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Welcome to Essex Animal Hospital’s Blog

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Dr. Dolin, Dr. Ann, and the team at Essex Animal Hospital are pleased to announce their hospital blog. This fun and fact-filled blog is updated regularly and includes up-to-date information about your pet’s health care. Also included in the blog are fun, pet-related news stories that we want to share with you and photos and information about our hospital and staff members.

We invite you to check our blog often.

Thank you for visiting.

– The Veterinary Team at Essex Animal Hospital

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful. (Who sings this song in the summer???)

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Humans:  It’s beautiful outside.  Let’s go to the park.  Let’s throw the frisbee.  Let’s go swimming.

Dogs:  It’s beautiful outside.  Let’s go to the park.  Let’s throw the frisbee.  Let’s go swimming.

Cats:  It’s beautiful outside.  Let’s sit on the deck and take a nap.  Let’s sit on the deck and take a nap.  Let’s sit on the deck and take a nap.

Fleas:  It’s beautiful outside.  Let’s bite a dog or a cat.  Let’s take a blood meal.  Let’s breed and lay eggs.  Let’s keep the pet up all night scratching and itching.  (Let’s also keep the human up all night listening to their pet scratch and itch.)  Let’s cause a terrible skin allergy.  Let’s  transmit tapeworms.  Let’s bite people and cause an itchy rash.  Let’s infest the house, the rugs, the carpet, the furniture, and the bedding.

Ticks:  Let’s find an animal to attach to.  Let’s take a blood meal.  Let’s get bigger and bigger until a human can see and feel us.  Let’s transmit Lyme disease and other diseases which could make a pet very sick.  Let’s give people Lyme disease or another tick transmitted disease.

Mosquitos:  Let’s bite a dog or a cat and take a blood meal.  Let’s inject that pet with heartworm larvae.  Let’s give that dog or cat heartworm disease.  Let’s get the animal really sick.

Dr. Dolin:  LET’S NOT!!!!

Not only do humans and our pets love the nice weather, so do fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other seasonal insects.  The recent increase in warm weather allows these insects to complete their life cycle and continue to breed.  Years ago, we would consider these pests as nothing more than a nuisance.  However, it is now known that these external parasites can transmit very serious, and sometimes fatal illnesses to animals and people. 

For example, fleas will cause serious skin issues with your pet, transmit tapeworms, bite people, and infest your home.  Ticks transmit not only Lyme disease, but many other tick-borne illnesses as well, such as Anaplasma, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, Babesia, and others.  Mosquitos transmit heartworms, an internal parasite that can grow very large and inhabit the heart and blood vessels.  All of these illnesses can make our pets very ill, and in some cases, they can be fatal.  In addition, some of these external parasites will bite people and transmit disease as well.

At Essex Animal Hospital, we would much rather prevent these parasites, rather than treat your pet (and your home) after they’ve become infested.  Although we can certainly treat any illness your pet may get from these parasites, it is much safer, and much less expensive to prevent them. 

In dogs, we recommend the use of Vectra 3D.  This product is a small quantity of liquid that is applied once a month to your dogs skin.  Once absorbed, it will kill, prevent, and repel, fleas, ticks, flies, mosquitos, mites, and lice.  I use it once a month on my two dogs and (knock on wood), they haven’t had any issues with fleas or ticks.  We also recommend the use of Tri-Heart, a once a month flavored chewable tablet that will prevent heartworm disease, as well as treating and controlling roundworms and hookworms.

In cats, we recommend the use of Revolution.  This product is a small quantity of liquid that is applied once a month to your cats skin.  Once absorbed, it will protect against fleas and heartworm disease, as well as treating and controlling hookworms, roundworms, and ear mites. 

If you are using an over-the-counter product, you must be very careful with their use.  Some of these products are highly toxic to pets.  Just because they are sold over-the-counter (without a prescription), it does not mean that they are safe or effective.  During parasite season, we regularly see cases of toxic overdose from certain over-the-counter flea and tick products.  They can be especially toxic to cats and smaller dogs. 

Similarly, some of these products simply don’t work very well, if at all (which I guess is better than being toxic).  We routinely see dogs and cats with fleas and/or ticks that are currently on the most popular and heavily advertised product on the market.  If you are using an over-the-counter product, please feel free to ask us about it, and we will give you an honest comparison to the products that we recommend and sell at our practice.

We strongly believe that when dealing with internal parasites (intestinal worms and heartworms), and external parasites (fleas, ticks, mosquitos), prevention is the key.  If your pet contracts any of these parasites, or the diseases they may cause, we can definitely treat them.  However, it would be much better for everybody (except the parasites) to prevent them.

So yes, the weather outside can be frightful, but let’s make it frightful only to the bugs!!!

Dogs and Winter

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The winter is very tough on animals, just as it is for people.  Many animals have a lot of difficulty dealing with the cold, snow, ice and slush.  We need to consider their winter needs just as we do ours.  Most of it comes down to simple common sense, but here are some particular things we need to consider.

The bitter cold that we sometimes experience also affects our pets.  Just as we wouldn’t think about going outside without a coat on, the same holds true for our pets.  Now if we are just going out briefly to pick up the mail, or bring in a package from our car, we may do so quickly without a coat.  The same is true for your pet.  A brief moment out in the cold will not be harmful.  However, if we are going for a long walk, playing with our children in the snow, shoveling our driveway and sidewalk, or just being outside for any length of time, we will always put on a warm coat, hat, and gloves.  If your pet is outside with you during these extended times, you should consider having a suitable coat or sweater for them.  It is true  that some breeds are more equipped for cold weather than others.  For example, dogs with long, thick haircoats, such as Siberian Huskies or Akitas can tolerate, and even thrive in cold weather.  Highly active dogs, such as Labrador or Golden Retrievers seem to enjoy the cold and snow, and with their boundless energy, they can handle the cold fairly well for short periods.  However, smaller dogs and dogs with shorter, finer hair coats, such as Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas will chill very easily.  Without some form of protective coat or sweater, these little ones can suffer terribly in cold weather.

Doesn’t a fresh snowfall look like a lot of fun (unless you have to drive in it or shovel it)?   Even to this day, I love to play in the snow with my children, and I still build snowmen (do I need to say snowpersons?) and make snow angels.  Many dogs enjoy this fresh snowfall as well.  However, there can occasionally be dangers that we should be aware of.  Of course, whenever we play in the snow, we are always wearing boots to keep our feet dry and protected.  If we ever stepped on something, such as a rock or stick, we would probably never know it.  But our pets are out playing in the snow in bare feet.  They could easily step on something and injure themselves (in fact, during our recent snow storm, I treated a dog with a serious foot injury after having stepped on a hidden object).  You can purchase protective footwear (velcro booties) at many pet stores or online.  Although some dogs will tolerate them, many dogs look at them as just one more expensive thing to chew on and destroy.  Most importantly, however, is to be aware of where you are playing with your dog in the snow.  If it’s your own yard, you’re probably comfortable that the underlying ground is safe.  But if you enjoy hiking in the park or woods with your dog, it’s probably best to keep them on the trail with you, rather than letting them run freely on uneven, rocky terrain.  Or if not, it would be a good idea to get them used to their booties.

There are other concerns about protecting our dogs feet.  After a  snowfall, the snow is either very soft and powdery (geat for skiing), or sometimes very wet and heavy (great for snowball fights).  But think about what happens to the snow the next day after a cold night.  The snow becomes very hard and crusty.  When our pets walk on that hard, crusted snow, the skin on their legs and paws can become injured.  Certain dog breeds, such as Greyhounds, have very thin skin.  When they put their delicate feet through the snow, their skin easily becomes abraded and torn.  We frequently see such injuries, and sometimes they are severe enough to require stitches.

Similarly, ice can be extremely dangerous to pets.  Many of us have slipped on the ice.  Sometimes it’s because our shoes are inappropriate, sometimes we’re in a hurry and don’t take our time, but sometimes, due to black ice, we simply can’t see where ice has developed.  The same is true for our pets.  They just race across the ground, perhaps chasing a bird or a squirrel, and they don’t think about where they are running.  Although they don’t so much fall on the ice like we do (an advantage of walking on four feet), their feet often splay out to the sides, and they can easily injured their groin, their armpits, their ribs, and their back.  Not only do we need to be aware of the ice where we walk our pets, we also need to be careful while we actually are walking our pets on a leash.  Many a pet owner has been pulled to the ground, sometimes resulting in broken bones, by the rambunctious dog on the other side of the leash.  So if you walk your dog on a leash on snow and ice, be careful.  Take slow, deliberate steps.  And if your dog likes to pull on the leash, consider some serious dog training so they learn to walk at your pace.

Another hidden winter danger is the salt and slush that wash up from the streets onto the sidewalks and our lawns.  We all appreciate it when our local road crews plow and salt our streets.  (I almost enjoy being woken up at 2 am when I hear the snow plow clearing my street.)  Unfortunately, that salt and slush often gets pushed to where our animals must walk.  Salt can be very irritating to a dogs feet.  Some dogs have more web-like paws, and the salt can get buried deep in their paws and cause severe irritation.  Even dogs without webbed feet can get nasty irritations around their pads, toes, and toenails.  If you can avoid walking your dog in areas with salt accumulation, that would be best.  But if salt and slush irritation is a possibility, it’s a good idea to clean, and dry, your dogs feet when they return from a walk.  A wet paper towel or cloth works great, and even baby wipes are convenient to use.  Just remember to dry their feet when they come in, as the moisture from outside, or even from your cleaning, can also be very irritating.

As you can see, most of these recommendations are based on common sense.  Although winter can be a lot of fun, especially for kids and dogs, there are some hidden dangers.  Let them have fun outside, but make sure they are safe and protected.

And one more important thing after playing with your dog outside, whatever you do, “Don’t you eat that yellow snow!”

Why Is Veterinary Medicine So Expensive?

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Clients often express their concerns to me about why veterinary medicine is so expensive.  And you know what, I agree with them, it is expensive.  However, in this article, I hope to tell you why it is so expensive, and in actuality, I think you may see that veterinary medicine can actually be considered a bargain.

Veterinary hospitals function just like regular human hospitals.  We are available to treat just about any type of problem a pet might have.  We have outpatient clinics (for wellness exams and minor health issues), yet we also maintain a full service hospital facility, enabling animals to be admitted as inpatients.  Therefore, we need the same equipment that is maintained at a human hospital.  We maintain a full surgical suite, a radiology department, a fully stocked pharmacy, and a laboratory to run blood samples at a moment’s notice.  We even have a dental practice within our hospital.  Unfortunately, all this cutting edge equipment costs money (lots of it), and we are only able to acquire and maintain this equipment by the fees we charge. 

Veterinary medicine, like human medicine, is a rapidly changing and growing field.  As professionals, we  have spent at least eight years in undergraduate and veterinary school, and oftentimes internships and residencies have extended our education as well.  Because the public demands the very best for their pets, we must keep abreast of new developments and technologies in veterinary medicine.   Not only are we constantly upgrading our diagnostic equipment, but we must continue to expand our knowledge as well.  We regularly attend seminars, lectures, and continuing education meetings so that we can learn about these new developments and continue providing cutting edge care for your pets.   Again, these needs are met solely by the fees we charge.

How many of you have actually seen a bill from a human hospital stay?  Hospital bills often run into thousands of dollars, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.  However, most of us who have health insurance only pay a small copayment to receive service.  You could literally have  your broken leg fixed for just a $15 copayment.  In veterinary medicine, the cost to provide these services are almost exactly the same as it is for human medicine.  We perform the same procedures, use the same equipment, run the same blood tests, and use the same drugs, yet it cost about 10-100 times less in animals than it does in people.  Although it may seem expensive to fix your pet’s broken leg, it is a real bargain compared to the costs in people.

Do you remember the last time you hired a plumber or electrician, had some home improvement work done, or took your car into the shop for some needed repairs?  When they gave you their bill,  I’m sure you didn’t realize how expensive these services were.  Yet, they provided a much needed service to  you, and charged appropriately for that service.  Now imagine that same fee being paid to care for your beloved pet, a family member that brings such joy to you.  I’d say that was a real bargain.  And did you know that  an experienced licensed plumber or electrician have approximately the same income as a veterinarian? 

Lastly, one of the hard truths is that a veterinary hospital is a business, and to remain available to properly care for your pets, we must run a successful business.  Just like any other business, we have many costs to pay, such as rent, utilities, taxes, licensing fees, and insurance, to name a few.  We must hire competent staff to care for your pets, and we must pay competitive salaries, health insurance and other benefits, so that we can attract a high quality staff to care for your pets.  And because we are a full-service hospital, the overhead costs to equip, maintain, and staff the facility is much greater than other small businesses.  The only way  that we can stay in business, allowing us to expertly care for your pets, is to charge an appropriate fee.

So you are correct, veterinary medicine is expensive.  But I think in many ways, it is a real bargain.  There is real value to the fees that you pay.  Our pets are living creatures that give so much to us, and are important  members of our families.  They are invaluable to us.  They are priceless.  For the love and joy they give to us – they are worth every penny!

Should I get pet insurance?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

I am often asked by clients if purchasing pet insurance is a good idea, and my answer is always “It depends.”  Before I can really answer that for someone, they have to understand a little bit about pet insurance, what it can do, and more importantly, what it cannot do.

First of all, similar to human health insurance, pet health insurance can help cover the cost of medical expenses in case of accident or illness.  Although some companies provide coverage for routine wellness care (vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, dental cleanings, etc.), most companies provide insurance just for major, unexpected, and expensive health issues.  And just like people,  there may be various levels of coverage, including differing co-payments, deductibles, maximum payouts, waiting periods, disease-specific riders, and exclusions on certain genetic and pre-existing conditions.

What many people don’t understand is that pet health insurance works on a reimbursement system.  In other words, when your pet is treated by the veterinarian, all your financial dealings are handled with the veterinary office as they usually are.  The veterinary staff provides a service, and the client pays the bill at check-out.  A  staff member will  fill out a fairly simple claim form which is then submitted to the insurance company.  Assuming the illnes or injury is covered, the insurance company will send the appropriate reimbursement, as detailed in your policy.  Therefore, you should realize that even if you have health insurance, you must still have the means  to pay for your veterinary care up front. 

When I discuss health insurance with clients, I encourage them to think about what they want from an insurance company.  Do they want the broadest, most complete coverage available (along with higher premiums)?  Do they want routine wellness care included (vaccines, spay/neuter, etc.)?  Do they just want to insure against expensive catastrophic illnesses or injuries?  Are they willing and able to pay for the less serious and less costly health issues?   Once they have decided if pet health insurance is right for them, and what level of coverage they wish,  only then should they meaningfully investigate and research the various companies and their plans.  The research part is fairly straight forward.  If you search pet insurance online, you will find  links to all the major pet health insurance companies.  You will be able to research the various  plans they offer, and will even be able to compare them to competing insurance companies. 

There are two common scenarios that I occasionally face that I need to point out.  I find that many people purchase health insurance while their pet is young.  They obtain a new puppy or kitten, and since the premiums are relatively low, and they are new, well-intentioned pet owners, they purchase a perfectly good policy.   After several years of paying premiums, their pet has always been  relatively healthy, and (thankfully) they never have had the need to “collect”  on the policy.  So finally, after a few years, they decide to cancel the policy.  Big mistake!!  Of course they never had to file a claim, because they have taken such good care of their pet!  However, just like people, serious  illness usually strikes us when we are older.  So finally after many years of good health, their pet gets ill, and they may be faced with expensive care.  This is usually when they tell me they dropped their policy a year ago because they didn’t think it was worth it.  You should never hope to “collect” on your policy (isn’t that hoping that your pet gets ill or injured?).   Pet insurance should give you the assurance and peace of mind such that, should something happen to your pet, you will have the insurance in place to cover your financial outlay.

The other scenario that I often find is that people attempt to get insurance after their pet is ill or injured, and they cannot understand why they are not approved.  This is because it is now a pre-existing condition.  No insurance company will cover your pet after your pet becomes sick or hurt.  By this time, it is too late.  The time to get insurance is before your pet becomes ill or injured, because it won’t be available after your pet needs it.

So, do I think pet health insurance is a good idea?  Again, I say, “It depends.”  It may be for some, but not for others.   However, it is very important to spend some time considering it.  Do your homework.  Think about what you want out of pet health insurance.  You may decide that it is not for you.  But if you decide that pet health insurance is right for you , choose a policy that fits your wants, your needs, and your budget.  Your pets health may depend on it.

A Day In The Life Of A Veterinarian

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

I always wanted to be a veterinarian! You must have a cool job.  What’s it like to be a veterinarian?

I get this a lot.  It seems like everytime I meet a new group of people, I hear this from at least one of them.  But I don’t mind it because, 1) I always wanted to be a veterinarian too, 2) It is a cool job, and 3) I think it’s great to be a veterinarian. 

 It’s really hard to describe a typical “day in the life of a veterinarian” because every day is different.  When I walk into that exam room, I might be faced with a happy, healthy puppy or kitten, or a senior pet who is beginning to show their age.  I might be face to face with a bird that talks back to me (“Hello Doc, Hello Doc”), or a snake that wants to wrap around my arm for warmth.  I might have a troubled senior citizen whose best friend is ill, or a scared youngster whose hamster isn’t feeling well.  Yes, there are happy times and sad times, but I practice veterinary medicine with one underlying philosophy, and that is to always do the best thing for the animal.  In my mind, the pet comes first, and everything else is a distant second.  So with that in mind, I thought I’d give you a taste of a typical “week” in the life of a veterinarian.

Recently, Mr. and Mrs. K brought their 17 year old dog in for a second opinion concerning an ongoing problem.  Bella (not her real name, but she certainly was a beautiful dog) meant everything to the K family.  She was a beloved family member ever since the K’s were married, and they were very concerned about her.  While investigating her problem, I unexpectedly and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it),  discovered a potentially cancerous tumor in her abdomen that was completely unrelated to her current problem.  The K’s were shocked, and were now faced with a difficult decision.  They could either have me attempt life saving surgery, or be prepared that Bella could become seriously ill very soon.  They did not hesitate with their decision.  “Do all you can to save Bella.”  To make a long story short, Bella did well with her surgery, and hopefully the K’s will have much more valuable time with her.  When I saw  Bella for suture removal a couple weeks later, it was the first time I saw the K’s smile since I met them.  I think Bella was smiling a little bit too.  This was one of those good days to be a veterinarian.

A few days later, Mr. S came by with his dog Brutus (not his real name, but he sure was a big, strong dog), because Brutus had been coughing for awhile.  I have known Mr. S for many years, as he was a true dog lover, and I have had the priviledge of caring for many of his dogs.  When I saw Brutus, I was very concerned, because he clearly was not himself.  Again, to make a long story short, I sadly discovered that Brutus was suffering from advanced, incurable cancer.  Mr. S was devastated, as was our entire staff, as they had also known Mr. S and Brutus for many years.  Mr. S took Brutus home so the family could all say goodbye, and we humanely euthanized Brutus the next day.  This was one of the sadder times I remember as a veterinarian.  But you know what?  There was still a sliver of goodness in this, because even though Brutus passed away, I know that we still did the very best thing we could do for Brutus.  We prevented any further pain and suffering.  In a strange way, this was still a good day to be a veterinarian.

The next day, I came to work still a bit bummed about Brutus.  But guess what?  My first appointment was a happy, healthy, crazy little puppy who was trying to smother me with his wet, slobbery kisses.  This truly was going to be a great day to be a veterinarian!

Welcome to our new blog!!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Welcome to the new Essex Animal Hospital website, and welcome to our blog.  In this blog, I hope to offer you some timely information concerning your pet’s health.  Please check back periodically and see what I have to say.  Thanks, Dr. Dolin.