Monday, April 30, 2012

Maximizing Outcomes by Cynthia Easton, DVM

It matters not whether medicine is old or new as long as it brings about a cure
-  Jen-Hsou Lin

When a loved one is sick, family members often ask themselves, “Is there anything else I can do?” It’s no different with your pet. You’ve been to the veterinarian and heard the recommendations, taken the medication, done the tests, but still you wonder if you have any additional options. Or maybe the medications have unacceptable side effects. Sometimes, a natural therapy is that something extra you can do. 

A holistic approach might involve a nutrition consultation on diet and supplements or even a consideration of holistic medical therapies such as homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic. Although a combination of these natural therapies can form a stand-alone approach, they are considered complementary, meaning “forming a satisfactory or balanced whole”. Under the careful supervision of a holistic veterinarian, this type of therapy can be safely used in conjunction with conventional treatments in hopes of more quickly relieving suffering and restoring well-being.

In the age of the internet, many people find themselves researching their pet’s condition and choosing from an array of herbs and supplements available on-line.  Beware of internet testimonials! Because herbs and supplements are not regulated by the FDA like drugs are, almost any claim can be made without research or safety studies to back it up.  Additionally, one must be careful about natural products, as the word “natural” does not always mean safe.  Some herbs, for example, can interact with medications your veterinarian prescribed, either making them more or less potent.  Thus it is very important to consult with a veterinarian who has training in these potential interactions and can recommend treatments that are both safe and have a validated track record for use in certain medical conditions. 

Many factors go into the decision to explore holistic treatments.  Traditional and complementary approaches each have their strengths and weaknesses which, when appropriate, should be considered when looking at all the options.  There can definitely be medical situations where holistic treatment is not advised.  

The strengths of conventional veterinary medicine include:

  • Rapid action
  • Sophisticated diagnostics
  • Good for acute known infections
  • Surgery
  • Emergency medical care

Some weaknesses are:

  • Decreased effectiveness in treating chronic disease
  • Side effects
  • Invasive
  • High cost
Strengths of complementary medicine include: 

  • Safety
  • Few side effects
  • Can be used for long periods of time
  • Benefits and treats the whole body instead of one part  (Conventional medicine is a disease-based system which equates the control of symptoms with a cure.  Owners sometimes can tell that something is still not right even though the symptoms are no longer present).
  • Can effectively treat functional and chronic diseases
  • Focused on preventive health care
  • Lower cost

Finally, the weaknesses of complementary medicine include:

  • Many modalities lack specific diagnostic ability
  • Less of a track record for positive outcomes or can take a longer period of time to see a positive effect
  • Ineffective at treating most acute or emergency conditions

The good news is you usually don’t have to choose one or the other.  At Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care the veterinarians often work in tandem providing both types of treatments at the same time.  Examples where this has been successful include cases of arthritis, cancer, digestive abnormalities, and allergies.  Consultation appointments to discuss holistic options are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Dr. Easton is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis, and has practiced veterinary medicine for over 15 years. After a medicine and surgery internship at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school, Dr. Easton worked for Pets Unlimited in San Francisco where she began pursuing an interest in holistic medicine. Doctor Easton has taken courses in Homeopathy, Western and Chinese herbology, and is certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. Providing clients with multiple options, Dr. Easton helps clients choose the type of medicine best suited for them and their pets. Dr. Easton lives in San Bruno with her husband, two children, three dogs, one rat, turtles and koi.

Ask the Vet: Hot Spots by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner.  Seasonal allergies are in full bloom!  Along with allergies comes itching, scratching, and chewing – which often leads to red, raw, inflamed skin. These irritated patches of skin are commonly called hot spots. Allergies are just one of the possible causes of hot spots.
What is a hot spot? 
A hot spot is a general term for an area of the skin that is infected, inflamed and itchy.  Common sites for hot spots are on the face, neck and around the tail base although they can occur anywhere on your dog’s body.
What causes a hot spot?
Hot spots result from excessive scratching and/or licking which creates a red oozy wound.  There are many reasons why dogs will scratch themselves raw.  Hot spots on the face are often secondary to an ear infection.   Hot spots at the tail base are usually from flea bites.   Other reasons to be itchy include allergies, a wound, bug bite, mites or a tumor.  Sometimes the reason a hot spot forms is a mystery.
How are hot spots treated?
Standard treatment for a hot spot is to shave the hair over it for better inspection and treatment.  Once shaved, the hot spot is cleaned with an antibacterial soap and rinsed well.  The infected area is often treated topically with a combination of an antibiotic and steroid cream.  Additional medications such as oral or injectable antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed.  And most important, an e-collar is used to prevent your dog from scratching or chewing the hot spot and causing further damage.
If an underlying reason for the hot spot is determined, it will also need to be addressed.  For example applying flea control or treating an ear infection might be part of the treatment plan.
Can I treat my dog’s hot spot at home?
Honestly, yes, you can treat mild hot spots at home following the treatment plan outlined above.   The problem with home treatment is that the underlying problem might be missed or the hot spot might get out of control (which happens fast!).  For optimum treatment I recommend you have your dog checked out by a veterinarian.

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley. If you have questions you would like Dr. Weaver to answer for future articles, please email

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hot Weather Alert & Heat Stroke Prevention Tips by Erin Selby

A heat wave has arrived in the Bay Area on the heels of all that stormy weather. Starting today, you can expect the weather to be HOT HOT HOT and getting even hotter for at least the next week. This may be a cause for celebration for many but it is also a time to exercise caution and awareness as a pet owner. Every year, we treat several animals for heat stroke. It is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. The best way to guard against the dangers of heat stroke is prevention. Read the following guidelines and list of symptoms so that you and your pet are prepared - this information can help save your pet's life.

General Guidelines 
  • If possible, keep your pets indoors with the shades drawn and the air conditioning or an oscillating fan on.
  • If your pet has to stay outside make sure they have access to cool and shaded areas.
  • Whether they are indoors or outside, make sure your pet has access to plenty of cool, fresh water. You can even try putting ice cubes in their bowls to keep the water extra cool.
  • Do not leave pets unsupervised around pools. Not all pets are water savvy and even experienced swimmers can get tired and have trouble getting out of a pool.
  • Keep long, thick fur trimmed in a lightweight summer cut.
  • Only take your dog on a walk early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature is cooler. Not only can exercise in extreme heat cause heat stoke but the hot asphalt can burn sensitive paw pads. 
  • Avoid strenuous exercise or play in general in the hot weather; don't go on long hikes or lengthy walks.
  • NEVER leave your pet in the car! Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke  
  • Excessive panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate
  • Drooling
  • Weakness, stupor, and possible collapse
  • Seizures
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Flat nosed breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Persians are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. Other pets at high risk include the elderly, overweight pets, and pets with heart or lung disease.
If you think your pet may be suffering from heat stroke, get them to a vet immediately. In the interim you can try to cool them off by dousing them with cool (but not COLD water) especially on the groin, arm pits, and paws. You do not want to soak them completely with cold water. This can cause shock and can also cause the blood vessels to constrict, thereby trapping heat inside the body. 

You can read more information about heat stroke here, from our Pet Health Library. You can also read about Tucker Klopp on our Lives Saved page; a Newfoundland who was hospitalized after collapsing on a hot day.

By taking the proper precautions and following a few simple guidelines we can enjoy all the fun the season brings and keep our pets healthy and safe. It doesn't take much to make sure our furry friends are comfortable and cool in the heat. If you have any questions or concerns, we are here when you need us! Stop on by or give us a call at 925.866.8387.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gus's Corner: Potty Training! by Dr. Rebecca Abrams, DVM

Our major focus the first week has been letting the puppy adjust to his new home and house training.  I decided to do direct crate training since it seems to be the most efficient way to fully house train a puppy.  I reviewed the basics in the Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care Puppy Handbook.  The other option is to use potty pads or paper train, which is a two step process.  You first teach the pup to use papers then transition them to going outside.  The downside of using pads is that they may not get fully housebroken if they are accustomed to having an indoor toilet.  Since Joe works out of a home office, he was able to take Gus outside to empty his bladder in the middle of the day.   

We keep Gus in an exercise pen in the kitchen with a bed and chew toys when we are not directly supervising him.  This way he learns to chew on his toys only, rather than the rug, furniture, and everything else he can reach.  Except for first thing in the morning, Gus has not told us when he needs to go potty, instead we have to try to anticipate when he needs to go.  Every time he starts quickly sniffing the ground, we take him out and say "outside". He is learning that he gets a treat when he does his business outside.  After a few days of having Gus, a storm came, and it rained and rained and rained and our yard turned into a mud pit.  Now, in addition to taking Gus outside every hour, I had to wash off his nose and paws each time. Then Gus discovered how fun it is to dig in the mud!  It was getting ridiculous and we were getting tired.  He had a few accidents in the house, but we did the best we could.  Eventually we had a breakthrough - we set up an exercise pen on the patio which became his new toilet.  Now, whenever he needs to go to the bathroom, I take him straight to the pen.  There is nothing else to do in the pen but go potty so he doesn't have distractions. This has greatly improved house training.   It generally takes 4 to 6 weeks to house train a puppy and puppies cannot be fully house trained until they are at least 12 weeks old. We shall see how it goes!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Meet Gus! By Dr. Rebecca Abrams, DVM

Introducing Gus!
My husband Joe and I had been considering adopting a dog for a long time.  After weighing the benefits of adopting a puppy versus an adult dog we decided to take the plunge and have the full puppy experience.  We wanted a medium sized dog that could chase a frisbee, has minimal shedding, and gets along with our cat, an 8 year old tabby named Tootsie.  We talked to friends and family, breeders, and did some internet research and decided we liked the look and temperament of a popular mixed breed dog, the labradoodle.   We prepared for the puppy by borrowing an exercise pen, bed and crate from my in-laws.  We also purchased some puppy food, treats, toys, and bitter apple spray to apply to the furniture and our shoes to deter chewing.

Will Tootsie and Gus be friends?
We found a breeder who matched us to a puppy based on our lifestyle and the puppy's temperament testing.  The 3.5 hours car ride home from the breeder went smoothly, other than some puppy carsickness.  We were worried about how he would react to Tootsie, but he did not even notice her for about 2 days.  She watched him from a perch.  The puppy and cat have touched noses a few times, but if he gets too close and excited, she will hiss or even swat at him.  We plan to keep him separate from the cat when he is very excited and looking for play, and let them interact when he is sleepy and relaxed.
The first night the puppy slept about 6 hours in the crate before we were awaken by barking and whining.  We were relieved that he was able to rest that long and thought we were on easy street.  The second night we were not so lucky.  He woke up in the middle of the night barking and crying.  I took him outside but he did not need to use the bathroom.  He continued to bark for about 2 hours and we were worried about waking up all the neighbors. The third night we moved the crate into the bedroom, which seemed to solve the problem of barking at night.  The puppy had been feeling lonely, missing his mother and littermates.  Still, he is quickly adjusting to our home.  I made a list of my 15 favorite dog names in the days before the adoption and asked my friends and coworkers what they thought about the names.  We decided to name him Gus after trying out a few names the first couple of days.  

Sleeping soundly for now. . .

 Stay tuned for more updates about Gus as he grows up in his new home!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easter Bunnies by Erin Selby

Sweet, furry, and complex.

Rabbits are exceptionally adorable and endlessly entertaining. They really do make special companion animals for the right people. In fact, they are becoming more and more popular. The percentage of households owning rabbits increased from 24% to 40% between 1992 and 2000, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers' Association (APPMA). The popularity of rabbits as pets increases over Easter, for obvious reasons. When the new rabbit owner realizes the energy, special care, and time that goes into owning a pet rabbit, many are abandoned at the shelter or worse, turned loose outside. “Our goal is to educate the public about the realities of bunny ownership,” says Dr. Shann Ikezawa, an exotic and small animal veterinarian for Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care. “Bunnies make great family pets, however they require special care that isn’t always taken into consideration when the impulse to adopt a bunny is made – especially during the Easter holiday.” 

Many people believe that rabbits make good "starter" pets to help teach children responsibility. Unfortunately, children and rabbits are not always an ideal match. Young children naturally want to hug and squeeze and carry rabbits around but this can present a hazard - for both the rabbit and the child. Rabbits are very fragile and can easily come to harm. They don't always enjoy being held and can kick and struggle with their powerful hind legs. This may lead to the rabbit being dropped or jumping out of the child's arms which can cause the rabbit's legs or back to break. A rabbit with a broken back has limited treatment options and often must be euthanized. Rabbits struggling in a child's arms may also unintentionally cause harm by biting or scratching with their paws. It is not impossible for rabbits to do well with children, as long as an adult in the family is the primary care giver of the pet and the interaction between the child and the rabbit is supervised.

All of that being said, having a rabbit as a pet can be very rewarding! Rabbits combine the independence and intrigue of cats with the affection, loyalty and silliness of dogs into one soft, adorable pet. They are best suited to an adult pet owner who can provide them with an indoor space to live and play and who can tolerate a rabbit's natural tendency for digging and chewing. While a cage should be provided for them to sleep in, retreat to, and stay in when they need to be contained, rabbits should have room to roam free - with supervision of course! Make sure to rabbit proof your home in order to keep your rabbit safe and to protect your furniture and belongings. Rabbits have special dietary needs, and should eat a diet comprised mostly of hay. It is important to do your research if you are thinking of adding a rabbit to your family. Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care has several informative documents regarding rabbits available to email upon request. You can email us for more information at Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets, but they just might be the right pet for you!

Ask the Vet: Rattlesnakes by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

Last spring I was on a hike with my dog and we encountered a rattlesnake.  What can I do to protect my dog from rattlesnakes?  What should I do if a rattlesnake bites my dog?

To answer this question I’ll provide some basic background information on rattlesnakes and their bites, then discuss the rattlesnake vaccine.  

About rattlesnakes
Rattlesnakes are most frequently encountered between April and October and are most active in the spring when they come out of hibernation. They are not overly aggressive towards dogs or people, but will strike out when provoked as a defense mechanism. In Northern California we have one type of rattlesnake, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. 

What happens if my dog is bitten?         
The site around the bite wound swells up quickly as the venom causes severe damage to skin, muscle, and nerves. Once the venom gets into the blood stream it can lead to problems with blood clotting and cause damage to internal organs. Rattlesnake bites can cause death. Approximately 20-25% of rattlesnake bites are “dry” which means that no venom is injected with the bite, but you can’t easily tell if your dog received a “dry” bite or one with venom.
Rattlesnake bites look like two parallel wounds that may or may not bleed. Dogs are most frequently bitten on their face, neck or extremities. Venomous snake bites can cause extreme pain, swelling, cell death (tissue necrosis), clotting problems, and infection. Often, many dogs we see that have been bitten by a rattlesnake end up being hospitalized for a day or two and on some form of morphine because of the extreme pain. If you think a rattlesnake has bitten your dog, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. 
Rattlesnake bites can cause severe swelling.
The good news - a vaccine!          
There is a vaccine for dogs against rattlesnake venom. The vaccine stimulates the dog’s immune system to make antibodies against the venom so that, if bitten, the dog will have a less severe reaction to the venom. Possible side effects from the vaccine include a lump at the site of vaccination that goes away after a few weeks, flu-like symptoms or an allergic reaction.  The vaccine is not made specifically for the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, but is still thought to provide protection if bitten because of similarities between the venoms.
Should my dog get this vaccine?
This is NOT a core vaccine recommended for all dogs.  This vaccine is recommended for dogs that may encounter a rattlesnake.  For example dogs that have rattlesnakes in their yard/environment or dogs that go hiking, hunting, or camping are good candidates for this vaccine.  The first year that a dog is vaccinated against rattlesnake venom it requires two vaccinations 3 to 4 weeks apart.  After that first year, dogs get a booster once a year in the spring. The vaccine gives a dog’s immune system an enormous head-start in responding to and protecting a dog from the harmful effects of rattlesnake venom. However, it is still recommended that any dog bitten by a rattlesnake, even if vaccinated, be brought to a veterinary hospital immediately. Further treatment, although abbreviated and far less costly than would otherwise be needed if a dog weren’t already immunized, is still required for some dogs that have been bitten.

Tips to avoid rattlesnake bites
    • Never wear sandals when walking in wild areas.
    • Keep your dog on a leash while hiking.
    • Do not allow your dog to explore holes or under logs.
    • Avoid tall grass, weeds or underbrush where the snakes may hide.
    • Step on large logs and rocks, not over them, to see what is on the other side.
    • Don’t grab “sticks” or “braches” floating in the water; rattlesnakes can swim.
    • Never hike alone, in case of an emergency.
    • Do not handle a freshly killed snake -- the fangs can still be venomous.

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley. If you have questions you would like Dr. Weaver to answer for future articles, please email