Demodex: A Mitey Problem

July 27th, 2016 by Audrey Parker


We’ve all heard of mange. The term probably brings to mind a pitiful, skinny, bald little shelter animal in one of those heart-wrenching Sarah McLachlan ads on TV. Before you reach for the tissues, fear not! We can deal with mange! It’s not such a mighty problem! But it is a MITEY problem. There are several types of mange (like scabies, or sarcoptic mange), but demodectic mange is the most common type. The microscopic bugs, or demodex mites, that cause this condition are not contagious. They actually live on all dogs, but in low numbers. Here is a picture of the adorable little rascals!: demodex mite

Cute, right? Not so much.

Luckily it is usually only in puppies or immunocompromised animals that the mites multiply and cause a problem. Some breeds, like pit bulls and shar peis, appear to be predisposed, so there is likely a genetic component to the immune system that leave some dogs more susceptible than others. Most cases of demodex mange are not a terrible, full body affair, though. Many dogs just get a few small patches of hair loss, often on the face,  feet, and limbs. To test for these mites, your vet will perform a skin scraping. This is not a pleasant test, but most dogs tolerate it just fine. I always warn owners that the spots where I test are going to look like an angry hicky, and apologize in advance! If we see mites under the microscope, it’s a home run! Sometimes, though, we can’t catch the little guys in the act even if they are present. Hence the saying, we can rule mites in, but we can’t rule them out with a negative scrape test.lily after

Treatment for mites varies by case. Very mild presentations may go away as a puppy ages. More significant cases require more aggressive care. Take Lily Bug:

Lily came to me as a 3 month old puppy that a very nice lady rescued from the lot next to her apartment complex, and boy did Lily look a little rough! We did a scrape, found a ton of mites, and started treatment. We needed to kill the mites, get rid of the secondary bacterial skin infection they had caused, and flush out the hair follicles where the mites lived. To kill the mites, we used to use a very high dose of a drug called ivermectin, but this medication can be dangerous to some dogs at the elevated doses needed to kill demodex. And, that drug had to be given EVERY DAY. Nowadays, I typically reach for a 3-month flea and tick pill called Bravecto (fluralaner). This medication is only labeled for dogs 6 months and older. It has been tested and found to be very safe in younger puppies, but puppy metabolisms are cranking so fast that they burn through the drug faster than adult dogs, so it might not last the whole 3 months. But, one pill typically cures a case of demodex, even one as bad as Lily’s!  We also used antibiotics to get rid of Lily’s secondary bacteria, and a medicated, folicular flushing shampoo to clear all the debris out of her pores and follicles. In a couple months, Lily looked a heck of a lot better! lily DEMODEX

She’s even smiling to show off her spotted tongue! There are other treatments available, including medicated dips and off-label, high frequency administration of certain heartworm preventatives. But since its arrival on the market, Bravecto has been the easiest and most reliable treatment for me.

So don’t fear! If your dog has demodex mites, it’s not such a mighty problem. New treatments and some consistent care will get your puppy back to her cute and comfortable self.


Dr. Katie Morrill

The Pet Hospitals- Poplar at Massey

How to acclimate your cat traveling in a cat carrier

July 21st, 2016 by Audrey Parker


How to acclimate your cat to traveling in a cat carrier

A common concern for feline owners is the stress associated with car rides and veterinary visits, which can often deter a client from bringing their cat in for check ups. Because early detection and intervention are paramount to successful treatment of chronic disease, regular veterinary check ups are very important for feline patients. Stressed kitties also make examination and treatment very difficult for veterinarians. With the help of your veterinarian, there are many tips and tricks for training cats to become more comfortable traveling in their carriers, making car rides and trips to the veterinary clinic far less traumatic and stressful. With a little preparation, and patience, you can improve your cat’s comfort level with traveling, as well as our ability to care for your cat appropriately. Here are some tips to help you lower the stress level of your cat:

Steps to improved cat carrier acceptance

1) Introduce the carrier as early as possible. Starting carrier training while your kitten is still young will teach your cat that the carrier is just another fun hiding place, or play area, as opposed to a confined space that is only used for transportation. When purchasing a carrier, choose one that loads from the top, or comes apart in the middle, so that your veterinarian can take the top off and begin their examination with the cat sitting comfortably in the bottom portion of the carrier. Be sure to place the carrier in your cat’s favorite room, perhaps a sunny location, with a soft piece of bedding to encourage exploration and voluntary use. Young kittens are extremely curious, and will happily enter the carrier, which will help them to acclimate to the carrier much faster than an older carrier 2

2) Encourage daily usage of the carrier. Each day, please a piece of kibble or a yummy treat in the carrier. When the cat enters the carrier and eats the treat, calmly praise and pet the cat, and offer a few more treats. If the cat doesn’t accept the treat right away, just walk away. Don’t try to persuade the cat, or they will become suspicious. It might take a few days, but the cat should start to eat the treats willingly, although it might be when you are not watching.

3) Gradually close the door. Once your cat happily enters the carrier when you are around, gently close the door, offer a treat, and then open the door so that the cat does not feel trapped.

4) Extend the door-closure period. After several days of closing the door with positive reinforcement, leave the door closed and walk out of the room for several seconds before returning and offering another treat. Gradually increase the time spent in the carrier, and work up to moving the carrier to another place in the house with the cat still inside.

5) Begin car rides. After a week of daily training sessions with the door closed, move on to placing the carrier in the car, and then work up to short car rides. Then take a trip to the veterinary clinic for a “happy visit”, and ask the staff to provide positive reinforcement in the form of petting and treats. If at any point your cat becomes nervous, go back a step and give treats until your cat is more comfortable. cat carrier car

6) Cover the carrier when traveling. A helpful tip is to cover the carrier with a blanket or towel while in the car. This will help your cat to feel safer while traveling.

7) Add toys, treats or bedding into the carrier. If your cat has favorite toys, treats brushes, or bedding, please bring them to the clinic when you visit (both for training visits, as well as actual visits). This will create a more familiar and comfortable environment for your cat, by surrounding him/her with familiar smells and textures.

8) Consider using Feliway just before traveling. Feliway is a feline-appeasing pheromone product that produces a calming effect in cats. This pheromone can be found in many forms – plug-in diffusers, sprays, and towelettes. Prior to your car trip, prepare the carrier by spraying with Feliway spray or wiping it down with Feliway wipes, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before introducing your cat. With especially nervous cats, Feliway can help with the initial training steps as well.

By following these steps, use of a carrier will become routine for your cat, and he/she will be much more comfortable with trips to the veterinary clinic and traveling in general. However, some cats, despite your best efforts, will still become afraid of confinement or travel. In these cases, your veterinarian may consider prescribing additional anti-anxiety medications to help alleviate stress. The ultimate goal should always be keeping the experience as peaceful and pleasant as possible for everyone involved, including yourself and the veterinary staff.


Dr. Christie Taylor

Why Is My Dog Scooting?

July 12th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey


You’ve noticed your dog scooting his bottom across your brand new area rug.  And then it hits your nose…a terrible fishy smell that has notes of something dead or at least rotten.  What is that???

dog anal gland scootingAnal glands (or anal sacs) are two, small glands that sit in the 10:00 and 2:00 position just inside the anus of your pet.  Bothdogs and cats have them.  The material that these glands secrete is thick, oily, and very foul smelling.  In the wild, these glands serve as a way to mark territory or act in self defense (like a skunk).  Wild animals can usually voluntarily empty the glands.  Unfortunately, domestication of our dogs and cats have mostly removed the ability for them to empty the glands voluntarily.  In some pets, the anal glands will express themselves with activity or normal defecation.  In others, they are unable to empty the glands efficiently, allowing the anal glands to fill up and become uncomfortable.

Impacted anal glands are often problematic.  Most dogs can be seen scooting on the ground, trying to express them.  Some will lick the area excessively (then inevitably want to lick you in the face shortly after!).  Many cats will lick so incessantly that they remove the fur from that area.  Other pets just show vague signs of discomfort, such as hiding, shaking, holding their tails down, and not wanting to jump.scooting dog


When anal glands become impacted, if not manually emptied, they can form an abscess and eventually rupture out through the skin.  This condition is painful and messy, often causing bloody fluid to leak around your house.  In some patients, it gets so bad that the abscess has to be drained while the pet is under sedation.  Anal gland abscesses usually require a course of antibiotics, some pain medication and several recheck exams.

How To Stop The Scooting:

If your pet is showing signs of impacted anal glands, they need to be addressed as soon as possible.  The easiest way to start this is to have one of our assistants express the glands.  This is a quick and simple procedure and is typically painless for the pet, though a little embarrassing.  Some owners are interested in learning how to do this procedure at home.  We’re happy to teach you, but be forewarned, it’s not for the faint of heart (it’s gross and smelly).  Also, most pets will not sit still to have their anal glands expressed and require someone to hold them during the procedure.

dog scootingEach pet is different as to how often they need their anal glands expressed.  Some never do.  Some need it done every 6-8 weeks.  Some will continue to scoot for 2-3 days after having their glands expressed, simply due to irritation.  If a pet continues to show signs of full anal glands beyond 3 days post-expression, there may be another cause, such as parasites, food allergies, or back pain. A diet change to particular prescription diets may be recommended for some cases, to decrease the frequency of filling or improve the consistency of the fluid excreted.

People often ask if anal glands can just be taken out.  They can, however, it’s a complicated surgical procedure that carries some risks of complications.  We typically reserve that as a last resort for problematic anal glands, or if there is cancer within one of the glands.

Put a stop to the scooting- Have your pet’s anal glands expressed!

Sileo: Helping your dog calm down during fireworks and thunderstorms

June 30th, 2016 by Audrey Parker

Something New For Canine Storm Anxiety?fireworksandsileo

Does your dog fear fireworks? Pant up a storm when it’s thundering? Well, there’s a new option available to help with that.

Sileo is the trade name of a drug long-used in the veterinary field. Dexdomitor (also called dexmeditomidine) has been available as an injectable medication for veterinary anesthesia for many years. Now it comes in a unique oral gel that you insert between your dog’s lip and gums. The medication is absorbed across the gums, so it does not have to be swallowed. Gone are the days of forcing a pill down the throat of a panicking pup!

How Does It Work?

Sileo helps to decrease the amount of norepinephrine (or sileopicnoradrenalin) released in an animal’s brain. Norepinephrine is a molecule involved in the fight-or-flight part of the nervous system. Turning it down should thus prevent a dog from becoming so over stimulated by loud, scary noises. I have long used a tiny dose of this medication given as an IV injection for dogs who wake up disoriented and howling from anesthesia. It usually works like a charm. The dog is not knocked out, just calm and no longer distressed.

What are the Side Effects?

Sileo can effect a dog’s heart rate, respirations, and blood pressure. When used in the vet clinic at high doses to “knock a dog out,” the heart rate can drop from a normal 120 beats per minute down to about 40! This can be a bit nerve wracking, even if a doctor knows it’s coming. At the low doses to be used in the Sileo oral gel, however, such a drop would not be expected. Sileo also causes small blood vessels, called capillaries, to constrict, which can make a dog’s gums look white. Again, this is not a concerning sign if you know it is normal for the drug. Still, veterinarians will select the patients for whom Sileo is considered safe and effective, and dog owners should not exceed the dosing instructions they are given. Sileo is not approved for use in pregnant animals, and should not be given to dogs who have heart, respiratory, liver, kidney, or other serious disease.

How is Sileo Given?

sileo thunderstormSileo oral gel comes in a reusable hard tube with dot markings on the side designating a dosing “unit”. The number of units a dog needs for a dose depends on its size. As with many drugs, Sileo will be cheaper for smaller animals, and more costly for larger ones. There are twelve units in a syringe. One unit is a single dose for a dog up to 5.5 lbs. Two units per dose for a dog 5.5-12 lbs. And for a 200lb mastiff, all 12 units would be a single dose! You can repeat a dose every two hours for up to FIVE doses, which would be a VERY LONG thunderstorm or VERY EXPENSIVE fireworks display! A syringe can be used for up to two weeks after it is opened, but it should be stored in its box because the drug is light-sensitive.

Sileo gel should be given between the upper lip and gums, and should NOT be swallowed. The drug is actually inactivated in the GI tract, so it should be absorbed across the gums to work properly. A swallowed dose is not dangerous, it just won’t work well.

Sileo and Human Safety

Owners should wear impermeable gloves when administering this oral gel to prevent the medication from being absorbed across their own skin. Pregnant women should not administer the drug because of the potential for blood pressure changes if contacted. Wash hands after using Sileo, or after contacting the dog’s mouth shortly after they have received a dose.

If you know you will be out of town or out of the house for a loud event, another option for keeping your pet calm during a storm could be allowing them to stay with us at the clinic! Sometimes just not being home alone can help them feel safer.

For more information about this new drug, including videos on how it is administered, and helpful hints about canine noise aversion, go to:

Essential Oils and Animals

June 15th, 2016 by Emily Lindsey

As I am delving into the world of essential oils for myself, I have found many people asking me about use in and on their dogs and cats.  First and foremost let me clarify I am NOT a holistic veterinarian (there are tests and lots of qualifications that go into becoming a true holistic veterinarian). I am just an interested vet wanting to pass along what I have learned to you about essential oils and animals.

essential oils cat dog

This is a very controversial topic in the veterinary world. There have not been many studies on the use of oils and aromatherapy with animals, and dosages/applications  and safety is obscure at best.  Sure, Pinterest is teeming with recipes for ‘essential oil flea and tick prevention’ as well as ‘shampoo’ made with the oils, but beware. Just because one person tried it on their pet does not mean it is safe for yours.

There is an internationally recognized holistic veterinarian, Dr. Melissa Shelton, who has authored two books on essential oils for pets, and has her own online website,, that I reference. You may want to check it out, too. To quote her about which oils are safe to use around your animals “You may not know until you use them! I know, that is not the answer you would like to get. You want a cut and dried, “use this oil, but not this oil” sort of scenario. But, it is just not accurate….the most important thing to know is “which oil are you using and where did you get it?”. There are many different grades of essential oils, and some are created for the ‘scent and flavor’ industry.

To read more on  this or explore her blog posts and information, visit her website!

pinterest essential oils

A perfect example of the articles you will find on Pinterest promising you that essential oils are safe for your pets…

A few safety precautions to keep in mind when combining essential oils and animals:

  • Keep all oils and aromatherapy products out of reach of children and pets
  • Do not give your pets essential oils internally
  • Do not get any oils near or in the eyes
  • Never apply essential oils directly to an animal’s muzzle area or inside  nostrils, ears or mouth
  • Do not force essential oils onto animals by way of a head or muzzle mask breather-type device
  • Do not apply undiluted essential oils to animals
  • Remember essential oils are very concentrated

Always consult with your veterinarian before using these with your pet!  Become educated enough to make proper decisions about their use. Improper use of even high quality oils can lead to burns, respiratory issues, GI upset and more! Keep in mind that pets cannot speak and tell you when “Ouch, that hurts/burns!” Unfortunately, Pinterest cannot always be trusted.

-Dr. Karen Gant