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Learn more about our exotics service

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At the Veterinary Hospital of Davidson we are proud to offer services to our non-traditional pets including small mammals (rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, gerbils, chinchillas, rats, mice and sugar gliders) and reptiles. Dr. Marlowe and Dr. Forward spent extra time during their veterinary training to focus on exotic animal medicine and are excited to offer this service.

When you first adopt your exotic pet our veterinarian should perform a thorough exam to assess its health and to discuss husbandry requirements.  As well, annual physical exams are as crucial in non-traditional pets as they are in dogs and cats.  Small mammals and reptiles can become ill and rapidly decline in less than 24 hours. Therefore, if your pet seems sick it should receive prompt medical attention.

Here are some services we provide for exotic pets:

  • Twice yearly health examinations: Because the lifespan of some of our exotic patients are relatively short, we often recommend twice-yearly examinations.
  • Lab work screenings: Routine blood work checks help us assess the overall health of your pet. And, this is important in any sick exotic pet.
  • Surgical procedures: We offer spay, neuter, mass removal, laceration repair, limb amputation, enucleation (eye removal), and bladder stone removal as well as other procedures.
  • Ultrasonography: When needed, we can perform in-hospital ultrasounds to assess your pet’s internal organs.
  • Radiography: We can provide in hospital radiographs (x-rays) to assist in evaluating your pet.
  • Dental procedures: We recommend prophylactic teeth cleanings for ferrets as we do for cats and dogs. In addition, we provide dental care for rabbits and rodents. These pets have teeth that continuously erupt throughout life and may require routine incisor trimming and molar filing of any overgrown or sharp teeth in order to make sure they are able to eat and drink well.
  • Sick exams: It is very important to address any signs of illness including skin lesions, poor appetite, upper respiratory infection, diarrhea, reduced fecal output, weight loss, or lethargy.
  • Nutritional consults: Because the diet for exotic pets is very different from dogs and cats we will ensure that their diet is healthy and appropriate for their species.
  • Pain management: In addition to traditional medications we can provide therapeutic laser therapy and acupuncture as additional modalities to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in our exotics species.
  • Holistic and herbal care: In some cases there are alternative therapies that may be beneficial for the health of your exotic pet. We are always willing to evaluate if this may be appropriate.

 


        For the safety of our staff we do not see primates.

 

        Written by Dr. Ryn Marlowe

Our Dogs Will Eat What Their Body Needs – A Lesson From Tater Tot

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I have been a practicing veterinarian for 10 years and my pets continue to teach me something new every day.  You will often hear us tell our clients that your pets will eat what their body needs.  So there are no picky eaters – you just haven’t found what your dog is wanting to eat yet.  This is not always true for cats.  Some cats refuse to eat canned food no matter what you try but in general, if  you listen to your pet, they will tell you what they want to eat.

When I first adopted Tater Tot out of a rescue, she would eat anything I put in front of her. At that time, she wasn’t used to having access to food regularly so once she realized she would always be fed, she started becoming ‘picky’ with her food. She would go 1-2 days without eating a meal.  At the time, I fed my dog strictly canned or crockpot diet and when Tate would turn away from a crockpot stew, it made me understand that I am missing something.  So what did Tate always love and get excited to eat?  It was Crump’s freeze dried beef liver treats and Flynn’s dried chicken breast strips.  I also noticed that when she would eat the crockpot, she would spit out the vegetables.  So I used my own advice and started her on a prepared raw diet of turkey or beef.  And guess what?  She stopped skipping meals and was excited to eat again.  She wants meat!  I have been able to hide vegetables in her crockpot by cutting them up small and making more of a gruel so her homemade meals are more balanced.

Of course, there are those dogs out there that will eat anything.  Labradors, Pugs, and Beagles will never turn down a piece of food no matter what it is.  So just stick with high quality foods in those pups. But if your dog is ‘picky’ – maybe you just haven’t figured out exactly what your dog is trying to tell you!  Listen to your pup and hopefully those picky days are gone.  And it is important to note, your dog needs a balanced diet with all the appropriate nutrients to stay healthy, so we can help you make sure he is getting what he needs in his food.

Cats are Carnivores not Cornivores!

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cat and mouse

That’s right, cats are carnivores. They are not supposed to be eating corn. So why do many of our commercially made cat food products including treats have corn in them? It’s the same reason why high fructose corn syrup is in many processed human foods: corn is cheap. And as we all know by now, in order to make a dry kibble affordable and stick together in the processing cycle, carbohydrates in the form of corn or grain are added to the food. Cats on average should be eating 8-12% carbohydrates in their daily diet so following this rule of thumb, it is pretty simple to see why our domestic cats are severely obese and have diabetes. Just take a look at the ingredients in those treats you bought at the grocery store or that ‘holistic dry kibble’ you purchased at the health food store …. you may be shocked by what you are feeding your cat! That chicken treat likely contains meat by-product meal (you really don’t want to know what types of ‘food’ are considered a meat by-product meal) and corn! That dry kibble likely contains only 25-35% protein, significantly less protein than our cats should be eating every day.

Cats are not just carnivores like dogs, they are OBLIGATE carnivores. Their ancestral diets have made eating meat a requirement for survival and life. They have a shorter gastrointestinal tract compared to other mammals their size, they are unable to properly digest carbohydrates and metabolize some vitamins, and cats depend on protein for their energy source because their organs adapted throughout the life of a feline to eat small mammals via hunting. Cats used to live outdoors and be our “mousers”. They were our personal exterminators around the house and they would eat their kill.

Did you know that the heart of a mouse contains more taurine than any organ or meat from other animals? Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for life to our cats. So it makes sense that cats would feed on mice! We didn’t always know that cats needed taurine to live. In the 1980s, many cats started dying from heart disease due to lack of taurine in commercial diets. They also developed many other medical issues that could take months or years to develop from a taurine deficient diet. Therefore, commercial diets started adding this amino acid to their food. This is what makes home cooking food for your cat a little tricky. Heat destroys taurine so any meat that is cooked – whether it be in a processing center or in the crockpot in your kitchen – removes the taurine out of the food. What’s the solution? Feeding a balanced raw diet, freeze dried diet, or high quality canned food is the best way to give your cat a high protein diet with all the nutrients needed for a healthy life.

It is not just the lack of protein and addition of carbohydrates to kibble that makes it bad for cats. It is the also because it is DRY. Our domesticated cats are descendants of desert dwelling felids of Africa. Cats adapted to a dry environment by being able to highly concentrate their urine and ignore signs of mild dehydration. This becomes a huge concern when feeding cats a dry kibble because they just don’t drink enough water. I see feline patients on a very regular basis who have crystals in their urine, develop cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) or urinary tract infections, who have renal insufficiency or kidney failure, or are unable to urinate due to blockage of their lower urinary tract. Some of these issues are multi-factorial and stress or genetics can play a role, however, most commonly it is the food we are feeding our cats that make them sick. We force our cats into a constant state of dehydration by removing all the moisture out of their food. It’s just as concerning for me as a veterinarian when clients tell me their cat is always at the water bowl or drinks a lot of water. This means their cat either has a serious medical condition or is so dehydrated on a daily basis that he can not drink enough water to keep himself properly hydrated. I almost never see my cat drink water. He gets all of his water through his food and therefore, like his ancestors in Africa, does not need to drink often. On a side note, cats drink less water if the bowl is next to their food bowl. So separate their water and food bowls to entice your cat to drink more water.

This may sound dramatic, but I truly believe dry food is killing our cats! Not only are we giving our beloved cats a high carbohydrate diet that they are unable to digest properly, we are also causing strain on their kidneys and urinary tract by keeping them dehydrated.   Simply switching out your dry kibble to a high quality, grain free, canned food can keep your cats healthier for longer. A raw diet is an ideal choice for your cat but many of us have inadvertently fed our cats such a poor diet for so long, that the transition to raw food can be difficult. So make the transition to strictly canned first then you can try adding in a raw diet once your cat gets used to eating protein again. I know, it sounds ridiculous to make a statement that your obligate carnivore needs to get used to eating meat but sadly this is a fact for many domesticated cats. Don’t even use dry food as a treat! And never buy those dry treats you see at the grocery store – I can promise you they will not help with hairballs or tartar control. You can use real meat such as tuna or chicken for treats or there are some great freeze dried raw meat meals or treats to give your kitty for a snack.

I have had some feline patients who seemingly are addicted to dry food. They refuse to eat any canned food or real meat and have trained their owners very well to give them dry treats on command and to keep those food bowls filled to the top with dry kibble. These cats are almost always obese and often have medical issues related to their obesity, whether it be a severe condition like diabetes or a mild skin infection around their perineum from their inability to properly groom themselves. It can be difficult to transition these cats onto a better food but there are always options such as a semi-moist, high protein food that comes in a kibble shape. We are here to help if you are struggling with a food change and it is so important to keep trying – your cat’s life depends on it.

Are we Harming our Pets by Feeding Them?

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Are we harming our pets by feeding them?

We have all heard the old adage, “Food is Love”, and many of us show love to our pets through feeding them. We think we are purchasing the best food on the market. We go to the pet store, buy an expensive bag of food with terms like ‘all natural’, ‘1st ingredient is meat’, ‘driven by science’, and ‘grain free’ on the bags of food to make sure we are keeping Fido healthy by giving him the best! By now, we all understand there are some bad dog and cat foods out there but we buy the good ones!

The problem with this thinking is that realistically, all dry foods are heavily processed. Even the ones that we think are the best out there. Manufacturing pet food began in the 1950s and feeding out pets became convenient. The process of making a dry kibble that can sit on a shelf for many years without spoiling includes putting the food through two processing cycles at high heat. And don’t forget that we need to make this food affordable and need to get the food to stick together, so we bulk it up with carbohydrates. Although grain free diets contain significantly less carbs, dry dog and cat food in general have anywhere from 5-20% more carbohydrates than our pets should be eating. There have been many studies that link excess carbohydrates to inflammation in our bodies and our pet’s bodies. What is the easiest way to cut back on carbs? Cut back on dry food!

When a new patient comes into the hospital, one of the first questions asked are ‘What are you feeding your pet?’ and ‘What are their favorite foods to eat?’. Many people tell me that they would never feed their pet ‘people food’ because they don’t want Fido to beg at that table or they were always told by their veterinarian that feeding people food is bad for their pet. So when I tell my client that I would like them to cook for their dog, I often get a shocked look in return. But if we look at food in a rational way, why would we think that a heavily processed, carb heavy food that lacks moisture is better for Fido than a crockpot filled with beef, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and veggies.

I get it though. We lead busy lives and who has time to cook for their pets every day? We barely have time to cook for ourselves and our children! Clients have told me that making crockpot meals for their dog is just not going to happen. Fortunately, there are other options out there that are convenient but also healthier than dry food. Some companies are now baking the kibble instead of putting it through the high heat cycles. Obviously canned food is a better choice because it is less processed, contains less carbohydrates and more moisture. Freeze dried diets are becoming more and more popular and are easy to feed by just adding water to the food. There are refrigerated pet foods that offer more real ingredients with ease of feeding and of course, we are big proponents of commercially made frozen raw diets that use organ meat as the source of protein which our pet’s are very much lacking in their diets.

We can’t always be perfect. Has my dog had some dry food in her life? Of course she has. But I try to feed her the best I can by giving her less processed food, more real food, more moisture in her food, and less carbohydrates. So simply cutting back on dry food and adding in canned, freeze dried, raw, or home cooked food can make a big difference in your pet’s health and happiness.

Our cats are a bit of a different story. My cat has never had dry food because the lack of moisture and protein in dry cat diets can cause significant harm to our feline friends. But I’ll talk about this issue in my next article.

-Dr. Uehlein

Curing Feline Diabetes With Food

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Barnaby is a 9yr old DSH MN kitty that has been coming to our hospital for the past year.  He is strictly indoor and shares his home with two other cats.  When we examined him a year ago, Barnaby was overweight at 17.2lbs.  The owner changed his diet to a high quality, grain free, weight management dry food to try to get the excess weight off of him.  He had been doing well until he recently came in for lameness.  On physical exam, it was found that Barnaby had lost a significant amount of weight and his “lameness” was actually a change in his gait and stance.  He was walking on his ankles or hocks which can be a sign of diabetes.  Blood work was immediately performed and he had a severely elevated blood glucose of 548 (normal range is 64-120). He also had a large amount of glucose in his urine.

Diabetes affects about 2% of our indoor cats and the culprit is DRY FOOD.  Even high quality, grain free dry food contains too many carbohydrates and not enough protein for our cats.  Feeding strictly canned, freeze dried, or raw diets to cats will prevent any possibility of your cat developing insulin dependent diabetes.  There are plenty of diets made specifically to treat diabetes but those diets can be expensive and typically are lower quality than other high end commercial canned food. We also love freeze dried and raw diets for our cats.

We decided to not start insulin on Barnaby since he was still feeling okay and he was not in diabetic ketoacidosis (he was a stable diabetic when he was brought in). Barnaby was started on Nature’s Variety INSTINCT canned food and all dry food/treats were removed from his life.  The owner was told that a food change does not cure all cats and he may need insulin injections, so he was brought back in 4 days to have his blood sugar checked. His blood sugar was 194 four days after starting canned food and 95 eleven days after stopping all dry food.  We cured Barnaby’s diabetes with a simple diet change in 11 days!!

We use nutrition to fix many of our pet’s health ailments!  It is so great that Barnaby does not need twice daily insulin injections for the rest of his life. He and his owner couldn’t be happier!

A Life Jacket Saved My Dog’s Life

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I regularly kayak on Mountain Island Lake and would bring my dog Tyler with me.  She would ride in the back of the kayak and occasionally get out to swim during our trips.  She always wore a life jacket because I worried about her tiring in the water.  I never imagined that jacket would actually save her life.

Almost 2 years ago, we were out on the water and Tyler was getting anxious in the kayak so she jumped into the water.  She seemed a little disoriented and was swimming away from me.  It was then that she had her first seizure of her life … in the water, about 20 feet from me.  There was not enough time to get to her and I know she would have drowned if she was not wearing her life jacket.  The following day, a MRI was performed and found a brain tumor which eventually took her life.   My dog had her very first seizure at 12 years of age in the middle of Mountain Island Lake! I am so thankful that she did not drown in the water and will forever be grateful she was wearing a life jacket.

The lake life is amazing around the Davidson area and our dogs love the water – life jackets can save their lives!

Dr. Carrie Uehlein

Importance of Alar Fold Resections in Short Nosed Pets

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We love our Bulldogs, Frenchies, and Pugs for their short noses and snoring.  They were bred a certain way to maintain those smooshy, adorable faces however there is a big price to pay for all that cuteness.  They just can’t breathe well and have a tendency to overheat in warm environments.  There are typically 4 anatomical changes found in our short nosed dogs:  stenotic nares (very small nostrils), elongated soft palate (this causes noisy breathing by covering the entry to trachea), narrow trachea (windpipe), and everted laryngeal saccules.  So you have this 50# American Bulldog who is basically breathing out of a straw!  No wonder they snore and make so much noise even when they are inactive. The good news is that you can surgically fix a few of these issues to help them breathe better!

The best way to prevent respiratory issues is to surgically correct their stenotic nares by removing the excess tissue and creating a nostril to breathe.  Studies have shown that if you correct the nostrils in a brachycephalic dog before they develop difficulty breathing (when they are young or at time of spay/neuter), you can actually prevent their soft palates from getting thickened and consequently, prevent them from needing surgery on their palate too.  I have seen pugs able to go for a 2-3 mile run because I performed an alar fold resection on them when 7m of age.

We use cautery or surgical laser to perform these procedures.  The attached picture shows the right nostril of a French Bulldog prior to surgery and the left nostril already surgically corrected.  As you can see, the dog now has an open airway to breathe!!  So if you have one of our beloved smooshy faced breeds, we have the ability to greatly improve their quality of life so just ask us if an alar fold resection would help your pet!

Calming Treats For Your Pet

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Does your dog have anxiety on car rides? Difficulty staying calm through thunderstorms or fireworks? Does he get stressed at the groomer or while boarding?  Is separation anxiety a problem when you leave the house?  Does your cat urinate in the house when you have guests over?  Is senility affecting your dog’s sleep cycle?  Is your cat having difficulty adjusting to the new baby in the house? Does your puppy need to stay calm after a surgical procedure?

If your pet’s anxiety is situation based, Vetri Science Composure treats can help keep them calm during these stressful times.  Many vets will tell you to give your dog Benadryl to keep him calm on a car ride but as many of you know, this tends to not be enough and you are looking for another option that won’t severely sedate your pet and doesn’t have side effects.  Or maybe your cat has to be sedated heavily when you have company over and you are not comfortable with that level of sedation or your dog’s senility is causing changes in his sleep/wake cycle and you do not want to use harsh medications to help your geriatric pet sleep through the night. Composure Treats are made of Thiamine, Tryptophan, Colostrum Calming Complex, and Theanine – all natural ingredients that can improve your pets quality of life without causing harmful side effects.  This product comes in a treat form or a liquid formula so you can choose the best option for ease of administration.  So come see us if you are looking for more options to help your pets anxiety.  And don’t forget, we also have a variety of plant based herbal anxiety remedies too!

Vaccine reactions and nail problems

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Painful auto-immune condition of the nails in pets

Painful auto-immune condition of the nails in pets

I saw a dog last week for a condition called Onychodystrophy, a painful condition where the nails start to grow abnormally and eventually start falling off.  Sounds painful right?  It is.  Generally it is first noticed when a dog starts licking a specific toe nail or a nail falls off.  With a closer look, all nails are misshapen and have rough surfaces.

The normal treatment for this is to just wait for all of them to fall off, one at a time.  Often they are painful and barely holding on, and a dog will need to be sedated to have the nail torn or cut off each time one goes bad.  Some vets will try vitamins or fish oils, and sometimes steroids are given.  Most dogs just have to live through it for about a year while all nails fall off and hopefully turn over new, healthier nails.

I see this almost always as an auto-immune condition.  In a nutshell, this means the immune system has suffered an insult which make it attack part of the body that is normal (the nails) as if they are foreign.  So in this disease, the immune system is seeing the nails as foreign and the body is trying to reject the nails.  Ouch!

Well, the first thing I asked is whether or not the dog had suffered a vaccine reaction.  Sure enough, yes.  Twice in fact.  I am always looking to find what caused the immune system to “trip”, and this one was easy.  The dog had reacted very strongly to a Distemper-Parvo vaccination 5 years ago.  Only 8 months prior to the first nail falling off, the dog had another vaccine reaction on a day he received a Bordetella and Lepto vaccine.  It turns out that day he was also under anesthesia.

So my first job was to detoxify the vaccine viruses and bacteria out of the body.  I do this with a variety of natural herbal medications.  And they work.  It should take about a month to do this.  Next, I looked for imbalances in the body (a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine technique).  Many times my auto-immune patients are way too hot.  But this fella was not.  He was quite balanced.  Last, I performed Muscle Testing to look for weaknesses in his organs.  Again, he was pretty good here.  We just needed to detoxify the viruses out and calm down the immune system.

This dog should be fine, hopefully in a lot less time than a year.  We also should be able to have him be stronger overall, so he is not at risk for more immune-related disease.  We will have to be very careful about everything that goes into his body – vaccines, pesticides, chemicals.  We will perform blood titers for Distemper and Parvo to feel comfortable that he is protected.  We will avoid the Lepto and Lyme vaccines since he is at low risk for these diseases.  We will use Bordetella only if necessary, and we will use a 3-year Thimerosal-free (aka Mercury-free) Rabies vaccine when he is due.  When giving the Rabies vaccine, we will also give the detoxification herbs before and after to prevent any negative effects.

Think your pet may have suffered a vaccine reaction or disease resulting from vaccination or other chemical?  Let us know how we can help!

Case Study – K-Laser Therapy on Acral Lick Granuloma

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Gracie is a 4yr old Labrador Retriever with an acral lick granuloma on her left carpus that was unresponsive to treatment for almost a year.  Lick granulomas are chronic wounds that become very deep infections and typically do not respond to surgery (the dogs will just create another wound over the surgical incision) and are very difficult to cure. Gracie’s wound was cultured and appropriate antibiotic therapy was given long term along with topical treatments and bandaging of wound intermittently but nothing seemed to completely resolve this lesion. It would get better but within a short period of time, Gracie was licking at her leg and the granuloma would regress again.  We decided to use K-Laser therapy on this wound in conjunction with more antibiotics based on a new skin culture.  K-Laser was performed three times weekly for the first 4 weeks then performed twice weekly.  The wound has almost healed with 2 months of K-Laser treatment!!  We will continue K-Laser therapy until it is completely resolved and Gracie could not be happier.  K-Laser has given us the ability to cure lick granulomas when in the past we would just have to manage them as chronic wounds.