Heatstroke Can Be Deadly

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. - Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Heatstroke occurs when a dog’s body either produces through exercise or absorbs from the environment more heat than it can dissipate.  When the temperature reaches 109° degrees Fahrenheit or greater, heatstroke occurs and the cells of the body begin to die quickly.  Swelling of the brain causes seizures, lack of blood supply to digestive tract causes gastric ulcers and dehydration leads to permanent damage to the kidneys, all within a matter of minutes.

You may be surprised to learn how easily heatstroke can occur.  We usually think of heatstroke occurring when a dog exercises too much in hot weather or is left in a locked hot car, but there are reports of dogs suffering severe heatstroke while walking with their owner on a hot day or when exposed to direct sun through the window of a moving car. A dog maybe susceptible to heatstroke under conditions that might not be uncomfortable, much less life threatening for humans.

One reason dogs are more susceptible to the effects of heat than humans is their skin is different.  Human skin has many sweat glands in it, and beneath the surface of the skin is a vast network of tiny blood vessels called capillaries.  When the human body becomes overheated, the glands produce sweat and the blood in the capillaries is cooled as the sweat evaporates.  Dogs have neither the sweat glands nor the blood cooling capillaries of humans.  They cool themselves by panting, allowing cooler air to enter the lungs and dissipate their body heat.  Older dogs, puppies, sick dogs and dogs poorly acclimated to warm weather are especially at risk, but even healthy dogs who live outdoors all the time may be susceptible during severe hot weather or excessive exercise or excitement.

Dogs with small heads and short noses, such as Pekingese, Boxers, Bostons, Bulldogs, or Chinese Pugs are more susceptible to heatstroke.  They are poorly built for cooling by panting, so they can’t exchange air as easily as long nosed dogs.

Signs of heatstroke are:  loud and excessive panting, profuse salivation, restlessness and dry gums and tongue.  The gums and tongue turn bright red to purple, eyes become glazed and they have trouble walking or standing.

If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, take action.  First, get the dog out of heat into shade or in air conditioning as soon as possible.  Offer him small amounts of cold water.  Call a veterinarian and get him examined as soon as possible.

What is Veterinary Acupuncture?

Elsie Lacy

“Elsie” Lacy being a great acupuncture patient

Information provided by: Shelly Marquardt, D.V.M. with Veterinary Medical Clinic and After Hours Urgent Pet Care of South Tampa

Acupuncture is the treatment of conditions or symptoms by the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body, acupoints, in order to produce a response.  The ancient Chinese discovered acupuncture points for both humans and animals, and these points were found to be connected with each other and various internal organs via meridians or channels.

Modern research shows that acupoints are located in the areas where there is a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels.  When stimulated, each acupuncture point has specific actions causing release of beta-endorphins, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters.  Combinations of points are often stimulated to take advantage of synergistic reactions between them, particularly healing and pain relief.

Any condition may potentially benefit from acupuncture.  In veterinary medicine, there is evidence of the success of acupuncture for treating many disorders:

  • Musculoskeletal – osteoarthritis, intervertebral disk disease, degenerative joint disease
  • Neurological – seizures, laryngeal paralysis, facial and nerve paralysis
  • Gastrointestinal – vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, impact impaction
  • Respiratory – asthma, coughing, upper respiratory
  • Dermatological – allergic dermatitis, lick granuloma

 Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Qi?

A: Qi (pronounced chee) is the life force or energy that sustains the body.  There are two opposite forms of Qi: Yin and Yang. Physiologically, Qi flows throughout the body, maintaining as balance of Yin and Yang.  When the flow of Qi is interrupted, the balance is lost and disease can develop. 

Pain is defined as a blockage of Qi.  Acupuncture can resolve the blockage, allowing Qi to flow freely, and enabling the body to heal to restore balance.

 Q: What is the history of acupuncture?

A: Acupuncture was developed thousands of years ago by the ancient Chinese to treat conditions in both humans and animals.  In North America, the use of acupuncture outside of Asian-American communities was infrequent until the early 1970s.  Since then, as more clinical research has been conducted showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, its use has been increasing. There are now many veterinarians adding acupuncture into their practice.

Q: What are the methods and goals of acupuncture?

A: The goal of acupuncture is to restore the flow of Qi in order to restore balance.  This can be achieved by stimulating the acupoints in a variety of ways, such as dry needling, moxibustion, aqua-acupuncture, and electro- stimulation.

 Which acupuncture points are stimulated, the depth of needle insertion, the type of stimulation applied to the needles, and the duration of each treatment session depends on the patient’s tolerance, the experience and training of the practitioner, and the condition being treated.  

 Q: How safe is acupuncture therapy?

A: it is very safe when administered by a qualified practitioner. Very few side effects have been found in clinical cases.

 Q: Does acupuncture hurt?

A: Most animals are comfortable with acupuncture treatment and some will fall asleep during the treatment.  A proper treatment may cause a mild sensation of heaviness with some muscle contraction.  It may be necessary to gently restrain the animal during the first treatment to minimize discomfort.  As a rule, animals relax and sit or lie quietly for subsequent treatments.

 Q: What species of animals can receive acupuncture?

A : Acupuncture can be used on all species of animals, and has documented efficacy on a wide range of species, including elephants, cattle, horses, dogs, cats, monkeys, and rabbits.  However, it tends to be more frequently used in companion animal species such as the horse, dog, and cat.

 Q: How much does a veterinary acupuncture treatment cost?

A: Cost can vary widely based on location, practitioner, species, and disease being treated. It is best to contact your nearest practitioner to discuss their fees.

Your Car is an Oven!


You’ve heard of it, you knew it affected people, and you were even vaguely aware that it could affect your pet. But how does it happen? And most important, how can you help your pet avoid it? Heatstroke is a deadly disease that can kill your beloved companion, even with emergency treatment. The best way to avoid this terrible situation is prevention, and it’s all up to you.

Sun + humidity = heatstroke (and other factors that kill)

Everyone knows that the inside of a car on a hot summer’s day can be lethal. But Fido needs you to know more than that to keep him safe in the deadly sun. Days above 90 degrees, especially with high humidity, are inherently dangerous for your pet. Humidity interferes with animals’ ability to rid themselves of excess body heat. When we overheat we sweat, and when the sweat dries it takes excess heat with it. Our four-legged friends only perspire around their paws, which is not enough to cool the body. To rid themselves of excess heat, animals pant. Air moves through the nasal passages, which picks up excess heat from the body. As it is expelled through the mouth, the extra heat leaves along with it. Although this is a very efficient way to control body heat, it is severely limited in areas of high humidity or when the animal is in close quarters.

The shape of an animal’s nasal passages can contribute to an animal’s tendency to overheat. Brachiocephalic (pug-nosed) dogs are more prone to heatstroke because their nasal passages are smaller and it’s more difficult for them to circulate sufficient air for cooling. Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheating because their extra layers of fat act as insulation, which traps heat in their bodies and restricts their breathing capabilities. Age can also be a factor in an animal’s tendency to overheat–very young animals may not have a fully developed temperature regulating system, and older pets’ organ systems may not be functioning at 100 percent, leaving them prone to heat-related damage.

Cracking the windows doesn’t cut it

So where are the danger zones? The most obvious is your car: It can become a death trap even on a mild sunny day–and can insidiously raise the car’s temperature to well above 120 degrees! Never, ever leave your pet inside the car. If your pet can’t come with you when you get out of the car, leave him at home.

What are some other dangerous situations for your pets? Leaving animals outdoors without shelter is just as dangerous as leaving them inside a hot car. Be sure they are not left in a cage in the hot sun, on a chain in the backyard, or outdoors in a run without sufficient shade or air circulation.

To read more visit the articles source at the American Animal Hospital Association’s website.

Courtesy of the American Animal Hospital Association.

Davis Island Fest

Join Veterinary Medical Clinic and After Hours Urgent Pet Care of South Tampa at the Davis Islands Fest on April 26 from 10 am – 5 pm. More details can be found at http://www.islandsfest.com/.

After Hours Urgent Pet Care of South Tampa

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Veterinary Medical Clinic

Harbour Island Art Walk

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Join us from 12:00 until 5:00 pm



County Shelter Temporarily Closed Due to Respiratory Disease

Dear Volunteers, Partners, Veterinarians, and Stakeholders,

Staff from HCAS recently attended the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Conference in Jacksonville and learned about new research on upper respiratory viruses including a new PCR test from Cornell University. Upon their return, staff decided to proactively gather eleven samples from dogs with and without clinical symptoms of upper respiratory infections (URI) and submit them to Cornell University. This weekend, we received the results, which revealed the presence of coronavirus and pneumovirus in the shelter. It is not possible to say when this virus may have entered the shelter because tests for them were not available to us before.

I have attached a handout from the University of Florida Shelter Medicine program on these viruses. The pneumovirus is significant because it lasts longer, is more contagious, and can sometimes cause pneumonia or other complications. The pneumovirus was first discovered in 2010 and has been reported in only a few Florida communities, Maryland, New York, and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for the virus.

For the shelter, this is significant because, in order to break the virus cycle, animals must be quarantined and intake limited. For these reasons, the following steps will be taken for the next two weeks or until a veterinarian determines that the shelter has broken the infection cycle:

– Dog intake at the shelter and in the field will be limited to dangerous dogs, dogs that have bitten a person, and sick or injured dogs.

– Owner surrender dogs will not be accepted – they will be asked to contact other shelters and rescue groups, rehome the dog if possible, or hang on to the dog for a few weeks.

– Dogs will not be allowed to leave the shelter until veterinarians determine that they do not present a risk; dogs with adoption and rescue applications will be sheltered and treated medically if necessary. The shelter will not euthanize to control the disease. However, some amount of euthanasia will occur due to the regular disposition process (e.g., bite releases, animals not responding to medical treatment, etc.)

– The public will be asked to help support the shelter by keeping stray animals and posting flyers and signs as well as using electronic media to search for owners (e.g., Craigslist, neighborhood association newsletters, etc.)

– The pubic will be asked to search for pets on-line first, and only come to the shelter if they think that their dog may be here. Staff will escort them around the shelter.

– We will not be walking any dogs until further notice in order to be extra cautious.

IMPORTANT: Cat intake, adoption, rescue, and returns-to-owner will continue as usual. These viruses are not contagious to cats.

Lastly, one of the dogs tested very lightly for distemper. The University of Florida says that this may just be the result of vaccinating the dog. The dog was adopted out on 11/1/13 and went home with antibiotics for a slight cough. However, the owner reports that the cough is going away and that the dog is very active and has a big appetite. A veterinary technician and an animal control officer visited the adopter today to observe the dogs condition and gather a second sample, which will confirm or deny the presence of distemper. We hope to have those results by early next week.

If you are fostering a dog from us, have recently rescued a dog from us, or have a dog at home with any upper respiratory symptoms, please let your veterinarian know about this information.

We will continue to update you on changes to our operations as well as new information about the viruses. Please keep in mind that we have seen a decrease in URI in the shelter and as reported by the veterinary community through post adoption surveys. The test results reflect what viruses are in our community and not an increase in illness.

Thank you for your support as we undertake a massive effort to rid the shelter of this virus.


Ian Hallett, MPA
Director of Animal Services
Hillsborough County BOC
office: (813) 744-5350
fax: (813) 612-914
Please note: all correspondence to or from this office is subject to Florida’s Public Records laws.

All About Ear Infections

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Why do some dogs get ear infections over and over while others are never troubled by them?  There are many causes for ear infections, including excessive moistness in the ears, the presence of mites or bacteria, and skin allergies.  Normal ears contain bacterial and yeast in appropriate amounts, but if these yeast or bacteria levels get out of balance, the result can be an ear infection.

Breeds that are prone to ear infections include those with very moist ears, such as Cocker Spaniels, or those prone to skin allergies, such as West Highland White Terriers and Scottish Terriers.  Dogs with weak or insufficient immune systems may also suffer frequent ear infections.  And almost any breed with long, droopy ears can be prone to ear problems.  Basset Hounds head the list, with English Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, and Chinese Shar-Pei following close behind.  Dogs whose ears contain a great deal of hair, such as Poodles, Schnauzers and Old English Sheepdogs frequently have ear problems as well.

TREATMENT – Veterinarians diagnose ear infections by examining the ear with an otoscope to check for foreign bodies or taking a sample of discharge and examining it under a microscope to identify bacteria, yeast or parasites.

Your veterinarian can provide a topical antibacterial or anti-fungal agent to help clear up the problem.  If mites are an issue, the veterinarian will prescribe a medication aimed specifically at killing them.  Be sure to give all the medication prescribed even after the ear appears to be better, because if the dog doesn’t get the full treatment, the infection can pop right back up again.

When infections are complicated by deep soft-tissue involvement, oral antibiotics may be necessary.  Underlying allergies will require appropriate treatment as well.  Often, treatment is intense for initial control, and regular treatment is needed for the rest of the dog’s life to avoid recurrences.

Serious and persistent infections sometimes require more drastic measures.  In some cases, the dog may need to be anesthetized several times so the ear canal can be flushed and debris removed.

If ear canals become thickened and narrowed after many infections, surgery to remove part or all of the outer ear canal may be the best option for humane management.  Opening up the ear canal improves air circulation and makes treatment more effective.

PREVENTION – Even if your dog is prone to ear infections, you can take steps to help prevent them:

  • Check the ears weekly, especially if your dog has floppy ears.
  • Clean the ears with a veterinarian-recommended solution recommended.
  • Trim excess hair.
  • Use drying agents when indicated.
  • Control fleas.

Remember that many ear infections are chronic and can only be managed, not cured.

If an ear infection recurs, don’t assume that the same medication you used last time will work again.  The organisms and ear environment can be different from one infection to another, so see your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.

Source: Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

Don’t Ignore Warning Signs of Cancer in Pets

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Cancer is the ungoverned growth of cells on or within the body. The terms “cancerous” and “malignant” are synonymous. The term “tumor” refers to a cancerous local growth. Tumors are characterized by rapid growth and local invasion into surrounding tissues. Tumors may also metastasize, that is spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to distant sites within the body. The lungs are a very common site for tumor metastasis. The prognosis for tumors is often most dependent on whether they have metastasized prior to the diagnosis.

Many signs of illness would prompt a suspicion of cancer among a host of other problems.

Cancer warning signs include foul odor, persistent lameness, difficulty urination or defecating, abnormal growth, weight loss, bleeding, wounds that won’t heal, difficulty breathing, weakness and lethargy.

Fatigues is definitely a sign to watch out for that most people might miss.

To catch the disease in the early stages, dog & cat owners need to be alert to changes in their pet’s behavior and seek medical care as soon as possible. By the time cancer is discovered, it can be fairly advanced, and a cure isn’t always possible.

There are no preventive measures to ensure your dog doesn’t get cancer, but spaying before the first heat will almost completely remove the risk of mammary cancer. Testicular tumors in dogs are common, but when dogs are neutered, the risk is eliminated.

Breeds at Risk

Certain breeds seem more susceptible to inherited types of cancer. In some forms of cancer, body type is also important. Larger or giant breeds have a higher incidence of bone cancer. Dogs with dark skin are more susceptible to melanomas.

Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers are at risk for lymphoma and osteosarcoma. Scottish Terriers and Shelties are susceptible to bladder cancer. Bernese Mountain dogs tend to contract lymphoma, mast cell tumors and histiocytosis, a rare cancer, which oncologists treat with chemotherapy and radiation.

Cancer is not one disease, so the breed and cancer associations are endless.

Today cancer is now one of the most common causes of death in pets.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

Your Medications May or May Not Be Appropriate For Your Pet

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Many human medications are the same as dog medications.  A pet owner might be inclined to give the pet a dose of a human medicine when their veterinarian may not be available to advise.

Unless your pet’s doctor has given specific instructions about which medications and how much to give, you should avoid the temptation.  Your well intended act has the potential to harm your pet.

A drug like aspirin or another NSAID (like Advil or Motrin) might in some cases, cause severe bleeding and/or damage to the stomach wall.  The metabolism of drugs in dogs and cats can differ from that in humans, which means that the standard dose of human pain reliever included in one tablet or capsule may be an overdose for your pet.

A medication prescribed for your dog should never be given to any other species of pet without the specific direction of your veterinarian.

Holiday Pet Hazards

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Holiday Pet Hazards Article by Eddie Garcia, D.VM. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic and Feline Wellness Center

The following is a list of the common holiday hazards that bring many pet owners to veterinary clinics.  All of them can be avoided with some simple precautions.         

Chocolate:  It is in our baking projects as well as in wrapped gifts that end up under the tree.  Pets often get into chocolate by chewing into a wrapped gift, the contents of a person may not even be aware.  To avoid what may be a fatal exposure, keep all chocolate out of reach, never place wrapped chocolate under a holiday tree and don’t be shy about asking gift givers if a gift they place under your tree contains any chocolate.  The stimulants that give us the “chocolate buzz” can cause diarrhea, vomiting and fatal heart arrhythmias in our furry friends.

Antifreeze:  Commonly used in the winter holiday months as we prepare our automobiles for cold weather.  Products containing ethylene glycol are fatal when even small amounts are swallowed.  Because they are typically sweet in taste, many dogs will drink antifreeze straight or in puddles combined with water.  Cats may walk through it and then lick the antifreeze off their paws.  Permanent, irreversible kidney damage results from these exposures and can be fatal.  Prevention is simple if you clean spills immediately and purchase newer products that don’t contain ethylene glycol.  They are marked “pet safe.”

Many of our favorite holiday foods contain more fats and bones than foods we eat the rest of the year.   Giving fats and bones can trigger bad cases of stomach upset or can result in life threatening obstructions or pancreatitis.  It’s helpful to keep extra “safe” treats around the house during the holidays so that you can cheat with extras that won’t be a threat to your pet’s health.

Weather:  If a pet is going to spend considerable time outdoors in the cold, it may have a higher calorie requirement; so a little extra food may be warranted.  Whenever it is 30F or colder, bring in all animals to prevent frostbite.

Ornaments:  Many animals will eat tree ornaments, tinsel and candles.  Prevent hazards by keeping young, unsupervised puppies out of harm’s way of all ornaments and use care when burning candles so that tails and long hair don’t accidentally cause fire hazards.  Never leave a candle burning on a coffee table with unsupervised pets.  Sweep up any broken ornaments immediately and vacuum well to prevent exposure to sharp shards.

If you follow these simple recommendations, you and all of your pets should enjoy a peaceful and healthy holiday season.

For more information on Holiday Pet Hazards you can visit the following resources:

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