When Prevention Hurts…Things to know about Flea and Tick Prevention Safety

It’s that time of year again when we are starting to see those annoying, pesky, and even dangerous fleas and ticks! Luckily, we have come such a long way with prevention options for these pests.  Most people don’t realize that there was little options for us against fleas prior to 1989. This invention of flea prevention has been one of  the major events that have been credited with the transition to more of our pets become pampered indoor pooches and felines! 

Transition to 2019, just 30 years later, and it probably feels you are inundated with options, commercials, and recommendations for flea and tick prevention. We often tell people that there is no perfect flea and tick prevention, just the perfect one for you, your pet, and your lifestyle. If you want some more information, take a look at our flea and tick blog post: https://www.blueridgeanimalhospital.com/blog/whats-bugging-you-updates-of-flea-and-tick-medication/

While you have options for excellent flea and tick prevention, there is also the dangers of using the wrong kind!  There is also the concern with certain over-the-counter tick prevention and how safe they are. Please contact us and do your research prior to making a change! Sometimes the cheaper products can cause you more expensive treatment in the long-run. 

Our wonderful member Desiree has been receiving a number of phone calls with concerns for flea and tick applications and reactions over the past few weeks. Because of this, she felt it important to help discuss concerns and recommendations through our blog!

She created the following list of guidelines to help make everyone’s life a bit easier. As always, if you have any questions or you are seeing any unusual reactions to medications, contact us or the emergency clinic immediately. 

  • First and foremost, use correct dosing for pet, if unsure please contact us and we will weigh your pet to insure proper dose is being used. Even when dealing with dogs, we need to make sure we are not under or over dosing the pet, although most flea treatments are very safe in some levels of overdosing it is still best to avoid this scenario.
  • Reactions to flea and tick medication can not only come from applying it to the incorrect pet, but also if a cat licks the topical prevention off of a dog, is best to separate them if possible for at least 3 hours. 
  • You can bathe with 30 minute of application if you are concerned as long as your pet is not showing other signs such as tremors, then needs to go directly to a veterinarian. But do not put you or yourself in harms way by trying to bathe your feline friend. 
  • Be aware that some toxins can also be found in some insect sprays, flea spray, and shampoos, they’re normally safe for both dogs and cats, but still be aware of what chemicals you’re using in your home. 
  • Chemicals toxic to cats are called pyrethrins, although very safe for dogs they’re extremely toxic to cats. Cats lack the ability to quickly metabolize these toxins.  Pyrethrins are actually natural chemicals derived from the Chrysanthemum flower (commonly called the “mum”), while pyrethroids are synthetic derivatives (made by man). Common chemical names for pyrethroids include the following – note, they typically end with a “thrin.”

o Allethrin

o Deltamethrin

o Cypermethrin

o Permethrin

o Cyphenothrin

Signs of poisoning in a cat can be severe and include the following: 

  • Agitation
  • Drooling or vomiting (typically due to grooming the product off and tasting the bitter chemical)
  • Lethargy
  • Facial twitching
  • Ear twitching
  • Hiding 
  • Walking “drunk”
  • Gastrointestinal signs (such as inappetance, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.)
  • Muscle tremors
  • Warm to the touch (secondary to tremoring and hyperthermia)
  • Seizures
  • Death

Animal poison control center can be reached at: (888) 426-4435

Brands recommended and safe for cats are: Bravecto, Frontline, revolution, or Seresto collars. Again make sure it is the feline concentration as well as proper weight class.

Remember, even if your cat or dog doesn’t go outside, they can still come in contact with fleas and ticks. We do recommend keeping your pet on flea and tick prevention to help prevent not only the distress that comes from these creatures, but also the dangers and diseases they carry!

Don’t forget, we want to hear from you! What would you like to learn about or know more? Let us know!

The Wonders of Acupuncture

Many of you know June as being an integral part of Blue Ridge as well as that voice on the phone. Did you also know she is a talented writer?! For our next blog post, we asked if she could share her story about her very own Duncan.

Wonders of Acupuncture

As a 3 month old puppy, Duncan, my Labrador Retriever destined for glory in the Obedience Trial show ring, was involved in a car accident with a deer.  He was in a crate in the car, sized for the adult Lab he would become instead of the safer size appropriate crate he should have been in. He was sleeping soundly, facing forward, when the impact came and his little body slammed into the front of his crate at 35 mph.  He seemed okay at first but was sore and gimpy the next day and an exam by his veterinarian found nothing to be concerned about and was ordered home to rest and take an NSAID medication for a few days. Over the next few months, he became slowly but surely more sore in his front legs.  Radiographs were inclusive and it continued to worsen; at 10 months of age, he was referred for a second opinion by a specialist. They took additional x-rays and diagnosed Elbow Dysplasia of Traumatic Origin. With that diagnosis, my dreams for his career in the Trial ring went up in smoke because I knew I could never have him jumping but more importantly, I knew he faced a life time of issues.  The specialist did surgery on both elbows the very next day which entailed cleaning up both elbow joints and the caveat that this procedure would give him relief for a while but eventually, he would develop arthritis in both elbows much sooner than the average dog. They advised that once he was past the post surgical recuperation and rehab, I could allow him to do whatever he wanted to do activity wise.  So, I faithfully rehabbed my 10 month old Lab pup by restricting exercise for 6 weeks which as one can imagine takes a lot of ingenuity and patience!

Water therapy

After the six weeks were up, we started water rehab which he grew to love because he got to retrieve stuff from the cool water over and over for a half hour 4 times a week during the following summer.

Fast forward 8 years during which time, he loved life.  Passionate about retrieving, he made it his mission to be the first one to the ball or bumper or stick and he pounded hard after it.  His elbows were thicker and fatter than they should have been but he rarely complained. He had his own specialized way of handling stairs that, while unconventional, worked for him  But as the years wore on, I could count on him needing a few days of medication after a particularly active weekend more and more frequently. Since his surgery, we gave him joint support and Omega 3 supplements daily and had him on a diet formulated to aid in joint support.  Annual radiographs of his elbows showed a slow and steady increase in arthritic changes in the elbows but he did not slow down nor did I ask him to. His joy in experiencing life, and all it had to offer, was not something I wanted to deny him.

When he began walking oddly, throwing one front leg or the other slightly out to the side when walking, and being a bit more reluctant to retrieve, we decided to give acupuncture a try and see how, or if, he responded to it.  I was amazed after Dr. Jessica Tracy administered the very first treatment to find him walking normally (for him at least) and his eagerness to retrieve and join us for hikes renewed. Even my husband, who is not accustomed to watching for the subtle things like that, noticed a big difference.  I could tell every time when the benefits began to wear off.

Acupuncture needles

His elbows will always be a problem to some extent but, after all these years, to find something that relieves his pain so quickly and successfully is exciting.  And seeing it give him this relief for several weeks after each treatment is wonderful.

Oh, and the added benefit here is that he loves having the acupuncture done!  As Dr. Tracy inserts each needle into it’s correct location, he barely even acknowledges their presence and five minutes into the treatment, he is super relaxed and falling asleep.  It is nothing short of amazing to me to watch the immediate as well as the after affects of acupuncture. Will it work this well for every animal? Maybe. And maybe even more so. One thing is for certain, it does no harm and, in Duncan’s case, it does extreme good!

Getting the INSIDE SCOOP!

Getting the ‘inside scoop’ of our recommendations

For your pet’s nutrition….

Navigating pet nutrition can be HARD!

I realize we briefly touched on the nutrition topic during our obesity discussion in our previous November blog. However, when you realize that despite the difference in households, living quarters, families, breeds, gender, neutered vs not neutered, and all the other factors, there are a few things that all these pets have in common. They all need to eat, they tend to eat everyday, and their nutrition plays a huge role in their overall health and wellness. That is why we will continue to focus on nutrition and recommendations, especially since what we know this day and age is that this information changes rapidly. Also, we are about to start a NEW year with NEW resolutions. Perhaps one of them may be to adjust the way your pet eats in 2019. We’d like to help with that.


PAWS for the FAQs:

Let’s focus on the MOST asked questions or statements  that we hear on a routine basis. Keep in mind that the ideal blog post is limited to 1600 words or less, I will never be able to answer all the looming concerns in that short a span. Also realize that my opinion may differ from other people (breeders, owners, groomers, Google), and that is okay. I am offering you my scientific opinion based on the information I have gathered and collected and my education. My job is to help keep you informed as much as possible as you navigate the hugely overwhelming pet food

 aisle. The biggest take-away at the end of this? You love your fur kids (that’s why you’re reading this), do the best you can with their specific nutrition needs, and make decisions based on conversations with your veterinarian and what you feel most comfortable. Please also note that every patient is unique in and of themselves. That means what I write here may or may not apply to your individual pet. The great news is, you can always ask.


Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they require a higher amount of protein from their diet than humans or dogs. New research is being conducted to what the ideal amount of protein in food should be percentage wise for cats. A recent study showed that cats may actually prefer food with slightly higher carbohydrates than previously thought.

Special Needs of our Feline Friends

This just shows us that research is always ongoing to find the most beneficial diet for our furry friends since we plucked them out of the wild. However, a good rule-of-thumb for HEALTHY cats seems to remain that their protein levels should be roughly 23-30% of their diet calories as a whole. Recognize also that this will change based on certain medical conditions such as kidney and liver disease, where your veterinary team will discuss with you the reason and need for less protein in these cases.


Continuing with cats, remember when your veterinarian used to tell you to feed dry food and only one kind of dry food for their entire lives? Yeah, we may have been a bit wrong. Thanks to that ongoing research into these guys and how they work, their need for moisture from food is much higher than we originally suspected


Grain Free:

This is a huge hot-button topic for veterinary medicine. What I will do here is present the information and studies we have currently with the recognition that this will most likely change with time and further research. This topic will be exclusively focused on grain free in dogs since we have already addressed cats and their need for protein.

The Grain Free Myths

December 2018 JAVMA (Journal of Veterinary Medicine) has two studies associated with the grain-free trend, which speaks to its current strength as a topic in veterinary medicine, not just for us as pet owners but for veterinarians as well.  The good news is that the veterinary industry as a whole does an excellent job attempting to stay abreast of most current FAQs, but it often remains behind the media trends.

The grain-free diet apparently started with the correlation of the genetic history of dogs with wolves. While this is correct, it takes some major liberty with this connection. The other reason this may have started is the current focus on gluten free and gluten intolerance in the human world. Since I don’t currently have my MD, I will not be addressing this topic. However, as a veterinarian, I can state that genetically we have more in common with pigs and cats than dogs. Just something to think about.


The December 1, 2018 JAVMA summarizes the dangers of assuming that the needs of wolves and dogs are the same nutritionally.  It was also pointed out that the actual truth is the diet of wolves vary significantly by geographically location, and most of them are truly omniverious or ‘facultative carnivores,’ and not strictly carnivorous (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). Furthermore, dogs are not wolves. If you question this, take a pug or a chihuahua outside in the cold and tell them to survive and hunt. NOTE: this is not recommended by the author in any shape or form, it is merely an analogy to signify the drastic difference between wolves and their now dog descendants. Dogs became domesticated by living among and with people. This created a change in their nutritional needs as they adapted to eating food more consistent, increasing the plant matter in their diet even more so to sometimes greater than 50% (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). Grain can and does provide nutritionally necessary component in many diet, and removing them can possible create concerns with future health. In the same journal, there is an investigated link with certain diets and a condition known as DCM, or dilated cardiomyopathy. However, I need to quote them by saying “although there appears to be an association between DCM and feeding BEG (raw) vegetarian, vegan, or home-prepared diets in dogs, a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be confirmed (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). This means while we seem to see a higher number of dogs being fed this diet affected with DCM, we cannot definitively state this is the only or sole cause. The research article further does a good job stating that “pet food marketing has outpaced the science, and owners are now always making healthy, science-based decisions even though they want to do what is best for their pets” (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). Ultimately, there’s a lot of noise and information out there, and we as owners are caught in the middle of trying to find out the best choice for our babies. You’re not alone!


Cooking for your Pet:

Cooking for your pet and adding healthy alternatives to their diet is actually recommended. This may surprise you since we have previously told you before that beyond a doubt ‘never feed people food.’ We were wrong…again.

The addition of HEALTHY human foods and varieties especially at a younger age may help strengthen their gut immune system, make them less predisposed to GI irritation and possibly some food aversions. Please read this part carefully though, and please do NOT stop reading right now and go raid the fridge for all the goodies you’ve always wanted to share with Fido or Fluffy. You have  to add the food in the RIGHT way, meaning the right amounts, slowly, and over time. You also need to ensure that first and foremost their proper nutritional needs are being met.

When you find out what your pet’s ideal calorie range would be for his/her weight, then the suggested addition to healthy human food addition is roughly 20%. Calculating calories and then adjusting what you feed with the newly added healthy foods is imperative. Obesity can reduce your pet’s life expectancy by 1-3 years, and it is currently affecting over 50% of our pets. While we love our babies, we do not wish to love them to death.


The RAW, BEG or BARF Diet

There are two things to consider if even evaluating this diet. Firstly, I will state that I personally do not support this diet in general because of these 2 major concerns. However, I do have clients that pursue this route, and we have conversations about what to consider, proper hygiene, and whether their particular pet is at risk for any other concerns. What I will say is that if you are not 100% committed to strict sanitary conditions, monitoring nutritional needs, and avidly staying on top of multiple recalls, please for your safety and your pet’s health, do not pursue this diet choice. The first concern is as stated previously. It is often very difficult to get all the appropriate nutritional needs met for your pet. The second is YOUR SAFETY. This diet can put you as a human at risk if you do not follow extremely rigorous protocols to keep yourself and your other animals protected.


Getting down to the MEAT of it…

We’re all unique!

To summarize the previous roughly 1400 words, here is my recommendations.

  1. Discuss with your veterinarian your desires, concerns, and ultimate lifestyle of your pet. Come to a decision together that you can both be happy with and both of you feel the concerns are heard.
  2. Use caution with fad diets, including grain-free. Research is still being conducted in this area, and we don’t know all that we need to know with potential for concerning side-effects.

    But what’s the best way to fill it?!

  3. Feed a high quality, nutritious food…the best you can afford comfortably. This will vary for different people and households, and that is okay too. You take the best care of your pet that you can, and they will be incredibly lucky and blessed.
  4. Add nutrition! Healthy foods such as cooked egg, chicken, green beans, carrots, spinach, apples. These are fresh and can improve interest in food, intestinal health, and overall well-being. If you’re not sure if it’s toxic, check it out! https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets
  5. Love them and do your best. We are all making a difference for them, wanting what is best for them, and taking it a day at a time. That’s all we can really do anyway! Wishing you a wonderful, safe, and nutritious 2019!!

Happy and Blessed 2019!

And P.S.

If you’re curious, I didn’t make the 1600 mark, but thanks for being willing to stick around for the extra 100 words. 🙂


“Cutting” to the Chase

Most Frequently Asked Questions about Surgery and Your Pets

“Surgery” can be a scary word. It’s understandable. The body’s ‘natural state’ does not involve elected trauma to tissue and anesthesia. However, these procedures are often unavoidable for the overall health of our fur-kiddos, whether it be a spay, neuter, mass removal, broken bone, torn cruciate, or any number of other procedures.

The purpose of this blog is to ideally minimize fears about your pet undergoing the necessary surgery, and to answer any commonly asked questions you might have. While it can be a scary thought, at Blue Ridge we take your pets’ well-being, health, and pain control seriously. So let us know how we can help at any time, or if you have any concerns before, during or after the procedure.

  1. Do we have to do this surgery?

    • If this is a concern, ask us. We are happy to explain why we recommend each individual procedure. For instance, in the case of spaying a female dog, we are able to eliminate unwanted pregnancy and prevent pyometra. For neutering male dogs, this could actually increase their life expectancy! Intact male dogs have a lower life expectancy not because of medical complications, but because of their tendency to roam to find female dogs. This leads to a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents and other concerns. Obviously each surgery and each patient is different, so let us address that with you if there is a concern.
  2. How long will (s)he be under anesthesia?

      • This also depends on the procedure. Neutering a male (that does not have a testicle in the belly) dog takes less time than a spay because we do not have to enter the abdominal cavity, or the belly. With this, recovery time for any procedure entering the belly will take longer than one that is not. Bleeding would be more likely in these dogs as well.
      • More involved surgeries such as an orthopedic procedure or an exploratory of the belly often takes much more time! The skill necessary as well as the risks warrant extra caution by the surgeon and the surgical team.
      • Mass removals will depend on the size of the mass, the location, and what the mass might be. For example, mast cell tumors, even if they are small, would suggest to take 2cm around that particular mass. That means that a 1cm mass would have at least 5cm removed from that area. That’s a BIG area! Your treatment plan will often estimate the amount of time necessary.

  3.  What is the recovery time?

    •   Scar tissue takes AT least 10-14 days to form. This means that you pet should be leashed walked during this time. Avoid letting him or her run free. This is VERY important for
      any incision that goes into the abdominal cavity.
    •   Orthopedic or abdominal surgeries may have longer recovery times. While the incision will heal, the importance of the bone healing or the inside incision is of the utmost concern.
  4. Will there be sutures?

    • There will be sutures of some kind. Sometimes these sutures are buried and you don’t see them. Here at Blue Ridge, we usually do both. Outside sutures allow us to recheck their incision in 10-14 days. They also give us an ‘extra layer’ of protection for the incision.
  5. Will (s)he need a ‘cone of shame?’

    • For any of our procedures, we recommend using the elizabethan cone or similar devices to ensure there are no complications with the surgery site. When a human gets surgery, the lucky surgeon generally does not have to worry about them licking or chewing the incision. However, they still use dressing and emphasize caution about getting the area wet or dirty. The same holds true for our furry pets and their surgeries. Let’s help them as much as possible prevent complications!
    • Keep in mind there are now other options besides the cone! There are special surgery shirts, different types of cones (the zen cone is an option), and surgical wraps. If you know that your kiddo would be a chewer, licker, or incision-irritator, look into getting these BEFORE the surgical procedure takes place!

What other questions would you have before a surgery? Ask us or let us know and we can update our blog!

In the end (‘cutting’ to the chase), we know that surgery can be scary – we are pet parents too! So help us eliminate whatever concerns you might have by asking questions. Also, recognize that not all hospitals ‘do surgery’ the same. If you are at a hospital with which you are unfamiliar, ask questions you may not think to ask such as: are you AAHA accredited? Will my pet have a catheter in place? Will a nurse be dedicated to do the monitoring? Do you have strict pain control guidelines? Do you send pain medications home? Does my pet receive IV fluids during the procedure to help prevent dehydration and low blood pressure? Does my pet have EKG, SPO2, and blood pressure monitored during the procedure? Will their temperature be monitored until discharge? Will blood work be performed prior to the procedure? All these questions and following these guidelines reduce risk associated with any anesthetic procedure.


Thank you as always for allowing us to serve you and your beloved pets! Our goal is to help your pets Live Long and Live Well! We could not do that without you.

The Answer’s in the Blood…

The holidays are over, the cold is setting in, and it’s time for some much needed rest from the craziness! So why not stop by the Blue Ridge Animal Hospital blog for some exciting entertainment and knowledge?!

This month’s blog will be bloody! We are going to discuss a general overview of blood work. While this may not sound exciting, it is one of the major questions we get asked about routinely and perform on a daily basis. So here are some FAQs:

Why do blood work?

Great question since most of us aren’t always aware what those numbers and letters represent. It can be confusing! We also talk about blood work when your pet is feeling healthy and normal. Why would we do that?!

The point of blood work is to get a clearer picture in general of your pet. It allows us to investigate underlying functions that we may not be able to see in the general exam. And if your pet is feeling well? These values can give us a baseline of normal for you pet, or often times it can alert us to potential problems early so they can be addressed!  Prevention has been shown to be one of the major ways to increase your fur-baby’s life expectancy and even quality of life, which I think is something we would all like to do

What does it show?

There are MANY types of blood panels and testing that can be done. Specialized testing is pursued based on your particular pet and concerns. However, general testing is just that, a general overview of how the body is functioning overall.

The parts of the general blood test generally includes the following. Please keep in mind these are generalized descriptions, and do not cover all the components of these panels.


This test allows us to look at the components of the blood itself, namely the white blood cells, red blood cells, the distribution and shape of these cells, and the platelets. These become important when looking for things like anemia (red blood cells) or infection/inflammation (white blood cells).


These look at how well the organs are functioning in general. They specifically look at liver, gallbladder, kidney, and often electrolytes. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot tell us if cancer is present. They do however give us an idea of the health of these individual organs at that specific time.

Thyroid: High thyroid in cats and low thyroid in dogs can be surprisingly common conditions. This test is included in many pet’s normal blood work over 7 years of age, or if symptoms are noted.

Urine – While we realize this isn’t blood, it is often included in blood panels to give a more complete picture.

4DX or FIV/FeLV: 4dx stands for the 4 things being tested: heartworm, lyme, ehrlichia, and anaplasma. These are the 3 major tick-borne diseases along with heartworm disease. FIV/FeLV and even heartworm in cats stands for feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus.


What if I don’t want to know? I can’t do anything about it, right?

This is an incredibly common question, and we really do understand it. If you can’t fix a problem, why know about it? The good news is that many of these ‘problems’ can be addressed or even improved upon. The benefits of routine screening is to find these concerns early so that we can make a bigger difference earlier. For instance, animals found to have kidney disease are known to live at least 3 times longer if started on a specific diet early in their condition rather than later. For some, that’s the difference between 1 year and 3 years. For cats with thyroid concerns, addressing their thyroid can prevent such issues as heart disease and high blood pressure before they become a problem. Diabetes is on the rise in our fur-kids too. Starting insulin early can prevent worsening of all signs of diabetes.

These are just some examples of what we find or what we are looking for when performing this blood work. Not all the time do we expect to find major conditions, but we can often see things we can start monitoring early as well.

The benefit of this knowledge can increase your pet’s life expectancy and overall understanding of their health. That sounds like some pretty good odds to us, right?!


Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to share this with us. Sometimes trying to find the best topic to address can be a little difficult. Sometimes we don’t always know what you are interested in knowing! So if you have something you want addressed, ask so we can tailor these to your questions!

It’s Blog Time!


Welcome to our Blue Ridge Pet Blog!

We are glad to have you here and hope you enjoy the pages to come!

At Blue Ridge, we decided to start blogging in order to address some of the most common concerns, questions, and overall health concerns owners tend to have about their beloved fur children. Over the weeks we will address such pet parent ponderings as pet obesity, dental health, vaccines, behavior, blood testing and what it means, acupuncture and eastern medicine, what AAHA accreditation means to our clinic (and you), tick borne diseases…the possibilities are endless.

Do you have a question or topic you would like addressed in these pages? What have you been wondering about?

Please check back with us weekly for the adventure to begin.