Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Pet Hazards

While you are busy making your festive plans for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, please don’t forget to include your pets. The holidays are a time for giving, but there are some things you should not share with your furry friends. Once you know the hazards, a little precaution and prevention will make holidays a happy time for everyone.
Some of the more common holiday hazards include:
Bones: The holiday turkey or chicken will leave a lot of tantalizing bones, but don’t feed them to your pet. Beware of steak bones, too. Small bones or bone chips can lodge in the throat, stomach, and intestinal tract.

Holiday plants: Holly and mistletoe are extremely poisonous when eaten. The lovely poinsettia may not be truly poisonous but its milky white sap and leaves can certainly cause severe gastric distress. With so many hybrid varieties available each year, the best approach is to keep the plants out of your pet’s reach.

Electrical cords: Holiday lights mean more electrical cords for kittens and puppies to chew. Be sure you have cords secured and out of the way.

Candles: Lighted candles should never be left unattended and that is even more important if left at kitty’s eye level or within puppy’s chewing zone. An exuberant tail or a swat of a paw can turn candles and hot wax into an instant disaster. Anchor candles securely and away from curious faces and feet.

Pine needles: Check around holiday trees frequently. Ingested pine needles can puncture your pet’s intestines.

Holiday tree: Make sure your tree is well secured. If you have a tree-climbing cat or large dog with a happy tail, anchor the top of the tree to the wall, using strong cord or rope. Preservatives often used in the water in a tree stand can cause gastric upsets, so be sure it is inaccessible or not used. Avoid sugar and aspirin additives in the water as well.

Ornaments: Sharp or breakable ornaments, dreidels, and even aluminum foil should be kept out of reach. String objects, especially tinsel and ribbons, are to be safeguarded at all costs. They are thin and sharp and can wrap around intestines or ball up in the stomach.

Stress and company: With everyone coming and going, watch out for open doors and sneaky pets. Make sure your pets have updated collars and tags on in case of escape. Micro chipping your pet will also help if your pet escapes. All pets should have at least two forms of id on them at all times. Ask guests to keep an eye out for pets under foot and remind them that sometimes your normally friendly dog or cat may be less than willing to deal with enthusiastic children and rooms full of unfamiliar people. Provide a special quiet place with a blanket and fresh water for your pets to retreat to when the festivities get too stressful.

Monday, November 14, 2011


 It's almost here!

 Saturday November 19th, 12- 3pm
 Our first annual PET RESCUE ADOPTION! We will be having the THE PURPLE PEOPLE EATER FOOD TRUCK, a DJ, Raffles, Games, Informative Booths, Microchips, Giveaways and most importantly.....Coastal Poodle Rescue, The Underdog Foundation, Abandoned Pet Rescue adoption booths with animals needing forever homes! Come out for a great cause! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meet our little survivor Apple!

Apple came to Victoria Park Animal Hospital after being found outside living with a feral cat population.  She was picked up by Animal Control and taken to the shelter.  Her future mommy knew she was taken away by Animal Control and called repeatedly until they agreed to let her adopt her.  When Apple first came to Victoria Park Animal Hospital she appeared just like every other 4 month old puppy, happy, healthy and full of energy.  Dr. Birken examined her, dewormed her, as well as administered her first set of puppy vaccinations.  About 1 week later, Apple’s mommy brought her back in saying she was not feeling well.  She started coughing, her eyes and nose became crusty, and she was not as active as she once was.  On Physical examination, Apple appeared depressed, however her vital parameters were all within normal range, and she did not have a fever.  Her lungs and heart auscultated normally and she was stable.  Dr. Birken felt perhaps she picked up a mild kennel cough at the shelter and started her on broad spectrum antibiotics. Apple and her mom went home.  1 day later, Apple returned with much worse clinical signs.  Her cough was getting worse, she did not want to eat or play at all, and she appeared like she had a fever.  Dr. Birken examined her and she had a fever and was very depressed.  Upon auscultation of her lungs, crackling and wheezes were noted.  Thoracic Radiographs were taken and revealed a severe pneumonia.  A CBC and Chemistry (bloodwork) was performed as well, which was within normal parameters. 

Thoracic Radiographs

Note how the lungs appear extremely consolidated and it is difficult to make out the heart borders.  Lungs that are healthy and aerated should appear black on radiographs.  Any white opacity to the lungs generally means there is infiltrate or disease in the lungs.

Immediately we knew Apple had contracted something more than just kennel cough!  Apple was admitted for hospitalization, started on IV fluids, IV antibiotics, and treated for pneumonia.  Every few hours her vital parameters were taken, and nebulization and coupage was started 2 times per day for her pneumonia. 
Dr. Birken took swab samples of her nasal discharge, ocular conjunctive, and gums to submit for PCR analysis for Distemper.  Sure enough…Apple’s results came back positive for Canine Distemper. 
Canine Distemper
Canine distemper is a highly contagious, systemic, viral disease of dogs seen worldwide. Clinically, it is characterized by a fever, leukopenia, GI and respiratory catarrh, and frequently pneumonic and neurologic complications.  Canine distemper is caused by a paramyxovirus closely related to the viruses of measles and rinderpest. The main route of infection is via aerosol droplet secretions from infected animals. Some infected dogs may shed virus for several months.
Canine Distemper is a disease that veterinarians SHOULD REQUIRE all dogs be vaccinated for.  The vaccine should be administered and boostered as puppies, and given annually thereafter. Once adults, you can discuss with your veterinarian administering the vaccine every 3 years, or performing blood titers to make sure your pet is protected. 
We cannot stress enough the importance of vaccinations in our pets.  Apple is a good example to show these diseases are still being contracted and pets are getting sick.  In fact, Miami Dade Shelter had to be closed down a few months ago because of a Distemper outbreak.  Our pets rely on us to protect them.  Please make sure they are receiving the vaccinations they need.
In Apple’s case, she either contracted the disease outside while living with the feral cats, or when she was picked up and taken to the shelter before she was adopted. 
 Generally there is not a cure for Distemper.  The goal of therapy is to treat for secondary infections and the secondary diseases as a result of Distemper (in this case, pneumonia) and hope with a great medical care, and a fighting spirit, their bodies can fight off the disease. We were providing Apple with the best medical care and treatment she could get.
Apple’s amazing, dedicated, and wonderful mom wanted to do more.  She looked on every website and read literature to see if there was something more we could do.  She came across a veterinarian that created a serum that helps dogs infected with Canine Distemper fight through the disease.  We contacted him, had the serum overnighted, and started administering it to her in addition to her regular treatment regime.  
Apple started improving every day.  Her fever broke, she began eating, and she was coughing less and less.  After 3 days in the hospital Apple was discharged and therapy was continued at home.  Apple just recently came back 2 months later for a follow up examination.  She has gained 25 pounds and is as healthy and happy as ever. Her mom has reported that she is doing AMAZING at home, eating avocados in the back yard, and playing with her sister. 
We are so pleased to announce that Apple is a CANINE DISTEMPER SURVIVOR thanks to lots of love and dedication from her mommy and VPAH!  Apple showed us what a true fighting spirit and “the will to live” can do to rise above adversity.  Her mommy showed us the miracles of love and dedication!
We love you Apple!

Apple today

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Importance of Pre Anesthetic and Routine Annual blood work

Many people overlook the importance of pre anesthetic and routine annual blood work for their pets.  A common misconception is my dog or cat is acting normal and showing no signs of sickness, therefore it is not necessary to spend the extra money for additional testing.  As a veterinarian I cannot stress enough the importance of routine blood work and pre anesthetic blood work.  Too many times I perform a CBC and Chemistry on completely health animals, and discover underlying diseases that have not become clinical yet.  Or I will schedule a routine dental or surgery for a pet, and have to cancel the surgery because there are some abnormalities on the blood work and anesthesia is too risky. 


Meet Sugar.  Sugar is a 10 year old female spayed Maltese that came to see me for an examination of her mouth and to schedule a routine dental cleaning.  On physical examination moderate dental tartar and grade II gingivitis was noted, heart and lungs auscultated clear, and all vital parameters were within normal reference range.  Her physical examination was normal and she looked great other than needing her teeth cleaned.  Her parents reported that she is doing great at home and have noticed no changes in her behavior, eating, or drinking habits.  She had blood work performed 2 years prior which was all within normal parameters.   We performed a senior wellness profile which included a Urinalysis, CBC, Chemistry 17, and electrolytes.
Blood work revealed moderately elevated liver enzymes.   We immediately recommended further diagnostics to evaluate her liver.  Bile Acids were performed which were elevated indicating that her liver was not functioning properly.  An abdominal ultrasound was performed which showed an enlarged liver and a nodule.  A needle was placed in the nodule via ultrasound guidance, aspirated, and submitted for Histopathology .  The report concluded an active inflammatory hepatitis.  
Sugar was placed on liver supplements, steroids to bring down inflammation, and her diet was changed.  She will be coming back in 2 weeks for follow up blood work to reassess her liver enzymes.
Sugar is doing great at home.  We have caught her liver disease early and are hoping to will respond well to medications and her new diet.  Needless to say, we have elected to not place her under anesthesia and delay her dental cleaning until she has stabilized. 

My dog Nemo

Sugar’s story is one of many that I see.  In fact I recently performed routine blood work on my own dog Nemo and found out he was hypothyroid (his body was not producing enough thyroid enzyme).  Nemo is now getting thyroid supplementation daily and has a new swing is his step.  I would have never thought anything was different for him.
Animals cannot tell us subtle changes with their bodies that they may be feeling.  A person can say, my head hurts, or I feel weak, or I am not feeling 100% myself.  Dogs and cats cannot tell us these subtle clinical signs that they may be feeling.  Often times, it is not until they are very sick where we are actually seeing a change in their behavior or obvious clinical signs.  Many times their disease is so advanced at that point that there is very little we can do.

 Sugar and my dog Nemo are great stories.  We have diagnosed their diseases in the early stages and prevented further degeneration and advancement.
Our pets rely on us to keep them healthy and happy.   They cannot tell us when they are not feeling just right, or something is off.  Routine and pre anesthetic blood work is a great way to ensure our pets are healthy and are not at risk for anesthesia.  Our pets deserve the best! 
 Lets give back to them the health and happiness they deserve for a lifetime of love and devotion they give to us.   

Liver HealthThe liver is your dog's largest internal organ with many functions, including the digestion and conversion of nutrients, the removal of toxic substances from the blood and the storage of vitamins and minerals. The liver has an amazing ability to repair and regenerate itself, and nutrition plays a vital role in this process.
At Hill's, nutritionists and veterinarians have developed clinical nutrition especially formulated to help support your dog or cats liver function during its healing process. 
Canine and Feline L/D diet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meet Papito!

He’s a 3 year old make neutered Persian.  We call Papito our “Miracle Kitty” and here’s why………….
Papito came to Victoria Park Animal Hospital 2 months ago for 2 YEARS of vomiting daily, lethargy, and weight loss.  After years of failed attempts at treatment and not improving, he came to see Dr. Birken for one last try to hopefully become healthy. 
On physical examination, Papito was depressed, emaciated (he weighed 4 pounds- a far cry from his normal 10 pound healthy physique), and he was dehydrated.  Blood work revealed a low albumin (from chronic mal nutrition) and an extremely elevated White Blood Cell Count (from chronic infection).  A barium study was performed and radiographs were taken to examine his gastrointestinal tract.
A Barium Study is a medical imaging procedure used to examine the GI (gastrointestinal tract), which includes the esophagus, the stomach, the small intestines, and large intestines.  Barium sulfate is a type of contrast medium that is visible on X-rays. As the patient swallows the barium suspension, it coats the gastrointestinal tract with a thin layer of the barium. This enables the hollow structure to be imaged by radiograph.

                      Here are some pictures of Papito’s Barium Study:

 Dr. Birken reviewed the barium study and diagnosed a partial outflow obstruction right at the Pyloric region of the stomach.  Something was preventing food and liquids from going into the rest of the gastrointestinal tract.  Papito was getting some nutrients, but not enough to keep his weight up and maintain his health.  The next step was surgery. 
Papito was hospitalized, placed on IV fluids to hydrate him, a plasma transfusion was administered to increase his plasma proteins and prepare him for surgery.  Once Papito was stabilized Dr. Birken took him to surgery and here is what she found.  Once the stomach was exposed, a large mass was isolated right at the position where the barium study showed an obstruction.  The mass was located right at the portion of the stomach where the Common Bile Duct and Pancreatic Ducts flowed into.  Therefore, Dr.Birken could not remove the mass.  This created a huge dilemma.  If she could not remove the mass, which was causing the obstruction, than how was Papito going to keep food and nutrients down without vomiting? 
Dr. Birken performed a gastrojejunostomy- which is a procedure that connects the stomach to the small intestine.  She created a bypass for the food and nutrients to leave the stomach and enter into the small intestine completely bypassing the mass.  A biopsy of the mas and lymph node was taken for analysis, a feeding tube was placed, and Papito was recovering and waking up from surgery.

Post operatively, Papito was maintained on IV fluids, hourly tube feedings, antibiotics, and his vital signs were checked every few hours.  He did well and was sent home after 2 days for the owner to continue hourly tube feedings and care. After one week the feeding tube was removed and Papito began eating on his own and gaining weight.  The mass and lymph node came back as benign hyperplasia (it was not cancer!)
Here is the new barium study  that was done after the surgery. 
            See how the contrast material now splits and moves in 2 directions

Papito and family
 Papito was in for a recent recheck.  He has gained 2 pounds, is eating readily, with very few episodes of vomiting.  His owner reports he is running around, jumping up on the refrigerator, playing with his sister, and eating up a storm.  She told Dr. Birken that her kitty has not been this active and happy in years and she could not be more pleased with his recovery and progress.  Dr. Birken felt the same!

A special thanks to his adoring, wonderful, attentive, devoted, and dedicated mommy.  Without her continued perseverance and faith that Papito would fight and get stronger, he would not be doing so well.  And of course to Papito for being the strong little fighter and sweet natured “Miracle Kitty” that he is.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Close Call!!!!

Looks like this one is going to pass us by! 
 But are you ready for the next one? 
 We want to make sure all our South Florida pets are ready for hurricanes.  Don’t forget to microchip your pet and make sure we can always find their homes…………………. in any situation. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

To Spay and Neuter: A Good Idea

There is no question:

To spay or neuter your dog or cat is good for your pet’s health, for you as a caring pet owner, and for your community.

Spaying/neutering offers a variety of medical benefits that helps your dog or cat live longer and remain healthy.
  1. Spaying reduces the chances of females developing mammary tumors and eliminates future uterine infections and uterine and ovarian cancers.
2. Neutering of males reduces the likelihood of prostrate disease and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.

"Early-age" spaying/neutering is medically sound and can be achieved as young as eight weeks of age.
This assures your pet will not accidentally mate and can also prevent some undesirable habits from forming.
Consult VPAH about all of the benefits of having your pet spayed/neutered and the appropriate age for surgery.
Learn how easy it is for you and your pet. 

Behavioral Benefits
 In general, spaying or neutering means you should enjoy a calmer and more even-tempered, people-oriented pet.
Spaying females eliminates the nervous whining, yowling, pacing behavior normally associated with a heat cycle.
Neutering male cats reduces or eliminates territorial marking (spraying of urine on surfaces).
Neutering also reduces excessive aggression in dogs and cats towards other animals.
Spaying/neutering of males and females reduces the desire to roam in search of mates. There is less risk of injury from traffic accidents or from fights with other animals.
Spayed and neutered pets are more likely to adapt well to human households and turn their attention and affection towards their owners.

Community Benefits
Spaying/neutering prevents unexpected or unwanted reproduction, often the cause of homeless animals and the reason for higher costs of animal control and the need for animal sheltering programs.
Spaying/neutering reduces a dog’s or cat’s desire to roam, resulting in fewer traffic accidents and neighborhood complaints of nuisance animals.

Your veterinarian plays a key role in your pet’s continued good health. Regular check-ups, vaccinations, and spaying/neutering are all part of responsible pet ownership.
If cost of spaying/neutering is an issue, Broward County Animal Control have established a low-cost spay/neuter program that makes the surgery affordable.  
Visit their website for more information:

Health Benefits

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Mystery of Bladder Stones

Mystery is a female, spayed 6 year old Havanese, she was taken in by a Havanese rescue group and placed with a foster family. The day after being placed with her foster parents, her foster mom noticed that Mystery was urinating frequently. She brought her in to VPAH to see Dr. Birken.

Examination revealed a healthy dog except for a large, hard mass that was palpable in the area of the bladder. Radiographs (x-rays) revealed a thickened, distended bladder with 4 large bladder stones.

Xray showing 4 Lg stones in bladder

Stones in the bladder can form secondary to many causes including diet, breed and water intake. They are a painful condition for pets and can cause many types of urinary problems including infections, incontinence and most seriously, complete blockage. They can occur not only inside the bladder but also in the kidneys, ureters or urethra. Patients can urinate out some small stones, but the large ones must be removed surgically. Usually they must be diagnosed with a radiograph or ultrasound.

Mystery had blood work performed to check her kidney and liver function and her red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in preparation for surgical removal of the bladder stones. Her blood work was normal and on her day of surgery, she also had an intravenous catheter placed and was hooked up to intravenous fluids to support her kidney function and help maintain her blood pressure during anesthesia and surgery

Mystery underwent a procedure called a cystotomy. This procedure involves opening the bladder, removing all stones, flushing out the bladder, and closing the bladder wall tightly to ensure no leakage. A total of 4 stones were extracted from Mystery’s distended bladder. She was kept hospitalized on fluids, antibiotics, and pain medications until normal urination was confirmed.


first stone removed

all 4 stones removed

Our plans to control Mystery’s Stones are:
1. Diet change –Prescription Diet C/D Canine Urinary Tract Health
2. Urinalysis - We will monitor her urine for any infections to prevent stones from forming.

Mystery was a very sweet girl during her stay with us.

Mystery is available for adoption
Contact Havanese Rescue (916)792-2426
(Foster mom is Claudia)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The harsh reality in South Florida is that you can never tell when a hurricane will hit; a harsher reality is that 90% of lost pets never find their way back home.  Protect your loved ones from loss with Datamars pet recovery and identification system.  
Microchipping offers pet owners the only truly permanent method of identifying your pet and linking the animal back to you.   Collar tags can break or become unreadable and tattooing can become illegible. So, if you want to improve your pet’s chances of getting home fast and safe in case it were to go missing, microchipping is your best option.
Since 1988, Datamars has been designing the most complete portfolio
of RFID solutions for companion animal identification as well as the
Empowering online application Pet Link that supports the reunification
of pets with their owners. Datamars' products include rice-sized glass
and plastic-encapsulated RFID transponders, painlessly injected
under the skin of the animal for permanent identification.

v  Companion animal identification
v  Lost pet reunification
v  Companion animal health record management

Key benefits:
v  Error-free identification
v  Universal readability
v  Extreme durability
v  Fast and painless injection
v  Complete pet ID package

Visit Pet Links online registration at

Your pets safety and security is our #1 priority…

VPAH is promoting microchipping & safety during Hurricane season.
Special Hurricane price of $50.00