Category Archives: Featured

by Dr. Adam Denish

docs in Belize2So where am I today? If I told you Belize, would you know where Belize is on a map? Not surprisingly, most people don’t. Find Mexico and go south and the first country you will find is Belize.

So, why am I in Belize, you may ask? It could be the fact that I ran away from Philadelphia’s wonderful weather. Or it could be the amazing wildlife, outstanding people and to make a difference in the animal world.

So, who am I? As a way of introduction, in addition to my duties at Rhawnhurst and Elkins Park Veterinary Hospitals, I have always been fascinated by wild animals and their ecosystem. I spent almost 15 years caring for zoo animals at the Elmwood Park Zoo. For the last 3 years, I have been on the Board for the Belize Zoo Neotropical Consrcancy (BZNC). BZNC is a US-based non-profit that was started by some colleagues with the mission of raising funds and awareness for the Belize Zoo and the area surrounding it.

Wild Spider Monkey_re-sizedSo, why am I in Belize? I brought my friends, fellow veterinarians Dr. Sandy MacLeod and Dr. Jen MacLeod. They are amazing specialists that work at VSEC (Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center). Dr. Sandy is a board-certified radiologist and Dr. Jen is a board-certified surgeon.

So why are three veterinarians traveling to Belize? With generous support from our donors, the BZNC recently raised funds to purchase a new ultrasound machine. Today’s mission was to fly down to Belize and deliver the new machine to the Belize Zoo. The three of us will be performing ultrasounds on a variety of animals this week.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

Adam G Denish, VMD
Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital
Elkins Park Veterinary Hospital/Kennel
Belize Zoo Neotropical Conservancy (bznccares.org)

Pet Nutrition: Dos and Dont’s

“What kind of pet food, how much, and how often?”

These three questions are the ones that most clients hesitate to answer. There is usually a long pause followed by a hesitant “uuuhhh, dry, a scoop and twice a day?” Many clients don’t seem to like to answer questions about what they feed their pets, especially dog owners. There are many possible reasons for this hesitation, some may be:

1. They honestly don’t know. Often, feeding is the responsibility of one family member and if that isn’t the person at the visit this can be a question that they weren’t prepared to answer.

2. They are worried that they will be judged for the type of food or how they feed their pet. I worry that this is more often the reason than any other. There is a ton of marketing out there bombarding pet owners with messages about pet food that are often designed to make pet parents feel bad about their current diet so they will switch to the brand in the commercial. We all love our pets and marketing strategies use this to their favor.

3. They feed a variety and the brand can change from bag to bag. Sometimes feeding is a question of availability and some pet parents mix it up from bag to bag to give a “change of pace” to their pets.

Asking Your Veterinarian about Pet Nutrition & Diet

1. We will not judge your feeding choice. If you would like a recommendation or to discuss the diet you are currently feeding, just ask. We are happy to answer questions and discuss what food options would be best for your pet. Some veterinarians will not routinely offer unsolicited advice in this area unless we see there is a systemic condition or illness that would be benefited by a food change (i.e. therapeutic diets). Many times, if your pet is doing well and you are happy with the diet then we will say “Keep up the good work!”

2. Consistency is key. Most dogs and cats do best with a stable commercial diet that does not have a lot of variability. They will have consistent bowel movements, it is easier to judge their appetite level, and their weight will be more stable. I recommend to stick to a single diet and provide “interest” in the form of treats, toys, and play. This also goes for timing of feeding too. Meals that are fed 2x (3+ times in very young puppies) a day at consistent times will lead to more predictable digestion and can aid in housebreaking, especially in young dogs. This is also helpful to catch changes in appetite early. We know often within a day if there is a decrease or increase in appetite or willingness to eat because we are feeding meals rather than “free choice.”

3. Make sure your diet meets AAFCO standards for the life stage (puppy, adult, small breed, large breed, etc). There should be a seal on the back of the bag. (more on this topic later)

4. Don’t believe everything that you see in a pet food commercial. They are selling food first and foremost. This doesn’t mean that all foods being sold in commercials are bad, it just means that you should always remember their primary goal is getting you to buy the food. This also goes for the feeding recommendations on the bag. They are often high and most non-athlete pets do not need that amount of food. If your pet is overweight you should be gearing your feeding amounts toward what they would need at their goal weight, not to maintain their current weight.

5. Measure your pets meals with an actual measuring cup. This helps your vet know exactly how much you are feeding. This is important for weight loss plans and feeding consistency. We want to know that 1 cup = 8 oz. Your vet probably has measuring cups available because lots of pet food suppliers will drop them off with food shipments and they are free!

6. Do not feed a raw diet to your pet. These diets are often nutritionally deficient and can cause severe illness and infection. There is also a risk to you and your family with handling and storing raw meats. Dogs and cats that eat a raw diet can carry salmonella and other bacteria in higher quantities in and on their bodies that can make it possible to get sick from handling your pet even if you never touch their food or bowls.

7. If you have a question, call your vet! They should be happy to answer any questions you have about food and be able to give you reputable sources for more information.

This is a great website for veterinary nutrition information. They have a regular blog on many trending topics in pet nutrition: www.vetnutrition.tufts.edu

***A quick word about “nutritionists.” You want to seek pet nutrition information from your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. These doctors are veterinarians who have completed a residency in nutrition following veterinary school to become specialists in nutrition just like a cardiologist or orthopedic surgeon. They have also passed a rigorous board certification exam and have published research in the area of nutrition. Breeders, groomers, and other self-proclaimed “food experts” have not had the extensive training and board certification that a veterinary nutritionist has earned. While they may have great intentions, these folks may not always have good information to support their recommendations. Remember, if you have a question, always call your vet!

Why a Heartworm Preventative is Essential for Your Pet

Should I Give My Pet a Heartworm Preventative?

Do you give your dog heartworm preventative?  How about your cat?  Do you want to know why this is important?  Read on!

When we think of “worms,” we mostly think of intestinal worms; we diagnose those by sending a stool sample to the laboratory.  Heartworms are different; they are spread by mosquitos, and the adult heartworms live in the big blood vessels that take blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen.  The mosquitos carry the tiny heartworm larvae, called microfilaria, and these enter your dog’s system when he or she is bitten by that mosquito.  In case you are thinking that your dog spends very little time outside, remember that mosquitos come into the house very easily.  That’s how even indoor cats get heartworm disease.

In dogs, if we catch the heartworm disease before the dog has any symptoms, such as coughing or lethargy, we can treat him or her and get rid of the heartworms; this is a 4-month process, and it costs more than a 10-year supply of heartworm preventative!  In cats, there is no successful treatment, and cats are more likely to die of heartworm than dogs are.

For dogs, there are 3 ways to prevent heartworm disease:  most people give a monthly chewable; many people get the 6-month injection (brand name ProHeart), and some people use the monthly topical (brand name Revolution).  We also recommend an annual blood test; if your dog were to get heartworm disease, and you have been getting annual heartworm tests and have been purchasing 12 months of heartworm preventative every year, the companies that make the preventatives have guarantees that state that they will pay for the cost of the treatment needed to cure your dog.

For cats, Revolution is the treatment of choice; it also prevents fleas, and it’s easier for many cats than a pill would be, even a chewable one.

If you’re pet hasn’t had or needs a heartworm or other pet parasite preventative, schedule an appointment online or call us at 215-333-8888.

Litter Box Hygiene

By Dr. Nina Beyer

Why Won’t My Cat Use the Litter Box?

We’ve all been there. Almost all cat owners consider litter boxes to be essential. Very few of us, these days, think it’s safe for our cats to go outdoors to eliminate, in order not to have a litter box in the house. And as soon as something goes wrong, like the cat urinating or defecating outside the box, we tend to blame the cat…but usually, it’s because the poor cat is finding the litter box to be a problem. How can we make the litter box NOT a problem for our cats, so they’ll use it happily?

Japanese_litter_box_in_useFirst of all, the great folks at the Cornell Feline Health Center have studied cats’ litter preferences for years. They’ve found that most cats prefer unscented litter. Cats also prefer clumping litter, and they prefer the finest texture possible (sand-like). If you are using scented, coarse-textured, or other types of litter, try putting unscented, clumping, fine-textured litter in one of your boxes, and see how your cat(s) like it.

Second, we know that cats don’t always want to share boxes. The Cornell researchers recommend that you have at least one more litter box than you have cats (three cats? Four litter boxes!). From a cat’s point of view, boxes that are in the same room might as well be the same box; if you put all four boxes in the basement, the three cats feel like they’re all sharing one box. Spread those boxes around the house! Cats like some privacy, but they also like easy access to the bathroom (just like we do!).

Third, most of us don’t recognize the role that stress plays in our cats. Often, cats that are eliminating outside the box are experiencing stress. Cats can be stressed by living with other cats (our living spaces are smaller than cats prefer for their home ranges), by the presence of dogs or toddlers, by seeing other cats through the window, by their early life experiences before you adopted them, and especially by a genetic predisposition to higher stress levels (brain biochemistry differences). If you are experiencing urine or stools outside the litter box, please talk to your cat’s doctor for help! Most cats can be helped significantly!

Should You Spay or Neuter Your Pet?

Pet Neutering and Spaying Benefits & Side Effects

When it comes to spaying and neutering our pets, owners have many different opinions. Some feel that they are taking away the “manhood” of their male pets, and some owners feel that their ladies should be able to have babies of their own before being fixed. The truth is, we as owners tend to be rather anthropomorphic, we put our own feelings and opinions onto our animals. The fact is, our pets would generally be healthier and would be safer being spayed or neutered.


Should I Get My Pet Spayed?

shutterstock_183407687To make a more informed decision about the procedure, it would help to understand just what happens during a spay (ovariohystectomy) and a neuter (castration). Females are spayed, and involves the removal of the internal reproductive organs, namely the two ovaries and the uterine body. The earliest age at which spaying is done in the veterinary hospital setting is around six months of age. If done before a female dog’s first heat (around 8 months in a small breed dog, later in a larger breed), spaying greatly reduces her risk of developing mammary cancer later in life. For cats, there is no difference in risk for mammary cancer. Also, a spay eliminates the risk of developing a pyometra, or infected uterus, which can be life-threatening for cats and dogs. Spaying can be done in the traditional way, with a scalpel blade or surgical laser, or even laparoscopically. There have been recent studies that are very early in their research that suggest that spaying early, as in before the first year, can increase a dog’s risk of osteosarcoma later in life. Again, these studies are still young in their development.


Animal Castration Risks

Castration involves surgically removing the male internal reproductive organs, or the testes. It is typically done around six months of age or later in a typical hospital setting. Removing this source of testosterone will help to reduce roaming of males in search of female in heat, thereby reducing the risk of being hit by a car and other dangers. In dogs, it also eliminates the risk of developing various testicular cancers and other conditions that may occur with the presence of extra testosterone. Benign prostatic hypertrophy is a condition in dogs in which the prostate, under the influence of testosterone, enlarges and can make urination difficult and painful. It is cured by castration. Again, there are studies that show that there is a higher incidence of prostatic cancer in castrated males versus intact males, but there may be other factors involved.


In general, if one is not planning on breeding their pets, it is recommended that they be spayed or neutered. If you have any questions or concerns or need advice, please do not hesitate to ask the doctors at Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital. We would be more than happy to sit down with you to discuss the option best suited for your fur baby.

Are Retractable Dog Leashes Safe?

By Dr. Nina Beyer

Ben_Jurgens_JackrussellterriërA lot of people use retractable leashes! For years, they’ve been very popular. Speaking as a veterinarian, though, I wish they’d never been invented. Wanna know why?

First, they give your dog the wrong message. When he pulls against the leash, he is able to move further away from you. He learns that pulling on the leash is a good thing to do! Compare this to a no-pull harness or head collar; these discourage him from pulling and reward him for not pulling. He naturally stays near you.

Second, they make your dog unsafe. She can quickly dart 20-25 feet away from you (that little button is hard to use, to stop the leash from unspooling), so she could jump into the path of a car, or run up to a dog that will hurt her. If you’re in the middle of a deserted area, that much freedom is fine, but in our typical neighborhoods and parks, that much distance makes it difficult to keep your dog safe. Also, if she takes off when you’re looking the other way, the awkward handle can be jerked right out of your hand. Now, your dog is loose and is being “chased” by the plastic handle, which is gaining on her because it’s retracting…a lot of dogs in this situation panic and keep running!

Third, they make you unsafe. I hope you’ve never grabbed the cord when your dog is running; if you have, you may have sustained a burn or cut from the friction of the cord (there are actually people who’ve lost a finger that way!). If they wrap around your leg, they cause a lot more pain than a flat nylon leash would.

There is nothing safer than a sturdy 6-foot leash with the loop around your wrist and your hand gripping it firmly.

Check out the rest of our blog for more pet care information and tips, provided by the veterinary staff here at Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital.

Dog Park Etiquette

What Is Proper Dog Park Etiquette?

The idea behind dog parks is wonderful; they’re safely fenced-in places for your dog to run and play with other dogs. But sometimes the experience is not what you expected, usually because someone hasn’t used good judgment. So, let’s think about what good dog park etiquette would be.

  1. shutterstock_235637188Only take your dog to the park if she loves it. If she is worried, anxious, easily upset, or aggressive, the dog park will make her worse.
  2. When you arrive, look around at the other dogs & people BEFORE you let your dog off leash. If someone has brought their large dog into the “small dogs only” section, your little dog might not be safe, for example. Look at the body language of the other dogs, before you let your dog off-leash.
  3. Watch your dog while he’s loose; don’t get caught up talking to people you meet & ignore what your own dog is doing. If he looks afraid, or doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself, go get him & leave.
  4. Also, if your dog is bullying another dog, go get him. All of the dogs in the park should be enjoying themselves; if your dog is going after another dog who is cowering or rolling over & showing his belly, it’s up to you to get your guy leashed back up.

For most people, it’s hard to read a dog’s body language. Even if you’ve had dogs all your life, most dogs accommodate us fairly successfully, so you may never have been forced to learn to read a dog. Luckily, there are excellent online resources; check these out! You’ll love them!

  • Zoom Room’s videos:
    • Dog Body Language
    • Dog Play Gestures Body Language
  • Association of Pet Dog Trainer (APDT) videos; this is a wonderful website
  • Whole Dog Journal Dog Body Language Dictionary of Stress
  • www.dogdecoder.com (they have a $3.99 app that’s excellent!)
  • Eileenanddogs Dog Body Language Collection

Pet Dental Care

Reasons For Pet Dental Care

shutterstock_75325276Dental care for pets is just as important as it is for people!

Dental care for your pet is extremely important. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats and is entirely preventable. Here are a few facts about dental pain and disease so you can make an informed decision about a dental visit for your pet.

What is periodontal or dental disease?

Periodontal disease is a progressive inflammation of the supporting structures around the teeth.

What causes periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease starts when bacteria form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. These bacteria can then travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys, and liver.

How is dental disease diagnosed?

Dental disease is diagnosed by examining the teeth and supporting structures while the pet is under anesthesia. Some pet dental diseases can be reversed such as gingivitis through dental cleaning and polishing. Loss of tooth attachment and bone loss cannot be reversed.

shutterstock_169577594What are the signs of Pet Dental Disease and Pain:

        • Bad breath

            • Redness or bleeding along the gum line

                • Drooling, which may be tinged with blood

                    • Difficulty chewing

                        • Facial swelling, especially under the eyes

                            • Loose or missing teeth

                          Schedule your pet’s dental consultation with one of veterinarians now to see if your pet qualifies for our 20% OFF Routine Dental Promotion. It’s a quick, easy and important way to prevent serious problems.