Animal Hospital FAQ’s
Some frequently asked questions from our clients
West Hills Animal Hospital & Emergency Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We offer appointments around the clock, with regularly scheduled appointments being between 8am-8pm Mon-Fri and 8am-5pm Sat-Sun. Routine appointments can still be scheduled outside of those hours. The cost for clients of West Hills Animal Hospital & Emergency Center is the same regardless of the time of day. Please call us at 631-351-6116 to set up an appointment that is convenient with your schedule.
Our pharmacy is fully stocked with a wide variety of prescription medications and diets for your pet. We are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about selecting the best medication, choosing the proper dosage, and information on side effects or other drug interactions. If you have any concerns or your pet experiences adverse reactions, we urge you to contact us immediately so one of our trained staff can assist you.
At West Hills Animal Hospital & Emergency Center, we understand that there may be times in which your pet’s medications can be obtained from alternative sources other than our hospital. We are willing to write prescriptions for outside pharmacies but caution you that most manufacturers do not uphold any guarantee of their products that would occur if purchased through the veterinary hospital. Please be aware that your pet is required by law to be examined at least one yearly to continue to refill medications.
The fees we charge for services are based upon what is needed to maintain the high quality of care we are proud to provide. Payment is required at the time services are performed. For your convenience, we accept Cash and all major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover), as well as CareCredit. Should your pet need to be hospitalized or require a procedure to be performed, we require a deposit in the amount of the low end of the estimate provided. Final payment will be required upon discharge.
How do I know if my pet is in pain?
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if you pet is in pain. If you are not sure but suspect your dog or cat may be uncomfortable, or is just not acting right, call us to schedule an examination for your pet. Some signs of pain are more obvious than others, such as limping, but some signs are more subtle, and can include: Inappetence, a change in behavior or normal habits, lethargy and decreased activity. Of course, these symptoms can also be caused for many other reasons, so early observation and action is important.
When is the best time to spay or neuter my pet?
We generally recommend spaying or neutering at approximately 6 months of age. This will vary with each individual pet though, and the procedure can be performed at just about anytime thereafter. There are numerous health benefits to spaying and neutering that we would love to discuss should you have any questions.
Vaccines are an important part of your dog or cat’s health care. Vaccines keep your pet healthy and prevent serious diseases. Our veterinarians will make sure that your pet avoids these problems with annual wellness exams, vaccinations and parasite protection. It is our policy that all pets receiving a vaccination be fully examined by one of our veterinarians prior to the vaccine being given.
Rabies Vaccine: Rabies is a deadly disease transmitted by bites from wild animals, particularly skunks, raccoons, possums, bats, and foxes. This disease can be transmitted to humans through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Puppies will first receive this vaccination after 12 weeks of age, and then they will be revaccinated every 1-3 years as required by law.
DAPP Vaccine: This is a “5-way” canine vaccine that vaccinates against canine distemper, adenovirus type 2, infectious hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Distemper and parvovirus are often times fatal, especially in puppies and part of the reason it is boostered multiple times. Puppies can be vaccinated as early as 6 weeks and are boostered every 3-4 weeks until 16-18 weeks of age. Adult dogs are revaccinated at 1 year of age and then every 3 years.
Leptospirosis Vaccine: Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can cause liver and kidney failure. It is spread through the urine of wildlife (raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, rats) and domestic animals, and is transmissible to people. Canine leptospirosis has risen dramatically in recent years. To prevent Leptospirosis in your dog, discourage your pet from drinking standing water and vaccinate yearly.
Bordetella Vaccine: Bordetella is part of the “Kennel Cough” complex of viruses and bacteria that causes a respiratory infection (Infectious tracheobronchitis). Kennel Cough can lead to pneumonia if contracted and left untreated. We have intranasal and injectable vaccinations available for Bordetella.
Canine Influenza Vaccine: Canine Influenza is part of the “Kennel Cough” complex of viruses and bacteria that causes infectious tracheobronchitis. Canine Influenza can cause pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding into the lungs) and death in dogs. We have seen multiple outbreaks on Long Island within the past few years.
Lyme Vaccine: Lyme disease is a disease transmitted by ticks. Just like in people, Lyme can cause a multitude of clinical signs ranging from no signs at all to lethargy and inappetence, limping, or even kidney failure. If you are in a heavily tick populated area it may be beneficial to have your pet vaccinated for Lyme disease even if they are on preventatives.
Rabies Vaccine: Rabies is a deadly disease transmitted by bites from wild animals, particularly skunks, raccoons, possums, bats, and foxes. This disease can be transmitted to humans through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Kittens will first receive this vaccination after 12 weeks of age, and then they will be revaccinated every 1-3 years as required by law.
FVRCP Vaccine: This is a “4-way” feline vaccine that vaccinates against feline distemper (panleukopenia), rhinotrachetitis (herpesvirus), and calicivirus. Kittens can be vaccinated as early as 6 weeks and are boostered every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Adult cats are revaccinated at 1 year of age and then every 3 years.
Feline Leukemia Vaccine: Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is a disease transmitted by bodily fluids from other cats (oral, urine, blood, etc). The most common route of transmission is mutual grooming. Feline Leukemia is a deadly virus that can get in the bone marrow and lead to blood disorders, immunosuppression, and certain cancers. Vaccine is recommended for kittens and cats that are of high risk, such as indoor/outdoor cats or cats in rescue situations.
What is kennel cough?
Kennel cough is a respiratory infection that is also called Infectious Tracheobronchitis. Kennel Cough is caused by viruses and/or bacteria that affect the respiratory system of dogs, and is transmissible through airborne secretions from other dogs. The most common places this is picked up are boarding facilities, groomers, and the dog park. The best way to reduce the severity of respiratory disease is with regular vaccinations.
When does my pet need blood work?
The frequency that a pet needs blood work with vary based on their health and the medications that they are on, if any. We recommend that annual blood work be performed to screen for conditions as your pet gets older, which allows us to detect any early changes that may occur prior to showing clinical signs. In many situations, early detection is essential for more effective treatment. The type of blood work will be determined specifically for each pet depending on his or her individual needs. This annual blood test is convenient to do at the time of your pet’s annual heartworm test, but it can be done at any time of year.
How many months should my pet be on heartworm prevention medication?
Heartworm disease is a serious disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes and can be fatal if left untreated. We recommend all dogs be given year round heartworm prevention, regardless of lifestyle.
A simple blood test is needed to check your dog for heartworm disease on an annual basis. Heartworm prevention is administered once a month either by pill or by topical application. Depending on the specific product you and your veterinarian choose for your pet, heartworm prevention medication can prevent other parasite infestations including internal parasites (intestinal parasites) and external parasites (fleas and ticks).
Why does my dog need a blood test before purchasing heartworm prevention?
Dogs can get sick (vomiting, diarrhea, and/or death) if placed on heartworm prevention when they have a severe heartworm infestation. Even if they have been on heartworm prevention year round there is always the possibility that the product may have failed for various reasons (your pet spit out the pill, did not absorb the pill appropriately, topical medication was not applied properly, forgot to administer medication on time, etc.) and the earlier we can treat your pet for heartworm disease, the better the prognosis. Some companies will guarantee their product providing that you use the heartworm prevention year round and are performing yearly heartworm tests.
When starting heartworm prevention, or if your dog has not been on heartworm prevention year round and you plan on restarting it, it is important an initial heartworm test is performed.
Doesn’t the fecal sample test for heartworms?
No. Heartworm disease is a blood-borne disease that is transmitted through mosquitoes. A simple blood test will confirm whether or not your dog has heartworm disease. The fecal sample tests for intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia and giardia.
Why does my pet need a dental cleaning and how often should this be done?
Every individual varies in the frequency of dental cleanings required. Some pets need their teeth cleaned every 6 months, while others never need a cleaning throughout their lifetime. When we evaluate your pet’s mouth on their physical examination, we may make a recommendation to perform a professional dental cleaning during which we radiograph, scale, and polish your dog’s teeth. Unfortunately we can’t just tell a pet to “open wide” so anesthesia is required for this procedure.
Do I need to brush my pet’s teeth at home?
Yes. Proper dental care at home is highly recommended to help maintain the oral health of your dog and cat. Home dental care for your pet should start early, even before their adult teeth come in. It is best if owners brush their dog’s and cat’s teeth frequently. Although tooth brushing is the best method of preventing plaque, calculus, and bacterial build-up, there are many options for dental home care. Other oral home care options such as dental formulated foods, water additives, and dental treats should be considered.
Are there any special at-home care instructions for my dog or cat before undergoing surgery?
As a general rule, please do not feed your pet after 10PM the evening before a scheduled procedure. Please withhold water the morning of the procedure as well. We suggest that you plan to arrive early enough to allow 30 minutes for check-in procedures.
In preparation for the procedure, your pet will receive:
- A pre-anesthetic evaluation
- Pre-anesthetic blood work (if required)
- Medication to easy anxiety and to smooth induction of anesthesia
- Placement of an intravenous catheter to deliver medications and fluids that support blood pressure and organ function during anesthesia
- In addition to the above, it gives your pet a chance to adjust to the hospital’s environment which makes the situation less stressful.
- Each of these steps must be completed BEFORE your pet’s scheduled procedure time.
Is anesthesia safe for my pet?
At West Hills Animal Hospital & Emergency Center, we take all anesthetic cases very seriously. We utilize the safest, multi-modal approach that is individually created for each dog or cat. It includes injectable medications for sedation and pain management as well as gas anesthetic agents. The combination of pre-anesthetic assessment of your pet (including blood work), use of modern anesthetic agents, and the latest anesthetic monitoring equipment means that anesthesia is generally considered to be a very low risk for your pet.
Our highly trained staff will closely monitor your pet during the entire procedure (including recovery) using advanced monitoring equipment. Parameters often monitored include oxygen concentration in the blood stream (pulse oximetry), electrocardiogram (EKG), core body temperature, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and carbon dioxide level (capnography).
When we place your pet safely under general anesthesia, a breathing tube is inserted into the trachea (windpipe) to administer oxygen mixed with the anesthetic gas. As with people, an intravenous catheter is placed into your pet’s arm or leg to infuse with fluids during the procedure. Once the procedure is completed and the anesthetic is turned off, oxygen is continued to be delivered to your pet until they wake up and the tube is removed.
What is a multi-modal approach to anesthesia?
A multi-modal approach refers to the layered administration of small amounts of different medications to achieve the desired levels of anesthesia and pain management. We administer lower doses of each individual anesthetic which generally equates to fewer side effects, complete pain relief, and faster post-operative recovery.
How will you manage my pet’s pain during surgery?
We believe in performing surgery with advanced pain management techniques because we want to maximize the comfort of your pet during and after his/her procedure. Comfort control improves your dog or cat’s recovery and speeds the healing process. We administer pain medication before beginning the procedure, during and post-operatively as needed by your pet.
My pet is older, is anesthesia safe?
Anesthesia in otherwise healthy, older pets is considered safe. We will perform pre-operative testing prior to anesthesia to check the status of major organ function and allow us to tailor the anesthesia to any pre-existing medical conditions.
My pet has kidney and heart disease, is anesthesia safe?
Prior to anesthesia, patients with kidney disease will be fully evaluated with blood and urine tests, and possibly ultrasound, as seen fit by the doctor. We may require an animal with kidney disease to be kept on intravenous fluids the night before a procedure to make sure their kidneys are perfused properly. Cardiology patients will also be evaluated with proper diagnostics, including blood tests, radiographs, and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), as required on an individual basis.
When my pet is having surgery, when should I expect an update on my pet?
We will contact you once your pet is awake from anesthesia and in recovery. If there are any abnormalities during the pre-anesthetic evaluation or blood work, you will receive a call prior to the procedure in the event that we need to change plans. Remember that no news is good news, and you will be contacted immediately should the need arise.
After surgery, when will my pet be able to go home?
The length of time that each patient stays in the hospital will vary with the procedure being performed and the post-operative recovery of your pet. Upon discharge from the hospital our doctors or licensed veterinary technicians will go over discharge instructions tailored specifically to your pet and the procedure. Our staff is more than happy to answer any questions you may have to ensure proper recovery for your pet.
Answers to common questions after your pet returns home following surgery:
Decreased appetite can occur after surgery. There are several things you can try:
- Offer your pet their favorite foods or treats
- Warm the food slightly above room temperature to increase the odor and taste
- Some pets like low-sodium chicken/beef broth or chicken baby food. These can be fed separately or added to regular pet food
Please don’t hesitate to contact us at anytime if you are concerned about your pet’s appetite.
Bandage, cast or splint is wet, soiled or removed
If the bandage becomes soiled, damp, chewed, or chewed off, please do not re-bandage at home. Duct tape and other items can trap moisture within the cast/bandage causing inflammation of the skin and tissues. In some cases, bandages that are applied incorrectly at home can even cut off the circulation to the foot.
Call us immediately if you have concerns about your pet’s bandage. Confine your pet to a single room or similar small area until you can call us and we can advise you on whether the bandage needs to be replaced. After a cast or splint is first removed, it may take 1-2 weeks for your pet to become accustomed to using the leg without the splint.
Constipation, bowel movements
Difficulty having bowel movements can be expected after illness, anesthesia, or surgery. It may take a few days for the gastrointestinal system to return to normal function. Fortunately, it is not vital for your pet to pass a stool on a regular daily basis. Please contact us if your pet has not passed a stool within 72 hours of discharge from the hospital or appears to be straining to defecate.
Although vocalizing can indicate discomfort, it is not always a sign of pain (instinctively many pets will not vocalize because in the wild, this would attract predators). Often, pets vocalize due to the excitement or agitation that they feel on leaving the hospital and returning to their familiar home environment. Please don’t hesitate to call us for advice at anytime if you are concerned about your pet’s vocalization. In some cases, a mild sedative may be prescribed or pain medication may be adjusted.
Your pet may experience diarrhea after hospitalization. This can be caused by change in diet but is more commonly caused by the stress of being away from home. Certain medications prescribed to your pet may also cause diarrhea. If no blood is noted in the diarrhea, feed your pet a bland diet for 2-3 days to help the digestive tract get back to normal. If the diarrhea is bloody, lasts longer than 12-24 hours or if your pet becomes lethargic or vomits, please contact us immediately.
You can purchase a nutritionally complete bland food from us, available in cans or kibble. Alternatively, you may feed steamed rice mixed with an equal volume of low-sodium chicken broth, boiled chicken, chicken baby food or cooked turkey. Very lean, boiled hamburger meat can be substituted as well. Small meals should be given every 4-6 hours. We do NOT recommend using any over-the-counter medication to treat the diarrhea. Please call us if there are any questions or problems.
We rely on you to keep the e-collar on your pet. While they may not enjoy it initially, they will enjoy even less having to come back to our office for another visit to repair an incision that has been chewed open. If this occurs, they will need to wear the collar for an extended period of time. Most pets become accustomed to the collar within one or two days, and they will be able to eat, sleep, and drink with it on. We are counting on you – please keep the e-collar on your pet.
Implant or hardware is visible/exposed
Immediately confine your pet to a single room or a cage, call us, and come in so the doctor can re-examine the surgery site.
Injury to surgical site
If for any reason you suspect that your pet has reinjured the surgical site, confine your pet to a safe location and call us immediately for advice.
If you have given your pet all of the pain medication prescribed and you feel your pet still has discomfort, please give us a call, and we will be happy to discuss refilling the pain medication.
Despite the medications we have prescribed, some pets will still show signs of pain at home, such as restlessness, inability to sleep, poor appetite, lameness or tenderness at the site of surgery. Please confine your pet to limit their activity, then call us immediately so we can prescribe additional medication or therapies as necessary to keep your pet comfortable.
This is commonly seen after surgery. It may indicate soreness but is often due to anxiety. Please call us so we can help determine whether additional pain medication is required. We will be happy to recheck your pet for your peace of mind.
Seroma (fluid pocket)
In any healing surgical area, fluid produced during the healing process may accumulate and form a seroma (fluid pocket). Fortunately, this is not painful and does not delay the healing process. Eventually, the body will reabsorb the fluid so if the seroma is small, we typically will leave it alone. If it is large, we may remove the fluid with a needle and syringe, or even place a drain if necessary. If you notice a seroma developing, please call our office. We may wish to recheck the area to ensure there is no infection.
This is a very common response to physiologic stress after surgery, injury, or any other health procedure. The amount of shaking or trembling may be dramatic, but it does not necessarily imply severe pain, cold, or distress. It may involve the entire body, or just the area of surgery. It is most noticeable in the first 5-7 days post-operatively, and typically subsides in 1-2 weeks. Please call us if your pet shows signs of pain such as restlessness, lack of appetite, or crying out.
Some pets may urinate less after surgery or may seem to be unable to control urination. This is usually temporary and may be a side effect of medication, anesthesia, or difficulty assuming “the position” to urinate. Many pets initially drink less after returning home, but if your pet has not produced urine for more than 12-24 hours, please call our office.
Occasionally, there may be an episode or two of vomiting after surgery or anesthesia. If the vomiting continues, blood is noted in the vomitus, or if your pet is not holding down any food or water, please call us to discuss.