Author Archives: Animal Hostpital Southwest

Open on Saturday and Sunday?

Animal Hospital Southwest has been open on Saturdays since I founded it over 40 years ago. At that time, I believed access to a veterinarian on your time was paramount to providing care that your pet needs.

I was asked recently why we are open on Saturday and Sunday now. First, let me provide some detail. We are open from 8AM to 4PM on Saturday and Sunday. We do provide lunch to our employees for an hour, but we are here all day, 7 days a week.

So now to the answer. Why are we open on Saturday and Sunday? We believe that providing care for your pet doesn’t always come at a convenient time. We are open on Saturdays and Sundays in order to better serve pets. We believe that your job should not get in the way of providing great healthcare to your pet. We are open on Saturday and Sunday to help pet parents in need of a more convenient time to see us. We also know that wellness visits during the week can sometimes require taking time off of work to come see us. By being open on Saturdays and Sundays, it allows us to help pets with wellness care during those hours.

We are constantly working on ways to improve the lives of pets and pet owners. This is just one of the ways we are constantly working to improve the lives of pets and their owners.

So rest assured that we are available when you need us. If you should ever have an emergency during non open hours, please don’t hesitate to call Fort Worth Animal Emergency at (817)263-2900 or visit their website at: Fort Worth Animal Emergency

My Dog Has Fleas! What Do I Do?

Often pet parents ask me in a moment of exasperation: What can I do to stop the itching and get rid of these fleas for good?!

There are a whole host of options here. Most, in my experience, don’t work. All shampoos do nothing for the fleas that aren’t currently on your pet. Most natural solutions are easily overcome by pests. Fleas have developed a natural resistance to most over the counter medications. Pesticides can be harmful if not carefully dosed. Bug bombs do not kill the eggs. The best solutions are at your veterinarian’s office.

The reason why fleas are so difficult to control is that the fleas that are on your pet are only 5% of the flea biomass. The other 95% are either fleas not currently on your pet, flea larva, or flea eggs. Anything that just treats the fleas currently on your pet is going to leave them very uncomfortable in a few hours when they are right back where the fleas were. Anything that treats the adult fleas is only going give a short break to your pet. In addition, the entire life cycle of a flea lasts 3 months, so any control method you choose to use needs to go on for at least three months unless you just want to be right back to square one.

With all of these potential issues when treating fleas, there is a strategy. The strategy with flea treatment is to first treat the discomfort and possible allergies your pet is experiencing and then control the flea infestation. I recommend year round flea control because it doesn’t get cold enough in Texas to reduce flea populations drastically. I have found a lot of products over the years that worked for a short time period and then we would have to move on to the next flea treatment because fleas would gain resistance to whatever we were using. Treatments have come a long way since I started practicing though. We have reached the point where we can give your dog a pill and they is protected for three months. We can give a cat a small amount of product on their back and control flea problems. We have great solutions available to us now. Reach out to your veterinarian for the best available treatments. But some flea products are dangerous. Always ask your veterinarian before providing a flea product to your pet, even if the product claims it is safe.

Brrrrrrr: Your Pet and Winter Weather

Winter weather can bring new challenges to pet ownership. There are a number of recommendations that the AVMA says are important to prepare you and your pet for the winter months.

You can read through the recommendations with the link above, but I just wanted to point out why some of these make so much sense with SCIENCE!

Why is a pet’s size an important factor to keep in mind when gauging their tolerance for cold?

The answer to this question comes down to a significant factor in many contexts: Surface-area-to-volume ratio.

Surface area to volume ratio says that the surface area (the outside covering of an object) increases at a square rate.  While the volume (the amount of space a thing takes up) increases at a cube rate. This means that the volume increases faster than the surface area.

This is important in chemistry and physics because, in most instances, reactions can only take place on the surface of objects. Increasing the surface area when compared to the size of the object generally speeds up reactions.

This is where your pet comes in. Dogs and cats are warm blooded and therefore get warmed internally. This warmth is gradually dissipated to the outside environment through their skin and breathing. If the pet has a large surface area when compared to volume (think a chihuahua) then the amount of time it takes to dissipate that heat to the outside world is faster for them. This means they need to do more work to keep their body temperature at a normal level. For larger dogs, there is more volume for their surface area and, therefore, they can stay out in the cold longer because it takes longer for heat to dissipate out into their environment through their surface area.

These things can all be affected by insulation (fat and hair) as well as the conductivity of the medium (water tends to suck heat of our pets faster than air because it’s more conductive), but in a general rule of thumb for pet’s is the larger the pet they longer they can stay outside and play in the snow.

So remember, during these winter months, keep your pet’s warm and safe. Keep in mind the conditions when deciding how long to keep them outside. Keep in mind each pet’s particular personalities when deciding when they have had enough outside time. We all know the Labrador Retriever’s that don’t know when enough is enough. And always check your engine, if a pet has access to it, before turning it on. Cats love to rest near the warm engine block on cold nights. And have fun!


Anesthetic protocols have changed a lot over the years. Twenty years ago, the standard of care in veterinary medicine for surgical sedation was ketamine and telazol, depending on the species.

Over the last decade and a half, we have moved to a more advanced set of anesthetic protocols. For non-surgical levels of sedation we typically use dexdomitor, which is a reversible sedative and is ideal for usage in dentistry, radiography, or bathing (of high-anxiety dogs or cats) where the level of sedation needed is lower. Because the sedation is reversible, it can even be used for dogs that have extreme anxiety when getting their nails trimmed. Patients typically come back to full consciousness within 2-10 minutes of being administered the reversal.


Patient being prepped for surgery

For surgical purposes, we have developed a combo drug that delivers pain relief, a deep and consistent level of sedation, and has low incidence of post surgical side effects like vomiting. We use this combo in conjunction with gas anesthesia to keep your pet safely sedated through a surgery, and are able to perform and release most routine surgeries the same day. Same day surgeries means less anxiety for your pet, and less anxiety for you.

Every veterinarian has a story for why they practice medicine in the way that they do. The veterinarian responsible for the development of our anesthetic protocol tells a story about having an appendectomy in the 1950’s. He said that the doctors were looming over him to administer the gas and, all in all, it was a traumatic experience. That’s why we generally focus on injectable anesthetics, with a preference for anesthetics that have amnesiac properties… so your pet experiences little to no anxiety and all he or she remembers is the fun parts of our hospital (like getting treats!).

Preventive Medicine

When we mention preventive medicine, clients often think of vaccinations. Vaccinations are an important part of your pet’s preventive care needs, but it’s not the only part of your pet’s preventive care needs.

Some people ask, why does the City of Fort Worth want me to get a yearly examination? Why shouldn’t I just go to a vaccination clinic? The answer is that there are many potential problems that we can identify during an exam, problems that are easier, safer, and more affordably handled early rather than later.

Have we ever told you that your pet has issues with his or her teeth? We would rather clean and protect your pet’s teeth when it is a relatively quick procedure, and the condition is not threatening your pet’s life. But we have seen animals year after year, with deteriorating dental conditions, until finally they come in with an acute issue… like a softball sized abscess protruding from their jaw. That’s a preventable illness, and that’s why we have yearly exams.

Other things we look for include issues involving major organs, joint issues, and hormonal issues. We advise a full blood panel each year to identify potential problems before they become big problems.

Remember, many illnesses are preventable or treatable if we catch them early!

Parasites: Hookworms!

Hookworms are very dangerous to puppies and kittens. They feed on blood by attaching themselves to the intestinal wall, can make a young animal anemic and in some cases are even fatal. Hookworms are particularly dangerous to the very young because they can be transmitted in utero, through the mother’s colostrum, and through ingestion or through skin contact… which means they can be infected before they’re even strong enough to stand or open their eyes.

The species that infects dogs is different from the species that infects cats, but the risks and symptoms are similar. Hookworms latch on to the wall of the intestines and feed on blood, and they are voracious feeders. Animals with hookworms can have stools that are dark with blood and can have decreased appetite. Coughing can even be a symptom of hookworms, as larvae can migrate to the lungs after penetrating the skin.Hookworms

Transmission in adult dogs and cats can happen through ingestion of larvae or through skin penetration. So, for instance, larvae can infect your pet through the pads of her foot or through her skin if she lies in an area that has been contaminated.

Our standard protocol with pets that are experiencing gastrointestinal distress is to do a fecal exam looking for intestinal parasites like hookworms, because they are a common cause of gastroenteritis, and to do a fecal exam at the time of your annual wellness checkup so that we can catch any potential parasites before they become a problem. We also encourage every new member of your pet household to get a fecal exam, as we do not want your new family member to bring a parasite like hookworms into your home!

Parasites: Tapeworms

Tapeworms are the most common parasite to be observed by my clients, as they are one of the few that are visible to the naked eye. Tapeworm segments can often be seen in fresh feces or hanging from an infected dog or cat’s anus.

Like many other parasites, tapeworms have primary and secondary hosts. The species that we are primarily concerned with in small animal practice use dogs and cats as their primary hosts and fleas as their secondary hosts. Tapeworm eggs are excreted from your pet in their stool, where the eggs are then ingested by flea larvae. The fleas pupate, become adult fleas, and then begin feeding on a dog or cat. The fleas cause skin irritation when they feed, causing your pet to chew at their skin… ingesting the flea and allowing the tapeworm to mature and continue the cycle inside your pet’s bowels.

There are a couple of other tapeworm species that infect dogs and cats, though we do not normally see them here in the suburbs. A species that infects cats uses rats as their secondary host, and then infect the cat as the primary host when the rat is eaten by the cat. There is a species that infects dogs which uses rabbits as their secondary host.

Tapeworms do not typically cause any serious problems in dogs or cats, though they are distressing to owners because they are highly visible. The treatment for tapeworms is fairly straightforward and easy to administer. As an animal hospital, though, we are far more concerned with the source of the tapeworm infestation: fleas. Once your pet has an observable flea problem, it will take a significant period of time to completely eliminate them from your home, as you can read in our post on fleas. Fleas cause your pet a lot of irritation, and even a very small number of fleas can cause a skin allergy that can linger for a significant period of time.

Puppy and Kitten Shots

Someone recently asked me why we give puppy and kitten shots the way that we do. “What’s the point in giving them shots every 3 weeks?”

Just like humans, puppies receive some conferred immunity to illnesses through the colostrum. Colostrum is produced in the mammaries in the late stages of pregnancy and the first few days after birth. There are many functions of this “first milk,” including establishing the microbiota or beneficial bacteria in the puppy or kitten’s gut and conferring antibodies to specific pathogens and to infectious disease generally. The colostrum also includes large numbers of leukocytes.

Kitten at the animal hospital

A kitten comes in for her booster shots

As a result, by nursing within the first few hours after birth, puppies and kitties receive both some specific disease immunities and some generalized assistance to their immune systems. The amount of time a puppy or kitten is protected by conferred immunity from their mother varies from litter to litter, and if we vaccinate your puppy or kitty while it is still protected by this conferred immunity the vaccine will not protect them. So, to be sure that a puppy is fully vaccinated we can either wait until we are certain, statistically, that all puppies no longer have conferred immunity or we can give multiple vaccinations.

There are certain diseases that are endemic to our environment in North Texas and which are particularly dangerous to young animals. Examples are distemper and parvo in puppies and calici virus and panleukopenia in kittens. These diseases are such a serious threat to a young animal’s health that we want to minimize any possible window of lapsed immunity. If we are vaccinating every three weeks, we know that the maximum amount of time an animal can have lapsed immunity is 1-2 weeks.

Bassett hound puppy

A bassett hound puppy leaving our hospital after his puppy shots

This is also why we advise that you wait until a puppy is 3-6 months old before taking her to the dog park, enrolling in obedience classes, or engaging in other activities that expose your puppy to other dogs and disease carriers.

Proper vaccination protocols on puppies from shelter and rescue environments are particularly important. It is impossible to know the vaccination and disease history for shelter animals prior to intake, and shelter and rescue animals are housed in close quarters. This makes the transmission of infectious disease very common. If you have adopted a puppy or kitten from a shelter environment, please take advantage of the free wellness exams that are often complementary with an adopted pet and follow the veterinarian’s instructions for follow up care, including any additional series of vaccinations still needed or courses of antibiotics or parasitides. You and your pet will both be much happier and healthier!

Obesity and Your Pet

We are all aware that obesity has become a problem in the United States, particularly over the last twenty years. The number of Americans that are classified as overweight but not obese has remained essentially unchanged, but the number classified as obese has risen by over twenty percentage points. There are a lot of different theories for why this has occurred, from changes in diet to changes in activity level to changes in the microbiota in our gut. What isn’t theory, however, is the long list of detrimental health effects associated with obesity.

Obesity isn’t just a problem with humans. It’s also a problem with our companion animals and animals that live in close proximity to us. In a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society researchers discovered that obesity is a rising problem in many species living in close proximity to humans. Researchers collected weights on 20,000 adult animals across 8 different species over a period of decades. What they found was that weights and incidences of obesity had risen across all of the animal populations. Before you jump to the conclusion that it is simply a matter of richer foods and less activity, the weight gains were also recorded in laboratory animals, whose food intake and activity levels are closely monitored.

It is important to maintain our companion animals at a healthy weight. Obesity in our pets is associated with the same sorts of problems experienced by obese humans, including joint pain, diabetes, heart disease, and many others. At your yearly exam, we will tell you if your pet is getting overweight, but there is also a simple test that you can do at home to score your pet’s body condition. Feel along his or her ribs. If the ribs feel like your knuckles, the dog is underweight. If they feel like the back of your hand, the dog is at the right weight. And if they feel like the palm of your hand, the dog is overweight.

There are a lot of options available to you if you would like to help your pet lose weight. We have prescription diets like Hills Prescription Diet R/D and Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic Diet. Metabolic Diet, in particular, can have a profound impact on overweight dogs provided that the owner follows our recommendations for feeding.

Maintaining a healthy level of activity is also important. Cats can be exercised with a laser pointer or with chase toys, both of which entice their predatory instincts and exercise both their body and their mind. As it becomes less and less common for cats to spend time outdoors, the stimuli and exercise they might find outside chasing birds and squirrels needs to be recreated indoors.

There are many opportunities to exercise your companion dog, as well, though they need to be breed appropriate. Large, working-breed class dogs will need different types of activities than smaller toy breeds. A border collie or a heeler might exercise their body and mind by going with you on a 5k run, or taking part in an organized canine sporting activity like flyball or canine agility, while a chihuahua might get the same benefit from a half mile walk.
Obesity and obesity related illnesses are the single biggest problem I face in my practice today. It is the most common preventable health problem I treat and I encourage every one of my clients to address it as soon as it is identified. If your pet is overweight, of a breed prone to obesity, or has been overweight for some time, call our hospital and let us find a weight loss program that fits you and your pet.

Pet Insurance (a Veterinarian’s Perspective)

As more and more innovations are made in veterinary medicine, we have more and more medical interventions available to treat your pet. Pets can receive sophisticated oncology treatments, cutting edge orthopedics, and even CT scans, the scope of which would have been inconceivable thirty years ago. These interventions have changed the way we practice veterinary medicine, but they can also be expensive.

Unfortunately, we are more often limited by financial concerns than because we have run out of treatments that can benefit a pet. We encourage all of our clients to consider health insurance for their pet. We would always prefer our clients make a medical decision rather than a financial one.

TPLO knee surgery post op

TPLO is a surgery to correct lameness resulting from a ruptured ligament.

A TPLO surgery, for instance, can be expensive. It’s also one of the most reliable methods of rehabilitating a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament with the shortest rehabilitation period. This is an injury that a dog can’t really “just live with,” as it results in near total hind limb lameness. We would hate for a client to be seriously considering euthanasia for an otherwise healthy dog because of cost concerns. Carrying pet insurance allows you to stop asking “can I afford to fix my dog’s knee” and allows you to begin asking “what’s the best way to fix my dog’s knee?”

Many of the major insurance carriers are offering pet insurance as an add-on to their automotive policies, and many large employers are beginning to offer pet policies as an employee benefit. The major rescue organizations here in North Texas typically offer a 30 day free insurance policy on their pet adoptions (and should definitely take advantage of that), and your veterinarian can give you some insight about the policies used by clients in their practice. We recommend Trupanion in our practice, mostly due to the flexibility in setting deductibles that fit your budget, but we are less concerned about who the carrier is and more concerned that our clients and patients have coverage that allows our patients to receive the best medicine.