News & Events

News and Events

You Can Poison-Proof Your Home for Your Pets

March 19-25 is National Poison Prevention Week here in the United States, and while the week usually focuses on poison prevention for humans, there’s no reason not to use it as an opportunity to talk about poison prevention tips for the animals in our homes. While many will use National Poison Prevention Week to poison-proof their homes for their kids or elderly relatives, why not take a few extra minutes to poison-proof your house for your pets, too? In this article, we’ll go over various sources of poison to pets in your home, room by room.

Let’s start with your living room. Many household plants can be toxic to cats and dogs. While most people know that Christmas poinsettia is toxic to cats, fewer know that common lilies are deadly to cats. Cats that ingest lilies can have total renal failure, even from eating just a petal or two, so remove all lilies from bouquets if you have a cat. Also, keep home fragrance products, like pots of simmering liquid potpourri, away from areas pets can access. They can cause chemical burns if ingested. And in terms of aerosol potpourri, don’t spray them near your birdcage—birds can be very sensitive to aerosols. If you smoke in your home, keep ashtrays (or smoking cessation products like nicotine gum) away from pet-accessible areas. Nicotine poisoning is very common in pets, and easily preventable.

As for your kitchen, we’ve written quite a bit about the dangers of human food to cats and dogs. Grapes, chocolate, bread dough, onions, and garlic should all be kept away from cats and dogs. But as any pet owner knows, cats and dogs often want most what they ought not to have, so get a garbage can that pets can’t break into.

In your bathroom, keep all medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription, away from your pets. Don’t leave them out—lock them up in your medicine cabinet or put them in your pantry. Don’t store them in plastic baggies, which animals love to chew on. And speaking of medications, never give human medication to your pets unless specifically told to by your vet. Tylenol and Advil are poisonous to animals, for example.

Cleaning products, whether used for your bathroom or kept in your utility room, can be very poisonous, so keep them away from your pets. Sprays, aerosols, wipes, and scrubs should all be kept in non-pet accessible cabinets, or behind closed doors of some sort. This is especially true in the basement and garage. While it’s easy to just toss chemical cleaners and other potentially poisonous items just about anywhere in those locations, cleaning agents and chemicals like fertilizers, antifreeze, pesticides, and rodent killer can poison your pet if they get into them.

If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, from a lily petal to a sip of antifreeze, contact your veterinarian in Philadelphia immediately. The sooner you treat it, the better your pet’s chances.

A specialty veterinary healthcare hospital in the greater Philadelphia area, VRC’s emergency medicine and critical care center is open 24/7, 365 days a year. Don’t wait—call if you have an after-hours emergency.

Frequently Asked Questions: Cardiology

Cardiology at VRC


How can I detect heart complications and diseases in my pet?

Regular check-up appointments with your family veterinarian are essential in making sure that your pet is heart-healthy.  In many cases, your family veterinarian will be able to detect a heart complication through listening to the beat patterns, X-rays, EKGs, and/or performing routine blood tests. If an abnormality is found, he or she will refer you to a Cardiologist at VRC.

What symptoms might my pet display if he or she is experiencing a heart problem?

If your pet has progressing heart disease, he or she may show observable symptoms. In dogs, these symptoms include gagging cough, fainting, weakness or reluctance to exercise, rapid resting or sleep breathing rates (more than 30 breaths per minute), and abdominal swelling. Cats may faint, have an increased rate of abdominal breathing, experience lethargy, painful limbs or limb paralysis, and they may hide more than usual. Be sure to make an appointment with your family veterinarian as soon as possible if you witness any combination of these symptoms in your pet.

What is a cardiac consultation at VRC like?

A cardiac consultation at VRC consists of a thorough evaluation of the heart and includes a physical exam, echocardiogram (test that displays real-time heart structure and function imaging), Doppler ultrasound, blood speed studies, and electrocardiogram (test that monitors the heart’s electric activity). At VRC, we utilize state-of-the-art equipment to perform all tests, which are each essential in effectively evaluating your pet’s heart.

Can I be present during my pet’s cardiac examination?

Yes, we encourage you to be with your pet during his or her cardiac consultation. This will help your pet feel calm and comfortable, and also allow you to observe the heart tests being performed. After the exam, please feel free to ask any questions that you may have about the consultation and your pet’s heart health.

Can I pick and choose which cardiac tests are performed on my pet?

No, we perform the same cardiac tests with each consultation. Our carefully selected series of tests are needed to decide the best medical treatment for your pet and to determine whether or not further diagnostic procedures are required.

Are the cardiac tests painful for my pet?

Not at all! All of our tests are completely noninvasive. The ultrasound has a massaging action that is completely painless and our EKG clips are nothing like what is used in human medicine; they are surprisingly comfortable. Your pet will be gently positioned on the side of a towel and will be awake and comforted throughout the entire procedure. The vast majority of pets require no sedation and there are no side effects to these tests. Many patients look forward to their visits with our team and have become close friends with our staff members!

Do the tests leave any bruising or physical marks on my pet?

Not at all! Your pet will look exactly the same and no one would be able to tell that he or she was in the hospital if you don’t tell them. We don’t even need to shave your pet for these tests, as we use alcohol to mat down the hair instead; a completely painless coupling gel is also applied for use during ultrasounds.

Can my pet’s heart condition be treated?

For the most part, if your pet is diagnosed with and treated for heart disease early on, he or she has a good chance at successful symptom management and living a long, healthy life. Once your pet is diagnosed, we have an extensive medical arsenal and will do what we can to provide your pet with a good quality of life for as long as possible. If your pet is diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth, surgery may be feasible to correct the condition. Early detection and a personalized treatment plan from a veterinary cardiologist will help manage your pet’s disease and improve his or her overall quality of life. Even advanced heart disease and heart failure may be treatable, so it is never too late for your pet to get a cardiac consultation.

You have recommended that my pet take medication. How do I fill this prescription?

At the end of the exam, the drugs that your pet needs can be dispensed at VRC.  In many cases, your prescription can be filled at almost any pharmacy, so please feel free to price shop; however, a popular cardiac drug called VetMedin must be filled at a veterinary source. You can also utilize our online pharmacy with Vets First Choice for hundreds of guaranteed products and convenient shipping right to your home.

Preparing for Surgery: A Pet Owner’s Guide

Sometimes pets need a surgical procedure. It’s no one’s favorite part of owning a pet, but being prepared about what to expect can lessen a lot of your anxieties when you get the news from your specialty veterinarian in Philadelphia.

Pet surgeries can be worrisome, whether your pet needs something routine like a tooth extraction or something serious like a malignant skin mass removal. You’ll want to prepare your pet as best you can, and in this regard, the best advice to follow is whatever your Philadelphia area veterinary surgeon tells you to do. Heeding your vet’s directions is of paramount importance. Even if you have a friend whose pet went through the same procedure, if he or she tells you to do something different, clear it with your vet first.

Most of the instructions your vet will give you will be common sense. They may ask you to reduce liquid intake or food intake. They may need you to give your pet a special medication or ask you to give your dog a bath or trim their nails. You may even be asked to reduce your pet’s activity level, whether by going on shorter walks or eliminating family roughhousing for a few days.

Your dog or cat isn’t the only member of your family who will need to be prepped for your pet’s surgery, however. Your family will also need some preparation, especially if you have small children. Make sure you talk to them in general terms about what your pet will be going through, and start a dialogue about it. Ask them if they have any questions, and relay an age-appropriate amount of information about the procedure. Your children may have a lot of feelings, worries, fears about a pet surgery, especially if there’s been a (human) family member who has been through something similar.

It’s also good to talk to your child about the importance of aftercare for your pet once they get out of surgery and come home. If your pet has been under anesthesia, they may be woozy when they come home, for example; if they’re wearing a cone or a bandage, make sure your kids know not to mess with it. And make sure that playtime is monitored—children may not realize how slowly bodies heal and may want things to get “back to normal” immediately, which is often not possible.

Speaking of aftercare, sticking to your vet’s aftercare routine is just as if not more important than following their preparatory instructions. Often, vets will provide you with aftercare instructions on a sheet of paper. Make sure to go over it with your vet so that the instructions are crystal clear to you, and call if you have any questions. Your pet’s recovery is often in your hands, so ensure that you understand what your pet’s needs will be post-surgery, and make sure your whole family understands, too.

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital in the Philadelphia area. We have advanced surgical facilities and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog or Cat?

pets=in-cold-weatherThere is no blanket answer to this question. The best policy is to call your veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area if you have questions about whether your dog or cat should go outside when the mercury drops. Your vet is acquainted with your dog or cat’s individual breed, age, and general state of health, and they’ll know how to advise you concerning exposing your dog or cat to the extreme cold. That said, in general, anything in the 30° range or colder is just too cold for pets for extended periods of time. Even if your dog is a Husky mix or your cat is a Maine Coon, you just shouldn’t allow them to stay outside for very long in the deep winter. They may be wearing a fur coat at all times, but when temperatures drop below freezing, your cat or dog can get frostbite, and severe hypothermia can become a genuine concern.

While your dog or cat may not have to wake up at the crack of dawn to shovel the driveway, cats and dogs still feel the cold, especially if they’re mostly outside dogs and cats. A doghouse will not be sufficient protection for your canine companion this time of year, and mostly outside cats need shelter, too. It’s crucial to bring them inside this time of year to protect them. Even if your dog or cat is not allowed in your main home or on the bed, you should make them up someplace warm to sleep at night, with lots of blankets, food, and water.

Yes, your outside cat may not like being cooped up in the winter, but it’s better than the alternative. Many cats die every year from exposure, or from sneaking into the undercarriages of automobiles and being injured when the engine’s cranked. And even if a dog loves a long walk in the spring or summer, excessive exposure to the snow and ice can lead to health complications.

In general, it’s fine to let your cat have a bit of backyard playtime in the snow, or to take your dog for a walk to do their business or run around a bit. But just as you’re mindful of their unique needs in the summer, when the temperature climbs and your dog or cat is at risk for heat stroke, it’s important to think about what they can handle in the wintertime, too. Bring them in sooner, and get them dried off and warmed up. And if you think your dog or cat may have stayed outside too long, contact your vet, or bring them into VRC. We’re a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital open 24/7, 365 days a year for emergencies.

The winter months make pets vulnerable to unique stressors such as cold temperatures, dry skin, and frostbite. VRC in the greater Philadelphia area can help. We’re a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital, and our emergency medicine and critical care center is always open.