NorthStar VETS Cool Case Shorty


The team at NorthStar VETS is doing innovative and amazing things every day as they work to advance the level of care available to your pet. This series of posts highlights cool cases at NorthStar VETS and the types of things done to save pets and improve their quality of life. These are cases using innovative and cutting-edge medical techniques, and/or stories of pets beating the odds. This is the story of Shorty, a patient of our Neurology team.

About Shorty
Shorty Weaver is an 8 year old female, spayed dachshund from Cary, NC that came to NorthStar VETS for a percutaneous laser disc ablation (PLDA) procedure. She became acutely paraparetic in February 2018. She was originally diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease by Dr. Sarita Miles, the neurologist at Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas. She had an MRI performed, which revealed a herniated disc at L1-2 predominantly compressing the left side of the spinal cord. The owners were very concerned as Shorty had a guarded prognosis for recovery with medical management due to Shorty suffering from acute paraparesis.

Shorty’s condition
Medical management for Shorty’s IVDD consisted of anti-inflammatory medication, pain medication, muscle relaxants, activity restriction, bladder expression, and light physical therapy (passive range of motion and massage of the pelvic limbs). During medical management, Shorty developed a urinary tract infection and black, tarry stool that also had to be managed. She was treated with antibiotics and gastrointestinal protectant medication, respectively, for these complications.

Shorty’s initial recovery
Shorty made a consistent recovery over the next eight weeks, showing gradually improved strength and coordination in her pelvic limbs over this time. Her medications were gradually decreased until she was no longer receiving them, and her activity level was slowly increased until she was back to her normal activity.

After making a complete recovery, Shorty’s owners began to question how they could avoid going through another episode like this in the future. Dr. Miles discussed the PLDA procedure with them. She mentioned that this procedure is offered at only four hospitals throughout the country, and only in one place on the east coast. The owners were very interested in the procedure and they wanted to know more about it. Dr. Miles called Dr. Tracy to discuss Shorty’s situation.

The next step for Shorty
After Dr. Miles spoke with the owners about the procedure, they decided that this would be a good thing for Shorty to receive so they can decrease the likelihood of another episode of disc herniation. They drove up from North Carolina on the morning of their scheduled procedure (approximately an 8-9 hour drive). When Shorty arrived, Dr. Tracy re-evaluated her (she was still pain-free) and the PLDA procedure was performed. The procedure itself took about one hour from start to finish. The owners stayed at a nearby hotel.

Shorty was re-evaluated the next morning. She was not painful and was walking normally. She was scheduled for discharge later that morning. The owners picked her up and made the drive back to Cary, North Carolina.

Dr. Tracy is an advocate of the PLDA procedure because it decreases the likelihood of chondrodystrophic breeds having disc herniations, and helps to prevent them from having to endure a surgical procedure.

What is Percutaneous Laser Disc Ablation?
PLDA is a minimally invasive preventative procedure that decreases the likelihood of disc herniation in chondrodystrophic dogs from 25 percent down to less than 10 percent. The patient is placed under anesthesia and spinal needles are inserted into each disc space from T10-11 through L4-5. A Ho:YAG laser is then inserted through the spinal needle and directly into the disc space and a laser pulse is delivered to each disc space. This laser pulse reverses the degeneration of the nucleus pulposus and decreases the intradiscal pressure and thus the likelihood of disc herniation.

Who is Eligible for PLDA?
PLDA is for any chondrodystrophic dog or any dog that has previously experienced an episode of suspected or confirmed disc herniation. It is important that patients are pain-free and medication-free for two weeks prior to the procedure. It is okay if patients have had surgery for a previously diagnosed disc herniation as long as they are fully recovered and fit the above criteria.

What is aftercare like?
Patients remain in the hospital overnight for pain control and observation. Typically patients are discharged to go home the following day. They are sent home with 3-5 days of pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication. They should be leash walked for 2 weeks following the procedure for recovery.

What are the risks/complications of the procedure?
The main risk following the procedure is transient ataxia and/or back pain that typically resolves within one week. Other possible complications include abscess at spinal needle insertion sites, proprioceptive deficits, and diskospondylitis.

Learn more about the Neurology service at NorthStar VETS.

Gaemia Tracy, DVMGaemia Tracy, DVM
Gaemia Tracy was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Tracy attended The University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts (Biology) degree. While there, he played baseball and Sprint Football. He attended The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine from 2008-2012. Immediately after graduating veterinary school, Dr. Tracy completed a rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Tracy then completed a Neurology and Neurosurgery residency in Jacksonville, FL at North Florida Neurology with Dr. Andrew Hopkins and Dr. John Meeks as his mentors. Dr. Tracy completed his residency before joining Northstar VETS.

Dr. Tracy’s professional interests include IVDD, spinal surgery, management of seizures and inflammatory diseases of the brain and spinal cord.

Dr. Tracy currently lives with his wife, son, and their two cats, DD and Bunny. In his free time, Dr. Tracy enjoys taking in any baseball game, and cheering for the Buckeyes and Steelers!


The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your family veterinarian’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Discuss this information with your own veterinarian to determine what is right for your pet. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. We can not and do not give you medical advice via this blog. The information contained in this online site and emails is presented in summary form only and intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge. The information should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or advice of your veterinarian. We do not recommend the self-management of your pet’s health problems.

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Meet the NorthStar VETS Team: John Lewis, VMD, FAVD, DAVDC


John Lewis, VMD, FAVD, DAVDC is a doctor in the Dentistry and Oral Surgery service at NorthStar VETS. In this video, he talks about his education in veterinary medicine, the types of cases he sees, and what he loves most about NorthStar VETS.

Dr. Lewis’ Path to Veterinary Dentistry
We caught up with Dr. John Lewis, who was performing a procedure on a patient. Dr. Lewis is a veterinarian who specializes in veterinary dentistry and oral surgery. He grew up in a household with a large family of pets. “I knew as I got older that I wanted to do something in the health professions, so it seemed like a natural fit to go into veterinary medicine. I went to the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from there in 1997 and then I went out into general practice for five years. In every rotation I did in veterinary school, I felt like I would possibly be doing thas as a specialty long-term, but I decided to go into general practice to sort that out and determine if there was really a specialty I wanted to do or if I just wanted to stay in general practice. I enjoyed general practice quite a bit, but I found myself doing more and more dentistry and felt like I needed to go back to the University to do a residency. I wanted to learn more about it and do a better job with it. After I finished my residency, I stayed on as a professor at Penn, but started to do some work at NorthStar VETS on the weekends. I was really impressed by the facility, and I knew if I was ever going to leave academia, it was going to need to be a place like this that has all the bells and whistles and has a good collegial atmosphere.”

“There is so much benefit that you can bring to the lives of pets in terms of removing dental pain and other issues. We can really help to improve the quality of life of a lot of patients.”

The Most Common Types of Cases Dr. Lewis Sees in the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service
Dr. Lewis sees a wide variety of different cases each week. “We see cases where the patient may need dental work such as extractions, cleanings where there is a higher anesthetic risk, oral tumors that require having a portion of the jaw removed to try and get a cure on a cancer, or jaw fractures that need to be repaired. Those are some of the more fun and challenging cases.”

Regular cleanings and dental checkups with your family veterinarian can make a huge difference in a pet’s health. “Dentistry and oral surgery is such a new profession that’s only been around since 1988. It is an up-and-coming profession and it’s something that anyone who does it on a regular basis realizes that there is so much benefit that you can bring to the lives of pets in terms of removing a potential dental pain and other issues that if you ever had a toothache, you know how painful that can be. We can really help to improve the quality of life of a lot of patients.

The Best Thing About Working at NorthStar VETS According to Dr. Lewis
The team at NorthStar VETS helps Dr. Lewis provide world class care to dozens of patients each week. “I think my favorite part about being here is the team. It’s a very good group of people that I work with and it is nice to be able to have all the various specialties all together under one roof. For example, I can get a consult from a doctor who needs to help us out with a particular case and so it is something that is really nice to have. And not just all the equipment, but all the professional people who are experts in their field. I think that pet parents who come to us are obviously very concerned about their pet and hopefully they’ll end up leaving happy with how their pet is doing, how they can function, and how they look.”

Learn more about the Dentistry and Oral Surgery service at NorthStar VETS.

John Lewis, VMD, FAVD, DAVDC
Dr. Lewis graduated from University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997 and spent five years in general practice prior to returning for a residency in dentistry and oral surgery. He became a Fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry (AVD) in 2004 and a Diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) in 2005.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lewis has served as Associate Professor of Dentistry and Oral Surgery, associate director of the Mari Lowe Center for Comparative Oncology, and more recently, as Chief of Surgery. His research interests include oral surgical oncology, maxillofacial fracture repair, maxillofacial reconstruction, new therapies for treatment of feline oral squamous cell carcinoma, and lasers in oral surgery and dentistry.

Dr. Lewis is a past president of the American Veterinary Dental Society, and has served as examination chair of the AVDC and credentials chair of the AVD. Prior to joining NorthStar VETS full time in October 2013, Dr. Lewis was the residency director of the world’s first academic residency in veterinary dentistry and oral surgery at The University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Lewis received the AVDC Outstanding Candidate award in 2004, the Hills AVDS Education and Research Award in 2012 and the AVD Fellow of the Year award in 2013.

Dr. Lewis is the proud father of six boys, two dogs, and two cats, all of whom keep him busy outside of work.

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NorthStar VETS Cool Case Manning


Manning the WonderdogCancer treatment is often considered difficult with many side effects. Most of us have experienced a family member go through cancer treatment and have watched as our loved one gets sick in the hope of getting better. When our pet gets diagnosed with cancer, it is upsetting and most people are afraid of treating their pet for cancer because of the side effects they have seen in their family members or friends.

Classically, we have considered cancer treatment to be harsh and to cure at all costs. In veterinary medicine, the goal has always been more to maintain good quality of life. We are learning both in human and veterinary medicine that it is possible to live with cancer rather than trying to get rid of it.

In this video below, you are meeting Manning. He first came to me in February 2016 as a 6-year-old dog with an anal gland tumor. Initially, the tumor was removed and he had 5 doses of chemotherapy. In January 2017 he was found to have metastatic (spread of) disease to his abdomen. He was started on Palladia (toceranib) which is not a classic chemotherapy but a molecularly-targeted therapy. Classic chemotherapy works by attacking any dividing cell. Palladia works by targeting a specific protein on the cell and slowing the progression of the disease. This video was taken in the last month. As you can see, this is a dog who has lived with metastatic cancer for 1.5 years, and he is living well.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of cancer and therapies, one of my favorite books is Emperor of All Maladies written by Siddartha Murkherjee which is also a PBS mini-series.

Learn more about the Oncology service at NorthStar VETS


Jennifer Kim, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)
Dr. Kim grew up in New York and received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania. After two years at the National Cancer Institute performing cancer genetic research, she attended veterinary school at Tufts University. Dr. Kim completed a rotating internship at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, New York, and an oncology internship at Cornell University. She began at NorthStar VETS as an emergency clinician in 2005 and returned in 2010 to treat oncology patients after completing her residency in medical oncology at Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine. In her free time, Dr. Kim is an avid foodie and knitter.

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Meet the NorthStar VETS Team: Laurie Bergman, VMD, DACVB


Laurie Bergman, VMD, DACVB is a doctor in the Behavior service at NorthStar VETS. In this blog post and video below, she talks about why her specialty relates so closely to the human-animal bond, the most common types of cases she sees, and how Veterinary Behaviorists save lives.

Dr. Bergman’s Discovery of Animal Behavior and the Human-Animal Bond
We caught up with Dr. Laurie Bergman, who was showing off the new things her dog, Ivan, has learned. Dr. Bergman is a veterinarian who specializes in animal behavior. She first grew interested in animal behavior from a class in veterinary school. “I first learned about animal behavior from watching a nature documentary when I was a kid. I was really interested in it. When I was in veterinary school and I learned there was a study of clinical animal behavior, I just found it so fascinating. After school, I was out in general practice doing work with dogs and cats in the Boston area, and I knew there was a Behaviorist there, so I started going on appointments with her. She became my first mentor. I love helping the animals, but I’ve learned a lot more about the bond that we have with our pets and how we live with them. I enjoyed this much more than just doing small animal practice.”

Dr. Bergman’s Schooling and the Type of Medicine She Originally Thought She was Going to Practice
Dr. Berman grew up in Bergen County and has practiced medicine around the country. “I went to veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania and then I was in the Boston area for a while. I eventually went out to California to do my Behavior residency before coming back to the east coast. I spent the past eight years doing behavior house call work, but I really wanted to be at a practice with multiple specialties where I could collaborate. I was especially drawn to NorthStar VETS by the Exotics department. I originally went to veterinary school thinking I was going to be a bird doctor, so I wanted to be somewhere I could be doing Exotics behavior as well as dogs and cats.”

“With fears, phobias and anxieties, it’s just how they manifest that results in the behavior problem we’re seeing.”

The Most Common Types of Cases Dr. Bergman Sees in the Behavior Service
The majority of animal behavior problems are based on anxieties. “It’s really anxiety that leads to most of the behavior problems that we see. It’s anxiety that we’re treating that may lead to a cat that is urine spraying, or a dog that’s aggressive if a stranger tries to pet them, or a bird that’s yelling and screaming and pulling out its feathers. It’s all about coming up with ways to treat those underlying anxieties. As a veterinarian, I also have the ability to prescribe medications.”

Dr. Bergman treats a wide variety of anxieties and phobias in pets. “Most of the cases I see are dogs, and mostly aggressive dogs. Some of that is because that’s what people recognize as being a problem that needs to be addressed. It’s not that these are bad or mean animals, it’s that they are anxious and they don’t know any other way to deal with the world in which they are living. I’ve also treated a lot of cats who are house-soiling (urine or feces in places it shouldn’t be), cats who are fighting within the household, cats who might be aggressive toward their owners, and fearful cats. With birds, it’s a lot of the same thing. We treat birds who might be aggressive, we see a lot of parrots with anxieties they act out by pulling out their own feathers, but also phobias. With fears, phobias and anxieties, it’s just how they manifest that results in the behavior problem we’re seeing.”

The Best Thing About Working at NorthStar VETS According to Dr. Bergman and How Her Specialty Saves Lives
The wide variety of specialists at NorthStar VETS helps Dr. Bergman to better treat her patients. “It’s the ability to work with a team to collaborate. I have a great team, and we really work together to treat the cases. Being able to refer to other doctors, that’s really the best thing about being at NorthStar VETS.” Treating and improving animal behavior like Dr. Bergman helps to save countless pets every year. “For dogs and cats, we know that more of these pets lose their homes and ultimately their lives because of behavior problems than because of any single disease or anything else. This is why the Behavior service really is a lifesaver and it’s also rebuilding that bond because you really want to enjoy your pet. That’s what it’s all about!”

Learn more about the Behavior service at NorthStar VETS

Laurie Bergman, VMD, DACVB
Dr. Laurie Bergman received her VMD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. She worked in small animal practice on Cape Cod and completed an internship in Wildlife Medicine and Surgery at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She began working in behavior practice in 1998 and entered a residency in behavioral medicine at the University of California Davis in 2000. Since becoming a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists in 2003, Dr. Bergman has worked in academic practice in California and private practice in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Bergman’s interests include pet-family interactions, finding practical approaches to behavior problems and treating behavior problems in birds and exotic pets. Dr. Bergman lives in Pennsylvania with her two human children, senior dog, Riley, Australian Terrier puppy, Ivan, Leopard Gecko, Mo, and Bearded Dragon, Frederick. She competed in agility with her previous Australian Terriers and hopes that Ivan can grow up to be an agility dog, too.

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Anxiety-Based Aggression Among Dogs at Home


When Duchess and Bambi first came to the NorthStar VETS Behavior Service, their owner, Jen, wasn’t sure if she would be able to keep both of her girls. Although the two dogs had occasional fights since they were each adopted 2 years earlier, recently their fighting had gotten to the point where Jen was beginning to worry about their safety and the safety of her young son. The other pets and people in the house were all walking on eggshells in response to the tension between the two dogs.

First Visit
When Duchess and Bambi first came to see me, they were still recovering from their last fight. That fight was especially scary because it happened at night, in the dark when Jen invited Bambi to join her and her son and the other pets, including Duchess, in the bed. Not only were both dogs injured, but when Jen’s husband reached in to separate the dogs, he was bitten. Other fights had happened when the dogs got excited about having their harnesses put on before walks, on the stairs when one dog was going up and the other was going down, when putting new collars on the dogs and when trying to clean off Duchess’ backside.

The thought of rehoming either one of the dogs was heartbreaking to the family. Not only did the people in the house love Bambi and Duchess, but the two dogs really did like each other. Between fights, they played with each other and could often be found sleeping curled up together. When Jen tried separating the dogs to prevent fights, they would start to miss each other.

When I met Duchess and Bambi, I quickly realized that they were both sweet, but anxious dogs. Bambi was somewhat afraid of strangers and would also get worried and react if her owners tried to tend to her injuries or if there were problems putting on her harness. Duchess would get anxious as well when Bambi was getting worried about these things, and she was uncomfortable about being touched by people or dogs from behind.

At our first meeting, Jen was given a treatment plan that included recommendations on how to avoid situations that could make either dog anxious, including trying to have them sleep in crates rather than on people beds. Additionally, we discussed how to safely break up dog fights, should another fight occur. We also talked about doing some training with the dogs so Jen, her husband and even her son could have ways to redirect the dogs’ attention away from each other or things that make them anxious. In addition, Bambi was started on a medication to lower her anxiety. Bambi was worried about many different things and her anxiety would feed into Duchess’ anxiety and aggression.

Post-Visit Success
Within a couple of weeks of our initial appointment, Jen was already seeing improvement. Jen reported that “Bambi is a less anxious version of herself.” For the first time, Bambi would go into her crate without screaming and urinating on herself. This meant that the dogs were no longer trying to sleep in peoples’ beds.

Duchess and Bambi resting together after being helped by Dr.Laurie Bergman at NorthStar VETSSecond Visit
Six weeks after that, Duchess and Bambi came in for a follow up appointment. They were both less anxious at this appointment than the first time we met. At home Bambi was generally less anxious and there had been no more fights. Since Duchess was still showing some anxiety towards Bambi, she was also started on medication after this appointment. We were also able to talk about some specific behavior modification strategies to address the few remaining situations that caused tension between the girls.

Life at Home Today
Three months after the initial consultation, Jen reported that there had been no more fights between the girls. The family are all careful to watch the dogs’ body language and know how to diffuse situations if they seem tense. Bambi continues to be ‘a new dog’ and Duchess is less on edge. They’ve been getting along so much better, that Duchess let Bambi join her to nap on Jen’s son’s bed and pose for this picture!

If your pets have difficulty getting along, contact NorthStar VETS to schedule an appointment with the Behavior service.

Learn more about the Behavior service at NorthStar VETS

Laurie Bergman, VMD, DACVB
Dr. Laurie Bergman received her VMD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. She worked in small animal practice on Cape Cod and completed an internship in Wildlife Medicine and Surgery at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She began working in behavior practice in 1998 and entered a residency in behavioral medicine at the University of California Davis in 2000. Since becoming a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists in 2003, Dr. Bergman has worked in academic practice in California and private practice in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Bergman’s interests include pet-family interactions, finding practical approaches to behavior problems and treating behavior problems in birds and exotic pets. Dr. Bergman lives in Pennsylvania with her two human children, senior dog, Riley, Australian Terrier puppy, Ivan, Leopard Gecko, Mo, and Bearded Dragon, Frederick. She competed in agility with her previous Australian Terriers and hopes that Ivan can grow up to be an agility dog, too.

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Oliver’s Diagnosis


OliverWe wanted to let you know what is going on with our handsome little boy. This month, Oliver was diagnosed with lymphoma in his gastrointestinal tract. Although the news is sad, this particular cancer can be treated, and many cats live a long and happy life, despite the disease. Our Oncology team is working to keep him as healthy as possible.

Oliver came to us on June 5th, 2013 as a 2-month-old kitten who was found in Mercerville. When he arrived, the staff immediately fell in love with him. He was sweet but had ear mites, a skin infection, and respiratory issues. We did not have a hospital cat at the time, our last hospital cat had recently passed. He had a polyp removed, recovered from that, and quickly took to his new home.

On May 1st of this year, he was found to be losing weight. An abdominal ultrasound revealed enlarged lymph nodes in his abdomen. On May 7th, he had an abdominal exploratory surgery to get biopsies of his gastrointestinal tract and lymph nodes. Histopathology returned as small cell gastrointestinal lymphoma. This is a slowly progressive disease that has a good prognosis with oral chemotherapy (Leukeran) and steroids (prednisolone). He was started on treatment on May 20th and has been doing well. He was also diagnosed with a respiratory infection for which he is getting treatment with an antibiotic.

Many of our wonderful clients have noticed that his abdomen and legs are shaved. Do not worry. Oliver is doing great and is back out in the waiting room acting completely normal.

Learn more about the Oncology service at NorthStar VETS

Jennifer Kim, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)
Dr. Kim grew up in New York and received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania. After two years at the National Cancer Institute performing cancer genetic research, she attended veterinary school at Tufts University. Dr. Kim completed a rotating internship at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, New York, and an oncology internship at Cornell University. She began at NorthStar VETS as an emergency clinician in 2005 and returned in 2010 to treat oncology patients after completing her residency in medical oncology at Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine. In her free time, Dr. Kim is an avid foodie and knitter.

Dorothy Jackson, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)
Originally from the South, Dr. Jackson attended Mississippi State University for her undergraduate studies and veterinary school. Following veterinary school in 2009, she completed a rotating internship at the University of Missouri followed by a specialty internship at Georgia Veterinary Specialists in Atlanta. Dr. Jackson was lucky enough to obtain both academic and private practice experience during her residency, training at the University of Pennsylvania and Veterinary Cancer Center in Connecticut. Following her residency, Dr. Jackson obtained board certification in Oncology and worked at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital for 2.5 years before joining the Northstar VETS team.

Being an Italian from the South, Dr. Jackson loves food. She loves cooking new recipes and trying new restaurants with her girlfriend…another Italian. When not traveling to new places, they enjoy their time at home with their 3 cats who keep them quite entertained.

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Toxoplasmosis in Cats


Toxoplasmosis is caused by a microscopic protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. The organism exist in in the intestinal tract of cats and in the tissues of many rodents and animals raised for human food. Although cats are the only domesticated animal that can shed the parasite’s eggs (also known as oocysts) in their feces, Toxplasma gondii also resides in animals’ tissues and is released when other animals or humans consume that meat.

Toxoplasma infection in the feline:

Most cats are asymptomatic, meaning they do not show signs of disease, even when they are carriers of the parasite. When symptoms are apparent, the cat may have diarrhea, weight loss, and transient fever, and rarely can have neurological signs.

Transmission to people:

People are most commonly infected as a result of eating raw or undercooked meat (the most common route, as noted on the US Center for Disease Control website), but also can contract Toxoplasmosis by ingesting food or water contaminated with cat feces. This includes if the person has fecal matter on their hands, as in cleaning a litter box, or cleaning any area where an infected cat has defecated, and then puts their uncleaned hands into their mouth.

Clinical signs noted to occur in people (Note: if you have any concerns, please see your primary care physician):

Most commonly, people whom have been exposed to toxoplasmosis, are asymptomatic and have no health concerns associated with exposure.
In the symptomatic person, signs resemble the common flu (fever, malaise, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, headache, and discomfort when swallowing.) In the most severe cases, the parasite can invade the central nervous system, including brain tissue, and cause significant morbidity and in extreme cases, can be fatal.

Who is at risk?

The most likely subset of patients to actually develop illness from toxoplasmosis are those individuals that are immunocompromised. This includes the elderly, young children, or any patient on immunosuppressive medications or on chemotherapy, or those patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
For many years, there was a significant fear related to pregnancy and toxoplasmosis infection. After years of research and data retrieval, it was found that those women at the highest risk were those that became infected or exposed for the first time whilst pregnant. In that population, the risks include infecting the fetus, stillbirths, spontaneous abortions, and birth defects.

It is important to also know, that once you are found to be sero-positive (meaning a blood test shows that you have been exposed to the parasite) you will always have a positive test result. This does not mean, however, that you will ever become sick or have any ill effects from the disease.

Do you need to get rid of your cat or have it tested if you are an “at risk” individual?
NO!!!

According to the CDC: “Cats only spread Toxoplasma in their feces for a few weeks following infection with the parasite. The Toxoplasma shedding in feces will go away on its own; therefore it does not help to have your cat or your cat’s feces tested for Toxoplasma.”

We would recommend that if you are concerned and/or you are an at-risk individual, that you take universal precautions with your cat:
– Always change your cat litter, or outdoor sandboxes daily – If you are at risk, either wear examining gloves (latex or nitrile) when cleaning these areas – If possible, have a person that is not “at risk” do this cleaning for you – ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS after handling fecal material.

For more information associated with humans and Toxoplasmosis, please see the Center for Disease Control’s website:
https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/faqs.html

Works Cited:

Dubey, JP and Lappin, MR. Toxoplasmosis and Neosporosis. Greene Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat. Third edition. Chapter 80. Pp 754-775. Saunders Elsevier. 2006.
www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis
Montoya JG, Liesenfeld. Toxoplasmosis. Lancet. 2004 Jun 12;363:1965-1976.

Steven Berkowitz, DVM
Dr. Steven Berkowitz attended St. Georges University and did his clinical year at the University of Illinois. Berkowitz joined NorthStar VETS after serving as the Chief of Emergency and Critical Care at another specialty hospital. Prior to that, he completed a three-year residency in Emergency and Critical Care medicine at the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, NJ. His residency was completed at one of only a few recognized veterinary trauma centers in the United States. Prior to his residency, he was a staff Emergency Veterinarian at Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, NY as well as serving as an emergency doctor at Animal Emergency and Referral Associates in Fairfield, NJ for 3 years. Dr. Berkowitz can be seen on seasons 5 and 6 of “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet, which was filmed during his internship at The Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of the ASPCA in New York City.
Dr. Berkowitz has special interest in the management of metabolic and endocrine derangements, trauma, as well as management of the septic patient.

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Noise Phobias in Pets


With the beautiful spring weather, my thoughts turn to summer. For a Veterinary Behaviorist in this part of the country, summer means three things; fireworks, thunderstorms and dogs who are scared out of their minds. These noise phobias are very common in our patients (mainly dogs but cats can have thunder or other noise phobias, too). For a dog with a phobia about these noises, a storm or fireworks results in a true panic attack. Dogs may try to escape from a house or yard, they may dig through dry wall or rip up carpets or even jump out windows.

Fireworks-DoxieNow is the time to start thinking about these phobic pets because there are treatments that can help them, but treatment works best if we have a plan before the problem starts. There are several different medications and other products that can help a patient who is terrified of thunder or fireworks as well as behavior modification techniques.

Many pet owners are familiar with the tranquilizer acepromazine, which has been used for noise phobias for a long time. But we often don’t like what we see when dogs take this medication. Because acepromazine causes sedation but doesn’t reduce anxiety, dogs will often try to fight the sedating effects because they are still scared and still want to get away from what’s scaring them. Fortunately, there are other medications that can help dogs with noise phobias by reducing anxiety, not just sedating them to the point where they can’t react. Among these drugs is Sileo, which is an FDA licensed treatment for canine noise phobias. This is a great medication for most dogs with noise phobias, but it does have some limitations. It is a gel that you put on the inside of your dog’s cheek, so if you have a dog who isn’t good about having his mouth handled, this isn’t the right drug for him. It also lasts for only a few hours so it may not be great for slow moving storms. But there are other options that you could ask your pet’s doctor about.

As far as behavior modification goes, these are usually things that we do to teach the pet to feel safe and comfortable regardless of what’s going on around him. These are definitely things that need to be in place before the scary event happens. For dogs whose reactions are less intense, you can try things like a white noise machine to block out the sounds and giving a really delicious, long-lasting treat, like a bully stick or a Kong toy that you fill with yogurt and freeze. If your dog tries to get to one particular place in the house, like the basement or in a bathroom or closet, make sure she has access to that room. For dogs with more severe reactions to these noises, we recommend seeing a Veterinary Behaviorist to set up a comprehensive behavioral treatment plan.

The most important thing in helping these dogs is to speak to your veterinarian or schedule a behavior consult sooner rather than later. Waiting until July 3rd or the day that our first really big summer storm is forecast may be too late. Because every individual, whether dog, cat or human, can respond differently to medications it’s really important to try out some of these treatments before the storm or fireworks show.

If you think your dog might have a noise phobia, contact NorthStar VETS to schedule an appointment with the Behavior service.

Learn more about the Berhavior service at NorthStar VETS

Laurie Bergman, VMD, DACVB
Dr. Laurie Bergman received her VMD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. She worked in small animal practice on Cape Cod and completed an internship in Wildlife Medicine and Surgery at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She began working in behavior practice in 1998 and entered a residency in behavioral medicine at the University of California Davis in 2000. Since becoming a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists in 2003, Dr. Bergman has worked in academic practice in California and private practice in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Bergman’s interests include pet-family interactions, finding practical approaches to behavior problems and treating behavior problems in birds and exotic pets. Dr. Bergman lives in Pennsylvania with her two human children, senior dog, Riley, Australian Terrier puppy, Ivan, Leopard Gecko, Mo, and Bearded Dragon, Frederick. She competed in agility with her previous Australian Terriers and hopes that Ivan can grow up to be an agility dog, too.

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Meet the NorthStar VETS Team: Barbara Maton, DVM, DACVECC


Barbara Maton, DVM, DACVECC is a doctor in the Emergency and Critical Care service at NorthStar VETS. In this blog post and video below, she talks about how her love of animals goes back to childhood, and how Critical Care includes many of the other specialties at NorthStar VETS.

How Dr. Maton got into Veterinary Medicine
We caught up with Dr. Maton, who was examining a patient in Robbinsville. She is a veterinarian specializing in Emergency and Critical Care medicine, and got has wanted to help children since she was a child. “On my way home from school, I would always find injured animals and bring them home to try to nurse them back to health. I enjoyed bonding with them and having them as a companion animal family member. I went to school at the University of Florida and got my veterinary degree there, and then did an internship outside of D.C. at a private practice. I found that I really enjoyed emergency medicine, even before I went to veterinary school. NorthStar VETS also had a lot of things that I found really attractive, like the fact that it’s a large hospital with a lot of different specialties, and their standard of care is what I was looking for. I knew that I’d be supported and be able to do the kind of medicine that I wanted to do here.”

Training to Become a Criticalist
To specialize in emergency medicine, doctors go through intensive training over many years. “It’s a very in-depth level of training involving everything from intensive care to overlapping with Cardiology, Neurology, and Internal Medicine. This specialty overlaps with a lot of other specialties in veterinary medicine, so the training includes diagnosis to treatment to pathophysiology and managing expectations.”

Teamwork and Collaboration is Built into NorthStar VETS
Dr. Maton and the team at NorthStar VETS work together to provide world-class care to their patients. “The great number of specialties we have allows us to work well together. We do cage-side rounds every morning and evening. We collaborate a lot to get different input on patients. From Internal Medicine to Dentistry, we all work together and collaborate well.”

Learn more about the Emergency and Critical Care service at NorthStar VETS.

Barbara Maton, DVM, DACVECCBarbara Maton, DVM, DACVECC
Dr. Maton is originally from Florida, where she earned her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of North Florida, and studied veterinary medicine at the University of Florida, obtaining her DVM in 2006. She completed a rotating internship focused on emergency medicine at SouthPaws Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Center in Virginia, then moved to Pittsburgh where she worked as an emergency veterinarian for two years and completed her residency in the specialty in 2012. After helping to start a critical care service at an established veterinary referral hospital in Delaware, she joined NorthStar VETS in 2014. Her clinical and research interests include trauma, electrolyte derangements, anticoagulant therapies and CPR medicine.

Outside of work, Dr. Maton enjoys spending time with her husband, cooking, gardening, foreign travel, running, cycling and swimming. She shares her home with a possessive bird, two cats, and a lovable mixed-breed dog.

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From the Client Perspective: My Dogs are Blood Donors


From time to time, we share stories from the client perspective, giving insight into some of the thousands of stories that take place at NorthStar VETS every day. This is the story of three greyhounds who have found a new home together and a chance to give back.

“After losing my first retired racer to osteosarcoma in September 2015, I received a call from Linda Lyman, the president of the greyhound adoption group I volunteer with, Greyhound Friends of NJ. Although it was only a month after saying goodbye to my Lou, I felt compelled to say yes to a new dog. He had a one-word name like Cher or Bono – ‘Tytin.’ After hanging up, I fired up my computer and researched Tytin on a website which lists racing greyhound pedigrees and racing records. It was then I discovered I had a new dog to fill the space in my heart left when Lou crossed the Rainbow Bridge. You see Tytin’s dam’s (mother’s) name was Skippy Lou. Needless to say, he fit perfectly in my home as if he had always been there.”

Jack, Raven and Tytin on the back porch

Jack, Raven and Tytin on the back porch

“One of the many benefits of adopting a retired NGA (National Greyhound Association) racing greyhound is that you can research their pedigrees and siblings. And through the internet and social media, you can make contact with their breeders and trainers who knew them before they came to your couch. In my case, I was able to see that Tytin had four other littermates, three of whom were still racing. I followed the other littermates’ racing careers. Over time, as Tytin’s siblings became adoptable, I was able to reunite three out of the four of them!”

Raven is ready to make her donation

Raven is ready to make her donation

“I regularly bring my dogs to NorthStar VETS to donate to their canine and feline blood bank, and my three greyhounds were in recently for their donation. The blood bank utilizes healthy dogs and cats who can help less fortunate animals by donating blood. Many pet parents aren’t aware that, just as in human medicine, blood products can be a life-saving resource for critically ill or injured pets. You can learn more about the program at the Blood Bank portion of their website.”

Reasons why retired racing greyhounds make ideal blood donors:

  • Universal Donors – greyhounds have a blood type that allows their blood to be used for donation in all other breeds.
  • Athletic conditioning – Racers are bred and conditioned to be in prime health. They have a higher packed cell volume/red blood cell count and lower white blood cell count than most average canines. They also have a lower than average platelet count.
  • Anatomical advantages – Very little fur or body fat makes finding an access vein much easier on a greyhound.
  • Disposition – Racing greyhounds are accustomed to being handled by many different people during their racing careers. Breeders and their farm staff and families, trainers, racing kennel assistants, track officials, veterinarians, lead outs. This in addition to their overall calm and gentle nature make them well suited as donors.

Think your dog or cat could be a blood donor? Take the online pre-screening test.

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