Posted in Exotics General Pets Veterinary Services on Aug 15, 2023 | no responses.

As veterinarians charged with the health and well-being of your pets, we cannot encourage pet parents enough to microchip their pet. It is a simple and inexpensive procedure that can reunite you with your pet if it is ever accidentally lost or even stolen.

Dog running outside

To remind pet owners to have their pets microchipped and to keep the registration information up-to-date, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) joined together to create “Check the Chip Day” which falls in mid- August every year.

We have said it before, and it’s worth a reminder: one dog or cat is reunited every five seconds in our country because of a simple microchip.

We read stories every day of lost pets all over the country being reunited with their owners thanks to a microchip. Remember the story of Wesley we told you about in an earlier Blog? Wesley is a Labrador who wandered away from his home in Hillsborough about two days before Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey. The family, who were clients of Belle Mead Animal Hospital, were devastated about the loss of their dog. After missing for 17 months, Wesley was found wandering the streets. His microchip was scanned, and he was happily reunited with his family.

If you have not done so already, please make an appointment with your family veterinarian to have this simple procedure done.

If your pet is microchipped, take a few moments to check that the registration is current. You should have an online account created with the manufacturer of the microchip where you can access the registration and update the information if necessary. Make sure that all of the information, particularly your phone number(s) and address, are correct.

Please visit our Recommended Reading list below to learn more.

Recommended Reading:

Keep your dog safe with a secure collar and proper identification

Wesley and Dr. Stephens make Channel 7 Eyewitness News

 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 Services on Jul 12, 2023 | 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 Jun 20, 2023 | no responses.

Animals can suffer from either high or low blood pressure, just like humans.  If left untreated, it can have quite debilitating effects.  The signs of high blood pressure (hypertension) can be very subtle and insidious.  This is why it is important to have your senior pet’s blood pressure checked on a routine basis.

Dr. Heather Simon and cat patient CelticIt is not uncommon for our pets to have hypertension with no clinical signs at all. In humans, hypertension is often referred to as a “silent killer” because there may be no warning signs or symptoms.

Humans tend to develop primary hypertension or idiopathic hypertension (no known underlying cause). Often there is a genetic predisposition.  Dogs and cats, on the other hand, typically develop secondary hypertension.  Their high blood pressure is usually the result of some other underlying cause or disease process.

The most common causes in animals are chronic renal (kidney) disease, hyperthyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism.  Therefore, hypertension in our dogs and cats can be an indicator that something else is going on.  It should always prompt further testing.

If hypertension is left untreated, it can have many side effects.  Hypertension can affect the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain.  Typically, the treatment is to first treat the underlying cause (i.e. if there is hyperthyroidism, get the the thyroid disease under control).

Secondly, oral medications can be used to decrease the blood pressure.  The following are some of the common sequela to untreated hypertension:

Eyes:  The vessels in the retina are extremely sensitive to high blood pressure.  It is not uncommon for a pet (usually cats) to present with vision loss secondary to retinal hemorrhage or detachment.  They can also present with hyphema (frank blood in the eye).

Celtic Cat patient Belle Mead Animal Hospital June 2014







Kidneys:   Although kidney disease is often seen as an underlying cause for hypertension, high blood pressure can actually make kidney disease worse.  Kidney disease and hypertension can be a vicious cycle – one exacerbating the other.  Approximately 75% of cats older than 7 years will develop kidney disease or hyperthyroidism.  Of that group, 75% will go on to develop high blood pressure. So it is imperative to check blood pressures in ANY patient with known kidney disease or thyroid disease.

Heart: Hypertension can also have deleterious effects on the heart.  High blood pressure increases the “load” that the heart has to deal with and consequently, the heart has to work much harder than normal.  The myocardium (heart muscles) can become enlarged and dilated.  The enlarged heart muscles are more sensitive to injury. High blood pressure can also cause abnormal heart rhythms or gallop rhythms, especially in patients with hyperthyroidism.  Anytime the heart is significantly affected or compromised, sudden respiratory distress or even death is unfortunately a possible outcome.

Brain: There are many tiny blood vessels in the brain. When an animal has hypertension, blood vessels can become diseased and susceptible to injury. The small fragile blood vessels in the brain are at risk for hemorrhage.  And areas of the brain are susceptible to either ischemia (injury due to a shortage of oxygen) or swelling.  When this happens, patients can have behavior changes, act dull or depressed, circle, fall over or even seizure.


Celtic, a male neutered 15 year old domestic short haired cat, presented to Belle Mead Animals Hospital for vision trouble.  On physical exam, Celtic had extremely dilated pupils and was in fact blind. Torturous and ruptured blood vessels were noted on examination of his retinas.

Celtic had very high blood pressure (hypertension) which was easily documented with a petMAP (small machine specifically for veterinary medicine to get blood pressure measurements).  The high blood pressure prompted me to immediately check Celtic’s blood work and urine (including thyroid levels).

Celtic had significant elevations in his kidney enzymes and was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and secondary hypertension.  He was immediately started on an anti-hypertension medication as well as treatment and supportive care for his kidney disease.

(Authored by Heather Simon, VMD)

Posted in General Pets News on May 02, 2023 | no responses.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is billed as America’s second-longest continuously held sporting event. The 2023 event will be held May 6-9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, New York, and our own Veterinary Technicians Christine Hamill and Rachel Kalinowska will be participating with their dogs!

“I will be showing Charley,” said Christine. “Charley is a 10 1/2 year-old female Rough Collie. She loves to show, so we decided to enter. Rachel will be showing Rhys, a Smooth Collie who is almost 7 years old.”

Christine went on to explain that Rhys and Charley actually have the same canine mom; Charley was bred from Christine’s collie Slinky’s first litter, and Rhys was from Slinky’s  second litter.

Below are some photos of Christine with Charley. The first two photos are from her Veteran Participation at the Collie Club of America National Specialty held in March 2023 in Fort Wayne, Indiana; the third photo is from a show in Maryland taken in the fall of 2022; the fourth photo is from spring of 2023 when Charley won Best of Breed from the Veteran Class at two Collie specialties in New Jersey!

And following is a collage of Rachel with Rhys featuring pictures from local dog shows and Rhys enjoying a hike on a “weekend off.”

BMAH Vet Tech Rachel with Rhys









The Westminster Kennel Club is known for using education to raise awareness and encourage owners to conscientiously select dogs that are the correct match for the owner’s home and lifestyle. The annual dog show includes the Masters Agility Championship and Masters Obedience Championship where dogs from all backgrounds are eligible to compete. A dog-lover’s delight!

Join us in wishing Christine/Charley and Rachel/Rhys, much success at this year’s event! 

Recommended Reading:

A Westminster Adventure with Vet Tech Christine Hamill and Wyatt

Dr. Somjen competes in Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

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 Events News on Apr 25, 2023 | no responses.

Did you know that your pet’s bad breath is a sign of pain and infection? Your pet just might be silently suffering with dental pain!





Join us for a FREE Pet Dental Seminar and FREE Dental Exam for your pet!

Saturday, May 6, 2023, 1 pm at Belle Mead Animal Hospital


Learn and Experience:

  • What’s involved in a pet dentistry
  • Signs of oral pain
  • Free Dental Product Samples
  • How to brush your pet’s teeth
  • The importance of dental X-Rays


Seats are limited. Refreshments included! 

Please RSVP by calling 908-874-4447 or Email 

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 General Pets Veterinary Services on Mar 15, 2023 | no responses.

There are many different factors that can influence whether your new puppy grows into a well behaved and friendly dog or one that is more shy or aggressive. You may not realize how much early life experiences can and do affect your puppy well into adulthood. However, there are steps you can take to ensure a positive outcome.


A puppy is born with an immature brain and neurological system that needs additional time and experience to develop appropriately. Although dogs may inherit particular behavior characteristics based on genetics, research has shown that life experience plays a big role in a puppy’s development.

Early life experiences, even in puppies from 3-16 days old, can affect whether or not the puppy’s brain and dispositions develop in a way that allows them to handle stress later in life.

The primary socialization period for dogs is approximately 3 weeks to 16 weeks. This is the period when they are most open to learning new things, developing acceptable social behaviors, and practicing life skills that will serve them the rest of their lives. This is a critical window of time in their life that should never be overlooked. This is when puppy socialization is most important.

Puppy socialization includes exposure to other animals, play opportunities with litter mates or other puppies, and supervised interactions with young children. Puppies benefit from a variety of new sights, sounds and smells.

Two dogs interacting for the first time

A lack of early socialization can predispose puppies to fear, anxiety and aggressive behavior later in life. In general, the more new and positive experiences a puppy has, the more well-adjusted that puppy will become later in life.

Keep in mind that it is important not to overwhelm young puppies, especially those that are initially shy or timid. Owners should strive to create positive experiences while at the same time being patient with a shy puppy and allowing them to socialize at their own pace.  Strangers and other animals can be very scary or intimidating for them.

Even though the early socialization window may close by the time the puppy is 16 weeks old, that doesn’t mean learning and socialization should ever stop. Every new experience, regardless of age, is an opportunity for your dog to learn.

Owners of young dogs should make an ongoing effort to train and socialize their dogs well into adulthood.  You can do this by introducing your dog to new people, other animals and new situations on a continuing basis.

adult dogs interacting

Remember, wellness exams are the first step in ensuring that your puppy or older dog is healthy. Sometimes, a dog will display aggressive behavior if an underlying illness or medical condition needs treatment, unbeknownst to the owner without a veterinarian’s advice.

The number one reason why dogs are given up or end up at animal shelters is due to behavior issues. Puppy socialization greatly increases the chance of the dog being more social and particularly less dog aggressive.

 Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital




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



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