Archive for Cat Health

Thinking about pet insurance?

Thinking about pet insurance? Look over the options of companies and use the questions provided to help you choose the best insurance for you and your pet.

Pet insurance questions

Insurance comparisons

Posted in: Cat Health, Dog Health, News, Pet Health, pet insurance, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Easter Safety: Keeping pets safe over the Easter holiday ( Pet Poison Hotline)

Chocolate poisoning occurs during this holiday.  Reminder to keep dogs away from Easter basket goodies. If your pet does ingest chocolate here are the steps to follow immediately. 

What to do if your pet gets poisoned
 Your pet has just injested something toxic. What do you do? First, take a deep breath. The more calm, cool, and collected you are, the sooner you
can seek the correct medical attention. Then get a handle on the situation by taking the following steps:
1. Remove your pet from the area. Make sure no other pets or children are exposed to the area, and safely remove any poisonous material.
2. Check to make sure your pet is breathing normally and acting fine otherwise.
3. Collect a sample of the material, along with the packaging, vial, or container. You’ll need that information to help your veterinarian or a pet poison expert assess the situation.
4. Don’t give your dog any milk, food, salt, oil, or any other home remedies. Doing so will likely complicate the poisoning.
5. Never induce vomiting without talking to your veterinarian or a pet poison expert—doing so may be detrimental or contraindicated. Sometimes,to induce vomiting in dogs, it may be recommended to give hydrogen peroxide. However, hydrogen peroxide won’t help induce vomitingin cats, and stronger veterinary
 prescription medications are necessary to get your cat to vomit up any toxins.
6. Get help. Program your veterinarian’s phone number into your phone, as well as an emergency veterinarian’s number and a pet poison
hotline number. There are two 24-hour hotlines: Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 ($35 per call) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 ($65 per call).
Remember that a pet’s prognosis is always better when a toxicity is reported immediately, so don’t wait to see if your pet becomes symptomatic before calling for help. Calling right away is safer for your pet and could help you save on treatment costs in the long run. Remember that there’s a narrow window of time to decontaminate in cases of poisoning.
Dr. Michelle Russillo

Posted in: Cat Health, Chocolate, Dog Health, pet safety, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Oh, the miserable itch!

Oh, the miserable itch!

Taken from DVM 360

Itchy skin makes your pet miserable—and your pet’s relentless scratching, licking, and chewing can drive you crazy, too. Your pet may have one itchy spot, or he may tickle all over.


When you see your pet buried nose-deep in fur, frantically nibbling his skin, what’s the first thing you think of? Fleas, of course—and for a good reason.
Many pets are allergic to flea saliva and develop severe itchy reactions to flea bites. Food or inhalant allergies also cause itchy skin. Sarcoptic mange, a highly contagious skin condition of dogs, causes an intense itch accompanied by crusty lesions and hair loss. Pets who spend time outdoors are especially susceptible to ear mites, pesky parasites who take up residence in your pet’s ears, causing a ferocious itch.

What you can do at home

First, examine areas with little hair—like the abdomen and groin—for fleet-footed fleas. You may also find black
specks on his skin that look like pepper—this “flea dirt” is actually flea feces. If you get a glimpse of one of these tenacious parasites, ask your veterinarian about treatments
for your pet and your home. Your pet’s doctor also will recommend a monthly flea preventive to keep those hungry bugs from dining on your pet. If your dog or cat suffers from mildly itchy skin, a lukewarm bath and medicated anti-itch shampoo can ease your pet’s discomfort. If your pet scratches at a small area, you can apply a soothing anti-itch lotion or spray.

When to call the veterinarian

In most cases, you’ll need to take your pet to the veterinarian to diagnose and treat the cause of itching. Don’t delay, because a fierce scratching can damage
your pet’s skin in no time. Often, scratching starts a vicious cycle: ˆ e pet scratches, irritating his sensitive skin. ˆ is leads to more scratching and infection with itchy and painful sores.

What your veterinarian will do

ˆ Thee veterinarian will ask about your pet’s scratching and other symptoms and will perform a physical examination, focusing on the skin. After a flea check, the doctor may take skin scrapings to identify mange mites or an earwax sample to expose ear mites. If the veterinarian suspects ringworm, he or she also may perform a fungal culture. Your pet may need additional skin tests to identify any allergies, depending on the severity of the condition. If your veterinarian suspects your pet is allergic to an ingredient in its food, he or she will recommend an exclusion feeding trial: You simply switch your pet to a special hypoallergenic diet for several weeks to see if he stops scratching. Be sure to follow the feeding trial instructions to the letter.
The veterinarian will not only treat the cause of the itching, he or she may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids to control the scratching. Special shampoos and creme rinses also can help relieve your pet’s itchiness. Once the itch is gone, your pet can focus on more important things—like spending time with you!

Posted in: Cat Health, pet safety, Westminster Veterinary Group

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FAQ PNA Prevention “Is feeding dry food the best way to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats?” – Pet Nutrition Alliance

FAQ PNA Prevention “Is feeding dry food the best way to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats?”



  • No. Unfortunately, there is a lack of long-term research providing evidence that any one method, including a dry dental diet, is “best” for preventing dental disease (i.e. gingivitis, periodontitis).1
  • Dental disease is even more complicated because there isn’t a clear relationship between the amount of plaque and calculus on the teeth and the severity of the gingivitis or periodontitis associated with it.1 Simply, a reduction of plaque and calculus may not result in a significant reduction of gingivitis or periodontitis for dogs and cats.
  • Therefore, mechanical debridement from foods or products that claim to simply reduce plaque or calculus formation cannot guarantee the prevention of dental disease.1
  • Current recommendations:
    • Research shows that tooth brushing is the most effective way to prevent dental disease. It provides mechanical stimulation of the gingiva, which enhances proliferation of fibroblasts and collagen synthesis. Brushing contributes to good dental health by preventing periodontal pocket formation and promoting epithelial attachment.1 Twice-daily brushing shows the greatest benefit in dogs,2 although once-daily brushing in dogs is adequate.3 For cats, there is evidence to suggest that daily tooth brushing reduces gingivitis.4
    • If a pet owner is unable or unwilling to brush their pet’s teeth daily, then it may require a combination of therapeutic strategies to reduce the risk of dental disease.5
      • For dogs: feed diets clinically proven to reduce plaque and calculus development and provide multiple chewing activities.5
      • For cats: feed diets clinically proven to reduce plaque and calculus formation6 and provide chewing activities.1
    • Dental diets may use a number of strategies to reduce dental disease. Mechanisms that might be used  are:
      • Mechanical abrasion
      • Inhibition of calculus formation (i.e. sodium hexametaphosphate-HMP)
      • Antibacterials (sodium ascorbyl phosphate)
      • Plaque retardants
  • Regulation:
    • Foods that claim to cleanse, freshen, or whiten teeth by mechanical action or abrasive action do not need pre-market approval and are permissible by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).7
    • If these types of claims are achieved by any other way (i.e. drugs), they must be approved by the FDA prior to going to market.
  • Options for oral health products:
    • The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) lists pet diets and products which may help in oral health.8 The VOHC provides a current list at


  1. Cave N. Nutritional Management of Gastrointestinal Disease. In: Fascetti AJ, Delaney SJ eds. Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition 1st ed. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012: 188-192.
  2. Yamamoto T, Tomofuji T, Ekuni D, Sakamoto T, Horiuchi M, Watanabe T. Effects of toothbrushing frequency on proliferation of gingival cells and collagen synthesis. J Clin Periodontol. 2004 Jan;31(1):40-4.
  3. Horiuchi M, Yamamoto T, Tomofuji T, Ishikawa A, Morita M, Watanabe T. Toothbrushing promotes gingival fibroblast proliferation more effectively than removal of dental plaque. J Clin Periodontol. 2002 Sep;29(9):791-5.
  4. Ingham KE, Gorrel C, Blackburn JM, Farnsworth W. The effect of toothbrushing on periodontal disease in cats. J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1740S-1S.
  5. Harvey CE, Shofer FS, Laster L. Correlation of diet, other chewing activities and periodontal disease in North American client-owned dogs. J Vet Dent. 1996 Sep; 13(3):101-5.
  6. Vrieling HE, Theyse LF, van Winkelhoff AJ, Dijkshoorn NA, Logan EI, Picavet P. Effectiveness of feeding large kibbles with mechanical cleaning properties in cats with gingivitis. Tijdschr Diergeneeskd. 2005 Mar 1;130(5):136-40.
  7. Association of American Feed Control Officials. 2011 Official Publication. Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. 2011: 144-145.
  8. Helping to Control the Most Common Disease in Dogs and Cats: Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease). Veterinary Oral Health Council Web site. Accessed April 26, 2013.

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Coyote Alert!

Coyote Alert! We are receiving reports of increased coyote sightings, coyote attacks, and dog disappearances from a number of different sources right now including Next Door. Per our prior warning post, we are now in coyote breeding season which lasts from January to early March. Coyotes are more aggressive during the breeding season as they defend their den/home territories against other coyotes, foxes, and, unfortunately, domestic dogs. Recent weather patterns may have also contributed to the increased coyote activity. Please be very careful during this time and keep yourselves, your families, and your pets safe.

Posted in: Cat Health, Dog Health, Exotic Pet Health, News, Pet Health, pet safety, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Tackle Tick Control

By Michelle Russillo

Surprising most people are unaware that ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the number of diseases they transmit. Ticks can live in unfavorable conditions which is why they are so prevalent and a concern for people and pets.

What ticks are found here in California? According to  DVM 360  black-legged tick is found on the Pacific coast and can be found in grassy areas or woodland and warm, sandy areas. Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes Also, 364D rickettsiosis is transmitted to humans by the Pacific Coast tick is a new disease that has been found in California. (SOURCE: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL).

There are ways to lessen ticks on your pets

  1. Inspect pets daily- creased areas like armpits
  2. Keep grass short-Ticks like dark, shady and moist shrubs and grass.
  3. Stack wood in a neat dry place
  4. Discourage wandering wildlife with fencing
  5. Indoor cats do need to be on preventatives because dogs can bring the ticks into the home.

Refrain from killing the tick before removal. Ticks can inject bacteria while being agitated before the kill.  Additionally, tick’s saliva has an anesthetic property so the bite can’t be felt by the host. The best method to remove tick is to go to the veterinarian but if you are unable get to the veterinarian use a tweezer and remove the tick like a splinter

Lastly, pet owners should monitor your pets for ticks and symptoms of illnesses. Tick-borne diseases are slow migrating diseases.  Talk to your veterinarian about annual disease screening to protect pets.

Posted in: Cat Health, Dog Health, Exotic Pet Health, Pet Health, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats

by Michelle Russillo

As we know planting season is around the corner. We all plan out what colors and blooms we want to see in our gardens but if you have pets, it is most important you pick plants that are safe. Additionally, always watch your dog(s) while outside or on walks to prevent the pet from eating plants.

If you suspect the pet has eaten any portion of a plant and observe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal urine, extra salivation, weakness, and difficulty breathing take your pet to the veterinarian because he may be poisoned.

Moreover with the increase of Medical Marijuana, pet owners have to more diligent in protecting their pets from ingesting the plant or plant products. Pets who eat this plant can suffer serious consequences such as diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, drooling, in-coordination, and even possibly seizures and coma. Again it is imperative to contact your veterinarian for proper care of your pet.

Toxic to both cats and dogs are Tulips, Azalea, Bird of Paradise, Aloe, Begonias, Baby’s Breath, and Amaryllis. Members of the Lilium genus, including Easter and stargazer lilies, can cause serious kidney problems if ingested by cats. So, when sending a bouquet or plant as a gift to a pet owner, it is always best to seek out (or create) a “pet friendly” bouquet.

ASPCA provides a list of plants that have been reported as having systemic and gastrointestinal tract effects. Please note the list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather a compilation of the most frequently encountered plants. If you think that your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or our 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435.Refer

It is most important as a pet owner you are aware of your surroundings and know plant danger to prevent illness or death of your pet.

Posted in: Blog, Cat Health, Dog Health, Pet Health, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Dental Health: How to comfortably brush your pet’s teeth By Dr Kim Tran

By Dr Kim Tran

Dental health WVG pet blog

(Above, a before picture of a dog with severe dental plaque and dental disease)

 Dental health WVG pet blog

Dental health is extremely important to the overall health of your pet, whether a cat or a dog! 

Tartar levels have been correlated with heart disease and kidney disease. We believe it is because the dental tartar creates a pocket of bacteria that are shed to the rest of the body through the blood stream. 

Dental tartar starts to build up earlier for small dogs, who can also be born with defects such as retained deciduous teeth, a condition where the baby teeth do not fall out. Tartar is trapped between the teeth and severe dental disease between them can cause the loss of both the baby teeth and adult teeth. 

Dogs with short faces can also have more crowding in their mouth. The close contact of the teeth can lead to food being trapped between them and eventually severe dental disease.

Dogs who overgroom and eat hair can get it stuck between their teeth. The trapped hair can collect food particles and cause severe dental disease. 

Routine dental cleanings can prevent painful, abscessed teeth, allow removal of diseased teeth, and keep breath smelling fresh and clean. 

Dogs are put under full anesthesia to allow us to clean under the gum line and remove severely diseased teeth. 

Keeping a pet’s teeth clean greatly enhances their quality of life. Clean teeth create fresh breath, and give you peace of mind.  

Teaching dogs how to accept having their teeth brushed can slow the progression of dental disease, and keep their teeth healthy longer. 

How to comfortably brush your pet’s teeth. Our technician Jesse demonstrates with her dog Hendrix, who loves getting his teeth brushed! 

 Dental health WVG pet blog

First, gently introduce the dog-specific toothpaste to your dog’s mouth. He or she often likes the flavor and will take it well. 

Dental health WVG pet blog

Now, gently introduce the brush to the front teeth and use gentle circular motions to clean the surface of the teeth. In general, without preexisting crowding, the front teeth tend to be cleaner than the back chewing molars.

Posted in: Blog, Cat Health, Dental health, Dog Health, Exotic Pet Health, Pet Health, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Feline Fundamentals: The Routine Physical Exam

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not fun going to the doctor. My stomach is flipflopping just thinking about it…and that is as a rational healthcare professional. 

As such, I’m very sympathetic to the plight of my patients, unaware of the reasoning behind the madness of the bright lights, chilly stethoscopes, and needle pricks. I’m also aware that it can be equally (if not more) nervewracking for their owners, who don’t want to see their pets in distress. Cats are thought to be even more sensitive than dogs in this respect and tend to see the vet less frequently as a result. While initimidating, I’d like to demonstrate the value of a thorough physical exam and why a routine annual visit (biannual in a senior kitty) is so highly recommended.

Every exam starts with getting your cat’s history, including past diseases, diet, environment, and fellow pets, all of which play a large part in assessing their general health. We then observe your cat overall: How bright and alert is he? Is she moving around okay? Does his body seem symmetrically and appropriately proportioned? What is her disposition like? How can I best approach him to make this a stress-free visit?

 1 - Westminster Exotic Animal Hostpital


My exam then moves from head to tail. I start with the eyes, looking for discharge, inflammation, asymmetry, opacities, and normal vision. The nose is also checked for discharge, swellings, and normal sounds. Ears are peeked into to look for clean canals, free of dirt, wax, and parasites. The mouth should have pink moist gums, free of inflammation and ulcers, and clean healthy teeth. It’s not as common for cats to have periodontal disease like dogs do, so when we see gingivitis and/or dental calculus, it’s important for us to discuss at-home care and ultrasonic dental cleanings to ensure your cat gets to eat pain-free for a good long time.

 1 - Westminster Exotic Animal Hostpital

We feel your cat’s lymph nodes along the length of his/her body to make sure they are symmetrical and soft. One or two enlarged nodes can indicate underlying nearby diseases, while enlargement of all lymph nodes can indicate lymphoma or other widespread issues. In older cats, we also try to feel for a thyroid slip, or enlargement of the thyroids to hint at hyperthyroidism. 

The heart should be free of murmurs and have a nice regular rhythm. Your cat’s pulse is palpated at the same time to make sure it’s strong and matches up with the heartbeats. We listen to the lungs to check for increases or decreases in sounds, either from within or around the lungs, or even coming up above from the nose and throat. We make sure your cat is able to breathe steadily and comfortably.

 1 - Westminster Exotic Animal Hostpital

The abdomen is palpated for abnormal sizes and consistencies in their organs, including the liver, kidneys, and intestines; these organs may feel larger and firmer with inflammation, infection, and cancer. Kidneys can feel small and round with chronic disease. Unusual stools (ranging from liquid to rock hard) may be felt in the bowels. Bladders may be unusually large or completely empty. Sometimes we feel masses, foreign objects, or extra fluid in the belly. Sometimes our palpation causes your cat pain, and we become suspicious of something serious like peritonitis, pancreatitis, etc.

The skin and coat are checked for any lesions like tumors, scabs, inflammation, hair loss, wounds, parasites, or self-trauma from scratching/licking. The underlying muscles are felt at the same time to make sure your cat stays nice and strong, and is not losing any muscle mass from endocrine diseases like hyperthyroidism, musculoskeletal issues like arthritis, or even degenerative neurologic processes. Body condition is assessed as well, determining whether your cat could lose or add a little extra padding.

 1 - Westminster Exotic Animal Hostpital

In special cases, we may do a rectal exam as needed; I generally do a visual check for parasites and appropriate anal tone, but if cats are scooting or having gastrointestinal issues, we can check for masses, strictures, and normal anal glands. 

At any point during an exam, feel free to talk to us about things you have observed in your cat, questions you have regarding their behavior and environment, or even share stories about that cute thing Pumpkin did last week. When your cat gets a routine physical exam, it’s not only an opportunity to detect diseases early and receive appropriate care…It’s a chance to improve your relationship with your cat, such as fixing inappropriate habits, figuring out ways to enrich a bored indoor cat’s life, or even how to safely introduce a new cat into your lives.

…Speaking of which, Swiss is an adult spayed female tuxedo cat who kindly posed for the above pictures. She loves to quietly explore her surroundings, but is always up for a good long snuggle. As you can see, the WVG staff adore her! If you are interested in potentially adopting Swiss, please visit her at the Westminster Adoption Group and Services (WAGS)!

1 - Westminster Exotic Animal Hostpital

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