2012 Hints & Tips of the Month

What You Should Know about Caring for your Pet

2011 Hints & Tips
2013 Hints & Tips

Cautions for the Holidays

As we come in to holiday season, reminder there are many foods that are toxic to cats and dogs, as well as outdoor hazards. Macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, chocolate, antifreeze, ice melt, lillies, mistletoe, coffee, yeast dough, poinsettias, and bones. 

West Nile Virus and Triple E

Our pets are subject to these diseases as we are. Mosquitoes are the carrier and the recommendations for pets are similar to people. Don't let your pets out at dusk and dawn Make sure you are using some kind of monthly flea and tick product that will repell mosquitoes ( yes! they do exist )and make sure to apply it on a 28 day cycle. Do not leave standing water outdoors that will attract mosquitoes. For indoor cats, don't let them sit in a screened window. The mosquitoes will feed through the screen. Hope for an early and hard frost! 


"Hurricane season is upon us and that means cold weather emergencies are not far behind. The federal government is requesting if you have to evacuate your home take yur pets with you! Groton's emergency planning committee has provisional plans for pet evacuations,even though the red cross does not allow pets. If we do have a disaster make sure you have supplies such as water, canned foods, flashlights, batteries, medications - these are listed in full at the red cross website at redcross.org. Do not forget any pet medications, such as insuline and special meds your pet may have and their foods. Make sure you bring health histories with you and your pet. The important directive is to take your pet with you when you have to evacuate. 

Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes

Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes" is the message that the Auxillary to the AVMA will be spreading for National Pet Week 2012, May 6-12. The AVMA and the Auxillary created National Pet Week in 1981 to foster responsible pet ownership, recognize the human-animal bond, and increase public awareness of veterinary medicine. 


Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, so it's not hard to understand why Groton is a hot spot. Prevention is the key, even though it is a treatable disease. It is easy to prevent with a monthly treatment, but the medicine needs to be given EVERY month. Mosquitoes are out when the temperature is 50 degrees, so this year is a good example of why to treat in the cold months. Cats are also susceptible to heartworm disease, but it is more often fatal to them because they are not a natural host. Any outside cat should be on heartworm prevention. Since mosquitoes get in the house, treating indoor cats is a good idea. Most of the preventatives also treat intestinal parasites, so your pet is also protected against many potential chronic problems. 

Ticks, Ticks, Ticks!

Ticks are out all year long except the brown dog tick which hibernates in cold weather. All ticks are in a feeding frenzy spring and fall. Thanks to a mild winter, this year’s cycle is starting early. All pets that go outdoors should have flea/tick preventative treatments every 28 days. Make sure the medication contacts your pet’s skin. Two consecutive treatments are needed to reach maximum efficacy. All humans, pet owners or not, should protect themselves with approved repellents when outdoors. Talk to your physician for recommendations. It is better to protect than treat. Ask your veterinarian to suggest a product for your pet. 

February is Dental Health Month

Dogs and cats have the same dental diseases that people do. Gingivitis and plaque and tartar are especially of concern because of the bacterial involvement in these diseases. The bacteria can shower through your pet and cause problems with heart, kidney, liver, and other organs in the body. Brushing is as important for our pets as ourselves and chewing kongs or rawhide are encouraged by veterinary dentists. Be careful with chew treats as some can break teeth so talk to your veterinarian about which products to use. 

Dog Flu

There is a strain of an upper respiratory virus that mutated from horses to dogs. It is more serious than canine "kennel cough" (bordatella) and can actually kill dogs. It is now being reported in Massachusetts. You should talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating to prevent the disease. 

Holiday treats can be toxic to pets!

As the holidays approach, start thinking proactively about the dangers posed to your pets by certain foods. Onions, raisins, macadamia nuts, chocolate and grapes are all toxic. Meat bones can splinter and cause gastrointestinal upset and/or bleeding. Allowing your pet to eat rich foods and table leftovers can cause vomiting and diarrhea. There are also warnings about recalled pet foods, so pay attention to the news. We wish you and your pets a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! 

Tips on Traveling with Pets

Carry written proof that your pet's shots are current. Some states and border crossings require written proof.

Securely attach an ID tag to your pet's collar with a phone number in case of emergency. The best safeguard is to have your pet "micro-chipped."

Bring two leashes, in the event one gets lost.

Before you travel, make a list of "pet-friendly" lodgings.

Carry a first-aid kit and keep your veterinarian's number handy in case you need to refill a prescription or get advice.

It's okay to pamper your pets with toys and healthy treats. This is a "family" vacation! 

The "Cat Scratch Disease Bacteria"

Approximately 20% of healthy cats in the US are infected carriers of Bartonella bacteria. Healthy cats can carry five members of the Bartonella bacteria in their blood, which are transmitted between cats by fleas and ticks. The bacteria can spread to people via cat scratches and bites, contact with fur and possibly, although rarely, through infected fleas and ticks. Although most infected people do not become ill, Bartonella transmitted from cats can cause 22 human diseases. Most infected cats remain infected for years or sometimes for life with or without showing any symptoms. There is now a simple blood test you can do to screen your cat for Bartonella bacteria. If your cat does test positive, your veterinarian will put him/her on a course of antibiotics. After the course is finished, your cat will be retested. Antibiotic therapy can rid your cat of Bartonella bacteria completely.

The "Pick" of the Litter

Searching for a new puppy or kitten can be a daunting task. The choices between breeders, pet shops, newspapers, shelters and on-line advertising may seem endless. However, doing a little bit of research in the beginning can pay off immensely in the long term, rewarding you with a healthy, easy-going and well-socialized pet.

Ideally you will find a reputable breeder who knows the health and personality profile of both parents. The breeder should welcome a visit from you to observe the whole litter interacting.

Or, if you are selecting a pet from a shelter (preferably a "no-kill" shelter), be sure the staff is knowledgeable about behavior and health issues.

Acquiring a pet on-line is not a good idea. You do not know where the pet came from or with whom you are dealing. Check with a veterinarian or your local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals about sites that offer pets on-line.

Here are some tips on behavior to watch for in selecting your new pet:

The youngster that is consistently the first to investigate new things, who seems to have no fear and bullies his littermates in play and at the food dish is the first youngster to pass up. This type of behavior belongs to the "alpha" littermate, and promises a pet that will be dominant and aggressive about getting what it wants, that starts fights and may growl or snap at family members who approach during meals.

The next youngster to pass up is the one who cowers in the corner or tries to hide behind his littermates and shies excessively at loud noises. A youngster expressing this type of behavior is afraid of the world and may develop separation anxiety and can actually become aggressive out of fear. These two types are the youngsters to leave for the experienced dog and cat owners who have the time and energy to devote to proper training and socialization.

For the average person or family looking for a well-adjusted, healthy pet, the ideal "pick" of the litter would be the youngster that falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. This individual may jump when surprised, but neither runs away trembling nor immediately darts forward to investigate. This puppy or kitten should play nicely with the others and should look healthy: there should be no ribs showing, and the eyes and nose should be clean and clear, with no signs of discharge.

Ideally, the littermates should stay together with their mother until they reach 8 weeks of age. Most of the basic socialization skills are learned during this time.

Again, the ideal "pick" of the litter is best chosen by seeing the youngster in the environment in which it was raised along with its littermates.

Groton Veterinary Hospital does NOT recommend buying puppies, kittens or any kind of animal from a pet store (or on-line). Their origins are unknown, and in many cases, they have been raised in inferior breeding facilities where cramped quarters with large numbers of animals can weaken immune systems and promote greater susceptibility to disease and parasites, if indeed they are not already sick.

The staff at Groton Veterinary Hospital is always happy to answer questions, so please feel free to call or e-mail us.

Canine and Feline Raw Diets

Twenty-five commercial raw diets for dogs and cats were evaluated for bacterial content. Coliforms were present in ALL diets. Escherichia coli was identified in 15 of the 25 diets (64%); Salmonella spp. were detected in 5 of the 25 diets (20%); 1 each of beef, lamb, quail, chicken and ostrich-based diets. Spore-forming bacteria were identified from 4 of the 25 (16%) samples on direct culture and 25 of the 25 (100%) samples using enrichment culture. Clostridium perfringens was identified in 5 of the 25 (20%) samples. A toxigenic strain of C. difficile was isolated from one turkey-based food. Staphylococcus aureus was isolated from 1 of the 25 (4%) diets. These bacteria are undesireable in ANY food source and could cause illness or death of a pet or a member of your family.

The Hazards of "Gorilla Glue"

Dogs apparently like to eat "Gorilla Glue." "Gorilla Glue is a polyurethane glue, which means that as it cures, it foams," says a company spokeswoman. The foam does not stick to the stomach lining but hardens into a loaf-like mass that must be surgically removed. Label instructions warn users to keep it out of reach of children and pets, and notes that it "may cause gastrointestinal blockage" if swallowed.

New Vaccination Protocols for Groton Veterinary Hospital's Cats and Dogs

What is the immune system? Why is it important? The immune system plays a pivotal role in maintaining your pet's health. One of the most important functions of this highly complex system of specialized cells and molecules is to protect pets from disease and infection caused by foreign invaders—viruses, bacteria and a host of other microbes and parasites intent on assaulting the body and causing disease.

What does vaccination accomplish? Vaccines are given to prepare the body's immune system against invasion by particular disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens which to the immune system "look" like the organism but don't, ideally, cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced by injection or by some other means, the immune system responds by mounting a protective response. When your pet is subsequently exposed to the organism, the immune system is prepared and either prevents infection or reduces the severity of disease.

Why do young animals require a series of vaccinations? Young animals receive antibodies from colostrum (the first milk the mother produces) that is ingested during the early hours after birth. Maternal antibodies help protect against infectious disease until the youngster's own immune system is more mature. Unfortunately, maternal antibodies also interfere with the vaccine's ability to stimulate the youngster's immune system. To counteract this problem, veterinarians often administer a series of vaccines, usually beginning when the youngster is around six to eight weeks of age, and then repeating the vaccination at three to four week intervals until maternal antibodies have waned, usually at around twelve to sixteen weeks of age. In some cases (e.g., rabies vaccine) the initial vaccine is not given until maternal antibodies have altogether disappeared.

Feline and Canine Vaccination For the past 50 years, vaccinations have helped extend the lives of our pets by several years. However, in the past decade the veterinary community has come to realize that not all pets need all vaccines with the frequency previously thought.

In cats and dogs, we have been decreasing the vaccine load in the past several years with the goal of vaccinating only as needed/according to lifestyle.

Only after a cat or dog is 2–3 years old, do we begin their new protocols in order to ensure your pet is totally protected before we start excluding fractions.

All cats and dogs have to follow the rabies law of the state of their residence. In Massachusetts, after the initial two rabies vaccines are given (9-12 months apart), the booster vaccine is administered every three years. If there are any questionable incidents, a booster shot may need to be given at that time.

All other vaccine fractions are given according to age and lifestyle. For cats, the distemper (panleukopenia) fraction lasts for several years and so we extend that 5–6 years. The upper respiratory fractions are variable so we extend that 2–3 years according to lifestyle. Leukemia vaccine is intended for cats that go outdoors or for cats sharing residence with a leukemia-positive cat and is administered annually.

Dog distemper, parvo, hepatitis and one upper respiratory fraction, can be extended 3 years depending on age. Lepto, Lyme and Bordetella need to be given every year. Therefore, each year will require a different combination, and if your pet needs more than 2-3 vaccinations at a time, we ask that you return a few weeks later so we do not overload its immune system.

Taking your Dog for a Walk (in Groton MA)

Groton Place and the Rail Trail are great places to take your dog for a walk, but because of the number of dogs walked there, keep in mind a few of these precautions.

  1. Always walk your dog on a leash to prevent wandering. This safeguards against the possibility of getting lost, or injured in a fight with other dogs or wild animals.
  2. Have your dog's stool tested every 6 months for parasites. Dog and wild animal feces are a good source of parasites that your dog can contract.
  3. Because a lot of dogs frequent these areas it is a good idea to vaccinate your dog for Kennel Cough. This yearly vaccine can be injected or inhaled nasally. Wild animals can also transmit upper respiratory infections.

Wild Animal Precautions

The Groton area has coyotes and fishers. Cats should not go out or stay out after dusk. Call your pets in: coyotes and fishers will eat cats and small dogs. For safety's sake, cats should be kept indoors at all times.

If your dogs like to swim, take them to a place where there are no beavers or beaver dams. Beavers can kill a dog. They can also transmit intestinal parasites. Also, after a swim hose your dogs off with clean water and dry their ears and coat to prevent skin infections. Some dogs may also be allergic to the algae in the water.

Owls and large birds of prey are a danger to puppies, small dogs, kittens and cats. They can effortlessly swoop down and grab them. So always supervise your small pets while outside.

How old is your Cat?

Cat's Age Human Age
1 15
2 25
4 40
7 50
10 60
15 75
20 105

How old is your Dog?

Age 0-20 lbs 21-50 lbs 51-90 lbs >90 lbs
5 36 37 40 42
6 40 42 45 49
7 44 47 50 56
8 48 51 55 64
9 52 56 61 71
10 56 60 66 78
11 60 65 72 86
12 64 69 77 93
13 68 74 82 101
14 72 78 88 108
15 76 83 93 115
16 80 87 99 123
17 84 92 104
18 88 96 109
19 92 101 115
20 95 105 120

How Long Will They Live?

Rabbit 6–10 years
Guinea Pig 5–7 years
Chinchilla 10–12 years
Hedgehog 4–6 years
Rat 2–3 years
Hamster 1.5–2 years
Gerbil 3–4 years
Mouse 1.5–2.5 years

Gentle Leader Head Collar - Premier Pet Product

The Gentle Leader head collar offers a fast, gentle, effective way to control unwanted behavior—without harsh methods or devices. Because it's scientifically designed to work with your dog's natural instincts, behavior can be changed in minutes—not weeks. This collar was created and designed by a veterinarian. The head collar is NOT a muzzle! When it fits properly, your dog is free to open his mouth, eat, drink, pant, fetch, bark and even bite—except when you close his mouth by pulling on the leash.

Teaches "sit."
Stops pulling and lunging.
Prevents jumping.
Controls barking.
Stops begging.
Won't choke.
Helps with aggression problems.

This collar also has a training video to help you and your family learn to fit and use the Gentle Leader head collar to its full potential.

You can also call our office for an initial collar-fitting appointment and demonstration on how to use the collar.

The Nose Loop

Dogs are naturally "pack" animals with a highly structured social order. One of the ways the pack leader will demonstrate his position is to gently but firmly grasp the muzzle of a subordinate dog in his mouth. This is a non-aggressive but very clear signal regarding who's the boss! The nose loop encircles your dog’s muzzle in the same manner, letting him know in his own language that you are his leader. Dogs feel more secure when they know who is their leader.

The Neck Strap

The Gentle Leader applies pressure to the back of the neck rather than the front of the throat. This works with your dog's natural instinct to relax and act calm—just like when his mother picked him up by the back of his neck as a puppy. Also, as a dog tends to pull against pressure, the gentle pressure at the back of his neck causes the dog to pull backward, not forward. This means an end to leash pulling!

Online Product Buying Versus Going to Your Veterinarian

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to explain the important benefits of purchasing products from your veterinarian versus third party retailers, such as the Internet and/or pet supply catalogs. Current media campaigns aim to persuade pet owners to purchase products through the channels that are not monitored or regulated by any federal or state agencies. We believe this is not safe for your pet. We relied on the following facts to support this decision.

- All products sold by Groton Veterinary Hospital are received directly from the manufacturer and immediately stored in an appropriate environment. Similar products unlawfully diverted to third party retailers, unfortunately, may not be stored in proper conditions.

- Manufacturers of pet medications will only offer their guarantee on products purchased directly from a veterinarian. If you were to have a problem with a product, the manufacturer will only support your claim if the product was purchased from a veterinary clinic.

- If you purchase from a pet-product diverter, you are not provided with proper instruction on how to administer the medications. Some products require pre-testing of your pet in order to prevent adverse reactions. Since the efficacy of the products often depends on proper usage, we can demonstrate how to properly administer the product. We also keep a long-standing record of your pet's health that helps us to determine which products are best for your pet. If you should have any questions regarding your pet's medication, you will be able to speak directly to a veterinary staff member who will have direct access to your pet's medical history and record. There should always be a patient/doctor relationship when prescribing any medication to a pet. Your pet's weight, medical history, age, breed, body temperature, and current medical status are all important pieces of information we use when considering what medication is best for your pet. Internet and catalogue services do not care to take these important pieces of information into consideration, which can be harmful or even fatal to your pet.

- The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) developed the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Sites (VIPPS) program, and states that there are currently several judgments pending against third party retailers that have violated NABP regulations.

- While it may seem to cost less to purchase online, the actual savings are at your veterinary office. Online offers do not include free products or rebates whereas your veterinary clinic does. There are also shipping and handling charges when ordering online or through a catalogue. If there are actual savings of cost when purchasing products online, the savings are minimal and do not justify the long-term risks.

Many discrepancies regarding the purchase of products through third party diverters arise from the belief that veterinarians are required, by law, to write any prescription requested by the pet owner. In Massachusetts, a veterinarian is only required to write prescriptions to pharmacies registered in Massachusetts or to a VIPPS-certified pharmacy and only if the prescription is appropriate for the patient.

Our goal is to provide the best possible care for your pet. We believe that in order to do this, we must steer our clients away from buying products through unregulated channels. We thank you for your understanding and support. Please feel free to call our office with any questions or comments.

Grape and Raisin Toxicity

Dogs can be exposed to grapes and raisins in many ways. Frequently dogs will eat the fruit off a vine or steal them from plates. Grapes and raisins used to be recommended as treats and training aids in the past because the fruit is tasty and relatively low in calories. Unfortunately, however, dogs have been having dangerous reactions to grapes and raisins. The fruit has also been used as a treat for ferrets but its high sugar content is not good for them as ferrets have a high incidence of insulinomas.

Since 2001 there have been as many as 200 calls made to the ASPCA Poison Control Center involving potential exposures to grapes or raisins in dogs. Sensitive dogs run the risk of initial gastrointestinal upset followed by acute kidney failure. Since we do not know who will be sensitive nor how much of the fruits could cause a problem it is now recommended that grapes and raisins not be given as treats.

Vomiting is usually the first sign of grape or raisin toxicity and can occur within the first 2 hours of ingestion. Other initial signs that can occur within the first 5-6 hours of ingestion are diarrhea, lethargy and polydipsia (excessive water drinking). Signs of kidney involvement may develop either within 24 hours or several days later. These signs include anorexia, lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and tremors.

The best treat for your dog or cat will always be something that is made especially for your dog or cat. But if you must try something new, or feel badly when he/she is staring at your plate, call your veterinarian and ask if it is ok first before you give your pet a sample. Sometimes the seemingly harmless things turn out to be the most dangerous.

We provide quality veterinary care and comprehensive counseling to help you keep your pets healthy and safe.

Preventive Medicine


Guinea Pigs
Pocket Pets


Dr. Susan Horowitz, VMD
171 Lowell Road
Groton, MA 01450

Fax: 978-448-8194

hours: Mon – Fri:  8:30am – 6pm
Saturday:  8:30am – 12 noon