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Protecting Your Pets: Parasite Prevention in 2017

With our unusual winter weather, parasites will be quite abundant this year. Is your pet adequately protected? In 2016, we had 104 dogs test positive for Lyme disease, 26 dogs test positive for Ehrlichia, 68 dogs test positive for Anaplasma, and 8 dogs test positive for heartworm disease. Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma are all tick-borne diseases; heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. These diseases can be a significant threat to your pet if unprotected. Our goal is to help you protect your pets and reduce the prevalence of these diseases in our pet community.

All dogs should receive Heartgard Plus, Tri-Heart Plus, or an equivalent product once monthly year round for heartworm, roundworm, and hookworm prevention. Nexgard and Frontline Gold are our recommended products for flea and tick prevention in dogs. Nexgard is a chewable tablet to prevent fleas and ticks, while Frontline Gold is applied topically. Frontline Gold has an additional ingredient called pyriproxyfen to help prevent the growth and development of fleas. It is as safe as Frontline Plus, but more effective; Nexgard is the most effective product available. This year, when you purchase 12 Heartgard Plus and 12 Nexgard or Frontline Gold at St Francis, you will receive a $50 mail-in rebate.

Did you know that many cats are left unprotected? Like dogs, cats are susceptible to heartworm disease, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks. Heartworm disease in cats is difficult to diagnose. Clinical signs may include coughing, respiratory signs, vomiting, lethargy, or even sudden death. Since there is no treatment for this disease in cats, prevention is essential. For cats, we recommend Revolution once monthly from May through October. At St Francis, when you purchase 6 doses of Revolution, you receive 2 doses free. If your pet is outdoors often and has significant tick exposure, we recommend a combination of Revolution and Frontline Gold.


Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria (spirochete) called Leptospira interrogans. Dogs usually become infected when infected urine is ingested in water, food, bedding, soil, plants, or other contaminated material. Infection may also occur if the bacteria are absorbed through damaged skin. Wild animals such as raccoons, squirrels, rodents, skunks, opossums, deer and farm animals serve as reservoirs for this disease. Less commonly, infection may be transmitted between dogs. The organism can survive in the environment for weeks to months.

Following infection, the bacteria target the kidneys and liver. Clinical signs of leptospirosis vary. Often, pets have no clinical signs or nonspecific signs such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, increased water consumption, lethargy, or weakness. Unfortunately, many other more common clinical conditions can cause these clinical signs, so leptospirosis is easily missed in these early stages. Kidney failure, liver failure, joint pain, muscle pain, stiffness, spontaneous bleeding, and meningitis are some of the more severe clinical issues seen with this disease.

A vaccination is available that offers protection against four of the six serovars in Minnesota: L. icterohaemorrhagiae, L. canicola, L. grippotyphosa, and L. pomona. While this vaccine does not offer 100% protection, vaccination is still recommended. If possible, keep rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and deer out of your yard and avoid contact with urine from farm animals. Lastly, prevent the accumulation of standing water in your yard and prevent your dog from drinking from water puddles. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease; humans are susceptible. We encourage you to take these steps to protect yourself and your pets.

Vetsource:  Our Online Store

We understand how challenging it is to fit one more errand into your busy day. That’s why we offer an online store to purchase your pet’s food and medications when it’s convenient for you! Not all online sources are reputable, and in fact, some of the largest ‘online pharmacies’ like 1-800-PetMeds are simply large warehouses staffed with non-veterinary personnel. Products may be dispensed incorrectly, labeled inappropriately, or expired; these products are not supplied by veterinary manufacturers. There are often no trained professionals to discuss side effects or other medical concerns with you.

By authorizing a phone or fax prescription directly from one of these large warehouses, we are responsible for the products that you receive. For these reasons, we cannot directly authorize these requests. We will gladly provide you with a written script for any product for you to fill at a pharmacy of your choice or you may visit our online store. Our store is powered by Vetsource, a veterinarian-approved, reputable source for your pet’s food and medications. Because it is affiliated with a veterinary practice, we can offer the same guarantees that you would have if you purchased products directly from us.

For preventative products such as Heartgard Plus, Nexgard, or Frontline Gold, our in-house prices tend to be more competitive than any online pharmacy due to the rebate offers we can provide. However, for those who prefer to buy one month at a time or who need to spread out the annual costs, Vetsource offers a monthly autoship of these products directly to your door – one dose at a time. In addition, if your pet is on a prescription diet, you can sign up for autoship of your pet’s favorite food and you may receive an additional 15% off! Our goal is to save you both time and money while providing the best care for your pet. Click here to learn more about these options.

News Briefs

St Francis Integrative Services: Massage Therapy: Massage can be a valuable component of physical therapy for your pet. While massage therapy is most often applied after an injury, massage may be useful for many other purposes as well. Massage therapy can be used routinely to help maintain your active pet before an injury even occurs and is very beneficial for pain management in aging animals. To learn more, please contact Christine Severance, CVT, CMT at (651) 645-2808.

St Francis’ 25th Anniversary: We are celebrating our 25th Anniversary in April 2017. Visit us on Facebook on the 25th of each month to help us celebrate with great prizes and exciting events!

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Sunday, September 10th from 1-4 pm. We’ll be hosting an Open House celebration at both St Francis and St Francis Integrative Services. We hope to see everyone there!

Thank You For You: Thank you so much for loving St Francis! If you refer a new client to us, ask them to give us your name when they visit us for the first time. We’ll send you a $20 coupon for each new client you send our way. In addition, if you write a positive review on Google, Yelp, or Facebook, let us know and we’ll send you a $10 coupon for sharing your thoughts! We love being part of your family and your pets’ lives!


Image credit:  Solovyova | Getty Images

Are you knocked over by Bailey’s bad breath? Does Max have a yellow film on his teeth? Are Matilda’s gums red? Dental disease is one of the most common diseases that we treat in dogs and cats, and with regular tooth brushing, we can help reduce the risks of this disease.
national pet dental healthThe goal of tooth brushing is to slow the progression of tartar accumulation on the teeth and reduce the frequency of professional dental cleanings for your pet.

As you begin working on home dental care with your pet, it is important to keep the activity very positive. Provide praise and positive reinforcement so this becomes a fun activity for both of you. Keep in mind that it is important to be safe -- if your pet growls or bites when you attempt brushing, this may not be safe for you to do.

Minnesota has a high prevalence of tick-borne diseases including Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.  In fact, in Ramsey County alone, 1 in 14 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease and 1 in 22 dogs tested positive for Anaplasmosis in 2015.  (For additional information about the prevalence of these diseases, please visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) to review the prevalence maps for your county.)

Due to the high prevalence of these diseases in our area, we are recommending tick-borne disease screening for all dogs, not just those showing clinical signs of disease, along with the annual heartworm test.  The 4Dx test evaluates your dog for heartworm disease, Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma.  

a) Heartworm Disease: Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection transmitted by mosquitoes.  Symptoms may include mild persistent cough, fatigue, inability to exercise, weight loss, or reduced appetite.  Many dogs do not show clinical signs until their disease is advanced.

b) Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks.  Symptoms may include lameness, reluctance to move, swollen or painful joints, lack of energy, or an increase in urination.  Lyme disease can cause chronic damage to the joints and kidneys.

c) Ehrlichiosis: Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by brown dog ticks and lone star ticks.  Symptoms may include loss of appetite, depression, lameness, swollen or painful joints, bleeding abnormalities, and pale gums.  Some pets may develop life-threatening changes to their red blood cells or platelets with this disease.

d) Anaplasmosis: Anaplasmosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks and brown dog ticks.  Symptoms may include lack of energy, lameness, swollen or painful joints, and a loss of appetite.  Some pets may develop life-threatening changes to their red blood cells or platelets with this disease.

Negative Test Results

If your dog is negative for all four diseases, no further diagnostic testing is necessary.  A 4Dx test will be recommended annually.

Positive Test Results

1) If your dog is positive for heartworm disease, we will recommend additional diagnostic testing and will discuss his or her treatment options with you. 

2) If your pet tests positive for Lyme, Ehrlichia, or Anaplasma, it's important to understand that this test only indicates the presence of antibodies against these organisms.  A positive test indicates exposure to these organisms, but it does not necessarily indicate that there is clinical disease.  A positive test warrants additional testing to evaluate whether therapy is necessary.  


If your pet tests positive for Lyme, we will recommend a quantitative test called a Quant C6.  This test provides a numerical measurement of his antibody level.  If this value is low, treatment may not be necessary.  This value will also provide a baseline prior to treatment to allow us to measure success of therapy (if needed).  Some patients require extended therapy to treat this disease.  The cost of the Quant C6 test is $49.50.  It will require an additional blood draw that may be scheduled as a technician appointment.  If your pet has any clinical signs, we may also recommend specific testing to evaluate his or her kidney function.

Anaplasma or Ehrlichia:

If your pet tests positive for Anaplasma or Ehrlichia and is not symptomatic, these diseases may not require treatment. However, both diseases can cause life-threatening changes to the white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets.  If positive, it is important to make sure that these values are normal.  We recommend a follow up complete blood count (CBC) for all patients who test positive for these organisms.  The cost of this test is $58.50.  It will require an additional blood draw that may be scheduled as a technician appointment.

Tick-borne diseases can cause a variety of signs, including joint pain, stiffness, lethargy, neurological signs, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and abnormalities in the blood cells.  In some cases, these diseases can be life-threatening.  Treatment consists of an extended course of antibiotics, usually doxycycline, in addition to supportive care if needed.  

Of course, we always recommend that all at-risk dogs receive monthly flea/tick prevention (Nexgard or Frontline Plus) and an annual Lyme vaccination. Ask us about our special promotions on Nexgard, Frontline Plus, and other preventative products!

If you have any questions about tick-borne diseases in your pet, please contact us at (651) 645-2808 or group@stfrancisabh.com.  Additional information can be found in our Pet Library: http://www.stfrancisanimalandbird.com/index.php/pet-resources/library/8-dog-and-cat-care/51-tick-borne-diseases-lyme-ehrlichiosis.

We are very excited to announce that St Francis is undergoing a much-needed expansion.  We recently signed a lease for space at 1235 Larpenteur Ave W located between Gold Eagle Dry Cleaning and Fresh Munchiez to the west of St Francis.  Construction at this location will begin in January and we hope to have it completed by March.

This space will consist of three exam rooms.  It will be a quiet, peaceful space for our Integrative Services.  We will be offering acupuncture, laser therapy, massage therapy, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) consultations, and hospice/palliative care at this location.  Dr. Jennifer Blair recently completed her Small Animal Acupuncture training at the Chi Institute in Florida and Christine Severance, CVT completed her Canine Massage Therapy Certification through Brandenburg Massage Therapy in Ohio this fall.  All appointments for these integrative services will be scheduled through St Francis at (651) 645-2808.

In addition, Dr. Annie Seefeldt and her team with Chiropractic for Every Body (CFE) will be routinely providing chiropractic services and other integrative services from this location as well.  Chiropractic services may be scheduled directly with CFE at (952) 484-5460.

We are pleased to be able to offer you these complimentary modalities to help alleviate pain and other chronic disease conditions in your loved ones.  If you have questions about how these services can benefit your pets, please call us at (651) 645-2808.  


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Most people enjoy chocolate, and not surprisingly, most pets do too!  Unfortunately, chocolate can be toxic to pets and can lead to severe clinical signs including vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, ataxia (‘drunkenness’), increased heart rate, heart arrhythmias, increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, difficulty breathing, and even death.

Why Is It Toxic?

The toxic compounds in chocolate are methylxanthines – this includes both theobromine and caffeine.  These compounds inhibit cellular receptors, stimulate the central nervous system, and enhance cardiac and skeletal muscle contractility.  In addition, the high fat content in chocolate leads to local gastrointestinal irritation (vomiting and diarrhea), and in severe cases, a serious disease called pancreatitis.  Clinical signs occur within 12 hours, but most pets will begin exhibiting signs within 1-4 hours of ingestion.

Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine and caffeine.  Relative amounts of methylxanthines in chocolate are as follows:

Compound Theobromine (mg/oz) Caffeine (mg/oz)
White chocolate 0.25 0.85
Milk chocolate 58 6
Dark chocolate 130 20
Semi-sweet chocolate 138 22
Baker’s unsweetened chocolate 393 47
Dry cocoa powder 737 70


While we generally consider 100 mg/kg to be a toxic dose, some patients will exhibit clinical signs at a dose as low as 20 mg/kg.  However, often, we don’t know the type or amount of chocolate that was ingested, so it is best to proceed as if the ingestion was the worst-case scenario. 


Treatment depends on the amount of methylxanthines ingested, the time of ingestion, and the patient’s clinical signs.  If recent ingestion occurred, vomiting is induced to evacuate the stomach.  In severe cases, sedation and gastric lavage with a stomach tube may be performed to evacuate the stomach contents.  Activated charcoal is administered to bind the toxins in the gastrointestinal tract.  Fluid therapy, anti-vomiting medications, gastrointestinal protectants, and a bland diet may be prescribed.  In severe cases, patients require intensive care including intravenous fluid therapy, continuous EKG monitoring, oxygen support, urinary catheterization, and intravenous medications to manage seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, and abnormal respirations. 


If treated promptly, most patients with chocolate toxicity recover, but it is important to understand that chocolate ingestion can lead to severe complications and even death.  It is best to avoid chocolate ingestion in your pet.  During the holidays (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Easter) when chocolate is abundant, make sure it is kept out of reach of your pet.  If you suspect ingestion, contact your veterinarian immediately.


Image credit:  Susan Schmitz | Shutterstock

We are very pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Charlie Cosimini to St. Francis Animal Hospital.

Dr. Charlie Cosimini received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2015. His professional interests include dentistry, dermatology, medicine, surgery, and avian/exotics. He loves working with all types of animals as he spent his childhood with dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds.

Charlie is a member of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV), and Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV).

Charlie lives with his wife, Amy, and their rambunctious cat, Cimorene. In his spare time, he enjoys painting, gardening, and cross country skiing.

We have every confidence that you will find him to be an excellent addition to your trusted St Francis veterinary team.

Canine influenza had received media attention recently and many pet owners have questions. Previously, this was a disease that had not affected the Midwest states, though in the past month, 34 cases have been confirmed in the Chicago area. To date, we have had five cases in Minnesota.

The following information is provided courtesy of Veterinary Information Network: VP Client Information Sheets:

Influenza A virus in dogs (canine influenza virus, CIV, canine flu) is a respiratory tract disease that mimics bordetellosis (Bordetella bronchiseptica infection, kennel cough, infectious tracheobronchitis). However, unlike many cases of bordetellosis, the dog needs veterinary care.

Canine influenza is caused by a highly contagious virus that was identified in Florida in 2005 when it caused several severe respiratory outbreaks in racing greyhounds. The disease appears to occur most frequently in high-density dog populations: dogs who are housed with numerous other dogs in places such as shelters, boarding facilities, breeding kennels, pet stores, rescue groups, dog shows, and greyhound racing tracks. The disease is thought to have originated as a mutation of an influenza strain that affects horses and is not related to typical human influenza strains or the avian flu.

We are excited to announce that Christine Severance, one of our Certified Veterinary Technicians (CVT), has recently completed training through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) to become a Certified Pet Bereavement Counselor. She has a special interest in hospice and palliative care as well as pet loss and grief counseling. With this certification, she will be able to provide our clients with valuable resources during these difficult times. To learn more about the APLB, please visit their website at: http://www.aplb.org. Congratulations, Chris!


Every dog should have a Heartworm Test performed every year. Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes and live in your dog’s heart and vessels of the lungs. This simple blood test will tell us if your dog has heartworm disease and allows us to initiate appropriate treatment.


If your dog is over 8 years of age or has never had a baseline chemistry panel, this is an excellent panel to perform. It provides us with a basic Heartworm Test as well as valuable screening information about your dog’s liver, kidneys, blood glucose, and protein level.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council has developed important guidelines for protecting pets and pet owners from parasitic infections. St. Francis Animal Hospital is committed to providing you with these important guidelines and helping you make choices that will protect your loved ones.

Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are intestinal parasites found in both dogs and cats. A nationwide study revealed that more than 1 out of 3 untreated dogs were infected by at least one of these intestinal parasites. While pets infected with intestinal parasites may exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, blood loss, and even death, many infected pets show no clinical signs of illness, yet can be shedding up to 200,000 parasite eggs in the feces every day!


To our valued clients,

Our hospital currently does not authorize fax or phone prescriptions to 1-800-PetMeds® or other pharmaceutical warehouses for prescription products. We have thoughtfully chosen this policy for the following reasons:

  • Novartis, Zoetis, Bayer, Merial, Merck and other veterinary drug companies have informed the veterinary community that they do not sell their products to these warehouses nor do they sell the majority of their veterinary products to human pharmacies such as Target, Walgreen’s or Costco. Since they cannot be sure of the origin and handling of these medications, veterinary drug companies will not honor product guarantees on veterinary medications purchased from Internet warehouses or human pharmacies. They will only guarantee medications that are dispensed by licensed veterinarians.
  • Some of these companies fail to employ licensed pharmacists or veterinarians trained in drug storage, handling, or pharmacology. Instead, they are simply large warehouses staffed with customer service personnel. Therefore, there are no trained professionals to discuss side effects, adverse reactions, or appropriate medication selection and administration. Unfortunately, this appears to be true even in our trusted human pharmacies such as Target, Walmart, and Walgreen’s.
  • Federal and state regulatory agencies have taken legal action against some of these companies for fraud, illegal distribution of drugs, and selling misbranded products.