PVH equine ambulatory veterinarian Dr. Travis McKinzie recently wrote an article about equine first aid for the Washington State Quarter Horse Association newsletter. We've shared his article below and hope you find this informative!

Here are a few pointers on when to call a veterinarian and what to do until he or she gets there. Colic, lacerations and choke are just a few hot topics. We will cover more in another issue.


Colic simply means abdominal pain, but for horses, this is an emergency because of their very long intestinal tract. Signs include pawing, kicking or biting at side, going down, rolling (without shaking off), not eating, etc. Call your vet and try to keep your horse from rolling until your horse can be seen. You may have to walk your horse or trailer him or her to keep the horse from rolling. Banamine is a useful drug, but your vet should be consulted before giving it because it can mask some of the signs for the exam and the IV form is better if your vet can see your horse quickly. If the vet visit will be delayed, then he or she will often have you give it. A general rule of thumb is that if a colic requires banamine, it should also be seen and stomach tubed.


Lacerations are inevitable with horses. If the cut is suturable, it is generally best if this occurs within four hours. Do not put powders, creams, etc. into a wound that you want sutured. Cleaning the wound with saline and applying K-Y Jelly to keep the wound from getting recontaminated is good as the K-Y is water-soluble and will allow for any dirt or hair to be more easily flushed out. Also remember that “proud flesh” is nothing more than a good healing mechanism (granulation tissue) gone to excess. Anything that kills proud flesh stops healing tissue that is needed in the early stages of wound healing. These products should be used only after granulation has filled in the wound defects. Granulation can be handled by trimming if need be. Tetanus needs to be up to date and antibiotics will likely be needed. If you see white in the wound (bone, tendon or ligament), this wound is more urgent.


Choke sometimes resembles colic as your horse may become very distressed. This is a plug of feedstuff in the esophagus that the horse cannot swallow. The difficulty breathing is that saliva (or water the horse drinks) will build up and the horse cannot swallow it. Pronounced coughing and nasal discharge with feed mixed in are the major signs. It is OK to delay veterinary treatment a couple of hours for choke. You will need to walk the horse some to relieve the distress and massage the lower neck and throat area to help your horse resolve this on its own. However, if not clearing within two hours, it is important to get treatment. Injury to the esophagus and aspiration pneumonia are complications that are possible if you wait too long. Also, treating these is a messy process, so be prepared to get coughed on.

In any case, having a good relationship with your veterinarian ahead of emergencies is very important. Have contact/emergency numbers accessible.


Dr. McKinzie's Equine First Aid Presentation (PDF)
From a Recent Horse Owner Education Seminar

By Travis McKinzie, DVM, Equine Ambulatory Department

Located in Snohomish, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital offers ambulatory, referral and 24/7 emergency care. Call 360.568.3111 or visit pilchuckvet.com for more information.  

Ella, Orion and Bromethalin Toxicity

Being hospitalized isn’t ALL that bad ... because sometimes we get to play in the sunshine!

Recently two pups from different families – Ella (4-month-old Labradoodle) and Orion (1-year-old Akita) – thought it would be a good idea to get into some tasty rat bait.

Although it may be yummy, rat bait can contain a neurotoxin called bromethalin, which can be very dangerous for any animal that ingests it.

All types of rodenticides are potentially toxic to any mammal, not just the species targeted by the rodenticide use.

Luckily both of these fur kids were treated right away; prompt and appropriate treatment is critical. Ella and Orion spent a few days with us in the hospital – having some fun as you can see! – and fortunately were able to go home happy and healthy.


via the AVMA

Kudos to PVH veterinary team member Kay St. Aubin for the post and for capturing the pawsome photos of Orion & Ella!

At Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital, we have veterinarians and staff available 24 hours a day to help with your animal companion's emergencies. We also consult with and refer to specialty hospitals for advanced care when necessary. If you have any questions as to whether your pet’s issue requires immediate attention, our doctors and highly skilled technicians are always just a phone call away: 360.568.9111 for 24/7 veterinary ER in Snohomish.

Pet First Aid: A Primer for Pet Parents

April Is Pet First Aid Awareness Month

For those of us with pets, pet first aid may not be a subject that often crosses our minds. But when it does, it is usually due to an all-too-interesting situation, because our animal friends love to get themselves into some of those.

Boiled down to the basics, pet first aid is not that different from human first aid. But there are some big differences to be aware of:

#1: Dogs and cats (most of them, anyway!) have fur.
This makes wound care a bit more difficult. Generally, please don't try to use scissors on your pet's fur; even experienced groomers and vet staff can occasionally have accidents and cut the skin. It is usually fine to do an initial cleaning with warm water and/or hydrogen peroxide (alcohol stings, but is safe to use if tolerated) but leave further clipping and cleaning of a wound to your veterinarian, as soon as you can get to one.

Protecting the wound until it can be further treated makes sense to keep out bugs in the environment and to prevent self-trauma. Especially if there is some bleeding, covering with a temporary bandage or applying firm and steady pressure for at least 1 to 2 minutes, or longer for severe hemorrhage, will help speed clotting. Basic supplies for a bandage can be as simple as paper towels and scotch tape, in a pinch, or sterile gauze held in place by medical adhesive or elastic tape from your (hopefully well-stocked) first aid kit. The major thing to know about home or field-placed bandages is not to overly constrict what you are bandaging, as this can cause far worse complications than the initial injury (constriction leads to loss of blood flow and oxygen, and amputation in the most severe cases). And realize that what you put on will need to be taken off at the vet, so try to avoid the duct tape (but actually, if it is all you have, it gets the job done).

#2: Dogs and cats walk around barefoot, all the time ...
... so foot injuries, penetrating wounds, foreign bodies, infections and torn toenails are much more common for them than in people. Some of these are extremely painful, and your pet may not tolerate your touching anything close to the foot. Small animals instinctively guard their feet unless trained to allow handling for the most part, more so when they are painful. This would indicate you need to get your pet to a vet quickly to have him or her examined under proper physical or chemical restrain (i.e., sedation or anesthesia). This is sometimes not only more comfortable and less stressful for your pet, but may help prevent a lifelong fear of the vet clinic or of having their feet handled in general. (We all know a few dogs who have to have the groomer or veterinary staff trim their toenails because it takes a group effort of professional restrainers or sedation every time.)

#3: Dogs (and some cats) are indiscriminate eaters.
This means that anything, and I mean anything, is game for mouthing. We pull everything from sticks and other plant parts, underwear, knives from the birthday cake, fish hooks, tennis balls, porcupine quills, you name it, from their mouths and further down the GI tract (stomach and intestines).

Drooling, dropping food, or holding the head or neck positioned abnormally can be signs of something lodged in an odd corner of the mouth or throat. Items can migrate to some very interesting locations, which are not always straightforward to find. If the pet has swallowed something that passes into the stomach or somewhere along the intestinal tract, vomiting or pain and general malaise can follow. Inappetance (a decrease in appetite) to full-blown anorexia (refusal to eat anything) is common, as well as eating or drinking and throwing it up, whether after every meal or only some meals, sometimes right afterwards, sometimes hours later, and whether food appears digested or less so. Some will drink water but often not enough to meet hydration requirements, especially if they lose fluids through vomiting or diarrhea.

Edible foods also can make them quite ill (ever have a rough time following an outing to a spicy Indian or Mexican restaurant?). And don't forget food "poisoning" or ingestion of a large enough quantity of disease-causing bacteria that thrive in the environment of the intestines to overwhelm the immune system. Many of these produce toxins, the most severe and luckily not as common ones even causing toxic shutdown of multiple organs and death within 48 hours.

Inedible foods can be life-threatening, depending on the specific item’s potential to cause obstruction or other complications. And just because your pet has not done it before does not mean he or she will not do it for the first time, at any age.

#4: Last but most importantly, dogs and cats can’t tell us when something’s wrong.  
It seems too obvious to need stating, but sometimes owners don’t understand why, as vets, we will focus in on a tiny detail of history that the owners give us. Sometimes we are extremely lucky to catch an early sign that something is wrong. If you notice any physical abnormality or sense something unusual in any aspect of your pet's behavior, it's best to trust your intuition and pay attention.

Stocking a Pet First Aid Kit

The American Veterinary Medical Association has a very helpful list for stocking your pet first aid kit. I personally also like to assess what activities your pet typically does, and if you include your pet in travel plans or do specific things like agility, hunting, hiking and camping, you may want to have a smaller or activity-specific version of your first aid kit packed separately. Keeping a car first aid kit for yourself and the family can also include any additional pet first aid kit supplies you might need for on-the-go mishaps. The good news is that stocking a pet first aid kit is very similar to stocking your own, so by preparing for your pet’s medical benefit, you are also helping to be aware of things you might need for you and your family.

Here is the list from the AVMA (further details and lots of other great resources are available here: https://www.avma.org/public/EmergencyCare/Pages/First-Aid-Tips-for-Pet-Owners.aspx):

  • Phone numbers for your regular family vet, the local emergency vet (if you are traveling, it is good to research this ahead of time), and the animal poison control hotline phone numbers (animal poison control: 888-4ANI-HELP or 888-426-4435)
  • Gauze squares and roll gauze in a variety of sizes
  • Nonstick bandages, towels or strips of clean cloth for covering wounds 
  • Adhesive tape for securing bandages (white medical tape found at any pharmacy, because band-aids don’t work well for dogs or cats ... remember that whole not having hair thing?)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (a great first-time cleaning for a wound and helps remove blood really well, but don’t use during the healing process). You may also use this to induce vomiting in dogs (not cats), if you cannot get to the vet, although it is very irritating to your pet’s stomach. Give about 1-2 tablespoons per 10#, but not over 3 tablespoons total in larger dogs. Never induce vomiting if they have ingested something sharp, or a caustic chemical-type toxin (like bleach or acid). Always contact your veterinarian or local poison control center before inducing vomiting or treating an animal for poison.
  • Digital thermometer. The most accurate temperature is a rectal temperature, and some pets will allow their owners to take one, although it may take a second person to help gently restrain. You can also take one in the axilla (armpit) but it is 1-2 degrees cooler than the rectal temperature and is less accurate. Normal temperatures vary and are slightly higher in cats, but over 103F is usually suspicious for a fever. My favorite is the Vicks Speed Read with the flexible tip.
  • Eye dropper or syringes for administering/measuring medications (smaller sizes). Larger sizes are also good to have around for certain medications and for flushing wounds. Sterile saline is my favorite solution for flushing wounds, but an improvement over tap water is a very dilute iodine or chlorhexidine/Nolvasan solution in water, which are easily found at the pharmacy.
  • Muzzle. If a pet has suffered a painful injury, placing a muzzle may be the safest option for all involved, especially if the nature of the injury requires you to physically handle the painful part of the body before you can get to the vet. If your pet is vomiting, please don’t place a muzzle as that could cause him or her to choke or aspirate.
  • Leash. You also never know when you might get caught without a leash, so even just a compact braided nylon slip lead can come in handy.
  • Stretcher. For a small dog or cat, the bottom of a plastic kennel/crate is adequate (so have a removable top, ideally). For a medium to large dog, a large blanket or dog mattress could be used with a person on each end (or a person on each corner if you need extra heft), but realize this won’t give as much stability as an actual stretcher or a large board, a door, etc.
  • Medications. There are a few over-the-counter medications that are safe to use in a variety of emergency situations and unlikely to cause harm even if used unnecessarily. Talk with your veterinarian about which medications would be appropriate for your pet's first aid kit. Please do not give over-the-counter medications in place of taking your pet to a veterinarian promptly for evaluation. Important note: Don’t ever give your pets human pain medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen because they are toxic. Cats and dogs are unable to process these drugs the same way humans do. An example of a safe use of human OTC medication would be to give Benadryl at a dose of 1mg per pound of body weight by mouth up to every 8 hours in the event of a suspected allergic reaction (sudden appearance of hives, facial swelling, sudden severe itchiness and or skin redness, or also following a bee or wasp sting to prevent an allergic reaction from occurring). The Benadryl alone may not control the reaction, however, so it is given to reduce signs as much as possible while coming ASAP to the animal ER.

By Holly Droske, DVM, PVH Small-Animal Emergency Department

At Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital, we have veterinarians and staff available 24 hours a day to help with your animal companion's emergencies. We also consult with and refer to specialty hospitals for advanced care when necessary. If you have any questions as to whether your pet’s issue requires immediate attention, our doctors and highly skilled technicians are always just a phone call away: 360.568.9111 for 24/7 veterinary ER in Snohomish.

Spring Ahead With These Seasonal Safety Tips for Your Pet

This Sunday, March 20, we can officially welcome spring! While almost everyone loves the onset of springtime, the season arrives with its own hazards for pets. With that in mind AND National Poison Prevention Week also beginning on the 20th, we've compiled a listing of spring pet safety tips so you and your animal friends can enjoy the season to its fullest:

Gardening Poisons

In our part of the country, we emergency veterinarians see many pets hospitalized for ingesting slug and snail baits that contain metaldehyde. This particular substance causes seizures if ingested. Prompt treatment is needed to save your pet’s life. Compost also contains mold compounds that lead to seizures. If you do compost, keep the pets away!

Easter Lilies

Those beautiful white trumpets that many people buy this time of year – along with some of their cousins that aren’t necessarily white – can lead to severe kidney failure and death in cats. This is one of those poisons where you don’t want to wait to see how your cat does. Prompt and aggressive treatment is necessary. If you live with cats, keep lilies out of your home!

Via the AAFP


Not all those chocolate Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies will be found by the children! Some will be found by your dog, either in the yard, in the house, and, in some instances, in your car on the way home from the grocery store! Chocolate – especially baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate – is toxic to pets no matter what the season.

Daffodils, Jonquils, Narcissus

Most of us are excited to see these bloom this time of the year. Most animals will not readily eat these leaves, which can look like thick blades of grass. However, some dogs and cats will attempt to play with them, and we know that cats and dogs sometimes chew on things they play with. These plants contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause severe internal swelling of the throat and, if severe enough, will stop your pet from breathing if the throat swells shut.

The Easter Ham, Turkey, Roast

No matter what you are feasting on, keep it out of reach of your pet! Things can sometimes get a little hectic with family and friends over. If you leave a tempting dish unattended on the counter or table ... or even in an easily accessed garbage can, chances are it will be devoured by your furry friend. Dramatic changes in diet such as gorging on the Easter ham can cause gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis. Also: Watch out for any bones!

By Joe Musielak, DVM, PVH Small-Animal Emergency Department

Related Resources

When MRI May Be Helpful in Equine Lameness: Three Case Examples

This is the second part of Dr. Greg Haines' article on MRI for horses. Read part one of the article.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be indicated when a lameness has been localized to a specific region, generally through diagnostic nerve or joint blocks. Through limitations, other imaging modalities (X-rays, ultrasound, bone scan) may have failed to determine a specific diagnosis.

MRI has greatly advanced our diagnostic capabilities particularly within the equine foot. Common injuries within the foot that have been diagnosed with MRI include deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) injuries and navicular bone degeneration. Below are specific examples when MRI was helpful diagnostically. The first two deal with the foot, the third with the proximal metatarsus (Mt3) – cannon bone/hock.

Case #1

A mare presented with a seven-week history of forelimb lameness that failed to improve. There were no obvious clinical findings and no response to solar hoof tester placement. The lameness was worsened when the mare trotted in a circle. She showed minimal improvement to a palmar digital nerve block (blocks the heel area and sole of the foot) and was essentially sound after an abaxial sesamoid nerve block (blocks from the fetlock to the foot). X-rays failed to identify any specific abnormalities. Given the chronicity and lack of improvement, an MRI was undertaken. A marked DDFT lesion was diagnosed by MRI.

Case #2

This horse had only a two-week history of forelimb lameness that was also worsened by trotting in a circle. Again, specific abnormalities on initial examination were not noted. The lameness essentially resolved after a palmar digital nerve block and radiographs failed to provide a specific diagnosis. MRI evaluation revealed marked navicular degeneration characterized by a flexor cortex erosion.

Case #3

This horse had a two-month history of right rear lameness that was localized to the area of the proximal metatarsus (Mt3) – cannon bone/hock. The horse displayed a mild improvement to a lateral plantar nerve block (blocked the area of the proximal cannon bone – suspensory ligament), but a significant improvement was noted after a tibial peroneal nerve block (blocked the area of the hock). Radiographs failed to identify any significant abnormalities. An ultrasound evaluation of proximal Mt3 demonstrated proximal suspensory ligament enlargement. A bone scan of the rear limbs was considered normal. The horse was rested and had extracorporeal shock wave therapy performed to the area of the proximal suspensory ligament without any clinical improvement. An MRI evaluation revealed enlargement of the origin of the suspensory ligament with disruption of the medial bundle. The area of the hock was ruled out as a potential source of lameness.

In each instance, a specific treatment plan was initiated and a more accurate long-term prognosis for soundness was provided. It is important to remember that MRI is not a survey technique or a substitute for a thorough clinical investigation, including conventional imaging modalities. The interpretation of MRI findings is greatly enhanced by the information obtained from these evaluations. It is clearly not indicated in all situations, but may be considered in selected cases through consultation with your veterinarian.


Article written by Greg Haines, DVM, DACVS

Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital offers comprehensive diagnostic imaging options, including MRI, video endoscopy, high-resolution ultrasound and more. Please call 360.568.3111 for more information.

Update on the Dog Flu and Vaccine Options

You may have heard about the recent outbreak of a new type of “dog flu” affecting pets across the country. This highly contagious and, for some dogs, potentially serious respiratory infection is caused by canine influenza virus H3N2, or CIV H3N2 for short.

Chances are, if your dog is exposed to CIV H3N2, he or she may become infected.

Dogs that are frequently in contact with other dogs may be at high risk of infection with CIV H3N2.

This includes dogs that: 

  • are boarded
  • are enrolled in day care, or 
  • often visit the local dog park. 

If you have a puppy, elderly or pregnant dog or a dog that is immunocompromised, you should take extra precautions.

The good news is that PVH now has a vaccine available to help control disease associated with CIV H3N2.

We also have a vaccine, Vanguard® CIV, that has been available for several years for another type of canine influenza, CIV H3N8, which is capable of causing severe respiratory disease in dogs as well. 

Vaccination against both types of CIV (H3N2 and H3N8) helps to ensure maximum protection.

Please call us at 360.568.3113 to discuss your dog’s risk for CIV (H3N2 and H3N8).

This is particularly important if you plan to board your dog in the near future or regularly send him or her to a grooming or day care facility. 

We’ll answer your questions about dog flu and help you to decide whether vaccination is right for your pet. You can also visit dogflufacts.com for more information.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Horse

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed, various plane, cross-sectional images. It allows a simultaneous examination of both bone and soft-tissue structures and can identify injuries to tendons and ligaments as well as bones and joints. Generally, MRI is limited to the lower part of the limbs, meaning up to and including the carpus, or knee, and hock.

MRI was first performed on live horses in 1997 at Washington State University. As its availability has become more commonplace, MRI has increasingly become the gold standard for the diagnosis of musculoskeletal injuries of the distal limb. It has become especially helpful in the equine foot, a particularly common site of lameness where other imaging techniques are sometimes limited. 

MRI is indicated when a lameness problem has been localized to a specific anatomic area, generally through diagnostic nerve or joint blocks. Through limitations, other imaging modalities (X-rays, ultrasound, bone scan) may have failed to provide a specific diagnosis. MRI is also useful in interpreting the significance of findings that were previously identified, particularly those that have responded poorly to treatment. It is not a survey technique or a substitute for a thorough clinical investigation, including conventional imaging modalities. The interpretation of MRI findings is enhanced by the information obtained from these previous clinical examinations.

Front and/or rear shoes need to be removed prior to the exam depending on which limb/limbs are being imaged. Metal produces MRI image artifacts, significantly affecting image quality. If an examination of the feet is being performed, the feet are generally radiographed prior to the exam. This confirms that any metal from a nail has not been left behind in the hoof. If present, its removal is facilitated by this finding.

MRI examinations may be performed in a standing (low-field MRI) or recumbent (high-field MRI) position. Standard protocols result in the generation of hundreds of very detailed images that require time and specialized training for interpretation. Horses placed in lateral recumbency (down) require general anesthesia. Examinations take approximately an hour and a half. Those performed under general anesthesia generally image both the clinical and the opposite (“normal”) limb for comparison purposes. Time constraints with respect to sedation and keeping the horse still make this much more difficult in the standing individual. Younger or fractious individuals may not be able to be kept quiet enough to perform this procedure standing. Individuals undergoing general anesthesia are generally dropped off the day prior to the procedure for preanesthetic blood work and nail check radiographs, if required. Horses typically spend the night of the exam under observation before being discharged the following day. 

The main disadvantages of MRI involve cost, its somewhat limited availability, the limited accessibility to areas above the distal limbs (head, neck, stifle), and the need for general anesthesia in high-field magnets. The accurate evaluation of cartilage lesions using MRI in the distal limbs of horses remains difficult. 

MRI has greatly advanced our diagnostic capabilities and has enabled us to prescribe more focused treatments and more accurate prognosis. It is certainly not indicated in all situations, but may be considered in selected cases through consultation with your veterinarian.

Stay tuned: Dr. Haines is writing a follow-up post with MRI case study examples. 

Article written by Greg Haines, DVM, DACVS

Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital offers comprehensive diagnostic imaging options, including MRI, video endoscopy, high-resolution ultrasound and more. Please call 360.568.3111 for more information.

Kick Off the New Year in Good Health

Resolution time is here once again. Just as you may be setting health-related goals for yourself, consider doing the same for your pets! What can you do to start being proactive about Fluffy’s or Fido’s health today?

Diet Time?

A healthy weight is as important to pets as it is to people. Obesity predisposes animals to arthritis and can cause cats to develop diabetes among other problems. If you think your pet is overweight, contact your veterinarian to discuss a safe, effective diet and exercise plan as well as a healthy target weight.

Pet Oral Health

An often overlooked area in preventive health care for pets is dental care. Consider brushing your pet’s teeth three times a week. Are you likely to be defeated by your pet’s cunning toothbrush avoidance tactics? If so, integrate appropriate dental care treats and chews into your pet’s diet to promote good dental health.

Microchip Musts

Although microchips are a great way to reunite you with a lost pet, they must be maintained properly to be effective. When your pet is found and his or her microchip is scanned, the microchip company will contact you ... but if your contact information is out of date, the microchip is useless! Check with your microchip company to make sure your contact information is current.

Disaster Preparedness

Just as you might put together a disaster preparedness or emergency kit for your family, do the same for your pet. Make sure you have fresh water and pet food on hand in the event of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to have some pet first aid items available in case your pet sustains an injury.

Stay Active

January is Walk Your Pet Month, but you may be less inclined to spend time outdoors depending on the prevailing weather conditions. Regardless, walks are very important because they provide enrichment for dogs, and the exercise is good for maintaining their weight and joint health. Keep older pets mobile by taking shorter walks more frequently – mild to moderate low-impact activity is beneficial for arthritic joints.

These are some useful tips to help guide you and your pets to your healthiest year yet. Regardless of what you do, being proactive with your pet’s health is key! From all of us at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital, we wish you and your pets good health.  

Article written by Andrew Rocco, DVM

Located in Snohomish, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital offers comprehensive and 24/7 emergency care: 360.568.3113

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Your Horse

(From a Veterinarian’s Point of View)

Each year, you make a New Year’s resolution for yourself, but what about what you could be doing for your horse? Your trainer wants you to work on half passes, sliding stops, higher jumps or whatever your discipline may be ... but what does your veterinarian want you to focus on?

  1. Weight: Maintaining your horse’s weight, whether you have an easy-keeper or thin horse, should be high on this year’s priority list. Overweight horses are predisposed to conditions such as equine metabolic syndrome and laminitis. Laminitis can be very difficult to manage and can be career-ending and potentially even life-threatening. For thin horses, the root cause of the problem can be even trickier to diagnose. Is it nutritional, dental or due to another serious disease such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (equine Cushing’s) or cancer?
  2. Dental care: On average, it is recommended that you have your horse’s mouth examined and floated once yearly. Skipping years of oral balancing, performed during the dental float, can potentially lead to serious misalignments such as creating jaw-locking steps, painful hooks and significant periodontal disease.
  3. Preventive care: The importance of vaccines cannot be stressed enough. Did you know that the best time of year to vaccinate for Eastern/Western encephalitis and West Nile is in the spring and early summer? These neurologic diseases are carried by mosquitoes, so it is best to boost your horse’s immunity to these prior to bug season. Another component of preventive care is parasite control. A vast majority of equine parasites are actually carried by a small percentage of horses. Fecal floats quantify how much an individual horse is affected by parasites and have completely changed deworming protocols. Now, deworming is tailored to the individual horse to prevent parasite resistance through unnecessary deworming.
  4. Senior care: Horses are frequently living longer, and our retirees start to require more medical care as they age. Common issues that need to be addressed include deteriorating ligaments and arthritis pain, loose teeth, weight/dietary management, and diseases such as Cushing’s and equine metabolic syndrome.
  5. Regular exercise: Busy schedules create horses that are “weekend warriors” – horses that are ridden hard on the weekends and do minimal work during the week. This makes it hard for horses to build up cardiovascular and muscle strength, and can also predispose them to injury in joints, ligaments and muscles. Could you get out to the barn for a longeing session in the middle of the week?

This year, make it your New Year’s resolution to improve your horse’s health. Buckle down on getting your fat horse trimmed down or your thin horse beefed up. Make it your mission to address dental and preventive care. Start a conversation with your veterinarian on how you can help your older horse’s arthritis or if you need to begin testing for diseases such as Cushing’s. Go the extra mile and put another workout in on your horse. Your equine friend will be sure to thank you later!

Article written by Liana Wiegel, DVM

Located in Snohomish, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital offers equine ambulatory care, referral hospital services and 24/7 emergency. Call 360.568.3111 to schedule a consultation with one of our equine practitioners.

Common Christmas Pet Traps and Pitfalls, and How to Avoid Them!

This year, put your money into your children's (or your own) stockings ... and not into your local veterinary ER! As much as we love to stay busy in our ER, we would rather not have your holiday memories dimmed by an ill-fated accident during the most wonderful time of the year.

What is there to fear?

Several areas of concern quickly come to mind for most longtime pet owners, as well as for veterinary professionals. 

Foreign Bodies

This means typically non-digestible, well, anything. Christmas tree lights, tinsel, the string the popcorn is strung on (especially tasty!), presents, ribbon, wrapping paper, contents from guests' luggage or purses left unguarded, just to name a few. Often due to the house being full of guests and with lots of activity going on, owners are likely to be distracted and there tends to be more clutter lying around than usual.

Dietary Indiscretion

This can include foreign bodies, but usually when we use this phrase we are thinking of the snuck-under-the-dining-table pieces of turkey, the gravy licked off the well-meaning plate, or the chocolate bars you were going to melt down for making fudge. Typically, vomiting and diarrhea are very treatable with proper supportive care, but can be miserable and even fatal without treatment. And the mention of chocolate leads us to ...


  • Chocolate leads the pack here during the holidays. At low doses, baked goods with small amounts of chocolate in them, or one to two pieces of milk chocolate candy, can merely cause stomach and intestinal upset (vomiting/diarrhea), but in smaller patients and at higher doses, we can see heart issues and even seizures. The type of chocolate and the amount (in ounces or grams) and the weight of your pet are the most important pieces of information to call the ER with, if this does happen in your household.
  • Xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener, is also becoming an increasingly common toxin. It's not just in gum anymore – now it is even used in some peanut butter as well as other sugar-free products. This can cause such low blood sugar in dogs that they can go into a hypoglycemic coma and will not survive without a source of IV dextrose (i.e., medical sugar); they can also suffer liver complications. Make sure people check their purses SECURELY at the door. Most cases I have seen came from dogs that raided someone's purse.
  • Poinsettias are commonly referred to as toxic, but actually simply cause drooling and GI upset/irritation due to irritation of the mucous membranes. They can cause dermal irritation if the sap contacts the skin. With some supportive care, they not typically considered a lethal toxin. For skin contact, a bath with warm, soapy water should suffice.
  • Some less common, but still notable, toxins are macadamia nuts, mold toxins from compost/decaying food or organic material, and yeasted bread dough.

Interactions With the Pack

Putting several dogs or cats together who are not entirely used to each other is highly stressful (think about how you feel when you go over to your crowded in-laws' house!). Even pets that are used to each other may interact differently with other people or pets in the mix.

It is wise to separate cats altogether from dogs not in their own family (even if those dogs live with cats, they are different cats, which does matter when it comes to prey drive). If a dog growls or snaps, or the cat hisses or swats, they are actually giving a warning that they are uncomfortable. The best thing is to remove them from the stressful situation and give them space, rather than to chastise them. 

We here at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital sincerely hope we do NOT see you for any unexpected visits during this busy time of year! Hopefully, with some precautions, many of the above can be avoided. Accidents do happen to the best of us, so please call or come in if you have any concerns at any time.

Article written by Holly Droske, DVM

PVH offers 24/7 emergency care every day of the year, including holidays: 360.568.9111. Read more about our veterinary ER service in Snohomish for dogs and cats.