Posted in Exotics Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Feb 19, 2023 | no responses.

With holiday travel and summer vacation amongst other reasons to leave home for an extended period of time, many people consider boarding their pets while they are away.  So let’s talk about pet guinea pigs, otherwise known as cavies.

Guinea pig at Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Guinea pig patient at Belle Mead Animal Hospital









Guinea pigs are very sensitive to stress. For instance, a dietary change may cause stress. Even though certain guinea pigs can get used to a variety of foods, others may simply stop eating with an abrupt change in diet. Guinea pigs are also at risk for stress due to environmental changes and again may stop eating.

For these reasons, guinea pigs should not be boarded anywhere outside their home unless absolutely necessary. If you need to go away, it’s best to let the cavies remain in their home with a pet caretaker. If you move them from their home while you are away for any period of time, there is a chance they may stop eating due to the stress they are suddenly experiencing in a new environment.

If they are not eating in their home environment, please arrange a veterinarian visit right away; they can be force-fed at that time and brought back to health while discussing any changes in diet or environment, especially if the owner is or must go out of town.


Guinea pig patients at Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Guinea pig patients at Belle Mead Animal Hospital










Be sure to instruct pet caretakers to pay close attention to your guinea pig’s eating habits while you are away.  Three or four days without eating is cause for concern, and an emergency visit to your veterinarian is in order.

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 Jan 12, 2023 | no responses.

How many of you feel challenged by your kitty’s litter box?  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices of litter, the types of litter boxes on the market, and even the daily maintenance of the litter box.

To ensure your cat uses the litter box consistently, it’s essential to follow a few rules and keep kitty happy:

Choose the correct size: Depending upon whether you are raising a kitten or have a full grown cat, size does matter.  Can your cat easily step inside the box?  Can he move around freely and dig without knocking too much excess litter out of the box?  Choices abound with regard to size and shape, covered or open, so choose appropriately depending upon your cat’s age, size and weight.

Litter Box 101

The size of the litter box, type of litter, and location of the box does matter to your cat. Sift the litter daily.

Choose the correct litter:  Some cats are more particular than others about the type of litter they prefer.  Ideally, choose a brand that does not have a strong fragrance, as cats are very sensitive to odors.  Litter comes in different textures, and your cat may have a preference.  You may have to experiment with one or two brands to find a suitable match for yourself and kitty.

Choose the correct location: Place the litter box in an area easily accessible for your cat, yet out of the way from too much human traffic.  Make sure your cat has some privacy, but don’t place it so remotely that it is hard for cat to get to, such as the far corner of the basement.

Keep the litter box clean:  The biggest reason your cat may shun his litter box is that it’s simply dirty.  It’s important to understand that cats are super clean animals and need their litter boxes sifted through daily, if not twice a day.  The cleaner you keep the litter box on a daily basis, the longer you can wait in between completely changing all the litter. For example: one cat and one litter box – sift litter daily, and completely change out weekly.  For the same cat, same box – sift twice daily.  You may be able to extend litter life to 10-14 days.  If there is more than one cat in the household, it’s a good idea to set up at least one litter box per cat, plus one box, if you are only scooping once daily. Cleanliness is next to Godliness in a cat’s world, and clean litter boxes definitely helps avoid concentrating crystals or cats developing litter box aversions. You cannot sift through their boxes too much.

If you have followed all the above suggestions, and your cat suddenly starts urinating or defecating outside of the litter box, this is reason to call your veterinarian.  There are several health-related issues that might be at the root of your cat’s behavior, and a health exam is in order.

Now that we’ve covered the Litter Box 101 essentials, just for fun, take this Litter Box Quiz by PetsWebMD and see how you score.  Kitty will thank you for your efforts.

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 Exotics General Pets News Veterinary Services on Dec 16, 2022 | no responses.

The Votes are in, and Dr. Joe Martins, owner Belle Mead Animal Hospital, is the Winner of the Best of the Best Veterinarians in Somerset County, New Jersey! The contest was conducted by My Central Jersey via the Courier News where the community cast their votes online for categories including Best Veterinarian and Best Veterinary Hospital.

Join us in congratulating Dr. Martins for his sincere dedication to caring for pets along with his team of Fear Free Professionals who have made it their priority to help your pet feel as comfortable as possible when brought into BMAH for care.

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital









Please also join us in congratulating the entire Belle Mead Animal Hospital Team of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians and Veterinary Support Staff for the hospital’s recognition as a Finalist (one of the top three) in the 2022 Community Choice Awards. The BMAH Team is like no other when it comes to skill, training, compassion and dedication centered upon a family atmosphere of wellness and education.

Belle Mead Animal Hospital Team







Thanks to all who voted for us. We look forward to continuing to make your pet’s experience at Belle Mead Animal Hospital safe, comfortable and fear free while under our care. We are honored to be of service to you and your pets!

Reminder: Use the BMAH Website as an Educational Resource! Did you know you can now Search our website for particular topics of information and advice? Visit our Learning Center > Search this Site and enter a word or words of the subject you want to learn more about. We are constantly adding new material to our website and improving functionality to help serve you better.

Cat and Dog


Posted in General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Nov 15, 2022 | no responses.

Continuing in our series on Pet Nutrition, you may have heard the term “fatty acids” used many times with regard to human health. The fact is, our pets require fatty acids for improved heath, too.

In simplest terms, fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood. Fatty acid molecules are usually joined together in groups of three, forming a molecule called a triglyceride. Triglycerides are also made in our bodies from the carbohydrates that we eat.

Fatty acids have many important functions in the body, including energy storage. If glucose (a type of sugar) isn’t available for energy, the body uses fatty acids to fuel the cells instead.

Fatty acids with regard to dogs and cats

Dietary fatty acids serve as precursors to prostaglandins and other eicosanoids. The essential fatty acids in canine and feline diets include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

DogDogs and cats both require omega-6 acid linoleic acid. (LA). Omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and α-linolenic acid (ALA). Another called  arachidonic acid (AA) is also required for cats.

Marine oil sources provide EPA and DHA, which are more effective in dogs and cats than ALA (which is not significantly converted to EPA or DHA). The eicosanoids produced from omega-3 fatty acids are less inflammatory than those produced from AA.

Studies on the effects of feeding therapeutic food containing dietary fatty acids have shown improvements in pets with the following health issues:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Inflammatory skin disorders
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Renal disease
  • Cognitive function and neurological health








Ways to supplement your pet’s diet

Many commercial pet foods these days are supplemented with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, there is no legal requirement for listing omega-3 fatty acids on pet food labels or to guarantee the pet is getting the correct supplementation to suit his/her particular dietary needs.

We suggest talking with your veterinarian about your pet’s diet. After completing a Nutritional Assessment and reviewing the pet’s health history, your veterinarian can help you determine a proper diet and recommend additional fatty acid supplements such as our Catalyst Chews and mini-bites that are 100% made in America that pets find appealing.

Recommended Reading:

The changing nutritional needs of your pets

Nutritional Assessments for dogs and cats

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital



Posted in General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Oct 07, 2022 | no responses.

You can tell a lot about your pet by looking at them. But one thing you can’t see is their heart. Is it healthy or not? A pet may have developed heart disease, and even the most observant pet parent may not realize it.

Heart disease affects pets of all ages. For example, certain breeds of dogs and cats are at a higher risk of heart disease at a young age. In contrast, some pets develop heart disease later in life concurrent with another illness. Finally, there are those pets who randomly develop heart disease at any age without any noticeable signs to the pet parent.

Senior dog Kitten

Studies have shown that as many as one in six cats have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes the heart walls to thicken, making it difficult for the heart to pump. However, symptoms don’t appear until the severe stages of this disease.

If your pet’s heart is not checked regularly, your pet may be at risk for a shortened lifespan due to heart disease. The good news is, if caught early, most illnesses can be treated or managed successfully for years. And if your pet already has moderate heart disease but is regularly monitored by your family veterinarian, often the progression can be slowed down.


During your pet’s annual the exam, your veterinarian will listen with a stethoscope to make sure your pet’s heart sounds right and there is no heart murmur and/or arrhythmia. We can also perform a few other easy tests, such as a proBNP test, to make a further diagnosis. A proBNP test can help establish a baseline of the condition of a dog or cat’s heart without the added expense of performing an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound)

When we think of love, we think of hearts. And we love all pets. Let your family veterinarian take care of your pet’s heart. Do your best not to skip your pet’s annual wellness visit for the sake of their heart.

Recommended Reading:

Exciting new blood test for cats to detect heart disease

The importance of wellness exams

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 News Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Sep 15, 2022 | no responses.

It’s important that pet parents understand just how useful routine blood work is as a tool that allows veterinarians to discover abnormalities and potential health risks that can easily be missed during an office exam.

Sometimes veterinarians find themselves needing to see numbers, values, images and scans because the initial nose-to-tail exam did not lead to a definitive diagnosis. Veterinarians turn to diagnostics to get further answers.

Cat and Dog

Following are some reasons why blood work might be ordered:

  • Veterinarians use blood work to create baseline numbers for future blood results
  • Blood work is used to determine liver, kidney and pancreas functions
  • Pre-anesthetic blood work is necessary to ensure normal organ functions prior to administration of anesthesia
  • Blood work is necessary for monitoring drug levels to ensure safety and accuracy of dosage
  • Blood work is important in managing and monitoring the progress of certain types of treatments.

Our colleague and medical director at Johnstown Veterinary Associates explains it in more detail. Read his full article here and feel confident that when your family veterinarian suggests blood work, there is good reason to do so.  Veterinarian’s view: Blood work is important for pets, too

BMAH Auth Form Footer
Posted in Events General Pets News on Aug 17, 2022 | no responses.

It’s been our pleasure to care for your pet(s) with our vision of Integrity, Excellence, Innovation, and Compassion. With our Fear Free approach, we do our best to listen to client concerns and educate pet owners on the most appropriate care for their pet. We hope we have met your expectations once again this past year.

We would like to let you know that the Nominations are in, and BELLE MEAD ANIMAL HOSPITAL made it to the FINAL VOTING ROUND in the Official Community Choice Awards for 2022! You can help us WIN!

It’s easy to enter. Visit the Voting Link at—My-Central-Jersey/

Follow the instructions to Register.

Vote for Belle Mead Animal Hospital in the Pets Category >Pets >Veterinary Hospital section.

Vote for Dr. Joe Martins in the Pets Category >Pets-People >Veterinarian section.

Each person can vote once per day in each category using only one email address now through August 31st. If someone votes in at least 25 categories, they will be entered for a chance to win a $500 gift card from MyCentralJersey. 

We are honored to be of service to you and your pets, and we thank you for your support!

Reminder: Use the BMAH Website as an Educational Resource! Did you know you can now Search our website for particular topics of information and advice? Visit our Learning Center > Search this Site and enter a word or words of the subject you want to learn more about. We are constantly adding new material to our website and improving functionality to help serve you better.

Cat and Dog

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!



Posted in Exotics General Pets on Jul 15, 2022 | no responses.

As outdoor temperatures increase, the risk of pet heat stroke increases. Just like humans, your dog, cat, or small pet can succumb to heat stroke when his/her body temperature rises excessively. The normal body temperature for a dog or cat is about 101.5°F.  At 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, their furry bodies simply cannot sweat to dissipate the heat. Panting and breathing rapidly can only help so much before their bodies enter the danger zone leading to seizures, organ failure and blood clotting complications. Heat stroke is therefore a medical emergency and requires veterinary treatment.

Pets can suffer heat stroke in the following ways:

Leaving a pet in a locked car unattended – Cracking the window is not a sufficient way to keep the interior of a car cool enough to be safe. Here’s a handy chart that tells you just what the temperature difference is inside a car versus the outside air temperature. Simply leave your pet at home.

Hot Car Dog Pet Safety

Over exercise outdoors on hot and humid days – Certain breeds of dogs such as Pekingese, pugs, Lhasa apsos and Boston terriers (those with short noses) are predisposed to heat stroke. Overweight or obese pets and those with airway problems cannot handle the heat very well. Asking your pet to run or play in hot, humid weather might lead to heat exhaustion or stroke.

Accidentally being trapped in a hot, enclosed space – It is not unheard of that a cat sneaks into a hot attic, garage, or even a car and goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Keep close tabs on your felines during hot weather and make sure all pets are accounted for when the temperatures sour.

Pets kept in outdoor enclosures – For those with pet rabbits kept in outdoor hutches, for example, it’s important to know that bunnies are more susceptible to heat stroke from temperatures greater than 85 degrees F. You should roll or move their hutch into a cool garage or under a tree for shade when the temperature climbs. Also, place a frozen plastic milk jug inside their hutch. While the jug slowly thaws, it will keep your rabbit cooler.

Indoor temperatures that are less than ideal – Keeping pets comfortable and healthy inside your home can be just as important as outdoor situations. Guinea Pigs, for example, should be kept in a quiet area out of direct sunlight. The recommended room temperature is 65-79 degrees F. They do better in cooler temperatures rather than in too much heat and humidity. Like rabbits, they can get heat stroke at temperatures over 85 degrees F. All pets need access to clean, fresh water at all times, indoor or outside.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Pet Heat Stroke

Dogs and cats suffering from heat stroke will first demonstrate excessive panting, salivating, difficulty in breathing, and discomfort. As symptoms progress, they may vomit or have diarrhea, become noticeably disoriented or even begin to have seizures. If not promptly treated, this can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.

Dog panting outside

Emergency first aid and veterinary treatment

To save a pet suffering from heat stroke, take first aid measures immediately by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the pet’s neck, in the armpits and in the groin region. You may also wet the earflaps and paws with cool water. Then quickly transport him/her to the closest veterinary facility for emergency treatment. Many of the complications from heat stroke do not begin to appear until several days after the incident, and prompt veterinary care can potentially prevent or treat some of these complications and save your pet’s life.

Be sure to keep a list of 24-hour emergency care facilities on hand so you know just where to go if an incident occurs. As always, be safe, not sorry.

Posted in General Pets Veterinary Services on Jun 06, 2022 | no responses.

A common reason many cats get taken to the groomer is for matting. Sometimes cats mat because they are older, overweight, arthritic, and just can’t get to certain areas on their body and groom as well. If owners don’t regularly brush their long haired cats, they can get so matted that it’s painful for the cat and no longer possible to humanely brush or comb them out. But there are options.

What is a Lion Shave?

The term Lion Shave is used by veterinarians and cat groomers to describe the haircut done on cats when they are completely shaved down.

Cat with Lion Shave grooming technique

This grooming technique is a shave very close to the cat’s skin on their body, belly and chest, leaving long hair on the legs, around the cat’s head, and on the tail.

Besides matting, some cats shed heavily and may have or cause allergies. Therefore, a lion shave can be performed on either a long or short haired cat for various reasons.

A cat who has very long and dense fur that gets easily matted in certain areas may benefit from a lion shave.

Feline patient Oliver with very dense and long fur







When cats get matted, it can become painful and silently bother them. Many cat owners don’t realize it until we do a lion shave grooming on them.

Matted fur on cat patient

Matted fur on cat patient






A lion shave in the spring helps prepare the cat for a more comfortable summer. After the Lion Shave, a cat can immediately feel more comfortable and clean. He/she can go home feeling happier and often becomes more affectionate.

Let your veterinarian guide you, because some cats may not be the best candidates for a Lion Shave and will become stressed or aggressive. 

Only those properly trained should perform this type of grooming procedure. Certain areas on the cat’s body are high-risk for nicking and injury, and trained professionals know the limits of your pet’s body and how to avoid injuring your cat. Please do not attempt to do this at home yourself. Speak to your veterinarian or professional groomer.

Feline patient Oliver with Lion Shave








If your cat’s fur is matted or you have other concerns, it is best to seek out a qualified professional cat groomer or talk to your veterinarian about a grooming technique such as a Lion Shave. Your veterinarian or groomer can also give you advice on how to manage your cat’s grooming requirements as the fur grows back in and how to stay on a regular grooming schedule.

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 Exotics General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on May 15, 2022 | no responses.

Attention all rabbit owners! Belle Mead Animal Hospital is finally able to start sourcing vaccines for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV-2).

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a highly contagious, fatal disease in rabbits. RHDV2 DOES NOT affect humans, but it can affect both domestic AND wild rabbits. Infected rabbits may develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory signs, neurologic signs, or internal bleeding. However, many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death. Unfortunately, there are no treatments available at this time.  

Pet Rabbit

RHDV2 can be spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s blood or excretions. The virus can also survive and be spread from carcasses, food, water, and any contaminated materials. It has also been spread by insects. This virus is very hearty, and humans can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes after being exposed to an infected animal or environment.

Even worse news is that as of May 2022, New Jersey now has its first two confirmed cases of RHDV2 in Cape May County. 

The good news? Medgene Labs of Brookings, SD has developed a new vaccine and gained emergency use authorization by the USDA after review of current safety and challenge information. We are finally able to get some of these vaccines and will be able to start vaccine clinics to get rabbits vaccinated as soon as they arrive. 

This vaccine is a series of 2 vaccines given 21 days apart. At this time, we are asking rabbit owners to email Belle Mead Animal Hospital  at with the subject RABBIT VACCINE. We will start a list of rabbits that will get the vaccine once available.  In the meantime, please keep your rabbits inside, do not handle rabbits that are not yours, wash your hands and clothes before handling your rabbit, and please contact us at the first sign of any illness!

Find Frequently Asked Questions here:  Medgene Labs Frequently Asked Questions

Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

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