Monday, September 10, 2018

Is Your Pet Struggling with Obesity?

As of 2014, an estimated 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats have been found to be overweight.* Obesity is unfortunately a common (and increasing) problem among our pets here in the US, and it’s shortening their lives. To enjoy the best possible quality of life, companion animals need a balanced diet and plenty of activity.

*Association for Pet Obesity Prevention 

Common Causes
There are various reasons that could explain the uptick in pet obesity. These include:

· Overfeeding – This might seem obvious, but it is also a serious problem. Many pet owners believe that they’re showing their pets that they love them by constantly feeding them extra food, treats, and table scraps. While it may be hard to say no to your pet when they beg for a snack, it’s important to consider the consequences that will result from overfeeding. Our pets don’t know any better, but we do! Plus, human foods are often higher in calories and fats which can quickly add pounds to our pets.

· Little to no exercise – Like us, our pets need exercise to burn calories and stay in shape. Certain breeds require much more activity than others, so it’s essential to consider what breed of animal will be best suited to your lifestyle before you adopt. In addition to gaining weight, pets that aren’t exercised frequently may become destructive due to boredom.

· Overweight is the new normal – What was considered a normal, healthy weight for humans 20 years ago is different today. Weight gain is commonplace, so it doesn’t seem all that unusual in today’s world and is harder to identify. This also applies to our pets.

· Not recognizing when a pet is overweight – Weight gain is generally gradual, and since you see your pet every day, you might not notice that they’re looking a little thicker around the middle. Unfortunately, this means that a large percent of owners do not realize that their pets are not within a normal, healthy weight range.

Health Risks that Come with Obesity
There are many health issues that pets can develop as a result of obesity, such as:

· Arthritis
· Cancer
· Diabetes
· Poor hygiene due to having difficulty grooming
· Having accidents outside of the litter box (cats)
· Clinical depression (a possibility for pets that engage in minimal daily activity)

Overall, overweight pets are more likely to have a shorter lifespan and a lower quality of life. Furthermore, treating the issues associated with your pet’s obesity can be costly and stressful.

Preventing Obesity in Your Pet

· Exercise is essential. At the very least, make sure you walk your dog at least once a day and/or play with your cat for about 20 minutes per day. You can also make feeding time more interesting by using a food puzzle or toy that dispenses food/treats when your cat plays with it. Look for ways to make ordinary activities more exciting for your pet. When in doubt, let us know if you have questions. We’d be happy to offer suggestions!

· Avoid overfeeding. Talk to our team about creating a healthy diet plan for your pet. This will include what type of food your pet needs, how much they need, and how often. We understand that you might feel guilty cutting your pet’s portions and keeping their treats to a minimum, but think about it this way—you’re showing your pet that you love them by working to keep them healthy and happy!

· Find other ways to show them how much they mean to you. Play with them, take them for walks, and give them extra snuggles. These are great ways to bond with your four-legged best friend.

When treating obesity in pets, it’s important to remember that their weight loss should be gradual. This is especially necessary for cats, as rapid weight loss may lead to liver disease. To begin your pet on the road to a healthier weight and a happier life, please call us at (412) 882-3070!

Source: American Animal Hospital Association

Friday, August 10, 2018

Healing with Light Beams

Laser therapy is not a new medical therapy, but it has recently been made readily available and affordable to veterinary clinics. With this technology, pets are able to recover faster and suffer from less pain, whether it is from surgery, an injury, or a chronic condition. At ACVC, we utilize this therapy frequently for our patients with a wide range of conditions. 

How Does it Work? 

During a laser therapy treatment, the device is placed over the affected area and sends concentrated light energy deep into the tissue. The light energizes cells in the damaged tissue and quickens the healing process. Patients at ACVC will receive laser therapy for a number of conditions including:

- Post-surgical incisions

- Hot spots

- Lick granulomas

- Intervertebral disc disease

- Tendonitis

- Arthritis

- Stomatitis

- … and more!

Benefits of Laser Therapy

By activating and energizing cells, laser therapy offers loads of benefits not only for the healing process but for your pet’s comfort level, too. Benefits include:

- Decreased inflammation

- Pain relief

- Faster healing

- Increased blood circulation

- … and more!

Frequency of Treatment

Laser therapy is cumulative, so with each session your pet experiences more and more of the benefits. This is particularly true of chronic conditions such as arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Senior pets who experience these chronic conditions benefit from a long-term laser therapy plan that includes weekly sessions. Meanwhile, other pets who undergo a routine surgery may only need one or two sessions for the effects of healing to be felt.

Do you think your pet would benefit from laser therapy? Contact us today to set up an appointment!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why Your Pet Benefits from Routine Vaccinations

Having your pet vaccinated on a yearly basis helps to protect them against disease by fortifying their immune system. How does this work? Just like human vaccines, pet vaccines contain antigens that, once inside your pet’s body, will stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. These antibodies are able to detect and fight off any diseases that enter the body. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cites five core reasons for vaccinating your pet:
· Many different diseases can be prevented with regularly-scheduled vaccinations.
· By preventing disease, vaccination also helps your pet avoid experiencing the debilitating effects of that disease and having to undergo costly, stressful treatment.
· Some animal diseases can also be passed on to humans, such as rabies and Lyme disease. Vaccinating your pet against these diseases makes getting infected far less likely.
· Pets that are not vaccinated are vulnerable to certain prevalent diseases seen in wildlife. Rabies and distemper are viral diseases with a high mortality rate that can be quickly passed on to your pet from bats, raccoons, skunks or foxes.
· Pennsylvania state law requires that dogs and cats over 3 months old be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Distemper for dogs and FVRCP for cats are also highly recommended.

Are Pet Vaccines Effective?

Vaccines cannot be used to treat an existing problem. However, they are an effective deterrent against infection and can give your pet additional protection to keep them healthy. Human vaccines have made certain diseases, such as polio and smallpox, virtually non-existent in much of the US. Likewise, with pet vaccines, our goal is to minimize the prevalence of rabies, distemper, and other diseases that can harm our pets.

What Are the Risks?

Medical treatment always has its share of risks, but the benefits are far greater. Most pets respond perfectly well to vaccines. For those that do not, many experience only mild, short-term effects. In rare cases, some cats may develop tumor growth at the vaccination site. Fortunately, there are vaccines available for cats designed to prevent these kinds of reactions.

It is important to note that our hospital recommends only the most necessary vaccines for your pet to avoid over-vaccinating. If your companion is unlikely to encounter kennel cough or Lyme disease during their lifetime, they will not need those vaccines. We encourage you contact us if you ever have questions regarding vaccines and which ones your pet will need most.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Traveling with Your Pet: Tips and Advice

Traveling with your pet can be such a rewarding experience! However, there are also a lot of things to consider when taking your pet with you on your next adventure. And it is a bit more complicated than packing extra things for them! Pets need to be safe in the car or plane, require proper paperwork for domestic and international air travel, and need pet-friendly hotels and accommodations! To help you out, we’ve put together some advice and helpful tips to make you and your pet’s travel as smooth as possible.

Making Plans: Packing and Where to Stay
While your pet may not need an assortment of outfits for the trip, they do have essentials that need to come with you. Your pet’s travel supplies should include:

- Food and water, and their dishes
- Bedding
- Litter and litter box
- Leash and collar with ID tags
- A first-aid kit
- Medications if needed
- A favorite toy or two to remind them of home

Additionally, make sure you have a recent photograph of your pet to help identify them in case they get lost. Consider a microchip as well, if they do not have one already.

When looking for places to stay, make sure they are pet-friendly. Most hotels will have it listed in their amenities section. There are also several sites with directories that specifically list pet-friendly hotels and accommodations such as and

Travel Requirements: Carriers and Paperwork
If you are traveling domestically by car, there are only a few things to worry about. Cats need a carrier secured by a belt to keep them from bouncing around, while dogs require either a carrier, or a harness depending on their size. Air and international travel, however, is another story.

If traveling by air, your pet will need to be placed in an airline-appropriate carrier. You can get these from a number of pet supply stores or directly from the airline. The carrier should have enough room for your pet to sit and lie down in, but not so much that they can be tossed during travel. For added safety, line it with towels, bedding, or shredded newspaper. They should also have food and water with them. If your pet gets motion sickness or has severe anxiety, consider administering the proper medication to help them cope with travel.

If traveling outside of the continental US, you will have some regulations to adhere to. Hawaii, for instance, requires a 30- or 120- day quarantine for all dogs and cats. Additionally, Canada and Mexico each have their own policies and health certificates required before your pet can cross the border.

If traveling overseas, please research your destination country’s legal requirements and if they require any quarantine, health certificates, or additional paperwork. You can often contact the embassy for the country for more information, as well as ask your veterinarian!

Traveling with your companion typically brings about an enriching experience for both you and your pet, but make sure you are properly prepared. Follow these tips, do your research, and have a great trip!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Summer Safety for Pets

Summer is all about having fun—make sure your pet is having fun, too! In addition to the various health hazards they might face, pets that are prone to anxiety may become extremely fearful of loud noises. To make summer safer and more enjoyable for your four-legged friend, check out our list of tips below!

Heat Safety Tips
Don’t bring your pet along on errands and leave them alone in your parked car. The inside of your car can go from 70 to 90 degrees in as little as 10 minutes! Opening the windows does not improve air circulation, either. Your best bet is to leave them at home to relax in an air-conditioned environment.
Avoid walking your dog in the middle of the day, when the sun is at its peak and the asphalt is hottest. Schedule your walks for the early morning and evening instead.
If your pet needs to be outside, make sure they have a cool, shady spot to rest and have uninhibited access to cool, fresh water at all times. Be sure to check on them periodically.

Parasite Prevention
Give your pet their parasite preventives as directed throughout the year for optimal protection. Talk to your veterinarian if you need recommendations.
Clear tall grass and brush away from your home; these areas could be perfect hiding places for ticks! The Deer tick is the primary vector for Lyme disease, which can be transmitted to both pets and people.
Flea prevention is also important—aside from the aggravating infestations, they can also occasionally spread tapeworm to pets.
Mosquitoes infected with roundworm larvae can pass these larvae to your pet, resulting in heartworm disease. Prevent standing bodies of water from forming around your home (due to buckets being left out, swimming pool not being covered, etc.)

Noise Aversion and Anxiety
Noise-averse pets may bolt if they are startled by loud noises. Make sure your pet is microchipped in case they get out of the house. Pets with microchips are easier to track down. Also, see that they have a secure collar and up-to-date ID tags.
Talk to your veterinarian about stress-reduction options. This may include a Thundershirt, calming medication or other type of treatment.
If possible, stay with your pet in an enclosed room and speak to them in a calming voice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What You Should Know About Asthma in Dogs

How Asthma Affects Dogs

Asthma is basically a term for difficulty breathing (called “dyspnea”). It usually includes wheezing and shortness of breath due to spasms and constriction of the large upper airways (the trachea and bronchi). Dogs, like people, can develop asthma, although in dogs the disorder typically is referred to as allergic bronchitis. In dogs, this condition is almost always caused by an allergic reaction to something in the environment, which in turn causes an inflammatory response in the upper airways. Most of the time, the allergen is something that the dog inhales. Long-standing allergic bronchitis can damage the tissues lining the respiratory tract, causing the more permanent changes associated with chronic bronchitis. The symptoms of so-called “asthma attacks” can vary widely from occasional breathing problems to severe dyspnea that approaches suffocation. By the time the condition is this severe, it usually has become chronic and irreversible. In very grave cases, the dog may resort to open-mouth breathing, and its gums and other mucous membranes may turn a purplish-blue from oxygen deprivation. When the consequences of asthma become this severe, the dog needs immediate emergency veterinary care to survive.

Symptoms of Allergic Bronchitis

Canine allergic bronchitis tends to affect young to middle-aged dogs, although older animals occasionally are affected as well. The hallmark of allergic bronchitis is a chronic, dry hacking cough, which can come on slowly or suddenly. Other common signs include:
- Respiratory distress (difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, dyspnea)
- Open-mouth breathing
- Cough (dry, hacking)
- Pale mucous membranes (blue-ish gums)
- Lethargy
- Exercise intolerance
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss

Asthma is much less common in dogs than in cats; feline asthma is a well-documented disorder. The observable signs of asthma in dogs can range from mild to severe. Often, the exact asthmatic trigger is never identified. Some dogs become lethargic, stop eating and lose weight due to the discomfort caused by the condition. By the time this happens, the condition usually has progressed to chronic bronchitis, which is progressive and irreversible. In very severe cases, a dog may resort to open-mouth breathing and its gums and other mucus membranes may turn a purplish-blue from oxygen deprivation. When the consequences of allergic bronchitis become this severe, the dog needs immediate emergency veterinary care. Fortunately, allergic bronchitis in dogs is uncommon and normally can be effectively treated with medication. If your dog show signs of difficulty breathing accompanied by a dry, raspy cough, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dogs At Increased Risk

Chronic allergic bronchitis, or asthma, is most common in older, small breed dogs of either gender, although large breed dogs should not be overlooked. Dogs exposed to particular environmental allergens are at an increased risk of developing this disorder; those allergens include cigarette or cigar smoke, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, carpet or floor cleaners and deodorizers and air fresheners.

Goals of Treating Asthma

Although canine allergic bronchitis (also called asthma) is uncommon in dogs, when it does happen it can be quite distressing to owners and to the affected animal. Fortunately, a number of treatment options are available to help manage and minimize the consequences of this disorder. The goals of treating asthma are to identify and remove the inciting allergens from the dog’s environment if at all possible; they are usually something that the dog has inhaled. If that cannot be accomplished, a number of different medications are available to treat the condition symptomatically. Once the disorder becomes chronic, complete resolution of the cough is almost never possible. In those cases, the therapeutic goal becomes reduction of the frequency and severity of the cough so that the dog is more comfortable.

Treatment Options

Once allergic bronchitis is suspected, the treating veterinarian will try to identify the underlying cause of the allergy attack so that it can be removed from the dog’s environment. Owners may be asked to keep an “allergy diary,” which records when a dog has an asthmatic attack, the severity of the attack, how long the attack lasted and what potential inhaled allergens the dog was exposed to at that time. The dog’s doctor may carefully question the owner about any possibly relevant changes in the household environment, such as use of new kitty litter, cigarette or fireplace smoke, carpet cleaners or other household items containing perfumes such as deodorant or hair spray, room fresheners, fertilizers, home remodeling products, painting, landscaping, pesticide use, new pets and similar items. Unfortunately, even a detailed owner diary and a thorough veterinary interview may not reveal the precise allergen(s) involved. If it does, the owner can take steps to remove those allergens from their dog’s immediate environment.

Dogs with asthma should be treated aggressively in order to minimize long-term airway inflammation and resulting chronic bronchial damage. The most common treatment protocol is administration of glucocorticoids and bronchodilators to help reduce the number and severity of allergic attacks. Metered-dose inhalers designed to fit a dog’s muzzle are increasingly available to administer bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medication. In cases of secondary infection, antibiotics that penetrate airway secretions may be recommended as well; incorporation of antibiotic therapy should follow evaluation and culture of airway samples. Finally, cough suppressants are available for prolonged or exhausting non-productive coughs, although they are used cautiously because coughs are a useful and normal mechanism for clearing airway secretions.


The prognosis for dogs with allergic bronchitis is good to excellent with prompt diagnosis and treatment – especially if the inciting inhaled allergen can be identified and removed from the dog’s environment. Long-term treatment will be necessary in most other cases to control clinical signs and permit affected dogs to lead relatively normal, high-quality lives. If the condition becomes chronic, it will be progressive but rarely life-threatening and, with medical management and attentive owners, those dogs too should enjoy an excellent quality of life with a normal life expectancy.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What You Should Know About Heartworm Disease

Heartworm is a preventable, but serious and potentially fatal, parasite that primarily infects dogs, cats and ferrets. It can also infect a variety of wild animals, including wild canids (e.g., foxes, wolves, coyotes), wild felids (e.g. tigers, lions, pumas), raccoons, opossums, and pinnipeds (e.g., sea lions and seals), as well as others. There have been documented human infections, but they are thought to be rare and do not usually result in signs of illness.
How is heartworm transmitted and what does it cause?
Heartworms can only be transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, young heartworms called microfilariae enter into that mosquito's system. Within two weeks, the microfilariae develop into infective larvae inside the mosquito; these infective larvae can be transmitted to another animal when this mosquito takes its next blood meal. Unlike dogs, infected cats do not often have microfilariae circulating in their blood, and an infected cat is not likely to transfer the heartworm infection to another mosquito.

The infective larvae mature into adult heartworms in approximately six months. During the first three months, the larvae migrate through the animal’s body, eventually reaching the blood vessels of the lungs. During the last three months, the immature worms continue to develop and grow to adults, with females growing to lengths of up to 14 inches. The worms damage the blood vessels, and reduce the heart’s pumping ability, resulting in severe lung and heart disease. When the animal shows signs of illness due to adult heartworm infection, it is called heartworm disease.

If adult worms (5-7 months post-infection) of both sexes are present, they will mate and produce new microfilariae. The microfilariae can cause the animal’s immune system to mount a reaction; this immune reaction can actually cause damage to other organs. This life cycle continues when a mosquito bites the infected animal and becomes infected by the microfilariae. After development
of the microfilariae to infective larvae within the mosquito (10 days to 2 weeks later) the infective heartworm larvae are capable of infecting another animal. Adult heartworms can survive for 5 to 7 years in dogs and several months to years in cats.
Where are heartworms found?
Geographically, heartworms are a potential threat in every state as well as in many other countries around the world. All dogs, regardless of age, sex, or living environment, are susceptible to heartworm infection. Indoor, as well as outdoor, cats are also at risk for the disease. If you plan to travel with your dog or cat to a different part of the country, or another country, ask your veterinarian about the risk of heartworm infection in the area where you are going to relocate or visit.

What pets should be tested for heartworm?
Because heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, any pet exposed to mosquitoes should be tested. This includes pets that only go outside occasionally. Remember that mosquitoes can also get into homes, putting indoor-only pets at risk as well.

How can I tell if my pet has heartworm infection or disease?

DOGS: If your dog has been recently or mildly infected with heartworms, he/she may show no signs of illness until the adult worms have developed in the lungs and signs of heartworm disease are observed. As the disease progresses, your dog may cough, become lethargic, lose his/her appetite or have difficulty breathing. You may notice that your dog seems to tire rapidly after only moderate exercise.

Blood tests are performed by your veterinarian to detect the presence of adult heartworm infection (> 6 month old infections) in your dog. Antigen tests detect the presence of adult female heartworms, and antibody tests determine if your pet has been exposed to heartworms. The antigen test is most commonly performed, and is very accurate in dogs. Further tests, such as chest radiographs (x-rays), a blood profile and an echocardiogram (an ultrasound
of the heart), may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, to evaluate the severity of the disease, and to determine the best treatment plan for your dog.

CATS: Signs of possible heartworm disease in cats include coughing, respiratory distress, and vomiting. In some cases, a cat may suddenly die from heartworms.

The diagnosis of heartworm infection in cats is more difficult than it is with dogs. A series of different tests may be needed to help determine the likelihood of heartworm infection as the cause of your cat's illness and, even then, the results may not be conclusive. In general, both antigen and antibody tests are recommended for cats to give the best chances of detecting the presence of heartworms.

How can my pet be treated?
Heartworm is a progressive, life-threatening disease. The earlier it is detected and treated, the better the chances that your pet will recover and have less complications.

DOGS: As with most medical problems, it is much better to prevent heartworm infection than to treat it. However, if your dog does become infected with heartworms, treatment is available. There is substantial risk involved in treating a dog for heartworms. However, serious complications are much less likely in dogs that are in good health and when you carefully
follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

The goal of heartworm treatment is to kill the adult worms and microfilariae present in your dog, as safely as possible. However, when a dog is treated it is important to consider that heartworms are dying inside the dog’s body. While your dog is treated, it will require complete rest throughout hospitalization and for some time following the last treatment. Additionally, other medications may be necessary to help control the body’s inflammatory reaction as the worms die and are broken down in the dog’s lungs.

CATS: There is currently no effective and safe medical treatment for heartworm infection or heartworm disease in cats. If your cat is diagnosed with heartworms, your veterinarian may recommend medications to reduce the inflammatory response and the resulting heartworm disease, or surgery to remove the heartworms.

Can heartworms be surgically removed?
Surgical removal of heartworms from dogs and cats is a high-risk procedure and is typically reserved for severe cases. However, in many cases surgical removal of heartworms may be necessary to afford the best opportunity for the pet’s survival.

Can heartworm disease be prevented?
Heartworm infection is almost 100% preventable in dogs and cats. There are several FDA-approved heartworm preventives available in a variety of formulations. Your veterinarian can recommend the best method of prevention based upon your pet's risk factors and lifestyle. Of course, you have to remember to give your pet the preventive in order for it to work!

The preventives do not kill adult heartworms, and will not eliminate heartworm infection or prevent signs of heartworm disease if adults are present in the pet’s body. Therefore, a blood test for existing heartworm infection is recommended before beginning a prevention program to assess the pet’s current heartworm status. Because it is more difficult to detect heartworms in cats, additional testing may be necessary to make sure the cat is not infected.
Testing must then be repeated at appropriate intervals. The next test should be performed about 6 months after starting the preventive treatment, to confirm that your pet was not infected prior to beginning prevention (remember, tests only detect adult worms). Heartworm tests should be performed annually to ensure that your pet doesn’t subsequently become infected with the disease and to ensure the appropriate amount of medication is being prescribed and administered. There have been reports of pets developing heartworm infection despite year-round treatment with a heartworm preventive, so having your pet tested regularly is the best way to keep them protected.

Ferrets and heartworm
Ferrets, even those kept indoors, are also at risk of heartworm infection. The signs are similar to those seen in dogs, but they develop more rapidly. Just one worm can cause serious disease in a ferret. Your veterinarian can prescribe heartworm medication approved for use in ferrets. The American Heartworm Society recommends year-round prevention for ferrets.