What do you mean – Fear Free?

What do you mean – Fear Free?

Two cats relaxing together after surgery.

What do you mean – fear free?  Picture Sally, a young woman about to enter an office.  See if you can guess where Sally is…

Sally opens the door and sees that the walls are covered in warm and tranquil colors, she hears the sounds of trickling water and soft music humming in the background, and the air is filled with a hint of lavender that immediately puts her at ease. Can you guess where Sally is?

Most might imagine that Sally has just entered a spa. However, Sally actually just entered her dentist office. What made the dentist want to change their office to resemble a spa? Remember that Sally was immediately put at ease….ah ha – we might be onto something.

Did you know that dentist rank as one of the most feared places to go?  Dentists have spent a long time researching how to get people into their offices. We all understand that dental health is important, but getting us to schedule an appointment and actually go is a whole other story. The next thing is how much anxiety do you have while you are there. They learned that massage chairs, TVs, warm colors, tranquil music and sounds all help the body relax and stay calm. Many dentists have adopted these principles when designing their offices. They care about our dental health and if we are more likely to commit to going to the dentist if we have a good experience, then why not make the change.

So how does this relate to veterinary medicine and becoming fear free? If doctor and dental offices can create a stress free environment for their patients, why shouldn’t veterinary hospitals take the necessary steps to achieve the same comfortable fear free experience for their patients? Well, at Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital we are!

The Fear Free Initiative lead by America’s veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, simply means we focus on your pet’s physical well-being as well as their emotional well-being. Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital believes a fear free initiative will allow us to continue to strengthen the human-animal bond.

The North American Veterinary Community and the American Animal Hospital Association have created VetFolio, a joint partnership. The Vetfolio team created an eight module certification program in conjunction with board-certified veterinary behaviorists, practice management experts, and veterinary technicians. The modules teach veterinary professionals how to create a calming fear free environment for patients, and educate clients on how to participate in achieving a fear free visit.

As the GVH team begins training to obtain certification, you may see some of the following changes designed to reduce stressful visits:

  • A blue towel sprayed with Feliway (a pheromone designed to help felines adjust to difficult situations) may be placed over your cat carrier or on the exam room table to calm our feline friends.
  • Music in our lobby and recovery areas will be kept below 60 decibels, which research shows is less stressful for patients.

  • Music selections will change to a more classical theme better suited to your pet’s sense of hearing.

  • Lower volume on phone ringers will be adopted throughout our office.

  • Our team may offer you a 5 minute “fun“ visit. To help reinforce that coming to the vet is not always a “bad” thing.

  • Our team may spoil your pet with treats as a distraction while performing certain procedures.




Cancer Awareness

Cancer Awareness

You Can Make A Difference

Go to the Bark for Life website to learn how you can get involved.

  • Find an Event
  • Volunteer as a survivor or caregiver
  • Donate your time or money

Bark for Life logo

What is Cancer?

Cancer is cells within the body that are growing and dividing in an abnormal manner and rate often forming tumors or masses. These growths can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Sometimes the cancer cells do not form growths; instead, they affect the blood, which causes abnormal cells to circulate throughout the body.

Is My Pet At Risk?

Awareness is the first step to helping your pet.  Did you know that cancer is the #1 disease-related killer of pets? Pets of any age can develop cancer however, it is more common in adult and older pets. Certain breeds of dogs and cats are known to have a higher chance of some types of cancer. Early detection of pet cancer is vital for successful treatment and recovery.

Is Pet Cancer Treatable?

In some cases, yes. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, there are more options for treating pets with cancer that can improve their longevity and quality of life. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the best course of treatment which may include surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

Detection and Diagnosis

Regular exams bring awareness and are important in the early detection and diagnosis of cancer. Annual blood screenings can catch problems before they become serious, helping to improve the odds of effectively treating pet cancer. Your veterinarian may recommend additional x-rays, ultrasound or other diagnostic tests.

Early Warning Signs From the American Veterinary Medical Association

  • Abnormal swelling that continues to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight Loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Offensive odor
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
Pet Sitter: The Right Fit For You

Pet Sitter: The Right Fit For You

When preparing to go away, pet owners often find themselves wondering what the best care for their pet would be. While kennels are a great place for pets to be social, receive daily care, and are safe, they aren’t always the best option for all pets.  If your pet tends to become more stressed in social situations, doesn’t like other pets, takes medication or is elderly and needs a little more TLC, a pet sitter might be the best option for them. A pet sitter is also a great option for exotics.

As the previous owner, manager and pet sitter of a pet sitting company, I am excited to share some of my knowledge about the industry with you.

What are the advantages of having a pet sitter?

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a pet sitter is that you will know that your pet will remain in the comfort of your home while you’re away. I truly believe that the pet’s own home is the least stressful place and most comfortable place for them with everything around them looking, smelling and feeling familiar.  And because your pet is staying at home, you will not need to pack their bed, toys, food, or medications to take to the kennel. There’s also no need for them to have additional immunizations that are typically required by most kennels or pet hotels.

Pet sitters also offer an array of services to meet any pet owner’s budget from one short visit a day for a quick potty break and a walk to staying at your home 24/7 while you are away.

With at home care your pet will get one on one attention with visits typically including play time, exercise, feeding, fresh water, and lots of hugs and kisses. Even if a pet is not social, an owner can still benefit from having a sitter come into the house to see that the pet is doing well, change out the food and water, and take care of the home itself.  Most home care includes bringing in mail and packages, so it appears that someone is home, watering indoor or outdoor plants, or even shoveling the snow during those winter months to make it safe for the pet and owners when they return home.

You’ve decided to hire a pet sitter, now what?

Once you’ve decided that hiring a pet sitter is the right choice for you and your pet now is the time to do some research. A great website to start your research is Pet Sitters International. This website lists all pet sitters who are accredited and reputable.  You can search by zip code and refine your search by what services you are specifically looking for.

After you’ve compiled a list of possible pet sitters, go to their websites if they have one and take notes.  Does the site look like the owner put a lot of thought and effort into it? Does it look up to date? Does it have referrals from other clients or reviews?  Next call and/or email them. Take note whether they pick up right away or return your phone call/email promptly. Can they answer any questions you have? Do you feel comfortable with them over the phone? Did they make an effort to get to know you and your pet(s), and schedule an at home consultation?

Preparing for the Consultation

Before the consultation write down a list of things you would like to go over with the pet sitter and questions you have.  Essentially, this is an interview.  The pet sitter should be prepared, and they should have questions for you as well.  Take notes to how your pet reacts to them and visa versa.  Are they friendly with your pet?  Do they seem genuinely interested in your pet?

Things to Find Out:

  • Do they have a contract? (a plus)
  • Is there an additional charge for bringing in the mail, watering the plants, etc.?
  • Do you need to put a deposit down or will they bill you when you return?
  • Is there a cancellation policy (especially during a holiday)?

Make Sure You Tell Your Pet Sitter:

  • The person of contact should you be unavailable and in the case of an emergency
  • The person that can make decisions for your pet
  • How to get in contact with you while you are away
  • Your veterinarian’s name and contact information
  • Show them the location of things such as: pet’s feeding station and food, where your pet sleeps, leash, fuse box should the power go out

You will need to give your pet sitter a key.  I always liked to have two keys – one to have on hand and one to have as a backup should something happen to the first.  I labeled each with a specific code so they couldn’t be traced back to the person’s home should they get lost. Do not rely on a garage door opener, keyless entry, or anything else electric in case these malfunction due to low battery or power outage.

Absolutely, make sure your pet sitter is insured, bonded and certified in pet first aid and are at least 21 years of age.  This protects the pet owner and the pet sitter should anything happen to the pet, home or the sitter themselves.

Once you’ve chosen your sitter and booked the dates you need them, it’s recommended that you call your veterinarian just to let them know someone will be watching your pet and they have permission to bring your pet in case of an emergency. It’s also important to notify any neighbors you trust so they don’t think someone is breaking into your home.

Now that you have found the best care for your pet, you can sit back and relax and enjoy your vacation, knowing you’ve made the right decision!

Jess, GVH Veterinary Technician



dog and cat on a couch
Your Pet’s Dental Care Is Important

Your Pet’s Dental Care Is Important

Dental care is an important part of your pet’s overall health. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to problems within the mouth such as pain, bad breath, and tooth loss but can also cause disease elsewhere in the body, like the heart and kidneys. While your veterinarian can diagnose and treat these problems, it is preferable to avoid them if possible. Below are some steps you can take to keep your pet healthy by keeping their mouth healthy.

  • Home dental care: Studies have shown that daily tooth brushing is the single most effective tool to reduce plaque and tartar. While it helps to start introducing a toothbrush to your pet when they are still young, almost all dogs and cats can be trained to accept having their teeth brushed. There are a variety of brush options, but the most important consideration is using pet-friendly toothpaste. Pet toothpaste is safe to swallow and comes in flavors like seafood and chicken. If your pet is not tolerant of tooth brushing, there are still other good options for providing at home dental care, including oral rinses, dental diets and dental chews.

When purchasing products, look for The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance. Also remember that while chewing can decrease plaque, the American Veterinary Dental College does not recommend pets chewing on hard objects such as natural bones, cow hooves or antlers because it can lead to tooth fractures.

  • Routine oral exam: At every wellness visit, we check your pet’s mouth for signs of dental disease. We assess the teeth for tartar, root exposure and look for obvious fractures. We also check the gingiva (gums) for inflammation, as evidenced by swelling or bleeding. Additionally we examine the outside of the mouth, checking the surrounding tissues for any abnormalities. When the pet will tolerate it, we also examine the palate, tongue and pharynx as best possible. However, even with the most cooperative of pets, exams while pets are awake are somewhat limited, which is part of the reason regular dental prophylaxis (cleanings) are important.
  • Prophylaxis (Cleanings): Even with excellent home care, tartar will accumulate on the surface of the teeth. A prophylaxis is a dental cleaning procedure done under anesthesia that includes a thorough oral exam and cleaning (scale and polish) of your pet’s teeth.  Generally, routine dental cleanings begin for small/toy breed dogs and cats around the age of three, while large breeds can begin regular cleanings at the age of five; however this varies by individual and breed and is dependent on your pet’s overall health assessment. Please discuss the specifics of this procedure with your veterinarian to see if it is right for your pet. If advanced disease is present, dental radiographs and extractions (surgical removal of teeth) may be needed; however our goal is to prevent the need for this with early interventions.

Another good source of information for pet owners is the American Veterinary Dental College.


Amanda M. Theodore, VMD, GVH Veterinarian

Most Commonly Treated Cat Toxins

Most Commonly Treated Cat Toxins

Over the years the team at Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital has seen many cats that have accidently ingested some common household items. Here is a list of the top most commonly treated cat toxins:

ibuprofenNon-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications (NSAIDS): The most common include Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Just like their canine counterparts, cats are very sensitive to these types of medications. Even a single tablet may lead to liver or kidney damage. If you suspect your cat may have been exposed contact your veterinarian immediately.

English Ivy: While it works great as an appealing ground cover, if eaten by your cat it can lead to vomiting, incoordination, sedation and difficulty breathing. While most cats leave this alone, if you notice your cat likes a little salad, best to keep them away from this plant.

Lillies (ANY OF THEM): While these are beautiful holiday flowers, they are very toxic to cats. Unfortunately, any part of the plant (petals, leaves, stems, water) can be dangerous. Not all cats become sick, but those that are sensitive can develop kidney failure. If you have an indoor cat, please leave these at the store.

Sago Palm: This is a tropical plant that is a new addition to many large hardware stores. If any part of the plant is eaten it is very toxic. Ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dark stools and liver damage. If adding any new members to your indoor garden, leave this one alone.

Amaryllis: Another beautiful but deadly indoor flower. While it might be fun to nibble on a petal here and there, ingestion will lead to vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and possible tremors. Stick to roses.

Rodenticide (Rat Poison): This one’s a no brainer. If it kills rats, it’s probably not good for your cat. Most rodenticides contain anticoagulants, which will cause excessive bleeding. Please keep this out of any part of your house, and if your cat is exposed contact your veterinarian immediately. If treated early, many of the symptoms can be avoided. Got a rat problem? Get more cats.

Chocolate: The ingredients that are problematic for cats are closely related to caffeine. Because of cat’s smaller size, they are particularly sensitive to chocolate if ingested. While the most toxic are dark, semi-sweet, and baking chocolate, please contact your veterinarian if your cat is exposed to any of the above.

Marijuana: Baking some goodies at home? Please keep them sealed up in a container that cannot be opened by your cat or dogs at home. While a normal plate of cookies might only lead to a large bowel movement, this special ingredient may lead to a trip to the emergency hospital. Most common symptoms are dilated pupils, sedation, and difficulty walking.

For more information on toxins that can be harmful to your cat, check out the GVH Pinterest Board Poison Control.

Jonathan O. Smith, VMD – GVH Veterinarian

Indoor Only Cats

Indoor Only Cats

Amanda M. Theodore, VMD GVH Veterinarian

Your pet’s lifestyle makes a big impact on their health, and one of the most important lifestyle choices that cat owners make is whether their pets will live indoors, outdoors or some combination of the two. Where your cat lives will influence their diet and activity level as well as exposure to infections and predators. At every veterinary visit our team will ask if your feline is an indoor only cat or outdoor cat because knowing where your cat lives will help us tailor a health care plan specific to their individual needs.

An “indoor only cat” is a cat that never goes outside. If your cat goes out on a porch, in a fenced-in backyard, on the sidewalk with a leash, goes outside only for a short period of time under your supervision or sometimes they sneak out of the door, then they are not “indoor only” cats.

In many ways, being an indoor-only cat promotes a lower-risk life; these pets are not at risk of being hit by cars, eaten by predators (or being the predator – harming bird populations) and have lower exposure rates to certain parasites and infections such as FeLV and FIV. However, this does not mean that an indoor life equals a healthy life. Many indoor-only cats are sedentary, which increases the likelihood that they will become overweight, thereby predisposing them to diseases like osteoarthritis and diabetes. Additionally, many indoor-only cats do not have appropriate environmental enrichment and may have higher incidences of behavioral health problems, such as inappropriate elimination and destructive scratching.

If you are planning on having your pet indoor-only, here are some important considerations:

  • Routine Wellness Exams: All cats need regular veterinary care! Routine well-visits should be scheduled yearly to keep your pet up to date on important vaccines and perform screening tests to check for early signs of illness which may not be apparent on physical examination.
  • Parasite control: Indoor only cats can still get parasites like fleas, intestinal worms and heartworm. Using a safe and appropriate monthly preventive is important.
  • Appropriate Diets: Select the right diet for your pet’s life stage and health needs and be sure to feed the appropriate recommended daily amount.
  • Vertical space: Cats like to perch in high places, this allows them to feel safe and survey the room around them.
  • Scratching: Scratching is a normal behavior; cats scratch to do more than sharpen their claws, it also lets them stretch and leave scent marks so even declawed cats need an appropriate place for this natural behavior.
  • Litterboxes: Make sure to have enough – a good rule is to have one more litterbox than the number of cats in the home. Be sure to clean them daily!
  • Exercise: Most indoor only cats are content to sleep most of the day, but encouraging play is a form of exercise and this helps keep them fit and healthy as well as stimulates them mentally, preventing boredom.

Here are some links to great resources for your indoor cat:






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