Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Why spay your bunny? Well, besides to “prevent them from reproducing like rabbits”, there are other important benefits to spaying female rabbits.


Penelope is a type of bunny

Penelope is an Angora rabbit

A very large percentage of female bunnies that are not spayed will develop uterine adenocarcinoma.  This is a particularly nasty type of cancer of the uterus that always spreads to the chest. There is no treatment or cure once the cancer is present and all female rabbits that develop it will end up dying. Spaying early in life will always prevent this type of cancer.


Snuggles is a type of bunny

Snuggles is an English Lop Rabbit

Female rabbits that are spayed also tend to be less aggressive (both with people and other bunnies) and bite less frequently than intact females. They tend to make better companions both for other rabbits and for their owners.


Penelope was spayed a few days ago - she weighed just under 2 pounds! She is doing great!

Penelope was spayed a few days ago – she weighed just under 2 pounds! She is doing great!

Finally, their urine odor is not as strong as that of intact females and urine marking is greatly decreased if not eliminated. This makes housetraining much easier.

Dr. LaFerriere is one of the doctors that sees bunnies at our practice.  If you have a bunny, call us today to set up a wellness exam with her!


October Newsletter

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Although the warm weather is slowly fading, it’s still a good time to think about the creepy-crawlies that can infest our pets: specifically mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.  Last quarter’s Pitman Animal Hospital Newsletter discussed mosquitoes and the role they play in heartworm disease.  In this quarter’s we are going to touch on them again, but mainly focus on fleas and ticks.


As we previously discussed, mosquitoes cause the spread of heartworms.

Photo courtesy of James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo courtesy of James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Some of the newer flea and tick products claim to be able to repel mosquitoes as well.  While this does appear to be true to some extent, most veterinarians do not feel this is sufficient to protect your pet against the spread of heartworm disease.  In fact, it isn’t even labeled as such. Therefore it is important to keep your pet on its monthly preventative to ensure that it is protected against heartworm infection.





Most people have heard of and seen pictures of fleas before, but a surprising number of people don’t know what a flea looks like in real life.  We’ve all talked about fleas before, and have seen their blown-up anatomically correct pictures: Ew, gross! But when people are presented with them in a real life situation it’s more like:  What is that? Oh my gosh, where did it go, it was right there!

Fleas are very small – about the size and shape of a small sesame seed and are dark brown in color. They can move very quickly and jump quite high and far, hence the Houdini-like disappearing act when you find one on your pet (or even on you!).  Because of their size, shape and speed, it’s easy for them to run through a pet’s coat and avoid detection.  One of the easiest ways to find out if your pet has fleas is to use a ‘flea comb,’ which is a comb designed to trap fleas between its teeth so they are unable to avoid detection.

Fleas can certainly be evasive; you may never actually visualize the culprit that is causing your pet discomfort, but they always leave behind evidence! ‘Flea dirt’ (which is actually flea droppings) is left behind on your pet’s coat and skin. It looks brown or black in color when dry, but if you place the ‘flea dirt’ on a wet paper towel or cotton swab it will turn a rust color. Flea dirt is your pet’s digested blood (!) so if you find flea dirt, it means that either your pet has fleas currently, or had them recently. Think of this as a declaration of war! (And it truly can be…)

Photo courtesy of Ralph Williams, Purdue University

Photo courtesy of Ralph Williams, Purdue University

One of the biggest problems with fleas is how quickly they reproduce.  A single female flea can produce up to 500 eggs during her life span.  While most of these are on your pet, many will fall off your pet into the environment (i.e. your home).  They will then hatch and mature into tiny worm-like larvae which feed on the adult flea droppings.  After about 1-2 weeks, the larvae will form a silk like cocoon (pupa) which can remain dormant for up to a year waiting for conditions to be right for them to emerge into adult fleas, hungry to feed on your pet, where the cycle starts all over again. Adult fleas are the only stage of the life-cycle people typically see, and they only represent 5% of the entire infestation of your pet or home. Too  many people believe they will know fleas are present because they themselves will be bitten:  not true!  Fleas vastly prefer dogs and cats over humans, and if you are suffering flea bites, you are likely in the midst of a truly rip-roaring infestation!  Fleas are exceedingly good at staying “under the radar”.

Fleas can cause several health problems in dogs and cats.  The most common issue is flea bite dermatitis, which is basically an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva.  Depending on how allergic your pet is, it can only take a rare occasional flea bite to make your pet’s skin become an itchy, scabby mess.  Cats often manifest flea allergy as severe over-grooming, where they may lick parts of their body bald or even raw.

Fleas can spread a red blood cell parasite called Bartonella which is the organism that causes ‘cat scratch fever’ (it’s NOT a joke!!) in humans. This organism can cause mild to severe illness in dogs and cats too, although cats are more often carriers with no symptoms. Additionally, fleas often spread a common intestinal parasite known as ‘tapeworms’ when they are ingested (e.g. when your pet grooms itself).

Obviously, there are many products on the market to kill adult fleas.  The most popular products are liquids that are applied to the animal’s skin monthly (‘topicals’).   Many claim to be waterproof and therefore will remain on your pet despite bathing or swimming, though the degree to which this claim is true is often questioned.

Some of the flea products aimed at killing the adults also have ‘growth regulators’ in them that are chemicals that kill earlier stages of the flea (i.e. eggs and/or larvae).   There are also some combination drugs on the market that are heartworm/intestinal parasiticides that will also kill/control various stages of the flea lifecycle.  However, as of now, there is no single product on the market that takes care of heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas AND ticks.  All prevention is equally important and the veterinarian will discuss with you what options or combinations are best for your pet.





Perhaps even creepier than fleas are the 8 legged crawlers – TICKS!  Ticks are not insects – they are actually more closely related to spiders and mites.  Ticks are often more of a concern because everyone knows that ticks spread Lyme disease.  However, most people don’t realize that ticks spread many other diseases, including Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, just to name a few.   (And yes, we do see Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever right here in the Garden State!)

Photo courtesy of James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo courtesy of James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Unlike fleas, most ticks lay their eggs (thousands) outside on the ground.  When they hatch into nymphs (which are VERY tiny), they have only 6 legs.  They wait for a host to come by, often perching on a blade of grass or other plant until they sense a host, usually through body heat and exhaled carbon dioxide on its breath (they are basically like ninjas). The nymph then gets on the host (unlike fleas, they can’t jump so they wait for the host to brush against them) where it will attach and feed on blood for several days.  It will then drop off this host, molt (or shed) it’s outer skin, and become an 8 legged nymph.  These 8 legged nymphs also will lie in wait for a host to brush against them and will then attach to that host and feed.  After this blood meal, it will again drop off the host, molt, and turn into an adult who will try to find yet another host to continue the life cycle.

Many people think their dog is protected from these diseases because their dog is on a monthly flea and tick preventative – unfortunately this is NOT TRUE.  People also often think their tick preventative isn’t working because they keep finding ticks (alive or dead) on their pet despite the preventative being present.  What people often don’t realize is that unfortunately, ticks are MUCH harder to kill than fleas.  Where as most of the preventatives start to kill the fleas as soon as they touch the dog’s skin, ticks take much longer to kill and will usually bite the animal and start feeding.  It is during this time they are able to transmit disease.  It’s basically a race against time between how long it takes to kill the tick and how long it takes for the tick to transmit the disease.  Unfortunately, there is often a fine line between how fast the medication kills the tick and the safety of the medication for the pet itself.  Bottom line: if you are finding dead ticks on your pet, the medication is working, though it is unfortunately not a guarantee that your pet hasn’t contracted a tick-borne disease.

Photo courtesy of James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo courtesy of James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

This is why your veterinarian recommends annual blood testing for these infectious diseases: the most common tests are for Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.  While most people have their dog on annual Lyme vaccines, there is NO vaccine or other specific preventative for Ehrlichiosis or Anaplasmosis (other than the monthly tick treatments which, as we have already stated, are often not 100% effective).  This is why annual testing for these diseases is so important.

So what do these diseases do?  First thing you need to know is, just because your dog tests positive for any of these diseases does not mean you pet is sick and/or going to die.  Many dogs test positive and never have any symptoms.  However, they all CAN cause life threatening disease.




Once a dog tests positive for Lyme disease, it will likely test positive for the rest of its life, simply because what the test is looking for is not the Lyme bacterium, but the antibodies your dog makes in response to it.  Many more dogs become exposed to this organism through a tick bite than ever become clinically sick from it.  But some do get sick:  symptoms of Lyme disease can range anywhere from no obvious symptoms, mild to severe lameness (limping) with fever, kidney failure and even death.  If a dog is asymptomatic but tests positive for lyme, we will often run additional tests to see if there is cause to treat or to proactively monitor instead.

One of the first things we think of when we see a dog who has a fever accompanied by limping is Lyme disease.  If they test positive, we will usually put them on antibiotics which often makes the dog feel better very quickly.  However, as in people, Lyme disease is sometimes not completely ‘cleared’ from the body and while the dog’s symptoms may improve at first, it is not uncommon for them to ‘flare up’ and have repeated symptoms over time.

If your dog is one of the unlucky ones that gets the most severe form of the disease (Lyme nephropathy or ‘kidney failure’), there is not much that can be done.  The dogs are usually hospitalized for IV fluids and supportive care but the condition carries a very poor prognosis.


Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis:

These two diseases are very similar to each other and often cause infections of the white blood cells and/or platelets that aid in clotting. As stated before, some dogs may never have any symptoms, but if a dog has an active infection symptoms can include: fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss, and/or start bleeding spontaneously (which may be seen in the nose, urine, feces, eyes, skin (bruising) etc).  As with Lyme disease, if a dog tests positive, we will want to run additional tests to see if treatment is warranted.  If so we will start your dog on an antibiotic (most commonly doxycycline or another tetracycline).  Also like Lyme disease, if a dog tests positive for either of these two diseases, they may test positive for the rest of their lives, although this can vary.


Wrapping up:  In summary, as with all other diseases, prevention is always better than to have to pursue treatment; that makes having your furry friend on a well trusted flea and tick preventative year round all the more important……


Miscellaneous facts about fleas and ticks:


Ticks DO NOT bury under the skin.  They insert their delicate mouthparts through the skin to feed.

To best remove a tick, just grasp its (yes, yucky) body (taking care not to squeeze) and pull straight away from the pet’s body.  It is NOT the end of the world to leave behind some mouthparts if you have to.  The most important thing is to detach the tick (its stomach is where the bacteria come from!) as soon as you can.

It is still possible for your pet to get ticks even in the dead of winter.

Some ticks can live up to 2 years without feeding!!!

The presence of trees or woods is not the best predictor of tick habitat—it is actually the presence of deer or field mice, which carry the ticks.  Cleared areas bordering on wooded ones are actually some of the best places to find ticks.

Fleas can jump up to 7 inches vertically and 13 inches horizontally.

Your pet does not have to spend time outside to contact fleas; they can come into your home on shoes and clothing.

‘Indoor only’ cats often serve as an undetected reservoir for fleas which the dog(s) have brought into the home.  The fleas are much happier hopping off the flea-protected dog and onto the unprotected cat.  JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T SEE THEM SCRATCH, DOESN’T MEAN THEY DON’T HAVE ANY FLEAS!!!

Pets can vary tremendously in their allergic sensitivity to flea saliva.  JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T SEE THEM SCRATCH, DOESN’T MEAN THEY DON’T HAVE ANY FLEAS!!!


Weight loss for Napoleon

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Hi, my name is Napoleon.  I’m an American bulldog.  Last year my vet told me that I needed to back off on the Milkbones and exercise more, because I had gained way too much weight.  I couldn’t tell him that it wasn’t my fault (because I can’t really talk), so I had to go along with his plan.  After all, I was tired all the time, and couldn’t really play as much as I wanted to anymore because I would just get out of breath so quickly.  Here’s a picture of me when I was too heavy.

Napoleon Amechi overweight (1)

So my mom (she’s awesome) started giving me just a little less food.  She did it gradually so I didn’t even miss it.  Then her and dad started playing with me more and taking longer and longer walks.  At first it was really hard!  They were really patient with me though, and just kept encouraging me to do just a little more.

Napoleon Amech good weight (4)

After a year, my vet told me that I was at a great weight and told my mom and dad they had done such a great job!  The best part of the story is that I have so much energy now!  I can run and play for hours with my mom and dad and my doggie friends!  It’s amazing how just little changes can make such a big difference!  Look at how I look now!

Piglet’s story

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Feb 19 007Hi! This is my story about my first surgery as a cat! I am going to get spayed so that I don’t have to worry about infection or having more kittens.  So I wanted to tell my story about what goes on.  Don’t worry, they didn’t shave me – I’m a Sphynx, a special cat breed that has no hair naturally.

First my doctor checks me out to make sure I am healthy.  It didn’t hurt at all, and I got to meet lots of nice people!

Then they draw a little bit of blood to make sure I look as good on the inside as I do on the outside!  It pinched a little bit, and I didn’t want to sit still so they wrapped me up like a burrito – cozy!

Feb 19 005

My doctor (who is also my mommy) says my blood looks good!  Kidneys and liver are working just fine for anesthesia and my blood clots normally.  My first test and I got all A’s!

So then my doctor gave me some medication that made me fall asleep, and she made a little incision on my belly and took out my uterus and ovaries.  When I woke up, I was a little dizzy and sore, but feeling well enough that I didn’t sit still for my picture.

I'm not looking at you right now...

I’m not looking at you right now…

What are you doing?

What are YOU doing?

My mommy said that later that night I was bouncing around and playing with my toys.  Obviously she gave me the perfect amount of pain medication, because I felt great!

So my stitches came out a week or so later, and now I’m back to my old self!  Hope you enjoyed my story!


May Newsletter – Heartworms and an interview with Pat Middleton

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Spring is right around the corner!  It’s time to start thinking about yard work, cook outs, road trips to the beach, and heartworm disease.  Many people are unclear about heartworm heartheartworm disease.  They know they give their dog a pill/meat chewy/topical every month to prevent it, but they don’t know much about the disease they are preventing. A common misconception is that it’s similar to intestinal parasites.  Well, in this quarter’s Pitman Animal Hospital Newsletter we’ll tell you what you need to know about heartworm disease and your pet.

First, we need to clear up the misconception that heartworm disease is a dog-only problem. This devastating disease affects cats as well. The problem is that the disease is not as well understood in cats and is almost impossible to diagnose. Unfortunately for those cats that have been definitively diagnosed with heartworm there isn’t a good (safe) treatment for them.  This is usually a fatal disease in cats, often going undiagnosed in life and usually diagnosed on autopsy (which is infrequently performed in small animal medicine). Therefore, heartworm prevention is crucial to the health of your cat and is equally important as it is in dogs.


What exactly is heartworm disease?

Heartworms are blood-borne parasites that live in the right ventricle (one of the chambers) of the heart in dogs, and in the pulmonary arteries in cats.  Symptoms in dogs can range from nonexistent in early or mild infections to coughing, vomiting, trouble breathing and heart failure in advanced infections.

Symptoms in cats can range from nonexistent to lethargy, vomiting, asthma-like symptoms and sudden (possibly unexplained) death.

How does my pet get heartworms?

 The simple answer is that heartworms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected dog who has heartworm larvae (microfilaria) circulating in its bloodstream, the larvae get ingested by the mosquito where they develop into another life stage.  When the now infected mosquito bites another dog or cat, the heartworm larvae are deposited on the skin where they enter the host through the mosquito bite wound.  They then grow into another stage and migrate to the host’s heart where they mature into adult heartworms and start producing their own microfilaria (“babies”).  Then the cycle starts again! By giving your pet its monthly heartworm preventative, you are killing off the larval (microscopic) stages before they become adult (spaghetti-sized!) worms which cause life threatening disease.


Any dog or cat not on a preventative product is susceptible to infection through any mosquito bite.   This is why it is so important that ALL dogs and cats (even those living strictly indoors) be given a heartworm preventative.  As we all know, mosquitoes have no problem getting indoors!


Can’t I skip the preventative medication and just treat my pet if he or she becomes infected?

  NOT a good idea – here’s why:

There are very few treatment options in cats:  either let the heartworms die naturally (which is very risky because it may kill the cat when the worm reaches the end of its life cycle and decomposes), or have them surgically removed (which carries significant risk and cost with the procedure). A common option IF one knows the cat is infected is to merely mask the symptoms for what remains of the cat’s life with anti-inflammatory medications.  This too is risky because of side effects of these medications, and seldom gives adequate relief.

While we are lucky to have some medical treatments for dogs, likewise, there are very significant costs and risks associated with these treatments. Any time a heartworm dies inside a host, there is potential for life-threatening toxic shock reactions. Even if the infection is successfully treated your pet’s heart and lungs may have already suffered irreparable damage. Bottom line is, just as with any other disease, it’s much better to prevent it than to have to treat it.

What is the best heartworm preventative for my pet?

There are many choices of heartworm preventative on the market.  Your veterinarian will make a recommendation based on your pet’s lifestyle and where you live.  Unfortunately, there is not yet an “all-purpose” product out there that takes care of every parasite your pet may encounter (both internal and external) but there are several  products that can used together to protect your pets.  Your veterinarian can determine which ones they feel are best for you and your pet!

 Why do you recommend keeping my pet on preventative year round when there are no mosquitoes out during the winter?

          Well, one reason is that with the winter months getting shorter and warmer, it is hard to predict when it would actually be ‘safe’ to take your pet off preventative.

Another reason is that the pill, chewy or topical medication that you give your dog or cat is not ONLY a heartworm preventative.  Most of them also protect against intestinal worms (which are worms that can live inside the intestines of your pet).  These nasty critters are able to infect your pet year round.  Additionally, many intestinal parasites are zoonotic, meaning that people can get them.  They can cause blindness and skin problems in people, especially young children and elderly people and the immune-compromised.

cutaneous larva migrans

Cutaneous larva migrans

Ocular larva migrans

Ocular larva migrans

We also had a chance to interview Pat Middleton-Johnston, dog trainer and owner of K9 Kindergarten.

pat and jake

How did you get started in dog training?

Since childhood, I have had an affinity with animals. Growing up in Pitman, I interacted most with neighborhood dogs and the local wildlife in the Alcyon Lake woods. Dogs were allowed in the house, so dogs were the focus of my attention. As an adult, my new husband and I found our first puppy a week before the wedding.  He enjoyed driving and touring;  I enjoyed competing in obedience and confirmation trials. With success came a few litters and I had opportunities to handle many different breeds.  When children joined the pack, travelling to classes and shows was a fun family activity.

How long have you been training dogs and their owners?  What training did you undergo?

Thank you for asking that way! I do prefer to train the owners. The fun is enjoying and helping their dogs. In my opinion, so many concerns have their origins in the miscommunication between species, and after years of observing canine interaction I hope I have learned how to understand dogs, and help them understand me.

With our first puppy came handling classes. The Larson brothers held class once a week in Sewell. We met in a large field and sometimes there were dozens of dogs and at least twice as many people. At the time I knew nothing except that I could somehow get a dog to do what was required. A voracious reader and fan of BBC tv’s Barbara Woodhouse, I learned about and sometimes experimented with many methods –  Woodhouse (Juno of Disney fame), the Koehler approach (Lassie), dominant down, training collar (choker), pinch/prong collar, stimulation collars, clicker/positive reward and even passive reward. Throughout the years I have attended clinics and an occasional training class, the most recent using lots of food rewards. Jake the Yorkie loved that class and earned his American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Certificate.

By 1987, my first husband was disabled and our plans of he being in the workplace and I managing our home drastically changed. I decided then to develop my hobby into my vocation. Analyzing the market, I realized that in many families both parents worked outside of the home. They wanted a dog, usually a puppy, but the obstacles of housebreaking and teaching basic housemanners were too daunting. I found my niche and established K9 Kindergarten, offering housebreaking and housemanners training services. Since then I think I’ve been consulted for just about any conceivable issue that ‘dogs’ humans and their best friends.

What services do you provide and where?

K9 Kindergarten is still a family affair, with my second husband Jim ably handling dogs, and our granddaughter Arianna helping with the training. Her jobs include loving dogs, being my ‘guinea pig’ as we practice good doggy-manners, tossing toys and settling the restless during television time.  Located in our home in Sewell (Barnsboro), we offer doggie-day care Monday through Friday, with the option of having specific concerns addressed during our time together.  Owners can schedule training sessions at our house where we usually focus on socialization with other dogs, either ours or dogs that are having trouble getting along at home. Private consultations at the owner’s home are intense as I explain, show, guide and provide written instructions for the two-legged students.  The four legged ones usually ‘get it’ rather quickly, which makes me look good. Follow-up lessons are available. If I do my job well, the owners gain a new understanding of how to communicate their wishes effectively, how to reward properly (without carrying around a pocket full of treats), and what to expect as their dog passes through various stages – transition, growth, learning, etc. If I have succeeded, owners know what is needed to rehabilitate the current situation as well as how to handle future ‘surprises’.

jake and patPitman Animal Hospital hosts our K9 Kindergarten 6 week class and the 5 week Canine Good Citizen Prep class. Lessons are held inside once a week on Thursday evening and Saturday morning. We begin a class once 3 or more students are signed up and have a class limit of 6. Family members are invited too, just bring an adult for the kids should Miss Pat bore them!

What kind of problems do you refer elsewhere?

Unfortunately, a dog may suffer from a medical ailment, injury, an imbalance of brain chemicals, genetic disorders, terrible neglect or mishandling, to name just a few. When I suspect complications, a veterinary consultation is my first recommendation. Then training , behavior modification,  and desensitization may follow. Rarely, a situation is so serious that I and the veterinarian supply references to specialists or university centers. For example, years ago I met a very elderly couple whose mastiff puppy was now full-grown, untrained and king of his back yard – the only place they could contain him. Over two-hundred pounds, the dog was attacking the owners and dragging them about, bruising but not breaking skin. The owners did not believe in using a collar. I believed they’d benefit best using the university.

Two examples of working with the owners and their veterinarians come to mind.

                I once handled an adorable cocker spaniel puppy. The training went fabulously and we got to visit periodically throughout the years. When she was about 5 years old my phone rang. The owner was distraught. The dog had bitten a child! My mental red flags went up. If a mature dog has been trustworthy for a long time and suddenly shows unexpected, unusual behavior, I recommend its health be evaluated immediately. The next phone call came two weeks later. The dog had a previously undetected ear infection. Once treated she was her old sweet self. We then worked on how to teach the dog to like her ear drops so the problem would not recur.

                The second was an opportunity almost tragically missed. We were closed. I didn’t really have time for a consultation. When working with animals it is good to follow a routine. We schedule our day accordingly so the sound of the doorbell one morning was not welcome. There stood a Mom and her young daughter and a lovely Shar-pei puppy. The daughter had been crying. The Mom asked if I could please have a lesson. Right then.  In an hour they were to have the dog euthanized for biting and had heard I might help. How could I refuse? Assessing the information that spilled out of her despair, watching the puppy as we interacted, and drawing on experience, I determined the puppy had problems seeing out of her left eye. Instead of saying good bye that day, they made an appointment with the vet for an ‘eye-lift’. When she healed, we socialized and trained using a drop of perfume on our wrists and lots of love. Partially blind and never a dog to roam unsupervised, nevertheless she was a fine companion, and each Christmas I received a festive photo of Santa, the daughter and the dog.

Anything else you’d like to add?

    • It’s not dominance. It’s not being the “alpha”. A dog pack is comparable to the human family. No one person is completely in-charge. Each member has its strengths and weaknesses, contributes accordingly, and, in order to survive, cooperates. A successful dog-owner is a successful team leader. The trick is to convince the dog that only humans are team leaders.
    • Dogs feel pain as intensely as humans, as they do fear, joy and other emotions we humans feel. Unlike humans, dogs do not think about it. They react. The definition of “correction” is to “change wrong to right”. ‘Strong arm’ methods are not necessary.
    • The quietest dogs in the pack are the pack leaders. Once I learned that, I stopped being a ‘dog whisperer’ and became a ‘dog listener’.

Thanks Pat for the great information!

Hope you enjoyed the newsletter, and remember, keep your dogs and cats on heartworm prevention year round!

Bruce’s Story

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

This is Bruce:



Bruce is a dog who was hit by a car over the winter holidays.  He was lucky enough to not break any bones, but he had some pretty significant damage to his leg, with a large amount of skin torn away.  This picture was a few weeks after Bruce’s injury, as he was being treated at the emergency service initially:

January 9th

January 9th


The emergency service began treating Bruce’s horrific wound with just bandage changes, to allow for treating infection and to allow drainage.  We continued the bandaging here, hoping that the skin would grow over the wound and cover it.  Here it is again almost a month later:

February 11th

February 11th

At this time, it was apparent that the defect was just too big.  Our next step was to do a skin graft.  We did a type of skin graft called a strip graft, where we took strips of skin from his armpit and placed them over the wound.  Here it is immediately after surgery:

February 19th

February 19th

Still had a few more bandage changes to do, but check it out just a few days after surgery:

February 23rd

February 23rd

Might not look like much now, but the strips of skin are nice and pink, which means they are getting good blood supply.

This picture is now 2 weeks post op.  Notice there isn’t any more “raw” areas!  The little strips of skin, once they got their new blood supply, started stretching out and growing over the rest of the wound.  Isn’t skin amazing???

March 7th

March 7th

And here we are completely healed!  A little scaley, but remember this is all brand new skin except where we put the grafts, and it is in a fast growing state right now:

March 14th

March 14th

Thanks to Bruce and his mom for letting us share his story!

Maddy Gigliotti

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Maddy is a 10 year old collie who had a big mass on his side.  We wanted to show everyone how his surgery went and have some before and after pictures.

This is Maddy being prepped for surgery.  This tumor was about the size of a basketball, and kept Maddy from jumping, running, and playing.

Maddy Gigliotti pre op 2


Maddy has a tube down his throat to administer anesthetic gas and oxygen.  This is a very safe way to administer anesthesia, because we can change his level very quickly based on how much of the anesthetic gas we give him.  We can also control his airway and make sure he is breathing properly.


Maddy Gigliotti immediately post op

This is Maddy all stitched up!  Dr. Berg actually used staples to close the skin part of the incision, and there are multiple layers of absorbable stitches underneath the skin.  The rubber “tags” are drains that will allow excess fluid to exit the wound to speed healing.  It may look like a lot of blood, but Maddy actually lost probably less than 1 cup of blood during the whole surgery.  His body should be able to replace this within a few weeks.  On the lower left you can see a metal clamp attached to Maddy’s elbow – this is one of 3 EKG leads that help monitor Maddy’s heartbeat during surgery.

Maddy Gigliotti post op

Here is Maddy 5 days after surgery.  As you can see, he is much happier now that he doesn’t have that big mass weighing him down!  In fact, Maddy’s owners say he now feels so good they can’t keep him still – he’s like a young pup again.  Even though this growth was not cancerous, removal resulted in a great improvement to Maddy’s quality of life.  Thank you to the Gigliotti family for giving Maddy a better life by opting for this procedure!



February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I have to admit, growing up I don’t think I ever had any thoughts about my pets’ teeth.  As they got older, their breath got stinkier, and that’s just how it was.  Part of aging, part of life, part of having animals that licked their own parts and ate just about everything.

Today is a different story.  Today I actually look in the mouth of every patient.  Way too often I see such severe dental disease that I really have only one thing to offer:  pull the rotting teeth so they don’t cause any more pain.

I always tell my clients, it’s not that I like pulling teeth.  I wasn’t a stereotypical, Wild West type dentist in a former life, getting thrills out of yanking huge molars out of screaming patients.  I don’t enjoy giving an estimate for $600-1200 to little old ladies on Social Security, or moms with 3 kids under the age of 5 hanging off of them.

Sure, part of me loves the challenge of sectioning and surgically extracting diseased teeth.  It takes a special kind of patience to extract teeth, you see.  Too much force, and the very tip of the root breaks off, causing much cursing and gnashing of teeth (mine, not the patient’s) as I now have to carefully and oh-so-delicately drill away bone and tease the minute piece out of its socket.

Too little force and I could be here until summer, waiting for the tooth to decide that yes, now it’s time to let go.

Why not just leave a broken fragment in?  Well, one, it’s malpractice to do so.  Two, and the more important reason, is that tiny little piece of tooth will sit there and act as a foreign body.  You know how when you get a pebble in your shoe, all you can think about is how it is bugging you and how can you get it out?  The body looks at that little tooth remnant the same way.  Only instead of taking off the shoe and shaking out the pebble, the body builds a wall around that fragment, then sends cells in to seek and destroy.  This is how an abscess is formed, a big pocket of infection.  Sure, antibiotics can reduce the infection, but unless I go in and remove that little piece of tooth, the body is just going to keep trying to seek and destroy.

Cats are the worst.  Cats have what is called resorptive lesions, which are similar to cavities in people, but only in that a slightly soft spot on an apple is similar to a big hole.  Resorptive lesions are where the tooth is being resorbed or eaten away by the body.  The tooth enamel erodes to the point that the pulp cavity is exposed, and the pulp cavity is where all the nerves live.  So a cat with a resorptive lesion is like a person living with a severe toothache…..day after day after day.

I’m sure some of you have dealt with chronic pain – after enough time, you learn to deal with it and go about your routine as much as you can.  Doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there, just means you deal with it.  That’s like a cat with resorptive lesions – they survive, but they are constantly dealing with this chronic pain.

Cats are strange anyway – they don’t like to show when they are in pain.  So often it may not seem like that exposed nerve is causing any distress to the cat, but wow what a difference when I extract the offending tooth and that pain is gone.

My own cat had these, and it wasn’t until I started at this hospital that I finally had the proper equipment to do something about them.  He was 9 or 10 years old at the time, and I ended up pulling all of his teeth except his incisors and canines.  I could not believe what a difference in him after just a few days – all of the sudden he was actually playing, something he hadn’t done in years, something I had thought he wasn’t doing just because he was getting older.  Unfortunately, I lost him a few years later due to suspected pancreatic cancer, but at least his last years were pain free thanks to dental care.  He never had any trouble eating with his lack of teeth either – that’s a common concern from many people.  Fortunately, most of our pets’ food is already cut up in bite sized pieces for them.  Not like they have to rip hunks of meat off a dead animal, in which case teeth would be pretty important.

So, back to National Dental Month.  We are giving a discount on all dental services in February (call for more details), but please remember that your pets’ teeth need care regardless of the time of year.  Start brushing when they are young, and soon it will be as routine as taking them for a walk or cleaning the litterbox.  Got an older pet who’s never had their teeth brushed?  Start slow.  Start by lifting their lips and actually taking a good look at those chompers.  Let them chew on the toothbrush.  Give them a treat and a lot of praise.  Work up to brushing, try to do it daily.  That way, the next time I look in their mouth I can tell you, “Great job! Let’s recheck them next year!”

Preparing for emergencies

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is gone, but the after effects are still causing so many problems in the northeast.  Most in south Jersey were fortunate to not be affected as badly as those on the shore, but it really brings to mind concerns about taking care of our pets in an emergency.  Do you have a plan for your pets as well as yourself in case of a natural disaster?  Plans are just that, plans, and if you have one in place it’s much better than trying to wing it as the disaster strikes.  Here are some links on disaster preparedness, for humans and pets alike.


AVMA Disaster Preparedness brochure (PDF)

The Humane Society of the United States

Pitman Animal Hospital is currently having a pet food drive to help four legged victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Bring any pet food and/or pet supplies that you wish to donate to the hospital and we will make sure they go to good use. All donations will go to the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Let’s Talk a Little About Fleas

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

It’s going into the fall now here in south Jersey, and many people are breathing a sigh of relief.  Of course, many of us and our pets are also battling allergies, but that’s another post.  Often people think that the fall means they can relax their vigilance for preventing fleas and ticks.  Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.  The fall, with it’s milder temperatures and often rainy days, is prime time for insects to be out and about, just like us.  Flea and tick prevention should continue year round!

Fleas are very hard to eliminate once you have them, so prevention is the key.  Here’s some links that discuss the life cycle of the flea, and why it’s so hard to eliminate them once they make it in your house.

Flea Life Cycle
About: Fleas

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