Emergency Preparedness for Pets

Medical emergencies can be terrifying, especially when the emergency involves your pet. Being prepared for an emergency ahead of time can not only make the situation less scary but can even improve your pet’s chances for making a full recovery. In some cases, being prepared can save precious time and mean the difference between life and death for your pet.

Every pet is different and you, as the owner, are in the best position to notice when something abnormal is going on with your pet. Signs that something is serious and your pet should be evaluated ASAP can range from vague signs (lethargy, inappetence, panting excessively) to more obvious signs (vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, collapse, trouble breathing, lameness, inability to stand, etc). If your pet is obviously sick, it should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. There are some things that you can do to help make the process more efficient and to help your veterinarian provide the best care for your pet as quickly as possible.

When is an emergency really an emergency? When in doubt, call your primary care veterinarian or an emergency clinic if it is after hours. Veterinary clinics receive calls frequently from clients asking about whether the current clinical signs are enough to warrant an emergency trip to the veterinarian. The staff are usually very good at asking the right questions to determine whether your pet should be seen right away.

What can I do to be prepared?

Phone numbers! Keep the number and address for your pet’s primary care veterinarian and the emergency veterinary clinic in your area in an easily accessible place. If you do not know which emergency clinic to take your pet to, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation or go to the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society website (www.veccs.org) and click on the directory link for emergency clinics. If you think your pet is sick, don’t wait to call! Waiting can lead to bigger problems, a more challenging disease or problem to treat and more expensive treatment. You should also keep the number for poison control with your list of emergency numbers. If your pet has ingested a potential toxin, call poison control before or when you arrive at your veterinarian’s office. It is usually less expensive for you to call poison control than if your veterinarian calls. When you call poison control, you will receive a case number. Give this number to the veterinarian seeing your pet. Your veterinarian will then be able to call poison control and discuss the case with a toxicologist without being charged another fee.

Medical record and current medications: Keep a copy of your pet’s medical record (including all bloodwork, test results, CDs with xrays, etc) on hand to bring with you. If your pet is seeing a veterinarian other than your regular veterinarian, it will be very helpful for the veterinarian evaluating your pet and preparing a treatment plan to have access to your pet’s previous medical records. You should also keep a list of all current medications, doses and frequency. This is very important information for your veterinarian to know so that they can make appropriate treatment decisions (some medications can cause serious side effects if used together!).

For further information on being prepared for pet emergencies, visit the following websites:
• American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)/Healthy Pet: https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/pet_health_library/general_health_care/default.aspx
• The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/petcols_article_page.php?OLDPETCOLID=530
• American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/pet-safety
• VeterinaryPartner.com: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=SRC&S=1&SourceID=20
• AVMA First Aid Tips for Pet Owners: https://www.avma.org/public/EmergencyCare/Pages/First-Aid-Tips-for-Pet-Owners.aspx

Renee Hartshorn, DVM

Why Does My Cat Scratch My Couch?

Most people know that cats will scratch objects with their front paws to sharpen their claws, but there are secondary reasons as well. Believe it or not, cats often use scratching for communication. They have scent glands on their paws, which leave their specific scent onto objects telling other cats they have claimed those objects as their own.

As a consequence, cats will scratch very obvious objects, such as couches, trees, doors, fence posts, etc. Both male and female cats will do this so it is not related to gender specific hormones. Therefore, spaying and neutering will not change the scratching behavior. Declawing will also not change the scratching behavior since the scent glands are still left behind on the feet so the drive to scent mark is still there.

Cats will also scratch as part of their play behavior, to stretch, to greet people, and occasionally to relieve frustration.
Overall, it is much easier trying to prevent problematic scratching behavior rather than trying to change a cat’s preference for a scratching surface. This means that owners should work hard to provide appropriate scratching surfaces as soon as they acquire a cat as a pet before problems arise to establish appropriate behavior. This will lead to a greater human-animal bond and reduce the likelihood of cats being relinquished to shelters.

General Recommendations
– Provide several scratching posts in multiple areas of the house where your cats like to spend their time (focus on areas where they sleep or play).
– Encourage cats to use the scratching surfaces by scenting them with catnip or placing dangly toys for them to play with easier.
– Try covering the inappropriate scratched surface with something cats do not like to scratch to try to deter them from further destroying that object (plastic, aluminum foil, mesh).
– Praise cats when they use the correct scratching substrates.
– Trim your cat’s nails regularly to minimize damage to your furniture.
– Declawing cats should be the last option.

Alex Philippine, DVM

Why does my vet have to do all that bloodwork

Bloodwork that we run here at Encina Veterinary Hospital falls into a few basic categories.

1) The CBC, or Complete Blood Count, measures the number, size, shape, and types of cells that are in the blood. The two main varieties of blood cells are the red blood cells and the white blood cells. The red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to all of the body’s tissues. Assessing the red blood cells can tell us about diseases which cause acute or chronic blood loss, dehydration, destruction of red blood cells, or a decrease in production of red blood cells. Assessing the white blood cells tells us about infection, inflammation, clotting, and some cancers.
The veterinarian may also make a blood smear to get a closer look at the shape of cells which can be affected by various diseases or to confirm abnormal findings picked up by the CBC machine. The findings of the CBC are not always specific and must be interpreted in light of other diagnostics but it is a great place to start in order to be able to rule out broad categories of disease.

2) The blood chemistry and electrolytes are another component of basic bloodwork. This tells us about kidney and liver function, metabolic diseases, some cancers, endocrine diseases, gastrointestinal function, toxicities, and more.

“That’s all fine,” you say, “but why does Sadie need her blood checked when she just broke a nail?” Whenever we prescribe certain medications, such as an anti-inflammatory and pain medication in case of a broken nail, we have to keep in mind potential side effects and risks to the patient. Anti-inflammatories used in pets, such as Rimadyl, are generally very safe but can have rare and serious side effects involving the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. When we prescribe Rimadyl we want to be sure that your pet does not have a condition that makes him or her more susceptible to these side effects so that a broken nail does not turn into kidney failure!

“Ok, but Rover just had bloodwork done a month ago, why are we repeating it?” Great question! Blood cell counts and chemistry can change day to day. If Rover is coming in to us with clinical signs which did not exist at the last visit, he may have significant changes in his bloodwork which will help us to diagnose his new illness.

“But Fluffy has never been sick in her life, why does my wellness appointment include bloodwork?” Our pets can’t tell us how they feel and often put on their bravest face for us, concealing chronic illness.

Annual bloodwork for them is like bloodwork every 7 or so years for us.

Early detection of certain chronic diseases such as kidney disease can help us take measures to slow their progression such as changing the diet of the pet.

Remember, if you have a question about why the veterinarian wants to perform a certain blood test, just ask! We would be happy to explain the reasoning and the risks we would be taking by not performing the bloodwork.

Dr. Alina Kelman

How to Administer Subcutaneous Fluids to Pet Cats or Dogs

Many medical conditions may require treatment with subcutaneous fluids. If your veterinarian has prescribed fluids to be administered to your pet under its skin (subcutaneously), this video will help you to set up your fluid bag and line, as well as how to administer the correct amount of fluids.

Keeping your Cat Healthy: Getting your Cat Comfortable with a Carrier

One challenge to providing adequate veterinary care for pet cats is the struggle to get cats to the veterinary office. Many times, a trip to the vet includes locating the pet cat under a bed, dragging them out, and stuffing them into a carrier for transport to the vet. Below is a video produced by the feline practitioners of the CATalyst Council. They suggest some useful techniques for making pet carriers more interesting to your pet cat. If your cat is interested in going into her carrier, your trip to the veterinarian will be much easier!

Click here to learn more about making your cat’s trip to the veterinarian easier.

My Dog was Skunked! What to do…

Skunks produce an oily liquid that is yellow in color and produced by glands in the anal region. The skunks glands produce the liquid, which is stored in 2 sacs that each have a duct that exits at the 4 and 8 o’clock position around the anal opening. Dogs and cats have similar structures. Dogs and cats produce less pungent material that is thought to be used for marking territory, while skunks use their’s for defensive purposes. Each sac can hold about 1 teaspoon of liquid, which is enough for multiple sprays. The oily liquid is made up of multiple ingredients, most of which are sulfur-containing thiols that give the liquid its potent smell. It is thought that people can smell the liquid at concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion. As a result, it can be very difficult to completely remove skunk odor from a pet that has been sprayed by a skunk. If the animal is harmed in anyway during the encounter with a skunk, you should seek veterinary care.

Paul Krebaum’s home remedy for removal of skunk odor.
Tomato juice (with or without vinegar) used to be commonly advised to remove skunk odor, but it is relatively ineffective. The most common home remedy recommended for removal of skunk odor was developed by a chemist, Paul Krebaum. It involves a mixture of the following:

– 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (usually sold in pints, so 2 bottles needed)
– ¼ cup baking soda (Arm and Hammer is the most common brand)
– 1-2 tsp liquid hand soap (preferred brands are “Softsoap” and “Ivory Liquid”)

The ingredients should be mixed in an open plastic container with plastic utensils and then used immediately. An open container is important due to the amount of gas produced; while plastic is preferred as metal will encourage decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide. The solution can be diluted with 1 quart of lukewarm water for larger pets to help cover a wider area. The solution is placed on the animal while avoiding any exposure to the eyes, ears and mouth. A small strip of eye lubricant or few drops of mineral oil can be placed in the eye for protection. The solution should remain for at least five minutes prior to washing it off and can be repeated as necessary. Use of latex or rubber gloves and old clothing is recommended.

Paul Krebaum’s recipe works by focusing on the chemical nature of the thiols that create the skunk smell. Thiols are not water soluble even with soap. The soap serves to keep the coat wet and get the oily skunk spray into solution where it can react with the other ingredients. The baking soda facilitates the ability of hydrogen peroxide to alter the thiol through oxidation into a water-soluble form as a sulfonate for easy removal.

Commercial remedies for removal of skunk odor
If you are not inclined to try a home remedy for the skunk smell, numerous commercial products exist on the market that have had variable results. Nature’s Miracle skunk remover is one option. This product is thought to work by enzymatic breakdown of the thiols and works best when massaged into a dry coat and left for hours while it dries. Odor-Mute and Earth Friendly Products skunk odor remover are other products that are designed to work by enzymatic breakdown of the thiols. Skunk Off is another product for skunk odor remover that uses various non-enzymatic methods for odor control as described on the website.

There are a number of professional products that are available, that are better applied for environmental control in difficult situations. Products include Neutroleum Alpha, Freshwave, Epoleon and Nisus Bac-Azap. Information regarding these products and additional information regarding removal of skunk odor can be found through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

By Dr Stephen Atwater

The Impact of Stress on Indoor Pets

It has been well established that there is an important link between mental health and overall health and well-being of people. Avoiding stress plays a critical role in the general welfare of people. It should not be surprising that the same can be said for dogs and cats. Poor mental health in dogs and cats often lead to behavioral problems such as house soiling or aggression that may lead to animals being relinquished, abandoned, or euthanized. Although it may not be easily apparent, poor mental health can result in the development of disease conditions and a poor quality of life for the pet. Owners can best avoid problems by understanding the normal behavior and general needs of their dog and cat. In doing so, owners can provide the best preventative and therapeutic care for their pet.

General guidelines for the well being of indoor pets
An important need for the well being of children is a predictable daily routine, predictable consequences and environmental enrichment. When parents provide these things to their children, children are less likely to develop behavioral problems as they feel they have more control of their lives and circumstances. It should not come as a surprise that the same holds true for indoor pets. Daily routine for indoor pets include feeding, elimination, social play and environmental exploration, and sleep or periods of rest. These needs vary depending on the breed and age of the animal, as well as the household itself. By making these basic needs regular and predictable events, the indoor pet gains some sense of control and therefore less stress in knowing how these basic needs will be met.

The Indoor Pet Initiative
An excellent website on environmental issues for dogs and cats is available for veterinarians and pet owners, called the Indoor Pet Initiative . It was created by The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine with the purpose of providing information that describes the basic physical and behavioral needs of dogs and cats. It also provides basic recommendations for dealing with common behavioral problems and resources for help in addressing more severe or dangerous behavioral issues. Being aware of and understanding normal companion animal behavior and needs will help improve the quality of life of your pet dog or cat. One of the main goals of the Indoor Pet Initiative is to improve the quality of life of indoor pets by increasing knowledge and awareness of normal companion animal behavior and needs.

Dr Stephen Atwater

Employee of the Month for August 2014: Melanie!


Nearly 4 years ago, Melanie Grajeda joined the Doctor’s Assistant team here at Encina Veterinary Hospital. Since then, she’s been non-stop – “filling prescriptions, calculating doses, rooming patients, creating and reviewing estimates and client communication” – are just a few things she manages each and every day.

Before Encina Melanie says, “I hated my job because I was working in a small general practice hospital and after working in emergency for 3 years, I needed something busier!” Well she got her wish! “I LOVE how busy it is, how much I learn every day, all the different cases we see and I really like my coworkers”.

She attributes her success here to her beloved ability to “thrive in a chaotic environment” because she “loves to learn and I am more efficient when it’s busy than when it’s slow because I am just the right amount of crazy”.

Although she loves it here, she does admit there is a challenge: “I am super controlling and neurotic and a little bit obsessive compulsive so I have trouble sharing tasks and knowing when to say ‘enough is enough’”.

Outside of Encina, Melanie admits to being a lady of leisure, to an extent. “I have another job outside of Encina but when I’m free from both, I like to go to A’s games, hang out with friends and explore the city of Oakland.”

If you’re dreaming of a serenade from Melanie, be sure to turn on “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey or anything by Queen as she can’t help but sing along to either.

For her dinner party dreams, Melanie hopes to invite Freddy Mercury, Johnny Cash and her living grandfather.

“I was very surprised!” she says of winning this month’s EOM. “I’m very appreciative and excited about my parking spot!!”

Employee of the Month for June 2014: Krista!

As a Doctor’s Assistant on the Client Care Team, every day for Krista is filled to the max! “rooming patients, putting together estimates and invoices, dispensing medications, answering questions and client concerns, setting up appointments and scheduling surgeries, AND whatever else my doctor needs!” are just some of the tasks she does day in and day out since joining our team in July of 2011.

Nearly 2 years ago when Krista joined us, she says that Allison recruited her, “and I wanted to broaden my experiences in the veterinary field”. She attributes her success here to her “very supportive team” and “team leaders are very encouraging and help whenever needed.”

Although public speaking is hard for her she admits, she appreciates the ability to “learn something new every day” which she says is her favorite part of the job.

“I was surprised!” says Krista about her employee of the month for June. “My efforts don’t go unnoticed and I feel like my contributions are actually appreciated … Everything I have been through recently, everyone here is so helpful, everyone just wants me back to 100%.

Hanging out with friends, family; concerts and baseball games are a few of her favorite things to do when she isn’t here but lately she’s been building and fixing her fence that BB, her dog, continues to break through. “It’s so frustrating!”

Although she has only seen the movie once, she says the Snowman song from Frozen is the catchiest tune around right now that she can’t help but sing along too.

Given the opportunity to host a dinner party she immediately says she would invite Usher, along with Jay Sean and her grandfather who has passed away – “it would be very interesting!” she says with her classic laugh.

Employee of the Month: May 2014

Danielle Quintero, RVT
Patient Care Team

Over 6 years ago, Danielle (aka DQ)walked into Encina Veterinary Hospital and became a crucial part of our team. Her role as a Registered Veterinary Technician plays such an important part in our hospital – both to patients and to collegues.

Each day, DQ tends to our emergency patients as well as those in-patients who need around the clock care in our ICU unit. Inbetween ICU patients and emergency patients, DQ monitors anesthesia and vitals of our patients in surgery.

DQ decided to join the team at Encina 6 years ago for some very practical reasons: close to home, featured emergency and critical veterinary care and of course, we were hiring! She continues to stay and grow with us because she likes the “fast paced, multi tasking team based environment, the way we manage cases and the high quality veterinary medicine we provide.”

She admits the job isn’t always easy, as she can’t “save them all,” but she says her strong work ethic keeps her focused and successful. “I was honored, very shocked,” says DQ when she was told that she had won our Employee of the Month for May.

When DQ is not here at the hospital, she stays busy thanks to her 3 year old son AJ and trips to Monterey Bay’s beach. At home, you can catch her gardening (she’s got some roses she is particularly proud of), home improvement projects and Netflixing her new guilty pleasure Revenge.

DQ says the song that will never fail to make her sing along to is Gloria Gaynor’s, I Will Survive. Should she have a dinner party with 3 people dead or alive, her picks are: her father, Etta James and Chuck Berry – a party focused on her love for music.