new year new tail

New Year, New Tail 

As we welcome the New Year, it’s the perfect time to think about resolutions, not just for ourselves but for our beloved pets, too. One common goal for pet parents is to ensure their pets maintain a healthy weight, and that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today!

🌟 Recognizing the Epidemic 🌟

Let’s kick off the year by tackling the obesity epidemic in our furry friends. It’s a startling fact that excessive weight gain has become the most common preventable disease in dogs and cats throughout the United States. In 2020, 56% of dogs in the U.S. were overweight or obese, surpassing those at an appropriate weight. For our feline friends, almost 50% are affected by obesity.

Why does this matter? Well, overweight pets face an increased risk of various health issues, including diabetes, joint problems, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. It’s a harsh truth, but overweight pets tend to have shorter lifespans than their healthy counterparts.

💡 Finding the Ideal Body Weight 💡

Before we jump into the fun stuff, like treats and exercises, we need to determine the ideal body weight for your pet. At Pet Health, we use a Body Condition Score (BCS) system, ranging from 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese), with 5 being the sweet spot for most breeds. This is performed at every Lifetime and Focused Care visit to determine if your pet is overweight, establish goals, and monitor progress for your pet’s weight loss journey.  

🍽️ Step 1: Count Calories and Portion Control 🍽

Now that we’ve set our goal, it’s time to focus on what your pet consumes. At Pet Health, we often start with calculating the energy requirements for your pet.   This is essentially a starting point for the number of calories we will want your pet to consume each day.  We can use this number, along with the calories per cup of your pet’s current food, to determine if their current diet can be safely reduced.   

For those free-feeding your pets, it’s time to switch to scheduled meal times and get out a measuring cup.   Cats can be a bit more challenging, and we often recommend using automatic cat feeders to avoid those pesky “I’m hungry” wake-up calls at 3 AM  and 3 PM.

🍬 Step 2: Healthy Treats 🍬

Who said treats can’t be a part of a weight loss plan? Although treats should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories, there are plenty of healthy options that are both tasty and low in calories!  Specifically, miniature marshmallows, raw bananas, applesauce, and boiled vegetables are great choices!

Remember the calorie content when giving treats, as it’s crucial for your pet’s weight loss journey. Miniature marshmallows have approximately 3.5 calories per gram, while boiled vegetables have about 0.5 calories per gram. Fruits like apples with skin, blueberries, and raspberries are also fantastic low-calorie options.

🏋️ Step 3: Fun and Energetic Exercises 🏋

Let’s get the party started! Exercise is not just for us; it’s also essential for our furry companions. For dogs, low-impact activities like short leash walks, tag at the dog park, or playing fetch are fantastic ways to kickstart their weight loss journey.

For cats, interactive playtime with toys, climbing on cat trees, and puzzle feeders can make losing weight feel like a fun game. Rotate their toys regularly to keep them engaged and interested in playtime.

🥦 Step 4: Prescription Weight Loss Diets 🥦

If portion control, healthy treats, and exercises aren’t enough to shed those extra pounds, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Your Pet Health veterinarian will most likely recommend a prescription weight loss diet. These diets offer a nutritionally balanced and safe option to help your pet lose weight while keeping them feeling full and satisfied.

It’s important to remember that every pet is unique, and sometimes, it takes trying multiple prescription diets to see results.

📊 Step 5: Measure Progress 📊

Last but not least, monitoring your pet’s progress is crucial. At Pet Health, we recommend regular weight checks every four weeks to see how your pet is doing. The goal is often to lose 1-2% of body weight weekly.

🐶New Year, New Tail! 🐱

As we embark on this journey to help our furry companions shed those extra pounds, remember that it’s all about making small, positive changes. With the proper guidance, determination, and lots of love, your pet can have a healthier, happier year ahead. Let’s make 2024 the year our pets’ tails wag a little brighter!

When Is Surgery Needed for a Cruciate Tear in a Dog

Determining Factors: When Is Surgery Needed for a Cruciate Tear in a Dog?

When Is Surgery Needed for a Cruciate Tear in a Dog?

In dogs, cranial cruciate ligament disease (CrCLD) is a chronic disease marked by the degradation of the cruciate ligament, one of the primary ligaments that supports a dog’s stifle joint (knee). The disease eventually leads to the rupture of the cruciate ligament, which is similar to a person tearing his or her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

Causes of CrCLD

Cranial cruciate ligament disease has a genetic predilection and is common to certain breeds, but other issues like excessive weight can exacerbate the problem. 50% of dogs that have a ligament tear in one leg will tear the ligament of the other stifle joint within six to twelve months. 

Clinical Signs of CrCLD

Although a chronic disease, the onset of symptoms (primarily lameness) is usually acute. A dog will suddenly hold up his or her leg. This lameness tends to appear worse with exercise and better with rest. 

CrCLD Diagnosis

To diagnose CrCLD, a veterinarian will perform a physical examination of a dog’s joint, which will reveal excessive forward movement of the tibia (called a cranial drawer). X-rays will also be taken to rule out other concerns. X-rays won’t reveal the ruptured ligament, but can show secondary changes, such as osteoarthritis or fluid within the stifle. 

Dog Knee Surgery: Treatments for a Cruciate Tear in a Dog

Dog's Canine x-ray

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

Most pets require surgical repair following a cruciate rupture. Different techniques are available including lateral fabellar, tibial plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO), and tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) surgeries. Regardless of the surgical technique, exercise restriction and rehabilitation with dog physical therapy will be essential to the ultimate success of the pet’s surgery. Given the proper recovery care, most pets are able to return to normal function. 

Factors that Determine if Surgery Is Needed for a Canine Cruciate Tear

Surgery following a cruciate tear is usually the only treatment that enables a pet’s full recovery. There are, however, certain cases when surgery might not be recommended. A veterinarian will consider a long list of factors before recommending a dog for a TPLO procedure or another surgical repair.


For certain breeds (including golden retriever, Rottweiler, Neapolitan mastiff, Newfoundland, Akita, St. Bernard, American Staffordshire terrier, and mastiff), surgery is often inevitable. Larger breeds’ increased weight makes a non-surgical recovery less likely. Also, due to their genetic tendency, 50% of these dogs will tear the ligament of the other knee within six to twelve months. In these cases, attempting to manage CrCLD without surgery can wind up putting more pressure and strain on the other limb, which accelerates the second rupture and leads to the tear of both ligaments. 

Full vs. Partial Tear

Sometimes a dog’s cruciate tear might be only partial. This can be difficult to determine in pets since they’re not undergoing MRI exams as people would. In veterinary medicine, the diagnosis of a full or partial tear can be made by arthroscopy of the stifle but is more frequently estimated based on the palpation of the cranial drawer and clinical signs. 

Meniscal Tear

A piece of cartilage, the meniscus acts as a cushion in the stifle joint. The meniscus can tear at the time of a cruciate rupture or after. Often, it will catch during certain movements, causing additional pain. Patients with meniscal tears seldom regain full use of their legs without surgical correction.

Size and Excessive Weight

Dog Surgery

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us how they feel following surgery. As a result, deciding which procedure is better for a dog must be based on the observational outcomes of both surgical procedures.

Short-Term Considerations

If large or overweight, a pet’s size can contribute to excessive strain on the joint. “One of the biggest factors I have seen in determining if rehabilitation alone, without surgery, will be successful is the size of the patient,” says Dr. Jessica Pizzillo, DVM, CCRP. “Very few patients over 35 pounds have desirable outcomes without surgery.” 

In addition, trying to help a dog lose weight while recovering from a cruciate rupture is challenging because part of the recovery involves exercise restriction. With surgery, we can fix the dog’s cruciate ligament, work through the normal recovery, and then begin an appropriate diet and exercise program for weight loss. 

Age and Underlying Medical Conditions

Younger dogs with a tear are more likely to develop arthritis over time. As a result, it’s beneficial to fix and avoid future concerns. On the other hand, there are concerns with older dogs undergoing general anesthesia, which a veterinary must conservatively manage. In addition to age factors, underlying medical conditions such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism can predispose a pet to ligament rupture, but can also complicate strategies for surgery and anesthesia. 

​Clinical Signs

The most important factor in determining whether surgery is recommended is your pet’s overall condition and the severity of clinical signs and symptoms. “The number one factor that influences surgery is how well the pet is doing,” says Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch, DVM. “If we are trying to avoid a surgery, but a pet is still experiencing pain and discomfort, then we will move from a more conservative approach to a surgical correction.”

Although some pets with a cruciate tear can be managed with exercise restriction, pain medication like anti-inflammatories, and canine rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) and live a normal, active life, it’s the opinion of Dr. Bilicki, DVM, DACVS-SA, Diplomate ACVS, that surgery is the best way to go.

“Surgery is the fastest and most complete way to achieve full function with added benefits. Surgery alleviates inflammation, which causes direct damage to cartilage, and surgery allows the patient to work toward stopping the cycle of disuse and muscle atrophy to start building muscle mass, strength, and endurance as quickly as possible,” Dr. Bilicki says. “In my opinion, the moment we determine a patient has the cruciate disease — whether it is a partial, full, or chronic rupture — surgery is indicated.” 

If your dog suffers a cruciate tear, our team of veterinary professionals will work with you to determine the best course of treatment based on your pet’s individual health and medical concerns.

tta or tplo

TTA or TPLO? Which Surgical Method Is Best for My Dog’s Cruciate Ligament Rupture?

Dog Rehabilitation -TTA or TPLO?

Cranial cruciate ligament disease (CrCLD) is a chronic condition marked by the persistent degradation of a dog’s cranial cruciate ligament. A dog’s cranial cruciate ligament can be compared to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament, as it’s one of the primary ligaments supporting the stifle joint (knee). CrCLD eventually leads to a cruciate tear in a dog, and 50% of dogs with a ruptured ligament will tear the other ligament within the following six to twelve months.

Cranial cruciate ligament disease occurs for several reasons. Certain dog breeds are genetically predisposed to developing the condition, and factors like weight and activity can exacerbate the problem. Early on in the course of the disease, many clinical signs are minor or not noticed at all. When the disease advances or eventually turns into a full tear, a dog will show signs of lameness or suddenly hold up their leg. When the cruciate tears, it’s like a human’s ACL tear in a dog, painful and debilitating. This lameness usually worsens with exercise and seems to improve with rest.

A cranial cruciate rupture in a dog won’t heal on its own, and as a result, most pets require a surgical repair. Several surgical techniques for the condition have been developed including:

  • Lateral Fabellar Suture
  • Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
  • Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

The two most commonly recommend corrective surgeries are the TPLO and TTA procedures.

The Differences Between TPLO and TTA

Dog's Canine x-ray

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

The TPLO procedure was developed by Dr. Barclay Slocum in the 1980s. Dr. Slocum noticed that some dogs had an abnormal slope of the knee (tibia), which put added pressure on the ligament and predisposed dogs to developing CrCLD. Instead of fixing the ligament, Dr. Slocum decided it would be better to correct the abnormal slope. His surgical technique resulted in better results than previous surgeries. He patented his technique and the instruments he developed for the surgery, and veterinary surgeons all over the world use his technique today.

The goal of a TPLO surgery is to reduce the angle of the tibia’s slope. Prior to surgery, a veterinary surgeon will measure this angle in order to determine the scope of the surgical slope reduction. During the procedure, the surgeon uses a specially curved saw to make a cut (osteotomy) on the top surface of the tibia. The surgeon then rotates the cut portion of bone to create a more desirable angle. The surgeon will place a stainless-steel bone plate, which holds the two pieces of tibia together, until the osteotomy site heals after about eight to twelve weeks of recovery.

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

This procedure was developed in Zurich, Switzerland in the early 2000s. TTA uses biomechanical principles to adjust the angle of the patellar tendon. This effectively neutralizes the tibial thrust, which occurs when a dog with cranial cruciate ligament disease bears weight on an affected joint.

Prior to surgery, pre-operative measurements will be taken, using stifle radiographs (x-rays of the knee). Pre-operative measurements are used to determine the size of surgical appliances needed for the patient’s procedure. During surgery, the surgeon performs an osteotomy, a cut in the bone. Using an advancement cage and internal fixation device, the surgeon then moves the tibial crest forward from its original position.

How to Decide between TTA and TPLO

Dog Surgery

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us how they feel following a surgery. As a result, deciding which procedure is better for a dog must be based on observational outcomes of both surgical procedures.

Short-Term Considerations

TTA can have a potential advantage over TPLO in the immediate post-operative period, as dogs subjectively sometimes appear to be more comfortable and bear more weight because the TTA involves a less invasive osteotomy or cutting of the bone. Full-weight bearing, however, has been shown to be better with a TPLO at six months of age.

Long-Term Considerations

Again subjectively, some surgeons believe that TPLO is better for more active or athletic dogs. Recently published literature reviews, however, were unable to clearly identify a superior surgical procedure, and studies have shown that TPLO and TTA achieve the same level of function by 12 months after the surgery.

Risk of Potential Complications

Surgery complications aren’t common for either procedure, but according to Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch from Pet Health Hospital, DVM, “Complications can occur with any procedure, and vigilant post-operative exercise restriction, as well as following instructions for recommended rehabilitation and exercises will minimize these risks.”

Some potential complications of TPLO and TTA surgery include the following:

  • Post-operative patella luxation
  • Tibia fracture
  • Implant loosening
  • Implant-related infection

Infection of the implant is one of the more common complications associated with these procedures, although implant infection risk is low at 7.4%. If an infection does occur, a dog’s implant would need to be removed. Removal of implants from a TTA surgery can be much more difficult and have a higher risk of bone fracture, compared to the relatively easy removal of a TPLO plate. This is one significant advantage of TPLO over TTA.

Ultimate Procedural Outcomes

Overall, veterinary literature still remains inconclusive regarding the best therapeutic option to treat a cruciate tear in a dog. A dog’s outcome, much like complications, is largely determined by the experience of the surgeon, the quality of post-operative care, and adherence to recommended rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) protocols.

“I tell clients to do the procedure that your surgeon does,” said Dr. Bilicki, DVM, DACVS-SA, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). “They offer that surgical procedure because they’re good at it, and they like the results they achieve.”

Following either surgery, working with a certified canine rehabilitation specialist will ensure your dog is on the right track to regaining mobility. “While studies have not been able to clearly determine which procedure is superior, it has been demonstrated that both procedures have improved outcomes with post-surgical rehabilitation,” said Dr. Jessica Pizzillo, DVM, CCRP.  With dog physical therapy, dogs can achieve the best possible outcomes of TPLO or TTA procedures.

dog vaccinations

Why is TPLO an effective Surgical Correction for my Dog’s Cranial Cruciate Rupture?

Dog's Cranial Cruciate Rupture

TPLO surgery (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) is the most commonly recommended treatment for the rupture of a dog’s cranial cruciate ligament. This injury is like an ACL tear for dogs, and TPLO surgery is designed to stabilize the stifle (knee) joint following the ligament’s rupture.

How Does a Cruciate Tear in a Dog Happen?Dog Cruciate Tear

Dogs develop cranial cruciate ligament disease (the musculoskeletal problem that leads to a cruciate tear in a dog) for a myriad of reasons. Most commonly, the issue arises due to genetics. Certain predisposed breeds have a tibial plateau slope that’s inclined too far backward, which places constant stress on the ligament. 50% of dogs that develop CCLD due to a genetic component will eventually suffer a tear in both stifle joints.

“It’s by far the most common orthopedic condition we see in our practice,” Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch, DVM said of cranial cruciate ligament disease. “In breeds, which are genetically predisposed, I have seen it develop as early as six months of age.”

Additional factors, such as weight, metabolic diseases (hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease), and a dog’s activity level can also play a role in the development of CCLD.

All about the TPLO Procedure

TPLO procedure

In the 1980s, Dr. Barclay Slocum noticed that some dogs had an abnormal slope of their knee (tibia) which predisposed them to develop CCLD. Rather than attempting to fix a dog’s ligament, as had been attempted with other surgical procedures, Dr. Slocum thought it would be better to correct the tibia’s slope, instead. His method produced much better results than other available surgeries. He patented the TPLO technique and instruments which he developed for the surgery.

How Does TPLO Surgery Work?

The goal of a TPLO surgery is to reduce the angle of a dog’s tibial slope, which puts less pressure on the dog’s cruciate ligament.

“TPLO essentially re-engineers the canine stifle in a way that makes the cranial cruciate ligament less important,” said our veterinary surgeon, Dr. Bilicki, DVM, DACVS-SA, Diplomate ACVS. “People have a five-degree slope of the tibia, and if they’re not athletes, they can learn to compensate for the instability. Our pet patients have a tremendous ability to compensate. If we can make them more like people — taking them from an average of 24 to 34 degrees to about five degrees — they thrive incredibly well.”

What Happens During a TPLO Procedure?

Prior to a dog’s surgery, we’ll measure the top of the tibia’s angle to determine a goal for the surgical correction. Surgery begins with an exploration of the stifle joint’s interior, which is intended to assess the cartilage (meniscus), looking for any damage. If damage is found, it will be removed. According to Dr. Bilicki, “Removing damaged cartilage is essentially like removing a rock from a shoe, which we believe can be as important as eliminating tibial thrust.”

The veterinary orthopedic surgeon will then use a specially curved saw to make a cut on the top surface of the tibia. This cut portion is then rotated to create a more desirable angle. The surgeon then places a stainless-steel bone plate, which holds the two pieces together until the osteotomy site heals (usually within eight to twelve weeks).

TPLO Aftercare: How to Care for a Dog Following Surgery

TPLO aftercare

Providing a dog with the proper post-surgical care is essential to proper healing and the restoration of the stifle joint’s proper function. Immediately following surgery, it will be essential to restrict a dog’s activities until fully healed. This period of exercise restriction will last for eight weeks or longer, depending on the pet.

Canine rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) is also an essential component to a dog’s recovery and rehabilitation following TPLO surgery. “Although TPLOs are very effective at stabilizing knees and decreasing pain, they change the conformation of the leg. In addition, many of these patients have significantly reduced muscle mass and compensatory changes in other parts of the body,” said Dr. Jessica Pizzillo, DVM, CCRP. “Rehabilitation after surgery helps to maintain and restore optimal range of motion, while allowing for a controlled process to rebuild strength and coordination.”

Post-operative canine rehabilitation typically includes a variety of therapies and modalities designed to restore range of motion, flexibility, strength, and balance.

What’s the TPLO Prognosis?

Prognosis following TPLO surgery is overwhelmingly positive. Overall, dogs who receive TPLO surgery, have a good prognosis. Most dogs — an estimated 90% — regain normal function, experience minimal complications, and have no need for long-term use of medications following TPLO surgery and rehabilitation.

If you’re concerned about canine cranial cruciate ligament disease in your dog, we encourage you to talk with a Pet Health Veterinarian about your pet’s personalized wellness plan, genetic predisposition, and the preventative measures you can take to reduce your dog’s overall risk of rupture.

homeopathic -pet

What Is Canine Cranial Cruciate Rupture and How Can I Avoid One?

What Is Canine Cranial Cruciate Rupture

What Is a Cranial Cruciate Rupture in Dogs?

A dog’s cranial cruciate ligament is one of the main ligaments supporting the stifle joint (knee). Cranial cruciate rupture occurs when the ligament partially or completely tears. This frequently diagnosed chronic canine condition is called cranial cruciate ligament disease (CrCLD). Like a human’s ACL tear in a dog, a cranial cruciate rupture can be debilitating and extremely painful.

What Causes Cranial Cruciate Rupture in Dogs?

Most often, a combination of factors causes a cruciate tear in a dog. Genetics predispose certain breeds to developing CrCLD. In addition, other risk factors, like age, weight, and overall physical condition put dogs at risk. Plus, 50% of dogs that have a ligament tear in one leg will tear the cranial cruciate ligament in the other leg within six to twelve months of the first rupture.

Signs of Cranial Cruciate Tears in Dogs

CrCLD is a chronic condition in dogs, but the onset of noticeable symptoms often occurs suddenly or acutely. For example, your dog might suddenly hold up his or her affected leg.

Additional signs of an ACL tear in a dog include the following:
Signs of Cranial Cruciate Tears in Dogs

  • Pain
  • Decreased activity
  • Disinterest in play
  • Stiffness
  • Trouble standing up
  • Difficulty jumping to and from the car
  • Limping and lameness
  • Decreased muscle mass (atrophy)
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Swelling on the inside of the leg
  • Popping noise when moving stifle
  • Symptoms seem to improve with rest and worsen with exercise

The signs and symptoms of cranial cruciate ligament disease vary between dogs, but the condition almost always causes pain and dysfunction of the rear limbs.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosing a dog with CrCLD usually requires a physical examination, x-rays, and possible further evaluation with arthroscopy. Physical examination reveals excessive forward motion of the tibia. Although x-rays can’t show an actual tear, they’re taken to rule out other problems and possibly reveal secondary signs of a rupture, such as osteoarthritis or joint fluid in the stifle. Your pet might require sedation to reduce pain and remain calm.

Treating Canine Cruciate Ligament Disease

Most pets, especially larger breeds, require surgical repair to strengthen the joint. Different surgical techniques can be used, including:

  • Lateral fabellar
  • Tibial plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO)
  • Tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA)

Regardless of the type of surgery used, exercise restriction and canine rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) are essential. Following surgery, most pets return to normal function.

How Do I Prevent My Dog from Getting a Cranial Cruciate Rupture?

Dogs with cranial cruciate rupture can be successfully treated, but prevention is always the best medicine! Consider the following ways to reduce your dog’s chances of developing CrCLD.

7 Steps to Preventing Cranial Cruciate Tear in Dogs

1. Avoid Predisposed Breeds

Certain breeds are at high-risk of developing CrCLD due to genetic predisposition. These include:
Keep Your Pet in Shape

2. Manage Weight

Extra weight puts unnecessary stress on joints.

3. Provide Proper Nutrition

Though rare, nutritional deficiencies can increase your pet’s risk. If not already on an AFFCO approved dog food, like a homemade diet, switch your dog to an approved food or consult a veterinary nutritionist.

4. Keep Your Pet in Shape

Avoiding activities for which your pet has not been conditioned and keeping your pet in shape with regular exercise helps prevent all sorts of injuries. “Just like humans are prone to injury when they partake in a vigorous activity without proper training, so are our canine companions,” says Dr. Jessica Pizzillo, DVM, CCRP. “If your pet is normally a couch potato, a lively game of Frisbee or a long strenuous hike may not be in their best interest.”

5. Warm Up and Stretch

Warm up and stretch your dog prior to exercise to prevent injury. Our dog physical therapist can show you some very useful stretches.

6. Manage Related Medical Conditions

Underlying metabolic diseases, like hypothyroidisim or Cushing’s disease, can predispose a pet to developing CrCLD. Long-term steroid administration can weaken ligaments. Precautions should be taken with pets who require these medications.

7. Consider Delaying Your Pet’s Spay or Neuter

Recent studies have shown a possible correlation between early spay and neuter and cruciate disease in pets. There are pros and cons to delaying spay and neuter surgery. So, you should talk with a holistic veterinarian about possibly postponing your pet’s procedure to 14 months of age — especially if your pet’s a predisposed breed.

Give Your Pet Access to the Best Veterinary Care Available with Pet Insurance

Veterinary Care -pet health animal hospital

Preparing you and your pet for unexpected health expenses with comprehensive insurance coverage can help offset the cost of one or possibly multiple surgeries, helping your pet return to normal function as quickly as possible with minimal damage to your bank account.

“The most important recommendation that I give to pet parents,” says Dr. Beerenstrauch, DVM, “is to get pet insurance. Even if you’re doing everything right, a cruciate rupture is often unavoidable because of the genetic predisposition some breeds have to developing the disease.”

Las Vegas Cold Weather Is Harmful To Pets

cold weather in Las VegasResidents of Las Vegas have surely noticed the steep drop in temperatures over the last few weeks.  This cold front has lasted longer than a typical Las Vegas winter and has brought sub-freezing temperatures to the valley for many days in a row.  These temperatures typically drop below freezing overnight and into the morning hours.  Although many people have taken precautions to bring their animals inside during these winter times, even if the pets are typically “outdoor” animals, many have still not taken the extra steps necessary to keep their pet’s safe when the temperatures drop.  Many Las Vegas veterinarians are seeing increases in the amount of frostbite cases to animal’s extremities, as well as other issues that go along with the colder temperatures.  The best way of keeping your pet’s safe over the winter is to bring them inside, and not let them out unsupervised at any time.  If you cannot bring your pets inside with you, at least take extra precautions to keep them safe from the cold.

Provide a shelter.  Always make sure that your pets have a shelter that they can comfortably get inside of during cold weather.  If this structure can be heated, make sure that the heater does not create any dangerous fumes inside the shelter, or that the heater cannot be compromised by rain or snow.  Animals will instinctively seek out warm places to sleep, but older or sicker animals may not be able to find them very well even if they are provided.  It is a good idea to work with your pet to make sure they understand the location of their shelter, and that they can comfortably get in and out of the structure.  Inside the shelter provide blankets or other elements that can help keep the animal warm.  Always remember that even though they have fur, they are just as susceptible to the colder temperatures as you are.  If you feel cold, then they do to.

Make sure there is adequate food and water.  Always remember that water will freeze in cold temperatures, so it is always a good idea to provide water on a drip system that will not completely freeze if the temperature goes too low.  Also, never store your pet’s food in metal containers or bowls as these can cause an animal’s tongue to stick if the temperature is low enough.  Every year, veterinarians in Las Vegas see cases of animals who have torn skin from their tongue attempting to remove it from being stuck to a metal food bowl left outside.  This can cause extreme pain and bleeding.

Protect from frostbite. Even though Las Vegas is generally a warmer climate, our winters go below freezing very often.  Make sure that your pet is not getting frostbitten on their body extremities like their paws, tail, nose or ears.  These areas of your pet are just as susceptible to frostbite as your fingers and toes.  Many people think that animals skin is tougher than human beings, but nothing is further from the truth.  If your pet becomes frostbitten, get them to the nearest veterinarian immediately.

Lower temperatures means additional dangers for pets left outside, and it is always the suggestion to make sure that even outdoor animals are brought into a heated area during times of extreme cold.  It’s cold out there Las Vegas, bring those furry friends inside!

“Kissing Bugs” and Chagas Disease in Dogs

Kissing BugsOver the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion on the internet about American Trypanosomiasis Parasitic Infection that is brought on by the bite of a parasitic insect known as the “Kissing Bug.” While this disease is far more common in areas like South American, there have been cases of infection reported recently in roughly all of the states in the southern region of the United States. While this is getting widespread attention, it is worth noting that this parasitic infection has actually only been noticed in about 25 human cases since the fifties, and there is speculation that all of those cases were actually a result of travel outside of the US. The bites from the “kissing bug” draw blood and also transfer the parasites into the hosts bloodstream, causing a variety of problems including potential death. While this is certainly news, far less discussion is happening regarding that this type of infection is far more common in dogs in the US. The condition is called Chagas disease, and it is an illness caused by the zoonotic protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, contracted through a variety of manners including a blood transfusion. Once the parasite multiplies and eventually ruptures out into the blood circulation, it spreads to various organs including the brain and heart. Chagas disease is commonly associated with sudden inflammation of the heart muscle. Chagas disease is typically in in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia, California, New Mexico, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland. Recently there have been cases reported in nearly every state in the southern half of the US. If you find a suspected kissing bug in your home or around your dog’s area, it is important not to kill the insect by squishing it. Instead, trap it in a container while being careful not to be bitten by it, as it is very important for it to be accurately identified by a veterinarian in order to make an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms of Chagas In Dogs

There are two forms of Chagas disease in dogs: acute and chronic. One of the main problems with detection and treatment is a long asymptomatic period (where no symptoms develop), which can last years in some cases. There is a progressive multiplication of the parasite, eventually leading to the degeneration and inflammation of the heart. This heart issue can eventually cause heart failure and death.

Acute Chagas (dogs younger than 2 most typically)
Exercise intolerance
Difficulty walking
Lymph nodes swelling
Increased heart rate
Congestive heart failure

Chronic Chagas (older dogs typically)
Exercise intolerance
Increased heart rate


Chagas may occur when an insect, such as a kissing bug (Triatominae), bites the dog on the skin or lips and leaves infected feces in the wound. It can also occur when a dog eats feces from an infected animal like an opossum, raccoon, and armadillo.


If you notice symptoms of any kind, immediately visit a veterinarian and ask for an examination, as well as an order of a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, serology and an electrolyte panel — essentially the typical procedure for a suspected parasitic infections.

X-Rays can potentially show Chagas issues, and an echocardiogram may show chamber or wall abnormalities. These types of abnormalities are often seen in sudden or chronic forms of the disease.


Typically, supportive treatment of heart complications (e.g., heart arrythmias) is the main way to treat Chagas, as there is no known cure. Although several drugs have shown some promise, there is no valid associated treatment that reverses the symptoms.

Living and Management

Unfortunately the veterinarian may suggest euthanization as a means of preventing suffering due to the grave prognosis associated with chronic Chagas. Dogs diagnosed with acute Chagas are generally listed as “guarded” meaning that there is a poor prognosis and a general expectation of failure over time.

Is pet wellness care like human programs?

Many years ago, doctors figured out that preventing many illnesses and diseases in humans involved changing your lifestyle, eating habits and regularity with which you are examined by a medical professional. Read more

We Know Your Breed

When many people adopt their new pet, they are looking for something specific. This does not necessarily mean that they are seeking a specific breed of animal (although many people are) but instead perhaps they are seeking a type of pet, small, large, active, furry etc. When they shop for their pet or go to their local shelter to adopt, they are seeking an animal that fits into a certain type, and is probably a type of breed as a result. Even mixed-breed dogs and cats still have the genetic traits of major breeds, giving them a look, temperament, size and all of the potential health issues that accompany that breed. Pet Health Animal Hospital employs a unique method of providing care for your pet, including both ongoing care as well as preventative maintenance. These wellness programs employ standard veterinary schedules for vaccinations and checkups that are specific for your type of pet, but go further by also addressing your pet’s breed and health condition in order to also put into place preventative steps to stop the spread of common ailments in your type of pet. These “breed specific” types of procedures come from years of experience and knowledge of working with specific breeds, as well as knowing what to look for. Only Pet Health Hospital uses this unique system of wellness care, as it was developed and produced by the veterinarians at our clinic.

At Pet Health Hospital, we know your breed of pet. We have decades of experience working with animals of all different types, and have worked extensively with all breeds of cats and dogs. Your particular pet has unique features and needs with regards to medical care, and we have seen them all before. Only the most experienced veterinarians can claim this level of understanding of your particular pet, and we have the experience you have been seeking. There are unique elements that make pitbulls different than pugs, and only someone who has worked with both those breeds for many years is going to know exactly what to look for, and what may be the issues to try and prevent. As an example, pugs and German shepherds are both prone to having hip problems, but they are very different breeds of dog. If your pug starts to have difficulty walking on their hind legs, there may be a hip issue that is common in their breed that we can treat. Only the experience of working with that particular breed is going to give you the best treatment plan for your pet.

Our breed specific care is based upon our ongoing idea that preventing illnesses and maladies that are common in animals is as simple as knowing what to look for and taking steps to prevent it from happening. By understanding that some dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion than others, we can prescribe exercises that are beneficial to your dog based upon the breed, and not just based upon the fact that they are a dog. Come in to our clinic today and ask about our breed specific care.

Pet Breed Specific Care

Pet Health Animal Hospital is a different kind of pet medical facility. We were founded on the idea that if we can prevent an illness or disease in an animal using minimal cost vaccinations and exams, it is better Read more