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Help Your Pet Lose Weight

Mac MorrisJust as many Americans struggle with weight loss, so do our pets. It affects pets the same as it affects their owners. Unlike people though, our pets cannot choose what they want to eat every day. We are the only ones who can decide what and how much our pets eat. Here are some helpful tips to enable your pet to shed some extra pounds:

  • Feed your pet only a high-quality pet food
  • Feed your pet TWICE a day using a measuring cup
  • Feed the least amount of recommended food according to the instructions on the bag
  • Do not feed any table scraps—feed your pet their dinner in a separate room while you eat and keep them confined in that room until you are done eating so no one is tempted to feed your pet table scraps
  • Do not feed any extra treats or snacks
  • Reward your pet with extra attention like a walk outside, a belly scratch, or play time
  • If your pet craves a food reward use green beans or broccoli ONLY (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • Try rewarding your pet with ice cubes
  • Take your pet on walks but do NOT over exercise an obese dog or cat though as you could injure them
  • Make sure the entire family is on the same page—you might not be feeding your pet extra food but someone else in the household might be


If these tips do not work then try the following for dogs only:

  • Pour all the dog food you normally feed in 24 hours in a bowl
  • Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the food
  • Use this new amount as your dog’s daily intake and divide into two meals


For cats:

  • Feed one kind of food only—wet or dry but not both
  • Put out only a small amount of food at a time
  • Do not allow 24/7 access to food
  • Encourage your cat to exercise


Helping your overweight pets lose weight will be much better for their health and can save you money by helping prevent health issues caused by obesity.   You can bring your pet to your veterinarian on a monthly basis for weight checks—just remember to call first.

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Cold Laser Therapy Delivers Many Benefits to Your Pets

laser-boost_1What is Cold Laser Therapy?

Cold laser therapy is the use of a low-level laser that interacts with cells in the body.  The energy administered by the laser is absorbed by the tissue, affecting the cells.  At the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia we use cold laser therapy to enhance your pet’s health and comfort level and decrease recovery times.  Our MLS Cold Laser is special because it is able to penetrate deeper tissue than traditional cold laser therapy devices without producing the harmful effects of higher powered lasers.


How Does Cold Laser Therapy Help My Pet?

  • Increases blood flow to the affected area which brings vital nutrients, oxygen, and white blood cells.
  • Decreases painful swelling by helping the body reabsorb excess fluid.
  • Reduces pain by removing extra fluid and decreases healing time.
  • Noninvasive—it treats areas that are very sensitive or hard to access.
  • Is a drug-free option that can be used alone or in conjunction with medications.


When Would You Use Cold Laser Therapy On My Pet?

Cold Laser Therapy is very helpful for a broad scope of ailments and injuries.

  • The laser is used for our patients with pulled muscles or strained ligaments.  These patients benefit greatly from multiple laser treatments over a few weeks.  We also prescribe pain medication and rest.
  • We use the cold laser on incisions from surgery including knee surgeries, abdominal incisions, fracture repairs, back surgeries, and many more.  This helps decrease swelling and healing time.
  • Our patients who have back pain but do not require surgery are helped by multiple laser treatments along with cage rest.  The laser helps bring blood flow to the area so they can regain normal function more quickly.
  • Patients who are recovering from traumatic injuries that cause edema and severe bruising respond very well to laser treatment.  It is noninvasive so pets who have survived car accidents or dog fights can be treated while resting comfortably in their cage.
  • The cold laser is very effective for areas of infection.  It increases blood flow to the affected area bringing white blood cells and other nutrients that aid in the healing process.
  • Some areas are hard to treat due to location or pain.  The cold laser is great for treating issues with ears, anus, and paws.


Contact the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia at 703.361.0710 for information on how Cold Laser Therapy can help your dog or cat.



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E-Collars and Your Pet

E-collars and Your PetAlso known as the “the cone of shame,” the Elizabethan collar is something most pets will need to wear at least once in their life. Your dog or cat will lick at an area as a natural response to heal themselves but it can cause more harm than good. They do it to clean the area and increase blood flow. With modern medicine and simple first aid care that owners and veterinarians can provide, it is not necessary for pets to lick a wound. Here are some tips about caring for your pet while using an e-collar.

Dogs or cats may have to wear an e-collar to keep them from licking at:

  • A hot spot or allergic area on their skin
  • A wound from an accident or dog bite
  • A surgical site
  • A splint or bandage
  • Because the area is causing them pain or discomfort


To help keep the e-collar on:

  • Use your pet’s collar to loop through the holes
  • Make sure you can only get 2 fingers between your pet’s neck and the collar
  • Your pet’s nose should NOT be able to come past the outer rim of the e-collar
  • Raise your pet’s bowls off the floor if it is difficult for them to eat or drink with it on
  • Leave the e-collar on at all times if your pet is pawing at it as they will learn to move around with it more easily if it is on constantly than if you are constantly taking it on and off
  • Give your pet treats and praise when they are wearing the e-collar
  • Put duct tape around the edge of the collar if your pet is running into the back of your legs or walls of your home


Most veterinarians carry plastic e-collars but there are other varieties that may be better for your pet:

  • Soft paper-like e-collars *see picture
  • Clear plastic e-collars
  • Long plastic e-collars for long necked dogs *see picture
  • ProCollar (inflatable e-collar that only goes around neck)
  • BiteNot Collar (resembles neck brace)
  • Comfy Collar (made of nylon and foam)


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Tips to Prevent Foreign Bodies in Cats

Sam Cat_two kittensCats love to explore, hide, and get into every nook and cranny in our homes. While our kitties have great fun finding new spaces and discovering high places on which to perch—it can sometimes lead to trouble. Cats can ingest dangerous objects without owners ever realizing it since most of us do not crate our cats when we are gone.

Here are symptoms to look for if you think your cat has eaten something he/she shouldn’t have:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargic/depressed
  • Painful abdomen
  • Straining to defecate, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Behavioral changes—especially when their abdomen is touched


The most common foreign bodies in cats are:

  • String
  • Carpet
  • Plastic


Keep your cat safe without having to limit their access in your home when you are away by following these tips:

  • Never leave string where your cat can get it.
  • Never leave small pieces of plastic or garbage sitting out.
  • Never leave your cat alone with toys that have string or yarn. Rawhides also present an obstructive risk. Only use these items under supervision.
  • Examine all toys for damage every time you give them to your cats.
  • If you suspect your cat has swallowed string, part of a toy, or any item in your home—call your veterinarian right away.
  • If you see string dangling from your cat’s mouth or rectum, do not pull! Call your local ER veterinary clinic immediately.
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How to Help Your Cat Recover Comfortably at Home

Tweedy FB_EVCMany of our cats have the run of the house.  We are not used to restricting their activity or the areas they can access.  Here are some helpful tips to follow when you bring your cat home after surgery or being treated at the hospital:

  • Wearing an E-Collar:  Cats are master contortionists and diligent groomers.  It is imperative if your pet has a wound or sutures that you do not allow them to lick it.   Make sure your cat has a proper-fitting e-collar.  No more than two fingers should be able to fit between the collar and your cat’s neck or they will be able to slip it off.  Also, their nose should NOT come past the edge of the collar.
  • Confinement: If you have instructions to make sure your cat “rests” while he or she recovers, you will need to confine them.  This works best by providing them with access to only one small room of your house.  The bedroom or bathroom provide the most comfortable situation.  Family rooms or kitchens are too open.  Provide them with their favorite soft bedding, two litter boxes, food, water, and a window to look out when possible.  Allow them access to the rest of the house only when you can monitor them closely for the entire time and then return them to their room when you cannot be right there with them.
  • Solidarity: To properly recover your cat may need to be away from other housemates so they don’t run, jump, play, fight, or allow the other cats to groom their wounds.  This means keeping other cats and pets out of the assigned room and only allow contact under very close supervision.
  • Monitoring: It is important to make sure you can report back to your veterinarian about how much food and water your cat is consuming.  You may also need to keep a very close eye on how much urine and/or stool your cat is producing.  To do this, your cat must be the ONLY pet in the house to have access to the assigned litter boxes, food, and water bowls.

Remember, these situations are only for a short period of time—often about two weeks.  If you follow your veterinarian’s instructions and the above guidelines closely your cat will be back to normal in no time!

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What You Need to Know About Preventing and Treating Snakebites

Caution_Venomous_Snakes_SignTo prevent snakebites—remove areas around your home where snakes may hide such as fallen trees, tall grass, rocky areas, standing water, and deep holes.


If You Suspect a Snake Has Bitten Your Dog or Cat

Look for swelling, redness, tenderness, and pain around the wound; two puncture wounds from the snake’s fangs; and signs of nausea or vomiting.


If a Snake Has Bitten Your Pet

  • Stay calm! Pets can sense and respond to your anxiety.  We want them to stay as calm as possible.
  • If you see the snake—note its size, color, and pattern but do not get too close as it may strike out in fear or self-preservation.
  • DO NOT put ice on the puncture wounds.
  • Get your pet to the emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible but drive safely.  The sooner you get there—the better your pet’s chances are for survival.
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Encouraging Your Cat to Eat

Sam Cat_1Just as you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make them drink— the same is true for our feline companions. Cats may lose their appetite due to:

  • Illness
  • Wearing an e-collar
  • New environment
  • Change in diet
  • Old age


It is important for cats to eat at least a small amount every day so they do not develop hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. Other conditions, like diabetes, require owners to monitor their cats’ food intake. Try the following to encourage your cat to eat:

  • Make their food smell appealing by adding tuna or chicken water
  • Warm it up with warm water or in the microwave (be careful not to overheat it!)
  • Add a small amount of baby food, canned food, broth, or shredded chicken
  • Remove the e-collar (if your pet needs to wear one) for only a brief amount of time to allow them to eat
  • Feed them by hand or from a utensil
  • Give them their privacy and make sure no other animals are around. Allow them to eat in a secluded area.
  • If you are changing to a new food—do so slowly over time. Add the new food to the old food and slowly increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food until your cat is accustomed to the new taste and texture


Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions when feeding a prescription diet. If your cat is not eating after a couple of days, call the office and update your doctor and ask for suggestions about what else you can give your pet and how to proceed.

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Dr. Amy Pike Joins the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia to Lead Behavior Medicine Division

2016-07-26 07.18.24Amy Pike DVM, DACVB, one of fewer than 70 board-certified veterinary behaviorists throughout North America, joins the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia on September 1st to lead the new Behavior Medicine Division.  A U.S. Army veteran, Dr. Pike has 13 years of small animal and behavior medicine veterinary experience.  On a referral basis, she offers:

  • Diagnostic and Therapeutic Services
  • Behavior Consultation
  • Behavior Modification
  • Pharmaceuticals, Nutraceuticals, Pheromones, and Behavior Modification Products
  • Follow-Up Services to Meet Pets’ Specific Needs

Dr. Pike can be reached at 703.361.0710 or

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Is Your Pet Overheating?

How to help your pet in the hot weatherDogs and cats have a normal resting temperature between 99.5 and 102.5 (103 for cats), but they can still overheat outside just as easily as a person.  In some cases, animals may be more susceptible to the heat because of their hair coats, age, and body condition.  Some dogs may continue to work/play outside despite a dangerously high core body temperature.  These pets may appear normal to their owners at a glance.  Here is what to look out for:

  • Rapid wide mouth panting that does not slow down once out of the heat
  • Bright red gums or pale white gums
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Depression or weakness or lethargy (not responding to your call, acting like they can’t hear you, etc.)
  • Dragging paws or keeping head very low or stumbling


If you think your pet is overheating, remove them from the heat as quickly as possible.  You can take their temperature rectally with a normal thermometer.  DO NOT submerse your pet in cold water, this can cause hypothermia and shock!

Here are steps you can take if your pet’s temperature is around 104.0:

  • Encourage them to lie down in a cool area with air conditioning
  • Wipe rubbing alcohol on their paws
  • Place a fan near them
  • Place an ice pack on the inside of their hind legs and/or around their neck
  • Encourage them to drink water and chew on ice cubes
  • Stop cooling measures once your pet reaches 103.5
  • Call your veterinarian if your pet does not recover fully in ten to 15 minutes


Take your pet to the Emergency Center immediately if:

  • Temperature is 104.5 or higher
  • Vomiting blood or blood in diarrhea
  • Urine is color of coffee or bright red
  • Difficulty breathing or turns blue
  • Refuses to eat normally
  • Does not recover fully even if temperature quickly returns to normal


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Grooming Is Important for Your Pets

Ava CryingAll dogs and cats—no matter what texture or length coat they have—need to be groomed on a regular basis. Brushing your pet should be fun, easy and something you can do at home. Here are some helpful grooming tips:

  • Brush out any mats that can cause irritation or even a skin infection if left unattended
  • Check for fleas, ticks, and other parasites
  • Monitor any bumps or growths
  • Check for any injuries or lacerations
  • Use this as valuable bonding time with your pet

Regular grooming helps keep your pet cool in the summer, reduces shedding and hairballs, encourages a healthy, shiny coat, and makes your pet feel good!