The Critter's Chronicle Blog

11/21/2017 9:16:34 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

It’s that time of year again… my favorite time of year. Turkey, masked potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, and stuffing are only a few of the reasons that I LOVE Thanksgiving. But, as much as I look forward to having friends and family gathered around the table; I know that there are other members of my family (dogs and cats alike) that don’t see it the same as I do. Here are a few tips to help make this Thanksgiving holiday a safe and happy event for everyone.

1. Your pet does NOT need his own plate of your Thanksgiving spread. Even though it is the holidays try and avoid giving your pets any leftovers from your meal as it can cause severe GI upset leading to diarrhea, vomiting and pancreatitis. Turkey bones can also get lodged in a pet’s throat or splinter and cause punctures, tears, or obstructions in the stomach or intestinal tract.

REMEMBER: A warmed can of pet food can go a long way to allowing your dog or cat to celebrate without the risk of illness or surgery.
2. Many human foods are toxic to pets and can cause illnesses even more severe than GI upset. Foods such as Macadamia nuts, raw yeast dough, alcohol, garlic and onions, sage and other spices, chocolate, and especially grapes and raisins can be harmful and even life threatening to your pet. If you suspect your pet may have ingested any toxic foods contact a veterinarian immediately.

3. Keep holiday candles or warmed potpourri out of the reach of your pets. Curious noses and paws could be burned and wagging tails could cause serious fires.

4. Secure your trash cans so that your pets cannot tip them over and get into unwanted items. Items that were used with food such as the string to tie the turkey, aluminum foil, plastic wrap even wax paper can be very appealing to your pet, but very dangerous if ingested.

5. Provide your pet with a quiet refuge away from the hustle and bustle of holiday guests. Too much attention can become upsetting to your pet and can cause them to become more irritated and agitated than usual.

6. Be certain to have your pets current ID tags on at all times. Expected guests or surprise visitors provide opportunities for your pet to escape.

7. Puppy eyes can be almost impossible to ignore and the temptation to offer them a small bite from your plate can sometimes be to hard to resist. Before you sit down to your own meal remove temptation from both your guests and your pets by feed your pets their own regular meal in a gated or play pen area nearby. Your pets will be focused on their own meals and will hopefully be out of the range for begging or stealing.

9/8/2017 5:52:04 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

No matter how many years we get with our pets it’s never long enough. For most of us our pets are an integral part of our family. Which makes it difficult to know when it’s time to say goodbye. It’s important to remember, that even though we may not have much time left with them, we can make sure that time has value.

Evaluating a pet’s quality of life revolves around three main dynamics:

Emotional –It’s important to to watch for any changes to their daily routine or their willingness to receive treatment that may be related to depression. Appropriate mental stimulation through environmental enrichment is important to maintaining a happy and engaged mind.

Social – Engagement with their family and/or other pets is also important. If your pet is isolating himself or avoiding interaction with family members or other pets, tell your veterinarian.

Physical – Evaluating a pet’s physical condition can involve everything from management of a pet’s pain to hygiene, nutrition, mobility and more. Does your pet need regular bathing or a hygienic shave? Maybe they would benefit from the use of non-skid floors, harnesses or slings, or maybe a warm quiet area with comfortable bedding is what they need.

Knowing when it’s time

Whether it’s administers subcutaneous fluids or giving your pet pills regularly, when discussing quality of life a pets personality has to be taken into consideration when discussing treatment options. A pet’s willingness and capacity to receive care may determine what treatments option would be right for your pet.

One of the most useful tool you can have is your own experiences. You, better than anyone else, know what makes your pet happy. So, create a list or a journal of your pet’s favorite things from their normal routine, and what things, if removed, would affect your pet’s quality of life. Things such as: being unable to take a morning walk or not being able to get up on the bed anymore, lack of interest in treats or toys, or cognition issues that would lead to crying, whining or pacing.

Many of the things on the list will be for your pet and their comfort, but some will be for you as well, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re not strong enough to support his weight to help him walk. Maybe you have financial constraints that prevent you from exploring alternative treatment options. Those with a full time job or children may not have the time available to dedicate to a more involved treatment plan.

Also consider your own personal beliefs. Some people want to take every possible path to treating their pet, where others may ready to say goodbye sooner. There is no right or wrong path to take as long as the pets comfort and well-being is considered.

Share your plan with your veterinarian

Discuss everything with your veterinarian and create a hospice plan for your pet’s care. Together you can determine what treatments, or palliative care options, are best for you and your pet. Communicating your choices before the end-of-life process begins will ensure that both you and your pet will have a peaceful end-of-life experience.

9/1/2017 5:50:45 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

Our own Dr. Virginia Scrivener is a Fear-Free Certified Professional.

If you have been moseying around any pet-related websites lately you may have seen this symbol more and more and wondered what exactly it stands for.

There is a new approach to handling veterinary patients that helps take care of a pets emotional well being, as well as they physical well being.  Stress and anxiety, or white coat syndrome as we call it for people, exists with pets; especially cats.  Stress and anxiety, just as in humans, can affect a pets health and can make treating those patients more difficult.

So what can we do?

The first thing is to recognize how a our pets react on their trips into the vet.  Is it the walk into the hospital that is a stress or does it start before that?  Is it the car ride or maybe even something at home that tells them what is about to happen.

Maybe your pet would benefit from a pre-visit sedation or supplements that you would give at home to help take the edge off and keep your pet happy and relaxed.  Maybe it’s just a matter of waiting in the car rather than the waiting room? Maybe your pet prefers a non-slip floor?

Maybe pheromones might help relax your pet. In our exam rooms we use pheromones.  We try to allow our patients time to explore the room and to give the pheromones time to help a pet relax a bit before anything physical happens.

Maybe your pet is food motivated. Bringing your pet to the vet hungry can make everything they experience positive with super yummy treats.  This can make a trip to the veterinarian a good thing and will help keep their stress levels low.

Going to the vet doesn’t have to be stressful.  We are proud to have Fear Free Certified Professionals on our team that are dedicated to caring for your pet’s emotional well-being as well as his or her physical well-being.

Interested in learning more about Fear Free? Visit



7/20/2017 8:09:55 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

AAHAlogo120%20copyThis symbol means that we have chosen
to undergo regular evaluations
to maintain our AAHA accreditation.
Not every hospital puts in the work
and chooses to earn this designation,
but we’re proud to say we do!


Not all veterinary hospitals are created equal.  We’re not saying this to discredit anyone, or to force anyone to leave a veterinarian that they trust.  On the contrary, we want to help pet owners make the best decision possible.

In human medicine it is the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) that requires all hospitals in the United States to be accredited through one of three accrediting agencies: The Joint Commission, Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) or Det Norske Veritas Healthcare, Inc. (DNV).  This means that to provide Medicare services to patients they must undergo regular reviews and quality checks to ensure they meet a specific set of Standards of Quality for every aspect of medical care.

In veterinary medicine there is only one organization that accredits veterinary hospitals, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).  What most people are surprised to learn is that accreditation is voluntary.  This is different from state licensing and regulatory agencies standards that must be maintained for general health and safety. There is absolutely no law that requires a veterinary hospital to meet and maintain a precise level of quality veterinary care.  AAHA accreditation is a very rigorous and time-consuming process, and most veterinary hospitals do not take the time to meet these standards since it’s not required by law. In fact, only about 12% of veterinary hospitals, clinics and practices are accredited.

There are approximately 900 Standards of Accreditation that a veterinary hospital must meet to become accredited. These standards include patient care and pain management, surgery, pharmacy, laboratory, exam facilities, medical records, cleanliness, emergency services, dental care, diagnostic imaging, anesthesiology, and continuing education.

AAHA accredited hospitals don’t have to meet these standards just once either. These standards are subject to regular review and onsite-evaluations to ensure that the high quality of care is maintained.  Animal hospitals that choose to be accredited show they are committed to going above and beyond for their patients to consistently provide the safest and highest quality care.

How do you know if your veterinary hospital is AAHA accredited? Hospitals that are AAHA accredited with proudly display the AAHA logo.  Looking to find one in your area? The easiest way is to use the AAHA Accredited Hospital Locator.

Click here to find an AAHA accredited practice in your area.



7/13/2017 8:02:53 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

There are three main reason why a cat may urinate in an inappropriate place or places.

It can be for Medical reasons such as: Lower Urinary Tract Disease, trauma, or a clinical signs associated with diseases like, thyroid disease, kidney disease, Diabetes or bladder stones.  It is important to rule out any potential medical concerns with your veterinarian first.  Tests that may be recommended are test such as:

    • A urinalysis
    • Complete blood Count and Blood Chemistry profile
    • Thyroid test
    • Radiographs or ultrasound

Marking behavior or spraying: Urine spraying is a normal feline behavior, but causes a problem for those of us that choose to live with cats in our homes. Urine Marking can occur on horizontal or vertical surfaces and is the normal deliberate and normal disposition of urine as a:

  • Phermonal signal to other cats
  • Territorial signal
  • Sign of stress or arousal related to the social or physical environment

    It is Important to Remember
    inappropriate urinating or marking may become learned and persist after the cat’s disease is treated.

Behavior and Stress can also affect a pets urination habits.

  • Other cats in the home – long term residents or new additions
  • Other cats or animals that can be seen, heard or smelled outside
  • Schedule changes
  • Absence of the owner
  • New people in the household
  • Renovations or construction in or around the home or neighbors’ home
  • Water sprays or other forms of punishments
  • or quite honestly CHANGE OF ANY KIND!

Identifying a cats stressor can be a long and tedious task.  It is important to keep in mind that in many cases there can be more that one stressor cause a pet to urinate inappropriately.

  • Removal of stressors that are removable
  • Address social relationships among multiple cats
  • Conflict, fear or antagonistic behavior should be managed by separation, desensitization and interruption
  • Conflicts among household cats do not have to include overt fights rather it may be one cat obstructing another cats access to food, litter or resting spots simply by sitting in the middle of the room
  • Creating a comforting environment using vertical resting spaces, creating a safe haven from other cats to meet the needs of the cat in the area they spend time.
    Litterboxes: Improved management of letterboxes alone can significantly reduce urine marking.
    – One accessible and used litterbox for each cat in the household plus one extra
    – Providing some litterboxes that are large (minimum 18×24) filled with non-fragrance clumping litter
    – Cleaning litterboxes daily
    – Ensure that each cat in the home has easy access to at least one clean uncovered box
    – Have several food and water stations throughout the home to prevent guarding and stress
    – Block evidence of outdoor cats with frosted glass or curtains.  Moving furniture a way from  widows or doors may also help. 


6/12/2017 6:38:20 PM | Erin Mills, RVT

Summer is here and with it the sweltering heat and humidity. It is still very important that your pup gets physical and mental exercise every day even if neither of you have any desire to be outdoors. Here are a few indoor activities that you can do with you dog when you’d rather stay in and enjoy the air-conditioning.

Paying ball on stairs:

Sit at the base of your staircase and toss a ball to the top, or sit at the top of the stairs and toss the ball to the bottom.  Have your pet run up or down the stairs to fetch the ball and bring it back to you.  This can be an easy way to burn excess energy in young pups, but may be too strenuous for older or arthritic pets.

Hide and Seek:

This game gets your dog moving around the house without throwing a ball.

1.Put your dog in a separate room.
2. Take their favorite toy or some of their food and hide it in the another room. Start by placing the toy or treat in an obvious place that is easy for your pup to find. Let him out of the room and tell him to seek. (You may have to show him/her where you hid it the first couple of times). Once he finds the toy or kibble praise him with tons of affection.
3. Take him out of the room again and hide the toy or kibble again, continue to make the hiding places harder and harder until your dog is a hide and seek pro.

You can also play this game with people instead of toys or treats. Have someone help you distract your dog while you hide.

Indoor Obstacle Course:

Use objects such as empty drawers, broomsticks, pillows, cushions, hula hoops, and cardboard boxes to create an obstacle course around your house. Have your dog weave, jump, tunnel, navigate, and crawl through your obstacles.

Command Stations:

Command stations are a great way to stimulate your dog mentally! Set up different stations around your house, and mark them with a sign that has a command written on it: sit, stay, role over, shake and so on. Walk your dog from one station to the next and have him do the command that is on the sign several time. Reward him with praise or with a pieces of the normal kibble.

Stepping Stones:

Create stepping stones out of bath mats or none slip rugs and place them around the house. Start with the mats very close to each other. Place you dog on a leash and have him walk on the mats rewarding him every time he goes from one mat to the next without stepping on the floor. Slowly increase the distances between that mats making him have to leap from one to the next. Use caution not to extend the mats too far out.



5/26/2017 6:57:56 AM | Erin Mills, RVT

Summer is fast approaching and with it come holiday’s like Memorial Day and The 4th of July that are happily celebrated with a brilliant evening light display. The sky lights up with chrysanthemums and flying fish and whistling girandola, with willows and comets and red and green crossettes. The beauty of the colors as they burst to life can bring a bit of magic to a holiday.  However, for our pets the boom, crack, and pop of fireworks can be more than a little scary.  Here are a few tips to keep our pets safe and happy this summer.

  1. Take pet for a walk first so that your pet doesn’t need to “use the restroom” once the fireworks start. Some pets will be too frightened to urinate or defecate outside once the fireworks begin, and this may lead to an “accident” later on.
  2. Keep your pets INSIDE if at all posssible.  Even dogs in a fenced in yard can get scared enough by the loud boom of a fireworks display to find a way to escape.
  3. Give your a pet a comfortable place where the feel safe to hide.  Whether it be a small room, closing blinds or curtains, or in a crate in your home away from windows.
  4. Use other sounds like the television or soothing music to help dampen or mask the scary noise.
  5. Be prepared in case your pet does escape. Sometime, no matter how much we try, pets still pull a Houdini and escape.  Please make sure your pets ID tags and/or microchip information is up to date.
  6.  Sometime you being there with them is all they need. Maybe this year we skip the celebration and spend the evening cuddling with our pets instead.
  7. Keep then busy.  Distraction with play time, toys, or treats can help alleviate nerves and make it a more positive experience instead.
  8.  Try using calming pheromones like Adaptil collars or plug ins for dogs, or Feliway spray or plugins for cats, to help alleviate or lessen a pets anxiety.
  9.  Anxiety wraps, like Thunder shirts, are designed to use acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce a pets stress by providing gentle constant pressure, like a hug.
  10. Some pets with severe anxiety may need a sedative from your veterinarian to  keep them from hurting themselves or becoming destructive.

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.