Common Symptoms of Heart Disease in Pets

Congestive heart failure is a progressive disease that could have serious–even fatal consequences—for your dog; in today’s veterinary blog, signs your pet needs to seek treatment.

The sooner your pet is treated for heart disease, the better, as the heart’s primary function is to transport oxygen throughout the body. Common symptoms of heart disease in your dog - Veterinary Cardiology care.If the heart becomes weakened or ineffective, other body organs can be affected.

The vast majority of heart disease cases are discovered in middle-aged and older dogs. A few signs to look for that indicate your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian include:

  • Shortness of breath. A rapid shallow breathing rate could be an indication of declining heart function and a reason to see your veterinarian.
  • Cough. Coughing is not normal in a dog. A dry cough after exercise or one that worsens at night is a concern.
  • Rapid Tiring. Poor exercise tolerance, panting at rest, stopping mid-walk on your typical route; these are signals of atypical behavior for your pet and should be evaluated by a veterinary professional.
  • Swollen Abdomen. When there is cardiac dysfunction, this may result in fluid build-up in the belly, creating a pot-bellied appearance. This could accompany muscle mass loss and lack of appetite—even though your pet appears larger vs. thinner.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fainting.

Seeking Veterinary Care. Your family vet will complete a thorough exam and ask detailed questions about your pet’s symptoms. (It may be helpful to have notes on your observations to ensure you do not forget any important symptoms).

There are times your family veterinarian will refer you to a specialist. Dr. Jason Arndt is a board certified veterinary cardiologist. WestVet's Cardiology specialist, Dr. Jason Arndt, provides advanced veterinary care to Idaho pets​He will collaborate with your family vet to diagnose heart disease. This may include lab work, an echocardiogram, or an ultrasound test called a Doppler echocardiograph, which measures exactly how the blood flows through the heart, making diagnosis very reliable. Once your pet’s heart condition is determined, a treatment plan will be developed.


If your pet is behaving acutely abnormally, whether or not you suspect a heart condition, it is always appropriate to consult your veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 

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WestVet 2016 Intern Class Preparing for their Next Adventure

It’s that time of year again! Our new intern class arrives next week. For the past nine years WestVet’s postgraduate training, the only rotating internship offered in Idaho, has enabled veterinary students to continue their education.

It seems that the time with our current interns, has zoomed by; these talented young doctors will soon be moving on in their careers in veterinary medicine.  The WestVet Class of 2016 Intern class is concluding their time at our veterinary hospital

Pictured left to right, our class of 2016 includes Dr. Christine DePompeo, WestVet Surgical Intern, up next for her is a surgical residency at Washington State; Dr. Brea Sandness, who is pursuing a surgical intership in Reno, NV; Dr. Annamaria Tadlock, will be working in Emergency and Critical Care in Salt Lake City; Dr. Hailey Turner, will take part in a neurology internship in Houston, TX; Dr. Samantha Loeber, will start a radiology residency at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Dr. Meaghan Pryde, who will be working in Emergency and Critical Care n Tacoma, WA.

A specialty hospital one-year internship has been equated to working three years in a family veterinary practice as residents are exposed to a wide variety of cases and mentored by specialists. During their year-long stint at WestVet, residents rotate through surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, radiology, dermatology, pathology and ophthalmology departments.

WestVet offers  a one-year rotating internship and a one-year specialty internship in surgery; Washington State University and Oregon State University offer similar programs.

In addition, our surgery center partners with Washington State University to offer four surgical residencies. These doctors serve at WestVet for 10-12 weeks per year. Once their clinical work is completed, they will publish in a peer-reviewed journal and successfully complete National Board examinations to earn the specialty surgical credentials.

Dr. Curtis Brandt, WestVet Emergency and Critical Care Veterinarian and local Photographer, shared these photos of the team as a commemorative gift to honor their time in Boise. Westvet Intern and Residents class of 2016 to continue their veterinary careers and education.We wish them the best as they head off to new challenges. Good luck!

The 2017 class arrives Monday, having recently graduated from Veterinary School We are excited to welcome these new doctors and to watch their growth throughout the coming year.  


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Dogs & Rattlesnake Bites 101

The sun is shining and the trails are calling; in today’s veterinary blog we have a few tips on avoiding rattlesnakes, and how to respond if you encounter one, or if your dog is bitten.

Living in the Gem State means lots of trails for hiking, biking, and running. However, it may also put you and your dog in the path of a rattlesnake. Add to that the curious, energy bounding, nose-first behavior of dogs, and a rattlesnake strike is a possibility.

Avoiding rattlesnake encounters. When planning your outdoor adventures, check trip reports. Hikers often report snake activity along with trail conditions. Here are two area online resources: Boise Foothills Trail Conditions and Boise.Trails.Dog.

Utilize trekking poles if hiking. They not only add to your work out, they enable you to push back brush stretching over trails – a favorite, sunny spot for snakes taking a snooze. Stick to well-hiked trails during late spring/early summer. Snakes want to avoid humans (and dogs) and are more apt to stay away from busy areas.

Stay on cleared, open sections of trails. Thick brush, large rocks, fallen logs all serve as a perfect hiding spot.

Ensure that you and your dog stick together and keep him/her on a short leash.

Meeting a rattlesnake. Look ahead on the trail and observe your surroundings. Dogs and rattlesnakes -- avoiding a bite when hiking in the foothillsMany snakes in the west blend in seamlessly. Never reach into dark areas on the trail that you cannot see—and help your dog follow the same guidelines. Rattlesnakes are not typically aggressive and seeking a confrontation. The purpose of the rattle is a warning, to hopefully help you avoid a strike. If you hear it, freeze. Locate the source of the sound before you begin any movement. Then, slowly move away. Leave the area carefully, if there is one snake, there are likely more in the vicinity.

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake. Remain calm. If able to do so, carry your dog to your car; if not, walk slowly in an effort to inhibit the snake venom moving through your dog’s body. Seek emergency veterinary care immediately. The sooner a dog receives emergency care and, if possible, anti-venom, the greater the chance of survival.

Recognize the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite in your dog:

  • puncture wounds (possibly bleeding)
  • severe pain
  • swelling
  • restlessness, panting or drooling

The following symptoms may manifest quickly, or over the course of a few hours:

  • lethargy, weakness, sometimes collapse
  • muscle tremors
  • diarrhea
  • seizures
  • neurological signs including depressed respiration

A rattlesnake bite is a potentially life-threatening situation for your dog. Seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. Should your dog receive a rattlesnake strike, WestVet is open 24/7 to provide supportive care and provide anti-venom to treat dogs with a rattlesnake bite.

Pet insurance can be helpful with the expense of unexpected veterinary emergencies, something to consider if you live in or visit areas prone to rattlesnakes. Speak with your family veterinarian regarding snakebite vaccinations. This may reduce the severity of illness associated with a rattlesnake bite but does not alleviate the need for prompt veterinary care; it is still important for you to seek care should your dog suffer a rattlesnake strike.


If you are concerned that your pet is behaving acutely abnormally, whether or not you suspect a snakebite, it is always appropriate to consult your family veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 

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Can my dog get “pink eye?”

If you notice that your dog has eye inflammation or discharge, it is unlikely to be pink eye—but still needs medical attention; in today’s veterinary blog, Dr. Amber Labelle clears up some of the conjunctivitis confusion.

“Pink eye” is the common term for redness of the conjunctiva, or “white of the eye;” the medical term for this disorder is conjunctivitis. It occurs when the normally thin and transparent conjunctiva becomes very aggravated, turning pink or red when diseased.

In humans, bacteria are a common cause of “pink eye” and this ailment can be highly contagious from one person to another, spreading the disease easily (as parents of children can attest to).

Other causes of conjunctivitis in humans include allergies, viruses, and various eye diseases. Because “pink eye” is commonly caused by bacteria and treated with antibiotics, owners may be tempted to treat their dog with the same medication after noticing a pink eye in a pet. Can my dog get pink eye? - WestVet Veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Amber LabelleThis can be extremely dangerous and harmful to the dog—DO NOT give your pet any eye medication that has not been prescribed for them by a veterinarian!

In dogs, bacterial conjunctivitis or “pink eye” as diagnosed in humans, is very uncommon. There are many reasons why the white of a dog’s eye might look red, including dry eye, a scratch or trauma to the surface of the eye (corneal ulcer), glaucoma (high pressure inside the eye) and uveitis (inflammation inside the eye).

These diseases can only be diagnosed with a thorough exam from a veterinarian, and may require an examination with a veterinary ophthalmologist. If you notice the white of your dog’s eye looking pink or red, a visit to your veterinarian is in order.


If you have concerns about your pet’s eye health, a consultation with your family veterinarian is a good place to start. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 

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What to Do When You Find a Baby Bird on the Ground

When out in the spring sunshine, you may have come across a baby bird out of its nest, in today’s veterinary blog a few guidelines on what to do next, and how to utilize the local bird center to rehabilitate these young, feathered friends.

The Treasure Valley is very fortunate to enjoy the services of the Ruth Melichar Bird Center (RMBC), operated under the Animals In Distress Association (AIDA).

If you stumble upon a baby bird out if its nest, before you scoop up the little ball of feathers, please note that it is against Idaho law to have a wild animal in captivity unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.RUTH MELICHAR BIRD CENTER - what to do if you find a baby bird in Idaho

In addition, fledglings are most likely not orphaned or abandoned—but in the middle of a flight lesson. Many bird species spend a few days on the ground before they can fly. They are still provided for and watched over by their parents who are often nearby (and probably watching you). This time serves as a vital part of development, teaching life skills such as finding food, identifying predators, and flying.

When humans interfere--even with good intentions--baby birds will be denied the opportunity to learn necessary survival skills. Unless injured, it’s best to leave the baby bird outside.

There are some ways that you can help. First, do not draw unnecessary attention to the bird (i.e. don’t draw a crowd).

Next, look around the immediate vicinity to determine if the bird is in harms way from animals, people, or vehicles. If so, reduce the danger by moving the bird from the middle of the path/road, put it nearby, in a more secluded spot. The bird's parents will be able to find and care for the fledgling if it remains near the location where you have found it.

Do NOT worry that if you touch the bird its parents will abandon it (that's a myth). They will not, as long as the bird is still in the general area where it was found, just don’t handle it excessively.

However, if you find a nestling (a very young bird) that has fallen from the nest, it may need some assistance to be placed back inside. If you find an abandoned bird in the Treasure Valley - Contact the RUTH MELICHAR BIRD CENTER

Here’s how to tell the difference: A fledgling is an older bird. It’s fuzzy and has wing feathers and a short tail. The nestling is a baby, naked, wobbly, with big eyes—and clearly not ready to leave the nest.

An injured bird needs intervention and rehabilitation. That’s where the Ruth Melichar Bird Center (RMBC) comes in. If you find an injured baby bird or nestling that cannot be returned to its nest, call the RMBC at 208.338.0897 for further instructions.

Their website advises placing the baby bird in a small box, with a towel shaped like a nest to prevent the bird from flopping about or getting injured during transport, and immediately bringing it to the bird center at 4650 N. 36th in Boise.

A few other important reminders from the RMBC. Do not give food or water to any wildlife. If an animal is cold, dehydrated, injured, or ill, any food or improper hydration could kill it. Never give a wild animal any cow’s milk or human infant formula.

You may access the AIDA website for more information on what to do if you find wildlife or birds HERE

The Treasure Valley is very fortunate to be served by Animals in Distress Association. This nonprofit was founded in 1987 by local individuals dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and successful release of injured, displaced and orphaned wildlife.

The AIDA team consists of state and federally licensed rehabilitators and volunteers. It is funded entirely by annual membership donations, contributions, and fundraising events, and receives no state or federal funding.

Below you'll find information on the common maturation stages of songbirds from the Audubon Society of Portland


  • Days 0-3: Wisps of natal down on body, eyes closed 


  • Day 3: Eyes open
  • Day 4: Primary feathers (also called pin feathers) pierce skin, they look like blue tubes sticking out of the skin
  • Day 6: Nestling responds to alarm call of parent
  • Day 7: Primary feathers unsheathed
  • Day 10: Bird is alert, stretches wings and legs


  • Days 13-14: Can flutter and hop from branch to branch, fully feathered, but has a short tail and wings, leaves the nest.
  • Days 14-28: They do not return to the nest, but are still fed by the adults in nearby trees or on the ground if the young have not yet mastered flying.


WestVet provides emergency veterinary care to Treasure Valley pets 24/7.

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