Cat Friendly Practice Program

WCVC Implements Cat Friendly Practice Program

Cat Friendly Designation Elevates Cat Care 

The cat is king. With cats being the most beloved pet in the country, there is a growing need to improve the health care and overall well-being of the feline population. Whether it’s a routine checkup or special visit, the staff at West Chester Veterinary Care (WCVC) is committed to ensuring that cats get the best care. And, to further its dedication, WCVC recently implemented the Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) program to offer pet owners more at every phase of the cat’s health care process.

“We are committed to providing quality care to our feline patients.” said Dr. Amy Hellard, owner of WCVC. “When we heard about the CFP program, we knew it was time to take a fresh look at the practice to determine what could be done to make the veterinary visit more positive for cats and cat owners.”

Program Puts Cats First

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) pioneered the CFP program to provide a framework for creating a positive practice environment for cats, including medical care that supports the cat’s unique needs and knowledgeable staff members who understand feline-friendly handling.

“The AAFP realizes that cats present unique challenges before, during, and after a veterinary visit,” said Dr. Susan Little, DVM, DABVP (Feline) & President, American Association of Feline Practitioners. “Some things that can cause a cat anxiety include aversion to carriers, sensitivity to new sights and smells, and the added stress of an unfamiliar location or experience. Understanding these obstacles helped to shape the CFP program and its dedication to putting the needs of cats first.”

At a CFP-designated clinic, the veterinary staff incorporates cat-friendly features into the physical environment of the practice including special waiting rooms or waiting accommodations, feline-sensitive examination rooms and ward facilities, and equipment appropriate specifically for cats.

Staff members also approach cat care in a different manner. The staff learns how to understand the needs of the cat such as how to interpret a cat’s facial expression and body language. Furthermore, the staff is well-trained in alternate techniques to calm an anxious cat and ensure that exams and procedures do not escalate anxiety.

WCVC Boosts Cat Care

“We evaluated every aspect of the practice and its environment from the perspective of the cat,” Dr. Hellard said. “We can proudly say that from the minute they walk through the door, our patients and clients will be part of a welcoming, comfortable experience that will ultimately lead to the improved health of our feline patients.”

For more information about keeping your cat healthy, please visit the Cat Friendly Practice website.



Submissive/Excited Urination

Does your dog have a habit of piddling when excited or nervous?

Here are some tips to help you understand and correct the behavior.

           Your dog is most likely exhibiting submissive or excitement urination.  Dogs will display extreme submission by cowering, crawling, and peeing. These dogs are frequently quite shy by nature. We also see this behavior in young dogs that cannot control their excitement. They are so overwhelmingly happy to see you that they just pee their pants, so to speak!

What you will need to do is boost your dog’s confidence level a bit by increasing her independence. This works to treat both conditions since they either need confidence boosting because they are fearful or they need confidence boosting to ensure better sphincter control. First, be sure to not lean over your dog when you come home to greet her. Also don’t face her head on. Use your most neutral voice when greeting her – not too deep (angry) or high pitched (excited). Your best option is to actually be to ignore her for about 10 minutes when you first come home. Just walk in the house and go about your business without acknowledging her at all. She will begin to think a lot less of your coming and going and not get so worked up about it. If she is desperate to go outside, then you can take her out, but don’t make eye contact with her, talk to her, or pet her. I know this sounds a bit odd, but when you ignore the behavior it will eventually go away. She will get less excited about your arrival and this will help her control her urination better.

Remember not to scold her for accidentally peeing in the house. She cannot help it and it does nothing for her confidence level to punish her! You may find it best to just take her outside and leave her there while you clean up any mess that she made. Some dogs get upset just watching the clean-up process and this will perpetuate the problem. If you feel she’s absolutely bursting to urinate because you have been away a long time, then let her outside and do your greeting there. If she tinkles in the grass, it’s ok!

Dr. Amy Hellard

West Chester Veterinary Care

Stair Training

Oops is that your fear or the dog’s hang up?

Training to freely go up and down stairs

Dear Dr. Amy,

I have been having trouble getting my Shih Tzu to walk down the stairs from my balcony.  When she was 6 months old she fell from my balcony. Luckily she was ok, but ever since then she has refused to walk down the stairs. They are very scary for her since they are open steps and she could fall through. The funny thing is, she has no difficulty climbing up the stairs. What should I do? I have been carrying her down the stairs for about a year now!


This Is Getting Old

Dear TIGO,

It sounds as if your dog has done a wonderful job of training you! She has figured out that she can get extra attention from you if she hesitates at the top of the steps. You give her sympathy, reassurance, and a free ride! The funny thing is, she is probably not scared of the stairs at all since she has no difficulty climbing them. Now you will need to train her to be more independent. We will re-train her to the stairs. This is something that we do for puppies without even realizing it.

Put your dog on the very bottom step and call her to come to you for a treat. She will likely do this without any hesitation. After she is reliably doing this, set her on the second step and repeat the process. After a few short training sessions (that should of course include lots of praise and treats), she will be able to walk down half of the steps when you set her there from the bottom. The next step is to get her walking down the stairs from the top. Start by picking her up at the top and walking her down to about the fourth step from the bottom. Set her down and continue walking down the stairs. Call her to you for a treat and praise. As she gets good at this, set her down on higher and higher steps until she can once again walk down all the stairs from the very top.

This whole process shouldn’t take you more than a week or two, and then you can stop being a servant to your dog!

Happy training,

Dr. Amy Hellard

Adopting a New Cat or Kitten

Here are some tips on introducing the new addition to your other cats. 

Introducing a new cat to a household with previously existing cats can be troublesome sometimes. Cats have very tight-knit societies and they often resist abrupt changes in their society. A new cat coming into the house is exactly what the established cat would not appreciate.

Having said that, some cats are introduced to each other with very little aggression or problems. I want to give you some advice on new cat introductions to make the process go more smoothly and hopefully avoid difficulties. When a new cat is to be introduced into the house, they should not be simply put into the same room as the existing cat and left alone. This could result in a large fight and a subsequent trip to the nearest vet clinic! Cats need to be introduced slowly. Remember that juvenile cat and kittens are more readily accepted than older cats, but even older cats can learn to get along.

Here are the steps for cat introductions that seem to work the best.

  1. Bring the new cat into the house and isolate it in one room of the house with the door closed at all times. This will allow the existing cat to get used to the new cat’s smell (and vice-versa) before they actually get to meet. The cats may even put their paws under the door and bat at each other. That’s ok.
  2. Swap the cat’s territories. Once the new cat has spent a day in the room alone, then put the resident cat in that room and let the new cat out into the house. This will allow for even more opportunity to acclimate to the new smells and helps to prevent territoriality as it pertains to that one room.
  3. Let the cats see each other without touching. This can be done in many ways. You can use a cat carrier and alternate which cat is in the carrier each time you allow a meeting. You can use a screen door to separate the cats, use double baby-gates (one on top of the other) to create a see-through wall, or you can fix the solid door with a rope and stick to keep it partially open, but not open wide enough for either cat to squeeze through.
  4. Introduce the cats while you are home to supervise. Do not move to this step until the cats seem comfortable with each other as described in step 3. If the cats are growling or hissing, wait until their aggression has subsided to try to introduce them. Once they appear to be interested in meeting, or are ignoring each other, let them out together and allow them to sniff noses. If you are at all concerned that they may fight, then put them both on long leashes so that you can separate them if they do try to fight. The best way to leash them is to use a harness, but you can also use a collar and attach a light leash.

In most cases this step-by-step approach will prevent fights and litter box problems when a new cat is introduced. Remember to also get an extra litter box for the new cat so there is plenty of litter to go around! The rule of thumb is one litter box per cat, plus one. Enjoy your new extended family!

For more information and a different introduction protocol, please visit:

Dr. Amy Hellard

West Chester Veterinary Care


Snotty Nosed Cat

In March, I went to a lecture at the Western Veterinary Conference titled “The Snotty Nosed Cat: Is There Ever Any Hope?” By Dr. Lynch. In this talk, Dr. Lynch reviewed the many causes of this condition in cats, which are listed with an * below.

*Acute (fast onset) rhinitis may be viral, bacterial, or fungal – it’s very important to remember how contagious the pet may be and also to test for FeLV/FIV even for indoor cats. We also had a discussion of the most common organisms found and what diagnostics tests are important to perform and which ones may be skipped over. Next Dr. Lynch discussed pros/cons of various antibiotics that can be used and also talked about an antiviral treatment.
*Nasopharyngeal polyps – typically a young cat, cause unknown. Only 2 treatment options: traction vs. osteotomy. (Both of these are surgical options, one less invasive than the other, but also has the potential for re-occurrence.) When surgery is done, secondary Horner’s syndrome is common (a sign of nerve damage).
*Nasal foreign bodies – sudden onset is the key sign, discussed ways to diagnose and treat this condition. Typically it’s a blade of grass that gets caught in the nose and sometimes it can be removed under anesthesia by grasping or flushing it out.
*Nasal tumors – types of cancer commonly encountered in cats, goals of therapy (sometimes all we can do is manage pain and discomfort, other times we can cure the cancer).
*Chronic rhinitis – incurable, frustrating condition. Rule out other causes to reach this diagnosis. Management of flare ups depends on the case and what is occurring in the pet. Here is the only instance where nebulization may be helpful.
I also learned that inhaled prednisone (a steroid) does not penetrate much past the sinuses and therefore not a good treatment option for lower airway disease in pets.
*Nasopharyngeal stenosis – rare. There was a discussion of treatment options (all surgical) – this would be a case for referral to a specialist!

In summary, if your cat has a snotty nose, it is not something that should be ignored! The age of your cat and his/her lifestyle are important in determining what the cause may be. It is also important that we know how suddenly the problem came on. Sometimes the treatment is “simple” and antibiotics are warranted. Other times the diagnostics and treatment may be more complicated. Keep in mind most of the time when we are looking for the cause we need to fully anesthetize the cat in order to visualize the mouth, nose, and palate fully as well as to collect samples if that is warranted. Work with your veterinarian by providing a detailed history of the problem that includes how it has progressed over time. If you need assistance, call our office.

Dr. Amy Hellard
West Chester Veterinary Care

Leash pulling and how to take a pleasant walk with your dog

It is not enjoyable to take a dog for a walk that pulls on the leash. Furthermore, your friends and family don’t particularly want to help care for your dog when you are away because he or she is hard to handle. It’s also unpleasant for your groomer, boarding kennel, and veterinarian. In this instance, I am of the opinion that it is not sufficient to reach a tolerable state with your dog, but rather get your pet behaving as others would expect him/her to.

(When I refer to a tolerable state, that is when you have accepted your pet to perform a command sub-par because you are satisfied with that level of response. Example: you tell your dog to sit and stay, which he does for 5 seconds, then he stands up. This is a sub-par response because optimally when you tell your dog to sit and stay he should remain in a sit/stay as long as it takes until he is released from that position.)

Why does my dog pull? In most cases, it is because your dog learned that when he saw something interesting and pulled in that direction, you followed. When walking down the street if he pulls forward you will respond by walking faster.
Why doesn’t he stop pulling when I tell him to? Your dog has months or years of being rewarded for pulling (by getting to where he wants to go faster), so why should he listen now? Why should he listen when you only ask him to not pull 30% of the time? It usually pays off to pull, so he’ll keep it up.
A tight leash is a conditioned response – your dog can become accustomed to the pressure and learn to not mind it one bit. You must teach your dog to walk without pressure on the leash.
Are you ready for the magic? Here it is…
You must teach your dog to walk on the leash by not trying to walk anywhere at all. In other words, you  need to get the thought of going down the street, around the block, or along the woodsy path out of you head. When training leash walking, you have to be satisfied going nowhere in particular.
Once you have embraced this concept, here is what you must do.
When your dog pulls on the leash either:  1. Stop walking or 2. Go the opposite direction
You can say, “no pull” if you wish, but you may start to sound like a broken record. You can choose to say nothing, or you can make some other noise like “Ah!” to indicate you aren’t happy.
When your dog is walking along with you, be sure to tell him “good!” or “yes!” and occasionally give treats.
Eventually, you will be able to pick the direction you walk in and your dog will walk along side you.
Be sure to use this tactic for walking EVERY time. You can never let your dog pull on the leash, so if you have somewhere to go, I suggest you carry him there if you can’t take the time to train on the way.
Happy training!
Dr. Amy Hellard
West Chester Veterinary Care