Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs

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Date Published: 03/05/2019

Can pet diets cause heart problems?

Yes.  Thirty years ago, veterinarians recognized deficiency of an amino acid (taurine) as the most common cause of dilated cardiomyopathy in cats.  Cats are unable to make their own taurine (just like people can’t make their own vitamin C) and must ingest it to stay healthy.  Taurine is plentiful in most animal tissues.  Being carnivores, domestic, feral and wild cats that hunt for their food derive adequate taurine from their diet.  However, some commercial cat foods at that time contained insufficient amounts of taurine causing dilated cardiomyopathy and other health issues.  This discovery resulted in pet food companies adding more taurine to the foods they manufacture. Subsequently, taurine-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in cats has all-but disappeared.  It is occasionally diagnosed when cat owners feed unbalanced diets (e.g., boiled poultry or vegetarian diets).

A few years later, certain breeds of dogs were found to also have dilated cardiomyopathy in association with taurine deficiency.  This was unexpected because dogs, unlike cats, are able to synthesize taurine from other sulfur-containing amino acids in their food.  Investigators suspected that these breeds were unable to synthesize taurine in amounts needed to replace losses. Taurine is typically efficiently recycled in the small intestine, but various dietary factors can affect this process. When supplemented with high doses of taurine, these dogs resolved their cardiomyopathy in many cases.

Since that time, specific categories of diets have been sporadically implicated in heart disease.  One group of Newfoundlands that were fed a commercial lamb-and-rice diet developed taurine deficiency and reversible cardiomyopathy.  Other dogs have also been found to have taurine deficiency when fed similar lamb-and-rice diets.  Occasionally, dogs fed vegan or vegetarian diets have been taurine deficient and suffering heart disease.

Most recently, Golden Retrievers have been identified as having a tauriency associated cardiomyopathy.


Is the current diet-associated cardiomyopathy caused by taurine deficiency?

The current evidence suggests that the recent “outbreak” of cardiomyopathy in dogs is likely not primarily related to taurine deficiency.  Blood assays of taurine in many affected dogs show normal taurine concentrations.  The observations suggesting this condition is related to taurine deficiency originate from populations where several of the affected dogs were Golden Retrievers (who are a special case, as described above).  It is hypothesized by some that being taurine deficient makes these dogs more susceptible to whatever is causing the current diet-associated cardiomyopathy. Because of concerns from some veterinary researchers about the methods used to assess taurine status in the studied populations with few or no Golden Retrievers, we cannot completely rule out the role of taurine deficiency at this time in all breeds. Time will tell.

If it’s not taurine, what is the cause?

We don’t know.  The only common link that investigators have observed is “grain-free” diets that use lentils and other legumes (peas) as the “base ingredient.” There are currently many theories, but no definitive answers explaining how these diets cause the cardiomyopathy.

Are all “limited ingredient” or “grain free” diets at fault?

Some dogs are prescribed diets to diagnose and treat allergies (skin or gastrointestinal diseases).  Such diets might include a limited number of uncommon ingredients, such as salmon, kangaroo, potatoes, peas, etc.  At this point, no therapeutic diets, manufactured by the major pet food manufacturers (Hills, Purina, Royal Canin), have been associated with current cases of diet-associated cardiomyopathy.

There is no medical or nutritional indication for “grain free” although some veterinary therapeutic diets recommended to diagnose and treat allergies are also grain free. They are chosen because the ingredients happen to be novel for the specific patient, but they are not used because they lack grains per se. Grain free is simply a marketing category and there is no specific benefit.


What should I do if my dog eats a grain-free legume based or other implicated diet?

First, check the ingredient label.  If peas or lentils are the main ingredient (or main carbohydrate source), consider changing to a diet that contains grains.

Second, if you are reluctant to change the diet, consult your veterinarian about having a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) to see if your dog has evidence of cardiomyopathy.  If your dog is found to be affected, even if it’s showing no clinical signs, change the diet to a grain-based commercial diet. Most nutritionists recommend using the WSAVA guidelines for selection of commercial diets.

Third, if you have a dog that is “at risk” for taurine deficiency (American Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Newfoundland, Dalmatian) and eating an implicated diet, have the blood taurine levels checked. Measure both whole blood and plasma collected at the same time to enable the most accurate interpretation of your dog’s taurine status. If those are low, determine if the dog has cardiomyopathy with a cardiac ultrasound, change the diet, and supplement taurine as directed by your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian might suggest measuring taurine in other breeds as well.  The more data collected, the more likely researchers will be able to resolve whether taurine deficiency plays a primary or secondary role in causing this diet-associated cardiomyopathy.

Your veterinarian or veterinary cardiologist is the one best able to advise you about the most appropriate course of action for your dog.

AAFCO Labels

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is made up of animal control officials from each state and territories, federal agencies (like the FDA) and government representatives from countries like Canada and Costa Rica. Local, state and federal feed regulatory officials have meetings to discuss and develop uniform and equitable laws, regulations and policies. Because AAFCO is not a government agency, it has no regulatory abilities, but AAFCO recommendations have become the foundation for most state laws and regulations for all animal feeds. AAFCO members meet to amend the AAFCO Model Pet Food Regulations to address new information and issues related to pet foods and nutrition.


The “AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose” also called a “nutrition claim”  is a statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance or a combination of these, or if the food does not meet the complete and balanced requirements than it is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only. Under AAFCO regulations, this statement must be substantiated by the state and the pet food manufacturer.


What about cats?

A few cat cases have been reported to the FDA, but the numbers are too small to say anything definitive. This appears to be primarily a dog problem.

What should I feed my pet?

If your pet is on a diet not prescribed by a veterinarian, is a grain free or limited ingredient diet, or does not contain an AAFCO label, please contact us so that we may guide you to getting your pet on an appropriate and nutritionally complete diet.


Grain Free FDA Alert

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A recent FDA alert about the possible connection between grain free diets and heart disease has been posted. Of course, pet owners have tons of questions about it. The main concern is that certain categories of dog foods may inadvertently contribute to heart disease by interfering with the body’s utilization of Taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that is vital to heart function. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as a potential cause of heart disease, but it is not the only cause. Nutritional makeup of the main ingredients listed, how dogs process them, and the amount used could be involved.

Some facts that we do know are that there seems to be a correlation between the following foods and heart disease:

  1. Boutique diets (made by small maufacturers)
  2. Exotic ingredients such as rabbit, duck, kangaroo etc..
  3. Foods that are labeled ‘Grain Free’ which tend to have legumes as a main ingredient (peas, lentils, or potatoes)
There are still a lot of things that we don’t know. We do not know why this is happening or if it is just about the ingredient list. It is not proven that the problem is truly grain free.  Does it only look that way because the actual problem is small companies with manufacturing errors? It’s not kibble vs home cooked. Vets see plenty of Taurine deficiency cardiomyopathies from pet owners who are home cooking an imbalanced diet.
We do not want you to panic or believe that the issue is as simple as PEAS ARE BAD. You do not need to immediately dispose of all grain free dog food. It is important to know where you can become educated to gain the knowledge necessary to make an informative decision. Steps we advise include talking to your vet and reading the statement released by the FDA. We recommend feeding a dog or cat food that is AAFCO certified. If your pet doesn’t NEED grain free, consider a diet with grain. Food allergies in pets are typically protein sensitive.
It is also valuable to know what the signs of heart disease are. Symptoms include weakness, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, and coughing. If your pet is ever experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian. The FDA is working with board certified veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the clinical presentation of the cases submitted. What is most important is knowledge and love because we know you just want what’s best for you pets.

Thanksgiving Food Dangers

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  • Keep the feast on the table—not under it.  Eating turkey or turkey skin – sometimes even a small amount – can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest, and many foods and drinks that are OK for people are poisonous to pets – including alcoholic drinks, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, raisins and grapes. If you want to share a Thanksgiving treat with your pet, make or buy a treat that is made just for them.
  • No pie or other desserts for your pooch. Chocolate can be harmful for pets, even though many dogs find it tempting and will sniff it out and eat it. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.
  • Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.
  • Put the trash away where your pets can’t find it.  A turkey carcass sitting out on the carving table, or left in a trash container that is open or easily opened, could be deadly to your family pet. Dispose of turkey carcasses and bones – and anything used to wrap or tie the meat, such as strings, bags and packaging – in a covered, tightly secured trash bag placed in a closed trash container outdoors (or behind a closed, locked door).


We will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. Please contact 24/7 Pet Poison Hotline at 855-764-7661 or Contact the Veterinary Emergency Critcal Care & Referral Center in Newington at 603-431-3600

Save 10% on Leptospirosis vaccine in October

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Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Infection in people can cause flu-like symptoms and can cause liver or kidney disease. In the United States, most cases of human leptospirosis result from recreational activities involving water. Infection resulting from contact with an infected pet is much less common, but it is possible.

Leptospirosis is more common in areas with warm climates and high annual rainfall but it can occur anywhere.
Risk factors for leptospirosis
Dogs are most commonly affected. Leptospirosis in cats is rare and appears to be mild although very little is known about the disease in this species. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs residing in the United States include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs.

Dogs can become infected and develop leptospirosis if their mucous membranes (or skin with any wound, such as a cut or scrape) come into contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding; through a bite from an infected animal; by eating infected tissues or carcasses; and rarely, through breeding. It can also be passed through the placenta from the mother dog to the puppies.
Signs of leptospirosis
The signs of leptospirosis in dogs vary. Some infected dogs do not show any signs of illness, some have a mild and transient illness and recover spontaneously, while others develop severe illness and death.

Signs of leptospirosis may include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes), or painful inflammation within the eyes. The disease can cause kidney failure with or without liver failure. Dogs may occasionally develop severe lung disease and have difficulty breathing. Leptospirosis can cause bleeding disorders, which can lead to blood-tinged vomit, urine, stool or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots (which may be visible on the gums and other mucous membranes or on light-colored skin). Affected dogs can also develop swollen legs (from fluid accumulation) or accumulate excess fluid in their chest or abdomen.

Leptospirosis may be suspected based on the exposure history and signs shown by the dog, but many of these signs can also be seen with other diseases. In addition to a physical examination, your veterinarian may recommend a number of other tests such as blood tests, urine tests, radiographs (x-rays), and an ultrasound examination.
Treatment and prevention
Leptospirosis is generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care. When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good but there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage.

Currently available vaccines effectively prevent leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. Annual vaccination is recommended for at-risk dogs. Reducing your dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira bacteria can reduce its chances of infection.

Although an infected pet dog presents a low risk of infection for you and your family, there is still some risk. If your dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, take the following precautions to protect yourself:

Administer antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian;
Avoid contact with your dog’s urine;
If your dog urinates in your home, quickly clean the area with a household disinfectant and wear gloves to avoid skin contact with the urine;
Encourage your dog to urinate away from standing water or areas where people or other animals will have access;
Wash your hands after handling your pet.
If you are ill or if you have questions about leptospirosis in people, consult your physician. If you are pregnant or immunocompromised (due to medications, cancer treatment, HIV or other conditions), consult your physician for advice.

4th Of July Pet Safety Tips

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Fireworks are NOT fun for pets. Here are a few tips to help keep your pets safe through the holiday:


  1. Keep your pet home and inside in a safe, comforting space. Loud noises, unfamiliar places, and crowds can all be very frightening to pets, causing them to get spooked and run away. Keep your pets inside if you or your neighbors are setting off fireworks. Consider putting your pets in a safe, escape-proof room or crate during parties and fireworks. If your pet is already crate trained, that would be the ideal. If you’re hosting guests, ask them to help keep an eye on your pets to make sure they don’t escape. Placing notes on exit doors and gates can help both you and your guests remain vigilant.

2. More pets go missing on 4th of July than any other holiday. Make sure your pet has identification, preferably a permanent ID, such as a microchip. A microchip, a device the size of a grain of rice, is implanted under your pet’s skin and has a unique set of numbers to identify who your pet belongs to. This simple procedure greatly improves the chances of your missing pet returning to you. If your pet is already microchipped, make sure your most up-to-date contact is listed with the company. If you’ve recently moved or have a new phone number, make sure to update your information.

3. Use distractions from the noise of fireworks. A kong filled with his favorite treat (pro tip: freeze it and it will last longer) or calming music (pro tip: search for music for dogs on pandora or spotify). It doesn’t have to be loud to be effective.


4. Talk to your vet about productions or medications to help ease anxiety. Thundershirts are vests specifically designed to apply constant, gentle pressure, similar to swaddling an infant. For dogs that are especially anxious during loud noises, sometimes they can cause harm to themselves. An anxious dog may break a tooth or toe nail on a crate door. Likewise, dogs with existing medical conditions such as heart problems, may experience adverse medical complications from the stress. These dogs may need medications to help keep them calm during fireworks. Talk to your veterinarian about prescription anti-anxiety medications.

Why does my healthy cat need an exam?

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Meet Barry.

Barry was found as a stray cat by owner, Dr. Cindy Hoisington, at her home in Barrington. Dr. Hoisington was able to safely trap Barry with a “have a heart trap” (pictured below) so that she could bring him to the clinic for an exam, and possible locate an owner.

Right away, he was scanned for a microchip (pictured below) to determine if he has an owner.  A microchip is a device that’s the size of a grain of rice. It holds a unique set of numbers that is registered to the owner of the pet. It’s implanted right under the skin. It’s a permanent identification.


He did not have a microchip, he did not show any signs of being neutered, and it appeared he didn’t have an owner. Dr. Hoisington performed a complete physical exam. So, what does that mean? It’s a head-to-tail exam. We start at the from the front – check eyes, ears, and mouth. We look into the eyes with a device called an ophthalmologist. We are looking for any abnormalities that may affect vision.  Next, in the ears, we do a visual examine both with the naked eye and a device called an otoscope. We are again looking for any abnormalities, including infections or mites in the ears. Next, we ask that they open up wide and say, “ahhhh” to which we’re generally met with a hiss or a swat of the paw. Inside the mouth, the dr. is looking for dental disease or fractured teeth that may be causing pain. The dr. then does a sweep of the limbs, torso, and abdomen, feeling for any lumps, bumps, or enlargements of organs. The dr. also takes a “look under the hood” checking the anus and genitals for any abnormalities. We check the heart with a stethoscope for any irregularities and check the skin and coat for any signs of infections or parasites.

Barry checked out just fine and the next step was to run a blood test for feline leukemia and aids. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency virus are both viruses that impair the immune system. His blood test was negative, so he was cleared for vaccinations. He received 3 important vaccines – rabies, distemper, and leukemia. Rabies is a fatal disease and the vaccine is required by law, even for indoor cats. Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, is an extremely contagious and deadly disease caused by a virus.

Lastly, after Barry’s physical exam was complete, blood tests were negative, and vaccines were administered, he headed to surgery to be neutered. Neutering is the surgical removal of a male cat’s testicles.

He spent a couple more days with us, getting a lot of love and attention from the nurses, before he headed to Cocheco Valley Humane Society in Dover to find his forever home.



Barry wants to express the important of yearly exams for all cats, even seemingly healthy, indoor only cats. Millions of cats die every year from diseases that keeping them indoors can not protect them against. Cats are very good at hiding illness and typically do not show signs until it is too late to treat the disease. However many of these diseases can be caught early (prior to any clinical symptoms) with bloodwork and physical exam and treated successfully.


April Is Heartworm Disease Awareness Month

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What is heartworm disease?


Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.

Dogs. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

Cats. Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?


The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?

In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

How significant is my pet’s risk for heartworm infection?



Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).

The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.

For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.

What do I need to know about heartworm testing?

Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires just a small blood sample from your pet, and it works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Some veterinarians process heartworm tests right in their hospitals while others send the samples to a diagnostic laboratory. In either case, results are obtained quickly. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.

When should my dog be tested?

Dogs. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

  • Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later and yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.
  • Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention.  They, too, need to be tested 6 months and 12 months later and annually after that.
  • If there has been a lapse in prevention (one or more late or missed doses), dogs should be tested immediately, then tested again six months later and annually after that.

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill—or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100 percent effective. If you don’t get your dog test, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.

What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?

No one wants to hear that their dog has heartworm, but the good news is that most infected dogs can be successfully treated. The goal is to first stabilize your dog if he is showing signs of disease, then kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.

Here’s what you should expect if your dog tests positive:

  • Confirm the diagnosis. Once a dog tests positive on an antigen test, the diagnosis should be confirmed with an additional—and different—test. Because the treatment regimen for heartworm is both expensive and complex, your veterinarian will want to be absolutely sure that treatment is necessary.
  • Restrict exercise. This requirement might be difficult to adhere to, especially if your dog is accustomed to being active. But your dog’s normal physical activities must be restricted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, because physical exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. The more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.
  • Stabilize your dog’s disease. Before actual heartworm treatment can begin, your dog’s condition may need to be stabilized with appropriate therapy. In severe cases of heartworm disease, or when a dog has another serious condition, the process can take several months.
  • Administer treatment. Once your veterinarian has determined your dog is stable and ready for heartworm treatment, he or she will recommend a treatment protocol involving several steps. The American Heartworm Society has guidelines for developing this plan of attack. Dogs with no signs or mild signs of heartworm disease, such as cough or exercise intolerance, have a high success rate with treatment. More severe disease can also be successfully treated, but the possibility of complications is greater. The severity of heartworm disease does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms, and dogs with many worms may have few or no symptoms early in the course of the disease.
  • Test (and prevent) for success. Approximately 6 months after treatment is completed, your veterinarian will perform a heartworm test to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. To avoid the possibility of your dog contracting heartworm disease again, you will want to administer heartworm prevention year-round for the rest of his life.
How do monthly preventatives work?

Whether the preventive you choose is given as a pill, a spot-on topical medication or as an injection, all approved heartworm medications work by eliminating the immature (larval) stages of the heartworm parasite. This includes the infective heartworm larvae deposited by the mosquito as well as the following larval stage that develops inside the animal. Unfortunately, in as little as 51 days, immature heartworm larvae can molt into an adult stage, which cannot be effectively eliminated by preventives. Because heartworms must be eliminated before they reach this adult stage, it is extremely important that heartworm preventives be administered strictly on schedule (monthly for oral and topical products and every 6 months for the injectable). Administering prevention late can allow immature larvae to molt into the adult stage, which is poorly prevented.


Protect your pet from this heartbreaking disease for as little as $5 a month



22 Lowell S

Rochester, NH 03867


You can now request your pet’s medication from our app!

5 Benefits of Neutering Your Male Cat

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The neuter procedure involves castration of the male cat – common and simple procedure to remove the testicles, leaving the cat sterile and unable to reproduce.



Here are the top 5 reasons you should have your pet neutered:

  1. Help reduce the overpopulation of cats. It’s hard to accept, but there aren’t enough homes for the cats currently in need of adoption. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 3.4 million cats enter shelters every year. There are far more cats born than there are homes.
  2. Reduce unwanted behaviors such as inter-cat aggression between house mates.
  3.  Reduce roaming in male cats. An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate, including escaping from the house. Roaming can risk your cat from getting into fights with other animals, being hit by a car, lost or stolen, or injured by extreme weather.
  4.  Reduce the risk of testicular and prostate cancer.
  5.  Reduce the urge for your male cat to spray urine to mark territory.




Cats are typically neutered around 5-6 months of age, though some shelters will do it much earlier as an effort to help control overpopulation.


Common myths surrounding cat neuters:


  1. It’s too expensive – the old saying, “You get what you pay for” applies. There are a lot of low cost spay or neuter clinics and if it’s detrimental to helping control overpopulation, but low cost clinics compared to general practice is like comparing apples to oranges. You’re paying for a complete head-to-toe examination by your veterinarian, including thorough review of medical history, a dedicated nurse, anesthetic drugs tailored to your pets needs, state of the art monitoring equipment, pain medication, and after care. It should also be noted that a quick and simple neuter procedure costs far less than the associated risks of having an intact male (as stated above).
  2. It will change my cat’s personality or make him less manly – Your dog or cat will not go through an identity crisis once he’s neutered. Neutering will not change a pet’s basic personality, nor will he suffer any kind of emotional reaction from the procedure. Your pet will also maintain its instincts to protect its home and family. Personality is formed more by genetics and environment than hormones.
  3. It will make him fat – neutering your pet may cause their metabolism to slow down a bit, but switching them to an adult food at the proper time, feeding exclusively canned, portion control, and regular exercise will prevent overweight cats and obesity.


Puppy Socialization

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What does it mean to socialize your puppy and why is it so important?


The first 8 weeks are on the breeder. Part of the breeder’s responsibility is not only to medically and physically care for mom and pups but also to make sure the pups get a good solid start on their socialization. That being said, there are some limitations at such a young age. Until the pups have had at least their first round of vaccines, it can be very risky to get the pups out and about beyond the backyard. Ideally, a good breeder will bring people in, allow the pups to meet vaccinated, healthy and behaviorally appropriate dogs and expose the pups to all kinds of environmental stimuli and noises. These are all the reasons why you really need to do your research if you’re going the purebred dog through a breeder. You want your puppy to have physically healthy and friendly parents from a genetic standpoint but you also want to be sure the pups  behaviorally healthy.




From 8-12 weeks old, the puppies are going through a fear imprinting period where good, positive experiences are essential. Traumatic events or just moderately scary ones are remembered for life. The puppy’s brain is a sponge during this period, taking in and remembering every new experience, good, bad, or ugly. Socializing with people If you want your puppy to be good with people as an adult, you have to put effort into socializing him to as many people as you can during the 8-12 week old period. Ideally, your puppy should meet 100 different people by 12 weeks old. It’s not as hard as you think – people will swarm your pup when you go out. Go to a mall, a sports game, downtown. Now here’s the deal – socialization doesn’t mean just throwing your dog into the arms of new people. It means creating positive experiences with those people. For some puppies, it’s a no brainer. People mean attention and therefore people are great! For others, people can be really scary so those puppies need more distance and high value treats to associate with the presence of people. If people mean the presentation of good things, people become pretty great. WHENEVER your puppy is around kids, you should be treating him. As much as your puppy may love people, kids are very often scary or can turn scary. They run, they scream, they get in the puppy’s face, they pull on ears, tails… they can become very concerning very quickly. Additionally, puppies like to nibble fingers, grab pants, jump, etc so if you can redirect with food, it’s a win-win!




Socializing with dogs

If you want your puppy to be good with dogs, same deal but also a little more complicated. While you do want to allow your puppy to socialize with dogs of all sizes and shapes, you also have to be a little more careful about health and the behavior of the other dogs. As important at socialization is at this early age, it’s also essential that we protect our pups from traumatic experiences because they will hold onto them for life. This is worth reiterating. During this critical period of socialization, puppies also go through a fear imprinting period where any scary experience sticks with them, more so than that same experience outside of the fear imprinting stage. So if your pup gets bitten by another dog, he will remember that experience and may either generalize fear and caution to all dogs going forward or to dog with similar traits, or in similar circumstances to the scary event (ie if your puppy was on leash, she may become scared of other dogs when he’s on leash, but be okay when off leash). Keep this in mind when thinking about enrolling in puppy classes as well. Many are pretty well run but just as many are not. Do your research and make sure the trainer in charge is qualified to be in charge of such a sensitive period in your dog’s life and that the environment isn’t overly chaotic.




Overall Experiences

Your puppy needs to experience different surfaces, different environments, cats, horses, cars, car rides, men, women, children, people with hats, an elderly person with a cane, wheel chairs, etc, etc. Again, pair the presence of these things either with lots of praise, play, or treats. Every time.




Veterinary Experiences


Now, I’d like to spend a little time discussing one particular difficulty puppies either have early on or develop over time. The vet’s office. Your puppy needs many vaccines during their first few months with you and the experience they have at the vet’s office can sometimes make or break their future behavior both at the vet’s office and with handling in general, as well as around new people. Your puppy’s genetic sensitivity will play a big role here but you can certainly overcome it if you try. Putting aside genetics for a moment, most of your puppy’s behavior at the vet is learned both from his experiences with handling up to this point and also by the way the vet and techs approach and handle your puppy early on. NEVER hesitate to bring your puppy to the vet just to socialize with the scale, the techs, and the waiting room. Any vet who doesn’t support that… well… look for another. Try to bring your puppy to the vet just for a social visit before the first exam and vaccine appointment. Bring high value treats to the vaccine appointment. Rarely do I see the owner’s bring their own treats. Don’t rely on your vet to provide the treats. Some veterinary offices will have good ones, like spray cheese, but many won’t. Many puppies are too overwhelmed at the vet’s office to take treats that are unfamiliar, so familiarize your puppy with a high value treat in a less stimulating environment. Use the cheese, chicken, turkey, ham, etc as a socialization treat when out in other public venues or when your puppy meets anyone new and then bring those beloved treats with you. When the vet comes in the room, treat your pup. This helps make them quick associations with the vet. If your puppy easily approaches the vet or techs, them giving the treats would be great. If your puppy is scared, it’s okay for you to give your puppy the treats to start with. Once the Veterinarian and Techs start their exam, the technician is a good person to hand the treats over to. If your puppy won’t take treats from them, plan to make a lot of social visits to the office in the very near future.







I thought I wasn’t supposed to take my puppy anywhere until he’s fully vaccinated. So how
can I socialize?

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has released a statement discussing the importance of early puppy socialization, preferably before the puppy reaches 12 to 16 weeks old. The AVSAB encourages owners to take their pets to puppy classes as early as possible, even before puppies have completed their full vaccination series. ( The risk of your dog’s quality of life being poor due to under socialization and lack of early training is of higher risk than the puppy who gets out and about before the vaccine series is complete. That being said, please consult with your vet because some puppies are higher risk than others. If your veterinarian says to wait, I would encourage you to bring the
linked article to his or her attention to cover all the bases. Basically, the risk of an under socialized dog having a low quality or shortened life span far outweighs the risk of pup who isn’t fully vaccinated to pick up disease. Don’t take your puppy to places where a lot of unknown vaccination status dogs congregate until your dog is fully vaccinated. Take your puppy to a pet store but put him in the cart. Take your pup to the park in a wagon. Make sense?


What if my puppy is fearful of people and runs away?

Then it’s time to take the socialization on as a full-time job. Break out the really high value treats. Treat your puppy just for existing in the presence of new people. Don’t force interaction. Find the distance at which your puppy is comfortable and reinforce the bravery You’re encouraging a lot of treats. Won’t this make my puppy rely on treats forever? Absolutely not. You’re pairing the presence of these potentially disconcerting things with something your puppy loves and needs, called a primary reinforcer. Your puppy relies on food for survival. Pairing good things with the presence of the new stimuli is called classical conditioning. Pavlov’s dogs, if you have any experience with Psychology. You can wean off the treats without issue. Never stop cold turkey but keep your puppy guessing – like they’re playing the slot machines. Sometimes they get praise, sometimes treats, sometimes play, sometimes petting. But remember, it is ESSENTIAL that your puppy gets socialized properly. You can wean off the treats later! This will not cause an addiction in your dog. If your dog is going to be food driven, it was going to happen naturally.





Gift Your Pet The Gift Of Wellness

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Schedule an your pet’s wellness exam by using the Appointment Request feature within our free mobile app during December, and receive a 10% off coupon for your pet’s next exam. You will also be rewarded 1 stamp in our loyalty program.

You can also receive a free nail trim coupon when you order your pet’s meds or food through the app by using the Order Food & Prescriptions feature.

Offer valid December 1st, 2017 – December 31st, 2017. Coupons expire December 31st, 2018. Discount applies only to wellness exams, excludes medical or emergency exams, and surgery. Earn 1 stamp in our loyalty program after your appointment is booked.

Discount applied to the examination fee.

Coupon will be sent to you through the app once appointment is booked, or once prescription is accepted, and must be present at time of appointment in order to redeem.