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March 2, 2018

This past week I noticed a trend among our clients.  As part of a pet’s annual exam, I always try to examine the mouth (if Fluffy will let me).  When I mentioned the grade of tartar found on the pet’s teeth, I was told by multiple clients that their groomer cleans their dog’s teeth.  Brushing a dog or cat’s teeth every 6-8 weeks is not enough.  If you are going to brush your pet’s teeth, it needs to be done several times a week, if not daily.  I feel bad for these clients, because brushing teeth every two months is a waste of money.  Please also understand that what your groomer does is not the same as a complete dental performed at our office.  A complete dental involves an examination of all tooth and gum surfaces under general anesthesia, a complete cleaning and polishing, and a fluoride treatment.

If you would like suggestions on how to care for your pet’s teeth so you can get the most bang for your buck, please reach out to our staff.  We have different types of products (chews, additives, food) to work with every pet and lifestyle.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

February 13, 2018

Celebrations this February include Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, President’s Day, Chinese New Year (2018 is the Year of the Dog!), Veterinary Dental Health Month, and Spay/Neuter Awareness Month.  Obviously, the last two take special precedence for our practice.

This year we are offering 20% off the dental cleaning until the end of March.  By 3 years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease.  The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can spread via the blood stream.  This can lead to infections of the liver, kidney, heart, lungs, and trigger diabetes and autoimmune diseases.  Signs of dental disease include tartar, bleeding from the mouth, excessive drooling, discomfort when touching the mouth, loose or discolored teeth, loss of appetite, and bad breath.  Once we clean your pet’s teeth, there are multiple options to keep the teeth clean.  Our staff can review which option would work best for you and your pet.

Spaying and neutering is also an important step in protecting your pet’s health.  Cats can have litters 3 times a year with an average of 4 kittens per litter.  In 7 years one unspayed female and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats.  An unspayed dog and her offspring can produce 99,000 dogs in the same time.  Seventy thousand puppies and kittens are born in the United States each day (compared to 10,000 babies a day), and 6-8 million dogs and cats enter the shelters each year.  Over half of these animals will not be adopted.  Spaying and neutering can help decrease the chance of cancer (ovarian, mammary, uterine, prostate, testicular), fights, wandering, infections, and unwanted litters.  It really is in your pet’s best interest to spay or neuter.

As always, helping your pet have the healthiest life is always our top concern!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

January 16, 2018

Happy 2018!  Although Berks County has been in the deep freeze for the past couple of weeks, they are still out there!  What am I talking about?  Parasites.

The numbers are in for 2017 with 3.27% of dogs in Berks County having had roundworms (1 in 31).  Hookworms are in at 2.87% (1 in 35), whipworms — 1.07% (1 in 94), and giardia —  4.9% (1 in 21).  Cats fared no better with 3.29% (1 in 30) having had giardia, 1.12% (1 in 90) had hookworms, and 8.79% (1 in 12) had round worms.

So how do you prevent your family pet from being part of the statistics for 2018?  First, check a fecal at your next vet visit.  If you can’t get a sample, ask the technician or veterinarian to get a sample so we can test it while you are at the office.  That way we can address any issues while you are at Willow Creek.  Puppies and kittens should have at least 4 fecals tested in the first year of their lives.  This is due to the lifecycle of the parasites.  Adult dogs and cats should have 1-2 fecals a year depending on their lifestyles and health.

Kittens and puppies should be dewormed every two weeks until they are put on a broad-spectrum monthly preventative.  Adult dogs and cats should be on a year-round broad-spectrum parasite control.  The Companion Animal Parasite Council has a great website for guidelines for pet owners about parasites, the risks to people, and how best to protect your family pet.

Let’s do our best to keep you and your pets as healthy as possible!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

December 15, 2017

This is the time of year when people make lists of what they want for the holidays.  So, I decided to ask our staff what they wanted from our clients.  This is what they came up with:

  1. Be polite.  A please and thank you go a long way.
  2. Be on time for your appointments. If you are held up, call us and let us know.
  3. Vaccinate your pets. Vaccines protect against a ton of deadly diseases, are safe, and keep your pet healthy and your family safe.
  4. Keep up with preventative medication for your pets. Flea, tick, and heartworm preventative can help your pet avoid a lot of nasty diseases.
  5. Train your pet. Get your cat use to the carrier and being handled.  Train your dog to walk nicely on a leash, stand on command, and have their feet, ears, and mouth handled.  It is much easier to do a thorough exam on a cooperative animal.  You will also appreciate not having to struggle to treat your pet if you need to medicate them.
  6. Take our recommendations seriously. We only recommend what we truly believe is in the best interest of your pet.
  7. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. There is some great advice available on the internet, but there is also some horrible advice on there.
  8. Ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  9. Do not give your pet over the counter medicine or human medicine without asking.
  10. Don’t take our equipment. We need our tools for our next patient.

And of course, we all want you, your family, and critters to have a happy and healthy holiday season.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D., Duncan, and Rio

November 24, 2017

It shows up on your television every Thanksgiving, after the parades, and before the football.  It is the Philadelphia Kennel Club National Dog show.   Held at the Oaks convention center the weekend before Thanksgiving, this show is one of the few benched shows in the country (the handlers and dogs are required to stay the entire day).  With over 2,000 dogs at this year’s show, that means it is a great opportunity for you to see and visit with different breeds.  Here are some highlights.

Dogs are grouped together by breed to make it easier for you to find the breed you are interested in visiting.

Breed rings are scattered throughout the hall so you can observe the dogs in action as well as back in their respective kennel areas.

It is also a chance to see unusual breeds in person; for instance, a Xoloitzcuintli (a Mexican hairless dog).

After the dogs compete in the breed ring, then the winners move on to compete in the group ring, which is what you see on television.

There are also demos and plenty of shopping as well.

If you haven’t taken a trip to the dog show, I would strongly encourage you to join us next year.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

P.S. My dog Duncan had so much fun showing, meeting, and greeting people he was exhausted when he got home.

October 16, 2017

October 15-21, 2017 is National Veterinary Technician Week.  This is the week we recognize what a vital role our technicians play in taking care of our patients and clients.  Without them, we would not be able to do our jobs.

So, who are these people outside of their jobs?  I decided to explore that question.  When I asked the technicians what their hobby was, I got a lot of blank stares.  Most of the time the initial answer was they didn’t have a hobby outside of their work and spending time with their families (a separate problem that I won’t address here).  When I pressed the issue, here were some of the varied answers I got (I promised I wouldn’t list their names).

  • Drink wine
  • Visiting breweries, watching the TV show Fixer Upper
  • Making soap, crocheting, quilting
  • Gardening, vacuuming (that is what she said)
  • Birding, gardening
  • Gardening
  • Walking the dogs
  • Reading
  • Reading, going to the lake
  • Milking cows, spending time with her niece and memau

I must admit, some of the answers surprised me, but the variety of personalities is what makes our team great.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Ladies, for all you do!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

September 5, 2017

With the recent devastation in Texas and Louisiana, the wildfires in the west, and Irma lurking in the Atlantic, it is time to review disaster preparedness for you and your pets.  Below is a list of things that are recommended to help you and your pets survive a natural disaster.

  1. Microchip your pet.  It is a permanent, traceable form of identification.  Any animal can be microchipped.  Make sure to update your microchip registration when you move, change phone numbers, or get a new emergency contact.  Also keep collars with tags on all cats and dogs.  In an emergency, there may not be access to a microchip scanner.
  2. Plan for a pet friendly place to stay if you need to evacuate. Consider pet friendly hotels, kennels, or loved ones.  NEVER LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND IF YOU MUST EVACUATE. Some shelters are now set up to accept people with pets.
  3. Start a buddy system. Exchange keys with someone who can evacuate your animals if you are not home when disaster strikes.  Give that person your pets’ information and your emergency contact information.  Make sure that person is comfortable handing your pets.
  4. Identify an emergency vet outside of your immediate area.
  5. Plan to have to temporarily confine your pet. If your pet is not use to a crate or carrier, take time to get them use to them.
  6. Know where to search for lost animals.
  7. Take photos of you with your pets so you can prove ownership (this is where microchipping can eliminate this problem).
  8. Assemble a disaster kit.
  9. Food – a one week supply in an airtight, waterproof container.  A can opener and spoon if you feed canned food.  Rotate the food every two months to avoid spoilage.
  10. Water – a one week supply in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. Rotate every two months.
  11. Basic animal first aid kit. One week supply of any medication your pet is on, plus flea and heartworm medication.
  12. Proof of vaccinations and photos to prove ownership.
  13. Collar, leash, harness, crate, collapsible food and water bowls, blanket, toys, and treats.
  14. Paper towels, dish soap, plastic bags, litter trays with litter

You can visit to find more resources for disaster preparedness.  Hopefully you will never need these tips, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

August 15, 2017

August 15th is Check The Chip Day!  This is a day to remind people to have their pet’s microchip checked to make sure it is working properly.  1 in 3 pets will get lost in their lifetime.  Without proper identification, 90% will not return home.  According to the American Humane Association, only 17% of lost dogs, and 2% of lost cats will find their way back to their original owners.  Four million pets are euthanized each year at nationwide shelters.

Microchips are inserted between the shoulder blades with a needle and is a relatively painless procedure.  Microchips are tiny transponders made of a special plastic or surgical glass.  They are encoded with a unique set of numbers and letters that when read by a scanner can be traced back to the owner through the company’s registration.  Most microchips read for about 25 years.  The reports that microchips are the cause of cancer are false.

Please remember to register your pet if you have a microchip, and update the information with the chip company if you move or change phone numbers.  Unfortunately, I have encountered several animals that could not be returned to their rightful owners because the chip was never registered or had outdated information on the registry.

Our staff will be happy to scan your pet’s microchip at your next visit to make sure everything is working.

Keep your pet safe – chip them!

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.

July 21, 2017

How many worms, ticks, viruses, or fleas on your pet are OK with you?  Ten? One hundred? One thousand?  I am going to bet that your answer is zero.  Unfortunately, parasites are a constant threat to our pets.  Most parasites are microscopic, so the threat goes unnoticed.  It is amazing how many people decline an annual fecal exam because “they don’t see anything in their pet’s stool”!

There is a very interesting website ( that breaks down the incidence of parasites in all the counties in the United States and Canada.  The following are the current statistics for Berks county:

Lyme disease – 18.9% (1 of 6 dogs test positive)

Erhlichiosis – 1.81% (1 of 56)

Anaplasmosis – 8.36% (1 of 12)

Roundworms – 3.11% (1 of 33)

Hookworms – 2.46% (1 of 41)

Whipworms – 1.11% (1 of 90)

Giardia – 4.95% (1 of 21)

Heartworm – 0.04% (1 of 157)

FeLV – 1.97% (1 of 51 cats)

FIV – 5.7% (1 of 18)

In our practice, we diagnose dogs with Giardia on a regular basis.  Currently we have 2 dogs that are undergoing heartworm treatment.  So, the threat is real.  Please bring in a fecal when your pet comes in for their annual exam.  Our staff is ready to answer any questions about the threat of parasites to your pet, and will help you formulate a plan to lessen the risk to your pet.

Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D

June 16, 2017

The recent outbreak of canine influenza, affecting dogs in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas as of this writing, involves the influenza virus H3N2.  The strain is referred to as the Chicago strain, as it first appeared in Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 2015.  The virus is an extremely contagious airborne disease that is easily spread among dogs, and can be contagious to cats.  Two deaths have been reported in North Carolina. Listed below is some additional information about the virus and how to minimize the risk and reduce the spread of the disease.

The influenza virus is an airborne virus that is spread through proximity to infected dogs and can travel up to 20 feet.  It can also be spread by contact with contaminated items (bowls, leashes, crates, tables, clothing, dog runs, etc.).  People moving between infected and uninfected dogs can spread the virus.  Eighty percent of all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it.  The virus lives on soft surfaces for up to 24 hours and 48 hours on hard surfaces.

Some exposed dogs will be sub-clinical carriers, meaning that the dogs will contract and spread the virus without showing symptoms.  Once exposed, dogs show clinical signs within 24 to 48 hours, and can shed the virus for up to 28 days after exposure.  Most dogs recover with proper supportive care.

Symptoms of the virus are a dry hacking cough, a lack of appetite, lethargy, discharge from the eyes or nose, and fever.  Untreated, the virus may progress to pneumonia, sometimes severe, that may make dogs extremely sick with potential for fatalities.  Most dogs take 2 to 3 weeks to recover.

Prevention includes vaccination.  The vaccine requires an initial series of 2 vaccines, and full immunity is not present until 7-14 day after the 2nd booster.  Sick animals should be isolated for 30 days after symptoms subside.  A 1:30 bleach solution should be used to disinfect common areas such as tables, bowls, leashes, crates, etc.  The solution should be made daily, and a drying time of 10 minutes should be used before a new dog is exposed to the items.  Stainless steel bowls should be used.  Hands should be washed between dogs.  At a minimum, hand sanitizer should be used between handing dogs.  Disposable gowns, and wiping down shoes and clothing with a bleach solution are recommended after leaving an area where dogs congregate.

Willow Creek Veterinary Center is striving to keep up-to-date on the latest information regarding this outbreak. We are happy to answer any questions you have about your pet’s exposure risk; and whether vaccination is appropriate for your dog.

Dr. Ann Bastian

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