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Generosity Reciprocated

Frankie’s Friends recently received a donation in honor of BluePearl Veterinary Partners surgeon Andrew Jackson, DVM, DACVS, and the staff of BluePearl’s  Blaine, MN, facility. The gift also honored Sassy Bunch, an English setter seriously harmed in a lawn tractor accident. Donor Rhonda Ganske, DVM, of Elm Creek Animal Hospital in Champlin, MN, was inspired by the care provided at BluePearl in August 2011 for Sassy, who was trapped under a lawn tractor for several minutes. Sassy suffered severe burns and trauma to her face, neck and shoulder. Sassy’s family brought their dog to Dr. Ganske, their family veterinarian, who stabilized the dog and arranged for her transfer to an emergency hospital for follow up care.

Dr. Jackson, a board-certified veterinary surgeon performed reconstructive surgery, closing the gaping wound and allowing Sassy to heal quickly with less risk of infection.

“I would like to recognize Dr. Jackson’s talents and generosity,” says Dr. Ganske. “It is my hope that another animal can be saved whose family is unable to pay for an unexpected illness.”

Rock Around for Pets Raises $55,000 for Bay-Area Pets

Tampa, FL, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011 ­--  More than 225 pet lovers went back in time to create a brighter future for Tampa Bay families whose cherished pets need life-saving veterinary care. Rock Around for Pets, a 1950s-themed charity event, raised a net total of about $55,000 to benefit Frankie’s Friends. A nonprofit foundation, Frankie’s Friends was founded in Tampa in 1999 to assist financially strapped families with veterinary bills for emergency and specialty treatments.

“The evening was a wonderful success,” says Bonni Voiland, Frankie’s Friends executive director.  “For our first-ever event in the Tampa Bay area, we set a goal to raise $25,000. Remarkably, the community really stepped up, and more than doubled our original target.

“Frankies’ Friends funds treatments provided at one of the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospitals (formerly called Florida Veterinary Specialists) in Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater and Sarasota,” says Voiland. BluePearl adds to Frankie’s Friends funding by providing additional discounts to each pet who is helped.

The T. Pepin Hospitality Centre came to life as guests -- donned in poodle skirts, bow ties, rolled-up blue jeans and white t-shirts -- enjoyed the live vocal harmony and doo-wop sounds of the ‘50s by Cactus Jack and the Cadillacs. A costume contest, pet-themed games of skill, and assorted appetizers and desserts donated by some of Tampa Bay’s finest restaurants rounded out the evening.

Lucky winners of the silent auction scored more than 85 fantastic donated items, including a Harley-Davidson Sportster, compliments of Jim’s Harley-Davidson of St. Petersburg; a 6-day/5-night Paris culinary experience including airfare, accommodations at a four-star hotel and cooking lessons at the Cordon Bleu; and a guitar autographed by country stars Lady Antebellum.

The event was chaired by Lisa DeBartolo Miggs.

Presenting sponsors for Rock Around for Pets were well-known Tampa Bay benefactors Candy and Eddie DeBartolo and the DeBartolo Family Foundation. Johnnie Level sponsors for the event were the A.D. Morgan Corporation and Carlton Fields P.A.  Daisy Level sponsors were Jean & Jim Palermo and Jim’s Harley-Davidson of St. Petersburg. Dudley Level sponsors were Bayshore Animal Clinic; BluePearl Veterinary Partners, Bob’s Busy Bee Printing, Fundraising for A Cause, Get the Picture, State Farm Agent Pamela F. Patterson, and R.S.B.P. Events. Polly Level sponsors were Aimee Bany;  Dominguez & Edwards SCI Companies; Nadia Grannon & Benjamin Heldfond; Lauren & Chris Kwilecki; Charles Saulino Jr.; and Bonni Voiland.

If you’d like to help save the life of a pet whose family cannot afford the cost of medical care or supplement the cost of care for a police officer’s k-9 partner or search-and-rescue-dog, please visit or call 888.465.PETS.

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Reducing the Cost of High-Quality Vet Care

By Amy LiebermanMarch 28, 2011

Frankie’s Friends helps pets receive lifesaving treatment.

When Jeanine Russo and Jason Mays learned their nine-year-old cat, Avery Mays, had lymphoma, they feared that the worst – not only for their beloved cat's prognosis, but also for their ability to cover the costs of her treatment.

But soon after, Avery Mays was referred by her regular veterinarian to NYC Veterinary Specialists, a BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital, they realized they had options they never thought existed. A nurse told them about a financial grant through Frankie's Friends, a non-profit foundation dedicated to saving pets from cancer and other deadly diseases. The couple applied and received an affirmative response within 24 hours.

Within the past six months they have received $7,500 to cover the vast majority of Avery Mays' ongoing treatment. The shorthaired domestic tabby is now in remission and Russo is hopeful for her future, despite the difficult odds facing cats suffering from lymphoma.

“People could say, 'Oh, it's a cat, don't give it chemo, that's crazy,' but when you have had a cat or an animal for nine years it becomes a part of your family,” said Russo, an artist living in Brooklyn. “The idea of letting it suffer is just unbearable.”

Without the grant, Russo says, she and Mays would have had to watch their cat die a slow death, given their relatively low joint incomes. Now, Avery Mays is more or less back to her old self, eating, purring and walking around.

“I feel like we have our old cat back,” Russo said.

And without the help of a specialty hospital like BluePearl, Russo says she doesn't know where she or the cat would be. Their regular veterinarian initially wanted to operate on the tumor, which the doctors at BluePearl later advised against.

BluePearl hospitals, specializing in treatment of cancers, urological disorders, diabetes and cataract surgeries, now exist in 21 locations in nine states and are expanding at a rapid rate, paying homage to the growing field of specialized veterinary medicine.

In its latest acquisition, BluePearl Veterinary Partners recently assumed ownership of Animal Emergency & Referral Center (AERC) in Northbrook, Ill.

Dr. Neil Shaw, a founder and co-medical director of BluePearl, says that as BluePearl continues to expand, it works with the needs of the existing veterinary facilities in a particular community, since those vets will often refer emergency and specific cases to BluePearl.

BluePearl's veterinary services run the gamut, but the patients and owners often find common ground, Shaw explains.

“Probably the most consistent factor at BluePearl is not the disease, but the relationship that the pet owner has with the pet,” Shaw said. “If people are referred to BluePearl, you can bet that the pet is very much seen as a part of the family, and that is more consistent than any type of disease we treat.”

“It is about the bond between the owner and the pet. And the owner is willing to do whatever it takes to help keep the pet alive and improve its quality of life.”

That task, however, can be costly, and out of reach for many pet owners, much like Jeanine Russo and Jason Mays.

Shaw says this makes working closely with a group like Frankie's Friends – named after a Greyhound who died of heart disease in 2007 – very important.

Ninety percent of Frankie's Friends efforts and funds go toward helping owners who could not otherwise afford their pet's specialized pet care, according to Bonni Voiland, Executive Director. In 2010, Frankie's Friends provided grants to 75 families.

Voiland hopes that number will only increase in the coming years.

“We've grown a lot in the last two-and-a-half years,” she explained. “In 2010 we raised about $400,000, and the years before than it was $200,000.”

In 2008, Frankie's Friends raised just $50,000.

“We want to focus on raising more money and helping more families across the U.S.,” Voiland said. “Eventually our goal is to partner with a national organization to raise enough money to help find a cure to pet cancers.”

For more information about Frankie's Friends, visit

For more information about BluePearl Veterinary Specialists, visit

This article originally appeared on


Worst Foods For Pets With Gas

By:  David Wohlstadter, DVMSenior Emergency Clinician NYC Veterinary Specialists

Anyone who has owned a dog, is familiar with an unfortunate side effect of that ownership, gas, that in some cases, can clear a room. But what causes it, can you do anything to prevent it and is it dangerous?

Flatulence is defined as the excessive formation of gas in the stomach or intestine. It is a word that is often used incorrectly. Flatus is defined as gas expelled through the anus. 99 percent of the gas contained in flatus is composed of odorless gases (nitrogen, oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide). The remaining 1 percent of the gases are sulfur containing and produce the odor that many owners object to.

It is very important to note that flatulence and flatus can be signs of gastrointestinal disease requiring medical intervention by a veterinarian.

1. What are the worst foods for flatulence in a pet?

The worst foods for flatulence in pets are those that contain non-absorbable sugars and fermentable fibers. Dogs lack digestive enzymes to break down some large sugars, such as those found in peas, and fibers, such as those found in fruits and beans. These molecules make it to the large intestine and are fermented by bacteria, creating gas. Rice is a highly digestible carbohydrate and is the preferred carbohydrate source in dogs with flatulence. Avoid feeding a dog with flatulence soybeans, beans, peas, and lactose containing foods such as milk, yogurt and ice cream.

Foods like broccoli, cauliflower, spices, onions (toxic to dogs), and cabbage add to the production of foul-smelling gas.

2. What else, besides the foods they eat, can cause gas - ie: eating too quickly. What can you do?

There are four causes of flatulence.

1.  Gas production through fermentation of large sugars and fiber by GI bacteria

2.  Aerophagia ("eating"/swallowing air)

3.  The stomach produces acid and the pancreas produces bicarbonate. These two combine to form carbon dioxide in the GI tract.

4.  Transfer of gas from the blood into the GI tract

Swallowed air and gas produced by bacteria make up the largest portion of GI gas volume.

Brachycephalic breeds (breeds with short noses like pugs and bulldogs), highly athletic dogs, and dogs who eat large meals quickly, have a higher portion of GI gas from aerophagia. Therefore, it's not always what you feed, but the manner in which your dog eats. Feeding small meals frequently as opposed to one large meal not only makes the food more digestible, but also cuts down on swallowed gas.

3. It's too late, your pet is gassy. What can you do?

1. Speak with your family veterinarian. Often flatulence is a sign of gastrointestinal disease that may require medical intervention.

2. Feed small meals frequently as opposed to one large meal. This makes the meal more digestible and encourages less aerophagia.

3. Change to a diet that contains more digestible carbohydrates, a different protein in the correct amount, and a low amount of fermentable fiber. For example, if you are feeding chicken, you may want to switch to lamb. Any change in diet should be done under the direction of a veterinarian. Home prepared meals should be done under the direction of a veterinarian. You may be surprised at what foods can harm your dog.

Remember, treats are part of your dog's diet.

It is important that your dog is fed a balanced diet. Dogs are not people, so don't feed them as such!

4. I keep stressing the fact that you should consult with a veterinarian, so please always do so prior to giving your dog medications, herbs or natural remedies. Many substances (foods, medications, etc) are toxic to dogs that are not toxic to us.

4. How does your pet feel when it suffers from flatulence?

How do you feel when you have flatulence? Since they can't talk, one has to extrapolate that our pets feel the same way we do, abdominal pain and cramping.

5. Are there any natural supplements, herbs, etc. that can help and do these need to be taken long-term?

There are many natural supplements and herbs that are said to be carminatives, which are medicines given to reduce flatulence. However, no safety data, dosage, or efficacy have been established. Because grapes and grape products can cause kidney failure in dogs, grape seed extract should not be used.

6. Medication is a last resort, but what can you give to your animal if flatulence is a problem?

A carminative is a medication given to reduce flatulence. There are many purported carminatives with a small amount of data to support their usefulness in dogs. Some carminatives can be harmful to dogs, so always consult with a veterinarian prior to their administration. The best chance of reducing flatulence in an otherwise healthy dog is a change in diet and/or a change in feeding pattern. There are many commercially available diets that are formulated to reduce flatulence in dogs.

7. Are some breeds of pet more prone to flatulence and if so, which?

Yes. Brachycephalic breeds, like pugs and bulldogs, are more prone to aerophagia, or "eating"/swallowing air, due to the anatomy of their upper airway.

Ten Common Signs of Cancer in Pets*

You can help your own pets by being alert for these 10 common warning signs of pet cancer! 1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow 2. Sores that do not heal 3. Weight loss 4. Loss of appetite 5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening 6. Offensive odor 7. Difficulty eating or swallowing 8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina 9. Persistent lameness or stiffness 10. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

* American Veterinary Medical Association,

Protect Your Pets' Teeth

Did you know February is Pet Dental Month? It is! And there are many reasons why pet dental health is important. To help get the word out to families about the importance of basic pet dental care, February was designated National Pet Dental Month by the American Veterinary Medical Society, the American Veterinary Dental Society and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Bad breath in a dog is often dismissed simply as “doggy breath.” In fact, it may signal periodontal disease, which is the most common ailment suffered by dogs and cats over three years old.

Just as with people, plaque forms in a pet’s mouth when microscopic bits of food combine with bacteria and build deposits on the teeth. So your pet’s bad breath and discolored teeth are probably an indication of the start of periodontal disease.

"Most people think of dental disease as a local disease just affecting the mouth. Unfortunately this is not true. We have learned it can affect overall health," says Donnell Hansen, DVM, a veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Minnesota.  "It's important to note, most pets will not show signs of oral pain, but that's not to say there aren't problems. Even though there are no signs, there are problems. About 80 percent of pets are suffering from periodontal disease."  She adds:  "Families really notice a change in their pets' behavior for the better, after we do a cleaning or extractions."

So what should you do?

Start with a soft toothbrush and flavored toothpaste made for pets. Human toothpaste contains detergents that may cause stomach upset.

Go slowly and be very positive, using food treats if necessary. Place the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Brush in a circular motion, with a firm stroke away from the tooth. Try to reach all tooth surfaces, but concentrate on the outside surface.

For puppies and kittens, introduce the brush at around 6 months — and be consistent. Animals like routines, so making brushing a habit it will be easier on both of you.

In addition to brushing, foods and chew toys can help maintain your pet’s dental health. Look for treats that contain sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP), which lives in the saliva for up to 12 hours, breaking up plaque. You can also look for foods or treats with a seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council — a VOHC seal.

For more information, check out the American Veterinary Medical Society.

Happy brushing!


Avoid a Trip to the Pet ER this Thanksgiving

Giving thanks,  sharing a great meal with family, and having a costly visit to the 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital with your beloved pet? To keep the last item off of your Thanksgiving to-do list, follow this advice from the specialists at Florida Veterinary Specialists, a BluePearl Veterinary Partners Hospital, in Tampa, Fl: The start of the holidays can lead to emergency room visits for our four-legged pals due to a conflux of situations that are unique to the season. This is the time of year where there are usually a lot of shiny decorations in the house, which may prove irresistible as playthings. There is also a lot of great food around and guests who may be unfamiliar with pets' dietary restrictions and/or the proper things to feed the furry ones.  There can be first-time pet parents who may not know how to handle certain situations and, to top it all off, many veterinary offices are closed during the holidays.

According to Dee Ann Dugger, DVM, senior clinician in the emergency service at Florida Veterinary Specialists,  "It helps to give some thought to some of the hazards our pets face during the season."

Holiday meals –Turkey, gravy and other foods that have a large amount of fat can cause pancreatitis, which is an inflammation or infection of the pancreas. This disease can be serious and lead to extensive hospitalization. Avoid feeding your pets any table foods and keep them on their regular diets even through the holidays. Besides avoiding pancreatitis or a less serious, upset tummy, you will also avoid a weight gain in your pet.

Family visits – If family visits are stressful for you, think about how your pet feels. These folks may be strangers to your pet and it can get very noisy around the house, especially during parties. Make sure there is a quiet room or place for your pets to get away from the crowd. Also make sure everyone is on high-alert so your pets don't escape when guests come and go.

From the BluePearl Veterinary Partners family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


When to Rush Your Pet to the Vet

Emergencies happen every day. Being prepared can greatly increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. If you believe your pet is having an emergency, please immediately contact your family veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital before administering a home therapy. Common emergencies include but are not limited to the following:

  • Seizures or collapse
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing or excessive panting
  • Abnormal gum color (pale or bluish/gray or bright red)
  • Abnormal skin appearance
  • Abnormal urination behavior
  • Bloat
  • Wounds, trauma or abnormal bleeding
  • Disorientation, lethargy, weakness
  • Allergic reactions
  • Lameness
  • Toxicities

In case of an emergency, you should have your veterinarian's office phone number and emergency contact number posted in a convenient location near the phone. You should also list the phone number and location of the nearest veterinary emergency clinic.


A Wonderful Gift is Made to Frankie's Friends

"I love my pet." "He's the best member of my family. He doesn't talk and he's always there for me." "I couldn't imagine my life without her; she means the world to me." These are all statements that you've either made about your pet or heard pet owners make. What happens when your pet is diagnosed with cancer and you can't afford the treatments? If you live in the New York City area, this devastating news may be easier to handle thanks to the generosity of Dr. Agnes Varis and the Zeus Varis Fund. This fund provides funding for cancer treatments to pets from families that cannot afford the cost of care at NYC Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Varis recently gave $100,000 to Frankie's Friends for the Zeus Varis Fund. When making this gift, Dr. Varis said, "We're a team. I write the check. (Frankie's Friends finds) the families in need. (The doctors, nurses and staff) work with the animals. We all have a part in this."

But there would be no "part" to have if it weren't for her. She is a true friend of animals!

Zeus, a domestic long-hair cat, and his sister, Kallee, a calico, were adopted in 1995 as kittens by Dr. Agnes Varis and her late husband, Karl Leichtman. After being diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2009, Zeus enjoyed a high-quality of life under the care of Dr. Timothy Rocha and the NYC Veterinary Specialists team until he died in June 2009. Dr. Varis named the fund is named in memory of Zeus and in honor of Dr. Rocha, Dr. Karen Oberthaler, and the oncology team at NYC Veterinary Specialists.


Heat Stroke Is No Joke - Protect Your Pets

Sunscreen? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Protecting your pet from the summer heat? Huh? With the dog days of August upon us, heat and humidity should be a cause of concern for pet owners.  Veterinarians at across the country are warning pet owners of the dangers of heat stroke, which can be a leading cause of pet fatalities during the summer months. "Pet owners these days are very informed and most know it’s a bad idea to lock their pet in a car," said Dr. David Wohlstadter, an emergency veterinarian at NYC Veterinary Specialists, located in New York. "What most people don't realize is that heat stroke can occur in more common ways; such as a walk around a couple of blocks, a game of fetch or even roughhousing with a doggie pal."

Heat stroke occurs when the pet's natural defense system cannot dissipate the heat building up inside its body. Usually, a dog or cat regulates body temperature primarily through evaporative heat loss via panting. When the animal in question cannot pant away the heat its body will overheat. Keep in mind, that dogs and cats are also wearing a fur coat and don't sweat.

Wohlstadter recommends pet owners avoid taking pets out for a walk or outdoors during the hottest part of the day which is usually between noon and 4 p.m. Of course, in some cases, this may not be avoidable. In those cases, you should limit the walk to as brief a time as possible, carry bottled water with you to give to your dog and try and walk in the shade if at all possible.

Keeping the shades down in the home with the windows closed and leaving fans and/or the air conditioner on will help keep you companion cool. Your utility bill may be a bit higher that month, but it will be cheaper than an emergency visit to the vet, and definitely less emotionally wrenching than your pet going through the trauma or dying.

Breeds with short noses, such as pugs, bulldogs and boxers are more susceptible to heat stroke, although it is important to remember that any dog or cat can suffer heat stroke. Heat stroke is a veterinary emergency and should be treated immediately.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Profuse salivation
  • Glazed eyes or staring
  • Anxiousness or restlessness
  • Bright red or purple gums and tongue
  • Confusion
  • Trouble standing or walking
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heat stroke, Wohlstadter recommends that you contact your veterinarian and rush them to the animal hospital immediately. Using ice or ice cold water is not recommended because this may lead to vasoconstriction, which is the narrowing of the blood vessels. When blood vessels constrict, the flow of blood is decreased, and more body heat is retained, which is exactly the opposite of what you want in this situation.

Wohlstadter recommends pet owners follow these tips to prevent heat stroke:

  1. Avoid excessive outdoor activity on hot days.
  2. Always have fresh water available. If you go for a walk or an outing, take plenty of water along.
  3. Keep pets well groomed. If their coat is matted and tangled the fur may actually trap heat.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight for your pet. Obese pets have more trouble regulating their body temperature.
  5. Keep walks at a gentle pace and if your pet seems tired, rest a bit or try to go someplace with air conditioning that allows your dog. Limit longer walks to early morning or evening when the sun is not directly overhead and temperatures are more comfortable.


Come Join Us for a Great Night of Baseball!

Mindy and Randy Levine (Mr. Levine is president of the NY Yankees) are hosting a fund-raiser for Frankie's Friends in a private suite at Yankee Stadium on June 1 for the Yankees-Orioles game. The Levines pull out all the stops to make this a memorable event: private behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, dinner in the suite, visits from past Yankee players and VIPs.

It is an amazing evening, a once-in-a lifetime experience. $500/ticket and the capacity is extremely limited. Email to reserve tickets by May 24.


Relief for Pet Parents Arrives Through Generous Gift

Families don’t have to make the agonizing choice to put their pet to sleep, because of the high cost of cancer treatment, thanks to Dr. Agnes Varis’ generous contribution of $81,640 to Frankie’s Friends charitable pet foundation.