October is the American Humane Association’s Adopt-a-Dog Month


What can an adopted dog bring to your life?

There are as many responses to that question as there are dogs in this world! That’s why—during American Humane Association’s Adopt-A-Dog Month celebration in October —we’re encouraging people to adopt a shelter dog and experience the joy of finding their own answers.

Are you looking for:

  • an exercise buddy?
  • a best friend and confidant for your child?
  • a dog you can train with to learn animal-assisted therapy?
  • a partner in agility competitions?
  • a constant companion for your favorite senior citizen?
  • a fuzzy face to greet you after a hard day at work?

An adopted dog can be all these things —and so much more!

Your local shelter is the perfect place to find dogs of every type, size, age and personality —all waiting for a loving home. Or, if you prefer a particular breed that isn’t currently available at a shelter, go online to find a breed-specific rescue group in need of adopters like you.

Find out what a shelter or rescue dog can bring to your life this October during Adopt-A-Dog Month! (From http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/programs/special-initiatives/adopt-a-dog-month/)

Interested? Local shelters include the following, and unfortunately and fortunately, they are all sure to have plenty of canine (and feline!)  friends to choose from.

**The Chester County SPCA is also running a “Fall in Love” promotion:

Stop by during the Fall in Love promotion to adopt any cat or kitten for only a $20 adoption fee. Includes spaying/neutering, initial vaccinations, identifying microchip, a bag of starter food, a vet visit with one of over 60 participating vets, and unconditional love for life. (www.ccspca.org)


National Vet Tech Week 2012


This year, National Veterinary Technician Week is October 14-20, and in honor of that, we thought we’d explain a little about the ways to become a veterinary technician, the different terminology used by those in the field, and what the job entails.

Many people mistakenly refer to veterinary technicians as the “doctor’s assistant.” While at times this can be technically true, it is not fully accurate. For instance, “veterinary assistant” is a separate job title with separate job responsibilities. Additionally, while often a stepping stone to becoming a veterinary technician, it need not be.

There are a couple basic routes that individuals take to become a veterinary technician. For some, on-the-job training is the way to go. Often people who go this route begin working at a veterinary practice in the kennel or at the front desk, move up to become a veterinary assistant, and, eventually, hone their knowledge and skills and transition to the role of veterinary technician. Other individuals choose to take a more formal route. Many colleges offer veterinary technician programs (usually an associate’s degree, though some 4-year schools offer a bachelor’s degree, providing the student the title “veterinary technologist” instead); typically these programs offer standard lecture classes in combination with more practical laboratories and off-site externships, affording students the chance to practice the hands-on skills that are crucial to any veterinary professional: proper handling and restraint techniques, vital sign reading, intravenous catheter placement, and the like.

However, many of the responsibilities of a veterinary technician are those intangibles that are so important to any health care professional: paying attention to the patient, looking for changes that can indicate something going wrong—or right, noticing trends, and synthesizing information from various sources, including owners, veterinarians, the technicians on the previous shift, teachers, and textbooks.

Veterinary technicians may be certified, licensed, or registered (CVT, LVT, and RVT respectively); all mean about the same thing—it just depends on what state a technician lives in. In Pennsylvania, we are certified veterinary technicians, for instance. Up until a couple of years ago, anyone could take the national licensing exam and add that often coveted word in front of their title. Now, however, sitting for the national exam requires a technician to be a graduate of an accredited veterinary technician school.

Adding more terminology to the mix is the fact that some veterinary technicians prefer to call themselves “nurses.”

Veterinary technicians can work in a variety of settings. They might choose to work in a large emergency and referral hospital like Hope Veterinary Specialists. This environment is often faster paced and higher stress; the hours are also less “standard,” as shifts around the clock must be covered. Or, technicians might choose to work at a small, private practice where they grow along with their patients and clients, ensuring pets are up to date on required shots, have preventative testing, and are generally happy and healthy. Other veterinary technicians might choose to work with large animals at facilities such as equine centers or dairy farms. Still others love the challenge of the laboratory environment, working with animals of all sizes. Opportunities may also exist with pharmaceutical and pet food companies.

No matter where they choose to work, veterinary technicians give their jobs their all. While certainly a positive trait, it can lead even the safest technician to not only bites, scratches, and back injuries but also to compassion fatigue. It’s important to keep in mind that the job is not all puppies and kittens. While there are some, days can be filled with aged (or even young) animals with a variety of health problems or with curious and energetic animals who have found their way into the path of oncoming vehicles—or other animals. Some technicians even see evidence of abuse. Also, euthanasia is a frequent, if not daily, occurrence.

But every technician entered the field as a result of their love for animals. Their primary goal is to keep each furry or scaled best friend at his or her best. So, if you see your favorite CVT, LVT, RVT, or technician this week, be sure to wish him or her a happy veterinary technician week! Your appreciation is the icing on the cake.

Hooray for Hollywood!


Hollywood, a 3-year old male castrated Abyssinian, came in to HVS for a day-long observation with Dr. Jennifer Bagshaw as a result of some minor neurological signs, but all throughout the visit, it was Hollywood who made everyone else feel better!

Hollywood is an extremely good looking cat, but it wasn’t so much his looks that got us hooked— it was his hugs. Whenever anyone knew showed up for her shift the day Hollywood stayed with us, someone already working inevitably said, “Have you been hugged by Hollywood yet?”

See, whenever anyone picked up Hollywood, he wrapped his front paws around that person’s neck and clung, just like a hug. Making this even sweeter is the fact that Hollywood would then take one of his paws and gently stroke the person’s hair!

All throughout the day, whenever anyone felt stressed or sad or just in the mood for some love, they paid a visit to Hollywood’s cage and took him out; Hollywood was always willing to oblige. Even Dr. Bagshaw got into the act, stopping by for a couple hugs throughout her busy day.

Hollywood’s owner was very pleased but not surprised by the news of Hollywood’s hugs and growing fan club. And, not at all surprising to us, she was unwilling to let us keep Hollywood as Hope VS’s unofficial therapy cat, though she did agree to stop with Hollywood for some hug sessions—though maybe for a small fee each!

We hope to see you again soon, Hollywood (for hugs only, that is)!

Interested in learning more about this breed? You can start at Petfinder.com for some basics: http://www.petfinder.com/cat-breeds/Abyssinian.

Back to School Blues


With kids back to school last month, you might be noticing something about your pet that you hadn’t expected. Is it possible he or she is experiencing back-to-school blues?

After spending months of long summer days with their pint-sized (or bigger!) best friends, dogs—and even cats—can get depressed. This might even be more true for companions of kids who have gone off to college.

Annd remember, if you are upset about a child’s departure—either for the day or for the semester—your pet will pick up on your feelings, too.

So, if you are noticing some recent-onset lethargy (or hyperactivity) in your pet, or even some vocalizing and mopey-ness, you might need to pay a little extra attention to your heartbroken furry friend. There are specific things you can do as well.

Exercise seems to be a good bet. As with people, exercise can stimulate endorphin release, and this can help improve mood.

Another step to take might be to provide your pet with an article of the child’s clothing, giving the animal a sense of comfort with a familiar scent.

(Similarly, clients whose pets need to stay at Hope Veterinary Specialists overnight often leave tee shirts or other items with them so they are surrounded by a familiar scent. This is fine with us, as long as you understand that with our huge laundry operation, should we need to wash your item, you may not ever see it again…)

As with so many other things, however, the answer to the problem is usually time. Give your dog or cat a bit to adjust to the new situation, and he or she will be just fine—and back to his or her self in no time!

(Idea for entry from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20625584/ns/health-pet_health/t/dogs-got-back-to-school-blues/

Dog reading image from http://www.theplayfulpup.com/2010/07/free-books-for-dog-owners-on-amazon.html)


Fluffy’s Blankets: It’s Never Too Late


While two years old, it’s never too late to spread the word about Fluffy’s Blankets. The following is a press release from Penn State University (Cooperative Extension in Chester County), originally sent out on May 10, 2010.

West Chester, PA:  May 10, 2010 – When a pet is sick, both the animal and the owner suffer discomfort, stress, and anxiety. A local group has created a novel program for providing comfort to pet owners and their beloved pets. Fluffy’s Blankets is a cooperative effort, sponsored by Friends Home in Kennett, the Girl Scouts of Eastern PA, and 4-H Creating Community Networks of Chester County Extension. It provides donated blankets and emotional support to pet owners with sick or injured animals.

“Fluffy’s Blankets is a community-inclusive project that involves all ages,” says Laurie Szoke, Extension Educator for 4-H Creating Community Networks, and a pet owner herself. “When one of my dogs was seriously injured, I saw the toll it took on me and realized that there was a need to support pet owners during difficult times.” Szoke found that comforting her dog in a blanket reassured her pet and quieted her own anxiety, which led to the idea for Fluffy’s Blankets. She approached several community leaders and found they were receptive to the idea.

The program is gaining momentum and earning attention from individuals and organizations that see an opportunity to help their community in a direct way. Dr. James Beach of Walnut Hill Veterinary Clinic in Avondale has agreed to serve as the Veterinary Medicine partner.

A Fluffy’s Blanket gift includes two blankets, a heating pad (seasonal), comfort food, gift coupon for a treat/cup of coffee at a local business and a personalized card from the giver to the recipient.

Sponsors are needed for heating pads and “coffee/tea/treat” coupons from local businesses. To learn more about how you can become involved in Fluffy’s Blankets as a donor or recipient, contact Patrice Bradour at 610-444-2577 ext. 212, or Laurie Szoke at 610-696-3500.

Veterinary Technician Specialists at Hope VS


Veterinary Technician Specialists
Credentialed veterinary technicians who want to expand their knowledge may choose to become a specialist. A vet tech specialist designation (VTS) requires a huge amount of work on the part of the technician and can include such things as logging thousands of clinical hours, organizing and submitting detailed case logs, and passing rigorous exams.

Hope Veterinary Specialists is proud to boast we have four vet tech specialists at our referral hospital with a few others in the works. Word is out that we have developed a great mentor program for other nurses in the area to gain their critical care experience with us and apply for this certification. We weren’t surprised by this piece of information: we’ve known all along we are home to the most dedicated and experienced nurses around!

Technicians who choose to specialize have many options to choose from (thanks to http://www.navta.net/index.php?section=specialties&page=specialties for the list):

Recently, another of our Emergency Services nurses, Samantha Frabizzio, earned the designation of specialist from the Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians after successfully submitting all required documentation and passing the exam. She joins the following staff members, who had previously earned this impressive title:

Brandy Terry, CVT (VTS, ECC)

Caryn McCleary, CVT (VTS, ECC)

Rachel Keyser, CVT (VTS, ECC)

Hope Veterinary Specialists strives to provide you and your pet with the best possible service, and if you’ve ever had the opportunity to interact with any our nurses, you know they are all compassionate, caring, and knowledgeable individuals. The VTS designation is that something extra that helps our nurses, and our hospital, stand out from the crowd!

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: Why Call?


Let’s say one day you walk in on your four-legged friend in the middle of devouring a loaf of raisin bread or you come home after an evening out to an empty and chewed up medicine bottle on the floor and your pet lying nearby. Maybe your cats, too, nibbled on some lilies. What do you do?

First, quickly gather up the evidence, including any packaging and vomit. Then, seek immediate assistance, even if your pet appears “normal.” Even in instances of poisoning, animals may act like themselves for many hours or days after ingestion.

If your pet is, in fact, acting normally, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) first: 1.888.426.4435, and be ready with the following information:

  • Species, breed, age, sex, and weigh for all animals involved
  • Symptoms, if any
  • Information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount involved, and the time elapsed since the time of exposure
  • Product container/packaging, for reference

Be ready to follow the guidance you are given, which may include paying us a visit. Further, please note there is a $65.00 consultation fee for the APCC service, but the information you are given may very well be the difference between life and death for your pet.

It is very important to note that if your animal is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious, or is having difficulty breathing, telephone us immediately and bring your pet right in!

After you arrive at HVS with your pet whom you think ingested something potentially dangerous, after we triage him or her, we will likely ask you to call the APCC if you haven’t already. While it is true that HVS is an emergency and specialty hospital ready for any pet emergency, the APCC has specially trained veterinary toxicologists on duty 24 hours a day. Additionally, the APCC has a veterinary database that stores more than one million animal cases involving pesticide, drug, plant, metal, and other exposures, all of which can be readily accessed to help them—and us—help you and your pet. Please note that even if you call from our facility, the APCC consultation fee wil still apply.

Once you speak with the APCC, you will be provided a cas number. Please provide this to a member of the HVS team, as this allows our doctors to then call APCC with further information gained from your pet’s physical exam as well as continually and thoroughly follow up on your case.

So, while it may be difficult to understand why HVS needs information from outside our hospital, our being in contact with toxicology specialists who are also familiar with the specifics of your particular case only serve to provide you and your pet the best possible care.

Stories of Hope: Franklin


When Franklin, an approximately 10-year old male castrated Labrador retriever mix, presented to Dr. Jennifer Bagshaw, HVS‘s internist, his owners were at a loss. For more than a year, Franklin had been vomiting at nearly the same time, 3:30 am, two to three times a week. During the day, Franklin was his usual (or, in Frank’s case, unusual!) self, aside from a retching cough several times a day that often ended in a full-blown gag. He had no diarrhea, no loss of appetite, no lethargy.

Over the past year, Franklin had visited his primary care veterinarian, who tried various medications, none of which helped; he was referred for a cardiology consult, from which he emerged a nearly perfect specimen of cardiac health. At one point, someone suggested his radiographs showed a mass in his lung; a second and third opinion with radiologists wholeheartedly discredited this. Franklin next saw an internist at another facility who suggested he eat nothing but a hypoallergenic food and so he began to, and, after months of waking up to the all-too-familiar sounds of Franklin vomiting, his owners were thrilled to sleep through the night and perhaps have gotten to the bottom of the problem: a food allergy! Or was it? Four months after eating nothing but his hypoallergenic food (snack time equaled this same food in his Kong toy), the 3:30 am vomiting began again and with increased frequency, up to four times a week. It was at this point that Franklin came to HVS to meet Dr. Bagshaw.

After ordering and then reviewing blood work, more radiographs, and an abdominal ultrasound, all of which were normal, and after speaking at length with his owners about Franklin’s behaviors (vomit- and otherwise), Dr. Bagshaw suggested an (upper gastrointestinal tract) endoscopy, which would allow visualization of his esophagus and parts of his stomach.

The endoscopy was performed a couple weeks later under general anesthesia, and the scope showed that Franklin had a very red, very inflamed stomach, likely indicative of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but only biopsy results, from samples retrieved during the scope, could confirm the diagnosis, which they did just a few days later.

It’s been about six months since Franklin’s endoscopy, which means it’s been six months since his strict regimen of IBD medications began: In his case, metoclopramide, sucralfate, and prednisone. There’s been a lot of trial and error in regard to these medications and their dosages and frequency; for example, for Franklin, one sucralfate a day is not enough, and because his vomit was almost always his undigested dinner, he gets the metoclopramide, a gastric motility drug.

And, it’s been six months since Franklin last vomited.  (Ok, well, that’s not entirely true: Our friend Franklin got into the trash about a month ago and then visited our emergency team to induce vomiting to prevent any negative repercussions of that adventure. Thankfully, we were successful.) Franklin and his family thank Dr. Bagshaw and the internal medicine team for their help, and Franklin vows to do his best to stay out of the trash can…

The Blood Donor Program at HVS


There are many conditions that may necessitate dogs receive (whole) blood transfusions, including those who are hemorrhaging or have a clotting disorder. So that HVS is sure to have donors on hand when blood is needed (the shelf life of whole blood is just 4 hours!), we have our own in-house blood donor program.

To be a canine donor, dogs must

  • Have a good temperament
  • Weigh at least 50 pounds
  • Be between 1 and 8 years old
  • Be in excellent general health
  • Be available to donate 4 times a year
  • Be up to date on routine vaccinations
  • Be on heartworm and flea and tick preventatives

A dog will not be allowed to donate blood if he or she has been recently sick (coughing, sneezing, vomiting, having diarrhea) or has serious health condition; was or will be vaccinated within 4 weeks of the donation; has received a transfusion him- or herself; has had recent surgery (within 1 month); has donated a unit of blood in the previous 6 weeks; is in season, pregnant, or going to be bred; is on medication (other than preventatives); or is fed a raw diet.

All potential donors have their blood type determined, are given a complete physical exam, and are screened for metabolic and infectious diseases through the following blood tests: CBC/Chemistry, Babesia, Erlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme, and heartworm.

If accepted into the program, the donor dog goes on a list, and when another dog comes in who needs that donor dog’s type of blood, the call goes out and the dog comes in, giving blood for the sick dog’s tranfusion—and getting lots of love and gratitude in return.

Canine Heartworm Disease


Heartworm disease in dogs, caused by Dirofilaria immitis, used to be primarily thought of as a disease of the southeastern and Gulf coast areas of the United States, but in recent years, it has spread to nearly all parts of the country.

Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes, who ingest microfilariae (immature parasites/larvae) from the blood of an infected dog. The larvae then mature in the mosquito and become “infective,” which, after entering another dog through the bite of this same mosquito, can cause “heartworm disease.” First, the larva migrate to tissue, muscle, or fat, and approximately 110 days later and after two molts in the dog’s body, young adult heartworms have made their way to the infected dog’s heart.

Heartworm can be detected in few different ways. Your veterinarian can look for microfilariae in a dog’s blood; these microfilariae do not circulate in a dog’s blood, however, until 6-7 months after initial infection. Or, he or she can run a test that will detect heartworm antigens in a dog’s serum. Because up to 65% of dogs with heartworm disease may not have circulating microfilariae, serum testing is often the preferred method. Radiographs (“X-rays”) or ultrasounds may show signs of the disease as well. As for symptoms, dogs who have been recently infected may show none, while dogs who are heavily infected may have a mild, persistent cough; exercise-related fatigue; lethargy; reduced appetite; and weight loss.

Treatment is threefold: 1.) Kill the adult heartworms (adulticide) in the heart and blood vessels; 2.) Kill any circulating microfilaria (microfilaricide); and 3.) Provide preventative medication. Adulticide therapy is achieved with melarasomine dihydrochloride (Immiticide®), an arsenical compound, which, depending on the severity and progression of the disease, is given up to a handful of times intramuscularly in the epaxial muscles of the lumbar region (that is, in the dog’s back muscles), from between 24 hours to sometimes months apart. Adult heartworms will die slowly in the 2-3 weeks following each injection. Microfilaricide begins a few weeks after adulticide therapy. Ivermectin (for example, Heartgard®) is often the chosen treatment for this step.

Thromboembolism is a major concern when treating for heartworm disease; fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood may be seen in dogs in whom the worms die and pass to their lungs, causing pulmonary embolism.  Aspirin therapy may be recommended for dogs with severe disease to help ward off this life-threatening complication. Also to help prevent this complication in all treated dogs, strict cage rest is advised for at least 4 weeks after each injection. 

Remember, preventative once a month, every month, is key to protecting your dog—and sparing yourself and your pet the often painful, always frustrating, and occasionally life-threatening treatment that follows a heartworm positive diagnosis.

For more information, visit the American Heartworm Society at http://www.heartwormsociety.org/.

Stories of Hope: Rudy


Rudy, an 11-year-old male neutered Dachshund, saw his primary veterinarian in mid-April of 2009 because of vomiting and diarrhea. At that time, he was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and prescribed medications for his gastrointestinal system. It is important to note that at that visit, Rudy’s skin was completely normal.

A week later, Rudy started to have some crusting on his ears; the following week, he developed much more severe crusting on his ears, foot pads, and abdomen–and he was still vomiting. Antibiotic therapy had no effect.

So, on April 28, 2009, Rudy visited the Emergency Services department at HVS and was referred immediately to our Dermatology department. The dermatology team did skin biopsies, which revealed an immune-mediated disease known as Pemphigus foliaceus (PF). Also during Rudy’s visit, the team learned that Rudy had been on Promeris, a topical flea/tick medication.

Rudy was prescribed prednisone (a steroid) and azathioprine an immune-system suppressant), and by the end of May of 2009, he showed dramatic improvement. By September of that year, Rudy was able to be weaned off the azathioprine and maintained on the prednisone. Rudy last visited the Dermatology department at HVS in May of 2011, and he is still doing great!

Promeris, the topical flea/tick medication Rudy was on, was removed from the market in 2011 because it had been linked to causing PF in multiple dogs. Rudy is extra special in that he was the Dermatology department’s first case of Promeris-related PF, and, clearly, he counts as one of their most successful cases!

Thank you, Derm team!



Welcome to the Hope Veterinary Specialists’ blog. We’re glad you found us; after all, we’re here for you and your beloved pets 24 hours a day!

To begin, we have a new name. While our name used to be Animal Care and Specialty Group (ACCSG), a lot of people (mistakenly) knew us as the Veterinary Referral Center, or “VRC,” and that’s part of the reason we’ve started this blog: we thought it was high time you get to know the real us! And, to that end, we’ve changed our name to Hope Veterinary Specialists to better reflect our mission.

Here’s a bit more explanation: It’s true that Hope Veterinary Specialists (HVS) is currently located within VRC, but HVS is actually its own individual entity. Here is how it works: “VRC” is the overarching name of a building that houses several businesses, including those providing soft tissue and orthopedic surgeries to small animals, for instance. And, as we’ve mentioned, one of those individual businesses is HVS, formerly ACCSG, the region’s leader in advanced veterinary medical care for dogs and cats. That’s us!

We provide 24-hour emergency and critical care 7 days a week, along with a variety of board certified specialists to help your pet with his or her healthcare needs. From cardiology to dermatology, internal medicine to radiology, we have the skilled doctors and experienced nurses you need to put your mind at ease—and your pets in the best possible hands.

Check back here often for updates on HVS and our people, along with some other interesting post topics, too, including those featuring patient stories and updates, charitable information, disease explanations, pet health tips, and more.

While we hope you never need us, if you do, we’re here: 340 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern. And, you can reach us at any hour of any day at 610.296.2099.