Yearly Archives: 2018

Halloween Tech Tip Special

By Denise Sanchez L.V.T.

Halloween is upon us! We all enjoy when our pets can join in the fun, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind.


First, know your pets; you may love seeing your Maltese as a princess, or your black cat as a bat, but they may not enjoy it. As a rule, most pets do not enjoy being dressed up. Know your pet, know how they will tolerate it. Start simple, maybe start with a shirt, work your way up to the cute hot dog costume you saw at the store for your dachshund. Don’t push them, if they resist don’t continue. If they get scared, take it off immediately. Signs they may not like the outfit; wide fearful eyes, tails tucked, or trying to run away from the outfit.


Second, candy is a complete no go. Some candy, as in some human food, will just cause a little upset stomach. Some diarrhea, maybe some vomiting. But some candies, like chocolate and sugar-free gum, can be deadly. If your pet gets into your candy stash call us for recommendations.


Third, keep an eye on your pet. There will be a lot of kids yelling and dressed oddly. Your doorbell will be ringing and frequently the door will open, exposing strangers. Your pet may get overwhelmed or scared. No one wants a pet to escape and get lost during such a busy night. Another thing to remember is even the friendliest pet can get scared by the cute kid in the Iron Man costume and potentially act out in a less than appealing manner. Keep in mind, they are not being mean, they are scared and trying to protect themselves and their pack (you). One recommendation is to keep them locked in another room, so there is no chance of them escaping, another is to keep them on a leash.


Lastly, make sure your dog is seen. If you take your dog with you to go door to door, ensure they are seen by drivers and other trick or treaters. There are blinking lights that can be attached to collars or you can wrap reflective tape around their collar. Don’t forget to always use a leash.


Have fun this Halloween and stay safe!

Tech Tip of the Month: Helping Pets Deal With Thunderstorm Anxiety

anxious dog resizedMany pets are afraid of thunderstorms. This can manifest in different ways. Some pets just need to be near their owners and get the assurance that everything will be all right. They may freeze, shake, or urinate on themselves or in inappropriate places. Some will run and hide under things– the kitchen table, the covers, or any other place where they think they’ll fit. Still, others absolutely panic, and destroy anything and everything around them trying to get away from the thunder.

Our pets can sense a storm is coming long before we do. They notice the change in the air pressure and may start to react while it is still sunny and nice outside. Since they cannot understand what is happening, they may act as if they believe the world is crashing down around them.

There are a few ways to help them during this time of stress. Ideas can be as simple as sitting with them and reassuring them; this may work for pets with mild anxiety. Playing soft music, encouraging them to play with their favorite toy, or giving treats can also help distract them from the loud, scary, noises. There are shirts and blankets designed to fit your pet very snugly which can reduce anxiety for animals who are moderately afraid. These can be purchased online or at pet stores.

For the most stressed animals, there are medications that will reduce the anxiety caused by the storm; these work best if given well before the stressful event occurs; i.e. before the storm starts. Speak with one of our veterinarians if you believe medication may help your pet. Each pet is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Some may need a combination of techniques in order to adequately manage their anxiety.

Dr. Crystal Bowman Becomes Newest Veterinarian at Great Falls Animal Hospital!

Dr. Bowman resizedJoin us in welcoming Dr. Crystal Bowman to Great Falls Animal Hospital!

Dr. Bowman is originally from the Jersey Shore. She received her veterinary degree from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 2010. She then completed a rotating internship followed by a 3-year residency and combined master’s program in equine internal medicine at Virginia Tech.

Dr. Bowman’s areas of interest include small animal internal medicine and ophthalmology. She lives in Lovettsville with her husband, David, their daughter, Emma, and their miniature zoo including 4 dogs, 2 cats, and a horse. In her spare time, Dr. Bowman enjoys running marathons, riding her horse, and visiting wineries.

Stop by and welcome Dr. Bowman to GFAH.

Dr. Leanne Kalinsky Joins the Team at Great Falls Animal Hospital!

Dr. Kalinsky for blogDr. Leanne Kalinsky just joined our Great Falls Animal Hospital team and we are very excited to have her! She has been named one of Northern Virginia’s Top Veterinarians by Northern Virginia Magazine in both 2017 and 2018. Dr. Kalinsky comes to us with 15+ years of experience in small animal medicine.

Dr. Kalinsky is Fear-Free Certified (taking the pet out of petrified!). She believes very strongly that eliminating fear, anxiety and stress pets encounter while receiving veterinary care is of utmost importance for their long-term health. Dr. Kalinsky’s other interests are in preventive medicine, internal medicine and geriatric medicine as well as soft tissue surgery.

During her off hours, Dr. Kalinsky loves to exercise and enjoys running, long walks and yoga. She lives in Leesburg with her husband David and their furry family, Monty their toy poodle and Mr. Ribdee their 17 ½-year-old orange tabby.

Stop by to say hello and welcome her to GFAH!

Hoby Blending InHoby experienced his first snow. Once he realized he could walk on it without falling down he started to really enjoy it! I’m sure he never saw anything like this is southern Texas!

Hoby demonstrates the art of camouflage. He loves to be in stealth mode around the house. He thinks I won’t see him on Friday when he has his cardiology appointment. He is getting an echocardiogram to help stage his heartworm infection and to help decide the best treatment for his lung damage. Wish him luck.

Stay tuned for more information about heartworm disease and treatment.

Hoby x-rayHoby Update!

As he sleeps on his bed I decided to post the next step in his journey. When he is awake he insists on being petted constantly. 💕

The next step in Hoby’s treatment is to see how the heartworm infection has affected his lungs and heart. Normally the lungs appear as dark forms around the heart. The white in this X-ray indicates congestion. Hopefully, this damage is reversible once the heartworms die off. An incidental finding is the small bright object at the bottom of the screen. That is a pellet lodged in his side. Sadly a large number of dogs rescued from the south suffer this fate.

Hoby Part 2This is a video of Hoby’s blood under magnification. That little organism you see is a microfilaria (immature heartworms). He has hundreds of these circulating in his system.

The first step in treating his disease is to attempt to kill these immature heartworms first by using monthly heartworm preventative. At the same time, he is on an antibiotic to kill a bacteria called Wolbachia that often accompanies microfilaria. Through this long treatment he must be very calm. He has a flair for this talent.  Click here for link to see the microfilaria moving under the microscope!

Meet Hoby 😊. This handsome boy was rescued from South Texas by Lu’s Labs. He joined Lisa’s clan last week and fit in like a missing puzzle piece. He is extraordinarily calm and asks only for constant petting. He is not food motivated which is very strange for Lisa after many years of labs. Lisa writes that at 96 pounds he is the largest lab She has ever owned (although he might be a bit chubby) and learning to walk around a wall of lab is becoming a much needed skill.

He is 5 to 8 years old and sadly has heartworm disease. He has already started treatment and I feel I need to post his treatment of this very preventable disease. It’s very likely that he never had preventative like Heartgard or Interceptor and that is why he has advanced disease. The next six months will require lots of restrictions in activity as the worms die and become free-floating bits in his bloodstream putting him at risk for embolism. I’ve told him what to expect and he has already shown he knows how to rest 😊

Welcome home Hoby!

As a veterinarian, I am often asked by new puppy owners when they can start training their pups. Some trainers are still recommending that you wait until the puppy is 6 months old. To me, this means 4 months of missed opportunity and the creation of bad habits. I believe puppy training should start the day they come home with you. You would be amazed at what an 8 week old puppy can do.
Puppy training activities require many small treats, about the size of a pea. Soft treats are best, so that the pup doesn’t spend too much time chewing and can focus more on what you are trying to teach. Basic dog treats like Zukes minis are fine to use at home, but “high value rewards” like chicken, hot dogs, liver, etc. are needed if you are in a distracting environment, like dog shows and classes.

Here are a few puppy lessons that I have acquired from a variety of trainers.

Voluntary Attention: If your dog acts like you don’t exist, it is pretty hard to train him. When your dog learns to pay attention to you, the rest of your training becomes easier.

Start this exercise by sitting in a chair while holding your puppy on a leash. Do not talk to him or try to get him to do anything. When he glances in your direction, give him a treat. If he does not look at you in the first few minutes, show him a treat. When he looks at the treat, bring it toward your face so that he is looking at your face before you give it to him. Each time he looks at you, give him a treat. Pretty soon, he will be sitting and staring at you. You can then wait longer intervals before you treat, but don’t make it too hard, too fast.

Once your puppy can readily focus on you, you can hold a treat in your hand out to the side, up away from the pup. He will probably look at it, but he should soon glance back at your face. Treat when he looks at you. Do this for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a week. When he gets good at it, try it in a more distracting environment, like a park. If you are taking puppy classes, this is a great exercise to do when the instructor is talking and the pup is not doing anything else.

Zen puppy: Hold a treat in your hand and show it to your pup. Then close your hand around it loosely. The average puppy will sniff, paw or push at your hand. Do not let him get the treat. When he stops trying to get the treat, open your hand and say, “Take.” At first, all you are looking for is the puppy to look away or back away. When he starts to understand the concept of “I can’t just grab what I want,” you may choose to wait for a polite behavior, such as a sit. When he is getting good at this, you can try the same exercise with the treat on the coffee table. Make sure you keep him from taking it himself. He only gets the treat when he leaves it alone.
puppy 2
This is an exercise in self-control. It is a basic skill that will keep your dog from grabbing cookies out of the hands of toddlers, counter surfing for food, and similar undesirable behaviors. Dogs get what they want when you decide they can have it.

Feeding Games: At meal time, give your puppy only ¼ of his food. When he is almost done with that portion, toss another handful in his bowl. Continue in this manner until he gets his whole dinner. Every so often, you can toss in a small, yummy treat. If you have kids in your house, let them play this game with the puppy as well. Play this game at least once daily.

This simple exercise teaches your puppy that it is ok for people to be near him when he is eating. Good things happen when human hands come near his bowl. It will keep him from ever being protective of his food bowl.

Let’s trade: Give your puppy something he will really like, such as a bully stick. When he starts to chew on it, toss a high value reward about a foot away where he can see it. When he stops chewing to take the treat, pick up the bully stick. When he is done with the treat, give him his stick back. Do this several times in a row, so that he realizes he gets a treat when he stops chewing and then gets to chew some more. Win-win! As he starts to get this concept, attach a word such as “give” as you toss the treat. You can soon work toward offering him the treat from your hand, and eventually reaching for the stick as you offer him the treat. Remember to keep giving him the stick back. Soon you will be able to just say, “Give” without the treat, but I believe in intermittently treating dogs throughout their lifetimes. Good things happen when you do what you are told.

This game will be helpful when your dog picks up something he should not have, whether it is a chicken bone he found in the street or someone’s shoe that looks a lot like a toy to a puppy.

Recall games: This game takes two or more humans and one puppy to play. You can do it in a hallway or a large open room. Each person has a bag of treats and sits several feet from the others. One person starts with the puppy. The other calls the puppy by name in a very excited manner. Puppy, puppy, puppy! Yay! Puppy gets treats from that person, and the next person calls him right after he finishes them. Play for only a few minutes so he doesn’t get bored or distracted.

This can be extended to the outside as well. When the puppy is playing or sniffing, call him in your most enthusiastic voice. Treat him and let him go back to play. Coming to you should not mean that all the fun is about to end.
puppy 3
I do not use my “formal” recall command for this. (Mine is, “Come front.”) I reserve my formal command for later training. I don’t want him to learn to ever ignore the formal command (“poisoning” the command), and I am not ready to give corrections this early in his training career. I only use the puppy’s name to call him in this game.

Ring the bell: During housebreaking, there always comes a time when the puppy starts to “get it” and you start to trust him more. You pay a little less attention to where he is. He needs to pee and goes to the door. But no one knows he is there and he does not know what to do next. So he pees on the floor right there. Some people will teach their dog to bark by the door, but I really do not like to reward barking.

I use wind chimes on my back door. Some people use Christmas jingle bells. Every time you let your dog out, say, “Ring the bell.” Since we are starting with an 8 week old, you will be holding the pup in your hands. Push his nose into the bells. “Good boy! Let’s go out.” If you do this every time you take your puppy out, he will learn very quickly to ring the bell on his own. (One of my dogs had it down at 10 weeks.)

Why is this helpful? Now, that pup that goes to the door and wants to go out knows how to get your attention. I can hear my bells from anywhere in the house. (I can also tell who is ringing, as they all do it a bit differently.) So no more puddles at the door. I bring my bells when I travel, so my dogs know which door they need to go out, and they can even let me know they need to go when they are in a hotel room.

The warning that comes with this trick is that the pup is telling you he wants to go out, not that he needs to pee. You need to accept this and let him out every time he rings so that he gets the connection between the bell and going out.

Touching games: It is a good idea to get your puppy used to having you in their personal spaces. These include their feet, rear end, mouth and ears. This will make your life easier when it comes to grooming, nail trimming, teeth brushing, etc. Use lots of treats. Touch your puppy’s foot and give a treat. Put your finger in his ears, then treat him. Eventually advance to holding your pup’s paw. Work your way up to lifting up his lips and pulling back his lips to look at his back teeth. Rub your finger on his teeth to simulate brushing them. Remember lots of praise, lots of treats and don’t push things too quickly. Run a comb over him, too, and give treats. Soon touching should be no big deal to him. Have other people touch him in these ways, as well, so that a groomer or vet is not so scary.

Four on the floor: Most people dislike having a dog jump on them. Puppies are very enthusiastic and don’t know better. They need to learn early, before this becomes a bad habit.

The basic concept here that the pup is to learn is that he gets attention when he doesn’t jump on you. If the pup is coming toward you excitedly, try to bend over and pet him before he starts to jump. Use lots of praise in a calm, happy voice. If he already jumped on you, or he jumps when you stop petting him, stand up straight and ignore him. You can turn your back on him as well. When he stops jumping, reach down and pet him again. It will take many months of being consistent for the pup to learn this form of self-control.

Basic commands: 8 weeks is not too early to start to train sit, stay, down, and walk nicely on a leash. Lessons should be very short at first: two or three minutes at a time. And, of course, lots of treats should be used.

Puppy training should be a part of your new puppy’s everyday life. He will quickly learn that good behavior gets rewarded. Remember to make these lessons fun for your puppy and they will then be fun for you as well. Happy training!

Logan in his fleecy togs
I keep my home rather chilly in the winter. I don’t like wasting energy, and I don’t mind wearing an extra layer. (Could be this stems from my love of New England, where I met my husband.) My dogs and cats wear their fur coats all the time, so I never saw the cold house as a problem. That is, until Logan, my boxer, got old.

Logan, like most boxers, was not built for either hot or cold weather. On 76 to 78 degree days, he would happily bask outside in the sun for hours. More than 78, and he would stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning. Less tan 76, and he needed a coat. (We often joked that all boxers really needed to live in San Diego.)

Logan did not wear a coat just to go outside and play or to go for a walk. If he was moving, he was fine. But in the winter, if he came for a ride in the car and needed to wait in the car, he would be shivering by the time we returned. So we bought him a coat just for car rides.
Logan in his fleecy togs 2
But as Logan got older, he even got cold in the house during the night when we turned the heat even lower. We would find him curled up in a tight ball in the morning. And that is when we got him his jammies. Betty, one of our receptionists, had ordered custom pajamas for her dog, but they were made incorrectly and were way too big. So she gave them to me for Logan. Logan loved them! He would come running when we told him it was time to put them on. And he seemed quite comfy at night. Big, tough boxer in his lavender fleece jammies. Pretty darn cute.

Logan has passed on, and I now have 2 older Griffons. When they are out hunting, they will run in the fields for hours without getting cold, even in single digit temperatures. But when we are home relaxing, Hattie, my 9 year old, will be shivering, even in the day time. Just like a little old lady, she could no longer maintain her body heat as she did in her youth. So we temporarily turned up the heat while we waited for her new jammies to be delivered.
Hattie looking stylish
During this cold winter, she has worn her new PJ’s most of the time. No more shivering, and she is very happy. Gator, my 10 year old does not seem cold at all, so not every old dog need help to stay warm. But it really is quite a common issue in our senior dogs.

So if your dog is getting older, keep an eye out for signs that he is chilly: shivering or sleeping in a very tight ball. He might need to look for a cute set of jammies of his own.