Lucerne Veterinary Hospital Blog

Sniffly Noses and Hacking Coughs: An Update on Canine Influenza

Dog is lying on back on the bed - selective focus

A year ago, a novel strain of the canine influenza virus alarmed the boarding facilities and animal shelters of Chicago by its unrelenting and rapid spread through the canine community. Veterinary hospitals were overwhelmed by scores of dogs with high fevers, coughing, and sneezing. 1500 dogs became ill within 2 months, with 8 fatalities from pneumonia. Since that time, the virus has spread to at least 29 states, with smaller outbreaks in Seattle and Atlanta. One case so far has been confirmed in Maine. Continue…


Preparing for the Worst: Putting Together an Effective First Aid Kit for Your Pet

first aid kit

A stomachache from a large box of Valentine’s Day dark chocolates. Bleeding bite wounds from a tussle with another dog over a rawhide. Swollen red eyes from an unfortunate skunk encounter. A swollen muzzle from a bee sting outside. Sometimes it may seem like your mischievous Labrador Retriever has a never-ending penchant for finding misfortune. Putting together a first aid kit ahead of time can help you prepare for these emergencies and aid in your pet’s recovery from his misadventures. You can buy a premade kit from various retailers, or you can assemble one yourself with the following items:

Medical records and phone numbers: Many emergencies will require the attention of a professional, so make sure you always keep your veterinarian’s number and address handy. Additionally, many emergencies seem to take place at night or on the weekends when your veterinarian’s office is closed, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your local emergency hospital’s phone number and address. Keep a copy of your pet’s rabies certificate and pertinent medical records, especially if her medical history is complex and she is on multiple medications. It is also useful to keep a pet poison control number on hand in case of toxicities. Two such services are the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), and the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661). Both have fees associated with consultations, but are invaluable in their offerings of vast databases of toxins and knowledgeable experts.

Bandaging materials: A romp through the woods can quickly result in a bleeding paw. Bandaging materials such as self-adherent material (“Vetwrap”), nonstick sterile pads, adhesive tape, and cast padding can help keep a wound clean until you reach your veterinarian’s office.

Towels/ Blankets: These are useful to include in your first aid kit for a variety of reasons. They may be used to apply pressure on wounds, used as a sling to support your pet if he is having trouble walking, or used as a stretcher to move a non-ambulatory patient.

Medications: 3% hydrogen peroxide is always useful to keep on hand in case your pet ingests a toxin or foreign material and you need to induce vomiting. Always consult a veterinarian before making your pet vomit. Some things are harmful if vomited up, and too much hydrogen peroxide can cause serious esophageal and stomach injury.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is another medication that can be very useful. It can be used in case of allergic reactions. Always make sure you obtain the correct dose from your veterinarian before administering. If your pet has a history of life-threatening allergic reactions, you may wish to have an EpiPen on hand.

Karo syrup is a high-sugar product that is valuable for pets experiencing life-threatening drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It is especially important to have available if your pet has a condition in which low blood sugar may be a problem (such as diabetes).

Oral syringe or turkey baster: Useful for administering oral medications and flushing wounds.

Thermometer: Used to check rectal temperature (lubricated with petroleum jelly). Normal is generally between 100- 102.5 F.

Muzzle or cloth strips to act as a muzzle: These are useful for very painful, panicked dogs (such as those that have been struck by a vehicle) that you may need to handle for transportation for treatment.

Kwikstop or corn starch: for nail bleeds.

Dish detergent: to clean off chemicals from the coat and skin.

E-collar: to prevent pets from licking wounds or pawing at injured eyes.

Gauze squares, cotton balls

Leash/ cat carrier

Latex gloves

Blunt-tipped scissors

Saline for flushing wounds, ophthalmic solution for flushing eyes

Needlenose pliers or hemostats

Tweezers or other apparatus to remove ticks

Antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes

Veterinary first aid book

There are several items you should not include in your pet’s first aid kit. Refrain from administering any over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Dogs, and especially cats, are very sensitive to the harmful side effects of these medications, and in addition, they may interfere with pain medications your veterinarian wishes to prescribe. Use of these drugs can cause ulceration or even perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, and liver or kidney failure.

Remember, a good first aid kit is a very useful start to addressing your pet’s mishaps, but does not necessarily act as a substitute for professional care. Be sure to contact your veterinarian’s office in the event of an emergency so that the staff can advise you appropriately.

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A Stylish Post-Op Look: The Elizabethan Collar

Elizabethan collar


It is large, cumbersome, creates bruises on the backs of your legs, and is affectionately known as the “cone of shame”. Despite its ungainliness, the Elizabethan collar is a vital part of your pet’s recovery after major surgery. Although owners may sometimes find the cones distressing, remember that the majority of pets tolerate these very well.

The classic E-collar (short for Elizabethan collar) is a firm clear plastic collar in the shape of a lampshade that is attached around the neck to prevent a pet from accessing an incision or wound. An E-collar may be threaded through a pet’s normal collar or it may be fastened on with a separate tie. The tie should be tight enough that it will not slip off, but you should be able to fit at least two fingers between the tie and the neck. Some patients excel at removing their collars, but there are various styles of collars available to help prevent your dog or cat from bothering his incision.  Some are inflatable, and others are made of a soft material.

Why is the Elizabethan collar important?

Contrary to popular myth, saliva is not beneficial for wounds. It can introduce infection, which inhibits healing or creates abscesses. A surgical incision should remain clean and dry to prevent infection and for proper healing. If pets remove their sutures too early, wounds can break down and fail to heal in a timely manner. The consequences of a pet’s ministrations can be severe, requiring additional surgical procedures to repair damage. For example, if your pet chews at her abdominal incision, she may remove all the sutures and chew through the body wall. This can cause the internal organs to fall through.

Not all surgeries require the use of an Elizabethan collar, depending on the pet, but there are some procedures for which E-collars are especially critical. These include orthopedic surgeries, in which hardware has been placed on the bone. In these cases, infection of the bone can necessitate removal of the plate. E-collars are also useful for ophthalmic surgeries, in which even a single paw swipe of the eye can cause serious damage. Some pets will chew any incision, and these pets should wear E-collars at all times while they heal. For incisions that are on the torso, T-shirts can sometimes work well to protect the incision.

How will my pet eat and sleep wearing her cone?

After a short adjustment period, most pets handle their E-collars very well. Pets can usually eat, drink, and sleep with no trouble while wearing their cones. To facilitate eating for your pet, make sure the bowl is smaller than the diameter of the collar. You may need to raise the dish if the collar is bumping against the floor as your pet reaches for the food bowl. Some pets may need assistance at first in navigating stairs. Be wary if you decide to remove an E-collar even for a short period of time. It takes only a few minutes for a pet to completely destroy an incision!

So make sure you keep that E-collar on as directed by your veterinarian until those sutures are out (usually 10-14 days) to prevent painful and costly complications.

Dental disease- More than just bad breath

dental dog

By three years of age, most dogs and cats have already started to show signs of an insidious disease, which left untreated, causes infection and pain, as well as cellular changes in organs throughout the body. This very common illness is known as periodontal disease. Not only is dental disease painful, but it can also have systemic consequences. Studies have shown that periodontal disease can adversely affect the heart, kidneys, and lungs.

By maintaining good oral hygiene at home and ensuring that your pet undergoes professional dental care as recommended by your veterinarian, you can help prevent dental disease in your pet.


Rodenticides: Deadly Not Just to Rats


Scruffy, a rambunctious two-year-old terrier, was at his summer cabin when he found a special treat under the cabinet—a tray of delicious green pellets. His family found the evidence later that evening, and monitored him over the next few days for any signs of illness. His stool was green for a day or two, but otherwise he seemed fine, and his owners breathed a sigh of relief. The following week, however, it was evident that something was seriously wrong. Scruffy started throwing up blood, developing dark diarrhea, and had difficulty breathing. At this point, he was rushed to the animal hospital, where tests showed severe clotting abnormalities. Fortunately, after several days of intensive care, Scruffy was eventually discharged.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common occurrence, and not all patients are so lucky. This story highlights the need to address rodenticide exposures as early as possible. There are several types of rat poisons on the market, and some may have delayed effects. It is vital to call your veterinarian as soon as possible so that decontamination and treatment measures can be initiated and the toxicity mitigated.


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Halloween Safety

Three puppies wearing Halloween costumes with a pumpkin bucket filled with treats.

After an evening of trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, your child’s cheeks are rosy from the chilly autumn air as he tosses aside his cowboy hat in favor of a bag overflowing with hard-earned treats. Several hours later, Buddy, the normally happy family Labrador Retriever, is groaning in the corner, surrounded by candy wrappers and several piles of vomit, having fallen prey to his sweet tooth.

This year, as you and your children don your costumes and gather candy from around the neighborhood, don’t forget that another member of the family may be up to some mischief as well. Halloween is a common time for our pets to be exposed to potentially harmful foods.

Some potential dangers in the Halloween goodie bag include:


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posted in:  Pet Health  |  Toxins

The Art of the Physical

physical exam

And how a yearly half-hour appointment can save your pet’s life

You’ve been swamped with work, bills are piling up, and your children’s afterschool commitments have you exhausted by the end of the day. With numerous obligations consuming your time and finances, you may be tempted to skip your pet’s yearly trip to the veterinarian’s office. After all, Tigger’s always been a healthy cat, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with Buddy. Aside from the protection offered by annual vaccines, however, the regular physical examination is one of the most important ways to keep your pet healthy.

Our pets can’t always tell us if something ails them. Many animals, especially cats, have evolved stoicism as a protective mechanism to hide weakness from predators, and so they may not show signs of illness until it is too late. Regular physical examinations are important for detecting subtle signs of disease. By completing a thorough exam, your veterinarian can identify and address painful or potentially life-threatening conditions early on.


posted in:  Preventative Care

Fight the Flea – How to Treat and Prevent Flea Infestations in Your Home

16 week old Golden Retriever puppy scratching fleas with leg in motion on a white background "Missy"

Equipped with mouthparts enabling them to ingest up to 15 times their own weight in blood, and able to jump 200 times their body length, those tiny brown insects you see scurrying about in the fur of your dogs and cats have long been a scourge of humans and domestic animals, with one species having caused the death of over 200 million people during the 14th century bubonic plague pandemic.

Fleas can carry diseases and bring about a great deal of misery for you and your pets. Fortunately, they don’t have to be a nuisance in your household. There are safe and easy measures that you can take to treat and prevent flea infestations in your home.  Continue…

The Trouble with Ticks

Ticks in the woods

You are lying on the couch with your dog, relaxing after a long hike, when you notice him scratching furiously at his hindend. You part the fur in time to see a tiny brown insect dart across the surface of the skin. As you continue to run your hands through his fur, you feel a small lump that has seemingly appeared overnight. A closer look confirms your suspicions- a plump tick is firmly attached, contentedly feeding on your dog’s blood.

Especially as the frost of winter subsides, close encounters with fleas and ticks are becoming more and more of a common occurrence. Aside from being a nuisance, ticks carry very real risks of disease and death from the microbes they harbor. Fortunately, there are products that you can use to help keep fleas and ticks out of your home.


Heartworm: A Growing Concern in Maine

Heartworm Spring

As the weather warms and the landscape becomes green, we are drawn to the outdoors, our four-legged companions eagerly in tow. As our dogs bound through the newly defrosted woods however, they become susceptible to the perils of the microscopic. Potentially fatal diseases lurk within the mosquitoes and ticks seeking to harvest your pet’s blood.

With the spring finally upon us, it is important to review the ways in which we can safely and effectively protect our pets against heartworm disease, tick-borne disease, and flea infestation. It is critical to note that although biting arthropods are more prevalent in the warmer months, these disease organisms remain a threat year-round. In this first part of our series, we will discuss heartworm disease.


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