Where is the mess? And what's going on in the cat's environment?

Bad Kitty

Recognizing "I gotta go" Behavior

A cat who's not relieving himself where he should deposits urine on a horizontal surface. If you see him releasing urine, you'll notice that he squats. Squatting is a very different behavior from the one used to mark territory.

If you have a cat who's leaving urine on a flat surface - even an elevated one such as the bottom of the sink - you have a cat who is relieving himself in an inappropriate way, as opposed to a cat who's marking territory.

Cat on Toilet

Distinguishing "I'm sending a message" Behavior

The cat who's marking territory - spraying is the term behaviorists use - takes an entirely different approach to the release of urine. He sniffs the object of his interest and then turns and backs up to it. With his tail held high and quivering, he releases a small spray or urine straight back onto the surface. Sometimes he shifts his weight from one back leg to another as he sprays.
All cats have the potential to become sprayers, male and female both. That being said, the worse offenders, hands down, are un-neutered males.
Okay, But What About Feces?It's not too hard to figure out what's going on with urine - wet spots on flat surfaces and squatting are the signs of a cat relieving himself, while wet spots on vertical surfaces from a standing position are the signs of a cat marking territory. But what about those little gift piles? What do they mean?Although some cats use uncovered feces to mark territory - the word for the behavior is maddening - it's more likely that gift piles are signs of a cat who is avoiding the litter box.

Cat Attract

What Can You Do?

If the problem is simply behavioral there is a great product out there called CAT ATTRACT. Cat Attract is used to get cats to use litter box. Cat Attract 20oz will treat up to 100lbs of cat litter. It has a unique herbal scent that attracts their curiosity and the right texture for their paws. Although you may not be aware of Cat Attract’s scent, your cat will.

Scoop Litter

1. Freshen Up

You don’t like a dirty bathroom, and neither does your cat. Their sense of smell is 1000 times better than yours, so clean the litter box! Remove feces and urine clumps daily. If your cat does not respond to a clean litter box, you may need to replace it. Some old boxes are scratched and permeated with a scent your cat may find offensive. Replace it and set up a second litter box in different area. Having one more litter box than you have cats is a good idea.

Urine Away

2. Destroy the Evidence!Once a cat has marked an area with urine or feces, problem cats naturally regard it as an appropriate area for relieving themselves. Do all that you can to eliminate any trace of odor from the "trouble spot." Clean it thoroughly with a liquid enzymatic odor cleaner. Avoid ammonia-based cleaners, which actually contribute to the problem because of their urine like scent. Try to keep your cat away from the trouble spot by covering the area with a plastic carpet runner, spike side up, or tin foil (cats dislike the feel of foil). A lemon scented air freshener will also help in both repelling the cat and neutralizing the odor. If your cat still can’t resist the area, try placing its food there; cats are unlikely to urinate or defecate where they eat. Try using your cat’s own fragrance to your advantage: rub a cloth between your cat’s eye and ear to pick up its scent, then rub the cloth over the problem area. Recognizing its own scent on the carpet, floor, or furniture, a cat may be reluctant to soil the area again. Do this two to three times a day to be most effective.

Cat Litter Boxes

3. Consider a Litter Box Makeover

Hooded litter boxes are for owners, not cats. Try removing the hood and rethink the location of the boxes. They should be in quiet, out-of-the-way places with convenient access for your cats, but no access for the family dog (some dogs will stay around a litter box and make the cat nervous).Keep the boxes away from bright lights, loud noises, and vibrations from washing machines or furnaces. Set up one more box than you have cats in your household to cut down on traffic and mess. If your house has several floors, have a box on each level for your cat’s convenience. Finally, do not put a litter box near the cat’s food dishes – this is no more appealing for a kitty than it would be for you!

Test Tube Urine

4. Visit the veterinarian

Problems that affect a cat’s lower urinary system often prevent the bladder from emptying correctly or may even cause fatal blockage of the urethra, the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body. Very often the culprit is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). FLUTD is not merely one problem, but a collection of clinical symptoms that may have more than one possible cause. Symptoms of FLUTD include frequent or painful urination, bloody urine and frequent licking of the urinary opening. One key to treating FLUTD is to determine the root cause, which may include bladder stones, urinary tract blockage, infection or cancer. Your veterinarian my recommend a urinalysis or full pannel bloodwork in order to detect the route of the cause of the inappropriate elimination.

June 14th, 2013

Parasitic Diarrhea (Giardia)

Giardia is a protozoan parasite, which is the most common intestinal parasite that is found in humans. Dogs develop the infection by ingesting infectious offspring (cysts) that are shed in another animal's feces. The contamination can be from direct or indirect contact with the infected cysts. The organisms, once ingested, make their way into the intestine, often causing diarrhea. The treatment is typically performed on an outpatient basis with a good prognosis.

Stool Sample

Symptoms are more visible in younger animals than in older animals and can be either sudden (acute), temporary (transient), non-continuous (intermittent) , or ongoing (chronic) in nature. In some cases, dogs will exhibit diarrhea that is soft, frothy, greasy, and with a strong, awful odor or excessive mucus.


One of the most common causes of the parasitic infection is the ingestion of infected fecal material, as the cysts are shed in animal feces. The most common cause of transmission is actually waterborne, as the parasite prefers the cool and moist environment. Up to 50% of young puppies will develop this intestinal infection, and up to 100% of dogs housed in kennels will develop it due to the massive exposure and closely shared living spaces.


Your vet will want to rule out other possibilities for the intestinal infection such as improper digestion (maldigestion), unabsorbed nutrients (malabsorption), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) prior to recommending a treatment option. In cats, your vet will want to differentiate between giardia and other primary causes of large bowel diarrhea. The organism is primarily detected in the feces. A fecal smear is normally sufficient to test for their presence, although it is possible to have a false positive. 

Treatment is typically done on an outpatient basis unless the dog has become sick and weak. Prescription drugs along with bathing are combined to reduce the likelihood of repeat infection and to remove the parasite from the dog's body. Repeat fecal exams are often required to confirm that the infection has been removed, as an ongoing (chronic) infection can be debilitating for the animal.

It is important to observe for signs of dehydration, especially in younger animals. Administering the prescribed medication and taking the animal back in for examination are also important in a successful recovery.

June 4th, 2013

Surviving the 4th of July: Noise Phobia

Pets Hiding

Fourth for July is just around the corner. It's a time for gatherings with family, friends, and neighbors. Its a time to spend socializing. grilling burgers, and watching those brilliant fireworks light up the evening sky. However, for many of our pets... this is a night of terror, a day to dread.

Dog Noise Phobia

There are many pets that have noise phobias. Often times a pets whom have anxiety or noise phobias have will hide in bathtubs, closets, under bets, they may even tremble and drool. This phobia is difficult to treat when you can't control the stimuli: thunder, fireworks, gunshots, cars, backfiring, etc.

Christine Hibbard, Animal Behaviorist

What Is Noise Phobia? Don’t Dogs Just Get Over It?

Dog Watching Fireworks

According to Karen Overall, VMD, PhD, ACVB, “Noise phobias are best defined as a persistent, excessive fear response to a sound or escape from the sound [Shull, 1994].” Notice the words persistent and excessive. Dogs don’t just “get over it” with time and enough exposure. In fact, we have documented cases where dogs got continually worse over time and even began generalizing their fear to other stimuli. An example of this is a dog who is thunder phobic that over time becomes afraid of rain. ” So, for all the pets who suffer, here’s the take home message: Storm and noise phobias are emergencies.

Why Does My Dog Suffer from Noise Phobia?

Dog Afraid

We don’t know why some pets exhibit noise phobia and others do not, but this condition is currently being studied. Some scientists believe that there is a genetic component to noise phobia. At the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Steven Hamilton, MD, PhD, is searching for the genes related to panic and anxiety disorders in dogs.

As with any behavior, there’s a genetic as well as learned component to its cause. Client's pets have learned to associate noises with “scary” things and “scary” things with noises.

How Can I Help My Dog?

There are a number of things that you can try to help your dog through the 4th of July fireworks display.

Veterinarian Talking Pet

First of all, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your pet's reaction to fireworks or thunderstorms. Your veterinarian should always be your first line of defense in improving your dog’s behavioral health. Understanding what medication your veterinarian prescribes for you and how to use it is very important.


Counter Conditioning Noise Phobia

Executing counter conditioning exercises for noise phobia helps. You can start out by downloading sounds of thunder or fireworks. You can find just about any type of sound on the internet or through iTunes. Begin playing the sounds very quietly on your stereo or sound system over a number of days or weeks (if your dog reacts, you’re playing it too loud). You must play it softly enough to allow desensitization to take place. Over a number of days or weeks, you can slowly increase the volume (remember to keep it below your dog’s reaction level). You can also begin pairing a scary sound with food. Keep something in mind though, fireworks and thunder are accompanied by other stimuli such as vibrations and light.


When my neighbors begin setting off fireworks, I get out my clicker and spray cheese, liverwurst, chicken, and hot dogs. the split second a firecracker goes off, i click and give Conner a treat from his favorite food list. when I first started this two years ago, I was only able to work with him for a minute or two before he just couldn't take it any more and would stop taking food. now I am able to work for a good 20 to 30min before stress panting takes over and we head downstairs to the quietest room in the house.


My 4th of July Strategy

I have an alprazolam (Xanax) prescription that I use for my dog Conner when the noise just gets to be too much. I make sure that I have plenty of stuffed Kongs, bully sticks, and raw beef rib bones to keep him busy in the “quiet room” when I can’t be working with him with my trusty clicker. Always remember that extinction is a huge part of behavior modification so keeping the dog from panicking is critical in seeing a decrease in fear over time.

Kong Classic Stuffed

Keep in mind however, this is just what I’ve learned works best for my personal dog and his noise phobia. You should consult with your veterinarian and do what is best for your dog. I’m pleased to report that my dog Conner now gets through 4th of July fireworks with clicks/treats, frozen Kongs and chews but I stay home with him and have medication on hand just in case.


Here are some other products that you can try instead of medication or in combination with medication: The company that makes the Thundershirt claims that their product helps 85% of dogs with noise sensitivity/phobia and since they offer a money back guarantee, it’s worth trying. Owners’ reports have been mixed from “It really helped” to “I didn’t notice a difference”. Through A Dog’s Ear is a CD of classical music slowed waaaay down. This product is based on psycho acoustics. You can play this music during fireworks or thunderstorms.

Through A Dog's Ear Music to Calm

I didn’t notice that it helped my dog but I noticed it made me sleepy! Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland which you can purchase in synthetic form. I’ve seen melatonin mentioned in various articles about noise phobia, the most recent being in an article by Dr. Karen Overall titled Noise reactivities and phobias in dogs: Implementing effective drug therapy.

***Even though July is almost a month away it's best to visit your Veterinarian in advance and be consulted on the options that you and your pet can take in order to have an enjoyable fourth of July experience. ***

For more information on animal behavior check out:

May 24th, 2013

Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs

Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs

Diabetes mellitus is a diseased state by which the body suffers from either an absolute shortage of insulin (Type I), or from an incorrect response from the cells to the insulin that is being produced, a condition termed insulin resistance (Type II). Both of these conditions will prevent the muscles and organs from converting glucose to energy, and will result in excessive amounts of glucose in the blood, which is also referred to as hyperglycemia.

Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism caused by an absolute or relative insulin deficiency. Metabolism refers to how the body digests and uses food for growth and energy, and this process is largely dependent on a sufficient amount of insulin in the body.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas, releasing into the cells in response to the digestive conversion of proteins into glucose in the bloodstream. Much of the food that is ingested is broken down into glucose, a type of sugar in the blood and one of the body's main sources of energy. Appropriate insulin function will trigger the liver and muscles to take up glucose from the blood cells, converting it to energy.

Diabetes, a common condition for humans, is also relatively common in domestic animals like dogs. Type I diabetes is the more severe form of the disease, as it is dependent on daily insulin injections for maintaining blood sugar balance (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus – IDDM).

Dog with Food

An affected dog will be hungry a lot of the time, since glucose is not making it to the brain; glucose levels in the brain are too low for the brain to register that it is receiving food. Because insulin is not giving the muscles and organs the signal to convert glucose to energy, the excess glucose in the blood will be carried out of the body in urine instead of being used for energy, and there will be a concurrent lack of energy. There is also increased thirst as a result of the increase in urine. The liver is adversely affected by this condition, as are the eyes and kidneys.

At heightened risk are obese dogs and female dogs. While many cases of diabetes are seen in older dogs, it can occur at any age.

Symptoms and Types

Early signs:

*Excessive urination

*Excessive thirst


*Weight loss even with normal appetite

Later signs:

*Anorexia – complete loss of appetite

*Lethargy and depression

*Development of Ketoacidosis – metabolic acidosis caused by the breakdown of fat and proteins in the liver in response to insulin deficiency

Other symptoms include:

*Enlarged liver


*Bladder or kidney infection


There are several possible causes for diabetes mellitus. Genetic predisposition is one likely cause, since some breeds seem to be predisposed to diabetes, and dogs that have diabetes often also have relatives with it. However, there is also thought to be a relation to hormones therapies, since dogs that are receiving drugs to control heat cycles are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. This is due to their interference with insulin production. Pancreatitis is also likely to be a factor.

Some causes that are still being investigated are immune-system disorders, and there are indications that viral diseases can also lead to this condition. The prevalence of diabetes in dogs is not great; it varies between one in 400 and one in 500.

The following breeds are at a higher risk:

*Keeshond *Miniature Schnauzer

*Puli *Beagle

*Miniature Pinscher *Samoyed

*Cairn terrier *Poodle


A veterinarian will take detailed medical history from you of your dog's health leading up to the onset of symptoms and details of the exact symptoms. Standard tests will include a complete blood count, chemical profile, and urinalysis. These tests should be sufficient for diagnosis and initial treatment.

Typically, with diabetes, an unusually high concentration of glucose will be found in the blood and urine. Abnormally high levels of liver enzymes and electrolytes imbalances are also common. Urine test results may also show evidence of abnormally high levels of ketone bodies - water-soluble compounds produced as a by-product of fatty acid metabolism in the liver and kidney. A numbers of other abnormalities may also be found.

Radiographic Studies

Radiographic studies, including x-rays and ultrasonography, can be helpful for the diagnosis of concurrent diseases and complications due to diabetes. Abdominal X-rays and ultrasound will help to determine the presence of kidney stones and/or inflammation of the pancreas and liver, as well as other associated abnormalities. In the case of liver disease, should it appear suspect, your veterinarian may decide to take a sample of liver tissue for further diagnostic evaluation.

Fat Dog

A veterinarian will prescribe a course of treatment that will include daily exercise in your dog’s schedule. Lowering insulin demands and balancing your dog's food and liquid cravings to healthy levels will be the first priority. Obesity is one of the major risk factors for diabetes, and this condition can make management of diabetes difficult, but it can only be brought under control slowly and with great care. The target weight may be reached in 2-4 months, but a veterinarian will need to suggest a practical time line that is appropriate for your dog. If your dog has actually lost weight, you will need to work with a veterinarian on a plan to increase your dog's weight to normal levels.

Soft and moist foods will have to be avoided because they cause rapid accumulation of glucose in the body. However, do not change your dog food suddenly and without first discussing it with a veterinarian. Your dog will need a well-thought out and strictly enforced diet plan. A veterinarian can help you to design a plan that is well suited to your dog's needs, with life-style changes to facilitate proper management of the diabetes.

Bad Dog Chew

Most patients' diabetes can be managed without complications, but for some dogs the situation may be more challenging. A veterinarian will make an individual treatment and management plan for your dog based on the dog's current disease status. A veterinarian will also brief you on what to look for in case of either hypoglycemia (low levels of glucose) or hyperglycemia (high level of glucose), both of which can be seen in diabetic dogs. Keeping a daily and weekly chart of your dog's diet, glucose test results, daily insulin dose, and weekly body weight is highly recommended for following patterns and recognizing when your dog deviates from it's regular pattern. There are various types of insulin available and a selection of the type that is appropriate to your dog will made by a veterinarian.

Diabetec Injection

For instance, smaller dogs usually need multiple doses of insulin as part of their daily insulin therapy, while larger dogs may only need one dose per day. Likewise, doses are calculated according to the weight, age, gender and individual insulin requirements of the affected dog. Depending on how severe the diabetic condition is, and how the amount of insulin in the body varies from day to day, you may need to evaluate your dog's blood glucose levels on a daily basis and adjust the insulin dose accordingly.

If your pet is an intact female, and there are no plans to breed, a veterinarian may recommend a hysterectomy for your dog. this is to avoid the surge of hormones at the time of estrus, which can further complicate your dog's health.

Unfortunately, this is not a disease that will be cured, but your dog's health can be kept stable and it can go on to live a fully enjoyable life. This will be dependent on your willingness to adhere to the doctor's dietary recommendations. If properly managed, diabetic patients do well and usually have normal life-spans. The best preventive from complications is practicing careful maintenance

MAY 13, 2013


Diabetes Symptoms in Cats Diabetes mellitus, or sugar diabetes, is a commonly diagnosed disease in cats and ultimately affects all the organs. It develops in about 1 in 400 cats. It is due to inadequate production of insulin by the beta cells in the pancreas or inadequate response of the cells to insulin. Insulin is secreted directly into the circulation. It acts upon cell membranes, enabling glucose to enter the cells, where it is metabolized for energy. Without insulin, the body can’t utilize glucose. This results in elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). In diabetic cats, excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys, producing frequent urination. There is a need to compensate for the increased urination by drinking unusual amounts of water.

Fat Cat

Pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, medications such as megestrol acetate (Megace), and some corticosteroids, all have the potential to cause or mimic diabetes in a cat. Obesity is a predisposing factor for all cats, and Burmese cats may have a genetic predisposition. Male cats have twice the risk of females. At greatest risk are neutered male cats over 10 years of age and over 15 pounds in weight.

Glycosuria is sugar in the urine. When a urine glucose test is positive, suspect diabetes. Some cats will show high glucose levels in urine and blood due to stress, however, so a repeat test may be needed to verify the results. Defects in the kidney tubule function, such as with antifreeze poisoning, may also cause high glucose levels in the blood and urine.

Ketone Ketostix

Ketones (the end-product of rapid or excessive fatty-acid breakdown) are formed in the blood of diabetics because of the inability to metabolize glucose. High levels lead to a condition called ketoacidosis. It is characterized by acetone on the breath (a sweet odor like nail polish remover); rapid, labored breathing; and, Eventually,diabetic coma.

In the early stages of diabetes, a cat will try to compensate for the inability to metabolize blood glucose by eating more food. Later, with the effects of malnourishment, there is a drop in appetite. Accordingly, the signs of early diabetes are frequent urination, drinking lots of water, a large appetite, and unexplained weight loss. The laboratory findings are glucose and possibly ketones in the urine and a high blood glucose level.

In more advanced cases, there is loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, acetone breath, dehydration, labored breathing, lethargy, and, finally, coma. Unlike dogs, diabetic cats rarely develop cataracts. A muscle weakness, usually shown by an unusual stance in the rear with the cat walking down on her hocks instead of up on her toes, is often seen if glucose regulation is poor.

Cat Brush

Three types of diabetes are seen in cats. Type I diabetic cats are insulin dependent and need to receive daily insulin injections because the beta cells of their pancreases are not making enough insulin. In cats with type II diabetes, the cat’s pancreas may make enough insulin but the cat’s body does not use it properly. This is the most common type of feline diabetes. Some of these cats will require insulin as well, but others may get by on oral drugs to control blood glucose and dietary changes. About 70 percent of all diabetic cats will require at least some insulin.

The third type is known as transient diabetes. These are type II cats who present as diabetics and require insulin initially, but over time, their system re-regulates so they can go off insulin-especially with a change to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet.

(253) 859-VETS (8387)

Quality & Compassion at a LOW COST

Afford-A-Vet Animal Clinic

20920 108th Ave SE
Kent, WA 98031

Phone: (253) 859-VETS (8387)

Email:  Allow up to 48 hours for email responses.  Please call with urgent concerns.

We are next to SAFEWAY on 108th Ave. SE (Benson), just south of SE 208th (212th) Street.

We are only 4 Miles across the valley from Seatac/Des Moines and right up the hill from WINCO & Hwy 167.

Hours of Operation:

Monday        9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Tuesday       9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Wednesday   9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Thursday      9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Friday          9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday      9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Sunday        9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

There is no extra charge for our services on the weekends.

Walk-in Basis Only For Exams & Vaccines. Walk in exams will be seen until 5:30 pm on weekdays and 3:30 pm on weekends. Vaccines anytime while we are open.

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