Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Safety procedures during Coronavirus/COVID-19

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Dear Carlson Animal Hospital Pet Owners,

We would like to let you know that Carlson Animal Hospital will be remaining OPEN at this time. However, for the safety of our clients, staff, and the Oak Park community, effective today, Tuesday, March 17th, only hospital staff will be allowed in the building until further notice.

As always, please call ahead to make your pet’s illness appointment. We will not be scheduling any elective surgeries (spay or neuter), new preventive care, annual examinations with immunizations or wellness appointments for the foreseeable future. We will still see puppy/kitten exams with immunizations as these are time-sensitive. We also ask you to continue to call ahead for refills (24 hours in advance for all medications.)

Please call the office at 708-383-3606 when you arrive at the hospital. We ask that you remain outside, preferably in your car when you arrive.

• For appointments: We will either check you in immediately over the phone or call you back within a few minutes to complete check-in.

• Once we have obtained the information we need, a staff member will come out to collect your pet.

• Your pet’s healthcare team will communicate with you via phone to discuss exam findings and treatment recommendations.

• If a treatment plan must be “signed,” we will read it aloud to you and sign it on your behalf.

• Once the visit is complete, we will call you to take payment over the phone.

• If you are not feeling well or may be at risk of exposure to COVID-19, please ask someone else to transport your pet.

• Please disinfect your pet’s carrier or leash before coming to the hospital.

If you are arriving at the hospital to pick up food or medication, please call the hospital at 708-383-3606. We will process your payment over the phone and bring your product to you outside.

In addition to our regular sanitation schedule inside the hospital, we have increased the frequency and are continuously disinfecting all surfaces, instruments, etc. While there is no evidence to suggest the virus can make pets ill, there is a remote possibility that someone could contract the virus touching a pet that came into contact with an infected person.

Thank you for your help in keeping all of us safe, and please give our office a call if you have any questions. We anticipate our phone lines to be busy, so we appreciate your patience.

Take care and stay safe!
The Doctors and Staff at Carlson Animal Hospital

Valentine’s Day tips for safe and happy celebrations with pets

Thursday, February 14th, 2019
valentine pet hazards

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As we noted in our last blog, holidays can pose many hazards for our pets. Valentine’s Day is no exception. Here are a few Valentine’s Day hazards to avoid to ensure you and your pet have a safe and stress-free holiday:

  • Lilies: If you are giving or receiving flowers for Valentine’s Day, beware that lilies can be extremely toxic to cats. Please keep cats away from lilies!
  • Chocolate: A Valentine’s Day staple, chocolate is toxic to pets. Please do not allow your pet access to chocolate. Any sweets sweetened with xylitol are also toxic to pets. If your pet does ingest chocolate or xylitol, please contact us immediately or call the ASPCA animal poison control center: 888-426-4435.

    ribon hazards

    Pretty but can cause problems

  • Ribbon: If you are unwrapping gifts, dispose of any wrappings promptly, especially ribbon. Ribbon can cause dangerous intestinal blockages.
  • Candles: Romantic candlelight can be a big hazard to animals if they get too close. Pets can burn themselves or cause fires if left unattended with candles.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Have a healthy and happy holiday season – avoid these pet holiday hazards!

Monday, December 17th, 2018

The holidays should be full of good cheer, not stressful visits to the vet.  Don’t let a pet emergency ruin your holiday season.  Below are a list of holiday pet hazards to avoid this holiday season.









Table scraps: Avoid feeding your pet table scraps during holiday celebrations.  Some foods can be toxic to pets, like chocolate, onions, garlic, raisins and grapes.  Other foods can be too rich for your pet and can lead to pancreatitis.  Any foods offered to pets outside of their normal diet have the potential to lead to indigestion, vomiting and diarrhea.

Yeast Dough: If you are baking bread this holiday season, make sure you let it rise out of reach of your pets.  If ingested it can cause painful gas, deadly bloat and even alcohol poisoning.

Xylitol:  Ingestion of xylitol, an artificial sweetener commonly found in chewing gum, candy and baked goods, can be life threatening to dogs.  Be sure to keep any xylitol containing products away from pets.





Holiday Plants: If you have a pet and are considering decking your halls with boughs of holly, you may have to reconsider.  Holiday plants like holly, poinsettias, amaryllis, mistletoe, lilies, balsam, pine and cedar may be hazardous to your pet if ingested.



Christmas tree: Toppling Christmas trees can pose a threat to curious pets.  If you have a Christmas tree make sure it is well secured so that any attempts by your pets to climb the tree or play with ornaments do not result in a dangerous falling tree.  Additionally, don’t let your pet eat pine needles, chew on light cords or drink from Christmas tree water.  Stagnant water and water additives for the tree can be hazardous to your pet if ingested.




Holiday Decorations: Holiday decorations can appear like fun new toys to some pets.  Beware of glass ornaments that may shatter and cause injuries to vulnerable paws.  If ingested, some decorations, especially tinsel, can cause dangerous intestinal blockages.  Homemade ornaments made from salt-dough or other food-based materials can also be hazardous.

Please take appropriate precautions to keep your pet safe this holiday season.  If you have any holiday safety concerns, please do not hesitate to call us.

If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested something toxic, please call our offices (708-383-3606) or contact the ASPCA Poison Control Center 888-426-4435.

Also, consider visiting the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Holiday Pet Safety web page, AVAMA Pet Holiday Safety , which has extensive tips and information to keep your pets safe this holiday season.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


The truth about pet foods: Are pet food manufacturers tricking you?

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Pet food labels can be deceiving

pet food science or marketing

What should we believe about pet food?

Most misconceptions and myths about pet foods arise from difficult to understand pet food labels and marketing efforts. There are very few regulations on pet food labeling practices, which makes informed decisions about pet foods even more challenging.  It is important to base decisions about pet foods on scientific research and nutritional expertise and not entertaining websites and buzz words.

What should you look for on a pet food label?

pet food safety

Association of American Feed Control Officials

The most important thing you need to look for on a pet food label is the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement.  Sometimes referred to as the “Nutritional Adequacy Statement,” the AAFCO statement is required to be published on pet food labels.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes annual reports of nutritional standards for certain species and life stages.  Please confirm that a pet food label has an AAFCO statement and meets the appropriate nutritional profile for the species and life stage of your pet.  If you do not see an AAFCO statement or if the product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only, it is not an appropriate maintenance food for your pet.

If you have any questions about the AAFCO label or pet food labels in general, please contact us.

Manufacturers are potentially misleading you with ingredient lists

Contrary to what most people think, the ingredient list on a pet food label is not very informative when it comes to evaluating the nutritional value of a pet food.  Regardless, this information void is leveraged by pet food  manufacturers.  Pet food ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. This is muddied by the fact that all ingredients have water content which can increase an ingredient’s weight. Since meat has a high water content, it will weigh more and appear higher on an ingredient list than a nutritionally equivalent amount of “meat meal,” which is meat from which water and fat have been removed.

meat meal used in pet foods

Meat and bone meal
             Source: Wikipedia

Pet food manufacturers will show meat at the top of their food’s ingredient list, but in actuality this means very little if you were to compare ingredients on a dry matter (with water removed) basis.

Fruits and vegetables         added to pet foods

Many pet food manufacturers also include fruits and vegetables in their ingredient lists to make their product seem healthier.  However, many of the fruits and vegetables are added in such small amounts that they offer little or no nutritional value.  If a fruit or vegetable is listed after a vitamin or mineral supplement, consider it nutritionally insignificant. You should disregard it. 

Still curious about pet food labels?  

Food and Drug Administration


Visit the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) website (FDA Animal & Veterinary) to learn more about pet food label regulations ( We will be posting two more pet food blogs early next year – so stay tuned.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.



One of the most common reasons for visits to the animal hospital is gastrointestinal abnormalities

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Did you know that that one of the most common reasons that pet owners visit an animal hospital is because of gastrointestinal issues ? Does your dog or cat have episodic loose stools? Is it difficult for you to pick it up on your walks or in the yard? Does your pet vomit with any degree of regularity?  If you answered yes to any of these questions we can help.

Dogs and cats should not be having loose stools or vomiting with any degree of regularity, since they are frequently eating the same diet every day. Certainly, young puppies and some dogs in early adolescence are less discriminate about their dietary habits and may develop very episodic gastrointestinal distress.

If episodic gastrointestinal signs persist for more than 3 weeks they are characterized as chronic.

Dogs and cats have a very complex immune system within their gastrointestinal tract. At times the normal signaling and normal function may be flawed resulting in chronic inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. This chronic inflammation frequently leads to episodic irregularities in stool consistency and or vomiting. Fortunately, many of these pets as high as 86% will respond to an appropriate dietary adjustment.

Dogs and cats also have a complex mixture of bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract. Recently there has been significant research on the microbiome of the GI tract in animals and humans. The microbiome is the genetic makeup of the bacteria residing within the GI tract. The microbiome frequently becomes altered with more toxic bacteria overgrowing the good bacteria. This can result in chronic inflammation with GI symptoms and frequently can be managed with minimal therapy.

If you think that your dog or cat is experiencing any of these symptoms and you are concerned, please call and speak with our medical staff.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Are grain-free pet diets dangerous? 

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018
heart health and pet diets

The FDA has posted an alert about grain free pet diets.

Are grain-free pet diets dangerous? 

The FDA reports a possible link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs.


There are a lot of buzz words when it comes to pet foods.  But what does it all mean?  There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about what to feed our pets.  Unfortunately, we are discovering that there may be some dangerous consequences to these hyped up food trends.

grains and heart health linked

Possible link between grain free diets and heart disease.

The FDA reports a possible link between grain-free diets and heart disease.

With the sharp uptick in trendy diets has come an alarming new discovery.  There has been an increase in the incidence of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart disease, in dogs that eat grain-free diets.  While research is ongoing and no conclusions can officially be made, the FDA is concerned enough to have posted an alert about the connection.

Healthy dog heart



DCM is a heart condition that is typically seen in large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers.



Doberman pinscher

Irish Wolfhound

Great Dane















Recently, veterinarians are seeing the disease in all types of breeds and are noticing that it may be connected to grain-free diets.  Patients diagnosed with DCM who were on a grain-free diet showed dramatic improvement in their heart health after switching to a different diet.

Researchers think the reasons for this may be complex, but suspect taurine deficiency may be a factor.


Taurine is an amino acid that is crucial for heart health.  DCM used to be common in cats until it was discovered to be linked to taurine deficiency.  Now commercial cat food companies ensure that appropriate taurine levels are met in their products.  This highlights the importance of having a high quality and nutritionally balanced diet for pets.

are grains good for pets

What is best for my pet? Do they need grains for heart health?

All this begs the question: What should I feed my pet?

With so many pet foods out there and so many conflicting opinions, what should you feed your pet?  We recommend purchasing a maintenance food from a manufacturer that has a lot of experience producing pet foods.  Companies with a large number of veterinarians, researchers and nutritionists on staff are ideal.  It is also important to pick a manufacturer with extensive quality control measures and rigorous testing protocols.  We are happy to provide names of od quality pet food manufacturers if you call our office.

Please stay tuned for our next blog posts where we will discuss interpretation of pet food labels and debunk pet food buzz words!

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Right pawed or left pawed? Which is your pet’s preference?

Monday, August 6th, 2018
right pawed or left pawed?

Pets’ paw preferences.

Is your cat or dog left-handed or right-handed? What can that tell you about his/her behavior and health?

Our handedness is a part of our identity.  For those of you lefties who make up approximately 10% of the population, your handedness can be a point of pride and a source of frustration, having to live in a world designed for right-handed people.  It is suggested that your handedness may even be linked to certain personality traits.  But have you ever thought about whether your furry friends might have a paw preference?  And if so, could there be a link to certain personality traits or health implications?

How do you know if your pet has a paw preference?

no paw preference

Pets might be ambidextrous – no preference at all.

There are a number of tests that can give you a sense of whether your pet may have a paw preference.  It is best to track paw preference over time to determine if there is a strong bias.  Some dogs or cats can be ambidextrous, showing no bias.

For dogs, the first foot placed forward when walking from a standing or sitting position, is often the dominant paw.  Dogs will typically use their dominant paw to remove a blanket from the head, a piece of tape from the nose or to stabilize a toy.

For cats, paw preference can be determined by watching natural behaviors.  They typically use their dominant paw to step in their litter box or step down a flight of stairs.

cat toy

Right pawed when playing with a toy?

The paw used to reach for food in a toy tends to be the dominant paw for cats as well.  For cats, nearly three quarters of cats show a paw preference, with male cats tending to be left-pawed and female cats tending to be right-pawed (Hepper et al. 2018).

What can paw preference tell you about your pet?

Some studies suggest that left-pawed animals display more fear responses, higher stress levels and reactivity than right-pawed animals (Rogers 2010).  Studies also show that left-pawed dogs are  not as successful at completing the Guide Dog Training as their right-pawed counterparts (McGreevy et al. 2012).

dog brain drawing

Brain links to paw preference.

This link is believed to be associated with brain dominance.  Left-pawed animals are thought to have right-brain dominance, since left body motor function is controlled by the right side of the brain.  The right brain is specialized to express intense emotion, including fear and aggression.

Paw preference may also affect health.  Some studies showed a link between paw preference and immunity.  Right-pawed and left-pawed dogs exhibit different patterns of immune response to an immune challenge (Vallortigara et al. 2004).  There are differences in the


white blood cell responses and other measures of immune response in right-pawed versus left-pawed dogs.

right or left pawed, what does it mean

What does it all mean?

What does all this mean?

At this point, there is not enough research to really understand the implications of paw preference.  In the grand scheme of things, paw preference should not greatly impact you and your pet.

cat's paws

Right or left, which is preferred by your pet?

However, you may find it interesting to know if you and your pet share a preference for right or left handedness.  Additionally, it may give you more insight into your pet’s fears and phobias.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Fireworks and Thunderstorm fears or anxiety

Sunday, July 1st, 2018
fireworks and fright

They light up the sky, but can frighten pets.

Get ready…firework and thunderstorm season is upon us! For many pet owners, this can be a trying time. The loud booms of fireworks and thunder leave many pets distraught. So what’s a pet owner to do?

How do I know if my pet has storm or firework anxiety?

Thunderstorm and firework anxiety is a type of noise phobia. Pets with noise phobias have an irrational fear of certain types of noises, often loud unpredictable sounds like thunder and fireworks. Animals can manifest this fear in many ways, but the most common behaviors that signal firework or thunderstorm anxiety in cats and dogs are pacing, trembling, hiding, panting, destructive behavior, drooling, dilated pupils, racing heart rate and sometimes urinary or fecal accidents.

What can you do to help?

Watching your pet suffer during storms and fireworks can be agonizing, but luckily there are things you can do to help. Treatment usually involves behavioral therapy, but in some cases pharmaceutical intervention is necessary.

Safety First

pet id tags

Up-to-date identification tags

First things first, make sure your pet has up to date ID tags and is microchipped.

During times of intense fear, some pets will escape from their owners or homes in an attempt to hide and find safety. If your pet has appropriate identification, it will make it that much easier to find him/her if you are separated. If your pet is microchipped, please ensure that your contact information is up to date. If your pet is not microchipped, please contact us to discuss microchipping.

keep pets safe during fireworks

Provide a comfortable and safe space during fireworks or thunderstorms.

Provide a safe and comfortable place for your pet to wait out the storm or firework event. For some pets this may be their crate or bed.

pet's bed or crate as a safe space

Pet bed or crate as a safe space during thunder or fireworks

Most pets prefer a room with few windows, comfortable bedding and toys or treats. You may consider trying to muffle the frightening noise with calming music or turning up the volume on the television.

Counter Conditioning, Distraction and Desensitization

Use counter conditioning techniques. Counter conditioning is a technique that pairs a negative trigger with a positive reward. During thunderstorms or fireworks, offer your pet treats and praise to encourage them to view the event in a more positive light.

You can use distraction techniques like running through training commands that your pet knows and offer treat rewards after every successfully completed behavior. Playing a game or introducing fun toys or a treat filled toy can also help distract them and reduce anxiety.

Fireworks and fear

Beautiful, but they can be anxiety producing for pets.

Desensitization can also help. Playing thunderstorm/firework sounds on an electronic device on fair weather days can allow your pet to get used to the loud noise. Over time they can become desensitized to a noise that used to induce anxiety.

Pharmaceutical Intervention

If all of the above do not seem to help with your pet’s thunderstorm/firework anxiety, your pet may require additional intervention. Natural remedies like neutraceuticals, phermone diffusers and thundershirts may help with milder cases of noise phobias. More severe cases may require prescription anxiolytics. Please call us to set up an appointment to discuss these options in more detail.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Why do dogs eat grass?

Monday, June 18th, 2018
grass good for dogs

Why does my dog eat grass?

Why do dogs eat grass? 

Grass certainly doesn’t seem like a delicacy.  In fact, it tastes downright terrible. (Who hasn’t tried grass sometime when they were a kid?).  So why do dogs tear into it with such passion?  Not much is known about why dogs eat grass, but studies indicate that it is a common and normal behavior of most domestic dogs.

It is estimated that 79% of dogs engage in plant eating behaviors, with grass being the most frequently eaten plant.  Of those grass eating dogs, 86% eat grass on a daily or weekly basis (Cliff et al. 2008).  Grass eating is observed in both wolves and dogs, suggesting that the behavior was preserved through domestication and is innate (Price et al. 2009).

dogs eating grass and vomiting

Is grass a snack food for dogs?

What drives grass eating?

No one knows for sure why dogs eat grass.  One study showed that grass eating is influenced by satiety and time of day.  Dogs are more likely to eat grass if they are hungry (Price et al. 2007).  So, perhaps dogs are just eating grass because it is a tasty snack?

dog intestines

Dog’s digestive system

There are many theories circulating that grass eating in dogs is tied to digestion.  It has been postulated that dogs eat grass to cause themselves to vomit when they are feeling unwell.  This may be advantageous if they had eaten something that was causing gastrointestinal distress.  This type of grass eating is thought to be different from “normal” grass eating in dogs.  While healthy dogs tend to contentedly graze on grass, dogs with associated gastrointestinal ailments are speculated to gulp down grass quickly and without chewing.  The theory is that this will tickle the throat and cause vomiting, thus voiding the stomach of contents that may be causing discomfort (Hill’s Pet Care Center).

While there is not a lot of current research to support a theory of gastrointestinal distress associated  grass eating, it is certainly still plausible.  Of all grass eating dogs, 9% were reported to frequently appear ill before eating plants and 22% were reported to frequently vomit afterward (Cliff et al. 2008).

When should I be worried about grass eating?

While most grass eating in dogs is benign, there are some instances of grass eating that raise concern.

toxins in grass

If your dog’s grass eating has increased in frequency or is associated with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or inappetence, please contact us to set up an appointment.  Please beware that some herbicides or pesticides found on grass may be toxic.  Additionally, if your dog eats other types of plants, there is a risk that those plants may be toxic.  If you do not know if a plant or herbicide/pesticide is toxic, please contact us or call ASPCA Animal Poison Control for more information.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Heartworm Awareness

Friday, May 18th, 2018

April is the official Heartworm Awareness Month, but whenever the temperature is above freezing it is Heartworm Awareness Month. 

mosquitoes can be present in warmer weather

It feels like it is warm enough for a nice walk.

At long last the winter chill is starting to abate! But with the coming of warmer weather, comes greater concern for transmission of heartworm disease to our pets.

Although heartworm disease is a concern year round, April is Heartworm Awareness month. We have discussed heartworm disease before (Carlson blog – heartworm prevention),  but we wanted to once again draw attention to this very concerning, yet very preventable disease.

How do our pets become infected with heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes.

mosquitoes infect our pets with heartworm

Mosquitoes are the carriers of heartworm.

Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days.

When the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult worms that live in the heart. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet. – (American Heartworm Society )


effective treatment for preventing heartworm

Heartgard tablets once a month for prevention.

How can you prevent Heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is easily prevented by giving one Heartgard tablet once monthly, year round. (This also prevents/treats some intestinal parasites).

blood test for heartworm

Annual blood test

The American Heartworm Society advises annual blood testing for heartworm disease followed by continual monthly heartworm prevention. 

Why should you purchase your medication through us?

If your pet should develop heartworm disease while taking preventive purchased at our hospital, Boehringer Ingelheim, our medical supplier, will cover all costs for the treatment for heartworm disease. Treatment includes injections, oral medication, and sometimes hospitalization. Treatment cost can range from $400 to over $1,500 depending on size of your pet and severity.

You will have the assurance that your product has been stored appropriately and is authentic.

Why do you need to treat your dog for 12 months?

The American Heartworm Society recommends protection every month regardless of where you live. Owners are mobile and travel with pets to warmer climates thus increasing the chance of infection. 

mosquitoes can infect pets year round

Chicagoland temperatures from November – February can rise to above 50 degrees

Although mosquitoes shut down at temperatures below 50 degrees, based on the calendar to your right you can see that we consistently have temperatures allowing for mosquitoes to be present in the Chicago area every month November – February.

Why is heartworm becoming more prevalent?

We are treating more cases of heartworm disease in Oak Park because many pet owners are not treating their pets with preventative year round or not at all. Our shelters are housing animals coming from warmer climate states where natural disasters have occurred. These states have a higher prevalence of heartworm disease. When these heartworm positive animals are brought to the Chicago area, the risk of transmission to our local pet population increases. This has greatly impacted the number of cases we are seeing in our area.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.