Prevent Pill Abuse Event

October 15, 2013

On October 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its seventh opportunity in three years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.  Bring your medications for disposal any of the collection sites listed below.  The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Last April, Americans turned in 371 tons (over 742,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at over 5,800 sites operated by the DEA and its thousands of state and local law enforcement partners.  In its six previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners took in over 2.8 million pounds—more than 1,400 tons—of pills. 

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.  Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

DEA is in the process of approving new regulations that implement the Safe and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which amends the Controlled Substances Act to allow an “ultimate user” (that is, a patient or pet or their family member or owner) of controlled substance medications to dispose of them by delivering them to entities authorized by the Attorney General to accept them.  The Act also allows the Attorney General to authorize long term care facilities to dispose of their residents’ controlled substances in certain instances.   

National Take Back Initiative Collection Sites in the Charleston Area

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Caring For Senior Pets

September 24, 2013

ImageI have a soft spot in my heart for those grey-faced pets that come in for my care at Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital. And, we are seeing more of these “senior citizens” thanks to advances in veterinary care, diagnostics, and earlier intervention. I think the key to enjoying our “senior” pets lies not only in extending their life span, but in helping them enjoy their later years to the fullest.

Like people, dogs and cats are prone to debilitating ailments as they age. Kidney failure, heart disease, arthritis, dental disease, cancer, and cognitive dysfunction can occur during the normal aging process.  In the past, because many diseases weren’t diagnosed until advanced stages, veterinarians could do little more than make a pet’s golden years a little more comfortable. If the pet was lucky, the problems would progress slowly. Most pet owners just accepted the fact that their four-legged friends were just going to live a relatively short life, get old, and pass on.

But thanks to technical advancements in modern veterinary medicine, surgery, diagnostics and nutrition, not only do pets live longer but their quality of life has increased dramatically as well. The advancement of pain control programs for dogs has played a big role in this.

Many age-related problems are still seen as inevitable, but the attitudes of both veterinarians and pet owners have changed. The belief now is that “age is not a disease”, and veterinary medicine is putting increased emphasis on senior pet health through preventative wellness programs.

Through these programs, we have found that the earlier we discover a problem and intervene, the better able we are to prevent or manage senior health problems.

At what age is a pet considered a senior? Generally, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds, and cats live longer than dogs. Life spans vary with individuals, and pets, like people, age at different rates, some more gracefully than others. In general, smaller breeds of dogs are considered seniors after 10 years of age but might not be considered truly geriatric until 15! Large and giant breeds like Labrador retrievers and mastiffs are considered seniors as early as seven years old. Cats, especially if they are kept indoors, don’t reach their golden years until their teens and can live to their early twenties. I love it when we have pets in the clinic that are older than some of my staff members.

The single most important step a pet owner can take to keep their pet happy and healthy as long as possible is to schedule regular veterinary exams. As pets age, these exams are more important than ever, because as with people, early detection is crucial for disease and problem intervention. Young pets need regular exams once or twice yearly. But as dogs and cats approach middle age, these exams should be more frequent because every year in a pet’s life is equivalent to 5-7 human years.

Keeping elderly pets healthy also helps my clients stay healthy and active. All of us are going to get arthritis so exercise is important to stay in shape and keep from getting stiff. Exercising together is the best way to enjoy your pet’s senior years while keeping your joints flexible and your muscles strong.

I recommend regular lab work, electrocardiograms, blood pressure monitoring, and x-rays to look for early problems like thyroid, kidney, heart, and liver disease. With early detection, pets with organ function problems can be treated with medication and special diets that not only extend their life span but the quality of their lives. In some cases, medical problems can even be reversed.

In general, some early warning signs that your pet may be having a problem are:

  • increased thirst and urination
  • loss of bladder control or   breaking house training
  • repeated vomiting
  • bad breath, drooling or changes in appetite
  •  excessive panting or exercise intolerance
  •  lumps or changes in areas of skin color
  •  change in appetite – eating more or less than usual
  •  changes in behavior such as “spacing out” or excessive whining
  •  unusual bowel habits – diarrhea or constipation.
  •  changes in body weight – gaining or losing weigh

Watch pets closely and report any unusual behavioral or physical problems to your veterinarian immediately. Work with your veterinarian and develop a specific senior wellness program for your pet’s individual needs so that your special friend can enjoy aging gracefully.



September 9, 2013

ImageMy clients, friends and neighbors are reporting record flea control problems this year, especially, if they skipped or were late for their monthly year-around flea control applications or medications.

“That expensive flea control product that I bought isn’t working,” is what I hear over and over. But that isn’t actually the case. Today’s flea control products are highly effective, but if you skipped a dose, or were just a little bit late on your schedule, you will be seeing the results of a severe flea infestation this year. All it takes is a few fleas to survive long enough on your pet to produce hundreds of eggs and you have a massive infestation.

Once a flea infestation gets established in your home environment, it’s tough to bring under control because the adult fleas produce thousands of offspring. The fleas you see on your pet are only 5% of the total flea problem. The other 95% of flea life cycle include tiny eggs, larvae and pupae (or cocoons) which live and hatch in your home or yard. These life cycle stages can be found anywhere the pet has been and are so small that they are difficult to see. Most surprisingly they can survive up to 365 days in your home environment.

So, you noticed some fleas and re-started your monthly flea treatments(adulticides), but you continue to see fleas on your pet. This is because, even though you are killing all of the adult fleas on your pet, the nymph fleas, which are just a smaller version of the adult flea, are hopping out of the pupae (cocoons) in the environment so fast that you see these tiny fleas before your product can kill them. However, you can attest to the fact that your adulticide product is working if you notice that your pet does not have “flea dirt” or flea feces on them. This means that those babies are dying before they even poop. But, they can still make your pet scratch.


Your flea product isn’t failing at this point, but you need more help to get your environment under control

Here are some things you should know:


One flea can produce 2,000 eggs in its lifetime.


95% of flea life stages are present in the environment rather than on the pet. These environmental stages can survive up to 365 days and nothing kills the baby flea in a cocoon.


Fleas can reproduce year-round in southern climates.


While pets can become re-infested from sources other than the home, the majority of control requires a focus on what is happening at home.


Flea adulticides and growth regulators should be used at the correct dosage year-round.


Fleas are more than a simple nuisance; they can cause disease in both people and pets.


Control requires killing the adult fleas, and the other life cycle stages you can’t see.


Your veterinarian can help you establish flea control, but it won’t be simple.

You won’t see a “quick fix” when it comes to flea control – especially in humid climates. It usually takes three months of flea control to break the flea life cycle. This is because fleas in the insecticide-resistant cocoon stage are in between your hardwood floor planks, under your pet’s bedding, in your carpet and in every crack and crevice where your pet spends time. They will hatch out and hop on your pet for months after re-starting your adulticide therapy.

Now for the good news – effective flea control is available. Unlike years ago when flea control was cumbersome, expensive and rarely effective, products found at your veterinary office today can provide a very high level of effectiveness. Two advances in technology have made this possible: 1) Safe products that continue to work on the pet for a full 30 days, actively killing the adult fleas and 2) Insect Growth Regulators(IGRs) that kill the juvenile stages of the life cycle and provide highly effective control at this crucial part of the flea’s development.

Using a combination of these two products and treating your pet’s environment are the keys to re-establishing flea control. Veterinarians call this Integrated Flea Control. Integrated Flea Control kills adult fleas AND stops the immature life cycle stages from developing into adults. You must treat ALL animals in your household. This eliminates flea infestations in three months and prevents and infestation in the future.

If you are seeing fleas on your pet, then in addition to your monthly flea application or flea pill, you must wash everything in the path of your pet. If you can’t wash it, then you need to vacuum it every day and throw away the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag or clean out the canister of the vacuum each time you use it. You have sucked up flea eggs, larvae and pupae and you need to get those out of the house before they hatch! Treat under pet’s beds and the floor where they stand to eat with products recommended by your veterinarian. Treat areas in the yard where pets hang out, especially if they are shady. The sun dries out flea larvae, but with all the rain this year, some areas never dried out enough. Use an outdoor product recommended by your veterinarian or a reputable pest-control company.

You also need to be sure all pets in the household are receiving an IGR. Think of this as flea birth control. This ensures that any fleas to do sneak past your adulticides and environmental sprays are sterile. If they cannot reproduce, you will never get an infestation like the one you are suffering through this year. But, again, every pet in the household must take part!

Especially in the face of a record year for flea infestation, now is the time to act. You can watch an interesting video about fleas by visiting and don’t give up. You can get this problem under control, but you must use integrated flea control methods, be persistent and patient.

Pet Food Recalls

August 9, 2013

Are you tired of hearing about pet food recalls? On Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital’s Facebook page, it seems like we post pet food or treat recall notices about once a week. These constant reports make all of us a bit paranoid about what we are feeding our pets, so let’s take a few minutes to look at the facts.
It is the memory of the massive 2007 recall of adulterated pet food ingredients that enhances our concerns today and makes us all pay closer attention to any recall. In 2007, the melamine that entered so many pet foods caused illness and even death in an untold number of pets.
More recent recalls are generally done because of the presence of Salmonella or aflatoxin (mold) noted in the final product. Fortunately, most of these recalls occur before any illness is reported and the pet food manufacturers are quick to recall not only the affected lot, but other batches of food with the potential for contamination. On rare occasions, a pet food might be recalled because of a deficiency or excess of a vital nutrient.
The good news is that these recalls often happen before large quantities of the foods ever get to consumers, so the potential for problems in our pets is greatly reduced. And, pet food companies are working with the FDA to implement specific measures as outlined in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. These provisions may help boost our confidence that important safety measures are maintained or even increased.
The reality is that pet food recalls are not on the increase at this time. The Office of Surveillance and Compliance at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine says that the number of companies recalling foods stays pretty consistent from year to year, although the number of products/brands may fluctuate at any given time. In fact, due to the implementation of governmental safety measures, testing showed a decrease in Salmonella contamination from 12.4 percent of pet food samples in 2006 to 6.1 percent in 2009.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely avoid food safety issues. I am sure most of us have had food poisoning ourselves from time to time. But you can greatly reduce risk to your pet by developing a good relationship with whoever sells you your pet food. This may be your veterinarian or it may be one of our local, independent pet food shops where buyers have a good relationship with the companies behind the products. Remember that, overall, pet foods are safe and healthy, complete diets.
Follow your veterinarian’s social media pages to stay on top of important recalls or you can follow the FDA’s recall list: or the Pet Food Safety Recalls and Alerts page at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website:

ImageDuring the spring, young wildlife are abundant.  Everyday someone brings a baby bird, raccoon, squirrel or opossum into our hospital for help.  They are indeed adorable, but most of these babies would have been better off left alone.  Remember these tips as you try to discern whether or not a baby animal is in need of rescue.

As young birds are learning to fly, they will be on the ground and easily approachable by humans.  Just because a baby is on the ground, it does not mean you should “help” it.  Remember the following before you scoop it up:

  • Older babies (feathered with short tails) are supposed to be hopping around on the ground.  Leave these alone.  If you have concerns about the whereabouts of the parents, watch from a distance for 30 minutes.  Parent birds will visit their young frequently to feed them and encourage flight.
  • If you don’t see adults coming around, do everything you can to try to return young babies to the nest.  Get a ladder, climb a tree, make a new nest (shallow boxes with small towels work OK) and place it as close as you can to the real nest.  Young birds rarely survive rehabilitation, so be creative and try to figure out how to get the baby off the ground and into its nest or makeshift nest.
  • Mother birds will not reject their young after a human has touched the baby.
  • Injured babies or babies that have been brought inside by the household cat should be taken to a local veterinarian who admits wildlife. The same is true for young babies that are repeatedly pushed out of the nest because this usually means that the parent bird detects a defect in that particular baby.
  • Healthy babies that are at risk from neighborhood pets can go directly to a rehabilitator.  But, it is preferable to confine dogs and cats until baby season is over and leave the birds where they are.
  •  Frightened or injured water birds like herons and egrets attack humans by pecking at their eyes.  Therefore it is better not to handle these large birds unless you know what you are doing.  Immediately contact a rehabilitator or your local animal control agency to help rescue these animals.
  •   A call to Keepers of the Wild at 843 636 1659 can help you determine what to do.


Baby raccoons and foxes are also abundant in our neighborhoods this time of year. DO NOT TOUCH THESE ANIMALS. I know they are cute, but they can and do carry rabies. If you find an injured or abandoned baby mammal, call Keeper of the Wild. They will tell you what to do.

Adult fox and raccoons are especially dangerous.  Healthy adults that you may consider a nuisance can be handled by a wildlife removal service such as Wildlife Solutions.  Injured animals should be handled by your local animal control or by Keeper of the Wild. 

Baby squirrels and opossums are less dangerous to handle since they rarely carry rabies.  However, adults bite, and they bite hard, so DON’T HANDLE ADULTS. If you find injured or abandoned squirrel or opossum babies, you can box them and bring them to a veterinary hospital that admits wildlife or call Keeper of the Wild for someone to pick them up. Pedialyte is a good solution to dropper feed these babies until a professional can take over.  DO NOT use cow milk, soy milk, goat milk etc.

Baby deer and rabbits do not carry rabies.  You can handle these if they are injured or abandoned, but watch for ticks! As soon as a baby bunny is fully furred and has his eyes open, he is on his own.  He doesn’t need your help unless he is injured. They seem too small to be independent, but they are.  Fawns are often left alone for long periods of time. Watch for the parents for up to 3 hours before you deem a fawn abandoned.

All raptors (hawks, owls, and vultures) are handled by the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey.  If you spot an injured raptor, Call 843-971-7474 to arrange for pick up. These birds of prey can be very dangerous, even if they are injured, so don’t handle them.  You can carefully cover them with a blanket or towel while you wait for help from a professional.

Charleston has a good network of veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators. Many veterinary clinics have volunteered to take in wildlife, treat injuries and illness, and then pass the animals to Keeper of the Wild.  This organization, which works solely on donations, is in desperate need of funding if they are to continue their mission.  They treat and re-locate animals as needed. They also have a center where amputees and disabled wildlife are housed and used for education. 

Never feed wild mammals. This encourages them to live too close to humans. This endangers us by bringing rabies into our yards and neighborhoods and it endangers the animals by making them less afraid of human contact. These animals are more likely to be injured by humans, household pets and automobiles.  Instead of feeding wild mammals consider making donations to the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey ( or to Keeper of the Wild (  Your contributions will help to keep our wildlife safe and healthy.


When my husband was a little boy, every year he looked forward to the live colored baby chicks that were brought by the Easter Bunny.  These chicks were cute, especially dyed blue or pink, but as hard as a young boy tried, the chicks invariably died in 2-3 days. Image

Even today, one can still find chicks for sale at various feed stores during the early spring.  Pet stores promote their bunny sales at Easter, and retail stores have been known to give away rabbits to children as part of their Easter promotions.  Purchasing or accepting these young animals at Easter time is usually a heartbreaking mistake.

Chicks and rabbits, no matter how young, are living, breathing, feeling creatures who do not deserve to be used for a few days to as disposable toys for young children.  If you are tempted to give in to a child’s excitement over a young rabbit or chick, be prepared to adopt this pet as a member of your family.  If you cannot make this commitment, then do not give the gift of a live animal.

It is not legal to keep farm animals in many neighborhoods and subdivisions.  Chicks are considered farm animals.  So, if you truly want a pet chicken, be sure to check your neighborhood regulations.  Contact a farm animal veterinarian about the medical, physical and exercise needs for chickens. 

So, how about rabbits?  If the whole family has discussed the pros and cons of having a rabbit as a pet, then several facilities should be scouted before purchasing a bunny.  The history of the animal should be obtained.  Avoid pets that were bred several states away and trucked to the pet store.  These animals are weakened and are more likely to carry disease.  The Charleston Animal Society often has rabbits available for adoption. Adopting a rabbit in need of a home provides a child, not only with a new pet, but also a lesson about caring for the less fortunate.

Rabbits can make a nice alternative to a dog or cat.  They are usually not aggressive, they don’t require long walks, and they can be trained to use a litter box.  However, their life span is a bit shorter than a dog or cat (5-10 years) and they do reproduce, well, like rabbits.  (Do not trust the pet store employee’s guess about sex and never put 2 rabbits together until you and your veterinarian are sure of their sex.)

Charleston’s climate is not suitable for domestic rabbits to be kept outside.  They are very sensitive to heat stroke and anything above 80 degrees can be dangerous. 

Plan ahead for exercise and housing needs before you decide that a rabbit is for you.  Obesity is a big problem with rabbits that get little exercise.  They need daily, supervised exercise in fenced grassy areas (keep lawn chemicals off these areas) or in a safe room in the house.  There are harnesses and leashes made specifically for rabbits that enable you to exercise them safely inside and outside.  Rabbits should never be allowed to run around the house unsupervised.  They love to chew on carpets and furniture and for some reason they love electrical cords.  As you can imagine, serious injury can occur if they bite into a cord.

In between exercise sessions you will want to confine your rabbit.  There are lots of cages made for rabbits, but most of them are ridiculously small.  Be sure you get one that has both wire and smooth flooring because constantly sitting on wire causes foot sores.  There should be a hiding place and room for ceramic food and water bowls.  Feces should drop through a wire mesh or there should be a litter box available. 

Once you have decided that you can handle the exercise and housing requirements for a rabbit, you need to think about feeding.  Timothy hay is the key to longevity and health for a rabbit and should be available at all times.  Highly concentrated pellets should be kept to a minimum for adult rabbits.  Small amounts of alfalfa, grass and clover are a nice treat.  Dark green leafy vegetables also can provide nutrition, moisture and variety to the diet but they should not comprise more than 20% of the diet.

Rabbits need to chew to control their ever-growing teeth.  Some dog toys such as Nyla-bones are fine for rabbits and most pet stores offer wood chew sticks for this purpose.  If they are not adequately shortening their teeth, then a trip to the veterinarian is warranted for sedation and proper filing of these teeth

Rabbits cannot be declawed, so instead you must learn how to handle your rabbit properly so he doesn’t scratch you.  Their sharp nails can be trimmed.  You cannot pick up a rabbit by his ears and his back legs must always be supported.  It is important to have your veterinarian show you and your children how to safely handle the rabbit.

While rabbits can and do make great pets, buying one as an Easter treat should be carefully considered.

ImageSpring is in the air, and it is time to clear out not only clothes, but old cleaning supplies, garden supplies, expired medications and the ancient roach trap that has been hiding in the corner of that cabinet for years. When we are tackling our cluttered storage areas, our pets are at a higher risk of being poisoned by some of the materials we are bringing down from shelves and out of cabinets.

In the kitchen, watch out for bits of foods that may have dried up, but are nevertheless  irresistible to a dog or cat. Rotten foods contain molds or bacteria that can lead to serious poisoning.

In attics and closets, remember that dried-up rodent poisons and baits are potentially dangerous to pets. These products taste yummy, which is why the rats or mice like them, and dogs or cats will eat them in a flash. Some rodent poisons have no antidote and can be quickly fatal if eaten by an unsuspecting pet. Old roach baits and traps aren’t very poisonous to pets, but the plastic casing can cause quite a severe gastro-intestinal upset.

Human medications are a constant source of pet poisoning. When cleaning under stoves or bathroom cabinets, keep a close eye out for stray pills that might have rolled under an appliance, even years before. A friend of mine lost her cat to Tylenol poisoning after she had been spring cleaning under the stove in her rental apartment. A previous tenant must have allowed some spilled Tylenol to roll under the stove where they were left until my friend started cleaning. Her young cat must have eaten the rolling “treat” before anyone knew what had happened.

Even expired pet medications can be quite dangerous, as they are often flavored to make a yummy treat. If tasty pills or liquids are accidently left where a pet can get to them, they will eat every last bit, often resulting in dangerous poisonings. (Of-course, these same pets won’t eat the medications when you actually need them to, which is probably why you have them leftover in the first place, but that is another story.)

There are so many poisons stored in people’s garages that I cannot even begin to list them all, but keep your pets away as you are cleaning up auto supplies, especially anti-freeze. Even a teaspoon of anti-freeze can fatally poison an animal, so seal it up well before you dispose of it, and it is best to take all automobile related fluids to the “liquid disposal” section of the landfill where they can be properly disposed of, away from domestic and wild animals.

When cleaning out your purse, be especially careful with artificially sweetened candies or gum that may contain xylitol. This artificial sweetener can cause your pet’s blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels and can cause liver damage in susceptible dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can be extremely dangerous, so keep and dispose of these items where your pets cannot get to them.

So, think twice before starting your spring cleaning while your pets are around. It is best to secure them away from the area you’re a cleaning until you are finished. You’ll also find that the work goes much faster without your furry friend’s “help”.

If you do suspect that your pet may have been exposed to or ingested anything toxic, don’t waste any time.  Collect the product container! It does little good to call your vet and say “fluffy just ate a box of ant killer”. We need to know the actual chemical and the maximum amount that your pet could have eaten. So, keep the label and have it with you when you call for advice. It also helps to establish your pet’s age and weight before you call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435).  The ASPCA does charge for this service, so have a credit card handy.  Many poisonings can be treated effectively if caught early, so time is of the essence.