Why do we always want to run fecal tests?  My cat is indoor only and my dog barely goes outside.  Well, that may not be enough to protect your pet and family against zoonotic parasites.

In 2002 a study was published by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro.  They completed a study at the Zoological Garden of Rio de Janeiro testing various species of flies and what parasites they may or may not carry on their bodies and legs.  The results, will make you think twice about that fly on your sandwich.

They captured 41,080 flies during their 2 year study, 94.31% of which, were flies we can find in the United States, including the common house fly.  Their research showed that the latrine fly and the common house fly had the highest incidence of parasite eggs on their body surface and in their intestinal content.  Many of the parasite eggs found on the body surface and in the intestinal content were Toxocara canis, Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina, or more commonly known as roundworms.   Besides eggs it was also found parasite larvae on the body surface of flies.  We did mention this may make you lose your lunch, right?

So, let’s put this in context.  A fly is buzzing around your backyard and lands on the feces of an infected animal, say a neighborhood roaming dog or a feral cat.  The fly then enters your house and lands on the dog’s bowl of food, cat food, or better yet, your sandwich.  There is a chance that fly could be carrying parasite eggs on their legs.  So anything it lands on may or may not get eggs transferred to it.  In turn, your dog or your indoor only cat then eats the food (or even the fly, with cats, it can happen more often than you think).  Eggs are ingested and then begin the lovely trip to your pet’s intestines where they begin their life cycle, only stopped if your pet is on a monthly medication for intestinal parasites.  Your pet then sheds the eggs in their stool, which is cleaned up by humans, who may or may not wash their hand before eating (children have a high risk of this), then are passed on to the human…..and well you can figure it out from here.  This is especially risky when children play outside in sandboxes where feral cats may mistake the play area as a litter box.

This brings us back to why we strongly recommend annual fecal checks for your pet.  Because your pet can come in contact with parasites just about anywhere.  Even an indoor cat that eats a bug in the house could be susceptible.  (Another study in 2005 found cockroaches can carry roundworm eggs on their legs and bodies, too!)  Monthly intestinal parasite prevention such as Sentinel, Trifexis, Heartguard, Advantage Multi and Revolution can be a simple way to help protect your pet and your family.  By continually checking the stool, we ensure that the medications are doing their de-worming job and preventing a potential infection in your pet.

So the scoop on poop is, you can’t be too safe when it comes to protecting your family, both human and fur babies.  Get your pet’s annual fecal test done, keep your pet on a monthly intestinal parasite prevention and wash your hands after petting animals, playing outside and especially after cleaning up after your pet.

Keep your family safe, healthy and in the know with Hawthorne University!

Leptospirosis used to be a rare disease, but as we build and infringe upon wildlife space, we are seeing more wildlife in our communities which is leading to more infection in domestic animals.  Lepto is a disease that can affect humans and animals. The bacteria that cause Leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with this contaminated urine (or other body fluids, except saliva), water, or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Pets that tend to drink from puddles, ponds or streams could be drinking potentially contaminated water, which can also cause infection. Keep in mind, infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.  So there is potential for continued infection.

There is a vaccine for Leptospirosis.  It is not usually part of the core vaccines as it does have some reaction rates in smaller animals and some pets may have a low chance of getting the bacteria.  Hunting dogs, pets that swim in lakes and ponds, field runners, and pets on large properties with wildlife are at a higher risk.  But if you have a lot of skunks, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, or deer in your neighborhood or subdivision, your pet can also be at risk as these wild animals can be carriers.

Talk to your vet about your pets habits and environment.  If your pet meets any of these criteria, they may be a good candidate for the vaccine.

To find out more, visit the CDC’s site for Leptospirosis and Pets

This post is dedicated in memory of Chico. Chico was a fun loving, hide and seek playing, 3 year old canine who recently passed away from Lepto.  His owners want to help get the word out about Lepto to help save other families from the same sadness they had to face.
chico Chico Woodrum

Thank you to Dr. Caitrine Hellenga for helping provide case information and materials for this blog.

From American Animal Hospital Association:

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) released its annual report on pet spending on March 13, which showed that Americans spent a whopping $55.7 billion on pets in 2013. This figure represents a 4.5 increase from the $53.3 billion spent in 2012, according to Time.

While the multitude of upscale services and product offerings heavily contributed to the record-breaking sum spent on pets, the most money came from one of the basic necessities: food.

Food was the highest area of spending at $21.6 billion – about $1 billion more than the previous year. The increase in spending on pet food was boosted by owners buying healthier and more expensive food, the AP reported.

Veterinary care accounted for $14.4 billion of the total. This was up from $13.67 billion spent in 2012.

Additional findings from the APPA report show that Americans spent:

  • $13.1 billion for supplies and over-the-counter medicines
  • $4.4 billion for other services including grooming, boarding, pet-sitting, and training
  • $2.2 billion for live animal purchases

Pets can’t say how they’re feeling—it’s usually how they look or act that tells you something is wrong. Blood testing goes a step further, showing us the earliest signs of illness, often before your pet even seems to be sick.  Testing gives us immediate insights that we might not otherwise discover. And treating your pet early can help with a better outcome and lower treatment costs, too.

How does blood work help my pet?
Blood testing can frequently detect illness in your pet before we can see any outward signs of disease.  Early detection means earlier prevention and treatment.  Testing healthy pets during wellness visits gives us your pet’s normal baseline values to compare later.

 What are the tests you’ll run on my pet?

We’ll run a complete blood count (CBC) and a complete blood chemistry panel.  In some cases we may run a urinalysis, too.  The CBC tells us if there is an infection, inflammation or anemia.  The chemistry panel tells us if your pet’s liver, kidneys, and pancreas are healthy and performing as they should.  A urinalysis tells us if there’s infection or inflammation in the urinary tract—a common problem for pets of all ages.  A T4 test provides information about your pet’s thyroid gland function.  This is extremely important because thyroid disease is common in dogs and older cats.

 What is a pre-anesthetic screen and why is it important?
We perform this blood work before your pet’s surgery, dentistry or other procedure that requires anesthesia.  It includes all the tests listed above and lets us know if anesthesia is safe for your pet.  If we have concerns after we see the results, we can reschedule the surgery or adjust the anesthesia to be safer for your pet.  You’ll need to fast your pet the night before the blood testing for the most accurate results.

Don’t turn your nose to Fido’s or Fluffy’s bad breath! That odor might signify a serious health risk, with the potential to damage not only your pet’s teeth and gums but its internal organs as well.

According to the AVMA, “more than 85% of dogs and cats that are at least 4 years old have a condition in which bacteria attack the soft gum tissue. This condition is called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the final stage in a process that begins with the development of plaque on your pet’s teeth.”

Why Oral Healthcare is Important for Pets

For the sake of your pet’s health and comfort, periodontal disease is a threat that can’t be ignored. Many of the signs of the disease are hard to miss. Bad breath, discolored teeth and swollen gums that may bleed easily can all be early indications of trouble. Late-stage periodontal disease can cause permanent damage, including loose teeth and tooth loss.

How Problems Begin

Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a mixture of bacteria and food debris, builds up on tooth surfaces and works its way under the gum line. Toxins released by the bacteria cause an inflammatory reaction that can lead to destruction of tissue and bone that anchor the teeth in place. If the bacteria enter the blood stream, the can even affect the heart, liver, & kidneys.

Serious and Common

Periodontal disease is not only serious, it’s also more common than most owners realize. In fact, more than 80% of dogs have it by the time they’re 4 years old. So, it’s easy to understand why periodontal disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problems in pets.

Prevention is the Best Protection from Periodontal Disease

Preventing periodontal disease by keeping your pet’s teeth and gums healthy isn’t just a job for your veterinarian. It’s your job, too.

While nothing can take the place of regular visits to the veterinarian for checkups and cleaning, ongoing follow-up oral care at home is just as important in controlling plaque and tartar formation.


We hear this a lot, “My arthritic pet seems to have more trouble getting up/taking stairs/running around in the winter.”  We have all heard about the same issue from humans with arthritis, too.  Human doctors assume part of the cause is the drop in air pressure, which can allow the tissues to swell (same pressure drop that effects humans when it is going to rain).  It can also be the general effect that cold has on the muscles; a stiffening that can be uncomfortable even for those who do not suffer from joint issues.   Since our joints work in much the same way, these concepts all apply to pets, too.


Keeping your dog comfortable and warm is important during the cold season. Providing your dog with a well-padded bed in a warm indoor location. Special equipment, such as ramps to go up and down stairs or onto higher furniture, can allow your dog the ability to move freely throughout the house and to go in and out of the house easier.

Clothing can also help to keep the joints warm. Wrap your dog in a specially designed dog sweater, or alter one of your old sweaters or sweatshirts to fit your dog.  If you are leaving your pet unsupervised in their sweater, make sure they won’t chew or eat the materials.


Elevated dog feeders can ease the pain on neck, shoulder and elbow joints of larger dogs.  By bringing the bowl up to shoulder height, they do not have to stoop as low, thus preventing excess strain on these joints.  You can find many varieties on the market.  Take your pet with you to help measure or buy and adjustable one.


Don’t automatically increase arthritis medications, even if your pet is having trouble.  Always contact \your veterinarian first to make sure medications can be safely increased.  Some medications, such as NSAIDs, can be hard on pets’ livers, so dosages are closely monitored and cannot be increased without additional blood  work.


There are some over the counter supplements that can help pets that are not on NSAIDs but just need a little extra help.  Hawthorne sells a product call Dasuquin.  It is a glucosamine and chondroitin specifically formulated for dogs and cats.  After an initial loading dose, it is given once a day for the life of our older pet. It is relatively inexpensive when compared to the NSAIDs and it is a comfort to know it is safe and formulated with animals needs in mind (no additives or flavorings that can be harmful to pets).  Plus it is a chewable tablet, no forcing pills down their throats! Just make sure before adding any supplements to your pets diet, to consult with your vet to make sure they won’t interact with any medications or health issues.


With temps dropping down in to the teens as the high, we just want to take a moment to issue some cold weather warnings to pet owners.

Please don’t leave dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs, and all cats, are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise.  Most dogs and cats are happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If for some reason your dog is outdoors much of the day, he or she must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably.  But bigger isn’t always better.  Shelter should be small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

And it just isn’t basic care you have to think about in cold weather.  Salt for ice and antifreeze can pose dangers, too.  The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.  There are pet friendly salt products on the market (we have some we use at our locations).  Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are less toxic to pets, wildlife, and family.

“It’s the most beautiful time of the year..”

And it can also be the most dangerous when it comes to your pets.  From the decorations to the food to the guests, there can be dangers lurking around that are unknown to you, but can be easily found by curious cats and canines.  Hauling out the holly?  Keep in mind these helpful hints to keep pets safe.

Tinsel is very attractive to pets; particularly cats (see our cautionary tale of CC the cat on our Facebook page). The problem with tinsel is that once it’s consumed, it can cause serious injury to your pet. If not caught in time, it can twist and bunch inside your pet’s intestines. Immediate veterinary care is required.

Trim the tree safely this year.  Place glass, aluminum and paper ornaments higher up on the tree. From tail swishes to curious kitties, glass ornaments can break causing sharp edges that may lacerate your pet’s mouth, throat and intestines; they could also create a choking hazard.

Holiday lights are a pretty site but may be another source of danger to your curious pets.  Chewing on cords can create an electrical shock, causing tongue lacerations and possible death. Check your light strands for signs of fraying or chewing and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

Place candles and open flames in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can not access them. Pets can knock over candles causing burns and even house fires.  Try the new flameless variety for a safe and economical option.

As we welcome guests and family to our homes, keep in mind some pets may not be quick to warm up to strangers.  Make sure you give your pets a safe place to hide out while company is around.  Finally, watch opening doors with pets around.  Many may take this as an opportunity to “visit” neighbors and run amuck in the neighborhood.

And should an emergency situation arise, we are here at Hawthorne 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (including major holidays).

Wishing you and yours a very “Yappy” Holiday Season!

Kelly Young asked “Have you ever tried a dog DNA test to determine what kind of dog it is?”

Answered by: Karen Selbert, DVM

No, but I know it is a popular topic right now. I have had some friends and clients who have performed the DNA test from Mars on their dogs, and they received intriguing information.

Here is my take on the DNA controversy right now. I like the DNA tests for two things:

1. Most importantly, there are more and more DNA tests available for specific disease conditions. I have had one of my dogs tested for Degenerative Myelopathy (available through the University of Missouri): http://www.caninegeneticdiseases.net/DM/testDM.htm and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: https://secure.offa.org/cart.html) By utilizing these tests, we are able to tell if dogs a.) have the disease and b.) will carry it to their offspring. This has helped our understanding of genetic diseases and will hopefully help in having healthier dogs in the future. I use these tests quite a bit and really believe in them. (my whippet’s DNA is in storage, since he has a genetic disease for which there is not a good test yet; hypoadrenocorticism)

2. Trying to determine parentage. By running a DNA test on the dam and the sire and the offspring, you can prove who the parent is if one of those is in question. This gives us the ability to use limited resources to create potentially more genetic diversity. For example, you could use 2 cheetah males, inseminate 1 female with both sperm, and run the DNA test to determine who belonged to who, and potentially create a little more diversity through one litter, in a sense. http://www.vetdnacenter.com/canine.html

However, the mixed breed dog DNA test is somewhat suspect. You would need to have an awful lot of positively identified Beagle DNA on hand to be able to prove that each dog subsequently tested for “beagleness” falls within that range.

Also, this DNA test has not been consistently successful with positively identifying pure breeds in the past. i.e.: submitting a whippet sample may get you a terrier mixed with a greyhound, since that is what was used to get a whippet 100 years ago, even though a whippet has been in existence since then. Hopefully, over time and with more samples being submitted, the test may become more accurate.

Here are some other thought provoking sites:

senior dogSarah Reeds asked: Do arthritis meds for older dogs have any really bad side effects? Can my dog be on them for an extended time?

Answered by Jason Wrage, DVM

The short answer is A) that any medication can have side effects, and B) yes, dogs can be on arthritis medications for long terms.
Pain management is a growing field for pets and their owners. As we take better care of our pets they are living longer and begin to experience associated problems. One of the problems includes chronic osteoarthritis medications.

As we look at managing arthritis associated pain in dogs, there are three basic categories of products.

1. Chondroprotectants – Nutritional – These include glucosamine-chondroitin, omega 3 fatty acids and other supplements.
2. NSAIDS – Prescription pain/inflammation relievers
3. Steroids – Prednisone and other analgesics

Typically, the nutritional based products are not know for serious side effects, but can occasionally cause gastric upset. The steroid/analgesics category is used less often because we have more effective products like NSAIDS that have fewer side effects.

Most prescription arthritis medications fall into the NSAIDS category. These products are designed to act specifically on local receptors (COX 2 vx COX 1) to decrease inflammation and associated pain. Many have been refined to specifically select only COX 2 locations. This decreases the likelihood of unwanted side effects.
As with any medication, side effects are always a possibility. You should discuss with your veterinarian the specific side effects. Things to watch for include vomiting, diarrhea, dark and tarry stools. On rare occasions more serious liver and kidney side effects are possible.

With chronic long term medications, an annual or bi-annual physical exam and blood work is required. The blood panels look specifically at liver enzymes and kidney related electrolytes to be sure there is normal function.

These products, along with a healthy weight can be useful tools to help our pets live a more comfortable and healthy life.