Monthly Archives: November 2013

National Pet Diabetes Month!

National Pet Diabetes Month:

Diabetes mellitus is a disease found in both dogs and cats that affects the concentration of glucose in the blood.  It results from the shortage of insulin or when the insulin that is made isn’t properly used.  The main clinical signs to keep an eye out for are:

  • Excessive eating
  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urination
  • Weight loss

Glucose levels are checked and insulin injections are administered to our four-legged friends just as they are in humans.  We can check the glucose level here at the clinic, even, so all you have to do is give the insulin as directed by Dr. Scarlett, and maintain a balance between age-appropriate exercise and diet.

The diagnosis for diabetes is not a death sentence for pets.  Although there are many side effects to watch out for in a diabetic animal, the life expectancy for a diabetic pet under the regular care of a veterinarian is the same as any other pet.

For a super easy, quick way to assess your pet’s risk of diabetes, and to play fun diabetes-related games and quizzes, follow the link below:

Why does your senior pet need veterinary care?

So now that the ASPCA and I have convinced you to adopt an older pet, lets discuss the regular care we recommend for your new family member.

Just like humans, pets may have to be seen by a doctor more often as they age.  Organs and joints don’t work as efficiently as they used to, they can’t hear or see as well as they used to, and their breath, while never exactly appetizing, becomes unbearably malodorous.  Old age itself is not a disease, and “slowing down” isn’t always a natural progression that just happens with age.  Sometimes there are treatable, even curable, issues that can help your pet live long into her senior years comfortably and happily.

Pay particular attention to your senior pet- does it seem harder for her to go up or down the stairs?  Does she seem to be gaining or losing weight or does she seem unaware of her surroundings at times, even though you’re at home (animals can get cognitive dysfunction, just like people)?  These are some reasons to make an appointment for a check-up, at which we can run a few basic tests, outlined below:

Weight:  Gaining weight in an older pet is not ok.  He may slow down a bit, not be able to play or run as much as he used to, but that doesn’t mean he gets to get chubby- excess weight at any age is not healthy, and it is much worse for old bones and joints to have to bear the burden of extra pounds.  Losing weight can be a sign of a disease process or a malfunctioning thyroid.

Blood pressure:  Simple, non-invasive, and not even involving a needle poke, a blood pressure measurement in the clinic is a good idea for any senior pet.  Elevated or decreased blood pressures can point toward underlying cardiovascular disease but can typically be treated and resolved.

CBC/Chem:  Hopefully, basic blood work has already been recommended to you for your pets, regardless of age.  Once pets get older, blood work becomes even more important- just like humans, pets need more medical attention as they age.  Ideally, we would run blood work at least once while the pet is young and healthy so that if his health starts to deteriorate, we can draw comparisons between the values from then and now.

Basic blood work consists of a CBC, which stands for complete blood count, a serum chemistry panel, and often thyroid levels.

  • A CBC measures the number of red and white blood cells in the sample, as well as the number of platelets, or the cells that form into blood clots when we injure ourselves.
  • The chemistry gives us values for many liver and kidney enzymes as well as electrolytes like sodium and potassium.
  • The thyroid test checks for the levels of hormone released by the thyroid.

These simple tests, which we can run right in the clinic, can be extremely helpful, non-invasive first steps toward diagnosis in senior pets.

If the percentage of red blood cells is very high, for example, it could indicate dehydration in the patient, or if the number of platelets is very low, it could indicate a clotting disorder in the blood.

Likewise, in the chemistry panel, the deficiencies or elevations in certain values can point Dr. Scarlett toward a certain disease state or malfunctioning organ.

Increases in thyroid hormones can indicate hyperthyroidism in cats, which can cause them to lose weight and muscle mass, as well as possibly leading to heart disease and high blood pressure.

Dogs are more likely to develop hypothyroidism, which can cause lethargy, weight gain, poor skin condition, and hair loss.

Urinalysis:  Lots of pets have probably never had a urinalysis, or microscopic examination of the urine.  We can see bacteria, red and white blood cells, and crystals under the microscope.  Bacteria, along with a number of red and white blood cells can indicate a bladder or urinary tract infection, which can be quite painful.  Crystals are just what they sound like- tiny crystalline structures that can bind together in the bladder to form bladder stones, causing serious pain in the patient and often requiring at least a change in diet to dissolve the crystals, or at most, surgical removal of the stone(s).

Dental cleaning:  Performed under general anesthesia, thoroughly cleaning your pet’s teeth can go a long way to making him more comfortable during his senior years.  Especially if he has never had his teeth cleaned before, he may have undetected fractures to his teeth, gingivitis, and calculus built up on the surfaces of his teeth that you cannot readily see.  Can you imagine walking around with a broken tooth or severe inflammation in your mouth for years and years?  Eating and drinking would be so painful- oftentimes not eating is what owners first notice when their pet has severe dental disease.

Clinical trial for cats with high blood pressure

Were you aware that cats can develop high blood pressure (hypertension)?   They don’t get it from a high salt diet, smoking or cholesterol plaques, but it does impact them in the same way as it does for humans.  The blood vessels get smaller and the high pressure of the blood pulsing through them can cause the vessels to burst.  This can lead to detached retinas in the eye (sudden blindness in the cat) and embolisms (blood clots) to various organs in the body, leading to a stroke (if in the brain) or sudden paralysis.

While primary high blood pressure is fairly common in humans, it occurs only rarely in cats.  Diseases of the kidney, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), and diabetes are the most common causes of high blood pressure in cats.

Hypertension is currently treated with a human prescription medication called amlodipine.  It is pretty effective in lowering a cat’s blood pressure, but it isn’t made for cats.  The dose is very small, so the pill often has to be cut in half or smaller, and the tablet crumbles very easily.  It can be compounded into a suspension, to make it easier to give.

There is currently a veterinary pharmaceutical company working on a cat-friendly high blood pressure medication.  They are looking for cats with untreated blood pressure to participate.  Medical care and diagnostics are provided at no cost, along with either the new medication or a placebo.  You could also earn up to $400 for future veterinary costs.  The Cat Care Clinic on Junction Road in Madison is the local clinical trial veterinarian.  Go to for more information.

If you are interested, please let us know so the referral paperwork can be completed.  You can e-mail us at or give us a call at (608) 819-6750.

10 Reasons to Adopt an Older Pet

November is the ASPCA’s Adopt a Senior Pet Month:

(Not that we’re bragging, but Charlie’s a senior pet, and he’s pretty awesome. . .)

The following is their list of 10 great reasons to adopt an older pet:

1. What You See Is What You Get

Older dogs are open books—from the start, you’ll know important things like their full-grown size, personality and grooming requirements. All this information makes it easier to pick the right dog and forge that instant love connection that will last a lifetime. If you’re not so into surprises, an older dog is for you!

2. Easy to Train

Think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Hogwash! Older dogs are great at focusing on you—and on the task at hand—because they’re calmer than youngsters. Plus, all those years of experience reading humans can help them quickly figure out how to do what you’re asking.

3. Seniors are Super-Loving

One of the cool parts of our job is reading stories from people just like you who have opted to adopt. The emails we get from pet parents with senior dogs seem to all contain beautiful, heartfelt descriptions of the love these dogs give you—and those of you who adopted dogs already in their golden years told us how devoted and grateful they are. It’s an instant bond that cannot be topped!

4. They’re Not a 24-7 Job

Grownup dogs don’t require the constant monitoring puppies do, leaving you with more freedom to do your own thing. If you have young children, or just value your “me time,” this is definitely a bonus.

5. They Settle in Quickly

Older dogs have been around the block and already learned what it takes to get along with others and become part of a pack. They’ll be part of the family in no time!

6. Fewer Messes

Your floors, shoes and furniture will thank you for adopting a senior pooch! Older dogs are likely to already be housetrained—and even if they’re not, they have the physical and mental abilities to pick it up really fast (unlike puppies). With their teething years far behind them, seniors also are much less likely to be destructive chewers.

7. You Won’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

There are those who yearn for a doggie friend of their own, but hold back because they worry what might happen in their lives in the years to come. And they are wise to do so—a puppy or young dog can be anywhere from an 8- to 20-year responsibility, which is not appropriate for the very elderly or those with certain long-term future plans. Providing a loving home for a dog in her golden years is not a less serious commitment, but it can be a shorter one.

8. They Enjoy Easy Livin’

Couch potato, know thyself! Please consider a canine retiree rather than a high-energy young dog who will run you ragged. Not that older dogs don’t require any exercise—they do—but they’re not going to need, or want, to run a marathon every day.

9. Save a Life, Be a Hero

At shelters, older dogs are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized. Saving an animal’s life offers an unparalleled emotional return on your investment, and you’ll feel the rewards every day you spend together.

10. They’re CUTE!

Need we say more?


Pet Insurance–do you need it?

We all love our pets and most of us would do anything for them.  Think of the good food we buy them, the yummy treats we give them, and all the toys scattered in our houses to entertain them.  But what happens if one of those toys is swallowed and gets lodged in the intestines?  What if the treats cause pancreatitis requiring hospitalization?  What if the dog park visit ends with a ruptured cruciate ligament in the knee or multiple dog bite wounds?  Would you be able to afford a large veterinary bill if there was an emergency?

The reality of pet ownership is that sometimes decisions regarding veterinary care are based on how the cost of care fits into your budget.  With insurance, pet owners may be better able to approve treatment of an illness or injury when they may not have been able to afford it.

There are many companies that provide insurance for pets.  Unlike human health insurance, It is important to understand that these insurance companies reimburse AFTER veterinary care has been provided and paid by the owner.  The pet owner then submits a claim for reimbursement, which is sent as a check made out to the pet owner.

Besides emergency or catastrophic injury, insurance policies may also pay a portion of preventative care costs, such as vaccinations, spay/neuter, dental cleanings, and heartworm testing.  Some policies have extra riders for cancer treatment.

There are many different companies offering pet insurance.  VPI has been around the longest; Natasha at Four Lakes looked at comparisons between companies and felt VPI offered the best value (  Others to look at include:,,, and

Some things to consider when looking at the different policy offers include:

1. What do you want pet insurance to do for you?  Help cover the cost of preventative and annual vet care or provide peace-of-mind in case of catastrophic injury or illness?

2. Don’t choose a company or plan that limits your choice of veterinarian or hospital.

3. Examine cancellation policies and avoid waiting periods, if possible.

4. Understand how claims are paid, how long it takes for a claim to be paid, what are the deductibles and co-pays, and what needs to be submitted to the company.

5. Check to see that your pets breed is covered or if higher premiums are charged for certain breeds.

6. Review age limits for coverage.

7. Understand pre-existing illness clauses and what happens upon renewal.  With some plans, any illness or injury incurred during the previous plan year will become pre-existing upon renewal.

All the clients that have used pet insurance seem to be pleased with their coverage and reimbursement.  But for some people, it might make sense to open a savings account and put money in each month in case of a pet emergency.  Care Credit is a medical care credit card that can be used for emergencies, too.

So there isn’t any one, best choice, but I think it is important to think about what you would do if your pet got sick and required extensive testing, treatment, and long-term care.  No one wants to make a life or death decision because of money.


Kitty Cat Tuna Catnip treats

Kitty treats

Kitty treats (from the freezer)

Since more cats are starting to enjoy the homemade cat treats, here is the recipe I used:

1 – 5 oz can tuna packed in water, drained (be sure to give the “tuna water” to your cat!)

1 cup flour (I used garbanzo bean flour because I had some in my cupboard.  Oat flour or probably any flour could also be used.)

1 egg

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 heaping Tablespoon dried catnip

Preheat oven to 350F.  Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until a dough forms.  Roll the dough into 1/2 teaspoon-size balls and place on cookie sheet.  Use a skewer to make an X-shape in each cookie ball and flatten it a bit (sort of like making peanut butter cookies!).  Bake 10-12 minutes until treats are dry on top and slightly browned.

Cool before offering to your cat!  You can refrigerate them for up to a week or freeze them.

This recipe makes a nice Ziploc sandwich bag full.

November is Diabetes awareness month!

Like humans, dogs and cats can develop diabetes.  As a quick refresher, diabetic animals don’t produce enough insulin to drive glucose (sugar) into the cells of their body.   The body thinks it is starving, so the animal tries to eat more and more food.  Muscle starts to break down so the protein can be used as energy, as it does with starvation, and the animal loses weight and muscle mass.  All the glucose that is present in the blood goes through the kidney, which filters it out.  Glucose pulls water with it into the kidney, so the animal drinks a lot and urinates a lot.  Those are the hallmark signs of diabetes: increased drinking, increased urination,  increased appetite and weight loss.

Other diseases can cause similar clinical signs, so if you notice any changes in your pets drinking, appetite, urination, or weight, you should schedule a physical exam and do bloodwork and a urinalysis to figure out why.