The veterinarians and staff at the Irving Pet Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

VIDEO: Feline Heartworm

Dog owners are well aware of the threat of heartworm disease, but many pet owners would be shocked to know that their cats are in danger as well. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and are capable of infecting cats in addition to dogs. Unfortunately, our cats rarely show physical signs of this infection and are more likely to die due to their body’s reaction to the parasite. The good news is that your veterinarian can help you prevent this deadly feline disease.

Cats are abnormal hosts to heartworms and these heartworms will live shortened lives. You might think that this is a good thing but, heartworms actually can cause more serious and severe disease in cats than they do in dogs. It is not unusual for a dog to live for years with 50 worms in their heart. But a cat with a single heartworm can die suddenly, often with no apparent clinical signs whatsoever. In addition, your “inside only” kitty is just as susceptible as the outdoor tomcat. Watch this video to learn more.

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Study Suggests Dog Ownership Reduces Asthma Risk

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that the presence of household dogs may help reduce the risk of asthma developing in children. Scientists found that exposing mice to dust from homes with dogs changed the composition of gut microbes significantly in the mice. The mice were then exposed to common allergens, and the findings show that mice that had been exposed to the dust from homes with dogs had fewer allergic reactions than mice exposed to dust from homes without.

According to Susan Lynch, an associate professor in the division of gastroenterology at the University of California and the senior author of the study, the presence of dogs in a home may allow the GI tract to be inoculated, and lead to a more mature immune response. The findings, she said, are consistent with previous research based on human observations, and are likely to apply to people. Dr. Lynch hopes the study could lead to the development of microbial based therapies to prevent asthma and other allergies.

VIDEO: Warming Weather May Bring Pesky Parasites

Most pet owners know that the return of springtime temperatures will also hasten the return of itching and scratching due to fleas. What many owners don't know is that besides the irritation, fleas can also spread numerous serious diseases and parasites such as tapeworms. Although fleas seem to hold an upper hand, your veterinarian can help you win the battle against these pests. Watch this video to learn more.

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Researches Warn Against Raw Meat Diets for Pets

A new study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association cautions pet owners against raw meat-based diets, saying that the diet may “lack nutritional balance and cause illness.” The study notes that, while many who feed their pets a raw meat-based diet believe it is a more natural option for cats and dogs, there are significant risks involved.

Researchers noted that raw meat-based diets often do not provide adequate nutrition for pets, and can carry food-borne illnesses, which have proved fatal in some cases. In one case, salmonella was found in 48% of raw meat-based diets. The researchers ultimately concluded that, in the case of raw meat-based diets, “the risks outweigh any minimal benefits.”

VIDEO: Modern Veterinary Anesthesia

Do you worry whenever your pet might need surgery? Of course you do...the Internet is full of all sorts of information about the dangers your beloved animal might face when under anesthesia. But, how true is that? Are pets dying every day while undergoing routine spays, neuters and other procedures? Watch this video to see the real story and understand how veterinarians and animal hospitals are working hard to make sure that your four legged friend's surgery goes smoothly and safely!

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TV for Dogs

Does Spot give you those same sad puppy eyes every morning that you leave for work?

DogTV may have just the trick. DogTV is the first cable network to deliver programming specifically designed for dogs, 24 hours a day. The shows typically consist of three to six minute programs of grassy fields, bouncing balls, or people rubbing down their dog’s bellies. Each of the shows are scientifically designed to appeal to the needs and senses of dogs, ultimately delivering images that provide similar levels of distraction and pleasure that we find in our own TV shows.

Can I have your attention?

Although there is still controversy on the true impact and effect of these doggy channels, the fact that many dogs are staying amused by the programming is enough to peak many pet owner’s interests. However, just as you wouldn’t raise your kids entirely in front of a TV screen, a similar line of thinking holds true for your dogs. Nothing can replace the quality care and time you give to Fido in the backyard, but DogTV may provide just the help you need for those sad morning moments.

The Good and the Bad of Hepatitis C Discovery in Dogs

First, the bad news: Researchers have discovered a hepatitis C-like virus in dogs. Now, the good news: this discovery could lead to important new research and development on the causes of the virus in humans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 200 million people are affected by hepatitis C worldwide, with over 3 million infections in the United States alone. New research reveals that our fury friends may be both the reason and the cure.

Hepatitis C

The discovery of the virus in dogs marks the first time a hepatitis-like infection has ever been detected in non-human primates. Such a discovery gives researchers hope that there is much more to be uncovered and understood about the evolution of the virus, and ultimately, its prevention and cure. The new studies also indicate that the virus could have been introduced to humans centuries ago through contact with dogs or other similar species. But don’t worry, there is currently no proof or risk that dogs can infect humans with the virus today – only that they could lead in the hepatitis discoveries of tomorrow.

Cats May Offer Clues for HIV Vaccine

Researchers in Jacksonville have discovered a link between feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that may be a key to developing a vaccine for HIV. Janet Yamamoto, a professor of immunology at the University Of Florida College Of Veterinary Medicine, recently discovered a protein in the FIV virus triggers an immune response in blood from HIV-infected people.

Cats May Offer Clues for HIV Vaccine

Yamamoto, who discovered the first FIV vaccine in 2002, said that the possible HIV vaccine will need to be tested in two animals before it can be tested on humans; monkeys will likely be the next test subject. Provided animal testing goes well, the vaccine could be tested on humans within the next five years. “We can use those animals as a model,” Yamamoto explained, adding that monkeys and cats cannot transmit the disease to humans.

Bird Flu Outbreak Spreads To 16 States

A recent bird flu outbreak has sickened millions of birds, but officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the risk to humans and other animals is minimal. The outbreak began in December 2014 and has continued to spread. Health officials in Iowa, the top egg-producing state in the US, say that more than 5 million chickens would need to be euthanized after the virus was detected at a large commercial poultry facility.

While some humans have been sickened by another strain of the virus in the past, there are no cases of the strain responsible for this outbreak infecting humans, and the CDC says the risk for humans is low. This virus does not spread through consumption of poultry products.

Although the risk is minimal, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Avoid wild birds and avoid contact with domestic birds that appear ill or have died
  • If you have had contact with infected birds, monitor your own health for conjunctivitis or flu-like symptoms, and see a doctor if these symptoms appear

If you would like more information about bird flu, talk to your veterinarian.

April is Heartworm Awareness Month

Pets and their people love being outside in the summertime - and so do mosquitoes. Because mosquitoes are the most common carriers of heartworm disease, keeping pets up to date on preventive heartworm treatments during mosquito season is especially important.

Heartworms are exactly that—large worms that live in the hearts of cats and dogs. Known as Dirofilaria Immitis, heartworms are long, spaghetti-like worms that range in size from 6 to 10 inches. Heartworms are almost always transmitted by mosquitoes. A mosquito bites an infected dog or cat; that mosquito picks up microfilariae, a microscopic version of the heartworm. When that mosquito bites your dog or cat, the heartworm microfilariae are transmitted to him / her. Within 70 to 90 days, the microfilariae make it to your pet's heart and, once mature, begin reproducing. The cycle then begins again.

Cycle of heartworm transmission / reproduction

Heartworm disease cycle.

Signs of heartworm disease in pets vary based on the age and species of the pet and the number of worms present. Because the worms are usually located on the right side of the heart and lung, coughing and shortness of breath are common signs in both dogs and cats. Dogs that have just acquired the disease may have no signs, while dogs with a moderate occurrence of the disease may cough and show an inability to exercise. In extreme cases, dogs may experience fainting, weight loss, fever, abdominal swelling and death. In cats, the symptoms of heartworm disease are similar to those of feline asthma, including coughing and shortness of breath. Some cats may exhibit no signs of the disease, while others may suddenly die.

When it comes to preventing heartworm disease, pet owners have a number of options. Before beginning preventive medication, pet owners should have their pets tested for the presence of heartworms. If heartworms are present, a treatment plan should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Most heartworm prevention is done by administering your pet a once-a-month heartworm preventive medication. Many of these monthly products are administered as a chewable treat. Some are combined with other preventive medications. Your veterinarian will recommend the product that is best suited for your pet.

If you would like to have your pet tested for heartworm or you would like additional information about the disease, please call the hospital.

Lyme Disease: Seven Myths You Should Know

Lyme Disease: Seven Myths You Should Know

April is Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month.

It is important to understand the risks your pet faces when it comes to ticks. Common misconceptions can lead pet owners to avoid the right preventative measures needed to protect beloved pets from Lyme disease. Here are a few persistent myths dispelled:

Myth 1: I don't live in a wooded area, so my pet can't get ticks.

Even if your pet doesn’t play in wooded areas and places with high grass or brush where ticks are commonly found, ticks are actually able to live their entire life cycle within your home. Woodpiles near or inside your home provide the perfect environment for ticks to survive. Small rodents such as mice can also transport the ticks indoors. Even if ticks don't make their way into your home, they can still live in low grass and trees—such as the back yards of most suburban homes.

Myth 2: I haven't seen any ticks on my pets, so they aren't at risk.

Often ticks are only easily visible on your pets once they're engorged. However, the tick's life cycle includes the larva and nymph stages where they're not as easily noticed. Even when adult ticks have been removed, they may have already laid eggs on your pets, continuing the tick infestation.

Myth 3: I've only found a few ticks on my pet, so I'm sure he's fine.

You can be diligent about checking for and removing ticks, but it still only takes one tick bite for a pet to contract Lyme disease. When you find ticks on your pet, there's a good chance the pet has had other ticks that you have missed.

Myth 4: I apply a flea and tick preventive to my pet monthly, so I don't need to worry about Lyme disease.

No prevention medication is 100 percent effective. Talk to us about your pet's habits and environment, and we can discuss whether you need to take additional steps to prevent Lyme disease.

Myth 5: During the colder seasons, I don't need to worry about applying flea and tick prevention.

Because most insect populations decrease once cold weather sets in, you might assume ticks will follow suit. In reality, ticks are much hardier—and their population can increase during the fall season. Ticks can also survive through the entire winter even when frozen in the ground. For the best protection, continuously apply preventives throughout the year, including the colder months.

Myth 6: My pet was treated for Lyme disease, so now she's cured.

Once your pet is diagnosed with Lyme disease, an antibiotic is usually prescribed. Do not assume that once the antibiotic course is finished, the Lyme disease is cured and your pet is no longer at risk of experiencing Lyme disease symptoms. It can take multiple courses of an antibiotic to successfully treat Lyme disease. Any pet diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease should be routinely screened for tick-borne diseases every year.

Myth 7: My pet has already contracted Lyme disease, so he can't receive a Lyme disease vaccination.

Pets that have been treated for Lyme disease run the risk of reinfection, so it's important to continue applying preventives and check pets for ticks. Another preventive measure is to have your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease. Although there are more benefits to giving the vaccine before exposure occurs, the vaccination will help prevent reinfection.

Guinea Pig Care

Guinea Pig Diet

Depending upon their health, guinea pigs need 60-100mg of Vitamin C per day. Vitamin C can be added to fresh water daily. (Do not use a multi-vitamin.)


  • 80-85 percent of the diet should be hay. Pregnant or nursing females and young pigs (less than four months old) should have alfalfa hay for extra calcium. All others should have Timothy hay (Avoid Calcium)
  • 10-15 percent of the diet should be pellets. No additives such as seeds, dried fruits, oats, etc. Pregnant or nursing females and young pigs (less than four months old) should have alfalfa-based pellets. All others should have Timothy-based pellets (Oxbow Cavy Cuisine)
  • 5-10 percent of diet should be fresh fruits and vegetables—see list:
Food SourceVit. C(mg) in 1 cupFood SourceVit. C(mg) in 1 cup
Red Pepper450Broccoli Leaves120
Turnip Greens* 260Cauliflower100
Mustard Greens*252Broccoli Florets87
Dandelion Greens200Tomato87
Green Pepper195Spinach*75
Brussels Sprouts173Raspberries60
Collard Greens*140Cabbage50
Zucchinis39Swiss Chard42

*These foods are high in calcium, so it might be best to choose others

Guinea Pigs as pets

Guinea Pigs, also known as cavies, are small herbivores that originate in South America. When socialized as young animals, they bond to their human families and make wonderful pets. Guinea pigs rarely bite, making them good pets even for younger children. In our homes, these friendly animals can live for four to eight years.

There are different breeds of guinea pigs. Peruvian pigs, known for their long hair, and Abyssinians pigs, known for their swirly hair, are quite common. Cavies come in many different colors and color combinations. Each little pig is unique.

Choosing a Guinea Pig

Make sure that you choose a pet that looks healthy. There should be no discharge from the eyes or nose, and no sneezing or coughing. The coat should have no bald spots or areas of broken hair. The animal should be bright and alert. Choosing a young animal will make it easier for the animal to become comfortable with his new family. After purchasing a new guinea pig, have him/her examined by a veterinarian. This is the ideal time to discuss the pig's health, nutrition, and housing.


Guinea Pigs have a specialized diet of hay, guinea pig pellets, and fresh vegetables. These animals, like people, require daily doses of vitamin C. We recommend about 50mg per day for each pig. A multivitamin is neither necessary nor recommended. Diets high in calcium should be avoided in adult, nonreproductive animals. Excess of this mineral may lead to the formation of bladder stones. Sugary foods should also be avoided, as these may contribute to painful bloating of the intestinal tract. Any diet changes in these animals should be done gradually to avoid significant digestive problems. Over supplementing with fresh produce may cause diarrhea in guinea pigs, a potentially serious problem.


Guinea pigs, being highly social animals, are happiest when they are paired with another guinea pig. Cavies should live in large cages with sides, which allow for good airflow, and solid surface flooring. Wire bottom cages will enhance the likelihood of foot infections known as bumblefoot or pododermatitis. Multiple levels with ramps in between allow for maximum usage of their space. Guinea pigs should always be provided with items to hide under or in when they are frightened. The recommended bedding material is recycled paper, like Carefresh pet bedding. Wood chip litters have been associated with respiratory, and bladder problems in guineas. Water containers, like bowls or sipper bottles, should be washed daily when fresh water is provided to prevent microorganism build up. Cages should be kept clean. Dilute bleach makes a good cleaner and disinfectant. Caution should be taken to be sure cages are rinsed thoroughly and dried well before the animals are put back in.


If males and females are housed together, and babies are not desired, the male should be neutered. If used for breeding, female guinea pigs, also known as sows, should be bred the first time, at less than 6 months of age. First time mothers over this age may be unable to give birth naturally as their pelvis may not open allowing the babies to pass through.

Baby guinea pigs are precocial. This means they are born fully furred with their eyes and ears open and functional. Though they may nurse for up to three weeks, these little ones begin nibbling on regular foods almost immediately.


Guinea Pigs should be brushed using soft bristled brushes or combs. Their nails should be trimmed regularly. Cat nail trimmers work well for this.

Common Medical Problems

  • Respiratory ailments
  • Skin disease: parasites and ring worm
  • Bladder problems: stones and infections
  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Ovarian Cysts
  • Digestive problems: bloat, diarrhea, intestinal twisting, decreased motility, obstructions
  • Dental issues

It is important to establish a relationship with a cavy savvy veterinarian. This way, if the pet becomes ill, you'll know where to go. As for any pet, an annual physical exam is recommended. Careful observation of these pets allows for the understanding of normal behaviors, which permits the rapid identification of problems. Remember that these are prey animals who will go to great lengths to hide signs of illness.


Call your veterinarian immediately if you see:

  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • A decrease in, or lack of, appetite
  • Abnormal discharge from eyes or nose
General Bird Care Tips

Owning a bird can be an extremely rewarding experience. There are keys to a successful relationship that, if followed properly, allow for a mutually beneficial companionship that can last for decades. Birds have particular needs that must be met in order for them to remain happy and healthy. An extremely important need is housing. Here are some guidelines to follow when thinking about how to house your bird properly.

While caging your bird in the house may at first seem cruel, consider the surroundings. Pet birds may be allowed to remain on perches while you are home to supervise their activity, but they should be confined to cages while you are away to avoid accidental injury and other potential mishaps. Trouble is very often the result of unsupervised birds. Not only can your bird be terribly destructive to your belongings (furniture, decorations, etc.), but all homes contain objects that can be both directly and indirectly harmful to birds. Mirrors, windows, walls, house plants, electrical cords and items containing harmful chemicals are all general hazards. Birds resting on perches are usually happy to stick around; however, if frightened by a loud noise or sudden movement, these unexpected flights can cause your bird to crash into a wall, door, window or mirror because of its confusion.

Cages can keep your bird out of harm's way.

Helpful Bird Care Information

  • The major source of poisoning of pet birds is lead. Found in random places (curtain weights and/or pulls, leaded and stained glass, fishing sinkers, ammunition, costume jewelry), many caged birds seem to have an affinity for this soft metal and love to chew on it. Unfortunately, even a small amount can lead to poisoning, if ingested. Lead poisoning can be successfully treated if diagnosed early enough.

  • Caged birds allowed unrestricted freedom in the home may eat house plants or chew on electrical cords, resulting in illness and injury. Some unsupervised pet birds chew on or swallow macrame, carpet, and other similar fabrics, resulting in crop and intestinal impaction.

  • Free-flying birds are vulnerable to injury from ceiling fans and hot stoves, as well as attacks by pet dogs, cats and ferrets sharing the same household. It is wise not to underestimate the aggressiveness of our four-legged friends and to restrict contact between them and pet birds as much as possible.

  • Birds allowed unrestricted freedom and flight within the home may escape through open doors and windows. Most bird owners have the mistaken notion that their bird would never fly away and leave them. Unfortunately, birds that have escaped the owner's home become disoriented easily when outdoors. This confusion makes return or capture of the escaped bird very unlikely.

  • The location of the cage and/or perch in the home is important. Some birds thrive in areas of heavy traffic where they receive lots of attention and are part of the action. Others seem to prefer more privacy and solitude. A pet bird should never be kept in the kitchen. In addition to the obvious gas fumes and occasional smoke from cooking food, there is another, much more dangerous, threat to birds in the kitchen. Super-heated Teflon, and related brand-name non-stick pan coatings, emits fumes that are deadly to all birds. This "accident" happens most often when someone inadvertently leaves a pan coated with a non-stick surface on a lighted gas or electric range burner. The pan becomes hot and the non-stick coating overheats, emitting toxic fumes. Birds that inhale these fumes die quickly.

  • Free-flying birds tend to assume a more dominant posture in their relationship with people, and often become intolerably aggressive.

  • Contrary to popular opinion, drafts are not harmful to healthy pet birds. A draft is really nothing more than a slight movement of air, usually accompanied by a mild temperature drop. A bird's feathers provide insulation against temperature extremes far in excess of what a draft represents. Drafts are usually inconsequential to pet birds. The notable exception to this is the cool and sometimes cold air produced by air conditioners. Most caged birds cannot tolerate the rapid temperature extremes produced by thermostatically controlled air conditioners. For this reason, cages and perches should not be positioned directly beside or beneath air conditioning, heating or ventilation outflows. Sick birds should always be removed from drafty circumstances to prevent heat loss.

  • Covering the bird's cage at night is open to question. Because of the tremendous insulating capacity of feathers, covering a bird's cage at night may not be necessary to protect the bird from cool drafts at night, when the thermostat is usually turned down. The one exception to this would be chilly nights in colder climates. A benefit of covering your bird's cage at night is that it provides a regular period of privacy not usually allowed during the day. Further, it tends to keep the bird quiet in the early morning when it would otherwise become active and vocal. If you now cover your bird's cage at night, continue to do so. If you have not done so in the past and find that your pet bird panics or acts agitated with a cover over its cage, there is no need to continue doing so.

  • The most obvious consideration when selecting a cage is the size of the bird. A factor that often gets overlooked when looking at cages is that these cages will be occupied not only by the bird but also food bowls, perches, toys and whatever else the owner chooses. These objects, while absolutely necessary, dramatically cut down the amount of open space in the cage. Another important determinant is the bird's activity level. You will notice some discrepancies between birds and the size of the cage required. Round cages should not be used. They do not give your pet a point of reference and can lead to psychological problems.
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