Category Archives: Dr. Pickett

Dr. Pickett in the Reading Eagle: Saving Money at the Vet

Dr. Pickett was featured in a Reading Eagle article this past weekend! The article is below. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Berks vet weighs in on how to keep down costs when caring for a dog or cat ——————————————————————————– By Susan Shelly Reading Eagle correspondent Anyone who has ever rushed a sick dog or cat to an emergency vet in the middle of the night knows how expensive health care for pets can be. And although routine care also can be pricey, there are ways to minimize the costs of caring for your animals, said Dr. Lee Pickett, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School who practices with Bernville Veterinary Clinic. Pickett, whose pet advice column runs weekly in the Reading Eagle, talked recently about keeping down costs when it comes to caring for domestic animals. Pets may be expensive to care for, but Americans love them. Collectively, Americans own: – 70 million dogs & 74 million cats Of all American homes: – 36.5 percent have at least one dog – 30.4 percent of homes have cats present. Cat owners are more likely than dog owners to own more than one. The cost breakdown:
  • $248 for routine vet visits
  • $407 for surgical vet visits
  • $419 for food, treats and vitamins
  • $274 for boarding
  • $78 for travel expenses
  • $73 for grooming
  • $1,499 the average cost of keeping a dog in 2012.
That’s just $162 less than what the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an average homeowner spent on electricity during the same period of time. How to save on preventative health care costs for pets Dr. Lee Pickett of Bernville Veterinary Clinic advised that prevention is always less expensive than treatment of disease in pets. “I will tell you that the secret of saving money on wellness care is prevention,” Pickett said. Here are some of her suggestions on ways to save: – Spay your pets. – Use worm preventatives. Worms are expensive to treat. – Keep your pets at healthy weights by not overfeeding and making sure they get sufficient exercise. – If you know your pet is at risk for diabetes (like many overweight cats are) purchase a glucometer, such as Alpha Track, which allows you to check blood sugars at home. – Give your pets a place inside the home. Pets that live outside suffer more illnesses and accidents than those who live inside. – Pay attention to oral health. Most pets that are 3 years or older have dental disease that can affect their overall health. Pickett said professional veterinary oral care is best, but you also can brush your pet’s teeth yourself with a enzymatic toothpaste, use a special pet rinse or give your pet products designed to promote dental health. – Keep up with vaccines. Every pet needs certain vaccines in order to avoid the potential for serious diseases. But not every pet needs every available vaccine, depending on its lifestyle. How to save on medical health care costs for pets: If your pet does develop symptoms, but the illness is not an emergency, Dr. Lee Pickett of Bernville Veterinary Clinic recommends that you consider all your options before deciding what action to take. And, she said, you can cut costs and increase your pet’s chances for recovery by providing any and all information that might help your vet to diagnose your pet’s condition. If your pet is sick, your vet may recommend trying a bland diet for a couple of days. If the pet’s health doesn’t improve, blood work and a fecal check may be suggested. Or, the vet might push for dietary changes, blood work and an X-ray. Discuss with your vet which option makes the most sense for your pet and when; don’t assume you need to move right to the most aggressive diagnosis techniques. If your pet is diagnosed with a disease, ask about each option available for treatment, and consider them carefully before choosing. Cancer treatment, for instant, can range from chemotherapy and surgery to medications to relieve suffering to euthanizing. Don’t confuse financial concerns with quality-of-life concerns. It’s possible that your pet could be treated for a moderate amount of money and enjoy many more good years of life. Conversely, it’s possible to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a pet who will never achieve good quality of life. Get a second opinion from a specialist if you don’t agree with your vet’s diagnosis or want further treatment advice. If you want to find treatment for your pet, it is available. Advocate for your pet. You know your pet better than anyone, and are ultimately responsible for its medical decisions. Be true to what you believe is the best for your pet. Resources to help you save money while caring for your pet: For more about spaying or neutering your pet, see the Humane Society’s site at To determine your pet’s ideal weight and learn how to achieve it, see Project: pet slim down, from Purina at For a list of products recommended by the Veterinary Oral Health Council to help you care for your pet’s teeth, go to To learn which vaccines are necessary for your pet, see the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website at

Public Health: Diseases You and Your Pet Can Share

Please join us for the next FREE Workshop on March 11, 2013 Public Health: Diseases You and Your Pet Can Share – Intestinal parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, Giardia and Toxoplasma – Skin infections caused by ringworm and scabies mites – Rabies All sessions take place Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 at Bernville Veterinary Clinic, Pet Spa & Resort, 7135 Bernville Road, Bernville, PA 19506 These workshops are FREE, but space is limited, so please RSVP to or 610-488-0166

Dr. Lee Pickett at our Understanding Common Diagnostic Tests Workshop

Dr Lee Pickett at Bernville Vet Our next FREE workshop will be on 2/11/13 focusing on Endocrinology • Diabetes mellitus • Feline hyperthyroidism • Canine hypothyroidism • Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) • Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism) All sessions take place Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 at Bernville Veterinary Clinic, Pet Spa & Resort, 7135 Bernville Road, Bernville, PA 19506 These workshops are FREE, but space is limited, so please RSVP to or 610-488-0166


PLEASE JOIN US FOR TOMORROW’S FREE WORKSHOP:Understanding Common Diagnostic Tests • Bloodwork, including the complete blood count, chemistry profile, heartworm test, thyroid tests, and FeLV and FIV testing • Urinalysis • Fecal tests • Radiographs (X-rays) All sessions take place Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 at Bernville Veterinary Clinic, Pet Spa & Resort, 7135 Bernville Road, Bernville, PA 19506 These workshops are FREE, but space is limited, so please RSVP to or 610-488-0166


Please join us! The next seminar is on Monday night, 11/5/12 at Bernville Veterinary Clinic: Canine & Feline Behavior, with Dr. Lee Pickett ■Normal canine & feline social development and communication ■Canine behavior problems, including aggression and separation anxiety ■Feline behavior problems, including inappropriate elimination, aggre ssion and clawing furniture All sessions take place Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Bernville Veterinary Clinic, 7135 Bernville Road, Bernville, PA 19506 The workshops are FREE, but space is limited, so please RSVP to or 610-488-0166

The Fatal Disease that’s Frighteningly Common in our Community, by Dr. Lee Pickett

Clients sometimes ask if anything frustrates me about my job. My answer of late is the number of people who seem unconcerned that their pets aren’t vaccinated for rabies and think it’s nothing to worry about. So today I’d like to dispel some misconceptions about this fatal disease that is all too common in our community. Myth: Rabies isn’t very common locally Fact: During 2011, 450 animals tested positive for rabies in Pennsylvania, putting us once again near the top of the national chart. Berks County reported four cats, three raccoons, three skunks and one fox with rabies. Myth: I vaccinate my dogs against rabies, but I don’t need to vaccinate my cats, because they’re just barn cats. Fact: Every year, Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of rabid cats. Barn cats are at greatest risk because they spend time outdoors. If one of your unvaccinated barn cats contracts rabies and scratches or bites your child, dog or horse and then disappears, you’ll never know until it’s too late. Myth: It will be obvious if one of my animals develops rabies, and I can then take the necessary steps. Fact: While the clinical signs are usually neurologic, they aren’t always. Moreover, animals can transmit rabies 13 days before they show any signs of illness.One of my colleagues treated and eventually euthanized an indoor-outdoor cat for kidney failure confirmed by lab work. The unvaccinated cat had scratched the owner while being helped into the carrier for the trip to the animal hospital, so the veterinarian recommended rabies testing. Good thing, because despite the lack of neurologic signs, the cat tested positive for rabies. Myth: Rabies is an animal disease, not a human disease, so I don’t need to be concerned. Fact: Throughout the world, one person dies of rabies every 10 minutes. While most victims live in Africa and Asia, three people in the U.S. contracted rabies in 2011. A New Jersey woman who succumbed was unaware of any exposure to animals. A New York man who died had been bitten by a dog while he served in the military in Afghanistan. The third victim was an 8-year-old California girl who was scratched by a free-roaming, probably unvaccinated cat that was never caught. Myth: None of my animals are vaccinated for rabies, and there’s no law that says they have to be. Fact: Pennsylvania law requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats, whether indoor or indoor-outdoor, starting at three months of age. Vaccination must be repeated the following year and then every one to three years, depending on the vaccine used. Also, you are required to produce a current rabies certificate when an authority requests it. The fine for disobeying the rabies law can go as high as $300 per day. So if your pet is overdue for rabies vaccination, please call us today at 610-488-0166 to set up an appointment. Whether you call them pet vaccinations, cat shots or dog shots, it’s important to get them to prevent this deadly disease.    


Please join us! The next seminar is on Monday night, 11/5/12 at Bernville Veterinary Clinic: Canine & Feline Behavior, with Dr. Lee Pickett
  • Normal canine & feline social development and communication
  • Canine behavior problems, including aggression and separation anxiety
  • Feline behavior problems, including inappropriate elimination, aggression and clawing furniture
All sessions take place Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Bernville Veterinary Clinic, 7135 Bernville Road, Bernville, PA 19506 The workshops are FREE, but space is limited, so please RSVP to or 610-488-0166  

Ask the Vet’s Pets: Heatstroke can kill dogs even in moderate weather!

Dear Daisy Dog: My small mixed-breed dog, Eddie, had a close call with heatstroke – inside my apartment on a day that was warm but not hot. I partially opened the windows when I left for work, and when I got home, I was shocked to find Eddie lying on his side panting, his eyes glazed over. I rushed him to the veterinarian who gave him emergency treatment for heatstroke. Please warn your readers about this danger. Daisy Responds: Thank you for sharing your harrowing experience. Even when it’s only moderately warm outdoors, the interior of a home or car can quickly become an oven. Heatstroke, an excessively high body temperature, can cause brain damage, kidney failure and, in half its canine victims, death. We dogs are particularly susceptible because we can’t regulate our body temperatures very well, especially if we’re young, old, overweight, have breathing difficulties, or have heart disease or other medical problems. Signs of heatstroke include rapid breathing and heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea – and then collapse. Treatment is aimed at lowering body temperature and preventing damage to the brain and other organs through intravenous fluids and medications. If Eddie ever has a repeat episode, spray him with a garden hose or immerse him in cool water – but not ice water – before you transport him to the animal hospital. Once he’s in the car, position him by the air conditioner vents.


Tick time

June 12, 2012, 12:31 a.m. EDT
Reading Eagle
Ticks are everywhere this summer, and experts say the weather and a shortage of white-footed mice are to blame. Disease-carrying insects that burrow under human and animal skin, ticks are exothermic. That means they get their energy from heat. So the mild winter and pleasant spring has boosted the area’s tick population, said Dr. Kenneth DeBenedictis, director of epidemiology, infection control and prevention at Reading Hospital. Ticks live on the blood of mammals, and mainly the white-footed mouse, DeBenedictis said. But because oak trees produced fewer acorns last fall, something that fluctuates from year to year for unknown reasons, there are fewer of the mice, so more ticks are latching onto humans and pets for nourishment. And with many people enjoying the good weather, DeBenedictis recommends that everyone aggressively protect themselves from ticks. “The habitat here is extremely friendly for ticks,” he said. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it’s best to apply insect repellent with at least 20 percent DEET, an oil that repels ticks. Those spending time outdoors should also conduct a full-body tick check with a mirror and wash off as soon as they go inside. Pennsylvania is a main breeding ground for ticks because of the state’s high population of “tick food,” like deer, mice and squirrels, DeBenedictis said. Ticks are dangerous because they carry Lyme disease and the less-common Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Lyme disease initially causes fever, headache, fatigue, and a rash, according to the CDC, and can lead to heart, joint, and nervous system complications if left untreated. Rocky Mountain spotted fever comes with similar symptoms, but can be fatal if not treated within the first few days of noticeable irritation. Over the past decade in Pennsylvania, 2,000 to 6,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported each year, while 20,000 to 30,000 were reported nationwide in those years, the CDC reported. In Berks County, 518 cases were reported to the state Department of Health between 2007 and 2009, the latest years for which figures are available. Ticks are a big problem for pets in Berks County, said Dr. Lee Pickett, a veterinarian at Bernville Veterinary Clinic. She said most dogs that have been infected with Lyme disease come to her office limping from one leg to another, and can suffer from a fever and loss of appetite. Cats rarely get the disease, she said. “After (pets) go for a walk, run fingers through their hair and coat,” Pickett recommended. “Also, use a fine-toothed flea comb on the dog to pull out the ticks.” Since ticks thrive among vegetation, the CDC recommends that people keep their yards free of leaf litter, mow the lawn often and treat grass and plants with acaricide, a tick pesticide. DeBenedictis said people visiting other parts of the country, especially states in the north-central U.S., should also be wary of tick bites. “When people go on vacation, they forget,” he said. “They don’t bring caution with them.”

Acupuncture for Pets Works!

Dr. Lee Pickett performing acupuncture on a dog
Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine therapy, is used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine to treat dogs and cats with pain or weakness associated with degenerative joint disease (including osteoarthritis due to hip dysplasia), spondylosis, intervertebral disc disease and traumatic nerve injuries. Veterinarians also use acupuncture in allergic skin disease, lick granulomas, seizures and kidney failure, and in birds with psychological feather-picking. Techniques and Treatment Schedules Treatment consists of one or more of the following techniques, depending on the pet’s medical condition: 1) dry needle acupuncture, the insertion of sterile acupuncture needles into the skin at various locations – points – where they are retained for about 15 minutes; 2) electro-acupuncture, which provides a small, non-painful electrical current to some of the needles; 3) moxibustion, warming the acupuncture point by burning the herb mugwort (Artemis vulgaris) above the surface of the skin; or 4) aquapuncture, injecting a substance such as Vitamin B complex into an acupuncture point. Most dogs don’t mind acupuncture treatments and actually come to enjoy them, although not all cats tolerate them well. A family member usually holds the pet during treatment. A typical treatment schedule starts with two treatments per week for the first two weeks, then one treatment per week for a month. Subtle improvement usually is noted by the fourth treatment. If no improvement is seen by the sixth treatment, additional treatments are unlikely to prove beneficial. After maximal improvement is achieved, treatments are gradually stretched out to a schedule that meets the pet’s needs. Generally, maintenance treatments are repeated every one to two months throughout the pet’s life. At Bernville Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Lee Pickett provides acupuncture therapy. How Acupuncture Works Some, but not all, of the actions of acupuncture can be explained in terms familiar to conventional Western medicine and science. Acupuncture is thought to exert its pain-relieving effects by releasing brain chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, and by blocking transmission of pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. Function is thought to be enhanced through increased blood circulation to the area needled. In traditional Chinese medicine, disease is thought to result from an imbalance of yin and yang (essentially an imbalance of normal homeostasis) as well as abnormal flow of Qi (loosely translated to mean energy) and blood (similar but not identical to the Western concept of blood.) The objective of acupuncture therapy is to restore balance and enhance the flow of Qi and blood. Precautions Before acupuncture therapy begins, a conventional Western workup is done to determine whether other therapies would be more appropriate or even whether acupuncture is contraindicated. For example, it is essential to differentiate joint pain due to osteoarthritis (a chronic degenerative disorder for which acupuncture is useful) from pain caused by Lyme disease or septic arthritis (infections for which other treatment is more appropriate) or bone cancer (which will develop faster with acupuncture treatments.) Adverse reactions from acupuncture are rare if the correct points, depths of needle insertion, needling techniques and retention times are used. The possibility of infection, though extremely low, is minimized by using sterile needles and needling only uninfected skin. Bleeding occurs only rarely; when it does, the few drops released from the acupuncture point are a positive sign. For a day or so after an acupuncture treatment, the pet may experience drowsiness or weakness. These transient effects are considered good prognostic signs, but treatments should not be scheduled for the day before competition or heavy exercise (e.g., obedience trials, agility trials or hunting.) Other potential adverse reactions include hives and increased growth rate of established tumors. Corticosteroids, particularly at high doses, may block some of the effects of acupuncture. Suggested Reading Altman, Sheldon. Acupuncture Therapy in Small Animal Practice. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Third Edition, Edited by Stephen J. Ettinger, 1989, pp. 484-498. Kendall, D.E. A Scientific Model for Acupuncture, Part I. American Journal of Acupuncture 17(3):251-268. Kendall, D.E. A Scientific Model for Acupuncture, Part II. American Journal of Acupuncture 17(4):343-360. Schoen, Allen M. Veterinary Acupuncture: Ancient Art to Modern Medicine. American Veterinary Publications, Inc., California, 1994. Schwartz, Cheryl. Four Paws, Five Directions. Celestial Arts Publishing, California, 1996.