As veterinary professionals, it is part of our job to report any animal bite in a person / client at our practice to the local health department where the person resides because of the risk of rabies. The Somerset County Department of Health (SCDOH) has developed a comprehensive Record of Animal Bite Form that we have been notified to use in accordance with New Jersey Revised Statutes (N.J.R.S.) 26:4-78 through 95.
As per their notification, the purpose of this form is to obtain all pertinent information regarding the animal bite in order to initiate a rabies control investigation in an expedient manner. The above referenced statutes address rabies control and mandate that all bites and exposures to humans and animals be reported to the local department of health, which serves as the lead agency for rabies control activities.
Rabies is a viral infection of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) that can affect all warm-blooded animals. The virus is excreted in the saliva of an infected animal (usually a raccoon, fox, skunk, groundhog, dog or cat) and is transmitted by a bite or by contamination of open (i.e., bleeding within the past 24 hours) wounds or mucous membranes with saliva or central nervous system tissue (brain and spinal cord) from an infected animal. Rabies in humans can be prevented by the administration of rabies immune serum and vaccine after a bite or exposure from a known or suspect rabid animal has occurred. Once signs and symptoms of illness appear (usually 2-12 weeks following the bite), there is no cure or treatment for the disease.
The SCDOH suggests these procedures to follow should an animal bite occur:
1. Wash animal bite wounds thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible after the bite. Contamination of open cuts or scratches with saliva of potentially rabid animals should also be washed off immediately.
2. If bitten by an owned animal, obtain the owner’s address and telephone number. In case of bites from wild or stray animals, if it can be done safely, try to capture the animal so that it can be observed or tested for rabies. Call your local animal control officer for assistance.
3. Consult a physician as soon as possible.
Furthermore, the SCDOH advises that biting dogs and cats should be confined for rabies observation by the local department of health for a period of 10 days following the bite. If a dog or cat had rabies virus in its saliva at the time of the bite, it will become very ill with rabies within a few days and can be sacrificed and tested to verify the presence of the disease. Dogs and cats showing signs of rabies at the time of the bite may be sacrificed and tested immediately. Other domestic animals, i.e., horses, cattle, goats, etc. may be confined for observation for 10 days if they are healthy at the time of the bite.
Signs of rabies in animals include loss of appetite, fever, restlessness, irritability, progressing to either frank aggressiveness and/or paralysis and difficulty walking, unusual crying or howling, drooling of saliva, and eventually seizures, coma, and death. The progression of the disease is rapid, with domestic animals usually dying within one to five days of onset of illness. At the first signs of any such illness in an animal confined for rabies observation, the local health department should be notified at once.
There is no safe rabies observation period for wild animals. Raccoons, skunks and foxes may have the virus in their saliva for a week or longer before showing signs of illness. If any of these animals are seen acting unusually, showing signs of aggression, and out during daylight hours, they should be considered as potentially rabid. Stay away from these animals and do not let pet dogs, cats, or other animals come in contact with them. Report to the local department of health any bites or exposures from these animals to your pets, livestock, or yourself.
Please direct all questions and/or concerns to the SCDOH at 908-231-7155. You can also find more information about their services on their website.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
As we approach a year and a half into the pandemic, we want to thank all of our clients for their continued understanding as we all navigate this world together! We are writing this letter to update everyone on how the clinic is functioning and to explain some of the changes you may have experienced over the past year.
We know the first question on everyone’s mind is when we will be allowing clients back into the clinic. Right now, we are continuing our curbside service for the foreseeable future. On a case-by-case basis at the doctor’s discretion, we will be allowing ONE person to accompany a pet into the exam room, but you will still be waiting in your car both before and after the appointment. Our waiting room will continue to be closed at this time. We will of course continue to do some exams outside and allow you to be present for euthanasia – a policy we have had in place for the entire pandemic. We will also ask that you be masked while you are inside the clinic and interacting with staff, and especially during any time social distancing cannot be adhered to. Please note that if you are going to ask to accompany your pet inside, you will not be able to bring additional family members with you.
As many of you have noticed, our phone lines are extremely busy. We once again ask that if you are calling to update a doctor, request an appointment, to refill food or medications, or for curbside service – please pay attention to the phone prompts. These prompts will direct you to specific phones and personnel in the hospital, and they may not be able to assist you with your issue if the correct prompt is not chosen.
In addition, we ask that you refrain from repeated calls to the hospital – if you left a message for us, unless this is an emergency, we would ask that you give us 24 hours to return your call. Multiple phone calls mean that multiple staff members may be working on the same issue, which prevents them from assisting with anything else. If you have not heard from us within 24 hours then please call again – or you can also consider emailing the clinic at email@example.com and we can always assist you that way.
Our pharmacy line has similarly been inundated with calls and messages, so we are extending our refill time from 24-48 hours – please check your medication levels and plan accordingly for refills. For special order medications that need to be shipped, please plan for at least 2 weeks to fill these medications. We also have an online pharmacy available through our website that you can have medications as well as prescription food mailed directly to your house, and clients can also request refills of medications using our app or the online portal on our website.
THE EMAIL ALTERNATIVE
The clinic email is also a wonderful way that you can send us pictures of things that concern you – small lumps or incisions or videos of behavior you have questions about! These emails help us correctly triage what needs to be seen versus what can wait – and as you have noted, we are booking out weeks in advance for both wellness and technician appointments.
We appreciate your understanding and encourage you to plan on booking wellness visits out as far as possible to ensure your pets can get their vaccines. For sick or injured pets, we have reserved appointments available each day, but we also have drop off appointments available where your pet can be dropped off earlier in the day at your convenience and the doctor that is on surgery that day will evaluate your pet in between their surgeries. This does mean that your pet will likely be spending the day with us, but will be walked, fed, watered and medicated as needed. That being said, there is more demand than there are available appointments, and there are times that we will have to refer you to a local emergency clinic to be seen if our doctors are simply not able to fit another appointment in.
We try to accommodate as many appointments as possible, but all clinics are feeling the strain of an increased number of appointments – we have had local emergency clinics close to incoming emergencies or have 6-8 hour waits on the weekends. These situations are unavoidable and are happening everywhere across the country – we understand that this is a stressful time for everyone, including owners of sick pets. We are doing our best to see what we can during our open hours – and will continue to see same day emergencies, drop offs, and sick appointments when our doctors have the availability. On the weekends when we are not available, there is a chance that local emergency clinics may ask for stable emergencies like ear infections or allergies to wait and see us during the week if they are overwhelmed with serious emergencies. Similarly, during the week we may ask ill but stable pets to wait until openings are available later in the week or utilize the drop off appointments if available.
GOOD NEWS ON THE HORIZON
To ease some of the burden of scheduling appointments, we are very excited to announce that starting in mid-June we will be welcoming Dr. Rita Blanco, a new veterinarian, to the practice! Dr. Blanco has graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and is very interested in internal medicine and is also excited to learn about exotics! A native of New Jersey, she has one horse, 2 cats and 4 goldfish. We know you will all love her, and she is excited to get started seeing appointments!
Is your dog tired or achy after a walk? Is your cat eating less than usual? These seemingly minor changes may indicate your pet has a tick-related disease, and you may not even realize it.
Ticks are tricky. Even when you check your pet for ticks they can be tough to ﬁnd because they’re small and hide well in dark fur. But it’s crucial to ﬁnd ticks and remove them quickly. Why?
Some ticks carry bacteria referred to as a spirochete that cause disease such as Lyme disease, but there are many others. And it just takes one undetected tick bite for your pet to become infected. Not all pets show classical symptoms in 4-8 weeks. Some pets might not show any symptoms for months to years. If undiagnosed and untreated your pet can become very sick and eventually develop kidney damage. At times, these diseases can be fatal.
Starting in early spring, check for ticks on your dog’s body immediately after every outdoor walk. Ticks can hide between your pet’s toes, the underside of the toes, in the ear flaps and around the tail base. Use a magnifying glass to determine whether or not you are looking at a tick – a bump with “legs” is most likely a tick. The goal is to remove ticks as soon as possible within the first 24 hours before disease-causing bacteria is transmitted by the tick bite to your pet.
What if you do find a tick on your pet? Make sure you wear gloves and ideally use a tick-removing tool. It’s a must that the tick be removed correctly to avoid inadvertently spreading infection by crushing the tick in bare hands or mishandling.
Follow these tips suggested by the AVMA:
- Remove ticks by carefully using tweezers to firmly grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible and gently and steadily pulling the tick free without twisting it or crushing the tick during removal.
- Do not attempt to smother the tick with alcohol or petroleum jelly, or apply a hot match to it. This may cause the tick to regurgitate saliva into the wound and increase the risk of disease if the tick is infected.
- Crushing, twisting or jerking the tick out of the skin while its head is still buried could result in leaving the tick’s mouth parts in your pet’s skin; this can cause a reaction and may become infected.
- After removing the tick, crush it in a napkin or tissue to avoid contact with tick fluids that can carry disease. You can safely flush the tick down the toilet.
It’s a good idea to disinfect your dog’s skin with soapy water or diluted povidone iodine (Betadine) after removing the tick. Monitor the area for the next few days, and if you notice any irritation or inflammation of the skin, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Your veterinarian may suggest having your dog tested for tick-borne diseases about three to four weeks after removing a tick. If you choose not to have the blood test, then it’s important to watch your dog closely for several months for any signs of loss of appetite, lethargy, changes in gait, fever and intermittent limping. These are all symptoms of potential tick-borne diseases, but again, early detection is critical. By the time you notice these symptoms, disease has already set in, however, so please consider testing at your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Checking your dog externally for ticks and having his blood checked annually by your veterinarian for tick diseases like Lyme, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia is a good way to help your pet stay healthy. When detected and treated early, tick-related diseases can be cured.
The best way to prevent dogs from devastating tick diseases in dogs is to use a safe monthly preventative all year long. Ask your vet what would be best for your pet. Whatever you do, don’t pay to spray your yards against flea and ticks. It is not good for your pets.
If you suspect a tick-borne disease, call your veterinarian to set up a thorough exam. Your vet will also check for hidden ticks along the way. We’ll also talk about how to keep your pet tick-free and determine if a simple tick-borne disease-screening test is needed.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
The BMAH Pet Pain Clinic offers non-invasive Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT, or shockwave) for pets with certain conditions. Shockwave is a non-invasive treatment that uses pressure waves to treat various areas that are painful and stimulate a natural healing response.
Shockwave treatment is helpful for many conditions including:
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
- Bone Fractures
- Scar Tissue
- Degenerative joint disease
- Tendonitis and Ligament injuries
- Chronic or non-healing wounds.
- Myofascial trigger points
- Areas of chronic muscular pain or strains
- Chronic back pain
Many people are familiar with other more high-powered shockwave treatments that include breaking up kidney stones. Our unit is a PiezoWave unit is less energy than this traditional units, and this enables us to deliver focused shockwave energy to your pet. Our machine is also much quieter and less painful than traditional shockwave treatments of the past. In fact, our animals don’t even require sedation for their treatments!
Shockwave is thought to work by creating small microtraumas to the tissues being treated, and this encourages the body to heal itself by encouraging new blood supply, thereby increasing blood supply to the area; this brings new nutrients and helps take waste products away from the area. This also stimulates the body to repair itself and can also blocks some of the pain pathways.
Shockwave treatment takes between 5-10 minutes depending on how many areas are being treated. We use a water-soluble gel to enable us to conduct the shockwaves through the fur.
Shock wave therapy is an outpatient procedure. A probe is placed on the skin after a gel is applied to help conduct the shock waves. High- or low-energy waves may be used. High-energy waves may cause pain and require a local or regional anesthetic. Low-energy shock wave therapy often is performed without anesthesia. Therapy is more successful with active patient participation where the patient tells the therapist whether or not the probe is at the area of pain. One or more treatment sessions may be needed.
Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Continuing with our series about guinea pig care, perhaps now you are a proud owner of one or more of these little cavies. Here are some things you should know about maintaining your guinea pig’s health and well-being:
Always seek veterinary care if you suspect your pigs are ill. If your guinea pig is losing weight for no known reason, do not delay contacting your veterinarian, as they hide their illnesses sometimes until it’s far too late to cure.
Other common signs of disease besides weight loss are lethargy, sneezing, coughing, diarrhea, hair loss and itching.
Regular dental exams are extremely important. Guinea pigs are born with one set of teeth that consist of front incisors and back molars. They have no middle teeth. It’s very common that they are brought to a veterinarian appointment starving because their back molars are overgrown and have strangled their tongue. Their molar points also could be hurting or lacerating their tongue. They can no longer eat comfortably in this condition. In most cases, the owner is not even aware that this is happening and that their pet is suffering.
Also, guinea pigs can develop a condition known as “bumble foot” (ulcerative pododermatitis) which present as open sores on the bottom of their hocks. This is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction that can occur especially if they are inactive or become overweight and spend too much time in wire and mesh cages. A veterinary call is in order if this condition develops, as antibiotics may be necessary to clear the infection. To avoid this condition, it is important to keep the cage clean to combat bacterial buildup. This can be achieved by adding a layer of cardboard or old clothing on the cage floor and changing this layer a few times a week.
Another condition to watch out for with your pet guinea pig is overgrown toenails. This can be quite painful if the nails grow into their pads. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to safely clip their nails, or bring your pet into the hospital so that one of the technicians can trim their nails on a regular basis.
Lice and mites can appear suddenly as balding, scabbing, itchy lesions on guinea pigs. It’s important to note that lice and mites are not contagious to people and are easily treatable. However, this causes a lot of discomfort for your pet, and your guinea pig should be examined and treated by a veterinarian. Mite infestations are usually more severe than lice. A vet can diagnose a mite infestation by performing skin scrapings of affected areas and viewing them under the microscope. Lice infestation can be detected in a similar manner by inspecting the hair. A treatment plan will be determined by your veterinarian.
Guinea pigs don’t need vaccinations like dogs, cats and people, but they do need to go to the veterinarian once or twice a year to check their weight, heart, and back molars.
If you are unable to regularly provide vitamin C through fruits and vegetables, then you may need to supplement vitamin C by adding it to their water. However, get your cavy used to it by adding tiny amounts of vitamin C to their water slowly over a few days. Some cavies might not drink vitamin C readily in their water unless you introduce it slowly. Vitamin C in pellets and commercial foods don’t last long and they may not provide enough of the daily nutrient. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by air, light and heat
We don’t advise using a multi-vitamin but rather a vitamin C supplement that can be administered with water with the recommended dose of 50 mg Vitamin C to 8 oz. drinking water daily.
Visit our Learning Center to source more information about Guinea pig care. Also feel free to call our office with questions and to schedule a wellness exam for pet.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Heart disease is the silent killer of cats. One in six cats can be born with and develop heart disease in their lifetime. There are no outward symptoms, but now there is a blood test called a proBNP test that can detect heart disease earlier.
Every cat owner needs to know that the most common age of heart disease in cats is any age. All cats from the really young to the really old can suddenly be affected. What is a cat owner to do?
Yearly veterinarian exams are crucial for your cat.
The most important thing you can do is take your cat to the veterinarian at least once a year so he or she can listen to your cat’s heart. What we are listening for is a heart murmur and/or an arrhythmia. A baseline proBNP blood test should also be considered.
Yearly exams to check a cat’s heart are crucial because the earlier heart disease is detected, the greater the possibility that the cat will have a positive response to treatment.
How can the proBNP test help?
This new exciting blood test called a proBNP test may be lifesaving! The proBNP test has been used in humans for years, and we also can use it for dogs. However, cats especially benefit from this great, inexpensive screening test.
The proBNP test measures stretching of the heart due to disease on a microcellular level. It is a simple blood test that most veterinarians can now perform. With it we can establish a baseline of the condition of the cat’s heart without the added expense of performing an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound).
The test is also useful if we have a young cat whose brother, sister or mother had heart disease, because we can test for a genetic predisposition inexpensively.
The proBNP test is also useful as a pre-surgical test. There are 10-15% of cats that develop heart disease without presenting an arrhythmia or heart murmur. We use the proBNP test in our practice because it gives us added assurance that your cat’s heart can handle anesthesia or surgery.
What about indoor cats?
There is a fallacy even among veteran, self-proclaimed cat people that indoor, young adult cats can take care of themselves and don’t need annual wellness preventative exams. This could not be farther from the truth, especially when it comes to felines.
Cats are the masters at hiding disease from their loving owners. Cats silently suffer from many types of genetic diseases that will develop whether they are indoor or outdoor cats.
Indoor cats do live an average of 6-9 years longer than indoor/outdoor cats if they have a good heart. However, heart disease symptoms won’t present until your pet is very sick. At that point, your cat may not respond to medications.
What are the symptoms of heart disease in cats?
The most common symptom in cats with heart disease is again, NO early symptoms. This is where cats differ from dogs. A dog who has heart disease will display obvious symptoms as early as 6 months to 3 years in advance before overt heart failure. The initial symptoms in dogs could be signs like coughing, lethargy, or panting.
The most common outcome of undetected heart disease in cats is sudden respiratory distress and sudden death. This end stage of heart disease is often a chest full of fluid that restricts their lungs from expanding. Owners are shocked and devastated because their cats were seemingly normal until just that day or the night before.
A veterinarian can detect an arrhythmia or a heart murmur up to a year or so in advance by listening to your cat’s heart. Your veterinarian has an 85-90% chance of finding hopefully early heart disease in your cat with his/her stethoscope. The other 10-15% that may have been missed in the past can now be detected with a simple proBNP baseline blood test screen.
What is the treatment plan for heart disease?
Once we diagnose a specific heart disease by an ultrasound, the treatment may be heart medication in liquid or pill form. Sometimes we can even use a form of transdermal medication. This is a cream that you would put on the cat’s ear once a day. Senior pet owners and those with cats who are difficult to medicate really appreciate this.
These medications will enable your cat’s heart to work more efficiently so they can have a better quality of life inexpensively. Medication can help prevent sudden heart failure, respiratory distress and sudden death.
Please contact our office if you have further questions or would like to schedule an appointment.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Studies have shown that cats are seen by veterinarians on average far less frequently than dogs. And why is this? There can be many reasons, but one reason important to note may be that cats are so good at hiding pain.
Often times, an owner is waiting for symptoms before bringing them in for an annual wellness exam. The pet owner simply does not realize their cat needs medical care until medical conditions have reached critical stages. It’s important for cat owners to understand that a veterinarian listening to the kitty’s heart and skillfully feeling their kidneys and intestines annually can save their pet’s life.
Another reason may be that kitty does not want to leave home, and the mere sight of a cat carrier can be cause for alarm. You find your cat suddenly disappears, hides under the bed or in a closet, or cowers in a corner behind a piece of furniture the moment they see the carrier come out or even sense a change is about to occur.
If this is the case, here are some simple tips on how to ease your feline’s stress and make the trip to the veterinarian more pleasant:
1) Start with a carrier that has hard sides and opens from both the top and front. An easily removable top allows a fearful cat or one that is ill and in pain to stay on the bottom half of the carrier if necessary.
2) Take the carrier out at least a day (or more) ahead of the planned trip. Place it in an area where the cat is normally comfortable and at rest. Give your cat time to explore the carrier on its own, and reward your cat with a treat if you find it sitting near the carrier or even inside it. If possible, consider leaving the carrier out all the time, so the carrier becomes a fixture in your cat’s environment is not associated only with trips.
3) Place soft, familiar bedding inside the carrier. Add treats, catnip or toys to entice your cat to go inside, explore and even play.
4) Try a stress reducer such as Feliway. This product sold as a spray or diffuser is actually a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone. This pheromone is used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. By simply spraying Feliway on a towel or bedding and placing it inside the cat carrier at least 30 minutes before you plan to leave your home, you are creating a state of familiarity and security within the carrier. The cat feels a sense of comfort once inside and can more easily cope with what seems a challenging situation.
5) Stay calm yourself. Cats can sense their owner’s anxiety. In turn, they become more fearful and anxious. Don’t panic if your cat expresses fear or aggression. Be patient but persistent in placing your cat into the carrier and reward your kitty for positive behavior.
Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have further questions or need advice.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Cooperative Care is wonderful for animals that are afraid of veterinary procedures by giving them the ability to indicate they are not comfortable and would like you to stop what you are doing.
Cooperative Care involves training an animal to not only tolerate handling and husbandry procedures, but to be an active, willing participant in these experiences. A vital foundation in Cooperative Care is teaching a duration target behavior.
Research has shown that teaching an animal that they can have some control in situations that cause them anxiety can actually reduce their stress and fear while also increasing their confidence and tolerance for handling during veterinary exams or procedures, grooming, or handling they might otherwise find unpleasant.
Cooperative Care has proven successful for a variety of animals, from dogs, horses and birds to large zoo animals such as lions and hippos.
Case Study: Meet Laima!
Laima is an Australian Shepherd that has a history of being very anxious at veterinary hospitals. Luckily, she is owned by a dog trainer that was willing to explore Cooperative Care with Laima.
Cooperative Care teaches Laima that she can let us know if she is ready and willing to have her exam, and in this case, her blood drawn. She does so by giving her owner a chin rest (resting her chin in her owner’s hand). Laima did very well during her first visit with Dr. Somjen!
Cooperative Care and Fear Free Exams
The beauty of Cooperative Care is that is goes hand-in-hand with the Fear Free pet experience at the veterinary hospital. The BMAH Team is staffed with Fear Free Professionals who believe and understand that our pets are, in fact, sentient beings.
It’s important to understand that our pets are able to feel or sense situations and circumstances surrounding them in either a positive or negative way. Through their behavior they demonstrate awareness of their surroundings and responsiveness to environmental stimuli. Our animals see, hear, and smell – they communicate with us not only vocally but specifically by their behavior.
If you are interested in exploring Cooperative Care with your pets to enhance their Fear Free experience, contact us to learn more.
Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM CCRP cVMA
We wish to thank everyone who voted for Belle Mead Animal Hospital once again in the annual Courier News Best Contest! Your confidence in our Belle Mead Animal Hospital Team is sincerely appreciated. We will continue to treat every pet that comes through our doors as if they were our very own. Thank you for letting us serve you and your family.
Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors
The October 31st Halloween holiday got off to a fun start with the morning HOWL-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest and Parade at the Dog Park at Ann Van Middlesworth Park in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Even with the chilly weather, a record number of dogs participated.
The local Girl Scouts acted as judges for costume categories Best Large Dog costume (Harley the UPS Driver), Best Small Dog costume (Bronson) and Best Group costume (The Wizard of Oz).
Belle Mead Animal Hospital participated with a table of treats and information. BMAH was one of three local businesses who donated a Gift Basket for one of the lucky costume winners.
Participant check-in began at 8:30 a.m. by the Pavilion, and the Dog Costume Parade started at 9:00 a.m. with Mayor Doug Tomson kicking off the parade.
Once again, the costumes this year were extremely creative. Dogs of all sizes masqueraded as lions, witches, unicorns, bats, bumblebees, and angels, to name a few! Hillsborough Police participated in the parade with K9 Freddie as well as Committeeman Frank Delcore with his costumed dog!
Thanks to Hillsborough Department of Parks and Recreation for organizing another successful event. All the dog participants were dressed to impress, and even if not awarded the best in their category, they were still winners in our opinion for showing up and showing off! A Howling good time was had by all.
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. Visit Fear Free Happy Homes here and join at no cost!