“Is this something to be worried about?” Evaluating growths on your pet


Is this something to be worried about? Evaluating growths on your pet

As a veterinarian, I use all of the skills, knowledge, experience, and information given to me to come to a confident diagnosis. Though I have to say, I am still challenged by answering the question “Is this something to be worried about?”, after my client points to a growth on their pet. Although I wish I could have the power to diagnose the moment I get asked the question, I unfortunately do not. Being human has its limitations. There is no doubt that when you notice any type of growth on your pet, you should have your veterinarian thoroughly evaluate it.

Here are a couple of things you can be mindful of prior to veterinary examination that will help you and your veterinarian diagnose the growth more accurately and more efficiently:

1. How long has the growth been there? Where is the growth located exactly?

  • You may notice the growth suddenly when you are petting your furry companion. However, if you have noticed it prior to examination for a certain period of time, please share that information with us.
  • I advise that you do a thorough body inspection on a daily basis of your pet; that way growths don’t go unnoticed!

2. What is the shape, size, color, mobility, and texture of the growth? For the growths that have been on the pet for a longer period of time, have any of these criteria changed and how long has the change been apparent?

  • This is very important information as it will help your veterinarian prioritize certain types of diagnoses.
  • Using a caliper to get a more accurate size is advisable. Call your veterinarian to discuss the right caliper to purchase for you and your pet.
  • I recommend keeping a little journal where you can write everything down, in detail!

3. Has your pet had a change in behavior coincidentally and/or surrounding the time when the growth was noticed?

  • Some growths can be associated with certain behavioral changes. Knowing whether your pet has experienced a change in demeanor will provide another piece of valuable information for your veterinarian.

4. Are there any more growths on your pet?

  • As mentioned previously, it is good to keep a journal where you jot down all the important and detailed information about any growths you appreciate on your pet.

These are just some of the questions that you can easily prepare prior to your pet’s scheduled veterinary appointment. I mentioned earlier that I recommend keeping a journal, where detailed information can be jotted down. In this journal, I also recommend that you create a little “body map” of your pet. This is a very simple thing to do and gives you an opportunity to get creative!  Please talk to your veterinarian so they can provide you an example and discuss this in more detail.

Once you have discussed the pertinent information with your veterinarian and a thorough physical examination have been performed, further diagnostic testing may be recommended. This is an essential part in determining a diagnosis. Depending on the presentation of the growth, your veterinarian will decide whether it is best to take a sample in the form of an impression smear, a fine needle aspirate, an incisional biopsy, or an excisional biopsy. Because the conversation can get very lengthy regarding these techniques, I encourage you to inquire about them during your scheduled veterinary appointment so that you and your veterinarian can determine the best course of action for your pet.

As I am sure you realized, the answer to the question “Is this something to be worried about?” is pretty complicated. Veterinarians greatly value the information and truly appreciate the time spent and effort invested by clientele so that growths get diagnosed quickly and efficiently.

Best Regards,
Iwona Popkowski, DVM


Winter 101


Your Pet and Winter Weather : The Furry Facts

Although our winter had a mild start this year, I believe it can be agreed upon that we had some unpredictably frigid days and a blizzard comeour way without warning.  Although we know what needs to be done to keep ourselves warm, healthy, and free of complications, there is uncertainty when it comes to our pets…..I believe it’s due to the fact that they can’t really speak our language! After seeing pets tackle winters for many years now, I have gained some insight into what we as pet owners need to know to keep our furry friends warm, healthy, and free of complications. These following tips can bring peace of mind as we welcome the winter season!

1. What weather is considered too cold for my pet?

How cold a pet can get depends on the pets breed. Before you put on any warming clothes, I encourage you to do some research about the breed’s origin.

  • Some dog breeds already have athick undercoat that keeps them warm. This is because the breed has evolved over time, and has adapted to much cooler climates from which it originated. If you have a healthy pet with a healthy coat that originated from a cooler climate, putting on any warming accessoriesmay cause heat exhaustion ifexpected to engage in a lot of activity.
  • It is generally known that breeds with thin hair coats and our small breed dogs have a more difficult time in the winter asthey do not acclimate to the colder weather well. It should also be noted that pets with medical conditions, puppies and geriatric dogs are more susceptible to the cold weather. Be very cautious when taking themoutdoors in inclement weather.

 2. How your pet communicates that he/she is too cold.

Continue to monitor your dog in the beginning of the season so you get a better idea of the signs your pet will give you when he/she is cold.

Signs that generally may mean your pet is cold include shaking, shivering, trying to huddle, or seekingwarmth to name a few. After you have made an educated decision regarding whether or not an extra layer of warmth is needed, you can find below some general rules of thumb to follow while considering clothing for your pet!

  • Make sure that the clothing is appropriately fitted. Your pet should be able to move freely without any obvious signs of difficulty breathing. Your pet should also be able to posture to urinate/defecate easily.
  • Give your pet some time to acclimate to their new accessory! Some pets can get really stressedwhen these accessories are placedon them and it is important to look for signs of anxiety. Gradually introducing your pet to their accessories is the way to go.
  • Last but not least, use common sense when purchasing and placing a winter accessory on your pet! If you are uncertain of any accessory, feel free to give us a call!

3. Some final thoughts and general tips regarding coldweather

  • If it is really cold, do a short leash walk with your pets near your home so they can relieve themselves.
  • Pets can get frostbite!! So please return home if your pet shows any indication of being cold as discussed above.
  • Salt on icy sidewalks is painful for thosecute little footpads! It can cause drying out and then cracking of the footpads. If you notice any abnormalities of your pet’s footpads, I strongly recommend that you schedule an appointment so we could better assess them and prescribe the right therapy!
  • Make sure that the hairs in between the toes are trimmed appropriately because they can accumulate ice! This can then lead to irritation, pain, and can predispose them to frostbite eventually.
  • Promptly wipe down and dry off the feet and the underbelly of your pet when you come home! This will help prevent them from licking any impurities off of themselves while they groom.


Warm Regards, 

Iwona Popkowski, DVM 




OUCH! : Dog Bites






Dog bites are unfortunately a common occurrence in New York City. Many times the person bit and the dog owner are left wondering what exactly happened to trigger such a reaction from an otherwise amicable pet. But even the friendliest Frenchie can act aggressive, either in a fearful way, an offensive way, and/or a defensive way. Although I am in no way a certified animal behaviorist or trainer, my experiences within the veterinary profession and as a dog owner of 16 years have taught me to read some very telling canine body language that I am excited to share with you. It is important to understand that this list is not exclusive as it is just based solely on my experiences. Also, just because a dog may not exhibit the signs discussed does not guarantee that you won’t get bit because any dog can quickly turn if they are startled by something unexpected.

1. Don’t be fooled by a wagging tail!

– Just because you see a wagging tail doesn’t mean that it’s a friendly gesture. In fact, dogs will frequently wag their tail when they are aroused in any way.

2. Standing fur does not mean they’re cold!

-Another sign of a very aroused dog is when fur along the neck, back, shoulders, or tail stands up.

3. Be cognizant of a dog that is pacing and avoiding you.

– These pets are stressed and likely fearful of the situation they are in. It is best to just let these pets relax by leaving them alone.

4. Don’t approach a dog that is showing his/her back to you or giving you the “whale eye.”

– It is unwise to startle any dog. Many dogs will act in self-defense in these situations, even if they really did not mean to hurt their loved ones in any way.

– The “whale eye” is an interesting gesture that I had the hardest time understanding myself. I have also heard it called the “side eye.” This gesture is when a dog has fixed their eyes on you with their head slightly averted. You frequently will see the whites of the eyes in a half-moon shape. These dogs would much rather avoid you than hurt you but if pushed, can become aggressive.

5. Evade dogs with ears pinned back or head held low and growling.

– This one may be obvious, but it is an important way of a dog telling us to back off!

6. Avoid a dog that is trying to look big.

– What I mean by this phrase is a dog that is standing on all four legs squarely with his ears and tail held up. Although this may mean a dog is just aroused and aware of the surrounding environment, this may mean that he is standing his/her ground too!

7. Avoid prolonged direct eye contact.

– I frequently catch people making this mistake. In human language, this is a sign of respect and attentiveness during conversation. However in dog language, this is a sign of aggression and confrontation. So please avoid this, especially if you are meeting a dog for the first time!

7. Stay away from a dog that is showing teeth and growling, snarling, or barking.

– A dog can’t tell you to stay away in a more obvious way!

So always, always, always, approach each dog with caution and consideration and remember to ask the owner of the pet first before you reach out! And if you want to approach that jovial Jack Russell that lives down the street, look out for some of these common signs before you make your move!

Warm Regards,

Iwona Popkowski DVM


Integrative Senior Care: Dakota’s story


Dakota’s story is one of my favorite ones. This beautiful American Eskimo reminds me in some ways of my grandmother, who at 101, is still going strong. Today, I want to share Dakota’s secret with you. For a 16 year old pet his size, Dakota has a very good quality of life. I’m mostly impressed at what little he’s changed over the last 3 years and how he continues to be very strong while exercising. We know that these outliers tend to have a combination of a good genetic foundation and an environment that minimizes the effect of time in the tissues. Since up to this point there’s little evidence on how much we can control the effect of genes, I am going to focus on the importance of some of the environmental factors.

His owner Adina Newman has been very diligent over the years in taking care of him, keeping up with regular vet check ups and making the extra effort to maintain good dental health.

Over the years, Dakota has developed some of the typical problems associated with senility, including poor sleeping patterns during the night time and moments of arthritic discomfort . However, even though he sleeps during a big chunk of the day, Dakota is still very strong and active.

I feel that an important component to his quality of life is that Dakota has adhered to a routine that keeps him engaged with other pets and people on a regular basis, going to daycare often and having a weekly exercise routine at Water4dogs. He loves his 45 minutes sessions with the team in the pool and treadmill. I have no doubts that maintaining his muscular strength and conditioning has played a big Dakota, additionally, receives a combination of injectable glucosamine, fatty acids, milk thistle and other supplements designed to help with the oxidative changes that go on in his body and brain. If Dakota gets any flareups of arthritic pain, we may use acupuncture or laser therapy to alleviate the tissue inflammation and pain. These alternatives allow us to rely minimally in any other anti-inflammatory (pain) medicine.

Dakota exemplifies the integrative methods that we utilize in maintaining quality of life in the senior pet population. The rest is up to him and his owner, who have both put the best efforts during this process and we commend them for this. Click on the video to enjoy Dakota during one of his work outs. Way to go Dakota, keep strong!


How to care for your aging pet (Part 2)


We can all agree that we want our pets to continue to live longer. Our aging pet care series blog is designed to inform the reader on tips to maintain the quality of life of our pets as they grow older.

We last discussed certain indicators of our pets’ quality of life that we can pay attention to at home on a daily basis. Today, I will go over 4 recommended steps to better monitor our pets as they age.

 What is the cutoff for when my pet becomes geriatric?

This is not always an easy question to answer. In general, toy breed dogs live longer than giant breeds. An expected life span for ‘Ginger’, the Toy Poodle is 12-15 years, whereas ‘Moe’ the Great Dane is expected to only live for 8-10 years. Furthermore, ‘Fluffy’ the feline can easily live to 20 years old!! However, most veterinarians agree that at 8 years of age and older, your pet is considered “senior” or geriatric simply because we start to see an increased incidence of age related disorders at this age.

So, what do I do if I begin to notice changes in my pet’s lifestyle and habits?

The answer to these questions is not always so simple. However, one the most influential factors in being able to successfully manage chronic, degenerative conditions that occur in aging pets is early detection of the disease. The most effective way is by increasing our level of monitoring as our pets age.

The following are suggestions on how we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the health status of our pet as they age in order to keep them healthy as long as possible:

  •  Decreased dependency on vaccinations: Because most of our pets’ vaccines have been repeatedly boosted throughout their lives, we can sometimes decrease the amount of vaccines that we give as they age. For certain vaccinations, like the Distemper/Parvovirus vaccines, we can do an immunological test, called a titer, to assess whether or not we need to boost this vaccine. However, for the rabies vaccine, it is required by law to keep your pet up to date.
  • Bi-Annual Veterinary Exams: For a senior pet it is ideal to have regular physical exams more than just once a year. A complete physical exam is often the most useful tool that a veterinarian has. During this exam, the patient is examined from head-to-toe, including a thorough exam of the ears, eyes, nose, throat, heart, lungs, all abdominal organs, musculoskeletal system, and neurologic system.
  • Senior Wellness Diagnostic Testing: This often includes complete, broad-spectrum blood work and urine testing. These tests allow for a better understanding of the underlying function of all organ systems including the liver, kidneys, total blood cell counts, reproductive/endocrine systems, electrolytes, and proteins. We recommend to this panel at least once a year.
  • Xrays/Abdominal Ultrasounds: These are imaging tools that allow your veterinarian to combine a picture with the test results that they collect from the senior wellness testing, helping to create a complete understanding of your pet’s health on a microscopic and macroscopic level.

At The Worth Street Veterinary Center, we are committed to creating a smooth transition into senior pet care. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a senior wellness exam, please feel free to email or call our office. Let’s grow old together!

Dr. Jonathan Block

How to care for your aging pet (Part I)


People and their pets are living longer and, as veterinarians, we are often challenged to find ways to maintain the health and improve the quality of life of our aging patients. It’s a well known fact that aging is not a disease but a natural component of the life cycle. However, it is also true that a senior pet is more likely to be affected by chronic debilitating diseases than the younger crowd.

 At the Worth Street Veterinary Center we strive to communicate to pet owners the importance of noticing changes in their pet’s behavior. We encourage every owner to start addressing these changes early in the aging process of their animal companion.

 Pets instinctively are very good at hiding some of the typical signs of aging and have a tendency to cope with pain and discomfort without necessarily exhibiting clear signs of it.

 Here are four basic areas that we think are important indicators of your pets quality of life:

  •  Appetite/Thirst: Changes in these can be a sign of certain underlying systemic disorders that occur commonly as our pets age.
  • Elimination Habits: Changes in the frequency or volume/consistency of urination and defecation can be one of the most reliable ways to monitor your pet’s health.

  • Ability to move around: Arthritis is quite common among older pets. However, rarely do they show us when they are in pain. Subtle signs (slow getting up or decreased desire to run) can be signs of arthritis or orthopedic disease. Early detection helps slow down the progression of disease.

  • Sleep Habits: It is normal for pets to sleep more as they get older. Therefore, difficulty sleeping or excessive panting while trying to rest can be associated with discomfort.

Pay attention to these simple functions and if you notice any changes, consult with your veterinarian.

These physical ailments interconnect with the emotional and environmental well being of our pets. Striking the right balance among these issues is the key to maintaining and improving quality of life. We strongly believe that the best way to find balance is by integrating multiple medical modalities and holistic concepts. Stay tuned for our next blog entry where we’ll elaborate on this topic. We hope that we can all learn together and empower you to help your pet through the late stages of life!


Dr. DiPolo and Dr. Block

Spring is Here! What can I do to keep my pet safe?


As the weather warms up, we love spending more time outdoors with our pets. But when the temperature remains above freezing, insects like fleas, ticks and mosquitos start to circulate in higher numbers. Warmer weather is also a more hospitable environment for infectious viruses (like distemper and parvovirus), gastrointestinal worms (like hookworms and roundworms) and single celled parasites (like giardia and coccidia.)

So what can you do?

Here are some tips to help you keep your pet safe this season:

-Don’t forget your flea and tick prevention! Fleas and ticks can transmit diseases and can cause your pet to be very uncomfortable. They are typically easily prevented with a once a month product, like Vectra.

-Let’s stay heartworm free! Heartworms are a potentially fatal blood parasite that are transmitted by mosquitoes. They are easily prevented by a once a month tablet. These preventatives offer cross protection for most intestinal worms as well. Examples of commonly used products include Heartguard, Interceptor, or Trifexis.

-Say yes to vaccines! Now that you and your pet are spending more time outdoors, up-to-date vaccinations are a must! Warmer weather allows for infectious viruses to live longer in the environment and more time outdoors means more risk of exposure to these nasty viruses.

Rinse off or wipe down. After coming inside from a long play session, consider rinsing off or wiping down to reduce the accumulation of dirt and allergens on your pet’s skin and coat. These can contribute to itchy skin conditions that are uncomfortable for us and for them. (Seasonal allergies blog, coming soon).

It’s very exciting to get outdoors during spring and summer. We want everyone to stay healthy and have lots of fun. If you have any questions about outdoor safety, parasite prevention or anything at all, please feel free to contact The Worth Street Veterinary Center at (212)257-6900.

Stay Safe and Have Fun!!

Jonathan S. Block, DVM, CVA



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