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What should I consider an emergency for my pet?

Trouble breathing, trauma, bleeding, stumbling, having a seizure, difficulty delivering puppies or kittens, and many eye problems are emergencies.

Why does my pet have to come in annually if he/she got the 3-year rabies vaccine?

Because he/she still needs an annual examination for the early detection of disease, and there are other vaccines that may be needed for your pet yearly. Only the rabies vaccine is currently documented to protect for three years. Plus, if your pet is on any continual medications our veterinarians are required by law to perform an annual physical exam to approve medication refills.

My pet has another ear infection, why can’t I pick up the same medicine he had last time?

In many cases, problems that seem the same may not be caused by the same disease. For example, Lucky might have an ear infection again, but last time it was caused by bacteria, and this time by yeast, and different medications are indicated. Also, it is illegal for a veterinarian to prescribe medication without seeing the patient to formulate a working diagnosis, and the old medication might by outdated.

What is a microchip and how does it work?

How do those microchips work? The ID microchips are about the size of a rice grain. Implanted under the pet’s skin, they show your pet’s personal ID number when he is scanned. This number is linked to your information in a computer database, so that the data can be kept current. All the shelters in the Denver area and many veterinary clinics have scanners. They would be able to identify your pet and contact you immediately when the pet arrived at the shelter or clinic. This can be especially important if your pet is injured.

Why does the hospital recommend blood testing before procedures requiring anesthesia?

Pre-anesthetic blood testing allows us to evaluate your pet’s basic physiologic condition and will let us know if we need to take extra precautions with your pet. It may indicate that we should avoid a procedure altogether until a discovered problem can be corrected.

When will my pet have her first heat?

Most cats and dogs have a first heat period between 6 and 12 months of age. This heat cycle has the most profound influence on increasing her risk of breast cancer. This is why, unless you are planning to breed her, we recommend spaying at six months of age. If she has had a heat period, we recommend waiting 6-8 weeks before scheduling a spay. This allows her reproductive tract to return to it’s quiescent condition, making the surgery easier on her.

Is Heartworm preventative necessary in Colorado?

Heartworm disease has very low prevalence in Colorado. We recommend preventative treatment during the mosquito season because if your dog does become infected with heartworms it can be life threatening and it is so easy to prevent.


Did You Know?

In cold weather, cats will often nap on the warm engine block of a recently-driven car. When the car is started again, the fan belt can do horrible damage to the cat.

Always honk your horn or tap the hood before starting up your car in cold weather.

Decon and other anti-coagulant rodent poisons can kill any mammal–including cats. The poison causes the animal to bleed to death, usually taking several days to cause problems.

Cats should be brought in immediately if you suspect that they ate any Decon.

Cats do not usually handle changes in their life (moving, getting a new dog or cat, etc.) very well. Ask us for advice about helping your cat adjust to major changes.

Why won't my cat use the litter box?

here are many different reasons for a cat to stop using the box. A bladder infection should always be ruled out. Other causes include painful crystals or stones in the bladder, and behavioral problems.

Kittens do not have to be trained to use a litter box–they have an innate preference to eliminate in a loose, soft substrate. The key is to provide a suitable substrate, put it in a convenient, appealing location, and keep it clean. Cats prefer fine, grainy material. The new sandy clumping litters are especially popular. Cats generally do not like scented litter, although some may tolerate it.

Cat boxes, especially for kittens, must be easily accessible. Also avoid putting the box in a noisy area (e.g., next to the water heater, washing machine, furnace, etc.). Kittens may need a ramp or a box with low edges. Cats also like some degree of privacy–try a covered box or hiding the box behind a plant.

Litter boxes should be cleaned of urine and stool daily. This is easy with the clumping litters. With clay litter, tip the box so that the dry litter slides to the bottom, leaving the urine-soaked litter stuck to the box bottom where you can scoop it out. Dump the box entirely once a week, or more often if you notice any odor.


There should be as many boxes as cats, plus one. So a household with 2 cats would have 3 boxes, and one with 20 cats (!) would have 21 boxes.

The more cats you have, the greater your chances of one of them not using the box.

It is much easier to make a cat happy with his box from the beginning.

Why does my cat scratch the furniture/curtains/scratching post?

Scratching is normal behavior for a cat. It serves three major functions:

“Sharpening” the claw: Actually, scratching removes the outer layer of growth from the cat’s nails, keeping them slim and ideal for hunting. For this, your cat prefers a fairly open weave material with a vertical orientation.


The act of scratching creates a visual mark (that’s pretty much your complaint about your cat using the sofa. . .). It also leaves scent from glands on the feet. For this, your cat prefers a very obvious place to scratch.


Cats stretch (especially after their frequent naps) by placing the front feet on a vertical surface and flexing their backs. For this, your cat prefers a post near his favorite nap spot.


Did You Know?

Dogs have color vision, although it is not as detailed as ours. They do especially well with blues and purples.

Dogs are very sensitive to theobromine, a chemical in chocolate. It causes irregular heartbeats and nervous system signs, and can be fatal—be sure to keep all chocolate away from your dogs!

All types of antifreeze can fatally damage a dog’s kidneys. Unfortunately, it tastes sweet, so be sure your dog has no access to leaking vehicles, drained fluid or stored antifreeze bottles.

Dogs sometimes make a bizarre snorting noise called a reverse sneeze. The veterinary profession isn’t sure what causes this, but dogs rarely need any treatment for it.

Dog “germs” are rarely contagious to humans. Dogs are seldom reservoirs for Strep throat either.

Never leave your dog loose in the car or a pickup truck bed. They should be in a dog seatbelt or a crate. Dogs tied in the back of trucks often jump out and get strangled, dragged, or run over.

Why does my dog eat grass?

No one knows why dogs eat grass. They often vomit after doing so, but we don’t know if they eat the grass intentionally to relieve an upset stomach.

Can my dog catch my cold?

Dog “germs” are rarely contagious to humans and human germs are rarely contagious to dogs. Dogs are seldom reservoirs for Strep throat either.


We call them the Wicked Worms of the West. Your vet has probably mentioned them…but, what exactly are heartworms?

Heartworms were first identified in the United States in 1847 and occurred most frequently on the seacoast in the southeastern United States. In recent years, heartworm disease has been found in all 50 states in the USA. The movement of infected animals that could serve as sources of infection for others is probably a significant contributing factor to heartworms spreading across North America. The actual number of infected dogs and cats in the United States is unknown.

Heartworms, Dirofilaria immitis, belong to the same class of worms as roundworms. In fact, they look a bit like roundworms, but that is where the similarity ends. Heartworms spend their adult life in the right side of the heart and the large blood vessels connecting the heart to the lungs.

Heartworms are found in dogs, cats, and ferrets. They also occur in wild animals such as California sea lions, foxes and wolves. They have rarely been found in people.

So…what are the signs of heartworm infection and how is it diagnosed?

Most dogs with heartworm infection do not show signs of disease. Some dogs may show decreased appetite, loss of weight, and listlessness. Often, the first sign of the disease is a cough. Animals with severe heartworm disease will start to show lack of endurance during exercise. Some will accumulate fluid in their abdomen (ascites) that makes them look pot-bellied. In rare situations in which animals have many adult worms, the animals may die of sudden heart failure.

Heartworm preventives

A number of monthly heartworm preventives for dogs are on the market. Some heartworm preventives, or drugs that are combined with them, will control other parasites. Preventive products should be used year-round, even in areas where mosquitoes only occur seasonally. Even if doses are accidentally skipped, preventive products are still beneficial to the pet. If given consistently over a 12-month period, it’s possible to actually stop worms from developing into adults. Also, monthly heartworm preventives have activity against intestinal parasites, which inadvertently infect millions of people every year. These preventives protect pets and people.


When and how often pets should be tested for heartworm infection is a matter of debate. In making a decision on when to test, we must consider how common heartworm disease is where the pet lives, what heartworm preventive the pet is receiving, and how long the mosquito season lasts.

The American Heartworm Society (AHS) advises all adult dogs being started on a heartworm preventive for the first time should be tested. In addition, all dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection. In the past, if a dog had been on preventive methods routinely, it was not considered necessary to test every year, perhaps only every two to three years. Because of reports of animals on preventives that still contracted heartworms, the AHS recommends a more conservative testing routine. It may be too difficult to document when an animal hasn’t been checked in three years, and therefore, annual testing will ensure that an infection is caught in plenty of time to effectively manage it.

What are the signs of heartworm infection and how is it diagnosed?
Most dogs with heartworm infection do not show signs of disease. Some dogs may show decreased appetite, loss of weight, and listlessness. Often, the first sign of the disease is a cough. Animals with severe heartworm disease will start to show lack of endurance during exercise. Some will accumulate fluid in their abdomen (ascites) that makes them look pot-bellied. In rare situations in which animals have many adult worms, the animals may die of sudden heart failure.


Yes, the “ick” factor. But if you love animals, and own a pet, eventuatlly, you WILL come face to face with a nasty bug of one sort or another. The more you know, the healthier your pet will be.

Parasites primarily cause soft stool or diarrhea and sometimes weight loss in dogs, although infected dogs may show no signs of illness at all. This is why we recommend annual microscopic fecal exams. The most important thing you can do to prevent animal parasites from threatening your family’s health is to clean up animal waste daily.

Below are common parasites that live in the intestinal tract…


These worms can be transmitted from the mother to the puppies before they are even born. Large numbers of roundworms can block a dog’s intestine. Humans (primarily young ones with less-than-perfect hand washing habits) can ingest microscopic eggs after playing in contaminated soil. The eggs mature into larva, which migrate bizarrely through the body, sometimes causing nervous system signs or even blindness.


Ingestion of the eggs of these worms can result in larval migration in people, but they can also be picked up directly through the skin, which causes intensely itchy lesions. A severe hookworm infection can make a dog anemic.


These parasites reproduce by shedding off segments of their body, which then can be seen on the hair under your dog’s tail. The segments are short and wiggly at first, and dry to look like rice grains. Dogs get tapeworms by ingesting fleas, usually by hunting rodents or prairie dogs. Tapeworms are easily eliminated with either a shot or a pill. These parasites are not transmitted directly to people.


Giardia is a very common parasite in Colorado. The organisms are prevalent in streams, ponds and standing water, so dogs who hike or swim are at higher risk. Giardia can be difficult to get rid of because it lives deep within the intestine and re-infection is common. Always have a post-treatment fecal sample checked if your dog has been diagnosed with giardia. Current research suggests that direct transmission from dogs to people does not occur with giardia.


These microscopic organisms are more frequently seen in puppies, and can be difficult to treat successfully. The medication for coccidia paralyzes the parasites, which are then removed from the intestine by simple mechanical action. A recheck fecal should be done to assess the effectiveness of treatment.