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For the DIY Vaccinaters

Protect Your Horse with Veterinarian-Administered Vaccinations


With vaccines readily available at farm supplies stores, online pharmacies and other retailers, it’s sometimes tempting to save a few dollars by purchasing and administering them to your animals yourself.


There are hidden risks and costs associated with vaccinating animals yourself, therefore “cheaper” vaccines aren’t the value they first appear to be. 


Ask your veterinarian to develop a customized vaccine program for your horse.  Having your veterinarian administer vaccines is always safer, easier and a better value in the long run than doing it yourself.


Here are several good reasons why your veterinarian is the best choice for administering vaccines: 


Proper Handling of the Vaccine

Many vaccines require special handling and storage, for instance, protection from extremes of temperature or exposure to light to preserve its effectiveness.  Rely on a licensed veterinarian to store and handle the vaccine properly—and to make sure the vaccine isn’t past its expiration date!


Safe Administration

A licensed veterinarian knows about safe administration:  clean environment, an appropriate injection site and good documentation. They also know the best time of year to vaccinate and whether vaccinations would react with any medications being administered to the horse.  Your veterinarian will document the vaccine’s serial number and administration date—especially important in the event of a manufacturer’s recall.  This is one instance when poor documentation could put your animal in peril.


Availability for Treatment of Adverse Reactions

Any injection can result in adverse effects—mild swelling at the injection site, lethargy and a slight fever for one to two days, the immediate outbreak of hives and life-threatening anaphylaxis.  If your veterinarian is administering the vaccine, he or she will know what to do to counteract a reaction—and they will have the medicine to do it. In some cases, the vaccine manufacturing company will also cover costs associated with a reaction associated with a vaccine when administered by a veterinarian.


When you think about the risks of doing it yourself, it only makes good sense to have a licensed professional administer vaccines.

Face the Fears

Montana is known for the bi-polar weather patterns. Afternoon storms are exceptionally common during the summer months and provide a much-needed relief from the hot afternoon sun. However, many dogs do not appreciate the thunder clap and flickering lightning that mother-nature often provides. While anxiety and fear are common, it doesn’t mean we are helpless in our pet’s unease. There are several options to help with noise aversion in dogs.


Behavior Training- treating the symptoms will not always relieve the anxiety until the under-lying issue is resolved. De-sensitizing your pet to thunder or fireworks requires long-term dedication but creating a safe space for your pet to retreat is a good place to start.

Pros: natural, positive reinforcement, creates good habits for storm aversion

Cons: Time intensive if training with a professional, slow progression


Thunder Jacket- the idea behind it is like swaddling an infant. The hugging effect can calm some pets.

Pros: Easy to use, fast acting, non-medical

Cons: Not always effective- especially in extreme cases, not for long-term use


Anti-anxiety Medications- Alprazolam, Trazadone, Sileo are commonly used medications that can be given to help your pet feel more relaxed.

Pros: Effective, easy-to-give pill/gel formsDrugItem_3530

Cons: Needs to be given a couple of hours before the stimulus, medication can only be prescribed by your veterinarian


When pets are scared, they can react in different ways. Some dogs have been reported to run away from home, even injuring themselves, when afraid. We love our pets and want to keep them happy and safe. Be sure to keep your pet’s identification tags and microchip up-to-date in case of emergency or loss. Your veterinarian can help you to decide what course of action would be most beneficial for your pet. 

Mutant and Proud

Is your dog a Mutant? Not like Professor X from X-men. I mean, does your dog have a mutation to the MDR1 gene (but perhaps if we were talking X-men we could call this particular mutant MD Resisto)! The MDR (multi-drug resistance) gene is responsible for protecting the brain by transporting potentially harmful chemicals away. The MDR1 mutation allows the drugs to build up in the brain, where they can cause ne urological reactions including disorientation, seizures, and blindness. Your veterinarian may discuss the MDR1 gene mutation in more depth with you if your dog is one of the following breeds:


The MDR1 gene mutation makes affected herding breed dogs especially sensitive to the negative effects of certain medications that are typically tolerated including common drugs like Ivermectin and Imodium (loperamide).  Ivermectin… and herding dogs… It seems to go hand in hand, doesn’t it? Herding dogs are often found where there are livestock. Ivermectin is a common intestinal parasite dewormer used for livestock. This means that if your canine assistant is an MDR1 mutant, you will need to take extra precautions when deworming your livestock. If the affected dog were to ingest some of the horse/livestock Ivermectin dewormer paste or the manure from the recently de-wormed animal, symptoms of an Ivermectin toxicity could present shortly after. While equine dewormers contain high doses of Ivermectin, the ivermectin dose in heartworm preventatives, like Iverhart and Heartgard, are so low that they would not pose a risk to a dog with the mutation.


Lucky for us, this gene mutation can be tested for. Talk to your veterinarian about testing your herding breed or mixed breed dog for the MDR1 gene. A quick cheek swab or blood sample can be submitted to Washington State University for testing. Results are sent to you and a copy to your veterinarian in 1-2 weeks. The MDR1 gene is also tested for in the common canine DNA test: Wisdom Panel. This information will help to make lifestyle choices and medical decisions based on your dog’s results.

Normal/Normal Results: These dogs do not carry the mutation, and will not pass on the mutation to their offspring. These dogs would not be expected to experience unexpected adverse drug reactions to normal doses of Ivermectin, loperamide, and some anticancer drugs.

 Mutant/Mutant Results: These dogs carry the mutation and can not pass on a normal gene to their offspring. These dogs would be expected to experience toxicity after normal doses of loperamide, some anticancer drugs, and high doses of Ivermectin.

Normal/Mutant Results: These dogs carry the mutation and may pass the mutant gene to their offspring. For this reason, we do not recommend mutant/mutant dogs be used for breeding purposes. These dogs may experience toxicity after normal doses of loperamide, some anticancer drugs, and high doses of Ivermectin.

Visit the Washington State University website for a list of problem drugs for MDR1 gene mutation dogs:


AAHA Accredited!


We recently became accredited with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in March 2018! This symbol means that we have chosen to undergo regular evaluations to maintain a higher standard of veterinary care. Not every hospital puts in the work and chooses to earn this designation, but we’re proud to say we do!

Check out more about AAHA at

Pet Nutrition Talk

Bring your questions to the Pet Nutrition talk at Heart of the Valley on Thursday, April 26th at 7pm. Dr. Scott Carter from Hill’s pet nutrition will be discussing pet food labels and pet nutrition. We look forward to seeing you there!








Bold Briggs- A survivor that beat the odds

What are the first items you think of when you hear ‘pet toxicity’? Chocolate.. Mouse poison.. Antifreeze? All of which are correct. But have you thought about less obvious pet poisons? Think about human medications: Ibuprofen, thyroid medications, cold medicine, or household plants: Lilies, daffodils, tulips. What about a sago palm?


You may not even know what a sago palm looks like, however these plants are deadly to pets. Sago palms contain cycasin, which is the primary toxin agent resulting in intensive liver damage in dogs. If any part of a sago palm is ingested the effect on the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system can be immediately observed from 15 minutes to several hours afterwards. Even with aggressive treatment, the survival rate is bleak. Enter Briggs…


Briggs initially came to see us as a healthy 5-month-old puppy. He loved to socialize with people and play outside. One evening Briggs found a sago palm to snack on in the compost pile and within one hour was vomiting and lethargic. Briggs’s owner called the Pet Poison Hotline shortly afterwards to inquire about a potential toxicity. Pet Poison Hotline instructed to bring Briggs in for hospitalization. Bloodwork revealed that Briggs’s liver had already been compromised by the sago palm. Dr. Karyn began treating Briggs right away with multiple medications to buffer the stomach, support the liver, and reduce the nausea. After 3 weeks of treatment and bloodwork, Briggs was getting worse. He began exhibiting other symptoms of a sago palm toxicity: diarrhea, lack of appetite, and fluid accumulation in the abdomen.

Briggs’s owner never gave up on him and continued to purse treatment options through Dr. Karyn. Over the course of 6 months, with intensive care and a little luck, he got better. It has now been 2 years since his sago palm ingestion and Briggs has grown into a strong and happy dog.


Recognize Common Poisons for Dogs & Cats

Human Food: Chocolate, grapes, xylitol (common in sugar-free gum), alcohol

Human medications: Ibuprofen, prescription medications, cold medicine

Pesticides and Rodenticides: Remember that rodents that ingest rodenticides are still harmful to pets that eat them

Plants: Azaleas, tulips, daffodils, sago palms, lilies

Chemicals: bleach, antifreeze, engine coolant, etc.


While it seems impossible to keep track of every potential poison, it is important to know what steps to take after your pet has ingested a poison.

1.       Note what your pet ingested, how much, and when. Also monitor your pet’s behavior.

2.       Call a pet toxicity hotline or your veterinarian to determine risk for toxicity.


For a complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs, cats, and horses visit:

Max says Bye-Bye to Bad Breath

Max is a spirited 8-year-old Dachshund. He came in to see us for dental concerns, including bad breath and tartar buildup on his teeth.



80% of pets have dental disease by 3 years of age.  Small dogs, like max, are at an even higher risk for developing dental disease.  This is due in part to differences in the alignment of teeth as well as chewing habits found smaller breeds.  If your pet is experiencing pain, often exhibited by refusing to eat, has changed chewing habits or has bad breath, then dental disease is likely the culprit.  In Max’s case, his doctor recommended a dental cleaning. 


Max was scheduled for a dental cleaning, which is done under general anesthesia.  The morning of surgery, Max arrived bright and early, around 7am. He was received by one of our highly qualified surgery technicians, who would care for him throughout the rest of the day and see to his every need.  He was   prepped for surgery- receiving an IV catheter to facilitate administration of fluids that would help Max maintain normal blood pressure, hydration, and recover quicker.  He was then moved into our dedicated dental suite, equipped with monitoring equipment and dental radiographs.  He was induced with an injectable anesthetic and maintained on an inhaled anesthetic and oxygen for the remainder of the procedure.

IMG_2760 IMG_2768

The cleaning process includes ultrasonic scaling and hand scaling of the teeth to remove plaque and calculus.  Probing and measurement of tooth and associated periodontal pocket is done to assess gum and root health.  Radiographs are taken if any tooth appears compromised.  Finally, the teeth are polished, this discourages future bacteria buildup, leaving the teeth pearly white.


You may be wondering why general anesthesia is necessary?  After all, wouldn’t it be safer for the patent to just due this under sedation?  The truth is, anesthesia when performed correctly is very safe. It is also necessary for the proper evaluation and cleaning of the teeth. Non-anesthetic cleanings do not allow for adequate probing or use of the ultrasonic scaler.  Sedated dental only allows for hand scaling, which can actually result in damage of the tooth enamel and does not allow the doctor to address any periodontal disease or extract teeth if needed. 

In some circumstances, dental x-rays are necessary for the veterinarian to determine the health of the tooth and surrounding bone. Extractions may be performed if there is radiographic evidence of disease. In Max’s case, a total of 9 teeth required extraction.  Losing this number of teeth may seem shocking, however patients seem relieved after extractions and are happier without a constant nagging toothache.

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Max was prescribed pain medication and antibiotics and was able to go home that evening.  A soft food diet was needed for 7 days while his extraction sites healed.  

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Along with his annual examination, Max’s preventative dental care now includes teeth brushing and a new diet.  Hill’s t/d Dental care diet encourages chewing and prevents tartar buildup. Tooth brushing was started slowly so that Max would willingly accept the feeling and process. He now enjoys the Vanilla Mint flavor pet enzymatic toothpaste! Human toothpaste should never be used on pets as it is not meant to be swallowed and can contain harmful ingredients. Another great option for oral health is enzymatic dental chews. Dental chews encourage chewing and contain ingredients that fight tartar buildup. However, it is important to understand that these home care products do not substitute a dental cleaning if it is needed. Talk to your veterinarian about other dental care options for your pet.

chew t-d toothpaste



Winter Time Colic- Signs, Causes, and Prevention

With the snow and cold here to stay, it is important as horse owners to recognize that colic doesn’t pay attention to the calendar. Awareness and preparation combined can help get you and your horses through the winter season colic free!



First, let’s clarify what colic is. In a broad sense, colic is overall abdominal pain. There are various classifications that are more specific to the condition of the horse. Impaction based colic cases are the most common during the winter months. Impactions are caused by an accumulation of various feed materials in the large colon. This blockage can be difficult or even impossible to naturally pass waste sometimes. The severity of colic symptoms can be on a large spectrum, but there are some key signs to look for. With these signs in mind, it is important to have a good understanding of what is normal behavior for your horse.


  1. Laying down and/or rolling
  2. Kicking or biting at stomach
  3. Pawing
  4. Tail Swishing
  5. No appetite or thirst
  6. Pinned ears 


These symptoms typically come in different combinations. Again, it is important to understand what normal behavior looks like with your horse to be able to point out strange behavior. 

The next few months of cold weather create a few common causes of impaction colics.


  1. Dehydration
    1. Horses aren’t as willing to walk to water in the cold
    2. Water tanks often freeze or break, check them daily
    3. Some horses are picky and need their water to be between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Low Quality Forage
    1. Already low hydration means that food is more difficult to digest
    2. Hay and fiber heavy grain lacks the water amount that grass contains
  3. Added Stress Factors
    1. Dramatic changes in temperatures or weather conditions increases stress levels
    2. Avoid extreme changes in daily activity or environment

A combination of these three common causes fosters a potential colic environment. Fortunately, knowledge of the common causes and typical symptoms can allow us horse owners to be proactive with preventative measures.


First and foremost- make sure your water source is abundant and easily accessible. Using water heaters is ideal to keep the water at the optimal temperature between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit. So put on your Carhartts’s and check your water daily to ensure your horse is able to comfortably get the recommended 10-12 gallons they need daily.


Next, reevaluate your horses winter feeding program. The snow covered pastures causes us to add hay to our horses wintertime diet plan. Overall, hay contains much less water than normal pasture grass does. Low quality hay especially can be a large contributor to dehydration. Grain heavy diets are also dangerous. Fiber heavy grain decreases the water content in the large colon. Adding some water to your horses grain is a good way to help with their digestion.


Lastly, actively take steps to keep stressful events to a minimum. Obviously we are not able to control all the stress factors life tends to throw at us. But, control the controllable. Weather changes and extreme weather conditions will naturally increase your horses stress levels. It’s important to minimize the added stressful situations we put our horses in.

Knowing the signs, causes, and taking preventative measures can allow you as an owner to feel more confident and responsible while making sure your horse is safe. If you are unsure, we recommend calling us when you first notice possible signs of potential colic.


Wishing you all a safe, fun, and colic free winter!



2017 Year-in Review


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