At Belle Mead Animal Hospital we understand that considering procedures that involve anesthesia can be intimidating. Anesthesia does involve some risk in animals, just as it does in humans. There is no way to completely remove all risk when doing anesthesia. Therefore, a pet owner’s concerns are certainly warranted. You are putting a great deal of faith and trust in your veterinarian’s office when scheduling your pet for an anesthetic procedure.
It is important to keep in mind that there are no state regulations or nationwide standards for anesthetic drugs or procedures in veterinary medicine. Not all individuals are the same, and not all drugs are created equal. If our primary goal was to do things as quick and as cheap as possible we could use a standard inexpensive protocol for every animal. This type of medicine would also not involve thorough anesthetic monitoring and adequate monitoring after the procedure. Please keep these things points in mind when comparing prices from various hospitals. At Belle Mead Animal Hospital, our primary goal is to make things as safe as possible for each individual patient. We believe that each individual pet should be treated as a member of your family. This does require more work on our part. But we believe it is what each patient deserves.
Important points to make sure your pet’s anesthesia are as safe as possible:
1) Proper case selection: Make sure an adequate exam is done prior to scheduling a procedure. Preanesthetic blood work is also critical prior to most procedures. At BMAH we do not use a “one size fits all” protocol. This physical exam and the blood work results will help your doctor determine which protocols and drugs are best for your pet. At BMAH we try to use a multi-drug approach so that the smallest amounts of each drug can be used. This allows for quick induction, smooth recovery, and less risk of side effects from each particular drug.
2) Intravenous Access: An intravenous catheter is placed in your pet’s vein where fluids can be administered. This catheter is critical should any of your pet’s vitals change during the procedure. The fluids help maintain hydration and blood pressure during the procedure.
3) Proper Monitoring Equipment: The first and BEST way to monitor our patient is assigning a skilled veterinary technician dedicated to each surgery patient. In addition to a proper technician monitoring your pet, who will be documenting your pet’s vitals every few minutes, there are some parameters that we continuouslymonitor with proper equipment – Continuous ECG (electrocardiogram), heart rate, blood pressure, core body temperature, SPO2 (oxygen level in the blood) and ETCO2 (end tidal carbon dioxide concentration). Proper heat is important for all patients under anesthesia. There are many ways to do this; some are safer and more effective than others. At BMAH our surgery table is heated, and we use a bear-hugger which is a warm air circulating blanket that is cocooned around your pet to keep him/her warm.
4) Trained Individual Monitoring: As mentioned above, a trained individual is extremely important for monitoring the patient under anesthesia. But it is also imperative that this individual stays with the animal and makes sure that they safely and smoothly recover from anesthesia.
When trying to decide if anesthesia is right for your pet and where you should bring your pet, please keep all these things in mind. At Belle Mead Animal Hospital we want anesthesia to be as safe as possible for your pet. Pets deserve to be protected like humans. We also want you to understand all of the things that help us do this. Please do not hesitate to make an appointment to discuss this with your veterinarian if you have any questions.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
From June 30 to July 1, 2018, some of the best-behaved and most highly-trained dogs in the nation will meet at The Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio, with the goal of becoming the next National Obedience Champion at the prestigious American Kennel Club® National Obedience Championship. Our own Dr. Kim Somjen with her dog Chill will be among the contenders!
Dr. Somjen and Chill will compete against the top obedience dogs in the country who were invited based on the number of Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) points earned throughout the year or placements at AKC Obedience Regional Qualifying Events.
The purpose of obedience trials is to demonstrate the dog’s ability to follow specified routines in heeling, jumping and retrieving as directed by the handler. All contestants in a class are required to perform the same exercises in essentially the same way, so that the relative quality of the various performances may be scored.
The event will be livestreamed! Let’s tune in and cheer them on! The link below gives you access to Chill’s livestreamed event on Saturday, June 30th, so they won’t be in until the afternoon. Chill is Dog #175! Go Chill !! AKC TV, Ring 3 and Ring 4: http://bit.ly/2tJHQrf
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
There’s still time to enter the Kitty Gift Basket Raffle! Earn tickets with the purchase of Feline Revolution, the safest, most effective way to protect cats against heartworm disease, fleas, and ticks. Revolution will also protect your cats against ear mites and several fecal parasites! You only need to apply Revolution once monthly, and it is easier to apply than Frontline, which by the way does NOT protect cats against heartworm disease.
One raffle ticket is entered for the purchase of 6 months of Feline Revolution, and three tickets are entered for the purchase of 12 months of the product. There are also rebates that cat owners should take advantage of to save money when protecting their cat companions – $5 rebates for 3 doses, $15 rebates for 6 doses and $35 rebates for a full year.
Remember, even if your cat is indoor only, he/she still needs protection. Stop by our reception area to see the ‘Kitty Gift Basket” on display, and protect your feline friends!
Learn more here: Cats Deserve Protection Too!
Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors
Handling Every Pet with Love Every Day!
The Belle Mead Animal Hospital team will participate with a table in the concourse at Bark in the Park Night hosted by the Somerset Patriots on July 23, 2018 at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. You’re invited! It’s a fun family event where you can also bring your dog! Come early and participate in the Pooch Parade at 6:30 p.m. Game starts at 7:05 p.m.
While you are there, stop by the Belle Mead Animal Hospital table and meet some of our Team Members! We’re giving away some cool BMAH Patriot Car and Refrigerator Magnets to our Facebook Friends in addition to a raffle, treats for your dog, and live canine demonstrations! Ask questions and learn more about our services and why we are the Best Team offering the Best Medicine with the Most Compassionate Care!
In addition to the Pooch Parade, doggy ice cream treats will be offered during “Yappy Hour” and the Patriots will provide bowls of water for the attending dogs throughout the concourse area.
All pet owners attending with their dog(s) are asked to bring paperwork displaying proof of vaccination and their dog ID tag to be checked before entry outside the main gate. Dogs do not need a ticket for entry (only the owners!). For faster check-in with your dog, print the Waiver Form at home and bring it with you to the ballpark.
Hope to see you there!
Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors
Handling Every Pet with Love Every Day!
Most people with dogs in this area are diligent about protecting them against parasites, which include mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. Mosquitoes spread heartworm disease and fleas and ticks can harbor just as threatening diseases. Many people are under the impression that cats, especially indoor cats, don’t really need this protection. Veterinarians, as well as cat owners, are now realizing that cats need this protection just as much as dogs, if not more so!
There has been a resurgence of heartworm disease in New Jersey since Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was the largest animal rescue and relocation effort that the U.S. has ever seen. Over 100,000 homeless pets were relocated from the south. Many of those animals came to New Jersey. This was a wonderful nationwide effort, but unfortunately, many of these pets were infected with heartworm disease, and it reinfected mosquitoes in New Jersey. Furthermore, the Tiger Asian mosquito underwent a mutation that allowed it to live in New Jersey all year long (not just in warm summer months) and infect even more dogs and cats. Fleas can harbor diseases as well. And even though your cat may be indoor only, flea eggs are microscopic and can come into our homes from our shoes and a myriad of other ways. This is also how microscopic fecal parasites can enter your house.
There are many reasons why heartworm disease and parasites never got the attention it deserved in cats. Cats can get heartworm disease, and because of the unique features of feline heartworm infections, they often will not show up positive on any of the routine testing. Furthermore, 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. The ones that do not die suddenly can develop severe respiratory inflammation that is very similar to asthma. Did you know that a mosquito will prefer to bite a cat over a human because of their higher body temperature? Just one bite from an infected mosquito can cause permanent damage to your cat’s lungs or worse.
Feline Revolution is the safest, most effective way to protect cats against heartworm disease, fleas, and ticks. Revolution will also protect your cats against ear mites and several fecal parasites! You only need to apply revolution once monthly and it is easier than applying Frontline. (You should also know that although Frontline will protect cats against fleas and ticks, it will NOT protect cats against deadly heartworm disease).
In an effort to help educate owners and protect our feline patients against deadly parasites, we are offering up a “Kitty Gift Basket!” Please stop by our reception desk for details on the basket and how to enter. In an effort to encourage safe feline prevention, you can also earn raffle tickets with the purchase of Feline Revolution. One ticket is entered for 6 months of Feline Revolution and three tickets are entered for 12 months of Feline Revolution. There are also rebates that cat owners should take advantage of to save money when protecting their cat companions. There are $5 rebates for 3 doses, $15 rebates for 6 doses and $35 rebates for a full year of Feline Revolution. Please protect your cats against these diseases. They deserve safe and effective prevention too!
Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors
Properly identifying our pets is so important that an entire week in April has been designated as National Pet Identification Week. However, proper identification must be secured for your pet year round, and I wanted to share some things you need to know to keep your dog safe while on leash and properly identified if he breaks loose.
The importance of a secure collar
An important tip for dog owners is to first make sure their dog’s collar is snug. Most people put their dog’s collar on too loose for fear of hurting them. However, many dogs back out of their collars every year when nervous or excited. They then run away and get lost, get hit by car, or hurt a child or another pet out of fear and anxiety while on the loose.
A good rule of thumb is put the collar on so that it is snug, but you can fit one finger or a one inch space in between the dog’s neck and collar. Also, once fitted and secure, physically try to see if you can slip the collar off your dog’s head easily. If you can, then the collar is too loose.
Also, Gentle Leaders are used by some pet parents whose dogs pull them too much and are mouthy. Gentle Leaders are great for some dogs and their owners, but not great for others. However, if you decide to use one, please make sure you buy one with a safety line or attachment from the Gentle Leader to the dog’s regular collar. This is important because if the Gentle Leader is improperly placed or the dog uses his paws to slip it off his nose, you need a safety strap to prevent the dog from getting loose and into serious trouble.
Microchipping in addition to collar tags can be lifesaving
Now that you have learned how to secure the dog’s collar, make sure you add an identification tag. An easily seen name tag notifies others that your pet is domesticated. Therefore, strangers are more likely to assist your pet in finding its home if it gets loose.
But proper tagging is not all. This is also a good time to point out how inexpensive and easy microchips are to safeguard your pet. It’s a fact: one dog or cat is reunited every five seconds in our country because of a simple, one-time insertion of a microchip. All my pets are microchipped!
This is how it works: a veterinarian injects a tiny inert chip the size of a sesame seed just under your pet’s skin, between the shoulder blades. A number on the microchip is entered into an international database, like the Central Animal Registry or PETtrac. If your dog or cat is found, any animal hospital, shelter, or humane society can use a microchip reader to read the unique ID number contained on the chip and find its owner. It’s as simple as that. But remember, you must enroll your pet’s number into the database so that it can be identified later on if lost.
The AVMA published an entertaining and informative video regarding why microchipping your pet is so important. Watch and meet Max here!
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
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