Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Importance of Heartworm Prevention

What are heartworms? They are a foot-long internal parasites that occupy the heart, lungs and blood vessels in our pets. Dogs are a natural host for them, but cats and some wildlife can be affected as well. Each animal will show signs of heartworm disease differently.

How do our pets get heartworms? Mosquitos play the important role here. By feeding off an infected animal, they pick up the baby worms (or microfilaria) and deposit them into a susceptible animal by feeding on them.

Is our area affected? Yes. All 50 states and Canada have been affected by heartworm disease. The American Heartworm Society (AHS) took a survey in 2016 and noted heartworm disease has increased by 21% since 2013. This number continues to rise.

What happens if a pet gets heartworm disease? Testing will be done to confirm your pet has heartworms. Then your pet’s heartworm disease will be staged to allow for optimum treatment. AHS has a treatment plan that your veterinarian will follow. This treatment will include heartworm prevention, keeping pets calm/quiet, and injectable medication. Most treatments in dogs are successful but are not guaranteed to clear heartworm disease. Some patients don’t survive treatment. There is currently no treatment for cats.

What can we do to prevent heartworm disease? Giving oral heartworm preventative monthly, year-round is the start. Completing annual testing with your veterinarian is also recommended.

For more information on the topic of heartworm disease, please set up an appointment with your veterinarian. You can also refer to the AHS website: American Heartworm Society.

Sometimes Life is For the Birds

by Leanne Kalinsky


While paying for several bird-related items and my sole reason for trekking to the Tractor Supply store, the cashier casually said, “It’s a thankless job but a special place in heaven for those that take the time to feed the birds.” I thought, she’s right in many respects. On the thankless side, the feeders do get a bit scudgy and need to be cleaned thoroughly or replaced. The bags of seed that make the most sense pertaining to cost are way too heavy for me to lug and try to gracefully pour into the bird feeder without spilling a lot of seed. The rain, which of late I cannot remember so much rain…and other precipitation, tends to easily find it’s way into the trays. The seeds get wet, stuck and if warm outside eventually moldy!


To be honest, this is my 4th bird feeder in the past year. Guiltily, I should have tried a bit harder at cleaning the feeders but my knowledge of bacteria and diseases pushes me to do the easier of the two and buy new feeders. A bit wasteful but in the grand scheme of things, I think it evens out. This bird feeder though, I’ve decided to modify! I bought cork board and glue and extended out the roof! Why don’t bird feeders generally have an extended roof? Is no one but me thinking of wet, moldy seed? Probably not…anyway, along with the extended roof, I placed waterproof strips on the top where the two sides of the feeder come together. It looks a bit like a ridge vent. 🙂 We’ll see if this keeps wet and moldy seed in abeyance.


My feeder is ready, the glue is dry and it seems secure. I have a bird’s eye view (yup, I went there) of the bird feeder, hanging from a bracket off of my deck, from anywhere in my family room with the branches of taller trees and open space in the background. I stand quietly inside the window and I see birds of varying size, with their fluffy feathers and vibrant colors, checking out the new feeder. They fly a beeline to a nearby tree then darting away dipping through the sky. I wonder if they’re telling their bird buds of a new feeder or maybe they’re just happy and given a bit more time checking things out, will begin the full out ‘your turn,’ ‘my turn’ to eat at the feeder.


Special place in heaven? Oh, I don’t know. What I do know is it makes me happy to provide food to these little present-day dinosaurs. It makes me laugh when the ground feeding mourning doves balance their round little bodies precariously on the bird feeder but they make it work! And I could be wrong but it seems to me I see the same pairings of birds daily, the same two mourning doves, the same two couples of Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, the same perturbed blue jay (he sounds annoyed but who knows, that may just be him!). It is homey and makes me smile to think my home base is their home base. My little bird crew.


Did I mention we’re getting a new puppy? I can’t wait to enrich his environment with these thankless yet fulfilling, amusing and beautiful birds. And the puppy…we’re naming him Odie ❤.


Follow your dreams…they know where you’re going!

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!

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.

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!