Join us in congratulating Dr. Kim Somjen who recently achieved her Certification as a Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM)!
She began the certification process three and one-half years ago through the University of Tennessee’s Canine Rehabilitation Program and began incorporating what she learned into all of her cases. She has completed the University of Tennessee’s Certified Companion Animal Pain Management Program and is also in the process of completing the Veterinary Medical Acupuncture Certification.
Dr. Somjen is eager to apply what she knows and learns to all of her clients in our BMAH Pet Pain Clinic. She is a member of the International Veterinary Association of Pain Management and is pursuing certification as a Veterinary Pain Practitioner. Learn more about the BMAH Pet Pain Clinic here.
Belle Mead Animal Hospital was proud to be the lead sponsor of the WOOF IT! Dog Walk and Celebration on Sunday, May 7, 2017 to benefit Animal Alliance of New Jersey. The event took place at the Sarah Dilts Farm Park in Stockton from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. with all proceeds to help the rescued dogs and cats.
The $15 pre-registration fee ($20 the day of) included a 3/4 mile dog walk on the trail around the farm park, contests for the children and dogs, face painting, and balloons. Music provided by a local DJ added to the festivities. The dog participants received souvenir bandannas and were treated to “Wag Bags” full of goodies. A caricaturist, raffle baskets, vendors, and food were also available for purchase during the event.
There were a few rules to follow for the safety of all those participating. Only well-mannered, non-aggressive pets were welcome to participate with a limit of two dogs per walker. Non-retractable, 6 ft. leashes were required as well as proof of rabies vaccination.
Dr. Kim Somjen and Technician Taylor Boylan offered pet rehabilitation and massage therapy demonstrations at the Belle Mead Animal Hospital table. Visitors were able to ask questions and had a chance to learn how the rehabilitation therapies offered at the BMAH Pet Pain Clinic might benefit their own pet.
It was a fun day for a worthwhile cause! Visit our Belle Mead Animal Hospital YouTube Channel to see some of the pet rehabilitation demonstrations in action!
We’re excited to announce the Belle Mead Animal Hospital team will once again participate in the Somerset Patriots “Bark in the Park Night” on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
Bring your leashed dog, family, and friends for a fun evening at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Stop by our table in the concourse to meet our Belle Mead Animal Hospital team and find out what surprises we have in store for you that night!
Read about some of our activities last year: Another busy Bark in the Park Night!
It’s always a great night out, so hope to see you there!
Thanks to all who joined us for the free Dental Seminar at Belle Mead Animal Hospital on May 6, 2017. We were happy to see so many dogs and cats come in with their owners eager to learn how to grade their pet’s teeth. In case you missed it, following is a review of what we went over that day.
While the pets enjoyed some quiet time in the kennel area, Dr. Martins began by explaining how Belle Mead Animal Hospital is one of only 12-15% of animal hospitals throughout the United States and Canada accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). That means we offer our clients an elevated standard of care, including dentistry, surgical and anesthetic procedures, that might not always be found in other animal hospital environments.
Pet dentistry is one of the most important services BMAH offers clients. Helping pet owners learn how to grade their own pet’s teeth will go a long way in ensuring they understand when to contact their veterinarian for an oral exam if they notice something awry in their pet’s mouth in between annual check-ups.
Dr. Martins then introduced Mark Sopko, dental technician, who has been with BMAH over 10 years. Mark has been practicing as a dental technician for over 20 years. He often travels around the country teaching at other animal hospitals and presenting at conferences.
Mark went on to explain the importance of grading pet’s teeth, charting the results, and taking digital dental x-rays of the pet’s mouth to zero in on the exact issue. X-rays allow the veterinarian and dental technician to see what the naked eye cannot see that lies below the gum line.
Mark showed clearly with photos through a slide presentation how a pet’s mouth is affected by periodontal disease. Without regular dental cleanings and daily at-home maintenance, plaque and tartar build up in a pet’s mouth similar to humans. The result is rotting gums and bone loss.
Clients are often concerned about anesthesia and cost. Before a pet is considered for anesthesia, blood work is done to ensure the pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. BMAH offers a proactive, highly skilled veterinary team that properly support their patients going under anesthesia every time with an IV (intravenous) catheter, IV fluids, warmth, and continuous blood pressure (BP) monitoring that will help insure that pet anesthesia can be just as safe as human anesthesia. With regular exams, routine cleanings, and at-home care, the risk of dental disease is decreased and therefore the costs for the pet dental work can be lower. In fact, pet dental care costs are comparable to what humans experience at their own dentist.
The greatest risk lies in waiting to schedule a dental exam until the pet is much older, after periodontal disease has set in. Remember, a 5 year old pet is the approximate equivalent age of a 30 year old person. Would you wait 30 years before having your first dental exam? But that is the reality. Our pets age much faster than humans do, and dental disease can set in before we know it.
Veterinarians and dental technicians treat pet dental care in much the same way as humans – we probe, we chart, we clean and polish, and we add fluoride to protect the teeth. We take full mouth digital x-rays on every pet to ensure accuracy of where dental problems might be hiding from the naked eye.
Have you heard about non-anesthesia cleanings? We do not recommend this and do not practice dentistry without anesthesia at BMAH. You cannot get up under the gum line to reach the bacteria without anesthesia and you risk hurting the pet when he/she moves around.
Mark offered many visuals during his presentation to show exactly the kinds of dental problems he’s seen, from broken and loose teeth, to gum disease leading to fractured jaws. If dental disease is left untreated and a root starts to decay, it can actually fuse with the bone and become bone – now the pet is in danger of a broken jaw.
If the veterinarian or technician sees a missing tooth and/or red areas in the mouth, that indicates something is happening under the gum line. Swelling on the pet’s face typically indicates a tooth problem. The animal has most likely broken the tooth. Bacteria and infection goes up the root canal and the infection reaches into the face. We also need to rule out cancer when swelling and/or lumps and bumps are evident.
During a dental exam, each tooth gets probed and charted. We give estimates of cost, but we don’t know in total what is involved until we see the x-ray. Some dentals are relatively quick 20-40 minutes total anesthetic time depending on the extent of plaque and tartar under the gums and whether or not extractions are found to be required. The x-rays are also used for positioning. We always do a post x-ray to make sure we achieved the desired result.
Signs of pet oral pain were discussed – loss of weight, crying, chewing with head to the side, rubbing face on things, drooling, no longer social (they hide), they bite when they didn’t bite before, dropping food, vomiting, matted fur (the pet can’t clean themselves without experiencing pain). Sometimes there are no signs at all (their DNA says they will become prey if they show weakness, so pets hide pain very well).
Number one at-home care recommended is daily brushing, using treats as rewards, and using gauze as the “brush.” Take it slow, step by step. If you watch TV with your pet in your lap, keep gauze and toothpaste right next to the couch. Start off with gauze because sometimes it’s easier than a toothbrush. There are different types of gauze, and for cats we recommend a tighter weave.
Please make note: mouth disease leads to other disease – the blood spreads disease into the heart, liver, kidneys – anywhere the blood will take it, even the brain.
Folks were given the chance to ask questions, and after the presentation, they were escorted back to the exam rooms to learn to grade their own pet’s teeth from stages one through four. Everyone left with a Dental Goodie Bag! Thanks to all those who participated!
The Hillsborough Girl Scout Troop 60527 recently organized a project called “Paws for a Cause” to gain their Bronze Award status. They invited Joe Martins, DVM, to make an address on responsible pet care as part of the project. The program took place at the Hillsborough Library on May 6, 2017.
Each of the seven girls gave a verbal presentation on responsible pet care. Topics covered included how owning a pet can be a wonderful experience; the value of adopting a rescued pet from a shelter; how to take care of the pet and the responsibility pet ownership brings; the description of a “high-kill shelter,” and the importance of spaying and neutering pets.
Dr. Martins congratulated the girls on a job well done and began his presentation with the basics of what pets require in addition to food, shelter and love. It’s important to establish a routine with our pets and recognize the importance of training and learning to read your pet’s body language as a form of communication.
When visiting shelter pets, one must realize the cats and dogs may be very frightened and feeling stressed by folks coming by to look at them and even trying to touch them. It can be very scary to the animal. A shelter is a good place to learn to recognize a pet’s body language. Is the pet at the back of the cage and trying to sleep? Or is the pet advancing toward you in a friendly manner wanting to interact? The best thing to do is view the pet from a distance first. Take your time and don’t stare at them. If they appear friendly, try throwing them a treat before you interact. Do not invade their personal space too soon. You have to respect their personal space and remember the pet may simply be scared.
These days veterinarians are trained not only in science and medicine, but on animal behavior. That learning experience can be passed on to pet owners so they can better understand how their pet is feeling by watching the animal’s behavior and studying their body language
Dr. Martins also touched on the subject of spaying and neutering pets. There simply are not enough loving homes to take in all the unwanted puppies and kittens for lack of spaying and neutering, and the pets often end up in shelters, many being high-kill shelters. Therefore, the decision to spay or neuter a pet is considered part of responsible pet ownership.
Another reason pets end up in shelters is because of behavioral issues. Dr. Martins described how sometimes dog owners inadvertently reward a behavior before the positive task is completed. Therefore the dog associates a task that might not be the intended outcome the owner was trying to accomplish with the pet. Sometimes different family members reward the pet for different behaviors, further confusing the training process. Therefore, Dr. Martins recommends practicing training daily with everyone in the household on the same page. He suggests dogs be taught the foundation skills of sit, stay, and down. Also important to know is when to reward, how to reward and when not to reward.
“I have a lot of folks who come into the animal hospital and tell me ‘they have always done it this way, but with this dog, it doesn’t work.’ Therefore I give people three free wishes with regard to their pet’s behavior because we can fix their behavior. We discuss it, we go over things they are doing wrong, then we come up with a plan,” said Dr. Martins.
Dr. Martins continued on the topic of pet body language and how to react as well as how not to react using the example of a stranger’s dog running toward you in a dog park. He recommends not making eye contact, remaining silent, turning to the side and “acting like a tree” – stay still and let the dog approach. The dog most likely will sniff and walk away leaving you unharmed.
Dr. Martins took questions at the end of his presentation. Questions ranged from pet behavior of dogs and cats, feeding issues, diet control, wet versus dry food, home cooking for pets, kitty litter box maintenance, and human pet allergies.
With spring comes lawn care and garden maintenance. However, did you know that certain mulch brands can be dangerous for your pets?
Some of you may have read the warnings that have been circulated through the internet recently and in the past about the dangers of Cocoa Bean Mulch and your pets. A version we noticed recently was about a dog named Calypso who ate the mulch and died the next day. This particular story has been in circulation for many years now, and the AVMA published an article to clarify the concern to pet owners about this particular story (read full article here).
Since there are chemicals contained in the mulch that do pose a health risk to your pet, it is worth discussing in more depth.
Cocoa Bean Mulch can be purchased in certain garden centers and online around the country. Landscapers and homeowners like it because it is aromatic, it repels garden pests, and it retains moisture adequately.
What makes the mulch dangerous to pets, especially dogs who would have a greater tendency than cats to chew the material, is the chemical compounds found in the cocoa bean shell it is made from. The shells contain two compounds called methylxanthines that are also found in chocolate: theobromine and caffeine.
The aroma of the mulch is what dogs find appealing. According to research by the ASPCA, the risk to your dog depends on its size, the amount of mulch ingested, and also the level of theobromine in the mulch. However, this can vary widely depending upon the brand. Puppies and small-breed dogs would be at greater risk.
Our recommendation is to avoid the use of Cocoa Bean Mulch completely and look for safer mulch products; read labels carefully. As always, supervise your pets when outdoors and pay attention to what they might chew or put into their mouth. Distract them with safe chew toys and keep them away from flower beds and mulched areas of your lawn.
There are other dangers associated with pets consuming Cocoa Bean Mulch, however. The mulch also may contain pesticide residue and mycotoxin-producing mold, specifically penitrem A and roquefortine. Ingestion of this mold can result in severe neurologic signs, tremors, and seizures.
Symptoms of mulch toxicity will usually appear within 6 to 12 hours and can include:
- Diarrhea and abdominal pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle tremors
- Possible Death
Our best advice is to prevent your dog from ingesting mulch of any kind. Always keep the Pet Poison Helpline number handy – 800-213-6680 – and visit their website in advance so you know the procedure in case of emergency. Emergency instructions can be found here.
Also, visit the Belle Mead Animal Hospital website Emergency page to find an emergency care facility in our area if the need does arise.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Today is World Rat Day, and we want to take this moment to introduce to you one of the best kept secrets in the world of exotic companion mammals – rats!
Rats have gotten a bad reputation in the past over fear and misunderstanding, but we want to assure you – these little guys make wonderful pets! The first thing most people think about when we say the word “rat” is pests and sewer rats. However, we hope that this introduction can change that connotation in your mind!
Rats are very human oriented and love being around people, young and old alike. I have owned rats for decades and ran a rat rescue, and I highly recommend them as one of the best pets for younger children because of how much pet rats enjoy interaction with people. Rats eagerly wait for you by the cage door each day, and they will rush to play! Studies have shown that rats even laugh when you tickle them!
Rats have been kept as pets since the 19th century. They enjoy large cages with multiple levels, hammocks, tubes, and toys to engage their minds. They should be kept in same sex pairs since they also are extremely dependent upon companionship.
If you wish to have males and females, Belle Mead Animal Hospital recommends spaying your females before the age of 6 months, which also helps to prevent mammary tumors, one of the most common ailments rats can get. Rats can be very prolific reproducers – we have spayed and neutered hundreds of rats, and they do wonderfully after surgery!
Rats are easily trained and enjoy working for rewards. Check out this video of rats performing tricks! Watch now ► Awesome Amazing Rat Tricks
They are incredibly smart. Remember all the mazes rats and mice would work through to get to the cheese? There’s really something to this!
Rats are simply wonderful animals! If you are interested in bringing some into your household, please contact us at Belle Mead Animal Hospital. We can recommend some great local rescues where you can find the perfect rat – but we have to say, we think all rats are pretty perfect!
Happy World Rat Day!
Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
In spring and early summer, folks often encounter young animals such as fawns (baby deer), rabbits, birds and other species. The baby might appear sick, injured or all alone and orphaned by their mother. That’s when human instinct kicks in, and we want to “help” the animal. Often that is the last thing we need to do.
The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (NJDFW) urges residents of New Jersey to leave young wildlife undisturbed. They advise that the lives of many young animals are disrupted by well-intentioned people who attempt to “save” these animals, when more often than not, the mother is nearby and the young animal is not in immediate danger.
When you do encounter a young animal, please do not try to take it home, care for it yourself, or worse yet, try to turn it into a house pet. The reality is that the animal is being denied its natural learning experience to grow and develop into an adult. What’s more, nearly all wild animals are protected by law, and it is illegal to try to keep them as a pet.
Following is a list of common wildlife and suggestions on what to do if you encounter them:
It is best to leave a rabbit’s nest undisturbed. The mother is usually close by but will not go near her nest while humans are around. Young rabbits are ready to leave the nest at three to four weeks of age when their eyes are open and their bodies are furry. Rabbits are fragile animals and easy prey. Many have short life spans, and they can actually die of fright. Human interaction usually does more harm than good.
The NJDFW reminds us that every bird alive today has spent a few precarious days on the ground while learning to fly. If you find a baby bird on the ground, you can either replace it in the nest or leave it on the ground and let Mother Nature run its course.
If you find a young fawn lying alone, please leave it alone. The mother has left it behind intentionally in an area she deems safe, and she returns several times each day to nurse the fawn. The NJDFW advises that if you’ve already moved the fawn, you must take it back where you found it to ensure it will be reunited with its mother.
If you find injured wildlife with its deceased mother:
The NJDFW advises those who encounter such a situation should consult the List of New Jersey Wildlife Rehabilitators for the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Continuing in our series on Pet Nutrition, you may have heard the term “fatty acids” used many times with regard to human health. The fact is, our pets require fatty acids for improved heath, too.
In simplest terms, fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood. Fatty acid molecules are usually joined together in groups of three, forming a molecule called a triglyceride. Triglycerides are also made in our bodies from the carbohydrates that we eat.
Fatty acids have many important functions in the body, including energy storage. If glucose (a type of sugar) isn’t available for energy, the body uses fatty acids to fuel the cells instead.
Fatty acids with regard to dogs and cats
Dietary fatty acids serve as precursors to prostaglandins and other eicosanoids. The essential fatty acids in canine and feline diets include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Dogs and cats both require omega-6 acid linoleic acid. (LA). Omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and α-linolenic acid (ALA). Another called arachidonic acid (AA) is also required for cats.
Marine oil sources provide EPA and DHA, which are more effective in dogs and cats than ALA (which is not significantly converted to EPA or DHA). The eicosanoids produced from omega-3 fatty acids are less inflammatory than those produced from AA.
Studies on the effects of feeding therapeutic food containing dietary fatty acids have shown improvements in pets with the following health issues:
- Inflammatory skin disorders
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Renal disease
- Cognitive function and neurological health
Ways to supplement your pet’s diet
Many commercial pet foods these days are supplemented with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, there is no legal requirement for listing omega-3 fatty acids on pet food labels or to guarantee the pet is getting the correct supplementation to suit his/her particular dietary needs.
We suggest talking with your veterinarian about your pet’s diet. After completing a Nutritional Assessment and reviewing the pet’s health history, your veterinarian can help you determine a proper diet and recommend additional fatty acid supplements such as our Catalyst Chews and mini-bites that are 100% made in America that pets find appealing.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Cats are the Orphan Species when it comes to care, diagnostics and treatment for many reasons. Even though there are more pet cats in the world than dogs, dogs get more veterinary care. Why is this?
One of the Greatest Myths out there even among seasoned cat owners is that as long as cats are indoors, loved and well fed, cats don’t get sick as often as dogs. Wrong! Entirely false!
Cats, even in the best home, have inherited genetics from years of breeding that predispose them to genetic diseases that are pre-programmed to appear suddenly. It’s just a matter of time. It’s nothing an owner is doing wrong, but cat genetic diseases such as heart, kidney and intestinal/pancreas problems appear silently and suddenly.
Many times, the cat’s illness has already reached a crisis stage while the owner has been waiting for symptoms to appear before bringing them in to the veterinarian for an annual wellness check. Sometimes pet parents don’t realize that by their family veterinarian simply listening to their cat’s heart and skillfully feeling its kidneys and intestines annually can save their pet’s life.
The sooner these problems are diagnosed by a good veterinarian, the easier to proactively treat the disease ensuring a much longer and better quality of life for the cat. Cats are the world’s best silent sufferers.
The Belle Mead Animal Hospital is a cat-friendly practice. Please feel free to call our office if you have further questions about your cat’s health and well-being or wish to schedule an appointment.
Reducing cat carrier stress
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital