Help! My cat has acne!

You might be sitting on the couch one evening, absentmindedly scratching your kitty, when you look down and see black dirt or pimples on your dear kitty’s face!  The horror!


Don’t worry, dear cat lover.  Although it may appear that your cat has been afflicted with an adolescent embarrassment, it’s really nothing to worry about.  Here’s what you need to know about, and how to treat, feline acne.

What Feline Acne Looks Like


An example of feline acne

Feline acne can appear as what looks like “black dirt” along the chin, lower lip, or upper lip.  These are actually similar to the “black heads” that affect humans.  Feline acne can also look like pimples or inflamed bumps in the same area.

In more severe cases, feline acne can progress to painful cysts or ulcers.

What Causes Feline Acne


The majority of cases of feline acne can be attributed to eating out of plastic bowls or dishes.  These dishes harbor more bacteria and oils from food, which are then transferred to your cats skin, leading to clogged pores.

The more severe cases can usually be attributed to food sensitivity/allergy, skin mites or fungus, ringworm, and even certain other cat diseases.  Your veterinarian may need to run a few diagnostic tests to determine if your cat’s acne is caused by something more serious.


How to Treat Feline Acne

Metal Cat Dish


Since the most common cause of feline acne is eating from a plastic dish, the first thing you can do is switch out your cat’s dishes for ceramic or metal dishes.  Also, wash the dishes regularly to keep them free of food oils and bacteria.  These simple changes should allow your cat’s acne to resolve.

If your cat has a more severe case of acne, be sure to have your veterinarian check them out.  Sometimes further treatment, such as antibiotics and/or special cleansers, will be necessary to resolve your kitty’s issue.  In the case of food allergies, a diet change might be recommended.


Feline acne is certainly nothing to be worried about!  But if you have further questions or concerns about your cat, you can always contact Dr. D!


Q&A: What’s the deal with jerky treats from China?

Since 2007, the FDA has been investigating cases of dogs who became ill after eating chicken jerky treats.


At the last report, the FDA had received over 4,800 reports of illness which could be attributed to consumption of these jerky treats.  But despite all the time and effort spent investigating, we still don’t know what is causing these pets’ illness.

Here is what we DO know:

Don't buy jerky treats made in China

Don’t buy jerky treats which are made in China.


This includes chicken, duck, sweet potato, dried fruit, and combinations of these ingredients.  While we don’t know what causes the illness, we do know that the majority of cases reported to the FDA have been associated with treats imported from China.  PetSmart and PetCo have even removed all treats from China from their shelves.

You can flip the bag over and look at the fine print to see if your treats came from China.  But be aware – manufacturers are not required to list the country of origin of every ingredient, so there could be an ingredient in your bag of treats that was purchased from China.

If you choose to feed your pets jerky treats from China, be on the look-out for the following symptoms:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased activity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (sometimes with blood)
  • Increased water consumption
  • Increased urination

If your pet is showing these signs, stop feeding the jerky treats and contact your veterinarian!  These types of treats have been associated with kidney failure and an illness called Fanconi syndrome, which is typically a rare genetic syndrome.  Although most dogs recover from their illness, there have been many who have died.

If you would like more information about this topic, visit the FDA’s jerky treat Q&A page.


And as always, Dr. D is here to help your pets!  If your pet needs to see a vet, you can go HERE to book an appointment!

Breaking News: Plague confirmed in Boulder, CO

How worried should you be about the recent confirmation of plague in Boulder?


Here’s the bottom line:  Plague has actually been active in areas of Boulder (as well as neighboring areas) every year since 2005.  If you take precautions, and know the disease symptoms to look for, then you don’t have much to worry about.  Luckily, Dr. D is here to help you!

Plague in our area is mainly spread via fleas.  It is commonly attributed to the prairie dogs, because they seem to be the most visibly and commonly affected, but fleas are the organisms you and your pets want to avoid.  This, in turn, means avoiding rodents, including squirrels.

Most folks in Colorado aren’t in the habit of using flea prevention medications since fleas aren’t a huge problem here like they are in other states.  However, it’s smart to apply a topical flea medication on your dogs if you take them hiking or walking near open spaces.  Also, take extra care to keep your dog on a leash and away from wildlife, wildlife burrows, and dead or sick animals.

Keep your dog away from wildlife and wildlife burrows.

Keep your dog away from wildlife and wildlife burrows.

I think it goes without saying that YOU should also not touch any sick or dead animals, and maybe tuck your pants into your socks while hiking in areas where plague has been confirmed.  Plague can be spread to you, as well as your pets.

If your cat is allowed outdoors to roam anywhere along the front range, a topical flea medication will be important for them as well. Outdoor cats are more likely to hunt and kill rodents, and therefore will be exposed to more fleas.  All the suspected cases of plague that I have personally encountered have been among cats allowed outdoors in Colorado.

The signs of plague most commonly include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.


If you notice these symptoms in your pets or humans, contact your veterinarian or medical provider right away.  This disease can be treated with antibiotics, but it is important to start them as soon as possible.

You and your dogs don’t need to stop hiking for the rest of the season just because plague has been confirmed.  You don’t have to lock your kitty indoors for the rest of her life.  Just be smart and take these few precautions, and continue to enjoy our beautiful open spaces!

Go enjoy the outdoors after you've taken some precautions to prevent the spread of plague.

Go enjoy the outdoors after you’ve taken some precautions to prevent the spread of plague.


If you have more questions, contact Dr. D.

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Q&A: Does my dog really need heartworm prevention in Colorado?

I get asked this question a lot.


Many folks in Colorado have been under the impression that heartworm disease isn’t anything to be worried about in our state, so their dogs don’t need to take monthly heartworm preventative medication.  While that may have been true many years ago, today the reality is very different.

Take a look at this map from 2013 – it should be apparent that heartworm disease is a problem in Colorado, whether you live in Broomfield, Denver, or the mountain towns.


Heartworm Incidence 2013



The theory behind this increase in heartworm disease is that heartworms traveled here from other states via infected dogs.  Remember Hurricane Katrina?  Remember all the homeless dogs who found new homes around the country?  Those dogs, lovingly adopted by local Coloradoans, brought heartworms with them.  And since our native dogs in Colorado have not historically been treated with heartworm preventative medication, they were at risk.  That’s just one example.

How does a dog get heartworms, you ask?

Well, simply put, heartworms are transferred from dog to dog via mosquitoes.  With Colorado’s unpredictable weather, mosquitoes can pop up pretty much any time of year.  That is why veterinarians recommend year-round heartworm prevention.

In fact, studies have found that most positive cases of heartworm disease in Colorado occur during February and August.  Dogs typically will not test positive for heartworms until six months after they are infected, so that means those positive dogs were infected in the winter AND the summer.

There are plenty of reasons to keep your Colorado dog on heartworm prevention.

If you’re still not convinced that your Broomfield/Westminster/Boulder pup should be on heartworm preventative meds, consider this:  If your dog contracts this disease, he will have to be treated with arsenic-type drugs to kill the worms before they do serious damage to your pet’s heart and lungs.  This treatment costs up to 15x more than a 12-month supply of heartworm prevention.

Keeping your pet on heartworm prevention is easy and inexpensive.  Testing your dog for heartworms is also easy and inexpensive, and should be done every 12 months, whether or not your dog is on preventative medication.

Here’s the bottom line:  the more folks in Colorado who protect their pets from heartworm disease by giving preventative meds, the less dogs will be infected and allowed to spread this nasty disease.  It’s a win-win!


Want more info?  Check out The American Heartworm Society’s webpage!

Does your dog need to get started on heartworm prevention?  Give Dr. D a call to set up an appointment!


This post was updated to show new data from 2013.

Leptospirosis: Is it in Broomfield?


Is Dora at risk for getting Leptospirosis living in Broomfield, CO?

Is Dora at risk for getting Leptospirosis living in Broomfield, CO?

The short answer?  Yes.

But you know I won’t let you get away with a short answer.  😉

Leptospirosis is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by a spiral shaped bacteria known as Leptospira.  In the past 5 years or so, the incidence of leptospirosis cases in the front range areas (Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, and surrounding areas) has increased significantly.  This is mainly due to population growth and development, as well as pet exposure to wildlife.

What you need to know about Lepto

  1. The bacteria is shed in the urine, and can be carried by any mammal.
  2. Your pet becomes infected by lepto through exposure to wildlife (raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rabbits, etc), contaminated water, food, or bedding, and mountain lakes or streams.  The incidence seems to be higher in new housing developments.
  3. This disease is zoonotic.  That means you and your family can also become infected with lepto.
  4. The disease initially causes flu-like symptoms, and can progress to kidney and/or liver failure.
  5. Lepto is treatable with antibiotics and IV fluids IF CAUGHT EARLY.

An ounce (or a milliliter, in this case) of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Leptospirosis can be prevented by having your dog vaccinated against the disease.  As with anything in life, the vaccination is not a 100% guarantee, but is recommended for all dogs who are at risk for exposure.

If you can answer YES to any of the following statements, Dr. D recommends that your canine friend be vaccinated for lepto:

  1. My family lives in a new housing development.
  2. My family lives in a suburban area that has high wildlife traffic.
  3. My family lives in an urban area where rodents are abundant.
  4. My dog is a farm dog or hunting dog.
  5. My dog goes camping/hiking in the mountains with the family.


If your dog needs to be vaccinated for lepto, call Small Things Veterinary House Calls to make an appointment!