Dr. Alicia Fitzgerald was born and raised on the East coast, primarily in the Pittsburgh area. She completed her undergraduate studies at Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 2008. Dr. Fitzgerald went on to study veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, where she graduated in 2014. Immediately afterwards, she accepted a position as an associate veterinarian at a large 9-doctor practice in Reno, NV, where she gained quite a lot of early experience in the field. However, Reno was not a good fit for her forever home, which is what brought her to Washington to work with us at Orchard Hills. Dr. Fitzgerald has enjoyed learning and practicing all aspects of veterinary medicine, but her true passions and special areas of interest are surgery and dentistry. She is continuing to work on expanding her skill set in these areas. At home, Dr. Fitzgerald lives with her four cats: Eden, Fleury, Sidney, and Sky. They demand lots of couch time snuggles — but in her remaining spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading, dancing, and traveling all over the world.
I received my veterinary degree in 2003 from Oregon State University and joined the staff at Orchard Hills Animal Hospital in July 2008. While I enjoy all aspects of veterinary medicine, my strong interests are in pain management, anesthesia, internal medicine and senior pet care. Outside of work, I enjoy indoor and outdoor gardening, kayaking, traveling, and exploring Portland’s dining scene when I can. I currently share a house with two sweet kitties. Lucy Lu and Olive.
Support the fight against animal overpopulation
Every year thousands of stray and unwanted animals are euthanized in shelters across the United States. Many of these deaths are the avoidable result of owners failing to spay and neuter their pets. The unexpected offspring of these liaisons often fill shelters and are never given the chance at happy, loving lives.
Spaying is a common veterinary surgical procedure performed on female cats and dogs. The process is called an ovariohysterectomy and involves removing the patient’s uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, rendering the animal incapable of reproduction. Orchard Hills Animal Hospital veterinarians recommend spaying your pet at 3-6 months, depending on your dog’s breed and ideally before the patient’s first heat.
Spaying has many notable benefits including:
- Prevents unwanted animal pregnancies
- Eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine tumors
- Removes the possibility of life-threatening uterine infection (pyometra)
What to expect after surgery
Pet spaying is a major procedure that requires 10-14 days recovery time. Pain medication and potentially antibiotics will be sent home with you for post-operative care. Lethargy is common for the first couple of days following the procedure.
Neutering is performed on male cats and dogs. This process castrates the animal, removing their testicles and making them unable to impregnate females. Neutering is advised when your pet is 4-6 months old, but can be performed on older animals as well.
Neutering generates many important health benefits:
- Prevents unwanted animal reproduction
- Placates the animal, reducing aggressive behavior and decreasing dominant tendencies
- Reduces roaming and spraying (territory marking)
- Eliminates the risk of testicular and prostate tumors
What to expect after surgery
Although less invasive than spaying, neutering is still a major veterinary procedure that requires some recovery time. Following the procedure your pet will be sleepy from the anesthesia — this lethargy may last a couple days. Medication may be administered to combat pain. Owners must prevent the animal from licking or biting the incision to reduce the risk of infection.
For more information, give us a call at 360-835-2184 or schedule an appointment today.
The pet food industry has changed dramatically in the past ten years. One of the changes we have seen is a shift toward popular “grain free” diets for dogs. Veterinarians have long recognized that these diets aren’t nutritionally superior but many consumers are understandably swayed by excellent marketing campaigns. Although veterinarians receive extensive training in nutrition, pet food remains surprisingly controversial. We have therefore largely remained quiet on the issue unless someone specifically asks us what to feed their pet.
With this newly released report, we feel compelled to speak out publicly for the health and safety of our patients. If you have strong opinions regarding pet food based on your own personal experiences, we ask that you express them respectfully.
In 2018, the FDA started investigating a possible link between grain free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. This condition is historically uncommon and diagnosed primarily in only a handful of breeds. It is life threatening if untreated and can be fatal even with intensive care. Veterinary cardiologists at referral institutions had noticed a significant increase in the number of patients diagnosed with DCM, particularly in breeds not typically affected. A collaborative effort was begun to seek an explanation and one possible answer appeared to be grain free diets.
This week, the FDA published their findings. A link to the full report is posted here and we would recommend that you read it in its entirety if you have concerns:
This chart (from the report above) lists the brands of food most commonly fed to reported patients who developed DCM. If your dog eats one of these diets, please discuss the findings with your veterinarian to decide if you should consider changing his/her food.
The chart is not just hypothetical; these numbers represent dogs loved tremendously by their families. In 2017, we had a beloved patient at Courtenay Animal Hospital who died at only 5 years old from DCM. His breed was not one genetically predisposed to the condition and he was fed a “grain free” diet that is listed here. We cannot say definitively that the food was implicated in his DCM but if we had known about a possible correlation then, we might have been able to save him. I have talked to numerous veterinarians about this in the past year and almost all of them share similar stories.
This chart does not mean that every food manufactured by these brands is “bad” and most companies produce many different formulations. The biggest concerns surround diets which use peas or other legumes as a main ingredient but this is not the only factor. There is still much to learn.
While there is no single best diet for every dog, we recommend that you feed a balanced diet appropriate for your pet’s life stage and manufactured by a company which employs veterinary nutritionists, budgets extensively for research and development rather than marketing, and conducts feeding trials with live dogs before releasing new diets rather than simply formulating them in a laboratory.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has a list of criteria for the manufacturing of a high quality dog food. Veterinarians know the companies which meet these guidelines and we’d be happy to share them with you on request but avoid doing so here, as we don’t want to appear to be promoting any specific company. We simply want our patients to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible and complete, balanced nutrition is crucial to animal health.
The WSAVA published a single page summarizing their recommendations when selecting pet foods. You can read that here:
They also have an excellent publication addressing FAQs and myths regarding pet foods. You can read that here:
We would urge you to read these publications or seek other resources from veterinary nutritionists when debating what to feed your dog, rather than trusting popular internet sites which may not be run by veterinary professionals.
Here is another good page from the clinical nutrition service at Tufts University:
If you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us or other veterinary professionals!
Blue-green algae (BGA) blooms are a phenomenon that has been on the rise here in the Pacific Northwest over the last few decades. Blue-green algae is actually a type of bacteria known as cyanobacteria (“cyano” = blue-green) which, under the right conditions, can bloom and take over a lake, pond, river, stream or estuary. The conditions needed for this to happen involve proper temperatures, amounts of sunlight, and the correct types and amounts of certain nutrients, most notably phosphorus. Most blooms occur in either the summer or fall, but can happen any time of the year.
BGA blooms are important to pet owners in our area because any animal (dog, cat, cow, human, waterfowl, horse, etc.) that drinks water contaminated with significant enough levels of BGA can become critically ill. Many animals suffering from BGA poisoning will die. The cyanobacteria is so harmful because it secretes nerve toxins (neurotoxins) and liver toxins (hepatotoxins) that cause, among other things, brain damage and irreversible liver damage. Additionally, it secretes toxins that can affect the skin as well as the stomach and intestines.
Recognizing Blue-Green Algae Blooms
So, how do you recognize bodies of water that should be avoided by you and your pets? Signs of a toxic bloom include:
- Dead fish, waterfowl or other animals in the water or on the shoreline.
- A normally clear lake or pond can become cloudy with algae in a period of days.
- A greenish, brownish, reddish or bluish layer of organic material (a film or a scum) floating on the water surface, especially in notable amounts and most often thickest (even up to a couple of inches thick!) at the shoreline.
- Most common in summer or fall but can occur any time of year under the right conditions.
- If areas of your skin that has come into contact with the water get a rash.
Not all blooms are toxic, but if you see any of these changes in a body of water, it is recommended you and your pets avoid contact with the water.
Signs of Blue-Green Algae Poisoning in Your Pet
If your pet exhibits any of the following signs within 15 minutes out to 72 hours after exposure to a suspicious body of water (especially if you also notice algae on its mouth or fur), please contact Orchard Hills Animal Hospital or the local emergency clinic immediately.
- Abdominal pain (hunching, painful to the touch, unwillingness to jump up or stand on hind legs)
Treatment for Blue-Green Algae Poisoning
Unfortunately, there is no deliberate treatment for BGA and its toxins. Treatments provided in the veterinary hospital focus on supportive care. These include IV fluids, anti-diarrheals, anti-convulsants, antibiotics to fight secondary infections, liver support drugs, etc. Exposed pets can survive the poisoning, but many die, so it is best to simply prevent exposure.
If you are worried a body of water in your area has a BGA bloom, please contact the local health department. In our area this is Clark County Public Health (Phone: 360.397.8000)
Just like people, dogs and cats can suffer from asthma and/or bronchitis. Owners will often notice their pet having a persistent productive or nonproductive cough, maybe exercise intolerance, difficult or prolonged exhalation, and wheezing.
Asthma and bronchitis result when something causes inflammation of the airways and the air sacs that make up the lung tissue. Causes of inflammation include allergies as well as inhalation of smoke, perfumes, and other chemical irritants. The condition tends to worsen when your pet is excited, stressed, or when a complicating factor like pneumonia occurs.
When a patient at Orchard Hills Animal Hospital is suspected of having bronchitis or asthma, the doctor will listen to the patient’s heart and lungs and will recommend X-rays and bloodwork. If the pet is severely affected, we will often recommend more advanced testing like bronchoscopy and airway lavage.
There are many treatments available if your pet is diagnosed with asthma or bronchitis.
If it can be identified, the first step is to eliminate the underlying cause. Additionally, pets are often placed on medications like steroids, bronchodilators, and cough suppressants.
Believe it or not, pets can also be treated with inhalers like people use and they can have their lungs and airways nebulized as well. Pictured below is Gertrude Langer and her dad Dustin. Gertrude is being nebulized to help her better cough up mucus and debris from her lungs!
If your pet is experiencing chronic coughing, wheezing, or other breathing difficulty, don’t hesitate to contact us at 360-835-2184 for an appointment.
The laboratory at Orchard Hills Animal Hospital offers:
Complete Blood Counts (CBCs)
For more information, give us a call at 360-835-2184.
Veterinary acupuncture and laser therapy are two drug-free and surgery-free treatments—one ancient, the other modern—that help the body heal itself.
Acupuncture is a 3000-year-old Chinese practice utilizing hair-thin needles to stimulate the body’s nerve centers, improving blood circulation and releasing pain-relieving hormones. This virtually painless process relaxes muscle tissue and oxygenates the surrounding area, allowing the body to heal more rapidly. Acupuncture is one of the safest veterinary treatments available, and Orchard Hills Animal Hospital acupuncture specialists are licensed by the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine.
Many disorders can be treated with acupuncture including:
- Neurologic and soft tissue pain
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Musculoskeletal systemic problems
- Skin conditions
Class IV Deep Tissue Laser Therapy uses a beam of laser light to deeply penetrate tissue without damaging it. Laser energy induces a biological response in the cells called “photo-bio-modulation,” which leads to reduced pain, reduced inflammation, and increased healing speed. Laser therapy can be used to enhance other treatment plans recommended by your veterinarian—including acupuncture.
Several conditions can be helped, or their symptoms alleviated, using laser therapy. They include:
- Degenerative Joint Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Periodontal Disease
- Lick Granulomas
- Geriatric Care
- Hip Dysplasia
- Feline Acne
If you have questions about acupuncture or laser therapy for your pet, or would like to schedule a consultation, contact Orchard Hills Animal Hospital.
Young animals are like children; it’s a never-ending job keeping them safe and happy. Vaccinations are the best weapon against many viral and bacterial infections, preventing deadly diseases like Canine Parvovirus and Rabies. Vaccinations are most important while a still a puppy or kitten, when their young immune systems are still developing and need protection to stay healthy. Vaccinations are vital to pet health and should be administered to every animal.
An Orchard Hills Animal Hospital veterinarian will help you with every step of the vaccination process, including:
- Pet examination and introductory vaccinations
- Necessary booster shots
- Vaccine education
Keep your family member safe and give us a call at 360-835-2184 or schedule an online appointment today.
Our veterinary laboratory facilities host precise diagnostic equipment used in preventative care and early detection.
Veterinary diagnostic imaging creates composites of the internal body used to discover disease or injury. Orchard Hills Animal Hospital employs advanced imaging technologies accessed by board certified radiologists, guaranteeing the highest quality of care for our patients.
Radiographs, or X-rays, use electromagnetic radiation directed towards the pet body to highlight objects within. These popular tests can detect a number of abnormalities including skeletal fractures, soft tissue damage, foreign bodies, and dental disease. Radiography remains one of the most popular and accurate non-invasive diagnostic tools in the veterinary industry.
Orchard Hills Animal Hospital radiology services include:
- Digital radiographs
- Computed Tomography (CT) – We refer out for this
- Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) – We refer out for this
Some specialized veterinary procedures may require anesthesia. Orthopedic radiographs and contrast studies require the patient remain completely still to work correctly, necessitating sedation in most cases. The duration of sedation is usually short and patient recovery is swift.
Radiology imaging services are available on a daily basis at Orchard Hills Animal Hospital.
For more information, give us a call at 360-835-2184 or schedule an appointment today.