News & Updates

Obesity In Pets

Pet Dental Xray

Obesity is a common problem in dogs and cats.  It is estimated that 40% to 50% of dogs are overweight and 25% are obese.  Obesity is typically caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise.  It is a problem more common in older, less active pets.  It is also more likely in dogs that are fed homemade meals, table scraps and snacks.

There are many obesity-related health problems, and some medical problems (like hypothyroidism) can lead to obesity.  Therefore, it is very important to have your pet examined by a veterinarian annually.  Some problems associated with obesity are heart disease, reduced life span, joint pain, labored breathing, fatigue, diabetes, pancreatic disease, and ruptured ligaments in the knee.  Keeping your pet at a healthy weight will not only lead to a more active life, but a longer and healthier one as well.

Your veterinarian will use weight, size, body condition score and other factors to determine if your pet is obese.  Don’t feel bad if you are told your pet is too heavy.  Loosing weight is challenging, but helping your pet live longer and feel better is worth the effort.  Talk to your veterinarian before changing your pet’s eating and exercise habits.  We can help you formulate a safe plan for your pet’s unique circumstances.

In general, weight loss should be accomplished slowly.  The most effective weight loss plans include increasing activity and feeding fewer calories.  The goal is for your pet to lose 2% of its body weight per week.  For example, a 100 pound dog should lose no more than 2 pounds per week.

Pet Dental Xray

There are many effective dietary strategies for weight loss.  You can divide your pet’s daily ration of food into several, smaller portions fed throughout the day.  This helps boost metabolism as the food is digested.  Also, if your veterinarian deems it appropriate, you can decrease the total amount of food fed per day, or gradually change to a lower calorie diet.  Also, eliminating or decreasing treats is very effective for weight loss.  It is amazing how many calories are in commercial dog treats.  You can also substitute healthier, low calorie options for treats.  Some examples are apple slices, carrots, green beans and banana slices.  Using food puzzles or slow feeders will help your pet eat less.  It takes time for the brain to recognize that the stomach is full.  So if we encourage the pet to eat slower, they will feel full and stop eating before they gorge themselves.

Increasing your pet’s exercise does not need to be time-consuming.  Small bursts of activity several times a day are most effective.  Once your veterinarian determines that your pet is fit for exercise, you can begin by gradually increasing activity.  Start by taking your dog on short walks regularly, and increasing to 10 or 20 minute walks or jogs once or twice a day.  You can also use interactive play to encourage movement.  This strategy works well with cats as well as dogs.  Some ideas include a laser light pointer, playing fetch or keep away, or using interactive toys (such as a feather on a stick for cats).

Whatever the starting point with your pet, you can be successful in helping him or her to lose weight.  Small changes over time can make a big difference!  Do not get discouraged, but continue to be diligent in your efforts.  Your pet with thank you for it with increased energy and a healthier life.

See our older blog posts here.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Pet Dental XrayFlea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is the leading cause of itching in pets. Adult fleas require a blood meal in order to reproduce, where eggs are laid in the environment. However, they do not usually remain on the dog and cat except when they are feeding. When fleas feed, they inject a small amount of saliva into the skin. Proteins in the saliva cause an intense itch response to sensitive pets. In an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to a substance that it would normally tolerate, starting the inflammatory reaction in the skin.

Dogs and cats with flea allergy dermatitis do not have to be infested with fleas to be itchy. In fact, a single flea bite can trigger an inflammatory cycle resulting in itching for days. Pets will lick, chew, or scratch the affected sites. This results in hair loss typically extending from the middle of the back to the tail and down the rear legs. The scratching and licking can cause open sores and scabs on the skin allowing for a secondary bacterial infection to develop, which will require treatment with antibiotics and medicated shampoos as prescribed by a veterinarian. The secondary skin infection must be treated, because it will add to the itch cycle until resolved with proper treatment.

Pet Dental XrayDue to the injection of flea saliva causing the allergic response, it is important to prevent fleas from biting your pet. Strict flea control is essential year round whether fleas are seen or not. Flea baths and flea collars are ineffective control for fleas, due to poor effectiveness and the high risk of toxic side effects to sensitive pets. Using an effective year round flea preventative recommended by your veterinarian will help to keep your pet and environment flea free. All pets in the household should be on an effective flea preventative including solely indoor cats, so they will not be able to harbor fleas that hitch a ride on pets that go outdoors and on our clothing. Fleas can be present year round if the climate is mild, and dormant eggs will hatch in the household as the heaters are run in the colder months. The temperatures have to be below freezing for longer than 2 consistent weeks before placing the fleas into dormancy outdoors.

Steroids are sometimes used to treat flea allergy dermatitis in the early stages of the inflammatory cycle until flea control is achieved on the pet and in the environment. While steroids relieve the itch, there are significant potential side effects to steroid use and it is not the treatment for the primary issue, fleas. The long-term use of corticosteroids can ultimately result in more harm than good to the pet. Steroids can be safely used for short-term relief of the itch; however long-term control of the flea allergy dermatitis is through year round flea preventatives.

If your pet is not currently on flea preventatives recommended by your veterinarian, please consult your veterinarian for an effective flea program.

Why are you taking radiographs of my pet's teeth?

Pet Dental XrayThe doctors of Kitsap Veterinary Hospital are continually striving to improve their knowledge and skills to better serve your pet’s health. Recently, our entire staff attended a veterinary dental seminar to learn the best ways to treat and prevent oral disease in our patients. What we discovered is that we have already been doing an amazing job of proactively recommending oral health care, and we will continue to advocate for the best treatment and prevention of disease in your pet’s mouth. With that in mind, and based on recommendations from the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and the American Animal Hospital Association, we are now implementing full mouth dental radiographs as part of every comprehensive oral health treatment.

Pet Dental XrayComprehensive oral health treatment is performed with the patient under general anesthesia and involves a thorough examination and any necessary treatment of the structures in the mouth. Typically this includes cleaning and polishing of the teeth crowns and the surfaces just beneath the gum line. If disease processes such as periodontal bone loss or abscesses are present, oral surgery may also be performed to extract unhealthy teeth. Our goal is not only to treat areas of disease, but also to prevent unnecessary tooth loss when possible.

By taking full mouth radiographs, we are better able to assess the overall condition of the mouth and each individual tooth. It allows the veterinarian to visualize structures that are covered by gingiva (gum tissue) and cannot otherwise be examined. This information is important in formulating a plan for treatment. Some conditions that are diagnosed with dental radiographs include root abscesses, periodontal bone loss, root fracture, missing teeth, impacted teeth, pulpitis (dead tooth), and cancer.

Why is a Licensed Veterinary Technician so important to the care your pet receives?

What is an LVT?  What does it take to become an LVT?  Why is an LVT so important to the quality of care your pet receives?  We hope to answer all of these questions here.

An LVT is a Licensed Veterinary Technician.  The best way to describe an LVT is as an RN for animals.  An LVT does everything an RN does but on animals instead of people. An LVT is a person who has passed the state and national veterinary technician exam held by the Veterinary Board of Governors.  In order to qualify to sit for the exams the person has to have either received a formal education (either a 2-year degree or a 4-year degree) in a Veterinary Technician program accredited by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) or has worked in a Veterinary Hospital for 5+ years and completed a very long, arduous list of skill assessments. 

Licensed Veterinary Technicians are legally allowed to perform a number of treatments and skills.  This can include but is certainly not limited to:

  • Rabies administration
  • Blood draws
  • Administration of injectable medication
  • IV catheter placement
  • Anesthetic induction
  • Dental cleaning and polishing
  • Anesthetic monitoring
  • Suturing
  • Intubation
  • Urinary catheter placement
  • Bandaging
  • X-rays
  • Client Education
  • Behavior training

LVTs can also be certified as specialist in a variety of areas of veterinary medicine including behavior, dentistry, and anesthesia.

It used to be that LVTs were not as common in the clinic setting and a lot of clinics didn’t employ them because they did not see the need for someone so highly trained and skilled.  However, in the last 20 years that perspective has significantly changed!  With training in animal behavior, pharmacology, anatomy & physiology, surgical assisting and anesthesia (not to mention many other topics), LVTs are really the “right-hand man” of a veterinarian!  It is also now the most difficult position to fill in a veterinary clinic because there are often not enough experienced LVTs looking for jobs.

Having an LVT monitor your pet under anesthesia is incredibly important.  An LVT knows the normal values for blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood gasses in both cats, dogs and a number of other species (yes, they are different).  They also know how to adjust the amount of gas anesthetic that a patient is receiving to affect those values as needed during the procedure to keep them within health ranges for the pet.  Sure, the veterinarian knows these things too, but wouldn’t you rather have your veterinarian completely focused on the surgical procedure rather than have their mind divided between the surgery and the anesthesia?  Having an LVT monitor your pet while they are under anesthesia helps improve the health of your pet and helps to further reduce the risk of anesthetic complications.

Veterinary assistants are often confused with LVTs.  There are various training programs for veterinary assistants but the majority of them are trained on the job.  Veterinary assistants also do not have to pass a board exam like LVTs do.  Veterinary assistants do receive a great deal of training in animal behavior and various medical skills.  The best way to describe a veterinary assistant is as a CNA for animals.  They are very valuable members of the team and we couldn’t do this work without them.

At Kitsap Veterinary Hospital, we take your pet’s health so seriously, that we have employed 4 LVTs and 4 veterinary assistants.  These team members work together to support our veterinarians in the care that we provide your pets each and every day!  Every day we have one LVT who runs the lab and makes sure the rooms are running smoothly.  We also have another LVT who is in charge of surgery each day.  The two LVTs work in tandem to make sure that communication within the hospital is smooth and to ensure that each pet gets the full level of care that they require and deserve.  If you would like to know more about our LVTs and what makes them so valuable, please let us know!

Dental Health

Dental disease affects 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats over 3 years of age.  It is one of the most common health issues seen in our pets and is a source of pain and infection. 


Dental health is important for not only the health of the mouth but the entire body.   Infection in the mouth can spread through the body affecting the heart, lungs, kidneys, and/or liver.  Some of the diseases that can be seen in organs affected by the dental disease are:  heart valve infection, endocarditis (infection of the heart muscle), pyelonephritis (kidney infection), hepatitis (liver infection), bronchitis (airway infection/inflammation), and pneumonia.  There are also health conditions (such as diabetes, feline leukemia, FIV) that can predispose a pet to periodontal disease.  In turn, that periodontal disease can cause issues with management of the health condition.

Periodontal disease occurs in progressive stages.  Plaque forms on the teeth trapping bacteria in the mineral formation above and below the gum line.  The plaque hardens into tartar. Periodontal disease starts with gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) occurring due to the tartar formation.  The gingivitis progresses to infection and inflammation of the tooth structure below the gum line.   As the infection and inflammation extends along the entire tooth structure, instability results and there is permanent loss of the tooth. 


Smaller breeds are more predisposed to periodontal disease due to a higher rate of overcrowding of their teeth, malocclusions (abnormal bites), and because their teeth have shorter roots than larger dogs so less bone loss has to occur before the tooth becomes mobile.   Larger breed dogs that have malocclusions are also predisposed to periodontal disease. 

Periodontal disease is treatable, but most importantly it is preventable.   Dental care takes place in two forms:  professional care and home care.   Professional care includes:  an oral examination by your veterinarian to assess the health of the mouth, gums, tongue and teeth, professional prophylaxis with scaling and polishing if tartar formation is seen, and treatment of any disease process seen.  Home care includes:  brushing teeth on a daily basis to slow the progression of plaque and tartar formation, use of dental chews to slow the progression of plaque and tartar formation, and minimize the feeding of treats high in sugar content that will promote plaque and tartar formation.   Home care should be a maintenance regimen that occurs between the periods of professional care. 


For pets the professional cleaning must occur under anesthesia.  The professional cleaning includes:  scaling of the tartar from the teeth above and below the gum line with an ultrasonic scaler that vibrates, probing around each individual tooth assessing for evidence of underlying disease, dental radiographs to assess the underlying tooth structures, and polishing of the teeth to remove micro-etches which serve as scaffolding for the tartar to easily re-attach to the tooth.   All these sounds and procedures would be difficult to perform thoroughly and safely on an awake pet.   Performing dental cleanings without anesthesia usually results in oral disease going unnoticed and untreated.  This can prolong discomfort and health risks for the patient.  Non-anesthetic cleanings also result in a partially clean mouth, normally with only part of each tooth fully cleaned and returned to maximum health.

Dental disease is expensive to treat.  In the long run it is less expensive to prevent dental disease, and your pet is happier and healthier.

Why does your pet need a semi-annual examination?

examYour pet seems fine. He is eating and drinking and playing as usual. Nothing has changed. So why did your veterinarian recommend an examination every 6 months, instead of once a year? And why is blood work needed?

Most pets do a good job of staying healthy with minimal intervention so long as they are provided quality nutrition, a safe environment, and a lot of love and affection. With young patients who are not on chronic medications, an annual veterinary examination may be all that is required to ensure that everything is as it seems at home. However, there are some exceptions that make it advisable, or even necessary, to bring your pet in more often.

In general, dogs over 8 years of age, and cats 10 years and older, are considered “senior”. This can vary by breed and life expectancy, so it may be different for your pet. As animals age, changes can occur that are not detectable at home. By examining these pets more often, your veterinarian may be able to pick up on subtle changes that occur over time. This older population of patients is at risk of chronic, slowly progressive diseases such as heart disease, thyroid hormone imbalance, kidney dysfunction, diabetes, and even cancer. Through systematic evaluation with a physical examination and lab work, many of these diseases can be discovered in the early stages, when treatment is most successful. Recently, one of our doctors saw a dog for its routine semi-annual visit and uncovered thyroid cancer that was completely curable in its early stages.

In addition to senior dogs and cats, any pet that is receiving chronic medications needs an examination every 6 months. Of course, this depends on what medicine is being given. Some drugs have the potential to cause serious side effects, but the benefit from the medicine far outweighs the potential risk. Some examples are anti-seizure drugs, heart medications, diabetes treatments and anti-inflammatory agents. If your veterinarian has prescribed a medication that requires routine lab work every 6 months, there is a reason for it. It is imperative that the directions be followed in administering the medication, as well as complying with the follow-up recommendations. Sometimes the dose of medicine will need to be adjusted over time as the body acclimates to it. Other times, the manufacturer of the drug has established guidelines for safety. For example, a patient at our hospital recently had to change medication because after being on a drug for urinary incontinence for quite awhile, it began to affect her blood pressure.

In all cases, your veterinarian will let you know what her recommendation is for your specific pet’s needs. Please keep in mind that we all have your animals well-being in mind and are doing our very best to keep our patients living long and healthy lives.

The Misadventures of Parvovirus

Having a pet that is sick is always heartbreaking and difficult, but it's always worse when they are a young puppy or kitten. Ronin, a 9-week old Red Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) and Dooley an 8-week old Retriever Mix both came to us lethargic and not eating. After diagnostics were run, both were found to have Parvovirus. Parvovirus is a potentially fatal disease, especially in young puppies.

Parvovirus was first discovered in the 1970s. The virus is spread between dogs through an oral-fecal route, where a dog is exposed to contaminated feces that the parvovirus is being shed in. Parvovirus is a hardy virus that can persist for many years in the environment. It is difficult to inactivate the virus with common disinfectants and detergents.

Once the virus enters the dog, the virus begins to replicate in rapidly dividing tissues (lymph nodes, thymus, intestines, bone marrow, and heart). Clinical signs appear within 1-5 days after exposure to the virus. As the virus destroys the intestinal lining, the dog presents with vomiting and diarrhea. Due to the loss of the intestinal lining, electrolytes are lost resulting in dehydration and the bacteria from the intestinal tract can be released into circulation causing sepsis. As the virus attacks the bone marrow, there is suppression in the white blood cells produced, resulting in the dog not having an immune system to mount a response to the bacteria being released from the damaged intestinal lining and viral infection. Typically the heart muscle is targeted in dogs 8 weeks or younger, resulting in a myocarditis leading to congestive heart failure and death in most cases. The congestive heart failure can occur within days or months after the heart was affected.

Parvovirus is diagnosed based on clinical signs and diagnostics. A positive ELISA test for the viral antigen in the feces confirms the diagnosis of canine parvovirus. A false negative on the ELISA test can be obtained if the test is performed before the virus is shed in the feces. It can take 3-5 days before the virus is shed in the feces after exposure. A complete blood count is performed to assess the bone marrow for any suppression, and to help with the prognosis for the patient. A chemistry panel is performed to assess the electrolytes and organ function.

Only supportive treatment is available for parvovirus infections. The patient is placed on intravenous fluid therapy to correct the dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea. Electrolytes are supplemented in the intravenous fluids if there is a derangement noted on the chemistry panel. Intravenous antibiotics are given to help prevent or treat sepsis, especially if there is suppression of the bone marrow present. Antiemetic drugs are used to treat the vomiting and nausea associated with the parvovirus infection. The white blood cell count and electrolytes are monitored while the patient is in the hospital to assess response to treatment. Hospital treatment continues until the patient is able to eat without vomiting and their immune system has mounted a response to the virus, in order for treatment with oral medications to commence. The patient will continue to shed the virus in their feces for 7-14 days after recovering.

Parvovirus can be prevented with proper vaccination. A puppy should start the initial vaccine series at 8 weeks of age, and continue to receive vaccines every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Puppies are still susceptible to parvovirus infections while undergoing vaccines. Therefore, while puppies are undergoing vaccination they should not be exposed to areas where dogs congregate or pass through with unknown vaccines histories, and to areas where previous parvovirus infected pets have had access.

Thankfully both Ronin and Dooley have recovered nicely and are enjoying life once again with their families. Please be sure your dogs, young and old, are vaccinated against this nasty virus!

Insurance and Wellness Plans

Veterinary care has expanded in recent years to encompass advanced medical and surgical procedures as well as preventative measures that are helping our pets to experience longer, healthier lives. The team members here at Kitsap Veterinary Hospital are dedicated to ensuring that each patient receives the best care available in each situation and at every stage of their lives. Part of this effort includes offering options that help to make excellent care more affordable through medical insurance and wellness plans.

Veterinary medical insurance and pet wellness plans complement each other, but have a couple key fundamental differences. Both insurance and wellness plans are similar in that they can be secured through monthly payments. With insurance, you pay a premium based upon the coverage you prefer and the deductible you select. The monthly amount is paid whether you need to use the plan or not. With wellness plans, you make monthly payments for recommended services that are likely to be used throughout the term of the plan.

One main difference between insurance and wellness plans is that insurance is utilized when your pet is sick or injured, and wellness plans are used for preventative services when your pet is healthy. For example, insurance would be most beneficial when your dog has swallowed a rock and needs surgery to remove it. But, a wellness plan is helpful for your pet’s annual examination, vaccinations and dental cleaning. Also, insurance is provided through independent carriers and the savings is provided through reimbursement after payment is made for services. But wellness plans are administered directly through veterinary clinics like us, and the financial benefit is provided at the time of service.

Often, pets benefit from both an insurance and wellness plan together. With this approach, you have the best opportunity to provide optimal care without the worry of the financial aspect. The best way to determine what is right for your pet is to ask one of us at your next office visit. We will help you to decide what makes the most sense for your pet’s individual medical needs and stage of life.