Update on Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy

We recently came across this article and thought it was important enough to share with you. If you have questions about your pet’s diet, you are always welcomed to call us.  

You may have read my June 4 post, “A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients.”  This post had more than 180,000 page views in the first week and continues to get more than 2000 page views a day.   So, I’m pleased that people are interested in this important issue and trying to learn about it.  But I’ve also found a tremendous amount of confusion and misinformation in the past 5 months including people who doubt that this is a real issue, some who still haven’t heard about it, and people who mistakenly think it’s just grain-free diets or that it’s only related to taurine.

As a result of the continued confusion, some of my cardiologist colleagues and I wrote an article which was published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  This article provides a summary of our current understanding of diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), how to recognize it, and a recommended protocol for veterinarians to follow when they see dogs with DCM.

To read the complete article, click here.

Is Your Dog at Risk for Overheating?

With the rising temperatures, it is advised that your dog only play outside in the heat for 20 – 30 minutes. They should then be brought indoors to give them a break for an hour or so. Keep in mind the more your dog’s body heat rises the quicker it rises. So, in the summer they don’t need an excessive amount of outdoor play; 3-4 sessions a day is sufficient.

Symptoms of Overheating

Heavy panting or rapid breathing Elevated body temperature
Excessive thirst Weakness, collapse
Glazed eyes Increased pulse and heartbeat
Vomiting, bloody diarrhea Seizures
Bright or dark red tongue, gums Excessive drooling
Staggering, stumbling Non-Responsive: meaning the dog will not acknowledge you or not react when you trying to get their attention.

How to Care for an Overheated Dog

  • If you feel that your pet is overheated DO NOT GIVE THEM ICE COLD WATER give them regular tap water. They may not drink at first. Drinking water may also cause vomiting.
  • Do not put ice packs on your dog for this will cause the blood vessels to constrict and could result in your dog going into shock.
  • Cool your dog down
    • Start with hose water or tap water on the paws (this is the only porous place on a dog) and work your way up the body, wetting the back and the head last.
    • If you have a pool,encourage the dog to walk into it if they won’t carry them into the water feet first and again, cool from the paws up.
  • Allow them to rest in front of a fan or in an area that has good air circulation.
  • Do not make them lay on a wet towel – their body heat will turn the towel into a heating pad.


We have received important information on the newly emerging Canine Influenza Virus and we encourage all our clients to read the information, below.

We have vaccine available now, and more on the way.  Unfortunately it takes about 30 days to establish protective immunity, so get those fur babies in for vaccines now.  The virus can last in the environment and on clothes, beds, blankets etc for over 24 hours. Continue reading

Rattlesnake Vaccine


The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest and potentially the most dangerous rattlesnake on our continent. They grow to be an average of 3-6 feet and snakes up to 8 feet long have been reported. This rattlesnake is found in the whole state of Florida and the surrounding areas of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Diamondbacks are distinctive because of the brown diamonds on their back; the diamonds are usually bordered in black on a cream colored body. Their preferred habitats include pine forests and scrublands and coastal barrier islands. This means     that these snakes are especially common in Tallahassee and the surrounding areas because the entire area from the city south to the coast is covered with pine forests and the Gulf coast west to the rest of the Panhandle has many barrier islands formed from built up sandbars. Since humans have built houses, parks, etc. in their home, the rattlesnakes are stuck in a hostile world where their prey has also disappeared. This means dogs and cats can run into rattlesnakes and corner or aggravate them. Snakes in Florida do not usually attack unless provoked, but curious cats or dogs can box these creatures in their shelter or in the pets’ backyard. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive: the warning rattle shows that the snakes prefer to bite in defense, otherwise they would attack with no warning. Most people that are bitten by rattlesnakes accidently step on them, we can infer that most pets that are bitten accidently stumble upon an aggravated snake. Rattlesnakes have the only neurotoxic venom of the 6 venomous species of snakes in Florida. Neurotoxic means toxic to the nervous system: symptoms of rattlesnake envenomation include tissue and muscle damage, extreme pain at the site of the bite, blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing and the worst symptom is respiratory failure (suffocation).

To alleviate this problem, we now have a vaccine against rattlesnake venom that will protect your pet. The vaccine boosts immunity to the venom and makes the pet’s reaction less severe. You will have more time to get the pet to a veterinary hospital, the pet will have less inflammation and fewer muscular and neurological effects from the bite, the pet will require less medication and less intensive hospitalization: your pet is more likely to survive the venom. The vaccine costs $70 for the course of the vaccine. There is the initial vaccine and then a booster shot 30 days later. From then on the vaccine should be added to your annual vaccines. The vaccine can be recommended to any dog, but is especially recommended to dogs whom go hiking, camping, kayaking and do other outdoor activities with their family. Small dogs and cats are especially vulnerable to rattlesnake venom, just like children are more vulnerable than adults. A rattlesnake biting an unvaccinated cat is almost 100% fatal. The vaccine may confer immunity to other species of rattlesnakes and other pit vipers with similar venom. Unfortunately, there is not a water moccasin or coral snake vaccine yet.


Please note to ensure that there is no miscommunication: this vaccine does not confer 100% immunity to rattlesnake venom! Even if an animal has a vaccine, a rattlesnake bite is a medical emergency and it may need to be treated with antivenin: the sooner the better. This vaccine gives you time to get your pet to the vet, and a better chance at survival with fewer long-term health effects.

New anxiety medication available at AHVC

thunderstormFlorida has the most frequent and severe thunderstorms in the United States. In Tallahassee, there is an average of 70-80 days with thunderstorms every year; over 10 times more than California! Dogs are naturally frightened by thunder; thunder and other loud noises were a signal to run and hide from larger predators. This nasty combination means that many of the pets we care for have problems every time thunder rolls over the city; we even have dogs that come to see us every time a big storm is going to crash in so we can make sure that they are safe.

Before, there were a few medications that could blunt or stop severe anxiety and we have our soundproofed TV room that prevented the noise from reaching our friends. Unfortunately though, we still wished that we had something more powerful for quelling anxiety with fewer side effects. We have one patient that reacts so strongly to thunder that it was better to put him on chronic drug therapy than try to anticipate thunderstorms. The drugs had a host of side effects: the patient was constantly sedate, did not want to play, and if given for long enough time the drugs could have damaged his liver. Previous drugs also had to be given an hour before a storm which, as any Florida resident can tell you, happen at any moment so we and our clients had to stay up to the minute on the weather to know exactly when to give medication so it would work throughout the storm.

Luckily, Zoetis has started the distribution of Sileo which Dr. Blount is very excited about. It is the first FDA-approved treatment for noise aversion in dogs and it has fewer and less frequent side IMG_4018effects than any other treatment on the market. Previous drugs were also less effective because they were not absorbed as well as Sileo. The medication can be administered at home by applying it to a dog’s gums and it knocks out anxiety for a few hours and can be given as needed throughout a storm, it also takes hold quickly after being administered. Sileo is useful for calming a pet during 4th of July fireworks, parties or any noisy event. Dr. Blount has started to use it to help pets whom are here for playcare and staycare and she is pleased with the results. She has yet to see any side effects, the drug works well, and the pets entrusted to our care are calmer and safer. While not yet approved for these uses by the FDA, Dr. Blount predicts that Sileo will be used for other anxieties, so if your dog panics when his family leaves for dinner it could be used to calm him. The drug would also have applications for training too; by pairing anxiety provoking situations with Sileo it could train the pet to not react to the situation.

We have Sileo available with prescription to arm yourself for those lovely 4th of July fireworks, now your dog can enjoy them with the rest of the family. It is safe and effective in dogs 16 weeks of age and older but should not be used in dogs that are breeding, pregnant, nursing puppies, or have severe dental or gum disease. Sileo should not be redosed before it starts to take effect.

Helpful AVMA article: Understanding your pet’s bloodwork results

Hello everyone! Dr. B asked me to post this article which quickly explains the results of blood testing and what the results may indicate. The article explains things like what a Complete Blood cell Count means, why chlorine is importany and what AMYL is short for.

Understanding your pet’s blood work

Blood tests help us determine your pet’s health status and causes of illness accurately, safely, and quickly and let us monitor the progress of medical treatments. A checkmark in any box indicates a significant abnormal finding on your pet’s blood work. If you have questions, ask any staff member. We want you to understand our recommendations and be a partner in your pet’s care.

Complete blood count (CBC)

The most common test, a CBC gives information on hydration status, anemia, infection, the blood’s clotting ability, and the immune system’s ability to respond. > HCT (hematocrit) measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and dehydration. > Hb and MCHC (hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) measure hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment of red blood cells (corpuscles). > GRANS and L/M (granulocytes and lymphocytes/ monocytes) are specific types of white blood cells > WBC (white blood cell) count classifies and measures the body’s immune cells. Increases or decreases indicate certain diseases or infections. > EOS (eosinophils) are a specific type of white blood cells that, if elevated, may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions. > PLT (platelet count) measures cells that help stop bleeding by forming blood clots. > RETICS (reticulocytes) are immature red blood cells. high or low levels help classify anemias.

Serum chemistry profile

These common tests evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels, and more.

ALB (albumin) is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney health.

ALKP or ALP (alkaline phosphatase) elevations may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease, and active bone growth in young pets.

ALT (alanine aminotransferase) is a sensitive indicator of active liver damage but doesn’t indicate the cause.

AMYL (amylase) elevations show pancreatitis or kidney disease.

AST (aspartate aminotransferase) increases may indicate liver, heart, or skeletal muscle damage.

BUN (blood urea nitrogen) reflects kidney function. An increased blood level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver, and heart disease, urethral obstruction, shock, and dehydration.

Ca (calcium) deviations can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.

CHOL (cholesterol) is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes mellitus.

Cl (chloride) is an electrolyte often lost with vomiting and Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.

Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test).

CREA (creatinine) reflects kidney function. This test helps distinguish between kidney and nonkidney causes of elevated BUN.

GGT (gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase) is an enzyme that, when elevated, indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess.

GLOB (globulin) is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.

GLU (glucose) is blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus or stress. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures, or coma.

K (potassium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, and urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

LIP (lipase) is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis when elevated.

Na (sodium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney or Addison’s diseases. This test also helps indicate hydration status.

PHOS (phosphorous) elevations are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders.

TBIL (total bilirubin) elevations may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.

TP (total protein) indicates hydration status and provides information about the liver, kidneys, and infectious diseases.

T4 (thyroxine) is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs, while high levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

Why we require a leptospirosis vaccine.

At Home Veterinary Care is special in a lot of ways: we offer every pet service you could need, we have our water park for dogs and playground. Though the most inconvenient thing we do is that we require a vaccine for Leptospirosis. We are the only veterinary hospital in the region that demands that each pet whom comes in our home for any service: medical care, Playcare, grooming, anything be vaccinated against Leptospirosis. Why do we bother with it if no other clinic in the area feels this vaccine is necessary? We bother with it because Leptospirosis is a horrific disease that kills painfully and miserably: anything we can do to prevent our patients form coming down with this disease helps us sleep better.

Leptospirosis exists around the world, but it prefers humid and warm climates. This makes the disease much more of a concern in Florida than other parts of the world. Most dogs are exposed to leptospirosis by the urine of wild-animal hosts like: raccoons, opossums, mice, voles, rats, skunks, squirrels, deer, and foxes. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that causes the kidneys and liver to fail; preventing the dog from removing harmful substances from their body, poisoning them with byproducts of body functions that they handle every day. Most untreated dogs suffer and die this way: the immune system often cannot rescue them. Even if the disease is caught early and a dog is cared for and treated exhaustively by a superb team of veterinarians 10-15% of victims will die. Organ failure is not the first sign of Leptospirosis though: the first signs are the nondescript symptoms of lethargy, change in appetite, change in urine production, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are another hurdle since they are symptoms of many more common diseases, and veterinarians will treat the pet for those more likely diseases than the rarer but malignant leptospirosis. Of course this means that it is even more difficult to treat the poor patient effectively, since the veterinarian will be led on a wild goose chase before diagnosing leptospirosis. The disease can also escape from the most skilled veterinarians since diagnosis requires the exact right type of test in the exact time of the disease progression.  This worsens things for the victim, who need as much care as possible as soon as possible. If the disease does not kill the dog, Leptospirosis can cause liver damage, uveitis, respiratory disease, vasculitis, and bleeding disorders. Even worse, the disease can be passed between dogs and people: putting whole families at risk!

All these reasons are why we feel it is critical to prevent; not treat, leptospirosis. Vaccines have made the disease rarer and rarer and we aim to eliminate it. Pet guardians can also prevent their friends from exposure to leptospirosis by preventing contact with urine. Raccoons, cows, pigs, skunks, opossums and rats can all carry leptospirosis and preventing contact with these animals will also prevent transmission. If you notice any of the symptoms associated with leptospirosis make an appointment with us immediately. Please tell your veterinarian if your pet is unvaccinated for leptospirosis: it is pivotal to their treatment and their health. The Leptospirosis vaccine can cause a mild reaction in some dogs, but it is far from life threatening and the vaccine is constantly improved to prevent adverse reactions; however, it is recommended that the Leptospirosis vaccine is given separately from other vaccines. We hope all dogs, cats and people too have a safe and fun holiday and come back to spend time with us at At Home Veterinary Care.

New Article for Tallahassee Family: Safe Holidays for Everyone

As some of you know Dr. Blount is a regular contributor to Tallahassee Family magazine. We asked and got permission from the magazine to post her articles on our site. So this is the first look at her new article, which may look a bit different from the one that is eventually published, but it will still have the same information.

Safe Holiday’s for Everyone

By Elizabeth D. Blount DVM


The holidays mean parties and presents and busy schedules for everyone. We want to bring our pets into the festivities: dress them up for Halloween, have them open presents with the rest of the family; maybe sneak a few scraps from the Thanksgiving table. However; some holiday traditions are dangerous for pets. Chocolate in Halloween and Christmas candy sickens small dogs easily. Chewing on crimson Christmas Poinsettias can cripple a cat. Raisins in Thanksgiving stuffing and desserts damages a dog’s liver. Things that are easily digested by humans will trigger an emergency vet visit and transform nights spent with family and friends into a mad dash to save the family Shih Tzu.

Pets are such a part of everyday lives and so dear to families that it is easy to forget one of the most crucial things about them: that they are not people. They have a digestive system that has not developed in the same way that ours has. They have a unique system that requires special care from their human companions to assure that they do not break into the bag of grapes or snack on Easter Lilies or chew off the bows on Christmas packages. This means that pet guardians must educate themselves on potential dangers at home. Careful attention is needed because we do not think that coffee or garlic are unsafe and it is easy to forget that they can be.

In veterinary medicine we gear up for vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis that can result from sharing a meal of leftovers and gravy with your dog. These items are not part of their normal diet and upsets their tummy.  Most ground meats today are contaminated with bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, so feeding raw or undercooked meat, eggs or those juicy bones give pets more than bargained for.

Most accidental poisonings in pets come from swallowing human medication.  Cats are infinitely sensitive to minor amounts, more so than dogs. I recently treated a cat who ate a tablet of a guest’s heart medication in the home of a client.  Their cat went into kidney failure within 24 hours: no veterinarian could save him. Tylenol is particularly nasty; it is deadly to cats and toxic to dogs in small doses.  Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids, vitamins and medications for ADHD are all problematic.

Holiday decorations and plants look interesting to our furry family too.  Strings, buckles, bangles and beads are shiny and smell like their favorite people. Cats love to bat ornaments off the Christmas tree, but broken glass cuts little paws; holiday candles burn off cats’ whiskers. An elephantine dog curled up under the branches of our Christmas tree: making the entire thing topple over when he crawled out. Any pet eating string or ribbon usually results in an emergency situation.

Our pets bring such joy to our lives and families.  We want them to share the holiday fun. A few moments looking over our home and activities for potential dangers to furry family members keeps them safe and happy for everyone.



Dr. Elizabeth Blount is the Medical Director and CEO of At Home Veterinary Care Center in Tallahassee, the Big Bend’s most comprehensive pet care facility.


Nylabone Recall Notice

Nylabone Dog Chews Recall 2015

April 22, 2015 — Nylabone Products of Neptune, NJ is recalling one lot of its Puppy Starter Kit dog chews because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Nylabone Puppy Starter Kit Recall

What’s Being Recalled?

The recalled Puppy Starter Kit consists of one lot of dog chews that were distributed nationwide, to Canada and through one domestic online mail order facility.

The recalled product comes in a 1.69 ounce package marked with Lot #21935 and UPC 0-18214-81291-3 and with an expiration date of 3/22/18.

This information is stamped on the back of the package as in the following image:

Nylabone Puppy Starter Kit Recall Label

What Caused the Recall?

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the company revealed the presence of Salmonella. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.