Saturday, December 27, 2014

Happy Holidays - New Puppies and Kittens

Though it may be tempting to get a new puppy or kitten in time for the holidays, there's a great deal to consider before getting your new family member: time commitment, home environment, planning for veterinary care. Especially during the holidays, it is important to ask yourself first why you want a pet and to make sure your entire family is ready for the commitment. 

Here are some things to consider prior to getting a new pet:
Assess your lifestyle.  
What is your level of activity?  
Do you want a couch potato or a running companion? 
Are there any people with allergies in the house?  
How will you share the responsibilities of pet ownership with your family members?
Do you have time for grooming?   
Evaluate your home and outside environment.   
Are pets allowed in your apartment or condo?  
How much room is there for the pet inside and out?  
Is it a pet friendly area?
Once you've decided to get a pet, it is time to prepare your home as well as find a veterinarian. After all, your vet will be your long-term partner (equivalent to your child's pediatrician). Most new puppies and kittens will require at least two visits in the first several months, if not more, for booster vaccinations, so make sure you find a vet you trust. Here are some tips for home prep as well as veterinary care for your new family member:
  1. Establish ground rules with your children. Make sure kids understand that a new pet is a not a toy and that there are important rules that must be followed: Let the pet approach you; Do not chase the pet; Do not restrain the pet; Allow the pet some alone time to sleep and eat; Do not pull on their tails or chase them; etc.
  2. Safety proof the house. Check for electrical cords, house plants, chemicals, objects that can fall, gaps in your fencing, kid’s toys, and trash.  
  3. On the day you pick up your pet make sure you get a full copy of all medical information. You will need this for your first visit to the veterinarian. Also make sure you have an appropriate carrier or harness restraint for the car ride home. When you arrive home, show your pet the appropriate bathroom spot in the yard or litter box and then allow your new pet to have some time to settle in. Make sure to monitor them in their new environment and supervise them with the children. 
  4. Visit Veterinary Practices. Make sure you ask questions! Observe how the staff and veterinarian interact with the patients.  Find out about the practice's philosophy.  Ask about emergency care, hours, and payment options.
  5. Make your new pet's first appointment within a week of bringing them home. At the first veterinary exam it will be important to discuss vaccinations, parasite control, dental care, behavior and training, microchipping, nutrition, and future care.
  6. Research. Find out local training places, pet sitters, or doggy day care facilities, for example, so you have a list of options ahead of time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Common Pet Poisons

Fall is a beautiful time of year, but it can also bring about new household and environmental toxins to consider. The following list contains some of the more common fall toxins that can pose serious problems if ingested by our pets:
  • Mushrooms - Certain types can be very dangerous. One of the most dangerous is the Amanita phalloides, which is found throughout the US. Symptoms of mushroom ingestion can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, tremors, seizures, depression and even organ damage. Please try to keep your yard free of mushrooms.
  • Mothballs -  Mothballs typically contain either paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. Symptoms of ingestion can include vomiting, severe abdominal pain, tremors, weakness, organ failure or even problems with red blood cells.
  • Antifreeze -  As little as one teaspoon for a cat or a tablespoon or two for dogs can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While these signs start to resolve in hours, the internal damage to the kidneys is occurring and can be fatal. Immediate treatment is important.
  • Mouse and Rat Poisons (Rodenticides) -  Mouse and Rat poisons pose a threat not only if your pet directly ingests the bait, but also if your pet is exposed to a large number of dead mice that have eaten the bait. Newer poisons are largely neurotoxins and are extremely dangerous. There is no effective treatment. The best course of action is to prevent exposure by securing any bait away from your pets and keeping them away from any potentially affected mice and rats.
  • Compost bins or piles - These can have molding food products that contain tremorgenic mycotoxins, which cause seizures. 
  • Red maple leaves -  A seemingly innocent leaf, the red maple can result in hemolytic anemia in dogs and cats if eaten, and it is a serious concern for horses as well. 

Two important resources are :
  1. ASPCA Poison Control Center open 24 hours a day, 365 days a week.  (888) 426-4435.
  2. Pet Poison Help Line open 24 hours a day.  (800) 213-6680.  Poison Helpline also now has an iPhone app “Pet Poison Help”.
For only $1.99, Pet Poison Help will provide you with:
  • Life-saving access to poison information with one-touch direct dialing to Pet Poison Helpline.
  • A searchable database of over 250 poisonous plants, foods, medications and household items, all with pictures.
  • Descriptions of how specific poisons affect your pet, their alternate common names, and symptoms to watch for.
  • Instructions on what to do if your dog or cat is exposed to a dangerous substance.
  • Constant access to poison information –  even when you don’t have Internet access

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pet Insurance

Just like everyone else, pets sometimes get sick, and health care for your pet can get very costly very quickly, especially in unexpected emergency situations. According to 2010 PetPlan claims data, one in three pets will need unexpected veterinary care each year, and dogs under the age of one are actually 2.5 times more likely than their older brethren to have an unexpected visit to the vet.  

While every pet parent wants to provide their pet with the very best care, sometimes the high costs can force you to ask your vet for less expensive alternatives. 

While everyone wants to make the best decision for their pet, regardless of cost, treatments can quickly get very expensive. Every six seconds, a pet parent is faced with a vet bill for more than $1000. This means that many pet owners are faced with covering this large bill themselves or asking their vet for a less expensive, and sometimes less effective, alternative treatment option.  

This is where pet insurance can be a huge benefit! By insuring your pet’s health, you can have peace of mind that your unexpected veterinary costs can be covered should your pet get sick or injured. Not all pet insurance plans are created equal, but there are many good options out there. Here are the top five questions to ask before buying pet insurance:
  1. Does the policy cover chronic and hereditary conditions?  
  2. Will my policy offer coverage for the rest of my pet's life?  
  3. Are there per-condition limits?   
  4. How well-established is the company?  
  5. Can you customize your policy?
You also need to know:
  • Is there a physical exam required to get coverage?
  • Is there a waiting period before the coverage goes into effect?
  • What percentage of the bill does the insurance pay — after the deductible?
  • Are payments capped in any way?
  • Are there co-pays?
  • Does the plan cover pre-existing conditions? What is considered a pre-existing condition?
  • Can you use any vet or animal hospital?
  • Are prescription drugs covered?
  • Are you covered if you travel with your pet?
Make sure you consider what you could reasonably afford to spend if an emergency occurred, and weight that against what each plan is really giving you and the monthly or yearly cost of enrollment. Some plans carry wellness plans while others don't. Some cover alternative therapies (i.e. acupuncture) and others don't. Most policies do not cover congenital or hereditary conditions, but there are some exceptions.  

In short, there are many pet insurance options out there, but having your pet insured can make your veterinary treatment decision that much easier by covering most, if not all, of the associated costs. With a little bit of research, you can make sure you are getting the right plan for you and your pet.

**Some information was provided by PetPlan insurance and NBC News comparison.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Inappropriate Elimination Part II: Canines

Image courtesy of Mister GC at
House soiling is a very common problem, affecting up to 37 percent of dogs. As mentioned in our previous post about cats, house soiling can be either behavioral or medical in nature. Common medical problems that can lead to house soiling include diabetes, kidney disease, parasites, and dietary issues. Behavioral causes can range from insufficient house training to submissive behavior, excitement, territoriality, and anxiety. 

The first place to start is with an evaluation by your veterinarian to rule out any medical issue and to discuss possible behavior problems and solutions. Your veterinarian may recommend blood work, a urinalysis, and/or a fecal examination to rule out certain conditions. Sometimes, radiographs or an ultrasound is warranted. 

Treatment for inappropriate elimination in dogs revolves around first treating any underlying medical conditions, neutering if recommended, and/or training and behavioral modification. Careful monitoring of the dog and where he seems to prefer to go to the bathroom in the house in addition to noting any routines or interactions with other animals or people that seem to occur prior to house soiling can help you and your veterinarian determine the possible cause and proper treatment/behavior modification.

Inappropriate Elimination Part I: Felines

"Inappropriate Elimination", or urinating or defecating in inappropriate places, is the most common behavior problem reported by cat owners. From urination and/or defecation outside the litter box to urine spraying throughout the house, this is understandably an issue that can cause a lot of angst among cat owners.

Why do cats eliminate outside of the litter box? 
Although people commonly think this is a sign of revenge, that is not the case. Sometimes there can be underlying medical issues, such as inflammation or infection of the urinary tract that make it painful to go or inflammation of the colon or intestines. These can lead to increased frequency or urgency and decreased control of eliminations. 

In older or disabled pets, we also often see mobility changes that affect a cat's ability to get in and out of the litter box. Other times, litter box aversions can develop after something scary or repelling (perhaps a noise, a harsh odor, or a surprise attack from another pet in the household) results in a cat associating a negative experience with the litter box. Sometimes the root cause is simply an inappropriately sized box, dirty litter, a change to a different litter, or an inconvenient location of the box (at least in the eyes of your cat).  

What about urine spraying?
Urine spraying is another very common problem. This typically male cat behavior is often used to establish territorial boundaries, but it can be a result of frustration or stress. Most commonly, unneutered males are the main culprits.
What can I do? 
First, identify which cat in the household is having the problem, and take that cat to the veterinarian to rule out any medical problems.

Then, as long as everything checks out ok, analyze where your cat is going to the bathroom to try and find a common thread. Does he seem to prefer a particular texture? Is he using a location far away from other cats or the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house? If you have multiple boxes, is there one he prefers over the others? What makes that one different?

Some of the most common solutions for litter box aversion include:
  • Trying a different litter (scent, texture, type)
  • Changing the box size and/or location
  • Changing the number of boxes available. You should ideally have one more box than the total number of cats in the house. 
  • Adding or removing a cover from the litter box.
To discourage your pet from continuing to use an inappropriate area, make sure you are thoroughly cleaning and using an odor neutralizer anywhere there is inappropriate elimination. 

For spraying, consider neutering your cat (if he is not already). Try to determine if there is an outside influence, such as another cat that may be causing stress or territoriality, and make every attempt to eliminate that stress or deter the outside cat from coming on your property. Close blinds or shades if possible. 

If frustration or boredom seems to be the cause, consider increasing the amount of one-on-one playtime or adding toys to stimulate your cat when you are not around. You can also try placing newspaper in areas you want to discourage him from spraying (the sound is a deterrent). Putting your cat's food in the area where he is inappropriately eliminating and playing with your cat in the area may also help, in addition to decreasing access to the area when you aren't around.

More information can be found at Cornell Feline Housesoiling

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pet Nutrition

Pet nutrition is very important, and not all pet foods are created equal. The label on your pet’s food contains important information to help you choose the best food for your pet. The Association of American Feed Control Officianls, or AAFCO,  monitors the nutritional adequacy of pet foods and is a good indicator of pet food quality. If their stamp is on a bag of food, you know it has passed rigorous standards and contains all the necessary nutrients in the appropriate balance to keep your pet healthy.

Many people question whether wet or dry food is better. Generally, dry food is less expensive and is better at combating tartar build-up than wet food. Wet food can result in increased tartar buildup and dental disease, and, in some cases, increased wet gain. However, there are some instances in which wet food is more appropriate, for example in cats with urinary problems. If you have questions about your pet's diet, please discuss it with your veterinarian. They can help you deterimine which type of food is most appropriate for your pet and in what amounts. 

If you are looking for more information online, Dr. Remillard is a veterinary nutritionist and has a wonderful website at

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Obesity in Pets

Believe it or not, over 50% of pets are obese or overweight. That's not a good statistic! Obesity can lead to numerous health problems including osteoarthritis, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury, kidney disease, many forms of cancer, and decreased life expectancy. Yikes!

The good news is obesity is reversible. Plus, if caught early, the risks of developing other obesity-related issues are greatly decreased. As part of your pet's annual exam, your veterinarian will evaluate your pet's body condition score, a measure of overall weight and health. However, you can evaluate your pet's obesity at home as well by asking yourself the following questions:
  • Can you feel bone along your pet's spine? 
  • Can you see or feel a waist line when viewing your pet from above or from the side?  
  • Are you able to count his ribs? Can you feel your pet's ribs at all?  
If you answered no to any of these questions, your pet may be obese or overweight. Click on this link to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention for more information on how to fight pet obesity. There are also several companies, including Tagg and Whistle, that make activity monitors for your pet similar to a Step Tracker for people. 

If you are concerned that your pet may be overweight, stop in for a weight check or call us and we can help you get your pet back on the right track!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Marvin Memorial Walk

Animals end up in shelters for a variety of reasons, everything from economic issues, illness/death of an owner, family changes, moving, and more. The Rhode Island SPCA (RISPCA), like many rescues, is home not only to dogs and cats, but also to displaced exotics and even some farm animals. Their goal is to give as many animals as possible a second chance at a forever home, and the Marvin Memorial Fund is at the heart of it all.

Marvin was a very special dog who was given a very special second chance by the RISPCA. The “Marvin Fund” was established in the hopes of giving other dogs like Marvin, who are in need of food, shelter, or medical attention, a second chance.

The Marvin Memorial Walk for the Animals is the Rhode Island SPCA’s major annual fundraiser. It is being held at Goddard State Park on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 10:00am (Rain Date: Sunday, August 24, 2014).  Please show your support for these animals in need by attending the walk and/or making a donation to the Marvin Fund.  The NorthPaws Parade is our team page to help raise money for this great cause. To donate, please click on this link: The NorthPaws Parade. Thank you and we hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why am I so Itchy?

Pets become allergic to a substance when their immune systems begin to recognize certain everyday things (considered allergens) as foreign and dangerous, and their body overreacts to this stimulation. Allergens can either be inhaled, ingested, or from direct contact with a pet’s skin. After exposure to an allergen, pets will often develop itchy skin, runny eyes, ear infections, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, snoring, swollen paws, or excessive licking. Many animals who are extremely itchy will become very uncomfortable and can develop secondary skin infections from the trauma associated with constant scratching. No fun!

An allergy can develop at any time in a pet's life, and the allergen can be one of any number of substances inside the house, in the outside environment, or in their food. Blood tests or skin tests may be performed to isolate some allergens, or your veterinarian may prescribe an elimination diet if they suspect a food allergy is the cause. There are some oral medications that can help decrease or eliminate symptoms, including antihistamines. In other cases, topical treatments or allergy injections may be warranted.

If you are concerned your pet may have an allergy, don't hesitate to contact your veterinarian. Allergies can be frustrating to diagnose, but it is best to catch them early before secondary problems arise. For further questions about allergies and the types of testing that are available, visit Spectrum Lab.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stem Cell Therapy at NorthPaws

Stem Cell Therapy isn't just for science fiction movies anymore. We now offer this service at NorthPaws! Stem cell therapy has helped a significant number of dogs and horses, and NorthPaws Veterinary Center is one of only a few facilities in the area offering this procedure. 

In most cases, stem cell therapy is used to help treat osteoarthritis. Stem cells are the precursor cells of the body and originate from an animal’s own tissue. Using Vet-Stem, stem cells can be isolated from an animal's fat sample and then injected directly into the affected joints. Because the injected cells are derived from the animal’s own tissue, they are not seen as foreign matter and thus are not rejected by the body. The introduction of stem cells into a joint provides anti-inflammatory benefits, promotes the healing of damaged tissue, and helps slow the progression of disease. Want to learn more? Visit Vet-Stem for more information, or call us today to discuss how stem cell therapy might help your pet.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

As Dr. Mark Paradise discussed this Saturday morning on WPRO - Pet Care, May 18th-24th was National Dog Bite Prevention Week. 

According to research done by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):
  • Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs.
  • Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. 
  • Every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children.
  • Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.
  • Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
  • Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.

Information and education are the best solutions for this public health crisis. To help prevent bites from accidentally occurring, use these tips as a guide, and don't pet a dog if any of the following are true:
  • The dog is not with its owner.
  • The dog is with its owner, but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog. 
  • The dog is on the other side of a fence, don’t reach through or over a fence to pet the dog.
  • The dog is sleeping or eating.
  • The dog is sick or injured.
  • The dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence.
  • The dog is playing with a toy.
  • The dog is a service dog. Service dogs likely won't bite, but they are working animals and shouldn’t be distracted while they are doing their jobs.
  • The dog is growling or barking.
  • The dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone in its special place.

Also, just a reminder, it is always important to keep your pet's rabies vaccination up to date. Any pet who bites someone and is not up to date on his or her rabies vaccination may be forcibly quarantined by Animal Control! Call us today if your pet needs a booster: 401-949-5030.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bruno's Story

Bruno is a 10-year-old mixed breed dog who has been coming to NorthPaws since way back in 2006, so he's an old friend of ours. A few months ago, Bruno came in as an emergency when his family noticed that he had suddenly started limping. We were all saddened when tests showed that Bruno’s limping was caused by cancer in his left hind leg. 

Shortly after being diagnosed, Bruno underwent surgery here at NorthPaws to have the leg amputated and effectively remove the cancer. After just two weeks, Bruno came back to see us to have his sutures removed from his surgical incision and Laura, one of our technicians, snapped this picture of him smiling up at her during his appointment. Bruno’s mom says that he’s doing AMAZING since his surgery, and Laura can vouch for that, as she says she couldn’t keep up with him when she was walking him on his leash. He’s the sweetest boy and we’re so happy he’s doing well!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Where did my platelets go?

Recently, a two-year-old Italian Greyhound came to NorthPaws with mysterious bruising over many areas of his body and legs along with strange red spots on his gums. Bloodwork was quickly performed to diagnose an underlying condition. Whereas the normal platelet range is between 200,000 and 500,000, this patient's platelets were around 27,000!

Platelets are critical for proper blood clotting. When platelet counts fall below a certain number (~60,000), we start to see small areas of bleeding under the skin and gums from broken capillaries. There are many potential causes for a drastic decrease in platelet numbers, including several tick transmitted infections and some cancers, but the most common cause is an immune disease known as immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP), which results in destruction of platelets. In this case, the immune system, which normally functions to remove foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, thinks the body’s own cells are foreign and tries to get rid of them. 

Treatment for an immune disease like this involves using drugs that suppress the body's immune system so that it stops attacking its own cells. These medications often have to be given for many months to ensure there is no relapse. Luckily, this patient's condition was caught early. After only a week on the medication, his bruises are gone and his platelet count is back up to 304,000. Needless to say, we will be keeping a close eye on him and monitoring his progress for the next few months, but we are glad he is feeling better!