81 Wellness Bloodwork Specials

It’s that time of year again when our laboratory gives us some great deals on wellness bloodwork that we pass on to you.
We have been busy drawing blood, collecting urine and feces already. So far, we have already picked up early problems in dogs and cats like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, early kidney disease (SDMA), and several with some elevated heart muscle stretching tests (cardiopet pro BNP).

We have custom packages for dogs and cats, young and old, that are quite a discount than the rest of the year. I am getting my own dog’s wellness bloodwork today! If there is something going on inside, I want to know early so I can make diet and/or life style changes so Sarge is around for many more years.

It’s easy to set up an appointment to get Fluffy or Fido’s blood samples taken. We love it when you collect the urine and poop from home. We get the results in 1-2 days, depending on the types of tests performed. And we don’t make you come in to talk about the findings! You will be a call from the veterinarian, Dr Henricks or Dr Pena, who will actually explain the results. (of course, you are always welcome to come in…)

For more information, check out BLOG  #28, from October of last year for more details.

80 Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

Can you believe all the creepy crawly bugs we are seeing after the rain and slight break in heat? We are seeing crickets, army worms, fire ants, flies, moths, etc. near our building and homes. We will soon see an increase in fleas, ticks and mosquitos, so don’t let up on your heartworm and flea prevention. We have even found fleas on some dogs coming in for boarding.

Have you heard reports that the FDA is concerned about neurological events (tremors, ataxia, or seizures) in a class of oral flea and tick medicine calls isoxazolines? This class includes Bravecto, Nexgard, Simparica and the new Credelio. None of the products is being recalled or withdrawn from market, but there have been reports of adverse events now the products have been out for a few years. Here at Garden Ridge Animal Hospital, we haven’t seen these side effects, but we urge clients with concerns to check out the FDA statement to the manufacturers to add additional warnings to their labels. We will continue to sell oral flea and tick medications because they are so very effective and safe, we use them on our own pets, but we will follow this closely. Link to FDA statement

A large study by Idexx, our laboratory, shows a relationship between tick-borne diseases (like Lymes and Ehrilichia) and kidney disease. When they searched their data, if a pet had been positive for Lymes or Ehrlichia they had up to a 300% increase risk for kidney value elevations, years later. Many of the early signs of kidney disease are very subtle like an increase in water consumption, increased urine output, or a slight decrease in appetite. With blood tests like BUN, Creatinine, and new SDMA, we can detect kidney disease is the early stages, and have time to make some lifestyle and diet changes to manage those nephrons and increase life expectancy.

79 Rescued pets from Florence and Upcoming Test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

As with any disaster, there are amazing stories of heroism and stupidity. Florence is no exception. It does appear that disaster groups have learned some lessons from Katrina and will accept animals What are the lessons learned from Florence?
1. The flood after a hurricane is worse than the high winds. We learned that from Harvey too.
2. People fail to plan for their animals: dogs, cats, exotic pets, horses, livestock, etc. My heart hurt when I saw the photos of dogs in enclosed outdoor runs with the water up to their chests. Or horses penned in areas with standing water. Or wet cats loose in owner’s arms, no carriers.
3. Good Samaritans and pet lovers will step up the plate to help rescue individual pets, and even whole animal shelters. The story about the bus driver that help evacuate the Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach, the Dillon County Animal Shelter, Orangeburg Animal Shelter, and Saint Frances Animal Shelter. Last week, he rescued 53 dogs and 11 cats (in crates), got them to rescue groups outside the flooding, and was going back for more.

There is a planned test of the National Emergency Broadcast System, and you might receive an important text message on your phones on Wednesday, October 3. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be conducting tests of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) which includes the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). FEMA has performed three previous tests of the EAS, in November 2011, September 2016 and September of 2017. October 3 will be the first test of the WEA. If a cell phone provider participates in WEA, those who have that cell phone provider should receive the test texts. In reference to the WEA test text, www.fema.gov, explains, “Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. EDT. During this time, WEA compatible cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message. Some cell phones will not receive the test message, and cell phones should only receive the message once. “The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert). Users cannot opt out of receiving the WEA test.” It continues, “The WEA test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert” and text that says: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.

78 Disaster Preparation for Pets– Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed planning for disasters while staying at home. But what if you have to leave to stay safe?

Who? Everyone, even pets leave. No one will come to your house in a disaster and take care of Fluffy, or the gerbils, snake & birds. So be ready to transport.

When? Leave as early as possible. I know that is vague, but you have seen the traffic jams when everyone leaves at the same time.

Where? Ideally you have a close relative in a nearby town that is out of the disaster area. Other ideas are booking a room in a pet friendly hotel in a safe city, or a hotel with a nearby pet boarding facility. Campgrounds might be an option for campers or families with RVs. As a last resort, governments will set up “shelters” like Dallas has done for Houston during Hurricane Harvey, or Houston did during Katrina. These facilities may or may not allow pets, and they definitely recommend or require a carrier for each pet. Imagine how scare Fifi would be in a new wire kennel, in a big building, next to dozens of other scared dogs and cats, with you in the next building.

What to pack? This comes straight from FEMA
Food. At least a three day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.
Water. At least three days of water specifically for your pets.
Medicines and medical records.
Important documents. Registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.
Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.
Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
Sanitation. Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.
• A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.
(I would add calming pheromones to this list, or a Thundershirt if it helps your dog )

If you have made it this far, I challenge you to discuss this with the family, line to 2 or 3 relatives you could “visit” for a while, plan a few different ways to drive to their houses, gather up carriers, vaccine records, food & water for 3-7 days, and practice getting pets in the car. It will be challenging, but way less to practice now than in the event of an actual emergency.

If you can’t find your vaccine records, give us a call to reprint them. Or they aren’t up to date, let’s fix that.

I have a free red AAHA collapsible water /food dish like in the picture for the first 5 readers who contact me. You must come by to pick it up.



77 Disaster Preparedness for Pets- Part 1

As I watch the news this week with Hurricane Florence bearing down on the East Coast, I am reminded that September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. And that means planning with pets in mind. It actually started last week, and the theme is Disasters Happen. Prepare now. Learn how.

The first step is to imagine some likely disasters. Up here in North Texas, I think tornadoes, ice storms, power failures, localized flooding, and possible wildfires. There are many similarities to prepare, even though the causes may be different.

The next step is to figure out if you would shelter in place or leave. If you shelter in place, determine which room of your home would be safest. For tornadoes, ideally pick a room with no external windows, on the ground floor, maybe even a bathtub. I recommend having a leash for every dog and a carrier for each cat. If the power goes out, and the sirens wail, and everyone is freaking out, the last thing you want is your pets all loose and stressed out. This might be a great time to purchase some calming pheromone sprays for pets: Feliway for cat and Adaptil for dogs. These are available OTC at pet stores and Amazon. Some pets might want a favorite blanket or toy, just like children.

Some other items to keep in your shelter room are a charged up phone, flashlight, and a battery powered radio. It is a pretty helpless feeling to be hunkered down in a bathroom, in the dark, listening to the sirens, and you have no clue what is going on. Many cities have a Red Alert system, which will call you if there is a local emergency, but you have to subscribe ahead of time. In Lewisville, they call it Citizen Alert.  In a tornado, the cell towers might go down. Keep a battery powered radio handy, and know some local channels. And there are many apps for phones that can get weather and Dallas News, but not necessarily Lewisville news.

Some basic preparations are to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date, you have at least a week or two of important medications, and that they are microchipped. This is not the time to run out of allergy pills, heart medications, or specialty diets. I see quite a few stray dogs and cats after big wind storms here when fences blow down. A tag on a collar or a microchip really helps reconnect Fido and owner.

What if you have to leave? Sometimes it just isn’t safe to stay home. Would you know what to pack? Where to go? When to leave? I am sure there are many people in the Carolinas or Californians near wildfires asking themselves that same question now.

Next week’s blog will be on “Go” bags and preplanning for a bug out.
For more information: https://www.ready.gov/animals

74 The Allergic Cat

Last week I wrote about ragweed, pollen, and allergies, especially in dogs. Cat can develop pollen or food allergies too, but it seems less frequent than dogs. This week, I have seen some indoor and outdoor cats with allergic symptoms. I think I see less feline allergy because most of my cats are indoor only (even though pollen does get into our houses.)

The symptoms of cats with allergies to pollen or food include itchiness, especially the face and ears, licking feet more, generalized tiny bumps, and raised red skin plaques. Some have other signs like sneezing, coughing, wheezing (asthma), and occasional vomiting and diarrhea (especially secondary to hairballs).

Cats can develop asthma just like people, which is a constriction of the tiny airways in the chest. It can be mild to severe. I probably never see the mild ones, but when cats are open mouth breathing and wheezing from an asthma attack, it is an emergency. And of course it isn’t healthy to smoke around cats, especially asthmatic ones.

Cats can also be allergic to flea bites, but we seldom see the actual fleas on cats because most cats are such great groomers. I do see more fleas on chubby patients because it is harder for them to groom themselves. So just because you don’t SEE fleas on Fluffy doesn’t mean she isn’t getting a single flea a day that bites her, which she quickly lick off. Revolution is a great topical product for cats that kills fleas, ear mites & many intestinal parasites.

Cat do occasional have food allergies. The symptoms are often skin related, not just gastrointestinal. They aren’t born with food allergies, but develop slowly over time, even when the food isn’t changed. I usually suspect food allergies if my patient doesn’t respond to steroids.

The treatment for cats is similar to dogs, with a few minor differences. Ideally we try to avoid the trigger, like keep them inside more. We try to remove pollens by bathing them or at least wiping them down with damp washcloths (“lick the cat”). We could try to give them liquid Benadryl, but most owners find that challenging. Apoquel isn’t approved for cats so I usually go straight to steroids, conveniently available in a long term injection. Fortunately, cats don’t have many side effects to an occasional steroid injection, unlike humans and dogs, so it is much safer.

Feline allergies are really a thing, and I don’t mean people that are allergic to cat dander (that’s a different article.) If your cat is grooming more, getting sores, or having respiratory signs, a vet can help. Come see us!


73 The Itchy Dog

Ragweed season is here already. Ragweed is a problem for many fall allergy sufferers but this year it started really early (in mid-August after the rains), and will generally go until the first frost (average November 15). The mold counts have been high too. Dogs and even cats can be allergic to pollen and mold.

Allergies are nothing to sneeze at, really. Actually, for most dogs the primary symptom is itchiness, especially feet, ears, armpits and rear end. They usually don’t have runny eyes and nose, but a few might. And most “allergies” are to the proteins in pollen, rarely food allergies. For these pets, the immune system has an elevated, inappropriate response to these proteins that are inhaled and absorbed right through the skin. The prime skin cell that reacts is a mast cell, which is loaded with histamine granules, and releases the histamine when the specific proteins are detected by the immune system. Then the histamine triggers the itch. Licking & scratching is a symptom of itchiness.

Symptoms Include licking feet, rubbing face, shaking ears, scratching at armpits or sides, and licking/scooting on their rear. The pattern of allergy itchiness is different than flea bites, which is mostly lower back and backs of thighs. And an allergy dog with even one flea is extra miserable.
Uncontrolled allergies can lead to secondary skin and ear infections, either bacteria like Staph or yeast. If it goes on for weeks, the skin will make extra sebum and smell bad, or get flaky and crusty. Many people mistake this for “dry skin”, and stop bathing their dogs. If the itching and infections go on for longer, the skin may get thickened, turn gray, and wrinkled looking.

As pet parents, we can help these patients. First, I recommend starting with anti-itch medicine, often OTC antihistamines like Benadryl or Zyrtec. If that isn’t working well, I step up to prescription medicines like Apoquel. My last resort is steroids, which have many side effects.

Secondly, I stress cleansing the skin and ears with weekly bathing or wiping, often with gentle shampoos like aloe and oatmeal dog shampoos. If we leave the abnormal sebum on the skin, microorganisms will try to grow in it, so bathing is critical to break the allergy cycle. And washing the bedding and collars is important too. Daily washing of the affected areas ( like feet, face, ears) can help remove topically absorbed pollens and help soothe the itch.

The third component is to try to avoid whatever the allergy is toward. Pollen is hard to avoid, so keeping the pets inside more helps, but pollen gets in homes too. Keeping filters clean helps. Stepping up antihistamines and bathing helps. Many “derm” diets or supplements have higher fatty acids that can help decrease the immune symptoms.

Forth component is to avoid fleas and ticks. The flea population often spikes in mild moist weather like spring and fall. They don’t all die after the summer or winter extremes. And they never die in the house from bad weather outside. So keep allergy dogs on year round flea prevention like Credelio or Trifexis.

Allergies are nothing to sneeze at, but we can manage it so are pets are more comfortable.

For more information: https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/allergies-dogs#1-2

For more information about Apoquel,and the itch cycle.

72 Ears and allergies

This week I have seen a big uptick in my ear cases. We see dogs year round that have ear problems, ear infections, itchy ears, smelly ears, head shaking, but this week was different.

Ear infection doesn’t just happen. Yeast and bacteria don’t come out the dirt, jump in your dog’s ear and cause an infection. There has to be an underlying cause for ear problems. The common triggers are allergies (inhalant pollen or food), wet ears (swimming or bathing), hairy ears, underlying general skin problems (often hormonal like low thyroid), ear conformation ( floppy, or old scar tissue from previous ear infections), foreign bodies (like grass),and rarely parasites like ear mites or ticks. In my practice, it is usually allergies, hair ears, or swimming.

Allergies cause ear infection? Really? Most people either have some seasonal allergies to pollen or mold themselves or know someone who does. Humans experience sneezing, runny noses, itchy nose and eyes, and nasal congestion from the histamines released and can be partially blocked with antihistamines. Dogs also experience allergies to ragweed pollen and mold spores, but have different symptoms. Dogs have more mast cell receptors that release histamine on the skin of their feet, muzzle, ears, and elbow fold, than their membranes of nose and eyes. So when you see a dog frequently licking their feet, it isn’t a foot fetish, they are really itchy and trying to soothe that itch. Those ears when inflamed will make a lot more wax, and if you have a moist, waxy, hairy, folded ear you have the perfect conditions for the normal skin flora of yeast and bacteria ( usually staph) to thrive.

How do you know if your dog has an ear infection? Check Fluffy’s ears when you see head shaking, scratching at ears (or feet), and use all your senses. Look for redness and discharge. Smell for abnormal odors. Many of my clients say they can smell the yeast, because it smells like moldy bread. Listen for a wet squishy sound before you clean then. Feel the ears for warmth because an inflamed ear is often warmer than the other ear or the rest of the skin.

How do you treat ear problems at home? The biggest trick is to catch it early. Check those ears often, especially if Fido has risk factors or is itchy already. Frequent ear washing at home, during/after baths, and after swimming really helps. Using a pet ear cleaning is much better than tap water. They all contain a solution of water, mild acids, and alcohols to help “dry“ the ear when it evaporates. And they smell nicer than a nasty ear. Use ear washes frequently if Spot has ear problems.

What if cleaning isn’t enough? If home care doesn’t stop the head shaking, redness, and tenderness, it is time to come see the vet. We will gently examine the ears, collect samples to look for infection, and prescribe medicine. Occasionally, we will even prescribe pain medicine, because some dogs are truly painful and miserable with ear infections.

How do I prevent the next infection? It is all about managing those causes of ear problems: allergies with antihistamines or stronger prescription medicine like Apoquel, plucking hairy ears, washing weekly at least in allergy season, washing after swimming, and managing underlying skin diseases.

Ear infections can be prevented, treated, and managed. We can help.

For more information:

71 Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day

National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day is August 22.  That is next week.  I would argue EVERY day should be “Take Your Cat to the Vet Day”, but this gives me a chance to wrap up my feline exam & vaccination series.

Today I performed a routine exam and vaccinations on my new nurse’s (Larissa) cat name Dandi.  She has been anxious in the past going to the vet and usually growls.  We know that growling is a sign of fear and anxiety.  She has had a lot of dental work and extractions, so maybe her fear was based on good reasons!  To help avoid anxiety, Larissa gave Dandi a dose a gabapentin this morning on her food before going in the carrier & coming to work.  We scheduled her on a light day, no barking dogs.  She was transferred from carrier to cage while we did our morning cases.

At lunch, we moved Dandi to the cat room, with the pheromone Feliway diffuser, and covered her with a towel that had been sprayed with Feliway.  Dandi never growled, , no dilated pupils, no ears laid back, and seemed comfortable throughout.  We did our whole exam and vaccination without ever triggering fear or anxiety.  Put that in the WIN column!

Dandi is a textbook example of how Fear Free can make a difference.  Let us try it on YOUR cat.  And tell Larissa how cute her cat is.




70 Free Fear Feline Exams

So how do you get a stressed out cat to the vet? My sister-in-law would grab the cat, no carrier, place it in the back of her hatchback car, and drive fast to the vet. Her cat was always anxious, and she had trouble getting her in the carrier. She did what she thought best at the time. Now, in 2018, we have a few tricks to make this easier for cats AND their owners.

Trick #1- CARRIER– Cats will be less stressed in a clean, familiar carrier, either hard sided or the new soft sided kind. Some cats prefer a top opening. For best results, leave it out in house all the time, not just before a trip to the vet. Let Fluffy get used to it, and not just associate it with “going to the vet.” Place treats & catnip in it to make it a happy place. Pheromones like Feliway wipes or spray can help create calming/relaxing atmosphere.

Trick #2- ANTI ANXIETY MEDICATION-Prevet visit medications like RX gabapentin or OTC Feliway pheromones can really help a cat with previous anxiety problems at the vet. I compare it to taking a valium before a visit to the dentist if you are afraid of dentists. It isn’t sedation, but it does help reduce the fear so maybe Tigger won’t have another fearful & anxious experience.
So what is this gabapentin (Neurotin), and how the heck to do I give it to my cat?  Gabapentin is an inexpensive medication originally developed to control seizures in humans. It is also used to control neuropathic pain in humans, dogs, and cats. While it is not labeled for use for anxiety, it is increasingly used for that purpose in human and veterinary medicine. The powder in the capsule does not have a strong taste and is usually well accepted by cats when the capsule is opened and sprinkled over wet food, 90 minutes to three hours before the car trip.
What is Feliway? Feliway is a pheromone (hormone that travels through the air) that goes straight to brain and triggers other hormones. Most people have heard about sex pheromones or fear pheromones. These are calming and marking pheromones. The cats react to them, without drugs, and humans can’t smell them.

Trick #3-THE CAR TRIP– Once in the carrier, the best place for it is on the floor behind the driver. There is less motion & less visual stimulation. You can even cover the carrier with a towel for less stimulation. Some pets respond better to soft music on the radio, not loud Rock or Rap.

Trick #4- THE EXAM– Ask to be scheduled at a time when it isn’t crowded so you can go straight into an exam room. Carry the carrier with 2 hands (don’t swing by the handle) . Don’t place the carrier on the floor- keep at seat or table level. It is great if owner bring a favorite treat or toy from home what we coax them out of carriers with, and use a reward after the exam. Some cats even prefer their own towels from home.

Trick #5 – Chose a Cat Friendly Vet, and one certified in Fear Free practices. Here at Garden Ridge Animal Hospital, we have a “cat room”, use Feliway diffusers , soft yoga mats on tables, spray our towels with Feliway calming pheromones, and handle cats gently, and trying to avoid triggers. We are able to do so much more with cats since we adopted these principals. Most owners are amazed that a few tricks can make such a difference. And often that success builds with each visit, as the cat doesn’t have scary experiences. Because one day, that cat will get sick, need to go the vet, and already be stressed from the illness.

So now you know HOW to set the stage for Fear Free cat visits to the vet. Call us to set up your cat’s annual well check exam, and maybe some vaccines. If you do these steps, YOU will be less stressed.