Posted in General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on May 15, 2019 | no responses.

Cats can suffer from respiratory distress the same as humans. A pet diagnosed with asthma is actually suffering from a recurring respiratory compromise that constricts the lung’s airways, making it difficult for your pet to breath.

What signs do I look for?

Notice how your cat is breathing, whether at rest or at play. Cats suffering from feline asthma will display labored breathing and/or rapid breathing. Listen for any sounds of wheezing. If your cat is hard at play and begins open mouthed panting, this is a signal that a trip to your veterinarian is in order.

Notice your cat's breathing while at rest or at play

Notice your cat’s breathing while at rest or at play.









Some cats actually cough. Do not confuse coughing due to lung inflammation with the idea your cat is trying to spit up a hair ball. If your cat begins coughing, but spits up nothing or only spits up mucus, this is a sign that lung inflammation may be present.

Asthma will leave a cat with a pronounced lack of energy and weaken their whole body. Not all cats will display all symptoms at the same time, so it’s important to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian so a proper diagnosis and treatment plan can be established. As with humans, feline asthmatic attacks can be life threatening.

How asthma affects the body

Asthma is a progressive disease. First, excess mucus forms in the lungs. Next, the airway walls swell with inflammation and can actually ulcerate. The airway muscles will eventually go into spasm, which leads to constriction.

Asthmatic airway constriction can happen spontaneously or as a type of allergic reaction. Therefore, relieving and preventing airway constriction can be life saving for your pet.

Consult your veterinarian promptly for a proper diagnosis

Once symptoms present, it is important to contact your vet who will examine your pet and order a chest x-ray and blood work. Your veterinarian might also want to run some easy parasite screening tests.

Once asthma is diagnosed, your veterinarian can prescribe medication and discuss with you how you can manage your cat’s condition.

Flovent puffer

Flovent Metered puffer







Causes of feline asthma

Feline asthma can result due to an allergic reaction that occurs when a cat breathes in any substance that stimulates their immune system. Irritants include pollen, mold, dust, and cigarette smoke. Asthma can even be a result of ingesting foods to which the cat is allergic.

Your veterinarian can help determine if other health problems are playing a role, such as heart problems, obesity, or infection with parasites. Stress can also induce asthma attacks in felines.

You can manage feline asthma at home

There is no cure for feline asthma, but there are ways to manage the condition. Your cat will require daily medication to keep the lung airways open. The easiest way to administer medication to your cat is by use of a Corticosteroid inhaler such as Flovent.

There is actually a device called the AeroKat Feline Aerosol Chamber designed to be used with the Flovent metered dose inhaler (puffer) in order to deliver the medication to your cat.

Aerokat Chamber and puffer

Aerokat Chamber and Flovent puffer









When the AeroKat chamber is attached to the puffer, it allows your cat to breathe normally and inhale the aerosol medication deep into your cat’s lungs.

Your cat may be resistant at first, but your veterinarian or technician can show you how to calmly approach your pet.  Take it slow, and once your cat starts receiving the medication and begins to feel better, your cat will actually allow you to administer treatments daily without cause for alarm.

cat and pufferCat gets used to flovent




Administering flovent with the AeroKat Chamber

Administering flovent with the AeroKat Chamber

Read more about the AeroKat Feline Aerosol Chamber and view additional photos on the AeroKat website.

Feel free to call our office if you have further questions or notice symptoms in your cat.  We are here to help.

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 Services on Apr 15, 2019 | no responses.

We all know how pets can enhance our lives and bring more love and joy into any home. However, even the most docile dog or cat can bring tears to a small child’s eyes if the interaction is not supervised and managed correctly. It’s crucial that children learn how to properly approach a new puppy, kitten or older dog or cat.








So before you bring a new pet into your home, it’s important to prepare your kids, your home and yourself to make sure your household remains happy and stress-free.

Here is some advice:

1. Supervise interaction between pets and children

It’s not wise to leave babies or small children alone with a new pet. Kittens and even older cats can play rough. Scratching and biting during play is how they interacted with their kitten siblings, and they will tend to do the same with a young child who extends their hand unknowingly.

Puppies need time to grow, develop and learn good behavior through positive training techniques. Children need to be instructed on how to properly approach a dog, read its body language, and pet the dog appropriately.

Child learns to pet a dog







As a general guideline, most young children under 5 years old should not be left alone with a new pet. Older children need to prove they know how to be gentle and follow the petting and play rules before left alone with the pet.

2. The pet needs time to adjust too

Introducing a pet to its new surroundings and allowing it to feel secure and comfortable may take a little time. The excitement the children display over the new pet might cause the animal stress.

Kittens and older cats might hide in a closet or under the bed at first. This is normal for that pet, so don’t be alarmed. Let the pet adjust, and ask the children to cooperate by leaving it alone until it comes around on its own.

Henry and Lion the kitten






Puppies are different. They require lots of stimulation and new sights and sounds to mature properly. Be sure to supervise all interactions with a new puppy so neither the dog or child gets hurt. Older dogs may need additional training, so take it slow with the children until you understand the character of the dog and how it reacts to people, young and old.

Baby Henry and dogs







3. Let the kids pitch in to help

If the child is old enough, it’s not a bad idea to assign some pet care activities such as replenishing the water bowl or changing the pet’s bedding. Help your child become part of the experience and learn responsibility in properly caring for the pet.

Leave the litter box cleaning and poop scooping to adults, however. Animal feces sometimes have intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. It’s important to wash hands thoroughly, and young children may be more careless.

4. Both pets and kids need rules to live by

Before you bring your new pet home, have a clear idea of where the animal is permitted to eat, sleep and play. Cats love to jump on counters and climb curtains. Puppies will want to explore all areas of the home and find lots of household or clothing items to chew. It’s important to supervise young pets and learn their behavior patterns and compensate with toys, scratching posts and proper sleeping areas if you don’t want your favorite couch or shoes ruined.

Cats on scratching post







Children need to be taught when to approach a pet and when to leave it alone. A sleeping canine is best left sleeping rather than aroused suddenly by an excited child who might actually frighten the pet and cause it to react aggressively. Teach children to ask permission to interact with the pet, and assist them with them play activities.

5. Pets are life-long commitments

Many pets land right back in shelters where they came from because the new family was not able to integrate the pet into their lifestyle. Do your research beforehand. Let your veterinarian or shelter personnel help you determine the best breed and age of animal to introduce into your home.

If you do experience issues, consult your veterinarian and explain the problems. So often minor adjustments can be made in the home regarding the animal that solve the issue without ever giving the animal back to the shelter or another home. A pet’s first wellness visit will even determine if there is any underlying medical issue that needs addressed that can cause behavioral issues.

Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM with kitten







Spend some time helping your children learn about the pet. Offer them books and other reading material that you can read together and discuss.

Many local 4-H groups exist that parents and children can take part in to help them learn more about pet care and even demonstrate their ability at local fairs and activity centers.
Let the new pet become a true member of your family that you will enjoy sharing experiences with for years to come.

Recommended Reading:
Dr. Joe Martins addresses local Cub Scouts on Pet Safety
It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week
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 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