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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.

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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.

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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


Paleo or McDonalds- choosing a diet for your pet

Our pet’s food can be more than a source of energy for our pet; it can influence weight as well as overall health. Just like us, our pet should have a well-balanced diet.  A well-balanced diet includes a combination of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and water. Meat is a typical protein source, building muscle and promoting growth. Carbohydrates, the grains, are the source of quick energy. Oils make up the fat and provide stored energy. Vitamins and Minerals are necessary for body function and are specifically added.


The ingredient list will specify which source of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are in your pet’s diet. However, verbiage and unfamiliar products can make the ingredient list look like a foreign language. Here are some helpful tips:

·         The ingredients are listed in order by weight and should be listed by their common names. This can be deceiving when a meat product is the first listed ingredient as this will include the water weight. Meat meal may be seen listed first followed by many types of carbohydrates, like barley, sorghum, wheat. By breaking up the carbohydrate group, the manufacturer strategically seats the meat product at the top of the ingredient list because each portion weighs less than the total meat meal.


·         “Meal”- meal is the dried product of an ingredient. Contrary to belief, it’s beneficial because the nutrients are more concentrated since the product has already had water removed.

·         “By-product”- the scary word! By product does not always mean it is the ground up “leftovers” of a carcass. By-product can be organs or a cut of meat not specifically sold for human consumption. The bag may not specify which by-product but if you call the manufacturer they can tell you what by-products are used.

Choosing the right diet for your pet can be difficult because there are so many options and multiple variables that persuade us to choose a diet. Here are a few guidelines to help you decide on the right food for your pet.

1.       Read the AAFCO statement- This statement can be found near the ingredient list. The Association of American Feed Control Officials developed two strategies to qualify a product as balanced and complete. The food must either pass a food trial or meet one of two nutrient profiles. The two food profiles are reproduction & growth, and adult life stage. There are many diets that are formulated for all life stages. All life stages diets must meet the requirement for the highest stage of nutritional need: the reproductive stage. Most adult and senior pets do not require the same nutritional standards as those lactating or growing. Instead, a reputable senior diet will be labeled for adult life stage. We recommend choosing a product that is labeled appropriately for your pet’s life stage and better yet, choose a diet that also has passed a food trial!

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2.       Choose a diet for your pet’s needs- there are many foods that target a specific benefit to your pet: Dental, kidney, allergen, or urinary care lines. Your pet may need to avoid specific diets or ingredients. High protein diets are popular but are not always beneficial, especially to senior pets as the excess protein is not easily digested and can be hard on liver and kidneys. Your veterinarian may recommend a particular diet to benefit your pet. There are multiple veterinary brands so be sure to discuss your options.


3.       Buy within your price range- unless your pet develops a condition that requires a diet change, your pet will eat the same food until it grows into the next life stage. Changing diets can cause upset stomachs so transitioning should be done over a week period to avoid diarrhea. Make it easy on yourself, choose a product that works within your budget. Also, the saying “you get what you pay for” is no longer necessarily true. Some pet food companies spend more on marketing than they do on research.  

4.        Be sure you choose a food that is manageable for your lifestyle. Raw food diets should be carefully thought out before committing to. We do not recommend a raw food diet for households with children as Salmonella and E-coli can be transmitted from feces. However, there are precautions that can be adapted to your daily lifestyle to safely feed a raw food diet should you choose.


With so many pet food products out there, you are sure to find a healthy diet that suits your preference.







Oh “Snap”

Snap is a 5 year old female cat who came to see us for blood in her urine, laying by her litter box and straining to urinate.
The radiograph on the right shows 2 large bladder stones. We cannot tell what type of bladder stones they are based on a radiograph, but given the high pH of her urine, struvite stones were a possibility. She was put on a prescription diet called Hills C/D, given antibiotics and pain management.
The radiograph on the left is 2 weeks later and shows the stones to be reduced in size by about 50%.
The final radiograph is 5 weeks later and it shows complete dissolution of the stones.
We don’t always know why cats develop bladder stones. Some are related to previous infections, some are related to a combination of an individual cat’s own chemistry, metabolism of certain minerals in the diet and urinary pH.
Many factors are involved when a Veterinarian decides if diet dissolution is the right choice for an individual patient. Factors include: gender, size of stones, results of urine testing, exam findings and clinical judgement.
Snap was very happy she avoided a bladder surgery and will stay on a urinary diet life-long to prevent recurrence of the stones.

Masters of Disguise: Our pet’s pain symptoms and management

We love our pets and want them to keep them happy and healthy! Although we are with them daily, it can be hard to tell when our pets are in pain. Cats are especially good a disguising their pain. Pain can be caused by many factors such as arthritis, urinary issues, dental problems, and following a surgical procedure. Each pet will display pain differently but it is important for us, as pet owners, to know our pet’s habits and identify when changes occur. The sooner the pet’s suffering is addressed, the quicker the issue can be treated and resolved.


Some symptoms may be displayed in the following ways:



Vocalizing:               meowing, hissing, growling, even purring

Expression:             vacant stare, enlarged pupils, flattened ears

Posture:                    arches back, lays with feet underneath, protecting limb, limping

Behavior:                  acting out of character: aggression with a typically friendly cat

Activity:                    hiding, decreased appetite, failure to use litterbox, won’t




Vocalizing:               whining, howling, yelping, groaning

Expression:              glazed eyes, panting at rest, vacant stare

Posture:                     hunched, laying on side, hiding,  protecting limb, limping

Behavior:                  acting out of character, restless, reluctant to move

Activity:                     decreased appetite, change in sleeping habits, less active



Vocalizing:               whinnying, grunting, groaning

Expression:              glazed eyes, flattened ears, wrinkled nose

Posture:                     low head, kicking at belly, “parked out”

Behavior:                  restless, reluctant to move, swishing tail

Activity:                     decreased appetite, less active, lameness



If you notice symptoms of pain, consult your veterinarian.  We use a pain scale to determine each pet’s pain level. The scale is rated 0-4 based on behavior, response to palpation, and body tension. Based on the pet’s pain level, the doctor may make recommendations for a course of action.  Treatment can vary from a prescription medication, acupuncture, or oral and injectable supplements. Different types of pain require different treatments, sometimes multiple treatments in coordination. Never administer medication or change the dosage of a current prescription unless directed by your veterinarian.




Kennel Cough Awareness

We are seeing an increased number of kennel cough cases around Gallatin Valley. “Kennel Cough” is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can be contracted through the air or nose-to-nose contact with another infected dog. Although dogs cannot get it from the air, the viruses or bacteria can stick on surfaces like fences, water bowls, fire hydrants, and other communal areas. Summer is a prime time for an outbreak as many of us are more social and active.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Coughing (The cough can sound dry or productive, sometimes hacking to the point of retching.)
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lethargy


Symptoms can begin 2-14 days after exposure and last 1-2 weeks. An infected dog may shed the infection for up to a month after being treated.

Common places dogs can contract kennel cough:

  • Kennel/boarding facility
  • Dog park
  • Grooming facility


If you notice your dog is showing symptoms of kennel cough, contact your veterinarian. Do not let your dog participate in socialization or have access to other dogs until recovered. The Bordatella vaccination can help to minimize infection, however there is no way to completely prevent the chance that your dog will contract kennel cough. Kennel Cough can be caused by 10 different viruses or bacteria and only 4 viruses can be vaccinated against. Therefore, a fully vaccinated dog can still contract it. The best form of prevention is to vaccinate directly prior to potential kennel cough environments.

If you have any questions or concerns about kennel cough and your dog, do not hesitate to call the office at 406-586-4919.


Dog Bite Prevention

April 9-15 is Dog Bite Prevention Week

We all love dogs and consider them to be members of the family. But it is important to recognize that any dog, put in the wrong situation, has the potential to bite.

In the United State there are over 70 million dogs living with families. Each year there are 4.5 million people bitten by a dog. Of these, 800,000 dog bites require medical attention, with over half of these cases being children.

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Every dog owner has the responsibility to properly socialize their dog when they are a puppy to maximize their exposure to a variety of situations, people, other pets and environments. This is crucial to having a well-adjusted dog that is not likely to bite. The majority of a puppy’s learning of social skills is in the first 12 weeks of life; so starting young is key!

Most dog bites occur in the home and with a familiar dog. And many dog bites occur in children who are unable to recognize behavioral cues. Below are some simple things to keep in mind to help prevent dog bites, especially in young children.

• Do not approach unfamiliar dogs, and teach children that if approached by a dog they do not know, “be a tree.” This means plant your feet – running away from a dog may cause it to chase.
• Always use a gentle touch – do not hit or climb on a dog and do not pull on tails and ears.
• When greeting a dog, allow it to sniff a hand first. Avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, standing over the dog and approaching it from above can feel threatening.
• If a dog is sleeping or eating, give it space. A dog should not be disturbed during either of these activities.
• Make sure dogs (and all pets) have a safe, comfortable place to get away from the action and commotion of a family.
• Teach children that if a dog is trying to get away or displaying behaviors indicating that it may be either avoiding the attention or anxious from it (such as looking away, yawning, licking lips), they need to give it space.
• Do not punish a dog that gives a child a growl. A growl is a warning that a bite is next, so instead of punishing the growl, appreciate that the dog has given a fair warning and decide what you need to do to make a safe environment.
• Commit to socializing your dog and learning how to read the dog’s body language and behavioral cues.

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For more information on dog bite prevention, visit the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association ( or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (

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