How to Choose the Best Food for Your Dog

There has been a scary trend that we are starting to hear about with dogs and heart failure that seems to be linked to grain-free foods. There is an article by a vet nutritionist in which she found that it is not only grain-free foods but also the smaller more boutique food companies. The regulations for human food and pet food are much different and there are many loopholes that can be found when producing pet food. Anybody can put pictures of chicken or vegetables on the bag but that says nothing about the actual ingredients in the food.

When buying pet food, most people are unaware of the AAFCO statement on the bag. This provides information about the life stage of your pet that this food is suitable for. While most labels say ‘for all life stages’, some foods are meant for intermittent feeding and aren’t great for growth and development.

The heart problems that are linked to grain-free diets cause a type of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. What we have found is that the dogs get the dilated cardiomyopathy not after the first time eating the food but usually after several months to a year. This suggests that there is some kind of nutritional deficiency because your heart is not receiving something it needs and is becoming weaker and weaker. They have begun to study litters of puppies whose mothers were fed grain-free diets. In one case a golden retriever mom had been fed grain-free food her whole life and had a litter of around eight puppies; each one of the puppies had dilated cardiomyopathy.

This type of heart failure is being found in both cats and dogs which makes finding the cause even more difficult. These smaller brand companies are also being linked with dilated cardiomyopathy, even when the food isn’t grain-free, because of an incorrect mix of nutrients.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is very hard to detect because you can’t see the symptoms right away. The heart begins to weaken over time and dilate until it reaches a point where the blood flow is inhibited then we begin to see heart failure and coughing and wheezing. Unfortunately, some of these signs are reversible and some of them are not.

Until this problem is solved, insult your veterinarian and get good quality food. At Danville Family Vet, we have over 700 different foods on our shelf because each one is for a specific need. Come in and see us today and let us help you find the food that suits your dog best!

Dr. Smith and Dr. Rohrig on Health and Wellness

When you think of a vet you think about a small office and about 5-10 employees but we have begun to outgrow that number. We now have over 20 people working at Danville Family Vet and it has gotten to the point where not everyone is in the building on a given day. This makes communication an issue and questions are raised such as: how do we work out differences; how do we communicate efficiently; and how do we get along. These are things that we weren’t taught at vet school!

So many vets are introverts with Type A personalities that are used to getting what they want. They worked really hard to get through vet school and had to do it independently; nobody else was going to do it for them. When you join a small practice, you are working with only a few other people. This becomes more difficult when you expand and add more personalities to your work environment. It is extremely important to recognize that there will be others with different personalities but they still bring important additions to the practice.

At Danville Family Vet, we recently became AAHA accredited. Being AAHA accredited holds our practice to a higher standard for both our clients and our employees. We have recently started a wellness protocol for our staff to make sure they are taking care of themselves first and foremost. Taking care of yourself is so important and our great staff has already begun to make their own wellness plans.

The culture and value that we add to each other and the community on a human level is a great asset that is often overlooked. We can become too focused on the ins and outs of practicing veterinary medicine that we can forget about these things.

Our pets also make us healthier and happier by decreasing our stress and giving us a reason to get out and exercise. Nicer weather is also a factor for our overall wellness. When the sun is out it can impact our mood making us happier and more energetic. We want to take advantage of the great weather by being outside whether it’s walking your dog or riding your horse.

We want you to know that our team at Danville Family Vet is a passionate group of individuals that not only care about you and your pets but for each other. It’s so much more than just medicine.

The Problem with No Kill Shelters

For many years, in our community alone, there have been 3,000-5,000 unwanted animals that arrive at the shelter annually. The question is where do those animals go and what happens to them if nobody wants them? If everyone took care of their own pets by spaying or neutering them or making sure they didn’t breed, there wouldn’t be any unwanted pets so we wouldn’t need the shelter and it would go out of business.

How Can a Shelter be a No Kill Shelter?

The no kill movement started many years ago out in California and people became convinced that there wasn’t a pet overpopulation problem. They believed that it was the animal shelter owners that did not want to find animals a new home. After that, the whole discussion changed from ‘how can we decrease euthanasia’ to ‘euthanasia needs to stop right now’. In Danville, we can become ‘no kill’ right now, by not taking in more animals. We have open admission shelters, which means you can come from anywhere and bring any dog and we would accept it even though we know that we do not have anyone waiting to adopt it. 

When the no kill movement began, people were too focused on the live release rate instead of other important factors. If your shelter has a live release rate of at least 90% you are considered a no kill shelter. The live release rate takes into consideration all animals that either get adopted or transferred from the shelter. According to the no kill movement, you do not have to factor in animals that you turn away or that die on their own while in your shelter.

From a veterinarians standpoint, we have worked to get the rabies vaccine required by law and are very strict about enforcing the rabies vaccine. You don’t really hear about people getting rabies anymore in America, and this is because we vaccinate a lot of animals but we also take stray animals off the street which is a public health hazard. So if we just close the doors to our shelters and become a no kill shelter that is a little scary because we aren’t allowing any animals in and keeping them on the streets. Instead of bringing their animals to a shelter, people will just leave them on the side of the road, leaving it to someone else to find them and take care of them.

It used to be very common for local shelters to provide euthanasia for owners who couldn’t afford veterinary treatment and their animal was suffering. When shelters become no kill shelters they will turn that animal away and it is faced with prolonged suffering before they die or are abandoned by their owners.

Getting a New Puppy and Potty Training

When you are going to adopt a puppy, ideally the right time to get them is at 7 weeks old. Puppies need the first 6-7 weeks with their mother and other puppies to learn how to be a dog. They then need to be introduced to people so they can bond with you, the owner, strongly. If you take them too early they aren’t well adjusted and ready and if you take them too late they won’t have as strong of a bond with you.

A piece of advice to anyone that is thinking about adopting a puppy is to prepare and be prepared to spend the first 3-4 months with them. I have had dogs that I didn’t train that well and I have had dogs that I trained better and spending that initial time with them is priceless. You have this pet that is now your friend and will do the things you need them to do and you get credit when your dog behaves. When you can get your dog to behave you enjoy them so much more. It is important to get your dog’s behavior under control early on to build the bond and make having a dog much more enjoyable.

With potty training, dogs will go through a regression that usually happens around 4 months old. You have been training them and it is going great and then all of a sudden it’s like they forgot everything. You almost have to start over by putting them back in their crate, limit their time out, and take them outside many times during the day. When you let them out and they go to the bathroom you can then trust them for only about 20 minutes afterward. They can be out in the house or in the room but you should be watching them constantly. You need to watch for signs such as sniffing a little too much or start going off into a corner, then you need to take them out and let them use the bathroom once again. It helps to be very consistent and repetitive with their bathroom routine because that is what helps your dog learn.

If you start training your dog with potty pads it is ok to eventually move them to going outside when they are older. In doing this you run the risk of your dog mistaking a t-shirt or anything on the floor as a potty pad and using it. The transition from potty pad to outside can be confusing for your dog and it is better to start with going outside if possible. In the end your dog is choosing their spot and the goal is for them to choose the spot that you picked for them.

How to Solve Pet Overpopulation

The problem with pet overpopulation is simple yet so difficult to solve. In Danville alone, we have 5,000 unwanted pets which is the same amount as last year. Unwanted pets include pets at the animal shelters. Some people take their pets to the animal shelters because they do not want to take care of them anymore. Some of the unwanted pets are running astray because people let their dogs loose and don’t want to take care of them anymore.

Each year we have seen an increase in unwanted pets which is alarming when the solution to solving this problem is simple. Let’s take a look at a scenario: We start with two dogs, one that lives in Danville and another that lives in Pennsylvania County. Both dogs get bred and have five puppies each for a total of ten dogs. Dogs can go into heat every six months and can potentially have two litters a year with as many as ten puppies. Within a year these puppies can be bred and have litters of their own of say another five puppies. If you have been keeping up we’re up to fifty dogs!

This example is a smaller scale and it is safe to say that in both Danville and Pennsylvania County there are actually around two hundred dogs that are running around and can get pregnant. This can lead to five thousand unwanted pets in both the city and the county. This happens quickly and easily and it is difficult to implement our solution with so many unwanted pets.

We now have roughly five thousand unwanted pets in shelters that arrived this year. We now have to worry about the cost to take care of these dogs, to walk them, to get their vaccines and eventually find them a home. For this example let’s say we can do all this for $100 which is highly unlikely as the cost is probably closer to $300-$500 a dog. If it is $100 a dog, we need $500,000 a year to spend on unwanted pets alone. It is safe to say that the shelters, the cities, and the counties do not have this money and donations are not going to be able to cover this cost. The question we want to answer is how much money would it take to stop the problem at its root and make sure the first group of dogs do not have puppies?

The answer is it costs nothing. It costs zero dollars if you can keep your dog from becoming pregnant. You don’t even have to spay or neuter them if you keep them on a leash, keep them in your house, or keep them confined, but if you do let your dog run around outside you should have them spayed or neutered. If we are able to do our spay and neuter program for $100 we’re only talking about $20,000 instead of the original $500,000. This is a cost that the humane society and the pet center can cover. It comes down to personal responsibility to spay or neuter our pets and to control the pet population. If we never let our dogs breed we won’t have the problem of overpopulation. The other thing we can do is support the Pennsylvania Pet Center, the Danville Area Humane Society, and SPCAs because they can’t do it alone. If we take responsibility and avoid shifting the responsibility to the shelters we can eliminate this problem easily.

Call the Pennsylvania Pet Center or the Danville Area Humane Society because they have lots of programs for spays and neuters and other ways to help. If you are looking for a new dog, go to the shelters and adopt, and if we all take care of our pets we can eliminate pet overpopulation.

How To Give A Cat A Pill

The trick to giving your cat their pill is to get it behind their tongue. If you look into their mouth you will see that their tongue makes a little U-shape and a hump. You want to get all the way in the back and over the hump. Once the pill is all the way in the back it will stimulate the swallowing reflex and it will go right down.

Another trick is that cats don’t like to be restrained and held down a lot so you want to hold them in a natural position when giving them their pill. Dr. Smith likes to hold them around their cheekbones and then tuck the pill in the back of their mouth as described before. You may want to give your cat a little drink of water afterwards as well to make sure the pill has gone all the way down.

Another technique you can use is to hold them in the crook of your arm so that they can’t back up but they also feel comfortable. You then grab behind the canine teeth and pull down on their bottom jaw and insert the pill into the back of their mouth.

Does My Dog Have The Flu?

Dog flu is similar to the human flu except it is a virus that only dogs can catch. Just like the human flu virus, the dog flu virus has adapted and mutates every year to the point where we saw different strains in horses and birds that ended up mutating into this dog flu. Because of this, we have two strains that we vaccinate against in our dogs. It is scary and should be taken seriously because there have been several outbreaks across the country and at one point we thought it would become an epidemic! We try to protect everyone who comes into the hospital so we have a population of animals that are all protected so if the flu comes to Danville all of our clients will be safe.

Is Surgery Dangerous for Dogs?

Deciding whether or not to put your beloved pet under anesthesia can be a difficult call to make, especially if a procedure seems elective or unnecessary. First and foremost, it is one hundred percent appropriate to ask your veterinarian about the importance of the procedure, the potential risks, and anything else that may be worrying you about the process. Remember that your veterinarian wouldn’t suggest anesthesia without assessing the risks and benefits, as well as other possible options.

We should keep in mind that no anesthesia is entirely without risk, but there are important steps that can and should be taken to reduce this risk. Some of these steps will take place before your pet is even asleep, such as a pre-operative physical exam. This will assess your pet’s overall physical health and condition prior to surgery. Depending on the exam findings, your vet will decide whether or not to proceed with surgical prep. Another important piece of the puzzle is pre-anesthetic lab work. This involves taking a blood sample and running a chemistry panel and a complete blood count to assess your pet’s internal health and organ function. Although this part of the process is often optional, especially with routine spays and neuters, it is a necessary and essential part of the big picture when it comes to your pet’s anesthetic risk assessment. Performing both a physical exam and pre-op blood work is key to ensuring there are no underlying conditions that could make anesthesia more dangerous for your fur baby.

Once your pet’s overall health status is assessed and they are deemed healthy enough to undergo anesthesia, they will be given an injection of several pre-anesthetic medications that will help them relax and ensure they will not wake up in any pain. These medications should be tailored according to your pet’s health and risk evaluation, and calculated specifically based on their weight. Then, once your pet is relaxed, there are a series of safety precautions that should follow. An IV catheter should be placed for induction and safety purposes. This will give your veterinarian direct access to the blood supply and can be used to administer emergency drugs if need be. An IV catheter also allows for your pet to be hooked up to anesthetic fluids throughout the procedure and during recovery which will help them maintain proper blood pressure. Much like pre-anesthetic lab work, anesthetic fluids are also sometimes optional but necessary to be sure the procedure is as safe as possible. 

At this time, your pet will most likely be given an intravenous injection to induce anesthesia and a breathing tube appropriate for their size will be placed. They will then be hooked up to oxygen and an anesthetic gas, and preparation of the surgical site will begin. The area where the initial incision will be should be shaved and scrubbed thoroughly in a methodical fashion with an antimicrobial solution such as Chlorhexidine or Betadine. This will significantly reduce the chance of infection following the procedure. Once surgical prep is complete, your pet should be carefully moved to a surgical suite and positioned on top of a surgical table with a warm heating pad. The surgeon will then prepare themselves for the procedure, or “scrub in”. This Is when the surgeon methodically scrubs their hands and forearms with an antimicrobial solution, puts on a sterile gown, and sterile gloves. A surgical cap and mask should also be worn by each individual entering the surgical suite. Each of these steps will also help reduce the chance of infection for your pet. At this time, in AAHA accredited hospitals, a final scrub of the surgical site should be performed by a technician or assistant wearing sterile gloves. The surgeon should then drape in the surgical site with a sterile drape, and surgery will begin. 

During surgical prep, the procedure, and recovery your pet should be carefully monitored. Anesthetic monitoring should be performed by a well-trained veterinary assistant or licensed veterinary technician. This means that your pet’s vital signs are being closely watched for changes during the course of the surgery. Vitals that are typically observed include heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, blood-oxygen level, and blood pressure. A seasoned professional watching these values closely will be able to tell immediately if your pet is experiencing any complications. Adjustments to the amount of anesthetic gas your pet is receiving can be made according to their vital signs which will make them more or less sleepy based on their needs. Patients should be kept under anesthesia just deep enough as to not experience any discomfort or interfere with surgery, while also maintaining appropriate vital signs. Tailoring anesthesia for each pet based on their vital signs will help minimize potential risks.

Following surgery, your pet should be moved out of the surgical suite and into a private area to recover while under close observation. Their vital signs should continue to be watched closely during this time. Assessments of vital signs and physical reactions to stimuli will be continuously made until your pet is awake enough for their breathing tube to be removed. Endotracheal breathing tubes should be removed when your pet is awake enough to swallow repeatedly or sit upright, and should be left in place as long as is necessary for this to occur. This is a safety measure as well, and allows for the veterinary staff to have the ability to reconnect your pet to oxygen or anesthetic gas in case of an emergency. As a rule, IV catheters should not be removed until the patient is extubated, and in many cases are left in place during the recovery period in case emergency drugs need to be administered. Your pet will be watched closely after their breathing tube is removed and during their recovery. Depending on the nature of your pet’s procedure and their recovery experience, they will either return home the evening of the procedure or stay for further observation following anesthesia. Post-operative instructions should be sent home at discharge and, if you have any questions regarding their at-home recovery this is the best time to ask your hospital staff what to be on the lookout for. If you have any concerns during your pet’s recovery, you should absolutely contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Here at the Family Vet in Danville, Virginia we are an AAHA accredited hospital and operate in accordance with these guidelines (maybe embed a link here to our info about AAHA). This means that all pets undergoing anesthesia for any surgical procedure are monitored carefully during surgical prep, induction, the procedure itself, and post-op recovery. Each pet is assigned a specific team of well-trained medical professionals to attend to them during their entire experience, including a veterinarian, a veterinary assistant, and/or licensed veterinary technician. Vital signs are watched closely for changes during the course of all anesthetic procedures, recorded periodically, and saved for future reference as a part of your pet’s unique medical history. Pre-operative exams are always performed prior to prep and induction for every single procedure, in accordance with AAHA regulations, to evaluate physical health. Pre-anesthetic lab work is highly recommended, and often required, to help assess anesthetic risk factors and obtain a baseline for what is normal for your baby internally. Medical alerts and histories are created based on past procedures, and are always taken into account when preparing your pet for any anesthetic procedure. 

At our clinic, pre-anesthetic sedation and pain control medications are calculated based on the weight, age, health, and medical history of your pet. Emergency drugs specific to your pet are always calculated prior to administration of pre-anesthetic medications for quick access in case of emergency. After sedation and pain control medications are given, your fur baby will rest comfortably under close observation in a private bedroom on a heating pad. This will help your pet relax, and the heating pad will help them maintain their body temperature prior to surgery. IV catheters are placed in all dogs undergoing any surgical procedure, and anesthetic fluids are strongly recommended and often required to help maintain proper blood pressure.

Throughout their procedure, anesthesia will be specifically tailored by attending veterinary staff based on your pet’s vital signs to help keep the procedure as safe as possible and shorten the recovery period. Following surgery, a trained member of our medical team will sit with your pet and monitor them closely while they recover. During recovery, post-operative laser therapy will be administered to the surgical site to help increase circulation, reduce inflammation, stimulate cell regeneration, and promote healing. Following the removal of your pet’s breathing tube, they will remain in their own private bedroom in the treatment area and watched carefully by our medical team throughout the duration of their recovery. The length and complexity of your pet’s procedure will determine how long they will stay with us in the hospital, and we encourage you to check in on your baby as often as you like. Upon discharge, we will take time to go over specialized at-home recovery instructions based on your pet’s individual experience. While your pet continues their recovery journey with you, we will be here every step of the way to answer your questions and ease your worries. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us as often as necessary during this time!

At the Danville Family Vet, we believe that each pet is unique and, while there are in-depth protocols that are adhered to for each procedure, no two procedures are the same. We are trained and prepared to customize this experience based on the overall health and needs of your pet specifically, as well as your wishes as their caretaker. Our staff are very compassionate and well-educated, and would love to take time to sit down with you and further elaborate on your pet’s next procedure whenever is convenient for you.

Fear Free Practice

The fear free program has been very successful at Danville Family Vet and is something we have been doing for a few years now. Some of the things that you might notice that we do differently are based on the fear free program. The point of being a fear free practice is to ensure that your pets aren’t afraid to go to the vet. It is a lofty goal but we are making significant progress towards being completely fear free.

Major points of emphasis are reducing fear, anxiety, and stress in pets when they visit. If we can’t be completely fear free, we can at least reduce the stress of your pet to make their appointment more enjoyable.

What Are Ways We Create a Fear Free Environment at Danville Family Vet?

Dr. Smith always keeps treats with him for your pet. Most times when Dr. Smith enters a room he will throw the dog a treat before greeting it and allow the dog to check him out. After this interaction, he will ignore the dog and go sit down. He does this because the dog is still trying to get to know him and if Dr. Smith made an advance toward the dog and/or went to pet it, the dog might feel threatened. What we really want to do is communicate to the dog in a way that they understand by letting them sniff around and check their environment before deciding if they want to play. Our first impression with your pet is very important to us.

What Does the Fear Free Program Teach?

One thing the program teaches is to identify warning signs that a pet might be experiencing fear, stress, or anxiety. We identify this by noticing if hair is standing up on their back, if their pupils are dilated, if their tail is tucked, or if their back is arched. All of these could be signs that your pet is feeling uncomfortable in their environment. There are many small indicators with your pets posture that you might not notice, but tip us off if your pet is feeling stressed.

In our exam rooms, dogs especially have routines that they go through if they are feeling stressed. They will hide in a certain corner of the room or go to certain places that allow us to identify that they are feeling stressed.

Cats are a little bit different, but still can try to hide if they feel uncomfortable or stressed. They will also show posture signs usually just by tensing up when they are in a different environment. Cats usually try to find an escape route from their stressful environment and will try to run away.

If you have a pet that might be stressed or anxious about going to the vet, give us a call because there are things you can do at home before you even step foot in the office. Some extreme cases, pets need medications just to be able to visit the vet. The medication allows your pet to relax so they can have a good experience with their appointment. If pets have a positive experience with a visit, even if they are under medication, the next visit will be even easier for them. This also helps with their socialization and allows them to go to other places and meet new people as well.

How We Prep For Surgeries

When preparing for anesthesia, the primary cause of infection after surgery comes from the bacteria that remains on the skin. Keeping the skin clean is extremely important and we do that by clipping the hair to remove that source of bacteria and then scrub the skin clean. One of the things you can do as a pet owner if your dog is about to have surgery is give them a really good bath the day before. Getting them clean before we see them makes a big difference when we get ready to proceed with the surgery.


The problem with bacteria is that we can’t see it and we don’t know where the bacteria is on the skin. When we clean the skin during surgery prep we start at the center where the surgical site is and move outward. This makes sure the cleanest spot is in the middle where the surgery will occur and if any bacteria is picked up it will be dragged to the outside away from the incision. We do this process multiple times to make sure the skin is thoroughly cleaned.


After cleaning the pet, Dr. Smith prepares himself for surgery. He starts by taking his lab coat off as it serves as a protector and shield against all the germs of the world. By taking the outer cover off he has his clean clothes underneath. Before going into the surgery room, he changes his shoes to ones that he only wears in surgery so no bacteria is dragged in with his work shoes. He then goes through the same scrubbing process on himself as they do on the pet being prepared for surgery. Dr. Smith scrubs his hands three times and even makes sure to get every fingernail and both sides of each finger. He goes through this methodical process to make sure every area is cleaned. This is necessary since we aren’t able to see the bacteria on our skin. To make sure all the bacteria is gone he repeats this process three times.


Back in the surgery room, we use sterilized gloves as well as sterilized gauze when cleaning the skin of the pet one last time before it goes into surgery. This allows us to have the cleanest possible surgery site that we can have. After Dr. Smith is cleaned up, he puts on his sterile gloves and smock and begins the final steps before surgery. Having sterile materials means there is no bacteria on it and although you can’t sterilize the skin of the pet, it has been cleaned thoroughly and properly. A sterile drape is placed over most of the pet’s body with only the surgery site exposed. By doing this, there is only a limited amount of bacteria exposed that can contaminate the surgery.


The dog that was used in the video demonstration was adopted from the Danville Humane Society. When you are thinking about getting a new pet, always think about going to the shelter first.