Articles and Information


Back-To-School Time and Your Pets 

It is back-to-school season ! As you and your family gear up for the excitement (and busyness) that the start of a new school year brings, it is often very easy to forget that this same time of year can bring challenges for your family pet. 

After spending many hours a day surrounded by their whole family during the summer, pets can often feel separation anxiety once the school routines start. Separation anxiety in pets can be very difficult and can show up in many forms. By taking action before anxiety sets in, you can help prevent the need for medication. 

Getting Your Pet Into "Back-To-School" Mode 

Just like people, pets get used to daily routines that change when school time begins. As the summer draws to an end, there are things that the whole family can do to help pets adjust to their new schooltime schedule. 

Before School Starts

During the summer, people are home more often and pets get accustomed to having company for longer periods of time. With children home from school, your pet may be getting more attention and play time throughout the whole day. To help your pet start to adjust as the school year nears, shift play time to the mornings and evenings. 


Once the school year begins, set aside 10-15 minutes each morning for quality time with your pet. This can be as simple as a belly rub or a quick game of fetch! Pets may take time to adjust to the quiet of an empty house. Leave a favorite television or radio station on to quietly play while you are gone. We do not recommend using a one-way communicator or voice recording; hearing family members’ voices while no one is home can cause anxiety. When you return home at the end of a long day, make your greeting to your pet a happy and positive one. They will certainly be happy to see you home!

If your pet continues to struggle with separation anxiety, contact the staff here at Varsity Veterinary Center to discuss treatment options.

ELI'S VETERINARY ADVENTURE                             


 Eli presented to us for a medical examination due to the newly developed behavior of feather picking. Feather picking, also known as feather destructive behavior (FDB),  is a very complicated issue and determining an underlying condition can prove to be quite challenging. A common misconception is that feather picing is strictly a cosmetic issue when in reality the cause could be from an underlying medical condition. Think of it this way: feather picking is a symptom not the disease. Feather picking could also stem from one or a combination of a variety of behavioral issues. With that all being said, the first step is to narrow down the cause of Eli's feather picking into one of two very broad catagories : Medical condition or Behavior issue.

Some examples of the medical conditions causing FDB could be kidney and/or liver damage or failure, testicular or ovarian disease, musculoskeletal damage, gastrointestinal diseases or dysfunction, certain viral conditions, primary bacterial or fungal dermatitis, allergic skin disease, internal or external parasites, and nutritional deficiencies.

Some examples of behavioral issues related to FDB are boredom, isolation, lack of physical exercise, inappropriate sleep patterns, and poorly directed reproductive behaviors.

Dr. Olson's approach to this complicated issue is to use a combined medical/behavioral approach. This is achieved by ruling out as many medical conditions as possible while factoring in the behavioral components.

The first step in Eli's process was attaining a detailed history and performing a thorough physical examination. No obvious abnormalities were found on the exam. Being a prey species, birds have the ability to mask illness well, so Dr. Olson and her staff performed the following diagnostic tests on Eli to establish a minimum database of medical information. This included a CBC, chemistry profile, radiographs and a fecal analysis. In addition to this a few of Eli's feathers were examined microscopically for feather mites. Eli's bloodwork all came back normal and no parasites were seen either in the stool or on the feathers. The radiographs taken of Eli did not reveal any abnormalities such as arthritis or skeletal deformaties.


        Microscopic view of Eli's feather


Eli's Radiograph

Having ruled out the majority of medical conditions, the focus is now on behavior. A small amount of Eli's blood was submitted to a reference laboratory for DNA sex identification. Having this information is vital since Eli is twelve years old and this is prime time for sexual maturity. Knowing the correct sex of Eli will help Dr. Olson instruct the owner in proper handling techniques as to not stimulate frustration. Husbandry was also thoroughly discussed. Husbandry includes all the aspects of daily care. For example: diet, enclosure, social interaction and mental stimulation etc. Eli's husbandry is excellent - fed a healthy pelleted diet, has a large enclosure with lots of enrichment items and gets a good amount of quality social interaction.

Eli's blood test came back : SHE'S A GIRL !  

The final determination of the root cause of Eli's feather picking was stress due to hormonal changes related to sexual maturity.


F FLEA.jpg leas! Fleas! Fleas!

By Elizabeth Olson, DVM CCRT

Beware College Park, flea season has arrived! Any dog, cat, rabbit, ferret or other furry creature that is itching, chewing, scratching, licking or excessively grooming most likely has a flea issue. The top reason for a pet to be itching is due to fleas! (NOT food allergy!) It's common, relatively simple to fix (diligence is key) and less expensive to treat once the issue is under control.

Most pets are annoyed by the bite of a flea, but some can develop an allergy to flea saliva. Look for irritated areas around the tail, butt, groin, neck and back. If you are finding black specks it is likely flea dirt (poop). Put some on a white paper towel, wet your finger and rub the speck. If it leaves a streak of red, orange or brown this means the pet has had fleas biting on it.

A Flea's Life
There are four life stages of the flea: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. Females lay up to 50 eggs per day or greater than 2000 in a lifetime. The time from egg to biting adult takes about 3 weeks. Eggs can become larvae in 1-7 days. These larvae move away from light and hide deep in carpets, rugs, cracks in flooring, under baseboards and in blankets. They spin cocoons and morph into the nearly impenetrable pupae. These mature to adult fleas and hatch from the cocoon when stimulated by the presence of warm blooded animals (us and our pets! ) Upon hatching they seek out their first blood meal! Remember, products that are available can kill eggs, larvae and adults, but not pupae!

Treat ALL the Pets
It is of the utmost importance to use prevention on ALL the furry pets in your home. Skipping just one pet can result in a reinfestation faster as the fleas will "hide" on the "safe" pet and continue to breed and drop eggs into the environment. Make sure you are using the correct product for the correct species and for the correct weight of the pet! Topicals must be applied to the skin, not fur. (Frontline Plus, Advantage, Revolution and Assurity) Oral prevention must be given at the correct dose. (Comfortis and Capstar). These preventatives all KILL fleas when they come in contact with the product on the skin or bite the pet. No product on the market is a force field that will prevent fleas from jumping onto your pet. It is important to have realistic expectations and realize that dogs and cats in Florida may get occasional fleas. Don't forget, we bring them into our homes as well! When using a topical product, remember to use SOAP FREE shampoos only. The oils on your pet's skin are needed to facilitate movement of topical prevention all over the body and keep the skin healthy. Any shampoo that is not labeled SOAP FREE can be removing your flea prevention or limiting its effectiveness! Shampoos to avoid include flea and tick shampoos, medicated shampoos, human and even baby shampoos and any detergents like DAWN! If the label does not say SOAP FREE do not use it! The dog and cat grooming community understand this, so be sure to let your groomer know what type of prevention you use and ask what type of shampoo your pet will be bathed in!

 Pets on prevention that have less than a half dozen fleas likely have products working on/in them and are in a well controlled environment. Those with more than that probably are being repeatedly exposed to a fresh supply of fleas from the home, the yard or any place they play or walk, regardless of the product being used. Staying on top of the preventative schedule is an essential part of this plan! Skipping a week or more gives the fleas the ability to re infest!

Treat the Home
If, despite regular prevention on pets, you are having flea issues, remember the Rule of Three (see below) and treat the house and yard as well. Vacuum everywhere including the car, under furniture, the edges of walls, wood floors and all carpets and rugs. Remember the pupae that become adults are hiding in dark quiet areas. Empty your vacuums after cleaning! Wash blankets, the hottest setting possible to kill eggs, larvae and fleas.

Treat the Yard
Untreated animals such as outdoor cats, raccoons and squirrels carry fleas and continuously drop eggs into the environments they frequent. They act like salt shakers depositing flea eggs everywhere they go! These develop into adult fleas that can hitch a ride on you, the dog or the outdoor cat and then infest our yard and home.
Fleas mature from larvae into adults in dark environments. Access to areas under the home or deck are prefect environments for flea activity. Animals visiting that area can be depositing or picking up fleas!! Block those areas off to minimize your flea environment! Piles of brush, leaves and even non-yard waste can be a perfect place for a flea nursery too!! Treat the yard and any vacant property near your home. The best products for home and yard use are available through your exterminator service and at your local garden/home improvement store. Ask these professionals what is working in your area. An infested environment is a constant source of new fleas. Even as fleas on treated pets are killed, new ones may be lining up to jump on your pets. Be consistent with your environment and keep using products for your pets.

Flea control and prevention takes time. Diligence is key to winning the war on fleas!

If you have any questions about fleas, feel free to the staff at Varsity Veterinary Center at 407.674.6835


1. Treat the house, the yard
and ALL the pets.
2. Repeat in three weeks
3. Repeat a THIRD time in
three weeks.
4. Continue as needed



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