Archive for the ‘Pet Nutrition’ Category

Does My Pet Need Vitamins?

dog cat eating copy

It’s an unfortunate reality that most people in the U.S. live with some kind of vitamin deficiency despite efforts to educate the population on how to eat better. Specifically, there has been the relatively recent movement toward looking for organic foods and foods with a supposed increased nutrient level. Whether or not you subscribe to the organic-only ideology or buying fortified foods, there are valid points to be made on either side of the argument.

For myself and many others, it makes sense to believe that food items in their most natural state contain most of the enzymes, vitamins and other micro-nutrients that we hope and expect to receive. However, there are some exceptions where heating certain foods may improve their digestibility and absorption.

Just as is the case with people, I strongly believe that our pet population suffers from vitamin and other imbalances. While we can measure deficiencies of major nutrients such as proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates in pets, it is nearly impossible to measure a micro-nutrient deficiency with our standard level of medical care.

For this reason, I strongly believe in adding a well-balanced multivitamin to a pet’s diet protocol. Since there is no clear oversight on how these vitamins are produced, finding a good and reliable company is essential toward assuring that a product’s quality is as advertised. Some of the brands that we like at Worth Street Veterinary Center include Rx Vitamins, NuVet and Vetri-Science. I am sure there are other good products on the market, so please do your research before getting any supplements for your pet. Always try to feed your animal food that is natural and is processed as little as possible.

If you need any nutritional guidance for your pet, please give us a call at 212-257-6900.

Francisco DiPolo, DVM, CVA

Holiday Safety For Pets

The holiday season—or, what we consider late October through early January—is once more upon us. But before you break out the candy, turkey, champagne, or whatever else you have the tendency to overindulge in, keep in mind this season can hold some danger for your pets. Here are some tips to enjoy the holidays while keeping your pet safe—and avoid being interrupted by a visit to the emergency hospital.


1. Keep the Halloween candy safely out of your pet’s reach. Chocolate is toxic for dogs, and xylitol, a common artificial sweetener found in gums, candy and some baked items is very toxic as well. If consumed, candy wrappers can create dangerous obstructions of the gastrointestinal tract. When you’re not consuming Halloween goodies, don’t leave them out in a dish on the counter or a table, as pets have a tendency to get curious, and hungry. Store candy safely in a Ziploc bag in a cabinet out of your animal’s reach. If your pet does eat some candy, try to determine how much was eaten, and call your vet immediately.

2. The continuous ringing of the doorbell, heralding the arrival trick-or-treaters, is very stressful to many dogs and cats. Consider keeping your pets safely in a quieter part of your house or apartment to minimize their anxiety.

3. If you’re taking your dog trick-or-treating, be sure to do the following: 1) keep identification tags on your pet at all times, 2) keep your dog on a leash, and 3) consider applying reflector strips or an LED pet safety light to your animal so he is visible to passing cars.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa

1. Rich, fatty food—which is all too common during holiday celebrations—can be treacherous for pets. In some cases, even a small amount of a fatty food can lead to severe digestive problems or inflammation of the pancreas. This can rapidly become an emergency. Even if your dog is desperate to share your holiday meals, stick with normal pet food, or healthy treats such carrots.

2. Many rich alcoholic beverages such as eggnog can be tempting to dogs. Alcohol is toxic to pets, so anything containing alcohol is a no-no.

3. As a general rule, the following are all toxic to pets: grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions and artificial sweeteners such as xylitol.

4. Many different plants are poisonous to animals, poinsettia and holly included. For a complete list, check out the following link:

5. Christmas trees are irresistible to most pets. If you add any preservatives to the tree water, make sure that your pet can’t drink it. Glittering tinsel, ornaments, ribbons, etc. are very enticing to cats and some dogs, and they can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction if ingested. Edible gifts or pet gifts can be detected by your dog’s amplified sense of smell; so, be aware that your pet may unwrap gifts without your approval, and even worse, ingest the wrapping. Lastly, be warned that the allure of climbing a Christmas tree has caused more than one cat to bring the entire tree crashing down.

Ultimately, the holidays are for the joy of the entire family, including pets. If you maintain a basic awareness of the possible dangers, you can easily avoid any unexpected complications. If you have any further questions, feel free to give us a call at Worth Street Veterinary Center at 212-257-6900.

Happy Holidays!

Dr. Francisco DiPolo

What is Leaky Bowel Syndrome? (Part 2: Treatment)

Next, I’d like to explain how I approach Leaky Bowel Syndrome when treating patients. The first aspect of improving an animal’s intestinal environment involves making dietary changes. Every pet has a different level of reactivity to food borne allergens, so finding out your pet’s specific food allergies may require some watchful experimentation. The idea is to eliminate potential allergens by using a limited ingredient food, or using some other diet that would create less immunologic stimulation, such as a hydrolized prescription diet. Unfortunately, while dry or canned pet food may be most convenient, the processing of nutrients from the natural source to the dry or canned form can greatly increase their allergic reactivity. With this in mind, it may be helpful for some pets to be fed homemade or raw formulas.

The second component of treating Leaky Bowel Syndrome is promoting the right environment inside the intestinal tract. This is accomplished by supplementing a pet’s meals with a source of pre-biotics—the basic energy/fuel for the normal intestinal bacteria. (These are also called probiotics.) Additionally, the use of certain digestive enzymes—such as bromelain or papain—will aid in making the whole digestive process a lot easier, consequently decreasing a pet’s intestinal inflammation, and discomfort.

The third component is adding nutrients or supplements that may provide some restorative properties to the intestinal lining. Specifically, L-Glutamine, Licorice Root, and Slippery Elm Bark are some of the supplements that have been shown to encourage intestinal lining repair. Over the last few years there has been extensive research and development on this topic, and there are a few specific supplement formulas that can simplify the management of the problem. If you suspect that your pet may have this syndrome, please contact us at the Worth Street Veterinary Center at 212-257-6900, and we will be happy to help guide you in your pet’s treatment.

Francisco Dipolo, DVM, CVA

What is Leaky Bowel Syndrome? (Part 1)

Leaky Bowel Syndrome is a problem that develops in dogs when the animal’s intestinal wall is unable to retain bacteria inside the intestinal tract. This allows toxins and bacteria to migrate from the vascular system to other organs in the body. Some indications that your pet may have Leaky Bowel include chronic skin infections, intermittent diarrhea, lethargy, and more.

In human medicine, this syndrome has been linked to chronic fatigue and depression. However, in our pet population, the problems seem to present as some kind of food allergy that may contribute to skin irritation and bowel problems. Since the intestinal tract is the largest immunologic organ, if it’s not working well, it may profoundly affect or influence problems throughout the entire body. (In the interest of keeping this post brief, I’ll discuss food borne allergies or intolerance only, and will leave contact and other environmental allergies for a different time.)

While Leaky Bowel Syndrome is not the only cause for most of our pets’ chronic allergies and diarrheas, it can certainly intensify the problem. So, I believe that it is crucial to pay attention to this potential underlying effect in the gut, while at the same time using standard medicine to control the clinical signs and discomfort.

Thankfully, there are a few things that we can do to help improve our pet’s intestinal health. This involves the use of multiple therapies, such as dietary changes and other supplements that can improve the overall health of the intestinal tract.

Stay tuned for my next blog post on the standard treatment protocol for Leaky Bowel Syndrome.

Francisco DiPolo, DVM CVA

Tips on Making Your Cat’s Visit to the Vet Stress-Free

Let’s face it, most cats hate going to the veterinarian. Just imagine, you’re going about your daily routine of sleeping in your favorite spot, lounging in the sun, grooming yourself, and occasionally having some food. All of a sudden, your reverie is interrupted as you’re briskly snatched up, shoved into a carrier, taken out into the frigid streets of Manhattan, jostled around in some moving vehicle, then brought into an office with barking dogs trying to sniff you and all sorts of troubling, unknown smells. All the while you’re wondering, Why did I have my day interrupted? I don’t like change! I don’t like noise or strangers or unfamiliar environments. Now I’m here, in this strange contraption in which I can’t see out and waiting for something, and it can’t be good…

Someone comes in the room talking to my mom and opens the box I’m in—which, incidentally, isn’t looking so bad right now. Eek, don’t take me out—I’m ok, really! An unfamiliar hand scoops me up, tries to pry open my mouth, shines a terribly bright light in my eyes, puts a cold metal thing to my chest and starts pushing on my full belly. Who does this lady think she is? I’ll give her a hiss or two and she’ll stop. Hmm, that didn’t work. I must’ve not sounded ferocious enough. I’ll show them! Big hiss, growl, another hisssssssss. Uh-oh, now here comes another stranger, and this one’s got a blanket. I try out my best ninja-cat wrestling moves, but they wrap me up with a towel over my hand. I can’t move. Exhausted, I give up. This is humiliating.

Finally, they mercifully cram me back into the dark box, there’s another bumpy ride, and I’m back at home. The ride home left just enough time for me to contemplate two things: 1) My mom has betrayed me terribly, and for that she will pay, and 2) I’m going to start my rebellion by not eating for a day or two—and maybe I’ll even pee in her bed for good measure.

The above scenario is all too typical, which is why many cat owners avoid or procrastinate taking their beloved pet to the vet. The good news is, there are many tips that can make the experience more positive for you and your cat:

  • First, don’t keep the cat carrier tucked away, only to be brought out just to take your animal to the vet. You want to condition your cat to its carrier—meaning, you want him comfortable in and around it. If possible, always leave the carrier out and entice your cat to crawl in and out using a feather toy or treat. This process may take several weeks, but ultimately your cat will view the carrier as a “good” place.
  • When a trip to the veterinarian is warranted, spray the carrier with Feliway ( approximately 30 minutes prior to travel. Feliway mimics the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as a safe place. By spraying Feliway in your cat’s carrier, it creates a state of security for your cat and may help him cope with the stress of a vet visit. This spray can be obtained at almost any pet store and is easily found online.
  • Book your appointment at a time when your vet’s office is quiet, or ask to be placed in an exam room immediately upon arrival. Once in the room, open the carrier and allow your cat to explore. Hopefully he will eventually come out and feel more comfortable. If not, do not force him. Allow the veterinarian to do as much of the exam in the carrier as possible, then entice him out. Sometimes it helps for the owner to hold their cat during the exam.
  • Upon returning home, give your pet a treat. If there is another cat at home, don’t be surprised if they both hiss or hide, as the housemate will smell the vet’s office. Spraying Feliway can decrease this sensitivity.
  • Reinforcing this routine with positive rewards such as treats can help graduate each experience to a more rewarding one.

Instead of waiting for your cat to become sick, focus on preventative care and annual exams. This will help detect any problems early and allow your cat to ultimately lead a more active, healthy and longer life.

If you have any concerns or questions about your particular cat or veterinarian visit, please don’t hesitate to call us at Worth Street Veterinary Center 212-257-6900. We will help make each step easier, and hopefully, stress free.

Dr. Julie Horton

Why Annual Vet Visits Are Important For Your Cat

If you’re like most cat owners in New York City, your thought process regarding taking your pet to the vet probably goes something like this: My cat is eating and acting normally, and he never goes outside or is exposed to other cats so he doesn’t need vaccines. Plus, he stresses out and pees every time I put him in his carrier. I’ll just take him to the vet when he’s sick.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re not alone. We all obviously want the best for our furry friends, but the stress of taking a cat to the vet is typically too much to handle—for the cat and owner. Therefore I, as the veterinarian, only see your cat when he’s sick. Obviously the sick visits are necessary and important. But if we can focus on preventative care at annual exams, we can often avoid a “crisis” visit.

All cats should be seen once yearly for a physical exam, fecal test, and vaccines if necessary. There are several reasons for this. First, I am surprised time and again how many “strictly indoor” cats often come up positive for an intestinal parasite on an annual fecal exam. Some of these parasites can then be transmitted to us, especially to kids or immunocompromised individuals.

It’s also important to do annual blood work in our feline patients, particularly those six years and older. Cats are great at hiding illness and suffering in silence. Their subtle behaviors and changes are often difficult for us humans to pick up on (See Dr. DiPolo’s blog “How to Tell if Your Cat isn’t Feeling Well” from August 18th, 2011). By performing annual blood work, we can detect trends or changes in organ function via the kidney and liver enzymes. For instance, if we detect early kidney disease we may be able to help slow or prevent its progression. Sometimes simply changing the diet or adding liquid can do this. Another easy example is subtle changes in liver enzymes. While an abdominal ultrasound and potential biopsy may be needed to detect actual liver disease, we can add in nutraceuticals—such as milk thistle and antioxidants—which may help prevent further negative changes.

A simple routine physical exam can also detect subtle weight changes, potential hypertension, lack of grooming, dehydration, and dental disease, amongst other things. These changes may be so subtle that you as the owner don’t recognize them—especially when seeing them on a day-to-day basis. More specifically, trends in either weight loss or weight gain may indicate a progressive disease process. Remember, cats are EXCELLENT at hiding illness and pain. Dental disease is particularly important to detect because it can lead to more severe problems, including liver, kidney, and heart disease.

In summary, it is important for feline owners to appreciate how critical annual wellness exams are in addressing both current problems and future preventative health. So, the next and most obvious question is, How do I actually get my feline friend to the vet? Stay tuned for helpful hints to ease the stress on you and your cat in the next blog.

If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to call me at the Worth Street Veterinary Center at 212-257-6900.

Dr. Julie Horton

“Why is My Pet Scooting?” The Dirty Truth About Anal Glands

If you’ve noticed that your dog has been dragging his rear end across the ground (, or he seems obsessed with licking around his rectum or chasing his tail base, this is usually an indication that your pet is having problems with his anal glands.

So what—and where, exactly—are these glands? They’re a pair of sac-like glands located on either side of the anus, and they produce a very foul smelling liquid, which is usually excreted when pets defecate. Animals use this liquid scent to mark their territory —and as a sort of personal “ID card.” This is why you oftentimes see dogs sniffing each other’s rear when they say hello in greeting.

Many pets may never have anal gland issues, but others develop problems regularly. Here’s why: Anal sacs are constantly filling with a smelly liquid, and in a healthy, balanced state, it is supposed to come out with every bowel movement, thus maintaining that balance. (This emptying is facilitated by the pressure of the feces as it is passed through the rectum near the glands.) In some cases, though, the fluid starts to accumulate in the sacs because 1) the stools aren’t firm enough to express the glands, or 2) the production of liquid is excessive due to dietary imbalances or allergies. The anal fluid eventually becomes over full and impacted, causing your pet discomfort so he will scoot his rear end across the ground, often more frequently after defecating. This problem is more common in smaller breeds as well as those with high allergy predispositions.

What can be done to minimize your pet’s discomfort?

1. If you’re not sure if there’s an actual problem (i.e. you haven’t noticed your pet scooting), it’s better to leave these glands alone. Feel free to inform your vet or groomer not to express your pet’s glands unless there is an actual sign of discomfort.
2. Since some of the potential underlying causes—allergies—are related to food, changing your pet’s diet to a high quality, grain-free and limited ingredient one may be all that is needed. Some brands that fit this description include: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets, Nature’s Variety, and Pinnacle.
3. Adding fiber to your pet’s diet will make the stools bulkier, and therefore more likely to empty the glands. You can accomplish this by adding psyllium husks, sweet potatoes, pumpkin or Metamucil to his food. (Consult your vet for the appropriate volume.)
4. More regular walks and exercise will increase the muscle tone of the rectum and improve the emptying mechanism. Increased exercise will also increase the frequency of defecation.

At the Worth Street Veterinary Center, we try to focus on correcting the underlying issue by making dietary and supplement changes when possible. If signs of scooting or discomfort persist, have your groomer or veterinarian manually express your pet’s glands to provide immediate relief. We do NOT advise trying this on your own.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding you pet’s anal glands.
Francisco DiPolo, DVM, CVA

Meet Sammy. (And, Why Water is Important for Cats)

My cat, Sammy, is a perfectly healthy 10-year-old male tabby. For most of the past eight years, I have been concerned that he doesn’t seem to drink enough water. Recently, he moved into Worth Street Veterinary (to cheer everyone’s life, obviously), and he quickly adopted a very cute routine.

At the entryway of the practice, we have an elevated stand with fresh water in two big, wide bowls for dogs to drink. Sammy seems to have decided that these bowls are entirely for him. He perches himself on the stand every morning, eagerly waiting for them to be filled. He’ll even become very vocal and bossy if you don’t do it quickly enough.

This somewhat bizarre discovery got me thinking about cats’ behavior towards water, and how critical consumption of water is for their long-term health. The food industry has conveniently brainwashed most pet owners into believing that dry food is an ideal way to feed their cats. I am convinced that feeding felines dry meals will lead over time to a chronic state of dehydration that ultimately is a contributing factor to the large number of cats that veterinarians see with kidney disease. I often recommend that cat owners feed their pets a wet formula exclusively in order to increase water intake.

Because felines are very particular about where they drink their water from, it’s best to take note of their preference. I strongly believe that cats would prefer eating and drinking from a wider bowl or surface area where their whiskers won’t be confined and get wet or dirty. Perhaps a simple way to encourage our feline friends to eat and drink more is to get a wide—and perhaps flatter—container to offer their meals and water.

Now that I’ve learned Sammy’s particular bias, from this point on I’ll be paying a lot more attention to where (and how) food and water is offered to him. I hope to have Sammy around for a very long time, and I hope that his funny idiosyncrasies will continue to teach me things that may help other pets.

Francisco DiPolo, DVM CVA

What to Do When Your Pet Has Diarrhea

At the Worth Street Veterinary Center, we see pets with acute diarrhea—or what’s often referred to as gastroenteritis—on an almost daily basis. But what, really, is “acute diarrhea”? This is when your dog’s poop is soft, pudding-like (gross, right?), watery brown, or even slightly bloody. The most common cause is some sort of simple dietary indiscretion—say, your dog rifled through the garbage can, or you mistakenly changed his diet without slowly integrating in new food.

However, other causes are also possible. In puppies, diarrhea is often caused by intestinal parasites. In dogs of all ages, other causes include bacterial overgrowth, metabolic or inflammatory diseases, toxins, or viral/infectious diseases, especially in unvaccinated pets. In addition, medications such as antibiotics, steroids, or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) may also cause GI upset. In short, there are a whole bunch of different reasons why your pet may have diarrhea.

Mild diarrhea (which is short in duration) may resolve by fasting your pet for 12 to 24 hours, then following up that period with a bland diet such as boiled rice and chicken or a prescription diet. Diarrhea that progresses longer than 1-2 days, or diarrhea accompanied with vomiting, usually requires a visit to your veterinarian. It can quickly lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in young and senior patients.

A veterinarian will perform a physical exam and may recommend a blood chemistry profile, complete blood count, electrolyte panel and a urinalysis to rule out other causes of disease. In addition, always plan to take a fecal sample to your appointment to test for intestinal parasites and possibly a giardia antibody test (also known as an Elisa test), an intestinal parasite difficult to detect on a fecal float. An abdominal x-ray may be suggested to rule out whether a foreign body is causing irritation to the gastrointestinal system.

After assessing your pet, we may administer subcutaneous fluids (fluids underneath the skin) to maintain hydration, and we may prescribe an antibiotic and probiotics. If your pet appears dehydrated or if there is excessive diarrhea which may lead to dehydration or blood in the stool, he or she may require hospitalization and intravenous fluids.

Still have questions? Here’s a breakdown of some general rules to follow:

  • Do NOT administer any type of medications (prescription or over the counter) without speaking to your veterinarian first.
  • Do not abruptly change your pet’s food unless it is to a bland diet.
  • Do not feed your pet if the diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting. Offer a bland diet if no vomiting is involved. It is best to offer multiple small meals (4-5 meals) daily.
  • Do not wait to seek treatment if you have a very young puppy as he or she is prone to developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) with diarrhea and /or vomiting.
  • Avoid administration of Imodium or any other antidiarrheal drug. These drugs can potentially worsen conditions, especially if there was any toxin ingestion.
  • Never give a dog real bones. These can cause gastrointestinal upset or obstructions, and they may splinter off in the gastrointestinal system.
  • Avoid giving your pet fatty foods, as these are not easily digestible and may lead to an inflammatory condition of the pancreas called pancreatitis.
  • Call your veterinarian or make an appointment if your pet’s symptoms last over 24 hours and /or if they are accompanied by vomiting.
  • Always offer water. A pet should have access to water at all times, 24 hours a day. The water should only be removed if your pet is vomiting or if your veterinarian recommends it.

Chronic or waxing and waning diarrhea may be a result of a more severe disease process and require additional diagnostics, including an abdominal ultrasound and /or endoscopy with biopsies. Please feel free to call us at the Worth Street Veterinary Center at 212-257-6900 with any questions or concerns regarding your pet. We look forward to speaking with you.

Julie Horton, DVM

Treating Ear Infections in Pets

Ear infections are one of the most common reasons why pet owners visit the Worth Street Veterinary Center. These infections cause constant scratching and discomfort, and they can often lead to restless nights—for both your pet and you. Certain dog breeds—specifically, Spaniels, Retrievers and Hounds—are more prone to infections due to the anatomical structure of their ears. However, most pets will have at least one episode of otitis (in layman’s terms, inflammation or infection of the ear) in their lifetime. In most instances it’s one isolated event, but some pets will have recurrent ear problems.

When we look at these infections, we usually find a combination of organisms, the most common being yeast elements, followed by bacteria, and lastly (and less commonly), ear mites. Ear mites tend to be more common in young cats, specially when they live in outdoor colonies or when they arrive at a shelter.

I’d like to focus on the yeast and bacterial infections since they are most common. But what, specifically, are the signs of an ear infection? First, an increased buildup of brownish, sticky discharge that tends to come back shortly after the ears are cleaned. Secondly, as the infection progresses, the ears will become smelly and eventually very uncomfortable—meaning, your dog or cat may be scratching at them a lot and shaking his head.

The first thing I’ll do when looking at a pet with itchy ears is to discern which organism is the culprit. I do this by applying a specific stain to the discharge and looking at it under the microscope. In some instances we submit cultures to an outside laboratory, which allows us to pinpoint the exact bacteria and select the specific medication to control it. Once we isolate the cause of the infection, we will start immediate treatment. This typically consists of a combination of a topical cleaning/medication and an oral therapy to control the inflammation and pain associated with the infections. Although the topical treatment is the most crucial, some of these infections are deeper into the ear, and a long oral treatment is required to eliminate the disease.

In pets where infections seem to reoccur consistently, the most common underlying cause is an allergic reaction. This will require an assessment of the potential causes for allergies, such as food and environmental allergens. At Tribeca’s Worth Street Veterinary Center, we tend to pay particular attention to the allergy-related issues; we rarely treat otitis as an isolated problem, but rather as a consequence of some other body and environmental imbalance.

In order to make sure your pet doesn’t have ear issues, try to live by the following:


  • Clean your dog’s ears regularly with a product that has a cleaning and a drying agent. Call us at 212-257-6900 for suggestions.
  • Protect your pets ears with a cotton ball during baths to avoid water entering the ear canal.
  • Be vigilant of any excessive ear discharge and address it before it becomes a more severe problem.
  • Make sure to feed your pet the right diet and supplements to help the immune system work efficiently.
  • Supplement your pet’s meals with a good source of fatty acids, such as Nordic Naturals fish oils.


  • Use random cleaning solutions without discussing with your veterinarian.
  • Ignore the 1st sign of discharge and pain.
  • Feed your pet poor quality dog food.
  • Ignore the importance of regular ear cleaning.

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