(Leslie Priest, DVM)

Written by Dr. Leslie Priest, this article explains the importance of spaying/neutering pets.

It is generally recommended that all pets not to be used for breeding should be spayed or neutered. This is a surgery that involves making your dog or cat sterile so they can no longer have puppies or kittens. For females, the surgery is called a “spay” (or in medical terms, an ovariohysterectomy). This involves removing the ovaries and uterus. For males, the surgery is called a “neuter” (castration or orchidectomy). This involves removing the testicles with the scrotum left in place. You may be wondering why this surgery is a good idea. There are many reasons why spaying or neutering your pet is beneficial, and this article will explain these reasons.

Mammary (breast) cancer

Mammary cancer can occur in both dogs and cats. If a dog is spayed before her first heat, her chances of developing this cancer are almost zero. Her chances of developing this cancer do increase the longer she is left intact (not spayed). If she is not spayed before her first heat, it is still beneficial that she has this surgery performed. This is because mammary tumors are stimulated by estrogen, which is produced by the ovaries. In a spayed female dog, her ovaries are no longer present, so the source of estrogen is gone. Cats should also be spayed to reduce the occurrence of this type of cancer. An early spay can reduce a cat’s chance of developing mammary cancer by 40-60%.


Pyometra is an infection of the uterus. The uterus can become filled with fluid or pus and this condition can be life-threatening. Dogs and cats with this problem will become very ill. They may stop eating, start drinking and urinating excessively and have a very high temperature. This problem is best treated by an emergency spay surgery. If the female is not treated, her uterus can potentially rupture and she may die. This condition usually happens during or shortly after her heat cycle. The hormone progesterone causes glands within the uterus to secrete fluid. This hormone also decreases the normal muscle activity of the uterus, so the fluid is more likely to be retained within the uterus. If a dog or cat is spayed, they will not have this problem.


There are behavior changes that come with being sexually mature. Female dogs don’t experience this as much but it can be quite noticeable in female cats and male dogs and cats. Female cats become very vocal (sometimes howling), often keeping you up at night. They have a severe need to be rubbed and roll around excessively on the ground. Male cats can start to mark their territory by urine spraying and the urine of an intact (not neutered) male cat is extra stinky! This urine marking can also happen in dogs. Neutering can help to decrease dominant and aggressive behaviors in male dogs. Male dogs can also smell a female dog in heat several blocks away and they’ll do anything to get to her! Male intact dogs are more likely to run away and roam and are therefore more likely to be hit by cars.

Testicular cancer

Intact males (dogs and cats) can also develop testicular tumors. This is much more likely to occur if the testicles are in an abnormal place, like being retained in the abdomen (a condition called cryptorchid). This tumor makes hormones that suppress the bone marrow, decreasing the amount of blood cells produced and can cause anemia. If your male dog or cat has been neutered, they won’t get testicular cancer!

Prostate problems

Older male dogs that are left intact will often experience an increase in the size of their prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy). This condition can lead to infections of the prostate, which can be very difficult to clear.

Pet overpopulation

For me, this is one of the most important reasons for spaying or neutering your pet. Go to any shelter and you’ll see so many wonderful dogs and cats that are homeless. Many of these animals are there because of accidental breeding. These animals may eventually be put to sleep because there are simply not enough homes for them all. A life in a cage is no life for any dog or cat! Please help decrease the growth of our pet population by spaying or neutering your pet!


This is also a good reason for having your female dog spayed. If she is spayed, you won’t have to worry about her coming into heat and leaving a bloody discharge all over your house. If a dog or cat is spayed, they no longer come into heat.

There are many good reasons for spaying or neutering your pet. Please call or email us if you have any questions, we’d be happy to talk to you.


(Leslie Priest, DVM)

Written by Dr. Leslie Priest, this article explains why pets itch and what you can do about it.

Living in the South, we see a lot of itchy pets. Dogs and cats can itch for a number of different reasons. Sometimes it is something as simple as a few fleas, and other times it can be a more challenging problem such as long term allergies. With spring time quickly approaching, many pets will start to become itchy. Much of this has to do with fleas being more abundant outside and all of the pollen in the air.

Why do pets itch from allergies?

Dogs and cats with allergies usually show this problem through their skin. They will inhale the pollen or other particles, and it is absorbed by the body. The body can then make antibodies to that allergen that bind to certain cells in the skin. When these antibodies are bound to the cells, they release histamine. This then causes inflammation of the skin, which can make them itchy. Some pets have allergies to certain foods, which can also cause this problem through the same process. Dogs and cats can also absorb some allergen particles through their skin, causing a local reaction.

What to look out for:

Since our dogs and cats can’t tell us when they have a problem, we have to look out for certain signs that they give us. Sometimes, the only sign a dog will give us that she is itchy is that she is licking her feet. Many people know the distinctive sound that their dog’s collar makes as she scratches away, keeping them up at night. Sometimes this inflammation and itching can lead to secondary infections of the skin. The feet can have a reddened appearance, and there can be red bumps on their bellies. Sometimes there can be larger, scaly, circular spots on their skin.

What can I do?

  • If your pet is itchy, the best first step is to make sure they are on a monthly flea prevention. Advantage and Frontline are topical medications that work very well and last up to a month once applied. Please also note that bathing can make these medications less effective. Be careful, because there are many over-the-counter flea products available that aren’t as effective and can potentially be harmful to your pet.
  • Allergies can be cumulative. A dog may be allergic to numerous things at a low level. Normally, he may not have any problems, but if he is exposed to a few of these allergens at one time, he may go over the threshold that his body normally tolerates and become itchy. If one or two of the allergens are taken away, the itching may be reduced to a much more tolerable level. One of the easiests allergens to take away is fleas. Flea bites themselves are very itchy, but some animals are severely allergic to fleas. A dog or cat with a flea allergy can develop a rash and may lose a lot of hair. A reliable monthly flea preventative can alleviate many of these problems for a flea allergic pet.
  • Your pet may need a trip to the vet since there could also be skin infections present. Sometimes, antihistamines or a fatty acid supplement may be prescribed to help with the underlying problems. Some dogs or cats are placed on a food allergy trial to see if this could be a contributing factor. If the treatments aren’t working, and the problems are more severe, sometimes a referral is made to a veterinary dermatologist. The dermatologist can perform specialized tests to check for particular allergies, and injections can be made to help desensitize that pet to its allergens.

If you feel that your pet is having some of these problems, give us a call! We’d be happy to set up an appointment to examine your pet and talk about what treatment options are available.


(Michael Martinez, R.V.T. )

What you need to know about the effectiveness of the different treatments available for fleas and ticks. Written by Michael Martinez, R.V.T.

Many clients have questions about flea and tick control products they have seen, their efficacy and how to use them.

What about Shampoos, Mousse, and Sprays?

Shampooing is great for improving pets’ skin and coats. Some shampoos can help with the treatment of various skin conditions. Any shampooing is good for cleaning out pores, removing dead skin, and keeping body odors under control. Some shampoos are even effective at killing and removing fleas from your pet.

When it comes to fleas and ticks, there are two (2) problems with shampoos:

  1. No residual effect: new fleas that jump on your pet just hours after the bath are likely to survive.
  2. Very poor or no effect on the eggs, larvae, and pupal stages of fleas.

Mousse, sprays and powders have the same lack of residual flea control. With few exceptions, these products are considered obsolete in the fight against fleas.

What about products you can get at Walmart, pet stores, and other stores?

As soon as Frontline, TopSpot, and Advantage hit the market some years ago (and it was obvious that they were working really well), pet product companies changed their packaging to look and sound like Frontline or Advantage.

All these look-alike or sound-alike products are applied to the back of the neck (like Frontline and Advantage), but none of these products contain the active ingredient that is effective in flea control and some may have extreme side effects (especially in cats).

Is there a Safety Question when using sprays and powders?

We’ve had several very sick cats in our clinic due to the application of over the counter topical pesticides meant for dogs. Cats are much more sensitive to pesticides.

We recommend Frontline Plus, Advantage, and Advantix for dogs and Advantage-Multi for cats.

The manufacturers of these products guarantee their effectiveness.

Please remember to consult your veterinarian when you are unsure of any product before you use it on your pet. We are more than happy to fully explain the use and application of any parasite medication we offer. Understanding each product’s function and potential side effects will allow you as pet owners to provide a happy and healthy life for your pets…and safely!


(Debra Draper, DVM)

Written by Dr. Debra Draper, this article gives a real-life example of why it’s so important to have wellness testing performed on our pets, especially our “senior” pet population.

There has been much speculation in the human medical profession lately about how important routine testing is for us as we age and when is the right time to begin more comprehensive wellness testing. Naturally this makes us start to wonder if and when thorough senior screening is best for our four-legged family members. I know that it may be tempting, especially in our tough economic times, to assume that because our older pets are eating and drinking normally and “seem” to be the same as always, that we can delay these comprehensive screening tests. A recent patient of mine helped to remind me that more often than not, if we don’t look for it, we won’t find it!

Holly is a very sweet 13 year-old indoor kitty that appears to be aging very gracefully. She came to see me for her annual wellness exam and vaccines recently and, by all accounts, looked to be the picture of good health. Before beginning her exam, we did notice that she had lost some weight despite having a very good appetite at home. Holly’s owner also mentioned that she has been meowing a little louder and a little more often than usual, but was otherwise a happy, playful girl. While performing her physical exam, I was unable to find any abnormalities.

As with all of our senior annual wellness exams, a comprehensive blood and urine panel was collected to assess Holly’s organ enzymes, blood cell counts, urine, and thyroid levels. At East Marietta Animal Hospital, we feel that this laboratory screening is an important part of a pet’s annual check-up at any age so that abnormalities can be detected early and treated appropriately. In Holly’s case, her lab work results did indicate an abnormality; she was in the early stages of hyperthyroidism. In cats, particularly as they begin to age, it is not unusual for them to develop hyperthyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland excretes metabolic hormones at unusually high levels. If left untreated, this condition causes not only weight loss and behavioral changes, but more serious complications such as high blood pressure, liver enzyme elevations and heart conditions.

Fortunately for Holly, this is a very treatable condition and can be controlled with daily medication. Holly’s owner found it particularly helpful that the medication used to treat this condition can be specially made into a gel that can be rubbed onto Holly’s ears, thus avoiding the stress and struggle of administering pills to Holly on a daily basis.

It would have been very easy for me, as Holly’s veterinarian, to assume that because Holly’s physical exam was normal and she looked so healthy, blood testing was not necessary or could be delayed until her annual wellness exam next year. This may have caused her to develop some irreversible complications if her hyperthyroidism was left untreated for another year. Now, she has begun her treatment and is well on her way to being as healthy on the inside as she is on the outside!

While opinions may vary in human medicine, I believe strongly that early diagnosis of any condition gives us the best chance for successful treatment and gives the patient the best chance at a long, healthy life!

Facts about Heartworm Disease and the Treatment Shortage

(by Dr. Kathleen Byrnes, DVM)

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease of dogs and cats. Heartworms live in the arteries of the lungs and can sometimes spill over into the right side of the heart. Heartworms cause inflammation in the lungs, coughing, exercise intolerance, weight loss etc. In severe infections they can cause right-sided heart failure and death. In a dog, there can be a worm burden of 1-250 worms which can be between 1-10 inches long! In a cat, infections are usually smaller and consist of about 1-3 worms.

How is it spread?

Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites your pet, they deposit microfilaria (young stage of heartworms) on the skin. After the microfilaria are deposited by the mosquito, it takes approximately 6-7 months for the worms to fully mature and migrate to the arteries of the lungs.

Which pets are affected?

Since mosquitoes are able to get inside your house or apartment, they have the possibility of infecting all cats and dogs, including indoor cats.

What are the best ways to prevent heartworm disease?

There are several prevention options available from East Marietta Animal Hospital. They are available in liquids applied to your pet’s back or chewable tablets given once a month. All these options work at killing the microfilaria before they mature to adult worms. A heartworm test is needed before starting your pet on a prevention treatment.

What treatment is available if your pet is infected with heartworms?

The only approved treatment in dogs for heartworm disease is a drug called Immiticide (melarsomine dichlorhydrate). There is no approved drug in cats. Recently there has been a shortage of Immiticide in the United States. The limited supply has been set aside for cases urgently in need. At this time, there is limited information about when production of Immiticide will begin again. If we are unable to obtain immiticide for a heartworm positive dog, then the next best option is the “slow kill” treatment with a monthly dosage of Heartguard.

What is involved in the slow kill treatment?

In the slow kill treatment, your pet is placed on a monthly treatment plan using Heartguard. We do not recommend this method. It can take anywhere from 3-7 years for heartworms to die by this method. During this time there is a constant source of irritation causing inflammation and disease in your pet’s lungs and heart. Your pet will also act as a micofilarial source during this treatment, contributing to the infection of unprotected dogs.

Due to the shortage of immiticide, it is very important to keep all pets on monthly heartworm prevention program. If your pet becomes infected with heartworms, we may have difficulty getting the necessary treatment.

Please call us if you have any questions about the information in this article.



Location Hours
Monday7:30am – 6:00pm
Tuesday7:30am – 6:00pm
Wednesday7:30am – 6:00pm
Thursday7:30am – 6:00pm
Friday7:30am – 6:00pm
Saturday7:30am – 12:00pm

After hours, please contact

Cobb Emergency Veterinary Hospital at
(770) 424-9157.