Thankfully, owner requests for front-declaws at our practice are at all-time lows. (I say “thankfully” because as you will read below, declawing is not as benign as once presumed). However, these past few weeks we have had several calls from concerned pet owners. Some questions and frustrations were about kittens, others were about new cats introduced into a household, and there was even one call recently regarding a six year old cat who abruptly started clawing the corner of a sitting chair. Therefore, I have decided to put in writing as much material as I can regarding the concerns of the declaw procedure and the concerns of a destructive cat. I hope that this material may serve as a reference and be shared with anyone who cares about helping cats and their owners with matters like this. When I see cat patients in the exam rooms at Belle Mead Animal Hospital (BMAH), I believe that it is important to spend a great deal of time with these owners discussing this topic because they love their cats dearly, and they are struggling to find a long-term solution.
When considering declawing, please remember that your veterinarian is the best trained person to help you with these decisions. Secondly, don’t feel pressured or rushed into a decision you might regret. Thirdly, before getting a cat, have a plan that starts with patience and preparation. Be open minded and active in your cat’s training, especially until kittens have gone through their wild kitten stages. There are 7 points below in this article that will help you through this training and should be a part of everyone’s action plan.
What is declawing? Does is hurt my cat?
Feline front-declawing is not just surgically removing the nail, as most people assume. The nail is intimately attached to the last bone in a cat’s toe. It is therefore the equivalent of amputating a person’s finger at the last joint of every finger – which would mean 10 separate amputations! Years ago when front declawing was a more common practice and pain management was in its infancy, the myth was that cats didn’t feel pain like people do. We now know that cats often do not show their pain, but that they certainly feel physical pain like humans. Unfortunately, cats react and express pain in very different ways from us. Therefore, their pain can go unnoticed or neglected. Some of the most common symptoms of pain in cats can include hiding, eating less, and subtle changes in their normal personalities and routines. Behavior changes like eating more than usual or less than usual and also seeming more active (restless) or less active (sleeping more) can be pain, discomfort, and/or waves of not feeling well that wax and wane. So as you can see, it can be very complicated to interpret a cat’s behavior. Please do not assume that just because your cat is not crying or limping that he or she is not in pain. Cats are “silent sufferers” and the orphan species of diagnostic work-ups and pain management. We at BMAH, believe in changing this one cat and one pet owner at a time. We are committed to building an awareness through honest and open communication and education.
So again we need to remind everyone that declawing, even under the best circumstances and the highest standards of pain management, still leaves undeniable and unpredictable risks. Some risks are short-term and others can be long-term physical and/or emotional issues. This explains the recent movement to ban the practice, as is already the case in the UK and California. Also, laser declaw surgery does not eliminate risks, and in fact, in the wrong hands, can result in an even worse outcome.
We at BMAH will always treat our patients and owners with honesty and the best veterinary medical care and pain management. Declawing should be a last resort that pet owners must understand completely before undertaking this irreversible and painful procedure.
What should I try before I consider declawing?
Please remember that it is normal cat behavior to go around marking and scratching your home immediately. This is what their natural instincts tell them to do. Scratching is normal behavior necessary to maintain normal claw motion. We are cat owners too, and we understand that this behavior may damage your furniture. Furthermore, those cats especially in new homes or with new furniture feel the need to leave markers of his or her scent. However, with a little time and patience you will be able to minimize and potentially even stop these behaviors with a few smart training tips and tools.
If you are considering adopting or obtaining a new cat, we at BMAH recommend that you purchase a few things ahead of time (especially with new kittens). Preparation is ideal, but it is not too late to go out to your local pet store now and get supplies. Amwell Pet Supply in Hillsborough on Route 206 is a great local business that has many of the things you will need. We encourage you to try this store because they also help support feline-focused animal rescue in our community.
- Scratching Posts, Pads, and Perches
It is a good idea to experiment with a few different types of scratchers of different textures. By providing this variety you will quickly learn what your cat prefers. Every cat needs a good scratching post and perch that is solid so that they can play rough on, climb on (like a jungle gym) and even sleep on it for years to come. Cats tend to feel safer higher up. They also like to get a bird’s eye view of the house. Therefore, try to get a perch that gives your cat some height to look out a window or across the room. I like to get some that have both carpet and sisal surfaces. At Amwell Pet Supply they have all sizes and nice colors that will blend in with your home decor. You can also have them made to order if you have
specific size and color preferences.
Placement of the scratchers is critical. Cats like to stretch and scratch when they wake up, so you can place some small portable sisal boards or cardboard boxes near a few of the places where your cat sleeps. If your cat sleeps in your bedroom or near a couch, place it on the floor by the corner of the bed or couch. Your cat needs to scratch – we just need to get your cat in the good habit of scratching on cat appropriate areas and make other areas less desirable until your cat has its established marked areas with its own scent.
- Feliway Classic Spray, Wipes or Diffuser
Feliway an amazing and affordable synthetic pheromone that both makes cats happy and helps them avoid scratching specific things like couches and furniture. French scientists years ago discovered that there are scents on cats’ faces and paws that make cats want to rub their faces, bodies and claws on people and things. Feliway is a natural pheromone (scent) in a handy little spray bottle. It can be used on or near anything you deem valuable and neutralizes it immediately so that your cat does not feel the need to mark it with his or her front claws. It also comes as wipes, plug-in diffusers to help create large neutral “happy areas,” or pheromone collars for cats who are scratching, scared, hiding, fighting, in pain, or urine spraying.
- Sticky Paws transparent double-sided tape
If your cat is scratching now, go out and get this! It’s easy to apply and safe for furniture, drapes, carpets, stereo speakers, counter tops, etc. You just need to use this temporarily for a few weeks until your cat figures out – I don’t like this sticky new couch corner – let me go scratch on my cool post or pad that already has my scent. Living in a home with 7 wonderful cats – I personally take out the Feliway neutralizing spray and Sticky Paws whenever I get “new” furniture and put it on all the corners of my new furniture just for a few weeks so my cats don’t feel the temptation to mark it because of its novelty.
- Regular nail trimming of cat claws
It’s a good idea to start teaching kittens how to get comfortable with nail trims. At home, it should never be a rushed or stressful experience. Please go out of your way to play with kittens daily around the perches. Use laser pointers and other things like catnip, toys or toy wands with feathers. Make it a daily a.m. and p.m. routine with kittens, but especially early nights and weekends when you have the time. Your kitten will have less of these wild kitten behaviors if they have your routine to look forward to. Make time with your new pet to encourage healthy positive play, scratching and teething on objects that are appropriate. Try to get in the habit of not using your hands to play. Anticipate that your cat may try to jump and claw at inappropriate things and redirect with an extension of yourself like a laser or cat wand. Again, do not use your hands to play rough with kittens, and don’t let them teeth you. Wait until after 6 months when teething is calming down. Use a long wand or thicker catnip infused toys for kittens to grab, claw, and teeth on.
Do not attempt to trim nails right after getting your cat wild and excited either. Wait at least 20-40 minutes after play when your cat is calm to try and gently touch one nail or two at a time. You may want to wait until your cat is really relaxed. Be smart and pick these times wisely. Be patient, be kind, and have fun. When you are ready, use a feline specific nail trimmer that won’t splinter the nails, and just touch or trim the tips of the nails at first. Breathe and don’t be tense. Cats respond to your energy. Your cat will be more relaxed if you are confident and relaxed.
Remember, every cat is different. Indoor cats that are trained to actively use their scratching posts might only need a nail trim once a year with their annual wellness veterinary exam. Some other cats may need it done every 3-6 months as adults. All kittens benefit from nail trims every 3-4 weeks when they are getting their kitten series at the vet’s office. This is a great time to learn, watch and ask your vet questions about how to trim nails and discuss these issues. Have questions? Ask us at BMAH for a demonstration or advice. For kittens or cats that are resistant or aggressive, they can have their nails trimmed at the veterinarian’s office.
- Feliscratch by Feliway – Blue coloring
Feliscratch is the new synthetic natural pheromone from cats’ paws in a bottle. It has a visually cat attractive blue colorant also that signals and redirects cats onto using scratching posts. This is great for cats whose owners say they have scratching posts but their cats will not use them. Be warned – the blue color can be permanent so do not use this on your furniture, but do use it on your more disposable or less valuable scratching posts and pads for training.
- Temporary synthetic nail caps (that are glued on cat nails)
I do not recommend these nail caps. Cats do not like them and they are frustrating for everyone involved.
- Environmental enrichment
We have touched upon this, but being active in welcoming and enriching your cat’s home is critical in teaching your cat how to scratch on appropriate objects and not develop other behavioral issues as well.
Kittens and cats have energy and they get bored. They need more than just food, water, and litter boxes that are sifted twice daily. Cats need enrichment. They need an active, creative, personal pet trainer and pet advocate.
To learn more about Environmental Enrichment, Alternatives to Declawing, and Nail/Claw trimming, go to the AAFP (American Association of FELINE PRACTITIONERS) website. They have a lot of interesting and valuable information for cat owners:
Here is an online resource for help on finding a suitable scratching post(s):
Will BMAH declaw my cat in some situations?
Yes, but at BMAH we will not declaw any cat until we have exhausted all other alternatives. There are special circumstances and medical conditions where humans sharing the home can be harmed by even the smallest accidental scratches. Therefore, we will help these families who honestly feel that they have tried everything else. In these few, rare cases, declawing might be a better option than confining their cat for life or taking it to a shelter.
Declawing surgical procedures requires general anesthesia, multimodal pain management, and hospitalization for 2-3 nights before cats can be discharged home. These cats will require owners to confine their cats to small rooms, use paper litter, and give oral pain meds for 14 days. The surgical procedure exposes all cats to risks of bleeding, infection, limping, and nerve damage. If there are no obvious complications cats, usually hold up their paws and walk gingerly for about 2 weeks, however, some cats may do this for up to 8 weeks.
Pet owners must accept responsibility of all possible potential short-term and long-term complications for them and their cat before signing off on this procedure.
As always, if you have questions, please call or come by Belle Mead Animal Hospital and ask us! Your cat is a member of your family, and we’re here to help you make the experience rewarding for everyone.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
You never know when a pet emergency might strike, but you can be prepared. In addition to having the phone numbers handy of your family veterinarian, your nearest pet emergency clinic and the Pet Poison Helpline along with your home first aid kit and evacuation procedure, you can also take a course in Pet First Aid and CPR. It only takes a few hours out of your day to arm yourself with the knowledge and ability to handle a pet crisis as it occurs.
Pet First Aid refers to the initial care given to an injured or suddenly ill animal. A trained individual will know what simple yet life-saving steps to take with minimal equipment to stabilize an animal and keep him/her comfortable until the veterinarian can take over.
Proper pet first aid can reduce a pet’s recovery time from illness or injury and even help prevent long-term disability. In a Pet First Aid class, you will learn basic emergency care. Common illnesses and environmental exposures will be covered to prepare you for a variety of situations your pet might experience.
More specifically, training will cover how to safely approach an ill or injured animal, emergency scene safety, infection control, and how to properly use restraints (muzzles, towels, blankets, ankle straps, collars).
Pet CPR is short for pet “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation” which is the procedure used to artificially push blood and oxygen out of the heart to the brain and other vital organs of the body. When a trained individual uses chest compressions and breathing techniques on an animal, he/she will help keep the animal’s brain alive and vital organs functioning until veterinary professionals are able to take over.
In a Pet CPR course geared for dogs and cats, you will learn the Initial Assessment steps – Assess, Alert, Attend. You will be taught how to determine if the animal is breathing and how to check for his/her heart rate. You will learn 8 steps of CPR starting from how to position yourself with regard to the animal through administering the compression necessary to resuscitate the animal. You will also learn to check for any obstruction in the pet’s mouth and how to administer a technique called Rescue Breathing.
Hands-on training using dummy cats and dogs gives each class participant the opportunity to practice the techniques while the instructor guides and facilitates. Video training helps participants see how emergency situations can be handled by trained individuals in a variety of situations. Participants are sent home with a comprehensive Pet First Aid guide issued by the American Health and Safety Institute to be used as a reference manual. The guide covers the points already mentioned in addition to bleeding control steps, signs of shock, injuries to muscles and bones, soft tissue injuries and wound care, burns, poisoning, and more.
Where to find training: In our New Jersey area, we can recommend contacting First Aid & CPR LLC, Manalapan, NJ. Find details on their website page here regarding pet courses available. A registration fee will apply.
Once a course is completed and you are certified, you will receive a Certificate of Completion and a wallet card. It is advised that participants be re-certified every two years.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Pet owners now have more health care options for their pets than ever before. Cancer care is one of these options and board certified specialists are available to help. When a pet is diagnosed with cancer, pet owners can elect to have a medical oncology consultation. Below I outline what actually happens when owners make an appointment for an oncology consultation with a board certified medical oncologist.
Prior to an oncology consultation, the pet’s primary veterinarian sends medical records to the oncologist. These records include recent exam findings, blood work, x-rays and other test results. The oncologist then reviews this information prior to the appointment. While reviewing the medical records, the oncologist formulates a preliminary plan and a list of questions that need to be answered to better understand the patient’s cancer, prognosis and treatment options. It is very important that the oncologist has all pertinent medical records prior to consultation. When medical records are missing they can cause delays in treatment, the repeating of tests, and an incomplete understanding of the case.
On the day of the consultation, the pet and its owner arrive a few minutes prior to their appointment to make sure all of their contact information is on file and their medical records have arrived. Owners are then greeted by an oncology nurse and taken to the exam room. While in the exam room the oncology nurse obtains the pet’s weight and vital signs. The oncology nurse then has a conversation with the pet owner about how the pet has been feeling since its last exam. Pet owners are also asked about current medications as they sometimes change, and we want to be sure we fully understand how the patient has been treated.
The oncology nurse then updates the doctor on recent medications and changes at home prior to the exam. The oncologist greets the owners and starts his/her physical exam of the pet. The physical exam allows the oncologist to evaluate the pet from an oncology perspective, assessing them for changes since the last recorded exam.
After the physical exam the oncologist sits down to discuss the pet’s cancer and how to move forward. Ideally all concerned family members should be present for the consultation. If this is not possible, ask your oncologist if absent family members can participate in via speaker-phone or skype.
In some instances the oncologist will determine additional testing is needed to clarify the pet’s diagnosis and treatment following the physical exam. The pros and cons of this additional testing are reviewed with owners as it is important they understand the value of this information. The discussion then typically moves on to information about the cancer itself, such as how quickly it grows, how it is treated, and what the prognosis is. Each pet is unique so treatment options are often outlined and customized based on the pet’s prior history, how the pet is feeling, and any other medical conditions the pet may have.
The diagnosis of cancer can be a very emotional experience, so do not hesitate to share with your oncologist any fears you may have. Pet owners are welcome to ask questions during the consultation. It is important the oncologist addresses owner’s concerns. Owner questions and concerns also allow the oncologist to further customize treatment options for pets.
After the consultation, the oncologist will write up their exam findings and treatment recommendations. These recommendations are then sent to the pet’s primary veterinarian and can be emailed to the pet owner. The sharing of the consultation summary allows veterinarians, pet owners and specialists to all be on the same page. Pet owners can then decide what treatment recommendations they are most interested in. It is important that pet owners then make a recheck appointment with either their primary veterinarian or the oncologist so their pets comfort and care can be maintained based on the treatment option they elect.
Thinking about adding a Guinea pig (or two) as a member of your family? Guinea pigs make great pets. However, a basic understanding about their care and feeding requirements will go a long way in managing your pet’s health and well-being for years to come.
Following are some things you need to know:
The guinea pig is a member of the rodent family; they are not “pigs” at all. This means they can multiple rapidly, and their one set of teeth continually grow. They are originally from the Andes Mountains of South America. From there they migrated to England and then to America. There are three major breeds.
Guinea pigs are also called “cavies.” They are social, lively and gentle creatures. They make great pets, especially if handled frequently at a young age.
Cavies can live alone or in small groups of just females or just males. Two females will become great friends. Two males from the same litter as babies may do well together. But two males from different litters will fight. If you put a male with two females, they are going to breed.
Just remember, more than one cavy means more to clean. Cavies are messy. They produce a lot of feces, and they defecate in their food and water bowls. They will move their food and water bowls all over the place. The more cavies you have, the larger the cage you need and the more litter you need, and that costs money. Please make sure you can afford the time and energy it will take to care for more than one guinea pig at a time.
The lifespan of a guinea pig is 4-8 years with an average of 5-6 years in the home. They are generally hardy pets if they have responsible owners who take good daily care of their pets. This includes properly observing the handling, feeding and cleaning up after their pets. Cleanliness is the most important thing. That is what we call husbandry. Husbandry is of the utmost importance.
They do not tolerate sudden dietary or environmental changes. Their food preferences are established early in life. So if you get an older guinea pig, it’s probably not a good idea to give them lots of variety in food and surroundings.
Guinea pigs do not jump or climb. However, we still recommend the tubs with covers as shelter, especially if you own other pets like cats. A tub and wire cover protects them.
Cavies should be kept in a quiet area out of direct sunlight. The recommended room temperature is 65-79 degrees. They do better in cooler temperatures rather than in too much heat and humidity. They can get heat stroke at temperatures over 85 degrees.
Diet is very important. They require hay, pellets and a piece of vegetables and fruit daily as well as something to gnaw on. Cavies are one of the few species in the world that cannot produce their own Vitamin C. Therefore, supplementing Vitamin C in their food daily is critical.
Timothy grass hay is an important source of fiber. Make sure they always have hay in their cage to nibble on. Avoid alfalfa hay which is too high in calories and calcium which can lead to obesity and other problems. Buy commercial guinea pig pellets that are 16% fiber and 20 percent protein. A handful of about 1/8 of a cup should be fed twice daily, once in the morning and evening.
Guinea Pigs have sensitive intestinal tracts, so avoid sudden alterations in diet and food brand changes. Make changes and additions slowly and in small amounts, especially when they are young. Limit treats and offer small amount of 1-2 Tbsp a day of fresh fruits and vegetables
It’s a great idea to expose young guinea pigs to small amounts of different types of guinea pig pellets, vegetables and fruits. This will help get them used to variety. Guinea pigs will enjoy a variety of leafy greens offered in handfuls.
Some foods that contain high levels of vitamin C to choose from are lettuce, cabbage, kale, cucumbers, parsley, spinach, carrot tops, dandelion greens, red and green peppers (sweet and hot), broccoli, peas, corn and tomatoes.
You can also feed oranges, apples, strawberries, pears, grapes, cantaloupe and watermelon. The key here is to pick only one type of vegetable and one type of fruit daily. Do not try to feed several varieties all in one day. Introduce new foods slowly and over time.
You should have hay available at all times. Remember, a handful of pellets twice a day. Also, a handful of veggies and a slice of fresh fruit or a quarter of an orange per guinea pig per day is a great source of Vitamin C. All fresh foods need to be washed and removed from their feeding area/cage after a few hours if not eaten.
Fresh, clean water in an inverted bottle with a sipper / drinking tube needs to be available at all times. The water should be changed daily, and the sipper tube cleaned with a pipe cleaner because cavies will likely clog it up with food. Also remember to clean feeding bowls daily as cavies tend to sit in them.
Visit our Learning Center to source more information about Guinea Pigs as pets. Also feel free to call our office with questions and to schedule a wellness exam for your new furry friend.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
We want to extend a big Thank You to everyone who came to our annual Holiday Event on December 9, 2017! The snowfall this year certainly added to the festive nature of the event, and Reindeer Jingles seemed to enjoy it!
In case you missed it this year, here are some of the highlights of the afternoon:
Yukon Cornelius introduced Jingles to the steady flow of visitors, and he worked Reindeer magic with the special antlers he brought along to the delight of both children and adults! Elf Belle assisted with greeting visitors and offering Reindeer facts and answering questions.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus were on hand to greet visitors inside the hospital this year where hot chocolate and cookies were served. Santa took the opportunity to pass out treats to the children’s’ delight! Even the visiting dogs had fun with Santa!
Dallas the goat made his annual appearance all dressed for the occasion! Dallas was a hit with the children as usual, but he was also a hit with our visiting dogs and our guest rabbit!
Yes, one special guest brought her pet rabbit to the event, and Mrs. Claus took advantage of some cuddle time with not only Larry the rabbit but with dogs in attendance! The rabbit made the rounds with mom in its very own backpack carrier.
The adoptable puppies were a big hit again! Animal Alliance volunteers mingled with the guests and helped the puppies socialize and play.
Bumble the Abominable Snowman made the rounds and offered additional photo opportunities!
Again, we sincerely thank everyone who came out in the snow to share some holiday cheer and family fun with us! Your participation makes the holidays even more special for us, and we look forward to next year!
The Belle Mead Animal Hospital Team
The third annual Howl-O-Ween dog parade and costume contest took place October 28, 2017 at the Ann Van Middlesworth Park dog park. Hosted by the Hillsborough Parks and Recreation Department, it was another fun event for all, both human and canines!
Belle Mead Animal Hospital participated once again as a vendor, handing out goodies for pets and people, and offering information about our services. We were glad to donate one of the prizes for a lucky raffle participant.
Parade participants gathered at the park Pavilion area at 8:30 a.m. to check in the with their costumed dogs, many in matching costumes themselves! Each were given a raffle ticket for the prize draw.
The dog parade kicked off at 9 a.m. with Mayor Carl Suraci giving an opening welcome address to a record number in attendance. The participants proceeded up the path to the dog park while the judges made their picks.
Once at the park, most dogs were let loose to run and play, and did they have a good time!
The Mayor made announcements of the raffle winners. One lucky client of BMAH won our gift basket. Congratulations Olly Woodmansee! Another lucky winner won a gift basket from The Grooming Rig, and others won the gift certificate raffle prizes provided by Dog Days Daycare Center.
Costume contest category winners included our patient KayDee with owner Carrie as Most Creative! Snickers won Funniest Costume; Winnie won Scariest costume; Beckham won Best Owner/Dog Combo; Bear won Best Costume Large Dog; and Sassy won Best Costume Small Dog.
What a nice way to celebrate Halloween! Even if you don’t have a dog of your own, it’s fun just to come and watch the event and take a hike around the beautiful park. Hope to see you all next year!
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Animal Alliance of New Jersey kicked off their 13th annual Pet Masquerade Parade on Saturday, October 21, 2017 in Lambertville, New Jersey. Belle Mead Animal Hospital was one of the proud sponsors of the event.
As participants and spectators gathered at Mary Sheridan Park, Anne Trinkle, founder of Animal Alliance of New Jersey, publicly thanked the local business sponsors and introduced the judges: Dr. Joe Martins, owner Belle Mead Animal Hospital; Beth Caruso, owner Café Galleria; and Attorney Renee Soto, newly elected President of Animal Alliance of New Jersey.
Anne gave Dr. Martins a special thanks for being so instrumental in helping to get Animal Alliance off the ground and continuing to care for many of their rescued animals they bring into the shelter.
Anne explained that the Pet Masquerade event was first launched in August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Monkey Hill Antiques decided to raise money for the displaced and injured dogs left behind, and the Pet Masquerade was born. Two years later Animal Alliance of New Jersey took it over, and all proceeds of the event support the shelter animals and the low cost spay/neuter clinic the organization operates.
To help get the costume parade started, members of the newly built Music Mountain Theater performed in costume some bits from 101 Dalmatians and Alice in Wonderland.
From small dogs to large dogs, the canines paraded with owners often dressed in matching outfits! The creativity was amazing, and the dogs seemed to enjoy the event as much as the spectators. From butterflies to ladybugs to Monday Night Football, the participants did not disappoint.
A highlight at the end was the Adoptable Dogs portion of the costume parade. Some very adorable canines looking for their forever homes strutted their stuff and seemed to enjoy every moment of their special time in front of the judges. After careful consideration, the judges made their picks and prize winners in all categories were announced.
Folks enjoyed the park area where they found food and baked goods, Tricky Tray raffles and commemorative T-Shirts, all sales to benefit Animal Alliance of New Jersey. The music donation was provided by Barry Middleberg.
If you missed it this year, plan to come next year. You won’t be disappointed. And take a moment to walk around town. Here’s a hint: the residents in Lambertville really know how to decorate for Halloween!
Learn more about Animal Alliance of New Jersey on their website here.
Recommended Reading: The benefits of spaying and neutering your pets
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
We wish to extend our sincere thank you to all of our valued clients and supporters who voted for us in the 2017 Courier News Readers Choice contest. The Belle Mead Animal hospital team has once again been awarded “The Best in Somerset County,” and we could not have achieved this award without you.
For five years running this award has shown your continued confidence in our team to provide the best care possible for your pets. All the animals that come through our door – dogs, cats, exotic companion mammals, birds, reptiles, goats, pigs – are special to us. They are part of your family, and we consider them part of our BMAH family, too.
We continue to stand firm in our mission to make life better and healthier for pets and families in our community. That is our commitment to you. Thanks for giving us the opportunity.
Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors
Some pet parents still become fearful when told their pet may need anesthesia or surgery. Having concerns for a beloved pet is normal, but fear of the unknown can cause people to unfortunately disregard or delay important procedures such as spays and dentals. Some pet parents may assume their pet may suffer ill effects from the anesthesia. Let us lay your fears to rest.
AAHA accredited hospitals like ours who have a proactive, highly skilled veterinary team that properly support their patients every time with an IV (intravenous) catheter, IV fluids, warmth, and continuous blood pressure (BP) monitoring will help insure that pet anesthesia can be just as safe as human anesthesia.
Following are answers to some questions you might be asking yourself right now:
Will there be complications from anesthesia?
In all surgeries there is an element of risk, but complications due to anesthesia are uncommon in our practice. In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Studies have suggested that the risk of anesthesia is about 1 in 2000 or 0.05% for normal, healthy pets. In pets that have some pre-existing disease or in situations where procedures have been delayed longer than ideal for whatever the reason, then the number can increase up to 1 in 500 or 0.2%.
Is anesthesia the same today as it was 10 years ago?
The answer is “no” in most veterinary hospitals. Most hospitals should have progressive, up-to-date protocols using small balanced doses of pre-medications tailored to an individual patient. This is usually followed by a quick induction and quick recovery anesthetic just like what is commonly used in people.
Years ago anesthesia in pets was not as safe as it can be today. Better drugs and better awareness and monitoring of patients have made a huge difference. Also having an IV catheter in place as a standard non-elective safety procedure keeps a pet more stable. This simple yet vital IV catheter provides continual surgical fluid support during the procedure and allows emergency access to the patient if ever needed. Also, it wasn’t standard practice to measure blood pressure, temperature and all vitals in pets like it is in people.
Are the same anesthesia drugs, protocols, equipment, and precautions taken by every animal hospital in your area or New Jersey?
The answer is “no.” The state does not regulate or enforce standards of care. It is important to ask your vet the right questions which we will list at the end. Today, in a modern and progressive animal hospital such as ours, anesthesia is more smoothly achieved and monitored by having an IV catheter usually in a front leg. We give intra-operative intravenous fluids to help maintain the pet’s blood pressure during anesthesia. Warm air circulating blankets keep patients warm throughout the procedure which also protects and keeps our patients more stable. We have state-of-the-art monitors that continually check BP, temperature, EKG, oxygenation, and Co2. These safeguards that are commonly used today for pets were not in place years ago.
Our doctors and technicians are highly trained in the proper way to administer anesthesia and the use of monitoring equipment and procedures to ensure your pet does well. The pet’s vital signs such as respiratory rate and heart rate are watched closely throughout the surgery to ensure the pet’s pain-free experience.
Do the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks of anesthesia?
In general, the answer in most cases is “yes.” Your veterinarian will guide you and perform a complete exam with preoperative blood work to check the functioning of internal organs to ensure your pet is ready for a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia. Surgeries and dentals that are delayed by months or years because of owners’ fears often increase the chances for problems.
The time that a pet is under anesthesia is very important. Shorter anesthetic times are much safer than longer anesthetic times. Anesthetizing a pet on a more prophylactic basis for 20-30 minutes to perform routine dentistry cleanings is much safer than waiting too long. Many times patients with dental disease whose dentals are delayed to every 2-3 years will require much more time and cost to perform major dental extractions which increases anesthetic time and potential risks.
Another good example is spaying female dogs at 6 months which is much quicker and safer than waiting until they are older. Older female dogs quickly accumulate a lot of fat around their ovaries which can make surgery much more challenging and increases the risk of intra and post-operative bleeding.
When a mass or cancerous condition has been diagnosed, the removal of a malignancy under anesthesia to prevent further growth and spread of the disease may far out-weigh the risk of not putting the pet under anesthesia to perform the procedure.
A final example may be the quality-of-life enhancing procedures such as many commonly needed orthopedic surgeries pets require to live comfortably without constant pain.
What standards should you look for when surgery has been advised?
Ask questions, because not every hospital may use the same procedures or practice the same highest standards of care.
Find out if the veterinary practice will use on your pet:
- Monitoring equipment that checks all vitals but specifically includes an EKG and measures Blood Pressure throughout the entire procedure
- Intravenous catheter
- Intravenous fluids
- Warm air circulating blankets
- Pain medications before and after procedures
At Belle Mead Animal Hospital, we have all of the above in place as well as procedures to respond to any type of surgical emergency. We treat your pet as if he/she was our very own.
What should I do to prepare my pet for surgery requiring anesthesia?
At Belle Mead Animal Hospital, we will explain necessary fasting requirements and advise you of any important considerations the night before the procedure. By following the instructions, you will help ensure you and your pet have a positive experience.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Musculoskeletal disease (disease that affects your pet’s bones, muscles and joints) can affect pets of all ages. They can have aches and pains just like we do. But, because of their survival instincts, they try to hide it. In the early stages of this disease, it’s hard to spot because your pet may look and act absolutely fine “on the outside.”
What your pet looks like “on the inside” may be very different. Arthritis, toxins, hormonal abnormalities, infections, blood and blood vessel disorders or inappropriate nutrition can all affect the way your pet walks, plays and moves.
The best way to prevent disease is to schedule regular yearly exams with your family veterinarian. During your pet’s annual checkup, we can discuss all the things you can do to stop the development of or slow the progression of bone, muscle and joint disease. And we’ll examine every part of your pet “inside and out,” including:
- An orthopedic exam
- An assessment of body and muscle condition
- X-rays to see what joints and spines really look like
- Blood work to evaluate the function of internal organs
So what’s the best way to treat and slow down bone, muscle and joint disease in your pet if a condition already exists? At Belle Mead Animal Hospital, we offer a full program of physical rehabilitation and regenerative medicine. The modalities include:
- Class IV K-Laser therapy: Laser therapy speeds up the healing process and treats pain, swelling and infection.
- Massage: Just like people, pets love a massage! It decreases scar tissue formation and spasm while relieving pain.
- Therapeutic Ultrasound: The application of deep ultrasound rays will heat up the muscles and tendons to relieve spasms and pain while increasing flexibility.
- Physical manipulation, joint mobility and stretching
- Therapeutic exercises with the use of physioballs/peanuts and wobble boards
- Electric stimulation (TENS/NMES)
- Stem cells
- Platelet Rich Plasma
Don’t hesitate to ask your family veterinarian during your next wellness exam how physical rehabilitation can benefit your pet. In the meantime, visit the links below for more information about what we offer at Belle Mead Animal Hospital.
Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM
Belle Mead Animal Hospital