Yes, we are FEAR FREE!



When you call the hospital, many of you hear the person on our end of the phone say, “Thank you for calling Blue Ridge Animal Hospital.  We are a Fear Free Certified Practice.  How can we help your pet today?”  You may blink twice and say, “What???”  So that’s what we’d like to help explain here.

We learned about the Fear Free program through veterinary conferences and other veterinary facilities and about the idea behind it.    Let’s think about it for a minute, going to the doctor, no matter what your species is, can be scary, and mentally and physically stressful.  Unpleasant things happen to you.  Strangers touch you and get in your space.  You are not at home in your comfy environment.  As humans, we can be reasoned with and learn to accept the necessities of these practices but for pets, it doesn’t work that way.  And if a pet’s person is uncomfortable with what might be happening or going to happen with their pet, that pet is going to sense their discomfort and concern and act accordingly.  And the anxiety starts before even leaving home to head for the doctor’s office.

Stress affects one’s health in negative ways so when one of our patients is stressed because they are fearful or anxious or their owner is anxious, their health can be affected in ways that are not conducive to healing and can even aggravate some conditions.  And their stress levels make it difficult for those of us in the veterinary profession to help them, both with diagnostics and with successful treatments.

So how do we go about lowering the anxiety of our patients and their people?  First, each animal and the person or persons that are attached to them is different; different in their wants, needs, security levels and personalities.  The methods we suggest and use are going to be tailored to the different needs of each patient.  Obviously, the easiest time to develop the trust between us and your pet is when your pet is young.  

But when they are older and have wised up to the fact that not everything we have to do to protect them is pleasant and that Mom or Dad are apprehensive about the visit, we have to do things a whole lot differently to help them lower their stress levels.  

We prefer to use non-chemical means when appropriate, meaning using things like Pheromones to give our patients a sense of calmness and well being, and coaching our clients on things they can do at home before the day of the appointment and helping our clients understand what we may be doing for and to their pets while they are here.  We also learned through the Fear Free program ways to handle our patients beginning at the front door of the office and continuing the entire way through their appointment. 

We learned that the old way of holding a cat, by the loose skin on the back of the neck, actually increases the cat’s anxiety; now we wrap cats in nice soft blankets and towels and let them hide their faces if they feel so moved. Cats do better if allowed to come out of their crates and carriers at their own pace and not be slid out.  Cats may feel more relaxed if given an opportunity to explore the exam room.  We made blankets to spray with Pheromones and drape over their carriers and place on the exam tables.

 We learned that the old way of holding a dog tightly often increases the dog’s fear or aggression; now we offer peanut butter and squeeze cheese and soft treats as incentives and distractions.  We learned that some dogs are less stressed if they stay with their person in the exam room but many are less stressed if we take them to the treatment room for obtaining samples and other services.  

We learned that, with both cats and dogs, sometimes it is necessary and better for the patient to take some sort of calming medication at home before even getting ready to leave home for the appointment.   

And we also learned that getting down in the floor and making friends first, and the heck with the schedule, is often going to make the appointment go more smoothly.  The colors and tone in the exam rooms matter too.  General and simple techniques can often make an entire visit better overall.  We have learned that we must be flexible and look at the world and more specifically, the appointment experience, from the viewpoint of our patients.

So, next time you call and some one greets you with “We Are a Fear Free Practice”  now you can see how much studying and implementing changes we have actually done.  And we firmly believe that many of you are actually seeing this in action when you bring your pets in to see us!

Please note: This amazingly well written and constructed piece of art was created by our very own June Holden. Thank you June for taking the time to let our Blue Ridge Family know all this information in SUCH a wonderfully written way! 🙂

COVID19 and your Pets

There are a number of questions we as a veterinary field have been answering routinely since this all began.

What about our pets? Do they carry the disease? Can they transmit it to us? Should we be worried? What about those tigers that tested positive? With all that is occurring right now, these are very valid concerns and questions, and definitely worth asking!

Here is a FAQ gathered together as we know things right now (April 7th, 2020). Please remember there are a number of pets being surrendered to the shelter because of misinformation. Before you panic, please know the facts! Remember, we need our pets’ companionship now more than ever. They don’t mind social isolation with us. 🙂

What about tigers?

Can dogs and cats get COVID-19?

Dogs and cats can carry a virus known as corona, but this is different than the COVID-19 that we are currently seeing. Veterinarians used to previously vaccinate for this virus in dogs, so you may have heard of it. This virus in dogs generally causes intestinal disease and signs that are not consistent with what we are seeing now with humans. Cats can get 2 types of the corona virus, one being very serious and known as FIP. Neither of these presentations of corona can be transferred to humans.

The current concern is the COVID-19 strain. To date, 4 domestic animals have tested positive for this virus: 2 dogs in Hong Kong and 2 cats (Hong Kong and Belgium). The type of test that was conducted was known as a PCR test, and can be positive for contamination (the DNA of the virus from other sources like being on their body could have been picked up) or an actual infection. None of the pets showed any of the current signs and symptoms we are seeing with humans and COVID.

There are currently experiments being conducted with dogs, cats and ferrets. Some cats have been shown to develop their own antibodies to this. However, this is in experimental conditions with HIGH amount of exposure. There is a suggestion that they can transfer this to other cats if they are in this condition. There is no suggestion that they can transfer this back to humans!

Large scale testing done by one of our veterinary labs do not show positives, and our insurance companies are not reporting any increase in respiratory concerns or intestinal concerns at this time.

Questions regarding interactions…

Ultimately, what this means to us is the following:

  • Dogs and cats have not been shown to transmit the virus to humans
  • Dogs and cats have not been shown to become excessively ill with exposure of the virus
  • Dogs and cats have not been tested in large amounts to suggest they will be carriers to the virus or a host that can transmit it to humans
  • Dogs and cats CAN be fomites for the virus. This means that if an individual with the virus is sick and in contact with the pet, they can carry particles of the virus on their skin and fur. This is no different from coming in contact with a door knob or a surface someone sneezed on.
  • The tigers at the zoo were exposed to their keeper. Their testing positive at this time does suggest exposure. However, that does not mean they are able to give it to another human. Testing and observation are being conducted whether they can transfer to another tiger.

Should I be around my pets?

Use Caution around your pets if you are sick
  • If you are sick or are concerned you are sick, isolate yourself from your pets as well as other humans.
  • If you are feeling well and have had no exposure, please love your pets as much as possible!
  • If you are sick and are isolating your pets, please do not allow your pets to go out in public with anyone else. The only exception to this is going to your veterinary hospital if a concern arises. That being said, if you are sick, IMMEDIATELY let your veterinary staff know so they can take appropriate measures.

What protective measures should I put in place to keep my pet and myself safe?

  • Treat other pets you meet like people. While they may not carry the virus in the respiratory system, they can act like a fomite. Keep your 6 foot distance from pets that you do not know like you would people.
  • Wipe down your pets anytime they come in contact with other individuals with a hypoallergenic baby wipe.
  • If you know anyone that is sick, isolate the pets away from them.
  • Continue to practice social isolation as much as possible to keep your pets AND yourself safe! 🙂

How to Avoid Holiday Hijacks for your Pet

Egg nog.

Christmas trees.

Turkey dinners. 


We all have our ideas of what represents the holiday season!  

Tis the Season…for Holiday Fun and Mayhem!

For veterinarians and those in the veterinary industry, their thoughts may be a bit different than the general public. While we definitely look forward to the iconic Griswald family Christmas, there are a few other things that cross our (petrified) mind during this time. Our blog this time is to help prevent any of these Grinch fears from coming true and help you and your fur-babies enjoy the holiday season safely and away from our clinic – except of course if you’re bringing us tasty treats and a general check-up visit. 🙂

We want to celebrate with our pets and we should. We just need to be aware of what may harm them or what to be aware of. This list will obviously not cover all the major concerns but we will touch on the things we see most often. 

Pancreatitis/GI Upset

This one shouldn’t surprise anyone. Many of us refer to it as an upset stomach. Many of us suffer from some form of gastritis during and after the holidays. New food options, bigger portions, not as much exercise…it really can do a number on our intestinal tract. The same holds true for canine and feline patients, but even more so. Many of us feed our pets a very regimented diet. That means that their gut, or intestinal tract, does not have as diverse a population of good bacteria to recognize and digest new foods. (For our recommendations regarding feeding, please see our December 2018 blog!). This can create inflammation in the intestines, which then we see show as vomiting, diarrhea, not feeling well, and not wanting to eat. 

Careful what we put in those bowls!

Pancreatitis shows signs like gastritis, and is very common in smaller breeds. Many smaller breeds such as yorkies and chihuahuas are even more sensitive to certain types of foods affecting their pancreas. 

Please be careful and aware of what you are feeding your pets during this time of year to keep them happy and safe. Things we eat regularly such as macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic can greatly affect our pets! For more specific information, you can check out the Pet Health Network page

Chocolate toxicity/Xylitol toxicity 

Most of us know that pets cannot do well with chocolate. The chemical theobromine in chocolate is what affects dogs and cats differently than humans. Not only can it cause severe upset in the stomach, but its toxic effects come from what it does to the heart and the nervous system. The most concerning type of chocolate for dogs is dark chocolate. The more cocoa in the chocolate, the more toxic it is for our pets. Ensure that you keep your chocolate for those baking goods in a safe place!  How much is too much? Each pet is different, so always use caution when reading things online. Also, you know your pet best. If there is any concern, seek emergency care immediately. For a general guideline, the Animal Health Foundation explains some general rules about how much toxicity may be present with the amount of chocolate ingested.

Hot Cocoa the Cat

Xylitol is another ingredient that has found its way into popular baking dishes. It is a sweetener taking the place of sugar in many of our dishes.  Unfortunately for dogs and cats, their body does not respond well to this type of ‘sugar’! This means that they produce insulin to handle the sugar but there is actually no real sugar there. The danger comes from their sugar levels becoming dangerously low because of too much insulin, or hypoglycemia. There is a broad range for every pet with how they will react to this sweetener. Please be very careful with any exposure for this and your pets. Chewing gum is usually the most common way our fur family get themselves into trouble!

Tinsel, foreign material, I’m not sure what he ate…

We have all experienced the puppy who cannot stop chewing or the cat that won’t leave the Christmas tree alone. For the most part, these tend to be general and sometimes cute annoyances. However, the trouble arises when things get stuck somewhere along the 13 feet of intestines. 

Christmas toys, tinsel, socks, bones, and you name it, we’ve probably seen it work its way out on its own or on our surgery table. 

Keeping these things out of reach of curious critters is our best prevention, which can definitely prove difficult with a house full of guests, toys, and Christmas tree ornaments and decorations. Lack of interest in food and vomiting are the most commonly seen reactions to foreign material that is not passing through. If you see any of these and know that your pet has a history of being naughty with chewing, please contact us or your veterinarian to discuss diagnostic testing such as x-rays and ultrasound. 

Why am I here?

Acute medical crisis, wounds, etc

Uncle Billy showed up. He wasn’t really invited. Neither was his pack of wild dogs that he just acquired. Uh-oh.

We see many dog fight injuries and interactions from these type of situations or those similar to it. While dogs are pack animals, there is already heightened stress during the holiday season, with both us and our pets. This will increase the risk of negative interaction between animals, even those who have known each other for sometime.

Learning a dog’s way of communication

Dogs and cats often show us signs that they are feeling uncomfortable and the situation may be about to escalate. Knowing your pet and the signs they give (their body language) can help keep you out of a bad situation or the emergency vet hospital.

You’ll have to deal with Uncle Billy on your own though. 

Lost pets

It never fails that in the shuffle of guests coming, friends going, and us trying to figure out which way is up, one of our beloved pets finds a way to sneak outside. Sometimes, they will sneak somewhere inside the house as well. 

Finding our way home…

The holiday season is a very common time that pets go missing. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and that is why we recommend to ensure that your pet is always wearing some form of identification. We also recommend having your pet microchipped. This cannot be lost like a collar or harness and functions as a permanent form of identification. This way we can ensure that your baby is home on Christmas Day as much as possible. 

As always, thank you for stopping by our little informational blog. Hopefully you won’t have anything to worry about this holiday season, but just in case we are here if you need us. We know the holidays can be both merry and stressful, so please let us know how we can help. 

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and a fantastic start to 2020!


Dr. Jessica Tracy and Blue Ridge Animal Hospital

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:

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!

The ROOT of Concerns…

The Root of the Issue, the questions and concerns with pet dental care…

Tooth Evaluation

It’s that time of year again! February was Pet Dental Health Month. I often wonder why the powers that be chose the shortest month of the year when the topic and information is so vast and important, but they didn’t ask me! While I recognize that February has not-so-quietly turned into the strange weather of early Spring in March, the purpose of this blog post is to touch on the importance of year-round dental care.

You may see the advertisements on Facebook or at the clinic. Perhaps you hear ads on the radio or even the television. Maybe you didn’t even know that Pet Dental Health Month was a thing until you started to read this. Either way, this quarter’s blog aims to focus on why this became an official month in the first place, and what to expect when we talk about ‘dental prophylactic evaluation,’ a ‘teeth cleaning’ or for short, ‘a dental.’

So why the big hype, and where was it before? 10 years ago, you may not have had your veterinarian focus on dental health or discuss at every

 visit. The progression of dental care in the veterinary industry may have been a bit behind the human world, but as our pets spend more time in our beds and kissing our children, we have become aware of the effects of dental disease not just on us with bad breath, but on our beloved pets as well.

In the exam room, we talk about dental health and every visit we give your pet a ‘Dental Scores.’ These are an objective way to measure how much tartar and dental disease is present in a pet’s mouth and teeth. The scale is 0-4 where 1 is mild tartar, (let’s get some work going at home!), and 4 is basically teeth are in danger of rotting out of the mouth and need immediate care. These Grade 4 Disease mouths are PAINFUL, and they are causing harm to your pet EVERY DAY. Just imagine if you had an abscess the size of your hand somewhere else on your body that oozed every time you ate or drank. This may sound graphic, but this is the equivalent of severe dental disease for your pet. The honest truth is that best chance we have at saving teeth and not having to extract (remove them) is when your pet is at Stage 2 or 3. By the time you are noticing the gum erode away, we’ve already lost valuable time.

Most parents of pets ask very similar questions. I’ll try and answer some of them here:


Do we have to brush every day? Or rather, is home care very important?

Simply put, YES!. You as caretakers have the biggest effect on your pet’s dental health and prevention of long-term dental disease.

I know this isn’t something anyone wants to hear because, let’s be honest, we get it! Teeth-brushing is one more thing to add to your to-do at the end of the day with an already busy schedule. Not only that, but we hear MANY times that Fido or Fluffy simply HATES to have her teeth brushed. We do understand, but unfortunately, we also see the drastic benefit between pets that receive home dental care and those that don’t.

Some helpful tips and tricks are:

What’s under that kiss?


  • Start brushing teeth when your kids are young. Get them used to and have them start enjoying the process!
  • Use dental diet as part of your feeding program
  • If you can’t use toothbrushes, use dental wipes. These are great, and you don’t have to worry about getting out a toothbrush. All we are really doing is reducing the amount of bacteria, plaque, and tartar on the surface of the tooth.
  • For more detailed options, take a look at our previous blog that addresses options:


Why do we have to do dental cleanings every year? Or even more astounding, why would you recommend it every 6 months?!

Many of the responses I get when I recommend a dental cleaning is usually along the lines of ‘but they just had one last year (or 2 years ago, 3 years ago, fill in the blank!).’ We get it! Dental cleaning can be stressful to you and even your pet. Also, when something is done, who wouldn’t want it to stay that way for the long-term?

The best response I have to this is taken from the human world. Most of us brush our teeth twice daily. We are told to floss at least once daily. We buy rinses and special gum to help with it. Even with that, and 2 minutes of brushing daily, the ADA still recommends twice a year cleaning (and for the most part, we don’t eat poop off the ground!). You can only imagine how our pet’s mouths can be impacted! We cannot get every area of the tooth. We may not be able to brush every day. Not to mention what they are eating whether we want them to or not. Even if you have fed hard kibble and give bones or dental treats, this is the equivalent of us brushing once a week and chewing Trident gum. It probably helps, but it isn’t addressing the issue.

Yearly dental cleanings are recommended, even if you don’t see severe dental disease. Remember what we mentioned above? If we can save these teeth in grade 1 and 2, we make the tooth, the mouth, and the pet MUCH happier.


Okay, but WHY do we have to get it done? My pet doesn’t seem in pain.

This is another common response we get. Your pet is eating, still seems happy, wagging his tail, and does not seem to slow down one bit. So why should we ask you to put him under anesthesia (which does have risks), clean his teeth, and potentially cause more pain by removing some?

The best answer I have to this depends on if you’ve ever had a cavity or dental disease yourself. Dental disease hurts. There is no way around it. The nerves in the teeth and mouth are sensitive, which is good for tasting, but can cause constant low-grade pain. You may then inquire, “How come he doesn’t seem like he’s in pain? Why is he still eating?” Remember the old parable about the frog in boiling water.  Most of your pets dental pain has built up over time. They gradually get used to the tooth that is being destroyed by tartar, and then the pus, and then the infection. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. Often what I hear after addressing a mouth that has any dental disease is: “She’s just like a puppy again! We didn’t know she was in so much pain. She feel so much better!” It is true that often the signs of slowing down, aging, or lethargy may be associated with chronic pain or disease.



What about the ANESTHESIA?!

Anesthesia Concerns Explained

If this is your main fear, you are not alone. A large number of pet owners consider anesthesia as their biggest deterrent from pursuing dental prophylaxis and x-rays.

While we cannot eliminate the risks of anesthesia, we can mitigate it as much as possible. Here at our AAHA facility, we have a nurse present for your pet’s entire dental procedure and provide your pet with an ASA score to recognize their risk. They are monitored with EKG, SPO2, capnography (CO2), esophageal stethoscope, blood pressure, and direct monitoring. A specialized heating unit is used to maintain body temperature. They also receive a catheter for direct IV access during the procedure, and it also allows us to utilize IV fluid therapy during the procedure to reduce the risk of dehydration and low blood pressure during the procedure. Patients receive pain medication before and after painful procedures, as well as a local block prior to surgical extractions. The doctor is the only individual who performs any dental extractions, and we have purchased the best dental equipment for cleaning and extractions that is available. If you are thinking this should be standard at every practice that has patient is under anesthesia, it is not . Ask your facility exactly what they provide during the procedure and what they do not. These procedures allow us to ensure the best possible outcomes and safety for our fur babies. If the cost does not reflect this care, then they are most likely not receiving it.

Yes, anesthesia can be scary, but if we do our best to eliminate major concerns, then the risk of an anesthetic complication is still present, but minimal.

A lot to chew on….

Hopefully we answered some of your questions about dental health, dental evaluations, and the reasons the recommendations exist. Our desire is that we made it a little bit easier to digest.  Please let us know how we can help keep your pet’s dental health up to par, and if you have any further questions. Now let’s get to brushing those teeth because puppy kisses are a must!

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!
  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. 🙂


What’s ‘Bugging’ You…Updates of Flea and Tick Medication

What’s going on with the new information regarding the Isoxazoline Flea and Tick Products

Part of the Isoxazoline line

We are always looking for ideas for our blog articles from all of you, but sometimes a great opportunity for an educational moment presents itself at a perfect time. We have gotten a number of calls and questions about what might be ‘bugging’ you this week.

Recently, the news aired about a particular class of flea and tick medication and some of the potential side effects. As we would expect worried parents to do, many of you have reached out to us for more information and with concerns. We would like to address some of the most common concerns here as best we can, but PLEASE call us with more information.

The damage a flea can do…

I’m going to start out with a brash statement, but I’ll say it. There is no perfect flea and tick medication. That may seem strange for a veterinarian to say, but if there were, you would not have all those options at multiple vets’ office and the store. The best flea and tick prevention is what works best for your pet, in multiple forms: lifestyle of pet, reactions or potential reactions, lifestye of us as Mom’s and Dad’s, cost, and accessibility. We are aware that all these things factor into choosing the best possible flea and tick medication for your pet. The one option I do not recommend unless discussed with your veterinarian is electing no protection at all, especially for those high risk patients.

Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are on the rise. We also know that animals don’t need to go outside to get fleas and ticks. Because of the dog’s ambient body temperature being much higher than ours, they are the preferred tasty morsel to many of these blood-sucking creatures. Fleas can spread a myriad of other diseases as well, including cat scratch fever and (scarily enough) the bubonic plague (ugh!). Prior to stopping your pet’s preventative, please contact your veterinarian or your veterinary team who best knows your pet!

Now to address the more specific concern that has many pet owners frantic since September 20, 2018. What about these flea and tick preventions that can cause seizures, tremors, and mass chaos in the pet owning industry?

I’ll first address why we have these products. Simparica, a name brand drug from this product line, is what I personally use in my own dogs (Jada is a 13 year old proud heeler and Kodak is a 10 year old ball of adorableness).  The reason I chose this medication for my personal fur-children is because of the above mentioned reasons: life-style, ease of administration, and n

Jada (right) and Kodak (left)

o reaction to the medication


This medication can have side-effects, and we do not want to discount that by any means. These medications can have abnormal reactions in 1 in 10,000 dogs. If your pet is one of these affected, it can be very scary and very real. Therefore, give these medications on a full stomach, monitor for reactions, and use with caution in pets that have a history of neurological concerns or seizures.

This class of drugs is given by mouth, so it does have to go through the body to get ingested by the flea and tick. The side-effects can sometimes be seen depending on how sensitive your dog is to this type of medication. While for the majority of dogs it is safe, each pet is different, and this should be considered.

This warning has been on the label of the medication since its initial launch. The reason this made the news is not having to do with massive outbreaks of reactions, but because the FDA is required to evaluate new products every 5 years. Since this class of drugs was up for this, the FDA made public the possible side-effects. Ideally, the news story would have also included this information along with discussion by the FDA or a veterinarian for the public to have a clearer picture of what could occur.

My 2 critters are still safely receiving this medication as their monthly flea and tick along with most of the other Blue Ridge staff and thousands of other pet owners in the United States and Europe.

Ticks carry many dangerous diseases

Remember, always give with food to decrease possible side-effects. Monitor for any strange behavior within 24 hours of administration. Wait at least 24 hours between vaccines or other injectable medication prior to giving the medication.


Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please let us know if there are any other concerns you would like us to blog about or any other questions you would like us to answer! We won’t know what’s ‘bugging’ you unless you (or the news) lets us know!


Thanks again for stopping by,

Dr. Jessica Tracy

Blue Ridge Animal Hospital

“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!