Internal Medicine: 703.330.8809
Surgery & Behavior Medicine: 703.361.0710

8614 Centreville Road, Manassas, VA 20110


Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Dogs—Rarely in Cats

A Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) injury is one of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs and is the most common reason for hind limb lameness in dogs. In people the CCL is called the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).

The CCL attaches the back of the femur to the front of the tibia and is responsible for stabilizing the knee joint. Dogs are susceptible to CCL injuries due to the natural slope of the knee that causes instability. CCL injuries occur in dogs of all breeds, ages, and sizes but they are especially common in Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls.

A CCL can be partially or completely torn. A partial CCL tear can cause symptoms that resolve over time, but the ligament can NOT repair itself. Eventually a partial CCL tear will eventually lead to a complete tear. The longer a CCL rupture is present the more arthritis forms and therefore, the pain and lameness increase. The majority of dogs who injure their CCL will also injure their meniscus that is the cartilage-like structure that is responsible for shock absorption and weight bearing. Due to the risk of degenerative changes it is advisable to seek veterinary care as early as possible.

Symptoms of a CCL injury include:

  • Lameness in a hind limb
  • Non-weight bearing on a hind limb
  • Trouble rising from sitting or lying position
  • Decreased activity
  • Hopping on three legs
  • Sitting with legs out to the side instead of under the body
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Pain

Diagnosing a CCL injury can be as simple as palpating the knee and observing the dog as it walks. X-rays are usually taken to confirm the presence of fluid in the joint which occurs with injury, the degree of arthritis, and to rule out any other injuries such as a fracture or dislocation. The CCL and meniscus cannot be seen on x-rays.

Two important steps should be taken when treating a CCL injury:

  • Surgical repair
  • Medical management of arthritis

Many surgeons consider the TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery to be the gold standard for CCL injuries.

Effective Treatments for Fleas

flea-63043Fleas are a nuisance that most pet owners have to deal with at some point. For most pets it is not a serious issue as long as owners stay on top of their flea treatment year around. If your pet is one of the unlikely few who has been diagnosed with flea allergy dermatitis—you will have to be more diligent about flea control than the average pet owner. Here are some tips for treating your pet and your home if you find fleas on your pets.


Treatment for Fleas for Pets

  • Bathe with Dawn dishwashing liquid or a flea shampoo. Be careful as this will strip all flea product from your pet so make sure to apply flea product one or two days after the bath.
  • Apply flea/tick topical spot-on treatment.
  • Use a flea-control collar. Some are effective for up to eight months.
  • Administer an oral product to kill live fleas. This can be obtained from your veterinarian.


Treatment for Fleas for the House

  • Sweep, mop, and vacuum all floors and furniture.
  • Use carpet sprays for fleas to get into tighter places, such as upholstery and carpets.
  • Fog your house. Be sure to use enough to cover every room.
  • Throw away the bag each time you vacuum.
  • Wash all bedding, sheets, rugs, and toys in hot water.

If you find fleas on your pet, alert your veterinarian as soon as possible so that the flea infestation does not get out of control.


Pet Safety During the Holidays

With so much going on during the holidays, planning ahead for our pets may not occur. There are many hidden dangers associated with the holiday season.

  • Company coming in and out of the house may allow pets to leave through an open door
  • Decorations can easily be swallowed or cause an electric shock if chewed on
  • Extra treats that we enjoy can be very toxic to our pets


We recommend taking the following simple steps to protect your pets during the holidays.

When company is coming:

  • Watch the exits
  • Have a quiet room where your pets can go if there is too much commotion
  • Ask your guests not to feed your pets any treats
  • Be aware of the weather if you are going to leave your pet outside

Before leaving the house:

  • Unplug all decorations
  • Take out the trash
  • Do not leave food out on counters
  • If your pet cannot be trusted around decorations, crate them while you are gone

Have the following information easily accessible:

  • The nearest 24/7 Emergency Veterinary Hospital
  • Your veterinarian’s hours and contact information
  • ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1.888.426.4435 (a fee may apply)

Happy Holidays!

Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia Provides State-of-the-Art Emergency Clinic

The Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia just re-opened our completely renovated and expanded state-of-the-art emergency clinic. The clinic has a hospital design with an intensive care unit, oxygen cage, isolation unit, treatment room, radiology, on-site lab, surgery unit, all new equipment, four exam rooms, and a large waiting room. Open 24 hours a day/365 days a year including holidays—our Emergency Clinic treats all types of dog and cat emergencies.

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The Dos and Don’ts for Thanksgiving Table Scraps

vrc-thanksgivingIt is easy to give table scraps to our dogs and cats after the Thanksgiving meal.  It is not advisable to offer table scraps to pets on a regular basis but Thanksgiving can be an exception if you follow the recommendations below:

  • Set aside a small amount of turkey and sprinkle it over your dog’s or cat’s normal food for several  meals.
  • Allow your pet to have a small bowl of cooked vegetables or raw vegetables.
  • Add a small amount of mashed potatoes to their food.
  • Let them have a small bite of pumpkin pie or canned pumpkin.
  • Split a dinner roll with them.


Do NOT allow your dog or cat to eat any of the following from Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Turkey Bones
  • Raisins or Grapes
  • Chocolate
  • Ham (which can be very hard for pets to digest)


Be sure to give your dog or cat only a small amount of the approved table scraps above.  Avoid high fat foods because they can cause pancreatitis.  If your pet has food allergies—be sure to adhere to their normal diet only.

Remember—if you have a pet emergency—the Emergency Clinic of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia is open 24/7 365 days per year including holidays to take care of your dog or cat.  Our new state-of-the-art Emergency Clinic has a hospital design complete with ICU, oxygen cage, all new equipment, and more.  Our number is 703.361.8287.

Help Your Pet Lose Weight

Mac MorrisJust as many Americans struggle with weight loss, so do our pets. It affects pets the same as it affects their owners. Unlike people though, our pets cannot choose what they want to eat every day. We are the only ones who can decide what and how much our pets eat. Here are some helpful tips to enable your pet to shed some extra pounds:

  • Feed your pet only a high-quality pet food
  • Feed your pet TWICE a day using a measuring cup
  • Feed the least amount of recommended food according to the instructions on the bag
  • Do not feed any table scraps—feed your pet their dinner in a separate room while you eat and keep them confined in that room until you are done eating so no one is tempted to feed your pet table scraps
  • Do not feed any extra treats or snacks
  • Reward your pet with extra attention like a walk outside, a belly scratch, or play time
  • If your pet craves a food reward use green beans or broccoli ONLY (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • Try rewarding your pet with ice cubes
  • Take your pet on walks but do NOT over exercise an obese dog or cat though as you could injure them
  • Make sure the entire family is on the same page—you might not be feeding your pet extra food but someone else in the household might be


If these tips do not work then try the following for dogs only:

  • Pour all the dog food you normally feed in 24 hours in a bowl
  • Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the food
  • Use this new amount as your dog’s daily intake and divide into two meals


For cats:

  • Feed one kind of food only—wet or dry but not both
  • Put out only a small amount of food at a time
  • Do not allow 24/7 access to food
  • Encourage your cat to exercise


Helping your overweight pets lose weight will be much better for their health and can save you money by helping prevent health issues caused by obesity.   You can bring your pet to your veterinarian on a monthly basis for weight checks—just remember to call first.

Cold Laser Therapy Delivers Many Benefits to Your Pets

laser-boost_1What is Cold Laser Therapy?

Cold laser therapy is the use of a low-level laser that interacts with cells in the body.  The energy administered by the laser is absorbed by the tissue, affecting the cells.  At the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia we use cold laser therapy to enhance your pet’s health and comfort level and decrease recovery times.  Our MLS Cold Laser is special because it is able to penetrate deeper tissue than traditional cold laser therapy devices without producing the harmful effects of higher powered lasers.


How Does Cold Laser Therapy Help My Pet?

  • Increases blood flow to the affected area which brings vital nutrients, oxygen, and white blood cells.
  • Decreases painful swelling by helping the body reabsorb excess fluid.
  • Reduces pain by removing extra fluid and decreases healing time.
  • Noninvasive—it treats areas that are very sensitive or hard to access.
  • Is a drug-free option that can be used alone or in conjunction with medications.


When Would You Use Cold Laser Therapy On My Pet?

Cold Laser Therapy is very helpful for a broad scope of ailments and injuries.

  • The laser is used for our patients with pulled muscles or strained ligaments.  These patients benefit greatly from multiple laser treatments over a few weeks.  We also prescribe pain medication and rest.
  • We use the cold laser on incisions from surgery including knee surgeries, abdominal incisions, fracture repairs, back surgeries, and many more.  This helps decrease swelling and healing time.
  • Our patients who have back pain but do not require surgery are helped by multiple laser treatments along with cage rest.  The laser helps bring blood flow to the area so they can regain normal function more quickly.
  • Patients who are recovering from traumatic injuries that cause edema and severe bruising respond very well to laser treatment.  It is noninvasive so pets who have survived car accidents or dog fights can be treated while resting comfortably in their cage.
  • The cold laser is very effective for areas of infection.  It increases blood flow to the affected area bringing white blood cells and other nutrients that aid in the healing process.
  • Some areas are hard to treat due to location or pain.  The cold laser is great for treating issues with ears, anus, and paws.


Contact the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia at 703.361.0710 for information on how Cold Laser Therapy can help your dog or cat.



E-Collars and Your Pet

E-collars and Your PetAlso known as the “the cone of shame,” the Elizabethan collar is something most pets will need to wear at least once in their life. Your dog or cat will lick at an area as a natural response to heal themselves but it can cause more harm than good. They do it to clean the area and increase blood flow. With modern medicine and simple first aid care that owners and veterinarians can provide, it is not necessary for pets to lick a wound. Here are some tips about caring for your pet while using an e-collar.

Dogs or cats may have to wear an e-collar to keep them from licking at:

  • A hot spot or allergic area on their skin
  • A wound from an accident or dog bite
  • A surgical site
  • A splint or bandage
  • Because the area is causing them pain or discomfort


To help keep the e-collar on:

  • Use your pet’s collar to loop through the holes
  • Make sure you can only get 2 fingers between your pet’s neck and the collar
  • Your pet’s nose should NOT be able to come past the outer rim of the e-collar
  • Raise your pet’s bowls off the floor if it is difficult for them to eat or drink with it on
  • Leave the e-collar on at all times if your pet is pawing at it as they will learn to move around with it more easily if it is on constantly than if you are constantly taking it on and off
  • Give your pet treats and praise when they are wearing the e-collar
  • Put duct tape around the edge of the collar if your pet is running into the back of your legs or walls of your home


Most veterinarians carry plastic e-collars but there are other varieties that may be better for your pet:

  • Soft paper-like e-collars *see picture
  • Clear plastic e-collars
  • Long plastic e-collars for long necked dogs *see picture
  • ProCollar (inflatable e-collar that only goes around neck)
  • BiteNot Collar (resembles neck brace)
  • Comfy Collar (made of nylon and foam)


What You Need to Know About Preventing and Treating Snakebites

Caution_Venomous_Snakes_SignTo prevent snakebites—remove areas around your home where snakes may hide such as fallen trees, tall grass, rocky areas, standing water, and deep holes.


If You Suspect a Snake Has Bitten Your Dog or Cat

Look for swelling, redness, tenderness, and pain around the wound; two puncture wounds from the snake’s fangs; and signs of nausea or vomiting.


If a Snake Has Bitten Your Pet

  • Stay calm! Pets can sense and respond to your anxiety.  We want them to stay as calm as possible.
  • If you see the snake—note its size, color, and pattern but do not get too close as it may strike out in fear or self-preservation.
  • DO NOT put ice on the puncture wounds.
  • Get your pet to the emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible but drive safely.  The sooner you get there—the better your pet’s chances are for survival.

Grooming Is Important for Your Pets

Ava CryingAll dogs and cats—no matter what texture or length coat they have—need to be groomed on a regular basis. Brushing your pet should be fun, easy and something you can do at home. Here are some helpful grooming tips:

  • Brush out any mats that can cause irritation or even a skin infection if left unattended
  • Check for fleas, ticks, and other parasites
  • Monitor any bumps or growths
  • Check for any injuries or lacerations
  • Use this as valuable bonding time with your pet

Regular grooming helps keep your pet cool in the summer, reduces shedding and hairballs, encourages a healthy, shiny coat, and makes your pet feel good!