Yearly Archives: 2012

Can you believe we are in October, folks?  I guess technically I have no concept of time other than “time to eat”, “time to eat”, “time for treats”, and then “time to eat.”  This is also the month when I have to endure unnecessary torture.  My staff finds pleasure in dressing  me up in what you refer to as “clothes”.  Usually it’s something awful on my head, a “costume” I believe is the name, and it makes me look handsomely ridiculous.  (Cause let’s face it, I’m always handsome…) 

First things first, Halloween is right around the corner.  I am of the understanding that you two-legged varieties choose this day to go to other two-leggeds’ homes and rob them of their treats.  I personally find this to be a barbaric ritual, as I am very protective of my treats but I guess it works for you humans!  That being said, keep any candy or other “human treats” out of your pet’s reach.  Same goes for decorations; I know we felines like to play with things that we are not supposed to and dogs like to eat things they’re not supposed to, so be extra careful!  I know I had briefly gone over this in my last blog but I just needed to reiterate with three big holidays coming up!

So now I wanted to talk a little bit about National Veterinary Technician Week, an annual event since 1993, which ran from October 14-20.  Although we appreciate our technicians every day, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Inc. (NAVTA) wanted to recognize those special people who work together with veterinarians to try to keep your pet healthy and happy.  NAVTA  (incorporated in 1981) is a non-profit organization that proudly represents  veterinary technicians  while  educating  and providing support to the profession. 

Our lovely LVT’s are:  Jennifer Keane, Renee Small, Beth Lannon, Denise Sanchez, Cara Scarano, Bernadette Ortiz and Mary Portelly.  I have intermewed one of those fabulous techs, Cara, to learn a little bit more about her job. (I know, I’m very intelligent already but believe it or not I don’t know everything…)

MASON:  What is the job of a veterinary technician?

CARA:  Veterinary technicians do a wide variety of jobs. These duties can include drawing blood and ordering lab tests, reading slides and samples under the microscope, taking X-rays  of sick and injured animals, giving injections and vaccinations, placing IV catheters to aid in the administration of fluids and anesthetics, inducing general anesthesia and assisting doctors in surgery, performing dental cleanings on anesthetized pets, changing bandages and splints, and most importantly, educating  owners on how to best care for their pets both preventively and once medical conditions have been diagnosed by a doctor.

MASON:  Do all veterinary technicians have to go to school for this job?

CARA:  The short answer is no. Some technicians have hands on training, and are taught to the specific standards of their employer. These technicians, or “techs” for short, may have similar duties to that of a licensed veterinary technician, or LVT.  What a ‘tech” can do does vary from state to state and from clinic to clinic. Here at Great Falls Animal Hospital, we refer to non- licensed employees as assistants.

The only way to obtain the title of LVT is by completing a degree program at an AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) accredited school. Upon graduation of the scholastic program, which usually lasts 2 to 4 years, a student is then allowed to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam. This test requires a satisfactory passing score, and in Virginia, can only be taken by graduates of a Veterinary Technician Program. Once these two requirements have been met, a person can then apply to their state Department of Health for their license.

MASON:  What part of your job is most rewarding?  (Mine is treats!)

CARA:  I really enjoy both helping animals and working with their owners.  The human-animal bond is so amazing and never fails to touch my heart. Whether it is a small child learning love, compassion, responsibility and patience through pet ownership or an elderly person who relies on their dog to get them out of the house and walking on a daily basis, this bond and relationship cannot be denied.

MASON:  What advice do you have for someone who may be interested in the veterinary profession?

CARA:  First, get involved. There are so many great clinics and organizations in the area that need help. You don’t need to have experience, just a strong interest and willingness to learn. People should also remember that though that this field is very rewarding, it is not “just playing with kittens and puppies.” There is a lot of cleaning and less-than- glamorous work that needs to be done to keep our patients comfortable and well-cared for.  Cases and patients can be challenging and don’t always have the outcomes we hope they will.  I find that spending time with animals and their owners even during the most difficult times still has its own personal rewards.  Because of that, I cannot imagine doing anything else!

Until next time,



So how has everyone’s September been so far? I’m sure a lot of you are getting back into the swing of things, like back to school or back to work; not that I would know, but I can imagine it’s quite the adjustment. I know how I feel when I have to stay in a big cage because my exam room is unavailable and it’s awful!

Now that it’s September, that means Halloween is around the corner and while that is a great time for humans, it’s not so much for many pets out there.  First I’ll start out with the obvious… 9 out of 10 pets do not want to be dressed up.  I PROMISE.  My staff finds it very amusing to torture me by putting various “hats” on my head and then they go the extra mile and take pictures.  NOT FUNNY, GUYS.  When do you really see happy pets in costumes?  Not very often.   (Though if you are entering a best costume contest that involves lots of kitty or puppy treats as prizes, I’ll dress up in just about anything.)   That being said, costumes can actually be quite frightening.  We are used to seeing you one way and then next thing we know, everyone looks different and very scary! All we ask is that you please take that into consideration and if you must dress up like a scary freakazoid, please put us in a part of the house where we don’t have to look at you.  Some of us have a wild imagination and have had very real nightmares; food shortage, treat shortage and very menacing ghosts who come out of the wall and take our treats!  Double scary!  We would be much happier in a nice, quiet room (stocked with treats and toys!).  J

Probably the biggest problem with Halloween for pets would be all the candy floating around that we could potentially get into.  We all know that many dogs out there are far from prejudiced about food and snacks and they are typically the ones you see at the vet having to regurgitate all of that hard earned candy.  That doesn’t mean that cats and other pets are off the hook so definitely be careful about where you store any candy or snacks.  Technically, you should always be mindful of where you are putting non-animal friendly items (I hate to say it, but even our food should be where we can’t get it since we do like to help ourselves on occasion.  This, however, does not apply to me…).  You would be surprised what animals can get into and how quickly something can happen.  Make sure you have a number for animal poison control, your veterinarian, and 24-hour emergency facility where it can be easily accessed.  Poison control (both human and animal) does cost money so also make sure to have a credit card handy.  It’s also very important to keep wrappers, packaging, or have a list of the ingredients with you when you call poison control, as well as taking with you to the vet if at all possible.  It is extremely helpful in determining toxicity as well as treatment. 

All that being said, I hope all of you two- and four-legged friends had a great summer and a great start to September!  Having just expelled all of this intelligence has made me very, very hungry so I must find a staff member to rectify this situation.  I keep telling them to just leave my food where I can get it so I don’t have to bother them but they don’t think it’s a good idea!



Ah, I can hear it now… parents around the country singing a nice celebratory song about the kids going back to school after a nice, long summer break. Who may not be celebrating? Your furry friend who has grown accustomed to having the extra company around.

For many pets, the separation may be a bit depressing but manageable. After all, we really have no concept of time other than “FEED ME NOW, I’M HUNGRY” o’clock.  There are however a good number who definitely need more than a promise of “See ya in a few hours, buddy!” and may require something a bit more extensive.

Dogs and cats can be fairly resilient but there are situations where not every animal reacts in such a stoic manner.  Things that may not seem like a big deal to us can throw a wrench in your pets’ daily routine.  Going from a house full of people during the day to peace and quiet can actually be quite a stressful event, hence where separation anxiety could come in.  We don’t understand “work”, “school” or “vacation” and can see your absence as abandonment.  I think this applies more so to dogs, as they tend to be more social and involved in daily routine.  Separation anxiety can manifest as anything from depression to incessant barking to destruction; anything in the dog’s reach can be considered fair game, whether it’s shoes, furniture or floor.  Not only can this be a big issue for your belongings, but it can be hazardous to your dog as well.  Dogs don’t discriminate when it comes to chewing or destruction and can end up ingesting something harmful, whether a foreign body or chemical. It’s a good idea, regardless of whether or not separation anxiety is an issue, to pet-proof your house.  You may need to use a crate while away to avoid any surprises.  Now how do you know if your pet is acting out due to anxiety or another issue?  According to an article on, here are a few things that may indicate that your pet is missing your presence:

1)  Your pet is extremely attached to you or someone in your household. (I’m not just talking about being a “BFF” as you humans call it, but a pet that constantly follows the owner and becomes agitated or upset when that individual leaves.)
2)  Destructive or inappropriate behavior happens when pet is by him/herself at home and unsupervised.
3)  Exits or barriers, such as doors, gates, etc. are targeted for destruction.
4)  Your pet’s anxiety seems to start within a half hour of the individual leaving.
5)  With dogs, they may have a high pitched yelp or bark repeatedly.

If you think that your pet could be experiencing this or any other behavioral issue, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.  We can discuss different options based on your individual situation and your pet’s needs, whether it be trying medication (for your pet, silly…) or behavior training.   Addressing issues before they become a big problem, even if they may seem small, is definitely the way to go.  Don’t let yourself or your pet suffer unnecessarily! 

Now speaking of suffering unnecessarily, I am in desperate need of a snack, a pet and a nap! Enjoy the remainder of your summer two and four legged friends and have a safe, happy Labor Day!



Happy August everyone!  This summer sure did fly by.  Sorry I’ve been lacking with my words of wisdom however I took my own little vacation to another exam room just to get away for a while.  The seclusion was fantastic, though it got rough at meal time on occasion since I wasn’t sprawled out on everyone’s papers emitting sad pleas for food.  It really is hard to be me sometimes.

Today’s topic is the fascinating world of intestinal parasites. Those two words together just sound really icky and they definitely are exactly that! When your vet recommends having your pet’s stool checked at least once a year, believe me, it’s not because they love poop. Dogs and cats often pick up intestinal parasites outdoors; however, it can happen inside the home too. While keeping cats strictly indoors is a much safer environment, it is possible for them to pick something up without you knowing; hence our recommendation for routine stool checks.
Did you know that there are several intestinal parasites that can be passed on to humans? Children and the elderly are especially susceptible, although children may be more likely to become infected. The biggest problem seems to be with smaller children who do not yet have any concept of good hygiene and do not know any better. Kids are curious and you never know what they may have put their hands in outside or if they walked in anything they shouldn’t have. Your best bet is to make sure that kids, regardless of age (and it would be a good idea for adults too) to wear shoes when outdoors and make sure you are monitoring them! For children who are a bit older, make sure they understand that they should watch where they step outside and of course, everyone should be washing their hands! Cryptosporidium, Giardia, hookworms, and roundworms can be passed on to humans. Treatment for parasites varies and some are easier to combat then others; however none are fun to have so prevention is best! For more information about human symptoms, transmission and treatment, please speak with your doctor.
Giardia, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and whipworms are common intestinal parasites that we test for when we check your pet’s stool. Dogs especially can pick up parasites when out in the yard and on walks, as well as doggy day care and dog parks. Am I saying that you should avoid these places? No, but I am stressing always picking up after your dog, and monitoring where they are playing and of course what they are ingesting. Even drinking water off the sidewalk, street, creeks or even in your own backyard can lead to infection. As for my fellow felines, you are not off the hook either! If a cat ingests a mouse for instance, even if they are in the house, they are susceptible as well. Tapeworms are contracted when an animal ingests an infected flea or flea egg or an infected rodent, and you will often see what looks like little grains of rice around your pet’s rear-end or in stool. Sometimes you may never even see fleas but that doesn’t mean one didn’t sneak in. Keeping your dog and cat on heartworm medication is one of the best ways you can prevent these nasty infections as most of those medications have preventatives for several parasites.
Moral of the story? Keep up good hygiene for both humans and pets (including litter box & yard upkeep), and have your pets stool tested at least once a year.
For once, I think I have lost my appetite after all this intestinal parasite talk so I think a good nap is in order! Til next time…
Meows, Mason

Happy Summer all! Enjoying the heat? I personally enjoy basking in the sun from the window in my suite when I can but I’m not so much a fan of this “beach” place humans speak of. Looks like a giant litter box that’s too close to the water bowl if you ask me. So what do you do when you want to visit that giant litter box or some other destination during the summer but have precious cargo (such as myself) at home? Fortunately you have several different options. Many people will find a pet sitter/house sitter that will come to your home and either stay there or stop by during the day to take care of your pets. Or a friend may take your pet to their own home so your pet has a change of scenery. Then there is the option of boarding your pet somewhere such as a kennel. Use your Pet Portal to set up Pet Care Instructions with your itinerary and contact information for whoever is caring for your pet. There are also instances where taking your pet with you is a viable option. Now of course your best friend loves to be with you but you really need to weigh the pros and cons of this choice. Whether you are traveling by car, air or boat, you need to really think about how your pet will do in that situation. Taking your dog to the beach however is usually a lot of fun (so I’ve heard) so as long as Fido likes the car (and the water), you’re off to a good start. That being said, it is very important you find and confirm that the place you will be staying accepts pets. Most will have a pet deposit fee, as well as rules and regulations (such as size, quantity and breed) to follow so do some reading! All of these options have something very important in common; preparing a list! If your pet is traveling with you, make sure you have proper documentation like a current rabies certificate, vaccination information and if possible, at least 6 months of medical history. This can really help if something happens and you need to go to a vet while away. That being said, it would really be a good idea to look for vet’s in the area you will be in PRIOR to leaving so that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. I actually recommend that wherever your pet goes, having that information is key. Before you leave, verify too that your pet is up to date on all necessary vaccines, has enough medication left (if on meds) and of course, healthy enough. You can obtain your pet’s vaccine information through your Pet Portal so if you don’t have one, visit or give us a ring and we can help you. Whatever you do this summer, make it enjoyable for all of those involved- including the pets! Now it’s time to pick out a new sunbathing suit- I have been doing fabulously on my diet and need to show it off! Til next meow, Mason

So how is everyone’s spring so far? Mine has been uneventful (which in the feline world is never a bad thing). I hear the weather has been the typical Virginia spring of warm, cold, hot, chilly, warm, hot… completely indecisive! I guess now would be a good time to go over some concerns that the spring weather can bring.
Last time I discussed plant toxicity and stressed the importance of researching before breaking out the green thumb. Now the research you need to do is as simple as turning on the TV, internet or radio and checking the temperature.
Many people enjoy the routine of taking out the dog and going for a walk or a jog, or even go for car rides (like to the dog park, etc.). This is fine, but you need to be sure that you and your dog are prepared for the temperature throughout the day. I realize that it is not quite summer yet, but I think that also gives the misconception that it will not get as hot just because it is spring. It does not take much to make a car turn into a sauna. According to, a study done at Stanford University Medical Center found that a car’s inside temperature can increase by up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, even on a 70-degree day. That means that what might be considered a perfect spring day outside can potentially be life threatening inside of a vehicle. Anytime any animal is in a car, hot or cold, warm, cool, sunny, dreary, whatever it may be, owners MUST take responsibility and make 100% sure that their pet is comfortable and in a safe environment. This applies to any environment that an animal is in, not just vehicles. In Virginia it is illegal to leave a pet in the car if the outside temperature is 70 degrees or higher.
For anyone who exercises with their pets (whatever that pet may be), it is also important to consider the weather before going for a walk, jog, or even taking out in the yard to play. Dogs especially can over-exert themselves and overheat quickly. Unlike humans, dogs usually do not know when to stop so owners need to be cautious and do it for them when necessary. Take into consideration the breed(s) of your pets as some breeds are predisposed to having heart issues, respiratory issues (like Bulldogs, Pekingese & Persians for example) and issues with obesity. These can be especially taxing in warm weather and extra caution should be taken to prevent hyperthermia or overexertion.
In an article on hyperthermia on, it gives some helpful advice on what to do and what NOT to do. So what should you do in this situation? First take your pet out of the location where they developed hyperthermia to a cool, shaded area and if possible, direct a fan in your pet’s direction. Taking your pet’s temperature (rectally) and recording it is ideal. Apply cool, wet towels to back of the neck, groin area and armpits and if possible, wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Keeping a fan directly in your pet’s direction during this time can greatly help the cooling process until you can get them to a veterinary hospital (which should be done ASAP!).
What should you not do? Probably what most people would think to do first: giving cold water or ice cubes. Keep room temperature water available but do not force them to drink it. You also should stay with your pet or have someone monitoring them at all times until you reach the veterinary facility so DO NOT LEAVE THEM UNATTENDED!!
Speaking of all this warmth, it is time for me to do my daily sunbathing. Until next time…
Meows, Mason

Hello! Mason, again. Spring has officially sprung and just because I’m an indoor kitty that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it! When the timing is appropriate, my staff opens up a few windows for some much needed fresh air; I even have my own perch in my living quarters so I can stalk all of the prey that I will never catch.
So while April showers bring May flowers (which are awesome), they also bring with them potential hazards. What could possibly be considered dangerous about this season? Unfortunately Mother Nature mixed with our ever-growing curiosity often result in concerned owners frantically calling GFAH and Poison Control. With the extraordinary number of different plant varieties out there, how do you know which ones are considered safe for pets?
Doing your homework prior to planting is very important. There are many reliable websites out there, but for every good one there are hundreds of others to avoid. Now let’s be clear; I am in no way, shape or form advising anyone to practice internet diagnostics. Google is no replacement for veterinary advice; however, it can serve as a guide in the right direction. Websites like (Link for toxic and non-toxic plants) and offer information about plant toxicity. ASPCA’s website can separate plants by species and shows toxic and non-toxic, though it only shows toxicity in dogs, cats & horses.

If you have an indoor/outdoor cat or a dog that goes out into the yard unsupervised at times, it is vital that you are well informed about all the plants in your yard. Have something in your garden that you didn’t plant? No clue what it is? Ask your local nursery for help identifying the plant, then check the websites mentioned above for toxicity information.
No matter what season it may be, the same rules apply to indoor plants or floral arrangements. Check with the nursery or florist for the name of the plant or flower (especially toxic are lily’s all varieties) then with ASPCA’s list of toxic plants. For the plants you do bring home, make sure to make the plant(s) inaccessible to your pets, regardless of the plant. Something considered non-toxic can still do a number on the tummy when ingested. If you want to have home grown catnip or cat grass around, that stuff can be GREAT! Be careful though because we don’t know the difference between “bad plants” and “good plants”; to us they’re all great, at least until we don’t feel well!

Hope you are having a great start to spring so far! I’ll be taking my “Spring Break” pretty soon and I’m looking for ideas of where to go. Green exam room? Dental suite? Employee lounge! The possibilities are endless.
Til next meow,


Ladies: I’d like to express my appreciation for all my lovely bouquets of flowers you, my adoring fans sent me for Valentine’s Day. Furthermore, a news flash about yours truly; I’ve had to start back on my Trixsyn medication (joint supplement) again after all my recent activities, including knocking over a few of the flowers I mentioned earlier. I guess it’s true, I’m not getting any younger and neither are my joints! I appreciate the Get Well cards and thoughts from everyone!
Although I’m a bit late, better late than never! February is Pet Dental Health Month.
So why exactly is it important to practice good dental hygiene when it comes to your furry family members? According to, 85% of pets have dental disease by the time they reach three years of age! Now we all know that an animal’s age is much different than a human’s, but nonetheless, three still seems so young. After all, it still feels like we are just getting past our puppy and kitten stages!
Regular wellness visits are important to your pet’s health, including the teeth! Did you know that your pet can experience complications in other parts of the body as a result of dental disease? It’s true; bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and affect vital organs (like the liver and kidneys) and can even do damage to the valves of the heart. Another reason why keeping up with the teeth can be imperative to your pet’s health, as well as their comfort.
So how can you spot dental disease in your pet? Here are a few signs to look out for that may indicate your pet needs a dental issue addressed:
1) Change in eating habits- Interest in food but not eating, taking longer than normal to eat, if they appear to favor one side of the mouth when chewing or for pets that get both types, eating the wet food and not the dry. Most animals with dental disease will eat normally, even if their mouths are painful.
2) Noticeable foul odor: People usually notice this when up close to their pet or of course if they are getting slobbered on (silly canines…). Often owners will put off having the teeth checked until it gets to be what they consider to be unbearable, which as I mentioned before can be detrimental to your pet’s health (as well as your pocketbook). Animals can develop abscesses inside the mouth, most of the time caused by a broken tooth. Letting this go is definitely not a good idea and we recommend having your pet seen as soon as possible to avoid the issue becoming worse and also to help control the pain. Just think of how painful it can be when you have a cavity or if you have ever had a broken tooth! Ouch!!
3) You notice your pet’s gums are very red or inflamed. The gums are just as important to keep up with as the teeth.
So, what happens when an animal is treated for periodontal disease? Sometimes they just need a good, thorough cleaning. Other times they need a little extra done depending on the progression of the dental disease or if they need to have a tooth removed.
It doesn’t have to be Pet Dental Health month to care about your pet’s teeth! Below I have added a few links to some good articles about animal periodontal disease. These are located on the website, which we consider to be a very reliable and informative source for just about everything pets!
*What to Expect If Your Pet Needs Dental Care:
*Dental Home Care:
Well, I have expelled just about all of the knowledge that I can handle for now. Until next time my friends!
P.S. To some of the newer GFAH staff members… When it says on the white board that “Mason has been fed”, you should never ever believe that. See, we have this on-going inside joke where they write down that they fed me and then I cry a bunch because it is all lies. Such a cruel, cruel world.