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Love for Animals

December 1, 2022
Gloria Berube
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Just like everyone that I work with, I love animals. I’ve almost always had a dog. Even growing up, we had nothing, but we had a dog.

I’ve always tried to work hard, waitressing, bartending, etc. I was also a travel agent for a while.

When I applied for a receptionist position at a general practice veterinary clinic in 2000, I wasn’t confident that I would be considered because I had no experience. After working there for four years, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about animals. I realized that I wanted to continue doing this work.

I started working at GSVS in 2004. After I survived my first day, which was entirely different from general practice, I was asked if I was coming back! Here I am, eighteen years later, working for a company that values and takes care of their employees!

When I said that I learned a lot, it doesn’t compare to what I continue to learn, every single day! A day doesn’t go by, that I don’t learn something!

My position at GSVS is telephone operator. Giving directions, making appointments, and taking messages, is only part of the job. Trying to steer clients in the right direction, when they’re unsure what to do, when their pet is ill, is a huge part.

The GSVS family consists of amazing doctors, technicians, client service representatives and administrative staff, whose main goal is a “happy ending” for our clients and their beloved pets. We all wish they were all happy endings.

Eighteen year later, I can truly say that I’ve never regretted working here. The days can be trying, to say the least, but they’re always interesting.

I consider GSVS my family. I’ve made friends here that are truly lifetime friends. Everyone is there for each other, through thick and thin, in and out of work.

With the tenth anniversary of Super Storm Sandy just passing, the memories of the losses of many of our employees are still fresh. Many of our employees experienced loss, including myself. Everyone stepped up to help, whether monetarily, with a kind word or just willing to help in any way. The Scavellis and the Correntes made sure that my husband and I had a place to stay. Other acts of kindness, included an air mattress, meals, socks, etc…

It seems that since COVID, we’ve been busier than ever! Everyone works hard, all day, every day, trying to minimize someone’s heartache, who is just worried about their pet. At the end of the day, we’ve all been there, and know what they are going through.

I think I speak for my fellow employees, when I say that there are often pet or owner situations we can’t get out of our heads, and we take home with us.

I’m always grateful for the little things, remembering our birthdays, holidays, a random lunch, or special treat, showing us that we’re appreciated.

I appreciate that I have a job and that it is at GSVS!

Why Do I Rescue So Many Special Needs Pets?

November 1, 2022
Galina Garusova, Veterinary Nurse, Oncology Department
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

It all began when I decided to foster a quadriplegic Yorkie. Simon stole my heart and created in me an understanding of special needs pets. Even though he cannot walk, or even move his limbs much, he has a full life, with lots of love and entertainment. Living with Simon taught me to understand the different sounds he makes for different things that he requires; it also has brought to my attention how much caring for special needs pets is in demand. Which explains why I have so many. It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, and takes away from family life and vacations, and social life as well.

Here is a glimpse into my daily routine: I get up at 4:25am to be at work a little before 7 am, I live 25 minutes away. As soon as the alarm rings all walking dogs go outside, then I follow with Simon in the wheelchair for his morning potty. Logan, a 40lb husky with severe Cerebellum hypoplasia, must be walked by me. Then everyone gets fed and medicated, if needed. Simon gets physical therapy. Once all chores are done, I have 15 minutes to drink coffee and go through my emails, then shower, and I am off to work. I get to work before my shift to set up animals that come with me for continuous care throughout the day. Once my shift is over and I get home, I do it all over again. My animals always come first before myself or my family’s needs. I am very thankful for my very understanding and patient husband, and my very understanding bosses. I have non-walking dogs, dogs that walk abnormally, I have blind dogs, I take hospice dogs. My life revolves around those that need me. However, I live a full life, I am happy with what I do, and I do take staycations and go out and have fun.

Now here is why I do, what I do. The special needs pets are pets just like all the normal ones. They may not walk, see, hear, or be otherwise impaired, but they love you the same, if not more than the able animals. During their intensive and at times physically and emotionally draining care, I form such a deep bond and connection with them that it almost gives me a spiritual high to watch them improve and thrive in my care, as well as knowing that at least for that pet I have made a difference. In the short time that I have been rescuing special needs, I have learned that there are not a lot of people willing to take on the responsibility and the heartache that comes with it. I wish more people would. I am blessed that I work in a place that allows me access to a variety of specialists and equipment, and doctors and nurses that are willing to help. I would not be able to do what I do without them.

Building for the Future of Veterinary Medicine

October 1, 2022
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Garden State Veterinary Specialists, a nearly 30-year resident of Tinton Falls has continually expanded the variety of veterinary specialty services it provides to the community. The increased demand for emergency care and specialty services has led GSVS to consider relocation to a larger facility. After an extensive search throughout Monmouth County, we have secured a 51,000 sq. ft. single story space for our hospital. Our new location in the neighboring town of Eatontown, will allow us to offer our patients outstanding specialty care in a brand new, fully equipped facility. Our expanded space (all on one floor) will feature all of the major veterinary specialties as well as individual suites for Dentistry, Rehabilitation, Minimally Invasive Surgery, and Radiation Therapy.

Offering full time Dental Specialty care will be an important component of the veterinary services provided at our new hospital. Dental disease is often described as a silent illness since it can progress rapidly without the patient showing any obvious clinical signs.  Patients with dental disease can continue to eat normally and may not let you know they are in pain. Oral and dental diseases unfortunately are very common. In fact, periodontal disease (gum disease) is the most common clinical condition in companion animals. It causes bad breath, oral pain, behavioral changes such as reduced appetite, and may affect distant organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation have helped many people recover from injuries and surgery. Now, these modalities are being increasingly used in animals to help restore function, mobility, and quality of life. Although more commonly used in dogs, physical rehabilitation can be part of a treatment protocol for almost any animal species. Physical rehabilitation can provide pets a variety of benefits, including reduced pain, increased range of motion, improved balance and coordination, restoration of normal movement, restoration of normal muscle mass, increased muscle strength and even weight loss in obese patients.

In the past several years, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has become increasingly popular with veterinarians and their clients. As the human-animal bond continues to grow, dog and cat owners are increasingly aware of and concerned about pain experienced by their pets resulting from surgical procedures. Clients also associate their own medical experiences with those of their pets and frequently ask for less invasive, less painful procedures. MIS procedures provide both diagnostic and therapeutic value, allowing veterinarians to make challenging diagnoses and carry out therapeutic procedures at the same time. As in humans, veterinary MIS is surgery performed through multiple small incisions instead of one large incision. The benefit to your pet is less pain and a faster recovery. MIS can be used in arthroscopy, laparoscopy and thoracoscopy procedures.

GSVS is excited for this next step in the growth of our hospital within the greater Monmouth County community. It continues to be our mission to bring quality veterinary medicine to our patients and their families.

Your Pet Has Cancer

September 1, 2022
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

“Your pet has cancer”. Those are very sad, scary words. For many families, that is the end of their story, and they say their goodbyes to a beloved family member. For others, their journey is only beginning when they seek a consult with a Veterinary Oncologist. One of our GSVS family members made that journey with her dog, Dollo.

Dollo was always a special dog from the first day he met his family. Diagnosed with a heart murmur, his breeder sought a home for this special pup and of course during his cardiology appointment at GSVS it was not hard to find one. Dollo went home that day with a staff member and became a part of the GSVS family. Life was good for Dollo. He liked people and tolerated other dogs, even in his own home.

Dollo was a Rottweiler and unfortunately, like some other full breed dogs, had a predilection towards cancer. Shortly before Dollo turned 8 years old, cancer reared its ugly head. Dollo was diagnosed with a nasal carcinoma by the GSVS Oncology team. Faced with this diagnosis, his family considered their treatment options and most importantly what would be best for Dollo.

Dollo had a tolerant personality and a love of life. If his family could maintain his quality of life, they were willing to pursue treatment of his cancer. And so, their journey began. Dollo had a particularly aggressive form of cancer, but he fought on. After one round of treatment, Dollo was fine for a time, but the cancer returned. Once again, his family was faced with the decision: to continue treatment or to stop. Dollo answered that question for them, he was happy and he enjoyed life. So, they decided to continue the fight with him.

Most cancers in pets have a good, though not an extremely long, response to treatment. Families are happy with the results, since for at least a time, they have their dog or cat back to where they were before the disease had impacted their quality of life. Unfortunately, the time does come eventually when the cancer beats even the most aggressive treatments and there is nothing more than can be done to continue the patient’s quality of life. For Dollo’s family, that time came when he would no longer eat, a sign many pets exhibit when they can no longer continue to fight their disease. Dollo eventually passed on in the loving embrace of his GSVS family who supported him and his family until he was ready to cross the rainbow bridge.

The field of veterinary oncology is filled with loss, but also filled with love, hope and sometimes even joy. Giving Dollo’s family and other families extra time with their beloved furry family members and preserving their quality of life is the ultimate objective of the GSVS Oncology team.

The information contained in the article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a veterinarian.

Fun in the Water

July 1, 2022
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

The summer season provides a great opportunity for you to share some quality time with your pets outside. Many dogs love the water but, despite what you may have seen in the movies cats do not particularly enjoy it. Another common misconception is that all dogs can swim. If you are introducing your dog to the water for the first time, certain precautions should be taken. Breeds with short legs, thick body shapes, and no tail can find it difficult to stay afloat; older or overweight pets may tire easily. Canines with a flat nose will find it harder to breathe while in the water. Gradually introduce your pet to the water to ensure that they can swim and be prepared to assist them if they run into trouble. Teaching your pet how to get out of the water safely can avoid a tragedy should they fall into the pool accidentally.

Dogs are also susceptible to infections from bacteria and microorganisms through skin exposure to or ingestion of contaminated water. If the water is not safe for you to swim in, then it is not safe for your pet. If you would wear a life jacket because the water is too deep to touch bottom, it would be wise to put one on your pet as well. A properly fitted life vest is especially important in the ocean since your pet can be pulled under by a strong current or riptide. The temperature of the water and the length of exposure should also be considered since cold water could lead to hypothermia.

After a swim in the ocean or even the pool, it is important to give your dog a bath with a mild shampoo. Chlorine, sea salt and other contaminants should be removed from their coat and skin. Don’t forget to rinse and dry the ears and flush their eyes to prevent irritation and infection. Providing your dog with fresh drinking water is also important. If you encourage your pet to drink water from a fresh water supply, they will be less likely to drink water that is harmful to them. While pool water is not toxic to your pet, drinking an excessive amount of the water can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Finally, your veterinarian is the best source of advice about your pet and any special considerations that you should keep in mind to protect them during water recreation activities. Your primary veterinarian will be able to advise you as to any vaccinations your pet may also need to protect them against water-borne diseases.

The information contained in the article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a veterinarian.


Vacation Plans? Who Will Care for Your Pet?

June 1, 2022
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

This year’s summer season promises to be a popular one for travel, with many people anxious to vacation away from home after a long COVID induced hiatus. Our pets have been spending more time than usual with us and are not used to being separated from their normal surroundings. Part of your vacation plans should include who will care for your pet while you are away.

Whether you decide to have a trusted friend, a veterinary hospital, or a pet resort care for your beloved pet, there are things that should be done to prepare your pet for their vacation during yours. Although cell phones have made keeping in contact easier, your pet’s medical condition and your personal choices for medical care are important to communicate to the caregiver.

Perhaps the best place to start is to have a folder (paper or digital) for your pet containing some important information about them that you can share with the caregiver. The information folder should include: a copy of your pet’s vaccination history, any special dietary needs or restrictions, a list of medications or supplements your pet is taking, known medical conditions, name and contact information for their veterinarian, behavioral issues or stress triggers, and details about their daily routine. All of this should prepare the caregiver to better understand and address your pet’s particular needs. The last part of this packet of information should be a written document signed by you stating what you are authorizing the caregiver to do on your behalf.

A pet care authorization should outline your preferences for treatment in your absence. That authorization may cover certain tests, procedures, treatments, or even euthanasia. Your pet’s pre-existing condition or financial constraints may influence the extent of the authorization you will extend to a caregiver. Consideration should also be given to how payment for treatment will be made. Although pet resorts and veterinary hospitals may have payment policies in place should emergency treatment be required, private arrangements with friends or family members typically do not. To avoid any issues, should an emergency situation arise, it should be clearly communicated who will provide payment for treatment, whether you will pay directly or if you will reimburse the caregiver.

Another consideration that may help your pet adjust to your absence would be to have your pet spend some time with the caregiver ahead of your vacation for a short period. Pet resorts and your veterinarian will sometimes offer a daycare or overnight stay option; friends or family members may likewise spend some extended time in advance of your trip with your pet so they have some familiarity with them.

Taking a few steps to prepare for a vacation always makes the trip smoother. Including your pet’s care plan when preparing for a vacation this summer, will put you at ease and give your pet an enjoyable vacation as well.

The information contained in the article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a veterinarian.




Putting Your Cat on a Diet

May 2, 2022
Casey Murphy, VMD

Garden State Veterinary Specialists

If your cat is overweight, a diet is a great place to start helping him or her lose weight. It can be hard, though not impossible, to get cats to exercise, so a diet is usually the best way to help our feline friends cut down a few pounds. Cats who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for developing diabetes mellitus, orthopedic problems such as arthritis, liver disease, skin issues, and lower urinary tract disease. A diet is simply making sure your cat is not receiving more calories per day than he or she expends in energy. This is called the resting energy requirement (RER), which your veterinarian can estimate for you based on your cat’s current weight and his or her ideal weight. Once you have an idea of how many calories your cat will need per day, you can translate that into a daily amount of your cat’s food. The calculated RER is just a starting point and may need to be adjusted based on the progression of your cat’s weight loss.

Every cat food has a certain amount of calories (kcal) per cup or per can, and this information can be found right on the food bag or on the manufacturer’s website. With this information, you can figure out how much your cat should be fed each day. It is very important to use a measuring cup when measuring out your cat’s food to make sure you are not overfeeding (or underfeeding) him or her. Sometimes when you calculate the amount of food, it may seem like a very small amount because the calorie density of your cat’s current food is high. But don’t worry, there is a way around this! Talk to your veterinarian about finding a food that has a lower calorie density so that your cat will think you’re feeding him or her more food even though the total calorie count is the same. Some owners also worry about making sure they are home for regular feedings due to busy schedules. Automatic feeders are an excellent way to make sure that your cat receives a specific amount of food at a certain time each day. (This also means that your cat is looking to the feeder for food instead of you.)

Putting your cat on a diet may seem scary at first, but with the help of your veterinarian (and maybe an automatic feeder), it can become just another part of your everyday life. Remember to have regular weight checks with your veterinarian every month or two to decide if small adjustments in feeding may be necessary. Also, don’t forget that your cat’s treats count as calories too! Your cat won’t lose weight overnight, but with time, patience, and persistence, you can help your cat to a healthier lifestyle.

The information contained in the article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a veterinarian.

Canine Cataract Surgery Outcomes

April 1, 2022
Michele Edelmann, VMD, DACVO
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

While almost everyone knows someone who has had cataract surgery, many people are unaware that our canine companions can get cataracts too! They may develop due to genetics, nutrition, diabetes, old age, and trauma. Although most dogs are not reading, writing, driving, or working, visual impairment from cataracts may still affect the quality of their life. The first sign of cataracts in pets is often a white, cloudy change within the center of the eye. Cataracts may progress to cause complete blindness. If untreated, cataracts may result in painful inflammation and elevated intraocular pressure (glaucoma).

There are no proven medical treatments like drops or pills that can reverse cataracts. Surgery is the only treatment that can restore vision. Surgery also reduces the risk of painful consequences from cataracts like intraocular inflammation and glaucoma. Cataract surgery involves removing the white, cloudy lens, and replacing it with a clear, artificial lens under general anesthesia. Considering the expense, extensive aftercare, and follow-up required with cataract surgery, owners of dogs with cataracts often decide whether to pursue this procedure based on reported success rates and the advice of their primary veterinarian.

Dr. Michele Edelmann, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist (DACVO) at Garden State Veterinary Specialists, recently conducted a clinical retrospective analysis on the outcome of cataract surgery in 182 eyes of 102 dogs. The average follow-up time after surgery was 327 days. This research has been accepted for publication in the journal: Veterinary Ophthalmology.

The study found that 100% of dogs regained vision immediately postoperatively, and 86% of dogs kept that vision long term. The most common cause of vision loss despite surgery was glaucoma (high ocular pressure). Several factors were associated with success:

Early intervention. Dogs who had cataract surgery within weeks or months of developing cataracts had better outcomes than dogs who had cataract surgery years after developing cataracts.

Younger patient age. Younger dogs had more positive visual outcomes and reduced risk of developing postoperative glaucoma.

Diabetic status. Diabetic dogs had favorable visual outcomes. This was likely since diabetes can cause rapid-onset cataracts and vision loss, and therefore, owners bring their pets in right away (for early intervention.)

CDE. This study was the first to evaluate an intraoperative variable called Cumulative Dissipated Energy (CDE), and its effect on visual outcome. CDE reflects how much machine energy was required to break up (emulsify) and extract the cataract. The study found that lower CDE is significantly correlated with a positive visual outcome and a reduced risk of glaucoma. Veterinary ophthalmologists may now be able to better predict your pet’s chance of success immediately after surgery. If you think your pet may have cataracts, consider scheduling a consultation with an ophthalmologist today.

Edelmann ML, Mohammed HO, Ledbetter EC. Retrospective evaluation of phacoemulsification and aspiration in 182 eyes: Visual outcomes and CDE-predictive value. Veterinary Ophthalmology 2022;00:000-000, doi:10.1111/vop.12978.

Patellar Luxation: Where Are Your Dog’s Kneecaps?

March 1, 2022
Leah Park, DVM, Practice limited to Surgery
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Patellar luxation, also known as “trick knee” or “floating knee cap” is a common condition seen in toy and miniature breed dogs. Occasionally, large breed dogs and cats are also affected by this condition. Most cases of patellar luxation are congenital and can affect both knees up to 50% of the time.

Normally, the kneecap or patella, is found within the patellar ligament that runs vertically over the knee joint in a v-shaped groove of the thigh bone. Patellar luxation is characterized by dislocation of the kneecap out of the v-shaped groove. The kneecap can be abnormally located to the inside or outside of the knee. Congenital patellar luxation develops secondarily to abnormal bone alignment in the hind legs. This commonly results in a v-shaped groove that is too shallow which allows the kneecap to move easily out of place, and weakened or poorly developed ligaments that usually help hold the kneecap in place. Patellar luxations can also be seen secondary to hip dysplasia or partial dislocation of the hip joint.

Clinical signs associated with patellar luxation can vary. It may be an incidental finding by your veterinarian during a routine physical examination or appear as a persistent non-weight bearing lameness. Most dogs affected with patellar luxation will suddenly hold the affected leg up for a few steps then may be seen skipping or extending the leg prior to returning to a normal gait. Severity of the luxation is graded on a scale of 1 (very mild) to 4 (severe). Grade 1 luxations are characterized when the kneecap can be manually moved, but otherwise stays within the groove during activity. Grade 4 luxations are characterized when the kneecap is found persistently out of the groove and cannot be manually replaced. As the condition progresses, the lameness may become more frequent or persistent.

Patellar luxation is not a particularly painful condition, but can be uncomfortable as the kneecap moves in and out of the v-shaped groove. This chronic movement can cause cartilage damage to the patella and femur resulting in further discomfort and development of osteoarthritis.

Treatment recommendations will vary from case to case. Patellar luxations that do not cause any clinical signs may be monitored. Surgery is considered in Grades 2 and above, depending on the degree of lameness and discomfort. Surgical repair may encompass a combination of procedures that would correct the groove and alignment of the knee to maintain the patella in its normal anatomic position. About 90% of dogs will have a good to excellent outcome with surgery.Your veterinarian can generally diagnose this problem by palpating the knees and performing radiographs. Discuss with your veterinarian possible treatment options and whether referral to a specialist would be best for you and your pet.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for the advice of a veterinarian.

The Use of Technology in Wildlife Monitoring

February 1, 2022
Rebecca Berzins
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

My name is Rebecca Berzins, and I am a senior Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy (MEBP) major at Monmouth University. In the MEBP program, we study a variety of New Jersey native species. I have been working with my mentor, Dr. Sean Sterrett, on a project involving a particularly sensitive species of turtle. The diamond-backed terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is the only brackish water turtle species in North America. Sandy Hook Bay is one of their main habitats in New Jersey. Diamond-backed terrapins are a Species of Greatest Conservation Need throughout most of its range, including New Jersey. They are a vulnerable species globally because their populations are declining. Terrapins congregate in saltwater marshes during the breeding season, which presents an exciting opportunity for revolutionizing wildlife population monitoring.

Traditional wildlife monitoring for turtles involves trapping the turtles, weighing and measuring them, marking their shells, and then releasing them, with the hope of catching them again in the future. This process is not very effective and can be detrimental. Diamond-backed terrapins are not currently an endangered species, but they may be in the future if we do not find a more effective and less invasive monitoring method.

The goal of our research project is to develop a non-invasive sampling method that also digitizes the data. Wildlife researchers are increasingly using drone technology to gather information without directly interacting with animals. Drones allow us to measure, identify, and count animals remotely. However, we know little about how drones detect terrapins or influence their behavior. Our research attempts to determine the maximum height a drone can fly while still being able to detect terrapins. The drone should be low enough to detect terrapins but high enough not to disturb them. Dr. Sterrett and I created an experiment to find this height using 3D printed terrapins, or decoys. The decoys were made in three sizes, large to represent adult females, medium to represent adult males, and small to represent juveniles. We selected random numbers of each sized decoy to put in the water and then flew the drone over, taking pictures from 60 feet up to 200 feet. We gave these pictures to independent observers, other Monmouth students with no knowledge of the experiment. The observers used a program called iTag to mark the decoys they saw and label them by size. Our research is not complete yet, so we cannot make recommendations on what height drones should fly at, but we have other results. Unsurprisingly, we found that drone height and decoy size were important factors for accurately counting terrapins. Observers counted decoys more accurately when the drone was closer to the water and they had an easier time counting large decoys than small ones. When we finish our research, we will have created a standardized model for other wildlife researchers to use.

Note: Rebecca is a part time employee of Garden State Veterinary Specialists.

Holidays and Your Pet

December 1, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

We are all looking forward to the holidays especially this year. It will be a time to gather with family and friends including perhaps a new four-legged family member. The holidays are also a time to share a special meal with those close to us, but it should not include our pets. Dogs and cats have sensitive stomachs and any change of diet can result in vomiting or diarrhea.

Some foods should never be fed to your pet and should always be kept out of reach when pets are around. Guests should be instructed not to feed scraps of prohibited foods to your pets under the dinner table. Food items such as chocolate, coffee, avocado, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, garlic and onions are poisonous to dogs.

The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. In birds, avocado toxicity can cause weakness, depression, feather pulling and agitation. With larger exposures, birds experience even more severe symptoms such as respiratory distress and edema.

Chocolate, coffee and caffeine all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 24 to 48 hours. Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Onions, Garlic, Chives can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage and anemia. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount of these substances are eaten.

Turkey and chicken are great foods for pets, but bones and excess fat should be removed before offering them. Bones can become lodged in or perforate the intestines, requiring emergency surgery. Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

What do I do if I suspect my pet has eaten a toxic substance?

 Your primary veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital should be contacted immediately. Inducing emesis (vomiting) is sometimes indicated for toxin ingestion. Inducing vomiting is usually most successful within 4 hours of toxin ingestion and is best done by a veterinarian in a hospital setting. You should not induce vomiting without contacting a veterinarian, as potentially serious consequences can result. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control hot line: 1-888-426-4435, can provide guidance on steps to be taken if your pet ingests potentially dangerous substances. The SPCA charges for this service.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.


You and Your Diabetic Pet

November 4, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Diabetes is a disease with which most of us are very familiar. What most people may not realize however is that our pets can suffer from this disease as well. The most common form of diabetes suffered by dogs and cats is Diabetes Mellitus. This is a condition of insulin deficiency. Insulin allows glucose (sugar), that the body absorbs and manufactures, to get into the cells of the body. Without insulin, the cells have no access to glucose, and the cells experience a state of starvation. Since the glucose cannot gain entry into the cells, it builds up in the blood and overflows into the urine.

A pet that is suffering from weight loss, ravenous appetite, increased water consumption and urination should be examined by your primary veterinarian for evaluation of their symptoms and diagnostic tests. Failure to treat diabetes can result in elevated blood sugar levels, leading to dehydration and body chemistry disorders which can eventually cause coma and death. It is a life threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate course of treatment for your pet. Most diabetic pets require one or two daily injections of insulin to control blood glucose levels. These treatments can be easily administered by an owner with training from their veterinarian. Finding the right treatment protocol can be more challenging especially for feline patients. It is difficult to keep a cat regulated and diabetic cats in 15-20% of cases experience a phenomenon that is termed spontaneous remission, which means the cat is no longer diabetic. The cat may be normal for a few weeks or many months, however, diabetes will almost always return because these cats have limited ability to make insulin.

Your primary veterinarian may suggest a consultation with an internal medicine specialist to determine the proper treatment protocol for your pet. Specialists work with your primary veterinarian to provide optimal medical care to your pet.

To make caring for your diabetic pet more comfortable for both of you, the American Animal Hospital Association has made certain recommendations:

  • develop a routine for your pet and stick with it, a consistent routine will help you learn your pet’s normal behavior so that you can spot signs that may indicate a hypoglycemic attack
  • keep a daily journal, recording activity levels, insulin injections, diet and behavior
  • have your pet wear a diabetic identification tag in case he gets lost
  • never leave home without sugar in case your pet suffers from a hypoglycemic attack, liquid sugar such as Karo syrup and honey works best

Diabetes does not have to be a life-threatening disease. Your pet requires consistent administration of medication and feeding, as well as stable, stress-free lifestyle. With your love and support, your diabetic pet can live a normal, happy and healthy life.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Safeguards for Dog Walkers

October 4, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

The rise in pet ownership during the lock down phase of the pandemic was unprecedented. Now that people are returning to the workplace and their pets are remaining at home, dog walkers have become popular. Whether a dog walker is a neighbor, a friend or a person paid for their services, it is important that disease and injury risks be addressed and measures be in place to prevent problems.

The first step in taking on dog walking responsibilities is to make sure you are insured or covered legally for any unexpected events. Just like people, pets can develop health problems requiring emergency care. Pet care givers should know the client’s preferred veterinarian and contact information before an emergency arises. Getting to know the pet’s general medical history is as important as becoming familiar with their personality when taking on responsibility for them.

Learning some basic first aid procedures can also be helpful. The American Red Cross has a Pet First Aid app for your phone that can help save a pet’s life in a crisis. The app provides some basic guidelines to assess a pet’s condition and can find the closest animal hospital to your location should an emergency arise.

Every activity, even a simple walk down the street can expose a dog to inherent risks. The condition of the sidewalk, the presence of other animals, weather conditions, even diseases passed from other animals can pose a health risk. Walks should be limited to areas safe for a dog’s paws, no hot or sharp surfaces. Harnesses and leashes should fit properly and be appropriate for the dog’s size and body type to ensure that they cannot escape and are able to breathe properly. If during a walk, a dog becomes disoriented, exhibits breathing problems, or is reluctant to walk, return the dog to their home and contact the family regarding your observations and concerns.

A dog’s tolerance for heat and cold is based on their size, body composition, hair coat, health and other factors. In general, if you feel warm, a dog feels even warmer. A pet can suffer from heat stress which can rapidly progress to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death if they do not receive immediate veterinary care. Similarly, a dog can suffer frostbite on their paws under frigid conditions. If a dog shows signs of hypothermia such as muscle stiffness, shallow and slow breathing or collapse, seek immediate veterinary care.

Distemper, parvovirus, kennel cough, rabies, and canine influenza are just a few of the diseases that can be spread between dogs. All dogs should be immunized against the most deadly of these viruses since they are easily spread and potentially deadly. Avoiding stray dogs and wildlife while walking a dog can prevent exposure to unvaccinated animals and unwanted bites.

Caring for someone else’s pet may seem like an ideal job but it does bring with it responsibilities; being properly prepared can make it an enjoyable experience for all.

One Health Initiative

September 7, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Garden State Veterinary Specialists and its family of hospitals have long been a supporter of the One Health Initiative. One Health is a collaborative, transdisciplinary approach to achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between human medicine, veterinary medicine and their shared environment.

In 2015 a Veterinarian created an organization called Street Dog Coalition, its mission was “caring for the lives on both ends of the leash”. It was a collaboration between faculty and students in social work and veterinary medicine at Colorado State University to address the medical needs of the homeless and their pets. The participants in this project have reported that individuals who seek treatment for their pets are more accepting of care for themselves. This project has grown into a program which is currently operating in approximately 40 locations throughout the United States.

During the recent pandemic the School of Medicine at Colorado State University faced by the challenges of practicing clinical medicine under COVID restrictions created a pilot program to send their medical students into the community to care for the whole person in the environment and circumstances in which they live. “The only way to solve big public health problems is to consider the whole planet – people, plants, animals, and the environment,” said Anuja Riles, director of the One Health and Society program at the medical school campus at CSU and a pediatrician with Banner Health. “We cannot do it in the silo of human medicine, and the pandemic has really shown that.” This inclusive health collaboration is a classic example of the One Health model: finding optimal health outcomes that recognize the interconnection among people, animals, plants and their shared environment.

Federal and local governments recognized the important role the veterinary team played during the pandemic and veterinary medicine was identified as an essential service. There are a variety of reasons given for this designation, including: preventing the spread of disease (i.e., rabies); providing humane care to animals: alleviating pain and suffering; and, not least of all ensuring the continued health of pets who are in in quarantine or voluntary isolation with their owners. The human-animal bond has never been stronger.

As the war against the COVID-19 virus continues to be waged throughout the United States, be assured that veterinarians and human physicians, joined by nurses, veterinary technicians, support staff and a variety of other medical professionals all essential to the healthcare team will remain dedicated to the One Health initiative.

Return to Work

June 1, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

As our world slowly begins to return to a state of normalcy, many people are returning to the workplace. What this means for our pets is a change in their routine which can sometimes be unsettling. Our pets, just like many people are creatures of habit.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has suggested a variety of steps to help your pet become accustomed to your absence when you return to the office. To begin, implement a consistent routine that will be similar to the one you will follow once you return to your office; wake up at the same time each day, feed and walk your dog, and leave your home. Practice short departures on a daily basis initially, then gradually increase the length of time you are gone to take the anxiety out of your departure. Giving your pet a small treat when you leave will condition them to associate a reward with your leaving. If they are destructive when you are gone, shorten the length of time you are gone and slowly build up to longer periods.

An increase in the amount of physical activity and play time with your pet before you leave can also be helpful. Allow your pet to burn off some energy and they will perhaps be more relaxed after you leave. Some pets need a distraction while you are gone to occupy them. Long lasting treats, chew toys and food puzzles can keep them engaged and relieve anxiety. Giving your pet access to a “safe place” can also provide them comfort. If you had used a crate for your pet previously while you were gone, this may be a good time to reintroduce it. Keeping toys, blankets or other items that comfort them in the crate can make them feel more secure as well. Some pet owners have found that radios, TVs and even a sound machine have provided comfort to their pets during their absence. If you believe your pet would benefit from care during your absence, pet sitters and doggy day care centers would also be an option to consider.

It is important to look for signs of stress in your pet during this period of transition. If your dog is barking excessively or whining, displaying destructive behavior or inappropriately urinating or defecating, they may be suffering from separation anxiety. Persistent behavior that does not change despite your best efforts should be discussed with your primary veterinarian or in difficult cases a veterinary behaviorist. These professionals can recommend behavioral modifications and possibly medical treatment.

As we adjust to change, so will our pets. Patience and positive reinforcement along with maintaining a routine will benefit both the pets and people in our lives.

The information in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a veterinarian.

The Other Family Doctor

May 3, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

The pandemic has emptied the shelters, people seeking companionship during their isolation are adopting nearly every available pet. Spending a lot of time at home with their pets has given families the opportunity to become more attuned to them and their behavior. Watching a pet scratch continuously, limp or breathe “funny” is prompting a trip to the vet. COVID-19 restrictions have required a transition to curbside check in rather than in hospital exams. The increased demand for veterinary services combined with the need for curbside check in has put a tremendous strain on the veterinary profession and increased the amount of time required to manage and assess patients. Wait times at hospitals have increased and the patience and anxiety level of owners waiting outside for news of their pet’s condition have likewise risen.

Veterinarians have always faced long work days and an overload of cases, the pandemic has added to their caseload exponentially. Many small veterinary offices unable to handle the demand began sending their clients to 24/7 emergency hospitals to manage their overflow. Some hospitals had to close temporarily due to COVID quarantine guidelines. While the larger referral hospitals continued to accept referrals of patients requiring specialized care, they were now seeing patients seeking routine care as well. As one can imagine the demand far exceeded the availability of care but veterinarians true to their oath continued to “… use (their) scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering . . .”. These essential workers and their support staff of technicians, assistants and patient service professionals continued to meet the demand, extending their 10 hour days to 12 and sometimes even 14 hour shifts all for the benefit of their patients.

Worn down by the daily demands of the veterinary profession, challenged by patients who cannot communicate their needs, faced with the need to euthanize patients with treatable conditions due to financial considerations, and constantly being asked to provide services and medication for free or otherwise face personal attacks and criticism have taken their toll especially during the pandemic. In fact, a CDC study, found that veterinarians have the highest suicide rate among professionals.

The next time you visit your “other family doctor” (veterinarian) please keep in mind if you have to wait a little longer for an appointment or have to wait outside while your pet sees the doctor, these are safety measures necessary to protect the veterinary staff. If these measures, recommended by federal and state authorities, were not implemented more hospitals would close due to the pandemic and care would be less available to everyone. Working together to ensure everyone’s safety while continuing to provide quality veterinary care is the primary objective. The veterinary team appreciates your understanding of the challenges they face on a daily basis.

Protecting Your Pet from Birds of Prey

April 1, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Recently a patient presented to our hospital with puncture wounds on its side and around its head. The patient was a small dog that had been in a pen in the owner’s backyard with its housemates. Believing that her small dogs were safe and secure in the pen, the owner thought this was a great way to give her dogs some fresh air and exercise. To her horror, the owner was not that far away when she saw her small dogs attacked by three birds of prey which she believed to be hawks. Before she could react, one of her dogs was killed by the birds and another was severely injured.

Although this experience is not common, it is one that should it occur, the consequences can be devastating. This incident did not take place in the more rural parts of our state but right in the Ocean/Monmouth County area. This is a reminder that small pets such as puppies, cats, kittens or even small dogs are subject to attack by predators in our area. You can protect your pet while outside by staying close by and being visible, do not sit under an umbrella or other covering which would hide you from the view of a bird of prey. If your pet is outside alone in an enclosure, provide a covering so they cannot be seen from above. If there are birds of prey commonly seen in your area, they may be attracted to other smaller birds that they normally hunt. Removing bird feeders that attract song birds and other smaller birds will remove their normal source of food in the area. Also do not feed your pet outside, birds of prey can learn the habits of your pet and wait for an opportunity to present itself to attack.

A bird of prey cannot carry off a pet that weighs more than itself but they can attack its victim on the ground and eat it there. There is no specific weight cut off at which your pet’s safety is guaranteed. Recently, the Monmouth County Parks System has posted signage to raise awareness regarding coyotes in their parks. Wildlife such as coyotes and foxes can attack even larger dogs left unattended.

If your pet has had an encounter with wildlife, they should be checked by a veterinarian even if they do not have any visible wounds. If they have been picked up and dropped by a bird of prey, they may have suffered internal injuries that require immediate attention. Puncture wounds to their torso and head may also cause serious injuries and lead to infection. Of course, it is always important that your pet is current on their vaccinations and that you have a record of their vaccination history readily available in case of an emergency.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Essential Oils and Your Pet

March 1, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

An especially popular trend is to use essential oils in our homes to create an inviting and relaxing aroma experience for our senses. Whether using oil diffusers or oil warmers, there are certain precautions which should be taken when pets are in the home.

Essential oils are the natural compounds that give plants their individual scent. The oils are extracted from plants and distilled. These oils are used in a variety of products which are found in your home and to which your pet can be exposed. Due to their hydrophobic nature, essential oils are absorbed well both through mucous membranes and the skin.

Essential oils are produced in a wide range of concentrations. Products containing essential oils—such as fragrances, shampoos, and medicinal products—often contain 1-20% essential oils. However, there has been an increase in the popularity of more concentrated essential oils, some as high as 100%.

Just as the toxicity level varies between oil types so does the level of sensitivity vary among species. Cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters may be more sensitive to exposure on their fur or skin since they groom themselves and would be ingesting the oils during the process. Birds are more likely to suffer respiratory effects from oil diffusers due to their specialized respiratory system. Of course, animals with underlying health issues may also be at higher risk if they can’t metabolize the oil, have respiratory disorders, or have broken skin, which can allow increased absorption of dermally applied essential oils.

The most common clinical signs with dermal exposure include ataxia, muscle weakness, depression, and behavior changes. In severe cases, hypothermia and collapse may occur. With oral exposure, vomiting, diarrhea, and central nervous system depression may occur.

Another element of concern with essential oils is with the risk of aspiration and aspiration pneumonia. Because of the viscosity of oils, oil goes into the dog’s lungs while ingesting it, and it can also be aspirated if the irritation the oil causes to the gastrointestinal tract, results in the dog vomiting the irritant back up. For this reason, inducing vomiting is not recommended and immediate veterinary care is needed with most of these exposures.

Some basic recommendations to keep in mind are: (1) it is best not to give or apply highly concentrated oils to pets; (2) if a pet has an underlying health problem, particularly a respiratory issue, it may be best to avoid the use of essential oil diffusers in the household; (3) do not use an essential oil diffuser in the house if there are birds present, and (4) don’t keep a diffuser in the same room (or use a strong concentration) with animals who groom themselves.

For more detailed information on this topic, visit

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Ever Wonder What Weed Will Do to Your Dog?

Janan Abed, DVM, Practice Limited to ER/Critical Care Medicine
February 1, 2021
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Weed, pot, Mary Jane, hemp, hashish, etc. – these are all common names for the recreational drug marijuana. The State of New Jersey has recently voted to legalize marijuana which may lead to the risk of increased exposure for your pet. The active ingredient is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, and is found in highest concentrations within the flower buds and leaves at the top of the plant.

Marijuana is unfortunately harmful to pets through BOTH inhalation (i.e. smoking near your pet causing second hand smoke, blowing smoke directly into their faces) and ingestion. Ingestion of fresh or dried plant parts or even plant oil, purposefully infused into baked goods or butter, is common.

Classic clinical signs include sedation or dull mentation, hyperesthesia or dramatic/exaggerated reactions, wobbly/ataxic or drunken gait, dribbling urine, slow heart rate, vomiting, elevated temperature. Marijuana toxicity can cause respiratory depression, coma, seizures, and even death with large exposure.

The onset of clinical signs often occurs within 30-60 minutes after exposure. These generally last an average of 18-24 hours. Although signs of toxicity can resolve spontaneously, we recommend that your pet be evaluated immediately if you suspect exposure. With increased urinations and dull mentation, many pets will not eat or drink and become dehydrated quickly. If vomiting has already occurred, electrolytes and blood sugar will need to be monitored. If severe exposure occurred resulting in coma, emergent and aggressive interventions will be necessary.

Generally a definitive diagnosis is based upon history, clinical signs, and physical exam findings. Please do not be afraid to tell the veterinarian if you use marijuana or if there is marijuana in the household! This information is confidential and only used to best treat your pet. Unfortunately, the use of human over the counter urine tests for marijuana are commonly falsely negative due to the large number of metabolites produced by dogs.

Treatment is typically supportive in nature and will minimally include IV fluids and anti-nausea medication. Additional therapies may include: activated charcoal to bind any remaining toxin in the gastrointestinal tract, sedation in excited animals, and intralipid therapy in severe cases. If respiratory depression or coma develops, mechanical ventilation will be warranted.

Prevention of marijuana toxicity in your pets is best achieved by eliminating their exposure to the substance in all of its forms. Owners should dispose of marijuana remnants, or marijuana containing products safely. Keeping pets out of the area where marijuana use may occur is important. Individuals using marijuana should refrain from blowing smoke directly into the face of pets. Do not feed your pets baked goods containing marijuana.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet and its condition, do not hesitate to contact the GSVS Emergency and Critical Care Department.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Digging deeper: Ear Infections May Be a Sign of Other Hidden Problems

Zijin Zhou, DVM
Practice limited to Veterinary Dermatology
September 1, 2020
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Is your pet suffering from frequent or ongoing ear infections? It may be a sign of other underlying conditions. Ear infections are one of the most common reasons pets go to see their veterinarian. Most veterinarians are adept at diagnosing and treating ear infections. If treated appropriately, the infection should clear up in 2 weeks or less. However, when it does not or if the problem comes back again frequently, that should be a cue to investigate more. In these cases, evaluation of your pet by a veterinary dermatologist can be very beneficial. These are veterinarians that have trained extensively in conditions of the skin and ears.

Frequent ear infections are often due to an underlying allergy to things in the environment and or food. A dermatologist can perform specialized tests and treatments such as intradermal allergy testing and immunotherapy. Intradermal allergy testing is regarded as the gold standard to evaluate for environmental allergies your pet may have since it tests the primary organ affected, the skin. From testing, a dermatologist can formulate immunotherapy, which can help to decrease the frequency and severity of your pet’s ear infections without using medications. If medications are needed, a dermatologist would have the most up to date information regarding side effects, dosing, and effectiveness.

Masses, foreign material, and even excessive ear wax can also prevent the successful treatment of ear infections. These can be difficult to see with a regular handheld otoscope. A veterinary dermatologist can use a video otoscope, which is a piece of specialized equipment that allows for a full, magnified view of the ear canal, to aid in the evaluation. The video otoscope will also allow for sampling and thorough cleaning of the ear canal. In some cases, removal of masses can even be performed through the scope without the need for invasive surgery.

If you are concerned about the frequency or severity of your pet’s ear infections, ask your veterinarian about a referral or contact a veterinary dermatologist sooner rather than later. Early evaluation for underlying conditions and appropriate treatment can prevent a lot of future discomfort for your pet.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Challenges and Opportunities in Veterinary Medicine

August 3, 2020
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

The current pandemic has created many challenges but also opportunities. Forced into isolation people have sought the companionship of animals. So many pets have been adopted that many shelters have been forced to close since they have no animals left to adopt. Forced quarantine also provided the opportunity for some people to proceed with medical procedures that they may have otherwise put off until they could take off time from work. The ability to stay home with a pet while they recuperate from orthopedic surgery for instance has been frequently mentioned as a reason why a client chose to schedule a procedure. We already love our furry family members but the uninterrupted opportunity to spend time with them at home has strengthened the bond we share.

As a result, there has been an increased demand for veterinary services. GSVS has continued to meet this demand providing urgent and essential medical services to patients 24/7. Practicing social distancing and following state guidelines while interacting with clients requires increased staff to meet the demand.

GSVS is hiring! If you have always wanted to be a part of a veterinary healthcare team, this is your opportunity. GSVS is a specialty and emergency hospital providing an exceptional level of care in a patient-centered and service-oriented environment. At GSVS every member of the veterinary healthcare team plays an integral role in the quality of care a client and their pet receives. Our concept is simple you cannot have the best medicine without the best people. If you share our love for animals and have a desire to work with a dedicated team of professionals delivering the highest level of care, we are interested in meeting you.

GSVS has been offering specialized care to the community for over 25 years. During the entire time the hospital has been owned by Dr. Thomas Scavelli a board certified surgeon whose reputation for quality care and service is known throughout the tri-state area. Respected by veterinarians who put their trust in him when they refer their clients to GSVS, he has been able to grow GSVS into a premiere family of veterinary hospitals located in both New Jersey and New York. Over the years, GSVS has expanded the diagnostic and specialty services it offers to its patients. Our staff of specialists are onsite and not located in distant cities. Team members work directly with specialists and emergency doctors on cases giving employees who are interested in advancing their career the opportunity for growth.

Over the past twenty years, GSVS has seen a number of staff members start their career as an assistant and ultimately return to us as a veterinarian. These advancements are encouraged and supported at GSVS. GSVS is the ideal place to utilize and grow your skills in a challenging and rewarding environment. Individuals with a passion for animals, a strong sense of collaboration and a willingness to embark on a new career or advance an existing one are encouraged to apply,

Essential Workers

June 1, 2020
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Once the current pandemic took hold of our country, all non-essential workers were asked to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. In New Jersey, the term “essential” worker had a broader meaning than had been previously recognized by our society. A variety of professions were identified as necessary to maintain the health and welfare of their community. Among the occupations considered essential were veterinary professionals.

GSVS wishes to take this opportunity to thank our veterinary team, who despite personal risk to their own health have come to work day after day to care for our patients. Our dedicated team members including: client service representatives, technicians, assistants, administrative support staff, maintenance technicians and veterinarians have truly given of themselves during this difficult time. Alleviating the pain and suffering of animals is a “core” principal of the veterinary profession and our team has clearly demonstrated their dedication to that goal. When someone becomes a veterinarian they take an oath which contains the following language:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

This oath acknowledges the key role that the veterinary profession also plays in the health and welfare of society. Veterinary team members are among the healthcare professionals who provide surveillance for diseases which state and federal governments have designated as reportable, including zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, influenza and Lyme Disease. During the current pandemic veterinary health professionals are working alongside their counterparts in human medicine conducting research regarding COVID-19 that would be beneficial to all species. Veterinary practices provide medical and surgical care daily for critically ill and injured animals. Veterinarians provide care for service and therapy animals, supporting both animal and human welfare.

News reports have suggested that the human animal bond has grown even stronger during the pandemic as we have been forced to shelter in place, frequently isolated from other people. Many individuals have sought the comfort and companionship of animals during this time clearing out shelters. This is good news and hopefully is a new “normal” that no one would mind continuing.

If your home has a furry family member rest assured that your veterinarian and their team of professionals remains committed to their care. GSVS wishes to recognize our veterinary team members as Heroes who are committed to the welfare of our patients and their families.

One Health Initiative

May 1, 2020

Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Garden State Veterinary Specialists and its family of hospitals have long been a supporter of the One Health Initiative. One Health is a collaborative, transdisciplinary approach to achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between human medicine, veterinary medicine and their shared environment. Dr. Tom Scavelli, the founder and owner of three 24/7 veterinary specialty hospitals located both in New Jersey and New York has a first-hand understanding of how human medicine and veterinary medicine are interrelated. His father, a chiropractor, saw his son choose to become a veterinary surgeon. Tom’s son chose a different path from his dad and became a human Ophthalmologist, accepting a fellowship to become a retina specialist. When it was his daughter’s turn to choose a career path, she followed in her dad’s footsteps and became a veterinarian, now pursuing her goal of becoming a surgeon as well. The close connection between these generations has engendered a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s disciplines.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of a transdisciplinary approach to medicine and the need for collaboration. Federal and local governments have recognized the important role the veterinary team plays during a pandemic and veterinary medicine has been identified as an essential service. There are a variety of reasons given for this designation, including: preventing the spread of disease (i.e., rabies); providing humane care to animals: alleviating pain and suffering; and, not least of all ensuring the continued health of pets who are in in quarantine or voluntary isolation with their owners. The human-animal bond has never been stronger. Most shelters in the United States are reporting that they are nearly empty as people preparing to shelter in place for an extended period of time are adopting or fostering pets in record numbers.

Veterinary hospitals are being called upon to donate their specialized equipment and supplies to their human counterparts to assist in saving COVID-19 patients. Dr. Scavelli has responded to that call and in collaboration with Hackensack Meridian Health, GSVS’s newly purchased Covidien Ventilator has been sent to a hospital in Monmouth County. It is not every day that a veterinary hospital can provide assistance to a human hospital but it demonstrates the interconnectivity of human and animal medicine. This is a testament to the advancements that have been made in the veterinary field, utilizing the same level of sophisticated equipment for your pet that your doctor may use for you.

As the war against the COVID-19 virus continues to be waged throughout the United States, be assured that veterinarians and human physicians, joined by nurses, veterinary technicians, support staff and a variety of other medical professionals all essential to the healthcare team will remain dedicated to the One Health initiative.

What Kind of Food Should I Feed My Pet?

April 1, 2020

Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Just as we face a multitude of food choices for ourselves when we enter the supermarket, so are we faced with a number of options for our pets. Pet owners wishing to give their pets the best food available can be left confused and overwhelmed. Our pets sometimes have their own preferences too, preferring wet over dry or a semi-moist food. To further confuse the matter, manufacturers are now labeling products as natural, holistic, premium, or organic. The simple answer to the question of what you should feed your pet can be answered best by your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian can make recommendations based upon your pet’s age, activity level, and medical condition. For example, a healthy puppy or kitten will generally need a food that is specially formulated for them. Pet food is labeled for life stages such as puppies, adult maintenance, gestation or lactation, and senior foods for older dogs. All pet foods should meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. The AAFCO sets guidelines for the content of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in commercially produced pet food. When choosing a pet food, check the ingredient label for an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement indicating that the food provides complete and balanced nutrition.

If you decide to change your pet’s diet it is always recommended to make the change gradually to avoid intestinal upset. Ideally, the new food should be mixed with the old food over a period of a week to give their system time to adjust. When switching to a new food to resolve a medical issue, it may require six to eight weeks after the transition to the new diet to see if the change of diet resolves the problem.

Another issue owners are concerned about is just how much to feed their pet. Some pets will eat as much food as they are given whereas others are a bit pickier. Our pets should be a healthy weight, over eating will put them at risk for the same types of health issues that an obese person may face. Although tempted to do so, owners should refrain from offering their pets food from the table. Some foods, such as chocolate and grapes while good for humans can prove toxic to a pet. Our pets receive all of their nutritional needs in commercially prepared food that is certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s diet, please discuss them with your veterinarian since they know your pet best.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Pet Obesity

March 2, 2020

Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Recent studies have determined that obesity levels among pets in the United States have reached epidemic levels and are increasing annually. To be considered overweight a dog or cat is at least 10%-20% heavier than their ideal weight. How can you tell if your pet is obese? The World Small Animal Veterinary Association recommends the following approaches to evaluate your pet: First, you should be able to easily feel – and count – your dog’s ribs when you lightly run your fingers across their side. Next, when you look down on your pet from above, you should see an hourglass figure or an indentation near the midsection. If your pet looks like a blimp from above, it’s probably overweight or obese. Finally, when you observe your pet from the side as it stands, you should see a slight tuck or upward slope of the tummy. If the abdomen hangs low and drags near the ground that indicates the most dangerous form of fat, abdominal fat, is present.

There are a number of serious health conditions associated with obesity including but not limited to endocrinopathies, metabolic abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, and joint disorders. Joint disorders such as Osteoarthritis can be the cause or the result of obesity. Pets who are in pain move less and their condition can lead to weight gain. Similarly, a pet that is obese can become painful when they move due to the excess pressure on their joints from the additional weight. Osteoarthritis and excess weight are conditions that commonly occur together, each condition aggravating the other. Treatment of these painful pets requires not only pain management but also weight management. Increasing exercise and energy output will build and maintain lean muscle mass which will help reduce joint load.

Obesity in pets is complicated by the fact that companion animals are unable to make dietary choices for themselves, eliminating personal accountability as a means for regulating food intake. Our pets are dependent upon us to make good choices for them. Becoming educated as to the proper amount of food and the best diet for your pet is the first step towards providing your pet a healthy diet. Before making any changes in your pet’s diet, you should consult your primary veterinarian. Your primary veterinarian can provide you with the information you need to develop a healthy diet for your particular pet based upon a variety of factors including: age, breed, size, medical conditions and activity level. Working with your primary veterinarian you can also develop an activity/exercise plan for your pet. This plan can be as much fun for you as your pet and become a part of a healthy lifestyle for you both. Improving your pet’s quality of life and your own.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Insuring Your Pet’s Care

January 1, 2020

Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Several years ago at the annual meeting of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the members who are certified and boarded in a variety of specialties, including neurology, cardiology, medicine and cancer, had the opportunity to meet with pet owners whose pets had benefited from advanced treatment delivered by a specialist. These owners traveled from great distances with their pet to share their stories of how advanced veterinary medical treatment options gave their pet a second chance on life. Whether it was the implantation of a pacemaker to help a dog return to a normal level of activity, medication for arthritis or chemotherapy for cancer, these owners felt that the opportunity to obtain specialized care for their pet was critical and urged others to ask for a referral to a specialist when their pet needed it.

For some owners, a sick pet means calling in sick to work to care for their pet. One owner even quit her job so that she could nurse her cat back to health after surgery to correct an abnormality in her pet’s heart. This owner felt that she needed to devote herself completely to her cat at that point and was therefore willing to make the sacrifice. Paying for advanced treatment options can sometimes require a financial sacrifice as well. Pet insurance plans are available in all 50 states and cover treatment by both a primary veterinarian and a veterinary specialist.

Pet owners, who are committed to their pet’s welfare and bring their pet to their primary veterinarian for vaccination and preventive care, as more than 91 percent of pet owners do in the United States, might do well to consider pet insurance. Policies can help pay for medical problems and conditions related to accidental injuries, poisonings and illnesses (including cancer). They can cover such things as diagnostic tests, x-rays, treatments, prescriptions, office calls, lab fees, surgeries and hospitalization, depending of course on the type of policy that you select. There are a variety of plans which offer different types of coverage, therefore, someone considering pet insurance should investigate their options thoroughly to determine what plan might best suit them.

Pet insurance can perhaps relieve an owner from what one insurance company termed “economic euthanasia”, meaning having to make the decision to put a beloved pet to sleep because their family cannot afford advanced treatment options. The relationship you maintain with your primary veterinarian, the availability of specialized veterinary care in your community, and the financial security to be able to make decisions for a pet’s care based upon your veterinarian’s advice and not monetary constraints can ensure the long term welfare of your pet.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Picking up on Valve Disease

December 2, 2019

Andrew (Max) White, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology)
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

With the recent release of evidence by the Food and Drug Administration linking grain-free diets to heart disease in dogs, a concern for cardiovascular healthcare is on the rise for pet owners. However, feeding your pet an appropriate diet does not preclude the development of other heart disease later in life.

Heart disease remains an extremely common ailment that affects dogs as they get older, especially in the smaller breeds. Degenerative mitral valve disease (also called chronic acquired valve disease, or myxomatous valve disease) is an abnormal thickening of the heart valves in which they loose their tight seal which normally keeps blood flowing in the proper direction. When these valves begin to leak, every heart beat pumps a portion of blood backwards. The receiving chamber of this extra blood (the atrium) begins to enlarge to accommodate the extra blood flowing backwards. Over time, the pressure within the heart builds as the atrium cannot stretch further. When the pressure exceeds that of the blood vessels in the lungs, congestive heart failure develops as fluid begins to accumulate in the lungs. This can cause difficulty breathing, excessive coughing, weakness, and collapse. Heart failure quickly becomes a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.

Smaller breeds such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Poodles, Maltese, Chihuahua’s, and Dachshunds are predisposed to degenerative mitral valve disease. Unfortunately, many dogs show no symptoms, and owners are unaware of any heart condition, until congestive heart failure develops. This causes a lot of emotional and financial stress, anxiety, and even guilt among owners who are suddenly faced with a life-threatening illness. There are, however, ways to identify and address valve disease prior to the development of congestive heart failure.

A heart murmur occurs when the valves leak, causing turbulent blood flow in the heart. Not all heart murmurs are caused by valve disease, but suspicion of valve disease should quickly be raised when a heart murmur is heard in older, smaller dogs. Additionally, some dogs may begin to cough as the heart enlarges and pushes on the airways of the chest, and although intermittent coughing does not always equate to heart disease, development of a new cough together with a heart murmur should further warrant investigation into heart disease. This highlights the importance of annual or semiannual visits with your regular Veterinarian as your pet gets older, even if they appear otherwise healthy (with or without a cough that has become the “normal”). A chest x-ray is a quick and readily accessible way to look for any early heart enlargement and can be performed by most Veterinarians. Further evaluation of suspected heart disease can be done by a Veterinary Cardiologist with an echocardiogram (a sonogram of the heart) which offers a more comprehensive evaluation of the hearts size and function, and will best tailor treatment to the individual pet.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Trauma Care for Your Pet

November 1, 2019
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

There are many different degrees of trauma from minor scrapes to more severe injuries. Pet owners should be prepared for unforeseen incidents; have an emergency plan in place, know how to handle their pet, know what medications or pre-existing problems they may have, and also where to seek emergency care for their pet 24 hours a day.

Prior to transporting your pet to a veterinary facility it is a good idea to take some precautions to ensure the safety of you and your pet.  Before handling your pet, try to make a visual assessment of its injuries:

  • Are there obvious open wounds that are actively bleeding? Is the animal able to stand and walk? Is the animal breathing comfortably or is its respiratory effort labored?
  • Assess the animal’s body language as it sees you approaching- Is its tail wagging/does it seem interested in you? Or, are its ears and head held back/is it hissing, growling, or snarling?
  • For dogs that are able and willing to walk- and whose injuries do not involve the head and neck- simply slide a leash over the neck and lead them accordingly.
  • For small animals (cats, small dogs unwilling to walk), a towel, small carrier, or box may be used to pick them up while hiding your hands. Many frightened animals will run directly into a carrier if presented to them.
  • For animals who have been severely traumatized and/or are unable to rise, try to minimize manipulation of their bodies- particularly of their head/neck/back. Secure them on a rigid surface (stretcher, board, etc.) if transport is necessary.
  • If an animal’s vaccine status is uncertain, if the animal is a non-domestic species (raccoon, fox, bat, squirrel, bird, etc), or if you are otherwise uncomfortable attempting to handle it, contact a veterinarian or animal control officer for additional advice.

Once your pet is secured, you should transport him/her to a veterinary facility for evaluation. Calling ahead to alert the staff that you are coming may be a good idea but should not delay transportation of your pet to a veterinary facility.

Your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic tests to determine the extent of your pet’s injuries as well as the best options for repair of the injuries once your pet’s vital signs have stabilized. These tests may include x-rays, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. Many trauma patients are admitted to the hospital for further monitoring and treatment. In some cases they may need additional treatments such as administration of blood products, nutritional support through temporary feeding tube placement, intravenous nutrition, and mechanical ventilation.

If your veterinarian determines that your pet needs to see a Specialist, you may be referred to a specialty hospital for further evaluation and treatment. The Specialists work with your primary veterinarian to provide the best care possible for your pet.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Canine Leptospirosis

September 3, 2019

Jason Pintar, DVM, DACVIM
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Leptospirosis is a serious life threatening infectious disease seen in dogs and sometimes people. It is caused by a spiral shaped parasitic bacteria that is transmitted through the urine of infected creatures. The bacteria can infect multiple wildlife species and be shed in the infected creature’s urine for months to years. Possible reservoirs of infection in New Jersey include deer, raccoons, squirrels, mice, rats, woodchucks, and opossums. Domestic large animals including horses and cattle may also serve as a source of infection for dogs.

Dogs contract Leptospirosis from direct contact with an infected animal’s urine. Because the bacteria die rapidly in dry environments, the incidence of infection is greater during rainy periods. Most cases are diagnosed in the late summer and early fall, but cases can occur at any time of the year. Leptospirosis used to be seen mostly in rural hunting or sporting dogs, but recently there has been a shift towards dogs living in urban environments. While we do not fully understand why this occurs, it is most likely due to more close contact with wildlife reservoirs in recently developed areas. There does not appear to be any breed predilection for this disease, and even small or toy breed dogs can be affected.

Leptospirosis causes disease by damaging the kidneys and sometimes the liver. In the most severe cases, kidney and liver failure can occur. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever, increased or decreased thirst and urination, and yellow discoloration of the skin (jaundice). This can be a fatal condition, and prompt medical treatment is essential for a successful outcome. Because people can also become infected with Leptospirosis, one should exhibit caution when handling a potentially infected dog and their urine.

A vaccine is available to protect dogs from this serious disease. While no vaccine is 100% effective, inoculating dogs against Leptospirosis can significantly reduce their risk of serious illness. For maximum efficacy, a series of two vaccinations needs to be given three weeks apart, and then a single dose should be repeated annually. Eliminating rodent infestations and contamination of pet food and minimizing a dog’s contact with standing water can also reduce their risk of infection. As with all medical conditions, you should seek the advice of your family veterinarian if you have concerns about Leptospirosis in your dog. Your veterinarian is also the best source of information regarding vaccination against this disease.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Laryngeal Paralysis in the Dog

July 1, 2019

Diane Scavelli, DVM

Laryngeal paralysis is a fairly common disease seen in older large breed dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, St. Bernards and Irish Setters. The larynx is the first part of the trachea and is located near the esophagus. At the larynx there is a pair of cartilages, the arytenoids, which normally open during breathing. While eating or drinking these cartilages will close in order to block entrance into the airway. In laryngeal paralysis the nerve that controls the muscles associated with one or both of these cartilages is no longer functional. This means that the airway can no longer fully open or close which puts affected dogs at an increased risk of respiratory distress and aspiration pneumonia.

The most frequent cause of laryngeal paralysis is a degeneration of the nerves that develops slowly over time. Early signs include increased panting, exercise intolerance, and a change in bark, which can be followed by gagging and coughing, especially in association with eating or drinking. In the warmer summer months, one of the most important methods for dogs to cool down is through panting therefore symptoms of laryngeal paralysis become more obvious as temperatures rise.

Dogs may also first present in a respiratory crisis with episodes of severe difficulty breathing, and even collapse from not receiving enough of oxygen through their narrowed airway. Once dogs are in a respiratory crisis they need emergency treatment that may consist of sedation, supplemental oxygen, and cooling.

A definitive diagnosis of laryngeal paralysis is made through a sedated examination of a dog’s mouth to view the function of the cartilages. Conservative management for dogs with this disorder can include keeping them in a cool, low-stress environment; preventing them from swimming; restricting their exercise; encouraging weight loss; and placing their food and water on elevated surfaces.

Surgical treatment involves a procedure called unilateral cricoarytenoid lateralization, or a “Tieback” procedure. This procedure permanently opens one side of the airway in order to improve oxygenation. The patient can still remain at an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia and should continue to follow conservative management techniques indefinitely.

If you have noticed your dog experiencing a change in their bark and/or tiring more easily, discuss these signs with your primary veterinarian.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



As Your Pet Ages

June 1, 2019

Diane Scavelli, DVM
Graduate, Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

The average age of our pets is increasing. Between one-third and one-half of pet dogs and cats are living to age 7 or older. With aging we will see physiologic changes such as hair whitening, declines in body and coat condition, and a loss of hearing and/or vision. Other less obvious, but common, age-related changes are alterations in the digestive tract, immune system, or kidneys. The timing of when your dog or cat may begin to slow down may vary in correlation with breed, size, genetics, nutrition, and environment.

Change in behavior is just one of the many potential occurrences with older pets. Behavioral problems occurring in aging pets can usually be due to reaching a behavioral threshold, primary behavior problems, or new medical conditions. Any disease can result in altered behavior. For example, painful or uncomfortable conditions can lead to increased moodiness or anxiety over being handled. Primary behavior problems may often develop from changes in a pet’s environment or the presence of new pets in the home. In geriatric pets with multiple medical conditions their behavioral tolerance threshold may decrease and they may become more sensitive to stimulation.

Geriatric pets can often develop similar health problems as are seen in aging people. These include, but are not limited to, cancer, heart disease, kidney /urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes and joint or bone disease. Age-related medical conditions can often be managed with nutrition. Nutritional requirements can change with age, and some diseases may develop as a result of an unchanged diet. Examples of diet-sensitive conditions with aging dogs and cats are chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, and arthritis. One dietary change in aging pets is a decrease in the energy nutrient requirements. When the energy needs lessen, but calories are not reduced, the pet will become overweight. Therefore, diets designed for geriatric pets will have smaller amounts of fat and calories. An increase in dietary fiber is one route commercial pet food producers will take to decrease calories.

Arthritis and diabetes are common conditions that develop in older, overweight pets. Although obesity is the most common nutrition-related problem in pet dogs and cats, geriatric dogs and cats are more commonly underweight. Underweight body condition is especially prominent in geriatric cats that have decreased digestive capabilities. Underweight pets should usually be provided energy-dense and highly digestible meals. Calorie intake can also affect the amount of protein in a diet. Protein requirements will vary for each dog or cat depending on breed, lifestyle, medical conditions, and metabolism. Since older pets usually take in fewer calories they require a diet with a higher protein to calorie ratio in order to maintain their protein requirement.

It is important to have regular checkups with your primary veterinarian as your pet ages. The material in this article was referenced from Veterinary Clinics of North America, Small Animal Practice: Geriatrics and

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Lameness in Young Growing Dogs

May 1, 2019

Thomas D. Scavelli, DVM, DACVS
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Lameness on either a front or rear limb is one of the most common problems seen in both general veterinary practice and orthopedic specialty practices. In many cases the cause is injury or infection. Trauma can result in injury or inflammation to the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons) or the bones themselves. In growing dogs relatively low impact injuries often result in fractures of the bone. These fractures can be at the level of the bone itself or at the level of the cartilage growth centers. These growth centers tend to close and be replaced by bone at approximately 10-12 months of age in most breeds. Once the dog reaches bone maturity the same level of low impact injuries tends to more commonly cause soft tissue injuries (sprains, tendonitis) rather than fractures of the bone. The only way to truly rule out the fractures is by taking radiographs (x-rays) of the affected limb. Many of these fractures can be successfully treated with bandages, splints and casts. Some fractures do not heal well with external bandaging and surgery is recommended often with pins and wires or plates and screws. In most cases the prognosis to return to normal function is good to excellent.

In addition to trauma growing dogs are prone to certain developmental bone conditions. Often the cause of these conditions can be multiple. Clearly genetics is the major factor in most of them. However, diet and injury can also contribute to conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia. Puppies with these conditions may display sudden severe lameness of one limb or vague signs such as reluctance to walk or an activity level that is significantly less than other dogs in the home or dog park.

In immature dogs (less than one year) x-rays of the elbow or hips may be normal. In the case of hip dysplasia, the disorder will be diagnosed by palpating the hip joints for abnormal looseness. This hip laxity is what leads to arthritis causing pain and lameness in the adult dog. Many of these dogs can be treated with weight control, regular exercise and anti-inflammatory medications. If conservative management fails, then surgical procedures such as femoral head and neck resection or total hip replacement are viable operating therapies. In patients with elbow dysplasia often a CT Scan of the elbow is necessary to identify cartilage disorders and medical management is often initiated. Non-invasive techniques such as elbow arthroscopy to remove painful cartilage fragments should be considered in these dogs that are continuously lame even with medical treatment.

In summary there are numerous causes of lameness in immature dogs. Your family veterinarian is the place to begin diagnosis and treatment. In most patients the pain and lameness ca be controlled or eradicated. In those dogs that persist with lameness s a veterinary orthopedist can work together with your primary veterinarian to attempt to improve leg function and decrease pain.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Marijuana Exposure and Your Pet

April 1, 2019

Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Marijuana (cannabis sativa) is one of the most commonly used illicit drugs in the United States. Recently, legislation has been passed in several states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for both medical and personal use; many more states have similar legislation under consideration. Dogs and cats are very susceptible to marijuana toxicity but dogs are much more often affected. While exposure can occur from secondhand smoke inhalation, the most common source is through ingestion. Due to the change in its legal status, marijuana has become more readily accessible and an increase in the number of accidental exposures of pets to this substance can be expected.

The active ingredient in marijuana, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is responsible for many of the clinical signs associated with the toxicity. Following oral exposure to marijuana, the most common neurologic signs include incoordination, listlessness, stupor, tremors, dilated pupils, vomiting, slow heart rate and sometimes urinary incontinence. At higher dosages hyperexcitability and seizures can be seen. The onset of these clinical signs may range from as soon as 5 minutes to 96 hours following ingestion, with most signs occurring within 1 to 3 hours after ingestion. Clinical signs may then last from 30 minutes to 96 hours. Because THC is stored in the body’s fat deposits, the effects of marijuana ingestion can last for days.

Since it is not always known if the symptoms a pet exhibits are as a result of the consumption of marijuana, a urine test is available but the results are not as reliable in dogs as they are in humans. Although recovery following marijuana toxicity in dogs may take up to 5 days, in most circumstances the outcome is excellent with supportive care and the patient experiences no long-term adverse effects. The severity of the toxicosis is dependent upon the extent of the exposure (amount consumed or length of exposure); animals exposed to higher amounts require longer and more aggressive therapy. Medical-grade THC butter and food products containing the butter have been associated with a higher risk and require more extensive and prolonged treatment.

For dogs already demonstrating neurologic clinical signs, induction of vomiting or administration of toxin binding agents is not always recommended. Instead, close monitoring and supportive care is implemented until clinical signs resolve.

If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested marijuana, contact your primary veterinarian or a 24-hour emergency hospital. The poison control center of the ASPCA has reported a 765 % increase this year in the number of marijuana exposure cases reported to them as compared to the same time last year. As with any potentially toxic substance, marijuana and its derivatives should be stored in a secure area which your pets can not access.

The material contained in the article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian.



Putting Your Cat on a Diet

March 1, 2019

Casey Murphy, VMD
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

If your cat is overweight, a diet is a great place to start helping him or her lose weight. It can be hard, though not impossible, to get cats to exercise, so a diet is usually the best way to help our feline friends cut down a few pounds. Cats who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for developing diabetes mellitus, orthopedic problems such as arthritis, liver disease, skin issues, and lower urinary tract disease. A diet is simply making sure your cat is not receiving more calories per day than he or she expends in energy. This is called the resting energy requirement (RER), which your veterinarian can estimate for you based on your cat’s current weight and his or her ideal weight. Once you have an idea how many calories your cat will need per day, you can translate that into a daily amount of food. The calculated RER is just a starting point and may need to be adjusted based on the progression of your cat’s weight loss.

Every cat food has a certain amount of calories (kcal) per cup or per can, and this information can be found right on the food bag or on the manufacturer’s website. With this information, you can figure out how much your cat should be fed each day. It is very important to use a measuring cup when measuring out your cat’s food to make sure you are not overfeeding (or underfeeding) him or her. Sometimes when you calculate the amount of food, it may seem like a very small amount because the calorie density of your cat’s current food is high. But don’t worry, there is a way around this! Talk to your veterinarian about finding a food that has a lower calorie density so that your cat will think you’re feeding him or her more food even though the total calorie count is the same. Some owners also worry about making sure they are home for regular feedings due to busy schedules. Automatic feeders are an excellent way to make sure that your cat receives a specific amount of food at a certain time each day. (This also means that your cat is looking to the feeder for food instead of you.)

Putting your cat on a diet may seem scary at first, but with the help of your veterinarian (and maybe an automatic feeder), it can become just another part of your everyday life. Remember to have regular weight checks with your veterinarian every month or two to decide if small adjustments in feeding may be necessary. Also, don’t forget that your cat’s treats count as calories too! Your cat won’t lose weight overnight, but with time, patience, and persistence, you can help your cat to a healthier lifestyle.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Blood Transfusions

January 1, 2019

Katharine Palmer, DVM, DACVIM, DACECC
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

When Jimmy, an inquisitive 2 year old beagle, found rat poison hidden in a closet in his house, he ate it. Five days later, he developed difficulty breathing and his owners noted blood in his mouth. They rushed him to his veterinarian’s office where a diagnosis of rat poison ingestion was made.   His blood was not clotting properly and he had bled into his chest and lungs. He was stabilized with a transfusion of blood cells and plasma and was started on Vitamin K1, the antidote to the rat poison. Jimmy survived because of his veterinarian’s ability to give him a blood transfusion.

Blood transfusion therapy, especially the ability to give components of blood, has changed veterinary medicine. We are now able to effectively treat many conditions, such as rat poison ingestion and other clotting disorders, trauma and blood loss because we can give dogs and cats red blood cells or plasma (the liquid part of blood).

As a lifesaving procedure, blood transfusions are used only in the most critical of situations. When an animal becomes severely anemic (low concentration of circulating red blood cells), the body no longer is able to get the oxygen it needs to function or to get rid of important toxins. This ultimately causes the body to start shutting down. There are many different causes for anemia, including losing blood, damaged red blood cells, or the body being unable to produce red blood cells. A red blood cell transfusion may be a cure, as with a single episode of blood loss, or may be a lifesaving temporary measure until veterinarians can treat and stop the underlying cause of the anemia.

Veterinarians must first determine the blood type of the sick pet to make sure it is safe for them to receive blood. All species of animals (including people, dogs, and cats) have their own set of blood types. These animals, if given the wrong type of blood, can have severe reactions. A cross-match procedure is performed to ensure that the donated blood is compatible with the patient’s blood.

Dogs and cats may also require a plasma transfusion. This is the liquid part of the blood which contains clotting factors and proteins but not red blood cells. It is useful in situations like Jimmy’s where an animal cannot clot his or her blood normally. Hemophilia, severe trauma and liver failure are other situations where a plasma transfusion may be helpful.

Your veterinarian may have blood components available for administration at their hospital or may refer you to a specialty hospital for these treatments. Blood products are typically obtained by commercial blood banks that use donor animals screened for infectious diseases but some clinics also maintain a list of local donors who can donate blood in case of emergency.

If you have questions about blood transfusions and your pet please consult with your veterinarian.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Foreign Body Ingestion in Pets

December 1, 2018

Michael G. Hoelzler DVM, DACVS
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

As winter approaches, it is important for pet owners to realize that the holiday season can be a particularly risky time for our canine and feline companions. Dogs and cats are curious animals that love to interact with their environments. Loose wrapping paper, bows or tinsel, if ingested, can cause gastrointestinal blockage that may require veterinary care.

A gastrointestinal foreign body is any material that originates outside the body and gets ingested by your pet. Although many foreign bodies can pass on their own, materials such as string or other large and abnormally shaped objects can get stuck and cause problems. Objects lodged in the esophagus, stomach, or intestine can cause blockage of ingesta that normally moves along the digestive system. This in turn leads to a functional “back-up” that causes discomfort and illness and in some cases death.

After foreign body ingestion, it is usually not difficult for the attentive pet owner to know that something is wrong. Most animals with a gastrointestinal obstruction will exhibit clinical signs that may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anorexia or decreased appetite, lethargy, straining to defecate, or other changes in behavior.

If your pet ate foreign material or exhibits clinical signs of foreign body ingestion, it is extremely important that you contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. String foreign bodies can cut into the walls of the intestine while other objects can perforate or devitalize the muscular walls of the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to leakage of ingesta and bacteria into the abdomen. Infection within the abdominal cavity (peritonitis) is a medical emergency that can cause disseminated infection (sepsis), shock and possible death.

After arrival at the hospital, your veterinarian will examine your pet and will likely use diagnostic tools such as radiographs or ultrasound to diagnose / confirm the foreign body ingestion. If gastrointestinal obstruction is noted, surgery is usually recommended. Esophageal or gastric foreign material can sometimes be removed with endoscopy, but most cases require an abdominal incision. During the procedure, your veterinarian will identify the part of the gastrointestinal tract that is affected and then make an incision into the organ to retrieve the object or objects. The muscular wall of the stomach or intestine is then sutured closed, followed by routine closure of the abdomen.

Most uncomplicated gastrointestinal foreign bodies can be removed with a good prognosis as long as the stomach or intestinal tract is not perforated, devitalized, or otherwise damaged. Animals typically remain hospitalized for several days on medications and intravenous fluids before being sent home. After discharge from the hospital, typical recommendations include two to three weeks of rest to allow the abdominal incision to heal, and to feed a bland diet to minimize further gastrointestinal signs. As always, your pet will need to be watched closely to ensure that additional foreign body ingestion does not occur in the future.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Dietary Indiscretions and Your Pet

October 15, 2018

Caitlin Pohlit, DVM
Practice limited to Internal Medicine
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

 While our pets offer companionship and enrich our lives, they are also mischievous and indiscriminate at times. This lends itself to dietary indiscretion, or the act of consuming unusual items, table scraps, garbage, or spoiled food. This behavior is extremely common, and in many cases may cause illness. For example, ingestion of these things could lead to acute gastroenteritis, pancreatitis or foreign body obstruction. As the holidays approach, we historically see increases in these disorders, especially chocolate toxicity.

All chocolate contains caffeine, methylxanthines, and theobromine which are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and toxic to animals. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains the most and in general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, polydipsia (increased thirst), polyuria (increased urination), restlessness, tachycardia (increased heart rate), cardiac arrhythmias, and seizures can occur. These clinical signs usually occur in a progressive fashion beginning shortly after significant ingestions, which will also largely be dependent on the animal’s size and type of chocolate consumed. Treatment is directed at decontamination, control of anxiety and seizures, and the support of renal elimination through intravenous fluid therapy. Prognosis is good with early, goal-directed treatment and care.

Dumpster diver animals and their dietary indiscretions are also considered to be an important risk factor for the development of acute pancreatitis, particularly in dogs. Pancreatitis is defined as a fully reversible, non-infectious inflammation of the pancreas. The disease can be local or lead to massive systemic inflammation affecting different organs. Cases of pancreatitis present with a tremendously wide variety of clinical signs, many of which overlap with non-pancreatic disease like vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. As such, your veterinarian will need to perform different tests to aid in confirming a definitive diagnosis such as lab work and abdominal ultrasound. Treatment is largely supportive with aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, early enteral nutrition (ultra-low-fat diets fed through the gastrointestinal tract), analgesics for abdominal discomfort, and antiemetics for nausea and vomiting.

Pets and their dietary indiscretions may involve accidental ingestion of holiday décor. These objects can lodge in the stomach or intestinal tract. Radiographs (x-rays) are necessary to make a diagnosis. If there is a foreign body in the stomach, it is possible inducing emesis (vomiting), may result in successful expulsion. However, more often than not this does not work, and a gastroscopy may be necessary. This is a minimally invasive scope of the stomach, allowing for complete visualization and endoscopic retrieval of the foreign object(s). If the foreign body is obstructing the intestine, then surgery would be warranted. Bringing your pet in for immediate evaluation is the best way to mitigate the need for surgery.

If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance or when in doubt, contact your family veterinarian, the nearest 24/7 veterinary emergency critical care hospital, and/or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Tracheal Collapse

August 1, 2018

Michelle Brognano, DVM
Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services,
a member of the GSVS Family of Veterinary Hospitals

The trachea is made up of cartilaginous rings shaped like the letter “C”. Over time these rings start to weaken and the tracheal membrane becomes loose. When a dog with tracheal collapse breathes outward, the membrane of the trachea droops down and causes an occlusion. The tickling sensation of the membrane touching the tracheal lining generates coughing, and if the obstruction interrupts breathing the patient may become distressed. Panting or rapid breathing for any reason makes the collapse and anxiety worse, which unfortunately tends to generate more rapid breathing and a vicious cycle of distress.

The factor that can sometimes further complicate this disease is inflammation in the trachea. The inflammation causes more coughing which causes more inflammation. Ultimately, the tissue of the trachea gets worse and worse.

Tracheal collapse is a very common disease seen in small breed dogs, such as, Yorkies, Maltese, and Pomeranians. It is usually seen in middle aged dogs but the disease can occur at any age. Many times dogs with tracheal collapse are asymptomatic until they are having an episode. Potential hazards that can predispose a patient with tracheal disease to an episode are:

  • Obesity
  • Cigarette smoke, dust, airway irritants, extreme heat
  • Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis)
  • Heart disease
  • Irritation from endotracheal tube during anesthesia
  • Heart disease

There are two ways to treat tracheal collapse: medical management or placement of a tracheal stent. Medical management is ALWAYS the first line of treatment and includes sedation, cough suppressants, and sometimes steroids. Patients that are having an episode are often hospitalized in oxygen and kept sedated until the inflammation has subsided, recovery may take hours to days. In severe cases, where medical management is ineffective, placement of a tracheal stent is considered. This procedure is performed by a specialist and can be done at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, NJ, our sister hospital.

If you notice your pet has prolonged difficulty breathing, has blue colored gums or uncontrolled coughing, they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If your pet has been diagnosed with tracheal collapse, try and keep them cool and quiet during warm weather conditions. Using a harness rather than a neck leash will avoid placing pressure on the trachea. Do not expose your dog to cigarette smoke since it will put added stress on their ability to breathe. Keeping your pet a healthy weight will help ease breathing as well.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Heat Stroke

July 2, 2018

Irina Arye DVM
Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services,
a member of the GSVS Family of Veterinary Hospitals

It’s the time of year when everyone wants to enjoy the beautiful warm weather after a long winter. This warm weather predisposes your dog to heat stroke, which is an emergency situation that requires immediate veterinary attention. Dogs do not tolerate the heat as well as we do. Their only method of releasing the heat from their body is to pant, which is less effective in very hot temperatures.

There are many situations that you need to keep in mind when taking your best friend with you on an outing in the hot weather. One of the first things you should consider is their breed. Short nose breeds, such as, Bull dogs, Pugs, and Pekinese experience difficulty breathing when the temperatures rise. Long haired breeds have even less tolerance for heat and should avoid long periods of exposure to high temperatures.

The most common cause of heat stroke in dogs is being left in the car. The car can heat up very quickly, much quicker than it would seem. For example, on a 78°F day, which does not seem too hot, the car can reach temperatures of 100-120 °F in minutes, especially if standing in the sun.

The best way to prevent severe side effects of heat stroke, besides avoiding situations that predispose to heat stroke, is to identify the onset of heat stroke as soon as possible. The signs you should look for include: excess panting, excessive drooling, reddened gums, decreased urine production, respiratory distress, vomiting (potentially with blood), diarrhea (potentially bloody stool/black stool), change in the mental state, and drunken gate. With the onset of severe heat stroke dogs will start showing even more severe signs: severe dehydration, pinpoint bleeding in the skin, severe kidney failure, rapid heart rate/irregular heart rhythm, shock, cardiopulmonary arrest, blood clotting disorders, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, breakdown of red blood cells, liver cell death, muscle tremors, seizures or unconsciousness.

Treatment at a veterinary hospital will include active cooling to bring down the patient’s temperature as soon as possible. It is very important not to use ice cold water to avoid negative side effects on the cooling process, but instead use cool water to bring down the temperature in a more controlled way. In the hospital cool water baths and intravenous fluids (sometimes cooled) are administered to start bringing down the patient’s temperature as well.

It is important to remember to take precautions when you bring your dog outside this summer. Have plenty of cool water for your dog and take frequent breaks if taking a long walk. Avoid situations that may predispose your dog to heat stroke and if you think your pet may be showing signs of heat stroke, have them evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Make it a safe summer for all.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

Pyrethrins & Pyrethroids

June 1, 2018

Michelle Brognano, DVM
Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services,
a member of the GSVS Family of Veterinary Hospitals

Ticks are a significant problem in the tri-state area largely due to a rising deer population. It’s incredibly important to keep your pets on parasite preventatives year round but even more so in these warmer months. Dogs and cats that stay inside only are at risk for tick bites and heartworm disease too! Please take the time to ensure you select the CORRECT preventative for your pet.

Pyrethrin insecticides are naturally obtained from the Chrysanthemum flower while pyrethroids insecticides are a synthetic (man made) version. Insecticides are found in home and outdoor gardening supplies, over the counter flea shampoos, and some (but not all) topical flea/tick preventative products. These insecticides are commonly used on dogs without much of a problem, however cats are extremely sensitive to these products.

Cats often present to the emergency room after a canine only-labeled product is applied to them. Some cats may also become ill after the product is applied to another pet in the household with whom they have direct contact. Dogs that ingest flea collars or tubes of topical parasite preventive products will also require emergency veterinary care.

Clinical signs of toxicity are hypersalivation, seizures, paresthesia, tremors, ataxia, hyperexcitability, hypothermia, weakness, vomiting, trouble breathing or even death. The onset of these signs can vary from minutes to hours. If your pet is suffering from any of the symptoms they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Patients are usually admitted to the hospital for IV fluids, heat support, sedation, muscle relaxants and anti-seizure drugs, as needed. Blood work may also be done to assess organ function. The goal of treatment is to manage clinical signs, detoxify if possible, and to provide supportive care. Vomiting is usually not induced due to a risk of aspiration which could lead to a more serious medical condition. For dermal exposures, the patient is bathed in liquid dish detergent with warm water.

Prognosis is usually good for patients treated aggressively and quickly. Failure to do this may result in complications that can eventually lead to death. Prevention is key! ALWAYS read the label and follow packaging directions which are based on weight and species. Pesticides should be safely secured out of the reach of children and animals.

INTERESTING FACT: Fish are so sensitive to insecticides that they may die from even the least amount of exposure. For this reason it is recommended that dogs do not swim in ponds or creeks for approximately 24-48 hours after administration of a parasite prevention product.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.



April 2, 2018
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Rabies is a viral disease that affects both animals and people. It is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, most often by a bite. In the United States, rabies occurs mostly in wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, bats, skunks and groundhogs. In 2017, there were 208 animal cases of rabies in New Jersey. This includes 22 cases in Monmouth County. Because nearly all animals and people who have rabies die from this disease, prevention is the key to keeping your household rabies free.

The first step to prevention is vaccination. All dogs and cats should be vaccinated for rabies. This is particularly important for cats. Cats that never go outside have been known to come in contact with wildlife inside the home. In New Jersey, cats have accounted for 90% of the domestic animal cases seen each year for the past 5 years. Cats are also more likely to roam and encounter wild animals. Vaccines are available from your veterinarian or at a community vaccine clinic. It is important to note that dogs and cats are not considered to be protected from rabies until 30 days after receiving the vaccine.
Most dogs and cats get rabies from exposure to a rabid wild animal such as a raccoon or fox. Keeping your cat indoors or your dog on a leash and under your direct control decreases the risk that they will come in contact with a rabid animal.

Report all stray animals to your local Animal Control. You should also report any suspicious wildlife. This would include animals who are behaving abnormally or nocturnal animals that are out during the day. Animals that have rabies may appear sick, weak, walking as if they are drunk, or they may even appear normal. Do not feed or handle wildlife. Don’t provide incentive for wildlife to come into your yard. Keep garbage cans tightly covered and do not leave pet food outside. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, or you are concerned that your pet has been exposed to rabies, you should immediately contact your veterinarian. If animal control is able to capture wildlife suspected of having rabies, testing can be performed by the New Jersey Department of Health.

If a person is bitten or comes in contact with a potentially rabid animal they should seek immediate medical attention and ensure that the New Jersey Department of Health is contacted so that the appropriate testing and treatment steps are taken. For more information on rabies in animals and people, contact your local health department, your veterinarian or check these websites: Visit the CDC website
or  Visit the State of NJ Department of Health website

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

Under Pressure – Glaucoma in Your Pet

March 1, 2018
Michele L. Edelmann, VMD, DACVO
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Glaucoma is a common condition in dogs and cats that may be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Glaucoma is an increase in the pressure in the eye. The normal eye should constantly produce a fresh, water-based fluid at the same rate it drains out older fluid. In glaucoma, the drain of the eye is malformed and becomes clogged, but the “faucet” is still on, leading to pressure buildup.

The pressure buildup is painful. This may feel like a migraine headache. Furthermore, glaucoma may be blinding due to permanent damage to the delicate retina in the back of the eye.

Increased redness of the white of the eye, blue cloudiness, squinting, tearing, or rubbing/pawing at the eye may be appreciated. In some cases, an increase in size in the eyeball may occur to accommodate for the high pressure. Occasionally, no changes to the eye are noticed until vision loss occurs. This can happen very suddenly. Some owners notice that their pet seems quieter than normal or less interested in eating.

Ocular pressure may be measured by your veterinarian. This is a quick and simple test that is performed after application of a topical anesthetic eye drop in the office. Pressure should be lower than 25 mmHg. Pressure readings over 25 mmHg are consistent with a diagnosis of glaucoma. False high readings occasionally occur. If you or your veterinarian are suspicious that your pet may have glaucoma, referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended.

There are many possible causes of glaucoma. Cataracts, chronic inflammation (uveitis) in the eye, ocular tumors, trauma, and retinal detachments are just a few causes. A complete eye examination with an ophthalmologist can help determine the cause. In some cases, no obvious underlying cause is found and a genetic tendency towards glaucoma is suspected. This is called primary glaucoma. Primary glaucoma is a disease that will also affect the opposite eye, typically within 6 months to 1 year after the original diagnosis. For this reason, the ophthalmologist may recommend that your pet be treated prophylactically in the opposite eye to delay the onset of disease.

The first line of treatment for glaucoma is eye drop therapy. Your ophthalmologist can prescribe medications to help to reduce pressure in the eye to restore comfort. In some situations, your ophthalmologist may recommend laser surgery. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A laser is used to inactivate the parts of the eye that produce fluid. Your pet may also be a candidate for shunt placement (“Ahmed valve”). This is an implant that improves fluid drainage out of the eye. The goals of laser/shunt surgery are to lower pressure more permanently, to reduce the need for topical medications, and to maintain vision for as long as possible.

If your pet is suspected to be permanently blind and medications are not effective in keeping pressure to a comfortable range, there are additional procedures or surgeries that can be discussed to restore comfort.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.
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