Dr. Imig Reptile Blog

People are always asking me when they need to see a veterinarian for their reptiles. Sometimes your scaly buddy might be sick and not show such obvious symptoms. A sick reptile may have decreased energy, not act themselves, or eat less than usual. Some less obvious symptoms to look for would be abnormal stool color and appearance or even abnormal shedding. If your pet presents with any of these symptoms, please come in for an exam! Maybe you are planning on hibernating for the winter. Stop by for an appointment to assure your pet is healthy enough for a hibernation period. Or maybe you just get a new reptile friend? Bringing him or her in for an establishing visit is a good way to make sure he or she is healthy and ready for your home.

A lot of people also ask me what goes on in a reptile’s veterinary visit. You can expect a technician first take a very detailed history of your reptile’s enclosure, living conditions, diet, etc. I will then perform a thorough exam to assess your pet’s health. Afterwards, we will provide you with handouts and resources to learn more about your reptile’s species-specific needs. In addition, we may recommend performing blood work or a fecal parasite test to ensure that he or she is healthy, inside and out! If your scaly friend is ill, we also may recommend advanced diagnostics (such as digital x-rays) and/or prescribe medication. We also offer hospitalization for individualized nursing care, should your reptile need it.

Fun fact! Did you know that a Doppler Ultrasound unit is used to listen to your reptile’s heart? Stethoscopes do not work on most reptiles, like they would on cats and dogs!

If you ever have any questions or concerns for your reptile pets, please do not hesitate to call us anything at (916) 485-2777.

–Dr. Imig


Are you ready? Spring is springing and so are the fleas!

I remember the days when we had to bomb the blahooey out of the house, and powder the cat and get a new flea collar and wash all the things (including the cat) just to try to keep the population down during summer. They always came back, too. When I was a kid our cat, Snowball, (three guesses what color she was, and the first two don’t count…) was indoor-outdoor, so that was a big part of it. Outside are opossums and stray dogs and cats who are no respecters of backyard fences, all carrying fleas who are laying 40 to 50 eggs a day, rolling out of the hair like a teeny-weeny snowfall all the time. All the time. 40 to 50 eggs. Wheee!

Are you ready for the biomass? You are not. Yes, that’s what they call it, the flea doctors. Biomass. The sheer mass of eggs, larvae, pupae and newly emerged adult fleas, most of which we will never see. They hide waaaaaaay down in the carpet and bedding and couch, and if hardwood floors seem safe they are not. There are seams, grooves between planks in hardwood floors, and down there is where the eggs and the larvae and the pupae hang out. And newly emerged adults, just waiting for something warm-blooded to pass by.

Once on a pet, the egg-laying female (and the opportunity-seeking male) don’t leave. They have their meals on heels already, why jump off? They’re committed.

By the time we see a flea on our pets, there have already been eggs laid for a month or two, larvae hatched, pupae cocooning into the environment. They are already waiting. If a single monthly dose of flea control is missed on a single pet, there are legions ready to spring back into the life cycle and start it all over again. It takes at least one or two months to be sure all the life cycle stages have run through their paces. Until then we might still see adult fleas now and then, but their days are numbered as long as treatment continues without a break.

Since the bad old days of bombing the house (i.e. the 1990s), many new, far more effective treatment options have become available. Some work better or faster or longer – or can be used on younger or smaller pets – than others, and you can talk to your vet about which product is best for your pet. All six of my cats are indoors only, but I’ve been having to treat them anyway. I know other cats – and skunks and opossums and raccoons – roam through our yard, Tang yells at them very loudly. Then Kitou thinks Tang is yelling at him, so he yells back, and then the candles on my windowseat get knocked over.





Lids Peeled for Eyeworms

Worms? In the eye? What? Gross! Yes, it happens. We recently diagnosed a pet with eyeworms, and fortunately it’s easily treated.

Eyeworms (Thelazia spp) are most commonly found in large animals, though they can also be found in dogs, cats, and even humans! They are transmitted by flies (including the common house fly) that deposit the eyeworm larvae on the eye while feeding on eye secretions.

Adult eyeworms live in the conjunctival sacs (space between the eyelid and the eye itself) and in tear ducts; small animals (dogs and cats) tend to have smaller conjunctival sacs, making them less ideal hosts. They have been described as “angel hair pasta” (white-ish, 0.5-0.75 inches long) and move in a rapid snake-like motion across the eye, though many of our animal patients present with vague eye signs such as watery eyes, inflamed eye, ulcers, changes to the cornea, and/or blindness.

Luckily, our patient’s owners noticed angel-hair-pasta-like worms moving on his eye before he developed eye signs and brought him in for immediate treatment. We sedated him, numbed the surface of his eyes, and were able to find and remove FOUR adult worms! Although physically removing the adult worms is the best way to treat an animal, we started this kitty on Advantage Multi for eliminating any remaining larvae that weren’t flushed out during treatment (and also for flea and heartworm prevention).

If you suspect eyeworms in your pet, please contact your veterinarian for further treatment.

Nataya Chayasriwong, DVM
Country Oaks Pet Hospital

Earlier this year about 35 cases of Canine Influenza were confirmed in Los Angeles County. These dogs have all been quarantined, and there is no evidence so far of cases outside this group. While most of these dogs have recovered, this is an emergent disease, and officials are urging veterinarians and pet owners to team up to curb the spread before it becomes rampant. A shelter in Indiana discovered that the H3N2 strain of the virus is also contagious to cats. As far as we know, neither this nor the older H3N8 strain are contagious to humans. Humans are key in stopping the spread between sick and healthy pets, however!  Fortunately, vaccinations are available for dogs for both strains of the virus.

Key steps in preventing the spread of Canine Influenza include:

  • Vaccinate dogs who socialize with other dogs – go to groomers, boarding, dog parks, etc.
  • Wash hands after handling pets.
  • Don’t share toys, leashes, or food dishes between sick and healthy animals.
  • Keep sick dogs isolated for at least 3 weeks.
  • Get sick dogs tested.

There is currently no vaccine for cats, as it is rare for cats to become infected outside a shelter situation. Cats who become ill with the virus have so far shown only mild symptoms, such as sneezing, runny noses and eyes, drooling and lip-smacking.


Winter Tips for Pets

Midwesterners may laugh at us, but when there’s frost on the lawn it’s pretty chilly to us Californians! That includes the four-legged variety! We may not be digging our way out of a snowpocalyse, but here are a few little tips for keeping our furry buddies safe and comfortable this season

  • Bring them in, especially at night. My friend’s Chihuahua gives her the Accuse Look if potty breaks outside are even hinted at, but some pets think it’s their Manifest Destiny to stay outdoors all day. When it’s cold (and rainy, we can hope) it’s better for their paws and their overall health to venture out only under supervision.
  • Keep antifreeze away from pets.
  • Bang on cars before starting. Cats often shelter in wheel-wells and warm engine compartments.
  • Be careful with wood stoves and heaters – don’t let cats jump on top as they could burn their paws.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water. Indoors heaters dry the air, and outside activities can still dehydrate your dog.
  • The dry heat indoors can also lead to itchy, dry skin. Bathe pets as little as possible to avoid stripping their coats of oils. Ask your vet about moisturizing shampoos.

Stay safe! Stay warm! Don’t eat yellow snow!

–Ronda, RVT

But isn’t every month Pet Wellness Month in a veterinary clinic?

Of course it is, but we want to highlight something critical to ensuring your pet is healthy, which many pet owners miss, so we’re having a special month to promote it!

You see your pet may look healthy; your pet may have passed the physical examination at your veterinarian’s office with flying colors and have taken all the necessary vaccines and heartworm, flea and tick preventatives.

But your pet may still not be healthy.

You see a physical examination can only tell us so much about your pet’s health. The problem is…many serious conditions such as early kidney disease and diabetes don’t present themselves in a physical examination.

That’s why wellness bloodwork (blood testing) and fecals (stool testing) are critically important in early detection and prevention of disease.

20% off Age Relevant Laboratory Testing

To take advantage just call us now on (916) 485-2777 but don’t delay, as this offer is limited and ends on October 31st. Please quote WSPW/10/16 when you call to ensure you get the special deal.

Celebrating Seniors

Senior PetsSeptember is Celebrate Senior Pets Month here at Country Oaks! Dogs and cats are considered senior at the age of 7, much as we hate to admit it. (My eldest cat, Lockheed, is 9, and much on his dignity – when the other cats are watching.) Just like humans, senior pets often become prone to more medical complaints than when they were younger. And just like human physicians, veterinarians recommend that older pets get yearly blood panels to check how things are going. Many diseases are much easier to treat when caught early!

Running blood panels every year also allows your vet to compare values for successive years, and detect subtle changes that might indicate developing problems.
Wellness bloodwork includes a serum chemistry profile, a Complete Blood Count (commonly called a CBC, it’s a tally of all the different types of blood cells, like red blood cells, the five zillion different types of white blood cells, and platelets), a thyroid test, and urinalysis, plus yearly heartworm and fecal screening.

Our senior pets deserve extra TLC!

Glaucoma in Dogs

Glaucoma is a common condition in dogs, as it is in humans. There are several causes, but essentially what happens is the fluid in the front chamber of the eye – between the lens and cornea – is unable to drain properly, and pressure builds up. That pressure can damage delicate tissues in the eye, especially the retina. This can lead to permanent loss of vision quite quickly.

It can be a painful disease, but is not necessarily so. (I had glaucoma as an infant, and Mom says it didn’t seem to bother me very much.) It is, however, a medical emergency and needs to be treated right away in order to prevent blindness.

Treatment of glaucoma varies depending on the underlying cause. Topical medicines can be used, but often don’t work as well for dogs as they do for humans. Surgery is often the best option. A veterinary ophthalmologist might use a laser, or put in tiny shunts in the eye in order to allow the fluid to drain properly. Sometimes the inner contents of the eye must be removed and replaced with a prosthesis – a silicone ball. Or, if there are other problems such as intractable infection, or neoplasia, if no other treatment has been successful, the eye can be removed entirely. The other eye can often be saved, once the underlying cause has been determined – learning from the first eye and thus knowing what lies ahead. (As was the case for me. I lost the retina in my left eye, but they saved the one in my right!)

Five Early Glaucoma Signs to Watch For:

  • Pain – rubbing or pawing at eye. Squinting or fluttering of eyelid.
  • Dilation of pupil – it may still react to bright light, but slowly.
  • Cloudy cornea – the clear covering over the iris and lens.
  • Increase in blood vessels in the white of the eye – “bloodshot” appearance.
  • One eye seeming larger or protruding more than the other.

12 Common Medical Complaints in Senior Pets

  • Heart disease
  • Skin problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Obesity
  • Dental disease
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Senility
  • Thyroid disease

– Ronda, RVT


It breaks my heart to see families and defenseless animals endure a disaster. I’m hoping my post will help you and your family before, during and after a disaster.

May 14th is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. Prior to Huricane Katrina, rescuers would often help pets when they could, but now there are state and federally organized efforts among veterinary and other dedicated workers specifically aimed at pet rescue called the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC). But the first responders in major disasters are the citizens, and each of us can do things to help ourselves – and our pets – be prepared.


  • Place collars with current ID information tags on your pets. Consider getting them microchipped. If you do get them chipped, make sure the information the microchip company has on file is current.
  • Get a rescue alert sticker and write the number, species and names of pets. Also include the name and phone number of your veterinarian. Place it as near the front door as possible so that it is visible to rescuers. If you have time and do evacuate with your pets, write “EVACUATED” over the sticker. (Most pet stores have them, or you can order them online from the SPCA.)
  • Map out your evacuation routes, and arrange for a safe haven. Not all animal shelters take owned pets, and not all hotels and motels accept pets. Local boarding facilities might be closed in a major emergency, so check around for places you can go outside your area.
  • Create a buddy system or plan in case something happens while you are away from home. Find someone you can trust to take care of your pets, or get them out for you.
  • Make up an emergency kit for your pets. (Just like with human kits, there are commercially available cat- and dog-oriented kits, but you can create your own.) A travelling kit should be kept as near the main exit as possible, and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is. Things to include:
    • Pet first-aid kit and guide book.
    • 3 to 7 days’ worth of canned or dry food. Canned food will provide moisture and enable the pet to drink slightly less water. Either get the pop-top variety or include a manual can-opener in the kit. Any kind of food, and water, will eventually go bad, so remember to rotate perishables – including medications.
      Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans, etc.), scoopable litter or paper toweling/shredded paper, and/or cage liners.
    • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant, like non-scented bleach. Disposable garbage bags.
      Feeding dishes and water bowls. (There are a lot of options in the camping section – collapsible dishes and bottles, etc.)
    • Extra collars/harnesses and leashes.
    • Photocopies or a USB drive of medical records, a photo of each pet in case you need to make “Lost” posters, and a two-week supply of any required medications in a waterproof container. Medications do expire so remember to rotate then out before they go bad.
    • At least 7 days’ worth of bottled water.
    • Sturdy travelling bag, carrier or crate. It is best to have one for each pet as the anxiety of an emergency can make even the most docile pet behave unpredictably. Label each carrier with the pet’s name, your name and contact information. Cats can be transported in a pillowcase for short periods if necessary.
    • Flashlight, extra batteries.
    • Blanket/s.
    • Toys, especially for young animals. Chew toys for dogs.
  • You can call your local SPCA, Humane Society, or NARSC office for further information and advice. (Website links are below.)


  • Always bring pets inside at the first sign of a storm, wildfire, flood or other disaster.
  • Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes.
  • Separate dogs and cats, and keep smaller “pocket” pets away from dogs and cats.
  • If you do have to evacuate, NEVER leave a pet chained outdoors. They are not likely to survive, and you are not likely to find them again if they do. If you absolutely cannot bring your pets with you, keep them in a safe area inside with food and plenty of water. Take the toilet tank lid off, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they have access to water if you’re gone much longer than anticipated. Put a sign outside stating how many and which pets are inside, a contact number where you can be reached, and the name and phone number of your veterinarian.


  • For the first several days afterwards, keep your pets leashed and close by.
  • Their behavior may be altered by stress and anxiety, so keep careful watch on them and separate particularly anxious individuals to a safe space if necessary.
  • Look for lost pets at local shelters, and operational bases of state and federal rescue organizations.
  • Calling 211 will confidentially put you in touch with various emergency services, including aid in locating pets lost in an emergency and caring for them after a disaster. Check the website (link below) to see if there are 211 services in your area.

-Ronda S


A Non-trivial Concern for Serious Pet-lovers

We take for granted that we ought to do fecal screenings for intestinal parasites in puppies and kittens – the presence of worms in the darling little boops is fairly ubiquitous, and we want our new friends to be healthy and happy. But how often do we consider the potential threat to our own health, when worms are on the loose?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of Americans are affected by parasite infections every year; from the 300,000 people – many unknowingly – infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease, to the estimated 1.1 million new Trichomonas infections each year. Roundworms infecting humans can cause a nasty rash or even blindness, often in children. Toxoplasma gondii is present as a chronic infection in more than 60 million people. Hookworms can penetrate the skin and cause cutaneous larva migrans, although in rare instances visceral larva migrans can also occur, as well as skeletal muscle or intestinal involvement. The most common tapeworm found here is not zoonotic, but there is growing concern regarding Echinococcus multilocularis, whose range is spreading, and causes alveolar hydatid disease, which can be fatal.

Eek! And also Ew! (If you really want to gross yourself out, do an image search on cutaneous larva migrans, or ocular larva migrans. Only for the strong of stomach.)

Prevention, as usual, is much easier than the cure. Preventative deworming of puppies and kittens should be started early and repeated often – every two weeks per the CDC – until 8 to 10 weeks of age; ask your veterinarian what’s right for your pet. Dogs and cats who hunt should be routinely treated. Dogs on raw meat diets can harbor salmonella even if they are without symptoms, indeed according to the CDC such dogs should be considered carriers of zoonotic parasites unless proven otherwise. Pig’s ears, cow hooves and other similar chews can also be infected with salmonella.

Hand washing is key! This gets banged on about all the time, but it really is important, as most of the ickier bugs are transmitted via the fecal-oral route, and we’re talking about microscopic boogilies, so just because we can’t see anything doesn’t mean it isn’t there. (And little kids put everything in their mouths, right? Yep.) It’s a good idea to keep human food away from animal handling or bedding areas.

Pets with diarrhea should be isolated from other animals – testing and retesting pups and kittens with diarrhea is important since if the parasites are in the adult stage they may not be shedding eggs and things that can be found in fecal examinations.

What’s the best way to bring in the poo? Full HAZMAT suits not required, no matter what you smell. The fresher the better, same day at least, but if that’s not possible, be sure to double bag that package and keep it in the fridge – being careful to keep the outer container clean so as to not contaminate anything!


Chagas disease may be making new headlines, but it’s been around for a long time. Discovered in 1909 by Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, the tripanosomes – the microscopic organisms that cause the disease – have existed since before the continents separated. Cases in the southern United States have been documented for decades, though new areas are beginning to harbor the insect carriers, and lately there has been concern not just for humans contracting the disease, but dogs as well.

Dogs seem to be getting it from eating the triatomine – also called kissing or conenose – bugs that carry the protozoan. Most of them are pets who live and/or sleep outside, near brush piles or stacks of wood, with a light that stays on at night. The bugs hide in crevices in wood, and are attracted to light, especially white light. The little boogers are blood-suckers, who generally bite several times in an area and then defecate, and it is the feces that carry the disease-causing protozoan. The bites are itchy, and so the infected feces get scratched into the wounds, or, in humans, are sleepily rubbed into eyes or noses.

Prevention is once again easier than the cure. In fact once the disease has progressed to the chronic phase, it cannot be cured. Dogs in the early phase may display lack of appetite, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes, swelling of the liver or spleen, and even sometimes early heart disease. Later they may develop cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle weakens and the chambers balloon to abnormal size. Pregnant dogs can pass the disease to unborn puppies, which can be fatal. Long-term prognosis for dogs is usually guarded, with no cure, and treatment aimed at sustaining the weakened heart and general supportive care. There is no vaccine, and while transmission from dogs to humans doesn’t appear to have occurred, the increase in infection rate in dogs indicates an increased presence of the protozoan in the insect population, which could lead to greater exposure to humans as well.

It’s best to clear brush piles and keep pet beds and kennels away from stacks of firewood, and out from under lights that may attract the triatomine bugs. Remove rodent nests within 300 feet of the house, and consider changing outdoor bulbs to yellow. Make sure weather-stripping and caulk around doors and windows provides a tight seal, repair window screens if they are damaged, and use caulk or silicone seal to close off any cracks or crevices.

There are two species of conenose bugs here in northern California that carry the parasite: the western bloodsucking conenose bug, Triatoma protracta, and the conenose bug, Triatoma rubida. The western corsair looks similar, but has an orange spot on each wing – corsairs bite but don’t carry the Chagas parasite. Conenose bugs usually bite at night, and in late spring to early summer.