News & Events


News and Events

COVID-19 Updates

POLICY UPDATE (as of March 18, 2020)

At VRC, the health and well-being of your pet and family are our top priority. As
the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve, we have taken measures to
reduce potential exposure to our clients, patients, and team members.

  • Clients with previously scheduled appointments are asked not to enter the hospital, to remain in their vehicle, and to call the hospital for assistance.
    A team member will come outside to retrieve your pet to be seen by the doctor. All doctor consultations will then be held over the telephone to eliminate the risk of exposure.
  • If your pet is experiencing a life threatening crisis, you may enter the hospital. Exam rooms will be available for waiting, to reduce a large group of clients waiting in our lobby.
  • Visitation of patients has been suspended to better protect our clients and staff members. We understand that it is difficult to have your pet away from you during the stressful time of a hospitalized visit. We assure you that your pets will be cared for as if they are our own.

 

We thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we navigate through this situation.

 

Additional Information & Resources:

A letter to our clients (March 13, 2020) – An Important Message About COVID-19 from VRC

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (Centers for Disease Control)

COVID-19 FAQs for Pet Owners (American Veterinary Medical Association)

Specialized Veterinary Diagnostics at Veterinary Referral Center

Veterinary Referral Center partners with family veterinarians to provide Eastern Pennsylvania pets with the most comprehensive veterinary care available. When your pet is not feeling like herself, you should visit your family veterinary hospital, where they likely will use diagnostics, such as radiographs (commonly known as “X-rays”) and blood work, to reach a diagnosis. More complex medical conditions, however, may require advanced diagnostic equipment, or the expertise of veterinary specialists, for a detailed diagnosis. If your family veterinarian refers your pet to VRC for advanced diagnostics, she will benefit from a multi-service specialty hospital with veterinary specialists who will collaborate across multiple departments to reach a diagnosis, and devise a treatment plan that will provide her with the best chance for a full recovery. 

VRC is proud to maintain the most updated, state-of-the-art equipment to help us diagnose the most challenging medical conditions.

Ultrasound for pets

VRC Veterinary Ultrasound

Our diagnostic imaging department uses several advanced tools to help us look inside your pet’s body. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves emitted by a hand-held wand that bounce off internal structures, are received, and then translated into an image viewed on a screen. Our radiologists can interpret ultrasound images to diagnose conditions such as abdominal pain, pancreatitis, enlarged abdominal organs, and urinary stones. We also use ultrasound to guide needle biopsy of abnormal tissues, diseased organs, and tumors, where the needle collects cells that will be analyzed and identified under a microscope. Ultrasound exams can be scheduled by appointment, and our trained ultrasonographers are also available seven days a week for emergency evaluations. 

Echocardiology for pets 

An echocardiogram is a specialized ultrasound used to examine in detail the heart and surrounding blood vessels. Doppler ultrasound is often used during an echocardiograph to observe your pet’s blood flow through the heart to determine whether abnormal or turbulent flow is a component of her disease condition. Our veterinary cardiologist routinely performs echocardiograms to diagnose conditions such as heart murmurs, cardiomyopathy, narrowed blood vessels, and valvular abnormalities. 

Computed tomography (CT) for pets

Some internal abnormalities can be identified with  radiographs; however, a CT scan provides more detailed images of bones, soft tissues, organs, and blood vessels. A CT unit uses radiation, much like a traditional X-ray machine, to produce multiple cross-sectional slices of a body area that can be viewed in two and three dimensions. A CT scan allows our radiologists to appreciate the exact location and architecture of abnormal tissues, and is particularly helpful in locating tumors to help our surgeons plan their approach prior to surgical resection. 

VRC VeVRC Veterinary CT Scanterinary CT Scan

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for pets

MRI is the most recently developed  imaging modality available, and provides extremely detailed images, also in cross-sectional slices. MRI uses powerful magnets and low frequency radio waves to generate electromagnetic fields necessary to produce images, whereas a CT scan uses radiation. MRI is useful for imaging many internal body structures, and is the preferred method for imaging neurologic structures, such as the brain and spinal cord. VRC has the only on-site veterinary MRI unit in the area, and scans can be performed by appointment, or on an emergency basis.

Endoscopy for pets

An endoscope is a high-density camera on the end of rigid or flexible tubing that can be inserted into various body areas for examination. For example, an endoscope can be inserted into your pet’s esophagus to observe the lining for abnormalities and lesions, or advanced into her stomach to diagnose ulcers, collect tissue samples using instruments inserted through the tubing, or grasp a foreign object she may have eaten. An endoscope also can be inserted into your pet’s airways to view abnormal tissue, collect diagnostic samples, and locate and remove inhaled foreign bodies. Our surgeons use endoscopy when they perform minimally invasive surgery, where they insert an endoscope and instruments into a body cavity or joint through multiple tiny incisions, instead of making a large, more invasive incision. 

At VRC, we are proud to offer our veterinary patients the same technology and advanced care available at human hospitals. Once our team of veterinary specialists diagnoses your pet’s complicated medical condition, she may be transferred to one of our specialty departments for treatment and monitoring, or referred back to your family veterinarian for continued care and follow-up. Contact us to schedule an appointment if your family veterinarian has referred your pet for specialty diagnostics or care.  

 

My Pet Has a Cancer Diagnosis—Now What?

Being told that your pet has cancer is scary, and you will probably have a lot of questions about what comes next. Our oncology department will work with your family veterinarian to help you through your pet’s cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment.  

Staging Your Pet’s Cancer

We will first gather as much information as possible about your pet’s cancer and their general health by performing diagnostic tests that may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC measures the number of your pet’s different blood-cell types to screen for abnormalities, such as anemia, infection, and immunosuppression. There are very few cancers that can be detected on routine blood work, which is a common misconception.
  • Blood chemistry — Measuring different proteins in your pet’s blood provides information about organ function and overall health status.
  • Urinalysis — Testing your pet’s urine informs us about the function of their kidneys and other organs. VRC cancer diagnosis for pets
  • Imaging — Imaging modalities, such as X-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are often used to localize cancerous masses, measure their size, and determine whether a primary cancer has spread to other body parts.
  • Biopsy — A sample of your pet’s cancerous tissue may be collected with a needle, or during a surgical procedure, to determine the cancer type.

The information will allow us to identify the type of cancer, how much it has advanced, and whether it has metastasized (i.e., spread) to other body parts. 

Treating Your Pet’s Cancer

Once we have established a thorough diagnosis, we can design a personalized treatment plan for your pet’s cancer, which will likely consist of a combination of treatments, such as:

  • Surgery — Surgical removal of a cancerous mass often offers the best chance for a complete cure, and surgery is often combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation to attack cancer from multiple angles. If complete excision is not possible, surgery may be performed to partially remove a tumor to make pets more comfortable, or increase effectiveness of other treatments.
  • Chemotherapy — Chemotherapy, which is the use of medication to kill cancer cells, is often used after surgery to kill microscopic cells that have spread from a primary mass, or to manage a cancer that cannot be surgically removed. Human chemotherapy medications are known to cause significant side effects to cancer patients; however, pets receive much lower chemotherapy doses and typically experience few, if any, side effects.
  • Radiation — Radiation uses a focused beam of energy to target and kill cancer cells, while sparing nearby tissue. We recently added a state-of-the-art Varian Halcyon linear accelerator, which is the most advanced unit available for both human and veterinary radiation. The Halcyon unit allows us to treat once-untreatable cancers by delivering high doses of radiation directly to cancer cells, and to reduce treatment times. Radiation can be used to cure a cancer isolated to a single mass, or as part of palliative care to shrink inoperable tumors, reduce pain, and improve a pet’s quality of life.

Treating cancer in pets

Your Pet’s Cancer Prognosis

Your pet’s prognosis will be based on her cancer type, stage, and location, and whether metastasis has occurred. Our oncology team can share statistics of pets who have had similar cancers; however, each pet responds to cancer treatments differently. Preserving your pet’s quality of life is always our primary concern, and our oncologists will present all information and treatment options so you can make the best decisions for them. With the advancements in veterinary medicine, we can cure many cancer types, but some are incurable, and our treatments will focus on keeping your pet comfortable and pain-free, and prolonging their time with you. 

If you have questions about your pet’s cancer diagnosis, or would like to schedule an appointment with our oncology department, contact us

 

The Night Before Christmas—Holiday Pet Hazards Version

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a—wait a minute, is that Jake and Fluffy, the Jones family’s golden retriever and cat creeping around the house late at night? What could they be up to?

It looks like Jake and Fluffy are quietly sneaking around so they don’t wake their sleeping family and ruin their big night. You see, Jake and Fluffy have been on their best behavior all through the holiday season, and now that it’s Christmas Eve and the big guy is on his way with their presents, they plan to enjoy themselves. Let’s see what they have in mind.

Christmas Tree Catastrophes

Fluffy heads for the Christmas tree that her family so carefully decorated. She has been eyeing the low-hanging bulbs for weeks, and now she plans to play to her heart’s desire. She knocks several onto the wood floor. One shatters. As she jumps away, Fluffy feels a sharp pain in her foot. She licks at the blood that seeps from her cut, and watches Jake head toward the tree stand. The water tastes kind of funny, but he happily laps it up, since his family was busy hosting a Christmas Eve party and forgot to fill his empty bowl. The Christmas tree water may contain dangerous bacteria, mold, or chemicals, but thirsty Jake isn’t too discriminating. 

Next, Fluffy pulls some glittery tinsel off the tree. She doesn’t understand why, but the long strands are irresistible, and she eats several. They may cause severe intestinal problems tomorrow, but she can’t help herself now. She moves on to the twinkling Christmas tree lights, and begins chewing on the cord. Her family has left the tree plugged in, since it is Christmas Eve night, and she can’t wait to gnaw through the long strand. Fortunately, as she is about to bite down, she hears Jake rummaging around in the kitchen and goes to investigate.

Holiday Food Fiascos

Jake had to smell the delicious dinner cooking all day long, and was disappointed that his family didn’t share any, but he is thrilled to discover that all the best leftovers are waiting in the trash. His family was too tired to take the garbage out before bedtime, which means that he can feast on turkey skin, bones, gravy, and mashed potatoes. He wolfs down as much as he can find, and licks up the evidence. Poor Jake will probably have a nasty stomach ache tomorrow. Let’s hope he doesn’t develop life-threatening pancreatitis after eating all that fatty food, or an intestinal obstruction, or perforation from the bones. 

After his decadent meal, Jake heads straight for the plate of sweets his family has left for Santa. He gobbles them down, and particularly enjoys the chocolate chip cookies and homemade chocolates. He rarely gets to taste chocolate, since his family normally makes such an effort to keep it away from him, telling him it’s “toxic to pets”—whatever that means.

Lastly, Jake sniffs out the treats left in the stockings hanging on the mantle. He pulls one down and finds more chocolate and several packs of chewing gum, which he devours. Hopefully, the gum doesn’t contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia or liver failure. 

Houseguest Hazards

Fluffy eats a few turkey scraps with Jake, and then wanders down the hallway into the guest room where Grandma and Grandpa are sleeping. She hopes to find the bottles of little round tablets she spotted earlier that looked like fun. She easily locates the pill bottles in the open suitcase, grabs one in her mouth, and runs down the hallway, where she chews the cap off, and eats a few of the small round pills before deciding they are too bitter. 

Fluffy leaves the pills on the floor, and heads to the back door, which one of the kids has left cracked open to ensure Santa can get into the house. She slips her paw into the crack and is able to open the door wide enough to fit through. Jake hears her, and noses the door open wider so he can also slip through, and they head out into the night. They wander down the street, but head back when they see the first morning light so they can rest up before tomorrow’s festivities. Thankfully they didn’t get lost or, worse, hit by a car. 

Jake and Fluffy had quite a night, and they may end up in the emergency room tomorrow, which will surely scare their owners and interrupt their holiday fun. If their owners would prevent these holiday dangers, they would have a safe, healthy holiday together.

To prevent a holiday pet emergency, follow these tips:

  •  Pet-proof the Christmas tree — Hang breakable decorations on higher branches, tuck all cords out of reach, and keep the tree stand covered so your pet cannot drink tainted water. Cats love to eat tinsel, so skip this nostalgic decoration if you have a feline friend in your home.
  • Ensure pets cannot get into dangerous or toxic foods — Fatty leftovers from your holiday dinner can cause a severe case of gastritis or pancreatitis, which may require hospitalization. Toxic foods, such as chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, and xylitol, can cause life-threatening complications if your pet eats them, so stick to pet food and pet-safe treats, and don’t leave human food put where your pet can eat it.
  • Alert guests to your pet-safety house rules — Ask guests to keep all personal belongings, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, safely out of your pet’s reach. Let them know not to feed your pet any human food, and that you will take care of your pet’s potty breaks, so they don’t accidentally let her out into an unfenced area where she can get loose.

If your pet takes a page from Jake and Fluffy’s story and gets herself into holiday trouble, our emergency department is open over the holidays when your family veterinarian may be unavailable. You can contact us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for your pet’s emergency care.