Salute our Veteran Military Animals Today Too!

Salute our Veteran Military Animals Today Too!

Memorial Day is devoted to remembering those who gave their lives so that we may enjoy freedom. On this special day, let’s also remember and give thanks to all of the animals that have served in the military and also given their lives in support of our veterans.  Countless numbers of animals have been part of our military effort and continue to be active in present day military activities. I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the variety of animals that have helped freedom ring. In some way, theirs is an even more poetic sacrifice. They weren’t serving some noble cause but just simply performing their duties. Without their service many of history’s battles may have had different outcomes.

Military Dogs

Dogs have long been a part of the military serving as guard dogs, attack dogs, bomb detecting dogs, IED detecting dogs and the eyes and ears for many a soldier.

Military Horses and Mules

It’s estimated that close to 2 million horses served in the Civil War. More than half were known to have died on the battle fields.  It took a team of at least 6 horses to move every cannon.  A hard life for certain. Many famous mounts are memorialized on battlefields throughout the world. Equines have had the largest effect on the success of battles throughout history. They are veterans as much as our soldiers and deserve our gratitude.

Military Pigeons

Some rather unusual animals have also helped our military throughout the years. Of course Carrier pigeons were used continually during both World Wars to speed messages across enemy lines. The Coast Guard utilized the keen eyesight of pigeons in a program which used them to spot life rafts and life jackets to assist in rescue missions. The pigeons were carried in special clear “bubbles” attached to aircraft and taught to peck a target which notified the crew if they spotted a brightly colored object on the water.  Even pigeons are unsung war heroes.

Naval Marine Mammal Program

The US Navy has long maintained a program where dolphins, porpoises, sea lions and seals are trained to assist in underwater rescue, equipment retrieval, detection and assistance.


The variety of animals that have served our military in its continual quest for freedom is certainly impressive. A staggering number of animals have participated in our military campaigns and served valiantly and honorably. Take a minute today to thank them too for helping our country. It’s taken teams of soldiers and animals to achieve the peace we know today. Thanks to them all.

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Rocky’s Law – A Good Start

Rocky’s Law – A Good Start

There has been a lot of press lately about the recent passage of a law requiring an Animal Abuser Registry in Orange County, New York. Modeled after similar laws in many counties in both New York State and around the country, this law requires that anyone convicted of animal abuse under New York State Law must register with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office after such a conviction. The abuser’s name must stay on the registry for at least fifteen years for the first offense and longer for subsequent ones. Shelters and “animal sellers” must consult the registry before adopting or selling an animal or face a significant fine.

This is a great first step in beginning to curb animal abuse in our area. Studies have confirmed that once a person abuses an animal, that person is likely to do it again. There is substantial evidence that a person that abuses animals often goes on to abuse people. Stopping animal abusers may stop human abuse as well. We veterinarians are required to report any suspected animal abuse specifically for these reasons. The Orange County Legislature certainly deserves the praise it has been receiving for passage of this bill.  A careful reading of the law, (I could only locate a draft on the OC Government Website),_2015_Draft_Resolutions.pdfraises some concerns in my mind though.

1) Implementation and maintenance of the registry is left to the OC Sherriff’s Office. There is no information regarding speed of implementation, funding or maintenance responsibilities yet posted on any OC County Government site. I hope this can be done quickly and efficiently.

2) The law states that “No Animal Shelter, Pet Seller, or other person or entity located in Orange County shall sell, exchange or otherwise transfer ownership of any animal to any person having resided in Orange County and listed as an Animal Abuse Offender.” Prior to the sale, etc, the person or entity is required to confirm that the name of the potential owner of the animal is not listed and can fined up to $5,000 for not doing so. This is great, but how is this going to be enforced? We need to make sure that every single shelter employee checks the registry before adoption.  What about people that adopt from our shelters but don’t live in Orange County? They won’t be on our registry so animals could still be adopted to a potential abuser. How about that box of kittens being given “free to a good home” outside the grocery store? Think those people will check the registry before handing over a kitten?

3) We commonly see horrible stories about abused horses in our area.  This law exempts “farm animals” from the provisions above and defines farm animals as “an animal used in the production of human or animal food, feed or fiber.  Horses are used as both animal and human food in many countries and are sold from the US for these purposes. I’m concerned that it could be argued that horses fall into this category, exempting them from this law. I would have preferred to see them specifically included. Hopefully this can be amended in the future.

4) The law only applies to abusers residing in Orange County when convicted. There is provision for the registry to be tied in to registries from other locales. However, the surrounding counties don’t have such a law on the books. Many abuse stories we hear of locally, occur in other counties. Those abusers could still potentially obtain animals in Orange County. I hope that we all work hard to encourage other counties to adopt similar registries in order to stop animal abuse on a widespread basis. How wonderful would it be if this could serve as a model for a state-wide law/registry. I urge residents of surrounding counties to encourage their legislatures to adopt similar regulations.

Rocky’s Law is indeed a good start. But as with all legislation, the devil is often in the details. I hope that this leads to true change within the animal community and wasn’t just promoted because of the positive press it generated. I’m sure implementation will be monitored closely by the animal advocates in our area. I look forward to seeing it work.

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Secrets of the Stool Sample – Part 2  THE WORMS!                           


Continuing our journey into the secrets of the stool sample, let’s learn about those monsters inside us – the worms. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what worms our animals can be exposed to and infected with, what the symptoms look like and what the true dangers are to both people and animals. Here’s the real scoop on these parasites:

All of the intestinal worms have pretty interesting life cycles which we won’t go into here. What you need to know is that an animal picks up worm eggs, the eggs develop inside various body tissues, go through several larval life stages, develop into adult worms which lay eggs and start the cycle all over again. The eggs are often pretty hard and are designed to last outside in an environment for a long time, sometimes lasting even for years. That’s why it’s so easy for animals to become re-infected with re-exposure. Diagnosis can only be made by your veterinarian or a specialized laboratory after preparation of the specimen and examination under a microscope. Advanced testing methods may be available in the near future. Treatment is usually targeted at treating the worms once inside an animal – it’s difficult to control eggs out in the environment but there are some measures that can be taken. Let’s learn about each of the major types of worms:


  • Appearance -Parasitologists are pretty straight forward about naming worms. Roundworms are worms of varying length with round body shapes. They often look like cooked spaghetti. All warm-blooded animals can be infected with various species of these worms.
  • Clinical Signs – These worms don’t usually cause diarrhea, but can result in poor hair coats,     weight loss, or failure to gain weight. They don’t cause animals any local irritation or itching. You may see adult worms passed in the stool.
  • Treatment- Consists of proper medications administered at regular intervals. In dogs, this may be as often as every ten days. We base dosing on the life cycle of particular worms. Some medications may need to be repeated as often as every ten days. Large animals such as horses and cattle are administered dewormers on a regular basis.
  • Zoonotic Risks – these are dangers to people as zoonoses are diseases people can contract from animals. We are not the main host for these worms. We can ingest eggs which develop into larval forms which migrate through various body tissues causing inflammation in particular organs such as the liver as the worms try to find their way to the proper place and can’t. Some of the migrations can cause serious problems. Raccoons carry a roundworm which can infect dogs  that causes blindness in infected people.
  • Control – since these are very common in an environment this is difficult. Regular administration of an appropriate dewormer is key. Avoid areas of high animal concentrations like dog parks. Large animals often are moved from pasture to pasture to limit re-exposure. HOOKWORMS –
  • Appearance – These are smaller in length than roundworms but also have a round body. There are hooks around the mouth area which help them attach to the intestine giving them their name.
  • Clinical Signs – these worms can cause diarrhea. Their hooks can irritate and inflame the intestine and even cause some blood loss; even enough to cause anemia.  They too can result in poor growth, weight loss and poor hair coat.  Generally too small to be seen passed in stool. They don’t cause rectal irritation.
  • Treatment – Proper medications from your veterinarian administered at appropriate intervals on a regular basis. In dogs, this can be every three weeks.
  • Zoonotic Risk – These worms are easy for people to pick up. The larval forms can burrow through intact skin, making it possible to pick up by walking barefoot in areas where animals have passed the worms. The larvae migrate under the skin causing a rash, itching and can damage skin enough to cause scarring.
  • Control – Same as for roundworms. WHIPWORMS
  • Appearance – These are very small worms and can’t usually be seen with the naked eye. They are narrower at the tail end which makes them look like a whip.
  • Clinical Signs – These often do cause intermittent or chronic diarrhea in animals. This leads to poor condition, weight loss and poor hair coats. They don’t cause rectal irritation.
  • Treatment – Proper medications from your veterinarian administered at appropriate intervals on a regular basis. In dogs, this can be every three months.
  • Zoonotic Risk – low potential to cause any signs in people.
  • Control – Same as for roundworms. 


  • Appearance – These are flat worms with a segmented appearance. They sometimes reproduce by breaking off segments. These can be seen in the stool as small white particles which often look like grains of rice.
  • Clinical signs – Rarely cause any signs in infected animals. Heavy infestations can result in weight loss.
  • Treatment – Proper medications from your veterinarian administered at the appropriate regular intervals. The majority of over the counter dewormers do no treat this parasite. Neither do the monthly heartworm preventatives which may treat all of the other worms discussed here. In dogs, treatment intervals are usually ten days. Not all large animal dewormers treat tapeworms also. Read medication inserts carefully and consult your veterinarian.
  • Zoonotic Risk – most common tapeworms are low risk for causing any problems in people. There is one type of tapeworm which animals can carry which can cause serious consequences in people. Fortunately it’s very rare in our area.
  • Control – Deworming with an appropriate medication at the proper interval. May be ten days in dogs. Some tapeworms of dogs and cats can be carried and transmitted by fleas. Therefore, increased flea control methods may be required. You’ve now learned that intestinal worms are common in our area. Some of these parasites can cause varying degrees of debilitation and illness in our animals. Many can also infect people with many degrees of severity. The Companion Animal Parasite Council ( maintains an extremely helpful website with the best information available. One of their most interesting features is an interactive map which breaks down the current prevalence of each parasite down to the county level based on data from the two largest national veterinary laboratories.  Click on the link,  pick a parasite, click on New York, then click on your county to find out just what the risk is right outside your door.

    Parasite control is important for both animals and humans. Consult your veterinarian for testing and treatment now that you know a few more secrets of the stool sample.


    Roundworms                   Hookworms                 Whipworms                 Tapeworms




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Secrets of the Stool Sample

We veterinarians ask that you bring in a stool sample once or twice a year as part of a complete health assessment of your animal. Why do we ask you to do this? It’s not because of some strange sadistic tendencies – the way we test your commitment to your animals, or because we’re in a stage of arrested development (although as sticklers to detail it could be argued that many are), but because the stool sample can reveal much important information about a patient’s health. While medieval kings had physicians whose primary task was to assess their daily output as a way of making sure the king was healthy, we’re able to examine these samples in a more highly scientific way. It’s helpful if you bring in a fresh sample. The parasites can live a long time in the environment though, so a sample that’s up to a few days old can still yield good results. We always are amused by those dried out cat donations that resemble a Tootsie Roll rolled in crushed almonds. Google “litter box cake” if you need some ideas for next April Fool’s Day.

Once you hand over the bag of that precious cargo, a few different tests are routinely performed. Some of these can be done in the hospital. Some are so specific that they must be handled at an outside lab. Generally, the sample is mixed with a special solution and then processed in a way to encourage any microscopic parasites or parasite eggs to rise to the top of the sample and stick to a microscope slide so it can be examined under a microscope. Take a look at what we can see under the microscope:

Intestinal Parasites:






Single-Celled Organisms




Bacteria – Salmonella, Botulism, etc

Parasites Of Other Organs:


Liver Flukes 

External Parasites:



Ear Mites


(These may be present if an animal ingests these while grooming and then passes them in the stool)

You can see there’s a lot of information contained in that little plastic bag. I’ll discuss each group of parasites in future posts. Once we determine what may be infecting your animal, appropriate medication can be given and preventative measures recommended in order to avoid re-exposure and re-infection.  We can also have specific testing such as cultures and DNA testing performed at our lab to determine the presence of a specific organism that may have not been seen during the microscopic exam. Many of these parasites are also capable of infecting people. Examining and properly treating your animal will also protect you and your family.

What if the sample is negative? This means none of the above was seen during the microscopic examination. Congratulations! This can indicate that your parasite control program is effective and you’re keeping your animals free of these diseases.  However, a negative sample can also just simply mean that the organisms were not shedding eggs in that sample or none were present in the one we examined. It is still possible that an animal is infected but it just did not show up as so in this single test. We often will recommend treatment “just in case” if an infection is suspected in order to avoid worsening problems.

There really is a lot of information to be gained from examining your animal’s stool. Don’t be embarrassed next time you need to bring in a sample. You’re practicing good animal care.  I often amuse myself in thinking that in a thousand years when someone digs up our civilization, they’ll find we revered our animals. Then it will be found that we even had people whose job it was to clean up after those animals and there were even doctors dedicated to taking care of them. So in a thousand years we may be seen as something like people – animals – animal caretakers. Yep, we vets will end up lower than your dog. Which is just fine with us. We’ll still know the secrets of the stool sample.


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Oma School


This past week I had the pleasure of seeing a patient brought in by her people which included three pretty exuberant young boys. The dog was in great shape. I asked each of the boys what grade he was in. The first two answered “second” and “kindergarten”. The third and youngest had the best answer I’ve ever heard, “I go to Oma School”.

As you probably know, Oma is the German word for grandmother. This family had obviously been smart and clever enough to quantify what we can learn from older generations and given it a name – “Grandma School”. What a perfect way to help youngsters learn that what an older person, like grandparents, has to say is important. Life lessons passed on from older members of the family are just as important as lessons covered in school. This young boy obviously has learned to take what his grandmother had to say very seriously. He was proud that she’s been saying he’s a good learner.

I’ve written about the concept of “it takes a village” to properly raise a child and teach them about responsibly sharing their lives with animals. Oma School brings that down to an even smaller level, “it takes a family” to properly raise a child and teach them about proper care for their family companion animals.

My last post shared information about the “Old Grey Muzzle Tour” and what we can learn from our oldest dogs. In a way our aged dogs provide us with their own Oma School.  They too share life lessons and wisdom gained along their way through life just as people do. Now of course I don’t want to infer that Grandma has an “Old Grey Muzzle” (but apparently I have one now), just that imparting wisdom to our younger generations is important. They’re real lessons that are as important as any taught in school.

I take every opportunity such as career fairs, school visits, 4-H programs, hospital tours, Girl and Boy Scout Patch and Merit Badge classes to help teach our youngsters about proper animal care.  I never thought of it as “Oma School”. Now I always will. We should all take mentoring any younger generation person with the seriousness and dedication of a school teacher. My own kids groan loudly whenever they hear me say “I’m just teaching you.” But I know someday they’ll be in a situation and say, “Ahh. Now I understand” just like I have when finding myself using something I learned in “Oma School”. What a great term for an important part of the wonderful circle of life.



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The Old Grey Muzzle Tour

The Old Grey Muzzle Tour

I recently had the pleasure of attending a thought-provoking session presented by Dr. David Waters as part of the Old Grey Muzzle Tour 2015. Dr. Waters is a veterinarian and cancer research innovator that spends time each year touring the country to visit with the oldest living Rottweiler dogs. His group chose to study Rottweilers because they are a representative large breed dog that has a higher incidence of cancer than many other breeds. By studying these dogs in their environments during their lives and continuing to study them after they pass he hopes to gain insight into what helps some dogs live longer than others. This may turn out to be a good model for finding clues as to why some people live longer than others. Ultimately it may shed some light on what we may be able to do proactively to help both our dogs and ourselves enjoy a longer “healthspan” – the length of life enjoying good health. The concept is to not only live longer, but continue to encompass good health, activity and the joys of everyday living throughout that long life.

Dr. Waters visits with and studies dogs that are equivalent to one hundred year old people. Some are even closer to one hundred and ten. These oldest dogs can be our greatest teachers. He hopes to unlock what helps these dogs live well to such a great age leading to methods which may help us prevent cancer in the future. “Prevention, the avoidance of cancer altogether, is 2 steps ahead of lethal cancer .The idea of cancer prevention has been relatively slow to take hold in the oncology community. In contrast, cardiologists have been tuned into preventing heart attacks for a long time – they’re way ahead of us in their progressive thinking,” Waters said.

Dr. Waters and his team at the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation ( have teased out some tantalizing clues as to what may have helped these dogs live so long. I won’t present them as “bullet points” as Dr. Waters pointed out we often consider such points as absolute fact when actually we often really don’t know the correlation or importance of information. Here are some ideas which their studies seem to indicate help dogs enjoy a longer healthspan: females may benefit from delaying spaying until later in life, dogs benefit from living with other dogs and having a “purpose”, dogs with calmer, mellower dispositions may live longer, actions taken and diseases encountered in the younger part of life may influence in unknown ways later in life.

One of their most interesting findings is that these older dogs may not actually avoid cancer, but that their bodies have found a way to live with cancer. Necropsies (the veterinary equivalent of an autopsy) on many of these dogs showed they harbored sometimes more than one type of cancer, yet these cancers never developed into a lethal problem. These are fascinating findings teased out in unconventional methods.

Dr. Waters and his team is trying also to reshape the dialog of medicine and research; to not only think outside of the box, but to acknowledge there isn’t even a box. I encourage you to follow Dr. Waters on his journey through the tour’s Facebook Page

If you have a chance, take a few moments to view his TEDX talk at

I guarantee you’ll have your eyes opened to some new paradigms in research as well as developing some novel thoughts in helping our dogs enjoy healthier, longer lives. After all, this is the goal of every veterinarian and animal lover.







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Yes, time is ticking. But it’s not that tick I’m referring to, but those dangerous critters that will soon be on the attack. Our heavy snow cover is making the calendar hard to believe, but every plant and animal knows that spring is coming. Our outdoor animal friends are getting prepared for, well, you know what.

Unfortunately this also means that ticks and other parasites are about to come out of their semi-hibernation and will wake up hungry! After over-wintering without a meal both juvenile and mature ticks will need to start feeding to get their growth processes restarted.  Many ticks are not killed by our winter conditions and there will be a new crop waiting to literally suck our blood.

There are several tick species that call the Hudson Valley home with some new ones beginning to pop up in this region too. Most dangerous is the Deer Tick. We know that nearly 40% of the deer ticks in our area carry Lyme Disease and possibly other diseases as well. Other ticks carry serious diseases, such as Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and others not yet detailed. Have you read about the recent death of a Kansas resident who was infected with a newly discovered tick borne disease called Bourbon Virus? Unfortunately, it’s even more dangerous than its namesake. Learn more at

 While all of these tick borne diseases  can cause serious illness, Lyme disease is the best known. This bacterium can infect people, dogs, horses, sheep, goats and cattle. Cats seem somewhat resistant.  The ticks need to attach and feed (nice term – for sucking blood) for at least  24 hours to transmit the disease. Fast detection and removal is key to preventing  transmission of this  disease.

How can you prevent ticks and some of the diseases they carry?

Dogs: Use an external product. Topicals such as Frontline and Advantage have never been very impressive. My patients have had the most success with the Seresto Collars and Vectra topical control products. I’ve used the Seresto Collar on my dogs for two summers now and have seen an impressive reduction in the number of ticks on them. This collar lasts up to 8 months and is waterproof. There are two new oral medications that are said to control ticks but neither is labelled  for control of deer ticks.  I also recommend the Lyme Vaccine for dogs which will be exposed to ticks. This vaccine has become more effective with reduced side effects. Discuss your tick control options with your veterinarian before the season starts. Many people are reluctant to use chemicals and insecticides due to possible side effects. While these may be valid concerns, the risk of contracting a disease of known seriousness seems more important than unknown risks from control methods. The herbal collars available are completely ineffective.

Horses and livestock: Most topical dips and sprays have some efficacy against ticks. Make sure the label lists effectiveness against tick species. Remove ticks  as soon as possible when observed. Keep pastures mowed to decrease contact. There are no approved vaccines for livestock. The dog vaccine has been used with some apparent success in horses. Discuss which insecticide is safe for your farm animals with your veterinarian.

People: Avoid exposure when possible by staying out of tall grass and weeds. Keep lawns, fields and trails mowed. There is always a recommendation to wear light colored clothing and tuck your pants into your socks when walking and hiking. I have yet to find light or white colored hiking pants (who’d want to) and find that when I tuck my shorts into my socks it’s really hard to hike. Applying insect repellents with DEET are helpful although may not be safe for children or perhaps for adults tool. Try to remove ticks as quickly as possible. Examine yourself  thoroughly after being outdoors. The CDC has a new recommendation that treating with a single dose of doxycycline within 24 hours of a tick bite may prevent Lyme disease from developing. Discuss this with your physician if bitten. There is no evidence yet that this may prevent the disease in dogs, but seems to make sense and I will sometimes use this approach with my patients. There is no current vaccine available for people .  I did receive one years ago during the testing phase with no ill effects. There is discussion that one may be brought back to the market in the near future.

The clock is ticking. Now is the time to begin thinking  about insect control and avoidance techniques before the season gets into full swing. Ticks carry many devastating diseases. The best way to avoid the disease is to prevent tick bites. Start planning your defense now!


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Cat Declawing – Just the Facts, Cat

There has been quite a bit of discussion recently within the veterinary community in New York State regarding a bill banning the declawing of cats within the state which has been introduced in the state assembly. Assembly Bill A01297 can found on the following link:

This bill would make New York State the first state in the nation to ban this procedure. Some localities in California and elsewhere have restricted this surgery, but none on the state level. While the procedure remains somewhat controversial, there is great misunderstanding about what it entails. Here are the facts supported both by the New York State Veterinary Medical Society (on whose board of directors I serve as the representative from Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Putnam and Dutchess Counties) and the American Veterinary Medical Association:

FACT: Declawing is a major surgical procedure performed only by a licensed veterinarian while the patient is under general anesthesia. It does involve amputation of the last part of each toe in order to completely remove the nail bed and prevent the claw from re-growing. It is similar to removing the end of each finger at or just beyond the last knuckle. Because of this it is never a decision that is taken lightly.

FACT: The procedure is painful. With up-to-date pain medications and protocols we are able to minimize the pain just as in any surgical procedure whether performed on animals or humans. We use regional nerve blocks with drugs like Novocain, and injectable and oral pain medications similar to those given to humans after major surgery. Cats respond well to these medications and are up and walking on their feet the same day. Full healing takes about two weeks after which there is no indication of further pain.

FACT: While it does involve amputation of the end of the toe it is not a disfiguring procedure. Once completely healed it’s virtually impossible to tell a declawed cat from one with claws.

FACT: Declawing a cat does not change its behavior. A declawed cat will still use a scratching post and rub its paws on furniture, etc.  This is actually a territorial behavior as a cat is rubbing scent glands in its feet on surfaces to send messages to other cats – “Hey I’m here”. They do not do this to sharpen their claws. A declawed cat will jump normally, run and play like every cat. They even seem to do well outdoors. I have seen declawed patients still able to climb trees and hunt. Behaviorally it’s impossible to tell a declawed cat from one with claws.

FACT: Declawing a cat can save a life. Humans that have suppressed immune systems, bleeding disorders or are more susceptible to infections are at risk from becoming ill from even an innocent small cat scratch. Declawing a cat can allow such a person to continue to enjoy sharing a house with a cat while reducing the risks involved. If a declawed cat is less likely to be left outdoors or turned over to a shelter because of these health risks or destructive behavior, the procedure can even save that cat’s life too.

FACT: Declawing is a rarely done procedure. As people have become more aware of behavioral modification techniques and sensitive to what’s involved in this surgery, it’s become a very rare occurrence. Our hospital performs less than five per year. The decision to proceed with declawing a cat is never taken lightly. We always discuss alternatives with our animal lovers. We are able to determine alternatives to declawing in most cases.

Declawing a cat is a serious procedure. It should never be taken lightly. It is not cruel, inhumane and dangerous. Performed properly with great pain modification it can improve the lives of both cat and cat lover. It doesn’t need to be legislated out of existence. The veterinary community already has taken steps to perform this only when absolutely necessary.




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What is a COHAT?

You often hear how important dental health is for our animals. Many of you likely have had your dog or cat’s teeth cleaned or had a “dental” performed. As the annual Pet Dental Health Month comes to a close, here’s the full story about why dental care is so important for our companions.

Over time, and without regular brushing, tartar or calculus will build up on animal’s teeth just like it will on your own teeth. This starts as a discoloration and continues to build up until there is a thick, brown almost cement-like layer on the teeth surfaces. This tartar can start irritating the surrounding gum tissue leading to inflammation (gingivitis) and infection. This will eventually lead to problems in the tooth root resulting in tooth loss, pain and discomfort. Ever have a toothache? It feels the same for our animals. If an infection starts, bacteria can be spread through the blood stream lodging on the heart or in the kidneys leading to severe health issues and even death. Horses, rabbits and rodents can develop sharp edges on their teeth which need to be smoothed down. These too can lead to weight loss and infection if not treated. Studies have shown that bad oral health shortens an animal’s lifetime. Taking good care of your animal’s teeth can help ensure a long, happy lifespan together.

Once you “flip the lip” and see that there may be a tooth issue in your companion animal it’s important to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. She’ll recommend a COHAT and develop a proper treatment plan. So what is a COHAT?






A proper COHAT involves several steps:


For all of our companion animals a true COHAT can only be performed under anesthesia. They don’t like the sound of the equipment any better than you do. It’s pretty hard for you to sit still in a dentist’s chair isn’t it? Imagine what that would be like for our animals. It’s much safer for both the animal and veterinary staff for the patient to be under anesthesia. Some places and groomers may discuss teeth cleaning without anesthesia. A proper job can’t be done this way. It’s the wrong approach. Your veterinarian will require an exam and possibly bloodwork prior to the procedure to determine the safest anesthetic regimen for your animal.


A licensed veterinary technician (LVT) and a veterinarian will closely examine each tooth for wear, fractures, cavities, and looseness. The gum line will be probed for pockets which can lead to infection. Radiographs (xrays) may be done to assess the tooth roots just like at your dentist. The entire oral cavity will be examined for tumors and inflammation.


The teeth will be cleaned using both hand and ultrasonic scalers just as at your twice yearly teeth cleaning. A polish will then be applied to slow down redevelopment of the tartar. Teeth that need special treatment may need filling, sealing or extraction. Special situations may warrant eventual referral to a board certified veterinary dentist. It’s similar to you being referred to an endodontist.

Horses often need to have their teeth “floated” which removes the sharp edges that have developed with wear. This is often done with some sedation as you can imagine how pleasant it must feel. This procedure can only be performed by a veterinarian.


Once your animal is back home, it’s important to develop a good oral health care regimen just like you do for yourself. Regular brushing with a pet toothpaste or baking soda is most important. Human toothpastes can upset their stomachs. You can also rinse with approve products and even use specially prepared chew products. I always recommend products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. You can find a list on

Studies have shown that chewing bones, rawhide, antlers and hard kibble have no effect on tartar build-up. Only you can keep your animal’s teeth in good shape! Ask your veterinarian how to do that. Remember, you’ll be helping your companion live a longer, healthier life.



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It Really Does Take a Village

It Really Does Take a Village

I’ve thought about this phrase, an African proverb made famous by a New York politician, a few times recently. I’ve been practicing veterinary medicine in Orange County for twenty years. Our location is right outside the Village of Maybrook. My children attended Maybrook elementary and continued through the Valley Central Schools. It’s both amazing and heartwarming how any time I come across a student or now young adult that attended school with them, these youngsters are always willing to stop, say hello and fill me in on their lives and families. I’ve watched them grow up, sometimes even pitched to them during their T-ball days, and now as young adults they’re still respectful and pleasant. I’ve realized that in a small way, even in an “advanced” society like ours, we’re lucky to still be part of a village. I’m sure that it’s this way in all of the towns in our area. We’re so fortunate to live where and as we do.

Think about it. Your local community, neighbors, classmates, and fellow soccer moms make up the “village” that helps our youngsters grow, learn and develop into responsible adults. We’re in this together. In ways you may never realize, you have a meaningful effect on those people around you.

Many of these young adults are now bringing their own companion animals into our practice. As part of their village we helped teach them about responsible pet care when they were young. Their parents and neighbors modeled good animal care and now they’re doing it on their own. That’s really heartwarming. Here’s a youngster that at one time was literally swinging from the exam room table now doing the right thing for her beloved cat. It takes a village to help pass this on.

Responsible animal care means not only providing the proper care for your companions, but also  assisting stray, feral and wild animals when needed. A good villager makes sure the neighbor’s dog has good shelter and fresh water during the cold weather these days. I’ve seen people do this. We’ve seen feral cats rescued from near freezing and wild geese that can’t get to open water or food. It takes a village to watch over all of its animals as well as its children.

This really shows how much we are ALL in this together. American society, politics and the world at large can seem so fragmented these days. It’s so much “us against them”. This can make one want to just shut the curtains and hunker down.  But you can’t. It takes a village to care for our children. It takes a village to care for our animals too. Keep up those life lessons. You’ll never know when one of those “kids down the street” will become that young adult that greets you with a smile and lends a hand. Keep up the good work!



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    Dr. James Zgoda

    Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. Animal Behavior 1980 Rutgers Univ., M.S. Zoology 1981 Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, D.V.M., 1985 Owner and chief veterinarian of Otterkill Animal Hospital in Campbell Hall, NY ... Read Full
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