I’m so Glad I’m a Veterinarian



I’m so glad I’m a veterinarian and not a physician. Not to disrespect the whole human medical profession, but holy smokes what a mess it’s become.  Some of it is entirely beyond the individual physician’s control, but come on – the entire profession can do a better job if it just tried to be a little more like us.  So many times I’ve had clients say, “I wish you could be my doctor.” After a few recent doctor visits I understand that sentence even more.

I’m glad I’m a general practitioner too. We pride our selves on treating the whole patient – that’s why it’s called Holistic Medicine.  Human practice has become so specialized that each doctor will only look at the small body section she specializes in. No one seems to put the whole picture together anymore.  Two weeks ago I went to see a back specialist for a new leg issue. This is a high powered well respected doctor, a graduate of both Harvard Medical and Law schools.  Maybe he should have stuck with the judge’s robes.  He didn’t even touch me during my “exam” didn’t even ask where it hurts.  Took a look at an xray film, pre-formed some opinion in his head and made recommendations without even a real exam.  I would never do that for one of my patients. And they can’t even tell me where it hurts (although during a careful exam they do).  Next I went to a hip specialist. He at least did touch me briefly but stated he had no idea what was going on with my lower leg and just focused on his little section of the body and injected my hip. I thought, “Why not. If it helps, great.” Well it didn’t.  So guess it’s on to the next “window” specialist.

I understand now why so many people turn to the internet, perform self treatment and seek “alternative” methods of treatment. Medicine is failing us.  I know it’s partially the fault of the system -third parties dictating costs, payments and number of patients seen. Seems like it’s all about through-put these days.

My practice is not like that. Each and every patient gets the same level of insight, care and dedication to helping with whatever ails it.  It’s how we veterinarians are trained. Conscientious ones keep that up. I know we’re not all perfect every time. I know there are some veterinary practices which are beginning to practice like our human counterparts. We see their patients all the time for additional opinions.  People are craving that human touch.; to be treated with dignity and made a part of the health care decision team.

Physician heal thyself may be an appropriate phrase to apply to medical practice in the US these days.  Our counterparts have a lot of thoughtful re-adapting to do. I’m sure there are some great human practitioners out there. I’d love to know where they are.  Maybe I can convince them to become veterinarians because I sure am glad I am one.

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Your Car Is an Oven

The recent story about the individual leaving two dogs in car in Poughkeepsie leading to their deaths is so disheartening and frustrating.   DON’T YOU PEOPLE GET IT?   There are articles and warnings about how hot a car can get published every summer just like this post.  Yet every year, thousands of dogs die because people think, “It won’t happen to me.”  “I’ll just be a few minutes.”  “The cracked window is enough”.  It’s NOT!   YOUR CAR HEATS UP SO FAST IT’S MORE THAN AN OVEN- IT’S ALMOST A MICROWAVE!

Every year there are lots of warnings posted in print and online about the dangers of leaving animals and children in a car during the heat of summer. Every year many animals and even children die because someone has left them unattended in a vehicle. Every year I see dogs in cars out in the sun. DON”T PEOPLE GET IT?

CRACKING A WINDOW DOES NOT HELP! People think leaving a window open a few inches provides enough air flow to keep the interior from getting dangerously hot. Studies have shown this makes no difference. Air temperatures inside a car can climb very quickly to fatal levels. The table below gives some idea of how quickly the danger develops. 

 Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time

Elapsed time

Outside Air Temperature (F)









0 minutes








10 minutes








20 minutes








30 minutes








40 minutes








50 minutes








60 minutes








> 1 hour








Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University

That’s right. In the time it takes you to just “run into the store” temps inside the car climb to 120 degrees on a 90 degree day. That’s quickly fatal. That quick “run into the store” can kill your dog or child. Think twice before leaving them behind.

What can you do if you see an animal left behind in a car? Here are some basic tips from the Humane Society of the United States:

How to help a pet left in a hot car

  • Take down the car’s make, model and license-plate number.
  • If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner.
  • If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.
  • Call 911 only if absolutely needed
  • Taking matters into your own hands like breaking a window is not recommended and can result in legal actions against you. Only a police officer, peace officer, or legal agent of a humane society can seize a dog from a locked car in New York State.

    The owner of the dog will be fined and can even be charged with animal cruelty. Why take this risk? IT IS NEVER WORTH TAKING THE RISK!

    You can help by distributing the flyers provided by the Humane Society of the United States found at the following link:


    Please help every animal lover understand that his or her car is an oven. Leaving any animal unattended in a car in full sun for even a short period of time, even with a window slightly open, is dangerous and potentially fatal. Let’s stop this dangerous behavior.









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Putting Fourth of July Phobias to Rest

A Fearless Independence Day for Fido

Every year, as Independence Day rolls around, we veterinarians field many phone calls from clients worried about how their dogs are going to react to the noises of the celebration. The whole concept of the day seems odd to me. Isn’t England our greatest friend and ally? It strikes me that celebrating our break with them is like throwing a party every year for your parents and friends with the theme “I’m so glad I moved out”. Get over it already.   And we celebrate a war with the sounds of war? Soldiers sacrificed themselves on our local fields so we could eat hot dogs 239 years later? Anyway, back to our canine companions.

Many dogs have an innate anxiety about loud noises. This comes from being confined while hearing ominous sounds from an unknown source. Some become quite frantic and can harm themselves trying to escape houses – actually jumping through windows and chewing through garage doors. Estimates are that 12%, nearly 20 million,, of the dogs in the US suffer from noise related anxiety. This can be from any loud sound source such as: thunderstorms, fireworks, gunfire, car backfires and loud music. This is often compounded by our dogs’ excellent sense of hearing. They’re actually able to hear low frequency sounds up to 150 miles away. That’s right – your dog will be hearing the New York City fireworks display in addition to every other one in our area over the next few days. They can hear a thunderstorm far up in the Catskills when there may not even be one in our area. Yikes! No wonder they can be so stressed. The key to breaking the anxiety is to try to stop it from even starting. This can be tough when you can’t hear what they do. You must be proactive. Take steps to intervene before your dog gets worked up. There are many successful strategies for helping them cope – some take a long time to work  but improve the issue permanently, others are short-term coping mechanisms.

Strategies for Reducing Noise Phobia and Anxiety in Dogs

Long Term: 

  1. Behavior Modification: This technique involves shaping your dog’s behavior by teaching coping mechanisms such as calming and relaxation techniques. Playing a CD of thunderstorms at slowly increasing volumes over a long period of time can help extinguish the fears permanently. This takes guided training on your part and some time and patience to be effective. http://throughadogsear.com has some basic information and guides available.
  2. Anti-Anxiety Medication: We can successfully use many of the same anti-anxiety medications as can be used in humans to help reduce generalized anxiety in dogs. To be effective these medications need to be given on a daily basis long term. Some dogs need these medications for their entire lives; some only during thunderstorm/firework season from May to November.Short Term: 
  1. Pheromonal and Aroma Therapy: There are several products on the market which contain a pheromone, a special odor designed to influence another animal at a distance, which is made by a mother dog to help calm and soothe her puppies. These are made as sprays, room diffuser plug-ins and collars. Lavender and chamomile scents are often included as these too have been shown to have a calming effect on dogs. My go-to product is Adaptil http://www.ceva.us/Products/Product-List/Adaptil-Formerly-D.A.P-R.
  2. Behavioral Therapy: Many of our clients have achieved good results with versions of a fairly new product known as the “Thundershirt”. This is a vest-like garment made of compression material which gently “hugs” your dog creating a calming effect. Seems like a crazy idea but it works. Find them at www.thundershirt.com.
  3. Sedatives: Veterinarians used to routinely dispense long acting sedatives and tranquilizers to severely calm down anxious dogs. These meds can literally knock your dog off of its feet and may last for 8-12 hours. They’re no longer in widespread use although some patients may still benefit from them. Some clients will use Benadryl (diphenhydramine) a common anti-histamine which has a side effect of making dogs (and people) drowsy. While it may make your dog sleepy, it does not have good anxiety-reducing properties.Ultra-short term:
  1. Anxiolytics. Short acting drugs such as Xanax and Ativan can be used in dogs to decrease anxiety attacks. To be effective these need to be given before the anxiety sets it. Since they may only be effective for 1-2 hours repeated dosing may be needed. 
  2. A secluded location. Moving the dog to the most insulated sound-proofed room in the house can help. Placing her in a covered kennel or darkened room is also often helpful.
  3. Bailey’s.  Before reliably effective and safe anti-anxiety medications were developed we often recommended giving an anxious dog a small amount (shot or smaller) of sweetened liqueur. Most dogs drank this readily. I used to recommend one for the dog and two for you. We now prefer that you don’t get your dog drunk since we have all of the above safer techniques available to us now, but this can still work in a pinch. I hope you, your dog and your family have an enjoyable and safe holiday. If your dog is prone to anxiety issues speak with your veterinarian about which of the above techniques or medications may work best for her and your family. We can get you all through this. Happy Independence Day!





- See more at: http://blogs.hudsonvalley.com/pets-power/page/4/#sthash.lcYibGXq.dpuf

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Zoo – Could it Really Happen?

Zoo – Could it Happen?

A television adaptation of James Patterson’s novel Zoo is currently creating a stir in the animal community. Mostly just in the humans, as other animals see television for what it really is. I like James Patterson’s books and of course love animals so this was an easy read for me. Light, scary, entertaining and a bit thought provoking. Reports are that the TV version will depart from the book and develop its own plot points and resolution. That often is not a good sign. At least I’m sure there will be plenty of pretty animals gracing our screens.

I don’t think discussing the plot will be a spoiler as who knows where the show will lead. The book centers on an affliction, somewhat goofily called HAC – Human Animal Conflict. Something starts affecting animals around the world causing them to attack humans but interestingly not other animals.  Scientists, the government and even the military race to find a reason for these attacks. Several vain attempts to stop them take place. It turns out the animals have been affected by compounds that are created by specific aspects of human society. By changing the way we live we can stop the attacks.

The story is an interesting allegory which demonstrates how all life on this planet is inter-linked on a global level to an increasingly large degree.  Could such a situation really occur?  The book presents very fast changes in the environment as a result of human action. In reality our actions may bring about change at a much slower rate. It’s more likely that some infectious agent could easily circle the globe and cause wide spread behavioral changes.

One of these agents already exists. Rabies is a contagious virus which affects animals’ nervous systems and causes them to attack other animals and people in order to spread the disease. 50,000  people around the world die from rabies every year. Many of these after animal bites. Now that’s already a scary story.

Dog bites are a significant issue in emergency rooms around the U.S. Over 400,000 people are treated every year. These aren’t even due to some strange environmental issue or virus. It’s the nature of some of our dogs and the way they are trained or mistrained. Now that’s already a scary story.

The important issue to remember as you watch ZOO is that all of our actions can have implications. We are taught to act locally but think globally. This story points out just what can happen when we fail to take action on that.  Enjoy the show. Let me know if by week 5 you’re sitting just a little bit further away from that dog or cat on your couch. I probably will be.

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Baby Animals Should Be Left Where They Are!




It’s that time of year again. Spring is in full bloom and summer just around the corner.  Mother Nature is bringing lots of babies into the world right now.  As a wildlife veterinarian and rehabilitator I see many types of wild animals that are brought into the hospital this time of year.  My team does its best to bring the sick and injured ones back to health and return them to the wild. Many times we are brought baby animals that are picked up by people assuming they are abandoned or injured. They’re usually not. Mother Nature has unique ways of taking care of her babies which doesn’t require any help from us humans. Rehabilitators are required to file annual reports with New York State about our work. One of the categories asks why animals are brought in. The one I find most frustrating is titled “unnecessary human intervention”. Here’s some advice on how to avoid falling into that category.  


Baby cottontail rabbits are fed by their mother only around two times a day, typically at dawn and dusk. The rest of the day they are left alone in the nest while she is out feeding. Once they are able to walk they may move out of, but stay within, the area of the nest. They are supposed to be on their own.  They are not abandoned. If you come upon a nest of baby bunnies or find one out on its own LEAVE THEM ALONE! Their instinct is to freeze.  Through lack of fear they will allow themselves to be picked up. If no injuries are visible, LEAVE THEM ALONE! 


Baby birds stay in the nest until fully feathered. Once they are and just before and while learning to fly they will leave the nest and stay nearby on the ground or lower branches. This is known as the fledgling stage. The parents still come and feed them while out and about. They are not abandoned.  If you come upon fully feathered, uninjured baby birds hopping around the ground, LEAVE THEM ALONE!  If there is a danger of cats or other animals lurking nearby, you can move the fledgling into the branches of a nearby tree. The parents will find it. The smell of a human will not cause them to be abandoned. That’s false folklore. 


Baby deer or fawns are also only fed by their mothers twice a day at dawn and dusk. The fawn is left alone throughout the day to sleep in a safe and quiet place. However, some fawns don’t read the manual and get up and wander around. They are not abandoned but simply are waiting for mom to reappear for dinner. If you come upon uninjured fawns, LEAVE THEM ALONE! 

By now I hope you’ve caught my drift on how you should approach uninjured baby animals.

I’m always happy to attend to injured wildlife. Many veterinarians are.  If you have any questions about wild animals you come across please contact the local DEC, a wildlife rehabilitator or your veterinarian. If you find baby wild animals that are not injured, LEAVE THEM ALONE!




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It’s Still Called Practice

It’s Still Called Practice


On June 2 I had the hard to believe it’s even possible pleasure of celebrating thirty years (30 years!) of being a veterinarian.  The New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell said goodbye and sent me on my way. (By the way – that is the official name of our vet school. It is actually a SUNY school, but that’s not commonly mentioned.  These days it’s all about branding and Cornell has well, better name recognition so they say.) Yup, I was minted smack dab in the middle of the ‘80s. 1985 to be exact.  It was a great time to have been in college- yes kids the ‘80s were as much fun as it looks like in the movies. It was a pretty interesting time to start a career.

Veterinary medicine was just beginning to really sort itself out. A focus on companion animal practice was just starting to be discussed and understood. Animals were wonderfully becoming members of the family.  No way could we envision them being called “fur babies” back then as they are often referred to now.  Technology was just beginning to be used in veterinary medicine. Computers were a pretty simplistic, but very expensive commodity.  During my senior year, students had to sign up for time to use the one word processor the school’s library owned to type up our senior seminars. That’s right – one computer for 80 students.   I still am proud of the fact that during my senior year of high school I was the only boy in the typing class even though it caused me to receive quite a bit of grief. I figured it would help me type up term papers.  I never imagined it would be the main way we communicate today.

The changes I’ve seen in thirty years are impressive. When in school, we weren’t even taught about dentistry – “animals don’t have teeth issues”, we were told. Now we know that improving dental health saves animal’s lives.  Cornell’s radiology department had just obtained a human ultrasound machine. The radiologists were playing around with it to see if it would have any use in animals. Now it’s virtually impossible to practice without one.  An office visit was $17 dollars. And yes I walked to work and carried my lunch. The greatest change I’ve seen in our profession is that for the first time ever, there are more practicing female veterinarians than male veterinarians. Veterinary school classes are currently 75-90% female. The face of our profession has literally changed. I think it’s ultimately for the better.

In thirty years I’ve seen enough appointments to fill Yankee Stadium three times. That’s around 150,000 appointments. I’ve performed over 7,000 surgeries.  No wonder I’m so tired some days.  Those numbers are really hard to fathom.  Yet, nearly every day I see a patient that presents with a problem I’ve rarely or never seen before.  It takes constant research, dedication and continual re-education to stay current and provide the best, up-to-date care for every single one of my patients.  You really can learn something new every day. I make it a point to. 

That’s why it’s still called practice. No matter how much I know there’s still more to learn.  Being a good doctor is a combination of art, science and sometimes luck. Practice makes perfect. The new challenges every day brings remind me that I’ll never be perfect. Even after thirty years I’ll keep practicing.


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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)   http://www.orangecountygov.com/filestorage/1158/8953/18791/May_10,_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 (www.capcvet.org) 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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    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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