Keeping Pets Safe During Halloween

Halloween can be a fun holiday for the whole family--but pets may not enjoy the costumes, the candy crush, or the endless ringing doorbell. Below are a few tips to keep everyone safe and happy.

Pets in costumes—it’s a fun new trend, though, certainly, more fun for the humans! Our patient pets usually humor us and tolerate their Halloween costume photo shoot. The ASCPA has a few Halloween tips for pet owners to keep everyone (furry and not) safe, spooky, and happy; we have summarized their top ten list for today's blog post:

1. Candy is for humans only. Chocolate—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous if ingested by both dogs and cats. In addition, candies containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol may cause intestinal problems. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, seek veterinary treatment immediately.

2. Keep decorations up and away from pets. Most fall décor and plants, such as pumpkins and decorative corn, are considered to be nontoxic, however they may produce stomach upset in pets. Keep them out of reach just to be safe.

3. Electrical wires and cords should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet may suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

Halloween Safety Tips for your pet

4. Burning candles can be dangerous for pets. A burning candle in a jack-o-lantern could be knocked over and cause a fire. Curious kittens run an especially high risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Costumes may be stressful for your pet--your dog may prefer his/her “birthday suit.” If your pet seems distressed, allergic, or shows abnormal behavior, simplify to a bandana or a decorative collar.

6. Use costumes carefully. If you do dress up your pet, ensure the costume is safe; it should not constrict movement, sight, or hearing, or impede his/her ability to breathe, bark, or meow. WestVet Halloween Safety Tips for keeping your pet safe during the holidaysAlso, be sure to try on costumes before the big night.

 7. Costume accessories or fit could be a hazard. Inspect your pet’s costume for small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces that could be a choking hazard.  Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on furry pet bodies or stuck on external objects as your pet is moving.

8. Visitors at the door. As the doorbell starts ringing with human ghosts and goblins, secure your pets in a safe room. Strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. The mad dash. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, ensure that your pet does not dart outside in the dark.Halloween Holiday Safety with WestVet Animal Emergency Care

10. Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, and greatly increase the chances that he/she will be returned to you.

Happy Halloween!

Comment →

National Veterinary Technician Week—Honoring WestVet Nurse Brook Quesnell

During National Veterinary Technician Week we are pleased to honor one of WestVet's Veterinary Nurses who recently won a competition at a national conference - congratulations to Brooke Quesnell!

This week is National Veterinary Technician Week. Our hospital is very fortunate to have a team of highly-skilled veterinary nurses and assistants who provide wonderful care to our clients. Truly, they are the heart and soul of our hospital and we thank them for their amazing work ethic and dedication to the veterinary profession.

In this blog post, we want to honor one of our veterinary nurses who recently received a big honor. Brooke Quesnell is a talented, compassionate professional veterinary technician. National Veterinary Technician Week - Honoring WestVet's Brook Quesnell, Veterinary Nurse at WestVetBoth our amazing clients and WestVet colleagues regularly report on her kindness, attention to detail, and generous spirit. We were thrilled when she was awarded top honors at the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Conference this summer.

One part of the conference is a competition where technicians write an outline of an emergency patient case and submit it to the committee prior to the conference. Cases are evaluated and ranked on the skill set of the technician, his/her knowledge of veterinary medicine, and the analysis and follow through. Eight finalists are chosen to present their case to the conference members. We were ecstatic to learn that Brooke not only won first place, she also pocketed a $350 cash prize!

Brooke summarized her winning submission below:

Our patient was a dog that had survived a house fire. She came in very wobbly and was unable to stand without falling over. The pulse oximetery machine provided a normal reading for her blood oxygen level. She was admitted to the hospital and kept overnight on oxygen therapy. The following morning, she was walking normally and was discharged and returned home. Two days later the owner returned with her dog who was now suffering from seizures. We used medication to stop the seizures and initially, it was successful. Later that evening, the seizures resumed. We utilized an anesthetic medication intravenously to stop the seizures. Alarmingly, we found that we had to continue to increase the medication to keep the seizures under control.

My case report focused on the neurologic issues this dog was dealing with –directly linked to her carbon monoxide/smoke inhalation. I discussed the two theories of toxicity, hypoxic theory and cellular theory. The hypoxic theory states that damage to cells from carbon monoxide toxicity results directly from lack of oxygen to cells. The cellular theory is much more complicated. It states that carbon monoxide alters cell cycles to the point that the cells can no longer function normally, causing amongst other things, neurologic abnormalities. I explained that while our pulse oximetery was reading a normal measurement of oxygenation, it was falsely normal as the machine reads oxygen and carbon monoxide the same; it cannot differentiate between the two and therefore gives a falsely high value even though the red blood cells may be full of carbon monoxide and not oxygen, leading to damage to cells from lack of oxygen.

This was a national conference. The competition was incredibly tight for this honor and we are very proud of Brooke for this achievement.

Up next for Brooke? She is awaiting her results for the Emergency and Critical Care Veterinary Specialist Certification. The stringent requirements to earn this distinction requires years of emergency veterinary work and skills. She should find out in a few weeks if she has earned the honor. Then she plans to apply and test for the Internal Medicine Oncology Veterinary Technician Specialty.

Congratulations, Brooke! We are proud of all your hard work and the wonderful talents you bring to our clients every day.

Comment →

WestVet’s Physiotherapy- Advanced Rehabilitation Treatments For Your Pet

Veterinary Physiotherapy encompasses cutting-edge specialty techniques such as acupuncture, laser therapy, massage, hydrotherapy and more that help relieve pain and restore function and mobility for pets.

Today's blog post was written by Christy Hovey for the Urban Liaison Magazine, Fall 2014 issue.

Pet owners may be surprised to learn there are many similarities between human and animal rehabilitation methods of treatment. WestVet offers laser therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy and hydro tank for pet's rehabilitation.WestVet is proud to house the first advanced pet rehabilitation center in the state of Idaho. They provide state-of-the-art care for pets by offering therapies such as a massage, laser therapy, heat/cold therapy and acupuncture services. WestVet even boasts a Ferno Underwater Treadmill designed specifically for animals.

Marcia Warne knows firsthand the importance of having a specialist involved in the care of a beloved pet. Marcia’s dog Bianca, a twelve-year-old black and white Newfoundland, suffered from severe arthritis in her lower back and hips. Marcia’s family vet referred her to WestVet for pain management and to increase Bianca’s quality of living. Marcia regularly took Bianca to see Dr. Teri Dowdell, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) and WestVet’s Veterinary Physiotherapist. A Veterinary Physiotherapist can provide comprehensive animal rehabilitation to improve function and mobility for pets that struggle with either chronic or acute conditions.

Marcia says, “Bianca loved going to WestVet for hydrotherapy and acupuncture. She would usually fall asleep during her acupuncture treatments. I would drop her off in the morning and would pick her back up in the evening. She never wanted to leave the facility. In fact, she’d always try to go back in the door in which we would enter.” Before receiving treatment, Bianca was unable to get up from lying down and had a diminished quality of life. After treatment, Bianca was mobile and her signs of pain dissipated.

Marcia gushes, “WestVet is an amazing clinic with specialists in all fields of veterinary care. Bianca felt so loved while she was receiving treatment.” Dr. Teri Dowdell provided treatments to Bianca for pain and mobility.Since Bianca was fond of playing in the water she especially enjoyed her hydrotherapy sessions at WestVet. Marcia says, “When Bianca was no longer able to walk, the compassionate staff at WestVet made Bianca’s end of life moments very peaceful. They all came into the room and said goodbye to her. I received a beautiful paw print to remember her by and still cherish the condolences card signed by everyone at WestVet.”

Marcia says she feels very thankful for the specialized treatment Bianca received because it allowed her to enjoy an extra full year at home with Bianca. WestVet will work with you and your family veterinarian to help you decide the right treatment plan your pet. Physiotherapy is not just for older pets. Your pet can benefit from WestVet’s specialty services if they’ve undergone surgery, are overweight, or if they need muscle movement re-education. WestVet even provides pre-season conditioning care for hunting and sport dogs.

You don’t have to go through your pet’s illness alone. The WestVet team of veterinary specialists reminds us that, “We hope you don’t need us, but if you do, we’re here to help.”

If you have any questions regarding how physiotherapy could benefit your pet, please give us a call at 208.375.1600. In addition, Dr. Dowdell is currently offering a free 30-minute consultation. She will provide a brief exam of your pet and advise you on if physiotherapy techniques could benefit your pet. 

Comment →

10 Tips to Get Your Cat to Use a Litter Box

Hazel C. Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP

WestVet Emergency and Specialty Center Feline Behavior Medicine Clinician

Top ten things cat owners can do to encourage their cats to use the litter box (and not the house).

All the tips listed below revolve around the basic concept that the closer an owner mimics a cat’s natural latrine— the more likely the cat is to like and use its litter box.

1.  Use litter that the cat likes to feel with its paws. You can tell how much he/she likes its litter by how long the cat plays in the litter box, i.e. rakes, before urinating or defecating. The longer the cat rakes, the more it likes the litter.Dr. Hazel Carney: How to get your cat to use the litter box and not your house.

2.  A feral cat that becomes a house cat most often will adapt to a litter box that contains garden/potting soil or peat moss. Once the cat is routinely using that type of litter box, you can very gradually replace the garden soil with a commercial litter.

3.  Most cats, if they have a choice, will select a finely textured litter like sand that has no added smells. Do not use litter box additives like perfumes, litter box deodorants, and baking soda.

4.  Scoop BOTH urine and stool out of every litter box at least two times daily. Wash the boxes with just soap and water and replace the litter ideally every week but at least once a month.

5. Even for a one household cat, offer multiple litter boxes in different locations around your house. To a cat, two litter boxes side-by-side are the same as just one box.

6.  Litter box locations that are quiet, safe, and out of the main areas of household activity are best. Avoid placing litter boxes next to noisy items such as the washer, clothes dryer, built-in floor vacuum cleaner openings, and audio speakers. 

7.  Give the cat a BIG litter box—at least as big as 1 and ½ times the measurement of the cat from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, which for the average cat, means a minimum of 24-30 inches square.

8. Adjust litter depth to your cat’s preference: kittens need only about one inch deep litter, while adult cats seem to prefer about three inches deep.

9.  For older, arthritic cats, create one side of the litter box to be much more shallow than the others; this offers easier access. You can buy concrete mixing tubs from home building supply stores or cut down one side of a large plastic storage bin.

10.  Never trap a cat in a litter box to give it medication or reprimand a cat by picking it up and tossing it into the litter box after it has soiled outside of its litter box.

If you have other questions regarding your cat's crazy behavior, contact WestVet for a consultation with Dr. Carney. She offers phone and in-person consultations. 208.375.1600.

Comment →


Jeff D. Brourman DVM, MS, DACVS, Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon

WestVet Animal Emergency and Specialty Center, Boise, Idaho Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center, Chicago, Illinois


Total hip replacement veterinary surgery help dogs suffering from hip dysplasia return to an active, more pain-free life.

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disease that affects many dogs. Certain breeds such as German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Labrador, and Golden Retrievers are more often afflicted with the disease, though it can occur in any pure or mixed-breed dog. Efforts have been made to reduce the number of affected dogs using selective breeding, however, hip dysplasia can still develop with no reports of prior hip disease.

How hip dysplasia occurs in dogs.

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint made up of ligaments, tendons, and bones. Normally, the head of the femur (the ball) is deeply seated into the acetabulum of the pelvis (socket). Dr. Jeff Brourman provides Total Hip Replacement for dogs with hip problems, WestVet IdahoDogs born with hip dysplasia undergo a complex process affecting both the bones and the soft-tissue structures of the hip. Throughout the first year of life, these changes result in laxity or a “loose” joint. This looseness further results in subluxation (partial dislocation) of the hip. Frequently, this may be accompanied by a “popping” of the hip which may be heard or felt. In severe cases, the hip may completely dislocate with minimal pressure or no trauma. The laxity of the hip joint frequently results in inflammation, pain, changes to the soft tissue and bone structures, and ultimately, osteoarthritis which can progress throughout a dog’s life. Typically most dogs are at least a couple years of age before radiographic evidence of arthritis is present; though it is not uncommon for dogs as young as 8 months of age to have arthritic changes visible on x-rays.     

Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs. Many dogs affected with hip dysplasia may not show abnormal signs. Some will show signs of pain, including difficulty rising, trouble with stairs, “bunny-hopping” while running, a reluctance to stand or jump using the hind limbs, and a gait which can best be described as a “waddle”. Dogs with severe hip dysplasia may be quite debilitated, sometimes even before any radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis is apparent. Veterinarians use a combination of signs, symptoms, and physical examination to diagnose hip dysplasia. The disease is confirmed by x-rays of the pelvis.

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in dogs.

Treatment for a dog suffering from hip dysplasia greatly depends on the signs the animal exhibits.  Many dogs with hip dysplasia and secondary osteoarthritis may show little to no clinical signs of the disease and can lead normal lives without medical or surgical intervention. Some dogs having problems may respond well to conservative treatment, which usually consists of anti-inflammatory medication, chondroprotective agents such as glucosamine, physical therapy, and weight loss. Others either do not respond to medical treatment or respond initially, but then require frequent dosing in order to stay comfortable. These dogs are considered candidates for surgical intervention.

Surgical Procedures for Hip Dysplasia.

A variety of surgical procedures have been used in veterinary medicine to treat hip dysplasia. Those most commonly performed today, however, are femoral head ostectomy (FHO), triple pelvic osteotomy, and total hip replacement.   

Total hip replacement is considered the gold standard for surgical treatment of hip disease in dogs and in people. Total Hip Replacement in Dogs with Dr. Jeff Brourman, Board Certified Veterinary SurgeonThe procedure involves removing the femoral head (ball) and a portion of the acetabulum (socket) of the hip joint and replacing them with a prosthetic ball and socket, similar to what is done in people. The implants are either held in place with bone cement (cemented system) or without bone cement (cementless system). These days, the cementless system is more commonly used and preferred by most surgeons.

The procedure maintains a high rate of success. Most dogs have a significant improvement in quality of life. Dogs that have had a total hip replacement compensate well by shifting their weight to the operated limb. Because of this, 80% of dogs receiving a total hip replacement do not need to have a total hip replacement performed in the opposite hip, even if it has significant arthritic changes.

The recovery time for total hip replacement is generally 8 to 12 weeks. Restricted activity during this time is important to assure proper healing. Complications of the procedure are rare but can include dislocation, sciatic nerve injury, bone fracture, implant loosening, or infection requiring implant removal and/or revision.  Most dogs experience a significant improvement in pain relief and function following total hip replacement. After the recovery period most dogs are able to resume a normal quality of life including running, jumping, playing, or hunting.

Hip dysplasia is a common disease among dogs. If you think that your pet may have the signs of hip dysplasia, have him or her evaluated by your family veterinarian.  Your veterinarian will attempt to diagnose the problem and guide you through appropriate treatment options.  

Comment →