Posted in General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Mar 21, 2019 | no responses.

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:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Possible Death

Our best advice is to prevent your dog from ingesting mulch of any kind. Always keep the Pet Poison Helpline number handy – 800-213-6680and 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

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Posted in News on Feb 10, 2019 | no responses.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is gearing up to start, and dogs from all over the country are flocking to New York City! Did you know our very own Dr. Somjen will be competing in the Westminster Kennel Club Masters Obedience Championship with her Border Collie, Chill?

Chill works out in preparation for his upcoming shows.
Chill works out in preparation for his upcoming shows.

In addition, Dr. Somjen has two other clients who will be competing – Kathy Walker with her Border Collie Drake, as well as Jennifer Evans with her Border Collie Edith! All three of these dogs are kept in tip-top shape with physical rehabilitation and acupuncture!

Tune in Monday, February 11, 2019 for the live streaming of the First Round at 9:30 am, and the Freestyle Round at 1:30 pm and cheer Chill, Drake and Edith on!  Get more info here.

Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors
Fear Free - Taking the Pet out of Petrified
Posted in News on Jan 25, 2019 | no responses.

As the proliferation of ticks continues in New Jersey, we continue to work closely with our clients so their pets receive the most appropriate parasite protection to ward off disease. Today, we have some good news for cat owners! Revolution for cats, our most highly recommended product, is now improved. Introducing Revolution Plus!

Revolution Plus Comparison

As you can see from the comparison above, feline Revolution Plus is FDA approved, and we believe the safest, most effective way to protect cats against fleas, ticks, ear mites, roundworms, hookworms and deadly heartworm disease. You only need to apply Revolution Plus once monthly to protect your cat from parasites. 

Remember that indoor cats need protection year round, just like those that may go outside occasionally or even live most of their life outdoors.  And we can’t emphasize protection against heartworms enough. This deadly disease is carried by mosquitoes that sneak into homes unnoticed. Cats tend not to show any symptoms of the disease when they are infected. So owners are unaware that their cat is harboring a potentially fatal disease. Sadly, many cats can die suddenly from heartworm disease, when it could have been easily prevented by a monthly application of parasite protection. 

Have questions? Call our hospital or speak with your family veterinarian at the time of your next appointment.

Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors

Handling Every Pet with Love Every Day!

As Certified Fear Free Professionals, our Mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them.

Fear Free Certified Professional
Posted in Events News on Dec 18, 2018 | no responses.

Dr. Kim Somjen and her dog Chill (Katwalk Calm Like a Bomb UDX OM3 PCDX GN BN TKP) recently competed in the AKC Obediene Classic, December 15-16, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. Four obedience dogs and their owners – one dog/handler team in each of the four classes – were crowned at the event, which brought together 243 dogs from across the United States and Canada.

Several of our clients also competed with their dogs. The winner of the open division is our patient, High Times Quiet Riot CDX PCD BN, a Golden Retriever known as “Riot,” owned by Janice and Mark Curran of Titusville, New Jersey.

Dr. Somjen and dog Chill AKC Obedience Classic

Other clients competing with their Obedience Trial Champions: Kathleen Walker with “Drake”, OTCH Katwalk Extra Special UDX5 OM8 BN; Jan Curran with her other dog, OTCH Chiporego Bahama Breeze UDX OM2 OA AXJ XF; and Jennifer Evans with OTCH Edith UDX5 OM6 RAE2 CGCA.

Our client, Anne Scripko, competed in the Utility Division and placed fourth with Katwalk’s Don’T Blink UD BN RE AX AXJ XF

Placing first in their class were as follows:

Novice: GCH CH Rising Star’s Rhinestones and Spurs CD BN RN, a Border Collie known as “Dallas,” owned by Lara S. Avery of Somers, Connecticut.

Open: High Times Quiet Riot CDX PCD BN, a Golden Retriever known as “Riot,” owned by Janice and Mark Curran of Titusville, New Jersey.

Utility: Half Moon Irresistable Impulse UD RN, a Golden Retriever known as “Journey,” owned by Brenda Enders of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Masters: OTCH Topbrass The Greatest Show on Earth UDX8 OGM BN GN, a Golden Retriever known as “Circus,” owned by Annette Sizemore of Greer, South Carolina.

Congratulations to all the winners and competitors!

Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Posted in General Pets Veterinary Services on Dec 12, 2018 | no responses.

We are often asked by our clients why their cat is displaying various negative behaviors. These behaviors range from inappropriate scratching, aggression toward other pets or people, excessive shyness or hiding, and urinating or defecating outside the litter box.

Once any medical issues are ruled out, the negative behaviors can be turned to positive simply by enriching your cat’s environment.

Why is environmental enrichment necessary?

Cats are predatory by nature. Therefore, they exhibit territorial behavior and are easily under stimulated if the essential elements in their home environment don’t exist to prevent boredom while ensuring the cat’s security. When these needs are not met, undesirable behaviors develop.

When a cat does not expend energy on hunting, his/her pent up frustration and stress can easily be redirected into behaviors such as marking territory by scratching the furniture, exhibiting aggression, and litter box issues.

Other things such as variable schedules, decreased interactions with caregivers, and unexpected physical manipulations can result in anxiety and hiding behaviors.

Ways to enrich a cat’s environment

Proper environmental enrichment means making the cat’s home more physically, socially and temporally complex. This sounds hard, but it is actually easy to do. Here are some suggestions:

1. Make a variety of engaging toys available that can stimulate their hunting instinct through play. Rotate toys to prevent boredom. Offer structured play sessions with string toys and lasers – cats enjoy interaction with their human caregivers as much as other feline playmates.

Taurus Scorpio Xmas toy







2. Ideally, provide one litter box per cat plus one. Litter boxes should be placed in easily accessible locations away from food. Scoop daily – cats are fastidious and will shy away from dirty litter.

3. Scratching posts are essential. Sisal is highly recommended as a first choice. Pay attention to your cat’s preference for horizontal and vertical options and offer more than one type and material.

4. Tall, multi-tiered cat trees provide safe resting areas as well as scratching and play opportunities.

Social enrichment - sisal scratching post

Social enrichment – sisal scratching post










How to mitigate aggressive behavior

Cats often display aggressive behaviors as a result of feeling threatened. This anxiety and stress can be brought on by the presence of other pets in the home, (new or existing), the scent of other cats brought into the home, or overly excited play with children.

Therefore, it’s important to provide cats with plenty of hiding opportunities in the home where they can retreat and relax when feeling anxious. Cats will naturally gravitate to high shelves, tall furniture, pet hammocks or cat trees where they can perch above the ground and feel safe. Cardboard boxes and crinkle bags provide hiding places at ground level as well as play opportunities to reduce stress.

Cats resting on perch







A good guideline to follow is to have one resting space and hiding space per cat in each room the cat frequents.

Remember to always rule out medical issues first

Simply by understanding why your cat is displaying negative behavior is the first step in correcting the behavior.

Remember, underlying illness must always be ruled out first. Missing the litter box and misplaced aggression can be the result of several medical issues that must be diagnosed by your veterinarian. Never hesitate to contact your veterinarian to discuss your cat’s behavior issues.

Recommended Reading:

Kitty Litter Box 101

Some pet behaviors may be related to hidden illness

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Posted in General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Nov 09, 2018 | no responses.

The month of November is nationally recognized as American Diabetes Month, a month focused on raising awareness about diabetes in people. However, it’s important for pet parents to recognize that November is also National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month.

Both feline and canine diabetes are similar to the diabetic condition in humans. In fact, once diagnosed, your pets will be prescribed medication and using equipment and monitoring systems that are similar to those used by diabetic humans.

The diabetic condition is most likely brought on in our pets due to the growing prevalence of pet obesity (secondary to inactive lifestyle, a high carbohydrate diet, and lack of exercise).

Obese Dog

Obese Cat






While there’s no cure for diabetes, the proper veterinary care can help your pet live a happy, healthy and active life. The more you know about diabetes, the better you’ll be able to work with your veterinarian to successfully manage your pet’s health.

Signs and Symptoms

Regular wellness exams are important to establish baselines and note any changes in your pet’s weight and behavior. Be sure to report the following diabetic symptoms to your veterinarian so a proper diagnosis to the cause can be made.

  1. Lethargy, weakness or fatigue
  2. Excessive thirst
  3. Frequent urination
  4. Sudden weight loss
  5. Increased hunger

Signs of pet diabetes








Because cats use litter boxes, be aware that larger urine clumps means they are drinking more and that may be due to diabetes. Although symptoms of diabetes are similar in both dogs and cats, a cat’s symptoms are more subtle than a dog’s, and weight loss is harder to appreciate in cats. An 8 oz. or 1/2 lb. weight loss in your average 10 lb. cat equates to a 5% weight loss, and this is significant in a cat.

Cat drinking waterCat using litter box






Only your veterinarian can diagnose diabetes and provide appropriate preventive and management programs. And the earlier the diagnosis is made, the better. Why? When diabetes goes on undiagnosed, or when it becomes difficult to control or regulate, a life-threatening condition called diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA) can occur. DKA develops because the body is so lacking in insulin that the sugar can’t get into the cells which results in cell starvation. Cell starvation causes the body to start breaking down fat in an attempt to provide energy to the body. Unfortunately, these fat breakdown products, called “ketones,” are also poisonous to the body.

Diabetes PetCare Alliance






What happens when a pet is diagnosed with Diabetes?

If diabetes is caught early enough before the pet is Ketotic, there will be no need to hospitalize the pet, so again, early detection is important.

However, if the pet comes to us very sick and Ketotic, then yes, they may need 24 hour care for a few days. We may do a BG curve for a day in the beginning, and then again in a week and every few weeks until the pet is regulated, which may take 3 months.  Some cats can go into remission during the first 3-6 months with a diet change and good regulation. We now have blood glucose monitors that owners can use at home that helps with regulation and costs.

Managing your pet’s condition at home

It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations at home for diet and monitoring once your pet is diagnosed. The goal in managing diabetes is to keep glucose concentrations regulated, avoiding spikes and drops, and to reduce or eliminate the signs of diabetes, such as excessive thirst and urination. Although diabetes can’t be cured, the condition can be successfully managed with daily insulin injections and changes in diet and lifestyle.

During the holidays, some diabetic pets may be left at home with the pet sitter. It’s important that the pet sitter be made fully aware of the pet’s condition so he/she can be managed properly while you are away. Here is a link to a handy pet sitter checklist that you can download and use.

Since weight management is key to avoid diabetes and many other health risks, please refer back to our earlier newsletter, Why managing your pet’s weight is so important.

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital


Posted in Events General Pets News on Oct 26, 2018 | no responses.

Unfortunately, we must announce the cancellation of the 2018 HOWL-O-Ween Dog Parade and Costume Contest scheduled for Saturday, October 27, at the Ann Van Middleworth Dog Park in Hillsborough, New Jersey. With a nor’easter moving in and  heavy rain predicted, it’s just not possible for the event to take place as originally planned by Hillsborough Parks and Recreation, so they have made the decision to cancel.

Howl-O-Ween Parade






We are looking forward to next year, and in the meantime, everyone stay dry and have a safe Halloween. Remember to keep Halloween treats such as chocolate away from your pets, and keep pets indoors in their “safe place” while you answer the door to greet Trick-or-Treaters.

We look forward to next year’s event, and you can read about the 2017 HOWL-O-Ween Dog Parade and Costume Contest here: Howl-O-Ween at the Hillsborough Dog Park!

Happy Halloween!

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal  Hospital 

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Posted in Events General Pets News on Oct 13, 2018 | no responses.

With Halloween around the corner, it’s time to start making fun plans that include your dogs! Belle Mead Animal Hospital will be participating in two local events this year, and we invite you to join us!

Pet Masquerade Parade – October 20th

Animal Alliance of New Jersey has scheduled their 14th annual Pet Masquerade Parade on Saturday, October 20, 2018 in Lambertville, New Jersey from 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. (Rain Date Sunday, October 21). Belle Mead Animal Hospital is one of the proud sponsors of the event. The event will be staged at the Mary Sheridan Park on York Street. There is a $15 registration fee for each pet registered in the Pet Masquerade contest/parade with many different categories and chances to win!

Adoptable Dog Pet Masquerade Parade







Read about all the fun that was had last year:  Belle Mead Animal Hospital Sponsors Pet Masquerade Parade

We hope to see you there!

HOWL-O-Ween Dog Parade and Costume Contest – October 27th

Once again BMAH will host a vendor table at the annual HOWL-O-Ween Dog Parade and Costume Contest organized by Hillsborough Parks & Recreation.  The event will take place at the Ann Van Middleworth Dog Park on Saturday, October 27. You can attend and participate for free, and those in the parade can register starting at 8:30 a.m.  The parade will begin at 9 a.m. at the Pavilion. There will be prizes for category winners at end of the procession!







Read about last year’s event here: Howl-O-Ween at the Hillsborough Dog Park!

Again, we hope to see you there!

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital



Fear Free Certified Professional

Posted in General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Sep 15, 2018 | no responses.

There are many factors to be considered in assessing the nutritional needs of a dog or cat to ensure and promote optimal health.  Good nutrition that you can trust which targets the pet’s individual needs based on a professional Nutritional Assessment can really enhance a pet’s quality of life.

A Basic Nutritional Assessment screening should be performed when a veterinarian is initially evaluating a pet.  When visiting your vet for an annual wellness exam, please let him or her know anything and everything about your pet that you feel may be important for your pet’s overall quality of life.  This includes new or old behavioral issues, environmental or social changes and especially diet choices.

Dr. Heather Simon, VMD, examines Pudgie

Dr. Heather Simon, VMD, examines Pudgie

The basic nutritional evaluation includes a routine history followed by a 12 system yearly physical examination performed by a veterinarian. Another important part of the visit is you and your veterinarian reviewing out loud your pet’s previous medical records. This may or may not include your pet’s previous diagnostic baselines like blood work, urines, etc.

You should be asked to discuss current diets, activity level, and other important factors. During every patient exam your veterinarian is recording and adding vital assessment information like temperature, pulse, respiration, and pain assessment to your pet’s medical record.  Nutrition is the 5th Vital Assessment!

An Extended Nutritional Evaluation is done by your veterinarian when one or more nutrition-related risk factors are found.  Some risk factors that affect nutrition assessment are age, activity level, muscle condition, medications, supplements, and disease conditions. Some of the really common genetic acquired disease conditions that veterinarians diagnose daily are: dental disease (number one) followed by kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, acid reflux, high triglycerides and cholesterol issues, urinary tract infections and bladder stones, to name a few.

Hospital Forms

Our pets age at a much faster rate than we people do, and they unfortunately inherit many preprogrammed genetic problems silently and suddenly all of the time.  You and your veterinarian are your pet’s best advocate.  Early diagnosis coupled with a proactive, preventative state of mind is the best medicine for pets who can’t talk.

Bentley dog patient BMAHThere is a common saying in veterinary medicine: If you don’t look you will not find until it’s too late sometimes. Therefore, it is important to remember that pets suffer silently without loving and well-intentioned owners even knowing until veterinary driven evaluations and conversations uncover potential or under-the-radar problems.

Routine annual and baseline testing can include complete blood counts (CBC), biochemistry panels, urinalysis, Heartworm, Lyme, feline Leukemia, and other tests. Hopefully, all results are in normal ranges. However, if abnormal results are identified early, then maximum health and quality of life can be preserved.  Great nutrition is the most natural way to healing a patient from the inside out.

Many pets, especially those with increased risk factors, could greatly benefit from a therapeutic diet that targets specific disease or illness. Please ask your veterinarian to make a specific nutritional recommendation for your individual pet.  They can guide you better than television commercials or the Internet. Your pet’s individual medical information is a vital part of properly assessing the best nutrition for you pet.

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Posted in Events General Pets News on Aug 06, 2018 | no responses.

For those of you with a big interest in herpetology (the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians and reptiles), come to the 2018 Somerset County 4-H Fair!  Dr. Jessica Stephens will be judging numerous snakes, lizards and a few amphibians and frogs showcased in the Herpetology Club tent on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Judging takes place in the afternoon from approximately 3:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Somerset County 4-H Herpetology Club





Pets in the Herpetology Club include: bearded dragons, blue-tongued skink, California king snake, Russian tortoise, frogs, Western painted turtle, Eastern painted turtle, leopard geckos, snapping turtle, checkered garter snake, crested Gecko, and corn snake.

4-H Herpetology Reptile TWO

4-H Herpetology Snake





Throughout the year, Herpetology Club members are encouraged to learn about their pets so they can keep them healthy and help educate others about what they have learned. The annual Somerset County 4-H Fair gives club members a venue to showcase their pets and win awards.

4-H Herpetology Reptile







Awards include Best in Show, Best Reserve in Show, and ribbons for each category, typically the four herpetology animal groups (snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises, and amphibians). However, if there are a large number of pets one category, such as bearded dragons, that may can count as a separate category all its own.

The annual Somerset County 4-H Fair is organized by the Somerset County 4-H Association. The 2018 event takes place in North Branch Park in Bridgewater August 8-10. This year’s Fair Theme is: Unleash Your Passion (in 4-H)!   Find more details here:

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Certified Fear Free Professional  – Our Mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them.

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital