Did you know….Cats are also at risk for Heartworm Disease?

Most of us are familiar with heartworm disease in dogs, but did you know that our feline companions are also at risk? The life cycle of the heartworm is essentially the same in dogs and cats. It all starts with a single innocuous bite from an infected mosquito that transmits a microscopic worm (microfilaria) into their bloodstream. Over the next several months those tiny worms grow up into adult heartworms and make their home in the unsuspecting animal’s heart.

Cats, in contrast to dogs, are more resistant to contracting heartworm infection. That said, testing for the disease in cats is unreliable prior to crisis, clinical signs are minimal, and, upon infection, there is no safe treatment.  An adult worm can live undetected by the cat’s immune system for years. Upon death of that worm, that camouflage is lost, resulting in a severe immune reaction and the production of a clot in a highly sensitive area of the body which often leads to sudden and unexpected death.

I was inspired to write this blog in response to a particular case that came to my attention a few months ago.  My husband is a veterinary pathologist (a pathologist studies the cause and effect of disease in the body and can sometimes help diagnose disease in the case of an unexplained death).  He was called to perform a post-mortem exam on a presumed healthy, four year old local cat who had suddenly died. According to her owners, she was fine until they noticed her cough up a significant amount of blood and then she passed away before they could even get her to the emergency hospital.  When my husband did the examination he found one, single, dead heartworm in her heart. She had no other signs of disease. A sudden death like this feels traumatic and I felt terrible for this kitty’s family. Heartworm disease in cats is not on many of our radars, here in Colorado, and this particular kitty spent most of her time indoors!  In honor of this kitty, I resolved to get the word out to our clients about the risks of heartworm disease, in Colorado, in dogs AND cats.

The best news is that heartworm disease is TOTALLY PREVENTABLE.  It is not always easy to get our kitties to take oral medication (understatement of the year) and so we have a new product we are excited to carry at Westside Animal Hospital.  Bravecto Plus is a topical product that prevents heartworm disease, fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites – and you only have to apply it every 2 months. For our pups we are still relying on our monthly oral heartworm prevention chewable treat, Milbegard, and you can combine it with a topical application of Bravecto every 3 months to add protection from fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites.  Heartworm season in Colorado is April/May through September/October but for those of you that travel throughout the year it is best to use prevention year-round. Let us know how we can help you prevent heartworm disease in your dog or cat.

Authored by Dr. Kelly Hutchison



What is Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy?

Colorado Springs Dog on Mat

How can it help my pet?

In a nutshell, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) uses electrical fields to stimulate the cellular release of molecules that play a variety of essential roles in decreasing pain, improving blood flow and counteracting inflammation. Additionally, PEMF therapy supports new blood vessel formation, tissue regeneration, and tissue remodeling, all of which are essential to the overall healing process. In human medicine, PEMF therapy is now being used to stimulate bone and tissue healing, to counteract inflammation associated with arthritis, and to treat post-operative pain and swelling. Many of the therapeutic effects appreciated by people also carry over to veterinary medicine.

I’ll admit I was initially skeptical when I first heard about this treatment, as it brought to mind memories of recently debunked “magnet therapies.” However, part of my job, as a certified canine rehabilitation therapy veterinarian, is to remain open-minded (with an appropriate level of scientific skepticism) to any treatment that might improve the lives of my patients. And so, with this in mind, I hit the books to see if I could unravel the mysteries of this new therapy that is quickly becoming a staple tool in the toolbox of many rehab specialists in both the human and veterinary world. I found numerous studies regarding the benefits and uses of PEMF therapy published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and there are currently at least two clinical trials being run by the Mayo Clinic looking to the benefits of this treatment for humans.

PEMF at Westside

I am pleased to announce that Westside Animal Hospital has purchased a PEMF pet bed that we are now incorporating into our rehabilitation and post-surgical protocols. You can now elect to have your pet’s acupuncture or massage treatments performed on a PEMF bed, instead of the standard orthopedic pet bed or massage table, for a minor additional charge. Additionally, you will soon have the option to elect for your pet to recover, post-surgically, on a PEMF bed to stimulate more efficient healing, as well. We are also partnering with Assisi Animal Health so that we can now offer you smaller PEMF devices that you can purchase and use on your pet in the comfort of your own home. I, personally, am incorporating this therapy into many of my rehabilitation therapy sessions, and when you purchase a multi-modal rehabilitation therapy session with me, all the various modality options are included in the price so that I can choose what modalities best serve the healing process for your pet. Please feel free to ask our client service coordinators if this new therapy is an option for your pet.

If you would like more information about the specifics of PEMF therapy in the field of veterinary medicine, please refer to this article from Research in Veterinary Science.

It’s too confusing. How do I pick the best pet food?

If you are like me, you feel bombarded with all the advertisement and recommendations from

so-called experts about how and what to feed your pet. The choices seem limitless; you

can’t turn on the TV, get on the internet, or go into a pet store without feeling judged by what you

are currently feeding or pressured to feed a particular food. It is hard to know what to do!

Here are some basic things to keep in mind when choosing a nutritious pet food:

Don’t stress about the “meal!”

Chicken meal is just ground up chicken (just meat and skin – no by-products) with the water content removed so it has a higher protein content.

Beware of Labels

Product labeled as “premium,” “ultra-premium,” “super-premium,” or “gourmet” are not actually required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients

 “Natural’ does not mean organic

In fact, the label claim “natural” is loosely construed to refer to a lack of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives which are not used in pet food nearly as often as in human food. There are no official rules governing the labeling of “organic” foods for pets at this time.

Not all pet food by-products are bad!

America’s Veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, says, “by-products are basically organ meats—the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, the spleen—rather than being bad, it’s actually the first choice that animals have when they eat. They’re nutritious and they’re palatable.”

Beware of generic ingredients

In general, avoid foods that are not specific in their ingredient list about what animal from which a meal or fat or by-product originated. I prefer not to give pet food companies this much wiggle room, so I would not choose a food that had any of the following in their ingredient list:

■ Meat and bone meal

■ Meat by-product meal

■ Animal by-product meal

■ Animal fat

Here are my basic rules when picking out a nutritious food for your pet:

  • They like it.
  • You can afford it.
  • The first ingredient should be a protein.
  • On the food, your pet has no more than 2 nice, quality bowel movements a day (you can pick it up without it falling apart).
  • On the food, your pet has a healthy, shiny hair coat, is not overweight, and is not gassy.
  • Finally, I do not recommend switching foods, or picking foods with different protein sources regularly as this can cause GI upset and other issues if your pet is diagnosed with a food allergy later in life.
  • If it becomes truly necessary to switch foods, be certain to do it gradually, over the course of about two weeks, increasing the ratio of new food to old which will minimize or prevent GI upset.


Authored by Dr. Kelly Hutchison


Can CBD Oil Help My Pet?

Cannabis, or CBD Oil, is an alternative treatment for a number of conditions in pets as well as people.  According to a recent Colorado State University survey of pet owners, “93% of all respondents favored the use of medical cannabis over some medications” (published in the 2016 Journal of the American Holistic Association).

CBD oil is an effective option to prescription medications with none of the common side effects such as kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal impact.  It works by interacting with receptors in the body that control conditions such as pain, nausea, inflammation, and anxiety.

NOTE: The CBD found in veterinary approved products is derived from industrial hemp and contains little or no THC (the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects – or “high” – of marijuana)

Can CBD oil help my pet? Conditions that potentially benefit from the use of CBD oil:

– Osteoarthritis pain relief

– Age-related changes in behavior including sleep/wake cycle disturbances, excessive vocalization and neediness, and some repetitive behaviors

– Seizures

– Inflammation

– Anxiety and noise phobias (thunderstorms, fireworks)

– Nausea/inappetence

– Muscle spasms

– Anti-cancer activity

– Skin & Gastrointestinal conditions that are inflammatory in nature

– End of life considerations

Why spend more for a product that is approved/recommended by your Veterinarian?

With the recent surge in popularity, CBD oil has become readily available, however, there is a huge difference in quality and concentration of products with little or no regulation. In order to ensure you are giving you pet a high quality product at an appropriate dose for their condition, it is critical to consult your veterinarian for a suitable product recommendation.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for Cannabinoid. The definition of Cannabinoid is: “any chemical compound that interacts with receptors throughout the body and can be divided into three main categories” which are:


– Produced in cellular membranes throughout the body on an as-needed basis (known as the endocannabinoid system)


– Found in plants (e.g. marijuana, hemp, Echinacea) and that interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system


– Compound made by pharmaceutical companies or illicit labs that interact with receptors in the endocannabinoid system




Can Acupuncture Help my Pet?

dog getting acupuncture




Dogs and cats with a variety of diseases and conditions may greatly benefit from adding veterinary medical acupuncture to their treatment regimen. Acupuncture can do so much more than just reduce muscle pain. By treating points known to stimulate specific nerves, a certified veterinary medical acupuncturist can even affect immune and organ function. In human medicine, acupuncture has been used with great success for centuries to treat a variety of medical disorders.

Here are some common conditions in animals that may benefit from acupuncture:

  • Geriatric conditions, such as anxiety, sleep disorders, decreased appetite, pain, and incontinence
  • Musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis pain, intervertebral disc disease, hip dysplasia, traumatic injuries (including ligament tears)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, such as decreased appetite, constipation and diarrhea
  • Common diseases, such as kidney failure, Cushing’s, Addison’s, and both hyper and hypothyroidism
  • Cancer, in conjunction or in place of chemotherapy or radiation
  • Allergies and other skin diseases, including lick granulomas and ear infections
  • Neurologic Conditions, such as compressed discs or degenerative myelopathy
  • Post-surgical pain control and rehabilitation, such as after TPLO surgery

Acupuncture works with your pets’ own body to promote and facilitate healing. It is not uncommon, especially in older dogs or dogs with multiple issues, to have the desired effect of a medication outweighed by how it could negatively affect other disease processes in the body. These dogs, especially, can benefit from acupuncture.

Often owners are concerned that their anxious pet would not be a good candidate for acupuncture. On the contrary, for most pets the overall experience is not scary at all. In fact, most dogs and cats come to love and look forward to their treatments. We are proud to offer veterinary medical acupuncture at Westside Animal Hospital. Please contact us and let us know how we can help your beloved companion.

Authored by Dr. Kelly Hutchison


Living Longer by Taking Care of Those Precious Teeth

Living Longer By Taking Care of Those Precious Teeth


It has been said by veterinary dental specialists that if you brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth regularly that they will live to 17 or 18 years old.  If you don’t your pet may only live until around age 12.  Though that may not always be true, the principal is that regular dental care will extend both the quality and life span of your pet and prevent many future diseases.

Approximately 85% of dogs over 4 years of age have incurable periodontal disease.  It can be controlled and prevented by doing the following things:

  • Brush your pet’s teeth regularly. Brushing daily is best but every other day is still very effective.  Start as a puppy to get them used to having a toothbrush in their mouth.  Use a child’s soft bristle toothbrush or a dog specific brush available at veterinary clinics and pet supply stores.
  • Feed a diet specific for preventing plaque and tartar accumulation. We specifically recommend Hills t/d diet.  The tooth actually embeds into the fabric of the kibble, before it breaks apart, which then flosses the tooth.  It is very effective if used daily. To economize, it can be mixed with their regular diet.
  • See your veterinarian regularly. Examining the teeth for disease, fractures and looseness is just the start.  The gums are examined for painful inflammation, infection, injuries, and tumors/cancer.  The tongue and palate are also examined for stomatitis and other diseases.
  • Have your dog’s or cat’s teeth cleaned and polished regularly. Remember, having your pet’s teeth cleaned yearly is like us having our teeth cleaned every 6 to 7 years.  That’s a long time!  During the prophy, the teeth are charted and probed for periodontal pockets, x-rayed for tooth root infection and abscesses, cleaned on both the tooth surface and under the gums, and finally the teeth are polished to slow the re-accumulation of tartar.

Follow these four steps and your pet will likely live longer and be more vital during his or her lifetime.


Authored by Dr. Peter De Waal

My dog tore its Cranial Cruciate Ligament, now what?

Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCL) injury is the most common orthopedic (bone, muscle, or joint) injury in dogs.  It is equivalent to a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in a person.  The treatment for a dog’s torn CrCL can be highly effective, and in many cases your pet can return to totally normal function.  It is important to address the injury right away because inflammation and arthritis develop very rapidly after this injury.

About the injury

The Cranial Cruciate Ligament is critically important in keeping the knee stable for every activity your dog does.  When the ligament is torn, small amounts of abnormal movement occur within the joint, placing tremendous strain on tissues in the knee.  Consequences often include arthritis, injury to the meniscus (cartilage pad in the center of the joint), and significant pain.  For these, and many other reasons, it is very important to seek rapid evaluation and early treatment.  Most dogs injure their CrCL in early to mid-adulthood, with many years of active life ahead of them.

What to do in case of injury

There are many treatment options.  First, it is critical to have a thorough examination to assess the injury and discuss individualized treatment options.  Depending on the patient and the severity of injury, non-surgical therapies may be effective.  Joint health supplements and anti-inflammatory and/or pain medications will help.  In many cases, surgery may ultimately become necessary to stabilize the knee, provide comfort, and allow for return to normal activity.  Because of space limitations, we will focus on surgical treatment, which is the most common recommendation.

Surgical recommendations

Because this is such a common injury, there have been numerous studies on the effectiveness of various surgical methods have been tried.  Currently the “gold standard,” or best-yet method, is a surgery called a TPLO.  TPLO stands for Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy.  The surgery requires individual measurements of each patient and the surgery is customized to each individual.  Ultimately instead of attempting to replace the ligament, TPLO uses physics and the dog’s own anatomy to minimize the abnormal movement in the knee.  In this way the constant inflammation and pain is eliminated.  TPLO surgery has proven very successful.  It can even prevent or stop the progression of arthritis in many patients.

Outcome and expectations

Like any surgery, post-operative recovery requires a period of healing before they can have normal activity.  In the case of TPLO, recovery is around 6-8 weeks, followed by a gradually increase in activity.  After recovery, there are not any restrictions on level of activity.  Unlike some other surgical repair methods, TPLO provides a permanent stability, and repeat surgeries are quite rare.

In Summary…..

Your pet’s comfort and quality of life are some of the most important factors we consider during discussions and recommendations.  We take great pride in trying to maximize those and other factors with you.  We aim to provide the very best treatments and care possible.


New Puppy? Here’s What To Do!

Top 10 Things To Do For Your New Puppy

Bringing a new puppy home can be overwhelming, whether this is your first time, or tenth.  Here are the top 10 things to do for your new puppy:

  1. Choose the Right Food to feed. The choices out there are overwhelming these days, so the best thing you can do is to forget about all the fads.  There’s a good chance that your pup is not going to be a gluten-intolerant vegetarian that needs only limited ingredients to survive.  Stick with puppy food from reputable name brands (such as Science Diet, Iams) that know what they are doing; ask your vet instead of relying on advertising or TV to tell you what’s best.


  1. Kennel Training or “sleep with me” training. There is no perfect scenario here, since I’ve done both with good results.  The positive thing about kennel training is after the first three days, the puppy actually enjoys going in it, seeing the kennel as their safe place or den. Then, they can be left in the kennel when you are gone – no tearing up shoes and sofa!


  1. Take your new puppy to the Veterinarian. An exam is crucial to uncovering any congenital problems, and just as important, you can ask all the questions you want and feel confident that the answers are accurate.


  1. Get them Vaccinated and Dewormed. Just because the breeder or the internet told you that certain vaccines will kill your dog doesn’t make it true.  Believe it or not, there are reasons to vaccinate, including protection against some very bad diseases and helping to build your puppy’s immune system.


  1. Finding the right Toys and Chews. I recommend starting with numerous different types of toys and chews to find the ones they really like and don’t tear up too quickly.  For chews, rawhides are okay as long as they don’t have knots on the end to choke on. ALWAYS monitor your pup with toys, and especially all types of chews.


  1. Figure out how much Puppy and Potty Training your little one needs. This is where I approve online research for information and suggestions for different tricks that may work for different pups.  Most of the training is for you instead of the dog.


  1. Start getting your puppy plenty of Exercise and Socialization. Even before their full set of shots, you can walk your dog and set up play dates with dogs and humans (and even cats) that you know and trust are disease-free.  The first 6 months are crucial to their social structure and health; the walks and play help create a bond between you that will never be broken.


  1. Puppy Proof your house and yard. This usually means picking up stuff after they put it in their mouth, but making sure that they can’t get into the trash (kitchen and bathroom), or anything else (shoes and remotes) is essential.


  1. Play Doctor at home. You don’t realize how much easier your life will be later on if you start playing with ears, feet, and teeth.  The more you touch and love on your puppy now, the easier it will be when it’s time to medicate them as they grow older and smarter.


  1. Spay or Neuter your dog. I don’t want to go all Bob Barker on you, but if you will not be breeding you dog, there is no reason NOT to have them fixed.  This is another area where I want you to listen to your vet and not the breeder or internet.  We see many health problems resulting from not spaying/neutering pets, and want to make sure that your puppy is healthy and happy for a long time to come.


Authored by Dr. Roman Dye


Top 10 Signs Your Older Dog is Painful

Has your furry best friend been slowing down?  Here are the top 10 signs your older dog is painful:olderdog

  1. They aren’t as playful as they used to be/they sleep all the time.
  2. They don’t get up in their favorite chair anymore.
  3. They hesitate before following your command when you ask them to sit.
  4. They are slow to rise after lying/sitting.
  5. They are less patient with the kids or just seem grumpier than usual.
  6. They slide around or don’t seem as steady on the wood/vinyl flooring.
  7. They don’t hold their tail up high anymore – it often seems to be tucked.
  8. One or both of their back legs shakes when they are at a standstill.
  9. They avoid the stairs or bunny hop (use both back legs at the same time) when they go up or down the stairs.
  10. They look like a body-builder from the front and a ballerina from the back (i.e. bulked up front leg/shoulder muscles and skinny hip/back leg muscles from slowly shifting their weight forward over time).

Dogs rarely cry out in pain unless they are feeling acute, severe pain (such as with a traumatic accident).  Instead, they adjust their behavior to allow them to continue to do their favorite things until they can no longer make further adjustments.  This is why we often miss seeing that our best friend is in pain. When a person limps, it is obvious, because we only have two legs.  When a dog feels pain it is much harder to tell they are not bearing weight normally.  Over time what I see as a veterinarian is asymmetric muscling (one thigh muscles is much bigger than the other or the front limbs are much more muscled than the back limbs).

The goal of pain control in animals is to keep them moving for as long as possible, both for their mental and physical health.  Studies show that regular exercise is the best pain control and animals who move more tend to live longer.

We have so many more options for pain control today than we had twenty years ago, ranging from nutritional supplements, injectable joint supplements, pain medications, therapeutic laser, massage, acupuncture, and other canine rehabilitation techniques.  Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you think your canine companion is experiencing discomfort and we will be happy to develop a personalized pain control plan that works best for you, your dog and your lifestyle.

Authored by Dr. Kelly Hutchison




Image result for itchy dog

Skin allergies or atopic dermatitis is a genetically inherited, recurrent, pruritic (itchy) skin disease.  It is caused by environmental allergens, most commonly pollen. The average age of onset is 1 to 3 years old but can begin at any age.

The clinical signs that a dog will exhibit include mild to severe pruritic ears, face, feet and underside of chest and abdomen.  Secondary skin and ear infections are very common.  The most common cause of ear infections (otitis externa) are inhalant pollen allergies.  Sometimes a seasonal occurrence is observed.

The diagnosis is made by excluding other diseases that cause pruritus such as mange, fleas, lice, food allergies, contact allergies, drug reactions and folliculitis.  Skin or blood allergy testing can be done to support the diagnosis.

Treatment of allergic skin disease has many different possibilities.  Hyposensitization (allergy shots) is 60 to 80 percent effective, requires giving shots at home, and can take up to 1 year to see beneficial results.  Other treatments include anti-histamines, Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils), anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisolone and cyclosporine, or the newest drug that blocks allergies called Apoquel.  Occasionally topical sprays are used to help alleviate the itchiness.

Allergic skin disease is a life-long disease and requires long-term management. Recheck exams are warranted to control secondary infections, control parasites and minimize flare-ups.

Authored by Peter De Waal, D.V.M.