March 2018-Lyme Awareness Month

Lymes Disease in Pets

What is Lymes Disease?

We live in a beautiful Virginia with beautiful forests, grasslands, marshes, river, and mountain terrain. Unfortunately we and our pets are also living amongst deer ticks that are able to transmit Lymes disease to us. Lymes disease is caused by a tiny spiral-shaped bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria lives in mice, deer, and other small mammals. Deer ticks serve as the vector that transmit Borrelia burgdorferi from wildlife to you or your pet. Both humans and pets can be bitten by the deer tick and contract Lymes disease.

What are the signs of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease can go unnoticed for several months (~2-5 months) post tick bite exposure. After this period of time, symptoms can include a fever (>102.5 F), loss of appetite, lameness, joint discomfort and/or swelling, and reduced interest in walking and exercising. In addition, your pet may have swollen lymph nodes, become dehydrated, and severe chronic cases can cause kidney damage. If there is concern that your pet may be suffering from kidney damage, then your veterinarian may choose to check your pets kidney function through bloodwork and urine testing.

How is Lymes Disease diagnosed?

Being in an endemic region (where Lymes disease is common) like Virginia, clinical signs such as arthritis raise our concern that we may be dealing with a Lymes infection. There are multiple tick-borne diseases that can sometimes look alike, including Anaplasma, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Therefore, a snap 4DX is a great test to rule in and out Lymes disease. This test just requires three drops of blood and is able to identify Heartworm disease in addition to the three major tick borne diseases we look for (Anaplasma, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Sometimes your pet may come back with a positive response that shows he/she was exposed to Lymes disease at some point, but it may not be an active infection that requires treatment. Fortunately, the Lymes Disease vaccine will not cause a snap 4DX to be positive. We like to follow up a positive snap 4DX with what’s called a Lyme Quantitative C6 Antibody Test that looks for a special protein. This test helps to distinguish between just an exposure to Lymes versus an active infection.

Lymes disease is not transmissible between animals, between animal to human, or human to human. It is important to keep in mind, however, that if one member of your family (pet or human) is diagnosed with Lymes Disease, it is a likely indicator that all individuals were exposed to deer ticks. The best next step is to have each family member visit the veterinarian or human doctor to be tested and set up a plan to monitor everyone should signs arise later on.

How is Lymes Disease treated?

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics that are able to kill Borrelia burgdorferi inside cells, in which it likes to hide. Your pet is often placed on a course of Doxycycline antibiotics for a month.

Following the antibiotic treatment course, we recommend vaccinating against Lyme disease.

How Can Lymes Disease be prevented?

Regular use of flea/tick prevention supplied by your veterinarian. We have a mild climate here in Virginia, so using flea/tick preventative every month of the year is best. Stay vigilant checking your pet and yourself for ticks. A deer tick has to be attached to and feed off the blood of your pet for 24 hours in order to transmit Lymes Disease. Therefore, your speedy removal of ticks from your pet will help to reduce the risk of your pet becoming infected. To safely remove a tick, grasp it with tweezers close to where it is attached to the skin. Talk to your veterinarian about also considering the Lyme vaccine for your pet. This vaccine is a two shot series initially (first vaccine then a booster vaccine about three weeks later) followed by annual boosters. If you’re able to, try to avoid tall grasses, marshes, and wooded areas.

What does Lyme Disease look like in humans?

The classic first sign seen in people that have been infected with Lymes disease is the “bullseye rash” (erythema migrans) that looks like a target symbol. Pets don’t typically show the target lesion like humans. Similar to pets, people also will show fever, headache, fatigue, muscle, and joint pain. Chronic Lymes Disease in people can also cause chronic joint pain, heart, and neurological problems. If you find a tick on yourself, or someone in your family, it is best that you see your doctor to be safe.


Lymes Disease in Horses

Similar to dogs and cats, horses infected with Lyme disease can have fever and lameness. In addition, equine cases of Lymes disease can cause neurologic problems, dermatitis, and uveitis (moon blindness). Spirochetes are attracted to cells of the collagen in the joints, the aqueous humor of the eye, the meninges of the brain, and the meninges of the heart. Frequently, fatigue, irritability, and reluctance to work and be ridden are seen.

With the presence of clinical signs including swollen joints and lameness, a snap 4DX can be performed stallside to find out whether your horse may have been exposed to Lyme disease. While sending a blood sample to the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab to perform a Lyme Multiplex Assay is best to determine infection status, some owners may choose to do a course of Doxycline. Cornell’s Lyme Multiplex Assay test for Equine Lymes disease is able to distinguish between early and chronic infection. The test is able to measure for antibodies formed by the horse’s body in response to Borrelia burgdorferi outer surface proteins (osp proteins). For example, antibodies to ospF correlate to more chronic infections.

The best prevention of future Lyme disease cases is tick control and a Lymes vaccine. Currently, we have to use canine Lyme disease vaccines off label in horses. A study done by Cornell found that horses vaccinated with Novibac Lyme Vaccine had the best antibody response. Recombitek Lyme Vaccine had higher ospA antibody levels than Duramune Lyme vaccine. The researchers illustrate that it is critical for the efficacy of the vaccine to give a 2 mL, instead of a 1 mL dose. This boosts the amount of osp antibodies produced, as well as the duration.

Arthritis episodes tend to come and go.


Dental Care For Your Pet- February 2018

Dental Care for Your Pet


Have you noticed your pet’s pearly whites are covered by tartar and plaque?  Has their breath been smelly when they give you kisses?  Caring for your pet’s teeth is a critical part of their wellness. Plaque and tartar carry bacteria that can enter your pet’s bloodstream and cause heart, lung, and kidney disease.  Everyday we brush our own teeth, but what about our pets?  They could really use our help to keep those pearly whites pearly.  Developing regular tooth brushing routines and preventative care will help to prevent periodontal issues in the future, saving you money as well the stress of major periodontal problems your pet could encounter.


Image result for brushing your pets teethBrushing Your Pet’s Teeth

We recommend brushing your pet’s teeth daily as the best way to prevent the buildup of tartar, as well as inflammation of the gums.  However, any teeth brushing that you are able to do at all will make a difference.  The physical motion of the bristles over your pet’s teeth helps disturb bacterial film that forms on the teeth.  When you brush your pet’s teeth, concentrate on the surface of the the teeth that contact the cheek.  If you finish the surfaces that touch the cheek, you can then try to cover the other three surfaces of the tooth.  Don’t worry if you’re not able to clean all four surfaces of the tooth as the majority of tartar builds up on the cheek (buccal) surface.  

You need to be sure to use a dog or cat specific toothpaste.  Never use a human toothpaste as swallowing this can harm your pet.  There are a variety of toothbrush options, including a finger brush or a soft bristle human toothbrush.  Image result for brushing teeth cat teeth

Don’t worry if you’ve never brushed your pets teeth before. It’s never too late to start!  It is most helpful to get a young animal used to having his/her mouth and teeth handled with frequent short sessions and positive reinforcement.  If your pet is not a puppy or kitten, then the same principles can be used especially with the help of a fun reward that follows.  Keeping a tooth brushing session short and sweet with an activity afterwards that your pet enjoys such as a walk or a healthy treat is very helpful to the learning process.  We are always happy to over the tooth brushing process with you, or refer you to helpful videos such as this one:

While you are brushing your pet’s teeth, please keep an eye out for teeth that are loose, broken, or painful.  Take a look also at your pet’s gums to see if there is any swelling, bleeding, or masses.  Note if your pet may also have any appetite loss, dropping of food from his/her mouth, and unusual chewing or drooling.  Pay attention to any attitude changes your pet may have, as irritability can be a sign of oral discomfort.  Any of the above observations mean that your pet needs to have an oral exam by your veterinarian.  It is important to address these issues early so that they can be nipped in the bud.


Professional Dental Cleanings

The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that your pet’s teeth be professionally cleaned annually beginning at one year old for cats and small dogs and starting at two years for large breed Image result for veterinary dog teeth cleaningdogs.  In preparation for a professional cleaning, your pet will have pre-anesthetic bloodwork performed to be sure that he/she is a safe candidate for anesthesia.  Your pet will be sedated, intubated, and carefully monitored under anesthesia for the procedure.  During this time, your veterinarian is able to do a complete oral exam looking for periodontal disease and oral tumors.  Since we are only able to do a brief oral exam in most awake patients, this is the best time for your pets whole mouth to be examined. Scaling is performed to remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline, which is very important to the health of your pets’ teeth. Scaling is followed by polishing with paste that smooths over the enamel surfaces.  Fluoride or another type of barrier sealant is then applied to all surfaces of the teeth that act to repel plaque.  


Image result for oravet chewsDental Chews, Treats, and Toys

While frequent tooth brushing is the best way to prevent and remove the buildup of plaque and tartar, dental specific treats and toys can be a helpful adjunct to regular tooth brushing.  One thing to keep in mind is that a dental chew will not clean all four surfaces of the teeth due to the way pets chew.  This means that just the incisal surface of a tooth is cleaned, rather than the part of the tooth nearest the gums where plaque and tartar are most likely to accumulate.  Treats that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council have met quality standards for removal of plaque and reducing tartar. Monitor your pet to ensure that they are actually chewing the dental chew or treat in order to receive the most benefit. As always, please use caution when giving your pets treats and chews to ensure that they do not choke or swallow these chews whole.  Never give your pets bones, cow hooves, pig ears, plastic bottles, antlers, or rawhides.  


Image result for oratene water additiveWater Additives, Rinses, and Sprays

Water additives, rinses, and sprays help to reduce the bacterial load in a pet’s mouth.  Oratene and AquaDent are examples of water additive products that act as safe to swallow mouth washes.  Oral rinses like DentaHex can sprayed over your pet’s teeth daily to also help keep bacterial numbers down.  We also offer Leba-III spray that can help the healthy bacterial balance in the mouth.  


Foods to Promote Dental CareImage result for hill's t/d feline

Dry foods have more abrasive activity on the teeth than canned food to help remove tartar and plaque.  Dry foods are also less likely to get packed in between the teeth and in the gingival (gum) crevices.  Plaque and tartar will still accumulate on teeth in spite of feeding your pet a dry diet even a dental diet.  Always keep in mind that a dental diet does not replace regular teeth brushing.  Some dental diets include Canine and Feline t/d and Science Diet Oral Care and Eukanuba Dental Defense Diet.Here is a link that provides a list of dental diets:



-AVMA Pet Dental Care


-AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats


-American Veterinary Dental College

Hill’s Weight Loss Competition-Free Ipad Mini!

January of 2018 is Weight Loss and Healthy Joints Month at Elkwood Animal Hospital

We are holding a weight loss competition with Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

  • You can enter at any of clinics (Compassion Animal Hospital, Catlett Animal Hospital, and Elkwood Animal Hospital).
  • We will have a dog and cat winner. Each pet will win three months of free pet food.
  • For the pet with the most percentage body weight lost, the owner will receive a free ipod mini.

Healthy Joints are what every dog and cat deserve, but unfortunately, as our pets age their joints get more stiff and painful. They also tend to become overweight. This weight loss competition is to help our patients with their mobility issues by lessening the stress on their joints.

We also carry Dasuquin Advanced, Adequan, various pain medications, joint diets and do joint injections to help our patients live happier, more active lives. We love our patients!

Articles on Joint Health:

Arthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease Treatments

Overweight Pets- An Epidemic

Overweight Pets- An Epidemic

An Epidemic! Overweight Pets:


53% of dogs in the US are overweight with 5% being classified as obese.

55% of cats in the US are overweight.

How to tell if your pet is overweight.

  • Feel over the ribs and spine. If you can easily feel the ribs and spine but cannot see them, your pet is the perfect weight. If you have to dig to feel them, your pet is overweight.
  • Look at their “abdominal tuck”. This is where their abdomen meets their back legs. Does the abdomen look “empty” or is it rounded and hanging down. Ideally, the abdomen does not look empty, but also, does not hang. It simply tucks up into the back legs.
  • Other areas that animals store fat is along their neck and over their tail head. Check these areas as well.

How to weigh your dog or cat.

  • Using a baby scale for small dogs and cats is best. Typically, their weights are much lower than our weights. So, if the scale is a half a pound off that is significant in relation to these little ones total weight.
  • For larger dogs (20# and above), weigh yourself then weigh yourself holding your dog.
  • Use your veterinary clinic’s scale! 🙂 Most veterinary clinics do not mind if you call ahead and ask to use their scale.

Why is my pet so overweight?

  • Some breeds are prone to being overweight. Beagles, labs, rottweilers, and golden retrievers are only a couple of these breeds. These dogs require a strict diet to maintain a healthy weight.
  • People food. Those adorable begging eyes from our beloved pets are hard to resist! But you must! Human foods tend to be more calorie and fat dense than dog foods. Giving your pet a bite of your hamburger or french fries is the equivalent to giving yourself an ice cream sundae or Hershey bar. If they get too much, they will become overweight quickly.
  • Lack of portion control. Leaving your pet’s bowl full of food or overfeeding, will result in your pet becoming overweight. Most bags of food have portions to feed based on weight on the back of the bag. Find out from your veterinarian what your pet’s weight should be and feed ⅔-¾ of the amount the bag tells you to feed for that weight (more on this later).
  • Endocrine disease. There are several diseases: hypothyroidism and Cushing’s, to name a few, that will result in your pet being unable to lose weight. If you are concerned, have your veterinarian run blood work as soon as possible.


How do I get my pet to lose weight?

  • Keep track of their weight. Weigh them. then begin your weight loss program. Weigh once a month to see if they are losing. The goal is to get them to lose 1-2% of their total body weight per month.
  • Portion control. This applies to treats and food. Treats should be less than 10% of the total calories in the diet. Also, feeding less food and supplementing with canned green beans or cooked carrots will achieve your pet’s weight loss while still allowing him or her to feel full. Remember: feed ⅔ to ¾ of what the bag suggests for their ideal weight. The reason you do this is the bag is counting calories for a very active dog (aka hiking in the mountains, search and rescue, etc). Most of the dogs we see in our practice are kept inside the majority of the day until their owners get home. They do not require many calories at all. Ask you veterinarian to calculate the calories your pet needs.
  • Diet food. Sometimes getting patients to lose food on a regular adult diet is impossible. For those patients trying an over the counter or even prescription diet will oftentimes result in weight loss. Remember cut out all people food and reduce treats significantly during the diet.
  • Exercise. If your pet is obese, this may not be a good idea (too much weight and walking can harm the joints), but if not, throwing the ball for 30 minutes a day, playing with a laser pointer, or going for a walk is great for weight loss. It also helps your pet’s heart and lungs!
  • Don’t give in to begging. To most people, food is love. That is how most owners show their pets that they care. It is so hard when your pet is asking politely, or in some cases, demanding food. Giving cooked carrots, canned green beans, and other cooked veggies are the only people foods that are sort-ave okay to give when they are dieting. Remember calories add up. NOTE:  Feeding foods high in sugars and fat increase your pet’s risk of developing pancreatitis, which is a lifelong disease of the digestive system.
  • No people food. I know I’m saying it again. Truly, the calories in people food are too high to be given to your pet. Avoid this.


Why should you help your pet lose weight?

  • Fat is an organ too and being overweight increases inflammation in the body and leads to other disease states such as: diabetes, arthritis, skin issues, heart issues, and increased blood pressure.
    • Overweight pets are also at high risk for some or all of the following symptoms: trouble breathing, heat stroke, compromised immune system, and  decreased life span.


Arthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease Treatments

For the Month of July, we are offering 10% off:


Dasuquin Advanced (joint supplement)

Dasuquin Advanced is an amazing joint supplement. It works by giving your dog or cat’s body what it needs to heal the cartilage in his or her joints. It comes in two formulations: tablets and chews. There is no difference in quality or efficacy between the two forms. There is no generic equivalent to this product.

Dasuquin Advanced contains ASU which scientifically proven to reverse cartilage damage and increase joint health. This type of break through with a holistic oral joint supplement has never happened in veterinary medicine before. This makes Dasuquin Advanced the most effective supplement on the market for dog with early arthritis (DJD).

Some of the other ingredients in Dasuquin Advanced, hyaluronic acid, MSM, and glucosamine, have a long history of improving joint health in patients. Evidence of this was seen with the efficacy of Dasuquin and Dasuquin with MSM increasing joint mobility, decreasing joint inflammation and lessening joint pain in many canine and feline patients treated with these products.

Find more information:


Dasuquin for Cats

For more information:



Moviflex is a new joint supplement made specifically for dogs. It is made from egg shell membrane. It also contains Hyaluronic, vitamin D, and Boswellia serrata extract. This joint supplement works very well for patients with early joint disease. It is also great for dogs with food allergies. It contains no gluten, sugar, salt, or shellfish.

Find more information:

NSAIDs and other pain medications for achy joints

Pain and inflammation are major factors in feline and canine arthritis. This pain becomes crippling in older patients. Running, stairs, and sometimes walking are painful. Patients become obese and this extra weight leads to further strain on the joints resulting in pain and inflammation. Keeping these patients strong and a good weight is a very important part of managing their arthritis.

NSAIDs are pain and fever reducing medications that decrease the inflammation in the joints. As a result, pain decreases, and patients are able to move more freely.

NSAIDs can have side effects such as liver disease and kidney disease in cats and dogs. In cats, these risks are too high. NSAIDs are used very, very rarely in them and only in extreme cases. NSAID use in dogs is relatively safe. We do have to monitor their kidney and liver values closely though. We do blood work before starting the NSAID. Then, we do it once every six months. This helps get the dog the pain relief it needs to be happy and healthy, and it maintains the health and safety of the patient.


Cold laser therapy (to decrease pain, reduce inflammation, and speed healing)

For more information:

Adequan (to strengthen and rebuild the cartilage in the joint)


For more information on this therapy:


Joint/Mobility foods

Purina J/M:

Hill’s J/D:


Joint injections (Hyaluronic Acid)

For more information:

Got questions about lyme disease in dogs? We have answers…

Answers to Your Questions About Lyme Disease:

What causes lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdoferi, which is transmitted by a tick bite. A young tick picks up the bacteria by drinking the blood of a small host, usually a mouse, that is carrying the infection. As the tick matures, it begins to search for a larger host, such as a deer, human or dog. When it bites, the tick regurgitates into the animal’s blood to keep it from clotting. This regurgitation process is what transmits the bacteria to the animal. The tick must be attached for 24 to 48 hours before this transmission process is completed. If the tick is removed before it has been attached for 24 hours, the lyme disease bacteria cannot be transmitted.

How is lyme disease in dogs different from lyme disease in humans?

Lyme disease affects our canine companions in a much different manner than it affects humans. Humans who are infected by the lyme disease bacteria due to a tick bite tend to quickly develop flu-like symptoms, a rash around the tick bite site, and potentially neurological or cardiac abnormalities. Dogs, on the other hand, do not tend to show signs of this disease right away. If they do develop signs of infection, it is weeks to months after exposure and tends to manifest as arthritis or joint pain.

Some dogs never show any clinical signs of the disease at all. However, lack of clinical signs does not mean that lyme disease is not harming your pet. Sub-clinical lyme disease can cause damage to the dog’s cartilage due to chronic low-level inflammation and the kidneys due to chronic stimulation of the immune system.

Do we have lyme disease in this area?

Yes! Lyme disease is unfortunately very common in this area, and this is a disease that our doctors are faced with on a daily basis. Even dogs in our area,  that stay inside the majority of the time contract this disease.

How do we treat lyme disease once it is present?

Veterinarians will often prescribe a 28-day course of doxycycline, which is the same antibiotic used in humans. This treatment simply lowers the levels of lyme bacteria so there is no longer an active infection, but some bacteria remain hidden in the body long-term.

We have never been able to completely cure Lyme disease. This is because it has one appearance (OspA) when it enters the body. Then, after entering the body, it changes the proteins on the outside of the bacteria to hide from the immune system (OspC). In the past, lyme vaccines only provided immunity to Osp A. A new vaccine from Zoetis teaches the body to be immune to both appearances of the lyme disease bacteria. It is the veterinary community’s hope that this vaccine will help your dog’s immune system rid itself of the OspA and OspC lyme infection completely. Thereby, curing the dog of lyme disease. Time will tell us if this is truly possible.

Chronic lyme infections require an antibody level test (called a “Quantitative C6 Test”). A dog with a higher C6 antibody level likely has an active infection and should be treated with doxycycline. This is the only way to determine the severity of your dog’s current lyme infection.

How do we protect our dogs from lyme disease?

Regular monthly flea and tick prevention is the absolute best way to prevent lyme disease in dogs. As stated above, the tick needs to be attached to the dogs for 24 to 48 hours to transmit lyme disease. Both oral (Nexgard) and topical (Frontline plus and Frontline Gold) flea/tick preventatives will cause the biting tick to die before this point of transference.

Sometimes we forget to give our dogs their flea/tick prevention on time. In that case, vaccination against lyme provides a second level of defense against the disease. Vaccination will cause the dog’s immune system to be prepared to kill the lyme bacteria.

Traditionally, the lyme vaccine had only worked for dogs that had not already been exposed to the disease. This is because the protein (OspA) that the vaccine created immunity against was the protein the bacteria wore inside the tick. The dog’s antibodies would kill the lyme bacteria before it even entered their bodies. This was great for lyme negative dogs but did not help dogs who were already infected. There is a new Zoetis lyme vaccine that creates immunity against a second protein (OspC) as well, this one that is expressed by the bacteria in the dog’s body. Immunity to this second protein will your dog’s immunity against an infection that is already present in his or her boy. This is why we will recommend vaccination with the Zoetis lyme vaccine after doxycycline treatment to help boost the dog’s ability to fight off the chronic infection.

Do you have more questions about lyme disease in dogs? Feel free to ask one of our doctors!

How to train your pet to love tooth brushing time

How to train your pet to love tooth brushing


Dental disease is one of the most common conditions that veterinarians diagnose in our canine and feline patients. Besides contributing to bad breath, dental disease can also result in pain and infection, which can cause a pet to become inappetant or ill. The most successful way to prevent dental disease in our pets is the same way we prevent dental disease in ourselves: daily tooth brushing. Although this can sound intimidating, most pets will learn to love tooth brushing with the appropriate training schedule. Even cats can be taught to participate in their own dental care when the training is slow, consistent, and full of positive reinforcement.

Step #1: Start brushing your pet’s teeth as early as possible! Although puppies and kittens may be taught to accept tooth brushing more easily, it is never too late for an animal to learn.

Step #2: Collect the supplies needed. There are many different kits used for pet dental care- some include finger brushes, others include more traditional toothbrushes with soft bristles. Either type of brush can work, depending on the pet. Pet toothpaste often comes in flavors such as poultry (the most popular flavor for both dogs and cats), beef, tuna and vanilla mint. Try out these flavors to see which your pet prefers. These toothpastes are enzymatic, meaning that they will continue to break down plaque on the teeth even after brushing is completed.

Note- do not use human toothpastes in dogs and cats. Animals end up swallowing a significant amount of toothpaste during brushing, and human toothpastes can cause an upset gastrointestinal tract. Also, it is much easier to train pets to love tooth brushing when the toothpaste is flavored like a treat!

Step #3: Determine the best time and location for daily toothbrushing. Animals do much better when there is a routine associated with the task they are learning (this also helps us  remember to brush the teeth daily!).

Step #4: At the chosen time and in the chosen location, call your pet to you. Reward them with a small amount of toothpaste on your finger. This will teach them to see the toothpaste as a treat. Repeat this step once daily until your pet readily arrives for the toothpaste. This may require just a couple days for some dogs, but other dogs and most cats may need a couple weeks of training before they are consistent.

Step #5: When the pet arrives for toothpaste, provide it for them on the toothbrush instead of your Image result for dental pictures dogsfinger. Allow them to lick it off the toothbrush. Repeat this daily until the pet shows no concerns about the toothbrush. Again, this can take days to weeks, depending on the animal.

Step #6: The next step is to get the pet to accept you touching his/her face while licking the toothpaste. Once this does not surprise the pet anymore, you can lift the upper lip on one side of the mouth to visualize the teeth.

Step #7: When lifting the upper lip on one side of the mouth, you can do a small stroke with the toothbrush and toothpaste. On the next day, do the other side. Continue to increase the time spent brushing, while paying attention to the comfort level of your pet. Make this process positive by praising your animal for good behavior.

Note- it is most important to contact the outer (cheek) side of the upper teeth when brushing an animal’s teeth, as this is where they build up most tartar. This is also the area that is most comfortable for animals to have brushed. You should also be able to brush the outer side of the lower teeth. Do not worry about the insides of the teeth near the tongue and palate. These areas do not build up as much plaque and can be addressed when the animal is under anesthesia for dental cleanings in the future.

Regular toothbrushing is easier to do when your pet enjoys and participates in the process! If your pet will not tolerate tooth brushing, please talk to us about other options to preserve dental health, such as dental diets, chews, and sprays. As always, even with regular toothbrushing, our pets will likely require regular dental cleanings under anesthesia over the course of their lives. The goal with toothbrushing is to decrease the need for these, resulting in less anesthesia time and better overall oral health for your pet.

Veterinary Technician Appreciation

It’s National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week and We LOVE our LVTs!


Our Licensed Veterinary Technicians are a crucial part of our team and we don’t know what we would do without them! 

Licensed Veterinary Technicians are highly trained professionals, responsible for everything from taking patient vitals, placing IV catheters, monitoring anesthesia, taking x-rays, performing bloodwork and urine testing, administering medications and injections, caring for hospitalized patients, answering client questions, providing knowledgeable pet care education, and offering comfort during difficult visits. ALL of our staff are amazing, animal-loving people, but these ladies have gone above and beyond to get additional training (which they maintain with regular continuing education courses) so they can provide the best care for your pets.


The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) designates one week a year in October to honor these animal care professionals, but our appreciation for all they do is year round. If you are lucky enough to see Sam or Erin this week, please give them a high-five or some words of thanks for all they do for us. We couldn’t do what we do without them!


Lyme Disease Prevention

Our health focus topic for March is Lyme Disease Awareness and Prevention! Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to Lyme disease, and can have long lasting issues from contracting this disease.

Ticks in our area carry Lyme disease, as well as other nasty blood parasites like Ehrlichia and Anaplasma. Virginia is one of the states on the East Coast with a very high prevalence of Lyme disease.

Lyme Map

Unlike humans, dogs very rarely get the “bulls-eye” lesion on their skin after a bite from an infected tick. Some dogs will get an irritated area around a tick bite whether or not the tick is carrying a disease, and others will not react at all.

The disease itself can cause fever, lethargy, achiness and arthritis, and in some cases, even permanent effects on the kidneys. Just because your dog has been exposed to Lyme disease doesn’t mean that he or she will necessary develop these symptoms. However, since some dogs do experience illness, we strongly recommend prevention for EVERY dog in our area.

Lyme infection in dogs is only detected with a blood test. We use a quick, in-hospital test that only requires a few drops of blood to screen for this disease.

Knowing your dog’s status is an important first step in preventing or treating this disease!

If your dog tests positive, our doctors will discuss with you the next options, which could include further testing or medications. If your dog tests negative, he or she is eligible to start the Lyme vaccine series to help prevent future infection!

This month, Elkwood Animal Hospital will offer 10% off Lyme disease vaccination and the testing to start the vaccine!

Additionally, if your dog completes the Lyme vaccination series for the first time, you will be eligible for a FREE gift…  your choice of a travel dog water bottle or a light-up, night time safety collar! (while supplies last!)

The Lyme vaccine is an important means to prevent disease in your dog, but tick prevention is ALWAYS the best way to prevent ticks and the many diseases they can transmit. We recommend keeping your dog on tick prevention year round, as our mild climate often means ticks can be active even in the winter months.

Help us protect your dog from Lyme disease this spring!

Caring For Your Pet’s Teeth At Home

This is the third article in our series of dental health articles, and arrives just in time for February, which is National Pet Dental Health Month!

In case you haven’t heard, our February Dental Health Month special is 10% off all dental procedures (see our article on the “COHAT” and what this includes!) as well as FREE dental goody bags for pets after their procedure. Read on for more information about what to do with the great home care samples you’ll find in that goody bag!

Home Dental Care – The Most Important Part of Your Pet’s Dental Health!

What would your breath smell like if you NEVER brushed your teeth? Like your dog’s breath, maybe? Our pets’ mouths have bacteria and plaque just like our mouths (and often theirs have more, especially depending on what your dog likes to chew…).

There are many things that you can do at home to support your pet’s dental health, to reduce buildup of plaque and tartar, and to prevent periodontal disease. None of these options require advanced or special skills, and any or all of them could make a difference for your pet. Your bottom line could benefit as well, as home care may be able to reduce the frequency of professional dental cleanings for some pets, and often, can prevent expensive tooth extractions or restorations later.

Brushing – The Gold Standard

Dog owner brushing an Australian Shepherd puppys teeth. Educational showing the proper method of handeling the puppy.

Brushing your cat or dog’s teeth is the absolute best way to prevent tartar and gum disease.

Ideally, we would brush our pets’ teeth daily, but the truth is even occasional brushing can still make a difference. The brushing action is the best way to remove the bacterial film that builds up on the surfaces of teeth, which would otherwise develop into plaque and eventually dentaltoothpastetartar. Pet-safe toothpastes in flavors like poultry, seafood, malt and vanilla-mint are available to help make the process more enjoyable for your pet, and may contribute a little to cleaning the teeth as well. You should not use human toothpastes with pets, as they frequently end up swallowing a good deal of toothpaste in the process.

Brush options vary from traditional pet bristle brushes to smaller rubber finger brushes. Human baby toothbrushes with SOFT bristles can be used as well, and sometimes work well for cat mouths or very small dogs. Experiment to find what is most comfortable for you and your pet!dentalbrushes

Introducing your pet to brushing could be a whole article itself, but the basic principles are: start young if you can, start with only brief sessions and work up, and make the experience fun and rewarding for your pet! Almost any pet can learn to have their teeth brushed and all will benefit from this special care you give them!

Here is a great video about dental disease that gives specific demonstrations of brushing and introducing your dog or cat to brushing!

Dental Chews, Treats, & Toys

dentalchewsThe chewing action dogs (and some cats!) enjoy can help them keep their teeth clean by physically rubbing off the bacterial film on the teeth, just like brushing can do. Some dental chews and treats may also contain other ingredients to help combat bacterial buildup. Brushing helps us address all the surfaces of the teeth – it has an advantage over products that clean the teeth by the chewing action because pets may chew using some areas of their mouth preferentially. They may be cleaning only those areas. Still, some cleaning of the teeth is better than none. Therefore, products that clean the teeth as the animal chews are still useful.

Dental chews and treats vary in how effective they may be – there is no regulation to prevent a company from claiming their product is good for teeth even if they have never tested it. Treats that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal have standards for their product with trials and are an excellent products with which to start. Other treats may also be effective, but one rule of thumb is if your pet is not actually chewing on the treat, they are likely not getting a lot of benefit from it!

Water Additives, Rinses, & Sprays

dentalrinsesWater additives and rinses are used to try to decrease bacteria in the mouth of our pets. Water additives like Oratene or AquaDent are put in the pets’ drinking water in small amounts, and act as a safe-to-swallow “mouthwash” each time the pet drinks. Oral rinses like DentaHex can dentallebaiiibe squirted over the pets’ teeth daily to help kill bacteria in the mouth.

Leba-III is a spray we offer that helps to promote a healthy bacterial balance in the mouth – it can be spritzed in the mouth twice daily to help keep teeth healthy.

Food – The Other Daily Dental Care Option!

td foodYou make an important health decision for your dog or cat every day – what to put in the food bowl! We carry not one but TWO food options that are clinically proven to help cats and dogs maintain healthy mouths. Both Hill’s t/d diet and Purina DH have the VOHC seal and are available for long term feeding that daily helps remove plaque and bacteria. They are suitable for almost every pet, and can be fed lifelong. They may be an especially good idea to start early in pets prone to dental disease.

Both foods use special kibble technology to help clean the teeth as the pet crunches their daily meal. These work best after a thorough cleaning, as they prevent buildup on clean teeth, but both are beneficial in ALL pets to slow down plaque and tartar accumulation.

YOU Can Do It – And We’re Here to Help!

brushcatteethThese are all wonderful ways for you to take an active role in protecting your pet’s health! Dental disease is such a common condition, and with just a little effort on the home front, pet parents can make a BIG difference in their pet’s oral health!

Please contact us with any questions about getting started with home dental care for your pet! Our doctors and staff would love to help find the right match for you and your pet.