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Grass Gnat Bites

Every spring, we get a "rash" of phone calls about round, red lesions on the belly. Often times, these are "grass gnat" (also called black fly) bites.  These biting insects emerge and create worrisome bite marks on dogs.  The bites usually show up on the belly or groin area where there is less fur.  The bites are red, round and flat to the skin.  As the bite resolves, it will often take on a target appearance.  The good news is that these bites are not harmful to the dog.  The bite marks usually resolve over several days.  If your dog has red marks on his belly that are not raised or itchy, there is a possibility that it is simply a grass fly bite.  However, we don't want you to ignore a problem if it is something more significant.  If you notice red lesions on your dog that are raised, have discharge, are scaly, or if your dog is itchy, please make an appointment to bring your dog in to the clinic as this is likely another problem.  The picture attached is a good example of what these fly bites look like.  If you have any questions, please call the clinic at 612-925-1121.  

grass gnats


Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM has formed the foundation for the practice of acupuncture over
the last 5000 years. Long before western medicine provided insight into the pathophysiology of health
and disease, TCM understood these phenomena through the theories of Yin, Yang and Qi.

TCM sees life through a lens of balance. Disease occurs when there is an imbalance of energy (Qi) and its
flow throughout the body. The movement of Qi through the body has been mapped in lines of flow, or
Meridians, over the surface of the body. These 12 Meridians correspond with and are named for internal
organs of the body. We can influence the movement of Qi by manipulation of specific locations, or
acupoints along these meridians.

Acupuncture points are typically stimulated by the placement of very small needles. These points can
also be stimulated via aquapuncture, by injecting a sterile liquid such as saline, vitamin B-12 and even
the joint supplement Adequan. When a more powerful response is needed, electroacupuncture is
employed. This uses a gentle electrical current passed between two acupuncture needles.
Electroacupuncture allows selection of current frequency and strength, which can be tailored to the
desired effect, i.e. pain control vs nerve stimulation.

During a TCM acupuncture consult, we evaluate each patient as a unique individual. The tongue and
pulse are examined closely as external reflections of internal health. The pet’s personality, diet, home
environment and even temperature preferences allow us to better understand the development of their
specific maladies. This understanding not only allows a personalized treatment plan, but can also aid in
the prevention of future disease.

Acupuncture from a TCM approach offers treatments for painful orthopedic conditions such as arthritis
and intervertebral disc disease as well as internal medicine concerns like inflammatory bowel disease,
urinary diseases and pancreatitis. This approach works well combined with typical western medicine, or
as an alternative when other treatments have failed.

If you have an interest in learning how TCM could help your pet contact Dr. Lauren Bury at Westgate Pet Clinic at 612-925-1121. Please note, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture appointment is scheduled for a longer period of time then a Medical Acupuncture appointment which accounts for a different fee schedule. Please contact the clinic for more information.

For information on Medical Acupuncture, click here

Medical Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient healing art that dates back 5,000 years.  Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors discovered centuries ago that the body has an amazing power to heal itself if given the right stimulation. 

Although the benefits of acupuncture have been known for a long time, it is only recently that science has stepped in to prove it.  Medical Acupuncture is an off-shoot of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  While TCM approaches the body from a more spiritual standpoint, Medical Acupuncture has a Western Medicine approach.  In TCM, body organs are dividing into elements like wood, fire and water.  TCM doctors are taught how diseases of certain organs will offset the balance in the body, leading to a disruption in the normal flow of qi (energy). 

Medical acupuncture is a scientific approach to acupuncture.  It looks at the acupuncture points as a way to access and modify the body's nervous system.  In medical acupuncture, the approach to the patient is to first identify areas of the body that are not functioning properly, and then to stimulate the body's nervous system to promote self-healing.

Medical acupuncture looks to modulate, or influence the nervous system in two different ways; by over-riding painful nerve signals with non-painful ones, and by stimulating the body's own natural pain relieving centers. 

The best way to describe how acupuncture can over-ride a painful nerve signal is with an example.  What do you do if you burn your finger?  You shake it, or put it in your mouth, or put your finger under cold water.  What you are actually doing, is interrupting that painful signal from the burn that is traveling up to your brain.  You instinctually know that you need to provide your nervous system with a different nerve signal when you are in pain.   This is called neuromodulating- using the same nerve pathways that are sending a painful response to now send an innocuous response.  

In the case of the burnt finger- that pain response if very useful.  It makes you pull your finger away from the flame.  Acute pain helps the body prevent further injury.  Chronic pain is a different type of pain. Chronic pain is not useful to the patient, but rather decreases the patient's quality of life.  One of the most common examples of chronic pain in veterinary patients are pets that suffer from arthritis pain.  In this situation, the patient doesn't benefit from his joints constantly telling the brain that they are inflamed and sore. Chronic pain is pain that has lost its useful purpose.

One of the other unfortunate side effects of chronic pain is that the body can get very efficient at sending pain signals to the brain.  Our nervous systems are constantly learning.  When the nervous system "learns" that a part of the body is painful for prolonged periods of time, it lays a pain pathway into the central nervous system.  Now the nervous system can quickly and efficiently let the brain know about the sore spot.  Once a pain pathway is hardwired in, it is difficult to turn off.  Even removing the painful area can't always remove the feeling of pain.  That's why amputees feel phantom pain even after the painful limb is gone.  Acupuncture is a tool that can help us reach in and turn off the deep nerve pathways that are sending painful signals.  

The second layer of pain relief that acupuncture can provide is to stimulate the body's own pain relieving system.  You've likely heard of a "runner's high", when the body releases natural endorphins that make the person have a feeling of elation.  Acupuncture can tap into the system that stimulates endorphins and other natural opioids and pain relieving hormones.  There are centers of the body that have been shown to "link up" to areas of the brain that directly affect this natural pain relieving system. 

Acupuncture is a wonderful tool as a supplement to traditional western medicine.  It is one more way that we as veterinarians can positively affect our patients.  It should be noted, however, that not all patients respond to acupuncture.  Only about 30-40% of veterinary patients will have a noticeable improvement after a treatment.  The typical patient will respond after the first treatment if they are "acupuncture responders".  Most patients are seen weekly for 4 treatments, then as needed after that.  The goal of medical acupuncture is to re-train the nervous system to "tune out" the painful nerve signals and return to a more normal state.  Many patients need to only come in every several months after their initial treatment regimen.

To schedule an appointment, or to talk to our Medical Acupuncturists, Dr. Teresa Hershey or Dr. Catherine Hageman, please call Westgate Pet Clinic at 612-925-1121.   Note, Westgate also offers Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture. To learn more about this approach, click here


Do natural and herbal always mean safe for our pets?

As the use of supplements and alternative therapies continues to rise for our pet population, it's important to consider the safety of our furry family members. While the terms "natural" and "herbal" have a reassuring sound, they are not indicators of either quality or safety in a product or service. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently requested public comment on the use of the term "natural," it is not currently regulated on pet food or supplement labels -- There is no official definition and there are no requirements for making this claim. In fact, there are supplements and therapies that can actually be harmful to pets. herb
Here are just a few examples of natural and/or herbal therapies that can be dangerous for pets:
  • Tea Tree Oil - Application of concentrated tea tree oil to the skin or oral exposure is considered moderately to severely toxic and may be life-threatening to pets. Symptoms include vomiting, weakness, incoordination, seizures, liver toxicity and coma in cats and dogs. Even lower concentrations can cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals. 
  • Garlic and Onion - Ingestion of these foods from the Allium family by dogs or cats can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, collapse and anemia, as well as possible increased bleeding tendencies at surgery.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) - Found in many supplements, ALA can cause hypoglycemia, seizures and liver toxicity in pets at higher doses.
  • Aloe - When ingested, aloe in its various forms can result in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and rarely tremors.
  • Ephedra / Ma Huang - Found in some weight loss products and herbal decongestants, this stimulant can cause hyperactivity, racing heart rate, fever, tremors, seizures and death from cardiovascular collapse.
  • White Willow Bark - Typically used for its possible anti-inflammatory effects, this herb contains salicylates which are particularly toxic to cats. It can also have dangerous interactions with anti-inflammatory medications and heart medications that are prescribed to pets.  
  • Pennyroyal Oil - While considered a pest / flea repellant, this oil is extremely toxic to pets if ingested and can cause vomiting, difficulty breathing, liver toxicity and death.
  • Marijuana and Cannabinoids - Ingestion of any formulation and/or inhalation of smoke from marijuana may result in hypothermia, incoordination, seizures, coma and even death. Safe dosing of marijuana and its various formulations has not been determined for cats and dogs.
Even supplements that are generally considered safe can be dangerous when over-consumed by a pet. This is particularly concerning given the number of supplements that are increasingly incorporated into appealing, flavorful treats. Joint supplements for example, when ingested in large quantities, can lead to gastrointestinal upset, liver toxicity and blood sugar regulation problems in pets.
There is also a general lack of regulation and monitoring of supplement health claims, especially for pet-specific products. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 requires that product labels with claims regarding beneficial health effects also have the statement: "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease." However, the FDA and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have taken the positions that this act does not apply to animals.
Supplement quality and efficacy are not closely regulated either. A label description of ingredients and dosages may vary significantly from the actual dose delivered, and there are risks of supplement contamination with potentially harmful substances. Especially with long term use, product contaminants such as heavy metals may be harmful. Ensuring that a supplement has been tested by an independent laboratory is helpful. 
Listed below are some websites that may be helpful in evaluating supplements, but keep in mind that websites can be fallible and there is variation from batch to batch in the manufacturing of any product:
  • www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements: Maintained by the FDA, this site describes regulation of supplements and reporting of adverse events.
  • Quality-supplements.org: This site by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) lists human supplements that have met independent testing requirements for quality, potency and safety. USP audits the manufacturing facilities for these supplements as well.
  • Labdoor.comLabdoor is an independent company that tests supplements through an FDA-approved laboratories for label accuracy and contaminants. 
  • Consumerlab.com: This site charges a fee for members to access their reports evaluating primarily human supplements.
Ultimately, your veterinarian can be your partner in helping you assess the need for supplements, as well as safety concerns and potential for interactions. It's important to always inform your veterinarian of all supplements your pet is taking, especially if you're having your pet evaluated for illness or prior to surgery.

Our Mission:

We provide the quality care our clients expect and their pets deserve, by relying on the expertise and
compassion of each team member.


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Westgate Pet Clinic
4345 France Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55410
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(612)925-6297 Fax
(612)568-1405 Pharmacy

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