Pet Appreciation Week

By Dr. Lamar, Associate Veterinarian

GeorgeIt’s Pet Appreciation Week! – time to sit back and reflect on all the happy memories we have with our four-legged friends. I will share the story of how one of my five pets made himself an integral part of my home.

When I began veterinary school I had one cat and one dog. Within months two more cats were added to the mix – siblings from a litter of strays. While most sane people would consider four pets to be plenty, I felt bad that my dog was home all day with no playmate of his own. So I decided to just start looking for another dog, sure that eventually the right one would make himself known. I went to take a quick trip to the local animal shelter to “just look” at what dogs were available.

Upon arrival I learned there was only one hound dog currently available for adoption, and I had already decided another hound dog would probably be best for my current beagle mix. When I first saw him through the cage door I almost cried. He was curled into the back corner of the run, I could count all of his ribs, and he had a full food bowl available that he refused to touch. His cage card just said “Given up, 8 years old” and indicated he had been at the shelter for over a month. Needless to say I gave my husband a shock when I returned home with a dog in the backseat.

Over the next few months we had an uphill climb to help our newest family member – now named George – adjust to a very different lifestyle. He had clearly never lived indoors so was not housebroken and did not know how to use stairs or walk across non-carpeted surfaces. He had to be hand fed and coaxed into eating for the first several weeks to put needed fat back onto his bones. We had to carry him across the hardwood floor and down the deck stairs for over a month every time he needed to go outside. But one day I came home from school and saw he was sleeping on a dog bed (which he had never done before); when I came into the room he lifted his head and wagged his tail. That night he ate his dinner out of his bowl with almost no coaxing at all. And things only got better from there.

Now George is 13 years old, and I cannot imagine our house without him. He loves running around the backyard with our other dog, barking at the deer who run by, snuggling with the cats (when they let him), and by far and away his favorite activity now is eating. I have no idea what kind of past he endured, but he shows no sign of it when you look into his happy eyes now. He has inadvertently taught me a lesson on how to see the positive in my life and I am constantly thankful to have him around.

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Early Detection

By Dr. Zeoli, Associate Veterinarian

photo-2We all love our pets and want them to be healthy and live long, fulfilling lives. May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month and all pets, regardless of breed, are unfortunately susceptible. Because cancer is the leading cause of death due to illness, it is important to know what to watch out for. Here at Pet Dominion, we recommend comprehensive annual exams for pets under the age of 7 and semi-annual wellness exams for pets 7 years and older in order to detect illness at the earliest signs. When your pets are at home, there are signs that you can watch for as well. If you notice any of the signs listed below, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian in order to determine if it is a matter of concern.

Potential Cancer Warning Signs

  • Abnormal lumps or bumps- Especially any lump that is rapidly growing in size or changing appearance (turning colors, losing hair, becoming ulcerated).
  • Chronic weight loss- If you pet is not on a diet, but is continuing to lose weight it could be due to illness.
  • Sores that won’t heal- This could be a sign of cancer or infection and should be examined.
  • Loss of appetite, chronic vomiting, or chronic diarrhea – These could be the first signs of illness associated with the gastrointestinal tract, or other internal organs.
  • Bleeding- from any location without evidence of trauma should be further investigated to determine the cause.
  • Limping- There are many causes of lameness, including: nerve, bone, and muscle cancers
  • Odor from the mouth or difficulty eating or swallowing: These are common signs of cancer in the neck or oral cavity
  • Cough- this could indicate cancer in the lungs
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating- If you pet develops any of these signs they should be evaluated immediately.
  • Abdominal distention- This could be due to enlarged abdominal organs, masses, or fluid developing within the abdominal cavity.

The most important thing to remember is that if your pet does have any of these signs, it does not mean that they have cancer. There are many causes for all of them and your pet should be examined to determine the diagnosis. The good news is that if your pet is diagnosed with cancer it is often treatable and can even be curable in certain cases. Many of the same treatments that are available for humans are now available for pets, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet, please feel free to call our office at 301-258-0333 or have your pet examined by one of our doctors. Remember – the earlier the detection and diagnosis, the better the options may be for treatment!

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‘Tis the (Allergy) Season

By Dr. Zeoli, Associate Veterinarian

photo 1It’s allergy season which means sneezing, red eyes, and runny noses for us and itchy skin (or as us veterinarians call it – pruritis) for your pet.

Pruritis can be frustrating for both you and your pets. This can happen for several different reasons. The most common are: parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, mites), food allergies, seasonal allergies, environmental allergies (atopy), or secondary skin infections.

Atopic dermatitis – or atopy – is an allergy to different substances in the environment. These substances elicit allergic reactions in the body. The most common culprits include: pollen, house dust, dander, tobacco smoke, and many others. In dogs, the main symptom is itching and scratching but can also include licking paws, rubbing their ears and face, and sometimes scooting their behinds across your clean, new rug.  Signs (scratching, red skin, hair loss) first become apparent between 6 months to 3 years of age and can initially start as a seasonal allergy and can then progress to a year long annoyance as they age. It is believed to be a heritable trait in some breeds. For cats, it can display itself in many ways. They may develop hair loss from over grooming, small crusts over their body, or red raised plagues on their lip

Atopic dermatitis is a diagnosis of exclusion and is a life-long disease. A diagnosis can be challenging because many types of skin problems cause the same clinical signs. Our veterinarians will work with you to rule out other causes of pruritus, manage symptoms, and treat secondary bacterial or yeast infections.

If your pet is diagnosed with atopy you might consider referral to a veterinary dermatologist to have allergy testing performed. Allergy tests include intradermal skin and blood testing to try and identify the specific allergens that your pet is allergic to. Once they are identified, a customized vaccine can be made for your pet to help desensitize them from those allergens. They typically will still need to use other medications during flare-ups, but flare-ups are usually significantly reduced.

There is no cure for atopy but careful monitoring is important and to have them examined at the earliest sign of pruritus to help keep your pet comfortable all season or all year long!

Give us a call today at 301-258-0333 if your pet is suffering from seasonal or other allergies, and we’ll help you get him/her on the path to relief.

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Microchips for Permanent Identification

By Dr. Falter, Associate Veterinarian

photoDid you know that 1 in 3 pets goes missing during its lifetime? 90% of those animals without proper identification are never reunited with their families. Secure collars with identification tags are a good first step in ensuring that you and your pet are reunited should you become separated. However, collars and tags can be lost or removed, so consider microchipping as a permanent method of identification for your pet.


A microchip is approximately the size of a grain of rice and is implanted underneath the skin, usually between the shoulder blades. Implanting a microchip does not require sedation in most pets and results in only very temporary discomfort. After implantation, your pet will not feel the microchip at all. One of our veterinarians can answer any questions you have about a microchip for your pet and will implant the chip during an office visit.

Every microchip contains a unique id number which is linked to your contact information in a comprehensive database. Every animal shelter and veterinary hospital has a scanner which is used to detect the microchip under your pet’s skin. Your contact information can then be accessed and you will be reunited with your pet. If you ever move or change your contact information, you will need to update these changes on the database, a quick and easy process that can usually be done online.

Microchips are a safe and effective means of permanently identifying your pet and helping to ensure that he will always find his way home. Follow this link to read some heart-warming stories about pets who were reunited with their families, thanks to their microchips.

Give us a call today at 301-258-0333 for more information and to make an appointment to be a part of this valuable recovery system.

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What is Lyme Disease?

By Dr. Falter, Associate Veterinarian

Lyme disease is a syndrome caused by a bacteria called Burrelia Burgdorferi. It is one of the most common tick borne illnesses in the world and is becoming increasingly common in our area. Lyme disease affects both humans and dogs, though the course of illness and the symptoms involved are quite different between the two species.

Most dogs who are exposed to Lyme do not go on to develop any symptoms of illness. Exposure is commonly detected with the use of tests that screen for heartworm disease and tick borne illnesses. Often the positive Lyme test comes as a complete surprise to an unsuspecting owner because their pet appears perfectly healthy.

The most common syndrome observed in dogs who do develop symptoms of Lyme disease is pain or lameness in one or more joints. Often, it is what is described as a “shifting leg lameness”, meaning that the symptoms may appear in one leg, seem to resolve, and then reappear in another limb. There may be fever, swollen joints or lack of appetite as well. The symptoms generally resolve very quickly with the administration of antibiotics.

Less commonly, kidney disease may develop as a result of infection with Lyme. Heart disease related to Lyme infection has been reported, but is considered to be extremely rare.

If your pet is positive for Lyme or is diagnosed with Lyme disease, one of our veterinarians may recommend bloodwork and urinalysis to investigate for damage caused by the bacteria.

There are many steps that can be taken to prevent Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. The most important step is to prevent exposure to ticks. Avoid walking your pet in tick-infested areas, maintain your yard and lawn to keep tick populations to a minimum and thoroughly inspect your pet for ticks after he/she spends time outdoors. If you find ticks on your pet, use an instrument designed for tick extraction to remove them – do not use your fingers! Many options are available for tick prevention, including topical applications, tick prevention collars, and oral monthly medications. We can help you select a product that is right for your pet during your next appointment.

For at-risk pets, there is a vaccination against Lyme disease available. Talk to our doctors about whether this option is right for your pet.

Give us a call today at 301-258-0333 to start your pet on the prevention path.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Now is a great time to get your pet protected from ticks and other parasites!  Not only is parasite season ramping up, but we’ve partnered with Merial to save you money AND protect your pet.  Plus, you can enter for a chance to win an iPad Mini!  Be sure to ask one of our staff members today how you can save $50 on your next prevention purchase and be entered in our drawing for that iPad Mini!

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Poison Prevention Starts at Home

By Dr. Karen Burks, Associate Veterinarian

photoOur pets are important to us, as is their health, happiness, and safety. In addition to routine vaccines, bloodwork, preventative care (such as spay/neuter, heartworm preventative, and flea preventative), it is important to keep them safe from the hazards they face on a daily basis. Today we are going to discuss some common toxic substances that your pet may be exposed to in their day-to-day lives.

1.) Lilies- Easter is coming up, so make sure to safeguard your cats. All true lilies can cause severe, acute kidney failure in cats. This can occur with an extremely small amount of pollen, petal, or leaf. Monitor any and all bouquets that come in to the house and remove any lilies. Do not plant lilies in the yard if your cats go outside. If you suspect your cat had access to a lily, give us a call right away! Symptoms of kidney failure include increased thirst, increased urination, decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, and occasionally, decreased thirst.

2.) Grapes/raisins- These seemingly innocuous foods can cause kidney failure in dogs. Unfortunately, we do not know the exact substance in grapes that causes the toxicity, and some dogs appear to be more sensitive than others. It is best to avoid them entirely.

3.) Chocolate- Dogs cannot metabolize caffeine and theobromine appropriately. Overdoses can cause vomiting & diarrhea, then hyperexcitability, tremoring, hypertension, and seizures. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is likely to be.

4.) Xylitol- Xylitol has become a popular low-calorie sugar substitute. For dogs, it competes with glucose in the blood and can cause severe low blood sugar, seizures, and liver failure.

5.) Most human and animal medications (when consumed in high enough quantities)- Even commonly-used and seemingly-safe medications can be toxic if consumed at a higher than prescribed dose. Common overdoses include NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, carprofen, meloxicam), anti-depressants, supplements, heart medication, etc.

6.) Canine flea preventatives for cats- Certain canine flea medications contain permethrins or permethrin derivatives, which can cause severe, seizure-like tremors in cats. Please consult a veterinarian before choosing medications for your pets, and NEVER apply canine products to a cat.

7.) Onions/garlic- Both can cause anemia in both cats an dogs. While they are touted as healthy foods for humans, they are toxic to pets.

8.) Rodenticide- Rat poison is flavored to appeal to rats, which means it tastes pretty good to dogs and cats, too. There are several types of rodenticide, but the most common either cause bleeding disorders or seizures.

This list is meant to include the most common toxicities that our pets encounter, however, it is in no way complete. If your pet eats something he/she isn’t supposed to, please call Pet Dominion at 301-258-0333. or call the ASPCA’s Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435 (fee may apply).

Time is of the essence in the event of a toxicity. The initial goal is to prevent any of the toxin from being absorbed, as many of these toxins (lilies, grapes/raisins, neurologic rat poison, NSAIDs, xylitol, etc) are not reversible if they’ve already begun to cause damage. If you wait for clinical signs to start, it may be too late. One of our vets will determine a decontamination protocol that may include: inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal to bind and prevent absorption, hospitalization with IV fluids, etc.

If your pet eats something toxic, BRING THE PACKAGE, as this could contain important information about active ingredients, concentration of toxin, or medical recommendations.

As with any medical malady, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Do not allow your pets access to any toxic substance.
  • Make sure to crate-train your dog as a puppy, so they are not allowed to roam and have access to the rest of the house.
  • Keep cats indoors.
  • Keep household chemicals locked up.
  • Look up any plant that you keep indoors to make sure it is pet-safe.

Please do not hesitate to call us at 301-258-0333 if you have any questions about the above-mentioned, or any other, toxins.

Have a safe and happy spring!

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Puppy and Kitten 101

By Dr. Karen Burks, Associate Veterinarian

PuppySo, you’re thinking about adding a furry friend to your household? That’s great! As many of you know, nothing beats the companionship of a dog or cat. Here are a couple of tips to get you started!

Step 1: Adopt, adopt, ADOPT!
According to the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 3-4 million healthy animals are put to sleep every year because there are not enough available homes. When you adopt a pet from a shelter, you save two pets (the one you take into your home and the one that can fill that vacancy at the shelter). There are lots of misconceptions about adoption (examples: all shelter pets are older or have behavioral problems, etc.). In actuality, many puppies and kittens end up in shelters when unspayed animals are allowed to reproduce (especially in the spring). While some pets are given up because of perceived behavioral issues, many pets are given up through no fault of their own. And while it may take a bit more time and diligence in finding your dream pet, as many as 25% of shelter pets are purebred. Another good reason for adoption is that most shelters and rescues include vaccines, spay/neuter, deworming, flea medications, and exam in their adoption fee, which saves you money.

Step 2: Bring your Pet to the Vet to Start Vaccines and get a Check-up           Puppies and kittens need to start their first set of vaccines at 8 weeks of age and continue those vaccines every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks of age, or until recommended by your veterinarian. For puppies, the rabies and DA2PP vaccines are required. Other vaccines include bordetella, canine influenza, leptospira, and lyme. Most of these vaccines require boostering every 3-4 weeks, so watch your calendar closely! Kittens require rabies vaccine and FVRCP. The leukemia vaccine is recommended if your cat will go outside. It is important to discuss with one of our veterinarians which vaccines are right for you and your pet. When you bring your pet in, please bring a stool sample. Many young pets have worms, and only through a series of fecal tests and deworming are we able to eliminate those worms. We will also want to start your pet on heartworm and flea preventative. We’ll run a leukemia/AIDS test for your kitten, and (depending on the age) a heartworm test on your puppy.

Step 3: Spaying and Neutering
Again, if you adopt your pet from a reputable rescue, this step will likely have already taken place. If not, spaying and neutering is typically ideal at 6 months of age. Spaying a female dog (surgically removing the uterus and ovaries) has many health benefits. If a female dog is spayed before her first heat cycle, you drastically reduce the risk of breast cancer. Other health benefits of spaying include reducing the risk for uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and a potentially fatal uterine infection. Neutering a dog (surgical removal of the testicles) at 6 months of age will reduce the risk for testicular and prostate cancers, as well as reduce “undesirable” male characteristics (aggression, marking territory, humping, roaming, etc.). In addition to these wide health benefits, having pets spayed and neutered reduces the unwanted pet population. In the 1970s, approximately 12-20 million homeless pets were euthanized every year. We have been able to get that number down drastically since then (see above statistic) through spaying and neutering, but we still have a long way to go.

Step 4: At-Home Training                                                                                                           Training for a puppy or a dog requires diligence. Housebreaking is the most important training. I highly recommend crate-training a puppy when you are away. They are less likely to be destructive and to get themselves into trouble by eating things they shouldn’t. It also helps to maintain a positive relationship between you and your puppy if you are not cleaning up their “mess” every day when you get home. Crate training starts with a crate that is just large enough for them to comfortably turn around in. Start by putting all meals, treats, and toys in the crate with it open. Use a simple command such as “crate” or “kennel”. Soon they will start to see it as their happy space, and then you can start closing them in for brief errands, and eventually longer ones. Any time you are home, I recommend keeping your puppy in eyesight, in order to avoid accidents. You can either have them on a leash attached to yourself or use a barricade such as a baby gate. In the beginning, your puppy may not know how to express that he needs to urinate or defecate. It is up to you to take him out regularly (sometimes every 30 minutes) and reward him when he eliminates outside. Learning to read his body language is key to knowing when he has to go.

Cats and kittens oftentimes take to eliminating in a litterbox as second nature. However, many require some coaxing. Make sure the cat is kept in a small enough room that a litterbox is nearby when the urge arises, otherwise you may see inappropriate elimination. This may require confining your cat to one room or putting litterboxes on each level of the house. Eventually, your kitty will know where to go and you should be able to scale back. In general, a good litterbox rule of thumb is number of cats plus 1 (if you have 3 cats, you should have 4 litterboxes, etc).

I hope this information is helpful in your quest to find a furry companion. The veterinarians and staff at Pet Dominion are here for you every step of the way. Do not hesitate to call us at 301-258-0333 or stop by if you have any questions or concerns!

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