North Portland Veterinary Hospital
Serving the Greater Portland Community for Over 39 years

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Hot Dog! Heatstroke Can Kill

In the summer, a hot dog is both a ballpark staple and a veterinarian’s nightmare.

Dogs — the four-legged kind — get “cooked” far more easily than people do. And that means dog lovers need to be careful to be sure their pets don’t end up in the ER with heat stroke. (Cats, by the way, don’t tend to have heat problems generally, because they have too much sense to run around when it’s too hot.)

Since most dogs will risk their lives to go with the people they love, it’s up to pet lovers to make sure the summer heat doesn’t put their pets in deadly danger. That means knowing the signs of heat stress and reacting to a pet in danger as if it’s a life-threatening emergency — which it is.

Don’t Take Chances

Though humans cope with hot weather by sweating, dogs shed heat by panting, which is a very poor cooling system. In the wild,  dogs seek shade during the hottest part of the day; left to their own devices, most pet dogs will, too —  unless they are lured into activity by ball tossed across the yard or the rattle of a leash offering an exciting outing.

Leave your pet at home when it’s warm, never leave your dog in the car even on a mild day (heat builds up quickly), and exercise your pet in the cooler mornings or evenings. If you wonder if a street or sidewalk is too hot for your pet to walk on, place the palm of your hand on the pavement: if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet.

For dogs with short faces (brachycephalic breeds), such as  Bulldogs,  Pugs, Pekinese, and mixes of these breeds, the risk is even higher. These dogs cannot breathe well even under ideal circumstances and absolutely must be kept in air-conditioned quarters during the warmer months. Older dogs, overweight or obese dogs, and unfit dogs are also at higher risk.

Warning Signs

A dog’s normal temperature is about 101.5, and a degree up or down is just fine. More than a couple of degrees up can be reason for concern, and it’s certainly an indication that you need to get your dog calm and cool. However, when a dog’s internal temperature reaches 105 or above, his life is in danger, and you must act immediately.

But since most people don’t carry a thermometer around, they have to rely on the signs of an overheated dog. These include:

  • Heavy, rapid panting
  • Salivating
  • Glassy-eyed expression
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Bright red or blue/purple gums
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Collapse

Don’t wait until the problem becomes dangerously obvious. Keep an eye on your pet and take action at the first sign of trouble. Offer lots of water, and if your dog likes to swim, provide access to a baby pool or larger body of water.

In Case of an Emergency

If you’ve missed the warnings and your dog is overheated, move your pet immediately to the shade or an air-cooled area. Use cool water — not ice-cold water or ice, which constricts blood vessels and traps heat — on your dog’s belly, concentrating on the groin. If you do have a thermometer, lubricate the tip and insert it gently into the rectum to get an accurate temperature. Offer your pet cool water to drink but don’t force water into your dog’s mouth.

And then call us or a nearby emergency clinic to let someone know you are on your way.

Dove Lewis 1945 NW Pettygrove Portland, OR  97209 503.228.7281

Columbia River VetERinary Specialists 6607 NE 84th St. #109 Vancouver, WA 98665 360.694.3007

Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Tualatin 19314 SW Mohave Court Tualatin, OR  97062 503.691.7922

Tanasbourne Veterinary Emergency 2338 NW Amberbrook Drive Beaverton, OR 97006 (503) 629-5800

VCA SE Portland Animal Hospital 13830 SE Stark Street Portland, OR  97233 503.255.8139

VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists 16756 SE 82nd Drive Clackamas, OR  97015 503.656.3999


Do Fireworks Terrify Your Pet?

4th of July is right around the corner. Are you ready for how your pet will react to the fireworks? Perhaps your neighbors have already started the booming festivities.

Every year we get calls for tranquilizers in the days leading up to the 4th; it is the busiest time of year for our pharmacy department.  If you think that your pet may need prescription strength medications to help ease anxiety during this holiday season, please call our office soon. Although we try our best to accommodate prescription needs, we are not always able to fill these requests as the annual exam must be current. Sometimes the first prescription doesn’t work, or even sometimes can have the opposite effect, so it is good to get those prescriptions early for a trial run.

Is Peanut Butter Safe For Dogs? Please Beware – Some Could Be Deadly!


If you’re like many people, you might want to give your dog some peanut butter as an occasional treat. Or you might want to use peanut butter as a trick or reward to get your dog to take their medications? In many cases this is perfectly fine (so long as it’s not in excess — as too much can cause pancreatitis and/or contribute to obesity).

However, with the introduction of a unique line of peanut and other nut butters onto the market — Nuts ’N More—  the answer to the question of whether or not it’s safe to give, even a small quantity of, peanut butter to your dogs is no longer a straightforward one. Why? Because of the sweetener that’s been used to replace the sugar in this line of peanut and other nut butters. That sugar substitute is called xylitol.

 What is Xylitol?

~   Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as a natural sweetener.
~   Xylitol is naturally found in low concentrations in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, and can be extracted from various berries, oats, and mushrooms.
~   Xylitol is also found in fibrous material such as corn husks, sugar cane bagasse, and birch.

Is Xylitol Safe For Dogs?

Xylitol is a sweetener that’s gaining in popularity because of its dental benefits for people as well as its suitability as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes. Because of its ability to help prevent cavities and tooth decay and its low glycemic index, xylitol is proving to have some good dental and other health benefits for people. Unfortunately, while xylitol appears to be perfectly safe for people, it is extremely dangerous for dogs— even in small quantities.

  •  Ingestion of as little as 0.1 gram (g) of xylitol per kilogram (kg) of body weight (0.1 g/kg) can cause a rapid and dangerous drop in a dog’s blood sugar (a condition called “hypoglycemia”). Hypoglycemia can show as staggering, appearing disoriented, collapse, weakness, and seizures.
  • Just slightly more than that, approx. 0.5 g/kg xylitol ingestion, can lead to debilitating, and sadly often deadly, destruction of a dog’s liver cells.


Doggie Dash!

Hello Pet Lovers,

DOGGIE DASH is fast approaching!  Join with the VCA North Portland staff and animal-loving clients, just like yourself, and support the Oregon Humane Society to help animals in need. VCA clients receive $3.00 off their registration fee by using promo code “2015VCA2.”  Visit the OHS website – Doggie Dash – register under team “VCA WOOF PACK” and help OHS meet their fundraising goal of $550,000. Keep in mind if you want to donate directly to our team for this amazing charity event, 100% of your donation will be tax deductible and will help OHS find home for 11,000 pets on 2015.

Hope to see you there!

P.S. Check out The Biscuit Challenge!

Dental Work Special Through March!

Dental cleanings are marked down by $85.20 until the end of March! If you’ve been holding off on having dental work done on your pet, now is the time. We will still offer payment plans for those eligible (and most people are eligible — contact our office to see if you are).

Every patient must have: pre-anesthetic bloodwork, IV catheter and fluids, and full mouth dental x-rays. The discount will be applied to the dental cleaning cost. Some pets may need more extensive work done on their mouths, which may make the overall cost increase — but you still get the $85.20 savings.

If your veterinarian has recommended a dental cleaning for your pet in the last 3 months, there is no need to schedule a pre-dental consult. If you are new to us, or haven’t visited with your veterinarian about dental work, please call our office to set up a pre-dental exam. At this exam, we will evaluate your pet’s mouth, give you an estimate, and draw blood samples for the pre-anesthetic screen. The pre-anesthetic screen helps us determine what type of anesthesia protocol to use.

Full mouth x-rays are used to see if there is a problem with a tooth that is hiding under the gumline. Sometimes teeth can look perfectly healthy on the surface, but be diseased underneath. These hidden problems can cause a lot of pain and could potentially mean that your pet would need another anesthetic procedure to remove the problem tooth.

Dental work requires full anesthesia. Imagine trying to get your dog to hold an x-ray plate in their mouth while awake! It would also be extremely difficult to scale a wiggly cat’s teeth. Some of the things that we might have to do in your pet’s mouth may be painful. When they are under anesthesia, we are able to use medications so that when they wake up they are not bothered by their mouths’.

We strive to maintain excellent care of all our patients, and feel that these things are of utmost importance when it comes to your pet’s oral health.

Please call or email our office for more details or to schedule a pre-dental exam.

We’ve Got A New Doctor!

Introducing to you…(drum roll, please)…
… Dr. Julie Bitz!

Dr. Bitz is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2002, she moved to Portland for an internship at Dove Lewis. We’re glad she did!

She has a cat, Lulu, and a dog, Franny (pictured right). Lulu is about 17 and Franny is old too, but not that old. Franny was actually found as a stray, tied up outside of a Plaid Pantry. We asked Lulu to model matching sweaters with Julie, but she declined to participate.

When Dr. Bitz is not working she enjoys photography, travel, and reading. Sometimes she “runs very slowly,” too.

Julie has a great sense of humor, and her medical style fits in well with ours. We expect that it will feel as though she has been with us forever in no time at all! She has, in a way, been with us for quite a while as a Relief Doctor.

Welcome to the VCA North Portland Veterinary Family, Dr. Bitz!

Dr. McCoy’s Last Day

Dr. McCoy’s last day with us was yesterday (Wednesday the 29th). Here are some photos of his last day.


Saying our goodbyes at the end of the night.




And a final toast. To your next adventure, Dr. McCoy!

Photo Credit: Heather Sikorski & Lisa Davis

Vote for Your Favorite Decorated Pumpkin

The staff at VCA North Portland Veterinary Hospital has decorated mini pumpkins – vote on your favorite!


Two-Face Side 1

Two-Face Side 2

Vet Wrap Jack

Charlie Chaplin

Grumpy Cat

The Pirate Mummy

Fall Harvest

The Joker


Camouflage Pumpkin

Changing of the Guard

Dear Friends and Family,

In 1966, I graduated with a degree in Pre-med from Purdue University. I interviewed at several Medical Schools, but decided to go into Veterinary Medicine instead. It has been a wonderful profession to work in and I look forward to going to work every day. Many of my clients, I consider my friends and I considered my staff part of my family. Two years ago, I sold North Portland Veterinary Hospital to VCA. This has allowed us to do things that we might not have been able to do otherwise. VCA has invested in New Surgery Lights, Non Invasive Surgery, Radiology, and Ultrasound. Consultation with some of the best veterinarians in the United States helps us to practice better medicine. Being a part of VCA also insures that the hospital will be able to serve our very special clients and their family members for many years to come. It wasn’t easy making the decision, but I knew that this was the best way for the practice to continue.

A lot has changed since I started practicing. When I bought Dr. Carter’s practice in 1972, I had a wooden surgery table and wooden kennels. The X-ray machine must have been made in the 1940’s. I had no anesthesia machine and no monitoring equipment. There were no Specialists in town, no Veterinary School and no Emergency Clinic. Today, we have specialists in Portland in almost every discipline, three of our veterinarians actually graduated from the Oregon State Veterinary School and we have Dove Lewis Emergency Clinic and four other emergency clinics in the Portland/Vancouver area. We have ultrasound, MRI’s, CAT Scans, Radioactive Iodine Therapy and Chemotherapy available. It’s much harder to diagnose by the seat of your pants. And now we have gone to Electronic Medical Records.

I turned 70 this year and went on Social Security and Medicare. My wife and I have been lucky to have a successful marriage for forty-six years. She worked in the practice for many years and the practice has been our life for most of those years. Now it’s time to sign up for the next chapter while we are still healthy. In October, we are spending two weeks on a dive boat in the Sea of Cortez (I can still climb back in the boat). I will be back at work for the three weeks after that, but retirement is set for the end of October. Thanks for allowing me the privilege of taking care of your special friends over the years. I have a lot of confidence in the doctors and staff at the practice and know they will take great care of you when needed. And by the way, that’s where I will continue to take our three dogs and three cats after retirement.

Don McCoy

Bringing You Anesthesic Peace of Mind

Did you know… there are specialists for animal anesthesia, just like there are for human anesthesia?

Some people have increased risk of complications when they go under anesthesia. The same is true for some animals. When a person is at increased risk, a specialist can be brought in to administer anesthesia and monitor them while they’re under. The same is true for animals!

Did you know… you now have access to a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist at VCA North Portland Veterinary Hospital? Dr. Heidi Shafford is available to assist with surgical procedures requiring anesthesia right here at our clinic.

While human anesthesiologists are common, veterinary anesthesiologists are rare; there are only about 40 in private practice in the country. We are lucky to have Dr. Shafford practicing right here in the Portland area!

Anesthesia is like any medical procedure; there are benefits and risks. The benefit of anesthesia is that your pet gets the care they need to keep thriving, with minimal pain and stress. The most feared risk of anesthesia is death. Anesthetic-induced death is actually uncommon: approximately 1 in 1000 for healthy cats and 1 in 2000 for healthy dogs.

Although the risk of anesthetic death is low, especially for healthy pets, it can be higher for older pets or pets with additional medical conditions. In those cases, it is often beneficial for everyone involved to bring in a specialist — a veterinary anesthesiologist — to administer anesthesia and monitor your pet during and after the procedure.

If you are worried about your pet and anesthesia, talk to your veterinarian about including Dr. Shafford as part of your veterinary team.



About the author: Dr. Heidi Shafford earned her DVM from Colorado State University in 2000.  Following residency and graduate training in veterinary anesthesiology and physiology at the University of Missouri, she attained board certification by the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia in 2005. Dr. Shafford works with private practices and pet owners to improve anesthesia safety and enhance the comfort of all creatures through patient care, education, and consultation.  


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