Thursday, July 11, 2019

Meet Our Team: Registered Veterinary Technicians

We are thrilled to have such wonderful RVTs on our team!  Most of our technicians have been working at Hatton Veterinary Hospital for over 20 years!  Our techs are an important part of assisting our veterinarians and caring for many of the pets that come in to the hospital.  If your pet has had surgery, a blood test, anal glands expressed, or hospitalization, one of these great gals have most likely been helping with your pet's care.  Our technicians have a lot of heart and take on a lot of challenges each day--we appreciate them!

What wisdom would you like to pass on to veterinary technician students or new vet techs?

  • Be observant, every doctor does things a little different, all surgeons have their particularities.  Have patience.   -Judy
  • Take the time to be patient and listen to clients, sometimes they just need to feel heard.   -Suzanne
  • Vet tech students: When you are in school, flashcards are your friends! There is a lot of memorization and flashcards are the best way to test yourself.  New vet techs:  Get to know your doctors!  Each doctor is different, and the faster you can learn what they like and how they operate, the easier your job will be.  There is a lot of communication, and you have to know what you should ask your doctor in order to provide the best patient care and most up-to-date client information.   -Katie
  • I got into this career to help animals and be their voice.  I try to stay focused and keep that in mind.  This job can be extremely exhausting and heartbreaking, but for every bad day there is, there's twice as many rewarding days.  Always remember, put yourself in your client's shoes, be compassionate without being too empathetic, and always remember: how would I want my pet treated?   -Lisa

What do you say when people tell you, "It must be so cool to be a vet tech"?

  • It is fun, but everyone has to deal with poop, pee, anal glands, vomiting and trying to communicate with owners.   -Judy
  • It has its moments!  Sometimes it can feel very rewarding, but it also has tough moments that are hard to get through.   -Suzanne
  • "It has its moments.  I enjoy working with animals and helping clients."                          -Katie
  • The job of a veterinary technician can be tremendously difficult, but also tremendously rewarding.  You may be surprised that you do need to have people skills since you will be treating the owners as well as their pets.  You need to embrace learning how to do a lot of different types of things, you learn to love new challenges, you are diligent and careful with details--mistakes can be costly.   -Lisa

In your spare time, what do you like to do outside of work?

  • Spend time with family and church/Sunday school activities (local and national levels).   -Judy
  • Watch sports, go to the movies, chill with my cats.   -Suzanne
  • I enjoy reading, gardening, and needlework.  I also will occasionally paint pottery!   -Katie
  • I love spending time with my daughter and husband, we enjoy vacationing together.  I love taking my dogs on their daily walks.   -Lisa

Monday, June 03, 2019

Meet Our Team: Receptionists

These great ladies are ready to welcome you when your pet comes to visit us!  We rely on our friendly receptionists to greet our clients, answer your questions, and help organize the veterinarians' schedules.  When you come in to pick up medications, check in for exams, come by to drop off your pet for boarding, or call with concerns, chances are that you've been helped by one of these lovely girls.  Our receptionists will do their best to help our clients feel heard and understand who hard it is when your pet isn't feeling well.

Why do you like being a Receptionist?

  • I like being a receptionist because I get to interact with all the friendly clients and their pets.  It is very rewarding to help clients get their questions answered and to greet pets at the front desk.   -Lily
  • I love interacting with clients and their fur babies and really enjoy holding conversations with them.   -Corina
  • I like getting to interact with patients first.   -Tasha

What skill did you learn that makes you feel the most proud of?

  • Multi-tasking!   -Lily
  • I am proud of being able to multi-task.  Being in this field, as in with other fields, it's always a great quality to have.   -Corina
  • Learning how to handle nervous animals.   -Tasha

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

  • I would travel to Costa Rica because there are many animals there!   -Lily
  • I am a huge history geek and would love to visit places like Rome and Egypt, just to make a couple.   -Corina
  • I would travel to Ireland, Scotland because it's beautiful.   -Tasha

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

What's So Interesting About My Pet's Poop?!

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku

Do you ever wonder what makes a stool sample so special?  When animals don’t tell us how they feel, it is often very important for care givers to know what their eating habits are, and what their elimination habits and appearances are.  When working with wildlife for example, this could be the only additional information we might have, besides a visual look at our patient. 

Stool color often reflects closely the type of food animals are eating.  Sometimes, stool will turn darker on the outside where it is exposed to air and remain a lighter color on the inside depending on how long it has been exposed.  If there is blood present with a bowel movement, it is helpful to know if the blood is strictly on the surface or blended throughout the sample.  This can tell us more about where the blood may be coming from along the GI tract.  Very black stool throughout the sample can be associated with blood loss in the stomach which will look black by the time it passes.   Blood loss from the colon tends to be a brighter red and often associated with mucus on the surface of the bowel movement.  

Stool consistency has more to do with how an animal is absorbing moisture from its stool and can give us information about how well its GI tract is working to absorb both fluid and nutrients.  Very soft pudding like stool may be the result of poor absorption of fluid and nutrients from the small intestine, whereas watery stool can reflect rapid transit time associated with more acute conditions, such as when they have eaten something that is spoiled or their body is rejecting.  Hard dry stool may indicate dehydration and constipation.  

Mucus surrounding a bowel movement can often reflect issues associated with colitis, or inflammation in the colon.  This could be stress related and only associated with excitement or anxiety.  When it persists, it could represent inflammation due to food intolerance, allergy, or colonic problems.

All of this information helps us to determine a lot about our pet’s GI tract that may be hard to glean from other tests or physical exams alone.   The gastrointestinal tract has its own separate “plumbing.”

And lastly, although by no means the least important, we can test a stool sample for parasites.  Intestinal parasites can be most frequently acquired from fecal oral contamination, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Parasites can also be contracted from eating prey or undercooked meat, or in some cases from contaminated water sources including rain and irrigation run-off.   Because our pets don’t use a sanitation sewer system, this puts our pets at more risk than most people.  This also puts pet owners at sightly higher risk of acquiring a parasite from their furry friend. 

So please, pick up after your pet, dispose of waste appropriately, and wash your hands before eating!  😉

Monday, April 01, 2019

Easter Blog 2019

Written by Vet Assistant, Danielle & Dr. Gloria Ku

Rover is lying down on his favorite blanket, watching his family enjoy the sunshine outside.  The children are running around, finding colorful ballsRover knows he will get in trouble if he tries to take one of the balls but he doesnt know what is so special about them.  Time passes and suddenly, the hustle and bustle of the day is quieter.  Rover comes across a basket that was forgotten inside the housecandy wrappers and jelly beans hide beneath the plastic green stuff.  With no one watching him, Rover dives into the basket, happily finally getting the chance to have his own colorful ball all to himself!

Its a wonderful time to have family and friends over to celebrate Easter.  Whether its going to a church event or having fun at your neighborhood park, most Easter celebrations might include an egg hunt, baskets of goodies, and chocolate treats.

One helpful command for dogs to learn is the leave itcommand.  Often times, our pets get into trouble when we are not looking, but there are times when we see them perform an act unwanted.  Such as picking up a plastic egg with chocolate in it and trying to eat it.

There are many techniques that can help with training the leave itcommand.  Here are links for 2 styles of training:

We asked Dr. Gloria Ku to answer these following questions:

Pets eating the grassin Easter baskets: Why would it be bad for them to eat the plastic?  Do you recommend using the paper grass instead?

"Paper grass is preferable to plastic mainly because plastic doesn’t breakdown and can more easily cause an obstruction or possible string entanglement of bowel.  With paper, be mindful of dyes used to color the material as well, but it is best if your pet does not consume any of it!"

We know that dogs can swallow tennis balls...can a dog safely digest an egg if they eat it whole?

"Haha, a dog may be able to swallow a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean they can pass them!  Depending on the size of the dog, he or she may be able to digest a hard boiled egg, but if the shell is particularly firm and has not been broken, they may not be able to break it down, especially if they are able to swallow it whole!

Photo Credit: Lisa, RVT (Hooper & Rubicon)
And of course, chocolate eggs can be toxic depending on the size of your dog as well as how much actual cocoa is present.  The sugar and fat associated with a lot of chocolate treats are also prone to causing gastroenteritis, otherwise known as vomiting and diarrhea.  Be aware that your dog’s nose is very good and sniffing out hidden eggs that children and adults may have overlooked.  Please keep track of where and the number of treats hidden so that your four legged friend doesn’t find them later…

With the necessary precautions in place, Happy egg hunting!!"

And just a friendly reminder, if youre thinking of buying a bunny for Easter, please consider adopting—not shopping.  Each year, many bunnies are sent to the shelters after the holiday because pet owners arent aware of how much care little bunnies will need or children get tired of taking care of a bunny and the responsibility fall back onto the parents.  Just like cats and dogs, all creatures we take in as pets need specific care and attention.  

To find out what kind of responsibility is needed for rabbit care, click this link:

Monday, March 18, 2019

What Should I Feed My Dog?

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku, DVM

This is not a simple question, but one we often get, and struggle with just as our clients do.  As veterinarians, we should know more than the average person about how to feed your new puppy, or your mature dog, but that also makes it difficult because there is a lot of information to process in this question!

While ingredient lists are often the first place a consumer will look to assess a diet, it is not the last place one should look.  Ingredient lists can be misleading when we try to oversimplify what they are telling us.  Here is a “glossary” of terms used in the pet food industry:

There are several factors that must go in to deciding which diet is best to feed.  And the choices are plentiful.  Like us, the same diet is rarely the best diet for ALL dogs, but at the same time, there are guidelines that will help you figure out where to start, and it is highly possible that your dog will do well on a diet that the majority of dogs will do well on, statistically speaking.

Factors that I consider critical to the decision are nutritional support [e.g. does the diet meet minimum standards for nutrition established by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)] which is an association of local, state and federal agencies that regulate animal feed sales and content.  It is a minimum standard that all diets should satisfy and ”AAFCO Approved” should be part of the label somewhere.  In the past, when generic dog food was first introduced on the market, these standards were not met and deficiencies surfaced causing serious health problems.  This should be the minimum you should ask of your diet.

Beyond the minimum nutritional value, the considerations become more subjective, assuming your pet does not have a specific medical condition dictating a “low fat” or "limited ingredient” diet for example.  For most of us, we are looking for a diet that is humanely produced, has some evidence based research that it will keep our dogs healthy, help them to have normal stools and a nice healthy coat, keep their teeth and bones strong and healthy, one that they will enjoy eating, and we will find convenient to buy and feed, at a reasonable price.  No small order! 

For some it is also important to avoid a lot of additives and preservatives, but there are trade offs to having commercially produced foods without adequate preservation.  With this comes a higher risk of spoilage which can drive up expense associated with how it is handled in manufacturing and delivery, storage, etc.  Raw diets in particular have the added risk of bacterial contamination that can be harmful not only for your dog, but for sensitive family members as well. 

A lot of diets now include supplements like glucosamine for joint health, or increased protein which we often associate as higher quality calories, or “natural” sourced ingredients, or more omega 3’s.  Many of these sound beneficial, and I won’t say they aren’t, but sometimes the marketing is more powerful than the evidence.  In the case of glucosamine, for instance, there is typically not sufficient concentrations to be helpful. Evidence based efficacy, such as actual feeding trials for dogs to prove any benefit, may be lacking altogether.  Often the value of an ingredient is inferred because people have heard that it could be helpful for themselves,  or there was one study that showed possible benefit in another species (like mice or humans) but not dogs.  One has to be a little cautious of this type of data.  “Grain free” is another popular marketing label that has recently been shown to potentially lead to heart disease in some dogs. 

Often larger, more established companies have the advantage of having the resources to do feeding trials and nutrition research. They utilize sophisticated scientific analysis as well as expertise from PhD nutritionists, food science experts, microbiologists and animal science research to help formulate diets that are designed to be nutritionally appropriate, palatable to most animals who are fed it, and convenient for consumers to use.   While there are a host of smaller, boutique companies that also make pet food, many of them do not have the resources to perform feeding trials over many years, or have laboratories that can help with quality control and nutritional analysis.  They will often rely on research performed by or funded by other companies in order to meet the AAFCO minimum standards and have a starting place from which to make other adjustments.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but just important to recognize. 
Finally there are many who feed home cooked meals to their pets.  While this may feel healthier to some than feeding processed kibble, it is not easy to meet all requirements in today’s world from grocery store ingredients.  UC Davis has a wonderful nutrition department that will help you formulate a balanced diet for your pet, but recipes can be expensive (on the order of $225/recipe) to have formulated.  Beyond that, it is difficult to create a balanced diet, despite the fact that there are published recipes online… As we all know, putting it out there is easy.  Taking responsibility for your pet’s well being is not as easy.

So, at the end of the day, what should you feed your dog??  There is no one answer!  How food is sourced in todays society will definitely affect your choice.  I try to look for a middle ground.  I like the convenience of feeding kibble and I think my dog’s stool is more formed and consistent on kibble.  I like that a trusted company has done feeding trials and has some scientific based evidence that I will be meeting her nutritional needs as a canine. But I confess,  I also prepare organic bone broth and sometimes add a little extra organically humanely raised meat  topper to her prepared food to increase her appetite, and complement her prepared diet.  When I cook for her I add a little black pepper to aid with digestion, celery to help her appetite, turmeric for her arthritis, and lots of love.  All in small amounts., except for the love of course.  I don’t worry about whether the bag says chicken meal or pork by products because as the glossary explains, that just means there is liver and intestines and not just “meat” which is actually more nutritious.  As one nutritionist pointed out, in many countries these are actually what humans also value and consume.  While  theoretically it could include feathers or other “by-products”, these aren’t intended ingredients because there isn’t nutritional value in them, and if you read the glossary, they are intentionally and mandated to be excluded.  If bone meal is her source of calcium that is no worse nor better than ground calcium carbonate from sea shells to me.  If there are preservatives to help her kibble remain fresh and prevent spoilage, I accept that as I often do in my own diet in order to avoid gastrointestinal upset.  Do I want her to live forever, you bet!!

I do encourage you to look at what you are feeding, read the labels and understand their limitations as well, evaluate your dog’s response to your choice and if necessary, change and re-evaluate again.  But do so gradually, with consideration, and with the help of your veterinarian.  We may not know everything, but we have studied this issue at length, and will try to bring perspective and guidance to our answers.  Because we want your dog to live forever too!  :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

What is a Bland Diet?

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku (with some collaboration from RVT Katie & Vet Assistant Danielle)

If you’ve had a pet that has been feeling ill, having stomach problems or diarrhea, there’s a good chance you’ve heard your Veterinarian say, “We are going to start your pet on a bland diet.”
But why is that?  And what exactly is that diet?

“A bland diet allows the pet’s GI tract to recover by being easy to digest.  We usually recommend feeding a bland diet until the pet returns back to normal (i.e., if the pet is having diarrhea, the stools return to normal).” 
                                        –Katie, Registered Veterinary Technician

At our hospital, we have several bland diet options.  The first being prescription diet brands formulated for GI upsets.  There are several veterinary diet brands that have special gastro-intestinal options, for example:

  • Hill’s Prescription Diet I/D
  • Royal Canin’s Prescription Diet GI Low Fat or GI Fiber Response
  • Purina’s Prescription Diet EN

These specialty foods are only available through your Veterinarian.

You can also make your own homemade bland diet using a combination of easy to digest protein and carbohydrate sources for dogs:
  • Baked or boiled skinless deboned chicken breast with no seasonings (salt, pepper, paprika, etc.). 
  • Cooked white rice with no butter, salt, pepper or other seasonings. 
  • Low fat cottage cheese (in lieu of chicken).

Brown rice is not usually recommended with GI upset because it has different fiber content compared to white rice.  This can make it harder for pets to easily digest brown rice. Sometimes we will suggest boiled potato or pasta as a variation for the cooked white rice, but it depends on the pet’s condition and diet history. 

Each pet is different and so it varies when it comes to how much to feed, how often, and for how long.  Generally, small amounts of the bland diet is offered throughout the day (for example: 1 tablespoon every couple of hours) and gradually increased until the pet is fed a normal amount of food (for example: a small 10 lb. dog could get 3 tablespoons of boiled chicken and rice fed three times a day). If your pet is vomiting, you will want to limit water intake to small amounts at a time as well, but offer if frequently enough to satisfy your pet’s hydration needs.  Hopefully, a few days later, once your pet is feeling better, it’s time to gradually mix the bland diet with the pet’s regular diet.

For smaller dogs and/or cats, we will sometimes suggest all meat chicken or turkey baby food, or a prescription diet like Hill’s a/d. Because cats are more strict carnivores, we usually will not add a carbohydrate.  But for most dogs, we will tend to balance the protein and carbohydrate ratio 1:1 during this period. 

Most passing gastrointestinal problems (e.g. vomiting or diarrhea) that will respond to a bland diet change should resolve within 24-48 hours.  If your pet’s issue continue for longer, your pet is very lethargic, painful, febrile or dehydrated, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible.  Also, persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration quickly, especially if your pet is not holding down water, and you will need to seek veterinary care more urgently.  Monitor stools and urination to be sure they are still happening and notify your veterinarian if they are absent.   And finally, if this is a chronic issue for your pet, while a bland diet may be helpful, you will likely need to determine the underlying cause with your veterinarian to ensure a longer term solution and proper nutrition in the long run.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Is Your Cat Nervous?

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku

Anxiety in cats is not uncommon.  In nature, the instinct to be stealthy and able to react quickly is an advantage.  In domestic life, sometimes this can be a disadvantage.  Anxiety over changes in season, routine, dietary choices, litter preferences, and even sudden movements can make our kitty companions seem a bit jumpy sometimes. 

For the most part, cats can adjust their sensitivity to our lives by hiding and basically avoiding the “negative stimulus.”  When avoidance is not enough, some cats will express their anxiety in other ways.  Elimination issues are probably one of the most common ways that cats will express anxiety in the home, or perhaps it is the most noticeable as urinating on the rug or the toaster.  This will surely get our attention!
Just like with us, stress can actually create physiological responses in the body that alert us to a problem.  This can be increased acid production in the stomach, even to the point of creating inflammation and pain in the gut, vomiting or diarrhea.  Stress in cats in particular can cause inflammation in the bladder wall that can lead to something termed Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder (or “FLUTD”).  This inflammation can lead to increased urination and urgency or straining, often resulting in blood in the urine, and behavioral concerns that typically involve urinating outside the box, somewhere. 

Since our feline friends are not always as communicative as other species, subtle signs of stress can go undetected by their human companions until they reach a level of creating physical signs.  For example, Autumn is a common time for urinary problems to occur when indoor/outdoor cats feel the change in temperature and start to spend more time indoors.  Being indoors, they may have to adjust to litter boxes again. Cats may hold their urine longer because litter has a deodorizer in it they don’t like, or possibly another cat has also just used the litter box.  Because male cats in particular have a small urethra, they are often the ones that have the worst time with stress as the urethra also starts to swell, resulting in urine sediment or red blood cells (if there is accompanying bleeding due to inflammation) to have trouble passing.  This can cause the urethra to become plugged, not allowing urine to be eliminated, what is commonly referred to as a “blocked cat” and can result in an emergency situation.  If waste cannot be eliminated, the toxins will build up in the body, and the bladder could fill to the point of near rupture; the cat can become quite depressed and even unresponsive in a matter of hours.  This is an emergency situation and one needs to seek help as soon as possible or it can actually lead to death. 

Less critical but still very important stress responses can create chronic vomiting, diarrhea, or immunosuppression just like we experience.  Sometimes cats are forgiven for vomiting because we are expecting them to have hairballs.  But if you are consistently seeing vomit without hair, there is a clue that they may be vomiting for other reasons.
(Click here to read about cat hairballs:

If you think your cat is experiencing excessive stress, here are a few things you can try to help reduce stress for him or her:

  • Feliway is a spray or plug in diffuser with a pheromone that helps to calm cats.  It actually works pretty well.  (Feliway Website:
  • Often, knowing what the trigger is, helps us to know how best to counteract the stressor.  Occasionally, we also use oral medication to help with anxiety.  Once you recognize stress in your pet, it is often not too difficult to address their issues and it may help to avoid more serious health consequences later. 
Cats are sensitive but not always as obvious about their needs. As their human friends, it helps to be attentive to their clues.  Often they are subtle, until they aren’t! 😉