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5/9/2017 3:21:30 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

In 2012 there were 600 reported cases of Heartworm disease in Maryland. Last year there were over 800 reported cases and this year is expected to be even higher. What was once just a major health issue for pets in southern states like, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi is now of concern here in Maryland!

How would my pet get heartworm?

Heartworm disease cab be fatal to pets. THE GOOD NEWS: you can protect your pet from this disease!

Heartworm are transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The heartworm larvae (or baby heartworm) enter the bite wound.  Each parasitic worm can grow up to 12 inches long in the arteries of the lungs and heart of dogs, cats, and other species of mammals.  Infected dogs generally have 35-40 heartworm where as cats generally only have 1-2.

Why do I need to treat during the winter months?

Some owners opt out of treating their pets during the winter months, but this can cause a significant risk to the pet’s health. Stopping heartworm prevention medication during the winter runs the risk of the dog or cat contracting heartworm. If the animal becomes infected, starting the heartworm preventative later without testing, can put the pet in danger. Heartworm prevention works by killing the microfilaria (the offspring).  If the pet has a significant volume of these microfilaria in their system, killing them all at once could send a pet’s system into shock, with potentially fatal results. For this reason, testing your dog prior to starting, or restarting, a heartworm preventive is crucial.

The American Heartworm Society advises all dogs should be tested if:

  1. They are being started on a heartworm preventive for the first time.
  2. A pet has gone longer that 60 days without a dose
  3. They switch from one preventative medication to another
  4. They are on year-round preventative as an annual screening

Does my indoor cat need Heartworm Prevention?

Cats are not considered natural hosts to heartworm because the worms do not survive as well as they do in a dog’s body, HOWEVER they are still at risk for heartworm disease.

The concern with cats is that diagnosing heartworm in cats is not as easy, or accurate as testing is in dogs. In addition to blood work, testing on cats can also include X-rays and ultrasounds.

Also, unlike for heartworm disease in dogs, there is no FDA-approved treatment for killing adult heartworm in cats. Because of the additional complications associated with diagnosing and treating cats, prevention becomes the only weapon against heartworm in cats.

3/28/2017 7:07:39 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

Today a client asked me about her 8 month old kitten that is scratching up her furniture, carpet, and curtains.  She does not want to have her cat de-clawed and wanted to know what she could do to stop the destruction.    The first thing I told her is that she is not alone.  This is a very common behavior for cats and that there are quite a few things she can do.

Step 1: The first thing to remember is that scratching is a NORMAL behavior for cats.  It’s how they keep their nails healthy.  They also use it as a way to mark where they’ve been… kind of a ‘Fluffy was here’ tag.  So, you will not be able to completely eliminate the behavior.  You can, however, teach them where it is, or is not, appropriate.

Step 2:  Next we need to make the places where they are currently doing their scratching undesirable.  You can accomplish this by altering the texture of the location.  For carpets or some furniture you can place those plastic runners with the raised plastic bumps used for office chairs.  Lay them on the carpet or sofa upside down so that the raised points are facing upward making the surface no longer comfortable to walk on. If your pet scratches on the doors in your home there are actual scratching pads that you can purchase that hang off of the door handle.  They give your pet a safe surface to scratch on while saving your doors and door frames. Cats are not fans of citrus scents.  You can also try placing a paper towel sprayed with a citrus scent in the area your pet scratches as a scent deterrent.

Step 3:  Give them a place that they are allowed to scratch to their hearts desire.

  • Teaching your pet to use a scratching post starts with their preferred scratching surface. There are posts that are covered in carpeting, rope, or just plain wood.
  • Some pets may have a favorite place in the house where they like to scratch. Start by placing your scratching post there.  As your cat begins to use the scratching post you can slowly (over a couple weeks or months) move the scratching post to a location you are more comfortable with.
  • Every time your pet approaches the post or touches the post toss them a very small treat. When it scratches the post give it a big treat. This can take a while so don’t get discouraged.

If your pet is scratching you or your loved ones there is also a product called soft paws.  They are small plastic coverings that get applied directly to your cat’s toe nails.  They create a softer rounded tip to the nails that does not cause any scratching or bleeding.  They do, however, need to be re-applied about every 4-5 weeks.


3/5/2017 7:56:25 PM | Erin Mills, RVT


Antifreeze is a serious threat to our pets because it is found in almost every home or garage, and can easily be found spilled on streets and/or parking lots.  Antifreeze is ingestion when our pets lick it off the ground or off their paws after walking through it. But why is it so appealing to pets?   The main ingredient in most antifreeze brands is Ethylene glycol, which has a very sweet flavor.

The enticing sweetness of ethylene glycol is something that has long been of concern so in 2012, manufacturers voluntarily agreed to add a bittering agent to antifreeze. This did help to neutralize the appealing flavor of antifreeze, but it did nothing to reduce how lethal it is.  It has been estimated that anywhere between 10,000 and 90,000 animals in the US are poisoned each year, and of those animals that have come on contact with the deadly toxin, most of them, nearly 88%, do not survive. A toxic dose can be as little as 1 teaspoon in cats or as little as 1 tablespoon in dogs.

So what can you do?

1. Keep antifreeze sealed and away from animals; clean up spills immediately and thoroughly. Fix any leaks right away.
3. Be careful when walking your pet through parking lots, garages and driveways or across the street.  Clean your pets feet thoroughly when arriving home before letting them off leash.
4. Antifreeze isn’t the only product that contains ethylene glycol—So Be careful. Certain paints, cosmetics and even novelty snow globes can contain smaller amounts of the toxin.
5. Monitor your pet for strange behavior like poor to no coordination, depression, or if they are non-responsive.  The longer between ingestion and treatment the greater risk their is for long term kidney damage or death.
6. Contact your veterinarian immediately. Antifreeze is fast acting so time is important. If treated within 4 hours for cats and 8 hours for dog prognosis is fair to good.  If untreated death occurs within 24-48 hours after exposure.

for more information visit: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

2/10/2017 1:00:27 PM | Erin Mills, RVT


Valentine’s Day is a special day meant to show those you love just how much you care.  We spent hundreds or thousands of dollars each year on flowers, chocolates and those oh so sparkly diamonds.  But as wonderful as all those are (and they are, oh, so wonderful) we sometimes forget those who, in my opinion, are the most important in our life… our pets.  This year show your pets just how much they mean to you and Make your Pet Your Valentine!

Here are 10 ways to make your pet your special Valentine this year!

  1. Treats!  Who doesn’t like treats!  Every pet has something amazing that gets that tail wagging! It could be anything from a special flavor of canned food to a dog biscuit topped with peanut butter.
  2. Bring on the Bling!  Diamonds aren’t just a girl’s best friend.  Get your pet a new sparkling collar or an ‘I luv Mommy or Daddy’ t-shirt to make all the neighborhood dogs jealous!
  3. Pamper your Pooch!  Give your pet a day at the spa complete with a new do and pretty pink nail polish… for our girly, girls of course.
  4. Go for a car ride.  Most dogs love to ride in the car.  It’s a great way to experience so many new sights and smells!
  5. Let your pet control the remote.  Nothing says pampered pooch more that a day of lying on the couch watching animal planet all day long!
  6. Go shopping. A lot of pet stores allow pets to come in with their owners, as long as they are on a leash.
  7. Cats need love too! Get a big box and cut different size holes into it.  Then fill the box with balls and other cat toys! Your cats will love it… and you too!
  8. Laser pens!!  Let the fun begin! Shine the laser on the wall or floor or up and down the stairs, and watch your cat or your dog go crazy!
  9.  Hide treats in a room then let your dog into the room to find them. They’ll love this!
  10. Mommy/Daddy and me time!  Most important of all give your pet some quality one-on-one time!  Because when it all comes down to it this is what they really want!
Happy Valentines Day Everyone!

1/17/2017 4:47:44 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

 The holidays are over and its time for everyone’s favorite New Years Resolution… shedding those recently gained and very unwanted holiday pounds.  I myself am no stranger to this New Years resolution, and I am also no stranger to failing miserably in my attempts.  I find though that where I may not have much control over my own eating habits I am more responsible when it comes to my pets.  Whether it is from a decrease in activity or an increase in holiday goodies; our pets suffer from the same winter weight gain issues that their humans do.  So what can we do to help “Fluffy” keep her girlish figure?

Good Nutrition – a healthy food formulated for your pet’s life stage is the perfect place to start, but your veterinarian may recommend a special prescription diet food to help your pet lose weight more easily.

Measure, measure, measure – Saying that you only feed 1 cup of food a day isn’t exactly accurate when that cup is a large fountain drink cup.  A marked measuring cup of appropriate size should be used to help you measure how much food you are actually giving at each meal.

Meal feeding – Feeding several small measured meals may keep your pet from begging or snacking when he or she is bored.

Healthy treat choices – Treats do have calories no matter how much we wish they didn’t. As a matter of fact, often pets get more calories in the treats that we feed them than they do in their actual meals. Offer vegetables instead of cookies to keep the extra calories to a minimum. You can reward your pet without putting on those extra pounds.

Exercise – Burning calories is a great way to lose weight. Low impact activitieswhit pup are the best place to start: walking, behavioral training, or swimming. When your pet’s endurance increases try playing fetch, jogging, or agility classes. Start slowly to prevent injury. For an inactive patient a few exercise events of 10 minutes duration are a better start than 45 minutes of steady activity.

Monitor your Pets Weight- It is important to bring your pet in monthly for a weight check on approximately the same day every month and keep a chart of how much your pet loses.

But Be Careful!
Sudden transitions to less fatty diet foods may cause your pet to go on food strike because of curb appeal or an upset tummy from a sudden diet change.

Like everything there can be too much of a good thing. Weight loss of more than 2% per week for dogs and more than 1% per week for cats is not healthy and can cause problems that we want to avoid.

Sign up sign your pet up for our  Fit Club today and lose those holiday pounds!

12/9/2016 1:00:32 PM | Erin Mills, RVT


To prevent happy tails and curious paws from tipping this year’s Christmas tree here are a few tips and tricks to remember for a Happy and peaceful Christmas.

  1. Cat’s aren’t very fond of citrus scents, so try spraying Christmas Kittyyour tree skirt with an orange or lemon scent to deter that feline curiosity.
  2. Christmas decorations are shiny, dangly and irresistible. Make sure that any breakable baubles or ornaments are higher on the tree out of the reach of puppy paws.
  3. It doesn’t take much for pets to become overstimulated and overwhelmed around the holidays. Give your pets plenty of time to adjust to new guests as well as a safe and quiet place for them to retreat to when it gets to be too much.
  4. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Poinsettias, holly and of course the mistletoe. Most pets won’t bother them, but these plants will make the sick, especially the berries. Keep the plants high, out of the reach of pets. If you do see a pet munching on one of your holiday flowers call a vet immediately.
  5. Wrapping paper, ribbon and tinsel… oh my. Pets, especially cats, love to play with paper balls and shiny ribbon or tinsel. If swallowed however, they can get tangles in their stomachs and it will be a trip to the emergency room. So, make sure to have a trash bag ready and pick up the leftover gift wrapping before your pets do.
  6. The Christmas turkey or ham may look delicious, but they are not for pets. Many foods, safe for humans can actually be dangerous for our pets like chocolate, yeast dough, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins and currents, avocados, coffee, onions and garlic (among others). Not feeding your pets from your meal doesn’t mean that they can’t be spoiled. To make the holidays special for your pet crack open a can of your pet’s favorite food, and serve in warmed on their own special holiday plate.
  7. Pets may mistake cinnamon sticks and other dry potpourri for treats. These can cause an upset tummy or worse. Liquid potpourri can be extremely toxic as well as cause chemical burns if licked and ingested. Try a pet safe air freshener instead as a safe alternative.
  8. Make sure you have your pets identification tags, and microchip information up to date. It can be easy for a pet to slip past an unsuspecting holiday guest and get lost or injured out of doors.
  9. Don’t place presents under the Christmas tree that contain food or candy. Pets have a much stronger sense of smell that we do and it may just be too much to resist.

11/30/2016 1:00:01 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

Anesthesia can be scary, but there are things you can do to minimize the scary and make things as safe as possible for your pet. First, make sure your veterinarian knows your pet’s complete history.  Everything from their vaccine history to medications they may have taken can influence how your pet may respond to anesthesia. Second, and most important, have diagnostic testing performed for your pet prior to surgery.  The more information we know about your pet the safer the anesthetic experience can be.

So what are we talking about:

  1. Chemistry Profile- tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels to blood tubetest for diabetes
  2. A complete blood count (CBC) to ensure there are no bleeding complications or any unidentified infections.
  3. Electrolytes test to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance

Additional tests such as urinalysis, thyroid check, heartworm testing and/or Feline Leukemia/ FIV testing may be added on an individual basis.

To ensure your pet the safest anesthetic experience, make sure the following precautions are also taken:

  1. The placement of an intravenous (IV) catheter. The catheter is placed to provide anesthetics and IV fluids to keep your pet hydrated.  Additionally, it would serve as a way to directly administer life-saving medications, should a crisis arise.
  2. Intravenous fluids to help maintain hydration and blood pressure. IV fluids also help your pet with her recovery process by aiding the liver and kidneys in clearing the body of anesthetic agents more quickly.

What to Expect on the Day of the Anesthetic/Surgical Event
Be sure to have your veterinarian, or the veterinary staff, answer any questions you may have prior to your pet’s surgery.   Give yourself plenty of time in the morning to sign paperwork and discuss the procedure that morning.

How Your Dog is Monitored During Anesthesia
Several safeguards are put into place to help reduce your dog’s risk during anesthesia.

  1. The surgical assistant/veterinary technician: A technician is present during the entire anesthetic event to monitor your dog’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and others) and to help adjust anesthetic levels, under the direction of the veterinarian.
  2. A heart rate monitor counts your pet’s heartbeats per minute. By monitoring your dog’s heart rate, your veterinarian can make anesthetic adjustments quickly.
  3. An electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors your dog’s heart rate and heartbeat pattern. It can detect abnormal heartbeats called arrhythmias. If an arrhythmia is detected, your veterinarian can make suitable changes in anesthesia.
  4. Core body temperature is also monitored. Changes in body temperature can cause dangerous complications.
  5. A blood pressure monitor measures your dog’s blood pressure. It provides detailed information on your pet’s cardiovascular condition.
  6. Pulse oximetry monitors the amount of oxygen in your dog’s blood and her pulse rate.

Recovery or Post Surgical Care
Safeguards are also in place to help your pet even after the surgery is over.

  1. A veterinary technician continues to monitor your pet’s vital signs until your pet is awake and sitting up.
  2. Pain medication is administered to ensure a smooth recovery and to keep you pet pain free.

11/15/2016 1:00:36 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

Tell me if this sounds familiar.  It’s 7 o’clock in the morning, the kids still need to get on the bus, and you’re worried about getting to work on time.  However, the vet told you “Fluffy” is due for his annual parasite exam and it needs to be fresh.  So here you are outside in your business suit wearing the rubber gloves you normally wear to clean the bathroom with a Ziploc bag and one of the kids McDonald’s drink cups from last night, following the dog around the yard.  You’re praying the neighbors aren’t secretly watching you from their kitchen window because you’ve been following the dog around the yard for about 10 minutes.  Of course, this morning of all mornings he’s decided to take his time and sniff everything before going.  Finally, though, you’re able to get the sample needed and right before the bus comes.  Just when you think the tides are turning in your favor you realize, as you’re getting into the car, that you have to ride the whole way to the vet’s office with, what is in confined spaces, an unusually smelly pile of poop.  And the only thing you can think of is that you hope the smell doesn’t stick to your clothes all day!

I could go on and on, but most of you know where I’m going with this.  As a pet owner I’ve been there too.  So I know the feeling of questioning whether or not it’s even worth it.  Whether you own a cat, dog, ferret or potbellied pig I’m sure the words “zoonosis” and “stool sample” have been said to you more than once by your veterinarian.  So, why is it sooo important?


Parasites, internal parasites to be exact, are one of the most common issues any pet owner has to face.  Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, giardia, coccidia, etc., etc., etc.   There are hundreds of different internal parasites, some more common than others, some which pets can be born with, and some which are zoonotic.  So what does zoonotic mean??  Zoonotic means they can be passed from pet to human.  You can get them!!  Without even taking into account the affect they have on your pet’s health the fact that they are able to be passed on to us is reason enough to don the yellow rubber gloves.

“But I always wear my rubber gloves when I scoop the yard or clean out the litterbox!” That’s great and if you don’t you should, but here are a few other things to keep in mind.  Does your pet sleep in your bed?  Does your dog or cat give you kisses?  Or more importantly where was the last place they licked before they licked you? Do your kids have an outdoor sand box? Have you ever walked barefoot on the beach or in you own back yard?  Do you take your pet to a dog park or any other public place where they could be exposed to infected animals? Is your cat a mouser? Do you garden?

If you answered yes to even one of those questions here are a few things you can do:

  1. Wear shoes when outside and shoes and gloves when gardening.
  2. Cover outdoor sandboxes when not in use.
  3. Only feed your pet cooked or already prepared foods.  (Not raw.)
  4. Scoop the yard and/or litterboxes regularly.
  5. Keep pets and children from playing in any stagnant or standing water.
  6. Wash your hands before you eat and after playing with any animal or pet.
  7. Have a stool sample checked for all the pets in your household yearly and talk to your veterinarian about putting your pet on a parasite prevention program.

Want more information??
Visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s website at
or  the Center for Disease Control at

10/30/2016 12:00:54 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

Ear problems are one of the most common medical issues affecting pets.  Anywhere from 20-50% of dogs (higher percentage in warmer climates) and 10% of cats suffer from chronic ear problems.

infected-ear How do I know if my pet has an ear infection?
Common signs of otitis are: Shaking of the head, matted hair behind ears from excessive scratching, aural hematoma (a blood filled pocket in the ear pinna), dried or crusty discharge at ear canal opening, strong foul odor, pain, and head shyness.

How do you Diagnose Otitis?
1: Examination: Internal and external examination of the ear and skin by a veterinarian is crucial.  The health of the Ear drum must be assessed. A normal healthy ear drum is intact and translucent.  The horizontal ear canal is evaluated for swelling, debris, abnormal narrowing, blockage, and abnormal growths or polyps.  The ear canal should be smooth and pink.  If debris is present it will be evaluated for color, consistency and odor. The overall health of a pet must also be evaluated.  Ear problems are often secondary to other diseases, the most common of which is allergies.eac-cytilogy

  1. Ear cytology: is the way of identifying and quantifying the micro-organisms present. Cotton swab samples are taken from both ears, fixed to a slide, stained and examined under a microscope. The samples will then be evaluated for the presence of epithelial (skin) cells, white blood cells (WBC) and red blood cells (RBC), yeast, cocci, rods, and mites.
  2. Treatment: Treatment protocols are based upon, a patient’s history and general health status, cytology results, and health of the ear canal and eardrum. Possible treatments are antibiotics, yeast treatments, steroids, and pain medications if forms such as ear drops, ointments or extended release medications.

BE CAREFUL: The eardrum should be evaluated prior to introducing any medication or cleaner into a pet’s ear as they can cause damage to the eardrum as well as the middle and inner ear.  If the health of the eardrum is unknown only use warm water to clean the outside of the ear (pinna) until the ears can be evaluated by a Veterinarian.

Why does my pet keep getting ear infections?
Ear infections are one of the most frustrating health problems for pet owners.  Ear problems are often seasonal and allergy-related, require ongoing treatment, and are generally reoccurring or chronic and therefore treatable but not curable.

Why do I need to have my pet rechecked when his ears are better?
Rechecks are CRITICAL!  Ears can appear normal and healthy on the outside but inside can still harbor disease and infection.  There is no way to know for sure if an infection is cleared without examining the health of the ear canal and ear drum.

This ear treatment isn’t working!
The ear canal is a small ‘L’ shaped tube that is difficult to access making cleaning and medicating properly complicated.  In addition, some infections are more severe than others and may need to be treated longer.  Bacteria can also become resistant to certain antibiotics especially in pets with chronic conditions.  What may have worked well the last time may have no affect now.  In those situations a Culture and Sensitivity test may be needed. This test cultures the bacteria present and exposes it to various antibiotics allowing the Veterinarian to know which antibiotics will work and which to avoid.

10/11/2016 5:36:02 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

As I walk out to the mailbox each day to get the mail it can sometimes be a mixture of anticipation and dread as I lower that mailbox door.  Will this be a good day and I’ll get a card from Nana and my weekly packet of sales flyers, or will it be a bad day and I get a 2nd notice on a bill I forgot to pay and a postcard from my vet telling me my cat is due for vaccines?  Why is it the idea of taking cat-in-carriermy cat to the vet brings me so much anxiety?  I take my dogs for car rides all the time.  I take them for walks on the canal, to the store with me, and even sometimes to get ice cream.  (Yes I know that’s bad.)  But the idea of trying to get my cat into a carrier, hearing the cries and meows of distress the entire car ride, then the stress of the visit and the inevitable repercussion of the whole ordeal when you get home.  Because let’s be honest cats are vindictive little felines and there will be payback for interrupting their napping schedule.

So is it just me and my oh-so temperamental feline or do other people feel the same way I do?  The answer is yes!  A recent study showed that the majority of pet cats in this country do NOT receive the preventative care they need.  And what is the number one reason you ask?  It’s the horror of an experience that is getting our cats to the vet! It’s not that we don’t know that vaccines and preventative care are important and it’s not that we don’t love our cats. It’s that both cats and cat owner have been conditioned to respond negatively to the carrier.  Yes I said the cats and pet owners.

For cats, the carrier is a prime example of classical condition or Pavlovian conditioning where an animal associates one stimulus or event (getting the carrier out of the closet for example) with another stimulus or event (a car ride that ends with getting poked with a needle).  Since most cats only get in the carrier once or twice a year to go to the Veterinarian, when the carrier is brought out it is immediately associated with a stressful situation.

It’s the same for us cat owners.  We wake up the morning of the vet visit stressed because we know how our cats are going to react when we get the carrier out. So why do we wait?  We know they will get stressed, but we still wait until the morning of the appointment. We tell ourselves it’s because they will just hide if we get it out earlier and we at least have a chance if we wait. But what if we’re wrong?  Why not get the carrier out days before the visit giving them time to acclimate to it being out?  Why don’t we leave the carrier out all the time? Most hard cat carriers are easily dismantled and the top and door can be removed.  Why not make the carrier into a cat bed placed somewhere they routinely sleep?

If we can incorporate the carrier into our cat’s day to day life then its very presence will no longer be a stress.  In fact in becomes a haven. The stress of a car ride and a visit to the Vet becomes reduced because the whole time they are in a place they have come to feel safe.  Now the carrier isn’t something to run from, but something to run to.   Once the carrier becomes more familiar let’s takes our cats for car rides.  We don’t have to go anywhere.  A quick trip around the neighborhood that ends with treats at home can make the car far less scary too.

Just remember, this will not happen overnight. It can be tedious and a long road for both of you, but it can be done.

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