Happy Birthday to Us!

40th2016 marks Brentwood Veterinary Hospital’s 40th anniversary and we couldn’t be more excited! Dr. Duane Schnittker started Brentwood Veterinary Hospital way back in 1976, at the corner of Brentwood Blvd and Sycamore Ave. When Dr. Schnittker started the practice, BVH saw both large and small animals. In 1990 Dr. Schnittker broke ground on our current location on O’Hara Ave. Dr. Schnittker hired and mentored many great veterinarians over the years including Dr. Debbie Sharp way back in 1996. Dr. Odom and Dr. Sims were also hired and mentored by Dr. Schnittker and eventually purchased the practice from Dr. Schnittker when he retired in 2009. Dr. Sharp worked part time throughout the years while she raised her family and worked with her horses and ranch. In 2013, Dr. Sharp purchased the practice from Dr. Odom and Dr. Sims.groundbreakingduane

Obviously, a lot has changed since the humble beginnings of Brentwood Vet Hospital 40 years ago! Changes in staffing, advances in veterinary medicine and our understanding of animals’ needs have grown, along with the community of Brentwood. BVH has reflected these changes both inside and out. What started as a small one doctor practice in the shadows of Mt. Diablo, has blossomed into a five-doctor, AAHA accredited practice that tries to stay on the cutting edge of medical advancements and treatments. What hasn’t changed is our never ending love of animals and our commitment to their comfort and health.

It is that dedication that keeps us striving to improve ourselves and will continue to in the years to come. By constantly reinvesting in our services, equipment and staff education, we hope to continue to serve the community we all love so much.

There are many memories and exceptional moments from our past, from new puppy and kitten exams, to touch-and-go surgeries, to many sorrowful, sweet goodbyes….. Those are the moments that have made us who and what we are; a team of loyal, animal-loving people who strive to make our clients feel welcome and trusting of the care that we provide.

As the saying goes, “we’ve come a long way, baby!” But, we wouldn’t be where we are today without our amazing clients and their fur-babies. Your support, loyalty, and love – they are the heart of what we have done for 40 years here at Brentwood Veterinary Hospital, we hope to continue for at least another 40 more.

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Beam me up Scotty!


Beam me up Scotty! Lasers are no longer something just out of Sci-Fi shows…

Yes, lasers are being used by veterinarians in the treatment of your four-legged friends. Lasers are often considered to be something out of Sci-Fi shows, but now they are being used to treat pain and inflammation in world class athletes, race horses and yes, our pets. Lasers have been used for advanced medical applications for over 35 years, but are becoming much more main stream and available to the masses.

Laser therapy can be used for the relief of pain, the reduction of swelling and the healing of wounds. Class IV laser therapy uses an intense beam of laser light directed into the tissues to increase blood flow, decrease inflammation and promote healing. Laser therapy is a safe, drug-free alternative to treat many common conditions, including arthritis. We have had great success with major trauma to soft tissues and the increased speed of healing that laser therapy can provide.


Clinical studies and trials of laser therapy technology have indicated the following beneficial effects on tissues and cell:

  • Accelerated tissue repair and cell growth
  • Faster wound healing
  • Reduced fibrous tissue formation – this helps reduce the formation of scar tissue
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Analgesia – decrease nerve sensitivity and pain
  • Improved vascular activity – helps increase the formation of new capillaries in damaged tissue which speeds healing
  • Increased metabolic activity
  • Improved nerve function

Here is a link to a video detailing how therapeutic laser therapy works down to the cellular level https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1Jek7bLOM4.

What conditions can be treated with laser therapy?

  • Ulcerations and open wounds
  • Sprains and strains of muscles, ligaments and tendons
  • Ear infections
  • Gingivitis
  • Hot Spots
  • Arthritis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Degenerative disc or joint disease
  • Surgical pain and soft tissue traumas


What can you expect during and after treatment?

No sedation is required for laser therapy and animals are often quite calm and relaxed. Improvement is often seen after the first treatment, but most patients benefit from several treatments over the course of two weeks. Treatment times can vary based on the type of treatment and the size of the treatment area, but it is most often completed in less than 15 minutes. We will offer a treatment plan that is specific to your pet’s condition. We perform laser therapy throughout our day both on hospitalized patients and by appointment. Dogs, and anyone in the room with the laser unit, will be asked to wear protective glasses as lasers can be dangerous to the naked eye. Laser treatment sessions run between $37 and $65 depending on the time involved.


If your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort, consult your veterinarian about the use of laser therapy to assist in treatment. Once your pet has been examined, a treatment plan can be created. The use of therapy laser treatments can decrease or eliminate the need for additional medications and can keep your pets moving and comfortable as they reach their golden years.

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Canine and Feline Blood Donors – Silent Heroes!

Many of you have participated in a blood drive or have known someone that required a blood donation after an accident or surgery.  But did you know that there are cat and dog blood donors as well?

Here at Brentwood Veterinary Hospital, we often use our own pets as blood donors for our patients.  Dogs with bleeding masses in their spleens often need a blood transfusion prior to or during surgery to remove their spleens.  There are also immune mediated diseases that can cause a low blood count that requires a blood transfusion to get the patient out of a crisis situation.  We have even seen puppies and kittens with so many parasites that they need a blood transfusion to survive.

Donating blood is a relatively simple process for our fur-babies.  We collect a unit of blood via a needle inserted into the jugular vein.  The worst part for the donor is having to sit still for 5-10 minutes while we collect their blood.  Donating blood can have some benefits, usually in the way of a yummy, high calorie meal.  Donors need to be healthy, free of parasites and relatively young.

These blood donors are true heroes in our eyes!!!

Timber (below) belongs to our Hospital Administrator and has successfully donated blood about twice a year for the last two years.  The first picture is us collecting his blood donation, and the second is his happy face after receiving his yummy reward!

Timberblood timberblood2

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Senior Pet Care: An Overview

Senior Pet Care

Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer than ever before. However with this increased lifespan comes an increase in the types of ailments that can afflict senior pets. As pets reach the golden years, there are a variety of conditions and diseases that they can face, including weight and mobility changes; osteoarthritis; kidney, heart, and liver disease; tumors and cancers; hormone disorders such as diabetes and thyroid imbalance; and many others. Just as the health care needs of humans change as we age, the same applies to pets. It’s critical for pet owners to work closely with their veterinarian to devise a health plan that is best for their senior pet.

To assist veterinary hospitals in offering optimal care for senior pets, AAHA has issued a set of Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. These guidelines provide a framework for veterinarians to provide optimal care for all senior pets. Major highlights of these guidelines are covered in this article.

When Does “Senior” Start?

So when is a pet considered a senior? Generally, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds, and cats live longer than dogs. Beyond that, the life span will vary with each individual, and your veterinarian will be able to help you determine what stage of life your furry friend is in. Keep in mind that some small dog breeds may be considered senior at 10-13 years, while giant breeds are classified as seniors at ages as young as five. Your veterinarian is your best source for more information to determine when your pet reaches the golden years.

Senior Health Exams

Scheduling regular veterinary examinations is one of the most important steps pet owners can take to keep their pets in tip-top shape. When dogs and cats enter the senior years, these health examinations are more important than ever. Senior care, which starts with the regular veterinary exam, is needed to catch and delay the onset or progress of disease and for the early detection of problems such as organ failure and osteoarthritis. AAHA recommends that healthy senior dogs and cats visit the veterinarian every six months for a complete exam and laboratory testing. Keep in mind that every year for a dog or cat is equivalent to 5–7 human years. In order stay current with your senior pet’s health care, twice-a-year exams are a must. During the senior health exam, your veterinarian will ask you a series of questions regarding any changes in your pet’s activity and behavior.

The veterinarian will also conduct a complete examination of all of your pet’s body systems. Client education and laboratory testing are also key components of the senior exam.

Laboratory Testing

Veterinarians depend on laboratory results to help them understand the status of your pet’s health. When your pet is healthy, laboratory tests provide a means to determine your pet’s “baseline” values. When your pet is sick, the veterinarian can more easily determine whether or not your pet’s lab values are abnormal by comparing the baseline values to the current values. Subtle changes in these laboratory test results, even in the outwardly healthy animal, may signal the presence of an underlying disease. AAHA recommends that dogs and cats at middle age undergo laboratory tests at least annually. During the senior years, laboratory tests are recommended every six months for healthy dogs and cats. At a minimum, the following tests are recommended:

  • Complete Blood Count This common test measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a given sample of blood. The numbers and types of these cells give the veterinarian information needed to help diagnose anemia, infections and leukemia. A complete blood count also helps your veterinarian monitor your pet’s response to some treatments.
  • Urinalysis Laboratory analysis of urine is a tool used to detect the presence of one or more specific substances that normally do not appear in urine, such as protein, sugar, white blood cells or blood. A measurement of the dilution or concentration of urine is also helpful in diagnosing diseases. Urinalysis can assist the veterinarian in the diagnosis of urinary-tract infections, diabetes, dehydration, kidney problems and many other conditions.
  • Blood-Chemistry Panel Blood-chemistry panels measure electrolytes, enzymes and chemical elements such as calcium and phosphorous. This information helps your veterinarian determine how various organs, such as the kidneys, pancreas, and liver, are currently functioning. The results of these tests help your veterinarian formulate an accurate diagnosis, prescribe proper therapy, and monitor the response to treatment. Further testing may be recommended based on the results of these tests.
  • Parasite Evaluation Microscopic examination of your pet’s feces can provide information about many different kinds of diseases, such as difficulties with digestion, internal bleeding, and disorders of the pancreas. Most importantly, though, this test confirms the presence of intestinal parasites, such as roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm and giardia.

For cats, an additional routine blood test is recommended in order to check for hyperthyroidism, a common ailment in senior cats. Additionally, depending on your individual pet’s condition and other factors, other tests and assessments might be recommended. These include heartworm tests; feline leukemia/feline immunodeficiency virus test in cats; blood pressure evaluation; urine protein evaluation; cultures; imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound, and echocardiography; electrocardiography, and special ophthalmic evaluations, among others. Additional tests become especially important in evaluating senior pets that show signs of sickness or are being prepared for anesthesia and surgery.

The Effects of Age

Sensory Changes With the senior years comes a general “slowing down” in pets. As their major senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) dull, you may find that your pet has a slower response to general external stimuli. This loss of sensory perception often is a slow, progressive process, and it may even escape your notice. The best remedy for gradual sensory reduction is to keep your pet active—playing and training are excellent ways to keep their senses sharp. Pets may also be affected mentally as they age. Just as aging humans begin to forget things and are more susceptible to mental conditions, your aging animals may also begin to confront age-related cognitive and behavior changes. Most of these changes are rather subtle and can be addressed in a proactive manner. Regular senior health exams can help catch and treat these problems before they control your pet’s life.

Physical Changes

The physical changes your pets experience are generally easier to spot than the sensory changes. As the body wears out, its ability to respond to infection is reduced, and the healing process takes longer. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian if you notice a significant change in behavior or the physical condition of your pet. Many of the signs indicating that animals are approaching senior citizenship are the same for both cats and dogs, but they can indicate a variety of different problems (see Signs of a Problem, below). A very common and frustrating problem for aging pets is inappropriate elimination. The kidneys are one of the most common organ systems to wear out on a cat or dog, and as hormone imbalance affects the function of the kidneys, your once well-behaved pet may have trouble controlling his bathroom habits. If you are away all day, he may simply not be able to hold it any longer, or urine may dribble out while he sleeps at night. In addition, excessive urination or incontinence may be indicative of diabetes or kidney failure, both of which are treatable if caught early enough.


Many older pets benefit from specially formulated food that is designed with older bodies in mind. Obesity in pets is often the result of reduced exercise and overfeeding and is a risk factor for problems such as heart disease. Because older pets often have different nutritional requirements, these special foods can help keep your pet’s weight under control and reduce consumption of nutrients that are risk factors for the development of diseases, as well as organ- or age-related changes.


Exercise is yet another aspect of preventive geriatric care for your pets. You should definitely keep them going as they get older—if they are cooped up or kept lying down, their bodies will deteriorate much more quickly. You may want to ease up a bit on the exercise with an arthritic or debilitated cat or dog. Otherwise, you should keep them as active—mentally and physically—as possible in order to keep them sharp. Surgery for the Older Pet In the event your veterinarian is considering surgery or any other procedure in which anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your senior pet. AAHA recommends all senior dogs and cats undergo the laboratory testing mentioned above, ideally within two weeks of any anesthetized procedure. A blood pressure evaluation and additional tests might also be recommended, depending on your individual pet. These screening tools can provide critical information to the health care team to help determine the proper anesthesia and drug protocol for your pet, as well as make you aware of any special risk factors that might be encountered.

Pain Management

Pets experience pain just like humans do, and AAHA recommends veterinarians take steps to identify, prevent, and minimize pain in all senior dogs and cats. The AAHA guidelines encourage veterinarians to use pain assessment as the fourth vital sign (along with temperature, pulse and respiration). The different types of pain include acute pain, which comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, surgery, or an infection, and chronic pain, which is long lasting and usually develops slowly (such as arthritis). You can play a key role in monitoring your pet to determine whether he suffers from pain. To help ensure your pet lives comfortably during the senior life stage, it’s critical to work with your veterinarian to tailor a senior wellness plan that is best for your dog or cat. Be sure to monitor behavior and physical conditions and report anything unusual to your veterinarian, who can help your pet head into the twilight years with ease.

Signs of a Problem:

  • Sustained, significant increase in water consumption or urination
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than two days
  • Significant increase in appetite
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Diarrhea lasting over three days
  • Difficulty in passing stool or urine
  • Change in housebreaking
  • Lameness lasting more than five days or lameness in more than one leg
  • Noticeable decrease in vision
  • Open sores or scabs on the skin that persist for more than one week
  • Foul mouth odor or drooling that lasts more than two days
  • Increasing size of the abdomen
  • Increasing inactivity or amount of time spent sleeping
  • Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching or if in specific areas (as opposed to generalized)
  • Excessive panting
  • Inability to chew dry food
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Sudden collapse or bout of weakness
  • A seizure (convulsion)
  • Persistent coughing or gagging
  • Breathing heavily or rapidly at rest
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We lose some battles

A colleague on diagnosing terminal disease:

All that schooling, all those years of practical experience, all my best intentions, and the best I could do is try to break her heart as gently as I could.

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Exactly how it works at my house…



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How most cats probably see us


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Possibly my favorite GIF of all time:

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I love a good mystery….


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