Vaccinating Your Pets by Donna Rae Recupido

Vaccinating your pet- what you need to know

When pet owners think about their yearly visit to the veterinarian it usually includes some sort of
vaccination. Vaccines have been a very important part of keeping humans and pets healthy for a long
time. They are a very important part of preventing life threatening communicable diseases from
spreading. However, vaccines work by stimulating the immune system and this can have consequences.
It is important that the risks and benefits be considered for every vaccination.
Vaccines are put into two categories; core and non core vaccines. Core being recommended vaccines
regardless of the lifestyle of a pet and non core recommended based on a pets lifestyle. Some
recommended vaccinations are going to be based on geographic location as well. There are also
different types of vaccinations; modified live, killed, vaccines which contain an adjuvant, and vaccines
without an adjuvant are some of these types. This has to do with how the vaccine is formulated and
how the body processes the vaccine.
It is important to understand that when a puppy or kitten is born they are dependent on antibodies
from their mother in getting their immune system off in the right direction. As your puppy or kitten
ages vaccines take over the role of boosting the immune system so the body can prevent infection. This
is why puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccinations before they are considered to be protected
against certain diseases. As the pet ages the immune system as had time to develop and mature and
therefore the body becomes better at protecting itself against disease and illness.
Vaccine protocols are going to vary from clinic to clinic and there is no set answer as to what is the right
vaccine and how often to give each vaccine. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine what are
the appropriate vaccines for your pet and how often should they be given. Again, this will depend on
your pets lifestyle, age, and overall health. As mentioned above since vaccines to directly influence the
immune system that has to be taken into consideration in geriatric animals, immunocompromised
animals, and/or animals with chronic illness or who are on long term medication. There are also some
cases where vaccinations can have an adverse reaction and can lead to immune mediated diseases
where the body starts to make antibodies against its own cells. In these cases future vaccinations must
be very carefully decided upon as these diseases can be life threatening.
Ultimately, vaccines are becoming safer every year but it is important to remember they can have side
effects. On the same hand without vaccinations there would be an outbreak of disease amongst our pet
population leading to significant illness and loss. When deciding on which vaccinations are best for your
pet please always consult your veterinarian. He/she will help determine what is best for your pet to
keep him/her as healthy for as long as possible.

Heat Stroke


By: Dr. Kelli Klein

Summer time in Charleston can be a lot of fun for your dog but it can also be dangerous.  I am sure most of you have seen on social media the warnings about how warm it gets in a car when the temperature reaches a certain point outside.  These warnings are very real and very serious.  In Charleston the temperature can change so quickly leading to some very uncomfortable and life threatening conditions.  I generally tell my clients if it is too uncomfortable for you to be spending a long time outside it is too uncomfortable for your pet who is used to being inside.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very serious problems during this time of year.  Heat exhaustion occurs after a person or pet is exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time. It can lead to water depletion and/or salt depletion (electrolyte abnormalities) which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, weakness, and lethargy.  Heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to heat stroke which is a life threatening event.  When an animal suffers from heat stroke multiple organ systems (including the brain) can become affected.  Signs can progress rapidly from gastrointestinal upset to collapse, abnormal heart rhythms, bleeding abnormalities, seizures, sepsis, and even death.  Patients can develop kidney failure, liver failure, prolonged clotting factors (leading to an inability to clot blood), a drop in blood pressure, and swelling around the brain. 

Some breeds are more likely to suffer from heat stroke than others as they may not be as efficient in cooling themselves.  Pugs, French bulldogs, English bulldogs, etc are what are known as brachycephalic breeds.  Due to their anatomy (short and compressed face and airway system) they are not as efficient at cooling themselves when they pant.  They are also more prone to upper airway syndromes which may make it more difficult to circulate air well through their respiratory system.  Laryngeal paralysis is common in Labrador retrievers and can lead to a dog becoming overheated as they cannot cool themselves effectively when panting.  However, any dog that is put in a situation where it is too hot and they cannot cool themselves is at risk.  Common causes of heat stroke include being kept in a car, going for a run with his/her owner, chasing ball outside, or simply being left outside without appropriate ways to be kept cool. 

Dogs and cats should not be confined to the outdoors without appropriate protection from sun and heat.  This means plenty of water (in a bowl that will not accidentally be turned over) and shelter.  This shelter should be in a shady area in the yard.  It is not safe for a dog to be tethered as this gives them limited space to get out of the sun and heat.  If you are looking to take your dog for a long walk or run it is best to do this very early in the morning before the sun is out or late in the evening.  However, during the summer months in Charleston it sometimes does not get cool enough until it is dark outside.  If you are looking to take your dog on the boat or to the beach make sure that you bring along plenty of fresh water and still have a way for them to get in the shade.  Lastly, if on pavement remember that if it is too hot for you to comfortably stand on it is likely too uncomfortable for your pet.  If your pet does seem to be overheated remember to cool them off slowly.  Gently hose them down with cool (not cold) water or lay towels that have been soaked in cool water over them.  Place them in front of a fan and get them into the AC.  Most importantly, have them seen by a veterinarian right away.

Bottom line is during this time of year I recommend you enjoy spending time with your pets inside.  Enjoy outdoor activities during the spring and fall!  

What should I feed my pet?

By: Kelli Klein, DVM

Olde Towne Veterinary Puppy Dr. Kelli Klein


As a veterinarian this is one of the most common questions I am asked by new pet owners; what should I feed my dog/cat.  When you walk into a pet store the choices seem endless and it can be difficult to know what it a good diet.  It also seems that friends and relatives also have suggestions and recommendations for types of diets and it can make it hard to know what to choose.

When I am giving an owner a recommendation for what to feed their pet I consider several factors.  There are the obvious ones like age, breed, and activity level.  Large breed puppies have much different requirements than a small breed puppy or even an adult dog.  Indoor cats tend to be more active than indoor only cats and therefore sometimes have different requirements.  Dogs that live a very active lifestyle also have significantly different requirements than a dog that tends to spend most of the day sleeping on the couch.

When making a recommendation I also take into consideration the physical condition of the pet and if there are any pre-existing medical conditions.  Animal's needs change with age just as with us.  These changes are often associated with dietary restrictions/supplementations.  Geriatric patients generally have a lower metabolism and require less fat, calories, and salt in their diet compared to young patients.  Geriatric patients are also more prone to developing chronic conditions that occur commonly with age but can influence their dietary needs.  Diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, and even arthritis can contribute to what diet a veterinarian may recommend for their patient.  Cats, in general, are not known for drinking much water so your veterinarian may suggest feeding more canned than dry food.  Over the past few years, there has also been a lot of discussion on feeding grain to dogs.  There are some dogs that are sensitive to certain ingredients in foods but the majority of the time that sensitivity is to the protein source rather than grain.  Other common ingredients that can cause a sensitivity are corn, wheat, and soy.  However, food allergies/sensitivities are very difficult to definitively diagnose without direct supervision from a veterinarian.

Choosing a diet for your pet can be a very difficult and overwhelming decision since there are so many options available.  Regardless of what diet you decide on the most important thing is to be consistent.  Dogs and cats do not need variety in their diets and therefore if you find something that works well for them it is best not to try and switch.  There are several very well formulated over the counter diets which have sufficient nutrition for your pet and to ensure this you can look on the bag or can to make sure the diet meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards.  Some of the more specialized diets are available with a prescription through your veterinarian’s office.  These diets have more strict standards and regulations to meet than the over the counter diets.  Bottom line is to do your research before choosing a diet, talk with your veterinarian about specific recommendations for your pet, and once you find a diet that works well stick with it.

Why is my cat limping?

By: Kelli Klein, DVM

olde towne veterinary clinic dr kelli klein charleston.jpg

One of the most challenging aspects of veterinary medicine is that our patients cat not talk and tell us what is wrong.  In my experience it is even more difficult when working with a cat compared to a dog.  When a cat comes into the veterinary clinic they can be very challenging to evaluate.  Most cats when taken out of their normal environment become a bit nervous and can hide their “true symptoms” very well.  It is also natural instinct for them to not show weakness as that would make them more likely to succumb to a predator.  Therefore, when a cat comes into the clinic we as veterinarians need to take time and be patient in our exam to try and determine a cause for their symptoms.

It is not uncommon for me to see on my appointment schedule that there is going to be a limping cat coming in for exam.  There are several reasons for a cat to limp and the cause depends a lot on their lifestyle and age.  However, in nearly all of the cases limping is a sign of pain or discomfort.

Cats that have access to the outdoors are more commonly seen for limping.  In our area and in the warmer months one thing we would worry about would be a snake bite.  With a venomous snake bite (which most commonly will be on the leg in a cat) we see limping, bruising, and swelling.  It is not always possible to see puncture marks from the fangs.  Venomous snake bites can be very serious and require immediate treatment.  This can be difficult to differentiate from an abscess as well.  An abscess occurs when bacteria gets trapped under the skin.  This is generally secondary to getting into a fight with another cat (or sometimes a wild animal).  Snake bites and an abscess from a bite wound are treated very differently.  It is not always possible to tell the difference but an experienced veterinarian can usually tell with some certainty based on his/her exam and the history as provided by the owner. 

Trauma is another cause for limping.  We commonly see this in cats that go outside but trauma can also happen in the house.  Cats are known for being very curious and they want to explore which is how they can end up in some precarious situations.  I have seen cats get their legs caught in window blinds, in a recliner, and even in a cabinet door.  Most of the time cats can free themselves from these situations on their own but depending on the severity of the injury we will often see limping.  The limping may just be short lived and only from pain (without an underlying injury) but could also be something more serious like a soft tissue injury or even a fracture to the bone.  Other possible causes of trauma in an indoor only cat may be from playing a little too hard with a housemate or jumping off from a counter or elevated piece of furniture.  These usually cause just a very mild soft tissue injury and nothing serious but can be uncomfortable.  In addition to traumatic bite wounds as mentioned above cats that have access to being outdoors can suffer other types of trauma as well.  They can catch their leg on fencing or other physical barriers.  They are also at risk for being hit by a car, injuring a leg if trying to jump over a fence, or stepping on something sharp.  These scenarios can lead to a wide variety in degree of pain and limping.

There are also non traumatic reasons for limping.  As cats age they certainly develop arthritis in their joints which can be uncomfortable and lead to limping.  This may be more of a gradual progression seen at home.  It is also important to keep your cats nails trimmed (if they are not using them for outdoor activities) because they will continue to grow and can traumatize the pads which can lead to limping.

Bottom line, cats tend to hide their pain very well and sometimes it is not until they are showing very obvious signs that we realize there is a problem.  If you see your cat limping or if they seem uncomfortable when you touch one of their legs the best thing is to have your veterinarian check him/her out.  Depending on the lifestyle and age of your cat will play a major role in the likely cause of limping but with an exam by your veterinarian you are likely to get some answers and be able to treat the source of the limping.  

Common Household Toxicities

By Kelli Klein, DVM

Dogs and cats are notorious for getting into things that we try to keep from them.  It almost like they know we don’t want them to eat that plant so they make it a mission to get to it.  This is even more common in our puppies and kittens because the world is one big toy to them.  One of the most common questions I get as a veterinarian is “my dog ate this plant is it toxic?”  I have tried to come up with a list of the most common toxicities that our pets tend to get into.

Sago palm is everywhere in Charleston and while it is beautiful and plentiful it is very dangerous to dogs.  The entire plant is poisonous and there is no specific amount which a dog needs to ingest to cause a possible reaction.  Dogs that eat sago palm will often develop vomiting and diarrhea very quickly as well as lethargy.  However, in some cases it can take a while for signs to become evident.  The plant can cause liver failure which even with aggressive treatment can not always be cured.  If you see your pet ingest any part of a sago palm it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately.  Depending on the time frame of how long it was between eating the plant and getting to the veterinarian the first thing they will likely do is to induce vomiting.  From there they will discuss further options in work up and treatment.  Determining factors in the treatment plan depend on previous medical conditions, time of ingestion, if your pet is already showing clinical signs of illness, and results of blood work.

We all love getting flowers from friends and loved ones but they can be dangerous to our pets (especially cats).  Certain types of lilies are highly toxic and can lead to kidney damage.  Unlike with dogs it is very difficult to induce vomiting in a cat so once they eat something toxic it is harder to prevent absorption.  Signs that can be seen with lily toxicity are vomiting, decrease in appetite, lethargy, or changes in urination or water consumption.  If you know your cat has ingested any part of a lily please have him/her seen right away.  You can find a list of toxic lily species online at

Keeping a clean house is very important for not only the humans that live in it but for our pets as well.  However, some of our most commonly used cleansers can be very toxic to dogs.  Bleach can be damaging to mucous membranes and lead to ulcerations in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.  This can lead to very serious problems and if nothing else can cause discomfort when eating.  Certain types of laundry pods can be very toxic as well as dryer sheets.  Lastly, body soap can look like something fun for a puppy to play with but like bleach can lead to some trouble with mucous membranes and GI upset.  Bottom line, do not let your pets try to help keep the house clean!

Medications are another common household item which pets tend to get into and can lead to serious complications.  Out over the counter pain relievers (aspirin, Tylenol, ibupreofen, aleve, etc) are very dangerous to our pets.  In some cases it can take ingestion of only 1 or 2 tablets to cause serious problems.  If your pet eats any of these types of medications call your veterinarian immediately.  Remember it is never safe to give anything to your pet for pain without consulting with your vet.  If your pet seems uncomfortable and you can not get in touch with your veterinarian (or an after hour emergency clinic) the best thing to do is make them a comfortable bed and keep them in a calm and quiet place.

Pets are very curious and sometimes no matter how diligent we are about protecting them mistakes can happen.  The best thing to do if your dog or cat gets into something not meant for them is to call your veterinarian.  You can also contact an animal poison control hotline and they will also be able to provide you with helpful information.  Below is a list of websites and phone numbers for animal poison control.


Phone number for animal poison control:  (888) 426-4435

Meet Dr. Kelli Klein

By Kelli Klein, DVM

Hello and welcome to my blog about veterinary medicine, pet care, and anything pet!  This will be a very informal and interactive experience for all of us.  If you have anything you would like to hear about let me know and I will see what I can do.  I am going to start with a basic introduction so you can get to know me a little better.

I was born in California and before I started school my family moved to Vermont.  This is where I grew up and spent my entire childhood.  There has never been a time in my life when I did not have at least one pet.  We had dogs when I was very young and these ranged from dachshunds to terriers to old English sheepdogs.  I had cats, birds, fish tanks (7 at one point), turtles, guinea pigs, and an iguana.  My life seemed to revolve around my pets.  For my science fair projects I built a maze to see how long it took my guinea pigs to get through it and if treats and vegetables would make them go faster.  When I went to the fair while my friends were going on rides I was spending my money trying to win an iguana because I felt bad for them in the little tanks (needless to say my stepdad built mine a huge cage that I could fit in right in my bedroom).  I was constantly trying to bring home lizards, snakes, or anything I could find that looked like it needed my help. 

After I finished high school I moved to South Carolina where I attended College of Charleston.  I spent one year in Athens, GA trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life (deep down I knew I wanted to be a vet since as young as I can remember) as the thought of more school was very scary.  Eventually I decided this is what I wanted to do and I moved to St Kitt’s to attend Ross University.  I spent my last year of vet school at Auburn University in Alabama.  I was lucky enough to move back to Charleston where I got a job at Olde Towne Veterinary Clinic and Veterinary Specialty Care.  Interestingly enough I worked at both of these clinics as a technician prior to going to veterinary school.

When I am not working at one of the two clinics I enjoy helping our local rescue groups.  When I am not doing something with my animals (Sugar the dog and Flip and Spryte the cats) I enjoy reading, bike riding, bird watching, and going out to eat.