Parasite Surprise: Oakley’s Story

Oakley’s Story

When it comes to parasites, most pet owners are familiar with fleas and ticks. But there are many other parasites that threaten the health of dogs and cats, and some may not even show symptoms!

Danielle Hirka brought her 9-year-old Australian Shepherd, Oakley, to EVC for his regular exam on February 2nd. As usual, she brought along a fecal sample for analysis.

While Oakley’s physical exam was normal, his fecal analysis was not. Oakley had roundworms. While roundworms are common intestinal parasites in puppies, it is rare to find them in adult dogs.

Roundworms can be spread in several ways: from mother to her puppies, through contact with infected feces, or through the consumption of a rodent infested with roundworms. While roundworms can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and a pot-bellied appearance, many times infected dogs and cats do not display symptoms. However, owners are often horrified when their dog or cat either vomits up the live worms, which can be several inches long, or passes them in their stool.

Roundworm eggs under a microscope


In rare cases, roundworms can cause coughing if the worms migrate to the lungs. Oakley had, in fact, developed a cough. Along with the presence of blood in his stool once, these symptoms are what had convinced Danielle to bring Oakley to EVC.

“We still aren’t sure [if the cough is related], but it seemed to appear right around the same time as the stool issue,” she says. “Both of these changes brought it to our attention that we needed to get him checked out.”

The diagnosis surprised Danielle, who says Oakley has never had intestinal parasites before. “I had taken him to another vet and they did not catch this, so as shocked as I was, I’m glad we caught it.”

As with many intestinal parasites, roundworms can also present hazards to humans. Continue Reading

From Scaredy-Cat to Miss Congeniality: dental work brings out cat’s inner love-bug

Perhaps the biggest challenge veterinarians face is the fact their patients can’t speak for themselves. While it can be clear that a pet is acting strangely, figuring out why can be difficult.

Season Gilliam said she adopted her cat, Greycie May, over 11 years ago. “She was born a stray underneath a neighbor’s car and I took her in when she was probably 3-6 months old,” Season said. And by “taking her in,” Season said she means she lured her into her home with food until she could close the door behind her. “She is the epitome of a scaredy cat,” she said. “From the day I met her she wouldn’t let anyone near her. No petting, no cuddling, no holding. This is how it has been for the last 11 years.”

Greycie May hiding in a corner

Greycie May hiding in a corner

As many cats tend to be more skittish, Season didn’t think much of Greycie’s behavior. She continued to eat, drink and act like her normal self throughout the years, making it appear there was nothing to be concerned about. Season became a client at Eastown Veterinary Clinic in 2016. At that time, doctors noted that Greycie May was missing several teeth.

“Before coming to Eastown, I don’t recall ever hearing about any issues with Greycie’s teeth,” she said. “If it was mentioned, I’m sure it went in one ear and out the other because I never thought dental care for animals was a thing.”

Despite missing teeth, Greycie May continued to eat and drink normally, and her behavior never changed.

Season’s view of pet dental care changed in October, when she brought Greycie May to EVC because she noticed a broken canine tooth. “With further examination, that tooth, and others, were abscessing,” she said. “I was shocked and nervous.”Despite Greycie May likely being in significant pain, she displayed very few signs of discomfort. This is a common occurrence among animals, making regular veterinary exams that much more important. Greycie May was going to need the abscessed teeth extracted, and several others were questionable. Season said the cost of having the dental procedure done paled in comparison to what could happen if she was to wait. “I knew if I didn’t get it taken care of, it could get much worse, more expensive, and I had no idea if she was in pain,” she said.

Greycie May’s mouth prior to the dental procedure. Note the inflammation of the bone near the upper canine, tooth resorption on the lower molar and heavy tartar on the upper molar.

Greycie May’s mouth prior to the dental procedure. Note the inflammation of the bone near the upper canine, tooth resorption on the lower molar and heavy tartar on the upper molar.

Season brought Greycie home after her procedure, and almost instantly noticed a change in Greycie May’s behavior. Even after having extensive dental work done, Greycie seemed more comfortable than she had ever been.

“At first I thought it was temporary because of the medicine, but in the months since the surgery, she has been more and more affectionate and social!” she said. “She is still a little skittish, but she actually lets me walk up to her and pet her. She comes up to me to get attention.”

Season said that for the first time in 11 years, Greycie May actually let her hold her!

A once skittish cat, Greycie May now gives head rubs to her mom, Season

A once skittish cat, Greycie May now gives head rubs to her mom, Season

“Sadly, what I think this means is that she was living with pain in her mouth all these years,” she said. “She was always a scaredy cat and I never thought that could be her way of dealing with pain.” Season said she is now an advocate of pet dental care, and recommends that everyone keep up on their pet’s dental exams and cleanings.

“I think taking Greycie in for a cleaning years ago would have revealed the seriousness of her problem,” she said. “And I’ll add that it’s hard to know definitively if your pet is in pain. They can’t tell us and it doesn’t always show in their behavior so really keep this in mind if you ever have to consider getting dental work done for your pet.”

Season said she is thankful for Dr. Tittle and the staff at Eastown. “What started as something we needed to do to keep her healthy became something that completely changed her life and our relationship together,” she said. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and Eastown Veterinary Clinic is offering big savings on dental cleanings! Call us today at (616) 451-1810 to schedule an exam or for more information!

EVC Client shows off baking skills on Netflix show!

At EVC, we know all of our clients are amazing people. But we are continually impressed when we hear of the wonderful things they have achieved!

Tanya Eby has been bringing her dogs, Reggie and Pepper, to Eastown Veterinary Clinic for several years.



“Eastown Vet does a great job of helping us keep them healthy, and we’re really grateful,” Tanya said.

Tanya is a talented writer and audiobook narrator, who also owns Blunder Woman Productions, an indie audiobook publishing company.

But her feats in the kitchen brought her added celebrity, when she appeared on the Netflix series “Nailed It!” The show features struggling bakers facing immensely-challenging cake designs. The results, of course, are hysterical.

Tanya said the idea for applying for the show actually came from her kids.

“My kids and I watched the first season of “Nailed It” and they jokingly said I should apply for it, since it’s for people who aren’t the best at baking,” Tanya said. “I love baking things, and do it just for fun. My son is becoming quite the pastry chef, and my daughter is amazing at decorating. When I make something, they tell me “Good job!” in the same tone that I used to complement their macaroni creations from school. It’s fun when your kids are better at something than you are.”

Tanya applied for the show, filmed baking videos and did casting interviews. She said she was shocked when she was cast for the show.

Tanya flew to Burbank for the show, and said actually being on the show was one of the best experiences she has ever had.

Tanya, during her appearance on “Nailed It!”

“My co-contestants, Lily Orn and Brian Cookstra, were terrific, and we sort of all decided to support each other before filming,” she said. “It was super high stress, exhausting, and a whirlwind. It was also hilarious. And the judges…they’re terrifically funny people.”

Tanya’s challenges included making a fondant animal and baking a cake featuring fondant penguins skiing down a giant mountain.

While her results were hilariously far from the prototype, she did well enough to actually win the episode.

“Humor is so important. It soothes, supports, and somehow magically connects us,” she said. “And it helps to be able to laugh at yourself, especially when you fail so beautifully at something.”

While Tanya will continue to be successful as a writer and narrator, she doesn’t anticipate appearing on any more cooking or baking shows.

“I don’t think they’d let me near Top Chef, unless it was to hold a cue card,” she joked.

To learn more about Tanya Eby, visit her Facebook page at

Dempsey & the Importance of Dental Care

Dempsey & the Importance of Dental Care

Dental care is a priority for most humans. We have our regular dental cleanings, and make sure problem teeth are addressed as soon as possible.

But pet dental health is often left unaddressed. Many pets suffer from dental pain or disease, which can go unnoticed by their owners for many years.

This can be especially true in our senior pets, many of whom have serious dental issues lurking under the surface.  Because many people believe bad breath is normal for senior dogs, this tell-tale sign of underlying issues is commonly left untreated.

But one of our patients, Dempsey, is living proof that senior dogs don’t have to have smelly breath, and that treating dental disease can lead to a happier overall life for dogs.

Dempsey was rescued by EVC client Dawn Highhouse when he was 10 years old. Dawn loves adopting senior dogs, and has brought many of them to EVC.

 “There is something about the old guys that speaks to my heart,” Dawn said. “His photos and piercing gray eyes were striking, but it was his description that won me over.  He was described as being an “old soul,” the kind of dog that calms everyone when he comes into a room.”

But as with many senior pets, Dempsey came to Dawn with some medical issues that needed to be addressed.  Dempsey was bowlegged, seemed stiff when he walked, had a heart murmur, and had a lump on his midsection. Most noticeable, however, was his need for dental care.

“It was hard to tell how bad (his teeth) were because he wouldn’t let me near them, which was a clue in itself, but also his breath was bad enough to knock over a horse,” she said.  “It smelled earthy and rotting. I frequently referred to it as his “goat farm” breath, because it reminded me of a petting zoo in the sun.”

Dawn knew that Dempsey’s bad breath and mass needed to be addressed, so she scheduled an appointment to have him examined at EVC by Dr. Tittle.

“When I get a new fella, I take a few days to get to know him and then I set up a wellness appointment at Eastown,” Dawn said.  I love watching (Dr. Tittle) with dogs; she knows exactly how to get on their level.”

After examining his teeth, Dr. Tittle confirmed Dempsey’s dental disease.

Dental disease is a serious condition that can lead to several other health issues if left untreated. Besides causing loss of teeth, pain and difficulty eating, dental disease can cause damage to the heart and kidneys. Dental disease is graded on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being minimal and 4 being severe. Dempsey’s teeth were a definite grade 4.

There was no doubt Dempsey’s teeth would need to be addressed. Furthermore, the lump on his belly turned out to be a type of tumor that required removal.

Because Dempsey has a heart murmur, special precautions would need to be taken for his surgery.

“The heart murmur made me nervous about putting him under anesthesia,” Dawn said. “But I knew we had to do it. I could tell he was in pain because of those teeth, and the tumor sealed the deal.”

Because of her extensive experience with complicated dental procedures, Dr. Happel was chosen to perform Dempsey’s surgery.

A thorough cleaning was performed on Dempsey’s teeth, which then allowed Dr. Happel to evaluate each tooth for signs of damage or infection.

Dempsey’s teeth before the cleaning

Dempsey’s teeth before the cleaning

Dempsey’s teeth after the cleaning

Dempsey’s teeth after the cleaning

After the procedure, Dr. Happel called Dawn to inform her that Dempsey’s dental disease was so advanced it necessitated the removal of 8 teeth.

While any surgical procedure has its costs, Dawn said she never doubted how badly Dempsey needed the dental, or how great he would feel afterwards.

“It’s expensive and it can feel risky having an older dog under anesthesia,” Dawn said.  “However, if you have ever had a toothache or a cavity, you know why this matters. Our pets put up with chronic pain with such class.”

Besides having better breath, Dempsey’s life improved greatly in other ways after his procedure!

“Without all the pain he regained years of his life,” she said. “Instead of being like John Wayne, he is more of a canine Paul Newman. He plays, he smiles, he runs and prances around my yard. He lets me look at his teeth and now loves to give me kisses. He’s a whole new dog!”


Here’s How Your Donation Makes A Difference

Here’s How Your Donation Makes A Difference

Eastown Veterinary Clinic is excited to be once again spearheading the 2018 Holiday Drive to benefit the Humane Society of West Michigan (HSWM)—so this month we are sharing the story of one of these HSWM animals who found her forever home with EVC’s Exam Assistant, Kristin.

Kristin says when she and her husband decided they wanted a dog, they knew it could only come from one place.

“My now husband and I really wanted to adopt a dog and give it a loving home. So I went after work on a Friday afternoon to the Humane Society of West Michigan because they are a group that I believe in and I really wanted to support their cause.”

While there were many dogs at the shelter, Kristin said she was focused on one in particular: Aspen, a 3-year-old Bluetick Coonhound.

Aspen, the day she was adopted
Aspen, the day she was adopted

“I wanted to adopt Aspen because she looked like she really wanted to receive love, and she seemed like she was so lonely and stressed from all of the barking,” Kristin explains. “I was informed that hounds have a difficult time in shelters or kennels because of their anxiety. I just wanted to give her all of the love I could.”

Aspen was outwardly healthy-looking, but Kristin learned that adopting Aspen would come with many veterinary visits to treat a condition that was hiding under the surface.

“Aspen had heartworm disease when we adopted her,” Kristin reveals.

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. Fortunately, it can be prevented by using a heartworm preventive such as Trifexis or Interceptor. Unfortunately for Aspen, her previous owners had not placed her on any preventive.

Treatment for canine heartworm disease is not only costly, but also painful for the dog as it includes injections into the dog’s lower back muscle to kill the heartworms in the circulatory system. Because of the risk of developing blood clots, dogs being treated for heartworm need strict cage rest for 1-2 months.

But this wasn’t enough to deter Kristin from adopting this sweet hound. Aspen was taken home to become a part of the family.


Acclimating Aspen to her new home would prove to be more even challenging than expected, when a second issue became apparent. Aspen suffered from a common, yet difficult behavioral issue: separation anxiety.

When Aspen was with her new family, she was a very happy dog. But as soon as she was left by herself, nothing in the house was safe.
“She would chew, chew, chew and bark, bark, bark,” Kristin says. “She did NOT want to be left alone, which was difficult when we had to go to work.”

Kristin knew she couldn’t give up on her new addition, so she hired a trainer who worked diligently with Aspen.

“Since then, Aspen has become a completely different dog, and has grown tremendously,” Kristin says.

Aspen making a new friend
Aspen making a new friend

Kristin also took Aspen to receive her heartworm treatments, and eventually she was deemed heartworm negative!

It can be a rough road taking on a pet with difficulties like Aspen’s. But Kristin is so happy she did.

“Aspen is probably one of the most loving and silliest dogs,” she says. “I am so thankful for her and she is such a good girl! We receive so many complements about her and how well she does when we bring her to the dog park and other places.”

Aspen and her mom, EVC Exam Assistant Kristin
Aspen and her mom, EVC Exam Assistant Kristin

Kristin has since adopted another rescue animal, and highly recommends opening your home, and your heart, to a pet in need.

“Shelter dogs are so appreciative when they are adopted, and they deserve that second chance!” Kristin says. “I feel that they show their gratitude in so many ways once they know that they are home.”

The HSWM relies on support from the public to care for homeless dogs like Aspen. Eastown Veterinary Clinic will be accepting donations of food, toys and more through December 30, 2018 at the hospital. Click here to see HSWM’s Wish List!