Lyme Vaccine Clinic

 TicksLyme Disease has Moved into Morgantown!

Lyme disease is spread by ticks that feed on our dogs. It causes painful joints, fever, and decrease in appetite, just to name a few symptoms. Some dogs can suffer kidney disease and have long term effects of the condition. All dogs in the West Virginia are at risk due to the high deer population that spread ticks and the disease. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases of Lyme disease in dogs this year.

Vaccination, in conjunction with tick prevention will help ensure your dog has the best chance to preventing Lyme disease.

To help protect your dog from this painful tick disease, please visit our Lyme Vaccine Clinic in our Wellness Center on January 16, 2016 from 1pm to 5pm.

Inappropriate Urination in Felines

Submitted by Dr. Roxanne Lennon


Image result for cat in litter boxFeline house-soiling problems are among the most common behavioral problems encountered. There are many reasons why cats eliminate outside of their litter box ranging from medical (e.g., urinary tract infections, kidney disease) to behavioral (urine marking, inappropriate urination/defecation). A detailed history, physical exam, urinalysis and possibly bloodwork are important tools we use to determine the underlying cause, enabling us to select the most appropriate treatment option. This handout concerns behavioral reasons for feline inappropriate elimination. If the problem appears to be behavioral, there needs to be a distinction made between marking behavior and inappropriate urination/defecation.

Urine Marking (spraying) is a specific form of inappropriate elimination. Urine marking is a normal form of communication among cats. Though it is most common in intact (un-neutered) male cats, any male or female cat can spray. Urine marking is often associated with a standing posture with cat’s hind legs straight and tail up. In addition the tail is usually quivering and the urine hits a vertical surface. Treatment of urine marking involves trying to identify the stimulus and removing it if possible. Urine marking may be due to territorial behavior, sexual behavior, reactive behavior or anxiety/stress. Examples of stresses are: moving to a new house, a new person or baby in the house, a new pet in the house, or a new cat in the neighborhood. The targets for urine marking are often the perimeter of the territory or other socially significant items such as the owner’s clothes.

Any cats with urine marking behavior should be spayed or neutered. In addition to removing the underlying stimulus for spraying, one can make the soiled area aversive by placing aluminum foil over the area. The environment can be treated with a facial pheromone (Feliway). The soiled area should be cleaned with and enzymatic cleanser.

Inappropriate urination/defection (not related to urine marking) can occur due to litter box aversion, location aversion or substrate preference or location preference. It is important to note where the eliminations are taking place and on what type of surface. The goal is to make the litter box more attractive Cats are very individual and often have specific preferences.

The golden rules of the Litter Box:

  • Scoop the litter boxes daily. Average healthy cats will defecate once a day and urinate 2 – 3 times a day. Even with one cat and one litter box being cleaned daily, the cat is using a dirty box at least twice a day.
  • Scoopable litter is the easiest to clean and most often accepted by cats, though keep in mind other substrates (clay clumping, crystals, recycled newspaper). If you recently changed substrates and the symptoms developed go back to previous substrate where the cat was using the litter box.
  • Uncovered litter box. Cats typically prefer open boxes.
  • Large litter box. Recent studies show that a box can be too small to be comfortable, but never too big. With aging cats or obese cats, maneuvering within a litter box can be difficult if too small.
  • There should be 1 litter box per cat plus one in the house hold. Expample: 2 cats = 3 boxes. In addition, placing litter boxes next to each other is not recommended as cats tend to see it more as one box instead of two.
  • There should be at least 1 litter box on every floor to which the cat has access too. Stairs or other obstacles can pose challenging to cats who have arthritis and/or are overweight.
  • Litter boxes should be placed in quiet, well lit areas. Try to avoid placing a litter box next to a washing machine or dryer. Even though cats see well in low light, they cannot see in complete darkness. Sometimes adding a night light near a litter box can resolve avoidance.

Preferred locations:

If a cat seems to have a location preference and eliminates in one particular area, you can try placing the litter box there for one week. If the cat uses the litter box in the new areas, then gradually move the box a few inches every day closer to a location that is a mutually desirable.

Multi-cat Household:

In some multiple cat households, there may be a conflict between two cats that can build to litter box avoidance. In these situations there is usually an aggressor (the cat who starts trouble). A collar with a bell can be placed on this cat to allow the other cat (or cats) the opportunity to avoid the aggressor. This is also demonstrates the importance of having open litter boxes, since the cat in the box can’t be snuck up on and disturbed.

If there is no success with the above recommendations, you may need to consider confining the cat to a small area (e.g. bathroom) with food, water and a litter box. This will limit the cat’s options and help force the cat to use the litter box. Once the cat begins to use the box regularly, gradually give him more freedom.

Unfortunately cat behavior is complicated and there are situations where behavior modification alone does not work. At this point drug, consultation with a behavior specialist may be helpful. Anti-anxiety therapy may also need to be considered. For some cats, medications dosage can be reduce or eliminated if the pet is responding; other cats may need long-term drug therapy.

In summary, inappropriate elimination problems can be very frustrating. It is important to distinguish between medical and behavioral causes, as the treatment strategies are different for each. For cats with behavioral issues, it is also important to distinguish urine marking from inappropriate urination/defecation, as knowing the underlying cause may aid us in solving the problem.

Common Diseases of Small Mammals

Written by Dr. Angie Ahlstrom

Well, we’ve talked about birds and reptiles—time for small mammals! For many people, their first pet was a “pocket pet” such as a gerbil, hamster, rat, or guinea pig. For others, rabbits and chinchillas are great fuzzy friends. These animals offer great companionship, though they present a different set of disease concerns from cats and dogs. Today we will discuss dental disease, respiratory disease, and intestinal disease in rodents and rabbits.

Dental Disease:

Dental disease is very common in small mammals. Rodents have teeth that continue to grow throughout the life of the animal. If the upper and lower teeth are not lined up together properly, these teeth will grow incorrectly and cause serious disease. In some animals, especially chinchillas and rabbits, sharp points can form on the teeth and cause deep ulcers in the animal’s cheeks. Common signs of dental disease in rodents and rabbits include drooling (“slobbers”) from the associated pain, decreased appetite, and dropping food (especially hay). Monitor your pet for these signs of dental disease and bring them to your veterinarian at the first sign of problems.

Dental disease can be prevented by providing proper materials to help wear down the teeth properly. For rats, mice, and gerbils this includes nutritional blocks and untreated wooden toys. For chinchillas, rabbits, and guinea pigs be sure to provide them with free-choice hay; timothy hay is best tolerated by the intestinal tracts of these animals. In addition to providing adequate wear to the teeth, hay also promotes intestinal motility and health.

Respiratory Disease:

Respiratory disease in small mammals is almost exclusively the result of incorrect husbandry. It is important to use only non-irritating bedding. Avoid wood chips such as cedar and pine as these are high in aromatic oils that irritate the respiratory tree; aspen bedding is a better choice. Another option available is CareFresh bedding, which is paper based and non-irritating. Some owners elect to use fleece blankets to line their rodent and rabbit cages. This provides a soft sturdy bedding that can easily be washed.

Bedding should be changed on a regular basis; for many owners, weekly bedding changes work best. Allowing soiled bedding to remain in the cage increases the amount of ammonia in the air (from urine). This ammonia is very irritating to the respiratory tree and can make your rodent or rabbit more at risk of respiratory infections.

Common signs of respiratory infections include sneezing, runny nose and eyes, and porphyrin staining in rodents. Porphyrin is a pigment produced in times of stress and can appear as red tearing or nasal discharge. If you notice these signs, bring your rodent to your veterinarian right away for antibiotic therapy. In some more advanced cases, additional treatment with a nebulizer may be required.

Intestinal Disease:

The most common intestinal problems seen in small rodents and rabbits is due to abrupt diet changes and stress. In rabbits and chinchillas especially, diet change and stress and lead to ileus—a condition where the GI tract stops moving. This leads to cramping and decreased appetite. This decreased appetite further slows the GI tract down, creating a vicious cycle. Prevention of intestinal ileus is key. Be careful not to change your animal’s food abruptly. When switching foods, slowly transition from the old food to the new, mixing a larger amount in each time. This is also true when starting a new bag of hay as there can be small changes between batches of hay that can affect the intestinal tract.


Signs of GI disease include soft feces (not to be confused with cecotropes which are normal digestive products produced by rabbits), decreased appetite, and lethargy. Aggressive treatment is necessary to get the intestinal tract moving normally again. Bring your pet to your veterinarian immediately if they stop eating.


These are just a few of the more common diseases seen in small mammals. For more information about your rabbit or rodent, ask your veterinarian today!

Proper Reptile Care–A 3 Part Series: Part 3

Written by Dr. Amy Nicewonger

Feeding Recommendations for Reptiles

Generally, most reptiles can be classified as insectivores, carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores.  Striving to recreate wild diets to feed to captive reptiles can be challenging.  Unlike commercial dog and cat foods, manufactured reptile diets are inconsistent and often do not provide the proper nutrients in the proper balance.  Therefore, many reptiles require a variety of food items to provide complete nutrition.  Another striking difference is that the metabolism of reptiles is about 30% less than that of mammals.  Due to a lower metabolism, some reptiles require only weekly or monthly feeding.


Chameleons, young monitors, young bearded dragons, and small snakes are included in this category.  Insects by themselves are generally nutrient deficient and require “gut-loading.”  This is done by feeding the insects a diet high in Calcium and other nutrients.  Many products are available to gut-load insects after purchase.  Live insects are preferred to the dried or canned insects that are available.  A variety of earthworms, snails, cockroaches, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, and crickets is recommended.  Feed immature reptiles more frequently and adults less frequently.  The constant presence of live prey can be stressful to the reptile so only feed the number of insects that can be eaten in 15-30 minutes.  Days of fasting can sometimes be beneficial.


This group includes Asian water dragons, monitors, most snakes, and tegus.  Food items that are available are mice, rats, anoles, day old chicks, and fish.  Live rodents can cause serious bite wounds to reptiles, and it is recommended that rodents be freshly killed or stunned.  Another option is to feed frozen prey that has been thawed and brought to mammal body temperature by soaking in hot water.  It is recommended to feed carnivores in a separate container from their normal enclosure or soaking container.  Weekly to monthly feeding is recommended depending on species and size.  Remove and dispose of any uneaten prey after 2-3 hours.  Variety of prey items is not important when feeding carnivores.  Supplements are not required.


Examples of herbivores include most tortoises, adult bearded dragons, iguanas, and uromastyx.  A well mixed salad made from pre-packaged salad mix (Spring Mix, Baby Herbs, or Baby Lettuces) [70% of diet]; Colored vegetables (red, orange, yellow, and purple) [20% of diet] such as small squash, sweet potatoes/yams, yellow/red peppers, beets, eggplant, and carrots; and Fruits (berries, especially blueberries, and papaya) [10% of diet] can be fed daily.  Only feed the amount that the reptile can eat within one hour.  For supplementation, a cherry or fruit-flavored Tums can be crushed and added to the salad daily.


Box turtles, many semi-aquatic turtles, transitioning bearded dragons, and blue-tongued skinks are examples of omnivores.  These animals should be offered a mixture of the herbivore diet with a small amount of insects and prey items fed to carnivores.  Owners need to monitor these pets carefully because they may only eat their favorite food items and not have enough variety in their diets.


For help designing a diet or enclosure for your reptile, be sure to consult your veterinarian!

Proper Reptile Care–A 3 Part Series: Part 2

Written by Dr. Amy Nicewonger

Temperature and Humidity Recommendations for Reptiles

Each reptile species has a species-specific temperature range and humidity requirements.  There are many resources available that list these ranges so they will not be discussed here.  You can also ask your veterinarian what the optimum temperature range and humidity level is for your particular reptile.

What can I use to control the temperature in my reptile enclosure?

Many products are available for providing heat support for reptiles.  Under tank mats, basking lights, ceramic heaters, etc are widely available.  I prefer to use a ceramic heater for my bearded dragon because it provides constant heat but no light so I can use it 24 hours a day if needed.  It is important to provide a temperature gradient within the enclosure to allow the reptile to self-regulate body temperature.  However, many reptiles will seem to avoid the warm areas of the enclosure due to bright light in their eyes or that they feel too exposed due to inadequate hiding opportunities.

How do I monitor the temperature?

It is important to closely monitor the temperature in the reptile’s habitat at different times of the day and with the change in seasons.  The ambient temperature in the room, opening and closing of doors and windows, and sunlight shining into the habitat can vastly change the temperature within the enclosure.  The temperature at the top of the habitat can vary significantly from the bottom of the habitat.  It is important to have several thermometers within the enclosure.  They should be at different levels in the habitat and should be in areas where the reptile spends the most amount of time.  Temperatures that are too warm or too cold can lead to anorexia and eventually, severe health issues.

Why is proper humidity control important?

Correct humidity levels within the enclosure are equally important to the overall health of the reptile.  Incomplete or improper shedding, constipation and respiratory issues are risk factors if proper humidity is not provided.  Foggers/misters and water drippers are available.  Some reptiles benefit from misting with a spray bottle.  Reptiles requiring very high levels of humidity should be provided with humidity boxes.  As with variations in temperature, humidity levels should be closely monitored during different times of the day and with the change of seasons.

Reptile owners that live in areas where temperatures change with the seasons may need to consider a “summer” habitat and a “winter” habitat to keep their reptile within a constant temperature range and humidity level.


Check back next week for the final chapter in this 3 part series: Proper Feeding of Your Reptile