Bernie: A Golden Story of Triumph

Below you will find a blog piece written by one of our former Doctor Assistants, Ashley. While with us, Ashley had the privilege of meeting and working with “Bernie,” a patient of ours who continues to amaze us each and every time we see him. Through out all of his ailments in 2011, Bernie continued to be a burst of positivity for us and we’re grateful he’s doing so much better, thanks to his doting father, Forrest.

    I originally met Bernie the golden retriever a few years ago during an annual exam. I was immediately taken by two things, 1) Bernie’s exuberant personality (he was all wags and barks) and 2) how much his parents cared for him. My coworkers and I became steadfast fans of Bernie’s infectious outgoing energy, so you can imagine our dismay when our lovable golden friend’s health began to fail two winters ago. It began with a diagnosis of diabetes in early December of 2010. Bernie mysteriously stopped eating, a sure sign in most retrievers that something has gone awry. Dr. Peter Nurre started Bernie on Humulin insulin. Soon after his change in medication, Bernie came in feeling crummy, and Dr. Roger Johnson performed an abdominal ultrasound on Bernie to find that he had an infection in his abdomen. Surgery was necessary to search for the source of infection, which is typically a perforation (hole) somewhere within the bowel, but in Bernie’s case the source of infection was not a perforated bowel, and remained a mystery. Dr. Johnson cleaned the infection out of the abdomen as best he could and stitched Bernie back up.

    After surgery Bernie’s troubles were not over, as he had several mysterious post-operative infections in spite of being treated with a battery of antibiotics. Soon after surgery Bernie went blind from cataracts, a common problem for diabetics, but had lost so much weight that the corrective surgery could not be performed as a result of the fact that his eyes were sunken into his skull so much. When I caught up with Bernie in February of 2011 I was shocked to see that he had dropped from a robust 80 pounds down to a paltry 55 pounds. His tail still wagged, but he was so thin he was nearly unrecognizable. It is hard to admit, but I was starting to lose hope for my furry friend. However, Bernie’s dad Forrest was vigilant during the whole process. Utilizing the latest in iPad applications and spreadsheets to track Bernie’s blood glucose and insulin doses, Forrest communicated regularly with Dr. Johnson via e-mail in hopes of controlling the diabetes.

    Bernie’s health seemed to decline even further when his jaw seemed to stop working in March of 2011, as he was diagnosed with a condition known as trigeminal neuritis by Dr. Filippo Adamo, our neurologist. This rare condition effects the nerves that wrap around the face, which control the ability of the jaw to open and close normally as well as the blinking reflex of the eyes. The symptom Bernie experienced was that of a “dropped jaw,” in which the jaw cannot close properly. Forrest had to hand feed and water Bernie for six weeks until the condition spontaneously resolved. During Bernie’s bout with trigeminal neuritis he would often bleed profusely from his mouth because when he would drink water, he would take in such large amounts that he would rupture blood vessels near the back of his tongue.

    After the trigeminal neuritis resolved Bernie began to gain weight again, and he was able to have cataract surgery in June of 2011. Bernie’s parents were thrilled when he regained his sight the same day as the surgery, and according to Forrest, the golden retriever’s happiness returned with his vision. Forrest noted the intense eye medication regimen that followed surgery, but Bernie’s renewed sense of self made the process worthwhile. Bernie’s eating stabilized, and in July of 2011 Dr. Johnson wrote the phrase, “getting fat! :)” in his chart.

    I caught Bernie and Forrest in the clinic a few months ago during a recheck visit to see Dr. Johnson, and I was thrilled when Bernie barked at me for attention as Forrest was showing me the latest blood glucose monitoring applications on his iPad. He looked like his normal Bernie self, and his wagging tail never stopped moving the whole time I was in the room. Dr. Johnson found some discrepancies within Bernie’s blood work recently (high tryglycerides and evidence of blood proteins), and he has since began a medication regimen to treat those conditions. Clinically, Bernie looked fabulous! I am happy to report that this past December the ten year old golden is once again at his fighting weight of 77.5 pounds. Dr. Johnson and the staff at Encina would like to commend Forrest for his vigilance in monitoring and caring for Bernie.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @BernieLitke

A special thanks to Bernie’s dedicated father, Forrest Litke, for his contribution of information and pictures to this blog, and for allowing us to share Bernie’s story with everyone!

Albuterol Inhaler vs. Bella

Recently, a client of ours brought their precious dog Bella into Encina Veterinary Hospital on an emergency basis, after the owner noticed Bella had chewed on an Albuterol inhaler. While at home, Bella’s owners noticed that Bella had became very restless and had an extremely rapid heart rate while at rest. She even tried to eat but ended up throwing it all up soon after. They knew they had to get her emergency care right away.

What Bella had chewed on is a very common medication found in American households; Albuterol inhalers. This inhaler is commonly used in human medicine to help relieve bronchospasm associated with conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Albuterol is also used in animals for similar reasons to help alleviate cough.

But a too high of a dose can be life threatening, elevating the heart rate to life-threatening levels. Toxicity can also cause very low potassium levels in the blood which, in turn, leads to extreme weakness, in-coordination, and, potentially, death. Other signs which are often seen in dogs that puncture albuterol inhalers include vomiting, dilated pupils, severe agitation/hyperactivity, elevated blood pressure and vomiting.

Bella was admitted to the hospital for overnight treatment and monitoring. Blood work was performed to reveal any electrolyte abnormalities, as albuterol toxicity can cause a decrease in potassium and other important electrolytes. Low potassium can have severe consequences on an animal, as it is necessary for all muscle and nerve function. Too low of a potassium can lead to difficulty breathing and irregular heart beat.

Fortunately for Bella, her potassium levels were only slightly lower than normal. She was supplemented with potassium and her levels were normal by morning. Bella also received a drug that helped stop the effects of albuterol, allowing her heart rate to decrease and reducing her excitability.

By morning, Bella seemed much improved. She was now resting comfortably and had a normal heart rate. Bella was sent home later than morning, and owners report her to be back to her old self again!

Dr. Nadia Rifat

Loki Here!

Boston in a Blanket

Meet Loki, one of our newest patients at EncinaVeterinaryHospital. Loki was born via c-section on August 13th of this year. Loki first came to us on emergency 16 hours after he was born, because his owners found his mom licking a wound on his left hind leg. Dr. Martin Del Campo was able to repair the wound using a local anesthetic, and Loki went  home on antibiotics. As you can see from his glamour shots, Loki clearly is not failing to thrive! The name Loki is from ancient Norse legend, as Loki was a troublemaker in the pantheon of Norse gods, but we happen to think that this Loki is an angel!

Loki Love


Dexter the Wonder Poodle

In June of this year a special puppy named Dexter walked into our clinic with the NorCal Poodle Rescue group. The little black poodle had been rescued from a homeless encampment in Sacramento, where he was not able to receive the veterinary care that he desperately needed. Dexter was not classically good looking by any means, as he was suffering from demodex (a parasite that lives in the hair follicles of mammals) and was more or less hairless. However, his personality shined through his soulful brown eyes, and he quickly won over the hearts of everyone at EVH, Dr. Jill Christofferson in particular. Jill led the charge in collecting donations and organizing surgical treatments to give the sweet poodle the chance to live a life that was pain free.

Dr. Christofferson was able to treat Dexter’s demodex (parasitic mites of the hair follicle), and also donated her time to perform entropion surgery to correct the fact that Dexter’s eyelids folded inward causing his eyelashes to rub on his eyes. During all of his treatments, Dexter never so much as lifted a lip at our staff; his patience and tolerance truly amazed us.

For more information on Dexter’s story, please see Dr. Christofferson’s YouTube video “Dexter’s Story”

And be sure to check out the NorCal Poodle Rescue Summer/Fall 2011 Newsletter, which honored the contributions of Dr. Christofferson and Dr. Nurre in Dexter’s journey to health.

Pets Helping People is Powerful Stuff

Waffles wants to lend you a paw

The healing powers of pets have been a hot news topic of late since the American Psychological Association published research regarding the benefits of pet ownership in July. The results of the study indicated that “pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.” All of these positive attributes to pet ownership lower the likelihood of maladies ranging from depression to high blood pressure.

As someone who has been going through an emotional struggle of her own recently, I can attest to the fact that my pets have helped keep me sane. On days when it seems impossible to get out of bed, I wake up to my cat Waffles making muffins on my pillow and purring, and her tendency to be extra sweet and snuggly in the mornings (albeit, as a ploy to be fed) takes a bit of the edge off of waking up with a heavy heart. Once out of bed, my ten-year-old dog Meli’s ability to run laps around the room while whipping her favorite toy around brings me a smile, as her unflappable exuberance and unfiltered love is a reminder of all we have been through together over the course of her life. As silly as it sounds, even Larry my bearded dragon has a claw in lifting my spirits, as there is nothing more precious than a sleeping lizard, and seeing him so peaceful is a reminder that I too can find tranquility.

Cross-species bonding is a well-documented occurence. Observe Peepers & Meli.

Given my experience, the fact that pets are being used increasingly in therapy is no surprise. The ability of animals to bond with humans is one of the parts of life that science cannot fully explain, a bit of magic if you will. In the elderly especially, it is often not the physical problems that prevents healing, it is lonliness that pets help to remedy, “research [indicates] that elderly Medicare patients with pets had fewer doctor visits than similar patients without pets.” An intangible bond with measurable results is a rarity in this world, something to be recognized and celebrated.

The study also found that pets are as effective in healing rejection in college-aged kids as close friends. The 97 students that participated in the study were asked first to write about a time in which they felt exluded. Immediately after, they were instructed to either write about their favorite pet, a best friend, or to draw a map of their campus. Those who were asked to write about a pet or a friend tended to score higher on the measure of social needs fulfillment following the writing activities than those who drew the map.

Get some lizard love from Larry!

Past research focused more on the benefits of pet ownership for people with serious illnesses, whereas the current study is an indicator of how pets help “everyday people.” Based on the results, it does not appear that average people rely on pets at the expense of other human relationships, but rather utilize pets as an additional form of social support. The journal article states that “lonliness and rejection are painful to experience (MacDonald and Leary, 2005), but one’s friends and family may not always be present to provide immediate comfort (and, in some cases, they may be the source of social pain).” Pets radiate their loving and innocent energy, and can provide everything from comic relief to a furry shoulder to cry on in times of need.

We at Encina keep all of this in mind as you come in to see us with your pets, as we know how integral they are to your family. The concern that is evident in the eyes of the parent of a sick pet is a reminder of why we do what we do, we are not here only to enhance the lives of animals, but the people that bring them in as well. From puppy or kittenhood to healing the aches and pains of our senior patients, we realize that it is our job as stewards of your animal’s health to ensure that they will be with you for as long as possible as you make your way through life’s ups and downs. 


Seal reminds us all to SMILE!!



To read the entire journal article, please visit:

How Do You Roo?

The Punisher, Relaxing in His New Home

We were all very sad when we learned that the parents of one of our star patients, The Punisher (affectionately known as TP) were relocating down to Australia earlier this year. TP’s dad took a job on Curtis Island, which means that his parents packed up and headed Down Under to open up a new chapter in their lives. TP has stayed behind in the US, but his mom keeps in contact via Skype and Facebook. TP’s mom Jennifer has found some new friends who work in wildlife rescue, and she sent us some awesome pictures of some of her new companions. It is not uncommon in Jennifer’s circle to rescue baby kangaroos, many of whom became orphaned when their mothers were hit by cars. Jennifer herself is looking to foster a brushtail possum, as ‘roos require a lot of land and a long-term time commitment of over a year. Please enjoy some of Jennifer’s pictures, and we look forward to staying in touch as their Australian adventures unfold!

It's A Little Baby 'Roo!

It Doesn't Get Much Cuter Than This

What, You've Never Seen A Marsupial Before?

Pretty Birds

He's Good at Blending In

Jennifer and Her Amphibian Friend

Update: Dr. Adamo's TV Premiere!

This year has been very exciting for Dr. Adamo with his revolutionary artificial disc implant surgery, and the local media has tapped into his momentum. Thanks to efforts put forth by members and friends of the White Kitty Foundation, Dr. Adamo was featured on KGO7 last week, in a short feature that highlights his revolutionary procedure. Dr. Johnson began our practice with the vision that we would always be looking to the future for new and better ways to treat our patients, and Dr. Adamo’s ingenuity is in line with that tenet of our practice. I was lucky enough to observe Dr. Adamo performing his procedure on a dog that came all the way from Texas last week, to be treated for Disc Associated Wobbler’s Syndrome. Please see the news videos below, and join us in our applause for Dr. Adamo’s success!

Neurologist Dr. Filippo Adamo DVM on ABC7 News

KGO 7 Article on Dr. Adamo\’s Artificial Disc Implant


Thank you again to Cris and Denise for their efforts in making this interview happen!

The 2011 ACVIM Conference

Dr. Adamo, during his presentation in Denver

Earlier this month, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine hosted its annual conference in Denver, which brought specialty veterinarians from around the globe together in one place for a meeting of the veterinary minds. We would like to congratulate our very own neurologist Dr. Filippo Adamo for his contribution to the conference, as he presented on “Recent Developments in the Surgical Treatment of Caudal Cervical Spondylomelopathy in Dogs.” What does that mean in plain English, you may wonder? Basically, Dr. Adamo has developed a surgical technique in which he uses an artifical disc of his own design to treat various neurological conditions of the spine, most notably Wobbler’s Syndrome. Dr. Adamo is originally from Italy, and has been with EVH for nearly two years, seeing neurological cases every Monday and Thursday.

Part of Dr. Adamo's Presentation

Other veterinarians from Encina also attended the conference, including Dr. Jenifer Wang and Dr. Stephen Atwater. Continuing education is a requirement for the job of veterinarian, but at Encina we pride ourselves as being on top of current trends in veterinary medicine. Thus, we often take advantage of conferences such as ACVIM to provide our docs with new perspectives.

For more information regarding the ACVIM Conference, please visit their website by clicking here

An interesting article regarding the conference is found here

For more information about Dr. Adamo’s work, and access to his published research, please visit his website

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Adamo, please call us at (925)937-5000, he is available to see appointments between 10a and 5p Mondays and Thursdays.

Update on Ice Bear, One Cool Cat

Excited to be home at last!

We received an update from Ice Bear’s parents, along with some recovery pictures, enjoy:

“He is doing extremely well. Stitches out, and now he gets to go outside. He doesn’t seem to wander much yet, just content to hang close. That’s fine by us.”

Dreaming of the days when he can go back outside...

Stitches out, stockingnette off!

Lazing in the grass at last (under supervision)!

Bee-Ware of Insect Stings and Bites This Summer!

Happy summer! This morning at 10:16a the season officially changed, and we here at Encina welcome the longer days and warmer weather (though today is a little too hot for our taste)! Another hallmark of summer, for veterinarians and staff at least, is the influx of emergency cases we see that involve an unfortunate meeting between a pet and an insect that can result in an allergic reaction like the one you see above. Meet Samson, a gregarious boxer that normally resembles the handsome picture you see towards the left. A bee sting yesterday rendered him a little, shall we say…swollen, still good looking but definitely not his normal stunning self. Just as some people are allergic to bees and others are not, such is the case in pets. Symptoms may range from mild redness, swelling, and itching, to vomiting, difficulty breathing, collapse, and even death. We often get calls from worried owners about their pets having swollen faces, and it is our recommendation to have these animals come in for a visit because facial swelling can precede life-threatening airway obstruction. Most minor to moderate reactions typically require an examination by a veterinarian and two injections, an antihistamine and a steroid, which combat the swelling and discomfort.

Look at the Swelling Surrounding Samson's Eyes and Muzzle!

Avoiding bees and other bugs may seem to be nearly impossible, but keeping your pet out of clovers and blooming, ground-covering plants is a good idea this time of year. Remove any hives from your yard (we recommend calling a professional to do so), bees typically build hives under awnings and in trees while wasps nest on the ground. It is not advisable to apply insect repellent to your pet, as the ingredients may not be safe for animal use. Please call us at (925)937-5000 if you suspect that your pet is having a reaction to an insect sting or bite, we are available 24/7 to answer your questions.

For further information, please visit UC Davis’ webpage on the topic by clicking here