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For the Love of Pets

Local veterinarians both highlight modern advancements and offer their advice for keeping our four-legged family members optimally healthy, whether it’s during the holiday season or every day of the year.

Any good pet parent considers their furry, feathered, fishy or four-legged friends part of the family, and will approach their animal companions’ health with the same dogged diligence they would for any loved one. 

And just as human medicine keeps evolving with research, breakthroughs and applied science, so too does its veterinary counterpart. Whether it’s cutting-edge technology, less invasive procedures, or a more knowledgeable, empowered approach to care, every advancement helps impassioned pet owners provide their fur babies the best life possible—befitting how many pet parents’ growing affection for their animals has elevated their place in the family. 

“We’re seeing more families go the extra mile, seeking the best possible care,” says Naveen Kondru, DVM, of Hamlin Animal Hospital. “Our clients cherish pets as full-fledged family members, and we’re here for them and their pets when [they] need us the most.”

Whether you’re a new pet parent in need of advice or brushing up on today’s best ways of caring for your menagerie, some local experts have got you covered. 


Breakthroughs in Veterinary Medicine

As pets have enjoyed an increasingly important place in their families and have claimed even bigger places in their hearts, both owners’ willingness to delve into the full scope of all their options and the procedures available to provide such a thorough exploration are expanding. 

“Ultrasound is becoming a part of the minimum database workup,” says Caitrine Hellenga, DVM, medical director at Winter Park Veterinary Hospital. “Instead of sending out for referral, we have four doctors here who can do [an] ultrasound. So now ultrasound is a point of care test where we can get faster access to what is going on inside of a patient. The knowledge can lead us to making better life-saving decisions, such as going to surgery.

“Ultrasound also allows us to decide that maybe there is a terminal illness like metastatic cancer and that a surgical exploratory is not the best choice to put your best friend through. Ultrasound also helps us manage chronic or mysterious illnesses to get to the root cause of a disease. It has become a critical tool that is now more accessible to clients. CT is another diagnostic piece of equipment that is changing our ability to see into the skull, or look inside a rabbit abdomen to decide on surgery versus medical management.” 

“Our veterinary team at Hamlin Animal Hospital stays ahead of the curve with the latest advancements in animal health care,” adds Dr. Kondru. “We’ve equipped our facility with state-of-the-art tools that allow us to diagnose and treat your pets with precision. As a fully digital clinic, we maintain electronic health records to ensure accurate and efficient tracking of your pet’s medical history. We understand that not all treatments are created equal, which is why we only provide top-quality medications and vaccines, backed by rigorous scientific research. This commitment to excellence ensures that your pet family receive the best and swiftest care possible.”

Specific treatments that alleviate a pet’s suffering are increasingly available, too, and have been delivering some life-changing relief for both pets and their worried people. 

“We have seen an increase in monoclonal antibody therapies,” begins James Ebner, DVM, a veterinarian at Kirkland Road Vet Clinic. “We use them daily in our practice and have seen amazing results from pets treated with them.”

He explains both the process and its nearly immediate benefits: “Monoclonal antibodies are formulated to target a specific issue, such as allergies and arthritis. Cytopoint (aka CADI) injections have been a tremendous help for our itchy, allergic dogs. It is an injectable medicine that can last one month or more to help with allergic itch and helps break the cycle of skin irritation. We have seen a significant increase in quality of life in our arthritis patients with Librela and Solensia, for dogs and cats, respectively. These medications act on the specific pain receptors for arthritis. We have been amazed at our clients’ feedback: Often by the next day, they report their dog or cat is jumping around and much more interactive with the family. By the end of the year, we should also have a new monoclonal antibody treatment for parvo, a virus that can be fatal in puppies without aggressive treatment.”


Increasing Concerns and Diagnoses on the Rise

The advent of effective treatments targeting itches and allergies comes at a time when those issues are occurring with a noticeable uptick in frequency. 

“Allergies are rising in both felines and canines,” says Dr. Ebner. “Preventative measures include regularly bathing with gentle soap-free shampoo. In addition, use baby wipes on their paws after outdoor walks if [your pet] has grass allergies.”

Beyond an increase in some newer issues, there are, of course, long-standing and more common concerns that people should be watching for signs of in their pets. Additionally, species- or breed-specific areas of caution should be top of mind for those who welcome them into their families. 

“Some conditions are always present: the silent, slow killers of dental disease and obesity,” Dr. Hellenga notes. “Arthritis is often underdiagnosed. The ability for an owner to detect early signs of pain is so critical to helping their furry friend. … What I see on the rise is the disturbing number of illnesses in dog breeds that become popular. The Frenchie is a favorite companion with a wonderful personality, but I cry when I see the pain from back and other chronic and debilitating health issues. I myself have fallen in love with certain breeds, but now I am choosing to rescue mixed-breed dogs instead: There is strength in mixing the genetic lines, as well as the benefit of giving an animal another chance at life.”


Holiday Health Hazards

While the holiday season is a time to be surrounded by the warmth of loved ones, well-meaning family members and temptingly tasty treats do present increased risks to food-motivated pets who are all too eager to take advantage of dropped morsels and unusually accessible but still forbidden human meals. 

“The biggies are our fur babies doing the naughty and unexpected things that get them into trouble,” says Dr. Hellenga. “Every time I take the trash out with bones in it, I know I’m preventing possible stomach surgery. Taking those few moments to put things up and away is a moment of mindfulness showing the love for your small or big, fuzzy or feathered best buddy. So take out the trash when there are bones present, take the time to put the chocolate away. … The same way you protect your child with childproof locks, safe baby toys, internet safety research and taking time to make safety a loving habit is the way you keep your furry baby safe, too.”

Dr. Ebner emphasizes that seasonal dangers aren’t limited to tasty but toxic treats. The holidays’ festive finery can also pose a threat to Fido and Fluffy, which is why it’s important to keep an extra-vigilant eye on them this time of year. 

“Many plants that people get to help decorate their homes for the holidays are actually toxic to pets and should be avoided,” he adds. “For instance, poinsettias can irritate the GI [gastrointestinal] tract of dogs and cats if ingested. Lilies of any kind can cause acute kidney injury and even death to cats if ingested. … Other items such as Christmas tree tinsel, ribbon or other décor can seem like fun toys for your pet, but could obstruct and upset the GI tract if eaten. Overall, it is best to be cautious and try to keep any new objects, plants or human food away from our furry family members over the holidays.”

Those dangers can quickly turn a time for family and togetherness into one of unexpected medical emergencies. 

“During the holiday season, I typically see an uptick in emergency visits for pets,” says Dr. Kondru. “Toxins for pets can include chocolate, xylitol (a common sweetener in sugar-free products), grapes, raisins, certain nuts, and alcohol. Tinsel, wires, glass ornaments, and even holiday plants like poinsettias, holly and mistletoe are also hazards. Please inform your guests of these dangers and keep such items out of your pets’ reach to prevent any post-holiday emergencies.”


Expert Recommendations

Giving our furry family members a long, happy and healthy life is a year-round undertaking, of course, and it begins the first day you bring them home, whether they’re still a baby or an adult animal adjusting to a new environment. 

Just like a child, young animals also require their own versions of age-appropriate care, preventative vaccinations and establishing good habits from an early age. 

“Puppies should be well socialized and fed an appropriate diet, and started on heartworm and flea prevention,” advises Dr. Ebner. “In Florida, we recommend exams every six months because of the high incident of infectious diseases in Florida. There are vaccines that we recommend depending on lifestyle. For example, we recommend canine influenza vaccine if the canine goes to dog parks, boarding or any social outings with other canines.”

And as animal lovers know all too well how clearly our pets can read our emotions and seemingly empathize with our pain, returning that sensitivity and compassion should help inform how we approach their lifelong safe-keeping. Finding a veterinary team that understands just how much their patients matter to their families is one way to ensure that our animal companions receive the best and most committed care possible. 

“As we feel more deeply about the quality of our fur babies’ lives, and empathy for their pain and suffering, we all want more rapid answers and the ability to look for the root causes of disease,” Dr. Hellenga says. “We follow guidelines from [the American Animal Hospital Association] and also the European Zero Pain Philosophy to reduce pain in every way possible. … We have the pain-scoring system for all species possible posted in our ICU: Cats, mice, rabbits, and ferrets can be assessed by their facial expressions, but dogs are more complex due to variation in facial features and involve whole-body assessment. I am very passionate about pain control and trying to achieve zero pain.”

“To keep your pet family members happy and healthy, at Hamlin Animal Hospital, we recommend regular vet visits and staying on track with their shots and wellness screenings,” adds Dr. Kondru. “A good diet that fits their needs, regular parasite prevention, and plenty of play and exercise can do wonders. Don’t forget that a little love goes a long way!”



Hamlin Animal Hospital
14410 Shoreside Way, Suite 130, Winter Garden | (407) 872-7772 
Winter Park Veterinary Hospital
1601 Lee Road, Winter Park | (407) 644-2676
Kirkman Animal Hospital
38 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando | (407) 900-2097