Your Pet Needs You to Stop Smoking!

July 3rd, 2018 by kevin

By Robyn Smith, DVM

RBVH At Home (House Calls Service)


smokingTobacco use causes significant health risks in people; this has been well studied and is widely known. But did you know the extent to which pets can suffer from tobacco exposure as well? Especially with newer smoking alternatives, such as e-cigarettes and vaping, people may think risks are declining. That simply isn’t so.

The different kinds of smoke

Did you know how many kinds of smoke there are? Three in fact!

  • First-hand smoke is the inhaled burning cigarette, cigar or pipe by the smoker themselves.
  • Second-hand smoke is the exhaled smoke which contains as many as 7000 chemicals, polluting the local environment around the smoker.
  • Third-hand smoke refers to the residue which accumulates as the toxic particles settle out of the air and rest on furniture, clothing, carpets and other surfaces.

The risk caused to pets by exposure to tobacco products and the environment in which a smoker lives varies by the animal species, breed and lifestyle habits. Consider these factors: although dogs get to spend some time outside in fresh air multiple times daily, a cat is always kept within the smoke-contaminated environment. Cats with their meticulous grooming habits and our dogs who lick us to love us will actually ingest a significant number of toxins from the third-hand smoke on the smoker’s body and the pet’s own. Also, our pets spend considerable time lying on the floor and on furniture, putting their mouths and noses directly into the toxic residue that concentrates in lower-lying areas. Our lap-sitting pets are closest to the second-hand smoke and our floor-sitting pets are subjected to the third-hand smoke.

Even though our pets are not the ones lighting up, their bodies suffer right along with their smoking pet owner. Nicotine is broken down in the body, in part, into a substance called cotinine. It can be detected in the blood and urine of cats and dogs living in smoking households (as well as in people). We have proof that our pets cannot be spared from the hazards of smoking if a pet owner chooses to smoke.

The risk of cancer and other diseases

These hazards are well-documented by the veterinary oncologists who treat cancer in pets. Cats who live in a smoking household have a two to four times increased risk of an aggressive oral cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. This comes from ingesting the numerous toxins and carcinogens off their hair coat during grooming. Cats that live in a household with a one-pack-a-day smoking habit are three times more likely to be diagnosed with lymphoma, a systemic form of cancer. When cats have been exposed to five or more years of smoking, a gene mutation associated with carcinogenic change in people can be found in cats, too.

For dogs, their head shape predicts the type of cancer risk they have. Long-nosed dogs with smoke exposure (such as Collies, Greyhounds, Doberman Pinschers and others) will have two times the risk of nasal/sinus cancer. Their long noses work as a filtration system and the many carcinogens from the second-hand smoke become trapped in their mucus and develop into tumors over time. Breeds with shorter noses do not fare better, however. The Pugs, Bulldogs, Beagles, and others with short-to-medium nose length do not have the benefit of that lengthy filtration, and instead, the harmful particles are inhaled into the lungs, causing lung cancer at twice the rate compared to pets in non-smoking households.

Cancer is not the only concern for pets either! Pets with environmental exposure to smoke have higher rates of asthma, pneumonia, damaged blood vessels, allergic skin disease and eye infections. Birds, who are particularly sensitive to pollutants in the air, suffer from cancer, respiratory problems, allergies, and pneumonia as well as skin, heart and fertility problems. Even fish in a smoking household are not spared! The nicotine contained in second- and third-hand smoke is very readily absorbed into the water and poisons them, causing muscle spasms and rigidity which impair comfortable movement, as well as changes in body coloration. Clearly, everyone in a smoking household suffers.

What changes can we make to spare our pets?

Some smokers will only smoke outside their home – which certainly reduces some of the risk. But a 2005 study showed that the homes of outdoor-smokers still contained five to seven times the contaminants compared to non-smoking households. Even though smoking occurs outside, the chemicals and toxins come back in with the pet owner as third-hand smoke. Testing has proven that household surfaces still test positive for third-hand smoke contaminants many months after smoking cessation and thorough sanitation efforts. Opening windows and using air filters can be tried, but these methods pale in comparison to leaving the home – which has already been shown not to be sufficient protection for pets.

Alternative smoking products

If traditional cigarettes, cigars, and pipes are so dangerous, perhaps the newer alternatives of e-cigarettes and vaporizers (used for vaping) which don’t contain tobacco or emit smoke would be considered safe for pets? There are fewer studies because the products are too new and are often used by individuals who exposed their pets to traditional smoke contamination as well, but there is no risk-free option when so many chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens are at play.

Specifically, with electronic nicotine delivery systems, the risk of nicotine poisoning of pets is substantially increased. Nicotine toxicity can be fatal within just 15 to 30 minutes of exposure and due to the scents and flavors associated with these new products, pets are inclined to test and taste. Fatal nicotine doses for dogs and cats range between 20 to 100 milligrams. A regular cigarette contains 9 to 30 milligrams of nicotine, a cigar can have 15 to 40 milligrams, and cartridges for electronic alternatives can have anywhere from 18 to 300 milligrams of nicotine depending on the size (regular use versus concentrated refill size). Even a used cigarette butt retains 5 to 7 milligrams of nicotine; if a pet ingested just three or more of those, it could be toxic. Importantly, there is no antidote for nicotine poisoning.

The aerosol released from electronic nicotine delivery systems is also a significant concern. There are numerous harmful substances contained within that vapor, including the known toxin formaldehyde and also diethylene glycol (antifreeze). These still pose the third-hand smoke risk to our pets as the chemicals settle onto household surfaces or our pets’ bodies. In 2016 the FDA was given the legal ability to regulate all tobacco products, including electronic products. With greater oversight, there will be more extensive testing and analysis of the composition of the exhaled vapor and its health consequences. This will help to protect consumers and their pets alike.

Another variation on the risk associated with smoking and now with electronic devices is the risk of fire and explosion. With the new FDA oversight, there have been published reports of life-threatening injuries, disfigurement or disability associated with the combustible nature of these products. Pets may potentially chew on devices, puncture batteries or cartridges, or even unintentionally turn the device on – all of these actions could result in harm. Traditional smoking is associated with an increased risk of a house fire (a devastating tragedy for a pet), but electronic devices still pose similar risks as well.

A plea from your pet – Stop Smoking!

Pets add such joy and delight to our lives – they, in fact, have the power to make us healthier people! Studies have shown decreases in high blood pressure, improved heart rates and better immune function in pet owners. There are psychological benefits from companionship with the pet directly, as well as a sense of belonging among pet owners as a group. Dog owners take more walks outside and cat owners report reduced loneliness. They do all this, just by being around us.

Your pet needs you – uniquely irreplaceable YOU. For their health, for your health, and for the opportunity to spend long lives in each other’s company, we encourage you to stop smoking.

The Health Benefits of the Human-Animal Bond (Part 2)

June 10th, 2018 by kevin

By Robyn Smith, DVM

RBVH At Home (House Calls Service)


Continued from Part 1…

human-animal bondEmotional Health Benefits

There are a staggering number of emotional, social and mental health benefits that correspond with pet ownership. Benefits are seen from the youngest to the oldest members of society, from those with diagnosed disorders and others with quite varied life experiences.


Having a pet in the household is believed to assist with teaching attachment, responsibility, empathy and a sense of stewardship for wild animals and nature at large. They also teach us about the cycle of life. Children’s innate interest in animals makes them excellent teaching tools for learning about any topic, hence why animals are so commonly found in children’s literature, games and toys, and audiovisual content. A Dutch study found that curiosity about animals ranked in the top four searches of the internet by children. And many cross-cultural studies have identified that “dog” and “cat” are among the most frequently occurring words spoken by infants. This tells us how important these creatures are, even to our youngest family members. But pets are also a critical form of social support for growing children. Seventy-five percent of respondents aged 10-14 reported that they specifically sought the comfort of their pets when they felt upset. Some children even ranked their relationship with a pet higher than some human relationships within their social network. Pets are confidantes and provide an unlimited supply of non-judgmental comfort and support.

Autism Spectrum and Attention-Deficit Disorders

Interactions with animals have been noted to improve critical areas of social functioning. In the presence of an animal, there was improved focus and attention and noted decreases in self-absorption and repetitive behaviors. Children with autism who played with classroom guinea pigs remained calmer and had increased engagement with their peers. Those with ADHD who were invited to read to a therapy dog during a 12-week study demonstrated increased sharing, volunteering, and cooperating. This insight may provide a needed bridge to assist with motivation, learning, and success with certain tasks.

Infographic by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Veterans and others who have experienced abuse or trauma can suffer terribly from PTSD. Service dogs are now being trained and paired with those suffering in order to promote feelings of safety and limit social isolation. The dogs can be trained to create a personal-space boundary between their handler and the public which increases feelings of security. Also, the dogs are very alert to changes around them and the handler can reduce their personal hyper-vigilance and learn to rely on the dog. Equally, great success has been shown partnering veterans with shelter dogs who need to learn basic obedience training. This increases a dog’s adoptability and uses the talents of the service member constructively, helping them to adapt to being back in civilian life.

Infographic by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute

Alzheimer’s Disease

A study demonstrated that when a dog resided in a long-term care facility for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease, both health care providers and residents benefited. There was an increase in calmness, improved social interactions and fewer problem behaviors noted. And of the population of patients still living at home, those in households with pets suffered fewer mood disorders and fewer episodes of aggression or anxiety. Where an aquarium was added to the dining room of a residential facility, nutritional intake and body weight of the patients increased significantly. What profound impacts sharing our lives with animals can have!


Whether one is mourning a human or a pet companion, having a continued pet presence in life is proven to be beneficial. A study of widows found that those with pets experienced fewer symptoms of physical and psychological disease and reportedly required less medication. Particularly among the elderly who may have fewer social connections, in the bereaved, and those who are pet owners had less depression.

Animals in Working Roles

Therapy Dogs

We’ve already heard about the benefits of therapy dogs in assisting with children’s reading and further participation in school, as well as in supporting pediatric cancer patients in their pursuit of wellness. Therapy dogs are also used to teach mindfulness. It has been found that dogs are very good at living in the moment and directing all their attention at a single person, food item or toy. These traits can be used to help teach people about attentiveness, directed ambition and compassion. Other times, therapy dogs are present in physical therapy sessions or social work environments and serve to improve people’s motivation to reach goals.

Functional Assistance Animals

We might presume we know the benefits of working animals for those they are partnered with, such as guide dogs for the blind, seizure alert dogs or trained primates who assist individuals with paralysis. Certainly, these animals do improve people’s independence and quality of life. But they also provide social support in perhaps unexpected ways. In a study of wheelchair-bound individuals, those accompanied by dogs had a median of eight friendly approaches from strangers, versus only one approach on trips without a dog. Also, people passing the dog-assisted person were more likely to smile, acknowledge and converse with the person compared with those not assisted by an animal. (This effect can be seen among people in general – those walking with a dog are much more likely to engage others and be approached than those who are walking alone.) People with working animals report decreased loneliness and improved self-esteem. Engagement with the community around us is a nice “side effect” of having an assistance animal!

Society and Community

Can the presence of animals draw a whole community together? You bet! Walking a dog is a tremendous catalyst for conversation and engagement between many members of a community. The ease with which we can relate to one another as pet owners transcends a vast number of social obstacles that might otherwise create division among people. Social capital is a term that refers to “the glue that binds people to their communities and reflects the value of all relationships with a community.” Social capital builds up when people interact with one another and we see the health benefits of lower mortality and better physical and mental health in communities with strong social capital. Even people who do not own pets report that having pets improves socialization within the community. That dog park is not merely for the dogs’ well-being, it promotes connections and relationships, conversation and engagement, and even inter-reliance as people discuss their pet concerns or solutions they’ve devised.

For the elderly, that social capital might be even more important. As people age, their social connections tend to weaken and individuals are at risk for loneliness, depression and decreasing capability. But with a pet, people report more interactions with friends and strangers, stronger self-reliance, and maintenance of their abilities. A study also found their conversations were more focused on the present, rather than the past, which could have a positive impact on mental health. There is more laughter and responsiveness in older people in the presence of a pet, so even if an individual cannot take on the responsibility of their own pet, they can benefit from the animals in the community around them.

But Wait… Not a Fur Person? Get a Fish!

Luckily, many of the benefits of being around animals can be enjoyed informally (without owning the pet itself) or from animals you may not yet have considered! Attention to an aquarium results in increased endorphins and dopamine (which make you feel calm and relaxed), reduction in the stress hormone cortisol and reduction in heart rate. In one study, there was decreased muscle tension and increased skin temperature (which relates to improved blood circulation) associated with watching fish swim in an aquarium. We gain so much from inviting animals into our everyday spaces!


Over sixty percent of American households have a pet – and with all we’ve just learned about how those relationships benefit our physical and emotional health, as well as our community at large – thank goodness! Our pets might help us solve some big problems like the obesity epidemic and the tendency toward an inactive lifestyle. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) promotes pet ownership for the physical health benefits, emotional benefits and increased opportunities for exercise, socialization, and community-building. It’s hard to fight the data that shows that pet owners have greater self-confidence and self-sufficiency. Continue to watch as the field of anthrozoology progresses; there are dozens of new studies reaching into ever-more interesting areas of our lives and lifestyles.

Do you have a health goal? Do you want to increase your physical activity – walk a dog! Volunteering at a shelter to walk dogs initiates a whole cascade of benefits for yourself and that animal. Do you need to reduce stress? Take it really easy… just sit back and watch the fish swim by! We all stand to gain from the benefits we get from sharing our lives with animals.

The Health Benefits of the Human-Animal Bond (Part 1)

May 30th, 2018 by kevin

By Robyn Smith, DVM

RBVH At Home (House Calls Service)


human-animal bond

Pet owners enjoy a wide range of benefits from living with pets – companionship and entertainment are top among them – but emerging research is proving there are actual measurable health benefits for those who share their homes and hearts with a pet.

Anthrozoology is the study of human-animal interactions. The body of evidence is growing which demonstrates the profound positive impacts of pet ownership and even simple exposure to animals in a wide range of situations. Would you believe a person’s likelihood of survival one year after a heart attack can be improved by pet ownership? Would you believe elderly individuals enrolled in a walking trial walked farther, faster and more frequently when accompanied by a shelter dog compared with a human walking partner? Let’s explore more fascinating examples.

Physical Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

It has been well documented that pet owners have superior heart health: lower blood pressure, a lower resting heart rate and a faster return to normal after a stressor on the heart. Combine that with a reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels and the benefits just keep stacking up! There are a few theories to explain these findings. One might be that pet owners, and perhaps dog owners who walk their dogs specifically, have decreased sedentary time and increased periods of aerobic exercise. Another theory holds that our daily interactions with pets constitute such a system of social support that pet owners are better able to manage and tolerate the effects of stress in our lives.

Infographic by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute

Aerobic Activity

In a 2008 study, seniors were paired with either a shelter dog or a human walking partner and across the 12-week study, those who walked dogs improved their walking capabilities by 28% compared with only 4% for those who were joined by another person. The dog walking group increased their speed, distance, and frequency of walks, stating they had increased motivation because of their canine companions. Also documented is that pregnant women who owned dogs were statistically more likely to meet national guidelines for activity and exercise than those who were not pet owners. Let’s not forget the benefits of a playmate for children! In households with a dog, there are reported higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of obesity among children, and in some studies, all family members.

Allergies and the Immune System

The effects of pets on one’s immune system are harder to measure and study. There is evidence to support the theory that exposure to microbes from pets helps to prime and activate the immune system in beneficial ways. In one study, children in pet-owning households had fewer sick absences from school, amounting to three weeks of additional instruction. Additionally, it appears the likelihood of developing an allergy to pet species is reduced with early exposure to those animals. Depending on the age of exposure to pets, there appears to be a protective effect on the respiratory system. Fewer allergies and less wheezing are documented in children raised among pets.

Infographic by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute

Stress Reduction

Interacting with an animal – not even your own pet necessarily – results in a measurable decrease in levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. It seems that a positive interaction with an animal boosts our levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and affection, which counteracts the effects of stress on the body and mind. In one study, children who had recently undergone surgery reported less physical pain and less concern about their level of pain after interacting with a dog in the hospital environment. High levels of stress can impair immune function and early studies suggest that animal interactions in medical environments could improve health care outcomes.

Ability, Independence, and Personal Wellness

Among the senior population, those who own either a dog or a cat are statistically more capable of a range of activities summarized as “activities of daily living.” These skills include climbing stairs, bending, kneeling, stooping, preparing meals, bathing and dressing, and correctly taking medication. It is thought that through caring for a beloved pet, they practice these same skills and concurrently keep themselves healthier and more capable as well. Similarly, a study focused on teens with Type 1 diabetes and found that those assigned to care for fish and their feeding schedule, water purity and overall tank health had improved discipline with managing their own diabetes. Again, caring for a pet modeled some healthy practices for keeping ourselves well. Likewise, in a pediatric cancer study, the presence of therapy animals yielded better adherence to a treatment protocol and a higher motivation to get better and remain optimistic.

Learn more in Part 2 of this blog post.

Ticks, Fleas, and Allergies

March 13th, 2018 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

allergiesSpringtime is on the way and along with it comes seasonal allergies and parasites. RBVH is here to help!

Seasonal allergies in the dog and cat are very different from humans. Dogs and cats show signs of allergy on their skin. They can seem itchy and develop infections of the skin and ears.

  • Your veterinarian may recommend antihistamines as the first line of defense for mild seasonal allergies
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines that contain decongestants can be toxic to dogs so be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations closely.
  • Your veterinarian may also prescribe different medications to help control your pet’s season allergies and itchiness.

Many seasonal skin problems in dogs and cats are the result of exposure to fleas and ticks.


  • Flea and tick preventives promote long-term health and wellness of your pet. When you give your pet flea and tick preventive medication, you are offering inside and outside protection because fleas and ticks carry bacteria and parasites that can cause serious, and even fatal disease, in domestic animals.
  • You also protect your family as flea and tick bites can transmit disease to humans too!
  • Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, cat scratch fever, and tapeworms can all be transmitted to humans from ticks and fleas.
  • Dog and cat flea and tick preventives aren’t all created equally. Many medications that are labeled for dogs contain a synthetic compound called permethrin, which is safe for dogs but toxic to cats. If a product containing permethrin is mistakenly applied to a cat or ingested by a cat, it can cause seizures, coma, and even death.
  • Talk with your veterinary team about ways to keep your pets safe from fleas, ticks, and toxic compounds.
  • Your veterinarian is the best person to help choose a preventive product that is best for your pet’s individual needs.


The common cat flea infects both dogs and cats – Ctenocephalides felis. In addition to skin irritation, fleas can also cause anemia and, in certain situations, death – especially when young animals experience large infestations. Adding insult to irritation, fleas can spread multiple pathogens such as tapeworms, cat scratch fever bacteria, and other bacterial diseases that can infect both people and pets.

If You Find a Tick on Your Pet

  • Wear rubber gloves! Ticks can transmit diseases to humans too.
  • Use tweezers or a tick removal tool to grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin using a slow, steady, rearward pressure to release the tick from the skin.
  • Dispose of the tick by placing it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. Or you may keep the tick in a sealed container and take it to your veterinarian to identify or to send out for further testing.
  • Clean the skin with soap and water after removing the tick.

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t try burning the tick with a lit match or other heat sources. This will hurt your pet and potentially spread infections into the air.
  • Don’t try suffocating or irritating the tick with fingernail polish or petroleum jelly.
  • Don’t crush or twist the tick. That’s a fast way to expose your pet to more pathogens and cause the mouthparts to break off.

If you think your pet has allergies, contact RBVH today at 732-747-3636. RBVH serves pets in the Tinton Falls, Mt. Laurel, and Hillsborough areas of New Jersey. The veterinary dermatology team at RBVH can diagnose allergies and help your pet find a treatment that provides relief.

Essential Oils and Pet Safety

March 12th, 2018 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

essential oils

By Elizabeth Orcutt, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (SAIM)

You’ve heard of essential oils. They smell good. They are natural. They help with a variety of ailments. So, what can be wrong with them?

Recently there has been a resurgence in popularity for essential oil use which has been around since biblical times. Two companies, Young Living and doTerra are the largest sellers in the world reporting approximately 1 billion dollars in sales. While essential oils were originally used for fragrance or food enhancement, they are now utilized in many ways including insecticides, aromatherapy, antibacterial, herbal remedies, and liquid potpourri. With the rise in popularity of essential oils for human and household usage, it’s time to consider how these oils may be affecting our pets.

Holistic medications are often thought to not be harmful. Sadly, this isn’t always the case and there are many things to consider when it comes to our furry friends at home.  Many oils are being used in diffusers to disperse the scent and therapeutic benefits throughout the house. Our dogs and cats have an enhanced sense of smell over our own and these oils could be very overwhelming to them. Additionally, animals metabolize many substances differently than humans. Specifically, cats cannot metabolize some of the compounds in essential oils, which can make them more susceptible to toxicity.  The oils can be rapidly absorbed orally, across the skin, or serve as a primary respiratory irritant. Exposure through any of these routes can lead to clinical signs in your pet, and the higher the concentration of essential oil (i.e. 100%), the greater the risk.

Tea tree oil has been used for thousands of years for ailments including infections and skin conditions, as well as deodorants and household cleaners. Some owners have started using tea tree oil on their dogs and cats for a holistic approach to treat external parasites, fleas or skin conditions.  Unfortunately, unbeknownst to pet owners, tea tree oil is the most common toxic offender. It is absorbed both dermally and orally and can result in depression, ataxia, paralysis, vomiting, hypothermia or skin irritation. Signs can persist for several days after exposure, even with aggressive treatment.

Pennyroyal, another oil that can be used for external parasite control is derived from Mentha Pulegium. While we may not use this for ourselves, this oil is widely available as a flea or insect repellent. However, oral or dermal exposure in dogs has been reported to cause hepatic necrosis and liver failure.  Aggressive supportive care is indicated; however, due to its toxic nature, Pennyroyal should be avoided in dogs.

Wintergreen is a commonly used oil for fragrance, topical pain control in humans, or even baking, particularly around the holidays. Sadly for our pets, wintergreen contains methyl salicylates which are more commonly known as aspirin compounds. Dogs and cats do not metabolize aspirin or aspirin compounds as well as humans, leaving them susceptible to toxicity which can lead to liver or kidney damage.

Pine-Sol has been a household cleaner for many years. Pine oils, in general, are commonly used as a natural disinfectant, cleaning product, or massage oils. However, dermal exposure in dogs or cats can result in dermal or gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, drooling, weakness, and ataxia.

While the oils listed above are commonly encountered toxic oils as listed by Pet Poison Helpline, this is not an exhaustive or complete list. Additional oils known to be toxic to our companion animals include sweet birch, citrus oil (d-limonene), Ylang Ylang oil, peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil, and eucalyptus oil. It is important to remember that pets can react differently to essential oils. As they are being used more and more commonly, we are continually learning about how our pets respond to these and other substances that are becoming household staples.

With the advancement of diffusers and their widespread use, aside from oral and topical exposure, another element of concern with essential oils is the risk of aspiration and/or aspiration pneumonia. With active diffusers, particles of oil are emitted into the air. Essential oils, even in microdroplets, are quite viscous and there is concern for inhalation of these oil particles into the lungs. This can result in irritation, inflammation, and resultant pneumonia. Additionally, if these oils are actually ingested, the irritation that they can cause to the gastrointestinal tract may cause our pets to vomit and aspirate the oil.

As mentioned previously, dogs and cats have an enhanced sense of smell compared to humans. As a result, pets can be overwhelmed by essential oils that are diffused into their environment resulting in watery eyes, runny nose, drooling, difficulty breathing or even vomiting. Cats with pre-existing respiratory disease, much like humans, are at greater risk for respiratory irritation from these compounds

Prevention is key to minimizing essential oil toxicity in our furry friends at home. Sadly, most toxicities result from well-meaning pet parents who have used these oils on themselves or have read the many merits of these products online. It’s important to be aware of the effects these oils can have on our beloved pets and the possible consequences of exposure. Always consult your veterinarian prior to implementing the use of essential oils in your home or on your pet.

If your pet ingests essential oils, call RBVH at 732-747-3636 for emergency care or bring your pet in right away.

5 Reasons Why Having a Cat is Good for Your Health

November 1st, 2017 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

By Elaina Kabatchnick, DVM, DACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine)


cat with ownerThe health benefits of being a cat owner can’t be denied any longer! The Center for Disease Control (CDC), National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), just to name a few, each have numerous studies and articles recognizing the health benefits of having feline companionship. So, what exactly makes cats so beneficial to our health?  Here are 5 reasons:

  1. Cats are a never-ending source of happiness, love, and friendship

Everybody says that money can’t buy love and happiness, but I bought mine for $50 and $75 in the form of two rescue cats! Since then, they have been my best friends. There is not a day goes by that they aren’t the first to say good morning, greet me at the door in the evening, and say goodnight. If you invite cats into your home and life, you will be amazed about how sweet, loving, and caring they are. They will undoubtedly fill your heart and make your life brighter!

  1. Need a laugh?

If you need a laugh, you need a cat! And the laughs become exponential with multiple cats. They are true characters and I can almost swear they know when they have an attentive audience. Cat “zoomies,” getting stuck in precarious situations (in the box spring, on top of the door), finding pure joy in the form of boxes, playing fetch with a catnip-filled banana toy, doing mid-air ninja flips, and sabotaging any efforts to make the bed are just a few of the reasons you may find yourself belly laughing with, or at, your cat.

  1. Healing the sick

Sure, we know that cats can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, but research regarding the health benefits of pets is currently booming and the list is overwhelming. So far, cats may be helpful in patients with allergies, asthma, Alzheimer’s, dementia, obesity, Autism, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disease, and even cancer. As research continues to unfold, I have no doubt that the benefits will become almost endless.

  1. Improving mental health

From run of the mill stress to severe mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, cats can help soften the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families. Having a cat will help implement and maintain a routine, which can play a big role in being able to get out of bed and face the day. Cats can also help to elevate mood, improve outlook, and limit the number and severity of mental illness flare-ups.

  1. Have you ever heard of cute aggression?

I am convinced that only some lucky individuals can experience the phenomenon known as cute aggression. If you are one of the lucky ones, you already know what I am talking about. You see something so cute that your blood boils, your hands and jaw clench, and you feel, well, aggressive! It’s certainly a strange spectacle, but some have theorized that cute aggression results when your body can’t quite handle the extreme endorphin rush brought on that it boils over into aggression. Just be sure to get your cute aggression in check before taking it out on those cuties! I find that when tolerated kisses and cheek pinching work best. Either way, the surge of love will feel great for both cat and human!

The moral of the story is that when you are ready for a four-legged companion, you can’t go wrong and can only go right with a cat or two!

Signs That Your Family Pet May Need a Trip to the Emergency Room

October 20th, 2017 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

pet emergencyBy Allison Sande, DVM, DACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine), DACVECC

You should never feel hesitant or embarrassed to call a veterinarian if you are concerned about the health of your pet. Veterinarians and their staff are trained to handle emergencies and provide guidance. By asking some basic questions about your pet over the phone, the hospital staff member will be able to tell you if you should bring your pet to the hospital immediately for evaluation or if it is safe to wait for a scheduled examination with your veterinarian.

Common Signs

If you notice any of the following signs your pet may need immediate attention. In these situations, please contact or visit your local veterinary emergency hospital right away.

  • Your pet is not breathing or you cannot feel a heartbeat.
  • Your pet has experienced any type of trauma, such as being hit by a car or blunt object, being attacked by another animal, or falling more than a few feet.
  • Your pet collapses.
  • Your pet is unconscious and you cannot rouse him/her.
  • Your pet has a seizure lasting more than 3 minutes, or more than 2 seizures within a 24-hour period.
  • Your pet is having difficulty breathing.
  • Your pet’s abdomen is swollen and hard to the touch, or s/he is gagging and trying to vomit.
  • Your pet ingested or may have ingested a toxin or poisonous substance.
  • Your pet suddenly cannot stand or walk.
  • Your pet is straining to urinate or unable to urinate.
  • Your pet has suddenly pale or discolored gums.
  • Your pet has been vomiting or has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours.
  • Your pet is bleeding or there is blood in his/her urine or feces.
  • Your pet’s eye appears red, swollen or cloudy, or s/he is suddenly blind.
  • Your pet develops hives or facial swelling.
  • Your pet suffers heat stroke.
  • You suspect your pet has a broken bone.
  • Your pregnant pet has a fetus stuck in the birth canal or has gone more than 3-4 hours between delivering.

What To Do

If you notice any of the signs above, or if you suspect a different serious problem, contact a veterinary professional directly; do not leave a voicemail or use email. If you are unable to reach someone, then bring your dog to your nearest emergency hospital.

Where To Go

Primary Care Veterinarian

It is important for your pet to have a primary care veterinarian, also known as a general practice veterinarian. This doctor provides ongoing preventative care to keep your pet healthy and is available to diagnose and treat many illnesses and injuries during regular business hours. If advanced or emergent care is ever needed, your primary care veterinarian will refer you to the appropriate veterinary specialist, such as those here at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital (RBVH). However, if your veterinarian’s office is closed, or if your pet’s illness or injury is severe, you should immediately proceed to an emergency hospital.

Emergency Hospital

Emergency hospitals have trained veterinarians and technicians, as well as equipment available to provide care for urgent and potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses when your family veterinarian is unavailable. Some emergency hospitals are only open evenings and weekends, while others are open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. RBVH is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (including all holidays). At RBVH, your pet has access to specialists in emergency and critical care, anesthesiology and pain management, avian and exotics, cardiology, clinical nutrition, dentistry & oral surgery, dermatology and allergy, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, interventional radiology and endoscopy, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology (medical/radiation), ophthalmology, and surgery (orthopedic/soft tissue). You can call us anytime at 732-747-3636. No appointment is ever needed for an emergency visit.

Be Prepared

Having a pet means that, unfortunately, the unexpected may happen at any time. The best way to handle a pet emergency is to be prepared. Here are some important recommendations:

  • Keep the phone numbers and addresses of your primary care veterinarian and the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital next to the phone or in a highly visible place such as on the refrigerator.
  • Organize your pet’s medication information (drug names and doses), medical records and vaccination history, microchip number, as well as collars and tags; keep these items in a centralized and easy-to-remember location. Keep a recent photo of your pet available as well in case your pet gets lost.
  • Learn basic animal first aid from a local community organization or here at RBVH during a scheduled client seminar.
  • Have a first aid kit prepared. First aid care is not a substitute for proper veterinary care, but it may stabilize your pet until s/he receives treatment. You may purchase preassembled kits online, through some pet supply stores, or assemble your own. Visit for a list of recommended items to have included.
  • Purchase pet health insurance. Pet insurance companies have a variety of plans that reimburse you for veterinary bills up to 80-90%. If pet insurance is not an option, you can be financially prepared by setting aside a sum of money each month in a savings account specifically dedicated to your pets medical costs. You can also sign up for CareCredit, a healthcare financing credit card available for veterinary services.
  • If you leave your pet at a boarding facility or with a caregiver, always leave the phone numbers of your veterinarian and preferred emergency hospital. Also, always leave information where you can be reached in case of an emergency. Leave written (signed) authorization and advanced medical directives with any surrogate decision-makers regarding your pet’s care for times you are unavailable.
  • If traveling with your pet, be sure to bring his/her medications and copies of all medical records/vaccination history. Research 24-hour emergency veterinary hospitals in the area(s) that you will be visiting or traveling through. If needed, you may find AAHA-accredited hospitals in those areas by visiting the hospital locator on the AAHA website. Keep these phone numbers and addresses readily available in case of an emergency on your trip.

ASPCA Poison Control Hotline

If you suspect that your pet has ingested any hazardous substances including human medications, food, home or garden products, poisonous plants, or other harmful objects, please contact the ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435. A $65 consult fee may be applied. Keep this phone number in a convenient, easy to find place at home. For a comprehensive list of hazards and toxins, you may visit

Safe Transport

Once you have decided to bring your pet to the hospital for emergency treatment, be sure that you know where you are going and how to best transport your pet safely.

It is important to handle ill or injured pets carefully. Remember that they may be in distress or pain and so their behavior might be unusual or even frightening. Try your best to remain calm; this may help your pet react in a more cooperative and less aggressive manner. If you have any questions about moving your ill/injured pet, please call us.

Be sure to keep small animals, especially cats, confined to a pet carrier or enclosed container during transport in order to reduce the risk of further injury. It is just as important to confine larger dogs’ movements as well. You can use a board, sled, door, large blanket, or throw rug to serve as a stretcher if needed. Restrain your pet or carrier with a safety belt for maximum security. You may also cover your pet with a blanket as pets may go into shock, just as people do, following an injury.

If possible contact the emergency room to let them know you are bringing your pet in so that the staff can assist you when you arrive.

And Remember

Red Bank Veterinary Hospital is a 24-hour Emergency and Specialty Hospital as well as a Level I Trauma Center. We are staffed with skilled and compassionate doctors 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Please call us at (732) 747-3636 with questions or for information about our specific locations across New Jersey.

How to Pick the Right Exotic Pet for your Family

June 6th, 2017 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

Traditionally, cats and dogs are the most common household pets. Most owners understand the social nature, time requirement, and cost of care associated with these popular pets and often make informed decisions before adopting a cat or dog. The same factors should be considered before adopting an exotic pet. It can be challenging to decide which scaled, feathered, or furry exotic pet best fits your lifestyle and family dynamic.


First and foremost: avoid impulse adoptions! While it can be very tempting to immediately bring home that baby bunny from the pet store, resist the urge. It is imperative to research the pet’s specific requirements to ensure that you can provide proper care for the entire life of the animal. Specific questions to research include:

  • What is the long term commitment? Many exotic species live 5, 10, 20, or over 50 years! Ensure that you have a plan for your pet if your living situation changes in the future.
  • How much time and attention will the pet require? Exotic pets vary from fish, requiring minimal social interaction, to large parrots that require multiple hours of daily interaction and should always be supervised when out of the cage.
  • What is the adult size of the animal? Baby iguanas are small, cute, and tempting, but keep in mind that these reptiles can grow up to 6 feet long!
  • What size cage is needed? Animals may require larger cages than are advertised at the pet store. For example, most commercial hamster cages are too small. In addition, many of these pets require out-of-cage exercise. For this reason, larger exotic pets may not be feasible in a small apartment.
  • When is the pet most active? Some pets are nocturnal, like hedgehogs and sugar gliders, and will stay up during the night jumping in the cage or running on their wheels. Other pets are diurnal and will be most active during the day. Picking a pet that is most active when you are home and available is recommended.
  • What other equipment is required? Certain species, including most reptiles, have very specific temperature, humidity, and lighting requirements. These pets may need additional heat sources, ultraviolet lights, thermometers and hygrometers.
  • What is the diet? Commercial diets may or may not be available for the species you are interested in. Diets of exotic pets range from frozen/thawed mice offered only once weekly to elaborate salads that need to be prepared fresh daily.
  • What are the social needs of the species? Some exotic pets, like sugar gliders, should not be kept solo while others, like most hamsters, should not have cagemates.
  • How much will this pet cost to maintain? Many exotic pets can be purchased cheaply or adopted for free, but the initial set-up cost for the cage and furnishings can be pricey. Depending on the species, the diet may also be costly. In addition, all exotic pets require veterinary wellness exams. Some species may also need vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and parasite prevention. Extra money should be available in the event of a pet health emergency.
  • Is this species compatible with children? Some exotic pets are delicate and could be easily injured by improper handling while other species could injure the child through biting or scratching. In addition, many exotic species are capable of carrying diseases that could cause illness in humans.
  • Is this pet noisy or destructive? Exotic pets may have a natural tendency to chew, dig, or scratch. This can lead to damage to your house and furniture or injury to the pet. Look into recommendations for “pet-proofing” your home- this may involve elevating electrical cords, removing poisonous houseplants, and changing cleaners. In addition, some pets are loud and could disturb family members or neighbors.
  • Is this pet legal in my state, borough, or town? Exotic pet laws vary by location and should be well researched prior to purchasing a pet.

Species Options


A large variety of bird species are kept as pets and can range drastically in size and personality. Species also vary significantly in cost. In general, birds are very social and highly intelligent, but they can also be noisy and messy. Some birds require daily interaction, while others- like canaries and finches- prefer minimal handling. Large cages are required for most species to ensure ample room to perform normal behaviors. When exercising outside of the cage, birds must always be supervised. Large windows and ceiling fans pose a potential risk to pet birds. In addition, birds are highly susceptible to household toxins, especially fumes from overheated nonstick cookware, cleaners, and smoke.



Ferrets are extremely playful and inquisitive pets that are highly entertaining to watch. These animals are usually easy to litter train and fairly quiet. Due to their mischievous nature, it is essential to always supervise ferrets when they are out of the cage to prevent ingestion of foreign objects, trauma, or escape. Unlike many other exotic pets, ferrets require yearly vaccinations and parasite prevention. A variety of diseases can occur in older ferrets that may require surgery or medical management. Despite most ferrets being surgically de-scented prior to sale, ferrets have a slightly stronger odor than most other exotic pets.




Rabbits are incredibly cute and quiet pets that can be either very active or very docile. While many rabbits do not prefer to be picked up, most will readily accept petting. Rabbits require a large amount of room to run and exercise when not in the cage. In addition, due to their natural desire to dig and chew, they should only be allowed into “rabbit-proofed” rooms with elevated or covered electrical cords and should always be supervised. Rabbits need a very specific diet to ensure adequate gastrointestinal function and grinding of their teeth.




Rats are incredibly intelligent, social, and interactive pets. Their movements are slower and more predictable than mice or hamsters, making them ideal pets for children. Rats typically do best in multi-rat households. While mice are similarly playful and intelligent, they are more skittish than rats and can easily escape through small gaps. A variety of hamsters are sold as pets, and each species has a unique appearance and personality. Syrian hamsters are recommended for households with children as they are typically calmer. Unlike other rodents, most hamsters should be kept solitary as they may fight if housed in groups. Hamsters tend to be nippier than some of the other pet rodents.




Fish can fit into almost any lifestyle. They are quiet and beautiful. Start-up cost for equipment and supplies can be pricey depending on the type of tank desired. Water quality needs to be monitored closely for these pets.




Reptiles have very specific requirements regarding temperature, humidity, nutrition, lighting, and enclosures that vary greatly between species. Most reptile species are quiet and produce minimal odor. In general, reptiles are not very social and most species prefer to be housed alone.

Lizards make fascinating pets and range in size and personality. Some recommended species for a first-time owner include leopard geckos or bearded dragons due to their calmer demeanor and comparatively reduced care requirements. Iguanas are difficult pets that require a very large cage and a very specific fresh diet. These lizards can become very aggressive inflicting a painful bite or tail slap making them less suitable for homes with children or inexperienced owners.

Snakes are typically docile and easy to handle making them ideal pets. The enclosure must be secure as snakes are escape-artists. Most species kept as pets eat frozen/thawed mice, so the owner must be comfortable feeding this item. Ideal starter snakes include corn snakes, ball pythons, and some king snakes.

Pet chelonians- turtles and tortoises- are often favored because of their sweet personalities. However, these pets have very specific requirements that must be met to maintain health. Some species can grow very large, and lifespans of pet turtles and tortoises range from 10-100 years making this pet a huge commitment. An ideal species for a novice is a captive-bred Eastern box turtle. Care of aquatic turtles is more complex and should be reserved for more experienced owners.


Other Species

hedgehog with catYou may come across a variety of other exotic pets available for sale ranging from scorpions to pet skunks. As with all other species, in-depth research is recommended to determine if you are capable of caring for the animal properly. In general, invertebrate pets such as tarantulas have relatively low care requirements. However, these pets are not very social and can be easily traumatized with improper handling. Hedgehogs are cute, quill-covered nocturnal pets that are fun to watch but difficult to handle. These pets are illegal in some areas. Sugar gliders have increased in popularity recently. These marsupials are nocturnal, require a highly specialized diet, and should be kept in multi-pet groups to avoid behavioral abnormalities. Compared to similarly-sized rodent pets, sugar gliders require much more attention and care. Primates do not make good pets and are not recommended.

Hedgehogs are cute, quill-covered nocturnal pets that are fun to watch but difficult to handle. These pets are illegal in some areas. Sugar gliders have increased in popularity recently. These marsupials are nocturnal, require a highly specialized diet, and should be kept in multi-pet groups to avoid behavioral abnormalities. Compared to similarly-sized rodent pets, sugar gliders require much more attention and care. Primates do not make good pets and are not recommended.

Before and After Adoption Day

Once you have decided on which species is right for your lifestyle and home, purchase the cage, supplies, and diet required prior to adopting. This will help reduce stress for both you and your new pet on adoption day! Exotic pets can be adopted through rescue groups, shelters, humane societies, or purchased from pet stores or private breeders. More information about shelter groups for different species can be found at:

New pets should be quarantined, or kept separate, from any pre-existing pets in the household for a certain amount of time to prevent spread of any diseases. The recommended time interval is 1-3 months depending on the species involved. Veterinary examination of the new pet is recommended to ensure overall health, review care requirements, and perform any necessary diagnostic tests. For more information about what to expect during an avian health exam, visit:

How Physical Rehabilitation Helps Pets Recover & Live Fuller Lives

April 26th, 2017 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

Veterinary physical rehabilitation is a medical field devoted to enhancing the recovery of a debilitated or injured animal. It involves an understanding of the pet’s metabolism and how the pet is affected by exercise, disease, and injury. It also requires an in-depth understanding of the healing process. Anytime an animal is sick or has been injured, the body undergoes a period of deconditioning. Humans also experience this after being sick or injured and it takes a while before we are able to be active again at a normal level.

The goals of any rehabilitation program are to:

  • Return the patient to prior function
  • Enhance healing
  • Prevent re-injury
  • Minimize pain

There has been a growing awareness of veterinary rehabilitation and how it benefits pets after surgery.  Studies have shown that patients who participated in a rehabilitation program had more improved postoperative outcomes compared to those who were placed only on cage rest or restricted to a walking program.

Rehabilitation programs can be developed for canine and feline patients for a variety of medical conditions, including:

  • Post-operative rehabilitation programs
  • Arthritis
  • Neurological disease
  • Soft tissue injuries (muscle and tendon)
  • Obesity

Rehabilitation programs typically include:

The first step to developing a rehabilitation regimen is to define the primary problem and all of the related issues. The speed of recovery is based on beginning with the correct diagnosis. Otherwise, primary problems can lead to secondary issues. For example, a problem with the stifle (back of the knee) can lead to muscle atrophy and hip and/or back pains. It’s also important to be aware of subtle signs of discomfort since pets are unable to communicate the source of their aches and pains.

Once all the problems are identified, the rehab program can be designed to assist the patient with recovery as well as any related problems. The regimen may include utilizing low-level laser therapy, neuromuscular electric stimulation, therapeutic exercises, or thermotherapy (cold or warm packs). Ultimately, enhancing a patient’s recovery also improves their overall quality of their life and enables them to be more active and responsive in their daily activities.

A big part of physical rehabilitation in animals is motivating them to participate. While humans can use reasoning to see the benefits, animal patients need positive reinforcement to create a positive rehabilitation experience. For example, a reward or treat given after each set of repetitions in a workout creates a positive mindset in the patient toward the rehabilitation program. At the same time, pet owners are more reassured and encouraged by seeing their pet being receptive to the treatment process.

To learn more about the Physical Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine Departments at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ, please call (732) 747-3636.

Rodenticides Containing Bromethalin have Deadly Outcomes for Cats and Dogs

March 15th, 2017 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

Red Bank Veterinary Hospital has seen a recent increase in cats being accidentally poisoned by rodenticide. Medical diagnostics for these cats show damage to their nervous systems which is consistent with the reported effects of a type of rodenticide containing bromethalin. What makes this over-the-counter rodenticide even more dangerous is that there is no antidote, meaning there is no specific treatment designed to counteract the effects of the poison once it begins to affect the body. Read the rest of this entry »