Paws for a Cause

Keeping pets happy and healthy is our cause. For Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, it’s helping children, as well as their families, lead happy and healthy lives.

If you’re unfamiliar with Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, known as Lurie’s Children for short, it is a stellar, life-changing pediatric specialty hospital that pours their collective experience, skills, and heart to set children up for the bright futures they deserve. In short, it’s all for the children, and we’d say they’re doing a pretty amazing job.

Recently, Pine Bluff Animal Hospital and Skinner Animal Clinic teamed up with Lurie’s Children to make not only a difference in the lives of pets in our community, but also children. Both hospital locations held a nail trim event to raise funds for Lurie’s Children. It was a big success, and certainly a rewarding experience.

We had the honor of working with Megan Bugg, a cancer fighter, who is raising funds through Children’s Circle of Friends program to support invaluable research on childhood cancer. Megan has been fighting Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma since December 26, 2014. Her personal journey and passion is raising awareness on childhood cancer, and importantly the much-needed funds to support more research that will keep the fight going.

All of the proceeds benefited Paws for a Cause and Lurie’s Children. In total, Pine Bluff Animal Hospital raised $300 and Skinner Animal Clinic raised $600. That’s a lot of nail trims! And, it was all made possible with the support of our amazing clients and incredible staff who volunteered their time to make this such a great success.

The doctors and staff at Pine Bluff Animal Hospital and Skinner Animal Clinic feel a deep connection to our community and neighbors. We are proud of the difference we are able to make in the lives of pets and pet owners, and are grateful to have been able to raise funds for such an admirable cause in human medicine. Thank you, again, to everyone who came out to the nail trim events!

Pictured is Christine (Skinner), Nicole (Pine Bluff), Megan (honoree), Jacquie (Skinner), and Dr. Street (Pine Bluff).

Canine Influenza Update | July 2018

Canine Influenza Cases Confirmed Locally in Bloomington-Normal and Pontiac

Update 7/25: All dogs who have not received the Canine Influenza vaccine in the past, but have had a physical examination by one of our doctors in the last three months, can come in for their boosters and have the exam fee waived, as long as there are no other medical concerns.

Update 5/27: We are now requiring all dogs boarding in our hospitals to have had both boosters of H3N2 and H3N8 Canine Influenza with the final boosters given at least two weeks prior to their boarding appointments. More information is provided below.

Since the first outbreaks occurred in Chicago during March 2015, testing has confirmed that there is a new canine influenza strain, different from the previously identified virus, that is causing infection H3N2. Outbreaks have occurred in a number of areas throughout the U.S. and more than 2,000 dogs have been confirmed positive for the H3N2 virus, including many dogs in our area.

In May 2016, over 100 cases of H3N2 were reported in Bloomington-Normal, where two dogs died. One case was also confirmed in Pontiac. The previous November, several cases were confirmed in Naperville and St. Anne in Kankakee County, and others were suspected in Mazon and Streator.

As always, anyone with concerns about their pet’s health, or whose pet is showing signs of canine influenza, should contact our clinic. We’ve provided more information below regarding our updated vaccine requirements and recommendations.

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) infection resembles canine infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough). The illness may be mild or severe, and infected dogs develop a persistent cough and may develop a thick nasal discharge and fever (often 104-105oF). Other signs can include lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite. The fact that some dogs may not show any signs of illness, but still can shed the virus, results in silent carriers to infect other dogs.

Dogs are most contagious during the two- to four-day incubation period for the virus, when they are infected and shedding the virus in their nasal secretions but are not showing signs of illness. Almost all dogs exposed to CIV will become infected, and the majority (80%) of infected dogs develop flu-like illness. Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks. However, secondary bacterial infections can develop, and may cause more severe illness and pneumonia.

Many of your pets have been vaccinated and protected against the previous H3N8 strain of canine influenza, which was first discovered in 2004 and until 2015 was the only strain of canine influenza found in the United States. It is not known whether the H3N8 vaccine provides any protection against this new H3N2 strain, but until recently, it was the only vaccine available. The vaccines may not completely prevent infection, but appear to reduce the severity and duration of the illness, as well as the length of time when an infected dog may shed the virus in its respiratory secretions and the amount of virus shed – making them less contagious to other dogs.

Vaccine manufacturers have now come out with a specific vaccine for the new H3N2 canine influenza strain. With this vaccine now being available, we are updating our boarding and grooming policy to require vaccination for both strains. It is anticipated that both strains will eventually be in the same vaccination but currently they are still separate. Each dog will need two boosters given 2-4 weeks apart. Immunity peaks about 2-3 weeks after the 2nd vaccine booster. So, it is best to plan scheduling in advance if you know your pet will be going to groom or board.  If our doctors have examined your pet within the past 3 months, and you have no other concerns, the doctor exam will be waived at the time of vaccination. Even if your pet had previously been vaccinated for the original H3N8 vaccine, two boosters of the new H3N2 strain are needed for protection.

The CIV vaccination is a “lifestyle” vaccination, recommended for dogs at risk of exposure due to their increased exposure to other dogs – such as boarding, attending social events with dogs present, and visiting dog parks.

For more information:

If you have any questions or would like any clarification on the above information, please give us a call.

Are You Preventing Heartworm Disease?

With spring and warmer weather upon us, mosquitoes will be making their appearance anytime. Heartworms are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. This is a major health concern for your pet!

Signs of heartworm disease include: coughing, difficulty breathing, panting, There's a Way 1decreased exercise tolerance or even sudden death. Pets may not show signs until very late in the course of the disease and that is why annual blood testing is recommended.

However, heartworm disease is easily prevented with either a chewable tablet or
a topical medication placed on the skin between the shoulder blades. Both types of preventative are used monthly. If you have a difficult time remembering to treat your dog monthly, we now have an injection that will last six months.

Let’s not forget our feline friends. Although cats are not the proper host for heartworms, some cats can contract the disease. Identifying cats with heartworm disease is very difficult, but the infection can be easily prevented with use of monthly and/or topical medication.

By: Dr. Gay
Lakewood Animal Hospital
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital

Misfortune of Bad Teeth…

chipThis is Chip – he is my dog. Chip has the misfortune to have been born from amother and father who both had bad teeth. Chip is nine years old. He is about ready to have his third dental cleaning. (He doesn’t know it yet).

He was on my lap the other night and his breath grossed me out. I immediately carried him to the kitchen counter (my in-house exam table) and did an oral exam. Diagnosis—halitosis due to bacteria in mouth with grade II dental disease.

Grade I= good teeth and oral health
Grade II=gums red and mild to moderate tartar
Grade III=tartar and gingivitis beginning periodontal disease
Grade IV=advanced periodontal disease diseased or loose teeth.

When is the last time you looked at your pet’s teeth? Or did you just not want to look?

The number one abnormal finding on routine physical exam in dogs and cats is obesity. The number two problem is dental disease. The best way to help your pet have good oral health is to brush it’s teeth. 1% of my clients brush their pet’s teeth. Unfortunately for Chip I am in the 99% and likely so are you. Brushing is the best but there are other things you can do if you can’t brush.

Some options for you at home to care for your pets teeth with a lot less work are:

  • Hill’s Prescription Diet T/D (a fiber matrix tooth food) used as treats. This is what I do for Chip. He gets 4 a day.
  • Greenies treats work well, he gets one of these occasionally.
  • Dentahex oral solution (like mouthwash for dogs) you wipe it on and it helps clean the teeth. I wipe his teeth when his breath smells.
These products work and we have them available at the clinic.

There are other products as well. You can find other oral health care products in many stores. It is easy to make a claim to help keep teeth clean. It is another to have been tested and given the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval. If a product has this seal it is a good product. Others I can’t speak for.

See how you do answering a few questions about your pet’s oral health.

  1. True or False?  If your pet’s teeth are nice and white they are OK.
  2. True or False?  Hard food always keeps your pets teeth clean.
  3. True or False?  Bones are good for your pet’s teeth.
  4. True or False?  Bad teeth can lead to heart, liver and kidney problems
  5. True or False?  Bad teeth are painful.


  1. False. The mouth isn’t OK just because the teeth are white if the gums are swollen or red.
  2. False. Hard food helps only if the pet chews the food well. Most swallow their kibble whole.
  3. True. As long as bones don’t break the teeth they help but I have seen a lot of broken teeth and my dog never gets bones!!!
  4. True. Bad teeth do a lot of damage that can go unseen until serious problems crop up.
  5.  True. Did you ever have a tooth ache? Our pets don’t show us tooth pain except occasionally drooling or dropping their food when they try to eat. None the less they hurt.

By: Dr. Johnson
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital

“Diet Starts Tomorrow…”

We’ve all probably said this to ourselves at some point, especially after the holidays when delicious treats and over-indulgence have run rampant and wreaked havoc on our waistlines. We are not alone, though, as our pets share an increase in poundage and probably for the same reasons – they join in our celebrations of the holidays and special occasions and we want to reward them with the foods they love because they are a beloved part of our families.

The number one response I get when I mention that a pet I’m examining has gotten a bit overweight is something along the lines of “The weather just makes it impossible to go for walks.” It is understandable that no one wants to be outside in a polar vortex trucking through the snow with their dog to work off that extra slice of pie. But what many pet owners do not realize is that exercise has only a small fraction to do with their pet’s weight loss! Don’t get me wrong, exercise is great; it helps build lean muscle and burns calories and strengthens the heart, just to name a few benefits. I consider exercise a bonus to a good weight loss program, not a necessity because let’s face it, not everyone is lucky enough to spend time outdoors with their pets year-round!I have often thought about how awesome it would be to have a personal chef. Everything in front of me would be healthy and in the right proportions, and I wouldn’t have to even think about it! Our pets are so lucky because we are their personal chefs. We control what goes into their mouths (for those of you that have labs or beagles this may not always be true, despite your best efforts…)! So how do you make the best choices for your pet?

It is all about how much food you make available to them. If you grab a big dogeatingdrinking cup and scoop it full of your dog or cat’s food and then leave it out all day for them, they are probably going to be taking in way too many calories throughout the day to stand a chance at weight loss.

My first piece of advice would be to start measuring out how much food you are already feeding your pet. To do this you need to obtain an actual measuring cup. Pour the same amount of food that you would normally feed your pet into one or more measuring cups to get an idea of how many cups you are actually feeding. Then take a look at your pet’s food bag. There will usually be a chart showing how much food to feed based on a given weight range. This is the important part: if your pet is already overweight you do not want to feed based on their current weight because they will either maintain or gain weight! You need to feed based on their ideal weight. If you need help figuring out what number this is feel free to talk to your veterinarian. I have found with many food bags that the recommended feeding quantities are very generous, so keep that in mind! It also helps to feed them a designated number of meals during the day, instead of just feeding “free-choice.”Another recommendation to help with your pet’s weight loss is to gradually switch to a low-calorie food which will often have more fiber to help make them feel fuller, longer. It also helps to have one person in the household in charge of all the feedings, that way you stay consistent.

I know you are probably wondering about treats which for some is a very important part of their pet’s routine. Table scraps should be eliminated because the food we eat is simply too high in fats and sugars for our pets. If you must feed “people food” stick to vegetables like carrots or green beans which make great low-calorie treats. Or you can just try using your pet’s dry food kibble as treats throughout the day, a little here or there. Keep in mind, too, that you don’t need to give your pet a massive handful of treats to show them you love them or to reward them. They are just as happy with a small nugget here and there; it’s still a treat!

If you make these changes to your routine when feeding your pet you should see gradual weight loss and maybe even notice positive changes in them like an increase in energy and activity levels, not to mention the health benefits like decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes and decreased stress on their joints, just to name a few! Then when the weather gets nice again you can supplement these great new habits with exercise outside to maintain their weight loss you’ve worked so hard to achieve and keep your pet (and you!) happy and healthy!

By: Dr. Joachim
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital 

Let’s Talk About Bloat

Let us talk about bloat, (as the general public refers to it). Actually, let us talk about gastric dilatation with volvulus also known as gastric torsion. These are conditions that affect dogs primarily of the larger and deep chested breeds like the Great Dane.

The two conditions are not synonymous, however torsion/volvulus is usually preceded by bloat. Simple distension of the stomach with food, water, air or some combination, while uncomfortable, is not generally a life-threatening condition. Perhaps you have felt this recently with the holiday feasts we indulge in. Volvulus/torsion on the other hand is very serious and frequently leads to fatality if not treated rapidly and aggressively. The latter condition occurs when the full stomach has rotated within the abdomen in such a way that both ends of the stomach are effectively closed off not permitting much of anything to get in or out of the stomach. In addition to the stomach twisting, the vessels that provide blood to, and take blood away from the stomach are also compromised. The cascade of events that takes place both locally at the stomach as well as hemodynamically to the whole body results in pain, depression, shock, collapse and death if not treated.

While this is a simplistic look at the condition, what I want to make people aware of is that there is a simple and effective means of preventing it from happening. We can feed the right foods, in the right amounts and frequency, control post eating activity, etc. but that does not always insure that torsion will never occur. Owners of at risk breeds can have a procedure called a gastropexy performed that very effectively reduces the chances of torsion from occurring. It does not stop bloating from occurring if the pet over eats, or drinks but as I said above bloat is not typically a huge problem unless it is followed by torsion. The key is knowing the difference and that requires examination and radiographs. Any acutely bloated dog should be seen as soon as possible to determine which problem is present.

Here at Pine Bluff Animal Hospital, we perform what is called a laparoscopic assisted gastropexy, LAG for short. This is a minimally invasive procedure that effectively anchors the wall of the stomach to the wall of the body cavity thus preventing the twisting and rotating. Complications are rare and to date, after over 800 LAGS performed there have been no occurrences of torsion. The vast majority of dogs we have done have been Great Danes thanks to working with 2 prominent Great Dane rescue organizations as well as a number of breeders/handlers of show dogs. Torsion does not affect every Great Dane or deep chested dog, but when it does, it is an acute life-threatening condition that if not caught in time usually results in death.

By: Dr. Schmidt
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital

Winter & Fleas

Think the flea threat is over with cold weather approaching –- think again!
With winter coming and colder temperatures with it, many fleas will die off. Once temperatures drop below 37 degrees Fahrenheit fleas start to freeze, but it can take up to 10 consecutive days of temperatures below 37 degree before fleas outside die. If day time temperatures exceed 37 degrees the fleas can survive and remain active.

Fleas are crafty and often find ways to survive the cold. The body heat of outsideLittle girl and her dog looking out the window.

animals provide a safe haven for fleas even in the coldest weather. Micro-environments is another way fleas survive the winter. Outside animals often seek warmth up near foundations, under porches and in mulch beds. In these areas the temperature may not drop below 37 degrees and the fleas remain active. If your curious pet explored these areas, they may be the next hot meal for the fleas and can transport them into your home, only to thrive in the warm environment. Form theses areas fleas may find their way into your home through cracks in the foundation or other small openings.

So with cold weather the flea risk may diminish but it is not gone. To prevent flea infestation in your home we recommend using flea control products like Frontline Plus, Revolution or NexGard all year long.
By: Dr. Gay
Lakewood Animal Hospital
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital

Poisons & Your Pets

Did you know the ASPCA has a poison control hotline for pet owners? In my 3rd year of veterinary school, as part of a toxicology course, I was required to shadow at the Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Illinois. I found it to be very interesting and up until my experience there had no knowledge of the poison control center and the services they offer to pet owners. They have a hotline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! Calls do require a $65 fee, but if your pet is microchipped there are certain microchip companies that will pay for calls to the hotline.

The poison control center is equipped with trained professionals that are standing by to answer your calls. What I found most interesting was the technology they utilize – computer programs that will allow them to enter a pet, its weight, along with the possible poison ingested and the amount, allowing calculation of how high a risk the pet is for toxicity for that particular ingestion. From there they can instruct you how to proceed which involves anything from just monitoring your pet for clinical signs of illness to inducing emesis (vomiting) to remove a recently ingested poison, to advising contact with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

In 2013, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Illinois, handled nearly 180,000 cases exposed to possibly poisonous substances. Topping the list for the sixth year in a row were prescription human medications. Nearly 20% of all calls were from owners whose pets got into medicines intended for human use. You can visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website ( for the top ten list of toxins of 2013.

Some common household toxins to be aware of if you have pets include chocolate, coffee, alcohol, avocado, macadamia nuts, grapes/raisins, yeast dough, raw/undercooked meat, eggs, bones, xylitol (which is discussed in more detail in a previous blog by Dr. Johnson), onions, garlic, chives, milk, and salt. Visit the website for additional information on these toxins as well as plants that can be dangerous to your pet.

It’s a relief to know that if you are unsure if a substance your pet ingested is toxic you can always get a hold of someone for advice, and it is a lot more reliable than Dr. Google! The number for the poison control hotline is (888) 426-4435.

By: Dr. Joachim
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital

Saying Goodbye

Recently, I did one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had to put “Daisy Duke” to sleep. I have been practicing for 38 years. I have performed euthanasia for many patients over the years. It is ALWAYS a sad event to end the life of a beloved family member, friend and companion. Our clients are our family and their pets are our pets too.

Euthanasia is one thing that I won’t miss when I retire. It is an emotional drain on all involved. It is so hard to come to the decision when the time is “right” and it is just never “right”. It just has to be done because we have run out of the ability to provide quality of life through treatment and loving care at home.

The reason it was so hard with “Daisy Duke” is that she belonged to my daughter family
and son-in-law and their two kids. Not only was I the caregiver but also part of the grieving family trying to be supportive as a doctor, father, and grandpa plus having all those feelings myself. It was a tough job.

Daisy is in a better place now and free of pain. The grandkids wrote letters to God to look after her and give her treats and we are all recovering.

As I look back, it gives me renewed insight on just how bad it is to have to put a pet to sleep. It hurts in so many ways, yet it may be the last, kindest thing you can do for your pet.

By: Dr. Johnson
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital

Why Do I Need Bloodwork Before Anesthesia and Surgery?

So you’ve been told your pet needs surgery. For many, hearing those words brings on all kinds of emotions, fears and anxieties. Seems everyone knows someone who knows someone who has an unpleasant story to tell either human or veterinary, with regards to either anesthesia or the surgery itself. There are many kinds of surgery performed in veterinary medicine from the cosmetic bump removal to the most extensive of orthopedic reconstructions. Some veterinarians specialize in only certain surgeries, I.E. veterinary ophthalmologists and eye surgery. Others are limited to only soft tissue surgeries and yet others, only orthopedic surgery. But common to all is the need for anesthesia, a procedure by which our patients are rendered immobilized, unconscious, and free of pain and anxiety before, during, and after the procedure is performed.

Humans come in all sizes and shapes but the variability in size, body conformation, weight, and even species is far greater in the veterinary setting. To compound this even further there are species specific issues and even individual breed variabilities within a species that play a role in deciding what is the best and safest protocol for a given patient. In many instances, particularly the elderly or very sick, or severely injured patient, the anesthesia is the highest risk part of the overall surgical event. Unfortunately, we cannot always wait for the patient to get better to do their surgery as the surgery itself may be the only way to get better.

Every patient undergoing anesthesia at our hospital is given a physical exam prior to administering any anesthetic agents. This is on top of the exams that have been done in establishing the reason for surgery, either by our own doctors or the referring doctors. In addition to physical exams, preoperative bloodwork is routinely done. While the physical exam is very important, many things cannot be determined by the exam alone. Bloodwork is our means of assessing the internal functions of the animal and combined with exam, help us to choose the best, safest means of anesthesia that allows for the procedure to be completed. Like the scan tool used to diagnoses automotive problems, bloodwork can uncover issues before they are even noticed by the owner as an issue, Considering a liver could lose up to 80% of its functional ability before liver disease is seen or it may take up to up to 66-75% loss of kidney function before obvious urinary/kidney disease signs are reported, bloodwork becomes very important to the overall assessment of a patients overall health. Our goal is have the entire surgical experience be successful and this includes being able to wake up from the anesthesia and not suffer from some other disease process that the anesthesia was detrimental to. With all this said there are still some issues that exam and bloodwork are simply incapable of predicting. Allergic /hypersensitivity reactions, blood clots to name just a couple. While adverse reactions under anesthesia are uncommon, we do whatever we can to know the potential for one beforehand AND be prepared for the unknowns during. The placement of IV catheters and fluid administration during surgery is the norm to aid in maintenance of blood pressure, perfusion of vital organs with oxygen carrying blood, aid in elimination of anesthetic drugs afterwards and to provide a port for the immediate administration of emergency drugs should the need arise. In addition to all these measures, monitoring of the anesthetized patient by trained veterinary technicians and is carried out throughout the whole preoperative time.

Thankfully “problems” during anesthesia and surgery are rare thanks to the exams, tests, agents used and monitoring. But, when they do occur, being trained to recognize it early and prepared to respond to it can be the difference between a pet owner still having a successful outcome or having an unpleasant story of their own.

By: Dr. Schmidt
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital