Diets and Heart Disease

*Any pet owner noticing signs of heart problems - such as: coughing, breathing changes, irregular heartbeat, or exercise intolerance -  or having any concerns about their pet should contact their primary veterinarian, or PriorityVet after-hours, at their earliest convenience for a thorough evaluation.*

Please read the linked article regarding certain BEG (Boutique, Exotic and Grain-Free) diets.  These diets have recently been definitively linked to a large number of cases of heart disease in dogs.

FDA Report on Diets and Dilated Cardiomyopathy

The historically uncommon heart disease is called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a life-threatening disease of heart muscle.  The cause of DCM has been linked to a deficiency in the amino acid Taurine historically (in cats) and currently in a large number of dogs, especially Golden Retrievers.  Although a direct cause-and-effect relationship of the diets to DCM has not been established, the reports are certainly compelling and incriminating. Take note that certain breeds - Cocker Spaniel, Doberman, Golden Retrievers and Boxers - already predisposed to the disease, may be at an even greater risk of developing DCM.  As an added complexity, the disease can only be definitively diagnosed by advanced testing with an Echocardiogram or EKG and/or consultation with a veterinary cardiologist. Testing for Taurine deficiency may or may not be of value but should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

PriorityVets’ recommendation for hypoallergenic diets has always been based on the selection of those with a single novel meat protein source.  This recent research is showing that certain food may not be nutritionally sound for pets, perhaps even harmful.  The facts clearly demonstrate that, when indicated, the more closely regulated, scientifically-formulated, nutritionally-balanced and tested diets available by veterinary prescription-only may be worth the additional cost - perhaps priceless.  As such, when indicated, PriorityVet is now only recommending prescription diets that are dispensed through the pets’ primary care veterinarian.  

We strongly recommend that anyone feeding any of the listed diets contact their primary veterinarian, or contact PriorityVet if we previously recommended their use, for further direction.  Recommendations and instructions regarding a change in your pets' diet must be managed on an individual basis. Regardless, making a slow change over several weeks to a new diet is always recommended to prevent gastrointestinal upset.

Thank you,

The Doctors and Staff of PriorityVet

Animal Rescue Organizations

Rescues really do make the best pets, but do you know the facts about rescue organizations?

What is a Rescue?

  • Animal rescue organization is defined by the state of New Jersey as "an individual or group of individuals who, with or without salary or compensation, house and care for homeless animals in the home of an individual or in other facilities, with the intent of placing the animals in responsible, more permanent homes as soon as possible."
  • Animal rescue organization facility "means the home or other facility in which an animal rescue organization houses and cares for an animal".
  • Rescues in the state of New Jersey do not have to register their organization with the state; it is absolutely voluntary.
  • Animal rescue organizations are not regulated by the State or local health departments unless they operate an animal shelter facility.

What does this mean?

  • No direct oversight of rescue organizations or inspection of the organizations' facilities, nor the care that the rescue provides to its' animals, is provided for by any local, state or governmental agency.  They only need to comply with the provisions of the animal cruelty statutes; that is, not break the law.  Only a report of animal cruelty will prompt a rescue to be investigated.
  • Rescues are not required to be non-profit; application for non-profit, tax-exempt status is voluntary.  As such, rescues are allowed to be profitable and/or pay the individuals associated with the rescue.
  • The origin and numbers of animals, current husbandry and veterinary care, current vaccination and health status are entirely controlled by the rescue individual or organization.
  • A rescue could very well contribute to or cause the spread of communicable and potentially deadly disease such as Rabies, FeLV, FIV, Heartworm, Parvovirus, Distemper, etc, to name only a few.
  • An individual could hoard numerous animals in their home and unless reported and investigated, those animal could be suffering real neglect and abuse.
  • In the worst case scenario, anyone can claim to be a rescue, acquire (too) many animals (whether healthy, potentially sick/injured, or carrying deadly disease) in any way that does not openly break the law, keep and care for them wherever and how every it desires,  find new homes for the animals and profit from the venture (all while claiming to be an animal-loving, caring, philanthropic volunteer group and unadvertised not-for-profit) - Talk about loopholes; scary, right!  

But I really want to adopt a rescue animal!  What can I do?  

  • Never fear, there really are numerous legitimate, registered, non-profit, well-organized, truly philanthropic animal rescues!
  • Do your homework, don't be in a hurry, and don't adopt impulsively!
    1. Ask if the rescue is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and registered with the state and with the New Jersey Division of Taxation.  When in doubt, ask to see copies of the registrations.
    2. Ask for the name of the registrant or applicant for the rescue and non-profit and ask to speak them.
    3. Ask what fund raising efforts the rescue does to defray costs of caring for the animals it takes in.
    4. Ask for a veterinarian reference for the rescue - and call to check the rescue out - before adopting!
    5. Ask to see recent medical records for the pet you're looking to adopt.
    6. Ask to see where the animal was most recently housed and/or ask to meet the person most recently fostering the pet.
    7. Don't "adopt" from a pet store, pet shop or "puppy rescue" facility.
    8. Don't adopt a sick or injured pet.
    9. Don't agree to "pay" for the pet; an appropriate donation to the non-profit rescue should suffice.
    10. Have your new pet examined by your veterinarian immediately and report any discrepancies or questions about the age, health, or origins of the pet to your local animal control, health department and/or law enforcement agency for assistance.
    11. Don't believe everything you read or hear from people claiming to do rescue work.  In my experience, every rescue animal has a story - neglected, abused or injured, abandoned or thrown away - and while some may be true; others are just to tug your heart strings and get you to impulsively adopt, occasionally for an unreasonable price and cost!


Rabies is Real...Deadly!

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus. The virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite, or possibly by contamination of an open cut. Left untreated, rabies attacks the nervous system and is uniformly fatal!  Unfortunately, no pre-mortem test exists for the rabies virus; brain tissue of the deceased must be submitted and tested to diagnose rabies.

What animals get rabies?

Only mammals, including people, can get rabies. Rabies occurs most often in wildlife, particularly raccoons, bats, skunks, groundhogs, and foxes. These animals represent over 90% of cases in the United States. (NOTE- It is illegal in NJ to keep these animals as pets.)

In NJ, cats account for the vast majority of domestic animal rabies cases. Farm animals, dogs, and other domestic pets can also become infected, so take measures to keep wild animals from entering houses, barns and garages. Rodents such as rats, mice, chipmunks, and squirrels are rarely infected.  Over 160 cases of Rabies were diagnosed by the NJ Department of Health in 2018: 16 (10%) of those cases were in cats.


How can I protect my pets?

Vaccination and animal control programs have helped to prevent rabies in most pets. It is important to keep your dog or cat up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Cats and dogs that spend time outdoors may have more risk of coming into contact with a rabid wild animal, but it is important to also vaccinate pets that stay indoors. In the United States, there have been more cases of rabies in cats than in dogs in recent years. Therefore, rabies vaccination is especially important for cats. See your veterinarian for more information or take your pets to a state/municipal-sponsored rabies clinic.

Avoid contact with stray or wild animals!

Unfortunately, our experience at PriorityVet has shown that as many as 50% of the pets presented for care are unvaccinated or considered unvaccinated for Rabies due to lapses in care.  We must proceed with extra caution, considerably more than most family veterinarians, given this sobering fact.  Abscesses (infected, pus-filled wounds) on outdoor cats are nearly uniformly resultant from bite wounds.  And all bite wounds of unknown origin must be considered to potentially have come from an animal carrying the rabies virus.  A publication by the NJ Department of Health in conjunction with the CDC is available for guidance (see link below) but the veterinarian must employ judgment in consideration of the circumstances. Wounds of unknown origin in vaccinated animals are not of great concern with regard to rabies.  The pet can be treated for the wound and a rabies booster be given with little or no risk of the pet developing rabies or exposing other animals or people to the rabies virus.  Unvaccinated animals must be handled differently; stray/feral/unneutered animals are always assumed to be unvaccinated. And while an option exists to booster rabies and confine for 4 months to observe for signs of rabies to develop, this is not always practical or appropriate.  A decision ultimately must be made by the attending veterinarian regarding the recommendation for the best, safest and healthiest course of action for both the animal and the public.

Please keep your pets' Rabies vaccination current for the health and safety of all!

***This blog is prompted by a recent unfortunate situation at PriorityVet and a flurry of scathing, defamatory and slanderous poorly educated remarks on social media.  Rather than retaliate, I chose to educate.  Those who know me, know that there must be another side to the story - thanks for your continued support!***

Veterinarians are charged by oath and by law not only with the health and well-being of all animals, but also the protection of the health of the public!  I take this responsibility very seriously!***

Steven P. Cudia, VMD, Diplomate American Board of Veterinary Practitioners
Owner, PriorityVet LLC

Halloween can be Spooky for Pets

Halloween can be Spooky for Pets Many people like to have fun during the Halloween festivities, but our pets can truly be frightened by all of the noises and costumes. Halloween is a holiday with many dangers for our dogs and cats. Dressing up is fun for humans, but may not be fun for our pets. If your pet tolerates a costume, keep in mind your pet must be comfortable at all times. Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing. Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints, dyes, or that are edible.

Costumes on people can be equally scary to pets. Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective and fearful of people in costumes, even if they are normally very social with that person. Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that he doesn't bite any guests. Constant visitors to the door along with spooky sights and sounds may cause pets to escape and become injured in a variety of ways. Consider letting your dog spend Halloween inside with special treats, safe and secure. Even in a fenced yard, Halloween is not a good night for a dog to be outside. This is doubly true for cats: they may try to bolt out the door and even if they are allowed outside, they are more at risk for being hit by cars due to the high traffic from trick or treaters. Black cats, especially, are at a higher risk from human cruelty on Halloween. Consider keeping your cats in an interior room where they are unable to bolt out the door.

Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe for your pets. Fake cobwebs or anything resembling string can be tempting to cats, leading to an intestinal obstruction. candles, even inside pumpkins, can be easily knocked over, burning your pet or even lighting them (it has happened before) or your house on fire!

Keep pets away from all Halloween candy. Most people know that chocolate can be toxic to pets, even in small amounts. However lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can cause blockages in the intestinal tract. Candy sweetened with xylitol can cause a life threatening drop in blood sugar if ingested by a pet. Some pets can get an upset stomach just from eating a piece of candy, since it isn't part of their regular diet. These simple responsible precautions will help humans and pets alike have a safe holiday.

For more information on how to make Halloween less stressful to your pet, contact your veterinarian or PriorityVet after-hours.

Content credited to M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

Holiday Safety Tips for Your Pets

Holiday Safety Tips for Your Pets

As the holiday season approaches and you prepare for the festivities please remember to keep pet safety in mind. 

Pets are part of our family and they too will be in the midst of all the celebrations.  Here are some simple safety tips to consider during this holiday season


Holiday Decor

Keep all ornaments, ribbons, garlands, tacks and potpourri out of reach. Avoid using tinsel.  Cats love to play with tinsel and often ingest it. 

Don’t leave your pet alone in a room where they have access to decorations.  Anything ingested can potentially cause an intestinal obstruction or may be toxic.  


Yummy Foods

Don’t change your pet’s diet.  Any change in diet can result in diarrhea.  Foods high in fat can trigger pancreatitis so avoid those fatty meat scraps.

Do not feed bones to pets, this can result in some serious gastrointestinal emergencies.  Feed only the safe foods and treats that your pets are used to eating.

Secure the garbage can.  Move foods out of reach on counter tops and tables. 

Make sure your pet does not have access to foods intended for people.  Many things are toxic to pets that may seem harmless such as: chocolate, any food containing xylitol (artificial sweetener), macadamia nuts, grapes or raisins, onions, alcoholic beverages.  



Plants can add beauty to our homes and are very decorative but many plants are toxic if ingested.  Keep all plants out of reach. 

Check out the ASPCA toxic and non toxic plant list at


Warmth and Light

All of the things used to keep our gathering spaces warm can pose a danger to pets and people.  Block off fireplaces with appropriate safety barriers. 

Avoid using candles where pets can reach them.  Keep all electric cords out of reach or secured to prevent access by curious pets. 

They may try to chew on the cords resulting in electric shock or burns and if ingested may require surgical care.


Safe Haven

All the noise and activity may be stressful for pets.  Consider setting up a safe, quiet area in your home away from the holiday bustle. 

With visitors coming and going pets are more likely to slip out.  


Identification and Vaccinations

Collars and identification tags should have current contact information.  Because collars can be lost if your pet escapes or more commonly not put back on a pet especially after a bath, microchips are very important. 

Microchips are a permanent form of identification.  Many veterinarians, animal control officers and animal shelters have microchip scanners and will scan found pets in hopes of reuniting a lost pet with an owner.  Microchips are an inexpensive ticket home for a lost pet. 

Make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccinations.  Never leave pets alone that are not accustomed to being together.

PriorityVet wishes your family and pets a safe and happy holiday season!

    Content Courtesy of Dr. Laurie Pearlman and The New Jersey Veterinary Blog

Chocolate Toxicity

With Halloween upon us, it's important to be aware of the dangers of Chocolate ingestion by pets:

All chocolate is poisonous to dogs; however, the hazard of chocolate to your dog depends on the type of chocolate, the amount consumed and your dog's size.  Just a small amount of the most toxic chocolate products can potentially kill your dog.

Why not chocolate?

  • The toxic component of chocolate is theobromine. Humans easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.
  • A large dog can consume more chocolate than a small dog before suffering ill effects.
  • A small amount of milk chocolate or chocolate cake will probably only give your dog an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea.
  • With large amounts, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.

Different chocolate types have different theobromine levels. Cocoa, bakers chocolate and dark chocolate contain the highest levels, while milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest. The high level of theobromine in dark chocolate, bakers chocolate, and cocoa means it takes only a very small amount to poison a dog. Less than an ounce of dark chocolate may be enough to poison a 44-pound dog.

If you suspect that your dog may have eaten chocolate or they are showing any of the signs listed above, call PriorityVet or your family veterinarian immediately!