Albert Lea Veterinary Clinic

401 Saint Thomas Avenue
Albert Lea, MN 56007-3737


Tick borne disease: A real danger to your dog - 06/05/2017

In Minnesota we are blessed with many outdoor spaces where we can enjoy nature and all it has to offer. This time of year we may encounter many wonderful signs of spring and early summer while in the great outdoors.

web lyme tick activity

One troublesome sign is the appearance of numerous ticks. While most ticks simply take a blood meal and depart, the deer tick or black footed tick found in our state can leave one of several diseases behind while taking a blood meal. By far the most common tick borne diseases in our dog population in Minnesota is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is considered endemic in the central region of Minnesota and present to a lesser extent in other parts of the state.

The tiny tick in the nymph stage is smaller than a pinhead and are very difficult to see in our pet’s hair coat yet it is this stage of tick that is most often responsible for disease transmission!

web lyme lameness

Dogs are considered a sentinel species and are exposed readily. Fortunately, most dogs who are exposed have no symptoms. The 10% or so who do get sick have a characteristic list of clinical signs that are hard not to notice.

Once the tick has been attached 24-48 hours, the bacteria like organisms move from the ticks gut to the blood stream and settle in the joints . As early as a week later symptoms develop including, fever, lethargy, and sudden onset of lameness of all four limbs. The dogs seem weak and unwilling to stand or walk.

This last month I  have treated 2 cases of Lyme disease. Both dogs had identical histories and symptoms.  Seemingly fine one day and the next they were lethargic and having difficulty standing or walking.

web positive test for Lyme

There is also a very small percentage of Lyme infected dogs, less than 0.5%, that develop a fatal kidney infection. Fortunately, we have available a rapid, highly accurate in-house blood test to confirm a suspected diagnosis. The 4DX test requires only 3 drops of blood and 10 minutes for a result. This test also screens for heart worm and two other tick borne organisms, both found in Minnesota.

Dogs living in Minnesota should be tested on an annual basis.  The best news is that your dog can be treated successfully with a 28 day course of common antibiotics if they do test positive.  Also keep in mind that if you go where your dog goes, you are also being exposed to tick borne diseases.

Prevention of these tick borne diseases can include vaccination against Lyme disease or more effective still, the administration of a monthly medication called Nexgard. It will safely kill ticks before they  attach and  are able to transfer the organisms .

Until next time,

Dr. Dan Smith


The DARK side of chocolate - 10/27/2016

With Halloween just around the corner, it seemed like a good idea to put a reminder out there about chocolate toxicity.   This infograph covers how much theobromine (the poison part of chocolate) is in different kinds of chocolate, how to figure out if your pet has eaten too much chocolate, and whether or not you need to give us a call.  I hope this helps you!  And know that we certainly do not mind you calling if your pet eats something from   trick-or-treating.  We’re here for you!      ~Amy


NOT FLEAS AGAIN! - 10/19/2016

                                                                         This time of year LOTS of folks are frustrated because their household is overrun with fleas.  It seems like they came out of nowhere and you can’t seem to get a handle on them no matter what you try.web-flea-infographic-1

Maybe you’ve treated your dog with Frontline or Nexgard for a couple of months but you still see fleas.  How aggravating!  Maybe you used a veterinarian approved product on your carpet or floors 3 weeks ago, but now you’re seeing even MORE fleas!  That can’t be right.  Maybe you have an inside-only cat….that now has fleas.  WHAT?!?  HOW!?!

Before you conclude that the flea treatment products you’re using aren’t working, here’s some information you should know:

You may have had fleas reproducing for a while BEFORE you knew it.

You can get an out-of-control flea situation in a month or two.  Once a flea lands on a host, it takes a blood meal almost immediately, then ASAP it mates and the egg laying begins 24-48 hours later.

NASTY FACT-ONE female flea can lay 40-50 eggs A DAY!

These eggs then roll off the host and hatch into larvae 3-5 days later!

By the time YOU notice fleas, immature flea stages have been reproducing for 1-2 months, and your home is probably full of hatching & developing fleas.  The general rule is, if you see one flea, there’s a hundred you don’t.

So now, what?  Well, if YOU’RE getting bit, you must treat your home. We sell a product called Knockout that will kill fleas in your up-to-2000 sq ft home for 7 months. It works very well.  Fleas bombs go up and come down.  They do not go under things and they do not continue to kill, so they’re not the best choice if you’re dealing with a serious flea problem.

You also need to treat ALL of the pets in your home-even if they never go outside.  We recommend Frontline, Nexgard, Capstar, Advantage, Advantix, and Comfortis.  When you’re treating a flea infestation (rather than preventing one), if the product is labeled for 30 days you need to dose every 3 weeks for 3-4 months to make sure you totally interrupt the flea cycle.  Flea baths kill most fleas, but not all.  Flea collars keep fleas away from the front of the pet, but not the back.  A lot of flea preventatives sold over the counter do not  work for long and many are for DOGS ONLY so make sure you read the label!

Flea infestations can be very aggravating and under IDEAL conditions will take 3 months to get under control.  Using the right products can save you a lot of frustration and lessen the length of time you have to deal with it.  If you have questions, give us a call at 507-373-8161.  Dr. Flea also has this great website with a lot of helpful information on it as well!

Happy flea killing!


Therapy Dog Journey – Part II - 08/23/2016


                Remember Desmond? He is closing in on being almost one-year-old.  He has been through his first training class and is getting closer and closer to being a therapy dog!

                Desmond and I went through a two month training class for rally.  Rally is similar to obedience in that the dog needs to perform obedience commands like heel, sit, down, stay, and come.  The major difference is that it is set up in an obstacle format that you and your dog need to work through together.  The course is made up of stations that have signs that describe the obstacle to be done.  Like in agility, the courses in rally are timed and can help decide who wins.  As the handler and dog progresses through classes, the obstacles get more difficult.  Rally was also new for me, so I had as much learning to do as Desmond did!

                To change things up I also started training Desmond in agility.  Agility is a sport based on time where a handler and their dog need to complete obstacles in a course.  The obstacles are different than the ones in rally.  The rally obstacles are obedience based and the agility ones are physical obstacles the dog has to get through.  Desmond took off and learned the agility obstacles very quickly and was having a lot of fun doing it.  Within a week he was doing all the obstacles offered in agility with the exception of the A-frame, broad jump, and weave poles.  It is great fun to see his little-self speed through and do agility.  You may be thinking to yourself:  What does agility have to do with becoming a therapy dog?  Agility is a great sport that makes the handler and dog work close as a team and be light hearted.  This will make Desmond’s and my connection closer and will help us be a better team.

                Through my experience so far training Desmond, I found a few things that he and I need to yet work on.  His heeling needs to be improved and more consistent.  When doing therapy work, it is important for the dog to be at the handler’s side at all times.  Desmond’s stay is not as reliable as it can be yet either.  Both of these things we will work on and continue to improve.  After heeling and stays get better, then the next step of his therapy dog journey will be taken!  I plan to introduce him to crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, and other medical equipment that may possibly alarm him.

                Desmond will be a great therapy dog.  He is very social and loves to be around people and children.  While training him I see that he is very enthusiastic and excited to learn.  He can be a little stubborn sometimes, but that is what keeps training interesting!  I look forward to Desmond and me learning more about each other as we make this journey on being a therapy dog team!

Fur you and your pet too!  Until next time…

Dr. Heather

Fear Free! - 06/27/2016

IMG_0157When you think of taking your pet in for a veterinary visit do you get nervous?  A lot of owners feel some anxiety just thinking about their pet’s checkup because they don’t like seeing their pet anxious before, during, or after their visit at the veterinary office.  Our goal here at Albert Lea Veterinary Clinic is to calm cats and sooth dogs.  We want the old ways of corralling your cat in a carrier or dragging your dog through the front door to be abolished.  This is where Fear Free comes in!

                The main focus for a Fear Free Veterinary practice is the emotional well-being of everyone involved with the pet’s health (the pet, the pet’s owner, the practitioner, & the practice team).  This is the number one goal, after all why do we own pets except to love and care for them.  As veterinarians and technicians we have an interest in medicine because of our love for animals.  This means that we want what is best for your pet.

                If you have been to the Albert Lea Veterinary Clinic in the last few months, you probably noticed that we have been going through some renovations.  Our clinic is working on making our building Fear Free for our pets and clients.  This includes having colors that please pets and people, having higher friction flooring for less slipping, and having two different kennel areas to separate dogs and cats if they are spending the night with us.  We now have two exam rooms so we are better able to get you and your pet out of the waiting room where much of the activity is happening and into a pheromone dosed room away from other pet interaction, all of which decreases stress and fear.

                During your pet’s medical exam, you may also notice some new things.  We now have non-slip covers on our tables which are not only a barrier between your pets fur and the cold stainless steel but are also a way to make the pet feel more stable while being examined.  Treats are given during the exam not only to keep the pet’s attention away from what the doctor is doing but also to help train them to be comfortable with being touched and looked at.  Positive reinforcement!

                 Another thing we are trying to implement is to use less stressful restraint techniques when we handle your pets.  Towels are a great tool to help restrain a pet and with pheromones on it, it can help calm them.  Pheromones are natural scents from dogs or cats that are put into a spray or a room diffuser.  We use them here at the clinic and we also have them for sale so you can use them in your car and home.  When pets smell these it makes them feel safe, just like they feel at home.  Safe and comfortable with their surroundings.  Although it rarely happens, if the pet is extremely stressed, the veterinarian may decide to sedate your pet or reschedule the appointment for another time.

                There are some things you can do for your pets to help them be Fear Free also.  If your pet cringes when the carrier comes out, try taking it out several days before the vet visit and feed high value treats* in it.  You could also leave it out all the time and let it be your pet’s “safe spot.”  Do you have pets that hate to be separated from one another?  Take them both to the vet at the same time.  The one will get examined and attended to, but both will get treats.  Another great thing owners can do is to bring their pet into the clinic hungry.  When they are hungry they are more apt to want to take treats from us.  Bringing your own treats from home also helps greatly to calm your pet because it’s familiar to them.

                Because we take our time, the pace of the Fear Free exam is slower than the assembly line like appointments that you may be used to, but it is important for your pet to be anxiety free.  Pets that go to a veterinary clinic in a fearful state or that become fearful after they get there, are actually being trained to have a negative experience the next time.  Like PTSD, these pets don’t need to get as far as the medical exam before they feel anxious or afraid.  They may get fearful from just seeing the carrier coming out or from being loaded into the car.  I often hear owners say, “Sparky knows we are going to the vet when I pull out the carrier” or “Sparky starts acting nervous when we pull into the parking lot.”  We do not want pets to be anxious, but we do want them to be happy to come to the clinic to see us.  Having a stress free, positive veterinary visit puts your pet on the road to success.  Following positive visits, future visits become increasingly easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

Fur you, and your pet too!  Until next time…

Dr. Heather

*High value treats are treats that your pet loves.  Treats that motivate them more than others.  Pets, like people, are unique and you’ll have to find what works for your pet.  Some high value treat ideas are sliced deli meats such as chicken, ham, or turkey as well as tuna, cheeses, and peanut butter. Some pets prefer breads or fruits and vegetables such as apples or carrots.  Our ‘Pet Library‘ on our website has an article called, ‘People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets’ that you can read if you’re concerned about certain foods.