NOW OFFERING: Laparoscopic-Assisted Gastropexy by Dr. Nadia Rifat

Laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy

What is a GDV?
Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) is an acute emergency medical condition characterized by gastric distension and abnormal twisting of the stomach. This causes the stomach to become over distended. have a decreased blood flow, and eventually lead to circulatory shock and death. The lifetime risk for a large or giant breed dog developing GDV is 24% and 21% respectively and their risk of dying of GDV is 7%. Even with appropriate medical and surgical intervention, case fatality rates between 10% and 33% have been reported.

Why do dogs develop a GDV?
No single cause of GDV exists. Reported risk factors for GDV include a familial history of GDV, lean deep chested breeds, older dogs, dogs that eat quickly, dogs that eat from a raised bowl, and dogs that only eat dry food and/or a single large meal, and dogs that have a fearful temperament. Dogs that have had a splenectomy also might be at greater risk for development of a GDV.

Does my dog need a gastropexy?
There are many breeds that are at risk for developing GDV. The most at-risk breed is the Great Dane (40% will develop a GDV). Other breeds that are at risk include Irish Setters, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, and Rottweilers. In general, this condition can occur in any deep chested large breed dog. Most surgeons agree that a prophylactic gastropexy in patients considered “at risk” for GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus) is a worthwhile procedure.

What is a laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy?
Laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy is a minimally invasive surgery that allows the surgeon to perform the surgery through a smaller incision than the typical surgical approach used to perform a gastropexy. During the laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy, one small incision is made just behind the ribs on the right side of the abdomen. It is through this incision that the laparoscope is introduced into the abdomen and the gastropexy procedure performed. With this surgical technique, there is less pain and the recovery much quicker compared to the typical gastropexy approach with a large incision.

Can there be complications from the gastropexy?
Multiple studies about laparoscopic-assisted gastropexies showed only the following minor complications: temporary skin fold at the side of the of the gastropexy immediately after the surgery (47%), seroma formation at the site of the gastropexy (6%), and iatrogenic perforation of the splenic capsule during trocar placement (12%).

When should I schedule my dog for a laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy?
The timing of the gastropexy does not seem to be critical. The stomach can be successfully attached to the abdominal wall in puppies, without compromising gastrointestinal function, which means the gastropexy can be incorporated into the same procedure as a spay or castration, or when the abdomen is being explored or opened for another reason. Alternatively, it can be performed as an elective procedure.

How do I schedule my dog for a laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy?
Make a pre-surgical appointment with Dr. Nadia Rifat, who is the surgeon that performs the laparoscopic-assisted gastropexies at Encina Veterinary Hospital. She will perform an examination on your dog and talk to you about the procedure. We will schedule your dog for surgery and submit pre-anesthetic bloodwork to make sure your dog is in good health.

call us today at 925 937 5000 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nadia Rifat to see if your dog is a good candidate for laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy

February – April 2018: Save $100 Off Dental Cleanings with Wellness Exam at Encina Veterinary Hospital

Dear Clients of Encina Veterinary Hospital.

It is very important that our pets get proper dental care. It is estimated that 85% of our pets will have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years of age. Periodontal disease is a progressive disease of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth and the main cause of early tooth loss. In the early stages of periodontal disease, food particles combine with bacteria to form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals from saliva bond with the plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria will travel under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums. As the bacterial infection progresses the supporting tissue around the teeth become weakened, which leads to tooth loss.

The proper way to address your pet’s dental disease is to have a veterinarian perform a dental cleaning under general anesthesia. While a patient is anesthetized we have a breathing tube in place to provide gas anesthesia and oxygen, have intravenous fluids going into the patient during the entire procedure, have extensive monitoring equipment (EKG, pulse oximetry, blood pressure, capnograph) attached to the patient, and one anesthetist monitoring the patient under the supervision of the veterinarian. This allows the veterinarian to do a full examination of the teeth and supporting structures, and to take x rays of all the teeth to assess the roots and supporting bone. Following the evaluation, the veterinarian will remove the plaque and tartar from the teeth and clean below the gum line. It would not be possible to do this properly without the use of general anesthesia. Unless your pet needs extractions the final step is to polish the teeth.

The benefits of a proper dental cleaning are that the plaque and tartar can be removed from the teeth and below the gum line along with the bacteria that can lead to periodontal disease. It is important to know that gingivitis is reversible, but periodontal disease is not reversible. If you notice your pet has bad breath or their teeth have gingivitis or plaque/tartar it is not too soon to have your pet scheduled for a dental cleaning.

As a way of promoting dental health for our patients we are offering our clients a $100 discount on dental cleanings for each pet that is scheduled during February, March, and April 2018, with Dr. Aengus, Dr. Milauskas, or Dr. Rifat. All you have to do is give us a call at 925-937-5000, schedule your pet’s dental cleaning during the above months, and provide us with the dental cleaning coupon at the time you bring your pet in for the scheduled cleaning. You can find the coupon at the bottom of this email for convenience.

We look forward to seeing you in the coming months as we continue our partnership to provide your pets with the veterinary care they need to remain healthy.

Dr. Peter Nurre
Medical Director

Welcome Dr. Liz Milauskas!

We are very excited to announce the return of Dr. Liz Milauskas to Encina Veterinary Hospital as she will join our team of doctors as a full-time general practitioner starting NOW!

Dr. Milauskas was raised in southern California. Unsurprisingly to her friends and family, Dr. Milauskas pursued a career as a veterinarian after completing her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences in 1994 from UC Davis. Following graduation, she moved to Dublin, Ireland where she attended veterinary school at University College, Dublin Ireland Upon graduating with a degree in veterinary medicine in 2000 she returned to the United States and began practicing veterinary medicine in Oregon for the next 8 years.

In 2008 to 2009, Dr. Milauskas returned to California and completed an internship at Encina Veterinary Hospital. In addition to completing the internship, Dr. Milauskas studied alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, and has integrated them with traditional veterinary medicine. Since completing a veterinarian acupuncture course at Colorado State University she has become a certified veterinary acupuncturist.

Dr. Milauskas is also certified in Penn Hip, which is a multi-faceted radiographic screening method for canine hip evaluation. This is the ideal way to radiographically evaluate canine hips for dysplasia and there are only a small percentage of veterinarians that are certified to perform this diagnostic test.

Dr. Milauskas is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, and the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

On her days away from veterinary medicine she enjoys running, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her husband, their two Labradors (Kiely and Lily) and their French Bulldog (Max).

ARF’s Annual “Animals on Broadway” 2012

This year, we had the amazing opportunity to be apart of ARF’s Annual “Animals on Broadway” 2012. ARF has been rescuing and rehoming animals since 1991 — over 20 years! With them being located less than a mile a way from us, it’s easy for us to see the amazing work they do. We often have clients tell us they rescued their pet from ARF and are SO happy! Their pets have been through extensive training, behavior and socialization to help ensure that the pet will work out great with their new family.

We were lucky enough to be part of the wellness fair portion where we hosted the “Ask the Vet” booth with Dr. Cindi Hillemeyer and Dr. Meredith Stepita.

We had TONS of prizes to raffle off!

The place was packed with people out to enjoy the beautiful weather while helping an amazing cause

ARF volunteers were everywhere and helping with everything!

We saw some interesting pets — here are two dogs owned by a groomer in Orinda who safely paints dogs! Can you see what these two masterpeices are meant to be?

While we had an amazing time and enjoyed meeting everyone, we were exhausted at the end of the day!

Thank you to ARF for allowing us to be such a huge part of Annual “Animals on Broadway” 2012, we had a blast and hope to do it again!

For more information on ARF’s Annual “Animals on Broadway” Fundraising Pet Walk, click here.

Dog Food Recalls – April 2012, May 2012

Below you will find the most current dog food recalls by the FDA. By clicking on a link, a new website will open in a new browser for you to find further information.

Please bookmark the following page to ensure you stay up to date on potential recalls that may affect you and your family: FDA Pet Food Recalls

Recalls are almost always voluntary. Only rarely does the FDA actually request a pet food recall.

If your dog has consumed any of the above foods, please give us a call (we are open 24 hours, 7 days a week) so we can ensure your pet is fine, even if he or she shows no clinical symptoms: (925) 937-5000

October Food Drive

As you may remember, we had a food drive here at Encina Veterinary Hospital for the month of October where everyone (staff and clients!) brought in dry goods to donate to families in our county who may not be able to afford food this holiday season.

Together we raised a total of 104 POUNDS of food for the Food Bank of Contra Costa County!!


If you missed out on donating and would like to, please visit their website to see how YOU can make a difference in a family’s life this holiday season.

Food Bank of Contra Costa County’s Website

Introducing … Hospice & In-Home Care!

Today being National Pet Hospice Day, we felt it would be appropriate to announce Encina’s newest service: Hospice and In Home Care!

The focus of our pet hospice program is to make a pet’s last stage of life more pleasant with the proper use of pain medications, dietary strategies and veterinary care provided by our registered veterinary technician, Barbara. The goal of pet hospice is not to cure your pet’s illness but rather to ensure a peaceful end-of-life experience. Alongside your veterinarian here at Encina, Barbara will work closely with you and your pet to decide what is best for your beloved pet in the comfort of your own home.

Our in-home care is geared towards pets who aren’t terminal, but need some assistance at home. Your pet may be recuperating from surgery, recently paralyzed or need at home fluids/injections; these are a few of the reasons why one might elect in-home care.

You can read more about our hospice program by clicking here.

Meet Our 2011-2012 Interns!

Every July, we welcome 6 newly graduated veterinary doctors for a one year rotating internship in our hospital. Once someone graduates from veterinary school, they are free to practice veterinary medicine but a select few decide to continue their education; those select few are our interns.

During their one year rotating internship with us, each intern spends some time with each of our doctors; internal medicine doctors (Dr. Roger Johnson, Dr. Peter Nurre & Dr. Jenifer Wang), general practice doctors (Dr. Jill Christofferson & Dr. Blythe Jurewicz), dentist (Dr. Katrina Hall-Essoe), neurologist (Dr. Filippo Adamo), oncologist (Dr. Stephen Atwater), surgeon (Dr. Carl Koelher), emergency doctors (Dr. Gerry Martin Del Campo, Dr. Molly Priest & Dr. Dorothy Hoppe) and even get to help manage the Antioch emergency clinic (East Bay Veterinary Emergency).

Often times, veterinary students graduate and begin practicing without much “real world” experience; they receive impressive grades, excel in school work and clinics but they haven’t seen the inside of an exam room and a concerned owner. Our rotating internship not only broadens their educations and improves their techniques, but it also gives them an opportunity to ask for help, guidance and advice in their first year as doctors.

Meet our 2011-2012 interns!

Dr. Cindi Hillemeyer
I went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder and attended veterinary school at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska but have called Sun Valley, Idaho home for about 15 years – I love the mountains! I wanted to be a veterinarian for many reasons, most of all because I love the job and people involved. I have a curious/medical mind and enjoy helping people as a past EMT, but much much prefer working with animals and their people!
Growing up in Alaska, wildlife was a part of me; I’ve always wanted to help with their conservation, so while in veterinary school I decided to pursue a masters degree in conservation medicine. I was one of 3 people to get a ‘dual degree’ DVM/MSc and part of that was a summer in Africa, learning about conservation in Africa as well as wildlife handling, poaching and the problems Ugandans face with the human population encroaching on wildlife habitat. It was an eye-opening experience and the people were amazingly appreciative of what little they had. Ultimately I’d love to incorporate those experiences with veterinary work down the road working with wildlife conservation, reintroductions, etc. For now, I’m enjoying learning top notch medicine for small animals and next year may incorporate some large animal work as well. I love surgery as well as the huge variety involved in this career. There are so many fun options to choose from being a veterinarian!

Dr. Christine Fabregas
I grew up in Northridge, CA which is part of the San Fernando Valley just North of Los Angeles. As I was growing up, my family bred Shih-Tzus and as soon as I saw those little puppy faces, I knew wanted to take care of them. The runt of the second litter became sick a few days after she was born. She needed special attention with bottle feedings, heat support, urination/defecation. Unfortunately, she passed away the following days after treatment. This event solidified my goal to becoming a veterinarian in the future. I also enjoyed Mathematics and the theory behind the science. I graduated with a Bachelors in Mathematics from University of California, Los Angeles and then perused my degree in veterinary medicine at Ross University, finishing my clinical year at the University of Pennsylvania. During my time in veterinary school, I joined numerous clubs such as the SVECCS (worked emergency shifts throughout semesters, coordinated a speaker for multiple day talks to the student body), Pathology Club (working with green vervet monkeys, green sea turtles, dogs, and cats), and the Feline Club. Every Friday in the afternoon, I played beach volleyball with other students. It was just the right balance I needed to keep me stress-free during the week. I am currently deciding between General Practice, Emergency Medicine, and Cardiology. This year will guide me in the right direction, I’m sure of it!

Dr. Ruth Dunning
I grew up in Milwaukee, WI but luckily, my entire family now calls California home. I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine (GO BULLDOGS!!!). I knew I wanted to be a vet because I love working with animals AND the people who love them unconditionally. Plus, medicine is fascinating! When I wasn’t busy studying in veterinary school, I found time to work on animal welfare reform and issues. One of my proudest moments was when I was named the Humane Society of The United States 2011 Veterinary Student Advocate of the Year. General practice medicine is what I enjoy the most, so I will probably focus on that once I’ve finished my internship at Encina Veterinary Hospital.

Dr. Nadia Rifat
I am originally from Laguna Niguel in Southern California and went to veterinary school at University of California, Davis. I was one of those kids who wanted to be a veterinarian and then just never grew out of it! I have always had a love for animals and a desire to help them and their human companions. Although I enjoy working with companion animals, I also have a passion for zoo/wildlife, particularly marine mammals. During veterinary school, I had some really amazing opportunities: I was able to work with seal pups in Washington, work at Sea World in San Diego, and work at a wildlife sanctuary in Australia.

After this internship, I would ideally like to go into private practice and/or emergency with a bit of wildlife work in the mix.

Dr. Maryam O’Hara
I grew up in the Bay Area and attended UC Davis School of veterinary medicine. I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian and help animals in their time of need. Although I grew up in the Bay Area, I call Moscow, Russia my home as it is my birthplace.

While in veterinary school, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA. This was a great experience as it showed me what the veterinarian’s day to day role is in maintaining the safety of our nations food supply. I plan on working in small animal general practice after completing my internship here at Encina Veterinary Hospital but in the future, I hope to expand my knowledge and work with small mammals and exotic pets.

Dr. Erica Chiu
I’ve always been an avid dog lover my whole life and as I got older, I began developing an interest for medicine, science and weird infectious diseases — it seemed natural to become a veterinarian! I completed my undergraduate education at UC San Diego and graduated veterinary school right here at UC Davis. One of the greatest experiences I had in veterinary school was the educational opportunity to spend a summer at the San Diego Zoo researching Avian Tuberculosis. Once I complete my internship in July of 2012, I am hoping to practice small animal (cat and dog) general practice and emergency.

National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week!

This week is the National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to say “thank you” to the hard working members of our patient care team! Without the dedication, expertise, and hard-work of our technicians and kennel assistants, Encina Veterinary Hospital would not be able to provide the high level of patient care that we boast about! If you happen to stop by the practice this week, please take a moment to say “thank you” to the registered veterinary technicians, technician assistants, and kennel assistants who excel at keeping our patients happy and healthy.

Thank you to Registered Veterinary Technicians: Jessica, Susan, Meg, Rebecca D., Amanda, Elaine, Kailie, Danielle Q., Pattie, Sarah, Rebecca S, Barb, Lisa, and Nicole.

Thank you to Technicians: Julia, Zavira, Kristyn, Vanessa, Lesette, Danielle P., Lindsay, and Alicia.

Thank you to Kennel Assistants: Fiona, Lauren, and Tim.


Thank you to Registered Veterinary Technicians: Jessica, Susan,Meg, Rebecca D., Amanda, Elaine, Kailie, Danielle Q., Pattie, Sarah, Rebecca S, Barb, Lisa, and Nicole.

Thank you to Technicians: Julia, Zavira, Kristyn, Vanessa, Lesette, Danielle P., Lindsay, and Alicia.

Thank you to Kennel Assistants: Fiona, Lauren, and Tim.

Dr. Jen Wang Becoming Board Certified

I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a child. I was always drawn towards stuffed animals and the very first one I got was of the Snoopy character from Peanuts, which I just LOVED to death. Over time, Snoopy’s neck got very limp and worn out from playing with him so much so I performed surgery on his neck using cotton and sewing materials.

My parents didn’t allow me to have pets growing up but one day, my high school Spanish teacher was giving away hamsters. I said, “Two please!”, and brought home 2 female hamsters appropriately named “The Black One” and “The White One”. Oh, how I loved these hamsters! They were great! I made a homemade harnesses and a yoke and let them run around strapped to each other. After 3 years, they passed away but I had no access to a veterinarian back then. My high school teachers knew how much I loved those hamsters because I talked about them so much, they had a moment of silence for me when they passed. It didn’t really dawn on me to be a vet until then – I guess it was always just an underlying assumption everyone had about me.

I completed my undergraduate courses at UC Berkeley and then went to Ross University in the Caribbean (St. Kitts Island). After that, I did a one year clinical at University of Wisconsin and graduated in 2007. When I first started attending veterinary school, I thought I wanted to specialize in surgery but as the classes went on, I found that I was much more interested in medicine (and better at it). Then while in clinics, the medicine rotations were much more interesting to me than any other ones, that’s how I knew Internal Medicine was the specialty for me.

To become board certified means that you have dedicated more time to studying medicine at a deeper level. It’s far from easy too; once you graduate veterinary school it’s required that you do a 1 year internship (optional additional 1 year medicine internship), 3 year residency, 2 huge tests, 1 published paper and then board certification!

The hardest part of the entire board’s process was disciplining myself to read and study after working full-time (plus more) while trying to balance my family, friends and pets. It wasn’t east but I am so proud to have done it!

Dr. Jenifer Wang