Could Your Cat Be Hiding Signs of Diabetes?

cat photo

Find out during National Diabetes Awareness Month

Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in people, and it is also common in cats. But signs of diabetes can be subtle, and cats have evolved an exceptional ability to hide signs of illness – a survival instinct that has helped them thrive, but may make it difficult for you to recognize your cat is sick before the disease has reached an advanced stage.

The good news about feline diabetes is there are signs you can learn to recognize, if you know what to look for.

cat photo

Schedule an appointment for your cat if you see any of these signs:

  • Increased thirst and drinking more water than usual
  • Urinating more than usual. If you use clumping litter, you may notice more clumps or larger clumps than you normally see in the litter box.
  • Increased appetite and eating more food than usual.
  • Weight loss, even with increased food intake.
  • Weakness in the back legs. You may notice your cat’s stance is different.

Get Fancy – It’s National Fancy Rat and Mouse Day!

When most people think of pets, we immediately picture cats and dogs. Images of guinea pigs, parakeets or fish may come to mind. But today is the day to celebrate the Fancy Rats and Fancy Mice that over a half million happy people share their lives with.

Hamsters and gerbils enjoy popularity as pocket pets for children, and due to misconceptions and misguided phobias, rats and mice are often passed over. But the truth is that domestic rats and mice have a lot of advantages over their more popular rodent counterparts.  For example, hamsters can be excellent pets but are nocturnal, so most of their fun-to-watch antics take place at night when they’re more likely to provide sleeplessness than entertainment. And many people who have owned a variety of small pets will attest that hamsters seem to be the most likely to bite, possibly due to their poor eyesight and dislike of being woken up from a deep sleep.

mouse3Domestic mice, on the other hand, can be quite social, active and adventurous. They are typically eager to jump, climb and explore toys and structures in their cages. They are quite small and fragile, so they may not be ideal for very young children to hold, but a well socialized mouse will enjoy snuggling and climbing on their owner. The biggest downside to pet mice is that they tend to be a little odorous, especially the boys.


idea3mousehouseThe inquisitive nature of fancy mice paired with their need for enrichment provides a great opportunity for arts and crafts – using household objects and non-toxic glue to make places for pet mice to climb and hide is a great way to spend an afternoon, especially in the cold winter months!




img_7220img_7223Now, on to fancy rats. A lot of us here at Pembroke Animal Hospital currently have pet rats, or have had them in the past, so we know just how much fun they are.  It’s important to stress that domestic fancy rats are NOT the same as wild, “sewer”, or “subway” rats. These rats were bred in captivity to be pets. A well socialized rat is surprisingly similar to an affectionate cat. They will greet their owners and are excited to snuggle. They are highly intelligent and can be taught tricks. They’re also meticulously clean, and some owners have had good luck litter box training their rats!

Fancy rats are bigger and sturdier than fancy mice, so they may be a better choice for younger owners. And again, most people who have owned and worked with a variety of pet rodents will agree that a rat gets the vote for least likely to bite!

Rats are happiest when kept with companions, but you’ll want to make sure their companions are the same gender (or have them spayed and neutered! Yes, we can do that!) Domestic rats are clever, curious, social creatures. Consider adding them to your family! Check with your local shelter or our friends at Mainely Rat Rescue to start the search for the perfect fancy companion for you!

Come on, who could resist?


November 6-12 is Shelter Appreciation Week!

downloadEach year, The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) celebrates National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week during the first full week of November, as a way to honor animal shelters and the dedicated people who work to protect animals. Animal shelters are vital resources for their communities. A shelter is a safe haven for animals, and a great place to adopt a new family pet. Shelters also provide critical services such as investigating cruelty and neglect, reuniting lost pets with their families, teaching kids to care about animals, and providing spay/neuter services to help reduce pet overpopulation.

There are approximately 3,500 animal shelters across the United States, available to serve the estimated 6–8 million homeless animals that seek refuge each year, but only about half are adopted. While 63 percent of American households include pets, fewer than 20 percent of them were adopted from shelters. National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week is a perfect opportunity for you, your family, and your community to become acquainted with their local shelter and to help homeless pets. Here are just a few ways to get involved:

• Adopt your next pet from a shelter!

• Become a fan of your local shelter on Facebook.

• Volunteer—helping animals at the shelter can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

• Be a responsible pet owner. Keep your pet at home as a member of your family for a lifetime. Spay/neuter your pets, make sure they’re wearing collars and ID tags (to get them home if they become lost), don’t let your pets roam loose.

• Donate supplies. Shelters are often in need of towels, toys, and other items. Always check with your local shelter first to find out what they need. Request donations of from family, friends, and colleagues. You might also want to team up with your child’s school, after-school program, or camp to organize an Animal Shelter Drive.images (1)

Pembroke Animal Hospital is proud to work with these fantastic rescue organizations –


Halloween Fun!

Halloween Fun


We had a great day yesterday and lots of fun with our Daycare Costume Contest! Check out these sweet and spooky costumes!

Even Widget was in the Halloween spirit when she arrived for her appointment!widget

We hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween!

Dog vs. Porcupine

Our friend Georgia had an unfortunate wildlife encounter yesterday. We sedated her and got to work. In addition to the quills on her face, she had quite a mouthful. It took three technicians about 90 minutes to pull  hundreds of quills.


Georgia is not alone – every year in the warmer months we see at least a dozen dogs who have caught the wrong end of the porcupine – Georgia was our seventh since April! This got us thinking about porcupines and we wanted to share some information, misconceptions and tips to help keep your dog safe.

They’re so cute and sweet, from the front

Porcupines are members of the rodent family and there are several different kinds of porcupine in different regions around the world. The North American Porcupine –  Erethizon dorsatum – is a slow-moving herbivore that roams the forests of New England.

Porcupines are generally solitary outside of mating season, which is in late summer/early fall. They make their dens in caves and hollow logs and are excellent climbers, spending a lot of time in the treetops. They’re generally most active in the early morning, evening and throughout the night. Surprisingly, they’re also very good swimmers.

pp back
Most of the larger quills are on the back and tail of the porcupine. They get more sparse toward the neck and face and there are no quills on the sides or belly.

Porcupines like to mind their own business and will generally avoid conflict. However, if a predator pushes the issue the porcupine has an excellent defense system. They sport up to 30,000 sharp, barbed quills on their backs and tails. When danger approaches, they turn their back and present their quills, protecting their vulnerable heads and bellies. If the predator gets close enough, the porcupine can lash out with his quill-covered tail, giving the intruder a face full of quills.

Porcupine-quillPorcupine quills are basically modified hairs. They’re hollow and very sharp. The North American porcupine also has 700-800 microscopic barbs on the ends of the quills that allow the quill to penetrate easily but provide resistance when we try to pull the quills out. Those  barbs are what make quill removal so challenging – and painful – to our four-legged friends.

Common Porcupine Myths:

  • “Porcupines can shoot their quills!”
    • Nope. Porcupines do not have the ability to shoot their quills. This myth may have come about because a porcupine does have the ability to whack a predator with its heavily quilled tail, and that can happen so quickly it may have led to the perception that the quills were shot out.
  • “Porcupine quills are poisonous!”
    • Nope. There is no poison on the quills, although they often have bacteria on them that can cause infection when they puncture the skin.
  • “Cutting the quills before you try to pull them will make them deflate so they come out easier!”
    • Definitely not a good idea. The resistance comes from the barbs on the ends of the quills, not from air pressure within the quill. If they slip below the surface of the skin where they can’t be seen and removed, porcupine quills become very dangerous.
  • “My dog got quilled – I’m sure he learned his lesson!”
    • Well, hopefully not a myth. But there’s no guarantee that a dog who gets quilled will “learn” from the experience and avoid porcupines in the future. We have several “repeat offenders” who get quilled once or twice every year.
  • “My dog doesn’t go off leash, so I don’t have to worry about porcupines”
    • Believe it or not, we’ve seen dogs that were quilled while they were walking on leash with their owners. They suddenly dove into the bushes and came out with a face full of quills, their surprised owner standing right there holding the other end of the leash.

What to do if your dog gets quilled:

You should always seek veterinary care immediately if your dog gets quilled. There are many reasons for this:

  • As time passes, the dog is likely to try to get rid of the quills by rolling, pawing at them or trying to rub them off. Unfortunately, this only drives them further into the tissue and breaks off the ends, making them even more difficult to remove
  • Quill removal is extremely painful. Your veterinarian can sedate or anesthetize your dog for the procedure
  • Even the nicest dogs may bite with the pain, trauma and shock of being quilled/having the quills pulled while awake, and  you don’t want to damage the trusting relationship you have with your dog
  • There are probably quills that you can’t see/get, including inside of your dog’s mouth and throat
  • Some quills may have to be surgically removed if they’ve slipped completely under the skin
  • Your vet can prescribe antibiotics to help prevent abscesses and infection that the bacteria on the quills can cause, and medication to help with pain and inflammation.
  • Porcupine quills are surprisingly brittle when you’re trying to pull them and broken off pieces can cause infections and migrate under the skin

A note about migrating quills:

In some cases, it can be nearly impossible to remove all the quills and quill fragments, even with proper veterinary care. It is common for quills to move, or “migrate”, out toward the surface of the skin days or even weeks after the incident. These quills should be removed completely as soon as they become apparent. It is possible for porcupine quills or fragments to migrate deeper into the body instead of outward. This can cause pockets of infection and, in very rare cases, may be life-threatening as the quills can actually work their way deep enough to puncture vital organs. While it’s not a common, it’s something to keep in mind and another reason to have your vet  examine and treat your dog if they are quilled.

Prevention is the best medicine

Although there’s no guaranteed way to prevent your dog from having a run-in with a porcupine, there are steps you can take to lessen the risk. Make sure your dog is indoors overnight when porcupines are most active, and keep him on a leash when you’re out walking in wooded areas. Keep your dog’s rabies vaccine up to date, and if your dog does get quilled, bring him to a veterinarian right away.





Change in available medications for Hypothyroid Dogs

Hypothyroidism is a relatively common ailment in dogs. Similar to people, Hypothyroid dogs have an under-active thyroid gland which can cause a range of symptoms including weight gain and low energy. For years, veterinarians have had access to a range of thyroid-supplement products. Most veterinary drug companies had their own brand of thyroid supplement; there were 10 different brands of levothyroxine for veterinarians to choose from. None of the drugs were FDA approved for use in dogs but they had a long track record of safety and efficacy. Veterinarians were allowed to use them because there was not an FDA approved thyroid medication for dogs available.

In early 2016 Llyod Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for their thyroid supplement, Thyro-Tabs Canine.  Now that there is an FDA approved option, the companies manufacturing the unapproved products are no longer allowed to. This includes the chewable thyroid tablets as well as the Soloxine brand that we were using here at PAH. Veterinarians are being permitted to distribute what they have on their shelves, but when it comes to ordering more, PAH and all other animal hospitals will only be able to order Thyro-Tabs Canine.  It’s a long process to FDA approval for a medication, so while it’s likely some of the other companies will pursue that path, it will likely be a while before there are other options available.

The good news in this is that the Thyro-Tabs Canine have been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy by the FDA and will continue to be monitored. It’s the same active ingredient that all of the others used – levothyroxine – and even if your dog has been on a different brand of supplement the transition should be smooth and their dose should stay at or very close to where it is now.

For more information, check out this article from Veterinary Information Network news –

and the FDA’s official website:

April is Heartworm Disease Awareness month

Keep The Worms Out Of Your Pet’s Heart! The Facts About Heartworm Disease

From the FDA Animal Health Literacy Library


Heartworm Disease – What Is It And What Causes It?

heartwormsadult heartworms in a dog's heartHeartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito.  The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog.  The mosquito is the intermediate host, meaning that the worms live inside a mosquito for a short transition period in order to become infective (able to cause heartworm disease).  The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.

Photos courtesy of Matt W. Miller, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology), College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University

The Heartworm Lifecycle In Dogs

Copper-colored Dog

In an infected dog, adult female heartworms release their offspring, called microfilariae, into the dog’s bloodstream.  When a mosquito bites the infected dog, the mosquito becomes infected with the microfilariae.  Over the next 10 to 14 days and under the right environmental conditions, the microfilariae become infective larvae while living inside the mosquito.  Microfilariae cannot become infective larvae without first passing through a mosquito.  When the infected mosquito bites another dog, the mosquito spreads the infective larvae to the dog through the bite wound.  In the newly infected dog, it takes between six and seven months for the infective larvae to mature into adult heartworms.  The adult heartworms mate and the females release their offspring into the dog’s bloodstream, completing the lifecycle.

Heartworm disease is not contagious, meaning that a dog cannot catch the disease from being near an infected dog.  Heartworm disease is only spread through the bite of a mosquito.

Inside a dog, a heartworm’s lifespan is five to seven years.  Adult heartworms look like strands of cooked spaghetti, with males reaching about 4 to 6 inches in length and females reaching about 10 to 12 inches in length.  The number of worms living inside an infected dog is called the worm burden.  The average worm burden in dogs is 15 worms, but that number can range from 1 to 250 worms.

How Is A Dog Tested For Heartworms?

The most common test that a veterinarian uses to check a dog for heartworms is called an antigen test.  This blood test detects specific proteins, called antigens, which are released by adult female heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream.  In most cases, antigen tests can accurately detect infections with one or more adult female heartworms that are at least seven or eight months old, but the tests generally do not detect infections that are less than five months old.

There are also tests that detect microfilariae in a dog’s bloodstream.  Microfilariae in the bloodstream indicate that the dog is infected with adult heartworms (because only adult heartworms can mate and produce microfilariae).  Microfilariae can be detected in a dog’s bloodstream about six to seven months after it is bitten by an infected mosquito (because six to seven months is the time it takes the heartworms to develop from infective larvae into adults that mate and produce microfilariae).

When Should A Dog Be Tested For Heartworms?

The timing and frequency of heartworm tests depend on many factors.  Some of these factors include:

  • The dog’s age when heartworm prevention is started;
  • If the owner forgot to give heartworm prevention and for how long;
  • If the dog is switched from one type of heartworm prevention to another;
  • If the dog recently traveled to an area where heartworm disease is more common; and
  • The length of the heartworm season in the region where the dog lives.

Dogs older than six to seven months of age should be tested for heartworms before starting heartworm prevention.  A dog may appear healthy on the outside, but on the inside, heartworms may be living and thriving.  If a heartworm-positive dog is not tested before starting a preventive, the dog will remain infected with adult heartworms until it gets sick enough to show symptoms. Heartworm preventives do not kill adult heartworms. Also, giving a heartworm preventive to a dog that has an adult heartworm infection may be harmful or deadly.  If microfilariae are in the dog’s bloodstream, the preventive may cause the microfilariae to suddenly die, triggering a shock-like reaction and possibly death.

Annual testing of all dogs on heartworm prevention is recommended.  Talk to your dog’s veterinarian about the best time for your dog’s annual heartworm test.

What Are The Symptoms Of Heartworm Disease In A Dog?

The severity of heartworm disease is related to how many worms are living inside the dog (the worm burden), how long the dog has been infected, and how the dog’s body is responding to the presence of the heartworms.  The dog’s activity level also plays a role in the severity of the disease and in when symptoms are first seen.  Symptoms of heartworm disease may not be obvious in dogs that have low worm burdens, have been recently infected, or are not very active.  Dogs that have heavy worm burdens, have been infected for a long time, or are very active often show obvious symptoms of heartworm disease.

There are four classes, or stages, of heartworm disease.  The higher the class, the worse the disease and the more obvious the symptoms.

  • Class 1:  No symptoms or mild symptoms such as an occasional cough.
  • Class 2:  Mild to moderate symptoms such as an occasional cough and tiredness after moderate activity.
  • Class 3:  General loss of body condition, a persistent cough, and tiredness after mild activity.  Trouble breathing and signs of heart failure are common. For class 2 and 3 heartworm disease, heart and lung changes are usually seen on chest x-rays.
  • Class 4:  Also called caval syndrome.  There is such a heavy worm burden that blood flowing back to the heart is physically blocked by a large mass of worms.  Caval syndrome is life-threatening and quick surgical removal of the heartworms is the only treatment option.  The surgery is risky, and even with surgery, most dogs with caval syndrome die.

Not all dogs with heartworm disease develop caval syndrome.  However, if left untreated, heartworm disease will progress and damage the dog’s heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, eventually causing death.

Is There A Treatment For Heartworm Disease In Dogs?

The drug Immiticide (melarsomine hydrocholoride) is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in dogs. Immiticide contains arsenic and is given by deep injection into the back muscles to treat dogs with stabilized class 1, 2, and 3 heartworm disease. Another drug, Advantage Multi for Dogs (imidacloprid and moxidectin), is FDA-approved to get rid of microfilariae in the dog’s bloodstream. Advantage Multi for Dogs is a topical solution applied to the dog’s skin.

The treatment for heartworm disease is not easy on the dog or on the owner’s pocket book.  Treatment can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots to the dog’s lungs.  Treatment is expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections with Immiticide.

The Best Treatment Is Prevention!

Many products are FDA-approved to prevent heartworms in dogs.  All require a veterinarian’s prescription.  Most products are given monthly, either as a topical liquid applied on the skin or as an oral tablet.  Some heartworm preventives contain other ingredients that are effective against certain intestinal worms (such as roundworms and hookworms) and other parasites (such as fleas, ticks, and ear mites).

Year-round prevention is best!  Talk to your dog’s veterinarian to decide which preventive is best for your dog.

Important Update about Jerky-style Treats

alertAs you’ve probably seen on the news, there is a lot of concern right now about pets getting sick and even dying from being fed jerky treats.  The FDA is working hard to track down the cause of illness and the source of these dangerous treats.  So far it appears that the treats that have sickened pets were manufactured in China, but at this point there isn’t much more specific information available.  To be safe, we recommend avoiding jerky-style treats completely for your dogs and cats, especially those made overseas.  There are many excellent locally made, locally sourced treats readily available for your best friend, and buying local keeps your money supporting small businesses within your community.

If you think your pet may have been sicked by jerky treats, you may be able to help with the investigation – contact the FDA through their consumer portal here.  There is a lot of speculation in the media – it’s scary to know that pets are getting sick and we don’t yet know why – but remember that speculation is just that.  A good source of reliable information is the FDA website – the most current consumer update from the FDA can be found here:  CVM_Jerky_Pet_Treats_FS_1013

For the time being, the safest course is to avoid any potential danger that may be posed by treats made overseas by avoiding them completely until there is more information available.

West Nile Virus Update


To All Our Horse Owners,

As you may have heard on the news, there was a horse diagnosed with West Nile Virus in Belmont, NH last week. This is the first case in many years. We are unaware of many relevant details, such as the horse’s age, vaccination status, and whether the horse was native to NH or not. West Nile virus has been ongoing in NH for decades, and yet the risk of horses contracting the disease is still very low. It is important to remember that this is not an epidemic, and there is no need to panic. However, we do have West Nile Virus vaccine available if you wish to immunize your horse. Please call with any questions or concerns, or to schedule a farm call.


Spring is here!

 Finally, spring is really here and the garden at Pembroke Animal Hospital is in bloom!  We get so many compliments on the garden, we wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at our fabulous gardener!  Pat Peck, Dr. Peck’s mom, keeps the front of the building beautiful and flowering year after year.  Here she is hard at work:

Pat PeckThank you, Pat!

Spring Garden 2013