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Why Is My Pet Always Sick?


Everybody gets sick. It’s a fact of life. When a pet gets sick, however, it can be a little harder to recognize. Dogs and cats can’t tell us “my tummy hurts,” or “I don’t feel like myself today,” so pet owners need to be aware of any changes in their animals. An illness may be indicated by things like unusual behavior, such as losing interest in playtime or walks, lack of interest in food, hiding for no reason, sleeping more than usual, weight loss or gain, and showing signs of general fatigue.

While observing occasional shifts in behavior is just a part of pet ownership, sudden dramatic changes or changes that persist for more than a few days are a sign that it’s time for a checkup with your family veterinarian, who may refer you to a veterinary internist in the greater Philadelphia area for further evaluation and treatment. A board-certified veterinary internist is a veterinarian that has special training dealing with diseases and illnesses associated with your pet’s internal organs. He or she has also passed a grueling specialized training and exam process.

Vomiting and diarrhea are two signs that your furry friend is really going through some troubles. Now, dogs and cats both vomit or have an occasional bout of diarrhea when they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have, so neither should set off immediate warning bells… but frequent vomiting and/or diarrhea, combined with one or more of the unusual behaviors listed above, mean it’s time to take your dog or cat to the vet. While many consider it normal for cats and dogs to vomit up anything from hairballs to whatever your dog got into that day, it’s actually not good for them—and frequent illness can be an indicator of all sorts of other problems. So, if your pet vomits more than twice in a single day, and especially if the vomiting lasts for more than one day, bring him or her to a 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital or make an appointment with your family veterinarian. The cause may be something very common and easily treated, and yet, it’s always better to know for sure. There could be something of greater concern going on that a veterinary internist needs to diagnose and treat.

A frequent but remarkably under-diagnosed condition in pets is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). While you may have never heard of inflammatory bowel disease in pets, it’s more common than you might think. There’s no one specific cause for IBD, but some breeds of dogs and cats can be more susceptible than others, and it can affect dogs and cats of any breed and any age. There are some signs to watch out for, however.

What to Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Dog breeds predisposed to IBD are French Bulldogs, Basenjis, Irish Setters, and Lundehunds. Many dogs from these breeds will never develop IBD, and many dogs, from shelter mutts to purebred Chihuahuas, will. Here’s a list of symptoms that may be indicators that your dog is suffering from IBD, but it’s always best to let your veterinarian diagnose your dog after you bring him or her in for a checkup:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Bright Red Blood in Stool
  • Chronic Intermittent Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Changes to Coat Hair
  • Fatigue
  • Gas (Flatulence)
  • Rumbling and Gurgling Abdominal Sounds
  • Weight Loss

If you suspect your dog may have IBD, or if your dog is simply experiencing any of the above symptoms, bring him or her in for a checkup with your family veterinarian, who may recommend that your pet see an internist. The internist’s goals will be to identify the cause of those symptoms, and eventually reduce your dog’s discomfort by increasing his or her appetite, managing diarrhea, and vomiting, and helping him or her gain weight back after minimizing intestinal inflammation. This may take the form of reducing food allergens such as meat proteins, milk, gluten, artificial colors, and additives, among other treatments.

What to Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats

IBD in cats can look similar to IBD in dogs, but they’re different species with their own physiologies and mannerisms. Siamese cats are the breed most predisposed to IBD, and the symptoms are largely the same—diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, intermittent vomiting, gas and abdominal pain, rumbling or gurgling abdominal sounds, and bright red blood in their stool. As in dogs, no single cause has been identified as the reason some cats develop IBD, but it’s suspected that food allergies can play a part, as can hypersensitivity to bacteria.

What You Can Do

Inflammatory Bowel Disease cannot be cured, but it can usually be successfully treated and controlled. A pet internist will design a therapy to increase your dog or cat’s comfort and reduce symptoms. It’s also extremely important to treat and reduce diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, and stop most (if not all) of your pet’s vomiting. Usually, pets with IBD have lost weight or become anxious about eating, so it’s important to get their weight back up.

It’s possible your veterinary internist may be able to identify a cause of your pet’s IBD, although the variety of causes can make this a bit difficult. Sometimes the cause is dietary; other times, it can be because of parasites, bacteria, a reaction to a drug they might be taking, or something else entirely. If the internist can identify a cause of your pet’s IBD, it should be eliminated, especially if it is a dietary cause. In fact, dietary manipulation is one of the most effective ways of treating IBD, though sometimes medications are required

The reason we say IBD can be treated, but not cured, is that even once your veterinary internist gets your pet’s IBD under control, relapses can be common. VRC’s internist, Dr. Justin Guinan, a board-certified internal medicine specialist with years of experience, can help you minimize the chance of an IBD relapse in your pet. Before joining the VRC team, Dr. Guinan worked at clinics large and small, in both emergency and specialty medical care.

If your pet is experiencing gastric discomfort and advanced, specialty care has been recommended, take your dog or cat to a veterinary internist such as Dr. Guinan at VRC who can get to the bottom of your pet’s stomach troubles and recommend a course of action that will get him or her feeling a lot better, and quickly.

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital located in the greater Philadelphia area. If you suspect your pet has IBD, or are worried about any other digestive issues, contact us immediately.

Memorial Day: Discount for Military, Police, and Assistance Dogs

On Memorial Day, we stop to remember the brave men and women who have given their lives while serving and defending our country. However, men and women aren’t the only ones who protect and serve. Across the country and around the world there are hundreds of thousands of military, police, and assistance dogs that help keep us safe every day. Whether they’re serving in Afghanistan or Iraq as military working dogs helping to detect explosives and perform guard duty, assisting the police in tracking down narcotics, or improving the lives of persons with disabilities right here in the United States, service dogs of all kinds deserve to have their work acknowledged, which is why at your VRC specialty veterinarian in Philadelphia, all military, police, and assistance dogs receive a 20% discount!


Service dogs have been helping mankind since the days of the ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Persians. Service dogs help visually impaired individuals cross busy streets, as well as performing search and rescue operations, acting as sentries, and helping to detect bombs and drugs. Right now, there are approximately 2,700 active-duty dogs serving in the military, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Military working dogs (MWDs) help with everything from explosive and narcotics detection to scouting and patrol duty, and are deployed all over the world.

According to the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), there are between 10,000 and 15,000 working police dogs in the United States, serving 90% of police departments in communities of 100,000 or more. That means more than 60% of all police officers in America are employed in departments where they may work alongside canine companions. While we often think of police dogs as primarily assigned to sniffing out drugs, they serve a wide variety of roles on the police force, including aiding in search and rescue efforts.

Finally, the University of Arizona has estimated that there are nearly 400,000 assistance dogs partnered with individuals with disabilities throughout the United States. While we may be most familiar with “seeing eye dogs” that assist those with visual impairments, these dogs aid a variety of individuals with disabilities including hearing impairments, PTSD and other mental illnesses, mobility impairments, diabetes, autism, and more. Assistance dogs are often more than just a help to individuals living with disabilities; they are also a much-needed friend and source of comfort.


All of these dogs who serve us in so many ways are an inspiration to us here at VRC, and we’re proud to offer a 20% discount for all training, active duty, or veteran service dogs, including those serving with the police, in the military, or as assistance dogs. If your best friend falls into one of these categories and needs specialty or emergency medical care for any reason, please let us know when you make your appointment.


To learn more or schedule an appointment today, just contact VRC, a specialty veterinarian hospital in the Philadelphia area.

Welcome Dustin Lewis, DVM, DACVR (Radiation Oncology)!

We are thrilled to welcome our newest radiation oncologist, Dustin Lewis, DVM, DACVR (Radiation Oncology)!



The VRC team is growing! We are excited to announce that Dr. Dustin Lewis is the newest radiation oncologist at VRC! He brings with him years of experience and skill in the field of radiation oncology.



Dustin Lewis, DVM, DACVR-RO grew up in Northeast Indiana and attended to Purdue University for both undergraduate studies and veterinary school.  In 2010, he graduated and began a small animal rotating internship at The Animal Medical Center in New York, NY.  In July 2011, he began a joint residency in radiation oncology at both North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.  Dr. Lewis completed his radiation oncology residency in July of 2013.  Upon completion of his residency, he accepted a position as radiation oncologist at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ before he began also offering his services at VRC in 2017.


If you are a referring veterinarian and would like to schedule a Meet & Greet or Lunch & Learn with Dr. Lewis or any of our other doctors, please contact
Brian Haugen at

To learn more about VRC and the many services that we offer, give us a call at (610) 647-2950.

Frequently Asked Questions: Cardiology

Cardiology at VRC


How can I detect heart complications and diseases in my pet?

Regular check-up appointments with your family veterinarian are essential in making sure that your pet is heart-healthy.  In many cases, your family veterinarian will be able to detect a heart complication through listening to the beat patterns, X-rays, EKGs, and/or performing routine blood tests. If an abnormality is found, he or she will refer you to a Cardiologist at VRC.

What symptoms might my pet display if he or she is experiencing a heart problem?

If your pet has progressing heart disease, he or she may show observable symptoms. In dogs, these symptoms include gagging cough, fainting, weakness or reluctance to exercise, rapid resting or sleep breathing rates (more than 30 breaths per minute), and abdominal swelling. Cats may faint, have an increased rate of abdominal breathing, experience lethargy, painful limbs or limb paralysis, and they may hide more than usual. Be sure to make an appointment with your family veterinarian as soon as possible if you witness any combination of these symptoms in your pet.

What is a cardiac consultation at VRC like?

A cardiac consultation at VRC consists of a thorough evaluation of the heart and includes a physical exam, echocardiogram (test that displays real-time heart structure and function imaging), Doppler ultrasound, blood speed studies, and electrocardiogram (test that monitors the heart’s electric activity). At VRC, we utilize state-of-the-art equipment to perform all tests, which are each essential in effectively evaluating your pet’s heart.

Can I be present during my pet’s cardiac examination?

Yes, we encourage you to be with your pet during his or her cardiac consultation. This will help your pet feel calm and comfortable, and also allow you to observe the heart tests being performed. After the exam, please feel free to ask any questions that you may have about the consultation and your pet’s heart health.

Can I pick and choose which cardiac tests are performed on my pet?

No, we perform the same cardiac tests with each consultation. Our carefully selected series of tests are needed to decide the best medical treatment for your pet and to determine whether or not further diagnostic procedures are required.

Are the cardiac tests painful for my pet?

Not at all! All of our tests are completely noninvasive. The ultrasound has a massaging action that is completely painless and our EKG clips are nothing like what is used in human medicine; they are surprisingly comfortable. Your pet will be gently positioned on the side of a towel and will be awake and comforted throughout the entire procedure. The vast majority of pets require no sedation and there are no side effects to these tests. Many patients look forward to their visits with our team and have become close friends with our staff members!

Do the tests leave any bruising or physical marks on my pet?

Not at all! Your pet will look exactly the same and no one would be able to tell that he or she was in the hospital if you don’t tell them. We don’t even need to shave your pet for these tests, as we use alcohol to mat down the hair instead; a completely painless coupling gel is also applied for use during ultrasounds.

Can my pet’s heart condition be treated?

For the most part, if your pet is diagnosed with and treated for heart disease early on, he or she has a good chance at successful symptom management and living a long, healthy life. Once your pet is diagnosed, we have an extensive medical arsenal and will do what we can to provide your pet with a good quality of life for as long as possible. If your pet is diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth, surgery may be feasible to correct the condition. Early detection and a personalized treatment plan from a veterinary cardiologist will help manage your pet’s disease and improve his or her overall quality of life. Even advanced heart disease and heart failure may be treatable, so it is never too late for your pet to get a cardiac consultation.

You have recommended that my pet take medication. How do I fill this prescription?

At the end of the exam, the drugs that your pet needs can be dispensed at VRC.  In many cases, your prescription can be filled at almost any pharmacy, so please feel free to price shop; however, a popular cardiac drug called VetMedin must be filled at a veterinary source. You can also utilize our online pharmacy with Vets First Choice for hundreds of guaranteed products and convenient shipping right to your home.