Introduction to Skin Conditions 101

Welcome to Part 1. Let’s talk about skin conditions. Many dogs and cats will have varying types of skin conditions, and many can be mistaken for each other. Among the long list of dermal afflictions, some that our clinic typically comes across include:

  • atopic dermatitis
  • yeast infections
  • folliculitis
  • impetigo
  • seborrhea
  • ringworm (not a worm!)
  • alopecia
  • mange
  • fleas (flea dermatitis)
  • ticks (their bites and the results of)
  • color or texture change (ex: lichenification)
  • dry, flaky skin
  • lick granuloma
  • hot spots
  • skin tumors
  • immune disorders
  • anal sac disorders

Atopic dermatitis, or allergic dermatitis, or environmental allergies:

The culprits here are airborne particles like grass, pollen, dander, flowers, fungal spores, mold, and other allergens which could be indoor or outdoor allergens. In simple terms, when these things affect people we may get a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing bouts. But unlike their human caretakers, when our pets are effected by allergies they typically suffer from itchy skin. If you imagine your pet’s skin as a protective barrier – which, by definition, we all know that’s what skin is – then you can understand that if there is a weakened spot of your pet’s skin, this will allow all these allergens entry into the skin. Their immune system then kicks in and reacts to these intruders by making the skin swell with redness and inflammation. Your pet’s response to this is “I’m itchy!” Thus your pet will itch and scratch various parts of their body – wherever the allergen gained entry – and this persistent scratching will cause trauma, further breaking the skin barrier and allowing more pesky allergens in, creating infection. It is a frustrating cycle.

Why does Max suffer from allergies while his housemate, Bella, is just fine? Some pets are predisposed to allergies, like humans. Yup. Genetics play a role in this. Sometimes it won’t be until they’re older, but allergies can develop at any stage. And, unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies, only management. Lucky for us, the first stepping stone to managing this common but infuriating condition is relatively cheap and safe. Consult your veterinarian about the different over-the-counter pet-safe human antihistamines you can try. There are the popular brand names and their generic counterparts: Benadryl (Diphenhydramine), Claritin (Loratadine), Zyrtec (Cetirizine), and Allegra (Fexofenadine). And for cats, there is Chlorpheniramine. Your vet will tell you to beware of certain liquid versions or certain children’s versions, or any with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols – the use of Xylitol is toxic to your pet. And also steer clear of any that employ the letter “D” at the end, giving your pet a decongestant is also dangerous to your pet’s health. But if you follow the basic guidelines for antihistamine use from your vet, this would be the safest, most economically-priced option. Do allow for at least a two-week period of consistent dosing of one type of antihistamine before you say “it didn’t help.” It can take two weeks to actually see results.

For topical options of keeping allergens at bay, you may also consider wiping off your pet’s skin and feet with a gentle baby wipe after they come back in from being outside, this will help remove those pollens clinging to their skin and fur. And if you have the time and a pet that tolerates them, routine baths in a vet-recommended shampoo and/or conditioner can help condition the skin, strengthen your pet’s skin barrier, and keep the accumulation of infection-inducing bacteria overgrowth to a minimum.

Photo credit: Featured image provided by Veterinary Partner, specifically the following article

Ear Infections

The ear is one of the favorite places to scratch for your cat or dog. They love your attention and affection and our furry friends always appreciate a good ear rub every now and then. As a pet parent you see Max or Whisker’s ears every day, they’re soft, they twitch in the direction of sounds, they come in all sorts of shapes, and they have a meticulous and delicate infrastructure. From the pinna (ear flap) to the vertical canal, horizontal canal, Tympanic membrane (ear drum) to the middle ear and all the little pieces in between, your pet’s ears are fascinating fully functioning structures. But unfortunately, the anatomy of a cat and dog’s ears (particularly the dog’s) also predisposes them to infection. The canal is almost like an “L” shape vs. a human’s more straight-forward canal, so debris, yeast, and bacteria can build up and become trapped. Debris cannot easily work its way out. This accumulation of debris, cerumen (ear wax), and skin oil is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for yeast and bacteria to chow down on and multiply. Eventually, this can lead to redness and inflammation down in the ear canal, varying colors of discharge, odor, shaking of the head, and scratching at the ears. If a dog shakes his head vehemently enough, this can cause a blood vessel to burst and then the blood will start to fill the interior of the pinna, creating that hallmark Sopaipilla appearance.

Ear infections (otitis externa) can be very itchy and sometimes painful. You don’t want to let an ear infection linger for too long. It is important that a doctor evaluate your pet, especially to properly identify what types of organisms are brewing via ear cytology and to ensure that the ear drum is still intact by looking through their otoscope. Certain medications can cause permanent damage if the ear drum is ruptured. Some substances will seep into the inner ear through these tiny openings and stay there, causing permanent hearing loss.

One type of ear medication is not for everyone. You wouldn’t treat a group A Steptococcus infection with an antibiotic intended for a Clostridioides defficile infection would you? In other words, you can’t treat a Strep throat with meds intended for colitis. You wouldn’t put the cart before the horse, so why would want the doctor to guess which med to give your dog? If they don’t know which organisms are growing in your pet’s ears, how can they prescribe the most appropriate treatment?

What causes the ear to create the perfect environment for these frustrating microscopic organisms to grow? One common culprit is allergies. This would be either environmental allergies or, less commonly, food allergies (being allergic to the protein source in their food). With environmental allergies, while we get an itchy, runny nose and watery eyes, our pets suffer from red itchy skin and of course itchy ears. There is no cure for allergies, just maintenance. It is important your pet is on a long term antihistamine so their allergies don’t turn around and exacerbate into a full blown secondary infection.

And if you do take your cat or dog to the vet for an ear infection, be sure to follow their recommendations for rechecks. These rechecks are not a ploy to make money, they are strictly necessary. Some infections are more stubborn than others. As a pet parent, I would want to be sure that the initial exam and treatment I paid for is still working and doing what it’s supposed to do. That entails having the doctor use their otoscope again to check the ear drums and likely run another ear cytology. If there are near not as many organisms as before, we know we’re on the right track. If the infection is still persistent, then we either need one more treatment or a different treatment entirely. More often than not, a second treatment is required.

You know ear infections aren’t fun. And your pet can’t speak and say “mom, my ears feel funny.” It’s worth to pay attention to symptoms like shaking the head, scratching the ears, inner swelling, redness, discharge, or holding one ear down when they usually don’t. They depend on us to keep their ears – a very important part of the body – fully functioning so they can continue to hear you call or enjoy the ear rubs.

Poetry Corner

For those of us who enjoy a bit of words and rhyme, the following are selected poems from some of history’s famous poets – and one poem by an esteemed actor. Some are leisurely descriptions of appreciation, some are heartfelt and mournful, and some are just humorously bizarre, but all the following poems are about our furry friends. Happy Sunday everyone!

To Flush, My Dog

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

LOVING friend, the gift of one,

Who, her own true faith, hath run,

Through thy lower nature;

Be my benediction said

With my hand upon thy head,

Gentle fellow-creature!

Like a lady’s ringlets brown,

Flow thy silken ears adown

Either side demurely,

Of thy silver-suited breast

Shining out from all the rest

Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is,

Till the sunshine, striking this,

Alchemize its dullness, —

When the sleek curls manifold

Flash all over into gold,

With a burnished fullness.

Underneath my stroking hand,

Startled eyes of hazel bland

Kindling, growing larger, —

Up thou leapest with a spring,

Full of prank and curvetting,

Leaping like a charger.

Leap! thy broad tail waves a light;

Leap! thy slender feet are bright,

Canopied in fringes.

Leap — those tasselled ears of thine

Flicker strangely, fair and fine,

Down their golden inches.

Yet, my pretty sportive friend,

Little is ‘t to such an end

That I praise thy rareness!

Other dogs may be thy peers

Haply in these drooping ears,

And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,

This dog watched beside a bed

Day and night unweary, —

Watched within a curtained room,

Where no sunbeam brake the gloom

Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,

In that chamber died apace,

Beam and breeze resigning —

This dog only, waited on,

Knowing that when light is gone,

Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew

Tracked the hares and followed through

Sunny moor or meadow —

This dog only, crept and crept

Next a languid cheek that slept,

Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer

Bounded at the whistle clear,

Up the woodside hieing —

This dog only, watched in reach

Of a faintly uttered speech,

Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears

Dropped upon his glossy ears,

Or a sigh came double, —

Up he sprang in eager haste,

Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,

In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied,

If a pale thin hand would glide,

Down his dewlaps sloping, —

Which he pushed his nose within,

After, — platforming his chin

On the palm left open.

This dog, if a friendly voice

Call him now to blyther choice

Than such chamber-keeping,

Come out! praying from the door, —

Presseth backward as before,

Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,

Tenderly not scornfully,

Render praise and favour!

With my hand upon his head,

Is my benediction said

Therefore, and for ever.

And because he loves me so,

Better than his kind will do

Often, man or woman,

Give I back more love again

Than dogs often take of men, —

Leaning from my Human.

Blessings on thee, dog of mine,

Pretty collars make thee fine,

Sugared milk make fat thee!

Pleasures wag on in thy tail —

Hands of gentle motion fail

Nevermore, to pat thee!

Downy pillow take thy head,

Silken coverlid bestead,

Sunshine help thy sleeping!

No fly’s buzzing wake thee up —

No man break thy purple cup,

Set for drinking deep in.

Whiskered cats arointed flee —

Sturdy stoppers keep from thee

Cologne distillations;

Nuts lie in thy path for stones,

And thy feast-day macaroons

Turn to daily rations

Mock I thee, in wishing weal? —

Tears are in my eyes to feel

Thou art made so straightly,

Blessing needs must straighten too, —

Little canst thou joy or do,

Thou who lovest greatly.

Yet be blessed to the height

Of all good and all delight

Pervious to thy nature, —

Only loved beyond that line,

With a love that answers thine,

Loving fellow-creature!

The Power of the Dog

By Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But… you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

She sights a Bird – she chuckles

By Emily Dickinson

She sights a Bird—she chuckles—
She flattens—then she crawls—
She runs without the look of feet—
Her eyes increase to Balls—

Her Jaws stir—twitching—hungry—
Her Teeth can hardly stand—
She leaps, but Robin leaped the first—
Ah, Pussy, of the Sand,

The Hopes so juicy ripening—
You almost bathed your Tongue—
When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes—
And fled with every one—

Macavity: The Mystery Cat

By T.S. Eliot

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air—
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square—
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair—
But it’s useless to investigate—Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
It must have been Macavity!’—but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumb;
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place—MACAVITY WASN’T THERE !
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

I’ll Never Forget a Dog Named Beau

By James Stewart

He never came to me when I would call

Unless I had a tennis ball,

Or he felt like it,

But mostly he didn’t come at all.

When he was young

He never learned to heel

Or sit or stay,

He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag

But when you were with him things sure didn’t drag.

He’d dig up a rosebush just to spite me,

And when I’d grab him, he’d turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,

The delivery boy was his favorite prey.

The gas man wouldn’t read our meter,

He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire

But the story’s long to tell.

Suffice it to say that he survived

And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,

He was always first out the door.

The Old One and I brought up the rear

Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,

What a beautiful pair they were!

And if it was still light and the tourists were out,

They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks

And with a frown on his face look around.

It was just to make sure that the Old One was there

And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house — I guess I’m the first to retire.

And as I’d leave the room he’d look at me

And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,

And I’d give him one for a while.

He would push it under the bed with his nose

And I’d fish it out with a smile.

And before very long he’d tire of the ball

And be asleep in his corner in no time at all.

And there were nights when I’d feel him climb upon our bed

And lie between us,

And I’d pat his head.

And there were nights when I’d feel this stare

And I’d wake up and he’d be sitting there

And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.

And sometimes I’d feel him sigh and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night

And he would have this fear

Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,

And he’d be glad to have me near.

And now he’s dead.

And there are nights when I think I feel him

Climb upon our bed and lie between us,

And I pat his head.

And there are nights when I think I feel that stare

And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,

But he’s not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so,

I’ll always love a dog named Beau.

A Dog is A Dog

By T.S. Eliot

Now dogs pretend they like to fight;
They often bark, more seldom bite;
But yet a Dog is, on the whole,
What you would call a simple soul.
Of course I’m not including Pekes,
And such fantastic canine freaks.
The usual Dog about the Town
Is much inclined to play the clown
And far from showing too much pride
Is frequently undignified.
He’s very easily taken in-
Just chuck him underneath the chin
Or slap his back or shake his paw,
And he will gambol and guffaw.
He’s such an easy-going lout,
He’ll answer any hail or shout.

Again I must remind you that
A Dog’s a Dog – A CAT’S A CAT.

Epitaph to a Dog

By Lord Byron

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below:
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonour’d falls, unnotic’d all his worth,
Deny’d in heaven the Soul he held on earth:
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debas’d by slavery, or corrupt by power,
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye! who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on, it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one—and here he lies.

To The Memory Of The Same Dog

By William Wordswoth

LIE here, without a record of thy worth,

Beneath a covering of the common earth!

It is not from unwillingness to praise,

Or want of love, that here no Stone we raise;

More thou deserv’st; but ‘this’ man gives to man,

Brother to brother, ‘this’ is all we can.

Yet they to whom thy virtues made thee dear

Shall find thee through all changes of the year:

This Oak points out thy grave; the silent tree

Will gladly stand a monument of thee.

We grieved for thee, and wished thy end were past;

And willingly have laid thee here at last:

For thou hadst lived till everything that cheers

In thee had yielded to the weight of years;

Extreme old age had wasted thee away,

And left thee but a glimmering of the day;

Thy ears were deaf, and feeble were thy knees,—

I saw thee stagger in the summer breeze,

Too weak to stand against its sportive breath,

And ready for the gentlest stroke of death.

It came, and we were glad; yet tears were shed;

Both man and woman wept when thou wert dead;

Not only for a thousand thoughts that were,

Old household thoughts, in which thou hadst thy share;

But for some precious boons vouchsafed to thee,

Found scarcely anywhere in like degree!

For love, that comes wherever life and sense

Are given by God, in thee was most intense;

A chain of heart, a feeling of the mind,

A tender sympathy, which did thee bind

Not only to us Men, but to thy Kind:

Yea, for thy fellow—brutes in thee we saw

A soul of love, love’s intellectual law:—

Hence, if we wept, it was not done in shame;

Our tears from passion and from reason came,

And, therefore, shalt thou be an honoured name!

In Case of Emergency…

Many of us at one point have had the horrible, stressful, and terrifying experience of witnessing an emergency situation with our pets. For many of us it can be difficult to stay calm and think clearly and quickly of what to do. And sometimes, we may be at a loss at what constitutes as a true veterinary emergency.

Examples of true veterinary emergencies:

  • Allergic reactions/anaphylaxis
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Trauma
  • Poisoning (common toxins include but are not limited to: chocolate, Xylitol, raisins, grapes, Sago palm, garlic, onion, caffeine, alcohol, macadamia nuts)
  • Collapse/unconsciousness
  • Heatstroke
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Straining to urinate (this is especially critical if you have a male dog or cat – urinary blockages can be deadly)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (these could be signs of an underlying dangerous problem like an obstruction – especially if your pet has a habit of eating things they’re not supposed to – and if left untreated, may cause death)
  • Severe injury to the eyes
  • Seizures
  • Inability to move legs/severe lameness
  • Bloated or distended stomach (it would be safer to have a doctor make sure your pet’s stomach has not flipped or twisted, especially with large breed dogs)

Keep in mind that while this list has many of the major emergency situations, it is by no means a total illustration of everything that could happen. So if you are unsure if your pet is experiencing an emergency, the best thing for you to do is follow this rule of thumb: If you are concerned about the state of your pet, this at least warrants a call to your vet. And remember one mantra that I often hear our doctors say: “The quicker the treatment, the better the outcome.”

It would also behoove some of us to know that our Rowlett and Heath clinics are not a 24-hour ER. We have had many vet clinics tell their clients that we are an emergency hospital. This is not the case. While we will work our hearts out to stabilize each emergency situation that rushes into our doors, we do not have any staff overnight to monitor crucial cases, we do not have blood for blood transfusions, and we may not be able to squeeze in a surgery on top of the other surgeries and sick appointments and hospitalized patients we have that day (though our doctors do try to work in that one crucial surgery no one was expecting). In certain cases, it would be better for your pet to seek an emergency veterinary clinic. Like you, we just want the best outcome for your beloved family member.

Keep in mind that not all emergency clinics have a doctor on staff or the availability to fit in another case (unfortunately, there has been an influx of urgent cases in many facilities), especially if they are already triaging multiple life-or-death situations. My advice would be – if you have someone else to help you – have an extra person start driving while you call the intended clinic to gauge their availability. And if they don’t have a doctor, or if they say it will be hours before they can even see your pet, you are still already on the road and will be headed to one ER or another.

If you are unfamiliar with the local ER clinics, please see the below list of emergency hospitals below, and research them – some places are a better fit for you and your family than others. And bear in mind that the hours of operation may vary over time. Please call them ahead of time if you suspect you will need their emergency services.

  • Blue Pearl Mesquite


4651 N Belt Line Rd, Mesquite, TX 75150

Mon. Open 24 hours

Tues. Open 24 hours

Wed. Open 24 hours

Thurs. Open 24 hours

Fri. Open 24 hours

Sat. Open 24 hours

Sun. Open 24 hours

  • Blue Pearl Lewisville


2700 Lake Vista Dr, Lewisville, TX 75067

Mon. Open 24 hours

Tues. Open 24 hours

Wed. Open 24 hours

Thurs. Open 24 hours

Fri. Open 24 hours

Sat. Open 24 hours

Sun. Open 24 hours

  • Rockwall Urgent Vet


3084 N Goliad St Suite 104, Rockwall, TX 75087

Mon. 4 PM – 12 AM

Tues. 4 PM – 12 AM

Wed. 4 PM – 12 AM

Thurs. 4 PM – 12 AM

Fri. 4 PM – 12 AM

Sat. 2 PM – 12 AM

Sun. 2 PM – 12 AM

  • MedVet Dallas


1333 N Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75243

Mon. Open 24 hours

Tues. Open 24 hours

Wed. Open 24 hours

Thurs. Open 24 hours

Fri. Open 24 hours

Sat. Open 24 hours

Sun. Open 24 hours

  • Veterinary Emergency Group (V.E.G.)


4500 N Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75206

Mon. Open 24 hours

Tues. Open 24 hours

Wed. Open 24 hours

Thurs. Open 24 hours

Fri. Open 24 hours

Sat. Open 24 hours

Sun. Open 24 hours

For your everyday veterinary needs, here is the current information for our clinics:

  • The Animal Hospital of Rowlett


9501 Lakeview Pkwy, Rowlett, TX 75088

Mon. 7 AM – 7 PM

Tues. 7 AM – 7 PM

Wed. 7 AM – 7 PM

Thurs. 7 AM – 7 PM

Fri. 7 AM – 7 PM

Sat. 8 AM – 2 PM


  • The Animal Hospital of Heath


209 Laurence Dr, Heath, TX 75032

Mon. 8 AM – 5:30 PM

Tues. 8 AM – 5:30 PM

Wed. 8 AM – 5:30 PM

Thurs. 8 AM – 5:30 PM

Fri. 8 AM – 5:30 PM



Hot Spots – A Hot Button Topic

Imagine a scenario: Mrs Anderson brings her dog Willow to the vet. Willow has been chewing and licking incessantly at a particular spot on her front paw, so much so that the area now appears red and it sometimes bleeds and oozes. Mrs Anderson tried giving Willow a Benadryl tablet two days ago but it didn’t seem to help so she discontinued the Benadryl. The client is at a loss of what to do.

Many of us have been in this client’s situation to a certain degree. And what is commonly the culprit is what is known as pyotraumatic dermatitis, lick granuloma, or “hot spot.” A hot spot is an irritated and inflamed skin lesion, in other words, a very itchy localized sore that can pop up anywhere on the animal’s body. They present as areas of hair loss, red skin, matting, discharge, and of course, excessive licking and/or chewing. There are many things that can cause a hot spot to form on your furry friend, ranging from allergies to insect bites to parasitic infections to an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin and beyond. And when your dog constantly itches, he keeps re-traumatizing that same area of skin, breaking the skin’s delicate barrier and allowing for bacteria to enter that barrier and cause a bigger problem. Usually at this point prescription medications need to be involved. Hot spots are an incredible nuisance, especially when they remain hidden under long or matted hair and by the time you notice them, they have become severely infected. A hot spot – or any skin condition that causes you worry – should be seen by your veterinarian. While you await that appointment, be advised to put a sock or t-shirt over your pet, or an Elizabethan collar (E-collar or cone) to keep him from getting to the hot spot.

At the vet appointment, the doctor may go over a wide range of information regarding your dog’s hot spot. If it was presumably caused by allergies, know that there is no cure for allergies, only maintenance. Allergies can present as secondary ear infections, licking feet, pink or red feet, scooting, redness of the eyes, or itching of the undercarriage. Our pets can have allergies to the environment, fleas, or more uncommonly but not impossibly, their food (and by their food I mean the protein source). Depending on the type of allergies, they can be dealt with over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra (which take two weeks of consistent dosing to see if they work and because dogs metabolize them differently, can have more than you think based on their weight, but don’t guess – ask the vet). And as a cat mom, I look to Chlorpheniramine.

It’s also important in order to rule out fleas or mites, to make sure your pet is on good flea/parasite control. Some animals are so allergic to parasites like fleas that one single flea bite can cause terrible itching.

For food allergies, this one is a little more complicated and should really be discussed with your vet. The only way to rule out a food allergy is to feed a specific diet (either a prescription hypoallergenic diet or prescription novel protein diet) for six to eight months and absolutely nothing else to see if symptoms regress.

Another cause for hot spots is an actual skin condition. Conditions like pyodermas, staph, ringworm, abscesses, or various bacterial infections can be very itchy and should be appropriately treated under veterinary instruction. Often times, hot spots can turn into secondary skin infections and require prescription treatment to first get rid of the itching due to infection. Otherwise it will continue to be a vicious itchy cycle for your pet.

And, sometimes, your pet will develop a hot spot out of boredom. You read correctly. If a pet starts to lick out of boredom or habit, they will continue to do so because, well, they can. And the hot spot is easily accessible. For situations like these, it would be best to talk with your veterinarian about ways to mentally stimulate your pet (i.e. food puzzles, peanut butter frozen in a Kong toy, significant constant exercise, and did you know certain dog breeds need to have a job like herding?).

Whatever the cause of your pet’s sore, step one should always be to have a doctor look at your pet up close (not a picture, not a verbal description over the telephone) so she can see clearly, touch the area and look for other potential sites. And did you know certain skin conditions like yeast-based ear infections have a particular smell? No one likes to be itchy, our dogs and cats are no exception.

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The Rabies Vaccine

It is a zoonotic disease.

My first introduction to the Rabies virus was when I was a little girl watching the classic Disney movie “Old Yeller.” Of course, this movie is a fictitious rendition, but nonetheless a dramatic representation of what could realistically, potentially happen. To quote VERBATIM from the 2023 revised Veterinary Partner article: “Despite vaccination being readily available, every year the U.S. reports approximately 50 canine deaths, 250 feline deaths, and several human deaths from rabies. Worldwide, some 55,000 human deaths occur annually from rabies even now in the 21st century.” This is nothing to take lightly. The state certainly doesn’t take it lightly. Rabies is a virus that is predominant in the wildlife population but can easily be transmitted to household pets and then, easily transmitted to humans. The virus is transmitted most commonly via bite wounds and there is no cure once it takes hold of its victim. Symptoms include behavior changes, hallucinations, aggression, weakness and paralysis. After symptoms begin (which time between bite transmission and symptoms can vary), death follows in about 10 days. And because the Rabies mortality rate is 100% and CAN affect humans, vaccinating our household pets against Rabies is a requirement by law. Typically Rabies law varies by state, but you’ll likely find there is no exception to this law. The state of Texas requires that all dog and cats be vaccinated against Rabies by four months of age by a licensed veterinarian.

Does my pet have to be current on Rabies?

Yes. The law requires all cats and dogs be current on a Rabies vaccine.

Rabies quarantine is a huge hassle to you. And expensive.

If a pet bites a human – regardless of vaccination status – they are required to be quarantined for a 10 day observational period with very strict rules and currently the cost of Rabies quarantine is at least $800.00.

Postmortem Rabies testing on an animal is, to put it vaguely, unpleasant to think about. Because the virus eventually resides in the brain, an examination of the brain itself is required to see if an animal has Rabies or not. This means, if an animal dies or is euthanized after biting a human, it is required that the head only be submitted for testing. Prepping this at our clinic is not pleasant.

Can’t I just use Rabies titers?

According to the law, no. In Texas, a Rabies titer is not legally permissible as an alternative to the Rabies vaccine. Furthermore, having a Rabies titer is not a guaranteed indication of protection against the Rabies virus. A titer is only an estimation. It’s like taking a one chance look at a small group of your pet’s various antibodies at one given point in time. And tests can sometimes have errors.

My pet is prone to vaccine reactions.

We cannot force someone to have their pet vaccinated for Rabies. We certainly require a current Rabies vaccine in order for a pet to board or be groomed with us, but in certain extenuating circumstances such as severe Rabies vaccine reactions (which are rare) or an immune-compromised patient (which does happen and which I’ll go into later), the doctor’s discretion will dictate whether or not we are able to allow a pet to use our ancillary services without a current Rabies vaccine. For patients with known vaccine reactions, we will either pre-medicate prior to giving a vaccine, only give one vaccine at a time, or the client will just decline the vaccine entirely. We don’t want our patients to have reactions, and every pet’s body is different. Our doctors and you will do what is best for your pet. Unfortunately, if that pet in question bites a human, the state is not going to accept that he or she cannot have the Rabies vaccine because he or she gets bad vaccine reactions.

My pet is too old for vaccines.

In the state of Texas, age is not a factor in Rabies vaccine requirements. Depending on the Rabies vaccine manufacturer, a pet can receive their first Rabies vaccine as early as 12 weeks of age, must be vaccinated as soon as they are 4 months old, and is mandated that they be kept up to date on their Rabies vaccine life-long. In other words, if you have a 15 year old dog that never leaves the house, the state still wants them vaccinated.

My pet is immune-compromised and the vet said no more vaccines.

This will always be up to the doctor’s discretion. With that being said, usually, if a pet is sick and is due or coming due for any vaccine, the doctor may say “no” to that pet getting a vaccine. Certain vaccines can make certain illnesses worse. And as mentioned earlier, some of our patients absolutely cannot have vaccines because they are immune-compromised. For example, if they have lymphoma, carcinoma, other cancers, an over-abundance of white blood cells that attack their own body, etc. Our doctors will follow what is best for the pet, which can be difficult in this circumstance because they have to try to balance what is best for the pet and what is legal. The state of Texas currently does not allow veterinarians to make exemptions for the Rabies vaccine. If you have any questions regarding your pet’s health and the Rabies law, please talk to your veterinarian! The doctor will guide their clients on each case-by-case situation.

Why the Purevax Rabies for cats?

Our clinic only uses the Purevax Rabies for our feline patients. This is a non-adjuvented vaccine. I have stated this in a previous blog post but, the adjuvanted rabies vaccine (or “killed” rabies) is still used for cats in some clinics and some employ the 3-year cat rabies, which both come with possible risks. This is because adjuvants are linked to an adverse reaction known as an injection-site sarcoma. In some cats, their bodies cannot control the swelling, so the tumor keeps growing larger until it starts to affect the cat’s quality of life. Due to its rapid growth, the tumor can grow into other areas of the body and spread. This is why at our clinic we use the safer non-adjuvented vaccine and we administer vaccines to kitties in an area as far down the leg as possible. It is a recombinant product that takes a portion of the live Rabies virus and clones it into the relatively harmless canarypox virus but their bodies are then still set up to protect against Rabies exposure.

Our state and our clinic recommends you keep your furry friend up to date on their Rabies vaccine. It is to protect them, you, and others.

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We recommend every pet parent having their cat or dog microchipped in the event that they get out and become lost. It is such a wonderful feeling being able to reunite a client with a beloved furry family member.

Does it hurt? It’s more along the lines of uncomfortable. Having a microchip placed is like getting a vaccine but with a much bigger needle. In fact, it’s of a similar diameter as a standard craft dowel rod, or slightly less. The size of the needle accommodates the size of the chip, which is embedded under your pet’s skin on the back of the neck. This area usually has more loose skin. As you can imagine, it can still be uncomfortable, which is why we usually reserve microchip placement for procedures like spays, neuters, or dentals when the pet is already going to be under anesthesia and won’t feel it anyway.

The chip can travel. If you’ve ever seen one of us scanning your pet for a microchip and you’re wondering why we’re going over the whole body, it’s because the chip can migrate. It may be closer down one of the shoulders, or even, depending on where it was originally placed, it can end up closer to the hind end. We scan everywhere to make sure we are not missing it. We believe it’s important to have the chip number in our database.

It is not a GPS. When a pet has a microchip, there is not an app or website that can pull up Google maps and tag your pet’s exact location. There are some cool GPS tracking accessories you can get for your pet’s collar or harness which are available from other sources, but note these would only work if the pet keeps it on. But it’s not a bad idea as a second line of defense against losing one’s beloved furry friend. Going back to the client information: there is a way we can obtain information from this chip number, otherwise there wouldn’t be any use in them. All clinics or shelters may be different. The way we usually look up information is through the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup tool provided on the AAHA website. We type in the chip number in the search bar and the results will typically show the company the chip is registered with, a company phone number and/or web address, and the last time info was updated for that chip’s number. If we are needing to contact that microchip company, we’ll call them and they may or may not have permission to divulge information but one way or another, the pet parent is contacted that their furry friend has been found.

When I scan for a pet’s chip, I am often asked if I can see the client’s information. Microchip scanners do not show the pet parent’s information when a chip is scanned, just the chip number itself. Some of the new microchips show the animal’s temperature as well which is helpful to the clinic if you have a cat or an aggressive dog. It should be noted these temperatures are not 100% accurate – closer accuracy is achieved with a rectal thermometer – but it does save us from having to mess with your dog’s rear. We know, all dogs hate it and we don’t blame them. Just know it is hospital standard to obtain a temp on all patients that come for services, if we can.

Is it expensive? It’s variable. The HomeAgain microchip that we provide is a really great device. These are one of the chips that read a temperature and the chip number is saved in the HomeAgain database life-long. You do not have to keep re-paying them to keep that information intact. And prices do change occasionally, so I cannot quote on this post. You can always call and ask us what the price for microchipping is at that given time and we’d be happy to tell you.

And even if you’ve already had your pet spayed or neutered, or just had a dental cleaning performed, without the placement of the microchip while under anesthesia, it’s not too late to get your pet chipped. It’s just similar to a vaccine.

Goldilocks and the three dogs

One of the most common comments I get when I tell people I work in #vetmed is “I could never do that. Putting animals to sleep would be too sad”.

There are so many happy parts of my job, euthanasia has never been a deterrent. Of course it’s hard, but in many ways ending their pain feels like a gift we can provide – so we choose to look at it that way. Ending their pain and suffering and allowing them to drift away peacefully.

A common question we get from clients is “how do you know it’s time”. There are QOL (quality of life) assessments and countless articles we can send you when it’s time. I wanted to provide some personal experience though.

I have had three dogs in my life that have needed end of life euthanasia. I liken their stories to the three bears. One was too long, one was too short and one was juuuuuuust right.

Stinky was my first love. My first dog. My first roommate. He experienced every college boyfriend and every up/down I had in my life. I got him as an adult dog from a rescue I volunteered at as a sophomore in college. He went everywhere with me. He met my last boyfriend, my now husband. He was here for all the important things in life. I knew it was time for him, but I wasn’t ready. I feel like I waited too long to make the decision. By the time I did, he was a walking skeleton in diapers who had to be hand fed and medicated numerous times per day.

My second dog who needed euthanasia was Bonnie. She was a mean 17 year old rat terrier with only enough teeth left in her mouth to bite you. She saved those just for that occasion. She was a dog I acquired when my aunt passed away from cancer. Who better than the vet employee to take over a dog? She was actually a great dog and she loved my husband. When she began to decline (and had gone blind and fallen in the pool a few times) I emailed my family and let them know they could come say their goodbyes. I quickly made the appointment and helped her cross the rainbow bridge. I probably could have waited a bit longer – she was comfortable with pain medications and she was happy. She was just really old and was starting to have “old dog issues” and I thought it was the right decision. I didn’t want her to suffer like Stinky did.

My last dog was Bo. Bo was a 90 lb coonhound golden mix and was sweet as pie. He let my toddler crawl all over him like a jungle gym until his last day. Bo was Stinky’s dog and was my last reminder of Stinky. Bo was starting to have some rough days. He had cancer and didn’t do well on chemo, so I stopped. I knew he was hanging on for us, but we knew it was time. I asked Dr. Hurley “how will I know? He still seems to have good days”. Her reply which has always stuck with me was “you don’t want to wait until he has no good days”. I started keeping a calendar and when the good days begun being outweighed by the bad days, we made an appointment.

We brought Bo in and he was still able to walk inside, unlike Stinky. Bo still took a few treats from our hand but he laid still and gazed into our eyes softly as if to say thank you. He has lived a good, long life with us and he knew he was as good boy. Bo’s euthanasia felt like the timing was juuuuust right.

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we’d finally found the sweet spot. The perfect timing for an end of life visit. He left the earth with dignity and I know all three are waiting for me over rainbow bridge 🌈 🐾

-Christen Lynch, Hospital Administrator

The Importance of Keeping Your Pet on a Leash or In a Carrier

One of the most basic things we can all do for the safety of our pets and others when we enter the veterinary environment is to keep our dog on a leash or our cat, little dog, or pocket pet in a carrier. This reduces the risk of the animal escaping, getting hurt, or hurting others.

If your pet is coming in for a rabies vaccine because he’s past due and he escapes and he bites a person, this will be problematic for you, your dog, the clinic, and of course the person who was bitten. Every state’s rules regarding rabies may be variable, but in Texas, the state is not going to care that you were on your way to update your pet’s rabies vaccine, they will make you put your pet in rabies quarantine. This is just one reason we should all keep a good handle on our pets and keep them secure, and a reason that is backed by state law.

Occasionally during my reception shifts, I’ve had pet parents place their tiny dog loose on the reception counter (which is high off the ground) and the dog steps backward and falls off, sending the pet parent and staff into a figurative heart attack. This likely would not have happened if their little dog was in a carrier…

There have been cats that have escaped their pet parent’s arms in transit from the car to the clinic and ran away – thankfully in the case I’m thinking of the cat stayed hidden under their parent’s car and he was able to get his fur baby. And if you do have your cat in a carrier – which or course is important in itself – you may consider the differences between hard shell vs soft shell carriers. Soft shell carriers are cute and may be easier for the pet parent, which is fine. But let me just throw out some information to keep in consideration. In a car accident, a hard shell carrier would likely better protect your cat than a soft shell carrier. There is no reinforcement in a soft shell carrier pushing back against bending metal, bursting air bags, breaking glass, or etc; the fabric walls are all that would stand between your cat and a crushed car. With a hard shell carrier, it would be at least a little more difficult for the outside dangers to pierce through or re-shape the carrier. And in situations where you have a fractious cat who has to be dropped off at the clinic, a soft shell carrier is typically a difficult obstacle because these soft shell carriers typically do not have top openings that make it easy for the staff to reach in with a thick blanket to retrieve the cat. There of course could be exceptions to this, there are indeed so many different types of carriers out there. I only speak from my own experience and my veterinarians’ usual recommendations.

“But my pet is well trained.”

That may be so, but, there are extenuating circumstances where it would not necessarily matter how well trained a pet is, things can still happen, and we don’t want that thing – whatever bizarre or not-so-bizarre turn of events which would lead to trouble – to happen to you.

With multiple dogs barking, regular noisy sounds of the hospital going on (and if you’ve ever been to the clinic while our internal vacuum system is going on, you may have thought you heard the sound of a distressed elephant), clients and staff members going every which way in the clinic, it can make an animal stressed/terrified, overly-excited, or on defense/protect mode. There have been times a pet parent has let their dog loose to run about the lobby and walk right up to another dog to greet because they are very friendly, but the dog they walked up to may not be. The pet parent who let their dog loose may say something along the lines of “oh they’re friendly; they just love meeting new people”. That may be so, but this is still not acceptable in our clinic. What if someone opens the front door while that client’s friendly dog is loose? They can run right out the front door and into the busy street. What if that loose dog runs right up to an aggressive dog and gets attacked? What if that loose dog runs up to a cat carrier as a cat parent is entering the building and scares the living daylights out of the cat, resulting in the likely possibility that the cat will be too scared to allow us to do an exam and get lab samples, making the experience unpleasant for the cat and its parent?

If a pet parent lets their dog loose, let us say a large dog who is unpredictable around other dogs, and this said dog takes off and attacks another dog or pet parent sitting in the lobby, how is this fear-free or remotely safe? We are an AAHA accredited hospital that takes great measures to make it a fear-free environment for all involved, especially the pets. This situation of a pet parent letting their unpredictable dog loose should never happen. Our clinic is a professional, family-oriented, welcoming safe place – we do not want dog fights, animal injury or injury to the pet parent to happen in or around our building.

For the safety of your pet, other clients and their pets, and our staff, we ask that you keep your pet on a leash or in its carrier during transit from your car until you get into the exam room and the assistant or nurse closes the door.

A side note about those retractable leashes…you know the ones. The hard plastic handled kind that’s supposed to let you lock the length of the leash or extend it however you want, and it clasps onto the dog’s collar? Those are infamous around here. I will tell you a little known secret about those retractable leashes your vet clinic won’t tell you. We don’t actually like those leashes… Sometimes the mechanism that is supposed to lock them does not work, sometimes the pet parent does not even have them locked when they come into the lobby and the dog runs as far as he wants (often tangling his pet parent in the process), it’s difficult to get a grip on the handle, they’re not very comfortable to grasp and it is easy to slip out of one’s hand if the dog pulls hard enough, it’s often not very practical in a clinical setting, and if the dog pulls so hard he snaps the connection – or slips out of his collar because it is not properly fitted – then there is nothing keeping that dog at your side and he will run off. Following the collar, often dog collars are fitted too loose, so we do see dogs slip right out of them. And I know many pet parents like these retractable leashes. That’s perfectly fine. They seem to be popular because I see them everywhere. But an important part of keeping your dog on a leash, is making sure you have a secure hold of your dog, and that his collar is properly fitted so he can’t slip out of it. Same goes for harnesses that are too loose. So yes, usually your vet clinic does not look lovingly at these retractable leashes. We prefer slip leads. You’ve seen them, they’re the blue leashes that are hanging next to the dog entrance to the clinic. They’re designed so if the dog does pull, the leash is still connected to him. There are circumstances where we have a dog who cannot have anything around his neck due to trachea issues, breathing issues, back issues, neck issues. But a properly fitted harness, hopefully connected to a regular leash, works just fine for securing the pup.

Cat Trees

A cat tree is a wonderful way to add some environmental enrichment into your cat’s life. Any cat parent knows that their furry feline likes to be in high places away from all the hustle and bustle of their human’s daily routine. Cats have an instinctual inclination to climb trees and be perched in places where they have the best aerial view of their surroundings, potential dangers, and prey. But, in most circumstances, the average living room or bedroom does not have a tree, so a fun cat tree with sisal posts and carpet-covered enclosures with a cat bed hidden away is the next best thing. Or, if you are handy with tools, you could also build shelving along your walls to allow your cat height for the full range of a room.

Why do cats love to be in high places? Being up high gives them the best vantage point and is a good way to protect themselves. There may be something outside that has captured their attention, or there’s a particularly inviting patch of sunshine. Or they know food is sometimes on your kitchen counter and they gamble they can get some tidbits. You may have noticed that your kitty jumps on your counters or your dining room table – places you’d rather them not be. So instead of yelling at them, or spraying them with squirt bottles, or getting frustrated at constantly setting them back down on the ground – which none of these options really work, at least for my cat Charlie – you can direct their inclinations to a more acceptable perch, like a cat tree. The posts giving the tree height are typically wrapped in sisal, which gives your cat a vertical place to scratch and stretch her claws. You could spray the posts with a synthetic feline pheromone to attract them to do this. Or you could put treats in the little hidey holes or carpet-covered steps to help them feel that this new piece of furniture is safe. You can find some really cute cat trees online, of varying sizes and shapes so you can choose the one that fits best with your home and budget. And ultimately, as long as it’s secure and allows your kitty a high perch and hiding spaces, she won’t notice that it’s more plain than the really expensive cat tree online that looks like a giant flower (cute but I’ve noticed these are very costly). This is just one way you can enrich your cat’s life; there are many other toys, treats, food puzzles, window attachments, and cat furniture you can explore. But a cat tree is a great place to start!

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