Category Archives: Medical Advice

Pet Halloween Alert: The Danger of Xylitol Sweetener

Xylitol toxicity in dogs Does your dog have a sweet tooth? Does he drool at the thought of sharing that deliciously sweet snack with you? Now there is one more reason to keep the sweets all to yourself. The sweetener xylitol is toxic to dogs. It has been known to cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in dogs for years, but recently it has been discovered that it can cause acute liver disease and a coagulopathy (inability to clot the blood). A study found that 0.5g/kg or more of ingested xylitol can cause liver failure. What does this mean in the real world? One piece of sugar free gum with xylitol has around 0.3g of xylitol in it. Some gums can have as much as 1g of xylitol per piece. If you bake with the xylitol powder one cup has 190g of xylitol. If a recipe calls for 1 cups of xylitol to make 24 cup cakes, it will only take 2 cupcakes to cause acute liver disease in a 50lb dog. What are the signs of xylitol toxicity? Vomiting is usually the first sign of toxicity and then in 30-60 minutes hypoglycemia can occur. The signs of hypoglycemia can be lethargy, ataxia (stumbling around), collapse, and seizure. In cases where gum with xylitol was ingested the hypoglycemia may be delayed for up to 12 hours. In severe over doses some dogs do not display the signs of hypoglycemia prior to the onset of liver failure. Instead lethargy and vomiting occurred 9-72 hours after exposure. They developed petechia (small spots of bleeding on the skin and mucus membranes like gums), echymosis (larger spots of bleeding seen on the skin and mucus membranes), and gastric hemorrhage (bleeding in the stomach). What can you do if your dog does ingest xylitol? Immediately bring him into us and let us know which items contained xylitol. Remember how much you pet consumed (always estimate on the high side because it is always better to be overly cautious when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your faithful friend). The moral of the story is to keep the sweets up and away from your furry friend. Xylitol may help you watch your waist line, but it can be deadly to your furry friend.

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.    

Breast Cancer in Dogs

A mammary tumor is a tumor originating in the mammary gland. It is a common finding in older female dogs that are not spayed (the incidence rate is one in 4 in unspayed female dogs over the age of 4), but they are found in other animals as well. The mammary glands in dogs are associated with their nipples and extend from the underside of the chest to the groin on both sides of the midline. There are many differences between mammary tumors in animals and breast cancer in humans, including tumor type, malignancy, and treatment options. Mammary tumors can be small, simple nodules or large, aggressive, metastatic growths. With early detection and prompt treatment, even some of the more serious tumors can be successfully treated. There are multiple types of mammary tumors in dogs. Approximately 50% of all mammary tumors in dogs are benign, and the other 50% are malignant. The most common benign form of canine mammary tumors is actually a mixture of several different types of cells. For a single tumor to possess more than one kind of cancerous cell is actually rare in many species. This combination cancer in the dog is called a ‘benign mixed mammary tumor’ and contains glandular and connective tissue. Other benign tumors include complex adenomas, fibroadenomas, duct papillomas, and simple adenomas. The malignant mammary tumors include: tubular adenocarcinomas, papillary adenocarcinomas, papillary cystic adenocarcinomas, solid carcinomas, anaplastic carcinomas, osteosarcomas, fibrosarcomas, and malignant mixed tumors. The 10 Early Warning Signs of Cancer ( From the American Veterinary Medical Association) ■Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow ■Sores that do not heal ■Weight loss ■Loss of appetite ■Bleeding or discharge from any body opening ■Offensive odor ■Difficulty eating or swallowing ■Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina ■Persistent lameness or stiffness ■Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecation


One of our favorite parts of Labor Day is the amazing food! When it comes to the food, here are some tips for keeping your pet safe: Don’t give your pet “people” food. It may seem like a great idea to reward your pet with scraps from the grill, but many foods can be hazardous. Keep your pet on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can lead to severe indigestion and upset stomach. Examples of everyday hazards include avocados, grapes, raw/undercooked meat and onions. Never leave your dog unattended with a barbecue pit while it is in use. That delicious food might be too much for them to resist. An overturned pit could cause serious damage to your pet in the blink of an eye. It is also a potential fire hazard. There are a few barbecue staples you need to keep out of your dog’s reach. Alcoholic drinks have the potential to poison pets. Matches and lighter fluid, if ingested, can cause harm to pets. Lighter fluid can cause skin irritation as well. Citronella candles, insect coils and oil products can cause stomach irritation and possibly damage a pet’s central nervous system.

Dogs & Cats must be vaccinated for rabies as required by Pennsylvania law

Vaccinations are a critical part of preventive care for your pet. Vaccines protect our pets from many diseases including rabies, distemper and Lyme disease (May is Lyme disease awareness month and we’ll have a full story about it tomorrow). Each dog and cat is different, so our veterinarians develop custom vaccinations plans for each pet. Our veterinarians will determine which vaccinations your pet needs and how often they will be administered. For more information about our vaccines, go to or call to schedule an appointment 610.488.0166

Watch out for a spike in Lyme disease

Experts are saying that we are in store for a large spike in Lyme disease cases this spring. The surge is expected to begin in May and last until July. Call the hospital today to talk with our medical staff about whether your pet should be vaccinated against Lyme disease. Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, and left untreated it can cause serious health problem for your pet. So why the projected big increase this year? According to HealthDay News: “The reason is that oak trees produced relatively few acorns this year, part of a normal cycle of boom and bust years for the acorn crop. But the small crop means trouble for the white-footed mouse, which feeds on the acorns. “We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we’ve ever seen, the mouse population is crashing,” Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., said in an institute news release. “What does that have to do with Lyme disease? “Mice are the preferred host for black-legged ticks, which transmit Lyme disease. Black-legged ticks need a bloodmeal at three different stages — as larvae, as nymphs and as adults. As of the spring, the larval ticks that fed on 2011’s large mouse population will be looking for their nymphal meal. “This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals — like us,” Ostfeld added. Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Here’s a link to the full article.

How to Manage Your Cat’s Claws

Your cat’s claws are her favorite tools, useful in climbing, grooming, hunting, self-defense and playing. Your job is to help keep her claws in good shape, by trimming them periodically and providing opportunities for your cat to sharpen them on sturdy, immovable scratching posts. Let’s start with trimming your cat’s claws, using a human toenail trimmer or a cat claw trimmer. Choose a time when you and your cat are relaxed. Wrap your left arm around your cat and hold her front paw in your left hand, so you can clip with your right hand.* Place your left thumb on top of your cat’s toe and your forefinger beneath it. Gently squeeze to expose the claw. When you look at the claw from the side, you’ll see the pink “quick” inside – and the curved hook that forms the end of the claw. With the trimmer in your right hand, cut off the claw’s hook. Avoid the quick to prevent discomfort. Pet and praise your cat as you trim each claw. If you prefer to trim claws only occasionally, fit your cat with plastic claw caps like Soft Paws. To use them, trim your cat’s claws, apply a bit of the supplied glue to the inside of each cap and slide the cap onto the claw. Cuddle your cat for several minutes while the glue dries. As the claws grow over the next four to six weeks, the nail caps will drop off and you’ll need to repeat the process. It’s also important to offer your cat scratching posts, because scratching is a normal cat behavior. The posts should be at least three feet high, so your cat can stretch while she scratches. It’s best to situate some posts vertically and others horizontally. The scratching posts must be stable, because cats don’t like posts that totter. Entice your cat to use each post by rubbing catnip on the surface and flicking a feather toy against it. *If you are left-handed, reverse these directions: Hold your cat with your right arm and clip with your left hand.

Ask the Vet’s Pets: Are veggies safe for my dog?

Dear Daisy Dog: When I chop vegetables for soups, stews and other dishes, I invariably drop some pieces onto the floor, where my dogs immediately devour them. I worry that some of the veggies may be toxic. Which should I be especially careful about? Daisy Responds: Most vegetables are safe for us dogs – except onions, garlic and chives. They can damage red blood cells and cause anemia, so make sure they don’t fall from your cutting board. If one of your dogs has a history of calcium oxalate bladder stones, it’s best to avoid oxalate-containing vegetables, such as leafy greens (including rhubarb), beets and potatoes. The root of the jicama is safe for dogs, but the seeds and other above-ground parts of the plant are toxic. Because the root is usually sold by itself, you shouldn’t have a problem unless you grow jicama in your garden. Some vegetables, such as cauliflower, produce gas, so you should be careful not to let large quantities drop to the floor. Otherwise, most vegetables are tasty, low-calorie, nutrient-rich, high-fiber treats your dogs can enjoy.