Posted in General Pets News Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Dec 10, 2020 | no responses.

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.

Recommended Reading:

What Fear Free Means for You and Your Pet

Achieving Fear Free Exams for Your Pet

Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM CCRP cVMA

Kim Somjen DVM Fear Free Professional

Posted in Events News on Nov 20, 2020 | no responses.

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
Posted in Events News on Nov 13, 2020 | no responses.

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!

View more images here:

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!

Posted in Exotics General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Oct 12, 2020 | no responses.

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.

Cat on scale to be weighedThe 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.


Rabbit for Adoption Belle Mead Animal Hospital







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.

M.J.Hamilton, DVM, DACVIM (Onco)

Dr MJ Hamilton Belle Mead Animal Hospital

M.J.Hamilton, DVM, DACVIM (Onco)

Posted in General Pets News Veterinary Services on Sep 15, 2020 | no responses.

There was a story published a while back of an incident in Monmouth, a town in Kennebec County, Maine.  It was rather alarming because it involved a rabid raccoon who snuck into a person’s home through a pet entry installed in a screen door.

As the story goes, the rabid raccoon entered the home around 4 p.m. and got into a fight with the homeowner’s cat, which did not survive the attack.  The homeowner was able to call police who arrived at the scene and were able to taser the animal and later kill it. You can read the full story here.

Racoon in home

Don’t let this happen in your home.

The takeaway from this story is if you choose to use a pet entry, you must be aware that other animals might wander inside and could be rabid. Most pet entries are just a flap or opening that people leave open for pets to go in and out as they please.

At the very least, close the pet entry and lock it in the evenings, and keep it locked all night.  When the sun goes down and we go to sleep, the raccoons, skunks and feral cats come out and explore the area for food and breeding purposes.  If they have rabies, beware because they are relentless in attacking and biting whatever is in their path.  The disease is then spread to whomever they see and make contact with.

There are electronic pet doors available that will either open or unlock automatically when they detect a sensor on your pet’s collar as it approaches the door.  This would be a more expensive alternative, but it does eliminate the possibility of unwanted animals entering into your home, and perhaps it is worth checking into.

With the recent case of the rabid otter reported at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, people must be diligent in their efforts to protect their homes from unwanted guests and vaccinate their pets. The fact is, we live in a hugely rabies endemic area, and people should be aware of the dangers.

If you see a fox, skunk or raccoon in the daytime at all, and especially unusually close to your home, please stay indoors and call the police.  The animal probably is dying of rabies.  Remember to keep your garbage cans in a shed, in a garage or far from your house because garbage attracts these animals with and without rabies.

You can learn more in our earlier blog about rabies and the procedures to take if bitten as published by the Somerset County Department of Health.

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 on Aug 12, 2020 | no responses.

Rabbits who stop eating must be force fed by owners and veterinary staff in order to get their gut moving again to feel better and survive. This owner was having difficulty at first, but with some tips from BMAH and the exotic department at RBVH (Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, Tinton Falls), she persevered and saved her bunny named Roo.

The owner wanted to pass on some tips to benefit others who have rabbits in their household that might face the same type of emergency.

Tips From Roo’s Mom: Wrapping your bunny in a Burrito wrap using a towel or blanket is important to keep him secure. Roo prefers to be wrapped in a thick baby blanket. Roo prefers eating from a 6 ml or a 10 ml syringe. Filling small syringes from a large one (I have 30 ml and a 60 ml) tends to be easier than drawing from a bowl, as the thickness and air pockets can be difficult. I put the entire prescribed amount into a large syringe and squirt it into the small ones. Preload as many small syringes as you can. This makes things much easier and efficient if the bunny is actually cooperating. Roo prefers the apple banana Critical Care to the plain version. Be patient and allow for a block of time with many breaks. Our fastest feeding time was 35 minutes, but the longest was 3 hours.

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins DVM Fear Free Certified Professional

Posted in General Pets News Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Aug 03, 2020 | 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 News on Jul 06, 2020 | no responses.

Meet Lava! Lava recently had her second round of puppy DAPP 2 of 4 (Distemper/ Parvo Core Vaccine) last week. She loved being outside at a friend’s farm. She loved treats, the grass, the dirt, and was even ok with the sounds of a bulldozer far off in the background on this sunny, beautiful 75 degree day. What a great positive day of fun supervised new sights, smells, sounds, textures and experiences for this 11 week old puppy. 

This is exactly what puppies need. The owner was concerned about the puppy’s age, and in the past, people were told to not expose puppies until they had all their puppy vaccine series completed at 16 weeks of age. We know now to not wait that long. Once puppies have had their second puppy DAPP booster around 9-10 weeks old, they are good to go, and they need socialization outside of your home. They can go on walks down the block, go to parks, and visit friends’ yards. 

Please do avoid dog parks and other high urine and fecal traffic areas until the puppy is 16 weeks of age. However, you can walk the perimeter of parks to get the puppy used to seeing other dogs and different types of people, bikes, cars, and noises.

Continue Learning and Practicing

Puppy Face

Belle Mead Animal Hospital has created a Dog and Puppy Training Playlist that includes what you need to do when you bring your puppy home, especially between the age of 9-19 weeks – Visit the Dog and Puppy Training Playlist Here and make sure to Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for updates!

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins DVM Fear Free Certified Professional
Posted in General Pets News Veterinary Services on Jun 16, 2020 | no responses.

Socialization with people is one of the most important and time-sensitive aspects of raising a puppy and sadly, with social distancing protocols in place, it’s impossible to accomplish this task in the traditional manner.

It’s still possible to socialize and acclimatize your puppy safely but puppy owners are going to have to undertake much more proactive socialization themselves, providing their pups with an ever-changing environment filled with novel objects, stimuli and experiences, within the safety of their homes. Most important of all, puppy owners need to pretend they are new and different people, to mimic the socialization to unfamiliar people that is currently impossible to undertake safely

Dr. Ian Dunbar, well known veterinarian, animal behaviorist, dog trainer and founder of Dunbar Academy, has prepared a special YouTube Video presentation to help you learn how to train your puppy during these socially distanced times. Visit the link to the Puppy Socialization & Social Distancing video presentation here.

You can also visit our Pet Behavior Resource page for more training tips:

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins DVM Fear Free Certified Professional
Posted in General Pets Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Services on Jun 04, 2020 | no responses.

Sweet Rosie is a six month old Goldendoodle. She was suddenly straining to urinate and needed to go out to squat to urinate multiple times overnight and then throughout the morning.

Her owner called BMAH, and we got her in via curbside pick-up. All of her vitals and 12 point system check-up were normal except her urinary. We use our in-house ultrasound to image and look at her bladder. It’s simple and easy with the technology we have. You would be amazed at what we could see (stones, clots, polyps, tumors etc.).

It’s also important to obtain a urine sample for analysis called a Urinalysis. A urine can tell us things that bloodwork may or cannot reveal.

Rosie was so sweet. Her bladder was thickened, and we performed an ultrasound guided cystocentesis (Cysto) to easily and quickly get a urine. It’s a good thing we did because it turns out that she did not just have a vaginitis that we would normally just treat her pain and discomfort with an anti-inflammatory for a few days. Her urine revealed she had an E.coli UTI.

Goldendoodle Dog Rosie

Undiagnosed and untreated E.Coli UTI in a dog or cat could go on to become bladder stones within 6-12 months. If not treated properly early enough, an under-the-radar infection allows bacteria to multiply and create an unhealthy urinary environment where bacterial byproducts increase the PH of urine creating stones. We see these on ultrasounds and x-rays almost weekly at Belle Mead Animal Hospital. They won’t just go away with an antibiotic and probiotic. It may require surgery and/or special diets and antibiotics to treat it.  

dog Rosie Goldendoodle

One last point is that urinary symptoms in animals often times wax and wane, especially in the early stages. What I mean by that is that sometimes they have symptoms that are very mild and go away, where you, the owner, thinks the pet is fine. However their E.coli did not clear itself your dog’s body and immune system is trying to take care of it and maintain balance and homeostasis, but the E.coli will ultimately rear its ugly head and clinical signs that are even worse the longer it goes undiagnosed.

So if your pet is potty trained, and especially if your adult pet never really has urinary accidents in the house, but you notice that we are having more occasional urinary accidents or increase posturing than normal to urinate, there is reason to contact your family veterinarian. When dogs go for their routine eliminations, it should be one or two, then done – not posturing 3 or 4 times. Don’t just blow it off. Make a mental note – this was your sign and time to remember to call us. You can catch and collect a urine at home and drop it off for a urinalysis. If you can’t do this, we can easily get it via a cysto or cystocentesis – just don’t let your dog urinate right before coming into the hospital.

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins DVM Fear Free Certified Professional